Sweat beaded on Haruki’s forehead. “Focus!” yelled Master Wai, “Breathe, it is the first thing you must learn.”

Haruki stood as steady as he could in Heron on Watch. His leg burned, how long had he been standing like this… minutes… hours?

“Release!” Cried Master Wai, Haruki and the other students returned to ready.

Haruki stared over the heads of this fellow students at Master Wai, who gave them all an approving nod. “Balance, balance in body and spirit is important students. Remember this.” “Dismissed.”

The students bowed in respect, and once Master Wai returned their bow, the students fell-out of the training formation they were in and began to make their way to the barracks and meal hall. It was not long before Haruki found himself on the training pad alone.

He was only 14, but he was as tall, or taller than, many of the more senior students. This did little to endear him with his fellow students. Some were afraid of him, other simply mistook him for an older student. Making friends was difficult.


The bokken splintered on contact. It was a marvel that Haruki’s sparring partner even kept hold of the, now useless, piece of shaped wood. “Reset!” called Master Feng. Masukiru and Haruki returned to their points, and a small youth-everyone was small to Haruki—moved to replace Masukiru’s bokken.

This was the third bokken Haruki broke this week. Sometimes it was his, others his partner’s, it wasn’t likely that his current bokken would last this current fight.

It was becoming more obvious that his strength was quickly matching his size. Master Feng half threatened, half promised to make Haruki learn his forms with the testubo if Haruki kept breaking the school’s bokkens.

If the look on Master Feng’s face said anything, he would be swinging the large studded club before the end of the week.

He did not remember having that much to eat, and he had felt that he had been retching for hours.

Thankfully, the small copse of trees hid him from view.

He could still hear the scream of bone, and he could swear he could feel the sickening snap through his tetsubo when it connected with his enemy. But it was when he struck the Chang-Zi solder alongside his head… Seeing melons disintegrate when he struck them was one thing, it was a different thing when that melon… no… <gag>… must not think on it.

“Haruki-san!” cried Masukiru. “Finish your pissing, and help us with the bodies!”

Haruki choked back another retch, and forced himself to focus. He forced himself to breathe. He found his balance, just as Master Wai had taught him.

He knew that this was the first of many battles. The tensions in Ah and some of the surrounding clans were high, and a low war was expected.

“Breathe, it is the first thing you must learn!”