“Sanaa, this is Koichi Itō, and his son, Jiro, whom you’ve met before. As you have probably guessed, you will be learning to sword fight with them.”
Fantastic. A guy who is totally my type and any prospect of romance is about to be submarined by a business relationship, a teacher-student relationship. How the hell am I going to pull this off when I’ve already flirted with him once before?
Jiro is studying me, gauging me like Sakai often does. This must be a family trait. Looking at the three of them together, they are definitely related. They could all practically be triplets in their Nishikyō grays and solemn expressions. I sigh and turn to Sakai for reassurance as he lays a hand on my shoulder. This is not what I expected to happen today.
“Sanaa, I know your mother never cared for sword fighting, but, since you’re already more than proficient in karate, I figured this was the next logical step.” Sakai turns to Jiro. “Don’t think she can be easily defeated, Jiro.”
Sakai is boasting about my skills? I want to tell him to shut up before he gets me in trouble, but he seems sincere. “She has her father’s determination.”
Sakai’s eyes are hard on Jiro, and the two stare at each other stonily before Jiro gives in.
“Hmmm, we’ll see,” Jiro says, walking to the wall of wooden swords. Uh oh. I think I’m about to be tested. Too much talk.
He takes two of the smaller swords and tosses one to me which I fumble and drop on the ground. I am so unprepared my face practically bursts into flames. I reach down and pick up the sword, copying Jiro’s stance, but he hasn’t made a move to lunge at me like I thought he would. Instead, he is watching me stare at the sword.
“It’s real wood,” I exclaim. The strong grain weaves up the side, and I follow the wavering line all the way to the tip with my fingers. The sword is nicked and dented more times than I can count.
“We’ve had them for centuries.” Jiro smiles at me, holding his sword tip-down in front of him. “Passed down through our family for generations. Newer ones are available, but they’re all composite.”
I heft the sword in my hand. Light but sturdy. Surely fighting with a sword can’t be that different from fighting with your hands. What have I gotten myself into?
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