“Erm… Dad ?”
Yûzô turned around. He was surprised to see his son arrive with a young kutz with light fur. She was wearing a black tank-top and ample trousers, maintained by a belt that also kept a sword from falling. The most striking thing about her was her hair : most of the shorter strands went around her face and her forehead. But she also had longer ones at the back and they were all perfectly hanging upwards in some sort of tube, resulting in a hairy explosion that some naysayers would’ve called an odd-looking feather duster1. Looking at her, Yûzô could estimate she was about two or three years older than his son.
“Yes ? Afternoon ?” said the hundini, hesitante at the sight of this fairly unpleasant rebellious look.
“Good afternoon. The name’s Rie Mizuko. Are you this school’s head teacher ?”
Yûzô stepped forward. “Well yes. It is I. Yûzô Kazehiko, spiritual grandson of Makoto Kazehiko, founder of this school. You say your name is Mizuko ? Which school are you from ?”
The hundini frowned. “Odd. Never heard of it.”
“That’s normal.” calmly said the kutz. “I didn’t get the chance to open it yet, though it is only a matter of time.”
“Oh ? But… Were you taught by anyone before ?”
Rie nodded. “No. I learned everything by myself.”
Jun’s father scratched his chin. “Interesting. You… Do know we’re considered by many to be the best school of the country, right ?” He saw the kutz’s positive response. “So you know that by challenging me, you’re asking a duel with who is supposedly the strongest fighter in all of Johsei, right ?”
“That still remains to be proven.” arrogantly replied the young woman.
The man smiled. “I see. You know, if your arrogance is as big as your talent, then humbling you will be an interesting pleasure.”
Rie smiled in turn. “Heh, then I hope so !”
“That’s quite some confidence you’ve got there… Like my son, in fact. And it turns out that the last time he tried to beat me, he ended up miserably losing, so I guess it’s up to you.”
Jun raised his finger to add some context to his defeat before reconsidering, as it would shame him and his father both.
“Perfect !” replied Rie. “Because for now, no one has ever managed to beat me.”
“Now that’s quite the claim you’re making ! Come with me. We’re going to see if your track record’s worth anything.”
The two fighters went to the school’s training field, located indoors. Yûzô gave Rie a wooden sword before taking his own. “Protections ?” suggested the hundini.
“No need.” replied the kutz.
Yûzô smiled before they went into position. Naoki, Jun and a few students sat on the benches, some with popcorn in hand.
Yûzô sighed at the sight of his passive son. “Jun, care to give the signal, please ?”
Jun jumped, then immediately got up. After making sure his father and Rie were ready, the young hundini gave the signal.
No one moved for the following twenty seconds. Yûzô raised his brow, surprised.
It was this precise moment Rie chose to run up to her opponent and try to land him a blow. Seeing that he managed to easily parry it, the kutz stepped back. She was surprised to see him not take this opportunity to counter-attack.
They took five seconds to observe each other, while no one in the audience understood what was going on. The only sound that could be heard was one of the students munching at his popcorn. “Very interesting.” said Yûzô.
He stepped forward. Rie reinforced her guard. Seeing the hundini was about to strike, she tried to take advantage of the opening he left to strike, only to notice he had foreseen it, parried and landed a heavy counter-attack.
Rie stepped back, managing to avoid it by a hair’s length.
It was the ideal moment for Yûzô to go all out and try to hit the kutz, who managed to parry them all. The hundini then stepped back to admire his opponent. Jun saw the glee in his father’s eyes. He had finally managed to confront someone worth something.
“That was a nice warm-up !” said Rie in a provoking tone.
Yûzô smiled. “Then let’s crank things up to eleven, shall we ?”
The kutz bobbed her head on the side. “Let’s go, then !”
Both adversaries exchanged blows at frighteningly high speed. So much so that even Jun had a hard time keeping a track of them, despite the years he had spent observing and challenging his father. After twenty seconds of restless fighting, Rie and Yûzô stepped back. The kutz started to hop around, breathing lightly. “Not bad for an old timer !”
Yûzô laughed. “Heh, you’ll have ahard time offending me. I take great pride in my age !”
The kutz couldn’t help but smile.
Without any warning, Yûzô was at the kutz’s side, landing a heavy blow to the ribs, then at the back of her knee, making her flinch before finally putting his wooden blade to her throat.
“Your lack of maturity can be the cause of your downfall. I won.”
Jun raised his arm, declaring the match was over. Rie was petrified in fear.
Yûzô turned around and went back to his place before properly saluting his opponent. “In any case, I congratulate you. You gave me one hell of a duel and you definitely have to potential to lead the greatest school of the country !”
After a good glass of water, Rie decided it was time for her to leave.
“Where do you intend to go ?” asked Yûzô.
“I don’t know yet. Where the wind carries me, I suppose.”
Yûzô raised his brow. “You don’t have a home ?”
“No. My family has been decimated by the Tôzawa clan long ago. I know vengeance isn’t an option, as eradicating these bastards would only weaken the territory they hold, but if I can fend them off and teach others how to defend what they hold dearest, then my life will have at least a bit of meaning.”
“I see…” Yûzô looked thoughtful. “Well why not stay with us for a bit ? I could teach you and you’d have a roof to stay under !”
Rie smiled at the hundini. “I appreciate the offer, but I’d rather walk my own path. Alone. And staying in this place for too long… Not my thing.”
The master raised his shoulders. “Fair enough. In any case, know that you’ll always be welcome here. Oh, and just a small piece of advice : do not hesitate to go to the other schools and learn from them. Your style is great and all, but a fait bit too predictable and not diverse enough.” Then he looked at his son. “Same goes to you when you’ll be of age, because right now you’re as readable as an open book.”
Rie laughed. “It hasn’t fallen on deaf ears ! Thank you for your hospitality and don’t worry. Once my school is built, I’ll come back to get your number one title and put it on mine.”
“Heh, we’ll see ! Farewell, then.”
Two years passed. Every full moon, Jun tried to challenge his father and every full moon he miserably failed. But the more days passed, the more confident he felt. He knew it was only a matter of time before he’d be strong enough to beat him and become the new Master of the Kazehiko school. Sure, he knew he wouldn’t earn infinite wealth – after all, he and his family lived quite modestly – but he’d be at the head of the most powerful school of all Johsei ! Everyone would go up to him to challenge him and he’d be able to put his honor on the line, all the while demonstrating his name had quite some worth.
Yes. By the next full moon, Jun would manage to beat his father and he’d continue his work.
That or the full moon after this one. Or the one after. But in any case, it was one of the coming ones. Jun knew it.
1Though said naysayers wouldn’t be able to say that twice, as the punch they would’ve received would’ve knocked their nasty lights out.