Wakari Ga Hoshii
-Knowledge must be earned, not simply learned.
Within one of the dojos of the Dragon, students are exercising at the moment, under the burning rays of Yakamo. They learn to maintain their balance of the mind under exaustion. Suddenly, one of the reputed masters of Niten began to yell at one of his seito, Kitsuki Ookiro, because of his performance.
An old sensei, one that should have been in his inkyo at this moment, Mirumoto Ranma shouted. "Hurry up, seito Ookiro-san!"
Ookiro, a rather large and stout boy, responded huffing and puffing. "Hai, sensei!"
"By the kami, an Oni no Tsuburu can actually walk faster than you can run! Get a move on it!"
* * *
Nearby, a man sat cross-legged on the nearby grass, watching the comical spectacle. He wore a light brown kimono which clung to him. Strange for such a sunny day. On the inside of his forearms were snake tattoos that had faded blue long ago. He had been watching the advanced students go through their motions, much as he had done in in the days, weeks, even months before.
He then contemplated the rumors he had heard recently. Rumors floated about, rumors which worried him. The lands that he was in were preparing for a war with the Phoenix, who would possibly align with the Lion.There were rumors that the lands of the Black Cranes would return to their former homes, and that the Crab and Crane would war over the right to govern them. The Scorpion battle against the Mantis. The land may be torn anew.
He was born a few months prior to the final battle of the Spirit Wars at Beiden Pass, where his family and family's lord perished. He was born with a discolored left eye, and had been deemed that he had a bad past life. He had grown up with an aunt, recluse because she had her own children to attend to, and because of the eye. At gempukku, he swore fealty to his aunt's lord. Faithfully he had served until 3 years before now, when the lord died of natural causes.
But those rumors didn't interest him as much as a new rumor. Rumors spoke of a man who used a Ni-Ken technique, who was on his own quest for enlightenment. The man was most certainly skilled, yet lacked confidence in himself. He would want to meet this man who would break all traditions, as much as he would by knowing all schools, not merely his own.
* * *
Ranma began shouting again, but not to his students this time, but at the man. "Sagatsu-san!"
The man responded. "Yes, what is it?"
"Sagatsu-san, you came here, asking me to show the the Niten-ryu, and for these past months, you have seen it. Are you ready to show us what you have learned?"
"Hai, I will."
Sagatsu stood up from his spot under a tree, and walked into the courtyard, where Ranma and his students were. The sun beat down on everyone. Sagatsu stood in front of the class, which numbered about sixty students or so.
Ranma looked at the students in the front of the class with a careful eye and grace, looking at his best ones. He then called out to one. "Hayato-san! Your skills are one of the greatest in this class."
Hayato was a thin wiry man, with a bald head, and pale skin. His status within the class was one of a veteran; he could not be counted as a master, but it would be a dire mistake and insult to call him a rookie. His muscles were small but well toned due to his constant bouts with his peers, and his time as a doshin to a magistrate. The student understood the sensei's hidden meaning and spoke with a confident voice. "Hai, sensei."
Hayato stepped foward, apart from his classmates, so that they would have room to fight. The two stood double arm distance apart. Hayato stood in the first stance of the Niten, with his right hand towards Sagatsu. Sagatsu, stood facing the Dragon, with the boken in his right hand, relaxed at his side.
Sagatsu spoke in a low tone. "Time to show the world what you can do."
With those words, the young Dragon dashed forward in small short steps and thrusted, trying to close the distance. Sagatsu parried the blow, held it, and sidestepped at the same time, putting himself out of range of Hayato's sister boken. Hayato thrusted with his other boken, at which, Sagatsu backed up and released his control of Hayato's first strike. Hayato followed with the right handed boken which had been freed, with a slash across the chest. Unfortunately, he missed by a centimeter, and recomposed himself into the second stance.
Sagatsu again lowered the boken in his left hand to his side. "It would take more than a few more inches, be it steel or wood, to defeat me. Again."
And it went on like this for an eternity, with Hayato attacking a with a controlled fury, and Sagatsu weaving back and forth, dodging, parrying, and otherwise avoiding the blows that would have killed a lesser man. Watching the two dance would rival the performance of a troupe of Kakita actors. Every milimeter of movement was graceful, and unwasted.
The two stood apart again double arm distance, with neither having changed their original slow breathing tempos. Hayato had returned into the second stance of the Niten, his right hand as his guard. Again, Hayato dashed forward, his left hand stabbing into the air as Sagatsu bent backward. Believing this to been a grievous mistake to be capitalized upon, he slashed downward his his free hand, ready to smack Sagatsu in the ribs. With an uncanny quickness, Sagatsu dodged away from the slash, and faced Hayato's back, leaving a welt as he hit Hayato in the shoulder.
The other students clapped at Sagatsu's victory, and Hayato accepted defeat gracefully, remaining silent when struck, and bowing with deep respect.
Ranma snorted and spoke in jest. "Too long. I aged 3 years waiting for you two to finish."
"It takes strategy to win a battle, but patience to win a war.", Sagatsu replied.
"Anyway, arigatoo for your demonstration."
"It was my pleasure, Ranma-sama." Sagatsu turned to Hayato. "And arigatoo, to you, Hayato-san. Your sensei was correct about your skills."
Hayato responded. "Doitashimashite, Sagatsu-sama."
"I'll leave you to your seitotachi now." Sagatsu turned and left the courtyard.
Ranma continued his teaching. "Alright everyone, I want you people to pair up......."
* * *
Later that night, Mirumoto Ranma was in Sagatsu's room, talking to Sagatsu himself. Sagatsu's room was bare for the most part, but at that moment, a map of Rokugan was unfurled upon the floor, as well as a map of the lands of the Scorpion, with Sagatsu poring over the maps. Ranma at this moment was doing some fisted push ups, his age not stopping him one second. Now the two would speak like friends.
Ranma stopped for a moment, in mid push. "You sure about this, ronin? I could get you into service here."
Sagatsu continued his poring into the maps, and spoke calmly. "Iie. Although, your people have done a lot for me, I can't stay here, Ranma-san. You know that."
Ranma got up, and sat cross-legged. "Hai, wakarimasu. Still, we could use one like you. Your knowledge of tactics could be of great use."
"Hardly. The Dragon wouldn't trust a ronin with the safety of the clan, and I don't blame them. I wouldn't be a shirekan for the Dragon if they asked. My fight is not with the Phoenix."
"What about the Lion?"
"I don't harbor the prejudices of the past."
Ranma chuckled. "Hah. You jest. Then how do you feel about the Scorpion?"
"They aren't my friends nor my enemies. Not anymore."
"Anyway, so where are you going to go?"
"Probably where you just spoke of."
Ranma looked puzzled. "Scorpion lands? Why?"
Sagatsu breathed deeply. "First because I want to tear away their masks, to be able to see their trueselves. Pierce their shrouds, and you can pierce through anyone's. Secondly, because I want to see the battle over the Yasuki myself., and the Scorpion lands are on the way."
Ranma continued his jestful complaints. "Bah. Why walk that far to see war?"
Sagatsu chuckled. "You, of all people, should know this isn't the time for jokes, oyaji."
"Kutabare! Ha! If this isn't the time, then there is no time to make them."
"Either way, I'm not staying."
Ranma spoke matter of factly. "Which is why I'm going with you. Until Beiden Pass anyway."
"Arigatoo, but, no. I walk this alone. Besides, I don't want to deprive the Dragon of one of their most honored sensei."
"Fine then. Just don't blame me for your death, while you walk to Beiden Pass. I'm going bed now. Oyasumi nasai." Ranma slid the shoji screen, and began to leave.
Sagatsu spoke in a low tone. "Sayonara, oyaji."
The journey begins....