1553 c/o Brad Nelson

Honor Reclaimed

The samurai knelt on a raised platform in front of the palace gates, both hands resting on his thighs, eyes gazing forward. Naked to the waist, his white kimono was opened and tucked carefully under his knees to keep his body upright upon completion of the ceremony. His hakama, also white, splayed out on either side of his legs. In front of the samurai was a small wooden table, on which rested a ceremonial knife with an ivory handle that bore no markings.

The only other person on the platform was a man in royal blue kimono and hakama, who also knelt, just to the right of the samurai. His face was calm. Tucked through the left side of the man’s belt was his katana.

The crowd had gathered at the appointed place just before sunset. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, and their scent rode the evening breeze. Some in the crowd knew the samurai; some did not. Some were friends, and some were more.

The man in blue slowly pulled his katana, still in its saya, from his belt. He held the sword in front of his body, pointed toward the heavens, as he slid the saya from the blade. He placed the saya on the platform to his right and stood.

Holding the katana pointed down and away from his body, the man in blue inspected both sides of the blade, looking for some flaw in its craftsmanship that would deem the blade unsuited for its present task. He found none.

The man in blue crossed to stand behind the samurai on his left side. Then the man in blue took up his stance, feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, and grasped the katana with both hands, raised to his right ear. The sounds of the crowd faded away. The world faded away. To the man in blue, only two things existed: himself and the samurai.

The crowd did not exist for the samurai either, but neither did the man in blue. The samurai was breathing evenly as the man in blue took up his position—in and out, in and out, deep relaxing breaths from the hara, the center.

The samurai reached forward with his right hand to grasp the knife by its ivory handle. At the same time, he placed the fingertips of his left hand on his stomach just below the navel and slid them to the left, searching for the correct spot. Once found, he paused for the briefest of moments with the tip of the knife pointed at the chosen spot.

Without the slightest change in facial expression, the samurai plunged the knife into his body. The blade entered his flesh just below and to the left of his navel. Grasping the ivory handle with both hands, the samurai drew the knife to the right, across his belly. The samurai reversed his stroke, bringing the blade upward and to the left, through his torso.

The sword fell with speed and precision, severing the samurai’s head from his body. The man in blue wiped the blood of his friend from the blade, and both men bowed.