When I came to Master Sinto, I had heard only of his reputation; stories of bravery and battle. I came to Tokyo to learn about the glories of war, lessons from the man who, if you believed the tales, had faced clans of Samurai warriors alone, striking down legions with just a kantana and a wakizashi. I came expecting to meet a legend; a beast cut and scarred with the slashes of victory.
‘There must be some mistake,’ I thought as I laid my eyes on this small, frail man.
Despite my persistence, Master Sinto would always dismiss talk of his past glories, irritably flicking away my insistence with a thin, wrinkled hand. He would sit for hours, his thin frame propped up against a lotus tree, silently observing my chores from beneath the shade of the pink blossom. He could sense my impatience. I had travelled across the oceans to seek knowledge from a warrior; there few lessons to be learnt from carrying water pails and sweeping leaves.
Two years passed.
And then, one morning, he took me aside. We walked through a hallway I had not travelled down before, entering a doorway I had never stepped through. Monstrous demons snaked across the walls of this room, twisting across the corners as fire blazed from their scaled snouts. In the corner stood his battle armour, dull black and scarred with the blows from countless foes.
We sat cross-legged under the shadow of its monstrous grin as he recounted his war stories; the battle for the East, the cold war against the southern clans, the defence of the dragon province. He spoke in a calm voice, describing each battle, each blow, in soft whispers.
The room was ablaze with the orange embers of the dying sun. Fire danced from the jaws of the beasts painted across the room.
‘Do you understand why I have told you this?’ he asked.
I nodded. There was no glory to be found here.