Koa first heard
the legend in a tattered shanty,
one of many that meandered along the ocean shore-
line that seemed to stretch on forever, broken only
by a handful of short piers.
Normally the locale wouldn’t have drawn him in, but
the sun had sunken to a reddened half disc over the
glittering water, the shadows of the huts stretching
so far as to almost reach the road further inland.
There was life there. People. But no commotion.
It was serene. Picturesque.
After he’d stopped the bus driver, tipped him for
the courtesy, he waited for the exhaust belching
vehicle to depart, then strode down the embankment,
eager to become one with the scene.
Nearly immediately idyllic imaginations were swept
aside by stark reality: The long shadows hid bird
droppings. The pier stank of rotting fish and
moldering nets. Scraps of litter were momentarily
buoyed by each incoming wave then settled down,
only to rise once more as if not sure whether to
stay or go.
Even trash had standards.
And the people... faces of weathered and cracked
leather that glared at him as an intruder. A lone
elderly man sitting cross legged in the dirty sand,
scratching and picking at himself, gave the sole
smile. A supplicatory greeting filled with more
gaps than blackened teeth.
Koa turned to leave; this was why he’d stopped
believing in a Creator, a higher power, years ago.
From a distance the idea gave hope, but close up
it was merely more of what surrounded him now; a
Creator wouldn’t bring such imperfection into being.
Or, embarrassed, the Almighty had fled the mess to
Burning annoyance made him grit his teeth- He
hadn’t lapsed, Koa told himself, merely come for
A sign on one of the larger shanties had a crudely
painted sign that read: Engrish Spoke Here, along
with the universal pictogram for alcohol- a bottle
with three x’s.
Inside he found four cracked plastic chairs that
likely had a more dignified home on a cruise ship
deck before falling on hard times, as well as most
of a surf board that served as a bar.
An old woman with stringy black and grey hair pok-
ing out under a paddy hat tipped her head up at him
as he sat down and said: “You drink. Dollar.”
As Koa put a rumpled bill down the grinning old man
came in and sat next to him, grin still in place.
Great, Koa sighed, this would be the first time he
drank with someone in a loincloth.
The bottle was presented, complete with carefully
drawn x’s, along with a wide shallow shell, and the
clear drink poured.
He gave it a sniff. Sake? He slid it over to his
new companion, who bowed his head several times then
took it up and downed it in one go. He didn’t grimace
and die; a good thing and bad thing probably.
Once he’d put out another dollar, he took a deep
breath then quaffed the next one himself. Nope.
Not Sake. Rocket fuel maybe.
the old man said.
“I have been paying,” Koa replied. They had just
had a fourth and though Koa could hold his drink,
he wasn’t sure that applied to rocket fuel or it’s
“No, you pay,” the old man insisted. His voice
lowered to a whisper, “for legend.”
After getting up and knocking over his chair in
the process, the old one began to unravel his loin-
Koa immediately thought of a printed gag t-shirt he’d
seen that had two arrows, one pointing up with the
words- The Man, the other pointing down with- The
But from the loose garment a piece of metal was
produced, one that Koa recognized immediately.
A katana, the remains at least. Of the five inches
only one inch was blade, the rest the unfinished
length that would be part of the hilt. Having seen
many swords before Koa knew right away this one had
not been mass produced.
“You pay,” the old one demanded.
Koa had paid
, and the legend came out in halting
Engrish, not the whole story, but enough. Enough
that Koa felt obliged to invite the old man out
back for further payment, but as he pretended to
drop his wallet and the legend teller bent to re-
trieve it, Koa snapped his neck.
If the story was true he didn’t want anyone follow-
ing in his wake, and if it wasn’t, well... he didn’t
That was six months ago, and as he followed the
story’s trail he found others to fill in the gaps,
killed them as well, until the last, who only under
extreme duress, revealed a location.
over Koa as he pushed aside the
last leafy clutch of branches and spied his long
sought quarry. His target was barechested, wear-
ing only thread bare loose pants that stopped just
short of his thick calves. A hammer went up and
down as the man worked a piece of metal, continued
to toil as Koa approached.
They kept company in silence, broken only by the
rhythmic clang of metal on metal.
This was the one, Koa thought as he bit at a lip.
Muradassa. Master swordsmith. He bore a lifetime’s
worth of scars and marks from his chosen craft,
along with veiny forearms that came naturally from
Koa shucked his shoulder bag and retrieved a bottle
from within, then presented it: “Sake.”
Muradassa let the hammer fall one more time, then
There had been
a tense moment, when Koa thought
the old man would say no to his request, to make the
perfect blade for him. In fact, the old timer had
laughed uproariously, and nodded his head while
responding in surprisingly good, broken English:
“No thing perfect. No thing.”
So they sat and drank the sake. Muradassa treated
the drink with reverence, his every move made with
deliberate grace, whether he was pouring the sake
or simply setting his mug down. A nagging cough
was the only thing that marred the elder’s bearing.
Koa studied him with great interest. There were
plenty of men that claimed to be masters of some-
thing, but few of them actually were.
This one was the genuine article. He hadn’t said
yes, but more importantly, he didn’t say no.
Muradassa let him
hang around while he went about
his daily routine, or maybe he was too polite to
ask him to leave. Either way, it wasn’t long before
Koa tired of watching the master at the anvil, the
forge, or merely sitting on the ground with a blade
and polishing stone.
The craft was tedious, repetitious, and quite frankly,
beyond him. Of some interest was the long shack where
various tools of the trade could be found.
Koa perused the assortment- raw metal lumps of had
to be steel, long rectangular blanks forged from
the lumps, and stacks of blades in various stages
of completion. Of the tools there were only three
he recognized- the hammer, the tongs, and the sharp-
ening stones. Or maybe they were polishing stones.
He wasn’t sure.
“What are these?”
Koa asked after he’d spotted
several blades hung up high on the rough planked
wall. None of them were finished, indeed most of
them were broken or warped. At the far end was a
blank and one of the raw lumps.
...continued in next post...
edit on 8-4-2017 by shlaw because: corrections