Ronin; novella by me
The gymnasium was empty, and the halls were silent. For now, at least. There was no light to greet me except the burning lantern of the ceiling halls. The room breathed a greeting as I opened the doors. Almost as if it was alive…
As I saw the students come in, I noticed a difference between the upper classmen and even the masters. We didn’t say much. And I believe that’s how they prefer it in the Japanese culture. They knew I was looking more at what they were carrying in their hands, and over their shoulders. They wore masks, concealing their faces from me. Their armor was worn from the waist upwards, by the shoulders, and at the chest. Almost as if to guard at the heart. Gloves covered their hands in a tight grip around the wrists.
Judging by the length and size of their blades, they were not the same traditional swords that I’ve encountered before, found in tales of the West, or my own culture, for that matter. The blades’ edge was curved as opposed to the straight and narrow swords I have seen used by knights to slay enemies with one hand. I also noticed their swords were made of bamboo.
“Hello there,” I heard a master say. Raising my head, I smiled and asked him, “Is this the Kendo Club, or the class?”.
“We’re both, actually.” The master extended a gloved hand and spoke again, “I’m Senseii Charlie Kondek. Welcome to our dojo”. I shook hands with the man, giving my best smile. Still intrigued by the black robes and the sword at his left side, I remembered something I learned in my Communications classes.
One of my professors told me about how the traditional Japanese Samurai warriors and the people of Nihon, as they say in their native tongue, is to bow your head as a sign of respect. If they nod back, they are returning that same respect to you, even if they don’t say anything at all. I lowered my head and asked in basic English, “Where do we begin, Senseii Kondek?”
“Hito!”, he spoke loudly.
His voice echoed the dojo and everyone in the room followed his glance, like sheep returning to a shepherd. In this case, it was more like a Shogun calling out to his warriors. I understood at that moment, that ‘Hito’ was a Japanese word for “People”.
More importantly, I realized he was calling me to be his samurai in training. His Ronin, he called me from time to time. I was directed to sit among the upperclassmen and young children alike. We all sat in one row; the more experienced fighters and members of the Club started the line and the newcomers ended it. Those who wore the black cloaks and armor were requested to take off their masks and put their swords on the floor, before the lesson started.
More specifically, Charlie instructed them to put their swords on the left side of where they sat down, showing the handles of the blade to the Senseiis who observed us. Although I had no sword at the time, I did my best to copy them, supporting myself in their traditional way by sitting on my knees, supporting my body with my legs.
“Onogashima”. Senseii Charlie Kondek bowed to us in a prostrate manner and everyone there did the same in response.. And I was going to be part of it.