The crackling flames, the only sound to break the silent winter night. He feels turmoil boiling within. Following commands, yes, but how long could he fall back on that reason (excuse)? Innocent lives lost. Then a cry. From the body in the snow? No, next to it. He looks and finds a child. No more than a few months old. His orders were clear, “Leave none alive.” He drives his blade into the snow, unwilling to kill the babe. There are limits.
The joy in his face, and over something so simple as food. Seeing the world spring anew through his son’s eyes is worth any price. Even defying his lord’s orders those years ago. He lives balanced between two worlds. On one side: bliss filled joy of seeing his boy grow; on the other: fear that his past actions will catch up to him. One eye on his son, the other on shadows.
The past comes calling one autumn, leaves falling to the forest floor. They say they’ve come for his head. Blades are drawn. Back-to-back with his boy. They’ve trained for this. He never lied to his son, never hid the truth from him, this has been expected. Time slows, sound fades, each moment more real than the last. Steel on steel, the shuffle of feet, quick movement, a slash, a parry, a thrust. A man loses his arm, another his head, one is run through, one just runs. It won’t be the last time father and son are ambushed. They’ll come to expect it.
He pours the cup of sake onto the grave then sits in silence. Warm summer air blows through the grass. How fast this moment came. Now a lone wanderer he travels the country helping those in need, defending the weak. But every summer he comes here to visit his father. The man that gave him life.