Part 6

In the morning I washed myself in the stream close to the house. My milky skin had been touched by his strong arms, leaving soft bruises on my waist and a pink blush that crept from my chest, up my throat and in my cheeks. I smiled and my chest was warm. We had been addicted to each other last night, neither wanting to stop.

I washed my face, then watched the water rush over the rocks scattered on the riverbed, lost in a happy daze. My eyes dropped on an acorn stuck in the pebbles. I picked it up.

I willed a claw to grow on my finger. I remembered the lines of a kanji I’ve seen not long ago and scratched them on the acorn. The sun shined on my back when I walked naked inside the house. I kissed my lover on the cheek and placed my gift on his pillow.

Ai, the kanji said. Love. My vow I would return.

I passed by the forge for one last glimpse at the sacred blade we hammered together. Kogitsune-maru we named it. As my fingers touched the sharp blade I saw its future. It would become a sword of power to be passed down from emperor to emperor. From regents to royal heirs. In seven hundred years a powerful shōgun will be buried with it. I saw Japan never being the same again and Kogitsune-maru will be there to shape the future.

I said my farewell to the sword. The emperor’s man would come for it soon.

As the sun came in through the window it lit our names. They had been branded on the hot iron and painted in gold. Kokaji’s on the front, mine on the back, together bound in blessed metal, never to be broken, always to be remembered.

As they should have been etched in stone ten years ago.

Little Swordsmith.

And Little Fox.