The Language of The Sword

In the morning Miles woke up alone. He wasn't sure where Na and Aaron had gotten off to but he didn't worry. He decided to go out for an early run, figuring if he kept to the village he wouldn't run into any unsavory critters lurking about. Some of the locals kept giving him strange looks as he jogged by in his slacks and undershirt (he wish he could find gym shorts and sneakers but he made due). But he kept going until he ran into Toshi once again. Who was sitting atop a hill smoking a pipe, he regarded the samurai with a nod as he stopped to catch his breath.

"I see you maintain your body. That is good." Toshi said. "A sound body begets a sound mind and spirit."

"You get that from a fortune cookie?" Miles chided.

"I know not what a 'fortune cookie' is." Toshi said. "Merely it is a platitude I often share with my students."

Miles nodded. "Ah."

"I ask you, Miles-san." Toshi said as he puffed on his pipe. "What do you intend to do today?"

Miles shrugged. "Play the waiting game, I guess. Na's busy at the hall of healing, Aaron's no doubt getting into some sort of trouble with a local girl... Why? You need me for something?"

"In a sense." Toshi said. "I wish to continue your training."

"I didn't realize I was being trained." Miles said.

"You mistook our first session as a mere sparring match?" Toshi smirked. "Miles-san, I was testing you. To see if you were up to the challenge. I believe you are."

"You want to train me to become a samurai?" Miles chuffed. "That'd take a while, I'd imagine. And I am currently busy."

"I know a place where time matters little. Such is the nature of these... savage lands...I have taken many students there in my time. I wish you to be my next pupil."

Miles froze. "You're serious."

"Very much so." Toshi snuffed out his pipe and stood up. "Come, I will show you the grove..."

Miles followed Toshi into the jungle. He didn't bother going back to get his coat, and he'd brought his sidearm on his jog in case something decided to slither into the village. It was mostly an uphill hike. Miles wasn't used to so much hiking and marveled at how effortlessly Toshi made his way up through the terrain in his wooden sandals.

And then Miles felt a shift. It was prevalent mostly in the bond between him and Mia. It felt like it had been... blocked. Panic set in. He couldn't sense Mia anymore.

"Something happened." Miles said as he stopped in his tracks.

"Ah, I forgot to warn you. Others with telepathy and bonds like yours and your sister-soul are unable to..." Toshi frowned. "The one known as Gil used a word once... I believe it's 'broadcast?' From The Grove."

"Will I be able to get it back if I left?" Miles asked. The lack of Mia's presence was chilling.

Toshi nodded. "Should you feel the need, head back down a ways and relay to her you are well and that nothing is wrong."

Miles did just that. Mia was confused but she was glad to know it wasn't anything serious.

Miles was just going to become a samurai, is all.

Miles returned a moment later and Toshi was gone. Miles made his way up the incline further until he reached an open spot that stretched out for some ways. A clearing opened up with tall grass and white flowers. A lone cabin sat in the middle of this clearing next to a tall tree. The air felt weird here, Miles noted. Like it wasn't... moving... was all he could say.

He found Toshi asleep in the cabin.

"Napping on the job already?" Miles joked.

Toshi sat up and yawned. "As I said. Time matters little here. Outside the grove only a moment passed. Here... I spent the last three days enjoying the solitude."

"Say what?" Miles was confused.

"Time does not exist here. This Grove is one of many places like this. A man can spend a hundred lifetimes here and not grow old, yet return as if he'd never left." Toshi explained.

"And that's how you're going to compress all this training into a single day?" Miles asked.

"Should I wish, yes we could train all day from the perspective of those outside the grove." Toshi smirked. "Though to us it would be a millennium."

"Okay... weird..." Miles shrugged. "So what's on the agenda for today?"

Months passed. Toshi's tutelage was firm and unrelenting. Miles often wished to stop. Yet Toshi seemed able to get him to stay and press on. In the mornings they would train. Afternoons were spent studying while evenings were a mix of both and a warm meal. Though to say The Grove experienced day/night cycles wasn't truly accurate. The days and nights seemed to blur into one another with neither one beginning nor ending. It just was. A moment it would be bright, another it would be dark. Most of the time it was both.

Despite Toshi's words implying time had no meaning here, which was true in a sense, Miles did note he had grown a prominent beard, and his hair was longer. His muscles were stronger too. How any of this was possible in a place where time had no meaning was neither relevant nor truly worth studying. It just was.

One evening. Toshi and Miles were enjoying a quiet meal. Neither spoke. They had no need to. Their time together had formed a bond not at all unlike the one Miles had with Mia. Though it was forged from blood and sweat and shared knowledge. Respect. Even admiration.

However questions had to be asked and answered verbally. "Is there someone you care about, Sensei? Back in the village?" Miles asked. He knew Toshi lived alone. However he was curious.

"The fates have seen it fit to not grant me the joy of love," Toshi said. "I... Fail in that arena consistently, I'm afraid."

Miles felt sad for him. He was a good man, a good teacher, a good soul. "I'm sorry."

"There was one... but she had eyes for another." Toshi's eyes glazed over at a warm yet bittersweet memory. "They live in the village now, with their children."

"That must be hard." Miles said.

"I find joy in her joy. It is all that matters."

"And you just never found someone who caught your eye like she did?"

"Many beautiful women have caught my eye, Miles-kun." He sighed. "Though none have seen fit to see me, it seems."

"You're a good catch, Toshi." Miles said. "Maybe you just need to put yourself out there more...?"

Toshi shrugged. "I often fear I have simply missed the one chance fate granted me..."

"Don't let fear stop you from being happy." Miles said. "That's the lesson this world has taught me."

"A good one to be sure." Toshi nodded. "I did not expect such wisdom in a student."

"Happy I could surprise you." Miles said with a smile.

Toshi finally smiled. "Perhaps one day the fates will send me a sister-soul like your Mia... and I can finally know what it is to be loved."

"You're already loved, Toshi." Miles said, looking at him intently.

Toshi smiled and nodded to him. They fell back into a comfortable silence and continued to enjoy the calm evening.

When Miles finally stepped out beyond the boundary of The Grove he was met with a feeling he had forgotten, yet was happy to be reminded of. Mia was with him again. It was as if he'd only been gone for a brief moment.

Yet Mia could feel the months he'd experienced come flooding through to her. It was overwhelming to the point she had to close herself off for a moment.

"What the hell happened to you?" Mia asked over the bond.

Miles smirked and responded. "Found myself with more free time than I usually do. Decided to become a samurai..."

Mia was confused, because she knew he wasn't lying. She felt the new bed of knowledge he had. Felt the sharpened mind against her own. It was kinda hot actually.

"You'll have to show me what you learned when you get back." Mia said.

Miles smiled and sent her love through the bond before closing it off again. It came to him with a lot more ease than before. He felt he had control.

He and Toshi returned to the village and before parting ways, Toshi produced his katana from his sash and presented it to Miles. "For you."

"I can't accept that." Miles said with a bow and lowered head.

"You earned it, Miles-kun." Toshi said. "This blade has served me well for many years. I would see it serve you in a similar capacity."

Miles finally looked up at him and tenderly accepted the sword. "Thank you... Sensei." He said in somewhat rugged Japanese.

Toshi smiled at him. "And thank you, Miles." He said in perfect English. "For reminding me not to be afraid..."

They shared a knowing glance. Miles was happy for Toshi. And the two parted ways. Miles returned to the housing that the people of Black Rock had provided for him and Na. It felt like coming home after a long journey. His jacket was still there, having been untouched in the brief moments that had been several months to Miles.

Then he produced Toshi's katana and marveled at the blade for a moment before returning it to its sheath and resting it on his bed.

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