"'The art of the body, the body of the mind, and the mind of the soul. If one should taint, all will. Thus is the art of the sword.'"
"Where'd you get that from?"
"A very long time ago," her eyes hovered over the handle she clutched tightly, "A sword is a curse and nothing more. It does not protect. It does not save. It destroys everything it touches,” at this she paused and blinked slowly, “including the wielder. Tell me, have you ever killed a Sacred before? …Killed a man before?"
He hesitated, "No. I-I can't say that I have."
"Taking life is not sacred or rewarding, justified or not, it is defiling. The stain you place on your soul is permanent. And never will you forget the face of that man—the face of the life you valued less than your own. To hold a sword is easy, but to use it is another task,” she flipped over the blade, offering it to him. “I will teach you, but I pray that you will never need to use it,” he grasped the handle, but her grip held tight, “Swear on this blade that you will let me take the stain. I am already tainted. But I won't let you cross that line as well."
“I cannot do that,” he said bluntly, “You aren’t able to protect me all the time. I refuse to place the burden on you.” He tugged at the blade. Her grip tightened like a vice, and her gaze was so piercing it hurt to look in her eyes.
“You can. And you will. You must swear to never kill. As long as I am here, I will not allow it.”
“Why teach me if you never want me to use it?” Shad’s simple question stuck a finger in an old wound.
Akira fumbled for words. How could she explain the life she led? The reason that a nail was already in her coffin?
“Shad…” she finally managed, “Do not take this lightly.”
“I’m not. I know fully well what this means.”
“Do you? Then say it,” the icy words fell off her tongue like knives clattering to the floor, “Tell me what I am and what you desire to become.”
He gulped. A sudden cold sweat broke over him. The words stuck in his throat like black tar, boiling upwards only to envelope itself inwards again. Why couldn’t he say it? Why did it pain him to admit his desire?
“You…are a Hunter. And I…desire to become a Hunter.” Her eyes swept over his trembling body.
“Remember the weight of those words. They will serve you well. You are my one and only student. Do not let this be a waste. Swear to me.”
With a hand still wrapped around the pommel, his gaze wavered to and from her eyes and the sword, both as sharp and foreboding as the other. Suddenly, Akira’s softened.
“Please,” she whispered.
He sucked in a breath. Never would he have imagined the word ever escape her lips. His hand squeezed tighter.
“Alright. I promise.”
Her grip loosened.
The weight fell in his hand like a dead dove.
The training begun.