This is about a government assassin hired to kill his former mentor.
|I was standing outside some fancy bar in San Jose, California holding what appeared to be a flag with cloth of it covering the entire pole. It was actually a katana, a long Japanese blade. There was somebody that I needed to see in there, but I wasn’t sure if I had the courage. It was my first job as a hitokiri or assassin. I knew I could perform the task, and perform it well as far as skills go. My willingness, however, was in question.
There wasn’t anybody else in the bar other than him and maybe some of his goons, but there was something that bothered me. He was my mentor at one time. His name was Chikuma “Carlos” Takahashi. I loved him like a surrogate father, but he got corrupted by some Italian gang.
He taught me kendo when I was living in Japan. He bought me my first katana. It had the symbols for life and death carved into the blade. He was a full-blooded Japanese man but he had a strong interest in Spain spending a few years of his youth there, hence picking up the name Carlos. He taught me the code of the samurai; the bushido code. He said he didn’t prefer the term samurai for himself. They were too corrupt when they died out during the Meiji period. He confused the hell out of me.
I invited Carlos to the states one time. I was going to visit my family and friends, and I thought that he might enjoy himself. Being from the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco, it didn’t really help matters that there’s a Little Italy right by there. Finally coming to the States with me, he became a true samurai with the pollution of the Mafia.
I took one last drag on my cigarette and decided to go for the kill. I walked into the bar and my teacher was there behind the counter.
“It’s been a long time, Ryan.” he said wiping a glass. My former teacher had really gotten older since I saw him last. He still had his campy eighties metalhead fashion, looking like the devil’s clown. He looked like all those old bikers with long gray hair with the only distinguishing factor being he was Japanese. His eyes… he gained these eyes fit for a true assassin, one who’s in it for the sadism. I’m only doing it for government business.
“You look horrible, Carlos.” He knew what I was there for. “Where are your cronies?”
He gave a chuckle as he got himself a shot of whiskey. “I’m sure you figured out someone would tell me that you were coming. I just couldn’t resist fighting an old friend, especially one who’s been like a son.” He took the shot. “When did you find out?”
“Benihana in Cupertino,” I told him. “It seems like you’ve corrupted the place.”
“No, I never let the workers in on my activities. It would only dishonor the name of the restaurant, and more importantly, Japan. What did you feel when you found out that I was the criminal you were looking for?”
“I was mournful, but I wasn’t surprised,” I told him. “You see, back before I moved to Kyoto, there was a local rumor about Bruno Bianchi. People said that he had ties to Italian mob. The only reason that it was a legend until I finally went looking for you was because nobody could prove it. When you started hanging out with him, that summer we came, I knew it would eventually ruin you. It just didn’t want it to be by my hand.”
“How come you never told me?” he asked.
“I was hoping that it was no more than a brief relationship while you were there. Besides, all the times I did try and tell you the scoop, you just blew off my suggestions.”
“The regret of not listening… Maybe I should have listened,” he said with smile that showed he saw the irony in the situation. “You remember the lesson I taught you about distinguishing fiend from foe on a one-on-one?”
“Yeah, you said that there was no distinguishing between the two.”
“Yeah. Now, the teacher dies by the hand of student, who is now his enemy,” he laughed.
Reaching for my sword, I looked down. “Why were you corrupted by them? You were once a good man.”
“Well, I saw the money that was involved and decided to give in. You remember how poor I was. It’s quite clear that you’re a better man than me. I’m glad you went the other way, Kid.” Dropped my katana and lit a cigarette. “At least I know one of us was able to do the right thing. I’m real proud of you.”
I dropped my sheath and put my katana to Carlos’ neck. “Just come with me, so we can straighten this whole thing out, Carlos. It’s not too late. If I could do it, then you know you can.”
“I know it’s not. I’m just too corrupted that I don’t think I’m redeemable. Hell, I’m not even sure if I want to be redeemed.”
I looked down in regret. How could he be the same Carlos I used to know? If I could convince him to come back, I wouldn’t have to kill what was once a good friend. “Please, things could go back to normal. Come work with me. I do the exact same things as you, except with government backing. We could be the government assassins together. Don’t you want that?”
“That’s a very tempting proposition, but I just don’t know why I’d be doing it,” was his answer. “Being a government hitokiri as opposed to the mob holds much less freedom.” I had no choice.
I just had to make sure. “There is absolutely no way I could possibly convince you to come back with me and get some help is there?”
“No.” he smiled.
I took a long drag of my cigarette, stuffed it in the ash-tray and picked up my katana. “Get your katana out. You were once a pal. I can’t let dishonor yourself by not giving you a fighting chance.”
He got his katana out and we crossed blades. With each clash of the sword, I felt his lack of enthusiasm. He seemed indifferent like he couldn’t give shit about who won. I beat Carlos in five moves. He was holding out on me. “Come on, master Takahashi. I know you can do better than that,” I challenged him again. It was impossible for me to beat him so damn easily without breaking a sweat.
Again we crossed swords, and he put up more of a challenge, like he wanted to win. He clashed but hardly anything that was worth noting in a martial arts magazine like he was able to. With each clash of the swords I sensed his lack of enthusiasm.
“That was still way too easy. I know you could fight better than that. Why are you holding out?”
He dropped his katana on the floor and just smiled innocently. His cold-blooded eyes were starting to loose the coldness. He was warming up to me again. “I’ve lost the will to fight you. I’m a criminal and I should be punished.”
I was confused. The only reason he didn’t want any guards was because he wanted to cross katana with me. “You said you wanted to fight. Why the hell are you holding back?”
“As we started to talk, I realized that you were going to kill me no matter what. I started getting tired. It just wasn’t worth what’s left of the fight in me,” he explained.
“And you’re just giving up like that?” He nodded. “You know I have to kill you, don’t you?”
“I have a better idea; seppuku. Does that work for you?” Carlos asked with a smile. “I have disgraced you and this is my way of apologizing. And I can’t just loose to you either. A samurai hates to loose because it’s dishonorable too.”
“That’s what bushido is all about, paying for what you’ve done, right? That means that at least you’ll go with restored honor,” I said. I would much rather have him commit a seppuku than die by my katana.
He reached for a tantō from under the counter.
“Thanks, Ryuuji,” he said.
“Do you have your death poem written?” I asked. He always had one prepared just incase he needed to commit the suicide. I could never let the complete ritual slide. It was apart of Bushido. The honor of the code, the purity of being a warrior was etched into me.
“I am a villain
Regret is my own cell
But what’s done is done
And there is no looking back
For the wrongs I’m guilty of.”
“Does that work for you?” he asked.
I nodded with sorrow, but with an uncanny peace he kneeled down, took his tantō and sliced himself. The whole time he had this strange smile. It was a peaceful smile as if he was finally able to let go regrets. It wasn’t masochistic by any means. After he sliced his abdomen, I decapitated him. I threw an ace of spades on Carlos. It’s sort of my calling card. Mission accomplished. Again, I think it’s better to commit seppuku rather than by an executioner’s hand. That being the case, it was a bittersweet ending.