Face set to a grim line, Hiko Seijuro XIII set out from the mountain hut that he shared with his idiot apprentice, a boy he had rescued and renamed Kenshin just over a year ago. Said idiot was nowhere to be seen and it was well past time for him to have returned from his solo training so he could fetch water from the river. Hiko cast out his senses and was met by the frightened ki of his charge.
Hiko sped up his footsteps, but didn't break into a run. The fear wasn't an urgent or life-threatening fear, but more of a dread. Whatever it was could keep till he got there to see what his pupil had gotten himself into now. Hiko came into the clearing and looked around for Kenshin.
"Alright, dummy! I know you're here. There's no use hiding!" called the swordmaster.
"Here I am, Master," he heard a plaintive voice call.
Hiko's eyes traveled up, up, up. Up in the highest branches of a gnarled old maple tree was his stupid student.
"Kenshin! How the hell did you get up there?!" barked Hiko, feigning annoyance.
"I climbed," was the brilliant answer.
"No shit! I thought you flew up!" roared Hiko. "You know damn well what I mean, dummy!"
"I... I just wanted to see what it was like up here!" called the boy. "I can see our hut!"
'I need a drink...'
"Mmhmm, so you had no problems climbing up, but now you're too scared to come down?" asked Hiko.
Shamefacedly, Kenshin nodded.
"Maybe I should leave you there and get another student who won't pull stupid stunts like this. What do you think?" asked Hiko, glaring stonily up toward Kenshin.
"M-MASTER!" cried Kenshin, blinking back tears.
Would the Master really leave him up there and get another pupil?
"Then again, I have invested a year in training you and it's really a pain to have to break in a new pupil. I'll get you down this time, ONLY if you swear not to climb so high again!" called Hiko, glaring sternly up at his pupil.
"I promise! Thank you, Master!" called Kenshin, choking back a sob of relief.
Hiko nodded, then launched himself into the air, unsheathing his nihontou as he went. It effortlessly sliced the branch in two and Hiko's large right arm plucked Kenshin out of the midair.
'HITEN MITSURUGI RYU - RYU SHO SEN'
Hiko landed with effortless grace and set Kenshin on his feet. The boy stumbled a bit, but managed to stay upright. Hiko snorted in amusement. Kenshin did some boneheaded things at times, but he was certainly the most amusing student Hiko could ask for.
Kenshin looked up at his Master, violet eyes wide with wonder. He'd had no idea a person could jump so high. Could he do that? Knowing what was going through his student's mind, Hiko graced Kenshin with his arrogant smirk.
"Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu - Ryu Sho Sen. Alright, you're up," said Hiko.
"Don't 'oro' me, just do it!" barked Hiko.
Kenshin crouched down and launched himself into the air, targeting a large lower branch of the tree from which he'd just been rescued. He felt only minimal resistance as the blade sliced through the branch. So caught up was he in the spectacular new move that he failed to concentrate on his landing and landed on his rear.
"You were fine in the air, but completely blew your landing, dummy," said Hiko, taking a swig of sake. "One more time and this time, land on your feet."
"Yes, Master," said Kenshin, immediately crouching.
He leapt into the air again, focusing on a higher tree branch. Again the slight resistance as the wakizashi sliced cleanly through it. This time Kenshin concentrated on coming down and landed gracefully on his feet. Immediately he looked to Hiko for approval, violet eyes glowing with pride in his accomplishment.
"Decent," said Hiko, taking a swig from his ever-present jug of sake.
Kenshin facefaulted a bit. Never a word of praise from the Master. Unhappily, he sheathed his wakizashi and started for the hut to retrieve the buckets to fetch water from the river. As soon as Kenshin's back was turned, Hiko permitted himself a smile. His pupil was catching on quickly.
It took Kenshin a week to become proficient with the Ryu Sho Sen. Certainly, he could leap high enough and slice cleanly enough. But there were small intricacies that didn't come to him quickly. Hiko wanted Kenshin perfect in battle, so every day they spent hours working on the Ryu Sho Sen. Hiko wouldn't train Kenshin in its companion move until this one was mastered.
After a week, Hiko was convinced that Kenshin had mastered the move. He leapt quickly, cut cleanly and always landed on his feet, instantly ready to go into the next fighting move. Hiko decided it was time to reveal the Ryu Sho Sen's companion to his unaware student.
Kenshin was walking back toward the hut, finished with his morning training routine. The boy was, as usual, off in his own dream world instead of paying attention to his surroundings. During training and sparring sessions, Kenshin's attention would be zeroed in on the lesson and nothing else existed. At any other time though, the boy's mind would seem to be almost absent from his body. Kenshin would function like an automaton, walking, eating and doing chores with seemingly no awareness of the world around him. Hiko had been trying for a year now to get Kenshin to pay attention to his surroundings and had had only intermittent success. He decided to combine teaching the new move with a form of shock therapy to get Kenshin to keep his mind in the real world once and for all.
Kenshin saw the shadow in the sky blocking out the sun way too late to defend himself. He felt a sharp pain on his right shoulder and the ground giving way beneath his feet. The next thing he knew, he was up to his neck in the ground, his right shoulder smarting horribly. Before him, in all his arrogant magnificence, stood his Master, sheathing his nihontou.
Hiko shot Kenshin an arrogant smirk. The flustered boy quickly recovered his powers of speech.
"M-Master! Why did you attack me?!" cried the bewildered boy.
"A swordsman never knows when or where he'll be attacked. As I've told you many a time, you must keep your senses tuned to the world around you at all times," reprimanded Hiko.
"And this was your way of showing me that?" glowered Kenshin, leveling a fierce glare that would have intimidated anyone aside from his Master, as he extricated himself from his entrapment in the ground and wiped the soil off his clothes.
"Apparently, you have to be shown rather than told things," shrugged Hiko.
Kenshin sighed and hung his head. The Master was right as always. There was no point in arguing.
"What was that move you attacked me with?" Kenshin asked, fixing his bright eyes on Hiko.
"Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, Ryu Tsui Sen. You see the nature of the move?" Hiko asked.
"You attack from above with a fierce downswing," answered Kenshin, clutching his shoulder.
"Correct. If you think you've got it, go for it," said Hiko.
'Gladly...' thought Kenshin.
The youth launched himself into the air and unsheathed his sword. When he was about 30 feet up, he began his descent, sword at the ready, eyes focused on his still unarmed Master. Just as Kenshin thought he would be able to avenge his throbbing shoulder, Hiko pulled his nihontou out in a lightning quick battoujutsu and blocked Kenshin's downswing, sending the boy sprawling and landing on his rear.
"What? You didn't expect me to just let you land a blow?" asked Hiko, feigning ignorance.
Letting out an exasperated breath, Kenshin shook his head.
Kenshin spent the rest of the day training in the Ryu Tsui Sen with his Master. Kenshin could jump higher than Hiko, that was for certain. But it was all for nothing because he didn't have the weight and strength to make an impact on his Master from above. As Hiko's weight was at least four times that of his student, the result was the same whenever they met in the air or on the ground. Kenshin would try to smash Hiko down with the Ryu Tsui Sen, only to be sent flying by Hiko's more powerful Ryu Sho Sen or battoujutsu, which blocked Kenshin's blade from ever making contact with the Master's body.
As Hiko strode back to the hut with an exhausted Kenshin stumbling along behind him, the Master smirked arrogantly to himself. He was satisfied with the boy's progress. His execution of the new move was flawless, and against any opponent other than himself, Kenshin would be all but guaranteed victory.
"C'mon dummy, we're almost there. Once we're back, you can start making our dinner," said Hiko.
"But, Master! I'm hungry and tired!" whined Kenshin.
"Then you'll want to get right to it so you can eat sooner," was Hiko's wise response.
"Of course... Master," returned Kenshin, though a much nastier name crossed his mind.
'Who knew training a pupil could be so amusing?' Hiko thought happily to himself, taking a swig of sake as they continued on their way with the sun setting behind them.