The Salt of Kinjiro’s Sword

For five days Kinjiro had been at the house and in all that time he had done nothing but work at cleaning and washing. He quickly discovered that there were about ten students in residence and that the youth, of the first day’s acquaintance, was the senior member of the group. It was he who gave the orders and Kinjiro’s orders were explicit. Wash and clean and cook for the other students. The senior student cared for the master’s needs himself. Soon with the eagerness of youth-Kinjiro had cleaned the place until it shone, but still more work was heaped on him by the senior student and to Kinjiro’s repeated request, when would he be taught to fence, the student smiled and replied ‘Be patient’. The fencing master swept through the house without so much as a look at the boy and he sank into a state of despair, perhaps he thought there had been some mistake and everyone imagined him to be a house-boy, whereas he was there to be trained as a swordsman. So far he had not even seen a sword.

On the sixth day he sat in the kitchen cleaning one of the huge copper cooking pots and although not happy with his task he did the Job conscientiously enough and the pot gleamed from his polishing. Pausing momentarily to admire its sheen, he was struck a violent blow in the back that drove him on to his face. His first thought was that the house had fallen down, but that was quickly dispelled as he struggled to his feet. He looked round the kitchen but nothing and no-one stirred. A fly buzzed noisily across the room, and in the distance faint sounds of traffic could be heard, but in the house silence. Kinjiro rubbed his back which smarted from the blow, how he had been struck or by what he did not know. For the rest of the day he kept a careful watch to see if anyone tried to attack him again. In his mind he became convinced that it was some sort of trick played on him by the students and he resolved to watch them carefully in the future.

At supper that night, he looked at them all in turn and expected someone to laugh at him or to taunt him, but no-one took the slightest notice of him at all, which only added to the boy’s frustration. What did they hope to achieve, he wondered. The next day he carefully made sure that no one was about before he set to work and frequently broke off from his labours to open the door and look up and down the corridor that ran the length of the building, but he never saw a single soul. As the afternoon drew on Kinjiro relaxed his guard and decided that the mystery would eventually solve itself in due course. It was while he was resigning himself to this conclusion that he was suddenly beaten to his knees by another blow across his back. His breath spilled out as he crashed to the floor, but he struggled to regain his feet, although the room spun dizzily round, and tugged open the door. There was no one to be seen. Kinjiro cursed out loud as he straightened up by the door post. Someone was playing tricks on him, but why, why did anyone want to beat him in such an underhanded fashion. What was the purpose of it all?