The Salt of Kinjiro’s Sword

Moving as far from the door as possible and with one eye firmly fixed on it for the rest of the day, Kinjiro prepared the evening meal. He waited until all the students were in the dining room before taking the food in to them and once again carefully noted their reactions as he served them, but they did not say or do anything out of the ordinary. As usual they talked incessantly of their day’s practice, which most of the time was unintelligible to the boy, but no-one made any comment that had any bearing on what had happened to Kinjiro that afternoon. Kinjiro was however, determined to find out the reason behind these sudden attacks. He therefore waited until the senior student had served the master, and had himself finished, then requested permission to speak with him. ‘What is it Kinjiro?’ the senior student asked in a kindly tone. Kinjiro paused before speaking, not being sure how to phrase the question. He moistened his lips and looking at the senior student said, ‘I am afraid I do not do my work well’. He paused and the senior student remarked, ‘We are quite satisfied with with your work, why do you rebuke yourself?’ Kinjiro, suddenly bold, raised his voice and almost shouted, “Then why do you creep up and beat me’.

The conversation in the room stilled for a moment and then carried on again just as if it had never been interrupted. ‘I have never beaten you’, said the senior student. Suddenly Kinjiro realised how rediculous it was to accuse him of such behaviour, ashe would have little reason to sneak up on anyone. The other students’, said Kinjiro weakly, his voice fading away. ‘No, none of them would do such a thing without my permission’, the senior student stopped and Kinjiro thought he could detect a strange look in his face, but it passed almost as soon as it came. There was little else that Kinjiro could do, so he apologised and withdrew as quickly as he could.

He was embarrassed at appearing to accuse the senior student who had been quite cordail towards him. How had he imagined that he, or any other student, would creep up and strike a defenceless kitchen boy from behind. He groaned inwardly at what he had done, but, he reflected, the senior student had not appeared to be upset. perhaps it was just as well or he might have got a beating he did deserve.

As he lay on his bed that night, he realised that he had got no nearer to solving the mystery, rather he had increased it, since now being convinced that the students were not responsible, who was? He decided that a policy of continual watchfulness was necessary, and for some days he maintained such an alert attitude that he literally jumped at the slightest sound. However, he realised that he could not keep it up, the bruises were dying away and so he relaxed a little. The immediate danger seemed over and providing that he managed to watch the door carefully, while he worked, there seemed to be no way in which he could be attacked, at least without him knowing of it.