Sacrifice: A Shin'hare Story
"You will be pleased that your progress has been recognized." Sensei Kutan growled, stalking across the front of our kneeling ranks. We remained in formation despite our resting position, watching him as he continued stalking, his rock-hard muscles shifting gracefully with each movement, beneath his simple robe. He had earned a name, the right to carry a sword, and the experience to teach our class. It was a small class, a mere one hundred and eighty noses of the initial two hundred, but we had been selected to advance beyond the teeming ranks of battle hoppers and sacrifice chattel and into greatness. We were honored to learn from him. However, he demanded more. He always did. "Your actions will be judged today. This is a day of destiny. And as always, great destinies require sacrifice."
There were subtle shifts of ears, noses, and tails at the pronouncement. No one was foolish enough to interrupt the powerfully-built samurai elder. The first to draw attention to themselves in a situation like this had best either have a profound answer to a question or a new truth that would aid in the class's enlightenment. No questions had been ask-"What will you sacrifice to attain your destiny and the recognition of our guests?"
The wall to the raised observation gallery to our left slid open, drawing gasps from the less-disciplined students' shocked throats. I felt my heart leap in surprise, my ears stiffen in admiration, and my lungs clench in fear. A warlock, a concubunny, a warrior, and a monster gaoler sat upon the bench, looking us over appraisingly. As though we were sacrifices, pets... apprentices... or staff. My heart began pounding harder, though the rest of my class remained frozen. I was in the fourth rank, near the center. The fifth was the only one behind me, a relatively safe position. I was only in reach of three possible backstabbers. Our observers remained silent, their eyes judging. Hesitation was useless.
Sensei Kutan was watching, obviously waiting. The first to answer showed great initiative, but placed themselves in a tenuous position, a giant target painted upon them thereafter by jealous lessers. How could one avoid being a target, while simultaneously advancing one's position and gaining the needed prestige to be recognized by the great ones? We did not even have names, so we were no threat to their position. They had come to observe us. Action was required, but we had been given no direction.
What could one sacrifice? We had nothing. A robe was useless except as an object lesson. The small knives we all held sheathed within our obi were mass-produced and only for the most desperate of hold-outs. Sacrificing one's self was expected, not an act of destiny. That would only advance... someone else's... destiny.
I selected carefully, hesitation gone. I rose, to the staring of the rear rank and the turning of my own. I pounced. The bully in the second rank was immobilized with a simple arm-lock and my own arm around his throat. I looked to the startled female beside him, my voice surprisingly steady. "Bowl."
She simply blinked, frozen, until she managed to quaver out, "What?"
"Bring me a bowl. Now." I growled, as my stunned target attempted to struggle. She skittered away at a high speed. I felt all of the eyes in the room upon me, sizing me up for weakness, intent, and conviction. Of course, she returned at the same speed. Excellent. "You asked what we would sacrifice." I felt confident, almost giddy with finding my own answer. I drew the knife, locking my target's arm behind him... before plunging the sharp little blade into a vein, opening it above the held bowl. To her credit, the female held the filling bowl without spilling any of the dark red blood, as my victim's life faded and his body weakened. "Everything. But one must start with that of no further use."
Sensei Kutan looked to the observers... who were arguing quietly. As the body ran out of blood, the bowl nearly full, he waved a hand, and the others resumed their seats, except the female who had assisted me. "Ambitious. Ruthless. Cunning. Commanding. And you actually sacrificed, rather than wasting the effort." I could feel the pride in his voice.
The warlock stood, clenching a fist, and the blood leaped from the bowl and formed into a quivering ball in roughly the shape of a heart, before spiraling over to a gem on his hooded robe's belt. "I claim that one and his assistant, Kutan. Release him to me."
Sensei Kutan offered a small, tight grin to me. "You have graduated my class. Bow to your new master, warlock apprentice Toriko." ...I had a name and a future! I looked down at the body and at the shocked gaze of my new assistant. Stepping stones. All progress and destiny required sacrifice.
Just a little fanfiction that I cooked up. I enjoy writing up "intro stories" for how characters come to be, and thanks to Mokog and the stream audience 03/01/2017 for the suggestion to start with a Shin'hare. Feedback welcomed, and I'll happily consider requests that fit into established lore.