“You haven’t touched the sword,” Eldan noted.
“I don’t have to. And I don’t want to.” Kaoru shuddered. “It hates me.”
“Does it?” Sejanes raised a gray brow, military-cut hair bristling with curiosity.
“Not exactly,” Kaoru said lamely. How to explain to someone who couldn’t sense it? “It feels like hate. Like all the lives Jin-e stole, weighing it down like lead chains. Like… like blood-hunger. If I tried to use that sword – it would hurt.” She swallowed dryly. “Kenshin said… when a man kills too many, too long, he loses his purpose in the smell and color of blood. That’s what that sword feels like.” Not like Kenshin’s. The small swordsman’s blades were touched with grief, anger, the will to protect. Like her father’s.
Only her father’s had never carried that ghostly taste of blood.
Kerowyn frowned. “I thought you said there wasn’t any blood-magic left in that blade, Sejanes.”
“There isn’t.” The golden-brown robes of a Mages’ Collegium instructor swished around the older man as he walked over for a closer look at bloody steel. “But I’d venture to say its purpose has marked it deeply, especially if the man’s been assassinating people for over a decade.”
“He was a blood-path mage,” Eldan pointed out coolly.
“Fifteen years ago, I might have agreed with you. Looking at the evidence, though….” Sejanes turned on her. “Herald Kamiya. What is a hitokiri?”
Kaoru hesitated. :Weaponsmaster?:
:He’s the closest thing to an expert on Yamato magic I could find. He knows.: Kerowyn gave her a slow nod. :He also knows how to keep his mouth shut.:
Please let her be right. Oh, Kenshin. “‘Tousan didn’t want to talk about them much,” Kaoru answered. “Hitokiri means manslayer, and he said Kamiya Kasshin Ryu would never follow that path. That if we had to kill, we would brush aside the ki of a death, like any samurai, so it won’t harm those we protect. But we would never pattern our swords to use it.” She kept her hands from shaking with an effort. “I didn’t really understand what that meant. Until last night. When I saw what Jin-e could do.” When Kenshin told me what he could do. What he must have done, to keep Jin-e’s fire from burning us alive….
“Sword-patterns. Kata?” Sejanes asked, dark eyes alert and interested. “You can use kata to manipulate magic?”