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conferring with the flowers

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On the day that he is completed – bolts tightened and edges sanded, the final spells woven into his wooden arms – his creator smiles one last time as he is hauled away and tells him to “work hard out there.”
 
The speech of humans is still a bit beyond him, but he understands the sentiment well enough. He has a purpose, after all. He knew that from the moment his pieces were first fitted together. His purpose flowed through the hands of the one who made him, and now it thrums like a pulse through his every part.
 
And when the first little swordsman approaches him, their eyes nervous and their weapon held in unsteady hands, he knocks them off their feet and thinks that this feels right.
 

 

 
There are less of the little swordsmen than there were before. It’s unfortunate, in a way, to watch their numbers dwindling, but the ones who stayed down when he hit them… Well. They simply weren’t meant for this life.
 
And of those that do remain, there are a few that tend to get up quicker than the others.
 
The one in the white bandana has bruises up and down their arms from where he has hit them. In the beginning they would always fall when he struck their knees, but now, every once in a while, they will bear it with only a grimace and a stagger. And now when they look at him there is resolve there instead of uncertainty, sharp and keen like the edge of a blade. They want to best him. To completely conquer this challenge that stands in their path.
 
Their next attack rattles him down to his wooden core, and he thinks that if he could, he would be smiling.
 

 

 
He is proud of that first splinter.
 
He feels his body crack ever-so-slightly beneath the little swordsman’s blade, and is struck, then, by an overwhelming sense of contentment.
 
They are getting so much stronger. They have learned how to read his attacks, how to dodge and roll and counter, and their blows now have a force behind them that he cannot always block.
 
With each day comes a new battle scar, it seems. His torso and face are covered in dents and scrapes and fractures. His hand falls off entirely, and a Priest comes to reattach it, but it never moves with quite the same ease. Nowadays he creaks as he turns, his parts no longer fitting together quite like they used to.
 
“You all have really done a number on this guy, haven’t you?” says the little swordsmen’s teacher, leaning in to examine him with a critical eye. These days they watch over their students’ practices with such satisfaction.
 
You and I are similar, aren't we, he would say, if he had a voice to do so.
 

 

 
The life of a training dummy is not long. He has known this from the very start.
 
The one in the white bandana moves with a quickness and an assurance that he can no longer hope to match. Their movements are almost a blur as they sidestep him, blade curving in a lethal arc to shatter the mechanical joints in his left arm. The other arm, too, gone before he can so much as react, and then one last shuddering blow to the chest, wood cracking beneath the strength of it.
 
He is breaking. His screws and hinges are falling apart, the spells that held him together unraveling one by one, and if he listens close to the sounds of himself coming undone he can almost hear his creator’s voice saying “work hard out there.”
 
(The little swordsman – not so little anymore, he supposes – is smiling, triumphant, a certain confidence to their posture as they bow in his direction.)
 
I did, he thinks, as things begin to fade. I did.
 

 

 

 
The knight’s eyes narrow, jaw set with tension as they put a hand on the hilt of their sword. They draw it quick, but not quite quick enough, as he spins out of its arcing path, sweeping low with his cane, trying to knock them off their feet. They don’t budge an inch.
 
Kakashi laughs as he steps back, allowing his cane to change into a gleaming blade, and thinks that this feels right.