Shadows Into Light by Rick Ramirez

He walks the lonely path,

along the forest of snow.

Katana at his left hip,

helmet strapped to his head.


He has no idea where he is off to,

as his last few years have been like his soul –

Wandering aimlessly across the land.

For he is a Ronin,

a masterless samurai.


He has been walking for miles and hours,

through the thick snow and past the thinning trees.

He has been pacing himself cautiously,

for who knows what could be lurking in this forest.


Then, out of the corner of his eye,

he sees the Shadow.

He keeps walking, waiting,

for it to just be a trick of the Light.


The shadow darts out from behind the tree,

heading straight for the samurai.

The samurai turns and unsheathes his sword,

but he is too late.


He is struck down to the ground,

with a blow that was only meant to knock him down.

He quickly picks himself back up,

With a curse toward the sky.


With both hands gripped to the hilt of his Katana,

he turns, ever so slowly, to look for the threat.

With the thick fog and perpetual perception of white,

it is even harder to determine what is there and what isn’t.


Then, a second strike!

The shadow darts past his right side,

practically grazing him.

His right cheek is caught and begins to bleed.


He brings his right hand to his face,

and feels the wound, the pattern.

Four distinctly, separate cuts.

Shuko, famed weapon of the Shinobi –  

a rogue ninja.


He ponders over this revelation,

over his next action.

Then, he remembers his father’s final proverb.

And recites it.


“You have chosen this path.

Life works in strange ways.

Your choices have clearly led you here,

as have mine.

I will give you a new choice:

Leave here now and live,

or stay and face your destiny.

The decisions you make,

and the actions that follow,

reflect who you really are.”


Time passes for but a few seconds,

until there is an answer –

In the form of three shuriken.

They are deflected with a single swipe of his sword.


The ninja leaps down into the snow with a chain-weighted bamboo staff,

a yard away from the samurai.

Time stands still,

as the Wind begins to carry the fluttering flakes of snow,

into the beginning of a blizzard.

The Ronin and the Rogue stand.

Ready for the other to make their move.


The ninja nods in acceptance of his destiny,

as does the samurai.  

They both charge,

Katana outstretched and Bamboo Staff at the ready.


The samurai brings his sword down upon the ninja.

But the ninja is fast.

He blocks it and pushes him back,

as he stoops low and swings the staff along the ground with his right hand.

Out comes the weight and chain,

as it wraps itself around his enemy’s leg.

With a single jerk,

The samurai is brought forth to the ground.

Moving in quickly toward his quarry,

the shinobi slams the other end of his staff onto the ronin’s helmet.


The helmet shatters as the staff bounces backward.

The samurai takes his chance.

He kicks his chained leg outward,

and snaps the staff back into its handler’s face.

The ninja stumbles backward,

as the samurai slashes his shin free of the chain –

and jumps to his feet.

The ninja regains his footing,

as the samurai rushes in with his sword.


Both combatants close in on each other,

blocking both of their respective weapons,

stuck within their surprisingly equal strength.


Until finally,

the samurai curved his sword under the ninja’s staff –

and flung it out of his grasp.

And with one swift strike of his sword,

the ninja fell to the ground.

The samurai stood frozen in place over his body,

compelled to move,

until he peered down his side and saw his own Tanto in him.

Then all he could see was the snow— blinding, cold, white…