The nightmare started the same as it always did. Mitsuo found himself in front of the burning monastery, staring in terror as the flames erased the building’s once beautifully painted walls. The roof beams groaned and shuddered in their death throes. The dragon’s roar of the inferno almost drowned out the clash of steel, the desperate war cries, and screams of pain coming from the lower courtyard.
Flames had already destroyed the nearby dormitories that Mitsuo had once called home. He desperately searched the burning rubble for his most prized possession: the wooden practice sword his father had made for him.
He could sense someone standing behind him among the ruins, and in that innate sense only found in dreams, Mitsuo knew it was his father.
“The sword is the soul of a samurai, Mitsuo,” his father said softly. “You must never let its blade tarnish or rust, as must never let your heart be tarnished by fear.”
“I know father,” Mitsuo whispered. “It’s why I broke away from momma and Takeo when you told me to stay close to them. We had to flee so quickly that I forgot my sword.”
He could not bring himself to look at his father, but in the dream he found himself slowly turning anyways. His father stood before him, looking heartbroken.
“I’m afraid my son that because of your foolishness, you have lost more than just this.”
In his father’s outstretched hands was the practice sword. It had been so important to him back then, but now it looked like a pitiful toy. Mitsuo reached to grab it but as he did his father’s skin began to flake away like ash. Soon, all that was left of his father’s face was a leering skull.
That’s when he lurched awake, the scream still on his lips. His fellow acolytes groaned and cursed him for so rudely awakening him.