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From Suikoden of Japanese Heroes (Yeiyû Yamato Suikoden,
Publisher: Kujioka-ya Keijirô (c. 1843)
Ogata Shuma (later Jiraiya) raising his sword to kill a python attacking a large toad,
Jiraiya is portrayed as being a ninja.

" … more lifestyle than profession."

I'm afraid that I feel compelled to break with a semi-sacred tradition and report that I am a Ninja. Yes, anyone engaging as a Ninja was cautioned in their training to keep their true identity secret, though no clear punishment was associated with violating this warning. I well understand the complications this disclosure might create, for the first and most enduring response to any Ninja disclosing their secret tends to be incredulity. Nobody ever believes it. They treat this confidence as a joke, since no Ninja in the history of this world so far ever looked like they might be a Ninja when they're out of costume, and, indeed, the costuming might well account for ninety percent of a Ninja's magic. Ninja-ing's a cosplay occupation.

I've confided this secret before, though never quite this publicly.
I've mostly disclosed my true self to small children who have always responded with disbelief at first. Later, they might find themselves somewhat convinced. I always enlisted them in keeping the secret so that they wouldn't feel pressured to convince any grown-up just what I was. The lack of visual verification slows acceptance, for Ninja moves happen so fast that the unaided eye can never catch them. Heck, my Ninja self can and has scaled a skyscraper in less time than it might take to blink an eye. My magic just does not work at any slower speed, so it's a challenge for anyone but me to believe that I've actually scaled that building during that moment when you must have blinked or something.

The Ninja life was never what a non-Ninja might imagine. It's not often terribly exciting. Sure, there's the occasional distressed damsel in need of defending. Those, I can generally dispatch in about a second with one hand tied behind my back. Neither damsel nor distresser tend to know what just happened, except that the unfortunate encounter seemed to have ended, leaving not quite a hint of a memory about what occurred. In extreme cases, the bad guy might not survive the encounter, but I'm more of a catch and release-type Ninja. I keep my bloodshed to an absolute minimum, if only because the deceased never enjoy any benefit of their own redemption. Bad guys can always turn good if exposed to some 'proper' influence like an exquisitely-placed Ninja slap.

Perhaps the greatest benefit a Ninja enjoys might be that he (or she) can transform themselves into other creatures. One was reportedly able to turn himself into a toad then back again, with considerable benefits. Another mastered slug magic, the gist of which I will not even attempt to enumerate here, but just imagine. Being a Ninja won't much influence which seat one rides in on the bus and might add little to encourage domestic happiness, but it's honest work, though uncompensated. No salary. No benefits. No vacation, either. Ninja-ing's a 24/7 sort of occupation, but as I suggested above, this world never was lousy with distressed damsels. My sword and stars sometimes get rusty between uses. I practice more than I perform.

I mention this secret identity today because The Muse is away on her first business trip since before The Damned Pandemic. I have the whole house to myself, well, me and the Cats. The Cats know well my otherwise secret identity because they can see at the speeds Ninjas like me perform. They respect that element of me, if none other. When The Muse is away, I can just kick back and display my usually exclusively inner Ninja, consuming Ninja food with impunity and even treating myself to a Ninja movie, under the guise of professional improvement, of course. Though a Ninja's moves tend toward the traditional, and even Ninja movies often scramble up the stories, I find it heartening to watch a fellow Ninja in action. It's not like Ninjas ever hold conventions like the one The Muse is attending this week. We're more loners than community members, Ninja being more lifestyle than profession. You're welcome.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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