Suzu lives only to serve.
A blade is a thing of utility, a weapon to be used as required, and ultimately it has only one purpose. But it is always at his side, the first thing he turns to in times of need: a master swordsman calls his sword by name, and holds it dear to him, as dear as his family if he has none.
His master is taciturn at the best of times, preferring to leave the convoluted negotiations to lesser men as he concentrates on the essentials: the deployment of their samurai, the placement of the spies, the assassinations of their important enemies. He is not easily roused to anger, and it is even more difficult to tell when he is, but men shiver and fall silent when Yoshida-sensei's words cut into their petty squabbles and pierce the thin veneer of their bravado.
Sometimes he stands aside to let women and children pass, he whom the Choshu samurai give pride of place to in their meetings, who waves away the meaningless conceits of those he judges to be less than steadfast in their devotion to the cause. Suzu commented wonderingly on this small kindness at first, but he soon realizes that it is only the important things which one must never give way on.
The lesson is driven home when he has to draw his sword on the only friend he had ever made.
He kneels outside the burning house, paralysed and weeping as he stares at the implacable face of the first man who showed him kindness after the murder of his family, and Tetsu's terrified cries are agonizingly reminiscent of another voice sounding in his ears a lifetime ago.
The next time he sees Tetsu, he is out of breath after running and shouting futilely all night: the guilty expression on the boy's face as he turns away abruptly immediately spurs Suzu to sprint to the deserted courtyard, where he stops short on seeing the aftermath of what will be known as the Ikeda-ya incident.
Shock and grief drive him to his knees in front of the huddled body drained of life, and he does not believe that his master could have fallen until he finds the head, its closed eyes and peaceful expression strangely unfamiliar; it is only when he washes the blood away, murmuring snatches of half-forgotten prayers and other things which he does not want to remember, that the truth sinks in with awful finality, and he wishes that his hoarse screams could have woken the dead.
There is a comfort in the weight of the bundle tucked securely under his arm, as reassuring as the days when he walked with his master. Suzu is still his master's sword; the difference is that he is the only one left to wield it.