The Cold Blade of the Samurai
It was a dreary night. The bitter sting of the breeze sent a chill down Haohmaru's spine. He sat in the snow cross-legged in nothing but his robes, and his body and mind suffered greatly for it. The focus in his mind was on many different things; he thought about his death in many possible ways as to not fear it but he still tried to keep himself in high spirits. His preparation was not easy, but he knew in his heart that the real tests would be much worse than this (Yamamoto 93; Yamamoto 25).
Haohmaru returned to the warmth of the main room of his dojo. As he entered, his master stood waiting in the middle of the combat floor. Various training seki-bo, tetsu-bo, kanabo, and kirikobu staves were propped against the wall, one with a samurai's lucky handkerchief still tied to the end. Haohmaru approached his master, his wooden zori quietly clicking across the wooden floor. He stopped in front of his master and bowed to him. As he raised his head, his master held out a slip of paper with two Japanese characters written on it. One was the symbol of the Samurai, which stands for "Servant," and the other was of the Bushido, which stands for "Way of the Warrior." Haohmaru held out his hands and accepted the token resembling the beginning of his journey (Ratti 305; Henshall 57).
Large suits of do-maru and haramaki-do armor stood on displays on the sides of the hallway. Haohmaru glared deeply into the kabuto and mempo of one of these suits thinking about the trials that awaited him the next day. He knew he'd be facing many hardships in the days ahead, and although he didn't know what types of hardships there would be, he knew he must get through them with all of his might or he would never be a true samurai (Ratti 203; Ratti 215; Ratti 216).
Early the next morning Haohmaru rose from his restless sleep. He had been having constant dreams about his journey and awoke many times in the night, sometimes sweating from panic or fear. He was up before everyone else in his dojo, so he acted quickly and quietly as to not disturb anyone else. He put together a knapsack with food and various tools in it, and he rolled his futon up and tied it to the top of the bag. He donned his robes and tied his belt around his waist, sheathed katana firmly set against his side. Lastly he got his lucky jug and filled it with sake. He tied a rope to the end of it and hung it from the belt at his side. Making one final check of all of his supplies, he quietly slid the door open and slipped out (Langone 9; Ratti 259; Yamamoto 74).
The sun was exceptionally bright that day considering the weather of the night before, and Haohmaru thought to himself that it was perfect weather for traveling. He knew not where he was headed, so he merely chose a random direction to go. He mostly traveled on the small dirt roads that coiled through forests and around mountains on the Japanese landscape. Occasionally he would see a wagon go by, but it was quite rare to ever see anyone else on these roads.
On the 17th day of his journey, Haohmaru came to a separation of the road. One path lead toward the mountains and the other path lead toward a village. Since he was running low on food, he decided to head to the town for the time being.
Upon arrival, Haohmaru noticed a commotion in the midst of a crowd. He rushed to the scene, and after he pushed his way through the crowd he saw an enormously fat man pushing a young girl. The man had a kusari-gama hanging from his side and a sinister grin on his face. The young girl was robed almost completely and crying as the large man continued to push her. Haohmaru ran toward the large man and shouted, "Get your hands off of that girl (Ratti 317)!"
"Humph!" the large man grunted, "Don't stick your nose in other people's business! It just so happens that this girl's dojo owes our dojo a large sum of money after one of their foolish members bet against me that I couldn't eat an entire table of sushi!" Then the man patted his enormous stomach and chuckled as he said, "How stupid was that guy, huh? Gehehehehe… well, since he couldn't pay me, I'm holding his dojo responsible, and since they haven't paid me, I think I deserve a repayment for this insult, eh?"
The large man continued to shove the girl. She fell to the ground and a small purse fell from her pocket. The man snatched it up and opened it with a large smile, but then scowled after seeing the contents. "What is this? There's only 50 yen in here. That's not even enough to pay for one plate of sushi! You stupid girl!" The man raised his hand and brought it down with terrible force. The girl cowered, but then opened her eyes again and saw Haohmaru grasping the large man's hand with his own two (it took both of Haohmaru's hands to wrap around the large man's wrist).
"You'd be well advised to do as I say and stop harassing this girl," Haohmaru said as he pushed the man's hand away and stepped back.
"Grr… you fool! Do you even know who I am?!?" The large man raised his foot, and with a loud shout, stomped it down onto the ground as hard as he could. The earth trembled under the might of his leg, causing some people to fall. "My name is Earthquake, and it looks like you want to get your butt kicked if I'm not mistaken!" Haohmaru stayed standing and, clenching the hilt of his katana in one hand, spread his feet apart to a fighting stance. Earthquake merely chuckled at the sight of Haohmaru preparing to battle and pulled the kusari-gama free of his belt. He gripped the kama end of the kusari-gama in one hand and began swinging the ball and chain end with his other hand. Earthquake took a quick step forward and swung the steel ball downward at Haohmaru, but he quickly sidestepped and unsheathed his sword. Haohmaru charged toward Earthquake's unguarded torso and swung with his katana horizontally. Earthquake quickly swung the kama at the katana and parried the attack to the side as he snapped the chain back to his hand. He then turned to face Haohmaru and swung the kama at him, but Haohmaru brought his sword up and locked his sword between the connection point of the blade to the handle of the kama. They both pushed against each other, but Haohmaru was clearly outweighed and had no chance in this sort of fight, so he quickly pulled back and went to his back. Earthquake, not anticipating that Haohmaru would do this, fell forward and Haohmaru put his feet up against Earthquake's chest. Using the momentum of Earthquake's fall, Haohmaru flung him through the air. Earthquake landed with a deafening thud against the dirt.
Haohmaru stood up and walked toward Earthquake as he struggled to roll over onto his back. Haohmaru pointed his sword downward at Earthquake and said, "Will you promise to lift this debt and leave the dojo this girl is from alone?"
Earthquake, shivering as he spoke, said, "Y- yes. Just please, d- don't kill me!"
Haohmaru walked over to the purse that lay on the ground and picked it up. He handed it to the girl and gave her a smile. He then turned and walked toward the village. She opened the purse and her eyes grew very wide. Among the fifty yen that was already in the purse rested another thousand that had mysteriously gotten there. Haohmaru merely laughed as he walked away.
In the town Haohmaru bought the food and supplies he needed for his journey. As he walked out of the store he saw Earthquake once again with a group of his cronies gathered around him. They busily bandaged his legs and elbows which merely looked scratched, at best, as Earthquake told them of the inhumanly powerful super-samurai he had fought just a few minutes ago. He looked up to see Haohmaru looking at him, and his jaw dropped. He pointed and muttered, "It- It- It- It's HIM!!! Run for it!" Haohmaru laughed under his breath as they scattered.
About 100 yards out of town Haohmaru noticed that his pocket felt a bit lighter. He stuck his hand in it to find that the slip of paper in his pocket his master had given him was missing. He turned around quickly to see the young girl looking at the paper. He snatched the paper from her hands and said, "I'm generous enough to give you that money only to find you are a pickpocket?"
"Oh no, sir, I'm no pickpocket," the young girl said, "You just weren't paying attention. I must say I wasn't being very graceful either," she said as she pointed to a large stick protruding from the bottom of her cloak.
"So what is your name, young one?" Haohmaru asked.
"My name is Nakoruru, sir. And what is yours?"
"I am known as Haohmaru."
"Well, pleased to meet you, Mr. Haohmaru. I noticed that the slip of paper you had was an Emblem of Journey." Nakoruru held out a similar slip of paper to Haohmaru. He read it and saw it was only inscribed with one symbol, the Ronin, or "Wanderer." "It's really nothing, I mean, being banished from your dojo really isn't that bad once you get used to it…" Nakoruru said as she held back tears in her eyes (Henshall 57; Henshall 57).
Haohmaru stood looking at the young girl for a moment, then knelt down and put his hands on her shoulders. He looked deeply into her eyes, then smiled. "I see no evil person in you, I see no cruel or malicious devil in you, and I see no thief or murderous beast within you. You can come with me if you like."
Nakoruru's eyes grew wide and she threw her arms around Haohmaru. "Thank you, thank you! I've never been accepted by anyone before in my life! Thank you so much!" As she stepped back and Haohmaru stood up, she asked him, "So where are you going anyway?"
Haohmaru looked toward the sky and pointed toward a cloud. "There."
"But Mr. Haohmaru, how are you going to get there? You can't fly!"
"Yes I can! But I need someone to give me directions!" As he said this he lifted Nakoruru and sat her down on his shoulders. He began running down the path as she giggled with joy. He didn't know which direction he was going, but he didn't much care, either. The path before him was his to choose, and he knew he could conquer whatever the world could throw at him.
Henshall, Kenneth G. A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999
Langone, John. In The Shogun's Shadow: Understanding a Changing Japan. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994
Ratti, Oscar, and Adele Westbrook. Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan. Edison: Castle Books, 1973
Tsunetomo, Yamamoto. Bushido: The Way of the Samurai. Edr. Justin F. Stone, Trans. Minoru Tanaka. Garden City Park: Square One Publishers, 2002
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