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 Shaman's Shogun AU

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Wiseshaman

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PostSubject: Shaman's Shogun AU   Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:20 pm

All right, I think it's time we bring back this old thread. It got knocked down sometime back so it feels just about time to get it going again. As the name says, this will be my AU where the EQ meets up with Feudal Japan.

Now, this won’t be what some of you would consider canon EQ, probably not even close. The era of Feudal Japan is when the country was ruled by a set of families and military warlords. Every day living was harsh, loyalty to one’s lord was absolute, and the samurai were considered military nobility who lived by a set of seven virtues. The poetry and literature were perfect examples of the era with words and pictures depicting great battles and famous warriors like Miyamoto Musashi. I was always fascinated by it, and not because you got to run around with a three foot razor, but because of the ideals, the seven virtues.

I encourage everyone to read the three stories below first before deciding if this is your cup of tea. Like I said I’ll be putting the old story back in this thread so come back and check it out if you like what you read.

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PostSubject: And so it begins...   Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:21 pm

The Ookami and the Madcoil...

He could hear the water of the small stream pass-by as he knelt beside it with his pointed ears, sense the ripples as it rolled over each little pebble in its bed. He could smell it, the fresh clean scent the water gave to the air of the small clearing, adding to his Zen ever so slightly. He could feel the wind as it gently but forcefully blew though the gaps in his Byotoji ni-mai dou gusoku, the full set of armor for a Samurai. The sun bounced off the black and gold flanges of the of the plates sending small reflections of light dancing around the clearing. He could hear the birds call to each other in the trees, sense their happy mood as the sun rose in the east. They fluttered their wings and took flight to greet the morning, grace the world with their color and presence. Even with his eyes closed he could see it all in his mind. He let the image stay there, took it in with all its emotion, and felt his spirit rise along with the colorful birds. He could almost see his wife and son, feel them next to him, and it brought him no comfort. Please, he thought, let them understand what I am doing…why I am doing it.

He pushed it all away then, the scene and the memory and the feeling. He cleared his mind, made it a void of black, and found his center of being. That singular spot where all that was Bearclaw emanated and he concentrated on it. He drew his energy inward and the energy of the air and earth around him, making a bright blue ball in the center of that black void, in that spot that was Bearclaw. He made it blue, the color of life, and the color of healing. He focused on it, building on its power until it glowed in the blackness. He felt his arms tingle, his legs bulge with the power of the ball. And then he made it change color, to a bright angry red, like a torch that now threw back the dark on his inner being with a giant flash. The tingle in his arms turned to a twitch as he felt the power of the new color surge in his muscles.

“Bearclaw-san, it is time to go.” One of the four guards watching his every move from behind him said.

“Hai,” Bearclaw answered without losing focus on his meditation.

“The Shogun, Lord Madcoil, awaits you on the field as directed by the challenge.” Another guard spoke up after the elf refused to move.

“Hai,” Bearclaw answered again without losing focus on his meditation.

Bearclaw was the leader of the Ookami clan of the mountains of Two-Moons. The image of the wolf, the symbol of his clan, was engraved onto his Kabotu war helmet between the large Maedate, or crests, and on the breast plate of his dou, or body armor. The image was also a raised relief on the tsuba and handle of his katana and wakazisahi, his deadly daisho.

They were a small but vibrant group his clan of elves who lived in the woods of the mountains in peace. He was their leader, their chief, who knew how to enjoy life and live every day to its fullest with them. And this sometimes this thrill of life led to decisions which drew them into danger, not unlike now. When Lord Madcoil came to power taking the position of Shogun he had come to the leader and master swordsman demanding fealty and ordering the clan to move behind the castle walls, in the city to live. Bearclaw refused understanding full well what denying would mean, but unwilling to put his beloved clan behind foreign walls in an unfriendly castle. He knew too well what the order would mean, that the Shogun would hold the women and children of the clan in his clutches using them as leverage to keep the warriors in line. He had heard this all ready from the other clans that had given into the Shogun. The Ookami clan, the Wolves of the Mountain, had refused the order knowing it would bring down the wrath of Lord Madcoil. A small number of warriors against the military warlord and his followers, it was pure madness.

An army appeared shortly after the time had come to move to the castle, waiting in the open fields just at the foothills of the mountains while an emissary rode to the gates of the Ookami village. Bearclaw met the group outside the gates, alone with no weapons in peace, to hear the terms Lord Madcoil offered. It was as he suspected. For the insolence of denying an order from the Shogun the entire clan was to be put to death, women and children as well as the men, unless its leader Bearclaw chose to bear the dishonor alone using seppuku, the act of ritual suicide by the samurai, to regain the Shogun’s favor. Some saw the act as a cruel fate, the last act of a shamed warrior. Some saw it as an act of bravery by a warrior who wished to wipe clean all his transgressions and enhance his reputation before passing.

Bearclaw saw seppuku as neither.

He saw it as defeat…and that was not his ‘Way’.

So, the leader of the Ookami clan offered his terms to the emissary. He challenged the Shogun, or the best four samurai in his army, to a duel, one to one, life riding on skill and strength of will. The four samurai could use any weapon they chose, he would only rely on his daisho. The clan would be left alone if the Shogun accepted, left alone to live in the mountains. It was a foolish gamble, a chance no one expected Lord Madcoil to accept. To let Bearclaw dictate his terms, after showing such disdain for the Shogun’s request, it was pure madness.

But the Shogun did.

In the early morning hours before dawn Bearclaw left his wife Joyleaf and young son Cutter to ride down to the foothills. Now he was readying himself, mentally and physically, to face each of the four warriors in combat. He broke his meditation finally feeling ready, took his helmet in his hand, and put it on tying the string to secure it in place. He locked his Mengu, the facial armor shaped like the maw of a wolf, in place on his helmet to where only his eyes were visible under the metal brim. Bearclaw then reached down and carefully placed his daisho in his belt securing the swords to his armor and holding the handles with his left hand.

“It is time Bearclaw-san.” The guard said one last time.

“Hai,” Bearclaw replied singularly, taking one last breath of air, one last breath of the clean air before leaving the Zen of the clearing. He followed the first two guards out and down a trail as the last two guards followed. The morning sun beamed down, the birds flew, and peace seemed to flow from the small stream adding to the Zen of it all.

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PostSubject: Second Grab Bag entry...   Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:42 pm

And here is the second Grab Bag entry I used to introduce this new AU...

A night terrible and a dead sparrow

The rain flew into the faces of the guards, stinging exposed skin, from the gale winds that circled and swirled around the Shogun’s mountain castle, or ‘Yamashiro’. Well south of the Ookami clan and its village, the mountain castle was forbidding as it rose like a dark spire from the steep treacherous hill side itself. The wood sides and stone foundations of the large central tower and its sister buildings merged with the rock of the very earth it seemed. The eight levels of the castle loomed, reigned over everything around the dark shadow touched. During the day, the dark green of the trees contrasted and fought against the black wooden tiles that covered the many roofs Yamashiro, the blood red color of the walls soaking up the falling sunlight and giving the whole structure a grim visage. A large stone foundation held the tower and its two buildings up and level from the drop of the slope providing protection from approaching armies, as did the stone wall the guards walked on that held the gate or Mon, but the terrain was not the castle’s only defense. At the base of the hill was the moat that an army had to cross to reach the castle, not much to stop any army a capable military leader would have proffered. Yet Lord Madcoil had chosen this spot very carefully, with the peak of hill at his back and the steep tree covered foothills in front of him, it was folly to attack outright. An army would be split apart by the trees, exhausted from fighting uphill to the wall of the castle, and then finally flung back to the plains below by his guards in the tower’s parapets and on the stone wall. If an invading army did make it past the gate it would then find itself lost in the many twisting and turning courtyards, or ‘maru’, becoming lost and felled one by one by the many guards protecting the Shogun. And if this miraculous army made it past those defenses to the inside of the castle, well there were more traps awaiting them. There were doors that opened to nothing but walls, halls that led to deadly dead-ends, and rooms with false floors and spike lined pits. Anyone without knowledge of where to step would only find their own death. It was the perfect home for a Shogun who wished for no challenges and planned to keep his reign over all intact for a long time.

But tonight, there was one brave soul willing to challenge those defenses.

He had waited for four nights, sat patiently with his wife, hidden in the foothills below the castle under a camouflaged tent, just up from the moat. He had waited for a sign to begin his mission, waited until the storm had come. This maelstrom would be the perfect cover for him as he made his way up the hillside, to the stone wall and foundation. The cold rain would keep the heads down of the limitless guards patrolling the walls and off the surrounding areas they were supposed to watch. He had also chosen to start his assault this night for another reason.

The Sakura celebration, or coming of the cherry blossoms signifying the start of spring, would commence tonight. The gathering would keep many in the bottom of the third building. The ones who would attend, and that would be everyone, would be enjoying the company of Lord Madcoil, a feast, and all the while the noise of the Gagaku or court music would play throughout the room. There would be a ‘Noh’ or musical play presented to the Shogun by a troupe and the Taiko or large drums would accompany everything sounding like thunder. It would all act as more cover for him, taking away from the sounds of his approach and entrance into the castle. This was more than a perfect night for his action.

Be careful my husband, the send felt worried, but also full of love.

He turned to see her sitting under the green and brown leather tent taking cover from the rain and any prying eyes. She held their newborn closely as she slept. He smiled, but the sanjaku-tenugui, or three folded cloth that covered his face and head hid the look from his precious wife. The cloth, perfectly wrapped to his head, stood out in points on the sides from his long ears. She didn’t need to see the smile to understand that he gave her one and bowed her head to him as he did to her.

I will return my wife.

And then he was gone into the night. She watched him take two steps and then blend into the dark surroundings like a shadow before holding her babe close. He scaled the steep mountain side quickly already mindful of the snares and traps that the Shogun had set out for intruders. He had scouted the area four times before marking and remembering everything in his mind. The large stone base wall loomed ahead, what light from the lanterns that were not doused from the rain and wind threw large dark areas. He moved through those dark spots with ease stopping just once as a guard from above peered down to check the wall. A long moment passed before the guard felt he had seen nothing and moved on. He moved with the guard, step for step just below him, until both reached a spot along the wall where four trees grew in a lone grove by the wall.

He knelt by the tree closest to the wall and from a fold inside his brown and black top he produced a long length of wound rope with a small hook attached to one end. He had seen these trees the other day and wondered why they had been left so close to the outer wall when all the others were removed and taken away. It took his sharp eye only a minute to see the many small wires strung through the limbs, and then all run back over the wall, probably to a large set of bells or gongs. It was a noise trap, designed to catch the unaware or untrained of his kind. Another reason he waited for the storm. The trap would be disengaged tonight due to the wind whipping the trees. He quickly unwound a second smaller length of the rope and tossed it around the trunk of the closest tree. He then scaled the trunk as fast as one of the tree rats from the forest using the rope and the sticky sole of his Tabi, or two toe shoes, climbing to the safety of the branches just as another guard passed.

The guard was miserable as it was easy to see and hear him cursing the weather and his unlucky nature to draw guard duty this hellish night. This was a good omen he thought securing the hook to a limb and then taking the rope in both hands. He waited for the wind to pick up and when the despondent guard was just a few feet away he leapt from the branches. The rope went from slack to tight with a small silent snap as the wind covered the noise of the branch jerking. He held just tight enough to the rope with his hands to control his descent, slow his fall, as he passed over the stone wall and dropped down into the dark of the twisting courtyard. When his feet touched the ground he instinctively rolled forward from his left shoulder to his right hip coming up into a crouched position in the dark, out of sight. He whipped the rope and yanked pulling the hook free from the limb and retrieving it all back to him in a blink. The guard turned just as the rope passed into the shadows not seeing a thing, cursed the weather again, and continued on along his miserable patrol.

He coiled the rope up again and put it back into his top. He turned and walked past two doors along the wall he was against, moved past an arch that led to another courtyard, and over to a dark corner by the main castle tower and the third building. He disappeared in between the two down a small alley where the water from the rain poured in like a cascading waterfall. He stopped where the walls met the earth of the hill and looked around to make sure the guards had not followed. He dug down just a bit and produced a bag from a secret buried spot. He had mapped out the courtyard two days before, sneaking onto the grounds disguised as a gardener for the Shogun. As with the traps on the hill, he marked and remembered the false doors and twisting paths of the grounds until he knew exactly how he would scale and gain entrance to the tower.

As he was tying the bag to his back he saw a dead bird on the ground by his foot, a sparrow with its neck broken. It must have flown into the wall and died which was a bad omen. Some saw it as a sign of impending death. He wondered if it would be a bad sign for him or for Lord Madcoil, and then he decided it made no difference now. Fate had given him the storm and the celebration, and there was nothing else to ask for.

The rain seemed to fall harder, the wind howl louder. The storm was gathering force, mustering its strength for a prolonged assault. Another sign maybe, but he did not care. He pushed it all aside and focused on climbing onto the first level of the tenshu or central tower. Each level was a parapet, a place from which a guard could look out an open window and fire his weapon down into the courtyard and beyond. He eased up along each roof on his stomach staying out of sight of the windows, keeping to the dark shadows of the night. The dôzo-zukuri, or plastered walls, of the castle were wet and made the climbing difficult, as did the guards stopping by windows to look out every few minutes into the stormy night. He used his ninja-to, or sword, like a step propped against the wall to give him a hand up to the rafters of the roofs above. The ninja-to was not like the katana of the samurai, it was more utilitarian, more of a tool for him than a slicing blade of death. After he gained each roof he pulled the sword to him with its attached rope and after making sure the path was clear perform the same with the next parapet. Finally, at the fifth level he waited under the roof of the sixth level in the corner, bathed in the dark of the shadows thrown from the light inside.

He pulled the bag from his back and opened it. He then quickly pulled off his wet top and pants and tabi trading them for the dry set from the bag. He was about to enter the tower, and here the guards would not be distracted by the rain or winds. Here they would be on the alert for anything out of the ordinary, as in a trail of water drops from a window that led off down a hall. There could be no detection, no trace of his coming or going. It was essential to the mission that Lord Madcoil never know he had been in the castle. He took the wet clothes and put them into the bag along with an ample amount of yellow powder that would aid the bag and the wet clothes on the way to rotting. He then hid the bag out of sight from the world and approached the open window slowly, cautiously. He heard the guard walk up and stayed perfectly still, even as the man looked out the window into the night, even as their faces were only inches apart it seemed. Then the man stepped back in, satisfied that everything was clear, and walked away from the window back to his patrol. He gave the guard enough time to move on before sliding easily and quietly into the hall. The lights were low to give the guards some night vision, but not enough to totally black out the hall with the dark.

There were shadows and places to hide a plenty.

The next phase of the mission had begun.

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PostSubject: Third Grab Bag Entry...   Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:27 pm

And here is the third Grab Bag entry I used to introduce this new AU...

The Onsen and the Truth

The Onsen, or Hot Springs, was renowned for its properties to rejuvenate the weary traveler and heal the broken one. A single dip in one of the many pools of this particular hot springs, which was known to collect certain beneficial mineral deposits, not only would help skin ailments and cuts, but also return a youthful look to the old and their withered appearance. Because of this miraculous water, the locals turned the location of the springs to their advantage creating a mix of Ryokan, or Inns, around the many pools. There were shops to buy clothes, find food, and of course items for one to take a bath in the springs.

A smaller Ryokan sat apart from the larger main ones, covering a smaller pool allowing the traveler with a need or want of privacy to take a dip. The rooms were not as nice as the ones in the bigger inns, but it was the price one paid for privacy. Most of the visitors this night were satisfied with their daily activities around the small village deciding to turn in for a rest before departing in the morning. One room, in particular, had remained unoccupied for most the day and wasn’t taken until sunset, a strange time for a bath in the springs but not unheard of. The samurai, who had taken it and not given his name, knelt on the Tatami mat in the center with his katana on the ground by his side. It may have looked as though he was meditating, his mind and senses long departed from this world, but that was the farthest thing from the truth. His legs stood poised ready to move and his hand lingered close to the katana ready to draw it with an Iaijitsu slash, the deadly art of immediate reaction and drawing one’s sword in a lethal strike.

His chief, and sensei, Bearclaw-san’s Iaijitsu had nearly cleaved Hideji the Spearman in half at the challenge with the Shogun Madcoil. The strike so powerful and so fast it had cut through the blade of the Yari, or spear, and most of the shaft before making contact with the samurai’s armor. It had been a spectacular move with Bearclaw’s katana, the Claws of the Ookami.

A knock on the wood by the shoji screen did not surprise the samurai. He had been expecting a visitor and simply looked to the screen. A black ornamental tsuba, or hand guard from a katana, covered the hole where his right eye used to be, lost in a battle with a samurai years before. One-Eye watched carefully as he spoke.

“You may enter.”

The screen slid back and a woman entered wearing the dark green kimono of a worker of the inn, one of the many who would help if requested. On her back was an Onbuhimo, or sash used to carry a baby and One-Eye saw the infant sleeping comfortably in the folds.

“I do not need your services. I have no need of the onsen.” One-Eye stated holding up his hand.

“That is good honorable samurai for I am not here to bathe you.” The woman commented turning to him.

One-Eye’s hand inched closer to the katana as his senses picked up the uneasy feeling of the woman. He saw her ears first, pointed like an elf’s, and her face with the high cheek bones painted white like a geisha with the hair styled. But the paint was a ruse to hide her face and the hair was a wig as small sprouts of blond just visible on the edges gave her away.

“Who are you?” One-Eye asked cautiously as his hand touched the katana.

“I am Okijima-san honorable samurai, the one you have been waiting for.” The woman answered bowing low before One-Eye.

“What? Okijima is an old man I have heard!” One-Eye countered letting his left hand finally grip the scabbard of his katana right below the tsuba.

“We still use his name for our livelihood honorable samurai. Okijima-san passed three years back and we determined his networks were too extensive to let anyone know. The blow to our clan would have been fatal.” The woman said still bowing with her head to the floor.

One-Eye took a second to think on her information. If the woman spoke true, then this whole time the Ookami had been dealing blindly with an unknown ninja clan and that could mean disaster for them. For a clan, as small as the Ookami, to be seen conspiring with the spies from a ninja clan would look like a power play to the Shogun and his supporters, a smaller clan trying to gain in stature. The larger clans would certainly move against them, attack and annihilate the smaller Ookami. And the Shogun would do nothing to stop it. His hand gripped the tsuka, or handle of his katana with his right hand ready to strike and end this debacle now. With her dead, there could be no tie to the Ookami.

Yet, he looked at the baby on the woman’s back and his hand loosened on his sword.

“Sit up and look at me.” He ordered.

“As you command honorable samurai,” The elf said.

“Who are you in Okijima’s clan?” One-Eye demanded.

“I am Kunoichi, I am the wife of the one who did as you requested.” She said calmly.

“Who’s wife? Okijima’s?” One-Eyed asked harshly.

“No, I am ‘his’ wife.” She said calmly again.

It finally struck the samurai who ‘him’ was. One-Eye felt his heart stop along with his breathing. He looked around the room carefully suddenly wondering who was looking in on them now.

“Where is he?” One-Eye asked with a whisper.

“He is not here. Your lord Bearclaw’s instructions to Okijima-san on that morning were explicit honorable samurai. There was to be no communications with him from any of you. The plan could never be known outside the ones who needed to know.” She answered.

“He does not know then?” One-Eye asked suspiciously.

“No,”

“How do you know?”

“Okijima-san swore me to loss of my life to keep the secret of him. Okijima-san knew one day you would call for him and the clan must be ready.” She answered.

“That old dog kept his word?” One-Eye asked shocked.

“Why does that surprise you, honorable samurai? We are ninja and we do not live by the Bushido as you do, but we do have honor. We do live by our own code. You call Okijima-san a ‘dog’ and refer to him by his name only, stripping him of respect, and yet he kept Lord Bearclaw’s request. He fulfilled that request.” She replied with a shake of her head.

There was no answer from One-eye. He didn’t know what to say to the remark or the fact the secret was intact still. She spoke calmly again, but there was a touch of fire and defiance in her voice. “We of Ninpo may walk in the shadows and dark, but we carry the light in out hearts and spirit. We only fight to persevere ourselves, who we are.”

One-Eye’s body instantly calmed and tense muscles and keen senses relaxed as realization set in. He eased back and whispered. “You said he completed the task?”

“Yes, honorable samurai, he gained entry to the Shogun’s mountain Yamashiro with no detection. There were no confrontations while inside, the guards did not see him or detect his presence. The item was exchanged as requested, replaced with the one you gave us.” She explained producing a bamboo scroll tube designed for holding royal documents.

“He was not seen, by anyone?” One-Eye whispered looking at the tube.

“His skills are exceptional honorable samurai, superior to all except our beloved sensei’s” She responded.

He began to reach for the tube when the Kunoichi’s words took hold in his mind, giving rise to a small concern. “If Okijima-san is dead, who is your sensei now? Who leads your clan?”

“A very honorable elf, one of the last Iga monks, honorable samurai. I have never seen one with skills to match, not even Okijima-san himself.”

A new leader, he would have to tell Bearclaw of this One-Eye decided as he asked another question.“You did not look at the document? No one saw what it says?”

“No honorable samurai. Its writings have not been viewed, again, as you requested.” She said.

One-Eye nodded and took the bamboo case from the mat and put it beside his leg. He then reached behind and pulled forth a small box and handed it over to the Kunoichi. She opened it and unfolded a cloth showing 5 wax coated stacks, each marked with a kanji sign representing a hundred.

“It is your payment for completing the task we requested.” One-Eye said.

The Kunoichi smiled, folded the cloth over the stacks of gold, closed the lid on the box and slid it back to One-eye. He flinched for a second not understanding what she was doing with the gold.

“The gold is yours. The amount was set and agreed upon.” He stated with surprise.

“Yes, it is the amount we agreed upon, but our sensei and he will not take it. This was a gift to you’re lord Bearclaw.” She said with a second bow.

The move flummoxed the usually steadfast One-Eye. He knew what he was dealing with, supposed to be dealing with. Ninja’s were the opposite of Samurai’s. They killed, assassinated for money. They walked in the dark, used dishonorable tactics to achieve victory instead of the strength of one’s arm and conviction of mind. They used poison and ‘magic’ to instill fear instead of prowess and reputation. They did not give gifts.

“A gift?” One-eye asked

“Yes, honorable Samurai, our sensei heard of Bearclaw’s challenge to the Shogun two years ago to save the Ookami and decided to honor the great warrior with this task. He would like to ask of the condition of Bearclaw.” She asked.

“He is still chief of our village. He was gravely injured but survived due to his strong will and sprit.” One-Eye stated before he knew he was doing it. The whole conversation seemed surreal, like it was happening without his control.

“That news will make him happy. I humbly request to leave now honorable samurai. Our business has concluded.” She asked.

“Yes, you may go.” One-Eye granted.

“Before I leave, may I give the honorable samurai one last gift, from myself?” The Kunoichi asked.

“What more is there?” One-Eye asked feeling unsure of himself.

When she left the gift on the mat it finished off One-Eye. All that he felt and had learned of the dogs that lived in the dark, these devils called Ninjas, was a lie. His eye would never look at them or anyone the same. She said something to him and One-Eye answered her with a low ‘Hai’ never taking his eye off the gift on the mat. She slid the shoji screen open stepped out and closed it, all done without One-Eye looking at her or seeing her go. With an unsteady hand, he picked up the gift off the Tatami mat and took it to his heart with a tear in his eye.


She rushed to make sure all was in place before he was through meeting with her chief Bearclaw. It had taken longer than she had anticipated and time was now next to nothing for her. Clearbrook arranged the small piece of furniture and turned just in time to block it from him as stepped inside their room. He slid the shoji screen shut and stayed kneeling by it.

“I welcome you back my honorable husband.” Clearbrook said bowing at the waist but not far enough to give away her surprise.

“I am happy to be back my honorable wife.” One-Eye said with a smile, but she saw through it.

“Did everything go well?” She asked worried.

“Yes, everything was completed. Bearclaw now has the document which will protect us.” One-Eye said looking around the room absently.

“And that is what we wanted, yes?” Clearbrook asked.

“Yes, that is what we wanted.” One-Eye said turning to her with a smile.

“I have news for you my husband.” She said with her own smile.

One-Eye looked closer, paid a little more attention to the tone of her voice, and saw the corner of the object she sat in front of. “What is that?”

Clearbrook shifted to the side to let him see the bassinet for the first time. She smiled uncontrollably as his mouth fell open and she spoke. “I am with child husband. We have been granted a gift again.”

He felt happy all at once, so unbelievably happy, and in the same sense it felt right. It was like it was supposed to happen. He rose and crossed the room carefully and sat on his knees by her, taking her hand in his. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Rain told me this morning. He touched my stomach and felt the life growing there.” She smiled.

One-eye smiled as well and lifted her hand while reaching into the fold of his robes. He then pulled out the gift left by the Kunoichi and placed it in her hand while speaking in a low whisper. “You can never tell anyone of this Clearbrook. No one can know, not even our lord Bearclaw or Treestump-san. It must be our secret.”

She only nodded because she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t draw the air to produce the noise to speak. In her hand was a small piece of cloth with the crest of the Ookami on it, what was left of a baby’s swaddling blanket. Just the feel of it brought back a flood of memories for Clearbrook. She remembered her lord Bearclaw coming to them just days before the birth of their first child, in the middle of the night saying he had need of their babe. He had a dream the day before, a clear vision of something evil coming for their tribe, and only one choice could save them. They would have need of a special warrior, one this evil would not see, and one the evil could not stop. This warrior would bring them the weapon that would ensure their protection. Upon wakening, he sent a message to a man in a village south of theirs, high in the mountains and well protected. This man, Okijima, would give them this special warrior, train him, but they had to give him a baby to raise and instruct from birth, a newborn with no name and no past. Bearclaw needed a Ninja for the clan, and no one, not even the others could know of this. He told her he would ask for the babe first out of honor and respect of them, One-Eye and Clearbrook, but then he would order them to give him the baby two days after it was born if they refused his request.

And then the memory changed to a cold snowy morning. She sat by shoji screen as the sun just started to crest the morning horizon. She watched the white flakes fall all around Bearclaw as he carried the bundle away from them. He would take their son to Okijima at the gate, hand him over, and that would be it. No more would be said of the babe. The lie would be passed that the child died in the night suddenly. A false cremation and burial would take place for a child with no name. She cried, One-Eye cried, and they kept the secret as asked.

“Was it him?” She asked finally with a voice filled with raw emotion.

“Yes, it was him. He is a shadow warrior like no other. He has no equal in his clan except for his shidoshi.” One-Eye whispered.

“He is…alive and well.” She asked closing her eyes and running the small piece of cloth across her cheek.

“He has brought the weapon to ensure our clan’s safety. Bearclaw was right. And he has a wife and a child,” One-Eye whispered.

“A wife and child? He has a family?” Clearbrook asked shock looking to her husband with a snap of her head.

“Yes, he does.” One-Eye whispered.

Clearbrook looked at the piece of cloth for a minute more in her hand then gently laid it down in the bassinet. She covered it with the blankets all ready there then turned to her husband. She stroked his cheek gently while speaking. “I will make a new swaddling with this piece so our new son can be with his brother, be held by his brother.”

“And he will be as strong as his brother, just as strong.” One-Eye said with a proud smile.


5 months later…

The snow had started early this year in the high mountains. The cold would be deep, but they had survived harsher than what was coming. In a small village, off a rarely used trail through the mountains, was the secret home for the Ninja clan. In a non-descript circular house of the local style she sat in the doorway to their bedroom, in the open screen access watching her husband and daughter. The pair stood in the open inner courtyard on a small bridge over a Koi pond that was surrounded by bonsai and bamboo. He held his daughter to him pointing out the snow as it floated down, his long black hair flowing down his back to his waist. She had never been so in love, even knowing his life and the dangers it brought, could not shrink the feeling she had now. There would come a day when his skill and courage may not be enough, and she would accept his death then, but only then.

He looked skyward as the first flakes of snow fell. His daughter reached for a flake and cackled with joy trying to grab it. He smiled, laughed with her, and helped her finally catch one. They laughed together and grabbed another.

He wasn’t sure why he loved the snow so much, why he dreamed of it so often. He looked at his daughter and laughed with her as she caught another flake.


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PostSubject: Re: Shaman's Shogun AU   Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:29 pm

Shogun AU is back! Cool

I'll have to reread - memories are strong but your tale and writing is so detailed - it's a joy, Shaman.

Back when Shogun AU built up for the first time on the old Scroll of Colors I was a slow but eager reader and - I wished I could picture the characters somehow. I'm not a picture artistwho could have drawn a vision ... but I could use a dollmaker, play with it, twist it a bit, to give an imagination.




This is supposed to be Bearclaw and his Joyleaf in a happy moment ... maybe his short memory?




And here is One-Eye with his wife Clearbrook.

The male figure was only a  background decoration, never supposed to be played with. Therefor I could not change the clothing ... just edit in some details to identify the character.

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PostSubject: Re: Shaman's Shogun AU   Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:13 pm

*looks at Embala's art and smiles*

wow, yeah, I totally forgot about those! Well now you can put all those wonderful dolls back up!


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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part One The Shrine   Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:15 pm

And for those looking for it, here's the next piece of the main story, the journey of one Rayek the Watarimono.


Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part One The Shrine

He sat in the small Shinto shrine, an enclosed temple for the traveler to pray to the Kami, or spirits of the land for a safe trip, with his eyes closed resting his body but not his mind. Rayek was alert and sensitive to the world around him, to the sound of the rain falling outside the closed shoji screen and to the smell of the incense that burned in the ceremonial urns. He closed off his mind letting it go blank as he pulled all the energy around him into his center focusing it into a ball of solid blue light. There was nothing but the light, nothing but its glow that slowly revived tired muscles and joints. Rayek breathed deep letting the meditation work on his inner being, calming him.

On the tatami mat, next to his left side, was his sword, a non-descript Dotanuki at first glance until one got a closer look. The black saya, or scabbard, gleamed in the light of the candles with an intricate carved relief on its wood. The picture was a horse with a rider holding a Kama Yari, or sickled spear. It was the insignia of his Koryū, or school, for his martial discipline. Rayek was not a samurai, but a Sōke, the head of his school, its leader, teacher, and grand master. He taught only hand picked samurai to be the finest warriors in the Abode, to wield the Katana and Wakizashi together, to fight with the Yari or spear and the Naginata or glaive, to be experts in Jujitsu or unarmed defense, and defend with the Bo or staff.

Rayek was the last master of the weapons of his art and its last teacher…

He would be the last ever because Lord Shijima of the Yagyu clan took everything else away from him.


Across the stone paved road, in the bushes and dark six shadows huddled by a seventh smaller one. They knelt quietly letting the rain fall while watching the shrine intently. One of the larger shadows whispered harshly to the smaller shadow.

“Is he the only one in the shrine?”

“Yes, he was the only one to pass me on the road and enter.” The smaller shadow answered with an even smaller voice, a maiden’s beautiful lilt tinting it.

“Do you know if it was ‘him’?” Another shadow whispered.

“She is blind you idiot! She couldn’t see who went by, just that someone passed her.” The first shadow that spoke hissed.

“No, it was him. I could tell.” The maiden’s voice trailed off.

“How do you know?” The second shadow whispered.

“I may be blind honorable samurai, but I have not lost the ability to see one for who they are. I could tell this one was a great warrior with a heavy past. He is the one you seek.” The maiden answered. The night around them grew quiet except for the rain as the shadows contemplated the information. This was the one they sought. He was dangerous, but they did not fear him or his unique blade. There was nothing they feared except for dying as cowards, dogs with no honor.

“We go,” the first shadow remarked stepping out of the shadows.

The second shadow tied a rope around one wrist of the female and then tied it to the tree before whispering in her ear harshly. “Do not leave blind one. You cannot get far and I will find you, understand?”

“Hai honorable one, I will not flee.” She said back clutching the wet kakumaki, or rain cloak, to her trying to stay warm. It was no use though as the cold sent a shiver followed by another up her spine to where she shook her head.

The six shadows crossed the road in a staggered line spreading out to cover both sides of the small shrines entrance. There were two walkways that led up a small ramp to the entrance to the building. There was no hiding now. There was only the confrontation, the fight to the death if needed.

“Rayek! We Have Come to Challenge You! Come Out and Show Us The Famous Dotanuki of the Sōke!” The first shadow screamed out at the entrance.


He heard the scream of the challenge, but did not tense or jerk from its suddenness. They had finally showed after waiting most of the night in the rain. He knew it was just a matter of time before they would crawl out of their holes and come for him. Rayek kept his focus on the ball of energy, but now it changed color to red, hot and angry. He reached down for his sword with his left hand feeling a connection with it as his fingers touched the wood of the scabbard.

The Dotanuki is a battle sword shaped like a samurai’s Katana, but much heavier with a wider tsuka or handle and broader blade. It could cut a warrior in half dressed in full battle armor, but was so heavy and awkward to wield it soon gained the reputation as a ceremonial weapon, to Rayek though it was nothing more than an extension of his arm, a three foot razor capable of a devastating stroke. From the first day of his training with his father in the Dojo he had used the Dotanuki, to strengthen his arms and grip. Long days of Kata training and Kendo sword practice taught him to wield the weapon with a skill that matched his station as a Sōke.

The sound of approaching feet touched his sensitive ears. The fools were actually coming for him.


The walkway was wet from the rain and a small cascade had formed over the entrance pouring water down in a gentle sheet, like a graceful waterfall. The six samurai approached the sliding shoji screen that was the door to the shrine, carefully with hands on the swords. The leader walked up and stopped short snarling out a last insult.

“Rayek, is your honor so low that you would force us to come in and get you! The great Sōke is nothing more than a coward!”

Again, there was no sound from the shrine, no movement that could be detected. The leader growled and reached for the two small holes in the wood that one would use to move the screen, ready to fling it back and confront the coward inside. As his fingers passed through the holes in the wood though, there was a sudden burst of wind followed a by another one, a blink apart that pushed on him. The samurai’s instincts kicked in, a moment too late, as he leapt back off the walkway and down to the wet ground with a splash and small slide. The sound of the shoji screen popping rose above the falling rain for an instant, and then the cracking sound of the wood splitting where it had been cut overtook the reverberation of noise before the screen just fell apart, from the top to the bottom, in three separate cleanly cut sections.

It was an attack the lead Samurai’s mind screamed, an attack that should have killed him the human thought. He reached down to make sure he wasn’t cut and noticed the piece of the wood for the screen used to pull it open was still on his fingers as one of his brothers hissed drawing his katana off his hip. The leader flung the useless wood away and looked up to the now open entrance of the shrine to see a shadow approach, the face and body nothing but a shadow behind the waterfall, and then the tip of a sword begin to poke through the falling water. He drew his katana with a steady hand forgetting the fact he had been busy checking to see if he was still alive as the sword from inside the shrine kept growing inch by inch out of the center of the small waterfall. The blade looked dull in the moonless night as small droplets of water fell from it until the tsuba, or hand guard, popped through sending a small splash. A hand followed gripping the wide handle of the Dotanuki followed by the other and then the arms covered with the sleeves of a black robe. Rayek’s voice suddenly cut through the rainy night making the samurai jump slightly at its sound.

“You have come to challenge me with your spindly legs and weak arms.” He insulted as more of his arms appeared. The leader shifted his stance holding his katana at a forty-five-degree upward angle. The tip of the blade pointed at Rayek as the Sōke called out again.

“What fool sent you to face me with nothing more than your courage, which will not be enough to save you from my blade?” Rayek said with a calm and cold voice. The edge of his sugegasa, or conical shaped hat, broke the plain of the waterfall sending a spray all around him.

The other five samurai shifted nervously as Rayek finally stepped out onto the walkway with the Dotanuki leveled at them. Small streaks of water running down the front of Rayek’s hakama pants looked like blood. The Sōke stepped down off the walkway making the samurai skittish and they began to dance away from him. The Leader of the group though stood his ground and snarled back at Rayek.

“The Shogun Madcoil has sentenced you to death Rayek, the Sōke and Watarimono, for being a traitor, for disobeying his decree. We have been ordered by Lord Shijima to either be your kaishakunin or take your head by force.”

Rayek frowned at the Leader, but kept his position in the center of the amassed samurai, while speaking. “I am no follower of any man or elf so the Shogun’s decree means nothing to me. If Madcoil wishes to fill his mind with lies from cowards like Shijima then so be it. There will be no need for a kaishakunin, or second, to take my head because there will be no Seppuku, no suicide tonight.”

If there had been a plan to coordinate attacks on Rayek, the six samurai never exercised it, they never had the chance. The man to Rayek’s right suddenly charged bringing his katana back then forward for a quick stroke that the Sōke slapped away easily before plunging the Dotanuki into him with a hard stab. The samurai next to him attacked with his own stab, but Rayek saw the move and countered quickly. He brought the Dotanuki up at angle with his wrists crossed pulling his sword out of the first man while blocking the katana and letting the samurai run by before spinning, turning his wrist over, and slashing the man across his back. The samurai made two more shambling steps before collapsing to the ground dead, his spine severed.

The leader and his remaining three men all turned with a snap facing Rayek now as the rain continued to fall, some droplets fell on them while the rest struck the ground around them in loud splashes. The Sōke was slowly stepping around the two dead men when his eyes saw the small form fall out of the bushes to the road with a heavy slap. It was just a second of distraction, and the four men did not take advantage of their luck.

It was their only chance to leave this alive.


She had slipped her hand out of the small loop easily enough, but finding her way back to the road was harder then she thought, the blindness hampering her too much. A small plant snagged her foot in med-step and she crashed out onto the road with a sudden hard landing. Her hand erupted in white hot pain along with her hip and leg. She didn’t cry out though, she knew better. The samurai were fighting, standing perfectly still waiting for a flinch or a look, anything to tell them where the other’s sword would strike. So, she laid flat on the road clutching her rain cloak about her listening intently to the fight.

The blindness had only been with her for six years, but she had grown accustomed to it letting her other senses build to compensate for the loss. Of all the remaining ones, her hearing was exceptional now. She could see them practically, the four samurai standing side-by-side in a semi-circle around Rayek-san now. She heard the rain crash up against Rayek-san’s Hakama pants and off his hat, imagined him standing rock solid against the last four, waiting for their attack.

And on queue the ones on the end attacked…


The first man came at him with a lunge from his left, his katana going back and then forward, as he attacked with a hard slash. Rayek met him with a slash of his own, the two swords hitting blade to blade with a loud clang that echoed above the rain. The samurai wasn’t ready for the strength or speed of the Sōke, and he lost the grip on his sword for a mere moment as his comrade made his attack. Rayek saw the second human coming and slid back away at the last instant from the first samurai, dropping his hands, and feeling the second man’s katana pass by his face and hat within an inch or two of hitting with a slash. He countered quickly with a powerful twist of his wrist bringing the Dotanuki upward in a giant slash that cut the second man from his leg up past his shoulder.

The second man gave out a small scream before falling onto the ground trapping the first samurai’s sword. The samurai looked up to Rayek in time to see the Dotanuki flash with a great downward slash before it all went black.


She heard the two bodies fall to the ground. She swallowed hard knowing Rayek-san was still alive. His sword attacks sounded different from the other samurais. Where their slashes sounded small his sounded large, their attacks weak to his which were so strong. They had stopped for now, the leader of the six now down to two and probably wondering if he had chosen wisely in just bringing these five men.


“I know what you are wondering now,” Rayek said with his calm and cold voice as he turned to the human standing in a guard just by the Leader, locking eyes with the human. “I know the choice you are trying to make in your mind.”

“You will die Rayek.” The Leader hissed, to his right his last remaining samurai visibly trembling at the Sōke and the Dotanuki.

“Can you live with running away, till you’re old, with the stink of your fear all around you, pulling and clawing at you all day and night?” Rayek kept saying, ignoring the Leader, eyeing the trembling man with the wide eyes coldly.

“You will die Rayek!” The Leader growled louder.

“It will be the only way you will live past this night human. Let what little honor you have comfort you while it can and choose to live. Run from here human, flee from my sword before you die like these others.” Rayek ordered holding the Dotanuki with tip right at the man’s eyes.

“Do not listen to him Issei! He is full of nothing but lies!” The Leader screamed moving his sword to just above his head in the classic attack pose, most of his weight on his front foot ready to strike.

Rayek only stared at his enemy coldly, not another word was spoken to offer the men a way to live. It was useless he could see. The Sōke simply shifted his weight onto his back foot letting it slide back while bringing the Dotanuki slowly downward toward that foot, the tip only inches away from the muddy ground. He turned from Issei to the Leader and spoke with the cold, calm voice he had never wavered from.

“Then you have chosen to die.”

Nothing but the falling rain striking the ground and each other could be heard for what seemed like forever. Time slowed to a crawl as the two swords men faced off, Issei all but forgotten about as it all came down to this moment, this now. The Sōke kept perfectly still on the outside, but inside he was priming his energy and his muscles for one giant burst, ramping everything up and tensing all the fibers in his arms and legs. And when it was almost too much to bear Rayek unleashed his strike.

A single drop of rain hit the Leader’s cheek, splashing and making him blink. His life was over in that very instant. The sound of the strike from the Sōke was incredible, a slash so fast and so strong it made the air burst and explode. The blind maiden’s pointed ears, already so sensitive from the blindness, screeched in pain at the loud sound as she jerked and turned from it. There may have been a bellow of hurt, or a wail of fear, or both from one of the samurai, but she wasn’t sure. All she did know for certain were the Sōke, Rayek-san, was standing whole in one piece and the Leader was not.

Issei stepped back in awe and shock. He was covered in mud and grass from the ground, the debris thrown by the unbelievable upward slash of Rayek’s Dotanuki. Issei let his sword tip drop inch by inch slowly toward the ground as he looked to his leader, both equal parts that were now lying in what looked like a small trough dug through the dirt between the dead man legs. Rayek cut him in half Issei thought in terror looking down at what was his Leader, the left side and right side now separate. The scared human looked up to see Rayek eyeing him with his cold eyes from under his hat.

“What do you choose?” He asked Issei.

“I choose life…life.” Issei stammered, dropping his katana to the mud while taking a step away from Rayek.

The Sōke only stared at Issei once more before pulling a piece of cloth from the fold of his top, wiping the blade of the Dotanuki, and then dropping the cloth to the ground. He walked past Issei, and as he went he gave one last bit of advice.

“Do not follow me Issei. Life, even without honor, is still life.”

Issei didn’t follow Rayek and he did not return to the walls of the small village from where he had been dispatched by Daimyo Tasio. He walked onto the plains and across them to the mountains of the west where he found a holy man who finally eased his pain from the nightmares of that night.


She moved enough to know her leg and hip were not broke, and her hand would be all right, although bruised. She squirmed up to a kneeling position still clutching the rain cloak about her when she heard the step land just a foot or so away. It was him. He had walked up so silent.

“Who are you?” Rayek asked her. He looked down to see the brown skin, the auburn locks spilling around a face with a large cloth bandage across both eyes. She looked very beautiful, could have been more so if life had not been so hard on her.

“I am nothing but a blind elf honorable one.” She gasped suddenly feeling tired and weary from the rain and the fall.

“I saw you earlier, by the side of the road. Were you aiding these men?” He asked.

“Only to ensure them it was you, Rayek the Watarimono, honorable one. They promised me food, and not to take advantage of me, but I do not think they intend to keep those promises now.” She offered.

Rayek raised an eyebrow at the remark before speaking. “Find shelter in the shrine blind one. In the morning, go back to the village and find someone to feed you.”

“Hai honorable one.” She replied bowing her head.

She heard him walk away down the road as the rain kept falling at a steady pace. She took a minute to get her breathe and build up her strength to where she could stand up again, but the attempt failed. She stood up half way before the pain in her leg felt like a hot knife stabbing her and the muscles failed. She fell to the ground with a plop and a gasp as the water from a puddle splashed in her face. She leaned over on her arm fighting to hold back the tears, but from the pain in her leg or final acceptance of her situation, she wasn’t sure.

She breathed deep wondering if this was it, the end of it all. Maybe it was for the best, she thought. The lack of food, and the rain, had driven her body and spirits so low the need to rest and eat could not be met quick enough. The rain continued to fall and all she could do was think about her sister, the reason she was here, and not on saving herself anymore. Maybe it was time to let go, to-

And then there was the sound of foot stepping lightly next to her again.

It was Rayek. She knew it like she knew the day star would rise shortly.

An arm, strong and rippled with muscles, reached under the one she leaned on and with a slow but steady move, he pulled her up to a standing position. She leaned on the arm using her whole body to balance while her free hand clutched the rain cloak still. She heard Rayek’s voice again in her ear as he started to walk her down the road.

“What is your name blind one?”

She took a breath, holding back the joyful feeling in her soul and heart. The end was not near and she may yet hear her sister’s voice. She swallowed hard and spoke carefully. “I do not wish to be a burden honorable one.”

“The only burden that you should be concerned with blind one is if I am attacked again because I will not protect you.” Rayek said calmly, but not coldly.

“Hai honorable one, I understand.” She replied feeling the strength from him giving her strength to take one step after the other.

“What is your name blind one?” He asked again.

She looked over her shoulder back in the direction of the shrine wondering what would happen to the bodies of the samurai who had held her captive for most of the night. She wondered where they were going also. “We are not going back to the village honorable one?” She asked curiously turning back.

“No, there is a Ryokan up the road with an Onsen. We will stop there to eat, rest, and decide your fate after the rain and night has passed.”

“An inn at the hot springs, thank you honorable one.” She said lowly, understanding he would leave the next day, maybe, but at least she would be fed and rested. Then he stopped dead in the road and she tensed wondering if they were about to be attacked, if his warrior senses were stronger then even her heightened hearing.

She sensed him turning to face her, and even though she couldn’t see his face she knew it was a stone mask. “What is your name blind one? Tell me now, or I will leave you on this road.”

“Yes, honorable one,” she agreed before pausing to take a breath, “my name is Shenshen.”

“Where are you from Shenshen?” He asked.

“A village to the south, very far south.” She replied.

“Why are you so far from home?” Rayek asked moving them forward again down the road again.

“I am looking for my sister. The Shogun Yoritomo took her six years ago, and I have been looking for her ever since.” She answered taking easy steps not fearing a fall now with Rayek-san holding her up.

Rayek didn’t ask another question, and Shenshen didn’t offer any more words. The two walked on in the rain in quiet until they reached the inn and the hot springs. The Sōke and Shenshen walked in to the warm meeting room taking refuge from the weather.


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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Two The Onsen   Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:20 pm

And now, the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Two The Onsen

He looked over with a raised eyebrow watching Shenshen consume her yakimono, or grilled fish, with a second bowl of rice in huge bites. She had eaten a whole plate of Edamame, or boiled soy beans in the pod, and a bowl of Eel soup before moving onto the main course. Even the chef, a Sushi-ya who ran the small kitchen and hibachi for the Ryokan and his assistant, stood back in shock at the elf’s voracious appetite.

“When was the last time she ate?” The assistant asked concerned.

“It must have been a long time.” The chef answered in a whisper.

Then, hearing the comments, Shenshen swallowed her last bite and placed the half empty bowl of rice on the small counter slowly feeling the way with her hands to make sure she did not drop the bowl. She was obviously embarrassed as she pulled her hands back slowly before wiping them on her wet kimono.

“I am sorry honorable one. I did not mean to embarrass you.” Shenshen whispered.

Rayek looked at her holding his small cup of Sake with that same raised eyebrow before speaking. “One tends to forget ones’ manners when they starve.”

“They do,” She replied wiping her mouth before sighing.

The chef looked to Rayek waiting for him to say something else and when the Sōke only drank a sip from the cup he stepped in to encourage the girl with wide gestures of his hands as if she could him. “No, you did not embarrass us. You give us great honor by eating like you do. Eat, you are hungry, please eat!”

Shenshen smiled and reached for the bowl again on the counter, but her hands didn’t feel the ceramic of it at first. She began to search delicately with dancing fingers for the bowl while feeling embarrassed suddenly. The chef began to move to help her when he saw a hand slowly reach over and gently push the bowl back to her and hold it there while she grasped it. He looked to Rayek again and saw the Sōke take another sip of the cup while helping the girl, his eyes never shifting to her. He may not care for her, the chef thought, but he would not let her suffer.

“Thank you honorable one,” Shenshen whispered before going back to eat. She took smaller, slower bites this time, which did not stop her from consuming another bowl of rice and more grilled fish after Rayek nodded to the chef to prepare it.


The hot water and steam of the Onsen seeped into his body making his muscles feel better minute by minute. Rayek kept his eyes closed letting his mind become a blank black, resting his thoughts for once. There was nothingness, not a single piece of anything to him, until he heard the steps of a small female approaching the rock steps of the pool. Rayek opened his eyes sliding back to the here and now to see Shenshen taking easy steps into the pool. Her dark skin gleamed from the steam as she slowly sat down in the water letting its heat warm her body.

The Sōke watched intently, something he always did, but different now as it wasn’t to discover an opponent’s technique to gain an advantage. Rayek had seen her beauty on the road, even striking in her distress, but now with her fed it was even more. She unfolded the small hand cloth provided by the helpers, dipped it into the water wetting it, and then squeezed it out over her shoulder and neck. Shenshen did the same for the other side and then turned toward him speaking. Rayek wondered if she knew, or sensed somehow, he was staring as her words floated on the steam.

“Those men, honorable one, why did they want to kill you?”

“They intended to fulfill Lord Madcoil’s decree that I die. My head is to be brought to Shijima of the Yagyu clan.” Rayek replied finding his eyes staring at the cloth bandage around her eyes.

“What did you do to Lord Madcoil to be cursed so?” She asked soaking the hand cloth again.

“I refused his offer and Shijima took advantage. I have been wandering the land ever since, almost a year now.” Rayek answered turning away from her.

“What offer?” Shenshen asked.

“I would not take Madcoil’s samurai into my school to teach them our techniques. Madcoil ordered the school destroyed, my life ended.” Rayek found himself answering. He had never spoken of that day when the path he walked suddenly changed.

“I am sorry honorable one. I did not mean to pry into your past.” Shenshen whispered sympathetically.

“It is the same ending every time the title of Shogun changes hand Shenshen-san. Every tyrant molds all he sees to his desire, both with the political and the land. There are those who follow and those who do not.” Rayek said now remembering the morning when it all ended, his life as a teacher, gone in a bloody instant.

The memory was strong, of him crossing the small garden at the center of his former home, approaching the Dojo his father Ingen had built a lifetime before. They were inside, waiting for him, all twenty of his students, infected by the lies of Shijima and now turned against him. He slid his feet out of his sandals and opened the shoji screen to see them standing, waiting with hands on the handles of their Katanas. Rayek only stared and entered his father’s Dojo with his hand on the Dotunaki Ingen had left him.

He could have talked to them…

He could have reasoned with them…

But they had chosen all ready and talking would not change anything…

He killed some, maimed the others to the point they would never fight again, and then left his home forever…


Chot looked over the scene at the shrine, at the six dead samurai, and knew it was all the work of Rayek. He looked from under his hat at the small trough dug into the ground, eyed the ditch as it ran right between the twin pieces of the samurai which led this ill-gotten band of fools. They were supposed to wait he thought, wait until others arrived. Taking on Rayek with only five was suicide and it wasn’t hard for Chot to think of better ways to die.

He was thinking of just those ways when a figure walked out of the shrine and over to him stopping at his side. The new figure was dressed like Chot in a blue robe top with blue hakama split pants. Both wore conical hats letting the rain fall off the sides as they spoke and looked around, and both were obviously elf. The two looked like ordinary travelers and that’s what they wanted everyone to think. Each though was a part of the Shogun’s elaborate secret army, a growing group of Ninja clans who were loyal to Lord Madcoil because it kept them alive and thriving. They did work for others as well, if the gain was right, be it gold or standing.

“Is there anything in the shrine Skot?” Chot asked the figure.

“No, it is empty. The size of the remaining incense sticks tells me whoever lit them did not leave long ago.” Skot replied

“He was here, but where did he go?” Chot asked out loud. Skot knew his leader was just wondering, contemplating wanting nothing but silence.

The two stood at the shrine a minute more before moving on. They stopped long enough to see a small rope with a loop in one end tied to a tree. Maybe it was a snare? Maybe it was meant to hold something. Chot wasn’t sure what these fools were thinking anymore. He just wanted to find Rayek and send the location back to Madcoil, after informing Shijima first. It was explicitly ordered to inform the Shogun, but only after sending word first to the Yagyu lord.

“Sir?” Skot spoke up.

“Yes,” Chot said turning to look at him.

“There’s a Ryokan nearby, he may have gone there,” Skot offered.

Chot nodded starting off in the direction to the inn.

He hated being a tracker…


What happened to your sister Shenshen? Rayek sent to her. Even though he was just a foot away he chose to send, the magical communication link between elves, to see if she could do it.

“I cannot send honorable one. There was no need of it in our village so we lost the ability long ago. My sister was taken by the Shogun’s men honorable one. I told you this on the road.” Shenshen replied with her own words. At least that question was answered he thought.

“You said she was taken by Yorimoto, why did he take her?” Rayek asked with his voice choosing to use his voice with her.

Shenshen dunked the wash cloth again into the water before answering. “My sister has magic honorable one, like your sending, only she can heal. Her touch has stopped sickness and open wounds. Our village came to depend on her to keep us safe, until the Shogun showed. He had learned from an agent of his about her powers and decided to take her from us. There was not much of a fight. We were unable to defend her or ourselves. There were many killed Rayek-san, many left with the loss of a family or loved one.”

“Yorimoto attacked the village, to take your sister?” Rayek asked.

“Yes, honorable one, I do not lie.” Shenshen answered.

He thought back to all the times he met the former Shogun, sat with man at the ōban or nobles banquet. Rayek’s father had taught Lord Yorimoto personal guard, handpicked every samurai and trained them. He had always thought of Lord Yorimoto as a man of honor, of true nobility, but now he felt betrayed. He knew Shenshen didn’t lie, it all made sense. Yorimoto may have been the Shogun but he was also nothing but a coward attacking innocents and karma had turned on him for it with the rise of Madcoil. The iron locks he kept round his heart tightened with the news. It only added to his desire to achieve perfection with his father’s technique.

“What style do you teach honorable one?” Shenshen asked.

“I do not teach anymore Shenshen, there is nothing but the road and the challenges for me now. I am the Grandmaster of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū, the last one who will practice its techniques. Upon my death, there will be no other. The school my father started after leaving the daimyo Yoshinaka was burned to the ground, its name stricken from the records of the Shogun.” Rayek said calmly.

“Your sword honorable one, why does it sound so different from the others I have heard?” Shenshen asked again.

“It is a Dotunaki, given to my father before he left Lord Yoshinaka’s service. He passed it to me on upon his death from a challenge by another Sōke from another school. My father was too slow that day. He chose a defense that was wrong for the attack the challenger used.” Rayek answered taking his washcloth and washing his neck.

“You speak coldly of your father Rayek-san. Did he mistreat you?” Shenshen asked carefully.

Rayek stopped with cloth and turned to look at her. His voice remained flat and calm as he answered her. “My father gave me the greatest gift he could, the teachings and techniques of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. I will perfect this art before my death; attain a level only the ones who walk the true warrior path of enlightenment can.”

Shenshen smiled understanding it wasn’t anger or hatred that made the Sōke speak so coldly of his father. It was the need of one who only had one focus, one purpose in their life. For Rayek-san, it was the art, the need to make Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū a perfect form or flowing discipline. She did not know how many men his sword had slain, or had fallen to one of his attacks, and she did not want to know. There was another side of the Sōke she wanted to know.

“How did you lose your sight Shenshen?” Rayek asked suddenly breaking her out of her concentration.

“I gave it to the Lord Yorimoto when he attacked our village. Like you honorable one, I love my father and I willingly chose my eyes for his life.” Shenshen said quietly.

“May I see your eyes blind one?” Rayek asked again, sliding over next to her.

Shenshen gasped and shook her head scared, distressed from the request. She spoke with a stammer obviously upset. “Please honorable Sōke, do not ask this. I can not say no for what you have done for me, but please do not ask this.”

“I wish to see your eyes Shenshen.” Rayek whispered calmly, just like when he was talking about his father.

She knew there would be no stopping him from the tone on his voice. So, she only nodded to him as a sense of shame started to sweep over her. Shenshen felt Rayek reach around to undo the bandage, felt the knot release, and the cloth fall down her face. The shame rose so fast it made her gasp and she reached out with her hands putting them on his chest with a reflex. She knew he could see it now. He could see it all!

As the cloth fell Rayek saw the scars of an intense heat applied to the lids and edges. The damage to the eyes themselves he didn’t see but he knew what it might look like if she could open the lids. He had seen this torture once before, long ago, to a spy that was caught in Yorimoto’s castle.

“Please…honorable one…please do not look at my shame…” Shenshen began to plead.

Rayek heard her speak, heard the words, but could not stop. He cupped her face gently and ran his thumbs over her cheeks just below the scars feeling a deep sorrow start in the pit of his stomach. What had this girl endured to keep her father safe? If she could cry he knew the tears would be flowing from the shame he had put her through.

“Please Rayek-san…please…no more!” Shenshen begged rubbing her hands across his chest. Her voice cracked, close to breaking down. Rayek had heard men cry out at the moment of death, numerous men, and yet none had the effect that Shenshen’s pleading had on him.

“It is done Shenshen, it is done.” He said without thinking about it. His hands quickly putting the cloth bandage back in place and securing it.

“I am sorry for acting like this way honorable one.” Shenshen said getting herself under control.

“It is done Shenshen.” Rayek said calmly, but not coldly.

He sat wondering why he had just done that, what purpose did it serve, when he felt her hands slide up his chest to his neck. Instinctively he grabbed them stopping her, but Shenshen whispered calmly to him letting her intentions be known.

“I only wish to touch your face Rayek-san. It is the way I ‘see’.”

Rayek swallowed for a second and thought of saying no, just a second, before letting go and lowering his hands. He felt her fingers dance gently, just like at the counter, feeling the shape and contour of his face. She felt his chin and mouth, his nose and eyes before finally letting her hands slide around his head to his ears where she stopped for a second, and then down the sides of his neck.

“Thank you Rayek-san.” She whispered putting her hands back in the water.

“They scorched your eyes with fire.” Rayek whispered, this time strangely warm.

“Yes, they used rocks from a fire. Please honorable one, I do not wish to think of that day.” Shenshen whispered back.

He didn’t ask another question of her, just sat back, but not so far away from her this time. He watched her as she carefully washed her face staying away from the cloth bandage that covered her eyes. When they were done, he helped her from the water and also with putting on her kimono back on. They didn’t dry off as it would have wiped away the minerals from the hot springs and negated the healthful effect. Rayek took Shenshen’s arm in his again and helped her back to their room where she laid down on the Raku, or tatami bed, and fell asleep before her head touched the pillow. Rayek knelt in the corner with his sword by his side.


Skot ran back up from the inn in the dark to the spot designated by his leader Chot. He found him standing just off the road waiting.

“What is the news?”

“An elf took a room earlier this night. He came in from the road.” Skot answered.

“Was it him?” Chot asked back.

“I do not think so. The elf was accompanied by a blind female, another elf.” Skot answered offering his opinion.

The Sōke was not in the habit of taking on stragglers. The only thing he cared for was the next challenge, the next duel. Some blind vagabond was out of character. Chot looked to his brother Ninja knowing Skot was no fool. The elf had been on many missions and proven his skills to be capable. His opinion was respected.

“We will wait till morning and see if this elf is Rayek. Like you, I do not believe it is him, but I would hate to face Shijima knowing we made a mistake that could cost us our heads.” Chot said.

Skot only nodded and looked for a semi-dry place to sit. It was going to be a wet night.


The sun was still an hour or two away from rising, but the small noise brought Rayek out of his trance. He had been meditating when the sound made him open his eyes. He looked across the room to see Shenshen still asleep on the bed; deep breaths making her sides bellow every minute it seemed like. He recognized the sound then, a shiver. Rayek watched as another made Shenshen jerk slightly. He rose silently and moved over to the side of the bed she slept on and pulled the blanket over her shoulder to make sure she was warm. Shenshen took a deep breath and pulled the blanket even tighter around her, just missing touching his hand on the blanket’s edge where she grabbed the cloth.

All there was, should ever be, is Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū to him. The perfection of his father’s art, the technique…

But now there was her.

The words of a sunny afternoon so long ago came back from his memory. An afternoon when Rayek sat with his father outside the Dojo watching the birds’ fly against the wind dipping and swooping.

“Do you see the birds Rayek? Do you know why they do dance the way they do?” Ingen asked.

“No Sōke,” Rayek answered quickly. He rarely, if ever, spoke to his father using his given name. It was always as ‘Sōke ‘.

“They enjoy the wind, the feeling of flying and gliding through the sky. You watch them closely Rayek, they will teach you there are other things to life that you may enjoy.” Ingen said with a smile.

“I have my sword Sōke and my desire to perfect Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. I need nothing else.” Rayek answered.

“Rayek,” Ingen said with a frown, “your skill with Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū is remarkable. I have no doubt you will perfect our technique, but do not miss the things in life that are just as important. Even a blind man can see the beauty in a sunny afternoon by stopping and listening to the birds.”

“Yes Sōke,” Rayek responded as Ingen turned back to watching the birds.

He thought maybe his father was talking about this…about her.

___________________________________________________
Dubbed Streaking ADD Cowboy of Awesome Sagas by KindredSoul and nibblet
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Wiseshaman

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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Three A Challenge Accepted   Mon Dec 19, 2016 6:29 pm

And now, the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Three Challenge Accepted

She woke to the usual darkness of being blind, something she had forced herself to live with these last years. She would never again see the sun passing overhead, her sister’s smiling face, or the children as the played in her village. Shenshen laid covered up in the blanket thinking back to the days before Lord Yorimoto came to her home and took her sister. She was petty then she thought, selfish and self centered. Shenshen realized this after being blinded and then traveling the lonely road looking for her sister. Some helped her, like Rayek-san, but most only took advantage or ignored her completely and Shenshen learned something from each one. She had been only interested in herself in the village, only what she wanted and no one else mattered. Even her own sister Leetah had been a distant spot behind her in those days. Then Yorimoto came, and she was forced to think of the others. The road had taught her a harsh lesson of others.

And now she would give anything to hear Leetah’s voice again.

Shenshen rolled over in the bed listening for him, trying to tell if he was there. There was no sound, just the small far away activities of the Ryokan. He wasn’t there with her now she realized, Rayek-san was gone. Fate had set him on another path it seemed. She slowly sat up moving easy on her sore hip and leg as she started to feel the pending loneliness of being the road and its travel again. Shenshen pushed it all aside, she had to. Like Rayek-san and his father’s martial art, there was only Leetah and finding her. Nothing else mattered, had mattered for six years, and will nothing will matter until she found her sister.

I was a fool in thinking he cared for me Shenshen thought.

A knock sounded making her look in the direction of the shoji screen while covering up with the blanket and speaking. “Hai,”

The screen slid open and one of the Ryokan attendants stepped in quietly before sliding the screen shut. The attendant kept her eyes to the floor and off of Shenshen while speaking. “Good morning honorable mistress, did you sleep well?”

“Hai, I did. Do you know when the…” Shenshen started letting the last die off. She wasn’t sure what to call Rayek-san. He wasn’t a samurai and if she used his name it might alert someone to come for him.

“The honorable samurai is waiting for you outside mistress. He was summoned early this morning for a challenge from the teacher of a school to the north. He wishes me to help you dress and then meet with him outside on the field where he will accept the challenge.” The attendant remarked still looking at the floor.

He wasn’t gone. He hadn’t left her. That feeling of loneliness that was there just a moment ago, it went away as she smiled and reached for her kimono by the side of the bed, but the worn material was gone. She reached back slowly confused. Her old kimono should have been there.

“The samurai wished for you to dress in a new kimono mistress. I have it here. Do you need my help to put it on?” The attendant asked.

“No, please hand it to me and I will do it. Where has the honorable one gone?” Shenshen asked taking the new kimono and han-juban, or undergarments, from the attendant.

“The sushi-ya’s apprentice is waiting to take you to him mistress. When you are finished, I will lead you to him and the apprentice will take you to the samurai.” The attendant spoke backing away with her head bowed.

“You said he was challenged this morning?” Shenshen asked.

“Hai, a messenger came for him before sunrise with a challenge from Osamu Yamazaki, the master of the Hōzōin-ryū school. Osamu is unmatched with the Yari. He heard the samurai was an opponent worthy test of his skill in combat. Is there anything else you need mistress?” The attendant said opening the shoji screen.

“No,” Shenshen responded waiting for the attendant to leave before getting dressed.

The new kimono felt wonderful, the silk sliding easily on her skin. She tied back her hair and then slowly rose making sure her leg would hold her. Shenshen made the shoji screen in a few shaky steps and opened it. The attendant was waiting like she said and took Shenshen’s arm gently leading her away from the room.


The morning sun greeted Skot who was once again running back from the Ryokan to his master Chot. The elf stopped short, looked around checking to make sure no one was watching, and then ducked into the woods along the road. He traveled in through the trees for a good distance before coming across the small camp of his master. Chot was sitting by a tree waiting for him and word what was transpiring at the inn.

“He has taken a challenge sir.” Skot said stopping and kneeling by the tree.

“A challenge? From who?” Chot asked taking a bite from an Onigiri, or rice ball.

“Osamu Yamazaki, the Sōjutsu master.” Skot replied taking one of the rice balls for himself.

“Yamazaki and his spear, eh? If this elf is Rayek then Osamu will be well matched.” Chot said taking a bite of the rice ball.

“Then it’s a good thing that you notified Osamu that it was Rayek in the ryokan, ensuring there would be a challenge. The Spear Master might have done something foolish, like stay home.” Skot said with an evil grin.

“Yes, well, no need to see the old human die without a proper chance to defend himself. And we get to see if this is Rayek first hand.” Chot said with his own grin.

The two ate in silence for another minute before Skot spoke up asking a question. “Are we to tell Khavi of this?”

“She knows all ready,” Chot said after swallowing his bite, “as does Shijima. I don’t know if Madcoil knows. I don’t care if he does.”

“What do you think Khavi will do?” Skot asked swallowing his last bite.

Chot looked at his second and smiled before answering. “What ever is best for Khavi is what she will choose. The elf has no loyalty but to herself and the clan, remember that Skot when dealing with Khavi.”

“Yes sir.” Skot said taking another rice ball.


The hands and arms of the sushi-ya’s apprentice were small compared Rayek-sans Shenshen thought as he led her out to the field where the duel would be fought. She walked along side of the man carefully listening to her surroundings. There were a few spectators, but only a few, who had come to watch the duel. Otherwise, the morning was quiet outside of the ryokan. The grass felt moist, almost dry from the rains of the night before. The sun would finish drying it out in an hour or two as the air smelled fresh, like the beginning of so many spring days she thought. Shenshen turned to the man and asked him about the master who had challenged Rayek.

“Osamu Yamazaki is the best spear man in this region. He started his own school to teach other bushi. Your companion has accepted a duel that he may not live through.” The apprentice whispered.

“He will live. He is the grand master of his father’s martial art, the last one who practices it. He will live.” Shenshen whispered back confidently as they came to a stop.

The apprentice was sure the blind one was only wishing, no one could beat Osamu with a spear in fair combat. The man had been to war with Yorimoto and others. Yet, there on that grass field maybe ten yards away, stood her companion with an ordinary spear in his hand dressed in nothing but an old robe top and dull grey hakama pants facing Osamu without blinking. The spear master, standing down field away from his opponent, was dressed in a flashing red top with blue hakama pants and also holding a spear that gleamed in the morning light form being polished countless times.

On the opposite side of the field from the apprentice and Shenshen was Osamu’s second and some of his students, who had come to see the duel. They didn’t cheer for their teacher. It was dishonorable to do so. They all stood quietly watching Osamu, as did two others who knelt just a bit away, hidden. These two watched the duel with keen eyes.

“I have challenged the one called Rayek-san, master of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū to a duel with Yari’s. Are you the one who accepted the challenge? Are you Rayek-san?” Osamu called out.

Rayek said nothing, just nodded with a steel glare.

“Then we meet as true warriors Rayek-san. I wish to test my technique of Hōzōin-ryū against yours and that of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. I wish to fight and see which the better is.”

Again, Rayek said nothing. Again, he just nodded with a steel glare.

The spear men walked out holding his Yari, the point skyward, with an eager smile, which contrasted to Rayek, who held his spear level pointed in the direction of his challenger with a stone mask on his face. The two walked to the center of the field stopping when they stood eight feet apart, just out of range from their spears.

“Are you ready Rayek-san?”

For a third time Rayek only nodded.

Osamu lowered his spear then, taking it in both hands, and pointing the tip at Rayek’s face, right at his eyes. Rayek paid no attention the to spear point leaning back on his back foot while his left hand slid up to the mid-point of the wood shaft of his weapon. His back hand stayed at the end of the spear. Osamu moved slowly into his starting position, his back hand moved to a spot over his head and behind while the forward hand stayed in the middle of the spear at eye level. The spear master’s tip still stayed pointed at his opponent’s eyes as did Rayek’s at Osamu.

The morning was suddenly so quiet it scared Shenshen. It reminded her of the morning Lord Yorimoto came to the village. How quiet everything got as the army marched up. How everything seemed to stop moving, so hypnotizing was the spectacle of the Shogun’s men coming toward them. She took a deep breath and before she had a chance to exhale the sound of metal began to ring out.

The spear master Osamu made the first attack, a quartet of skillful thrusts that jabbed at Rayek driving him backwards. The spear master used his front hand like a guide and the back to provide the power, sending the spear tip forward so fast it became a blur to the spectators watching. Rayek blocked the first stab, dodged the next two with subtle moves of his body, and blocked the last with the shaft of his spear sending small slivers of wood flying. Just as fast as the last attack from Osamu finished Rayek countered with a quick jab that turned into a small slash cutting the spear master across his arm as Osamu danced back.

The apprentice gasped at the hit scaring Shenshen. “What? What happened?”

“Your samurai just wounded Osamu. He’s just as fast as the spear master.” The apprentice whispered with surprise, never taking his eyes off the fight. Shenshen smiled feeling bolstered by the news.

Osamu ignored the cut and moved in quickly feigning a strike to Rayek’s chest to move him right before turning his back hand in a small circle sending the spear point in a downward arc. The move worked as Rayek had no time to move letting the spear shaft slam into his calf with a smack loud enough to echo. He ignored the pain, already moving to counter Osamu’s next attack. Just before the spear master could pull back on the spear, hoping to bring the blade across the meat of his opponent’s calf to cut it deeply, Rayek rolled out and away. Instead, Osamu only cut the calf enough to make the muscle sting.

The Sōke popped up in time to block another hard thrust from Osamu. Rayek stepped in quickly behind the attack countering with his own circling arc going from a downward stab rolling the spear up along Osamu’s side cutting nothing but air, leaving his side exposed for a second. The spear master took advantage stepping back and slashing at the opening, cutting Rayek across the ribs. The Sōke grimaced, backing away to regain his posture and technique. Osamu saw this momentary lapse and rushed Rayek pressing his advantage on the Sōke with two quick jabs of his spear point. The first went for the midsection which Rayek barely blocked, but the second came from a high position overhead where the spear master had moved his hands, right for the heart. Osamu meant to finish this duel putting all his effort and strength into this strike, his arms moving downward from overhead with spear.

Rayek ignored the burning pain form his side waiting for the spear master to come at him just like he knew Osamu would do with a wounded adversary, just like he would. The first strike was fast and powerful, but the Sōke got the shaft of his spear up blocking the point at the last second. When Osamu followed behind with the second strike for his heart intent on ending the duel Rayek was all ready moving with his counter. He dropped to one knee while moving, sweeping away, at an angle from spear point. The tip of Osamu’s spear snagged his robe sleeve but it wasn’t enough to stop Rayek’s thrust.

Osamu almost had him, one second Rayek was there and the next he was simply gone. Then the spear master felt pain as the Sōke’s spear point punched through his chest with a pop. It was suddenly hard to breath and the pain grew to a hot white fire that spread everywhere at once across his body. Osamu lost control of his body, his fore hand let go of his polished Yari letting the point hit the ground with a small ring of metal. He looked down and smiled at Rayek before speaking in a barely audible whisper.

“Beautiful grand master…very beautiful.”

The field was silent. No one uttered a word as Rayek and Osamu stood motionless for what seemed an eternity. Shenshen finally couldn’t stand it and squeezed the apprentice’s hand hard while whispering.

“What? What had happened?”

“Your samurai,” the apprentice whispered barely believing what he had just seen, “has killed Osamu Yamakazi, the master of the spear.”

“He won…he won…” She whispered not remembering when she had been more thankful.

Out on the field, Rayek stood and then with a quick jerk pulled the spear form Osamu letting his students cradle him and gently put him on the ground. The spear master was dying, Rayek had seen his father the day he died and these masters both had the same ashen look on their faces. It was just a matter of time before the wound took his life. Rayek took his spear and stuck it point first into the ground, finished with it. Osamu looked to one of his students and whispered again, noticeably lower.

“Give him his token…he has proven his honor this day.”

One of the students rose and walked over to Rayek, who stood ramrod straight at the approaching human. The student produced two wrapped bundles, the kanji sign for ‘25’ on both, and handed them to the Sōke.

“You are a skilled opponent Rayek-san of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū.” Osamu coughed trying to take a breath of air.

Rayek only nodded before turning to leave the spear master to die with his students. He walked over to Shenshen and the apprentice who was still standing in shock at what had just transpired. The Sōke leaned in and took Shenshen’s arm with his making her smile even though she fought to hide it.

“Come Shenshen, I need to tend to my wound.” Rayek stated with his cold calm demeanor.

“I will help honorable one.” Shenshen offered. The Sōke didn’t say anything to her, only stared with a raised eyebrow before leading her back to the inn.

Out on the field, Chot and Skot watched the spear master Osamu take his last breath then his students cover his body. The ninjas turned and walked away for the inn heading back to their camp. Chot spoke to his second without turning to him knowing full well Skot would catch everything.

“Send a message to Shijima then two hours later a message to Madcoil. Tell them we found Rayek and that a message with his location will follow.”

“We are not going to tell them his location sir?” Skot asked confused.

“Two hours before you send those messages send one to Khavi alerting her to the situation we have. This will give her two hours to decide what to do before we have to alert Lord Shijima and the Shogun.” Chot explained.

“Yes sir,” Skot said with a smile.


He sat in his usual style with his legs underneath him, robe top off, wrapped around his waist. Rayek watched with just a little amazement at Shenshen who worked on bandaging the cut across his ribs. The fact that she was blind didn’t stop her fingers from doing their usual dance as they worked skillfully. He had asked the apprentice about having him heat a metal rod to burn and cauterize the cut, but Shenshen had talked him out of that usual practice, and instead using a poultice she could make to heal it. Rayek wasn’t sure if he believed she could help him. He wasn’t sure of anything when it came to Shenshen.

He helped her tie off the large swatch with two long strips of cloth that held the main bandage against the cut and his ribs. It stung a little, but the poultice made the sting of the cut disappear slowly as he pulled his top on.

“Thank you Shenshen.” He said.

“You are welcomed honorable one,” She said wiping her hands off after dipping them into a small bowl of water, “I am happy to help you.”

“Where did you learn this?” Rayek asked.

“I have had to heal myself several times over the last six years honorable one. I have learned the art of using plants to heal from several people that I have crossed paths with over that time.” She explained turning to face him and ending up just a little to the left.

“How long will it take to heal Shenshen?” He asked.

“A day or two honorable one, I will change the bandage when it is needed, is you let me.” Shenshen offered.

Rayek looked at her hard wondering if she understood fully what she was saying, what she was doing. He thought she did not and decided to explain by sliding right up next to her and speaking low.

“Shenshen, to walk my path with me is to face death from all sides. The Shogun Madcoil, Lord Shijima, and fools like Osamu. I cannot protect you. I will not protect you if I am attacked.” Rayek said calmly, like the night before, but not coldly this time.

She turned to the sound of his voice before speaking, their faces only an inch apart as she whispered. “I understand honorable one. I will not hinder you.”

The two sat in silence after Shenshen spoke. Rayek was unsure if he wanted to have her along on his wandering road. All there had ever been was his father’s martial art, the way of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū, the unyielding need to perfect it. Now there was this blind elf that had somehow put all that to task, put it to the fire. He was still deep in thought when Shenshen spoke with a whisper again.

“Thank you for my new kimono honorable one. What does it look like?”

Rayek looked to her and spoke with a slight smile. “It is a kumon, for traveling, black with the image of a cherry blossom tree stitched on the back. I can not be seen with someone who looks like a beggar, blind one.”

“Oh,” Shenshen whispered with a smile of her own understanding somehow the Sōke was not being harsh with his words, “I understand honorable one. There were cherry trees outside our village that I would run through when I was younger. I hope to do it again one day.”

“Is that why you search for your sister? So she may heal your eyes?” Rayek asked.

“No honorable one. I look for my sister because I love her and I want to see her safe. My eyes have never been my reason to find her.” Shenshen explained.

It was an honorable answer Rayek thought. More honorable then most men and elves he had run into. “Are you ready to travel Shenshen? Are you rested?” Rayek asked.

“Yes honorable one, I am ready to travel.” She answered.

“Good, I want to be in the next village before the mid-day meal.” He said rising to his feet in one fluid motion.

“Hai honorable one,” Shenshen replied taking his arm and standing next to him.

They left the room and headed north with the sun at their backs. The Ryokan disappeared from view as they walked.


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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Four The Play   Wed Dec 21, 2016 4:34 pm

And now, the next piece of the story...


Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Four The Play

“What are they doing now?” Chot asked.

“He’s watching a Noh from a troupe.” Skot replied from the dark alley.

Chot laughed with surprise before turning from watching people walk through the village to his second. “The elf is wanted by everyone and he is watching a play.”

“I think it was the woman’s idea sir.” Skot offered.

“The woman? Rayek stopped to watch a Noh because she asked him to?” Chot queried with a look of shock. This flew in the reputation of what they knew of the Sōke.

“I know,” Skot replied.

“We are sure this is Rayek?” I mean, if we have mistaken some poor fool for him then it will cost us all our heads, the fool and us!” Chot spat.

“I know,” was all Skot could offer.

The two fell into an uneasy silence until the second broke it with a question. “Has Khavi ordered anything?”

Chot shook his head, inferring there had been no answer from the head of their clan before asking his question. “Have you sent the messages to Shijima and Lord Madcoil?”

“Yes sir, they have been informed.” Skot answered.

“Well then, all that is left is to see who can get to him first. Who do you think it will be Skot, the old evil human or the dreaded malevolent dragon?” Chot asked with a raised eyebrow, looking back out on the road watching its travelers walk past unaware he was there.

“I do not know sir. I am only here to watch, not to think.” Skot said after a minute.

“Really, then I will think for the both of us. The path for the Sōke is about to get very dark.” Chot whispered.

The pair stood in the dark waiting for Rayek and the woman to move on from the village or for the inevitable force of the Shogun and Shijima to strike.


The actors of the Noh moved with precise measured steps on the small stage. Everything, from the position of an arm or the distance of a step meant something in the play. The morning sun kept him warm as Rayek watched the actors in the Noh, something he had not done in years. He hadn’t seen this particular play, but he knew of it and wondered if fate had put it in front of him, just like Shenshen. At the thought of his companion he turned to see her smiling broadly. Even though she could not see the actors she was still enjoying the Noh with the happiness of a child.

“Are you hungry Shenshen-san?” He asked.

“May we wait to eat until the play is over honorable one?” She countered.

“Yes, we may.” Rayek answered turning back to the play.

On the stage, the main actor, a human female, moved into position. This was an onna mono form of the Katsura mono, or a Noh with a female as the lead character Rayek remembered. A male elf with bright blond hair moved across the stage into position next to the woman with practiced steps, her companion in the story, as Shenshen asked quietly so as not to bother those around them.

“Is this the Izutsu?”

Rayek smiled slightly amazed at her. She knew of the Noh, recognized it from the words and not the usual scenery or dress of the actors. The prop of a well with a frame used to lift a mock bucket into and out of the well sat to the right of a background mural of a village at the base of a mountain.

“Yes, it is the story of The Well Cradle.” He whispered back.

Shenshen smiled warmly and her hand gripped his arm tighter as she spoke in a whisper that was as loud as a yell to him. “Do you know of the story honorable one?”

“Yes, the girl and boy fall in love after seeing each at the well everyday.” Rayek answered.

“Oh, it is more than that honorable one. The two are just children when they first meet at the well. They return each day at the same time, measuring their heights against the frame, each falling in love with the other but unable to bring themselves to say it out loud. Confused by their feelings, they drift apart no longer meeting at the well every day as they had for so long.” Shenshen explained.

Rayek looked up to the stage watching as she spoke, the music growing somber. The human female looked around the well prop, motioning that she was searching for her companion. After a minute the music changed, becoming more lonesome, as the blond elf now walked up as the human female walked away. He made different motions, but it meant the same, as he searched for his companion who wasn’t there. The music changed again, almost like a funeral march as the elf lowered his head.

“And then one day, they meet again at the well honorable one. This time they are older and now understand they love each other. He recites a poem for her, one that he has kept in his heart since he last saw her, of how he has missed her and loves her. She says to him that she has not taken the offer of her parents to find her a husband because she loves him so, that she has since she last saw him.” Shenshen whispers.

“I know the story Shenshen-san. They marry, but he soon finds himself in love with a woman who lives over the mountain from the village. He visits her often, so much so they cannot hide their love from his wife anymore. When told, she makes no protests or tries to end the love, and from this he can only assume she has taken a lover of her own. They live this way for some time.” Rayek whispered back, his voice a perfect contradictory tone against her happiness.

Shenshen only smiled before speaking, countering his stone heart with her happiness. “Yet one stormy night, as he sets out to cross over the mountain, he decides to see who his wife has chosen for a lover. He sneaks back to their house, peers into the window expecting to see two but only finds her praying for him, for a safe journey to his new love. This stirs his heart and he returns home to her and never again crosses the mountain to the other one. He knows where he is to be and he is happy with his home.”

The Sōke turned to look back at the stage and wonder. Months ago, the thought of love forcing one such as him from a set course seemed ridiculous and farfetched. It was like his father telling him that there was something other than Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. Then he looked back to Shenshen and wondered about fate, had it put her in his path for a reason? Because now his thoughts were focused on something else other than his martial art, something other than his father’s Dotunaki in his sash. He didn’t smile or acknowledge her when she spoke again in a whisper with a voice filled with warmth.

“It is a story of devotion Rayek-san. In the final act, she comes back as a ghost and tends his grave because her love for him is so strong. You may thank me foolish for believing this honorable one, to love so strong it crosses this world and the next, but one day I hope to find just that.”

“I hope you do as well Shenshen-san, I hope you do.” Rayek whispered back with a foreign warmth to his words.

Shenshen blushed a little from the sound in his voice then ventured forth with a question not knowing how Rayek-san would react. “Was your mother devoted to your father in such a way honorable one?”

“Yes, she was.” He answered singularly.

As he answered, Rayek’s mind drew up images of watching his parents before the duel that took Ingen’s life. His mother, Jarrah, was happy until that day. She would smile and forgive him of his rock-solid look on things. She would try to encourage him to see other things, like Ingen, but always there was just the martial art. She would laugh with a sweet gentle sound like Shenshen, but after that day she withdrew from him taking it all with her, staying in her room day and night never venturing out. And then just before the school burned, before it all burned, she disappeared. He didn’t look for her. It was better this way, safer this way, not knowing where she was.

“You have not seen her in a long time, have you honorable one?” Shenshen asked.

“No, I have not seen her in some time. How did you know?” Rayek whispered looking back to her.

“Your voice sounds like mine when you asked me about my sister.” Shenshen answered.

The two sat quietly watching the Noh until it finished. After it they walked through the village stopping long enough to find Rayek another robe top to replace the one that was cut and happening upon a small eatery. This time Shenshen was more careful with her manners, but still eating enough to catch up on the time she had gone without food. Empty plates that once held yakimono sat beside her as she finished her rice.

“I see I do not have to worry about you falling by the road side from lack of food.” Rayek said with a grin.

“No, you will not have to honorable one. Thank you for the meal.” She said wiping her mouth with the cloth provided while smiling.

Rayek asked the owner about the location of another Ryokan and learned there was one to the west, a day’s travel, just outside of a large city on the Toyo River. They could not make that in a half-day and would have to camp for the night Rayek thought when the owner said there was a shrine that they could use to spend some of the night in, but they needed to be careful. The owner whispered there were rumors of a ronin attacking travelers at the shrines. Why just last night someone had killed five road weary men who only sought refuge for the night. Hacked to pieces he had heard. The Sōke only stated they would be careful, thanked him for the food, and departed with Shenshen on his arm.

The pair walked out of the village heading west to the Ryokan and the city on the Toyo River. The sun set with a fiery blaze and after a short walk they found the shrine with hardly any effort. It looked the like one where the six samurai had come for him Rayek thought as he helped Shenshen up the small ramps and into small building. See knelt by him and the quiet took hold easing the Sōke into his meditation. Maybe it was a few minutes later or maybe an hour, Rayek wasn’t sure which, but he felt Shenshen fall into his shoulder with a small bump. He opened his eyes to see her leaning on him still asleep, a deep heavy sleep. Rayek only turned and went back to meditating letting her lean on him and letting her rest. An hour before the sun rose he woke Shenshen and the pair left the shrine heading west again. Just before mid-day the air filled with the smell of the approaching river and a few minutes later the Ryokan. Rayek guided them to the inn, which looked reasonably new. The rooms would be nice then he thought.


He sat watching them enter the Ryokan, wanting to follow. A night in a bed would help his aching back Chot thought. He heard the approaching footsteps of his second, and Skot wasn’t alone Chot noted. He sighed with frustration.

She was here.

Chot turned to see his second Skot in his usual blue top and hakama pants. It was the one next to him dressed in the same blue but with green at the edges that made him suddenly want to be somewhere else, anywhere else. Skot removed his hat and the other did the same letting two long braids fall down with a heap of brown hair.

“What is he doing Chot?” Khavi asked.

“He’s getting a room I think, that’s what I’d be doing. The female with him has slowed him down, enough for Lord Madcoil and Shijima to descend.” Chot offered.

“We will have to move with the few that I brought and hope we are first to him.” Khavi said looking at the Ryokan.

“Is that wise mistress, confronting him? That sounds like the plan of a fool.” Skot stated.

“Are you calling me a fool?” Khavi whipped around sneering at Skot. The second only bowed hoping not to lose his head.

“He is not questioning mistress, only wondering out loud. Our orders are to kill Rayek and those with him, yet you have only brought a small group. This does not bode well for us.” Chot stated.

Khavi didn’t answer.

She didn’t want to as her mind raced along with her plans. She hadn’t come to kill Rayek and when the moment came she would let Chot and Skot in on her new plan.



The nihon teien, or garden, was large and multi-leveled with a very large sized Koi pond in the middle that separated it into two halves. In the middle of the pond stood a small pavilion on an island that was connected by a wooden bridge that joined the two sections. Stone lanterns with recesses for candles, which gave a soft glow to a paved and wooden walkway at night, went all around the garden. Flowers and trees lined the path but there were parts where the garden opened and one could walk through it marveling at it all. On the island sat two female elves, one with white alabaster skin outside of the pavilion while the other with dark brown skin and auburn locks full of curls sat inside doing shodō, or calligraphy.

Daimyo Taiso watched the female elf with long flowing black hair feeding the Koi slowly from the walkway, keeping his distance. She looked so sad, the black hair, to one who did not know her, but then Taiso knew what burned beneath that white alabaster skin. He knew there was no letting down one’s guard with her. She was new to Lord Madcoil’s arrangements, and she was still thinking of a way to escape. That would end soon, just like the brown skin had given in years ago, to her new life. The black hair would come to realize what her new position in this new world order was, but in the meantime, maybe a carrot would help her along to adjust. He watched as a third elf, a man this time with white long hair, came walking down the bridge and as soon as the black hair saw him she was up and walking to him with quick, measured steps. The two didn’t hug, only touched foreheads and held hands, not exactly the show of love Taiso thought there would be. The brown skin looked up for a second, smiled warmly, and then went back to her shodō. The Daimyo was studying the whole scene when an advisor ran up and spoke to him with bowed head.

“Our men are in place Lord Taiso as ordered. Lord Shijima’s are as well. There has been no sighting of Shijima-san’s ‘other’ men though.”

“And there won’t be. Shijima-san will make a show to follow Lord Madcoil’s decree that Rayek-san be put to death.” Taiso commented.

“Then you think the information we learned that Shijima intends to capture the Sōke is real my lord?” The advisor asked.

“I believe in being ready for any tactic.” Taiso said watching the black hair and her husband feed the fish again.


The room was as nice as Rayek had suspected. Its only access was from a large wooden walkway that surrounded a garden with a pond. They had returned from the small city by the river after eating and looking around. Night had just fallen and the pair stopped by the river’s edge to listen to the night insects. It was calm and peaceful which caused Shenshen to yawn signaling it was time to seek sleep. So Rayek guided her back to the room where she slid out of her kumon folding it gently and placing it by the end of the bed. She slid under the blanket but did not fall asleep right away. She called out to him not sure where he was in the room.

“Will you not share the bed honorable one?”

“No Shenshen,” he said right next to her, “I will rest here.”

She jumped from the closeness of his voice, then spoke again. “I can sleep on the floor if my presence in the bed displeases you honorable one.”

“I will not dishonor you or myself by sleeping in the same bed without being joined Shenshen. Now sleep, you are tired.” Rayek said.

“Hai,” She whispered smiling as the warmth of the blanket finally beckoned sleep.

After a minute, when Rayek was sure she was resting, he went to pull the blanket up over her to keep from her shivering. When he was done, just as he let go of the edge of the blanket, her hand reached up and took his holding it. The Sōke smiled letting her hold his hand. Rayek closed his eyes to meditate and unlike the night before there was no one to wake him. He opened his eyes as the sun was coming up, this he knew from his internal clock. He looked around the semi dark room and felt he wanted to see the river in the morning light, needed to see it, and think. He also decided to let Shenshen sleep as she would need it. So Rayek rose and left the small room quietly heading out of the inn making the small distance to the river with easy steps.

His mind, which had been set to the path of perfecting his father’s art, was now split in two. He was not so sure of his path anymore. He was not sure what fate had dealt him or what it wanted. For so long there had only been the need to be perfect and now there was this. There was Shenshen. His father had been right he had to admit. There were other things in the world, and he wondered how many of them he had missed. How many of them would Shenshen help him see?

Rayek was confused, what was he to do now?


Shenshen heard the shoji screen slide open and rose from the pillow slowly calling out in a whisper to the room. “Rayek-san?”

When there was no answer she started to rise only to have a hand shove her flat in the bed throwing the blankets over her. She started to scream as cloth tightened on her, constricting her movement. She only had one thought as she realized she was being secured and lifted from the bed in the bundle.

Please let Rayek-san live!


Her name brought a sudden sense of dread, like a black pall had been cast over his heart and soul. Rayek wasn’t sure why, but he had to get back to the room, get back there right now! The sense of dread grew stronger with each step on the ground, the closer he got to the Ryokan. He ran as fast as his tatami sandals would stand flying through the front hall, down the steps, and onto the outdoor walkway that led to their room. Even as Rayek reached the room and saw the screen open he knew Shenshen was gone.

Someone had taken her.

He stepped into the room to see the bed lying on its side. He saw her kumon, the pretty one he had bought her, crumpled on the floor and felt his heart stop.

Someone had taken her.

“We have come for you Rayek.” A voice called out from the small garden in the center of the Ryokan.

Rayek stepped out of the room onto the walkway to see three men, humans, all waiting for him. They meant to kill him and yet all he could think of was one thing.

Someone had taken her.


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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Five Catch me Please!   Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:37 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Five Catch me please!


“Are you doing the Chanoyu?”

The sound of the voice might have caused a lesser trained practitioner in the art of the tea ceremony to miss a step or stop, but Leetah had mastered all the movements before being taken form her village. She had mastered all the forms of the practice, from the Chabako temae where it requires a special ceremonial tea set to the basic Bon temae, or making of thin tea. She had mastered the special seating arrangement, the practice of serving food, and even the way of Chabana, or flower arranging for the ceremony. She had become so masterful at the many ceremonies, that others came to her for training, seeking her out for her knowledge. Leetah had even trained samurai and advisors for Yorimoto. Those were better days she thought as she watched the small charcoal fire heat the water in the kettle she would need to clean the utensils of the tea set, days when her power to heal had not cursed her or the village she grew up in.

She looked up to see Winnowill sitting at edge of the open shoji screen to the tea room for Daimyo Taiso, awaiting permission to enter. Leetah smiled warmly, held out her hand to the first open spot to her left.

“Please join me.”

Winnowill nodded and slipped quietly into the room, moving to the spot, and kneeling in the usual seiza sitting position with her knees under her. She watched as Leetah performed the ceremony with the moves of a skilled expert, holding the long sleeves of her kimono in a way so as not to dirty or touch anything. It was a simple, poetic motion. First Leetah washed each utensil and placed it on a special folded cloth, in its own careful position according to use. The she used the small bamboo scoop, or chashaku, to put the proper measured amount of green tea powder into the two small tea bowls or chawan. She added the proper amount of hot water from the kettle with the ladle using the same moves. And finally, she used the chasen, or bamboo whisk, to mix the tea carefully, and then handed the bowl to Winnowill, who took it from Leetah with the necessary head bow and thank you phrase.

Leetah watched her sip from the bowl, nod with approval, and then hand the bowl back on where she placed it on the small tea caddy, or Chakin.

“You have mastered the tea ceremony exceptionally Leetah-san.” Winnowill said with another head bow of respect.

“It has always been a pleasure to practice Chanoyu. I believe that each meeting with a new person must be treasured, as it can never be repeated Winnowill-san.” Leetah replied with her own head bow.

“I use to think these simple pleasures like the Chanoyu were the acts that separated us from those who coveted our positions in society. Even when Lord Yorimoto would do the tea ceremony with my husband and me, we knew it was an act. He, Yorimoto the Shogun and Military Ruler, was not royalty and never would be. He would never be our equal.” Winnowill said absently.

She was still adjusting Leetah thought. She, the wife to Lord Voll, the former master and head to the Taka clan, was now a prisoner of the new Shogun. The Kanji for Hawk stitched into her dark blue kimono the only vestige of her rule left. Their Yamashiro, or mountain castle, had been taken over she heard when standing next to Lord Taiso.

“I think the simple pleasures of the tea ceremony are meant for us all. It is what makes us, the common to the royal, one.” Leetah replied.

“How long have you been here Leetah-san? Why is it that they hold you here?” Winnowill asked quickly, looking out the open shoji screen seeming to ignore the reply, her eyes yearning for someone who wasn’t there.

“Over six years Winnowill-san. I was taken from my village and have been moved once every year except the last. I have been lucky these two years, as Lord Taiso has given me the freedom to walk his grounds and palace. And I am like you, I heal with my magic, and I give a hope that the Shogun cannot let be.” Leetah said looking out the opening now too.

“Have the ever tried to take you to their bed, by force?” Winnowill asked.

“No, by the orders of the Shogun Madcoil, to touch my body means death. They have watched me in the bath at times, but none have dared take me as their concubine.” Leetah answered.

“They took my daughter and my husband Leetah-san,” Winnowill said turning back to her counterpart with eyes now filled with anger and fury, “that is how they have treated us. I have lost all that has mattered to me and I am locked away.”

“I know Winnowill-san. They threatened to destroy my village too, that is why I have stayed and endured. You will come to accept your new duty here.” Leetah said.

“To live apart from my daughter, from my honorable husband, that is not a duty or a life I will bear for any length of time. I will be with them, and I will see my enemies suffer Leetah-san. I promise you this.” Winnowill stated coldly before turning back to the opening and looking out at the morning sun.

Leetah didn’t reply. She let the conversation stop, let Winnowill have the quiet and what ever peace it would bring to her. She thought back to when Yorimoto had first taken her from the village and how she had said the same words, more or less. But then the Shogun had given her the choice, her village would become a memory, or she would come with him willingly and stay, permitting the people she had loved for all her life to be spared.

She had learned to accept…so would Winnowill.


Honorable one…help…

The send was small, weak, from someone who had little or no experience with the power.
It was from Shenshen…It was from her.

Rayek felt his muscles tense, the energy rising and growing from the center of his chest like a raging fireball. He eyed the three humans closely, they wore the robes of the house and clan of Madcoil, but their stance was wrong. Their approach wasn’t one of honor, backed by the weight of the Shogun. They came at him from the shadows, these three, just like the six from the other night, and that could only mean one thing. These were Shijima’s men.

“Where is Shenshen?” Rayek asked coldly, the small send from Shenshen still strong in his mind, still echoing there with desperation.

“We have no concern of the-“The first man started before a lightning flash of the Dotanuki cut him off. He stumbled back away from Rayek grabbing at his throat before falling to the ground.

“I have no time to talk with the lap dogs of Shijima!” The Sōke spat sliding his sword back into its scabbard after the circular slash, with perfect precision, the grating sound of the metal blade against the scabbard resonating in the courtyard as the only sound.

The world seemed to slow down to Rayek, like it always did in a fight. He watched as the second man rushed trying to perform an Iaijutsu draw, or explosive slash, with his sword, but it was a pathetic attack, neither being fast nor strong. The Sōke stepped forward, inside to the left of the attack, and drove his knee into the outside of the attacker’s knee. There was a loud crack followed by a wail of pain as the human spilled to the ground unable to stand any longer.

Rayek spun on the third man with his hand on his sword causing the man to hop back, skipping away from him. It was all the space he needed as the Sōke broke and ran for the door that led to the front of the Ryokan. As he reached the hall he spotted another group of four humans entering form the front. He instantly recognized these men as the Shogun’s, they wore the official crest stitched into their robes too, but there was the presence the others lacked. The air of confidence and arrogance of one backed by the Military Ruler of Two-Moons would carry. Their leader locked eyes with Rayek, snarled, and put his hand to his sword.

“Rayek the Sōke, you have been instructed by-“

Honorable one!...

The send was weaker. She was slipping away.

“Lord Madcoil, Shogunate, to commit seppuku-“

Shenshen! Shenshen!

The desperation in the send matched the fury growing in his chest. There was no time for this…she was slipping away.

“I will be your second Rayek so you do not-“

Rayek-san…please…

The leader never finish his oratory. He stopped as soon as he saw Rayek come for him in a burst, covering the distance between them in two long steps. The men behind the leader reached for the swords, slowed though by the shock of the attacking Sōke. One elf against four, in a closed space like the hall, was madness, yet Rayek did just that. He came at them with no sound or scream, just eyes wide with furious dread. Before any of the three could draw their swords Rayek kicked the leader right into them, right through all three of them.

And the kick wasn’t some fast front snap type, or off balance side version. It was a full sprint into a charging stomp meant to do as much damage as possible. Rayek pulled his knee up into chest, and then with all the explosive force his leg muscles could muster, he plunged forward sending his sandal and foot crashing into the leader’s chest. The force was hard enough to send the man flying out of his sandals and backwards into his other men, crashing into them, and sending the whole bunch backwards through the entry way and into the front room of the Ryokan in a pile of arms and legs.

Rayek followed the mass into the room, noticing another human to his right holding a Naginata, the glaive version of the spear. He assumed the human was with Madcoil’s men, if he wasn’t then the poor soul was in the wrong place at the worst time. The human pointed the Naginata at his foe, Rayek, and swung it meaning to cut the Sōke in half but only a last a second step back by his foe kept this from happening. Rayek let the blade just graze his robe, barely crease the skin of his side, before stepping back into human’s side mirroring his stance. At the same exact time as his knee struck the back of the human’s knee making a wet popping sound as Rayek brought his fist down on the right forward hand of the human on the glaive’s shaft with a crunch. The soldier’s hand broke and he instantly released the Naginata from his grip while the Sōke grabbed it with both of his. As the man started to scream from the pain, Rayek spun bringing the glaive’s shaft up and into the human’s chin with another crunch, and then continuing the move back into the wall of the inn.          


“What the hell is going on?” Khavi screeched at the winded Skot.

The three Ninja’s had taken up a hidden spot along the woods by the roadside, opposite of the inn, waiting for their group to move in, when it all came to a stop. They saw the elf run up low, into the trees several lengths down from them, so as not to give away their position. When Skot had worked his way back, and was kneeling down, did Khavi unleash on him.

“It’s too crowded in there. There are samurai in the front room and in the garden. It looks like everyone descended on Rayek at the same time. He’ll be lucky to make it out in one piece. Our ninja never had a chance to get set up before someone took the female out of the room.” Skot said in between gasp.

“Who’s men? What girl?” Khavi spat.

“The Shogun and Daimyo Taiso’s men along with some of Shijima’s bushi, but there’s someone else too. I saw three trolls take the female that was traveling with Rayek. They rolled her up in the blankets and tied her before going out the back toward the city. The Sōke missed them, by just a second or two.” Skot explained.

“Where’s Rayek now?” Khavi asked harshly.

The front wall of the Ryokan, specifically one wall, exploded outward as a body went flying through before landing in heap in the grass. The three ninjas looked up in time to see Rayek leap through the newly created hole to the outside before bolting for the city by the river with bounding steps. Khavi watched with wide eyes as Rayek ran off, her mind some where between disbelief and attraction. She had never seen an elf move like this one, nor do what this one had just done.  She turned to Chot and Skot with a wicked smile while speaking.

“We need to catch him alive!”

She turned back to give chase in time to see the Sōke slash two more men who had come at him out of hiding spots along the road. One fell dead while the other limped off holding his arm to him as if the appendage would fall off.

“Oh yes, we need to catch him alive!” She repeated running off through the woods in pursuit, smiling wildly.

“Why does she want him alive?” Skot asked genuinely confused.

“Who knows?” Chot replied starting after Khavi. He had to venture a guess as to why she wanted him alive now more than ever, but when it came to Khavi, it was a dangerous thing to guess.  
 

Rayek-san…please…

The send was so weak. She was almost gone, almost lost to him.

Two men popped up ready to strike but Rayek dropped one dead where he stood and cut the other across the arm hard enough to almost sever the limb. He was past them in a rush, putting sword back into its saya, or scabbard, and running with all the strength he could muster. Up ahead, just before the entrance city, he spotted three squat men moving as fast as they could holding what looked to be a Sake barrel between them. An instinct took hold, something inside that screamed she was in that barrel. Those squat men had her, had taken her.

Shenshen! SHENSHEN!

A send, stronger, responded.

Rayek-san…help me…

One the three squat men turned and Rayek saw it was a troll. Almost at once the troll screamed to his comrades and they bolted into the city, trying to hide among the crowded streets. The Sōke pressed his legs even harder, straining everything there was in them, crossing the last bit of distance to city and barreling through its streets. He pushed past travelers and shoppers, careening with reckless abandon, all the while searching for the trolls and the barrel, but there was nothing except street after street of people, a maze of confusion. The feeling of desperation swept over him as he sent with a yell looking for her.

SHENSHEN! SHENSHEN!

Rayek-san…

He spun to his left on instinct again, and there bolting out of shop, he saw the three breaking for the west of the city toward the docks and the river. Rayek sprung after them ignoring the burning muscles in his legs and the pain in his side. There was only the barrel now, the only thing that mattered. He knocked over a shopper, as did the trolls ahead, before taking a corner down an alley. Rayek made the same alley and turned down it just in time to see the barrel go right at its end, again toward the docks. He tore through the small path and went right just like the trolls at the end. He spotted them immediately and shoved his way through people, pushing and kicking, till he was out of the crowd and back in pursuit of the barrel.

Shenshen hold on!

Rayek-san…please…help…

The trolls made the docks where small fishing boats and barges were tied off. Elves and humans, who made their livelihood on the river, were tending to their boats when they watched in confused shock as the trolls ran up to the edge of dock wall and with a heave tossed a sake barrel into the river. The barrel sank immediately, and why shouldn’t it if it was filled with sake. A couple of the elves and humans gave serious thought to jumping in and getting the barrel, sake was expensive these days you know, even watered down sake. Those same elves and humans shook their head when a samurai ran up, without hesitation, jumped in after the barrel with no disregard for his clothes or katana.

“NO!” Rayek screamed in anger, forgetting the three trolls, and jumping in after the barrel.

He watched it sink, bubbles popping up as the last bit of air inside slipped out. He dove down, swimming hard for the barrel with everything he had, hands scooping water to propel him faster downward in pursuit.

SHENSHEN!

There was no answer this time. No send.

And it drove the desperation, and his heart, right into this throat. Rayek reached the barrel just as it hit bottom in maybe ten feet of water. He grasped the lid and tore it off with one huge peel. He saw the blankets and bed linen stuffed inside and even as his lungs burned he reached for bundle ready to pull Shenshen to safety…

And then he saw the rocks.

He didn’t realize this until the blankets and linen pulled out of the barrel with no Shenshen in between. His mind failed to realize this when he looked inside and saw the almost empty barrel.

It only became true when he saw the rocks at the bottom of the barrel where Shenshen should have been. Only then did he realize his mistake.

His lungs screamed for air, and it took the overwhelming need for that air to override the shock and despair he felt as he pushed off the bottom, headed for the surface. As he broke it and gulped in the precious oxygen he needed Rayek sent for her again.

Shenshen?

The response was small, weak, and felt so unbelievably far away.

Rayek-san…

Shenshen…

Please…be ca…

The last slipped away. She couldn’t finish it. Rayek moved without thought. He swam slowly over to the dock and let one of the fishermen pull him out. The elf said something but he was too stunned to comprehend.

She was gone.

He rose and walked to the end of the dock by the street. He whispered looking out at the crowded mass of bodies, searching for her still. “Shenshen?”

There was no answer, only the confused stares and disgusted looks of passer-bys. His mind said to hide.  The ones from the inn would have others. They would descend on this city in force to keep him from escaping if need be. Rayek didn’t listen to the voice, though. He moved along on tired legs, like a zombie, through the streets heading in whatever direction the limbs felt like going at the time. Somewhere up ahead, he could hear a human barking out orders to find the Sōke.

He didn’t care, let them come. Those iron bands around his heart started to tighten again.

“She’s not dead, not yet at least,” a female voice called out to him.

Rayek turned to see an elf dressed in blue hakama pants and top with green adorning the edges.

“Where is she?” He asked, turning to the elf female.

“You want to get her back…you need to talk with me.”

Rayek eyed her suspiciously, his hand on his Dotanuki. The sound of the barking human grew just a little closer.

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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Six Uneasy Alliances   Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:47 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Six Uneasy Alliances

They moved through the streets, ducking into the stores and shops, letting the men looking for him pass by. Rayek felt numb, but his wits were still sharp and with him. Sneaking was dishonorable, and not his path, but he knew it had to be done, accepted that it had to be done at the moment. This was the only way to correct the wrong he just let happen. He had lost Shenshen to her kidnappers and the only way to get her back was working with this Kunoichi, who was doing all of the leading at the moment. She had two others with her but they posed no threat to him. Even in the small state of shock Rayek was going through, he could defeat both if it came to a duel. The group ducked quickly into a shop as the four samurai passed looking for someone, for him Rayek knew.

As soon as the four bushi were past, and down the street, the female ninja took the lead again and Rayek followed her begrudgingly. They moved quickly, but not fast enough to draw attention to them, heading west to the edge of the city, away from the Ryokan that was now crawling with soldiers. Every step was one more step away from her, but Rayek told himself that Shenshen had come along knowing full well what the price might be for standing at his side. This wasn’t his fault.

And yet he knew that was a lie.

He could have left her on that road that night, in the rain, and she would be free. He could have left Shenshen in the shrine and she would have been in no danger. He could have left her in that first Ryokan, turned down the challenge from the spear master Osamu Yamazaki, and just disappeared into the morning mist. He could have walked away so many times. He should have walked away.

And yet he did not walk away…he could not walk away.

That night on the road after, he saw her fighting to stand up...that morning after he received the request for the duel from Osamu Yamazaki…last night when she held his hand all night…when he chased the Sake barrel through the city. His heart had decided long before his stubborn head, or the need to perfect Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū, stepped in. His heart, which had been closed off for so long to emotion, was now feeling something for a blind girl from some far-off village. His head, which for so long only wanted to wander and be alone now, kept thinking about Shenshen against all his commands to stop. It was like it was all out of his control.

The group passed the last of the buildings and started to move at a trot heading for the large woods along the river. Rayek took one last look back at the city and wondered if she was still there.

If she was scared and frightened…if she waiting for him to come for her…


The staff at the Ryokan lined the front room, and kneeled, as they heard the approaching footsteps. They knew who was coming to the scene of the battle, only one lord would have his men make them kneel and face the wall so they couldn’t see him. Only one lord who kept his appearance such a secret that he once had a village burned, and all those living there put to death, because they had the unfortunate accident of seeing him one morning, or so the story is told. Moriko had just started working at the inn, taking the job of helping the visitors with their needs. The Ryokan was small and didn’t ask much in the way of effort for work, which suited Moriko’s gentle shy nature. It was quiet, dull actually, and that was perfect for her and her way. This morning though, it was everything but dull, and now she was wishing as hard she could that she didn’t have to die, so scared she could barely breathe. When she heard the foot steps on the floor she jerked feeling a sudden chill run through her body.

Something cold had walked into the front room…the lord who killed all who looked into his eyes. Moriko shivered more, giving a prayer to any deity listening to spare her life.

He was a ghost some people said. He was a devil others whispered. Not many had ever seen the human, the myth, and lived. His name was a whispered curse, Shijima. In truth, he was both, a ghost and a devil, and he ruled the Yagyu from the shadows with an iron will and hand. Even though his fourth son Shiro stood at the head of the clan for all to see, it was he, Shijima from his hiding spot, who made all the decisions. All the moves and steps the clan made were Shijima’s moves and steps. He could rule in autonomy with no worry with his idiot son being nothing more than a puppet. No fear of assassination or attack threatened him, only the puppet Shiro. And there was always Goro, his fifth son, who could step in for Shiro if something were to happen to the fool, a contingency Shijima planned for actually, all with a small smile.

If Moriko had ventured a look, if the fear hadn’t so paralyzed her, she would have seen a tall man who was strangely bone thin with stark white hair, whici was pulled back in a tight pony tail under a Bajo-Gisa or metal riding hat. On the hat was the Yagyu emblem, a flying Sparrow, on the sides and front. The man looked around and then moved past the gathered workers walking to the rear of the Ryokan. Two men closed in on his sides as more men followed alongside, at a distance, forming a personal guard. The old man didn’t turn to either of the ones on his sides as he spoke.

“Where was his room?”

“He asked for one in the back Lord Shijima, as he always does.” The man on his right answered as they kept walking.

“Were we first to him?” Shijima asked.

“We were the first to him sir, but someone else took the female that was traveling with him.” The man on the left answered this time.

“Why would we care for some useless female elf, my lord?” The man on the right asked suddenly, out of place.

All at once, Shijima, stopped in the hall. The man on the right felt his blood turn cold and his heart stop as his Lord slowly spun to face him with those piercing grey eyes. Shijima’s voice was a growl, starting somewhere from deep inside his thin body. “Tsuneo, you do not question me, ever!”

Tsuneo nodded feeling his heart start again. It would be easier now, and in the future, to remember to keep his mouth shut. Shijima started forward again, walking toward the room his hated enemy had occupied just hours before.

“Do you know who took the female?”

“No, my Lord, we do not. There were people who saw the Sōke running after three trolls carrying a sake barrel. We think this was a distraction Lord Shijima. The barrel was found on the bottom of the river filled with rocks. The trolls lured the Sōke away with it while they made off with the female in another direction.” The man on the left explained, keeping his answer short and his mouth shut afterward.

“What happened to Lord Madcoil’s men?”

“They were routed as well my Lord. The chief magistrate, who tried to cease Rayek, was kicked so hard he may not live.” Tsuneo stammered, still getting over the confrontation just a moment before.

“Have Shiro speak with the Shogun. I want Lord Madcoil to hear this news from us, to show our loyalty and concern. Have this done immediately.” Shijima ordered with a grunt of his voice. Tsuneo hissed a command and one of the personal guards bowed, snapped out a ‘Hai’ for confirmation of the order, and ran back toward the front room of the inn.

Shijima mulled over the information, stepping out into the garden seeing the fallen man, one of his best, and the kneeling forms of the other two. Both were bound hand and foot in seiza, kneeling like the dogs they were. One had chosen the cowards path and the other was just inept. Both should have died at the hands of Rayek, like their first, a mistake that was easily and quickly rectified. Behind each was another man with his katana drawn. Shijima gave a simple single nod and both drew back and with a fierce down cut corrected the mistake.

As each head took one last bounce, Shijima spoke laying out his directive. “Find who took the female and make them our next target.”

He turned then to the right and eyed the man, his second son, hard. “If we find the female we will find Rayek-san. Is that acceptable to you, Tsuneo?”

“Yes, my lord.” His second son bowed offering no resistance or question this time.

Shijima walked out of the courtyard heading to look at the room. Afterwards he left out the back, like Rayek had done just hours before, leaving the inn alone. Moriko was released as the men who had held them captive let them go, leaving in a hurry. She started to give some serious thought to quitting. The life in the Ryokan was not as quiet as she thought and that did not sit well with her gentle nature.


They ran on for the rest of the morning, only stopping long enough for the Kunoichi to get her bearings, before they were off and running again. Rayek ran along with no physical problem from the exertion, but his head was still accepting this new path. The guilt for leaving Shenshen was slowly ebbing away, being replaced by the feeling of being lost and impotent…and he hated that the most.

Where were they going? What did they plan on doing to get Shenshen back? Why should he play along with this band of fools? Rayek was already out of patience, so when they made their next stop he confronted the female ninja

“What are we doing?”

“Right now, we are running away from all the trouble that follows you Rayek-san. After that I will decide on the next step.” The Kunoichi remarked catching her breath.

“You said she wasn’t dead yet, that you would help me get her back. Where is Shenshen?” Rayek asked coldly.

The female ninja smiled, removed her hat before speaking, letting her hair spill out and around her face. Long braids mixed with a wild mane shook free as she spoke, “I said if you want to get her back you would need to talk with me. I never said I knew where she was, and I have no idea where she is.”

The truth, delivered in such a forward fashion, was like someone tossing cold water in Rayek’s face. The fire in his chest roared back to life as his hand went for the handle of the Dotunaki, gripping it hard enough to hear it groan as anger, strong and bitter tasting, swept over him.

“You lied to me,” He stated coldly and calmly.

“Calm Rayek-san, do not let your new-found heart cloud the situation.” Chot called from the side, his hand on something tucked in the folds of his robe top.

The Sōke stepped back with his left leg ready to draw and kill with a moment’s decision, and a flex of his arm. That fire in his chest was still burning, raging, but he kept his body perfectly still while waiting to see what the three ninja did.

“My name is Khavi Rayek-san,” The kunoichi said with a grin seeing an opening, “I am the leader of a small ninja clan who has been pressed into service for the Shogun.”

“You are loyal to Madcoil then?” Rayek asked getting ready to lash out. The female would be first, so fast she would not have a chance to counter or even see death coming for her.

“We did not say that Sōke.” Chot spoke again from the side, his hand still in his robe top.

“Then what are you saying?” Rayek asked.

“We will help you Rayek-san get back this blind one for you, if you will help us.” Khavi offered with her grin.

Rayek looked at her then to the other two ninja’s with a skeptical eye. It must have been obvious as the one to his left spoke up finally. “We have no loyalty except to our clan Sōke. If helping you helps us, then that is what we will do.” Skot explained.

“Do you know who that was back at the inn who attacked you?” Khavi asked.

“It was Shijima’s men, and the Shogun’s. I knew them instantly.” Rayek answered with a snap.

“Those enemies were easy to see, but who were the trolls you were chasing? Who were they aligned with? That is the enemy that is hard to see.” Chot asked.

And it occurred to the Sōke, at that very moment, that he had no idea who the trolls were loyal to. He knew trolls came from the north, high in the mountains among the snow and caves, but who had sent them after him. Rayek looked at the two elves then back to Khavi.

“You do not know where she is?” Rayek asked.

Khavi shook her head.

“And you do not know who took her?”

Again, Khavi shook her head.

“Then why should I consider joining forces with you?”

“Because,” Chot spoke up, finally removing his hand from his robe top, “we can find out who took her. We can find out where she is being held.”

Rayek looked at him hard, his hand still tight on the Dotunaki, as Khavi spoke adding to what her second just said. “And all we ask in return for this valuable information is that you help us with a small task.”

The Sōke looked at her as his mind began to work on what this meant, this alliance. He squinted his eyes while working over all the possibilities and options in his head, calculating at the speed of thought. And it all came down to one rather unfavorable decision. “When I complete this task, if you do not give me Shenshen’s location immediately, I will seek all your deaths, all three of you.” Rayek said coldly, calmly.

“Sōke,” Khavi said with that same grin on her face while putting on her hat back on, “I would expect nothing less from you. Now, let us get back to fleeing all the trouble that follows you.”

He avoided the inevitable and just started hating that grin now, Rayek thought, as he started after Khavi. The three ninja and the Sōke disappeared into the woods.


The inside of the sake barrel was cramped, and the sides scraped her arms, but she didn’t care. They told her, growled at her, not to move so she didn’t. Shenshen laid perfectly still letting the gentle rocking motion sway her from side to side, trying to let it soothe her.

It was impossible.

She could only think of him out there, somewhere in that city, with all those samurai and ninjas coming for him. They would hunt him relentlessly. They would attack him mercilessly. He may be dead by now, and every time the idea tried to weasel its way into her head she pushed it away. He was Rayek-san, Sōke and Grand master of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. He was not destined to die at their hands.

The sound of water slapping against the side of a boat touched her ears and Shenshen wondered where she was going. Where ever she ended her journey, she hoped they would have some food. She hoped they had yakimono, just like what Rakek-san bought for her that first night.

“Please Rayek-san. Please be careful…” She whispered.

He would come for her, Shenshen knew, and so many warriors would be waiting for him when he did. He would have to fight them all, to the death. There would be so many chances for death to finally take him.

He would come for her and that scared Shenshen even more.


A pair of eyes looked down a hawk nose. He was tired of watching and waiting. His lord and mistress were gone, taken into hiding, and their castle now in the possession of the Shogun. He looked to the last four of his group, the only remaining ones to make it this far alive after the fight with the Shogun’s guards.

He was homeless and leaderless, neither a good prospect for a samurai. And he had failed to find Leila-chan…but someone knew where she was.

If that Kunoichi wasn’t here soon this plan of hers was off.


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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Five The Monk from Iga   Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:01 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Seven The Monk from Iga

“Who is he?” Winnowill asked her husband, the former Lord of the Taka clan.

“I do not know. He wears the clothes of a monk, like one from the mountain clans of Iga, but that is impossible.” Voll whispered back.

The guards had brought him down from the tower where he was being kept this morning, at the Daimyo’s instruction, to spend the day with his wife Winnowill and Lord Taiso other ‘guest’, Leetah. It was obvious what the Daimyo Taiso was doing with the Lord and his mistress, the master plan he was following. When they first came to the Yamashiro, or castle, Taiso separated them at once, not letting either know what happened to other. He did this for two weeks, kept both apart from the other, letting their fears grow that the other was being treated harshly. He had his guards’ drop rumors to each elf that the other was to meet the Shogun’s Executioner. He ordered guards and workers to make rash statements that he was delaying the order of death for the other, but that even the powerful Daimyo could not stop the final word of the Shogun’s decree. Then he let Winnowill out first into the garden, letting her see and taste a little freedom, away from the worry she would be killed. This of course made her feel guilty, again fueling her fear that her husband was dead, and finally enraging her to hate him, the Daimyo. She talked of defiance and revenge, until Voll walked out of the tower one night to greet her. Now, two days later, she was quite calm. He had given the husband and wife the days together to wander the garden now, to be together again, and for the gift of those short hours he went from the terrible tyrant to a grateful lord. He would give them the nights together soon, thus securing his position as their ‘host’ rather than jailer. Of course, there would the requests for their daughter, which he could not grant. That was, sadly, out of his hands.

“What happened to the priests from Iga?” Leetah whispered, not taking her eyes from the form squatting by the pond. All the Koi had gathered around him, clamoring with small splashes as the priest dropped food pellets into their open mouths.

“All the monks from Iga were brought before Lord Madcoil and put to the sword. The few who escaped were captured later and killed.” Winnowill whispered examining the monk carefully.

“It’s madness to be so obvious. He would face certain death if he were a monk form Iga,” Voll whispered staring hard at the form.

“Why do you think he is here?” Leetah asked quietly, still watching the monk by the edge of pond with careful eyes.

Voll shook his head while explaining, still shocked by the sight of the monk.  “I do not know, but they say the monks of Iga were actually Ninja, exceptionally trained warriors in the art of spying and intelligence gathering. They resolutely refused to any proffer or request which lead to assassinations though, a decision from choosing the path of the Buddhist.  It was their downfall in the end.”

“They are Buddhist?” Leetah whispered.

“Yes, most were Buddhist before the Shogun disposed of them. They were a few who did not choose the path though. The Elves among them, notably, were not Buddhist, but they chose like their human brethren not to perform assassinations. They were a peaceful group the monks of Iga, until Madcoil found them.” Voll elaborated.

Leetah thought back to her little village and felt a bond with this monk. Her life had been peaceful and set until, much like his, the day Yorimoto found her. She was so deep in thought that she barely heard Winnowill whisper her next statement, but when she did Leetah snapped back to reality.

“He’s an elf!”

She looked over quickly and saw the monk, examined him truly for the first time. Two long red braids hung down from his face she could see now, something she had missed a moment ago, and his ears were like hers, pointed and long. He looked over suddenly, locked eyes with her, and smiled. The serenity in his expression, the gentleness in his smile, it all made her heart seem to lift toward the clouds. Leetah smiled back titling her head to the side then nodded to him as etiquette demanded. He nodded to her in return then stood from the side of the pond wiping off his hands on the sides of his clothes. Leetah wondered if he was coming over to see them, and she found herself wanting that, needing the familiar procession of interaction. She had been alone for so long that even the arrival of Winnowill and Lord Voll had done little to lift her spirits. Yet, after the monk was standing, he paid little attention to her as Lord Taiso rounded a large grouping of bushes and walked over. The monk immediately bowed his head, letting the two braids dangle and swing, until the Daimyo signaled he could look up. The two moved off in private to another spot in the garden to talk and Leetah found her heart suddenly alone and wanting not to be.

“What do you make of this arrival husband?” Winnowill asked.

The healer noticed the closeness between the husband and wife, saw the way they would talk and share their thoughts without a word. Winnowill would ask Voll his opinion, his take, on things and Voll would give them freely expecting a truthful assessment in reply from his wife. Winnowill didn’t fear responding Leetah noticed, she replied with courage from her heart and conviction each and every time. The two were like a shodō, each line sweeping and complimenting the other.

“I do not know, but if Lord Taiso is harboring one of the last Iga Ninja then he has something already planned, for us even, maybe.” Voll answered his wife.

“What do you think the Daimyo is going to do with us?” Leetah asked quickly, with some shock.

Voll looked to Leetah with an open and honest gaze as he answered.  “I do not know little healer, it may be what the Shogun has planned for us or Lord Taiso may be following his own path when it comes to his ‘guest’. I only know if Taiso-san is working with an Iga ninja then he is setting something in motion.”

She didn’t respond to him. Leetah’s mind was in motion now too, and thinking of the monk. What did he have to do with this, with her Lord Taiso? Why was she so interested in him?


The ride on the boat was mercifully short, and then someone, or some troll, was lifting her out of the barrel and setting her down on a wooden dock. The sounds of the river lapping up against the stanchions were distinctive to Shenshen, like the ticks of a clock. She was wondering just how far from the city they had taken her when a rough hand grabbed her arm and pulled her up to a shaky standing position. Her numb legs tingled from being in the cramped barrel, and Shenshen would have rubbed them to bring them back to life, but whoever was pulling her along had no intentions of stopping or untying her hands to let her. So, she stumbled with each step, until they reached what sounded like an old screechy two wheeled wagon. Shenshen heard the horse paw at the ground, heard the wood scream in protest as something heavy stepped into bed, and then finally she was lifted up and into what felt like a mass of grass or hay.

“Can you untie me honorable one? I will not try to flee. I promise.” Shenshen called out.

There was a grunt, but no response in words. She thought for a second that she would have to deal with the bindings when the same set of rough hands grabbed her arms to hold them still. A tanto, or small knife, slid in-between her wrists and the bindings were cut with a quick pull of the blade. Shenshen gave a small smile while rubbing her wrist and speaking quietly.

“Thank you honorable one.”

Again, there was no response, just the grunt as the wagon started to roll forward. She sat back and curled into a small ball to keep her body warm as the bed bounced each time it hit a hole on the road. She thought about Rayek-san, wondered if he was still chasing after her. Part of her hoped so, and the other part didn’t. She couldn’t live with the thought of him being hurt or killed because of her. Shenshen would have wiped away the tear that wanted to come, but her eyes had long lost that ability to the hot stones.


“Where are we going?” Rayek asked running close at the side of Khavi.

“To meet someone who is going to help us.” Khavi responded cryptically.

“Help us do what?” Rayek countered.

He was no longer under the delusion that the ninjas were going to help him get Shenshen back today, or even tomorrow. He had thought about leaving them and going back to the city, to capture some poor soul who could help him find her. But his father’s words came back to him like claps of thunder.

Do not attack recklessly Rayek-chan. Always study your opponent, know his style and know his weakness. When given the chance, let your opponent come to you and let him make the mistake of underestimating you.

So, for now, he decided to stay with the ninjas. Whoever took Shenshen had taken her because of him and they would soon make their presence known again. They would search him out, come for him, and this time he would find out who had taken her. Until then, he would follow these three ninja, let them talk and tell him what they knew in bits and pieces. The lead one, Khavi, had information that may also help and he meant to have that.

“Help us find who took your companion.” Khavi replied.

“It was Shijima, it had to be.”  Rayek remarked with a scowl. The statement though was all false as the Sōke was probing, looking for what the kunoichi knew. Let your opponent come to you his father Ingen had told him.  

“It was not Shijima, at least you better hope not.” Chot said running from his side.

“Why is that?” Rayek asked letting the ninja’s talk…freely.

“Because Lord Shijima does not keep prisoners and he will make a concubine out of your companion.” Skot answered.

Rayek all ready knew this, the rumors of the Yagyu Lord sleeping with, and then, killing the female that had been forced into his bed were numerous. This was his first thought, but the Rayek calmed and started to concentrate on all he knew and assumed. He felt this wasn’t the case just like that fool Chot. The Yagyu lord would have taken advantage of such a fortuitous event as capturing Shenshen. He would have made sure Rayek would know he had Shenshen and used her against him immediately. No, Shijima did not have her, so the Sōke asked another question seeking more of what the ninjas knew.

“What makes you think it was not Shijima?”

“Because the three men in the garden were Shijima’s men, and the two on the road were with Lord Madcoil. They attacked you, not to slow you but to kill, now why was that?” Chot offered.

“They did not know about the barrel or the trolls. If they did, then they would not have tried to stop me.” Rayek surmised jumping over a fallen tree.

“And the Sōke understands.” Kahvi laughed, which drew a glare form Rayek.

“Also, the Lord of the Yagyu does not align with trolls. The ones who took your companion were trolls from the mountains, maybe in Iga. Shijima came to kill you not kidnap your friend.” Khavi added.

This all made sense to Rayek, but again, who took Shenshen?  What Lord aligns with the grey ones from the mountains?

“This ‘help’ we seek, is it going to help us find Shenshen?” Rayek asked.

“We shall see Sōke, we shall see.” Khavi responded coming to a stop by the banks of the river again.

The three others came to a stop with her taking the opportunity to rest. Rayek looked around carefully noting the terrain when the sound of a branch being broke sounded and he spun drawing his Dotanuki with a quick hiss. He watched the ninjas just stand and look nonchalantly at the spot where the sound came from though. Out of the woods four elves walked dressed like samurai in dark blue robes with matching haori, or lightweight jackets, stitched with the symbol of a Taka or hawk over the heart. Rayek watched as the elves approached slowly, cautiously, with all four staring at him.

“What took you so long Khavi-san?” The one in front of the four, the leader, asked Kahvi while still staring at Rayek.

“Rayek-san decided to make the morning interesting. Shijima, the Shogun, and someone else tried to kill him. We barely got out of city before being captured.” Khavi answered.

The lead samurai stepped past the female ninja approaching Rayek slowly, but with a steel ramrod posture. It was meant to show respect, that he knew of the Sōke’s ability, and was not afraid of it.    

“My name is Kureel-san, head of the Chosen Eight. We are the personal guard for Lord Voll, head of the Taka clan and his mistress Winnowill.”

“The former Lord Voll you mean.” Chot said pulling another rice ball from his robe.

Rayek raised an eyebrow and spoke calmly. “I only count four.”

“We also had an interesting morning as well.” Kureel responded ignoring the remark from the ninja choosing to match gazes with Rayek.

The clearing dropped into a cold silence as the pair eyed each other, looking intensely, measuring with a glance. Everyone else just stood watching quietly afraid to say anything when Skot abruptly spoke up.

“Do you hear something?”

No one had a chance to respond as the woods erupted in a cacophony of screams from humans clad in black hakama pants and grey tops.  The attackers came running at them from hidden spots in the woods. Kureel stepped away from the Sōke giving the Dotanuki a wide berth to fight and kill.


The pair walked along in the garden quietly at first before Lord Taiso spoke up to the much smaller form next to him. Taiso was a tall, barrel chested man, who used use 6’3 body with large arms to win many a battle on the field. His prowess with a katana and a naginata were known well, many discovering this at the point of each weapon.

“I have need of your special abilities Redlance-san.”

Redlance only nodded and smiled.   “How may a lowly monk be of help to the great Lord Taiso, a small monk at that?”

“Ah Redlance-san, there is more to you then just robes and a staff. I know you are an Iga Ninja, it is why I helped you so long ago,” Taiso responded with a raised eyebrow and grin playing along with the elf.

The Daimyo, in all his wisdom, was right. Redlance had fled the monastery and village high in the mountains when the Shogun Madcoil had attacked, barely alive. It was only fate that the men who found him by the river were loyal to Taiso and brought him to the Yamashiro. The lord had his surgeons and doctors heal him and then had hidden Redlance from sight when his duty was to turn him into Madcoil. He let the monk leave when he was ready and still did not turn him into Madcoil as duty had required. Redlance owed Lord Taiso his life, but it was not why he came when summoned.  No, the reason he came was, because of all the humans he knew, Redlance regarded Taiso as the most honorable, and for that reason alone he came when asked.

“What is it you wish of me my Lord?” Redlance asked nodding his head.

“I need to know who took Leetah-san, the healer who is my guest, sister. She was with Rayek when the attack came, and from what my spies have told me, she was taken and not killed.” Lord Taiso explained.

“I understand my lord,” Redlance said looking across the pond now to watch the healer as she worked on her shodō. He knew who had taken Shenshen, his extensive knowledge of the politics of the Abode helping the ninja, helping with the ‘who’ as much as the ‘why’ of the mornings events. It also helped he had friends following the sister closely at this very moment. “She was taken by three trolls to the north on a boat. There is only one daimyo the trolls align with, are loyal to, who also controls the northern mountains.”

“Lord Nobunaga!” Taiso spat as if speaking the name left a taste in his mouth that was undesirable

Nobunaga was the Lord of a small, insignificant fiefdom to the north, he had for years tried to improve his status among the other daimyo’s. His land was unsuitable for growing, for building a society, and only the trolls seemed to wish to live under his rule. A true trio of dilemmas for any leader to overcome, and alas Nobunaga was not capable of solving the three.  These ‘burdens’ as he called them, did not keep Nobunaga from tying to better his station though, and it was obvious he was initiating an odious scheme with the taking of the little healer’s sister.

“Hai, my lord, my thinking is Nobunaga is making his move to secure the favor of the Shogun. By holding the sister, he can go to Lord Madcoil and present her to him, giving the Shogun the means to finally destroy Rayek-san. His reward would be great, maybe a new addition to his fiefdom?” Redlance proffered.

“Hai,” Lord Taiso said with a sharp nod, “your eyes are sharp my monk from Iga, which is why I am asking you to bring the sister to me, safe and unharmed.”

“Bring her to you my lord?” Redlance asked with surprise.

“Yes, my loyal monk. I know you have eyes on Shenshen-san, one of your best disciples came across her and the Sōke at the Onsen. It does not surprise me Redlance-san, you were known as one of the more resourceful ‘monks’ at Iga before Madcoil came.”

“Arigato, my lord,” the monk nodded with a smile. Redlance had an idea as to what and why the Daimyo was making such a request, and yet still, when the offer was put forward, the monk was not quite ready for his payment.  


“I need this done with no knowledge of who took the sister. Absolute secrecy is required, no one else but you may do this Redlance-san, the only one I trust to do this. If you bring me the sister I will let you partake of the chanyou with the healer. She is in need of company, and it looks like it is you that she wishes to entertain.” Tasio answered nodding across the pond.

Redlance looked over to see the healer looking at him again. The green pool of her eyes shining in the sun made him think the payment may be worth the risk.

___________________________________________________
Dubbed Streaking ADD Cowboy of Awesome Sagas by KindredSoul and nibblet


Last edited by Wiseshaman on Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Eight Uneasy Alliances   Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:18 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...


Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Eight - The Plan

The men, dressed in all black, but not the garb of a ninja, rushed at the group in a mass attack, using their numbers to their advantage. There was one man to each of them with a second group behind the first which could be divided among them. Rayek watched as the four samurai calling themselves the last of the Chosen Eight drew their katana and met the charge head-on while Kahvi and her ninja dropped back preparing to use their own ‘special’ tactics. He instinctively stood his ground waiting for the men to come at him like his style, his father’s art, had trained him to do. Rayek watched two samurai rush Kahvi but before they could get close she threw her right hand in wide spreading arc from her left to right. All at once clouds of white dust exploded outward and hit both samurai in the face with a whump, blinding and distracting them instantly. The Metsubishi, or eye crushing attack, was a ninja specialty. This was all Chot and Skot needed as they quickly stepped in with a side leap striking out with their chain weapons at the samurai.

The Manrikigusari, or Kusarifundo, is a three-foot length of chain with weighted ends, capable of breaking bone when used correctly, and it was a weapon Rayek knew too well from watching an encounter once between a belligerent samurai and what the human thought at the time was an old beggar by the side of a building. The samurai had kicked the old man demanding he move on before someone moved him, in pieces if need be. The beggar shifted his weight from the kick but made no motion to move or stand up. The samurai kicked him again and was about to yell something else, what Rayek wasn’t sure of because the poor man never finished his statement.

All at once the old beggar jumped up, like a marionette on a set of strings in a Bunraku or puppet theatre. The old man’s arms flopped and popped for a second catching the samurai off guard, and then the beggar started to reach up with his left hand and gasping as if in shock. The samurai, not understanding what was happening and unable to stop his own movement, followed the hand right up in the sky. The whole time the old man had the samurai looking at one hand his other was unfolding the concealed Kusarifundo, letting it drop and hang for a split second before whipping it up at angle right for the back of the human’s head. The old man was trained in the weapon Rayek surmised because he dropped his weight at his hips generating the speed and power necessary to get the weighted end to move explosively. All at once, the end hit the samurai and then the human hit the ground stiff as a board. The old man looked to Rayek, shrugged while concealing the chain again, and then made off with the money purse of the now unconscious samurai.

Rayek could have stopped the man, but unlike now he had a choice then and decided to stay out of a fight that didn’t concern him. Now, just like then, he watched Chot swinging his chain in a circle, the wind whistling through the links making a high pitched screaming sound just before he sent the end under the chin of the first samurai with a loud crunch causing the man to go end over end in a vicious flip, landing on his head. Skot swung his chain over head then down in a diagonal strike, and with the same hip technique of the old man, sent the weighted end of his chain right across the second samurai’s knee with a loud pop. The human gave a scream of pain and started to fall but Kahvi was quick to end the fight with a stab to his chest with her Tanto.

But now the Sōke saw three samurai come at him in a rush, one on the left just a step or two ahead of the other two. He let the first come at him with a downward slash, but the young fool was brash and not trained well. The attack took him past a side-stepping Rayek, and the Sōke took advantage of the miss with a quick spin and slash across the back of the poor fool. The samurai gave a garbled scream and fell into the river with a splash as Rayek continued his spin bringing his Dotanuki low with the point almost scraping the ground as the second attacker came with a lunging stab. The point of the second samurai’s just missed Rayek’s side and arm as the Sōke brought his sword up with lightning quick speed and deadly force. The leg of the second attacker almost came off from the cut as he screamed out before falling to the ground. Rayek eyed the third man hard, noting this one was smarter than the first two because he stopped to formulate a plan. The samurai paused, then came with a diagonal down cut that Rayek stepped into with a block of his sword, stopping the attack with a loud clang of metal-on-metal, but then the human drew his katana back with a snap and lunged in with a quick stab for Rayek’s head.

The Sōke dodged the attack stepping to the side just in time for the blade to graze his ear as it passed. The move left the samurai open, vulnerable, and Rayek countered bringing his Dotanuki up with his own stab. There was small pop as the tip broke the samurai’s robe top, but nothing after that as the blade passed completely through the body. It cut right through the samurai’s vital organs slicing into things that should not be cut. The Sōke stepped back, and to the side after a second, watching as the human dropped to the ground with a loud plop, dead. He surveyed the scene to find the ninjas done with their two and Kureel with the Chosen 8 finishing off the ones who had attacked them.

“Well, Rayek-san, you seemed to have brought the trouble right along with you.” Kahvi smiled calling to him.

Kureel spat while sliding his katana back into its wooden sheath, “Who are they with?”

“I think they are with another daimyo Kureel-san!” One of the remaining Chosen 8 said with a small smile. The need for the approval of the leader just oozed from his voice Rayek noticed.

He got none of it though as Kureel hissed like a snake. “I can see that! I’m not blind!”

The male elf stepped back bowing his head in part respect and the rest sadness. “I am sorry Kureel-san. You are not blind.”

The group stood in silence for a second making the situation a little more awkward before Kahvi gave a nod to Skot sending her ninja down to look over one of the samurai’s bodies for clues. It took a moment to check but it felt like a month before the ninja called up over his shoulder. The whole time Rayek and Kureel never broke their eye contact, each looking to the other for a weakness, almost daring the other to look away for just a moment.

“I think they’re from…” Skot started before letting his last drop off.

“Who is it?” Kahvi demanded more than asked.

“They have the symbol for Tadayoshi on their haori Kahvi-san.” Skot whispered finally.

“Tadayoshi eh, well he found us pretty fast.” Chot responded checking over the other bodies.

“Why would Tadayoshi come after us?” Rayek asked still staring at Kureel but expecting to hear an answer from Kahvi.

When he didn’t get a response, the silence agitated him beyond words. “What does Tadayoshi have to do with all this?” Rayek asked again with a snarl.

Kahvi and Kureel eyed each other with a look like the pair had been caught in a secret and now it was time for one of them to step up and tell it. Only neither wanted to be the one, especially with an upset Sōke. Rayek finally broke his gaze from Kureel, turning to Kahvi, then back to the leader of the Chosen 8. “What does Tadayoshi have to do with this?” He snapped shifting his Dotanuki around to the front with both hands.

“I thought you said he’d go along with this plan of yours?” Kureel demanded of Kahvi.

“We haven’t exactly had the time to talk.” Kahvi shot back.

“I do not care who tells me what is happening, but if I do not hear an answer in the next word between you two, I will begin to cut into someone.” Rayek hissed coldly.

“Its time to calm down Sōke, there is nothing sinister here.” Chot sighed before walking back to the group.

The tone of the ninja’s voice, the hubris of telling him to calm down, it all made Rayek that much angrier at the situation. Yet, he felt a small amount of respect for Chot, at least he was the only one among the others who was truthful with him.

“Then what is happening?” Rayek demanded easing the grip on his sword just a bit.

Chot looked at Kahvi and then Kureel before shrugging shoulders and walking past the pair and Rayek going to the river to wash his hands.

“It’s simple Rayek-san. We need you to help free the child of the Taka clan lord from the Yamashiro of Lord Tadayoshi.” Kahvi finally said looking Rayek in the eyes.

The truth literally knocked Rayek’s jaw open. He felt the breeze from the water of the stream flow over his tongue, and if a fly was around it might have tried to land in his mouth. It was only the quick wit of Chot that finally ended his shock. “Well, I am glad you waited to tell him the truth after the battle.”

“Wait,” Rayek spat holding up his hand, “you said if I complete a task for you that in turn you would tell me who took Shenshen.”

“And this is that one task Rayek-san.” Skot remarked cheerfully.

“That is not a ‘task’…it is a death wish.” Rayek shot back.

“This is the all powerful Sōke of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū! I am less then impressed Kahvi-san.” Kureel cracked.

Rayek turned his full harsh gaze on the leader Kureel again before speaking. “I am not the one asking someone else to bring back my charge.”

The remark set into motion a stare down of monumental proportions. So much so it seemed everyone stopped to look, even the crickets and the birds.

“I see those two will work together fine. If I have not all ready mentioned it, my glorious leader, this plan of yours may be too much for us to handle.” Chot whispered on his return.

“Just shut up and help me keep the Sōke from killing Kureel-san.” Kahvi whispered back moving over to Rayek’s side.

He didn’t move as she approached, only spoke up with his eyes locked on Kureel. “Are you seriously planning on storming the Yamashiro of a Daimyo like Tadayoshi?”

“No, we have another idea.” Kahvi said.

Rayek’s eyebrow inched just a little higher than the other as he spoke, “Another idea?”

“Yes, we thought it would be better if you turned yourself in to Lord Tadayoshi. You know, that way you could walk right in through the front gate.” Chot said pulling out an Oni-Giri and taking a bite out of the rice ball.

That brought the stare down to an end as both Rayek and Kureel turned to the ninja with raised eyebrows now. Kahvi only whispered a curse while closing her eyes. Maybe there was a way to make Chot disappear…for a long time.


The wagon bounced and shook continuously, and it actually soothed Shenshen somewhat, sending her into a nap. It was only when the wagon came to a stop that she woke, and from the chill of the air, noticed night was on them. She must have slept the afternoon through she thought and felt some shock at the fact. How could you sleep at a time like this Shenshen, she chided herself? And she found her inner voice answering saying what else was there to do? She would do as she had always done, let the tide of it all take her along. Then, Shenshen decided, she would do what was needed to be done to find her sister…and then Rayek-san.

A shiver ran down her spine from the cold night air and suddenly the rough hand from before pulled a blanket over her and put a rice ball into her hand. She felt its texture which brought back memories of the first meal she ate with Rayek-san. She knew it was just a few days ago, but it felt like a hundred years. She turned her head in the direction where the hand came from and spoke softly.

“Thank you honorable one.”

There was no answer, only the creak of the wagon as her captor stepped out. After eating the rice ball, she laid back down using her hand to support her head. The sounds of the night, the insects and animals, crashed all around. Shenshen tried to go to sleep but found it too hard and longed for the bouncing and shaking of the road again.


Leetah jumped at the knock on the shoji screen, then gathered herself, and crossed the tatami mats of her room. She knelt in seiza at the entrance before opening it slightly to see who as at her door. The face of Lord Taiso looking down shocked her slightly, but she kept with tradition and etiquette by bowing her head and stating clearly.

“Konbanwa Lord Taiso.”

The daimyo smiled and replied back with a nod signaling Leetah could rise from her bow. “Konbanwa Leetah-san. I wish to speak.”

“Yes, my lord,” Leetah said rising to her feet quickly and stepping out into the hallway of the castle.

She made sure to maintain her distance out of respect for the daimyo as he spoke to her quietly in the hall. “I would like you to perform the Tea Ceremony for the monk you saw this afternoon in the garden. He will return in two or three days so you should have time to prepare. I wish for him to receive the kaiseki ryōri, the banquet with the chanoyu.”

“Hai Lord Taiso, it would be my great honor to perform it for him.” Leetah answered bowing her head. The full ceremony and a meal, this was indeed a great honor for the monk…and her as well she thought.

“I know your life is harsh little healer. May this distraction bring you some comfort Leetah-san.” Lord Taiso commented suddenly. The look on Taiso’s face was as it always had been and would be, stoic and strong. The look in his eyes though was one of sadness Leetah thought. She only bowed her head again and spoke from her heart.

“My lord has made the realities of my life easier this last year. He has been gracious to allow me the freedom I have.”

Taiso smiled and nodded before speaking with the sad look still in his eyes. “My advisor will ensure you have everything you need Leetah-san, please just ask.”

“Hai honorable lord,” she replied bowing her head one last time.

“Oyasuminasai Leetah-san, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow in the garden.”

“Oyasuminasai my lord, and I look forward to seeing you in the garden as well.” She replied graciously.

Taiso gave her a small nod before turning and walking down the hallway. The sadness she saw in his eyes haunted Leetah for most of the night causing her to sleep fitfully.

___________________________________________________
Dubbed Streaking ADD Cowboy of Awesome Sagas by KindredSoul and nibblet
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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Eight Strength of Belief   Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:42 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...


Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Nine - Strength of Belief

At Nobunaga’s Castle…

They took her to the baths just as she arrived, taking her old clothes away as she washed off the grime from the last two days. Shenshen slowly dunked her towel and washed her face and neck with the hot water, noting there were no minerals here like in the Onsen she stayed at with Rayek. No, this was the large personal bath of someone important. The steam rising from the pool, coupled with the weariness created from the road and her abduction, made it hard to stay awake, and every passing second it became harder and harder to fight off the sleep her body desperately needed. Finally, right as she finished, the shoji screen to the room opened and a small voice called out to her, a female thankfully.

“Are you done mistress? Do you need my help?”

“Hai,” Shenshen called back in the direction of the voice, “I have not had time to learn my surroundings and I do not wish to fall. Can you lead me out?”

“Of course mistress,” The voice said again.

Shenshen heard small steps come into the large room and approach. These delicate footfalls were different from the large heavy ones she had been hearing for the last two days and she welcomed that. A small hand took hers and guided her carefully from the indoor pool to a soft spot. Shenshen felt the small hands begin to dry her, and she took the towel from the person gently.

“I do not need help with drying. May I have some clothes to keep me warm?” She asked in the direction she thought the person might be.

“I have a new Kimono for you mistress, and the Nagajugan to go underneath. Do you need my help to dress?” The person asked.

“No, but thank you. Where am I to go from here?” Shenshen asked, drying off so she could get dressed.

“You may rest in your room before the evening meal is served mistress. I will take you to you there and then to the meal.” The female answered.

“Dōmo arigatō,” Shenshen said with a bow of her head.

“Do-itashi-mashite mistress,” the voice replied warmly.

Shenshen heard the steps of the small female gradually diminish as she walked back to the door to give her some privacy. As she had done in the last years since being blinded, Shenshen dressed by feel and touch, sliding on the undergarments and then the kimono, and finally tying the Obi, or sash, around her waist. The last thing was to ensure her blindfold was in place still, the most important piece of clothing, which hid her shame from the Abode. The red-hot rocks had done their job well in burning away her eye sight, but also had scorched the skin around her eyes. The lids were scarred, as well as the edges of her cheeks, and the only one to see the damage after she left her village had been Rayek-san. She had let no one remove the bandage, ever, not even today when she bathed.

“I am ready.” Shenshen called out after checking the blindfold to ensure it was in place.

“As you wish mistress,” the voice called back. Again, the small hand took hers helping her to stand and leave the bath.

They walked outside for a minute, passing through a garden which Shenshen recognized from the sounds and smells. She felt the cold begin to seep in, and she assumed they were in the mountains as the day before it had been warm in the town. There was no sunshine she could feel either, adding to the cold feeling as they walked through another doorway and back inside the castle. They went up a set of stairs and down another hall before stopping. The female leading her stepped away long enough to slide back a screen before guiding her into the room and speaking quietly.

“This is your room mistress. Please do not leave without me as I do not want the guards to think you are trying to flee.”

“I understand. Will you come for me when it is time?” Shenshen asked.

“Yes, now rest mistress.” The voice replied.

Shenshen turned away from the door as it slid closed, and then felt her way to the center of the room where a bed was positioned. She crawled into it, pulling the blanket up high, and allowing herself just a minute to think of Rayek-san. She couldn’t afford more than that. There were other things to consider now. Where was she? Who was taken, and thus was keeping her? How was she going to get away?

Sleep finally came, the answers did not.


They stopped to rest and eat beside a canyon with a rumbling river called Junsui, or ‘Pure’, that ran through the divide’s middle, at the foot of the mountains before making the final walk into Tadayoshi’s realm. Rayek looked out over, and down, into the chasm of the canyon listening to the sound of the rushing river below, and then to the suspension bridge that was the only way to cross the canyon. The locals called the canyon ‘Pure’ because of the monks, or ‘Shugendo’, who came and bathed in the shockingly cold water in the spring time, water fed from the melting snow of the mountains. It was a ritual to cleanse one’s soul, to test one’s self against nature, and thus gain an ally in the spiritual world as well as the physical. These Shugendo usually plunged into freezing rivers or walked across hot coals as a testament to their inner strength, their ability overcome nature.

Rayek never understood the practice. To him, the only way to test one’s self was to battle physically until one either won or lost. The strength and speed of one’s arms coupled with a superior art would win over any confrontation. Throwing yourself into a freezing pool of water or walking across hot coals would just get you sick or severely burned. Those were ridiculous ideals for elves and men who needed to justify something they couldn’t explain in their lives.

“Thinking about jumping in?” A voice called to him from behind.

Rayek knew it was Chot, and he thought for a second about not answering the ninja. He decided to though, in hopes of keeping the conversation short.

“Hardly,”

Then Chot was beside him, eating on another Onigiri while looking down the ridge of the canyon to the river below. “How far down to the water do you think it is?” He asked with a mouth full of rice.

“I do not know,” Rayek answered, eyeing the ninja and then the rice ball, “where do you keep getting those from?”

“You want one? I have plenty.” Chot offered with a smile. A few pieces of rice were proudly sticking to his lips as he made the gesture.

The Sōke eyed the ninja with a raised eyebrow at the offer. For the last two days, he had been running beside the sweaty ninja, and on every stop by the river Chot had not once taken the chance to clean himself, especially his hands.

“No, I’m not hungry, and if you keep eating those rice balls you will be as wide as you are tall.” Rayek answered, turning back to the canyon.

Chot shrugged his shoulders, figuring it was Rayek-sans loss, and looked at the rushing river below. “They say the monks of Iga used to come down here and test their spirits against nature with hanging by ropes over the canyon walls or diving into the ice-cold water. Now that I see this place, I’m glad I never became a ninja from Iga.”

“All the testing, it did not help them much when the Shogun Madcoil came for them?” Rayek responded.

“And why do you say that?” Chot asked quickly.

“They are all dead, except for the ones who have been hidden for this last year.” Rayek answered with a tone of frustration.

“I think it did. I say it helped when Madcoil gave them a choice, which was no real choice to them, to turn him down. I say all those cold baths and dangling like some pine nut meal for a squirrel from a tree helped them when he brought the Army down on their heads like a hammer from the sky.” Chot said taking a bite from the rice ball.

Rayek turned back wondering where this sudden realization came from. The only time he had ever heard Chot get philosophical was over what to have for the evening meal. He just stood quietly as the ninja fed his face and spoke up. “You see Sōke, those Iga monks, brave shadow warriors all, knew they were going to die when they defied Madcoil. It was the strength of their belief, built here in this canyon, which fought back against the idea of turning into a dark force for the Shogun to avoid the sword, fought against the fear of dying.” Chot finished with a hard swallow.

“Are you saying I have no conviction?” Rayek asked coldly.

“No, but all you seem to have is Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū, and this desire to perfect it. I fear one day you will need more Sōke, and maybe your father’s martial art may not be enough.” Chot said before turning to walk away.

The rumble of the river below couldn’t mask the grinding of the thoughts in Rayek’s mind. The ninja was just spouting gibberish. It didn’t mean a thing to him. He had conviction, and plenty of it, Rayek thought as he turned from the edge of the canyon and walked over to sit by a tree. He had more then enough conviction, more then enough to spare.

Rayek closed his eyes, not wanting to meditate, but to just escape the growing mass of anger burning in his chest. He quickly took control of the ball of red emotion and forced it back under his hand, but in the process, sleep stole in and took down the Sōke without a fight. Before he could stop it Rayek was asleep and dreaming.


The bokken slapped against his thin bare arms with a loud crack before the wooden blade danced almost, back and away. He missed the block again, and that meant he could not return with a quick slash to the head as the technique required. Rayek didn’t scream from the lightning quick flash of pain that the strike brought. He would never cry from his own mistake. This was punishment for not being correct he deemed. His father Ingen stepped back and lowered his wooden training sword, or bokken, and shook his head at his stubborn son. They had been training now for hours on the same technique, the same move that his son had yet to master, and refused to stop until he did. It was starting to grate on Ingen.

“You almost had the block in place that time my son.” Ingen called out.

“I will Sōke. Please, come at me again,” Rayek grimaced gripping the handle of the wooden Dotanuki.

The grand master of the dojo only shook his head again, sighed deeply, and looked to his son with a small smile. “We have trained enough for today Rayek-chan. It is time to stop now.”

“But I can master the move Sōke. I need more time.” Rayek shot back.

“I know you will master the move Rayek-chan. I have faith in your abilities, that you will one day surpass even me. That day though, will not be today.” Ingen-san said turning to leave the dojo.

“It can be today father if you stay and train me!” Rayek spat.

Ingen turned back to his son with a frown, the disappointment visible in his eyes. “You are only fourteen my son, do you wish to know all so early in life? What will you do with the rest of the afternoon when you have mastered the move? What will there be for you Rayek-chan when you have perfected Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū at the ripe age of sixteen? What will life hold for you when you turn thirty and you have all ready accomplished all that Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū will bring you my son?”

The questions were unanswerable for him. Rayek had never thought of anything but the art, nothing but the way of the sword. He was unsure and lost to anything else. He was suddenly looking down to the tatami mats of the dojo and the sweat stains for some answer there, anything to say, but the dark brown spots refused to give him one.

“Go outside Rayek-chan, watch the birds fly and enjoy the smile of someone. There is more to living than the sword and this dojo.” Ingen spoke before turning and leaving.

Rayek-chan did not leave the dojo though. He took hold of his bokken with a renewed focus and purpose. He would master the block. He would master Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. He would perfect it. All afternoon and into the night Rayek worked until he felt the movement of his bokken become so natural it took no thought to move.

Another day given to Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū…

A hand suddenly shook him and Rayek’s eyes popped open as he looked around grabbing the hilt of his sword. He saw Chot standing over him and the sun slipping past the horizon as night was coming. The ninja smiled and turned back to the group with Kahvi and Kureel staring at him while speaking up. “I told you he was safe to wake.”

“So, that just means either you’re lucky or the Sōke is a hard sleeper.” Kahvi yelled back with a sneer.

“It means I smelled him before I drew my Dotanuki. He needs to bathe!” Rayek spat gaining his feet.

“Are you still upset about the Onigiri? I have more like I said.” Chot responded.

“No,” Rayek spat once more with a shake of his head moving past the ninja.


It was to be their first night together since the fall of their clan, the destruction of the life they had come to know and cherish so well. Voll sat in seiza in the room watching his wife Winnowill as she went through the small moves to ready the bed. She had seen their servants enough to remember how he liked the blankets and pillows set for when he would turn in. There was still plenty of time before they would retire, but at least it would all be ready for them.

Winnowill turned to her husband and saw the look in his eyes, especially the small part that seemed to be looking for a missing piece. She shook her head knowing exactly what he was missing.

“I miss her too my honorable husband.” She whispered.

“What do you miss most about Leila-chan, her unlimited energy or the fact she refuses to do a thing we ask her too?” Voll inquired with a smile.

She smiled and rose, crossing the room in small steps, before stopping and sitting in seiza by her husband’s side facing him. She spoke quietly with a warmth she let few see.

“She is like her honorable father, who told a Shogun once he would not succumb to his will at the expense of our clan.”

“And she is smart like her honorable mother, and just as beautiful.” Voll whispered putting his hand on Winnowill’s.

“We will see her again my husband,” Winnowill hissed, the warmth that was in her voice just a second ago now gone and replaced by anger, “we will get her back and make all those who took her pay with their lives.”

Voll squeezed her hand suddenly, hard, causing a sharp pain to ride up her arm and stop her talking. “No, I will not have that kind of talk!”

“My husband?” Winnowill gasped from the pain and shock.

“Our lives ride on a razor thin line my loving wife and I will not jeopardize you or Leila with loose talk. I am angry and sad at our position too, but I will be even more sad and angry if I were to lose either of you because of words.” Voll explained with a tone he rarely used with his wife.

Winnowill looked to Voll with fire in her eyes at first. How could he just sit there with Leila being held somewhere? But the mistress of the Taka clan wasn’t without her wits or smarts as well, and it only took a second for her to realize what her husband was saying. A rash action led by an uncontrolled emotional outburst could kill them all. She sighed pulling herself together before smiling to him.

“I will do as you say my honorable husband.”

“Ah,” Voll remarked with a shake of his head and a broad smile, “mother and daughter so much alike. I have either been truly blessed…or cursed.”

“Yes my lord.” Winnowill said with a small smile assured she knew which one of those her honorable husband considered himself.


At Nobunaga’s castle…

A black shadow moved through the sparse woods at the base of the foothills that made up the mountainous region on the northern Abode. It stayed to the few growing trees and large boulders, trying to remain out of sight. It moved with easy steps among the loose dirt, finally coming to a stop by a set of large boulders and ring of trees. The shadow gave a small whistle, and out of the dark, five more bodies moved easily to its side.

“Is she inside?” One of the shadows asked.

“Hai, Nobunaga’s trolls arrived this morning with her.” The shadow replied.

“Then we move at full dark.” The first shadow replied.

“What are Lord Shijima’s orders?”

“We remain in the dark. No one is to see us.” The Leader responded.

“Hai,” The first shadow said finding a comfortable spot sit and wait. As the shadow did one the others spoke up. “And the traitor, he has ensured the traps will be no worry?”

The Leader nodded again and whispered, “hai, but move as if the traps are in place, and if someone sees you, do not leave them alive to speak.”

The others kept quiet and only nodded as the Leader finished. All went over the plans of the Yamashiro’s layout and the assault in their heads. Soon, the six would be inside and no one wanted a surprise when they took the sister of the healer.

She was the key to getting Rayek-san…

The key to ending the Sōke’s life…



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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Ten - Ten Into the enemy’s lair   Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:31 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Ten - Into the enemy’s lair

He walked through the small gate into the outer-most bailey, or maru, of Lord Tadayoshi castle, into what the engineers called the san-no-maru. Rayek knew this bailey, or courtyard, was just the first of four an invading army have to cross, and since an invading army never destroyed the walls of the maru or the castle it was intending to occupy, this was the beginning of the traps and defense for the Yamashiro. This courtyard swept steeply upward and angled left Rayek could tell as he walked along with a group of travelers he had slipped into unnoticed in town, on their way to the yamashiro. This slope kept the invaders bunched in tight to one wall, in tight while from the other side archers would rain down arrows on them or roll massive boulders into their ranks.

Rayek continued walking with the group while, with each step, hating the need to hold his head low, but understanding it was necessary to their strategy. Earlier, Khavi with Chot, Skot, and the rest of the Chosen Eight, had done the same as he was doing now, or he hoped they had made their way inside the walls. Rayek’s confidence in Kureel and Hoykar wasn’t exactly forged with fire. The samurai Kureel was arrogant and rash, quick to engage instead of letting his opponent come to him. One day Kureel would make a fatal mistake and then it would be the Chosen Three instead of four.

The Sōke just hoped that day wasn’t tonight.

The group made its way past a second gate, bigger and stouter than the first, on their way into the next maru, what they called the ni-no-maru, with the field still sloping to the left, down and away from the towering castle. Rayek looked up and over to the tenshukaku, or main keep, and the smaller building next to it that was the barracks and quarters for the servants and such. The six-level tower was of the usual design with the bottom section covered in layered stone work and the last four upper levels with the standard gables and windows. It was easy to see beauty in the structure, in the Yamashiro’s layout, but it was foolish to be drawn in by the elegant symmetry Rayek knew. Each window was an opening for a samurai to shoot a Yumi from or throw hot sand and oil from. Each hall way held a multitude of traps meant to maim and kill. It was a product of the political environment, to have peace one must be ready to make war his father had said many times.

A guard, just to his right, stopped and looked to him, studying Rayek as if he were an old friend or someone he was told to look for, but the Sōke kept moving with the group, calmly turning his face away and down to look down at the ground. Rayek only wondered for a second if the guard had recognized him because when he stole a look back the guard was falling in behind the group, moving with them toward the castle at their pace.

Well, that wasn’t as quick as he had anticipated. Rayek reminded himself the strategy was for him to get caught. It would disrupt the guards, send the castle into a frenzy with the appearance of the Sōke, and thus grant the time needed for the others to make their move and secure the child of Voll and Winnowill. That was the task that he would complete to find Shenshen. Help Kureel retrieve the child of the Taka Lord from Tadayoshi, a simple request.

Yet, the strategy was lacking in Rayek’s mind, and if need be he would alter it to make good his escape. He didn’t trust Khavi or her promise that she would help him find Shenshen’s location. No, he did not trust her at all. Yet he knew Tadayoshi would more than likely know where Shenshen was, and his true intent was to make his way to the Daimyo and make him talk, by whatever means necessary. The plan Chot had drawn up was now subtlety altered in the Sōke’s favor.

Rayek gave up the pretense of keeping his head down and walked on looking at his surroundings with a level eye. It was useless to hide now, and he would no longer slink through the gates. He was assured now the guards would be drawn to him, like moths to a flame, as the group approached the third gate. This entrance was twice the size of the first two with a yagura, or turret, built on its right corner closest to the castle overlooking the gate. The Sōke saw the archers inside ready to unleash a shaft into anyone deemed an enemy. There were also more guards, six or seven samurai evenly dispersed on either side of the wall. He wasn’t worried if they decided to attack. Even outnumbered, he held the advantage if they came for him.

And they did.

Just as Rayek passed through the gate, with the earthen bridge behind him, the guard who had been following screamed out. “IT IS RAYEK-SAN! HE IS HERE!” All at once the guards were moving, shoving the travelers aside and drawing their katana’s, pointing the sharp tips at him. He didn’t need to look up at the turret to know that the archers had their Yumi’s, or bows, nocked and at the ready. Rayek looked around and found the leader almost at once. He was the one who didn’t look scared and had yet to draw his katana from its scabbard.

“Rayek, the great Sōke, why have you come to Lord Tadayoshi yamashiro?” The Leader of the guards asked with a confident sneer.

In an hour from now, Rayek wondered, would the Leader still have that smug smile on his face? He calmly reached for his Dōtanuki making all the human guards tense, except the Leader, who only stood perfectly still and watched with that conceited smile. Rayek pulled the sword out of his sash holding it out so the Leader and the guards could see the tusba had been tied to the saya with what looked like a small black piece of cord.

“I have come to talk with Lord Tadayoshi. I have sealed my Dōtanuki with my hair to show my intention of not fighting. I will defend myself only if attacked.” Rayek remarked calmly.

“You know we are duty bound to take you to the Shogun, who has ordered your death Sōke.” The Leader offered, cocking his head to the side. Rayek saw the opening, knew that with a simple move he could draw his sword and cut down right through the Leader’s Do-Maru or armor, right down through that small opening at the neck.

But he didn’t.

“And I know you are honor bound to take me to Lord Tadayoshi as I am un-armed and requesting an audience.” Rayek offered calmly.

“That I am.” The Leader said walking up. Yes, that spot right along the neck would be the best place to strike Rayek thought. “Follow me and do not attempt to open your sword Sōke.”

“Hai,” Rayek said even bowing his head to give the Leader the courtesy etiquette deemed. In due time, Rayek thought, there would be no courtesy given.



Back at Nobunaga’s castle…

Shenshen sipped the soup made from fish and miso from the bowl, trying not to enjoy the taste of it so much. She was a captive she had to remind herself, but then prisoners didn’t eat at the lavish table of a regional Daimyo. When she had entered the room the smell alone made her stomach growl, grilled yakimono and steamed vegetables assaulted her empty stomach with tendrils of succulent steam. She kept herself under control though, while waiting for the Lord of the castle to arrive, and when he did show she had to stifle her laugh.

Two humans entered through the shoji screen entrance to the dining room, one small with light steps, and one large with heavy steps. Shenshen naturally assumed the large human with the heavy steps was the Lord of the castle, but he stopped before reaching the table and went to seiza by the wall. He was an advisor Shenshen realized and the small one with the light steps was the Daimyo. From the sound of each footfall she figured he could not have been taller then she was, maybe. The smaller human continued to walk over and took a spot by her, to the left as etiquette dictated. Then the Daimyo spoke, and the voice fit the picture she was drawing in her head at the time.

“I am pleased to have you as my dinner guest tonight Shenshen-san.” A small, nasally high-pitched voice said.

She was a captive and not a guest Shenshen wanted to say, point out, but she held her tongue in check. She nodded and spoke with as much sincerity as she could in the current situation. “I thank you for the excellent hospitality and food honorable Lord.” She said with a forced smile.

“It is quite excellent. I had to search long for a chef that could make a decent atsumono.” The Lord remarked.

Shenshen only gave the jest a small smile not wanting to draw the favor of the Daimyo, and when she sipped the soup from the bowl, she had to agree. The chef was quite capable of making a good atsumono. They ate in silence, dining on yakimono made from fish and tsukemono or pickled vegetables. At the end of the meal Shenshen sat quietly with her hands in her lap, waiting to be excused.

She was not at all ready for the small hand that reached out and gently rubbed against her cheek. The touch was improper and her first instinct was to pull away, flee, but years of etiquette stopped her. Shenshen kept her position in seiza and simply turned her head slightly away from the hand. She didn’t spin away or flinch; it would have been like a slap to the Daimyo and would anger him, both things she didn’t want.

“Please honorable Lord…” She whispered.

“It has been a long time, too long, since I have been graced by such beauty. I will not let it pass through my hands with experiencing it.” The Lord stated calmly, assertively.

“Please honorable Lord!” Shenshen hissed, unable to hold back her fear. It was more than evident now what the Daimyo meant to do. Her heart stopped at the thought, at the impending crime that would be done to her.

“My Lord Nobunaga, this will not sit well with the Shogun.” The advisor spoke up from behind, cautioning his Daimyo.

Lord Nobunaga, she had never heard of him, but shortly that would matter little. Shenshen swallowed hard trying to think of something to say, some plea that would fall on the Daimyo’s ears and stop this.

“If you wag your tongue again I will remove it and send you away as a beggar first advisor.” Nobunaga spat while keeping his hand on Shenshen’s cheek.

“Yes, my honorable lord.” The advisor said sliding backwards and away.

“Please honorable Nobunaga-san…I do not-“Shenshen tried to say before the Daimyo cut her off.

“I will take you in my bed tonight, then tomorrow we will go to the Shogun and I will hand you over. He will decide your fate pretty one.” Nobunaga explained coldly.

“No…please honorable Nobunaga-san…” Shenshen pleaded.

“Take her to my bedroom and prepare her for the night.” Nobunaga ordered calmly again, turning away and ignoring the last words from Shenshen.

She didn’t try to beg anymore. It was useless. Lord Nobunaga meant to take her, if she chose to go or not. When the small female who had helped her to the dining room came and took her away it was on weak legs. During her six years of traveling the road she had never been taken advantage of in this way. Shenshen could barely keep her head about her as the helper led her on a twisting route to the Lord’s bedroom. When they finally arrived, and she was sitting inside the room, the helper moved and started to remove the Obi from around Shenshen’s waist.

“Please, do not…” Shenshen begged fearfully.

“I am sorry mistress. I have no choice. Lord Nobunaga will punish me if I disobey.” The helper said and Shenshen could hear the sadness and fear in her voice.

“I will make myself ready.” Shenshen answered finally after a long moment with a shaky voice.

She could barely fathom what was about to happen, and yet she couldn’t let the helper be hurt because of her. Shenshen sat quietly as the helper left sliding the screen shut on her way out. How could she do this? How could she live with what was about to happen? And then Leetah’s face appeared to Shenshen in her mind, like a bright light in the growing dark. She wasn’t sure how much time she had left before Lord Nobunaga came for her, so Shenshen reached up and started to undo her Obi with hands that shook from fear. She tried to think of Rayek-san and his kindness to her as the material slid in her fingers and the sash loosened.


They moved silently through the dark, using the deeper dark of the shadows caused by the walls and natural surroundings of the castle to hide from prying eyes. They moved in two man teams, three groups with the singular purpose of invading the castle and completing their assignment to get the healer’s sister. The guards posted around Nobunaga’s castle mattered little to them as they slipped past all without as much as a glance. The moon light was low as one group scaled the inner wall with a hook and rope while another team climbed up just as quick using another method. One shadow leaned against the wall letting the other climb up him like a ladder to the lip of the wall before hanging by his fingertips. The second shadow then climbed up, using the first man like a ladder also, and before dropping over helped his brethren up. In a matter of seconds Nobunaga’s Yamashiro was compromised and the guards assigned to prevent it never suspected a thing.

The six ninja’s moved into the castle itself in the same fashion, three different entry points. Two teams took windows on the second level of gables while the third accessed a hidden door only a few knew of. The portal wasn’t on any map, and only known to the highest members of the Daimyo’s followers. Yet, this team moved right to it and gained entry without any noise or disturbance.


At Tadayoshi’s castle

They took him to a small room in the main keep, all seven samurai and the Leader, keeping an uneasy watch on Rayek as he walked. He didn’t understand why. With his sword sealed there was no attack he would attempt, and as his declaration stated, he would not fight unless he was attacked. An honorable man would follow the code and honor the request of a fellow warrior with a sealed sword. But, Rayek thought, there wasn’t an honorable man among them now. He knew, felt, that one of them would make an attempt at him sooner or later.

And yet no one made a threatening move.

They took him up a set of stairs to a room that was obviously used to accommodate guests. It was plain, with a small raised dais in one corner where Lord Tadayoshi might sit and talk with the guests. Rayek moved to the center of the room and took his usual position of seiza, waiting for Tadayoshi to arrive. He closed his eyes to let his body calm, his mind to calm, and his spirit to rest. After a few minutes passed the sound of the shoji screen to the right sliding open permeated the room followed by the steps of a human walking in and moving over to the dais. The human did not step onto the pedestal and simply stopped it.

It wasn’t Tadayoshi Rayek noted after he opened his eyes. It was a different human, a low-ranking advisor maybe from the way he was dressed

“Who are you?” The Sōke asked calmly.

“I am Tadao Kato, second advisor to Lord Tadayoshi. I am here to make sure you are Rayek, Sōke of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū.” The advisor said kneeling into seiza across the room.

“I asked for an audience with Lord Tadayoshi.” Rayek said calmly with his hand slowly wrapping around the tsuka, or scabbard, of the Dōtanuki.

“I will make the decision if you are granted an audience with Lord Tadayoshi.” Tadao shouted at Rayek with contempt. The tone was one the Sōke had heard before. It was all bravado, a small man trying to make himself out to be more than he was meant to be.

“You cannot deny my request as stated in the Bushido. I have sealed my sword. I am un-armed and come here in peace.” Rayek calmly said as his grip tightened on his sword.

Tadao laughed heartily at the Sōke’s last though. The move was again all bravado and now the Leader was starting to see through it. “Tadao-san, we cannot deny the request.” The Leader pointed out noting the guards in the room were becoming agitated. Some of the younger ones put their hands on their katana’s getting ready to move.

“You are no samurai Rayek-san. You are simply a Sōke, a teacher, and have no loyalties to the Bushido. You have chosen unwisely in using that tact. There will be no audience with Lord Tadayoshi!” Tadao called out.

“I have come in peace to speak with Lord Tadayoshi, not one of his fool followers! I have made my request and you must honor it!” Rayek demanded.

“He is right second advisor, we must obey the code, even if he isn’t a samurai!” The Leader called out.

“There will be no audience! Your fate has been determined, decreed as death and we will see to that! KILL HIM!” Tadao-san demanded rising out his seiza position and pointing in a single jump.

“DO NOT ATTACK!” The Leader screamed at his men trying to regain control in the room.

“I have come in peace and you dishonor me and my request! You are lower then common beggars and thieves!” Rayek called out, also rising out of his seiza.

“KILL RAYEK! KILL HIM!” Tadao screamed loudly, white froth flying from the sides of his mouth.

“DO NOT ATTACK RAYEK-SAN!” The Leader ordered one last time at the top of his lungs.

Then the room just fell into a fear filled, confused battle. One of the younger guards, all ready unnerved by the presence of Rayek, was pushed over the edge by all the screaming and attacked. He drew his sword with a quick slash meant to cut Rayek in half, bellowing with all the force his lung could muster while using all of his ki energy to kill the Sōke.


Back at Nobunaga’s castle…

Shenshen was expecting the small light steps when the screen slid open, dreading the noise like the approach of her own demise. She wasn’t expecting the heavy ones of the tall advisor, and at such a quick pace. Something was wrong as the advisor trotted over to the bed, and before she could say a word, he ripped the blanket back. She barely got a scream out covering her nakedness with her hands and arms before the advisor’s large hand, hard and vicious, clamped over her mouth shutting off the scream. A voice deep and filled with evil intent whispered into her ear.

“I am not here to touch you mistress, or to take you as our Lord Nobunaga intends! I am here to turn you over, and if you scream again I will not hesitate to hand over a dead body to Shijima!”

She stopped screaming and only nodded as much as the hard hand would allow. The hand didn’t release her though and she had a sudden nervous thought. What if the advisor forced himself on her? What if he was the-

Then her delicate ears picked a small sound, so low a human or elf with normal hearing might miss it, probably would miss the slight noise. It was like a puff of air, like someone blowing out a candle, and then the advisor suddenly went stiff. She couldn’t see the human grab his neck, or the small dart that protruded from the meaty section at the back of his neck. Shenshen only felt his hand on her mouth going slack before the advisor fell into the bed across her legs and lap like a giant stone.

Shenshen wasn’t sure what was going on or what was happening. She was totally lost, and stuck, as the advisor was too heavy to try and move off of her.

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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Eleven - Honor and Warriors   Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:30 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Eleven Honor and Warriors

At Lord Taiso’s Yamashiro…

Voll followed a step behind Lord Taiso, as etiquette required, while the pair walked quietly along the walkway of the Daimyo’s Yamashiro after the evening meal. The former lord of the Taka clan had been summoned to meet with the Daimyo after they left the dining room, and since he could not deny the request, Voll had left with the guard. He gave a quick nod to his wife Winnowill, easing her sudden fear, telling her that everything would be quite fine as the guard lead him away to the meeting. And now, will, he walked along wondering what the Daimyo was thinking and what this all had to do with him.

“Is your room to your liking Lord Voll? Is it acceptable for mistress Winnowill?” Taiso suddenly asked.

The use of the title was an obvious ploy to Voll, to make him feel comfortable again, like he was part of the court once more, and so was allowing him and Winnowill to be together once more. It was all by design, meant to placate and make docile the Daimyo’s ‘guests’, and the old bird knew better, deciding to play along with Lord Taiso. “It is more than adequate Lord Taiso. The reputation that my lord has gained for graciousness toward his guests is more then deserved.”

“Dōmo arigatō Lord Voll.” The Daimyo replied

“Dō itashi mashite.” Voll stated with a bow.

The two walked on a step or two before the Daimyo responded with his own compliment as etiquette required. “I was told you have a special touch with the predatory birds of your lands, the Falcon especially. I once was told a story that you raised the finest hunting birds in the Abode.”

“Hai Lord Taiso, I gave one to Lord Yorimoto once as a gift, but it could not match my own hunter. Tenspan was the lord of the skies, bringing down other Falcons even on the hunt.” Voll answered with a smile that had just a touch of pride.

“That is most impressive Lord Voll. I, for one, have never looked to the pleasure of using Falcon’s to hunt with, but your reputation with them is highly regarded, and spoken of frequently.” Lord Taiso commented.

“Dōmo arigatō Lord Taiso.” Voll bowed with a small smile.

“Dō itashi mashite.” Taiso replied.

They walked on in quiet, and Voll tried his best to see where this ‘meeting’ was going. He had the utmost respect for Taiso as a Lord and Daimyo, but also as a strategist. Taiso-san was unequalled in seeing the battlefield before him, moving his troops to locations ahead of the enemy in prepared strike formations. He was as deadly with one unit as someone like Tadayoshi was with a whole army. Voll had to be ready for any shift in the conversation, carefully listening and choosing his words wisely, or else Taiso-san would try to box him in. A step later Lord Taiso spoke and Voll knew the game had begun.


“I understand you were quite loyal to Yorimoto-san, the former Shogunate. That you refused to ally with Lord Madcoil even after he offered to let you keep your lands if you just rode with him in the battle against Lord Yorimoto.” Taiso suddenly stated.

“Hai Lord Taiso, I was an ally to Yorimoto-san until the end, and after. I was his supporter, his friend.” Voll answered.

“Loyalty, it is a quality that few possess these days I have noticed. To show it, even when the world you have built and have lived in for so long is threatened, it is admirable. Lord Yorimoto was lucky to have an ally and friend like you Lord Voll.” Taiso commented.

“You speak favorably of me Lord Taiso, Dōmo arigatō.” Voll replied with a bow.

” Dō itashi mashite Lord Voll.” Taiso said, coming to a stop and looking the elf in the eyes with a concerned look. “Loyalty though, it is often misplaced, given to one who has no appreciation for it.”

This was it Voll thought, the point where the Daimyo would try and turn the conversation around on him. “Yes, it can be Lord Taiso, but my loyalty for Lord Yorimoto was always returned, as was my friendship.”

“I know it was Lord Voll. I have read so in Yorimoto-san’s writings.” Taiso said with a small smile.

“Writings Lord Taiso?” Voll asked cautiously, suspiciously.

The Daimyo motioned to his advisor, who brought forth a folded piece of parchment, an official decree from what Voll could make out. The advisor carefully unfolded the paper and then handed it Voll, who took it from the advisor after the man bowed. As his eyes scanned the document, the former lord realized it was an official decree, an old one from the hand of his friend Yorimoto-san himself. It wasn’t until he was halfway through, did the kanji start to tell a story, a true nightmare. Lord Yorimoto, his loyal friend who he gave up his land, title, and position for, was going to remove him from power. His lands and all possessions were to be taken and turned over to the Shogunate, including his wife Winnowill and daughter Leila. He was to be executed on sight. Voll had to force his legs not to buckle to stay upright as the news slammed into him like a tsunami. It was a hundred tons of rock landing right square on his chest.

Lord Taiso saw the effect the parchment had on the former Lord and stepped in explaining, trying to bolster Voll. “Loyalty is also one quality that can be easily taken advantage of Lord Voll. A friend with a wife, who is not only beautiful but gifted, can be too tempting not to possess, even for even a Shogun.”

“He was removing me…” Voll whispered stupefied.

“Hai Lord Voll,” Taiso answered.

“Why, why would Yorimoto-san do this to me?” Voll asked.

“He knew of Winnowill-san’s power. He knew she was like Leetah-san, knew that she had a sense of magic. And like Leetah-san, to possess that magic, Yorimoto-san was willing to sacrifice you Lord Voll, and your loyalty.” Taiso said calmly.

“You know of her magic? How she can heal too, do you not Lord Taiso?” Voll asked knowing the answer all ready.

“Hai,” Lord Taiso answered with a concerned look still.

And now it was over. Voll now understood he never really was in the fight against Taiso-san, that the Lord had simply let him walk into a trap, and a possibility the former lord dreaded. If Taiso knew of his beloved wife’s power then Madcoil most certainly would know, and she would always be his prisoner, like Leetah-san. If there was a way to take measure of a fool, then Voll felt like he had surpassed anything anyone had done before. He felt, watched, as Taiso took the decree out of his frozen hands and passed it back to the advisor, who folded it up once again. The advisor bowed and stood behind Taiso as Voll asked the only question he could think of.

“How did you discover the truth about my wife?”

“From the decree, and the official scribe who wrote the decree just before Yorimoto-san left to fight Madcoil, and lost his life. My men who took Yorimoto’s castle after the Shogun committed seppuku retrieved all the papers of the official scribe, and all were turned over to the new Shogunate Madcoil, all except this one, and two others describing Mistress Winnowill’s magic.” Taiso explained calmly.

“What will you do with the papers my Lord?” Voll said respectfully. He knew now his place in the grand scheme of things, and it was indeed very small.

Lord Taiso’s answer was simply to give a practiced wave of his hand to the advisor, and Voll watched as the man walked over to a lantern. He bent the decree so the end would fit in the opening. The paper caught after a second, burning brightly with a flash, before the advisor let it fall harmlessly to the walkway. Voll was confused now more than ever, lost in Taiso’s strategy, as he looked to the Daimyo with shocked eyes.

“Now all the papers concerning you and Mistress Winnowill have been destroyed.” Taiso spoke as the advisor stepped back.

“I do not understand my lord, why did you burn the decree?”

Taiso looked at Voll with a hard stare, not meant to intimidate, but to make clear what was to follow was the truth and nothing else. “I will not treat you or Mistress Winnowill in such a way Lord Voll. It is not honorable or just. Warriors, we samurai, must meet on a just field of battle if the outcome is to be seen as honorable. To use a trick, such as the love of your wife, to gain an advantage is neither honorable nor just in my eyes.”

“So, the Shogun does not know?” Voll asked feeling, seeing a small bit of hope.

“No Lord Voll, as I have said, I did not pass on the decree to Lord Madcoil. The only ones here who know your secret are I, my trusted advisor, and you.” Taiso stated succinctly.

“But why risk everything you have, your own region and rule, to do this Lord Taiso?” Voll asked, waiting to hear what he already knew was order, a long servitude in the house of Taiso.

Yet the Daimyo only perplexed the old bird once again.

With a long step, Taiso started to walk by the former Taka clan lord, then stopped by Voll’s shoulder and spoke calmly but with a hard tone. “You are smart Lord Voll, and no fool. You are also a loyal person, and that should be rewarded. I hope one day to know such loyalty, when I need it.”

Voll only stared as the Daimyo walked away into the dark a few steps before turning back to face his guest. “Oyasuminasai Lord Voll, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow in the garden.

“Oyasuminasai my Lord, I look forward to seeing you in the garden as well.” Voll replied with a bow as Taiso walked away.

The advisor led him back to his room, bowed in respect, and left as Voll entered. On the walk back, he had thought about what he would say to his wife, about what had happened on the walkway with Taiso. He had a hint as to why the Daimyo did what he did, and what was now expected of Voll. Yet it did not begin to take away the betrayal that had crushed him under a great weight just minutes ago, a betrayal that he may never overcome. He saw his wife Winnowill sitting in seiza by the edge of the bed waiting for him patiently, but with obvious concern.

“My husband-“She started before he sent quickly stopping her.

No, only send, no sounds.

Yes my husband, what happened with Lord Taiso? Winnowill asked.

He showed me something, something in our past.

What? Winnowill asked, her concern becoming more evident.

Voll walked over and sat in seiza by her, taking her hand in his, and looking her in the eyes before asking his own needful question. Did Yoromito-san ever treat you improperly?

No my husband, he was your friend. Winnowill answered.

Voll sighed and looked at her with eyes that said the truth was known, there was no longer any use to hide. Was Yorimoto-san ever improper with you?

It was only in jest my honorable husband. I did not feel it warranted your attention or to bring harm to your friendship. Why do you ask? Winnowill asked still concerned.

Taiso showed me a decree my wife that was to be carried out after the defeat of Madcoil’s attempt to usurp power. Yoromito was stripping me, us, of our power and our land! Voll sent with anger.

On feeling his words in her mind, Winnowill only shook her head, countering with a small smile. No my husband, that cannot be true. You and Yorimoto-san were close, a bond that was closer than friendship.

It is true my wife, he signed my death with his own hand, and only Yorimoto’s defeat and death at Madcoil’s word saved me. He knew of your power Winnowill-san, he knew you could heal like Leetah-san. Taiso-san knows now too. Voll sent, and watched, as his wife took the news with the same shock as he did.

Voll wondered about Leetah-san at the moment, if she had felt the same fear that Winnowill, his precious wife, felt now when Yorimoto came for her. They both had discovered their ability to heal early in their lives, and by accident. Yet that is where the two went separate paths. From what he had been told by that lying dog Yorimoto, Leetah-san used her powers to help her village, openly accepting the iconic standing the villagers all placed on her until the Shogun showed and took her by force with the royal army. On the other end was Winnowill’s family, who shunned her, locked her away in fear of the power and anyone that might find out. They had almost driven her to madness, a step away from the dark edge of total oblivion, when he found her. The long road out of that place, away from the pain of a life lived in lonely forced solitude, was complete with the birth of their daughter Leila. There were days when he could see the old dark one, the mad one, in his wife’s eyes, but those days were few and far between now. He squeezed her hand and sent to her with love and conviction.

Lord Taiso is not going to harm you my wife. I will not let him.

What of little Leila-chan? What of her? Winnowill asked quickly, the fear in eyes slowly disappearing, turning back to the ones he loved, ones bearing strength.

She will be returned my wife. We will see our little Leila-chan very soon. Voll sent with a smile.

How can you be sure honorable husband?

Because, Lord Taiso is about to make his own move for power I think.

And you will follow him?

Yes, my wife, but always with open eyes now. I will not be cut under by another ‘friend’. Voll responded.

Winnowill only smiled back, understanding what her husband was alluding to. The Daimyo Taiso wanted to take control of the Abode, take the seat of the Shogun, and to do that he needed the help of the other Lords. Her husband, and she, could make an opportunity of this she thought. Winnowill slept easily that night, next to her husband, after making love with dreams of little Leila running through her mind.


At Tadayoshi’s castle

The Leader should have gone for his katana, but he foolishly tried to keep what was going to unfold from happening. He tried to scream out one more time for the impetuous boy to stop his attack. This was Rayek the Wanderer, and in all probability, he was going to die, the Leader of the guards knew. The Leader still tried to keep the inevitable blood shed from happening though.

He failed.

As soon as the boy rushed the Sōke, screaming wildly and swinging his sword carelessly, Rayek was moving, countering with a precision developed by years and years of training for perfection with an art. The Sōke rushed to his right, away from the guard’s attack rendering the slash of the katana useless, and turning the small retreat into a devastating strike at the Leader. Rayek brought his right arm up and led with his elbow, smashing the joint into the mouth and nose of the Leader with a loud crunch. In the blink of an eye the human was going backward off his feet, his body already limp from unconsciousness. As the Leader was falling away, Rayek reached down with his hands and pulled the man’s katana and wakazashi free from their scabbards, and just as the Leader hit the floor the Sōke spun the katana in his hand with the blade facing forward while his left kept the wakazashi blade backwards, the back of the blade upwards along his arm. The other guards gasped in fear with the move, the young one who attacked backed away a step quickly, trying to separate himself from the now armed Rayek-san. The second advisor, Tadao Kato, thought it would be an easy task for his men to complete, to surround and kill Rayek. He had never been impressed with the stories of Rayek the wanderer and his sword skill.

He was now rethinking, and regretting, his decision.

No one said a word as the room went silent except for the scrape of Rayek’s foot as he slid into a neutral guard with the blades. He held the katana with an easy grip above his head, the blade going from right to left while the wakazashi’s tsuka, or handle, pointed to the ground and the tip to the sky. The Sōke looked to each one of the guards separately, measuring them with the measured eyes of a warrior, estimating who would come at him first. From his side, he saw the second advisor Tadao Kato scream out while slinking to the door.

“KILL HIM!”

They didn’t rush him all at once.

They might have killed him as ordered if they had.

The ones on his left came at him first, and with a quick step, Rayek brought the katana down sweeping into the one farthest to his left. There was a quick ring of metal on metal before the Sōke brought the tsuka of the wakazashi around and across the jaw of the guard. The blow dropped the human down into an unmoving lump. The second guard tried to react to Rayek’s new position in the room, spinning to face him, but the Sōke reversed his sword and brought it up, slashing the guard across his arm, taking it up high, exposing the man’s side which Rayek slashed at with the wakazashi in a hard sweep. In a second both men were at the Sōke’s feet, clinging to life or totally unconscious. Rayek again went to the neutral stance, with the katana over head and the wakazashi down by his leg. The third guard came with an overhead slash, which Rayek caught and redirected with the katana, before driving the wakazashi’s tsuka again into the human’s face knocking him out instantly.

The second advisor stopped in his retreat, eyes glazed over in terror and amazement, as he watched Rayek slowly move from the neutral stance to a more aggressive one. Rayek turned on his right foot leaving it forward while the left swept backwards angled to the front one just slightly. The katana pointed outwards now with the tip at the three remaining guards while the wakazashi shifted to overhead, its tip also pointing at the guards menacingly.

Yes, the second advisor realized now, this was a very bad decision to confront Rayek.

Then one of the guards, the young one who had started this whole descent into madness, charged intent on slapping the katana aside and stabbing Rayek. The Sōke didn’t move until the last second rolling his wrist to let the katana drop from the path of the guard’s slap. All at once the young human was off balance, exposed, and he wasn’t able to defend the hard stab from the wakazashi as Rayek plunged the blade into his chest. The young guard dropped to one knee, feeling his life ebb away, as Rayek yanked the sword free and charged the last two humans. The Sōke swung high with katana, and as the guard went high with his sword to block the slash, Rayek cut hard across the human’s midsection with the wakazashi feeling armor crack and give while driving the man back. As the last human came in for a hard stab, Rayek slapped the blade aside and sprang past before twisting and cutting down the human’s back with both blades.

It was quite remarkable, unbelievable if one didn’t see it for one’s self, but so remarkable the second advisor Tadao Kato thought as the last guard dropped to the floor incapacitated by Rayek-san. He watched as the Sōke turned to him with a cold, calm stare, and spoke just as easy.

“Ryōtōjutsu of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū, two handed sword technique.”

Tadao watched Rayek-san dropped the swords the mat, each ringing at they struck. The realization that he was the only left, all of his guards were now dying or unconscious, only added to the fear that took over his body. He gave a great scream and bolted out the room, running for the hall beyond, and leaving the Sōke alone. Rayek only looked around before pulling his Dotanuki from his sash. With a quick jerk, he broke the hair that bound the handle to the scabbard. He put the sword back in his sash and left the room to go and seek his answers.

Now it was time to find Tadayoshi-san.

A minute later, a loud explosion sounded somewhere in the keep, and the turret outside.

Tadayohi’s castle was under attack, again.


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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Twelve - Escape!   Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:23 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Twelve - Escape!

At Lord Nobunaga’s Yamashiro…

The advisor was heavy, far too heavy for Shenshen to move, and he had her trapped on the tatami bed. She was trying to come up with a plan for moving the large human, because she couldn’t even squirm free, when a finger touched her lips and a send from the owner reached her mind. Whoever it was, he or she moved so silent her sensitive ears didn’t even pick up their steps on the floor.

No sounds please. I’m here to take you to your sister mistress.

“Leetah?” Shenshen whispered suddenly, so shocked she broke the request in the first minute.

No words or sounds please mistress. The sender told her again.

Shenshen didn’t move or speak this time. She only laid there in a stunned happy silence as the body of the advisor was shifted, and then moved off her, and finally placed unceremoniously onto the bed next to her. She could barely sense the person that was in the room, but whoever it was, they had the chivalry to pull the blanket up covering her nakedness. She sat up once the advisor was off of her, holding the thick bed sheet to her, and almost immediately a bundle landed in her lap. Shenshen reached down and felt the bundle was wrapped clothes, the hard texture of cloth that wasn’t a silk kimono.

Do you need help getting dressed? The sender asked.

She shook her head no, and quickly figured out that the bundle was a pair of pants and a robe top. She was probably putting on men’s clothes, Shenshen thought, and from the way this was going it was probably the dress of a ninja. Who else could walk around and not make enough of a noise for her to hear?

Are you ready?

Shenshen nodded as the top slipped on and she checked her blindfold to make sure her eyes were still covered. She wondered how she was going to sneak out of the castle, being blind and all, when the ninja sent to her again.

I am going to carry you now mistress. Please forgive me if I touch something I should not.

Before she could nod, a pair of hands helped her up off the bed, and then the same hands helped her reach around a pair of strong shoulders with her arms. The hands let go for a second, and then found a purchase around her legs. She gave a small ‘Ooo’ as the hands hefted her up and her arms clutched around the neck of someone. It felt like a man with solid shoulders and a firm neck, but Shenshen was really taken back when her cheek rubbed the ear, which was pointed and long like hers. He was an elf, and he was taking her back to Leetah. She got so excited she squeezed hard with her arms and the elf came to a stop.

Too tight...you are squeezing too tight mistress…

“Oh, I am sorry,” Shenshen whispered as she felt the elf walk toward what had to be the door. She didn’t have time to orient herself to the room so it was all a guess.

They stopped, and she strained her ears listening for a sound, for something that had stopped them. There was nothing though, except the snoring of the advisor, and she started to feel the pressure of the whole situation. She felt sweaty, nervous just sitting there on the elf’s back waiting. Why were they not escaping when they had the chance? What could the elf be waiting for? The nervousness made Shenshen antsy, and she found it hard to just sit and wait. She wanted to get away, to get back to Leetah, and then Rayek.

“What are we waiting for?” She finally whispered into the elf’s ear.

No talking please mistress. We will go when the time is right.

And when was that Shenshen thought. Then suddenly, the castle came to life with screams and running. She heard guards bolting on the floors above and below, all running to a floor somewhere away from them, and all screaming about intruders.

Now we can leave. The elf sent.

“They’ll find us!” Shenshen hissed.

Not us mistress, just the other ones, now, no more talking please.

Shenshen wondered just who the elf was talking about as she heard the shoji screen slide open and she felt them exit the room. In a second, they were running softly through a hall away from Nobunaga’s bed and back to Leetah.


The second two group team moved slowly down the hall measuring, and counting, their steps with meticulous care, noting the number of each floorboard they passed. Each Yamashiro is built with its own interior alarm system, for protection from a raid such as this one, an intricate system to stop said ninja intruders from doing what these ninja intruders were trying to do at the moment. There are invisible trip wires attached to bells, rooms with false floors that collapse into specially formed pits trapping intruders, and there are guards at every corner and hall.

And then there are the Nightingale floors, or uguisubari.

A simple design with deadly consequences, some of the boards that make up the floor are left loose on purpose so the nail will rub the wood and make a loud squeal. The noise will immediately alert the numerous guards, and some boards are connected to trip wires which lead to the previously mentioned bells and alarms at the end of the halls. It is quite effective these Nightingale floors, especially if a random pattern is used, one board for every two or even every three left loose. The pattern could be alternated as well or only used in certain places. It was enough to deter even the most hardened ninja from trying to enter a castle. To cross a Nightingale floor without a sound was the pinnacle of stealth for a ninja.

Unless the ninjas knew the pattern, knew which boards not to step on.

And Shijima’s men knew just what boards were triggers, set as a trap to catch anyone unwary. This Yamashiro though, there was a rather confusing pattern to Nobunaga’s Nightingale floor that slowed the ninjas progress, but the end of the hall was just ahead, and then a short sprint up the stairs to the Daimyo’s personal room, and the female elf waiting in his bed. The Daimyo must be a very paranoid person, the lead ninja thought, to have such a confusing pattern set to his floor, all the while stepping over two boards and pressing down on the third. The Lord of the Yamashiro may be paranoid, the lead ninja continued to think as he was just three steps from the end of the hall now, but not paranoid enough to sense the traitor in his own midst, a very unhappy troll.

Then, almost instantly, the board beneath his foot squealed loudly, and the snap of a tripwire sounded with aloud ‘pop’. Then, not a second later, bells clanged at both ends of the hall followed by the sounds of guards yelling and running, approaching with a quickness. The lead ninja turned with a shocked expression to his second as the man in the tri-fold mask whispered.

“You’ve killed us.”

“It was the pattern given to us by the advisor! Someone must have changed it!” The lead ninja whispered back shaking his head.

“There is no time to stay here, we have to run!” The second yelled running for the stairs. He ignored the loud squeak from the last board by the stairs.

It was quite useless being quiet now.


“It is Lord Shiro Daimyo.”

Lord Nobunaga stared hard down from the top of the gate, his eyes locked on the group of men passing through his walls, into his castle courtyard. They had demanded entrance into his Yamashiro, and at first, he had laughed and refused them, this motley group who sat outside the entrance, but then a rider came forward and informed all with great flourish that Shiro, head of the Yagyu Clan, Official protector of the Shogunate, and personal advisor to Lord Madcoil was waiting. Now, he looked at the group with curious disdain, and intellectual repugnance. Why were they, the Yagyu, bothering him, the ‘Master of the Mountains’?

“What shall we do my Lord?”

Nobunaga turned to see his second advisor, the scheming troll Guttlekraw, standing just a few feet away awaiting an answer. The Daimyo stared hard at the troll, as hard as he had stared at Shiro and his men, and wondered what the troll was thinking, wondered if he was responsible for this sudden and unannounced ‘visit’. The ‘Master of the Mountains’ had no delusion as to where the loyalty of his second advisor was placed, and it wasn’t with his Lord and Daimyo. Nobunaga more than knew Guttlekraw envisioned himself as the next Daimyo of this little fiefdom, but the troll never said a word to anyone about that dream or vision. To do so would be the very thing Nobunaga needed to take his second advisor’s head.

Yes, Guttlekraw was smart, conniving, and tight lipped.

“Watch our, guest, watch them very closely.” Nobunaga ordered walking past Guttlekraw in two steps.

The Daimyo didn’t see the smile that played across the troll’s face as he gave the signal to close the gate. As the last of the riders passed through, Guttlekraw continued to smile as he walked down the stairs just behind his lord. This confrontation was going to be the highlight of a rather long day. He was so glad he had arranged it with his co-conspirator.

As Nobunaga-san reached the ground, and his personal guard took to his side, Shiro-san was already dismounted from his horse and looking around. The leader of the Yagyu eyed his surroundings, a small courtyard filled with torch light and very little decoration, from under his Bajo-Gisa with an obvious air of someone who wished to be somewhere else, anywhere else but here. His advisor stood next to him, and as Nobunaga-san approached, it was the small advisor who would answer for his Lord Shiro.

“And what do we owe the honor of your visit Lord Shiro-san?” Nobunaga said with the tone of someone who didn’t want to waste the time having a conversation.

“How dare you, Nobunaga-san, keep the protector and leader of the personal guard for the Shogun waiting at your gate like beggars?” The advisor chirped up quickly, which died just as quick when he received a response.

“If you dare speak again to me, in such a way, going out my gate will be your last concern.” Nobunaga hissed.

“I did not think the leader of the Yagyu and protector of the Shogunate was so impolite as to demand entrance.” Guttlekraw said behind Nobunaga, playing the part of the loyal advisor, while the advisor of Lord Shiro-san sputtered at the threat and insult.

“We did not ride this far to trade pleasantries Lord Nobunaga-san.” Shiro said suddenly.

“Then I ask again, why would the leader of the Yagyu clan come to my castle?” Nobunaga-san asked with a small bow of his head. It was as custom dictated, but it was also small enough to show the Master of the Mountain was not intimidated or scared of his sudden visitor.

Shiro, on the other hand dismissed, the move with a smile of confidence as he stepped forward and confronted the less important Daimyo. “I have come for the elf, the girl, you kidnapped from Rayek-san two days ago.”

The remark had an immediate effect on Nobunaga, as the smaller man’s arrogant disposition turned to one of deep suspicion. The Master of the Mountains eyes narrowed to a squint. He looked hard at Shiro, and the leader of the Yagyu simply stared back with his own arrogant grin.  The standoff lasted for a second, a very long quiet second, before Nobunaga took the only option he could to keep his head, answering with a low monotone voice.  “She has retired for the evening. I will escort her in the morning to the Shogun myself. I will turn her over to Lord MadCoil myself.”

“I know of the treatment you show your concubines Lord Nobunaga-san, it is quite…humiliating. That is why I will be taking the elf tonight with me, and I will be the one escorting her to Lord Madcoil in the morning, and I will be the one to ensure her safety up to that point.”

The statement was not a request from Shiro, and to make an order of a Daimyo, in his castle in front of his men, was something only the Shogun would consider. Guttlekraw’s smile slowly spread across his large face. It was the moment he had been waiting for, the moment he had worked so hard for. The impudence, the audacity, the unmitigated gall of someone doing such an act was unthinkable. And it would drive Lord Nobunaga, the Master of the Mountains, to do an even more unthinkable act, to strike at an official from the Shogunate’s house. Even a Daimyo was not allowed to commit such an act, unless of course the Daimyo were moving against the Shogun. Either way, Guttlekraw thought, Lord Nobunaga was doomed. He could lose face and the elf, or he could strike Shiro-san and sign his death proclamation.

Yet, the Master of the Mountains made no move for his sword. Nobunaga was already thinking, his mind a whirring blur. No one would dare order a Daimyo in his own castle, as Shiro-san had done, unless you had the backing of the Shogun himself, and that’s what had Lord Nobunaga thinking. Shiro-san had protection, from Lord Madcoil himself. So, he had two options, strike with his katana or let the leader of the Yagyu take what he came for.

The choice took a minute to make and that’s only because it took Nobunaga most of that time to swallow his pride.

“I will take you to her.” He snarled.

“That is acceptable Lord Nobunaga. The Shogun will be pleased to hear of your cooperation.” Shiro-san replied. The grin on the man’s face told everyone he knew Nobunaga was a weak man, and he knew the Master of the Mountains wouldn’t have gone for his sword.

Lord Nobunaga hated that grin, and was actually reconsidering his decision about giving up Shenshen-san, when the alarms sounded and guards ran to and fro in the courtyard. He looked up to see a guard lean out a window from the second level of his castle and scream.  “Ninja have infiltrated the castle! Protect the Daimyo!”

All at once, the personal guard of both Lord Shiro and Lord Nobunaga circled their respective liege, drawing swords and searching everywhere with their eyes. The guards, though, did not see the grin that was so prevalent on Shiro’s face slip away or the sneer on Nobunaga’s face deepen.

And they didn’t see the look of terror and shock on Guttlekraw’s.


The first group of ninja’s ran through a dark hall, somewhere in the lower levels of Lord Nobunaga’s castle, trying to find an escape route. When the alarms went up both men froze for a moment, shocked by the sounds and yells of the sudden discovery of intruders. This was not supposed to happen. It had all been arranged before they even set foot in the Yamashiro, to sneak in and take the elf and leave with no obstacles to bar their path.

Now, though, the plan was to just get out alive, and then try to explain to Lord Shijima what happened. Any thoughts of what the old man would do to them was secondary now as both ninja ran headlong down the hall, as quiet as mice. There was no fear of the nightingale floor here at this level, and with all the alarms already raised, it didn’t matter if the ninja were silent shadows.

Then they both saw someone up ahead, just passing through a stream of moonlight and torch, just enough of a glimpse to make out another ninja. He was smaller than them, and on his back, he carried another smaller ninja, dressed in black garb. It only took a second for both of Shijima’s ninja to recognize the elf being carried, and to then to realize what was happening.

Someone else had taken the elf just before they arrived.

Someone who had obviously set off the alarms to cover their infiltration!

Both ninjas sped up in pursuit then, of the one who had set this giant trap into motion. Up ahead, the hall cut right sharply going five steps, and then cut sharply back left, going all the way back to a hidden door that would lead to the garden outside. The wall to freedom was only a short distance away from there. The first ninja, the leader of Shijima’s first team, had thought about going right for their escape route, but now he had a new target. He smiled under his mask, as the ninja with the elf on his back was moving fast around the sharp right turn, but not fast enough. They would catch him on the long straight section.

They would catch him and kill him. And then the fool Nobunaga would blame this ninja’s clan, whoever that may be, for all these alarms, and they would have the elf for Shijima. Everything would be forgiven, the leader thought, reaching the sharp right turn, rounding it in a full sprint, and then racing for the left turn, never slowing a single step. Both ninja came around the turn, and both could hear their prey just up ahead, so very close. They each took two more steps in gleeful pursuit.

And then the pain of a thousand knives spread across both their feet. It was so intense, so fiery, that it caused them to both to topple to the floor instantly. As they hit the wood boards, and rolled instinctively from shoulder to hip, the pain went through every part of their bodies that made contact with the floor, and the lead ninja knew at once what had happened. The ninja they pursued had tossed down hundreds of caltrops behind him, small metal spikes that now cut into the lead ninja and his second’s feet, along with their backs, and whatever body part made contact with the spiked caltrops.

The trap was fully closed the lead ninja thought, as both of Shijima’s men from the first team were down and unable to carry on. They had failed, and the price for failure was death. The leader, and his second, pulled their ninja-to’s from their scabbards, and each readied to take his life as capture was also not permissible for the Yagyu. In the distance, down the hall, the leader could hear the approach of Nobunaga’s guards from one end. At the other end, he heard the door open and close, the female elf gone now with the mysterious ninja.

With the tip of the ninja-to against his chest, right at the heart, the lead ninja recited a haiku about a morning sunrise. His second only waited for the command.

A second later it was over for both, failure not allowed.

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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Thirteen – Do not stand in his way   Tue Apr 11, 2017 10:07 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

[Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Thirteen – Do not stand in his way

Back at Tadayoshi’s Castle

How many of those smoke bombs did you use? Chot sent, asking Skot as they ran toward the castle with the others.

The ninjas had blended in with another group of musicians, who were traveling to the castle for an ōban, or banquet, for the Daimyo Tadayoshi. It was a bit of luck they had come across the group, it gave the pair the cover needed to access the Yamashiro, and now that Skot had alerted everyone to the attack with his ‘distraction’, the necessary means to escape. The ninja was only supposed to fill the turret with smoke and drive the archers from it while drawing the other guards to it. But, whether due to exuberance or a misunderstanding, the turret was now in flames and half destroyed from a huge gun powder explosion.

I used six, like you said. Skot answered.

Six, Chot yelped holding up three of his four fingers, I said to use three.

No, Skot said back dodging some poor human who just fell down in front of him and flashing three fingers twice, you said six!

I only meant three! Chot spat with exasperation.

Well, you shouldn’t have flashed your fingers twice! Skot countered with frustration. It was more than obvious that this accident was not his fault.

We need to work on our communication. Chot shot back.

After a second, and dodging another falling body, Skot spoke up. Do you think Khavi used more than three?

With Khavi you have to ask? She’ll probably use nine or ten! Chot spat again just as more alarms went up and people started screaming about the castle being on fire.


The explosion out in the second gate didn’t equal the ones that seemed to make the whole castle shudder. Rayek said a curse under his breath, shaking his head, while moving through the halls of the castle. Khavi-san was only supposed to distract the guards and not bring the Yamashiro down around his pointed ears. And it didn’t seem to matter anyway. The Sōke hadn’t seen guard or man since he chased the mouse of a second advisor from the lower rooms. Rayek was starting to think there wouldn’t be any one to keep him away from Tadayoshi when three men suddenly rounded a corner up ahead in a trot.

All three guards came to a sliding stop, staring at Rayek, who only eyed them back harder with his right foot slightly forward and his left hand resting on his sword, the palm on the saya and thumb by the tsuba. The men all looked scared, slightly bowed by the appearance of the Sōke. For a second no one moved or spoke, only the smell of smoke broke the tension. Then the human on the right stepped forward and called out to Rayek with a shaky voice.

“You can leave Rayek-san. We will not stop you or attack you.”

But Rayek only kept staring and spoke calm and cold. “I will leave once I have spoken with Lord Tadayoshi.”

“And that is something I will not permit you to do Rayek-san.” A deep bear-like voice called out from around the corner.

All three humans suddenly looked stronger, finding their spines and courage at the sound of the voice. Confident, arrogant smiles formed on all three faces as Rayek watched a human who stood at least six foot six round the same corner the other three had come sprinting around just a minute ago. The hall was filled by the massive man and his Do-Maru, or armor. In his right hand was an oversized Naginata, or glaive, with a blade that looked a little larger than Rayek’s Dotanuki, which the Sōke gave a squeeze as he answered the samurai. “I do not wish to fight you, honorable warrior.” Rayek stated calmly once more.

“Did you truly kill Osamu Yamazaki, Sōke of Hōzōin-ryū, master of the Yari?” The samurai asked with an emotionless tone.

“Hai,” Rayek answered with a simple nod of his head, “but now I only wish to pass and talk to Lord Tadayoshi.”

“And I will not allow you near Lord Tadayoshi, Rayek-san, as I have said, which means our paths must cross, to see which of us will go on. I wish to see the style that defeated the great master Osamu Yamazaki.” The large samurai demanded, walking between the three men.

“Must I fight all four of you?” Rayek asked calmly.

“No,” The large samurai said before calling out over his shoulder, “go and stop the ones who have set the fires. I will tend to the Sōke.”

“Hai,” The man who was speaking for the three answered.

As the three turned and ran back the way they came, the speaker stole one last look over his shoulder at the two warriors left in the hall. Rayek-san was still standing as calm as an elf might stand in a garden would, and all while the best samurai in Lord Tadayoshi’s army at naginatajutsu, the art of wielding the naginata, struck a wide stance with the blade of the glaive pointing at the Sōke’s chest. As the pair dropped out of sight there was a loud scream, a deep booming baritone, and the speaker knew that the samurai for Lord Tadayoshi had struck. The speaker smiled, running on with the other two in front, thinking Rayek-san was finished.

Then a second scream rang out, high pitched and full of pain. All three men came to a skidding, abrupt stop again, before turning back to stare at the corner. They looked up just in time to see Lord Tadayoshi’s samurai go flying into the wall and halfway through. The speaker gasped as he noticed the man’s feet were where his head should have been, as if Rayek-san had flipped the massive man end over end and into the wall. And then the Sōke rounded the corner, with the naginata in his right hand, and locked eyes with the speaker and the two humans behind him. Rayek-san spoke calmly and coldly, as he has been doing this whole time, looking down the hall at them.

“Omote no Naginata style of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū.”

The speaker was dumb struck. He was in shock at the fact it took so little time and effort to beat the best warrior with the naginata in Lord Tadayoshi’s army. But he was a samurai himself, and with a defiant air, the speaker puffed up his frame to its full size and looked hard at the Sōke. The two guards behind him followed suit drawing their swords with the usual slow hiss while the speaker drew his with a fast pull.

Rayek knew the fools would come at him. Attacking was the only option, so he set himself in a defensive posture, feet wide with the shaft of the naginata across his midsection. His right hand was back while his left was forward. He eyed the men and knew the talker would be the first to attack.

And when the speaker screamed and charged, Rayek was not surprised.


The news, on top of what was happening, wasn’t a shock to Lord Tadayoshi. It only fueled his growing anger.

He felt the explosions, and knew his castle was suddenly under attack from a group of assailants, a group he had already guessed the identity of. He knew they were obviously after the person he had been ordered to watch, a task and duty that was beneath a Daimyo of his stature and standing he thought, a constant reminder of his loathing for the Shogun Madcoil. To have to keep the brat in good health, and spirits, was more than any samurai should have to endure. And these attackers, the last of the Chosen 8, the last vestige of a disgraced and disbanded Taka clan, would meet their fate at his army’s swords.

Then his first advisor told him the castle was burning and that it was burning faster then they, the guards, could stop. Lord Tadayoshi was trying to think of way to extinguish the fire as fast as possible, to limit the damage to his Yamashiro, when his second advisor ran into the room. Two minutes later the Daimyo was livid.

“Are you telling me that Rayek-san the Sōke, the most dangerous elf on the Abode, the one elf the Shogun wants the head of more than anyone else, is loose in my CASTLE?” Tadayoshi yelled at second advisor Tadao.

“Hai,” Second advisor Tadao yelped with a bow.

“What made you assume that I would not want to know that Rayek-san was in my castle second advisor?” Tadayoshi hissed.

“I did not want to burden you my lord with a…a…distraction before the ōban.” Second advisor Tadao tried to explain.

“You think confronting Rayek-san by yourself with a few guards was better then coming to me and informing me of his appearance, that he might be a ‘distraction’?” Tadayoshi growled stepping closer to the second advisor.

“Hai,” Second Advisor Tadao said quickly opting to keep words to a minimum and thus maybe keep his head.

Tadayoshi eyed his Second Advisor hard before yelling over to his First Advisor. “Where is the brat?”

“She is with Kaede-san.” The First Advisor answered.

Now it was the First Advisor’s turn to feel his Daimyo’s wrath as Tadayoshi-san turned to him with a shocked and incredulous expression. “You left the brat in the hands of the one bushi (Samurai) with absolutely no patience for her?”

“He was told to safeguard Liela-chan by the captain of the guard my lord.” The First Advisor answered, just as quickly as Tadao had a moment ago.

“And where is Katsumi-san, Captain of my Guard? He should not be deprived of my fury.” Tadayoshi spat.

“He was in the room with Rayek-san my lord. He is dead.” Second Advisor Tadao spoke up trembling.

“He may be the lucky one among us all before this night is through.” Tadayoshi hissed pointing to the men behind the Second advisor, “you, Tadao-san. will not see the light of the new day.”

Tadao jerked up with a terror filled look just as the men grabbed his arms and began to pull him out of the room kicking and screaming. Just as the cries of Tadao were fading the Daimyo turned to his First Advisor and pointed a finger.

“You find Kaede-san, and the brat, before the fool cuts off her arm or I will not be the only one standing in front of Lord Madcoil if he does!”

The First Advisor only nodded and backed out of the room before running down a hall that was quickly filling with smoke. The Daimyo then turned to the last two men in the room as a small scream, barely audible above the speaking Tadayoshi, called out. It seems the Second Advisor did not meet his end bravely.

“You two, get this infernal fire out before I lose my Yamashiro!”

The two guards bowed deeply and ran from the room as the smell of smoke began to increase. Tadayoshi glared at the door the men had run through and hissed to the quiet.

“You wish to meet me Rayek-san, well I am waiting!”


“Do you see the mistress?” Kureel yelled.

The fire was spreading faster then Khavi had anticipated, wished for. The hall under the Yamashiro, the jail cells, was filling with smoke making it hard to see and breathe. In a few minutes, the clean air would not be enough for anyone to survive in, so Khavi pushed on quicker, going from bamboo cell to bamboo cell. She had come to get one of her own out, and having the hawk-nose samurai behind her crying out like a geisha was not making her calm, when she spotted a huddled form in the last cell.

“There!” Khavi cried out pointing to the form.

“Is it the mistress?” Hoykar, the other Chosen Eight Khavi had come to call geisha, cried out.

“No, it’s too big.” Kureel spat at his Chosen Eight counterpart.

Khavi ignored the remarks, breaking the metal lock on the cell door and swinging it open to get inside. The form moved and the ninja leader looked down at another elf with blond spiky hair and blue eyes. A smile crossed the female’s face as Khavi squatted down and laughed. “Time to get up Krim-san, or do you want to be cooked alive?”

“I’ll leave with you Khavi-san; though it took you long enough to get here. Where are Skot and Chot?” Krim asked standing up.

“Didn’t you feel their ‘distraction?” Khavi said with a shake of her head.

“Oafs,” Krim replied with a wide smile that broke across a dirty face, “those two never learned how to set a smoke bomb.”

“Where is Leila-chan?” Kureel asked with a snap, intentionally breaking into the conversation between Khavi and Krim.

“She’s not down here you fool!” Krim shot back.

“What,” Kureel said in shock before turning to Khavi with fire in his eyes, “You lied! You said you knew where the mistress was!”

“I never lied to you samurai! Liela-chan is Madcoil’s assurance that Voll-san and Winnowill-san will continue to side with him. Lord Tadayoshi would never treat her badly unless he wanted to die. No, it probably drove the Daimyo crazy, but the child has been kept upstairs with the usual pampering.” Khavi answered.

“Then we need to head upstairs!” Hoykar screamed out.

“No,” Khavi spat with shake of her head and a disgusted look, “Rayek-san is going to bring the child to us. We only need to get out of here before we die.”

“Rayek-san?” Kureel and Hoykar both exclaimed in unison.

“Yes, the Sōke is going to bring us the child.” Khavi said with a gasp of exasperation, moving past the shocked samurai.

Krim fell in behind her clan leader, just as the two samurai followed, and all headed for the door with the blonde haired kunoichi still screaming. “How do you know Rayek-san is going to get the mistress? And when did you involve him?”

“Trust me, Rayek-san didn’t stay put when all this started. I’m sure he is working his way to Lord Tadayoshi’s chambers where I think he’ll find Leila-chan. And how else was I to get you out without a proper distraction?” Khavi yelled back.

“Why would the Sōke wish to talk with the Daimyo?” Hoykar asked, running low to try and get a breath of clean air.

“He wants to find his precious Shenshen, and who better to ask then the Daimyo.” Khavi answered with a snap.

Both men quieted down to grumbles at the information, each not really liking what they heard, but resigned to having to accept it. Krim smiled and moved in close to her leader and sent.

I see you still align with the best warriors!

If you only knew… Khavi sent back rolling her eyes.


He was pulling so hard her feet barely touched the floor, which hurt her wrist, and frankly that was quite enough. Leila reached up and slapped at the guard’s hand while yelling. “Ow, you are hurting me! Stop pulling so hard!”

“I will yank your arm off if you do not keep up!” Kaede-san hissed.

Leila only smiled and spoke with the same tone that she had heard her mother Winnowill use in similar situations, mimicking the style perfectly. “You won’t hut me.”

Kaede-san suddenly stopped and dropped to one knee going nose to nose with the eight-year-old in the hall. His voice dropped to growl meaning to intimidate the child.

“And what makes you think I value your life so much?”

“Because,” Leila-chan said with a confident smile that looked just like Winnowill’s and Volls combined, “you are afraid of what will happen when otasan and okasan get here.”

“You mother is no where to be found little one and I am not afraid your father.” Kaede-san growled noticing his intimidation was having no effect.

“We shall see honorable one, we shall see.” Leila-chan said with an impish giggle.

The samurai only growled and stood up, continuing to drag the elf down the hall, watching the smoke from the fire grow thicker by the second. It wasn’t the defiant words from the brat that made his blood boil or the fact the brat was as stubborn as her dishonorable parents.

It was the smirk.

It told the samurai the little girl knew she wouldn’t be touched, that she could do anything and say anything, and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do. The Shogun had decreed not a hair was to be harmed on Leila-chan’s head, and the brat must have been in the room when he gave the order because she never, ever let anyone know a moment’s peace.

Never...ever,

Kaede-san continued on, waving his hand in front of his face while the brat kept complaining about her arm and how her mother was going to make him pay for hurting her. And then, out the smoke and shadow, a figure strode up freezing the samurai to the spot. Something wasn’t right about the man, and when Kaede-san saw that it wasn’t a guard or member of the Daimyo’s house he was confused.

Until the man spoke, and Kaede-san saw the ears.

“I have come to talk with Lord Tadayoshi. Do you intend to stand in my way?”

It was Rayek-san. What was the Sōke doing in the castle? How did he get in the castle?

The samurai raised an eyebrow trying to figure out what was going on when Rayek took another step forward causing Kaede-san to jump back a step. Leila-chan jerked backwards with him and immediately hit the hand holding her wrist.

“Ow, let go!”

“What are you doing here Sōke?” Kaede-san asked with a whisper.

“I told you,” Rayek said looking back at the samurai and Leila-chan coldly, “I came to talk with Lord Tadayoshi. Now, are you going to stop me?”

That was a good question Kaede-san thought. He couldn’t fight a great swordsman like Rayek-san while holding onto the brat, and he couldn’t let go of her because if she got away or hurt then his life was forfeit. But he couldn’t back away from the obvious challenge. That would mean dishonor, a stain on his very soul.

So Kaede-san decided to fight, decided to let go of Leila-chan and draw his Katana, but before he could finish the mental command the wall to his left exploded. The gout of fire rushed across the hall separating the pair of fighters.

Leila-chan screamed feeling the heat wave rush over her, singeing her long white hair and scorching her delicate skin. She closed her eyes as Kaede-san pulled her back away from the burning section of the hall and ceiling. She felt him take to a run as she was pulled off her feet again, literally flying in the direction they had just walked.

The child of Voll and Winnowill looked back at the wall of fire in the hall, and just as the smoke began to cloud it from her vision, she saw something remarkable.

The elf that had scared Kaede-san so much came rolling out of the flames. He gained his feet quickly, tendrils of smoke wafting off his clothes, upward to mix with the rest of the smoke from the burning castle.

And little Leila took note, the elf was following the pair.

He was coming after them.

___________________________________________________
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PostSubject: Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Fourteen – Even the best plans...   Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:14 pm

And here is the next piece of the story...

Rayek the Watarimono (Wanderer) – Part Fourteen – Even the best plans...

Back at Nobunaga’s castle…

The second two-man team of Yagyu ninjas fared no better than their counterparts, even though they were the more experienced men. After reaching the floor where Lord Nobunaga slept, they saw too many guards running to defense stations to continue and opted to go higher in the castle to egress. They continued up the stairs, past the next floor and the next, till the pair arrived at the one that was below the last with a single short hallway. The Leader turned, making special hand signals to his second, each move acting as a word, as he told the man what he had planned.

We will find a window on the south side that will hide us from the moon. Then we will climb down and over the walls.

The Second ninja talked back using the same finger gesturing method, his fingers moving fast but steady. What of Lord Shijima?

We will think of what to do when we have escaped. We must focus on one step before taking the next. The Leader offered.

Hai! The Second responded.

The pair waited until there was no sound, and then moved through the small hall to the only door at the end of its length. There was no window here in the hall, and the Leader hoped that there was one in the room or they would have to make one. He checked the shoji screen quickly, looking for a trap or tripwire. After the floor on the other level, the Leader knew there was another skilled shadow warrior at work here so there could be no assumptions of safety. Everything had to be checked until they were safely away.

There was no tripwire or trap

The Leader went in first followed by his Second, who closed the shoji screen to cover their entrance. The pair waited a minute to make sure there were no sounds of anyone approaching, and then the Leader spotted the small window across the room, just big enough for a man to squeeze through. The pair crossed the room in silence and stopped by the window as the Leader looked out. The outside was ink black and would give them cover, until they reached the ground, and then the outer wall. He turned back to his Second and gave another set of hand signs.

I will scale down first and you follow.

Hai.  His Second replied with a nod.

So, the Leader began the climb down by sliding out the window to his hips. It was then they heard the approaching guards, at least four of them.

The Leader looked back once to his Second, and the ninja knew what the presence of the guards meant for the plan. He gave a small nod to his Leader before drawing his sword from his side, sliding over to the dark corner of the room, disappearing from sight. The Leader popped out of the window, dropping onto the gable roof just a few feet below as the shoji screen slid open.

He leaned up against the wall, listening intently to the noises from the room. He hoped the best for his Second, prayed for his friend of so many years, but a scream broke the night and the Leader knew his Second was found. He would die, his friend, giving his Leader the time to climb off the roof to safety.

But the Leader hesitated, and when he broke for the edge of the roof, one of the guards inside spotted him from the window. The Leader never stopped, or slowed, as he approached the drop off from the roof.

To be captured was death.

To go back to Lord Shijima with empty hands was death.

As he jumped from the roof into the night air, he hoped to meet his friend and Second in the next life, and that they would be friends there as well.  


Nobunaga-san walked quickly, each step full of anger, through the halls of his yamashiro to his personal rooms. Just a step behind, and to the right, walked Lord Shiro of the Yagyu with an arrogant smile and stride, while behind him, the hall was packed with personal guards and staff. There was barely enough room for everyone as they marched, the glower from Nobunaga ever present.

The Daimyo was still trying to discover how Shiro-san, Lord of the Yagyu Clan, had discovered he was ‘keeping’ the sister of the Shogun’s prized possession at his castle here in the mountains. Lord of Yagyu, more like ‘False Lord’, Nobunaga thought. He knew Shiro was only a puppet for the true ruler of the shadow clan, one Shijima-san, the true Lord of the Yagyu. The Daimyo may not have been able to prove that Shijima existed, but he didn’t need evidence to prove the existence of the old one to know the man was leading the Yagyu from the shadows. You had to actually admire the old one Nobunaga thought, using your own flesh and blood as a shield was perfect strategy, especially if you didn’t care for your progeny. If Nobunaga had a son he might be so inclined to try the practice.

“You had the sister taken to your personal room Nobunaga-san?” Shiro-san asked with the tone of someone looking to ensnare a rat in a trap.

The Daimyo saw the attempt though, and made a move to bypass the attempt. “It was to ensure her safety Lord Shiro. I assure you my intentions were honorable.”

“And that is due to your honorable reputation I assume.”  Shiro-san replied with a new tone, a very sarcastic one.

It was a good trap, laid out very well, but executed poorly Nobunaga thought as the group made a turn and the Daimyo spoke. “My honorable reputation is the reason I was given my post by the Shogun, unlike some, who are nothing but Banraku for the ones who hide in the shadows like cowards. I have betrayed none, fought honorably for the Shoguns as ordered, which means the blood I drew with my sword was fair and honest.”

The counter was a quick slash in the verbal exchange and it drew blood as the smile faded from Shiro-san’s face. The history, and reputation, of the Yagyu was not so clean Nobunaga thought with his own arrogant smile now. You fool, Shiro-san, he continued to think, to try and use honor as a weapon when the history of your ascension and status was one marred with blood and betrayal.

The Daimyo thought back to when the Yagyu were considered a lowly clan, a group to be used only for ‘less than honorable’ tasks. There were rumors and innuendo everywhere that the Yagyu were killers, murderers, and thieves. Yet, even the lowest of the world could have a use, and the former Shogun Yorimoto always had a need for them, but always from the dark and never in the light of court. Then, shortly before Madcoil came to power, the Yagyu made their move from the shadows.

The Shogun, as all before him, had a personal guard. All the samurai were hand picked, trained in the style of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū, and all soldiers with impressive skills, who would lay down their lives for the Shogun. Their Sōke was Ingen-san, father to Rayek-san, a samurai from the old days when the strength of one’s sword and skill of its cut gained you in status faster then the politics of the government. And as it happened in those days before he became renowned, Ingen-san grew tired of the fighting and left the Shogun’s army to start his own school and style, the now famous Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. After defeating several other masters, and those that claimed to be masters, of other styles, his reputation with the blade was known across the land. So much so, Ingen-san was approached by the new Shogun Yorimoto to train his own personal guard.

It was Ingen-san’s own death knell Nobunaga thought.

For even as the Sōke was agreeing to teach and pass on his knowledge to the Shogun’s personal guard, the Yagyu and Shijima-san were eyeing the post. The shadow clan had stayed long enough in the dark, their infamous leader had decided, it was time to ascend to a higher station. So, the clan, Shijima-san, set an eye on the post as the personal guard of the Shogun, and maybe even one of Yorimoto’s advisors. The only problem was Ingen-san, and his school. He was the official teacher of the personal guard, and as such, was afforded ‘protections’ from the position. No one dared attack Ingen-san, because if he did not kill or maim you, then the law of the Shogunate would finish you. No one was allowed to strike or impugn an official of the Military lord of the land and live.

Yet, if the Sōke Ingen-san were to be killed in a challenge from another Sōke, or master, then that would be acceptable, even fortuitous for the Yagyu. Again, it is all just rumors, and that is all that anyone will find, floated around that Shijima-san had searched high and low to find the perfect opponent for Ingen-san. And he was successful. The Sōke was killed with no repercussions against the Yagyu. Only one thing stood in the way of taking the position Shijima coveted now, Rayek-san, who took over the school and the position of Sōke of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū. There was a plan to remove the young elf, and problem for Shijima’s promotion, Nobunaga was sure, just no time to enact it.

Because it was then Madcoil-san took the mantle of Shogun from Yorimoto, in a pitched battle one morning. With the help from the other Daimyo’s who went against their former master, Madcoil-san seized the land of the Abode, and its control. Most fell in line with the new Shogun and his new government. Others, though, chose the path of loyalty and fealty to Yorimoto, like the fools from the Taka clan, and Rayek-san. It was obvious the new Sōke of Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū had no love for the new Shogun, and it was a simple act for the Yagyu to ‘turn’ a small misstep by the new Sōke Rayek-san into an act of betrayal, a knife to the back of the Rayek. A small refusal to train a single samurai, an obvious spy sent to the school by Shijima, by Rayek-san sealed his fate. The Shogun was furious at the denial, at the rebuff, and ordered the school immediately disbanded. Suiouryu Katori Shintō-ryū would now be a memory that would fade and die.

The spy twisted the knife by turning all the students at the school against its teacher, convinced them to take up the Shogun’s order to have Rayek-san commit seppuku for his refusal to follow an order of Madcoil-san. So, the students waited for their former teacher, waited like dogs to attack him in the dojo one afternoon. They sent a challenge to their former Sōke, there would be blood one way or another. But Rayek-san was no ordinary samurai or bushi, as the poor students learned.

Men were still running here and there, securing the castle, and all the rapid movement brought Nobunaga back to the present as he watched it all. His personal rooms were just ahead as one of the guards ran up and bowed low to his master.

“My lord, we have news.”

“What is it?” Nobunaga asked coldly.

“We have found the bodies of two ninja teams, and a third, on the upper floors. We are still searching for any others, but the captain of the guard thinks these are the only ones my lord.” The guard answered.

“The captain is to keep searching until I say we have found all the ninjas!” Nobunaga ordered with a snap, walking past the bowed guard.

“Hai, my lord!” The guard replied quickly and ran back down the hall.

The mass of people finally arrived at the door to the Daimyo’s room, and he pulled the shoji screen open with a jerk of his arm. It was dark, as he expected, but the loud snoring was not what he thought the small elf female would make. Guards raced past the surprised, Nobunaga lighting candles in lanterns to provide light to the room, and as the dark receded the bed came into view.

Lord Shiro was just as perplexed as the Daimyo, but he wasn’t shocked to the point of standing still. He brushed past Nobunaga with a quick step, straight to the bed, reaching for the blankets and throwing them aside with a yank.

And there, on the bed, dressed in a kimono meant for a female that was way too small for him, was the sleeping advisor of Nobunaga. He took a great snort, and then proceeded to sleep as everyone around him looked at each other with dazed and distressed looks.

“What is this Lord Nobunaga?” Lord Shiro demanded.

But Nobunaga couldn’t respond. His eyes were locked onto his advisor, sleeping like an infant where the beautiful elf should have been. It was impossible, just an hour ago he was planning on having a glorious night in that bed and now, it was a nightmare, literally. He still didn’t respond when Shiro-san screamed at him from beside the bed throwing the covers away wildly.

“WHERE IS THE ELF?”

There was no answer because Nobunaga didn’t have one. In fact, the Daimyo was watching his very life flash before his eyes at the moment. He had sent messengers earlier to the Shogun, telling his lord that he had the sister, and in the morning, he would hand her over to his lord’s principles. Yet, now, that was obviously not going to happen, and there was no explanation that would allow the Daimyo to keep his head. Lord Nobunaga was as good as dead he knew.

“WHERE IS THE GIRL YOU FOOL?” Shiro-san yelled with pure fury.

“The ninjas must have taken her.” Guttlekraw offered from behind the stone features of his lord.

“There are no ninjas! This was all a deception to remove the girl!” Shiro-san’s advisor wailed with gnashing teeth.

The tension in the room ratcheted up so fast you could see it. Lord Nobunaga’s men reached for their swords as did Shiro-san’s, and for a second it looked like the room might become a blood bath. And in its middle, was the Daimyo still standing in quiet shock, lost to everything that was happening.

Then there was a rap at the door that stopped everyone. Nobunaga failed to even answer when his own guard called out to him.

“My lord, we have something to show you. We found this on one of the dead ninja’s.” The guard called out.

When it was apparent Nobunaga was beyond giving a response, Guttlekraw stepped up and took what the guard was holding while whispering. It must have been good because suddenly the look of despair that was on the troll’s face disappeared with a hasty grin. He spun and walked quickly to his Lord Nobunaga’s side. Shiro-san watched the exchange intently as the same effect took hold of the frozen Daimyo. Nobunaga went from a mute statue to a devilish smile as his advisor whispered something in his ear and handed over a ragged piece of cloth.

The life that was flashing before Nobunaga’s eyes, the one which was coming to a very unsatisfactory end, now had a reprieve. He stepped forward and held out the ragged cloth, speaking in a cold low voice.

“What is this Lord Shiro?”

On the cloth was the symbol for the Yagyu, a sparrow in flight.

Now it was Lord Shiro who was seeing his life flash before his eyes.


The night air was cool and crisp on Shenshen’s face as she felt her rescuer take them both out of the yamashiro in a run. The wind smelled of mountains and rock, so she assumed they were somewhere in the back of the castle away from the garden. She could hear men screaming still, but it was growing fainter by the second the farther they ran from the walls of the yamashiro. She swallowed hard, wishing for a drink of water, relaxing somewhat from the flight but not entirely. They still had to climb the walls.

The elf carrying her came to an abrupt stop, and the sudden move worried Shenshen just a little. Had they run into some trap? Then the elf lowered her to the ground so she could stand on her own feet and that worried Shenshen even more.

“What is it?” She whispered low.

The elf didn’t answer her though. She felt him turn around and then pull her into him tightly and she felt a strong chest and stomach. Then he sent to her.

Put you arms around my neck again

She did with the elf’s help, but Shenshen was still lost as to what was going on. Then the elf sent to her again and the question scared her…again.

Are you truly blind? You cannot see a thing?

“Hai,” Shenshen whispered suspiciously, wondering what exactly was going on.

Good, then you will not see what is about to happen.

Shenshen was going to ask what that exactly meant, and she was about to ask why it was good she was blind, when the world shot upwards, literally. She felt the ground disappear, or just leave, from under her feet with a whoosh of air as she clung to the neck of the elf. She might have screamed if she could get a breath, but the impromptu flight sucked the air from her lungs as the motion of movement came to a peak, and before Shenshen could react, they were falling back to the ground. Now she found her voice, but the fact she had buried her face in the strong chest of the elf muted all the sound. They were going to hit the ground she thought, hit and break every bone in their bodies, but just as they should have hit Shenshen guessed, the ride came to another sudden stop, an easy landing without bones being broken. The ground was back under her feet, but not her legs as Shenshen clung to the elf’s neck to keep from falling down.

Are you all right?

“Hai,” Shenshen answered with a shaky voice.

“We are past the outer walls now, but I will still need to carry you. Again, I am sorry if I touch you wrong.” The serene voice said that calmed Shenshen somewhat.

“Hai,” she answered letting the elf guide her arms over his shoulder and back around his neck, “what is the name of the noble one who has rescued me from a night that would have surely sealed my fate?”

“My name is Redlance-san mistress.” The elf answered.

“Are you a ninja?” Shenshen asked, still whispering, as Redlance reached back and hoisted her into place with his arms.

“Among other things, mistress,” Redlance answered.  

She could almost see the small smile the elf probably had on his face from the comment. Shenshen felt them start off silently down the hill as she asked one final question, or so she thought. “Who else was in the Yamashiro tonight?”

“The ninjas of the Yagyu mistress. I think Shijima’s son and his guard have also arrived inside. They came for you.” Redlance answered again.

“For me, but why?”

“You are the key to bringing down Rayek-san. I am sure Lord Shiro thinks to have you would put him one step closer to bringing the Sōke’s head to the Shogun.” Redlance explained.

The two settled into a deep silence as they slipped away from the castle, Shenshen choosing the quiet to go over the information Redlance had given her. The means to kill Rayek-san, it was so surreal. How could a blind woman, who was so insignificant, be such an important part of a horrible scheme? Why would anyone think Rayek-san would risk his life for her? Then she remembered, slowly, his frantic sends to her at the port city when she was kidnapped, the fear in those words as she was taken away.

Maybe there was something to what Redlance said. And if there was, then she was a detriment to him, a disadvantage he could not live with.

If she stayed with Rayek-san then she would be a burden, a risk to his life.

And that Shenshen could not be…

“We must move fast mistress”

“Why is that Redlance-san.” She asked stepping away from her thoughts.

“Lord Shijima will not let you go so easily.”


“I do not know what that is?” Lord Shiro answered.

“Are you telling me you came to my castle the same night a band of ninja infiltrate my walls, and it’s all a coincidence?” Nobunaga asked with a growl.

“Of course, it is, has to be! My lord would never associate with dishonorable ninja! They obviously wore the symbols to throw off detection of who they really are. A simple ruse for the simple minded!” Shiro’s advisor explained with an arrogant air.

The Daimyo turned to the small man with a glower that made the advisor tremble with fear as he spoke. “I warned you about speaking to me in such a manner. Now I will have your head!”

“This is a trick Lord Nobunaga, meant to help you move the-“Shiro started to say when a screaming Nobunaga cut him off.

“A trick Lord Shiro? The only trick will be how you explain this to the Shogun! How will you keep in his favor once he learns of your treachery? I will tell him everything tomorrow morning I assure you!”

There was no answer from the lord of the Yagyu. The roles had flipped, and in an instant, leaving Shiro with the images of his life flashing through his mind. He started to mouth a hasty answer when a sword unexpectedly, and brutally, plunged through the Daimyo’s chest with a punch. The attack was over in a split second as the Yagyu guard dispatched the rest of Nobunaga’s men with ease, leaving only Guttlekraw alive. As the dead body of Nobunaga fell to the floor, Shiro saw his father step up holding the sword that had taken the Daimyo’s life.

“Father?” The Lord of the Yagyu asked in shock.

The old man was dressed in the garb of a personal guard, clothes he had used disguise himself to gain entrance to the castle, and all to keep an eye on his plans. When it was obvious Shiro had lost control, the shadowy leader took things into his own hands. He ignored his son and turned to the men around him.

“Watch the entrance for anyone approaching. We will need to move fast. I want all the genin and ninja in the forest to start a search for the girl.”

“Search father?”

The guards only nodded, and then went to a staggered line, watching the room’s entrance as the old man turned and answered his son’s obvious question.

“You are a fool, twice over! I did not wish to kill Lord Nobunaga, but your wit is as slow as your eyes. And now, we may have lost the girl and the one who took her!” Shijima hissed.

“Father, why did you hide among the guards?”

“To ensure you did not fail, and even my presence did not counter your impotence. We have lost the girl and killed a Daimyo. We can easily solve the second, but the first will be a thorn in my hand.” Shijima spoke coldly.

“Father?” Shiro asked with a small whine.

“WHAT?” Shijima screamed back.

“The troll, what do we do about the troll?” Shiro asked pointing to Guttlekraw.

The fiery eyes of Shijima locked onto Nobunaga’s advisor as he spoke. “Your wish was to be the Daimyo was it not? That is what bought your loyalty to me, so this useless piece of rock is yours. I will see to it with Lord Madcoil.”

Guttlekraw only bowed with an evil smile. His plan may have gone astray, but in the end, he still received what he had sold his honor for, what he desired. He kept quiet as Shijima turned back to his son and spoke again.

“The ninjas snuck in here and attacked us all. We barely fought them off, and in all the fighting the valiant, yet perverted, Nobunaga-san was killed. We took casualties but survived.”

“What do you mean father?” Shiro asked with a hard swallow, taking a guess at what his father was hinting at.

The sword slash was fast and took the son of Shijima-san by surprise. The Lord of the Yagyu Clan grabbed his arm as the limb went limp and fiery pain shot up its length. Shiro looked up as he dropped to one knee, seeing a smile of joy actually cross his father’s face.

“Sacrifice is needed for our clan, and family, my son.”

“Hai,” Shiro whispered with a shaky nod.

“Now, we must catch the girl!” The old man hissed like a white snake.

___________________________________________________
Dubbed Streaking ADD Cowboy of Awesome Sagas by KindredSoul and nibblet
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