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Samurai: Cherry Blossoms Fall



by Alex Ness &Josh Brown



Copyright 2015 Alex Ness & Josh Brown


Published by Uffda Press

Smashwords Edition

Smashwords Edition, License Notes


This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited.


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.  This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.  If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy.  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


All characters and events appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


********


Contents


Introduction, Alex Ness

1. When the Barbarians Struck

2. Interlude ichi

3. Uneven Combat

4. Interlude ni

5. A Ronin’s Choice

6. Interlude san

7. Straight to the Point

8. Interlude shi

9. Scouting Party

10. Interlude go

11. Hunt and Chase

12. Interlude roku

Afterword, Alex Ness

Introduction, Josh Brown

13. Quenched in Blood

14. Nine Zero

15. Deshi

16. Interlude shichi

17. Death Poem

About the Authors



Introduction



A samurai is a total human being, whereas a man who is completely absorbed in his technical skill has degenerated into a ‘function,’ one cog in a machine.”

Yukio Mishima


Samurai. The word in Japanese means to serve. When applied to a person it refers to one who serves another. In specific, a “samurai” is a term used to describe a warrior in Japan who serves a lord, using combat skills and living by the code of bushidō. But not everyone followed the code so directly, nor was every samurai so bold and courageous. So while the truth is somewhere between the idealized icon of fidelity and bravery, and bullies with swords, this work features the samurai who lived by their code.

The era of the samurai came from around 700 to 1800 AD. There were peak events, and civil wars, and while the Japanese were insular in many ways, they did reach out and affect other countries, by war, such as Korea. There were also times when the world came to Japan, and the samurai tried to lead the defense against invasions, and visits. The Mongols tried to invade Japan twice but weather, luck and tenacity sent them back to China and Korea with extremely heavy losses.

Later in Japan’s formative time of nation building, there were periods of civil war, and outright chaos. The Three Great Shoguns of Japan rose to the moment to take Japan’s destiny to its height. To that point each had specific talents. Nobunaga was a strategist, and tactician. Hideyoshi had great ambitions for the role of Japan and while a cruel, forged alliances to his advantage and that of the shogun’s office. Tokugawa Ieyasu was different in many ways than Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. He was a great general, but, his greatest strength was alliance building, understanding of the intentions of his foes, and creating the structures within the Shogunate to create patron client relations.

Or, to say it much quicker, and cleaner, a little bird was bought and all three Shoguns had a chance to make it talk. This is how they tried to make it do so:


Little Bird if you don’t sing for me I will kill you.”

Oda Nobunaga


“Little Bird if you don’t sing for me I will make you sing.”

Toyotomi Hideyoshi


“Little Bird if you do not sing for me, I will wait for you.”

Tokugawa Ieyasu


Through short stories, poems, and quotes, this work is meant to evoke, however briefly, life from the viewpoint of samurai of that era.


Alex Ness, 2015



1.


When the Barbarians Struck


An enemy fleet appeared upon our shores at Hakata Bay. Very quickly with explosives, poisoned arrows, numerous innovations that were far beyond the abilities of our forces, they worked their way inland. We fought like every generation of samurai before us had been taught, we called their best warriors out to duel. They responded with hails of arrows. Our armor deflected most arrows. While we rode across the sand shores and called the enemy out, our ashigaru and bushi hid behind the walls and poured fire back against the main body of the enemy. It was not enough. Our ways were unknown to them. And their ways were not ours. They fought without honor. For us, honor was everything.

The simple rock walls would not keep the enemy at bay for long. Our men were brave, and well led, but numbers, and tactics would never allow our defense to succeed. Messengers were sent as soon as any information was available. Reinforcements were an obvious request. But who this was, how many there were, and what tactics were they using, were messages to our daimyo that were all far more useful than “please send more troops.”

At some point, after our numbers had dwindled and the invader had continued the probe inland, and despite sacrifices from our men, they had not slowed, nor seemed to fear us. By now some information had come from the daimyo, who’s official had learned from the Shogun’s office, that these were the ships of Koreans, manned by Koreans carrying Mongols, from the Khan. They had conquered by horsemen, most of the land across the sea. They meant to enslave our holy land. Our defense might fail, but we had no choice to fight, and we could not leave any effort or courage unspent. Our best men lay dead upon the beaches, and behind the stone wall. The Mongols had nearly unlimited numbers it seemed.

But the gray skies and growing winds offered hope. The ocean’s wave had white caps, and grew in size. Soon it was that the Mongols disembarked and left for the safety of their ships. A storm might expose them to our arrows, should they be exposed to the elements, and unable to be within shelter.

It might be that it was a Divine Wind that blew. Susano-o had seen his children in danger, and he blew upon two hundred of the Mongol ships, sinking them. Whatever the cause, after nightfall, while the Mongol fleet was scattered, and in disarray, we sent our own boats, filled with men to secretly board the enemy ships, and slay the Barbarians. My expertise came in the area of archery, and I placed arrows into every silhouetted watchman, every sailor checking the sea for the sounds of battle. I did not keep track of the number I killed. Those who entered the boats started many fires, and killed many Mongols. We offered them no mercy. They had intended to enslave our lands. Upon our final act, the bay was lit up with fire ships, and those few ships left, escaped to warn the Khan of the danger, of invading the land of the Rising Sun.


2.


To walk into fire

To give up the fear of death

I have become death


“One finds life through conquering the fear of death within one’s mind. Empty the mind of all forms of attachment, make a go-for-broke charge and conquer the opponent with one decisive slash.”


Togo Shigekata


3.


Uneven Combat


I moved back a step or two, and tried to stem the flood of blades. Four armed men, I can’t call them bushi, least of all samurai, no, these were bandits, armed with swords, likely stolen from a battlefield or vendor. They rushed me as I was securing my horse’s saddle and bags, after I’d dismounted to water her, and stretch my legs at the stream’s bank.

Not suggesting that I am greater than I am, but, I would say, at the moment of the attack I was perhaps surprised, but, I am always ready to fight. I have studied under the finest swordsmen, the greatest teachers of strategy in the empire. I have read many scrolls, I have memorized tactics, and I have trained with swords men who possess skills, more than talents. I’ve made my life an effort to make my body a weapon.

The most headstrong of the four bandits, the first in line, I was able to strike in such a way as to slash his throat and take his momentum and help toss him into the weeds, to bleed out. The next of the three remaining did nearly the same thing as the first, and he now joined his comrade, clutching his throat, bleeding freely, praying quickly to whatever gods his empty soul held high.

But the two remaining were worldly wise, they could, by observation, understand that the first and second of their number fell by lack of tactics. Or, they were lucky and just were awed by the first two being killed.

From my earliest memory, I was a servant to my lord Samurai Genro Watanabe. He had treated me not as an equal, nor as a servant, but rather, as a younger brother. I’d been adopted from a clan that had been my parents’, but they died in a siege of the castle that held the clan’s leaders. I do not remember them. Lord Genro was my family. He taught me many concepts of battle, and from my youngest days, I remember fighting.

The two bandits stared at me, and I gave them no hope from my countenance. They sought to find weakness and inattention, what they found, was a beast. I’d feast upon their soft flesh, their loins, and their viscera. I was unafraid, and despite the numbers against me, I had no reason to show fear. I heard sounds from the distance, perhaps it was more bandits coming to the aid of their companions, but if so I could neither deal with them at the moment, nor worry for their arrival. I remained focused upon the two before me.

The closest to me seemed to gather his courage and attacked with his sword held high, teeth locked in grimace, and a crazed look within his eyes. At the same time his companion seemed to be deciding, do I join him, or do I flee. As he had this look upon his face of indecision his choice was quickly stolen . . . my horse kicked him in the back of his head, and knocked him unconscious, and took half of the back of his skull off. The sole remaining bandit’s forward thrust was met with a parry, disarming him, and a responding thrust, running his body through my katana. I quickly thanked my horse, with a gentle pat on her rear, and looked over the horizon for the sounds I heard approaching.

There were bandits, five of them, but they were riding off at a full gallop. Leaving the site of this small exchange. I looked over the bodies, in case they were carrying anything of interest, but they had nothing, not even rice cakes, nor coins of the realm.


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