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The Sword of Kojiki

Sarah Tintagyl

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OOC: Co-op with Triyun


Agata Castle stood on a high cliff that looked over the sprawling countryside below. From the highest balcony of the keep, a man could see for miles. The villages that spotted the hills and even the distant snowcapped mountains to the south that formed the spine of Honshu. Beyond those hills grey clouds gathered, but for time being, they stayed away from Daimyo Koyama Tadashi's realm. The rumors on the winds, however, said those times were ending. The smoke rising over the mountains signaled that the Daimyo had difficult decisions to make in the next few days.


Tadashi had lived a good life, his wife, Akira, had given birth to three sons and two daughters, but the spirits had been cruel and only his oldest daughter, Misaki, survived to adulthood. In his old age, he needed to consider where his lands would go after his death, for no regional lord would accept Misaki as the rightful heir to Castle Agata. He took a deep breath, crossing his arms, feeling the warm breeze of the country kiss his face as the strands of his mustache tickled his cheeks.


The Daimyo turned around, his grey hair blowing lightly as he walked back into his bedroom. A letter sat on his bed, the red ink still dripping down the paper. A mountain warlord known as Nakagawa Dai had recently taken over several castle cities, claiming large swaths of land. He enslaved the local nobles while impressing villagers into his swelling armed forces. Now his eyes turned on Agata and Tadashi had little choice but to consider Dai's one, simple demand - Misaki's hand in marriage.


Tadashi sat down on his bed and sighed again, holding the letter, tracing his fingers over the writing. He would die soon, but could he submit Misaki to living high on the mountains? Living in a gray stone stronghold, lit only by torches that burned with strange magical colors of blue, purple, and green.


"For Agata," he said looking back up toward the window. "I have little choice."


His eyes narrowed when he looked at the window. Another plume of smoke rose up, though this one brown and much denser than the fog on the mountains or that of the gray smoke rising from ruined castles beyond. "Riders."


Dai had come early. He came to inspect his bride-to-be, before hearing Tadashi's answer. It was the warlord's way of saying that the Daimyo of Agata Castle only had one choice in the matter. But Tadashi's eyes were not the only ones which saw the plume of smoke, others around Agata saw Dai coming and their lives felt changed in other ways.


Ashiro watched from the lone tree overlooking the gate into the village as the horses came through the gates to the castle.  His eyes narrowed at the sight of he warlord.  He would be so simple to take the knife of, right here and now.  He would probably be doing the world a favor, Ashiro thought.  But his Lord, Tadashi, it would bring him grave dishonor.  So much so that he'd likely have to kill Ashiro, and then commit sepukku, for such an underhanded method.


The shinobi held the hilt of his ninjato.  The weight rested heavy on his belt as he thought of the Lady Misaki, her pale soft skin, her long flowing hair, even heavier when he thought of her in the hands of this barbarian.  "I can smell this sheep fucker from here." he whispered to himself in anger.  As soon as the riders past, he leapt down from the branch, onto the hilly path.  If he hurried he could make it to the castle before they did.


Beyond the walls of Agata Castle, the Princess Misaki sat on a high bank overlooking the sea that stretched off for miles until it met with the horizon. She leaned back on her arms and heard the sound of horns blaring from the keep. "That would be father, ending my fun." She smiled and reached down, digging a finger into the cool dirt. At eighteen, Misaki knew what the horns meant, it meant a new gang of riders from some distant castle had come to ask Tadashi for her hand. When her brothers had been alive, he father negotiated with tact to get Misaki the best husband, but since then, his strength and wit had been failing. The past suitors were hideous and she had little hopes for this horn-call. 


She stood up, her dress blowing in the sea-breeze, her hair flying wild and untamed. When she turned, Misaki gasped, Ashiro stood in front of her. "Ashiro, what are you doing here? I just heard the horn, is my father that worried about me?"


"Misaki." he said looking at her, her youthful face staring back at him, still innocent.  She still had some of her tomboyish charms from when she was a girl, but there was no denying, she had grown into a beautiful woman.  A pit formed in his stomach as he contemplated the future, walking over to her.


"No... I am." he said to her as he bowed. "I do not like... this.. man." he said.  "Forgive me my Lady, I shouldn't speak so plainly about your future Lord.  But he seems, a dishonorable man.  I had heard his last bride, at her wedding he put her father's head on a pike.  I worry for you my lady." he said bowing again in deference knowing how improper it was for him to question the judgment of the Diamyo.


Misaki smiled and took the shinobi's hands, holding them tight in her fingers. "You've always worried too much, Ashiro, you wouldn't be you if you didn't see the potential dangers in everything." She laughed and then clasped her hand around his and started walking toward the castle. "Do you know this suitor?" she looked at him. Her brown eyes had a sparkling glint to them, showing that she walked without fear, but in fact, at the pit of her stomach, Misaki began to tremble.


"And if that happened to the father, what became of his bride?"


Ashiro shook his head, "It is said, after he bedded his bride and was unsatisfied, he put her father's head on a pike, declaring himself the victim of an elaborate scheme, then he claimed his lands.  I sense treachery.  This is a man who takes what he wants and discards the rest without honor.


Afther that, the bride was used and discarded.  It is said he locks her up to this day in a castle, and forces himself upon her, letting her keepers torture her when he's away.  And its not just one, but many concubines and wives." Ashiro said, "Please... be..." he paused unwilling to go further.


The Princess nodded, she needed to be told little else to know who Ashiro spoke about. When they reached the courtyard of the castle, her fears were realized as her father stood next to Dai.


"Misaki," said Tadashi, "This is Nakagawa Dai, the Daimyo of Castle Jiko."


Misaki looked at the mountain warlord, he stood clean shaven with long black hair with white highlights tracing down from his scalp. His face reminded her of a rock, chiseled but without any definitive lines, he seemed powerful, but in a brutish manner, a great deal of strength that came with force. His eyes shimmered brightly, a mixture of white and blue as he stepped forward, a green cape flowing behind his feet. 


"You are the Lady Misaki?"


"I am, Lord Nakagawa, your honor precedes you, I have heard many things about you."


The warlord looked up, shooting glances at Tadashi and Ashiro, who stood by the Princess. "And what do you mean by that, Princess?" he said smiling, but she could hear a slight trembling of his voice.


"That you are a powerful warlord and that Agata only has wealth to gain from an alliance with Jiko."


Dai grinned, "And who is this?" he pointed at Ashiro.


"That is one of my bodyguards," said Tadashi, "Ashiro, I brought him into Agata years ago. He is a great warrior and protector of my family."


"I see," said Dai, "Well, where you are going, my Lady, you will have no use for orphaned swordsmen."


"I was unaware my father had given you my hand, Lord Nakagawa." Misaki planted her feet in the dirt.


Tadashi sighed, looking between Dai, his daughter, and the contingent of riders standing at the gate. "I have not, we will be entering into negotiations tonight, but Misaki, you are getting old and you need to have a husband. Lord Nakagawa has vast swaths of land, a strong army, and takes in wealth that Agata could only dream into existence. You will enjoy yourself in Jiko."


Ashiro cleared his throat, and bowed to Dai.  "Lord Nakagawa.  If you'll pardon the interruption from a humbled hired sword.  I must say what an honor it is to finally meet you.  I have served many times in battle and heard of your bravery and strong army.  


Tell me of your conquests against your first wife's father.  I heard it was a glorious battle where you took his lands." he said smirking.  "Certainly it was a maneuver few [i]true[/i] samurai warriors would dare." Ashiro said as he interrupted smirking at the warlord.  "Particularly men, of such... age.   Very daring."


Dai scowled and reached for his sword. "I will cut you down where you stand, slave!"


Tadashi lunged and took Dai's shoulder, shooting a furious glance at Ashiro, "Ashiro, go, you are not needed here. Return when I call you again, you will not insult Lord Nakagawa during a marriage negotiation." The Daimyo of Agata Castle clenched his fists tighter on the warlord, "Forgive my servant, he knows not what he says."


Dai shrugged off Tadashi, "Let us retire to your quarters and we can finalize these issues before it grows dark. I dislike being surrounded by undesirables."


But Misaki looked back at the shinobi before her father grabbed her arm. Her eyes grew wide and from that look, Ashiro could see all his questions answered at once. The questions of desire and of love, pulsing into his mind. Yet there was no time as two of Tadashi's other guards took Ashiro's arms.


"You have to go, brother, at least until Lord Nakagawa leaves Agata."


"I...." he said, "I apologize."  he added bowing as he turned with them, as the daimyo, his guest, and his daughter walked away into another room.  Rounding the corner he suddenly stopped.  His mind possessed by a will he could not deny.  Without thinking his elbow connected to his fellow guardsman face, knocking him unconscious, as the second reached for his sword, Ashiro grabbed him flipping him over his body and striking his face leaving them both unconscious.  He leapt up the wall scaling it, as he climbed through the dense wood work of the castle to beat them to the room.


[i]"I just cannot.  I cannot let her marry him."[/i] he thought to himself.  Ashiro felt horrible as he knew he was breaking his oath, his most sacred duty, but, what of his duty to a higher calling?  What was his karma?  Perhaps it was to do this dishonor, to save his lord, and... what was Misaki he thought.  She was his charge to protect, but was she more than that?


Her station mandated she be wed to a great lord.  He had always accepted that.  But deep down he felt a rush of gladness every time an old ugly fat has been was turned away.  Now that it was happening, he could not simply let this stand.  He saw a figures through the paper window.  Grabbing the ledge he swung himself up and then against it, bursting through the wall into rooms where negotiations were being conducted.  He brought up the top sleeve of his mask, covering his face with the blackness of the rest of his uniform.


One of Nakagawa's men came towards him.  Ashiro caught the Katana blade with his ninjato.  He spun it around as he drew his tanto, holding it blade down as he used it like a tiger claw to cut the neck of the guard, blood spurting out onto the guests.  Another guard came at him as he leaned down flipping him, sending him falling below to his fate.


The shinobi leaped between Misaki and this... mountain lord, in a fit of rage, raising his sword.  But as he did he heard sounds as soldiers burst into the room.  "ARRRGGGHHH!!!" he said, as he reached out grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet.  "Follow me now!"


"Ashiro! Let me go!" screamed Misaki. Everything had started moving so quickly from his entrance to killing the two guards that she had fallen away from the table as blood squirted over the room.


"Ashiro!" roared Tadashi as he approached the shinobi holding his daughter, "What are you doing? Let my daughter go and face your fate. You have overstepped your boundaries and for that you must die. You bring shame to me, to your family, and to this cas-" the Daimyo's breath vanished as a steel blade tore through his center. Tadashi dropped to the ground as Dai stood over him.


"I am tired of this constant interference, Shinobi, you are to blame for all of this. You caused the death of this man and you will cause the eternal suffering of his daughter. Know this when you die." Dai smiled as the soldiers in the room ran toward Ashiro.


Misaki froze in his arm, unable to move, unable to think, only seeing her father die. The image repeating with such speed it made her dizzy to the point of collapse.


Ashiro caught the first blade between his two, creating an 'x' he kicked the man back in his chest, knocking him into the first guards.  "Misaki, run now!" he pleaded with her as a second came at him.  He caught the blade parrying it and spilling the guts of the samurai onto the floor.  


"RAAAH!!!" he said as he tried to dodge a third blade, the katana ripping through the side of his leg, blood oozing out onto the floor as he leapt forward impaling the man in the neck.

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