American Mishima

 HATAMOTO

 

 

 

Honor Knows No Birthright

 

 

 

 

By Louis Edward Rosas

 

 

 

 

 

Samurai Archives Samurai Fiction Contest 2013 Version

12/2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

 

            Swift are the winds! Cold and indifferent they breeze through the shifting sands

 

of time. Such are ages past during a period of great turbulence and tumultuous change.

 

The year was 1867, Japan. The sun had begun to set on the waning days of the Tokugawa

 

Shogunate that drew ever nearer to a close. 260 years of self imposed isolation violently

 

disrupted by cannon fire from Commodore Perry's Flagship at Uraga Harbor ushering in

 

a state of chaos upon the tranquil island nation. Watched the indignant Samurai from

 

ashore. It became clear that the ways of old were now in danger of being swept away like

 

a tidal wave from the West. As such, their entire way of life was threatened with

 

extinction.

 

            During this time, the title of “Hatamoto” (a direct Vassal of the Shogun) was only

 

bestowed upon a few dedicated foreigners who had come to Japan into the service of the

 

Tokugawa Shogunate. Not since the time of the first Tokugawa Shogun had such an

 

honor granted in over 260 years. These brave soldiers of fortune made Hatamoto were

 

granted generous stipends, lands, retainers, servants, and bestowed Samurai Status in

 

appreciation for their service to the Shogunate. By accepting such rights and titles, these

 

few foreign born men would bear the two swords of the Samurai. They would serve the

 

Shogunate as direct vassals and if necessary die for it. But don't go looking for these

 

men. History only records three. Like those forgotten by time, this is the story of one

 

such man; Ashikaga Ginjiro - Hatamoto.

 

             For one American Southerner Jean-Paul Rainier, it seemed like yesterday that he

 

looked out over the ships rail of the USS Saratoga as she steamed into Uraga Harbor. He

 

had missed the call to return home to defend his Confederate State of North Carolina in

 

what became The War Between The States. It had been so long since he had stepped foot

 

there, he wouldn't recognize it now knowing the Union Troops had murdered his family

 

and set his family home and the rest of Fayetteville to the torch during General Sherman's

 

March to the Sea. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing left and no one to return

 

home to. For all intents and purposes, Japan had become his home.

 

            Years of being immersed into the language and culture had served him well. He 

 

had transformed from a Military Attaché to a trusted Retainer whose expertise in modern

 

weaponry made him highly sought for. So well adapted, he wore his brown hair in a tied

 

top knot fashion and dressed the part too. For his dedication to his Lordship Matsudaira

 

of the Aizu Domain, he was recognized by the 15th Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu. A

 

high honor he could have never achieved had he served the Confederacy or the Union. He

 

contemplated such weight of responsibility that came with his newly bestowed title as he

 

sat in the customary seiza position dressed in the formal Samurai attire of Hakama and

 

upper Kamishimo as he bowed his head low and his hands joined forward before the

 

Shogun as he made his decree. As the mantle of his new status the two swords were

 

presented the Shogun spoke; “From this day forward I declare that this man known as

 

Jean-Paul Rainier will be now known as Ashikaga Ginjiro. I bestow upon him the rank of

 

Hatamoto.”

 

            November, 1867. In the small outer layer fiefdom of Asakage granted to the 3rd 

 

Branch Family of the Aizu Domain, a celebration dinner was held in the partially restored

 

main hall of the old stronghold of Kiryu Castle that was situated atop a hill overlooking

 

the small fief. Seated in a tatami matted room were the newly appointed Hatamoto in the

 

middle. To Ginjiro's right sat his beautiful new consort the Lady Kasuga who wore an

 

elaborate Edo-Hairstyle and a red & gold kimono befitting a princess. And to his left sat 

 

his most trusted Retainer Sir Imagawa Shigeharu along with other Clansmen, servants, &

 

guests. Seated to the far end was both the Clan's best swordsmen and brother to Lady

 

Kusaga. He appeared visibly disgruntled dressed entirely in black Hakama and formal

 

Kamishimo with his avowed protege' Shindou Kogoro simmering at his side.

 

            As two seated ladies in gray formal kimono played shamisen, the assembled

 

guests and Clansmen laughed aloud and drank sake when suddenly Sir Matsunaga had

 

enough. Without warning, Sir Matsunaga threw his sake cup in anger across the room to

 

declare insult. Instinctively, the two lady shamisen players abruptly stopped playing. The

 

festive mood within the main hall of Kiryu Castle had come to an sudden halt. All eyes

 

were now focused on Sir Matsunaga Nobutomo who sat seething in anger.

 

            Ginjiro sat silently as his trusted Retainer Sir Imagawa arose to confront Sir

 

Matsunaga's inflamed mutiny. “Sir Matsunaga, what is the meaning of this?” demanded

 

Sir Imagawa. Sir Matsunaga arose to his feet reaching for his folding fan then pointing it

 

at Ginjiro and Lady Kusaga. “No! You tell me what is the meaning of this!” demanded

 

Sir Matsunaga.  Instantly Sir Matsunaga threw down his folding fan and reached for his

 

sword grip as Lady Kusaga put her hand out. “Brother!” she shouted as Sir Imagawa rose

 

off his knee to reach for his sword. “Yame!” ordered Ginjiro. “I believe Sir Matsunaga

 

has something to say,” said Ginjiro. “As a lifelong Retainer of this Branch Family of the

 

Aizu Clan, I do have something to say. I look around this room and can only find pity and

 

disgust,” he declared “Pity?” questioned Lady Kusaga.

 

            Sir Matsunaga looked about the main hall to the seated guests with dire contempt.

 

“Look at what has become of our Branch Family! Our Clan! And you my dear sister!

 

What has become of you!” he scolded. “Eh?” exclaimed Lady Kusaga. “Sir Matsunaga,

 

what are you trying to imply by that?” asked Ginjiro. “As eldest and senior most male

 

heir of our family, I do not give my consent. Only my contempt! You have somehow

 

curried favor with our Lord and been given Samurai status within a most prestigious

 

Branch Family of the Aizu Clan,” slighted Matsunaga. Ginjiro understanding Sir

 

Matsunaga's objections sat in restraint. “I have asked for nothing. Everything bestowed

 

upon me has been in the opinion of our Lord most graciously earned,” said Ginjiro. “So

 

be it. As impressive a feat for such a barbarian as yourself, you have not impressed me

 

in the least nor does your mere presence within our house or with my dear sister go

 

without offense. In fact, your mere acceptance within this house is an affront to my status

 

as a Samurai Now it seems anyone can be Hatamoto!” mocked Sir Matsunaga. Ginjiro

 

attempted to speak: “I respectfully understand your objections but I assure you...”

 

“Assure me what akaoni?” mocked Sir Matsunaga. “You bastard! How dare you defy our

 

Lord's sanction and His Excellency's decree!” scolded Sir Imagawa.“No, how dare you!”

 

replied Sir Matsunaga. Lady Kusaga could no longer sit idly by without one last attempt

 

to reason with her indignant elder brother. “Brother, why make disharmony amidst our

 

Clan? Our Lord has accepted His Excellency's decree,” reasoned Lady Kusaga. “He

 

accepted it. Not I,” he replied. “Know your place man!” shouted Sir Imagawa. “It's

 

alright. Let him speak. I want to hear his stinging rebuke so I may further understand,”

 

said Ginjiro.

 

II

 

            Sir Matsunaga arose from his seated position adjusting his short sword tied to his

 

waist before he addressed the seated guests. “It is because of such decrees that it has

 

become apparent that there is no longer any point in being a Samurai when anyone can

 

become Samurai. The Age of the Sword is over,” declared Sir Matsunaga. “The modern

 

world may have arrived at Japan's doorstep but the Shogun’s decree still stands,”

 

remarked Ginjiro. “Damn the Shogun! He is finished! The whole Bakufu is finished! So

 

long as this house serves him you are all finished too!” shouted Sir Matsunaga. And goes

 

for the rest of you! All of you who will allow this desecration of our Samurai tradition to

 

take place in our Clan!” cried Sir Matsunaga. “Yame! That's enough!” ordered Ginjiro.

 

“If you call yourself a Samurai then I challenge you to a duel. I will await your answer in

 

the dojo,” challenged Sir Matsunaga as he and his protege' Kogoro left the main hall.

 

            The remaining Clansmen were stunned by Sir Matsunaga's rebuke. Silence

 

quickly filled the air as Sir Imagawa tried to stop Ginjiro from accepting Sir Matsunaga's

 

challenge. “Ginjirosan, you cannot fight him. He is our Clan's best swordsmen. You are

 

no match for him. He will kill you,” said Sir Imagawa. “He has challenged me. As a

 

Samurai, I am honor bound to accept,” replied Ginjiro. “No Sir. Please allow me to fight

 

in your stead,” offered Sir Imagawa. “Arigatou' Imagawasan. But I must fight for the

 

honor of my stead and our clan,” said Ginjiro. While seen as bold, if not foolish, Lady

 

Kusaga expressed her concern for her consort. “Anata, you are Hatamoto. His Lordship

 

would object to this duel. It is not necessary for you to fight him,” pleaded Lady Kusaga.

 

“Listen to Lady Kusaga. You don’t have to fight him. I will fight in your place,” pleaded

 

Sir Imagawa. “Thank you but please understand, this is something I alone must do.”

                      

III

 

            Minutes later, Ginjiro entered the Dojo to find Sir Matsunaga standing there with

 

his sword drawn and his protege' Kogoro waiting him. He is joined by Sir Imagawa and

 

several of the Clan’s Retainers. “As you both know, our Lord forbids killing within our

 

Clan. If you must fight, use wooden Bokto sword and fight with honor,” instructed Sir

 

Imagawa. “Very well,” acknowledged Matsunaga. Sir Matsunaga Nobutomo untied his

 

sword and passed it to his protégé Kogoro before taking to the floor.

 

            As tradition dictated, both belligerents bowed in customary acknowledgment

 

before drawing their swords. In a flash, Ginjiro blocked Matsunaga's first three rapid

 

attacks but after striking his sword once his shoulder was hit. Sir Matsunaga was too fast

 

for him. Undaunted, Ginjiro arose to his feet to attack but is blocked and struck down

 

once more with a heavy blow to his back sending him down to the ground.“Enough

 

already!” demanded Sir Imagawa. Sir Imagawa stepped forward and drew his sword to

 

defend the stricken Ginjiro.“That is enough!” repeated Sir Imagawa. “You may wear the

 

two swords of a Samurai. But unlike you, I was born a Samurai,” taunted Sir Matsunaga.

 

“That may be, but we serve the same Lord do we not?” replied Ginjiro. Unimpressed, Sir

 

Matsunaga extended his hand for Kogoro to return his sword which he instantly placed at

 

his waist. Then without warning, Sir Matsunaga drew his short sword and made an

 

unexpected move. With the grip of his left hand he held his top knot and cut it off with

 

his right hand before throwing it to the ground in protest. “Brother, what have you done?”

 

asked Lady Kusaga. “My honor as a Samurai will not allow me to serve any lord that will

 

allow such Barbarians to serve him!” declared Sir Matsunaga. “And you Kogoro?” asked

 

Lady Kusaga. Following Sir Matsunaga's lead, Kogoro reached for his short sword and

 

cut off his top knot in a display of loyalty. “I go with my Uchi-dachi,” declared Kogoro.

 

“Then Go then! Leave with your disloyalty and never return!” shouted Sir Imagawa. As

 

the two outgoing Retainers exited the dojo, Sir Matsunaga delivered one last parting jab.

 

“I will join the Emperor's forces and we next meet, I will destroy you all.”

 

IV

 

            Weeks later, The 15th Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu summoned all of his

 

retainers and hereditary clans to mount an offensive against Imperialist forces massed in

 

Kyoto. The numerically superior medieval armies of the Shogun proved to be no match

 

against the modern howitzers, repeating rifles, and Gatling guns of the Choshu–Satsuma

 

Alliance. Armed with new modern weapons from the West, the combined Imperial

 

Forces of the Choshu, Satsuma, and Tosa Clans delivered a series of stunning defeats

 

driving the remaining Shogunate Loyalist forces North as more clans turned against the

 

Shogun.

 

            January 31st, 1868 – Following the defection of the Yodo Domain, the Shogun

 

fled Osaka Castle following defeat at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. The Shogun had

 

planned escape aboard the Japanese Warship Kaiyo Maru but the ship had not arrived.

 

Humiliated, the desperate Tokugawa Shogun and his remaining party including Aizu

 

Lord Matsudaira and Hatamoto Ginjiro took refuge aboard the American Warship USS

 

Iroquois anchored in Osaka Bay.

 

            It is with weary eyes that the Lord of Aizu looked out over the ships rail as Osaka

 

Castle could be seen in flames. Ignoring the looks of contempt by his former countrymen,

 

Ginjiro sought to offer solace to his Lord and bowed low aboard the deck of the USS

 

Iroquois. “My Lord, I have failed you. Please ask of me what you wish,” said Ginjiro.

 

“No Ginjirosan. You have not failed me or Japan. We are all now subject to the tide of

 

history no one can stop,” said Lord Aizu. “What must I do My Lord?” asked Ginjiro. “Do

 

what you feel is best. Follow your heart and protect those you love,” replied Lord Aizu.

 

Ginjiro bowed once again before being tapped on the shoulder by an American Sailor.

 

“Hey! You speak English right?” asked the Sailor. “Yeah,” replied Ginjiro. “Good! The

 

Captain wants to see you. Follow me.” Ginjiro followed the Sailor to the quarters of 

 

American Captain Earl English as the USS Iroquois steamed clear of Osaka Bay. With

 

one last parting glance at the flames engulfing Osaka Castle in the distance, it became

 

clear that the realities of his situation would come to face him.

 

            A loud knock could be heard at the door. “Enter,” said Captain English.

 

Seaman Coleman entered the Captain’s Quarters and saluted. “Captain, He’s here.”

 

“Thank you Mr. Coleman. That will be all,” dismissed Captain English. Seaman Coleman

 

saluted once more before exiting the Captain’s Quarters as Ginjiro entered with his two

 

swords removed from his obi belt. “Please take a seat,” instructed Captain English.

 

“Thank you.” “Now then, what is your name?” asked Captain English. “I am Ashikaga

 

Ginjiro of the 3rd Branch Family of the Aizu Domain.” “Spoken like a true Jappo! Now

 

let's cut the crap!” rebuked Captain English. “Give me your Christian name you came to

 

this country with,” demanded Captain English. “Very well, I was born Jean-Paul Rainier

 

of Fayetteville, North Carolina. I was a former US Military Attaché before being made

 

Samurai by His Excellency the 15th Tokugawa Shogun” revealed Ginjiro. “Is that a fact?”

 

asked Captain English. “Hai,” answered Ginjiro.

 

            Captain English seemed most unimpressed. “Mr. Rainier, I don't know what you

 

are doing here in Japan, but your Shogun is in the next cabin sobbing away as his empire

 

burns in revolt. You Sir should you stick by him will be on the losing side of history,”

 

said Captain English. “This is not history. This is war,” replied Ginjiro. “But it’s not your

 

war,” argued Captain English. “Encontrare! It is,” argued Ginjiro. “If you say so. In any

 

case, we'll depart from these waters after we drop the Shogun's party off in Edo Bay. If

 

you have any sense of self preservation you will come with us,” offered Captain English.

 

“And go where?” Ginjiro asked. “Back home where you belong in the United States of

 

America.”

 

            Home. Now there was a thought that conjured up strong feelings of resentment.

 

News had traveled to Japan detailing the South's defeat in the War Between the States

 

and that of the devastation his former state of North Carolina which had suffered greatly

 

at the hand of General Sherman. But what of it? The man formerly known as Jean-Paul

 

Rainier had no love for Slavery nor did he agree with the Confederacy. Yet affinity for

 

one's home state at that time was paramount and often trumped that of the Union. But

 

now, the world he had known existed no more.

 

            “Home? That home was destroyed when Sherman burnt it to the ground. There is

 

no home or family for me to return to now. This is my home,” declared Ginjiro. “What

 

This? Look around you! The Shogunate is defeated. You don't have to die for them,”

 

argued Captain English. “But I am honor bound to defend the Bakufu. They gave me a

 

new life here and I shall do what I can to repay for it,” replied Ginjiro. “Suit yourself.

 

Most eloquently spoken. The South could have sure used you and I for one am glad you

 

stayed out of it,” said Captain English. “Captain, with all due respect you took an oath

 

before you first put on that uniform did you not?” asked Ginjiro. “That I did. To defend

 

the Constitution and United States of America.” “Well so did I. And this land I too shall

 

defend!” declared Ginjiro.

 

V

 

            May 1868 – By now the 15th Tokugawa Shogun had long abdicated his position.

 

Shogunate Army Minister Kaishu Katsu peacefully surrendered Edo Castle while the

 

newly minted Imperial Army continued to hunt the Loyalist forces. Of what remaining

 

Loyalists remained fleeing north were the Aizu, Sendai, Yonezawa and Nagaoka Clans   

 

constituting the Northern Alliance. Ginjiro and his surviving men were found retreating

 

downhill under the red glow of the burning castle town of Asakaga. The fires could be

 

seen over the low hill top further revealing the main keep of Kiryu Castle giving way to

 

collapse under from fire damage inflicted during the siege by Tosa and Satsuma troops.

 

As the whole of Asakaga and Kiryu Castle lay waste, Lady Kusaga looked on. “Ginjiro-

 

Sama, What are we to do?” she asked. “We must leave if we are to regroup with our

 

remaining forces,” he replied. “Asakaga was our home,” she lamented. “It is immaterial

 

now,” replied Ginjiro. “So true. You speak like you are truly Japanese.” “Dear, where I

 

come from we have a saying; Home is where the heart is.” With a deep breath, Lady

 

Kusaga looked into Ginjiro's eyes once more. “And where is your heart now?” she asked.

 

“It is with you and the people I love,” he replied. With a tear in her eye, Lady Kusaga

 

embraced Ginjiro and looked on when Sir Imagwa raced up from the Castle escape route.

 

“Ginjiro-Sama! We don't have much time,” he exclaimed. “Hai,” replied Ginjiro. 

 

“Imperial forces have overrun the outer gates and breached the inner compound. We must

 

leave now while we still can!” cried Sir Imagawa. “But where shall we go?” she asked.

 

“North to Ezo. And should we survive this Boshin War, we will build a new home,” he

 

promised. “If we survive, you and I shall build it together,” aspired Lady Kusaga.

 

 

 

VI

 

            As the Loyalist armies suffered defeat after defeat. As the remnants of the

 

Shogun’s forces retreated Northwards to the northernmost point of Honshu, Ginjiro’s

 

remaining men comprising the rear guard at Sendai fought on in a losing battle so the

 

remaining Loyalist forces could escape to the north. Meanwhile, Sir Matsunaga now

 

fights as a Captain in the newly minted Imperial Army under the new name of Sakai

 

Nobumasa. He had transformed himself from a proud Samurai to that of a modern

 

military officer sporting shorter hair, mustache, and the dark navy blue uniform of the

 

Imperial Army never once forgetting his vendetta against his former clansmen and that of

 

the barbarian made Hatamoto that brought about his shame. A grudge he would not have

 

to wait too long to fulfill.

 

            Weeks later somewhere along the sands of Sendai, Ginjiro and Sir Imagawa

 

defend a small sand bagged uphill position with matchlock rifles comprising the rear

 

guard of the Northern Alliance in their retreat north to Ezo (present day Hokkaido) to

 

form a new Shogunate. They each wear the white Hachimaki headbands stating their

 

loyalties as the banners of the Tokugawa Clan and of the Northern Alliance fly in the

 

breeze. Smoke from gunfire envelops the sand bagged position making it difficult to

 

see.

 

            “Ginjiro-Sama! We are surrounded! Our escape to Ezo has been cut off!” cried

 

Sir Imagawa. “Then it is here we shall make our stand,” declared Ginjiro. “Hai! We shall

 

stand together as brothers and fight so others may live!” proclaimed Sir Imagawa. As a

 

new column of Imperial Troops take position some 100 yards from them, Ginjiro raised

 

his arm with a pistol in hand and readied his command; “UTE! - FIRE!” The battered

 

remnants of the Asakaga Samurai fire a volley downhill to the Imperial Troops who in

 

turn fire back with greater velocity and deadlier aim. With each volley, more of Ginjiro’s

 

men are killed than those of the Imperial Troops below.

 

            The battle carried on into the night and up until dawn. Exhausted, Ginjiro opened

 

his brass spyglass to see the Imperial Troops prepare for their final assault on the last

 

Asakaga defensive position. And in that moment he spotted a familiar face commanding

 

troops in their field. “Oh no!” exclaimed Ginjiro. “What is it?” asked Sir Imagawa.

 

“Look into this spyglass and tell me what you see.”  Sir Imagawa peered into the

 

spyglass. “Nobutomo! He lives!” exclaimed Sir Imagawa. “This is not good,” remarked

 

Ginjiro. “Do you think he will...” “Oh most definitely!” replied Ginjiro.

 

            Ginjiro thought about his previous duel and of Lady Kusaga who was retreating

 

with her handmaidens under the escort of the Sendai Samurai retreating north while the

 

last of the Asakaga Samurai fight on. And just then a voice cried out: “I am Sakai

 

Nobumasa, Captain of His Highness's Imperial Army. I call out to you remaining

 

Asakaga holdouts to heed my words. I am seeking a man. A foreigner made Hatamoto by

 

the name of Ashikage Ginjiro. Surrender him and you may all live! Non-compliance will

 

earn you no quarter!”

 

            Nobutomo's offer weighed heavy with Ginjiro as he looked upon the battered

 

faces of what was left of his exhausted Samurai. Wounded, Ginjiro considered surrender. 

 

“Nobumasa! There is another way so we can all live,” creid Ginjiro. “You are an Imperial

 

Rebel! The only way is for you to accept my challenge and then maybe your men can

 

live,” countered Nobumasa. Ginjiro looked to his Retainer for advice. “Ginjirosan, you

 

can not surrender to him,” reasoned Sir Imagawa. “No, but perhaps he will accept my

 

counter offer,” suggested Ginjiro. Just then Ginjiro stood atop their small dug out

 

redoubt. An Imperial soldier had Ginjiro in his sights and prepared to shoot when

 

Lieutenant Kogoro pushed down the soldier rifle preventing the soldier from interfering.

 

“Nobumasa, I propose a counter offer,” proposed Ginjiro. “Oh?” asked Captain Sakai.

 

“We finish our duel and you let my men go,” offered Ginjiro. “A most enticing offer

 

Barbarian! Your offer is accepted” declared Nobumasa. Just then Sir Imagawa took

 

notice of Captain Sakai's western saber sword at his waist favored by officers of the new

 

Imperial Army. “Ginjiro, you cannot beat him with a Samurai Sword. But you are skilled

 

with a saber. Fight him with the Saber. Then you both will be equally matched,” advised

 

Sir Imagawa. “Good thinking Shigeharusan!” said Ginjiro. Just then, Ginjiro baited his

 

opponent with a new ploy. “Only one caveat Nobumasa,” proposed Ginjiro. “Oh?”  “We

 

fight with sabers! Ne?” “Agreed!” replied Captain Sakai.

 

VII

 

            Captain Sakai had agreed to Ginjiro's terms and asked Kogoro for his saber sword

 

to offer his opponent to use. As Ginjiro and Sir Imagawa stepped forward onto the beach,

 

Kogoro's men kept their rifles trained on the remaining Asakaga Samurai. “Karma has

 

indeed played its hand,” remarked Sir Imagawa. “Well I am not done playing yet,”

 

declared Ginjiro as he handed his katana and pistol to Sir Imagawa. Captain Sakai threw

 

his pistol to down onto the sand as Lieutenant Kogoro tossed his saber to Ginjiro. “You

 

still think because the Tokugawa made you Hatamoto you think you are Samurai?”

 

taunted Nobumasa. “Nay, I'm just a soldier who fights for the Samurai,” replied Ginjiro.

 

            With a firm grip, Ginjiro yielded the familiar saber sword with confidence that he

 

had gained in the Mexican-American War. “And now I challenge you to the duel we

 

never had!” taunted Ginjiro. Captain Sakai Nobumasa gripped his saber and put forth his

 

one leg stance with one arm sword drawn. Ginjiro mirrored his every move as they

 

postured along the water's edge. Then with a half lunge or two from both men, steel

 

clashed and sparks flew! Captain Sakai, while quite skilled at the katana was at a clear

 

disadvantage with the saber as Ginjiro repeatedly hit his sword driving him knee deep

 

into the water before easing back.

 

            Captain Sakai thrust forth missing Ginjiro while taking a cut to his arm. And

 

then again coming within a breath of Ginjiro's blade before taking three steps back to

 

catch his breath and assess the severity of his saber inflicted wounds.“You fight well!”

 

complimented Captain Sakai. “I have used sabers in battle,” replied Ginjiro. “But can you

 

match me with a Katana?” baited Nobumasa. “Ginjiro No!” cried out Sir Imagawa as

 

Ginjiro threw down his saber and drew his Katana. With a smile, Captain Sakai took a

 

Katana from Lieutenant Kogoro and assumed a new stance holding the sword with two

 

hands. “Now you fight on my terms. Prepare yourself to fight on Samurai terms!” he

 

shouted.

 

            Though wounded, Captain Sakai leaped into the air to strike Ginjiro but his strike

 

was deflected. A moment later, Nobumasa charged again for Ginjiro's abdomen lightly

 

slicing through his clothes. Ginjiro momentarily looked down and could see blood

 

running down his leg as Captain Sakai bent over dripping blood from another cut he did

 

not feel in his charge. “Don't you know when you are already dead yet?” asked Captain

 

Sakai. “I was about to ask you the same thing. With all things being equal and the specter

 

of death being all around us, I have never felt more alive!” replied Ginjiro.

 

            As both wounded combatants raised their swords, Ginjiro looked back to his

 

Retainer. “Give my love to Lady Kusaga. Tell her she must live on. Japan must live on!”

 

cried Ginjiro. “Hai!” acknowledged Sir Imagawa. “Shigeharusan is right. I can't win this

 

fight. But for Japan's future, my men as well as yours must live,” said Ginjiro. “And what

 

say you of men like us?” asked Nobumasa. “If we cannot work for peace then we must

 

die so those who do may live,” declared Ginjiro. “So be it!” replied Sakai. “If I must die,

 

then I will die a Samurai,” declared Ginjiro.

 

VIII

 

            The two combatants stood six feet from each other with their feet at the waters

 

edge. Blood dripped from each other’s hands as the two simultaneously raised their

 

swords. Ginjiro ignored Sir Imagawa's pleas as he prepared for one last strike. Sir

 

Imagawa in turn gave one final tearful smile to Ginjiro before facing his destiny as both

 

Kogoro's men and Asakaga Samurai watched with trepidation and suspense. “Ready?”

 

asked Nobumasa. “Hai! We shouldn't keep the men waiting any longer,” replied Ginjiro.

 

“Prepare to die,” said Nobumasa. “No, we shall die together,” said Ginjiro. “And why is

 

that?” asked Nobumasa. “Because I am Ashikaga Ginjiro – Hatamoto!”

 

            With a roaring cry the two men rushed each other and stopped three feet past each

 

other gripping their blood stained swords. A moment later, both men dropped to their

 

knees. Captain Sakai looked down and discovered the mortal wound Ginjiro had cut

 

across his abdomen. “Ginjirosan! This is most unexpected! A brilliant swift attack

 

worthy of the Samurai you have become!” complimented Nobumasa. Ginjiro painfully

 

looked across the sword cut he sustained from his opponent. “Arigatou' Nobumasasan,”

 

thanked Ginjiro. The two former enemies looked each other in the eyes and nod their

 

heads in agreement before falling face forward into the sand. It was there along the  

 

shores of Sendai that Nobutomo gave Ginjiro the earned respect in death he could not

 

give him in life and with it, a lasting peace the two could not have ever known.

 

            “No!” cried Sir Imagawa as he rushed to Ginjiro's side as Kogoro’s men took aim

 

to fire on the Asakaga Samurai. “Nobody fire!” ordered Lieutenant Kogoro. “But Sir!”

 

protested one soldier. “That's an order!” reiterated Kogoro. Then out of nowhere, a subtle

 

white mist came off the water enveloping the shoreline where the deadly duel had just

 

concluded. “Ginjiro was right,” Kogoro muttered to himself. “Shigeharusan, please take

 

your clansmen and go!” ordered Kogoro. Sir Imagwa accepted Kogoro's leave as both

 

groups of men carried away their fallen leaders. “Kogorosan?” asked Shigeharu. “Hai,”

 

replied Kogoro.  “Is there any hope for our people?” asked Shigeharu. Lieutenant Kogoro

 

sighed as he looked out to the sea. He then reached down and picked up his saber sword

 

off the blood stained sand and re-sheathed it into its scabbard before looking up to reply

 

to his former clansmen. “If we learn the lessons of these men, there will always be hope.”

 

END

 

 

4860 Word Count

terated Kogoro. Then out of nowhere, a subtle

 

white mist came off the water enveloping the shoreline where the deadly duel had just

 

concluded. “Ginjiro was right,” Kogoro muttered to himself. “Shigeharusan, please take

 

your clansmen and go!” ordered Kogoro. Sir Imagwa accepted Kogoro's leave as both

 

groups of men carried away their fallen leaders. “Kogorosan?” asked Shigeharu. “Hai,”

 

replied Kogoro.  “Is there any hope for our people?” asked Shigeharu. Lieutenant Kogoro

 

sighed as he looked out to the sea. He then reached down and picked up his saber sword

 

off the blood stained sand and re-sheathed it into its scabbard before looking up to reply

 

to his former clansmen. “If we learn the lessons of these men, there will always be hope.”

 

END

 

 

4860 Word Count