It’s a Girl
By Phil Gomez
By Phil Gomez
(Japanese / English)
Seven in the
morning, eighth of May 1848, signal was given for morning chores to
commence. This day was to be as any day
in the dojo although it was filled with less activity. Genda-san, the previous day had taken
advanced students to accompany the Shogonate to halt Endokanasuri’s army less than two hundred miles away. This could have been Reuben’s chance to
witness Samurai warfare after living in
“I know you are
skilled in warfare from your country’s war with
“Am I not a student of this dojo?”
“That you are, but still a novice.”
“With respect, my experience is valuable here. Endokanasuri’s army is equipped with muskets. I value the code of the sword, but it will be no match with a musket.”
wanted Reuben to accompany him. His
knowledge in such weapons would be valuable.
However, other Samurai of the Shogonate would put him to death even with
his allegiance. Still, Reuben was
willing to take the risk for the man that had filled his life with the wiliness
to live after the horrors he witnessed in
“Your life would be in danger from either side. You are a student with great promise and have learned much,” Genda-san said. “As much help you would be, I have more important tasks. Reuben, I would consider a great favor if you would care for my family while we march.” With dire sincerity, Genda-san placed his hand on Reuben’s shoulder. “It may not be battle, but if defeated, Endokanasuri will devour private lands. It will be up to you to lead the rest and protect my family.”
Reuben knew it was an empty task to make him feel needed, but none the less, he bowed before Genda-san. “I will protect your family as if they were my own.”
Five in the evening, seventh of May 1848,
Renee lay in her room with Colleen, Lucy, and May at her side in
Nine months prior, Renee and Reuben shared that evening before he departed in search of Akagi Genda-san. The day after Renee was to be married, an arrangement made by her father.
The following day, she could not go through with the arrangement and ran to the docks to see Reuben one last time, but the ship had departed. Renee’s father was dishonored because of his daughter’s action and for that she was denounced from her family.
With no where to go, Reuben’s sister, Lucy helped Renee while she secretly lived in the back room of the school where Colleen taught. Renee became sick and Lucy confessed to her parents. Aaron and Colleen found Renee unconscious in the school and took her to the hospital. Colleen stayed with her as Aaron went to seek Renee’s Father, but he did not want to have anything to do with Renee and closed the door on Aaron.
When Aaron returned, he found Renee sitting between Colleen and Lucy, crying. When Colleen saw Aaron, she took Renee’s face in her hands.
“Don’t worry child, everything will be fine,” she said. “Lucy, please stay with her.” Lucy nodded.
Colleen took Aaron by the hand. “She is exhausted. Where’s Mr. Wallace?”
Aaron’s face frowned with anger. “That man didn’t want to have anything to do with Renee.”
Saddened, Colleen glanced to Renee. She looked back to Aaron. “There is more to Renee’s illness dear.”
“What is it?”
“Renee is with child.”
“That’s impossible; who’s the father?”
Colleen took a deep breath and released it. “She confessed that she and Reuben spent time together the evening before he left. She loves our son and I can see now that Reuben loves her also, but with her father’s arrangement, they could do nothing. She wanted to be with the one she loved at least once before her life as she knew it ended.”
Aaron didn’t know how to react.
Reuben is going to be a father and he does not know and there is no way
of finding him, he thought. He felt sad
and thought of how his and Colleen’s happiness compared to Renee and Reuben and
of how Reuben’s innocence was taken from him in the war with
The dojo banners were raised after morning chores. The main mast, however, was empty for Taiko had taken the large banner to fly along with the other Samurai clans aligned with the Shogonate.
Students began to arrive. The hall became busy with activities of pre-training. Reuben clapped his hands as he entered and bowed. All the students ran to their positions and sat in the seiza position to await the beginning of training. Genda-san entrusted Reuben to hold small training sessions because of his ability to learn and teach. Reuben asked Genda-san to promise that he would not reveal Reuben’s military experiences to the others, so they knew nothing of his experiences of war, including Taiko.
The wind picked up and distant thunder could be heard. A storm is coming, Reuben thought as he looked beyond the pillars to the west. He began to think of Renee for no reason. One of the students cleared his throat bringing Reuben back to the present. He nodded and faced the other students, turned to face the empty mast where the Akagi banner flew, bowed, raised and clapped his hands. He then turned to face the students, bowed as they bowed back, and began the first of many exercises. Drops of rain began to wet the grounds around the training hall and the thunder was getting louder.
The contraction began to fade and Renee’s breathing slowed. “Mrs. Duran, I didn’t expect it to be like this. I don’t know if I can go on.”
Colleen gave her a reassuring smile. “May is right, you are doing fine. Much better than myself when Reuben was coming born.”
Renee smiled and looked out the window to the east. “I’m thinking of him now. He does not know of his baby being born. I don’t know where he is or if he’s alive, but the memories of our friendship keeps me happy.”
Lucy took a seat at the foot of the bed. “You do realize that if he did know, my brother would never have left and would be with you now.”
“I know, but if he did not go seek Mr. Akagi, both of us would be miserable. He with his memories of the war and me married to a man like my father.” Renee frowned for a moment with the thought of her father disowning her. But she looked up at Colleen and Lucy and then May. “Mr. Akagi may have saved Reuben and me in more ways then any of us can imagine.”
Colleen tilted her head with happiness and embraced Renee. “I don’t know what it is with you two.”
The door opened and in walked Doctor Weldon with Aaron. Colleen and Lucy made room for Doctor Weldon to examine Renee.
“Ah my dear lass, looks like you’re having a baby this evening,” he said smiling as he sat next to her.
Colleen advised the doctor of Renee’s condition. The doctor then cleared the room of everyone except for Colleen and May. Before he left, Aaron came to Renee’s side, took her hand and kissed her on the forehead. “That’s for Reuben.”
Twelve men made their way down the hillside masked by tall trees as Aaron kissed Renee on the forehead. They were loyal to Endokanasuri who had sent them to assassinate Akagi Genda-san’s family while he was away. Endokanasuri sent assassins to other Samurai families to perform the same horrible task.
At the foot of the hill, they stopped and looked over the home of Akagi Genda-san. The apparent leader nodded to the others. Three of them, armed with muskets, began loading them. A flash of lightning followed by a loud crack of thunder startled one of the men loading, causing him to fire.
In the dojo, Reuben was uki for another student. Loud thunder sounded followed by a peculiar smaller thunder sound causing Reuben to halt the training. He went to the open window and glanced to where the strange thunder came from. The other students stopped their practice in puzzlement and watched Reuben.
Looking sternly, his innocent look he had regained turned back into that cold angered distant stare. The noise was familiar but not for this land. The wind finally caught up and brought with it a familiar scent, gunpowder. He glanced to the house, to the others, then back to the hills where the sound came from and saw smoke and he caught a glance of a figure ducking into thick brush.
Ishsuki, another student stepped to Reuben’s side. “What is it?” he asked and noticed a look in Reuben’s eyes that frightened him.
“Put away the bokkens and pass out katanas, bows, arrows and spears. Endokanasuri is cheating.”
A loud cry came from Renee’s room. Aaron paced up and down the hall in the same manner he did when his own children were born. Monroe and Lucy occupied themselves with an unmotivated checker game. All doing different tasks to pass the time, but all had the same thought: Renee’s condition and where and what was Reuben doing this very moment.
“Open the katana case. Kuramoto, pass out the bows,” Reuben ordered. The others responded without haste. While the weapons were being passed out, Reuben quickly assigned the others posts around the Akagi home.
“Stay in pairs of two, but separate into equal distances never losing sight from one other.”
Ishsuki and the others looked puzzled at the directions Reuben just stated. It was a form of alignment never taught. They just stood there shrugging their shoulders.
“Quickly, standard skirmish drill except with no muskets.” The students continued to wonder. “For heaven sakes, pair up and keep each other in view and if anyone sees any movement, give warning.” That said, they understood and did as Reuben instructed. The students soon formed a parameter around the grounds.
“Ishsuki, come with me. We need to get Genda-san’s family to the safety of the dojo.” Together they ran to the house, katanas in hand, while the rain began to come down faster.
“Mrs. Duran, please don’t be offended but when I see your son again, I’m going to slap him so hard, he’ll have an imprint of my hand on his face for nine months!” Renee said finishing another long contraction.
Colleen, May, and Doctor Weldon laughed. “That’s it lass, that’s the way to keep up your spirits,” said Doctor Weldon.
“You two would fight and wrestle at least a few times a week for one reason or another,” remarked May.
“Remember when you dislocated his shoulder after he put a frog down the back of your dress at school?” asked Colleen.
“Mrs. Duran, dislocating Reuben’s shoulder is going to be a tickle compared to what he is in store for when he comes home.”
‘When he comes home,’ Colleen enjoyed the sound of that. Renee has not given up hope for him, she thought. However, Colleen continued to wonder, as far as Reuben knew, Renee is married. Her thought was interrupted when she felt Renee squeeze her hand tightly and began to breathe harder.
With Renee’s breathing slowing, Doctor Weldon said, “it’s almost time.”
“No, not yet, please, I must speak to Mr. Duran first,” moaned Renee.
The others looked puzzled. Colleen nodded to May and she quickly walked to the door. Aaron, still pacing, saw the door open and stopped. “Mr. Duran, sir. Miss Renee wants you. Come quick.”
Aaron quickly walked in. He sat at Renee’s side. “I’m here sweet girl.”
Renee looked to him with tears in her eyes but they were not tears of pain but regret. “Mr. Duran, I apologize for bringing this burden to you,” she whispered. “My parents abandoned me, and of all times, I need a family now.”
Colleen walked around and stood by Aaron’s side. “I am so ashamed of how this child is coming into this world,” she continued, “with no real mother and father” she admitted.
Tears came to May’s eyes and even Doctor Weldon felt moved.
“But please know this, what Reuben and I have is true love for each other.”
Aaron retrieved his handkerchief and wiped tears coming down Renee’s cheeks. “My sweet girl, there is no doubt that what you and our Reuben have is love. Like Mr. Akagi mentioned, ‘destinies are like tangled string. They meet at junctions but it is the one that must untangle the string to travel on a straight path to harmony.’” Aaron stopped to think. He couldn’t believe he remembered that quote and finally understood what it meant.
“None of us wanted Reuben to go, but he had to clear the reapers from his mind.”
“I talked him into going,” Renee said feeling regret. “I feel like I sent him away and will never know if he still loves me.”
“You didn’t send him away. Sweet Renee, Reuben to this day, does not know you did not get married, and do you wonder why he left before it would have happened?”
“No,” she replied.
sincerely. “We all know how kind and
gentle Reuben is. The war took that
innocence away, but that kind and gentleness was still within him and of all
people in this world, you were the only one that could make it surface. It was you that made him leave
Aaron looked toward the window facing east and frowned. For a brief moment, he felt anger toward Reuben for not being here, but then Mr. Akagi’s words made more sense. If he had stayed, Renee would be married into a life she would dread and Reuben probably would have killed himself like he tried before.
‘Destinies are like tangled string.’ Could this Mr. Akagi be a prophet? Aaron thought. He looked back at Renee and took her hand in his.
“Renee, my dear” Aaron spoke in his deep Scots accent, “ya have Duran blood in ye. This child you are about to bring into this world is of the Duran Clan and will forever be a true Duran just as you are, my daughter.” Aaron then kissed Renee on the forehead.
Renee felt joy. “Thank you. I do love you, mother and father.”
“Hey now, in this family the children call me ‘Da’. Now stop your sulking, my grand child is waiting to be born!”
Ishsuki and Reuben ran to the Akagi home. Every several steps, Reuben looked back toward the dojo and listening for any warnings from the others. They ran to the rear entrance and ignored protocol for entering a proper Samurai home.
“Maigiru,” Reuben hollered as he and Ishsuki entered the house.
Genda-san’s wife, Maigiru, entered the room followed by her two daughters, Sukuri and Kaoru. “What is the meaning of this intrusion?” she asked perturbed.
“A thousand pardons Maigiru, but there is danger and we must get you and the children to the safety of the dojo,” Reuben explained.
“Nonsense, the danger is miles away,” replied Maigiru. She didn’t speak to Reuben very often and when she did, he was very pleasant; now, his look was hard and piercing. It frightened her.
“There’s no time to explain,” Reuben insisted as a loud bang sounded from the woods. A thud was heard hitting the house. Everyone, except Reuben hunched down. “Please Maigiru, take the girls and follow Ishsuki.”
Maigiru nodded and pulled Sukuri and Kaoru toward the exit of the house and she began to run back into the inner portion of the house.
“Where are you going? We need to get to the dojo,” shouted Reuben.
“I have to get Himiru,” cried Maigiru.
Himiru was still in his crib. “I’ll get him; you take the girls and follow Ishsuki.” Reuben went into the larger portion of the house and into the infant’s room.
Himiru lay in his crib. Reuben gently reached in and picked up the infant. Reuben had never held a baby before and he looked at Himiru’s face and suddenly began to think about Renee. It was odd for thoughts of her to enter his mind while the house was being attacked. “Renee” he said softly out loud.
Another musket fire caused Reuben to regain his composure and his face returned back to fierce anger. He covered the infant with a blanket and ran out of the house, shielding Himiru with his body. Maigiru and the others were waiting for him.
Another shot was heard and the bullet impacted on the gate. They made it to the dojo inner hall and Reuben handed Himiru to Maigiru. “Irimi, take Maigiru and the children inside the main hall and protect them.”
“Hai” replied Irimi and ushered the mother and children to the inner hall.
Reuben and Ishsuki ran to the entrance where Kata was taking cover. “What do you see Kata,” asked Ishsuki.
“It’s Endokanasuri’s men alright. Not his Ninjas, but thugs none the less,” answered Kata.
Kata was armed with a long bow. He was the best bowman next to Taiko. Reuben looked to the tower above the entrance.
“Kata, climb into the tower and take out those muskets,” Reuben ordered.
Both Kata and Ishsuki looked at Reuben as if he went crazy. “How can I defeat muskets with a bow?” Kata asked.
“Yes, they are
armed with musket, but there’s only three and not well trained. I can tell by the time it takes for them to
reload. What you need to do is listen
for the musket shot, spot the flash, and release your arrow below it and trust
in luck you hit the bastard. It can be
done; I’ve seen Indians kill using that technique in
“Hai Reuben-san,” Kata replied and began to climb the tower.
“REUBEN, LOOK OUT!”
“That’s it darling, push,” said Doctor Weldon calmly. Renee was panting quickly and holding onto Aaron’s hand as her other hand was beating on the mattress. Colleen quickly went to the other side of the bed and grabbed hold of it.
Her breathing slowed down and she stopped pushing. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t go on.”
“That’s ok lass; sometimes it takes more than one. Let’s rest for a minute and try again.”
“This is not fun mother,” Renee said to Colleen. Colleen smiled.
“Don’t worry about a thing Renee. We will not leave you. You have a house full of love supporting you.”
“That’s nice to hear but it does not make it any easier.” Renee started to chuckle.
“What is so funny?” asked May.
“Here I am about
to push something the size of a melon out of me and Reuben is somewhere in
Reuben turned and raised his katana in time to block a thrust from one of the attackers. Ishsuki was about to thrust his sword, but quickly Reuben, with his free hand, grabbed his attacker by the wrist, kotegaeshi him to the ground, raised his katana and cut downward. Reuben then tossed the severed arm over the hedge and thrust the blade into the man’s back for the kill. Reuben instructed Ishsuki to assist the others.
Above, Kata didn’t see the altercation, for he was searching and waiting for musket fire. A shot was heard and the bullet struck the post next to him. Kata didn’t need to search. He saw the muzzle flash right away and instantly raised his bow, pulled the string, took aim at the flash as Reuben instructed, and let loose his arrow.
The gunman fired his musket; he began to reload until the arrow pierced his throat. Coughing up blood, he fell back into the bush that kept him hidden. Another gunman leaped to avoid the other falling and was shocked to see the arrow in the man’s neck. Angered he rose to take aim at the tower where he saw the bowman pulling back his string. He was about to pull the trigger. Kata was quicker and the gunman fell with an arrow wedged into his forehead.
Some of the students left to protect the Akagi home. Reuben and Ishsuki broke up their pairing to help others.
Inside the dojo, two intruders were searching the hall. As one of them entered the main hall, Irimi cut downward, but the attacker rolled out of the way and was back on his feet in less than a second. The other attacker entered, bringing his sword down as Irimi brought his up in time to block. The first attacker was about to thrust his sword into Irimi’s back when it was diverted off by a jo staff coming from the side. Standing at the ready was Maigiru, with staff in hand.
Catching both attackers off guard, Irimi rotated in tenkan fashion with sword raised and cutting at the same time slicing through the front of one intruder, dropping him down in a single stroke.
Maigiru raised her staff with a wide quick sweeping motion, caught the other attacker squarely in the face, knocking him down to the floor, teeth being coughed up as he passing out.
Renee grunted as she pushed. The doctor urged her on while Aaron and Colleen held her hands. May kept wiping her brow and fanned her down.
“That’s it lass, you’re doing great. I can see the baby’s head,” said the doctor.
“It’s almost finished darling,” Colleen replied.
Renee kept pushing and closed her eyes. A vibrant image of Reuben came to her. His back was facing her, dressed in strange large black pants and burgundy robe. He was standing on a roof in the rain. Reuben’s face turned to the side and Renee saw that fierce angered look. A strange feeling over came her as if being touched by a thousand needles. For a moment she thought it was from the pressure of the birthing but the feeling was coming from deep inside. Something Mr. Akagi called the “hura,” one’s center. The one place every human being has that provides energy to the body, mind, and soul. While pushing, she began to reach out.
“REUBEN!” Renee cried out, startling everyone in the room, including Monroe and Lucy sitting in the hall outside the room. She began to push harder.
Standing on the roof, Reuben fended off another attacker, rain mixing with sweat on his face. He had killed three attackers so far. He glanced around to survey the situation. Ishsuki had just run his sword through the middle of an assailant as other students were successfully defeating other attackers.
A musket shot was fired and Reuben looked to the tower and saw Kata take aim with his bow and let loose an arrow into the brush. A scream came from the woods and a man fell from the bushes with a musket in his hands. With the third gunman down, Kata then faced the grounds to assist his fellow students with his bow.
Suddenly Reuben, for some strange instinct began to think of Renee very deeply, and he felt warmth over come him. Very distinctly he heard Renee calling to him.
“RENEE!” he shouted and faced west in time to see the leader of the gang swing a sword down, cutting through Reuben’s gi, gashing his chest. Reuben ducked and rolled to the ground and was back on his feet behind the leader ignoring the wound. He shoman cut, but missed and raised his sword for a cut that was sure to follow.
The leader turned and cut again but Reuben, with his katana, blocked his sword and rotated the leader’s arm and weapon in one motion causing his sword to fly from his hand.
Reuben centered himself quickly for the kill as the leader reached into his robe and pulled out a pistol that Reuben recognized, a Navy Colt.
As the leader pulled the hammer back, he got a good look at Reuben for the first time. He showed surprise and began to laugh. “A westerner, you must know what is going to happen to your head when I pull this trigger.”
“You’ve done it, you did wonderfully” exclaimed Doctor Weldon as he raised the crying newborn.
Aaron and Colleen in turn gave Renee a hug. Her eyes were still closed as if searching her mind for something. The doctor cut the umbilical cord and began to wrap the baby in a blanket.
Colleen had a look of panic on her face. “My lord, is she ok?”
Still holding onto the infant, the doctor came to Renee’s side as Colleen made room.
With katana raised, Reuben was looking at the leader’s center instead of the pistol. The attacker’s smug grin turned to an angered frown and began to squeeze the trigger.
Reuben dropped the katana and using the iriminage technique, quickly stepped off center from the pistol’s path, grasped the leader’s hand and in a circular motion, Reuben cut at the attacker’s elbow causing the pistol, still firmly in his hand, to point to his face with Reuben’s hand on top, his finger on the attacker’s finger pressed to the trigger.
Reuben began to
squeeze. Images filtered into his
mind. Images of friends dying in
The blood on his hand from the attack glistened as it mixed with rain. The students began to gather. “I swore to Renee that I would never kill needlessly again,” Reuben said out loud in his native language as he held the leader’s hand, muzzle to his face. Again he glanced at the rain running off the pistol cylinder, then back to the leader. His fierce angered look disappeared and was replaced with an almost angelic look.
Reuben smiled and squeezed the man’s finger on the trigger. The man hollered with horror but nothing happened.
“As a westerner, I also know that these weapons don’t work too well when wet.”
Renee’s eyes opened and began to smile and laughed a little. She looked at everyone in the room next to her bed and then to the bundle in Doctor Weldon’s arms. “Is Reuben’s baby ok?” she asked.
Everyone in the room began to smile and laugh. Doctor Weldon placed the infant in Renee’s arms, “It’ a Girl.”
The door opened and Lucy and Monroe
looked in. “Is it ok to come in now?”
“Yes it is,” said Renee. “Come and meet your niece,” she continued and looked at Aaron and Colleen standing arm in arm next to the bed. “Come and meet…Aarleen Duran.”
Taiko returned after hearing of the attacks on Samurai homes by Endokanasuri’s thugs later that afternoon. There was no battle. It was a ruse to pull as many Samurai away
from their homes to kill their families.
Akagi Genda-san’s family was the only one near
When Genda-san first saw the ransacked house, he feared the worst until he and Taiko met up with his wife, children, and other students cleaning up and seeing to captives, including the leader of this clique. Ishsuki and Maigiru described the attack and how Reuben protected the family and property.
“Reuben defeated these animals?” asked Taiko with disbelief.
“Where is he?” Genda-san demanded.
“He is in the dojo somewhere. He went there after he was bandaged.”
“He’s wounded? How badly?” he asked, not waiting for an answer as he quickly ran off to the dojo followed by Taiko.
Akagi Genda-san ran into the hall where he found Reuben sitting on the floor with a bandage wrapped around his back and chest. He silently stepped up and around Reuben, causing him to stand, wincing in pain. Genda-san reached to help.
“Ishsuki and my wife told me what happened here today.”
“I’m sorry for the damage to the house.”
“A house can be rebuilt, but the lives you protected today will live on knowing my gratitude to you. You have protected my family and for that I am grateful, Reuben-san,” Genda-san said, bowing to display honor and respect to Reuben. “I feel that this day, you have been blessed with life…in many ways.”
Genda-san raised and embraced Reuben carefully, and then he silently walked toward the exit until he noticed Taiko step before Reuben.
Taiko faced Reuben with a stern look. Reuben’s fierce look that he had worn earlier that day returned. Taiko felt fear as he looked upon Reuben’s face and realized that Reuben is a man that saw his share of death and understood why his father welcomed him.
Taiko smartly bowed in respect and rose. Reuben’s cheerful face returned, and he held out his hand. Taiko took it and embraced Reuben as his father did.
“Thank you for my mother, sisters and brother…Reuben-san.”