Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 552
Please Enlighten Me
Yamada stormed into the dojo, only to spot the boy who pointed them in the wrong direction. He glared at the poor kid with the eyes of a tiger.
“Hmph! I’ll deal with you later!”
The boy turned as white as a sheet and hid behind Akane to avoid Yamada’s death-stare.
The samurai ignored Zhang Heng and said to Akane, “This is great. That fight last nightyou attacked me when I was drunk and insulted our Choshu warriors. We get to fight again today.”
Yamada was as shrewd as ever. He spoke first, making sure to classify last night’s ambush on a drunk man as foul-play as an excuse for his defeat. But he wasn’t all that wrong. If he had not been so tipsy last night, he would not have lost to Akane, who was only wielding a wooden sword.
Akane was unfazed. It was probably because she grew up in a dojo that she had grown used to such threats. She wasn’t bothered to argue with Yamada, merely gesturing him to enter the building. The entire group entered the main hall.
The children that were training put down their bokuto* and stared. The atmosphere in the dojo had suddenly shifted.
Akane pulled two bokuto from the shelf, one for herself and the other for Yamada.
She threw the sword to him, but he did not reach out, letting the bokuto land by his feet.
“I don’t need it. I brought my own.”
Yamada pulled out the Tachi at his waist.
Instantly, the children went into an uproar. Friendly duels among warriors were nothing unusual, and even if they had trained under different schools of swordsmanship, there were always areas where they could learn from each other, just like research, the more a truth gets debated, the clearer it becomes. Other than training daily, warriors were also required to compete with others to gain experience.
Generally, a wooden katana would be used for obvious safety reasons. It helped to determine who won, and both warriors generally benefited from the maintained peace.
If real weapons were used, lives would surely be put at risk, mostly when the competing party’s skills were on a similar level. Just one wrong move would lead to an inevitable disaster.
Akane did not realize that Yamada had meant for them to use real weapons when he challenged her to a duel. She shook her head.
“I haven’t trained my Myoshin-ryū enough. I’m nowhere near my father’s level. I cannot guarantee that I can fight with a real weapon without hurting my opponent.”
“It’s alright. Swords are meant to injure, and life and death are ruled by fate. We can swear that whichever way the duel ends, we will not hold the other party responsible and allow our past grievances to be forgotten,” Yamada answered.
He barely finished when Takeuchi chuckled aloud. “This is about the Choshu samurai’s reputation! Since when did you start calling the shots? Just because you say bygones are bygones doesn’t mean it is.”
Yamada was speechless. Even though what Takeuchi said was unpleasant to the ear, it was the truth. Last night’s incident was about the serious crime of insulting the Choshu warriors. Just because he said it was forgiven did not mean it was. Yamada believed himself to be the better fighter, and it was proven during last night’s fight. Even though he was drunk, he was able to work out the fundamentals of her skills. According to Yamada’s own reasoning, getting rid of Akane will solve the problem, but there was nothing he could do about Takeuchi finding fault with his choice of words.
“If you insist on using a real katana, then I’ll just admit defeat,” said Akane frankly-she really did not mind. This, however, caused Yamada to panic. He did not actually come here today for a duel but for the kill. Only by terminating Akane would he make up for his mistake last night-otherwise, he would become a Choshu criminal. The law was not as harsh as it was back during the Sengoku period, and other than those Shinsengumi lunatics, obligatory seppuku was no longer used as punishment for petty crimes. But even so, he had lost that much face, and unless he did this, it was going to be thought to keep being a part of the Tobbaku group. Yamada looked around the hall, and his gaze settled on the wooden table where a shrine had been laid out. He then drew his sword and sliced the table into half.
Finally, Akane’s expression changed.
“You’ve crossed the line! What made you think that you can just waltz in here and do whatever you like?!”
Akane stormed toward the only weapon rack with real swords, subsequently picking out the uchigatana at the top.
Yamada was pleased to see that Akane had finally accepted the duel. He grinned in relief, letting out a satisfied ‘ahh.’
“I’ve come today to learn your Koyoma Myoshin-ryu.”
But it was then that a voice cut in.
Everyone in the hall was taken aback when they turned to look and saw Zhang Heng. They, too, like Yamada, didn’t notice his presence and wondered where this person dressed like a ronin had come from.
Only Takahashi and Matsuo winced as if the man had brought up some unpleasant memories. Takeuchi, on the other hand, examined the strange ronin with interest.
It had not been easy finding suitable lodging to settle down in Kyoto, and obviously, Zhang Heng did not wish for his landlady to be hacked to death on the second day of his stay. Who would the property belong to then?
Zhang Heng walked up to Akane and whispered under his breath, “Can’t you see he’s attempting to provoking you? Don’t fall into his trap. You are no match for him.” Akane said nothing in response. She grew up in the dojo and had always been good at reading people. After last night’s fight, she understood that Yamada’s fighting skills bettered hers, but what he had just done was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Not only was the dojo her father’s legacy, but it contained precious memories of her childhood. She watched her father build a nameless dojo into a place of high reputation. The place was filled with visitors in its heyday, but after her father passed away, the dojo began to decline, and many teachers and students left.
Akane certainly wasn’t blind to the fact that she couldn’t sustain a dojo; she simply couldn’t find it in herself to shut it down. Some time ago, she offered free lessons and lunch to recruit children from poor families but the running costs of the dojo skyrocketed as a result. To ease her increasingly strained finances, she had rented out a part of the small courtyard. In no thanks to Yamada, Akane refused to return to where she started just when the situation had finally taken a turn for the better. She would have given up everything else, but definitely not the dojo her father left her. She had to protect it with everything she had.
This was probably when Koyama dojo was at its weakest. All these students in the hall, they had just joined no less than a few months, having never been in any actual fights. She was the only one who could step up to face this crisis, and she had to.
Akane nodded at Zhang Heng, “Thank you. I know what I’m getting into.”
Zhang Heng wanted to say more, but Akane was looking up at Yamada, saying, “I’m ready. Please grant me the favor of enlightening me.”
Bokuto: a Japanese wooden sword used for training in kenjutsu (also bokken)
Seppuku: sometimes referred to as harakiri, is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment reserved for samurai.
Obligatory seppuku: capital punishment for samurai to spare them the disgrace of being beheaded by a common executioner. Sengoku period: a period in Japanese history of near-constant civil war, social upheaval, and political intrigue from 1467 to 1615.