The local magistrate eyed Hida Soryu with grave
suspicion. Hida Soryu scratched his stubbly face
and looked away as if irritated when the magistrate
spoke. "A dragon has been terrorizing the local
village. We can offer you a substantial reward to
drive it away. The Daimyo has offered a gold Koban
to the warrior brave enough to stop the dragon's
Hida Soryu put his hands on his hips, and
glared contemptuously at the magistrate as if he
were a fool. "Arrows will not pierce the dragon's
hide" he said. "If you can offer magic it is better
than fighting with my bare hands."
"Then what of your Dragonsword" the magistrate
retorted sarcastically. Ah, that is for your throat"
Hida Soryu shot back, "for those that decide they
cannot keep their part of the bargain". The
magistrate turned red faced with anger at the
remarks and mumbled for a Shugenja to prepare a
potion for Hida Soryu before dismissing him.
It was several days ride from the village before
Hida Soryu discovered the beast's tracks in soft sand
near a riverbed descending from a rocky canyon. He
dismounted from his horse and searched for a path
to traverse the steep canyon walls. The lair must
be above he thought to himself.
Hida Soryu knelt beside the large tracks,
half filled with pools of water from the river. His
throat was dry so he drank from the river, then
stared into the pool, lost in contemplation.
A vision of his father appeared in the ripples
of the pool. Words filled his ears. "You might wait
an eternity for another man to give you honor. A
Dragon will give you his honor...if you survive."
It was several hours hike to the crest of the
canyon. He hacked at the brush impeding his
progress, and hauled himself up over the steep
rocky faces. The sun beat down mercilessly, and
he wiped the sweat from his brow. Sun bleached
bones crunched beneath his feet. He scouted the
area and found a steep precipice leading to a cave
on a ledge hundreds of feet below. He was near
He started to scale down by rope, but slipped
and fell. The rope burned his hands and loosened
rocks clattered noisily to the ledge below. He
could hear the beast roar in anger and his heart
pounded as he struggled to regain his grip.
The Dragon's head emerged from the cave
entrance. His long neck twisted upwards, searching
for the intruder disturbing him. The furious beast
caught sight of Hida Soryu dangling precariously
above and lunged upwards, claws flailing.
Hida Soryu reached for his Dragonsword but
as he removed it from its Saya the beast lunged
again knocking it from his grip and slashing his
arm. He winced with pain, and recited an ancient
prayer. There seemed to be little hope.
Suddenly he remembered the potion that the
Shugenja had given him. He reached inside his
silk vest and drank from the vial. The beast below
seemed not to see him. It was as if he had
dissappeared! The Dragon looked wildly about in
confusion, trying to pick up the intruder's scent.
Seeing nothing the Dragon backed quickly into his
cave where the narrow walls offered more
Descending quickly down the rope, Hida Soryu
reached the ledge below and retrieved his sword.
He turned towards the cave and approached the
entrance cautiously. Light penetrated the passage
for only a short distance. He could hear the
beast's heavy breathing coming from the darkness
Hida Soryu's arm throbbed with pain, blood
trickling down where the Dragon had wounded him.
He peered intently into the murky blackness,
focusing his mind on his task instead of his pain.
Swiftly and silently he moved, drawing his sword
in a sweeping arc in one fluid motion. The sword
pierced the Dragon who bellowed hideously.
Surprised, the Dragon lashed out violently,
twisting and writhing pain. Hida Soryu thrusted
with his sword again. Even though his arm was
weakenened, he concentrated, focusing tremendous
force from his wrists. The Dragonsword sank deep
into the convulsing beast, taking it's life force.
Hida Soryu emerged wearily from the cave. He
looked upwards wondering to himself where he
would find the strength to climb back up the
Injured and stranded on the ledge, the situation
again looked hopeless. However, the Samurai
philosophy did not depend on hope, so he focused
on the immediate, and bandaged his arm. He had
enough provisions for several days and decided
to take shelter in the cave entrance for the night.
It would be a few days till his strength returned
and he could then scale the cliff wall.
The sheer cliff wall offered few footholds,
and his arm still burned with pain whenever he
slipped. Grasping the rope, he was able to ease
his climb upwards. The average man would never
have managed the perilous climb upwards, which
took Hida Soryu several hours.
Upon his return to the village, the magistrate
had prepared a ceremony in his honor. He was
presented with a gold Koban in front of the
awestruck villagers. The crafty magistrate merely
wished to make himself look honorable though, and
secretly schemed to rid himself of Hida Soryu.
Having just honored the man, he would hardly be
suspect for his demise.
Hida Soryu knew he had collected his reward a
little too easily and wondered to himself what the
wily magistrate was up to. He knew if he was
ambushed upon leaving the village that the
magistrate would not be implicated in the plot.
Hida Soryu could only wait for his next move, for
the time being.
Hida Soryu headed out of the village a few days
later. The sun had just risen over the misty hills and
morning dew settled the dusty road. A cool morning
breeze rolled in and the air smelled fresh and sweet.
Following the road into the hills, he had
travelled only a few hours when several figures
emerged from the dawn mists. "Stand aside" Hida
Soryu shouted to them, "or shall we duel then?"
Appearing to accept the challenge one of the
assassins pulled his sword from the saya and
advanced. He kept a wary eye on the other two
figures, one of whom quickly brandished a pistol
tucked in his obi, the other darting quickly back
into the bushes to encircle him.
The swordsman closed quickly, slicing high
with a wicked No-Dachi. With an expert's touch
he deflected Hida Soryu's parry and struck with
force and blinding speed yet a second time. Steel
clashed against steel. Anticipating his rival's
next move, Hida Soryu sidestepped the swordsman's
thrust. Reeling from Hida Soryu's surprise
undercut, he crashed heavily to the ground, dust
rising from the road.
A shot rang out, just narrowly missing and
whizzing by. The third assailant rushed out of
the brush behind Hida Soryu while the other calmly
reloaded his pistol with efficient speed. Hida Soryu
parried the first blow, then slammed the butt of his
sword handle into the man's jaw. He stumbled
backwards groggily, too dazed to feel the final blow.
Reloaded pistol in one hand, sword in the other
the third duelist advanced. His eyes burned with
vengeance. Hida Soryu glared at his adversary , the
brief moment seeming like an eternity.
The pistol belched smoke and the powder flash
broke the silence. Ringing blades of steel clashed.
The assassin's feint arced towards him dangerously.
Spinning back, Hida Soryu counterattacked. His
blade struck quick. The man crumpled over, almost
not comprehending his own fate, his final gaze one
Hida Soryu headed back towards the village. It
was time, he decided, to confront the magistrate.
To be continued...
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