Shinkyo Bridge. Part One. Horror Fiction

Prologue

 

            The history of ancient Japan is rife with tales of legendary men and their deeds. Samurai, whose martial prowess, self discipline, and flashing razored steel, were prominent in these stories. These men, who dedicated themselves to live and die by the sword, were both loved for their vows to protect the common people and feared for their right to act with complete impunity.

            Though many thousands fought and died in accordance with the samurai code of Bushido, a precious few have been elevated to immortality by the telling and retelling of their exploits.

            There was Yagyu Jubei, the one-eyed warrior who fought for the honor of the criminalized Yagyu clan during the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate. His father, the personal weapons instructor to the shogun’s household, had been implicated in treasonous activity and it was up to Jubei to exonerate him through the judicious use of both his blade and wit.

            There was Okita Soji, a minor nobleman, born sickly and frail. Though not even having reached the age of twenty, he willingly gave up his humanity to gain the title “Demon of The Battlefield.” He fought with all the inhuman ferocity of a wild beast in the name of the Emperor, killing the lackeys of a corrupt government in hopes of bringing about change to a stagnant, isolated Japan.

            Of these great men and many more, perhaps none is so well known as Miyamoto Musashi. He came from the backwater Harima Province, born to the Shinmen Clan in the twelfth year of the Tensho era. He was the first child of Miyamoto Shinmen, a distant relative of the lord of TakeyamaCastle, known as the “Gate to The West” for its tactical importance.

            Trained in the ways of blade, spear, and bow from an early age, Musashi was a consummate swordsman and duelist who pioneered the two-sword combat style which came to be known as Ni-Ten Ichi Ryu. With his skills Miyamoto Musashi became a retainer to the Fujiwara Clan and served as bodyguard and first spearman to the clan head, Lord Kousa. Such status was an unheard of privilege for a young man barely seventeen years old.

            He served at the Battle of Sekigahara, a grassy plain where the mighty twin armies of the ruling Toyotomi and the challenging Tokugawa clashed in a full day of fighting, soaking the land with the blood of over 30,000 dead. Lord Kousa was himself a vassal to the Toyotomi. He and his men were betrayed during the chaos of the battle by long time allies who vied for position and favor with the Toyotomi. Though Musashi fought valiantly and took the lives of many foes that day, he was unable to protect his lord from a traitor’s arrow.

            Before he died, Lord Kousa gave his loyal retainer one final order; he forbade Musashi from committing Seppuku, ritual suicide. Such an act was the required course of action in Bushido for a servant who has failed his master. Instead Kousa told Musashi to flee, and live to fight another day.

            In the Land of the Rising Sun, one’s honor was one’s life. Musashi was torn between taking the easy way out; opening his belly, his life’s blood washing the shame of his failure from his family’s name; and obeying. He was not afraid to die. To live in dishonor as a masterless samurai, a ronin, was far more daunting. He knew he would be scorned as a coward by all those who knew him, unwelcome even in his own home.

            Such was Musashi’s mettle that he carried out the most difficult order that a samurai might receive. He fled, and he lived. The Fujiwara Clan, the only world he’d ever known, died that day.

            Even if word of his shame had not spread, Musashi would not countenance putting himself in the service of another lord. He’d lost his stomach for inter-clan politics.

            He moved to a province far from the place of his birth and put up his swords, attempting to live the simple and honest life of a dock worker in a bustling port town under an assumed name. It was during this time that he saw how terribly the people of the lower castes were being oppressed. Merchants were expected to bribe corrupt government officials in order to maintain the permits to run their shops. Artisans who worked for samurai often went penniless when their employers refused to pay for the result of their sweat and toil.

            Musashi stubbornly refused to intervene, though his heart demanded justice be done. Things came to a head when a group of ronin passed through town, raucous and spoiling for a fight. They drank the local innkeeper dry, demanding more sake despite the fact there was none left in town.

            When the ronin were told there was no more sake to be had, they became enraged, accusing the innkeeper of lying to get them to leave. They dragged the hapless man out into the street and proclaimed they would cut off his hands for his insults, making a show of the man’s terror for a horrified crowd.

            Musashi could no longer ignore such an abuse of power. He took up his twin blades once more. When the bodies fallen in the trampled dust before his lightning fast steel had ceased to move, he was both astonished and overjoyed to receive the adulation of those he’d defended. They cared nothing for his past failures, only that he fought for what they all knew in their hearts to be right.

            And so he decided to make use of the life his late lord granted him and embarked on a musha shugyo, a warrior’s pilgrimage. He wandered the war torn land in search of himself; taking on many roles to see all the facets of the world, honing his warrior’s skills, and living by his blade for eight long years. Though he lived a long, rich, and varied existence afterward, writing a seminal work on swordsmanship and tactics as well as contributing to the arts, it was his time wandering the many rocky roads of Japan that stand out in legend as it is told from one generation to the next.

            Miyamoto Musashi was known for his fearlessness, humility among the lower classes, and intolerance for the excesses of his peers. Stories told of his exploits battling man, beast, and demon are without number. His ultimate fate beyond that, though well documented, is inconsequential. It is far more important that the tales of his deeds which live on to this day reflect the indomitable human fighting spirit, ready to face down all the world’s evils, be they mundane or supernatural. 

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Comments 12 comments

Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

I always hesitate to read horror, but can't resist reading what you have written.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 6 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Kinda like watching a train wreck, huh? :)


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

That is one way to put it. Curiosity gets the better of me. :)


LiftedUp profile image

LiftedUp 6 years ago from Plains of Colorado

Jarn,

I know little of Japanese history beyond that which has taken place in the last 70 years, and I think I am going to find this a fascinating read.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 6 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

This intro is a little long-winded. Essentially, our hero was a real life samurai, still regarded as the most skilled swordsman Japan ever produced, born in 1584 to a minor landowning family. He ran away from home at the age of 16, joined the military, and fought in Japan's version of the Battle of Gettysburg. On the losing side. The fact he survived is considered miraculous.


dodo 6 years ago

its amazing


Jarn profile image

Jarn 6 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Whether you mean Musashi's survival or the quality of the story, I'm forced to agree. :p Thanks for reading. I've plenty more lying around if you're interested.


The Blagsmith profile image

The Blagsmith 5 years ago from Britain

Thanks, as promised I said I would read some of your stuff and I am by no means disappointed. Your stuff is very good. I currently live in The Land of the Rising Sun and they are a very proud race though some consider themselves fallen and remain where they are. These latter people are heavily shunned in Japan, the noble tradition is still deep within them. Democracy has not filtered this out.

However, a chilling experience was when I came upon some memorial stones in a forest called Obanagamori which is in the town area of Ichinoseki in the prefecture of Iwate, northern Japan. These stones were mouldering and the names of dead soldiers were written off through weathering and the passage of time. Being British I was shocked as I know how much emphasis goes into preserving the memories of those who lost their lives through the war and I remember the national outcry when a drunk reveller urinated on a memorial stone there. I am not too sure what it is like in the States but I do know you were hush hush when the survivors of the Vietnam War returned.

Maybe the States battered pride is similar to that of the Japanese: Let's forget and get on with it...as they certainly had a lot to want to forget especially with the horrors of the atomic bomb aftermath.

Anyway, I have decided to resurrect my article "Obanagamori: The Forest of The Forgotten" and put it on my website (as hubpages will not accept it as it has been in circulation before).

Please visit http://theblagsmith.com/?p=2249

Thanks Jarn - you stirred memories which occasionally need to be returned.


Jarn profile image

Jarn 5 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Hmm. I'm inclined to disagree. The survivors of the Vietnam War returned in a time no one understood what Post-traumatic stress disorder was like. People hated the war with Vietnam and didn't think America had a right in being there. Whether I agree with that sentiment or not is secondary to the fact citizens of a country should always recognize and respect soldiers for their willingness to fight and die on their behalf.

While those soldiers returning from Vietnam were insulted back in the early 70s, the Vietnam War Memorial is one of the most popular sites to visit in Washington DC to this day. We recognize that equating our soldiers with our government was wrong, and many wish we could go back and apologize to those soldiers who died thinking we hated them.


The Blagsmith profile image

The Blagsmith 5 years ago from Britain

Thanks Jarn for clearing up the American side...I am very happy to hear that America respects those soldiers that died defending their country. And I agree with you that irrespective of which side won and lost those who died defending their country should never be forgotten. I only hope this country that I live in will honour its soldiers too.


Kael Myril profile image

Kael Myril 4 years ago from Tacoma, WA

This is a good read, although I'm still waiting for the horror. I look forward to the other parts which I shall dive into at the earliest opportunity! Thanks!


Jarn profile image

Jarn 4 years ago from Sebastian, Fl Author

Yes, I find that historical stories tend to require a preface in order for the reader to best understand the context of events. Unfortunately, publishers tend to find that a bit slow, and it doesn't really lend itself to horror. Of course, since Musashi was a real person, I find it difficult to alter his character or backstory too much from what it really was just for the sake of entertainment. Anyway, glad you liked it. Hope you'll read more.

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