I was competing in a Fan-Fiction tournament when I wrote this, and though I lost I was still very proud of this piece. I had no idea at first who or what Usagi was, so I really delved into research, and when I mean research, I don't mean I just read the wiki. I went to the Library and picked up the trades, and I did a little inspiration research and learned about the historical figure, Miyamoto Musashi, that Usagi was based off of. I even went as far as to buy the Samurai Warriors video games in hopes of learning more about ronin from it, and fortunately this was the only thing that turned out to be fruitless in all my research. When I wrote this I wanted to tell a complete story, and bring it full circle since it needed to be so short, so I figured what better story to tell, than to tell the last story of the great ronin rabbit, Miyamoto Usagi. Now without further ado, I proudly present for the second time:
Honor’s Last Call
Time is like the tide of the great sea. With each new passing moon, things that were once true are swept away into the sea of time; only to be replaced with new meanings and traditions. Many of the things I did in my time, that I had considered to be honorable, are now seen as senseless and perverse. The rifle has replaced the blade, and numbers, not honor, guide the lords of my homeland.
I, Miyamoto Usagi, head now to my final conflict along the dirt roads from Reigando, my chosen place of isolation, to Yokoshima, a growing village that rests in the shadow of my mountain. As I walk this road I feel my bones ache with every step. My fur has grown rough and coarse in my old age, my hearing is not what it once was, and the ability to see in detail the beat of a hummingbird’s wing, left me many years ago. I am slower than once was, and my body is plagued with a horrid cough that strikes me with a pain much greater than any wound I had ever received in the days of my youth.
Despite all these complications, I still make the journey to face this new breed of warrior, which my land now so eagerly boasts. At one point, I had considered the lad unworthy of a challenge, and I had hoped that my swords would have finally received their rest, but the call of battle reached out to them once again, waking them from their slumber. As I walk amongst the trees and tall grass surrounding my home, I begin to ponder the steps that I have taken in my life, and if anyone would bother to walk in this old rabbit’s footsteps. Does Bushido, the way of the warrior, still have a place in this age? Or am I merely a relic, who is too stubborn to leave behind such things as honor and pride.
As I step onto the bridge that crosses over the flowing brook which separates the great woods from the bustling town, I close my eyes and listen to the sound of the water that flows beneath my feet. I let its soothing voice wrap me in a sheet of serenity, and then the earth opens up to me. I hear a symphony, not of instruments, but instead of the wind blowing through the leaves on the tress surrounding the village, and of the birds singing their morning melody as they soar through air. These are sounds that have comforted me over the past few years that I have spent up on the mountain.
Then I enter the bustling village, and the comfort of nature’s symphony leaves me, to be replaced with the clatter of people as they go about their daily lives. I do not fault them for being so noisy, but it is simply that in my older age, I have chosen company of a much different kind. It is then when I finally hear them. The crowd is gathered awaiting my arrival, and so is my opponent.
I see the young lion who has challenged me. In one hand he holds a musket, and at his waist are two pistols. His body is adorned in armor, as if he were suspecting a great battle to break out at any moment. At each side of him there are two men, bodyguards, hired for their brutish appearance rather than their skill. I knew, for I had seen their kind before. The warrior looks at me, and laughs
“So the old man finally shows his face!” He shouts out to me, “I was beginning to wonder if you had died up in that cave, but I’m so glad you have the courtesy to come out, so I don’t have to walk as far to see you die.”
I do not respond to his taunts. He knows nothing of honor, for that is why words are seated with poison. I think of the young girl in their possession, a temple maid by the name of Misao. A sweet girl who showed an old man kindness by making the journey with her brother up to my home on the summit of Mount Iwato, to provide me with food, supplies, and even conversation that was a bit one sided, for it was the young Misao who did all the talking while I remained silent. Still it had been nice to hear her voice, but only a day ago her brother raced to the summit alone, and pleaded with me to save his sister from the brigands who had abducted her. He had explained that they were looking for me, and when they had discovered Misao, she refused to hand me over to them.
Brave girl, I thought, but foolish. Her brother then informed me that if I did not come, that she would be killed. I had wanted to remain in isolation, I had wanted to forget the child, and leave her to her fate, but honor always has a way of speaking to a warrior, when it calls him to battle.
“Where is the child?” I say to the warrior. The words come out dry and unclear, for they are the first words I have spoken in a long time. This causes the lad and his band to break out in laughter once again. It is embarrassing, but the moment is fleeting, for I have no time for such feelings.
“What was that, I can’t hear you? Can you speak a little louder?” The young lion teases, and begins to break out in a giggling fit once more. This boy is no warrior, and this time I make sure my voice speaks with authority only rivaled by the Shogun himself.
“THE CHILD!” My voice booms as it echoes between the walls of the village, and my opponent’s look changes from the jesting appearance of a small boy to that of an offended cub. He motions his hand in the air, and from amongst the crowd I see another of the warrior’s lackeys emerge holding a young woman by the shoulders and forcing her forward. Her hair is disheveled, and her kimono barely clings to her form. Her face is swollen and bruised, and her eyes which I had seen sparkle many a time were impossible to see amongst the black circles that surrounded them. Her once luscious fur was tangled and matted, and I could see parts of it caked with dirt. I wanted to look away, but something prevented me. I feel rage rise up inside me, but I suppress it and focus instead only on repaying in full what disgrace was done to her.
“Here is your whore, old man.” The lion says as he grabs hold of her and shoves her out towards me. Misao stumbles at first, but slowly rights herself, and begins to take slow, yet steady strides towards me. She stops right in front of me, and looks up at me. I see sorrow in her face, and she beings to speak, but I stop her.
“Go to your family girl.” I say with a soft voice, but a firm tone. I look away from her and lock eyes with my opponent. Misao’s mother comes running to her to help her, and when I am sure they are safely out of harm’s way, I speak to my opponent.
“What is your name?” I ask the lion
“I am the great, Kenji Yukimura, fastest gun in five provinces, and I am here for your head Usagi Miyamoto.” He shouts proclaiming his name, and intention to the crowd. He is confident, and sure of his victory.
“Well then Kenji Yukimura,” I reply. “Do what you have come to do.” Yukimura grins and raises his rifle. He takes his aim, and there is a brief moment where I see a flash and a loud roar deafens me. I hear the crowd scream out in fear, for they are not used to the loud, clumsy sound of a firearm. I see the small lead ball as it races towards me at speeds that no normal man would be able to see.
I feel the familiar sensation as pull my Katana, Yagi No Eda (Willow Branch), from its sheath. I pull my sword up in time to block the shot. The lead ball falls harmlessly at my feet. I am a bit slower than I used to be. I remember the days when I could once split the ball into even halves, but those were days long past. I look into the Yukimura’s eyes and I see that confidence has been replaced with fear. I smile for I know the battle is already over.
He screams as I race towards him, dropping his musket and fumbling for his pistols. His fear makes him clumsy, and years of watching archers line up shots have prepared me for moments like this. The shot from each pistol rings off loudly, I side step one easily, but the other grazes my right arm. I am much slower than I once was.
Yukimura stumbles backwards in an attempt to avoid my strike, and he nearly does, but not before my sword severs his thumb and trigger finger from his right hand, and destroys his pistol. Kenji falls to the ground screaming as he holds tightly to his bleeding hand. For a moment all is silent, save for the screams of Yukimura, but then the crowd erupts into cheers for my victory over him. Yukimura’s men are frightened, and it only takes one glance from me to tell them to leave. His men break their ranks, and flee has fast as they can from the village. I wipe the blood from my sword before returning it to its sheath. Yukimura has stopped screaming, and instead glares at me with rage filled eyes.
“You are not worthy of a warrior’s death, Kenji Yukimura. Instead you will leave this village, and never return. You will also carry that wound for the rest of your days, and walk this earth in the disgrace that you have wrought on yourself. You are without honor, and I turn my back on you.” I say as I turn from him, and begin walking away. With each step I hold onto a blind hope that the fool will stand, and walk away as I told him. Instead, I hear him clumsily handle his other pistol as he attempts to load it. I wait until the pistol is loaded, and I hear him the hammer click into place. He does not see me unsheathe Aoyagi (Young Willow), my short sword. I turn and throw the blade and I see it embed in between the Lion’s eyes. He is dead before his body falls the rest of the way into the mud.
“Fool” I mutter under my breath as I stare at his lifeless corpse. All is still until, Misao’s brother runs over and pulls the sword from Kenji’s skull. He runs over to me, and kneels down, holding the sword up to me.
“Thank you, Samurai.” He says to me. I take my blade, wipe away the blood and return it to its sheath, and nod at the boy, dismissing him. I look around one last time and look into the face of young Misao. She manages to smile, and for that I am grateful. I turn from the crowd and walk away from the village. I look up at my mountain, and I feel a slight ache in my chest, but shrug it off, and I begin to make my way home. I find myself hoping that the journey will be swift, for my body aches and my spirit is tired and in need of a long rest.