Barasume Miwa
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Winterhawk99
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Re: Barasume Miwa

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“When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about going at it in a long roundabout way. One’s heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large, there will be no success. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong.”

Yamamoto Tsunetomo

Miwa comes out of the house one morning to find a large circle cordoned off with a rope fence. There is a smallish thin man in the center of the corral. She wears court clothing and seems confused by this. Regardless she walks up to her father in her bare feet and bows. She is now 11 years old.

“Miwa.” He smiles. “It is time for you to learn Tanto-Jujitsu. This is an artform not taught to samurai men. Only the women. It is because many consider Onna-bugeisha weaker than Samurai and an easy target when not in armor. If you gain any amount of fame rival clans will send ninja and other nefarious outlaws to make sure you do not enter a battlefield. Therefore, all Onna-bugeisha are taught the art of knife fighting. It’s not only for close quarter fighting but also to uphold your honor as a woman. In most cases you will use this art in a kimono or court attire. Since court attire offers the most protection in its silken layers that you may use to cause misses from your opponent you will train in these.”

“What is an Eta even doing on our lands, Father? His kind is a stigma for they only take and never give for the greater community.”

“A wise observation my daughter. I now see that you are taking to my training. Realistically Eta have some skills that other classes cannot match. The art of Tanto-Jujitsu is a staple in the slums of the cities. There are many eta masters among the poor and untouchables. Jun, the man you see before you is just such a master of knife fighting. I have promised him gold, glory, and a raise of station if he teaches you his art.”

“I will do as you say, Father.”

“Good! Another thing, after your training I give you leave to go with Jun to the guest quarters. Bring some Sake and learn about how eta live. I want you to know about their aspirations, their dreams, and their life. I want you to know everything you can about them. So that you have a clear mind about the whole of society. You are only 11 so certain things should not happen but if he makes advances kill him. I will not have a soiled protégé. Do you understand?

“Yes, Father.”

For three months Miwa and Jun train together over the ever-watchful father to make sure that all contractual obligations are fulfilled. Miwa when meeting with Jun learns about the eta way of life. In turn Jun learns about the life of samurai daughters: their obligations, duties, and responsibilities along with their privileges. Miwa sometimes gets seriously cut up during training. Her father insists that instead of healing properly she should be stitched up and sent back into the ring. He states that in war one must know her defeats and bear the marks of them.

In three and ½ months Miwa has gone through a dozen or more sets of court clothing. Her previous clothes have been slashed and stabbed to rags. She shows up this morning in brand new silks. Her father is farther away from the fighting ring. As she bows to him, he speaks. “Jun has told me he has taught you all that he may, and you have taken to the training well. Thus, today is the day you will graduate if you can score a hit upon him. Are you ready, Miwa?”

Miwa looks dead in his eyes, “Yes father.”

“Good! For this test I will give you my own Tanto to fight with. You must score a hit upon him within 5 bouts to move on in your training.” He unsheathes his own Tanto and carefully offers it to her. “Do not let your hand slip from your grip, Miwa.”

Miwa takes the blade and examines it. There seems to be a very thin film of resin upon the blade’s surface if looked at closely. She looks up at her father in dismay.”

“Yes, my daughter the blade is poisoned. The Eta has outlived his usefulness. It is time for you to decide if you will be truly Onna-bugeisha or if you will be relegated to history as just another failure.”

Miwa’s eyes go soft which upsets her father, “you told me he would have glory, gold and a raise of station, father? Now you want me to kill him. What is this all about? He is my friend.”

“Do not question me, Miwa. I have given you an order. Do you wish to seppuku instead? If you cannot meet the task your father has given you I would rather you do that than dishonor my word. I have given my word that he will have these things and he will. Do as you are commanded and let my wisdom show you the way.”

Miwa looks at the ring. Jun waits patiently for her to come down. She then looks at the pole. Her father has her sisters once again gathered to watch the spectacle. She does an about face and slowly walks down into the ring. Jun is smiling. “You ready, Lady Miwa.”

She again looks down at the dagger and back up to him. He bows. She recognizes him. They get into stance and start to pace each other around the ring. Jun attacks. Miwa makes a defensive move blocking his blade and tripping him. He gets up smiling and comes at her again. Again, Miwa makes a defensive move and spins from his reach. They pace and fight for 2 minutes before Jun scores a hit across the outside of her arm.

They square off again. This time Miwa attacks but the attack is just slightly short. He counters she wraps wraps the folds of her dress around his arm and strips him of the knife. She stops to let him pick up his tanto. Jun comments. Was the perfect time to attack with my weapon stolen. “You need to remember knife fighting is all or nothing, Miwa.” She nods and goes into stance.

They pace one another again. Jun attacks. Miwa deftly moves out of the way and attacks her blade coming to within an inch of his nose but misses still the same. Jun slashes at her legs connecting through her folds tracing a line of blood that starts to drip down her shin.

The two fight and dance in the ring each time Miwa just missing the eta while the eta eventually scores all the marks. She looks to her father. He is infuriated. He comes down. They both bow to him. He grudgingly recognizes both. “A wonderful show of professionalism Jun. You are dismissed for the day. I wish to speak to my daughter. I have another guest this night could you stay in town. We will continue in a week. It looks like my daughter has had too much training too fast. She should have time to absorb the lesson.”

Jun gathers his things and walks down the road and out the gate from the family’s small ranch. Miwa stands at attention in front of him silently. Once Jun is over the hill her father grabs her by the hair and physically drags her to the pole. He throws her headfirst into it. She falls to the ground but immediately gets up and undresses, putting her arms up. This time her father whips her until she’s comatose. When she faints from the pain he looks to Izumi, “Water.”

Izumi gets a bucket and pours it over Miwa’s head. She wakes up and groans. Izumi backs up as her father comes to the pole. He grabs Miwa’s hair and cranks her neck back. She looks at him weakly. “Next time I tell you to kill someone You kill them! Understand.” She tries to nod but he’s still got her neck cranked back. He can still feel her muscles strain in compliance. “Good! Sango get the healer. She’ll need more than stitches this time. Izumi wash the blood off your sister before he gets here. Keep her wear she is until the healer is done. If she can’t move, she’ll heal better and faster until the leech has done his work.

Izumi enjoys Miwa’s trembles of pain as she washes her sister’s back. The healer is coming up the hill with a grim visage as she finishes. The healer gives the lashed girl a potion and applies a salve to her ripped up back. He whispers right upon her ear softly, so her sisters can’t hear., “Next time fake it. Strong as you are he’ll most likely kill you if he does this again.” She weakly nods to him. When he leaves Izumi picks up her clothing and gives some of them to Haruki, keeping some of the silks for herself. Haruki grins, “Souvenirs?” Izumi nods in agreement. “Souvenirs.” They conveniently leave Miwa tied to the pole.

Her father cuts her down at dusk. “Go straight to bed and think about what you have done. Loyalty Miwa. You must learn unquestioning loyalty.” Miwa must walk back home and past the few servants in shame.

The next morning Miwa wakes up, dresses, then sits at the edge of the bed in a half-lotus. The door panel slides open. Sango walks in and closes it back up. She runs to her sister and hugs her. Miwa accepts the hug but stares at the wall. Sango puts her head on her shoulder next to her ear. “Promise me, Miwa, you have to promise me you’ll never be like daddy.”

Tears stream down Miwa’s eyes as she nods. Sango breaks the hug and looks at her. She frantically tries to wipe the tears away from Miwa’s face. “Oh no. Oh no. Don’t cry. You’re not allowed to cry. I’ll cry for you Miwa. I’m allowed too. Miwa grabs her again and puts her in a tight hug saying nothing, just staring at the wall.

A week later Miwa finds herself again in the ring facing off against Jun. They bow to each other as usual. Miwa comes at him with the uncanny ferociousness of a mad weasel. Before he knows it, he has cuts in three places and can barely keep up with her. they square off again. Again, Miwa goes on the attack using not only moves he taught her but new moves she has made up herself. She strikes out for his neck. He manages to deflect it to his shoulder in a glancing strike a small streak of blood appears. Just a flesh wound but he knows he’s in trouble because she went for a death blow.

For the next three bouts he swears she’s trying to kill him. She comes in so fast high, low, right then sweeping left. She goes for his liver, corraded artery, appendix even for that sweet spot just underneath the third rib. He gets cut every time just managing to deflect a killing blow.

After all, five bouts. All to which she has won her father comes into the ring clapping. “The best display of Tanto-Jujitsu I have ever seen. A true master and mistress of the art. You both have done……” Jun’s eyes roll to the back of his head, and he falls to the ground. Sadao quickly motions to his men. The two come over and pick the body up. He and Miwa follow the men around the barn. There is a funeral pyre already set up. The men place the body reverently upon it.

Furious, Miwa turns to her father, “You lied to him, father! You promised him and you have broken your promise!”

“I did no such thing, daughter. I promised him glory. Thus, his name will be written in my books as a samurai of great skill and is he not being burned as proper for a samurai’s funeral? I promised him a change of station and thus I am sending him to the celestial host. There his soul will want for nothing, and his station has changed among them. Oh, I did forget something.” He steps up to the body and places a single gold coin in the man’s mouth. As he does, she swears she sees Jun blink. “And now my protégé Jun has his gold. Just as I promised.”

“Jun’s alive father! I know it! I saw him blink!”

Her father nods, “Just enough pufferfish poison on the blade to stay his limbs and voice but not his ears. Don’t worry, there should have been enough for him not to feel pain. At least that is what the apothecary told me. This is your greatest lesson so far. If you do not want to die like Jun then fight like its your last battle, your last day, your last breath, always.”

Deep down Miwa finds the resolve she needs to meet her father’s eyes. She stands at attention and bows keeping her feelings deep down within herself. Her father smiles. A man hands him a torch. He offers it to her. “It is you who should have the honors my warrior.”

Miwa holds back the tears as she lights the fire. Her father makes her stand with him until the body is consumed. As they walk back her sisters are decorating the home for a grand party all except Sango who excuses herself. It seems she has taken sick.

Miwa wakes up in a cold sweat and in tears. Her horse Sakura nuzzles her head. Miwa strokes her between the eyes and up to the mane. "It's ok. Just a nightmare. One all too real." She looks to the greying east, sighs and begins her routine.
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