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# Title & Summary
01 "The Tournament in Sunpu Castle"  
The story begins at Sunpu Castle on December 6th 1633. Tokugawa Tadanaga, Lord of Sunpu Castle and the younger brother of Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, has been sentenced to commit seppuku on being found guilty of immoral conduct and atrocities. Years earlier, in January 1629 at Sunpu Castle, Torri Naritsugu, the Governor of Tosa, appears before officials in intense pain. He pleads with Tokugawa Tadanaga against holding a tournament inside the Castle, for which 21 contestants will employ the use of real swords. Torri argues that wooden swords would prove more than sufficient; and with the nation long enjoying peace time, desecrating the garden of Sunpu Castle with blood would surely be interpreted as an expression of rebellion against the Shogunate. In a final act of protest, Torri reveals he had committed Seppuku a short while earlier, but was concealing the gaping wound in his stomach. Torri Naritsugu eventually succumbed to his wounds and died, but not before calling the disinterested Tokugawa Tadanaga a fool. Later in April of that same year, in order to ensure that no swordsman who was participating in the tournament should present himself in an unsightly manner before the eyes of Lord Tadanaga, Suraga’s grand Master of Martial Arts, Hyuuga Masahisa, subjected each contestant to a physical examination. Sitting before Hyuuga Masahisa was young man named Fujiki Gennosuke from the Kogan-ryuu school. Fujiki was recommended by the Karo, the top ranking Samurai official in service to feudal Japan during the Edo period. Accompanying him was Mie, the young daughter of Iwamoto Kogan, founder of the Kogan School. To Hyuuga Masahisa’s disbelief, the examination revealed Fujiki was missing his left arm. However, the back muscles of Fujiki suggested his one arm could easily perform the job of two. Before the commencement of Fujiki’s duel, Mie wished Fujiki good fortune despite having a vision of a bloodied Fujiki. This may have suggested Mie believed Fujiki would not win the battle or the vision was perhaps a product of Mie fearing for Fujiki’s life. At the duelling ground, in the east, Fujiki entered. In the west, entered Iraku Seigen. Though a young man, Iraku possessed long grey hair, was blind and crippled, ostensibly because of a disfigured foot with a large cleft between his big toe and second toe. As Iraku limped to the centre, dragging his foot along the way, a woman named Iku supported him. The officials observing from the stands were shocked that the sight of these contestants, one with a missing arm and the other a blind cripple, were to engage in a duel before them. Mie and Iku safely observed events anxiously on either side. Iraku, using the large cleft in his crippled foot to hold the edge of his blade and toes to grip it in like a vice, leaned abnormally to his side, producing a stance so bizarre no one from any school had seen or heard of. Fujiki called Iraku a monster while Mie observed in apparent disgust, hoping for Iraku to be cut in half by Fujiki. 
02 "Rules for the contest between representatives of two different schools"  
Seven years previously, in 1622, at the dojo of sword master Iwamoto Kogan, lived three disciples fearfully referred to as the tiger and his two dragons. Fujiki Gennosuke, Iraku Seigen, and their Lord, Kogan Iwamoto, one of the most widely acclaimed swordsman within the realm. During a sparring session, a visitor arrives at the school door hoping to challenge Master Kogan Iwamoto to a duel. The fragrance of this beguilingly effeminate man, with red lips, long black hair and white skin, filled the room. His name was Iraku Seigen; at this point not yet blind or crippled. Gonzaemon Ushimata, the master of the dojo, advised the visitor that the rules of the dojo required a challenger to duel with the masters’ disciples first; to which Iraku accepted against Fujiki. Meanwhile, Mie rushed to alert her father Kogan of the visitor, but left in disgust at the sight of what appears to be Kogan sexually abusing an unidentified woman. Fujiki, disturbed by Iraku’s red lips, was thrust upon by Iraku to the alarm of the dojo’s disciples. 
03 "The Tiger and the Two Dragons"  
Overwhelmed by an excruciating pain, Fujiki was quickly paralysed despite Iraku pressing on only two spots of Fujiki’s right palm. At this moment Fujiki came to the realisation that Iraku could be a swordsman known as one capable of Kosshi Jutsu, a combat technique which made use of the opponent’s nervous system. Fujiki fell to the ground clasping his two broken fingers. Despite wishing to continue, Gonzaemon, smiling with confidence, requested Fujiki to step aside. Gonzaemon wielded an abnormally large wooden sword to which Iraku condescendingly noted as useless in a duel. As the duel takes flight, Iraku displayed great skill evading the swing of Gonzaemon’s sword, and warned Gonzaemon to give up. Gonzaemon, in reality warming up, quickly gained the upper hand. Awestruck, Iraku bowed and requested to be a pupil at the dojo. Gonzaemon ignores Iraku’s request and warns Iraku he will now "beautify" him as a warning to other clans and increase the fame of the Kogan-ryuu style. Fujiki meanwhile, ordered that the doors of the dojo to be closed to prevent any attempt by Iraku at escaping. Frightened, Iraku attempted to escape, but found Fujiki blocking both the entrance and access to his sword. Now rendered with the demeanour of a frightened child, Iraku continued to skilfully evade the swing of Gonzaemon’s enormous sword, impressing all but Fujiki, who considered Iraku’s evasive manoeuvres merely a display of cowardice rather than skill. Impressed, Gonzaemon ceased to swing his sword at Iraku. 
04 "The Sticky Bean"  
Fujiki attempted to continue mundane tasks despite his broken fingers, even politely declining Mie's offer to assist. Meanwhile, although Iraku was now locked up in a cell, he was impressed with the number staff and size of the dojo. As the position a Samurai obtained was hereditary, Iraku understood the man who married Kogan’s daughter, Mie, would succeed Kogan Iwamoto as the head of the family inheritance. Iraku smiled and pondered how he could also gain a social status, enabling him to attend the Castle on horseback, accompanied by his own spear, sandal and baggage carriers. At night, Gonzaemon and his disciples visited Iraku and informed him Kogan would now see him. With his hands tied behind his back, Iraku was presented before Kogan, who appeared as if possessed by a demon. Nobody could tell with certainty when Kogan lost his mental balance. Periods of lucidity lasted at best half a day, and it was during those times that the master gave instructions regarding the school’s activities. In the Kogan school of fencing there existed a secret technique called Shooting Star. Kogan had 6 fingers, and this was noted as the key to his exceptional skill. Iraku passed the test of the sticky bean, an initiation ceremony which involved not flinching as Kogan sliced a single tiny bean stuck to Iraku’s forehead. Although the disciplines welcomed Iraku’s initiation, Fujiki was visibly not impressed. 
05 "A Visit in the Night"  
A year had passed and although Iraku gained the desires of local women due to his handsome looks; Iraku’s interest lay only for women in the peasantry class. In the late hours of the night, Kogan, in his demonic state, entered Mie’s chambers seemingly to molest her, but was actually examining whether Mie had passed the age of puberty. Fujiki as successor of the Kogan-ryuu school was now doubted. In the presence of Gonzaemon, Kogan asked who, in his opinion, should be his chosen successor. A marriage bloodline was a solemn ritual solely intended to continue the bloodline, there was no place in it for the concept of love. Gonzaemon recommended Fujiki. When queried for this choice, Gonzaemon inferred that Fujiki respected Mie. Angered and cursing the absence of a son, Kogan forced the side of his blade into Gonzaemon mouth, bludgeoning his teeth and slicing open his jaws. Rephrasing the question, Kogan asked who out of Fujiki and Iraku possessed the strongest semen; despite intense pain, Gonzaemon stated they were equally strong. Kogan ordered Gonzaemon to instruct the two warriors assassinate the twin sons of Funaki Ichidensai; a master swordsman who years earlier had his lower jaw ripped off by Kogan during an official tournament. Contrary to common practice, Kogan was sharply reprimanded for his action by the Lord of Kakegawa Castle, Ando Naotsugu, who considered his act discourteous. Kabuto Wari was a technique which involved cutting an armoured helmet in half. The Funaki dojo on the other hand practiced Kabuto Nage, which involved cutting a helmet thrown to a swordsman from the side. Funaki Hyoma and Funaki Kazuma, twin brothers and incestuous lovers, were masters of this technique and the masters of the Funaki School, along with their younger sister, Funaki Chika. Kogan, still harbouring a grudge for Funaki Ichidensai since being humiliated in front of his Lord, and wished for the destruction of the Funaki legacy and dojo. While Mie overheard and cried over the manner in which her successor would be chosen, Gonzaemon contemplated whether Kogan was in his correct state of mind, since the authorities would never sanction a duel with real swords in peacetime, particularly for one disguised as vengeance. 
06 "Kama 'itachi"  
After indulging themselves in drinking and debauchery, the Funaki twins visited the Hinoska shrine near Nissaka. They were then ambushed by Fujiki and Iraku in disguise. The twins were insulted that a duel had been initiated without formal invitation. Upon noticing Fujiki raising his sword above his head, the twins quickly inferred the pair oringated from the Kogan-ryuu school, and recalled their father’s warning them to be wary of this specific movement which was typical of the Kogan-ryuu style. Though considering Fujiki as too far away to strike, Fujiki struck the first blow, displaying a special technique called Nagare, a closely guarded technique forbidden to be practiced even in the Kogan dojo. The technique allowed a swordsman to strike at an opponent despite clearly appearing too far to do so. Iraku took advantage of this moment and struck the other twin down. 
07 "Child Song"  
Iku was the concubine of Kogan. She was the subject of a derisory children’s song and outcast amongst the local populace due to the belief that coming into close proximity to her would result in a cursed and painful death. As Iku arrived at an unsegregated bathhouse, whereas all customers rushed to the exits, one partially concealed man remained in place. Iku asked the man if he was afraid of dying as she was a cursed woman. The man stood up, and Iku realised the man was the newest Kogan disciple, Iraku. Later in her house in a backstreet, Iku explained to Iraku that two men she was engaged to in the past had died as a result of her curse. Iraku asked if Iku has had heard of Nanacho Nunbustu. Iraku narrated a story which took place in 1618 at Kakegawa Castle. Naotsugu, the Lord of the Castle, was presented by Kogan with a sword called Nanacho Nunbustu which was offered by Lord Tokugawa Yorinobu. It was told that one day, a master swordsmen named Tamiya Nagatsu, governor of Tsushima, who was in service to the family of the Shogun, wanted to test the sword and slashed an innocent Buddhist monk, who was in the middle of reciting Nenbustu. He continued walking without a single drop of blood spilling from his body. It was said his wound only opened after he had walked a further 350 feet. Naotsugu asked Kogan if he believed in this story, to which Kogan could not say for sure. Later, Kogan was ordered to execute a female convict, who was tied up and restrained by a man called Okebe Heibe. While Kogan performed the execution by cutting off the head of the convict; a whimper was heard from Okebe. Kogan warned Naotsugu that the sword was not from this world, and to keep it close would bring calamity to his house. As Naotsugu queried the meaning of this statement, Okebe began to realize he had been impaled. As his intestines exited his body, Naotsugu observed in horror. Iraku inferred Kogan killed both her fiancés, and reassured her she was a perfectly normal woman and the curse attributed to her in the child’s song was a fabrication to prevent others from winning her heart. Outside the house, Gonzaemon stood waiting. 
08 "Beast"  
Later at a local eatery in Kakegawa, Gonzaemon informed Iraku that either he or Fujiki would be betrothed to Mie and thereby appointed as Kogan’s successor. Despite Iraku’s plea of no wrongdoing, Gonzaemon warned Iraku to never visit Iku again. Despite the mortal peril should Kogan discover it, Iraku and Iku began an affair. Iraku was born to a prostitute who had no choice but to continue to work while pregnant with Iraku. He was born a half a year late, crawling the day he was born and prone to violence at a young age. By 12, Iraku came to the conclusion that killing was easier than stealing. With knowledge he was in the running as potential successor, he pondered how high his ambition could take him. Upon completing the final ritual of training, Fujiki and Iraku sat before Kogan, who appeared lost in his demented state. Kogan 
09 "Puppets"  
As Kogan continued to speak incomprehensibly, Iraku deduced Kogan was ordering Iraku and Mie to openly consummate their marriage in that moment surrounded by Kogan-ryuu disciples. Awestruck, Fujiki continued to stare helplessly onwards in silence, for the patriarch of the clan decided everything. Mie prepared to leave, but was struck down by Kogan. Mie picked herself up and reassured everyone she was not harmed, and made another attempt to leave; at which point, Gonzaemon and his disciples blocked her path. Gonzaemon politely implored Mie to turn back for the benefit of the Kogan-ryuu. Mie had seen this sight many times since she was a child - Kogan’s students becoming mere puppets at his command. Mie also observed Fujiki, remaining as expressionless as she had observed when Fujiki was ten and ordered by Kogan to hold a heated pair of tongs. With Mie’s arms held down and her legs spread by Kogan’s disciples, including Fujiki, Mie stared upwards aimlessly - concluding all men were puppets. Mie resigned herself as a mere tool for producing children, and considered any offspring she would bear as monstrosities. Mie decided to bite her tongue in the hope of killing herself. Iraku guessed Mie would do this, and noted to Kogan that if Mie killed herself, his bloodline wpi;d be severed forever. Outraged at what Kogan considered an insolent statement, Kogan deliberated drawing his sword against Iraku, until in his madness he mistook the cries of Mie with that of a new born child. Mie realised Iraku was the only man present who was not a puppet, but something far more dangerous and cunning. Very late that same night, during a walk in the freezing cold, Fujiki was met by a master swordsmen sent by the Funaki dojo in revenge for the killing of the Funaki twins. Despite Fujiki’s broken fingers being near frozen, he killed the swordsmen, and in doing so discovered a new technique. This formed the basis of the secret art, Nagare Boshi (falling star) 
10 "Hairpin"  
Iraku visited his mother within the slums of Sakagawa. Mentally unstable for the last seven years, and thinking Iraku a customer, she began to undress Iraku until he provided her with mochi, a luxury food she had always craved. Cutting off all ties to his past, Iraku tearfully killed his mother as she greedily ate, and proclaimed from this day he was reborn Samurai. At the house of Iwamoto Kogan’s estate, Kogan fondled a naked Iku in his unstable state. Iku silently cursed Kogan for taking away not only two men she held dear, but now a third in Iraku. During their final night together, Iraku informed Iku they would need to cease their affair, as being betrothed to Mie will result in Iku becoming his mother in law. Iku considered this unthinkable, and as Kogan continued to fondle Iku, she removed her hairpin, and contemplated using it to murder Kogan. At this moment, Kogan suddenly awoke from his demonic state. He stood up and calmly walked towards his sword and observed it. Kogan explained because it was his tool, and could approximately deduce how many it had killed just by observing it, as well who maintained it; for which he commended Fujiki. Iku was also his tool, and upon close inspection of her breasts, he correctly realized his future son in law had betrayed him. In rage, Kogan severed one of Iku's nipples. 
11 "Moonlight"  
Iraku informed Fujiki that Kogan had summoned all disciples. Anticipating an initiation ceremony as chosen successor to the Kogan-ryuu, Iraku requested Fujiki to refer to him as young master onwards. At Kontake temple, which was considered holy for the Kogan-ryuu and where Kogan himself discovered Nagare Boshi; all disciples stood in a guard of honour with Iraku in between and Kogan at the head. To Iraku’s excitement, Kogan announced he would unveil Nagare Boshi, but only after Iraku had sparred with Gonzaemon. Although in sparring duels between students of the same school it was customary to stop strikes before they landed, Gonzaemon struck the first blow deep into Iraku's shoulder, intentionally wounding him. As Iraku prostrated, Gonzaemon proceeded to strike directly into the centre of Iraku's vertebrae; causing Iraku tremendous pain. As Iraku lay incapacitated, Kogan then requested Fujiki to come next, and for the first time in his life, Iraku beheld Fujiki smiling. 
12 "Instant"  
Confused and frightened for his life, Iraku presupposed that this was a test. Kogan goaded Iraku to stand, and tempted him with knowledge of Nagare Boshi. With his ambition acting like morphine to deaden his pain, Iraku managed to stand. Despite his injuries, and though both sides looked equal in martial prowess, one side was already gaining the advantage as Iraku struck the first blow to Fujuki's forehead. The blood of Fujiki would soon reach his eyes Iraku thought, and he would not miss the opportunity. While Iraku focused on Fujuki's eyes, he was not observing the strange shape Fujiki had used to change the grip of his sword in the same way he had used it against the Funaki assassin. Kogan appeared to notice this, his own unusual 6th finger more pronounced than usual. The tip of Fujuki’s wooden sword whispered across the tip of Iraku’s chin, and shook his brain with terrifying force. Ironically, the blinding speed at which not even the genius of Iraku could avoid, had been caused by the very two fingers he had broken 2 years earlier. The remaining disciples looked on with his surprise at this new and unseen technique. 
13 "Bonfire"  
As Iraku lay defeated, Fujiki repeatedly pummelled Iraku face to a pulp with his fists; until Kogan ordered it enough. Later at the dojo, a gagged and tied up Iku observed Okitsu Sanjurro, a Kogan-ryuu disciple, administer a chemical into Iraku’s mouth. He assured her it was simply medicine. A second Kogan-ryuu disciple, Maruko Hikobee, wryly taunted Iku, while a third, Yamazaki Korouemon, prepared heated tongs. Yamazaki presented Iku with it, and informed her she would need to administer a final punishment by castrating Iraku and burning the true root of evil which had led Iku to her current predicament. As Iraku was hung naked upside down, Iku resisted. Yamazaki warned her that Iraku would be killed if she continued to resist. With her back turned against the disciples, Iku reluctantly placed the tong apparently between Iraku’s legs. As steam rose into the air and burning human fat dripped onto Iraku’s face, the disciples looked on with amusement, but were not aware Iku had actually driven the hot iron tong onto her own breast, protecting Iraku and urging him to run. Dazed and confused, Iraku stumbled out of dojo, his eyes swelling to their limit due the drugs he had imbibed. Appearing before him was a fourth Kogan-ryuu disciple, assistant Kogan-ryuu master Munakata Shinpachirou, who offered Iraku what appeared to be a steel sword. Tethering between dreams and reality, Iraku was not aware it was a sword made out of bamboo. Kogan appeared and unsheathed his sword while with his disciples blindfolded themselves with the exception of Gonzaemon, already a master Kogan-ryuu and licenced to observe Nagare Boshi. 
14 "Wrath"  

As Kogan stood in the Nagare Boshi stance, he began to recall 1595, at the Dousankashi, Yagyuu estate. Kogan, during another year of training, was duelling Yagyuu Munenori, the man would later serve as instructor to the House of Shogun. Yagyuu, though a master in the art of the esteemed House of Yagyuu, acknowledged Kogan’s skill still outmatched his own. Fearing for his life, Yagyuu forfeited the match as Kogan stood in Nagare Boshi, though Kogan declared it a draw to save Yagyuu face and protect Kogan’s own ambitions.

Later, Yagyuu informed Kogan he would be recommended to the House of Tokugawa but advised Kogan to hide his extra finger at the interview. In that same year, in an estate under the Castle Edo, Kogan was interviewed by Masazumi, son of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s ally Honda Masanobu. Though Masazumi was young, the differences in station between the two men was like heaven and earth. Masazumi queried why a prostrating Kogan would hide his extra finger; to which Kogan responded he did not want to disturb him. A greatly offended Masazumi explained that the retired Regent of Japan also possessed an extra finger (a thumb). Kogan’s dreams were shattered, and Yagyuu Munenori went onto to become the sword instructor to the House of Shogun. Back in the present, Kogan raged madly at Yagyuu’s treachery; while Iku warned Iraku to run. 

15 "Birth cry"  
Below Kakegawa Castle, by the estate of Iwamoto Kogan. Mie and an old male servant, Mosuke, overlooked Mount Akiba. Mie was excited Iraku would be chosen as successor, while the old servant was surprised Mie has finally smiled, given the hardships her life had ensured. When Mie was 7, her father Kogan, had slashed the sparrows nest she had christened in twain. At 11, when Kogan observed his wife had hung herself in a cell due to unknown circumstances, his only words were “fool”. On that humiliating day, the only one man who refused to follow orders, and protected Mir's pride was Iraku. He was a not a puppet, but to Mie a true man with warm blood in his veins. Meanwhile, Iraku, still unsure if he was participating in a training session; recalled the countless women he had seduced using his striking eyes. To Iku’s horror, Kogan slashed them. As Iku tended to Iraku, the genius swordsman may have been at his end or had just been reborn. Iraku’s “initiation” had ended. Walking together down the summit of Mount Akiba, Gonzaemon informed Fujiki he would be appointed as successor, but was alarmed that Fujiki possessed the face of a demon. Gonzaemon told himself this was result of twilights’ falling shadows. At the base of the summit, Mie stared onwards awaiting the return of Iraku. On this night, three monsters were born. 
16 "Fangs"  
There will always be one or two tyrants at any given point in history. But no matter how vicelike a tyrant was over his lands, confiscating and punishing him was not difficult in the very least. However, if the blood of Tokugawa Ieyasu himself flowed through those veins, it would be difficult to chastise him. The fortress of Tokugawa Tadanaga, son of a former Shogun and brother of current Shogun Iemitsu, was at Sunpu Castle. At the Castle one night, the young daughter of a low ranking official had been chosen to enter Tadanaga’s bed chambers to attend to his needs. The girl was bathed, combed and subjected to a meticulous series of tests to ensure she had carried no weapons or messages on her person. It was not a rare occurrence for a Lord to take interest only in a noble's servant woman, but the children of commoners as well. As she entered his bed chambers, Tadanaga strangled the girl to death as his female servants stared on powerlessly. Although not one person at Sunpu Castle could put an end to his tyranny, a certain battle held at Sunpu Castle involving real swords was to be his downfall.3 years since Iraku was expelled from the Kogan-ryuu school, Tadanaga had become ruler of Enshuu, resulting in many Ronin gathering to the taverns of Kakegawa hoping to service him. At a local tavern, a rowdy group of 8 ronin who killed indiscriminately and without concern for consequences insulted the school of Kogan-ryuu. They referred to Gonzaemon as a simpleton, and Mie and Fujiki as insane. However, they were not aware a new 15 year old student of Kogan-ryuu, Kondou Suzunosuke, had overheard the conversation. In revenge, Suzunosuke swiftly killed one of the men, and as the rest of the group stood and prepared to attack Kondou, their leader Tanba Henysai ordered them to stop. Later at the school, Suzunosuke had an audience with Okitsu Sanjurro, Maruko Hikobee, Yamazaki Korouemon, Munakata, Fujiki, and Gonzaemon at the head. Suzunosuke explained to Gonzaemon he had pledged a vow of a duel at Jinba pass with the Ronin. He apologised for bringing this fight to the school, promising to defeat each one. Gonzaemon commended Suzunosuke and the remaining disciples for defending the honour of the Kogan-ryuu school. Apart from Fujiki, the disciples are impressed with the tenacity of the new young student. 
17 "Face"  
At Jinba pass, 6 of the 7 Ronin lay dead from single fatal strikes from Fujiki’s bare fists. Only their impressed leader, Tanba remained. Although Tanba attacked Fujiki with his sword, the latter still refused to wield a weapon against what he considered straw dogs. Fujiki killed Tanba with ease while Suzunosuke stood in amazement, fortified in his belief that Kogan-ryuu was the mightiest in the land. Suzunosuke began to cry, hoping that one day he would become Samurai like Fujiki. Fujiki entered the dojo the next day, and though at times he envisioned Iraku on the top of the same rafters he used during his escape from Gonzaemon’s wooden sword, this time he discovered the decapitated head of Suzunosuke. When a body was discovered at the Kogan estate, the first suspect was not from outside but within. Gonzaemon visited Kogan, and on realising he has relapsed into his demonic state, accepted he was not the killer. The rest of the body was discovered later at a bamboo forest nearby Suzunosuke’s house. Okitsu, Maruko, Yamazaki, Munakata, Fujiki, and Gonzaemon discussed potential suspects; which would be endless, given that after the Battle of Sekigahara, the Tokugawa Shogunate brought ruin to many daimyo, leading to the sudden creation of over twenty two thousand Ronin. Starting in the first year, acts of depravity began on a nationwide scale, quickly growing beyond the ability of officials to contain. At the funeral procession, Fujiki pondered why Suzunosuke was crying on that day he defeated the 7 Ronin. At a meeting with all disciples led by Gonzaemon, Okitsu declared the name of Kogan-ryuu had been besmirched and Maruko considered it was too late to save, for their honour was already lost the moment Suzunosuke was killed. Gonzaemon suggested a scapegoat, someone with sufficient skill who had displayed animosity to the Kogan-ryuu in the past. Munakata (the assistant master disciple who provided Iraku with a bamboo sword during his false initiation), suggested Higaki Jingorou, a man defeated and beautified by Gonzaemon in the past. Gonzaemon agreed this would suffice. Munakata was a highly experienced swordsman and former vigilante in Kakegawa. His twenty deep scars on his iron body served as a proud evidence he was a warrior of the Sengoku era. His scarred hands displayed strength sufficient to catch a thrown knife in mid-air. On the passing of a martial art, there existed the monetary licence, the loyalty licence, and the skill licence. The monetary licence was bestowed on anyone who provided enough gold regardless of skill. The loyalty licence was awarded by the schools grandmaster to those to his Lord, or those close to him, again regardless of skill. Suzunosuke’s licence had been bestowed in this manner, for his grandfather was an old friend to Kogan. Only a skill licence was granted based on the actual martial prowess of the receiver. Munakata held such a licence. Higaki did not flee Kakegawa but resided on Mt. Awaga to train in the ways of the sword. At night, Munakata travelled there and easily killed Higaki in a duel. As Munakata headed back to the village, he stood before what appeared to be a man standing on a bridge within the mist, smiling madly and leaning against a cane. Munakata, realising the cane was a sword, was astonished that though at a glance it seemed as though the man appeared to be a blind man leaning on a cane, the killing intent infused throughout his body made it clear it was attacking stance so bizarre no one from any school had seen or heard of. Munakata realised this was Suzunosuke’s true killer, but was quickly killed by the swordsman. Later, villagers discovered Munakata’s decapitated head on the bridge, biting down on a bamboo sword. 
18 "Cicada’s cry"  
The disciples observed Munakata’s body and to their dismay, he was sliced in half via an upwards strike. They deduced Munakata must have let his guard down, and Gonzaemon warned all disciples to stay alert, for a person able to defeat Munakata would require a swordsman of substantial skill. At an eatery in Kakegawa, two men discussed Munakata’s death. One of them mused the bamboo sword was perhaps a message that Kogan-ryuu was as blunt as a bamboo. Before completing his sentence, Yamazaki, overhearing, murdered them both with his fist. Later on the street, a local sword wielding villager sought vengeance; but Yamazaki killed him with his fist, and to the disgust of the villagers nearby, ate the fallen man’s eyeball. Gonzaemon discussed Iraku’s past with Maruko, while Mie’s appeared mysteriously behind in the shadows. Gonzaemon wished her to get well, indicating Mie was no longer with a correct state of mind since Iraku’s exile. Ten days after Suzunosuke’s death, though Gonzaemon had forbidden anyone from leaving the estate after dark, Yamazaki headed to the woods. Leaning against a tree, Yamazaki, in tears, performed autofellatio while arousing himself with sexual fantasies about Suzunosuke. Soon after, the true killer appeared and easily killed Yamazaki, his Nagare insufficient against the speed of the killer’s attack. Later, Yamazaki severed head was found burned as though a pair of heated tongs had been held against his face. 
19 "Blind man"  
Fujiki informed Gonzaemon Iraku was the killer. Three years ago, Munakata handed him a bamboo sword before his punishment, and Munakata was found with a bamboo sword in his mouth. Yamazaki presented the burning iron to them on that day, and seared one side of Yamazaki’s face. Finally, Suzunosuke’s head was lain at the very place that Iraku fled to on the day he arrived. The group deduced Iraku was residing somewhere in Kakegawa. Maruko and Okitsu visited Tsudanoichu, a blind masseuse and acupuncturist. Maruko asked Tsudanoichu if any new blind strangers had appeared in Kakegawa recently, given blind people surely had contact with one another. Tsudanoichu mentioned Toudouza, an organisation composed of and governed completely by the blind. Encompassing all men in the land who were without sight, its scale was far larger than anyone could have imagined. The Toudouza was composed of four divisions, fourteen subdivisions, and 73 sub sections. Tsudanoichu suggested they speak to a man called Shizuhata Kengyou, the head of the Toudouza. Kengyou was a possessor of lands on par with any nobleman, with no less than 13 personal man servants, he enjoyed a life of incredible luxury. The one to bestow such prestige to the leader of Toudouza, was none other than Tokugawa Ieyasu himself. For the disciple of a mere martial arts master, to think of requesting to meet him was out of the question, and Maruko WAS insulted Tsudanoichu could so casually suggest it. Okitsu tormented the blind man with sounds he had not unheard of as punishment. Later, Maruko and Okitsu parted ways as Maruko visited the local bathhouse. Although handing in his weapon at the check in, the strength of the body of Maruko was second only to Gonzaemon himself. As Maruko prepared to sit in the bath, within an instant, Maruko was sliced in half by Iraku. 
20 "Tiger’s cub"  
Inside Maruko’s mouth was his own penis. Rumours began to spread this was not the work of a man but that of a demon. In the tiger’s room, the chamber set aside for students who lived at the estate, sat Fujiki and Okitsu. Okitsu recalled those who had died and noted to Fujiki that the room had now become too large. Fujiki was writing and was taught how to by Okitsu; but struggled as the fist he had used against the Ronin had become infected. The next day at the Shizuhata Kengyou’s Estate below Kakegawa Castle, at a space sprawling nearly 50 thousand square feet, sat Kengyou’s secretaries. These men were not blind and sat before them was Okitsu, who was presented with three gold bars. One for each tiger (excluding Suzunosuke) as reward for revealing the precise time each Kogan-ryuu disciple would be most vulnerable. The secretaries asked when the remaining three tigers, Kogan, Gonzaemon and Fujiki, would be next. Okitsu stated it would take a while longer given those tigers were not as easy to kill as previous ones. Okitsu did not mention Fujiki was vulnerable due to an infected hand, although even he could not say why. As Okitsu left, he scouted the area to ensure he had not been followed, and then proceeded into the woods. At this point Fujiki called his name and with a deceptive calmness, asked Iraku if he was at Shizuhata Kengyou’s estate. Okitsu ignored the question, and queried whether the Kogan-ryuu has a future. Fujiki’s responded that it lay with Mie. Okitsu scoffed at this remark, proclaiming once the heart was broken, it could never be mended - alluding to Fujiki playing an active role in the attempted rape of Mie. Okitsu commenced to attack Fujiki, using the same hidden technique Fujiki discovered against the Funaki assassin and the one he revealed to the Kogan-ryuu disciples when defeating Iraku. On completing the manoeuvre copied from Fujiki, Okitsu’s hand had been cut off. Okitsu was impressed that Fujiki defended against his own secret technique and commended Fujiki. As Fujiki delivered the killing blow, Okitsu tearfully held Fujiki’s hand, while Fujiki recalled his childhood as it was Okitsu who had taught how him to write. Fujiki noted the tiger’s cub would truly become a larger now. 
21 "The Angel of Tokogawa"  
Half a year after the exile of Iraku, Mie was afflicted with anorexia. Mie was so thin her anus could be seen when her legs gathered. Kogan, in his demonic state, would even force the liver of a foul smelling animal into her mouth to bring her back to vitality and return her body into a vessel ripe for mating and ready to bear strong young. One night, Mie stole Kogan’s demon sword Nanacho Nunbustu and ran into the streets with only her undergarments. In his demonic state, Kogan demanded his disciples strike her down and return the sword. Eventually, Yamazaki cornered Mie into a small shrine. On raising the sword against him, Yamazaki unsheathed his sword, explaining he had no choice but to strike her down. At this moment, a rock thrown by Fujiki incapacitated Yamazaki. Mie took the Nagare stance and attempted to strike Fujiki but deliberately dropped the sword while Fujiki caught it. At this moment, Mie awoke from her demonic state. Only once the disciples of the Kogan-ryuu began falling due to an unknown assailant did Mie’s appetite return, exactly on the day it had all begun. 
22 "Futawa"  
In Enshuu Kakegawa, Okitsu was blamed for the deaths of the Kogan-ryuu disciples. As a result, rumours of demons and unknown murderers were quieted amongst the local populace. However, Kogan still suspected Fujiki and Gonzaemon were traitors. Having regained consciousness for the time first in 49 days, Kogan required the two disciples to perform Futawa. Both students emptied their bowels, lest their intestines would stink if also asked to perform seppuku. The swords used were steel, which comprised of Kata. The Kata involved executing a series of attacks and counter attacks in rapid succession. However, when the precise series of attacks were carried out as fast as possible, the mortality rate was even higher with real live blades. The loyal disciples placed their lives on the line and completed the Futawa without serious injury to appease their master. Later that night, a man from Kengyou arrived bearing a letter to Kogan. 
23 "Kengyou’s Estate"  
The Kogan-ryuu disciples were invited to the estate of Shizumata Kengyou. The incidental timing of this was not lost on Fujiki and Gonzaemon, but it was questionable whether Kogan knew that Kengyou had allied with Iraku, and was the one behind the deaths of the five students. In the past, Kengyou had been invited to play the Biwa before Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and was awarded with honour far beyond what he deserved. He was a skilled acupuncturist, and current doctor to the Lord of Suruga and master of Sunpu Castle, the sadistic Tokugawa Tadanaga. In a chamber at the Kengyou estate sat Kengyou and Kogan. It was clear Kogan did not ignore social customs, for when dealing with those above his station, Kogan displayed a meek and sheepish demeanour never witnessed by his students. Kengyou pondered why Kogan had no successors, to which Kogan replied his daughter, Mie, was sick. Changing topic, Kengyou asked for his opinion of a sword belonging to Sekiun, the sword was a fencing sword. Kogan considered it a disgrace, a mere decoration which could not cut. Kengyou requested Kogan use one of his disciples to teach Sekiun a lesson in swordsmanship supposedly for entertainment. In the courtyard, Kengyou proclaimed Fujiki would wield a wooden sword while Sekiun would wield the one Kogan referred to as a harmless decoration. Kogan, who suspected something was amiss, ordered Fujiki to stand back. Kogan took Fujiki’s place in the duel to the surprise of Kengyou. Sekiun performed a stance to demonstrate the fencing techniques of Spain, designed not to cut, but to stab. Hidden from view, Iraku and Iku looked onwards in a separate chamber overlooking the courtyard. 
24 "Taunting"  
It was said amongst the disciples of the Ono Tadaaki, swordsmanship instructor of the House of Shogun, that there was a warrior who had not a single hair on his entire body. His name was Sekiun, the son of a wealthy Samurai who was detested and abandoned by his parents. Sekiun eventually came across Ono, who would be his master and presented him with an unusual sword. It was the mission of the Ono style Ittouryuu to completely crush the fencing style of the heretic Christian converts in Japan. If a man’s Lord ordered him to take up the ways of that style as an experiment, it was natural duty to follow those orders to the best of his ability and therefore become well versed in foreign techniques. Sekiun was the product of that experiment, and was taught to master the techniques of the Spaniards, which involved thrusting rather than cutting. Two years later, Sekiun defeated many disciples of Ittouryuu due to his rare style. During the duel, the one Kogan’s gaze centred on was not of Sekiun, but of Iku and Iraku observing from another chamber, the latter wearing the ceremonial clothes of a Samurai, beyond anything Fujiki’s station could hope for. Set up in a trap by Iraku, Kogan was hesitant at killing Sekiun, given he knew that his opponent was Kengyou’s man. Kogan blocked Sekiun attack with his wooden sword, and then disarmed and used his fists to incapacitate Sekiun. 
25 "Binding Agreement"  
A disfigured Sekiun rose to feet, and pointed his sword at Kengyou. It was at that moment the true nature of Sekiun, a man unable to understand the meaning of loyalty, was revealed. As Sekiun attempted to thrust his blade towards Kengyou, his manservant, Semimaru, swung a wickedly curved battle claw, killing Sekiun. Later in his chamber, Kengyou commended Kogan for defeating the traitor. Kogan observed that the woman pouring the liquor for Kengyou was no other than his own mistress, Iku. Meanwhile, Fujuki’s and Gonzaemon, who were not permitted to gaze upon Kengyou’s face, waited in a separate chamber. At this point, Iraku appeared before them. As Fujiki attempted to stand, Gonzaemon warned Fujiki where they were, for any commotion would reflect unfavourably on Kogan. In resignation, Fujiki sat back down. Iraku politely offered to pour a glass for Gonzaemon, and then immediately emptied its contents across their faces. As both disciples remained still despite dripping wet, Iraku explained his eyes were not what they used to be. Gonzaemon accused Iraku of using barbarian swordsmanship in an attempt to kill Kogan, to which Iraku retorts was supposed to be ploy to slaughter Fujiki, until Kogan saved him, likely in his opinion because Fujiki was in danger and required protection even from a man as old as Kogan. Deeply insulted, Fujiki bit deeply into his own infected fist, sucked the blood within, and spat it out onto Iraku’s face. Iraku remained motionless. Continuing with the conversation, Gonzaemon contended Iraku was incorrect, as Kengyou requested they enjoy themselves, whereas Fujiki was not a man to fight for entertainment. Iraku was enraged by this statement, as they were the ones who branded Iku’s breast and blinded him for entertainment. Iraku stood and left, but not before warning Fujiki that his turn would be next. Later that night at the Kogan estate, Fujiki discovered a letter from Iraku in his room. The letter was an invitation for a one on one duel at Mt. Ariba on the coming of the full moon. 
26 "Moonlight"  
Iraku visited his mother within the slums of Sakagawa. Mentally unstable for the last seven years, and thinking Iraku a customer, she began to undress Iraku until he provided her with mochi, a luxury food she had always craved. Cutting off all ties to his past, Iraku tearfully killed his mother as she greedily ate, and proclaimed from this day he was reborn Samurai. At the house of Iwamoto Kogan’s estate, Kogan fondled a naked Iku in his unstable state. Iku silently cursed Kogan for taking away not only two men she held dear, but now a third in Iraku. During their final night together, Iraku informed Iku they would need to cease their affair, as being betrothed to Mie will result in Iku becoming his mother in law. Iku considered this unthinkable, and as Kogan continued to fondle Iku, she removed her hairpin, and contemplated using it to murder Kogan. At this moment, Kogan suddenly awoke from his demonic state. He stood up and calmly walked towards his sword and observed it. Kogan explained because it was his tool, and could approximately deduce how many it had killed just by observing it, as well who maintained it; for which he commended Fujiki. Iku was also his tool, and upon close inspection of her breasts, he correctly realized his future son in law had betrayed him. In rage, Kogan severed one of Iku's nipples. 
27 "Firelock"  
Fujiki waited at Mt. Akiba in Kontake temple. He told no one of Iraku’s letter, instead wanting to fight Iraku alone. A man who had previously been present at the Kengyou estate appeared before Fujiki with a gun. He fired it but with luck, Fujiki correctly anticipated he would aim for his forehead, and blocked the bullet using the base of his sword. Fujiki killed the assassin as he fled and realised he had been tricked by Iraku, rendering the dojo undefended. At the moment, Iraku and Iku appeared on the door steps of the Iwamoto Kogan dojo. 
28 "Transformation"  
Iraku and Iku explained to the three masters and former students of Kogan at the dojo’s door that they were Biwa players sent from Kengyou as a token of thanks for the martial arts displayed days earlier by Kogan. The three masters were aware Iraku and Iku meant to kill to Kogan, but believed trapping them inside the inner chamber would prove easier than fighting out in the open. In the inner chamber, Kogan sat behind a veil of silk, two of his masters sat in front, while the third sat behind Iraku and Iku, apparently to ensure the lantern did not go out. Iraku could sense Kogan was not of his correct senses given the smell of urine on his clothes. Iku proceeded to play while Iraku sang, to the enjoyment of servants overhearing; who had not noticed Mie had left their side. Iraku offered his hosts to observe Iku’s back. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity to observe the beauty of Iku naked, the three masters agreed. Iku removed her clothes and stood naked in front of Kogan. Kogan remained expressionless, despite the burn on Iku’s disfigured breast now clearly visible. Iku turned her back to face Kogan, and at that moment, Iraku heard the sound of Kogan's hair rising on end. Kogan observed on Iku’s back a tattoo of a dragon without pupils strangling an old tiger. Enraged at the taunt, Kogan stood and seriously injured Iku by slashing the dragons head, separating it from Iku’s skin. Everything was going as planned, Iraku would inform the authorities that Kogan took leave of his senses, had acted violently towards Kengyou’s beloved mistress, and therefore had no choice but to strike him down in self-defence. The two masters, standing between Iraku and Kogan, drew their swords. Although Kogan, in his demonic state, decapitated both from behind. The mistake Iraku had made was not only that Kogan insane, but that he had been transformed into a terrible thing that did not distinguish between friend or foe, a demonic god ready to strike down anything that entered its domain. 
29 "Blind Dragon"  
Iraku shook with horror, particularly as Kogan kicked one of the bloodied corpses of his own allies to Iraku, only for the corpse to miss Iraku and impact the ceiling. The drops of blood falling from the ceiling impacted Iraku’s sense of sound and smell and rendered it difficult to discern Kogan’s movements. Iraku commenced his impenetrable attacking stance, leaning against his sword while Kogan stood with his ultimate art, Nagare Boshi. This would mark the first time Kogan had used the stance twice against the same opponent. Iku, behind Kogan, and Iraku, in front, were both within range of Nagare Boshi. 
30 "Nagare Boshi"  
Eleven months after Iraku was expelled, Kogan presented Fujiki with a bottle with a hole in it. Sensing this was related to the secret art, his warrior’s instinct brought him to a deserted house. Fujiki arranged some unbroken bottles before him, and realised when a man’s fingers moved at incredible speed and force, a hole could be pierced into the bottle without shattering it. Fujiki could not pierce a hole in the bottle without destroying the top half. Elsewhere, deep in the woods, Iku and Iraku encountered a group of bandits. Aware Iraku could not fight due to his blindness, Iku stood in front of Iraku, and was prepared to give her life to defend him. Iraku requested Iku to stand back, and as he commenced to strike at all three, he missed them completely and embedded his sword deep into a tree instead. Iraku desperately attempted to pry the sword out as the bandits drew closer. In just enough time, Iraku managed to kill all three in one single swipe as they thrust upon him, moving at a speed beyond even what Iraku expected was capable of him. At that moment, Iraku came back to life. At the deserted house, Fujiki finally managed to pierce a hole into the bottle using his fingers after a number of failed attempts. The next day, Gonzaemon granted Fujiki licence to use Kogan-ryuu. 
31 "Death flash"  
At the duelling ground, as Kogan began to strike, Iraku performed a manoeuvre which involved diving under his opponent and striking upwards. The manoeuvre had defeated Kogan and his Nagare Boshi. Iraku lay frightened on the ground, and wondered why he could not hear Kogan falling to the ground but only a peculiar sound of wind, as well as the sound of Iku collapsing from her injury. At this point Mie appeared, and Kogan faced her. Kogan envisioned Mie in wedding attire, and stated he had no words to express how happy he was on this auspicious day. He stated Mie had become beautiful. The moment between father and daughter was cut short however, as Iraku drove his sword through Kogan’s back, to Mie’s horror. Iraku saw Kogan had already lost half of his face from his first strike, and the peculiar sound of wind was actually the sound of the ancient tiger choking on his own blood. Before his daughter’s eyes, Kogan collapsed and died. In shock, Mie fainted. 
32 "Mumyou Sakanagare"  
Fujiki rushed to the Iwamoto estate and discovered it was riddled with dead corpses. He checked Mie was alive, who was now prostrating still, and then noticed his master lying on the floor. Madly, Mie welcomed Fujiki home, while Fujiki hastily attempted to suck out the blood from Kogan’s windpipe. At that moment an official arrived observing the blood bath, and later testified that Kogan had taken leave of his senses, and that Iraku and Iku defended themselves. Sometime later this man had opened a large dojo of his own in Edo, though it was not clear where he had procured the required funds. That same month at Sunpu Castle in the Castle grounds, Iraku sat prostrated before Tokugawa Tadanaga, with Kengyou sitting beside him. As the man who had slain the renowned tiger, Tadanaga requested Iraku to demonstrate his skills against a captured man in bonds. The warrior had only been married to his wife for only 19 days until Tadanaga commanded his wife to attend his chambers. Knowing full well the fate of his wife if he accepted, he refused and was captured while attempting to flee thecCastle. He was freed from his bonds, armed and ordered to duel with Iraku. Believing Iraku must have been victim to a similar injustice, the prisoner reluctantly attached him, but was quickly killed. Iraku walked to his terrified wife and cut her neck. Impressed, Tadanaga asked what school Iraku was from, to which Iraku replied, “Mumyou Sakanagare”. 
33 "Bully"  
Gonzaemon, who survived the poisoning, made his return to the Iwamato Kogan Estate’s dojo after seven days. Upon discovering the gates were sealed, he realised everything. The resulting sobs that escaped from Gonzaemon were more like the lows of a bull than the cries of a man. Bereft of students, only few servants remained at the dojo. Though still beautiful, Mie remained aloof and mysterious, while Fujiki imprisoned himself in a cell as punishment for losing his warriors composure in the face of his Lord’s death. Fujiki cried for the first time since the death of his master upon hearing Gonzaemon’s cries. Fujiki wondered back to the past. Over ten years ago, in the village of Awamoto in Kakegawa, a local bully named Fujiki Gennosuke was feared most by local children. His Samurai father had once been a high ranking noble. Although he had enjoyed an easy life, one year he was stripped of his lands and position on the grounds of negligence and disloyalty. This bully, loathed and disdained by Samurai, let loose his frustration and rage amongst ignorant peasant children. In the same village lived another child who also shared the name of Gennosuke. As the son of a farmer, he had no family name, was nearly always silent, and was not known to make overt displays of emotion. He was seen as a dumb child by his parents, and provided with worse food than his brothers. He was the ideal target for the bully. Though considered stupid by many, Gennosuke knew enough to bow his head to a Samurai. However, unlike the other village children, his expression displayed no hint of adulation, which infuriated the bully, who then proceeded to force feed Gennosuke with horse droppings, and used judo to strangle him over twenty times. Sometime later, when the farmer’s son became unable to move, the bully thought him dead and quickly ran away, leaving the boy where he lay. When Gennosuke came to his senses, a vision of a tiger tempted him to stray from his path to another destination. The next day, the bully was discovered dead; his head having collided with a stone wall. On that day, a student saw a boy swinging the bully through the air. Gennosuke’s mother was horrified to discover Gennosuke brought back a child’s scalp. When Gennosuke did not respond to questions, his father hung him upside down to a tree. This was solely an attempt to appease the wrath of a Samurai who would inevitably visit the one who had taken his son’s topknot and prevent that anger from affecting the culprit’s family as well. His parents left him to die, until a Samurai, Kogan, appeared from the castle. Kogan cut him down and took him away. The swordsmanship instructor of Kakegawa, Iwamato Kogan, decreed that the bully's death had been an accident, and gave money to the now heirless Fujiki clan, making them adopt a new successor, which would be no other than the silent child, Gennosuke. Afterwards, this son of a poor peasant, now provided with the bully’s name Fujiki, was taken into the Kogan estate and reborn as the Samurai Fujiki Gennosuke. 
34 "Bamboo Spear"  
In Nissaka, Kuchinawa Heishirou worked as security for the Kuki clan. An extremely skilled swordsman, he was also so cold blooded that even other warriors spoke of him in hushed whispers. For when he took part in an attack on a rival clan, he casually struck down the children who attempted to protect their leader. He had met Fujiki many years earlier one April in a duel, Fujiki was not even three years a student of Kogan-ryuu, but was ordered to duel with Kuchinawa; who was a disciple of Ipparyuu and wished to demonstrate his prowess. Already skilful, Fujiki cut off two of Kuchinawa’s fingers, cut his nose and cut out one of his eyes. The Kogan-ryuu observed with pride at Fujiki’s actions. Together with two others who had suffered similarly at the hands of Kogan-ryuu, Kuchinawa hatched a plan for revenge. In the same year, Kuchinawa and the two others ambushed Fujiki outside the dojo on a stormy night using bamboo spears. They taunted Fujiki to raise his steel sword amongst lightening. To their surprise, Fujiki’s instantly did so, but instead of being electrocuted, lightening burned the two opponents accompanying Kuchinawa to a crisp. A frightened Kuchinawa observed a demon Fujiki standing in front of a dragon, with a sword raised over him. In the present day, the old servant Mosuke (the servant who noted Mie’s smile as they waited at the steps of Mt. Akiba during Iraku’s initiation) was making his way back from a market. He was blocked by a man who appeared to be Ronin, but was no other than a man called Haramitshi Bizennokami, who was blind in one eye. He informed the old man to deliver a message to Fujiki. That he will be protected by the dragon of Youkouin, and not to be nervous, for the day will come when he will avenge his fallen master. Meanwhile, sitting with Mie, Fujiki wrote an official letter, a “request for vengeance”. 
35 "Nemesis"  
Late summer, the House of Iwamoto Mie’s gates were unsealed. Mosuke advised Mie she could not leave her father’s robes in her room, believing it to be her father’s lament, embodied. It was a set of bones, dyed nearly black with solidified blood. The letter read, “my departed father Kogan was of a clear mind until his very last moment. He drew his blade in response to the taunting of Iraku Seigen, a manservant of the Shizuhata estate, and events proceeded as you already know. I am sending this letter in order to receive permission to kill Iraku Seigen, the man who murdered my father. I beg you, please, grant me this wish, Iwamato Mie.” Upon receiving this petition for vengeance, the man charged with inspecting Kakegawa, Yanagisawa Tanomo, immediately summoned Fujiki. Amongst the presence of other officials, Yanagisawa explained to Fujiki that a petition for vengeance could only be submitted if the patriarch and the immediate heir were dead, and a document received from Kogan long ago informed him that the heir to the clan of Iwamoto would be no other than Fujiki Gennosuke. Fujiki had no idea, and it was probable that Mie, too, had not known that Fujiki was chosen. This knowledge made his heart swell. Smiling behind them, Sat Ikuno Jinnai, the man who was already scheduled to become the next martial arts master of Kakegawa. All officials in attendance berated Fujiki for Kogan’s death, given he was not present when he died and floundered helplessly and losing control of himself when confronted with his corpse. Yanagisawa was at pains to remind Fujiki he would still be hanging from a tree in Awamoto if Kogan had not saved him. The scorn and insults these men heaped upon the low ranking warrior went beyond the bounds of decency. Fujiki did not utter a word protest, believing these insults to be true, until he heard Sat Ikuno Jinnai query whether or not the Kogan was a good swordsman at all, given he lost to a blind man. At this moment, the Karou of Kakegawa, Haramitshi entered, and suggested the blade of Kogan-Ryuu had yet to rust. Meanwhile, having reflected favourably in the eyes of Tadanaga, Iraku had been gifted with an estate belonging to the swordsmanship instructor of the Castle Okakura Bokusat. Iraku was enjoying a luxurious life. However, despite defeating his master and considered above him by all, Fujiki continued to worry his conscience. While Iraku recalled a memory of Fujiki clasping a seashell on a beach, in rage, Iraku cut in half a female servant and Okakura’s wife, who was bathing him. Iraku vowed he must strike down Fujiki. Sometime later, Iraku learned that the officials Kakegawa had granted permission to the Iwamoto clan’s request for revenge, ostensibly because of Haramitshi’s influence. 
36 "Fellow Student"  
On a boat along the waters of Enshuu in Fukuroi, the Kogan-ryuu warriors went swimming. This was some time before the wounds Kogan had inflicted on Gonzaemon jaw had fully healed. Wearing a suit of barbarian armour was Fujiki, who dove into the waters. Encased in a hard shell, he began to sink quickly. This was a training session in which the student removed the heavy armour by hand in a crushing, suffocating situation. It was actually one of the safer exercises the disciples performed on a regular basis. Fujiki struggled to untie the knots holding the armour together, having been tied by what seemed like the hands of a monster. Yamazaki and Maruko dove in to save Fujiki, but though trained in quick submerging, they could only dive 100 feet. Iraku however continued dart deeper ahead and saw Fujiki lying on the sea floor. This was his opportunity to kill Fujiki and become heir to Kogan-ryuu. Yamazaki and Maruko rose up to the sea floor informing Gonzaemon they could reach him, at which point Iraku appeared to the surface carrying Fujiki. Later in a hut on the beach, Fujiki apologised for his failure, while Gonzaemon commended Iraku for saving Fujiki. Though any one of them could have used his terrifying power to bind the knots, Fujiki was not a man to whom suspicions came easy. On the beach later at night, the disciples observed from afar a turtle laying its eggs. Gonzaemon proclaimed he was glad they were gathered together, fellow students training in the ways of the sword as one. On hearing this, Iraku came to a new found respect for the disciples of Kogan-ryuu. Iraku always learned to live for himself, but the Kogan-ryuu were different than those he had known to consider themselves superior because of their birth, recalling a drunk man he had witnessed once in childhood who was butchered for brushing the shoulder of a Samurai. Yamazaki and Maruko were ashigaru, foot soldiers and the lowest class of Samurai. Okitsu and Gonzaemon were Goushi, Samurai who tilled their own land, another low rank. Neither would ever live luxurious lives. Iraku observed Fujiki examining a sea shell on the beach, and noted Fujiki never once mentioned his past, just like him. Iraku noted to Fujiki, that even the great Shogun Ieyasu, lauded as a god now even by other Samurai, was born the son of a poor woman and a wandering monk. He stated together, they could both work their way up with their martial arts. It was the first time the words “we” passed Iraku’s lips. Fujiki informed Iraku that he was born Samurai. A Samurai was like the shell he held, the only road for a man born to the house of Samurai was protecting that house that was all. Fujiki had spoken thinking only of Kogan’s mercy in adopting the third son of a poor farmer and making him Samurai. To Iraku, a man who was born of the lowest class, these words were not inspiring. Later that night, in rage, Iraku stabbed the turtle eggs. In a field in Kakegawa, Iku walked out of place amongst peasants who were ordered to cut away plants within the immediate vicinity. Officials had chosen it as a duelling ground with a bamboo fence erected over the course of three days. Iku carefully began removing the rocks embedded within the dirt one by one. This was because Iraku’s peculiar technique of stabbing his blade into the ground would be hindered by rocks even as small as a woman’s first and could at worst case lead to his death. 
37 "Sealed Art"  
At the duelling ground, Fujiki’s face was sliced off by Iraku. In revenge, Mie thrust her dagger towards Iraku, but her fingers were cut off. Iraku began to molest her and then proceeded to rip open her chest with his hands. Mie suddenly awoke from her nightmare in a sweat, her breasts noticeably erect from the nightmare. Early the following morning, Mie poured icy water over her skin as though to wash away the nightmare, but made no attempt to hide her exposed skin to Fujiki, the man her father chose to be her husband. Later that night, pretending to sleep, her heart began to pound as Fujiki entered her room, but rather than touch so much as her hair, he left only a sea shell. On another day, Mie informed Fujiki at the Haramitshi estate, that Haramitshi said when Ikuno Jinnai besmirched Kogan’s honour, Fujiki immediately revenged that insult in a most admirable display of loyalty, displaying an outstanding display of strength and dexterity and surely would have vengeance for Kogan, and be the rock supporting Mie and the Iwamato clan. He foresaw someday, she and Fujiki would be known as the greatest husband and wife of Kakegawa. As the words husband and wife left Mie’s lips, though Fujiki never lost his calm, this time, his eyes flashed brightly with emotion. It was already ascertained that Iraku’s attack which killed Kogan came from below. At the dojo, Gonzaemon hung upside down a log to re-enact that strike and Fujiki practiced defensive manoeuvres to defend and counter it. Fujiki was now ready to duel Iraku without weakness. 
38 "Vengeance"  
All remaining students returned to the Kogan-ryuu dojo, standing in a double line wishing Fujiki victory. The bamboo fence surrounding the duelling ground stretched over three hundred feet in every direction, holding back people who had come to watch the battle. Even Fujiki’s older brother called out him within the crowd, but Fujiki ignored him, for the third son of a poor farmer died long ago; Fujiki was born Samurai. Iraku, in a separate area, asked Iku if Fujiki appeared to bear any chains, to which Iku responded in the negative. Fujiki, Mie, Gonzaemon and a man called Ootsubo waited in their area. Seeing Iraku for the first time in years sitting on the other side, Mie’s cheeks flushed with colour, and her lips parted slightly. At the same time, her grasp on her short dagger was firm, to stop her hands from shaking. Sitting in a spectator stand nearby were the high ranking officials of Kakegawa. Inspector Yanagisawa Tanomo, Kengyou, and Haramitshi together with his strapping young third son, Yukichiyo, who stood behind them. Yukichiyo was said to have impregnated no less than three female servants of the Haramitshi estate when he was 13, and was called from far away by his father to observe the way of the warrior by observing Fujiki. Haramitshi noticed Yukichiyo instead observed Mie’s beauty, and berated him. As the battle drum began, Iku and Mie watched with worry. It was empathised by the announcer that blood feud could not be held twice. 
39 "Execution Ground"  
From afar, a frog like warrior sat in the tree and observed the events unfold. Funaki Ichi Densai was also in attendance. Already old and senile, as Fujiki began to rest his blade at the back of his head, Ichi Densai recalled the advice he gave to his late twin sons to be wary of this stance. To the crowd’s alarm, Fujiki turned his back to Iraku and presented him his exposed vital. The gasp from the spectators in response to Fujiki’s strange stance greatly distracted Iraku and worried Iku. Mie turned to look at Gonzaemon in worry, while Gonzaemon smiled. Unsure of what Fujiki was attempting to do, Iraku was struck with a sense of mortal danger. Fujiki observed Iraku strike from the reflection of his sword, and Fujiki produced a Nagare strike parallel to the ground, to which Iraku blocked but the force of it brought to Iraku to the ground, rendering Iraku left to defend Fujiki’s sword pressing against his own from above. 
40 "Thundering of the Earth"  
If it had been a normal duel, the cry of match decided would have run in the air, and the battle would have stopped, but this was a duel to the death. Iku began to cry blood. Like a serpent, Iraku’s leg desperately coiled around Fujiki, blocking his nose and mouth like a hand, leaving no space for Fujiki to breathe. Freed from the attack and now above Fujiki, Iraku called Fujiki a sea shell and asked him to die. Though pressing down from above, Fujiki used his leverage against Iraku to deliver a powerful blow with the fist into the solar plexus. Iraku began to vomit and was thrown away like a rag doll towards the sitting Samurai officials. This was the perfect moment to kill Iraku but Fujiki gave up the opportunity, for he could not even take the slightest action which could be taken as a sign of hostility against the Samurai officials, such was his judgement. Haramitshi acknowledged this, while Fujiki called out to Iraku to come at him. 
41 "Doppelganger"  
Iraku accepted he had underestimated Fujiki, believing him to be weaker than his master, Kogan. Iraku stood in Nagare Boshi. A technique which used to be closely hidden was now on display for all to see. Though Gonzaemon anticipated this could happen in a public duel, Gonzaemon resisted with all his might the urge to murder every man who had witnessed the hidden technique. Though Fujiki knew how to perform Nagare Boshi, it was another matter entirely to defend against another user of that art, and there was no way he could know of any technique that might stop it. Sensing Fujiki was vulnerable, Fujiki displayed a stance unknown to Gonzaemon, there being no such thing in Kogan-ryuu. Regardless, Fujiki defended against a Nagare strike, as Iraku’s sword had sliced between the grip of Fujiki's sword (Nakago), but the strike was not short enough to cut Fujiki’s fist. The Nakago was the lower part of the actual blade of the katana and resided inside the grip. Though sometimes the hilt was used in such a way as to parry an opponent’s attack during a match with wooden swords, to use the Nakago defence in order to stop a blindingly fast blade was a miracle. 
42 "A Pair of Eyes"  
Fujiki struck a futile blow as it appeared Iraku was wearing a chain mesh woven into his clothes. It was a matter of course for Samurai to weave metal into their clothes in a duel, and it could not be said that this was a treacherous or an under handed act. However, Haramitshi noted Fujiki entered the tournament only with his swords. Haramitshi acknowledged that it was Fujiki’s resolve, and his knowledge, that one who fears the blade of a man handicapped by blindness had no right to become master of his own dojo. Fujiki sensed Iraku was staring at him. Iraku commenced his stance and began to strike from below upwards, but Fujiki responded with a defence practiced with Gonzaemon to counter it. 
43 "Arm"  
Mie fainted while observing the fight. Iraku, on the floor once more, countered an attack from Fujiki’s from above, and severed Fujiki’s arm in the process. Despite this, Fujiki attempted yet another strike at Iraku, but his centre of balance had been greatly offset due to the loss of his left arm. Haramitshi, horrified, hoped for Fujiki to stand but it was too late. Fujiki had lost. 
44 "Bull Demon"  
Iraku, standing above Fujiki, proclaimed he only wished to train in the ways of the sword together with him, and just as Iraku began to strike the final blow, Gonzaemon appeared. In a blood feud, it was forbidden to intervene without permission. However, fighting in one’s stead was allowed if the duellist was a child or a woman. Furthermore, if the duellist could not continue fighting due to a wound, a person with close ties was permitted to take up his place. Haramitshi explained to his son that Gonzaemon was like a son to Kogan, in other words like an older brother to Fujiki, and therefore more than worthy to act as an assistant. Furthermore, with Fujiki still raising his sword high while writhing on the ground, demonstrated the duel was not over, as Fujiki still lived. In response, Kengyou raised his hands to signal 11 of his own assistants to enter, since there was no limit to the number of assistants either side could call upon. It was therefore common to see blood feuds end in heated brawls of dozens against dozens of men, and at times, one single battle could result in an annihilation of an entire clan. These assistants however, were mercenaries hired by Kengyou, bearing no relation to Iraku whatsoever. However, since they were the honour guard of a daimyo, their skills were without question. On Fujiki’s side only stood Mosuke, the old servant, and Ootsubo who was of inconsequential skill. Gonzaemon easily killed all of Kengyou’s mercenaries with an iron strength and steely will, causally flinging all those who opposed him through the air, and tearing apart and devouring any which stood in his way, like a bull demon. Disgusted by the massacre Iku witnessed with her own eyes and Kengyou could hear, Yukichiyo queried to his father whether Gonzaemon was human as limbs and corpses continued to be flung around the air. 
45 "Red Cord"  
During the Keichou Era, in 1615, in Sanshuu Koromo, under a tree, a boy Gonzaemon pledged to a young girl, Fuku, that he would return in three years as a fine swordsman. Gonzaemon silently indicated to Fuku to wait for him, to which she tearfully acknowledged. Gonzaemon comforted Fuku, before tearfully departing. The reason that Gonzaemon, son of a low ranked Samurai had to leave his village, was because of the monstrous strength hidden inside his body. One day, after he crippled an assistant master at this dojo for life, all his peers shunned him, labelling him a boar. His master, who did not wish to see his skills go to waste, wrote a letter of recommendation to Kogan-ryuu, at the time lauded as unrivalled in all of Japan. In a dojo in Bishuu, Kagano, Gonzaemon was in the presence of three students of Kogan-ryuu, the same three eventual masters who had protected Iwamato dojo the night Kogan was killed. They stood impressed at Gonzaemon, labelling him a bull, not a boar. Upon successfully passing the sticky bean test, Gonzaemon was inducted into the school. Although Gonzaemon excelled in training, Kogan would not allow Gonzaemon to follow him with his students into the mountains to train. Although reluctantly accepting he was not yet worthy, after three painfully impatient years, Gonzaemon begged Kogan to impart him his knowledge, and if Kogan simply did not see any potential in him, to strike him down. Kogan, turning around, drew his sword above Gonzaemon’s head, and explained he could not take a bull that had not let go of its tether. Whereas the three observing students were dumbfounded at Kogan’s words, Gonzaemon went pale, realising Kogan sensed the “red cord”. The red cord, according to Taiping Guangji, was “from the moment of birth, the legs of a couple destined to become man and wife are connected with a red cord”. From time to time, a scarlet red cord would appear in Gonzaemon’s mind. When he felt his hand along with it he could feel someone tugging it on the other hand, and was enveloped in a sense of happiness that could not be described in words. Kogan had sensed it, despite Gonzaemon never mentioning Fuku in his life. By this time Gonzaemon and Fuku had become adults. Gonzaemon visited the same tree he promised Fuku he would return to, and the fact that Fuku was there waiting, hoping Gonzaemon would arrive was nothing short of a miracle. Gonzaemon and Fuku fell into what appeared to be a loving embrace. However, Gonzaemon cut Fuku in half from the waist down and on the same day, castrated himself with his bare hands. 
46 "Asura"  
Gonzaemon continued his rampage across the duelling ground, cutting and stabbing corpses in his path. Haramitshi, disgusted, ordered the mercenaries to put a stop to it, but none would step forward out of fear. The one person who would walk out alone, was a man referred to among his peers as Bosatsu, a Buddhist term for one who has reached enlightenment and transcended earthly concerns. The man calmly and sincerely offered Gonzaemon a drink and to calm his rage. All were impressed by the man. Gonzaemon however, pulled the man’s intestines out with his bare hands and pushed his fingers through his eye sockets so deeply they burrowed into his brain. Iku watched silently, swallowing the bile that rose in her throat, the duelling ground she had prepared for Iraku’s art by diligently removing each stone, had become a ground of blood and countless limbs. Haramitshi accused Gonzaemon of defiling scared ground with the remains of those already slain, and then to dare kill a man in his service, who came to him in peace. Haramitshi drew his sword with no thoughts of the difference in skill entering his mind. He labelled Gonzaemon an insane man who had no right to claim vengeance, and that he would stop him. Bloodied and in a demonic state, Gonzaemon simply smiled at the challenge. At this moment Iraku appeared before him, claiming Gonzaemon had fallen into a lightless abyss. Iraku requested Haramitshi to step back, explaining the disaster was his doing, and he would stop Gonzaemon. At that moment, Iku realised a shocking truth, the man who killed her fiancés had been none other than Gonzaemon. 
47 "New-born"  
On the night Kogan blinded Iraku, Iku cradled a severely injured Iraku. Iku followed the suggestion of Gonzaemon to go to Jion temple. With Iraku being carried on Iku’s back, they had no choice but to follow Gonzaemon’s advice. On entering what seemed like a derelict temple, it turned out there was a head monk inside. Iku tended to Iraku’s wounds until collapsing in exhaustion. The head monk observed Iku’s bare neck as she lay unconscious. When Iku awoke, she discovered two Samurai staring above her, two men, one whose sister and one whose daughter had fallen victim to Iraku’s seduction and had given up their innocence to his desires. Later that night, Iku stared in horror as Iraku was tied up and severely beaten by the two men while the monk continued to rape her. Later, Iku and Iraku were tied outside to a tree and left to die in the snow. An unrecognisable Iraku, beaten to a pulp, asked Iku what had happened to face, his nose, and his ears. Iku smiled, and told Iraku his face was like that of a new-born babe. Accepting death, three wolves appeared to pounce on the two, until a stranger killed them with one strike. The man who saved them was a swordsman named Tsukioka Yukinosuke, who had been drawn to the area by the faint sound of Iku, frozen and near death, was singing a lullaby. Led by Tsukioka, Iraku and Iku found shelter at a village in the Hida Mountains. One day, Iraku, lost and dumbfounded in a field, called out in desperation for Iku. Tsukioka appeared instead and drew his sword. Tsukioka began to strike at Iraku but stopped short of striking his skin. Regardless, Iraku fainted. It appeared to Tsukioka Iraku had “seen” the strike. 
48 "Free of Avidya"  
Now living peacefully in the mountains under Tsukioka’s care, Iku helped Iraku comes to terms with his blindness. From helping Iraku recognise faces by touch using Buddhist statues, to throwing objects at him to strike down. Iku even cleaned Iraku after he defecated. As time passed, Iraku managed to slice in half a sticky bean, but continued to suffer severe trauma from the events of the night he was blinded. Eventually, Iraku successfully cut part of Tsukioka’s sleeve during a duel. Later, at a Buddhist template, a monk discovered Iku and Iraku having sex on top of a Buddhist statue, its hand and one finger cut off as well as its head. Iraku bit Iku’s nipple, and with her blood, wrote “Free of Avidya” on her skin. Avidya was the Buddhist term for ignorance and foolishness. Additionally, the reading Mu Umei, or absence of an absence of light, can be interpreted that Iraku had transcended his blindness. 
49 "Hallucination"  
At the duel, Iraku informed Gonzaemon that a duelling ground was no place for theatrics. Iraku went to state Gonzaemon was in Kogan’s thrall, unable to even struggle while dancing for his amusement, and though the spectators said that a bull demon had appeared, that a demon had slain three spearmen in one strike with a wooden sword, that a demon tore apart a Samurai with its bare hands, those were all merely illusions. Iraku stated no such illusions could catch his eyes, and accused Gonzaemon of struggling, and no matter what anyone else thought, he was struggling unlike a true Samurai. Gonzaemon countered this would not be the day Kogan-ryuu would end, and would tear Iraku’s corpses to mix in with the others. Iraku commenced his stance while Mie awoke, her lips once again apart, and nipples erect. Iraku proclamation he would kill Gonzaemon with a single strike was heard across the arena. Though the art of Mumyou Sakanagare was based on the same principles as that of Kogan-ryuu’s Nagare Boshi, it was a technique which relied not on a man’s fingers, but on unveiling earth itself to provide a hold for a blade, and using its leverage to strike with the entire body. It was secret art that Iraku had discovered when his sword was embedded within a tree during his exile the night bandits attempted to attack him and Iku. 
50 "The Promised Cherry Tree"  
In observing Iraku’s stance, Gonzaemon thought that he could use his two large wooden swords to scatter the dirt and entrails laying waste on the ground on Iraku and thereby confuse Mumyou Sakanagare. This was a similar tactic Kogan had previously against Iraku when he kicked the corpse of his ally the night he died. Iraku successfully evaded each obstacle and struck down Gonzaemon. In his final thoughts, Gonzaemon thought of Fuku, and the life he could have had. Mie, Mosuke, and Ootsubo begin to charge at Iraku. The latter two are easily killed by Iraku, though Mie was only wounded. Kengyou celebrated the deaths, while Haramitshi walked away in disgust with son, Yukichiyo. Gonzaemon, uttered his last words, "...Ku". He envisioned Iku, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Fuku, and thought of Fuku standing by the same tree stump, while an unidentified man with a little girl in tow called out to her. A pregnant Fuku stood up, holding her stomach, and smiled. At this moment Gonzaemon died. The meaning of this scene, and whether Gonzaemon referred to Iku or Fuku is left to the reader to deduce. 
51 "One eye"  
As the bodies of the dead were transported, a man considered raping the corpse of Mie, who he had presumed dead. Until Fujiki, still alive, stopped him. At the same time, below Kakegawa Castle, at the Haramiishi estate, Haramiishi warned his son Yukichiyo not to be lax in swordsmanship. Defensively, Yukichiyo stated he had travelled to a dojo in Edo and through incredibly intense training was able to receive a licence after only three years. Haramiishi asked Yukichiyo if he had ever taken his blade to a human being. Meanwhile, at the Shizuhata Kengyou estate, a party took place pantomiming the day’s events. Paying no respect to rank, station, a display took place of unspeakable disrespect and insolence. In a separate chamber, Iku tended to Iraku's wounds. They embraced, content they no longer had anything left to fear. In destroying the Kogan-ryuu, Iraku would open up a bright new future, able to open a dojo in Sunpu and rise through the ranks of the Toudouza. Iku witnessed a demonic Fujiki standing above Iraku without his arm. Sensing an immediate danger, Iku hurriedly took Iraku's arm and led him to the opposite room where a man who should have been stationed to protect Iraku. Iku and Iraku discovered he and another woman had been sliced in half while having sex. They soon discover Gonzaemon, resurrected as a demon. 
52 "Wail of the Wraith"  
Fujiki kept himself alive by using his sleeve as a bandage to stop the bleeding and was taken to a surgeon by those still loyal to the Kogan-ryuu. The sound of the festivities, coupled with the sound thunder and rain deadened any sound of Iraku and Gonzaemon engaged in battle. Iraku, now outside, was handed a sword by Iku, but could not find a suitable place to dig his sword, given the rain had reduced the ground into a watery mud. Iraku continued to fight but Gonzaemon had the upper hand. 
53 "Bonds"  
In Sunpu, in the village of Hasedera, Tsukioka, the man who saved Iraku & Iku, for personal reasons changed his name to Hoshikawa, Ikunosuke. Hoshikawa possessed a peculiar technique called Mineuchi Fusatsu, which literally involved a lying flat blade, thereby causing no killing. This was the same technique he first employed on Iraku as a test and caused the latter to faint. It was an art in which his blade, capable of striking down any foe, spun halfway in the palm of his hand, presenting the dull back to his opponent. As a warrior, he was obligated to strike down his enemies, but he did not wish to do so. It was easy to see the inner conflict of his mind, for he did not present the reverse side of his blade from the commencement of his strike. In Iraku’s blade however, there was no such hesitation, and in an utter state of calm his mind would begin searching for a way to survive. During the fight, Iraku created a stance which was effectively a kneeling Nagare Boshi. Iraku drove his sword into his foot, using the new leverage he created to defeat Gonzaemon for the second time. After a gruelling operation, Fujiki lived and Mie tended to him. Though the sight of a naked man was not unfamiliar, she possessed no carnal desire towards it, and in fact it was a body which should be feared. Even though he was her husband to be, Fujiki was no exception. Mie looked at Fujuki’s arm, and was enveloped by grief. Mie howled how she much she “hates this”. 
54 "Decree"  
A crying and prostrating Kengyou looked up at Tokugawa Tadanaga, staring down upon him. It appeared Kengyou was being punished. Later that day, at the Haramiishi estate in the Kakegawa district, the male family of Haramiishi sat in front of ancestral armour. Outside meanwhile, Yukichiyo stood above his father Haramiishi, who decided to commit seppuku. Elsewhere, Lord Asakura Nobumasa, ruler of Kakegawa, was in tears as he read a written petition from Haramiishi which accounted the selfish interests that led to the misconduct at the vengeance proceedings. It read, “On this occasion, what would be proper for the failings of one to whom the unforeseen gathered. My family name is sullied by the misjudgement of the vengeance match. In exchange for this humble person’s carelessness, I prostrate, and state my apologies, sincerely.” A low ranking Samurai’s vengeance ended up in a Karou’s suicide, an unprecedented event. Meanwhile, the House of Iwamoto Kogan was confiscated, their stipend reduced to dismiss any happiness by barely feeding any man and woman, and reputation in tatters. The remaining servants, tearful, were given an exorbitant retirement allowance by Mie. On their final night at the dojo, though Fujiki and Mie shared the same bedroom, with a seashell between them, they did not touch one another with so much as a finger. The next day, Fujiki and Mie were visited by Mitsuyougata Mabuchigyou-Bunosuke, of the Suruga Clan, a man who delegated the law upon the region of Kakegawa. He had come to the conclusion that though one who was victorious and one was not, both were survivors, and will therefore continue to bear enmity. Mie countered there was no dissatisfaction with closure of the dojo. Mitsuyougata dismissed the statement, querying whether the once unrivalled Kogan-ryuu was timid. To Mitsuyougata, the outcome was clear, and announced Iraku willed a ceremonial rematch. This was an imperial decree not permitted to be rejected by any Samurai. The Lord of the House of Iwamoto, Kakegawa’s ruler Asakura Nobumasa, had put forth the decree, and the supreme control over a society of warriors houses ultimately lay with the House of Tokugawa. 
55 "Helmet"  
When the Funaki twins were killed, there remained one successor, Chika. She was as skilled as her brothers and possessed monstrous strength. After beating a student in training, she attempted to seduce him later at night. Though still a virgin, she was not unused to the sight of sex, having borne witness to her brothers’ incestuous relationship. During this moment, a penis grew from her vagina. In horror, she slashed the face of her lover. Katsuke Gannosuke, a deformed looking man bearing an appearance similar to that of a toad, observed these events from the floor boards. This man was the son of a Ronin who collapsed on the street and who her father, Funaki Ichidensai, took in. Gonzaemon could not fight and was shunned by those around him. Chika considered Katsuke an animal and displayed kindness towards him and did not show modesty around him, to which he mistakenly took as a sign. Seeing Chika having an abnormality was another sign that they were fated to be together. 
56 "Battle"  
In 1583 at the battle of Shizuhatake, a young Funaki Ichidensai killed a warrior by cutting through his helmet using a technique which became known as Kabuto Wari. The only ones who knew this technique were the Funaki twins and Chika. It was a requirement that her future husband should also know of the technique in order to inherit all that she possessed. A test of Kabuto Wari was held and Katsuke was granted admission by Ichidensai to the disgust of his students and potential suitors. Chika protested to her father, for she loved a student called Saida Sonusuke. Fortunately for Chika, Saida successfully completed the test while Katsuke failed miserably. 
57 "Scab"  
Saida and Chika married. On the wedding night, Chika again grew an erect penis as they attempted to consummate their marriage, but Chika threw Saida to the ceiling using her monstrous strength. Later, Saida forgave the incident and resigned himself to waiting until the time was right. In January the following year, Saida was discovered murdered. His face was severed, as well as both his legs below the knee. Hiding at the foot of Mt Fuji, Katsuke lived in front of a shrine he had made using Saida’s face and legs. That year, an unprecedented 6 men gave their names to the test of Kabuto Wari, as well donating their helmets, given those in storage were but in half in an act of sabotage by Katsuke. Kurakawa Kizaimon completed the test. Later that night, Kurakawa, who could not wait to consummate his marriage to Chika, left his home to visit her but was murdered along the way by Katsuke. 
58 "Great Serpent"  
One day, when Tokugawa Tadanaga went on a pilgrimage to Mt. Kuna, the resting place of Shogun Ieyasu, they came across an incredibly large serpent blocking their path. Tadanaga’s servants stood transfixed and unable to move, for it was unthinkable they could kill a living thing on sacred ground. From the back of the line, a young man called Sasahara Shuuza-Burou stepped forward and used his spear to impale the snake's tongue. To Tadanaga’s amazement, the snake was defeated without a single drop of blood spilled at his father’s grave, and with his orders the snake was carried outside to be bludgeoned to death. His cousin, Sasahara Gonpa Chirou, a highly skilled swordsman, was old friends with the Funaki twins. He correctly deduced the murderer was Katsuke Gannosuke based on the victims being slain by low strikes typical of Katsuke’s toad like statute. Gonpa became engaged to Chika and the news was spread quickly as a rouse to draw out Katsuke. While Sasahara prepared himself to be attacked, he once again fell to Katsuke outside Sunpu Castle. 
59 "Phantom limb"  
In the Kakegawa district in Awamoto village. By order of the Suruga clan. The Iwamoto house was prohibited from committing suicide and ordered to move into unknown territory paying excessive rent to live in a farmer's shed. Two men, observed the shed from a distance outside, and commented on Fujiki’s shame. As Mie bathed Fujiki, she pleaded him to "kill him". Later, Fujiki entered the abandoned shrine where he had learned the secret art. Yukichiyo appeared before him and Fujiki bowed. Yukichiyo raised his sword, blaming Fujiki for his father's death. Fujiki killed Yukichiyo in defence and despite the truth, protected the Haramiishi family by reporting his natural death to the government, for if Yukichiyo were to have found shamed and defeated, it would bring shame to the military family. The two men who were observing Fujiki’s hut earlier were presumably Yukichiyo’s men, as they were also killed to prevent any witnesses ousting the truth. 
60 "Couple"  
Iraku was welcomed with great hospitality by Tokugawa Tadanaga and assigned two beautiful female ninja warriors as protection. Meanwhile Mie visited the local market, but struggled with people who shunned her and charged extortionate prices. Not a single person in a village would speak to her, resulting in Mie walking three miles to from Awamoto village to Kakegawa market. 
61 "Rain shower"  
Fujiki and Mie walked to Sunpu. This was first time Fujiki had walked with a woman, a punishing pace for Mie. Nearing Sunpu and seeking shelter from the train, Fujiki and Mie entered a hut already occupied by a well-built stranger, who greeted them both. The man asked where they two headed. When the stranger was informed they were headed to Sunpu, he stood up and then left despite the rain continuing outside. The stranger was easily over 6 feet tall. 
62 "Black hair"  
Originally, the name Iraku Seigen belonged to a family of physicians. In Edo, in 1616, lived a town doctor named Iraku Seigen. He was a master of Kosshi Jutsu and used acupressure on vital meridians. His treatment had the power to cure even the ailments of internal organs. Although he had been invited to serve as court physician to the daimyo, instead he dedicated himself to practice in the town for the common people. Iraku returned to his practice and found his new assistant greeting him. The allure of his eyes, voice and long black hair had a visible effect on Iraku. Iraku Seigen had met the assistant ten days earlier and was hired due to his attractive looks. Since his arrival, the assistant became the talk of the talk of the local populace and the clinic became crowded with women. Iraku’s apprentice, Shun'an, the same tall man Fujiki and Mie met when sheltering from the rain, was suspicious of the new assistant. The assistant asked Iraku whether the techniques Iraku mastered had the power to grant and take life. Iraku informed his assistant that if one has knowledge of the pressure points, you could lengthen or shorten a person's lifespan. Whereas Iraku used this knowledge for the wellbeing of others, he warned his assistant against using that same knowledge for fatal techniques, for it would surely result in his assistant becoming a demon. He demonstrated this by asking for his assistant’s hand and pressing against the palm with his thumb, resulting in his assistant falling to the floor in agonising pain. The assistant acknowledged the terrifying power of Kosshi Jutsu and asked for more techniques. The seductive allure of the assistant rendered Iraku unable to resist. Later, on a small boat on a lake, after the Iraku confirmed to his assistant that he has imparted to him all he knew, the assistant embraced Iraku, and then proceeded to murder him using his fatal techniques against him. According to the testimony of witnesses, it was a homosexual love suicide, and the bodies were not found. With his master dead, Shu'an left the town, barely scraping by on practicing his craft. One day, a Ronin from Enshuu told him of a beautiful black haired swordsman called Iraku Seigen who had made a name for himself and killed his master. In disbelief that the assistant had taken his master's name, Shu'an headed to Sunpu to kill Iraku, not out of revenge, but in the belief that a demon should not be allowed to live. 
63 "Clairvoyance"  
In order to select an opponent for Iraku. The Chamberlain of Saegusa Takamasa was to observe a match between Fujiki and Shu'an. He was suddenly ordered to the Castle at night. Awaiting him in the chamber, was the envoy Mabuchi Gyoubu Nosuke, who informed the Chamberlain real swords were to be used. The Chamberlain dismissed this and considered the order metaphorical to encourage contestants to enter. The Chamberlain asked how the duel went. Earlier, Tsukioka, now named Hoshikawa, was invited to act as referee to a duel involving wooden swords, though Shu'an declined, instead preferring to use his fists. On hearing this, Fujiki decided to do the same, even though Shu'an was three times his size. Hoshikawa was concerned the difference in size was two great, and therefore not a fair match. However, Fujiki struck down Shu'an with a single strike, the latter cowering in fear of Fujiki and sensing he too was a demon. Gyoubu proclaimed he had no idea what Shu'an saw in that moment. The doctor noted Shun’an later died not from the strike, but that he must have seen something, because lurking in every man's soul was a darkness called Mumyou, also known as Avidya, a Buddhist term for ignorance of spiritual darkness. It is said experts in Kosshi Jutsu have clairvoyant powers, and wondered how much darkness there must exost in Fujiki’s soul enough to kill Shu'an. Later on his way home, the envoy Gyoubu met his end falling from his horse. 
64 "Disappearance"  
A young Fujiki, who had just entered the Kogan-ryuu, ran in a back street within the village of Togiya. He knelt outside a house, and called for Iku. Iku appeared, and Fujiki informed her Kogan had sent for her. Iku She noticed Fujiki was bruised, and like a mother to a child, ordered him to wash his mouth. Iku then invited Fujiki inside, and ordered him remove his dirty clothes. The Kogan-ryuu was known for its pitiless training, on one occasion a student sent to Togiya for Iku dropped dead on street due to a punctured lung. Iku carefully checked for broken bones, and rubbed his Fujuki’s hand with disinfected alcohol. Iku also gave the order to ensure Fujiki ate his full while Iku mended his torn clothes. Iku noticed how little Fujiki spoke, some said it because he lacked feeling. When Iku, the subject of a towns children's song walked along the street with a bruised Fujiki, people scowled. Iku thought, despite his reticence, there was nothing wrong with Fujiki. As they walked, Iku told Fujiki he would surely be the heir to the Kogan-ryuu, at which point he blushed. Years later, now an adult. Fujiki ran along the same back street. He once again stood outside Iku’s home and informed her she has been sent for, even though the ceremony for the 2nd anniversary of Kogan's wife's death had only just ended. Requesting they make haste, Iku noticed Fujiki’s thickly calloused hand. Even though Fujiki closed his eyes as Iku undressed with her back to him, Fujiki felt a strong warmth emanating from her. In the present day, at Sunpu. Hoshikawa warned Fujiki not to draw his sword when they neared the castle for any reason. Meanwhile, at the village of Hasedera, in Hoshikawa’s Toda-ryuu dojo, Iku sat sewing, but walked outside due to the sound of incoming visitors. She observed Hoshikawa escorting Fujiki and Mie. Iku called out Fujiki’s name in surprise; and Fujiki did the same by calling out Iku. The hand which Iku had treated was gone, as was her white back, now replaced with a tattoo of a dragon. As Hoshikawa attempted to explain to Iku why Fujiki and Mie were the accompanying him, Iku witnessed Mie, who suddenly appeared as if possessed by a demon. Hoshikawa drew his sword as Mie unsheathed a knife. Fujiki, who a moment earlier called out to Iku with sincerity, stood in front of Mie and despite Hoshikawa’s earlier warning, drew his sword as if at Mie's will. Hoshikawa pleaded with Fujiki to stop. 
65 "The Dead"  
The even tempered and mild man Hoshikawa had spilled blood five times even in peace time. Though he had no wish to kill, he was forced to under circumstance. He had even left his home town and changed his name to avoid those who bore a grudge against him. Using Mineuchi Fusatsu, Hoshikawa was more afraid of killing than being killed. On completing his Nagare strike, which Hoshikawa skilfully evaded, Fujiki dropped his long sword, and as Hoshikawa’s sword struck down on Fujiki, Fujiki blocked it using the grip of his short sword in the same way he did against Iraku. With Hoshikawa’s sword embedded into the grip of Fujiki’s sword, Hoshikawa shook the Fujiki’s sword away. Although appearing without a weapon, Hoshikawa’s own short sword had taken from him by Fujiki and pressed to his neck. Fujiki asked Hoshi if he was Iraku’s lackey, to which Hoshikawa countered as ridiculous. Iraku was the victor, there was no reason for him to challenge Fujiki, for after an officially authorised vengeance match, it was forbidden to seek further retaliation. Later at Hoshikawa’s home, he explained he was ordered by the Chamberlain to take care of Iku, as well as ordered to take care of Fujiki and Mie, perhaps Buddha’s way of unravelling the bonds of hatred between Fujiki and Iraku. Later, Iku asked Hoshikawa whether Iraku's opponent would be Fujiki. To which he responds as uncertain. However, he does note, when Fujiki realised his blade was of no use to him, he did not hesitate to discard his sword, which was the soul of a Samurai. When Fujiki saw a chance, he even grabbed the blade of his opponent and even with such daring tactics, Fujuki’s spirit never wavered, he was truly a monster. Separated from Hoshikawa in a guest room, Fujiki and Mie settled for the night, eating leftovers they had brought from the Chamberlain’s estate. As they slept, Iku appeared with a gun pointed at Mie. Iku gleaned that it was Mie who wanted her dead, given she controlled Fujiki with a single look. Mie, calm and collected, taunted Iku whether she had committed adultery with Iraku again, to which Iku replied she had no idea what Mie was talking about, and sensed Mie’s voice was not her own, but of Kogan, as if speaking from the dead. Kogan then appears before Iku in a vision, admonishing her for betraying him. On hearing a gunshot, Hoshikawa rushed in, Iku had fired a round into place where Fujiki’s left arm used to be, now a hole in his sleeve. Mie meanwhile calmly applied lipstick on herself, oblivious to all those around her. Elsewhere at Okakura Bokusai, below Sunpu Castle, Iraku lay naked in bed with his two female escorts, their legs coiled around him. 
66 "The Great Palace"  
At the great palace. Behind the citadel of the great Sunpu Castle was a dungeon designed specifically for Tokugawa Tadanaga’s sadistic enjoyment. He observed a woman tied up and killed by the toad Katsuke, who had been caught. Unfortunately, word had reached Tadanaga that Sasahara Gonpa Chirou, the man who had identified the murderer of Chika’s husbands and had himself died, was the cousin of Sasahara Shuuza-Burou, the same young man who had killed the giant serpent without shedding a drop of blood. Unfortunately, it also came to Tadanaga’s attention that the fight was for Funaki's only daughter. Upon enquiring for the girl’s name, Chika, the last remaining heir of the Funaki dojo, had been ordered to attend Tadanaga’s bed chamber, upon hearing this, her father wept tears of joy. Chika’s fate lay with being brutally beaten and raped by Tadanaga. The curse of her body changing to that of a boy was of no concern to Tadanaga. Tadanaga far exceeded his elder brother Takechiyo, and at the time, primogeniture was not the rule, his mother believed he would succeed as the next shogun, and doted on him excessively, and all the daimyo followed suit by paying effusive tribute to him. However, due to the scheming of Takechiyo’s wet nurse, he was given the position of Shogun by the late Ieyasu. The spoilt child, who only ever saw people prostrating to him, hated having the position of Shogun taken from him. On retaliation he took for himself, the late Ieyasu’s most beloved Sunpu Castle. 
67 "Dungeon"  
One day in January, Hoshikawa prostrated himself in front of the chamberlain of Izu, who been summoned to the castle. Despite only taking both in the night before, Hoshikawa explained he could not keep Fujiki safe until his appearance at Sunpu Castle. Two days later, Fujiki and Mie were transported to the Sasahara estate. Tadanaga sent an invite of “seeking the most skilled Samurai throughout the realm", Ronin seeking employment gathered in droves to the castle. Those considered especially skilled were allowed to stay at the estate of the head instructor in spearman ship for Suraga domain, Sasahara Shuuza-Burou. Sasahara was very well known amongst anyone involved in martial arts as the one who had split a snake’s tongue with his spear. Sasahara possessed abnormally long, snake like arms. Speaking to Fujiki and Mie, Sasahara requested that with the many Ronin at his estate, he requested all get along, only Mie replied as understanding on behalf of herself and Fujiki. One hour later, a young Samurai, Inomata Shingo, a student of Sasahara, requested Fujiki to spar with him. Mie and Fujiki looked onwards with disinterest. Carelessly, Inomata mentioned Iraku once defeated the master of the Kogan School and comments how far he had risen. Insulted, Fujiki asked Mie to bring him a wooden sword. As the pair sparred, with terrifying force Fujiki cut off all of Inomata’s fingers from one of his hands. As Inomata stared at his mutilated hand in horror, Sasahara intervened before Fujiki attempted to “beautify” Inomata. Sasahara angrily protested Inomata was just a child, but was met with no response from Mie or Fujiki. Sitting with Hoshikawa. Sasahara pondered it would be impossible to employ Fujiki, given his disregard for moving up in the world. Hoshikawa noted Fujiki was only interested in defeating Iraku, while Sasahara wondered whether Iraku would live long enough to see Fujiki. 
68 "Ape"  
Iraku stood in a dungeon, and defeated a wild ape captured inside for Tadanaga’s amusement. Iraku used Mumyou Sakanagare even when it was impossible to drive his sword into the ground by using the cleft in his right foot. Dining in a chamber in the presence of Tadanaga, Sasahara, Saegusa Takamasa of Izu, Naitou Jinbee, and Nogata Kyuuzaemon, Iraku was asked who he thought he was fighting. Although aware, Iraku feigned guesses to their amusement. Asked if he was stronger than the tiger he had defeated, Iraku responded he defeated a tiger among tigers, not a mere “monkey”. Upon revealing he knew what he was fighting and feigning ignorance throughout, all in attendance were offended. Tadanaga requested his sword and ordered Iraku to draw. Iraku prostrated, for drawing his sword at the castle would be a capital offence. With no other recourse, Iraku referred to Tadanaga as “your highness” to the awe of those in attendance, for such a title was reversed only for the Shogun. Iraku, sweating profusely, explained though he was blind, it was clear where Tadanaga’s destiny lay as did all the Ronin who heeded his invitation to Sunpu Castle. A mere Samurai speaking far beyond his station continued to amaze those around them. Standing accused of treason, Tadanaga struck his sword down on Iraku, but stopped short of piercing through Iraku’s back. It was not treason given the Shogunate was Tadanaga’s birth right. As Tadanaga rested his sword, Iraku’s long black hair turned to grey. 
69 "Demon With A Spear"  
Iku thought her presence would be a hindrance to her beloveds success and stayed elsewhere from Iraku. At midnight, Iraku summoned Iku to an abandoned shrine. In complete darkness and with roles reversed, Iraku led Iku by the hand to ordinary racoon dogs which he subsequently fed. Iku acknowledged Iraku had called her back because once again he would fight the tiger amongst tigers. At Sasahara Castle, Fujiki sat in attendance with officials including Sasahara and Inomata’s uncle, who bore no ill will towards Fujiki for cutting his nephew’s fingers. Impressed Fujiki defeated Inomata with one hand, he made a lucrative offer to Fujiki to serve as an instructor to his son, given he had also lost a hand. Fujiki declined, explaining sword fighting was sword fighting, and that there was no such technique as one handed sword fighting. Inomata face turned red, though before the situation could escalate, Sasahara calmed the room. As Inomata and his uncle left, Sasahara asked Fujiki to show him his technique. Sasahara, easily the master of spearmanship in all of Japan, stood opposite Fujiki and his Kogan-ryuu stance. Sasahara, who had observed Iraku’s techniques, attacked from below and upwards, easily beating Fujiki, who only managed to scratch Sasahara’s cheek. Disappointed, Sasahara ordered Fujiki to leave, dismissing him as no match for Iraku. Meanwhile, Iraku and Iku have sex. 
70 "Changing Clothes"  
At Sunpu Castle, Sasahara visited the Marshal Sone Masatomo, who was the Karou Asakura Nobumasa’s right hand man, and as part of his duties, was Sasahara’s superior. Meanwhile, outside at Sasahara’s estate, a Ronin called Urita Niemon and Fujiki sat near firewood. Urita exuded administration for Fujiki as Fujiki splits firewood simply by pressing down against it with a hatchet. Meanwhile, Urita’s pregnant wife, Kaya, helped Mie prepare for the seasonal change of clothes. Urita and Kaya appear a happy couple, and the sight and sound of Mie laughing to a joke shared between Urita and Kaya caused Fujuki’s cheeks to slightly tremble. At Marshal Sone Masatomo’s residence in Higahimaru, Sone questioned whether Sasahara has remembered to whom his spear belonged. Fearing insurrection, Tadanaga was convinced he was being spied upon by the Shogun in Edo. Sone was convinced if he did not locate the spy, he would be killed for incompetence. He chooses a man amongst the list of Ronin at the Sasahara estate and ordered him to be killed. Sasahara protested, but Sone reminded him to whom his spear belonged. Sasahara pondered who decided to pierce an opponent, the Lord or the spear, for the spear had no mind of its own, for it was just a tool. Reluctantly, Sasahara vowed to fulfil his duty to his Lord, Tadanaga. Urita and Kaya dressed up for a visit to thank Sasahara on the pretext that he was being recommended by Sasahara to Tokogawa. Sitting before him, Sasahara, holding his tongue cutting spear, swiftly murdered Urita and Kaya, as well as the baby in her womb. Meanwhile and unbeknownst of the truth, Fujiki and Mie spoke positively of Urita’s recommendation while at dinner. 
71 "Tiger Killing"  
Around Spring, Fujiki received a sword forged by an unknown sword smith from Kakegawa, it was the tiger killing Nanachou Nenbustu. Sasahara observed with admiration for Mie’s cutting firewood with a hatchet simply by pressing down against it similar to Fujiki. Sasahara asked Mie what kind of student Iraku was, Mie could only think of a kind hearted Iraku with large eyes, but informed Sasahara he was a wretch, not suited to the ways of the sword. Fujiki appeared at this moment and informed Sasahara he had devised a plan. At the dojo, Fujiki defeated Sasahara by throwing away his sword and stopping short of attacking him his own dagger. Fujiki was almost as if in two places at once. It was a technique devised with demonic tenacity which deceived even Sasahara’s eyes. Sasahara asked Fujiki if he was insane, for throwing away ones sword was like heresy to a Samurai. In April, Tadanaga gave the order to hold the tournament at Sunpu Castle using real steel. 
72 "Makiwara"  
In the days of his youth, Fujiki and his fellow students were given instructions on the deportment of a warrior during peacetime, particularly not severely injuring an opponent at a duel, for it would surely displease ones Lord. Since Kogan was constrained by social hierarchy, it was therefore proof one could not ignore social conventions. In the present, Fujiki and Iraku were separately informed the tournament would be conducted using real swords. While Mie poured water over self, her thoughts were filled with controlling the “demon”. It was Mie who decided the cursed sword should be used and handed it to Fujiki, requesting him to "kill him". Fujiki envisioned decapitated head of Iraku and an unidentified woman. Throwing up, Fujiki fell ill. 
73 "Avatar"  
Fujiki dreamt of fighting a man who looked like Iraku, though his face was replaced with that of a skull and chest were breasts. A doctor at the Sasahara estate informed Mie that Fujiki could not be expected to live long, given the decapitation of his arm. Mie nursed Fujiki during his coma, still requiring him to "please kill him" and thought of how much she hated Iraku. Regardless, her breasts became visibly erect. Mie walked outside to investigate a noise and discovered Iraku. Suddenly, her father’s enemy appeared before her eyes, a man she hated for committing adultery with her father’s mistress while betrothed to her. Soaking in the rain and curled into a ball, Iraku was completely defenceless, but because he was defenceless Mie could not stop stab him, but only tremble. Later in a separate room, Iraku presented Mie with the head of the ape he had killed. He explained he was aware Fujiki had fallen ill and that the head would work as medicine. From ancient times, the charred remains of primates were highly treasured as a cure to any ailment. It was believed the head concealed an even greater power which Kogan once carefully informed Mie of the mysterious effects it contained during the warring states period. In order to save Fujiki from his own coma despite the doctor abandoning him, Mie wanted the miracle cure so badly, but could not accept pity from an enemy. Iraku stated being referred to as an enemy pained him. Lying, Iraku swore he did not commit adultery but blamed himself, stating his own lack of virtue led Kogan into thinking so, which also pained him. Mie retorted if this was true Iraku would not continue to bed Iku, to which Iraku asserted was not true, but rather was caring for her, given she was his masters mistress. Iraku proceeded to eat from the charred head to prove to Mie it was not poison. Iraku prostrated and headed towards the exit but stopped short of walking outside. While Iraku stared into the distance, Mie prepared to dig her blade into Iraku. Iraku stated he mourned the loss of seeing a rainbow. On hearing this, Mie rested her blade. Observing Iraku now walking away, she saw a rainbow in the shape of a dragon. and wondered whether it was Iraku’s avatar, or an illusion. 
74 "Ichunogi"  
At night, Mie discovered an insensate Fujiki awake from his coma and devouring the charred head. In Kakegawa, a malnourished beggar child walked along the streets of Kakegawa, shunned by every person who crossed her path. Drawn to the castle, the child sat down in exhaustion against the walls of Sunpu Castle. Iraku and his two escorts happened upon her. He took the child to Iku’s house, and Iraku bathed her by hand, to the disgust of his escorts. He then proceeded to take her to his courtyard to watch butterflies. Later, sitting in his inner chamber, the child was given a plate of food her station in life would not recognise. Iraku explained it was a sweet called Kusa Mochi, a sticky dumpling made with rice and flour and mugwort. As the child greedily ate, Iraku recalled the day he killed his destitute mother greedily eating Mochi. As Iraku’s two escorts observed, one of them referred to the child as disgusting, while the other referred to the child as a eating like a cow. Overhearing, Iraku turned to look at them and smiled. The besotted escorts returned the gaze. Later, outside Iraku’s estate, Iraku requested Iku to take the child to the Toudouza estate and to provide them with his name, for they would look after her. He also noted that the stench of death hanging under the hut below at the bridge in Tsushima were likely her parents, and out of charity, they should pay for a burial. Iku nodded and guided the child towards Toudouza, the child glanced back at Iraku, and smiled. Later that night, Iraku engaged in a threesome with his Samurai escorts. As soon as they began to orgasm, he murdered them both with a single strike. Iraku considered he was born a Samurai, and since he was a child had set his sights on attaining the rank of Samurai. However, the contradiction was that those were also the people he the hated the most in the depths of his heart. Iraku was not rebuked for killing the two ninjas dispatched by the Surusa domain, and Iraku pondered whether it was the divine protection of Ichunogi. 
75 "Love"  
13 days since awakening from his coma, a radiated Fujiki returned to health as if resurrected, to the happiness of Mie and Inomata, the young man whose fingers Fujiki cut off with a wooden sword. It appeared during his coma Inomata continued to visit Fujiki and help Mie. On the last day of April, on the estate of Lord Hyuuga Hanbee Masahisa, the martial arts instructor of Suruga domain, inspected Fujuki's body. Hyuuga requested Fujiki to demonstrate his prowess by fighting three Samurai with bamboo swords. Rather than attack together, one Samurai commenced his attack against Fujiki, but was brutally killed with a single strike. Hopelessly outmatched, the remaining two opponents look towards Hyuuga with faces begging for mercy. Hyuuga apologised for the affront of testing Fujiki’s swordmanship, and treated him to a feast. He noted Iraku’s sword was a demon sword, whereas his was the righteous sword, fitting for the divine Tokugawa clan. As Mie and Fujiki returned home, Fujiki told Mie although he was defeated by vengeance and as a result failed to protect her father and the reputation of the Kogan-ryuu, but vowed he would at least protect her. As the reticent Fujiki uttered this vow, his cheeks flushed red in his burning love for Mie. The words were such that any young person might offer them without a trace of sincerity, but to Mie, she realised this was the most sacred moment of her life. On that day for the first time, they walked slowly side by side for the first time. Mie imagined Fujiki’s missing hand touching her fingers, and she gently held it in her own. At night at the Okakura Estate, Iraku pondered that if he triumphed, he will be employed by the Suruga domain with wealth. Iraku used his blindness and his crippled foot to the utmost to promote himself. For that reason the genius swordsman intentionally exaggerated his limp, even dragging his foot as he walked. However, if his swordsmanship had reached divine status when the light was stolen from him, there was also a swordsman whose left arm had been stolen. Iraku did not yet know that the tiger Fujiki was not the tiger of the past. Outside their residence Sasahara Estate, a cottage which was smaller than a closet, Mie & Fujiki burned the cloak of Kogan. 
76 "One Eyed Dragon"  
The one eyed dragon, Date Masamune, was an old veteran of the warring states era. He was Sendai Chuunagon (middle counsellor, a step below Dainagon ‘great counsellor’). On one occasion, at his estate in Edo, Masamune received an invitation to Hidetada’s palace. The day before the audience, Hidetada’s most trusted advisor informed him the Shogun desired a famous sword he had in his possession, the Shinogitou Shirou Yoshimistu. Insulted, Date stated it was he who decided what gift to offer to the Shogun, and the fact that the Shogun demanded it like a child was beneath the dignity of the Tokogawa clan. The attendees present sat shocked. One year before the imperial tournament fought with real blades, the semi-retired Date Masamune visited Sunpu on his way to the capital, for he had an audience with Tokugawa Tadanaga and had a secret meeting with him. In a chamber, Tadanaga explained that Sunpu was swarming with Ronin. Date, who was a man of the world, feigned ignorance at this statement to guard against careless utterance. For after the Gen’na era, in order to secure the Tokugawa Shogunate, 17 daimyou families were abolished or discontinued. As a result, the number of Ronin reached 220,000. To make reference to them was tantamount to inciting treason against the Shogunate. Tadanaga went on to explain he would ascertain the martial skills of the Ronin and employ those who proved their might. Using an imperial tournament, Tadanaga also explained real swords would be used. Date’s eyes widened at this statement. Tadanaga informed Date he would invite all members of the mighty Date clan to enter the competition as a model for others. Date’s heart began pounding, not only was he sitting face to face with one of such high rank as Suruga Dainagon, but this was not mere small talk about an imperial tournament. Date deduced “a suitable day” must have meant the anniversary of Hidetada’s death, and a tournament with real swords indicated that Sunpu would lead an uprising against Shogun Iemitsu. Date deduced Tadanaga was indirectly asking if Date would pledge the army of Sendai to him. Date imagined killing Tadanaga as he sat, but unsheathed a wooden dagger instead, a symbolic rejection of Tadanaga's offer. Later that night, in rage, Tadanaga executed three female attendants. In the same month, replies came from the Shimazu and Kuroda clan that they would not participate in the tournament with real swords. In this state, his advisors thought, even if he did not ferment an uprising, the Lord was in danger. They called on those members of the clan who already had long standing grudges between them. As well as those who were suspected of secretly attempting to carry out vengeance killings. The eventual shortlist of twenty swordsmen who entered the imperial tournament would be sacrificed to calm the violent passions of the demon king. 
77 "Audience"  
In September of that year, as Mie helped Fujiki adorn ceremonial robes on the day he was invited to an audience with Tadanaga, Mie and Fujiki shared a tender moment. At the day of the audience, at the steps of Sunpu Castle, Fujiki crossed paths with Iraku, and they silently crossed one another, Fujiki decided the next time he saw him, he would kill him. Later that night, an audience with Tadanaga was not held in doors, but in the rain outside in the garden of the Castle. As the twenty two sitting swordsman waited almost an hour and began to feel the cold, Tadanaga appeared among them. They prostrated before him, and as Tadanaga passed them by, he stopped, and stepped into the garden. Until ordered to lift their heads, they had to continue bowing down. At this point, Tadanaga casually stabbed one man. Smelling blood, they sensed someone must have been killed. 
78 "Instant"  
Fujiki and Iraku were both disturbed deeply by what they experienced as they separately headed home. Both arrived at their respective houses and washed away the mud from the rain. Iraku pondered there was no future in Suruga for him. Though his attendant advised the converse, and stated that since a large number of daimyo of clans will be attending the tournament, the fame of his sword will spread throughout the realm in a single day. Regardless of that fact that if the Dainagon’s line was destroyed also, his fame would remain intact. Iraku saw that his sword would be a stepping stone to ascent to Edo which was controlled by Shogun Iemitsu and Iku saw the same goal. Meanwhile, Fujiki acknowledged that the swordsman whose life had been suddenly cut sort at the audience, just like Fujiki, had surely an opponent to fight and a house to protect. Fujiki realised his own existence was fleeting, and might fly away in an instant. On this realisation, it occurred to Fujiki that even if the mud could be cleaned from his robes, the blood stains would not wash away. Fujiki embraced Mie. Mie thought “on that night, I will become your wife, please kill him”. 
79 "Shizakura"  
In Edo, the day before the tournament, in a room in the inner citadel of Chiyoda Castle, three high ranking officials of the Tokugawa Shogunate, sat in a triangle. Amongst them was Toshikatsu, Lord of Ooi, the most influential man in the Tokugawa Shogunate. Toshikatsu was conspiring with Tadanaga. At the Estate of Doi, Toshiikatsu was doing his utmost to lead the Tokugawa Shogunate. Tadanaga had become too great a problem and had become a cause of great disorder in the realm. Toshiikatsu was using Tadanaga, as a means to exterminate this source of unrest in one blow. In Sunpu, at the Okakura Estate, Iraku was listening to Iku explain Fujiki was abandoned as a child. Iraku was not aware of Fujiki’s past at this point. A blind man visited Iraku, thanking him for being the first to light their hearts, where even the sun refused to shine. Iraku was angered the man prostrated, and ordered him to raise his head and informed him they were the same, whether Samurai or night hawk, the Suruga Dainagon or member of the Toudouza, it made no difference. These words wrung from the very depths of Iraku’s soul, which surprised even himself. Iraku had not risen in the world merely in order to satisfy his ambition, but in order to repudiate hierarchical society and the fixed class system. 
80 "Dragon Gate"  
On the day of the tournament, though Mie acknowledged her cottage was smaller than a closet, while clasping the seashell Fujiki had given her, the maiden felt that she had something far more precious that could not brought by any person no matter how grand. Outside the residence stood Fujiki, Inomata and Mie. A servant arrived from the Castle offering a Palanquin, but Fujiki politely declined, explaining he would prefer to walk on his feet to enjoy scent of the wind and the trees. What Fujiki expressed was exactly what the maiden herself had been feeling in her heart. As they walked onwards together, the servant sighed at what he thought were a beautiful couple. The beauty of those who live with intention, far exceeded those who merely existed. In the previous night, Sasahara Shuuza-Burou requested Fujiki and Mie to join him in a certain room within the estate where a painting hung of a mated pair of a black and a red carp swimming upstream in the distant yellow river. Sasahara explained they were crossing the rapids called the “Dragon Gate”. Through the rushing stream pummelled them to their very bones, the pair of carp swim with their hearts as one. When they have passed over the dragon gate, the two carp will transform into a single dragon and ascend to the heavens. Sasahara explained the carp were just like the two of them, the maiden and the swordsman blushed. These two young people had exchanged a sacred vow that on the night of victory at the imperial tournament, they would consummate their marriage and join together as one. On the day of the tournament the twenty two participating swordsmen were divided into eleven rounds. With flags displayed, the garden where the participants awaited their turns looked like a battleground. The plain white cotton partitions allotted to each participant might have been mistaken for a place of execution by Hara Kiri. The swordsman were divided into east and west, and placed in the eastern and western gardens, so that they might be spared facing their opponents before the match. At the eastern gate of Sunpu Castle, the young couple were like the carp before the dragon gate. It was not that they were born to fight, they were born to be bound together by this fight. 
81 "Before the Jaws of Death"  
A poem by Sugawara no Michizane quoted in the Hagakure was quoted: “If in one’s heart, he follows the path of sincerity, though he does not pray, would the gods protect him?” Fujiki recalled during his journey with Iraku when assassinating the Funaki twins that Iraku vomited afterwards. Iraku was disgusted at being ordered by others to commit murder. Fujiki even felt some respect that his enemy resisted manipulation by anyone. Fujiki had a vision of Gonzaemon and Suzunosuke (the young Kogan-ryuu student Iraku had killed). They advised he must force Iraku to raise his blade upwards. A number of daimyo sat in attendance. Many worried whether or not this exhibition was legal and considered Tadanaga had gone too far. As Mie handed Fujiki his sword, she had a vision of Fujiki’s face vertically sliced. Fujiki noticed Mie’s change of expression, and though Mie lied she had a vision of him emerging victorious; Fujiki gave Mie a look to which Mie correctly read to mean that Fujiki was not going anywhere. From the west, entered Fujiki. The gaze of the spectators fell on the one armed swordsman, thinking him deficient and inferior. This was the same way Fujiki’s parents looked at him when he was a child. However, that above all drove him to mercilessly destroy his opponent and that was why he had grown into a demon on the field. From the east was Iraku Seigen, again, his blindness and crippled foot dismayed the spectators. Fujiki did not look at Iraku but by the sound of his dragging foot, foretold even more highly developed swordsmanship. Mie and Iku watched from their respective tents. It is noted that as everything in this world is but a sham, death is in the only sincerity (a reply poem in the Hagakure to the poem quoted from Sugawara No Michizane). 
82 "White blade"  
The pair took their respective stances. Iraku in particular began leaning on his sword, using the cleft of his foot to hold the blade. All who were gathered in that place including Tadanaga were mesmerised by Iraku’s bizarre stance. Fujiki thought Iraku a monster. This power of attraction itself, was a part of Iraku’s deadly technique. The Samurai beheld the tournament with bated breath. Now at the continuing from Scene 1, Fujiki raised his sword above his head, eerily similar to the way Mie raised her sword above her head to strike Fujiki when she ran away. 
83 "Tsubazemari"  
Fujiki commenced his attack, but in the same way Mie threw her sword when Fujiki attempted to subdue her, he threw his sword away towards Iku. Iraku began to strike, but sensing Iku in mortal danger, missed Fujiki. Fujiki’s sword meanwhile landed square next to Iku’s knees. With Iraku now tricked, Fujiki drew his short sword and struck Iraku, who blocked the attack. Both men appeared to recall their match together under the same situation when they first duelled with wooden swords. Iku, horrified, stood as Fujiki, with the monstrous strength of his back muscles and his Tsubazemari, (the technique of locking with an opponent’s sword and guard and pushing), overpowered Iraku and cleft Iraku’s breast bone and split his heart like a gourd. Iraku envisioned his mother, and clasped Fujiki’s head tenderly, envisioning himself not blind, and smiled at Fujiki as he pushed his sword down further, reaching all the way into his spine. As Iraku lay dead, Fujiki called his name while Mie watched in tears from afar. At the moment of Fujiki’s victory, the evil spirit lurking in the depths of Mie’s heart had vanished without a trace. 
84 "Pure Crimson"  
The one armed swordsman had flung away his sword, unable to support its weight, while the blind swordsman, as expected, had failed to strike his opponent, thus was the heroic match of secret sword techniques, recorded in the secret annals of the Dainagon. Following Iraku, Iku, who is referred to as Bosatsu, a Buddhist term for one who has reached enlightenment and transcended earthly concerns, took her own life, slicing her own neck against the sword threw away and was still embedded within the ground. Saegusa, Lord of Izu sat next to Tadanaga, who appeared visibly shaken on listening to what appeared to be an order from Tadanaga. He stood and congratulated Fujiki on how admirably he had defeated Iraku. Saegusa went onto state Iraku, a mere member of the Toudouza, had the effrontery to sully the sacred duelling ground, and for that reason their Lord Tadanaga had already decided to subject him to To-uchi before long (the practice of a feudal Lord personally executing a vassal who had insulted or betrayed him). He ordered Fujiki to cut off Iraku’s head immediately, and to stick it on a pike. Fujiki, amazed, could hardly believe his ears, for such an insult to Iraku was unwarranted. It was pride, for Fujiki, Iraku was pried itself. Saegusa, sweating, and apprehensive of disappointing Tadanaga, yelled that it was the way of the Samurai to take the head of a defeated enemy on the battleground and not to hesitate. Saegusa questioned Fujiki whether he was a Samurai and that he must carry out the duty of a Samurai. Fujiki pondered the statement of Samurai, and thought back to Kogan, and his childhood, a puppet demon taking orders. Saegusa, Lord of Izu, continued shouting, but Fujiki did not attend to his words. That word Samurai alone reverberated through his body. Fujiki thought of the seashell, while all in attendance awaited Fujiki’s decision with baited breath. Fujiki proceeded. If one aimed at the juncture between the base of the skull and the spine, decapitation was not that difficult, but Fujiki could muster no more strength than a baby. He grew pale and trembled with the strain, as he could only hack with his sword as if he were sawing wood. He felt nauseated, as if his own cells one after another were being annihilated. Mie watched onwards, observing Fujiki obey and it was not lost on her that Fujiki was behaving in the same way as when he held her arm down to allow Iraku to rape her. Fujiki eventually displayed Iraku’s severed and bloodied head to the Lords, and Tadanaga stated he approved. Saegusa stated Fujiki will be provided employment at Sunpu, and for this great debt he must offer his life to his Lord. Fujiki prostrated, but vomitted while doing so. Departing the tournament grounds towards his tent where Mie awaited, Fujiki looked like a different person from when he entered, all had been stolen from him. All that remained was the pledge with the maiden. As Fujiki stepped closer, he discovered Mie committed suicide, having sliced her own throat. 

Pages in category "Storyline"

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