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 Post subject: The Art and the Way
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 10:03 am 
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Robert Hunt sent me a copy of his new book, called "The Art and the Way last week. I like the name of the book and after reading it, can recommend it wholeheartedly. The mix of accurate history and interesting story line, brought back memories of why I initially got into the martial arts as a kid and for the most part, why I've stayed with it all these years.

I don't think Mr. Hunt will mind my sharing the first chapter of his novel with you. GEM


Note: the 1st chapter consists of 14 posts. Please excuse any scanning errors. Robert's book may be ordered at: http://www.theartandtheway.com or http://booklocker.com

======================

Chapter 1 The Ryu Kyu Islands 1612
Peiching's heart pounded against the inside of his chest as he ran. The sandy beach shifted underneath each panicked stride and dragged at his feet as he scrambled away from the soft shoreline towards the rocks and solid ground. He would be more exposed here, but he would be able to run easier on the hard packed earth. If he continued along this beach the sand would continually impede his pace and he could see that he would be trapped where the rocks jutted into the sea.

He dragged a dirty sleeve across his brow and glanced over his shoulder at his pursuers. It must be fear that made him breathe so hard and sweat so much. He had been preparing himself for this kind of attack for twenty years. He had practiced fighting, he had contemplated death, but the idea of the end of his life was never so vivid as now that he actually faced it.

He reached the hard packed sand on the other side of the rocks and stopped to look back. The four Satsuma had stayed in the woods and not tried the beach. Now they were gaining on him.

How stupid of him to be so careless! He had been born a short walk from here. He should have known better than to run along the beach where the soft sand would only slow him down. He knew that the lack of clear judgment was an indication that he was letting his fear blind his thoughts, but he couldn't control it and didn't know what to do.

The morning around him was bright and sunny, a pleasant day. The breeze drifted steadily across the China Sea. More likely than not clouds would build and an oppressive humidity would settle in before nightfall. It usually did this time of year. He had left this island long ago, searching for answers whose questions he did not yet know even now. He was surprised at how much he had forgotten about the place. He had played on this very beach as a boy. It should have afforded him an edge, but he couldn't clear his head enough to take advantage of it. The fear of the death that was closing in on him consumed every thought.

He looked across the sand and weeds at the row of palm trees his attackers had followed. Further up the shore, close to the village, the roots of the tall palms touched the ocean water. But here they were set back across a field of rocks and scrub oaks, leaving the path open behind him and affording his pursuers easy view of his movement.

Fifty steps ahead the ground rose slightly away from the shoreline and a row of boulders looked as if it would provide some barrier to his pursuers' vision. From there he might make the woods. If he made it into the trees he could work his way back to the village. There were people who would remember him or the his family and help him, even though he had been gone so long. Some may even be relatives. A common battle for survival on a tiny island with few natural resources made relationships tight. He could not imagine someone siding with the Japanese against him, but, then, much had changed in the twenty years he was gone.


Last edited by gmattson on Thu Jan 01, 2004 2:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Part 2
PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 5:57 pm 
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The men closing in on him forced Peiching's decision and he took off toward the rocks. He plunged across the short, rocky field, and sprang over a creek that spilled into the ocean. A few yards ahead stood the larger rocks and then a few more strides would take him into the woods. Escape seemed possible, but his breath still came in gasps and his stomach hurt from the fear that filled it.

Peiching dropped back to the beach to round the rocky point, then cut in towards the woods using the line of rocks for cover as he had planned. This time he mn on solid packed sand. His bare feet splashed through the tips of the waves that lapped the beach. He rounded the turn in the shoreline and mn in a crouch behind the rocks to camouflage his mce to the woods. He popped his head up above the boulders, spotted his pursuers and stopped to ****** breath into his lungs. Peiching felt his heart pounding harder in his chest and the echo of it in the carotid artery at the side of his neck. He cursed his position. What was he doing here with no weapons?

He sucked one more deep breath into his chest, gritted his teeth, then broke away from his shelter and bolted across the open stretch toward the trees. He did not look back. Maybe death would be easier to accept if he ignored it. Maybe it wouldn't come. He might make it, might slip into the woods and disappear. The instinct for survival drove him on. He forced his legs faster until his quadriceps burned, then he pushed even more. A few yards from the safety of the trees, however, his dash came to a halt.

Two of the four samumi had broken away, anticipating his move. They angled in front of him now toward the exact spot where he would have entered the woods. His heart pounded harder. His stomach tightened. He tasted bile in the back of his throat as he watched them run, holding the hilts of their swords steady, carrying their heads level to maintain clear focus on their prey - on him.

They each bore two swords, a katana, a long one, and a wakazashi, a short one, thrust through their sashes, denoting their station as samurai. They would use the long sword first and the short one as back up. Possibly they would draw both and use one to deflect and the other to attack. Either way his chances were slim.


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 Post subject: Part 3
PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 2:44 pm 
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Peiching needed a weapon. His empty hands, as strong as they were, would be no match for the razor edged blades of the Japanese samurai. They would cut him down like a stalk of rice. He flashed a look to the rear at the other two closing rapidly. He had no idea what to do now. He knew how to fight, he had fought before, although never against someone who was actually trying to take his life. He had fought on the hardwood floor of the school in China, where his opponents were other students and not intent on separating his head from his body.

He had even fought occasionally in street battles, but they had been little more than noisy tests of spirit between the few schools on the Fuchow waterfront. The battle facing him now was no such farce. These men intended to kill him, to divide his body with one swift, powerful stroke of a three foot blade and leave it lying on the beach for the black crows to clean up. He smiled to himself for a second in spite of the situation. If he had known they were going to take such offense, he would not have spit on them. He watched their approach. The smile faded and terror seized his mind again.

As he scanned the area wildly for a place to turn, he felt helpless, exposed, and falling ever further into the deadly grip of panic. He took a deep breath, hoping to summon some vestige of the training he had endured for so many years. Nothing came. He despaired at his complete lack of wit. From the deepest reaches of his soul he wanted only to flee. He breathed more slowly, sucking the air deep into his center, his "dan lien", the home of his spirit, a few inches below his navel.

The teacher, Pai Ho Chuan, had prompted him to perform this exercise hundreds, possibly thousands of times before and it had served to calm him then. He noticed that it cleared his mind slightly even now. He looked around. There was nowhere else to run. He would have to make a stand here ifhe were not to meet the end of his life on this beach on this bright morning. His eyes came to focus narrowly on the samurai closing the distance.

He waited. No idea presented itself so he simply climbed onto a boulder and stood straight, dropping his hands to his side like a patient schoolboy, and watched the warriors approach. With that one irrational movement an odd calmness came over him. He heard the waves lap the beach, a sea bird screeched in the distance and the breeze from the China Sea brushed his cheek.

The two men approaching from the woods slowed when they saw him stand so casually. They looked around for their comrades. From his position on the rocks Peiching could observe both groups, but now they were separated by the rocks on which he stood and could not see each other. The two men by the trees sensed a change in the game and looked around to see if, perhaps, another player had joined.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2004 11:53 pm 
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Hope his book is going to be available in the "Great White North" without paying those nasty duties. I liked the first chapter and now left hanging..not so sure I appreciated the posting GEM


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 Post subject: Part 4
PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2004 12:48 pm 
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As Peiching watched them slow down and grant him a few extra desperate seconds of life. He spun to face the men closing from the rear in time to see them disappear behind a close boulder. He raced back a half dozen paces and scrambled onto that boulder. He bent his knees and dropped to a crouch. He waited, watching for them to appear around the rock and, at the same time, studying their cautious comrades in the distance who were now scanning the area for other players in the game.

Peiching stretched to look out past the rock beside him and caught a glimpse of blue cloth passing under the edge. He pulled his head quickly back, feeling the muscles of his neck cramp with the abrupt motion and huddled behind an outcropping, ready to pounce. Holding his breath, Peiching listened past the noise of his own pounding heart. Hurried footsteps shuffled underneath. He closed his eyes, trying to squeeze out the fear.

He waited. Then, with no thought about what he would do afterward, he leapt off of the boulder like a bird taking flight. His intended victims looked up at him, their eyes wide with surprise, as he hovered for an instant above them, then he crashed down feet first on the second of the two. The man's head twisted with the impact of Peiching's foot. Bone and cartilage crunched as his neck broke and he fell to the ground dead with Peiching on top of him.

The other one did not hesitate more than a heart beat. He spun and whipped out his sword, closing the few feet between them even as Peiching tumbled free of the dead body. Peiching thought about grabbing the dead man's weapon, but the tip of the other's long sword whizzed past him and he dove face first into ,the sand, feeling the cold point of the blade flick his neck.

Peiching heard the samurai charge behind him, screaming, and he rapidly came to appreciate the reputation of these legendary warriors. He dodged and rolled, and scrambled away through the dirt, trying to avoid becoming further testimony to their skill. The blade flashed over his head and then past his nose. He looked for a place to turn but the man's close, practiced technique provided no opening. The samurai kept his center focused straight at Peiching and pressed forward, attacking with -Iquick, whistling cuts. There was no chance for even a kick to the knee or groin.

Peiching knew that if he stuck his foot out into that whistling blade, he would certainly lose it. He stumbled over the rocks and sand, fear and reflex guiding his body's twists and jerks. The other two would be there within second~ and the fight would then be hopeless. Panic and the certain death that goes with it closed on his senses again.

Peiching twisted to the right and then back to the left in the desperate hope that the rapid shift would gain him some advantage. The samurai merely followed his direction, sliding slightly into deeper sand on the second turn. As Peiching's conscious mind grew increasingly confused, his inner awareness sensed in that slide the only advantage he was going to get.

The onslaught slowed almost imperceptibly as the samurai slid back into the softer ground, instinctively searching for better footing. Some inner awareness of that slide guided Peiching's only possible move. He scraped up a handful of stones and sand, forced a scream from his lungs, and hurled the dirt at the man's face. The samurai jerked his head away, avoiding most of the debris, but the pause in the driving attack allowed Peiching a chance to close the few steps between them.

As the warrior raised his sword, Peiching entered underneath and drove his shoulder into the man's midsection, wondering as he did so at the origin of the scream that was erupting from his own throat. He felt the air gush from the man's lungs as he drove him into the ground and heard ribs crack underneath his shoulder. The long sword clattered on the rocks.

The warrior's instinct drew his other hand instantly to the handle of the wakazashi at his waist. Peiching dropped on top of him and pressed his knee against the man's hand and the sword handle, pinning them together against the man's midsection, then he clawed at the soft tissue around his attacker's lalynex, feeling for the windpipe underneath his fmgertips. When he felt cartilage within his grasp, he squeezed. For twenty years in China Peiching had hardened his fingers, first against sand, then stone, then gravel, endlessly, with his ancient teacher sipping tea and observing from his perch at the end of his quiet room. The conditioning had molded his fmgers into flesh as hard as the stone that had forged them.

Like spikes into butter they penetrated the soft tissue at the side of this man's throat, and the samurai's esophagus came loose in a spray of mucous and blood.

To be continued


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 Post subject: Part 5
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2004 1:40 am 
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The brutal murder brought the acrid taste of bile to Peiching's mouth again but he wasted no time contemplating the act. The other two samurai were already rounding the rock from which he had jumped.

Peiching rolled off the dead body and came up running, trying to force oxygen into his lungs while wiping blood from his mouth and hands. He briefly looked back at the sword that the samurai still grasped in his dead hand, but the others were too close for him to go back and retrieve it.

He looked down at his bloody fingers as he ran, amazed at his lack of feeling for the murder he just committed. He had always thought of himself as a kind and gentle man, but, then, he had never fought for his life before. There was apparently something inside of which he had not been aware. He would contemplate that some day. Now he ran for his life.

He could not retrace his steps. If he did, these men would follow him to the same dock where he had met them. He knew, now that he had killed two of them, that he could not run away at all. On this tiny island they would find him and it would mean death at the hands of the Satsuma, not only for Peiching, but for his relatives and friends and anyone associated with them.

After losing to Tokugawa, the Satsuma clan, under the Shimazu family, had descended on the island with 3000 warriors and 100 ships and squeezed it in an iron grip. They suffered little sentiment for the opposition and death at their hands could take a lifetime. They would never rest until they caught him and tortured him to insanity. He could not turn back now.

His only recourse was to try to kill the other two. The Okinawan people could deny any knowledge of it. They could point the finger at the Chinese. He had arrived from China, maybe that would confuse them.

There was no love lost between the Japanese and Chinese anyway. Peiching noticed that along this stretch of shoreline the sand separated the water from an overhang of dirt, about the height of a man, where millenniums of surf had washed away much of the beach. It made a narrow passage between the rocks and the sea and it occurred to Peiching that it might afford some advantage. This geographical incidental might keep his adversaries closer together and easier to manipulate.

Incredibly, he had cut his opponent's forces in half, now he looked for some way to strengthen the advantage. If only he had a weapon. He raced along the narrow beach beside the overhang until he saw a fisherman's boat dragged up on the sand. Further up the beach Peiching glimpsed the fisherman, seated on a pile of driftwood, mending a net that was past the good of repair.

The long pole that he used to spear fish lay beside him, leaning against a rock. A sharpened steel trident tied to the end of it glistened in the sun. Peiching came to the boat first and looked inside. There, underneath the one seat, lay an oar. He grabbed the oar and hefted it. It felt heavy and cumbersome, but it was something he at least could hold in his hand for comfort. He clutched the oar under his arm like a spear and ran toward the fisherman with an eye toward using the fishing spear also.

But when the fisherman saw Peiching coming and, spotted the two samurai behind him, he threw down his implements as if they had suddenly turned hot, grabbed his spear and scrambled away as fast as his feet would carry him, ending up behind a clump of dirt and sea grass. He bobbed his head up and down in an attempt to observe the action and at the same time make himself as invisible as possible to all those involved. When he saw the fisherman run away

Peiching stopped and looked around. He knew he could run no longer and he was certain that the poor fisherman was not about to come back. He couldn't blame him, of course. He knew that if he were going to fight, it would have to be now while he had some strengtll left.

He turned to face his attackers and a feeling of resolution descended over him, as if this were the place, for better or worse, where he would make his final stand. He made up his mind at that moment that he would run no longer, that whatever the outcome, it would be resolved now.

To be Continued. . .


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 Post subject: Post 6
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2004 2:10 pm 
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With all the bravado he could muster he stood straight and erect on the beach. Not really certain why, he took the oar in his left hand and held it in front ofhim, with the handle straight up and the tip of the paddle stuck in the sand. He glanced down and noticed the fisherman's net half buried in the sand beside him.

Keeping the samurai always in his vision he reached down and picked up one end of the net, holding it at his side, obscured slightly by his hip. He feigned as much confidence as his shaky legs would allow.

With his hand outstretched in front and his shoulders held back, he looked like he might have been presenting an award or announcing a special event. The two samurai slowed then stopped. Their demeanor became cautious again. Peiching wondered what they must be thinking. Here was a lone man facing them with a boat oar. It must have looked almost comical.

They probably thought him crazy, but they would also understand the strength of the freedom of lunacy. Whatever the case, their mental acuity had peaked. It was their caution, their awareness of potential danger, their "zanshin", that had kept them alive, after all, through so many battles. They would not lose it now in the face of a crazy man with an oar.

Peiching tried his best to quell the trembling in his legs and hoped the Satsuma would not notice. Perhaps they might mistake it for the breeze ruffling his clothes. He needed time to make a plan, but had none. His time had ended. Past the handle of the oar he watched the advancing warriors. He felt the empty net in his trembling fingers, hidden slightly behind his leg.

The beach was narrow enough here that they had to approach him one at a time and they would not walk close to the rocks for fear of a trap. They inched their way toward him, alert to all directions. He realized, looking at the cold stare of their eyes, that it was not their intention to arrest him. They wanted nothing short of his death, here and now.

Later they would hang his head on a pole in the middle of Shuri, the Okinawan capital, as a warning to anyone else who might consider defying the authority of Shimazu's army. Peiching sucked air deep into his dan lien as he had done before, and the focused calm began to settle over his body once again. He watched his two opponents approach along the narrow stretch of beach.

They each positioned themselves in a different kamai, ready to attack or defend. The closer man had his sword raised vertically at his right side, his two hands grasping the handle at the level of his chest with the blade extending above his head. He edged through the sand toward Peiching slowly, cautiously, as ifhe were feeling each grain of sand with his toes, his gaze locked on Peiching's eyes, searching for some sign of weakness or doubt.

The other samurai stood alert in the rear and scanned the surrounding area. His sword was low at his right side, the blade pointing behind him. To be continued. . .


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 Post subject: post 7
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2004 6:39 pm 
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The other samurai stood alert in the rear and scanned the surrounding area. His sword was low at his right side, the blade pointing behind him. His hand twitched slightly on the hilt at every flutter of breeze or jerk of errant gull that happened to turn his inquisitive head. He crept away from his companion toward the overhang on the shore, aware of every shadow.

Their zanshin, the ever present awareness of the warrior familiar with death, had kept these men alive in the heat of battle as well as the deceptive calm away from it. Even in their sleep they maintained it. It was born of endless years of concentration and practice and the intuition that was won on the wild, bloody melee of the battlefield. At this moment peiching was grateful for the caution.

It granted him time to recover his breath somewhat and afforded him the dubious opportunity of facing them individually.

It occurred to Peiching that here he was alone again, as his lot had always seemed to be. The fisherman had vanished from the beach. The thought of him came and went with the sea wind. Peiching allowed the idea of his own perpetual loneliness to flitter like a ghost through his consciousness for a heartbeat, then forced his attention to return to the survival at hand.

Self pity would not keep him alive. The first samurai worked his way closer, his sword ready, his body poised to react to the slightest change in Peiching's position. It seemed like he adjusted his kamai with every breath Peiching took, changing almost imperceptibly to nullify any potential advantage.

He approached cautiously but his bearing revealed his certainty that the battle and the day belonged to him. In spite of this certainty his gaze flicked from Peiching's eyes to the oar and back again, searching for a clue to a plan. His expression was a question. However ludicrous the idea of fighting against an oar seemed, his zanshin would not allow him to underestimate an opponent. Peiching understood this.

As he watched the man close the distance, a poem, the haiku of a Zen priest, popped into his head from some remote comer of his subconscious. One dream all heroes find comes true, cool green grass on forgotten tombs. He did not remember ever learning the poem. It appeared in his head now for some unknown reason, probably conjured up from the disorientation of facing the end of his own existence.

Peiching shook his head to rid himself of the phantom thought and focus his attention on the death that faced him. Death was important, he thought, it deserved his undivided attention. The samurai inched to within a few feet of Peiching, to the precise striking distance of the sword he clutched at his shoulder.

He knew within a fraction of an inch how far to stand away from his target. He practiced the cut a thousand times a day. Had he wanted to he could have severed the sash that held Peiching's cloak together without scratching the skin underneath, such was his skill with his weapon. But he did not want to do that. He wanted to kill the man as quickly as he possibly could.

His eyes fixed in an intense stare that turned Peiching cold inside. There was no humanity in the man's expression. No emotion at all. No hate, no love, no anxiety - just cold determination. He was prepared to kill without hesitation. It was as ordained as the sunrise in the morning or the flow of the tides on the beach. No errant thought distracted his concentration.

No fear of death would slow his hand in the final seconds. He had long ago resolved his conflict with death. That was the samurai code that he lived by every day of his life - to die in the service of his lord. There was no greater honor. He would do it gladly, welcome it even, and that determination to kill or die made him a nearly invincible foe. Peiching watched his intent executioner's blade glint in the sun.

He gazed in awe at the craftsmanship of the weapon that was about to sever his head from his body. He knew its history. There had never been a better bladed weapon crafted by the hand of man. He knew weapons and appreciated them. He appreciated this one. He knew that it had been forged by a technique passed down through generations, a technique of laminating two types of steel over and over again in a process that created thousands of layers in one blade.

One steel was soft so the blade would not chip or break when struck against another. The other steel was hard to maintain the razor sharp edge. There would be no flaw in it. It would slice through his skin easily, exactly the way it was intended. It had a soul of its own that would always lead it to the hands of a warrior with a spirit to match. It was an honor to die by such a blade. Peiching appreciated that.


Last edited by gmattson on Sat Jan 17, 2004 12:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 16, 2004 11:37 pm 
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In the case of this story (portion of a book chapter), coming late is better so as to minimize the difficulty of waiting for further installments.......waiting patiently for more...........

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 Post subject: Post 8
PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2004 12:42 pm 
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The samurai was less than three steps away and Peiching could see his own reflection in the warrior's eye. Peiching brought his attention back to the moment and breathed deeply again.

His muscles relaxed slightly and, as before, he became acutely aware of his surroundings. The waves caressed the soft sand. He listened to them and thought about his existence. What was life anyway, a few years of eating and shitting and making children, then death? What did it matter? In a hundred years - no, much less - all this would be forgotten and the world would continue spinning without even so much as a hint that he had ever existed. He smelled the fresh sea air and felt the warm morning sun on his shoulders.
He thought that it was quite a pleasant day and a nice place to be, except for the fact that his life was about to end in a few more seconds. Ifhe had to die, though, this would certainly be a fine place, and a good way, fast and sure at the hands of a warrior without peer in the art of killing. He briefly thought about dropping the oar, charging the samurai and ending the charade once and for all. Like a flash of sunlight the decision was abruptly taken from him. The samurai leaned forward in his attack.

His scream seemed to emanate from somewhere else, from some location outside of both of them. It was intense and unnatural and Peiching could hardly believe it came from a man. His muscles froze in paralyzed terror, just as the attacker had intended. He stared blankly at the blade descending toward his head. The world shifted gears again, and took on the eerie feeling of slow motion.

Peiching could hear the "whish" of the blade cutting through the individual molecules of air. He waited. All creative thought abandoned him. Fear finally relinquished its death grip and his body and unconscious mind jumped to react without perceived impetus. Unplanned, undevised movements emanated from somewhere inside of Peiching. His right foot flashed forward of its own accord, and, as the samurai closed the distance, kicked the flat paddle of the oar that Peiching had crammed into the sand.

The paddle in turn scooped the loose sand and sent it into the air. The samurai, intent on his cut and at his most vulnerable point, caught the sand full in the face and jerked his head away. His cut, so precisely initiated, was parried off the broad edge of the paddle as it flew skyward and the sword buried itself in the soft wood. Peiching's hands, directed by some inner sense of preservation that had been planted inside his spirit by some incident ofPai Ho Chuan's arduous training, twisted the oar, wrenching the sword from the Satsuma's grasp, sending it splashing into the sea.

As the warrior's hand instinctively reached for his wakazashi, Peiching hurled the net into the air and caught the man's head. He yanked the net, pulling his assassin offhis feet. As the man fell, Peiching clenched the oar with his two hands raised it above his head and smashed the base of the samurai's skull with the hard, sharp wooden edge. The samurai's head came half away from his now body and Peiching watched it roll into the water at his feet.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2004 6:48 pm 
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Go ahead and give us the title again......I think i might need to buy this one......I cant go through this waiting stuff any longer than needed....

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, 2004 7:20 pm 
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A very enjoyable and historically accurate as well...

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 Post subject: Post 9
PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2004 3:33 pm 
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Peiching's mind screamed in confusion. The incongruity of the instant made his conscious try to jerk free from its physical constraints. The world twisted on its axis. Nothing seemed real anymore. He wondered what had happened. He should be dead but he was still standing. He had been dead, he was sure. He heard the sea birds scream.

Peiching became aware of the footsteps of the other samurai closing behind. He had actually forgotten this one, so sure was he that death would brush aside the need to face him. Some part of his unconscious now remembered that this attacker had held his sword down and to the right in a low kamai.

Peiching spun, falling to his own right side away from the approaching blade and dropped onto one knee as Peiching's mind screamed in confusion. The incongruity of the instant made his conscious try to jerk free from its physical constraints.

The world twisted on its axis. Nothing seemed real anymore. He wondered what had happened. He should be dead but he was still standing. He had been dead, he was sure. He heard the sea birds scream. Peiching became aware of the footsteps of the other samurai closing behind. He had actually forgotten this one, so sure was he that death would brush aside the need to face him.

Some part of his unconscious now remembered that this attacker had held his sword down and to the right in a low kamai. Peiching spun, falling to his own right side away from the approaching blade and dropped onto one knee as the sword passed alongside his head. As he dropped, Peiching twisted his body, swung the oar and caught the samurai with the flat of the blade in the side under the ribs.

The strike did little except to knock the wind out of the man and the inevitable outcome of the day finally began to unfold. It had been with a considerable amount of luck and surprise that Peiching had defeated three men. He had no tricks left and he was mired in the water and sand.

This Satsuma had honed his craft against the Tokugawa warriors at Sekigahara. The fact that he had survived that battle was alone testimony to his talent. The Satsuma armies had lost on that field, but not because they lacked skill nor spirit and Peiching's years of training on a polished floor in China were no match for this veteran of so many battles.

Peiching tried valiantly to defend himself with the heavy oar, clutching it in front of his chest and gamely deflecting the blows, but, try as he might, he was not able to mount another offense. He couldn't even regain his feet. The oar was too heavy and the samurai's battle instincts too good. Peiching twisted and turned, keeping the oar between himself and his attacker, and began to think of what to do next.

The very fact of his mind taking over from his instincts prefaced his certain undoing. He raised the oar, saw the sword coming at him, whirled once more to avoid it and fell on his back in the shallow waves that lapped at the beach. Even as he fell it occurred to him that these waves would continue washing up sand and sweeping it away again long after he and his samurai executioner were both dust in the evening sunlight.

The samurai stepped in for the final kill. His movement was measured and precise.

Peiching looked up at the man positioned so correctly above him and congratulated himself for doing as well as he had. A quiet peace descended over him. The turmoil was over. Never again would he have to worry about money, nor food, nor shelter, and whatever lay beyond, the afterlife that he had contemplated for so long, would soon be his to know.

He was almost grateful. Life had always been such a struggle anyway. What difference did it make? Why not let it end here on this sunny beach, with the birds and the breeze for his witnesses and the music of the waves for his wake?

The samurai relaxed slightly as he stepped forward. He also knew the conflict was about to end. He raised his sword in an overhead kamai and concentrated on making the perfect final strike, allowing this valiant peasant the dignity of passing on to the great void with the honor of a warrior and the kindness of an instant death.

To be Continued...


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 Post subject: Post 10
PostPosted: Mon Feb 02, 2004 3:43 pm 
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His hand was skilled at delivering the one complete strike that could remove a head like a ripe melon from the stalk. The exuberance of the perfect, unalterable kill, and the inevitability of the outcome allowed the man to relinquish for a brief moment the ever present zanshin attitude and free himself of its annoying discipline, to perform this one perfect, heroic task. To be remembered forever in the consciousness of eternity.

Peiching saw the samurai's anns rise up and his hips descend to add maximum power. With that movement fate clearly and succinctly demonstrated the consequences of the mistake of lost concentration and the truth of a Zen poem.

The man's arms hovered briefly, suspended in the morning air. As Peiching calmly awaited the swish of the blade and the touch of the razor edge on his throat, a small, pointed cylindrical shaft appeared from out of the front of the samurai's neck.

Peiching marveled at the sight of the metal point protruding so abruptly from the man's flesh, covered with bits of the samurai's gristle and bright red blood, and he watched the man's eyes change from a self assured statement of perfect control into a hesitant question about the meaning of life and death.

The samurai, too, realized the mistake, but only for the briefest instant as his eyes glazed over and went blank. He froze in the clear air, silhouetted against the blue, island sky, his face twisted like a demonic statue carved by some satanic spirit. He stumbled forward, crashing into the water at Peiching's side and with a final rasp he learned the answer to life's eternal question.

Peiching blinked into the clear blue sky. A figure stood blocking the sun, a long pole in his tense hands with a fishennan's trident, a manji sai, tied to the end, glistening in the sun. The center prong, several inches longer than the two at the side, dripped tiny droplets of blood into the surf.

The man was a fisherman, the one who had scampered away from the beach. He was burned dark brown from the sun and wore only a white breechcloth that bagged around the hips. His skinny chest heaved with the emotion of the kill and his spindly legs trembled so hard it looked like they would surely give way under the weight of his action. He held the spear tightly, as ifhe couldn't force his two hands to release it, and he glared down, wide eyed, at Peiching.

Peiching felt suddenly overwhelmed with the oppressive weight of life. He could not move. He lay gaping up at the blue sky and the spindly fishennan, trying to force his faltering mind back to reality. He had been dead. Suddenly he was alive. Suddenly he faced the same future, the same struggle, the same unsure, halting endeavors that seconds ago had seemed so conveniently to disappear in the liberating face of death. He lay in the drifting surf, trying to call himself back from the edge of the grave.

The fishennan ventured a hesitant smile and Peiching slowly pulled himself to his feet with the help of the oar, the cares of life cascading over him. It almost angered him. What business was it of this fishennan who should die and who should not?

To be Continued. . .


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 Post subject: Post 11
PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2004 4:22 pm 
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Slowly he regained his composure and life patiently became his again along with its burdensome ritual. He bowed deeply. The fisherman returned the gesture, but more respectfully.

"Thank you," were the only words Peiching could dredge up. Then, "you have saved my life. I will be eternally obligated."

The fisherman nodded.

"My name is Peiching."

"I am Suyoshi," the fisherman stammered, "and it is I who am thankful."

They stood staring at each other, neither one sure how to proceed, Peiching still dazed by the abrupt end to his battle, Suyoshi by the fact that he had just taken, for the first time ever, a man's life. It finally occurred to Peiching to be puzzled why the fisherman was thankful. He was the one who had done the saving.

Peiching waded out of the surf and sat down on the beach, staring off across the endless ocean, trying to make some sense of it all. Suyoshi looked both ways, and followed him.

"Where are you from?" the fisherman finally asked. "You are dressed like a Chinese, but you must be from here in Okinawa, or from somewhere else in the Ryu Kyu islands, you speak our language."

"I have been away, in China, studying. I have only just returned." He turned to look at the man. "I don't know how I can repay you for saving my life."

"There is no need. The honor was mine," Suyoshi answered hurriedly. Then, as if a thought occurred to him out of nowhere, he continued. "but, if it would not be too presumptuous, I do have a favor I would like to ask."

"Ask it, and, if it is within my power, it will indeed be yours."

"Make me your student."

"My student?" Peiching was startled at the strange request.

"Yes, teach me how to use the oar the way you do. I want to learn to fight the Satsuma like that."

Peiching opened his mouth to explain that he had no more idea how to use an oar as a weapon than as a chopstick. In fact he thought Suyoshi had done a remarkable job himself with his trident. Peiching wanted to explain that it was some other power that had caused the oar to do the things it had done and that thinking about it, in fact, had almost cost him his life.

He wanted the man to know that blind luck was what had pulled him back from the grave, not any innate talent or acquired technique. He wanted to discuss it in depth, in fact, and have someone wise help him find some answers to exactly what did just happened.

But the words did not come. How would he say it? Where would he begin? A power? The idea sounded silly even though he knew it to be true. He wished his teacher were here to give him some insight.

to be continued. . .


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