Category Archives: The Inuyama Rebellion

The Inuyama Rebellion- Preface

The Sengoku Jidai was an age of nearly constant warfare in Japanese history, clans struggled endlessly against other clans and today’s ally might be tomorrow’s enemy. The proud Inuyama clan, once driven nearly to the brink of extinction by their hated rivals the Kurokawa clan, have finally grown in strength enough to face their enemies in a battle for their freedom. But this freedom will have many costs, for the peace that bought them the time to secretly rearm was paid for with the clan lord’s own sons- held hostage by the Kurokawa in a bargain of peace.

Knowing that the declaration of independence will surely bring the deaths of her sons, the clan lord’s wife, Lady Murasaki, has secretly dispatched two of the clan’s samurai -the elder Jiro and his apprentice Masato- to Kurokawa lands in an effort to rescue the boys. But even now as the two men leave the castle on their mission, in other parts of Inuyama castle a shadow falls over Hasagawa Yohei, trusted minister of Lord Inuyama…

The Inuyama Rebellion is a historical action-adventure tale set in the Sengoku Jidai  (Warring States 15th-17th century) period of Japanese history. My goal with the story is to tell a rousing young adult adventure story in the mold of the old Samurai epics and Westerns where the good guys are noble, the bad guys are ruthless, and the action is non-stop, with twists and turns at every corner. Jiro is an aging samurai past his prime who needs to rely on his wits and experience to overcome his slowing reflexes, while his apprentice Masato is just coming into his own and lacks real experience in facing the dangers that they need to overcome on their mission. A perfect pair to make a last ditch effort at a rescue on the eve of a war!

Note: while writing this my focus has been on telling a good adventure story, the clans in the story are fictional, as are some of the places mentioned. I have tried to be accurate when possible, but my focus is always on entertainment first so don’t take this story as historical fact. Also, I’ve chosen to use a more modern form of English with the dialogue both because I wanted it to be accessible to young people, and because the truth is people in every age have always talked in slang and colloquial ways to each other. The language I have the characters use is the language of common speech and ideas, and isn’t meant to simulate some stilted concept of “how they really talked”. Having lived in Japan, and holding a minor degree in Japanese Studies, I know very well how they talked and carried themselves, but the focus here is entertainment, not accuracy.

I hope you’ll enjoy this story, thanks for reading it!


About the Author– Robyn Paterson is the writer/producer behind the Kung Fu Action Theatre podcast, which showcased action-adventure audio drama he’d written from 2006-2010. Working with a team of actors from around the world, Rob brought over 46 stories of historical adventure, superheroic action and epic science fiction to life. Recently, Rob has changed gears and is focussing on writing fiction with the Kung Fu Action Tales podcast, and published his first e-book on the Kindle  (Hot Soup) earlier this year. To keep his dog fed and editing pen sharp, Rob works as a Communication Skills teacher at Fanshawe College, in London, Ontario, Canada.

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part One

The Inuyama Rebellion

by Robyn Paterson

“Ninja, report.”

Hasegawa Yohei, chief retainer and advisor to the Lord of the Inuyama clan, had said the words to a seemingly empty room where he sat before his Goban studying the Go game laid out before him, and yet, from the shadows a reply came.

“Your ears are sharp, my lord.” A voice chuckled.

“My ears and their sharpness are of little importance,” replied Hasegawa, sounding mildly annoyed. His eyes were still focussed on the game before him, “tell me what you have come to say and be gone.”

“Of course, my lord.” The ninja acquiesced. “As we expected, the Lady Murasaki has sent agents to the Kurokawa to retrieve her sons.”

“Indeed?” Hasegawa said thoughtfully, a wrinkled hand sliding from his robes to lift the steaming bowl of tea resting nearby to his lips. This wouldn’t do, thought Hasegawa, this wouldn’t do at all.

The Sengoku Jidai was an age of nearly constant warfare in Japanese history- clans struggled endlessly against other clans and today’s ally might be tomorrow’s enemy. The proud Inuyama clan that Hasegawa served, once driven nearly to the brink of extinction by their hated rivals the Kurokawa clan, had finally grown in strength enough to face their enemies in a battle for their freedom. But, this freedom had had many costs, for the peace that bought them the time to secretly rearm was paid for with the clan lord’s own sons- held hostage by the Kurokawa in a bargain of peace. Now, knowing that the declaration of independence would surely bring the deaths of her sons, the clan lord’s wife, Lady Murasaki, had secretly dispatched men to the Kurokawa lands in an effort to rescue the boys.

An effort Hasegawa feared would undo everything that he and his lord had worked so hard to achieve. Now, with the signing of the pact against the Kurokawa with the other clans mere days away, if Lord Kurokawa were to learn of the rebellion all would be lost. He felt for the lady, and knew that the loss of her sons would be deep blow to her, but this foolish sentiment could not be allowed to undo years of work.

Hasegawa placed his tea back on the tray next to him.

“Who has she sent?”

“Jiro, and his apprentice, my lord.”

Hasegawa’s concern became a frown for the first time. Jiro was the castle’s former swordmaster, a wily old samurai with a long history of service to his clan. He had arguably been one of the best swordsmen in the land when he was younger, and although age had slowed him down, he was still a dangerous man with a blade. Of his apprentice, Masato, Hasegawa knew little, but then, Jiro would be unlikely to take a man with him on a secret mission if he were not capable.

“Send a messenger to the Tengu telling him they’re coming, make sure to have any documents they’re carrying be brought to me. They may be needed later when the time comes to deal with our troublesome Lady.”

The schemes of women required swift rebuke by their betters.

“As you say, my lord.” Agreed the voice from the shadows. “And the Samurai?”

“Get what information you can, then…remove them from the game.”

*                             *                             *

The soft sound of samisen music wafted through the pleasure quarters of Kitsune-bi Town, broken only by the drunken whoops and shouts that accompanied an evening in the floating world. Along the streets two walked among many, both clad in nondescript browns and greys, but their manner, as well as their swords, set them slightly apart from the many other men and women who freely mixed in these busy streets.

In the lead was a grey haired man with a thin build, perhaps in his fifties, with a long angular face, and his long hair tied back into a ponytail. He was perhaps only a bit shorter than average due to his age, but compared with his companion he looked like a diminutive kappa goblin. The boy who followed, for Masato was lying a bit when he claimed to have seen sixteen summers, was a tall and broad shouldered lad with a pock-marked face that might be handsome when he’d grown into it. On his shoulders was a large pack, something he was in no way happy about.

“Sensei, why am I carrying all the gear?”

“Experience before youth, my boy. I’ve got experience, and you’re the one with youth.” Then his teacher grinned and added. “Better your back than mine!”

“Yes…Sensei.” Said the sullen apprentice, glancing at the last of the gaily frolicking revellers as they finished their march through the pleasure quarters. He brought his eyes front again just in time to avoid walking into his elder, who had stopped at the front gates of the large walled mansion that sat at the end of the road.

“Hey sensei, weren’t we supposed to be in a hurry?” Masato asked, peering uncertainly at the plaque above the door. “Why are we stopping here at an inn?”

His teacher seemed to hesitate, as though he was weighing something in his head, and then he nodded to himself in determination and looked over at the young man. “Men in a hurry still have to eat, lad. Besides, I need to see an old friend who works here.”

“A cook?”

Jiro laughed. “Something like that. Have you ever been in a place like this before, Masato?”

The lad shook his head.

“Well then,” Jiro smiled. “Follow my lead.”

Once inside the dour looking gates, Masato was surprised to find this place had no less the colour or life than the more wild streets outside. They were in a gorgeously decorated front courtyard with many coloured lanterns hung in lines along the gentle stone pathways that weaved among the beautiful plants and statues. Before them were another row of beautiful flowers, each of the white-faced young women clad in colourful silk kimonos , and at the head of the flowers, an older woman led her charges in a deep group bow to the two men.

“O’samurai-san, welcome to the Inn of a Thousand Lanterns.” They said in unison. Then the older woman stepped forward and gestured at the three women at the end of the line. “Please, come in and relax. These girls will show you the way.”

“Thank you, Obasan.”  Jiro said, cheerfully. “But, I’m looking for a specific girl- is Shiori-chan about?”

“Ahhh. You want Shiori-chan.” The woman smiled in understanding, and then she shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry, she’s with a client for the moment- perhaps one of these ladies could entertain you instead?” She gestured to a voluptuous girl in green who stepped forward and bowed to the men. “Reiko-chan is a beauty, is she not?”

If there was such a thing as a fairy, Masato was sure he had just found one.

“Wow sensei, lookit her!” He said, his jaw hanging open in sheer surprise.

The girls covered their mouths and giggled, and Jiro did his best to ignore his gaping apprentice.

“I’m sorry, Obasan, but Shiori-chan is the only girl for me.” He reached into his pocket and produced a silver coin. “Here, take this and show it to her, I’m sure she’ll make some time.”

“But sensei…” Masato started as he watched his teacher handed not just one coin to the woman, but several other coins as well, then was stopped short when the back of his teacher’s hand impacted into his gut. “Uuff!”

The older lady smiled and nodded, ignoring the exchange. “Of course. I will ask if she’s available. Please follow these girls upstairs and they will see to you while you wait.”

“Thank you, Obasan.” Jiro said gracefully, then turned and looked at his charge, who was still gasping from the blow to his stomach. “C’mon lad, just breathe and you’ll get over it. Follow Reiko-chan’s butt and it’ll show you the way.”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Two

“Ow, sensei. Why’d you have to hit me so hard?”

Jiro downed his cup of sake, then looked over at his charge and sighed.  At least the lad had the sense to wait until they were safely up in a private room before he’d spoken, that was something. “Why’d you have to be born with rocks in your head?”

“I was only gonna say you were giving her five coins, not one.” Masato sulked.

“Lad, you think just cause I’m old I’m also stupid? Why else would she have helped me if I didn’t pay her?”

That produced a long pause, and Jiro could see the wheels turning in Masato’s mind.  Then the boy brightened and rubbed the back of his head- embarrassed. “Oh yeah, I guess so!”

Jiro shook his head and poured himself another drink. Normally a girl should have been there with them to do it, but he had sent them away.  “I shoulda brought Katsu on this mission.” He said ruefully, then downed the next glass. “You’re not gonna last five minutes outside the castle- not five.”

In point of fact, he’d chosen Masato exactly because of the boy’s inexperience- he felt the lad needed something to toughen him up. But perhaps, Jiro started to think as he watched the young man peer in wonder around the lavish room, he’d underestimated the depth of Masato’s naiveté.

Masato let him take a few more shots of sake, and then asked- “Who is Shiori-chan anyways?”

Jiro paused, deciding how to word his answer, and then smiled as he heard the soft swish of robes outside. “You’re about to find out.”

The doors slid open, and an artfully dressed courtesan in reds and yellows swept into the room, causing Masato to again wonder at the stream of beauties that occupied this place. He’d spent most of his life in the castle, and during his time there he’d seen a number of attractive court ladies, but the women here seemed to make those look like fading late-summer flowers by comparison. Even Shiori-chan, who Masato later guessed to be in her mid-forties, was no less beautiful than the most attractive girl he’d known in her prime.

Masato got barely a glance from the new arrival however, as Shiori’s eyes were immediately on Jiro with a look that carried in it so much more than Masato could hope to understand.

“Shiori,” Jiro said, dropping the honorific in a way that only those closest to a person could.

“Jiro-san,” she said with a smile. “It has been too long.”

The old samurai looked at her appreciatively. “It definitely has. You get more beautiful the longer I know you.” Then the moment between them was over, and he nodded his head towards his apprentice. “Shiori, this is my student, Masato.”

Shiori turned to where Masato sat, and the young man immediately rose to his feet to stand awkwardly before her. “Nice to meet you, ma’am,” he bowed.

That earned him a laugh like gentle rain from behind a covered mouth, and then Shiori gave him a polite bow. “A pleasure to meet you as well, Masato-san.”

Her smile made Masato blush. “Gosh sensei, you sure have some beautiful friends. I…I mean, you know some beautiful women…I mean…uh…Oh…” He caught himself and turned away.

That earned him another laugh, and Shiori’s eyes smiled at him with reassurance. “You are very cute, Masato-san. No, I think I will call you Masato-kun.”

“O-okay.” He agreed readily, and settled back down into his seat to sip his drink shyly.

“Shiori, are there any birds in the inn, today?” Jiro asked casually as she gathered her silk robes and sat down close to him so they could talk. This got him a puzzled look from Masato, but Shiori clearly understood what it meant.

“None,” Shiori shook her head. “We may talk freely, I have girls standing guard to keep anyone from listening in.”

Jiro nodded.  “The Lady has sent us, we’re going across the river to fetch back her sons. We need maps and information.”

Shiori took in the meaning of his words.

“So, the time has come for war?”

“Looks like it,” Jiro said with a shrug. “Nothing has been said, and I didn’t ask.”

“A wise course of action.” She agreed, and stood up. “I will get what you need, please wait here.”

“Thanks, I’d appreciate it.”

After she was gone, there was a brief silence, and then Masato asked- “Sensei?”

As if sensing  the question unspoken in those words, Jiro answered. “She and I go way back, lad. She might not look it, but she’s old enough to be your mother, and one of the lord’s top intelligence agents.”

Masato’s eyes widened. “Really? Wow.”

“Treat her with respect, Masato.” His master continued. “She’s a good friend to have.”

“I will, sensei.”

“We’ll need the maps and other things she gives us if we’re going to pull this off. We can’t just walk into an enemy country without knowing where to go, can we?”

“No, sensei, but…” Masato hesitated, as if deciding whether he should ask what had clearly been bothering him since they left the castle, and finally decided to take his chance while his teacher was in a talkative mood. “I was wondering- why exactly would our lord give his sons to the Kurokawa? It seems a little stupid, doesn’t it?”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Three

Jiro shook his head. “No lad, it’s not stupid at all. It’s desperate.” He smiled ruefully, and then looked at Masato. “Do you have anything that’s really precious to you?”

Masato’s forehead creased as he thought about it a moment. “You mean like my sword?”

“Yeah, okay.” Jiro agreed. “Like your sword. So let’s say you and I made a promise, and I wanted to make sure you kept it no matter what. How could I force you to keep it?”

“Well, uhh.” Masato considered. “You’d have my word.”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Jiro nodded. “But, sometimes having someone’s word isn’t enough, lad. People don’t always keep their word, not even samurai.” Then he added when he saw the look on Masato’s face- “Oh we’re supposed to keep it, but victory is about winning in the end, isn’t it? So, how about to make you keep the promise I take that sword of yours and tell you that I’ll break it if you don’t follow through. Now I can be sure you’d keep it, right?”

“Yeah, of course I would. You’d break my sword if I didn’t.”

“Well, it’s the same thing with our lord, lad. The Kurokawa wanted to make sure he’d live up to his side of the peace treaty, so they made him give them the most precious thing in the world- his sons.”

“But…the lord has other sons.” Masato pointed out.

“Yes, he does, but they’re not the first born, are they?”

“No, I guess not.” The lad agreed. “But this means our lord is breaking the treaty, right?”

“He doesn’t want to, but the Kurokawa have forced him into it. We have to pay them tribute every harvest, and they demand more and more each year. They’re doing in on purpose- trying to break us and keep us weak. The people are already starving in the hills, and any more will make them revolt. We either die on our feet, or we die in our beds.”

“But how are we going to get to the boys? We don’t even know where they are.”

“I’ve got a plan, and that’s where Shiori-chan comes in. Speaking of whom…”

The sliding door glided open again, and Shiori stepped through carrying a small cloth bag with her that she placed before Jiro. “Here are the documents you will need, please be careful. If you are caught with them it will go badly for you.”

Jiro nodded and finished his last cup of sake. Then he stood up, coming face to face with their hostess. “I appreciate this a lot, Shiori. Thank you.”

She shook her head. “It is nothing. Do not let it concern you.”

Their eyes met, and then Shiori turned away.

“C’mon Masato, let’s…” The older man began to tell his student, and then suddenly he stopped and his hand dropped instinctively to the hilt of his sword as he spun to face the door. Masato wasn’t sure what he was reacting to until a moment later when he too heard the running footsteps that approached their room and the door was flung open.

“Shiori-chan! Shiori-chan!” Shouted one of the inn’s girls in a panic, and then froze and gasped as she met eyes with Jiro. His very aura at that moment was enough to take her breath away, and instinctively she was paralyzed by fear.

Pushing Jiro gently aside, Shiori quickly brought the girl’s attention back to herself with a gentle touch. “Natsuko? What is it?”

The girl blinked, and then the panic returned to her face.

“Men! Men on horseback! They’ve surrounded the inn!” She wailed. “They’re demanding to search the inn but Obasan won’t let them!”

“Are they here for us, Sensei?” Masato asked as he jumped to his feet and joined his teacher at the ready.

“No idea,” Jiro answered as he scooped up the cloth bag Shiori had brought them. “But, we’re not going to wait and find out- Shiori is there a place for us to hide?”

“We have special tunnels for important clients. Follow me and I will take you to them.”

“Right,” Jiro gestured towards their things in the corner. “Grab those and let’s move, lad.”

* * *

Chaos was breaking out in the Inn of a Thousand Lanterns. As the small band dashed through the halls they could hear the shrill yells of the Obasan below, the screaming of women and the shouts of angry men. Masato was also sure he could hear the distant sounds of swords clanging together, but in the din and confusion it was hard to say for certain.

Coming to the end of a hallway, they began to trundle down a staircase, but had barely gotten halfway down when a group of scruffy-faced men in dark colours appeared at the bottom brandishing swords.

“They’re here! They’re here!” Shouted a man with a red bandana, gesturing at the samurai.

“Well, I guess that answers one of my questions.” Jiro commented as he gestured for the group to get back up the stairs. “We’ll have to find another way.”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Four

The attackers rushed at them with a loud cry, charging up the stairs behind the group.

But, when the pursuers got to the top they saw a large a large grey shape appear before them, blocking out the light. At first, they thought their prey had simply closed a door, and began to prepare to crash through it, but then the “door” suddenly seemed to lean forward and came tumbling down at them.

Jiro gave a little smile as he heard the cries of the men behind them in the stairwell, and then turned to follow Masato and the ladies. The bamboo shelves he’d just pushed down the stairway weren’t heavy, but they would keep that bunch from causing any trouble and buy the samurai some time.  He just hoped Shiori had other options for them.

“That showed them, sensei!” Masato said proudly as Jiro caught up with them.

“It’s a start,” Jiro said, thinking quickly. “But, there are other ways up. Shiori, which side are the stables on?”

Taking a few more steps, Shiori stopped and pulled open one of the sliding panel doors. “In here”, she said.

The group rushed into an empty room, and dashed across it- when Shiori pulled back the cloth panel door to the outside, she revealed a landing. “This end of this balcony leads to the roof of the stables.”

Jiro stuck his head out and checked around. “Looks clear. Should be a good jump, though. You ready, lad?”

Masato, filled with courage and bravado, announced proudly- “Don’t worry about me, Sensei!”

“You first, then.” Jiro gestured to the landing, and Masato disappeared into the night. Then the elder Samurai turned and looked at their guide, his hard, sharp eyes softening as their gazes met. “You’ll be okay?”

Shiori smiled. “I will be fine. They didn’t see me with you. I doubt they know why you came.” Then a look of worry entered her eyes. “Please, take care of yourself, Jiro.”

For the first time this evening, she had dropped the honorific on his name. That told Jiro all he needed to know.

“I’ll see you next time I’m through.” He said softly.

Then he was gone as well.

*                             *                             *

In front of the Inn of a Thousand Lanterns, the bandit leader known as Shinpei the Tengu sat astride his horse and waited patiently. He was not an impulsive man, he was a careful man, and he had earned his seemingly loathsome nickname not because he was long nosed and ugly, but because like a forest goblin he seemed able to perform feats of magic. Of course, what to other men appeared magic was in fact careful planning on Shinpei’s part, and he prided himself on his ability to think ahead of his enemies in any situation.

This is why he was feeling uneasy tonight. The orders to find these samurai and capture them had come so quickly there had been little time to plan. He was lucky to be able to find them, but some of his spotters in the nearby pleasure quarter had seen them pass and relayed the message down the line fast enough. Hastily assembled men and direct assaults were not Shinpei’s preferred approach, but the situation required it as he’d been warned time was of the essence.

He had sent his men in when the moon was just breaching the tops of the trees, and now it was well up into the sky. He knew delay to report to him could only come from one source- they hadn’t found their prey.

Sure enough, when his lieutenant Genma appeared, he confirmed Shinpei’s fears.

“Boss, we’ve searched the place but there’s no sign of them.”

Shinpei frowned. “The men said they saw them, didn’t they?”

Genma hesitated. “They claim so, but…” Then his breath was caught as he saw two fast shapes dart from the far side of the compound and take off down the road. “Look, two men on horses!”

Shinpei swore, and then brought his horse around. “We’ll catch them. Gather the men and meet us later!” He shouted at Genma. Then he kicked his horse in the sides and shot off after the fleeing samurai.

These were his hills at night, and he had almost a dozen riders with him. There was no way these men could escape. They weren’t going to evade him a second time.

*                             *                             *

From the shadows, two pairs of eyes watched the riders disappear.

One of them smiled, the other nodded in approval.

“They’re gone, Sensei.”

Jiro had known they’d have men guarding the stables. What their pursers hadn’t expected, however, was for the samurai to tie their own unconscious men on horseback and then send them riding. By the time they’d realized their mistake, the pair would be long gone.

“Wow Sensei, you really know all the tricks.”

“That’s why I’m still alive, lad. Now, let’s go!” He gestured back towards the other horses they’d prepared. “Since their horses are saddled up and ready, it would be a shame to waste them. We should be at the border by sunrise.”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Five

The lands of the Inuyama clan and the Kurokawa clan were separated by the mighty Mogami River that flowed from Mount Gassan in the Tohoku region down to the sea. At each of the five bridges that separated the two lands was a checkpoint where travellers were routinely inspected for contraband as they moved between each side.

With the sun cresting the surrounding mountains, Jiro and his apprentice Masato found themselves at the most Southern of those checkpoints,  deep in a line of travellers anxious to make an early start to their day’s journey.

“Sensei, are you sure we’re gonna be okay?” Masato asked, glancing about nervously.

It had been a long night of cat and mouse since their encounter with the bandits at the Inn of a Thousand Lanterns, and now with what seemed like the “freedom” of enemy territory at hand, Masato was more nervous than ever.

“Just calm down kid, we’ve got the papers we need to get across the checkpoint.” Jiro said, patting the horse he stood next to. “We’ll be over the bridge in no time, don’t worry about it.”

“I know, Sensei. But…I’m just thinking about those bandits.”

Jiro nodded in understanding. “Me too kid, I dunno why they wanted us but…” Then suddenly something caught Jiro’s eye ahead of them, and he shifted to put the horse between himself and something he’d seen. “We got trouble kid. When you have the chance, check out the guys milling around over there, they look familiar?” Then added “No, don’t stare you idiot!” as Masato openly craned his neck around to look.

Trying to be more cautious, Masato looked again at five men who were playing dice near the checkpoint gate. It took a moment, but then he recognised one of them- the man with the red handkerchief  on his head who’d fingered them the night before at the Inn. “Sensei…It’s the guys you dropped the cabinet on!”

“Yeah. Him and his friends must have been sent ahead to watch for us.”

“But, what can they do? They’re not soldiers, are they? They can’t keep us from crossing.”

“We still don’t know who they are, lad. They could be Kurokawa agents.” Jiro considered leaving the line and trying another checkpoint, but he suspected there were more of them nearby watching in case the two samurai did exactly that. There were too many unknowns, but he decided to follow his gut and take a chance. “Just be prepared kid.”

As the sun slowly rose into the sky, the line inched forward, and it wasn’t long before the Masato and his master found themselves at the head of the line. They’d kept an eye on the ruffians, who’d seemed to look everywhere but where the two samurai were, and even now seemed oblivious to their presence.

That made Jiro even more nervous.

“Next! You there! Look lively!”

The checkpoint captain, a large man in the black and orange lacquered armour of the Kurokawa, motioned for the two to come forward, and the disguised samurai led their horses up.

“Yessir! Sorry, sir!” Jiro stepped up and raised his hand to beg forgiveness as he gave a quick series of bows. He was speaking now in the deep country accent used by the farmers in the nearby hills.

“Papers?” Said the guard.

Taking a moment to fish around for them, Jiro produced them from his robes and handed the slightly wrinkled documents over with a friendly smile. “Here ya go, m’lord!” Then after the man started reading them, he added. “Say, you wouldn’t happen ta know any good places to wet your whistle over there, would ya? I’m takin’ the boy out for a little trip- gonna make a man of him!”

“Aww, pa! Don’t tell everyone!” Masato whined, trying to get in on the act.

That produced a laugh from the other guards and the people behind them, but the guard captain remained stone-faced. “You can’t do that in your own town?”

Jiro looked at him in mock surprise. “Heck no! You know what’ll happen to me if the wife finds out? I’ll be eatin’ nothing but cold pickled radish for a month!”

The captain finished his inspection and nodded to himself, handing the documents back to Jiro. “Your papers are in order. And, if that’s the drink you want, I suggest you look for The Hidden Pearl, it’s in the next town and…”

Listening to the guard speak, Masato heaved a sigh of relief- they were going to make it!

“There you are you horse thief!” Came an angry yell, and five men marched up to them- the lead with a red handkerchief on his head. This weaselly looking man waved an accusing finger at Jiro. “Trying to get away, are ya?”

Now the guards were at attention, once again all business. “You there, is there a problem?”

The accuser turned and dropped to his knees in front of the guard captain, giving him a deep bow- something the other four copied. “My lord, please arrest these men!” He wailed. “They’ve stolen horses from our farm and are trying to flee across the border!”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Six

The guard captain watched the five ruffians with concern, and then turned his eye on the two samurai. “Is this true, sir? Are these horses really yours?”

Jiro instantly knew what was what. The pursuers were trying to get the disguised samurai arrested in hopes of being able to capture them or get what they wanted from them later. The bandits would likely have border guards on their payrolls, so getting to the two samurai would be surprisingly easy and the Kurokawa’s own guards would have done the work for them. Since Jiro and Masato had stolen horses from the bandits the night before, why not tell the truth and say that the pair were indeed riding stolen horses?

Jiro, also knowing how the game was played, also dropped to his knees and bowed. “My lord, we bought these horses fairly from a seller. These men are crazy- ah don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Giving Jiro an unhappy look, the accuser again bowed deeply to the officer. “My lord, these horses are from our stables and I can prove it! All our horses have a tattoo on their left hip with the character for Red. It’s my father’s nickname. You just check these horses and I’m sure you’ll find they’ve got the same tattoo!”

“You rat!” Jiro swore. “Who put you up to this?

The accuser smiled at Jiro confidently. “You’ll get your due, thief!”

“I see,” considered the guard captain, then grabbed his sword and stepped forward.  “Guards, keep an eye on these men while I check their mounts.”

Masato was now extremely nervous, their swords were hidden among their belongings on the horses, and the discovery of the weapons alone could put both of them into the hot pot. He did his best to keep his breathing even as the officer first looked him over, and then casually walked around the horse- tugging here, poking there. The horse, not liking this much, whinnied and pulled at the reigns.

“Hold this horse steady, boy!” The captain barked, and Masato did his best to comply.

“Sorry, sir.”

As the animal came under control, the officer moved to its left side. “There, that’s better. Now you said that it was on their left hip?”

“Yes my lord! Just on the hip. You might have to move the fur a bit, but I’m sure you’ll find it!”

It took only a moment of brushing away the dust with his gloved hand, and then the officer nodded. “Hmm, ahh yes. Here it is!” He called out. “You said it was the character for red, didn’t you? And you’re sure about it?

“Sure as the day I was born, sir!” Answered the ruffian confidently.

The officer stepped back around into the view of the men, walking past Masato and up to Jiro.

“Old man?” He said.

“My lord?” Asked Jiro, not having to feign any nervousness.

“Remember what I told you when you’re over on the other side.” Then he patted the side of Jiro’s horse and motioned for his men to open the gates.

“Yessir! I will sir!” Jiro gushed. “C’mon boy! We’ve got us some drinkin’ to do!”

As the two disguised samurai led their horses through the gate, the officer turned to the astonished accuser and his men. “Guards, take these men away. I wish to discuss with them the penalties for making a false accusation.”

*                             *                             *

“Sensei! I sure thought were done for!”

The checkpoint was now in the distance, and the pair were riding at a slow pace up the road into the forest.

“Take this as a lesson, lad- it never hurts to be cautious. Now you know why I wanted to switch horses before we came over. Bandits often ride stolen horses, and they always check at those border crossings. That’s half the point of the crossings!”

“Yes, sensei. I’ll remember.” Masato agreed readily. “So, where to next?”

The old man raised an eyebrow and looked over at the boy- “Why, you curious about the Hidden Pearl, lad?”

“Oh!” Said Masato, turning bright red. “Oh, no sir!”

Jiro laughed. “That’s good, because we ain’t got time for that kind of fun.” He gestured to the blue hills to the South of them. “The boys are in one of the summer houses up in those hills about 3 days ride. We’ll have to ditch the horses as soon as we leave the main trade roads though, because they’ll attract too much attention. We’ll find some farmer to take care of them for us and we’ll foot it from there.”

“Oh,” answered Masato, unhappy at the thought of walking. He rather liked riding, and this was a good horse. “Uhh. Yes. Sensei.”

Jiro reached out and shook Masato’s shoulder affectionately. “Don’t worry, kid. We’ll be plenty busy once we’re getting close. You know how to skin rabbits?”

Masato shook his head.

Jiro grinned. “You will soon!”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Seven

“…And have provisions prepared. We can’t have the lord being hungry during his trip, can we?”

Hasegawa Yohei walked the halls of the Inuyama castle, his assistant following him and taking notes as he spoke. The meeting between lords that Hasegawa had worked so hard to orchestrate was now quickly approaching, and he was the kind of man who disliked leaving even the smallest detail to others. Things were going surprisingly well, and his mood was good this morning as he took his dawn stroll around the castle halls looking for things that weren’t right.

Such as the miniature bonsai tree that decorated the table now in front of him- the tree’s carefully decorated base should have been turned to face the hallway, but it was now turned to face away from the passers-by. It was a detail many might miss, but not Yohei.

“That should be enough, leave me.” He ordered his assistant, who bowed, backed away, and disappeared to leave the first minister of the Inuyama alone in this deserted corridor.

“Be quick,” Hasegawa told no one in particular as he began to fuss with the miniature tree.

From the panels which covered the ceiling, a soft male voice came.

“Lord Hasagawa, the two messengers escaped across the border into the Kurokawa lands- the Tengu was unable to stop them.”

Hasegawa nodded, “Well, it was Jiro. That man is quite resourceful.”

“He is, my lord. I apologize, I should have gone myself as well, instead of only relying on Shinpei’s bandits.”

Hasegawa shifted the tree to its proper position.

“Yes, you should have. We shall just have to hope that Jiro’s resourcefulness results in a successful mission. However if it does, there can still be some good to come from this. Have Shinpei’s men watch the roads for their return- if they bring the clan lord’s sons I want them captured and brought to me. No point in letting Jiro get the credit for their safe return, is there?”

“No, my lord.” Agreed the ninja. “There is not.”

*                             *                             *

For Jiro and Masato, the journey to the Summer Residence of Lord Kurokawa was mostly uneventful. They did their best to keep a low profile, and since it was late summer and the roads were alive with merchants and travellers it wasn’t hard for two more to blend in with the normal traffic for the first two days. The third, which took them up higher into the mountains, was when they had to become more creative and careful, as the traffic thinned, and the number of armed patrols seemed to increase.

As planned, they left their horses with a farmer, and after confirming the location of the summer residence continued their journey on foot. This brought them to the edge of the estate just before the evening of the third day, and avoiding the guards they slipped over the low wall and into the garden of the sprawling residence.

Once inside, Jiro found a storage shed, and when they were hidden within he motioned for the young man to drop the pack he’d been carrying. Masato complied, slipping it off and placing the soft bundle on the floor.

“Here you go, sensei.”

Confident no one had seen them come in, Jiro slid the door to the shed shut and began to unpack the contents.  “Quick lad, put on these servants clothes.”

As they changed, Jiro continued-  “Once we’re ready, we’ll split up like I told you. If anyone stops you, you just got hired yesterday. The head of the household is named [Jew-sue-kay] Juusuke- remember it in case they ask you. If you find the boys wait until they’re alone and then let them know who you are. I’ll deliver the letter once we meet again.”

“Yes, sensei. I will.” Masato answered as he finished tying the sash on his blue robe.

“Good lad. Just remember to keep your head and you’ll do fine. We had to ditch our swords outside, but you’ve still got your knife if there’s any trouble. We’ll meet back here after we’re done.”

“Good luck, sensei.”

“To you too, lad.” Jiro checked the door by opening it a crack and peering out. “It’s clear. Let’s move.”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Eight

In another corner of the estate, a boy lay on his stomach on the bamboo tatami floor of his room- next to him an inkpot and before him a sheet of paper. In flowing strokes, his brush gently drew out the kanji characters, pausing every so often while he struggled to remember a stroke here, or a dash there in the Chinese way of writing. He was young, not more than eight seasons, but the intense gaze on his face showed a thoughtfulness that many had commented was beyond his years.

So intent was he on his writing, he failed to notice the door slide open and shut, or the soft approaching footsteps, until suddenly the paper upon which he had worked so hard was swiftly snatched out from before him as if by a sharp wind.

“And what is this?” Asked the new arrival- a teenager almost twice the boy’s age.

“Hey! Give it back!” The boy protested, jumping to his feet and grabbing vainly for the paper as the other simply turned and kept it up out of his reach.

“Dear father, I hope you are well. Masahiro and I miss you and mother greatly, and hope that we will be able to see you soon.” Read the teen, then stopped to shake his head and look at his younger brother. “I knew it. You’re writing another letter to father asking him to let us come home.” Then he sighed and added- “Taro, why don’t you just give up?”

Snatching back his letter, Taro gripped it protectively. “I can’t. If father knows how much we want to come back he’ll think of something. You read his letter. He misses us.”

“Yes, misses us so badly he sent us here in the first place.” Masahiro commented. “Taro, we’ve been over this a hundred times- this is our home. The Kurokawa are our people, and you had better start accepting it.”

“D-Don’t you want to go back?” The boy protested, clearly not agreeing.

Masahiro shook his head. “And why would I want to do that? Taro, who do you think would win in a fight between our clan and the Kurokawa?”

“Why, our clan of course, brother!” The child said proudly. “The Inuyama!”

Masahiro sighed again, giving his brother a look of sympathy. “Taro. Taro, you’ve got to forget these dreams of yours. You’ve seen the armies of the Kurokawa- how they fight. Do you really think our clan has any chance against their samurai? The Inuyama have no future, sooner or later the Kurokawa will crush them.”

“No! Don’t say that! Father is strong!”

The teen smiled sardonically. “If father is so strong, why are we here? Why did he put his future in the hands of his enemies? No Taro-chan, we’re on our own. Stop thinking in terms of our blood and start thinking with your head. We’ve got to do what we can to get into the Kurokawa while there’s still time, before our father does something stupid.”

The boy looked at his elder brother for a moment, and then a light seemed to come on in his eyes. “Emiko!  You’re talking about Emiko-chan!”

There were times Taro was far too perceptive for his age, and this was one of them. Slightly embarrassed, Masahiro was about to deny it when suddenly he heard a noise outside their room and quickly motioned Taro to be quiet.

Just as he’d done this, a knock came at the door. Masahiro’s heart leapt into his mouth and be began to panic. Had someone heard his brother’s treasonous talk? Would they be punished? What should they do- they couldn’t just pretend there was no-one there.

As Masahiro struggled to think, the low knock came again.

Finally, he made a decision. Masahiro called out “enter”.

The wood-panelled door slid open to reveal…

“A servant,” said Taro, peering past his bother at a man bowing deeply in the open door.

Suddenly slightly embarrassed by his own cowardly thoughts, Masahiro naturally wanted someone to take it out on. “What do you want old man?!” He barked.

The old servant with the tied back silver hair finally raised his head, smiling at the uncertain pair.

“Young masters, your humble servant Jiro brings you greetings from home.”

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The Inuyama Rebellion- Part Nine

Masato had no idea where he was.

He just hoped it wasn’t the women’s quarters as he didn’t feel much like becoming a eunuch.

The hallways here all seemed to look the same, and he had begun to feel he was going in circles as he made his way around the large compound- peeping here, listening there- hoping that he’d find some trace of the boys.

Now, as he turned a corner he reflexively stepped to the side and bowed his head as one of the head servants led a line of men and women carrying food trays past him. He’d already done this respectful pose a dozen times during the night, and was amazed by how well it worked, and how little the servants here seemed to know each other.

But this time, as he listened to the woman in green bark orders to her charges, he also heard another sound- a moan. He glanced up just in time to see a servant carrying a large steaming pot start to drop to his knees, the pot only saved at the last moment by two of the others grabbing it.

The Servant Collapses

Art by Brushmen

The woman in charge threw up her arms. “Oh great! Another one’s sick! At this rate our lords will have to serve themselves.” Then she pointed to one of the other companions. “You! Take him back to the servant’s quarters.”  As the man bowed and complied, she stood there thinking, and then looked around, spying Masato cringing nearby. “You there!”


“Yes.” She answered, stepping up to look at him carefully. “You’re dressed as a kitchen aide, do  you know how to serve?”

Masato tried not to make eye contact, keeping his eyes respectfully down. “Well…ahh…I’ve seen it done, but…”

The head servant nodded and turned away. “Good enough. Good enough! Grab that pot and follow us!” Then, as she fell back into position at the front of the line, she noticed Masato hadn’t moved. “Well? What’s wrong? You not hear me? Move it if you value your skin!”

Unable to see any way out, Masato bowed and quickly dashed over to take up the pot by its handles. It wasn’t especially heavy, but he could see how it might be a bit much for a sick person. As he hoisted it up, he leaned over to the servant watching him.

“Hey, uhh…We’re not going to serve the Inuyama princes, are we?” He said with his usual subtlety.

The servant looked at him as if he’d fallen off the roof. “What? Those brats? Of course not!”

“Oh”, said Masato, disappointed.

“Hurry up! We’re serving the clan lord himself.”

*                             *                             *

In Taro’s room, the two sons of Lord Inuyama knelt facing the elder samurai, having just finished reading the letter that Jiro had brought with him from their mother.

“I see,” said Masahiro, considering.

“So…father really wants us to come back?” Taro said to Jiro, wide-eyed with excitement. “Brother, did you hear that?!?! I told you father misses us! He…” Then he stopped abruptly as he saw the deep conflict on his brother’s face. “Elder Brother, what’s wrong?

Masahiro shook his head and forced a smile. “Nothing, Taro. It’s just a surprise.” Then he turned to look at the samurai and touched his head to the ground. “Jiro-san, you traveled far to bring us this news. Thank you.”

Jiro bowed deeply in return. “Think nothing of it. It was my duty, young lord.” Then added- “Now, I am afraid we must hurry. Please gather your things so we may leave tonight.”

“Of course,” Masahiro smiled, rising to his feet. “Jiro, please help Taro gather his things, my brother is only eight and a bit slow.”

“Of course, young lord.” Jiro answered, sharing a smile with Taro.

As he reached the door, Masahiro peeked outside cautiously, and then looked back to the two of them. “I’ll return shortly. My room is nearby.” And he left.

After his brother was gone, Taro immediately jumped up and began rushing around the room packing. Although, Jiro noted, much of what he considered important was already well organized in various bags, as though he’d been planning for this night for some time. He wasn’t so much packing as getting everything together.

“If I may speak, young master.” Jiro asked, concerned. “The young lord doesn’t seem very happy about going back.”

“What?” Said Taro absentmindedly, rooting through a closet. “What? Oh. Don’t worry, brother’s just unhappy because he likes some girl here. He wants to go home just as much as I do. Can you pass me that bag? I want to bring some scrolls.”

[Image by Brushmen]

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