A story by Kai from Mibuno Region.

Transcribed by Lord Fujibayashi.

Thinking deeply, I felt like I was the kind of person who wanted to be useful. I knew how to exert myself for a purpose and it felt good to do so for the right thing.

Many say that I have the blood of a warrior. That didn't entirely mean that I wanted to fight. I barely knew how to since I was always a peasant, but I was told to have a loyal spirit, and that I developed better when I had my mind with someone else. It's a strange feeling. I guess it has something to do with the happiness that resulted from using effort.

In Iga, father is known as "Takaji the Kataude" (Takaji the one arm). He fought with a spear for the Matsudaira, lost his arm in battle, and was forced to retire because of his liability, and because he wasn't the first child. Even now, he still proved to be helpful among the fields even with a missing limb.

On the day I met up with Lord Ryou Tsukimori, I was put on a trial with his son and younger brother. I saw the point of the blade fly towards me. Like with the intent to kill, Lord Hajime Tsukimori drove his sword towards my forehead. I wouldn't turn and run, maybe because I thought that I was being tested. But I was scared; I was facing a senior, a very scary senior who seemed to look at me like I had no merit. Was I supposed to beat him? Was I supposed to prove my strength? Those were my first thoughts.

I split away from young Lord Shoutarou, who was right beside me. Lord Tsukimori's sword halted through air, missing my head. As soon as I moved, he turned to the young lord. Next thing I knew, my body moved on its own. Lord Shoutarou was motionless; I had my arms clutched around his waist and I pulled. This time the sword, which was first meant for me, was almost thrust in between the eyes of young Lord Shou.

I grit my teeth as I saw the fear on Lord Shou's face. My mind easily conjured angry thoughts, "Why would he attack his own nephew?" I had wondered, and I pulled with all of my strength. Lord Tsukimori slid back a little bit and then I saw him swung his arm. My head seemed to have spun away and I fell back, his elbow having smashed into my jaw.

Lord Hajime turned to me and said, "Your Lord is dead."

I wanted to tell him how unfair the trial was. I certainly felt that way, fighting a senior in the sword style, but I held my tongue. I even avoided looking at him because I thought I would've made the wrong face. Also, I did something wrong. I made Lord Shou die; because he froze with fear, his uncle berated him.

No, I was supposed to avoid Lord Tsukimori wasn't I? What should I have done?

I was unarmed, and if I stayed in the way of the attack, I would've got a painful blade to my head. Or maybe my chest? Or my shoulder? Was I supposed to get hurt? Not sure, the sword triggered my instincts to move.

Later that day, the young lord and I sat out on a hill overlooking the Tsukimori house and the surrounding paddies. I held wet straw against my cheek, which was red and stinging with pain. Lord Shou looked at me, and spoke to me with pity. He was sad that I had to go through all of this, sorry that I was hit, and sorry that he had froze against his uncle's blade.

"Why do you harbor such thoughts my lord?" I asked Lord Shou. I was not given an answer, he just shook his head. So I told him I would do whatever I could for him.

To the young lord, the want of me giving loyalty was not fathomed, but why was that? Lord Shou was easily afraid, too filled with imperfections. It all made his family struggle with him. Even the lands of lower koku had protectorates; in the land of Iga, we trained young to be hired out in Japan. It was because times were difficult, we often served as army supplements.

It may look like I wanted to be recognized, especially since I was a peasant. For me, it wasn't all about fighting pride or how well I used the Iga style. All disciples of Iga were to love and respect one another like family. I felt a little pity for young Lord Shou, I felt like I wanted to help, but it all stemmed for my adoration for the Tsukimori family.

Lord Ryo Tsukimori felt like a man I wanted to follow. He sometimes visited my home region, watched me train, and praised me. And through him, I could see a hidden strength in his son. As a supporter, I won't force Lord Shou to be what he's not.

In a way, his character makes him lovable too.