Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians

Unrelated stories that take place in a setting besides Star Wars...

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xfiend1013
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Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians

Post by xfiend1013 » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:59 pm

Summer sun burning
and many forget the way
violence simmers


August, 1863

“Master Masayoshi!” One of the initiates approached, bent low, addressed him in a manner that was full of propriety and also urgency.

Masayoshi turned from his latest poem, pulled tight his robe with the thick jutte rope around his waist.

“There is a monk here to see you, from Edo. A Father Enoch Root.”

Masayoshi dropped his brush, scrambled to his feet, left the finished work to dry without hanging.

The ink pooled deeper, darker, widened the brushstrokes and glazed in the summer heat.

Student is certain
knows all of separation
is it illusion?


Enoch was there, broad shouldered, his red beard fierce in the humid air of the hills.

“Father Root, I welcome you to Satsuma Shrine. Even foreign devils are welcome here.”

Root bowed, slightly.

“Even those who you have bludgeoned and left to rot in a prison cell?”

“Especially those who I have wronged.” Masayoshi said.

Root approached him. He was quite large, now. His red hair was common in his lands. Here, it frightened the children, who had been told that Jesuit priests such as Root would kidnap them and eat them. The harsh orphanages the Jesuits ran did little to assuage these fears.

He reached out a firm, weathered hand, extended it towards Masayoshi.

The two shook hands. Root passed something to him, small, heavy, wrapped in paper.

Masayoshi withdrew. Root pulled a parchment from his brown robe.

“I found this in the square. After the murder of Mr. Richardson, it gives me pause, Masayoshi.”

Masayoshi accepted the package with a small bow, and unfurled it. It was a poster depicting a large, well drawn Sumo who had planted both feet and shoved down an obviously drunken sailor. Across the top, the script read “sonno joi: Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians.”

Some young hooligan had scribbled in bright red hair and a bushy, angular beard of the same color. They had cut a crude symbol for the Jesuits into the corner.

“When I found this, near our monastery, it had been tacked up with a dagger.”

Masayoshi's eyes dropped and he looked up at Root. Since the first time they'd met (under the most precarious of circumstances) the two had become friends, of a sort. Root spoke to the alien at home inside of Masayoshi, and the younger monk served as a more jovial counterpoint to the physical and spiritual harshness of the Jesuit path.

“The Americans are not here now, Masayoshi. They're busy killing one another over the right to own men and breed them like oxen.”

Masayoshi's eyes widened. He knew that the Americans had left, suddenly, but had heard only the vaguest of rumors.

“They are violent, unprincipled men. And while they were here, the other gai-jin were forced to resort to trickery, subtle influence, and bribes.”

He turned from Masayoshi and looked out over the sprawling city of Satsuma, the glittering bay. Gates and shrines and buildings of paper and wood stretched out, in the bay seaweed was being gathered under the shadows of the gently rocking boats of the British Empire.

“Imagine yourself in a room full of Ronin in the summer, Masayoshi. They are armed and guarding a chest of ryo for a warlord. He is a brutal man, capable of anything.”

Masayoshi looked out at the ships, strove to understand Root. Sometimes the European tenses and thought patterns rose up in him, made the translation difficult.

“A man is caught trying to steal. The warlord castrates him and hangs him from a branch over a fire until he is dead. None of the other men will try to steal.”

Masayoshi nodded. The package in his hand felt heavy, warm. It drew up the heat from his hand quite quickly.

“Now, Masayoshi. Imagine that the warlord has business in his home province, away from this chest full of ryo and all the swords it can buy, and he leaves it in the care of the Ronin.”

Root turned back to face Masayoshi.

“I must go. Things... fall apart, Masayoshi. I will cherish your poetry. I hope to God that you turn to our Lord and Savior and save yourself, monk. Yours is a path I cannot walk.”

Root grasped him, held him close for a brief moment. It was the most emotion Masayoshi had seen from him in the years they had known one another.

“It took our Lord and God six days to make the Heavens and the Earth. Six days, Masayoshi. A lot can happen.”

Root left, headed down the hill, towards the Straits of Shimonoseki.

Masayoshi had dispensed with much protocol to have the visiting monk come and go. He returned up the stone stairs to the shrine, prepared to perform an elaborate bath to cleanse him of the sweat and mistakes of the day.

Masayoshi stood in the gateway, underneath the huge stone arc, and watched the bay. He unraveled the gift that Root had left him.

The paper had a message, printed first in a barbarian tongue, and then in proper Japanese. “Terre! l'obus est Dieu, Paixhans est son prophète.”

Earth! the shell is God, Paixhans is his Prophet!

There was a noise in the harbor. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. It sounded like fireworks down in the town. Smoke poured from the gai-jin ships. Masayoshi wondered, for a brief and portent moment, if the ships were on fire.

Red and black blasts spread on the town of Satsuma, wood and burning paper erupted into the glowing sky.

Masayoshi looked at the small gift that Root had wrapped for him. It was a bullet.

He reached under his rope belt and drew the gun that he'd kept for years. He had only ever fired it once.

Now, he had all six chambers ready. He slid the bullet into the revolver.

A lot could happen with six bullets. He had done enough with one.

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xfiend1013
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Drowning

Post by xfiend1013 » Sun Jul 04, 2010 7:17 pm

Slowly through time
if memory is water
history drowns


Masayoshi was the quartermaster of the Kinji shrine, his heavyset frame was suitable for hauling bundles of soy and churning the vats of curdling tofu. He took his quarterstaff, the heavy steel-shod relic that served to steady his gait and discourage would-be bandits.

He tied a bundle of ryo inside his robe; these were coins from a bygone era, twenty years ago, when the ryo was heavy and pressed with gold. They looked almost exactly like the worthless modern ryo, but to a merchant or dealer with a bit of wits, they were worth a thousand times more.

The pouch, heavy as a stone, represented most of the monetary wealth of the shrine. But they were rich in food, water, and sake - and as quartermaster, Masayoshi felt he knew what the shrine would need.

Guns. Swords. Ronin. Lest they be used against the peaceful monks.

Masayoshi was apart from the monks, their connection to the world of the profane and secular. He walked upon the earth so that the others did not have to, he left them free to live clean and pure lives, he bought what they needed, and the monks worked day and night, self-sufficient and disciplined.

In times of war he had always been prepared. He had defended the shrine in the turmoil of years gone by. He had fired his gun.

Enoch Root was down there. Masayoshi closed the heavy, iron-clad gate behind him, heard the massive oak beams fall into place, sealing the road from the city.

The city glowed in the setting sun. Rice paper and bamboo burned, the fires curled and spiraled into the air, and the ships in the harbor spat smoke into the erupting earth.

"Please, by the spirits, monk!" A man came running on perilously high geta. "Let us in!" Behind him, a huddled woman in a torn kimono.

"I cannot." Masayoshi said. "The gate is locked until I have returned with men to defend the shrine."

"We will die, master monk!" The man said. He clung to Masayoshi's arm and showered him with barbarian currency, Spanish silver dollars minted in Mexico City.

"If I let you into the shrine, we may be set upon, then you will die and all within will die. Here, you may die, but I will still have fullfilled my duty. I am sorry." Masayoshi bowed low when the man whipped a thin steel dagger from his sleeve and sliced directly towards Masayoshi's neck.

Masayoshi bent lower, stepped back, and brought his staff across his center. It connected with the long dagger. The weight and force knocked the weapon up and over his head in an arc.

The woman shouted something, Masayoshi turned just in time to see a young boy come from the side of the road, where he had been hiding in a drainage ditch. He flicked his hand forward and Masayoshi felt a knife sling past, heard it dig into the dirt behind him.

Masayoshi took a running start, used the staff to vault himself forward, and connected his foot with the boy's face. He squealed and fell into the ditch with a splash.

The citizens of Satsuma were desperate. But Masayoshi could not command the monks to open the shrine - even if he had wanted to. He had told them as much - don't open the gates unless guards are backing me up - not chasing me.

Masayoshi held his staff out so that the boy could grab hold, he could see his face below the surface of the water, he was obviously standing up but stuck in the deep mud. The boy did not grab for the staff.

The mother screamed, Masayoshi heard the dagger being pulled out of the dirt, heard fast and muttered words coming from the man. He did not turn, held the staff out, it danced under the surface of the water. Bubbles rose from the face of the open-mouthed boy, his hair wreathed his face like seaweed moving slowly beneath the surface.

He could see the almond eyes blur as they sank into the muddy water. Ghostly hands rose up, water moved slightly, pushed towards the mud-laced skein of surface tension that remained unbroken.

The boy sank. Masayoshi did not go after him, weighted down with gun and gold it would have been suicide.

Suicide. The father knelt in the wet dirt of the road. The mother was crying, kneeling before him, wailing. Red blood spilt into the clay and finally, the man slumped over. His wife lay on top of him, heaving, sobbing.

“You did this!” She shrieked. “You!” She pointed at Masayoshi, her hand extending from a torn sleeve. Blood soaked the cuff, weighed it down. “You did this you stupid fat monk! Now my family is dead. Bandits will come for me now, dishonor me, rape me and murder me and throw me in the ditch with my son!”

Masayoshi said nothing. He had not had time to even attempt to explain things, and now the two men were dead, and the woman was right – this was no place for her, and even now he would not be let back into the shrine.

He heard the man running up before he saw him. A ronin, in shoddy armor and using a battered sword, he closed to a few feet before Masayoshi had turned to face him, staff at his hips.

“Move along old man!” The ronin barked. “Leave the woman to me and I'll make sure I'm done with her before the barbarians come up from the sea and slit her throat like a dog.”

Masayoshi stood his ground. The woman looked up at him, face shuddering with tears, a look that said I told you so.

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