Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Samurai Sansaki, A Sword Is No Home

"It's good to live in violent times."

So sneered a smiling Sansaki, a bloodied ronin (freelance samurai) both feared and loathed - and both of which he considered attributes. In an age that would come to be known as "The Era Of Warring States", Sanaski had found a home. To him, any hell was home - and any home hell.

Nights were a death by a thousand cuts, slicing him into a scrambling panic, surrounded flashing steel blades until finally he'd awaken clutching his chest in mortal pain. His hair turned an early white, giving him the freakish look of a strained politician. Each morning was the same, the fire in his belly calling out for death, craving the sight of life passing from another man's eyes. Only then could he feel alive.

In peacetime he'd be a criminal, a murderer for hire - or for fun. But these were not such times. These were times of warlords and chaos, of anarchy and human injustice, and ultimately the time of the sword. The boiling lump churning unbearably inside Sansaki released itself only through the metal attached to his hand, like an artist with a pointed paint brush, each one revealing his inner self.

Sansaki couldn't do women. A retail transaction held no lure for him yet into what home could he walk with his bloody sword? Rejection hounded him everywhere - except in battle. His opponent could never match his mania, his drive to reach the climactic moment when his sword pierced and penetrated vital organs as Sansaki's fury stood complete. In the fleeting moments as the doomed victim writhed to the ground, Sanaski came closest to his own personal heaven.

In battle he was reckless, pushing himself to the edge, looking over the edge of death into the abyss of freedom. Always he pulled back. Oftentimes he'd allowed himself to be cut he so loved the sight of flowing blood - be it even his own. If Sansaki's sword could have any dream it would be to find an immortal body to mangle over and over, trapped between life and death, never finding peace. Within battle no external sword could take him, outside battle he could fend off no internal sword. He was his own immortal body, a slave to his blade.

Already he'd become local legend and mythical terror, parents warning children that "Sansaki feels nothing his sword does not slice." Children were duly terrified - mostly because everyone was. It was when he was called out in a bar - though Sansaki did not drink - that Sansaki uttered his infamous motto as he was challenged, "Hey Saki-san, what would you do if there was no war? What else you good for?" Saki-san never looked up from polishing his blade, replying only, "It's good to live in violent times" - confirming he was good for nothing else.

Even if he were to be cut in two, no blade could slice Sansaki like a blood-letting question. He lived in constant fear and turmoil of who might ask him what next. He'd bluffed his way through at the bar - adding to his legend - but if he'd been pressed further a fate of deathly living would have been forced upon him. What if they'd held him down, peppered him with inquisitions he dare not answer, reducing him to tears? But who searches for integrity in times of war?

Sansaki's force field relied upon the belief he was a soul without feeling. As such he was feared, at times even exalted, but always always avoided. Of his many secrets was the clan leader's nephew he'd hacked to pieces in a late night fit of righteous rage. The nephew was drunk and belligerent with dreams of ultimate power restlessly seething below the surface. When a kuroneko - black cat - dared cross his path he cut it down in cruel horror. But it was as if the blade had cut through Sansaki himself as he witnessed the barbarity. So chopped up lay the final body his sword cuts could not be recognized.

"What if they were to make fun of me for caring about a cat? I needed that cat! I'd be mocked right out of the clan, my fraudulent ways exposed. My reputation...must stay alive. Love is beyond my reach. I must walk this road alone. But loneliness I cannot slay in my frustration."

Exposure invaded his dreams, other samurai donning cat ears and meowing as he passed. Children fearlessly laughing at him, an oddity of life, a shameful samurai. True samurai have no feelings! Sansaki was the truest of all: no relationships whatsoever - except with his sword. Take that way and he had nothing. Which means, of course, he had nothing.

Had he not led such a bent life, Sansaki's instincts and sense of tactics would have made him a great general. Whereas other fighters saw only the opponent in front of them, he saw the battlefield as whole, allowing him to flow from one spot to another of the greatest strength. He used this ability to ruthless advantage. Also, he picked to follow what he saw as the strongest clan leader: the up and coming Oda Nobunaga who'd stormed his way to power against all odds.

But this sort of success seemed boundless to Sansaki, a never-ending struggle to stay atop the fence of life and death. A perfect hell. But the gods demanded he take responsibility and choose. Forsaking his instincts - having deemed himself a bad man, after all - he choose to switch sides and fight with the Takeda clan whose leader had been killed by a lucky sniper shot. The son who assumed power was rumored to be weak but who knows, maybe Sansaki could rise to the top, taking his rightful spot.

Warily eyeing the sun as he climbed the famous mountains of Kai province holding the Takeda castle, Sansaki dreamed himself in a different land and time, free to walk away and live a man's life of love. The wearying wars, the petty plots, the worship of violence - all illusions blown away by the true dreams of man. A fearful question hounded him among the beseeching autumn trees: "Don't you want to live forever?"

"Don't answer! You'll be revealed a fool! You're only good for killing. No woman will have you. Walk this march of death, enjoy these last few moments of nature's sweet necter. Besides, when have you ever lost? You never lose! The future is bright still!" Sansaki dropped to his knees, a face crinkled in confusion, praying for the branches to show him the way home. Stunned by the silence, he rolled over on his back, an innocent patch of blue sky passing overhead. Sansaki dreamed to die as he lay.

The Battle of Nagashino took place in 1575 near Nagashino Castle on the plain of Shitaragahara in the Mikawa province of Japan. Forces under [heir] Takeda Katsuyori had besieged the castle since the 17th of June. The Takeda forces attacked the castle because it threatened Takeda's supply lines.

Both Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga sent troops to break the siege and their combined forces defeated Takeda Katsuyori. Nobunaga's skillful use of firearms to defeat Takeda's cavalry tactics is often cited as a turning point in Japanese warfare; many cite it as the first 'modern' Japanese battle. In fact, the cavalry charge had been introduced only a generation earlier by Katsuyori's father, Takeda Shingen. Furthermore, firearms had already been used in other battles. Oda Nobunaga's innovation was the wooden stockades [that protected his Arquebusiers] and rotating volleys of fire which led to a decisive victory at Nagashino.

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