Seijou Hakasei dashed towards the square as soon as he heard the sound of the bell from the tower. It was almost six in the morning. Seijou had been training arduously to be a perfect samurai deemed worthy of Roikuh. Together with his best friend, Omoe Hanaru, they were working hard, practicing their routines in preparation for their next assignment.
At the square of the Roikuh camp, all other samurais were already assembled in line waiting for Master Kuh to speak. The master and his second in command, Horiku Yoshi stood stolidly in front by the pole. Both were watching their students closely. Their eyes moved from one samurai to another inspecting the students’ every move, waiting for them to get ready. The students lined up, stood closely to one another and fixed their attention in front.
Hurriedly, Seijou went in line next to Omoe who had positioned himself at the last row. He was panting and his face was sweating due to rigorous physical work. Seijou gave Omoe a serious nod then face straight ahead.
Omoe simpered and leant slightly to Seijou’s direction then said in a low voice. “What do you think happened?”
Seijou wrinkled his forehead and murmured. “I don’t know.”
“Why did they call us? Why are we here?”
“I have no idea, who knows? I don’t care.” Seijou replied in a rather irritating tone.
“I wonder what happened.”
“They’ll announce it later, just wait…”
Suddenly, Omoe foolishly half turned to Seijou. “Did someone try to escape again?”
Seijou did not move. His gaze was fixed to the men in front of him. Still breathing heavily, he turned slightly to his friend and gave him warning eyes then said. “I have no idea, Omoe. I was practicing at the back when I heard the bell. Stop talking and be quiet. You’ll get us both in trouble.” He said frustratingly.
Omoe finally got the message. He readily composed himself and said: “Fine, but I guess there’s an idiot who did it again. Don’t you think?”
“Will you be quiet? I don’t want to get into trouble, someone might hear us.”
Seijou sighed. “I know you don’t want to be here anymore but if you don’t stop acting that way, we’ll both be in trouble. Do you understand?”
Omoe nodded and gave a deep sigh then said thoughtfully. “I will never put you in trouble. You know that.”
“Anyone could be listening.” Seijou said gravely.
“Understood.” Omoe said.
Their conversation was abruptly halted when Master Kuh stepped forward in front. All the men on the square bowed ceremoniously. Seijou and Omoe bowed as well at the back. Kuh gave a slight bow to his samurais and another to the twelve council members positioned at the left flank of the assembly. Horiku gave a bow to his commander in chief then stealthily walked and joined the council members in the assembly line.
Master Kuh cast a quick glance to all his samurais. His watchful and perpetually alert set of eyes shifted from one face to another. The samurais stood gallantly and fiercely at their leader. As a sign of respect, all the samurais observed impeccable behavior in the presence of Master Kuh.
At the age of fifty eight, Master Kuh’s physique was equally strong as those who were evidently younger than him. He may be old but he certainly was not infirm. Tall, fair- skinned and with a voice that spelled authority. His mere presence oozes a commanding presence which definitely demands respect from his subordinates. Yet despite his legendary persona amongst his samurais, Master Kuh remained aloof and secluded within his quarters. He was rarely seen in public as orders were usually carried by his second in command, Horiku Yoshi. This moment was certainly a rare moment for the students in the camp.
Seijou felt a rush of thrill down to his spine as he waited for his master to speak at that momentous event. Like others, he was eager to see his great master in person. It didn’t happen quite often as Master Kuh was a rare sight around the camp. He was, after all, ‘the’ Master Kuh, the legendary Master who founded the Roikuh organization. To Seijou, without Master Kuh, there would be no Roikuh thus there would be no him.
All the samurai members including Seijou were in awe with their Master as he stood gallantly in front. They regarded him as an icon, a God like figure that was untouchable. They admired his physique, his fighting skills, his manner, his wisdom and even his style of clothing. As a fierce leader, Master Kuh was of course exceptional amongst other the Roikuh samurais. His distinction was apparent through his clothes, mannerism, food and he would only speak to the chosen few. His words were laws and his decisions were always final.
After a moment or two, Master Kuh finally spoke in a rather sepulchral tone. “My great Roikuh warriors, it is an honor to be standing here in front of you.” He paused and moved a little then said “I have fought many battles in my lifetime and I have met great swordsmen throughout the course of my journey but…” he paused again. “But I have never seen anyone as remarkable as you.” He paused and looked around his samurai warriors. “You, my heroic samurais have proven your worth to carry the name of Roikuh.”
Omoe could swear he had heard those words before. He just couldn’t remember where and when. He found his mind wandering off while Seijou was apparently so eager listening to the old man in front. All other samurais were relieved and they felt a great pride as they listened to the words of their master. They all seemed pleased.
Master Kuh looked around earnestly then continued to speak. “I am pleased with each and every one of you. The potential with the new ones are also immense. There is no doubt in my mind that you will succeed in your desire to achieve your highest potential. Continue to strive for perfection in our art and remember that there is no other than the Roikuh.” He paused. “You, my great ones, are privileged to be part of this organization. And I say that it is my honor to have you with us.”
The samurais felt so much pride with themselves. The council members looked so pleased upon hearing the words of Master Kuh. They stood on their position, unperturbed yet swelling deep inside in their self glorifying stance. Omoe was getting bored while Seijou was obediently listening to his great master.
Horiku came forward and handed a piece of paper to Master Kuh. He bowed down to his Master then returned to his previous position. The rest of the samurais were waiting in eager anticipation for the following announcement. Master Kuh read the piece of document in silence. After the brief interval, he faced the crowd once again and prepared to make a speech. He glanced at Horiku who nodded in comprehension. His manner changed and his voice became less stern.
He said: “We have a task to do. The Roikuh was asked to execute an attack to a village called Kuoreh.” Master Kuh half turned to his assistant. “Horiku here will guide you to its location.” Master Kuh paused and eyed his students seriously. “This weekend, you shall prove to me that you, Roikuh samurais deserve to be called as such.”
“Yes, Master!” The samurais shouted in unison.
“Once in Kuoreh, you are to secure classified documents and bring those back in the camp.”
“Know that this is part of your initiation. You shall not fail me.” Master Kuh continued.
“Remember, execute perfectly and in absolute certainty. You carry the name of the Roikuh; do not fail me and yourself. Go now and rest, Roikuh warriors. We battle in two days.”
As soon as he was finished with his announcement, Master Kuh bowed slightly then left the square without looking back. Horiku followed him. The samurais gave a bow once again as a sign of respect to their leader. They waited for Master Kuh to leave. The second bow was given to the council members who made a little procession when they left the square. As soon as the officials were gone, the crowd quietly dispersed and went back to their respective posts.
Omoe went to Seijou again. He asked enthusiastically. “Will you come?”
Seijou nodded as he gave a faint smile. “I am ready for blood.” His eyes revealed a certain kind of lust, a lust for cruelty and violence.
Omoe could feel his friend’s morbid excitement. He asked in a rather concerned voice. “Are you sure you are ready to do this?”
Seijou gave him a funny look.
“Are you ready to kill?”
Seijou narrowed his eyes and said: “I am ready. We’ve been practicing for months, what else is there to learn? You and I are ready.”
“That’s not what I mean.” Omoe shook his head.
Seijou looked at his friend, puzzled. “Then what do you mean?”
“What I mean is, are you ready to kill? Are you ready to take a life?”
Seijou did not reply. He stared at Omoe as he understood what his friend meant.
Omoe added: “I know this is your first time and mine too. And—and—well—I am not sure if I am ready to do it anytime, anywhere.” Omoe paused nervously. “I don’t know if I could do it all. You know that I never had the balls…”
Seijou faced his friend thoughtfully. “What is happening to you? What is going on? Don’t tell me, you want out—After all these years of—what is going with you, Omoe?“
Omoe heaved. “You know I’ve always wanted out.” He gazed at his friend. “You know I never wanted this. I don’t want this. As if I have a choice—if only I had choice, you know that.”
Seijou looked around carefully to check if there’s anyone around listening. Once he was sure that they were alone, Seijou said in a low voice. “Stop it! I told you not to say anything like that in here. It is dangerous.”
“I know. But—“
“No buts, Omoe—no buts…”
Omoe sighed sadly.
Seijou wrapped his arm around his friend and said encouragingly. “You can’t give up now. Don’t you want to know what it feels like to be a God; to have someone’s life on your hand? This is it, Omoe. The time has come when we would taste the true fulfillment of all our hard work. You should be happy because finally we could prove to the old man that we are worthy of the title.”
Omoe remained silent, listening intently to his friend. He remembered all the hard work and time he invested in training just to pass the test given by Master Kuh himself. He cursed the old man for all that hardships he put Omoe through.
“We are born for this.” Seijou said. He gave Omoe a pat on his shoulder. “We could be a great fighter just like him, Omoe. Just like him. Can you imagine that? I can’t even imagine being half as good as Master Kuh.”
Omoe stood blankly at his friend. Seijou’s fanaticism with the old man disgusted him. Omoe said sounding in total disbelief. “Do you seriously believe that we are born for this? Are we really born to kill?”
Seijou looked around and breathe in satisfyingly. “Yes.”
The next morning, Ru Kurisawa, the Roikuh’s official spy had finally returned from the field to the camp. His assignment: to gather information from Kuoreh and initiate the plan of attack in the village. His report to Master Kuh would be the basis of their attack strategy. Without Ru, no plan could be confirmed. Upon his return, Ru gave all the information needed to execute the attack in Kuoreh. He had confirmed the date of the execution. In a matter of two days, the Roikuh would attack the village of Kuoreh and kill everyone on their path.