A playful breeze kicked up, and cherry blossoms floated past. I followed their dancing flight with my eyes, and when I looked back, a figure could be seen down the road, slowly approaching with solemnity and intent. Was it man or demon? A grimacing mask hid his face, and great red robes adorned a giant frame.
The apparation told me he was called Yojimbo, and that I would die this day. I was to pay for my life of dissolution, which had dishonored the memory of my ancestors. When I asked who had sent him, he replied simply “my master”.
I offered to pay him more than his wage, and he stood silent.
I told him I would leave, never to return to this place, and he stood silent.
I vowed to move to the honorable path of life, and still he stood silent.
The apparation would not be moved by words; the finishing couplet of this stanza was to be written in crimson. I leapt from the porch, unarmed and unarmored, and faced the one who would be my death. With a slow flourish, he unsheathed his sword, pausing for a moment before lunging.
A side-step and a twist saved me from the first blow, but the second grazed my arm as I took off my coat and began whipping it about. The cloth caught the sword just long enough for a disarming kick and a punch to the chin. A moment later, Yojimbo lay on the ground, staring up the length of his own blade.
Tempted as I was to remove the mask and see the face of my tormentor, I hesitated. Yojimbo had shown me honor; how was I to repay him? A strong wind blew in with the suddenness of a storm, bearing with it the recorder’s melody. I turned to see the player, but saw only the darkened street. I looked back to the ground, and Yojimbo was gone.