Yei Theodora Ozaki.

Warriors of old Japan : and other stories online

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furnish.

They grinned from ear to ear at the Princess and told her that she had
done well, and bade her take the six travellers into the Palace and
inform Shutendoji of their arrival. Thus the six warriors entered into
the very stronghold of the demons as if they were invited guests.
Triumphant glee at the success of their plan made them exchange
lightning glances with each other. They passed through the great iron
gate, up to the porch, and then the Princess led them through large
spacious rooms and along great corridors till at last they reached the
inner part of the Palace. Here they were shown into a large hall. At the
upper end in the seat of honour sat the demon king Shutendoji. Never had
the knights in their wildest dreams dreamt of such a hideous monster. He
was ten feet in height, his skin was bright red and his wild shock of
hair was like a broom. He wore a crimson _hakama_,[2] and he rested his
huge arms on a stand. As the knights entered, he glared at them fiercely
with eyes as big as a dish. The sight of this dread monster was enough
to make any one tremble with fear, and had Raiko and his knights been
weak they must have fainted away with horror.

Raiko could hardly restrain himself from flying at the monster then and
there, but he controlled himself and bowed humbly so as not to awaken
the enemy's suspicion in any way.

Shutendoji, glaring at him, said haughtily: "I do not know who you are
in the least, or how you have found your way into this mountain, but
make yourself at home!"

Then Raiko answered meekly: "We are only humble mountain priests from
Mount Haguro of Dewa. We were on our way to the capital, having been on
a pilgrimage to the shrine of Omine. In travelling across these
mountains we have lost our way. While wandering about and wondering
which was the right path to take, we were met by one of the inmates of
your palace and kindly brought here. Please pardon us for trespassing on
your domains and for all the trouble we are giving you!"

"Don't mention it," said Shutendoji; "I am sorry to hear of your plight.
Do not stand on ceremony while you are here, and let us feast together."
Then turning to the attendant demons he shouted orders for the dinner to
be served, and clapped his red hands together.

At this the partitions between the rooms slid apart and beautiful
damsels magnificently robed came gliding in, bearing aloft in their
hands large wine-cups, jars of _saké_ and dishes of fish of all kinds,
which they placed before the ugly goblin and the guests. Raiko knew that
all these lovely princesses had been snatched from the Flower Capital by
Shutendoji, who, heedless of their tears and misery, kept them here to
be his handmaidens. He said to himself fiercely that they should soon be
free.

Now that the wine-cups were brought in, the warrior seized his
opportunity. From his satchel he took out the jar containing the
enchanted wine, Shimben-Kidoku-Shu, which he had received from the gods
of the three shrines, and said to Shutendoji: "Here is some wine which
we have brought from Mount Haguro. It is a poor wine and unworthy of
your acceptance, but we have always found it of great benefit in
refreshing us when we were weary from fatigue and in cheering our
drooping spirits. It will give us much pleasure if you will try a little
of our humble wine, though it may not please your taste!"

Shutendoji seemed pleased at this courtesy. He handed out a huge cup to
be filled, saying: "Give me some of your wine. I should like to try it."
The goblin drained it at one swallow and smacked his lips over it.

"I have never tasted such excellent wine," he said and held out his cup
to be filled again.

You can imagine how delighted Raiko was, for he knew full well that the
demon was given into his hand. But he dissembled cleverly and said as he
filled the goblin's wine-cup: "I am delighted that the Honourable Host
should deign to like our poor country wine. While you drink, I and my
companions will venture to amuse you by our dancing."

Then Raiko made a sign to his men and they began to chant an
accompaniment, while he himself danced.

Shutendoji was highly amused as well as his attendants. They had never
seen men dance before, and they thought that the strangers were very
entertaining.

The goblins now began to pass the magic wine round and to grow merry.
Others meanwhile whispered among themselves, pitying the six travellers
who, all unconscious of the horrible fate which was about to overtake
them, were spending their last hours of liberty and probably of life in
giving wine to their slayers and in dancing and singing for their
amusement!

Already, however, the power of the enchanted wine had begun to work and
Shutendoji grew drowsy. The wine in the jar never seemed to grow less,
however much was taken from it, and by this time all the demons had
helped themselves liberally. At last they all fell into a deep sleep,
and stretching themselves out on the floor and on one another, some in
one corner and some in another, they were soon snoring so loudly that
the room shook, and were as insensible to all that was going on as logs
of wood.

"The time has come!" said Raiko, springing to his feet, and motioning to
his men to get to work. One and all hastily opened their knapsacks.
Taking out their helmets, their armour, and their long swords, they
armed themselves. When they were all ready they all knelt down, and,
placing their hands palm to palm, they prayed fervently to their patron
gods to help them now in their hour of greatest need and peril.

As they prayed, a shining light filled the room, and in a radiant cloud
the three deities appeared again. "Fear not, Warrior Raiko," they said.
"We have tied the hands and feet of the demon fast, so you have nothing
to fear. While your knights cut off his limbs, do you cut off his head;
then kill the rest of the _oni_ and your work will be done." The three
old men then disappeared as mysteriously as they had come.

Raiko rejoiced at the vision and worshipped with his heart full of
gratitude the vanishing deities. The knights then rose from their knees,
took their swords and wet the rivets with water, so as to fix the blade
firmly in the hilt. Then they all stole stealthily and cautiously
towards Shutendoji. No longer the timid mountain priests; clad in full
armour, they were transformed into avenging warriors. With flashing eyes
and dauntless mien they moved across the room.

The captive princesses standing round realized that these men were
deliverers, from their beloved capital. Their joy and wonder cannot be
put into words. Some cried aloud with joy; others covered their faces
with their sleeves and burst into soft weeping; others raised their
hands to Heaven and exclaimed, "A Buddha come to Hell! Surely these
brave men will kill the demons and set us free"; and with clasped hands
they entreated the knights to slay their captors and take them back to
their homes.

Now Raiko stood over the sleeping Shutendoji with drawn sword, and
raising it on high with a mighty sweep he aimed at the demon's neck,
which was as big round as a barrel.

The head was severed from the body at one blow, but, horrible to relate,
instead of falling to the ground, it flew up into the air in a great
rage. It hung over Raiko for a moment snorting flames of fire, and then
swooped down as if it would bite off the warrior's head, but it was
daunted by the glittering star on his helmet, and drew back and gazed in
surprise at the transformed man. Raiko was scorched by the demon's
flaming breath. Once more he raised his long sword and striking the
terrible head brought it to the ground at last.

The noise of the combat and the triumphant shouts of the warriors awoke
the other demons, who roused themselves as quickly as their stupefied
senses allowed them. They were in a great fright, and without waiting to
get their iron clubs, they made a rush upon Raiko. But they were too
late. His five braves dashed in and attacked them right and left, until
in a few minutes there was not one left to tell the tale of the
destruction which had come down upon them like the autumn whirlwind upon
the leaves of the forest glades.

The captive princesses, when they saw that their captors were all slain,
jumped about with gladness, waving their long sleeves to and fro, as the
tears of joy streamed down their pale faces. They ran to Raiko and
caught hold of his sleeves and praised him, saying: "Oh! Raiko Sama,
what a brave and noble knight you are! We are indeed grateful to you for
having saved our lives. Never have we seen such a wonderful warrior."
And with many such expressions of joy they gathered round the knight,
and their merry voices were now heard, instead of the groans of the
dying cannibals.

Now that Shutendoji was vanquished with all his horde, the way was quite
open for Raiko and his men to take the fair captives away from the
castle of horror and make their way back to the capital as soon as
possible.

[Illustration: THE HEAD FLEW UP INTO THE AIR]

First of all Raiko tied up the head of Shutendoji with a strong rope and
told the five brave knights to carry it. Then, followed by the
princesses, the little band left Mount Oye forever and set out on the
homeward journey. When they reached Kyoto the news of Raiko's return
spread like fire, and the people came out in crowds to welcome the
heroes.

When the parents of the long-lost damsels saw their daughters again,
they felt as if they must be dreaming. It seemed too good to be true
that the dear and cherished ones should be restored to them safe and
well, and they overwhelmed Raiko with praise and with precious gifts.

Raiko took the head of Shutendoji to the Emperor and told him of all
that had happened to him. You may be sure that when His Majesty heard of
the success which had crowned Raiko and his expedition, he awarded him
great praise and merit and bestowed upon him higher Court rank than
ever.

In all the country, far and near, Raiko's name was in every one's mouth,
and he was acknowledged to be the greatest warrior in the land. Even in
the lonely country places there was not one poor farmer who did not know
of the brave deeds of the great general.

Ever since then his portrait is familiar to the boys of Japan, for it is
often painted on their kites.


[1] Raiko, or Yorimitsu. Both names are written with the same
ideographs. Raiko is the Chinese pronunciation, and Yorimitsu the
Japanese rendering.

[2] Hakama, a divided skirt, part of the Japanese costume.




KIDOMARU THE ROBBER, RAIKO THE BRAVE, AND THE GOBLIN SPIDER


You have just read of the brave knight Raiko's exploits at Oyeyama and
how he rid the country of the demons who haunted the city of Kyoto and
terrified the inhabitants of the Flower Capital (as that city was
sometimes called) by their terrible deeds.

There are other interesting stories about him and his fearless
warrior-retainers which you may like to hear.

It was not long after Raiko's exploits at Oyeyama that the country rang
with the name of Kidomaru, a robber and highwayman, who, by his
notorious deeds of cruelty and robbery, had caused his name to be feared
and hated by all, both young and old.

One evening Raiko with his attendants was returning home from a day's
hunting, when he happened to pass the house of his younger brother
Yorinobu. The warrior had had a long day out; and having still a good
distance to ride before he would reach his own house the thought of a
good meal and friendly company, just then, when he was tired and very
hungry, was pleasant to contemplate in the lonely hour of twilight. So
he called a halt outside the house and sent in word to his brother that
he, Raiko, was passing by, and that if Yorinobu had any refreshment to
offer his brother, he would call in and stay the night there, as he was
tired out on his way back from a day's hunt.

Now in Japan an elder brother or sister commands respect from the
younger members of the family, and so Yorinobu was very pleased that
Raiko, his elder brother, had condescended to call upon him.

The servant soon returned with the message that Yorinobu was only too
pleased to receive Raiko; that he had ordered a feast to be prepared
that evening in honour of an unusual event, and as he was alone, nothing
could be more opportune or give him greater joy than that his elder
brother should have chanced to come by. He humbly begged Raiko that he
would deign to share the feast, such as it was, and to pardon the
poorness of his hospitality.

Raiko was very pleased with his brother's gracious reception. He quickly
flung the reins to his groom, dismounted from his horse, and entered the
house, wondering what could be the occasion of Yorinobu's ordering a
banquet for himself. When the warrior was shown into the room he found
Yorinobu seated on the mats drinking _saké_, as the servants were
bringing in the first dishes of the dinner. When the salutations were
over, Yorinobu handed Raiko his wine-cup. Raiko took it, and having
drained it, asked what his brother meant by the feast he had promised
him and what was the occasion of it. Yorinobu laughed as if with
triumph, and wheeling round on his cushion pointed out into the garden.

Raiko then looked in the direction indicated by his brother's hand, and
saw, tied up to a large pine tree, a young man who could not be much
over thirty and of extraordinary strength. The face of the captive
expressed hate and ferocity, his body was of an enormous build, while
his arms and legs were like trunks of pine trees, so large and brown and
muscular were they. His hair was a rough and matted shock, and the eyes
glared as if they would start from their sockets. Indeed to Raiko the
wild creature looked more like a demon than a human being.

"Well, Yorinobu!" said Raiko, "the occasion of your feast is to say the
least unusual; it must certainly have given you some sport to catch that
wild creature; but tell me who he is that you have got tied up out
there."

"Have you not heard of Kidomaru, the notorious robber?" answered
Yorinobu. "There he is! One of my men captured him out on the hills; he
found him asleep. The town has long been clamouring for him. He has a
big score to settle at last. For to-night I intend to keep him tied up
like that, and to-morrow I shall hand him over to the law! Come, let us
be merry, for the dinner is served!"

Raiko clapped his hands when he heard of the great feat Yorinobu and his
men had accomplished in catching the fearful robber, the terror of whose
lawless deeds had long held the people of Kyoto trembling with fear and
dread. The outlaw Kidomaru was caught at last and by his own brother
Yorinobu! This was an event of rejoicing and congratulation for the
family.

"You have certainly done a meritorious service to your country," said
he, "but it is ridiculous to tie such a creature up with a rope only.
You might just as well think of tying up a wild cow with a fine
kite-string. It would be less dangerous. Take my advice, Yorinobu, put a
strong iron chain round him, or the murderer will soon be at large
again."

Yorinobu thought his brother's advice wise, so he clapped his hands.
When the servant came to answer the summons, he ordered him to bring an
iron chain. When this was brought, he went into the garden, followed by
Raiko and his men, and wound it round Kidomaru's body several times,
securing it at last to a post with a padlock.

Kidomaru up to this time had rejoiced at his light bonds. He was so
strong that he knew he could easily break a rope, and he had waited but
for the nightfall to make good his escape under cover of the darkness.
You can imagine how great was his anger at Raiko's interference, which
was the cause of his being treated with so much severity that his
projected escape would now be difficult.

"Hateful man!" muttered Kidomaru to himself. "I will surely punish you
for what you have done to me! Remember!" and he threw evil glances at
Raiko.

But the brave warrior cared little for the wild robber's malignant
glances; he only laughed when he noticed them, and, as the chain was
drawn tighter round the robber, he said: "That's right! That chain will
hold him sure enough! You must run no risk of his escaping this time!"

Then he and Yorinobu returned to the house, and dinner was served and
the two brothers made merry the whole evening, talking over old times,
and it was late before they retired to rest.

Now Kidomaru knew that Raiko slept in Yorinobu's house, and he made up
his mind to try to slay him that night, for he was mad with wrath at
what Raiko had done to him.

"He shall see what I can do!" growled Kidomaru to himself, shaking his
rough and shaggy head like a big long-haired terrier. He waited quietly
till every one in the house had gone to rest and all was silent. Then
Kidomaru arose, cramped and stiff from sitting tied up so long. With a
mighty effort he flung out his great arms, laughing defiance at the
chain that bound him. So great was his strength that no second effort
was needed; the chain broke and fell clanking to the ground at once, and
Kidomaru, like a large hound, shook himself free from his bonds. Softly
as a mouse he approached the house and climbed on to the roof, and with
one tremendous blow from his huge fist, he broke through the tiles and
the boards to the ceiling. His plan was to jump down upon Raiko while he
lay sleeping, and taking him unawares suddenly to cut off his head. But
the warrior had lain down to rest expecting such an attack, and he had
slept but lightly. As soon as he heard the noise above him, he was wide
awake in an instant, and to warn his enemy he coughed and cleared his
throat. Kidomaru was a man of fierce and dauntless character, and he was
not in the least thrown back in his purpose by finding that Raiko was
awake. He went on with his work of making a hole large enough in the
ceiling to let himself through to the room beneath.

Raiko now sat up and clapped his hands loudly to summon his men, who
slept in an adjoining room. Watanabe, the chief man-at-arms, came out to
see what his master wanted.

"Watanabe," said Raiko, "my sleep has been disturbed by something moving
in the ceiling. It may be a weasel, for weasels are noisy creatures. It
cannot be a rat, for a rat is not large enough to make so much noise. At
any rate, it seems impossible to sleep to-night, so saddle the horses
and get all the men ready to start. I will get up and ride out to the
Temple of Mount Kurama. I want all the men to accompany me."

Perched between the roof and the ceiling, the robber heard all this, and
said to himself: "What ho! Raiko goes to Kurama! That is good news!
Instead of wasting my time here like a rat in a trap, I will set out for
Kurama immediately and get there before those stupid men can, and I will
waylay them and kill them all." So Kidomaru crawled out on the roof
again, let himself down to the ground, and hurried with all the speed he
could make to Kurama.

A large plain had to be crossed in going from the city to Kurama, and
here a number of wild cattle had their home. When Kidomaru, on his way
to Kurama, came to this spot, a plan flashed across his mind by which he
could steal a march on Raiko. He soon caught one of the big oxen a blow
on the head. Three blows one after the other, and the ox fell dead at
the robber's feet. Kidomaru then proceeded to strip off its skin. It was
very hard work, but he managed to do it quickly, so strong was he, and
then throwing the hide over himself he lay down completely disguised, a
man in a bull's hide, and waited for Raiko and his men to come.

He had not long to wait. Raiko, followed by his four braves, soon came
in sight. The warrior reined in his horse when he came to the plain and
saw the cattle. He turned to his men and said: "Here is a place where we
may find some sport. Instead of going on to Kurama, let us stay here and
have some hunting! Look at the wild cattle!"

The four retainers with one accord all gladly agreed to their chief's
proposal, for they loved sport and adventure just as much as Raiko and
were glad of an excuse to show their skill as huntsmen. The sun was just
rising, and the prospect of a fine morning added zest to the pastime.
Each man prepared his bow and arrows in readiness to begin the chase.

But the cattle, thus disturbed, did not enjoy the sport. Man's play was
their death indeed. One of their number had been killed by Kidomaru, and
now they were attacked by Raiko and his men, who came riding furiously
into their midst, shooting at them with bows and arrows. With angry
snorts, whisking their tails on high and butting with their horns, they
ran to right and left. In the general stampede that followed their
attack, the hunters noticed that one animal lay still in the tall
grass. At first they thought it must be either lame or ill, so they took
no notice of it, and left it alone till Raiko came riding up. He went up
and looked at it carefully, and then ordered one of his men to shoot it.

The man obeyed, and taking his bow, shot an arrow at the recumbent
animal. The arrow did not hit the mark; for, to the astonishment of the
four hunters, the hide was flung aside and out stepped the robber
Kidomaru.

"You, Raiko! It is you, is it?" exclaimed he. "Do you know that I have a
spite against you?" and with these words he darted forward and attacked
Raiko with a dagger. But Raiko did not even move in his saddle. He drew
his sword and, adroitly guarding himself, exchanged two or three strokes
with the robber, and then slashed off his head. But wonderful to relate,
so strong was the will that animated Kidomaru that though his head was
cut off, his body stood up straight and firm till his right arm, still
holding the dagger, struck at Raiko's saddle. Then, and not till then,
it collapsed. It is said that the warriors were all greatly impressed by
the malevolent spirit of the robber, which was strong enough to stir the
body to action even after the head had been severed from the shoulders.

Such was the death of the notorious robber Kidomaru, at the hands of the
brave warrior Raiko who was awarded much praise for the clever way in
which he drew Kidomaru out as far as Kurama to kill him. He had
understood from Kidomaru's evil glances that the robber planned to kill
him, and he thus avoided causing trouble in his brother's house. In this
instance, as always, Raiko displayed wisdom and bravery.

No sooner, however, was Kidomaru killed, than news was brought to the
capital that another man had arisen who imitated Kidomaru in his daily
deeds of robbery and other wicked acts. This robber's name was
Kakamadare.

One bright moonlight night, Kakamadare was waiting on the plain between
Kyoto and Kurama for travellers to come that way, hoping that luck would
bring some rich man into his clutches. Presently he heard some one
coming towards him playing on a flute. Thinking this somewhat strange,
he hid himself in the grass and waited to see who would appear. The
sweet music drew nearer and nearer, and then the player came in view.
The light of the moon made everything as clear as day, and the robber
saw a handsome _samurai_ of soldierly aspect, dressed in beautiful
silken robes and wearing a long sword at his side.

"Now's my opportunity; I'm in luck to-night," thought the robber, as he
rose from his hiding-place and stealthily followed the flute-player. As
he kept step by step behind him, Kakamadare drew his sword in readiness
several times to cut down his prey, and waited for the chance to strike.

All at once the _samurai_ turned and looked steadily at the robber, who
began to tremble. Then the knight calmly and coolly resumed his playing,
as if utterly indifferent to the danger which threatened him. Once more
the robber followed, with the intention of cutting the man down, but the
opportunity for which he waited never came; each time his hand went up
with his sword, it as quickly fell to his side. A spirit of high and
noble purpose seemed to emanate from the knight, which cowed the man
behind and made him weak. For so great is the virtue of the sword that
in Japan it is an acknowledged fact that all noble swordsmen had this
power of subduing lesser natures by the spiritual grace which went forth
from them. Indeed the belief in the occult power of the sword was great,
and it was said that no bad man could keep the possession of a fine
blade.

Kakamadare could not strike. He could not tell the cause of his
weakness. He thought that it might be the influence of the music. He
found himself listening to the gentle strains of the flute, and admiring


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Online LibraryYei Theodora OzakiWarriors of old Japan : and other stories → online text (page 8 of 14)