Kyotou Yasuri – Chapter 12

Burning. Burning. Burning.

Burning. Burning. Burning. Burning.

Burning bright red. Burning up in flames. Everything was burning. Everything was burning away. Burning up. Burning out.

The stronghold of the lord of Oushuu and mastermind of the rebellion Hida Takahito—Hida Castle, Meikyuu Castle was engulfed in bright red flames stretching to the heavens. It marked the end. It marked the end to everything. Anyone would be able to understand from seeing those flames. They may have not understood the process, the exact events or happenings, but they would been forcefully made to understand. That the war was at an end. That the war had ended. At the moment, there were a countless number of battles raging across Japan, but hereafter they would abruptly dwindle. Almost as if the rebellion had never happened, it had all ended. Ultimately, the peaceful reign of the Owari Shogunate would simply resume. The rebellion had failed, and peace would return to the world. It had ended. It had all ended.

But in the midst of this, there was one single thing that had not ended. It went without saying that it was the conversation between the mastermind of the rebellion, now nothing but a war criminal, the genius who had become the greatest laughingstock in history, Hida Takahito, and the man who had plunged him into such a state, the assassin and swordless swordsman, the sixth head of Kyotouryuu, Yasuri Mutsue. Their conversation, their final conversation, had not yet ended.

“Hey. I thought you’d be the one here to kill me, Mutsue,” Takahito said calmly as he sat the burning castle keep.

“Ya thought? What kinda nonsense is that? What, are ya lookin’ forward to being killed?” replied Mutsue, as he shrugged his shoulders. “Quit bein’ so stubborn, will ya?”

“Being stubborn? There’s no point in doing that. No wait, it only has a point. Either way, I wasn’t looking forward to it. You completely misunderstand me, Mutsue.”

“I don’t misunderstand you. And I don’t understand you. As a sword, I’m going to cut you down, to kill you. That’s all there is to it, so I don’t care who you are or what you think.”

“Is that so? By the way, since you’re here this probably goes without saying, but what happened to Head, who was guarding the castle gate?”

“I killed him. You may have only used him as a strategist, but he fought well. But still, a strategist? You would have the least need for that post.”

“That’s not true. Head was very useful. Since he’s a normal strategist, he can interpret my ridiculous ideas so that everyone else can follow them.”

“Ha! Like always, you only think of people as pawns. The strategist who’s served you for years has just met a cruel, even miserable death, and you don’t even twitch.”

“What, you wanted me to twitch? I mean, I already knew that this would happen. And he worked for me knowing what kind of guy I am. People that lead others are just inhuman like that. Mutsue, even your wielder Migiri is inhuman, isn’t she?”

“Being a leader makes you inhuman, you say? That sounds rather profound, but I can’t say that I agree. Aren’t you just pretending to be self-depreciating, when you actually think of yourself as a god, Takahito?”

“Hahaha. I’m sure Migiri thinks she is, at least.”

She’s a demon, the opposite of you. Though I may be the only one that can tell the difference.”

“Haha.”

Takahito laughed. He laughed heartily, with no concern for Mutsue’s appearance, which shifted without end. In the midst of the blaze, several pillars had fallen over, and it seemed impossible to have a conversation or even breathe under the circumstances, but even so Takahito continued on in high spirits.

“Either way, Head played his role well. If it weren’t for him, Mutsue, you wouldn’t have gotten the idea to set fire to the castle because of how convoluted it is, would you?”

“Maybe.”

Mutsue nodded. He too was indifferent to the flames.

“But so what? Are ya tellin’ me ya wanted your precious castle to get burnt down?”

“I am. This is a signal fire.”

“A signal fire? What, a signal fire of rebellion?”

“No, it’s a signal fire of surrender. A white flag would have worked the same, but that just wouldn’t enough of an impact. If I’m going to lose either way, I’ll do my best to go out with a bang.”

“‘Do your best’, you say? How pathetic.”

“Pathetic? It might seem pathetic to you, when you can manifest six of yourself. Heh,” said Takahito, with another laugh. His smile was now one of self-depreciation, or perhaps envy towards Mutsue.

“It really is frightening how you can manifest all of your possibilities. That your six-sword style lets you manifest every possible version of yourself. It lets you slip through the cracks of a probabilistic world. If I’ve got god delusions, then you’re just demonic. A demon of probability.”

“Oh? So you’ve seen through the secret of my swordsmanship, of Yasuri Mutsue’s swordsmanship?”

“Not at all. There’s nothing a genius like me doesn’t understand, but I haven’t seen through it. Let’s just say that I understand that some things in this world are beyond the reach of human understanding and leave it at that.”

“How noncommittal.”

“I am noncommittal. I’m noncommittal and ambivalent and just do as I please. And because of who I am, I picked a fight with the shogunate without any pretext, and now I’m about to meet a miserable and pathetic end. If I’m picking the best method of fighting out of a thousand, then you’re picking a thousand methods of fighting out of a thousand, Mutsue.”

Takahito said, and stood up. Even after standing up, he had no intention to make a stand against Mutsue. Hida Takahito, the uncommon genius, knew better than anyone else that to do so would be useless and meaningless.

“Hahaha hahahaha!”

So he simply laughed. He had returned to his usual mood, and simply laughed. He laughed so as not to bring shame to those he had sacrificed, those he would sacrifice, and his family.

“Oh man, it’s just so funny, Mutsue, this situation we’re in. You have no choice but to kill me, and I have no choice but to be killed by you. I have nothing to counter your swordsmanship, and I bet you’ve got a thousand different ways to kill me. Is this kind of gap even possible between two fellow humans?”

“What a strange thing to say. You’re not human, you’re inhuman. Leaving aside whether or not you’re a god. Whatever you say, you’ll only sound like a sore loser.”

“That’s not it. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have any complaints or regrets about it. It’s just funny. The fact that I can barely feel any sense of danger after being driven in a corner is unbearably funny. And the fact that history has been so thoroughly wrong is just too funny.”

“Ya always used to go on about history and all that, now that ya mention it. Well, that ain’t got nothin’ to do with me.”

“You’re wrong. You’re the one whose the most confined by history, Mutsue. No matter how many possibilities you can manifest.”

“Hm?”

“Or should I say that it’s your sword school, Kyotouryuu, that’s confined by history. Even if you manifest six or even a thousand of your possibilities, you’ll still be confined. And you don’t notice it, or even try to, which make you a fool.”

“Nngh.”

“It’s up to you if you want to be a fool, but you’d better not pass on that absurd folly to later history. For example, you’d better not give your daughter or your son a cross to bear.”

“Cross? I haven’t the faintest idea what you mean. I may have known you for a long time, but even in the very end, the very very very very end, it looks like I don’t understand Hida Takahito the genius.”

“Oh, you don’t? Well, that’s fine. I’m not trying to come to an understanding with you. Either way, I don’t dislike people like you. But I do dislike swords like you. It’s a tremendous shame that you’re my enemy. If you had become my ally, I’m sure history would have been corrected. Well, this is fine, too. At this point, nothing can be done.”

“‘Nothing can be done’? You always resign yourself like that. Being too smart really is a problem, isn’t it? If they call people like you geniuses, then I don’t mind being a fool.”

“Hah! Well, I think that’s another kind of resignation.”

“You needn’t worry, I won’t have my daughter or son bear a cross.”

“They, Nanami and Shichika,” said Mutsue, speaking with six voices in unison, “I will raise to be human.”

“In the calm and peaceful world that will result after I kill you.”

His six voices had become one.

“And I know that that’s impossible. Right now, you might actually be fighting for that reason, but you’ll change your mind soon enough.”

As Mutsue remained silent, Takahito returned to his seat. It was plainly clear that he did not intend to stand up again. Even for Mutsue, the so-called fool.

“I’m the same. I want my daughter to have a peaceful life in a peaceful world from the bottom of my heart, but I know she probably won’t. And there’s nothing I can do to stop that. Hey Mutsue, don’t you think parents are powerless?”

“It’s you who’s powerless, I am…”

“It’s you who’s powerless, I am…”

“It’s you who’s powerless, I am…”

“It’s you who’s powerless, I am…”

“It’s you who’s powerless, I am…”

“It’s you who’s powerless, I am…”

“…swordless,” he said.

Yasuri Mutsue stepped forth. Their conversation had ended. The only thing that had not ended after all else had ended, their conversation and relationship, had ended. Never again would the two speak to each other.

“Kyotouryuu: Kyouka Suigetsu!”

“Kyotouryuu: Kachou Fugetsu!”

“Kyotouryuu: Hyakka Ryouran!”

“Kyotouryuu: Ryuuroku Kakou!”

“Kyotouryuu: Hika Rakuyou!”

“Kyotouryuu: Kinjou Tenka!”

“Kyotouryuu: Rakka Rouzeki!”1

There was clearly no need for such measures. But perhaps he had his pride as an unyielding and implacable sword that Shikizaki Kiki had dedicated his life to producing. He executed each of the seven secret techniques of Kyotouryuu simultaneously on Takahito, who made no attempt to resist.

“Princess Yousha!” shouted Hida Takahito, without sparing a glance to those seven techniques.

He shouted with all his might. He knew that he could still change fate with a single lie, but he had never told a lie in his life, and could not tell one now. No, even if he had been a consummate liar, this was a lie he could not have told.

“This will be it for me. But there’s something I need to tell you. Even if you don’t understand anything I say, or remember anything about me, just don’t forget this!”

The swords closed in. Six swords closed in on Takahito. He did not attempt to dodge. He did not think he could dodge. He could not gamble on such an improbable possibility. Ah, I’m so jealous of Mutsue, who can choose everything, true or not. I can only choose my words.

“I love you very much.”

Those words of love to his daughter became the final words of Hida Takahito the rebel, but there was no one to tell of that. And so the country returned to peace.


“—and that was what happened twenty years ago. Though I fudged the end a fair bit,” said the blonde-haired and blue-eyed woman formerly known as Princess Hitei, chuckling, to the tall scar-covered man formerly known as Yasuri Shichika, who sat next to her gobbling up dango.

“Ahaha. That’s everything I know about the hero of the rebellion. Emonzaemon was quite skilled at gathering information,” said blonde-haired and blue-eyed woman as she stroked the mask she wore as a hair ornament.

“I didn’t know you met my dad. Or Togame’s dad,” said the scar-covered man as he ate dango.

“Hm? Ah, no, you’ve got it wrong. That wasn’t me. It was someone else in my family. She was the one who took part in that war twenty years ago.”

“Shikizaki Kiki had other descendants?”

“Not anymore. But back then there were still a few.”

“That sounds fishy. Are you trying to blame other people for what you did?”

“So you don’t believe me.”

“How am I supposed to believe you? Your story was way too weird. Since when was my dad six people?”

“If you’re asking me that, then he must have chosen to be a single person around you. Even if he raised you to be a sword, I’m sure he still wanted to be a parent to you.”

“You make it sound like you did know him.”

“I deny that. It’s only second-hand information.”

“Second-hand information, huh? But doesn’t that make your whole story second-hand information?”

“Even if there’s only one truth, six different people will describe it as six different truths. Hida Takahito never lied, but even without lies all sorts of falsehoods can emerge. He was too fixated on the truth,” said the blond-haired and blue-eyed woman with a trace of sorrow. She wore an expression that reminisced and grieved over a bitter enemy or old friend.

Possibly because he had rarely, if ever, seen her with that expression, the scar-covered man asked, “And then what happened?”

“Not much. After killing Hida Takahito, Yasuri Mutsue rescued his kidnapped wife, and escaped the burning castle. And they say that Right Arm, the only surviving member of the Takahito Elite Four, returned to the Maniwa Corps, so he might have been one of those ninja you fought.”

“The ninja I fought? It was mostly Emonzaemon who beat them.”

“Was it? In the end, Yasuri Mutsue became a hero. Then they all lived happily ever after,” she concluded, and drank her tea. She gulped down the hot tea as if it were history, or the truth.

“It must have been destiny that after that Takahito’s daughter, that unpleasant woman, chose you to be her sword. But in the end, you getting covered in scars seems almost like fate.”

“Huh?”

“I can’t say that I don’t understand why she had a love-hate relationship with you. Personally though, I can only have that kind of relationship with my ancestors. Oh, and with Emonzaemon.”

“Anyways, Dad was really strong.”

Evidently, the blonde-haired blue-eyed woman’s tale had vastly exceeded the comprehension of the scar-covered man, and he could only offer his simple impressions. But the blonde-haired blue-eyed woman denied even those simple impressions with a “no.”

“He’s the weakest sword I know.”

She was not at all in the mood for a retort of ‘So you did know him.’

The scar-covered man hurriedly changed the subject, and the blonde-haired blue-eyed woman made no effort to revisit their original topic. Their idle conversation stretched on, and never again did the two speak of the rebellion twenty years ago.

Although Yasuri Mutsue had been celebrated as a hero, after killing his wife Yasuri Migiri, who he had risked his life to save, he was exiled to an uninhabited island. The hero’s reputation then plummeted. And so his battle had ended. Until the white-haired strategian arrived at the island in search of him, Kyotouryuu had vanished from the center stage of history. The man was even more forgotten than he was before becoming a hero. Even if it were to be revealed that this was Hida Takahito’s true objective for instigating a rebellion, who would believe it?

The dark past flowed away and led to a bright future.

Translation Notes

1Literal and figurative translations:

Mirrored flower, reflected moon [intangible beauty] (鏡花水月)
Flowers and fowl, wind and moon [the beauty of nature] (花鳥風月)
Profuse blossoms [a gathering of beauties/talents] (百花繚乱)
Green willows, red blossoms [the beauty of spring] (柳緑花紅)
Scattered petals, fallen leaves [impermanence] (飛花落葉)
Gilded blossom [crowning touch] (錦上添花)
Fallen petals, violence [running amok] (落花狼藉)

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