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Thanks are in order to the various people who compiled information about this game (especially Yee Seng Fu, http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Portal/7933, and the site http:shoga.wwa.com/`mbimages/Musashi/index.html#gorinnosho) and to Squaresoft for making it. Any errors of geography or history (and there are probably lots) are my own.

Timid Fencer Musashi
By Matthew Scribner
matthew_scribner@hotmail.com

One thousand, five hundred and ninety-five years into the common era a boy was born in the small town of Miyamoto in the Empire of Nippon, or as they say in a certain European country, Japan. He was born to a mysterious and unknown father. His mother perished giving birth to him. The only thing known about the boy was that his name was Musashi.

A local swordsman adopted him. The old swordsman, Koranga, had already many five children, one of whom was also adopted. All five had children of their own, but no matter, Koranga and his wife would welcome a sixth.

Young Musashi was very inquisitive and could be trusted to begin to wander if let loose. As he grew older, he gradually got more brazen - one might even say obnoxious. He would play pranks on his adoptive parents and talk back to them, which the Korangas tolerated. However, the youngster was occasionally rude to the neighbors, as well.

The neighbors put up with this because Koranga was an honoured man in the community, however Koranga found this unacceptable. Musashi kept in line after Koranga had spoken to him several times. This was because, despite all, Musashi was a timid boy and always backed down when confronted. It was thought that he behaved in the way he did to hide his timid side.

Koranga made a living by teaching swordplay to apprentices. People came from all over Japan to learn from the well known veteran.

When Mrs. Koranga was off doing chores or shopping, Musashi would have to watch Mr. Koranga teach. At first he found it hard to keep still watching the mock sword fights in the dojo, but he gradually became interested. He found the graceful movements of the sword appealing. It was not long until he was allowed to play with swords, though Mrs. Koranga insisted they be wooden.

Mr. Koranga was instantly impressed with the young boy's natural talent with a sword, and when the boy was still very young he offered to give him personal lessons. Musashi readily agreed.

For many years Musashi trained this way. He focused all his energy and most of his free time in training. Mr. Koranga continued to be impressed by the youngster's talent. It got to the point where he wondered if perhaps ALL children Musashi's age were this good. Mr. Koranga couldn't remember possessing such talent at that age, but perhaps he had forgotten.

"Have you ever seen anything like it?" he asked his other trainees, pointing out Musashi.

"Never," they replied.

Life progressed. Eventually, when Musashi was thirteen, Koranga rewarded him with his own sword - a real metal one. Musashi was ecstatic.

"Now that you have your own blade," Koranga said, "You should develop your own style and technique."

"My own style?" Musashi inquired.

"Everybody is unique," wise Koranga explained. "And every swordsman must have their own style to set them apart from the rest."

Musashi thought about this and began to experiment with different techniques. He began to feel limited with just his one blade, so he went shopping for another one. He practiced with various merchandise (which helped convince the shopkeeper he was mature enough for swordsmanship), and eventually decided on a large, bulky sword similar to what they might use in Europe. It was too heavy to lug around at his side with his original sword, but he also bought a matching sheaf. With the large sword on his back he could carry it while quickly removing it whenever he needed it.

It was not long afterwards that he developed a personnel style he called "Nitenichiryu", or "Two Heavens As One." As it's name implied, it made use of both swords. Mr. Koranga approved of this technique. He tried to convince Musashi to join his daily classes, but Musashi refused. He was too shy.

Musashi's first encounter with any opponent at all was when he was practicing late one night in the dojo. Musashi suddenly heard someone approaching him from behind. Musashi didn't have time to look at his aggressor's face, and only saw the two swords his opponent held. The resulting battle lasted only a moment, with Musashi quickly disarming his foe.

He at last observed the man's face. It was Mr. Koranga.

"Koranga-san! What the heck is this about!?" The irritated Musashi yelled out his words.

Koranga smiled. "There now, that wasn't so hard, was it?"

"What wasn't so hard? Wha..."

"You fought back against an opponent with courage. Now it is time to continue the trend."

Musashi looked angry. He took it this as an implication of cowardice.

"Sleep on it," Koranga suggested.

Next class, Koranga was pleased to see Musashi appear. At first, the boy just sat along the side, as he had done in the past, but when the time came for the trainees to practice fighting one another. Musashi approached a semi-proficient student. He took a moment to clear his throat, then said, "I challenge you to a duel."

The other student was taken aback for a moment while Musashi waited nervously. The challenger the student saw before him was merely fourteen, but his lack of height and youthful appearance made him look as young as seven. The student himself was twenty-one. He had heard of Musashi's skill, but still couldn't conceive losing to someone with years less experience. But he would not insult the boy. "I accept," he said.

The room had come to a standstill to watch this match, though no onlookers were more interested then Mr. Koranga.

The two opponents bowed (the older student could not help but notice that even if Musashi stood upright, bowing he could barely touch the boy's head) and the match begun. The two fencers only used one sword each. Although Musashi would have to reach up to strike his opponent, he gained extra height by jumping. The twenty-one year old, on the other hand, had never left the ground in any of his many sword fights. Suddenly Musashi leapt up in the air, twirled his body around and crashed his sword into his opponent's, sending it flying.

Some onlookers were surprised, and they congratulated Musashi. Others saw it coming, and they reassured the older fencer.

Musashi, having gained confidence, declared brazenly, "Anyone else?" His next challenger stepped forward. He ended up regretting that step.

Koranga-san smiled.

From that day forward Musashi participated in every class. He discovered there was still much he had to learn. However, each time he participated in a duel, he won.

A little less than a year passed, and not much had changed. The most significant thing that happened was a gang of hoodlums and ruffians had appeared in Miyamoto. They were but a group of petty thieves, and had no real effect on Musashi.

The one event that did have an effect was the arrival of a new student to the Korangas'. Students had come and gone before, but this one was different. He was about Musashi's age with the same level of skill. His name was Kojiro.

Kojiro was welcomed as any student would have, but soon became somewhat unpopular with the rest of the crowd. For one thing, he was Musashi's opposite in personality, obnoxious and brazen while feigning timidness. This was poorly received among his peers, for while he spoke modestly, he always had a sinister smile that said "I'm better then you."

Kojiro intimidated Musashi, for Kojiro was also undefeated, and though Kojiro was the normal height for a sixteen year old, was still considerably taller. Soon an intense rivalry would grow between the two as Kojiro felt that he must overtake Musashi completely in terms of skill, while Musashi just felt like he had to keep up. The competition between the two mainly took the form of how many opponents they could defeat in one day, though they never dueled one another directly. It was as if they both understood that, one day, the proper time for that would come.

Life continued as usual. The only difference at the dojo was the new mood of intense competition, a mood felt by everybody. Even Mr. Koranga was not oblivious, but he did not give it much concern. He felt that a little rivalry could be healthy.

There had been signs for some time that Kojiro might at some point snap. He didn't have any real friends at the dojo, and when he did socialize it would be only for a short little conversation. This was unlike Musashi, who was good friends with everybody. It was in this way that the other students unintentionally fueled the rivalry.

Musashi and Kojiro would themselves rarely speak, and when they did the conversation was initiated by Kojiro to boast about how little sleep he needed or something equally petty. Only exchange was noteworthy.

"Hey, Musashi, that was some match you just fought." Kojiro said it honestly, but one could still tell he meant it sarcastically.

Shut up, you jerk, Musashi thought. "Thank you."

"Say, Musashi," Kojiro said slyly, "Who do you think is the best fencer in this place?" It was as close as they ever came to mentioning their rivalry.

Musashi looked at him in the eyes and smiled. "Kojiro, I think we both know who that is."

Kojiro just laughed.

The day finally came when Kojiro did snap. He was in a fencing match when he moved his foot forward and tripped his opponent. This was done accidentally often enough by the other students, so it was no big deal. As per usual, Koranga-san called upon the tripper to apologies.

It will never be known whether Kojiro did on purpose or not. At first he ignored Koranga's plea.

"Kojiro! Apologize!" Koranga repeated.

Kojiro suddenly exploded. "Why the hell should I apologize!?! You wouldn't have made Musashi apologize!!"

The room was silent after this. Koranga wondered what Musashi had to do with this. "Kojiro," he said coldly, "You are expelled from my dojo. Be gone."

Kojiro was about to protest angrily, but then noticed all the other students staring at him. As he left, he cast a hateful glare at Musashi. Bewildered, Musashi looked at his feet.

Kojiro was not heard of again for some while. Most of the students were happy that he was gone. Musashi didn't say much on the topic, but secretly he was overjoyed. Indeed, the only person who was upset as Koranga. "I've never had to expel a student before," he explained.

All these people didn't truly understand Kojiro if they thought they'd never see him again. He was not the one to leave the scene without his last laugh.

When he did return there was no indication he was going to do so. Musashi was already fast asleep when he was awoken by strange knocking sounds, coming from the dojo. It sounded like there was some struggle going on - a real one.

He leapt from the bed and rushed into the hallway. There he met Mrs. Koranga already heading to investigate.

"Wait here, mother," he advised.

Kojiro had only taken so long coming back to enlist the aid of the local ruffians. In fact, he was now their leader.

This Koranga had by now deduced. He had also guessed why Kojiro had come. He now stared at him from his position lying on the floor.

Kojiro grinned with contempt at the old man. "Not so tough now, are we."

"Kojiro, if you think this stunt is going to get you back into this honoured dojo for training, you are greatly mistaken."

This was not the right answer. Kojiro slapped the old man across the face. Blood poured down from the master's forehead. He had already been beaten by the thugs.

"Kojiro!" Musashi cried as he entered. "What is the meaning of this?!" He corrected himself quickly. "No wait, I don't care." He burst forward towards the gang, who immediately drew their swords.

Kojiro also moved his hand to one of his swords, but couldn't find it. Then he felt it at the side of his neck. Koranga, still lying down to Kojiro's right, had it. Furious Kojiro was forced to merely watch the battle in front of him.

As usual, it didn't last long. The thugs literally leapt at Musashi, but he rolled under them and took them on with both swords. Before he knew what he was doing, he had killed all five. Not that he shed any tears afterwards. Coldly, he turned towards Kojiro.

The treacherous fencer was seething and in a precarious position. He did the only thing he could do.

"Musashi, I challenge you to a duel!"

Slowly Musashi's mouth formed his reply.

"I accept," he replied, with not a trace of timidity.

Kojiro was taken aback for a moment. Then he smiled. "Excellent. Then we shall meet on Ganryu island in three days time. Be there at noon exactly. Don't chicken out."

"I won't be the one chickening out, Kojiro," Musashi retorted sharply. "Now get out of here!"

Koranga-san got up slowly before letting Kojiro go. The treacherous fencer stalked off quickly, without his sword.

Musashi was unsure how he felt about this ending up this way. He had never liked Kojiro but he still didn't want to fight him. Though he had stood up strong to Kojiro just now, he felt nervous about the upcoming battle.

Koranga-san placed his arm on Musashi's shoulder. "I know what you're thinking, son. It is a tragedy how it ended up this way. But Kojiro is unable to see beyond his ego, and must be dealt with eventually. Still, he is a powerful warrior, and I am proud of you to stand up to him."

Musashi nodded. "Thank you, sir."

The next day, Musashi left for the island of Ganryu after bidding fairway to his parents.

Musashi arrived to the town nearest Ganryu island with extra time to spare. He decided to retire early that night, partially because he wanted to be in top condition but also because he hated the clinging feeling of nervousness he felt when he was awake.

However, when he awoke he realized he had overslept, as usual. Fortunately he had slept in his fencer's outfit and within minutes was on a boat to the island.

As the craft neared, Musashi felt even more uneasy. He had let Kojiro call all the shots, he could be walking into a trap. How big was this island anyway? Was he going to have to search for his enemy?

When the boat landed his concerns remained unanswered. He began to search reluctantly but without stopping for Kojiro.

It was a short search. The opposing fencer was all too ready for a fight when Musashi found him in a clearing. He was so angry his face was red.

"Musashi, you are late!" he fumed. He drew one of his swords and threw the sheath to the ground.

"You are lost, Kojiro." Musashi announced. "Those who need no sheath are those who will die." The saying meant that those who are unprepared to lay down their arms and stop fighting when the time is right will eventually lose a fight someday.

Kojiro took no notice. He drew his other sword (he must have gotten another one) and with a cry, charged at Musashi.

It was a whirlwind of swords as the two combatants engaged one another. Kojiro took the upperhand first, attacking Musashi almost wildly. Our hero moved quickly to keep up with the onslaught. When he found time to turn the attack around, Kojiro leapt over him and swung a would-be decapitating strike, but Musashi managed to duck. Then he swung at Kojiro's exposed chest.

Kojiro gave a cry of pain and attacked even more wildly. The battle lasted a long time, with injuries on both sides. The deciding strike was when Musashi slashed at his nemesis' head.

The wound was not too deep, but as Kojiro got more and more furious, more blood rushed too his head, and consequently, out of it.

As Kojiro took a moment to recover, Musashi leapt back, anticipating a onslaught. He was right. Kojiro looked up, his eyes sickening pools of hate. He yelled and once again charged at Musashi. Our hero readied himself... but before Kojiro reached him, his foe tripped and fell. It was a awkward, unexpected fall, and as Kojiro tried to steady himself, he ended up falling on his sword and piercing himself in the heart.

Musashi watched all this in bewilderment and horror. This was not a honourable way to defeat one's opponent. He glanced up to see what Kojiro had tripped over.

It was the discarded sheath.

Musashi saw the poetic justice in all this. If Kojiro had been able to control his rage, he would not have thrown away his sheath, nor would he have blindly run into it.

And he had thought that saying was just a old proverb.

Dazed and tired, Musashi turned and left.

Back in Miyamoto, Musashi was welcomed back warmly by the Korangas. He was a hero among his fellow students. With his newfound lack of timidity, he acted even more brazen then usual.

However, his joy was short lived. A few months later Koranga-san died. His wife soon after perished with grief.

Musashi almost did, too. The Korangas had been incredibly kind to him. He had almost forgotten they weren't his real parents. That got him thinking about his blood parents. Who was his mother? His father? Was there some mystery about them?

More questions dogged his mind, too. He was only seventeen and out on his own. What was to become of him?

He'd have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, on Ganryu island, Kojiro awoke.

He examined the bloody mess he had become. He had lost quite a bit of blood, particularly from the head, and wasn't feeling quite well. The memories of recent events flooded back painfully. His hatred of Musashi ignited once again.

Why hadn't Musashi killed me? he wondered. Then he remembered that when he awoke, he had found his sword between his arm. To Musashi, it must have looked like he had stabbed himself. A stupid mistake made by a stupid person, Kojiro thought. Kojiro then vowed Musashi would pay dearly for that mistake.

No matter what it took - whether he would have to cross the ocean or travel to another world, he would find Musashi.

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