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Duel at strolling ponds, p.1
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       Duel at Strolling Ponds, p.1

           TD Bauer
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Duel at Strolling Ponds

  Duel at Strolling Ponds

  A Tale of Katsume Shogoro, #2

  A short story by: TD Bauer

  Published by: TD Bauer

  Copyright 2013 TD Bauer

  License Notes

  This eBook short story is licensed for your personal enjoyment. This eBook may be given away and shared with other people. If you would like to share this story with another person, please feel free to do so with the author's blessing.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents and events are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. Some of the locations described in the book actually exist, but are described from the characters’ points of view, and do not necessarily represent the traditional perspective of such locales.

  Other Published Works by TD Bauer:

  A Whisper in the Dark

  A Ronin's Honor

  Dedication: To Mom

  For all the encouragement over the years

  to keep writing, for being a supportive beta-

  reader, and just because.

  Duel at Strolling Ponds

  Shogoro sat in seiza style; his lower legs were folded underneath his thighs with his buttocks sitting firmly on his heels, while his back was straight though not unnaturally stiff, and his hands gently closed resting palm side down on the tops of his thighs. His eyes were closed and his thoughts were tightly focused inward as he meditated in his room at the Rising Moon inn.

  At his left side and within easy reach were his two swords.

  Even though Shogoro's mind was in a deep state of concentration, there was a part of his consciousness that remained alert to his physical surroundings, and he was aware that a single person approached his room from the outside veranda. Buddhist monks called such awareness as being in a particular state of Zen, where the inward mind and outward senses mingled in a perfect state of harmony. Warriors, such as samurai and sohei, simply referred to it as having a sixth sense.

  Shogoro's eyes opened as his left hand reached over and grasped the scabbard of his katana sword. He watched as the shadow of the approaching person moved across the outside of his room's paper-thin shoji wall and stop at the closed sliding door.

  "Shogoro-san?" a young female voice called softly.

  "Yes," Shogoro responded.

  He recognized the voice as belonging to one of the innkeeper's house servants, the one he had requested to deliver his message to Matsuo Kaname nearly two hours ago. His hand relaxed its hold on the scabbard and returned to resting on his thigh.

  "I have returned with a response from Kaname-san."

  "Good. Come in immediately."

  The shoji door quietly opened and the serving girl, with her sandals already removed, carefully stepped inside. She bowed once then sat in a similar fashion as Shogoro, then bowed again. She was sixteen years old, had a narrow face, and black hair tied into a bun. She was dressed in a plain blue kimono of lesser quality with a simple white obi.

  Shogoro returned both of the girl's bows with a slight nod of his own head. He watched her closely as she kept her eyes low and looking at a section of the tatami mat between them. He wondered if she could sense his eagerness to hear the response from his vowed nemesis, Matsuo Kaname, but then decided that unlikely.

  "Where is the message?" Shogoro asked.

  "It's not in writing, Shogoro-san. It was given to me verbally."

  "Very well. Tell it to me," he ordered.

  "I was instructed to tell you to be at the entrance of the Strolling Ponds Garden tomorrow at the hour of the snake."

  "Is that all?" Shogoro was surprised that a high-ranking samurai such as Kaname would agree to a duel with a ronin, and suspected there was more to the simple message he just heard.

  "I was made to repeat the message many times before I was allowed to leave. There was nothing else I was told to relay."

  "Interesting," Shogoro responded. He felt suspicious of something that he couldn't yet identify. "Now you will tell me everything you were not told to relay."

  The serving girl's expression changed to that of confusion. "So sorry, but I don't think I understand."

  "Were you present when my message was handed to Kaname?"

  "Yes. I was escorted into an inner chamber of his home where he was already meeting with some of his ranking retainers. I was present when he read your message and was given the response verbally from him."

  "Very good. Then you will tell me everything that happened while you were in Kaname's presence. But first please tell me your name."

  "Fujiko," she replied with another bow.

  "Fujiko-san," Shogoro said gently, using san at the end of her name, which caused the serving girl to blush slightly and bow yet again. He wanted her to relax and be at ease. If she was tense and on edge she might rush her retelling of events, and that he couldn't have. He wanted to know everything that had transpired.

  The use of san after a person's name was considered honorific and respectful between equals, and expected when talking to someone of a superior rank. It was not required or expected between those with very close relationships, or when talking to someone of a lower rank. Eta was the lowest ranking members of society and the poorest, followed by merchants, craftsmen, peasants, samurai, and then daimyos. Above the daimyos was the Shogun, which there could be only one and currently the land was without. Then above the Shogun was the Emperor, who could trace his lineage back many thousands of years, was descended from the gods, and who lived in seclusion inside the Imperial Palace. It was considered impolite and disrespectful not to use the honorific san when talking to somebody of equal or greater rank.

  "Fujiko-san," Shogoro said again. "Tell me everything that happened beginning with when you began your audience with Kaname. I want to know everything."

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