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Saturday, November 1, 2008

5. Sōjirō: Reminiscence From the Past: Final Chapter

Sōjirō’s Freedom

It had been one whole week since Mr. Shishio had left the temporary shelter of the storeroom. All Sōjirō cared about was the Wakabashi hidden under the storeroom. Even the rigorous labor he endured every day seemed insignificant: Mr. Shishio’s last words echoed in his head with every step he took towards the field.

“The strong will live and the weak will die” he had said.

“Ha! That wasn’t completely true” he thought. “Hehe. Look at me, I am weak but I’m still alive, although eating only a couple of rice balls a day…sigh!”

Grumble grumble.

Sōjirō hadn’t eaten anything since waking up. His hands had become numb thanks to those heavy rice barrels which were almost as big as him. Both palms had cuts all over, the pain coming in excruciating pulses.

Thump thump thump.

“Oh, ouch, that does hurt doesn’t it now?”

Finally Sōjirō put down his rice barrel down next to the well and started heaving a bucket of water. The moment he plunged his hands into the bucket, he felt a hot searing pain go through them. His vision became blurry, throbbing back and forth. Amazingly the pain faded away with every throb until all he could feel was the cold comfort of the water.

“Was this it?” he wondered “Am I going to work like a mule for the rest of my life?”

As he watched his blood melt into the water, he couldn’t help but think about his long lost parents. They had left him small, weak and helpless. But he didn’t hate them, just wished they were still alive. Wondering what a warm hug from his mother would feel like, he got up, wiping his eyes.

“It was almost dinner time” said a small voice in his head. But the grim weather hammered what little spirits that had lifted in him. It was going to rain heavily tonight and he would again have to sleep on wet hay.

But even the wrath of the gods couldn’t wipe the everlasting smile on Sōjirō’s face.

“Who knows I might not have to work tomorrow! Hehe.”

The dark clouds thundered angrily; Each booming explosion seems to be aimed at Kyoto. Long forks of lightening stretched murderously close to the houses and its inhabitants. It was going to be a long and deadly night.

As Sōjirō staggered towards the house and to his delicious rice balls, he heard familiar loud voices. Apparently his step-family was quarreling again, probably over who would have the last bottle of sake. But as he drew closer to the scene he realized it wasn’t about sake.

“THAT LITTLE GOOD FOR NOTHING RUNT! I’ll KILL TH….! Well well, look who decided to show up. Mother, this scum bag has been hiding that fugitive! I know it! My samurai spirit can see right through him!”

“But...but...I...I didn’t…couldn't…”

Sōjirō’s stammering just made his deranged step brothers and sister more confident.

“SHUT UP! If people find out someone from our house was hiding that fugitive scum then we’ll be outcasts! I say we waste this good for nothing runt and get over with it! KILL HIM!”

The final two words triggered Sōjirō’s reflexes and he frantically scampered towards the storehouse. He flung himself on the ground and started crawling inside the small gap between the house and the ground. Panic washed over him like icy water. The smell of mud and grass was overwhelming as was the sticky sweat on his face. He could hear his heart beating a life’s worth of beats. His front side was smothered with muck and mud.

Was this it? Was poor Sōjirō going to be killed like a dog? Running, crying for someone to help him? Was Mr. Shishio just a - …


“Remember Sōjirō; There is only one truth in life. The strong will live and the weak will die”

The strong will live and the weak will die

The strong will live and the weak will die

“I am not weak…”


The sudden revelation was like taking an elixir. It gave Sōjirō a new hope, made him stronger, maybe even strong enough to use the Wakabashi that was a feet away from him.

“Takashi! Get under there and pull the runt out. NOW!” the eldest brother was leading the murder party. The rest of the family were behind him, some wearing evil smiles and others just beaming with arrogance.

The youngest of the brothers slowly got down as he was told and entered the gap, brandishing a dagger.

“HAHAHA! TAKASHI Don’t you dare kill the little vermin! Just cut off his pinky finger and bring him here to me! I’ll squash him like a bug! Takashi! Do you hear me? TAKASHI!”


A familiar bloody scream filled the already grumbling night. A scream so terrifying, it wiped the smirks off everyone’s face. The oldest brother’s expression changed with lightning speed: traces of fear were etched across his rugged face. How could it be…that pest…

“Brother… b-brother! Help me… I…I”

The rest of his words were cut off by the tip of the Wakabashi thrust through his throat. The youngest brother had only managed to drag half of himself out of the gap. Like water splashing out of a hose, his neck was squirting blood all over muddy ground. His mouth was gaping like a fish gasping for air. And as big brother stood there, petrified, he saw the life diminish from the wide horrified eyes of his youngest sibling.

The Wakabashi was pulled slowly out of the man’s neck, however, his head dropped with a sickening thud. The remaining three brothers drew their swords hastily and retreated to a safe distance. Suddenly, the little vermin they were so eager to get rid off sent cold shivers down their bodies. As their swords rattled in their trembling hands a small dark figure slowly stood up. He had a sword with him, blood dripping from its blade.

“Boy! W-where did u get that s-sword?” It was their turn to stammer.

Sōjirō stood silently in the dark as the clouds thundered murderously. The grounds were lit up momentarily by a brilliant fork of lighting. The shiny blade of the Wakabashi gleamed ominously.


Shrieks followed by swift slashes of a sword filled the stormy night.

Another dazzling fork of lightning lit the grounds momentarily.

A single figure stood. The grounds were littered with bodies with and without swords by their side. The small hazy figure of Sōjirō stood in the darkness simply staring at the bodies.
The clouds could not hold on anymore. The grounds were soon showered with the long awaited rain.

The rain slowly washed away blood from the Wakabashi that Sōjirō was holding. He could not move. He wanted to scream but no words left his tiny mouth. The cold rain seemed to ease his pain. The rain felt so cool, refreshing, uncontaminated. As he looked up towards the sky the rain drops seemed to wash away a part of his sin. His eyes were soon raw and his face numb with cold. But he didn’t mind.

‘It’s over’, he thought. He was alive. He had survived.

And at that moment he truly, deeply understood Makoto Shishio’s words

The strong will live and the weak will die

He had been strong. He was alive.

After killing his step-family Sōjirō goes to Makoto Shishio. Shishio accepts him as his disciple and in the next ten years, he trains Sōjirō and bestows upon him the fiercest principles of swordsmanship. Sōjirō never shows a single emotion apart from his radiant smile even when he killed. In ten years time, he establishes himself as one of the top if not the best swordsmen in the whole of Japan. His speed and technique would become legendary.

His life takes an unexpected turn after his duel with Kenshin Himoura (previously known as the Battousai). Even though he overwhelms Kenshin by sheer speed, dodging one of his fastest attacks (the Kusoryusen) and injures him, he is still defeated by Kenshin’s ultimate attack (Amakakeru yū no Hirameki). His defeat makes him realize that Makoto Shishio had been wrong all those years ago and that life was not about being the strongest.

Kenshin bestows upon him a new and true belief.

The will to live is stronger than anything.

He had survived that stormy night in the farmhouse ten years ago not because he was stronger than any of his step-brothers and sisters but because he wanted to live, to survive.

And from that day onwards Sōjirō lays down his sword, which he had once picked up to defend himself by killing every member of his step-family. He becomes a wanderer (like Kenshin) and never picks up a sword again.

The End

Previous chapter (1, 2, 3, 4)

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