Part I: The Calm Before the Storm
The sun rose on the third day, and the town woke up, dread on the air. There was little talking, not even much drinking. There wasn’t much time left to prepare for the bandits’ arrival.
Ever-resourceful Nagao drafted all those who could into building and installing barriers and palisades around town. Whatever setback the bandits may have suffered by the sabotage the previous day, they were still unlikely to try for any sophistication in their tactics. If they could be funneled through easily defended entrances the villagers and their spears might be able to contain them.
Even the foreigner Devil ended up in the palisade trade. He sounded strangely proud of his barricading artistry, never mind the drafts could be felt through his work by anyone.
The Flower of New Beginnings traveled throughout, bringing water to those working with the sharpest deadline in sight. She needed to learn the new layout of the town were she to help out. As much as she dreaded the thought of more spilled blood by her hand, it may come to her blade to make the difference. Even if not, the townsfolk deserved better.
But for a few feet on the Southern side of town, the job was complete when the bandits made their appearance. A call to arms was heard throughout. The road on sunset and sunrise saw most of them incoming, and the townsfolk raised their spears and hoped for survival.
Part II: The Storm
Most of the bandits came in where expected. The largest group, East, pushed by Big Brother. A smaller one, West, commandeered by our old friend Little Brother. As the main thrust of the bandit forces made their way a blessed sound was heard: the galloping of horses. Seven well-trained warriors from the next town over, brought by the monk Alan. Meanwhile the Gentleman Devil commandeered as many of the townsfolk as he could against the one who had become his personal nemesis, Little Brother.
The Blind Flower stayed at the Southern breach, hearing all sides and mulling whether the bandits would notice and whether she may be more needed elsewhere. A racket from the North came to her attention. A dozen bandits were attempting to overrun the barriers there and the few townsfolk patrolling them. Were they to break through, the town would be overrun and the defenders attacked from every side.
There’s much to recommend to the element of surprise. The surprise of the bandits, who realized they were facing a new threat after two of them had gone down. The more pleasant surprise for the Northern defenders, who were in dire need of assistance and redoubled their efforts as much as soon as the invaders stepped back in disbelief. The less surprised and ever-present Nagao, who had joined in the same fight and must have suspected that the Blind Raconteur could hold her own in a bloody world.
The bandits who had attempted to breach the Northern palisades were quickly routed.
As the townsfolk restored the barriers as quickly as they could the two warriors, the well known one and the newly revealed one, split ways. Nagao went West, Hajime went East. To the Blind swordswoman it was clear which way the real threat was. Whether Nagao equivocated or truly didn’t realized it was never made clear. On the Western side, threatening shouting back and forth broadcast a tense standoff between Little Brother and Thomas the Devil, with cuts and casualties on both sides, and the two recent rivals furiously going at each other.
The fighting out West was going… discouragingly wrong. There was the Mountain of Iye, as he’d make sure to bellow to any and all. Swinging his great weapon, reaping anyone who dared approach or couldn’t run away fast enough as dry rice stalks. As a result of that, no one was really fighting but the bandit leader. The townsfolk were wisely keeping their distance. the bushi were forgetting their courage after losing their leader under the Mountain’s onslaught.
Hajime Hanako, bloodied yet unhurt, presented her challenge. The Mountain of Iye took it with amusement. His metal mace, taller than most men and heavier than any civilized weapon, broke the air and broke the earth. It did not break the Blind Flower, who stepped somewhere else with time to spare. Do not be where the Mountain Falls, an easy solution to a deadly conundrum.
She had to be the Secret Prince to Big Brother’s Mountain Monk. And she played the part to perfection, her movements a dance to a much more sophisticated music than Big Brother’s Earth drumming. Her blade punctuated both the rythm and her opponent, yet very slowly wearing down that giant of a man.
With the Mountain distracted, the bushi came back into the fight. From a safe distance. Alan had found a trifle that would enchant a bow with the power of storms and their best archer did his best to hit the Mountain with it. He did but once, a crackling bolt that would have felled any normal man. Not so the Mountain of Iye, who was nonetheless looking very worn down by that lightning and the Blind lady’s poking. Thus her next cut brought the Mountain to its knees. The winner felt mildly despondent about the help needed, however it was no duel but a battle, there had been no dishonor to the archer’s help.
At about that time the Devil Thomas, bloodied and barely standing, defeated Little Brother. Their leaders down the remainder of the bandits surrendered or ran to the fields. On returning to town Hanako found the remains of the Southern defense townsfolk. They had been cut through in the waning moments of the battle, none experienced in a fight to assist.
Part III: The Calm After the Storm
Defeated, the remaining bandits and their former leader behaved, and even helped collect the dead of the day. Alan tended to the wounded as best he could. Hajime was covered in blood, none of it hers. She felt, as she always did after shedding blood, dirty as the worms that crawl the earth. Having half-threatened those in the ryokan staff who had survived the day into providing her with a bath she realized she was no longer the blind singer, dancer and raconteur who had brought sorely needed moments of entertainment to town. She was now the Blind Swordswoman, the blade that broke the Mountain. An object of fear, one who brought danger and trouble. He heart was filled with the most profound sadness.
Thomas took a break from self-satisfaction on having survived, nay, proven himself in battle, to realize that his charge was nowhere to be found. It was an alarming end to a difficult day. Once his companions realized the same Amal was searched for everywhere to no avail. As if snatched from the world, with no leads or hints or anything to show where she may have departed to. The day ended on a note of despair at the disappearance of the strange girl.
The next day saw the last rites for all the dead from the day before. Alan saw to their spirits, the bonfire saw to the corpses. Hajime saw to the sadness of the day. The dead were treated the same no matter the side they had fought for, by everyone who had fought and survived no matter on which side. “To remind us of our humanity” said one of the surviving bushi. The raconteur knew enough stories of the spirits and the corpses of the casualties taking issue with a disrespectful treatment to know that there was more to it than that, but it still honored him to think of the cremation in that way. With such a large battle for such a small town, the pyre still had the unfortunate effect of having everyone who survived smell of burnt corpse by the end of the day. Time for another bath…