The old samurai, Reiji, known as the Fire Wind, was leaving his fief. Yesterday, he summoned his oldest son, delegated all matters to him and informed that he was heading to the capital of the Matsuya lands. A meeting with the respectable ruler, lord Kitano, awaited him.
Many years ago, after a war with the neighbouring Takagi clan, the lord gifted Reiji lands on the border. This was both an honorable award for his service, and a wise political move, after all, it was only due to Reiji’s tactical genius that the war was won. While he and his clan remained at the border, the Takagi wouldn’t risk attacking.
And now the old samurai was returning to the capital to assist his lord yet again. Tidings coming from the capital were getting worse and worse. The great city was torn with hunger and disease, and lord Kitano was making stranger and stranger decisions.
Breaking away from the captivity of his dark thoughts, the old samurai stopped at a stream under a sakura tree. The petals were slowly falling, covering the earth with a carpet painted in the colors of the dusky sky. The wonderful view and quiet sound of running water invited him to rest. Reiji decided to make a stop for the night and to enjoy the beauty of nature, which distracted him from uneasy thoughts.
The heavy steps of a yak and the ringing of its harness pulled the old warrior away from his thoughts. Reiji stood up and turned to the unwelcome guest. The yak inclined its muzzle towards the stream. Near it stood a monk in ritual clothing, with a sharp sickle at the belt.
– Pardon me for interrupting your rest, my lord. – The monk bowed. – We have been on the road for a long time and a long journey still awaits.
– What could have forced a monk to leave his temple and set forth on a long journey? – An ill thought came to Reiji’s mind.
– The will of our kami. We are assembling a host.
– A host for the kami? I have heard many incredible tales, but your words surprise me even more, monk. Tell me everything.
– As you wish, my lord. Our monastery worships Kame-Onna-sama – the wise, two-headed snake. According to legend, she appeared many hundreds of years ago and stopped a war or two clans. Not long ago, the statue resting in the shrine of our temple came to life and set forth of a journey, taking a scythe. We followed her and Kame-Onna-sama herself told us that a great danger looms upon the world.
– Stopped a war, but is now assembling a host?
– To make battle with Nue.
The samurai looked at the monk for a long time.
– You speak madness, but you do not resemble a madman. – Reiji broke the silence. – And this worries me.
– All of us have much to worry about in these times.
The yak belched and turned away from the water. The monk bowed to the samurai and got on the saddle.
– Are you headed north?
– That is correct, my lord.
– So this Nue, of which you speak, is the lands of Matsuya.
– So says Kame-Onna-sama.
The samurai bid the monk farewell, and the latter continued on his path. And Reiji, the Fire Wind fell into deep thought. Nue. An evil spirit, spreading disease and misfortune. A Kami, assembling a host. Could his old friend Kitano have fallen victim to a demon, turning him mad? This would explain much, but what terrible deeds would the samurai have to do, to restore the proper order of things? And was it even possible to restore? He had to march forward, wherever fate may take him. And may the gods bless his path.