Kenjin and the Akuma Samurai

Kenjin and the Akuma Samurai

A Chapter by Kuandio

   

        The morning was just awakening, but the lean young man already strode with swift purpose through the forest. As always, Kenjin had set out before dawn. The shafts of light amid coniferous-scented mists pleased him. Frost still clung to the boughs and the sharp air condensed his breaths. To ward off the cold, he briefly set his daikyu longbow aside and adjusted his leather rucksack, and pulled the rain-blue haori robe closer. Even though there probably wasn't a soul for over thirty ri in any direction, out of habit he used the folds of the robe to conceal the hilt of the doragon-steel sword belted at his waist.

            Roughly three months had marched passed since Kenjin's liege lords dispatched him north on this clandestine assignment. General Masuro's instructions were simple enough: lead a unit of sword-rangers and comb the wilderness for any sign of incursions across the Silver River, and report his findings to allied officers in the kingdoms of Eruku and Shinrin.

            Now, three months later, Kenjin had seen the charge given to him nigh completed. On his way toShiro-ganseki Castle - the northernmost destination in the kingdom of Ao-kuraoudo - Kenjin had dispatched the rest of the sword-rangers to reinforce various posts, including several to join with prince Daisuken, who was locking horns with the Okami-hitobito clans in the Mistuo Forests. For all their efforts, Kenjin and his team had gleaned no conclusive evidence to render the lord of Ao-kuraoudo which suggested the Shogun intended to expand his campaign across the Silver River.

            But this charge isn't done yet, Kenjin reminded himself. You might still chance upon something. Stay sharp. Keep your eyes open.

            Today was the third day since embarking from Shiro-ganseki Castle on his return journey south.Another week or two, and gods willing, I'll be back in Shenobi. It'd been a few years since Kenjin had last been to Shiro-ganseki. It would've been nice to rest awhile longer at the castle in Ao-kuraoudo's capital, but he'd been away from Shenobi too long already. At least the standard of the White Tiger, rippling on sapphire over the battlements of Shiro-ganseki Castle, lingered in Kenjin's heart and mind, uplifting him. Remembering lord Akihara's legions of blue samurai, he knew that the kingdom of Ao-kuraudo was an ally Shenobi could never afford to lose.

            Kenjin quickened his stride, passed groves of towering trees, the mats of pine needles crunching under his boots. It's a long ways still. Maybe I should've taken one of the horses lord Akihira offered? Then again, the majority of the terrain he administered was more workable without a steed. It also granted Kenjin a certain satisfaction to have his body do the work, maintaining communion with the land he journeyed. Presently, he traversed the easternmost wilderness between the kingdoms of Ao-kuraoudo and Shinrin, on his way to Sabishi-iwa, Shinrin's northernmost outpost. This was a region devoid of villages, a place where people were seldom seen. Here it was easy to for Kenjin to imagine what it would be like if he ere the last person in the world.

            This wasn't the first time he had been sent to patrol the deep borderlands, nor would it be the last. Kenjin could have avoided such arduous missions if he'd been a true samurai. Nevertheless, he did not begrudge his position. In a sense, not being stationed at an outpost or castle was a boon. Even though he'd spent more of his days traveling the wilderness than residing in cities, he retained a continual wonder for the untamed surroundings.

            Yes, be thankful for what you have. It doesn't matter you can never be a samurai. The woods, high-ranges, and rivers, these are your true home, the moon your lamp, and the stars your roof at night.  Kenjin walked through the early morning as the gold rays chased the kami-mists away. Now and then he engaged in conversation with the birds by means of his finely tuned array of whistles.

            In the stillness of the forest, Kenjin's meeting with general Masuro echoed in the corridors of memory. Though the morning was clear when he received his orders, a cloud of worry cast over Masuro's visage.

            "There are members of the Council of Regents who say it's passed the hour to declare war," the general had said, brooding, as if peering into a dark future. The dour mood soon passed though, and Masuro spoke anew with the unassailable confidence for which he was well known.

            "This assignment is very important Kenjin-san. And please, remember to be careful in the eastern wilderness."

            "Don't worry master. Our foes will never see me, and if they do, it'll be too late for them." 

            "Good Kenjin-san." He had laughed. "I know they won't ever take you. You are the fastest ranger in the South, neh." Masuro grinned as if everything were perfectly harmonious, there, everywhere, and was going to stay that way. He patted Kenjin on the shoulder. "I always know I can trust you."

            Kenjin had never seen a chink in the general's fortitude before that, and even though the lapse had been brief, it troubled Kenjin still. He knows a confrontation is inevitable, and fears we cannot win. The thought chilled Kenjin. If the kingdom of Fumei-noyorou succeeded in provoking Shinrin and Eruku, and the battles erupted, what would Shenobi's response be? Horses, steel, and arrows; there was no other way. Could the Shogun be defeated? Shenobi was one of the most powerful realms in Isodoro, but Fumei-noyorou was as well, commanding perhaps even greater numbers samurai and ashigaru. Led by Kage-waru cunning, the eastern kingdom made for a formidable adversary. The outcome would be far from certain, except that the entire South would be plunged into indefinite conflict, and kingdoms shattered.

            Kenjin prayed the day never came. He did not long for battle as other warriors. There was no glory in spilling blood, even an enemy's.

            For the time being, it was best to focus on the here and now, on what was in his hands. Though the forests were especially quiet, Kenjin remained vigilant. This was the territory long held in dispute between the Southern Kingdoms and Fumei-noyorou, and had become a lawless no man's land, where bandits and murderous clansmen prowled. Dreaded rumors haunted the borderlands as well, whispers of assassins in the night who were more wraith than man. When Kenjin lent thought to how close the enemy's realm was, he liked this place less. To his relief however, so far he'd detected no sign of enemy movement. Although the mission had failed to yield conclusive findings, at times Kenjin was unable to shake the presentiment he'd overlooked something.

            Maybe I'm chasing shadows? Probably I just need to rest, neh? A good hot bath and some sake. Now that would be glorious. Three months afield and I'm still marching. Ha! If there were no seas between Isodoro and the Main-Lands, I'd walk around the entire world!

           Although Kenjin appreciated the forest environs, he was rendered no less alert. Out here, alone in the borderlands, far from help, one had to be wary.

 

            For the following hour he traipsed swiftly through dells and under arbors until coming to a series of steep hills. Hmm, I remember this place. Last spring I passed through here. There are springs, and a stream on the other side. Ah, it'd be good to taste the clear sweetness again.

            Threading passed trees and green saplings he went. The foliage thickened on the moraine's opposing flank, forcing him to push branches aside at times. He did not find the pristine waters. The spring spattered into a stagnant pool, befouled with malignant reek. Curses and blood-fire! Kenjin had come across signs of the kuro-shi before, but this was the first evidence of its corrosive touch this far west of the Silver River.

            The sooty waters hastened down a rock-choked ravine and into a deeply fogged wood. There the trees showed manifestations of the blight as well - an atramentous grayish petrification overtaking bark and leaves. Tendrils of mist migrated between birch and ash, beckoning him. Kenjin cautiously followed the trickle down rugged, sheer slopes, to the edge of the tree line. Here, in a low gorge bordered by pine-studded hills, the dark rivulet joined a wider watercourse. The greater stream was awash with the same murky inkiness, lapping upon shores of stained stones. A sunken ceiling of fog obscured the skies.

            What evil is this? Last spring the brook had sparkled pure in the sun. Kenjin's vision searched the somber view to the far banks. A strong stone's throw downstream and the ground stretched flat and burnt. Most of the trees there had been hacked down, and what remained stood badly scorched. Amid the splintered trunks was the detritus of what appeared to be a campfire, still smoldering.

            Kenjin ignored his misgivings and crept down the shores to get a better look, screening his movements behind ferns and branches. A spectral quiet reigned throughout. Not a bird chirped. Solely the sluicing push of the waters could be heard.

            Upon gaining an improved vantage, Kenjin was shocked at what he espied. Heaven and Earth ... Across the dusky stream, receding into the shadows of the woods, tall iron pikes had been planted, and atop these, dozens of severed heads impaled. Kenjin dominated the rising breath of fear. Some of the heads were but days removed from their bodies; others had been lanced longer, undergoing the patiently tortuous stages of decomposition. He failed to detect the stench because the currents blew northeast. The victims' eyes and mouths were wide. On a few, ghastly leaden tongues lolled out in ferocious protest, or final terror. Several had been stripped to the bone; and ravens were eating the faces off others. The skulls' vacant gazes seemed to serve as grave warning to trespassers. Fastened near the tops of three of these morbid stakes were long, thin banners of black, writhing listlessly in an exhausted breeze. Kenjin could not recognize the red arcane writ on the pennants.

            His body instinctively urged him to flee. No, you will not abandon your duty as sword-ranger. Forcing steadfastness, Kenjin proceeded to slink downstream. A broader angle revealed more. From knurled tree limbs, the mangled bodies of dozens - no, an entire squadron of warriors - hung by rusted chains. Though their visages were desecrated, by the make of their armor and fallen helms Kenjin recognized them as ashigaru and samurai of Shinrin, including five from Eruku. Among the suspended, mutilated copses, were scores of dead nomin villagers. Ravens pecked and tore at the carrion, so lazed and bloated by the sumptuous feast left at their disposal they didn't bother to caw and bicker.

            There had been reports of several outrider units gone missing over the past month. Could this also be the staging point for the raids against Shinrin's outlying villages? The death camp appeared to have been established for months. Who in all the kingdoms of Isodoro could do this? Apart from the Okami-hitobito clans, General Masuro had believed that eastern forces were directly involved in the borderland forays, while suspicions in this region leaned towards an unknown band of renegade samurai. Despite the lack of outward evidence, Kenjin thought he knew the answer. He turned his vision east, over the treetops, toward the horizon of Fumei-noyorou, where nebulous cloaks of mist hung like a forbidding spell.

            The Shogun.

            The source of this stream originated in the east. Kenjin pondered the sickness of those unfortunate, but increasing numbers of people across the marchland domains. Was it Kage-maru's doing too? Staring toward Fumei-noyorou, he wondered what the mists concealed. Whatever ruin was astir, he sensed the axis emanated from the Shogunate's throne-room.

            I must herald these dark tidings. Return to Ao-kuraoudo, or on to Shinrin and Eruku? South - go to Shinrin first, then back to Shenobi.  Kenjin could not say with certainty that this death camp was Kage-maru's work. Once Shinrin's lord learned of its whereabouts, mounted regiments would be dispatched forthwith. They'd learn who the culprits were. If the death camp was indeed linked to Kage-maru, it was overbold. The Silver River border was over fifteen ri east. Overconfidence? Or was there a stratagem behind this? Most like the location had remained secret because of its remote location; they never expected someone to rove this far. If the Shogun was involved, this signified a direct breach of the treaty and could be considered an act of war against Shinrin, and in turn the Southern Kingdoms, including Shenobi.

            While Kenjin weighed the ramifications, dim voices wafted to him from across the dark waters. He melted back into the fronds and shrubs with feline subtlety, crouching low. After bringing his breathing under control, he moved a branch a sliver aside and peered.

            On the other side of the steam, six looming figures materialized from the forest shadows. Wholly encased in black plate armor, the bulky samurai moved strangely, slightly hunched, as if bearing weight on their hulking shoulders. Despite their size, their movements were indicative of agility and brute power. Gauntleted hands gripped heavy-bladed naginata halberds. One carried a large, lumped bundle in a dingy sackcloth. They spoke vulgar and raucous; voices grating, as though wild boars and giant dogs had learned the power of speech.

            Kenjin caught a few of the words: "No, that's not the way to - "

            "Eh? ... Firing is best."

            "Of course ... imbecile!"

            " - our prize ... do as we damn please."

            One laughed with abandonment, a warped sound that echoed within itself like a madman at the bottom of an iron well.

            "Akuma," Kenjin whispered to himself. His muscles tightened, one hand instinctively gripping his katana's elk-skin-wrapped magnolia hilt.

            Most people didn't believe they existed anymore, or that they ever had. Among those who believed, even less claimed to know what the Akuma were. Few and far between were the occasions Kenjin had encountered one in the flesh, and for that he was grateful. The Akuma were dangerous adversaries, nigh as strong as ogres and too terrible in their ways to be human - to that Kenjin could attest. Those times he crossed paths with these bestial warriors had been in frozen wastelands and deep wilderness; never so close to the Southern Kingdoms. What are the Akuma doing here, and on Fumei-noyorou's doorstep? Kenjin deemed there was more astir in the east than anyone knew.

            The company of armored warriors lumbered forth. One poked at a corpse with his naginata, setting the body to sway and the chain to creak. When they were closer, Kenjin noted that their faces were wholly hidden behind masks of black metal, forged into expressions of fierce-grinning malevolence. He knew that what was underneath wasn't much better. Flat gold-gilded iron horns were welded to the brows of the kabuto helmets; and on the backs, plumes of horsehair hung, dyed a violent red.

            The Akuma samurai made for the smoking fire-pit. The foremost tossed a couple chunks of wood on it. Whoever they brought within the mucked canvas bag must've came to and realized they were going to be roasted, for the captive squirmed, emitting weeping groans. Kenjin considered employing his armor-piercing longbow, but there was no space to string it amid the brush; and besides, unless he struck a perfect shot, Akuma had to be quilled like pin-cushions before they fell. His grip on the katana hilt tightened instead. How many inside the bag - two, or three? The anguished sounds were unbearable. What to do? You can take one, maybe two of those big b******s, and then what, eh?

            "Quiet!" One of the Akuma pounded on the bag with a burly gauntleted fist.

            Kenjin could endure no more. It was dishonor to cower like this. He readied to break from his cover and intervene, when a clomping noise reached his hearing through the woods afar. The first of the newly arriving Akuma troops slogged up the far shores. There were ten, ... twenty, ... no, ...nearly three times that many or more. They marched in lockstep, their armor clanking. Kenjin shrunk back into the foliage, his heart thumping. The captives' supplications and thrashing had been stilled, the bag tossed on the ground, and more wood gathered and thrown atop the rekindling fire.

            It would be too dangerous to break cover now; so Kenjin bid his time. The lines of thickset Akuma advanced toward the death camp. At the fore and towards the middle were two large samurai in red armor, a presence of command about them. Gods! They were lugging more prisoners, roughly twenty. Their blue armor told Kenjin these samurai were of Ao-kuraodo. The majority bore wounds and signs of beating, their hands bound, and helms removed.

            The leading red armored Akuma bellowed a trumpeting sound no longer human at those gathered around the fire-pit. The six next to the fire unfolded to their feet. Kenjin listened intently to what followed:

            "Good hunting?"
            "Those black vipers made it easy. Told us where these little men would be riding and we knocked them off their horses," the red commander boasted as they converged on the camp. "They'll be horse meat aplenty when the rearguard catches up. First we're going to squeeze out whatever secrets these ones are keeping."

            By and by the troops marched into the forests beyond the camp and disappeared. Of the original party only four remained. Kenjin did not dare move, not yet. Could these Akuma be in league with Kage-maru? Though such abomination was unheard of, it seemed the only answer. He had to tell others. There might be time to save the prisoners. But for all he knew the banks were crawling with these killers. I might be the fastest ranger in the South, but that won't matter one jot if I run headlong into a company of devils. Still hiding, Kenjin listened carefully in the direction the main contingent had gone, as well as the entire surrounding area in case there were others. Only silence, but silence could be deceptive. The way whence he had come offered little cover, making him hesitant.

            While Kenjin weighed his options, one Akuma who'd been squatting by the resuscitating flames got to his feet and stepped toward the dark stream. The freakish samurai slowly turned this way and that, giving the impression he sniffed the air and listened keenly. The dark warrior looked through the shadows of his metal mask and across the lurid waters. Kenjin hunkered down behind the ferns and boughs, wishing the earth could swallow him until this was over.

            With a commanding voice drained of foolery, the Akuma boomed to its cohorts and signaled at the woods opposite them. Guttural words were exchanged. One broke away, armor clinking as it trotted across the desolate ground and into the gloom of the eastern forests. The other three spread out, halberds in hand. Another advanced up the shores. One remained in the middle by the fire pit, and the other two steadily combed the terrain, closing in on the area Kenjin shielded himself behind foliage. 

            He'd seen enough. Doubtless the one who ran off had gone to summon the rest of the dogs. But I can't retreat the way I came. Thundering hell! Kenjin scoured the terrain, quickly picking out the most secretive path. He launched forth like an elk flushed from a thicket, eager to create as much distance between himself and the Akuma before they found his tracks. It was said once the demons locked on your trail, they never relented.

            Why didn't you leave when the going was good? - Kenjin reprimanded himself while he leapt up, and up the steep slope. Remember what happened to the fox for its curiosity? Don't let that happen to you!

            Urgent shouts shattered the stillness in the low vale, followed by the solemn braying of a horn that reverberated three times. A demon roared clangorously. Kenjin sped up the escarpment. He looked over his shoulder. An Akuma on the far shores spotted him through a gap in the trees, and signaled to with his halberd. The rest joined their roars and hastened towards the slopes.

            Kenjin steeled himself. Focus. Do not reside in the mind. Relinquish control. Let your actions rise from the formless realm, swift and true. The race had just begun and he knew he was going to have to run all damned day, perhaps longer. If he pushed himself to his limit, maybe he could reach Sabishi-iwa outpost by tomorrow night. There Shinrin's swordsmen would repel these fiends.

            When he reached the top of the timbered ridge, he paused to look back. This is very bad. From the woods bordering the death camp dozens of Akuma samurai charged like mad ibexes, twigs and boughs snapping. A red samurai speared the hunt, his mask an expression of howling insanity.

            B******s of a titan-w***e! All of them? Just for me? They really didn't want to be found out. Fools! Once I get word back, one of Shinrin's finest mounted regiments will obliterate your camp.

            Kenjin's blood went cold. Oh ... mountains, sea, and sky. A metal giant strode free of the woods fringing the death camp. The warrior was twice as tall as man, and completely encased in dragon-steel, polished to a mirror sheen. A Silver-Samurai - the highest ranking warrior in the Shogun's legions, and his personal guard. Kenjin had thought it legend. Some  claimed the Silver Samurai were invincible. It definitely looked like it.

            With a voice like a gong, the towering warrior motioned the Akuma onward with its monstrous halberd. The enemy fanned out, crashing through the dark waters. Kenjin realized they meant to create a wide net with their numbers and cut him off.

            Wheeling to escape, he was confronted by an armored Akuma barring his path and gripping a heavy, wide-bladed tatakai axe. With a cold whisper of steel, Kenjin unsheathed his katana. The fiend growled and closed in. Kenjin tossed his sword from one hand to the other and lunged forth. He purposefully faltered before veering sharply. The katana flashed in a silver arc, clanging off the jet armor. The axe swished. Another effort with the katana shrieked against a pauldron, sparking. Kenjin rolled. A furious two-handed swing saw the axe buried deep into a tree bole. While the devil cursed and heaved to wrench the weapon free, Kenjin quickly retrieved his longbow which had fallen near the enemy, and rushed passed

            Further down the slope he sheathed the blade. Gods give me speed! He pressed on, barreling as fast as his powerful legs could carry him; the leaves whipped at him and the air hissed.

            A nightmare dwelled in the mists to the east. Kenjin sensed it startlingly vivid, a monstrous black tiger stalking the shadows, its eyes burning. A spirit of malice had been awoken in Fumei-noyorou. He must inform Fumio. The ancient starseer would know what to do. The thought of this unknown horror pushed Kenjin faster, doubled with the purpose to preserve his life and the duty to impart forewarning to Shinrin's leaders. The threat was far greater and closer than the allied houses estimated.         

            Fueled by adrenaline, Kenjin traversed a succession of forested hills. Despite the brisk air, sweat beaded on his brow. The demons' enraged shouts echoed hectically throughout the hills. When he looked back he spotted the first of them, less than a bowshot away, charging through swirls of mist into the golden morning, their black armor gleaming and the red kabuto plumes afire.

            Come on, to hell with it then. I am Kenjin Tsubara, son of Mayumi Tsubara, forever remembered. I am a sword-ranger of Shenobi. Try and get me you sons of a thousand w****s!

            Without slackening his pace, Kenjin strung the layered longbow and struck west-south, slipping into the densest region of forest. Here he hoped to lose them, or slay as many as he could, and thus meet an honorable death.

 

 



© 2016 Kuandio


Author's Note

Kuandio

My Review

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Nusquam Esse, I do commend you on your ability to find some of these things I myself would point out, and to Kuandio, I recommend you take her / his words to heart, for the most part. I will add to her / his review, and perhaps mention where I disagree, but for the most part she / he hit the nail on the head!

First, I do admit that too much was used in terms of exposition. Especially with Kenjin's past training, and the bulk of the history between Fumei-noyoru and the southern Kingdoms, I feel that more would be gained through observation of the current state of the world rather than reflection upon the one that used to be. This is the sort of thing that would fit in, say, a diplomatic meeting, or through dialogue with an outsider who doesn't know, so that it doesn't simply feel as though the character in question is thinking about everything at once as if an omniscient overseer.

I actually disagree with Nusquam on her / his belief that you should use fewer Japanese words; in fact, I'd prefer it if you maintained this level, and rather explained what they meant to a larger degree. Place names, the names of people and titles, naturally cannot be changed, as they hold significance to the story that would be lost otherwise; however, styles of combat, Japanese materials and the like which are NOT necessary to the story would be better served to an English audience via some context that helps them understand what these things are. Describing the hilt of Kenjin's weapon, for example, was a good start in this regard, and a contrasting example might be the suchiro-doragon blade which nobody who is not familiar with the Japanese weaponry would ever be able to imagine properly. Personally, I'd just defaulted to seeing a standard military katana since I couldn't relate to this blade specifically. Now, naturally, these words are not gibberish, as they've real context beyond the bounds of western societies, but it's not often that you'll find people who are interested or knowledgeable enough to comprehend them; in short, it's your responsibility to help them along, and in doing so you can keep every Japanese term you have so long as you help the audience see what it is that you see. Yet, these words do serve a purpose, as the subjects they address differ from those we can relate to; you merely have to bridge that gap in your Readers' understanding.

Overuse of words in general is noticeable, and I recommend every word of Nusquam's. There are a plethora of run-on sentences riddled throughout this piece, such as the following:

' That was, until they noticed the elk-skin-wrapped magnolia hilt of a suchiru-doragon katana protruding at his waist from under the folds of the haori robe, and realized as well, that the bow he bore was not that of a woodsman, but a daikyu, capable of piercing armor. ' Ch-2, Par. 1, Sent. 7.

TO:

' Yet, the elk-skin magnolia-hilted katana protruding from beneath the folds of his haori robe said otherwise. The daikyu he bore, slung over his back, was a bow also capable of piercing armor with its bolts. These were not the marks of a woodsman, and surely of no poor vagrant. ' Ch-2, Par. 1, Sent. 7-9.

The changes I made, aside from extending sentence 7 into three, were more for "user friendliness" than anything else. I got rid of irrelevancies in text (such as the proper name of the Japanese blade, which really served no purpose), while attempting to keep as true to the original work as possible. I also linked the daikyu to something in English that an audience can relate to, whilst still allowing for the WORD daikyu to be used in all subsequent situations. Some wording (such as "protruding from" rather than "protruding at") should be looked at, as my example has corrected. Finally, in keeping to the spirit of the character as it seemed to me whilst reading, I changed the manner in which the text was written (i.e. "Yet" as opposed to "That was, until they noticed"). Judging by how little this man Kenjin seems to notice people who are not a part of his mission, he wouldn't narrate as though from the point-of-view of an observer to him; in other words, he wouldn't see the world as others see it, but as HE sees it.

Now, and this is something original of my own review, I was never all that fond of the dialogue. My first review in Chapter One said all that I needed to on the subject, and since there is little content here relevant to this topic, I'll leave this brief. Kenjin's thoughts to himself, however, act as a makeshift form of dialogue, and should be addressed thus; let's take a couple of examples here:

' (i) Cursed be it! The kuro-shi sickness! (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 7, Sent. 4.

' (i) Why didn't you leave when the going was good? (/i) - Kenjin reprimanded himself as he made his way up the steep slope - (i) Remember what happened to the fox for its curiosity? Well, now make sure that the same doesn't happen to you! (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 28, Sent.'s 3-4.

' (i) I must return and be the herald of ill tidings to Shiro-ganseki, and to Shenobi. (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 17, Sent. 1.

These are all thoughts, so naturally they're all in italics within the story, but I haven't the luxury of transferring them here in such a format. Nevertheless, I'll tackle why I was disappointed with these in the order in which they appeared, below:

For example 1, I have nothing good or redemptive to say about it. This thought is basically a mechanism to open up a new concept to the audience, and it's blatantly obvious at that, but that part is actually not what I'm driven against; rather, it's the clunky manner in which it's disclosed, as if from some shoddy European medieval straight-to-DVD show. It could easily be rewritten thus:

' (i) The kuro-shi! (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 7, Sent. 4. This is all that you need to include, and then leap directly into what the kuro-shi is with vivid imagery to describe it. This should be a snap-thought, not one that someone dwells upon unless you want them to come across as disinterested in their finding. I don't feel that that's what you were going for.

Example two suffers from the same problem as above, in that it's a thought that basically transmits the character thinking it as having too much time to really be feeling any sense of urgency or fear. Humorously enough, the ENTIRE section could be shortened to simply the following:

' (i) Why didn't I leave sooner? (/i) Kenjin reprimanded himself as he made his way up the steep slope.

The final example is merely too wordy for its message, but in a different way; in short, not all of these words are necessary, though in total they don't NECESSARILY detract from the piece on its own. Simply, if they were gotten rid of then the story could progress a little faster:

' (i) I must return to Shenobi. (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 17, Sent. 1. This is all that you need here.

Another key to point out here, but within the context of thought, present tense is almost exclusively necessary in contrast to recent-past (i.e. "she says" as opposed to "she said"). So, for example:

' When he reached the top of the ridge, he paused to look back. Oh no. No, no, no. This was very bad. ' Ch-2, Par. 32, Sent. 1.

When Kenjin thinks the words "This was very bad," she SHOULD be thinking "This IS very bad." In terms of the real-time flow of the story, HE is living these events, and WE are simply viewing this world as a third party; in short, HE wouldn't be thinking about things that had already happened, but things that ARE CURRENTLY happening to him. Verbs should be written in present tense during a character's experiencing of them, even if the remaining text is done in recent-past.

I do hope there's some content to work with in the above, and so (for now), I take my leave. As usual, I enjoyed this chapter beyond its errors just as much as I had the first, and though I'll admit that there was a bit less description in areas, it wasn't enough to warrant too much contention. I suppose I might add more, if it were me, during Kenjin's escape attempt from the Akuma, but aside from that it was fine.

Goodbye for now, my friend!

Posted 7 Years Ago


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Kuandio

7 Years Ago

Wow, a heck of a review again. I really thought you had forgotten about the story though

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Since everyone else has already given constructive criticism, I get to worry about the other really important part, "Can it be read?"

Given that I have ADD and it's extremely hard for me to just sit and read a sea of letters, especially electronic letters, and I'm completely enthralled I'm going to have to say yes. You can read it. In fact to me it's a little like a pseudo-Japanese GoT. The Akuma being the white walkers.

I'm not interested at nit-picking or finding flaws. I'm just along for the ride. I found this to be a splash of neon orange in an otherwise earth-toned chapter, "B******s of a titan-w***e!" It's kinda funny. Kenjin must have gone to the Shakespearean school for insulting your enemies. :)

At this moment I face the question of, "do I go to sleep, or read another chapter?" Congratulations, Kuan, you've written something that can come between me and sleep.

I know we've talked about it before, but where are you in the writing process? I can't remember if you said the entire book is finished or not.

Posted 7 Years Ago


Kuandio

7 Years Ago

Hi there Kaiju. Thanks for taking a look. I actually finished the book yesterday; and it turns out t.. read more
Kuandio

7 Years Ago

It took me one year and about 9-10 months to write. Thank the gods I am done
Jordan

7 Years Ago

Wow. Congrats! 290k to me is insane. I have trouble getting to 20k. I wish you the best of luck on t.. read more
Nusquam Esse, I do commend you on your ability to find some of these things I myself would point out, and to Kuandio, I recommend you take her / his words to heart, for the most part. I will add to her / his review, and perhaps mention where I disagree, but for the most part she / he hit the nail on the head!

First, I do admit that too much was used in terms of exposition. Especially with Kenjin's past training, and the bulk of the history between Fumei-noyoru and the southern Kingdoms, I feel that more would be gained through observation of the current state of the world rather than reflection upon the one that used to be. This is the sort of thing that would fit in, say, a diplomatic meeting, or through dialogue with an outsider who doesn't know, so that it doesn't simply feel as though the character in question is thinking about everything at once as if an omniscient overseer.

I actually disagree with Nusquam on her / his belief that you should use fewer Japanese words; in fact, I'd prefer it if you maintained this level, and rather explained what they meant to a larger degree. Place names, the names of people and titles, naturally cannot be changed, as they hold significance to the story that would be lost otherwise; however, styles of combat, Japanese materials and the like which are NOT necessary to the story would be better served to an English audience via some context that helps them understand what these things are. Describing the hilt of Kenjin's weapon, for example, was a good start in this regard, and a contrasting example might be the suchiro-doragon blade which nobody who is not familiar with the Japanese weaponry would ever be able to imagine properly. Personally, I'd just defaulted to seeing a standard military katana since I couldn't relate to this blade specifically. Now, naturally, these words are not gibberish, as they've real context beyond the bounds of western societies, but it's not often that you'll find people who are interested or knowledgeable enough to comprehend them; in short, it's your responsibility to help them along, and in doing so you can keep every Japanese term you have so long as you help the audience see what it is that you see. Yet, these words do serve a purpose, as the subjects they address differ from those we can relate to; you merely have to bridge that gap in your Readers' understanding.

Overuse of words in general is noticeable, and I recommend every word of Nusquam's. There are a plethora of run-on sentences riddled throughout this piece, such as the following:

' That was, until they noticed the elk-skin-wrapped magnolia hilt of a suchiru-doragon katana protruding at his waist from under the folds of the haori robe, and realized as well, that the bow he bore was not that of a woodsman, but a daikyu, capable of piercing armor. ' Ch-2, Par. 1, Sent. 7.

TO:

' Yet, the elk-skin magnolia-hilted katana protruding from beneath the folds of his haori robe said otherwise. The daikyu he bore, slung over his back, was a bow also capable of piercing armor with its bolts. These were not the marks of a woodsman, and surely of no poor vagrant. ' Ch-2, Par. 1, Sent. 7-9.

The changes I made, aside from extending sentence 7 into three, were more for "user friendliness" than anything else. I got rid of irrelevancies in text (such as the proper name of the Japanese blade, which really served no purpose), while attempting to keep as true to the original work as possible. I also linked the daikyu to something in English that an audience can relate to, whilst still allowing for the WORD daikyu to be used in all subsequent situations. Some wording (such as "protruding from" rather than "protruding at") should be looked at, as my example has corrected. Finally, in keeping to the spirit of the character as it seemed to me whilst reading, I changed the manner in which the text was written (i.e. "Yet" as opposed to "That was, until they noticed"). Judging by how little this man Kenjin seems to notice people who are not a part of his mission, he wouldn't narrate as though from the point-of-view of an observer to him; in other words, he wouldn't see the world as others see it, but as HE sees it.

Now, and this is something original of my own review, I was never all that fond of the dialogue. My first review in Chapter One said all that I needed to on the subject, and since there is little content here relevant to this topic, I'll leave this brief. Kenjin's thoughts to himself, however, act as a makeshift form of dialogue, and should be addressed thus; let's take a couple of examples here:

' (i) Cursed be it! The kuro-shi sickness! (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 7, Sent. 4.

' (i) Why didn't you leave when the going was good? (/i) - Kenjin reprimanded himself as he made his way up the steep slope - (i) Remember what happened to the fox for its curiosity? Well, now make sure that the same doesn't happen to you! (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 28, Sent.'s 3-4.

' (i) I must return and be the herald of ill tidings to Shiro-ganseki, and to Shenobi. (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 17, Sent. 1.

These are all thoughts, so naturally they're all in italics within the story, but I haven't the luxury of transferring them here in such a format. Nevertheless, I'll tackle why I was disappointed with these in the order in which they appeared, below:

For example 1, I have nothing good or redemptive to say about it. This thought is basically a mechanism to open up a new concept to the audience, and it's blatantly obvious at that, but that part is actually not what I'm driven against; rather, it's the clunky manner in which it's disclosed, as if from some shoddy European medieval straight-to-DVD show. It could easily be rewritten thus:

' (i) The kuro-shi! (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 7, Sent. 4. This is all that you need to include, and then leap directly into what the kuro-shi is with vivid imagery to describe it. This should be a snap-thought, not one that someone dwells upon unless you want them to come across as disinterested in their finding. I don't feel that that's what you were going for.

Example two suffers from the same problem as above, in that it's a thought that basically transmits the character thinking it as having too much time to really be feeling any sense of urgency or fear. Humorously enough, the ENTIRE section could be shortened to simply the following:

' (i) Why didn't I leave sooner? (/i) Kenjin reprimanded himself as he made his way up the steep slope.

The final example is merely too wordy for its message, but in a different way; in short, not all of these words are necessary, though in total they don't NECESSARILY detract from the piece on its own. Simply, if they were gotten rid of then the story could progress a little faster:

' (i) I must return to Shenobi. (/i) ' Ch-2, Par. 17, Sent. 1. This is all that you need here.

Another key to point out here, but within the context of thought, present tense is almost exclusively necessary in contrast to recent-past (i.e. "she says" as opposed to "she said"). So, for example:

' When he reached the top of the ridge, he paused to look back. Oh no. No, no, no. This was very bad. ' Ch-2, Par. 32, Sent. 1.

When Kenjin thinks the words "This was very bad," she SHOULD be thinking "This IS very bad." In terms of the real-time flow of the story, HE is living these events, and WE are simply viewing this world as a third party; in short, HE wouldn't be thinking about things that had already happened, but things that ARE CURRENTLY happening to him. Verbs should be written in present tense during a character's experiencing of them, even if the remaining text is done in recent-past.

I do hope there's some content to work with in the above, and so (for now), I take my leave. As usual, I enjoyed this chapter beyond its errors just as much as I had the first, and though I'll admit that there was a bit less description in areas, it wasn't enough to warrant too much contention. I suppose I might add more, if it were me, during Kenjin's escape attempt from the Akuma, but aside from that it was fine.

Goodbye for now, my friend!

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Kuandio

7 Years Ago

Wow, a heck of a review again. I really thought you had forgotten about the story though

read more
Hm, pretty interesting so far, I think that this story is going to get really good in the next few chapters, I look forward to reading onwards.

Posted 7 Years Ago


hmmm, there are some good descriptions in here, but in my opinion, there is too much exposition that leaves too little to be figured out by the reader. Rather than rushing to tell everything, focus on the important details, and let the other stuff be explained in time. Again, avoid using so many Japanese words, especially when they are not strictly necessary. Imagine if every one of these words was gibberish, could someone figure out their meaning with context alone? Would there be a need to use gibberish over another word? Don't forget your audience, especially when trying to publish. You will attract some readers who find Japanese terminology to be interesting, but you will lose FAR MORE who don't want to be barraged with so many new words at once, especially when it serves little purpose. Ummm, you also overuse a passive tense, which makes the reader feel distant and not connected to Kenjin. Without feeling an emotional connection, and with too much telling, the reader will have a hard time getting engrossed in your work... and with that, they are unlikely to keep reading. Finally, you are too wordy on most of this... in trying to seem elegant, you instead come across as contrived. Look at each sentence, and see if you can remove some of the words... especially rambling figures of speech. By making the writing more succinct, you will make the words on average more powerful and gripping, and even moments of non-action will feel compelling to the reader, instead of pretentious. Again, there are some definite gems in here, good descriptions and impressions; but you need to make the rest of it get up to par so that the whole piece shines.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kuandio

8 Years Ago

I can't believe you changed your photo. Anyways, you give good advice. But I have to let these chapt.. read more
Nusquam Esse

8 Years Ago

The photo change was a joke; since several people on here keep calling me a chicken... :P Anyway, I.. read more
I should add, I wouldn't take the time to do this if I didn't like the story.
I wouldn't have so much to say if it was boring or badly written.
Don't be put off by how colorful the diigo page became.
Since green means I liked the phrasing, blue is a comment, and red was used to track action,
the only color you need to be worried about is yellow highlighting and yellow post it notes.

Posted 8 Years Ago


The only color left was pink, so I used pink to track action.
The annotations (I also added more non-pink notes, funny how you notice more when you are more awake) should be on the same link.
https://diigo.com/020c77
Ways to help your action stand out more.
- Put the action at the beginning of shorter paragraphs.
- Cut back on (or bury at the end of paragraphs) thoughts, exposition, and description of non-active elements (like the wind) when the action needs to stand out.
(I give specific examples of this in the post it notes in the last several paragraphs. )

Overall, action wise, I noticed three steps.
You have approx. 10 paragraphs of no action, 5 paragraphs of a little action, and then 5 paragraphs of action.
I believe this would be stronger if the first 10 paragraphs had a little action, the next 5 had building action (slightly more), and the last 5 peak action.

Hope this helps :)


Posted 8 Years Ago


https://diigo.com/020c77
yellow means grammar
blue means comment
Green means well written.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

C. Rose

8 Years Ago

If you are worried you can google "diigo" first.
Kuandio

8 Years Ago

Lol! I really didn't know what was going on with the diigo at first. Now I think I should learn how .. read more
C. Rose

8 Years Ago

Aha. Yes. I got so caught up in how fun diigo is (I just started using is yesterday), I forgot to ta.. read more
I found this chapter a bit less interesting than the first in certain aspects, but more interesting in other aspects. I really like how you introduced the characters, but I feel that maybe the events of this chapter are a tad overshadowed by the imagery. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the imagery, but I don't really feel the seriousness of the situation in this chapter. Maybe it's because of the lack of dialogue? But if dialogue was added, where would it go? The chapter is excellent, but, well, I guess I am just a tiny bit unsure. I look forward to chapter three :)

Posted 8 Years Ago


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Added on November 10, 2013
Last Updated on September 9, 2016
Tags: Asian, fantasy, romance, love, epic, journey, horror, spiritual, adventure, ancient, action, samurai, ninjas, Japan

Sakura no Yugen - The Princess, the Swordsman, and the Demons of Winter

*

By Kuandio


Author

Kuandio
Kuandio

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