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Yorimasa The Brave Archer






Source: Japanese Fairy World

Genzan Yorimasa was a brave warrior and a very useful man who lived more
than eight thousand moons ago. On account of his valor and skill in the
use of the bow he was called to Kioto, and promoted to be chief guard of
the imperial palace. At that time the emperor, Narahito, could not sleep
at night, because his rest was disturbed by a frightful beast, which
scared away even the sentinels in armor who stood on guard.

This dreadful beast had the wings of a bird, the body and claws of a
tiger, the head of a monkey, a serpent tail, and the crackling scales of
a dragon. It came after night, upon the roof of the palace, and howled
and scratched so dreadfully, that the poor mikado losing all rest, grew
weak and thin. None of the guards dare face it in hand-to-hand fight, and
none had skill enough to hit it with an arrow in the dark, though several
of the imperial corps of archers had tried again and again. When Yorimasa
received his appointment, he strung his bow carefully, and carefully
honing his steel-headed arrows, stored his quiver, and resolved to mount
guard that night with his favorite retainer.

It chanced to be a stormy night. The lightning was very vivid, and
Kaminari, the thunder-god was beating all his drums. The wind swirled
round frightfully, as though Fuden the wind-god was emptying all his
bags. Toward midnight, the falcon eye of Yorimasa saw, during a flash of
lightning, the awful beast sitting on the "devil's tile" at the tip of
the ridge-pole, on the north-east end of the roof. He bade his retainer
have a torch of straw and twigs ready to light at a moment's notice, to
loosen his blade, and wet its hilt-pin, while he fitted the notch of his
best arrow into the silk cord of his bow.

Keeping his eyes strained, he pretty soon saw the glare now of one eye,
now two eyes, as the beast with swaying head crept along the great roof
to the place on the eaves directly under the mikado's sleeping-room.
There it stopped.

This was Yorimasa's opportunity. Aiming about a foot to the right of
where he saw the eye glare, he drew his yard-length shaft clear back to
his shoulder, and let fly. A dull thud, a frightful howl, a heavy bump
on the ground, and the writhing of some creature among the pebbles, told
in a few seconds time that the shaft had struck flesh. The next instant
Yorimasa's retainer rushed out with blazing torch and joined battle with
his dirk. Seizing the beast by the neck, he quickly despatched him, by
cutting his throat. Then they flayed the monster, and the next morning
the hide was shown to his majesty.

All congratulated Yorimasa on his valor and marksmanship. Many young men,
sons of nobles and warriors, begged to become his pupils in archery. The
mikado ordered a noble of very high rank to present to Yorimasa a famous
sword named Shishi-no-[=o], (King of Wild Boars), and to give him a
lovely maid of honor named Ayami, to wife. And so the brave and the fair
were married, and to this day the fame of Yorimasa is like the
"ume-take-matsu," (plum-blossom, bamboo and pine), fragrant, green and
ever-during.





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