“Do you know what the point of this is?” I asked.
“The seisen, or holy war, is a traditional part of Slayer weddings in Japan. The first time a Slayer chose his bride from Japan, he had admired the samurai and wanted to be further entertained by them, so all who opposed the wedding were to send their best warriors to face him.” explained Alma.
“What about that makes it a holy war?” I asked.
“He was whispered to be an evil demon even before the wedding, and he fought against many armies before the proceedings.” she replied.
“Then why would anyone accept such an invitation?” I inquired.
“Some were honor-bound. Most weren’t even warned of what they’d be facing. The ‘invitations’ came as warnings of a threat, requests for aid, and various other ruses. The bride’s father was too terrified to refuse. His own men had been slaughtered when he tried removing the Slayer from his lands. Thousands of samurai died. Since then, a ceremony came into being which romanticized the occasion by having the groom go through the numerous steps that my forebear took before his wedding.” she informed me.
I frowned, wondering if there were any stories of the Slayers where they had been decent people. Aaliyah’s giggles did nothing to belie my suspicion that there weren’t such stories
“Relax, James. No one has died during this display since that day, not that anyone’s gone through with the full ceremony in hundreds of years to my knowledge, but Izumi wouldn’t risk Jarod dying at this point. I’m sure he won’t even be fighting that many people, and he doesn’t even seem fatigued from his earlier trials.” claimed Alma.
I felt there was some doubt in her statement, as if she questioned its validity as well. When ten men dressed in ceremonial-looking armor hustled onto the stage carrying hoko yari, I wasn’t remotely relieved by the sheen of their blades. The weapons looked far too sharp for a mock battle.
Jarod, however, looked completely calm, standing boldly with his arms at his sides. Why didn’t he wear muramasa? Was he not allowed a weapon? The men pointed their polearms at Jarod as they started to approach. As they stabbed at him in unison, he fell back onto his hands and kicked the polearms up and away from him just below their blades. Then he flipped backward, landing on his feet again.
The men, undaunted, started to circle him. Jarod rushed one, dodged the thrust of the man’s polearm, snapped off the blade, and held it at the man’s throat before he could react. As Jarod pulled the blade away, the man bowed and walked off the stage. Surprisingly, Jarod was holding back his newfound speed.
The other nine seemed more wary now, slowly approaching in a tighter formation. With a blade in hand, Jarod moved straight at them. As the first one started to attack, Jarod knocked the weapon aside and quickly slid into the gap between it and the nearest polearm. He stopped short of stabbing the second man’s chest while simultaneously kicking the back of the first man’s knee. After a tiny pause, he maneuvered the weapon back at the first man’s throat. He then flipped over an attack from a third man, kicked him to the ground and stabbed at a fourth. The other half quickly followed suit.
I was faster and stronger than Jarod even with the enhancement he now had, but I doubted I’d ever consider myself as dangerous. Where I would have knocked men down repeatedly until they stopped fighting, Jarod quite clearly would have killed these men had he followed through with his attacks.
Before the last two men had even left the stage, five more stepped onto it, drawing swords immediately. As they charged Jarod, I was certain one of them wasn’t human. He was too graceful, too at ease. Jarod dodged the first attack, disarmed the man and sliced open the front of his armor while twisting the sword around to block two attacks. A faint line of blood could be seen through the severed armor, but the wound didn’t look deep to me.
Jarod then stepped over a blade aimed at his leg as he pushed the attackers back. He slipped around one and brought the hilt of his sword into the man’s head. The second attacker took another swing, but his wrist connected hard against the back of Jarod’s sword, breaking bone.
The remaining two advanced, but Jarod made a slashing motion across the two injured men as if he was finishing them off. He didn’t hesitate as he pushed the right man’s blade into the attack of the left one’s and stopped short of stabbing through the first man. I then realized that Jarod had also noticed which of his opponents was strongest. He had purposely been picking off his weaker opponents first.
The last attacker pulled a tantō from his belt as he spun around his comrade, aiming the knife at Jarod’s waist as his sword came for Jarod’s head. The tantō was moving faster than I believed a human was able to stab while the sword moved at a more believable pace. I winced as Jarod used the arm of the man he stopped short of stabbing to block the tantō while slamming the back of his blade up into the attacker’s wrist.
As another attack came with the tantō, Jarod twisted the man’s arm, broke it, and grabbed the tantō out of the air. He continued under the man’s arm, tripping him and falling with him while moving the dagger to the back of the man’s throat.
Unlike the others, the man didn’t bow and retreat after he stood; he attacked again, kicking at Jarod with inhuman speed. Without hesitation, Jarod stabbed the tantō into the back of the man’s ankle while stepping forward and thrusting his sword through the man’s stomach. I grimaced as the man yelled out in pain and fell.
Without another glance at the man, Jarod left the weapons in him and walked to the edge of the stage. After a bow, Jarod proceeded off, following a path away from where I could see.
“I would consider that a decisive victory.” stated Alma.
“Is that man going to die?” I asked.
Alma quickly assured me “No, of course not. Those are skilled physicians rushing to him.”
At the same time, Aaliyah said, “Yes, but not today!”
As thankful as I was that Jarod hadn’t killed anyone, I didn’t feel inclined to watch him fight again if anyone was foolish enough to force him into one. Watching my best friend cold-heartedly injure others was unpleasant at best. I couldn’t deny the efficiency of his method, but I could take no pleasure in the sight of anyone injured.
“James, relax. They’ll all be fine.” insisted Alma.
“Sorry. I will never understand why things have to be so brutal with your family.” I admitted.
“I would hardly call this brutal, especially compared to that one.” she argued, pointing at Aaliyah.
Aaliyah grinned in a most adorable fashion as she said, “I’m brutal!”
“But what’s the point?” I asked.
“You’re right. My family should go back to playing chess with the lives of others, pitting army versus army to decide a victor.” teased Alma.
“Not funny. Aren’t there enough resources for people to live peacefully?” I suggested.
Alma frowned and seemed to be considering how to answer.
“This has to happen, boss-man, sir. I promise to show you why relatively soon.” replied Aaliyah.
“Are you admitting to scheming against my family?” asked Alma.
“No. I simply know which Slayer’s plan this is. Everything will happen as it should.” insisted Aaliyah.
Alma looked troubled by the statement, but I really didn’t get any of it. What sort of person would think this is necessary and why would Aaliyah agree? Would I ever really understand?
Aaliyah tugged my sleeve and smiled again when I looked at her. Then she said, “Yes, boss-man, sir. Yes, you will.”