This has been formatted differently for viewing and does not reflect the complete content of illustrative work in the story. The actual books however, do show the complete drawings along with the remainder of the illustrations I selected for them. The initial copies of the first book, do not contain all of the illustrations. All of my work follows the standards of the publishing industry.....sometimes. heh




“The Willow and the Warrior”



Book One


A Trilogy

©2008 H.A.Irwin,Jr.




Prologue


It was in an ancient land, long, long ago. It was a time of legends and myths of epic proportions. Prophecy told of a great warrior to come and that he would change the face of the land forever. It was a time of great peace and tranquility in the Ancient Land of Liu Chiu.




Chapter One


"The Encounter"




They were both born of a royal lineage. TsuruTe was from the “Te” family of Ancient South Asia, and ToraKen was from the “Kenjo” family of Ancient Northern NyHan.

TsuruTe was steeped in dance tradition from her mother Okaku and the fighting traditions from her father Hakkucho. They were a proud family that led the flocks on migration across the lands and seas. Chance has it that they were blown off course on a migration trip to the southern mountain tips of “Ancient Liu Chiu.”

They found refuge there amongst gigantic bamboo forests, plentiful fishing holes and tall mountains to practice their flying skills against the currents. Her family was originally from the southern reaches of Ancient Fouchoo Province.
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illustrator unknown
They lived in a beautiful valley filled with cherry blossom trees and abundant with streams. Ponds that are filled with fish and frogs. It was in this wonderful valley where she learned dance from her mother, fish, studying Crane Fist from her father, but above all else, play. She loved sitting in the cherry blossom trees. She found that from high in the trees she could spy down on the ponds and streams and gain vantage when looking for something to eat.

She also loved to sit from there and watch her mother and father dance and train. They were both very proficient in the Arts. She would mimic her parent’s movements late, late into the night, every night. Her parents would fuss with her for being up too late quite often. But they knew also that TsuruTe loved the Arts just as much, if not more than they did. They versed her to their utmost as a result.
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illustrator unknown
When TsuruTe’s mother and father were tragically killed by soldiers, TsuruTe vowed vengeance on the man responsible, Semajin. Lord Semajin was a power hungry ruler that lived in Northern Liu Chiu. He would travel to the southern most regions of Liu Chiu to kill cranes for their feathers for his “Bamboo Festival” he held at his palace every two years.

He knew of the royal cranes that migrated there and would send soldiers to trap birds of all kinds for their plumage every year…especially cranes. TsuruTe vowed one day she would have her revenge…but there was more...
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illustrated by Paul Karnstedt
Lord Semajin was a brutal warlord from the Kang family of Ancient NyHan. His father; Emperor Kang, ruled his land with a steel fist destroying any and all that would oppose his rules and laws. On one earlier account Semajin witnessed the death of an entire family because they refused to let Kang take one of their daughters for his consort. Kang had an affinity for young girls and this is where Semajin learned his taste for control.

It was through his father that he learned how to control people and things. When Kang would have his ways with the young girls he would get furious for the slightest error on their behavior. He would then instruct Semajin to whip and torture the unwilling girls until they begged for mercy, which did not come quickly.

This is where Semajin found pleasure in inflicting pain on others and that control; was everything. Emperor Kang ravaged his subjects, from taking their young daughters for consorts to taking their sons to serve in his army. He would kill out entire villages that opposed his rule and then set up his trustworthy cohorts to plant the land seized with the deadly opium poppy. He used the poppy to control his consorts, his thieves, who were many, and to poison his enemies.

Rulers of adjacent lands Kang wanted would be invited to the palace to talk of "changes" and new discoveries in the land. If you were opposed to Kang's suggestions or decrees he would use the poppy to poison food and drink of the opposed. His or her bodies would be disposed of in the China Sea for no one to find.
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*photoshopped*
He would then go to the dead opponent’s land and set afire the land and kill everyone and everything in sight, right down to the animals they tended. He would then have the land routed to plant the deadly poppy. This went on for generations until neighboring warlords plotted against Kang to kill him and take control of the country. They were successful but failed to kill Emperor Kang. Kang was able to commandeer a ship and make his and his son's escape from certain death.

Their ship crashed on the northeast shores of Liu Chiu, when they were caught up in a maelstrom storm trying to flee their impending capture. As a result Kang was thrown from the ship to be instantly eaten by sharks that ruled the China Seas off the coasts of Liu Chiu.
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*photoshopped*
The last words Semajin heard from his father was to conquer these foreign lands and take revenge for their actions and that; Semajin did. He became the only ruler of Liu Chiu besides King Kafu in central southern Liu Chiu. The only reason he could not overthrow King Kafu was because of his ties with other neighboring countries and the vastness of his armies and amount of men in his service.

To try to overthrow King Kafu would be certain suicide. But he knew one day he might get the chance. So whenever he could he would cause chaos in the land. Then blame it on King Kafu's reign. But little did he know that the winds of destiny would alter his plans for his own displeasure.

ToraKen on the other hand was raised lavishly in the royal courts of King Kafu. His mother SanBa; a rare black tiger, had died at birthing ToraKen. ToraKen looked just like his father with exception that the white hair around his jaws was black instead of white.

He also had a black stripe from nose to tip of tail. The tip of his tail was black and so was his front left paw. His father Hakko was the king’s favorite, a glorious white tiger. So ToraKen became the talk and object of all the court members’ attentions. This spoiled little ToraKen, and his father saw this and was displeased.

Hakko set out to show his son what it means to be tora and started to train young ToraKen in Ma-Washi; Big/Small Circle” Tiger Claw. Hakko would have ToraKen hang from the bamboo by his claws for hours until ToraKen cried in pain. Then he would even have him balance on a bamboo log in the river for balance and strength. Many days and late into the nights Hakko would train ToraKen.

He would take him into the jungle for training to sharpen his sight at night and sharpen his senses. He knew this would come in handy if ever there were a chance he should get separated from the royal family and have to fend for himself. ToraKen loved the jungle. He would climb the larger bamboo trees and jump from one to the other like a monkey. This sharpened his agility and claw strength greatly.

His father would go through hours and hours of the strategies of the Ma-Washi Tiger Claw System. Circle; then move. Then circle, move, and strike. And then; circle, move, strike, and seize. Hakko grew so proud of ToraKen. He knew ToraKen would become the fiercest and strongest tora in all the lands.
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illustrated by Shani Carpenter/H.A.Irwin,Jr.
On occasion, Lord Semajin would travel to Kafu’s to purchase tigers for his “Cat Fights” he held to make money off the neighboring warlords. On one of his many visits he held in awe ToraKen and his father playing in the courtyard one day. He approached the King with the bargain of purchasing the two. But the King refused. As much as he offered the King refused.

This angered Semajin. Semajin plotted to set the palace on fire and steal ToraKen and his father away.He succeeded and left the palace in ruins. On the way back to Semajin’s castle the soldiers poked and teased Hakko with their weapons until he could have no more and he attacked and killed two of Semajin’s soldiers. ToraKen watched in horror as they killed his father.

Fire set deep in ToraKen’s heart and he burst through the cage walls, bamboo splintering and attacked. ToraKen killed four soldiers in a flash. Semajin was scarred on his face and torso by ToraKen’s Ma-Washi training and escaped. He was able to flee from Semajin’s hands and found himself far, far away. Tired and hungry he rested. He dreamt of killing Semajin one day. “I will avenge you my father,” he growled in the night.



And the story begins…



Legend has it, that when ToraKen was looking for food the next day, he happened across a beautiful crane gracefully catching frogs from a lily pond.
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illustrated by Paul Karnstedt
He chanced to catch her as he was ravenously hungry and would have eaten anything to satisfy himself. Try as he could, TsuruTe would evade and peck him on the head. Finally after much frustration and being thrown in the pond, he gave up. TsuruTe asked of him, “Why are you trying to catch me? I am not your enemy.”

ToraKen responded, “I haven’t eaten for days and I feared I would starve if not.” TsuruTe shook her head and gently, cautiously, walked over to the pond. Looking over, she spied a fish swimming by. With one swift strike the large fish was stuck on her beak. “Will this do?” she asked.
Picture
illustrated by Shani Carpenter/H.A.Irwin,Jr.
ToraKen was amazed. “How did you do that?” he asked. “Patience, and quickness,” she responded. “But I am ToraKen, fastest and strongest in this land, besides KanBun the Mountain Dragon,” ToraKen retorted. TsuruTe looked at him and smiled. “Well, apparently you are not as swift and strong as you think ne?” ToraKen hung his head low and said, “I guess not.” TsuruTe brushed a wing by ToraKen’s face and said, “Let us walk and talk for awhile, shall we?”

They shared much together. Lessons in life so far and laughter too. They would spend so much time together, that when apart, all they could do was think of each other and what they might do the next day. Everyday they would go to the lily pond and ToraKen would watch, as TsuruTe would catch fish after fish for them to eat. They would then sit and talk for awhile.

Then, after much talk they would share their strategies of hunting and skill together. They were building a bond together that would last a lifetime, and did not even know it.

Sometimes after training together ToraKen would fall asleep and TsuruTe would just gaze at him as he slept. He was so strong she thought, yet so kind deep in his heart. She thought to herself, I wish he were a crane also. She had grown so fond of him in the time they had spent together so far. This saddened her, because she knew that a crane and a tiger could never be together as one.
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*photoshopped*
One day, ToraKen went to the pond for their everyday meetings. He was there for what seemed like an eternity. TsuruTe did not come. He went to the pond thinking, “Maybe she has been delayed.” He started to catch fish thinking she will be here soon.

“She will be so proud to see all the fish I had caught for us to eat,” he thought to himself. Time passed as he caught more and more fish, and before he knew it, there were too many fish for the both of them to eat. This started to bother him as he realized she was not coming. Bother turned to worry then disappointment.

ToraKen grew sad, so sad that he wept himself to sleep thinking of her. When he awoke it was dark and cold from the mid night air. Saddened, he started his long journey back to his cave. He thought to himself, “What could have happened to TsuruTe? Did she just forget? Or did something happen to her?”

His concern for TsuruTe kept him awake with worry until he finally cried himself to sleep. He dreamt of her dancing on the water and singing her beautiful song as she danced. When he awoke later that morning all he could do was think of her.

He went back to the lily pond and waited and waited. But TsuruTe did not come. He caught more fish, but when he tried to eat, he could not. All he could think of was her, and the time they had spent together by the lily pond. The walk home was a sad and lonely walk by him. He thought, “What did I do? Did I say something or do something to make her stay away?”

Then it dawned on him, “Oh no. Something has happened to my precious TsuruTe.” He thought to himself, “Maybe another tora caught her and ate her,” or maybe worse, she did not want to see him anymore and never return. He cried again and could not stop, until the sadness turned to anger.

He walked through the woods looking for something to kill. But, in his anger he realized, “What good will this do? It will not bring my beautiful TsuruTe back to me.” He had made up his mind at that point to search for TsuruTe, no matter what, until he had found her.

The hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks. His heart was broken, and his will to live was waning. “What shall I do?” He asked of himself. “If I can not find her what good is life without her?”

"I will kill myself,” he pondered. ToraKen thought about this for a long time then realized it to be of foolishness and folly. He longed to see TsuruTe again. His grief and concern for TsuruTe was so great, but he kept searching for her, until one day he realized… “I must still be sleeping and dreaming this nightmare,” he thought.

“Maybe if I run back to my cave and lie back down I will awake from this horrible dream.” As quickly as he could, he raced back to his cave to lie back down. Hopefully, he thought he could go back into his dream and awaken to find it just that, a dream. But, he did not fall back to sleep and visions of trouble filled his mind terribly.

He thought of all kinds of things that might have happened to TsuruTe. He moaned and tossed and turned in his bedding, growing more agitated as the hours it seemed, went by. Disgusted with his own plight, he took a walk outside his cave to go sit by the cliff’s edge. As he sat, he looked towards the night sky, only to look to the stars and see TsuruTe’s image conjured in the stars.

He growled at the moon for looking at him with what he felt was contempt. He knew he had to find her, or his life would never be the same. Once again, grief and concern crept in and off to sleep he went. It was an unsettling rest. The next morning ToraKen awoke to find himself just as agitated as the night before.

He did not waste any time in scurrying off to find his dear friend. He thought, “I will go to the lily pond, catch some fish to eat, then be off to find her”. He hadn’t eaten in days and thought it wise to do so, as to maintain his strength. But as he approached the lily pond he saw two white feathers lying on the ground.

He became excited and curious at the same time, and started shouting her name, “TsuruTe…TsuruTe! Where are you TsuruTe?” He was frantic. He ran, and he looked, and he ran even further, hoping to find her. Before he knew it he had run quite a ways from the lily pond. He sat by a rock and cried and moaned.

It felt as if his heart would break. Just then, he heard a loud roar and the shaking of the earth beneath his feet made him realize…he was close to the lair of the mountain dragon, KanBun. KanBun was an old, but wise dragon that had been living on Mt. Doragon for centuries. ToraKen thought to himself, “Maybe I could ask of KanBun if he has seen TsuruTe flying near here?” One problem though...KanBun despised toras because his younger dragon brother Kanei was killed by toras when he was just a baby. KanBun vowed revenge on all tora from that point on. KanBun was known for having mystical abilities and the power to enchant and cast potions and spells. ToraKen thought of his notion and decided he would approach KanBun and ask of him, no matter what the consequences. He decided he would rather be dead than to live without TsuruTe...




Chapter Two

"The Ties that Bind"




“Blood may be thicker than water,but whose or which blood,really?”

“Neko”






Slowly, but steadily, ToraKen ascended the mountain. He was trying to be as quiet as a mouse as not to disturb KanBun from his activities. Each step was a painstaking lesson in stealth for him. The closer he got, the more the ground trembled. At one point, he almost lost his footing and fell. He gazed backwards to notice he was already thousand’s of feet above the ground and dangling by only a talon. His throat gulped as he winced to regain his hold. But, he managed to grab a flat edge of rock and pull his self to safety. Higher and higher he climbed and more and more the earth trembled. He imagined as he climbed that KanBun must be huge. He thought so because of the amount of trembling he felt from the mountain. He had visions of horror, of being eaten by this behemoth and his bones rotting by the mountainside. But,his thoughts of TsuruTe outweighed his vision of being eaten.

Every step he imagined he grew closer and closer to finding her. This strengthened his heart and his grip on the rocks until he had finally reached his destination. When he had finally reached the top, the earth was still shaking, but no KanBun in sight. He crept along wishing he had eyes in the back of his head. The fur on the back of his neck stood up like frozen ice sickles. His eyes welled with water and almost blinded him with the salt in its bath. He wiped his eyes. As he looked over a huge rock he had climbed, there he was KanBun, punching rocks with his bare hands.

Picture
illustrated by Paul Karnstedt
As he drew closer he could hear the sound of hissing coming from KanBun’s mouth like the zither of a cobra preparing to strike at its prey. “SSSSSSTah!.....SSSSSSTah!.....SSSSSTah! " was all he could hear each time that he struck at a boulder. As he coiled to strike again, the ground would begin to tremble as if an earthquake was about to start. “Pop!” Then an explosion, then bits and pieces of rock would fly like steel mosquito projectiles. They flew by ToraKen and stuck into the surrounding rocks that he hid behind, barely missing his face. He shifted to avoid being struck, as he knew that if he did not...the shards would rip his flesh open like a banana peel. He then realized to himself how foolish his intentions must be to approach such a giant for anything. Noble intentions or not. He turned thinking he should escape, only to find himself face to face with KanBun. ToraKen’s whole body started to quiver and his head grew hot with sweat, and he thought to himself, “Time to be eaten.” With this thought in mind he realized if he were to find TsuruTe, he would have to do it on his own. There was no way KanBun was going to help, with the exception to having a morsel of a meal for himself, from what appeared to be a tiny kitten in front of him. He figured he would attack, and try to flee in the hope of regaining his search for TsuruTe.

ToraKen jumped as quickly and as hard as any tora could, only to be swatted like a gnat. “SSSShhthump!” ToraKen hit the ground. Again and again he tried only to find himself being ripped to shreds each time he hit the ground. He saw only TsuruTe in his mind’s eye. Before he could attack again, KanBun reached and grabbed his whole torso in his giant clawed hand and squeezed him almost to the point that ToraKen thought his heart would pop out of his throat. ToraKen screamed a death cry shouting, “TsuruTe!” grew pale... and passed out in the giant’s hand. KanBun held him out away from his breath, and murmured, “TsuruTe? How does this tora know my sweet friend of the sky? I think I have other uses for this tora.”

Walking back to his lair, KanBun thought, “I should just eat him.” When ToraKen awoke, he jumped to his feet thinking, “Where on earth am I?” The pain in his body sent shivers of burning sensations from head to toe…he succumbs to the pain and passes out again. When he awakens again, he opens his eyes to see KanBun is only a heads distance away from him, starring blankly, and angrily. ToraKen snarls, and KanBun says, “What would my dear friend TsuruTe think if I ate you? Ne?” A sigh of relief and fear rose in ToraKen’s heart. He thought to himself, “He’s going to eat me, I just know it.”

“I have known TsuruTe for a long time tora”, says KanBun. “How is that?” replies ToraKen. “It is out of my disdain for toras that we met,” replies Kanbun. “She saved my life.” ToraKen looked puzzled and asks, “How did a crane save one such as you?” KanBun replies, “My brother Kanei and I, as young fledglings, were out away from our parents one day just playing, when we realized we had wandered away from our lair. We were lost. As we tried to find our way we wandered farther and farther away for the safety of home to find ourselves on the edge of tora land.”

“We could see our cave from where we were and tried to make our way back when we were confronted by six adult tora on a hunting expedition. The two of us could have handled maybe one tora, but not six. We tried to escape, but as we tried to flee, Kanei was caught. I tried to reach him but they killed him right before my eyes. Now you can see my disdain for toras, ne?”

“I did not know KanBun”, replied ToraKen. “How were you able to manage to escape”, asked ToraKen. KanBun replies, “I did not want to leave my dead brother, so I fought back as best I could. Being only so old my fire breathe and claw strength were not what I needed to defend myself, so the tora were getting the best of me. As I parried, I noticed a shadow flying above and around me. It was TsuruTe. She swooped down and started to engage the tora in a fighting frenzy the likes I had never seen before. She pecked and clawed, and it gave me the chance to get free of the danger I was in. But they caught me again. I could hear her cawing as I tried to break away again. She pecked two of the tora’s eyes out with her beak as I watched in amazement. She was fearless! The remaining stopped and left me alone after seeing two of their brethren injured in this way. As they charged TsuruTe, she dodged and evaded them and flew straight at me. Before I knew it, we were airborne. I wondered how she was able to hold the weight of me and still be able to fly. But then I realized she was doing this effortlessly. I realized then how strong cranes really are. She flew me directly up to our lair and set me down gently, right in front of our cave. My mother came out and charged TsuruTe as if to attack, when I screamed in protest, “Mother no! This crane has saved my life! My mother halted and I began to tell her what happened.”

“She wept when she heard me tell her of Kanei and his fate, then turned and chastised me for allowing him and me to wander off so far from the sanctity of our home. But then she turned to TsuruTe and thanked her for saving my life and told her, “This home, our home, will always be a safe haven for you and your kind TsuruTe. Please come and visit and stay for as long as all of your kind may wish. From that day on the cranes have come here off their migratory route to bask in the spring and summer sun,” said KanBun. ToraKen just sat there dumbfounded. He then properly introduced himself and asked KanBun to please forgive him and his brethren for this atrocity. KanBun was stunned, as he had never seen a tora act this way, knowing full well that he could be eaten at anytime. He thought, “What did he have to gain by this?” Then KanBun asked, “Now it's your turn. How did you meet my wonderful and dear friend, TsuruTe?”

ToraKen went on to tell KanBun of their first meeting and what had transpired afterwards and how they became so close. KanBun was shocked. Even though cranes are not the food of toras, “They sure could be for ToraKen, if hungry enough,” he thought. He shook his head and said, “I find this very hard to believe. A bird and a cat that are normally natural enemies fancying each other. Next thing you know I will have a koi pond out front of my cave. Maybe a bamboo garden inside where I can serve tea with teensy weensy bamboo shawl drinks for my enemies before I eat them.”
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*photoshopped*

KanBun laughed to himself. “Maybe not a bad idea,” he thought, then shook his head and turned to stare back at ToraKen. “Why should I believe you tora?” said KanBun, “After what your brothers did to my brother?” ToraKen hung his head low and said, “I would not blame you for eating me right now KanBun. I have done nothing to make you believe that what I say is true.”

“You climbed all the way up here, knowing full well, you might not make it”, said KanBun. “Annd, you could have fallen to your death, or worse, get eaten by me…Why?” “TsuruTe,” ToraKen said. KanBun just stared pensively at the feline, not knowing what to think, when ToraKen asks him, “Do you really think that I fancy a bird?” KanBun laughs again and says, “You are a strange tora, and yes, I think you fancy her. TsuruTe is a special crane. Many different eyes would fancy her.”

“I will be the laughing stock of my tribe,” says ToraKen. “I won’t even be able to find a mate with this hanging over my head”.

“Eat me KanBun, just eat me and put me out of my misery!” ToraKen shouts. KanBun laughs but then ToraKen jumps up as if to try to get in KanBun’s mouth. This stuns KanBun, and he jumps back. “What is wrong with you, you nutty cat!” KanBun roars, “Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?”

“I must be KanBun, I fancy a bird?” ToraKen exclaims. “What am I going to do?” says ToraKen. “I really wish you would just eat me and get it over with,” says ToraKen. “But what of TsuruTe then?” asks KanBun. “You have to help me find her KanBun!” ToraKen shouts. “Yep…in love with a bird,” says KanBun, “In love with a bird… I believe you ToraKen, and I think I will help you, no matter what. That is the least I can do for her.”

Well, KanBun and ToraKen sit and discuss what they should do and what would be the best way to find TsuruTe, for hours into the night. Before you know it, it is almost daylight and KanBun suggests they get some rest as it mayhap to be a long day tomorrow. They settle in for the night. ToraKen dreams of TsuruTe and him at the lily pond, catching fish and talking. Catching glimpses of the moon as it shines through the mighty bamboo, ToraKen smiles in his sleep.


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*photoshopped*




Chapter Three


"The Pact"



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*photoshopped



It is bright morning as KanBun awakens, only to find ToraKen still fast asleep with a grin as big as the crescent moon on his face. “Wake up you silly tora! KanBun exclaimed. It is time to go.” ToraKen stretched it seemed an hour and was finally ready to go. Good thing as it appeared KanBun was growing restless waiting on him to finish what looked like his morning routine. “We should eat before we go so we will not tire on the first part of this journey. Also, we need to talk about what you will owe me for doing this,” says KanBun. “Owe you! I thought TsuruTe was your friend too?” replies ToraKen. “That she is,” says KanBun. “But do you not “Love her?” KanBun looked into ToraKen’s eyes as they welled with tears and said, “You do not have to answer me ToraKen, I can see it in your eyes.” KanBun and ToraKen proceed to hunt for something when they come upon a huge deer with a rack the size of a pine tree. ToraKen says to KanBun, “Let me have the honor of getting our “breakfast” for us, agreed?” “Have at it”, says KanBun.
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*photoshopped

ToraKen stealthily creeps up on the buck and pounces. It just seconds he has it by the throat. They roll for a few feet and Whoomp! Down they go. “It is time to eat,” ToraKen says, “Will this do?” KanBun says sarcastically, “Oh yes, but what will you be having ToraKen?” ToraKen smirks and KanBun laughs and begins to roast the huge buck for them both to “snack” on. After finishing up their breakfast, KanBun says, “Well, we need to talk about your obligation to me, for helping you. I think you will find it a suitable arrangement. Also, I think there are a few “advantages” for you, to this arrangement. First off, the cranes come here every year to sun, mate in the spring and summer. But, the fox here have a field day with them. Sneaky little rogues they are. I want you to come here every year, and stay to protect them. I know how much the tora like nibbling on the fox and you can set as many traps for them as possible.”
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*photoshopped

“I will leave that part up to you. But, they must not interfere with the crane’s time here. Also, the plummers of Lord Semajin come here also to trap cranes for their feathers every year, for his bi-annual Bamboo Festival. You will have to also keep watch and dispose of any of his soldiers that wish to trap and kill any of the cranes and other birds they seek. Agreed?” says KanBun. ToraKen remembers. ToraKen thinks of what KanBun has said...he worries TsuruTe might have been captured and killed by the scoundrels and says, “Oh yes KanBun, oh yes...it is surely agreed. I will look forward to this.” The pact is sealed. ToraKen has a new vigor in his self as he thinks of this fine agreement he has made with KanBun; lord of the sky winds and the Doragon Mountains. He can taste blood as he dwells further on this agreement. “I will do this for my father, you TsuruTe, and all your fowl brethren,” he says to himself as he and KanBun make their way on the start of what could be a long journey.
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*illustrator unknown




Chapter Four


"The Discovery"



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*photoshopped

“It has been a long time since I thought about Semajin...and his dragon Derf,” thought KanBun. “I should have killed them both when I had the chance, but, that is another story,” he pondered. KanBun and ToraKen’s journey takes them winding around Doragon Mountain, down to a huge lake at the bottom. “This is where I come to bathe and relax,” says KanBun. “But, this is also a shortcut to the Bamboo Forest that lie ahead,” says KanBun. “It will cut about a days journey off of our travels," says KanBun. “But what about in between here and there? We could possibly miss something or someone, couldn’t we?” asks ToraKen. “Look up ToraKen," says KanBun. "Do you see the swallows flying above us?” ToraKen looks up at them. “They are our lookouts while we are on our journey. While you slept this morning I made sure everyone in my valley knew what was going on. I enlisted their help, as they are swift like falcons and small enough to hide from anyone that might be in range of us. They will scout ahead of us, and will be able to warn us of any impending danger,” explains KanBun. “Ahhh,” says ToraKen, “That is good to know.” KanBun retorts, “The last thing we need, is to be spotted before we even get started. That would ruin everything and possibly set off an alarm to Lord Semajin. That would cause him to send his soldiers here.”
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“I think I would enjoy that very much Kanbun, very much,” snarls ToraKen. KanBun stops and stares at ToraKen oddly, and asks him, “Is there anything you are not telling me that I should know?” ToraKen proceeds to tell KanBun of his father and how Semajin and his soldiers killed him. He explains to KanBun what had happened at the palace. How Semajin and his soldiers had kidnapped him and his father and burned the palace to the grounds. ToraKen goes on to tell KanBun he wasn’t even sure if anyone survived the events that took place. All that he knew was he and his father were captured and being brought to Semajin’s castle for the amusement of the games. “The soldiers had my father chained, walking him, and poking him with spears as we went,” ToraKen explained. “One of the guards got too close for his own good and tried to slash at my father with a broadsword. But then my father grabbed him by the arm and tore it from his body. The soldiers went crazy and started to attack my father. He tried his best to defend himself, but was overwhelmed by them, and they killed him.” ToraKen wept and started to get lost in his emotions. KanBun said, “ToraKen, let’s stop for a minute. Compose yourself my friend. You need to save this for when we face them, and we will one day!” he snorted. KanBun raised a clawed hand to gently touch ToraKen’s shoulder to show the sympathy he had for him. ToraKen went on to explain how he escaped from the soldiers, but that at least he had killed some of them in the wake of fleeing. “And this is how I got here,” he said to KanBun. ToraKen missed the palace very much so, but missed his mother and father even more. KanBun looked at ToraKen and said, “We have much more in common than I could ever have imagined...you and I, brave tora. Much more in common, yes we do. Well, I am hungry again. What say we get something to eat? It is almost mid-day, and all I’ve had to eat is half a deer for breakfast. We will need to keep our strength up if we expect to keep a good pace going,” explains KanBun. “As soon as we finish eating, we will set out for the LakeWay,” says KanBun. “LakeWay?” ToraKen asks. “Yes, ToraKen. It is a tunnel that travels aside Talon Lake,” explains KanBun. “It will take us about six hours to reach the other side. Then we will camp and find food. After that, we will discuss our plans for the following day and get a good nights rest."
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"We will be at the edge of the Bamboo Forest once we emerge from the tunnel. Let us find something to eat,” says KanBun. “Since I can take to the sky, you stay here. I will bring us back something to eat.” ToraKen agrees, and KanBun takes off to find food. While KanBun is busy finding food, ToraKen takes the time to practice his Ma-Washi skills. He sees in his mind’s eye, him tearing apart Semajin’s soldiers one by one. Ripping, clawing, grabbing soldiers by the heads and tossing them against the stout bamboo tree trunks. Enjoying his imagination right now seemed to overtake him. As he trains, all he sees is more and more soldiers coming at him. He snarls,”Yaaarrrhhh!” A covey of pheasants explodes in the air to flee from the sound. It startles him! He jumps up, sooo high he leaps…it seems like slow motion before he comes back down to the ground. As he grounds himself, he comes down on top of a large rock. He spins on his paws towards the noise, ready for attack. “A-hem, ahh…rocks don’t bite back, you know that, right?” says KanBun, standing there with a water buffalo under each arm. Actually…two under his right arm, for himself, and one under the other for ToraKen. “ Uuugh. I was just training. Nothing wrong with that is there?” snaps ToraKen. “No…not at all, my striped comrade, not at all. Come...help me clean these if you would, so we can eat.” KanBun asks, “How do you like your buffalo? Half cooked or raw?” ToraKen replies, “Like I was envisioning the soldiers of Semajin, almost dead.”
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