You have just read of the brave knight Raiko’s exploits at Oyeyama and how he rid the country of the demons who haunted the city of Kyoto and terrified the inhabitants of the Flower Capital (as that city was sometimes called) by their terrible deeds.
There are other interesting stories about him and his fearless warrior-retainers which you may like to hear. It was not long after Raiko’s exploits at Oyeyama that the country rang with the name of Kidomaru, a robber and highwayman, who, by his notorious deeds of cruelty and robbery, had caused his name to be feared and hated by all, both young and old.
One evening Raiko with his attendants was returning home from a day’s hunting, when he happened to pass the house of his younger brother Yorinobu. The warrior had had a long day out; and having still a good distance to ride before he would reach his own house the thought of a good meal and friendly company, just then, when he was tired and very hungry, was pleasant to contemplate in the lonely hour of twilight. So he called a halt outside the house and sent in word to his brother that he, Raiko, was passing by, and that if Yorinobu had any refreshment to offer his brother, he would call in and stay the night there, as he was tired out on his way back from a day’s hunt.
Now in Japan an elder brother or sister commands respect from the younger members of the family, and so Yorinobu was very pleased that Raiko, his elder brother, had condescended to call upon him.
The servant soon returned with the message that Yorinobu was only too pleased to receive Raiko; that he had ordered a feast to be prepared that evening in honour of an unusual event, and as he was alone, nothing could be more opportune or give him greater joy than that his elder brother should have chanced to come by. He humbly begged Raiko that he would deign to share the feast, such as it was, and to pardon the poorness of his hospitality.
Raiko was very pleased with his brother’s gracious reception. He quickly flung the reins to his groom, dismounted from his horse, and entered the house, wondering what could be the occasion of Yorinobu’s ordering a banquet for himself. When the warrior was shown into the room he found Yorinobu seated on the mats drinking saké, as the servants were bringing in the first dishes of the dinner. When the salutations were over, Yorinobu handed Raiko his wine-cup.
Raiko took it, and having drained it, asked what his brother meant by the feast he had promised him and what was the occasion of it. Yorinobu laughed as if with triumph, and wheeling round on his cushion pointed out into the garden. Raiko then looked in the direction indicated by his brother’s hand, and saw, tied up to a large pine tree, a young man who could not be much over thirty and of extraordinary strength. The face of the captive expressed hate and ferocity, his body was of an enormous build, while his arms and legs were like trunks of pine trees, so large and brown and muscular were they. His hair was a rough and matted shock, and the eyes glared as if they would start from their sockets. Indeed to Raiko the wild creature looked more like a demon than a human being.
“Well, Yorinobu!” said Raiko, “the occasion of your feast is to say the least unusual; it must certainly have given you some sport to catch that wild creature; but tell me who he is that you have got tied up out there.”
“Have you not heard of Kidomaru, the notorious robber?” answered Yorinobu. “There he is! One of my men captured him out on the hills; he found him asleep. The town has long been clamouring for him. He has a big score to settle at last. For to-night I intend to keep him tied up like that, and to-morrow I shall hand him over to the law! Come, let us be merry, for the dinner is served!”
Raiko clapped his hands when he heard of the great feat Yorinobu and his men had accomplished in catching the fearful robber, the terror of whose lawless deeds had long held the people of Kyoto trembling with fear and dread. The outlaw Kidomaru was caught at last and by his own brother Yorinobu! This was an event of rejoicing and congratulation for the family.
“You have certainly done a meritorious service to your country,” said he, “but it is ridiculous to tie such a creature up with a rope only. You might just as well think of tying up a wild cow with a fine kite-string. It would be less dangerous. Take my advice, Yorinobu, put a strong iron chain round him, or the murderer will soon be at large again.”
Yorinobu thought his brother’s advice wise, so he clapped his hands. When the servant came to answer the summons, he ordered him to bring an iron chain. When this was brought, he went into the garden, followed by Raiko and his men, and wound it round Kidomaru’s body several times, securing it at last to a post with a padlock.
Kidomaru up to this time had rejoiced at his light bonds. He was so strong that he knew he could easily break a rope, and he had waited but for the nightfall to make good his escape under cover of the darkness. You can imagine how great was his anger at Raiko’s interference, which was the cause of his being treated with so much severity that his projected escape would now be difficult.
“Hateful man!” muttered Kidomaru to himself. “I will surely punish you for what you have done to me! Remember!” and he threw evil glances at Raiko.
But the brave warrior cared little for the wild robber’s malignant glances; he only laughed when he noticed them, and, as the chain was drawn tighter round the robber, he said: “That’s right! That chain will hold him sure enough! You must run no risk of his escaping this time!”
Then he and Yorinobu returned to the house, and dinner was served and the two brothers made merry the whole evening, talking over old times, and it was late before they retired to rest.
Now Kidomaru knew that Raiko slept in Yorinobu’s house, and he made up his mind to try to slay him that night, for he was mad with wrath at what Raiko had done to him.
“He shall see what I can do!” growled Kidomaru to himself, shaking his rough and shaggy head like a big long-haired terrier. He waited quietly till every one in the house had gone to rest and all was silent. Then Kidomaru arose, cramped and stiff from sitting tied up so long. With a mighty effort he flung out his great arms, laughing defiance at the chain that bound him. So great was his strength that no second effort was needed; the chain broke and fell clanking to the ground at once, and Kidomaru, like a large hound, shook himself free from his bonds. Softly as a mouse he approached the house and climbed on to the roof, and with one tremendous blow from his huge fist, he broke through the tiles and the boards to the ceiling. His plan was to jump down upon Raiko while he lay sleeping, and taking him unawares suddenly to cut off his head. But the warrior had lain down to rest expecting such an attack, and he had slept but lightly. As soon as he heard the noise above him, he was wide awake in an instant, and to warn his enemy he coughed and cleared his throat. Kidomaru was a man of fierce and dauntless character, and he was not in the least thrown back in his purpose by finding that Raiko was awake. He went on with his work of making a hole large enough in the ceiling to let himself through to the room beneath.
Raiko now sat up and clapped his hands loudly to summon his men, who slept in an adjoining room. Watanabe, the chief man-at-arms, came out to see what his master wanted.
“Watanabe,” said Raiko, “my sleep has been disturbed by something moving in the ceiling. It may be a weasel, for weasels are noisy creatures. It cannot be a rat, for a rat is not large enough to make so much noise. At any rate, it seems impossible to sleep to-night, so saddle the horses and get all the men ready to start. I will get up and ride out to the Temple of Mount Kurama. I want all the men to accompany me.”
Perched between the roof and the ceiling, the robber heard all this, and said to himself: “What ho! Raiko goes to Kurama! That is good news! Instead of wasting my time here like a rat in a trap, I will set out for Kurama immediately and get there before those stupid men can, and I will waylay them and kill them all.” So Kidomaru crawled out on the roof again, let himself down to the ground, and hurried with all the speed he could make to Kurama.
A large plain had to be crossed in going from the city to Kurama, and here a number of wild cattle had their home.
When Kidomaru, on his way to Kurama, came to this spot, a plan flashed across his mind by which he could steal a march on Raiko. He soon caught one of the big oxen a blow on the head. Three blows one after the other, and the ox fell dead at the robber’s feet. Kidomaru then proceeded to strip off its skin. It was very hard work, but he managed to do it quickly, so strong was he, and then throwing the hide over himself he lay down completely disguised, a man in a bull’s hide, and waited for Raiko and his men to come.
He had not long to wait. Raiko, followed by his four braves, soon came in sight. The warrior reined in his horse when he came to the plain and saw the cattle. He turned to his men and said: “Here is a place where we may find some sport. Instead of going on to Kurama, let us stay here and have some hunting! Look at the wild cattle!”
The four retainers with one accord all gladly agreed to their chief’s proposal, for they loved sport and adventure just as much as Raiko and were glad of an excuse to show their skill as huntsmen. The sun was just rising, and the prospect of a fine morning added zest to the pastime. Each man prepared his bow and arrows in readiness to begin the chase.
But the cattle, thus disturbed, did not enjoy the sport. Man’s play was their death indeed. One of their number had been killed by Kidomaru, and now they were attacked by Raiko and his men, who came riding furiously into their midst, shooting at them with bows and arrows. With angry snorts, whisking their tails on high and butting with their horns, they ran to right and left. In the general stampede that followed their attack, the hunters noticed that one animal lay still in the tall grass. At first they thought it must be either lame or ill, so they took no notice of it, and left it alone till Raiko came riding up. He went up and looked at it carefully, and then ordered one of his men to shoot it.
The man obeyed, and taking his bow, shot an arrow at the recumbent animal. The arrow did not hit the mark; for, to the astonishment of the four hunters, the hide was flung aside and out stepped the robber Kidomaru.
“You, Raiko! It is you, is it?” exclaimed he. “Do you know that I have a spite against you?” and with these words he darted forward and attacked Raiko with a dagger. But Raiko did not even move in his saddle. He drew his sword and, adroitly guarding himself, exchanged two or three strokes with the robber, and then slashed off his head. But wonderful to relate, so strong was the will that animated Kidomaru that though his head was cut off, his body stood up straight and firm till his right arm, still holding the dagger, struck at Raiko’s saddle. Then, and not till then, it collapsed. It is said that the warriors were all greatly impressed by the malevolent spirit of the robber, which was strong enough to stir the body to action even after the head had been severed from the shoulders.
Such was the death of the notorious robber Kidomaru, at the hands of the brave warrior Raiko who was awarded much praise for the clever way in which he drew Kidomaru out as far as Kurama to kill him. He had understood from Kidomaru’s evil glances that the robber planned to kill him, and he thus avoided causing trouble in his brother’s house. In this instance, as always, Raiko displayed wisdom and bravery.
No sooner, however, was Kidomaru killed, than news was brought to the capital that another man had arisen who imitated Kidomaru in his daily deeds of robbery and other wicked acts. This robber’s name was Kakamadare. One bright moonlight night, Kakamadare was waiting on the plain between Kyoto and Kurama for travellers to come that way, hoping that luck would bring some rich man into his clutches. Presently he heard some one coming towards him playing on a flute. Thinking this somewhat strange, he hid himself in the grass and waited to see who would appear. The sweet music drew nearer and nearer, and then the player came in view. The light of the moon made everything as clear as day, and the robber saw a handsome samurai of soldierly aspect, dressed in beautiful silken robes and wearing a long sword at his side.
“Now’s my opportunity; I’m in luck to-night,” thought the robber, as he rose from his hiding-place and stealthily followed the flute-player. As he kept step by step behind him, Kakamadare drew his sword in readiness several times to cut down his prey, and waited for the chance to strike.
All at once the samurai turned and looked steadily at the robber, who began to tremble. Then the knight calmly and coolly resumed his playing, as if utterly indifferent to the danger which threatened him. Once more the robber followed, with the intention of cutting the man down, but the opportunity for which he waited never came; each time his hand went up with his sword, it as quickly fell to his side. A spirit of high and noble purpose seemed to emanate from the knight, which cowed the man behind and made him weak. For so great is the virtue of the sword that in Japan it is an acknowledged fact that all noble swordsmen had this power of subduing lesser natures by the spiritual grace which went forth from them. Indeed the belief in the occult power of the sword was great, and it was said that no bad man could keep the possession of a fine blade.
Kakamadare could not strike. He could not tell the cause of his weakness. He thought that it might be the influence of the music. He found himself listening to the gentle strains of the flute, and admiring the skill with which the man played. He noticed the firm and fearless air of the knight as he walked and his great nerve. The man knew himself to be followed by a robber, yet he showed not the least concern. Kakamadare tried to turn back now, but he found that he could do nothing but follow the man in front of him. In this way the strange pair reached the town. Kakamadare now made a great effort to break the spell, and was on the point of turning back and trying to escape from the strange, compelling presence, when to his astonishment the samurai suddenly wheeled round upon him and said: “Kakamadare, I thank you for your trouble! You have given me a safe escort!”
At this the robber became so terrified that he fell down on his knees and was unable to move or speak for some moments. At last, so soon as his tongue found utterance, he said: “I know not who you are, but I beg you to forgive me! I would have killed you!”
He then confessed everything to the knight. He told him of his many deeds of robbery and violence which had made him feared and hated by the people, who thought that he must be a demon, for so cruel and relentless was he that he never showed mercy even to the poorest peasant. “I have never met any one like you,” Kakamadare went on to say. “I promise to give up my life as a robber, and I beg you to take me into your service as one of the humblest of your retainers.” The knight led the man home, and gave him some good clothes, telling him that when he again got into straits and wanted money or clothes, he might come a second time to the house, but that it was unwise to show such contempt for others as to enter into an encounter where he himself might be the injured party.
This kindness and mercy touched the man’s heart, and from that day he became a reformed man and a law-abiding citizen. The knight was none other than Hirai, one of the warriors who accompanied Raiko in his successful expedition against the demons of Oyeyama. There is a saying that “Brave generals make brave soldiers,” and it is quite true. Raiko was a man of great sagacity and courage, and his band of braves and the knight Hirai, of whom we have just read, were like their master. There were no men in the whole of Japan braver than they. This proves the truth of the old adage.
There is another story about the General Raiko which you may like to hear. The sword with which Raiko slew Kidomaru was called the Kumokiri, or Spider-cutting Sword, and about the naming of this blade there is an interesting story. It happened at one time that Raiko was unwell and was obliged to keep his room. Every night at about twelve a little acolyte would come to his bedside, and in a kind and gentle way pour out and give him some medicine to take. Raiko noticed that he did not know the boy, but as there were many underlings in the servants’ quarters whom he never saw, this did not strike him as strange. But Raiko, instead of recovering, found himself growing weaker and weaker, and especially after taking the medicine he always felt worse.
At last one day he spoke to his head servant and asked him who it was that brought him medicine every night, but the attendant answered that he knew nothing about the medicine and that there was no acolyte in the house. Raiko now suspected some supernatural snare. “Some malevolent being is taking advantage of my illness and trying to bewitch me or to cause my death. When the boy comes again to-night I will find out his real form. He may be a fox or goblin in disguise!” said Raiko.
So he waited for the appearance of the acolyte, wondering what the strange incident could mean.
When midnight came, the boy, as usual, appeared, bringing with him the usual cup of medicine. The knight calmly took the cup from the boy and said, “Thank you for your trouble!” but instead of swallowing the false medicine, he threw it, cup and all, at the boy’s head. Then jumping up he seized the sword that lay beside his bed and cut at the impostor. As the blade fell, the acolyte screamed with rage and pain, then, with a movement as quick as lightning, before he turned to escape from the room, he threw something at the knight, which, marvellous to relate, as he threw, spread outwards pyramidically into a large white sticky web which fell over Raiko and clung to him so that he could hardly move. Raiko whirled his sword round and cut the clinging meshes and freed himself; again the goblin threw a web over him, and again Raiko cut the enmeshing threads away; once more the huge spider’s web—for such it was—was thrown over him, and then the goblin fled. Raiko called for his men and then sank exhausted on his bed.
His chief retainer, answering the summons, met the acolyte in the corridor, and thinking it strange that an unknown priest, however young, should come from his master’s room at that hour of the night, stopped him with drawn sword. The goblin answered not a word, but threw his entangling web over the man and mysteriously disappeared.
Now thoroughly alarmed, the retainer hastened to Raiko. Great was his consternation when he saw his master, with the meshes of the goblin’s web still clinging to him.
“See!” exclaimed Raiko, pointing to the threads still clinging to his man and himself, “a goblin spider has been here!”
He then gave orders to hunt down the goblin, but the thing could nowhere be found. On the white mats and along the corridors they found as they searched red drops of blood, which showed that the creature had been wounded. Raiko’s men followed the red trail, out into the garden, across the city to the hills, till they came to a cave, and here the blood-drops ceased. Groans and cries of pain issued from the cave, so the warriors felt sure that they had come to the end of their hunt.
“The goblin is surely hiding in that cave!” they all said. Drawing their swords, they entered the cave and found a monster spider writhing with pain and bleeding from a deep sword-cut on the head. They at once killed the creature and carried it to Raiko.
The knight had often heard stories of these dreadful spiders, but had never seen one before.
“It was this goblin spider then that wanted to prey upon me! The net that was thrown over me was a spider’s web! Of all my adventures this is the strangest!” said Raiko.
That night Raiko ordered a banquet to be prepared for all his retainers in honour of the event, and he drank to the health of his five brave men.
From that time the acolyte never appeared and Raiko recovered his health and strength at once.
Such is the story of the Kumokiri Sword. Kumo means “spider,” and kiri means “cutting,” and it was so named because it cut to death the goblin spider who haunted the brave knight Raiko.
Kidomaru the Robber, Raiko the Brave, and the Goblin Spider – Warriors of Old Japan and Other Stories