Ninja Justice: Six Tales of Murder and Revenge

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9784770025371: Ninja Justice: Six Tales of Murder and Revenge
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His name is Baian; his professions are acupuncture and murder. A needle deftly inserted into the human body can bring relief and healing; or, in the defense of justice and honor--and for the right price--it can also bring instant death.

Set in a world of corrupt samurai lords, ruthless merchant princes, fawning geisha, and deadly ninja, Ninja Justice introduces Baian and his friend and accomplice Hikojiro in six tales of murder and deceit:

"Two Wives"--A scheming prostitute has her lover's wife murdered so that she can marry him herself.

"The Uncertain Assassin"--Baian is undecided. Should he kill the witness or should he save her dying brother?

"Four Killers"--Baian becomes the target of two desperate hired killers.

"Autumn Journey"--Hikojiro's past involves Baian in a perilous chase--to the death.

"Leave Him to His Fate"--Baian watches his victim die of natural causes but still earns his fee.

"New Year's Noodles"--Double-crossed by a ruthless underworld boss and his samurai patron, Baian and Hikojiro exact a terrible revenge.

Previously published as Master Assassin, this collection of six riveting stories is a rare example in English of jidai historical adventure fiction, one of the most popular genres in Japan. Western readers familiar withf Eric Van Lustbader and James Clavell will welcome this new paperback edition of a Japanese popular classic.

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About the Author:

Shotaro Ikenami was born in Tokyo in 1923. Best known as a leading writer of Japanese historical adventure novels, many of his tales of ninja, samurai, and assassins have been successfully adapted for stage, screen, and television. Ikenami died in 1990.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

In the middle of the night he slipped into the Manshichi unnoticed. He climbed onto the roof of a neighboring house and crept from rooftop to rooftop until he came to the Manshichi's inner garden. His movements were slow, as usual, but he moved with an easy grace, passing through the night without making a sound to betray himself. If any of his neighbors had seen him now, as he moved wraithlike over the roofs, they would not have believed their eyes.

He slipped under the building from the garden and crawled until he was directly below the floor of one of the storerooms. Using a dagger, he pried one of the floorboards loose and climbed in. The building was silent, and as he crept down the hall he could hear the breathing of the servants in the rooms he passed. He was wearing a dark kimono with the hem tucked up into his sash at the back. He had dark blue trousers and tabi socks, and his face was masked with a piece of dark-colored cloth. His straw sandals were tucked into his sash so that he made no sound as he walked.

He came to the master bedroom, from which he could hear someone's ragged breathing. Sliding the door open a fraction, he peered in and saw Zenshiro sleeping by himself. The room smelled of medicine.

He closed the door again and continued around the corner to Omino's room. He crept into the room adjoining the bedroom and opened the door silently. She was lying in bed, her arms and legs entangled with those of a man in his mid-thirties. Their clothes lay scattered around the room. Baian guessed that the man must be Omino's former pimp, Shinsuke. He slipped into the room and squatted at the end of the bed for a moment, never taking his eyes off their faces. There was a tray with a flask of water and a cup by Omino's pillow. Crawling over to it, he moved the cup away, then poured the water onto the tray.

He took a sheet of thick paper from his kimono and spread it in the water to soak. He then slipped a large leather ring onto the finger of his right hand. Moving with fluid grace, he reached inside his kimono with his left hand, took out an assassin's needle, and placed it between his lips.

Next he spread the wet paper on the tatami mat next to the bed and sat looking down at Omino's face in the dim light of the lantern that illuminated the room.

Her hair was in disarray, and her mouth hung half open, giving him a view of her fashionably blackened teeth. Her left shoulder was exposed, and he could see numerous bite marks on her body, which spoke of the frenzy of the couple's lovemaking earlier that night.

As he looked at her an indescribable look of anger and regret played briefly over his features. Suddenly he moved. With almost superhuman speed he picked up the sheet of paper with his left hand and plastered it over her face. He pulled the bedding down to her waist and grasped the needle he had been holding in his mouth with his right hand. Omino's eyes flew open in shock at finding the paper on her face, but before she could call out, Baian plunged the needle straight into her heart. Her body twitched twice, and then she lay still. The man lying next to her continued to snore.

The room smelled of sake and sex. Baian grimaced in disgust and covered her body with the bedclothes again before backing slowly out the room. Two hours later he was sitting in his own bedroom, drinking a cup of sake. It was not long before dawn. Crawling into bed, he was soon fast asleep, a relaxed look on his face.

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