Volume 9 is the ninth volume of Shigurui that includes chapters 43-47.
Iraku and Fujiki continue to duel, each displaying masterful techniques neither swordsman nor spectator have ever witnessed before.
Mie faints as the fight continues. Iraku, on the floor once more, counters an attack from Fujiki from above and severs his arm in the process. Despite the wound, Fujiki attempts yet another strike at Iraku, but his centre of balance is greatly offset by the loss of his left arm. Haramitshi, horrified, hopes for Fujiki to stand but it was too late. Fujiki had lost.
Iraku, standing above Fujiki, proclaims he only wished to train in the ways of the sword together with him, and just as he prepares to strike the final blow, Gonzaemon intervenes. In a blood feud, it was forbidden to intervene without permission. However, fighting in one’s stead was allowed if the duellist was a child or a woman. Furthermore, if the duellist could not continue fighting due to a wound, a person with close ties was permitted to take up his place. Haramitshi explained to his son that Gonzaemon was like a son to Kogan, in other words like an older brother to Fujiki, and therefore more than worthy to act as an assistant. Furthermore, with Fujiki still raising his sword high while writhing on the ground, the duel was not over, as Fujiki still lived. In response, Kengyou raises his hands to signal 11 of his own assistants to enter, since there was no limit to the number of assistants either side could call upon. It was therefore common to see blood feuds end in heated brawls of dozens against dozens of men, and at times, one single battle could result in an annihilation of an entire clan. These assistants however, were mercenaries hired by Kengyou, bearing no relation to Iraku whatsoever. However, since they were the honour guard of a daimyo, their skills were unquestionable. On Fujiki’s side only stood Mosuke, the old servant, and Ootsubo, who was of inconsequential skill. Gonzaemon easily kills all of Kengyou’s mercenaries with his iron strength and steely will, causally flinging all those who opposed him through the air, and tearing apart and devouring any which stood in his way, like a bull demon. Yukichiyo queries to his father whether Gonzaemon was human as limbs and corpses continued to be flung around the air.
During the Keichou Era, in 1615, in Sanshuu Koromo, under a tree, a boy Gonzaemon pledged to a young girl, Fuku, that he would return in three years as a fine swordsman. Gonzaemon gestures Fuku to wait for him and comforts her, before tearfully departing. The reason that Gonzaemon, the son of a low ranked Samurai had to leave his village, was because of the monstrous strength hidden inside his body. One day, after he crippled an assistant master at this dojo for life, all of his peers shunned him and labelled him a boar. His master, who did not wish to see his skills go to waste, wrote a letter of recommendation to Kogan-ryuu, at the time lauded as unrivalled in all of Japan. In a dojo in Bishuu, Kagano, Gonzaemon was in the presence of three students of Kogan-ryuu, the same three eventual masters who had protected Iwamato dojo the night Kogan was killed. They stand impressed at Gonzaemon, labelling him a bull, not a boar. Upon successfully passing the sticky bean test, Gonzaemon is inducted into the school. Although Gonzaemon excels in training, Kogan forbids Gonzaemon to follow him with his students into the mountains to train. Although he reluctantly accepts he was not yet worthy, after three years, Gonzaemon begs Kogan to impart him his knowledge, and if Kogan simply did not see any potential in him, to strike him down. Kogan, turning around, drew his sword above Gonzaemon’s head, and explains he could not take a bull that had not let go of its tether. Whereas the three observing students are dumbfounded at Kogan’s words, Gonzaemon went pale, realising Kogan sensed the “red cord”. The red cord, according to Taiping Guangji, was “from the moment of birth, the legs of a couple destined to become man and wife are connected with a red cord”. From time to time, a scarlet red cord would appear in Gonzaemon’s mind. When he felt his hand along with it he could feel someone tugging it on the other hand, and was enveloped in a sense of happiness that could not be described in words. Kogan had sensed it, despite Gonzaemon never mentioning Fuku. Now an adult, Gonzaemon visits the same tree he promised Fuku he would return to. The fact that Fuku is there waiting, hoping Gonzaemon would arrive, was nothing short of a miracle. Although Gonzaemon and Fuku fell into what appeared to be a loving embrace, Gonzaemon cuts Fuku in half from the waist down and on the same day, castrates himself with his bare hands.
Gonzaemon continues his rampage across the duelling ground, cutting and stabbing corpses in his path. Haramitshi, disgusted, orders the mercenaries to put a stop to it, but none will step forward out of fear. The one person who walks out alone, is a man referred to amongst his peers as Bosatsu, a Buddhist term for one who has reached enlightenment and transcended earthly concerns. The man calmly offers Gonzaemon a drink to calm his rage. Gonzaemon pulls the man’s entrails out with his bare hands and pushes his fingers through his eye sockets so deeply they burrow into his brain. Iku watches silently, swallowing the bile that rises in her throat, the duelling ground she had so carefully prepared to display Iraku’s art by diligently removing each stone, had become a ground of blood and countless limbs. Haramitshi accuses Gonzaemon of defiling scared ground with the remains of those already slain, as well eviscerating a man in his service, who came to him in peace. Haramitshi draws his sword with no thoughts of the difference of skill entering his mind. He labels Gonzaemon an insane man who had no right to claim vengeance, and that he would stop him. Bloodied and in a demonic state, Gonzaemon simply smiles at the challenge. At this moment Iraku appears before him, claiming Gonzaemon has fallen into a lightless abyss. Iraku requests Haramitshi to step back, explaining the disaster is his doing, and that he will stop Gonzaemon. At that moment, Iku realises a shocking truth, the man who killed her fiancés had been none other than Gonzaemon.
On the night Kogan blinded Iraku, Iku cradles a severely injured Iraku. Iku follows a suggestion from Gonzaemon to go to Jion temple. Carrying Iraku on her back, they have no choice but to trust Gonzaemon. On entering what initially appears to be a derelict temple, a head monk sits inside. As Iku collapses in exhaustion and falls unconscious while tending to Iraku’s wounds, the monk observes Iku’s bare neck. When Iku wakes, she discovers two Samurai staring above her. The sister of one Samurai and daughter of the other had fallen victim to Iraku’s seduction. Later that night, Iku stares in horror as Iraku is tied up and severely beaten by the two men while the monk rapes her. Later, Iku and Iraku are tied outside a tree and left to die in the snow. An unrecognisable Iraku, beaten to a pulp, asks Iku what had happened to his face, his nose, and his ears. Iku smiles, and tells Iraku his face is like that of a new-born babe. Accepting death, three wolves pounce on the two, until a stranger swiftly kills the wolves with one strike. The man who saves them was a swordsman named Tsukioka Yukinosuke, who had been drawn to the area by the faint sound of Iku, frozen and near death, singing a lullaby. Led by Tsukioka, Iraku and Iku find shelter at a village in the Hida Mountains. Later, Iraku, lost, dumbfounded and alone in a field, calls Iku out for help. Tsukioka appears and draws his sword. Tsukioka begins to strike at Iraku but stops short of striking his skin. Regardless, Iraku faints. It appears to Tsukioka that, although blind, Iraku had “seen” the strike.