Jirou stood before the woman and her men with his belly exposed. The silence signaled that he had finished his tale and awaited their response.
The bloodied-man said, his hand now removed from his nose, "Disgraced then. Do you wish for your life to be taken by another or not?"
"A samurai does find honor in death," Jirou said, "having faced it head on, but is it not also that having one’s belly exposed means a certain death? But if one hesitates? Yet, remember that it was not I who exposed my belly. However, it is my actions that have resulted in my belly being exposed. A judgment imposed upon me or just deserved?"
"You have no intention of committing seppuku." the woman said.
Jirou focused on her, "You see me without hesitation?"
She arched an eyebrow, "I see a mischievous man."
"Then that makes this easier." Jirou said. "For I propose a deal. I require your blades for my death, your obligation to peace in response to my contradictory actions. However, my proposal requires you to take careful stock of my actions."
The woman paused before responding, "Go on."
"My sword is drawn," Jirou said, "my soul is restless.....perhaps. My belly is exposed....I require death....perhaps. Yet, have my actions been expedient? Or have you yourselves required actions of me, thus, behaving much like my former master: imposing labels on me?"
The woman offered a wry grin, "A moment ago you said your steps would provoke the use of our blades. Did you lie?"
"No lie." Jirou answered, "For one draws their sword for the purpose of defense or attack and cannot be sheathed until an act is done in accordance to these two principles, or the aggressor has conceded to peace. Note that, in my case, my former master demanded my sword to be drawn, an action I committed in alignment with my own purposes, and in response, a new definition was imposed. It is with my proposal that I wish to test this definition."
So," the woman said, "if you will not attack with your sword, nor will you let us strike you down, how will you escape this stalemate?"
"I offer this proposal in light of your bias." Jirou answered. "What I seek is a fair observation of my restlessness, but it is your position to quail an unsheathed blade regardless."
"You seek another audience?" the woman asked.
Jirou smiled. "Precisely."
The woman squinted her eyes.
"This does not sit well with you," Jirou added. "I understand, but know that by my actions you have already observed, I will not strike with my sword."
"But you seek confrontation." the woman said.
"Perhaps confrontation is unavoidable." Jirou offered. "I believe that, yet I must, for the sake of fairness, be confronted by an unbiased combatant."
"Do you have someone in mind?" the woman asked.
"I do not." Jirou answered, shaking his head, "I must not. A truly unbiased combatant must be someone I share no ties with."
"Another man with a sword would surely share some ties with you." the woman said.
Jirou offered a shrug, "I cannot help who will approach me, thus I must deal with them accordingly until I find my unbiased combatant."
The man standing beside the one with the bloodied nose asked, "Are you saying you seek someone fit to confront this proposal of yours? You see yourself as a judge of character?"
Jirou addressed that man, "Not at all. What I seek is merely a humble soul. One not of the blade."
The woman tilted her head slightly, "Like someone of the peasantry?"
"Ha!" the bloody-nosed man scoffed, "Someone who can’t defend themselves?"
"Like I said," Jirou said to that man, "I will not strike with my blade. That is where your own blades are to be applied. For at any point I break this promise, you may strike me down, and I will not defraud you the right."
The woman stiffened whenever Jirou returned his gaze upon her. She noticed then that the rest of the men were looking to her as well. Her eyes left Jirou’s long enough to glance at each of the other men, her lips parting as though to utter some sort of objection to their focus. Yet, she returned to Jirou and couldn’t help but scowl at him.
"What a strange man you are." she uttered. "Especially to ask local authorities for permission to look for a fight."
"It is not a fight I look for," Jirou offered, "though I am not naive to doubt a fight will come a restless soul’s way. Many people seek peace and any disturbance of their peace is met with opposition. Yet, it has come to my understanding that life is to struggle, and there can be no peace without first persevering conflict."
The woman studied Jirou’s tranquil eyes, "I take it you seek peace then, but as a man who deems reasoning so high, finds definition in action, and not merely observation of thoughts."
"You are correct." Jirou said.
Her eyes hardened, "And what if still we prevent you this chance of observation?"
"I implore there is no loss for you, except some time, in my proposal." Jirou offered. "Yet," he nodded his head slowly, closing his eyes along with the gesture, "I understand everyone’s time is precious."
The woman noticed something about his gesture that went against the humble posture he intended. "From the smirk on your face, I take it you see some gain even for us in your proposal."
Leveling his gaze, he didn’t try to hide the grin on his face, "Perhaps merely a third party observation."
She didn’t answer him immediately. Just stared at him. As he stared back, the other men regarded one another in turn. In light of the woman’s comments, there might have been something more to the tranquility on Jirou’s face. Maybe a hidden confidence. Their faces darkened at this thought.
Finally, the woman answered, "You are correct to assume time is precious. Patience is a quarreling sibling to time. If I grow tired of your provocations, I will end them. Understood?"
Jirou’s smile widened, stretching the corners of his eyes outward, deepening the tranquility there.
To this, the woman darted her eyes to her feet. When she realized her sudden posture, she quickly lifted her chin much higher than it had been before and regarded the man with the bloodied nose. "You."
He looked at her.
"Go inform the Daimio of this proposal and insist the digression involved."
Without turning his face from the woman, the man darted his eyes toward Jirou, glared, and then slipped away from the gathering. Jirou watched him hurry across the bridge toward the village.
Then, noticing the woman’s gaze, he locked eyes with her once more. He bowed slightly, "I thank you for this chance."