"1478 turned out to be a busy year for Tarō-san. Ogawa Tarō had returned to his father's home in Kamakura, possessed with the spirit to build Shokad, per Master Ikenobo Senno's prescriptions. Part of the reason for breaking away from the Ikenobo School in Kyoto was because of how popular ikebana flower arranging had become shortly after the School was founded. Secrecy had worked against Ikenobo in Kyoto. Tarō-san had the ingenuity of building the school near a renowned religious fixture: the five Zen temples of Kamakura, whose majesty would detract attention from Shokadō.
It was Master Ikenobo who suggested that Tarō-san change his name. Ieyasu was the name the Master gave him--a name immersed in the ancient powers. Understandably, Tarō-san's father was upset that his son had taken another man's name. Tarō-san explained his desires for the school, and his father saw how important it was to Tarō-san. The process wasn't quick. It took Tarō-san several years to convince his father of the merit in building the school, and then to start the construction. Furthermore, no one in the family was supportive of Tarō-san's plans. All told, it took twelve long years to erect Shokadō.
He experienced difficulties convincing his family that secrecy was of the utmost importance. He made them take an oath of silence--but word of the school's intents traveled nonetheless. This was how Mitsurigi Ayumi appeared on Tarō-san's doorstep before the school's last brick had been laid.
Now, Tarō-san was still reeling from his romance with Tachibana Rikka years in the past. He had poured himself into the school and put his personal aspirations aside. But Tarō-san was still a man. His heart would hear none of the Master's admonishments, and he went on loving Rikka. He passed many nights tossing and turning, dreaming of the girl of striking beauty with tears like diamonds in her eyes.
All that changed when he saw Mitsurigi Ayumi on his doorstep. She was beauty incarnate. Actually, she reminded him a lot of Rikka, for there were tears in her eyes too when she came to him. She appealed to him to let her study ikebana under him. She said, 'Your name and secret have traveled far, but from my lips, they shall never again be told.' She bowed deeply to him, three times as is customary. Her forehead touched the ground, still white with dust and mortar.
He welcomed her, fed her and began his first lesson with her that very day. Soon, he began to teach her the Zen principles and taught her the Way of Flowers. Before long, he'd segued into the principles of the Flower Hand. Ayumi was a quick study. Her body was like water. She could pierce any opening with her palms or fingers. She could slip from any arm-hold. She was like liquid through a sieve, save when Tarō-san put his arms around her in their first embrace. Her eyes filled with emotion as she gave herself to him, that night and many nights thereafter. If her body was like water in the dōjō, it was like honey in bed. Tarō-san found every inch of her delectable, and sampled fervently of her offerings. He told himself it was love, and soon he believed it. His heart, in its distraction, finally forgot about Rikka.
But the tides changed quickly. The skies showed portents of tough times. Ayumi was soon languid in the morning, reticent to Tarō-san's demands. She applied herself once she was awake, but she was finding it harder and harder to wake in the morning and remain awake in the early evening. Tarō-san managed to teach her the principle elements of ikebana: line, volume, and accent. He extrapolated for her their natural and magical uses: manipulating time, space, and the human mind. Ayumi became the first line element of the Shokadō Triad. She knew how to bend time to her whim and used it to buy them many more moments of love.
But Tarō-san began to notice the change in his lover. He would often find her asleep in the dōjō, in the middle of a movement or complex choreography. He couldn't understand what had so transformed her. It occurred to him that magic was amiss. The next morning, spurred by her interminable lassitude, he asked Ayumi for the truth of her origins.
She cried and told him that her intentions weren't pure. She had not come from her father's farm to the north as she had said. There was no farm, no father--no family. Instead, she had come running from the east, chased by the fox spirits. 'I fell in with them on accident. They followed me one day, thinking I would make a feast. Instead, I beguiled their leader Kitsune. They were all of the same mind: his. I knew he lusted for my body, so I gave it to him. I thought that living among them would be better than fending for myself in the villages and forests. I thought I could love him.
'Kitsune was in turns wonderful and horrible. He would kiss me, then bite my tongue until it bled. He would ravish my breasts and leave them bruised. He carved deep welts down my back with his claws. He would enter me from behind without asking, and it would hurt--but his kisses would ease the way for him, and I would let him have his way.'
She saw that her words were hurting Tarō-san, but with heavy-lidded eyes she persevered. 'I couldn't go on that way forever. So I ran away. I heard about you and your teachings--your secrecy. I thought when you let me in, I was saved. I think I fell in love with you instantly. You are nothing like Kitsune, except that you are like him at his gentlest--and then more still. It was after the very first night we made love that I felt the change. The next day, it was more difficult than usual to get up, but I was so excited to see you that I jumped out of bed. That night, I felt the weariness come sooner, and last longer into the morning.
'Finally, here we are. I can only keep my eyes awake for a few hours in the middle of the day. I'm afraid that Kitsune has put a spell on me, and soon I will waste away in sleep... forever.' Then, as if to prove the merit of her tale, Ayumi fell into a powerful sleep.
Tarō-san set out to find Kitsune immediately. He didn't have to look far or long; Kitsune and his skulk were watching the school. They had come seeking Ayumi, tracking the scent of her tears and honey to Shokadō where they met Tarō-san in the courtyard outside the dōjō. Kitsune was immediately recognizable. He was the only one among them who stood on his hind legs. In turns, Tarō-san saw that he was a man in a fox-hooded cloak and a fox on hind legs in a leather tunic and boots.
"What do you want with Mitsurigi Ayumi?" Tarō-san cried out.
The foxes around them yipped and yapped, streaked like lightning for Tarō-san's legs without nipping at him or attacking in earnest. A taunt like laughter rose up in their wake as they raced away from him.
Kitsune saw that Tarō-san was brave, for the ruse did nothing to strike fear in him. Without taking his eyes off him, Kitsune bent down. When he was crouching on his hands and knees, he bowed his head to mock the human custom. A glint appeared in the fox head's eyes, and its mouth gaped wide open in a menacing sneer. He attacked.
Tarō-san dodged the assault and landed a heavy kick on Kitsune's retreating posterior. The fox spirit howled in indignation. He reared back, front paws in the air like a horse, and Tarō-san saw Kitsune's genitals. He kicked him hard, right where it counted. It did the trick. Kitsune rolled on the ground in agony, then scurried off, head bowed, tail between his knees.
But it was only the beginning of the worst for Tarō-san and Ayumi. Kitsune regularly declared war on the two, and even wreaked havoc on the rest of the Ogawa family. Tarō-san quickly realized that they were out of balance with nature. They needed a third to take up the final element, a final student of the true ikebana teachings to fill the shoes of the Mind-Bender.
Tarō-san appealed to Master Ikenobo in a letter. The Master sent a young woman named Wakata Kaori. Tarō-san was humbled to merit Ikenobo-sama's aid manifested thus, but he was also distracted to find Kaori the very image of Tachibana Rikka, save for a darker complexion and a different demeanor.
As a matter of fact, Tachibana Rikka intercepted Wakata Kaori en route, changed her appearance and put on an act to take Kaori's place. She wanted to see what Tarō-san was up to. Rikka was furious to find Mitsurigi Ayumi in residence with the man she still loved, but she buried her feelings deep. Rikka as Wakata Kaori applied herself. Now, she had been dabbling in the other elements and saw this as a great opportunity to diversify and test her training. She fell in rhythm with the other agents--and tried not to fall for Tarō-san again. She took on the final element: human mind control.
Tarō-san, for his part, knew that Rikka had been a pupil of the line element at Ikenobo, so he didn't give another thought to the possibility of Rikka impersonating Kaori to keep an eye on him--their physiognomical similarities notwithstanding. More than a dozen years had passed. Surely, Tachibana Rikka would have moved on by now.
Meanwhile, Rikka recognized the tension between Tarō-san and Ayumi, the lack of a spark between them though they shared a bed. She let her old passion be reignited and offered herself to Tarō-san, subtly at first, then shamelessly. He had a hard time ignoring her advances. With Ayumi sleeping more and more of the day away, Tarō-san soon gave in--and opened up another can of worms."