I sheathed my sword as I approached the entrance to the temple. It had been a long day of fighting and general unpleasantness, and in times like these, a refreshing chat with the Master and a cup of herbal tea could do, as my aunt used to say, a world of good.

As I dismounted my horse and led her into the stables, I noticed something very unusual. The straw on the ground was disturbed, but I knew that Hiroshi the stable boy changed it at four every afternoon. Secondly, the front door of the temple was ajar. I knew for a fact that it was always kept locked and closed at this time of day, because of the common threat of marauders. Thirdly, now I was coming to notice things like this, I noticed that most of the temple staff were lying around the front courtyard, dead and missing several protrusions.

"Cake" was my first thought. My second, slightly more coherent thought was "Marauders". I pulled the main entrance door open and dashed through the temple, ignoring the scenes of devastation on all sides. I emerged into the daylight at the base of Master Li's mountain and began to ascend the roughly carved stairs. I had unconsciously drawn my faithful katana Betsy, but I knew it was too late. The marauders were long gone, the fires long burned out. I could only hope that my master had been able to fight them off.

As I rounded the final bend and trooped up the remaining steps, I caught sight of Master Li. He was lying awkwardly on his prayer mat at the top, a spear protruding cheekily from his stomach. Even from several yards away I could plainly tell that he was still breathing, if rather faintly. I jogged up to his prone form, and helped him into a sitting position.

"Young one," he gasped, a trickle of blood emerging from the corner of his mouth. "I do not have long."

"No, I guess not," I said. "Who did this? Marauders?"

He shook his head with difficulty. "No," he hissed. "I forgot to pay the newsagent for the week's papers."

I cursed myself for not being here sooner. "Is there anything I can do, master?"

He grabbed the front of my bloodstained armour. The light was fading from his eyes. "Young one, your training is complete," he said. "Avenge ... my ... death ..."

His head slumped into my chest.

"What?" I said.

His head rose again.

"Your training is complete," he repeated tetchily. "Avenge my death."

"My training is complete?"

"Yes, complete."

I shifted slightly, as my sitting position was proving uncomfortable. "So ... I'm a samurai now?"

He hesitated, then nodded. "Yep," he said. "Fully paid up samurai."

I frowned. "You said it would take me fifteen years to learn the way of the samurai."

"You're ... you're an impressively fast learner," he hazarded.

"I've only been here six weeks, master."

"Practically a prodigy, really -"

"Just yesterday in the sparring range you said it would take me at least a decade to learn how to hit a barn door while holding the handle."

"The gods are with you," said Master Li, before coughing theatrically. "The spirits of your ancestors are with you, and bring you strength. You are ready to avenge your master's death."

"You haven't even taught me how to use nunchucks properly."

"Look, it's not hard. You hold one end and spin it around until your opponent looks impressed, then hit him with the other end. It's not rocket science. Now go avenge my death, already."

I stood, and allowed his head to hit the rocky floor with an audible BOP. I reached into my inside pocket and produced a glossy brochure. "Now look," I said. "I'm not happy with this. Your leaflet said, and I quote, 'Master Li will teach you all the nuances of samurai training over a fifteen year scholarship. Be an unstoppable warrior! Learn to focus your chi! Impress girls!'"

Master Li's eyes rolled painfully. I continued.

"I paid three hundred thousand yen for a fifteen year course!" I protested. "Now a bunch of marauders turn up and stick their little swords in you and suddenly my training's complete just at a time when you need someone to avenge your death? How convenient!"

Master Li pulled himself wobbily to his feet. There was a very weary look in his eyes. "You want the full course?"

"I just want what I paid for," I whined.

"Fine," he replied, beginning his descent down the mountain. "First thing you can do is warm up some wet towels. Call the physician over from across town."

I followed him happily. "Right you are, master."

"And pull this bloody spear out."

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