I killed him, but not her.
Where's she gone? No idea. Oh, hold on! No torture can make me confess what I don't know. Now that things have come to such a head, I'll tell you everything:
Yesterday a little past noon I met that couple. Just then a puff of wind blew aside her hanging scarf, and I caught a glimpse of her face. Instantly it was again covered from my view, but that glimpse was enough: she looked like a Bodhisattva. At that moment I made up my mind to capture her even if I had to kill her man.
Why? To me killing isn't as big a deal as you might think. When a woman is captured, her man has to be killed anyway. In killing, I use the sword I wear at my side. Am I the only one who kills people? You, you don't use your swords. You kill people with your power, with your money. Sometimes you kill them on the pretext of working for their good. It's true they don't bleed. They are in the best of health, but all the same you've killed them. It's hard to say who is a greater sinner, you or me.
But it would be good if I could capture a woman without killing her man. So, I made up my mind to capture her, and do my best not to kill him. But it's out of the question on the Yamashina stage road. So I managed to lure the couple into the mountains.
It was easy. I became their traveling companion, and I told them there was an old mound in the mountain over there, and that I had dug it open and found a treasure trove mirrors and swords. I went on to tell them I'd buried the things in a grove behind the mountain, and that I was looking to sell them at a low price to anyone who would care to have them. Then...you see, isn't greed terrible? He was beginning to be moved by my talk before he knew it. In less than half an hour they were driving their horse toward the mountain with me.
When he came in front of the grove, I told them that the treasures were buried in it, and I asked them to come and see. The man had no objection; he was blinded by greed. The woman said she would wait on horseback. It was natural for her to say so, at the sight of a thick grove. My plan worked just as I wished: I went into the grove with him, leaving her behind alone.
The grove is only bamboo for some distance. About fifty yards ahead there's an open clump of cedars--a convenient spot for my purpose. Pushing my way through the grove, I told him a plausible lie that the treasures were buried under the cedars. He pushed his laborious way toward the slender cedar visible through the grove. After a while the bamboo thinned out, and we came to where a number of cedars grew in a row. As soon as we got there, I seized him from behind. Because he was a trained, sword-bearing warrior, he was quite strong, but he was taken by surprise, so there was no help for him. I'd soon soon tied him up to the root of a cedar.
Where did I get a rope? Well being a robber, I had a rope with me, since I might have to scale a wall at any moment. And it was easy to stop him from calling out by gagging his mouth with fallen bamboo leaves.
When I disposed of him, I went to his woman and asked her to come and see him, because he seemed to have been suddenly taken sick. Needless to say, this plan also worked well. The woman, her sedge hat off, came into the depths of the grove, where I led her by the hand. The instant she caught sight of her husband, she drew a small sword. I've never seen a woman of such violent temper. If I'd been off guard, I'd have got a thrust in my side. I dodged, but she kept on slashing at me. She might have wounded me badly or killed me. But I'm Tajomaru. I managed to strike down her small sword without drawing my own. The most spirited woman is defenseless without a weapon. At last I could satisfy my desire for her without taking her husband's life.
Yes...without taking his life. I had no wish to kill him. I was about to run away from the grove, leaving the woman behind in tears, when she frantically clung to my arm. In broken fragments of words, she asked that either her husband or I die. She said it was more trying than death to have her shame known to two men. She gasped out that she wanted to be the wife of whichever survived. Then a furious desire to kill him seized me.
Telling you now, no doubt I seem cruel. But that's because you didn't see her face. Especially her burning eyes at that moment. I wanted to make her my wife even if it meant I'd get struck by lightning. I wanted to make her my wife...this single desire filled my mind. This was not only lust, as you might be thinking. If it had only been lust, I'd surely not have minded knocking her down and running away. Then I wouldn't have stained my sword with his blood. But the moment I gazed at her face in the dark grove, I decided not to leave there without killing him.
But I didn't like to resort to unfair means to kill him. I untied him and told him to cross swords with me. (The rope you found at the root of the cedar is the rope I dropped then.) Furious with anger, he drew his thick sword. And quick as thought, he sprang at me ferociously. I don't need to tell you how our fight turned out. The twenty-third stroke...please remember this. I'm impressed with this fact still. Nobody under the sun has ever clashed swords with me twenty strokes.
When he fell, I turned toward her, lowering my blood-stained sword. But to my great astonishment she was gone. I wondered where she had run away to. I looked for her in the clump of cedars. I listened, but heard only a groaning sound from the throat of the dying man.
Maybe she had run away to call for help as soon as her husband and I started to cross swords. When I thought of that, I decided it was a matter of life and death to me. So, robbing him of his sword, and bow and arrows, I ran out to the mountain road. There I found her horse still grazing quietly. It would be a waste of words to tell you the later details, but before I entered town I had already parted with the sword.
That's all my confession. I know that my head will be hung in chains anyway, so put me down for the maximum penalty.