Long, long ago in Kyoto, the people of the city were terrified by accounts of a dreadful ogre, who, it was said, haunted the Gate of Rashomon at twilight and seized whoever passed by. The missing victims were never seen again, so it was whispered that the ogre was a horrible cannibal, who not only killed the unhappy victims but ate them also.
Now everybody in the town and neighborhood was in great fear, and no one durst venture out after sunset near the Gate of Rashomon.
Now at this time there lived in Kyoto a general named Raiko, who had made himself famous for his brave deeds. Some time before this he made the country ring with his name, for he had attacked Oeyama, where a band of ogres lived with their chief, who instead of wine drank the blood of human beings. He had routed them all and cut off the head of the chief monster.
This brave warrior was always followed by a band of faithful knights.
In this band there were five knights of great valor. One evening as the five knights sat at a feast quaffing sake in their rice bowls and eating all kinds of fish, raw, and stewed, and broiled, and toasting each other’s healths and exploits, the first knight, Hojo, said to the others,
“Have you all heard the rumor that every evening after sunset there comes an ogre to the Gate of Rashomon, and that he seizes all who pass by?”
The second knight, Watanabe, answered him, saying,
“Do not talk such nonsense! All the ogres were killed by our chief Raiko at Oeyama! It cannot be true, because even if any ogres did escape from that great killing they would not dare to show themselves in this city, for they know that our brave master would at once attack them if he knew that any of them were still alive!”
“Then do you disbelieve what I say, and think that I am telling you a falsehood?”
“No, I do not think that you are telling a lie,” said Watanabe; “but you have heard some old woman’s story which is not worth believing.”
“Then the best plan is to prove what I say, by going there yourself and finding out yourself whether it is true or not,” said Hojo.
Watanabe, the second knight, could not bear the thought that his companion should believe he was afraid, so he answered quickly,
“Of course, I will go at once and find out for myself!”
So Watanabe at once got ready to go—he buckled on his long sword and put on a coat of armor, and tied on his large helmet. When he was ready to start he said to the others,
“Give me something so that I can prove I have been there!”
Then one of the men got a roll of writing paper and his box of Indian ink and brushes, and the four comrades wrote their names on a piece of paper.
“I will take this,” said Watanabe, “and put it on the Gate of Rashomon, so to-morrow morning will you all go and look at it? I may be able to catch an ogre or two by then!” and he mounted his horse and rode off gallantly.
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