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Chapter Study Guides

NOTE: Obviously, the following study guides contain spoilers for the Seasons of the Sword books!

  1. Study guide to Risuko
  2. Study guide to Bright Eyes


Chapter 1—“The Left-Hand Path” pp. 5-10

  1. Why does the narrator’s mother call her “Risuko?”
  2. Why is Risuko frightened of the old woman who comes looking for her in the woods?
  3. Who is this old woman and what does she want with Risuko?
  4. The old woman is traveling in a “palanquin”. What is a “palanquin?” You can use the dictionary.

Chapter 2—“Into the Circle” pp.11-16

  1. Why had Risuko’s mother sold her to Lady Chiyome?
  2. Risuko and her captor stop at an inn to give her new clothes and something to eat. There she meets three other children: Toumi, Aimaru, and Emi. What are your first impressions of each?

Chapter 3—“Flying” pp. 17-20

  1. Why does Risuko have such a violent reaction to Toumi?
  2. How does Risuko feel about her violent reaction?
  3. Who are the Little Brothers?

Chapter 4—“The Edge of the World” pp. 21-26

  1. What is the reason for Lady Chiyome’s party’s taking an alternative road?
  2. Who are the two opposing parties at war with each other?

Chapter 5—“The Mt. Fuji Inn” pp. 27-34

  1. How does Toumi once again anger Risuko?
  2. What skills does Lady Chiyome request Risuko to demonstrate?
  3. To what extent is Risuko able to display those skills successfully?
  4. What does Lady Chiyome ask Risuko to draw?

Chapter 6—“Tea and Cakes” pp.35-40

Describe the great battle that ensues and how the Little Brothers and Mieko save the day.

Chapter 7—“Wind” pp.41-44

  1. Why is Risuko disturbed to realize that they’d been saved by the Takeda cavalry?
  2. Who is the single casualty of the day?
  3. What hint do we get of Lady Chiyome’s plans for the three girls?

Chapter 8—“The Mountain” pp. 45-48

  1. Emi says about Mieko,  “I can’t decide if she’s really nice or kind of scary.” What impression do you have of Mieko?
  2. Risuko comes to learn from Lt. Masugo that Lady Chiyome’s intention is to train her to be a miko. What is a miko?

Chapter 9—“Worth” pp.49-52

  1. What special skill does Risuko exhibit to Lt. Masugu?
  2. What important information does Risuko learn about her father from Lt. Masugu?

Chapter 10—“Dark Letter” pp.53-60

  1. How do Risuko and Toumi happen to fall into the hands of bandits?
  2. How does Risuko succeed in warning the rest of the party about the bandits?

Chapter 11—“The Full Moon pp. 61-64

The party finally arrives at their destination, where Lady Chiyome puts the three young people in the care of Fuyudori. What is unusual about Fuyudori?

Chapter 12—“Novices” pp. 65-70

  1. What is a “novice”? Use dictionary.
  2. What is an “initiate?” Use dictionary.
  3. What does Fuyudori reveal to the girls about why they’ve been brought to Mochuzuki?
  4. What kind of work will the three novices be doing under Kee Sun?

Chapter 13—“A Banquet” pp.71-76

  1. What is your impression of Kee Sun? Why?
  2. Why is there an empty seat saved in the place of honor beside Mieko?

Chapter 14—“A Squirrel on the Roof” pp.77-80

  1. What is the meaning of the word “succulent”? Use dictionary.
  2. For what kind of lesson are the girls scheduled the following day?

Chapter 15—“The Music Lesson” pp.81-86

  1. Why does Toumi get bean curds instead of eggs for breakfast?
  2. What instruments do the girls start learning to play at the music lesson?

Chapter 16—“Blades” pp.87-90

  1. How come Emi, the slowest long bean chopper, ends up with the largest finished pile?
  2. What are some of the exercises and activities that begin to occupy the three novices’ days?

Chapter 17—“Moon Time at Mochuzuki” pp.91-96

  1. What is meant by “Moon Time”? How do the women of the court observe it?
  2. What particular incident brings Risuko to tears and how does Lt. Masugu go about comforting her?

Chapter 18—“A Fly” pp. 97-100

  1. For what reason does Fuyudori wake Risuko in the middle of the night?
  2. Why is the mission dangerous?
  3. What does Risuko overhear?

Chapter 19—“In the Web” pp. 101-106

  1. How does Lady Chiyome discern that Risuko is eavesdropping?
  2. Why does Lady Chiyome support the Takeda forces in her hope for a united Japan?
  3. What question does Lady Chiyome leave unanswered for Risuko to solve?

Chapter 20—“Smelly Work” pp. 107-112

  1. What smelly work do the three girls learn to perform?
  2. What enormous task does Kee Sun set before them?

Chapter 21—“Lessons in Dance” pp113-118

  1. In what ways does the dance Mieko teaches differ from other dances?
  2. What is Risuko’s reaction to this dance lesson?

Chapter 22—“Feather Soup” pp.119-122

  1. While the girls have been working in the kitchen, what kind of work has Aimaru been doing?

Chapter 23—“Poppies in Winter” pp. 123-128

What lessons in the use of herb did you find most interesting? Why?

Chapter 24—“Visitors” pp.129-134

  1. On her first climb up the hemlock tree after the long snow, what does Risuko spy from the top?
  2. How does Risuku manage to save Lt. Masugu’s life?

Chapter 25—“To Roost” pp. 135-140

  1. What new task does Lady Chiyome demand of the novices, and how does Risuko react to it?
  2. For what reason does a very angry Lady Chiyome assemble the entire group?

Chapter 26—“Climbing the Walls” pp. 141-144

  1. Trying to track down the source of a strange sound outside, whom does Risuko discover in conversation in the Retreat?
  2. How would you describe the conversation between the two?
  3. What herb does Risuko discover missing in the kitchen?

Chapter 27—“Poppies in Winter” pp. 144-148

  1. What does Risuko dream and what does she learn from it?

Chapter 28—“Broken Dishes” pp. 149-154

  1. What kind of harm has befallen Lt. Masugu?
  2. Whom does Lady Chiyome send to attend to him?

Chapter 29—“Proper Duty” pp. pp. 155-160

  1. What does Risuko discover about the relationship between Mieko and Lt. Masugu?
  2. Of what act do Mieko and Lady Chiyome suspect Risuko?

Chapter 30—“Battle of White and Scarlet” pp. 161-166

  1. What surprising object does Risuko discover in the guest house?
  2. How does Lady Chiyome deduce that Risuko was not the spy who’d been searching her rooms?
  3. What startling news about her father does Lady Chiyome reveal to Risuko?

Chapter 31—“Taking Up the Blade” pp.167-176

  1. Why does Risuko resist taking up the sword?
  2. Why do the sword positions in her first lesson come so naturally to Risuko?

Chapter 32—“Chicken Soup” pp.177-182

  1. On what new mission does Lt. Masugu send Risuko?
  2. What is the cause of the bitter undertaste in the chicken soup?

Chapter 33—“Smoke and Stone” pp.183-188

  1. What effect does the Corydalis have on everyone who ate the chicken soup?
  2. What does Risuko find hidden in the roof chimney?

Chapter 34—“Falling Fast” pp. 189-198

  1. Why has Fuyudori turned on Lady Chiyome and her people?
  2. What does Fuyudori reveal to Risuko about Lt. Masugu’s identity?
  3. How does Risuko escape Fuyudori’s vengeance?

Epilogue—“On the Ground”

  1. What does the prized scroll turn out to reveal to the four young people?

Bright Eyes

Chapter 1—”The Rising Wave” pp. 3-8

  1. What part of her kunoichi training does Risuko find herself unable to do? Why?
  2. What precious possession does Lt. Masugu give her before he leaves? Why?

Chapter 2—”Guests” pp. 9-18

  1. Why do the Full Moon initiates stop their defense against what appears to be the Matsudaira invading army?
  2. What learned skill is Risuko able to demonstrate with Lt. Masugu’s sword?
  3. What does Lady Chiyome caution the Full Moon residents to hide from the Takeda guests?

Chapter 3—”Wild Ginger” pp. 19-24

  1. How is Risuko separated from Lt. Masugo’s sword?

Chapter 4—”Shadow of the Moon” pp. 25-30

  1. For what purpose does Risuko sneak into the kitchen at night?
  2. What story does Mieko tell Risuko about the history of the sword?
  3. What promise does Mieko make to Risuko?

Chapter 5—”Jolalo-san” pp. 31-36

  1. All the residents are called in to help serve the morning meal to the guests, where Risuko is introduced to a boy named Jolalo. From what country does Jolalo come?

Chapter 6—”The Mountain at the Full Moon” pp. 37-44

  1. Why did Risuko’s mother come to nickname her Squirrel?
  2. What challenge does her teacher, Mitsuke, set for Risuko in this chapter?
  3. When Risuko shelters from the rain in a cave, what does she discover?

Chapter 7—”Startled” pp. 45-52

  1. Why do the residents find Mai’s behavior with the guests unacceptable?
  2. What mistake does Mai make while serving Lord Takeda?
  3. Mai’s behavior also causes what serious confrontation?

Chapter 8—”The Lesson” pp. 53-60

  1. What skill does Lady Chiyome have Mieko and Risuko demonstrate for the Takeda troops?

Chapter 9—”The Rising Sun” pp. 61-66

  1. What urgent news does Risuko deliver to Lord Takeda?
  2. How does Risuko come to the conclusion that Lt. Torimasu could not have committed suicide?

Chapter 10—”A Boiling Pot” pp. 67-72

  1. What secret of Aimaru’s does Risuko discover?
  2. What does Aimaru claim to have seen in the storeroom that is no longer there?

Chapter 11—”Numbers” pp. 73-76

  1. Although Aimaru can’t read, what skill does he demonstrate for Lady Chiyome?
  2. What name was at the top of the missing scroll?

Chapter 12—”The Torī Arch” pp. 77-82

  1. Why does Risuko caution Jolalo to remove his chopsticks from the rice bowl?
  2. What important piece of evidence about how the murderer would have entered does Risuko share with Lord Takeda?

Chapter 13—”Guards” pp. 83-90

  1. Why does one of the two drunk sleeping guards take his own life? What has happened to the other guard?
  2. What does Lady Chiyome discover about the wine that the sleeping guards had drunk?

Chapter 14—”Fathers” pp. 91-100

  1. The three young initiates (Risuko, Toumi, and Emi) go off on what special mission?
  2. What story about the three girls’ fathers comes to light on their mission?
  3. Who do the girls discover is following them to the waterfall?

Chapter 15—”The Waterfall” pp. 101-106

  1. Why does Risuko venture behind the waterfall?
  2. What does she find there?

Chapter 16—”Out of the Woods” pp. 107-114

  1. What new danger does the trio spot in the woods?
  2. What new story does Risuko explain to the other girls about their fathers?

Chapter 17—”Pretty” pp. 115-122

  1. Why did Lady Chiyome send the initiates to the Takeda camp?
  2. What does the search party discover in the murdered Lt. Torimasu’s tent?

Chapter 18—”Connivers” pp. 123-130

  1. What does Lady Chiyome suggest the numbers found in Lt. Torimasu’s room really designate?
  2. What does Aimaru explain to the girls about “a dead drop”?

Chapter 19—”The Departed” pp. 131-136

  1. For what purpose is Risuko enlisted to play the samisen?
  2. How did Sachi and Mieko separate the two groups of soldiers?

Chapter 20—”Night Lightning” pp. 137-144

  1. Mieko instructs Risuko to follow Shino, who runs out of the camp. Where does Risuko find her?
  2. What happens when Jolalo sneaks up on Risuko during her search?

Chapter 21—”The Bear” pp. 145-154

  1. How does Risuko happen to find herself in the cave with the ogre again?
  2. What does the ogre turn out to be?
  3. Who does Risuko discover in the cave?
  4. How does Kobayashi explain leaving his post?

Chapter 22—”Samurai Orphans” pp. 155-160

  1. Why does Risuko ask the Matsudaira soldiers what will happen if Kobayashi turns himself in?
  2. Why is Mai angry when Risuko brings her dinner?
  3. What does Risuko see Mai drawing?

Chapter 23—”Smoke and Flame” pp. 161-168

  1. What does Risuko come to believe about the monk officiating over the funerals? Why?
  2. What does Risuko discover when she goes to fetch Mai from the Retreat?

Chapter 24—”Desecration” pp. 169-176

  1. Why does the cook Torai appear to be guilty of Mai’s murder? Do you think he is guilty?
  2. What do the lords agree to do about the murder?

Chapter 25—”White Sand, White Snow” pp. 177-186

  1. Which of the Full Moon initiates is asked to testify at the murder trial in the Great Hall?
  2. Why is this testimony important?

Chapter 26—”Blank, Blue Sky” pp. 187-194

  1. How does Kobayashi’s return to the camp begin to unravel the mystery of the murders?
  2. What information is Risuko able to give that points the finger at the guilty man?

Chapter 27—”Ghost Blood” pp. 195-200

  1. How does Lord Matsudaira punish Kobayashi for deserting his post?
  2. How does Kobayashi respond to his punishment?
  3. What does Captain Tokimatsu discover about the women of the Full Moon?
  4. What is his response to this discovery?

Chapter 28—”The Ogre” pp. 201-206

  1. How does Risuko come to understand how Mai met her death?
  2. Why did Kumo knock out Jolalo?
  3. What was Kumo’s motive in the two killings?

Epilogue—”Heading Off” pp. 207-210

  1. On what new mission are the three young initiates sent by Lady Chiyome at the end of the book?
Kunoichi Companion Tales covers


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Seasons of the Sword