After killing his opponent, Takezou:

颯爽と、一顧して、彼はすぐ後ろへ戻って行くのである。なんでもないことのようだった。もし先{さき}が強ければ、自分が後に捨てられてゆくだけのこととしかしていなかった。

宮本武蔵(1935年–1939年、朝日新聞連載、吉川英治)

What does 先 refer to? Could it be his dead opponent (先方)? Or future / future opponents?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It refers to his dead opponent. In this context,

「[先]{さき}」=「[先方]{せんぽう}」=「[相手方]{あいてがた}」

I take ‘先’ as the opponent and the context of the quoted paragraph as “He went back right on as if nothing had happened, after glancing at the dead opponent. To him, it was only a matter of himself being thrown out behind the scene, if the opponent were stronger than him.”

‘[後先]{あとさき}’ or '[先後]{せんご}' is a pair word. It appears ‘先’ of ’先が強ければ’ forms a pair with ‘後’ of ’自分が後に捨てられてゆく’ to me.

His dead opponent due to the arrangement

  • 1
    Perhaps you would like to differentiate your answer from the existing answer by explaining what you mean by "due to the arrangement". – Flaw Feb 24 '16 at 2:20

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