Shike – Day 284 of 306

“The Mongols are taking terrible losses,” Munetoki agreed. “But so are we.” The kobaya bumped against the dock, and samurai crewmen jumped out to make fast. The Great Khan has a whole continent full of warriors to send against us, Jebu thought. Most of our fighting men are already gathered here. How long can we hold out?

Chapter Eighteen

Returning after the kobaya raid to the camp north of Hakozaki, Jebu stopped suddenly. He had caught sight of two figures crouching at the entrance to his tent. Using a bamboo grove for cover, he moved noiselessly closer. His Zinja-trained senses told him that the two men were relaxed, motionless and breathing regularly as if in meditation. Probably visiting monks, not assassins, he decided. The camp was carefully guarded against enemy infiltrators. He stepped out of the bamboo grove and called a greeting.

“Good evening to you, Master Jebu.” Now Jebu saw that it was the monk Eisen. “Although it is almost morning. I hear you have been sinking Mongol ships.”

“Sensei,” Jebu said with a bow. “I didn’t know you’d left Kamakura.” He came closer and smiled at Eisen’s round, solid face, no visible in the weak moonlight. Behind Eisen was a gaunt, grey-bearded monk with shaved head, who wore black Zen robes.

“I am only here briefly,” said Eisen, “to assist my colleague here, priest Kagyo.” Jebu and Kagyo bowed to each other. “I am spending most of my time now supervising the reconstruction of the Todaiji Temple in Nara, since you seem to have abandoned that task.” Eisen’s eyes twinkled. Jebu had told him of masquerading as a monk seeking contributions for the Todaiji. “May we talk in your tent?” Jebu ushered them into his tent and lit a candle. Kagyo looked familiar, but Jebu could not place him. Probably someone he had seen on a visit to Eisen’s temple.

“I have news of the Order,” said Eisen without preamble. Jebu was startled. Though Taitaro had told him Eisen was of the Order, they had never spoken openly of it to each other before.

“The news is melancholy,” Eisen went on. “Though it will sadden you, remember that all is happening as it should. The Zinja no longer exist. While the whole attention of the nation was turned towards Hakata Bay, the monks and their women and children simply walked out of the monasteries. Now the temples stand empty. The gates are unguarded. The doors are open. When the people who live near them realize what has happened, they will rush in and doubtless tear the buildings apart looking for the fabled treasures of the Zinja.” He chuckled.

Taitaro had prepared Jebu for this, but when he heard that it had actually happened, grief swept over him. The Zinja monasteries were the only home he had ever known. It was like losing Taitaro all over again.

“Forgive me, sensei,” he said at last. “When the Order takes this step, why should I weep over it? I’m afraid I’m not a very good Zinja.”

“It is not whether you achieve the ideal that matters,” Kagyo said. He had been watching Jebu with a compassionate smile. “What matters is the intensity of your effort and the magnitude of your obstacles. By that standard, you are a very great Zinja.” He spoke as if he knew Jebu.

“There is much to be done now,” said Eisen briskly. “Many of those who were formerly Zinja are coming here to Hakata, Jebu, to help in the fight against the Mongols. We ask you to find places for them according to their abilities. Kagyo here will assist you in any way you wish.”

Jebu looked curiously at Kagyo. “I know you, priest Kagyo.”

Kagyo nodded. “We have not seen each other in nearly forty years, Jebu-san. Not since I assisted with your initiation. You knew me as Fudo.” Jebu gasped and leaned closer to study the priest’s face in the candlelight.

“Yes. I remember you now. Fudo, the tall, thin one. How you terrified me,” Jebu said. “A long time ago, when the Teak Blossom Temple was still standing in the hills above Hakata here, and your friend Weicho was the abbot, I asked him what had become of you. He told me you had broken under the strain of initiating Zinja novices and had gone to a Zen temple to study.”

“Our part in the initiations was painful for both Weicho and me,” said Kagyo. “He was thankful when they made him an abbot, as I was when the Order commanded me to become a Zen monk. I was one of the early ones to cross over. Poor Weicho. The Takashi got him when they destroyed the Teak Blossom Temple.”

“They killed my mother, too,” said Jebu sadly. “It was Sogamori’s revenge because I had killed Kiyosi.”

“Are you still lugging the corpse of Kiyosi about with you?” said Eisen. “You should have left him at the bottom of the harbour.”

Jebu shook his head. “Everything I see here in Hakata Bay reminds me of that day and what followed upon it. The destruction of the Teak Blossom Temple, my mother burned alive, Taniko’s years of suffering.”

Eisen looked at Jebu sternly. “You were right before when you said you are not a very good Zinja. Your insight is feeble. Don’t you understand that acting without concern for results means not feeling remorse afters those results have occurred? You must live as if the consequences of your every action have been perfect.”

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