Shike – Day 305 of 306

“Very well, then,” she said. “If you won’t stay with me, I will go with you.”

His grey eyes widened. “You will give up your position, leave your family and home, and travel all the way across the world with me?”

“Will you take me?”

After a long silence he said, “It would make the trip more difficult, of course. You are very strong, but still the Order will object. They’ll say that my having you along will slow me down. And they would be right, but that doesn’t matter. I have decided to make this journey despite the suffering it inflicts on you and me. They’ll have to accept my making it on my terms. For the sake of our love, if this is what you think you must do, I cannot refuse you.”

She felt like a charging warrior who falls on his face when his opponent unexpectedly backs away. She had not thought he would agree to take her. She had thought that what he really wanted was to be separated from her.

“You really would take me with you?”

“Taniko, I must make this journey. I thought that to do it I had no choice but to part with you. It never occurred to me that you would be willing to go, too.”

Too late she saw the trap she had fallen into. It was not a trap of Jebu’s making. It was karma, or life itself, that had built this trap for her. Sometimes, as Eisen said, life becomes the sensei and sets a kung-an for us to solve.

“I can’t go,” she said. “I didn’t think you would say yes.”

His sad smile was beautiful. She reached up to stroke his white beard.

“You gave me hope for a moment,” he said. “That was cruel. I used to be so angry with you, Taniko-san. Always you wanted to be at the centre of things, at the Court, in the midst of public affairs. I always hated your ambition. But now I know that you are no longer driven by ambition. It has been transmuted into something else. You are staying because it is what enlightenment chooses for you. You can’t give up being the Ama-Shogun, even for the sake of our love, because the Self tells you this is what you must do.”

Taniko searched her heart. He was right. Even though her love for Jebu was the most powerful force in her life, she could not leave her post. But it was no longer ambition that kept her there. Hers was a vast, unfinished task. She felt the same powerful bond that keeps a captain aboard his endangered ship, that keeps a samurai fighting to hold a threatened position. Kamakura needed her, and she could not abandon it.

“I helped to build it,” she whispered. “And it’s not finished. I can’t desert it now.”

He took her hands tightly. “Be the chaste goddess, and the samura will never rebel against the Bakufu. But now you know why, even though it tears me to pieces, I have to go. And when we are very old, we will live the last years of our lives together and pass from this world together. And if you believe in rebirth, believe that we will be reborn as a couple of peasants who will have twenty children and live together in peace for ninety years. Surely we have accumulated enough good karma in this life to deserve that. Believe whatever you can believe, my darling, but above all believe that we can never be parted.”

“Nothing can destroy our love,” she said. “I believe that.”

“Taniko,” he said, “most people are blind to the fact that we are all one. Men gather behind their boundaries, their walls, rivers and seas, and make war on one another. The Order trained me to be a warrior, and I have spent most of my life at war. I have done my duty in the place where I found myself. But now I hope I may live out the rest of my life without ever again killing another human being. Taniko, when I was in that chaos in the harbour I saw other visions besides Yukio. I saw an ocean of blood, all the blood that has been spilled and will be spilled because men kill. I saw the Tree of Life, a vision that tells me all beings are one. I want the Tree of Life to grow. I want men to stop spilling blood into that ocean. How can men make war if they realize they are all part of one being? We must lose the illusion of separateness. People can break down boundaries by freely crossing them to share what they have with other people. The day will come when all boundaries fall and when we will have the knowledge we need to end the killing of man by man. That is what the Order works for and what I work for. That is why I am going.”

“I understand.”

“And also,” he said, “I am going for Moko. Moko was a man who broke down boundaries and learned. Why are there men like Arghun and Kublai Khan, like Sogamori and Hideyori, who bring death to their fellow human beings and never question what they are doing? I’m going to find out why Moko was killed.”

“Such a huge question. Do you really think you will find the answer?”

“I may bring the Order and the people of the world closer to the answer. The lands of the far west are strange, from what little I know of them. Perhaps they go to war for different reasons than we do here. And by finding out what is different and what is the same, I may know more about what war is.”

“I can tell you some things about the West. While I lived with Kublai Khan one of my friends was a princess from a country called Persia.” She reached for him and put her arm around his neck. He sank down beside her, holding her. It had grown dark while they talked and he was shadowy beside her.

He stroked her cheek. “We will pass the winter with you telling me tales of Kublai Khan’s harem.”

She laughed. “Some of them are not for the ears of a monk.”

“Even a monk like me? Sametono said I was nothing but an adventurer in monk’s clothing.”

“That is all you are. See how easily you decided to abandon me.” It seemed she had come to a point of reconciliation, for now she could even joke about it.

But Jebu did not join in the joke. “Do you still love me?” he asked, his grey eyes fixed on hers. “Can I take that with me through the world? Can I have the hope of coming back to you to help me keep going?”

The tears spilled over, but she laid her head on his chest and whispered, “Yes.” Oh, but how lonely I will be, she thought. How I wish you would not go.

He slid his hand into the breast of his robe and brought out something that sparkled in the light of the rising full moon. He put it into her hand. The surface felt rough to her fingertips, but when she held it up she saw that it was intricately carved. A tracery of fine lines too complex for the mind to encompass flowed across its surface, compelling her to try to follow its weavings until her eyes ached. In its depths there glowed a tiny fire, bright as satori.

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