Shike – Day 66 of 306

Suddenly he stood up, gave a great cry of anguish and rushed to the edge of the sea. There he threw himself on the stony ground and wept. A dark cloud covered his mind. At first he felt no more than a blackness and numbness within, as if a naginata blade had cloven his chest. Gradually, images rose within him: Taniko, the baby he had never seen, Horigawa.

If only she had listened to him. They could have run away together. Waves of sadness swept through him like the surf below in Hakata Bay. Two lives were in bondage to sorrow and the third snuffed out because Taniko refused to give up her status, to forget this marriage that had been made for her by fools, and run away with him. Their daughter was dead. How Taniko must have suffered. Jebu wept for the drowned child and for Taniko’s agony.

He would go and kill Horigawa. He had never hated anyone this way before, not even Arghun. His enmity towards Arghun was a matter of principle; it was only right to hate the man who had killed his father and who wanted to kill him. But even though he had fought with Arghun, he felt he hardly knew the man, and from what little he did know, he felt a degree of respect for the Mongol.

With Horigawa, it was different. Horigawa had used and abused Taniko’s body. He had killed their baby. The thought of Horigawa made his stomach churn and his fingers clench, aching to be wrapped around the man’s scrawny neck. He hated the cruelty, the waste, the stupidity of Horigawa’s act. It was Horigawa, too, who had egged on the Takashi and thereby set the great samurai families at each other’s throats. Because of Horigawa thousands of good men were dead and much of the land lay in ruins. If Horigawa were to die, how many lives might be changed for the better?

If only he had killed him when he had the chance at Daidoji. He had been a fool to let him live. Some of the hatred he felt for Horigawa was directed at himself as well. It was because of his error that Horigawa had lived to kill Jebu’s daughter.

The spasm of hatred recalled him to himself. He reached inside his robe to the secret place sewn into it, and he took out the shintai. Sitting up, he held the Jewel in both hands before his face, staring into the shifting planes of colour and light in its depths. For a moment he seemed to see the great glowing Tree of Life and some of the creatures that grew from it.

Peace spread slowly through his body. The grief was still there, a dull ache, but the hatred was gone.

Horigawa and I are one, he told himself. For me to kill him in hatred, thinking that I am ridding the world of evil, is as mad as cutting off my left hand with my right hand. Horigawa acts according to his nature and I act according to mine. If I kill him some day, it will be because it is necessary, not because I hate him and desire his death.

That, he thought with surprise, is the deepest level of insight I have achieved since Taitaro gave me the shintai.

He stood up and walked back to Moko, who was staring at him. “Shiké, what is that precious stone?”

“It is a gift to me from my fathers. Both of them.” He put his hand on Moko’s shoulder. “I’m all right now.”

“Shiké, I want to stay with you. Let me be your servant, your Bannerman, your foot soldier—anything.”

“A Zinja monk does not normally have servants. But these are not normal times. Yes, from now on you will travel with me.”

A few days later Abbot Weicho called Jebu into his chamber. “You will continue to serve the Muratomo. The Council of Abbots is convinced that there is a doom hanging over the house of Takashi. It is important to the Order that Zinja be fighting on the winning side. When the Muratomo do win, we may see the revival of the Order for which we have long hoped.”

Jebu was sent to the island of Shikoku to help a band of samurai besiege the castle of an oryoshi who was oppressing the countryside in the service of the Red Dragon. Jebu proposed to assassinate the oryoshi and was contemptuously told that it was impossible. The castle was so impregnable that a mouse could not get into it, and the oryoshi was guarded in shifts by samurai who even stood over his bed and watched him while he slept.

“He does not even send his guards away when he takes a woman,” the local Muratomo leader said.

“Assassination is a Zinja speciality,” said Jebu. “Leave this to me.”Jebu infiltrated the castle by way of a sewer outlet into the moat around it. He hid in the castle privy for a day and a night, using Zinja meditative techniques to remain motionless and silent. When his intended victim came to relieve himself, Jebu ran his sword into his bowels and escaped by the same route he had entered. Leaderless, the castle fell to the Muratomo samurai, who looked on Jebu with superstitious horror. Moko helped him to wash his clothing and equipment, and would not let him out of the bath, which he constantly replenished with fresh, steaming water, for an entire day.

Jebu fought along with one band of samurai, then another, staying at one castle for a night, at another for a week, at a few for months. He besieged and was besieged, ambushed enemies in the forest and fought pitched battles in the streets of cities and villages. It was a way of life he had grown used to after Domei’s insurrection, and one to which Moko quickly adapted.

But in spite of the Council of Abbots’ hopes, the Muratomo leaders who held out against the Takashi were, one by one, captured or killed. The insurrection came to seem more like the scattered depredations of outlaw bands than an organized rebellion. The two surviving sons of Domei remained under guard in the hands of the Takashi. The elder, Hideyori, was still under the watchful eye of Taniko’s father, Lord Shima Bokuden. His half-brother, Yukio, remained in Sogamori’s custody in the Rokuhara, the Takashi stronghold in the capital. Both publicly disavowed any warfare conducted in their family’s behalf, declaring it to be the work of bandits. They repeatedly swore their loyalty to the Emperor and to Sogamori.

Jebu’s collection of swords grew month by month. After a battle, with Moko’s help, he would find the swords of any samurai he killed, and Moko would carry them to the nearest Zinja monastery. Eventually the swords would make their way to the Teak Blossom Temple. Months later a message would arrive from Nyosan by some circuitous route, telling Jebu that the swords had arrived, and giving him the current tally.

Jebu continued his daily practice of contemplating the Jewel of Life and Death. Carefully secluding himself so that his samurai companions would not see and covet the Jewel, he would lose himself in the maze traced on the transparent sphere’s surface.

Moko felt that the Jewel must be magic, and he feared its power over his master. Jebu had told Moko the whole story of Jamuga, Taitaro, Arghun and the shintai. The Jewel was beautiful, Moko thought, but why did the shiké spend so much time staring at it?

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