Shike – Day 74 of 306

Eisen said, “Long ago men whose names we no longer know went into the forests and up to the tops of mountains and thought about why people are not happy. And they came to the same conclusion: we should seek happiness in nothing at all. The Brahmans of India learned from those original sages. The Buddha and Lao Tzu both restated their teachings. The same wisdom is the heart of the lore of Zinja and Zen monks. I find there is much similarity between our two paths. Only, if you will forgive my saying so, we part company on the matter of warfare. We students of Zen believe that violence is an obstacle to enlightenment. The Zinja do not hesitate to kill or injure others.”

“Like you, we seek enlightenment,” Jebu said, “but we do it through the practice of the arts of warfare. We learn to be forgetful of the conscious mind. We learn to love our opponents and not to fear death. Even the samurai, if they learned the Zinja principles of fighting, could aspire to the same sort of enlightenment you teach, sensei.”

“Perhaps I am wrong about the military arts,” said Eisen. “If any samurai should come to me for teaching, I will not turn him away.”

He sat down before the entrance to the hut, facing out to sea. Jebu and Yukio sat with him.

Yukio said, “Tell us about China, sensei. I hear the Emperor of China is fighting barbarians. I am thinking of taking fighting men over the water to serve the Chinese Emperor. There are many of us whose lives are forfeit if we stay here, many who have lost everything to the Takashi. Perhaps we will find better fortune in China.”

“Too bad you are not going, as I did, to learn from the Chinese. But if the Central Kingdom, as they call it, is not saved from the barbarians, there will be nothing left to learn.”

“Who are these barbarians?” Yukio asked. Jebu knew these barbarians were his father’s people, but he wondered what Eisen would say about them.

Eisen said, “There are many peoples who live in the grasslands north of the borders of China. They are called Cathayans, Kin, Manchus, Tartars—and Mongols. They spend their lives on horseback, herding cattle and other animals. They live in tents and have no fixed abode. From time to time they make war on the farming people to the south. Ages ago a Chinese Emperor built a Great Wall to keep them out, but as with all walls its promise of security was false. A hundred years ago people called Cathayans crossed the Wall and took the northern half of China for their own. Then a people called the Kin conquered the Cathayans. They seized all the riches, settled in the cities and learned Chinese ways. Now the Mongols have come. They have utterly destroyed the Kin. They threaten the native rulers of China, the Sung dynasty, who still hold the southern half of the country.”

Yukio said, “I have heard of these Mongols. I have heard that they have no human law and are more ferocious than tigers or bears.”

Eisen shrugged. “You know how men will exaggerate when describing their enemy. Actually, their laws are very strict, and among them many transgressions are punished by death. They are a fearless, energetic, intelligent people. They are capable of enduring incredible hardships. What they have achieved in recent years they owe to a leader called Genghis Khan. In their language his name means Mightiest Ruler. He wrote their code of laws, which is called the Yassa.”

He was the ruler who sent Arghun to kill my father and me, thought Jebu. He who commanded the obliteration of whole families, of whole cities.

“This Genghis Khan was a master of warfare,” Eisen went on. “Other barbarian horsemen from the grasslands simply swarmed like locusts, overwhelming the civilized peoples with their numbers and ferocity. But Genghis Khan shaped the Mongols into a well-organized, well-drilled army. That is why their conquests extend beyond all others. Even though Genghis Khan died many years ago, long before I went to China, his successors have continued to use his methods of making war to extend the Mongol territories even further. Genghis Khan was a ruler more awesome and brilliant than any Emperor of China or Japan has been in the last thousand years.”

Yukio looked shocked. “You would compare a barbarian warlord to our Emperor?”

Eisen raised a placating hand. “Not at all. Our Emperor is a manifest kami. He is the child of the sun goddess. But there are times when clouds obscure his light. At present, I think, the clouds are thick and numerous in this Sunrise Land.”

Yukio nodded. “For many of us the clouds are too thick. That is why we are willing to seek service with the Emperor of the Land of Sunset.”

“I wish you a safe journey, and may you return some day to a happier country.” Eisen pulled himself into a more rigid sitting position, crossing his legs and hooking his feet over his thighs, then folding his hands in his lap.

He said, “I know the Zinja do not use any special position when they meditate. But I have found that once you have assumed this position, it is impossible to lose your balance and fall over, even if you drop off to sleep.” And he rolled from side to side like a doll with a weighted bottom that cannot be tipped over. Jebu and Yukio laughed as they bade him goodbye.

“My mind is made up,” Yukio said at the bottom of the hill. “I am going to China. Come with me only if you want to. I don’t care that your Order says you must accompany me. I don’t want you with me unless you want to come.”

“Please let me come with you. I want to go to China for many reasons.”

“Fine. I intend to send out a message secretly to our friends in all the provinces — Muratomo no Yukio is going to China and calls for every samurai who supports the Muratomo cause to come with him. Normally it would not be proper for me to issue such a call without the permission of my brother Hideyori, our clan chieftain. But Hideyori is a prisoner in exile in Kamakura and cannot speak freely. His captors might even force him to denounce me for doing this. But I know that in his heart he will be cheering me on.”

Somehow, Jebu could not picture the grim, controlled Hideyori cheering for anything that did not benefit him directly.

Yukio went on, “There is nothing left for us now in these islands. The Takashi rule everywhere. Those who have been loyal to the Muratomo have been stripped of their lands, many of them hunted as outlaws. All the wealth of the world is in China. We can help save the greatest civilization in the world from the barbarians. And the day will come when the Takashi will be weaker than they are now, and we may perhaps return when fortune favours us, and take back what is rightfully ours. Meanwhile, we will gather men and hire ships, and we will present ourselves to the Emperor of the Sung as a fighting force. You and I will lead.”

That night, when Moko was through working on the granary, Jebu told him of Yukio’s decision. Moko smiled broadly.

“Long ago, shiké, when we first met, I told you I would go to China with you if need be. Now, even though I have found the joys of love here in Hakata, I am ready to prove that I mean what I promised.”

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