July 30, 2010

Okurokami - part 6

“And that was the end of the vision…” Takeko said, her voice sounding a bit hoarse.

“You’re getting tired… Would you like to get some sleep?” Teruro asked.

“Not yet, I have too much on my mind to fall asleep however much I’d like to… So what do think about my visions?” She replied.

“Hmm… they will require some thought. As it happens, I know something about Akaimaru’s death. So there is at least some truth to your vision… I’ll need think about it further.”

There was moment of quiet as this oddly matched pair waded through their thoughts, eventually Takeko asked, “So, are you going to tell me who you are and what you’re doing here? Are am I going to have to wait ‘til I stumble upon it in one of my visions”

Teruro smirked and replied, “Well, I’ll tell you why I’m here…” And so he launched into the events that brought him to Takeko’s home.

Teruro Magunojo’s tea-house (for more description see this post) was surprisingly modest for a samurai of such high standing, but that's the least of the atypical things about this famous sword fighter. In his younger days he had wandered as a ronin (samurai who has sworn no allegiance to a master, or who has been disgraced and rejected by his master) obsessively challenging and mercilessly defeating any strong fighters he could find and in so doing earning the reputation of being a formidable swordsman… Later, he was recruited by Yagyu Mitsuyoshi, and he fought semi covertly, working behind the scenes, dealing with exceptional troubles that could threaten the Tokugawa government. But those days were well behind him, and though just middle aged, he had retired from the troubles of the world to his quiet tea-house.

Teruro sat on the back porch. His emerald green tea, in an artfully carefully sculpted yet deceivingly simple earthenware cup, steamed slightly beside him. He gazed at his modest vegetable garden and beyond it at the stalks of a small patch of bamboo swaying gently in the breeze.

He toyed idly with his thoughts, “Hmm… Bamboo is strong and enduring, it keeps its color all year round; it is graceful, as its elongated and supple form shows; and yet despite these things it is humble, as its hollow nature demonstrates. Truly if men were more akin to it, wisdom would be a common virtue and then…”

His train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of a messenger; who knelt before Teruro bowing his head to the ground and waited to be addressed as protocol demanded… Teruro, repressed a sigh at the fastidiousness of protocol, pondered to himself

“Why do these messengers always remind me of horses?”
Aloud he said sternly, “Arise and state your name and business.”

“Yes, sir Magunojo. I am Matamura Umasuke. Forgive me for intruding upon your haven but Lord Yagyu sends me with a letter,” the messenger said in a somewhat nasal and rural voice.
“Give me the letter,” Teruro curtly replied.

The messenger advanced with bent knees, holding the letter to his forehead, and proffered it respectfully.
“I was told not to expect an answer milord, and thus, with your leave, may I depart?”

Teruro vaguely waved the messenger off and started reading… As he untied and unfolded the letter he immediately noticed that it was both unsealed and unsigned, it was also written in his liege’s distinctively elegant brushstrokes. Sure signs of the letter’s confidential nature. He mused that the messenger was most likely a shinobi (covert agent) in a clever disguise. He took a sip from his green tea, thinking about how easily the peace had been chased from his haven.

Teruro old friend,
The shogunate calls on us anon and anew. The onmyoji (historically they are cosmologists/mysticists but here read sorcerer) Taizan no Seimei lives still, and is plotting against the government.
Our intelligence finds that Taizan’s return is not due to a failure on your behalf to have fulfilled your previous mission but due to occult devices we don’t understand yet. Our sources have also found that he seeks to obtain a book through the Portuguese merchants in exchange for a sizable amount of gold that he stole from a government transport ship. The book is foreign and is called Nekuronomikonu.
We need you to finish what you started by bringing us his head. While you’re at it, destroy the book: I’m told it could supposedly give enormous evil power to any foolish enough to try and wield.
Go see the old wise-man in the Sagano bamboo forest, he can tell where you need to go to start your mission.
Once more we walk the blade’s edge…
Watch yourself,

Teruro sighed, thinking about having to go out onto the roads once again and noticed that he had drunk the contents his cup, “What a waste…” he thought to himself.

An hour before dawn… Teruro had already eaten his breakfast of raw egg, diced daïkon (pickled radish) and natto (fermented beans) mixed into a bowl of fresh white rice, accompanied with a broiled river trout, and a bowl of miso mushroom-soup. He donned his unpretentious brown haori (jacket) over his black hakama (pants) and reddish brown kimono; his clothes reflected his being, unpretentious yet made from good thick hardwearing cotton… Well-made- made to last. He fastened his straw tabi (sandals), checked his swords snuggly sitting in his obi, and finished by putting up the heavy wooden shutters over the doors. He knew that the open road and bloodshed lay ahead. And so he began his journey.

Teruro was about to go on but smiled softly as he noticed that Takeko had fallen asleep. There would be time for more the next day. He tucked into his blanket and let the crackle of the campfire lull him to sleep.