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|Monday, June 13th, 2005|
"Um, Fudo-san," Nanashi began, "I want to apologize for my behaviour lately. I know I've been a bit on edge. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, I wondered about that. I figured it was just leaving your lover."
"Taiyoumi. I figured you were just upset about leaving Taiyoumi so soon."
"Ah. Well, we're not really lovers. I mean, we're just childhood friends." Bullshit
"Ah. Is that so?"
"Yes. I told you, I don't really like girls." Don't like girls? Well he didn't exactly say that, I thought, but whatever. What exactly does he mean by "Don't like girls"?
"I see. You like boys, then?"
"Are you coming on to me?"
"Then this conversation is over."
"I'm glad Kohana's getting married. I hope he takes good care of her," Fudo remarked.
"He'd better," Nanashi muttered darkly. Odd,
Fudo thought, I thought he didn't like Kohana. They were always fighting.
"I still say it wasn't a good idea for her to come out here by herself, though."
"She's an idiot," Nanashi snapped. "Women should stay at home, or if they must leave, they should do so with a man. They have no business wandering about alone."
"Well, I didn't mean that," Fudo objected, a bit taken aback by his companion's sudden ferver.
"I do. Women need to be protected."
"Some can protect themselves."
"That's not the point. There will always be a man who's stronger, smarter, and more powerful. Women should stay out of sight, where they're safe." Nanashi finished. I don't think I want to argue with him about this. He might decide to pull that naginata on me, and I need him to sail.
They walked on in silence. Maybe he's edgy because he had to leave his lover. Come to think of it, Taiyoumi was captured by a slaver, wasn't she? maybe that's why he's so upset about this.
|Sunday, June 12th, 2005|
Fudo froze as Nanashi's naginata swept up and stopped right before his neck. The two men pulled back and bowed formally.
"I think that's enough," Nanashi said.
"Only twice? You're just saying that because you won this time," Fudo objected.
"I want to do some pattern dances tomorrow, and we can't destroy ourselves like we might in training. If we're jumped again, I do not want to have to deal with sore muscles. So, yes. Only twice." I guess he's right. Sort of disappointing, though. Two bouts, and we each won one. I wonder which of us is better. After all, one bout can be won by luck; you need a few to really know. Still, I can tell he's very skilled. Well trained, too. He must be a samurai.
"Nanashi-san, what's your family name?" Nanashi glared at him.
"I have no family name. I have no family. We've been over this."
"Well, where are you from? What Han?"
"I have no home. I have no Han. I am nobody."
"I know you're samurai-"
"I am not samurai!" Nanashi flared.
"But the way you fight-"
"Forget it," he snarled. Where the hell did this temper come from? Aside from talking with Kohana, he's always been pretty easy-going. Well, I guess that's not quite true. He got upset about the cloak, too. I know he's samurai. How else could he have learned to fight like that? So why would a samurai deny his birthright, his family, his Han? Ah! He left his Han without permission! He's a rounin, an outlaw samurai without a Han. He denies his family to absolve them from his crimes. That explains everything! It all makes sense now. Well, except the cloak. That's still a mystery.
"Nanashi-san," Fudo began.
"What?" Nanashi snapped.
"Ah, nevermind. It was nothing." I guess this is probably a bad time to ask about the cloak.
"Kohana," Fudo said, "will you be alright traveling with Taiyoumi-san and Makoto-san?"
"I'll be fine. I'm sure they'll take good care of me." I hope so,
Fudo thought. There are so many things I want to ask her.
"Kohana, where did you and Makoto-san go the other night?" She looked away.
"We just looked at the stars and talked a bit. It was nothing of importance."
"Why did Taiyoumi-san scream yesterday? And what is Nanashi-san hiding? I know there's something."
"Even if I knew, it wouldn't be my place to say. Why don't you go spar with Nanashi? He could probably use some practice with that naginata Makoto-san gave him." Fudo smiled. She's much more mature than I ever gave her credit for. When did she grow up?
"Congratulations on your engagement," he told her. She looked at him for a moment before responding.
"Thank you, Fudo-san." Fudo looked at her startled. After a moment he regained his composure.
"You're welcome, Kohana-san."
Fudo did his best not to meet the eyes of either Nanashi or Taiyoumi as he ate his rice. Thinking about the night before, he looked down at his rice, not looking directly at anyone.
"Mori-san," Chikyuu began, "Forgive me for the lack of ceremony, but may I ask you for your cousin's hand in marriage?" The room was silent as everyone stopped eating to listen to the betrothal.
"Yes, as much as she is mine to give, she is yours." Fudo looked over at Kohana, who began eating again. She looks happy.
"You will be our matchmaker?" He asked. Fudo paused.
"We need to get to Biwa-ko...."
"There is no one else to do it."
"I'll do it," Taiyoumi said. Everyone stared.
"Yoko!" Nanashi exclaimed. Taiyoumi looked at him sharply.
"This has to be done, Nanashi. Go with Fudo-san and help him with the boat. I'll see to Makoto-san and Kohana-san. We'll meet again later." Taiyoumi told him.
"But Yoko," Nanashi began.
"Nanashi, we've found each other again. Nothing will change that. Right now though, there are things more important than staying together. You know how important this would have been to some people, and how important it still is to others. Do your duty!" Taiyoumi finished. Nanashi looked away for a moment. He looks dazed.
"Of course, you're right. Very well. Is that acceptable?" Nanashi looked at Chikyuu and Fudo. What was she talking about? I don't really know these people. How much can I trust them?
"Thank you for your generous offer," Chikyuu said politely. Taiyoumi looked pointedly at Fudo.
"Two very good men lost their lives before they saw the realization of their dreams. I want to see to it that their lives were not in vain. There is no reason for subterfuge, now. We are all fighting for the Emperor, and must all fulfill our duties."
"Good morning," Fudo said, sliding back Nanashi and Taiyoumi's door. He froze. There were clothes laid out on one side of the room, Taiyoumi's clothes, Nanashi's cloak and other clothes Fudo didn't recognize. That must be what he wears under his cloak.
Nanashi and Taiyoumi lay together between two futon. Fudo slid the door closed and went back into his own room. That was embarrassing.
|Saturday, June 11th, 2005|
When Nanashi, Taiyoumi, and Kohana got back from the river, it was dark. Nanashi and Taiyoumi immediately retired to their room, and Kohana went to hers.
"Good night, Makoto-san." Fudo told his host.
"Good night, Mori-san." Chikyuu replied. Fudo went to the door of his room. He paused there, watching as Chikyuu went to Kohana's door and whispered something Fudo couldn't quite hear. The door slid open and Kohana came to the door, still fully dressed. She said something. He replied, and she nodded. The two went quietly to the door, put on their shoes, and left the house. Fudo stared after them. What on earth is that all about?
He wondered. Should I go after them? I guess it's not my place; after all, I'm a guest here. I'm sure I'll find out eventually.
He went into his room.
Fudo looked up when the door opened. Kohana walked in.
"Welcome home," Chikyuu responded. Kohana walked over to him.
"Do you mind if I bring some food out there? Nanashi's cloak needs to dry before he comes back, but we're getting hungry."
"Not at all," he said. "Would you like me to help you bring it out there?"
"No, thank you. I'll take it out myself. I don't think Tanuki would let you out there anyway."
"I guess you're probably right," Chikyuu agreed. All this politeness is very well and good, but I want to know what happened.
"What was the scream about, Kohana?" They both looked at him. Then Chikyuu shifted his gaze to Kohana. She glanced at him, then at the ground, then back at Fudo.
"It's really not for me to say. It was nothing, anyway. Everything's fine. About that food?"
"Yes, of course," Chikyuu replied. He looks thoughtful. Is he wondering too and is just too polite to say anything?
A piercing scream came through the walls of Chikyuu's cottage. Chikyuu and Fudo looked at each other.
"The river," Chikyuu said. Taiyoumi.
They got up quickly and took off in the direction of the river, Kohana following close behind. Suddenly, Fudo was on his back, pinned to the ground.
"Tanuki! No!" Chikyuu cried, coming to help. Tanuki growled in Fudo's face as Chikyuu tried to pull him off.
"It's alright!" Kohana called, having gone ahead. "There's nothing wrong. You can go back now." Tanuki allowed himself to be pulled off, but stood steadfastly between the two men and the river. He glared suspiciously at them both, growling when Chikyuu stepped forward. Chikyuu stepped back, looked at Fudo, then back at Tanuki, then at the river. He looked at Tanuki again, shrugged, and turned to Fudo.
"Let's go back," he said. He called to the girls and Nanashi, "We're going back now!" He turned to go, but stopped when Fudo hesitated. "They're fine, I'm sure. You see how good Tanuki is. He protects them even against me! Don't worry about it."
"I guess so," Fudo said, reluctantly following his host.
"Makoto-san, is there a clean river or something nearby? I want to clean up a bit," Taiyoumi asked.
"Yes, I can show you, if-" Chikyuu was cut off by Tanuki's enthusiastic barking. Taiyoumi laughed and scratched him behind the ears. He quieted, sitting in front of her with his tail loudly thumping against the floor.
"Yes, good boy. There's my puppy," Taiyoumi told him, "there's my good boy." His tail thumped louder. Chikyuu laughed.
"He's hardly a puppy, now." He said.
"Well, he thinks he is," Taiyoumi pointed out. Chikyuu laughed again.
"I guess he does, doesn't he. Acts like one, anyway."
"Would you mind if I took him with me? I don't want to be caught alone without my clothes on, and with those bandits still out there...."
"Nanashi," Taiyoumi said, turning to him, "you should come with me. We can wash your clothes, too." Nanashi flinched.
"Yoko... I don't think-"
"Oh, come on Nanashi, it'll be fine. Just us, alone, nobody else...." She leaned over and whispered in his ear. As she was whispering, he glanced around the room at the others, then down at the floor. He started turning a bit red. She looked at him and he nodded. She smiled and turned to Chikyuu. "Where is it?"
|Friday, June 10th, 2005|
When Nanashi and Taiyoumi came in, everyone was silent. After a moment, Chikyuu spoke.
“I would be honored if you would stay the night in my house.” The offer was made to Nanashi and Taiyoumi, since Fudo had already accepted.
“Thank you very much,” Taiyoumi replied with a bow. Nanashi also bowed. Taiyoumi looked at him. “Nanashi isn’t feeling well. It would be best to get him to bed right away, if that’s possible.”
“Of course,” Chikyuu said courteously. “Will you share a room?” Taiyoumi smiled
“If it’s not too much trouble.”
“No trouble at all.”
“Thank you very much.”
“Fudo-san,” Nanashi interrupted in a hoarse whisper. He must have lost his voice.
“What happened to the men we fought?” Doesn’t he remember?
“They got away with all our stuff, you know.”
“All of them?”
“All the ones that survived, you know.”
“And the others?”
“We killed them, remember?” Nanashi nodded absently, and Fudo wasn’t sure he really did remember. “I fought with my sword, and then you came in with your stick,” he added.
“How many did I kill?”
“I don’t remember, you know? I didn’t know you were keeping track, you know.” Nanashi nodded his head absently again. This time he kept moving it, switching to shaking his head, and then just moving it aimlessly, kind of searching the room for something. His breathing seemed a little irregular, and his eyes started to look a bit desperate. His head moved very slowly, but his eyes darted about. Suddenly, he took a deep breath; his eyes rolled up; his face went slack; he fell forward, his arms coming up instinctively. Nanashi landed on the ground unconscious, his head on his right arm, his hands open. In his right hand was the small, thick, gold earring that he’d been wearing since Fudo had first met him.
“Nanashi!” Taiyoumi rushed forward and knelt beside him. She put an arm around him and her head down near his. “Nanashi-chan, you are not just fine.” She looked up at Chikyuu who was now standing. “Is there somewhere I can take him?”
“Of course. Let me get the futon.” He left. When he returned to show them to the room, Taiyoumi rather awkwardly lifted Nanashi off the ground.
“Let me help you,” Fudo offered.
“I’ll do this, thank you,” Taiyoumi replied, and she half carried, half dragged, Nanashi into the room and lay him down on the futon. “I’ll take care of him.” Fudo and Chikyuu left, and Taiyoumi slid the door closed. Tanuki settled himself down outside the door, eyeing Fudo and Chikyuu suspiciously.
“I’ll arrange rooms for you and your cousin to stay,” Chikyuu offered.
“Thank you very much.”
“…That was the last time I ever saw Tanuki, because when I went looking for him, I got picked up by a slaver and sold into prostitution. Fortunately nothing came of that, since Nanashi found me just in time. I’ve been traveling with him and his friends ever since.” Taiyoumi finished.
“What a story! Well, that explains why he responded right away to ‘Tanuki’. I just named him that because he’s so big.” Chikyuu remarked. “Where are you all headed, anyway?”
“Hikone. What’s the best way to get there from here, do you think?” Fudo asked.
“You’ve got a few options. The easiest way is to go the other direction, cross the bridge, and then turn around again and head up to the city. The problem with it is that it’s the longest way to get there. You could also hire someone to take you across in a boat, and then walk up to the city. The problem with that is that you’ll be scammed into paying too much, and you have to depend on another person, and you have to travel on their time. If no one’s planning to go across the lake, that might take even longer than the first route. The best way to get there is to sail a small boat across yourselves.”
“There are a couple of problems with that. Firstly, we don’t have a boat. Secondly, we don’t know how to sail one even if we had it.”
“Are you related to Mori Ichinosuke?”
“He’s my uncle, Kohana’s father.”
“My brother has a few boats up near Shiga. Two of them are mine. One’s yours. Tell him I’m giving you Nami.”
“That still doesn’t solve the second problem.” Fudo pointed out.
“Nanashi can sail her.” Taiyoumi offered. Everyone looked at her. “Nanashi’s a good sailor, good swimmer too. He’s good at everything. Anything that has to do with water, Nanashi can do it. Nanashi of the water—”
“That’s enough, Yoko!” Nanashi interrupted. He glared at her. “I am not, nor have ever been, ‘Nanashi of the water’. Never!” He stood up awkwardly. “Please forgive my rudeness, but I must leave.” He limped over to the door, put his shoes on, and left, closing the door quietly behind him. Taiyoumi closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and opened them again.
“I should go after him. Forgive me.” She set down her tea, and stood up. She left quietly, as Nanashi had. The room was silent. Chikyuu coughed.
“Mori-san, there’s a window over there. Would you go check and let me know what the weather is like?” He indicated an open window on the same side of the house as the door. Fudo nodded and walked over to it. Outside, a small drama unfolded.
“I’m sorry Nanashi. It was a bad pun. I was only teasing.”
“It wasn’t funny.”
“I’m sorry.” There was a pause.
“I can’t do it Yoko. It’s too close. What if someone sees me?”
“No one will see you.”
“Someone might. The hood might help in a crowd, but it’ll do nothing up close. I can’t risk it. Fudo-tachi can find someone else. I’m not a very good sailor anyway.”
“No one’s going to see you, Nanashi. They’re dead now.”
“No, Yoko, I’m dead now. Not even dead, I was never alive in the first place. I don’t exist.” Taiyoumi slapped Nanashi across the face.
“There was an earthquake, Nanashi. When I was looking for Tanuki, an earthquake destroyed the village. They’re dead.” Nanashi stared at her in shock.
“You didn’t tell me.”
“It’s not an easy thing to tell.”
“Everyone.” Nanashi looked at her for a moment, and began sobbing. She hugged him, and he cried into her shoulder. She started to cry too. Fudo turned away and walked back to Chikyuu and Kohana.
“Looks like rain,” Chikyuu remarked. Fudo looked at him. “I guess you didn’t have to go to the window after all.” Kohana was staring at the floor; she looked like she was about to start crying too.
“Yeah,” Fudo agreed. “I think it might be raining for a while.”
“Makoto-san,” Fudo said softly. The moon lit the faces of the two men standing outside the cabin. “I have a message for you. It’s from Aisukurimu-sensei, regarding a union between our families.”
“He mentioned it before. I take it he’s devised a suitable solution?”
“My cousin Kohana is of marriageable age.”
“I see. Well, she certainly is a pretty girl.” Chikyuu looked up at the sky. The stars were very bright and the moon almost full. “Your friend Nanashi might be unwell for a while. You can stay here until he’s better. As for you cousin… well, we’ll see.”
The sky was getting lighter. Fudo shook Kohana awake and they set out to look for their missing companions. Just when they thought they’d never find them, they saw Nanashi lying on the ground with Taiyoumi curled up next to him, her head on his chest. One of his arms rested on her back, one of hers lay across his stomach. Fudo watched them sleeping for a moment. Funny. Even when he’s sleeping next to a beautiful girl, he still has his cloak on.
A loud bark startled him and woke the sleepers.
“Tanuki!” A voice called from the distance. Nanashi and Taiyoumi looked at each other in surprise. Nanashi shook his head, but looked unsure. Taiyoumi stood up and Nanashi followed her, stumbling a bit on the leg that had been hit the night before. Taiyoumi put his arm over her shoulder to steady him. Fudo watched them, and then unlocked his sword, leaving it sheathed, and started walking toward the voice. We need supplies. I still have money, so if this person isn’t a thief…
“Oi!” Fudo called.
“Who’s that?” came the reply.
“Just some unfortunate travelers.”
“So I see.” The voice came from a young man who was holding a dog by a piece of rope tied around its neck. The dog gave a sudden jerk, pulling away from him and ran at them. It jumped up and knocked Taiyoumi on her back. Nanashi fell over too, nearly landing on top of them. The dog’s master ran over, looking worried.
“Tanuki! It is you!” Taiyoumi was grinning as the dog licked her face.
“He doesn’t usually take well to new people,” the dog’s owner said, puzzled. Taiyoumi pushed the dog off and got to her feet, laughing. The dog turned his attention to Nanashi who obligingly scratched him behind his ears. “Would you like to come in?” The young man asked, turning to the cabin behind him. The door was still open. Fudo spoke up.
“Thank you very much. I am Mori Fudo. Pleased to meet you.”
“I am Makoto Chikyuu. Pleased to meet you.” They bowed to each other.
“I am Natsuyo Taiyoumi. Pleased to meet you.” She and Chikyuu bowed to each other.
“I’m Nanashi,” Nanashi added without getting up because of his leg and the dog.
“I am Mori Kohana. Pleased to meet you.” Kohana and Chikyuu bowed to each other. Chikyuu looked the group over, noting the shirtless and hastily bandaged Fudo, the hobbling Nanashi, Kohana with dirt sticking to her face where tears had run, the lightly scraped up Taiyoumi, and the weariness that they all tried and failed to hide.
“Please come inside. I don’t have much, but at least I can give you some tea and help you with your injuries.”
Fudo shifted uneasily. Taiyoumi had been gone for a long time. Maybe I should go after her. No, I have to keep Kohana safe. It’s my duty as her cousin and as a supporter of the Emperor. He sighed. I doubt I could sleep now even if I didn’t have to stay awake.
Fudo looked around. Taiyoumi still had her arms wrapped around Kohana and they were both sleeping soundly. Most of their things were gone; the only things left were the women and his sword. The regular forest sounds surrounded him, but it still seemed peaceful.
Kohana stirred, crying out quietly in her sleep. Taiyoumi awoke and quickly soothed her with soft shushing sounds. She looked around, her eyes then rested on Fudo.
“Nanashi’s not back yet?” She asked softly, but with an urgency that bespoke her anxiety. Fudo started at the question. How long has he been gone? Did something happen to him?
“No,” Fudo admitted. Taiyoumi paused thoughtfully.
“Watch her,” she said, indicating Kohana. “I’m going after him.” Fudo felt a twinge of fear as he thought of the danger that could come to her.
“It’s dangerous—” he began, but she cut him off.
“What’s the alternative? If you go, then Kohana-san and I both will be left alone. I can’t wait for morning; he might be hurt and need help right away. I have to go.” She paused, and then added, “If I need help, I’ll shout.” Fudo was still uneasy, but she didn’t give him a chance to come up with an argument. She gently slipped out from under Kohana and left into the woods.
|Thursday, June 9th, 2005|
"Why don't you ever take off your cloak?" Fudo finally asked outright as they were preparing for sleep.
"Why do you keep asking me to?" Nanashi retorted.
"Boys, please try to get along," Taiyoumi intervened. "Does it really matter? We all have our quirks." If she weren't so pretty, I'd probably argue with her.
"Alright, Taiyoumi-san." Fudo agreed.
"Nanashi?" Taiyoumi prompted. He sighed.
"Whatever you say." Taiyoumi looked slightly annoyed at that; it wasn't really agreement, but she left it as it was. They were all getting settled when they heard people coming toward them. They were close enough and loud enough that it was clear that they had been keeping quiet until just now. Fudo looked around, putting his hand on his sword. The men burst in from the forest. There were about seven of them, some of whom were armed. Fudo swore under his breath. I hope Nanashi knows how to fight.
Fudo stood, watching the men. A few of them leered at Taiyoumi and Kohana; others eyed the supplies.
"What do you want?" He asked them, not bothering to be polite. Not even dignifying his question with a response, they attacked. Fudo immediately unsheathed his sword. The first chance he got, Nanashi darted off into the woods. Fudo was furious. After all I've done for him, he ought to stick it out, and it's his duty as a man to help protect the women.
Fudo did his best to fend off the thieves. Fortunately, Fudo didn't have to fight them all at once; a few of them went to rob and ravish first, leaving their comrades to fight alone. If any of them hurts either Taiyoumi or Kohana....
One of them cut him on his left arm. He was badly outnumbered from the start, and now he was wounded on top of that. Just then, Nanashi came back, wielding a staff with impressive skill. Fudo had already killed three. Having the benefit of surprise, Nanashi took out two more, without earning himself a scratch. One of the men grabbed some supplies and made off with them. Nanashi started to follow him, but was hit in the knee by a sharp rock thrown from the forest. He fell to the ground, his leg having given out on him. He scowled, looking more angry than hurt. Fudo called to the girls first.
"Taiyoumi-san, Kohana, are you two alright?"
"We're fine, Fudo-san." Taiyoumi replied. "Kohana's a bit shaken up, but she'll be ok."
"Good." Fudo said. He then went over to Nanashi. "Are you alright?" Nanashi grinned tightly.
"I’m tired, my knee is in searing pain, and I can't chase after the guy who stole our things or the one who hit me with that rock, but aside from that I'm just wonderful. Is your arm alright?" He was sort of wryly amused at first, but when he noticed Fudo's injury, Nanashi became very concerned. Fudo shrugged.
"Nothing that won't heal. Keep an eye out though. Even though they ran off, the two that escaped might come back." Fudo pointed out.
"Shifts?" Nanashi suggested.
"I think we have to." Fudo agreed. "I'll take first watch. I doubt I'll be able to sleep for quite awhile, with all the bleeding and all." Taiyoumi came over.
"You have to bandage that," she told him.
"I know," Fudo replied.
"No, I mean tonight, now. You can't just leave it overnight."
"It'll be fine."
"I won't let you leave it. Infected wounds are very nasty, and that's not just a small cut."
"We don't have any bandages; one of them took everything," Fudo pointed out.
"Take off your shirt," she commanded.
"What?" He asked, shocked.
"I'll make bandages out of it. Now take it off." Taiyoumi ordered. Fudo hesitated. "Now!" He took off his shirt and handed it over to her. "Not perfect, but it will have to do for now," Taiyoumi said, somewhat regretfully. She tried to tear it into strips, but the fabric was too strong. Eventually she asked Fudo to use his sword. She bandaged the wound very patiently and skillfully. When she finished, she stood and left, going back to Kohana, who was sobbing hysterically. Fudo kept his sword unsheathed so it would be ready if he needed it.
"Sorry I left," Nanashi apologized. "I'm not particularly adept at unarmed combat, so I went to find a staff."
"I thought you'd deserted us," Fudo admitted. "You got really lucky with that stick. It's just the right size and all."
"It's a little off balance and a bit lighter than I'm used to, but it'll do."
"That's some luck; you can look for months for the perfect stick and still not find it. It's amazing that you found it so quickly."
"I don't plan on relying on chance, though. I'll keep this with me for now -- just in case." Nanashi said. "I'll be back in a minute; call out if there's trouble." He turned to the girls, "Yoko, if there's trouble?"
"Right," she replied with a nod.
"Stay sharp." Fudo warned. Nanashi nodded and left into the woods again.
“It’s such a lovely day,” Taiyoumi said.
“Yes,” Nanashi agreed. “Yoko, how is everyone back home?”
“It’s been a while since I left the village.”
“Yes, but how were they when you left?” Nanashi persisted. Taiyoumi paused, looking thoughtful.
“The last time I talked with them, they seemed as well as ever.” She sounds like she’s hiding something.
Nanashi looked like he was going to say more, but then he apparently changed his mind and said nothing. There was an awkward pause for a moment.
“Why don’t we stop for lunch now?” Fudo suggested. Nanashi smiled. He’s not as happy about food than he usually is; something is wrong here.
|Wednesday, June 8th, 2005|
“Aren’t you going to take your cloak off before you go to sleep?” Fudo asked.
“No, I’m not,” Nanashi replied stiffly.
“Isn’t it a hot night to be wearing a cloak?” Fudo persisted.
“I’m fine,” Nanashi said. He sighed irritably. “Would you just give it up? I’m not going to take off my cloak.” Fudo shrugged.
“Good night Nanashi-san.” Nanashi glared at him, but Fudo just ignored it. “Good night Kohana; sleep well.”
“Good night Fudo.” She replied.
“Good night Taiyoumi-san,” Fudo said.
“Good night Fudo-san.” Taiyoumi walked over to Nanashi and whispered something to him. She then added louder, “Sweet dreams, Nanashi.”
“Sweet dreams.” He paused. “Good night Fudo-san.” Fudo smiled.
“Good night Nanashi-san.” They all settled down to sleep.
“Can we do something other than riddles? You and Taiyoumi-san always get them.” Kohana whined. They had been traveling for quite a while since breakfast, and the sun was high overhead. Fudo shrugged. I was starting to run out of good ones anyway.
“I could tell a story,” Nanashi offered. The others assented, and he began. “It’s an old tale, but I’ve always liked the old ones best anyway. I think you’ll like this one; it has riddles in it.” Nanashi said, eyes twinkling.
“Once, very long ago, there was a time when Japan was not yet unified by the son of Amaterasu Omikami. It was divided into many different countries, each of which was ruled by a different lord. The lord of one country, the country of our tale, noticed that his people were poor and starving. He knew that he could not allow his people to suffer. Though it wrung his heart, he made a law stating that when people had lived for sixty years, they must be taken to a mountain and left there to die. It was a sad law, but he did it to ensure that the younger people had enough food to live to be sixty as well.
“One day, the lord of a neighboring country who had been coveting our lord’s land sent word requesting a gift of a rope made of ash. The lord of our story knew that if he did not send the gift, the other lord would be insulted and would use it as an excuse to attack. To protect his people, he had to come up with a way to create a rope of ash. He sent out a proclamation saying that anyone who came to the palace with a rope made of ash would be greatly rewarded. In a few days, a man came to the castle with such a rope. The lord was astonished, ‘how did you make this?’ he asked. The man responded, ‘I soaked a rope in salt water and lit it on fire.’ The lord was delighted and rewarded the man duly, telling him that he had saved the country and had the gratitude of its entire people. The rope was sent to the neighboring lord and our lord wished for peace.”
“Would the rope really stay together?” Kohana interrupted. Taiyoumi smiled.
“Nanashi tried it once, but he was caught before he could light it on fire. He was lucky that it was Mokuro who found him; someone else might have beaten him for it. After all, it wasn’t his rope.”
“That’s not fair, Yoko!” Nanashi protested. “I was only six years old. I didn’t know any better.”
“Of course, you didn’t. That’s why you did it right in the middle of the beach where anyone could have seen you. I can still remember you sitting in the sand with a wet rope on a board, just about to light it on fire.”
“You thought it was a good idea too.”
“You came up with it first, though. And you carried it out. I just watched.”
“Then, you don’t know if it would work?” Kohana asked, a bit disappointed.
“Sorry. Now, if you’ll let me finish my story....”
“Sorry,” Kohana said, and Nanashi continued.
“Peace was not so easy as that, however. The neighboring sovereign soon sent a crooked bamboo stalk along with the instructions to run a thread through it without damaging it. Another proclamation was issued and again, the same young man came with a solution. ‘If you cover one end of the bamboo with sugar and tie a thread to an ant, then you only have to put him on the other end and he will bring the thread through the stalk on his way to get to the sugar.’ The man was again duly rewarded and thanked. ‘Surely this will be enough,’ the lord hoped."
“How did he tie a thread to an ant?” Kohana asked. “Wouldn’t it have killed the ant?” Nanashi sighed, obviously a bit annoyed that she kept interrupting.
“Maybe he tried it several times until he got it right,” Taiyoumi suggested.
“That could be,” Nanashi agreed. He started the story again.
“His hopes were not fulfilled, however. No sooner was the bamboo stalk received than another request was sent. This one was sent with a promise that it would be the last. The foreign leader now wanted a drum that would beat itself. A proclamation was again sent out, and again the same man came to the castle with the solution. He had built a drum around a hornets’ nest, and the hornets beat the drum noisily in an attempt to escape. The lord was overjoyed by the man’s intelligence and asked him if he had thought of them all on his own.”
“But, wouldn’t the hornets have gotten out eventually?”
“I don’t know, but if they did, they would have stung the foreign ruler who was evil anyway. Please don’t interrupt me again, Kohana.” Nanashi voice was strained.
“Sorry,” Kohana said. He sighed and continued.
“The lord asked the man if he had thought of all of the ideas by himself. The man looked shamefully at the floor and admitted that he had not thought of them himself. He had been hiding his mother, who was past the age of sixty, to protect her from the lord’s law. It was she who came up with each of the solutions. The lord then realized that if that man had not broken the law and kept his mother, then the country would have had to go to war. The lord thought carefully about this, and then told the man that he would not be punished for his crime against the state, and that the law would be abolished. The young man was very grateful that he would no longer need to keep his mother hidden and was very glad that he would no longer have to break the law.” Nanashi ended his story.
“Are you done?” Kohana asked nervously, after an uncomfortable pause.
“Yes Kohana, I’m done now.” This is getting a bit too tense for me.
“What do you all think of stopping for lunch?” Fudo asked. Nanashi grinned.