Shike – Day 306 of 306

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.

“Jebu, what a beautiful thing.”

“It is a gift to you from the land of the Mongols.” He told her the story of the Jewel. “Taitaro used it as a talisman in my spiritual training, but in the end he told me it has no magic. Yet carved on its surface is the Tree of Life, a very beautiful design. You may find it helps you to concentrate when you are meditating. Look at it every day and think of me, and perhaps you will discover that we are one, as I said, and are not really separated.”

“It has a very great magic,” she whispered. She put it in a pocket in her sleeve and then pressed herself against him. She slipped her hands into his robe and caressed the pattern of scars on his chest, just as she had tried to trace the pattern on the Jewel. His fingers crept under the layers of silk she wore and brushed her skin lightly, following its smooth surfaces. The bright rays of the full moon of the Eighth Month, the most beautiful moon of the year, dappled the ground around them and their robes and their bodies. Strings of lanterns dotted the streets of the city below. It was all as it had been long ago, but they had changed immeasurably.

“Oh, Jebu,” she whispered. “That we have known and loved each other though everything was against our love is the greatest of all blessings.”

That night under the full moon and the pines of Mount Higashi, their bodies and their spirits melted together. What they had suffered before, what loneliness they might know in time to come, no longer mattered. On every plane they became one in an eternal now.

From the pillow book of Shima Taniko:

I have decided that I will not let him read my pillow book now. Not till he comes back to me. In that small way I will punish him for leaving.

We have this one winter together, and then I will truly be both nun and Shogun. After Jebu is gone I will sleep alone and devote myself to the Bakufu. I will be a mind and a voice, neither woman nor man.

Why this lifelong urge to involve myself in affairs of state? Even though Eisen dismissed the idea, this passion does arise from the face I had before I was born. When I was in my mother’s womb nobody knew whether I was male or female. And if I strip away being a woman and all that is expected of me because I am a woman, then I am simply a living being who does not want to be a helpless piece of property, who wants to matter, to accomplish things. These are the needs of my deeper self. It is not that I wish to stop being a woman. I am glad I have tender feelings and can show them openly, as no man dares to, because I am a woman. It delights me that men desire me, and I love the pleasure I receive from men. Even though I lost both my children, the times another human being grew inside my body were among the most marvellous experiences of my life. But I do not want to be a woman at the cost of leaving my deeper needs unfulfilled.

And so, because I am driven to achieve, and because of karma or luck, I have become the Ama-Shogun. I seem to be quite alone among women in rising so high. When I was a girl and the Court in Heian Kyo ruled the Sunrise Land, women often had great influence. But now this land is governed by the samurai. Women cannot compete with men in battle, and as long as warriors rule the nation, women will be more and more reduced to servitude. Perhaps I can use my position to help women. But the forces working against us are powerful.

Our best hope lies in an end to wars, because that will end the dominance of the samurai. Peace, the thing Jebu dreams of. Women can help themselves by nurturing peace. If I could communicate my thoughts to other women, I would tell them that.

Perhaps Jebu will bring back the secret of peace to the Sacred Islands. I have learned to live with the fact of his going, but just as I screamed at Eisen, I scream inside whenever I think of his leaving me alone. I remember the story Eisen told me long ago about the enlightened monk who screamed as he was murdered. I understand that story much, much better now.

If I did not have Sametono to love and look after, I do not think I could hold back the scream. After Jebu is gone I will help Sametono to mature and become wise in statecraft. And, in a few years’ time, surely there will be great-grandchildren to occupy my time. Little Taniko, a great-grandmother! Perhaps I have reached that happy stage in life where one grows by simply loving, acting and giving, and does not need to receive.

But that man—so different from all the other people of the Sacred Islands, so wonderful a lover—who came into my life when I was a girl—he is my life. When he sails away in the spring, he takes my life with me.

But he will be back. It may be five years or ten years, but he will be back. And then I will withdraw altogether from public life, and we will find some little cottage on a mountainside with a pleasant view, and I will make ch’ai and raise flowers. He will sit with brush and ink and write down what he has done and learned. And we will never be apart again.

While I am alone I will remain myself. And as myself, I will always love him. As he says, our selves are one Self. So I have him within me, and we will be together always in this life, and sit side by side on the same lotus blossom in the next.

-Eighth Month, seventeenth day

YEAR OF THE SERPENT

Comments

  1. ScottS-M Identicon Icon

    ScottS-M wrote:

    That was a nice enjoyable read. It looks like he has another creative commons novel up. I’ll check into posting that here.

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