Each night the dream got stronger: Nobu was still a samurai in his old clan. He was bound, bent low before the judge, convicted of stealing from another samurai. For this unforgivable offense he could offer no defense. It was over, his long charade ended. Time to die in inglorious shame and guilt.
And yet, Nobu still refused to comply! He demanded life even after one of the most egregious crimes possible. The judge was outraged.
"Have you no shame! Have you no honor! Where is your samurai code!"
Nobu left his code behind a hundred days ago but it lingered within, festering in his doubts. Even he wondered at demanding life after an undeniable crime of theft, not like his slip-up at guard duty.
He'd wake up gasping for air. Nobu was tired. Tired of running and tired as hell of the constant lying. But in whom could he confide?
He clutched his tense and tightened stomach, his head spinning like a typhoon. "I'm losing my mind."
I still don't get it. The leaves and the colors say "life" but the world says "death". Which is true? Or are they both? Did I make myself too much of the world and now I can't escape? Is hope an illusion?
Nobu sat on the edge of Lake Biwa as the Autumn colors made their presence known. The serenity of the water, the uncomplaining leaves whose time came to fall, and the sleepiness of the breeze lured him into a drowsy sense of security - and this annoyed Nobu. Surely he could have no real security - this was just a trick played on him by his tired soul. The same vexing questions still hounded him and he wondered if he'd live to see the Spring blooms.
One does not fear death until one wants to live. Damn.
"Nothing in the cry
"Of cicadas suggests they
"Are about to die."
"I feel a disturbance within you. You must release it or die."
"I cannot speak it - or you will die."
"You speak in riddles."
"So be it."
Nobu had heard of a temple renowned for its soothing comfort and deep insights into Nature. He was too desperate to avoid it but too fearful to face it.
"Ah, so ka. You are a wanted man?"
Should I confess? I'll say nothing.
"You fear you will put my life in danger as would happen to anyone who helps you."
Dear Buddha! These truly are men of insight. They speak when I cannot. What sweet nectar this is.
"Have no fear. You can tell me everything."
"No, I cannot! I will not bear your death upon me!" Curiously, Nobu felt death speaking those words. But wasn't he preserving life?
"Your confession can only give me life. It will give you life - and that gives me life. We will share this dream and what happens afterward is of no consequence."
Nobu's vexed brow peered into the monk's eyes, searching for the truth. This was no ordinary monk, but rather a wandering poet leaving signposts on his journey through life. The open-mouthed former samurai was sorely tempted.
"But how? How can this be? After what I've done?"
"You lived a life of weakness and vanity, giving as little as possible while taking as much as possible. One day, you see the error of your ways fearing you've damaged your life beyond repair. But only your lies are damaged beyond repair."
"Ha! I love that! So true! But how is it you read me so well? Believe me, my day of reckoning was forced upon me."
"I read you because I read myself. I cannot answer for what your sins have done. But certainly you see, life is not of this world. It belongs to the sky and the stars."
A sense of clarity struck Nobu as never before. During his confession what previously had seemed unspeakable crimes for the ages were reduced to simple human frailty. His imagination had run amok, casting him as a super villain. Yes it was true: his crimes were not unique nor uncommon - just the opposite, in fact. So why was his sense of guilt and reprobation so staggeringly high? A terrifying thought occurred to him.
It's the size of the dreams we betray that determines the penalty - or reward - we attain.
Day in Autumn:
Nobu had a keen political mind. Perhaps the keenest in the country. (He kept it keen by not using it for political purposes.) Japan was no longer the pure meritocracy it had been during the Sengoku period ending 150 years ago. She'd become more concerned with fears over what might happen as opposed to what was happening - which made those very fears come true. Nobu knew that by keeping the country closed - as well as their minds - that Japan was falling behind the rest of the world - and one day that would cost her dearly [approximately 100 years later]. This very much frustrated Nobu as being an unforced error on his beloved nation's part.
Since his exile, what also had become glaringly obvious was the disconnect between the populace and the Shogante leaders. "If only those bowing and scraping on the ground knew what a bunch of cowering fools, greedy robbers and militant sycophants rule this land!" But the peasants had been taught to revere and respect and besides, the idea of leaders they could not trust was too terrible to contemplate [which has kept many an ill suited leader in power over the course of history]. And thus, Japan recklessly headed for a day of reckoning when the absolute truth would be revealed [in August of 1945]. That too frustrated Nobu to no end.
These were the thoughts that consumed him as he sliced the soba noodles for the day.
Day Of First Snow:
I've found a home that's not a home,
My soul no place to rest;
And though I search both time and space,
I never find my own.
-- English sailor marooned in Japan
Nobu made a small shelter for himself deep in the mountain woods. It was not a place where he could live but it's where he went to live. He wished to leave the world and do nothing but practice calligraphy. But to do that would require funding like one of the great devil merchants. Only the snowflakes were free.
"What I see...are snowflakes...snowflakes of death." Rage had been a part of Nobu's life for as long as he could remember. First he railed against the constraints of samurai life - now he railed against the constraints of lacking a samurai life. Trapped, always trapped. He could deceive himself no longer.
"What I want to do...is kill." Without hope and yet still chained to the planet, Nobu felt he must express himself. No way out for me, then no way out for you! He'd become a hired assassin, satisfying both the needs of his raging soul and monetary burdens. Unfortunately for Nobu he was more feared for his game of Go than his swordplay. And only samurai had permission to carry a sword anyway.
"That's OK. I'll be a sneak assassin with a hidden dagger. I just want someone to give me a reason to kill. I'm so angry! I don't want to give my life to the sky. I want to live!"
Day Trapped In Hut By Deep First Snow:
Nobu's eyes had grown as cold as the air around him. It all seemed so incredibly inevitable now. Of course, something happened to ruin his life! He'd been living a lie, he could run from himself for only so long. His one faint hope had been that his coming mistake would not be a fatal one - but of course it had been. His time as a samurai was never going to last.
Had he left of his own volition he wouldn't be in these dire straights of hunted hell. True, in their rigid caste system a farmer must remain a farmer, an artist an artist, a merchant a merchant and a samurai a samurai. But some of the raggedly poor samurai did depart (if only to still struggle). Nobu previously wondered if his need to leave had only been imagined. Now he knew.
In the Spring he'd become a son of sin, killer of the world - in a world that needs killing. Nobu would be a revenge monster of their own making, a mirror of their souls, a wrecker of false lives. What other path is open to a fugitive?