Chapter 10 Mishaps
Nyoko woke up, unsure of where she was. Her last memory was of running desperately away and
falling down a rock face.
She heard a voice, chanting.
“Light shines out, pure, clear,
into the realms of darkness,
compassion's bright hand.
Flowers and incense
we offer with our own hearts,
You who vowed to empty hell
before you would rest,
O Practitioner of mercy,
who brings the boat of compassion,
rescue those beings
drowning in suffering's sea,
caught up in their long dreaming,
burdened with karma.”
The voice went on, singing the praises of the Bodhisattva Kwannon, the merciful one. It was a soft voice, feminine, but aged. Nyoko opened her eyes and found herself looking at the ceiling of a hut. It was evening. She could tell that there was a fire in the room giving off light. Rolling to her side, she saw an woman in nun’s clothes praying before a small ink drawing of Kwannon. There was the smell of incense faintly in the air, and cut flowers, and a lamp glowed on the shelf.
She tried to sit up, but cried out in pain as she fell back to the pallet she was sleeping on.
The woman turned and moved to her side. “Ah! You’ve woken up! I was beginning to wonder,” she said, helping her cover back up. The woman was small, gray and old. She wore worn robes, her veil fastened neatly under her chin.
Nyoko swallowed, and found her throat was very dry. “Th..thank you,” she said, barely above a whisper.
“Let me get you something to drink,” said the old nun. She turned around, and ladled something into a cup. Holding Nyoko so she could drink without much sitting up, she guided the cup of water to her lips. The cooling water slid down her throat, and she swallowed gratefully.
“Thank you,” she said. “How long have I been here?”
“Two days,” the nun replied.
“I need to go, “Nyoko said, trying to set up again. The pain was intense. She had broken a rib, she realized. “Someone is following me to kill me. They’ve already killed someone for helping me.”
The nun pushed her back down. “No one is going to get here without my permission. You get well,” she said. “My name is Shoutaku. You are safe as long as Kwannon is merciful.”
“Mercy. I have seen very little of it,” Nyoko said, realizing she was just too weak to leave.
“Life is suffering,” said the nun. “You rest. If you feel like it, I’ll get you some soup.”
“Yes, please,” Nyoko said.
The little nun moved the pot over the fire. “Life is often cruel, Lady Fox,” she said as she prepared the soup.”
“You...You know what I am?”
“Why yes. When I found you, you were in your fox form, battered and bruised, at the foot of the cliff not far from this hut. I felt pity on you and brought you here to keep you warm by the fire. As the first night passed, you slowly became less of a fox and more like you are now,” said the nun, stirring the pot.
“And you let me stay?” Nyoko asked, eyes wide with surprise.
Of whatever type or form,
Born of egg or womb,
Rising from moisture,
or born of unknown transformation,
formless as the wind,
or bound in solid structure,
born able to think,
exempt from thought's need,
totally beyond thought's realm --
all there to be led
to unbounded Nirvana,” Shoutaku replied.
Nyoko could tell she believed it. She just wasn’t sure anybody else did. In the morning, before Shoutaku was up, she was gone. She did not want to bring death to another person she felt kindly towards.
Excerpt from the Adventures of Nyoko by Sachio Hayashi writing as Michael Mitsuo
After one last look at the river and the mountains, Lillian left the park down by the river and drove out of the park, still as restless as when she left her house. For some reason, she was unable to take any comfort in the greenery and water, although that was normally her favorite place to get away from her own private unpleasantnesses. Instead, she went to a coffeehouse not far away.
It was about half full. She ordered her usual latte, and finding a seat not far from the door but still in a corner, she dug in her bag for a book of poetry that Mr. Hayashi had recommended to her. Sipping her latte and not really playing much attention to the customers coming and going, she opened the book and began to read One poem, in particular, caught her eye:
I slept in the past,
time that shall never return,
like it was today.
Around my pillow
I smelled the perfumes of those
never to return,
orange blossom drifting
in bittersweet reminder
of that which once was.
For some reason, that one swept over her. As she looked at the words on the paper, she could almost see the scene it invoked unfold before her. A beautiful young woman, the woman from her dream this morning, standing in front of a memorial. The woman, having left flowers and incense, also recited the poem.
Lillian could see a youth, maybe thirteen or fourteen walk up to her. Behind them both was a much older man.
“I am sorry, older sister, but it’s not safe for you to stay here much longer. Daiteru saw him not a day away, and he will be able to find you if you stay here.”
The woman nodded, and allowed the young man and the elderly one to lead her away. The scene changed and all three of them were far away, camping by an old shrine.
The old sage was telling them all a story.
“Once, it is said, that an abbot was giving a series of sermons. At each sermon, he noticed an elderly man who followed the monks into the hondo, and when the sermon was over, he would leave.
“After one sermon, the old man stayed behind. The abbot asked the old man, ‘Who are you?’ and the man said, ‘I am not a human being. Once, long ago, I too was an abbot who taught the monks in charge of me, but one day, a young man came up to me and asked a question. Thinking I knew everything, I gave him an answer that seemed right to me, but was wrong. Because of my hubris, I was sentenced to live as a fox for five hundred lifetimes on this mountain. I now will ask you the question that was asked of me so many years ago: Is the holy man free from the yoke of cause and effect?’
“The abbot looked at the kitsune standing in front of him. ‘The enlightened man cannot ignore the cycle of cause and effect.’”
“What does this mean, Sensei?” asked the youth.
“That, at least on some level, all of us are bound to the wheel of cause and effect. Sometimes, someone does something, and then something else happens, and something else happens.
“Once, Izanagi went to Yomi because Izanami had died when she gave birth to the fire kami. Because Izanagi looked when he shouldn’t, he caused great turmoil, and had to purify himself in the river after he returned to mortal lands. Because he had to purify himself, Omagatsuhi was created. Because Omagatsuhi was created, disorder entered into the world in a great way. Omagatsuhi has decided that he would like to eliminate our clan, and he got Terume to wreak havoc on the human silk merchant your father favored. And from there it was just dominos, one bit of destruction following another.”
The old sage, looked at the woman with them who was staring into the fire. “But it works for great good, too. One good deed begats its own circle of good. Even though Omagatsuhi brought much disorder into the world, his brother Onaobi does the opposite, and brings blessings of good.”
Suddenly, a shadow passed in front of Lillian, pulling her out of her waking dream.
She looked up. A dark-haired man, obviously Asian, stood in front of her. His eyes glittered with a wild predatory gleam. Suddenly he said in Japanese,“Who are you, woman? And why do you smell like Nyoko?”
Shaking her head, she just looked at him.
I walk out into my garden. The wind off the mountain is sighing in the pine trees. Finding a place to sit near the great flat boulder, I sit down and try to take in what I have learned today.
The garden helps. It is every bit as much my creative work as are the endless stories I write, trying to come to terms with who I am and what I have done with my life. I designed it to remind me of my mother’s garden, but also my sensei’s. To me, it has a personality. Sometimes it tells me, prune this. Add that. I do listen to it. Sometimes, as I wander out, working on the flower beds, trimming or raking the shrubbery, or just sitting there, I think I can feel the Kami of the place coming to visit. Perhaps if it is not the Kami of the garden, but some visitor, coming to check on me. I do have a shrine there, but none has ever come to talk to me, like my mother said they did me. Perhaps it is good enough. I have seen what happens, sometimes, to the ones the Kami visit too often.
My cousin and niece have come and gone. I am troubled, I think, by what is in front of me Can the main event that has colored my life and those of my clan be resolved? Has the wheel of cause and effect turned far enough to allow all this to finally come to a conclusion?
Part of me has doubts. Although the wheel turns, no two cycles are ever the same. We are who we have become because what has already come to be.
I think I would like to go back to Japan, and burn incense at my mother’s grave once again. I would like to see if the Kami she loved would remember me. They tell me I am not the cause of the disaster, but the boy who ran in to tell his father about his sister was, and always will be me. I think of my sister and how she looked on her wedding day, and how she looked the day we found her at the memorial altar of our parents. I wonder if Nyoko has forgiven me yet. I hope so.
I cannot read the Shinkiro threads. Those touching my life all seem to end up here in the garden. Will it all end here?
Suddenly, there is a flash of dark aura. I know that aura, dark as midnight, and run into the house. Yashuo. And he has found someone, not even trying to hide it. My phone is ringing as I enter.
“Well, what have we here?” asked the Kami.
Daikokuten rubbed his cap on his head and looked at the scene in front of him. From his vantage point where neither Kitsune nor human could really touch him, he froze time for a moment so he could examine the scene.
Lillian looked up from her book, head tilted to the side, as if confused, mouth open in surprise. Even now, under the effects of Nyoko’s magic, she glowed with a particularly bright light, a purity of soul that no doubt was quite magnetic for the soulless. Moving close, but not totally in front of her, Yashou stood, leaning forward. The darkness of his curse was wrapped around him, hungrily reaching out for the girl in a black cloud that leaned ahead of his body. His eyes were narrowed, tightly focused on her, nostrils flaring as he took in her scent. Both hands were flexed, ready to strike, grab or move things out of the way.
The Kami looked around the room. He was the lord of good fortune. He was sure there would be some fortunate thing to put to use here. And as luck would have it, he was not going to be disappointed.
The first lucky item at hand, was the young man in glasses looking at his watch, starting to stand up. With a little luck, he would bump into Yashou, spilling his coffee onto his shirt and bumping into his shoulder. With a small tap of his hammer on the unsuspecting young man, Daikokuten made sure that the flow of luck would run just that way. Stroke of luck two would be the young woman between Lillian and Yashou, who was startled by the Japanese speaking man and who would push her chair back to get up, blocking his direct access to Lillian’s table. With a little luck, she would bump into the young man, accentuating his jog into Yashou’s chest, pinning him into a small box for a few moments, making it almost impossible for him to reach Lillian at first. Another tap of his hammer assured that this would be so. The final stroke of luck was the cup of water that was on the edge of the young woman’s table. With luck, it would destabilize, fall off the table, spread on the floor, and produce a slipping hazard as Yashou stepped forward and got bumped. With luck, he would slide on the floor and lose balance, buying Lillian an even longer moment to be rushed out of the coffee shop.
His final piece of luck was not really luck. It was Masuke, already getting out of his chair to grab Lillian’s arm to pull her to safety. Daikokuten looked at the route options. If he grabbed her, and she left the book and her coffee on the table, they could be out of the building before Yashou could really get up and after them. The luck of this happened if the counter clerks came over to assist Yashou after his fall. Satisfied as he could be with the arrangements, he moved back into time..