Chapter 15 Black and White
As the hands of the three sister Kami touched her, Nyoko found herself in a swirling maelstrom of night. She was buffeted by winds that pulled at her clothes, her hair, her sense of balance.
“Look!” yelled Swift Banishment over the roar of the wind. She looked where the Kami was pointing, and there at the center of the storm, she saw two people playing a game of go. One player, dressed all in black, moved a piece.
Descent-into-the-current pulled her sleeve and pointed. Nyoko saw her father’s silk merchant accost and try to sexually assault one of the members of Yashuo’s household, a young woman barely into her teens. She managed to break away and run home.
Next white made his move. Swift Cleansing said, “Watch the reaction to White’s offer.” She saw Yashuo’s father go up to her father, who angrily chose to do nothing but warn them away from the merchant.
“Your father chose to turn away White’s offer of justice,” said Swift Banishment. “This let Black cause the next wave of misery.”
The White player sighed as Black made his next move. Yashuo and his relatives retaliated against the silk merchant. White offered a counter-move, which was ignored. Yashuo’s father offered to pay a bounty to the merchant, and discipline the members of his household. Instead, Nyoko watched her father send men to attack their household, killing Yashuo’s father and wounding her lover.
“Your father chose to turn away White’s offer of reconcilliation,” said Descent-into-the-current. “This allowed Black to take his attack to your house.”
Black moved next. Nyoko watched as she heard the news of how her father broke her engagement and banished Yashuo. Back and forth it went, each play being pointed out by the three sisters - Black’s attack, her father or her or Yashuo or Yoshikata’s turning their back on the way out. Her father’s forcing her to marry Yoshikata. Her betrayal of her new husband. Her father’s determination to curse her and Yashuo. Step by step she saw the play between black and white, and how black, through the actions of her father, her lover, herself were all thwarted. White only protected his plays with the actions of her mother, the kitsune wizard by modifying the curse, and in the pure soul of her unborn child.
Her heart ached. Tears streamed down her face. She watched the relentless play of the Go players, the glint in the eye of Black. “Can’t anybody stop him?” she asked. “Can’t anybody tell the others what is happening?”
“You have a choice, child. White still has a defendable space on the board. You can help him.” Swift Banishment.
“You can keep Black from winning the game,” said Swift Cleansing. “The deeds that are done, are done, but without your help, he cannot win.”
“Let us wash away his black taint,” said Descent-into-the-current. “After that, you can begin healing your soul and discover the way to fight back.”
Nyoko nodded. “Yes,” she said, a longing to do something washed over her. “Yes.”
The three sisters laid their hands on her head one more time, and she closed her eyes as her world shifted. The wind stilled.
“Look at yourself,” said one of the sisters.
She opened her eyes as she stared into a mirrorlike pool of water. Her image was smeared with dirt and soot and bloodstains and filth...but in bits and places, there was white shining brilliantly, highlighting the blackness.
“You are not irredeemable, girl. You are not all black.” said Descent-into-the-current. “Let me wash you.” The Kami rested her hands on her head. Warmth, gentle, soft, permeated her being, as the energy of the Kami washed through her being. As she looked into the pool, the blackness of her reflection began to lift, blurring the image in a hazy cloud. Descent-into-the-current stepped away from her.
“Take your life back, girl. You have a purpose,” said Swift Cleansing. She placed her hands on Nyoko’s head. “I will rinse the blackness away.” As Nyoko watched, the gray cloud around her image moved into the surrounding waters, until the entire pool was black. Only where her image was, was there light in the water. Swift Cleansing stepped back.
“Find your true role, girl. Kitsune are born to be the tool of balancing, neither allowing white nor black to overwhelm the world. Choose wisely. Live well,” said Swift Banishment. “Let me send this darkness back to Yomi. I cannot heal your heart, but I will release you to seek its own healing without the Dark One’s poison.” As the Kami rested her hand on her head, Nyoko watched the black pool immediately turn clear, and her own face, touched with peace, looked back at her.
Suddenly, the water began to churn as a waterfall disrupted the image and she was back standing under it, shivering.
“It is time to come out,” said the Shoutaku the nun. “Come child, come here.”
Nyoko nodded. She stepped out from the waterfall, clapped and bowed very reverently, then returned to the old nun’s side.
The old woman looked at her carefully. “Something happened to you in the water. You are changed, girl. Your aura shines.”
Nyoko, smiling, nodded. “I had a vision,” she replied. “There were three sisters. They showed me....reality.”
“Tell me,” Shoutaku asked.
“They were Kami, I think. Descent-into-the-current, Swift Cleansing and Swift Banishment,” she replied, moving out of the pool to stand next to the nun.
The nun looked pleased, and nodded knowingly. “Yes, the Kami of the purification prayer. Good. Now your healing can really begin.”
They began to walk back towards the nun’s hut. “I saw two other Kami. They were twins. One was black, black, black, and his twin was just as light.” Nyoko said. “In my vision, they were at the center of a typhoon. When Black moved, someone did something wicked, unless he agreed to White’s countermove.”
“That sounds like Onaobi and Omagatsuhi. Order and Chaos,” said Shoutaku. “I’ve heard about them playing Go before.”
“So much I don’t know, that I should. Can you teach me?” Nyoko asked.
“Yes. Until it’s time for you to leave,” said the nun.
I sit in almost darkness, one lightbulb turned onto the book in front of me. I read softly to myself:
“I wait anxiously,
sleep escapes me now tonight,
In that place between
true peace and tomorrow's light,
caught by the full moon,
my mind drifts off into a daze.
Your voice touches me --
memory of all the ways
you wounded my heart.
“My pillow listens
as I long for you to be
here beside me now,
my words poured out hopelessly--
how wet are my sleeves
from the tears that fall tonight
beneath the cold moon
my heart shattered in its light
until you return.”
Once upon a time, when I still was whole, I remembering writing a poem like that. It was spring, and Nyoko had gone to the holdings of Tomoyoshi, Yoshikata’s father. The day she returned was like winter breaking. She and I raced off, two foxes dancing in the cherry petals.
So long ago.
The hunger is building in me. I can feel the tendrils of need running around in my chest, the first washing of red that will eventually drive me out into the midnight, but for the moment I resist the gnawing.
I lift the book once again to my nose, and bring in the sweet smell of the book owner to mind. So much like Nyoko was our one and only time together...the best and worst day of my life. I contemplate the mental picture of the girl with the red hair, and how she triggered the darkness in me, the touch of my old curse. A girl who reads poetry on a summer afternoon. The hunger gnaws at my insides, even as I think about it. And the Dark One, why does he want me to find her.
For some reason, I shiver at the thought of her lying on the ground, lifeless and empty.
The paper he tucked inside the book rustles as I close it. I take it out, and look at it once again. I know that when the night falls, I will go there. I pray to whatever Kami still will listen to me that she is elsewhere when I do.
Masuke got out of his car when he saw them drive up. Sukeo got out, and an older Kitsune, with gray, dust stained clothes got out of the other side. Scratching his chin, he walked over to the two of the. ‘Life is getting complicated,’ he thought.
He took a deep breath. “Yoshikata,” he said, bowing respectfully in front of the older man.
Yoshikata returned the bow. “Masuke. It has been a while.” He looked around the area they were standing in. They were standing next to an attractive apartment complex done in mock townhouse style. The grounds were manicured and park-like, with young pear and cherry trees dotting the landscape. A pond dominated this section of the grounds. A single mallard landed in it was they watched.
Masuke gave Sukeo a knowing look.
“I couldn’t think of where else to bring him yet, so we came here,” said Sukeo.
“Why are you here?” Yoshikata asked. “You are obviously surveilling.”
“True,” said Masuke. “There is a young woman who works for Sachio who lives here,” he said. “The old senkensha said that we need to keep an eye on her. She is somehow...important...to what the Kami are doing here.”
“Do you know why?” the older Kitsune asked. “No doubt it has to do why both Yashuo and I are being drawn here at the same time.”
Masuke studied Yoshikata for several moments. “Yes,” he said at last. “But I am not free to tell you.”
He lifted an eyebrow, but made no other sign. “If you wish,”
“We need to get you somewhere safe, Yoshikata-san. With Yashuo running around town, it could cause...difficulties if you two came together.” Masuke sighed. “He’s already edgy. He may sense you.”
Yoshikata snorted. “Especially if you expect him to show up here. He will certainly scent me. What do you suggest?”
“We go to Sachio’s.”
Yoshikata’s eyes flashed, but just for a moment. “If you think it wise.”
“Not really, but I do think it’s our only choice.” he replied.