Three days in a Crab village, perhaps I wrote too soon that it should not be all bad. The heimin here show little respect of non-Crab samurai, unless you’re paying them, and even then their attitude is barely friendly. There are few distractions from work other than battle and drink, what temples and shrines exist are drab and can only be described as “efficient.”
Through the days I have spent time with Toritaka Tasune, the ghost hunter, as we have waited for the Kuni to arrive and purify the blade. Tasune-san is a large man, and his eyes dart about the room as if expecting trouble to leap from the walls. However, he is wise in the lore of ghosts, and I have learned much from him, including how to better handle the people of the Crab Clan. As each day closes, we are forced to part ways as heimin pour into the sake house by the dozens, making conversation impossible.
Through the evenings I worked on a painting for Lord Hida Samano-sama, a beautiful landscape of ocean and rocky beach with a forest and pagoda atop the high cliffs. In the surf there is a large crab, shell scarred from fights, but clearly resolute in his place as master of this setting. When I presented it to Lord Samano-sama, he smiled politely, barely acknowledging my work. I politely shared the details of the painting with him so he may see the beauty of the work, but he may as well have patted my head and told me to run along and play.
That third evening we finally began the ritual to purify the Seppun daisho. The swords were reforged and looked as if they were new, but a hideous danger still lurked within. As Kuni-sama recited the words to remove the blight, a green fog began to emanate from the swords and from that fog a gaki appeared, clad in ancient armor and wielding a darkened blade. The Gaki emitted a loud hiss and I felt a discomfort swell inside me, but was able to suppress it and continue with the battle. I petitioned the fire kami to engulf this monster while the others in my group slashed at it with steel. It could not stand up to our might and was dispatched. Kuni-sama captured the spirit in a jade crystal, and the swords were clear of their taint. I can only assume that gaki was the tortured essence of that prestigious Seppun who died valiently defending Otosan Uchi. Something tells me that his demise was not as glorious as history remembers.
As we leave Lord Samano-sama’s care we have little choice but to release our captive Seppun. She will not disclose any information, and we would surely be chastised if we bring her to another Seppun. I share Keikaze’s feelings that this is wrong, but I feel that Kenzo is correct in that letting her go free is our only choice. I hope that she learns from this encounter, and does not return to the same path she was on, but from my experience with her, I fear that is the only path she knows and is too afraid to leave it.
Now we are to head to a small shrine in Crane lands to gain a fortune’s blessing upon the daisho. From there we will finally make our way to the Bon Festival, late, but with a reason that belies the true cause of our tardiness. I now truly understand why mother chose to stay in the mountains.