Trials of Destiny – Part 3
Authored by Jim Pinto
Transcribed by Mishka
The Distance Between
The battle wavered, first to our enemy’s advantage, then to ours.
My Isawa brethren were pinned down by the Oni. Scouts reported that they’d located the cleansing fissures of the furnace, and it was close… so close. But another foul army of unspeakable creatures was descending upon us from the north.
We were nearly there. Nearly upon Amaterasu’s Furnace. Would our journey never end?
I remembered the abandon with which the Moto fought. I recalled the courage of the Shinjo heavy lancers. I shouted the battle cry of the Otaku battle maidens and charged into the valley. Magical energy crackled at my fingertips. That was where I faced the evil that had haunted me, winning a small victory. The anvil’s clutch on my soul had grown tighter and tighter, dragging me deeper into blackness. That day, I fought with such abandon that, for a time, my doubt was cast off and my soul was free.
Quiet the Soul
The battle was bloody and arduous. The remainder of the Inquisitors fled across a murky river, driving deeper into the Shadowlands toward the nearby furnace – the anvil’s doom. They were pursued by Fu Leng’s abominations. The wounded oxen… how did they bear the weight? Even the animals carried our burdens for us.
Our ambition was destroying us…
I heard the futility of my father’s voice. “It is as it must be.”
I shut him out and turned my thoughts back to the battle. I would not sit by and count secrets. I had to do what I was born for. My fate was with the kami. If Suhitaka was watching me… I imagined him smiling at our trials and saying, “With trial, the lowliest grain of sand becomes the greatest pearl.”
Fire descended on Kyojin and his oni. Ogres fled from the strength of Tomo’s Legion. The splintered and decimated Void Guard found the strength to destroy the last of Chizaro’s podlings and fall upon the flank of the Oni. It was a fine day.
The ruptured flank of the Hiruma archers and the remaining strength of the Inquisitors held off Oni no Tsuburu long enough for us to arrive. Magical jade entombed his arm and the yari of the Moto pierced his side. The rot inside him erupted, a wave sweeping towards me.
I could see the future. I could see the past. But the present was staring me in the face and I missed it. It was as if I were always blinking and only saw the images in between. All movement slowed while my mind raced. My strength faded and my legs began to buckle, dragging me toward the mud.
The battle came to me then. The flank of the Inquisitors was closing and reforming, pushing back to meet the enemy on their terms. I was being swallowed by a force greater than myself. Warring with it was futile. Finally I reached the ground, the hot sting of dying Shadowlands flesh melting my skin.
Where Do the Dead Go to Cry?
“Who are you?”
We are future generations.
I was between places – I knew that. But was I dreaming again?
Your quest is… was noble. The pride of bushido keeps Rokugan from healing.
“Am I dead?”
There was no answer… I already knew why.
“Why am I here?”
We have many things to learn from you. Many things to teach you. The future is not for you, but you eat it away like rot. You shame us as much as you shame yourself.
For the first time, I wept. My sobbing echoed inside that… that place. That hell.
“Where am I?”
My sobs choked the words. I felt weak.
Again, there was no answer.
“If I am to teach them, how will they learn? I cannot teach them from Jigoku.”
Your teaching, your prophecies, are already being written, Yurito. Look at your hands and tell me that your lessons are being lost.
I looked into the darkness and saw that my hands disappeared into the black. I could feel them moving.
Standing Alive in Drowning Flame
The wounds inside had opened again. How long had I been bleeding?
The world spun around me. My blistered hands had blood on them.
How long had I been dreaming? Or was it a dream? The scrolls in my arms were no dream – prophecies of an unborn world, secrets whispered into the mind of a desperate man. As the thoughts struck my mind, my hand was still writing.
The blood on my head and hands… was it mine?
The world’s secrets crushed me. My whispers died under the weight of the battle’s roar.
The sun seemed an incomplete thought.
The secrets of a thousand years were written there, on those scrolls, by my hand. How long had I been writing? Would anyone find the scrolls? Buried beneath bone and flesh and the mud of the Shadowlands, would the words of a damned samurai and his fated soul die here? Future generations must know what has happened here – why this had to be. Our children, I hope they can understand.
So tired now…
The voices told me to teach them. Has the Anvil been destroyed? I no longer felt its decay in my soul. Hopelessness was an illusion, a tool of the Dark Lord.
I was alone.
I saw the last vestiges of Moto hunting down the stragglers of the Shadowlands. Another army would come and I was sure they will do battle once again. Their strength was undying. We had much to learn.
I coughed blood. I was so tired.
I remembered the kiss of a woman and the youthful vigor of my own mortality. I remembered Suhitaka’s humility and I wrote my final words. I was my sensei’s prodigy. I was a shugenja again.
Finally… I am safe.
Drowning flame, the sun
Each is alive with the truth
Yet have much to learn
When the world is new
The sky, so strong and virile
We are left to learn
Tomorrow, I am
Today, I was a legend
Yesterday, I died