Chapter 15 - Eleven
Hisao Hajime, a godless, unbridled, unguided monster? Remy had to wonder how many people thought this way of him. In Yodakodun he was regarded as a hero - but to the rest of the world?
Juyong and Remy sat in the dining area of the house. The doors and window were open on either end allowing for a breeze to carry through providing some relief to the sun’s heat. The small table in front of them held bowls of berries and fruit slices, as well as cubes of cheese and a variety of nuts. Rojin, who had disappeared into his room, returned without the top half of his robes. His large round belly hung past the waist of his pants. Remy had seen him enough times in this state to not feel uncomfortable - Juyong however, held no such experience.
“Old man - what are those markings!?” said Juyong. He pointed unbashfully at the white symbols that marked Rojin’s back and chest. Remy had nearly forgotten that he had them - she had seen them so many times that she barely noticed how unnatural they appeared. The markings looked as if they could be scars - but the lines were too perfect to be made from any kind of cut. The symbols mimicked the language found in the memoirs but they seemed incomplete - so much so that whatever may have been written was a mystery to Remy.
Rojin sat next to Remy at the table and gave Juyong a inquisitive look - as if to size the boy up. Rojin pursed his lips and cleared his throat.
“ooooooooh, yes,” said Rojin, stroking the stubble on his chin, “when I was a boy - much younger than you - I was journeying from Tanodun to Rubitisun. It was a long journey and I had not brought enough food. Thankfully, the road ran along a river and there I found a sleeping fisherman. Beside him sat a large fish. I took the fish for myself - for he a fishing rod and for certain he could catch another. I ate that fish and continued on my way. A short while after I came upon another sleeping fisherman. ‘How strange!’ I thought to myself - for he look so similar to the man before - and just so, next to him sat another big fish. What could I do? The journey was long and for certain I would find myself hungry again - so I took the fish. It wasn’t before long that I came upon a third sleeping fisherman and just like the fishermen before him he too had a fish just for me - how could I deny myself these meals? I had no fishing rod and surely those men would catch another before they starved.
It wasn’t until that night that I awoke with such pains. I had eaten all three fish and my tummy thrashed as if they swam inside me as though they were alive. I saw, as I lay in pain on the ground, the faces of the sleeping fishermen hovering above me - saying that I should never take that which belongs to another man. I awoke the next morning and found these marks - branding me forever as a foolish selfish thief.”
Juyong’s eyes sat wide in a amazement, “HOOO - old man, no doubt you angered Chiru and he marked you for shame!”
Remy too, sat agape for that was NOT the story Rojin had told her when she had asked about the markings. He told her a story of him and his mischievous friends finding an old statue and carving it a new face; that night Rojin said he was visited by an apparition of the statue who cursed him with those marks.
He’s full of shit. He had to be. Remy sat by and watched Rojin return confirming nods to Juyong’s exclamations.
“Rojin - what happened to Orodoki’s following?” said Remy. She had no idea possessed her do it, however, she felt that now was the time to ask. Even though she had heard Juyong’s account - she wanted to hear both sides before she could make a fair assessment.
Rojin, who was about to take a bite from a slice of orange stopped short. He slowly brought the fruit back down to the plate. His jovial temperament quickly shifted to one that was sombre and contemplative.
“Hmmm…,” said Rojin, “Orodoki has always been the most complex of the Ten. He teachings difficult to grasp and arduous to maintain. He is not like Aione, the Goddess of Harmony or like Fuchou the Vengeful. His Qi is elusive, to say the least - so elusive that people began to believe that it didn’t exist. When the land fell under times of great distress the people looked to Orodoki for answers, for direction, for stability and help. As foolish request for a God who is the Master of Chance….”
“Orodoki the Gambler,” chimed Juyong. His mouth hung open as if he intended to say more but if looks could kill - Rojin would’ve murdered Juyong on the spot.
“His followers believed him to be dead,” Rojin continued, clearly choosing to ignore Juyong’s less than appreciated comment, “He may be old - but not dead. No - our God is greatly misunderstood.”
“How do you know he’s not dead?” asked Juyong. Remy had thought Rojin’s looked would’ve silenced any normal person for the rest of the week - but not Juyong. He faced Rojin with the same determination he held the day before. Remy had to admit - the kid had spirit.
“How do you know Gennu is alive?”
It was Hisao. He stood at the entrance, leaning lazily against the frame of the door. “He’s new, is he not? A God born after the time of Obwatu - how do you know if he’s alive when he is not part of the original Ten? Is it not the same as believing in a God known to be dead - either way, neither of us has proof.”
Remy felt the berry she was holding slip from her fingers and fall to her plate. Gennu wasn’t part of the Ten? How did THAT work?
Juyong got to his feet - his face set with his unwavering frown - the same challenging face he wore from the day before, “It’s NOT the same. We sons….. The Sons of Gennu have guidance. We - I mean - they worship a God based on the writings of our Eiraf! He currently resides that the Temple and is writing the Gennu’s memoirs. Gennu maybe the newest God - but he is alive for he is speaks and his voice can be heard.”
Hisao didn’t move from the doorway and if the news that Juyong relayed had been new to Hisao - he didn’t show it.
Remy wasn’t the only one to notice Hisao’s lack in response. Juyong saw it too and Remy guessed it was not the reaction he was expecting - which can be the only reason for what he decided to say next, “And in 5 days, during the Festival of the Mountain the Imperator, himself, will announce Gennu as one of the Ten - as a replacement for Orodoki.”
That did it. Remy saw it - Hisao’s lip dipped down at the corner and his shoulders tense. Now she was on her feet too - placing herself between both men. Juyong’s nostrils flared and the fingers of his unslung arm danced as if itching for his spear. Hisao stood, no longer leaning against the door frame, his lazy demeanour forgotten. If these boys decided to fight here and now there would be nothing left of the complex.
“Hisao - take me for a walk?” said Remy.
“Why should I?”
He spoke over her shoulder, his eyes still locked on Juyong.
“Just -” Remy bent over and scooped up a bowl of berries from the table and shoved it into Hisao chest, “come on - ”
With that she dragged him from the doorway with a hand firmly locked about his arm.
To Remy’s surprise Hisao hadn’t objected and together they walked South past the front of the Temple. They silently trekked through the red arches that were overgrown with ivy stopping at the top of the complex’s stairs that lead down the mountain side. Hisao sat on the edge of the step and there Remy sat with him. She placed the bowl of berries between them and wondered what she could possibly ask first.
It was hard to believe it was only yesterday that they had they’re talk by the creek.
“People see what they want to see. They don’t wait to be shown was is and what isn’t. And I hate expectations…”
It was what he had said to her in that moment. She had thought it was in regards to her but now she wasn’t so sure. Much had happened to this world before she arrived and though it held the illusion of simpler times she now knew that wasn’t the case. Truthfully, in the six weeks she was here she really knew nothing about the man sitting beside her.
Remy tucked her knees up closer to her chest and folded her arms across them. She looked over at him. He was in blue robes again today. His black hair pulled tight into a ponytail and loose strands fell to block his face from view. He head turned toward the path before them. Remy followed his gaze to the old steps that curved down the mountain. It looked so peaceful. She noticed how the aged stone of each step was walked smooth, divided by deep cracks where small tufts of wild grass poked through.
These were steps had lead her to place a safety when she first arrived. She was protected by the Temple behind her and by the man who sat next to her. With the help she received here she got her footing. She remembered waking each morning and reminding herself to ‘stay the course’ and she would get home. As it turned out - this was a world of strange and powerful magic where Gods could tip the scales of war and where it was common for them to communicate with her fellow man. It was becoming apparent to Remy that the events that brought her here might not be so strange after all. She, however, wouldn’t be able to find that out here at the Temple. She couldn’t see enough of the world to know for sure whether or not she could get home.
“Hisao, how does a man know if a God lives?” asked Remy, “not and Eiraf - but just a man….”
“You’re asking me how do I know if Orodoki is alive?” said Hisao.
It wasn’t exactly what she meant - but it would get her an answer that would be close enough. Remy nodded.
“It’s like the wind,” said Hisao, “you can’t see it but you can feel it moving around you - touching the trees or rolling along a valley floor. Orodoki’s presence, his Qi, is the same. I feel him. But, he is very old….”
Hisao was speaking to her like he had been the night before. His voice moved slow and he chose his words carefully. She liked it. It made him seem patient and wise - unlike the Hisao that he was normally, full of sarcasm and complaints. The way he so easily changed his moods made it simple for Remy to accept his current behaviour. She hoped since their talk that he would show her this side more frequently.
“But just the like wind changes with a new season - so has Orodoki’s Qi. It’s different now. His memoirs have guided the lessons of the teachers of this temple - but now, the way Orodoki sees the world has evolved and his will is no longer aligned with perfectly with his teachings. His Qi resides here just as strong but his followers fail to connect.”
“I was just studying his memoirs this morning,” said Remy, “from what I can understand Orodoki says that ‘man’s path is determine by the choices he makes’ and that ‘life is a game of countless possibilities’ and that….”
Orodoki the Gambler. Juyong’s words floated in her mind. It was like a light switch clicked on and she could finally see the whole picture. Orodoki saw possibilities like the outcomes of a statistical problem. The outcomes were assigned probabilities based on the circumstances of the choice that faced the individual. Paths are results - not direction. Every time a person acted on a choice it determined their path - but until that action is taken all options remained open; some more likely than others because of the pre-determine probabilities. THAT’S what the memoirs were saying - embrace chance and place your bets on life for one could never truly know what the future holds. Be humble for the unknown is thy master.
“and that…. ” said Remy again. Her mind still raced - but, now Hisao said that he wasn’t that same God any more. “Wait - how did he change?”
“Have you ever wondered what a man sees before death?” said Hisao, “as he waits for a the shadows to claim his soul?”
She wanted to say that she had never seen that before. She wanted to shake her head ‘no’, but, she would be lying. On her second week into clinical rotation she was sent to work in the geriatrics ward. Before she left to go home one evening a man called her into his room. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember his name - though, she would never forget his face. It was a pool of wrinkles that folded together like the bark of an aged tree, but, in between the lines sat two bright blue eyes. He had asked her to sit with him just for a while.
She did. Remy wanted to ask him what he needed - if she could get him anything but she couldn’t seem to bring the words out of her throat. The room felt like a vacuum and she felt that even if she managed to speak that her voice wouldn’t be heard. Together, the man and Remy, sat in the weightless silence.
When he spoke his voice was clear with certainty. He told her that he would be leaving soon. It was obvious what he meant. She asked him if he was afraid.
He said, “Of all the hundreds of emotions I’ve felt all my life - anger, fear, love. Ah, I can see them clear as day. They’ve guided me to this point, but now, I see that they can go no further. I am left with only…. me.”
She remembered how his eyes traveled past her. Whatever he was feeling Remy could not describe. She wondered what it could be - how he felt when faced with witnessing the conclusion of his life. She thought of reading the last page of a book, the final lines of a story and how every time she wished it wouldn’t end, but even so, it wasn’t like it was her story. This man was facing the last line of his very own tale forged from experience and life.
She wasn’t sure how long they stayed there together. Eventually he patted her hand and wished her a goodnight. On her next shift she learned that the man had died that very night.
She wasn’t sure how Hisao knew - something about the look on her face must have given him her answer. He didn’t wait for her to relay her story. He continued.
“Orodoki is still the same God - yet different enough,” said Hisao, “he has allowed me to see as he sees now. I think that most men are to afraid to learn what that could be. Instead they say that he is gone - but I still feel him. He still lives.”
“So, Rojin is right - Orodoki is just… misunderstood,” said Remy, “and that means that you’re not a Child of K’aos.”
The words made Hisao flinch ever so slightly, but he still answered, “No, I’m not.”
“But some people in this world seem to think that you are?”
He gave Remy but one nod to confirm. It was no surprise that Hisao wasn’t keen on making friends. Though, now with Gennu’s followers attempting to vanquish the Children of K’aos from the land and now that Gennu would be recognized by this ‘Imperator’ - what could that mean for Hisao? Was Juyong Gu just the beginning?
She wanted to ask him more questions but felt that now wasn’t the time. But truth of the matter was that Remy needed to know more. She could feel her patience waning. Sitting at the Temple was beginning to not be good enough. She wanted to know where all these rules came from - who set the laws and how this world worked. She wouldn’t be able to make those discoveries from the shelter of the Temple.
She wouldn’t allow herself to say that she was sent here for a reason - but she was given a unique gift. So few people could communicate to the Gods and yet they seemed to dictate how the world was run. Hisao spoke of feeling Orodoki’s presence and being ‘allowed’ to see as he sees but they couldn’t converse directly. Remy could - Remy could read their language - perhaps if she could contact a God - a higher power - just like an ’Eiraf”. Maybe they could explain the weird forces that brought her here and maybe she could clarify Hisao predicament to higher officials. Her gift gave her so much potential - how to go about using it properly would be the next challenge.
She could feel something spark in her chest. Something she hadn’t felt for a long time - but to Remy it was a sign that she was on the right path.
“Hisao - I was thinkin -- mmmpphfff,” Remy’s mouth was covered with the palm of Hisao’s hand. She stopped talking and saw that he sat still as a cat poised to leap. His head was tilted up, his eyes focused on nothing in particular but his ears were directed down the path in front of them.
“Someone is coming - ” said Hisao. And without further warning he was on his feet racing down the mountain path.