Between Crimson Skies
Kyotan Journal 2
17th day of the Rat, under the reign of Hantei XXXVIII.
I must say, this company has grown on me faster than a bamboo reed. I’ve normally traveled alone for most of my treks about Rokugan. It’s always worked to my advantage. I don’t require much to get by and the attention I gather is always minimal. Though as my previous journal entries suggest, there isn’t much to write about at the end of each day. The lighthearted journey and the endless banter has entertained me immensely, which of course I wouldn’t dare tell them. After all, I’m still a man.
Crab-sama, as I refuse to refer to him otherwise (for no real reason other than his request to the opposite) has sparked many of debate that I personally enjoy. Apparently, on top of guarding the scrolls on their voyage, both the distinguished Shikken and the With Hunter are in search of their brides. Crab-sama has taken to me as his courtship compass during our journey. I’ve taken much joy in expressing my opinions on the matter of marriage, and more importantly, on the subject of courting women. I’ve even given Crab-sama one of the several pillow books I keep with me. Despite my words, I know that eventually I will succumb to the will of a woman and the call of my loins, but until that day it’s open season.
Our conversation even brought Iruko-san’s opinions to the table. Not to give Crab-sama any guidance, but more to disregard and challenge all that I was telling the fortunate Crab. I think she’s taken my fancy as a result. She was lovely to begin with, but now that she’s accustomed to opposing me, I must say it plucks a certain resonance with me. I’m of course cautious to regard this interest seriously by any means. I’m reminded of the story of the lost farmer.
‘Once there was a handsome young farmer who’s family had past and left him with several flocks of sheep. He trained them well and they looked to him as one of their own, staying by his side both day and night. One day, he was grazing his flock in the mountains outside his cottage and noticed a young lamb had strayed to the edge of the field. He ran after it and perhaps as some game to the lamb, it ran into the forest and further into the mountains. The farmer followed it into western forests, unable to snare the lamb all the while. Eventually he came to a part of the forest he’d never been and to a rope bridge he’d never seen. At the end of the long bridge sat the lamb, as if waiting for his arrival. The farmer took his steps lightly on the rickety rope bridge, the drop below was so far it fell to darkness. The venture took what felt like hours of caution but eventually he reached the end of the bridge and scooped the lamb up in his arms. He turned to traverse the bridge again and instead was greeted by several dozen of his sheep, all trotting down the decrepit rope bridge towards him. Before he can regret how well he trained them, the stress of the bridge gives way and the sheep cry into the darkness below. The farmer is stranded.
He walks the edge of this cavern for weeks, hoping to find another bridge, but no such luck. He eats from the tree’s and from the waters of small lakes along his way, but eventually after months of doing so, he finds no end to the cavern and no way across it. He believes himself banished my the fates to live the life of a hermit, alone, save his Lamb, which he refuses to eat. He attempts to search inland but isn’t met by the fruitful trees and plentiful pools of water that he’d grown accustomed to. He comes to terms with his lot and spends his days setting a plot to garden and a hut to warm his bones.
The years pass and in the grips of the worst winter he’s seen, he must eat his sheep. It’s then that he’s truly alone. He’s lost in the spiral of time, of one day sliding to the month and the month to the year, when fortune smiles upon him. He’s tending his field, like any afternoon before this, and from the long grass appears the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Her features from head to toe are the epitome of his desires. He asked where she’d come from and she said she’s lived in these lands her whole life, but because of her appearance, chose to leave her family. The farmer immediately understood why such a lovely lady would want to escape the jealous eyes of her kin. He welcomed her to his home and she welcomed him to her touch.
The farmer couldn’t have been happier to finally have a companion and such a beautiful one at that. Eventually his situation in life came back to his mind and he asked her to take him with her to her lands. She refused initially but after she heard his tale, she was quick to sympathize with his plight. They made preparations for the long journey and eventually left the hut he had called home.
They traveled for months and the woman came to bear child. She was only a season away when they finally reached civilization. It was a glorious day for the farmer and his eyes welled with tears. He held the hand of his mate and strode confidently through the village. The guards stared open mouthed as they passed and the children stopped their games to point and whisper. The farmer simply smiled and waved. Of course they were gawking in admiration and surprise that such a lowly farmer could achieve such a woman. This was his thought until he saw another woman emerge from her hut. Her beauty not only surpassed his lady’s, but was leagues beyond it. Then another woman came out of her hut, another walked into view, and another, and another. The beauty of each was beyond that of the previous. He couldn’t believe it. He looked at his woman, and then at the others, and back again. He came to realize that these women didn’t share her bald spots, misshapen jaw, clutched fingers, and bulbous features.
At the command of her father they were married that day and through the years he came to sire several ugly children to match his ugly bride. For all the remaining years of his life, he wished that he would have had the wisdom to see past his loneliness and to not have let it fool his eyes. In his absence of the world, he had forgotten what a true woman was, and took to that which was available. As the hungry pull fruit from the lowest branch, so had he.’
As the farmer was stranded on his mountain, so am I on this cavern. However, I have the wisdom to see that my stay here is temporary, and to not set intent on just any woman that parts the tall grass of my farm; be that Iruko or anyone. I know to bide my time, to gather my supplies, and to make the journey back to civilization by my own compass.
And with that, I bid you goodnight.