Shadowed Autumn Leaves
It has been asked of me on more than one occasion whether or not I trust the samurai that I work most closely with. The answer, always, is yes. I would not not entrust my life to all of them, but I do trust them. My fellow magistrate is perhaps the most complex. My faith in him has been questioned more than any other, but I feel that it is well founded. Of course I know that there is more to him than meets the eye – he keeps secrets from me just as I keep secrets from him. Some of what he does cannot escape my notice; indeed, we have a rapport built upon our understanding that he operates in arenas that I do not. And what of honor? Undoubtedly such things should be called into question when I look the other way for him. While is does wear upon me, I am comforted by the knowledge that what he does, he does for his duty. There is honor in that, of a sort, and it is for that reason that I can continue to offer Shinichiro my trust.
To our yoriki, the matter of trust is largely a more simple one. I do trust them all in their own way. Where most of them are concerned, it is easy to discern my trust. They are loyal, dutiful, and honorable, almost to a man. Almost. Where Tomino is concerned is something of a different matter. I still trust him, in his own way. His deeds and words reek of dishonor and treachery. But I can take solace in this. His treachery is a thing that I can rely upon, like the changing of the tides; it is his way, and he could only surprise me by conducting himself in a manner befitting a samurai.
Lastly, there is Koware Nami Toshi itself. I certainly could not easily or readily offer my opinions on every citizen. Some, of my own clan, I readily trust and easily open my heart to. Others, like the ronin Measure, I want to be able to trust, but find myself unable to do so. Still others, such as Kuni Daimitsu… Kuni-san… I cannot begin to formulate an opinion on. I suspect I should perhaps approach this city with a bit more cynicism. Torokai called me an idealist not long after our first meeting, and in some regards he might be right. However, I do not believe that all samurai adhere to bushido, but I do believe that the honorable people, the ones that I trust, will help me bear the weight of this city upon my shoulders.
“All I have to Offer”
I do not lightly shed my blood. I will not be so bold as to say that I should not let it be spilt upon the ground, but any circumstance under which I wade, personally, into a battle that I know I may not walk away from whole is one that, to me, is a matter of great import. Certainly, I have suffered many wounds in my day. It is impossible to have lived my lifestyle and not suffer some manner of malediction of the flesh. In hindsight, it is something rather spectacular that I am in such good shape as I am. But to spill my blood… every drop that has been drawn from me has been be both earned and paid for. Earned, certainly, by those skillful enough to land a telling blow on me in combat, or by those groups bold enough to attempt to take me own directly; paid for, in the end, by my own wrath.
Any work for which I bleed is one that I want to be remembered, if by no one else beyond myself. Each drop is a lesson learned. Of all the stories that I have told, the ones that I hold closest to myself are the ones that are written in my blood. I do not write a story in blood to be read casually, but to be remembered by heart forever beyond the day that it is penned. There are lessons to be learned in each one… lessons in steel, in warfare, in tactics, knowledge, overcoming foes… the list goes on, but I know it all. The lessons are each as much a part of me as the blood that was spilled to learn them.
I have not always had to embroil myself in direct conflict. Some of my most resounding victories have required nothing more than my honest words. But the one cause that I will always engage head on is the protection of the Empire. Whether it be something as simple as bandits and kaizokuban, or the dark and terrible foes of which the Kuni warns me, I will tackle those foes, and will shed as much blood as my body can spare, even unto my death. It occurs to me that I often have little more to offer than that: my sword and my skill are some of my strongest assets. Oftentimes my associates are more knowledgeable than I, humbling me with their well-spoken words and wisdom beyond their age. But if all I have to offer is my blood, toil, tears, and sweat, then I shall give them, freely, and without a moments hesitation.
In the end, no matter what I have done for myself, if I cannot measure my own deeds but what I have done for my Empire, then what have a truly accomplished? No matter what friends I have made or deeds I have accomplished, what do such deeds matter if I do not channel them towards a higher purpose? When people look back and remember me, many, many years from now, will they recall the ideal warrior, or will they recall the stories of the woman who gave everything of herself for the Empire, and its people, that she loved? With any luck, it will be the latter, though I can hardly account for such things.
So on and on I fight, and strive. More blood do I shed, for family, for friends, for the highborn and common, for the Emerald Empire. Blood spilled and blood shared… I’d never insult them by asking myself whether or not it’s worth it. Instead, the only question I need ask myself is how much I can give before I run out.
It was Akodo who penned that “a true samurai has only one judge of his honor, and that is himself. Decisions you make and how those decisions are carried out are a reflections of who you truly are. You cannot hide from yourself.” His words were wise, and it is this tenant, Honor, that is considered to be the very core of Bushido. Samurai can act with duty, or courage, or compassion, but what is any of it without honor? A samurai without honor is simply acting, putting on a mask to satisfy the expectations of the world around them.
On one count, however, the Kami Akodo may not have understood humankind so very well. The Kami, of course, are beyond reproach, and they may indeed be unable to hide the truth of their deeds from themselves. Some samurai however, mere humans such as they are, are masters of self-deception. All samurai are taught to wear their on in the presence of others, so much so that denying ourselves in front of others becomes second nature to us. It is expected of us to hide the truth of ourselves from others; for the honor of our families, we hide the parts of ourselves that are not appropriate to display before others.
But, in spite of our Face, we must remain keenly aware of what we are not showing to people. If we begin to believe our own lies, we lose sight of what matters the most to us. The face becomes the truth, the belief that we’re serving another tenant of Bushido can be the sweetest of self deceptions. But without being true to ourselves, without being our own judges, without meyo, we are hollow. Our deeds and actions ring false without Honor to guide us true.
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to pretend that I have not deceived myself in the past. I have told myself often that compassion is enough, that I can offer my love and benediction to others and that will be enough to be honorable. But that is not so. My love, my heart, my gentleness has caused me more grief, has threatened more dishonor than anything else in my life. I let my compassion come first, let it be what guided me to what I perceived as honor. Honor should have been my guide to compassion, not the other way around. I try as hard as I can to be mindful of honor, to let it guide my hand, but Shinjo’s Way is more natural to me than any other (which I am not ungrateful for).
It is, according to Akodo, the place of each samurai to judge herself. Do those rare paragons of honor judge themselves too harshly? Do those without honor only ever believe the lies that they tell to themselves? I believe that any of us the potential to rise to honor… (the journal entry ends here, unfinished)