Mitsuo was cleaning the tatami room when he heard a short buzzer. Realizing it was the sound of Shinmei calling for somebody, he hastened to the other building.
"Head Monk, what is the matter?"
The chief monk in the sickbed nodded to Mitsuo and motioned to the shelf at his bedside. There sat a single white envelope.
"Could you, send that, for me?"
Mitsuo nodded to the words spoke haltingly to him. He picked up the envelope with its distinctly applied seal. There was no address. He could write a letter using the word processor but it was beyond him to be able to address an envelope.
"And who shall I have this sent out to?" When asked, Shinmei replied Kanemasa. "Ah, yes, yes."
Mitsuo nodded in understanding but Shinmei waved his hand as if to say he was wrong. "To the, Kanemasa, mansion, that is."
"What was that? The ones who moved in?" Mitsuo blinked. Did he mean to say that this was for those who had moved onto the Kanemasa land? "To Kirishiki-san? Not the Kanemasa in Mzobe?"
Shinmei nodded. Mitsuo opened his mouth to ask "Why?" but Shinmei didn't answer.
Right, Mitsuo murmured. He tilted his head in bewilderment several times as he returned to the temple office where he wrote out the address. The mater was Kirishiki Seishirou, did they say? At any rate, he went to the post box, and when he returned, Seishin had returned from the service.
"Ah, welcome back. Say, Junior Monk?" Mitsuo relayed the situation with the envelope to Seishin. "I wonder what kind of business he has with him?"
Seishin tilted his head. Kanemasa was one thing, but Seishin couldn't think of any reason for Shinmei to write a letter to the Kirishiki household. Seishin tried to ask him about that at the next opportunity. Shinmei responded that it was "Just a greeting."
"A greeting---you say?"
Shinmei nodded. He wouldn't say more than that. Seishin didn't think it was a simple greeting. To start with there was no need to send such a thing, and he had the feeling Shinmei's condition was too severe for a mere greeting.
It can't be, Seishin thought as he returned to the temple office from the separate building. Was it possible that Shinmei had realized the situation? Come to think of it, when he had gone to see Yasumori Tokujiro for a sick visit, he seemed strangely as if he'd had something in mind. Yesterday, he had been strange when Tokujirou's death notice had been conveyed to him. He was more disinterested than necessary. It was possible that when Shinmei had gone to see him, that he had understood then and there at Tokujirou's life was over. Did he also realize that the Kirishiki family was behind everything? And, irritated that Seishin could not do a single thing, had he had a mind to take matters into his own hands?
(It can't be......)
Seishin smiled wryly and shook his head. No matter what it was, there was no way that the bed-bound Shinmei could realize the truth of the bizarre situation. Thinking that he might just know and suspecting that he was taking action was without a doubt simply the affect of Seishin's own guilt with himself for not doing anything. It was because he felt he was being blamed by someone. He had a guilty conscience because of that.
But he did imagine that his inconvenienced father taking the trouble to write a letter meant that it was no mere greeting. Even if he didn't know the truth of the matter, Shinmei must have had some purpose if he wanted to go through the trouble of writing the Kirishiki family.
Even his bedfast father had wanted to do something. And so he went through such pains to write a letter. None the less, Seishin had hidden holed up in the temple unsure of what to do with himself. While he coldn't forgive himself for being so feckless, he didn't know what to do. He wished the Shiki wouldn't be there but that wasn't the same as wishing to make it so that they weren't. Seishin turned, melancholy, towards the sanctuary. He knew that going in the middle of the day meant nobody would be there. Even if it were at night, Seishin supposed that nobody else would come to visit here anymore. Seishin sat dazed on the bench, then lied down.
The ceilings were high, groundlessly high. Even if he tried to imagine it, he couldn't think of a reason for the building to be shaped thusly.
(What am I, I wonder?)
And he who wandered the wilderness?
Was the hill paradise, or was it a penal colony? Was he a citizen of innocence or was he only more of a sinner? What was he thinking, when he killed his little brother?
He couldn't help but wonder what had come over him on that tragic day.
It was Autmnm the season of harvest, a beautiful and clear day, and at that time, the people of the hill were giving thanks for the year, taking up their offerings to the Lord in hand as they headed to the temple. He too was once mroe heading to the temple with his little brother.
The first born healthy and fat sheep, that was the usual offering procured. That day he'd called out to his little brother, about to as for one to take up in offering, but after a bit, he thought and stopped.
The sheep were his little brother's work, they were not his. He plowed the lands, made his living scattering the seeds of the grains. The seeds took root, the grains were the blessings of the earth, and he was the one to gather them, a task he was able to perform by the grace of God.
Rather than receive a sheep from his little brother to offer up, as it was not something he had raised, he thought to bringing that which he had raised, rather than a sheep. He was living by the grace of God. And so all the more reason to offer unto God as thanks for that grace the very best fruits of that relation between he and God, he had decided.
He was blessed by God, with the food that he had raised through His providence. Grateful for that, he was determined to return those offerings unto God, and gathered up more of them than even a fat first born sheep of the year would weigh into a sack.
At first his little brother seemed to find it strange that he was bringing with him not a sheep but a sack of grains but as they spoke of it, his eyes narrowed as he nodded. With that he and his little brother set off to make their offerings.
But the sage of the temple scowled.
It was decided that offerings were to be the first born sheep.
He had presented his reasonings and yet the wiseman did not understand. His little brother put in word for him.
His older brother was following his faith by offering to God his very best. Faith was a sacred contract between God and his brother and it should not cross with his relationship with the temple. By the measuring eye of the temple and its criterion, his older brother's preparations had more value than even a sheep.
The wiseman praised his little brother's reasoning, and he and his little brother entered into the temple with their offerings. At the altar at the summit of the tower they aligned their offerings.
And then his offering was refused. The sage had said that it was conveyed that God had not been pleased with his offering.
The proof of a contract of faith with God was one head of sheep, why had he been so frugal?
It wasn't as if he were frugal. Rather he had offered up more than he would have been offering with a sheep. He had argued but his meaning was not understood.
Hanging his head he left the temple.
Why did God refuse his sincerity and worship?
On the way he peered into a storefront when he saw a new hoe, but he had only longed for it because his hoe was damaged; at the very least when he had been at the point of purchase he hadn't been longing for it as a weapon.
He went down the street using the brand new hoe as a cane. As they went he was always quiet, thinking uneasily about his surroundings. Even God did not understand his heart. Then surely nobody else could understand him either. That was the extent to which those around him were not at accord with his words and deeds. He was alone in a way that would be difficult to save him from.
Melancholy he went through the forest, coming out at the field. As he looked upon the lush greenery he had loved eternally, a meaningless impulse seized him.
He had wanted to scream. ---What, he himself didn't know. With no words to shout out, he instead brandished the hoe.
And then he swung it back downwards onto his little brother.
His little brother turned around. Turned arond, standing, frozen, for a moment his eyes were wide staring at him. And then like that he fell unto the field. Shocked and frightened by his own action, he realized his sin in an instant, thought of the punishment that would come down upon him. Called a murderer, he would be driven from the land. Unable to return to this field, he had forever lost his pathway to belonging within the order. Without his little brother, he no longer had a place to belong.
As melancholy clouded his view he wailed. As he wailed he rushed over his little brother and brought it down a second, a third time. His little brother did not move at all.
He drew out the skewering hoe and threw it aside, kneeling beside his little brother's husk. He clung to his body as if to call back his little brother's life, he drew him close, but his brother had long since stopped breathing. He lamented, and while crying he hid that husk in the fields. Still covered in spurts of blood he returned alone to the house.
Looking back---he had never accepted his little brother's death. That was why he hid him in the field. By separating himself from the corpse, he was trying to separate himself from his death. That night he was half serious in waiting on his brother's return, and the next day he even expressed worry to the neighbors that his little brother hadn't returned.
In truth the night passed with him waiting for his little brother to return. He waited for his living, warm brother to return through the door but of course his little brother did not return. He'd wished for his sin to vanish in such a way but of course his sin could not come to not be.
On the third day, the sage had heard the rumor and came to visit. He was even half serious in requesting his help in finding his little brother. The neighbors split out across the field per the wiseman's instruction, and then his little brother's body was found.
On the way back from the church, Seishin crossed through the graveyard when he noticed flowers placed before a fresh grave. That in itself wasn't unusual. In the village it was more common to hold services at mortuary tablets but it wasn't as if they never tended to graves at all. On Obon and the equinoctial week festivals graves were tended to, and sotoba planks were erected for memorial services. What drew his attention to it was that it wasn't the season for any of those, and that the flowers furnishing it were a bouquet made up of flowers gathered from the hills and the dale, chrysanthemums and patrinias.
It was as if done by a child, like they had picked flowers in the fields and simply tied them together and put them at the base of the sotoba plank. Some of the flowers were already wilted, followed by more still laid at their side and wilted, perhaps from yesterday.
Somebody was bringing frugal flowers on a daily basis, he thought. Wondering whose grave it was, Seishin looked at the sotoba. On the sotoba was Seishin's own writing, the name Yuuki Natsuno.