L5R : Jade Winds
Yonaka and Air
Strike in the moment between breaths.
He said it might hurt, he didn’t say how much.
Gaisofu has stopped for a moment to clean another area on the boy’s chest.
Even now the Tebori work of the master artisan flourishes. The branches that reach towards the collarbone, each cluster of tiny leaves like a cloud, the twist that starts from the branches and goes all the way to the base of the trunk of the bonsai, and the roots entwined around… yes, instead of a mountainside or a lacquered pot it is lifted into the air by a claw of some sort.
Strange, the claw with the yellow and orange and white pattern doesn’t seem to be clenching the tree as much as supporting it. Instead it’s as if the tender bonsai draws nourishment from the claw, and the tree protects and shades the symbol of the hunter. So much balance, so much reversed, so much answered by the artisan to the riddles of a young life.
“Much of your time will be spent in training and duty.” he had been answered when he told Nana and Kiki he was to have his gempuku during the coming winter. “If you would carry a piece of my work, merely a trifle, it would bring joy to these weary hands.”
The boy had nearly forgotten his manners at the prospect of carrying one of the Artisan’s works, and stuttered as he tried to refuse the gift.
“But Kiki, uh, Kito-Sama, I do not know where I shall be sent or what orders I shall be given and would not want your art to be lost.”
“Do not worry, my grandchild, it will be easy to have it with you at all times. Also, you should have something to remember me and your Nana-Sobo by.”
Again the offer, good. “But the road may be dangerous and I would not want something of beauty to come to any harm.”
“Do not assume weakness and fragility in the flower, my boy, it will have the strength of your heart behind it. And some time later it may be a comfort to you.”
“Then it would be an honor to carry the strength of your art. When can I see it?”
The pain begins again as Grandfather carefully places the tiny end of the bamboo Horimono needle against the reddened skin, and then tappity-tap-tap-tappity-tap-tap again and again and again in a rhythm that matches the boy’s controlled breathing. Sometimes the pain is excruciating and the boy grits his teeth and clenches his hands at his sides as he tries to hold as still as possible.
Sometimes as he grits his teeth they form a smile, for the old man was only mostly right.
There is much pain.
But it doesn’t hurt.