The walls of Otosan Uchi stand before me. Kinsmen dressed in battered armor surround me. It is the heart of summer, and I can feel the sweat beading down my back. The farmers the Unicorn have brought with them give me cool oranges to help stifle the heat. I thank them and they bow and scramble away.
So much has changed since all of this began. I remember coming to this city two years ago, looking to petition for peace. I did not find peace, only a trap that I fell into all too easily. Suddenly, a story that Toshimoko told me when I was a child comes to mind.
Shinsei was walking down a path when he heard a cry for help. He tipped his wide-brimmed hat back and saw a small fly caught in a spider's web. The fly called out to Shinsei: "Help me! Help me, oh wise one."
Shinsei asked, "Why should I help you, little one?"
"For if you do not help me," answered the fly, "the mistress of the web will drink my blood and leave my body to rot in this web!"
Shinsei shook his head. "Whose fault is it that you fell into this trap, my friend? Is it the spider's fault, or your own?"
"Will you not help me?" the fly cried.
Again, Shinsei shook his head. "If I take you from the trap, the spider will go hungry. Who am I to deprive another of such a fine, plump meal?" Then, without another word, Shinsei stood straight and continued his walk.
I always thought Shinsei to be a cruel, cold-hearted man for leaving the fly for the spider. It was not until recently I understood the meaning of that story. Every creature has a purpose on this earth. Part of the fly's purpose is to be caught in spider's webs to be devoured by the mistress of the web.
I have a purpose in this war. I have fulfilled part of it. I have one more part to play, and it will not be an easy one, and it will involve the mistress of the web, once again.
Another of Toshimoko's lessons now comes to my mind. When I was very young, he brought me to a small village on the outskirts of our lands. There, the villagers brought in oranges -- villagers much like the one who has just left my sight. "One day, Hoturi-san," Toshimoko told me. "One day you will be called upon to dispense justice to those who have sworn fealty to you. And that is when you will learn the deepest truth of courage."
"What is that, sensei?" I asked.
"A coward seeks vengeance, Hoturi-san," he told me. "It takes a courageous man to find compassion in his heart."
Those words are with me now, as I watch Otosan Uchi.
Somewhere within, I will find my destiny.
I only hope I have the courage to fulfill it.