Epilogue One: The Crane
"This means to strike an opponent with the strike of a
single moment; to perform every action so that no second is needed, to strive
for perfection in each kata, each duel and each moment."
- Kakita's "The Sword"
Doji Arashi strode through the crowd meeting every face with a bow and a smile, each bowing courtier and bushi a welcome greeting to the magistrate's weary eyes. His tall, thin form breezed through the group to find a place on the edge of the garden where he could better see the source of the Crane's elation and joy.
At the heart of Shiro Daidoji stood a small, perfect garden of beauty and rarity: a jewel of flawless splendor clad in the armor of stone and steel. Standing there like a statue was a small boy dressed simply in the pale blue and grey of the tetsu-tsuru, his long hair bound into a long white tail. As the master of ceremonies strode into the light of the courtyard, the Crane grew quiet, all eyes falling upon the child and his three swords.
Arashi reclined himself against a column with a cool smile, watching the child with his keen, trained eyes. Rumors whirled about this young Daidoji like a thunderstorm of whispers and conjecture, and many swordsmen smiled and wondered, as they looked upon him and his fine Dragon Clan swords.
The gempukku of a Crane child was a time to demonstrate their skill, elegance and loyalty, and for the Daidoji a pair of tattoos, marking their wrists with the symbol of their family and clan symbolized this selfless loyalty, this dedication to the spirit of the Crane.
So it was that the boy revealed his hands to the crowd in silence, marked not only by the circular mon of the Daidoji, but also with the image of two long and perfect swords. As he prepared for the demonstration, Arashi turned his attention to the whispers, amused by everything that he heard:
"Such strange markings; this boy was trained by a Dragon?"
"No," one of the Kakita, Kaori, answered from her place in the line. "He was taught by one of our own."
The magistrate just smiled at the thought, watching as the aged master, Kakita Toshiki, took his place just before the boy, serving as the master of ceremonies of this time of promises and prayers. "Who are these boy's parents?" the magistrate asked of no one in particular. "I would have thought we would have heard more of such a strong child."
"His mother is one of the samurai-ko who serves Lord Yoshitaka of Souchong Province; Gisei, I believe is the name. No one knows about his father…I have only heard rumors…"
Toshiki turned to the crowd, ordering for silence with one snap of his paper fan. Arashi smiled as the venerable master painter spoke the word, "Kaishi."
No one among the Crane, save for an aged samurai-ko and her brother, had any idea at what kind of style the child would reveal. Glancing across the garden, the boy looked at the battle-etched face of the child's mother, and saw that she was as interested as all the rest in the coming demonstration.
With that, Ujirou smiled, and began.
Even those who knew something to expect were surprised as the Daidoji boy drew both swords in one smooth motion, his katana moving in a style that none of them had ever seen. Arashi half-heard, half imagined it as Lady Kaori whispered "Koshin," as the crowd stood paralyzed in awe at each motion, the fluidity and stances different from anything they had expected to see.
Blades ringing together, the Kakita master came back to life in an instant, ordering with the word "Kanzen" that the demonstration was complete.
"What is your name, samurai-san?" asked Kakita Toshiki of the new adult before his eyes.
The swordsman, Ujirou no more, looked down at his swords for a moment before speaking. "Daidoji Koshindou," he announced to the crowd clearly.
'New Road,' the magistrate considered as the Crane greeted Koshindou with cheers and smiles. I am sure that it will be a path worth seeing.
* * *
Daidoji Koshindou returned to his clan with the writings of his enigmatic teacher, a scroll of swordsmanship and philosophy known as the Kouryo-no-Ken. Koshindou was the first man to be hailed by the Crane as a master of the strange and powerful sword school in the year eleven sixty-four. Though many among his own clan claimed him to be a coward for his path, the Daidoji swordsman never defended himself against such slander, saying "Each man follows his own way."