MURA AND MUNE
Mune followed the cherry blossom road towards Himeji Castle. This time of the year was a joyous occasion for the city’s residents, as the trees began their newest cycle of rebirth. Though the buds were few now, it would be but a week before the trees would be covered in a thick white blanket of blossoms.
The road began its ascent up the hill, where the imposing castle awaited the new recruits. Having turned thirteen, Mune had set out from his small village to the much larger city. His parents had given him a small farewell, where they provided him a modest silk robe and the family’s sword. During his travels, he had become part of a group of boys making the same pilgrimage. They all spoke excitedly of what awaited them; the beginning of their training to become great warriors.
A set of very large wooden gates awaited them at the top of the hill, where a pair of older warriors stood guarding the entrance. The pair must have been serving for a long time, as the anticipation and energy of the young boys did not rub off onto them. They stood aside, and the group looked into the large castle courtyard.
The courtyard seemed dreary, Mune thought to himself, with nothing but gray stone in view. This would not be the case for long, due to the massive cherry blossom tree standing in the middle. The bare branches pointed out in every direction, as if attempting to create a cover. When the blossoms finally arrived, the courtyard would have a beautiful roof of flowers.
As the group moved further into the castle, they saw they were not the first to arrive. A handful of groups were spread around the walls of the courtyard, keeping to themselves. Mune and his group found a place along the wall, and copied the others in their solitude. This became tiresome before long, and he excused himself from the group.
Muna went underneath the verandah area of the courtyard, and he peered into the rooms as he walked. They were all sparsely filled, with a basic table and floor bedding for five people. The joy of being a novice was having no luxuries, he thought glumly to himself. If one wanted to adorn himself in quality clothing and acquire fine blades, it would all have to be earned in the coming years.
Out of the corner of his eye, Mune noticed an out-of-place shadow against one of the verandah’s support beams. Moving closer to investigate, he saw it was a boy sitting by himself. With his back against the wall, the boy was looking at the casing of his blade, which was finely adorned. As with all the other boys in the courtyard, his clothing was of modest quality.
“Why are you by yourself?”
The boy startled, as if he never noticed that Mune was there.
“The other boys were making fun of me, so I sought a quiet place to await the arrival of the masters.”
Mune sat down next to him. “That is unfortunate. Why were they?”
The boy shrugged. “I am the smallest in the group, so it is required that I be the sufferer of everyone’s pranks and jokes.”
Mune nodded at his sword. “The casing of your sword is a fine one. Is the sword worthy of it?”
The boy glared at Mune. “It is my father’s, and his father’s, and his father’s. It is the finest blade in my whole village.”
“My apologies, I did not mean to insult. For the sword to be that many generations old, it must be a fine one indeed. Can I look at it?”
The boy begrudgingly unsheathed the sword, and held it in the palms of his hands. “You may look, but you cannot touch it.”
Mune looked upon the sword. The boy’s words held true; the blade and its workmanship were indeed as fine as he had ever seen.
“It is a work of art indeed, my friend. We are both lucky to have inherited swords from our fathers, as mine was also handed down many generations in my family.” He unsheathed his, and held it out for the boy to take.
The boy took it out, and waved it around to test its weighting. Nodding in approval, he handed it back.
“It is indeed a fine sword. With such weapons, we have a lot to prove. We must ensure that we are worthy of such blades.”
The reverberations of a large gong rang around the courtyard. Mune stood up, and placed his sword in its casing. He held his hand out to the seated boy, who took it and pulled himself up.
Mune looked to the boy. “The masters are arriving, so we better get back to our groups. Hopefully we will meet again.”
For the first time, the boy smiled. “I would like that.”
Mune held out his hand. “I am Mune. Pleased to meet you…”
“Mura. Good luck with your initiation, Mune.”
“You too.” The gong rang again. “See you soon.”
The pair nodded to each other, and moved off in the direction of their groups.
– X –