Over the next month, Mura read through the scrolls once the forge had closed. With the level of detail in the writing and illustrations, and the chest that contained them, it was obvious that the content of the scrolls were considered valuable to someone. Why they would be buried in amongst Nagahei’s discarded things puzzled Mura.
More than just a detailed account of engraving, the scrolls discussed the power of it and what properties it could add to weaponry. Such an idea Mura had never encountered before, and eagerly read all of the information that the chest contained. Nagahei had never spoken of any of the ideas presented in the scrolls, and Mura had never seen the symbols discussed used by him.
According to the scrolls, the power of the symbol could be infused into a weapon. If the smith channelled the pure and focused emotion that a symbol represented, it could pass into the weapon as it was constructed. The power transfer was described as stronger when in direct contact with the wielder.
Mura considered the possibility of using the technique in his work. The problem with doing so was channelling the required emotion, as the scroll described it as the hardest part of the whole process. If the emotion put into the sword was not strong enough, it would cause the strength of the sword’s blade to become brittle or prone to rust.
After seeing those words one night, Mura selected three blades from the pile that he had made sorting through the area. The symbols shown in the scrolls were engraved into the blades, either in clear view on broken blades or hidden under a layer of red rust. Nagahei had tried to put the knowledge of the scrolls to use, Mura thought to himself, but it appeared that the level of emotion he channelled into these weapons had not been enough to complete the binding.
Putting the weapons aside, he looked at the scrolls and the descriptions of the symbols. The descriptions were both good and bad, so a weapon could be made to empower a person who wielded it. On the other hand, it could also weaken the person if the symbol was of a negative emotion.
Looking back on his life, Mura realised just how much negativity there had been in it. Though he had had his triumphs, the pain and anguish seemed to far outweigh them. He had been constantly teased by other children in his childhood, which had continued even into his training days at Himeji Castle. He had his good years after winning the Challenge Tournament, where he had earned respect and flourished as a person. That all changed when he had been betrayed and left to burn in the Honno-ji, with his fighting abilities destroyed by the loss of his sword hand. The following years had been filled with intense physical and mental pain.
He felt his anger rising to the surface, alongside profound shame of himself and resentment of the people who had caused these memories that darkened his life. Wiping away the tears he had found running down his face, Mura realised that he could not possibly use the information in these scrolls. With so much anger and negativity within him, and realising the strength of those feelings, having those channelled into a weapon would mean terrible things for anyone wielding them.
During his days at the forge, Mura began to feel the negative emotion in him building. His apprentices seemed to sense it also, as they approached him hesitantly when they needed help or wished to discuss something. He did not feel like he had changed his balance of pushing them to complete their work and helping them, but something must have changed for them to be this way. A sudden influx of new orders for weapons, alongside tighter timeframes than normally accepted, had been received in preparation for Hidetoyo’s planned movement into Korea. The only comfort Mura could find was that if he was snowed under, Mune would be more so as Hidetoyo’s favourite supplier.
At nights, the nightmares had begun to take a larger hold of him. Mura had always tried to work as hard as possible, as physical exhaustion could keep the night terrors at bay. Even with the longer hours to meet the commitments of the forge, the recollected horrors of escaping the Honno-ji as his skin burned from his face woke him with an increasing regularity. And if it was not those memories, the early days of constant teasing from the other children in his village took their place. Those recollections were especially painful, as he remembered that he had never felt it possible to ask for help from his father. With his father the most renowned fighter in the village, Mura felt that admitting weakness would be shameful to him.
With these feelings beginning to take hold of his mind, Mura reconsidered his position on testing the information contained in the scrolls. The sound of his working at the forge rang late into the night, as he did not want to chance not fulfilling his orders. He did his best to channel positive emotion when he engraved and forged, but the decomposition of the swords was telling. Despite hours of uncompromising hammering, blades broke upon their first strike to the forge’s testing log. Others rusted overnight as if they had been the worst possible metal submerged in a stream for decades.
As the time drew near for his regular catch-up with Mune, his failure at transferring positive energy into his weapons fuelled further discontent in Mura’s mind. He considered if he should share this knowledge with his friend. Mune had always been able to bring out the best in everything and everyone, and Mura did not know if he would be able to accept the possibility that his only friend could unmistakably surpass him in forging skill.
Mura shored up his faith in his own ability, and would bring up the new information with Mune at their next meeting.
– X –