Mura created two more swords using the knowledge of the scrolls, yet the weapons were ultimately as useless as their predecessors. One sword was slightly sturdier, managing ten strikes against the testing log before shattering into tiny fragments. The other blade, instead of reflecting light, seemed to absorb it. To add further insult to Mura’s forging skills, the blade’s edge refused to sharpen.
He and Mune discussed the scrolls further over several meetings at Mura’s forge, with his friend reading over the instructions of the old texts and inspecting the newer pair of failed weapons. Mura’s weapons before using the scrolls were at least the equal of any other to be found in Kyoto, so for these to behave as they had defied explanation.
Mura looked to his friend with a frustrated glare. “I have forged every piece of positive energy I have into these weapons, and it has all been for nothing.”
Mune placed a consoling hand on his shoulder. “I understand the pride you take in your abilities, Mura. It may be impossible to make the weapons work at all using the power of the engravings.”
“This is my chance to really step into my own as a weapons maker. This could allow me to make weapons that stand the test of time, as our family’s weapons have.”
“Consider this thought, and please do not misunderstand me. You say your positive energy is not enough to create a stable weapon. There may be the chance that the maker’s life experience plays a part when the engravings are used.”
Mura’s look hardened. “You are suggesting that I will not be able to ever use the knowledge of the scrolls?”
“Not at all, my friend. The purity of emotion is described in the texts. You may be unwittingly sabotaging yourself by remembering your past. Any positive emotion you try to channel may be weakened by the negative impact of your past.”
“But I will never be able to forget the events of my life. It has driven me to get to where I am today, in spite of what has happened.” He held up his metal right hand, while pointing to his scarred face with his other hand. “Name one person who could forget what caused these?”
“You almost said what I suspect. Your resolve to overcome is your strength in one regard, but it some situations it could become a weakness. The events of your life focus the intensity of your motivation, but trying to push positive emotion into a weapon may not be possible because of them.”
Mura looked down at his arm, his anger easy to see. “Then this is the most unfair thing to have happened to me. The chance to make the weapon that would define me, yet what I am is what prevents me from achieving it.” He slammed the chest’s lid down, and then looked to Mune. “The only way to prove the truth of your thoughts is for you to attempt to forge a weapon using the knowledge. Take the scrolls; they are obviously useless to me.”
Mune looked at the chest. “None of what I have said was meant as insult, Mura. Even if you do not follow the processes that the scrolls describe, your weapons are as worthy as the next smith’s. I will accept your offer to attempt what you have, but I am happy for you to take them back if you change your mind.”
The scarred smith shook his head forcefully. “Just take them. To have them remain with me would remind me of my failures.”
“Very well. But my offer stands; say the word and I shall return them.” Mune reopened the chest to place back the scrolls they had discussed, then reclosed and locked it. “You shall be the first person to know of my results.”
The pair descended the stairs, and gave each other reserved farewells.
For the next month, Mura fell deeper into his distress. His nightmares grew more vivid, which he thought was impossible. He barely noticed the arrivals and departures of his apprentices, becoming again the shadow in the back of what was now his forge. Information of the impending movement into Korea filtered from the Western provinces, including news that his former tormentors from his training days at Himeji Castle had become generals in Hidetoyo’s army. This tore at Mura, making him intensely jealous and bitter that they had reached heights that he should have.
For their next meeting, Mune invited his friend to his own place. The rival forge was presented grandly, as would be expected of Hidetoyo’s preferred supplier. They moved past the front room and into the forge itself. Mura noticed its uncanny cleanness; one would be hard pressed to find a grain of dust. As they reached Mune’s forge, there stood was an ornate stand where the completed weapons were held.
Mune looked to his friend with a hint of hesitation. “As was the case with you, my first efforts proved woeful.” He opened a rectangular box that sat next to the stand, and pulled out a pair of swords that were pitifully edged and reflected light terribly. Mura assessed the weapons, feeling a small sense of relief that his friend had also failed. “However, my latest effort using the knowledge of the scrolls is amazing.”
He pulled out a modest casing from the box, and held it out for Mura. He warily removed the weapon, not sure what to expect. The blade just above the hilt had the symbol of strength engraved into it. As he removed the rest of the sword, he was almost blinded by the light that reflected off it. Mura looked to the light source, a small lamp with a wax candle inside, then back to the weapon. It was the most beautifully forged blade he had ever seen.
Mune looked at Mura. “I did exactly as the scrolls described, and this was the result.”
Mura placed the sword back in its casing, and held it back to Mune. The anger and jealousy in his eyes was visible through the welling tears.
“You always were better than me. I should be resigned to it.”
“Please do not be like this, Mura. I took no pride from achieving what you could not.” He looked down at the sword in its casing. “Where do we go from here?”
– X –