Mune arrived at the South Gate of Edo as the sun was setting, having walked north from Kamakura with his scheduled delivery at the break of dawn. The once unassuming fishing village had grown into a busy city that rivalled the country’s capital, Kyoto. One of the most talked about parts of Yasugawa’s plan for Japan’s future was that his adopted home town would become the new capital. The idea was controversial to many, since Kyoto had been the capital for over the last seven hundred years.
The amount of construction being undertaken in Kanto region was immense, as Mune had noticed on his travel between Kamakura and Edo. There were new roads, new waterways and other essential infrastructure feeding into Yasugawa’s home town, and presumably the same was being done in the other directions of the city. As he walked along the South Gate Road into the inner portions of Edo, the number of buildings and temples being constructed was amazing.
As he reached Edo Castle, he met with the guards at the main gate. They greeted the master smith with respect, and politely inquired after his well-being and of the town of Kamakura. Mune was well, and Kamakura remained a peaceful and wonderful place to reside. They allowed him to enter, and he made his way to the Castle armoury. He delivered the weapons to the taskmaster, who inspected the weapons before making payment. The process was a formality, as Mune’s work was still considered the pinnacle of the craft.
“Thank you for the payment.” Mune looked around the armoury, taking stock of what was available. “Do you have any new orders for me?”
The taskmaster took some sheets of paper from his sleeve. “These have been requested. There has been some controversy regarding Mura’s work, and people are becoming wary of his work.” He nodded to the papers in Mune’s hands. “I know one of the families in that pile ordered from Mura, and they are now looking elsewhere.”
Mune had not heard of this, and requested further information. Mura’s weapons had become as renowned for their quality as Mune’s, helped by the fact that Yasugawa wore both Hizashi and Sutaraito at all official functions. People had begun to name the Daimyo ‘Master of the Sun and Stars’ because of his weapons. As of late, many people had been found guilty of brutal murders, and an alarming number of others had committed suicide. The only link that had been found between the murders and suicides was that the people involved were their possession of weapons made by Mura.
Mune struggled to understand how it was possible. He thanked the taskmaster and made his way out of the castle. He made his way to Mura’s forge. Compared to his old forge, it was a modest shop. His friend had opted to run it alone, leaving his apprentices in Kyoto and not taking on new ones when he arrived in Edo.
He looked in the window of the shop, but did not see anyone. Knowing Mura would still be in the forge, he went down the side street next to the shop. A large wooden door protected entry into Mura’s forge, which Mune knew had a large beam placed across its other side. He hammered the door with his fist four times. Some motion was heard behind it, with the sound of the beam being moved following. Mura’s scarred face appeared, and he gave a subdued smile to his friend as he invited him in.
“You arrived just in time, Mune. I have just finished my latest creation, and was about to close for the day.” He looked Mune over for any packages. “You have made your deliveries?”
“I have. I would say we should find a good restaurant to eat at, but there is something I need to speak with you about.”
Mura gave him a somber look, as if he knew what the topic would be. “Very well. We’ll head back to my place. I learned a new sushi recipe recently, and with some select ingredients and a tokkuri of good sake, we will have a fine meal.”
The visiting smith assisted his friend in cleaning up the forging area, though there was little that needed to be done. The side door’s beam was set back into place, and the two left via the front entrance. They walked towards the residential area, talking about the events of their cities and the latest news of Yasugawa’s plight to be granted the title of Shogun by the Emperor. Mune did not want to discuss the taskmaster’s information in public, in case it was overheard. He sensed that people were giving Mura sideways glances as they passed, meaning that the information may already be public.
The pair arrived at Mura’s residence, and the host set about preparing the meal and drink for his guest.
“Mura, the taskmaster at the castle armoury told me some worrying news about your weapons.”
He stopped cutting up his fish, placed the blade on the bench and turned to face Mune. “It is a widely discussed topic in the city at the moment. I imagine that you were told some murders and suicides were linked to my blades?”
Mune nodded, to which Mura lowered his head and looked at the ground. “I did think it was true. But once I recalled Nagahei’s words those years ago, and what had happened with his weapon, I think it may be true.”
“But how? Sutaraito was the finest blade I have seen. That Hideyoshi, and now Yasugawa, hold it alongside mine is proof of that.”
“The scrolls said that the purity of the emotion being channelled into the blade decided its strength. Five years ago, I found out how I was able to do so to create Sutaraito. You have an idea of how I managed it?”
Mune thought for a moment, then shook his head.
“But you do. Remember when all the smiths met to present their weapons for inspection by Hideyoshi and Yasugawa? I pointed out the reason why I was able to create the enchanted blade.”
It dawned on Mune was he was being told. “The monk Kaizuiten?”
Mura nodded. “When I had discovered that he was actually Mitsaki, the man who melted my face and severed my hand, I went back to the forge and took my rage out on the blade I was working on. After all those years of failing to channel positive emotion into a blade, I succeeded when I pushed my negative emotions into the blade.”
Mune’s eyes widened with shock. “And you continued to do so with the other blades you created?”
Mura nodded. “And that’s why people have murdered or killed themselves with my weapons.”
– X –