The news spread quickly across the city. Yasugawa’s hosting of the Emperor in Edo had earned the desired outcome. Within the week, the Daimyo would relinquish his title, to be replaced with the title of Shogun.
Mura’s residence had held the two men for the past several days. They had not left the house, poring over every detail of the scrolls to figure out if it was possible to remove the twisted desires from Mura’s blades. They began early in the morning, and finished late into the night. Despite the long hours, the information they hoped to find had not appeared.
Mune rubbed his eyes, feelings of weariness and futility crashing over him. “Mura, please. We have read over these parchments more than ten times in the last two days. We are not able to remove the dark tendencies from Sutaraito.”
The fire in the scarred man’s eyes burned fiercely. “Then we must look closer. You would do the same if it was Hizashi that was cursed.”
Mune began to object, but realised that the words were true. When the pinnacle of one’s life is in jeopardy, that person would go to any lengths to protect it from harm.
“At the very least, can we get out and inhale some fresh air? The house is beginning to smell worse than the fishing village near Himeji.”
Mura gave him an angry glare, before breaking into a fit of laughter. Mune joined in, and they both felt some relief from the heavy matter that had occupied their minds for the last two days.
“Very well, Mune.” He raised himself from the large carpet, over which the scrolls were meticulously placed in their order, and looked out the window to the street. “It looks far into the night, but some people remain out and about. We can sneak back into the forge district; it is highly unlikely that anyone would be there at this hour.”
Mune nodded, and spread his hands to indicate the scrolls. “Let’s put these back in the chest.”
Mura went to the corner of the room and picked up the chest. “This is actually light once all the scrolls are out of it.” He placed it at the edge of the carpet, and then moved to pick up some of the items to be placed back in the ornate container.
Mune picked up some scrolls, and moved to the chest. “It is a true pity that we may need to find a way to retrieve Sutaraito from Yasugawa, and destroy it. I had always considered it more beautiful than my blade. The beauty of a starlit night always amazes me.” He opened the chest, and looked into it. “Mura, have we never removed all the scrolls from the chest before?”
Mura stepped towards him with his armful of scrolls. “I am almost certain that it is. We only read each scroll as we saw fit.”
“Then that may be why we never noticed what lay underneath.”
The pair looked into the chest, and saw that its base was inlaid with a mosaic of an exquisitely designed sword within a circle. Mune looked to the outside of the box, and then turned to Mura. “Have you got two blades identical in length somewhere in the house?’
Mura nodded, and moved off into another room. Mune kept looking over the inside and outside of the chest until he returned with two standard length swords. He took them from his friend, and then stood one up against the outside of the chest. He then placed the other on its inside edge.
“Do you see, Mura? The difference in length is more than just the thickness of the base. There must be a hidden compartment.”
Mura looked into the chest, a thoughtful look on his face. “It must be opened somehow by that sword mosaic. Try turning it.”
Mune reached in, placing his fingers along the edge of the circle. As he applied pressure, the circle began to turn. After a full rotation, the circle rose. The revealed portion under the mosaic showed two fingerholds. Mune placed his middle finger and thumb in the holds, and then lifted. The whole base came away, showing a solid wood portion holding one scroll in place.
“Gods, Mura! There was more to learn all along.” He reached in and retrieved the hidden scroll, and handed it over to his friend.
Mura quickly unrolled it, and looked at the information it contained. He raised an excited look to Mune. “It describes how a destructive sword can be rid of its twisted tendency.” He looked back down to the scroll, reading further. “What it requires will be hard, but I will enjoy it.”
Mune gave his friend an anxious look. “What does it say?”
“The cause of the negativity that was channelled into the sword needs to be destroyed. That means I need to find that pretender monk Kaizuiten and exact some revenge.” Mune was taken aback by the almost crazed glare in Mura’s eyes.
“If it is what needs to be done, I shall help you. I doubt it will be easy to reach him, whether he is residing in the temple or in the castle with Yasugawa.”
Mura nodded as he continued to read. As he reached the end of the scroll, his eyes had changed from crazed to vacant.
Mune noticed the change. “Mura, what is it?”
“Killing Kaizuiten is not all that is required. I must…”
A heavy hand pounded on the front door, and a voice called out for Mura. Surprised out of his moment, he moved to the door and opened it. It was one of the night guards. Mura had forgotten to cover his face, and the guard reeled in shock from what he saw. He took a moment to compose himself.
“Are you Mura?”
“You need to come with me for two reasons. Firstly, your shop is on fire. And secondly, Yasugawa wishes to see you personally.” He looked past Mura to see Mune standing behind him. “If you are Mune, you have been summoned too.”
Mura grabbed his cloak, and he and Mune stepped out into the street. They followed the guard towards the smoke that rose into the sky.
– X –