As Sashiki and Reiko made their way through the busy marketplace on their weekly dinner outing, Sashiki seemed distracted. Reiko noticed the small child occasionally standing on her toes and craning her neck, glancing all around.
“Is there something you’re looking for? The dumpling shop is this way.”
“Junishi should be back by now.”
“Junishi? Who’s Junishi?”
“One of my friends. He used to help me sneak into some of the shops to get food. I would be the distraction while he went through the back. He said boys should do the illegal part, that way if he got caught only he would get in trouble.” She craned her neck and glanced around again. “He got caught. A lot.”
“Back from where, exactly?”
“Oh, whenever he got caught, sometimes the guards would throw him in the prisons for a few days, sometimes they would banish him from the city. But he always came back. He got ‘banished’ last week, but he always smuggled back in after a day or two.”
“How often did you see him?”
“Every day! We always play together when I’m out of the house. I… We didn’t get in trouble anymore, I swear! I don’t need to steal food anymore!”
While the pair enjoyed their dinner, Reiko considered the lower reports of petty crimes in the marketplace and peasant districts. Perhaps it was time to find this “Junishi”.
The drunk was caught stealing mugs and dregs of paying customers. The guards held him for a few hours until he sobered up, before tossing him back out onto the empty street in the middle of the night. The man stumbled down the street, almost colliding with a peasant woman, who kept her distance and retreated into a side alley. He made his way back and forth across the street before finding a building wall blocking his path. Deciding it was as good a place as any, he dropped his pants and began to urinate.
The woman watched from the shadows as a cloaked figure approached the man. The figure waited for the drunk to finish his business before offering him a swig from a jug. There was a quick conversation before the drunk appeared to happily agree to something and begin following the cloaked figure down the street. A swift gust of wind blew into the now empty alley as the two walked off towards the temple district.
The knife running down his arm quickly brought the man back into consciousness, his scream muffled by the wet rags stuffed in his mouth. The cloaked figure drew the knife slowly in one hand, while reading slowly from the parchment in his other hand. Steam began to rise from the wound and the restrained drunk writhed in agony. The cloaked figure paused and watched, before eventually sighing in frustration. He ripped open the sleeve on the drunks other arm and began again. As his words came close to their finish, steam once again began to rise. Then wound opened up, blood pouring out at an incredible rate. The muffled screams became more desperate as the drunk futilely fought against his restraints. He pulled against his binding, rocking his entire body in the wooden chair, eventually knocking it to it’s side. Reiko watched as the fight bled out of him onto the ground at an incredible rate.
The cloaked figure watched in silence as the man drew his last breath. He let out a sigh of relief and began to unbind the now dead drunk. Reiko slipped behind the cloaked figure as he moved the man over to a drain and began to fill a bucket from a nearby pump. The figure lowered his hood, showing his face for the first time.
“Since you have shown me the courtesy of finally showing yourself, I guess I must do the same.”
The startled man swung around and locked eyes on Reiko, noticing her for the first time.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?”
“Is that really important right now? Either way, it’s not you who will be asking questions. Or making demands. What is important is the following: I know who YOU are. I know exactly what you are doing. I know where you are doing it. I know who I can tell to end it. I know where I can find the proof to prove it. I know if you hide the evidence, I possess in me the power to stop you with my own hands. Do you wish to test any of these assertions?”
The man glared at this woman, considering all she said. She stared back with a fixed expression.
“… I understand. What do you want?”
“I want you to teach me everything you know. I don’t want the ability, rest assured, I would not sully myself in that way. Unfortunately those who hold power feel that certain knowledge should be forbidden, often the knowledge that is employed by those who wish to harm us. I want this knowledge. This knowledge, which you hold in your pursuit of power, will help those who know better stop those like you. Here are the conditions: you teach me everything you know about your practice, and what you know about others of your kind. In return I do not end you through one of my many methods.”
The man nodded.
“Furthermore, you seek a new source of subjects. I will not see harm brought to those in my city.”
The man frowned and considered for a few seconds, before nodding again.
“I will come once a week, while I will have many questions, I expect you to have lessons in mind for me. I’m sure someone of your station is familiar with educating others.”
“I don’t have many other options, do I?”
“You can always try to kill me.”
“When do these lessons start?”
“Tonight. Tell me where you first learned of this power.”
“It is you! The famous ‘Instructor’ Kanko!”
Kanko smiled warmly at the pilgrim. “Yes, child, how can I be of service to you?”
“I traveled so far to learn all I can of the great Shinsei. They say your sermons are some of the most enlightening.”
Kanko chuckled, “Well, I hope I can live up to those rumors. My sermons are every other day, in the evening.”
Kanko considered the ragged pilgrim in front of him, “Although, for someone who has clearly traveled so far, I would feel guilty making you wait. If you would like, I can answer any questions you may have in my private quarters.”
“It would be a great honor Master Kanko!” The pilgrim clapped his hands together and bowed deeply.
The two passed through a side door in the great room, into the bowels of the temple.