Mirage of Blaze volume 9: Rebels of the River-Edge | Prologue: Dearly-Awaited at the River-Edge

By Kuwabara Mizuna (author), Toujou Kazumi (illustrator)
Translated by asphodel

They met for the first time at the edge of the Kamo RiverKamo-gawa

A 31 km (~19 miles) long class A (protected) river which flows through the city of Kyoto.
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, beneath the Great Four-Arched BridgeShijou Oohashi (四条大橋)

A busy four-arched steel girder bridge which spans the Kamo Riverview map location in Kyoto. According to Yasaka Shrine's records, the original bridge was built in 1142 from temple-solicited funds. The bridge was rebuilt and widened numerous times in subsequent years after being damaged or swept away by floods.

A stone bridge was constructed in 1857 during the final days of the Tokugawa shogunate, and a iron one replaced it in 1874 with a toll enacted to amortize construction costs. Upon the opening of the Kyoto Municipal Railway in 1913 and the widening of the highway, the bridge was rebuilt with arches using reinforced concrete. However, the 1934 Muroto typhoon and June floods of 1935 caused driftwood and other debris to block the arches, resulting in additional water damage to the surround areas. The Kamo River was dredged and the current bridge built in 1942.
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.

Injured in a battle against Heian EraHeian-jidai (平安時代)

Literally: "Era of Peace and Tranquility"; a period in Japanese history in which Chinese influences on Japanese culture, such as Confucianism, were at their height. The imperial court was at the peak of its power, and the capital was moved from Nara to Heian (now Kyoto). This era is greatly admired for its art, including poetry and literature (The Tale of Genji was written during this period). Buddhism, primarily in the form of two esoteric schools, Tendai and Shingon, began to spread throughout Japan.
-onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
causing unrest in the capitalKyoto-shi (京都市)

The imperial capital of Japan from 794 to 1868, located in Kyoto Prefecture.
, she had hidden herself among the tall reeds along the river—to find the spot already occupied.

He’d been standing on the riverbank that early morning with birdfeed in hand, calling to the waterfowl. The birds had gathered around him with bold familiarity, demanding food.

What a strange man.

He seemed almost to be conversing with them. To her, worn and battered as she was from battling people long dead, he might as well have stepped out of another world.

She listened to the quiet song of the river.

Its current sparkled with morning sunlight. Birds circled in the pale mist, flocking to the man on the bank to exchange gentle greetings. He was so very beautiful... Her eyes brimmed with tears.

“You’re...what is wrong?”

She was stunned to be discovered. Noticing the seriousness of her wounds, the man immediately tore a strip from the sleeve of his kimono and deftly stopped her bleeding. Then he picked her up and carried her home without even a “by your leave.”

“I will tend to this now. Bear with me but a little longer.”

The man was a doctor. He had studied Dutch medical science in NagasakiNagasaki-shi (長崎市)

The largest city in and capital of Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki began as a small harbor town which quickly grew into a large port city following the accidental landing of Francis Xavier in nearby Kagoshima Prefecture and the establishment of trade with Portuguese merchants.

Nagasaki also became the point of entry of Christianity into Japan, and its daimyo, Oomura Sumitada, and many of its inhabitants converted to Christianity. However, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, wary of Christian influence in the region, ordered the expulsion of all missionaries 1587, an order that largely went unenforced. Although 26 Japanese and foreign Christians were executed in Nagasaki in 1597, Christianity was grudgingly tolerated until 1614, when Christianity was officially banned and all missionaries ordered to leave. Following the ban, the Tokugawa shogunate killed and tortured Christians across Japan to force them to renounce their faith.

The rebellion at Shimabara near Nagasaki in 1636-1638 convinced the government that Christianity and disloyalty were linked. 30,000 Japanese Christians were massacred and a policy of national isolation descended in 1639, closing foreign trader with all but the Dutch.

Isolationism only ended with the arrival of Commodore Perry's 'Black Ships' in 1853, and Nagasaki would become an important economic city once more after the Meiji Restoration. Its main industry was ship-building, a fact which made it a target for the second atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan during World War II.
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, and practiced Western medicine. His clinic was also his home, where he treated her injuries with surprising skill.

“It’s all right now,” he told her, smiling softly. “But you should rest and heal for a little while. Where is your home?”

Haruie shook her head on the pillow. She didn’t have a home. She had abandoned her kin and lived as a traveling samisen player, earning enough to keep body and soul together while performing her covert onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
extermination duties.

It had never been her intention to be reborn into a female body, having done so with reluctance after losing her body in the midst of battle. She’d had her fill of the absurd egotism of men since then—not that she wanted to reflect on what she’d been like as one of them. “Wild” would have been an apt description. Never knowing how much time she would have, her only concern had been to extract the maximum possible pleasure out of her life. She knew precisely how men viewed women, because she’d been one herself. So it had been simple for her to lead them about by their noses.

Shintarou didn’t ask any more questions.

“You can stay here until you’re healed, if you like. For as long as you wish,” he invited. Haruie viewed the offer with mistrust, suspecting ulterior motives, but Shintarou only smiled quietly and left the room.

He proved himself an honest doctor.

As she slowly healed, Haruie could get out of bed for small stretches to help. Before she knew it she had become his assistant, receiving and looking after patients.

Walking to Kamo River in the early morning to feed the birds was part of Shintarou’s routine.

“I’ve liked birds since I was a boy,” he explained. “I used to think that when I grew up, I would become one myself. So I share a bit of my food with them.”

Shintarou had come from TouhokuTouhoku-chihou (東北地方)

Also known as: Michinoku (みちのく)

The northeast area of Japan's main island of Honshuu, the Touhoku consists of the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. It is a mountainous region which is known for having breathtaking scenery but a harsh climate.
’s poor. His talents had been noticed by the chief priest of their parish temple, an interesting man who had once been an elite monk cadet at Mt. HieiHiei-zan (比叡山)

Mt. Hiei is a mountain to the northeast of Kyoto on which the Buddhist Tendai Enryaku Temple was founded by Saichou in 788. Oda Nobunaga razed its temples and towns and massacred its inhabitants in 1571 to check the power of the Tendai warrior monks, who had long been his enemies due to their strength and independence.

The temple was rebuilt and is still the Tendai headquarters.
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. Having grown skeptical and jaded of his training there, he had made his way to rustic MutsuMutsu-no-kuni (陸奥国)

Also known as: Oushuu (奥州)

The largest province of ancient Japan, situated in northern Honshuu, which was ruled by various clans during the Sengoku, including the Uesugi, Nambu, and Date. It was divided into the prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Aomori.
. It was a region with very few doctors. This priest recommended Shintarou to the province’s chief vassals, whose special support secured approval for him to study Dutch medicine, the most advanced medical science known, in faraway Nagasaki, that he might serve as a provincial government doctor.

While feeding the birds at Kamo River, Shintarou often mused, “I never really wanted to be a government doctor, though. I want to return to my village and be a country doctor. Follow in the footsteps of my teacher the monk. My village is so poor, it could never even dream of having its own doctor.”

Crouched by his side, a strange feeling swept through Haruie as she stared at Shintarou’s profile.

Here was a man—this amazing man—working to keep the living alive. She, on the other hand, fought the dead. What kind of miserable life was that?

“Won’t you come with me, Otsuta?” Shintarou suddenly asked one morning, there beside the misty river. “My studies here in the capital will be over in two years. Come home with me. You don’t have a destination in mind anyway, right?” Shintarou must have known how weary she was of wandering. “Be my assistant, Otsuta.”

The birds took flight.

It was winter, seven months after she had met Shintarou.

Haruie wavered, troubled.

She didn’t dislike Shintarou.

Yet, afraid of revealing her true identity to him, she didn’t give him an answer immediately.

That was when onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
began disrupting the capital once more.

Kagetora and the others came rushing to her aid, but they were unable to completely contain the chaos and violence, or to prevent scores of people from getting hurt. Exorcisms kept Haruie busy, and she fought the onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
with a resolution to abandon her body if need be.

She had left Shintarou without a word, and thought that that was the end of it. But Shintarou wouldn’t let it go; he searched for her high and low, until finally he got caught up in one of her battles.

The onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
was particularly vicious, and it tore off Shintarou’s right arm as he attempted to protect her. Because of her, Shintarou lost his precious dominant hand.

Though she exorcised the onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
, and Shintarou’s life was saved, she could not give Shintarou’s arm back to him. She wept at his bedside for three days and three nights.

She begged forgiveness for that which she could not recover.

But Shintarou smiled and told the grieving Haruie, “Do not blame yourself. My arm was a cheap price to pay for your life. But if you feel you must atone, would you consider taking its place?” Surprised, Haruie raised her head. “Be my right hand. Stay with me for now and always... I have no regrets, if it means having you by my side.”

That was when Haruie finally knew how deeply she was in love with this man, and why the loss of his arm hurt and grieved her more than if it had been her own.

She could not seem to stop crying. “I want to be with you forever.”

His chest was warm.

Kagetora, for reasons unknown, allowed her to leave the Yasha-shuuYasha-shuu (夜叉衆)

The five kanshousha at the head of the Meikai Uesugi Army ordered by Uesugi Kenshin to hunt for the onshou who are disrupting the peace of modern-era Japan in a battle which has lasted four hundred years. Led by Uesugi Kagetora, with Naoe Nobutsuna, Kakizaki Haruie, Yasuda Nagahide, and Irobe Katsunaga. The name "Yasha" refers to soldiers in the army of Bishamonten, called "Yaksha".
. She would throw away her Uesugi name and live the rest of her life as an ordinary woman. And if that life were to be her last, she wouldn’t mind. She was stunned when Kagetora granted her request. But Kagetora himself was exhausted after two hundred years. The onryouonryou (怨霊)

Lit.: "vengeful ghost"; the spirits of those who died in the Sengoku period who are still so filled with rage and hatred that they continue to exist in the world as vengeful spirits instead of being purified and reborn.
of the SengokuSengoku (戦国)

The "warring states" period, lasting from 1467 to 1615, in which the warlords of Japan battled each other for the rule of the country.
were, on the whole, pacified. In recent years they had concentrated their efforts on extermination of other spirits.

“If that is what you want, then go. I will take all responsibility for this decision,” Kagetora said, looking at her with abiding affection. “Don’t think about anything else, only live as you want to live. I am grateful for your long service. Thank you...” He took Haruie’s slim hand gently in his. “This is likely the last time we will see each other.”

They had both thought that this would be their final parting—that this was the end. After two hundred long years... Haruie was overwhelmed with happiness at the thought of being able to spend her final decades with the one she loved above any other. She would never love anyone else as she loved him.

“The magnolias near my home are so beautiful this time of year.”

Shintarou liked to share stories of his village with her, his eyes sparkling like a child’s when he spoke of the changing seasons there. Haruie loved those eyes. With her devotion and support, the one-handed doctor could help even more people than he could before.

“One day soon I’ll be able to show them to you,” Shintarou murmured as they fed the water fowl at the edge of Kamo River on one of their daily walks.

But he never did. The following year, a month before they would have made that trip back to his village of the lily magnolias, an epidemic ravaged the capital. Shintarou himself was infected while treating his patients, and, on a spring day, weakened beyond help, he died.

“A doctor who can’t even save himself...!” Haruie wailed as Shintarou faded before her eyes.

“Don’t cry, Tsuta.”

“Would you leave me? I’m your right hand! I’m a part of you! If you die I’ll die too!”

“You can’t die.”

“Don’t leave me here!” Haruie sobbed, and Shintarou wiped away her tears with fingers thin as bone.

“You will not be alone. I swear to you.” He painfully drew breath through parched lips before continuing, “I am not going to die. I won’t die. But even if I do, you won’t be alone. I’ll find you again in my next life.”

“Wait for me, Tsuta. You’ll be my right arm again.”

“I promise you.”

“Believe in me.”

His final words.

It would soon be the two hundredth winter since he had made his promise to her.

And Shintarou had not come to find her.

Comments

Thank you!

Rina's picture

So beautiful! I have waited for this volume, thank you for translating it! Can't wait to read more! :)

Thank you

Sankia's picture

Thank you for this chapter ! I can not wait to read more ! :)