Summary of Final Shouwa

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Rina
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Summary of Final Shouwa

Hi everyone!

Finally I finished reading this last volume of Shouwa prequels! And what a volume it was!  So intense! Sensei really did awesome job with this! Thousands of thanks to her! ;_; Can't believe is this was the last volume of MoB... I wish there will a stage play of vol. 9-10!

Spoiler alert: possibly spoilers from the end of main story. 

********************

Shouwa prequel vol. 10: Sangekou Buruusu (Dying Flowers Blues)

January 1962. Haruie is visiting Minako and Naoe in Aso. In previous volume Minako had nausea and Haruie recognized that there are two souls in Minako's body... She is carrying someone's child! Minako's behavior and expression on her face tell to Haruie that it's not Kagetora's child. As Minako is holding back the tears of hatred, Haruie gets the point: it's Naoe's. Haruie runs to find Naoe who is chopping firewood outside. Haruie is shocked how old Naoe looks, rather than being in his twenties, his tiredness has made him to look like a middle-aged man. Haruie demands to know what happened to Minako, whose child she is carrying. Naoe stays silent quite long, but eventually he opens his mouth and says: "I said that... he shouldn't trust me... If he hadn't trust... maybe I wouldn't have betrayed him...". Haruie can't understand what he is meaning, but then Naoe starts to laugh aloud that this whole thing is so funny. Kagetora doesn't trust anyone, so he will definitely doubt Minako too. He will believe that it was Minako who betrayed him even she would keep telling that Naoe raped her. Kagetora will push her out of his life and keep living alone again. If Naoe can't have Kagetora, no one can't! Haruie is full of angry and she grabs Naoe's coat. Was that the reason he raped Minako?! Knowing that Kagetora will doubt her too?! Naoe keeps laughing like a mad and says that they are all on the way to Hell... He, Kagetora and Minako too. "It was him who asked me to do that! And I did! That's why this happened! He forced me to do so...! I'm not going to Hell alone, he will come with me!" Naoe says so and then feels Haruie slapping him on his cheek. Haruie starts to cry and says that she never could believe that Naoe is such a bastard like this.    

Later on that day Minako seems to be ready for talking about everything. Haruie asks what Minako wants to do with the baby. She will support and be on her side no matter what Minako decides. Minako stays silent for a while and says then determinedly: "I'll keep this baby."

*Haruie is shocked*

H: "Wait a second... H-How will you explain all this to Kagetora? Will you be frank and say that it's Naoe's? Reveal everything that happened here? Even about that what Naoe did to you? Your heart may break after Kagetora gets known about this... But still you want to keep this child?"

*Minako nods*

H: "You aren't going to lie and say that it's Kagetora's child?"

*Minako shakes her head and smiles*

M: "Marii-san, I'm going to give birth to him."

H: "What do you... mean...?"

M: "He won't live long anymore, right? I want to give my child's body to him."

Haruie doesn't know what to think. She keeps observing Minako for several days, but it seems that Minako has made her decision to become Kagetora's mother, giving up her position as his lover. After she becomes his mother, they will never be lovers anymore. But thinking that she will be loved by Kagetora as a mother has brought a smile back to her lips. She looks so happy as she has started to knit scarfs and woolen socks to baby Kagetora. Haruie goes to talk with Naoe and she tells him about Minako's plans. Naoe is shocked and starts to laugh that it's ridiculous. Kagetora will born as his child? Raping Minako will create Kagetora's new body? Naoe's hands start to tremble and he wants to meet Minako for making her to change her mind. Haruie stops him and says that Naoe doesn't have any right to decide what Minako does with the baby since Naoe caused this situation. Haruie also promise to keep this secret, but Naoe has to prepare how to tell about this to Kagetora. He will definitely know sooner or later. 

Kagetora, Irobe, Nagahide, Kousaka, Hakkai, Tetsuji, Kimyoumaru and Lady Tora are still in Shikoku. Irobe mixes sleeping medicine into Tetsuji's food so that he falls asleep right after dinner. They are worried about the bindi on Tetsuji's forehead. They know it's Nobunaga's technique to spy, but they aren't sure if Nobunaga can use hakonha in Tetsuji's body. During nighttime they always let him have medicine so that Nobunaga can't listen or see them. Kagetora consults with Kousaka if he knows a man named 'Koubou Daishi of darkness'. Kousaka is surprised that Kagetora knows that man. Kousaka tells that this man was a priest who served Emperor Kanmu during Heian era. This priest went to China together with Koubou Daishi (Kuukai) and after returning to Japan with the knowledge of esoteric Buddhism, they became enemies. 'Dark Koubou' created these forbidden spells that Nobunaga is using now. It seems that Nobunaga has waken up his soul in order to learn about these spells and how to use them. After telling some information about this 'Dark Koubou' Kousaka leaves the room. Kagetora thinks about the situation. They are in trouble because these spells have made Nobunaga stronger than ever. It's difficult to defeat him. Kagetora gets flashbacks from the time when he and Yamaguchi-Naoe were surrounded by poisonous gas. Naoe embraced him tightly, protecting him from the gas. Naoe lost his Yamaguchi body at the time... His dying face has burnt an eternal mark in Kagetora's heart. He wants Naoe to keep living, survive. No matter what. Small translation from p. 60-61 when Kagetora's doppelganger starts to whisper truth:

~

- Stop denying the truth.

Kagetora tried to plug his ears. It's that voice again. The second himself.

- You don't even believe that there is conscience in this world. 

- You're only believing in evilness.

K: ('Stop it.')

- Listening how your beloved ones are suffering is the only thing that makes you satisfied. Your personality has been damaged. Minako said she will smile for you, but you don't have any right to enjoy her kindness.

- Did you try, even once, to understand what she was hoping from you? Honestly, did you even try to make her wish come true? Her happiness and future, they didn't mean anything to you.

- You only used her as your refuge, but when it was time to give something back to her, you just made excuse that you can't give her happiness and pushed her away.

K: ('No... I...')

- Stop acting a victim.

K: ('Go away, illusion!')

- You're just causing harm both to Naoe and Minako. You don't even want to change your bad personality. You just keep being afraid of other people, without giving anything back to them, testing their heart...

~  

Kimyoumaru steps into Kagetora's room breaking the 'illusion' Kagetora was having. Kagetora recognizes right away that something is wrong. For his surprise, Kimyoumaru opens his mouth and asks haven't they gather three Miroku's stones yet. Kagetora tells that the third child didn't survive, so there won't the last stone. As seeing Kimyoumaru's face disappointed, Kagetora asks who Kimyoumaru really is. There isn't any reason why Nobunaga's child would help them, he must be a kanshousha, right? Kagetora gets shocked as Kimyoumaru says the same words as Kenshin said earlier (Kagetora is sure that the monk who appeared in vol. 8 was Kenshin). Kimyoumaru proposes that Kagetora himself should bury his own child and do exactly same as Nobunaga. In this way they can defeat him. Kimyoumaru promises that he will help Kagetora and the others. Suddenly, there is an explosion: the ceiling and the walls collapses, burying Kagetora and Kimyoumaru under them. Kagetora fights himself up from the remains and he freezes after seeing Tetsuji (who definitely was drugged to sleep till morning!) smiling there devilishly. "Finally you showed your true self, Kimyoumaru..." Nobunaga smiles as using Tetsuji's body via the seed of Demon King. Kagetora and Nobunaga start fighting. When Nobunaga is about to use hakonha, Irobe, Nagahide and Kousaka save Kagetora. Kimyoumaru is also alive and with his help the others managed to chase Tetsuji/Nobunaga away. After the fight they find the remains of Lady Tora. It seems that Nobunaga punished her by himself since her body was shattered into small pieces, almost unable to say that these remains belonged to a human once. Tora's soul has disappeared, possibly Nobunaga used hakonha on her after killing her physical body. Kagetora is resting at the hospital. His body is in its limits, so Kagetora decides to commit a suicide. He has carried a small pistol with him, just in case if he needs to perform kanshou in order to avoid hakonha. Before killing himself Kagetora reminisces his life as Kase Kenzou: his parents, serving his country in navy, Yashashuu, working at Regalo, how he and Minako watched sunset together... and the most dearest memory of all: Naoe. As thinking Naoe, Kagetora is ready to pull the trigger, but just before he does so, he is stopped by a female spirit. She is a woman in her thirties, dressed in a funeral kimono. She holds Kagetora's arm and says that his mother will be sad if he dies. Kagetora is stunned. Who is this lady? Why does she want to stop him? This female spirit tells that she is Kimyoumaru's mother. Kagetora loses his words. Nobunaga's wife?! Is she Matsuko?! It seems that her soul couldn't go to afterlife as she was regretting what happened to her and Nobunaga's children. Matsuko with a sad look in her eyes begs Kagetora to stop Nobunaga. She gives her spiritual powers to Kagetora and promises to lead him to Nobunaga. Kagetora decides to head for Kyuushuu.

The person who has performed kanshou on Kimyoumaru is Dark Koubou, not Kenshin. Showing a very real looking illusion is a part of black magic/spells that Dark Koubou created during his original life. That's why he could show Kenshin's illusion to Kagetora and Nobunaga. Since the illusion was so real, Kagetora really thought it's Kenshin himself, and this made him very worry if Kenshin has got enough of Kagetora since 'Kenshin' said that both Kagetora and Nobunaga should disappear from this world.  

After some days Kagetora and Haruie meet at harbor in Kumamoto city. Kagetora's ferry will depart in one hour, so he has a bit time to talk about the newest information of upcoming battle. Kagetora of course asks also how was Naoe and Minako, since he knows that Haruie visited them. Haruie lies that everything was fine, but then she proposes to change places with Naoe. She can escape somewhere with Minako, and Naoe can join to the front lines again, but Kagetora refuses that proposal right away. Naoe is the best for protecting Minako. And they need Haruie for analyzing spiritual matters. As seeing Haruie worried Kagetora asks if something happened to Naoe. After thinking several seconds Haruie decides that it's better to tell everything now.

They have following conversation starting from p.98:

H: <<"Minako-chan is expecting a baby.">>

K: "What are you saying? Minako is pregnant? It's impossible because we didn't-"

*silence*

K: "Whose child is it in that case?"

H: <<"...">>

K: "Don't tell me it's Nobunaga's!" 

H:  <<"No, Nobunaga isn't related to this.">>

K: "Not his? Whose then...?"

*Kagetora is shocked after understanding the truth*

K: "It can't be..."

*Haruie bites her lip nervously*

K: "...His....? Is it Naoe's...? It can't be..."

*Kagetora is totally dumbfounded*

H: <<"Don't get it wrong! It wasn't Minako-chan's fault, she hasn't done anything wrong!">>

K: "In other words..."

*tears start to flow from Haruie's eyes*

H: <<"I can't understand how this could happen...! Naoe loves you! Why he would do this kind of thing! Naoe isn't a cruel person who would do such horrible thing like this! I know he didn't like her, but going this far...!">>

*Kagetora shakes his head*

K: "Naoe... raped Minako..."

H: <<"I should have gone instead of him...! I should have just ignored your prohibition and escaped with her!">>

K: "Where is he...? Where is Naoe?"

H: <<"Kagetora...?>>

*Kagetora leaves*

H: <<"Wait, Kagetora. Where are you going?">>

K: "I want to meet him and hear it from him. Where is he?"

*Haruie gets in panic*

H: <<"No, you can't!">>

K: "WHERE ARE YOU NAOE?!"

*Kagetora is super angry*

K: "Where is he?! Naoe!"

H: <<"Calm down, Kagetora!">>

K: "Let me meet him! Find and bring him to me! No matter how much he tries to run away, drag him here, NOW!! HARUIE!!"

*as Kagetora gets more aggressive, crying Haruie hugs him tightly, trying to calm down him*

H: <<"Please, calm down... Kagetora!">>

K: "Where is he?! Naoe... NAOEEEEE!!"

Kagetora shouts so much that his lungs break down again, making him to cough. Haruie keeps hugging him and asks with a heartbreaking voice why Kagetora let him go with Minako. Why did he force Naoe into corner? Kagetora whispers that he trusted him. They don't have more time to talk since Kagetora's ferry is about to leave. Kagetora says that he will contact Haruie later. After being left alone, Haruie is attacked by Tetsuji who is under Nobunaga's control. He faints Haruie and takes her with him.

Meanwhile in Aso, Minako asks Naoe to have a walk together. Her attitude against Naoe has completely changed, but he is worried if Minako is just too shocked about the pregnancy that she 'forgot' everything what happened. They walk to a cliff from where opens up a very beautiful scenery. The sun is setting. 

M: "Naoe-san, I want to ask a favor from you."

*Naoe is surprised because this is the first time Minako called him 'Naoe-san' instead of 'Kasahara-san'*

N: "A favor?"

M: "I ask you to place his soul into this child."

*Naoe gasps his breath*

M: "You have an ability to choose the body to whom he performs kanshou, right? When the moment comes, when he loses his life... Please, place his soul into this child I'm carrying."

N: "..."

M: "Can you do that?"

*in his mind Naoe wants to refuse*

N: "Yes."

M: "Thank you."

*Minako looks very relieved*

N: "Are you really fine with that...?"

M: "I'm so happy. To me, there isn't greater happiness than being loved twice by him. As a woman and a mother."

N: "Minako-san."

M: "I rely on you..."

*long silence*

M: "I understood your feelings now..."

N: "Minako..."

M: "You have loved him all these years..."

*Minako keeps looking at the beautiful sunset scenery*

M: "Your wish will become true... Trust me..."

Naoe is speechless. Those are exactly same words that Minako said just after his terrible act. How can she be so kind? He hurt her so deeply... But she is like Kannon Bodhisattva, it felt like Minako's soul forgiving embraced Naoe. As it's getting darker, they decide to return. It starts to snow when they're walking back to their house. Naoe sees Minako feeling cold so he borrows his coat to her. When they arrive back, they see that the lights are on. Someone has invaded their house! Naoe switches off the flashlight, grabs Minako's hand and orders her to run. They need to escape! Then they hear a sound of an explosion. They see flames and smoke rising up from Mr. Yagira's house. Minako wants to go to save Yagira, but Naoe says it's too dangerous, they should run away before someone from Oda clan sees them. Next they can hear how their house explodes. They escape.

Kagetora opens his heart to Irobe and tells everything. Irobe is quite shocked after hearing that Naoe and Minako are going to have a child. Nagahide, who heard their conversation, comes there and laughs amused: "I warned you! I said that something will happen if they stay together, but you didn't listen to me at all! Look what happened! Your woman slept with your vassal! Haha, this is reality, you see? If you keep matured aged man and woman under the same roof for long enough, something WILL happen. You left your woman to your loyal vassal and then she cheated you... Welcome back to Earth, General."

K: "...I wish she had cheated me..."

I: "It wasn't mutually agreed? Don't tell me he forced her to do that?"

K: "..."

*Irobe angrily punches the wall with his knuckles*

I: "My Goodness..." 

Nagahide also gets serious as Irobe asks what Kagetora is planning to do with Naoe next. Kagetora says that Naoe will stay with them so far, let's see the situation after defeating Nobunaga. Mentatally broken Kagetora leaves Irobe and Nagahide alone. Nagahide is quite angry how stupid Naoe was. No matter how much he loves Minako, raping is cruel way to revenge. Irobe corrects that Naoe wasn't jealous to Kagetora, but Minako who was loved by Kagetora. 

Kagetora goes to walk alone and vents his spleen by yelling and punching his knuckles on the rock. He is so angry how Naoe could do such a horrible thing to Minako. She hasn't done anything wrong, she's completely innocent! Kagetora feels terrified that Minako experienced that same nightmare as he. As he cries aloud how much he hates Naoe, suddenly he hears someone's voice: it's his doppelganger again. Doppelganger's voice whispers that this is Naoe's revenge because Kagetora chased him into corner. Kagetora denies everything what doppelganger claims by saying that it's Naoe's fault, Kagetora trusted him more than anyone. But his words make doppelganger more angry. 

K2: "Stop trying to hide it with anger."

K: "What do you mean?"

K2: "Don't pretend that you don't know. I know you're very aware of the darkness inside of you. Who is the mean bastard here? What did you think at the time? What was the first thing that came on your mind on that moment?"

'I got him. Finally he's completely mine.'

K: ('I wasn't angry... I was rejoicing.')

Kagetora stands still shocked as he recognizes the hidden truth inside of his heart. When Haruie told about Minako's rape, Kagetora felt that his long desired dark wish had come true: Naoe is now chained to him eternally, he can't escape or leave Kagetora. They're together forever. Thanks to this horrible sin. Kagetora is more than shocked. He wonders if he purposefully forced Naoe to be together with Minako? Did he plan this? Was he waiting for this happening some day? Kagetora falls on the ground as he understands him to be the worst one, not Naoe.

Meanwhile in Aso: for five hours Naoe and Minako are trying to escape from the Odas. It's so cold and the snowstorm is getting stronger. Walking in a deep snow exhausts Minako, so Naoe decides to carry her on his back. Minako is freezing since she doesn't have enough warm clothes on. The only thing that is on Naoe's mind is taking Minako to safe place. This escaping scene is quite long and many things happen, but after all they're caught by Mori Ranmaru, Sakuma Morimasa, Tetsuji, Atou Morinobu and Nobunaga. With the power of Tetsuji's foreseeing eyes they could know where Naoe and Minako are heading for. Naoe gets a gunshot on his leg as he tries with all his powers to protect Minako. The scene ends with Tetsuji losing his life (Minako shoots him) and Nobunaga capturing Minako by himself.

Kagetora, Irobe, Nagahide and Kousaka have arrived to Aso. Hakkai informs them that Mr. Yagira's house and also the house where Naoe and Minako were staying are completely destroyed. However, there wasn't any remains of burnt bodies, so it's possible that they're captured. Another worrying thing is that Yashashuu hasn't got any contact to Haruie for several days. Irobe is worried about Kagetora psyche since he's so emotionless about what happened between Naoe and Minako. Irobe tries to encourage him to be angry if he feels so, but Kagetora just whispers as a response that he doesn't have any right to blame Naoe. Irobe asks why, but Kagetora says that he doesn't want to talk about it. Nagahide has got enough of Kagetora and he announces that after they have defeat Nobunaga, he will leave Uesugi. He will stop onryou hunting and using exorcism, cutting all bonds with Kagetora. After Nagahide leaves Kagetora goes to ask a favor from Kousaka. 

Three days has passed since Naoe and Minako were captured by the Odas. Minako was taken to her own prison, but Naoe was imprisoned into a cold basement room where they chained his hands and put him hanging from the ceiling. Naoe's body is full of painful scars since Morinobu has used a whip on him and all of his finger nails are teared off. Ranmaru comes to see Naoe who is barely alive. Ranmaru says that Naoe should have accepted his offer one year ago and given Minako to them. This wouldn't happen to him if he had done so. Nobunaga comes there too. Naoe glares at Nobunaga eyes without any fear and says that Kagetora will summon Uesugi's Underworld army if Nobunaga touches Minako. Nobunaga is impressed by Naoe's fearlessness and how stubborn he is. For his vassals surprise, Nobunaga asks Naoe to become his retainer. If Naoe does so, they will release Minako. Nobunaga smirks that he has found a better woman for his mission.

Kagetora and the others receive a map and a picture of captured Naoe and Minako from Oda clan. Kagetora orders Irobe to stay in this shrine they're now and attack if something bad happens to the others. Kagetora, Nagahide and Hakkai will go to save Naoe and Minako. As saying goodbyes Irobe tells that Kagetora has been not only a great general, but also like a son to him. Kagetora gets a bit moved and thanks about everything Irobe has done for him. He also thinks Irobe as a second father. After goodbyes Kagetora, Nagahide and Hakkai leave.

Haruie sees a dream about getting married with Kuchiki. In the dream she is full of happiness as  everyone of Yashashuu is congratulating them. Shintarou is there too and he smiles happily. Haruie asks him, isn't Shintarou sad if she marries another man. Shintarou keeps smiling and says that seeing Tsuta happy makes him happy too. She doesn't need to wait for him, she should follow her heart. After that the dream ends and Haruie wakes up in a stylish western room. Her heart jumps into her throat as she recognizes Nobunaga sitting close to her. 

No: "Don't worry, I'm not a barbarian. I don't molest sleeping woman."

H: <<"There is a person I love, but he isn't you.">>

*Nobunaga smirks*

No: "In that case, instead of being my wife, be the war priestess. Give birth to my child."

*Nobunaga stands up from the sofa*

No: "Whose child Kitazato Minako is bearing? Kagetora's? Was it you who planned everything?"

H: <<"I don't know anything...">>

No: "Then we have no other choice than abort that child."

H: <<"No, you can't do that!">>

No: "If not, then you give the birth."

Haruie gets terrified as Nobunaga climbs on top of her and tells how he can't trust mothers. Women change when they become mothers. Even Matsuko changed. But Haruie will be a Yasha for the rest of her life, she won't have any children. Suddenly they both hear Kagetora's telepathic wave calling Haruie's name. Nobunaga gets up from the bed and smiles devilishly that their guests have finally arrived. He orders Morimasa to guard Haruie. The spiritual barrier that has surrounded the building (they have invaded a hotel) collapses and there is a black-out. Oda clan's vassals are fighting against a mysterious monk who is extraordinary strong. Nobunaga comes to the balcony and says to Ranmaru that this monk is Kenshin (it's actually Kimyoumaru's illusion of Kenshin). Ranmaru is shocked as Nobunaga starts to fight with this monk who is possibly Kenshin.

In the jail Naoe can hear noises coming outside of the building. He wonders what's happening there. Then someone comes in and release Naoe from the chains. It's Kagetora!

K: "Are you alive?"

N: "Kagetora...sama..."

*Kagetora gives him water to drink*

K: "Terrible wounds. Can you stand?"

*half concussions Naoe*

N: "Why... did you come to save me?"

K: "..."

N: "I'm not... worth of saving. Please... Go to Minako... Leave me here... Escape with her... hurry."

K: "Hakkai is with her."

N: "Then you should go too..."

K: "I'm not going to leave you."

N: "Please, abandon me... Or kill me!"

*Kagetora widens his eyes in surprise*

N: "There is no need of saving me... Please, abandon me. If not, then give me a punishment! ...Worse than just being tortured like this!"

*Kagetora listens to Naoe's feelings with painful look in his eyes*

N: "I betrayed you... I committed the most terrible crime..."

K: "If you're receiving punishment, then I also need to be punished."

*Kagetora helps Naoe onto his feet*

K: "You have high fever... You need first aid."

N: "Don't worry about me... Go to Minako first..."

K: "Shut up already."

*Kagetora supports Naoe's body*

K: "You take responsibility of your sin, and I do same with my sin."

N: "Kagetora-sama..."

K: "Let's go to see Minako."

After saving Naoe there is only one thing on Kagetora's mind and it's apologizing from Minako. He has to say sorry for everything he caused to her. When they finally step outside of the building, they find Hakkai and Minako. Minako cries "Kenzou-san!" and hurries to hug him. Kagetora hugs her tightly. After that Hakkai orders them to leave immediately, there is a car for them. Minako helps Kagetora to support Naoe so that he can walk. "Hang in there, Kasahara-san! You can't die!" Minako cheers Naoe, making Kagetora surprised. When they're about to get on the car, they're stopped by Nobunaga. Kagetora is shocked as Nobunaga says that he won't fall for a trick twice. 'Kenshin' who appeared was actually fake one. Dark Koubou used ancient spell for making Kenshin's illusion for stealing Nobunaga's attention so that Kagetora and the others can escape. But this time Nobunaga wasn't fooled by them. Nobunaga demands Naoe to answer if he joins to Oda or not. Kagetora is shocked and looks at Naoe with worrying eyes. However, Naoe won't change his side to Oda. He attacks without any mercy, targeting Nobunaga. After that nenpa battle starts between Kagetora and Nobunaga. Naoe shelters Minako as much he can with his injured body. Both Kagetora and Nobunaga fight furiously, but eventually Nobunaga takes a normal gun on his hand and shoots when Kagetora's attention is stolen by Minako. Kagetora falls on his back. The snow around his head stains in red by blood. He got shot in his forehead, the bullet killed him instantly. Nobunaga is speechless as understanding that he really killed Kagetora. Naoe is too shocked to do anything, but Minako cries aloud and rushes to Kase, taking his remains on her arms. Something happens inside of Naoe: as sensing that Kagetora's soul is in great danger (Nobunaga is preparing to use hakonha), he starts to chant a mysterious mantra. He has never learnt this mantra, but somehow it comes naturally. Kagetora soul flies to his hand. Naoe's head is blank as his eyes are looking for a living body for Kagetora's soul. Someone is crying Kagetora's name close to Kase's remains. It's a living body. Without seeing whose body it is, Naoe throws Kagetora's soul into that body. As if got stroke by a lightning, Minako's body freezes and eventually she falls into snow. Haruie (Morimasa was so shocked after hearing what happened to Tora, that Haruie could escape) and Nagahide hurries to the site and attack furiously on Nobunaga. Ranmaru comes there by a car and escapes then together with Nobunaga. Minako silently wakes up. She looks at her hands and is confused. Then she sees Kase's remains laying on the ground. "That is... me..."  confused Minako whispers and touches her hair and face. She desperately looks at Haruie and Nagahide as if begging for their help.  

K: "Who... am I...?  "Am I... Minako...?"

At this point Haruie and Nagahide understand what has happened. Kagetora has performed kanshou on Minako! In shock, Haruie starts to cry aloud. Kagetora's gaze moves slowly to Naoe who is terrified what he has done. "Did you... do this...? Did you do this, Naoe?" Kagetora asks and as seeing Naoe nodding, she bursts into tears and cries: "I won't forgive you! I'll never forgive you!!"

One week passes. Nagahide and Haruie take care of Kase's remains. They cremate Kase and hold him funerals. After the war is over they're planning to take the ashes to Kase family's grave. Naoe is hospitalized. Nagahide visits him regularly and tries to cheer him up by saying that Naoe did nothing wrong, Nagahide would have done same thing because Minako was the only one who had 'free' body for performing kanshou. Even if Nagahide is on his side, Naoe feels the worst ever and blames himself for ruining everything. He ruined Minako's life and couldn't even keep the only promise to her. He didn't mean to 'kill' Minako, he just couldn't see anything on that moment. He even forgot the existence of the baby! Even if it was an accident he broke Kagetora's heart, again. Kagetora's words are haunting in his mind 'I'll never forgive you!'. Haruie isn't blaming or cheering up Naoe, she just keeps distant and griefs the lost of Minako alone. Kagetora's mental state has collapsed. She has locked herself into her room and broke all the mirror so that she can't see 'Minako'. She just keeps crying on the bed and begging forgiveness from Minako. She is very confused of all those memories and feelings that she got after performing kanshou on this body. Now she has Minako's memories of her biological parents, how the war started, how she learnt to play piano, her adoptive parents and of course Kase Kenzou. Kagetora can feel Minako's love for him, it's so gentle and pure. Kagetora is surprised of that Minako doesn't hold any grudge against Naoe or Kagetora. Her dearest wish of giving new life to Kagetora gave also to her a happy future. Minako wanted to become his mother, raising him up as loving him more than anything. Naoe's sin is something that caused deep scars into Kagetora's heart. Kagetora has experienced rape before, he knows how it effects. Nightmares, fear... He feels so sorry and angry that Minako needed to experience the same thing as him. Kagetora blames himself for everything. He caused this rape and he even killed her. He will never forget Minako's last words when Kagetora's soul pushed Minako's soul away from her body. Minako kept smiling till the very end and said "...I'll look after you two (Kagetora & Naoe) from the Heaven...." After those words her soul disappeared into bright light, moving to the netherworld. Irobe arrives to the house they're lodging (they found an empty summer residence). Eventually Kagetora accepts Irobe to come in. Irobe makes her health check, but she seems to be fine physically. Irobe is quite worry about her mental health, because Kagetora tells smiling that she can meet Minako every time she looks in the mirror. If she smiles, Minako smiles her back. They are always together from now on. Irobe highly recommends her to stop such a dangerous way of thinking or she will lose her mind. Kagetora starts to shed tears and asks how she can ever accept this. Irobe pulls her into embrace and says that it must be very hard to accept what happened, but Minako's soul isn't in their world anymore, only her body. Kagetora has to keep living for Minako's sake. This body Minako left to Kagetora is a gift. "I killed her and then took everything from her...! This isn't a gift!" Kagetora cries, but Irobe answers: "No, it is a gift. She gave you time after your former body died. I'm sure she is smiling somewhere in the Heavens. During her life, you made her enough happy." After Kagetora calms down a bit Irobe tells what's coming next: They will have a meeting with Nokizaru ninjas tomorrow and after that Irobe, Haruie and Nagahide will try to stop Nobunaga. Kagetora asks how Naoe is and Irobe tells that he will recover, but his body condition won't allow him to fight now. Next they talk about the baby. Kagetora places her hand on her stomach and says that the baby seems to be fine, she can feel a small life growing there. Irobe tells that he heard from Kousaka about Kagetora's plans. Kousaka told that Kagatora was planning to perform kanshou on the baby and wait till he's born. After that Naoe should bury him and use the same spell as Nobunaga is using, and then defeat Nobunaga with that power. Kagetora wanted to sacrifice his life so that no one would suffer anymore. But Kagetora's plan didn't go as he planned, he got the body of mother instead of the baby. There are still months before the labor, but Irobe asks if Kagetora has thought about the future. Kagetora smiles desperately and says that she has no idea, she never thought to perform kanshou on female body or become mother. Irobe leaves her to rest. Kagetora sits on the bed and places her hand again on her stomach. "Naoe's child..." she whispers as various emotions fill her mind. Did Naoe hate him this much...? Kagetora himself would have preferred hakonha rather than stealing Minako's life. She whispers "What should I do Minako? I'm in the darkness, I can't see how should I keep going on..."   

Next day they have a meeting. For everyone's surprised Naoe comes there. Kousaka made him a special amulet that allows his body to work normally for a day. There is even bigger surprise: Kagetora also joins the meeting. Everyone loses their words after seeing Kagetora's new appearance: she cut her long hair. Now she has short and boyish hair style, and she is wearing men clothes. She doesn't look like Minako anymore. Kagetora and Naoe exchange gazes once, but after that Kagetora ignores Naoe's existence.

Oda clan is building a new altar to Aso, close to Nakadake crater. Nobunaga ordered his vassals to bury Chasenmaru again so that they can start the ritual. This ritual will complete everything, Nobunaga will be so strong that Yashashuu can't do anything.

Yashashuu moves to Aso, exorcising Oda clan's onryous in order to stop the ritual that is about to begin. Kagetora orders Naoe, Haruie and Nagahide to head for the crater first while he and Irobe will follow them soon. Takigawa Kazumasu and Irobe have a dual. Later Kagetora joins with Naoe, Haruie and Nagahide. They decide that Kagetora will attack from the front side and Naoe and the others from behind so that they can trap everyone and use a barrier exorcism. Naoe and the others follow Kagetora's orders and sneak onto another side of the crater. However, they fall for a trap. Oda clan tricks them by showing an illusion of Kagetora who is captured. Naoe hurries to save her, but when he arrives to her side, the illusion disappears. Next Nobunaga's illusion walks there, satisfied smile on his lips. He tells that Naoe, Nagahide and Haruie are inside of power sealing barrier. They are all terrified as Nobunaga prepares for the final strike. Nobunaga exchanges gazes with Haruie and says pitying "Marii, too bad it didn't work." To this Haruie whispers "...Shin-chan..." After this Nobunaga kills all three of them by a powerful nenpa attack, destroying their physical bodies into small pieces. Meanwhile Kagetora is on the another side of crater and he can feel that something bad happened to Naoe. She freezes in horror and cries aloud "No way... Naoe... Naoe!!" There is a bond between all Yashashuu, they can feel the pulse of living body and soul of each other. Now Kagetora felt that Naoki's body was just killed in a terrible and painful way. He feels that not only Naoe, but also Haruie and Nagahide lost their physical bodies. Kagetora falls on her knees and bursts into tears, crying Naoe's name with all her voice. She knows Nobunaga will use his hakonha, since the souls are in their most weakest without body. "Where are you Naoe?! NAOEEEE!! Please, escape! Don't worry about me, just save yourself!!" she shouts, but no any telepathic answer from Naoe. Kagetora is full of anger as she stands up and declares on her mind that this time she will definitely kill Nobunaga.

Only short time passes and Kagetora, like a Demon from Hell, has destroyed all buildings, exorcised Oda's many onryous and even killed cult members and yorimashis without any mercy. Ranmaru gets wounded too. Kagetora starts to summon Uesugi's Underworld army. A huge mandala appears in the starry night sky. As Kagetora chants special mantra, the mandala starts to open like a door. Behind the door, there are thousands of cavalry and infantry soldiers, ready for descending. However, suddenly Nobunaga disturbs everything and mandala shatters into small pieces. It's time for final battle! This fight scene is quite long, but here is it in nutshell: both Kagetora and Nobunaga fight with all theirs powers, Ranmaru loses his life as he protects Nobunaga, and Kagetora can feel how Naoe, Haruie and Nagahide's souls give him energy. At last Kagetora's exorcism and Nobunaga's hakonha crush, causing an enormous explosion and a shock wave that destroys both of them till nucleus level, leaving nothing left from their physical bodies. Irobe sees this flash and cries Kagetora's name. 

In the next scene Kagetora wakes up in the darkness. Kenshin is there too and he tells that Nobunaga's hakonha almost shattered Kagetora's soul, it was so close. Kagetora is mentally so devastated... Kenshin tells that all these years Kagetora just kept crying. Kagetora asks why Kenshin saved his life. He tells that he doesn't deserve living, because he just ruined everyone's life. He even thought that Kenshin has abandoned him! Kenshin should let him die, throw him away. Kenshin says he won't do that and then a mirror, like a big movie screen appears in front of them. They can see modern world... And then a fetus that is still its mother's womb. Kenshin asks if Kagetora recognizes who he is. "It's Kagekatsu. Your brother, Kiheiji Kagekatsu, will reincarnate soon. You have to protect him", Kenshin says. Kagetora is a bit dumbfounded seeing his brother again and asks why he needs to protect him. Is Kagekatsu also a kanshousha? Kenshin says that no, his soul is completely purified. If the soul is purified by the flames of afterlife, then it's not same Kagekatsu anymore, just a stranger. No need to protect him in that case! "He's not a human", Kenshin says and shows a small stone. It's Miroku's stone! Kagetora had two Miroku's stones and after Nobunaga buried Chasenmaru again, the last missing stone was created. When three stones are together, Miroku will descend... Kagetora is shocked and asks if Kenshin already in the very beginning knew who Kagekatsu was. Kenshin doesn't comment anything to this question, he just orders Kagetora to kill Kagekatsu if Miroku inside of him wakes up. Nobunaga's soul is still in this world, so Kagetora has to make sure that Nobunaga doesn't get any change to use Miroku's powers. Next, Kagetora can see Irobe. He's still alive and having same body. Naoe, Haruie and Nagahide have performed kanshou again, they all have new bodies. Kagetora tells to Kenshin that he can't go there. He will ruin their lives again, he's tired of himself and doesn't want to hurt anyone anymore. As long as he's Uesugi Kagetora, he will only cause harm and anguish to people who are with him. Kagetora can see how young Tachibana Yoshiaki is desperately looking for Kagetora, crying "Kagetora-sama! Where are you? Kagetora-samaa!". Kagetora feels pain in his heart. "I'll never forgive you", those were the last words Kagetora said to him. Naoe doesn't know how Kagetora thinks about this mess between him, Naoe and Minako. Now Naoe is carrying all responsibility and anguish by himself. I translated this scene. Starting from p. 293:

~

I want to heal his sorrow. Like Minako did to me.

I'm the only one who can do it.

In this world, I'm the only one.

I can't let him to suffer eternally. That's why. 

I need to go to him.

One more time to that world. 

 

I want to start it over.

Resetting everything back to zero.

If we can't move forward in our relationship because of me, I'm ready to remove all my memories and even change myself. 

If he can forgive me, I would like to, one more time, with completely new myself, find the way to the future we could have had with Naoe without this tragedy. If it's the only thing I can do now, then I do so.

But I have one request Lord Kenshin.

I ask you to remove all my memories.

Please, wipe away my memories of these 400 years and send me back to the living world.

But don't remove all. Leave a hint so that I can carry out this task. Imprint this hint into my soul so that I can protect Kagekatsu.

I promise to carry out this task, Lord Kenshin.

So please, give me one last opportunity to make it work with him.

Reset me back to zero and entrust the future to me.

The tangled knot we couldn't untie and the place we couldn't reach, too.

Entrust everything to new me.

I'm not going to abandon everything. Instead, this new change will lead me to the correct way. I won't give in despair. I bend my knee to hope, surrendering to it in order to step into new path. Once more.

Once more I'll go to my friends' side.

Once more I'll go to his side.

Naoe...

I don't have any memories of us, but please, find me.

I'm sure you can do it. 

You will definitely find my soul in the crowd of people.

And when you find me, let's start it over again. Once more.

This time we surely can reach it. You and me.

Our own ideal way to be together.

 

Kenshin, who accepted Kagetora's wish, leaded him.

A ray of light appeared into the darkness when Kenshin pointed his finger.

Go, Kagetora.

The path you have chosen is good. It's a path without regrets. 

My beloved son, the follower of northern guardian (Bishamonten), I show how you can leave this place. It's time to go. Follow the light.

Kagetora started to walk.

He lifted his chin, clenched his teeth and kept his gaze forward. 

A small life was waiting for him.

It was still dozing at it's mother's womb. 

Kagetora closed his eyes as his soul started to melt into the light.

He remembered the pure white snow field in Aso.

And in the light he saw the smile he would never forget.

"...I'll look after you two from the Heaven...."

~

May 1991, Matsumoto. Naoe has just come out from Yuzuru's house. He watches sunset that has colored the sky in red, remembering how he and Minako also watched sunset together in Aso (that scene when Minako asked Naoe to place Kagetora's soul into their baby). Then Naoe feels familiar aura. He sees two high school students walking on his direction. One of them is a young man who reminds Naoe of Kase Kenzou. He found him. As they pass each other, Takaya stops Naoe by saying "Hey you, wait a second."

The End.

*************

Aaah.

So many emotions. I was moved.

This was so beautiful story! Several years ago I just dreamed of reading what happened during this Shouwa era and now Sensei fulfilled that dream! 

About Kagetora, Naoe and Minako: Naoe and Minako watching sunset together was a truly beautiful scene! Maybe the best one of this volume. Now I understand why Minako was compared to Kannon Bodhisattva in the main story too. I was impressed how Minako decided to become Kagetora's mother. Have to admit that  I never even thought such a possibility! But this plot twist was very interesting! Good job, Sensei! Overall Minako's character was really good. First I wasn't sure if I like her or not, but since vol. 9 I really started to like her. Even if the main story already gave big hints that Shouwa prequels may have very mean Kagetora, I was still a bit shocked of his (unconscious) behavior. Now it's quite easy to understand Naoe's behavior and attitude towards him. I was surprised that Kagetora had Minako's body more than one week! Anime gave me an impression that performing kanshou on her, knowing about pregnancy and that the last battle all happened in same day. I also thought that Naoe in purpose forced Minako's soul out of her body, but it seems that Naoe didn't mean to do so. It just happened. :( Minako's last words found also from vol. 20 chap. 7. I loved the ending! It really gave me urgent need of watching the anime and reading the first volumes again.  

About Yashashuu: Irobe was maybe the hero of prequels! He really impressed me in many ways. Nagahide seemed to be tired of everything... Haruie was so sweet. I loved her character!  

About Oda clan: Oh yes! I was very satisfied to the dynamics inside of the clan. In main story Nobunaga's generals didn't have big roles, so it's nice that Sensei give them place in prequels! I especially liked Sakuma Morimasa's character! He had a small role in main story too, but finally in prequels he could show why his nickname is 'Onigenba'! :D Kazumasu was also fine, especially in vol. 7. Too bad, Mori Nagayoshi didn't resurrect to Shouwa era! It would have been interesting to see him in prequel too. I liked how Ranmaru was more open about his feelings for Nobunaga and this adult mode suited him quite well. Nobunaga/Kuchiki's affection to Haruie was rather interesting! Kuchiki-Nobunaga succeeded as a character, but Shigeno-Nobunaga is still my favorite kanshou for Nobunaga.  

What happened to the other character? At least Mr. Yagira and Atou Morinobu survived. Kimyoumaru and Chasenmaru both died. Irobe exorcised Takigawa Kazumasu. No idea of Kousaka, he didn't join the last battle.  

Small mention about the title: according to the dictionary 'Sange' can also mean 'dying in a battle' which suits quite well with this volume. 

Thank you for this amazing story, Sensei! You're the best!!

sarah3161
sarah3161's picture
you are awesome. Thank you

Kagetora really sees himself as the worst of the worst to the point where he actually feels sorry for Naoe. I do feel sorry for Naoe but that doesn’t mean he is not guilty.

I feel like he got attached to Minako because their "Love" is not that dangerous like with Naoe.  I mean, he did not even have sex with Minako.

I felt sorry for the rest of the yashashu and I understand now why Nagahide wanted to leave the Yashashu after reading deeply this chapter.

And Kinshin -_- haaa. to ask Kagetora regarding Kagekatsu. He only cares about  Kagekatsu. I know about the danger of his power but to only talk about him is.....

I am wondering now, how am I going to continue living without more of Mirage of Blaze. *tears*

This story is going to be forever my fav...

Thank you for sharing it with us ...

Rina
Rina's picture
Hi sarah3161! :)

Yes, having Minako on his side gave Kagetora feeling of safety and she was very important to him, but according to Kagetora they didn't have any sexual matters (expect some kissing and sleeping in the same room) in their relationship. Based on main story I really thought that Kagetora and Minako were engaged or something like that, and I wondered how could Kagetora forgive Naoe that easily... But after reading these Shouwas, I finally understand. Yes, I would also say that what happened between Kagetora and Minako was more like affection or deep understanding between their souls rather than similar passion that Kagetora and Naoe are feeling for each other. Now I wonder if Minako recognized Kagetora's feelings for Naoe. Her choice was very surprising!

In main story (vol. 25) Kagetora said to Naoe that he had doubted Kenshin and this mission for long time already. For example, during Shouwa he really thought that Kenshin is planning to get rid of him.

I feel so lonely too... Sensei wrote in her last comments that "This story will never end if you keep reading it. Come up with Mirage again and again, like Kagetora and Naoe always find each other." ;_;

Sankia
Sankia's picture
Hi !

First of all, a big thank you for all these summaries, it will make me weird not wait anymore for summary. : '(

I always thought that if Minako had stayed alive, she would have preferred to keep the baby, but I would never have thought that she would like to become Kagetora's mother! The way she forgave Naoe is really amazing.

I understand Nagahide's feelings, but I have trouble with the fact that he is always on the side of Naoe, certainly Kagetora is largely responsible for this bazaar, but Naoe nevertheless raped Minako by himself . For me, they are also responsible for each other.

The scene where Minako dies is different from what I had imagined, I thought Naoe knew what he was doing by sending Kagetora's soul into his body but no, he reacted without thinking. :(

Rina
Rina's picture
Hi Sankia! :)

Actually, at the moment I'm making a summary of vol. 26 (and it's a very hilarious volume! :'D), but it takes a bit time to get it ready since my real life got so busy. 

Yes, Nagahide is usually on Naoe's side, and Haruie on Kagetora's. Nagahide didn't accept the rape, but in order to save Kagetora's soul from Nobunaga's hakonha, forcing his soul on Minako's body was correct in his opinion. 

I agree! Anime gave an impression that Naoe did it purposely, it wasn't so. He also regretted quite lot that he couldn't even keep the only promise he made to Minako. :(

Sankia
Sankia's picture
Great ! I can not wait to

Great ! I can not wait to read that! It's rare that a volume is hilarious in Mirage of blaze. x)

Even if Nagahide does not approve of rape, I have the impression that he blames Kagetora more than Noae. : /

Imagase
Imagase's picture
Thank you very much, awesome ending!

Wow, Mirage has really come to an end, hasn't it? This was a powerful volume and a perfect ending for the whole series. I was really surprised how sensei decided to manage Minako's reaction to the pregnancy...I'd never thought she'd like to become Kagetora's mother. Kagetora's reaction to the whole matter was what I was expecting, especially the part where he realized his own guilty thoughts. I was also surprised by the fact that Naoe didn't actually mean to kill Minako by pushing her soul away to save Kagetora, it was just an instinct and they were all so shocked! Now we can understand better why Naoe was so haunted by Kagetora words, they were the last words Kagetora said to him in this life and I also understand better Kagetora's desire to cure Naoe's anguish and make things right. Kagetora also stayed in Minako's body for a whole week, from the main series I was convinced that they were killed right after that. I loved the Yashashuu reactions, they were all really in character...I was a little surprised by Nagahide support for Naoe, I knew they were close but he seems to put all the blame on Kagetora. He certainly has huge responsabilities but Naoe has his too, he raped an innocent woman! I also loved Haruie in this volume, her relationship with Nobunaga is interesting and her last moments were moving. Kagetora's reaction to Naoe's death was heartbreaking and reminds me of Takaya's despair when Naoe died in book 12.  Sensei really did an amazing work in closing the circle, I'm just a little sad that there will be no more Mirage. Let's hope for a good last play! 

Rina
Rina's picture
Hi Imagase! :)

Sensei did an awesome job with these prequels! MoB has always have new publishes so it feels weird that it really ended now... Let's hope there will be more stage plays! It must look fantastic! 

This volume had many surprising things like how long Kagetora actually had Minako's body, but it seems that to us readers the biggest surprise was definitely Minako's decision to become Kagetora's mother! It was a quite interesting plot twist. 

Naoe, Haruie and Nagahide's death was horrible! Kagetora has a trauma of Yamaguchi-Naoe's death, so he feels totally devastated as Naoki-Naoe loses his life... Kagetora really hoped that this time Naoe would survive and keep living... No wonder Takaya's mental state also collapsed right after Naoe died at Hagi. Losing him is just too much. 

labingi
Thank you and link updated

Thank you for translating this. I have thinky thoughts but will wait a while put them in order. I did add this link belatedly to the DW translation community. I seem to have missed the vol. 9 link. Will go back and look.

Rina
Rina's picture
Hi labingi! :)

Thank you for updating this to the community! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts about these prequels!

labingi
Some Things I Liked

Thank you, Rina, for the awesome summary and your thoughts and context. Here's part 1 of my response to the ending of this arc:

Disclaimer: I need to read this (and all your summaries!) again. These are first impressions. (I'm planning to print all the summaries out and sit down and carefully read them; I'd read better on paper.)

Some things I liked:

Haruie. I have always liked, and still like in this version, her dynamic with Minako, and I've been very pleasantly surprised by her dynamic with Nobunaga/Kuchiki. What an interesting plotline to give her! I like the dream especially, where she is marrying Kuchiki and Shintarou says it's okay. That was really psychologically nice. (It would have been even nicer if it could have been carried through as a natural, gradual lessening of her obsession with Shintarou up to vol. 40, but I think that would have required Sensei to write an arc several years ago that she hadn't yet invented.) I also like her hugging Kagetora.

Minako choosing to become Kagetora's mother is in that storytelling sweet spot of really unexpected yet entirely plausible. (It also weirdly echoes my Mirage/Mushishi crossover future fic.  I would like to say great minds think alike, but I suspect this sort of thing is just naturally where one ends up with kanshousha.) Thematically, the idea of Naoe and Minako ending up as Kagetora's parents is really interesting because they are already both parent figures in many ways. Minako is symbolically linked to motherly love extensively, and Naoe fills the father/older brother protector role Kagetora has fundamentally lacked (or rather seen repeatedly betrayed). Both show the kind of single-minded, life-defining devotion to Kagetora that is more typical of a parent for a child than of lovers. And yet, the conflict and ugliness inherent in the situation makes it all the more interesting. (If this had actually happened, Mirage would have been a very different but perhaps equally fascinating story.)

I like—but, to be honest, have only skimmed—the plotline about using children for spells. I'm hazy on the plot itself, but I like the thematic feel: the juxtaposition of Nobunaga and Kagetora as fathers, the themes of sacrificing children, and then the insertion of Naoe and Minako as additional parents and the question of the various sacrifices or salvations their child might be put to.

And there are many other nice things I either need to go back and read in more detail or like but have some reservations about. Next up, I will post some of my questions and reservations.

labingi
Wherein I Am Frustrated about Minako

I have always been uncomfortable with the element of misogynistic cliché in Sensei's writing of Minako, i.e. the pedestaling of Minako reinforces the idea that "good" women are saints untainted by the messy reality of a human psyche, which is a standard (virtually?) none of us can attain in real life and puts us in the position of constantly being told we're bad (and deserve everything we get) because we're not perfect. This, of course, then justifies the subjection of women in general because women are bad and our badness needs to be kept in check. (It doesn't help that the only other major woman in the prequels is Haruie, whose womanhood is highly atypical and includes a lot of male privilege.)</Didactic Feminism 101>

Minako in this volume is consistent with the main Mirage series and bothers me for the same reason. I wrote a rant about it, but then it occurred to me I might be misinterpreting, so I want to focus on questions instead—and then rant, sorry.

(First a side question: I had had the idea that Nobunaga destroyed Minako's soul, but in the prequel, this doesn't happen. Was that ever implied in the main series, or did I make it up? I might have just interpolated it because Naoe put Kagetora's soul into Minako's body to save it from being destroyed; hence, I assumed her soul got destroyed instead?)

Rina and others have observed that Minako strongly echoes the Kannon Bodhisattva, whom I duly looked up on Wikipedia. And, boy, this is really true: not only her character but a number of her plotlines could be drawn right out of the mythology of this figure/group of figures. For example, she's pushed to marry a nasty man; she instantly forgives and takes on the punishment (karma/death) of a man who kills her.

So here's my core question:

Is Minako literally supposed to be the Kannon Bodhisattva (i.e. the goddess of compassion, Guanyin) or is this just a very good metaphor for this nice girl's behavior?

I had always assumed the latter. Or specifically, when Naoe and Kagetora in the main series talk about Minako as a bodhisattva, I thought they might mean it literally, but in the sense of a bodhisattva who is an enlightened human being who chooses to defer Nirvana to help others, not as an actual goddess incarnate. When they go on about her as the Virgin Mary, I naturally assumed this was a metaphor—but now I'm wondering! Wikipedia says some incorporate the Virgin Mary as an avatar of the goddess Guanyin. If we follow this story, could Kagetora and Naoe actually believe Minako might be Mary, at least to the degree that Yuzuru is Kagekatsu?

If this is the case, that Minako is actually a divine figure, this has a lot of implications. In no particular order:

* The only person in the world who can actually handle the massive psychological needs and insecurities of Kagetora enough to be his girlfriend is the archetype of perfectly selfless, divine compassion herself!! This makes me laugh in the way Mirage does at it's best. It is both absurd and perfectly in character for Kagetora. And if it's true, it ought to terrify him because it speaks to the depth of his insecurities more powerfully than anything that ever goes down with Naoe. It signifies that he needs perfection in others. And as someone who has struggled with not being able to be perfect for others himself, he ought to deeply understand what an unfair and unhealthy burden this is to place on anyone.

Now, there are echoes of this excessive need everywhere in Mirage, most notably in Kagetora's unreasonably high expectations of Naoe across the years. And Kagetora is certainly guilty over Minako's being hurt by their shenanigans. But I don't see real grappling with the ultimate goddesshood of Minako. The sense I get is more like: "She was such a sweet person and we f***ed her over. We suck," just as one might reasonably think about hurting any nice person who clearly didn't deserve it.

So if Minako is literally meant to be this archetypal figure, I think the implications of this for Kagetora are not clearly or adequately explored (unless something is really lost in translation/summary).

* The implications may be somewhat better explored with Naoe. Naoe is in the position of the criminal who is not only forgiven but, in some sense, has his karmic burden taken over by the goddess. In this case, by letting herself be killed (not resenting it), she saves Kagetora for Naoe, allows Naoe to continue his own journey, and gives him a sense of forgiveness to sustain him. But her goodness also sharpens his guilt, which makes for an interesting psychological reading of the further adventures of a person who is given unearned forgiveness in this way.

This tracks pretty well, but if we (and Naoe) are meant to literally think of her in this way, I would have liked it to be a little more explicit and more discussed because…

* Why did this goddess come to Naoe and Kagetora at this particular time like this? There's a reason they're hanging around with Miroku: they've been assigned to help prevent his premature waking. But why would the goddess Guanyin appear in their midst like this? Coincidence (which makes a weak storyline)? Naoe and Kagetora are so amazingly important to the world that they need a goddess to show up and save them so they can continue their important things? This would fit in with the main plot well, but there are two problems: 1) it's never implied that this is why she's there; 2) it seems a bit out of character for the epitome of compassion to orient her action around something as utilitarian as saving people so they can serve the greater good. Or is it because Naoe and Kagetora themselves are so much the epitome of personal suffering that she is drawn to them? This explanation doesn't sit well with me because it's aggrandizing. I love Kagetora and Naoe—but I don't think they're more human than the rest of us. And to present them as so particularly in need of this kind of divine intervention (more than many another person) feels… like hero worship.

And then there's character building…

* If Minako is an incarnation/avatar of this figure, the type of being she is most nearly like is Yuzuru, i.e. Minako is to Yuzuru as Guanyin is to Miroku. If we follow this idea, Minako, like Yuzuru, would see herself as an ordinary person and have no idea her soul is this greater entity. That tracks with what we see. But with Yuzuru it is explicit and important to the plot that his soul has these multiple layers. With Minako, I'm left guessing if this is even the case. Unless something is REALLY lost in translation/summary, there is minimally a lack of development of what this means for Minako as an entity.

This lack of development creates (what appears) inconsistency in behavior. When Miroku intrudes into Yuzuru, it's very clear. Yuzuru behaves like a different person, and even when those two identities merge, it's fairly clear how: Yuzuru's love of Takaya and feelings of rejection over his going off to be Kagetora combine with Miroku's childish acting out to produce various kinds of possessive bad behavior, for example.

If we follow this sort of logic, "Minako" is the girl we first meet who's pluckily doing her best to make her adoptive family proud and sort of having a crush on Kasahara but then falling head over heels for Kase, and so on. And Guanyin is the figure of superhuman compassion who can so readily forgive being brutally raped and impregnated and killed. But there is no bridge between them. There is no discourse that shows the one merging into the other. We are just left with Minako behaving in way that's superhuman (good girls are perfect), and this is a character-building problem because…

* Guanyin and related figures—at least as Wikipedia has reviewed them for me—are not psychologically realistic entities. That's understandable. These are old stories coming out of a non-psychologically realistic mythos. (Though I do suspect that "a good woman is perfect" figures here as well. That burden on us is not new.) Howsoever, we are left with stories of a figure who does nothing but show invariable compassion toward others with no concern for herself—and with no narrative showing how a human being might become that way. She just is that way from birth. She's a goddess. She's an archetype.

This is, indeed, how Minako is presented in the endgame. And it doesn't sit well over the veneer of a human character. Any young woman—however nice and mature—would be powerfully angered (and terrified) by being raped and impregnated by a man she liked and trusted. Her first response would not be "things will get better for you." And her initial response to then being killed would probably not be "Oh, it's okay. I guess your epic love is more important than my life." On its surface, that demeans and dehumanizes her character (in the grand tradition of using woman's virtue to negate woman's value by having woman selflessly agree with her own devaluation).

Now, people are capable of amazing things, especially in extremis. And I actually buy Minako's final forgiveness more readily than I buy her rape non-trauma. But there needs to be some explanation besides "she's a very nice girl." The explanation could be one of two things:

1) She's superhuman—which, as I've argued above, is not adequately clarified or explored or…

2) She is genuinely enlightened as a human being, which is something she might have achieved through the work of her life as Minako (though it's a bit unlikely by her early twenties) or as a result of the work of past lives. This is not explored at all. The past lives would be harder to explore narratively than the psychological journey of Minako qua Minako, but if this is, in fact, the explanation for her inexplicable behavior, the narrative has a responsibility to figure out how to do it. That's not beyond the cosmology of Mirage to figure out.

Female characters are often asked to be perfect. They're one-dimensional figures like Dea in The Man Who Laughs, Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities ("God bless her for her sweet compassion"), Maria in Gungrave, Disney's Snow White. And it's easy to say a woman is this way because she's a saint or a bodhisattva, but in my experience, it's very rare to see a female character actually constructed with the weight of personality and experience that REALLY enables that kind of identity. After some mental searching, I can think of three times I've seen it well depicted: Zhaan in Farscape, Sid in The Fourth Messenger (who is reenacting the life of Gautama), and Rem in the Trigun manga (and I'll give a partial to Delenn in Babylon 5). Minako ain't these women. She is clearly in the category of Lucie Manette. And the best thing I can say about that is her storyline might have generated some very interesting development if she had been considered worth developing.

[Edit: Because this is lengthy and quite a bit of meta, I have crossposted it to meta. I also added a couple of additional comments on why this matters to me and how I think it might have been written differently.]

labingi
My Final Discontent (I promise): Psychological Discontinuity

I've written some meta arguing that the ending of prequel breaks the psychological continuity of Kagetora's and Naoe's journeys. It got so long that I decided to post it to Meta. It's here.

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