8. The presentation
- By all the Kamis!
The exclamation has come in the throat and has passed the lips when they have seen the small dark silhouette of the Master between two lips of the crest covered with snow.
They knew that it was him. It could only be him!
Nobody else but he could have dared to pass this breach worse than the death because the wind was rushing in it like a knife lacerating the flesh.
- Look at! ..... There is somebody else with him!
The young monk who had just exclaimed shaded his eyes with his hands to protect them from the sun which had risen this morning to the great astonishment of everybody because for five days the thick fog covered their head so much that one did not perceive the courtyard from one palisade to another. Since the Master had left the monastery! They believed that death had thus come for him. For them also because they did not have anymore a Master and the Transmission had not been given.
Hiro, the cook-healer-doctor Master of the monastery said that no one here was worthy! He then looked at them with furious eyes. They saw the contempt in them. They did not work enough! On themselves. Because this transmission, it was the spurting Source of life which is Knowledge.
- Yes, there is somebody with him, blew Hiro who had just joined them in the head of the Northern palisade.
The old monk with osseous shaven skull like a Mongol, such as they were to be when they discharged in howling hordes on their half-mad horses, shook the shoulders under the heavy sheepskin pelisse.
- I have dreamed it this night….
The monks did not look at him. They listened. The words of this old man were pearls of knowledge and they knew it. But they never looked at him in the face. He had a terrible face which gave them terror in the belly. It was a “Master killer” too.
They did not say anything. The silence of the mountain was in them. Not in front. Always in them. With the death present always. The old Master and Hiro took care of it. They must not fall asleep!
The two silhouettes slipped far in front. Slender in the icy snow. The form behind the Master skidded at almost every three paces. Exhausted. It pulled a sledge, like an attached ox. The Master made the trace in front. The other followed such as a sleepwalker.
- One must go and help them, threw out a monk.
One did not look at him. One knew with the rocky voice that it was the supervisor of the room of meditation.
They did not answer. It was a word. Just a word. A word of man.
It was necessary to wait for the sounds of the throat of Hiro. These sounds will not be those of the Man anymore. But those of Knowledge. Then, they will know what they must do. Very precisely because Hiro will tell it to them directly in their belly. Without intermediary. Hiro was frightening with his globulous eyes and his shaved skull, almost yellow by dint of being tinted by the suns of the mountains.
One said that he had lost his hair in a single night. One said that it is called “the night of the Fear”. One said that his hair was standing on end on his head when the Master was moving forward him, the saber at the top of the eyes, ready to strike. Hiro had defied. It was a Master of Combat. Then, he had heard spoken of this Man that one said invincible. He had come to the hermitage of the river, where this man lived then by fishing and cultivating his vegetables. It was before that the Master who had died last century says that he had seen while dreaming a mature man close to a river and that this one will be the future Master of the family SHIN and that it was necessary to go and fetch him because his days are now counted and that he still have to teach a lot.
They went in the direction indicated and they have asked. They found the man. He came, without saying a word. They did not need to speak, to tell their request, the will of the one which was their old Master dying.
He has seen them coming. He was sitting on the walk of the veranda of the bungalow. They have passed the last curve of the path. He looked at them without batting an eyelid. It is may be this absence of movement of the eyes which have frightened them. They have stopped at ten paces. The man has then risen. He was small and thin, with a jet-black goatee. He has walked three paces. Just three. Then he has stopped. He was at the foot of a tree. He has bent down. There was a bundle of fabric against the stock. He has put it on his shoulder. Then, he has said: Let us go!
It was his sole word during the voyage. At ten paces behind him a strong and stocky man, bald person, with a Mongol appearance followed. He had appeared behind the wall of the bungalow and he has followed, him also without a word.
- No..... They must be left on their own the three of them.
The words had just left the throat of Hiro, the lips hardly half-opened.
“The three of them!”
The words had just struck their forehead. Like a pain between the eyes. It was always thus with Hiro: a pain behind the bone, with a contraction of the flesh behind. A doctor coming from the countries where people have the clear skin has told them one day that they dreamed. There is no flesh behind the bones of the forehead. Nothing for contracting inside. He has laughed. Those who were with them also, leaders of the Great Country in the south being restricted by their jacket of rough fabric with a hard collar.
However them, they know well that the words of Hiro make contracting the flesh behind the forehead! They live this action ten times per day. Besides Hiro does not have obligation to speak. He looks at and the effect is the same one. A certainty. Why then men who believe to know everything of the life tell such lies?
Then, after the painful contraction, it is “three” which remains engraved behind the bone. Hiro could not be mistaken. Impossible. Three! They do not see three beings descending the icy mountain. The Master, a servant at ten steps behind pulling a sledge with covers.
- The sledge blows the young monk, the one which has given the signal.
He has just whispered. Only a weak sound slipping on the icy wind. However, they have heard. Even those at the fifth rank, perched on scales against the wall to pass their head over it.
Then they have known that these “three” were going to be colossally important for them because the wind carried the message where the sounds themselves could not go with the voice of the man.
They observed Hiro out of the corner of the eye. It is him the chief of the monastery during the absence of the Master. He is perching on a plank of wood which is used as support for the hay during the drying of the end of the summer. He is sitting down on it and his eyes are in the white mountain in front. They believe to see a tear which drips at the corner of the eyelid. Surely the wind which hacks the flesh.
- Go and prepare the hot tea and the cakes, he throws out to the young monk behind him. Come on, band of lazy one. You have never seen a sledge descending from the mountain?
The monks disappear towards the kitchens. The old ones remain on the palisade. These are them which have heard Hiro mutter:
“No…. A sledge like this one, they have never seen one…. Me either! …. By all the Gods of the mountain, the fury of the Men is under these covers!”.
- Lets go, he blew while jumping out of the plank of wood.
The monks opened the passage in front of him.
- We need warm water, much warm water, he shouted while climbing the ladder giving in the central courtyard! …. Let us work!
They have opened the wood doors. They have waited, the eyes stared at the two silhouettes which slipped between the rocks cleared of snow because they had reached the footpath of the small valley leading to the main way of the monastery.
HIRO had said: “let them come alone up to the door. That nobody leaves!” They had murmured. Then the Master cook had thundered that he will himself break the bones of the one who would make a pace ahead towards them.
They have said that the Master and the one who came behind him had got no strength left in them. That this was obvious with the falls of that one and with the slips of the sledge which he did not maintain anymore. They had said….
They had said a lot and pled the compassion for those which came. That it was necessary to go in front of them and to help them.
Then Hiro took his oak stick. The stick of combat, only being able to be opposed to the saber and he had carried it at the top of his head. Vertical. Then he had rotated on himself without a word.
They had understood. Hiro’s eyes were covered by the heavy and folded eyelids. He was prepared to give death. They knew this position of the one who had already taught them so much. They knew.
Then they have lowered the head and they have no longer murmured.
They are there, aligned next to the main door open. Nobody carried the pace outside. They are more than five hundreds in the courtyard, held together tight, the bodies touching to be kept hot in the gusts of icy wind. They do not speak anymore.
The eyes are on the two silhouettes which progress slowly towards the wood doors. The Master has carried the first pace on the main way. He has waited for the second, a small being staggering under his load. The sledge bumped into the rocks. This one has got no strength left in him. But the Master did not help. He walked in front, then he waited, without looking back.
The monks followed the scene since now the quarter of the hour. They were afraid to breathe. They had never seen the Master thus. Him, usually so thoughtful! They did not recognize what was happening in front of their eyes. They did not recognize in their forehead but the bellies were tightened because that one recognized the scene somewhere at the bottom of the Memory of the Man. So they became silent. The mouths were half-opened only for the passage of the mist of the breath. The bellies were suddenly afraid.
Them they did not know what occurred. Their belly, it, went back from the Memory. This memory of the Man knew what the labor of that one who pulled the carriage, his exhaustion meant. It knew. It knew the extreme importance of this scene. The Master was going to enter before, the first, in the monastery. His monastery. He will pass the doors, without a word and the monks will move aside in front of him. They will make a hedge leading to the temple, at the bottom of the central courtyard. They will bow in front of him and their knees will touch the icy ground.
Behind, the other will enter. Without assistance. Behind.
Him either the monks will not touch him.
Such were the information which came to them from their belly.
They broke the barrier of their body in front of the Master. The old man had a frightening look. Eyes which he had only when he was carrier of the death of the family SHIN!
The monks moved back by instinct and their belly quivers.
The Master passed the door of honor of the monastery, walked three paces and stopped. No more.
The one which pulled the carriage collapsed in front of the door. He collapsed, without a complaint, like a rag which slips. The small young monk rushed. Suddenly he had Hiro in front of him with a blade broad of three inches and this blade pressed on the throat of the kid. Only the wind carried a sound. Nobody dared to open the lips.
The young monk rolled of the eyes in the orbits, the throat compressed by the steel blade which entered into his flesh. He felt hot liquid going out of him and flowing on his neck. He knew that his blood left. He knew. But his eyes did not leave those of the old Master cook. The death was certain in these eyes there. One more movement!
The young monk collapsed. He slipped, him also like a rag that one releases. He had a reddish trail on the throat. Nobody retained his fall. There were eyes only for the broad blade of Hiro planted in front of the row near the door.
The old Master had seen. Him also, his eyes did not screw up and darted flashes of the death of the family SHIN. Him also he did not have a gesture of compassion for the kid who collapsed.
The old Master turned backwards and carried the eyes on the collapsed form at the foot of the sledge. Then, he came back on his paces. On his three paces up to the front door. There, he waited for during five breathings. Then he stretched his left hand, palm opened towards the heaven.
Hiro made three paces. Then he knelt. His head bumped by three times against the icy ground. Then, between his two united hands, he slipped his heavy dagger and held it out to the Master. That one did not turn the hand. The blade came and was placed in his palm. The Master fixed only the sledge. He seemed to mutter words that one did not hear. Hiro him too muttered, kneeling, the hands now united in front of the forehead.
The Master progressed towards the form packed in front of the sledge. His right hand searched under the fabric near the throat. Suddenly his left hand fell down towards the flesh and one heard the rip of the steel blade. The monks were stiffening. They panted now. Silence is frightening. Only wind speaks.
Then the Master throws the heavy blade towards Hiro. It came to be stick between the knees of the cook. While going into the ground it had made the same noise as under the clothing of the one who is collapsed in front of the sledge.
The old Master pulled on the cord which tied this collapsed body to the carriage. It came easily. They saw the end cut. It is it that the old Master had broken near the throat of the one who followed him!
Then, the old Master slipped under the cord and passed it on his right shoulder. He rolled it up around his waist. These feet took support on the icy ground and he started to pull the heavy sledge.
The runners made a hard squealing while passing in front of the door of the monastery. In front of his assembled monks the old Master pulled the carriage!
When he put the right foot on the line between the outside and the interior of the monastery, Hiro curved the spine and struck his forehead three times on the ground. He muttered but nobody understood this curious song which went out of his thick lips. The dagger remained fixed between his thighs.
It seemed to them that the old Master waited until Hiro finishes a stanza of his curious song before passing the left foot in front of the right. When he did it, it was with a religious slowness. It seemed to them that now an irrevocable act had just happened.
The old Master uttered a cry. That one came from the deepest of his body. They did not know that it arrived from the deepest of the memory of the Man. They did not know it. If they knew it, if only one had known it, it would have received the Transmission of the powers.
Hiro shouted him also as soon as the Master made the second pace in the monastery. An inhuman cry. One of those of the beasts of the forest.
Then, Hiro leapt up and placed his two heavy hands on the rear of the sledge. He braced himself. Together they made the third pace in the main courtyard.
Hiro had retaken on his way, before jumping behind the sledge, his heavy blade of dagger. He held it between the teeth and his eyes seemed to say: “The One who approaches, I cut him the throat!”
The monks drew aside and they stared like in a dream at this unimaginable scene. The old Master pulled the carriage, like a harnessed ass. The Master Cook, that one who had row of second in the Family SHIN, pushed like a woman helps her husband.
They progressed crosswise from the main courtyard towards the Temple. They panted. The monks did not understand. How men with so much extraordinary powers could be panting under the effort? They had seen them realizing physical exploits impossible for the most trained ordinary humans. How could they now pant under this weak load? Just a sledge covered with covers!
The monks looked at. They looked at. They could not do anything else anymore. They did not even have any idea of it.
There was in front of them the old Master, the one who had the power of life and of dead on the whole of formidable Family SHIN, which pulled a sledge such as a donkey.
There was “the born killer”, the Master cook - doctor, the one who came like second, who pushed from behind, braced himself in his dresses, the dagger between the tightened teeth.
They panted both of them!
They arrived at the door of the Temple. They placed the sledge the feet at the south, then they came east side.
The old Master knelt in the mud of the courtyard. He curved the spine and tore off his hood. He presented his back to the carriage.
With fast gestures, Hiro rejected the covers of each side. He freed a body covered with a hood. He took it fully in his arms and made it slip on the back of the old Master who received it with a sigh.
Then Hiro made the unthinkable. He pressed of all his weight on the body. The old Master folded. The goatee entered the mud. The lips too. His two hands went researching seizures on the hood of the one who was now on his back. Then, he arched the thighs to stand up again. Hiro continued to weigh on the back!
The old Master centered his energy in his belly. He uttered a cry which cleaved through the air. This cry was like the death which will swoop down and all of them curved the forehead. Hiro burst out laughing, thundering. The cry had pushed him back such as a package of linen and he had the arse in the mud.
In the same cry, the old Master climbs the three steps of the Temple with his load on the back which he clutched by the hood. He did not stagger. His foot was placed on the wood like a force which took possession of its rights.
Hiro was nimbly raised and threw himself on him, squatting on the body held by the old Master. He tried to make him stagger.
The monks moved back, dumbfounded.
The business was done in silence.
Hiro was pushed back twice by the cry of the Master. He went back onto the offensive, has nearly arrived to prevent the right foot of the old man from being placed on the third step while gripping it with two hands. He grumbled. The old Master panted.
As in a slow motion, the leg overcame the braced body of Hiro. The right foot was placed on the step of the threshold of the Temple. Exactly where the Masters must place it because there is a trace that only them, they know.
Then Hiro released the leg and he bent forward. He slipped into the mud of the courtyard and placed the forehead in it. One could still hear him crooning his curious song. It seemed to them that there was joy in the sound which came from the throat and which passed the lips.
The old Master of the Family SHIN planted himself on the stage in front of the door of the temple.
- Hiro, he says!
He had just found his voice again that each one knew. A deep, slow sound. A sound of the authority which does not divide.
The Master cook rushed. He climbs the steps at one jump and passed in front of the Master. He braced himself against the heavy wooden doors for which three men were needed each day. But nobody must intervene and the monks knew it. It sufficed to lower the eyes in front of the look of Hiro.
This last one pushed from the shoulders, the feet put on the planks. The heavy doors turned on their well oiled hinges. The man pushed with the force of his belly and the veins bulged on his neck and the forehead.
The Master progressed. The half-light of the Temple was in front of him. Hiro knelt on his way and they started together to croon this curious song in a language which the monks did not understand. The sounds were deep, very round and heavy, like charged with all the force of the belly of the man and of his memory.
The Master remained at the threshold of the Temple during the deep and gripping song. The body was on his bending back.
Then Hiro stood up, discharged him from the body that each of them took by an arm. They
passed an arm behind their neck while framing this inert body covered with the hood of canvas. One did not see the hands of this body. One did not see either the face covered with a total hood.
The two old men were looking at each other. Kindness was in their eyes, an appalling kindness because that one is not the one of the men. The smile stretched their lips, a smile which pushes the flesh towards the cheeks and which never lets see the teeth.
- Well! the Master blew. The Rite is accomplished.
- Yes, Master, answered the Master cook …. The rite is accomplished… That the new Master enters thus in the Sanctuary and be introduced to the Former Masters and that he be as Great as them and continuous Nobly the imposing line of the Noble family SHIN.
- That this be the Will of the Life, concludes the Master.
It is him who made the first pace. An observer would not have seen it. He would have believed that the two men had progressed together. But it is him the Master and it is him who gave the basic Energy on which HIRO has pressed his foot. Him, HIRO, knows it but no other one than him will never know it. … Except one day the one who like him will have to look after the new Master who is in his arms. Like he has looked all his life after the one of his Master, this old man who holds the body by the right side.
They progressed towards the altar. There were twelve paces for the Masters, but only them know it. For the others, there are eleven paces.
They deposited the body in front of the statues brilliant of their gold under the lighting of the oil lamps.
They laid him the head between the thighs of the central statue, the one which looks at with compassion and fury, as if from the look it wanted to transpierce to the deepest of the heart.
They crooned their curious song.
Then, the old Master made a sign to HIRO who crooned a presentation of the new Master to the Gods. He slipped along the wrapped body. His skillful hands of healer opened the fabrics which masked the face.
The old Master crooned while staring at the central divinity between the two eyes. It is to it that the presentation is made. It did not quiver when HIRO is exclaiming. Then the old Master smiled and his eyes were closing on tears which started to roll over his hollow cheeks.
He had succeeded! He had a successor! That the compassionate Gods be praised.
Then, he lowered the forehead on the ground and hit the mat three times.
Then he rose and went to take an incense stick which he put in the ground between the head of the one that he brought back and the thighs of the central Divinity.
HIRO held this head between his hands and did not dare anymore to move. He fixed the old Master, as dazed.
- ROSHI! he says with large difficulties…. This is atrocious!
- This is atrocious, my friend, I agree, answered the Master while kneeling close to the body. His hands went to the hideous face.
His eyes laughed.
–The Gods made more than to accept him, he blew in the silence of the half-light.
-It is Them who have chosen him! Was exclaiming Hiro. I have dreamed of it three nights in a row. But you have seen this face!
-I have seen my friend. I have seen, said the ROSHI while inclining.
He put down a kiss on the forehead of the one who hardly breathed.
- Now, You are at Your Home, you who will become the Supreme Master of the family SHIN and my life, like the one of all the others, is devoted to you until the death comes. That this oath be our supreme bond because the effort is in front of us. That in the kindness which must exist in this so hideous body, please listen with attention to Our Prayer.
The eyes of the old Master laughed at with happiness while saying these words.
- To you, HIRO, my old friend to make him being alive!
- That one must have the death for partner of bed, I really think, shouted the cook.
The Master chuckled.
- It is your job, my friend, to make this body alive …. Think also of the one who is in front of the gate… It is a woman.
Then the Master cook burst out with a thundering laughter.
He bent forwards on the icy body and placed him also a kiss on the forehead.