Never Look Back

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Chapter 24

A green patina-covered copper Buddha sat atop an altar in repose, bold belly jutting out. Heady incense flavoured the air. An oversized photograph mounted in an elaborately carved wood frame showed a dark-haired European woman with high cheekbones. The woman possessed round brown eyes above a wide and generous mouth. She stood in the middle of a Japanese rock garden. A teenage girl with softened Japanese features stood in front of the woman. The young girl’s hands clasped the woman’s hands, which rested beneath the girl’s chin. They shared similar bone structures; the same tilt of the head, similarly shaped mouths.

“Ahh, there you are. You and Mother grow more alike each day.”

“Yes,” Kira noted the dampness of her father’s wide cotton skirt and the bamboo splinters caught in a few folds. “Especially in the eyes. Sometimes I’m not sure who is looking at who.”

“I miss her more deeply here than in Okinawa.”

“She is with us father: her spirit all around. It’s harder the days she visits.”

“Then you don’t mind returning to a birthplace that you can’t recall?”

“Honourable mother wanted us to re-experience this land. I think she believed we would better know her by her culture, and perhaps that we would miss her less by sharing her heritage.” Plucking a splinter from her father’s jacket, she added, “And I think Mother wanted to bring Japan to Canada. She loved Okinawa more than either one of us.”

Her father said, “Only in death has she found the strength to return home. I begin to understand Canadians. What they lack in history and tradition they recoup in decency and vigour. It’s easy to forgive them for their obsession with technological progress and profit. Technology should serve culture, not define it. Accumulation of wealth is a class distinction, not a cultural destination. Canada bursts with many cultures struggling to harmonize. The country is vibrant and perseveres through tolerance and acceptance to realize youthful dreams. It is a wondrous land in its infancy.”

“Even the gai-jin?”

“He knows not what he seeks. He accepts nothing; thus, he confers his allegiance to nothing. His disregard for tradition and his familiar attitude would inflame a traditional dojo, yet there’s something of the philosopher in him. He offers no malice; he means no offence. No filters cloud his words. It’s as though he presents himself for judgement each time he speaks. Gai-jin searches for a higher purpose as a blind man searches for an exit in an unfamiliar room, scraping and barking his shins until he is wary of taking the next step.”

“Yet, I see the doubt in your eyes.”

“He isn’t what he seems. Conflict exists, but not deception. There’s promise in him, but his attitude denies it. He is a contradiction. While there’s an absence of malice, he uses negative energy to guard himself. I’ve watched him warp anger to his will. Anger causes most of us to act rashly, but with him, it fuels energetic calmness.” Helping Kira to her feet, he told her, “Tonight he harnessed his qi and focussed energy into empty strikes. He walked the Way. Like you, he has mystic potential, but he won’t acknowledge his spirit. He accepts little beyond what his five senses acknowledge.”

Kira’s father shook his head.

“A new bamboo bundle lies splintered. Tonight, he combined the Sinister Way with enlightened bushido. He bent both negative and positive emotion to his will. Such unrefined talent may yet harm, or it may heal.”

“Perhaps his energy is not truly Sinister.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps. What if I’m wrong and the Sinister Way dominates? I’ll have trained evil, not a life of service, the way of Zen Bushido, but one of deception and selfishness. Do I think myself so great a teacher that I’ve allowed my pride to interfere with my decision to train Bruce? Did I unwisely jump at a challenge? Have I misread his kehai, precious daughter?”

“What do your instincts tell you, father?”

“That it’s too soon, one way or the other, to tell. That I should not live in the future, only in the present. Now. Enough of a foolish old man’s doubt. Put padding on, cherished daughter. If you agree, I wish for you to share your fire spirit with Bruce. Guide his spirit with yours. Coax his true self forward. Let us glimpse what we’ve been nourishing. He is ready for the next level.”

“Exalted father, I agree, Bruce’s skill is sufficient to move forward, but now we shall learn if he is ready to trust without bias. You like him, don’t you?”

“I like watching you raise welts on him. And he cleans the floor adequately.” Kira’s father chuckled as they reached the hallway door. “What do you see?”

“I think I will take a further step. Tonight, we discover which path he walks. Tonight I will urge his spirit to not only reveal itself but to express itself as well.”

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