Through the Cracks Ch6 bit – Storytime

“Instructor Sejanes tells me you believe your people are in danger,” Selenay said levelly. “If the Circle concurs, then this conversation never happened.”

Yamagata grimaced. “I am… unsure where to start.”

“Perhaps a story.” Kenshin slipped Yahiko a wink. “After all, one knows someone is behind on their history lessons.”

“Oh, man…” Yahiko glanced around the room for any overlooked way out. “Is this one gonna put me to sleep again?”

“One hopes not.” Kenshin’s smile smoothed into seriousness. “It is said that long and long ago, centuries before the Eastern Empire ever met Chi’in, something tore magic asunder. Perhaps it was your Cataclysm. Perhaps a mage who dared too far, and risked too much. No one knows for sure. What is known is that the Isles, that had been a place of life so rich and wondrous we knew the gods themselves chose to dwell there, were twisted, and tainted, and laid waste. Summer became winter, innocent beasts warped into killers, humans who wandered lost vanished – or returned, to slay and feast on kin as even mad dogs do not. And every night, demons walked the land, sometimes taking human form to enter fortresses by guile, sometimes merely stooping on those unfortunate enough to be without walls, killing and feeding as they would.

“For seven years, it is said, our clans endured. But every season the deaths grew more common; every dawn, hope faded more.

“Yet there was hope. Our leaders of war and spirit had found the demons differed. That they were at war; between the oni, who had bound themselves in flesh and could remain in this world in day or night, and the akuma, the evils that rode the wind, who must hide from Amaterasu’s mirror and only took shape in darkness. More, they had found there was a source to both these demons; a hole between this world and the Abyss that might yet be sealed. If there was strength enough. If.

“But alone, we did not have that strength.”

Selenay’s chin lifted. “So you called on your gods.”

“We were not dead yet, Selenay-dono,” Kenshin said dryly. “Though as my shishou told the tale, we did ask for advice.”

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23 thoughts on “Through the Cracks Ch6 bit – Storytime

  1. Since starting to read this, I’ve more and more been starting to see Hiten Mitsurugi as a sort of religious calling. As in “I’m not a miko” is a distinction between a mechanical and electrical engineer, not a distinction between a civil engineer and a chemist. In this model, HM’s independence imperative makes sense in terms of not being entangled with the secular world.

    In which case, Yamagata and Kenshin here may count as leaders of war and spirit.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. If a society had both priests and ghostbusters for hundreds of years, they might get classified as part of the same overall category. Like police, fireman, and EMTs being ‘first responders’, so obviously I’m using some bad examples.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. *G* Sanzo would be the first to say he’s a lousy priest.

        From a certain point of view . . . .

        Or depending on who you ask.

        Kanzeon seems pleased.

        Which might not the best endorsement of the Sanzo Style of being a Buddhist Priest.

        OTOH, his primary job is making sure nobody isn’t supposed to gets their hands on that Sutra and he’s been doing pretty well on that task. Better than many of the more proper priests.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Kanzeon thinks the whole thing is hilarious. And quite possibly her “I told you so” to all of Heaven.

        …I see her seriously wondering what would have happened if they’d just let Konzen have firearms lessons.

        (Given his canon Papa Wolf rampage around Goku, ooo dear, the carnage….)

        Liked by 2 people

      4. There are a lot of societies where it is more about doing it correctly than doing it devoutly; priesthood is about technical performance or divine magicwielding or purification mechanisms.

        When he was a young senator bonking everyone who moved, the Roman Republic made Julius Caesar the Pontifex Maximus, with responsibility for looking after the Vestal Virgins. This should tell you something about ancient religion.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. …Nah. Hiko and Sanzo have different attitudes toward the gods. Hiko rather doubts they concern themselves with him, and would take objection to them trying. Sanzo knows at least one goddess is directly involved in jerking his chain.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Re: not messing with the Vestals, that was true. And to be fair, Caesar did not mess with them. Like a lot of Romans, he was good on the public duty aspect of all his jobs, whether or not he internalized anything beyond “Me like power, me do what is required to have it.”

        But yeah, most ancient religions were not much interested in thoughts and feelings, unless they were Bacchus-type or initiation-into-mysteries. Thoughts were for philosophers, and feelings were for music and poetry. Religion was about your duties, and keeping up an alliance to powerful beings, just like you made nice with your lords and your older relations; or appeasing powerful beings that would kill you otherwise, just like you paid tribute and tried to keep lords safely far away; or purification, which was also keeping powerful concepts and beings at a distance.

        Liked by 3 people

      7. … Honestly if Sanzo qualifies for ‘religious’ then I can believe Hiko does. Hiko may not have a direct God(dess) he has faith in the way Sanzo has Kanzeon – however grudgingly that may be on Sanzo’s part – but if you substitute Sanzo’s faith in what people should be/do and Kanzeon herself with Hiko’s faith in the traditions of Hiten-Mitsurugi-Ryu… Well, the argument can definitely be made.

        Because I think Hiko does have faith in Hiten-Mitsurugi-Ryu. I think you see that when Kenshin returns in canon and Hiko insists that Kenshin kill Hiko as is tradition, and take up the name and mantle of Hiko Seijirou. After all, it’s only when Kenshin refuses to and refuses to teach anyone/pass the style on that Hiko regards Kenshin as a failed apprentice and himself as a failed teacher. I think Hiko still bears his own kind of parental affection for Kenshin, but Hiko still picks the mantle back up and chooses to continue living and embodying the traditions of Hiten-Mitsurugi-Ryu.

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  2. Selenay’s chin lifted. “So you called on your gods.”

    Which, Selenay, I believe one of your predecessors did too to get those nosy not-horses running around . . . and he didn’t have monsters eating everyone they could catch . . . . just the fact that humans can vary wildly on the Sliding Scale of Morality and those on the bad end of the scale are just about the last people you’d want to be in charge of an entire country . . . .

    Which to be fair has caused a lot of death and destruction WITHOUT magic so can’t exactly blame the guy for being worried about it . . . . and can’t exactly blame him to wanting to find a way to make sure no one really, really bad ever got his throne . . .

    Through asking the gods and spirits for help can get . . . . messy. Because what you had in mind as good and helpful and what they had in mind as good and helpful may not match. Or something like that.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. And got… well. It was helpful . . .

        For the most part. Usually. Most of the time.

        Except when it wasn’t. Because reasons.

        Sometimes reasons that have nothing to do with magic and everything to do with people being people . . .

        But it works. Again, usually and for the most part. Maybe it could be better but it also could be worse.

        Of course, desperate people are willing to with put up bugs and potential short-comings that not-so-desperate people aren’t. And those Yamatoans sounded like they were pretty desperate . . .

        Of course, once things weren’t so desperate was probably when cases of buyer’s remorse on this helpful advice started popping up . . .

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Everybody who lived through the Cataclysm was pretty desperate. Baron Valdemar was actually a lot less desperate heading off with his people in the dead of winter – no suicidal blood magic, unlike the Shin’a’in Plains, for one.

        …I honestly think Baron Valdemar would have loved this story. 😉 And been kind of bemused he had to deal with the results.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Tho I do find it interesting that fiction always portrays it as “the gods” getting “good and helpful” wrong, not the humans, when it has a difference between them. “Human asks for X, which would have been really good. Gods provide Y, which can be arguably seen as an interpretation of X, but was not actually helpful.” is the general way stories put it. The only place I’ve seen to “human asks for X, which would actually not be anywhere near as good as he thinks. God provides Y, which is actually helpful”, is in the Bible. (tho even there, there’s also “God says ‘all right, if that’s really what you want… but you’re not gonna like it'”, like when the Israelites asked for “a king, like the other nations have”, and got Saul. who was “tall, strong, handsome, had a good voice, and seemed like a good leader”)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t talking about cases where something helpful is done without request, or where nothing goes wrong with it. I meant specifically where what the human asks for is outright not good (not just a case like Midas where it was simply taken too literally), and the god/etc says “no, I’ll give you something actually good instead”, and does so. Specifically as opposed to the standard fantasy tropes where the human actually asks for something good, and the god/etc granting the wish is too stupid/alien to get it right (not just a case of being purposely malicious, like a monkey’s paw wish).

        Because usually when the wish turns out bad it’s a case of lazy (or malicious) writing, portraying the god/etc as being too “alien” or too incompetent to get it right, and that “if only it had been done the way the human wanted, it’d have worked out right”.

        Liked by 1 person

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