A TRAGEDY OF THE BOSHIN WAR FROM THREE PERSPECTIVES
I was a heretic of things presumed, and they the holy...
In the east the sun rises over Kyoto, emerging lucent over holy Mount Hiei and humble Mount Higashi. A tremulous beauty of which I cannot behold for long, but the sky is rent in gold and I look north and I see that my most noble Lord's castle at Nijo stands untarnished and eternal, and I know that all is well.
Order remains for another day.
Seek and hear the cry of the uguisu nightingale, see the flight of swallows. All things are attuned. I am alone and I take my rice and I take my fish and I consume, knowing that I too will one day be consumed. This taste of humble salt and miso will one day be untasted, will rot alongside my tongue. But that moment is not now and so that moment will never come to pass. This taste defies all entropy, and so I appreciate it for all that it is.
I, as this in all things.
My life is inestimably improved since I eradicated the concept of 'then'. Since I chose to acknowledge only the endless now.
I am immortal, a million times a day.
Mine is the honour to serve as a lieutenant in the Shinsengumi. There are thirteen others equal in rank to me. Under each of us is ten men. Above us only two.
When the bells of the Shintokuji temple toll morning prayer my men rise. I am waiting for them. They are the first of all the cadres to assemble. Other lieutenants are lax. Under my rule, tardiness is not acceptable. Sluggishness from drink the night before is not acceptable. My men eat their breakfast in under five minutes. I have a sandtimer to ensure this. I listen to the grains as they hiss away unseen within the bamboo shell and as the men devour I seek the very instant between the hisses, a moment of perfect silence where all things must hover suspended and timeless.
That moment, it must be there, I am sure of it. I have only but to search deeper, deeper.
Fed, the men assemble in the yard. It is time to recite the code.
“First precept of the Shinsengumi!” I demand.
“Members of the corps are faithful to the Way of Bushido!” the ten men bark.
“First tenet of Bushido!”
“Loyalty to whom?”
“Our Lord Shogun in the east!”
We face the east and raise our hands and pledge our allegiance with our scream beseeching a reign of ten thousand years. I look for any sign of wavering or false conviction, but all ten of my men are fine and good. If they were not, I would not have chosen them. They are fierce, straight-backed, clean shaven. Our standard hangs over the yard, 誠 in red over ivory and black, no breeze to disrupt its vigil.
“Second precept of the Shinsengumi!” I demand.
“A member of the corps does not in engage in violence for personal reasons!”
It is my cadre alone who recites the code each morning, for it was I who wrote it. Commander Kondo has expressed his liking of it. Perhaps in time the other twelve bands will join us.
“Third precept of the Shinsengumi!”
“A member of the corps renounces all claims on personal wealth!”
Or perhaps not. I see Lieutenant Harada sneering at us from the shade, as he always does. The man wears a scar across his belly where he fouled his seppuku years ago. If he committed to that noble act and yet persists in living, he will never understand.
“Fourth precept of the Shinsengumi!”
“A member of the corps will not debase himself engaging in venal litigation!”
I confess that I am lying. I did not write the code, I merely committed it to paper. Just as I am, the code itself is immortal. It exists because it always needed to exist. We live in a time where men have come from across the ocean and they have kicked away our walls and now the roof may fall. Only in order, in resolute and overt commitment to order, shall we survive. Our understanding of this is why we Shinsengumi are different to any other band of men. This is what I have faith in.
This is why our voices grow hoarse with our honesty:
“Fifth precept of the Shinsengumi!”
“Death is the only exit from the corps!”