A Treatise on the Heart of the Lion Clan, by Doji Hoturi
For the past month I have travelled through Lion territories as my father bade me, gathering knowledge of their ways and learning to think as they do, so that my father and his generals can better understand our enemies. By command of our Emperor, the war is to cease at once, and a son of each house will be fostered to the other – to encourage peace between us, and end our feud, say the Imperial Advisors.
My father has decreed that my brother, Kuwanan, will come here. Akodo Toturi will see to his fosterage personally. It is with a sigh of relief that my childhood friend has agreed to care for my brother Kuwanan, and I know that all will be well. Toturi and I have spent much time together in recent months, and I know that he is not the dour, grim-faced man that my father deals with in the Imperial Court. He is a man of honor, and a man with a great heart.
While in Lion lands, I have traveled the corridors of the Matsu Palace, and learned first-hand of the history of the Lion. To the Akodo, those tales are more than mere words on a sheaf of paper – they are the blood and bone of their family, the raw force which drives their clan. I cannot grasp their dedication. Perhaps, intime, my brother will come to understand, and he will teach us all…
I walked with Toturi today, as Toshimoko made the arrangements with the Akodo family for my brother’s life here. The Lion Champion took me to the great Hall of Ancestors, a sacred place within the Lion palace, which few visitors outside their clan have been privileged to enter. He spoke to me of each one as we passed their statue, their shining blades of war hanging in alcoves tended by the Matsu family with reverence and care. As if they were alive, Toturi gently touched each statue’s face as he spoke and bowed in honor of deeds both brave and valiant.
As I looked at Toturi, I could see his ancestors mirrored in his brown eyes. Despite their warlike nature, it is clear to me that their hearts possess more than simple, brutish souls. At last, Toturi stood before the great central statue, its massive marble hand outstretched as if in warning. It was the Lady Matsu, whose body was never recovered from the Shadowlands. The Lion Champion said nothing as I stood beside him, gazing into her proud face. Her white marble eyes looked at a point of light far beyond the palace, never noticing the visitors at her feet. It seemed as if she stared to the heavens themselves, ready to challenge their might. At that moment, a sudden chill swept through me, and I could almost see the great stone lips move in benediction. The weight of a thousand souls pressed close to my own, and I could not move for fear of awaking their voices.
When we left the hall, I clasped Toturi’s shoulder with my hand. “When we stood in front of the Lady Matsu’s statue, I felt something…a strange presence.”
“Did you, my friend?” he said, and turned his face away.
“Is that what you feel each time you enter the Hall of Ancestors?” I asked him, awed. He looked up at the darkening sky for a long moment before he answered.
When he spoke again, his words struck me to the heart. Many times they have come to me in the night, and I do not know if I can ever understand the depth of their meaning. “It is what I feel…” he said, “…always.” As the sun set below the mountains of the west, a chill breeze tugged at my white hair, and the sky grew as dark as an earthen tomb.