Malek Allari | Editor-In-Chief
I was once a hero. A hero who was notorious on the battlefield. I was once a kind person. I was kind enough to take care of the families of the enemies I killed. I might not have been rich enough to give them a roof over their head, but I did fight even my comrades if any of them would try something on them. I adopted some of the boys who were left by their mothers. I took in the babies who would die in the cold. I would take the orphans back to our village and lie to the villagers with a straight face that all these children are mine. I was blind. I thought that maybe, maybe, I would remove the hatred in their hearts for what happened to their families.
It happened three years ago when the shogun came to my village with a sword in one hand and a fire in the other. He tried to burn my village, and he had the right to do so. He was the shogun. The shogun is the highest-ranked warrior in all of Japan, his word is second to none. The only thing that keeps him from taking over the empire is his loyalty to the emperor. What happened next was the doom of my peaceful life. I charged at the shogun with a sword in my right hand and a dagger in the other. I know that I did not kill him, for the only blood on the ground was mine. I did stab him in the stomach, but his armor was as thick as a dragon’s scale. His army of warriors behind him stood there in silence, like the dead of the night. The shogun laughed so hard that the knife stabbing him fell to the ground; it was that shallow of a wound.
That village burned anyways. It burned to the ground, and I only stood there under the heavy hooves of the shogun’s brown horse. If tears did not form in my eyes that night, it would have probably torn my heart to pieces. Nothing was left in my heart except the hatred I felt towards myself for standing there. I heard the screams and cries of the women and children. The men of the village were too old to lift a finger. They were so old to open their mouths and curse the shogun. We might have been at war, but we were burned by our own ruler. We were burned by our own blood and flesh. The shogun took me in and taught me the ways of the warrior. “You had the heroic courage that day,” he said with his old voice of wisdom. “You were capable of being a warrior, but you are too much kind.”
“I can not help it, master. I attacked you that day out of kindness to protect my village, not because I was courageous. I was ready to die that day…it would have been peaceful.”
“There is no peace in death. Not even in life. However, death will bring eternal rest. In death, it is a war between reality and illusion. In death, we might be all equal, for we are all in the ground, but you shall know that it is also the pain of the loved ones that keep our corpses fighting.”
“But it is our corpses that fight. We will die having no sense of what is happening. Our souls and spirits would have moved on to a dark abyss.”
“That is where you are wrong, my dear disciple. No one truly dies, except when everyone forgets them. If you died that day, I would still remember your courage. Kindness breeds courage, courage breeds strength, and strength breeds life. It might be the duty of the strong to protect the weak, but it is also the duty of the weak to have courage and become strong.”
With these words, he reminded me of my own father’s words, whose memory is only a fragment in my mind. My father might be a ghost to me, but his words still haunt me. “A tiger never becomes a tiger unless he sharpens his fangs with the bones of his prey. A tiger has no courage unless he experiences the fear of a dragon’s fire. A human, with enough courage, can become either a demon or an angel. Choose, son, do you want to be a demon or an angel?”
It might be a memory, but I can never choose one once I become a warrior. On the battlefield, I had already lost my humanity when I killed a man. I try to get it back when I save the children. But I was blind.
My master, the shogun, once told me as I was saving a child that I might be doing a grave crime by protecting the children. Not a crime to the army or empire, but to oneself. I was naïve. Although my heart would not betray these children, my mind knew too well what would happen when hatred only grows big.
It was a month ago when I lost my sight. I might not be sad or mad about losing my sight, for I deserved it. Sight is not the only thing I deserve to lose. I might as well lose my hands, legs, and tongue. I might as well lose all my insides again and again. If I regret one thing in this life, it is not that I had courage. Courage will only keep you alive. It is my blindness to the crime that I committed against myself.
I was sitting down on my knees and had a child that I saved standing beside me. “My master once said that I committed a crime. A crime to myself and how I am blind. I could see, and I saw that my duty was not to kill but to save. I might have saved the children, but I was the one who killed their fathers,” I said with ease of mind but with the madness of the heart.
It was only then that the child pulled out a knife and slashed my eyes. “You killed my father! I HATE YOU! TO BELIEVE…THAT YOU…MIGHT FIND PEACE! YOU WILL NEVER…HAVE PEACE!” the boy cried and screamed. My blood spilled to the ground, for I felt it. I heard every cry and scream from the boy, and it was multiplied by many voices. I know these voices, for they are all the children that I saved. I killed the boy. I was blind, but I killed the boy with my own hands, for I cut his throat to silence the voices in my head.
I went back to my master, as I am now at his palace. I told him the story, and he could only shake his head. I can see the disappointment in his eyes. My master can only look ahead, not minding the problems of the world. “My time is soon. I told you before that you are blinded by kindness. Kindness is the father of courage. However, too many offspring makes the father weak and old. Remember, as you age, you become wise, but with age, there is also madness,” my master said, picking up the teacup. As he sipped, the sound of slurping put up a quiet environment. “I might have been a blind man towards the children, but the only thing I could not do is slit the throat of a child. Leaving them alone is the same as killing them. What should have I done, master?” “You killed a child. You killed the boy who took away your eye, and now, the little innocence you had in your heart is now gone. The only thing keeping you away from committing the crime of killing a child now is nothing but guilt. You felt the guilt of killing a child, and it is hell, but there is nothing more you can do to erase it.” “What about suicide?” “Killing oneself is harder than killing a man.” “All I need is courage.” “Courage is not something you can have. You have to build it up. Tell me, are you afraid of death?” “Yes.” “Then you will never be able to commit suicide.” “Why? The fear of death does not have anything to do with suicide.” “It has everything to do with suicide. That fear you feel as you put the knife in your stomach will become the sadness of the people around you.” “But a warrior commits suicide when he wants to keep his honor.” “You have no honor, my dear disciple. You lost it the moment you put a sword in front of a child’s face.”
It was at night when I heard the crash of a door. My master died with a sword in his hand as he fended off the demons in his mind. As you age, you become wise, but with age, there is also madness. Everyone fights a demon, it is only inside our minds, partying with the voices of our victims.
Courage can help a man kill another, but it is also courage that kills its possessions. Before submitting to the madness of age and place, the last thing I remember was slitting the throats of the children that I saved. With the crime came the voice of my master, “You have no innocence, child. All you have is a bloody sword and maddening guilt.”