The darkness was complete and overwhelming. It swallowed Saito completely and enveloped him like a glove. He felt himself connect to the universe – to everything. It all flowed through him. It swept him along like a raging river, carrying him down stream. It would be so easy to simply keep his eyes shut and be carried into the nothingness.
Saito’s eyes flashed open and the overwhelming blackness receded from him. It hung around him for a moment, lingering in the air. That sublime feeling of unity with everything faded slowly as the garden came into focus.
This is what it meant to be ishiken-do. A perfect sense of wholeness. And yet that wonderful feeling was not without its risks – those of weak will were easily caught up in that same sensation that Saito had just been enjoying. They lost themselves in the vastness of the void and nothing could call them back.
Of course that would not happen to Saito. He was Shiba – the family descended from the kami themselves. He often wondered if it was the Isawa who succumbed most easily to the enticement of the void. It was a well known fact that they produced more ishiken-do than any other family in the Empire but he knew that numbers were no substitute for skill. He himself was a testament to that.
He had been hailed in the Isawa school as a prodigy – not only in his studies at large but also in his connection to the void. He had progressed rapidly and would likely have progressed further hade his teachers not slowed his studies. They seemed to constantly be putting roadblocks in his way. It made sense of course. The Isawa had maintained a nearly unbroken grasp on the Council of Five since the clan was founded. That a Shiba ishiken-do could be so gifted….well, it probably troubled them. They had grown complacent in their positions – but their family was not descended from the kami. That right belonged to Shiba and Saito intended to see the honors restored to the name as well.
This was likely to be his chance. The appointment to the magistrates would remove him from the purview of his instructors. They would not be able to caution him, to slow him, to hold him back. He would be required to excel by his own prowess, using every skill in his arsenal. He smiled silently to himself as he stood. He would not fail. He had never done so before and he did not see why he should start now.
He moved from the garden and walked back to his quarters. The trip to the Badger lands was likely to be perilous – especially if the rumours that all communication had been lost and there was some unusual source of light radiating from their lands. It would not be an easy trip. Saito smiled to himself. He was rather looking forward to the challenge.