Kumori - Journal Entry 7
For the thousandth time, Kumori marveled at the strange ways of the gaijin around him. He stood in his fighting clothes, which had been washed by the palace servants during the company’s audience with the High King, and moved through the Fishing Net Kata with empty hands. The decorations of the High King’s mansion were opulent, but the place was too crowded to allow for practice with Satori in hand. That in itself was a sign of these people’s barbarism, but not the one that grated on his nerves right in the moment.
No, the one that bothered the samurai was the mockery these gaijin called “bathing.” Firstly there was the issue of how seldom they did it to start with; in Kaidan only outcasts and subhuman monsters didn’t bathe at least every other day. Here the common people rarely bathed at all, and even nobles seemed to do so only for special occasions. Kumori had never told his companions so, but it was an enduring mark against all of them that they allowed themselves to go so long without washing- he had long since grown accustomed to the smell, but the symbolism of the lapse marked them still, in his eyes, as barbarians.
But that wasn’t all; no, the very thing that the gaijin called by the name of bathing was a sham and a mockery. A bath was supposed to leave one tingling from a hard scrubbing and the use of strong soap. One should emerge from a bath odorless and invigorated. Kumori had never thought much about bathing, back home; it had simply been a background to his daily life, a ritual repeated without consideration or reflection, but simply done. Now, he found himself thinking wistfully of a good scrubbing brush and a barrel of nearly scalding hot water. Instead, what had been offered as a “bath” by the servants was soporific and odorous. The perfume still cloyed his nostrils, and he felt greasy from the oil that had been used to supposedly collect the dirt from his skin. How could anyone think such a thing at all healthy? Closing the pores blocked proper flow of chi, everyone knew that! He reflexively shook his head at the thought.
He shifted to the Murder of Ravens Kata, the movements more rapid, striking and defending against multiple attackers at once. The exercise more closely matched his mood. The barbarism exhibited by the gaijin lack of hygiene extended to the impression Kumori had gotten of the High King. The man had not seemed to lack authority, certainly, but nonetheless Kumori had been slightly disappointed. He had expected something akin to the Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who had frankly terrified Kumori as a youngster. The Emperor had not been a physically imposing man, nor had he been cruel or even harsh, but he had carried himself as the descendant of a goddess, and something of that divinity had radiated from him. The High King had seemed close to the gods, certainly, but close in the way of a favored vassal, not a member of the family.
It must have been rooted in this practice of rotating the Kingship. And this nonsense of a Ruling Council. The gaijin didn’t understand, it seemed, that rulership was rooted in the gods, and was not a thing to be passed around like a ball in kemari. How could any High King who had ever been anything other than a High King properly embody the unshakable authority of the post?
In truth, he still smarted at having been forced to give up his swords before the audience. Such an insult would be unthinkable by any lord in Kaidan except the Emperor. To suffer such an indignity only to find a high-ranking daimyo being so protected had left Kumori feeling ill-used, no matter how much the High King’s assistance was needed. After all, though he did not fuss over it, Kumori was Minamoto by birth, the direct descendant of Yoshitsune and a claimant to the Shogunal authority. To be treated like a jizamurai had offended him, and he had not been in a position to correct the insult without himself committing a breach of etiquette. So, he instead performed the Kata until he grew tired enough to let his wounded pride stop smarting, prayed the Stars Sutra, and lay down to sleep.