Author : Julian Miles
“Master Osho. The candidates are assembled.”
My brush completes the stroke, leaving a perfect curve upon the paper. I place the brush down on its rest and look up at Matsushige.
“Thank you. I will attend momentarily.”
I examine my completed calligraphy. It is a summation of who we are, to hang in the anteroom of the great hall:
“In feudal Nihon, the place where you were born would define your worth in the eyes of society. We were the Burakumin, the ‘hamlet people’; the untouchables. We were only permitted to hold the most demeaning jobs. If we had the misfortune to also be classified as Eta (literally: ‘abundance of filth’), we could even be murdered with impunity, as we were only deemed to be worth one seventh of a ‘real’ human. That determination was made by a magistrate in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century we were blacklisted by employers. In the twenty-first, the blacklists were scrutinised by the parents of those we wanted to marry. Only the crime syndicates, the Yakuza, welcomed us. Despite protestations of equality, when the Rising Sun ascended to the stars, Burakumin were taken to run the environmental systems and other things that ‘nice’ people could never be expected to soil their hands with.”
I smile. It never pays to forget that kami play a long game.
“When the Gristplagues struck, those in the overdecks fell victim, their souls and bodies weakened by lives of labourless luxury. The remedies of our healers were useless. That was when Gusamin remembered Tsunetomo’s words in the Hagakure, about how the end of the samurai era had been heralded when the remedies for samurai ceased to work, yet those for women started to be effective on men. Gusamin rightly consigned the sexism to history, but sought out the long-unused ‘samurai-specific’ remedies. Those ancient arts worked for every soul in the underdecks, but only caused pain to those from the overdecks, without providing a cure.”
That had been the turning point.
“Gusamin worked with Grandmaster Osho to define what had occurred. The mission had to continue: taking us all to new worlds. So my predecessor stated that, by empirical proof of Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s own words, Burakumin had become the new Samurai. As we were self-determined, we would not shame that title. We would adopt the Ronin name and bring honour to it by fulfilling the mission. Overdeck and underdeck became the ‘Ship’, and we Ronin continue to lead a united people to the stars.”
In truth, we are all Ronin now.
Turning from the parchment, I stroll from my office and stand upon the balcony, looking down at the two hundred men and women gathered below.
“Today you start our future. To be Ronin is to be one of the manifest kami that keep the Ship on its journey. You will learn. You will train. You will bring pride to your families. There is no failure. You have made it here. All that remains is determining what role you can excel at. Standing among you could well be Osho the Fifteenth. Nothing is impossible.”
The upturned faces are hopeful, happy and strong. The survivors of the overdecks intermarried and the word ‘Eta’ has finally been consigned to its rightful place: an unacceptable insult that is fading from use.