You are on page 1of 27

HELL SCREEN

BY RYUNOSUKE AKUTAGAWA
1
I am certain there has never been anyone lie o!r "reat #or$ o%
&oria'a( an$ I $o!bt there ever 'ill be another) In a $ream be%ore &is
#or$shi* 'as born( &er +aternal #a$yshi* sa' the a'esomely arme$
G!ar$ian ,eity o% the West - or so *eo*le say) In any case( &is #or$shi*
seeme$ to have innate .!alities that $istin"!ishe$ him %rom or$inary
h!man bein"s) An$ beca!se o% this( his accom*lishments never cease$ to
ama/e !s) Yo! nee$ only "lance at his mansion in the 0a*ital1s &oria'a
$istrict to sense the bol$ness o% its conce*tion) Its - ho' shall I *!t it2 -
its "ran$e!r( its heroic scale are beyon$ the reach o% o!r me$iocre min$s)
Some have .!estione$ the 'is$om o% &is #or$shi*1s !n$ertain" s!ch a
*ro3ect( com*arin" him to 0hina1s 4irst Em*eror( 'hose s!b3ects 'ere
%orce$ to b!il$ the Great Wall( or to the S!i em*eror Yan"( 'ho ma$e his
*eo*le erect lo%ty *alaces5 b!t s!ch critics mi"ht be liene$ to the
*roverbial blin$ men 'ho $escribe$ the ele*hant accor$in" only to the
*arts they co!l$ %eel) It 'as never &is #or$shi*1s intention to see
s*len$or an$ "lory %or himsel% alone) &e 'as al'ays a man o% "reat
ma"nanimity 'ho share$ his 3oys 'ith the 'i$er 'orl$( so to s*ea( an$
e*t in min$ even the lo'liest o% his s!b3ects)
S!rely this is 'hy he 'as le%t !nscathe$ by his enco!nter 'ith that
mi$ni"ht *rocession o% "oblins so o%ten seen at the lonely intersection o%
Ni3o6Omiya in the 0a*ital5 it is also 'hy( 'hen r!mor ha$ it that the "host
o% Tor!( +inister o% the #e%t( 'as a**earin" ni"ht a%ter ni"ht at the site o%
his r!ine$ mansion by the river at &i"ashi6San3o 7yo! m!st no' it8 'here
the minister ha$ recreate$ the %amo!s seasca*e o% Shio"ama in his
"ar$en9( it too only a sim*le reb!e %rom &is #or$shi* to mae the s*irit
vanish) In the %ace o% s!ch res*len$ent ma3esty( no 'on$er all resi$ents
o% the 0a*ital : ol$ an$ yo!n"( men an$ 'omen : revere$ &is #or$shi*
as a reincarnation o% the B!$$ha) One time( it is sai$( &is #or$shi* 'as
ret!rnin" %rom a *l!m6blossom ban.!et at the ;alace 'hen the o< *!llin"
his carria"e "ot loose an$ in3!re$ an ol$ man 'ho ha**ene$ to be
*assin" by) The ol$ %ello' nelt an$ clas*e$ his han$s in *rayer%!l thans
%or havin" been ca!"ht on the horns o% &is #or$shi*1s o'n o<=
So many( many stories abo!t &is #or$shi* have been han$e$
$o'n) &is Im*erial +a3esty himsel% once *resente$ &is #or$shi* 'ith
thirty *!re 'hite horses on the occasion o% a Ne' Year1s ban.!et) Another
time( 'hen constr!ction o% the Na"ara Bri$"e seeme$ to be r!nnin"
co!nter to the 'ill o% the local $eity( &is #or$shi* o>ere$ !* a %avorite
boy atten$ant as a h!man sacri?ce to be b!rie$ at the %oot o% a *illar) An$
then there 'as the time 'hen( to have a "ro'th c!t %rom his thi"h( he
s!mmone$ the 0hinese mon 'ho ha$ bro!"ht the art o% s!r"ery to o!r
co!ntry) Oh( there1s no en$ to the tales= 4or sheer horror( tho!"h( none o%
them meas!res !* to the story o% the screen $e*ictin" scenes o% hell
'hich is no' a *ri/e$ %amily heirloom) Even &is #or$shi*( normally so
im*ert!rbable( 'as horri?e$ by 'hat ha**ene$( an$ those o% !s 'ho
'aite$ !*on him : 'ell( it "oes 'itho!t sayin" that 'e 'ere shoce$ o!t
o% o!r min$s) I mysel% ha$ serve$ as one o% &is #or$shi*1s men %or a %!ll
t'enty years( b!t 'hat I 'itnesse$ then 'as more terrible than anythin" I
ha$ ever : or have ever : e<*erience$)
In or$er to tell yo! the story o% the hell screen( ho'ever( I m!st
?rst tell yo! abo!t the *ainter 'ho create$ it) &is name 'as Yoshihi$e)
@
I s!s*ect that even no' there are la$ies an$ "entlemen 'ho 'o!l$
reco"ni/e the name AYoshihi$e)1 &e 'as %amo!s bac then as the "reatest
*ainter in the lan$( b!t he ha$ reache$ the a"e o% *erha*s ?%ty( an$ he
looe$ lie nothin" more than a thoro!"hly !n*leasant little ol$ man( all
sin an$ bones) &e $resse$ normally eno!"h %or his a**earances at &is
#or$shi*1s mansion : in a re$$ish6bro'n( broa$6sleeve$ sil robe an$ a
tall blac hat 'ith a so%t ben$ to the ri"ht : b!t as a *erson he 'as
anythin" b!t normal) Yo! co!l$ see he ha$ a mean strea( an$ his li*s(
!nnat!rally re$ %or s!ch an ol$ man( "ave a $ist!rbin"( bestial
im*ression) Some *eo*le sai$ the re$ness came %rom his moistenin" his
*aint br!sh 'ith his li*s( b!t I 'on$er abo!t that) 0r!eler ton"!es !se$ to
say that he looe$ an$ move$ lie a money( an$ they 'ent so %ar as to
"ive Yoshihi$e the nicname A+oneyhi$e)1
Ah( that nicname remin$s me o% an e*iso$e) Yoshihi$e ha$ a
$a!"hter( his only chil$ : a s'eet( lovely "irl !tterly !nlie her %ather)
She ha$ been taen into the &oria'a mansion as a 3!nior la$y6in6'aitin"
%or &is #or$shi*1s o'n $a!"hter( the Yo!n" +istress) ;erha*s beca!se she
lost her mother at a ten$er a"e( she ha$ an !n!s!ally mat!re an$ $ee*ly
sym*athetic nat!re an$ a cleverness beyon$ her years( an$ everyone
%rom &er #a$yshi* on $o'n love$ the "irl %or her .!icness to notice
othersB every nee$)
Aro!n$ that time someone %rom the Tamba ;rovince *resente$ &is
#or$shi* 'ith a tame money( an$ the Yo!n" +aster( 'ho 'as then at the
hei"ht o% his boyish na!"htiness( $eci$e$ to name it CYoshihi$e)1 The
money 'as a %!nny6looin" little creat!re as it 'as( b!t ca**in" it 'ith
that name "ave everyone in the ho!sehol$ a hearty la!"h) Oh( i% only
they ha$ been satis?e$ 3!st to la!"h= B!t 'hatever the money $i$ :
'hether climbin" to the to* o% the "ar$en *ine( or soilin" the mats o% a
sta> member1s room :*eo*le 'o!l$ ?n$ a reason to torment it( an$
al'ays 'ith a sho!t o% AYoshihi$e=B
Then one $ay( as Yoshihi$eBs $a!"hter 'as "li$in" $o'n a lon"
o!t$oor corri$or to $eliver a note "aily notte$ on a branch o% re$ 'inter
*l!m( the money Yoshihi$e $arte$ in thro!"h the sli$in" $oor at the %ar
en$( in %!ll Di"ht %rom somethin") The animal 'as r!nnin" 'ith a lim* an$
seeme$ !nable to climb a *ost as it o%ten $i$ 'hen %ri"htene$) Then 'ho
sho!l$ a**ear chasin" a%ter it b!t the Yo!n" +aster( bran$ishin" a s'itch
an$ sho!tin"( 10ome bac here( yo! tan"erine thie%= 0ome bac here=1
Yoshihi$e1s $a!"hter $re' !* short at the si"ht( an$ the money cl!n" to
her sirts 'ith a *iti%!l cry) This m!st have aro!se$ her com*assion( %or(
still hol$in" the *l!m branch in one han$( she s'e*t the money !* in
the so%t %ol$s o% her laven$er sleeve) Then( "ivin" a little bo' to the
Yo!n" +aster( she sai$ 'ith cool clarity( 14or"ive me %or inter%erin"( my
yo!n" lor$( b!t he is 3!st an animal) ;lease *ar$on him)B
Tem*er still !* %rom the chase( the Yo!n" +aster sco'le$ an$
stam*e$ his %oot several times) 1Why are yo! *rotectin" him21 he
$eman$e$) 1&e stole my tan"erine=1
C&e is 3!st an animal(1 she re*eate$) 1&e $oesn1t no' any better)1
An$ then( smilin" sa$ly( she a$$e$( 1&is name is Yoshihi$e( a%ter all) I
can1t 3!st stan$ by an$ 'atch Emy %atherF bein" *!nishe$)1 This 'as
a**arently eno!"h to brea the Yo!n" +aster1s 'ill)
AAll ri"ht( then(1 he sai$ 'ith obvio!s rel!ctance) 1I% yo!1re *lea$in"
%or yo!r %ather1s li%e( IBll let him o> this time)1
The Yo!n" +aster D!n" his s'itch into the "ar$en an$ stale$ bac
o!t thro!"h the sli$in" $oor)
G
A%ter this inci$ent( Yoshihi$e1s $a!"hter an$ the little money "re'
close) The "irl ha$ a "ol$en bell that her yo!n" mistress ha$ "iven her(
'hich she h!n" %rom the money1s nec on a *retty crimson cor$) An$
he( %or his *art( 'o!l$ almost never leave her si$e) Once( 'hen she 'as
in be$ 'ith a col$( the money s*ent ho!rs by her *illo'( bitin" its nails(
an$ I s'ear it ha$ a 'orrie$ loo on its %ace)
Then( stran"ely eno!"h( *eo*le sto**e$ teasin" the money) In
%act( they be"an treatin" it 'ith s*ecial in$ness( !ntil even the Yo!n"
+aster 'o!l$ occasionally thro' it a *ersimmon or a chestn!t( an$ I
hear$ he once De' into a ra"e 'hen one o% the sam!rai ice$ the
animal) Soon a%ter that( &is #or$shi* himsel% or$ere$ the "irl to a**ear
be%ore him 'ith the money in her arms : all beca!se( in hearin" abo!t
the Yo!n" +aster1s tantr!m( I am tol$( he nat!rally also hear$ abo!t ho'
the "irl ha$ come to care %or the money)
AI a$mire yo!r ?lial behavior(1 &is #or$shi* sai$) C&ere( tae this)B
An$ he *resente$ her 'ith a ?ne scarlet !n$errobe) They tell me that his
#or$shi* 'as es*ecially *lease$ 'hen the money( imitatin" the "irl1s
e<*ression o% "ratit!$e( bo'e$ lo' be%ore him( hol$in" the robe alo%t)
An$ so &is #or$shi*1s *artiality %or the "irl 'as born entirely %rom his 'ish
to commen$ her ?lial $evotion to her %ather an$ not( as r!mor ha$ it(
%rom any *hysical attraction he mi"ht have %elt %or her) Not that s!ch
s!s*icions 'ere entirely "ro!n$less( b!t there 'ill be time %or me to tell
yo! abo!t that later) 4or no'( s!Hce it to say that &is #or$shi* 'as not
the sort o% *erson to lavish his a>ections on the $a!"hter o% a mere
*ainter( ho'ever bea!ti%!l she mi"ht be)
Well( then( havin" been sin"le$ o!t %or *raise this 'ay( Yoshihi$eis
$a!"hter 'ith$re' %rom &is #or$shi*1s *resence( b!t she ne' ho' to
avoi$ *rovoin" the envy o% the ho!sehol$1s other( less mo$est( la$ies6in6
'aitin") In$ee$( *eo*le "re' %on$er than ever o% her an$ the money(
an$ the Yo!n" +istress almost never let them leave her si$e( even
brin"in" them 'ith her in her o<6$ra'n carria"e 'hen she 'ent to
observe shrine rit!als an$ the lie)
B!t eno!"h abo!t the "irl %or no') #et me contin!e 'ith my story
o% her %ather( Yoshihi$e) As I have sai$( the money Yoshihi$e .!icly
became everyone1s lin $arlin"( b!t Yoshihi$e himsel% remaine$ an ob3ect
o% !niversal scorn( revile$ as 1+oneyhi$eB by everyone behin$ his bac)
An$ not only in the &oria'a mansion) Even s!ch an eminent B!$$hist
*relate as the Abbot o% Yoa'a hate$ Yoshihi$e so m!ch that the very
mention o% his name 'as eno!"h to mae him t!rn *!r*le as i% he ha$
seen a $evil) 7Some sai$ this 'as beca!se Yoshihi$e ha$ $ra'n a
caricat!re ri$ic!lin" certain as*ects o% the Abbot1s behavior( b!t this 'as
merely a r!mor that circ!late$ amon" the lo'er classes an$ as s!ch can
har$ly be cre$ite$)9 In any case( Yoshihi$e1s re*!tation 'as so ba$ that
anyone yo! ase$ 'o!l$ have tol$ yo! the same thin") I% there 'ere
those 'ho s*oe in$ly o% Yoshihi$e( they 'ere either a han$%!l o% the
brotherhoo$ o% *ainters or else *eo*le 'ho ne' his 'or b!t not the
man himsel%)
&is a**earance 'as not the only thin" that *eo*le hate$ abo!t
Yoshihi$e) In %act( he ha$ many evil traits that re*elle$ them even more(
an$ %or 'hich he ha$ only himsel% to blame)
I
4or one thin"( Yoshihi$e 'as a terrible miser5 he 'as harsh in his
$ealin"s 'ith *eo*le5 he ha$ no shame5 he 'as la/y an$ "ree$y) B!t
'orst o% all( he 'as insolent an$ arro"ant) &e never let yo! %or"et that he
'as 1the "reatest *ainter in the lan$)1 Nor 'as his arro"ance limite$ to
*aintin") &e co!l$ not be satis?e$ till he $is*laye$ his contem*t %or every
c!stom an$ convention that or$inary *eo*le *ractice$) A man 'ho 'as
his a**rentice %or many years once tol$ me this story8 Yoshihi$e 'as
*resent one $ay in the mansion o% a certain "entleman 'hen the
celebrate$ Shamaness o% the 0y*ress Enclos!re 'as there( !n$er"oin"
s*irit *ossession) The 'oman $elivere$ a horri%yin" messa"e %rom the
s*irit( b!t Yoshihi$e 'as !nim*resse$) &e too !* a han$y in br!sh an$
$i$ a $etaile$ setch o% her 'il$ e<*ression as i% he vie'e$ s*irit
*ossession as mere tricery)
No 'on$er( then( that s!ch a man 'o!l$ commit acts o% sacrile"e
in his 'or8 in *aintin" the lovely "o$$ess Kisshoten( he !se$ the %ace o%
a common harlot( an$ to *ortray the mi"hty Dame6$ra*e$ 4!$o( his
mo$el 'as a criminal release$ to $o chores in the +a"istrate1s oHce) I%
yo! trie$ to 'arn him that he 'as Dirtin" 'ith $an"er( he 'o!l$ res*on$
'ith %ei"ne$ innocence) CI'm the one 'ho *ainte$ them( a%ter all(1 he
'o!l$ say) 1Are yo! tryin" to tell me that my o'n B!$$has an$ "o$s are
"oin" to *!nish me2B Even his a**rentices 'ere shoce$ by this) I mysel%
ne' several o% them 'ho( %earin" %or their o'n *!nishment in the
a%terli%e( 'aste$ no time in leavin" his em*loy) The man1s arro"ance
sim*ly ne' no bo!n$s) &e 'as convince$ that he 'as the "reatest
h!man bein" !n$er heaven)
It "oes 'itho!t sayin" that Yoshihi$e lor$e$ it over the other
*ainters o% his time) Tr!e( his br!sh'or an$ colors 'ere !tterly $i>erent
%rom theirs( an$ so the many *ainters 'ith 'hom he 'as on ba$ terms
ten$e$ to s*ea o% him as a charlatan) They rha*so$i/e$ over the 'or o%
ol$ masters s!ch as Ka'anari or Kanaoa 7AOn moonlit ni"hts yo! co!l$
act!ally smell the *l!m blossoms *ainte$ on that 'oo$en $oor(1 or 1Yo!
co!l$ act!ally hear the co!rtier on that screen *layin" his D!te19( b!t all
they ha$ to say abo!t Yoshihi$e1s 'or 'as ho' eerie an$ !nsettlin" they
%o!n$ it) Tae his Five Levels of Rebirth on the Ry!"ai3i tem*le "ate( %or
e<am*le) 1When I *asse$ the "ate late at ni"ht(1 one sai$( AI co!l$ hear
the $yin" celestials si"hin" an$ sobbin")1 1That1s nothin"(1 another
claime$) AI co!l$ smell the Desh o% the $ea$ rottin")1 AAn$ ho' abo!t the
*ortraits o% the ho!sehol$1s la$ies6in6'aitin" that &is #or$shi* or$ere$
%rom Yoshihi$e2 Every sin"le 'oman he *ainte$ %ell ill an$ $ie$ 'ithin
three years) It 'as as i% he ha$ snatche$ their very so!ls %rom them)1
Accor$in" to one o% his harshest critics( this 'as the ?nal *roo% that
Yoshihi$e *ractice$ the ,evil1s Art)
B!t Yoshihi$e 'as so *erverse( as I1ve sai$( that remars lie this
only ?lle$ him 'ith *ri$e) When &is #or$shi* 3oe$ to him one time( 14or
yo!( it seems( the !"lier the better(1 ol$ Yoshihi$e1s %ar6too6re$ li*s s*rea$
in an eerie "rin an$ he re*lie$ im*erio!sly( 1Yes( +y #or$( it1s tr!e) Other
*ainters are s!ch me$iocrities( they cannot a**reciate the bea!ty o%
!"liness)1 I m!st say( 1Greatest ;ainter in the #an$1 or not( it 'as
incre$ible that he co!l$ s*o!t s!ch sel%6con"rat!latory nonsense in &is
#or$shi*1s *resence= No 'on$er his a**rentices calle$ him 0hira Ei3!
behin$ his bac= Yo! no'8 0hira Ei3!( the lon"6nose$ "oblin 'ho crosse$
over %rom 0hina lon" a"o to s*rea$ the sin o% arro"ance)
B!t still( even Yoshihi$e( in all his incre$ible *erversity - yes( even
Yoshihi$e $is*laye$ h!man ten$erness 'hen it came to one thin")
J
By this I mean that Yoshihi$e 'as tr!ly ma$ abo!t his only
$a!"hter( the yo!n" la$y6in6'aitin") The "irl 'as( as I sai$ be%ore( a
'on$er%!lly in$6hearte$ yo!n" creat!re $ee*ly $evote$ to her %ather(
an$ his love %or her 'as no less stron" than hers %or him) I "ather that he
*rovi$e$ %or her every nee$ - every robe( every hair ornament - 'itho!t
the sli"htest ob3ection) ,on1t yo! ?n$ this incre$ible %or a man 'ho ha$
never ma$e a sin"le contrib!tion to a tem*le2
Yoshihi$e1s love %or his $a!"hter( ho'ever( remaine$ 3!st that8
love) It never occ!rre$ to him that he sho!l$ be tryin" to ?n$ her a "oo$
h!sban$ some$ay) 4ar %rom it8 he 'as not above hirin" street th!"s to
beat !* anyone 'ho mi"ht mae im*ro*er a$vances to her) So even
'hen &is #or$shi* honore$ her 'ith the *osition o% 3!nior la$y6in6'aitin"
in his o'n ho!sehol$( Yoshihi$e 'as %ar %rom ha**y abo!t it( an$ %or a
'hile he al'ays 'ore a so!r e<*ression 'henever he 'as in &is
#or$shi*1s *resence) I have no $o!bt that *eo*le 'ho 'itnesse$ this
$is*lay 'ere the ones 'ho be"an s*ec!latin" that &is #or$shi* ha$ been
attracte$ to the "irl1s bea!ty 'hen he or$ere$ her into service $es*ite
her %ather1s ob3ections)
S!ch r!mors 'ere entirely %alse( o% co!rse) It 'as nothin" b!t
Yoshihi$e1s obsessive love %or his $a!"hter that e*t him 'ishin" to have
her ste* $o'n %rom service( that is certain) I remember the time &is
#or$shi* or$ere$ Yoshihi$e to $o a *aintin" o% +on3! as a chil$( an$
Yoshihi$e *lease$ him "reatly 'ith a marvelo!s 'or that !se$ one o% &is
#or$shi*1s o'n boy %avorites as a mo$el) AYo! can have anythin" yo!
'ant as yo!r re'ar$(1 sai$ &is #or$shi*) AAnythin" at all)1
Yoshihi$e sho!l$ have been a'estr!c to hear s!ch *raise %rom &is
#or$shi*1s o'n li*s( an$ he $i$ in %act *rostrate himsel% in thans be%ore
him( b!t can yo! ima"ine 'hat he ase$2 1I% it *leases Yo!r #or$shi*( I
be" yo! to ret!rn my $a!"hter to her %ormer lo'ly state)1 The im*!$ence
o% the man= This 'as no or$inary ho!sehol$( a%ter all) No matter ho'
m!ch he love$ his $a!"hter( to be" %or her release %rom service in
*rivile"e$ *ro<imity to the "reat #or$ o% &oria'a himsel% : 'here in the
'orl$ $oes one ?n$ s!ch a!$acity2 Not even a man as "ran$ly
ma"nanimo!s as &is #or$shi* co!l$ hel* %eelin" some small annoyance
at s!ch a re.!est( as 'as evi$ent %rom the 'ay he stare$ at Yoshihi$e %or
a 'hile in silence)
;resently he s*oe8 1That 'ill not ha**en(1 he sai$( all b!t s*ittin"
o!t the 'or$s( an$ he abr!*tly 'ith$re')
This 'as not the ?rst nor the last s!ch inci$ent8 I thin there mi"ht
have been %o!r or ?ve in all) An$ 'ith each re*etition( it seeme$ to me(
&is #or$shi* "a/e$ on Yoshihi$e 'ith increasin" col$ness) The "irl( %or her
*art( seeme$ to %ear %or her %ather1s 'el%are) O%ten she co!l$ be seen
sobbin" .!ietly to hersel% in her room( teeth clam*e$ on her sleeve) All
this only rein%orce$ the r!mor that &is #or$shi* 'as enamore$ o% the "irl)
;eo*le also sai$ that the comman$ to *aint the screen ha$ somethin" to
$o 'ith her re3ection o% &is #or$shi*1s a$vances( b!t that( o% co!rse( co!l$
not be so)
As I see it( it 'as entirely o!t o% *ity %or the "irl1s sit!ation that &is
#or$shi* re%!se$ to let her "o) I am certain he believe$( 'ith "reat
"enerosity( that she 'o!l$ be %ar better o> i% he 'ere to ee* her in his
mansion an$ enable her to live in com%ort than i% he sent her bac to her
har$hea$e$ ol$ %ather) That he 'as *artial to her( o% co!rse( there co!l$
be no $o!bt8 she 'as s!ch a s'eet6tem*ere$ yo!n" thin") B!t to assert
that he too his l!st%!l *leas!re 'ith her is a vie' that s*rin"s %rom
t'iste$ reasonin") No( I 'o!l$ have to call it a "ro!n$less %alsehoo$)
At any rate( o'in" to these matters re"ar$in" his $a!"hter( this
'as a *erio$ 'hen Yoshihi$e 'as in "reat $is%avor 'ith &is #or$shi*)
S!$$enly one $ay( %or 'hatever reason( &is #or$shi* s!mmone$
Yoshihi$e an$ or$ere$ him to *aint a %ol$in" screen *ortrayin" scenes
%rom the ei"ht B!$$hist hells)
K
Oh( that screen= I can almost see its terri%yin" ima"es o% hell be%ore
me no'=
Other artists *ainte$ 'hat they calle$ ima"es o% hell( b!t their
com*ositions 'ere nothin" lie Yoshihi$eBs) &e ha$ the Ten Kin"s o% &ell
an$ their minions over in one small corner( an$ everythin" else : the
entire screen : 'as envelo*e$ in a ?restorm so terrible yo! tho!"ht the
s'irlin" Dames 'ere "oin" to melt the +o!ntain o% Sabers an$ the 4orest
o% S'or$s) Asi$e %rom the va"!ely 0hinese cost!mes o% the L!$"es o% the
,ar( 'ith their s'atches o% yello' an$ in$i"o( all yo! sa' 'as the
searin" color o% Dames an$( $ancin" 'il$ly amon" them( blac smoe
clo!$s o% h!rle$ In$ia in an$ Dyin" s*ars o% blo'n6on "ol$ $!st)
These alone 'ere eno!"h to shoc an$ ama/e any vie'er( b!t the
sinners 'rithin" in the hell?re o% Yoshihi$e1s *o'er%!l br!sh ha$ nothin"
in common 'ith those to be seen in or$inary *ict!res o% hell) 4or
Yoshihi$e ha$ incl!$e$ sinners %rom all stations in li%e( %rom the most
brilliant l!minary o% &is +a3esty1s e<alte$ circle to the basest be""ar an$
o!tcast) A co!rtier in ma"ni?cent ceremonial vestments( a n!bile la$y6in
'aitin" in ?ve6layere$ robes( a rosary6cl!tchin" *riest intonin" the holy
name o% Ami$a( a sam!rai st!$ent on hi"h 'oo$en clo"s( an aristocratic
little "irl in a sim*le shi%t( a Yin6Yan" $iviner s'ishin" his *a*er 'an$
thro!"h the air8 I co!l$ never name them all) B!t there they 'ere( h!man
bein"s o% every in$( in!n$ate$ by smoe an$ Dame( tormente$ by
'ar$ens o% hell 'ith their hea$s o% b!lls an$ horses( an$ $riven in all
$irections lie a!t!mn leaves scatterin" be%ore a "reat 'in$) COh( loo at
that one(1 yo! 'o!l$ say( 1the one 'ith her hair all tan"le$ !* in a %ore$
lance an$ her arms an$ le"s $ra'n in ti"hter than a s*i$er1s8 co!l$ she
be one o% those shrine mai$ens 'ho *er%orm %or the "o$s2 An$( oh( that
%ello' there( han"in" !*si$e6$o'n lie a bat( his breast *ierce$ by a short
lance8 s!rely he is s!**ose$ to be a "reenhorn *rovincial "overnor)1 An$
the in$s o% tort!re 'ere as n!mberless as the sinners themselves 6
Da""in" 'ith an iron sco!r"e( cr!shin" !n$er a "i"antic roc( *ecin" by
a monstro!s bir$( "rin$in" in the 3a's o% a *oisono!s ser*ent ) ) )
B!t s!rely the sin"le most horri%yin" ima"e o% all 'as that o% a
carria"e *l!mmetin" thro!"h s*ace) As it %ell( it "ra/e$ the !**er bo!"hs
o% a s'or$ tree( 'here cl!m*s o% cor*ses 'ere se'ere$ on %an"6lie
branches) Blasts o% hell 'in$ s'e*t !* the carria"e c!rtains to reveal a
co!rt la$y so "or"eo!sly a**arele$ she mi"ht have been one o% &is
Im*erial +a3esty1s o'n 0onsorts or Intimates( her strai"ht blac hi*6
len"th hair Dyin" !*'ar$ in the Dames( the %!ll 'hiteness o% her throat
lai$ bare as she 'rithe$ in a"ony) Every $etail o% the 'oman1s %orm an$
the bla/in" carria"e ?lle$ the vie'er 'ith an a"oni/in" sense o% the
hi$eo!s torments to be %o!n$ in the &ell o% Searin" &eat) The sheer
horror o% the entire screen : mi"ht I say2 : seeme$ to be concentrate$
in this one ?"!re) It ha$ been e<ec!te$ 'ith s!ch ins*ire$ 'ormanshi*(
yo!1$ thin that all 'ho sa' it co!l$ hear the 'oman1s $rea$%!l screams)
Oh yes( this 'as it8 %or the sae o% *aintin" this one ima"e( the
terrible event occ!rre$) Other'ise( ho' co!l$ even the "reat Yoshihi$e
have *ainte$ hell1s torments so vivi$ly2 It 'as his cr!el %ate to lose his li%e
in e<chan"e %or com*letin" the screen) In a sense( the hell in his *aintin"
'as the hell into 'hich Yoshihi$e himsel%( the "reatest *ainter in the
realm( 'as $oome$ one $ay to %all)
I am a%rai$ that( in my haste to s*ea o% the screen 'ith its !n!s!al
ima"es o% hell( I may have reverse$ the or$er o% my story) No' let me
contin!e 'ith the *art abo!t Yoshihi$e 'hen he receive$ &is #or$shi*1s
comman$ to $o a *aintin" o% hell)
M
4or nearly si< months a%ter the commission( Yoshihi$e *o!re$ all
his ener"y into the screen( never once callin" at &is #or$shi*1s resi$ence)
,on1t yo! ?n$ it stran"e that s!ch a $otin" %ather sho!l$ aban$on all
tho!"ht o% seein" his $a!"hter once he ha$ starre$ on a *aintin"2
Accor$in" to the a**rentice I mentione$ earlier( Yoshihi$e al'ays
a**roache$ his 'or lie a man *ossesse$ by a %o< s*irit) In %act( *eo*le
!se$ to say that the only reason Yoshihi$e 'as able to mae s!ch a name
%or himsel% in art 'as that he ha$ *le$"e$ his so!l to one o% the "reat
"o$s o% %ort!ne5 'hat *rove$ it 'as that i% yo! *eee$ in on him 'hen he
'as *aintin"( yo! co!l$ al'ays see sha$o'y %o< s*irits s'armin" all
aro!n$ him) What this means( I s!s*ect( is that( once he *ice$ !* his
br!sh( Yoshihi$e tho!"ht o% nothin" else b!t com*letin" the *aintin"
be%ore him) &e 'o!l$ s*en$ all $ay an$ ni"ht sh!t !* in his st!$io o!t o%
si"ht) &is concentration seems to have been es*ecially intense 'hen he
'as 'orin" on this *artic!lar screen 'ith its ima"es o% hell)
This is not merely to say that he 'o!l$ ee* the lattice$ sh!tters
*!lle$ $o'n an$ s*en$ all $ay by the tri*o$ oil lam*( mi<in" secret
combinations o% *aint or *osin" his a**rentices in vario!s cost!mes %or
him to setch) No( that 'as normal behavior %or the 'orin" Yoshihi$e(
even be%ore this screen) Remember( this 'as the man 'ho( 'hen he 'as
*aintin" his Five Levels of Rebirth on the Ry!"ai3i tem*le "ate( 'ent o!t
s*ecially to ins*ect a cor*se lyin" on the roa$si$e : the in$ o% si"ht
%rom 'hich any or$inary *erson 'o!l$ recoil : an$ s*ent ho!rs sittin"
be%ore it( setchin" its rottin" %ace an$ limbs 'itho!t missin" a hair) I
$onBt blame yo!( then( i% yo! are amon" those 'ho cannot ima"ine 'hat I
mean 'hen I say that his concentration $!rin" his 'or on the hell screen
'as es*ecially intense) I haven1t time no' to e<*lain this in $etail( b!t I
can at least tell yo! the most im*ortant thin"s)
One $ay an a**rentice o% Yoshihi$e1s 7the one I1ve mentione$ a %e'
times alrea$y9 'as b!sy $issolvin" *i"ments 'hen the master s!$$enly
sai$ to him( AIBm *lannin" to tae a na* b!t( I $on1t no'( I1ve been
havin" ba$ $reams lately)1
There 'as nothin" stran"e abo!t this( so the a**rentice merely
ans'ere$( AI see( Sir(1 an$ contin!e$ 'ith his 'or)
Yoshihi$e( ho'ever( 'as not his !s!al sel%) Some'hat hesitantly(
an$ 'ith a $ole%!l loo on his %ace( he ma$e a s!r*risin" re.!est8 AI 'ant
yo! to sit an$ 'or besi$e me 'hile I slee*)1
The a**rentice tho!"ht it rather o$$ that his master sho!l$ be
'orryin" abo!t $reams( b!t it 'as a sim*le eno!"h re.!est an$ he
*rom*tly a"ree$ to it)
AAll ri"ht( then(1 Yoshihi$e sai$( still looin" 'orrie$( Ccome insi$e
ri"ht a'ay)1 &e hesitate$) An$ 'hen the other a**rentices arrive(1 he
a$$e$( 1$on1t let any o% them in 'here I am slee*in")1
AInsi$e1 meant the room 'here the master act!ally $i$ his *aintin"(
an$ as !s!al on this $ay( the a**rentice tol$ me( its $oors an$ 'in$o's
'ere sh!t as ti"htly as at ni"ht) In the $!ll "lo' o% an oil lam* stoo$ the
lar"e %ol$in" screen( its *anels arran"e$ in a semi6circle an$ still only
setche$ o!t in charcoal) Yoshihi$e lay $o'n 'ith his hea$ *illo'e$ on his
%orearm an$ sli**e$ into the $ee* slee* o% an !tterly e<ha!ste$ man)
&ar$ly any time ha$ "one by( ho'ever( 'hen the a**rentice be"an to
hear a so!n$ that he ha$ no 'ay o% $escribin") It 'as a voice( he tol$ me(
b!t a stran"e an$ eerie one)
N
At ?rst( it 'as 3!st a so!n$( b!t soon( in snatches( the voice be"an
to %orm 'or$s that came to him as i% %rom !n$er 'ater( lie the m!Oe$
cries o% a $ro'nin" man) CWha6a6a6t21 the voice sai$) AYo! 'ant me to
come 'ith yo!2 ) ) Where2 Where are yo! tain" me2 To hell( yo! say) To
the &ell o% Searin" &eat( yo! say) Who ) ) 'ho are yo!( $amn yo!2 Who
can yo! be b!t 61
The a**rentice( $issolvin" *i"ments( %elt his han$s sto* o% their
o'n accor$) &e *eere$ %ear%!lly thro!"h the "loom at his master1s %ace)
Not only ha$ the %!rro'e$ sin "one star 'hite( b!t %at bea$s o% s'eat
oo/e$ %rom it( an$ the $ry6li**e$( sna""le6toothe$ mo!th straine$ 'i$e
o*en as i% "as*in" %or breath) The yo!th sa' somethin" movin" in his
master1s mo!th 'ith $i//yin" s*ee$( lie an ob3ect bein" yane$ by a
cor$( b!t then 6 ima"ine= 6 he reali/e$ the thin" 'as Yoshihi$e1s ton"!e)
The %ra"mente$ s*eech ha$ been comin" %rom that ton"!e o% his)
CWho co!l$ it be b!t 6 you( $amn yo!) It is yo!= I tho!"ht so=
What1s that2 Yo!1ve come to sho' me the 'ay there2 Yo! 'ant me to
%ollo' yo!) To hell= +y $a!"hter is 'aitin" %or me in hell=1
The a**rentice tol$ me that an !ncanny %eelin" over came him at
that *oint - his eyes seeme$ to mae o!t va"!e( missha*en sha$o's that
sli$ over the s!r%ace o% the screen an$ Doo$e$ $o'n !*on the t'o o%
them) Nat!rally( he imme$iately reache$ over an$ shoo Yoshihi$e as
har$ as he co!l$5 b!t rather than 'ain"( the master( in a $reamlie
state( 'ent on talin" to himsel% an$ sho'e$ no si"n o% re"ainin"
conscio!sness) ,es*erate no'( the a**rentice "rabbe$ the 3ar %or
'ashin" br!shes an$ s*lashe$ all the 'ater into Yoshihi$e1s %ace)
CI1m 'aitin" %or yo!(1 Yoshihi$e 'as sayin"( 1so h!rry an$ "et into
the cart) 0ome alon" to hell=1 B!t the moment the 'ater hit him his 'or$s
t!rne$ to a stran"le$ moan) At last he o*ene$ his eyes( an$ he s*ran" !*
more 'il$ly than i% he ha$ been 3abbe$ 'ith a nee$le) B!t the missha*en
creat!res m!st have been 'ith him still( %or he stare$ into s*ace( 'ith
mo!th a"a*e an$ 'ith terri?e$ eyes) At len"th he ret!rne$ to himsel%
an$( 'itho!t a hint o% "ratit!$e( bare$ at the *oor a**rentice( AI1m all
ri"ht no' Get o!t o% here)1
The a**rentice ne' he 'o!l$ be scol$e$ i% he resiste$ his master
at a time lie this( so he h!rrie$ o!t o% the room( b!t he tol$ me that
'hen he sa' the s!nli"ht a"ain he %elt as relieve$ as i% he 'ere 'ain"
%rom his o'n ni"htmare)
This 'as by no means Yoshihi$e at his 'orst( ho'ever) A month
later he calle$ yet another a**rentice into the inner room) The yo!n"
man %o!n$ Yoshihi$e stan$in" in the "loom o% the oil lam*s bitin" the en$
o% his *aintbr!sh) Witho!t a moment1s hesitation( Yoshihi$e t!rne$ to him
an$ sai$( 1Sorry( b!t I nee$ yo! nae$ a"ain)1 The master ha$ or$ere$
s!ch thin"s in the *ast( so the a**rentice .!icly stri**e$ o> his clothes(
b!t no' Yoshihi$e sai$ 'ith a stran"e sco'l( AI 'ant to see a *erson in
chains( so $o 'hat I tell yo!) Sorry abo!t this( b!t it 'ill 3!st tae a little
'hile)1 Yoshihi$e co!l$ mo!th a*olo"etic *hrases( b!t he iss!e$ his col$
comman$s 'itho!t the least sho' o% sym*athy) This *artic!lar a**rentice
'as a 'ell6b!ilt la$ 'ho looe$ more s!ite$ to 'iel$in" a s'or$ than a
*aintbr!sh( b!t even he m!st have been shoce$ by 'hat ha**ene$) AI
?"!re$ the +aster ha$ "one cra/y an$ 'as "oin" to ill me(1 he tol$
*eo*le a"ain an$ a"ain lon" a%ter'ar$) Yoshihi$e 'as a**arently
annoye$ by the yo!n" man1s slo' *re*arations) Instea$ o% 'aitin"( he
$ra""e$ o!t a narro' iron chain %rom heaven no's 'here an$ all b!t
*o!nce$ on the a**rentice1s bac( 'renchin" the man1s arms behin$ him
an$ 'in$in" him in the chain) Then he "ave the en$ o% the chain a cr!el
yan an$ sent the yo!n" man crashin" $o'n on the Door)
P
The a**rentice lay there lie 6 'hat2 - lie a e" o% sae that
someone ha$ noce$ over) #e"s an$ arms mercilessly contorte$( he
co!l$ move only his hea$) An$ 'ith the chain c!ttin" o> the circ!lation o%
his bloo$( yo! no'( his sin s'elle$ re$ - %ace( torso( every'here)
Yoshihi$e( tho!"h( 'as a**arently not the least bit concerne$ to see him
lie this5 he circle$ this sae6e" o% a bo$y( observin" it %rom every an"le
an$ $ra'in" setch a%ter setch) I am certain that( 'itho!t my s*ellin" it
o!t( yo! can ima"ine 'hat tort!re this m!st have been %or the *oor
a**rentice)
I% nothin" ha$ interr!*te$ it( the yo!n" man1s or$eal 'o!l$ almost
s!rely have laste$ even lon"er( b!t %ort!nately 7or *erha*s !n%ort!nately9
a narro'( 'in$in" strea lie blac oil be"an to Do' %rom behin$ a lar"e
3ar in the corner o% the room) At ?rst it move$ slo'ly( lie a thic li.!i$(
b!t then it be"an to sli$e alon" the Door more smoothly( "lintin" in the
$arness !ntil it 'as almost to!chin" the a**rentice1s nose) &e too a
"oo$ loo at it( "as*e$ an$ screame$( AA snae= A snae1 The 'ay he
$escribe$ the moment to me( he %elt as i% every $ro* o% bloo$ in his bo$y
'o!l$ %ree/e( 'hich I can 'ell !n$erstan$( %or in %act the snae1s col$
ton"!e 'as 3!st abo!t to to!ch the Desh o% his nec 'here the chain 'as
bitin") Even Yoshihi$e( %or all his *erversity( m!st have %elt a r!sh o%
horror at this !n%oreseeable occ!rrence) 4lin"in" his br!sh $o'n( he bent
an$ "ri**e$ the snae by the tail( $an"lin" it !*si$e6$o'n) The snae
raise$ its hea$ an$ be"an to coil !*'ar$ aro!n$ its o'n bo$y( b!t it co!l$
not reach Yoshihi$e1s han$)
CYo! cost me a "oo$ br!sh stroe( $amn yo!(1 he "ro'le$ at the
snae( Din"in" it into the 3ar in the corner) Then( 'ith obvio!s rel!ctance(
he loosene$ the chains that bo!n$ the a**rentice1s bo$y) In %act(
loosenin" the chains 'as as %ar as he 'as 'illin" to "o8 %or the yo!th
himsel% he s*are$ not a 'or$ o% sym*athy) I s!s*ect he 'as more
enra"e$ at havin" botche$ a sin"le br!sh stroe than concerne$ that his
a**rentice mi"ht have been bitten by a snae) I hear$ a%ter'ar$ that he
ha$ been ee*in" the snae to setch %rom)
I ima"ine that 'hat little yo! have hear$ is eno!"h %or yo! to "ras*
the %anatic intensity 'ith 'hich Yoshihi$e a**roache$ his 'or) B!t let
me "ive yo! one last terrible e<am*le concernin" a yo!n" a**rentice -
no more than thirteen or %o!rteen - 'ho co!l$ have lost his li%e %or the
hell screen) It ha**ene$ one ni"ht 'hen the boy( 'hose sin 'as %air as a
"irl1s( 'as calle$ into the master1s st!$io) There he %o!n$ Yoshihi$e by the
tri*o$ lam* balancin" a *iece o% ra' meat on his *alm an$ %ee$in" it to a
bir$ the lies o% 'hich he ha$ never seen be%ore) The bir$ 'as the si/e o%
a cat( an$ in %act( 'ith its t'o %eather t!%ts sticin" o!t %rom its hea$ lie
ears an$ its bi"( ro!n$ amber6colore$ eyes( it $i$ loo very m!ch lie a
cat)
1Q
Yoshihi$e 'as a man 'ho sim*ly hate$ to have anyone *ry into his
b!siness( an$ : the snae I tol$ yo! abo!t 'as one s!ch case : he
'o!l$ never let his a**rentices no' 'hat in$s o% thin"s he ha$ in his
st!$io) ,e*en$in" on the s!b3ect he ha**ene$ to be *aintin" at the time(
he mi"ht have a h!man s!ll *erche$ on his table( or ro's o% silver bo'ls
an$ "ol$6lac.!ere$ stan$s : yo! never ne' An$ his hel*ers tol$ me
they ha$ no i$ea 'here he e*t s!ch thin"s 'hen he 'as not !sin" them)
This 'as s!rely one reason %or the r!mor that Yoshihi$e 'as the
bene?ciary o% mirac!lo!s ai$ %rom a "o$ o% %ort!ne)
Well then( the yo!n" a**rentice( ass!min" %or himsel% that the
stran"e bir$ on the table 'as a mo$el Yoshihi$e nee$e$ %or the hell
screen( nelt be%ore the *ainter an$ ase$ in all h!mility( 1&o' can I hel*
yo!( +aster21
Almost as i% he ha$ not hear$ the boy s*ea( Yoshihi$e lice$ his
re$ li*s an$ 3ere$ his chin to'ar$ the bir$) 1Not ba$( eh2 #oo ho' tame
it is)1
C;lease tell me( +aster( 'hat is it2 I have never seen anythin" lie
it be%ore(1 the boy sai$( ee*in" his 'ary "a/e ?<e$ on the cat6lie bir$
'ith ears)
CWhat2 Never seen anythin" lie it2 Yoshihi$e res*on$e$ 'ith his
%amiliar scorn%!l la!"h) 1That1s 'hat yo! "et %or "ro'in" !* in the 0a*ital=
It1s a bir$) A horne$ o'l) A h!nter bro!"ht it to me a %e' $ays a"o %rom
+o!nt K!rama) Only( yo! $on1t !s!ally ?n$ them so tame)1
As he s*oe( Yoshihi$e slo'ly raise$ his han$ an$ "ave a so%t
!*'ar$ stroe to the %eathers o% the o'l1s bac 3!st as the bir$ ?nishe$
s'allo'in" the ch!n o% meat) Instantly the bir$ emitte$ a shrie an$
lea*e$ %rom the table to*( aimin" its o!tstretche$ talons at the
a**rentice1s %ace) &a$ the boy not shot his arm o!t to *rotect himsel%( I
have no $o!bt that he 'o!l$ have en$e$ !* 'ith more than a "ash or
t'o on his %ace) &e crie$ o!t an$ shoo his sleeve in an attem*t to s'ee*
the bir$ a'ay( 'hich only a$$e$ to the %!ry o% the attac) Bea clatterin"(
the o'l l!n"e$ at him a"ain) ,isre"ar$in" Yoshihi$e1s *resence( the
a**rentice ran 'il$ly aro!n$ the cram*e$ room( no' stan$in" to $e%en$
himsel%( no' cro!chin" to $rive the bir$ a'ay) The monster( o% co!rse(
st!c 'ith him( Dyin" !* 'hen he stoo$ !* an$ $o'n 'hen he cro!che$
$o'n( an$ !sin" any o*enin" to "o strai"ht %or his eyes) With each l!n"e
came a tremen$o!s Da**in" o% 'in"s that ?lle$ the boy 'ith $rea$) &e
%elt so lost( he sai$ later( that the %amiliar st!$io %elt lie a ha!nte$ valley
$ee* in the mo!ntains( 'ith the smell o% rottin" leaves( the s*ray o% a
'ater%all( the so!r %!mes o% %r!it stashe$ a'ay by a money5 even the
$im "lo' o% the master1s oil lam* on its tri*o$ looe$ to him lie misty
moonli"ht in the hills)
Bein" attace$ by the o'l( ho'ever( 'as not 'hat most %ri"htene$
the la$) What really ma$e his Desh cra'l 'as the 'ay the master
Yoshihi$e %ollo'e$ the commotion 'ith his col$ stare( tain" his time to
s*rea$ o!t a *iece o% *a*er( lic his br!sh( an$ then set abo!t ca*t!rin"
the terrible ima"e o% a $elicate boy bein" tormente$ by a hi$eo!s bir$) At
the si"ht( the a**rentice 'as overcome by an ine<*ressible terror) 4or a
time( he says( he even tho!"ht his master mi"ht ill him)
11
An$ yo! act!ally co!l$n1t say that s!ch a thin" 'as o!t o% the
.!estion) 4or it $i$ seem that Yoshihi$e3s sole *!r*ose in callin" the
a**rentice to his st!$io that ni"ht ha$ been to set the o'l on him an$
$ra' him tryin" to esca*e) Th!s( 'hen the a**rentice ca!"ht that
"lim*se o% his master at 'or( he %elt his arms come !* to *rotect his
hea$ an$ hear$ an incoherent scream esca*e his throat as he sl!m*e$
$o'n a"ainst the sli$in" $oor in the corner o% the room) In that same
instant Yoshihi$e himsel% crie$ o!t an$ 3!m*e$ to his %eet( 'here!*on the
beatin" o% the o'l1s 'in"s "re' %aster an$ lo!$er an$ there came the
clatter o% somethin" %allin" over an$ a tearin" so!n$) &avin" covere$ his
hea$ in terror( the a**rentice no' raise$ it a"ain to ?n$ that the room
ha$ "one *itch $ar( an$ he hear$ Yoshihi$e1s an"ry voice callin" to the
other a**rentices)
Event!ally there 'as a %ar6o> cry in res*onse( an$ soon an
a**rentice r!she$ in 'ith a lantern hel$ hi"h) In its sooty6smellin" "lo'(
the boy sa' the tri*o$ colla*se$ on the Door an$ the mats an$ *lanin"
soae$ in the oil o% the overt!rne$ lam*) &e sa' the o'l( too( beatin" one
'in" in a**arent *ain as it Do**e$ aro!n$ the room) On the %ar si$e o%
the table( looin" st!nne$( Yoshihi$e 'as raisin" himsel% %rom the Door
an$ m!tterin" somethin" incom*rehensible) An$ no 'on$er= That blac
snae 'as ti"htly coile$ aro!n$ the o'l %rom nec to tail an$ over one
'in") The a**rentice ha$ *robably noce$ the 3ar over as he sl!m*e$ to
the Door( an$ 'hen the snae cra'le$ o!t( the o'l m!st have ma$e the
mistae o% tryin" to "rab it in its talons( only to "ive rise to this str!""le)
The t'o a**rentices "a*e$ at the bi/arre scene an$ at each other !ntil(
'ith a silent bo' to the master( they sli**e$ o!t o% the room) What
ha**ene$ to the o'l an$ snae a%ter that( no one no's)
This 'as by no means the only s!ch inci$ent) I %or"ot to mention
that it 'as the be"innin" o% a!t!mn 'hen &is #or$shi* comman$e$
Yoshihi$e to *aint the hell screen5 %rom then !ntil the en$ o% 'inter the
a**rentices 'ere contin!ally s!b3ecte$ to their master1s %ri"htenin"
behavior) At that *oint( ho'ever( somethin" seeme$ to inter%ere 'ith
Yoshihi$e1s 'or on the screen) An even $ee*er layer o% "loom came to
settle over him( an$ he s*oe to his assistants in mare$ly harsher tones)
The screen 'as *erha*s ei"ht6tenths ?nishe$( b!t it sho'e$ no %!rther
si"ns o% *ro"ress) In$ee$( Yoshihi$e occasionally seeme$ to be on the
ver"e o% *aintin" over those *arts that he ha$ alrea$y com*lete$)
No one ne' 'hat he 'as ?n$in" so $iHc!lt abo!t the screen( an$
'hat1s more( no one trie$ to ?n$ o!t) St!n" by those earlier inci$ents( his
a**rentices %elt as i% they 'ere loce$ in a ca"e 'ith a ti"er or a 'ol%( an$
they %o!n$ 'ays to ee* their $istance %rom the master)
1@
4or that reason( I have little to tell yo! abo!t that *erio$) The only
!n!s!al thin" I can thin o% is that the har$ hea$e$ ol$ co$"er s!$$enly
t!rne$ 'ee*y5 *eo*le 'o!l$ o%ten see him she$$in" tears 'hen he 'as
alone) An a**rentice tol$ me that one $ay he 'ale$ into the "ar$en an$
sa' the master stan$in" on the veran$a( "a/in" blanly at the sy 'ith
its *romise o% s*rin"( his eyes %!ll o% tears) Embarrasse$ %or the ol$ man(
the a**rentice says( he silently 'ith$re' ,on1t yo! ?n$ it o$$ that this
arro"ant man( 'ho 'ent so %ar as to setch a cor*se on the roa$si$e %or
his Five Levels of Rebirth( 'o!l$ cry lie an in%ant 3!st beca!se the
*aintin" o% the screen 'asn1t "oin" as 'ell as he 'ante$ it to2
In any case( 'hile Yoshihi$e 'as ma$ly absorbe$ in his 'or on the
screen( his $a!"hter be"an to sho' increasin" si"ns o% melancholy( !ntil
the rest o% !s co!l$ see that she 'as o%ten ?"htin" bac her tears) A *ale(
reserve$( sa$6%ace$ "irl to be"in 'ith( she too on a "en!inely mo!rn%!l
as*ect as her lashes "re' heavy an$ sha$o's be"an to %orm aro!n$ her
eyes) This "ave rise to all sorts o% s*ec!lation - that she 'as 'orrie$
abo!t her %ather( or that she 'as s!>erin" the *an"s o% love 6 b!t soon
*eo*le 'ere sayin" that it 'as all beca!se &is #or$shi* 'as tryin" to
ben$ her to his 'ill) Then the "ossi*in" "ro!n$ to a halt( as tho!"h
everyone ha$ s!$$enly %or"otten abo!t her)
A certain event occ!rre$ at that time) Well a%ter the ?rst 'atch o%
the ni"ht( I 'as 'alin" $o'n an o!t$oor corri$or 'hen the money
Yoshihi$e came Dyin" at me %rom o!t o% no'here an$ starte$ t!""in" at
my tro!ser sirts) As I recall it( this 'as one o% those 'arm early s*rin"
ni"hts 'hen yo! e<*ect at any time no' to be catchin" the romantic
%ra"rance o% *l!m blossoms in the *ale moonli"ht) B!t 'hat $i$ I see in
the moon1s %aint "lo'2 It 'as the money barin" its 'hite %an"s( 'rinlin"
!* its nose( an$ shriein" 'ith almost manic intensity) An eerie chill 'as
only three *arts o% 'hat I %elt8 the other seven *arts 'ere an"er at havin"
my ne' tro!sers yane$ at lie that( an$ i consi$ere$ icin" the beast
asi$e an$ contin!in" on my 'ay) I .!icly chan"e$ my min$( ho'ever(
recallin" the case o% the sam!rai 'ho ha$ earne$ the Yo!n" +aster1s
$is*leas!re by tormentin" the money) An$ besi$es( the 'ay the money
'as behavin"( there 'as obvio!sly somethin" 'ron") I there%ore "ave !*
tryin" to resist an$ allo'e$ mysel% to be *!lle$ several *aces %arther)
Where the corri$or t!rne$ a corner( the *ale s!r%ace o% &is
#or$shi*1s *on$ co!l$ be seen stretchin" o> thro!"h the $arness beyon$
a "ently $roo*in" *ine) When the animal le$ me to that *oint( my ears
'ere assa!lte$ by the %rantic yet stran"ely m!Oe$ so!n$s o% 'hat I too
to be a str!""le in a nearby room) All else 'as h!she$) I hear$ no voices(
no so!n$s b!t the s*lash o% a ?sh lea*in" in the min"le$ moonli"ht an$
%o") The so!n$ o% the str!""le bro!"ht me !* short) I% this 'as an
intr!$er( I resolve$( I 'o!l$ teach him a lesson( an$( hol$in" my breath( I
e$"e$ closer to the sli$in" $oor)
1G
+y a**roach( ho'ever( 'as obvio!sly too slo' an$ ca!tio!s %or the
money) Yoshihi$e scam*ere$ aro!n$ me in circles 6 once( t'ice( three
times 6 then bo!n$e$ !* to my sho!l$er 'ith a stran"le$ cry)
Instinctively( I 3ere$ my hea$ asi$e to avoi$ bein" scratche$) The
money $!" its cla's into my sleeve to ee* %rom sli**in" $o'n) This
sent me sta""erin"( an$ I st!mble$ bac'ar$( slammin" a"ainst the
$oor) No' I co!l$ no lon"er hesitate) I shot the $oor o*en an$ cro!che$
to s*rin" in beyon$ the moonli"ht1s e$"e) At that very moment
somethin" rose !* to bloc my vie') With a start I reali/e$ it 'as a
'oman) She De' to'ar$ me as i% someone ha$ D!n" her o!t o% the room)
She nearly hit me b!t instea$ she t!mble$ %or'ar$ an$ 6 'hy( I co!l$ not
tell 6 'ent $o'n on one nee be%ore me( tremblin" an$ breathless( an$
starin" !* at me as i% at some terri%yin" si"ht)
I am s!re I nee$ not tell yo! it 'as Yoshihi$e1s $a!"hter) That
ni"ht( ho'ever( my eyes behel$ her 'ith a ne' vivi$ness( as tho!"h she
'ere an !tterly $i>erent *erson) &er eyes 'ere h!"e an$ shinin") An$
her chees seeme$ to be b!rnin" re$) &er $ishevele$ clothes "ave her an
erotic all!re that contraste$ shar*ly 'ith her !s!al chil$ish innocence)
0o!l$ this act!ally be the $a!"hter o% Yoshihi$e2 I 'on$ere$ : that %rail6
looin" "irl so mo$est an$ sel%6e>acin" in all thin"s2 #eanin" a"ainst the
sli$in" 'oo$en $oor( I stare$ at this bea!ti%!l "irl in the moonli"ht an$
then( as i% they 'ere ca*able o% *ointin"( I Dice$ my eyes to'ar$ the
h!rrie$ %ootste*s rece$in" into the $istance to as her so!n$lessly( Who
was that2
The "irl bit her li* an$ shoo her hea$ in silence) I co!l$ see she
%elt $ee*ly morti?e$)
I bent over her an$( s*eain" so%tly ne<t to her ear( no' *!t my
.!estion into 'or$s8 1Who 'as that21 B!t a"ain she re%!se$ to ans'er an$
'o!l$ only shae her hea$) In$ee$( she bit her li* har$er than ever as
tears "athere$ on her lon" lashes)
Born st!*i$( I can never !n$erstan$ anythin" that isn1t *er%ectly
obvio!s( an$ so I ha$ no i$ea 'hat to say to her) I co!l$ $o nothin" b!t
stan$ there( %eelin" as i% my only *!r*ose 'as to listen to the 'il$ beatin"
o% her heart) O% co!rse( one thin" that e*t me silent 'as the conviction
that it 'o!l$ be 'ron" o% me to .!estion her any %!rther)
&o' lon" this 'ent on( I $o not no'( b!t event!ally I sli$ sh!t the
$oor an$ "ently tol$ the "irl( 1Go to yo!r room no')1 &er a"itation seeme$
to have s!bsi$e$ some'hat) Assaile$ by an !neasy %eelin" that I ha$
seen somethin" I 'as not meant to see( an$ a sense o% shame to'ar$
anyone an$ no one in *artic!lar( I be"an to *a$ my 'ay bac !* the
corri$or) I ha$ har$ly 'ale$ ten *aces( ho'ever( 'hen a"ain I %elt a t!" 6
a timi$ one : at the sirt o% my tro!sers) I 'hirle$ aro!n$( startle$( b!t
'hat $o yo! thin it 'as2
I looe$ $o'n to ?n$ the money Yoshihi$e *rostratin" himsel% at
my %eet( han$s on the Door lie a h!man bein"( bo'in" over an$ over in
thans( his "ol$en bell rin"in")
1I
;erha*s t'o 'ees 'ent by a%ter that) All o% a s!$$en( Yoshihi$e
arrive$ at the mansion to be" a *ersonal a!$ience 'ith &is #or$shi*) &e
*robably $are$ $o s!ch a thin" $es*ite his h!mble station beca!se he
ha$ lon" been in &is #or$shi*1s s*ecial %avor) &is #or$shi* rarely allo'e$
anyone to come into his *resence( b!t that $ay( as so o%ten be%ore( he
assente$ rea$ily to Yoshihi$e1s re.!est an$ ha$ him sho'n in 'itho!t a
moment1s $elay) The man 'ore his !s!al re$$ish6bro'n robe an$ tall
blac so%t hat) &is %ace reveale$ a ne' level o% s!llenness( b!t he 'ent
$o'n on all %o!rs be%ore &is #or$shi* an$ at len"th( eyes $o'n( he be"an
to s*ea in h!sy tones8
AI come into yo!r honore$ *resence this $ay( +y #or$( re"ar$in"
the screen bearin" ima"es o% hell 'hich &is #or$shi* or$ere$ me to *aint)
I have a**lie$ mysel% to it $ay an$ ni"ht : o!t$one mysel% : s!ch that
my e>orts have be"!n to bear %r!it( an$ it is lar"ely ?nishe$)1
CThis is e<cellent ne's) I am very *lease$)1
Even as &is #or$shi* s*oe these 'or$s( ho'ever( his voice
seeme$ o$$ly lacin" in *o'er an$ vitality)
CNo( +y #or$( I am a%rai$ the ne's is anythin" b!t e<cellent(1 sai$
Yoshihi$e( his eyes still %astene$ on the Door in a 'ay that hinte$ at
an"er) AThe 'or may be lar"ely ?nishe$( b!t there is still a *art that I am
!nable to *aint)1
1What2 Unable to *aint21
1In$ee$( sir) As a r!le( I can only *aint 'hat I have seen) Or even i% I
s!ccee$ in *aintin" somethin" !nno'n to me( I mysel% cannot be
satis?e$ 'ith it) This is the same as not bein" able to *aint it( $oes &is
#or$shi* not a"ree21
As &is #or$shi* listene$ to Yoshihi$e1s 'or$s( his %ace "ra$!ally
too on a mocin" smile)
CWhich 'o!l$ mean that i% yo! 'ante$ to *aint a screen $e*ictin"
hell( yo! 'o!l$ have to have seen hell itsel%)1
CE<actly( +y #or$) In the "reat ?re some years a"o( tho!"h( I sa'
Dames 'ith my o'n eyes that I co!l$ !se %or those o% the &ell o% Searin"
&eat) In %act( I s!ccee$e$ 'ith my Fudo of Twisting Flames only beca!se I
e<*erience$ that ?re) I believe +y #or$ is %amiliar 'ith the *aintin")1
CWhat abo!t sinners( tho!"h2 An$ hell 'ar$ens : yo! have never
seen those( have yo!21 &is #or$shi* challen"e$ Yoshihi$e 'ith one
.!estion a%ter another as tho!"h he ha$ not hear$ Yoshihi$e1s 'or$s)
AI have seen a *erson bo!n$ in iron chains(1 sai$ Yoshihi$e) AAn$ I
have $one a $etaile$ setch o% someone bein" tormente$ by a monstro!s
bir$) No( I thin it cannot be sai$ that I have never seen sinners bein"
tort!re$) An$ as %or hell 'ar$ens(1 sai$ Yoshihi$e( breain" into an eerie
smile( 1my eyes have behel$ them any n!mber o% times as I $ri%t bet'een
slee*in" an$ 'ain") The b!ll6hea$e$ ones( the horse6hea$e$ ones( the
three6%ace$( si<6arme$ $evils8 almost every ni"ht they come to tort!re
me 'ith their so!n$less cla**in" han$s( their voiceless "a*in" mo!ths)
No( they are not the ones I am havin" so m!ch $iHc!lty *aintin")B
I s!s*ect this shoce$ even &is #or$shi*) 4or a lon" 'hile he only
"lare$ at Yoshihi$e !ntil( 'ith an an"ry t'itch o% the bro'( he s*at o!t(
AAll ri"ht( then) What is it that yo! say yo! are !nable to *aint21
1J
AIn the center o% the screen( %allin" %rom the sy( I 'ant to *aint an
aristocrat1s carria"e( its cabin 'oven o% the ?nest s*lit *alm lea%)1 As he
s*oe( Yoshihi$e raise$ himsel% to loo $irectly at &is #or$shi* %or the ?rst
time : an$ 'ith a *enetratin" "a/e) I ha$ hear$ that Yoshihi$e co!l$ be
lie a ma$man 'here *aintin" 'as concerne$5 to me the loo in his eyes
at that moment 'as terri%yin" in that very 'ay)
AIn the carria"e( a vol!*t!o!s noble'oman 'rithes in a"ony( her
lon" blac hair tossin" in the %erocio!s Dames) &er %ace) ) ) 'ell( *erha*s
she contorts her bro's an$ casts her "a/e sy'ar$ to'ar$ the ceilin" o%
the cabin as she choes on the risin" clo!$s o% smoe) &er han$s mi"ht
tear at the cloth streamers o% the carria"e blin$s as she str!""les to 'ar$
o> the sho'er o% s*ars rainin" $o'n !*on her) Aro!n$ her s'arm ?erce(
carnivoro!s bir$s( *erha*s a $o/en or more( sna**in" their beas in
antici*ation : oh( +y #or$( it is this( this ima"e o% the noble'oman in the
carria"e( that I am !nable to *aint)1
CAn$ there%ore) ) ) 21
&is #or$shi* seeme$ to be $erivin" an o$$ sort o% *leas!re %rom
this as he !r"e$ Yoshihi$e to contin!e( b!t Yoshihi$e himsel%( re$ li*s
tremblin" as 'ith a %ever( co!l$ only re*eat( as i% in a $ream( 1This is 'hat
I am !nable to *aint)1
Then s!$$enly( all b!t bitin" into his o'n 'or$s( he crie$( AI be"
yo!( +y #or$8 have yo!r men set a carria"e on ?re) #et me 'atch the
Dames $evo!r its %rame an$ its 'oven cabin) An$( i% *ossible :1
A $ar clo!$ crosse$ &is #or$shi*1s %ace( b!t no sooner ha$ it
*asse$ than he broe into a lo!$ cacle) &e 'as still choin" 'ith
la!"hter 'hen he s*oe8 1F;ossibleR2 IBll $o 'hatever yo! 'ant) ,on1t
'aste time 'orryin" abo!t 'hat is R*ossible)RB
&is #or$shi*1s 'or$s ?lle$ me 'ith a terrible %orebo$in") An$ in %act
his a**earance at that moment 'as anythin" b!t or$inary White %oam
"athere$ at the corners o% his mo!th) &is eyebro's conv!lse$ into 3a""e$
bolts o% li"htnin") It 'as as i% &is #or$shi* himsel% ha$ become in%!se$
'ith Yoshihi$e1s ma$ness) An$ no sooner ha$ he ?nishe$ s*eain" than
la!"hter 6 en$less la!"hter : e<*lo$e$ %rom his throat once a"ain)
AIBll b!rn a carria"e %or yo!(1 he sai$) AAn$ I1ll have a vol!*t!o!s
'oman insi$e it( $resse$ in a noble'oman1s robes) She 'ill $ie 'rithin"
'ith a"ony in Dames an$ blac smoe) : I have to sal!te yo!( Yoshihi$e)
Who co!l$ have tho!"ht o% s!ch a thin" b!t the "reatest *ainter in the
lan$21
Yoshihi$e 'ent *ale 'hen he hear$ this( an$ %or a time the only
*art o% him that move$ 'as his li*s8 he seeme$ to be "as*in" %or breath)
Then( as tho!"h all the m!scles o% his bo$y ha$ "one lim* at once( he
cr!m*le$ %or'ar$ 'ith his han$s on the matte$ Door a"ain)
AA tho!san$ thans to yo!( +y #or$(1 Yoshihi$e sai$ 'ith rare
h!mility( his voice barely a!$ible) ;erha*s the %!ll horror o% his o'n *lan
ha$ come all too clear to him as he hear$ it s*elle$ o!t in &is #or$shi*1s
'or$s) Only this one time in my li%e $i$ I ever thin o% Yoshihi$e as a man
to be *itie$)
1K
T'o or three ni"hts later( &is #or$shi* s!mmone$ Yoshihi$e as
*romise$ to 'itness the b!rnin" o% the carria"e) &e hel$ the event not at
the &oria'a mansion( b!t o!tsi$e the 0a*ital( at his late yo!n"er sister1s
mo!ntain retreat( 'i$ely no'n as the 1;alace o% the +eltin" Sno's)1
No one ha$ live$ at this 1*alace1 %or a very lon" time) Its s*acio!s
"ar$ens ha$ "one 'il$( an$ the $esolate si"ht m!st have "iven rise to all
sorts o% r!mors( many abo!t &is #or$shi*1s sister( 'ho ha$ act!ally $ie$
there) ;eo*le !se$ to say that on moonless ni"hts &er #a$yshi*1s broa$6
sirte$ scarlet tro!sers 'o!l$ "li$e eerily alon" the o!t$oor corri$or(
never to!chin" the Door) An$ no 'on$er there 'ere s!ch stories= The
*alace 'as lonely eno!"h in the $aytime( b!t once the s!n set it became
$o'nri"ht !nnervin") The "ar$en stream 'o!l$ m!rm!r omino!sly in the
$arness( an$ herons 'o!l$ s'oo* in the starli"ht lie monstro!s
creat!res)
As it ha**ene$( the carria"e b!rnin" too *lace on one o% those
*itch6$ar( moonless ni"hts) Oil lam*s reveale$ &is #or$shi* seate$ in
cross6le""e$ ease on the veran$a) Beneath a t!r.!oise robe he 'ore
$ee*6laven$er *atterne$ tro!sers) On a thic ro!n$ mat e$"e$ in 'hite
broca$e( his *osition 'as o% co!rse elevate$ above the hal%6$o/en or so
atten$ants 'ho s!rro!n$e$ him) One amon" them a**eare$ most ea"er
to be o% service to &is #or$shi*( a b!rly sam!rai 'ho ha$ $istin"!ishe$
himsel% in the cam*ai"n a"ainst the northern barbarians some years
earlier) &e 'as sai$ to have s!rvive$ starvation by eatin" h!man Desh(
a%ter 'hich he ha$ the stren"th to tear o!t the antlers o% a livin" sta"
'ith his bare han$s) On this ni"ht he nelt in stern rea$iness belo' the
veran$a( in the scabbar$ at his armore$ 'aist a s'or$ ti**e$ !* an$
hac lie a "!ll1s tail( rea$y to be $ra'n at a moment1s notice) These men
*resente$ a stran"ely terri%yin"( almost $reamlie s*ectacle) The
lam*li"ht Dicerin" in the ni"ht 'in$ t!rne$ them all $ar one moment(
bri"ht the ne<t)
An$ then there 'as the carria"e itsel%) Even 'itho!t an o< attache$
to its lon" blac sha%ts( their en$s restin" on the !s!al lo' bench that
tilte$ the 'hole sli"htly %or'ar$( it stoo$ o!t a"ainst the ni"ht( its tall
cabin 'oven o% the ?nest s*lit *alm lea%( e<actly as Yoshihi$e ha$
re.!este$8 tr!ly( a conveyance 'orthy o% &is Im*erial +a3esty or the most
*o'er%!l ministers o% state) When I sa' its "ol$ ?ttin"s "leamin" lie
stars in the sy( an$ consi$ere$ 'hat 'as soon to ha**en to this lavishly
a**ointe$ vehicle( a shiver 'ent thro!"h me in s*ite o% the 'arm s*rin"
ni"ht) As %or 'hat mi"ht be insi$e the carria"e( there 'as no 'ay to tell8
its lovely blin$s( 'oven o% still6"reen bamboo an$ e$"e$ in *atterne$
cloth( ha$ been rolle$ $o'n ti"ht( an$ aro!n$ it alert looin" conscri*ts
stoo$ "!ar$( hol$in" Damin" torches an$ sho'in" their concern that too
m!ch smoe mi"ht be $ri%tin" to'ar$ &is #or$shi* on the veran$a)
Yoshihi$e himsel% 'as sit!ate$ at some remove( neelin" on the
"ro!n$ $irectly o**osite the veran$a) &e 'ore 'hat seeme$ to be his
!s!ally re$$ish6bro'n robe an$ tall blac so%t hat( an$ he looe$
es*ecially small an$ shabby( as tho!"h the star6?lle$ sy 'ere a 'ei"ht
*ressin" $o'n !*on him) Behin$ him nelt another *erson in an o!t?t lie
his - *robably an a**rentice he ha$ bro!"ht alon") With them cro!chin"
$o'n lo' in the $arness lie that( I co!l$ not mae o!t the color o% their
robes %rom my *lace belo' the veran$a)
1M
+i$ni"ht 'as a**roachin"( I believe) I %elt as i% the $arness
envelo*in" the "ar$en 'ere silently 'atchin" !s all breathin"( the only
so!n$ an occasional r!sh o% ni"ht 'in$( each "!st 'a%tin" to'ar$ !s the
resino!s smell %rom the *ine smoe o% the torches) &is #or$shi* remaine$
silent %or some moments( observin" the mysterio!s scene( b!t then(
e$"in" %or'ar$ 'here he sat( he crie$ shar*ly8
AYoshihi$e=B
Yoshihi$e may have sai$ some 'or$ in res*onse( b!t to my ears it
so!n$e$ lie nothin" so m!ch as a moan)
AToni"ht( Yoshihi$e( I am "oin" to b!rn a carria"e %or yo!( as yo!
re.!este$)B
When he sai$ this( &is #or$shi* "lance$ at the men aro!n$ him) I
tho!"ht I sa' a meanin"%!l smile *ass bet'een him an$ certain o% them)
O% co!rse( it co!l$ have been my ima"ination) No' Yoshihi$e seeme$ to
be timi$ly raisin" his hea$ an$ looin" !* to'ar$ the veran$a( b!t still he
'aite$( sayin" nothin")
AI 'ant yo! to loo at this(1 &is #or$shi* sai$) 1This is my carria"e(
the one I !se every $ay) Yo! no' it 'ell( I1m s!re) I 'ill no' have it set
a?re in or$er that yo! may see the &ell o% Searin" &eat here on earth
be%ore yo!r eyes)B
&is #or$shi* reverte$ to silence an$ his eyes Dashe$ another si"nal
to his men) Then( 'ith s!$$en vehemence( he crie$( 10haine$ insi$e the
carria"e is a sin%!l 'oman) When 'e set the carria"e a?re( her Desh 'ill
be roaste$( her bones 'ill be charre$8 she 'ill $ie an a"oni/in" $eath)
Never a"ain 'ill yo! have s!ch a *er%ect mo$el %or the screen) ,o not %ail
to 'atch as her sno'6'hite Desh er!*ts in Dames) See an$ remember her
lon" blac hair $ancin" in a 'hirl o% s*ars=1
&is #or$shi* san into silence %or yet a thir$ time( b!t : 'hatever
co!l$ have been in his min$2 : no' all he $i$ 'as la!"h so!n$lessly( his
sho!l$ers .!ain")
CNever a"ain 'ill there be a si"ht lie this( Yoshihi$e= I shall 3oin
yo! in observin" it) All ri"ht( men( raise the blin$) #et Yoshihi$e see the
'oman insi$e=1
On hearin" this comman$( one o% the conscri*ts( torch hel$ hi"h(
stro$e !* to the carria"e( stretche$ o!t his %ree han$( an$ 'hi**e$ the
blin$ !*) The torch cracle$ an$ Dicere$ an$ cast its re$ "leam insi$e)
On the carria"e1s matte$ Door( cr!elly chaine$( sat a 'oman 6 an$ oh(
'ho co!l$ have %aile$ to reco"ni/e her2 &er lon" blac hair Do'e$ in a
vol!*t!o!s ban$ across a "or"eo!s robe embroi$ere$ in cherry blossoms(
an$ the "ol$en hair*ins on to* o% her $o'ncast hea$ s*arle$ bea!ti%!lly
in the ?reli"ht) 4or all the $i>erences in cost!min"( there 'as no
mistain" that "irlish %rame( that "race%!l nec 7'here no' a "a" 'as
%astene$9( that to!chin"ly mo$est *ro?le8 they belon"e$ to none other
than Yoshihi$e1s $a!"hter) I co!l$ har$ly ee* %rom cryin" o!t)
L!st then the sam!rai neelin" across %rom me s*ran" to his %eet
an$( *ressin" threatenin"ly on his s'or$ hilt( "lare$ at Yoshihi$e) Startle$
by this s!$$en movement( I t!rne$ my "a/e to'ar$ Yoshihi$e) &e looe$
as i% this s*ectacle 'ere $rivin" him hal% ma$) Where he ha$ been
cro!chin" !ntil then( he 'as on his %eet no' an$ *oise$ : arms
o!tstretche$ : to r!n to'ar$ the carria"e) Un%ort!nately( tho!"h( as I
sai$ be%ore( he 'as in the sha$o's %ar a'ay %rom me( an$ so I $i$ not
have a clear vie' o% his %ace) +y %r!stration laste$ b!t a moment(
ho'ever) No'( $raine$ o% color tho!"h it 'as( Yoshihi$e1s %ace : or(
sho!l$ I say( Yoshihi$e1s entire %orm( raise$ alo%t by some invisible *o'er
: a**eare$ be%ore me 'ith s!ch clarity it seeme$ to have c!t its 'ay
thro!"h the s!rro!n$in" $arness) 4or s!$$enly &is #or$shi* ha$ crie$
1B!rn it=1( the conscri*ts D!n" their torches( an$ the carria"e( 'ith
Yoshihi$e1s $a!"hter insi$e( b!rst into Dame)
1N
The ?re en"!l%e$ the entire carria"e) The *!r*le roo% tassels ble'
asi$e( then clo!$s o% smoe s'irle$ alo%t( star 'hite a"ainst the
blacness o% the ni"ht( an$ ?nally a sho'er o% s*ars s*!rte$ !*'ar$
'ith s!ch terri%yin" %orce that in a sin"le instant the blin$s( the si$e
*anels( an$ the roo%1s metal ?ttin"s 'ere ri**e$ o> in the blast an$ sent
Dyin") Still more horrible 'as the color o% the Dames that lice$ the
lattice$ cabin vents be%ore shootin" sy'ar$( as tho!"h : mi"ht I say2 :
the s!n itsel% ha$ crashe$ to earth( s*e'in" its heavenly ?re in all
$irections) As close as I ha$ come to cryin" o!t be%ore( no' I co!l$ only
"a*e in m!te a'e at the horri%yin" s*ectacle)
B!t 'hat o% the "irl1s %ather2
I 'ill never %or"et the loo on Yoshihi$e1s %ace at that moment) &e
ha$ starte$ to'ar$ the carria"e on im*!lse b!t halte$ 'hen the Dames
Dare$ !*) &e then stoo$ there 'ith arms o!tstretche$( eyes $evo!rin"
the smoe an$ Dames that envelo*e$ the carria"e) In the ?reli"ht that
bathe$ him %rom hea$ to toe( I co!l$ see every %eat!re o% his !"ly(
'rinle$ %ace) &is 'i$e6starin" eyes( his contorte$ li*s( the t'itchin" Desh
o% his chees8 all $re' a vivi$ *ict!re o% the shoc( the terror( an$ the
sorro' that traverse$ Yoshihi$e1s heart by t!rns) S!ch an"!ish( I s!s*ect(
'o!l$ not be seen even on the %ace o% a convicte$ thie% abo!t to have his
hea$ c!t o> or the "!iltiest sinner abo!t to %ace the 3!$"ment o% the Ten
Kin"s o% &ell) Even the *o'er%!l sam!rai 'ent *ale at the si"ht an$ stole
a %ear%!l "lance at &is #or$shi* above him)
B!t 'hat o% &is #or$shi* himsel%2 Bitin" his li* an$ smilin"
stran"ely no' an$ then( he stare$ strai"ht ahea$( never tain" his eyes
o> the carria"e) An$ the "irl in the carria"e 6 ah( I $on1t thin I have the
co!ra"e to $escribe in $etail 'hat she looe$ lie then) The *ale
'hiteness o% her !*t!rne$ %ace as she choe$ on the smoe5 the tan"le$
len"th o% her hair as she trie$ to shae the Dames %rom it5 the bea!ty o%
her cherry6blossom robe as it b!rst into Dame8 it 'as all so cr!el( so
terrible= Es*ecially at one *oint 'hen the ni"ht 'in$ r!she$ $o'n %rom
the mo!ntain to s'ee* a'ay the smoe8 the si"ht o% her a"ainst a
Damin" bac"ro!n$ o% re$ Dece$ 'ith "ol$ $!st( "na'in" at her "a"(
'rithin" as i% to sna* the chains that bo!n$ her8 it 'as eno!"h to mae
o!r Desh cree*( not only mine b!t the *o'er%!l sam!rai1s as 'ell : as i%
the tort!res o% hell 'ere bein" *ict!re$ ri"ht there be%ore o!r eyes)
L!st then the ni"ht 'in$ "!ste$ once more( r!stlin" the branches o%
the "ar$en1s trees : or so it seeme$ to me an$( I am s!re( to everyone
else) S!ch a so!n$ seeme$ to race thro!"h the $ar sy( an$ in that
instant some blac thin" shot %rom the *alace roo% into the bla/in"
carria"e) It travele$ in a *er%ectly strai"ht line lie a ball that has been
ice$( neither to!chin" the earth nor arcin" thro!"h s*ace) An$ as the
carria"e1s b!rnin" si$e lattices colla*se$ in'ar$( "lo'in" as i% coate$ in
crimson lac.!er( the thin" "ras*e$ the "irl1s strainin" sho!l$ers an$
h!rle$ a lon"( *iercin"( an$ ine<*ressibly an"!ishe$ scream o!t beyon$
the billo'in" smoe) Another scream %ollo'e$( an$ then a thir$( !ntil 'e
all %o!n$ o!rselves cryin" o!t 'ith it) 4or tho!"h it ha$ been le%t tethere$
bac at the &oria'a mansion( 'hat 'e sa' no' clin"in" to the "irl1s
sho!l$ers a"ainst a Damin" bac$ro* 'as the money Yoshihi$e)
1P
We co!l$ see the money %or only the brie%est moment( tho!"h) A
%o!ntain o% s*ars shot !* to the sy lie "ol$ $!st in blac lac.!er( an$
then not only the money b!t the "irl( too( 'as shro!$e$ in blac smoe)
No' in the mi$$le o% the "ar$en there 'as only a carria"e o% ?re seethin"
in Dames 'ith a terrible roar) No : 1*illar o% ?re1 mi"ht better $escribe
this horri?c conDa"ration boilin" !* to the starry heavens)
B!t oh( ho' stran"e it 'as to see the *ainter no'( stan$in"
absol!tely ri"i$ be%ore the *illar o% ?re= Yoshihi$e : 'ho only a %e'
moments earlier ha$ seeme$ to be s!>erin" the torments o% hell : stoo$
there 'ith his arms loce$ across his chest as i% he ha$ %or"otten even
the *resence o% &is #or$shi*( his 'hole 'rinle$ %ace s!>!se$ no' 'ith
an ine<*ressible ra$iance : the ra$iance o% reli"io!s ecstasy) I co!l$
have s'orn that the man1s eyes 'ere no lon"er 'atchin" his $a!"hter
$yin" in a"ony( that instea$ the "or"eo!s colors o% Dames an$ the si"ht
o% a 'oman s!>erin" in them 'ere "ivin" him 3oy beyon$ meas!re)
The most 'on$ro!s thin" 'as not that he 'atche$ his only
$a!"hter1s $eath throes 'ith a**arent 3oy( b!t rather that Yoshihi$e at
that moment *ossesse$ a stran"e( inh!man ma3esty that resemble$ the
ra"e o% the Kin" o% Beasts himsel% as yo! mi"ht see him in a $ream) 4or
this reason : altho!"h I mi"ht have been ima"inin" it : the co!ntless
ni"ht bir$s that De' aro!n$ !s s.!a'in" in alarm at each ne' er!*tion
o% Dames seeme$ to ee* their $istance %rom Yoshibi$e1s tall blac hat)
;erha*s even these insentient bir$s co!l$ see the mysterio!s "ran$e!r
that h!n" above Yoshihi$e lie a ra$iant a!ra)
I% the bir$s co!l$ see it( ho' m!ch more so the rest o% !s( $o'n to
the lo'ly conscri*ts) Tremblin" in'ar$ly( scarcely breathin"( an$ ?lle$
'ith a bi/arre sense o% a$oration( 'e e*t o!r eyes %astene$ on Yoshihi$e
as i% 'e 'ere *resent at the $ecisive moment 'hen a l!m* o% stone or
'oo$ becomes a holy ima"e o% the B!$$ha) The carria"e Dames that
?lle$ the heavens 'ith a roar5 Yoshihi$e !n$er the s*ell o% the Dames(
trans?<e$8 'hat s!blimity= 'hat ra*t!re= B!t amon" !s only one( &is
#or$shi*( looe$ on as i% trans%orme$ into another *erson( his noble
co!ntenance $raine$ o% color( the corners o% his mo!th Dece$ 'ith %oam(
han$s cl!tchin" his nees thro!"h his laven$er tro!sers as he *ante$ lie
a beast in nee$ o% 'ater) ) )
@Q
Wor$ soon s*rea$ that &is #or$shi* ha$ b!rne$ the carria"e that
ni"ht in the ;alace o% the +eltin" Sno's( an$ there seem to have been
many 'ho 'ere hi"hly critical o% the event) 4irst o% all came the .!estion
o% Yoshihi$e1s $a!"hter8 'hy ha$ &is #or$shi* chosen to b!rn her alive2
The r!mor most o%ten hear$ 'as that he ha$ $one it o!t o% s*ite %or her
re3ection o% his love) I am certain( ho'ever( that he $i$ it to *!nish the
t'iste$ *ersonality o% an artist 'ho 'o!l$ "o so %ar as to b!rn a carria"e
an$ ill a h!man bein" to com*lete the *aintin" o% a screen) In %act( I
overhear$ &is #or$shi* sayin" as m!ch himsel%)
An$ then there 'as Yoshihi$e( 'hose stony heart 'as also
a**arently the to*ic o% m!ch ne"ative commentary) &o'( a%ter seein" his
o'n $a!"hter b!rne$ alive( co!l$ he 'ant to ?nish the screen *aintin"2
Some c!rse$ him as a beast in h!man "!ise 'ho ha$ %or"otten a %ather1s
love %or the sae o% a *ict!re) One 'ho allie$ himsel% 'ith this o*inion 'as
&is Reverence the Abbot o% Yoa'a( 'ho al'ays !se$ to say( 1E<cel in his
art tho!"h he mi"ht( i% a man $oes not no' the 4ive Sirt!es( he can only
en$ !* in hell)1
A month 'ent by( an$ the screen 'ith its ima"es o% hell 'as
?nishe$ at last) Yoshihi$e bro!"ht it to the mansion that very $ay an$
h!mbly *resente$ it %or &is #or$shi*1s ins*ection) &is Reverence
ha**ene$ to be visitin" at the time( an$ I am certain that he 'as shoce$
at the si"ht o% the horrible ?restorm blastin" thro!"h it) Until he act!ally
sa' the screen( he 'as "lo'erin" at Yoshihi$e( b!t then he sla**e$ his
nee an$ e<claime$( 1What ma"ni?cent 'or=1 I can still see the bitter
smile on &is #or$shi*1s %ace 'hen he hear$ those 'or$s)
Almost no one s*oe ill o% Yoshihi$e a%ter that - at least not in the
mansion) 0o!l$ it be beca!se all 'ho sa' the screen - even those 'ho
ha$ al'ays hate$ him - 'ere str!c by stran"ely solemn %eelin"s 'hen
they 'itnesse$ the tort!res o% the &ell o% Searin" &eat in all their reality2
By then( ho'ever( Yoshihi$e n!mbere$ amon" those 'ho are no
lon"er o% this 'orl$) The ni"ht a%ter he ?nishe$ the screen( he tie$ a ro*e
to a beam in his room an$ han"e$ himsel%) I s!s*ect that( havin" sent his
$a!"hter on ahea$ to the other 'orl$( he co!l$ not bear to "o on livin"
here as i% nothin" ha$ ha**ene$) &is bo$y lies b!rie$ in the r!ins o% his
home) The little stone marer is *robably so cloae$ in moss no'( a%ter
$eca$es o% e<*os!re to the 'in$ an$ rain( that no one can tell 'hose
"rave it is anymore)