Yes, that was why he was a Zinja, because they would take anyone, even the strange-looking red-haired son of a man from across the western sea. But perhaps the Zinja would take anyone because they were devils. Devils would take anyone. Something icy touched his shoulder blades.
He wriggled to try to escape it, and his heart started pounding harder than ever. Was it the touch of a devil? The cold feeling spread to the small of his back, to his buttocks. He put his hand flat on the floor of the stone coffin in which he lay. Water was trickling into the chamber from outside. The temple was at the edge of the sea; perhaps when the tide rose the water entered this box. No, unlikely. This chamber was high above the level of the sea. It was more probable that this was part of the ordeal. The water continued to rise. His back was submerged, the cold trickling into his armpits and freezing his groin, and his teeth began to chatter.
He lifted his head as the water soaked into his hair and bumped his forehead painfully against the stone slab that imprisoned him. The water rose around the sides of his head and he grimaced and shook his head from side to side as it crept into his ears. He put his fingers into his ears to keep it out. The water seemed cold enough to freeze his blood. He began automatically to twitch the muscles all over his body, in a regular rhythm he had been taught, to raise his body heat.
The Zinja training enabled a man to endure freezing cold for hours.
But how high would the water go? Another inch and it would drown him. Or else he would have to try to push that stone slab out of the way, even though he probably could not manage it and even though, if he succeeded in climbing out of the crypt, he would be killed.
This was what they had warned him about: it may seem that you are going to die if you do not escape, but you will die if you try to escape. The water stopped rising when only the front of his face was still clear of it. He lay immersed, buried in the total blackness, shivering.
How long would he have to stay like this? How long before he died of the cold? It's Weicho and Fudo. Come out before you drown. Gradually he made out the shadowed faces of the monks Weicho and Fudo looking down at him. They were a few years older than he, an inseparable pair, known for the slackness of their discipline, which had led Taitaro on one occasion to threaten to cast them out of the Order. Fudo was lazy and Weicho was cruel. It was rumoured among the aspirants that they were lovers. Jebu had always disliked them. You'll drown in there.
The purpose of the initiation is to test whether you think for yourself or follow orders blindly. If you follow orders blindly, you die. Jebu said nothing. He was not following orders blindly. He was choosing to follow a particular order. He was making a judgment about which orders to follow and which not to. Short, stout Weicho whispered to Fudo, giggled and said, "Jebu, you are the stepson of the Father Abbot and his favourite. We know that the Father Abbot has shown you special favour. He has given you the Saying of Supreme Power. Jebu did not answer. So this was what Taitaro meant when he warned against revealing the Saying to anyone.
All of us were promised the magic Saying. Otherwise, do you think any of us would submit to this hell on earth of being a Zinja? We know now that only a favoured few actually get it. The rest of us grub out our lives in poverty and misery, living on false hope until we are killed serving the Order. We are not among the favoured, Fudo and I, because we have been caught disobeying some silly little rules of the Order. Fudo said, "We intend to be miserable no longer.
We know you must have been given the Saying of Supreme Power, Jebu. You must give it to us. The Abbot has been as a father to me only on the days when everyone spends time with his family. Otherwise, he is as distant from me as he is from anyone. He has given me no secret. What you are doing is wrong. You sow dissension in the Order. Fudo laughed. The Order is riddled with hatred and treachery, just as you are lying to us now. Weicho said, "Enough of this. He thrust the weapon down into the pit. He shrank away from it, and it scratched him.
Weicho probed at him, pricking his chest in different places till the point of the naginata came to rest on the upper part of his belly, just below the rib cage. Fudo snorted.
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You are wrong, Jebu. The Father Abbot foolishly appointed us to guard you.
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We have only to say we killed you because you were trying to escape from the crypt. The instant Jebu felt the point of the naginata press harder against his skin, he swung his hand over and struck the weapon aside. With a quick chop of his other hand he broke the long staff into which the blade was set. The curved steel blade splashed into the water, and Jebu felt around for it. He grabbed the broken wooden end and held the naginata blade like a sword.
But he still dared not climb out of the crypt.
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Tell us the Saying, or we'll drown you like a kitten. May you be wiser in your next life. Was the water higher? It might be. He had learned, as had all aspiring Zinja, to slow his breathing so that he would need hardly any air. He could do that now, but he could not breathe under water. The water was now tickling the edges of his nostrils. He lifted his head and wriggled backward in the tiny space so that the back of his head was wedged in an upper rear corner of the stone box. It was an uncomfortable position, but no more so than hanging by his hands for hours in the course of Zinja training, and it was a position he could hold without conscious effort.
He began counting his exhalations-one, two, three, four.
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He went into a light trance. He was riding on the back of a white dragon whose wings beat only once a minute, so powerful was each stroke. Far below he could see the four great islands of the Sunrise Land, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu and the four thousand lesser ones. Then they were over the blue western sea. They sailed through a sky that was clear overhead, though he could see masses of grey-green thunderclouds to the south as if a terrible storm were rising there.
They passed over land. Below were enormous walled cities and palaces with red-tiled roofs along the banks of gigantic, winding rivers. He saw a stone wall fortified by guard towers that stretched on and on, like an endless, twisted bamboo pole, over grasslands and mountains and valleys. A mighty army of men on horseback swept down towards the wall. All moved as one man, flowing in wavelike patterns over the land below.
They breasted the wall like a flood cresting over a dam. He saw a great battle being fought. The men on horseback met another army of men in horse-drawn chariots and scattered it, leaving the land littered with the dead.