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Sparrows Can't Think Like Eagles

by Alexey R. Basov

An eagle hovers in the height of the sky.
–Paul Whiteman

An eagle was hovering, almost still in the expanse of the fathomless sky. The wind filled its strong wings, lifting it upwards.
The sun was high as a squad of Chinese guards slowly marched toward the city. Suffocating heat was making them indifferent and apathetic; they just wanted to tear their clothes off their sweaty bodies, kick the sandals off their swollen feet and lie in the shade for a long, long time.
But the squad leader urged them on mercilessly, knowing there was no time for rest. He had to deliver an important prisoner to the execution yard. The men could not stand the fierce heat and drank from the foul roadside puddles while the more prudent ate fruit from the few trees around them. They were flaking out. In order to make them march, the Chinese officer had to kill those who had exhausted themselves.


Young Samurai

Young Samurai Art

Wiping his sword with disgust he lifted himself onto his steed and barely managed to croak with his parched tongue, “Move on, ye lazy bastards! Move on! Or would you rather snuff it under the axe? Get on with it! We’re almost there... I see the city already!”

His head hurt as if a hundred temple bells were ringing all at once inside it. He produced his talismanic flask engraved with a spell against demons and turned it over in in hands for a long time, but only a few drops of precious water diluted with wine refreshed the bitter taste in his dry mouth. Cursed be the Gods, who sent this heat and these damned Japanese! he thought with a vicious spurt of rage as he looked at his prisoner. The samurai, with his hands tethered in heavy wooden stocks, marched as nonchalantly as he would in a shady park. His expressive face was blank and haughty; his family crest was embroidered on his kimono. Only the pallor of his skin and the caked blood on his lips betrayed his tremendous physical fatigue. His distant eyes seemed to have a life of their own, transporting him to an unfathomable awareness and taking no heed of the heat or the others. His firm steps, upright posture and chin in the air gave the impression that he could cover another thousand miles.

Indeed, thought the Chinese officer with a sense of involuntary respect, these brutes seem to be made of steel; they do not care a bit. Had we not captured him stealthily, his sword would have taken many lives. And still he managed to kill seven of my best men with his bare hands! Had we not netted him like a snow leopard, only the Great Gods know what this perfect destroyer would have done. My soldiers are rags compared to him. Thank Gods, the Japanese are totally incapable of waging sea warfare, and our monster ships, those leviathans with metal scale-like plates, belch fire from their catapults onto the Japanese cockleshells while staying out of harm’s way. Our wisdom saves us from their foolishness. Lions cannot fight in water; we will drown them like kittens. But what will become of the Heavenly Empire if they morph into bloodthirsty sharks and begin killing us like whales?

With these sad thoughts he turned to his prisoner. “How do you, foreign barbarian, manage to march as though the sun is not grilling you and you’re wearing pretty jasper bracelets rather than heavy stocks? Aren’t you thirsty?”

“You’re unable to understand anyway,” the samurai answered listlessly. “If you have clean water, I will drink it, otherwise, don’t bother me.”

“I have no water,” responded the Chinese. “Bring him fruit,” he ordered his soldiers.

“I don’t need it,” said the prisoner nonchalantly. “I don’t consume things that might be unhealthy.”

“Says who? The one who will be executed following cruel torture before sunset! What difference does it make?” laughed the Chinese officer.

At this, the samurai flew off the handle and retorted angrily, “This is a natural reaction for the likes of you. Sparrows are unable to think like eagles. Transitory pain sends you off balance, and proximity to death makes any action senseless. But for a man who constantly thinks of the sublime and strives with his entire soul to achieve the sublime goal, every deed and every thought are significant at any moment, even the moment his head is being cut off.”

“But you will die! You’ve already lost! And you’re unable to do anything about it!”

“You are mistaken, Chinaman. A genuine samurai, even if outwardly impotent and in a desperate condition, remains a samurai. Weakness and misery are the greatest ordeals for all people and all samurai. We live in a world where the inevitability of death and the finiteness of life are the principal ordeals. An awareness of one’s impotence in the face of death deprives most people of will, mental strength and Faith. But for a samurai the time of his death is irrelevant because he knows that time is an illusion. A samurai will always find the nerve to live as befits him, as if he is immortal. Death is of no importance. A genuine warrior is capable of withstanding anything; he would find support even in the void. And jumping off of it he advances on his Way which leads to Heaven. When every action in his life is a striving towards that cherished goal, life has a special meaning which is incomprehensible by the likes of you, Chinaman. Every deed has its meaning and its result. A samurai moves forward until the last moment of life. He dies marching and with every new step he smiles for he sees the Sun ahead.
Yes, I know you will execute me, but you cannot do more than that. And what are you capable of in the first place? But I will darken you triumph. I will show you the way to die! I will teach you a moral lesson. We are the Japanese and we follow the Way of Gods.

Nobody in the world loves his Homeland more than we do, and nobody in the world is ready to give his life with such glee and faith… Soon you will see for yourself that you are no match against our valor; your spirit will be broken. By this I will be of service to my country and will support the fame of my family name. No mortal could do more. And to you, Chinaman, I will send a message from the other world. Stay close to me at the execution yard and wait for it.”

Executions were a favorite performance in the Korean-Chinese state. They jangled the nerves, thrilled and tamed the cowardly and feeble-minded crowd. This time, the execution was out of the ordinary. In order to break the will of the Japanese conqueror a set of new, savage methods were implemented. But the samurai was adamant. The superstitious crowd, stunned by the hero’s superhuman fortitude, quieted down. Instead of the usual excitement from the brutal scene, they unexpectedly felt the soul-chilling mystic terror provoked by this strange man. “What if it is an evil spirit, a shape-shifter? He could cast a spell on us!” they murmured.

The ruler sensed the change of mood and realized that his triumph had been transformed into a farce that was quickly compromising his authority. He waved his hand and the executioner cut off the samurai’s head. It rolled off the platform, and then something inexplicable happened; the severed head rolled to the Chinese officer’s foot and sank its teeth into it… His eyes met the hellish gaze of the corpse and his blood ran cold. So this was the message from the other world the samurai had warned him about…


This is a chapter from the book Samurai. Ascension

Samurai katana art
Samurai skull art
Torii art

I will not get lost...
The North Star is shining in the darkness...
The road to Valhalla, straight like a sword, is always in front of me!

Copyright 2000-2021 Alexey R. Basov, Tatiana Basova. All rights reserved.

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