Birth of Souls
The sky reflected rays of gold and blue as the warrior looked out over the plains. The leaves of the Judan trees were shades of gold, red and brown and danced along the wind towards the ground. The young warrior watched this dance as if it were a memory. There was no need for him to look at the calendar that was considered important. Just by looking at the landscape could he tell what time of year it was but it was not so much the appearance of the land but the feeling in the air. The old ones said that one could always tell the time of day by what they feel. Perhaps this is what they meant.
For many years, ever since he left, he had never fully embraced the feeling as the old ones said he should yet he always returned at the same time of year. He came because they said that it was a time for family and he loved his family but when tragedy struck, he left and stayed away. He ignored the feeling and stayed away. This time though, the feeling was stronger and rather ignoring it, he hopped on the next freighter home where he found the one person he should have been there for waiting for him, standing there in the courtyard with a smile on her face.
She had welcomed him home with the same tranquility he remembered and said, “Always late you are for supper.”
“Mother,” Morgan greeted her with a kiss on her cheeks and forehead. He looked at her and saw that she was holding the lead to Kumori and he was loaded with a pack as if she were going on a journey. He asked, “Where are you going Mother?”
She looked at him with an indulgent smile, “If you felt it, you would know. Now I must go.” She then climbed up on Kumori and began a gentle pace out of the courtyard.
Morgan watched her go. He knew that she was on the main road that led to Xao Lin but there were many turnoffs so she could go anywhere. He was tempted to follow but he knew that if he did not know why he had come home, then the way would remain lost to him until he did. He stood there staring the way his mother had taken, not noticing the star that shown brightly in the sky. He sighed and said to himself, “I return to her to find her leaving, but where to? There must be hundreds of places she could go.” He then began to pace about the courtyard not noticing that he was being followed by a small creature.
When he stopped, the creature bumped into his boot and he started, intent on defending himself. He looked around until he looked down and saw the creature. It was a pale gold creature in color and was furry with a long tail that moved on its own and large floppy ears. The eyes were dark brown and they had a playful smirk to them. Morgan had only seen one of these creatures in his life and now one was staring at him. He kneeled down and talked to it, “Hey there. Never seen you before. You hungry?” He fished a biscuit from the ration pack he kept on his belt and held it out to the creature.
The creature sniffed before reaching out with his forepaw and grabbing it. Holding it like a human, it began to munch on it. Morgan was amused and said, “So you like that. Well good thing to have when you’re on the move.” He then stood up and looked around. “Well I guess I better get going. I might find the answer along the way.” He then started walking in the direction his mother started.
He did not get very far when a heavy weight landed on his back and clambered on his shoulder. He looked to see the creature sitting on his shoulder, expecting to be going. “So you want to come along? Alright. First I better give you a name.” He looked at the creature and it looked like a cross between a wolf and one of those critters that ate nuts though the ears and tail he could not account for. He thought about it and said, “How about Taiyou. It means sun and it fits for your fur.”
The creature looked at him and then rubbed against him and settled on his shoulder. Morgan smiled and started in the general direction his mother took, the main road to Xao Lin, the Sacred Heart. The walk was going to be a long one but he was young and strong. It was not long before he came across three kataran herders who were herding their animals. He greeted them, “Hail herders, what brings you out this night?”
The leader of the herders looked up from his work of tending one of legs of a calf and replied, “We have felt the call and we must go.”
Morgan was puzzled and a little frustrated. His mother had virtually said the same thing and he knew enough about Avalonian culture to know that they had given a sufficient answer. Yet he wanted more. Taiyou must have sensed it and jumped down and trotted towards the injured calf. The mother was not alarmed but rather calm at the sight of the creature. Morgan looked at the calf and the mother and saw that he might be able to help. He said, “One of your calves is injured.”
“Yes,” the herder replied, “The journey has been long and hard and the earth hasn’t been kind.”
“Might I be able to help?”
The herder nodded and Morgan approached the downed calf carefully. The mother did not move, as if she sensed that no harm would come to her calf. Morgan though was cautious. Kataran mothers were very protective and if you did not move correctly, they could charge. As it turned out, it was a bad sprain and with a little poultice, it would heal in no time. The herder thanked Morgan as he hoisted the calf onto his shoulders and said, “May your journey go well traveler.”
With a whistle and a command, the herd began to move following the lead herder, leaving Morgan where he stood. He waited until they were gone before looking for Taiyou. He found him further up the road. Every time Morgan tried to catch up, Taiyou seemed further away. Morgan tried to run to catch up but it was to no avail. He ended up tripping and falling down the hill. When he landed, he ended up cursing in any language that seemed fitting.
“This is stupid! Here I am chasing a critter trying to figure out why I even came back here. Why did I even bother?” Morgan yelled out his frustrations and did not care if anyone heard him. “Heck there is no reason to come back except for mother.”
“You mean to say that there is nothing else about the land that has been a reason for you return?” A voice replied in the darkness.
Morgan sprang to his feet with his dagger drawn. The stranger appeared in the moonlight to reveal an old man and he replied, “No need to worry stranger. I won’t harm you. My companions and I heard a noise as we were about to break camp and continue our journey. I came to investigate. It seems that you are lost traveler. Perhaps something weighs you down?”
Morgan returned the dagger to his belt and replied, “I was traveling I think towards Xao Lin with my companion when we separated and I was chasing after him.”
“Yes a pale gold furry thing with floppy ears and a tail. It’s like he ran away.”
The old man looked at Morgan and replied, “You were traveling with a Zhìhuì? A sign surely. Come, my companions will wish to speak with you.”
Morgan felt compelled to follow the old man to the camp. There he was greeted by two other men. As it turned out, they were advisors to their tribes and they too had answered the call they felt. Morgan answered their questions, not omitting anything especially about the Zhìhuì. “I started after my mother thinking that I might find answers. The Zhìhuì accompanied me up until now and I don’t know why.”
The one who led him into camp looked at him. Morgan failed to notice that he was wearing a tunic the same pale gold as Taiyou. The old man replied, “The Zhìhuì is a symbol of wisdom. That is where its name comes from. Supposedly it appears to a chosen one to impart wisdom to him or her. They are rare to see especially in the color you describe it.”
“More likely on a wild bantha chase,” Morgan replied. “I don’t even know why I am doing this. I haven’t observed the ways ever since my father died.”
“And he was close to you,” the old one replied. “Perhaps you may find what you seek where we go.”
The others had finished packing and had come to tell their companion that it was time to go. Morgan followed them out and asked, “And where are you going?”
“The stars guide my young friend. Surely you have felt that as much.”
The caravan then started off, leaving Morgan alone. Morgan watched them while pondering what was being said. He then looked up into the sky and saw a large star shining brighter than the others in the night sky. He looked at the ground and saw that the caravan was following it. Perhaps I should follow it too. Morgan then began to follow the star, not sure of where he was going but trusted that it would lead him to where he needed to go.
It seemed like hours when he finally came to a small city. It was called Shēnghuó, one that he had heard of but had never been. He felt it strange that the star led him here but it felt right and he entered through the city gates. He saw others moving, heading towards a single point and started walking with them. While he was walking, he bumped into someone who turned to look at him. Morgan was just as surprised to see his old friend, “Tulre it has been so long.”
“Yes it has. You felt it too?”
“Yes but I don’t understand.” Morgan was puzzled. It was clear that even though he had been raised under Avalonian tradition, there were many things that he did not understand.
“Seitan Konpaku,” Tulre replied. He began guiding Morgan through the crowd to a point where he could see everything clearly.
“Seitan Konpaku?” Morgan repeated.
“It literally means ‘soul birth’ but it means much more. See?” Tulre pointed out to an open shed. There was a couple kneeling next to a box that was made into a cradle where and infant was sleeping. “Seitan Konpaku is the night when souls are reborn and in particular the soul of Taiyou, the sun, a signal of the end of winter.”
“How can souls be reborn?”
Tulre looked at his friend. He knew how much pain Morgan had gone through and how close he was to his father. He replied, “Seitan Konpaku allows those that have departed to return to their loved ones. It honors those who have died and those that have been born. Often the souls of the departed return in the form that they will assume in their next life. It sounds strange but some souls return due to unfinished business or they have achieved contentment and just want to say hello and various shades in between. Seitan Konpaku teaches us about the cyclical nature of life. The festival lasts seven days and nights but the first night is most important. Tonight is special.”
Morgan listened and watched as the people outside the shed began lighting candles. Others were laying out altars of food and plants such as sandalwood and Judan tree leaves. There were even offerings of Jasilyn blossoms. He had never seen anything like it even though he was familiar with the lessons the specific holidays taught like Yurushi, or the Festival of New Beginnings yet he never delved deeply into it but observing it since he was brought up on Belos. He asked, “What are the candles for?”
Tulre replied, “Rantan. They guide souls to their family’s homes. The offerings of food are for them. A nice gesture. Once the hour strikes, gifts are given that are meant to reflect the potential rebirth of their loved one’s soul.”
Morgan took this all in and then spotted the herders and the tribal advisors he had met. They were at the open shed where the couple and the baby were. He asked, “Why is everyone at that shed?”
Tulre followed the direction of Morgan’s gesture. Seeing the sight, his face curved into a smile and he replied, “They are there because it has been over two thousand years since Taiyou walked this earth. It is the year of Taiyou, the sun and it is written that the child born on this day will be the rebirth of the Guardian of the Sun.”
Morgan knew about the guardians. They were among his favorite stories but this he had never heard of. He knew that his uncle Kirabaros was the Heart of the Guardian but he had been dead since he was a child. “How do you know?”
“The strength of feeling.”
“But I’ve felt it every year. This year was strongest and I even saw a Zhìhuì. A pale gold one with a mischievous twinkle in its eyes.”
Tulre looked at his friend. There was a reason his friend had been summoned and he sensed he knew the answer and wished that Lilah was there to interpret but she was lighting the path to their lodgings. She had told him to go and wait here and not to come back until it was time. He did not know when that would be but when Morgan showed up, he sensed the time was near. It was also surprising to hear that Morgan had seen a Zhìhuì. Such creatures were a rarity and because they were highly revered, it was considered a sign to see one. He remembered when they saw their first years ago. He replied, “Perhaps it is something you must door ask of yourself.”
“What old friend? I mourn my father and my mother must have come this way. What am I to do?”
Tulre shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Ask Taiyou. Only the Guardian of the Sun will know your burden.”
Morgan wanted to ask Tulre what he meant but he closed his mouth and looked at the shed. The couple was kneeling and watching over the baby while people where coming and bringing a gift. He frowned in a puzzled way but he inched his way forward. He did not really have anything that he thought appropriate for a gift until he remembered and put his hand up and clutched the lump under his shirt.
His father had given it to him when he was a boy. It was a strange shape tied onto a piece of leather thong. It was the symbol of Seikatsu, the symbol of life. His father once told him that as long as he wore it, his father would be with him always in his heart where life begins. Morgan remembered this as he approached. He slowly lifted it from around his neck and held it in his hand. He asked a question from within his heart and placed his gift in the baby’s hand. He then turned to leave. He walked back to his friend. Tulre was waiting and asked him, “Did you find what you were looking for?”
“I believe so,” Morgan replied feeling lighter in his heart. “Perhaps Lilah is waiting for us?”
“Aye. She told me to wait and I would know. I guess that is now.” Tulre smiled, happy for his friend. He led Morgan back to where they were staying and where Morgan’s mother was waiting and Morgan was able to tell how he felt all those years.
In the morning, Morgan walked through Shēnghuó to find that people were still in bed. He paid a visit to the shed he was at the night before. It was empty, as if there had been no one there. Morgan could not believe it since there had been piles of gifts and of course the woman and her baby. It was as if no one had been there. He took a few steps forward to investigate when a glimmer from the light caught his eye. He followed it to the empty feed box that served as a cradle. There dangling on the edge was his Seikatsu. He could not bring himself to touch it and stood there staring at it for the longest time.
“It is a gift kiddo.”
Morgan spun around to see who was talking to him. He had to shield his eyes since it seemed that the sun had become brighter in the last few minutes. He could make out a familiar shape but had to asked, “What do you mean?”
The glare reduced to reveal a person that Morgan knew like he knew pazaak. The person replied, “It is a gift. One that was given for yours.”
Morgan replied, “But I gave my Seikatsu because it was the greatest gift I had received from you Father.”
Atton stood there looking as real as a person as he smiled his cocky grin and replied, “And that is why this is being given to you. You gave a gift that was given to you with love and is the most treasured. Easy for anyone to see your heart that way.”
“Not if you’re playing pazaak in the head.” Morgan smiled back. “Father, I-I missed you and I have always been angry. Angry because you left without saying good-bye.”
“I know it’s been hard on you kid. Things are never easy having me for a father. Your mother said that plenty of times before she died. I’m sorry kid.”
“It doesn’t matter now. I know that your time came and it’s one adventure that we all must take. I realized that when I gave Seikatsu away. My guilt washed away and I realized I was angry at myself for not being the son I should have.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better son.”
Nearby the bells started to chime the hour. Morgan looked in the direction of the sound and back to his father. Atton shook his head and said, “Never enough time to say anything.”
“It’s been more than enough,” Morgan replied. “Seitan Konpaku is on for six more nights. We can still talk. And there’s always the Force,” and he gave a grin.
“Yeah. Perhaps it will be made better now that you kids are together again. It was a mistake to separate you three when you were young but times were different then. You are more than capable.” Atton’s image began to fade away as the bells struck closer towards the hour. He looked around and then back at his son. He said, “It’s not a bad thing kiddo. Really. Like holding a tiebreaker.”
Morgan smiled as he bent to retrieve his Seikatsu. When he stood up, his father was gone. In his place was the Zhìhuì that he had met. It looked at him with that scoundrel’s twinkle in the eyes. He grinned wryly thinking it a nice joke or an irony of sorts that his father be allowed to be reborn within a creature that represented wisdom. It occurred to him that he may never see the child that had been born that past night again but he would always be grateful for the gift that he had given him. He looked at the Zhìhuì and said, “Come on Dad,” and headed back towards Tulre and Lilah’s place. Tulre was right about Seitan Konpaku being a time of rebirth and in its own way one of joy. One rejoices in those around them. It was certainly true when he entered the apartment and Tulre, Lilah and his mother presented him with a new pendant. It was the symbol of Seikatsu and Zhìhuì, almost as if they knew what had just happen. Morgan found that he will always miss his father but being around people he loved kept his spirit alive. That was the true spirit of Seitan Konpaku.
A/N: When I wrote this piece I had no idea where I wanted it to lead but then I started taking bits and pieces from different holidays and woosh I got Seitan Konpaku. The new names I introduce are real names and are a mixture of Chinese and Japanese.