Blue Robe

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๐Ÿ“… Published on January 4, 2015

"Blue Robe"

Written by

Estimated reading time โ€” 6 minutes

Long ago, there was a Buddhist priest named Kaian Zenji who always wore a blue robe. He spent his days travelling around Japan, meditating, praying and trying to help those who were in need. One evening, he came to a village called Tomita.

As soon as the people there laid eyes on him, they began shouting and screaming. The women and children fled, screaming and wailing, falling over each other in their rush to get away. The men grabbed their weapons and came running towards him.

โ€œKill him!โ€ they cried in alarm. โ€œKill him before he kills us!โ€

โ€œWhatโ€™s wrong?โ€ asked Kaian as he put up his hands. โ€œYou have no need to fear me. I donโ€™t mean you any harm.โ€

When the men saw his frightened face, they threw down their weapons and laughed nervously.

โ€œSorry,โ€ said one man. โ€œWe thought you were somebody else.โ€

โ€œYes, we apologise for the confusion,โ€ another man said sheepishly.

โ€œItโ€™s because of your blue robe,โ€ said another.

One of the men introduced himself and invited Kaian to stay the night in his house. He said he was the village blacksmith and offered him food and drink.

โ€œWhen we saw you coming, we thought you were a demon,โ€ he explained.

โ€œWhy would you think that?โ€ asked Kaian. โ€œDo I look like a demon?โ€

โ€œWell, itโ€™s a horrifying story,โ€ replied the blacksmith gravely, โ€œbut I might as well tell you. On the mountain above this village, there is a temple and the priest who lives there wears a blue robe just like yours. This priest used to have a reputation for being highly intelligent and kind-hearted. He visited all of our houses and he was always nice and polite. The people trusted him.โ€

โ€œAll that changed last spring. The priest went to another village to perform a baptism. When he came back, he had a young boy with him. He was a very good-looking boy, about 12 or 13 years of age. The priest spent all his time with the boy and it was almost as if he was in love with him. Everyone thought this was very strange.โ€

โ€œThen, the boy was struck down with an illness. His condition became very serious and a doctor came from the city to take care of him. Sadly, it was no use and the boy finally died. The priest cried and cried until he couldnโ€™t cry anymore. He wailed and wailed until his voice gave out. Strangest of all, he refused to allow the body to be buried or cremated. Instead, he held the boyโ€™s corpse in his arms and clutched his hand and caressed his cheek as if he was still alive.โ€

โ€œWe didnโ€™t realize it at the time, but the priest had gone stark raving mad. One morning, some of the villagers visited the temple and what they saw made them run away screaming in horror. The priest was eating the boyโ€™s flesh and licking his bones. They said the priest had become a demon.โ€

โ€œEver since then, the priest has terrorised our village, coming down from the mountain night after night and digging up the graves, in search of more corpses. When he finds a fresh one, he eats it. Weโ€™ve all heard the old stories about demons and the people live in fear. Every house is tightly boarded up at sundown and word has already spread throughout the area. People are come here anymore. Now you see why we mistook you for him. What can we do to stop him?โ€

โ€œStrange things happen in this world,โ€ exclaimed Kaian. โ€œThere are some people who are born as humans, but something goes wrong and they do evil and immoral things. This causes them to turn into demons. It has been happening since the beginning of time. In one case I know of, a woman turned into a snake. In another, a manโ€™s mother became a ghoul. I know of another man who liked the flesh of children and secretly kidnapped youngsters in order to have them steamed and served as food.โ€

โ€œA friend of mine who is a monk was passing through a village and he stayed the night in an old womanโ€™s hut. It was raining and the wind was howling. He lay awake without even a lamp to comfort him in his loneliness. As the night deepened, he thought that he heard the bleating of a sheep and soon afterwards, something came sniffing around him to see whether he was asleep or awake. Quick as a flash, he lashed out with his stick and struck hard. The creature screamed and collapsed on the floor. The old woman heard the ruckus and came in with a lamp. They found a young girl lying unconscious on the floor. The old woman, begged him not to kill the girl because it was her daughter. What could he do? He left and went on his way, but later, when he came back to the village, the people were gathered around watching something. When he asked them what was going on, they told him they had caught a young girl who was a witch and they were about to bury her alive.โ€

โ€œSo what do you think happened to our priest?โ€ the blacksmith asked.

โ€œI think it has something to do with the young boy,โ€ replied Kaian. โ€œThis priestโ€™s weird and unnatural attachment to the boy led him down a sinful path and transformed him into a ghoul. Now that I know what we are dealing with, I may be able to help you and rid your village of this wretched demon.โ€

โ€œIf you can do that for us, all the people in this area would be eternally grateful,โ€ said the blacksmith.

โ€œI will just need one thing,โ€ said Kaian. โ€œA wooden staff with a long, sharp blade hidden inside.โ€

So, the blacksmith worked long and hard. Finally, he presented Kaian with the peculiar weapon he requested. It looked just like a wooden staff, but when you twisted the top and pulled, out came a long, sharp blade.

With the staff in hand, Kaian set out on his mission. By the time he had hiked up to the top of the mountain, the sun was already setting. The temple looked deserted and the gates were tangled with thorns and brambles. Spiders were spinning webs on the statues and the altar was covered in moss and bird droppings. The whole place exuded an eerie feeling of rot and desolation.

Kaian walked up to the door and knocked. For a long time, there was only silence and then, from the darkness, a man emerged, snarling and drooling and gnashing his teeth.

โ€œWhy have you come here?โ€ he croaked hoarsely.

Kaian backed away cautiously, keeping a safe distance between himself and the ghoul.

โ€œThis temple is deserted and the people have fled,โ€ he said. โ€œIn desolate places like this evil things sometimes happen. The people tell me it is because you have become a demon. They say that night after night, you go down to the village and feast on human flesh. Nobody feels safe.โ€

The priest was advancing towards him, growling like a feral dog. Saliva dripped down his chin and he looked like he was ravenous. Kaian kept backing away.

โ€œWhat they say is true,โ€ snarled the priest. โ€œHuman flesh is what I eat and tonight, I shall use your flesh to fill my stomach.โ€

โ€œWhat if I told you there is a cure for your condition?โ€ said Kaian.

The priest was surprised. โ€œA cure?โ€ he asked, eyeing Kaian suspiciously. โ€œIf you know of a cure then tell me now so I can escape my horrible fate.โ€

Kaian removed his blue hood and threw it at the vile and beastly priest.

โ€œPut this on,โ€ he said.

The priest snatched the blue hood off the ground, then sat down on a flat rock in front of the temple and placed it over his head.

โ€œDonโ€™t try to trick me,โ€ growled the priest. โ€œI can still see you, so keep your distance. If you donโ€™t, I will be licking your bones by dawn.โ€

โ€œSolve the following riddle and you will be freed from your misery,โ€ said Kaian. โ€œListen carefullyโ€ฆโ€

He began to recite the riddle:

โ€œUpon the water the moonlight glows,
Among the trees the wild breeze blows,
Throughout the night the darkness flows,
And why this is nobody knows.โ€

The priest pondered the words for a while.

โ€œCan you give me a clue?โ€ he asked.

โ€œNo clues,โ€ said Kaian. โ€œYou must concentrate hard and meditate on it, no matter how long it takes. Eventually, you will understand its meaning and find freedom from this horror.โ€

The minutes passed and the hours ticked by and as the priest sat thinking and thinking, Kaian began inching closer and closer. He moved almost imperceptably, shifting his weight from one leg to the other and sliding each foot an inch nearer to where the priest was sitting.

The night was coming to an end and a grey light spread out across the sky as dawn arrived. The priest sat motionless on the rock, murmuring in a thin voice, no louder than the buzzing of a mosquito:

โ€œUpon the water the moonlight glows,
Among the trees the wild breeze blows,
Throughout the night the darkness flows,
And why this is nobody knows.โ€

Kaian watched silently, his hand firmly grasping the tip of his rod. He inched closer and closer until the priest was within armโ€™s length.

He heard a cock crow in the distance.

โ€œWell, have you found the solution to the riddle?โ€ asked Kaian.

โ€œNot yet,โ€ replied the priest

โ€œThatโ€™s because there isnโ€™t one,โ€ said Kaian and with a gutteral cry, he pulled the long, sharp sword out of the wooden staff and swung it with all his might.

The sharp blade went straight through the priestโ€™s neck like a hot knife through butter and sliced off his head, sending it rolling down the mountainside. His decapitated body toppled over and fell, lying prostrate among the weeds.

Kaian cleaned off his blade and slid it back inside the rod. Then, he set out on the long journey down the mountinside to tell the villagers their nightmare was at an end.

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