Mizuchi

It’s a warm summer night and the wind is blowing extremely hard, you know the ‘kiss your hat goodbye kind’. The sun finally made its daily journey over the horizon and the moon is shining brightly, lighting up the white clouds against the dark sky. With the city lights behind me and the moon in front of me, I’m caught between a glow created from an artificial and natural world that brings an odd sense of security to my mind. Sitting there on a stone ledge next to the lake the waves crash below me and spray my face lightly with a refreshing mist. I wonder why the lake is so alive tonight. The answer is simple, the violent wind is keeping the lake from sleeping, but my mind refuses to accept such a boring answer. Next to me sits a little boy about six years old, who is also watching the water. He throws out his legs as if he was on a swing then lets them fall back down in sync with the crashing motion of the waves.

“Why are there so many waves tonight?” he asks.

“Mizuchi must be jumping high tonight.” I reply.

“Huh?” he looks at me as though he didn’t understand the words that I just spoke.

“You’ve never heard of Mizuchi, the dragon that lives in the lake?” I ask.

“No! There’s no such thing!” the little boy yells.

“Shh, we don’t want to upset the great Mizuchi. Tonight is a very special night, and it would be dishonorable for us to denounce such a great dragon.” I whisper, while looking around to make sure that no one heard his blasphemous statement. The little boy starts looking around too, now worried that there really may be a dragon in the lake.
“How’d he get in there?” he whispers back.
“Oh,” a smile grows on my face.
“Well, it all started…”
“Long ago the country of Japan was in the midst of many battles and constant fighting. In the capital where the fighting was the worst, the citizens decided to leave the city until the fighting stopped. They all gathered together and escaped to the mountain where they created a small village to live in peace. But even after the fighting was over the villagers refused to move back to the city. They liked living on the mountain where they were much happier. This angered the emperor a great deal so he sent soldiers to the village to force them to come back. But the soldiers weren’t used to traveling through the mountain and got lost many times just trying to find the village and once they got there they were so tired that the villagers were able to fight them off. When the soldiers returned without anyone, the emperor went into a frenzy and ordered the soldiers to be locked away forever in the deepest part of the dungeon. Many of them knowing the shame they had caused their families performed Seppuku.”

Before the next sentence could pass my lips and be transformed into sound, the little boy tugs at my shirt sleeve and asks, “What’s seppuku?”

I imitate taking a small sword from a sheath at my hip and dramatically stretch out my arms in front with the tip pointing towards me and ram it into my stomach. Slowly, I fall to my side and close my eyes while letting out a monotonous groan of death.

“Ew, I could never do that, I would rather stay in the dungeon or, ” his eyes start to light up as if he just thought of the most brilliant idea, “I would take the sword and fight my way out! And then I would find the emperor and I would say ‘Leave those poor villagers alone!’ and…”

His excitement of battling imaginary characters flooded my memory with instances where I would walk through the forest and grab hold of a nearby branch that had broken off and I would instantly be transformed into the defender of the woods! No plant could stand in my way, actually nothing could stand in my way at that age; however, as time passed soon I was no longer a defender of the woods but a defender of reason. I cut his ramblings to a close and ask,

“Should we continue the story?”

“YES!”

“So the emperor at this point is so mad he doesn’t know what to do and resorts to hiring ninjas. No one wants to hire ninjas, they are shady and dangerous people that only think of themselves, always try to avoid dealing with ninjas, people would say, but the emperor was out of options. When they got there he gave them a small scroll and dismissed them without saying a word. The leader of the ninja clan examined the scroll which had a small picture of the mountain and opened it. To his surprise only three words were written on it, Kill them all, and with that the ninjas moved out toward the mountain village. When the ninjas arrived at the village during the night they tried a surprise attack, but the villagers were ready for them and sent them back into the mountainside. The leader of the ninjas knew that it was foolish to try another attack, so they stayed on the outer edges of the village thinking of another plan. One night the leader came up with an idea and explained it to the rest of the ninjas so they could start working on it right away. The plan was simple, to stop the river from flowing above the village so the villagers would have to leave to get water, and if they did, the ninjas would kill them as soon as they left their homes. So the villagers became trapped, some tried to leave only to be caught and killed by the ninjas. Others tried to overtake them and free the river, but the ninjas found such a good spot to fight from that it was impossible for the villagers to defeat them and had to retreat back to the village. The villagers were scared and didn’t know what to do, in a couple more days the river would dry up and soon they would also dry up. The next night while the village elder was sitting by what was left of the river he was visited by a dragon named Mizuchi who told the elder that he could save the village before the river went away completely. ‘Tomorrow night…’” I started to say in a low voice that rang with importance, but was cut short yet again.
“What does Mizz…Mizzz…Mizz zzzzooo chi, look like?” the boy finally says.
“Hm, well he has a long slender body that is light blue like the sky and a tail much like a lion’s but the end looks like it’s on fire with a bright blue flame. He has four legs that each have four toes that resemble that of a big chicken. His head is dog-like in that his ears point up to the sky and his small whiskers twitch about whenever he talks. His teeth though are much bigger and sharper, and he has two long horns on the top of his head right behind his ears. His belly is pure white while having a dark blue mane that runs from the top of his head to the middle of his back. That’s pretty much it, can you picture him?”
“Yea! He looks like a doggy.”
“No, I said he had dog-like… nevermind, this is what he said to the elder.”
“’Tomorrow night, gather all the villagers together and tear down your houses, bind the logs together to make rafts that the villagers can sit on. Once I see that everyone is ready, I will jump to the sky and come crashing down into the pool of water the ninjas have created, but once this happens a great wave will come sweeping through the village and those on their rafts will be carried safely to the bottom of the mountain.‘”
“The elder was extremely grateful to the river dragon, but before he left to tell the villagers he asked Mizuchi what would happen to him. ’Until I am surrounded by a large amount of water again, I will disappear from the land.’ And with that Mizuchi left. The elder returned to the village and the next morning told the villagers what had happened last night. Many didn’t believe him and locked their doors, but others who believed in the elder tore down their homes and built rafts and waited till night came. When the sun fell and the moon arose, it lit up the clouds in the night sky. Those who were looking up at the night sky claim to have seen Mizuchi’s shadow against the clouds. And not before long a strong wind started blowing and a loud splash was soon heard followed by rushing water that was headed in the direction of the village. In a matter of moments a huge wave came and swept across the village, those that were in there houses drowned along with the ninjas hiding in the trees, but everyone else safely floated along the top of the wave above the trees all the way down to the bottom of the mountain. The only other survivor was the leader of the ninja clan, who was able to escape the giant wave. He traveled back to where the village was and saw that it was completely destroyed. What the ninja leader saw next was very strange for the river was totally dried up, as if the wave took every last drop of water with it. While looking around the ninja leader spotted an odd shape that was sitting in the middle of where the large pool of water once was. The ninja leader jumped down into the hole and realized that it was an egg as big as his head. The egg was dark blue and when he picked it up his hands started to drip with water. Amazed at his find he went back to tell the emperor about what had happened, but he decided to keep the mysterious blue egg a secret and hid it outside the palace doors. The ninja leader explained everything that happened, to the stopping of the river, to the loud splash that hit the pool causing a giant wave that wiped out the entire village killing everyone. The emperor pleased with the ninja leader’s report promised him half the empire and three hundred cases of gold. But on his way out, as the ninja leader was going to get the egg, the emperor had him followed and killed so no one could link the emperor to the destruction of the village. The soldier that killed the ninja leader found the egg and took it back to the emperor offering it as a gift. The emperor was so amazed at how it created water from nothing he gave the soldier two cases of gold and a small plot of land behind the palace for the egg. The egg was placed in a small bowl where it sat collecting water and every day the bowl would be emptied so it wouldn’t overflow. Throughout the centuries the egg was passed on from one emperor to the next being considered a family heirloom and a highly prized possession. About three hundred years ago, American’s sailed to Japan to offer trade agreements. Since Japan stayed isolated all this time from the outside world, they were shocked by the technology and inventions the American’s brought. The emperor at this time wanted everything the Americans had, their boats, weapons and even their clothes. The Americans saw how eager the emperor wanted everything and demanded high prices for their goods. It came to a point that the Americans didn’t really want anything else, they had enough gold and soon there was nothing the emperor could offer that the Americans would trade with and decided to leave. The emperor still wanting more, ran into his bed chambers and grabbed the bowl with the egg and took it to the Americans explaining the power of the egg. Baffled by the emperor’s speech they observed the egg thinking there was nothing special about it. But after seeing the bowl emptied and refilled with water did they agree to make one more final trade. The Americans sailed back to their country leaving the emperor with enough western goods to last him ten lifetimes. After the Americans left, the emperor surrounded himself with everything he had purchased and showed everyone for miles around all the great riches he had acquired. With each passing day the emperor was becoming increasingly unhappy, while finally one day he started to cry for no reason. A couple of minutes went by and he was still crying. Water rushed from his eyes and the harder he cried the more he felt his soul being eased, but he still had no idea why he was crying. For three days the emperor cried without stopping and on the evening of the third night the crying eventually stopped. The emperor extremely weak at this point climbed to his bed and laid down and fell fast asleep. As the morning came his servants found the emperor in his bed had died in his sleep through the night. The servants couldn’t explain what had happened and rushed to get the local doctor. The doctor explained that the emperor was killed by guilt and showed the servants the large smile he had. ‘See? Who cries for three days straight and falls asleep with such a large smile on their face? Only someone who has finally accepted what they have done.’ No one knew the history behind the destruction of the mountain village. and for each year the guilt would grow and be passed down through the generations only to now finally escape three hundred years later.”

“Can you really die from crying?” The little boy interjects.

“Of course you can, that’s why whenever you feel like crying you should let it out right away and never hold it in.” I reply.

“I like to cry it makes me feel better, but if I cry that means I’m sad, and I don’t want to be sad, only happy!” The boy exclaims.

“True, but even the happiest person in the world will still get sad sometimes. They’re the happiest in the world because they know how to cry and move on to being happy again.” I explain.

The boy turns back to staring at the waves.

“What happened to the egg?” he asks.

I take a deep breath, compose myself and continue the story.

“Unfortunately this part of the story becomes a bit hazy, because once the egg left with the Americans it disappeared for a long time as it was traded back and forth throughout the nation. No one really wanted to hold on to it for very long due to the mysterious nature of the egg, and from what I’ve gathered the egg finally fell into a local trader’s hands who was heading out west. But on his journey he lost the egg when a flash flood hit the land and swept away most of his possessions. The egg was carried with the water down stream to come to land in a small farmer’s field hidden among the crops. As days turned to weeks, the land around the egg started to fill with water since no one was there to remove it any longer. And soon a small pond turned to a lake, and this lake turned to a larger lake taking over the whole surrounding area and has finally turned into what you see before you. And if you remember what Mizuchi said to the village elder the night before the destruction of the village, he said…”

The little boy chimes in , “Until I am surrounded by water again, I will disappear from the land.”

And with that a large gush of wind expels past us almost knocking us over. We stand and look to the sky waiting, watching, hoping.

“I see him, I see him!” The little boy jumps with excitement pointing to the sky.

I turn to look at the little boy, but unfortunately he was no longer there.

© Ryan Duclos

Mizuchi

Ryan Duclos

Chicago, United States

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Artist's Description

A story for your inner child.

Miz-zoo-chee

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