Chapter Eleven

Irian changed into his kimono.   He started with the fundoshi, the traditional undergarments, and then put on the pants and the robe, tying his obi tight and then thrusting his blade into it, edge up.   As per his instructor’s style, his chest was bare under the kimono, and it was worn loose to allow it to be thrown back so he could fight bare-armed.  He carefully pinned up his hair, and changed from his boots into his geta, and packed extra socks and his zori.  The Yagyu professor had done him a great honor by inviting him to tea.  He would not dishonor himself by being slovenly.

He found the professor’s tea room, wound in amongst the trees at the edge of Sanctuary, almost hidden by the maples.  The leaves were falling, and the air was brisk, and so he hurried into the changing room, and swapped his socks for fresh ones and his geta for zori.  As he left the changing room, the mats were laid out, as was the tabako bon.  Professor was going all out, which meant that he had something to say.

Irian crawled into the tea room.  The coals were pleasantly warm, after the brisk wind that had been blowing before.  Teishu was still setting out the utensils, but he bowed low as Irian entered and did the same.   This time, however, the settings were unfamiliar, bowls and utensils he had never seen.  Teishu set out the teapot, and began to speak.

“O-kashi  o o-meshiagari  no ue, seki o atarametou go-zaimasu node o-nakadachi o.”
Please take a sweet and after eating it, go out for a break so that I can prepare the room.

“Soredewa nakadachi sasete itadakimasu ga, go-yoi ga totonoimashitara o-narimono de.”
We will do as you wish. Once preparations are complete, please use a  bell to call us.

Koto ni yorimashite.”
Thank you, I will do as seems fit.

Irian was relieved to have remembered his manners, and his Japannic.  He was seriously out of practice, having been unconscious for a while, and it was like trying to grab a fish swimming in ink.  Possible to remember, but it took a lot of effort.  He hoped Teishu noticed.  After he finished the sweet, he got up and left, allowing Teishu to prepare.

A few minutes later, a gong roused Irian from meditation on the proper etiquette of tea.  He gathered himself, and crawled back in the tea room.  A visibly happy Teishu awaited him, and the smell of sandalwood made his nose crinkle.  It was his teacher’s favorite incense, and he knew he was being especially honored.
Teishu was already measuring the tea for them.  The first tea, or thick tea, was mixed for the entire group, and everyone drank from the same bowl.  It was extremely difficult to make properly in single portions, but there were masters who could do it.  As the tea was being whisked, Irian noted the flower on the wall behind his teacher.  This, too, was different-it was the symbol of the Yagyu, the school under which they both studied.  He wasn’t sure what the significance was, though, and so he concentrated on the tea.

It was perfectly whisked, and properly measured-a strong, citrus blend, robust and hot.  It was in a deep, plain earthenware bowl, heavily glazed on the inside but bare outside.  Both student and teacher drank until the bowl was empty.

Hi o naosasete itadakimasu.
Please allow me to replenish the charcoal.

Next was thin tea.  There were two bowls, each identical down to a chip taken out of each rim.  While his professor measured out the first bowls of tea, Irian trained his good eye on the master’s hands, gracefully dipping the tea and adding the hot water, whisking each bowl just so, and then offering the bowl.
He drank deeply, noticing that this one was a mint tea, and even though it was very warm it still left a cool feeling in the mouth.  Irian thought about the signifigance of this occasion.  The tea ceremony was something few had an opportunity to witness, and this one was just for him.  Few people also knew that the Yagyu professor was a studying teishu, or one who gives the tea ceremony, but Irian had kept this confidence, as the professor had earned his certificates and practiced with Irian, giving simple ceremonies.  This, however, was far from simple.  There was an event to take place, and he couldn’t place it.

Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

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