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The avatar of Inari

The personal diary (illegible), magister-alchemist of the Scarlet forest clan

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I never believed in gods – the so-called kami. Faith – crutches for simpletons, illiterate peasants, worshipping fire or lightning just because they cannot explain it. For fire and lightning are but natural processes – understandable and subject to analysis. There is nothing divine in them.  Just as in those who the uneducated kitsune, as well as other creatures from the Sunrise islands, call avatars. Sacks of meat and bones, just like the rest of them, only a bit stronger, faster, and smarter. Although, when it comes down to the matter… Perhaps the avatars are merely fanatics, who are able to operate at peak efficiency due to blind, absolute faith. I simply must study them, to dismantle any foolish myths and superstitions and find the roots of this ignorance, to rip them out once and for all. 

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Dragons have long piqued my interest. Unlike the so-called avatars, they are quite real, I even saw one myself. They say that most of them are but vicious beasts, desiring dominion over our fragile world. But I know for a fact, that the dragons of the Sunrise Islands are nothing of the sort, they do not desire power. They are protectors. Alas, dragons do not desire to communicate with mere mortals. Perhaps the ancient texts from the clan library will help me not only dismantle the myths of the believers, but also find a way to divert the attention of a dragon to me.

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Found it! “Of the heavenly wyrms, lords of the ether and companions of the gods” by the honorable Lu Feng. Indeed, it does describe a way to attract the attention of a dragon… but it is complete nonsense. “Have faith, pray, subdue the body and spirit and wait for a sign from the gods”. Absolute rubbish. How many prayers must I recite to achieve the desired effect? And how should I measure my faith, exactly? How will I know whether I have ‘subdued my spirit’ enough? Ridiculous! Unsubstantial babbling of a crazed old man. I never… (The conclusion of the sentence is spilled over with ink)

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So. I have considered the words of Lu Feng for a while now. Yes, it is unscientific, but I have no other sources to go by. In the end, it’s not poison that I’m testing on myself. How did it go now? Have faith?

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How absurd! How can one possibly “have faith” in something that directly contradicts the laws of nature?!! “Let the kami inside your body”… I understand how one can let food, water, medicine or poison inside one’s body. But how can one let in that, which does not exist? For an entire month I have struggled with these cursed scriptures, wasted my time in temples, breathed in holy incense even more than the vapours of my laboratory, and all in vain. I guess this must be a dead end.

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Something odd happened to me today. Just as for the previous two months, I was sitting at an evening temple sermon, listening to mantras, breathing in sandalwood smoke, trying to find at least some resemblance of logic and order in what the monks were mumbling about, and, I think, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I felt something new. My brain, having just woken up, did not interpret the mantras as words bearing meaning, but rather as some kind of background noise. And if you do not attempt to decipher the words, but rather…let them…go through you… and breathe deeply, you enter a certain state… I am unsure how to describe it… a trance, meditation. I am a bit frightened – for the first time, I did not think about something, but simply took it in, and it was…peaceful. Peace and calm. Perhaps, the key to  “faith” lies in this – to not attempt to comprehend, but to simply…feel.

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I have decided to leave the palace. For a month. They say the monks of the mountain temple accept everyone. I will live some time without my laboratory, without my notes, experiments. Breathe and listen to myself, that is what the abbot said.

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How blind I was! Science, alchemy, formulae, experiments – these are merely part of the set of instruments for understanding the world. If they are combined with spiritual practices, then an understanding of something greater than material things comes. Faith is the other side of science. Faith is not fanaticism, it is acceptance. Comprehension. Gods exist, spirits exist, they are merely beyond our understanding! Beyond the boundaries of reason.

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I saw a dragon! Close, practically within the reach of my hand. He came down to me, while I was walking in the temple grounds. He glanced in my eyes and soared back up into the sky. His look…wisdom, understanding. For the first time I wholeheartedly prayed to the gods. I thanked them for my enlightenment. Perhaps they can truly hear.

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Yesterday evening, Inari came to me in my dreams. She said great plans were prepared for me and that I shall be rewarded for my faith. First a dragon graced me with its attention, and then – a goddess. Something of great significance approaches.

the notes end abruptly

The return of princess Fumiko to the Scarlet forest clan caused an uproar. The Kitsune barely had time to wink, and she had already ascended the throne and was now accepting a delegation from a neighbouring clan. The foxes bow deeply and sit to drink tea. To Fumiko’s left sits the clan alchemist and pensively goes through her beads. They say she has recently acquired enlightenment. The reception goes smoothly… until one of the delegation members pulls out throwing knives from under the sleeve of his kimono. 

A moment later, and the princesses’ guards fall with blades in their necks. The princess is not frightened, but rather exasperated, he attempts to strike at the impudent upstarts with magic, but the alchemist stands. In her eyes – the light of faith, beads flow between fingers, clicking a complex melody. The Kitsune stands up, and her feet lift above the floor. Her kimono flows, caught by the sudden gust of wind, eyes begin to shine. Sparks crackle through the fur. The attackers are dumbfounded, they do not know whether to continue the assassination attempt or to fall on their knees.

And then the wooden roof of the pavilion collapses. A great white dragon comes down from the sky and takes its place behind the no-longer-alchemist. The latter opens his mouth and everyone is deafened by a heavenly voice.

 – I am Inari! Bow down before me or be cut down by my hand!

The foxes drop down on the floor. The clan guards finally arrive at all the noise, and fall down on their knees as well, at the sight of the dragon and the floating alchemist. The avatar of Amaterasu descends; it turns to Fumiko and speaks:

— Greetings, princess. We have much to discuss.

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