Satoru explained again. I was prepared for a violent response to the news that we had probably been marked for elimination by the Ethics Committee, but they took it rather well. It helped that Shun seemed to agree with me that Satoru was over-thinking the whole thing. Plus, we were all in such a good mood right now that the shock was diminished. If everything went as Shun said, we would be able to hide everything about Rijin sealing our cantus. The most we would have to endure was a scolding from our teacher.
“Saki, I’m counting on you,” Shun passed me a scrap of paper. “Please restore my cantus.”
I took a deep breath and nodded.
I unfolded the paper and read it by the light of the campfire. It was a rather long mantra, a total of eight phrases, or thirty-six characters. I had planned on burning the note as soon as I read it, but with a mantra this long, I wasn’t positive I could remember it. I crumpled the note in my hand.
It’s okay. I can do it. I just have to repeat what I did to Satoru. I tried calming myself with these words. In reality though, there are three major differences in these two instances. For one, Shun was completely conscious. Furthermore, he’d be fully aware that I would be hypnotizing him, and he already knew his mantra. But I didn’t think of any of this at the time.
“Look at the flames.”
I called up my memories of the initiation ceremony, and directed Shun’s attention to the campfire. Head Priest Mushin had told me to imagine moving the flames, but it probably wouldn’t have the same effect on someone whose cantus had been sealed.
“Look at the flickering flame. Right. Left. Swaying…flickering,” I whispered.
Shun kept silent. The other three watched me with bated breath.
I stirred the fire with a long branch, scattering bright sparks. I wasn’t expecting it to replicate the same effect of the flames in the altar, but the sparks left traces in the air, creating a dreamy mood.
He didn’t move an inch. I couldn’t tell if he had been hypnotized or not.
“Shun Aonuma. You have broken the rules coming to a place you do not belong. Furthermore you have been swayed by the words of a demon. However, the real problem is much greater.”
There was no response.
“You have violated the foundation of the Code of Ethics, the last of the Ten Precepts, ‘do not desecrate the Three Jewels’. You have fallen for the words of a demon and questioned the teachings of Buddha. Therefore I must seal your cantus.”
I thought I heard Shun sigh. It seemed to be working. I continued a little uncertainly.
“Look at the flames once again.”
“Look into the flames.”
There was still no response, but I could see the fire reflected in his eyes.
“Your cantus is sealed in that human emblem. Do you see it?”
A much louder sigh this time, then, “Yes.”
“The emblem is cast into the fire. Everything is burned away. All your worldly desires are burned away, and the ashes return to the vast, wild earth.” I took a deep breath and said loudly, “The emblem has been eradicated. Your cantus is now sealed!”
A small choked sound came from the back of Shun’s throat. His breathing sped up.
“Cast aside your worldly desires. To reach nirvana, cast everything into the cleansing flame.”
It was time. I stood up and went closer to him.
“Shun Aonuma. In your devotion to Buddha, you have abandoned your cantus. By the compassion of Buddha, you will receive a new mantra, a new spirit, and your cantus will be returned to you!”
I hit him on the shoulders and whispered the words written on the paper, “Oṃ amogha vairocana mahāmudrā maṇipadma jvāla pravarttaya hūṃ.”
Later I found out that these words came from the Buddha himself; it was the Mantra of Light. This alone was a clear indicator of Shun’s talents. He was born with the expectation of becoming a future leader.
Suddenly the fire flared up to three times its previous size and fanned out like an eight-headed serpent, twisting and meandering through the air like some strange dance.
Shun was smiling, looking up at the fire. We broke into applause, clapping, stamping, and whistling. The cheering didn’t stop for a long time. Shun had recovered his cantus.