“I know your parents well,” he said, nodding. “They were outstanding as children, and I expected them to become people the town could depend on. And they did, just as I thought.”
I didn’t know what to say, but it wasn’t unpleasant hearing my parents being praised.
“But your dad really liked practical jokes. He used to throw fake haythatcher eggs at the bronze statue every day. The smell was terrible and we didn’t know how to get rid of it. That was my statue, by the way. Ah, at that time, I was the headmaster at Harmony School.”
“Oh, really?” It was my first time hearing that Head Priest Mushin had been a headmaster. I also found it hard to imagine that my father’s personality used to be the same as Satoru’s.
“Saki, you’ll be entering Sage Academy soon and becoming an adult. But before that, you must seclude yourself in this temple for the night.”
“Um, where is this temple?” I knew it was rude to interrupt him, but I couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer.
“This is the Temple of Purity. Usually I preside over the Pure Land Temple at Hayring, but I come here to burn cedar sticks for coming of age ceremonies.”
“By any chance, are we outside the Holy Barrier?”
Head Priest Mushin looked faintly surprised. “Yes. It’s the first time you’ve been outside the barrier since you were born. But don’t worry. There’s a barrier that’s just as powerful as the Holy Barrier around this entire area.”
Head Priest Mushin’s calm voice alleviated my uneasiness.
“Well then, it’s time to get ready. The lighting of the cedar sticks itself isn’t so special; it’s just a normal ceremony. Before that we’ll have a short sermon. It’s not a very formal one, so relax. Also, it might make you kind of sleepy, so it’s okay if you fall asleep.”
“No, no, it’s okay, really. Insomniacs have come to my temple for this exact purpose, though that was a long time ago. Anyway, spending an entire night not sleeping, but not doing anything else either is a waste of time, in my opinion. Once, there was a sermon I had to give, but no one wanted to listen to it, so I found a bunch of insomniacs and made it a kind of gathering for them. Within the first ten minutes, everyone was soundly asleep.”
Head Priest Mushin’s speech wasn’t slow and stagnant like most people of his age. He had an ability to charm his audience. I laughed and talked with him easily.
Speaking of the sermon, it wasn’t so boring that I fell asleep, but it wasn’t particularly riveting either. It was about the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Basically, to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about how you would feel.
“…this seems simple, but is hard to truly understand. Take this for example. You and a friend are hiking up a mountain and get hungry along the way. Your friend brought a rice ball and starts eating it, while you have nothing. You ask if she’ll share it with you and she says ‘no, it’s not necessary’.”
“Because I can endure your hunger.”