“Put all your emotions into the emblem.”
Paper head. Paper body. Paper limbs.
An unmistakably human figure.
I felt my own body merging with the paper emblem. I sent strength into its legs, balancing like a daruma doll.
The paper figure stood up gently.
Once again, feelings of happiness and power flowed through me.
“Saki Watanabe, your cantus is sealed!” His voice rang through the temple, shattering the shining image I had in my mind.
Six long needles whistled through the air, piercing the emblem’s head, body, arms and legs.
“All your desires have been burned away. Let the ashes return to the vast, wild earth.”
The praying monk tossed the emblem into the fire.
The fire flared like an explosion, almost scorching the ceiling.
“Your cantus has been eradicated.”
Stunned, I could only stare at the events unfolding before my eyes.
“Look at the flames,” Head Priest Mushin commanded me again. “You can no longer control them anymore. Try it.” His voice was emotionless.
I looked into the fire, but this time, I couldn’t see anything. No matter how hard I tried, nothing changed.
Would I never be able to grasp that feeling of power again? Tears ran down my cheeks.
“In your devotion, you have abandoned your cantus,” his voice was suddenly warm and gentle again. “By the compassion of Buddha, you will receive a pure mantra, a new spirit and a your cantus, once again.”
He hit me on both shoulders with a Zen stick. I hung my head, and the sound of chanting grew louder.
Head Priest Mushin leaned in close so that only I could hear and whispered my new mantra.