(A re-write of Zen Mondo)
Once upon a time in a frontier town the brash young son of a Warrior, named Doku, desiring to experience more of life after the death of his father, left his rigid and regulated circumstance and embarked on a long journey towards the Capital.
He was a agile and strong young man and highly skilled in sword fighting. Halfway to the Capital he came upon a large estate on the periphery of a prosperous town.
The estate holder, Esquire Zaven’s first wife had died suddenly at childbirth leaving behind a squalling son. The property was enormous with many fields surrounding it that constantly needed tending. The historic mansion perched on a hilltop, supported a large household. As Zaven was always away on business, he’d been forced to re-marry in haste, acquiring a seemingly competent spouse to run the groundskeepers and the household staff in his absence. Doku, carrying exemplary credentials had no trouble securing the recently vacated position of a head Steward. Unfortunately during the course of his stay there he became enamored of the beautiful young wife of Esquire Zaven. Doku was a fetching young man with a fine physique that before long caught the eye of the young wife.
Once when Esquire Zaven was away on business, Doku chanced a clandestine meeting with the lady in which he professed his deep affections for her. She was an easy conquest and the two became instant lovers. The Esquire however returned unexpectedly early from his recent trip and so the illicit affair was exposed. Confronting the enraged husband, the culprit Doku slew the outraged Zaven in self-defense. Faced with this dire circumstance and facing certain death, the two lovers ran away.
Always on the run and with scant options for survival, Doku became a highwayman. His skill was unmatched and any resistance was swiftly squashed.
The spoils provided the couple with many luxuries. But still, it was never enough for the former wife. Greed dulled the appeal of this once beautiful woman and her demands, by degrees, caused Doku to grow increasingly disgusted with her. Finally he left her and resumed his journey, but not to the Capital.
Eventually he settled down to a frugal life in a remote frontier town at the base of a mountain, where he became known as a solitary mendicant.
As he matured he felt increasing remorse for his past sins. Ghosts regularly haunted his dreams calling for him to atone for his crimes, particularly the felony that had started it all. Finally, after all this soul searching, Doku’s thoughts centered on the dangerous cliff road over the mountain and the countless souls it had caused death and injury to.
“Yes, I shall do it.” He nodded resolutely. As his atonement for all his past crimes he resolved to cut a tunnel through the mountain. He knew it would be a most ambitious feat but he desperately needed to accomplish a good turn that may, in part, eradicate some of his sins.
He set to work the very next day. From then on during the daylight hours Doku worked tirelessly doing any sort of labor, no matter how dangerous or loathsome. At night, after a modest meal and a brief repast, he hefted his pick and packed his shovel then travelled on horseback to the foothills. He spent the first several weeks surveying the region’s topography. From a hidden cave opening he started digging the tunnel until daylight broke. He made good use of the existing natural caverns, connecting them by digging short tunnels between them. By the time thirty years had gone by, the length of the tunnel reached 2,280 feet. Doku had almost achieved his goal of creating a secure pathway deep under the mountain. In a two more years he would reach his goal.
Before the work was complete however, the slain Esquire’s son Bron, who had become a skilled swordsman caught up with Doku. Bent on revenge, Bron lay in wait behind a huge boulder on a deserted stretch of path to spring his ambush. Doku with his experience as a highwayman had naturally sensed the presence of danger and dismounted. Holding the reins, Doku took the rocky path in bold strides that caused Bron to hesitate.
Bron paralleled the path for a time waiting for another opportunity to strike, then, brandishing his sword, jumped in front to block Doku’s way. Proclaiming his name, he shouted: “I’m here to avenge my father Esquire Zaven Ko, whom you’ve so foully murdered. Be prepared to die, vermin!”
On the verge of receiving the death blow, Doku maintained his calm composure and stated his protest, “”I will give you my life willingly; only, let me finish this crucial work first. On the day of its completion, I swear I will stand ready to receive my punishment.”
Doku’s courage and earnest demeanor convinced the son to postpone his revenge to a later time. And so Bron temporarily set aside the blistering rage swelling his chest and, night after night, followed Doku to the tunnel and watched him work. In all that time, even with a death sentence hovering over his head Doku’s diligence never once wavered. He removed the rock with his pick and then constructed post and beam supports from the surrounding trees to buttress the walls of the tunnel. In this way several months passed. Doku, even when sick worked hard at the dig.
Eventually Bron grew tired of doing nothing but watch Doku. In order to keep fit and to hasten the end result, he simply showed up with a pick. No words were exchanged as he worked alongside Doku on the dig.
After he had helped for more than a year, keeping a close eye on the other even during the day, Bron gradually came to admire Doku’s strong will and steadfast character. Bron witnessed firsthand many of other’s charitable ways: his unwavering assistance to the sick and old and the countless anonymous generous donations to the needy, even though it meant at times going without food and clothing. He took note how Doku most brave in defending the weak: so many lives were spared fending off the local hoodlums and many widows and orphans fared better or survived their harsh circumstance, because of Doku’s cavort aid.
At long last couple hours before dawn the tunnel was finally complete. Now the people could use it and travel in safety. Covered in dust and dirt, Doku now prostrated himself before Bron in readiness for death.
“Thank you for your patience and help. Now you may cut off my head. I bear you no ill will. My work is done.”
“How can I cut off my own teacher’s head?” asked Bron lowering his head with tears brimming in his eyes.