Bulldog had me learning Mushin in the pond's freezing water for most of the afternoon.
The evergreen trees grew a dense canopy around the irregular shaped pond I trained in, isolating it from the glaring late summer--early autumn sun. I shivered before I went into the water; no chance of feeling warm. To top it off, an overpowering stench of musk and pine wafted about the air to stir up a nasty headache as I practiced the art of stillness, waist-deep in murky water.
Eventually, I was permitted to re-join Pesti for our usual duties.
"Did you learn anything?" Pesti asked as he observed my shivering body.
"The pond's bloody cold. That's what I learned," I grumbled, feeling like a drowned rat.
Pesti chuckled. He returned to his work.
I sighed, deciding it was best to work harder, so I could dry faster.
We followed Bulldog's example of diligent care towards the plants and small animals of the grounds.
Seeing seeds, sown in the gardens by my own hands, flourish into beautiful life was fulfilling. Healthy animals sharing napping spots as if they were old friends was a delightful sight.
Pesti enjoyed the company of animals the most. His ability to gain their assistance had lightened our workload.
The day was approaching twilight when we headed to the temple's entrance to complete our last duties.
We were causally passing through the Torii gate near the shady pine forest when I felt something land on my shoulder. I dropped my water bucket with fright near one of the red hashira.
"Sheesh Small Cap, quit startling me like that." I sighed with relief.
It was just my spider friend. His bug-face appeared to be grinning.
Small Cap was a large-sized great huntsman whose golden hair, walrus beard, opaque eyes and twiggy legs was a gentle appearance for a spider. I gave him his name because of his unique tiny tuft of hair that protruded from his forehead like a cap.
He scurried into my pocket.
"I'm glad he's fond of you. Probably been hard for him since he lost his place in his nest," Pesti said with a smile.
"Guess I'm his makeshift nestmate." I gently patted Small Cap's head.
"Or nest." Pesti pointed to my breast pocket.
If that was so, I was glad to be his home. Small Cap had been separated from his nest during a storm. A window had closed on his leg when he had tried to escape through the opening. His recovery had taken some time. So, when he returned to his nest, his scent was no longer recognizable to his family. He had been chased out.
I worked with Small Cap sleeping in my pocket. He woke when I had arrived to the Kuri for dinner time. Unaware of his surroundings, he jumped out of my pocket and landed on to War's loaded plate.
The comical sight of War's squeals and failed attempts to shoo off Small Cap was a priceless revenge.
Food was scattered everywhere about our table. Small Cap could escape through a partially opened window.
Death groaned when we saw the dining hall's attention was focused on us.
"Yah bloody wildcats! Clean up dah mess!" We copped a fierce scolding from Bulldog and many disappointed sighs from the monks at the other tables.
My three brothers and I quietly cleaned up the damage. I felt War's irk burning at my back the whole time.
"Whydahell yah bring dat critter here yah bastard?!" He discreetly growled into my ear.
I cringed at the elbow jab I felt to my gut.
"You're lucky Small Cap didn't bite your fat nose. I would've." I spat out.
Eventually, the hall resumed its restful silence. The four of us focused on eating what little food was left on our plates.
War and Death had resumed their duties back at the library and archive towers after dinner. Small Cap didn't return.
Pesti and I finished planting the new seedlings in the small meditation garden behind the glowing white Butsudan Hall.
"Phew!" I heaved a sigh of satisfaction. Another day's work was done.
We walked along a moist stone path through the evergreen trees towards the stone wall.
I relished the smells of musky foliage and autumn flowers sailing under our noses. A calming breeze cooled our skin.
"Beautiful night," I whispered my thought aloud.
We both stopped in our tracks, wonderstruck by the magical effulgence of the green, pink and blue aurora borealis snaking about the starry evening sky.
"Is this a spiritual nexus thing that Death goes on about?" I blurted the question to Pesti.
He answered with a shrug of his shoulders.
I smiled at his calm expression illuminated by the light, and gripped his hand tight within mine, feeling his warmth feed love into my heart.
It was a moment I didn't want to end.
A young rabbit brushed against my ankle.
Pesti pulled a carrot from his pocket; he fed it to the grateful rabbit. Its twitchy nose rubbed his ankle before it hopped down the slope.
"Hey, Pesti. This life won't change, right? You, me, Death, War will always be family, right?"
"Of course, I don't see what could change. Why would it?"
I felt settled by Pesti's answer.
"Thank you, brother," I whispered.
We reluctantly pulled away from the moment and made our way back to our room to call it a day.
I lapsed into a deep sleep as soon as I was comfortable in my futon.