A Day in the Life
The Calculating Engine
The Zen Garden of
Located near the Great Gymnasium of the Transcendent Order is a modest-sized Zen garden tended by an old man named Kanishi. No-one is quite sure of his exact age or place of origin: he seems to have been there as long as anyone can remember, and the first known written reference to him is a little over two hundred years old.
Kanishi is a man of few words, and although his reputation as a sage and philosopher is such that beings from all over Sigil and beyond will come to ask advice of him, they seldom receive an answer. Typically, Kanishi will instead point out a section of the garden where he feels that the questioner will correctly intuit her/his own answer should she/he contemplate long enough. Not receiving an instant solution or answer, few remain to even undertake this contemplation, and fewer still complete it. Perhaps this saddens Kanishi, but if so, he never shows it.
The garden itself also attracts members of the Transcendent Order, as well as some Sensates, whilst its meticulously maintained calm and ordered balance will send Xaosmen off screaming. Kanishi cares for the plants that fringe the garden and feeds the spectacular golden carp that inhabit its pools. He removes weeds from the small stream that runs through it (the source of which no-one has yet discovered) and keeps the stone lanterns lit in Sigil's gloom.
Kanishi himself is not a member of any faction, although he does seem to identify most closely with the Transcendent Order. Once, several generations ago, when asked by a frustrated Cipher Factol whether he thought that he had transcended the Transcendent Order, Kanishi simply smiled gently, seemingly pleased with the paradox.
Kanishi also sees to the patterns raked into the pebbles of the Zen garden. Sometimes the same pattern has stayed for many months; at other times, he changes it hour by hour. The rest of his day is spent in meditation, contemplation, and the practice of his chosen art, for Kanishi is a Kensai of very high level. [For the completely clueless, a Kensai is a master of a particular weapon or martial art- for more information consult Oriental Adventures or DRAGON #189]. Unlike most Kensai, though, Kanishi's art is not a fighting style at all -- it is Iaido, the art of sword drawing (not to be confused with Iaijutsu, the "lightning draw" practised by the Samurai [Oriental Adventures p.54]). The Iaido master attempts to master the action of the draw, making this an art in itself. The poise, the balance, the fluidity of the motion, the focus and unity of body and mind -- these are what Kanishi hopes to gain complete mastery of. He has absolutely no idea of how to use the sword as a weapon. He has a variety of swords in his collection, but his favourite and the one which he most frequently practices with is a katana of exquisite and incredible workmanship. It is said that this sword was presented to Kanishi by Amaterasu herself, forged in the rising sun, but no-one knows if this is really true, and Kanishi isn't saying.
Apart from his swords, robes, and rake, Kanishi owns nothing. He subsists on donations of food and drink from visitors and the Transcendent Order.
Another rumour that Kanishi will neither confirm nor deny is that when the pebbles of his garden are raked into particular, specific patterns, parts of the garden become portals to the realms of different Oriental gods. Kanishi also seems to have developed certain latent psionic abilities, or so it is said. Probably equally likely is that the transcendence of mind and body which he has achieved allows him to focus his qi to the extent that he can perform feats more usually associated with psionicists. Nevertheless, many psionicists still come to seek him out.
Visitors are always welcome in Kanishi's garden, but those who go expecting easy or instant answers will inevitably be disappointed by the experience.
Copyright 1998 by Ariella