07. Beyond The Lanterns' Light
In an instant, the samurai were surrounded. A crowd of cold, otherworldly flames hovered just out of arms' reach, as if taunting. Fiendish laughter echoed in the distance, then closer... Yet a mere moment later, the flames disappeared as though nothing had ever transpired. Darkness enveloped the path once again.
There are few in Hingashi who have not heard tales of the bake-chochin. Though these haunting lanterns typically seek only to play tricks on those that wander too close, the ones we encountered on Mount Rokkon clearly had a mind to give chase. According to Tokimori, generations of head monks at Shojo Temple carried a lantern of identical appearance on their nightly strolls, so perhaps the bake-chochin sought merely to protect their masters' home, albeit in a unique way.
The lantern now in my possession bears the following words in Far Eastern calligraphy:
If fortune you seek
Know that our light glows brightest
Within twilight's reach
And 'tis the kami of fire
This celebration entreats
I know not precisely what this poem calls upon its reader to do, but its words occupy my thoughts nonetheless.