As in all peaceful times, good people are more fearful than necessary, and he mostly functions as a mere warning figure: Beware of Guard.
For these gentle assignments, however, he finds that his accustomed mien and guarding style proves too fierce, too intimidating: he learns a lowered gaze, a softer stance; he keeps his hand off his sword's hilt, and, rather than hovering a cautious and respectful distance from his charges, he moves in to become a part of the communal activity. He plays with the children, teaching this one to spin a top, or that one to re-string a kite; he lifts Old Mother down off the cart so she can harass the market vendors personally; he hands tools to Papa-san while a peg in a loose axle gets re-set.
These tasks do not distract him from his wariness, and he observes his protected charges at close quarters, unsuspected by either they themselves or any potential threats.
This continual and daily contact begins to affect him: never having felt the soldier's contempt for "civilians", he yet had not caught the courage of normal daily life; had never bothered to interpret the mild ki rising from the throngs through which he had stealthily slid while hunting his prey. A hundred times a day now, he finds himself awash in a new kind of purpose: purpose unsullied by blood, bereft of hate and terror, unburdened by ambition and revenge; purpose energized by accomplishment, by order, by community.
Now, in addition to his kata, he studies the connections that create family, that knit together disparate lonely souls into meaningful groups, into the solid foundation of humanity itself. Now his wondering eyes take in healing scenes between those whose relationships are based on the trust of familiarity, of necessity; on long-established love; even on simple acceptance. He hears conversations where the words mean only what is said; missing are the coded threats of violence and revenge. He listens in amazement as husband and wife squabble, then, with a small gesture of forgiveness, simply go on with their tasks, still loving, neither holding resentment nor planning retaliation. Business partners disagree over pricing schemes, then settle on a compromise acceptable to all. And keep the agreement, peaceably, honorably.
He notices that the children, too, watch these scenes, and with as much intensity as he. They stop their play when voices rise, turn toward the source of the conflict, and listen with focus. He can see by their open faces they are engraving these moments in their hearts, to be sorted out later as a guide to life.
This is how people learn how to be. This is what I never had.
He discovers that, from old and long habit, his body tenses in response to these high emotions and harsh words; his mind automatically begins to predict the next stage in the conflict; begins to plan his part in the inevitable, ensuing fray. It takes real effort to come down, to move back into the sunshine of the group, to hear the blessed music of peace rather than the insistent drumbeat of combat.
He is astonished at the wisdom exercised at these times: in body language, he reads the decision to forgive; in ki, he feels the rise of patience; in the hours that follow, he marvels at the redemptive results of tolerance and acceptance, the salvation afforded by commitment and love.
Revolution has many kata.
For the first time in his life, he yearns to belong, to be a part of this brave new world, so novel to his mind. Daily he drinks in the balm of peace. Daily he, too, engraves these scenes on his heart, pondering them in his quiet moments.
Is it even possible for someone so stained with the lifeblood of his fellow creatures, so steeped in the ways of violence, such a stranger to peace and charity… ?
His soul weeps to measure the unbridgeable chasm separating him from this community of bonds. He is unfit for their trusted company; he is unsuited for the circle of intimacy he beholds. His dishonorable past, his violent impulses, the very purity and focus of his life's training and path: his indictment is clear and heavy.
His vow now seems small and pitiful: simply never to kill? Is that a goal to strive for? Is that all the meaning he can find in life?
This unworthy one will learn a new way, will serve goodness, will honor innocence. Will protect peace.