Note: I didn't even realize that there was a 'Last Samurai' category on here. But this little story came to me at work, so here it is. Just a vignette of one of Algren and Katsumoto's "conversations."

The title, "Kansei," refers to a kanji that means a number of different things... among them are completion, accomplishment... and perfection.


"I am curious... why do you suppose that the gods did not make all blossoms perfect?" Katsumoto asked of Algren without turning around, recognizing the captain's steps approaching from behind.

"Why should they have?" Algren asked, stepping beside Katsumoto and looking up at the gently blooming flowers. "We're not perfect... why should cherry blossoms be?"

"You do not believe in perfection?" The samurai seemed surprised as he turned to look at his Western guest. "In anything?"

Algren thought about that one for a while. In the months that he had been here, he had seen how the samurai devoted themselves absolutely to the notion of perfection... be it the quiet serenity of the tea ceremony, a sword kata at dusk, or even Taka's gentle care of her flower garden.

"I believe in perfection..." the American said at last, his voice quiet, almost tinged with regret. "I just don't believe it to be attainable."

"Ah," Katsumoto said wisely, nodding. "Now you have grasped the first half of a very important truth. Perfection is unattainable."

Algren waited, but Katsumoto seemed content to leave the statement at that. "What's the other half?" he asked finally.

Katsumoto was standing on his tiptoes to peer at another flower. "That just because it is unattainable, does not mean you should not strive for it anyway."

Algren laughed suddenly, his face transformed to that of a much younger man.

"You do not laugh very often, Captain," Katsumoto said with a smile, turning around to study his guest once more. "But when you do, you laugh from your soul. Very samurai of you."

Algren shook his head, grinning, his long hair brushing his shoulders. "Iie. I'm no samurai. I'm just a gaijin who looks for meaning in a world where there is none."

"Now that is where you have missed a very important truth," Katsumoto said, his voice gently scolding. "There is a good deal of meaning in the world. But you must know where to look. A man who sits at the bottom of the well will never know much of the sky."

"You think I'm at the bottom of a well?" Algren was amused at the idea.

The tall samurai shrugged. "Or a bottle."

Algren went still. "You knew about that?"

Katsumoto shrugged again, turning away and resuming his walk along the garden path, leaving Algren to follow as he chose. "Hai. I could hear it in your screams, as your body purged its need and sorrow and helplessness... you sought oblivion, as do all warriors. But you were not afraid to die, or to kill, because you had never known what it meant to live. That is not good karma."

Algren had learned a little about the notion of karma from his earlier talks with Katsumoto. "Why not?"

"You must know life in order to live it, to take it, and to lose it."

"Know life?"

"Hai. Savor every breath, every sense... seek out perfection, though you may never find it. The purity of death and the purity of life are not all that different. When you learn that... then, you will learn what it means to be samurai."

Algren wished he could learn, but even in this tranquil place, he doubted it. "And if I don't learn?"

Katsumoto shrugged, but his eyes were bright with amusement. "Then there is always your next life."

"As a cherry blossom?" Algren suggested, and Katsumoto laughed aloud, sending showers of the blossoms down around them both.