Unto The Inferno
“The Old Code”
“It was then that I finally understood what I must do. I understood one simple thing – that another breath in this world would not be guaranteed but because of my actions alone, those kids will be able to breathe their first breath of freedom.”
Prologue: Memoria Symphony
I remember the night I went to New York City to attend the philharmonic orchestral concert of one of my favorite Japanese composers whom was doing a world tour. It was a cold night and the first time in many moons that I wore a suit. My suit was a blend of black and dark azure which graced perfectly to the moonlight’s hue. The concert was one of formal wear and it was about a week before Christmas Eve. The concert hall was decorated in Christmas lights including a massive tree that greeted the concert guests in the main lobby. I was directed towards my seat by a smiling elder gentlemen and the warmth of the concert hall was a welcome from the cold outside. I sat down upon my chair and I was quite anxious as it was the first time I have attended a formal orchestral concert. To me, music especially orchestral music has always been a powerful tool when it comes to giving emotions almost physical form. The elegant strings of the violins harmonized with the captivating cello and I felt a moment of serenity upon hearing the beautiful masterpieces conducted. But alas – that was when “Memoria de la Ŝtono” sung by the beautiful Susan Calloway finally commenced. The violins and choir came into a calm rhythmic melody and paused for Susan’s voice to follow suit. The silence inside the concert hall mirrored the drifting snow outside the building and thus the vocal and melody joined, taking over the room. My fingers crossed, I slowly closed my eyes to listen to the orchestral strings and choir waltz – taking me away only for just the night.
Four years later…
My ribs hurt and my lungs felt as if they were in flames. My mouth was dry and my lips were bleeding from being chapped. I heaved sharp breaths as my mind raced at a thousand miles per hour. Everything that could have went wrong had done exactly that. I knew coming here was almost suicide and the situation only grew worst as different factors came into play. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong people and the whole damn nine yards. My left hand was almost numb and the pain from the lack of circulation was incredibly bothersome. My eyes darted as I peeked over the vehicle frame and everyone in the town was being slaughtered. It was genocide at it’s perfect definition. The country’s political leadership had given the military troops permission to commit any atrocity they wished and I, along with another, just happened to find ourselves caught up in the middle of the shit storm. Bullets zipped past our direction and I remember looking at my teammate before we both returned fire. Only a few rounds were shot off before I felt the bolt in my rifle slam forward. Immediately taking cover to reload, I finally heard the screaming of the children to my left.
Huddled together and sobbing behind the doorway of a building littered in bullet holes were three kids – all around the ages of ten. The oldest maybe a year or two older. My breathing became shallower and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I felt almost a cold chill flow through my spine despite being ridiculously near the point of heat exhaustion. I cussed, smacking the bolt release before screaming at my guy to gain fire superiority. My mind raced as time depleted on the decision I morally had to make in the severity of the situation. I believed that looking back now, I wanted my mind to think of nothing but the gentle snow drifting into the ground under the cool night and the grace of melodic strings. It was then that I finally understood what I must do…
Part I: Of Foundations And Morality
When I was a young boy, the first time I have ever heard of any code of morality was when I was watching the 1996 British-American fantasy action-adventure film “Dragonheart”. The story revolved a knight named Bowen, whom sought redemption, and Draco, the last of dragonkind. The story ultimately told of courage, honor, justice and sacrifice. In a very important scene, Bowen had lost his way in virtue and the “Old Code” is recited during the story by the shades or animated memories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. After reciting the “Old Code”, Bowen was reminded once again of his duties as a knight. The “Old Code” was a set of rules followed by knights, which were meant to maintain order in the world. It was followed strictly by Bowen.
The Old Code
“A knight is sworn to valour,
His heart knows only virtue,
His blade defends the helpless,
His might upholds the weak,
His word speaks only truth,
His wrath undoes the wicked.”
The oath alone shows the value and importance of chivalry and Bushido. The legend of King Arthur was important in defining the ideals of chivalry which is essential to the European ideal of the knight as an elite warrior who was sworn to uphold the values of faith, loyalty, courage and honour. Knights of the medieval era were asked to “Protect the weak, defenseless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all.” These few guidelines were the main duties of a medieval knight, but they were very hard to accomplish thoroughly. Rarely, even the best of knights were able to fully meet these guidelines, which proves the difficulty in their lifestyle.
The “knights” of Japan – the Samurai – also had an “Old Code”. The code was called Bushido, which meant “Way of the Warrior”. Bushido was not only a code of conduct, but a way of life and was loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. Bushido originates from the Samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, mastery of the martial arts and honour until death. The Bushido code is typified by seven virtues: Recitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honour and Loyalty.
The words of the “Old Code” struck a cord in my heart and would eventually pave the steps in my life which would embark the warrior’s path.
Part II: Out of Darkness, These Blades Will Light Our Way
In this time of age, the codes of morality are hardly non-existent. The vast growing of technological advances have make cowards of man and the sins of evil sprout and grow. The world is full of numerous immoralities, various wars and many battles:
To the Global War on Terror to the War on Drugs.
To human trafficking and the human sex trade.
To the international fight on wildlife crime and the fight to preserve the environment.
To keeping peace within the communities from the lawless.
To hunting corruption and keeping evil at bay.
To bringing justice to the boy beaten by his drunk father or the woman abused by her boyfriend.
To maintaining your integrity and upholding your honour while battling not just all the evils of the world but the evil within yourself.
Such evils have existed before our time and will continue long after we are gone; of course, we cannot fight them all but to rise and challenge these evils will roar louder than inaction. If we are to live but this one life, then let our life start by being of service to the people, to the world and in the name of the greater good. It was my dream as a child to become a paleontologist but I knew that the wants and needs of a world that cried for justice was more important than my own goals. Children were suffering, innocents were being slaughtered, and fauna were being poached to near extinction. I recall a memory of when I was but a young recruit before my military days. I was in the car with a US Army recruiter whom was Vietnamese and a Special Forces Green Beret. I inquired about the evils and “getting into the fight” but he chuckled, shaking his head at a young teenager’s immature aspirations. “Do not be in a hurry to get into the fight,” he said. “There will always be bad guys.” The memory of that conversation seemed to be a lifetime ago and was but a single domino in the effect that it would echo into my life. I chose to discipline myself and to be baptized in physical and mental training in order to rise to combat such evils. Little did I know, that road ahead was unlike anything I ever expected.
Part III: The Legends of Old
“I am not afraid… I was born to do this.”
– Jeanne d’Arc | Joan of Arc, “The Maid of Orléans” (1412 – 1431)
Time has only immortalized events created by the actions of many noble people. People who sought to give themselves purpose under a higher calling though each callings differ. The only thing that mattered at the end was the decisions they have made that would echo across the stones of time. Warriors. Heroes. Legends of old. They are the ones who we read in bedtime stories of heroism and justice. They are the ones who’s physical presence become a beacon of hope for the despair. They are the ones who defy impending odds. They are the ones who’s actions against unrelenting foes show that few can stand against many. And it is through them that we can learn that such admirable tales of ferocity and courage can be learned and passed on.
Hasakura Kitsumoto was one of the most formidable samurai of his time. At the age of 29, he walked into the land of a corrupted lord and willingly sacrificed himself in order to save thousands. Jeanne d’Arc, at the age of 18, lead the French army to victory against the English at Orléans. She was betrayed and captured by the English and put down to flames on the stake at the age of 19. The great Spartan King Leonidas lead an army of 300 Spartans against the invading Persian Army while the rest of Sparta and the Greek nations idled by. Roman General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo committed suicide at the mad Emperor Nero’s command in order to stop his beloved Rome from erupting in civil war and ceasing unnecessary bloodshed. In 12th century Japan, one of the most famous Onna-bugeisha was Tomoe Gozen. No warrior could outmatch her strength and agility. In 40 AD, the Trung Sisters, daughters of a Vietnamese general, raised an army of 80,000 soldiers to fight against the invasive Chinese. Trung Trac, the elder sister, lost her husband after he was publicly executed by the Chinese for objecting a Chinese policy. United States Air Force Combat Controller John Chapman sacrificed his life for others while deep in the northern mountains of Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda – the largest US Special Operations combat operation against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. John Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on August 22, 2018 for his actions in the Battle of Takur Ghar during the War in Afghanistan. He is the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.
“Axios! I AM WORTHY!”
– Roman General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (Peltuinum c. 7 – 67 AD)
I spent many years trying to make the world bleed less but the world continues to bleed regardless of my actions and the actions of many. At the end of the day, was it worth it? The heartaches, the sorrows, the losses, the triumphs, the friendships made and the friends lost; was it all truly worth it? At the end of the day, I’d do it all again. We are the reminders of the world that chivalry and bushidō has not died because we few refuse to let those moralities fade. We suffer and fight for those who suffer more and cannot fight back. We are the shield – we are the bulwark. We are the ones who hold the line no matter the cost. We are the peacekeepers and the peacemakers.
We are warriors in a world where warriors hardly exist. The echoes of our actions will come into the moment when we finally ask ourselves:
What will I do?
Will I stand on the sidelines and be prey to the wolves?
Will I stand above the stadium and mock the gladiators?
Will I sit idly by while my neighbor suffers and the world burns?
Will I live but this one life and let others follow the path that I know I am too cowardly to tread?
Or will I wield blade in hand and hold evil at bay – no matter the cost?
Epilogue: Journey All But Snow And Sand
It was then that I finally understood what I must do. I understood one simple thing – that another breath in this world would not be guaranteed but because of my actions alone, those kids will be able to breathe their first breath of freedom. I do not know where they will be the next day or what will become of their fate but all I did know was that I had to get them out. I lifted my rifle above the vehicle’s hood and returned fire before going into an all out spring in their direction. I covered perhaps 15 meters or so before I swung my rifle over and grabbed the first two kids by their arm, forcing them to stay low while I raced them outside the other doorway. One was still behind and I raced back in, nearly slipping on shattered grass before grabbing the last child and reciting my steps towards the other doorway and past what looked like a kitchen.
My hair was much longer during this time and the length was almost down to my shoulders. Drenched in sweat, my hair was mangled and covered my eyes which proved to be troublesome as I ran back and fourth. On the road outside, citizens were fleeing and I urged all three children to follow the rest of the town. I screamed, struggling to catch my breath and shoved the kids forward. The eldest finally understood and grabbed the other two before racing outside to join the fleeing villagers and townsfolk. I threw the empty magazine onto the floor and reloaded my second to last, exhaling sharply at the suicidal obligation that I forced upon myself. The screams and gunfire continued to echo across the jungle and I pulled my hair back, noticing almost a fistful of my red hair between my fingers. I pushed the bolt forward and exhaled again, taking one last look outside the shattered window frame before returning back to my teammate…
… and back unto the inferno.
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