The Rashomon Gate
In those days the Capital was in a sad state of affairs. Famine and flood, fire and whirlwind had each made their appearance over the years, one disaster leading on to the next in a chain of misery. Nearly everything, it seemed, was in disrepair, including the Rashomon Gate. All manner of wild things had crept in over the years and made their home in the dilapidated structure; foxes, badgers, robbers. And other things.
You may have heard that people would bring unclaimed bodies there to dump, and this is true. Furtive figures would mount the wide red staircase that led to the tower atop the gate, dragging their burdens, sometimes perhaps with a sketchy sort of respect, sometimes just performing distasteful chore, according to their own natures and the natures of the departed. And then they would depart, and the crows would descend from their perches on the ridge poles and the once-bright shibi that graced their tips.
Rashomon Gate was not a place one would want to hang about in the daylight, much less in the night. It would have been a curious sight, therefore, had anyone been watching, to see the wizened monk who came to the gate one midnight in summer.
He came up Suzaku Boulevard at a deliberate if staggering pace, strong legs tethered to age-twisted hips. His staff was more than an accoutrement. His robes, once a sober black, were faded and dusty from the road. It had rained fiercely the week before, flattening crops; the past five days, however, had seen a sun intent on desiccating the land.
The monk stopped there beneath the gate, scratched an armpit, hawked and spat. “No help for it,” he muttered, and began the painful climb up the red stairs.