I do not know how to begin or where. There are so many changes in me and sometimes it gets hard to focus and even meditating doesn’t sooth my soul. I feel wilder than before, less like a man and far more feral, but I suppose that is to be expected. I lost a great chunk of my humanity when I died. My soul itches where it was merged with the one the Byakko gave to me. Like a wound that is still healing.
It is confusing to me, my chest aches. Are there two souls inside of me or one? Am I still who I was or am I different entirely? I have so many questions and no one will answer me. No one knows the answers. Even the priest doesn’t know. I stare at the heavens and pray to the stars shining in the vast darkness but they remain quiet. The trees are silent and the animals run at my very presence as though my very being frightens them.
The priest was the one who encouraged me to write this, that it would help me focus and come to terms with what I am. What am I? Am I human? Am I feline? I was once a warrior, a samurai. Someone used to both giving orders and taking them. I wrote poetry and studied the art of the sword. Now I have no one around me to instruct and there isn’t a single person alive that knows how to guide me. The library here is limited and there is nothing on my situation in them, no matter how much I have searched. The Byakko has not returned and I still don’t know if his gift is a blessing or a curse.
Perhaps I should start from the beginning although I don’t know where that is exactly. Should I tell of my old life so I don’t forget? Or should I begin with my new one. Or maybe I should start with my death. Was that where it began? Or was it at my first birth?
I’ll start with who I was. I used to go by the name Akita Sadao. I was born in the year Eikyō 7 in Edo, Japan. My father, Akita Dai, was a samurai before me and like him I became one under the service of Ōta Dōkan. It was a good life, full of pride in who I was and what I did. I was a samurai. I demanded respect.
That life is gone. It is over now. How many days has it been since I died? It is mid-summer judging by the feel of the air around me but time is hard to tell at the Shrine. It was spring when I ceased to live. The samurai in me has me up each day earlier than dawn but there are no tasks for me to complete. By mid morning I have practiced all of my techniques but there is no one here to spar with. The priest will not train with me nor do I expect him to. He is a peaceful man, joyful and full of life. I feel like I am full of death. It creeps upon me as I lay down at night and yet death is now the one thing I should be the least afraid of. I am going crazy here. I need a purpose. I need answers.
Even poetry fails me. The words that one flowed through my fingertips and off my tongue now lie like rot in my mouth. I want to roar instead. I want to run free and I want to taste fresh blood on my tongue. I want to eat red meat, devour it raw and still warm. Sometimes I give in and take to the forest but I have to be conscious of what I hunt.
Humans look edible to me. I have never been afraid of something in my life. A samurai does not feel fear. Fear is a sign of weakness. But I feel it now. I am afraid of who I have become and what I am.
Enough about fear and these strange instincts running through my vein, I will return now to my life and my death.
I was twenty-seven when I died. I can remember the event clearly which is both strange and soothing. I died well. That is a peaceful thought, it is every Samurai’s dream to die well.
The event itself took place at night soon after the Edo Castle was completed. There were celebrations all around and it was the perfect time for attack. I was one of Ōta Dōkan’s personal guards and I am not ashamed to say I did my job well. While others drank Sake and joined with woman trained in the pillow arts I stayed with my Daimyo.
When the assassin came I was ready. His blade was cunning but so was mine. Like sheets of ice in a melting river they slid and flashed against each other. We were well matched and I had to give credit to the grace of his footsteps as we danced throughout the room. In the end however I knew we were too well matched and so ignoring his Katana I thrust mine. Blade met flesh on both ends. His piercing my belly as mine went through his heart.
It is odd writing of your own death. I can still feel the ghost of his weapon buried inside of me. The scar is still there, a white line slicing across my stomach. I can remember the vivid red on my fingertips as I pulled the sharp edge from me. The smell of it is still strong in my nostrils as is the pain I feel just recalling it. Then there was nothing, my world faded into blackness and it was quiet.
Eventually the darkness ebbed away and I was standing in a lush green forest high in the mountains. There was a bold, regal, white tiger - The Byakko. When it approached I bowed low. It spoke to me. Its voice raw and powerful as it told me he had witnessed my act of courage and as a result had a reward for me. I listened in awe as it told me I would wake up a different man. That I would have the soul of a tiger buried inside my chest. He explained to me that I had nine lives to live and that one had already been used. Eight more remained.
He reared up then and pressed his massive paws on my shoulders as he opened his mouth and breathed on my face. My vision sunk back into darkness.
I next woke here, in the heart of the Shinto Shrine, inside of the Hoden.
The priest was beside me along with a young man that I recognized as being a servant in the castle, hardly someone worth my time. Peasants were beneath me, beneath all Samurai.
It was then that I first felt the strangeness inside me. The burning in my soul that made me want to tear out my own heart. It spread through my limbs and curled around my spine, down my legs even into the smallest of my toes. I wanted to scream in agony but my pride would not let me. I made not a sound as my bones broke and melded, shifted and reformed. My mouth opened but nothing came out as fangs formed and my tongue lengthened. I was terrified but remained quiet as fur spread along my skin in different hues, coating my body in hair. My eyes felt like they were being injected with fluid as they swelled inside their sockets and my skull expanded to fit them. My ears buzzed as they moved and transformed. Then my fingernails grew and became claws, lengthening and growing razor sharp. Finally the pain seemed to stop as my heart gave a giant lurch then sped up in my chest. I tried to speak but all that came out was a vicious snarl.
It was then that I realized the Byakko had meant his words literally. I had become a tiger. A beast. One of courage and passion and protectiveness. A possessive creature that fed on flesh. I felt betrayed and angry, not understanding and I lashed out.
It was the priest that finally calmed me enough. He said my name. Over and over and over. It was so loud in my ears, my hearing was hyper-sensitive to sound. I tried to focus on him and suddenly he was clearer than anything I'd ever seen. The world looked entirely different; it shone brighter, clearer, like I was looking at the sky, scrubbed clean after a storm.
In awe I prowled around the small space, sniffing the air and tasting the smells. The young man was scared; I could sense it on my tongue, through my nose. Intrigued I turned my head to him and he stumbled backwards. He also smelt good, I wanted a taste.
It was the priest repeating my name again that stopped me from pouncing. "Akita Sadao," he said, "remember who you are. Remember your humanity."
I shivered then. I was suddenly more scared then I could ever recall being. That fear was what changed me back and the reverse process was just as painful. My skin felt too tight as it shrunk and my bones tried to accommodate the smaller packaging. This time I did howl out in pain. It was eerie sounding even to my own ears. When it was finished I lay on the ground panting.
Eikyō 7 - The Japanese era calendar scheme is a common calendar scheme used in Japan, which identifies a year by the combination of the Japanese era name and the year number within the era. Tora was born in 1435 which was in the Eikyō (永享) era which began in 1429.
 Ōta Dōkan (太田道灌) (1432-1486), also known as Ōta Sukenaga (太田資長) or Ōta Dōkan Sukenaga - A Japanese samurai warrior-poet, military tactician and Buddhist monk. Ōta Sukenaga took the tonsure as a Buddhist priest in 1478, and he also adopted the Buddhist name, Dōkan, by which is known today. Dōkan is best known as the architect and builder of Edo Castle (now the Imperial Palace) in what is today modern Tokyo; and he is considered the founder of the castle town which grew up around that Ōnin era fortress.
 The daimyo (大名) - Powerful territorial lords who ruled most of Japan from their vast, hereditary land holdings. They were the most powerful feudal rulers from the 10th century to the early 19th century in Japan following the Shogun.
 Byakko - White Tiger. The White Tiger is a supernatural figure who presides over the Western, or autumn quadrant of the sky. The spirit of the White Tiger combines the courage and fierceness of a soldier with an ethereal, magisterial dignity. Specifically in Japan the tiger is the emblem of the great aristocratic warriors famously known as the samurai. The tiger represents the virtue of courage. It also means revision, improvement, change, and the Zen good. - prowling through the trees around me but I felt not even the slightest twinge of fear.
 The Hoden - is the most sacred building at a Shinto shrine, intended purely for the use of the enshrined Kami, usually symbolized by a mirror or sometimes by a statue. The building is normally closed to the general public and Shinto priests enter only to perform rituals