Island of Eden

Sunlit hallways echoed with the soft patter of small feet against wooden floor. From around one of the many corners in the moderately sized house came an animal, trotting along towards the rear of the building. It had the general appearance of the average dog, but far more fearsome-looking, with spines running along its back and down its elongated tail. The apparent glee with which the animal walked made it hard to imagine it having any fierce nature to it. The animal barely glanced at the old man it passed along the way.

The elderly man, too, did not pay much attention to his pet as it went about its business, just as he would go about his. The morning light poured over his body just like it did the hallway he walked through. The passage was open to the outside, and so with a breath of fresh air, he took in the scents all around him. Spring was finally arriving at his secluded island, and with it came the aroma of newly bloomed flowers. Indeed, as his gaze swept across the clearing around his home, the man enjoyed the vibrant flora and the life it brought with it. He could feel new life springing up all around him, a testament to nature's resiliency against the harsh winter that had so recently gripped the island.

A finger rose to the man's chin and rolled around in the long, white beard that grew there. The man, with a serene air about him, let the morning breeze flow through his hair, drawing it out behind him like a brilliant white cape. His traditional clothing, a blue keikogi over his upper body and similarly blue hakama covering his lower half, flapped gently in the breeze. He did not notice; his attention was elsewhere. It was always elsewhere. The beauty of the island was not to be ignored, no matter how many times he had seen it. There was always something different to notice, something wonderfully beautiful, with each rising of the sun.

His hand, finished with twirling his beard, found itself gently running along the railing separating him from the grassy clearing just steps away. The man continued to walk, his gait not showing any signs of his age, and rounding a corner, came within sight of the steps leading outside the walls of his long-time home. There, at the top of the steps, stood a young man no older than his teens. The gaze of the teenager, whose loose clothing seemed to be unaffected by the continuing breeze, seemed to go right through the approaching man. The man continued walking as if nothing unusual was occurring. The teenager drew a dagger from his shirt and charged. Still, the man paid no attention, choosing to instead take notice of a bird that had perched itself on a nearby tree branch.

A cold chill ran down the man's spine as the phantom's anger and grief washed through him, just as the phantom itself had.

As the phantom dissolved into whispers in the wind, the man removed his hand from the railing. Specters of the past were commonplace around the island, and over the course of several hundred years the elderly man had grown accustomed to each and every one of their presences. They were nothing more than strong emotions imprinted into the energies of the island by people that had been there in the distant past; some were no more than feelings in the air, while others were strong enough to manifest themselves like the teenager had. Harmless as they were, the old man had been wary of them when he first came to the island as an apprentice, avoiding them whenever possible. Now the only surviving guardian of the island's treasures, he embraced the lessons the specters taught him through their presences. After such a long time, their appearances were no more than a curiosity now; not even the animals living on the island paid any attention to them.

The man's eyes followed his pet as it chased an insect into a bush. It was just one of the many treasures he was obligated to protect. An almost endless wealth of knowledge was kept locked away right under his feet, just waiting for the right people to come and claim it. However, it had become almost an afterthought; the island's natural purity was reason enough for him to protect it from invaders. He had come to appreciate nature's beauty in his time on the island.

A smile crept into the man's expression as he stepped down onto the grass. The memory of driving off another group of people brought him a strange satisfaction. The memory was so distant in his mind, yet it had only happened just before sunrise. This neither troubled nor pleased the man. Inconsequential memories of unwelcome guests were unnecessary. Only the splendor of the island was worth remembering.

The man reached out with his senses. A war was brewing to the west, crawling ever closer to his sanctuary with each passing day. It was bringing more travelers, more confrontations, to him. It was of no consequence. Some came seeking the island's secrets. They would leave with nothing. Others sought his help for their war. It was the same story every time, no matter what side they were from: the other side was evil, and they were good and righteous. His answer would always be the same: a lesson in the appreciation of nature. He had decided long ago that humanity needed to find its own path, or face destruction. There was no need to be dragged into a battle he had no interest in.

Kneeling next to a shallow pond, the man dismissed the thoughts from his mind. It didn't matter if one or one thousand misguided people came seeking the great treasures he guarded. He would always be here to judge their worthiness. The day would come when civilization would be ready for the secrets buried deep within the island, and he would be there to hand it to them. Until then, nothing was more pleasing than to bask in the glory of the natural world.

The trees around him waved gently in the breeze. An air of serenity washed over the entire island. Petals from already blooming flowers drifted in the currents. The sun had risen, and the local wildlife was beginning to poke its head outside. Small animals began to enjoy their morning meal in silence. Their day-to-day lives were always the same; night would fall again, and they would return to their homes, only to repeat their quest for survival the next day. Each morning was a new beginning for them, the past a distant memory. For the man, such a life was the pinnacle of true existence.

With a deep breath, the old man began to meditate.