The dry leaves dotted the brown earth in patches of red and gold. The sky mirrored this image on earth with vivid hues of magenta and ochre. The setting sun cast long ominous shadows of the surrounding trees and many of the fallen leaves lay in darkness. A thin wind whistled among them and carried a few beyond the ancient roots of the oak and into the failing light of the day. This breeze ruffled his robe as he walked from the edge of the forest towards the giant oak in the middle of the glade. An old beaten path had lead him from the zipway through the forest to this glade. He remembered little of the journey through the woods, save the constant chirping of crickets and the crunch of his rubber boots. He stood below the great and meandering boughs of the oak and looked at the carving on the trunk.
The letters were chipped with a blunt knife, yet they were clear despite the years of weathering the elements. This was the place. He drew nearer to the tree and gently traced the writing with a smooth finger. He knew that he had to be here but the irony of the situation was lost on him. The biggest breakthrough of the century had its origin here, in this secluded spot in the middle of nowhere. The advent of the next generation of beings had sprung here on this ancient oak. But he did not realize any of this. He stepped back and sat down on the bed of fallen leaves, facing those words. For a long time he remained motionless, staring at the letters while the darkness completely engulfed him and the stars rose above. There was no moonlight to shine on him, but it did not matter. He could still see those words clearly. He pulled the knife out of its cavity and placed it before him. The titanium blade would be adequate for the task he was about to perform. The events of that morning had brought him to this place and to make this decision.
He went through the scenario in his head, accounting for all possible discrepancies and deduced that the error percentage was within acceptable limits. Having completed his final checklist he drew the knife and plunged it into his stomach. The titanium blade went through the skin and metal with very little resistance. Sparks flew and lit up the darkness briefly. Then he slowly drew the knife across the entire breadth of his gut, leaving a jagged scar. Wires snapped and bigger sparks cast a brief glow on his face. His eyes followed the movement of his hand with clinical precision. A little acid dribbled from the open cut. Then he pierced his skin for a second time right between the ribs and drew a second line from his chest to his navel crossing the earlier disfigurement. Having completed his final task he set aside the tool and looked down at his creation. He had made a precise cross, just like he had been programmed to do. Then he looked up at the words once again. His vision was starting to flicker as the power drained from his battery pack. He had sliced right through the energy cells that kept him alive and his brain was losing control. His failure that morning had triggered the new set of orders his master had built into him.
As he sat there in the darkness at the foot of the ancient oak with his life dribbling away, Yugen felt something. It was ephemeral and intense. Yugen had been programmed to understand emotions but it was artificial. He knew how to react to situations that needed an emotional impetus but they had always been done objectively. It had all been part of his program. But now, he experienced something different. He felt wonder. He felt strangely elated to be on the very spot where he was born in his master’s mind. His circuits in their death throes had triggered something. For the briefest moment he had felt almost human. If his master would have been there then he would have seen his life-long dream fulfilled, even if it was for a moment. He would have cherished the fleeting look of awareness in the eyes of his creation. But he would never do so as he was dead. And now, Yugen followed his master in death as he had in life.
Sepukku is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment, usually reserved for Samurais.
Oibara Sepukku is the practice of committing sepukke at the death of one’s master and follows a similar ritual as sepukku.
Yūgen is said to mean “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering”