A large river ran through my hometown, collecting spring water from the western hills and eternally flowing in abundance. When I was little, my grandmother told me a tragic story about this river.
It all happened about eighty years ago. The river split the area into two – the north village and the south village – and for some reason, children constantly fought their counterparts from the other side. One autumn, the north village's children crossed the river and set fire to the reeds growing by the water. The flames engulfed the riverbank in an instant, and ten children from the south village were severely burned, some of them losing their toes. After that incident, the south village's children swore never to fight again and decided to turn the riverbank into a flower garden. They sowed coleseed, and the following spring it became strewn with yellow blossoms. During summer, sunflowers bloomed, and cosmos flowers spread along the river in autumn. A great number of people came from the neighboring towns to admire the flower garden.
"We love flowers, too," said the gakidaisho, leader of kids, from the north village, after seeing the garden. "So we'll keep away thieves. So let us come in."
"Alright," said the south village's gakidaisho. "We decided not to fight again, so we can't fight. We want you to be our bodyguards."
The long feud between the villages was seemingly over.
At first, the children from the north enjoyed the garden with some hesitancy. But after chasing away flower thieves a few times, they gradually began to swagger. "Thanks to us, the garden is safe. So we want half of it," they demanded.
Furious, the children from the south said, "Bullshit! Shut up or leave! We haven't forgotten the fire!"
Thus a fight broke out.
"We did it to stop fighting – if we had kept on fighting, we would've defeated you completely!"
"What? Even our younger kids got burned. Stop quibbling!"
"Shut up! Then we'll take it by force. I know you won't fight, but we will. We have air guns. Tomorrow evening we'll build a hut here," said the children of the north before walking away.
The children of the south trembled with fear. Adults told them to deal with it on their own.
"We have no choice but to fight," said one child. "Let's bring wooden swords."
"Yes," said another. "We'd hate to see the garden destroyed."
"You could get badly hurt like me," said the gakidaisho. "We need to run when they come attacking. We can make a flower garden again."
Persuaded by his words, some went home.
"But self-defense is not fighting."
"No, it's not. Well, I'll bring my dad's hunting rifle," one child said.
Returning home, he tried to take a rifle with him. But his father saw him and locked him up in the shed.
The following evening, the north village's children crossed the river with sticks or wooden swords in their hands. The rain that had begun at dusk became heavy. As feared, a typhoon came down on them, already causing a mudslide in the western hills. The children from the north set fire to the withered cosmos flowers and screamed war cries. In that instant, the rain triggered a flash flood, roaring down from the western hills. Along with the flower garden, the children from both villages got swept away by a muddy current.
After the storm, the villagers found twenty dead bodies – ten from the south, and ten from the north.
The following year a memorial stone for the dead was erected on the empty riverbank. Now half buried in the mud, the grave is hardly noticeable.
I tell people my grandmother's story and ask them what went wrong, but no one gives me an answer that satisfies me. My grandmother once said, "A wise man doesn't fight, even though he's stronger than anymore else." Her words still resonate in my heart. So I'm not very strong physically, and I never get into a fight.