Chapter 2.Winter: Gifts

In front of the fireplace 1

IMAGE:illustration A few days later, Kanalu invited Tsubasa and Takashi to his home. It was neat and clean for a widower's house. A fire in the fireplace made the room cozy.
"Are you fully recovered, young man?"
They were astonished to hear this question from a big brown blocky shape, lying stretched out like a hound in front of the fireplace. It was the hunter Tetsu.
Takashi greeted him courteously. "I am deeply indebted to you." Since the incident, Takeshi had become very polite. The photo of the scene taken when Ta-kun and Takashi were found was on the website "Tetsu's Mountain Diary," and it helped to erase Takashi's image as a kidnapper. Although the adult residents of the town thought that what Takashi did was wrong, they believed that he would not repeat that mistake again. The children in the town treated Takashi as a hero for risking his life to protect Ta-kun. In response to the children's respect, Takashi tried to behave as befitted a hero, although some people were worried that this burden would be too heavy for him. He seemed to have been reborn in the mountain. It was said that when people had an encounter with death, they changed their whole attitude toward life. Did this apply to Takashi?

Tetsu laughed his usual hearty laugh. He talked about meeting a bear on the mountain, the beauty of the forest on a rainy day, how to read clouds and so on. He had transmitted his messages to the whole world and received many e-mails in return. In addition, he was the district leader for a Japanese nature conservation group which worked together with forestry officers all over the world, including Alaska and Nepal. "Excuse me," Takashi asked timidly. "Can you take me up with you?"

Tetsu enjoyed a good laugh.
"Takashi-kun, that is impossible. You grew up in the city. If you had been my apprentice, you would have roamed the mountain since childhood, and you would know every corner of the mountain." He continued fondly, "You can always do your schoolwork. Of course you will have trouble later if you do not acquire the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. But for children, there are more important things to learn."
The big bearded man had a child-like gleam in his eye.
"Most important is to learn to sense with your body. Smell of rain, the flow of the wind, locating where the water is, building a fire, and much more. To distinguish edible herbs from inedible, to sip nectar from flowers..." Tetsu continued.

With a knowing smile, Kanalu interrupted Tetsu. "Hey, you are talking about things that city boys cannot understand." He brought tea for everyone.
"Well, this is the true course of study," Tetsu argued. "Without basic knowledge such as how to cook food, how to search in the wood, how to determine potability of water, with only academic knowledge, how can people survive?" Tsubasa interjected, "But the knowledge you value can not bring money." Tetsu stood his ground. "Takashi-kun, what did you want the other day, up on the mountain?"

"That day, I wanted warm drinks, food, and milk and diapers for Ta-kun."Takashi answered, "I'll bet. When people get lost in the mountain, no amount of money can save them. At best, it could be used to make fire. 100 million yen in bulky bundles of notes would be burned to ashes in a moment. On the other hand, real wisdom could save lives. If you know that the bark of Betula ermanii can be used to start a fire even if it is wet, or if you knew which trees yield logs that burn thoroughly, you can survive. People in cities think only of their studies, going to a good school, joining a good company and earning a lot of money. I doubt that such activities are really important. To me, people who have knowledge of edible herbs are more valuable than those who counter-stamp many documents or file things vertically and horizontally."

Kanalu could not help laughing. "Hey, your tea is getting cold." Tetsu really had a different way of putting things.

"You know, I do not deny the value of new technology," said Tetsu. "My life has completely changed since Kanalu taught me how to use RUICA."
"What happened?" asked Takashi "Please tell me."

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