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Once there was a youth who went travelling to broaden his mind. He traversed the earth and the sky and he saw how the dead live and how the living die.
One day he was stopped on the road by an old tramp.
"Come, my friend," said the old man: for all the world was his friend. "Let us drink together and be merry, for tomorrow we lose everything."
The youth's beard was sparse and there were many flavours he had yet to taste. He did not believe in death, but he believed in wine.
That night they drank and spoke of poetry, of flowers and of the moon. Just before dawn had begun to creep across the sky, the youth finally brought himself to put down his bowl of wine. The tramp put a hand on his arm.
"Before you leave, I will teach you the lesson I brought you here to learn," he said. And he told the youth the secret of laughter -- not laughter in the face of one's own death, which comes easily to every young man, but laughter when all one's efforts seem about to collapse into dust, when the things one loves most expire, as all things will.
"Weep only for the passing of beauty," said the tramp. "For tears are only beautiful then."
The youth was deep in his cups, so this made luminous sense to him. He pressed the tramp's coarse hand, heaping thanks upon him for his insight, and asking him how such generosity could ever be repaid.
"There is no need," said the tramp. "For now I will require your forgiveness." And he drew two slim knives from his pouch and killed the youth.
The next day the youth woke up with a punishing thirst and a throbbing pain in his side. His murderer and mentor stood over him, laughing.
"Every night we lose everything, and every morning returns everything to us," he said. "Now, let me teach you how to fight when you are drunk on wine and poetry, and then perhaps you will deserve to wield me."
This was how Kyouraku Shunsui found his sword.