Shibumi: A Novel
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Nicholai Hel is the world’s most wanted man. Born in Shanghai during the chaos of World War I, he is the son of an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father and is the protégé of a Japanese Go master. Hel survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world’s most artful lover and its most accomplished—and well-paid—assassin. Hel is a genius, a mystic, and a master of language and culture, and his secret is his determination to attain a rare kind of personal excellence, a state of effortless perfection known only as shibumi.
Now living in an isolated mountain fortress with his exquisite mistress, Hel is unwillingly drawn back into the life he’d tried to leave behind when a beautiful young stranger arrives at his door, seeking help and refuge. It soon becomes clear that Hel is being tracked by his most sinister enemy—a supermonolith of international espionage known only as the Mother Company. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other . . . shibumi.
violence' as though they were two manifestations of the same impulse. In fact, death is the very opposite of violence, which is always concerned with the struggle for life. Our philosophy is focused on managing life; yours on managing death. We seek comprehension; you seek dignity. We learn how to grasp; you learn how to let go. Even the label 'philosopher' is misleading, as our philosophers have always been animated by the urge to share (indeed, inflict) their insights; while your lot are
posed as senior steward. Five military buses were already crossing the airstrip to pick them up. * * * Sir Wilfred sat at the scarred wooden desk of the control office, sipping a whiskey, while Hel was changing from the flight attendant's uniform to his own clothes. "Did the message sound all right?" Hel asked. "Most dramatic. Most effective. The pilot radioed back that the plane was being skyjacked, and right in the middle of the message, he broke off, leaving nothing but dead air and
you've got to hand to these Japanese, they make a good cup of tea—what my limey friends call a 'nice cuppa.'" He laughed at his failure to produce a recognizable cockney accent. Hel watched him without speaking, taking some pleasure in the fact that the American was caught off balance by the battered appearance of his face, at first glancing away uneasily, and subsequently forcing himself to look at it without any show of disgust. "You're looking pretty fit, Mr. Hel. I had expected that you
been painted with red stripes every ten meters, so by watching them come slowly into the pulley blocks Hel could tell where Le Cagot was in the shaft. In his mind, he could see the features around Beñat; that little ledge where he could get a toehold; that snarled dihedron where the cable was sure to foul; that bottleneck in which his broken arm must take some punishment. Le Cagot's breathing was coming in gulps and gasps. Hel marked the cable with his eye; Le Cagot would now be at the most
Basque wool and were warm even when wet. All this was done by the light of a device of his own design, a simple connection of a ten-watt bulb to a wax-sealed automobile battery which, for all its primitive nature, had the effect of keeping at bay the nerve-eroding dark that pressed in from all sides. A fresh battery could drive the little bulb day and night for four days and, if necessary, could be sent up, now that they had widened the bottleneck and double dihedron, to be recharged from the