King Ojin looked on in wonder at the brilliant object lying ensconced in a glass case before him. The select few who gathered around the King in his council chamber held their breath. Finally, King Ojin turned to his trusted aide, who leaned forward and whispered just loud enough for everyone to hear, “Three thousand nine hundred carats, Your Majesty … in the rough.”

Everyone was wide-eyed with disbelief. King Ojin took a few moments to process the unbelievable information, after which he turned to look at another of the people present. Summoned by a glance, the man hurriedly walked over to the King’s side. He carefully listened as King Ojin spoke, his gentle tone belying the power and prestige of his position.

“Have Hajime carefully cut and polish this stone in his workshop. I have some special instructions for him. Please meet me at my chambers tonight, understand them carefully and convey them to him. I want you to station four guards at the workshop. Suspend all work in the mine temporarily. However, the miners must continue to receive their wages until further notice.”

The man nodded. “Very well, Sire.” King Ojin gave the gathering a brief nod. Taking the hint, they dispersed. The King looked at the stone, deep in thought.

The King dismounted his horse and walked towards the workshops. His guards struggled to keep up with him.

It had been a little over three months since the stone had passed into the hands of the master craftsman at his workshop, a short distance outside the castle gates. Hajime had worked day and night to produce a result that would satisfy his ruler. King Ojin respected his artisans, and Hajime most of all, which was why he decided to visit the workshop instead of summoning Hajime to the castle. The two guards stationed outside stood to attention as King Ojin knocked and waited. Shortly, the sound of a key turning in a lock was heard and the old door creaked open. Hajime’s wrinkled face lit up on seeing his King. He bowed and King Ojin nodded respectfully. On entering the workshop, he looked around at the familiar wooden table, its scratches and dents revealing years of work. The musty smell, the simple old tools and the nondescript surroundings, all belied the artisanal genius of the master. Hajime’s two assistants, along with the two other guards, bowed and withdrew into the other chamber. Hajime walked across to his table. King Ojin followed. The craftsman turned up the oil lamp and brought it closer, spreading light on the centre of the work table. There it was, under a cloth, almost misleading an onlooker to think it was an ordinary object. Very carefully, Hajime lifted the cloth to reveal the expertly cut, polished stone. The jewel dazzled so strongly that King Ojin had to shut his eyes for a few moments. Then, he lifted the jewel and held it against the light. The old master craftsman had outdone himself this time. Never before had King Ojin seen a jewel so precisely and skilfully finished. Hajime cleared his throat. “Six hundred and forty carats, Sire,” he said.

King Ojin repeated the number without any expression as he looked on at the astonishing jewel. “The likes of which I have never seen, nor heard of, Sire,” Hajime continued. “If word of this jewel … if word of the mine itself gets out, there will be swarms of enemy armies 06 making their way to possess this priceless treasure and scour the mines for more. I can’t say if discovering this stone in our mines is a sign of good fortune or a sign of misfortune. Keep your armies at the ready, Sire. The vultures will soon be circling …”

King Ojin pondered over the wise artisan’s words. “Is your work on this stone all done?” he asked

“Another two days, Sire. Just one final round of polishing and cleaning.”

King Ojin nodded. “Fine. I’m leaving two more guards here. I trust in your highest discretion, as always. I’ll send further instructions in two days.”

Hajime nodded. King Ojin started to leave. As he reached the door, Hajime called out to him.

“Sire …” Hajime said, shuffling up to King Ojin. “Sire, I’ve used bits of the rough stone that were cut away to adorn the hilt of your new sword …”

“I thought I told you that I don’t need a new one,” the King said.

“I know, Sire, but I’m getting on in years and I wanted to leave something behind for you that will stand the test of time, lasting for generations to follow. This sword is a special project that I have been working on for a very, very long time. I’ve used ore from all three mines to create a distinctive alloy for the blade. This sword will always serve you and your descendants most faithfully … and I daresay, most uniquely.” Hajime gestured to another work table. In the dark, the King could make out the hilt of a sword peeping out from under a sackcloth. One of the jewels on the hilt twinkled, even though there was no light on it. King Ojin smiled. “I appreciate all your hard work, and most of all, your loyalty to our Kingdom. Thank you once again, Hajime.”

Hajime bowed.

Later that night, on the terrace outside his room, King Ojin looked up at the starlit sky. The crescent moon was obscured by the floating clouds. Soon the clouds parted and the moon revealed itself. The King had made his decision.

Excerpted with permission from The Jewel of Nisawa, Jugal Hansraj, illustrated by Ruchi Shah.