Chapter 12: Moon

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 47

At Kwai’s retreat, morning brought the smell of boiled kimchee cabbage to a surprised Sung Ji. Quickly rising from his palette he hurried from his room to discover breakfast had been prepared. There was broiled fish, steamed rice, kimchee turnips, boiled cabbage kimchee with tofu and bean sprouts. Not wishing to sit at the table uninvited, he stepped outside in search of his benefactor. He saw him a hundred feet from the house, talking to a young girl on horseback. A few minutes passed before she leaned down to embrace the shaman, after which she rode away. Kwai watched her until she was out of sight, then returned to the house.  Before the Korean could speak, Kwai satisfied his curiosity… “She is ‘Spring Flower’; my daughter. She brought things I needed for cooking and helped prepare the morning meal. . I spent time in Korea when younger. It was there I met her mother and learned to make traditional cuisine. I thought I would treat you today with what little staples I have to remind you of your homeland”

“Your daughter? And your wife was Korean?” said the samurai. “You never mentioned them…”

“Didn’t I?” Kwai interrupted. “Must I? There was no reason to. Must you know all there is to know about someone?”

Sung Ji was mortified. “Forgive me,” he said.

Kwai, mumbling indistinctly, nodded his head.

“She is ‘e-buu-ta’ (beautiful),” said Sung Ji.

“Watch yourself,” warned Kwai. “She is grown, but still my treasure.”

“I meant no disrespect.”

“Ya! Are you going to stand and talk all morning?” bellowed Kwai. “My daughter rode a long way to bring provisions, and helped prepare the meal as a treat.”

In spite of Kwai’s ranting Sung Ji was happy. “If it tastes as good as it smells, it will be more than a treat. It’s been a long time since I’ve had kimchee and sticky rice.”

“The rice isn’t the sticky variety you became accustomed to in Korea, but it serves the purpose. I’ve lettuce leaves to wrap it in. The cabbage, bean sprouts and turnips, like the rice and lettuce, are grown here. My daughter bought the ingredients for kimchee from a merchant. When she prepares it with cabbage or turnips, she buries it in a glazed jar like your countrymen do.”

The samurai smiled broadly as he savored the aroma.

Suddenly Kwai shouted; “Go clean that monkey face of yours then come to the table. We have to prepare the wagon and return the blacksmith’s horse to the city!”

Sung Ji complied, rushing off as Kwai shouted: “Bahl-lee, bahl-lee (quickly, quickly), before I eat it all.”


Following breakfast, Sung Ji, his stomach full, happily assisted Kwai preparing the wagon. As he secured the shaman’s aged horse to the yoke he hummed an old Japanese song. Kwai listened intently for several moments before asking; “That melody... I’ve not heard it for a long time. It sounds even better when played on a flute.”

Sung Ji abruptly went quiet. He thought a moment before asking… “The phantom’s flute, perhaps?”

Kwai continued to work silently while the Korean studied his face. The shaman showed no emotion as he busied himself in preparation for the journey. Sung Ji sulked as he realized he was being ignored.

Suddenly Kwai looked at him; “Pouting again… That bottom lip of yours is going to interfere with your balance. You’re apt to fall flat on your face.”

Happy to have his attention, Sung Ji stated… “It’s the melody the specter plays on her flute. I wondered if that was where you heard it…” The words trailed off. The samurai ceased speaking as he realized no one was listening. Kwai was ignoring him again.

Aware of the samurai’s disappointment, Kwai offered a morsel of information. “You’re amazingly stubborn once something is on your mind. It’s an old Japanese love song. Quite common actually. You say you’ve heard the phantom performing that melody?”

Although he wasn’t certain, the samurai believed Kwai knew more about the mystery of the toll bridge than he had revealed. “Yes…the same melody,” Sung Ji replied. “But then, perhaps it’s just my imagination.”

Kwai didn’t say another word. Returning to his work he steadily ignored the samurai who went back to pouting like a disappointed child. Soon the wagon was loaded. Kwai went for the blacksmith’s horse, after which the Korean climbed onto the wagon. Deciding to teach the shaman a lesson for being so evasive, he planned to make him run after the wagon, at least a hundred yards or so. He took the reins and prompted the horse to move, but it wouldn’t take a step. Resorting to verbal commands, he was still met with failure. Momentarily he heard Kwai laughing and turning, saw him tethering the reins of the blacksmith’s horse to the back of the wagon. Without a word Kwai came to the front, climbed up and motioned Sung Ji to slide to the opposite side of the seat. As he took the reins he spoke; “It is a beautiful day to be alive.”

The samurai eyed him scornfully as the shaman gave a gentle half-twist to the reins before shouting a word and the animal casually proceeded to pull the wagon. Then with a smile Kwai said; “My horse only responds to my touch and commands in Mandarin.”

Although still sulking as the wagon moved, Sung Ji had to admit it was indeed a beautiful day, with azure blue skies above peppered with majestic white cotton ball clouds reaching far into the heavens like floating mountains. The weather was mild, with a slight breeze. Kwai was right, it was a wonderful day to be alive, in spite of the shaman’s sudden off-key rendition of the same melody the samurai was humming earlier.

While they enjoyed the wagon ride and pleasant weather, in the city toward which they were heading Miyamoto was scurrying about like a rat in back alleyways. He was hungry, needed money and a horse, and was trying his best to avoid the handful of city dwellers he had already managed to alienate. No matter where the outlaw happened to be, he had a knack for making enemies quickly. Today was to be no exception. He had just left an alley and walked a short distance on a crowded street when he spied what appeared to be an easy target; an elderly, white-haired man accompanied by a young girl of perhaps age ten or twelve. Miyamoto cautiously followed them through the busy streets, then down an alley dotted with small shops and street stalls. He watched from afar as the old man removed a small pouch from his tunic from which he took coins to pay a woman for herbs and green onions. They moved on afterward, eventually down a less-crowded avenue, before turning into another alley.

Miyamoto immediately picked up his pace the moment they disappeared from sight. He slowed down as he approached the alley and stopped, carefully peeking around the corner. What he saw stunned him into immobility, as the girl, shouting a war cry, leaped up and forward, twisting her body as she traveled several feet midair, to deliver a perfectly placed flying side kick to Miyamoto’s forehead. The impact knocked him off his feet, slamming him hard and heavy, flat on his backside, onto the cobblestone street. Only half aware, he managed to rise to a seated position, but before he could collect his wits the pugnacious pixie, quickly turning on the ball of one foot, struck him solidly on his aching forehead with a perfectly executed 180 degree turn back kick. Afterward she struck a pose, standing on one leg, the other, knee bent, raised high in preparation for another kick if necessary. Her hands were at the ready, one higher than the other, fists tightly clenched to either block or strike. Her eyes were fixed intently on the prone outlaw, her long black hair moving hypnotically in the breeze as she held her balanced position. That was the last thing he saw, his still open eyes staring in bewildered amazement, just before he went unconscious.

The incident ended quickly, but already a small crowd gathered as the girl, who had been holding her defensive pose, began to relax. The elder bent down to have a closer look at her handiwork. As he inspected the damage a smile appeared on his face. Like a proud parent he exclaimed; “Good work, Moon! The bruise on his forehead is perfectly shaped. I would recognize that heel print of yours anywhere. That turning back kick was an inspired knockout technique. You managed to do the most with the least bit of effort, and landed both kicks in the same spot.”

The girl’s eyes sparkled as she beamed with pride and confidence. “You taught me well, Grandfather,” she said as a matter of fact. “That man must have thought we were really stupid, stalking us like an old gray cat in the middle of the day…”

Her words trailed off as Miyamoto began to stir. He made a bold effort and, pushing against the ground with both hands managed to slightly rise before, in a blur of sudden motion, the girl raised one leg high above her head and with blinding speed powerfully drove her foot down. The curvature of her heel impacted with the center of his skull just above the forehead. Miyamoto winced, his eyes crossed and he went rigid just before his body went into feverish spasms, then rigid once more before falling backward to the waiting cobblestones.

“That’s enough, Moon,” said the old man. “He can’t hurt anyone now.”

“Sorry, grandfather,” she stammered. “When he moved so did my leg…before I could think.”

Her grandfather smiled… “As it should be. But the threat is past.”

He checked to make certain Miyamoto was still alive, after which, the carefree elder and his lethal granddaughter continued on their way. Before leaving, the old man placed a coin in one of Miyamoto’s palms.

“Perhaps it is hunger that drives him to crime,” he ventured.

As the pair went about their business, the other denizens of the street followed suit. The show was over and the culprit out cold. No one wanted to bother turning him in. There would be too many questions and the working poor had too little time to waste speaking to the authorities that did little to help and often bullied them. As the crowd dispersed, a couple of sturdy men dragged the unconscious outlaw into an alley, threw a bamboo mat over him and then went about their business as if nothing had happened.



Submitted: August 23, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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