The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 19 (v.1) - the promise

Submitted: August 24, 2019

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Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 24, 2019



The spring breeze gradually cooled as the sun descended closer to the Western peaks, heralding the coming of night. Birds flocked to the trees and their nests, singing and chirping a cacophony of sound as cicadas ceased their steady droning. The small family of four just passed by the emerald green bamboo forest, and had almost reached the sapling oak trees beyond when Ryoko stopped suddenly, a frightened expression distorting her attractive features. Her husband, Junichi, first hesitated and then stopped as well. Standing still, his back was rigid with tension as he strained his incredulous ears.

“Asako!” exclaimed little Kyoko Chan.

Junichi, who didn’t believe in the existence of the supernatural, couldn’t deny that he heard the melody of his niece’s favorite love song: “It can’t be,” he stammered, as he attempted to hold his daughter from running ahead, a trembling hand on each shoulder.

But it was true. The musical notes, carried on the wings of the evening breeze were real enough. As the foursome stood there apprehensively, the sound of the flute became louder, as if the player was approaching, coming closer and in their direction. Motionless as they waited, they were surprised to see a lone horseman slowly round the bend in the road ahead. The rider, emerging from the trees, appeared to be samurai, with traditional twin swords secured to his obi. His hands on the flute as he played, the dark horse trotted along with purpose, seemingly without guidance. When the rider saw the four standing in the road just ahead, he stopped his song and grasped the horse’s reins with his right hand. As the animal halted, the horseman stared at the tiny family a moment until recognition took hold. It had been three years, but he knew Asako Chan’s relatives almost the moment he saw them. Little Kyoko Chan and her brother had grown in that time, but Sung Ji still recognized them. The boy, Sajiro, hidden behind his father, peeked his head out as he held a tight grip on one of Junichi’s arms. Kyoko managed to break loose from her father’s grasp and tried to run forward, only to be stopped by her mother.

“Ahn-young-e ha-se-yo (Hello)!” Sung Ji cried out.

Ryoko relaxed and a heavy sigh of relief escaped her as her husband smiled and returned the greeting.

“Ko-ban-wa (Good evening)!” he hailed.

Sung Ji urged the horse forward, stopped before the small group and dismounted. He had already placed the flute inside his leather saddlebag, not wishing to incite suspicion; it would be difficult to explain that it was a posthumous gift from Asako.

“You were playing auntie’s song,” exclaimed Kyoko Chan. “She told me she was going to give you her flute. Did you see her?”

Before he could recover from the shock of having been asked such a completely unexpected question, Ryoko turned abruptly and, looking at her daughter scolded; “Kyoko! What have I told you about saying such things?”

Kyoko Chan bowed her head, pouting.

“There is much more to Heaven’s creation than we know.” Said the Korean. “The eyes of innocence see more than we perceive. The burdens of this life often consume us, taking us further away from sensing or seeing what is beyond the ordinary. While we see only with our eyes, children often ‘see’ with their hearts.”

Kyoko beamed when he spoke those words. “Papa said when an innocent dies they become a star in the heavens. From there they can watch over the ones who love them. Is cousin Asako now a star in ‘Ten Goku’ (Heaven Country)?” she asked with a sparkle in her eyes.

“Kyoko…” said her mother.

“That’s enough now, Kyoko,” said Junichi, fearing Ryoko may lose patience with the girl.

“Cousin Asako is a new star in the sky,” she repeated, “right Mama?”

“I believe your Papa is right,” Sung Ji intervened.

Ryoko blushed, knowing Kyoko Chan and the samurai were right; there was more to Heaven’s creation than could be seen with the eyes. She either experienced or sensed things otherworldly much more than once the past three years. At the moment she sensed something about the horseman: there was much more to Ahn Sung Ji than the obvious. For an instant she sensed Asako Chan was following him, which caused her to shudder. Why she suddenly ‘sensed’ that she couldn’t say, but ‘felt’ it was more than just a random thought. Something also told her that she shouldn’t doubt her daughter or stifle her imagination. She reminded herself how incredulous and doubtful Junichi was when it came to anything metaphysical. Although she didn’t wish to encourage Kyoko, she knew she shouldn’t treat her scornfully either. The fact was Ryoko was frightened by even the thought of ghosts or spirits and it unnerved her when Kyoko Chan talked of having either seen or spoken to her late cousin.

Finally she smiled at the Korean; “Did you come to pay your respects?”

“Yea,” he replied. Then asked if he could speak to her a moment in private. Ryoko asked her husband to go ahead with the children. Once he had she raised her eyes to look into Sung Ji’s. Before he could speak she asked… “Did you want to tell me that outlaw is dead?”

Sung Ji was mildly shocked, his expression giving away what he must have been thinking. Ryoko continued: “You wonder how I could have known that. I think it was just two weeks ago. Kyoko said Asako Chan told her the evil man was gone.”

A chill ran up Sung Ji’s back. “Kyoko Chan was right,” he said. “That man died by his own hand. He was trying to kill me at the time.”

A tear appeared, running down one of Ryoko’s rose-hued cheeks. “These last three years have been hard,” she said slowly.

“But Justice prevails,” said Sung Ji. “It only remains for us to accept the things about which we can do nothing. A wise man in China told me that many things in this world happen for a reason. We must trust Heaven, be strong, patient, and do the best we can each day for our selves and our loved ones. Life is just a sojourn; a place where we dwell temporarily. When those we love have left us behind, all we can do is mourn for a time, miss them, and keep the memory of them always in our mind and heart. They would want us to live and live well; that is precisely what your brother and niece would want you to do. They are in a better place now…all their problems are over.”

Ryoko studied the samurai a moment. “You’re right, aren’t you,” she said with a smile. “Inochi wa tsuzuku’ (Life continues). Asako Chan is lucky to have had you. I’m grateful for all you’ve done for my family.”

“No need for gratitude,” he said. “I’ll never forget finding Toshima San in these woods that night, or seeing your niece for the first time, so innocent and fragile; I was inspired to protect her then, but it was already too late. Like her father, she was a victim of those evil men. I should never have allowed those outlaws to reach this mountain…” For a moment he withdrew into himself as his words faded off. Then snapping out of it he declared; “Whatever I did since then, directly or indirectly, was meant to be; it was my purpose. And you’re right, ‘inochi wa tsuzuku’…life goes on.”

Ryoko was silent, tears running down both cheeks. Sung Ji placed a hand on one of her slim shoulders, then smiling, embraced her in a physical show of support. “You should join your family at the gravesite.”

“Hai,” she replied, then added… “I truly hope you don’t blame yourself for the tragedy. It is not grief that scars, but guilt.”

He lowered his eyes. She reached out a hand to grip one of his, squeezed tightly as she smiled, then releasing him she turned to walk away.

Still grasping the reins of his black Arabian, he watched as Ryoko walked toward the forest. After taking a few steps she turned and asked; “My brother’s flute…the one he made for my niece. Did she give it to you?”

Sung Ji nodded.

“Ryoko smiled. “She must have loved you very much…”

Sung Ji, in affirmation, returned the smile.

“The song,” said Ryoko. “Where did you learn that song?”

“I’ve heard it since I was a boy,” he replied. “But I never knew how to play it. It just seemed to happen…”

“It was her favorite,” revealed Ryoko, “Asako Chan’s mother, Aoi. My brother used to play it for her. He taught it to my niece.”

The samurai nodded.

“Will you be staying long?” Ryoko asked.

“No,” Sung Ji replied.

“You’ll be returning home?”

“No,” he said. “I have no home…I will wander.”

Ryoko was silent a moment before saying… “It seems a shame…you do so much for others, yet in this big world you have no place in which to rest.”

Sung Ji smiled. “Don’t worry about me. I have the sky above, the earth beneath and Heaven to guide my steps.”

“I should tell you,” she confided, “that Chinese man, Chiang Vu Tien…he returned the property to us.”

The samurai was noticeably surprised… “Did he?”

“Hai,” she replied. “He gave no reason, and refused to accept any payment. But he did say something odd…he hoped ‘the girl’ could finally rest in peace. I assume he meant Asako Chan, but I really don’t understand.”

“He’s not as materialistic as I imagined,” said the samurai. “I’m pleased to know that he doesn’t care only for wealth.”

Seeing she was confused, he added… “I’ll tell you a story some day; of my experiences in China these last few months.”

She paused, as if carefully contemplating what to say. Finally she spoke; “You’ll always have a place in my heart. Don’t be a stranger…”

“We’ll meet again,” he promised. “We have something in common... she loved you and your family very much as well.”

Ryoko, still smiling, repeated his words. “We’ll meet again… ‘Yaku-so-ku’ (Promise)?”

“Yea. Yaku-so-ku,” he replied. “I promise.”

“Until next time,” said Ryoko. “Safe journey.”

“Ahn-young-yi kay-se-yo’ (Goodbye/Stay in peace),” replied Sung Ji.

After she rounded the bend and disappeared behind trees, he climbed onto the saddle. It was twilight and would be dark before he returned to Tsukimi. He had not asked, but imagined Ryoko and her family would be staying in Toshima’s house. He believed she considered asking him to stay for dinner and rest, but then expected him to decline. She was right: he felt this time of remembrance was for family only. As for himself, he had made no plans beyond visiting Asako’s resting place. For now he would return to Tsukimi, board his horse at the stable and spend a night at the Inn adjacent to the Jade Teahouse. A good meal and a good nights’ sleep would be nice, he thought, and would give him the energy to face a new day and the journey to wherever his Destiny led him next. Taking a few moments to look at the forest in the fading light, he thought of something else Kwai had said: “Generations from the dust arise, and to the dust return. New life will always replace the old. That is Heaven’s plan.”

Reaching into his saddlebag, he retrieved Asako’s flute, placed it to his lips, and began to play her mother’s favorite song of love: ‘A perfect requiem’, he reflected, as the melodious notes rose skyward. The horse, sensing it was time to leave began a slow trot forward as the setting sun turned the sky above the western peaks amber and gold.

© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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