The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 23 (v.1) - Silence

Submitted: August 24, 2019

Reads: 73

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 24, 2019

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A brooding Ichiban, leaning his broad, thickly muscled back against the containment wall, sulked petulantly as three of his subordinates played a dice game on the stone surface of the pathway leading to the front gates of Sanada’s castle. The giant, who ordinarily wasn’t given guard duty, was being punished for failing to find and eliminate Kenji Tanaka. Another will complete the task, Sanada told him. Now he was here outside the wall, angrily dwelling on his current situation and so lost in thought he didn’t notice the arrival of the petite girl in black silk standing before him, until hearing the sound of her voice…

“Ne-mut-te i-ru-no? (Are you asleep?),” she asked, a hint of sarcasm in her tone.

Startled, Ichiban stood upright, as his three cohorts simultaneously turned their attention to the diminutive girl who stood gazing at the big man contemptuously.

“Where the devil did you come from?” demanded the giant.

“Elsewhere,” she replied as she turned her eyes from his confused expression. “I am expected,” she said as a matter of fact, no longer looking directly at him, as if bored with the present drama.

“Who are you?” asked one of the guards.

“One who has been summoned,” she replied, as she turned her face to one side, as if observing the scenery.

Ichiban was indignant. “That doesn’t answer the question,” he snarled as he placed a hand on the hilt of his sword.

She smiled, all the while looking away, not at anything in particular. Ichiban was furious. How dare her, he thought, not look at me when I’m speaking to her… “Who are you?” he yelled.

“Silence,” she said.

“What?” exclaimed Ichiban with obvious irritation, just as his hand began towithdraw his double edged sword. In a blink the girl’s blade was at his throat. She had moved faster than eyes could follow, back-kicked one of the three men behind her, crescent kicked another, placed one of her tiny hands on the giant’s as she moved from in front to just behind him. Her hand atop his kept him from drawing the weapon. She had one knee raised and placed against a pressure point in his lower back, immobilizing his legs. The third guardsman was frozen in stunned disbelief as his two comrades struggled to rise.

“Tell me,” said the girl. “Is this rude behavior proper when greeting a guest? Did I not tell you that I’m expected?”

“You sprung up out of nowhere like a ghost,” stammered Ichiban, trembling as he felt the razor edge of her weapon against his flesh. “You refused to give your name…”

“Silence’,” said the girl. “Silence’ is my name, given by my Sensei (Teacher). Now that I’ve said it three times even a mindless mountain like you should get it.”

“Shinobi’ (ninja),” said one of the guards. “Sent by Sensei Hawk. She is the one Sanada san has been waiting for; the one he wanted to see immediately upon arrival.”

“We weren’t expecting a woman,” said one of the men who had just stood up, pouting as he touched the lump on his head.

“That’s right,” declared the other as he brushed himself off. “We meant no disrespect. You startled us.”

“Baka (Idiot). Is that your excuse for bad manners? Are you really guardsmen?” she asked as she released Ichiban. “Have you as soldiers not been taught to expect the unexpected? You should be alert. Gambling dice in the dirt and sulking against the wall. I could have entered these gates without you knowing it. It’s no wonder your master sent for outside help.”

Too mortified to speak, Ichiban rubbed his back with one hand while checking his throat with the other. He was certain she had cut him but the wetness he felt was his own sweat. The cold sweat that often accompanied fear.

“Will one of you monkeys be taking me to Sanada, Said Silence, “or should I find him myself?”

“I was instructed to take you to Sanada san,” said Ichiban reluctantly.

“I-ke (Do so)!” She demanded.

As the pair entered the gate the guardsman who had been called Idiot appeared to be lost in thought.

“What’s your problem?” asked one of his comrades.

“Did you hear what she called me?” he said. “How did she know my name?”

The others laughed. “Ichiban calls all of us by that name,” said the guard with the sore head. “We are all idiots to him. You’ve been called that for so long you believe it’s your personal pet name.”

While they bantered among themselves, Ichiban grumbled, mumbling curses incoherently as he led the girl through the gates, past the colorful trees in the front garden, into the main hall of the castle and finally to the library where Sanada was reading. Rapping on the door, Ichiban responded when he heard Sanada cry out; “Na-ni-yo’ (What is it)?”

“It is Ichiban,” he replied. “The one you summoned has arrived.”

“Enter!” commanded Sanada.

Ichiban opened the door, bowed from the waist and then stepped into the dimly lit room. Flames danced on candlewicks at the opening of the large door, as a draft passed through the vaulted chamber. The giant stood quietly just inside the library, looking tall and stupid as Sanada glared at him. Uncomfortably aware of his master’s questioning gaze, Ichiban turned his head left and then right, looking for the girl.

“Well, you lamebrain!” bellowed Sanada. “Where is he?”

Before the confused giant could reply, a melodious voice sounded from the darkness of the shadows behind the high backed European chair upon which Sanada was seated. “Here…” she intoned.

Startled, Sanada quickly rose from his chair and faced her direction. Both men stared incredulously as she emerged from the shelter of the shadows into the light. Sanada, momentarily speechless, was noticeably unnerved. Finally facing Ichiban, he commanded… “Leave us.”

“Should I wait outside?” Ichiban asked.

Sanada fumed… “Go get eaten by crows!” Then in an exasperated tone, as if he had given up any hope he might have had that his man was not entirely stupid, he said…  “Return to your guard duty.”

The giant bowed, then backed his way out the door. Sanada turned his attention toward the girl. “Sit…” he said as he motioned toward another high back chair. “Have some wine.”

The girl didn’t move. “I will stand,” she declared. “And I never drink wine.”

Sanada, mortified, cleared his throat. He was accustomed to being obeyed, even in the most insignificant of details.

“Your name…?” he began.

“Silence,” she said.

“Nani (What)!?”

The girl sighed. “My name is ‘Silence’.”

Sanada relaxed, then took a long deep breath. Finally he spoke… “You’re female…”

“Since birth,” she said. “You state the obvious.”

Again her reply angered him. Any other time he would have lost patience, but some sixth sense warned him not to incite this ninja. There was something about her that made him uneasy. Even her name, ‘Silence’, gave him pause for thought. Obviously she was silent in her movements, judging from this first meeting. Perhaps she didn’t speak much or often. Perhaps it was in reference to death and the grave because she silenced her enemies. It was the latter possibility that stood out predominately in Sanada’s mind. Although they just met, he was aware of the uncomfortable fact he feared her. Still, he trusted Mizaki’s decision to seek aid from her infamous Sensei, whose existence was ambiguous at best. Sanada was aware of his reputation. There were many tales of his exploits, but only a few knew if he truly existed or where he could be found. Sanada imagined he would only send the best in exchange for the exorbitant price he was willing to pay. But to send this girl…

As he sat there lost in thought, a mayfly landed on the cedar table in front of him. Quicker than his eyes could follow Silence made an abrupt movement with one arm, pulled a silver needle from a sleeve and throwing it from across the room, pinned one of the insect’s wings to the surface of the table. The free wing moved, only to be penetrated by a second dart. When the shock of the moment passed, Sanada raised his eyes to stare at the girl in disbelief. Before he could speak she declared…

“I suppose I overreacted,” she said. “When the other wing moved I thought the insect may have been trying to escape.”

A sudden twist of her a wrist and the two darts were pulled free, flying back to where she stood and into her hand.

‘Connected by invisible threads…’ thought Sanada. “You are the one,” he found himself saying. “You are the one to dispatch Kenji Tanaka and his hireling.”

She said nothing. Sanada stared at her, unable to refrain from marveling at her physical beauty; a beauty of which he assumed she was aware. It was a major part of her mystique, overpowering, and most certainly an advantage when dealing with men. In that case, her beauty was a weapon. The desire it inspired in a man would most certainly be his undoing. She was attired in black silk that in places formed itself to the contours of her body. Her long, cascading black hair rivaled the sheen of her clothing, but of those things that were especially appealing, the timeless beauty of her face was most prominent, until his eyes found hers. They were steel gray, and like her face revealed no emotion, effectively masking mood and intent.  They did however, reveal a depth of spirit and determination that frightened him.

He was able to look at those eyes for only a fraction of a second before compelled to lower his own and turn his face from her. The fierceness and contempt he saw in those eyes once she was aware of his ogling gripped him to the depths of his soul, suffocating him as strongly as an iron vice. He realized at that moment, without her speaking a word, that she didn’t like him. That impression was eclipsed by yet another; an ominous sensation of dread. He began to wonder if sending for a ninja may have been a mistake.  He wondered if they could be be trusted, with all their covert coming and going.

Others obeyed him out of fear, but she had no fear of him. She would obey only because of duty and loyalty to her ninja master. Sanada knew he must choose carefully how he dealt with her. One wrong word or action and she may turn her weapons against him.

“You can do that,” he asked, “can you not? You can handle that old man and his hired sword?”

Silence eyed him intently, which made him much more than uncomfortable. “I can,” she replied as if bored.

“Can you do it with detachment?”

“Detachment…” she intoned the word, as if giving it serious consideration. “Like trees beside a pool, having no intention to cast their image, yet are reflected on the surface of the water, which has no intention of receiving. The trees transmit and the pool reflects. Like ‘giri’ (duty), which must be carried out, free of desire, emotion and ego. It is not about choosing. It is simply doing. Is that the detachment of which you are speaking, Sanada san?”

“Hai,” he replied nervously, angry with himself for allowing his fear to show. He trembled slightly when she said his name. He was certain she held him in contempt, but of other things he was uncertain. He only knew that here and now, alone in this room with Silence, he felt as though he was in the company of death.

 


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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