The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 25 (v.1) - the archer

Submitted: August 26, 2019

Reads: 21

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Submitted: August 26, 2019

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The sun was high in the eastern sky above Sanada san’s castle as little Kasumi raced along one of the many corridors that meandered like a maze throughout the ancient edifice. The mischievous sprite was attempting to outrun Ai’s voice as the older girl chased and called after her. It was just a game of catch-me-if-you-can to Kasumi, but Ai feared the child might run into Sanada, Ichiban, or one of his brutish henchmen.

Kasumi was well ahead of Ai when she rounded a corner and within ten paces stopped short, frightened by the sight of a black-clad figure just ahead in the center of the hallway just ahead. Within moments Ai, her quickened steps heralding her approach, turned the same corner. Startled, she stopped abruptly, gazing first at the stranger, then at the transfixed Kasumi. Animating her frozen legs she quickly ran to Kasumi, and crouching, wrapped her arms protectively around the young girl. Eying the stranger suspiciously, she declared. “I’ve not seen you before. Are you a guest of Sanada San?”

“Hai (Yes),” came the reply.

“Who are you?” asked Ai.

“Silence,” she replied.

Ai was mortified…”Well!” she said indignantly. “There is no need to be rude.”

“I wasn’t,” said the girl in black. “You asked who am I. ‘Silence’ is the name given me by my master.”

Ai blushed… “Your name… ‘Ah So’ (I see). Please forgive me. I am Mizaki Ai. And this is Kasumi chan.”

Silence nodded. “Ai chan… the wizard’s daughter,” she mused. Then looking at Kasumi, she found herself moved by the doe-eyed little girl. Kasumi reminded her of herself at that age, and seemed just as helpless; a victim of Fate, cast by the waves of Destiny onto the shore of a life and situation beyond her control. The innocence and wonder in Kasumi’s eyes prompted feelings within her that she didn’t understand. She found herself, like Ai chan, wanting to embrace and protect the young girl.

“We should be going,” said Ai as she stood up. “We were going to feed the carp in the garden pool.”

The sound of her voice brought Silence back to the moment. Silence nodded her head. Ai and Kasumi bowed and then proceeded down the corridor. Silence stepped aside as they approached and bowed as they passed by. After a few steps, Kasumi turned her head to look at Silence… “Ma-ta-ne (See you later),” she said.

Silence raised a hand and waved. “Ma-ta-ne,” she said with a smile… ‘Ma-ta-ne Tenshi chan,’ she thought. ‘Like an angel…’ She began to think about herself then; her past, before her parents perished. She wondered what her life would have been had they not been killed, but then the unemotional side of her mind defensively gained control. ‘Stay focused’, she reminded herself. ‘A ninja who becomes wistful is no longer a ninja’. Then she recalled being summoned by Sanada. Such an unpleasant thought brought her back to the present. Losing the smile, she continued on her way.

 

Elsewhere, three day’s journey away, Sung Ji and Kenji Tanaka had already been riding for hours when the samurai reined his horse to a stop and voiced his discontent at Kenji’s choice of transportation. “I can’t believe you’re moving so slow,” he yelled back to his companion.

A few moments later the old man brought his mount to a halt where Sung Ji was waiting. “It is not I that am moving slow,” he contradicted, “it’s this mule.”

The Korean sighed. “That is precisely why I picked an Arabian horse for you. Why you chose that little donkey is beyond my ability to reason.”

“The horse you chose was too tall,” bantered Kenji. “I’ve been a simple farmer all my life, so this mule is more my style.”

“Be that as it may,” said Sung Ji. “At this pace it will take at least five days to reach Sanada’s estate.”

“Then we should keep moving,” declared Tanaka, “instead of sitting idle, talking and wasting time. And perhaps we should ride longer than you plan each day so we can reach our destination sooner.”

“Wonderful idea,” said the Korean sarcastically, “but my horse requires rest after so many hours.”

“Exactly,” exclaimed Kenji, proud of himself for manipulating the conversation so that he could make a logical point. “That is another reason why I chose a real work animal, accustomed to arduous tasks and able to toil long hours without rest.”

Sung Ji frowned. ‘I’m traveling with Kwai’ he thought quietly to himself. His frustration did not go unnoticed by Tanaka. In an attempt to distract him from his mood, he said… “That tune you play on your flute is beautiful. It lulled me back to sleep last night,”

“Back to sleep…” Sung Ji repeated. “Weren’t you drunk. I thought the sake put you to sleep.”

“Only half drunk,” he said. “The other half was eavesdropping as you played.”

 “You remind me more and more of old Kwai,” the samurai droned. “At times I can’t make sense of what you say. Sometimes I wonder if it was he who sent you looking for me to begin with; him with his hard head and mystical mumbling.”

“Don’t know the man,” said Kenji as he prompted the mule to move. Waddling past the samurai he teased; “Are you coming? We have a long journey ahead of us.”

“Go on,” parried Sung Ji as he stretched and yawned. “Even if you’re an hour ahead I can catch up in a couple of minutes.”

 

Meanwhile, in Sanada’s library, the stillness hanging in the air was broken by Mizaki; “He comes,” said the wizard.

Silence, befitting her name, stood quietly observing Sanada’s reaction.

“The samurai?” moaned Sanada. “Already?” Turning his attention from Mizaki he glared at Silence, standing beyond reach of the candle light. “Why are you always wreathed in shadows?”

“It is my refuge,” she replied, “and my nature.” Raising her head, but not looking at Sanada, she declared; “If you must know, I’m comfortable in darkness. But to be honest, it is none of your business. You’ve solicited my Sensei for aid and I’m here because he sent me to solve your problem, not for small talk or familiarity.”

“What did you say!?” bellowed Sanada.

Silence stepped into the light, her steel-gray eyes suddenly locking onto his. Sanada shivered involuntarily and quickly lowered his eyes. He was not accustomed to backing down from those he employed, but this girl was an exception. Her aura, and especially her eyes…the intensity of her gaze intimidated and frightened him.

The tension in the air was obvious, and Mizaki sensed Sanada’s fear. It brought the hint of a smile to his dignified features. He had no love for his employer, who was weak, spoiled and self-indulgent, but was loyal because he paid him, gave he and his daughter living quarters and fed them. But he neither liked nor respected him.

“He comes, you tell me,” said Sanada, addressing Mizaki. “Is that it? Is that all you have to say?”

“It is,” replied the wizard, “all that the mirror reveals.”

As Sanada muttered curses while reaching for his wine glass, Mizaki stared at the ornately framed mirror. Images only he could see meandered before him, then slowly dissolved into a transparent multi colored mist before completely fading away until the mirror merely reflected what was before it. But the last thing Mizaki saw there gave him reason to pause. He turned his head slowly to gaze at Silence. Within a few seconds she raised her bowed head, questionably returning his gaze as if she had sensed him looking at her. The moment dissolved when Sanada spoke.

Addressing Silence, he stated… “There is a small village two days journey from here. If you hurry you can be there when or soon after that samurai arrives. Most likely he and that nuisance Tanaka will pause there for food and rest. It would be a perfect opportunity for you to carry out your assignment. Eliminate them before they arrive here!” he yelled as he threw his wine glass to the floor. The sound of breaking crystal echoed in the chamber as a myriad of glittering shards spread out across the tiles.

“Leave me,” he abruptly commanded the pair. “And Mizaki, send a maid here to clean up this mess!”

“Hai,” said Mizaki.

Just outside the door, in the corridor a concerned Ai chan turned to hurry away before her father made his exit. Worried about his safety, she had been eavesdropping, but knew both he and Sanada would be upset if it were known. As she retreated down the hall, inside the chamber Sanada glared at his guests as they walked to the door. He had scowled indignantly as Silence turned her back and quietly walked away. As much as her lack of respect or decorum angered him, his expression changed as he admired her slim figure and long, silken hair. ‘If she were not so deadly…’ he thought. Almost as if she could read his decadent mind, she stopped at the doorway as Mizaki backed his way out, and turning her head slightly gave Sanada a disgusted look as she said contemptuously… “Perhaps you should visit a brothel…”

Mizaki, a smile on his face, was awaiting her in the corridor. She smiled in return as he bowed. Neither spoke as she bowed, after which they went in opposite directions.

 As she turned a bend in the hallway her mind drifted back briefly to that moment in Sanada’s chamber when Mizaki had been facing the mirror and turned to look at her. Judging from his actions, she reasoned, he may have seen something related to her. She wondered about his expression…was it surprise, shock…or perhaps curiosity?  She would ask, she decided, the next time they met. Presently she had her duty to consider. As instructed, she must prepare for the journey to the village toward which the samurai and Tanaka san were heading.

 

While Silence made preparations, miles away from Sanada’s castle an ailing Sensei, his flame of life dimming quickly, slipped into an eternal sleep beneath the concerned gaze of his most beloved protégé. His student, Minori, fought boldly against the tears she knew he would disdain. Just two weeks earlier, she recalled, he had said that if he died all his problems would cease to exist; “Those who love me will still have problems,” he had said, “but mine will end. Heaven will take me and I will have no more problems.” Those words at this moment gave her little comfort. Her Master’s death was not the decree of Heaven, but the direct result of a killer’s choice. It was the result of treachery. A villainous act ordered by an evil Sensei who had a grudge against her master. Sitting silently beside his palette, still holding his cold hand long after she was aware of his last feeble pulse beat, Minori contemptuously spoke the villain’s name… “Sensei Hawk…” she hissed. In her mind she finished the thought; ‘I have something for you, to be delivered by my bow’.

 

 


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