The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 26 (v.1) - girl with the wafting scarf

Submitted: August 26, 2019

Reads: 27

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 26, 2019

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Riding a few hundred yards ahead of Kenji and his docile mule, Sung Ji played the flute as his black Arabian trotted contently along. The horse, like Kenji, seemed to enjoy the melody. Both were lulled into a mild state of relaxation by the lilting notes, which served Tanaka well. Astride the mule, his was an uncomfortable, bumpy ride. Miles ago he began to wonder why he didn’t take the samurai’s advice in Tsukimi and get a horse. He had ridden mules in the past, but not for an entire day. His body ached, much more than what he had come to accept as normal. But the music relaxed and comforted him, alleviating the pain in his joints and lower back as it eased his troubled mind. Although his heart ached with concern for his granddaughter he tried his best not to worry, while trusting in Heaven to protect Kasumi from harm. She had already experienced too much tragedy in her young life, and she was the only family he had left in this world.

Kenji suddenly found his thoughts drifting to other things. The sun was low in the western sky, and just over the hills ahead he could see the smoke of cooking fires rising above the rooftops of the village that marked the first third of their journey. They had stopped to rest and eat from their small bag of provisions only once, and had traveled many kilometers since then. Tanaka’s stomach was beginning to protest, rumbling often in the last hour, so he was elated to have finally come within sight of the village. A good meal and a good night’s sleep would prepare them for the road at sunrise.

 

A little later, Silence reined her fleet Mongolian horse to a stop on a plateau overlooking the village where Sung Ji and Tanaka were resting. Smoke was still rising from many of the houses, eateries and inns. The village was nestled in a green valley, surrounded by cedar trees, a bamboo forest on the south side, and plateaus like the one on which she paused. She admired the idyllic view, and the evening sky. Above the purple horizon, speckled by a plethora of twinkling stars, the ebony darkness of night had begun to blanket the heavens.  But as appealing as that sight was, she was not here to admire the wonders of creation. She was here because of duty; to perform what she had come to consider was a dark deed. Never in the past did she question orders given by her master. But in each case she was instructed to eliminate evil men, corrupt and insidious individuals, guilty of numerous crimes. This time was different; she had begun to believe what she had been sent to do was not right.

She had begun to respect Tanaka and the samurai, and was inclined to protect little Kasumi chan. Thus she loathed the thought of killing the child’s last remaining relative. The emotions and thoughts that raced like a torrent through her mind did more than inspire moral questions; they gave her cause to hesitate and reflect. And yet, a part of her psyche relentlessly pushed her onward, beyond those moments of reflection and doubt. Returning her thoughts to the present, she prompted the horse to move.

 

Sung Ji and Kenji had long since finished their meal in one of the few eateries still open in the small village. Here they served sake, which Tanaka insisted on having after an arduous and difficult day. Earlier at the stable where they boarded their mounts, he had bent over to gather hay for the donkey and the ungrateful animal bit him on the buttocks. He cried out in pain, which brought the samurai and stable master running as the jackass brayed.

“What happened?” asked Sung Ji.

“That infernal mule bite me and is now laughing…” wailed Kenji while rubbing his posterior.

Both men laughed… “Maybe he’s exacting payment for that bottom of yours sitting on his back all day.” Ventured the samurai.

The humor was lost on Kenji, who was indignant but not hurt badly. Now, after a good meal, the samurai watched as Tanaka downed his third cup of sake. Realizing he was being watched, he defensively declared… “It will sooth my aching body and help me relax. I will sleep much better.”

“Perhaps it will soothe your aching posterior as well,” said Sung Ji.

Kenji grimaced, and then stared at the samurai scornfully.

“What? I told you to get a horse. You should trade that old mule for an appropriate steed before we go any further.”

“Never,” declared Kenji. “After spending the day with him I’m beginning to like him, even though he bit me. He’s stubborn, but capable. Reminds me of someone I met recently.”

“Me to,” said Sung Ji, “that jackass reminds me of someone as well.”

They eyed one another silently a few seconds then laughed. They whiled away the evening that way, with sake and conversation, unaware that danger lurked nearby. Unbeknownst to anyone, Silence had entered the small hamlet, tracked the samurai’s horse to the stable and eventually he and Tanaka to the tiny restaurant. Hiding in the dense shadows of an alley beside the building, she was as yet undecided whether or not she would complete her mission, but none the less moved along as if it were her objective.

While patiently waiting for them to emerge, she pulled a slim, eight-inch needle from one of her black silk sleeves. It gleamed in the darkness of the alley, reflecting a ray of light from the tiny hole she had made in the rice paper of a window panel. The needle was used to penetrate an individual’s temple or chest, targeting either brain or heart. In either case, death was the result. She could use the needle on Tanaka, but the short sword secured to the obi at her waist would be necessary confronting the samurai. She knew a face-to-face confrontation would be challenging, especially against a legendary swordsman like Sung Ji, who had never been defeated.

Still undecided how to handle the situation, her reverie ended abruptly when she heard the front door open. Placing her back to the wall she waited, a shadow among shadows, listening intently to their approaching steps. Her acute sense of hearing detected two people. Imperceptibly leaning forward, she spied old Tanaka as he wobbled onto the cedar surface of the front landing, followed by the samurai and a young girl, her white clothing almost glowing in the light emanating from the restaurant.

Silence quickly darted her head back, confused thoughts rushing through her mind as adrenaline ran just as quick through her veins. There were three, but she was certain there were only two. She had not planned on this, and assumed her two targets would be leaving the eatery alone. If she attempted to dispatch them now she would be forced to eliminate the girl as well, which was unacceptable. She never killed an innocent or woman before.

Remaining hidden, she watched as the trio passed by the alley, heading in the direction of the small inn just a few hundred yards up the nearly deserted street. As Silence observed she noticed the girl, her long scarf wafting in the breeze, not only accompanied them to the hostel, but also inside. Kenji and Sung Ji entered first, while the girl paused and turned her head to look back in the direction of the ninja girl… or did she? It seemed so to Silence, as if the girl in white knew she was hiding there. ‘But that is impossible,’ thought Silence. She was highly skilled in stealth, and if hiding, had never before been detected. She had always come and gone without anyone knowing.

Silence felt a sudden chill, then shivered as she wiped beads of sweat from her brow. The chill, sweat, and emotions were uncommon and confused her momentarily. Gathering her composure, she waited a few minutes after the girl entered the inn, then left the shelter of the alley to move silently through the shadows of the storefronts and buildings that lined the street. ‘Surely,’ she considered, ‘that girl would not be staying the night. Neither Tanaka nor Sung Ji were the type of men to be involved in an illicit tryst with a young maiden like that. Following a brief moment of reflection, it occurred to Silence that there was something familiar about her. The girl reminded her of a classmate; ‘Mu-chi-ghae’ (Rainbow), a Korean orphan who liked wearing colorful clothes. Because of those things, Sensei Hawk gave her that name. She was sent on a mission long ago, from which she never returned. Sensei forbade the other girls to speak her name after that, and demanded they erase her memory from their minds.

Bringing herself back to the moment, Silence considered the possibility that perhaps the girl in white was not with her targets, but was just a guest in the same hostel who just happened to be leaving the restaurant the same time as Tanaka and the samurai. She decided to bide her time, and watching the inn noticed that a light appeared in a second floor window shortly after her prey entered. Most likely they were in that room, and twenty minutes later Silence was scaling the wall to the second story.

 


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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