The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 28 (v.1) - Shadow

Submitted: August 27, 2019

Reads: 25

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Submitted: August 27, 2019

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It seemed as if a lifetime had passed while Silence patiently waited for an opportune moment to carry out her deadly mission. Sitting quietly amid the bamboo, the only parts of her that moved in the last hour were her eyelids and long black lashes each time she blinked. Much earlier Sung Ji’s roasted fish smelled good to the hungry ninja girl, arousing her appetite, but she would do without food for the time being. In the past, during training, she often went days without food or drink. She was taught that to deny the physical body opened the mind and elevated the spirit above the needs or desires of the senses. As a ninja she was trained to have no thought of self. “What we call ‘self’,” her Sensei said, “does not exist. There is no ‘I’; no ‘me’ or ‘my’. There is only ‘michi’ (the path or journey), and one’s duty. All else is an illusion.”

When she was a teen an elder classmate reminded her of that after she scolded him for an unkindness done to a young girl. She aggressively pinched and twisted his cheek… “Yeow!” he cried. “Why did you do that to me?”

“Do what?” she replied. “There is no ‘you’, no ‘me’, and that pinch was just an illusion.”

Now, while watching from her hiding place, her mind drifted to other thoughts related to the life she lived. The path she now walked was not her choice. It was an extremely difficult discipline, with a challenging philosophical concept not easy to comprehend, embrace or put into practice. She recalled in the beginning telling her master she didn’t quite understand ‘the way’. His reply was simple. He said whether or not she understood was incidental. Understanding is not required, but obedience is. Perception and understanding will come, he told her, slowly over time. Now, after years of following ‘the way’, she was still trying to comprehend.

Bringing her thoughts back to the present, she found herself admiring how the samurai cared for the elder Tanaka. Something from way back in memory reminded her that it was a value she learned from her parents and grandparents. Filial duty and respect of elders was deeply rooted in her culture, which explained why she followed the direction of her Sensei, even though she had begun to question his motivation and ethics.

 

While she observed, Kenji fell into a restless slumber, with thoughts of vengeful spirits rushing through his mind, as the samurai stood watch. He seemed wide awake and alert, as fatigue slowly crept up on her. Eventually he added wood to the fire, causing flames to flare and rise upward amid waves of sparks, illuminating the small campsite and sending shadows dancing about. She gazed at the shadows, transfixed by their erratic movements. Her eyes locked onto the samurai again, then on his shadow as it gyrated slowly while the agitated flames settled down. He was standing still, his keen eyes surveying the darkness beyond the firelight, when Silence, straining her eyes, noticed his shadow behaving strangely. He had moved, shifted his weight to look in another direction, but his shadow remained stationary.

She shuddered as a chill ran up her spine, and watched spellbound as the shadow slowly extended, stretching itself outward and into the darkness in her direction. All at once it lengthened to the extreme, detached itself from the samurai’s feet and disappeared. It was so sudden and unexpected that Silence gasped.  Although shocked, she wondered if it was perhaps her imagination as her mind raced back to that moment in front of the mirror at Sanada’s estate. Did her reflection move independently, or was it an illusion?

Presently, hiding in the bamboo, she sensed she was no longer alone. She felt an intense presence at her back, and turning slowly with apprehension, froze as she detected the subtle movement of something in the blackness behind her. At first no more than a dark shape among the shadows, the ebony mass seemed alive and appeared to be assuming human form as it floated in the dark, moving ever closer. What seemed to be the head stopped just a fraction of an inch from her own. Still in a state of flux, there was nothing distinguishable about it, until spectral eyes opened suddenly in what appeared to be the face. Silence involuntarily pushed off the ground with both feet simultaneously as she shoved forward with her arms against the shadowy shape. The action caused her to fall backward, rustling the brush as she landed with a dull thud on her bottom. The muffled sound alerted the Korean and his left hand sped to the hilt of his sword. Silence meanwhile, frightened and mortified, stared incredulously as the dark shape vanished with a ‘puft’ sound, turning into thousands of gray and white granules that slowly floated like powder to the ground.

Sung Ji, straining his ears for even the slightest of sounds, stood statue still, so as to make no noise himself. Momentarily, amid the chirping of crickets, he heard the hooting of an owl, followed by the sound of its wings as it took to flight. The samurai relaxed; ‘Just a night bird’, he thought to himself. Silence, meanwhile, was trying to steady her heart and slow her pulse, breathing slowly in an effort to calm down. ‘It’s unbecoming of a ninja,’ she reminded herself, ‘to feel fear or doubt’. She was certain this time she saw what she thought she saw. When she pushed against the dark shape it was tangible; her hands felt ‘cold’, and she sensed emptiness. She took in a deep breath, exhaling slowly. The forest into which she followed her prey was a foreboding place, at times mist-shrouded, even in daylight. Her pulse racing, she decided to wait for another opportunity to finish what she began.

 

 

The hour was late at Sanada’s castle as Ichiban, puzzled and wondering why he was summoned now, hurried to his master’s chamber. On arrival he pulled the cord that rang the chimes. Before their echo faded Sanada’s voice sounded. “Enter!”

Ichiban opened the door and reluctantly stepped inside. As usual Sanada was frustrated and angry. The giant was frustrated as well, having been reduced to the menial task of guard duty with idle minded underlings. His feet and back ached, and he was tired. The last thing he wanted to deal with was Sanada’s infamous ill temper.

Ichiban bowed deeply. Rising up, he kept his head and eyes down as Sanada spoke.

“Any sign of that mercenary,” wondered Sanada, “or that ninja vixen?”

“No sir.”

“It’s been two days,” Sanada complained. That assassin is rumored to be the best. If she can’t handle the samurai…” His voice trailed off, as if he could not hold the thought.

Ichiban was quiet. There were times when the best thing to say was nothing at all.

“You’re good with your sword,” said Sanada. “Do you think you can handle that samurai?”

“I can handle him,” he said slowly with determination. “I owe it to my friend.”

“Your friend?”

“Hai! That Korean is responsible for the death of my friend Miyamoto. Killing Sung Ji is a personal matter of vengeance.”

“Vengeance is a double-edged sword,” said Sanada. “Your passion for revenge may be your undoing. Don’t let your emotions blind you.”

“Hai!” said Ichiban. “Vengeance is a double-edged sword… and I’m adept with a double-edged sword,” he proudly declared as he placed a hand on the hilt of his weapon.

Sanada was silent a moment, wondering why he could not find intelligent men to serve him. Finally he spoke. “Go,” as if fatigued. “Leave me. Go rest, but keep one eye open and your big ears alert.”

“Hai!” responded Ichiban loudly as he bowed.

 

Elsewhere, Ai Mizaki was awakened by a tapping sound at her door. She thought it was a dream, until it sounded again… “Who’s there?” she called out while rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Kasumi…” a voice timidly declared.

“Kasumi chan?”

“Are you asleep?” Kasumi asked.

“Half asleep,” Ai replied as she walked toward the door. When she slid it open she discovered the little girl walking away.

“What is it, Tenshi?”

“I can’t sleep,” she said as she turned to face Ai. “The old nursemaid snores so loud…”

“Then you can sleep with me,” Ai offered. ‘I don’t think I snore…at least not as loud as our old nursemaid.”

“But I want to talk…” the girl said sheepishly, “and you’re half asleep.”

“Well,” replied Ai, “I can listen to you half awake.”

Kasumi smiled, then ran to Ai’s arms. “I miss my parents,” she said as tears began, “and I miss oji-san.”

Ai understood her pain; “I miss my mother and grandparents too,” she said.

As they shared Ai’s palette, she told Kasumi stories of her own childhood until the young girl drifted off to sleep. Exhausted herself, she smiled as she looked at Kasumi resting peacefully. “Oyasuminasai Tenshi (Goodnight angel),” she said, just before she laid her head down and closed her eyes.


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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