The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 35 (v.1) - girl in the mirror

Submitted: August 28, 2019

Reads: 24

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Submitted: August 28, 2019

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As they approached the castle from the back side, Ahn Sung Ji and Kenji Tanaka were surprised to see the small group emerging from the trees that hid the secret exit they used to escape the stronghold. Mizaki was one of the few who knew of the secret passage that led outside the walls.

Kenji was the first to see them and his eyes filled with tears of joy as little Kasumi chan excitedly yelled… “Oji-san!”

“Quietly,” warned Ai as she grabbed the girl and lifted her up. “You may alert the guards…”

The samurai turned his Arabian to block Kenji’s mule from advancing… “Patience, my friend. They are coming.”

Silence stopped just past the trees, watching as Mizaki, Ai and Kasumi joined the samurai and Tanaka. Ai placed the little girl into the open arms of her grandfather. Afterward, noticing that Sung Ji was gazing in the direction of the castle, she turned to look back.

“Where is Silence?” she asked.

Mizaki then turned his attention to the trees... “She was right behind us…”

“The girl in black?” inquired Sung Ji.

“Hai,” Ai replied. “She helped us. If not for her….” Ai’s voice faded off. “She returned to the trees,” Sung Ji informed. “We should be leaving, before Sanada discovers Kasumi missing.”

“Sanada san is gone,” said Ai. “He was betrayed by one of his retainers.”

“Why did Silence return?” asked Kasumi. “Can’t we go after her?”

“She is shinobi,” said Mizaki. “She knows how to survive. I’m certain she had a purpose for whatever it is she is doing now.”

“We should go,” repeated Sung Ji, as he dismounted from his horse. “You two get on the saddle,” he said to Ai and Mizaki. Turning to Kenji he advised… “Get back on the mule. I’ll hand your granddaughter to you.”

“And you?” asked Tanaka.

“I can run,” replied the samurai.

 

Inside the castle, all was quiet. As yet no one had discovered Sanada’s body, nor Ichiban. No one knew Mizaki, Ai and Kasumi were gone. Likewise no one knew that in the stables, the blacksmith was unconscious on a haystack and that there were three vacant stalls where earlier there had been horses.

No one was aware that at the front gate, the two night sentries, and the three guards outside the wall were unconscious; the result of a stranger’s intercession. Silence meanwhile, had returned through the hidden tunnel and was stealthily approaching the main stable. She almost reached the doors when they abruptly swung open, stopping her in her tracks. Too late to hide, she quickly withdrew her sword as a lone rider emerged, leading her Mongolian horse and two others. Momentarily speechless, she gazed first at the mounted stranger, then at the long bow attached to her saddle…

“The archer…’ she surmised aloud. “You are…?”

“Minori,” she replied.

“Minori…” repeated Silence. “It means ‘harvest’…”

“Hai,” said the girl.

Silence, her head full of questions, simply nodded. Her curiosity was all the more aroused by the rider’s attire; she wore the clothes of a samurai.

“You have my horse…”

“And two others,” added Minori. “I thought you could use them.”

“You helped me before,” said Silence. “You’ve been following me…or perhaps Kenji Tanaka san or the samurai...”

“Perhaps we’re just going the same direction,” offered Minori.

“Perhaps…” Silence repeated. Of course she knew it was more than just a coincidence, but here and now was not the time for discussion.

“Precious little time for introductions. “Time to leave…” Minori said as she handed the Mongolian’s reins to Silence.

 

A short while later and a short distance from the castle, on the road leading to Tanaka’s rice farm, Sung Ji was ushering the little group of fugitives into hiding among the bamboo and trees that lined the roadway.

“Hurry!” said the Korean. “They’re coming this way.”

A moment later, all were relieved to see Silence, mounted on her little Mongolian, trotting along with two horses in tow. Although hidden well, she knew they were there, and pausing precisely where they had left the road, she hailed them. “I thought you could use these mounts,” she declared. “They are a gift from…” she stopped mid-sentence. Minori was no longer behind her.

“From who?” asked Ai chan.

“A friend…” said Silence. “I’ll explain while we ride.”

 

Much later, at Kenji Tanaka’s farm, following a hearty meal, Mizaki told Sung Ji that Ichiban, who was a friend of Miyamoto, planned vengeance against him… “But fate intervened,” declared the wizard.

“Fate?”

“Hai,” Mizaki replied, looking at Silence. “Fate sent retribution.”

“Retribution…” the samurai repeated as he likewise gazed at the ninja girl.

“Exactly as father foretold,” said Ai; “Two champions would interrupt Sanada’s evil plans; one would bring Justice, and the other retribution.”

Sung Ji nodded. His experience in the last few years taught him not to question destiny or karma. As for Silence, her world of shinobi was one of mysticism, magic and esoteric secrets ordinary mortals could only wonder about.

“People say yours is a sword of Justice,” said Silence to the samurai. “Mine brings retribution,” she declared. “Mizaki San’s revelation was correct. I believe Ichiban was among the outlaws who killed my family…and that man Miyamoto…” Her voice had become somber, drifting off as if she were suddenly lost in thought as she stared blankly into space. After a pause she turned her attention to the samurai. “You dispatched a killer by that name, did you not?”

“I did. During the battle he fell on a dagger he had taken from a man he killed. I drew blood, but his death was his own doing”

“Decreed by Fate,” ventured Mizaki.

“Perhaps,” added Kenji. “I’m a simple man, but in my life have seen things that defied explanation. When my wife died, I knew it before I saw her lifeless body. She favored wind chimes, and we had many. There was no wind the morning she left this world, but I was awakened by the perfectly timed ‘ting’ of a single chime. It was her favorite. Perhaps somehow she caused it to resonate, as a means to bid farewell, or to tell me she will always be with me.”

“In this world anything is possible,” said Mizaki.

“I suppose it is human nature,” surmised Sung Ji, “that in spite of experience, there are moments when I question the concept of fate or destiny. In China an old Mystic named Kwai said he and I were destined to meet, but at times I wonder if meeting is just coincidence.”

“If that were so,” declared Kenji, “it would follow that ‘not meeting’ is just coincidence, which leads to the belief that coincidence itself is no more than a coincidence.”

“Yah!” Sung Ji exclaimed. “There you go again. I’m certain you and that shaman are related somehow.”

Ignoring the comment, Kenji addressed Silence… “It is truly remarkable that you defeated such a large and lethal opponent.”

Silence humbly replied... “I had help.”

“Help?” Ai questioned.

“Hai,” replied Silence. “From the girl in white; the same girl I met in the dark on the road to Sanada’s estate. I’m certain she was the girl I saw with the samurai and Tanaka san at the hostel in the village along the way.”

“What girl?” asked Sung Ji.

Before she could reply, Kenji interjected… “There was no girl with us…”

“The long haired girl in white,” Silence said. “I’m certain she’s the same girl I saw inside Sanada’s castle. She wore a rose colored scarf …”

“I saw her too!” said Kasumi. “Inside the mirror! I think she’s magic.”

“Hai,” agreed Silence. “She is definitely not an ordinary girl.”

The samurai listened intently to their descriptions; a girl in white…she appeared out of thin air…a rose colored scarf…the aroma of jasmine…she cast no shadow…  His thoughts ran back to the gravesite beneath the ancient tree: he had wrapped the girl’s silver locket in a rose colored scarf and placed it in the urn that held her ashes… “Asako…” he intoned, as her image appeared in his mind; the same image he carried in his heart.

“What did you say?” asked Silence.

Her question brought him back. He turned to face her, but said nothing. He still blamed himself for the deaths of Asako and her father. Guilt still preyed upon his conscience. Distracted by his reverie, he just stared, for what seemed to Silence and the others a long moment. Finally he spoke: “Nothing…” he replied. “It’s a long story.”

He was not aware of the effect his words had on Silence. She appeared disappointed and like the others remained quiet. Obviously he was deeply affected by what she and Kasumi said. Momentarily, aware of the stillness in the room, he repeated… “It is a long story. I’ll tell it another time.”

“Hai,” said Silence. Out of respect she didn’t press him with more questions.

Ai, attempting to change the subject, asked Silence about her parents… “You said Ichiban might have been involved with their deaths?”

“Hai. His may have been the sword that ended their lives. It was many years ago in a small village. We had gone there for the yearly ‘Matsuri Tsukimi’ (Moon Watching Festival). We were attacked by outlaws who became angry because my father and uncle had very few coins. They may have killed me too, if not for the approach of those who heard our cries. Sensei Hawk rescued me and took me to his mountain retreat. He became my adopted father and shinobi master…” her voice began to drift. She paused, ignoring the heartfelt expressions of pity on the faces of Ai, Mizaki and Kenji. “It is also a long story,” she added, “like Sung Ji’s. Perhaps some other time,” she said as she became misty-eyed.

 “Do you really have to go?” asked Kasumi. “You can’t if you plan to tell your story. Can’t you stay with us?”

The question caused Silence to blush, and smile… “You’re surprisingly direct at times, Tenshi. I would like nothing better than to stay. But I’ve failed to complete my mission. I planned to disappear, but I know that won’t be the end of it. I must return to face Sensei and end things there.”

An awkward quiet followed, finally strategically broken by Kenji Tanaka. “Need we be concerned about Sanada san’s men?”

“No,” said Mizaki. “With no master to pay them, they’ll leave the castle. Sanada’s only family is a married sister, who will most likely take charge of the estate. Unlike her brother, she is kind and will do no harm to you or Kasumi chan. I’ve known her since she was a child. She and Ai often played together.”

“And trained with the same naginata master,” added Ai. “We were very close before she eloped.”

“Sanada denied her existence after that,” said Mizaki.

“What will become of you and your daughter?” Kenji inquired.

“We will return to the castle once Sanada’s sister arrives. I’ve decided to give you half the gold and silver Ichiban stole as recompense for what Sanada took from your family. I’ll return the rest to his sister. She may decide to give you more.”

“Mizaki San!” exclaimed Kasumi.

All eyes turned her direction.

“Kasumi chan,” Kenji admonished, “that is not the proper way to address an adult.”

“Go-men-sei (I apologize),” Kasumi said sheepishly.

“What is it, Tenshi?” Mizaki asked.

“I thought you would stay here with us.”

“Ah so,” he said thoughtfully.

“If you are leaving,” she continued, “could Ai sama stay? If not, I wonder if I could borrow her.”

“You want to borrow my daughter?”

“Hai,” declared Kasumi. “When you return to the estate you will be busy and Ai sama may be lonely. She has become like a mother to me, so if we can’t be together always…” her voice became quiet… “I hope you can lend her to me sometimes…unless you can’t share.”

“Kasumi chan…” Ai spoke slowly, visibly moved by the child’s words.

“If it is also Ai chan’s wish,” said Mizaki, “then of course you have my permission and approval.”

“Yah-ta! (Great),” proclaimed Kasumi.

“You both have an open invitation to visit our home anytime,” said Kenji.

“Then it’s settled,” said Ai with a smile.

“It appears that all is well,” said the samurai. “And looking back, ‘tomodachi san’ (my friend), it seems you didn’t need the Left Hand of God after all.”

“Na-ni!” Kenji exclaimed… “I did need a swordsman,” he stammered. “It came down to swords, did it not?  Her sword, if not yours…” he said pointing a shaking finger at Silence.

“Oji san!” Kasumi yelled suddenly. “Mother said never point a finger at someone, it has a nail in it!”

Sung Ji laughed, which prompted Tanaka to pause in the middle of his tirade. When he did so, he noticed the others were also laughing. After looking at the happy faces of his new friends seated at the table, and then gazing at his granddaughter’s serious expression, he began to laugh as well.

 

 


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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