Chapter 40: Fire and Ice

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

Reads: 53

Two days after the discovery of her husband’s body and disappearance of Jangmi, Danjo Kuriyama’s widow, an armed bodyguard standing at her back, was seated in an anteroom inside the converted mountain temple, awaiting Sensei Hawk. The wait was temporary as, within minutes he entered the room, yelling at one of his men to bring tea for the visitors.

“Only for me,” said the widow.

“Bring only two cups,” commanded Hawk.

“Hai, Sensei!” replied the man as he hurried on his way.

Kuriyama’s widow, meanwhile, explained why she came seeking aid from the nefarious shinobi master… “I believe Jangmi fled after killing my husband. Since she is highly trained in fighting arts, only another likewise trained can avenge me. Are your kind not called silent assassins?”

“Some call us that,” said Hawk. “But to the point, the price will be high.”

“Price is no concern,” she declared. “My husband was a very wealthy man.”

“So be it,” Hawk replied. “Tell me more.”

At that moment tea arrived. Hawk dismissed the man who brought it, and Kuriyama’s widow dismissed her bodyguard.

“I prefer to keep our conversation private,” she explained.

“Hai,” said Hawk with a mischievous grin. He liked secrecy as well, and in fact thrived on it.


Elsewhere on Hawk’s mountain, Water listened patiently as the twins elaborated the latest gossip concerning Silence… “I heard the men talking in the training hall this morning,” said Ice, wide-eyed and excited, as if she were a spy for the emperor reporting affairs of national concern. “Kaji returned last night to reveal Silence had not completed her mission. Sensei is brooding.”

“He broods a lot,” said Water. “I believe it’s his nature. Why should that cause concern for our sister?”

“Kaji told the others Sensei instructed him to return to spy on Silence,” replied Fire. “He said Sensei was beginning to mistrust and suspect her.”

“What does that mean?” asked Water. “Suspect her of what?”

“Of befriending that samurai,” answered Fire.

“And the girl’s grandfather,” added Ice.

“If that’s true,” said Water after contemplating their words, “I don’t blame her.”

The twins exchanged puzzled expressions.

“We’ve been talking,” Water said as she lowered her voice. “Both Wind and Sky agree. Sensei has changed a lot the last few years, or perhaps his true nature is beginning to show. He’ll accept any task if the price is right. He’s become rich, but hides it away. He really does nothing to help honest society. Too, Storm has discovered dark secrets about his past.”

“Dark secrets?” asked Ice.

“Exactly,” Water replied. “There is reason to believe he was once a lawless bandit chief. And when he came to this mountain years ago he bullied Chiharu and forcefully took possession of this place. It’s no secret this was at that time a holy place, which he turned into a training camp for ninja.”

“Bullied Chiharu…” repeated Ice slowly. “She raised all of us.”

“But he’s given us a home,” said Fire. “He’s taken in many orphans...”

“And trained them to kill,” continued Water. “For wealth, which he hoards for himself. I believe from the beginning he had an ulterior motive behind what appeared to be a noble endeavor. Now, even that can’t mask his avarice or murderous intent.”

The twins quietly looked at one another questioningly. Water observed their reaction, then asked… “What brought you two here?”

“A wagon,” said Ice.

“Honestly sister…? Asked Fire sarcastically. I would expect Kaji to reply like that. Then addressing Water, she continued, “You already know that; the death of our parents.”

 “And how did they die?”

“They were killed by robbers,” replied Fire.

“And Silence?” queried their elder.

“Her family was killed by robbers.”

“Exactly,” said Water again, “and the same goes for Sky.”

“What are you implying?” Fire asked.

“Just think about it,” suggested Water. “We’ll talk more when all of us are together. But keep this in mind. If Sensei does any harm to Silence, he is a dead man!”

The twins were shocked by her statement, and her revelations. Ice felt as though she were suspended in that limbo that precedes a sudden life-altering epiphany.  Not so Fire, who unbeknownst to Ice or Water, had already been having doubts and questions concerning Sensei Hawk, his ethics, and his past. For some time she sensed something in the air, like the change in atmospheric pressure that precedes a violent spring storm.

Later, that same day, Sensei Hawk sent for the twins… “I have a mission for you,” he declared, after which he explained the situation regarding the death of Danjo Kuriyama, and who their target was to be. “Even if this girl expects to have someone hunting her, I don’t believe she would expect it to be women. That’s why I’m sending you to handle this problem. Find this rebellious Jangmi, and eliminate her. Is that understood?”

“Hai!” they replied in unison.

“You’re dismissed,” he told them. “Go rest, and prepare for the journey. You’ll depart before sunrise.”

“Hai,” they answered without question. They knew he revealed all that he wanted them to know. Questions would be futile. But once they were in their room making preparation, Ice confided her doubts and concerns to her older twin, then added… “Sensei has never before asked us to kill a woman.”

Fire reminded her the woman killed her master, which was equal to patricide... “That’s why Sensei called her rebellious. There is only a bad end for anyone who does such a thing.”

“Ah-so….” her sister replied, as if suddenly deep in thought.

“Still,” Fire determined, “I believe there is much more to the story than we’ve been told.”

“Hai,” agreed Ice.

“Enough talk,” said Fire. “Prepare your things. But rest assured, I will give this matter much more consideration.”

“Sensei has changed,” mumbled Ice. “I’m beginning to understand why Water has doubts and suspicions.”

Submitted: August 29, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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