The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 41 (v.1) - jealously

Submitted: August 29, 2019

Reads: 19

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Submitted: August 29, 2019

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Another uneventful day was slowly coming to a close, with light blue skies turning royal blue and amber, a prelude to twilight and the approaching darkness as Sung Ji and Silence entered a dense forest. The samurai’s keen sense of hearing detected the sound of a waterfall. Not a large one, but suitable he imagined, with a pool perhaps perfect for bathing and good for fishing.

“Do you hear that?” Sung Ji asked.

“The birds and cicadas?” Silence asked. “Or the water?”

“The water,” he replied. “Fresh and clean I hope. The horses would appreciate a drink. I know I would.”

“Hai!” She agreed.

“Your hearing is good,” said the samurai.

She accepted the compliment casually… “I hear the falls, but I’m not certain how good my hearing is. I hear the water, and the breeze stirring the trees.”

The samurai smiled… “The whisper of the breeze too? You’re good. We should camp close to the falls. With any luck I’ll catch some fish for the fire.”

That thought brought a smile to her face. She was weary and hungry, but imagined if she appeared anxious, he may consider it weakness.

They soon found a suitable place to rest. Silence tethered the horses, removed the saddles and leather bags, and then prepared the campsite while Sung Ji gathered wood for a fire. After finding an armload of dry branches he decided to investigate the waterfall. What he discovered was quite unexpected; a young maiden bathing in the pool beneath the falls.

Although she had her back to him she knew the moment he was there. Before he could speak she disappeared beneath the water, only to resurface close to the pool edge where her belongings were neatly stacked. In less time than it takes a flea to blink Sung Ji dropped his burden, grasped one of the branches in his left hand, and instinctively waved it back and forth in front of his face. It was almost knocked from his grip by the impact of the two objects his senses told him she had launched. His ears picked up the sound of the barbs whistling his direction just before they struck and embedded themselves in the branch.

“Wah!” He exclaimed as he inspected the ornate metallic rose-tipped darts. “Those could have pierced my eyes!”

The startled girl, amazed by what he had done, already grabbed another floral pin and was preparing to throw it when he spoke… “Wait! Wait, I mean no harm…”

“Then why are you peeping at a bathing girl!?” she yelled.

Before he could reply, Silence came crashing through the brush. It took just a moment for her to analyze what happened. “Calm down,” she told the girl as she lowered her sword. “He’s with me and quite harmless, at least to young women.”

“Nu-gu sae-yo (Who are you)?”

“Na-ni (What)?” Silence asked.

“She’s Korean,” said the samurai. “She asked who you are.”

“My birth name is Yuki,” replied Silence. “And he is Ahn Sung Ji.”

“Snow,” said the girl. “And the wanderer; the Left Hand of God? I thought he was an honorable man.”

“I wasn’t peeping!” He protested.

The girl in the water looked at Silence… “I am Jangmi,” she said with a smile.

‘Another moody female’, he told himself. Then facing Silence with notable curiosity, he repeated…  “Yuki…? You just told her your name is Yuki… The one and only time I called you by that name you refused to answer, and didn’t speak to me for a half day of riding.”

A mask of frustration and anger covered her face… “The name is Silence,” she insisted. “If you address me as Yuki again I refuse to speak to you at all!”

A few seconds passed before he realized the two girls were staring at him intently. Glancing at Jangmi in the water, and then at Silence, he stammered…”Mu-ah (What)?”

“Do you mind,” said Silence, “Leave us…”

“Ah…of course. Forgive me,” he said as he bowed, after which he quickly retrieved the branches he had dropped and made a hasty retreat.

 

As he went, he was thinking about the ninja girl’s birth name; Yuki… ‘Snow’. He thought about how beautiful a snowfall was, and how silently it fell. ‘Perhaps’, he considered, ‘that is how Sensei Hawk arrived at the name ‘Silence’. But then, Sung Ji knew how lethal the girl was, how capable in battle…how quickly she could silence an enemy for all time. He contemplated asking her how she came to be called Silence, but knew he had best wait for the right moment; catch her in the right mood. She was evidently extremely sensitive. “Hymph!” he muttered to himself. “Emotional little vixens…the whole lot of them.”

 

Later, after a roasted fish dinner, the three of them were seated near the fire, getting to know one another.

“Jangmi, you have a beautiful name,” said Silence.

“It means Rose,” she replied, “like the flower.”

“Ah,” said Silence. “In Japanese we say ‘Bara’…it means the same thing,” she declared with a smile.

“Hai,” Jangmi responded.

“Who would have thought,” mused Sung Ji aloud, interrupting their conversation, “who would have imagined I would meet a Korean girl in this little island country? Were you given the name Jangmi before or after the tattoo?”

“Mu-ah ra-gu (What did you say)?” Her temper showed itself quickly and profusely.

“I’ve no doubt you’re a Korean girl, with that quick temper. It’s no wonder you’re named after a flower with thorns.”

Jangmi fumed, then declared… “Dea, and who would have thought I would catch a countryman peeping at me while bathing in a woodland pool.”

Before he could protest, the girls laughed at his obvious indignation.

“Ganging up on me,” he growled. “Ara-so (I see). First your darts, now I’m the target of your sharp words. I’ll leave you to your women’s talk while I look for a suitable place to lie down for the night.”

“Be on guard for woodland wraiths,” teased Jangmi.

The samurai didn’t reply, but his reaction, like a dark cloud moving in low overland, did not go unnoticed by Jangmi… “What?” she asked. “Do you believe in spirits?”

“Sleep well,” said Sung Ji, ignoring her question. “We have a long day ahead of us.”

 

A couple of hours later, Jangmi stirred from a restless sleep, subconsciously sensing something uncanny. Silence was sleeping peacefully. She rose quietly to avoid disturbing her and walked toward the place among the trees the samurai chose for sleep. Still sensing something ominous, she moved stealthily through the brush. At trees-end she was shocked into sudden immobility. Just a few feet away, like a silent sentinel bathed in moonlight stood a girl, her long dress, scarf and long hair wafting hypnotically in the night breeze. ‘She’s like a statue’, thought Jangmi. But she was no statue, and at her feet lay Sung Ji in a deep sleep.

Jangmi blinked and in that instant the girl was gone, vanishing without a sound. Almost immediately she felt a malignant presence at her back, and turning, found herself face to face with the nocturnal visitor. Alarmed, she gasped involuntarily and fell stumbling backward over a large rock. At that exact moment the stranger’s appearance changed from pleasing to demonic. With a soul-freezing wail she launched herself at Jangmi, who instinctively raised her arms in defense. As the girl in white made contact she exploded into a fine mist, the particles of which disappeared abruptly, as if dispersed by a gale. 

Jangmi’s frightened cry, and the sound of her body falling into the bushes and onto the dry brush of the forest floor, awakened Sung Ji and Silence. They came running from opposite directions to discover her shaken and standing alone in the shadows, brushing dry leaves from her clothing.

In a rush of words, and between breaths, she told them what she saw. When she realized how absurd it sounded she stopped speaking, took a deep breath, and declared… “I shouldn’t have been joking about woodland wraiths…”

Silence smiled, and told her the girl in white was not an oni (demon), and that, if anything, her features might have changed from innocent beauty to ferocity due to jealously.

“Jealously?” repeated Jangmi.

Silence, turning her eyes to Sung Ji, simply replied… “It’s a long story.” Then looking at Jangmi, she continued… “Perhaps Sung Ji will explain some time.”

“Hymph!” he grunted. “Most likely you had a nightmare…maybe you were walking in your sleep.” Then, mumbling something about never being able to understand the female mind he turned and walked back to his forest-floor palette. Within a few steps he gruffly said… “What did I tell you earlier? Get some rest…we have a long journey ahead of us.”

 

Elsewhere, out of reach but close at hand, somewhere in the ether, the spiritual essence of what was once Asako struggled to calm herself. She was disturbed, confused and uncomfortable. At this precise moment she didn’t approve of herself. She was disappointed and regretful for her behavior, and couldn’t understand why she reacted like she did when she saw Jangmi. ‘It’s very curious’, she thought. She acted on impulse when she saw the Korean girl watching as she guarded the sleeping samurai.

Her thoughts raced back in time, to a moment in her past when she might have felt a similar emotion. It was when she was a teen. Her father doted on her little cousins when her aunt Ryoko came to visit. After her mother died it was just she and her father, and he explained that it was natural for her to feel uncomfortable when he gave his niece and nephew attention. It was normal, he told her, to feel jealously in that case… “It’s not necessarily a bad thing”, he said; “it comes uninvited, but must be controlled”.

That must be it, she concluded, and then chided herself, wondering if she had lived her life only to become a jealous ghost after closing her eyes forever. She always thought emotions were part of the human condition, and ceased once one left the temporal world. Not so, she discovered. They remained, both negative and positive emotions, and like in life, still had to be controlled. Having crossed over to the spiritual realm she had become more aware of the virtue of compassion and the power of love, which was far-reaching, stretching even beyond the grave. She saw that in her father, who never stopped loving her mother, and never sought to replace her, even when acquaintances suggested he remarry.

Happy with herself for realizing these things, she was still puzzled why she felt jealously toward Jangmi. She knew other girls were attracted to the samurai, like Asuka chan, the youngest daughter of the Jade Teahouse landlord. She thought it was cute that Asuka had such feelings, and didn’t feel either jealous or threatened, perhaps because Sung Ji most likely would never settle down in a small town like Tsukimi, and was too busy being a samurai to ever notice the stars in a young girl’s eyes. Asako wasn’t jealous of Silence, perhaps because she knew the ninja girl thought of the samurai as a brother, but Jangmi was different. Like Sung Ji, Jangmi was a wanderer, and shared the same heritage and nationality. Certainly that was it, and Asako was determined that having reached that conclusion, there would be no more jealously.

Meanwhile, having returned to the comfort of the campfire, Silence and Jangmi were much too restless to sleep. They talked for a short time, then Silence became quiet and reflective. A few moments passed before Jangmi spoke.

“You’ve become quiet. Are you sleepy?”

“I was just thinking,” said Silence, “of how much you remind me of my ‘sister’ Ice.”

“Ice…?” Jangmi queried.

 “Hai. The evil men who faced her have succumbed to the coldness of the grave.”

“Is that why she’s called Ice?” 

“Hai. And like the rest of my ‘sisters’, she has never failed to complete a mission.”

“Does each mission demand the death of a target?”

“Most…” Silence mused. “I’ve failed to carry out my last mission. But it was my choice.”

“Your choice?”

“It was. If you really want to know, I can explain.”

“Please do,” said Jangmi. “I’m much too curious to sleep.”


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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