The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 42 (v.1) - dreams

Submitted: August 29, 2019

Reads: 19

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 29, 2019

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Wide awake at sunrise, the first thing on the samurai’s mind was the pool beneath the falls. The previous evening, darkness masked the unspoiled grandeur of the area. This morning, as he bathed in the cool, refreshing water, surrounded by moss-covered rocks and verdant shrubbery his mind drifted to memories of Asako chan’s mountain forest and falls near the little town of Tsukimi. Overhead, the sun was bright and the sky a powder blue, with the fading moon still visible. Although he wasn’t aware that Asako loved to see the sun and moon share the same sky, he thought of how much he treasured such a sight.

Soon, invigorated by the early morning bath, he dressed and found a comfortable log on which to sit; a vantage point that offered a good view of the cascading falls. As he watched the water descend, finding its way around the many obstacles blocking its advance, his thoughts began to flow like that as well; thoughts of what really mattered, finding their way around the harsh obstacles of reality that blocked their path. He recalled that when he was a novice sword pupil his first teacher taught him that he should keep the same clear, uncluttered mind throughout the day that he woke up with each morning… “The many things we encounter daily,” he said, “distract us, leading us further away from our true self. One must avoid such pitfalls in order to remain focused on duties and responsibilities, and spend this life in preparation for the next.”

The words made sense at the time, and even more so now that he had accumulated a vast quantity of life experiences.

A sound at his back briskly brought him back to the present. It was Silence. “Have you seen Jangmi?”

It was Silence.

He stood up as he turned to face her… “Not since last night. I assumed the two of you were still sleeping.”

“She was gone when I awoke a few moments ago.”

“How could she have left without you knowing?” He asked, then playfully added… “Could she have been a woodland wraith?”

“That isn’t funny,” snapped Silence. “Have you forgotten,” she asked with a hint of sarcasm, “that she is shinobi? If looked for, they cannot be seen. If listened for, they cannot be heard.”

“But you’re also ninja?” he parried. “Can one ninja outfox another?”

Silence disregarded the question, and appeared to be seriously considering to say next. Finally she declared; “She has left. I believe she feared she would only bring us danger.”

“There is danger everywhere,” Sung Ji replied. “Without it, a warrior would become stupid, or at the very least, bored… By the way, you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question?”

“Can one ninja outwit another? Are some ninja smarter than others?”

Her face flushed red, and Sung Ji knew he had pushed his luck too far. “Men!” She fumed. “Go away so I can bathe!”

“I was only teasing…” he began, before she cut him off.

“Bal-le ka (Quickly go)!” she yelled in Korean.

She was Japanese, but had the temperament of a Korean girl when riled. He thought about telling her to calm down before she turned the water in the pool to steam, but the situation called for discretion; the last thing he wanted to deal with on the way to Hawk’s stronghold was a moody, irritable woman, even if she was a comrade-in-arms. ‘Bal-le ka?’ he thought to himself, and wondered what else she might have learned from Jangmi.

 

Several miles away, Jangmi stopped to rest beside a stream, allowing her horse to drink. While it quenched its thirst, she dropped to one knee on the upstream side of the animal, scooping the cool water with her hands. Drinking the clean, clear liquid as if it would evaporate any moment, she inwardly reprimanded herself for leaving the campsite of the samurai and his companion without notice. Certain that by now the authorities, or someone, was tracking her, either to question her about, or arrest her for the death of Danjo Kuriyama, she chose to leave her new friends rather than bring them trouble. As those thoughts ran through her mind, a sudden, ominous sensation caused her body to tense. She didn’t have to see the owner of the voice that abruptly came from behind her to know that someone managed to creep up close to her undetected.

“Well now,” said a woman’s voice, “Just who do we have here?”

“A thirsty vagabond, perhaps,” said another woman, “or a fugitive from justice.”

There were two of them. ‘Outlaws…’ was her first impression. ‘They must be good,’ Jangmi thought, to have come so near without her knowing. Slightly bowing her head and slowly looking a little to her right and then left, using her highly developed peripheral vision, she determined precisely where they were standing. They just happened to be where she hoped they would be. Patiently waiting for the pair to come a couple of steps closer, she remained down on one knee, while keeping her back to them. Suddenly, when they were exactly where she wanted them to be, with blinding speed she whispered a single command to the horse.

The metallic sound of what she imagined was a Chinese straight sword being drawn was cut short and eclipsed by the blunt, dull thud made by her horse’s rear hoofs simultaneously striking two small bodies. Jangmi had her sword in hand before she stood and completed her turn, and having done so marveled at how far her horse had sent the two black-clad girls that were at that moment landing on their backsides. They skidded haphazardly along the small stones, raising two clouds of dust as they went. Once they stopped sliding they lay completely still, flat on their backs and struggling to breathe, leaving them at Jangmi’s mercy.

As they lay moaning, and just before struggling to prop themselves up, recognition came to Jangmi in a flash.

“You’re Fire and Ice!” she declared.

Although striving to regain their breath, composure and dignity, they were equally shocked at hearing the Korean girl speak their names.

Noting their confusion, she simply said… “Your weapons,” while pointing the tip of her sword at the twin, multi-curved blades on the ground either side of the eldest twin. “You’re Fire…” Then indicating the half-drawn long sword, she surmised… “and you’re Ice. I’ve heard about you and your hoop ear rings from your ‘sister’ Silence.”

Managing to rise to a seated position, Fire spoke first… “What have you done with her?”

“Not a thing. We shared fish and stories last night over a campfire. I left her and her companion early this morning.”

“What companion?”

“A samurai,” she replied. “Ahn Sung Ji.”

“The Left Hand of God,” queried Ice. “Our Sensei sent her to kill him.”

“Not at all,” Jangmi responded. “They seemed to be comrades, and in fact are now on the way to your Sensei now.”

The twins had risen, still trying to get their breath while indignantly wiping the dust from their clothing. Ignoring what Jangmi had just said, Fire, as she sheathed her weapons proclaimed… “That’s some horse you have there.”

“Hai,” affirmed Ice. “Who would have thought…?”

“I’ve had him since he was a colt,” revealed Jangmi. “My master taught me to use any and everything as a weapon. This horse was my only companion for a time when I was young. He already knew how to kick. I just taught him to do it on cue.”

“He’s good at it,” said Fire, mixing sarcasm with praise, as she gingerly rubbed her stomach with an open hand.

“Who would have thought…?” repeated Ice, her voice fading off. Following a brief pause she said… “Only a horse for companionship? How poor…I was lucky to have my ‘sisters’…”

“Don’t misunderstand,” said Jangmi. “I had a close friend. Sensei called her ‘Night’. We had a younger ‘sister’ whom Sensei called ‘Bara’.”

“Rose…” mused Ice.

“Dea,” replied Jangmi. “My name, in ‘Han-gul’ (Korean language) means the same thing. I was given the name first. Later, Bara arrived. She had the same strong spirit as I, was small but strong. Sensei said she reminded him of me at her age, and named her accordingly.” 

Fire listened patiently as the two girls conversed for what she considered was a sufficient amount of time, then, eying Jangmi with intensity, informed her that… “We need to talk.”

At their waterfall encampment, the samurai and Silence were quiet as they prepared their bags and horses for another day of riding. There had in fact been no conversation between them since she returned from bathing, for which Sung Ji blamed himself.  Since then she was withdrawn and appeared weary. Throwing caution aside, the samurai finally spoke... “You seem weary. I assumed you slept well…a deep sleep if Jangmi managed to leave without waking you.”

Her initial reaction was what he feared; anger. Then her mood softened and she unburdened herself… “We talked almost until dawn. When I fell asleep I was disturbed by dreams.”

“Dreams?” he said, “do you mean nightmares?”

“Hai,” she replied hypnotically. “I dreamed I was home…but home was a strange house in a dense forest. I was cleaning…or cooking. I can’t quite recall. Three men were suddenly in the house, tearing at my clothing. I fought with them and escaped, running blindly into the darkness of the forest with them chasing close behind, yelling and screaming curses. I ran frantically…until there was no longer ground beneath my feet. I was screaming then, and falling through empty space, until…”

She had gone silent. Sung Ji prompted her… “Until what?”

She stared into the distance as if she were lost in thought, then added… “Until…until I suddenly stopped. I felt an intense impact and excruciating pain, and then finally blackness. It was just momentary…then there was a girl there, dressed in white like myself, but I was no longer myself. I was standing barefoot on rocks and staring at the body that in the dream was mine, but it had changed. Suddenly it was someone else; the girl who was dressed like me. We were both standing on the rocks looking at that body, and then I slowly turned to look at the other girl. She was still staring at the body, and looking so sad. Suddenly she raised her head and looked at me. She smiled, and I noticed she had an arm behind her back, which she slowly moved to front. Suspended above her open palm was an iridescent circle…more accurately, a floating, brightly glowing ring. Just like in the former dream I told you about.”

Sung Ji shivered. While the dream was yet a puzzle, the events she described were significant to him and concerned him deeply. Her nightmarish scenario was more than just coincidence, he was certain, and was tempted to vocalize his suspicions. But now was not the time. He believed that Asako was trying to communicate with Silence, but had to give it much more thought before he voiced an opinion.

“What is it?” he heard Silence speak, “you’ve become quiet.”

“Nothing,” he replied. “We should be on our way. A good ride and the fresh air will help clear your mind.”


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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