The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 44 (v.1) - Sky

Submitted: August 29, 2019

Reads: 22

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 29, 2019

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Darkness settled over Sensei Hawk’s mountain stronghold while a lone sentinel patiently watched the hidden path that led to the shrine on the precipice above the main training hall. Sky, on alert for the return of her sisters, was excited to finally see one of them arrive. She rushed to greet Wind and her companion and was shocked when Jangmi surmised… “You’re ‘Ha-nuel’ (Sky).”

Sky looked curiously first at Jangmi, and then Wind… “Obviously she saw the tanto in your obi,” said Wind.

“You dislike blades and bloodshed,” added Jangmi.

“Hai…” the young girl concurred.

“Take her to Chiharu. She was struck by a poison dart and requires attention. I withdrew as much of the toxin as I could.”

“How? Did you use your mouth?”

“How else…” asked Wind.

“You’ll be ill!” Sky exclaimed. “You should go to the shrine as well!”

“Later,” said Wind, “there is still work to do. I’ve yet to find the twins.”

“Sensei sent men to spy on them,” said Sky. “What if they’ve followed you?”

“They won’t return. It was one of their darts that injured Jangmi, and their bad luck that I was there.”

“Nani’ (What)?”

“Neither of them will strike another woman,” declared Wind. I’ll leave it at that.”

Sky nodded knowingly, fully aware of Wind’s propensity for wrath if pushed into action. She was also aware of her stubbornness, matched only by her own. “If you won’t come to the shrine with me now, I won’t go there either.”

“Somebody do something,” Jangmi interjected, “before I go unconscious.”

Reluctantly, Wind agreed to see Chiharu as well, knowing how determined and obstinate Sky could be once her mind was set.

 

Earlier that day, as evening approached, Sung Ji and Silence had ridden a great distance without incident, beneath a blue sky with a plethora of fluffy white clouds that occasionally blocked the sun as they drifted by, wind-driven, seemingly without purpose.  Abruptly the samurai pulled back on the reins, halting his black Arabian as he instinctively reached for his weapon, just seconds before Silence detected the sound of riders moving rapidly in their direction. Waiting, poised for battle, she was overcome with glee when she saw the twins round the bend in the narrow road, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake.

When they saw Silence they reined their mounts to a halt. Once recognition took hold, Sung Ji fought to steady his horse as the three elated girls rushed to greet one another amid a cacophony of squeals and giddy laughter. When they settled down, the twins told Silence of their encounter with Jangmi, unaware that she had by then met up with Wind, and two of Hawk’s children of the night. Momentarily all eyes turned his direction as the samurai approached the excited trio.

“If you three are finished celebrating, perhaps we can decide where to go from here.”

“And who are you?” snapped Fire.

“Ahn Sung Ji,” answered Silence before he could reply.

“The Left Hand of God!” Exclaimed Ice. Then turning her attention to Silence, asked… “How did you two end up together?”

“It’s not like we’re a couple,” complained Silence.

“I didn’t mean to imply…” Ice stammered.

“I’m certain she knows that,” interrupted Fire.

“I can explain things as we ride,” offered Silence.

 

Preoccupied by conversation, they were unaware of being observed by a lone rider some distance away… “There are more of them,” Minori whispered to her horse. When, they rode off together she reasoned they were heading to Hawk’s hideaway… “They ride with purpose,” she said to the horse, after which she allowed them a little time before stealthily following behind. Inwardly she hoped her vengeance against Hawk could be settled with a single arrow. Only he was the one responsible for the death of her master, not Silence, Sung Ji, or the others. Once they were out of sight, she gently urged her steed into motion.

 

Chiharu, carrying a basket load of fresh vegetables from the garden, was almost knocked over the moment she entered the shrine by an anxious and overly excited young charge who ran to greet her as if she had been absent a millennium.

“Wah, Sky!” she cried as the girl launched herself at her. “What is it?”

“You’ve finally returned! I’ve done all I can but don’t know much about dealing with hemlock poison,” she spouted, the words coming fast like a spring torrent. “I think the children of the night mix it with viper venom and some other concoction of their own…”

“Slow down, child,” interrupted Chiharu. “First explain what you’re rambling on about.”

She did, in as much detail as she could, as they rushed to the old nun’s sleeping quarters, and to the secret room hidden behind the south wall. Unknown by Sensei Hawk, it was a hidden place only Chiharu and her girls, the lethal seven, were aware of. The nun quickly checked Jangmi, who was on the brink of unconsciousness when they entered the room.

“You did well, Sky. No need for concern. I have medicine and herbs to deal with this. Go fetch water and start a fire in the kitchen. Boil the water and then bring it quickly.”

“Hai!” she said as rushed off without question.

Turning her attention to Wind, Chiharu asked… “How do you feel?”

“Uncomfortable. I’m fine. Attend to her first.”

“I’ll attend to both of you,” Chiharu responded, then addressing Jangmi, she said… “Sleep if you can. If not for Wind extracting the bulk of the poison, you would have gone into severe shock and paralysis would have set in.”

“Kam sam ham ni da (Thank you),” Jangmi managed to whisper.

“You’re Korean,” said the nun. “But your accent is Japanese.”

“I was raised in Japan…”

“Enough talk,” said Chiharu. “I’ll treat you. Just sleep, and you’ll be back to health in no time. Sensei Hawk and his monkeys know how to make poison, but what they don’t know is that I’ve an antidote or remedy for all of their evil recipes.”

 

Elsewhere, drifting aimlessly in that empty space between this temporal world and the next, Asako was neither asleep nor oblivious. Quite the contrary, her consciousness was alert and aware, and had locked onto a thought; a story old Kwai shared with her samurai. It was about a novice monk who, while meditating with his master in a garden, was distracted by the wind. Finally he asked if it was the breeze that moved, or the trees… “Neither the wind nor the trees,” his master replied, “but rather your mind that moves”.

The story reminded her how easy it is to be distracted or disturbed by things lacking importance. Because she was still affected by emotions, she realized the necessity of focus. At the moment Sung Ji was on the way to Sensei Hawk’s mountain, and she had begun to sense sensations she didn’t quite understand. She sensed that her samurai was in great danger, and that Hawk was, to a degree, partly responsible for events that led up to the death of her father and herself. In her mind’s eye, each time she thought of him, she envisioned a circle of light, but had no idea what the significance of that was. It was a mystery she didn’t want to be distracted by. There was Sung Ji to consider, and protecting him was her main concern. She wanted him to live, and live well, as long as Heaven would allow. There was another part of her that hoped and longed for a time when they could be together, joined as ‘one’, like the twin-tree beneath which her ashes lay.

 

Meanwhile, while Jangmi slept peacefully and twilight approached, Wind was standing beneath the tori in front of the Shrine of Autumn Mists, gazing in the direction of the approaching fog. Perplexed, she turned to look back at Chiharu. The nun was likewise watching the thickening gray white vapors that once again began to slowly cover the mountain. Wind returned her attention to the mist-shrouded trees and buildings. She had been there watching since the fog began to form, moving in and engulfing one structure at a time, as if stealing them from sight. Now, with the mist so dense, she wondered if indeed the trees, training hall and barracks were still there. Once enshrouded by the vapors, first this building and then that, it was as though they never existed.

 “This isn’t natural,” Wind said loud enough for Chiharu to hear.

“What is that?” asked Chiharu.

Wind turned to face her, a look of concern masking her beauty. “This…” she said as she motioned with a hand. “These mists are not natural…they’re unearthly. Even the breeze doesn’t stir them. It’s as if the clouds have descended to rest on the mountain.”

“It’s like this every evening,” said Chiharu. “For a few days now.”

“In this fog, it seems that only you, I and the shine is all that’s left. It’s disturbing,” said Wind, “like some sort of omen.

Chiharu smiled. “There is no reason to be apprehensive. Already your concern has dimmed the light in your eyes. Take care lest it dims the firelight of your spirit.”

“Hai,” she replied.

“What to one may seem to be something bad, to another may be something good,” said Chiharu. “The caterpillar, entombed in the cocoon, will emerge as a butterfly. Consider the effect of autumn’s chill on the forest trees; windblown and frigid, they release their rainbow canopy of leaves to cover the earth beneath their bare limbs with an equally multi-colored carpet. They spend the winter as skeletal sentinels while the carpet they formed protects their roots from the cold of winter until spring returns to clothe their limbs once more in emerald green. These mists are bothersome, but are causing Sensei Hawk much concern, distracting him from his evil designs. They’re causing him anxiety, stress and nightmares, which disturb his sleep and interfere with his judgment. These mists plague him, and thus aid our cause.”

Her words were comforting, but Wind wasn’t entirely convinced. Rather than be content to wait, or trust in ‘Un-mei’ (Fate), she declared that… “I’m going to look for Silence and the twins.”

“As you wish,” said Chiharu, “but first take the medicine I made. The poison made by the children of the night is potent, even when diluted.”

“Hai’” she complied, and could not deny she felt lethargic, and could only muster a percentage of her usual vigor, even with the utmost determination.

 


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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