Chapter 48: Hu Noz

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

Reads: 56

Inside the ante room of the Shrine of Autumn Mists, Hu-noz scowled and pouted while he knelt before Chiharu. Sensei Hawk had sent him to help the old nun perform daily tasks, but she decided on a better punishment. She was sitting comfortably on her small, high backed wooden chair, casually smoking the long stemmed Korean pipe a visitor from the Land Of Morning Calm had left at the mountain temple many years ago, long before Hawk arrived. She was beginning to lose herself in memories when the sound of Hu-noz whining brought her reluctantly back to the moment.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” he moaned. “It’s a nightmare. No matter how effort I make to please Sensei I keep finding myself the target of his anger. My brain is tired and it’s getting to the point I can’t discern fantasy from reality.”

Chiharu eyed him in disbelief a moment, then leaned forward, stretched her arm out and touched the tip of his nose with the hot bowl of the pipe.

“Yeow!” he screamed. “Why did you do that?”

“Perhaps,” she calmly stated, “that will help you discern fantasy from reality.”

Hidden in the shadows of an adjacent room, Jangmi fought to stifle a laugh as the comedic drama unraveled. He deserved it, she thought. She had been told he was a troublemaker and a sneak. Always seeking to please Sensei at the expense of others and always looking for personal gain he schemed and plotted, regardless if the method was right or wrong. Unable to see him, Jangmi wasn’t aware that he had slightly turned his gaze for a moment in the direction of the room in which she was hiding. His sensitive hearing had detected the subdued chuckle that escaped her lips.

Quickly forgetting the distraction when Chiharu yelled at him, this time striking the top of his head with the pipe bowl, ‘Hu-noz yelped, grimacing from pain as his eyes involuntarily closed sharply. Then, as if struck by a bolt of lightning, he jumped up speedily, vigorously rubbing his head as flaming hot ashes burned his scalp.

“On your knees!” shouted Chiharu. He reluctantly complied, grumbling as he did so… “Why are you shouting when you’re so close to me?”

“Nani? What did you say?” asked Chiharu. “You want to die?”

“Sorry teacher,” he said as he humbly bowed his head. Even so, his tricky mind was busy scheming. He knew the whereabouts of the girls he and his brothers called the angels of death, and thus surmised that the laughter he heard a moment ago could only have come from a stranger; perhaps Jangmi, the one the twins had been sent to eliminate. It was perfect. The one thing he was certain would please Sensei Hawk and place him in his favor. He had only to report the Korean girl was hiding in Chiharu’s shrine. It was like killing two crows with one stone. It would not only improve his position with Sensei, but also allow him his revenge on Chiharu for treating him harshly. As he knelt there, his upper body shaking with his absent-minded cackling, he was completely unaware of the smoke rising from his singed hair, or of Chiharu’s incredulous observation.  

“Yah! Are you crazy?”

“Na-ni?” he stammered.

“Laughing to yourself like some madman or moron, I can’t say which,” she chided. “Your behavior defies logic. And your haphazard way of living is really too much. Everything that is patient and compassionate about me dictates that I don’t unload on you, so while I’m still in control I suggest you distance yourself from my reach. Better yet, just lose yourself. Get up and remove that smoking head of yours from my sight before that insanity of yours begins to effect me.”

“Nani?” he began.  “Just go?”

“Go!” she yelled.

He did so, muttering curses and rubbing his head as he left her presence, then sneaked to one side of the shrine to peek into the window of the room he had just left.. His suspicions confirmed, he was almost beside himself with glee when he saw the Korean girl in conversation with Chiharu. As he stealthily crept away, he failed to notice Chiharu and Jangmi were quietly watching his departure from the same window through which he had been spying on them.

Evening was approaching as he returned to the men’s quarters, lost in contemplation as he formulated big plans. First of all, he would regain Sensei Hawk’s favor by revealing the secret Chiharu’s fugitive guest. If she were indeed the girl that killed Danjo Kuriyama, then most likely he would be rewarded. Following an array of imagined images of himself being congratulated by his master, and given gifts of rice cakes and sake, his thoughts returned to Jangmi… “She is so wise”, he imagined aloud, “hiding right here at our mountain stronghold…right in our own backyard. No one, not even Sensei Hawk, would have considered that possibility…”

Lost in thought as he made his way in the fog, he bumped into one thing after another, and soon began swearing and muttering obscenities each time he struck something solid. He finally breathed a sigh of relief once he reached the barracks. His contentment was short lived however, as he walked into the men’s sleeping quarters and ran into one of his brothers, causing both of them to lose balance and fall to the floor.

“Watch where you’re going!” snapped his comrade who, once he realized who it was that knocked him down, exclaimed… “Wah! It’s you Hu-noz. I’m surprised old Chiharu dismissed you this soon. To whom were you talking just now?”

“What do you mean talking?”

“Before you walked into me. You were speaking.”

Hu-noz, mortified, just replied with an aggravated grunt. He tried to step forward but was stopped in his place when the other man failed to move. They were standing eye-to-eye when ‘Hu-noz finally bellowed… “What is it?”

“What happened to your nose?” the other asked. “It looks as if it’s been burned.”

“Not your business!” he shouted angrily, then pushed his way past his brother and stomping his feet heavily, went to retrieve his pallet, when an idea suddenly occurred to him. Perhaps, he imagined, it would be advantageous to seek an audience with Sensei Hawk immediately. If he waited until tomorrow the girl may be gone.

“That’s right,” he reasoned aloud, disturbing some of his sleeping brothers. “This is important and Sensei would expect it to be reported right away.”

“What was that?” asked one of the sleepers. “Were you talking to me?”

“No!” he angrily snapped.

“Quiet,” yelled another ‘brother’. “How can we sleep with this commotion?”

Furious, Hu-noz stormed out of the barracks, sulking every step of the way to Sensei Hawk’s private chamber.  

Submitted: August 30, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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