Chapter 5: the bridge

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

Reads: 55
Comments: 1

Asako wasn’t certain when her relatives left, but once realizing they had she returned to the house. Time passed, flowers bloomed and withered, she remembered multi-colored, fallen leaves scattered by autumn winds, snow covered trees and ice, rain and storms and more flowers growing in the garden. Her relatives returned, paid their respects and departed again. Seasons came and went as time passed, but it seemed as just a moment to her.

Eventually strangers came to her father’s house. From listening to them speak among themselves she knew they had purchased the property, with the exception of the ground on which the house was built.  She remained there, in the house, watching as men came to the forest to cut the large oak trees into big logs and blocks they took to the river. The wood floated to and over the falls where it continued downstream and past the village to be loaded on wagons and carted away. Oddly enough, none of these things really mattered to Asako. They were mundane things that only concerned the living.

Of all the trees, only the smallest, oldest and her parent’s special tree were spared. Her remains and those of her parents were left to rest in the earth beneath the shade of that ancient tree, which was trimmed, just slightly, and what was removed was loaded on wagons that carried the smaller logs and limbs. With so many of the other big trees gone, she reasoned, the sun would now shine on their graves periodically, perhaps bringing warmth to their resting souls. The workmen constructed a small gated enclosure around the tree, creating a protective barrier for the gravesite. Something told her it was done at Ryoko’s request; perhaps an agreement made before the sale of the property.

After giving it a little thought, she realized that she was curious about the trees that had been cut down and carted away. ‘Where are they taking the trees…’ she wondered. It was more than just idle curiosity; something deep within compelled her to investigate. As the thought to do so entered her mind she suddenly found herself standing elsewhere; on a broad, wood and stone bridge beneath which surged the fast moving currents of a river. The area within which she found herself was shrouded in mist, the night sky stars hidden by a black canopy of clouds. Somehow she knew the oak planks on which she stood came from the forest where she grew up, but was oblivious as to where exactly she was at this moment, why she was here, and how much time had passed. She was, however, quite aware of something she found extremely curious; although an earthbound spirit, she was evidently not bound by natural laws or commonplace things like time, space or distance. Evidently she could move through and beyond those things with the speed of thought. Some inner sense told her that she was suddenly very far from home.

Distracted by her thoughts, she failed to detect the toll keeper standing behind her. He was holding a lamp, and had been walking with an unsteady swagger, due no doubt from consuming far too much rice wine. Uncertain if his eyes had deceived him, he stopped in his tracks the moment Asako appeared. Immobile from shock, he could only stare in stunned disbelief. Momentarily evil thoughts formed in his inebriated mind as he perceived the curves of her body beneath the wind blown silk of her dress. Animated by desire he took a step forward, his foot scrapping against the surface of the wood, inadvertently alerting the girl. Turning abruptly she faced him; a leering, unshaven ruffian that immediately brought back memories of Miyamoto and his men. The crooked, wicked grin on this man’s rough-hewed face broadened… “My, my,” he drawled crudely, “where did such a beauty come from?”

She simultaneously sensed and loathed his improper thoughts. They made her uncomfortable, embarrassed and angry. As he stared wide-eyed, Asako vanished in a blink, instantly becoming a swirling, almost transparent mist that subtly and suddenly blended with the fog. Startled, stunned and suddenly alone, he began to doubt and question his own senses.  Begrudgingly he mumbled something about liquid ‘spirits’ causing one to see spirits, pouted like a spoiled child and then haphazardly trekked along on his unsteady way.


Several months later, back in Asako’s home country and several miles from her father’s house, in a small seaside town a life and death drama was playing itself out. Local authorities had surrounded a murderer they were pursuing. In his haste and determination to escape the outlaw grabbed a young girl as hostage. Holding her by the hair with one hand and his knife against her throat with the other he attempted to barter with the lawmen. “Come closer,” he threatened, “and she will bleed! Bring me a horse,” he demanded. “Let me ride away and I won’t harm the girl. Once outside the village I’ll release her.”

The traumatized child, tears streaming down her face, was too frightened to utter a sound as the authorities inched closer, weapons in hand. The outlaw moved the blade slightly, tracing a thin red line that began seeping blood. Abruptly the leader, a police captain, signaled his subordinates to halt. He motioned to one of them who, after speaking with his superior, quickly left the scene.

“You’ll have your horse,” the captain assured the criminal.

It wasn’t long before the crowd of curious onlookers grew, among them the terrified mother of the captive child, held back by two officers. After what seemed an eternity to the distraught woman the assembled crowd began to part as a lone rider astride a black horse slowly made his way forward. Once he was within sight of the fugitive he pulled back on the reins, bringing the animal to a halt. The rider sat motionless, his intense gaze surveying the scene. When the eyes of the culprit met those of the horseman his confidence began to waver, perspiration beaded his brow and his knife hand began to tremble. There was something in the steel-eyed glare of the rider that weakened the fugitive’s resolve.

“Come closer,” he stammered. “Dismount and bring the animal here.”

The rider silently complied, came closer and then slid from the saddle. With his right hand he tugged on the reins, urging the horse forward. When within three feet, the outlaw demanded… “Stop there!”

He did so, then in less time than it takes a gnat to blink, his left arm reached across his midsection, unsheathed the sword in his obi (belt), and sliced downward at an angle, severing the hand that held the knife at the child’s throat. He flicked the blood from the blade, re-sheathed it and swept up the girl to safety with his left arm, all the while holding the horse’s reins with his right. All was done before the shock of what happened registered in the mind of the kidnapper.

Suddenly aware and screaming in shock and confusion he dropped to his knees as the peace officers rushed in to subdue him. The girl’s mother broke free from the men holding her and sprang toward the horseman and her frightened daughter. She eagerly took her from him and while showering the child with hugs and kisses, lauded the swordsman with gratitude and praise. Meanwhile, the officer who had been sent for a horse arrived, only to find it was no longer needed.

The police captain, gently moving the hostage’s mother aside, addressed her daughter’s savior. “Who are you, sir?”

“Simply a passerby. One who serves the cause of justice.”

The captain inquired… “Your name, sir?”

“Ahn Sung Ji,” he replied. “Formerly a samurai in the service of the emperor.”

“You are Korean.”

“Dea (Yes),” he replied.

“I’ve not met a Korean samurai before,” said the captain. “What brings you to our little seaside village?”

“Business. I was on the way to the stables to board my horse. I’ve secured passage on a boat bound for China. There is a nobleman there who requires my services.”

The captain nodded. “Hai… I see,” he spoke slowly, as if choosing his words carefully. “I suppose I should thank you. I know you have the gratitude of the child’s mother. When does this boat sail?”

“At sunrise,” replied Sung Ji.

“Then you should take a room at the Inn,” the captain suggested. “The landlord is a distant cousin. I’ll speak to him while you board your horse. Since you’ve helped the child, there will be no charge for lodging.”

“I can pay for my room,” said the samurai.

“Please,” said the captain, “allow me this kindness. The man you’ve disabled has killed many innocents. You’ve done our humanity a service.”

Rather than arguing with or offending the captain, Sung Ji conceded.

“Regarding your journey,” said the officer, “may Heaven guide you.”

“Ariegatou, gozaimasu (Thank you),” said the Korean, “it’s something I’m compelled to do, like helping that child. Something which I can’t explain prompts me to make this voyage. I’ve learned to trust those impulses when they come.”

“There are those who believe mortal men and women are no more than pawns of ‘Un-mei’ (Fate),” mused the officer.

“Perhaps,” declared the samurai, “and yet I have my duty. A promise has been made and must be kept. Evil never rests and those who wage war against it must be always vigilant. As far as the journey is concerned, I give it no more than a single thought. Regardless of what one does in this life, time relentlessly unfolds as destiny awaits.” 

Submitted: August 22, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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Excellent description and some good swift justice.

Thu, September 5th, 2019 8:36pm

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