The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 50 (v.1) - hidden room

Submitted: August 30, 2019

Reads: 23

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 30, 2019

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While dressing herself in Chiharu’s hidden room, Jangmi stared at a large portrait hung on the wall; a painting of a young woman with a sword. The painting was old, done with earth colors by Chiharu’s Sensei Sky had told her. It was obvious the woman in the painting was Chiharu when she was younger… ‘and beautiful’, thought Jangmi, which brought to mind the relentless, constant stream of ‘time’. She recalled that when she was a child her father told her to never waste a moment… “You can’t reverse the currents of time, nor can you grasp and hold time in your hand,” he said as he made a fist.

Jangmi turned her attention from the painting to look at Chiharu, busy mending one of the girl’s pant suits.

“How long ago did your Sensei paint this portrait?” Jangmi asked.

“A lifetime ago…more years than I wish to recall,” she replied. “Looking back, it seems time has passed quickly. There are moments when I feel as though I’ve been swept away by its currents.”

The close proximity of her voice surprised Jangmi, who turned abruptly to find that she had risen from her palette and approached without her being aware. There were tears in her eyes as she stared at the portrait. Jangmi regretted having asked about it. The last thing she wanted to do was cause Chiharu pain or sadness.

“He loved you, didn’t he…” she found herself saying. Then immediately thought… ‘Pah-bo’ (Stupid).

But the question had a positive effect; Chiharu was smiling suddenly as she brushed tears from her cheeks. “Hai,” she said following a brief pause. “He loved me, but kept me at arm’s length. He treated me with utmost respect, like a younger sister or daughter. I told him many times I love you. But as my Sensei, he never talked about romantic love. Still, I know he cherished me. Proper decorum, etiquette, and his sense of honor kept him from doing anything about it. The next best thing he gave me, outside of that precious affection, was this portrait. He poured all of his spirit and love into that painting. It’s all that I have left of him.”

“And his straight sword,” said Jangmi. “The one you’ve managed to keep hidden, like this room, from Sensei Hawk.”

“No,” said Chiharu. “The sword is no longer mine. I want you to have it.”

“Madam…” Jangmi began to protest.

Chiharu held up a hand to silence her…“My Sensei gave it to me many years ago when he decided to become a monk. That is what brought us to this shrine. The sword holds many memories, but I still have the painting to remind me of his unspoken love. I’m not skilled enough to use the sword against that man who has dishonored this place. Please accept it and use it for justice, for yourself, the girls here and for my Sensei. If he were still alive, Sensei Hawk would never have managed to take control of this mountain.”

“Geumup hamnida (Thank you)” said Jangmi. “I will put it to good use, and I shall give it a name; ‘freedom’.”

Chiharu smiled, and Jangmi saw a sparkle in her old eyes that were still full of life. “In the brief time I’ve known you,” said the nun, “I’ve come to think of you as a daughter. Time is relative. There are those few individuals one may meet in life, perhaps only once, yet it seems as if you’ve known them forever. I had that feeling the moment I saw you. If I had married my Sensei and had a daughter, she would be about your age.”

Jangmi felt tears in her own eyes then. After the death of her parents, she never had anyone say such kind and loving words.

Noting her reaction, Chiharu added… “I tell you this so you will understand I’m serious when I warn you to take care. It won’t be easy even to find Sensei Hawk in his quarters…he has dark magic to protect him from intruders. He is a master of deceit and trickery. You must be extremely alert.”

“Dea!” Jangmi replied, then in an attempt to lighten the seriousness of the moment, she repeated in Japanese… “Hai! Ari-gatou go-zai-masu! (Yes! Thank you very much)!

 

By early evening, Storm and Sky, well hidden among the rocks and trees they had chosen, were elated to see the small group on horseback as they neared the mountain stronghold.

“Sister!” said Sky excitedly. “Look there! It’s Silence, Wind and the twins!”

It was difficult for Storm to mask her enthusiasm, but since she was older than Sky she made her best effort… “I see them,” she calmly stated, “and that must be the wanderer, the Left Hand of God.”

“He is handsome,” declared Sky.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Storm asked with a hint of irritability.

“Nothing…” mused Sky, “I suddenly thought it, then voiced it out. You know I often talk faster than I think.”

Storm nodded her head… “That is true…” she began, then having heard something in the trees at their back, abruptly grasped Sky firmly by a wrist. Satisfied that the younger girl went quiet, Storm relaxed her grip as she loudly declared… “We should report this to Sensei.”

“What!?” asked Sky.

Storm kicked her ankle sharply.

“Ooh! ‘Onee-chan’ (big sister)! ‘Doushite’ (Why)? Why did you do that?”

Frustrated, Storm quickly turned and sprang up onto a boulder, leaped effortlessly over the one next to it, grasped a tree limb with both hands and swung her body over the rocks, launching herself beyond Sky’s sight.

“Well…” voiced Sky, “have you gone mad?”

Rushing after her, and adding a complete circular flip after swinging from the same limb, she landed in a squatting position on the ground, one hand and knee touching the surface for balance. Just a few feet from where she set down she saw Storm standing in a crane stance, one knee bent and raised high. She was blocking the exit of one of Sensei’s children of the night. Sky wasn’t certain which brother it was, as his face was half covered by a black cloth. His stance seemed to be unsteady, due no doubt Sky imagined, from being struck by one of Storm’s lethal leg techniques.

The man turned his head slightly, his eyes for an instant noting the new arrival, then reaching into his left sleeve, he withdrew and sent flying three five-pointed metal stars toward Storm. She deftly parried each one with her wrist gauntlets. As he ran to one side, Sky on his heels, Storm jumped and, spinning five hundred forty degrees, struck him in the back with an aerial side kick. Sky reached him where he fell face forward, but before she could react he placed both hands on the ground in front of him and back-kicked with both feet, striking the petite girl in the mid-section. As she sailed backward, and before landing on her bottom and sliding two or three feet along the ground, Storm assumed a defensive stance as their masked adversary retrieved two kamas from beneath his shirt. The weapons were simple; two short sticks with a razor-sharp curved blade on one end. Farmers used them to cut grain, while ninja used them to cut their opponents.

When the girls saw the weapons, they knew which brother they faced. He was called Twin Blades by Sensei, and was almost as ruthless as Hawk. He was an egotistical bully who enjoyed the sight of blood, as long as it belonged to someone else. Storm didn’t waste a second on words, but jumped again and, turning one hundred eighty degrees, raised one leg straight up above her head, and delivered an aerial axe kick to the man’s left clavicle, breaking the bone with a loud snapping noise. He made no sound as he grimaced in pain, dropping both weapons as he dropped to his knees.

Quickly regaining his composure as he straightened up, he attempted to launch a poison dart he managed to suddenly produce from beneath his tunic. Storm knocked it from his hand with an outside circle kick, and following the direction of the turn, continued spinning and delivered a strong back kick to his solar-plexus, knocking him off his feet and sending him flying backward like he had done a moment ago to her younger sister.

Stunned, he landed next to Sky, who had managed to slightly raise herself up, still on one knee. As he attempted to use a second dart Sky pulled her tanto from her obi and struck him on a pressure point in the neck, immobilizing him just before Storm reached them. The older girl jumped, landing sideways on the ground and, sliding up in a cloud of dust, struck the stunned killer in the throat with the outside edge of her left foot. The technique was lethal, causing his body to spasm, stiffen, and finally go limp.

As Sky bowed her head, still gasping for breath, Storm muttered a curse, then proclaimed… “I dislike having to kill…”

“I can’t believe he used those poison darts and stars,” gasped Sky.

“Precisely why I was forced to eliminate him,” declared Storm.

“Has Sensei ordered him to do that?” exclaimed Sky. “Does Sensei want us all dead?”

“Don’t waste time thinking about it,” Storm advised. “We should warn our sisters and the samurai before Sensei’s children of the night are aware of their arrival.”

Preoccupied with the battle, neither of them noticed they were being watched. Hidden by bamboo and boulders, Minori halted her horse on a hillock above the trail leading to the mountain. From her vantage point she could see a tower of the shrine rising above the trees.

“Finally,” she told herself, “Sensei Hawk’s hideaway.”


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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