The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 53 (v.1) - Wasu-re na-i-de (Do not forget me)

Submitted: August 31, 2019

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Submitted: August 31, 2019

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 Following the death of Sensei Hawk, the three remaining children of the night were forced to leave the mountain retreat, banished, but their lives spared because in the end they didn’t aid their evil master. The following morning, Kaji, unable to locate anyone Hawk had sent him after, finally and regretfully returned, expecting to be severely punished. As he neared the lofty stronghold he found his three banished ‘brothers’ sitting, confused and helpless, on the plateau overlooking the dojo.

“What are you doing here?” asked Kaji.

“I’m not certain,” replied Mifune. “Now that I’m sitting here with nothing to do I’m feeling regretful. Before now I had so many responsibilities it was like having a large rock on my shoulders that became increasingly heavier, so that sooner or later it was impossible to remain standing.”

“I didn’t ask for a dissertation!” Kaji bellowed. “I just asked what are you doing here!”

“I already told you,” whined Mifune. “I have no idea.”

“Who knows?” reaffirmed Hu-noz.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” said Kaji. “That corrosive indifference of yours infuriates me. Certainly one of you can answer my question!”

Hopeless explained as best he could what led up to their being there, which left Kaji momentarily speechless and in a mild state of shock. “What should we do now?” Kaji moaned as his shoulders drooped and he dropped to a squatting position beside his brothers.

“Who knows?” declared Mifune, after which the four of them sat in dismal silence, staring forlornly at their former home.

Finally Hu-noz spoke… “Who knows…?” he repeated after Mifune, as if the thought suddenly struck him. “That’s the way I usually respond to questions.”

 

Meanwhile, Water, Wind and Ice were looking from a window, watching as Kaji and his brothers sat sulking on the small plateau adjacent to the training hall.

“They look so sad and rejected,” said Ice.

“Lined up like birds on a clothesline…” added Wind.

“Hmm,” mused Water, “the brainless four. I suppose those three told Kaji what has happened. They evidently don’t have any idea what to do next or where to go.”

“They’re not bad,” said Wind. “Baka’ (Stupid), yes, but not evil. I pity them. I recall when younger, while training with Kaji I was getting the better of him, when all of a sudden he closed his eyes and dared me to find him in the dark. Hu-noz and his younger brother Hopeless are inept, fail to think before speaking, irresponsibly blurting out whatever comes to mind, but they harbor no bad intentions.”

“Mifune is lazy,” accused Ice. “I remember once when Chiharu was sweeping the steps of the shrine she became angry because he didn’t offer to do it for her. When she reached the step upon which he was sitting, she had to ask him to move. He stood up, stretched, then walked over to a large rock and sat down as if the effort to do so did him in.”

“I know what you mean,” said Water. “Even stupidity has limits, but Mifune is an exception. Just the effort to think seems to wear him out, and he often slumps around as if the air is too heavy for him. Yet, if he believes he’ll be asked to do something, he suddenly is rushing about as if he has a hundred things to do. Chiharu accused him of laziness and he argued that although he appeared to be sitting idle, his mind was racing. She calls him ‘Helpless’.”

“Each time I look at Hu-noz,” declared Ice, “I’m inclined to make fun of him.”

“He’s a sneaky one,” said Wind, “and can’t be trusted, but all his schemes backfire. None of them are very intelligent, but harmless. They waste so much energy on unrealistic goals, comparable to throwing snowballs at the sun.”

“And Kaji,” Wind continued. “The connotation of his name is ‘Big Fire’. Sensei gave him that name because he was blazing destructive as a child. He’s clumsy now, but he’s no threat. Can’t we let them return? They could help maintain the grounds and buildings. I know we sisters are capable, but should have men of martial skill here. If so, there would be less chance evildoers would come to bother us.”

The two girls fell silent, patiently awaiting a reply. Water glanced at them with an expression of frustration, while they produced their best cute, doe-eyed and pleading looks.

“You two are really troublesome,” said Water. “Do you know that?”

“Then they can return?” asked Ice.

“Hai. But I want to speak to them. They can stay if they agree to my terms and cause no trouble. If they err, I promise you’ll have good reason to pity them.”

Ice began waving at the foursome, giving them the signal to return. Water watched, shaking her head in disbelief, then her eyes caught Wind trying to stifle a laugh.

“What is it?” she asked.

“You just made your first decision as second in command of this shrine,” said Wind, “and you gave in so easily.”

Water thought a moment, then smiled while Ice frantically motioned to Kaji and his brothers.

“I don’t think they understand,” said Wind.

“What did I tell you?” Water concluded. “The brainless four…”

All three laughed as Kaji and his brothers sat on the plateau, intermittently exchanging confused expressions.

 

Later, in the Shrine of Autumn Mists, Chiharu, Silence, Jangmi and Sung Ji were having tea for the last time before the samurai took his leave. The girls had asked Chiharu concerning the magic corridors and rooms in Hawk’s private dwelling.

“I have no idea how he managed that,” she told them, “to my knowledge he lacked psychic ability, however he was a man of secrets. The fact he was able to produce such illusions would be cause for deep concern if he were still alive.”

“Hai!” Jangmi and Silence said in unison.

Sung Ji at that moment mentioned the archer who mortally wounded Hawk… “She vanished suddenly while we were distracted. You seemed to recognize one another,” he said to Silence.

“I first met her at Sanada’s castle, when she who brought horses to aid our escape. Perhaps she had ‘enkon’, a grudge against Sensei Hawk.”

“Another mystery…” offered Jangmi.

“Speaking of mysteries,” said Chiharu while looking at the samurai… “Last night…who was that girl behind you?”

“Mu-ah (What)?” he questioned. “You know them better than I. You’ve virtually raised them.”

“Not the girls here,” proclaimed the nun. “I’ve not seen that girl before…she wore white and had a long red scarf. I sensed something surreal…something otherworldly about her. I sensed that her destiny and yours are intertwined.”

“When did you see this girl?”

 “Last night,” she repeated. “When you were going to the dojo to sleep. Who was she?”

“Asako,” offered Silence. “I’ve seen her as well…many times. I gave up wondering how she continues to defy logic by suddenly appearing here and there. Last night she came to me in a dream…she spoke ‘namida wo fuite’ (wipe your tears away)… I believe she wants me to forget my sadness and get on with life.”

 “Yu- lai (Ghost),” said Chiharu, “a spirit, but not an evil or vengeful one…”

Silence turned her gaze from the nun to the Koreans… “Chiharu has a ‘gift’; ‘nen-ri-ki’…psychic power.”

The nun explained that Asako is a young ghost and is still discovering her capabilities… “She likes what she can do with mists and mirrors…”

“I’ve seen that,” said Silence.

Chiharu continued… “She is ‘ka-ge’, shadow, and what one sees of her is merely a reflection; a manifestation of her will and like an image in a mirror, she is not substantial. Although no longer living in the temporal sense, she still exists.  The life within each of us is ‘chi’ (energy). We see it in the form of lightning that often accompanies a storm. It is that energy within us that we call spirit. She had a strong spirit in life, a zest for living, and perhaps many hopes and dreams. She felt cheated by the evil that caused her death. She was not ready to leave…”

Those last words, as they trailed off, brought a chill to Sung Ji, as he recalled that while in China, Kwai told him the same thing. He thought of something else he dared not speak of, fearing the others would think him whimsical. He recalled last winter and a small village he had stopped at while traveling. Unable to sleep, he left the Inn hoping that a late night walk would alleviate his restlessness. He trekked in the snow beneath the stars, which shined so bright in the pitch black sky, like lanterns at a festival. He liked the solitude and the quiet, but soon felt the oppressive weight of loneliness. Once aware of that sensation, he stopped walking. Breathing deeply, he raised his eyes to the night sky, watching the white vapors of his breath as he exhaled. The air was still, with no breeze to carry the mist of his breath away, yet it faded from view within seconds. He thought about how fleeting life is, how quickly the years pass and how the living pass away, disappearing like the vapor of one’s breath on a cold winter night. The loneliness weighed heavy on him, until he turned to go back to the Inn. There, beneath the light of the full moon he saw the prints of his steps in the newly fallen snow, and to his consternation, a second set of smaller prints beside his own. He recalled the chill that ran up his spine…and now was more certain than ever that, although it seemed implausible, she was with him that night in the snow, and although not visible, was substantial enough to leave the impressions of her feet behind. She was determined, he imagined, that he would not be alone. She was like ‘suho cheonsa’ (guardian angel).

“She is good at fighting evil,” said Silence.

The sound of her voice brought the samurai back.

“Hai,” Chiharu affirmed. “She has the best requirement for doing so. She has a pure soul. Of that I’m certain. And in this case, she has the best motivation: she is protecting someone she loves.”

“Someone she loves?” Jangmi wondered aloud.

“Hai,” replied the nun, then turning her attention to Sung Ji she said… “Ghost or not, she is now a ‘hana’ (flower) that blooms only for you.”

 

He was speechless. What Chiharu revealed made little sense, though he knew Asako had helped him many times. Too, he recalled that while in China, Kwai said he believed Asako protected the samurai; “She senses your loneliness…your vulnerabilities…your heart. Her tenderness weaves a protective web around you…” It made little sense to him then, but now that so much time had passed, he was beginning to comprehend.

“Has she moved on?” asked Jangmi, breaking the silence.

Still looking at Sung Ji, Chiharu replied that she should, now that the circle of karma is complete… “But something may keep her here. Only time will tell. Once her destiny is fulfilled she will return to the Source of all things…to the Creator.”

“Would ‘Hananim’ (God) do such a thing?” asked Jangmi. “Would Hananim allow a disembodied spirit to come and go in this world?”

“How can anyone say what God would or would not allow?” parried Chiharu. “We humans are not able to comprehend the Mind of God. There are so many wounded lives in this world. Depending on the situation, afterward some spirits may not be able to move on when it is time. While alive, some may not have been good, wise or strong enough to meet a challenge. After death they may return seeking aid, to aid others, or perhaps they can’t rest knowing they left something incomplete or did harm to others and want to set it right. Such a one may haunt a person or place, or even become a wandering ghost. One like that is neither dead nor alive. If in the vicinity of someone who loved them in life, they may be seen as a transparent shade or shadow. For the majority of those who die there is a long peaceful sleep, undisturbed by dreams, while others exist in a state of limbo, awakened from time to time for whatever reason the Creator allows.  Who can say? There are some things that are not necessary for us to know.”

“Dea…” mused Jangmi.

“Wah,” said Silence while shaking her head. “Such thoughts drive me crazy. Better to let priests, monks and nuns deal with those things, and better for us to concern ourselves with responsibilities and stay out of Heaven’s business.”

“Wise words,” declared Chiharu.

Sung Ji listened intently as Chiharu elaborated… “In this case, Asako and the samurai and are connected by an unseen thread; an invisible thread of fate.”

Kwai had also said their destinies were intertwined… “Like that twin-tree beneath which her ashes are interred.”

“Honestly,” he spoke as if thinking aloud, “I don’t understand how any of this is possible, since I never knew Asako while she lived.”

Chiharu studied him a moment, breathed a heavy sigh and shook her head in frustrated disbelief… “What does that have to do with anything? Do you still reason only with your temporal mind? Are you laboring under the belief that this physical life is all the life there is?”

Mortified, the samurai replied… “Ahn-yo (No). But it’s difficult to imagine.”

“Regardless,” declared the nun, “like all things that exist, including the Creator…all exist whether one believes or not. As we age, we should maintain the heart of the child within us, otherwise, we’ll lose faith in the unlikely and incredible until those things become totally unbelievable.” 

Sung Ji nodded his head in agreement, then lapsed once more into silence, falling back into the wilderness of his mind. His thoughts ran like a swollen river, further and further drifting back in time. Finally, he ‘thought’ aloud… “The mists of the past are impenetrable…” Abruptly aware they were staring at him with confused expressions, he nervously cleared his throat, and in an attempt to divert their attention asked Jangmi what her intentions were now that Hawk and those loyal to him were gone.

“I’ve decided to give up kum-do (way of the sword),” she replied. “I plan to become a disciple of peace. Chiharu accepted me as her pupil.”

“I’m always revitalized by energetic newcomers,” interjected the nun.

“That’s wonderful,” said Silence. “That means you’ll be staying with us. Now there are eight sisters.”

“Eight ‘daughters’,” mused Chiharu while shaking her head in dismay.

“Na-ni-yo’ (What is it)?” exclaimed Silence. “Are we bothersome?”

“Extremely so,” she teased. “But I wouldn’t change things for all the tea in China. You girls give me purpose.”

Silence smiled broadly, and then continued to speak with exuberance… “It will be good with you as Chiharu’s apprentice. We have decided to take in and raise orphans. We’ll give them a loving home and teach them academics and martial arts. You can help us, Jangmi.”

Chiharu smiled. That was precisely the plan her beloved Sensei envisioned.

“Then you’ve chosen to become a nun,” said Sung Ji. “You would have made a beautiful bride.”

Jangmi’s face flushed rose red. A flame of anger ignited in her eyes, but was extinguished by Silence who strategically intervened… “Your countryman has a sense of humor, Jangmi. Don’t you believe so Chiharu?”

“Indeed, Yuki chan,” answered the nun, “it is one of the things about him that I admire.”

“Wah! I can’t believe she accepted you calling her Yuki,” he spoke before good judgment prompted him to hold his tongue. “I made the mistake of calling her that and she refused to speak to me for an entire day.”

Now Silence and Jangmi were both glaring at him. Chiharu smiled, and when the samurai saw that, he suddenly had an image of Asako chan in his mind; an image of her smile…the way she looked at him in the Temple of the Moon after his battle with Miyamoto. It wasn’t the sad expression she wore when she first appeared before him after that contest…it was her face of happiness he recalled now…her happy innocent smile.

“Ai-oh! Look at him,” said Jangmi.

“I wonder if he should join Kaji and his brothers,” teased Silence.

“Not all people who grin are ‘pahbo’ (stupid),” said Jangmi in his defense. “Actually, although Ahn Sung Ji is a great swordsman, he is ‘chinjeol-hada’ (friendly…kind).”

Sung Ji ignored them; ‘If I do that they just may disappear’, he thought as he smiled. 

The following morning, after awakening from a deep sleep, the samurai discovered a folded rice paper parchment beside his palette. He reached for it as he rose to a seated position and unfolding it to found a message in kanji that began: “Wasu-re na-i-de’ (Do not forget me). ‘Tsukiakari no kairou wo oboete’ (Remember the moonlight corridor). ‘Ya-ku-soku’ (Promise).”

“The moonlit corridor….” He thought aloud. He knew it was in the forest on Asako’s mountain, a pathway in the forest that led to the cliff where she would watch the moon as it slowly rose, sending its light down the corridor of trees. Ryoko had told him that her brother Toshima called it by that name. But the Japanese word ‘kairou’ meant more than just a corridor; it implied growing old together…a partnership that lasts a lifetime.

Jangmi arrived just after he read the message… “Chiharu sent me to invite you to breakfast.”

The sound of Jangmi’s voice startled him… “The journey ahead will be a better one if you begin with a full stomach.”

Sung Ji thanked her… “Give me a moment and I’ll join you.”

“Dea,” she replied, then while staring at the paper he held in his hand, asked… “O-pah (Big brother). What were you doing?”

“Reading…” he replied, “a message from…” he paused as he glanced at the paper, then became speechless as she spoke.

“A message? she repeated. “The paper is blank,” She curiously proclaimed.

“Dea,” he replied.

“You’re teasing me,” she declared, “like a real big brother. You’ve not even left the mountain, but already I miss you…”

She walked away then, giggling like a young schoolgirl, while his thoughts drifted back in time, to the moment he discovered Asako’s flute and rice paper message at her gravesite in the mountain forest. It was a long way from where he was at the moment, but Asako was not. Even after death, she was closer to him than any measurement of time or space. Old Kwai and Chiharu were right…there is much more beyond this temporal life than one can imagine, and infinitely more to God’s creation than what we can see, hear or touch. That thought gave him comfort, but more importantly…it gave him hope.


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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