The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 58 (v.1) - miscast performers

Submitted: September 02, 2019

Reads: 52

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Submitted: September 02, 2019

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The evening of the first snowfall brought colder than normal temperatures to the sleepy village of Tsukimi. All was quiet inside the Jade Teahouse since the last of the nightly patrons departed. The only noise came from the kitchen as Midori and Mariko chan finished their cleaning. The landlord swept behind the bar as his youngest daughter, Asuka, busied herself wiping down table tops. She almost tripped over herself as the front door suddenly opened and a blast of cold air, blowing fiercely against the back of the cloaked stranger standing in the archway, swept across the room. Asuka shuddered in the draft as she straightened up, startled and spellbound while her father rushed to greet the after-hours visitor.

“We’ve closed for the night,” he said as he approached the stranger, “but you’re welcome to come in out of the cold….” he paused as he indicated the door with a nod his head.

The late night guest nodded in turn, then turned to reach for the handle and close the heavy oak door against the chill.

“Come to the fire,” offered Asuka.

The stranger did so, after stomping snow-covered boots against the floor to remove the majority of the ice and frost. Upon nearing the burning coals of the rotund iron heater the dark, hooded cloak and laid it over the back of a chair. Asuka and her father were surprised to see long, silk like black hair as it the hood was removed, the thick velvet strands cascading to her shoulders and beyond.

“You’re a girl,” exclaimed Asuka.

“Hai,” she replied. “So I’ve been told.”

“Please forgive my daughter,” said Toshiro. “It’s very rare that a young woman comes to our Teahouse at such an hour, and in such fierce weather.”

“I am no ordinary young woman,” she remarked as she took a chair at the table.

“Would you like hot tea?” Asuka asked.

“Hai,” she smiled as she replied. “Arigatou gozai masu” (Thank you).

Asuka hurried off, and returned quickly with a cup and a pot of hot green tea. She arrived just in time to hear her father say… “…you mean the Left Hand of God…the Korean samurai? He lives just outside the village…a few kilometers…atop the mountain in the forest. But it’s too far for a night journey in the snow and cold. You should stay here or at the Inn for the night. We have plenty of empty rooms.”

Asuka stopped in her tracks once she realized the stranger had asked about Ahn Sung Ji.

“What is it?” her father asked. “Did something happen?”

Asuka raised her eyes from the seated girl… “No, father,” she replied, and then hurriedly set the teapot and cup on the table, then turned to walk away. After a few steps she paused, turned to face the stranger and boldly inquired… “Why are you seeking the Left Hand of God?”

“Asuka!” Toshiro said gruffly.

She bowed her head quickly, lowing her eyes in front of her father, knowing she had angered him.

“It’s quite all right,” said the night guest. “I’m a stranger here. I’m certain the young lady meant no disrespect. I’m pleased to see he has friends willing to protect his privacy.” Then, turning her attention toward Asuka she continued… “I’m an old acquaintance. I, or rather we, need his help desperately.”

The landlord simply nodded his head, but Asuka contentiously declared that... “He has laid down his sword. He lives a life of peace now.”

“Should we not let him decide whether or not he wishes to live a life of peace, or come to the aid of old friends? He is my ‘oppa’ (older brother).”

The landlord spoke as he raised an open hand in front of his daughter’s face… “The distance to the mountain forest is seven kilometers. Rest here for the night. My outspoken daughter can lead you to the samurai’s place in the morning.”

“Hai,” said the stranger. “And what about my horse?”

“Me, father?” interrupted Asuka. “Do you mean me?”

He turned to look at her, an unpleasant expression masking his otherwise jovial face. She ‘heard’ him without his uttering a word, lowered her eyes and remained quiet. Ignoring her then, he turned his attention to his guest, who had been contemplating her refusal of a guide. She believed she could find the samurai herself, but had noticed Asuka’s reaction to her father’s offer. Obviously she was smitten by the samurai, and he most likely didn’t have a clue.

“The stables have closed for the night,” said Toshiro, “but you can keep your horse in the storage building behind our inn. There is grain there on which it can feed.”

“May I ask why you’re seeking the samurai?” Asuka interrupted again. “Who are you?”

Her father was on the verge of reprimanding his daughter, but was stifled by the stranger’s abrupt reply.

“Silence.”

Asuka and Toshiro were silent, but seemed to be offended. Noting their reaction, she added… “Silence is my name.”

“Ah-so,” said the landlord.

Asuka smiled.

“When others ask my name, they’re either insulted or angered by my reply. My Sensei gave me that name.”

“Please…” suggested Toshiro. “Please drink your tea while it’s hot. I’ll see to your horse while my daughter gets you something to eat.”

Later, Silence restlessly tossed and turned in her sleep, plagued by troubled thoughts. Before drifting off to slumber she sensed the evil, or part of it, like a long reaching tentacle, had followed her to Tsukimi. This night, like all others following Sensei Hawk’s demise, her sleep was disturbed by unsettling nightmares.

In this present dream, she was standing in deep snow beneath a star filled night sky. In the distance was a city of strangely shaped buildings with lofty, spire tipped towers. While she was stared, transfixed, something emerged from the opened gates, moving quickly in her direction. As it approached she realized it was a dark horse with eyes glowing red, ridden by a woman, fierce and demonic in appearance. She wore a long, crimson red cloak and carried a circular shield. As she came closer she reached for and unsheathed a sword of light, raised it above her head in a threatening manner and began to wail, an unearthly scream that froze the blood in her veins. She tried to run but her legs were frozen, and just before being trampled by the horse’s fiery hoofs she awoke, drenched in sweat.

 

Upstairs meanwhile, in the bedchamber she shared with her elder sister Mariko, Asuka was likewise having a sleepless night. Not because of nightmares, but due to anxiety and the excitement of knowing she would be leading their guest to the home of her samurai. She was smiling so broadly it almost hurt her face. Without realizing it, she had begun humming the love song the samurai played on the flute. Momentarily Mariko stirred, awakened by her sibling’s melody.

“Asuka?” she said, followed by a yawn. “Why are you still awake?”

“Sorry I disturbed you,” she replied. “It seems I can’t fall asleep.”

“Well then, if you can’t sleep I’m sure you will be too tired in the morning to lead our guest to Ahn Sung Ji.”

At first speechless, Asuka nervously protested… “No, no, sister. I’ll sleep…you’ll see. I’ll be asleep quicker than you can imagine…”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” declared Mariko. “I can imagine pretty quick.”

“Please don’t tell father,” begged Asuka. “I’ll be asleep before you.”

“But I was asleep,” said her sister. “Until you awakened me…”

“Un-ne chan…” Asuka whined.

“Very well,” Mariko said after a laugh, “but not another sound,” she warned. “If so, I’ll be the one to lead that girl to the samurai.”

Asuka promised, pouting like a petulant child Mariko imagined, as she lay there beside her in the dark.

 

Seven kilometers from Tsukimi, as Asuka and her sister drifted off to sleep, Ahn Sung Ji was awakened by a voice. When he opened his eyes he saw a shadowy figure standing before the rice paper paneled window of the bedroom where Asako once slept. As he rose to a seated position, the shadow spoke… “Danger is approaching…”

He stood upright, all the while straining his eyes to see the figure more clearly. The bedchamber was dark, a gray dark, which allowed him to see form but not features. The samurai took a couple of steps forward, paused within arms-reach, and asked… “Who are you?”

“You should know,” she replied, “since you’re sleeping in my room.”

Although he faced her, the reply came from behind. Turning, he saw her standing a short distance away, just in front of the pallet. Turning quickly back he saw that she was no longer standing by the window.

“Danger is approaching…” she repeated.

“Asako…” he voiced in recognition.

“The temporal world is a stage,” she said, “full of miscast performers. One, whose path you crossed, hastened his own downfall, but not before awakening an ancient evil.”

In an instant she was gone, evaporating before his eyes, leaving him alone once more in the darkness.

“What danger?” he wondered aloud. “What danger are you warning me about?”

The room was silent, like falling snow. It made him think of Yuki, the ninja girl he dared not call by her birth name. He wondered how she, her sisters and Chiharu were doing, just before he wondered why he thought of them at that precise moment. “Miscast performers…” he repeated Asako’s words, as he wondered of whom she was speaking.


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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