The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 63 (v.1) - Yukari

Submitted: September 03, 2019

Reads: 21

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Submitted: September 03, 2019

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Relentless in her investigation, Chiharu connects the incidents of the rain puddle and the return of the construction worker to the mirror in Sensei Hawk’s quarters.

“Both have one thing in common,” she surmised.

“A reflective surface…” ventured Water.

“Hai,” Chiharu proclaimed.

“Then…” surmised Wind, “you believe the villager was able to re-enter our world through the mirror.”

“It is only a probability,” said Chiharu. “An idea based on what we know, but worth looking into.”

Ten minutes later, they were at the door of Hawk’s sleeping quarters. Chiharu took the lead and entered the room. Immediately the door slid shut with a bang, startling the nun and setting Water and Wind into action.

“Mistress, are you well?” Water cried out.

“Hai,” said Chiharu.

“It won’t budge…” Wind complained.

Chiharu tried to open it from her side… “You’re right,” she confirmed. “It seems to be stuck.”

“I’ll pry it with my sword,” said Water.

“Hai,” Chiharu agreed, then turned her attention to the darkened room. Raising her lamp to better illuminate her surroundings she saw the large ornately framed mirror standing in a nearby corner. She took a couple of steps toward it but paused when she saw a thin mist rising form the floor between herself and the looking glass. Hesitating as it increased in density, she momentarily detected the scent of jasmine in the musty air of the chamber. The aroma intensified as the vapors rose waist high and Chiharu noticed tiny blue sparks swirling in the mist like fireflies on a summer night. They merged in the center to form a maiden’s shape, and the nun soon found herself staring incredulously at the girl she recognized as the one she saw following the samurai the night before he left the Shrine of Autumn Mists.

“Asako…” she whispered.

The girl smiled, her blue eyes shining almost as bright as the blue lights that had now disappeared. While Chiharu watched spellbound, Asako slowly raised a closed hand, then opened it to reveal a single blue light. Bringing the hand close to her lips she blew against the spark, sending it sailing into the air, where it morphed into a duplicate image of her. But this false Asako was different, its attractive face distorted by an angry scowl and twisted evil grin. Slowly it turned its eyes toward the nun, glared maliciously a brief moment, then suddenly attacked.

Asako quickly positioned herself between Chiharu and her opposite, then blew against the shape, causing it to disperse like smoke in the wind. Afterward she turned to face the nun, then glided across the floor to the antique mirror. She turned her head to glance at Chiharu once more, paused as if awaiting her, then entered the looking glass.

Approaching the mirror slowly, she paused when close enough to see Asako inside. The girl smiled, just before stepping from the mirror and nodding her head. Chiharu nodded in turn, to confirm that she understood. Asako smiled again, then pointed to the door of the room. The nun looked that direction, then back at Asako, who made a sudden motion with her hand. The door abruptly slid open and she vanished, just as Water and Wind rushed into the room, swords in hand.

“Are you well?” asked Water.

“I’m fine,” Chiharu replied.

“What just happened?” asked Wind. “How did that door close and then suddenly open.”

“I’m not certain,” Chiharu said, “but it was a good idea to come here tonight. I’ll explain on the way back to the shrine.”

She described, as best she could, what transpired inside the chamber. How Asako emerged from a jasmine scented mist, duplicated herself and how in pantomime she defined the unpredictability of the insubstantial but dangerous and deadly opposites. With the aid of Sensei Hawk’s enchanted mirror, the specter confirmed her suspicions were correct; that reflective surfaces serve as a doorway to or from another reality. She further determined that the ‘Fire’ she had subdued at the shrine is most certainly a duplicate, which would explain her odd and erratic behavior.

“Since being confined,” Chiharu revealed, “she has neither drank or eaten, yet displays no ill effects.

“It’s been several days…” Water marveled.

“Hai. I’ve managed to keep this a secret from Ice,” the nun confided. “The important thing now is to locate our Fire as soon as possible. In the meantime, it will be difficult to trust even those closest to us. If anyone begins acting out of character, it is possible they may be a duplicate.”

“We will be alert,” promised Wind.

“What should we do now?” asked Water.

“Assemble everyone at the shrine,” Chiharu suggested, “including the children of the night.”

 

Knowing that her beloved Sensei’s niece, Yukari Yoshida, possessed a looking glass similar to Sensei Hawk’s, Chiharu decided to send Water and Storm to seek her help to unravel the mystery. Because Kaji is a distant cousin, the nun insisted that he lead them to the hidden castle. Yukari had become a recluse after the death of her parents, and swore an oath to never leave the estate. She seldom received visitors and trusted no one outside of her employ. Through the enchanted mirror and her shinobi (ninjas), she was able to secretly keep watch on her uncle’s mountain retreat. Yukari knew of the unspoken love between him and Chiharu, and because of that always regarded the nun as her aunt.

Yukari’s estate was a one day journey from the Shrine of Autumn Mists, nestled in a heavily wooded forest encompassed by nigh impassable mountains. There was virtually only one way to approach the castle; from the front and through the dense woods. Most of the trees were centuries old and reached hundreds of feet into the air. It would be a major challenge for an army to traverse the forest, but posed little difficulty for the three ninjas. They managed, in fact, to reach the outside border of the protective forest of Yukari’s estate within seventeen hours.

As they made their way through the foreboding woods, the closer they came to the fortified keep Kaji became more and more agitated. “We’re being watched,” he declared. “I can feel it.”

“And we’re being followed,” said Storm.

“Followed?” echoed Kaji as he craned his neck to look past the two girls.

“Hai,” replied Water. “Since the moment we entered these woods. There are at least ten or twelve shinobi on our heels now.”

He didn’t like hearing that, nor did he like the dark forest, with its thick canopy of twisted limbs that blocked the sunlight. Although it was mid-afternoon, it was almost as dark as twilight in the woods.

“Are you afraid?” asked Storm. “Have you misplaced your sense of shame?”

“Na-ni? What did you say?”

“Are you concerned we’re being tracked?” she asked.

“I’m more concerned about how my cousin will receive us. She’s extremely moody since becoming a recluse.”

“I think you’ll know her reaction soon enough,” remarked Water as they approached the massive gates of the keep.

They paused as a section of the stone enclosure abruptly opened and a hulking guard emerged, flanked by six archers armed with European crossbows. Animated by an uncanny sensation, Water turned her head to look back just as the twelve shinobi following them stepped from the shelter of the trees.

A few tense moments later, the dauntless trio was standing before the mistress of the hidden fortress.

“Are you really Water?” she asked, one hand resting on the hilt of her sword. “I’ve heard you are a master of the blade. If you want my help, you’ll have to prove your identity.”

“You don’t trust Kaji,” Water said, “your own cousin?”

“Kaji, although proficient in martial arts, is often confused,” she replied.

The stillness of the moment was overshadowed by the tension in the air while Storm, presently speechless, tried to choose the right words; words that would diffuse the standoff rather than incite either women into action.

“Stop this,” Storm spoke suddenly. “We have to trust each other to overcome this threat.” Then, addressing Yukari, she declared… “Your uncle gave up the way of the sword. He was a great painter and he loved our surrogate mother, Chiharu, who accompanied him to the Shrine of Autumn Mists.”

Following another awkward moment as Yukari considered Storm’s words, Water sighed, simultaneously relaxing her grip on the hilt of her weapon. “She’s right. Only by ‘gung ho’ (working together) will we find a solution to this problem, which involves all of us.”

Turning to look her direction, Yukari smiled as she spoke… “You’re the one they call Storm…”

“Hai.”

“I’ve heard good things about you. About all of you actually,” she said as she faced Water once more. Nodding her head in agreement, she continued… “I’ll help you, but I won’t leave this place. I’m defiantly eccentric, as you’ve no doubt heard,” she said glancing at Kaji, who quickly lowered his eyes. “At any rate, I owe you, since you’ve done me a favor.”

“A favor?” questioned Water.

“Hai. Although he managed to mislead you for many years, Hawk finally met his downfall through your combined efforts. He was excessively evil, always spreading poison and discontent while he lived. I didn’t like him and I’m not surprised he’s managed to leave a stain on this world rather than a mark.”

 

 


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