The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 64 (v.1) - ghost

Submitted: September 04, 2019

Reads: 13

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Submitted: September 04, 2019

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Once within sight of the mountain, Sung Ji reined in his horse to a halt. At his side, Silence did likewise, followed by the others. The samurai stared for a time at the snow-covered escarpment, seemingly lost in thought.

“What is it?” questioned Silence.

“I’m not certain,” he replied. “A foreboding…”

Kwai urged his horse forward. “I feel it too,” he said. “But also, I feel as if we are supposed to be here.”

“I feel…” said Silence ominously, “as if all this has happened before.”

“Perhaps this evil we are yet to face,” ventured Kwai, “is toying with our minds.”

Following a moment of introspection the samurai said… “Ka-ja’ (Let’s go),” as he prompted his horse to move.

 

Mifune meanwhile, bemoaned the fact that in Kaji’s absence, his daily responsibilities were divided among the remaining children of the night. It meant only one more duty for Mifune, who as usual was slow to perform his own mandatory tasks before evening. It was approaching, but still he had not swept the entry stairs of the main hall. That was usually done by Kaji, and was something Mifune had decided to do last. He reluctantly set out to do so before mealtime lest he be forced to retire for the night hungry. He moped along with his head bowed, talking to himself as he bewailed his existence. Once he reached the steps he raised his head just in time to see a slender, longhaired girl enter the building.

“Wha,” he exclaimed to himself. “Who was that winsome girl?”

He hurried up the steps to the door and once inside saw the young lady turn into a corridor leading from the main hall, her hair furling behind her as if windblown.

“She’s moving fast…” Mifune murmured, wondering why she was so lightly dressed on a winter day. Deciding to move a bit faster, he reached the hallway just in time to see her enter the old library. He wasn’t certain, but thought for a moment that it appeared she had paused at the door to wait for him.

Seconds later he entered the musty room and saw the girl, her back to him, standing before a recess in the west wall. He paused, and realized that he had never noticed before. As he took a step forward his foot bumped a table, startling a large moth that fluttered in a frenzy toward his face. Turning his head quickly he raised his hands to protect his eyes. When he looked her direction again he discovered the girl was no longer there.

“Miss…?” he said.

There was no reply, only silence.

Cautiously he walked to the place he had seen her standing, then slowly scanned the room. It was empty save for him. Nervous but curious, Mifune walked to the place where she had been standing. While gazing at the floor he saw what appeared to be a piece of dark fabric at the base of the wall.Reaching for it he discovered it was wedged beneath the oak panels of the wall. He tugged at the material. It refused budge. Then bracing one shoulder against the wall he pulled again, causing the lower section to move outward with a rasping sound. He dropped the fabric and pulling with both hands on the movable section, opened it to discover a hidden alcove. The light was fading quickly, but Mifune could see what appeared to be a large antique wooden trunk inside. His better judgment overpowering his curiosity, he decided to report the find to Chiharu. She was, after all, head priestess of the Autumn Mist Shrine and the one in charge of the mountain retreat since the demise of Sensei Hawk.

Rushing to the shrine, he was surprised to find that Silence, Jangmi and Minori had returned with the samurai and his friends. Mifune paid his respects, and then rambled on about the strange girl, hidden alcove and the antique trunk. Chiharu, Sung Ji, and Kwai followed him back to the library, and once there, Chiharu and Kwai agreed that ‘something’ otherworldly, but not evil, had been there. Mifune momentarily thought about the fabric he had found and realized, like the girl, it had disappeared.

“That’s strange….” Mifune remarked.

“What?” asked Chiharu.

Realizing he had voiced his inner thoughts, he mentioned the scarf that led him to the discovery of the trunk… “I left it here where I found it,” he proclaimed.

“A scarf…” Sung Ji said. “What was the color?”

“Crimson,” Mifune replied. “At least I think it was. The light in here was fading...”

The samurai nodded.

“Your guardian’s…” said Kwai.

“I’ve seen her as well,” said Chiharu. “She confirmed my suspicions about the duplicates and reflective surfaces.”

“We should open the box,” suggested Kwai.

“Helpless,” commanded Chiharu, “drag it out of the alcove.”

“Hai,” Mifune replied.

Once done, they discovered it to be full of ancient parchments and rice paper scrolls.The writing was archaic Chinese, which Kwai was able to translate, and explained the creation of the star stone sword, the capture, transportation and incarceration of the ‘oni’ (demon), the secret of the hidden torii and the construction of the wall Fire had climbed over to reach the mystical passageway. It is unknown if Sensei Hawk knew any of the facts, but he was ensnared by the demon’s evil influence. It became stronger because of his evil deeds, and it protected him to an extent with its magic.

“Now so many things are beginning to make sense,” mused Chiharu.

Mifune eyed the nun curiously.

“Na-ni-yo?” she asked. “What is it?”

“Actually,” he replied, “none of it makes any sense. I don’t understand why I can’t have a simple, ordinary life, without all this magic and mysticism.”

“Ba-ka’ (Stupid)!” shouted Chiharu.

“Well now,” said Kwai to Chiharu as she raised a fist as if to strike Mifune, “I don’t blame you for losing patience. That statement does sound odd coming from a ninja.”

 

The end of the following day, Water, Storm and Kaji returned from Yukari’s castle, bringing with them information that helped Chiharu and Kwai link together various fragments of the puzzle. Water further revealed that… “Yukari Yoshida somehow knew the samurai and Kwai were involved. And she repeated what we already have discovered; this evil we must face predates mankind. It is an entity consumed by jealously and hatred that loathes human beings the most.”

“As we’ve surmised,” declared Kwai.

“She also said this evil entity, although powerful, is no more than a servant to another being much stronger than itself.”

“Did she offer a solution?” asked the samurai.

“Not really,” Water replied, “but she did say that the most moral of souls and most innocent of hearts, armed with righteousness, would have a greater chance to subdue this evil. She said that we had what was necessary; a priestess, shaman, a shade and a gentle soul marked with a rose.”

“Chiharu is a priestess,” said Storm, “and Kwai san is a shaman.”

“Subdue…” repeated Chiharu, drifting away from the subject. “Do you mean destroy?”

“No,” Water said reluctantly, “not destroy. The best we can do is wage war against it, subdue and restrain it. It is not within our power to destroy it, even with our combined efforts, which Yukari Yoshida emphasized would be necessary to do what must be done.”

“The one marked with a rose…” ventured Sung Ji. “Could that be Jangmi?”

“Bara…” said the nun. “Jangmi has shed blood too often. Most assuredly Yukari Yoshida spoke of Bara. There is something about her…something mystical beyond description. Sheltered, for the most part, from the world by her sister Night, she has retained the purity and innocence and of youth.”

“And the shade?” questioned the samurai.

“You already know the answer,” said Chiharu. “She is always with you, is she not?”

“Asako…” said Kwai.

Sung Ji sensed that, and that Asako feared whatever it was they were dealing with. He wondered what could be so frightful, to cause even a ghost to dread.

“It seems,” Storm concluded, “as if Heaven has brought us together for this purpose.”

“Such is Heaven’s way,” Chiharu declared.

“True,” agreed Kwai. “It only remains for us to have the intelligence and courage required to triumph. Heaven has supplied the means…the rest is up to us.”

 

Later, Bara, who had been plagued by nightmares she believed relevant to the present dilemma, made a visit to Fire’s paternal sister, Ice. Accompanied by Night, she related details of what she could recall from her dream the previous night… “In the dream I was not myself, and was alone in the dojo one moment, then suddenly climbing a steep mountain path that led to a lofty, stone barrier. I found a damaged section, climbed over the wall and then followed a path that led to stairs beneath a dark, foreboding torii. As I approached it, my rose tattoo began to behave strangely, and then suddenly there was a duplicate of me standing beneath the archway. Like in a similar dream, that other me abruptly morphed into a second duplicate. They positioned themselves, one on either side beneath the torii, beckoning me to come forward. My tattoo began to burn like fire…so much so that I awoke.”

Initially speechless, following a brief pause Ice suggested… “We should immediately go to the shrine. Chiharu and the shaman should hear this."

After listening to Bara relate the details of her dream, Chiharu and Kwai, based on what they had learned from the documents Helpless discovered, determined that it may be a clue to what happened to Fire.

“Perhaps now is the time,” said the nun as she sighed, “too disclose a disturbing truth concerning the strange girl confined here at the shrine.”

“Strange girl?” questioned Ice. “Are you referring to my sister?”

“I think not,” interjected Kwai.

“I’ve revealed this only to Kwai and the samurai,” Chiharu continued, “so as not to bring you further concern. The girl restrained here, although she lives, has no pulse. She has no breath, and yet…she lives.”

“What?” exclaimed Ice.

“That girl is not your sister,” said Chiharu, while pointing a finger at the hidden chamber. “That girl is an opposite. A duplicate like the construction worker from the village.”

“Then where is Fire?” she asked. “Where is my sister!?”

“You must be calm, child,” reasoned Chiharu. “We are all striving to solve this riddle. It can best be done if we keep our emotions in check”

“Don’t fear,” said Bara abruptly as she laid a hand on her shoulder. “I believe she still lives. Something I can’t explain tells me that.”

 Bara further revealed that her rose tattoo had been behaving strangely since she arrived at the mountain retreat, moving more frequently, pulsating periodically, and burning like fire. “Each time it burned, I thought of your sister.”

“What have I to do with you!?” the captive ‘Fire’ screamed from the hidden room. “Have you come here to torment me, you little tramp?”

All eyes turned the direction of the secret chamber.

“Ice!” she yelled. “Why have you betrayed me? How can you let them treat me like this?” She bellowed, just before shouting obscenities followed by maniacal laughter.

“How can she hear us from across the room and behind the wall?” Night wondered as Bara placed her arms around Ice to comfort her.

“I can hear you plotting, you fools!” she yelled. “I can hear even when you’re not speaking…I can hear your hearts beating…I can hear your thoughts!” she continued to boast before once again laughing insanely.

“I could use your help,” Chiharu said as she glanced at Night. “Our captive needs to be sedated.”

“Hai,” she replied.

“Afterward,” said the nun, addressing Bara, “I suggest we retrace your steps from the dream, while we still have light.”


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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