Chapter 65: the gateway

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

Reads: 93

The samurai paused along the snow covered path, awaiting Silence and Kwai. Just ahead, Chiharu, Water, Wind, Sky, Ice, Jangmi and Night followed close behind Bara as she steadily led them up the mountain. Momentarily Kwai caught up with his friend.

“Her dream was more detailed than mine,” he proclaimed as he gazed upward.

Silence remained quiet, but judging from her somber expression Sung Ji was compelled to ask… “What is it?”

“I have a bad feeling…” she said slowly.

“I feel it to,” said the samurai. “Like the quiet before the storm.”

“Don’t fret,” advised Kwai. “Whatever this evil is, it knows we’re closing the circle. The closer we get to solving this enigma, the more threatened the entity will feel and the more dangerous it will become. Your premonitions are a good sign actually.”

Their dialogue was interrupted abruptly by Jangmi… “O-pah, the wall is just ahead,” she called out.

“We’re coming,” he replied.

Bara led the others along the fortification, eventually hesitating at the collapsed section that Fire had climbed over. “Here…” she said. “This is the way she went.”

“I find it difficult to believe,” said Water, “that we never investigated these heights in the past.”

“There was never any need,” Wind offered as she followed Water over the wall.

Soon they discovered and climbed the hidden stairs that led to the second set of stairs beneath the torii. Their approach startled three large birds that

immediately took flight. Two of them flew beside the archway, and one beneath. That unfortunate bird disappeared the moment it went under the torii. Ice gasped audibly as Sky exclaimed… “Did you see that?”

“We saw it…” said Chiharu ominously.

“Could that have happened to sister?” wondered Ice.

“Most assuredly,” ventured Kwai, just before he quickly ascended the stairs. When he reached the top he bent to pick up a large stone from the ground, then tossed it beneath the arch. It landed unaffected on the other side. “I believe that confirms our suspicions,” he declared.

“It appears to be some kind of gateway,” said Chiharu. “One that transports only living things to another place.”

“It seems so,” agreed Jangmi, after which she began to climb the steps, followed by the others.

Moments later they were all standing before the torii, staring in wonderment, and although each of them felt something uncanny, Chiharu and Kwai voiced concern about the pall of evil they sensed. “It hovers over this place,” said the nun.

“Like a funeral shroud…” added Kwai.

Bara was distant and quiet as she stood intensely gazing at the dark, gleaming and towering structure. Abruptly she moved forward, as if mesmerized, approaching within three steps of the torii.

“What are you doing?” screamed Night.

“Leave her,” said Kwai. “Patience…”

Bara remained silent, her eyes locked onto the torii. Night gasped and all watched spellbound as duplicates of Bara materialized, one on either side of the archway. Although they resembled her their eyes lacked the intensity of hers. Theirs were vacant…soulless. Night and Silence started to lunge as Bara stepped forward.

“Sister!” screamed Night.

Too late to reach her, they watched in frightened anticipation as the petite girl walked beneath the torii. To their amazement she did so unaffected and unharmed, halting after taking a few steps on the opposite side, she turned back to face her friends and paused. Suddenly an icy wind began to blow against her back, lifting her hair and furling the colorful silk of her kimono.

“What deviltry is this?” said the samurai.

The duplicates of Bara grinned simultaneously, mischievously, as their empty eyes began to gleam. Bara began moving then, retracing her steps beneath the torii. Pausing directly below the arch, she closed her eyes as if in meditation, as a second wind emanated from the ground at her feet. The air was warm and within seconds dispersed the cold wind at her back as the snow beneath the tori began to melt. Night unsheathed her sword then, just as the opposites turned menacingly toward Bara, who was now encased by a golden nimbus. Chiharu placed a hand against Night’s shoulder as she took a step forward.

“That katana is useless…” said the nun.

All assembled watched in awe as the duplicates, their mouths agape and locked in silent screams, suddenly burst into clouds of black and red glowing ash carried away by the spectral winds. A moment later all was quiet. Still beneath the arch, Bara opened her eyes and raised a hand as if reaching for something unseen. To everyone’s shock her hand and forearm disappeared for a moment before she pulled it back and, resting on her wrist was the bird that had moments before vanished when it flew beneath the torii. She stepped from beneath the archway, smiling angelically while she released the bird, as if nothing special had happened. While the others stared in stunned silence, Chiharu declared… “It is as I said; there is something magical about her, as if she’s been touched by Heaven.”

“Perhaps I should try to walk beneath the Torii,” ventured Silence.

“Not a good idea,” reasoned the nun.

“I agree, ventured Water. “There is something special about Bara. I feel it to.”

“Hai,” agreed Silence.

“She’s different,” said Wind. “If one of us tried that we may end up like Fire.”

Ice turned to look at her, as Silence quickly spoke… “Sister…please choose your words more carefully.” Then addressing Chiharu she asked… “What exactly does any of this tell us?”

“We should return to the shrine,” she replied. “Kwai and I will have to talk. Ice,” she said as she grasped the girl’s hands. “Don’t worry. We’re armed with more knowledge than before. We’ll find a solution to this dilemma, and we’ll find your sister.”

“Don’t be overly concerned,” reaffirmed Bara. “I believe your sister Fire still lives.”

Jangmi encouraged her… “Be brave. ‘Tre-seon-ul ta-ha sae-yo’ (Do your best). I know it’s difficult. Trust Chiharu, Kwai and Bara. They have  powers beyond our understanding.”

“And remember,” added Kwai, “all our focus is needed to discover the best solution. Evil carries within itself the means to its own destruction. We must be alert at all times.”

“Hai,” said Ice between tears.


Much later, hours after everyone retired, Bara stirred on her pallet, awakening Night. The older girl placed a hand on her shoulder to awaken her.

“Na-ni?” said Bara.

“You’re talking in your sleep,” said Night. “I think you were dreaming.”

Bara hesitated a moment, then said simply… “I was.”

“About what?”

“I’m not certain, but I think it was something important.”


The following day, inside the Shrine of Autumn Mists, Chiharu listened intently as Wind fervently spoke… “It was while I was patrolling the road at the base of the mountain. The sun was melting the snow into puddles that slowly turned into a rising mist as the water evaporated. Those vapors, blending with the early morning haze, interfered with my vision. Soon I saw someone in the distance, attired in white, walking my direction. At first I thought perhaps it was an illusion, and bringing the horse to a halt, I waited. It was someone approaching. A woman in white, dressed identical to me…a duplicate of me, to be precise.”

“Another duplicate…” mused Chiharu.

“Hai,” affirmed Wind. “Right down to the embroidery on my obi, even her swords were the same. The realization was like a mild shock. My primary reaction was confusion and, as if she sensed that, she abruptly drew her weapons and charged forward, moving with unearthly speed. At that moment and I was jolted from sleep. I awoke trembling in a cold sweat and remained awake until dawn.”

“A-cu-mu…a bad dream,” said the nun. “Not unlike those that many of us have experienced. It supports Kwai’s belief that the evil feels threatened by us combining our forces.”

“Then these dreams,” said Wind, “disturbing our sleep, are designed to keep us from being alert.”

“Hai,” agreed Chiharu. “Most likely that is the evil’s objective. The less alert we are, it follows that the more prone we are to overlooking what is right before our eyes, and the more susceptible we are to anger, argument and self-doubt, which weakens us while strengthening the evil. Just last night, Kwai and I were discussing this situation when Bara revealed something important neither of us had considered.”

“Which is...”

“A physic impression she had while at the torii. Among other things she sensed the loneliness, malice and loathing of the entity, and the thirst for vengeance that fueled it’s hatred of us. This evil thing, whatever it is, was most likely the source of Hawk’s black magic. His deeds strengthened and nourished it. Its capacity and hunger for chaos is unlimited and insatiable. Once Hawk died, it was enraged to the point of madness and now wants to enact revenge against all those responsible for the destruction of its servant.”

“Of course…” mused Wind. “It’s so clear. Why didn’t any of us reach that conclusion before now?”

“One step at a time,” said Chiharu. “We were distracted and blinded by our concern for Fire, and had forgotten about Sensei Hawk once his reign of terror came to an end. We all believed his threat, his ability to do harm, ended with his demise.”

“Now I’m beginning to understand what Kwai meant when he said he believed Heaven brought us together for a purpose.”

“Hai. There is a reason why Kwai came here from the continent,” said the nun, “and why Minori returned.”

“And a reason for Night and Bara seeking Jangmi at this precise time…”

“Exactly,” affirmed Chiharu. “And more than mere coincidence that they encountered Minori while searching for their ‘sister’. It’s as Kwai said…we have been given the means. The rest is up to us.”

Submitted: September 04, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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