Chapter 66: dark reflections

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

Reads: 42

Night returned to their room to find Bara cutting and trimming thin bamboo shafts while an intrigued Storm watched.

“What are you doing?” she asked the young girl.

“I was just as curious,” said Storm, “when she asked me where she could find bamboo. It’s because of a dream she had.”

“Hai,” said Bara… “In the dream I was awakened by the sound of a flute. The melody was the same as the one favored by the samurai. I arose and followed the sound outside where a heavy mist covered the ground and soon discovered a girl in white playing her flute beneath a full moon. She stopped when she saw me, as if she had been waiting for me, then smiled and beckoned me to follow her. She led me to a bamboo patch, where she touched one small stalk after another. Each one she laid a finger on glowed with a golden luminescence, like phosphorescent fireflies. She picked one of the stalks and held it in one hand while with the other she traced a finger along its length. As she did so the stems and leaves fell to the ground, leaving a bare bamboo shaft. She smiled as she inspected her handiwork, then simulated notching it like an arrow in a bow. She looked at me then and nodded her head. I returned the nod to signify that I understood she wanted me to make arrow shafts.”

“What on earth will you do with bamboo arrow shafts?” queried Night.

“These are for Minori,” said Storm. “Sky and Ice are busy trimming feather stems.”

“And Kwai is making arrowheads,” said Bara, “fashioned from metal studs on the star sword’s sheath. The arrows will be as effective as his enchanted tanto and the star sword in dealing with either the duplicates or the minions of the evil entity.”

“Minions of the evil entity?” echoed Night.

“Hai,” Bara replied. “Dark reflections…shadows that will soon arise.”

“Shadows that will soon arise…” Night repeated hypnotically.

“Bara’s dreams reveal many mysteries,” remarked Storm.

“They don’t always make sense,” Bara mused. “While at the torii I recalled a dream I had before coming to this mountain. In the dream I wore a tunic adorned with a Chinese Taoist symbol and held a Japanese katana. The blade glowed brightly as if wrapped in blue flames. I stood before a torii surrounded by large trees and yet, beneath and beyond the torii was a vast black void lit by countless stars. A foreboding figure, its eyes hidden by a bamboo hat, lurked beside the torii. I sensed the presence of supreme evil and although I felt threatened, I likewise felt protected by Supreme Goodness. At that time the dream had no significance.”

“And now…?” Night inquired.

“Now it has meaning,” Bara replied. “The Chinese tunic and symbol, the enchanted katana…they remind me of Kwai. The enchanted torii is obvious, a gateway to another world, and the figure beside it is the evil incarnate personified. All that is happening now is preordained. We all were predestined to meet and to array our individual strengths against this supernatural threat.”

 “Things seem to be gaining momentum,” said Storm optimistically. “So much so it makes me dizzy. But I love a challenge.”


Elsewhere, Minori entered the dojo and discovered the samurai sitting in meditation.

“Go-mensei,” she said.

He opened his eyes to see she had paused just inside the door.

“You don’t have to apologize,” he replied. “Enter. I was just clearing my mind and have had enough solitude for one day.”

“Thank you,” she responded with a bow. “I came to meet your sister and Asuka chan.”

“My sister?”

“Hai,” said Minori. “Jangmi-san.”

“Ah, Jangmi,” he repeated with a smile. “I suppose I think of her as a younger sister, but she isn’t a blood relative.”

“So-ka’ (I see)…” Minori began.

“You’re expecting them?” asked Sung Ji.

“Hai,” she replied. “And Silence. We planned to practice kara-te.”

“Come, sit here” invited the samurai. “I’ll wait here with you until they arrive. Perhaps you can tell me why you chose the bow.”

Minori bowed before stepping onto the training floor, then sat down close to Sung Ji to stretch. “Sometimes I think perhaps the bow chose me. My first yumi belonged to my brother, which he discarded it in favor of the sword. Rather than see it neglected I took it and began training with my father so that he wouldn’t have to do so alone. When I surpassed my father in skill, he brought me to Yui’s brother for formal training. He was a friend of Chiharu and her Sensei, which is why Chiharu treats me as an adopted daughter.”

“Was your bow master strict?”

“Hai, and I was strict with myself. I was also inspired by his niece, Nakamura Ayase; a sword-woman who often visited the archer’s dojo. She is renowned for her skill and valor, and always wore red. Even her outer mesh armor is the color of blood. I idolized her so I trained enthusiastically. She gave me basic sword lessons, and I learned more from Yui.”

“But you favored the yumi…”

“Hai. I continued to use my brother’s bow until the death of my master. Since then I’ve carried his yumi, a gift from Yui, which I used to end Sensei Hawk’s evil existence.”

“Was it revenge?”

“Perhaps…for the most part,” she replied thoughtfully. “But it left me with emptiness. There was little satisfaction and it didn’t undo what had been done. My master was still gone.”

“Then you’ve learned something valuable,” he concluded.

“Hai,” she agreed. Vengeance doesn’t bring peace to the dead, only a kind of satisfaction to the living…as if Justice has been served. But it brings regret.”

“Dea,” he said. “You understand, even though you are young.”

“Huh?” she voiced suddenly, “I’m quite grown…I’ll be twenty three this year…”

“Hon tou ne (Really)?” he asked.

She went silent, then after a brief pause said… “Go-mensei….”

“Don’t apologize…” he interrupted her.

Minori went silent again, then the two of them began laughing. At that moment Jangmi and Asuka arrived.

“O-pah!” said the Korean girl.

Sung Ji and Minori looked their direction. “Mu ah?” he said, “What is it?”

“I didn’t expect to find you here. Are we interrupting?”

“What are you thinking?” he asked. “Are you teasing me?”

“If not you then who else?” she said with a mischievous wink. She laughed then, while Asuka slowly lowered her head. She didn’t quite understand what she was feeling at the moment, but imagined it must be jealously. Her sister Mariko had told her something about that emotion, when she was curious about her eldest sister’s moodiness. “Midori treats you impatiently to some extent because of jealously,” she had said. After their mother died, their father gave her extra attention, because she was the youngest, while the eldest was burdened with more responsibility. Initially she was resentful, and then became jealous. As usual, I was caught in the middle.”

Asuka’s thoughts were interrupted abruptly with the arrival of Silence.

“You’re here too,” said the samurai. “Time for me to leave.”

“Am I interrupting something,” she asked.

“Not at all,” said Sung Ji. “I was just minding my own business, meditating, and suddenly I’m surrounded by ‘cheon-sa’ (angels).”

“Every man’s dream,” said Jangmi.

“You don’t have to leave,” said Silence. “We’re teaching Asuka martial art…”

“And why would you do that?” he asked before she finished speaking. “She’ll be returning to her father soon.”

“Every young girl should know how to defend herself,” replied Jangmi.

“Hai,” Minori agreed.

“It’s not like we’re trying to turn her into shinobi,” added Silence. “Why don’t you stay? We could use your expertise.”

“You’re all qualified,” he declared while walking toward the door. “I’ve got to feed my horse. Asuka chan,” he said when he reached the door, “do your best.”

“Nani?” she stammered as she raised her head. Then… “Hai!” She said with an enthusiastic smile. It reminded him of an old phrase: ‘The smile that lights the face warms a thousand hearts.’

Invisible to everyone, Asako watched from above as Sung Ji left the dojo and walked toward the stable. Satisfied that he was well, she decided to visit the ancient torii. She was there in an instant, the moment she thought about it. She hovered above, around it and then under. Then descending to the snow covered ground she stirred the freshly fallen flakes, creating a crystal white whirlwind that spun itself into a maiden’s shape.  Afterward she moved beneath the arch and back again, almost gliding as her small feet passed over the snow so delicately that she left no prints. Whatever magic the torii possessed had no effect on her…she passed beneath it unharmed, without being transported to another place. Perhaps because she was spirit, she reasoned, and no longer bound by the limitations of a physical body.

But she did feel an extreme cold; the same sensation she felt when close to her gravesite beneath the twin tree near her home. She disliked that feeling, so she distanced herself from the torii, but she wasn’t satisfied. She hoped to discover more from investigating the place where Fire disappeared. Then she thought about the musty lower chamber in Sensei Hawk’s private building, the one that led to the cavern beneath the mountain, and instantly the snowflakes that formed her shape dropped to the ground and she found herself inside that very chamber.

Almost immediately, the moment she was there and within sight of the cavern entrance, she felt as if the evil sensed her presence. And she was right. Subtle at first, she detected its malice, envy and rage. She felt threatened and within moments sensed its approach. Gripped by extreme fear, she summoned the mist in the intention and hope of hiding herself, but in spite of that was aware that the evil knew exactly where she was. The vapors were ineffective since the entity thrived in darkness, where it hid and lurked, stealthily and methodically consuming the fabric of peace and order. It seemed boundless, like a great ocean, and she by comparison very small and insignificant. She imagined herself engulfed by an immense, soul consuming blackness. Whatever it was, it was coming for her. When that thought registered, she found herself instantly outside of Hawk’s former dwelling, confused, not knowing how or why she was suddenly there, but there was a lingering thought in her mind. She thought of Bara and Asuka. Then wondered why she had thought of them at that precise moment. Obviously there was a connection, and she was determined to discover what it was. As she slowly regained her composure, she realized that aside from her fear of the entity itself, she had an awareness of impending doom: something told her that her samurai’s safety was at risk.

Submitted: September 04, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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