The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 67 (v.1) - something astir

Submitted: September 04, 2019

Reads: 17

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Submitted: September 04, 2019

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From their vantage point on the rear terrace of the dojo, Water and Wind had an unobstructed view of the grotto and hot spring where the younger girls, Ice, Sky, Minori, Bara and Asuka, were washing clothes.

“Ice seems to worry less now that she’s been spending time with our visitors,” said Wind.

“Hai,” agreed Water. “Perhaps because they are close in age. She’s intrigued by Minori’s archery skills and is eager to teach Asuka chan kara-te. It distracts her from being overly concerned for her sister.”

“Actually the four of them have been teaching her martial art,” said Wind, “ever since they realized her cooking skills. Jangmi and Silence are teaching her the use of darts. Asuka is proficient with carving knives, but it was the incident of the stolen ‘mu-chi’ (rice cakes) that really got their attention.”

“Are you referring to Hu-noz?”

“Hai,” Wind replied. “Chiharu and Storm caught him stealing from the kitchen with his face covered, but he immediately ran. Asuka stopped him when she sailed a circular cooking pan his direction, tripping him in mid-stride. It’s been two days now, but Chiharu and Storm are still talking about it. Though she was making the rice cakes for all of us, it was mainly because of the samurai, whom she favors. They said Asuka reacted so quickly, even before Storm could move, and Hu-noz was stunned for ten minutes after the fall.”

“That was funny,” Water said smiling. “I saw him this morning. He’s still limping.”

“Has Chiharu spoken to you about Fire?”

“Are you referring to her recent behavior?” asked Water.

“Hai,” affirmed Wind.

“Chiharu told me a couple of days ago,” said Water, “that since the arrival of Cho-nyo, Bara and Minori, then Kwai, Sung Ji and Asuka, and finally the discovery of the manuscripts, Fire has become increasingly agitated and difficult. She begs for release one moment, then yells and curses profusely the next.”

“Hai,” Wind acknowledged. “And during one of her tirades, Ice screamed at her… ‘Where is my sister’? The false Fire went instantly quiet and laid still as a statue. Each time Chiharu or Ice light candles in her room, rather than dispelling the darkness, the flame seems to flee from it, turning in on itself as if being smothered.”

“I really detest all this metaphysical drama,” declared Water. “I know every problem can’t be solved by combat, but sword against sword I can handle. Jangmi told me that she and Minori were unable to overtake the construction worker from the village, who was afoot. He walked tirelessly for more than thirty six hours toward his targets as if knowing exactly where they were. Minori’s arrows had no effect on him.”

“But he was defeated by Kwai’s enchanted tanto,” said Wind. “If not for that he may have been killed. I know we’ve dealt with a lot of mysteries these last three years. Can’t say it’s been boring…”

Water looked at her with a hint of aggravation, then smiled. “Hai,” she agreed. “It definitely hasn’t been boring.”

 

Elsewhere on the mountain, on his way to the stable Kaji unexpectedly encountered Hu-noz. After observing him a moment he called out… “Brother’. What happened to you?”

“Na-ni?” he replied.

“You’re limping.”

“Ah-so,” he remorsefully replied. “I was caught stealing rice cakes.”

“From the kitchen?”

“Hai.”

 “Did Storm punish you?”

“No,” he said sheepishly. “Storm caught me but I ran. That ‘ocaya’ (teahouse) girl tripped me with a cooking pan. Now the others are teaching her martial arts. Jangmi gave her three of her rose-tipped darts and Silence has promised to teach her ‘invisible threads.”

“You’re talking about the girl who refuses to return home?” asked Kaji.

“Hai.”

“She is a mystery,” mused Kaji. “Chiharu sent Hae-yu to Tsukimi to inform her family where she is and that she is being well cared for. Chiharu didn’t want them to worry.”

“Why didn’t Chiharu just send her with Hae-yu?”

“She doesn’t want to return home.” replied Kaji. “Not without the Left Hand of God. I think she likes him.”

“But they are not together,” declared Hu-noz.

“They’re not a couple,” said Kaji, “but she favors him. She told Sky and Ice that if she couldn’t be by his side she would be content to remain behind him. Either way, she is determined to stay close to him until they return to Tsukimi.”

“So-da-ka’ (I see),” said Hu-noz. “Maybe she’s gone crazy. I think most everyone here is crazy.”

“Everyone?”

“Well, everyone except you and I…but at times I have my doubts about you.”

“Are you trying to be funny?” asked Kaji with a hint of frustration

“Who knows?” replied Hu-noz with a casual shrug of his shoulders.

“Where were you going?” Kaji asked.

“To help Mifune clean the library and main storage building.”

“You won’t find him in the library. I saw him just a few minutes ago. He was on his way to the main storage building.”

“You spoke to him?”

“Hai. He was complaining because he had to clean the library himself. Now that I think about it, he asked if I had seen you this morning.”

“Well,” said Hu-noz, “when you talk to him again you can tell him you saw me.”

Kaji watched as he turned and set out for the storage building, then, as if the thought just struck him, he yelled… “Baka! Tell him yourself when you get there…”

Sometime later, Hu-noz had stopped what he was doing to watch spellbound as Mifune worked vigorously with robot like determination. Finally unable to restrain himself any longer, he asked… “Is that really you?”

“Nani? What do you mean to imply?” snapped Mifune.

“It just isn’t like you to strive so earnest and enthusiastically. It’s not in your nature. You finished the library before I arrived and now we’re half finished with the storage building. For you to work like that…actually it seems impossible. If you aren’t careful others may suspect you’re a duplicate, and then you’ll have to be confined like Fire.”

“What others? You perhaps?”

“Others,” said Hu-noz. “Perhaps Water, Wind or worse…maybe Storm.”

“Nonsense. They’re always complaining that I don’t do enough.”

“Precisely my point…” Hu-noz began.

“They won’t notice,” reasoned Mifune. “Keep in mind, Kwai said, what seems impossible is only illusion.”

Hu-noz looked at him incredulously a moment, then said… “That statement has nothing to do with you. He was speaking about all the magical mayhem that has plagued our peaceful existence recently.”

Mifune considered the possibility Hu-noz was right, then conceded.

“Maybe you’ve got something there. This isn’t the time to change my habits. If I’m suspect, Chiharu just might sedate me and lock me away with Fire. The last thing I need is to be shut in a room with her. That sister of Ice has always been moody, but now she’s pure pandemonium.”

Later that night, unable to sleep, Chiharu rose and walked outside the shrine to gaze at the night sky. At that moment Bara had given up on sleep and had risen as well. Not wanting to disturb Night, she left their room and went to the hallway where she opened a window to peer outside. She had a good view of the sky, and of the dojo, where she saw someone standing on the front landing staring up at Hawk’s private building. It was Kwai, who likewise found it impossible to sleep.

The three of them sensed something was astir. Something ominous was happening at that moment that meant danger for all of them. Meanwhile, the false Fire lay shackled and grinning in her chamber as the evil stirred in the vaulted cavern beneath Hawk’s building.  She knew it was creating lethal ‘shadows’ with pieces of itself…dark minions that were solidifying to act as arms and legs capable of doing what at the moment the entity could not do. Entrapped in the catacombs that snaked far and deep into the earth, it could only entice and lure weak-minded individuals within its range of influence. Otherwise, it could not reach out and physically to touch any of the inhabitants of the mountain retreat.

At that moment, in the samurai’s room, a concerned Asako watched helplessly as Sung Ji, plagued by nightmares, tossed and turned on his palette. She, like Chiharu, Bara and Kwai, sensed the entity’s present movements and chaotic intentions. And although she feared it, she was determined to protect the swordsman at all costs, regardless of any danger to herself. Whether or not it could actually do her harm was something of which she was uncertain, but based on her recent experience in Hawk’s private abode, she knew it frightened her.

 


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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