Chapter 74: the joining

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

Reads: 116

“Asuka chan…” voiced Ice slowly, while Kwai and the others could only stare in stunned disbelief at the girl’s still and broken body.

“Il-lu-su-ga’ (No – as in ‘that couldn’t have just happened’)!” screamed Sung Ji as he tightly gripped the star sword with both hands. The archaic weapon began to pulsate and radiate a golden incandescence as if in readiness for battle against the darkest forces of the netherworld.

As though sensing an immediate threat, the entity turned its head quickly to once again to face the samurai, while in Hawk’s chamber the false Fire managed to break away from Mifune and Kaji who were distracted by the confusion of the moment.

“Somebody stop her!” yelled Sky, but it was too late. The duplicate Fire moved with blinding speed toward the evil’s lair, only to explode in a cloud of burning ash the moment her body made contact with the invisible barrier. Minori sent a second enchanted arrow flying, piercing first the barrier and then the entity’s head. It did so harmlessly, as if the creature was made of smoke. The arrow did cause it to flinch, fade and re-stabilize as it turned its flame red eyes to the motley group assembled on Hawk’s side of the transparent containment wall. For just a moment Sensei Hawk’s words, the ones voiced before his death, echoed in the entity’s mind; “It must be the weather…flies are abuzz all around me…” But the evil knew that was a lame comparison. They were much more than that. Capable, lethal, and more like a swarm of militant bees.

Distracted momentarily by its thoughts and Minori’s arrow, it was unaware that Asako, invisible to everyone, had rushed to Asuka’s crumpled body. Satisfied there was still a small spark of life in the stricken and unconscious girl, she immediately merged her spirit with what was left of Asuka’s. By possessing her body, she combined her own spiritual ‘chi’ (energy) with the wounded girl’s, first mending and then reanimating her.

Asuka arose haphazardly, struggling to stand as her twisted and broken body jerked and trembled while mending. Once erect, her head still drooped awkwardly to one side, as if her neck was boneless. It was a macabre sight, until Asako’s magic reversed and corrected the damage. She raised her head then and her closed eyes opened to reveal only white, colorless orbs. She blinked slowly three times, then stared straight ahead with blue eyes, vacantly at first, as if having just awakened.

The evil was moderately shocked to see the broken girl standing, and at once knew that Asako had merged her spirit with what was left of hers. Likewise, Bara sensed the joining of the two, and began to glow, her body surrounded by a golden nimbus just as it was when she passed unharmed beneath the cursed torii. As the others watched mesmerized, she walked toward the invisible barrier without pausing and stepped through it as if it no longer was there.

The entity appeared apprehensive as it watched Bara walk slowly toward Asuka, who reached out a hand to receive the one offered by the approaching girl. They clasped hands and both faced the evil then, while Asuka began to shine like Bara. Together they projected such an extreme brilliance that everyone there was forced to shield their eyes. The light went from golden to bright white, reminding the samurai of the white light he saw Asako’s parents emerge from in the Moon Temple the night of his battle with Miyamoto.

The evil, its face now distorted and twisted in agony, began to wail like a lost soul. It reluctantly retreated back into the dark recesses of the cavern to escape the brightness, it’s cacophony of cries and curses echoing and fading into the gloom. Without hesitation, Sung Ji moved to follow, determined to put an end to the evil’s existence, or perish in the process.

“Samurai!” a voice sounded.

He turned to face the girls. The brilliance had faded but Sung Ji was still forced to lower his eyes and shield them with his right hand. It was Bara who had spoken… “Samurai,” she repeated in a more subdued tone. “Don’t follow that thing. It isn’t what you saw. It isn’t tangible and has already been absorbed by the shadows from whence it came.”

“You can’t defeat it…” said Asuka, but it wasn’t her voice.

The samurai was motionless. He didn’t just hear the girl speak; her voice seemed to waft across the distance that separated them and lightly touch him. No longer affected by the light, he gazed at her blue eyes, and suddenly it seemed as if she were standing only inches away.

“Asako…” he heard himself saying.

She smiled warmly, knowing that he recognized ‘her’ in Asuka chan. As the others watched, the two girls, hand in hand, began to walk slowly toward Sung Ji.

“You trust me, don’t you…” said Asako-Asuka. “It’s useless to follow that degenerate creature.”

The samurai was silent as they approached. When the pair was within reach, they paused in front of him and she spoke again… “Give her the Heaven blessed sword…” she said as Bara extended her right hand.

Sung Ji hesitated.

“My rose is burning,” said Bara hypnotically. “I must have the sword…”

Time seemed to stand still while those assembled in Hawk’s chamber nervously stood by. “What is he doing?” asked Sky. “Is he going to hand her the star sword?”

“It could be a trick,” declared Storm. “The evil may have possessed them.”

“Patience,” said Kwai, after which he turned his attention to Minori, who had already notched an arrow to her bowstring. “Hold back,” he told her. “Just wait…”

“Hai,” she obediently replied.

Inside the cavern, the samurai was frozen by indecision.

“The entity cannot be destroyed by us,” said Asako-Asuka. “At best it can be weakened and restrained. You trust me, don’t you?” she asked.

“Dea,” he replied slowly while looking deeply into her eyes of innocence.

“Let Bara have the weapon. She knows what to do.”

As Kwai and the others waited in patient anticipation, Sung Ji placed the star sword in Bara’s hand. Instantly it glowed anew, further illuminating the twilight cavern. Bara smiled and then turned toward the darkened tunnel into which the evil retreated. At the entrance she raised the sword above her head, the blade pointed downward. With a single action she lowered the weapon, embedding it deep within the solid stone floor as effortlessly as one would if the ground were made of sand. The sword radiated tenfold before sending a beam of light into the mouth of the abyss. Within moments the angry, frustrated wails and curses of the entity echoed from deep within the darkness, then slowly died away.

“It cannot pass beyond this point,” Bara proclaimed as she faced the samurai. “It can neither leave this place, nor cause any more harm to the inhabitants of this mountain retreat.”

Sung Ji sighed. It seemed too simple. He expected a hard-fought battle at the very least, perhaps even his own destruction, based on his premonition the day he, Silence, Kwai and Asuka arrived at the mountain. But it all ended because of a petite girl, a golden nimbus and an inverted sword.

“What is it?” he heard a lyrical voice speak.

He looked that direction and saw Asuka chan approaching. He watched as though under a spell as she walked slowly toward him, reaching her hands out to grasp his. They touched and when close enough to embrace she tilted her head back and gazed into his eyes. He didn’t see her eyes; he saw Asako’s… “Tsukiakari no kairou wo oboete’ (Remember the moonlit corridor),” she whispered.

It was something only Asako would have said; words only significant to him. In that moment everything and everyone around him faded away and only she remained. She closed her eyes, awaiting the gentle touch of his lips on her own. He lowered his head, kissed her tenderly, and Asako’s spirit soared.

On the opposite side of the barrier, Kwai and the others could only watch, not all of them silently; “Op-pah!” exclaimed Jangmi in shock.

“Asuka chan…?” said Sky and Ice slowly and in unison.

“What the…!” declared Storm. “Did he just kiss her?”

It was over in a moment, and as Sung Ji raised his head the innkeeper’s daughter opened her eyes. He watched spellbound as the blue of her eyes was slowly replaced by brown. Asako had left and it was Asuka chan whose hands he held. She gasped, demurely lowered her eyes and bowed her head. He released her hands and quickly turned his face from her, embarrassed. Asuka’s legs went weak, almost causing her to collapse, but Bara was suddenly beside her for support. Although self-conscious and shy, the innkeeper’s daughter was elated, happy beyond words and her heart beat so rapidly she imagined it would burst.

Asako, meanwhile, felt a tinge of jealously, as it was Asuka’s lips the samurai kissed, but she had felt it as if he had kissed her directly. Having possessed the girl for a short time, she knew Asuka’s heart and mind, and knew that her love for Sung Ji was innocent and pure. Too, she left enough of her own spiritual essence in Asuka chan that she understood Asako’s likewise simple and undemanding love for the samurai.

“We should get Fire and the villager,” said Asuka, “and leave this place.”

“Dea,” the samurai agreed, and then went directly to the recess where he had left them. He helped the villager to stand, while Asuka and Bara saw to Fire.

The former captives were weak, but semi-conscious and able to stand and walk with help. When the five of them reached the barrier Bara told them to shield their eyes and follow her, after which she began to glow and with a wave of an arm created a temporary opening through which they were able to pass unharmed. Ice immediately ran to her sister, followed by Sky and Storm.

Mifune and Kaji stepped forward to take the villager from the samurai, who seemed to be somewhat detached.

“What is it?” asked Kwai. “Something on your mind?”

“That was uneventful…almost too easy. I feel as though I’ve done nothing.”

“Quite the contrary,” replied Kwai. “Because you entered the evil’s lair, you kept it preoccupied, which allowed the rest of us to arrive without incident. Because of your help the entity was driven back into the darkness. Had not brought the star sword Bara would never have been able to place it in the stone, preventing the entity from leaving the subterranean cavern. It has been contained, which is all that could have possibly been done.”

Water interrupted them then, suggesting they hurry back to the shrine… “I’m certain Chiharu is beside herself with worry.”

Submitted: September 06, 2019

© Copyright 2020 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.


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