The Moonlit Corridor

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

Chapter 76 (v.1) - heroic choice

Submitted: September 10, 2019

Reads: 62

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Submitted: September 10, 2019

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Bound for Tsukimi, the samurai’s party rode two abreast along the path that meandered from the Shrine of Autumn Mists and through the age old trees, but when they reached the steep, narrow trail that led downward alongside the mountain they were forced to go single file. Silence took the lead, followed by Kwai, Minori, Sky, Bara, Ice, Asuka and Sung Ji. All was proceeding without incident as they began the arduous descent, until the unexpected happened…a random act of nature leading to what some members of the group would latter think of as the unimaginable.

Perhaps initially startled and then agitated by the close proximity of the animals in front of hers, a serpent beneath a fallen branch wall side of the trail suddenly surfaced and launched itself at the fore legs of Asuka’s horse. Frightened, it immediately reared up on its hind legs and lurched dangerously close to the edge. It would most assuredly have gone over the side if not for the equally quick reaction of the samurai. With no concern for his own safety he spurred his black Arabian forward and against the left side of the girl’s horse, forcing the animal back onto the path. The impact, however, dislodged him from the saddle.

 The others turned to look just in time to see him fall silently from the precarious height. The shock of the moment left everyone speechless save for Asuka, whose mournful scream set Silence into action. Jumping from her saddle she began rapidly climbing down the cliff side.

“Take my horse,” she yelled to Kwaii as Asuka grasped the reins of the Arabian. “I can reach Sung Ji faster this way.”

 

Several minutes later, Silence had descended the mountain and was the first to reach the place where the samurai landed. It took the others longer to arrive, having to descend the lengthy trail and then back along a differentpath that led to this point at base of the escarpment. Seated on a rock, Silence stood when she saw them. She was stoic as they anxiously dismounted, and looking at Kwai, moved her head side to side to indicate their worst fears. Asuka, who had come up from behind Kwai, almost knocked him off balance as she grasped one of his arms to refrain from collapsing as her legs buckled from shock. She looked pleadingly at Silence, the pain and anguish she felt reflected in her distended eyes. Sadly, Silence repeated her head action, indicating ‘no’… Ahn Sung Ji didn’t survive the fall.

Asuka suddenly wailed incoherently, sounding like the cry of a wounded lost soul, then just as quickly went silent.

“Sister…” intoned Bara helplessly.

“How could that happen?” moaned Ice. “How could he die like that…just falling from his horse?”

“He didn’t just die falling from a horse,” said Sky. “He perished while saving a young girl’s life.”

“Hai,” agreed Silence. “For so long he blamed himself for the death of a young girl, a woodsman’s daughter. It tormented him. But today he didn’t think twice. He died as he lived…as a protector and hero.”

They all became silent again as Asuka, who had been leaning on Kwai, released her hold on his arm and took a few uneasy steps forward. Silence abruptly positioned herself in front of the distraught girl in an attempt to block her advance. Kwai signaled for her to step aside. “Let her go to him,” he said.

Silence nodded in agreement, allowing Asuka to approach. “He’s just beyond the large boulder,” she said, “on the rocks close to the brush. It isn’t pretty…”

Asuka didn’t speak. She walked as if in a trance to where he lay, halted and stood as motionless as a statue, staring helplessly at his lifeless form. Momentarily she knelt down, removed the veil Silence had laid over his face and abruptly reached for and removed the dagger from his obi. Silence, fearing she would suicide, bolted forward as Kwai quickly reacted.

“Hold!” he shouted at Asuka. “Death should never be a choice. Its nature is to choose us when we least expect. Those who choose death may find worse suffering awaiting them, dark things beyond one’s ability to imagine.”

Silence halted when he yelled. Both she and Asuka paused as he spoke, then the heartbroken girl revealed; “You misunderstand…” after which she unpinned and let down her long, beautiful black velvet hair and using his dagger, began to methodically slice it off just below the ears.

“Sister’…” repeated Bara as tears ran down her cheeks.

Elsewhere, in her nether-space between this world and the next, the very moment that Sung Ji fell from his horse, Asako snapped to consciousness. Almost an instant later, the moment he struck the rocks below the cliff, she felt as if her heart had been pierced by a razor tipped arrow and her soul struck by the most intense feeling of dread and helplessness she had ever experienced while alive…or since.


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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