July 23, 2010

Okurokami - part 3

Teruro had barely taken ten paces from the hut when an arrow streaked from within the hut straight towards the back of his head. Immediately followed by Takeko charging forward with a spear. Teruro spun and laughed with an expression of unbound glee on his face as he sliced the arrow in mid air with his sword.

He roared “Good! Now come at me!”

Before the two pieces of the split arrow had hit the ground Takeko’s spear was flashing towards Teruro’s heart only to be bashed away by a flick of his katana.

In an instant they had regained their distances and were facing each other in their ready stances. They gauged each other’s skills and tried to read what move the other would next make… The intensity of their gazes was as extraordinary as the visible contrast in their characters. Even in his ready stance, he projected the fluidity and looseness of a dancing flame, something inherently natural, neither good nor evil but intransigently dangerous; she, on the other hand, seemed still like the surface of a frozen pond, in absolute control of herself, as if mastering her body and emotions through the power of unshakeable reason and certainty.

The rustling fronds of bamboo swayed in the breeze that carried a stray leaf on its meandering way between them.

He sheathed his sword in one liquid motion and chuckled softly.
“You are not afraid. You attacked without warning using a bow, and charged. You understand.” There no reproach in his voice, only surprise and respect.

She rested the butt of her spear on the ground and nodded, “Of course.”

“Go get what you need, we have a ways to go before nightfall.”

She walked back into the house and returned a few minutes later carrying her sheathed spear and a small pack on her back to which her unstrung bow, a small bundle of arrows, and the small box containing the square of black cloth were affixed. Teruro got up from the rock he was sitting on and started walking. Takeko followed, leaving behind her the only home she had ever known.

“You don’t seem too distraught about leaving this place.”
“I’m not. The time for me to be here has passed and so I am leaving…” Showing the first sign of any kind of emotion since he first met her she added, “I enjoyed my time here and I will miss my master’s friendship, but there is a time to lay roots as there is a time to cut them.”

Teruro nodded and walked on.

Several hours later, dusk was settling into darkness. The two had eaten their meagre meal and were facing each other from either side of a small campfire.

“I noticed you took the box with you. Why bother?” he asked.

She regarded him with puzzlement, “You really didn’t see anything special when you looked into the cloth, did you… Are you sure that you’re really a human being and not a fox or a raccoon in disguise?”

He grinned crookedly and replied “I’ve been told often enough that I’m inhuman… But I can tell you this, I was born from a human mother and that my father was quite human as well. What was I supposed to see in the cloth?” 
“Other people witness the truths they hide from themselves in the cloth…” she said quietly.
“Hmm… And what do you see there?”
“I see the truth as well, but of things that have happened or that are likely to happen.”
He rubbed his unshaven chin thoughtfully, “Is that so… So you have visions?”
She silently nodded.
“What did you last see?”

 Picture from an Alaskan fishing tour company.