Chapter 12 - Fight
A cricket. There was only one - just in the bushes beyond the courtyard. Remy could hear it now - clear as day.
To the death is what he said, right?
Remy wanted to asked if she heard correctly. Was this kid for real? She starred at the kid as the kid starred at Hisao. His face was set with a fierce determination. His mouth drooped in a frown and his breathe heaved audibly. He looked nervous.
Rojin had hit the boy about the back of the head.
“Aaayuushh,” said Rojin, “Don’t be so stupid. No one is going to fight you to the death. What nonsense! Life should not be wasted so senselessly. What would your parents say if you went back home dead?”
Remy didn’t think it possible but the kid’s frown deepened.
“I am a Son of Gennu and I answer to him only. He demands his warriors be fierce and to never waiver in the face of death! I’m not afraid - I’m here to battle him,” the boy yelled, “to banish the evil Children of K’aos from the land - the last remaining spawn of Obwatu.”
Remy knew there was definitely some words in the boy’s outburst that she did not recognize. K’aos? Obwatu? Remy made a mental note to ask Rojin about it later. She was more taken by the kid’s passion. It was fierce. So fierce, in fact, that Remy found herself wanting to edge way from him. She looked to Hisao for any hint of how to take this kid - was this a serious situation? And was this kid implying somehow that Hisao was one of these “evil” people?
In science, sometimes the absence of information can tell a researcher more than a positive result - and that’s what Hisao gave her. His face devoid emotion but for the tiniest flicker in his eye. Remy couldn’t define exactly what the flicker meant - only that for now, Hisao was in business mode. Not good.
Rojin sighed, “Talked this kid out of this, Hisao. He doesn’t know what he’s saying.”
“Shut it old man! I know exactly what -”
“Boy,” Hisao voice was clear and crisp, “I will fight you.”
“Hisao…” protested Rojin.
Hisao ignored Rojin’s plea and continued, “I will fight you - but not to the death. Instead, it will be a wager. If you defeat me I will return with you to you’re Temple of Gennu and be dealt with according to his wishes. If I win…”
Remy watched the boy straighten his back and his jaw stiffened. He was intrigued.
“I win and for one week you will remain at this Temple and for one week you will walk without Gennu as your guide.”
The boy’s fist clenched and Remy could swear she could hear his teeth grind. The boy dropped his gaze from Hisao to the ground. Remy could tell he was thinking about it - hard.
“A minute ago you were willing to risk your life. Now what makes you so unsure? You don’t plan on losing do you?” said HIsao.
“Of course I don’t,” spat the boy.
He fell silent again. Remy had never been dedicated to any faith back at on Earth - but she could see how asking someone to abandon theirs might be considered worst than death - even if it was for a short time. She hoped this wasn’t the case. The boy looked so young and to be involved with such extreme beliefs gave Remy a bitter taste in her mouth. Remy felt herself bite her bottom lip. This Gennu god was not leaving her with a good first impression.
“Well…” said Hisao
“It’s a deal,” answered the boy.
There was no hand shake - Remy had half expected one. Instead, Hisao and the boy gave each a shallow nod to confirm the agreement.
“Ooooh aaayuussh,” said Rojin, “what trouble… what trouble this is…”
The four of them trekked through the woods. Hisao leading followed by the boy, then Remy, then Rojin. The path they walked was well worn and headed east along the side of the mountain. Rojin had requested they ‘do battle’ outside of the temple grounds. Hisao suggested that he knew a place.
Remy barely had to argue to come along. Just as Hisao and her were getting started Rojin interjected with a simple, “it’s time, Hisao.”
A mysterious statement, no doubt. What had they been hiding from her until now? Remy could only speculate. Judging by the fact that they were now headed toward a “battlefield” and that clearly two armed, well-trained men were about to fight - Remy figured that it had to be something to do with the Qi energy. That maybe she would finally get to see a live example of how ‘warriors’ harnessed this energy. But was this ‘Gennu’ anything like what she read in the Memoirs of Orodoki? Doubt flitted in her mind - perhaps this was all metaphorical and that this Qi was merely a strength derived from faith and nothing more. That the books she studied were nothing more than words on a page.
But she was sure she had felt something when she caught those eggs….
“Hey boy,” Rojin’s voice carried itself over Remy to the kid who walked in front of her, “what’s your name Oh Great Son of Gennu?”
Remy watched the boy shift his pack, the blunt end of the spear nearly grazed the ground. His pack looked old compared to the robes her wore. The matching wrappings and the overall tidiness of his attire made Remy feel like his was wearing a uniform. The boy turned his head slightly to answer.
“Juyong. It’s Juyong Gu.”
“Gu, you say?” said Rojin, “Hmmm…. Does your teacher know about your current endeavour? Because if they were the one to send you - you may want to consider finding a new one.”
Juyong scoffed. He shifted his attention back to the path in front of him and continued to walk. Remy had to wonder - was the kid here on his own? Remy didn’t know much about Hisao’s skills but she can assume by the age difference alone that Juyong was at a disadvantage. Or so that’s what she hoped, at least.
Remy didn’t know how exactly how this battle would go. She had never seen a martial fight before. Regardless, she decided to take her med bag with her - just in case. Her eyes darted to the spear that stuck out from Juyong’s pack. The weapon reached far past the top of his head. The blade was wide and instead of coming to a point it was curved up like a decorative sword and was about a foot in length. It could be used to pierce things but the style looked like it would do better if one were to slash with it. Remy remembered Hisao’s wound from the first time she met him. It was a fight, she realized…. a fight just like this one that nearly took his life.
It wasn’t long before the trees and foliage broke and the path opened up to an expansive field. The earth was unbroken and was seeded with short grass and stunted brush. Rocks protruded here and there reminding them they were still on the side of a mountain. To the north the mountain continued up - but to how high, Remy couldn’t tell as the peak sat further beyond the crest of the nearest hill. To the south….
Remy’s breath was taken away. The field gave a clear view from the side the mountain. Land stretched on for miles. Remy could see the road that led to their town, Yodakodun, and even the Yodakodun itself. She could see the river where she found Hisao and beyond that she could even see another town - larger than Yodakodun - it was probably Ibikosun. If it were a clearer day Remy wondered just how far she would be able to see. But for now, Ibikosun was the furthest. After that the sky melted into the earth in a grey haze.
It was a beautiful sight but for some reason it made her heart sink. Homesickness. It had a tendency to sneak in when she dropped her guard, if only for a moment. She shooked it off and turned her back to the view. Today was an important day - today she was going to see if the Qi of Faith really existed. And if it did then perhaps it really could be something that could help her get home.
Juyong had removed his pack and set it by Rojin who sat comfortably on a wide rock off to the northern edge of the field. Remy went to join him as Hisao an Juyong took their positions at the center of the field. It was strange, but seeing Hisao standing there in the yellowing late afternoon sun made the remaining thoughts of home slip from her mind. She became focused - her stomach tightened with anticipation.
The men stood about 30 feet apart. Juyong straighten his weapon, setting the base on the ground at his feet and the blade in line with his face. Hisao removed his sword from his belt. One hand rested on the hilt with the other secure on the black sheath - the blade remained undrawn.
Juyong spun the spear above his head and sunk into a deep wide stance. He swung the weapon down and directed it so that the point faced Hisao. Before Hisao had even begun to removed his blade from its sheath, Juyong charged. He closed the distance of 30 feet in only a few seconds. Remy watched as his blade moved in a swirl of blurs. It slashed and swept around Hisao. Hisao moved quickly though, just as fast as Juyong blade. Hisao dipped and side stepped and occasionally brought his sheath sword up to deflect Juyong’s attack.
Juyong was grunting in frustration. He swung his blade wide - sweeping it around his back and over his head. To gain momentum, Remy watched Juyong throw his whole body into the air to spin along with his ferocious blade. Hisao moved out of the way just in time as the blade came smashing down. As it struck earth Remy heard a tremendous crash that made her rise to her feet. Juyong’s blade had cut right through solid rock, splintering it as if it were a piece of wood.
The words had spilled out of her mouth unconsciously. How in the on earth? No… this wasn’t earth. On earth a human male would not be able to accomplish such a feat. On earth it would take bloody jackhammer to do what that kid just did. Remy gaped. It was like the two men hadn’t even noticed. Hisao, though focused on the fight, hadn’t even drawn his sword in response to the obvious danger.
Hisao continued to dodge and deflect Juyong advances. Remy watched him leap from side to side, his agility beyond what she could fathom. He was able to casually cover so much distance, moving five to ten feet with each stride. The two men moved across the battlefield covering an unsurmountable amount of ground. When Hisao dodged backward he was easily clearing 15 feet.
This must be the Qi. No man could move like that. It was unhuman. Remy was afraid to blink. Afraid to miss any moment of it. The shear power from the both of them… she had never seen anything like it - she couldn’t have - there was nothing on earth to which it compared.
Juyong grunted more frequently now - each time landing vicious strikes upon the earth. Dirt and stones were launched in air as his blade cut deep with every missed attack. Hisao still hadn’t struck back. One final clash of spear blade against sword sheath the men jumped back - again putting a distance of 30 feet between the two of them.
Juyong heaved. He chest moving quickly up and down. He reached his hand up to his headband and tugged it loose. He looped it around the based of his blade and tide it off. Remy watched the material dance in the wind - floating like a banner for Juyong’s Gennu.
“Draw your sword,” called Juyong.
Hisao didn’t answer. He stood with his hands by his sides, his blade still tucked safely away.
“DRAW YOUR SWORD!” shouted Juyong. His voice shook with anger.
“ooooh my,” said Rojin. Remy looked over to find it that his comment wasn’t directed at her. Rojin’s eyes were locked on the boy. Remy couldn’t see what Juyong face looked like from where her and Rojin were but it was like she could almost feel that it was twisted into a furious rage.
The rage Remy felt emanating from Juyong took the form in a frustrated roar. His voice echoed against the mountain side. With that, he grabbed knot of his headband near the base of his blade. He pulled the loose material away from the blade and let it slide through his closed fist. As it passed through his hand and out the other end…. it was on fire. Juyong dropped the flaming material and brought his hand up in a sweeping motion past the blade itself. The flames followed - igniting the weapon from the makeshift tassel to the very tip. Juyong now wielded a blade of fire.
Remy felt her knees weaken…. It wasn’t possible. You can’t create something from nothing. It must be an elaborate trick. As soon as he starts to move the flame had to go out, right? Was this all for show? For intimidation? She looked to Hisao. He lacked any signs of astonishment, he looked almost… disappointed?
Juyong brought the flaming blade above his head and began to spin the weapon. The faster he spun it the larger the flames grew until it look like a continuous circle of fire. He launched into an attack. The flames trailed behind each move. They leapt and licked Juyong as he moved from stance to stance. He was dancing through them - and together it made it seem like there was more than one weapon assaulting Hisao.
Then Remy saw it. There was something different about the way Juyong was attacking Hisao. Instead of swing wide arcing attacks, his range was more concentrated. She saw that his hands were farther up the handle of his weapon - that they sat closer to the flame bearing blade. He was thrusting in between his short sweeps and Hisao was being forced to deflect using his sheath more and more frequently. Juyong must have figured out that Hisao was faster than he was - that he had to change his game to keep up.
Juyong shouted again and a blast of flames extended out from the tip of his blade - grazing past Hisao’s left shoulder. Hisao barely made it out of the way.
It had happened so quickly that Remy nearly missed it. During Hisao’s dodge there was a flash. A flash of metal catching sunlight. Remy saw Juyong cry out and stumble back.
For a moment Juyong lowered his firey blade. Remy could see his face - and she could see that there blood was spilling down from Juyong’s brow and onto his cheek. Hisao had cut him above the eye. The blood gushed - it poured like a waterfall, completely covering Juyong’s right eye.
Hisao sword sat unsheathed. The sun latched onto the blade making it glare harshly. Juyong was heaving more deeply now, his exhales accompanied by savage grunts. He took his hand and brought it to the flaming blade, he swept the flames downward along the handle of his spear. The fire followed hungrily igniting the weapon from tip to based.
Remy couldn’t believe it. Juyong had his hand in the flames and still gripped to the weapon’s handle. She had barely begun processing that information when Juyong leapt into action again.
He became a flurry of fire. With every sweep giant arcs of flames followed. His reach extended three fold and he chased Hisao around the battle field with a giant snake-like stream of fire. Hisao could not stop moving - not for a moment. If he did - oh god, what would she do? Remy would have to treat burns… she didn’t have the stuff for that - not in her med bag. What was she going to do? How was she to -
Hisao had disappeared. She had been watching him. She hadn’t taken her eyes of him. Where had he gone? In that instant Juyong was sent flying back. The boy was launched into the air and hit the ground 50 feet from where he had been standing. He tumbled to a stop then struggled to get up.
Hisao was standing from where Juyong had been launched. His blade was back in his sheath. He was waiting patiently for Juyong to regain his footing.
As soon as Juyong could stand he returned to his fighting stance, though wavering slightly. He didn’t hesitate for long. Juyong ran at Hisao again - blade held straight up above his head creating a flag of trailing fire. He swung the blade forward and launched the whole collection of flames from its tip. The fireball sailed through the air toward Hisao.
Remy watched close this time. Again she nearly missed it. Hisao dodged and closed the distance between he and Juyong in less than a second. Juyong didn’t even have to turn his head as Hisao darted past - Hisao was just too fast. Before Juyong could react Hisao brought his sheathed sword down across the back of Juyong’s right shoulder. The forced carried through Juyong’s body and flung him face first into the ground.
His spear tumbled to the side. It’s flames snuffed out.