Chapter 9 - Friendship
The morning sun peaked through the leaves of the high canopy sprinkling the temple courtyard with golden flecks of dancing light. Remy stretched her arm out in front of her with her palm face up and her elbow slightly bent. Concentrating hard on keeping her stance she brought her other arm up close near the center her torso and extended it out in front of her in a similar manner. Slower. Move Slower. Her eyes darted to Rojin who stood beside her holding the same position. Good. She was keeping pace with him still.
When she had first joined in with the morning meditation Remy found it easy to keep pace with Rojin and Hisao. She even sometimes felt as though she was lagging behind - not knowing exactly which movements came when. It didn’t take her long to memorize the series of positions and when she did she began blowing past Rojin’s lead glancing over to find herself several stances ahead of him. It took her another two weeks to discover that the pride did not come from simply knowing the movements but instead perfecting them.
Remy shifted into the next position sweeping her back foot out in a wide controlled arc bringing to a stop inches away from her front foot. She curled up the heal so that only the ball of her foot touched the ground. Her palms flipped inward and in a fluid movement she scooped the air in front of her and pushed it away. The transfer in the stance took minutes to complete and for every moment Remy urged herself to stay present with her body. Her feet on the ground, her hips stable, her core firm. She drew power from her solid foundation in order to manipulate the motion she made with her arms. She focused on feeling the movement of the air around her and tried to imagine how her hands made it swirl in front of her. She could almost feel it tickle her skin, lapping along her arms and flowing through her fingers. A gas was a fluid after all.
The feeling was rewarding and Remy always felt more relaxed afterward. The time spent with her body made her feel more limber. Remy had never considered herself a graceful person - but after six weeks of meditative exercises she felt more in control than ever before. Her feet felt more sure on the ground and she would catch herself before knocking something over or from stumbling over an unforeseen obstacle. Even something as simple as reaching for salt on the table Remy felt like the movements of her hand held a grace similar to what she had seen in movies about Victorian royalty - delicate and soft, free of clumsy redundancies.
Her and Rojin came to their last stance finishing their meditative dance. Remy slowly brought her hands down to her sides, she turned to Rojin and gave him a deep bow.
“Thank you, teacher,” said Remy. Rojin returned the bow but quickly switched from formalities to his comically wide grin.
“My girl, you are learning so quickly,” he beamed, “you never cease to surprise me.”
Remy smiled gratefully. His compliment was genuine and his eyes shone. For having landed in a strange world she couldn’t have ended up in the care of a kinder person. Remy bowed again in thanks.
It had been nearly seven weeks since she arrived in this world. From the moment she realized that she was not on earth Remy had vowed not to give up hope. She would find the answers to why she ended up here - simply chalking it up to divine intervention would not suffice. In order to find what she was seeking Remy would have to come to learn the ways of the world and that meant asking A LOT of questions. When she followed Hisao from that market back to the temple that fateful day she came up with a plan. She would learn the language, then she would find a way to travel to where there were institutions of knowledge. She hoped - if the world wasn’t too primitive - that she could find people who would take her case seriously and would help her find her way home. That day Remy placed her faith in reason. There had to be a reason for what happened to her and she would not rest until she discovered it.
Remy pulled at the bottom of her tunic - straightening it after their exercises. Remy wore a sleeveless robe that was tied about her waist with a belt. The robe was short and reached about mid thigh. Underneath it she wore a pair of fitted shorts. Her feet sported wrappings for stocking that tucked into slipper like shoes. Days after it was decided that she would be staying at the temple, Rojin brought her some new clothes. She didn’t ask where they had come from - more so because she really didn’t know how at that point - but she did show great gratitude. Rojin had even supplied her with stylish robes for visiting town - similar in fashion to what Remy saw the women wearing in the market. Food, clothing, and basic living necessities were are given to her by Rojin. He was a good man and Remy promised herself that she would repay him somehow in the future.
Rojin had turned to go inside leaving Remy in the middle of the courtyard.
“Rojin,” she called, “meet you in the dojo for my lesson after breakfast?”
Rojin threw his hands up and spun on the spot, “Aiyeeee…. That’s right - no language lesson today Remy. I have a meeting in the village. Can’t miss it. Aiiiiyussh, you’ll have to be on your own - ”
Rojin rubbed a hand through his hair and paused. Remy was about to say it was alright when Hisao rounded the corner of the temple. Rojin’s attention shifted to the new arrival and he called greeting to Hisao. He was back early from his trip to a larger town about a weeks travel from the temple. Remy was surprised too - he had managed the trip in only six days when it should’ve taken double that. She would’ve doubted he had even gone but the size of the pack he carried was clearly loaded with the goods he went to pick up. He didn’t even look tired - just standing there lazily as per usual, his bored eyes surveying the courtyard.
“Oh - perfect! Hisao - you can help Remy with her lesson this morni-”
They had shouted it at the same time. Remy and Hisao glanced at each to other then turned on Rojin. Remy spoke first.
“I mean - no thanks. I’m fine. I had plans for this afternoon and I’ll just get an early start on them,” she said. Remy did her best to recover her composure and saw Hisao do the same out of the corner of her eye. There was no way she was going to let him teach her again.
Hisao shrugged, “Suits me.”
Remy turned away from the two men. She didn’t want Hisao to see her scowl. Of course he would say that - acting all nonchalant and cool. Remy headed toward the dojo but failed to get two steps from where she was before Rojin called to her.
“Don’t forget to collect the eggs, Remy!”
Right. Remy took a sharp right and headed toward the bathhouse. She had come to feel rather at home. The four buildings that had looked so strange to her now brought her comfort. On the most northern edge of the courtyard sat the dojo and was opposite of the temple. The bathhouse sat opposite of the living quarters. And the chicken coup was just beyond the bath house tucked into the trees.
Remy gather the eggs in the basket left by the coup. She peaked her head around the bath house and saw Rojin and Hisao conversing on the porch of their living quarters. She didn’t really feel like interrupting them. Well, if she were to be really honest with herself - she wasn’t quite ready to welcome Hisao back from his trip.
She grumbled under her breath and headed to the dojo with basket in hand. Hisao had saved her, no doubt, and without him she may not have made it back to civilization so quickly. And to anyone she could imagine that she would appear rather ungrateful. But Remy wasn’t one to pander strictly out of obligation - and especially not to those who turned out to be complete assholes.
And that’s just what was Hisao Hajime was - an ass. Remy felt satisfied with the conclusion. Nearly a week after Remy had been welcomed by Rojin, Hisao became more distant and more aloof than before. The only time he really spoke to her was to insult her form or her stance during their morning meditation. She even tried giving him the benefit of the doubt thinking that maybe he was just a poor communicator and that maybe he just had trouble expressing himself. Within another week the theory was crushed when they went to town. Hisao talked politely with the town folk - given a celebratory greeting as he walked from stall to stall like some popular star athlete. She even witnessed him flirting coolly with the waitress in one of the noodle houses causing her to giggle and blush and causing Remy to roll her eyes. He was most definitely capable of being entirely civil - she just couldn’t figure out why he did not treat her like everyone else (minus Rojin, of course).
Three weeks in Remy and Hisao could manage short conversations. Rojin had encouraged Remy to talk as much as she could so that she could learn how to apply the language lessons they had each morning. He also encouraged Hisao to converse with Remy so that she could practice. It didn’t go particularly well and Remy quickly learned a variety of words for annoying, silly, dumb, clumsy, etc, etc. And Remy was sure that Hisao had learned a variety of equally insulting words in English.
She likened Hisao to a moody teen. One that complained about doing daily chores then spent the afternoon sleeping like a lazy cat. And that was no exaggeration - Remy found him sleeping any where. On the porch, in the temple, on the roof of the bath house, or in splayed out along some sun drenched rock or tree branch even. For a man, one that clearly had some special skills in the way of martial arts and was clearly some sort of folk hero to this local town, Hisao was far from being considered ‘mature’. Perhaps he spent too much time as a child in the dojo and not enough time socializing. Or it could be one of a thousand other reasons - for Remy had thought of them all in attempts to justify his total ass-like personality.
Five weeks into her stay it was this same ass-like personality that caused Remy to make a fool of herself during her last visit to town. Hisao had filled in for Rojin on a language lesson that morning. He had designed a lesson to teach Remy to speak less formally and to learn common colloquialisms. Remy was more than happy to corporate - she had noticed different sayings used by the town folk and she didn’t want to seem so much like an outsider, aside from her foreign appearance. Since she had started speaking their own language the people in the town seemed more incline to accept her as one of their own.
Hisao told her that a friendly farewell was: ‘mame to pankēki’. From his explanation Remy likened it to ‘see ya later’ or ‘take care’. When Hisao spoke it he held cheery tone and a smile. She should’ve know by his cheesy smile that something was off. But, being that he was treating her so nice she had thought that today he had decided that they could be friends and that maybe he had finally set aside his mysterious grudge and was ready to make amends. How wrong she was…
She spent the day in town buying items from a list Rojin sent with her. She had practiced her ‘mame to pankēki’ with the first few shop keepers she encountered. The reactions varied. Some men gaped and women scoffed. Her final attempt resulted in a woman using one of the insults Remy had learned from Hisao - a word that was commonly used to describe a tactless woman, a.k.a. ‘a bitch’. At that Remy sought out Yuuko, the friendly shop owner she met on her first day in town - the one that had given Hisao the red package. She repeated the saying to Yuuko explaining how she was taught to use it. Yuuko clapped and hand over his mouth in shock. Apparently, Remy had been wishing everyone well with: “Go jump in a river” - or so that was the direct translation. The subtext, however, implied that she hoped that the person jump in a river and fail to resurface.
Remy was so embarrassed. So enraged. That evening was their biggest fight yet. Hisao and Remy fired insult and after insult - english and new world tongue. And for the first time Remy cried. Tears broke from the corner of her eyes and she ran out of the house into the woods. She didn’t want him to see her break. She had held it together all this time. Even in the darkest hours of the night when her mind thought of earth she refused to let the tears out. But that fight was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Remy cried. She cried until the sun set and a blanket of darkness fell. When she finally made her way back the house it was dark but for a single candle left for her return. In the morning Remy woke to find only Rojin having breakfast. He explained that Hisao had to go for supplies in another town and would not be returning for quite some time. Remy had hoped ‘quite some time’ meant weeks or months. Evidently that was not the case.
Remy climbed the steps of the dojo and pushed the thoughts of Hisao from her mind. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment even now and she tried instead to focus on the task at hand. He wasn’t worth the energy. She had bigger fish to fry.