Chapter 11 - Abilities
Remy didn’t know if claps could ever be considered sarcastic - but if they could - she felt that this would be a prime example.
“Daojah - ”
Remy rolled her eyes. Daojah was the nickname he preferred to call her most often - it meant ‘freeloader’.
“A bit sloppy on the foot work but….” said Hisao.
Here it comes…
“you might actually have potential.”
Remy’s eyes widened. Was that a compliment? She didn’t believe it - not for a second.
“What do you want?” said Remy.
“Just enjoying a stroll in the woods,” said Hisao. In two graceful leaps, Hisao scaled down the side of the hill - landing next to the creek. He walked along its edge towards Remy’s rock.
“There are lot of woods. Would you mind strolling somewhere else?”
He ignored her. He was focused on the running water next to him. It was so infuriating. Why even come all this way if he didn’t have something useful to say? And now his refusal to acknowledge that she had asked him to leave. Was it just to annoy her? Could he be that oblivious? He must remember how they had left things six nights ago.
Remy watched him. She searched for any signs of a current mood or hint of an emotion. He was so good a keeping whatever he was thinking hidden. Remy knew what Hisao looked like when he was annoyed - she seemed to be the finite source of that emotion. She could also recognize when he got pouty - not mad per say - more grumpy, like a child who didn’t get his way. She knew, too, when he was feeling mischievous - that emotion in particular, came with a signature smirk. For all the rest - Remy was S.O.L.. She had no idea when he was upset, angry, sad, or even happy. In public, he defaulted to a generic kindness - one that could please the masses. At home, if his mood was not pouty, annoyed, or impish, his demeanour was reserved and pensive.
His silence became notable in those times. It was the same silence Remy could see now as he stood by the creek. He had fallen into it so quickly - his mood shifting nearly instantaneously since his arrival. It was one of the reasons why he remained so unpredictable to Remy. But this mood - his sombre silence, Remy found that if she interrupted it one of two things would happen: one, he would revert - back to the one of the three basic emotions that he used in all interactions with her or two - he would speak, cool, and abruptly - answering whatever Remy needed in the fewest words possible. The latter of the two, though infrequent, made Remy feel like it was her best chance of catching a glimpse of the real Hisao. It was Hisao with his guard down. In those moments, she couldn’t describe it - the closest thing she could liken it to the was feeling she got when she saw the statue of Orodoki in the temple.
She continued to watch him from her perch on the rock. His face absent, his eyes lost in thought. She wondered what he was seeing. She wanted to be able to talk with this Hisao. She remembered, before they had begun arguing almost constantly, that she wanted to solve the mystery that was him. She watched his jaw clenched as his focus stayed locked the current flowing past the stationary stones of the creek. His eyes were piercing - it was a look that she wouldn’t forget - the look he had given her on the day they met. She could feel her resolution melting - her anger fading the longer her mind played with the idea that Hisao was more than just a grouchy fool.
Her cheeks flushed red. No. Remy snapped out of it. He was just that - a jerk. Soon he’ll be back to taunting her just like before. She quickly bent gathered up her things. Setting the wooden sword down, she tucked her notebook back in the memoir and began folding the protective leather casing around her knife. He was not going to ruin this place for her – she liked it too much. She would head back to the temple and finished her chores for the day - maybe even boil up a bath with her spare time.
She hadn’t noticed that Hisao was on the move, gone from his spot next to the stream. Her attention was focused on her making plans as she finished tying off the leather around the knife. She went to grab the wooden practice sword and found it missing. She had sworn it was right behind her.
It had been but now she watched the wooden blade scoop under the handle of the basket of eggs. The basket was lifted from the ground and into Hisao’s free hand. He spun the weapon expertly and slid it into his belt next to the hilt of his sword.
Remy gathered up the remaining items in her arms. She shifted to her knees to stand. She didn’t need his help to carrying things back. She was about to tell him so - but when she turned to do so she was met with an imagine of her own reflection. It was a mirror. Hisao had produced it from inside his robes and was holding it out for her to take.
Remy set down the memoir and knife. She took the small mirror from his hand. It was about the size and shape of a tea saucer. The back and edges were decorated with moulded silver - ornately spun into soft swirls. Remy couldn’t deny the shock she felt as could see it painted plainly across her reflection. He must have picked it up on his travels. But why would he….
Hisao had moved from just behind her to the edge of the rock.
“I don’t like people so… close,” he spoke away from her, “People see what they want to see. They don’t wait to be shown was is and what isn’t. And I hate expectations. Too low and people never believe you will amount to anything. Too high and you fail to ever meet them. Someone is always left wanting. Strangers are far easier to disappoint.”
Was this an apology? It was hard for her to feel sorry for him. Was he worried she was judging him? That he would disappoint her? No… that was wrong. Remy forced her emotions down and approached the subject objectively. She needed to take what he said without bias.
“So, your solution is to make enemies instead of friends and keep the remainder at an arm’s length?” said Remy. It was more a working hypothesis than a conclusion.
He didn’t answer. Instead he hopped off the edge of the rock and walked back the way he came, the egg basket swaying in his hand. He stopped before he ascended the hillside. Remy only half paying attention, her mind sifting through the evidence to see if she could support her newly formulated argument.
“Oi! Daojah - ”
She didn’t hear him. Remy was too lost in thought. It wasn’t until she felt a tickle on her cheek and she was brought back to the moment. The tickle on her cheek grew into a sudden wash of air flowing past face - something was moving through the air toward her. Reflexively, as if she was going to swat away a bug, Remy threw her hand up. Her fingers locked around a small hard object. She had snatched whatever it was right out of the air.
What the…? Her thoughts lagged behind her actions. She brought her hand down so she could see what she had caught. It was a barrette made of silver, just like the mirror, and it was decorated with soft pink stones. It was pretty - but Remy’s mind was more amazed by the fact that she had caught it. She hadn’t even seen it coming.
“OOOooooo Daojah…” said Hisao, “lucky catch.”
Remy looked up a him. Was that luck? She had felt it coming. She had almost knew where it was going to be - like exactly where just by the way… the way the wind had moved? She got to her feet with barette still in hand.
“Yeah - I mean maybe…. I don’t kno -” said Remy. But there wasn’t time. She hadn’t seen Hisao’s hand dart into the basket. Three eggs were pelted straight at her. Her reaction was swift, she felt them coming. Intuitively, she could read the speed of the eggs by feeling the air with her out stretched hand. They were moving fast. She felt the wind ripple and splash past her palm as it extended to catch them. She swept her hand back, following through with the trajectory of the throw so that the velocity of the flying eggs didn’t smash to pieces with a solid stop against her palms.
One. Two. Three. She completed the task in one swift dance. She ended facing the opposite direction - her back to Hisao. She stared at the two eggs in one hand and one, plus the barette, in the other. She replayed the events over in her head. She saw it for sure this time - the air had rippled and moved - things had slowed and which gave her time to act. How in the hell… what had given her this ability? She turned to Hisao. He wore a smirk.
“Rojin said you were a fast learner,” said Hisao. He turned to jump up the side of the hill, “a little too fast…”
Remy mind spun with questions. She scrambled to grab the rest of her things – knife, book, eggs, and all.
“Hisao – wait!”
He had already disappeared over the hill. Remy chased after him climbing the ridge awkwardly with her arms full. She reached the top and saw him nowhere to be found. How did he always do that?
It took Remy a good 15 minutes of walking to get back to the temple. She found Hisao sitting on the edge of porch of the living quarters. He was inspecting her wooden sword, his thumb tracing over the carved symbols.
She set her armful of items down next to him, careful to avoid dropping the eggs. She then took a seat. She gripped the edge with her hands - her fingers tapping against the wood. The silence between them didn’t last.
They both started talking at the same time:
“What is the connection with the Qi energy and my abilities – how does it work?” said Remy.
“I know you can read the script but how did you know to write them like this?” said Hisao.
Hisao let out an annoyed sighed and Remy brought her hands together and placed her fingers tips on her lips. They both stared out into the courtyard. Hisao spoke first.
“Rojin told you that Qi energy can imbue things – like aid in a farmer’s bounty. It has been used for thousands of years. Warriors used the energy to become more effective fighters. These symbols,” Hisao pointed at the ones on the wooden, “help with focusing that energy – but it’s very difficult to construct…”
“But that still doesn’t explain how I can do these things,” Remy blurted, “can you do them? AND HOW?”
She couldn’t sit anymore. Remy stood and began to pace, “And I clearly don’t know what I’m doing. At first I thought it was just superstition - some great figurative energy. I wasn’t sure if it could be real – I hoped it could be - and that maybe it could get me home. But you and Rojin have been studying this for years – you must have some kind of abilities. I mean, I’ve seen how fast you can move – you are –“
“Hold on,” said Hisao, he was standing too now, watching Remy pace, “You have NOT seen how fast I can move.”
“- you are clearly capable - wait – what? How do you mean?” said Remy.
Another smirk crept on Hisao’s face. She recognized it and she knew it meant trouble.
Remy could not describe her disappointment when the temple doors came bursting open. An interruption now? She felt that she was getting so close to getting some real answers. And for the first time, she and Hisao had been getting along. Well, sort of.
The distraction had been Rojin who was followed by a young man with short black hair. The boy wore black robes trimmed with red. He wore matching red wrappings on his hands and a red headband. On his back was a traveling pack and strapped to it was a long pole topped with a wide blade.
“I demand that you take me to him!” the boy shouted, “I stand here in the name of Gennu! I cannot return until I have proven my worth in his name!”
Rojin looked exhausted. He caught sight of Remy and Hisao and threw his hands up in defeat.
“I couldn’t shake him. He latched on in town. He just kept following me. And talking. And following me. And talking.” Rojin put his fingers into his wild hair, his eyes looking crazed, “he just wouldn’t stop!”
The boy was close behind. He closed in on the three of them.
Remy guessed that he was no older than 18. He had a dark complexion and a square face. His brown eyes were determined and set, shaded by heavy brows. His lips were thin and tighten into a concerned frown. He looked to Hisao, his eyes bouncing to Remy every so often.
“I am a Son of Gennu. I seek the Child of K’aos, Hisao Hajime.”
Hisao’s eyes darkened at the boy’s words. He looked to Rojin for clarification. Rojin was at a loss and again shrugged in defeat. Hisao sighed.
“I am the one you seek, boy,” said Hisao, his tone frosty, “state your business.”
Remy watched the boy’s expression twist to a furious anger.
“I challenge you to a fight,” said the boy, “… to the death.”