Excerpt From Section Two of This Work In Progress
First draft stuff here, so please excuse any grammatical errors or typos! ----------- For two months, Tetsuya stayed on the beach. In the hours between when he would go to report to the fish and when he would fall asleep in his shelter, he kept himself occupied. Each morning after breakfast, he would meditate for an hour, and then run in the sand along the water, sometimes east to a point where the sand became a series of low rock shelves where hundreds of nesting birds guarded their eggs, and sometimes west, past the tide pool where he gathered his breakfast and far along the coast beyond it. When he returned to his camp, he would have a lunch of leftover fish and seaweed, and then he would train with his sword, to keep himself well-practiced. He would then nap, and awake to see what new thing the sea had delivered to him while he slept. Once it was two dozen red apples, lined up on the sand like a troop of tiny soldiers for him to find, and he enjoyed the change in diet for nearly a week before finishing the last of them. Another time a wax-sealed box came in on a wave, and he opened it to find a small collection of scrolls and pamphlets, which did much to help pass the evenings before he slept. One afternoon, at the beginning of his third month, Tetsuya was oiling his sword when he caught sight of something on the sand, moving from inland out towards his camp and the sea. He squinted against the sun, and through clenched eyes saw that it was a figure in white, walking towards him. He could discern no details from such a distance, and so he continued to work the oil on his blade. If the person approaching was a danger, then at least Tetsuya would meet the challenge with a clean weapon. If there was no threat to be delivered, then his sword was still in need of maintenance, and so he would continue his work until the figure arrived. The figure seemed to be in no hurry to reach Tetsuya’s camp. After five minutes, it appeared no closer than it had been when he had started watching, and so he continued his work. In another five minutes, he slid the blade back into its sheath, returned the oil and cloth to the box he kept them in, and withdrew his father’s telescope from its leather bag. He extended it and held it to his eye, aiming it at the figure in white. He didn’t know why it surprised him that it was a woman who was walking across the sand, but it did. Perhaps in his warrior’s heart, he had been quietly hoping that this mysterious person was the thing he had been waiting for, a battle to be waged in Hiruki’s name. Tamping down the disappointment that wanted to rise up in him, he put the telescope back into the bag, and decided to go out and meet the woman halfway. He made much better time coming to her than she had to him, and as he drew nearer, he saw that the reason was that she hadn’t actually been approaching him. Instead, she had been raking the sand with a piece of driftwood as long as his sword, tracing designs and patterns in the sand around her. He had mistaken her movements as advances on his position. “Don’t step on the lines,” she said to him, drawing a circle around the empty shell of a small crab, gutted and abandoned by one of the gulls that swarmed the skies over the beach. “I don’t wish to repair the damage caused by a clumsy sandal. The work is tedious enough as it is.” “Then why do it?” he asked. He kept a respectful distance from both the woman and her sand drawings. “It’s a child’s game you play.” “So says the man living in a driftwood shack, pretending it is a great house overlooking the sea.” The woman traced lines moving outward from the edge of the circle, giving rise to a sun from the sand. “Any house may be a great house,” Tetsuya replied, “to the one living within.” She stood straight and rested her hands at the top of her driftwood pole. “Are you a great man then?” she asked. “I am no one,” he said. “You must be someone,” she said. “I have seen you for many days on the beach, although I do not believe that you have seen me.” “You hide yourself well,” he admitted, for he had seen nothing of her in his time in this place. She tilted her head forward slightly in thanks of the compliment. “I am only seen when I wish to be, and as I was unsure of your reasons for being here, I did not wish it.” “And what are my reasons?” he asked. “Now that you have come out of hiding?” She smiled. “Why, your reasons are you own, as are mine for deciding it was time to be seen. Do you have a name, or shall I just call you no one?” At that, he smiled as well, saying, “There is another who calls me by that name. You may call me Tetsuya.” “Very well,” the woman replied. “If another owns the right to that name, then I am glad to have one of my own to call you. You may call me Kishiko, which I’m afraid is what everyone else calls me as well. I am not special enough to be deserving of more than one name.” “I believe it is more special to have only one name. The more names you to answer to, the more troubles in your life you have had to carry.” She leaned forward and put her chin against her hands on the top of the driftwood. “You say interesting things, Tetsuya. I think that I am glad to have come out of hiding for you.” He bowed slightly. “And I am certain that I am glad of it. I have been a long while waiting here, and it is good to hear the voice of another.” He nodded at the lines in the sand that she had made. “So tell me, what is it that you draw in the sand there?” “Have you heard of the monks across the sea who spend days in meditation while making patterns of colored sand on stone floors?” “I have not,” he said. “The designs are intricate and exquisite, representing life and the true nature of the world. When the monks finish their sand paintings, they brush them away with a straw broom, destroying that which they have made, because the painting, like this world, is only temporary, and all things must pass in the end.” “Are you a monk then?” Tetsuya asked. “Drawing your world in the sand, only for the tide to wash it all away?” “Are you a monk yourself?” Kishiko asked. “In your driftwood world, waiting for the sea to claim you in the end?” He smiled. “That is more true than you know, Kishiko-san. Perhaps my life is made up of nothing more than sea and sand.” “There is more to life than sea and sand, Tetsuya.” She stood straight and released her driftwood pole, letting it fall to the sand. “Come. I will prove it to you.” Without waiting to see if he was following, she turned and began to walk inland, toward the line of trees in the distance. Tetsuya looked back at his post, his “great house” near the shore, and in a moment walked after her. The path through the trees was difficult to see from outside the forest, but once Kishiko led him to it, it was easy enough to follow. The trunks grew tall and thick, and the branches arched high above into a canopy through which the sunlight filtered down across them. The leaves moved in the breeze, giving motion to the light and shadows, making Tetsuya feel as though he were underwater. As they walked south, Kishiko gestured to the east. “The village of Ojika is in that direction, not nearly a full ri from here.” “How long would it take to get there?” he asked. “There is no path through the woods from here to there, so it would still take you three or four hours to walk there. The villagers do not come here. They always walk around if they need to get to this side of the island.” “This is an island?” Tetsuya asked. “I didn’t know that.” “How did you not? The only way here is by boat.” “It is not the only way,” he said. “I did not travel by boat.” “Did you fly then, Tetsuya-san? I suppose it is possible to swim, although it is almost four ri from the mainland to here, with nothing to keep you company but strong currents and hungry sharks.” “It is not the only way,” he said again, but did not explain further. Instead he asked, “You say that the villagers do not enter this forest. Why is that?” Kishiko brushed a stray strand of hair out of her eyes and behind her ear. “They believe that the witch of the woods will take them and boil them for soup.” “And do you fear this witch?” he asked. “Of course not,” she answered. “I am the witch of the woods, and I certainly wouldn’t make a soup of myself.”