Red Dragon Inn
Mount Yasuo => Within the Barrier => Topic started by: Hanzi on October 01, 2015, 01:42:41 AM
"All right," said Grandmother, relenting at long last.
Hanzi wanted to feel relief for having won the battle, but something in Grandmother's voice warned him it was a hollow victory.
"But if you insist on residing in that city," she went on, "you will learn how to survive it."
"I will not spend my nights awake worrying about your safety, Hanzi," she told him sternly.
Hanzi, knelt on the floor in front of her chair, bowed his head in a mixture of guilt and submission.
"Jau!" A man entered the room at Ting's summons. Hanzi looked up at him, wide-eyed with surprise to see the mysterious Jin Jau in attendance. He was, even more than Hanzi, a man swathed in rumor. Once an honored Rashomon, it was whispered he had fallen into disgrace though no one knew the reason.
"And he," Grandmother Ting said to her awe-struck boy, barely containing her smug smile, "will be your teacher."
"Stand," Jau bade him.
Hanzi glanced between Jau and Grandmother, a glint of panic in his dark eyes as he looked to his mother-figure, his nurturer, his guardian, for help. There was none to be found. She only raised her pale brows and suggested, "You had better do as he says. He does not look to be a man of gentle temper!"
So Hanzi stood, stiff with tension. Jau circled him like a tiger pacing around its prey, picking him apart with brutal efficiency.
"You are soft," he declared at the end of it. "Show me your hands."
He did not want to but because Grandmother was there, and he would not shame her, he did.
Jau grasped one roughly and turned it over, exposing the palm. "Useless." He shoved it back at Hanzi. "Come. We begin." Jau afforded Grandmother Ting a nod. Anyone else would have, should've been offended by Jau's terse courtesy, but Grandmother Ting just smiled.
"Keep him in one piece, Jau," she sang-song after them.
Still reeling from everything that had transpired so quickly, Hanzi followed Jau like a dead man walking.
Of Chickens and Men
"You must kill to eat," Jau said.
Hanzi watched the chicken peck and scratch the ground as it strolled around the pen. The bird clucked quietly to itself, enjoying a sunny albeit cool autumn day. This was not what he had expected when Jau mentioned cooking lessons.
Slowly, Hanzi looked at the knife Jau held out to him, then at Jau directly.
Jau didn't twitch so much as a single eye lash. "Do or don't." He stabbed the knife into an old stump stained with the blood of so many deaths before. "Only one of you will leave this pen alive."
* * *
One hour, two hours. Three hours came and went. Hanzi sat on the ground with his eyes closed, appearing to be sunk in deep meditation. Mostly though he just didn't want to look at Jau.
Four, five hours. He was hungry by then but not desperately. He stood up intermittently to pace and stretch his legs and to take water. At least Jau was not so cruel as to deprive him that.
Six, seven. It was no longer about the bird. It was more than a matter of morals. It was a clash of wills.
Soon it was more night than day. He could see lamps beginning to light up in the distance.
"Why do you refuse?" Jau finally spoke. Hanzi considered it a small triumph but he was too well-mannered to gloat about it.
"Every life is precious."
"What if that life is precious because its purpose is to give life to others."
To which Hanzi had no immediate response except silence.