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Onima Datsu sat rigidly on his knees. In quiet revery.

Beside him was a monk. Wearing a simple blue and white habit and his crown was shaved down to the skin. He had a look of knowing the unknown about him which unsettled Datsu.

His name was Tian. And he was a disciple of the master he came to see, Rhen Khi.  Master of the mind and body. He had once been the world's best bounty hunter, but he abandoned that life to pursue a life of peace and prosperity of the soul.

Datsu envied the man and his disciple.

"How much longer must I wait for your master to finish mediating?"

The monk smiled and continued to sweep the dais once more. He had been cleaning since the warrior had arrived which was also peculiar since they were outside a small temple. The entry way was a path through a bamboo forest and over a stream. At its center was a dais with a large pool where coy fish swam.

"Only a few more moments." Tian promised

"I've been waiting since dawn... and it is nearly half past noon."

Tian stopped looking still to the floor as if studying the stone carvings designed into the platform. He stood still for a little while longer, before addressing Datsu.

"Their are times in life, young warrior. That your heart must find its place. During these passionate times, you may find yourself making hasty decision. But a man with patience will win his heart many times faster than one who searches endlessly."

Datsu was taken aback by the wise words. Suspicious now he asked.

"Are you not the famous, Rhen Khi?"

"No, no. I wish I was, but I could not carry that honour. I am simply his disciple, Tian Shu. But if you wish to speak with him I think he is ready now."

"What do you mean, you've not entered the temple since I've arrived. How do you know he's ready."

"You wish to see Rhen Khi, no?"


"Then follow me, Datsu. The late bodyguard of Princess Lily."

Anger blew up inside the warrior as he puffed his chest. Drawing his sword in the same breath, he yelled at the monk.

"Who told you this? That is knowledge only known by the royal guard and the royal family. The emperor will have your head if I do not take it myself."

His blade had flashed to the monks back resting against the side of his neck. The disciple hardly faltered.

"You should not feel shame Onima Datsu. You should be proud. If you had not been there that night she would be dead."

"She cannot use her legs. The poison that had run through that assassin's blade left her a cripple. A shame to the empire. How can I ignore that which is my own misdoing. I will always share in the struggles she will endure."

Emotions swam through the warrior as he lowered his sword. His anger dying away to a mix of something else.

"Come the answers you seek are within warrior."

The monk entered in to the temple pressing against the ancient stone doors. Light shone into the temple. Within were pools along the sides were unburnt torches lay hanging along pillars at either side. Jade highlighting most of the inner sanctum of the temple. At the head was a veiled man cross-legged, sitting upon cushions of red and green velvet.

The disciple walked up to his master and whispered something. All Datsu could catch was his name.

With an outreached hand, the disciple invited Datsu to sit.

"You may ask him the question that burns within your soul."

Datsu unbuckled his sword and dagger, resting them at his side. His tattooed face bowed down to the Master. The assassin had gotten away. To ask for assistance in the hunt when he no longer lived the life of blades and bounties. Seemed so wrong.

Instead he raised his head and asked the questions that now hung on his mind.

"Why do I refuse to forgive myself? How can I retain the life I had once earned?"

The constant resonance of the streams running through temple echoed. Yet Rhen Khi refused to reply.

"What is the meaning of this!?" Exclaimed the warrior.

The disciple walked up to calm Datsu. But anger was starting to take over. again He shouldered past Tian.

"I've endured branding, exile, and a long sojourn far from my home. All to seek the words to set me free from the chains I've been dragging. And you say nothing!"

The veiled man continued to sit there.

Realizing now what was going on, Onima Datsu's eyes widened almost in madness.

"You are not him. Rhen Khi is dead."

"No, Datsu calm yourself. You have your answer, but you do not realize it."

"Shut up, imposter."

The warrior spun on his heel and kicked the monk from his feet. He landed in a huff. Walking swiftly. Each stride with purpose and passion to the kneeling man. He lifted the veil. Beneath was a statue of a praying monk.

Both confirming and confusing the warrior. He turned to the disciple.

"What is this?"

"That is Rhen Khi."

"So he is dead."

"No he lives."


He looked down at the statue but his sword was suddenly in his hand pointing it's tip to the disciple.

"Explain monk, your life might depend on it."

"Like all souls he lives in everything. In the air you breathe. In these temple walls. Upon the torches that will light your way."

"He is gone then..." The anguish washed over him. He had lost so much. He wanted to scream. He wanted run his blade through the monk. He wanted to do something. "What am I to do now?..."

"I lost everything. Lily was but a babe when I started protecting her. She was like a daughter to me. I'd give my life for her, and when it was time. I was not there for her. Do you know how that feels."

"No I do not, but you do. That is what matters."

"What are you speaking about monk."

"Listen closely. To what you think is silence and perhaps you will hear."


"Shhh, listen."

"I hear nothing. Except the water."

"And that is your answer, what is missing in this temple."

"Rhen Khi...."

"No he is here, guiding me now as we speak."

"Are you a mystic now monk?"

"No, but we are not too different. I guess I must explain where you were supposed to understand. It's meaning will not seep as deeply now. But the streams are reminders of your life. You are ever moving and all streams lead to rivers to oceans. Your home."

"I cannot go home."

"What is stopping you."

"Do you not see the tattoo upon my face?"

"Rhen Khi once told me, a person is not measured by his body or mind. He is measured by the strength of their spirit."

"And what will I do. Walk through the palace walls and endure torture and be thrown out again? I had failed to stop that thrown dagger from striking her in the leg. What am I to say to her. I'm sorry, your life is ruined?"

"You speak from your heart Datsu, I feel the amount of love you have for others as does Rhen Khi."

"Can you stop doing that, Rhen is not here! HE IS DEAD! DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT DEATH IS"

Anger bursting out of him again reverberating through temple walls like an echoing war cry.

The disciple once again did not falter and took the berating in stride.

"He is dead you are right. Sorry. I will not speak of the dead again. But do you see yourself as one of them. May I ask?"

Taken aback again. Datsu turned away. He did see himself as the walking dead. But he would not admit it to this mad monk. Taking up his dagger and sheath. The warrior made his way to leave the temple.

"What will you do bodyguard?" Asked Tian as he walked calmly behind him.

It was evening outside and brush of the forest was deep casting darkness upon them.

"I do not know monk. There are no streams where I go."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Holding to a torch he lighted it and handed to the warrior.

"Perhaps fire is more akin to your soul than water."

An odd smile found it's way to Onima's lips, dissipating some of his anger.

"This was what was missing in the temple wasn't it. A lighted torch."

"To light the way for a wayward warrior, yes."

"My father once told me, hope is a torch."

"Go with the Spirits, bodyguard."

"What choice do I have..."

Onima Datsu the Branded One walked his way through the bamboo forest. His tears flowing from eyes in absence of others to see his shadow.

July 10, 2020 11:28

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1 comment

Rodrigo Juatco
02:22 Jul 20, 2020

Interesting story. You have such a good imagination. "An odd smile found its way to Onima's lips,.." I like that. Very visual. Great job Zay...


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