“How do you know what the surface of the moon looks like?” Javin asks Daesun.
I am about to answer Javin when Daesun beat me to it.
“I am the moon, according to the Koreans. So I took the rocks from myself up there, how else? But as for these sirs, mankind managed to walk on the moon in the last 40 years thanks to modern technology. Now…I don’t have anything left to give anyone Mr. Cha.”
That answers the question of why she continually reminds one of the moon….wait what?
“What about Annie? My Kentucky rifle?” I asked at hearing that statement as I received the moon rock pendant from Daesun’s hands.
“It is with Annan, last time I checked. And speaking of Annie, there they are” she said, her finger pointing behind me.
And there is the kid along with Ratri walking towards us from around a hundred meters away.
Ratri looks like she won a verbal argument, and Annan has a grudging look on her face. They were met halfway here by Daesun…who a moment ago is behind…how?…never even moved…
Oh forget it. It’s not worth the effort of having headaches over.
From now on I will just treat these magical things in this way: They just can do these things.
I just wait there and watch as the three walk towards us, discussing something. Then when they got near enough, the kid just reaches behind her and took out a Colt Peacemaker, holding it by the barrel, and gives it to me.
The Peacemaker is the sorriest looking gun I had ever seen in my whole life. The whole thing is rusty. Heck, even the trigger and hammer is rusty. And the handle is made of…this is pearl isn’t it?…oh, I think I get it now.
“Why thank you kid. If I didn’t know any better, you are trying to insult me with this Peacemaker.” I say with a smile and a sarcastic tone as I inspect it.
The pearl embedded handle is lined with incisions which can only be a tally of how many people the previous owner had killed with this gun, and there were…
“Is the previous owner a serial killer of some kind? Because there is a frightening number of lines here that looks like a tally of some kind. And…” I trail off as the rust came off and reveals that it isn’t rust in the first place.
“This isn’t rust. It’s dried blood…Where did you get this, kid?” After saying this sentence I look up.
Annan is looking back at me with a confused and irritated face, while her friends are looking at her suspiciously.
It seems to me that when I inspected the revolver, Annan was looking at her friends denying what I just said.
“It’s a gift from Baron La Croix down in New Orleans when I passed through there on my way from Dallas.” she says.
“Wait. New Orleans? Do you mean the New Orleans Mardi Gras of 1998? Madame Laveau’s party?” Ratri asks Annan in surprise. Daesun at her side also looks at Annan in surprise.
I sputtered, recognizing the name.
“Marie Laveau the voodoo queen of New Orleans? But she’s been dead for more than a hundred years already.”
“And after her death she became a central figure for voodoo in Louisiana, as well as something like a saint for voodoo practitioners. Practically a deity if you ask me.” Annan answers me.
“But why invite you?”
“Well…the three of us decided to go see that year’s Mardi Gras along with the humans. And apparently it’s very rare for anyone outside of the North American, South American and African supernatural communities to be present so…it was quite an occasion for them.”
I shake my head in bemusement, and then remembering the Peacemaker, go back to the issue.
“Well, if this is a gift to you then I should tell you that this is quite a bad one. Don’t you know that only a New Orleans pimp would have a pearl handled revolver?”
The kid looks genuinely surprised by what I said.
“Is that true?”
“Patton said so.” I said with full faith in what I am saying.
The kid shakes her head.
“I assure you I did not know that before old man, and after this business of ours I will ask the Baron about it. In the meantime, you just have to use it.”
“So you are not going to replace this gun?” I ask in slowly mounting indignation.
“Despite the dried blood that eternally coats the gun inside and out, according to Daesun here it still works perfectly well, not to mention the amount of magic I had already invested in this gun.”
Eternally coated in blood inside and out?
I look down at the part where I just scrubbed the bloodstain off, only to discover that it is coated in dried blood again.
I rub at barrel again, and saw the clean metal surface of the revolver underneath all those dried bloodstains. Then the bloodstain quickly spread over the cleaned surface like...like seeing bean sprouts grow in fast forward.
I didn't dare check the insides of the Peacemaker, sure that a gun this creepy (yes, the gun is starting to creep me out) will have bloodstains inside and out as she advertised.
"And the gun is still functional and accurate? Who on earth is La Croix that he has such a creepy gun?"
"Mr. Ward, I already tested the gun and as Annan said I found it to be both functional and accurate. The only reason that Peacemaker is creepy is because Baron La Croix is one of the Voodoo's gods of death."
"Death? This gun belongs to Death?" I ask, somewhat amazed and scared.
I feel amazed that I would be using Death's Colt SAA. I also feel scared of the consequences of holding the damned thing in the first place.
Daesun answers me.
"La Croix is not Death, he just is in the same business as Death, that of ferrying the souls to the afterlife. And you don't need to feel scared Mr. Ward, Baron La Croix gave it to Annan as a gift. You don't give presents that will harm someone you want to gift something to, right?"
"Right." I answer, now feeling safer from this thing I'm holding. But I still have3 reservations about this gun.
“Well, the gun might be functional but the handle. The damn handle! I refuse to be associated in some way with a pimp Annan.” I look at the kid as I said this.
“I doubt anyone outside America will be familiar with that piece of trivia.”
“I don’t even believe that is true. Maybe Patton just said that for the media.”
“McArthur is the one who loves being in the media's spotlight."
The kid sighs and scratches her head.
"What would it take for you to just use the damn gun?" She asks exasperatedly.
"Take out the pearl grips" I answer.
Annan just shakes her head, takes the gun back from me and looks at it.
And looked some more.
And then she looks up at me.
"Better?" she asks me.
I look at the handle, and then look up at the kid with exasperation.
"You really do like to mess around with me, don't you kid?" I say to her.
"Your family did it first, I am just getting my own back." she replies back in the same tone of voice.
Well, at least the handles aren't made of pearl now. They are now just made of the bone of... something.
And did I forget to mention that the scratches are still there?
I had to quickly remind myself that that the gun is not cursed or possessed, it just used to belong to Death or else I would have just dropped the gun to the ground.
"What kind of bone is this by the way?"
"Cattle bone. Any more objections?"
"None" I concede.
I have the feeling that if I persisted, we are just going to end up in a childish game of seeing who can irritate the other more.
And I am not becoming childish in my old age, am I?
"Good. Now where was I…this Peacemaker is indestructible, unlimited rounds of bullets, and every shot is full to the brim with magic. Pretty much nothing special about it except for one thing."
"And that is?" I ask, worriedly looking at how the kid is holding that piece.
The only thing she is doing right is that she doesn't have her finger on the trigger; however she is not only waving it around. It looks to me like she isn't even holding the handle tightly in the first place.
It is only a matter of time until that gun slips from her hands if she doesn't stop doing that.
"This Peacemaker doesn't only shoot cal.45 rounds. It can shoot three other kinds of rounds, all you have to do is think about it."
"The rounds or the guns that shoot them?" I asked, at the same time looking meaningfully at Daesun and gesturing to the gun.
Thank God she quickly understands what I am worried about. She nudges Annan slightly to gain her attention and upon receiving it, tells her to be more careful with the gun or just give it to her.
Thankfully Annan gives it to her and asks Daesun to hold the gun for her. Then she goes back to me.
"The guns that shoot the rounds. I doubt you know what a 75mm round looks like."
She is right. I don't...
"75 what?" I ask in disbelief.
"75 mm round. The ammunition the M4 Sherman uses for its main gun."
"Are you saying that when I think about a Sherman tank, I will be shooting 75mm anti-tank rounds from that Peacekeeper? Just like a Sherman tank?"
"Yes." she said that proudly.
"Do you know the term 'muzzle blast’’?" I asked, wondering where she got this outlandish idea from.
I don't have a problem with an infinite number of AT rounds shooting out from the Peacemaker.
I have a problem with not wanting my bones to snap into two pieces. Or to lose my hearing since the muzzle of the gun is literally an arm’s length away from my face. Or to simply die just from being near the muzzle blast.
“Don’t worry about that old man. The recoil and muzzle blasts will still stay the same as that of a normal Colt Peacemaker. Now, you can shoot four kinds of ammunition, all filled to the brim with magic, with this Peacemaker. These are those used in the Colt
Peacemaker, the Browning cal.50 machine gun, the M4 Sherman’s main gun and the big 16 inchers on the USS Iowa.”
I blink once, and then just stare at her.
“16 inch guns? As in battleship kind of guns?” I hear Thuc say from my side.
The kid nods with a smile.
I stare at her. And then slowly, I give her a slight and respectable smile.
No, I did NOT give her a big smile with all my pearly whites shown to the whole world.
I definitely did not.
As for the reason…why, I think I like this gun. After all, it is not every day you have a battleship supporting you whenever you like it.
“Well it looks like there is something likeable about you after all, kid. Now all I need is ‘Annie’, and a bag that can spontaneously produce things.”
“Bag? What bag?”
Oh yeah, we were arguing about that a while ago.
I point at everyone around me, and then at the bag I had put down beside my leg. And then I grin with the intent of driving a needle deeper into her skin.
“Don’t need supplies? Don’t need anything than the clothes on our back and our bodies? Really? Looks like no one thinks like you.”
Annan looks at the people I pointed out to, looking more and more...dismayed with each backpack and rucksack that she sees. And at seeing Connla also bringing supplies of his own, looks betrayed.
“Even you Connla?”
“I know you can give me food Annan, but I prefer to bring my own change of clothes. And mother insisted on bringing something for emergencies.” he replies.
“I told you.” I say.
The kid just opens her mouth, and then closes it, shakes her head and then mutters loudly to forget about it.
Then she looks at me with a very mild glare.
She definitely knows I am slightly enjoying this.
‘Sucks for her, but she did start the whole thing with Regina and Annie’
“Well, let us forget about that one. Where is ‘Annie’?”
“Here.” the kid said, reaching behind her back and producing ‘Annie’.
I am amazed at what I saw.
“What did you do to ‘Annie’? She looks…”
‘Annie’ the Kentucky rifle looks more...I wouldn’t say new, since I still feel the same age from her, that of a hundred plus antique.
In fact, the only thing that is physically changed from before is the leather strap that is pasted on one end to the rifle’s bit and the other end to the butt. And this leather strap is long enough to act as the sling for the rifle.
'I sincerely hope that it is magic that is sticking that leather strap to the Kentucky rifle, because if it is actually some kind of adhesive...I will make things ugly'
What is different now is…
It’s…it’s seeing the girl you love after being separated from her for so long with no communication with each other in those intervening years. And upon seeing her after all these years you saw that she is…more mature, more ready for life with you, and everything you and she wants to say had been communicated in the instant that you locked gazes with her.
And I am not joking with that. I did feel that ‘Annie’…communicated with me.
Giddy at the thought that she will be used in war again, by the descendant of the man who first used her and then took care of her for all these years.
Wondering how do I like her new look, and the magic given to her.
Jealous that a younger, brainless and dirty Connecticut hussy just showed her up, with the size of bullets the bimbo shoots out.
“What Connecticut hussy?” I ask at the gun.
“What?” the kid asks me.
I look at her.
She looks surprised at me, and then looks at ‘Annie’. Then back at me again.
“Oh…you are talking to the gun, right?”
“Yes. Why on earth does ‘Annie’ sound like a Kentucky belle?” I ask in confusion.
Annan shrugged, said that it must be because the rifle is made in Kentucky, and then hands the Kentucky rifle to me.
As I take hold of ‘Annie’, the gun started ‘talking’ to me again.
Happy to work with me and hoping we work as well as she did with my great-great grandfather.
Sorry for the hussy comment, realizing that she should be above such behavior as befits an older gun.
I think to the gun. And I feel her go happy at that.
“So kid, what’s new with the Kentucky Rifle?”
“Well, she is now an indestructible Kentucky rifle that reloads instantly by pulling the cock back, shoots magical bullets of two varieties and a special magical ability that you can activate.”
“And?” I ask as I sling ‘Annie on my right shoulder.
“One is the regular magical bullet. The other is what I call a time bullet, and its effect is messing with the target’s time.”
“Mess with the what?” I ask.
“If the time bullet hit the target you want, that target will…be locked in a space…let’s put it this way. You ever hunted with that other rifle in your house?”
“Alright. You shoot a deer with the time bullet. The moment the bullet touches the deer, the living deer instantly becomes a deer that starved to death in that exact place, and to add insult to injury the bullet will still do what all bullets do, make a gunshot wound.”
“What if I shot a building? Or a vehicle?”
“Well, time bullets don’t work on non-living things. That is why you have the Peacemaker that can shoot out machine gun and artillery ammo.”
“And the special ability?”
She smiles. And it was the kind of smile that says ‘I am playing a joke on you, at your expense'
“You should ask ‘Annie’ later.”
And this time she grins.
I don’t trust that expression at all. Not at all.
Oh well. I’ll deal with it later.
“Anything else? I now have a main arm, a side arm, and a combat knife. I also have some supplies with me and I can ask one of the others here to hide my weapons in case I need to conceal them. Do you have anything to add to that?”
"So you don't want me to magically upgrade your bag?"
"You didn't say anything about offering to do so. I would greatly appreciate it."
"Well...the sooner you give it to me, the faster I can put magic on your bag. And before I forget to mention it, are you satisfied with the knife you mentioned? I have a magical knife here, straight from my inventory back home."
As she said the last sentence I have already put my backpack in front of her. Upon her mentioning of the knife, I rummage around the backpack looking for it
Upon finding it, I quickly draw the knife and its sheathe from the bag and say at the same time "I am quite satisfied with my bayonet, especially since this bayonet has already killed plenty of zombies, demons and crazy gods."
I was met with stares from Annan, Daesun and Ratri.
"What?" I ask them as I was tying the sheathe to my belt, the knife still in it.
"You do know you are holding quite a cursed weapon there, don't you?" The kid says to me.
I look back at the M7 bayonet at my waist, then back at her.
Then I look at Daesun and then at Ratri, who both nod, confirming what Annan said.
"You are joking, right?" I chuckle as I asked them “You girls are just joking, no?”
“Nope. It is cursed” Annan says.
“Oh come on kid, what curse? I don’t feel anything from this thing here. In fact, my family never said anything about feeling something strange from this bayonet.”
“By family are you referring to those related to you by blood?” Annan asks me.
I think about it as I turned to look at the kid.
Regina and Annie have seen this knife before, many times already. So did Fiona and Arnold when they are still kids…come to think of it, everyone who saw it never said anything strange about the bayonet until now.
“Yes.” I answer in the end. No need to make this longer by mentioning other people other than my family.
“How about your wife Mr. Ward?” Daesun asks this time.
“Mary never said anything strange about this bayonet. She even used this as the kitchen knife that one time the kitchen knife broke.”
Daesun mouths out the words ‘kitchen knife’ and looks at me incredulously, Ratri looks amazed, while the kid asks incredulously “Your wife used THAT as a kitchen knife for preparing food?”
“Of course. What else would you use a kitchen knife for than to prepare food?”
“And your whole family is still alive after eating food prepared with a cursed weapon?”
Ratri quickly elbows the kid and directs an incredulous look at her, while Daesun looked from Annan and then back at me, and made a gesture saying that she is sorry for what was just said.
I nod to indicate that I accept the apology, and then look at Annan, frowning.
I didn’t like the insinuation that my wife is a bad cook, not when nothing could be farther from the truth. Mary was the best cook in Buckhorn, as evidenced by other housewives in town going to her for advice when special occasions come up.
“Well, if we died because of that then my granddaughters would never have existed to piss you off, would they?”
“No they would not.” the kid grumbles. Then she quickly asks to take a look at the bayonet.
“Here.” I said, taking the bayonet from the sheath and handing it to her.
She holds it up at eye level, holding the handle through a handkerchief that she pulled out from her pocket.
A few moments pass.
And after a few more moments she suddenly flicks the knife on its side, and then she hands it back to me and said that I am lucky.
“Because?” I asked.
“Your cursed knife is partly sentient and thinks of you and your family as its masters. If not, the moment you and your family have eaten that food your wife prepared with this knife, you would have died from your intestines rotting away in minutes.”
I wince at the image. And then I shake my head.
“Alright, so I got a cursed bayonet. Is there a problem if I use it as my last ditch weapon?”
“Well, I don’t see any problem. But this thing will not last long if you have to parry another magical blade.”
“Then will you improve it with more magic?” I ask her.
The kid looks up.
“It will take me around two minutes for the unbreakable spell. Then another three and a half minutes to make its curse nastier.”
Then she stopped handling the knife like it was a piece of evidence in a crime scene and holds it properly with her right hand. She immediately winces in pain.
“Easy there little knife. I never picked a fight with you, so stop hurting me.” she says to the knife. At the same time I smell something that is inexplicably both burning and rotting coming from...ouch. The smell is coming from her hand.
A moment later, the kid looks at the bayonet in surprise. Then she yelps and throws the knife to the ground, while she holds her right hand with her left.
The two other goddesses went to their friend’s side and look at the palm, trying to see the damage.
The palm looks very bad. Some parts looked like it is burned into a crisp, and it smells like human skin burning with napalm. The other parts are leaking with pus and smells of something rotting.
Then she did something miraculous. And is curiously and sacrilegiously similar to something Jesus once did in the Bible.
She spits into her right palm, spreads the saliva all over it and then wipes it off with a tissue she got from her pocket, to reveal a palm that is as fine as my own.
As for the tissue? It is stained black with tar, or something that looks like it. I couldn’t really tell since the kid wadded up the tissue, throws it in the air, and the tissue paper immediately burns up in flames. It was quite fast too, since the tissue paper came down to earth as ash.
“You can take it now Ward. I am not touching that knife ever again.” she says with anger in her voice, and glaring at the bayonet.
I carefully pick the bayonet up, considering what I saw it do to the kid, and put it in its sheath.
“Mr. Ward, do you still want to make that knife unbreakable? I am willing to do it, if you can ask it not to hurt me.” Ratri offers from Annan’s side.
“Let that thing break Ratri. It will not do anything good anyways.” Annan says to her friend.
Ratri looks at Annan.
“It is a knife that is angry at you since you cursed two of its masters. Of course it will try to hurt you.”
‘Is the bayonet sentient?’ I think to ‘Annie’ while the two goddesses are starting to argue.As sentient as before the Indian gave me magic.
‘…that doesn’t really help me here ‘Annie’’…the bayonet is a 36 year old man in mind.
‘Then how old are you?’ I ask, curious about something.
The bayonet supposedly has the mind of what she says is a 36 year old man. It just so happens that it was also 36 years ago since the night at the temple.
Maybe that fight is what turned the bayonet special and sentient? If so, has ‘Annie’ been sentient these past 194 years?
If so, what happened to the M-16 issued to me by the Government? Is it like the bayonet and ‘Annie’, a sentient thing? Where is it now?Ladies never like to talk about their age.
‘Then how did you become sentient?’…if you insist.
Just woke up one day when your father is cleaning me while your grandfather is watching, in the month of July, 1912.
Suddenly remembered everything that happened since the first time I was finished and now has emotions too.
Supposes that your father giving the name ‘Annie’ is what woke me up.
‘Then why didn’t you communicate with father, grandpa or with me when you have been sentient since that time? And why have we never felt anything strange about you?’Without magic, the best a sentient weapon can do is express emotion to those that see it, and only when it is used and more importantly, when and at who the weapon chooses to do so.
Never been used when I finally became sentient, and more likely to be burned or disposed of by your grandfather and father if I reveal I am strange.
‘…yeah, there is that’ I admitted.
My father and grandfather, and the wives they married were not as bad as those fanatic Christian fundamentalists in the South, especially those Westboro people. But they were very devout people.
They would probably think a family heirloom actually sending them emotions would be something possessed by the devil (while many people here in the Appalachians do believe that family heirlooms do have emotions, that is just the belief, it is not something you actually expect to HAPPEN in real life), and would probably have tried to destroy the thing. And also never interacted with you since you must be traumatized by that temple in the Far East. Bayonet told me the story. Don’t want flashbacks to that event to happen if I interacted with you.
That is one of the most considerate things anyone has ever done for me in my life.
I was suddenly surprised when Ratri snaps her finger in front of me, asking me if I am finished talking with ‘Annie’.
It looks like I lost track of time while ‘talking’ to ‘Annie’.
“Yes. What happened?”
“Well, she can try to tinker with your knife old man.” The kid answered. “But if that thing hurts her, I am breaking that thing in half and then in quarters, and then I will-“
I interrupt her.
“Alright, I get your sentiment” Then to humor her, I look at the bayonet and then order it, complete with finger waving motions.
“Hear that bayonet? No hurting anyone unless I tell you to, alright?” And then I turn towards Ratri and give it to her, saying “Do your thing”
Ratri holds the bayonet in her two hands and…nothing.
She just held it in her hands, looking down at it with half-lidded eyes and her lips slightly moving, while the bayonet is just laying there on her hands.
Then I remember that earlier, she was tinkering with the SKS that Thuc is holding now. She quietly did it while I was debating with Annan about logistics, looking up every now and then from the rifle towards us as we are arguing. And that time she wasn’t moving her lips.
So magic this subtle when used? Is it only when the magic takes effect that something is noticed?
Will I even notice it when it hits me fast and hard?
…well, that doesn’t matter. I have God to help me
“How much longer will it take Ratri?” I ask.
Ratri takes hold of the bayonet in her left hand, by the handle, while her right hand stretches out five fingers. And suddenly it became four fingers stretched out.
I take it to mean four minutes.
“Please don’t disturb Ratri while she is using magic, Mr. Ward.” Daesun says to me.
I then look behind me, towards Thuc and Yung Ho, because I really had nothing to do anymore.
We just look at each other for a few moments, not knowing what to say at first.
“So…are you two ready for this?” I finally ask due to a lack of ideas.
“It’s been a long time since I had been in the field Herbert. And a long time since I felt this GOOD.” Thuc said, at the same time doing some stretching exercises. He also looks a little nervous and excited while doing so. “I think I am ready for this.”
Thuan Thien must be at work here. I can honestly say I have never seen anyone my age this…healthy…agile…flexible.
If I didn’t find out I am still as healthy as a 30 year old man, which I sincerely believe is a miracle from God, I would be jealous of him right now.
I look at Yung Ho next.
“I am excited to finish this job.” he says with a smile on his face.
“How come?” Thuc asks, one of his eyebrows rising in the process.
Yung Ho leaned towards us, putting his arms around our shoulders and making us huddle. Then he softly explains the reason to us.
“I am currently being considered as one of the first members of a very newly formed special group by the Korean supernatural community, and I will be evaluated based on my performance here.”
I blink in surprise.
“What special group?” I asked.
‘ and are those Koreans thinking that this will be a FUBAR? God, I don’t want to disappoint Cha but I hope whatever the Koreans are thinking does not happen’
“It isn’t something like a special forces group dedicated to fighting threats to Korea, is it?” Thuc asks in a joking voice, complete with a grin on his face.
I chuckle at the thought.
Magical Special Forces. Right.
“Actually it is dedicated to decapitating the leadership of North Korea and then temporarily taking over the country’s government until reunification is done with the South.”
Thuc’s grin disappeared, and his face turned from one of joking cheerfulness to disbelief at someone’s stupidity.
I blink and asked the first word to come to mind.
Yung Ho was looking at us seriously. A few moments later he suddenly grinned.
“Just joking” he says.
We’ve been had.
“Don’t joke like that you idiot!” Thuc yelled as he slaps Yung Ho’s back.
“You have some lousy jokes Cha.” I say, at the same time shaking my head.
“But I had you there for a few moments, didn’t I?” he says with a smile.
Thuc kicks Yung Ho’s feet.
“Hey! What is that for?!” Yung Ho yells in a good natured way.
“From now on I am kicking you every time you spout some lousy joke Kimchi.”
“Kimchi?!” Yung Ho asks, in outraged disbelief and humor.
I snicker, as these two guys started bantering with each other.
“Well you do eat Kimchi, right? Then I will call you Kimchi if you irritate me.”
“I haven’t eaten in the last 41 years Thuc.” Yung Ho muttered, and continues “If you are going to be like that, how would you like it if I call you Lau?”
Lau? Isn’t that the…
I start laughing.
“Figures that the first Vietnamese dish a Korean would mention is a spicy one.” Thuc observes in a deadpan tone. And then he laughs too.
Yung Ho is also starting to laugh.
I finally get myself under control and then looked at the two others.
“How about you two? Get here Javin, Connla.” I say to the two who are standing a little bit off away from us.
“Are we invited elder?” Connla asks.
“Of course you two are. We are in this together” Yung Ho says, jovially and matter-of-factly.
“So tell me. Are you two ready for this adventure?” I ask when they came to our huddle.
“I always go along with her whims.” Connla said in a vaguely resigned voice.
Always? Did he say always?
“I presume that means you and her go back a long way.” I say to him.
Poor guy. Dealing with a teenager for God knows how long.
“How did you two meet?” Yung Ho ask.
Connla’s eyes shift to look at something behind us three, and then back at our faces. Then he smiles.
“It’s a tale sure to make you laugh and roll on the ground, but…Annan will be displeased, to say the least, if I told you people about it. So…”
He shrugs his shoulders at the end.
The four of us, Javin included here, look towards Annan (who along with Ratri seemed to have mysteriously moved away from us without me noticing), who is looking at us…no…glaring at Connla with an expression that says ‘shut up if you don’t want to face a pissed off woman’.
Connla’s got good senses. And the kid’s got a good intuition.
“And you, Mr. Lad?” Thuc asks him eventually.
Javin look at all of us, one by one.
“I am quite ready for this expedition, although…”
He trails off.
“Although?” all three of us vets managed to ask him at the same time.
Lad looked at the four of us who are listening to him closely, looking like he is mentally debating something.
A few seconds passes, and he makes his decision.
“ I will be honest with you sirs, especially you Mr. Ward. I have a different priority than merely being Annan’s royal guard.” Javin replies.
“And why is that elder Lad?” Connla asks in a curious tone.
“It is a secret-”
“But I insist elder.” Connla interrupts in a very soft, persuading tone, with something else mixed in there.
That something has me and the others blinking and alert, ready for a fight.
“Connla, let a man have his secrets. And what’s with the aggression?” I softly say.
“Is this secret dangerous to us in the long run.”
“Can’t argue with that logic.” Thuc says.
Yung Ho can’t help but nod in agreement.
“Do I have to? It won’t put any…” Javin asks and then trails off when Connla looked at him straight in the eyes. And I mean really looked at his eyes.
It was quiet for five seconds. Then Javin breaks the silence.
“…you and her? But she-” Javin asks softly, looking over our heads at Annan, who is standing near Ratri, glaring at my bayonet every now and then while she is talking with Daesun about the…I think it’s the itinerary.
…wait a minute. ‘You and her?’
I quickly look between Connla and Annan, who had stopped talking to Daesun and was looking at us, with suspicion on her face. And at that moment when the kid wasn’t looking at her, the Korean goddess quickly put a finger on her lips in the gesture for silence, along with a wink to us (because I am not the only one looking between the two. There is also Thuc, Yung Ho and Javin). At the same time, I also notice Ratri smiling in amusement as she is doing her stuff.
“She doesn’t know about it.” Connla softly interrupts.
I look at the boy from the past. And one final time at Annan, who is being distracted by Daesun with something.
…I wish him luck, since the kid is oblivious. Also, the kid’s a cute girl, but she isn’t someone I would want my son to associate with in the romantic sense.
In the meantime…I look back at the two.
Javin is still looking at Connla’s eyes. And then he speaks up.
“You are not going to let a man keep his secret, won’t you?”
“If our places are switched, would you Lad?” Connla says in a very protective tone.
Javin pauses for a moment, and then finally, he concedes the point.
“Very well. I have been told that I would meet my wife again only when I go on this expedition.”
“Only when…” I raise an eyebrow at that.
That sounds somewhat like blackmail.
And this looks like it’s the reason he was reluctant to say this to us.
Personal issues. Something you don’t advertise to the world unless you had to, or if it’s just how you are.
Connla slowly winces and looks away.
“I apologize for the offense elder Lad.” he says in an embarrassed tone.
“Apology accepted Connla.” Javin replied with a smile that says he has forgiven him, and held out his hand for a handshake.
Connla nods with an embarrassed smile, notices the hand, and then looks up at Javin.
“What am I supposed to do with your hand?” he asks.
“You don’t know what a handshake is?” Javin asks.
Connla looked at him in confusion, and then his face brightens up in realization.
“Oh. You mean that curious Greek custom where you hold the other person’s hand and shake it when an agreement is reached?”
“Yes” I reply, wondering about what he just said.
Even handshakes are from Greece? I wasn’t aware of that.
Connla quickly takes hold of Javin’s hand with his right arm and shakes it three times.
Well, looks like any trouble between the two has been resolved now.
“Javin, what you just said sounds like something funny is happening.” Thuc says to him.
“No!” Javin said in shock. Then he continues. “Nothing foul is happening. I was just given mercy by the gods. I had been looking for my wife’s reincarnation for 150 years. Constantly searching and waiting…finally, one of the gods noticed me. Five days ago, by my reckoning, the goddess Parvati suddenly appeared in front of me, and she asked me why I am emulating her.”
“That must have been awkward.” I say to him.
I don’t know what Parvati does, but it sounds like something I imagine Jesus would ask those self-flagellants in the Philippines that were featured this one time in National Geographic: Why are they reenacting his crucifixion.
“It is. I answered her that I am only searching for my wife all these years, and no offense was ever intended. She then left me alone for a while.”
“Later, she, along with Lakshmi and some other goddesses appeared and told me they found out where my wife is. But I have to go on this quest to meet her reincarnation. That is when I met Ratri.”
“And when you meet her reincarnation? Then what?” Yung Ho asks him.
“…then I wait, watching over her.”
“That sounds like a stalker” I say.
Javin turns to me and asked what is the relation of hunting to his search for his wife.
I…how do you explain the concept of stalking to a 19th century person?
“Never mind” I say.I believe other words which he might understand are voyeur or Peeping Tom.
‘…better not explain it like that. He might react badly’
…very well. But someone must tell him someday.
‘I’ll do that someday’ I promise to myself.
“Elder Javin, you know that watching over a reincarnated person can be very painful, right?"
“I know that. A girl can be reincarnated as a boy, another girl, an animal, or even a plant. And I have to see her live a life without me, I know that…but this is my only chance. After this…if I still fail to see her, I will reincarnate.”
At the end, one can see on his face the anguish of a person searching for a missing loved one, and then being told that they only have a few hours left before the missing one is declared dead.
“What does she look like?” I ask him, intending to help him keep a lookout for his wife.
Javin shakes his head.
“I am afraid that reincarnation makes recognizing someone by face useless.”
“Then how will you know it is her if you saw her reincarnation?” Thuc asks him with a teary face.
“I WILL know it’s her if I saw her…I’m sorry but that is how it is explained to me.” he says.
That is…so…‘Cliché ?
said ‘Annie’ to my head.
‘Yes. But for me, this is a new interpretation of love at first sight’
…the whole thing sounded so cliché but…love is love. And some things change with this kind of afterlife.
“Anything we old folks can do to help you?” I ask.
Javin shakes his head.
“How about we make it easier for you to look around you?” Thuc offers.
“How?” I ask him.
“We could walk slower.” Yung Ho says to me.
I look at him with a remark about to spill out of my mouth, when it occurrs to me that what he said IS one way to help Javin look for his wife, since he did say only he can recognize his wife.
That stops me in my metaphorical tracks and made me feel silly.
Unfortunately for me Yung Ho noticed, and looks at me and Thuc (who has pretty much the same silly look as me) with a smug expression that says ‘I know what you just thought of and I am amused by it’.
I change my words.
“I get it Yung Ho so wipe that smirk off, ok?”
“Alright” Yung Ho says in surrender, complete with his two arms up in the gesture for it.
I roll my eyes heavenwards, asking God to give this man a proper sense of humor.
“Speaking of your wife, did the gods say where exactly you would find them? Or any clue at all about where she is?” Yung Ho continues.
Javin quickly replies.
“Lakshmi said that the only way I would not see her is if somebody deliberately stopped us from meeting, and that would be highly improbable since there are very few beings that are willing to defy the combined will of a lot of goddesses.”
Well…I guess in this case that maxim about angry women being more dangerous than hell is literally true.
“So your meeting her is fated already? Willed by the gods?” Thuc asks.
“Yes” he says in a fervent tone of voice.
“Well, here’s adding to those goddesses’ will. I hope God helps you see your wife.” I say to him, partly in prayer and partly in offering any help I could give.
“And as an ancestral spirit, you have my help should you need it.” Thuc says to him.
“If you need to find her using other methods, I offer my services as a paksu mudang.” Yung Ho adds.
Connla gives his offer of help last.
“If anyone tries to stop your meeting with her, I offer my spear and shield to stop them elder Javin.”
As he said this he is looking at Javin’s face, making what seems to be a man to man promise.
Javin looks touched by the outpouring of support, and all he could say to us is one single thank you before looking away from us.
Guess he doesn’t want us to see him wiping those tears away.
“Well, I guess this makes up for the reason I am doing this job in the first place. When do we start?” I said, wanting to let the man see his wife again and for my granddaughters to be safe as fast as possible.
I look at Ratri, just in time since it appears she had just finished her magic.
“I am finished with the bayonet Mr. Ward.” she said as she holds out the bayonet to me.
As I take it, I look for anything that has changed about the bayonet.
For one, there is that black, very barely seen (because one moment it is there, the other moment it is not) ominous line on the point and edge of the bayonet.
The moments when I see it, it looks no different than if someone ran a black marking pen over the point and edge. Yet…that black is ominous, not in the same way that you are scared of the dark not knowing what is out there, but in the same way that I just felt when Daesun pulled that Davy Crocket from Yung Ho’s bag. Or the way that you feel when you are handling a perfectly new grenade. You know that thing could still blow up on you, yet it is assured by the makers that it will not.
Other than that, is the blade and handle. They…they feel as permanent as the Cumberland mountains back home. As if long after human civilization is gone, it will still be there in my home, undamaged by anything nature can throw at a manmade object, for all of eternity.
“Is the bayonet to your liking, Mr. Ward?”
“Tell me this first Ratri. Is what I feel from seeing something magical an accurate gauge of the power of a magical object or being?”
“For the humans, no. You can’t gauge power, but you could feel what is the magical object supposed to do, or what the magical being is related to.”
I nod thinking about it.
“Well then, if that is how it works then I think I am satisfied.”
“So is there anything else?” The kid asks everyone there.
Ratri and Daesun shake their heads. Lieu Hanh seems to be talking with someone through a cell phone while looking at us.
The others, including me, are looking at Annan, waiting.
“Well if there is nothing else, we are going now. See you girls later.” she said to Ratri and Daesun, waving with her left hand as her
right index finger…dips into the air just like you dip your finger into an ink bottle…what is she poking her finger into?
She drags the finger downwards, and a…gap…void with lots of lights just like you see in the night sky opened up just like a zipper.
Once she had it down to the ground, she stepped into the void and looks back at us.
“What are you guys waiting for?”
Thanks to Tortieconspiracy, maddoctor and Lady Tevar for the beta work! THANK YOU PEOPLE!