Dragon Sword

A blind swordswoman in China seeks revenge on the cunning and deadly Manchu general who killed her parents.

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10. parting

 

Morning and the sun's glare and the pack train laden with pelts shambles off in the dust with the boy turning his head and then eventually his whole body to keep the blind woman in sight as she walks behind the plodding horses, but by noon she can barely hear the hooves or the clink of bridle and harness and steel traps and the boy turning on the rickety mule can no longer discern her dark shape on the mirage-distorted horizon. Gone.

 

The boy faces forward and feels the sun scorching his neck and shoulderblades and he shuts his eyes pretending that he is the blind woman. Hearing tasting smelling feeling -- yet unseeing.

 

 

They'll reach Dragon Gate Pass in two days, the father suddenly says, even in this scorching heat if the springs along the road aren't dry and if none of the horses go lame or get bit by a snake.

           

How long will it take the blind woman to get there? the boy asks.

 

The hunter, chewing on a stalk of broom grass, reflects with his eyes narrowed and finally says if she makes good time maybe four days in all.

 

Why didn't we give her a ride?

 

She wanted to walk.

 

Silence.

 

Will we see the gong fu fighters, daddy?

 

We will.

 

Will we see Taoist Fighting Tiger?

           

If he's fighting this festival.

 

Mongolian Chu?

 

Of course.

 

Plodding hooves are the only sound but for clanking metal. Heat waves form into shining lakes, ghost riders, castles in the sky. Disappearing illusions. The boy sways, shutting his eyes again.

          

Look sharp.

 

Yes daddy.

           

I don't want you to fall off and get hurt.

           

Yes daddy.

 

Stay wakeful when you ride, even if it's just a flyspecked mule.

 

Yes.

 

We'll camp tonight in those mountains. See?

 

Yes, daddy. I thought they weren't real.

 

They're as real as you or me.

 

           

Silence.

 

 

Daddy, in the mountains will you cut a stalk of bamboo for a flute?

 

If we set eyes on a good stand of it sure I will.

 

Why was the blind woman playing hers so sadly?

           

Because she's all alone in the world.

 

Are we alone?

 

No.

      

Why not?

           

I've got you. You've got me. We're not, that's all. Shush now, and stay sharp.

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