Friday, January 11, 2008

"At the Peony Tea House" - Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my original short story "At the Peony Tea House". Enjoy.


"At the Peony Tea House" - Part 2
by Charles Shaver. Copyright 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.

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PART II

THE FOX AND THE FROG: Wherein Wu Chan Chu and Comet Fox Fight; Old Friends Reminisce; A Small Fortune Goes Missing

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Comet Fox danced back and forth. His arms swayed from side to side while his feet took turns supporting him atop the polished wood floor of the Peony. His red fur waved as an ocean at sunset.

Wu Chan Chu was confused by this new dance. Never had she seen her old friend move so. "What new trickery have you learned in our time apart?" she asked.

"Come," Comet Fox challenged, sneering, "Find out what new tricks this old dog has learned."

Wu Chan Chu charged Comet Fox, but Comet Fox cartwheeled sideways and was suddenly at his opponent's side with a fist in her gut.

Wu Chan Chu gave a small croak.

The crowd roared with laughter and cheers.

Wu Chan Chu stepped away, coughed, and said, "Beautifully executed, but tricks will not win a war."

Comet Fox answered by jumping, flying, darting towards Wu Chan Chu with great speed.

Wu Chan Chu took a defensive stance, her eyes upon the swiftly approaching fists. She brought up her arms in a block.

Comet Fox, just before hitting Wu Chan Chu, pulled up quickly, flipping mid-air over Wu Chan Chu. His fists, instead of landing upon Wu Chan Chu's raised arms, floated instead to his sides while his head slammed into the top of Wu Chan Chu's skull in a fierce headbutt. She groaned, coughing, gurgling. Blood sprayed from her left nostril.

Comet Fox landed softly upon the wood floor behind her.

Wu Chan Chu wiped the blood from her nose and turned to face Comet Fox. She wanted to scream her dissatisfaction at him, but chose to take a defensive stance once more instead.

Comet Fox flew at her once more. This time Wu Chan Chu was ready. She jumped, meeting him mid-air with a knee to his chest. Both fell to the ground, Wu Chan Chu upon her feet and Comet Fox Rolling on his side.

Comet Fox rolled up to his feet, sneering, laughing quietly.

The two warriors fought for hours, testing each other, feeling each other out. For a long time Comet Fox showed he had the edge, throwing more punches, landing more blows. In the end, both were bloody and bruised and the crowd was captivated.

"We have fought long enough," Comet Fox whispered to his opponent. "Let us end this."

"Indeed," Wu Chan Chu agreed. "Let's end this."

They circled, increasing distance from one another. When at lasdt they were at the farthest edges of the wooden floor from one another, they charged. Comet Fox flew. Wu Chan Chu jumped. Both struck and both blows were hard. Comet Fox's fist found Wu Chan Chu's neck. It sank into deep folds, finding esophagus and pinching it. Wu Chan Chu's eyes grew wide as she gasped for air.

As Comet Fox's blow landed, so too did Wu Chan Chu's. She brought both her knees up, one slightly above the other. One struck Comet Fox in the chest, expelling all the air from his body. The other struck his gut, sending bile into his throat.

Comet Fox and Wu Chan Chu both fell to the floor, coughing, choking, rolling in pain.

The people screamed, they cheered. They cried out for more. Men grabbed men and shook each other in excitement. Women grabbed women and screeched with joy. But soon, as the two fighters rolled across the wooden floor in agony, they all turned to wonder at who should be declared the winner. A clear winner was needed to settle all the bets.

The owner of the Peony stepped forward. "Let us agree," he cried out, "that whosoever should stand first shall be declared the winner!"

The people cheered, then grew silent. Then chants began, some for the champion Wu Chan Chu, some for the challenger Comet Fox.

Both struggled to stand. Both fell in doing so. But it was at last Wu Chan Chu who first got to her feet and was declared winner.

The crowd screamed with delight. A few booed. All applauded as the two fighters walked off the floor together.

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The room was small and smelled of stank tobacco and sweat. Comet Fox couldn't quite get used to it. There was a small bed and a blue glass hookah in the center of the room. Flies and cockroaches skittered and flew everywhere.

Wu Chan Chu fell atop the bed. Comet fox used an overturned wood crate as a seat. He dabbed at blood trickling from his mouth with his pawed hand.

Wu Chan Chu busily, meticulously prepared some herbal leaves in the hookah. She carefully lit the flavored leaves and offered Comet Fox a hose. He took it and drew on the sweet smoke. It tasted of peaches. His mind went wild and he puffed out two more clouds of smoke. Wu Chan Chu did the same with another hose.

"You learned a new style," Wu Chan Chu said.

"And you're as strong as ever," Comet Fox replied.

"Tell me, where did you learn this new way of fighting?"

"After we parted," Comet Fox said, "I traveled the mortal realm for quite a time. I sowed a few seeds, drank a lot, and woke up one day with an island sun blinding me. On that island is where I learned my new fighting style. There I met Master Bakongo. There I learned from him Capoeira."

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The Island of Black Soil and Oranges was small, sunny, bright and off the coast of a southern continent. It was populated by a mere few hundred and was occasionally adorned with hardened lava floes from a long-dead volcano. The people were happy, their lives hard but good. Fish and oranges were staples in their diet. It was here that Comet Fox awoke from a drunken haze.

He wandered the island until he found several people, both men and women, working on nets and lines and preparing foods before the day's fishing. Comet Fox asked, "I beg for your kindness... have you something for me to eat?"

The people laughed and scoffed at him. A woman named Risueña Cara grabbed his pawed hand and placed some netting in it that needed to be repaired, stating, "Work first, then we eat."

"But I'm hungry and I do not live here," Comet Fox explained.

"Then you do not eat here, either," said the Risueña Cara.

Comet Fox, with great reluctance, learned how to tie and repair nets for fishing that morning. As soon as the work was through, the whole community came out to eat. He was accepted into their midst, many gawking at him and asking questions, but none were mean, foul or inconsiderate. They allowed him to eat all he wanted and he ate his fill.

"Come," said Risueña Cara once more, "we must go to work."

"But, but..." Comet Fox stammered. "I do not live here."

"But if you would like to, you must work."

Fearing offending his hosts, Comet Fox boarded a boat and helped paddle out and helped with the day's fishing.

Later that night the groups of boats return with fish and food for the night's meal.

And so went Comet Fox's life for many days. He would awake, repair tools, eat, fish all day, return to the island and eat and sleep. He lost weight, grew muscles, gained clarity of mind.

After many weeks on the Island of Black Soil and Oranges, the people had a Moon Festival. Comet Fox did his part in the festival's preparation. He fished, decorated, chopped wood for big bonfires.

On the night of the Moon Festival the people danced, ate and ate and sang. At one point someone produced a ball and a type of singing, dancing game was started. Comet Fox found himself thrown into the mix. He laughed and hooted and cheered as he kicked the ball and danced and celebrated with the people. The people cheered his deft athleticism at the game. He flew above their heads with torches in each hand to light the night sky already bright with a full moon.

The following morning when he awoke for the day's work, he was told not do so.

"But why?" he asked.

"Someone wishes to speak with you today," Risueña Cara told him.

"Who?"

"Just stay while we go out fishing today," said Risueña Cara.

Comet Fox did as he was told, though he wondered if he had offended the good people of the island in some way the night before.

He sat along the shore a long time after the people had paddled out to sea before someone approached him. He was an elderly man, wrinkled with time and skin dark with the sun. "I am Akan Bakongo," the old man introduced himself.

"I am Comet Fox."

"I saw you playing our game last night."

"The one with the ball?"

"Yes."

Comet Fox smiled, "Yes, I liked it."

"You are quite good at it, quite natural to physical movement."

"Comet Fox shrugged, "I guess so."

"Come," Akan Bakongo said. He lead Comet Fox into a stand of palms Comet Fox had seen but never thought to venture into. Deep within was a small hut with a single room within. They entered. The hut smelled moist and alive. In the center of its lone room was a ball much like Comet Fox had played with the night before at the Moon Festival. Akan Bakongo tapped it with his foot. The ball slowly rolled to Comet Fox's feet.

"Kick it back," Akan Bakongo said.

Comet Fox did so and did so slowly, just as it had been kicked to him.

Akan Bakongo, with a quick twist of his ankle, kicked the ball again, this time sailing at a high speed toward Comet Fox's head.

Comet Fox deflected the ball with his head. The ball fell back to the floor and rolled towards Akan Bakongo who kicked it once more, this time even harder and with greater speed.

Comet Fox swung his arms, twisting his body as he had dancing the night before, and leaned way back to avoid the ball aimed for his chest. "What are you trying to do?" Comet Fox demanded as he straightened.

"Teach you."

"Teach me what? How to avoid being hit by a ball?"

"Exactly. Now return the ball to me. And keep those legs moving as if dancing, just like in the game last night."

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"And so began my training in Capoeira," Comet Fox explained. "What of you? How is it you've come to be the champion here?"

Wu Chan Chu sighed. "XXiao-tep and I traveled together a long time after we left the Cottonwood Chamber, but eventually the time came for us to part. He needed to go his way and I mine. I supported myself by fighting here and there for money. Finally, a traveling immortal told me of this place and said there's money to be made here for a good fighter. As champion, I get ten percent of the house's take on the gambling plus this room to stay in and all the tea and food I want. It's been a pretty good life for me. A hard one, but a good one."

Comet Fox nodded.

A great commotion erupted in the hall outside the door. Wu Chan Chu flicked her tongue out and used it to slide the door open. People we rerunnign after the owner of the tea house.

Wu Chan Chu stood up and left, Comet Fox following closely behind.

When they reached the owner's side, Wu Chan Chu asked, "What is it? What's the problem?"

"Oh, my champion!" cried the owner. "The coffers! The Peony's coffers have gone missing! We are broke! Someone has stolen all our money!"

Wu Chan Chu grunted, sighed, then looked at Comet Fox.

"What? Why are you looking at me?" Comet Fox asked.

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Look for Part 3 next Friday!!!

1 comment:

Jaelyn said...

Yay! I've been waiting for more tales from this world.

Were they playing a type of soccer game?