The third part of the 1st chapter
The third part of the 1st chapter.
Bléumond was calling after the handicraft man and was catching up to him, who was by that time taking a turn into a small path through the wood.
"Wait, pea...Wait seller. Sir! Wait, please," she called out, but his shade was already hard to see behind the bushes and the dense overhead canopy cast shadows as if veiling the man. Bléumond stood at the edge of the forest, hesitant of stepping into in. Although she had heard what the handicraft man said that it was all Joha's fabrication, she still could not forget the stories she heard. Image of monsters pouncing on her, made her wait for a few minutes on the path, pondering.
Finally she called one last time to the handicraftman, although she knew he would barely hear her, let alone respond.
"Why does he have to go in there?" she sighed to herself, before taking a deep breath.
Thus Bléumond ran on the path all the while shouting after the handicraft man.
A loud "Sir, wait up!" was heard repeatedly but soon diminished as well as her silhouette was no longer seen from the river.
In fact Bléumond ran for only a minute, a few hundred steps, but her imagination was playing trick on her that she felt it was a long run until she saw the back of the handicraft man. She was then so delighted, that she rushed to him.
The man was startled and turned around. He was slightly puzzled, she could tell, but then spoke with irritation, "Didn’t I leave you at the bridge?"
"No, I followed you. Why didn't you stop when I called you? Where are we going?"
"Peasant," he said bluntly. He then turned and continued walking.
"Peasant?" she replied."I did not say peasant. I didn't...near the forest that is...and after the bridge. Where are we going?"
"You said pea, then you changed to sir."
"You did hear me! Why didn't you stop?"
After waiting awhile to no answer, Bleumond asked again,
" Where are we going...“ before adding "...sir?"
The man turned, amusement on his face.
"I see that you called me sir."
"Yes I did. Where are we going sir?" she repeated.
The man ignored her question but instead asked, “ Why are you following me?"
"Because...because I saw you did magic," she said "and I would like to learn...“
"Aha!" He clapped his hands, which startled Bléumond this time around."I knew you had some plan. I see that your courtesy was a manner you adopted. Quite interesting."
"Will you teach me then," she asked hopefully and had almost forgotten, before adding,“ sir"
"No," he said and walked away.
"Why not?" Bléumond asked.
"You have dropped sir."
"Why not sir?"
"Stop calling me sir. It is annoying. If you still want to continue with your pretense of demeanour, why don't you use something else. Master,or something to that extent. Instiur would be fine."
In truth, Bléumond doesn't know what pretense, demeanour or Instiur meant but the word master provoked her, " I am not your slave, to call you master!"
"I see. Don’t call me then."
Bléumond was silent for a while as the man began to continue walking.
"If I call you Instiur, would you teach me magic?"
"Argh!I despise you! You stupidd..peasant."
He turned around and said,“ I see that you are back to normal. Now. Go. Home."
"I don't know the way back."
A smile flickered across the man's face. He walked back towards the 10 years old child, closer to see her face. He finally squatted and peered into her eyes and asked,“ Are you scared, Maise Bleumond?"
"No I am not! I just don't know the way."
The man smiled again."It's just over there. Follow that path, keeping the sun to your left and you will reach the river. I am sure you can find your way after that. Owh, the sun has almost set. You must be quick and better go home now," he said condescendingly with a tad of amusement.
Bléumond hated the man at that moment but she realized that it was almost dark like he said. She looked at the road and looked back at the man, who was watching expectantly.
"Go on now."
Thus Bléumond decided to conquer her fear and maintained her pride, and walked home. Occasionally she would throw a few glances and see that the man was still sitting there, watching her go. She was starting to feel comfortable when she caught at the tail of her eyes that the man was gone, so she turned around quickly and ran back searching for the man. She searched frantically around but saw nothing. Instinctively she called out.
She didn't know why she could hear the fear in her voice.."Instu.." she was cut short as someone pull at her leg, so she automatically kicked away.
"Stop it! Lie down,"
To Bléumond's relief, the handicraft man was hiding below the bush, motioning her to hide too. But then she realize she acted coward for running back and hated herself for that, but she hated the man more for making fun of her. As they were lying on the earth, Bléumond wanted to hit the man but almost stopped when she saw his face, concentrating instead of lines of smiles. However she had already threw her punch, which was fortunately caught in mid-air.
"I don't have time for this. Be silent, let me listen," he said earnestly, facing Bléumond.
Quietly she nodded a reply. He stills her hand but she let it be, afraid to break his concentration. So they were side by side, as if they were daughter and father on a walk while holding hand, except they were lying on the ground.
It was uncomfortable on the hard ground and after long minutes passed, Bléumond was wondering how to tell the man, when he suddenly turned to her.
"I need to ask you questions," he said with a sense of urgency, in which she just nodded dutifully.
"Sit up. Now, did anyone follow you from the river? No. Then do you have any guardians?"
She was about to ask but he cut her,“ I mean, is anyone following you around, like a maid?"
"Yes," she said,“ but I left her at the market."
"Is there anyone else?" he continued asking,“ A man? No. Did your father had guardians? How many were they in your house whole?"
The man continued to bombard questions and Bléumond tried to answer them all. She was however getting tired and her eyes were sleepy that the man had to shake her from sleeping. She managed to answer a few more questions, telling that her relatives were on their way to Kyushu, before the drowsiness crept back.
She almost fell asleep, vaguely hearing the man's voice but as her eyes were about to close for good, she felt a sudden prick and pain. Looking into her hand, she discovered her middle finger covered with blood and in the man's hand was a stained knife.
And he thrust it into her hand."I want you to listen carefully. I want you to watch in my eyes, and when my eyelids almost close, stab the knife below my fingernail. Any fingers, does not matter but below the fingernail. Do you understand?"
The knife dropped from her hand and she stared at her wounded finger incredulously.
"Do you understand me?" he repeated.
She finally spoke," What did you do?"
"You..We were poisoned. A sleeping powder. Used for catching cubs. Mother tiger killed," he answered between nods,“ Not much time. Someone will come. You must wake me. Below the nails. Remember. Only when eyelids almost closed, not..."
The sounds that came from him now were mumbles, that she shook him.
"Wake up..Wake up. Can’t I just let you sleep? I can wait for you. I will wait for you, I promise I will. Instur!"
He opened his eyes wearily for the last time, slowly put the knife back into her hands and said,“ You are the cub."
Thus Instur fell asleep.
Bléumond tried to drive the knife but the child was scared to her wits and the knife was lying motionless in her hand. A sound started her, she turned and saw the brambles move. A person appeared and stood near a tree, his face in the shadow. He just stood watching the poor child staring frightened.
"Will he die?" she asked.
"Will you come?"
"Will he die?"
"Do you want him to live? Then come."
Wearyingly she followed with a heavy heart, thinking that maybe, maybe sometimes the mother cubs are spared.