WWM #1: Unfinished Short Story "The Encounter"
"Weekend with Mai" is a series where I post every weekend with shorter thoughts, scribble unfinished literature work, Instagram journals, tips and tricks and many other random things that don't fit within the "serious" Thought Book.
WWM #1: An excerpt in a short story I never finished.
The steam from the hot spring at the bottom of a rocky valley touched her face gently like the smell of morning roses. It had been a while since she could relax her mind. She has rarely let her guard down. Her sword kept her companied. It was laid down along her clothes on the bank next to the clear stream. This hot spring was her well-kept secret from her people, among all other secrets.
None of her people knew she was a girl. The tribal would not have listened to her as a leader if they knew. At the moment she was born, her mother begged the tribal leader, her father, to keep her alive, because the curse will last upon generations once the leader’s blood was passed onto a girl as their first child. Her father, without a blink, ordered his most trusted guard to leave the infant in the cold on a distant highland. “If she was the gift from heaven, the full moon will protect her from the wolves. The moonlight will be outshone by her charms.”
Her mom told her that in the following morning, they found her with wolves hair and smell and intact in the cloth wrap. Her father believed she was gifted to him by the moon goddess because the wolves surrendered to her and tried to keep her warm. The tribal was then made aware of the male successor of the leader. She had been brought up like a guy since.
The only moment she lived her femininity was at this hot spring, where she was exposed and faced her own self as a woman. Despite how much blood was stained on her swords, deep in side she was still a fragrant rose surrounded with thorns. She had a love-hate relationship with her youthful body, whose beauty has gradually become charming and glowingly outshone her efforts to conceal her gender. The mom called her White Deer as she was tall, bright looking with her smooth, soft skin and a bright complexion. Her gold hair, which had been cut short like a guy, hugged her face like the light cloud decorating the sky on a full moon night. Her soft kissable lips were meant to pray, not to curse. She had been growing into a gorgeous woman, whose beauty could have been a great treasure to a lord of the neighbouring land. The only part in her body that did not fit in a life in the household was her hand: the rough hands full of callus from using weapons, rinsed in blood and killing.
As she relaxed with her blood rushing through her body in the warm water, slight waves with the gentle sound of stirring water signalled her of danger. As she turned around to grab her sword and some clothes to cover herself, at the corner of her eyes, she recognised the sight of a young man approaching from behind the rocky edges.
“Who are you?” asked her.
He replied with a smile. “I thought this hot spring was my own secret. Now I recognise an invader.”
The intruder was a young gentlemen in his twenties. His dark long hair falls onto his face, like a brush that potrayed an aesthetically pleasing looking man.
“I can kill you in an instance. But not today. This water is too pure to be tainted by your blood. Just mind your own business and return to where you belong”. She ground her teeth and firmly held the swords.
“Why do you try so hard to be tough?” His eye looked through her without a blink of fear and as before, with a smile. “Ladies are meant to be protected, not fought against. Where do you get such a well made sword from?”
“If you open your mouth with one more question, I’ll cut your tongue.” She became rather annoyed of the intrusion.
“You’re interesting. I have never seen a lady with a sword. I want to talk to you in peace, so I’m gonna be on the other side of the rocks of the hot spring.” His long eyelashes distracted her for a fraction of second, before she realised his compromises.
As he turned away and made his way through the water, a thought sparked in her mind. “If he belongs, or any how relates to my people, I should kill him now that he has seen me as a woman” Her sword almost executed, with a gentle hand movement as quick as a hummingbird, which was then paused by a moment of vague hesitation of hers.
He walked away with a smile “You won’t kill me, I know. You trust me, lady”. His words veils the atmosphere in an air of arrogance.
The next time she returned to the hot spring, he was there. She was disturbed by the sight of his half-covered body, so she remained on her horse.
“I order you to leave” Her sharp look at him once again reaffirmed her authority.
“Why?” Once again, his smile offered her challenges as he did not at all intend to move.
Running out of patience, she reached out to her swords. “No more question. Otherwise in a moment, you’ll have to beg me for mercy”
He did not attend to her words but rather silently adore the great war horse she’s sitting on. “Lady, you need to learn how to share this secret. The hot spring don’t belong to anyone but mother Earth”
“I don’t waste time on such useless arguments. If you want a fight, leave the water and pick up your sword. Your gore does not deserve to float along this hot spring.”
“I came unarmed, lady. Who would bring their weapons to a hot bath anyway?”
With fierce anger in her eyes, she did not start a fight because she, like any tribal leader, would not fight the unarmed. As she turned her horse around preparing to leave, he reluctantly said:
“Fine, lady, you got me.” He stood up. “Why do I have to be a gentleman every time? It’s just a shared bath. Am I stupid enough to harass a girl with sword?” The sight of the scars on his back slowly disappeared behind the rocks as he got to the other side of the spring.
As she made herself comfortable in the warm water, she started to hear the echo of his voice. He was talking to her but not expecting a reply.
“You don’t seem to share much. We don’t have to be tough all the time, only sometimes. On the battlefield it is different, but we are not really fighting here. I killed a bunch today. It feels great to be here now.”
“It feels great to be here now”. Such a sudden charming thought sparked in her brain among all the bloody memories of the battles today. “Here, now, with this man”. Her thought rushed through her mind just as fast as her sword cut the opponent open.
“Yes, it feels great to be here now”, murmured she.
Illustration: Thu Phan, Untitled, Vietnamese, Watercolor, 2015