A Continuing Haibun Cycle
“When will you start teaching me your ways?” Haike kept washing his hands in the frigid water of the stream, not allowing any of the discomfort to reach his face. The dried rabbit blood was proving intractable in the chilly water. He would have to scrape it off with a stone.
“When will you teach me yours?” she asked.
“I am but a boy. I have little to say that would bring wisdom.”
“Is that right?” Namira asked. “How long could you remain submerged in water this cold, if your life depended on it?”
He studied her, his pale eyes sharp, thoughtful. “Without breathing? Only a turn of the quick glass. The chill of the water wouldn't factor in, though it would make it more of a challenge to the mind.”
“Not the body?”
“Discomfort doesn't challenge the body, unless it injures. It's the mind that decides to give up, the mind that relents,” he told her.
“Are these common phrases for your people, Haike? Did your folk teach you these wisdoms?”
He shrugged. “I came by some of them in watching. More of them, by doing. In the battle when I was taken to thrall, I had a choice of things. A knife lay near me, outside my uncle's tent. Had I grasped it and fought as men fight, perhaps they would have killed me, and my soul would not have known the shame of bondage. Then again, I could have slashed my own throat and accomplished a quick exit of this life. I could see in the warrior's faces, in the way their bodies moved—those who would submit and those who would fight. It was a decision in their minds, even if they knew not.”
Namira smiled. “You see? You are the teacher sometimes. We learn together. Everyone has wisdom to impart, for we each walk a separate road.”
He arose, his hands red and stinging, but clean. “Secret for secret, then?”
She smiled for a moment, then nodded slightly. Namira's body blurred, springing forward like a whip. With two fingers, she struck a point near his shoulder and the nerves of his body flared. He fell to earth, feeling nothing, paralyzed.
Namira stood over him, watching as he slowly regained the feeling and strength in his body. He sat up after several turns of the quick glass.
“That felt strange.”
“You were not afraid?”
He shrugged, a vague smile on his face. “How is it done?”
“The body is a web of nerves. If you can strike one of the nerve centers, you can disable the body. Can you still feel where my strike landed?”
“If you were to hit me in that nerve, where would you strike?” Namira asked.
Haike reached and touched a place on her shoulder, just inward from the joint.
“Close,” she said. She took his hand and moved it a finger's width. “There.”
“If I hit you there, you would fall, as I did?”
Haike put out two fingers, squinting at them. Without warning, he leaped forward and struck. Namira's legs buckled. He caught her as best he could as she fell. Her one arm clung to him for a moment before she was able to stand again. She touched Haike's brow.
“Good. Good. Mount up, today's lesson is done.”
There is no Student
no Teacher, only the great
world's-knot of learning
If I am a web,
so too, I am a pale loom
the threads half woven
You watch me falling
but when you buckle, my arms
hold you from the earth.
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