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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 17: Hastings 6
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 16, Kondor 6
After work Sunday night, Lauren rushed home to change. Raiden would be in the park, and she wanted to join him there as early as she could. Removing the bits of armor that she wore under her work clothes, she was soon clad in the gi, the plain white garment worn by students of the martial arts, with nothing but her three whipping chains and the key to the house.
Although the sun was barely up, Raiden was indeed there feeding the ducks. He rose and signaled for her to follow him down to the water, where he got into a rowboat. As soon as she pushed them away from the dock and climbed in, he rowed out some distance from the shore, and then steadied the boat in the water and stowed the oars.
"The sides of the boat," Raiden said, "they are called 'gunnels'. Please stand on them."
"Stand on the gunnels?" Lauren said.
Lauren had done flips on balance beams and cartwheels on tight ropes, and although she wasn't that good at these things, she figured straddling the gunnels of a rowboat shouldn't be too difficult. Grasping the center of one of the thwarts, she lifted both legs and placed her feet firmly on either side, then stood up.
"Please take your kau sin ke in your right hand." His pronunciation of the name of the weapon reminded her that it was not an English word. She almost didn't understand that combination of consonants and diphthongs to be the same words she had used. But as he continued, she understood. "Use the metal one, if it is the heaviest. Weight is important.
"Now, swing it around, like this." He made something of a figure eight sideways in the air with his finger. "Do not worry about me; I will worry about me. Worry about standing."
She began to swing the weapon in the requested pattern. At first, she did worry about hitting him, for although this was a long rowboat she could have hit the stern plate behind him with it with only a slight stretch of her arm. But after a moment she saw that he was quite safe, and she began to pick up momentum and to wonder where this exercise would lead.
Quick as lightning his hand darted out and snatched the tip of the weapon in flight, and with a yank, he pulled her off balance and into the lake.
"We are not here to swim. I say worry about standing, and you jump in the lake!" He helped her back into the boat, dripping wet in the cool September morning air. "Try again."
She got back into her position on the gunnels, and resumed the pattern. So now she had some idea of what to expect. She balanced her weight a bit lower, bending her knees, and kept her eyes on him. "Good. Good. That looks better." But faster than she could think, he did it again, grasping the moving weapon and yanking her into the drink.
"I thought you were going to stay in the boat," he chided. "Come back in and try again."
Once more she got up on the gunnels, this time more on the balls of her feet, still keeping her body low. But again he tossed her in the water and chided her as he helped her out.
Well, she thought, the third time wasn't the charm. But she didn't like giving up, so she got back on the gunnels unbidden, and again began the motion of the weapon. "Calm," he said. "Focus. Balance. Flow."
This time when he caught the weapon, she dropped her weight in and down, and although she lost the gunnels, she stayed in the boat.
"That is better," he said. "Try again."
Once more on the gunnels, she took a deep breath and considered everything she had done so far. Getting into the position which seemed to give her the most solid stance, she resumed the movement, and watched him like a cat. He sat unmoving in the stern, returning her stare with a comfortable relaxed but steady gaze. Like a pendulum the kau sin ke swung, ticking off seconds, then minutes, she did not know for how long. The day could have been slipping past, but she kept her eyes fixed on him, awaiting the movement to which she would have to react.
Suddenly she saw it. His hand darted for the tip of the weapon. Almost before he held it, she was reacting, lowering her center of gravity and snapping back and sideways on the handle of the strange chain. Caught off guard, Raiden was yanked from his seat, and tossed into the water.
Jumping down off the gunnels into the boat, she rushed over to help him out of the water. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" she lied.
"No," he said firmly, stopping to correct her as he held to the gunnel. "Not sorry. You did well."
"I was just lucky."
"No, not lucky. Thought. Focus. Balance. Very good." He pulled himself back into the boat, and returned to his seat. "Now," he said, "we try the left hand."
The morning slipped away, and Lauren stressed and stretched muscles long neglected. Raiden had her swing the weapon in many different patterns, all practiced with each hand. But the lesson stayed on the basic concept of balance. She landed in the lake several more times that day, but he did not stay entirely dry either.
Some time in the early afternoon they returned to shore, Lauren wishing she'd brought a towel and a terrycloth robe. "I'll have to go home for some money; I didn't bring any with me," she said. "What do I owe you?"
"I do not do this for money."
Lauren raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "O.K., so why do you do this?"
"I do this for humanity. One day you will understand. For now, do not worry about money."
"Well, I should give you something."
"You will know what you owe me when the time comes."
"Well, that's rather cryptic; but I trust you. When do I come back?"
"Not more than three days," he said. "Never more than three days. I will be here."
Walking home, she realized how very hungry she was. Lunch would be the top priority when she got there, a large lunch of hearty soup and a thick sandwich, and fruit and...and something for desert. No, she'd never keep her figure eating like that. Lunch, yes, but not too much. With this strange schedule of thirty-five hours up and thirteen hours sleep, it was easy to get confused about how many meals there were in a day. After all, one of her days was equal to two days for everyone else. And she was not your typical inactive adult, watching television (the television in this world wasn't really fit to watch). Knowing how much to eat and when would require some thought.
But she was hungry, and after that workout she should be hungry, so when she got home, she ate. Soup and a sandwich, and since she had ruined her oranges and bananas (and forgot about that), she didn't have a piece of fruit. Then she spent a few hours pouring over her Bible, and decided it would be wise to do a bit of stretching before work, to make sure her muscles didn't tighten up on her.
She wondered what Raiden had in store for Wednesday.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #22: Getting Into Characters. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: