The Legacy of the Five Forces
Chapter 2: First Meeting in the Woods
Towards the end of the Edo era in feudal Japan, before the birth of sorcerer Clow Reed, the tides were changing as a powerful bond of five individuals was in the forging. It was a mild spring day when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom that Amamiya Hayashi, ancestor to one who would be known as Card Captor Kinomoto Sakura, and Li Shulin, ancestor to the Chosen One Li Syaoran, met for the very first time. Some may look back and reflect that this meeting was just the unfolding of another tragedy. But at that time, for the two, it could have been the start of a pure and deep connection that could not be frayed by time, dimension or space.
Japan, towards the end of the Edo Era…
It had been a long journey on boat from Shanghai, but she had finally arrived on the port of Edo, Japan. Li Shulin, age thirteen, brushed off the crinkles on her red silk robes. She stared at the bustling, foreign streets of Edo. Noise filled her ears, the rattling of carts, the plodding of zori sandals, the swish of waves by the harbor. People chattered in a language foreign to her. Curious glances were thrown in her direction, for amidst the men and women dressed in plain, earth-tone garbs, Shulin stood out in her crimson and golden-embroidered attire. Besides, it would have been considered odd in any country for a young girl to be carrying two swords strapped to her back. Wide-eyed, Shulin stood on this foreign harbor, feeling very small and insignificant for the first time in her life.
Where to begin, where to go, what to do. For an instant, she considered plopping down on the street and burying her head in her knees. Her cousin and best friend Li Shenji was not here to encourage her, and the Great Elder was not present to chide her. She was on her own. For a moment, she almost missed the strangely comforting presence of that tall, foreign man with long golden hair she had met on the boat—he had turned his own way once on shore. The ship that had brought her to the bay was already gone—there was no turning back.
Taking a deep breath, Shulin took a step forward into the street.
"Li Shulin-sama! Shulin-sama desu-ka?" a scrawny young boy in a plain, coarse-cotton knee-length kimono wrapped around his scrawny body scampered towards her.
Shulin blinked, wondering if the boy was addressing her. There was not a soul she knew in Japan.
"Are you Lady Li Shulin of Shanghai," asked the boy again, this time in careful Chinese.
"You speak Chinese?" Shulin asked, sighing in relief at the nostalgic sound of her mother tongue. "Wait, who are you?"
"I am your translator, my lady," replied the boy, smiling widely. "My name is Genji, at your service."
"Genji." Shulin blinked at the awkward boy, who hair was pulled back in a clumsy topknot, wondering why the Elders couldn't have arranged for her an older, more reliable translator instead. "Well, then I'll depend on you."
"Where does Shulin-sama want to go first?" asked Genji, taking Shulin's bag and hoisting it up his back. "Should we find lodging first, or would you like a tour of Edo?"
Shulin crossed her arms. "Why don't you just lead me to the strongest swordsman in Japan, so that I can defeat him and go home."
Blinking his squinty eyes, Genji squeaked, "The strongest swordsman in Japan?"
"Yes, that is my mission," replied Shulin impatiently—she had no time to waste on a dim-witted child. "Don't you know anything about the Li family?"
"I beg your pardon, miss. I was just wondering how a beautiful young lady such as yourself could defeat anyone with a sword," Genji mumbled.
"Don't judge me by my appearance," replied Shulin haughtily. "I am the strongest fighter of the Li Clan, besides the Great Elder and cousin Shenji. Well, are you leading the way or not?"
"Yes, m'lady," replied the boy meekly, heaving Shulin's luggage onto his back.
Despite his clumsy appearance, Genji was familiar with the land and proved a worthy guide; if he had not been there, Shulin would have been lost the moment she set foot in Edo. Never had she known that there could be such a bustling, animated city; she had grown up thinking that Shanghai was the center of the world. Yet, these Japanese lived as if they had no awareness of any world outside of their own island, a land steeped in centuries of its own tradition and culture. But there was no time to admire the change of scenery—she had to follow through with her mission and return home as soon as possible. Not knowing where to start, the two resorted to asking around the villages as to where they could locate the strongest swordsman in Japan. As the day waned, Shulin started to grasp how large the land and how hopeless her task was.
"The strongest swordsman of Japan?" repeated a gnarled old man, eying the strange foreign girl and the gawky boy who seemed to be her servant. "Hmm… Who would that be?"
"Sir, please tell us," said Genji, glancing up at Li Shulin, who scowled down at him for blundering around the outskirts of Edo without much avail, stopping by house after house in search of any information on the greatest swordsman of Japan.
"Hmm… Let's see—would that be Himura Kenshin?" the senile man cackled, tottering back into his house. "Greatest swordsman in Japan, indeed. Who knows how to wield the katana properly in this day and age? The samurai generation is corroding. The greatest swordsman is probably a monkey! Shoo now and leave an old man in peace."
Genji hung his head down low in disappointment.
"Couldn't you have done some research before I arrived?" snapped Shulin at the boy after another failed attempt. Her feet were aching, and she was hungry, tired and homesick. She was growing more and more irritated by the hour that she had to trudge around like some peddler begging for information from hostile strangers. And they were no closer to finding the greatest samurai.
"My apologies, my lady," Genji said, dropping his head down in a low bow. "I am so incompetent; I am not worthy enough to serve my ladyship."
"Don't be silly," Shulin said, suddenly feeling pity for the younger boy, who kept smiling that sheepish, foolish smile no matter how much she berated him. "So, where are you from, Genji?"
"From a little village in the outskirts of Kyoto," replied Genji rather wistfully.
That meant nothing to Shulin—she knew nothing about the geography of Japan. "You must miss home. Where did you learn Chinese?" asked Shulin, smiling encouragingly.
"My father, a scholar, taught me," replied Genji, staring down at the frayed straps of his straw zori sandals.
"You must miss your father," Shulin said. "I guess you'll be glad to get home after I finish this task."
"My lady is mistaken," Genji said quietly. "My father passed away some years ago. I am here solely to serve you. I have no home to return to."
"I see," Shulin said, and they no longer spoke of the subject. Yet, from then on her attitude towards the boy changed slightly. Instead of looking upon him as a mere servant, somehow she adopted Genji as the younger brother she never had, and took extra care to be kinder to him than she had been to any other servant up till then. Because in this strange, foreign land, she was just as lonely and alone as young Genji, and deep in her heart, she was grateful for his company.
The two young travelers had better luck with the next person they stumbled upon.
While the middle-aged lady looked bemused at the two children, one who seemed to be a foreigner, and one a mere malnourished village boy. She remarked, "Hmm... If you are speaking of the greatest swordsman in Japan, you are no doubt looking for samurai Seijuro Hiko. But I doubt you'll find him. He's a hermit now, secluded in the mountains way up there." The lady, pointing to the mountains in the distance.
"Thank you!" exclaimed Genji and Shulin simultaneously—Shulin was picking up rudimentary Japanese from the boy.
"Why would anyone live so high up in the mountains," grumbled Shulin. She looked over her shoulders. Way below followed Genji, panting his way up the steep path. "Hurry up Genji!"
"My pardon, Shulin-sama—I can't keep up," cried Genji, wobbling his way up after his young mistress. Obviously his stamina was no match to one who had undergone a proper Li Clan style physical training.
Finally, when Shulin thought her feet would break on the rocky path, she came upon a small hut with a thatched straw roof. Clearing her throat, she called out, "Seijuro Hiko. I, Li Shulin of Hong Kong challenge you to a duel! Come out and accept my challenge like a man!" She glared at Genji, who tumbled up beside her. "Translate, Genji."
Genji cleared his throat, huffing and puffing, repeating Shulin's challenge in Japanese.
There was no response.
Shulin scowled at Genji. "What if he's dead? He's a hermit alone in the mountains—no one would know if he died."
Genji blinked. "Then would you have to find the second best swordsman of Japan? Or would that be your ladyship's victory by default since a dead person can't fight?"
Luckily, Shulin was saved from answering this.
"What is all the ruckus outside?" demanded a booming voice from indoors.
A large, shirtless man emerged from the hut. His broad chest was muscular. Jagged, brown scars were telltale marks of battle, and despite the fact that he seemed to be in his late forties, his body was still in superb condition as if he could rip a tree trunk from the ground with his bare hands . He was unarmed and judging by the grumpy expression on his square-jawed face, he had been awakened from a nap.
"What a scary looking man," Genji whimpered, hiding behind Shulin. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Humph, from the challenge, I was expecting some great swordsman from China. What is this? Two children? Who sent you?" Seijuro Hiko stared at the two children and smirked.
"My lady, the man asks who sent you," said Genji in Chinese, gulping hard.
Tilting her chin up, Shulin stated, "My name is Li Shulin, and under decree of the Li Clan, I seek to defeat the strongest swordsman of Japan."
"Tell the girl that if she's looking for the strongest swordsman of Japan, I'm not the person she's looking for," said the man, cracking his knuckles. "I've retired. I'm just a hermit now."
"My lady," Genji glanced at Shulin nervously. "The man says he's no longer the strongest swordsman in Japan."
"Then who is?" demanded Shulin, arms akimbo—her patience was running to its limits.
"I like your spirit, girl—I think I'll tell you. It'll be interesting to see the outcome." Seijuro Hiko grinned, baring his white teeth. "My best disciple, Amamiya Hayashi might be the person you are looking for. He was the first person to defeat me—thus he succeeded my title. He who holds the Eye of the Dragon is the strongest swordsman of the country."
"H-he says that you should look for his disciple, Amamiya Hayashi," repeated Genji to Shulin. "He is currently the strongest swordsman."
"Amamiya Hayashi…" Shulin repeated the foreign name, wondering what kind of formidable, monstrous man could defeat this beastly, fearsome man standing before her.
Thus, the two misanthropes were forced to continue their journey to seek for the strongest swordsman in the Land of the Rising Sun, a daunting task indeed as the land was wide and resources limited. Genji, to the best of his abilities, trekked through the woods, slipping and sliding as the hiked through the mountains.
"Are we going the right way?" snapped Shulin. She was the Chosen One candidate of the Li Clan, one of the five highest noble families in Shanghai. It was preposterous that she was reduced to tramping through the woods like some vagabond, eating stale rice balls with only this clumsy boy for company. If only her cousin Shenji knew about this, he would despair. "We've been wondering around the woods for days."
"My apologies, Shulin-sama," Genji stammered. "There were rumors that Amamiya Hayashi has taken up residence at a temple."
"If he tells me that he's become a monk and that his successor is now the strongest swordsman in Japan, I'll go ahead and swallow my sword whole." Shulin scowled.
"I assure you that shouldn't be the case," Genji replied hastily. "I feel like I've heard of this Amamiya Hayashi before. Amamiya is a venerable samurai family in Edo."
"He must be a very, very strong man to be able to defeat someone like Seijuro Hiko," Shulin commented. She yawned. "I can't imagine how strong and big he must be. It excites me to think of the challenge it would be to beat him. And I'll beat him so badly he'll cry in a corner. Ho ho ho!"
"M-my lady, do you want to take a little break here?" Genji asked meekly. "There's a stream near by—maybe we can wash our faces and take a drink.
"That's a good idea," Shulin replied, looking around her at the green woods spread around her in all directions. Throwing her head back, letting the wind whip back her long, tangled jet-black hair, she stared up at the sky the brilliance of the sun streaking through the dappled leaves. Reluctantly, she admitted, "Why, Japan is a beautiful place!"
"It is," Genji said softly. "The sea, the mountains, the woods, the pastures. There is a peace, a sort of harmony about this land that I love so much."
Smiling, Shulin closed her eyes. Yes, she understood it. The chirping of birds, the merrily bubbling creek, the rustle of the wind in the leaves. And a faint, low melody, sometimes like the wind, sometimes like a bird's song, a nostalgic tune weaving through the forests, beckoned to her like the trace of a memory long forgotten in another lifetime.
"Shulin-sama, where are you going? Don't wonder off on your own; you'll get lost!" Genji called out in vain as Li Shulin vanished in between a grove of bamboo trees.
Following the faint sound of music, Shulin walked, one step and another, then burst into a full spring towards the loudening tune. Panting, she paused when she came to a clearing. She had found the source of the haunting bird-like melody. Below a cherry blossom tree sat a young man, blowing a gentle tune on his ryuteki flute. His eyes were shut and light brown hair blew across his forehead in the breeze. He seemed unaware of her presence. Almost afraid to breathe, Shulin watched, spellbound, the serene man who seemed to be almost like a woodland spirit playing against the flow of time. After the last note ended on a high note reverberating through the woods, he opened his eyes and stared up at the young girl standing before him—he showed no sign of surprise, as if he knew she had been standing there all along. Shulin realized his eyes were the same color as his haori, a deep forest green. Instead of frowning at her for disturbing his peace, he warmly smiled at her, a childlike smile that made the corners of his eyes crinkle. Then, he brought his bamboo flute to his lips again and warbled out in a new quicker-paced tune, which reminded her of the sigh of the wind and the cry of a dragon soaring through the sky. Its high notes sent a shiver down her spine, the kind she got when she had accomplished a new spell, or like the one she got when she first learned she was nominated to become the Li Clan's Chosen One. She waited for him to speak, panicking because Genji was not with her, but he spoke not.
Why did he smile at her? Who was this young man, so calm and carefree? Shulin had never met anyone like him before. She was compelled by him; just standing there and listening to his music brought a peace to her heart that she had not felt since she left home. Her stomach fluttered in a way it had never before—it was the sensation she got when she awoke from a pleasant dream, and even though she did not remember the dream, she still felt strangely euphoric and elated. Still, he did not speak, and she did not either but blamed the butterflies in her stomach on only having an onigiri for breakfast.
"Shulin-sama! Shulin-sama, where are you?" Genji's voice jarred her out of her trance. Quickly, Shulin stepped back, finding it hard to tear her eyes from that strange flute-playing man. On a second thought, maybe he was not a human but a spirit of the woods. She had heard stories of that, unfortunate travelers who were lured by a woodland spirit, left to wonder the forests, only to find upon returning home that half a century had passed and all family and friends had long since passed away.
Genji's shrill voice pierced the tranquil of the woods again. "Shulin-sama!" The boy ran up to her. "Shulin-sama, I found the location of the Mizuki Temple," he said, panting. "Please don't run off like that on your own. If you get lost here in the woods, I would never be able to be find you."
"Good job, Genji," Shulin murmured absentmindedly, placidly following the boy. She could no longer hear the flute.
"I thought you found the location of the temple," Shulin said crossly as she trudged after Genji up the mountain. It was near sunset and her stomach rumbled audibly. Well, only Genji and the mountain bears would be able to hear it anyway. The flute-man was long forgotten.
"Just a little further," Genji said encouragingly. "We're here now!"
Shulin blinked at the temple built in the midst of the clearings in the woods. It was so silent that it almost seemed deserted. Clearing her throat, Shulin stated at the front gate, "I, Li Shulin, have come to seek for Amamiya Hayashi. If there is an Amamiya Hayashi residing here, come forth. Translate, Genji."
Genji cleared his throat and announced, "Many apologies for intruding. L-li Shulin-sama would like to request the audience of Amamiya Hayashi-sama, may he be present."
There was no answer.
Glaring at Genji, Shulin demanded, "Are you sure you have the right place?"
"Y-yes!" squeaked Genji.
At that moment, a man came out of the storage room with a basket laden with rice. He carefully set it on the ground. "Oh, visitors to the temple. I'm sorry but the priestess of the shrine is away at the moment. May I help you?"
Scowling, Shulin asked Genji, "What's he saying? Ask him if he is Amamiya Hayashi."
Genji bowed down to the man and said, "Sir, may I inquire if you are Amamiya Hayashi-sama?"
"That is correct," replied Amamiya Hayashi, stepping out of the shadow from the awning. "What do you seek from me?"
Shulin stared up at the lean young man with merry green eyes and short, unbound golden brown hair, unlike the customary top-knot style of the samurai. She gasped. "Why, you're the man playing the flute earlier…" Dumbfounded, Shulin's voice trailed off. This must be a joke. There was no way that this weak-looking man could be the greatest swordsman in Japan.
Clearing his throat, Genji said, "He said he was the Amamiya Hayashi.
Sighing, Shulin said, "Well it can't be helped." She unsheathed both swords. "If you are truly the best swordsman in Japan, I challenge you to a duel!"
"Are you sure we got the right person, Shulin-sama?" Genji whispered. "He doesn't look very strong to me. He seems so young. And passive."
"I know. Didn't the other guy seem much more impressive?" Shulin replied indiscreetly. "Why, this guy's just a boy too—he looks quite wimpy. Probably can't hold up a sword, let alone wield one. This will prove an easy task."
Amamiya Hayashi stared at Shulin, then smiled.
"Stop smiling like an idiot and unsheathe your sword," Shulin said, waving her double jian around her head with expertise. "I'm going to start attacking."
The green-eyed young man reached in to his sleeve.
"I guess he realizes I'm serious now," Shulin stated, smirking.
Instead of drawing out a sword, he held out his bamboo flute.
"What is he thinking? Is he playing with me?" Shulin scowled. She slashed down her sword—not to cut him but merely to show that she was in earnest.
Without blinking he blocked the strike with his bamboo flute.
Shulin was startled to find the bamboo flute still in tact after her full-force strike. "How dare you! I want you to fight me!" Shulin cried out, withdrawing her sword. "Don't look down upon me because I'm a girl." She slashed down her other sword, but Hayashi expertly blocked again with his bamboo flute, without taking a step.
Losing all strategy and tact, Shulin began wildly throwing blows with both swords at the aggravating man, but Hayashi, who barely seemed to step out of place, merely dodged all her blows and thwarted the others with his flute. He never attacked. "Are you fooling with me?" she exclaimed in fury. "Stop stalling and fight me! Don't tell me you're a coward—go ahead and unsheathe your sword!"
Instead of drawing his katana, Hayashi dodged her crescent moon double sword attack without blinking an eye.
Half an hour later, Shulin stood panting, glaring at Amamiya Hayashi. In her irritation, she had forgotten the Great Elder's rule to never expend all your energy in the beginning of the fight perchance your enemy has a hidden weapon he is waiting to draw out. Meanwhile, Hayashi stood unruffled, without even a single scratch and with that infuriating, unfaltering smile.
"I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. He's mocking me!" Shulin exclaimed, wiping the sweat off her brows. "Genji, tell him that if he doesn't unsheathe his sword now, I'm going to slash open his stomach and pull out all of his intestines."
"I-is it necessary to translate that?" Genji asked, shuddering. Shulin was really furious now.
"I would prefer that you wouldn't do that," Hayashi said in perfect Chinese. His voice, full of mirth, was as light and melodic as the sound of his flute.
"You speak Chinese?" Shulin stammered.
"Very poorly, I have to admit, but I am practicing in my spare time," Hayashi replied.
"Why haven't you said anything until now?" she demanded.
"Well, you didn't really give me a chance, did you? You just started attacking me out of the blue." Hayashi chuckled. "You frightened me—I really thought you were going to slice me in half."
"Aren't you supposed to be Amamiya Hayashi, the greatest swordsman of Japan?" Shulin asked.
"I admit that is my name, but I do not claim such a title," Hayashi replied, wiping his bamboo flute on his sleeve.
"Aren't you the owner of the Eye of the Dragon?" Shulin stared at the young man standing before her, wondering why he hadn't lost his temper at her yet, after all she did to provoke him.
"Perhaps. And may I ask why you are so keen on fighting with me?"
"It is my mission to defeat the greatest swordsman of Japan and bring back his sword to my clan in Shanghai," Shulin replied.
"But what if he doesn't want to fight?"
"Then I'll force him to fight," Shulin asserted.
"Can I just give you my sword, and you can take it to this clan of yours?"
"No, I must fight and defeat you," Shulin stated. "Genji will stand witness of the victor."
"I have no desire to fight such a pretty, little girl as you, Li Shulin," Hayashi said, smiling.
"Well, I'm going to stay here till you agree to fight me, then," Shulin said, crossing her arms and plopping down on the ground. "And when did I give you permission to say my name?"
"Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into," Hayashi muttered. Then, he knelt in front of her and held out a hand. "Can't we call it truce for the night, Shulin?"
"Stop saying my name in such a familiar way," said Shulin, scowling.
"It's such a pretty name, Li Shulin—it rolls off the tip of my tongue like a little melody on my flute. I think I will compose a tune for you, Shulin." He brought his flute to his lips and let out three notes, two staccato high notes and a long low note.
"Are you still mocking me?"
"Do you have to take offense to everything?" Hayashi tucked his flute back into his sleeves and bent over to pick up the basket of grains. "Well, I was in the middle of preparing dinner. It's nightfall anyway, and it will be impossible to continue the fight in the dark. Why don't you stay for dinner? You must be hungry after all the traveling."
"Don't try to avoid the fight. Why would I eat dinner here?" demanded Shulin haughtily. At that moment, her stomach grumbled. Her ears turned crimson. "
"Well, we can resume tomorrow, if you please. But it is late, and there is no other shelter near by here. It is dangerous to wander the mountains after the sun has set, and you might as well spend the night here if you insist on continuing to fight me tomorrow. There are plenty of spare rooms here."
"Fine, since it's dark already, and it was hard enough finding this place, Genji and I will be obliged to stay for the night," relented Shulin, clutching her empty stomach. Genji sighed in relief, finally setting down Shulin's bags. He glanced at his mistress' flushed cheeks then smiled—so there was a feminine, cute side to her as well.
And thus, on this fateful day, when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, Amamiya Hayashi and Li Shulin met each other for the first time, and the forces of the cosmos began to move.
The next morning, after Shulin had dressed in a fresh green silk cheongsam, she found followed the sweet scent of cooking rice to the kitchen area.
"Good morning, Li Shulin. Did you have a good rest?" asked Amamiya Hayashi.
"No, I did not," replied Shulin ungraciously. "My back is sore, and I was woken early by someone playing the flute at the crack of dawn.
"Well, breakfast is ready," said Hayashi, ladling steaming rice into a bowl.
"That broiled, salted mackerel we had yesterday was quite delicious," commented Shulin. "Is there more of it?"
"There's something even more delicious—I picked some wild vegetables this morning," said Hayashi.
Frowning, Shulin said, "In your country, do men do the cooking? Besides, aren't you of samurai class? Shouldn't you have servants to take care of this for you?"
"I enjoy the art of cooking," replied Hayashi mildly.
More and more, Shulin was growing dubious that Hayashi even knew how to wield the katana strapped to his waist.
It was already midday, when Shulin, calmly sipping a cup of sencha, recalled that she was supposed to be challenging Amamiya Hayashi. Genji had already made himself useful by employing himself in the temple kitchen washing all the dishes. Hayashi continued with household chores and had begun to sweep the temple pathway with a broom.
Almost reluctantly, Shulin set down her empty tea cup—she had to admit Hayashi brewed the best tea she had ever tasted. Clearing her throat to catch Hayashi's attention, Shulin stood up and declared, "Now, enough stalling! Yesterday was just warm up. I, Li Shulin of the mighty Li Clan of Shanghai, challenge you to a battle, Amamiya Hayashi.
Yawning, Hayashi continued sweeping without taking any notice of Shulin.
"Did you hear me?" demanded Shulin shrilly.
"I need to clean the temple and prepare dinner by the time the miko-sama of the temple returns," replied Hayashi.
"Stop being a coward and face me, sword drawn!" retorted Shulin. Losing her temper, she flailed out her sword, barely missing Hayashi's head. Shulin retaliated by swinging her left sword down which Hayashi deftly blocked with his broom. She sliced right through the broomstick.
"Poor broom," remarked Hayashi, picking up his halved broomstick.
Shulin scowled. Was he joking? "If you stall any longer, you'll end up like that broom." Deciding to change tactics, she sheathed her swords and leaped backwards, taking the winding dragon fourth stance. With full force, she flung out with a side-kick, missing Hayashi's waist by a margin and in the process knocking into the table. The tea cup toppled over and smashed on the floor. She winced. Her proper upbringing compelled her to state, "I'll pay for that later."
"No worries," replied Hayashi. "Now, what about you give me a moment so I can clean up—"
Not listening, she jumped on the wood table and then jumped straight at Hayashi, knocking him down flat on his back, her sword tip pointed to his throat. "Why didn't you dodge this time?" she demanded. His deep green eyes stared back at her unblinkingly.
Carefully, Hayashi took Shulin by each wrist and removed the tip of the sword from his neck. To her own surprise, she let him. "Be careful, Shulin, not to step on the broken shards of ceramic—you're not wearing shoes and might injure your feet," he said with a gentle smile.
"Idiot." Shulin said, dropping her sword down on the ground with a clatter. He had not dodged because she would have stepped on the broken tea cup if he did. He had used his body to shield her. Why? She was the one willfully attacking him and disturbing his peace. "You idiot. Why won't you fight me?" She grabbed the hilt of his katana. "Fight me!" Unbeknownst to her, hot stinging tears of humiliation formed in her eyes. "Why do you have to make things so difficult for me?" If she could beat him, she would be able to go home and become the Chosen One. Why did the best swordsman of Japan have to be such a gentleman?
The owner of the temple chose that moment to return home. "What in the world is going on here?" Mizuki Mayura asked, dropping her basket of fresh fish from the market, gaping at the dark-haired girl atop her childhood friend, a sharp-looking sword cast off on the floor by their side. The table had been turned over, and there were dents on the floor. "Hayashi, I'm ashamed of you—what would your father say?"
"It's not what it seems, Mayura," replied Hayashi meekly, lifting Shulin off him, even as she straddled him, unsuccessfully trying to grab his katana from his waist. Setting down Shulin on a clean patch of floor, Hayashi brushed off the sharp fragments of ceramic embedded on the back of his haori. He picked up the broken broom ruefully.
"I certainly hope it's not," replied Mayura, stifling a chuckle because she rarely saw Hayashi in such disarray. "Can someone explain to me why my favorite tea cup is shattered and this room is in such a state?"
Unwillingly blushing, Shulin stood up, brushing the dust from her clothes, and adjusting the braids in her hair. All signs of her momentarily weakness was gone, and she reverted back to Lady Shulin of the Li Clan, dignified and well-mannered. She bowed and said, "I'm sorry for intruding upon your temple. I will leave for the night and return in the morning to challenge Amamiya Hayashi."
Mayura blinked at the strikingly pretty girl clad in Chinese attire. Then, she clapped her hands together. "Li Shulin! It's Shulin from Shanghai, isn't it?" She ran over to the girl and held her hands. "I've been wanting to meet you. Welcome to the Tsukimine Temple!"
Shulin blinked quizzically at Genji for a translation of the strange priestess' rapid flow of Japanese.
"The priestess is delighted to meet you," Genji interpreted. "She's been waiting for you."
"How does she know me?" asked Shulin, staring at the pale girl with long auburn hair and twinkling gray eyes.
"Hayashi told me about you," Mayura said in accented Chinese. "He told me a girl from over the seas would be coming."
Shulin turned to Hayashi. "How did you know I would come?"
"Hayashi has the second sight—he saw you would be coming from Shanghai," Mayura said. "Don't you see? Everything's unfolding like it should. There is no such thing as chance. We were all fated to meet at this time and age by forces greater than us."
"I don't understand," Shulin said, suddenly feeling very weary and confused. She thought all she had to do was defeat the greatest swordsman of Japan, and then she could go home and be initiated as the Chosen One of the Li Clan. Yet, the greatest swordsman of Japan turned out to be a pacifist. Why, oh why did the so-called greatest swordsman have to be this mild, placid man by the name of Amamiya Hayashi? She didn't particularly want to fight him—one who could produce such soothing music could not be a bad person. Besides, she had grown rather fond of Genji, and after she left, what would become of the poor orphaned boy? And Japan was a land which held so many new wonders and surprises; she couldn't help wanting to see more of it.
"Do you have anywhere to stay in Japan? Since you have to beat Hayashi and all, why don't you stay at the temple for the time being? We have plenty of room," said Mayura, smiling. "I'll be cooking dinner, so why don't you join us, Shulin-san, as you think over? I heard Hayashi cooked last night, and I'm by far the better cook. Oh, I have forgotten my manners in my excitement. I'm Mizuki Mayura, and I'm a Shinto priestess in training."
Shulin couldn't help liking this graceful, older girl, unlike any other priestess she had ever met. Meanwhile, Mayura was delighted to have another female at the temple."
"Well, welcome to Japan, Li Shulin," Mayura said warmly. Genji sighed in relief, glad to know that his mistress and he would have a roof over their heads for the while being. After seeing Shulin fight, he deemed that it would be dangerous to stay by his mistress when she was hungry and in a temper.
Spring somehow transitioned into summer, and Shulin donned the thinnest of her silk cheongsams, a pretty cherry pink with matching trousers. She had grown accustomed to life in Edo—it was peaceful and quiet in the countryside, up in these mountains which she later learned was called Kumatori-san and lead to the highest peak in Edo. To keep herself from being a burden to the temple priestess Mizuki Mayura, she helped out with temple chores like sweeping the pathway, fetching water from the stream and washing laundry. Never before had she done such tasks, but with Mayura's patient teachings, she learned quickly. And to her surprise, Shulin enjoyed the mundane chores of daily life, something that she had never learned in her busy schedule when training to become the Chosen One. Though she was not much of a cook, Shulin's jiaozi had always been complimented on by her cousin Shenji, and one day, she kneaded out the dough and made the filling, and she, Genji, Mayura and Hayashi spent all day making pretty half-moon shaped dumplings. That evening as they ate the steamed jiaozi, she was complimented.
"It's similar our Japanese gyoza," Mayura remarked, dipping the sticky pork-filled dumpling in soy sauce. "But even more delicious."
"Never tasted anything more delicious," agreed Hayashi.
Over the weeks, Shulin had learned to understand rudimentary conversational Japanese, and Mayura already mastered basic Chinese, so they could communicate without always being reliant on Hayashi or Genji. Meanwhile, Amamiya Hayashi remained as elusive as ever; not once did Shulin manage to make him draw his sword. While Mayura bustled around busy with the duties as miko to the temple, Hayashi spent his days lounging around, as far a Shulin was concerned, reading books and ancient scrolls, writing out calligraphy, playing the flute and helping out with household chores. He had also sort of adopted Genji under his wing, teaching him Confucian and Mencian text and the Book of Changes. With Mayura's delicious cooking, Genji lost the look of a malnourished child, and now he served Shulin with a bright smile instead of a timid stare.
Nonetheless, Shulin did not forget her duty to the Clan. When ever she had a chance, she did not waste a moment to challenge Amamiya Hayashi. She had learned by now that insulting him, cornering him and intimidating him was futile. Her best chance was to catch him off guard. The sun was beating down strongly through the trees, and Shulin strapped her swords to her back, confident that today would be the day that she would finally get Amamiya Hayashi to draw his sword.
"Shulin, are you going off to challenge Hayashi?" called out Mayura from the kitchen. She held out a large bento box. "I packed lunch for the two of you. Take a long time and don't come back till evening for dinner—I'm giving the temple floors a good scouring. Genji-kun!"
"Yes, Mayura-sama!" called out Genji, carrying in a bucket of water.
Shulin pouted—lately it seemed that Genji was more eager to follow around Mayura and Hayashi than herself. Well, Mayura, though she was barely older than her, was like the sister she had never had. In a sense, Mayura almost reminded her of her cousin Shenji—they had that same, dependable, calming air about them. The only time Mayura lost her temper was with Hayashi when he did something aggravating like sit outside in the rain playing his ryuteki flute, convinced that the frogs would croak along to his tune, or climb a tree in his best kimono to put back a baby bird in its nest, or stay up all night reading a smuggled Dutch medical text only to nap the following morning under his favorite willow tree, neglecting all his daily chores.
It did not take Shulin long to find Hayashi, who was dozing off against the very willow tree, a book spread on his lap as usual. Quiet as a cat, she slinked up the willow tree. Perched on a low branch, she gazed down at his peaceful sleeping face, his golden brown hair gently blowing across his forehead. How could this man be the most powerful swordsman in Japan? For a moment, she was content just to watch him breathing softly, so serene and carefree of the world outside of this quiet hill. It was almost a pity to wake him.
"I'm going to get you to draw your sword today, Amamiya Hayashi!" cried Shulin, jumping out of the tree branch. Without flinching, Hayashi rolled over to the side, book sliding off his lap.
Scowling, Shulin picked herself from the grass. Hayashi opened one eye and gazed up at her flushed face. He yawned, groggily sitting up.
"Stop fooling around with me!" exclaimed Shulin swinging her sword wildly around her. Hayashi merely dodged as usual, reluctantly standing up and brushing the hay from his hair and haori.
"Aren't you sick of this by now?" Hayashi sighed, bending over and picking up his book.
"So, why don't you fight me once and for all if you're so sick of this?" Shulin asked, jabbing her swords forward, driving Hayashi backwards until he came to the bank of the creek. He stepped back as she lunged forward. To her chagrin, her feet slipped over a wet rock. She flailed out her arms in an attempt to keep balance, and Hayashi grabbed her arm to support her as he quickly slid beneath her, cushioning her fall. There was a splash as they both fell into the creek, a crisp, cool wetness slinking over them to quench the smoldering summer's heat. Shulin's long black hair streamed through the current of the water, tangling into Hayashi's soaked garments. He used one hand to support her waist and the other to keep Shulin from sinking her sword into him. She jumped up from the water, dropping her swords with a clatter, blushing furiously. "I-I'm sorry."
Why had he cushioned her fall yet again? It was her carelessness—she deserved to be dunked into that ice-cold creek. Yet he was not mad. He sat in the middle of the creek, water dripping down his golden-brown hair and his haori and kimono weighted down by the wetness, the corners of his eyes crinkled in laughter.
He held up his sopping book. "You got my book wet. This was smuggled in from the black-market from the Netherlands."
"S-sorry. I'll compensate for it." Shulin hung her head down, her pins sliding out and her loosened, long black hair hanging around her face limply. The afternoon sunlight caught her silhouette, outlining the damp pink silk clinging to her slender, youthful curves. Her eyes were the color of the afternoon sun on the brook, and her usually ivory complexion was a deep rose. She was startled to see Hayashi's brilliant emerald eyes fixated on her in a strange, intense gaze, an expression she had never seen coming from him before.
"No need to," Hayashi said, abruptly climbing out of the creek. "I already finished reading it. And I remember everything I've read."
"Show off," muttered Shulin.
"Tell me, Shulin, do you really want to fight me that badly?" Hayashi asked, stripping off his dripping haori, loosening his kimono front. Shulin blushed. Contrary to her belief that Hayashi was a weakling, the toned chest muscles on his lean stature proved otherwise.
"It's my duty," replied Shulin flatly. But as long as she kept stalling the battle, she could be by his side a little longer. Wait, what was she thinking? She had to return back to Shanghai as soon as possible. Her place was back there. Not here. Not by this man.
There was a silence. Shulin saw that Hayashi frowned, ever so slightly. Until now, she had only seen him smiling and wondered what was wrong. Maybe he really was mad at her for ruining his book. She hadn't meant to. Following the direction of his gaze, she realized that Hayashi's eyes were focused on a spot above her head.
"What's the matter?" she demanded.
"Duck, Shulin!" Hayashi exclaimed, sprinting forward, leaping above her head and kicking off the tree trunk, propelling himself onto a tree branch. The leaves rustled from the addition of his weight. "It's them again. Meddlesome people, finding me here," he muttered under his breath. Shulin leaned her head back, squinting her eyes to see Hayashi balanced on the tree branch, hand over his katana hilt. He was surrounded by two—no three men with a crest of maroon and black on their backs.
"Did you think turning into a priest would change who you are, Amamiya Hayashi?" demanded a masked man in black and maroon. "You thought we wouldn't find you if you hid in that temple."
"I'm turning scholar, not priest," replied Hayashi, smiling ironically. "Ah, and there's only three of you today."
"Three is enough for the likes of you," replied the masked man. His eyes flickered to Shulin. "Well, well, who's the pretty Chinese brat? Such fair skin. We should hand her over to the red-light district—she'd do well considering she's a foreigner."
One of the other men grabbed Shulin from behind her abruptly, doubling her arm behind her back. She cursed herself for leaving her swords by the riverbank.
The other man grabbed Shulin's chin and tilted her head up and gasped. "Look at this face—she'll be quite a beauty if she's not scowling. Maybe the boss'll let us keep her."
"Don't touch her!" shouted Hayashi, jumping down from the tree branch, unsheathing his katana. Shulin flinched as she struggled against the large man; it was the first time since she had met Hayashi that he had raised his voice.
She was so startled that she did not even catch the lightening quick movement in which Hayashi unarmed the two men and sent the third one, the one holding on to her, sprawling on the ground. Shulin was released into Hayashi's arms, and he quickly sheathed his katana again.
"Let's go," he said, taking Shulin by the shoulder and pushing her along.
"The bento—" Shulin said.
Hayashi picked it up, along with his still damp haori. "We'll eat it back at the temple."
Shulin kept glancing back over her shoulder at the large men, probably twice the size of Hayashi, sprawled on the grass. They were not bleeding, just stunned and unconscious since Hayashi used the back of his blade to strike them. "Who are they?"
"Vagabonds," replied Hayashi shortly.
"But they knew your name. What did they want from you?" insisted Shulin. She was trembling not because her dress was still wet, but because she saw an unfamiliar gleam in those deep jade-green eyes that she was not all together sure she liked.
"We need to get you dry; I can see right through your cheongsam," commented Hayashi said, throwing his haori over her shoulder.
"What?" shrieked Shulin, drawing the damp haori over her. It smelled of a smoky, woodland smell. She walked faster so that he would not see the deep crimson blush on her face. Her long, glistening black hair swept out behind her, brushing against Hayashi's cheek.
"You're hair's really long. I never saw it unbound," remarked Hayashi, touching his tingling cheek. "It's like a sheet of ebony silk."
"I need to find my pins when I get back to the temple," replied Shulin, running a timid hand over her hair. Today was an unexpected day in all aspects. Hayashi had unsheathed his sword for the first time. Hugging Hayashi's haori tightly around her, she declared, "So, Samurai-san, you do actually know how to use your katana."
"Did you think it was a mere ornament?" Hayashi asked pleasantly. "Though I guess it is now, for most of the samurai rank."
It seemed to Shulin that the image of the Amamiya Hayashi she had known had completely shattered, and she did not know the man she was standing beside at all. No, she did not want to beat him any time soon. She wanted to learn everything about him possible, what ever it took. Thank goodness he was an outstanding swordsman—it would take her a long time to beat him, that was if she could ever get him to draw a sword against her.
"What in the world happened to you two? Did it rain outside?" asked Mizuki Mayura, hurrying up to her two friends with a clean cloth as they trudged into the temple with sopping zori sandals. "Well, let me heat up some miso soup. Genji, bring Hayashi and Shulin-san dry yukatas."
"Yes, Mayura-sama!" called out Genji.
Before heading into her room to change, Shulin took another glance at Hayashi with his dripping, wet hair hanging into his indecipherable eyes. What was that expression back at the creek? For a second, she thought she had glimpsed what was beneath that smiling mask. And someday, maybe he would answer all those questions formulating in her overcurious mind. But now, he was just silly, book-loving, flute-playing Amamiya Hayashi, the pacifist swordsman, and the one man Li Shulin would never be able to beat.
Towards the end of the Edo era in feudal Japan, the Great Five had already begun to gather. In that summer of her thirteenth year, Li Shulin transitioned from that fragile brink between childhood and womanhood as destiny paved way for the catastrophic events yet to come. Someday in the far future, her descendant by the name of Li Syaoran would also make a long journey from his homeland to the distant shores of Japan to embark on a brand new mission. There, he would meet a young, green-eyed girl by the name of Kinomoto Sakura, descendant of none other than Amamiya Hayashi, ringleader of the Great Five. But there story is yet another story.
For now is the era of young Li Shulin, Amamiya Hayashi and Mizuki Mayura, who will soon be joined by two others to complete the Circle. And their legacy begins.
Amamiya Hayashi and Li Shulin in Springtime Fanart
Wish-chan (July 2008): I began writing this chapter over five years ago, back when ever I first began writing the Legacy Arc and then started adding on when I had a chance. . The purpose of the Legacy Arc is not to retell the entire adventures of the Great Five (though I would like to) but to just get enough snippets of the past to comprehend their relevance in the current CCS New Trials storyline. Also, they turned out to be such fun characters to write about, and as a history/English double-major, this whole era makes me excited. It's the verge of the end of the Edo Era and the start of the Meiji Reconstruction (revolutionary periods in history always fascinated me) in Japan, the beginning of "Westernization", the end of the Qing dynasty in China, Victorian England (hurrah), the industrial revolution and so on. The mountain hermit former greatest swordsman is named after Kenshin's sensei in Rurouni Kenshin's. Lol… great shounen manga. Anyhow, I have a lot of fun writing the Legacy chapters—so many back stories to tell.
Shulin probably is most similar to Meilin, but with Syaoran's determination, Ryuuren's grace and poise and Leiyun's scheming. Lol… I like Hayashi a lot, but he's the character hardest to read the mind of. I like Mayura a lot too. She's a lot more mature than Shulin, though they're only a year apart. I think it's because she had a childish father and ever since her mother passed away, she has been raising her little brother and keeping up a temple all on her own. By the way, Genji doesn't have a last name because before the Meiji Era (1868), Japanese commoners did not have surnames. I've had some people let me know they enjoy the Legacy chapters, which made me very happy. Obviously, New Trials chapters are priority, but it makes me happy when people ask about the Legacy chapters.
All comments welcome at and check out my website at wishluv.. Please join the Yahoo New Trials Group if you haven't already for further New Trials discussion.