It took a very painful and silent hour before they finally emerged out of the woodland and into an open field that awaited the morning resurrection. They rested under snowy clouds, which hung in the velvet night sky like a puff of smoke as clear as white doves. Waves of magnificent colours illuminated the darkness at regular intervals.
Kurumi approached from the shadows and sat next to Ash. Both of them looked out into the night. Although she was anxious, she urged herself move closer to Ash. He smiled.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked.
‘I know London is alive. I can feel it,’ replied Ash.
‘What can I do to help you?’
‘Don’t you believe that a simple action such as a smile can make someone else’s day brighter? Save someone’s life? Do you doubt the power of body language?’
‘I never thought of a smile like that before.’
‘You know, Kurumi. When I first saw you, I forgot to breathe momentarily. My friends were laughing at me.’ Her face went bright red like a flare radiating in the darkness. ‘Being removed from the reality of life and the everyday chaos – well from one chaos to another it seems – brings us closer to nature and our brothers and sisters,’ he continued, ‘I’m telling you this now because I might not have a chance to do so again.’
‘You’re very pure. You’re mind is very fukai. Deep. I wish I were more like you,’ said Kurumi.
‘You are fine just the way you are,’ said Ash, ‘I would not change you for the world.’ A brief silence settled between them as they looked at streaks of shooting stars.
‘Having close friendships and a closeness to nature keeps me solid and grounded. Fear, laziness, arrogance and evil can only consume the greedy and weak-minded.’
‘Do you always speak in riddles like the tree spirit?’ replied Kurumi. Ash smiled.
‘We can never know the future. That’s the beauty of life. People who live day by day may well be afraid that their plans and goals may never bear fruit. It’s ok to look to the future, but make no mistake the future will always be a part of the present and every passing second will forever belong to the past. So yes, cherish every moment, you can plan for the future, but you must live for tomorrow.’
He held Kurumi’s hand and began to hum with eyes closed. Her heart began racing like a formula 1 car shifting up through the gears as it pulls out of a corner. She had heard the melody before, but never just for her. If she had really liked Ash before this moment, she was now without a doubt in love with him. She closed her eyes and listened and wanted with all her heart to stay in this moment forever. He finished and they both opened their eyes.
‘Why do you like Sam Cooke so much?’
‘The world has moved and changed dramatically. New and old artists have come and gone and more will keep on coming and passing. Sam Cooke’s voice is wrapped in a depth that resists time itself. Just like how relationships should be. The world will change around us, but we will remain true to each other. His voice travels through me. He speaks to my very soul and moves me. These days when I listen to Sam Cooke I think of you.’ Kurumi blushed, but kept her eyes fixed on Ash.
‘Now is that not worth fighting for?’ said Aruna coming up from behind, ‘Is that not worth saving?’ Kurumi and Ash turned to see Aruna and Bradley behind them.
‘How long were you both listening?’ asked Ash.
‘Long enough mate,’ said Bradley. Aruna gazed over at both Ash and Kurumi with their eyes sparkling in the darkness like wet diamonds. She appeared extremely happy yet sad at the same time.
‘Hey,’ screamed Jumo! ‘London is moving!’
‘What the heck are you on about,’ said Bradley looking annoyed.
‘The compass has been moving and is now pointing in the direction ahead of us.’
‘I knew she wasn’t dead,’ said Ash, ‘we’ve been tricked somehow. The enemy knows we’re here! The tree spirit said when we first arrived in Vaalbara that London had a special energy that the enemy desired.’
He got up looking very excited and thoughtful at the same time, like someone who had been expecting this new piece of knowledge to come about as confirmation of what he already knew.
Although the group were confused they now found a new source of hope. Jumo explained to Aruna and Bradley about the magnet he had placed on London and how the compass always pointed in its direction.
‘From this point onwards we should exchange skills at every rest point because we don’t know what awaits us now. Bradley you can teach us boxing, Jumo your knowledge and scout skills, Aruna we could do with some of your faith right now, Kurumi your kendo skills. I’ll teach some wing chun and free running. Even the very basics could save our lives right now.’
‘I agree. We must all learn from each other and become stronger together,’ added Jumo.
‘But for now we should meditate,’ said Ash, ‘we should meditate at every possible resting moment. It will calm us down, clear our thoughts, but also do something else,’ replied Ash.
‘Like what?’ said Aruna.
‘I can’t tell you now. I will tell you after,’ said Ash, ‘It’s been something I’ve been meaning to try for a while now since we got here.’
Bradley looking the odd one out to the whole scenario shifted his body to the background, but Jumo pushed him forward. Ash got them to sit in a circle holding each other’s hands.
‘When you breathe in, listen to the sound of the air filling your lungs, and imagine you’re breathing in fresh and new energy from the surrounding trees. Continue to listen to the sound of air traveling when you breathe out. Imagine that the tired air is leaving your body allowing you to feel lighter and refreshed.’
Bradley raised his eyebrow, but Jumo tightened the grip on his hand causing him slight pain. ‘If you have trouble focusing, try to focus on a still object of nature like a tree. Keep your eyes closed the whole time and no talking. Learn to be still like a tree. Stay still, absorb and release nature’s energy from all around you. Right, let’s begin.’
A great earth of silence fell upon them and a good while had passed before Bradley reached his limit and opened his eyes, followed by Jumo, Aruna and Kurumi. Eventually, Ash was the last one meditating. When he finally opened his eyes, he looked relaxed, but was deadly serious. His skin now had a slight glow to it.
‘I feel it,’ he said.
‘Feel what mate?’ said Bradley.
Ash absorbed within is own thinking ignored Bradley. He took a deep breath, stood up and recited a mantra with his arms stretched out.
We return to you our beautiful earth
We dedicate our thoughts to the elements of life,
We embrace nature and explore the cosmos
We harmonise with humankind and learn from animals,
We transcend to pure harmony through darkness and light
We allow the trees and water to balance ourselves,
We welcome the sunset to bathe us, the moonlight to cleanse us,
and the stars to solidify us
We see beyond colour and form,
We return to you our beautiful earth
We return to each other
He then started moving his body into different shapes and positions, which sculptured out images of animals as he moved around like water sliding over rocks. The group dared not interrupt. Instead they sat in silence. Ash was being free and open, allowing them deeper into his world and habits. When he finished, he ran towards the nearest tree and jumped twice as high as any of his friends had seen him do before. He came to rest on a branch and then effortlessly flipped backward with his body arched like a crescent moon. He landed silently on one foot and swung around in a three-hundred-and-sixty spin slowly touching the ground with the elegance of a ballet dancer.
‘I feel closer to nature now,’ said Ash, ‘I’ve found my element.’ He looked at the palm of his left hand and the markings of a snow leopard were completed in a tinted golden glow.
‘What was that?’ asked Jumo.
‘My earth mantra and earth shadow.’
‘I’m going to get me a bit of that,’ said Bradley, and so he sat on the ground and began meditating again. They continued for a couple of hours and although neither of them were able to complete their markings or reach the exact new heights in abilities like Ash, they each did progress and feel different. More connected to nature, more aware of their surroundings, more confident and calm in thoughts and actions.
B. L. Crisp | Copyrighted to © Barry Crisp