Empty Hands

君の闇私の光 (Your Dark My Light) © 2015

Chapter 2: Empty Hands

We’re walking down a narrow path in the woods. The cool night air brushes against my face. It reeks of death. Putrid smells of decay invade my nostrils like a rush of flowing water into a drain as it opens. Vincencio, the one who claims to be my uncle, maintains an irritating smirk on his face.
I turn to him and inquire, “Where are we going? This doesn’t seem to be the way back home.”
Vincencio replies, “You’re right about that. I have an errand before we head that way. It won’t take long.”
“What kind of errand takes place at an hour like this?” I probed.
“Nothing that concerns you now. Besides, this will give me a chance to talk to you.” he explained.

I kept silent as we continued to walk. Thoughts of what he could ask or say for conversation seemed meaningless. For all I know, he may not really be who he says he is, but sticking by his side gives me the opportunity to find out more about him.
“I’m not sure what we can talk about,” I uttered softly, “It’s not as if we were properly acquainted prior to tonight.”
He stops in his tracks and looks up to the night sky. He gives out a quick sigh, looks toward me and says, “I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m not here because I want to be.”
“What is that supposed to mean?!” I ask surprisingly.
“Let’s just say this is a mutual meeting of benefit,” he expressed, “You’d have run into me regardless.”
“Are you saying this is fate? Do you know what happened to my family?” I asked angrily.
“Calm down, my boy. I’ll explain everything in due time. I just think it’s fortunate that we met now, rather than later.”
“I’m not sure what you mean, but you don’t seem to be lying.” I reply.
Let’s just hope I’m right about him, otherwise this won’t make any difference to what I need to know.

~ ~ ~

The woods were thick. It was quite a task to keep up with this old man. Not that he was extremely old, but he was near my father’s age, I imagine. He doesn’t seem lost. Everywhere we step is like he’s lived this path since childhood. It just makes me wonder more about who he really is and what he wants from me. To speak of home as if I had just runaway weeks ago. It’s been nearly two years, I think.

The sun has just started to peak it’s way up. As an opening in the woods appear, I could see what looks to be a small wooden cottage. It looks to have been ages, since anyone used it. Piles of leaves surrounded the area. The wooden exterior looks weather damaged. A thick film of dust seems to keep anyone from peering in or out the windows. This isn’t a place I know.

We stop just before we come completely out into the open. Vincencio places his hand out in front of me, to keep me from going forward. What in the world is this place? He bends down to move some leaves and reveals a trigger to some makeshift trap. Is his mind lost? How could he know about that? He disarms the trap and makes eye contact with me.
“We should be clear now,” he says, “I placed this here awhile ago. I’m surprised it’s still in tact.”
Puzzled, I looked at him and asked, “Is this your place?”
“Yes, but it’s been a while as you can see. Make yourself at home. I’ve got to check something else before we talk more in depth.”
He turns the corner as the last words he spoke left his mouth.

It’s hard to feel at home anymore. Since the death of my family, I’ve hardly slept. Eating whatever I can scrounge up, stealing as needed. Seeking shelter in places only to rest from exhaustion, but never really relaxing. How could I? Someone out there knows the truth about what happened that night. It just so happens that this guy, my uncle, might be the one who knows best. The only thing that bothers me is the fact he has been looking for me as well. Could he be the murderer? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Vincencio returned quickly. He fetched some sort of duffle bag from an unknown place. It looks as if it has been buried underneath the damp soil of the woods.
“You’re still standing out here. That’s not what I call ‘making yourself at home’ but I suppose its understandable.” he bellows. “I mean, you still don’t know why you’re here, right?” he ponders, looking directly at me in anticipation for reaction.
I glared in his direction and said, “It’s not everyday someone offers a stranger to become homely in their dwelling.”
He laughs. “My dwelling. I guess you could say that, but this is a place I stayed to train.”
“Train? As in combat or fighting?” I inquired. “What sort of training takes place out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by traps?”
“The type of training you do that requires these.” he opens the bag, exposing weapons I’ve never seen before. They look almost new.
“What are these for? They don’t look to be the typical training tools,” I ask, shaking my head.
“That’s because it’s not a typical training that anyone ‘normal’ goes through,” he replies.
“And what is ‘normal’ to you?” I inquire.
“Things that we don’t do!” he exclaims, as he picks up a scabbard and unsheaths the knife.
He points the blade toward me and urges me toward him. He says, “Don’t be afraid. All you need to do is disarm me.”
“Are you insane?” I replied in disbelief.
“No. I’m very serious! You need to disarm me or you’ll die.” he says abruptly, “Now come at me with just your hands!”
“These hands? They’re empty!” I explained.
“Yes with those hands! Empty hands.” he demanded as he lunges toward me with a look of intent to kill.
Just like that, my training for what’s to come began.

~ ~ ~

The following morning I woke up. I must have passed out because I don’t recall laying down to sleep, or even making my way inside the cottage. My uncle was nowhere in sight. As I stood up I could smell the aroma of something to eat. How long have I been out? Did I disarm him just as he demanded me to do? Or am I dead? I pat myself down and look for signs of bleeding or some type of mortal wound. Nothing. Not even a scratch. I’m still wearing the same raggedy old clothes I’ve kept since leaving that day. I carried a satchel with me that kept an extra pair of clothing just in case. It was in the far corner of the cottage.

As I get up to take a meal, the door thunders open. My uncle stood in the doorway. He smirks and says nothing. He sits quietly at the table where the food he left for me was sitting.
“It’s about time you got up! I was beginning to think you died.” he says as he chuckles.
“How did I do? I don’t remember disarming you from the knife.” I asked.
“Oh that! No, as soon as you dodged, you collapsed. It must be from lack of adequate rest and nourishment.” he explained.
“How long was I out? And thanks for the hot meal. It beats anything cold or half-eaten any day,” I said thankfully.
He nods and replies, “Three days. I’m surprised you lasted as long as you did out there. You were in rough shape.”
“I didn’t realize how bad it has gotten for me. I guess I let my guard down long enough to become overwhelmed by my worsening state.” I rationalized.
“Well, when you’re done eating, meet me outside to continue your training.” he said as he began making his way out.
“What am I training for?” I asked in bewilderment.
“The end of the world, my boy!” he shouts.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked hesitantly.
“Just come out when you’re done. And just like last time, empty hands.” he said in a serious tone.

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