Zi walks the left corridor, points to a room, two fingers, then two more on the other side of the hall, one room with two, the last with one. They are being deathly quiet.
I decide to cut to the chase, I bang on the first door, “Police, open up. We know you’re in there and I'm getting tired of kicking in doors”
“We heard a gunshot.”
“Yes, you did. That was one of your guests being stupid. He's not stupid any longer, at least not so's anyone would notice.”
The door cracks open.
I repeat the performance two more times, five more browns tied and taped, three women two men. That's all the brown robes.
Zi walks the right side of the corridor, two rooms, two people each. I go at it again, except this time there's no reply. I feel heat at my waist, tap the doorknob, it's hot.
“Zi, can you tell if they are Shadows?”
Zi focuses on the room, “One is, not fully formed, the other has shadings.”
“Check the other room.”
She goes to that door, a minute passes, “One is quite strong, the other not so much. I should have looked for it in the first place.”
“I just asked you for bodies, these have to be black robes, so we can assume the purples are the ugly ones. The guards must be with them, likely armed.”
I fill in Chan, check with Janah, nobody leaping out of windows. We have a spotter at the top of the crest, nobody on the roof.
“Chan, take the strongest one, Nikko can back you up. Zi and I will mind the store. When the dust settles in there, we'll clean this room. Don't touch the doorknobs, they are stupidly using energy to accomplish nothing, but I've never found Shadows all that bright,” couldn't resist the paronomasia, the fancy word for pun, I like to educate my readers.
Chan demolishes another door, there will need to be some remodeling. A knife comes sailing, Chan catches it, breaks it in two, drops the pieces on the floor, steps aside, more junk out the door.
Janah, turn up the volume.
Apparently they run out of loose projectiles, Chan goes in, Nishiko behind him, her katana unsheathed. In my cop uniform, a katana would have been a clue that I wasn't a cop, I do have a nice baton on my belt. I pop open the clasp and hold it at my side.
Black Robe One, the strongest, is advancing, Black Robe Two appears stuck to the floor.
Chan's head snaps right, whapped by an energy field, he pushes out his hand, BR One staggers, it's all the opening Chan needs. He’s a medium size asshole, taller than Chan, maybe one seventy five. Chan is in his face, it's a standoff for maybe two seconds, then Chan whacks him with his cast iron hand on the side of the head, nearly removes it. He falls to his side, Chan breaks his ankle, picks him up and throws him out the window. He lands backwards on a statue of Vishnu, the Hindu God with too many arms. Unfortunately for BR One, Vishnu is in bronze. Now Vishie has two more arms and two more legs and a dead Shadow draped over his head.
In the excitement, BR Two manages to find the energy to get mobile. I see Nikko taking body shots of energy, she's four feet from him, a cut opens on her face, blood drips. Before it was just business, now it's gotten personal. BR Two is smiling a smarmy smile of accomplishment. He's still smiling when his head bounces off the floor. Nikko flicks the katana, blood spatters on the wall. She wipes the blade with a sheet and sheathes it.
“Chan, fix the cut, Zi and I are overdue some fun.”
I kick in the door of the Lighter Darks, paronomasiaticly speaking.
BR Three gives me a few body shots, what a putz, Nikko hits harder than that when she's tired. I keep coming. He looks confused until I kick his nuts into his throat, then Dim Mak him into the next life. All the years on the Qi dummies have come to fruition.
While I’m being love tapped by Three, Zi is dancing with BR Four, a woman. Apparently I got the lighter dark, Zi is being punched energetically. It looks like she’s being hit by an invisible person, her head snaps left, then right, then left again. Nunchaku, what you know as nunchucks, come from behind her and the blur of the two wooden sticks connected by chain begins. BR Four extends her hand to send a blow, stupid woman, Zi crushes it and the nunchaku keeps twirling as if it hit only air. The next crack I hear is Four's jaw, then her collarbone and finally a loud thwack! Her skull caves.
I look at Zi, “Excellent. How's the face?”
Zi, “I'll have a sore mouth and a black eye for somebody to work on.”
“Come here,” I freeze up the area under her eye and alongside her jaw for a few minutes.
“Do you want to get treated now, Janah can handle it and watch the building.”
Zi shakes her head, “Better for me to apply myself locating the rest. I'll get fixed later.”
We gather at the steps to the fourth floor, “There are four, two purple, one man, one woman, two male guards. Watch for weapons.”
Up we go, the fourth floor is empty, so is five. There are classrooms, an infirmary with a surprising amount of equipment, a cabinet of pills from aspirin to Oxycontin, antibiotics, antihistamines, a variety of antidepressants, Rohypnol, Ritalin, and a refrigerator with injectibles, including Lidocaine, Sodium Pentothal, Oxytocin and Ketamine. Dozens of syringes. Not all mind control is qi. Another locked cabinet is marked Medical M. Chan breaks it open, there must be a hundred pounds of pot and twenty bags of white powder. I taste, cocaine, my lip numbs slightly. Another jar full of little white pills, Ecstasy. Party Central.
“We know why the kids are happy. I saw brownies in the kitchen. Probably in the tea as well.”
Janah, Easier than constant qi control. The Society will blood test, see what they've been given.
I've had better nightmares than this.
Janah, Take the rest out. We can find out what we need to know from the others.
“Janah says the rest go to whichever fake God they believe in most.”
We climb to six, open space to one side, racks of shoes and clothing, white robes hang from racks, regular and mini linen ones for the child entertainment. Mostly it’s open space, spare statues of this God or that, and ominously, three hospital type beds with the accompanying poles for IV drips.
We do a quick check through closets, ordinary office supplies.
The left side is sealed, a double wooden door is closed. Zi is standing in front of it.
“Three inside only, one dark, darker than the worst downstairs, the others must be the guards.”
Three only. Purple One is dead, if we call the one inside Purple Two, where's Three?
Janah, You checked every room?
Thoroughly, they are clear.
You've been using the stairways, is there an elevator for handicapped pedophiles?
Ah, follow along.
“Zi, let's take a walk.”
We go to the elevator, “Anyone home?”
Zi stares at the door, “Not here, down, can't say what floor from here.”
We return to the others, “Chan...no, never mind.”
Back online with Janah, We have everyone located. Before we move, I'm sending Zi down to one. There's a Shadow in the elevator, the worst one. Since she can't tell the floor from here, you start there and work your way up until you have him, or her. Then press the button and fix it.
I reiterate the plan to Zi, remind her that given any chance to kill Purple Elevator, she should not hesitate.
She moves to the stairway and down.
We wait, it's only a minute, Janah, She is on one, go.
“Chan, you want the door, or should I blow it?”
Chan, “If they have it barricaded or barred, or if they are armed, best to blow it and go in during the confusion.”
Good monk, no ego involvement.
I dig around in the satchel, pull out a brick of C4 and a blasting cap. I jam in the crack by the lock, stick in the cap and we go down the steps to five. When everyone is on the floor against the walls, I click...Boom!
Up we go into smoke and debris. Purple Three is against the far wall, behind a desk, two men are lying on the floor, hands to their ears. They won't be hearing much for a while.
Not much left for Purple Three to throw at us, Chan is on him, then he's off him and flipped on his back, I have shuriken flying, two sail off to the side, he's got a heck of an energy field. I figure anything is better than nothing and sail two more, low, to his knees. One cuts through the side of his robe, another enters and sticks. Hard to tell where knees are in a robe. I keep them coming. They aren't connecting, but he's occupied defending.
One guard has a gun rising, then he doesn't, Nikko removes his hand at the wrist, kicks him in the head and he's done guarding.
Guard Two lost his Glock in the blast and is looking around for it. I see it three feet behind him, I pick it up, empty the chamber, release the clip and throw the gun through what used to be the door. Nikko does the same with the other one after she pries it from the detached hand.
While Nikko fires shuriken, I do a little dance with Guard Two, who crouches to a fighting stance, goody, he's a martial artist.
During the sixth floor action, Janah is about press the elevator button when it opens. Inside is like a black light, a beautiful woman, not even forty. A bolt of electricity shoots past.
Janah says to Zi, “Stand away, at least ten feet.”
Zi is hesitant but follows instructions, she's not a Sensitive for nothing, Janah's soft dead serious tone is not lost on her.
Janah sinks slowly into Lotus, her palms facing up, resting on her knees.
A soft voice emanates from inside the elevator, “A Bodhisattva. I shall enjoy sending your self-righteous soul to the void.”
Janah, “I am the void and everything in it.”
The woman is silent, then, “A Bodhisattva is not God.”
“You say I am a Bodhisattva, not me.”
“Neither are you God.”
“I contain God.”
Purple Four, “Your arrogance will be your undoing.”
“Only the arrogant talk of arrogance, Shadow. You believe you are outside of me, I tell you it is not so.”
Purple Four, “We shall see.”
Zi watches in amazement, and it's rather difficult to amaze a Shaolin priest. The black light within the elevator becomes absolute darkness, a thick soup flows through the open doors. Then bolts of intense flashing crimson, blood red lightning. Within the dense black shadow covering Janah, Zi can see her illuminated, sitting exactly as before, eyes closed, hair flying behind her as in a windstorm.
The elevator vibrates, shakes violently, finally a hush, there is the grinding crunch of twisted metal, an explosion, a blinding burst of white light blasts out the doors, then silence. The elevator is tilted sideways, trails of smoke and dust. Janah stands. She looks like she did when she sat, dustier, otherwise unmarked, hair’s a bit mussed.
Zi peers into the elevator, empty, smoke rises, dust and debris falls from the open roof, wires dangle uselessly.
Janah, “Better see how the others are doing.”
Zi races up the stairs, Janah returns to Amaya.
Zi meets us waking down. Chan has a bloody lip and, we think, a fractured arm. Nikko is no worse for the wear, bruises from her first contact with the other Shadows. I would have enjoyed playing around with the remaining guard, but it was time to go. So I'd let him take a few swipes, popped him in the face, torso, and knee with three rapid fire kicks delivered via steel toe boot. He earned a broken jaw, cracked ribs and his knee imploded in less than two seconds.
Despite Nikko's shuriken, Chan was smashed face down to the desk, he busted his forearm breaking through the field of energy and into Purple Three's collarbone. I heard the smash of the energy barrier, then bone crack and saw Three's shoulder sag. As Chan drove his steel hard palm to Three's sternum, Nikko's blade disconnected his head from his neck. I couldn't tell if he was already dead from Chan's strike. Suppose it's irrelevant, he’s just twice as dead.
We’re packing up at the Andaluz. Janah thought about staying one day to qi up the injured, but we figured we could do it tonight, then during the flight home. We all want to see Chloe, get Chan back to his family.
We wrapped up the Shadows by noon, the protocol is for us to vacate, the Society cleans up and handles the children. Due to the nature of the job, we were seen by more Minders and Extraction personnel than normal. While we did a good job of disguise, and of course they know neither our names or where we are from, the Society wants us out of the zone as quickly as possible. Another reason to fly home.
Janah is working on Chan, Lidocaine plus gel packs. His arm is in a sling, it isn’t broken, we'd worry about X-rays tomorrow. I take care of Nikko, Amaya works on Zi. Chan and Janah's qi stores are depleted, they would need a night's rest to get operational, a few days to get high function. Amaya and I swap working on him.
I can see Janah is wiped. She’s fed and in bed by nine, with firm instructions not to even breath hard until morning. Janah's not an idiot, she knows her highest value is to be fully on game. She’s asleep in minutes. I return to the crew, Amaya and I work on Chan for an hour.
“Chan, do you need anything more, pain med? Assistance back to the room, do you want me to put you to sleep?”
“Chan will call Ning and sleep like dead.”
Good enough, Chan is meticulously honest, if he wanted more treatment, he’d say so.
I cradle Nikko and hold my hand against her lip, Amaya is doing the same for Zi's black eye. Nikko is stacked in gel packs along her ribs.
Zi, “Daphne, can you tell me what I saw? Downstairs, with Janah?”
Amaya, “What happened?”
“The Shadow believed she was separate and the source of her power. Janah turned her own energy against her.”
Zi, “But I saw Janah engulfed by bolts of electricity, or even more than electric, the intensity and force was tremendous, like powerful lightening.”
“It was, a powerful stream of photons pouring through the space between Janah and the Shadow, like a fat laser.”
Zi's eyes widen, “How did it not kill her?”
“Can you kill the entire universe, and the void, and the universes it holds with a puny stream of photons?”
“Of course not.”
“Then you can't kill Janah with it.”
“The Absolute is just that, absolute; it cannot be moved, everything happens within it and because of it.”
Zi has tears, she understands. She bows deeply to me, who is Janah; kneels, hands on the carpet, head on her hands. She stays that way until I stand, reach down, take her hand and lift her up.
She weeps quietly, I embrace her, stroke her brow, kiss it, “Did you think we spent ten thousand hours in Tan's hut merely to learn how to heal cuts? Tan would have thrown us out in a few weeks. I honor him, but he could be a crotchety old devil.”
Zi smiles, then giggles, then laughs, she hugs me, laughing and crying, “It is wondrous.”
“No more so than you, dear one.”
Amaya, Your Absoluteness notwithstanding, you still have to serve me, absolutely.
We are bound stronger than the strong force, I have no choice, nor do I want one.
Amaya's adorable hand goes to her adorable mouth to stifle her adorable giggle. We are perfect, perfectly ridiculous, and we won't have it any other way.
Nikko, “Nishiko needs rest, everyone to bed, solve mysteries of White Angel some other time.”
“I'll sleep with Janah, she will stay rested with me there. You ladies pile up in Amaya's room. Amaya, please make sure they are obliterated in sleep in no less than twenty minutes. You know what to do.”
I wasn't referring to any sexual nonsense. I'd taught Amaya how to get people to sleep. She isn't yet Janah or me, but she's good enough. As tired as Nikko and Zi are, they’re almost too tired, Amaya knows how to level out the spikes and let them truly rest.
I’m in bed with Janah, who is long gone. I am winding down myself when I hear the entrance door click.
Amaya, It's me, she slips into bed, Nikko and Zi will be zero until morning. After the horrors of the day and what you went through with Janah, I have to be with you now. I cannot bear to think of you hurt, or worse. Hold me. I need you to hold me.
I cannot refuse her anything, surely not this. I envelop my treasure, and we sleep like puppies cuddled against each other, pure, dreamless, warm, safe.
Our flight is a merciful non-event. Janah sleeps through it, Amaya and I work on Chan for an hour and a half, then he sleeps as well, then without quite knowing when I conked out, the next thing I hear is Zi's voice waking me.
Angelo and the Escalade meet us, Amaya drives us back, turns the keys over to Angelo who drives Chan to dad’s hospital. Ning calls to let us know, just a partial fracture, no break. I'm feeling much better, not so slack as this morning. Nikko is stoic, but I am in her, I know she can use more nothing.
Amaya stows the refocusing gear, we hadn't used drugs other than the medicinal stuff on ourselves. I remind myself to ask David Li to try and figure out a faster delivery system for the shuriken. We had an anesthetic applied to the stars, but it made little difference to the Shadows. I want something to knock out a rhino and do it quickly. While I have it in mind, I call, he says he'll think of something. I remind him of the herbal concoction Hue created years ago when Janah worked with him in the gardens. Tiny amounts are like a triple dose of epinephrine, which is adrenaline. He hadn't pursued it. For what he usually works with, it is too dangerous, a drop had Janah seeing visions. David has the formula in the herbal medicine book Janah created from Hue's massive collection of notes. The entire work is closely held in the archives of the temple.
David, “I'll make something, how do you plan to test it?”
We don't use animals, usually ourselves.
“Apply it with the anesthetics to shuriken, we'll field test it on the next Shadow we run across.”
“I will call when it is prepared, I don't yet know how long the mixture needs to cook and to age. All that will be in the notes.”
“Take your time, see you.”
I disconnect and call Susan, “We’re back.”
That means she wants an injury recap, we don’t go into details of the work, “Chan got a busted lip and a cracked radius, meditated too hard for universal brotherhood. Nikko is pretty beat up, mostly bruises, but she got sliced on the face, universal brotherhood is a difficult concept for some people. Zi didn't get any cuts, some less than beneficent body shots, me the same, Janah and the Queen are fine except Janah's batteries are depleted. She's been recharging since yesterday, it's going to be a few days.
“Holy crap, that's a bad four days for you guys. Must have been ugly.”
“We’ve had easier retreats.”
She won't ask more. The less our family knows, the safer they are. They can't reveal or testify to things they have no knowledge of, Susan is curious, and she's smart. With family and friends, security trumps curiosity. With us, it's the other way round.
“I suppose I have to give up the Fairy Princess.”
“Nikko will need to bring her back to Earth after being with you and the Epsteins.”
Susan fakes indignation, “Do you think I forgot how to parent? It wasn't so long ago I was catering to your every whim, you turned out nicely abnormal.”
“Nishiko still blames you for me.”
“Uh huh, see you when you get here.”
It's Monday, Chloe doesn't come home until Wednesday afternoon, I texted her when we landed, text her again now with a short update. She replies that she is doing the tea ceremony and that Mrs. Murakami thinks she may be acceptable in thirty or forty years.
I text, 'time has no meaning. back to singing practice.'
A text dings, 'mrs m says to tell you i sound like an out of tune violin and that A must put in extra time with me'
I'm laughing, staring at the phone, I reply, 'will do, dying to cu.'
I get, 'meeee toooo, XXXXOOOO' and we click off.
Amaya, “Felt your heart flutter.”
“Must have an arrhythmia.”
Amaya, “More like a Chloemia.”
“Like you just ignore her.”
Amaya, “I am obliged to create one as socially sophisticated as myself, noblesse oblige. It is an impossible task, there are none to rise to my capacities. Of course, impossible tasks are my specialty, everything else is just killing time.”
She is me, I'd said the noblesse oblige thing about myself years ago, don't exactly recall the circumstances, I think it was at dinner with Mrs. Epstein. The dichotomy of knowing something is impossible but doing it anyway is right out of Janah's playbook. She considers impossible to be, at best, temporary. So far, she's been right.
It's Tuesday afternoon. We lounge like listless lizards on a steamy summer south Louisiana day. Don't peek noses out of the apartment. We read, give each other manicures and pedicures, eat, nap. Janah and Amaya read Le Figaro and Balzac to each other in French. I work on Nishiko and Zi with qi and hands-on massage. No deep tissue, our tissues are quite battered already, just gentle Swedish. They sit in the Jacuzzi together through tree cycles of hot water.
Janah calls Chan, his arm is fine, tender. David Li gave him liniment and one of the qi masters did her thing. She chats with Miyako and Ning in Chinese, Ning said Miyako had been at her dad's side since he came home. She'd never seen him with an injury. She didn't ask, if Chan had explained anything, she didn't say so.
Janah, Nikko, and Zi go to bed at ten.
Amaya makes herself a large vodka, we sit on the couch watching Dead Man Down with Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace, predictable, but it has its moments. We recycle our brains in sleep.
Morning does its thing, girls around the table eating spinach and mushroom omelets, bacon crunchy stiff, I made biscuits today, and cream cheese grits.
Lacy pops in for breakfast before school, “Chloe comes home today?”
Amaya, “Yes, Daphne is having withdrawal pains.”
“Not likely just Daphne.”
Zi, “And how are the Chapmans girls, and their Headmaster?”
“I'm floating along, we've had only one instance of poor behavior. I don't care if a girl smokes, grimy habit, but they are teens. I do care if they do it in the restroom and care even more if it's marijuana. What they do out of school is not my concern.”
Janah, “What happened?”
“Expelled her. Brilliant girl, talented musician, she'll have no trouble getting on somewhere. I don't tell other schools why a girl left, they will have to ask her. Why she didn't have the sense to do her thing after school, she didn't say. An excuse wouldn't have mattered. Stress, home problems, depression or just because she likes being high are all answers, but they wouldn't have changed the outcome. Chapmans doesn't do therapy, we do education.”
Zi, “Anything new on the education front?”
“Always, mostly tweaks of current ideas that don't work, which are tweaks of former ideas that didn't work. Schools got big to cut down on the number of buildings and the number of teachers. Then small came into vogue, recently some decided small is immaterial, neither testing or graduation outcomes improved. I don't know what’s so hard to figure out. If you have small classes, you need more teachers. That didn't instantly create better teachers, they took what was available, expanded the mediocrity.”
Zi, “Is better teacher training and pay a solution?”
“Higher paying districts don't get better results. I am unconvinced that so-called teacher creativity does much. It appeals to a certain kind of engaged student, but does that mean the teacher caused the engagement or did the student bring it with them? People have personalities. A perfectly good teacher is going to have students he or she doesn't relate to, and good students will have a teacher they don't resonate with. The idea that there is a perfect teacher model and that we can train them all to resemble it is idiocy.”
“What about clearly incompetent teachers?”
“They need to be moved on to something they can handle, mop the floors or go into administration. Mopping would be more useful.”
We laugh, Lacy can cut to the chase.
“Chapmans is successful, your kids get into any university they want.”
“That's because Chapmans takes the crème de la crème. I don't take credit for student work ethic or innate capacity. I take some credit for providing the finest environment possible, access to the best in the field of study, and by taking select students the entire atmosphere is enhanced by the students themselves. Public schools have to accept almost anyone. Many private schools take on kids who can pay and hope to fix them once they are there. Chapmans doesn't carry those burdens.”
“Janah says you do offer scholarships.”
“Janah's being generous. We offer a very small number of scholarships to students with clearly superior skills, I don't care much for the word genius, but it would be descriptive. In other words, they are layups. Even then, they earn the scholarship yearly, it is never a given, and it’s never a full scholarship. I want mom and dad to have skin in the game.”
Time for school, Lacy goes downstairs. I go to attend to Her Royal Highness.
Amaya, “Are we going to get Chloe?”
“I'd like to visit the Murakamis, get an update on Chloe's progress.”
“Then we shall shop, hit a few spots, have lunch, go to the Murakami's for two or so.”
I send a text to Chloe, no reply. She spends mornings with Hanshi and has no time for texting. Ari is more forgiving, Chloe gets a few minutes every hour to check her phone. If there were any emergency, I'd call Ari directly.
I call for a car, “Janah, Amaya and I are going shopping, lunch and pick up Chloe.”
“Got it, I'm going to the temple, Nikko needs more rest, Zi will accompany.”
“After you blew up the Shadow, I'm not so sure it isn't you accompanying Zi.”
“I don't want to have to use that level of energy anytime soon. If there is any trouble, one of us will handle it. She's a Sensitive, she will see it coming and we can just dodge it. I don’t need conflict right now.”
We sign off, Amaya’s doing finishing touches, her filigree rings, diamond bracelet, platinum necklace with a sapphire pendant. Small sapphire earrings.
The car comes, we do Neiman Marcus on Broadway. That takes two hours, they have a huge selection. Several skirts, four tops, two belts and two pairs of shoes later, we’re done. Most of it is for Chloe, a size 0. She’s also buying for Chloe's bed and bath, and picks up Mackenzie-Childs vanity set, lovely pieces, enameled steel with ceramic floral prints, quite Japanese in style. Chloe’s room, our prior fourth bedroom bath addition has been remodeled to suit a Fairy Princess. There’s a king platform bed, you have to look around for her when she's in it, indirect lighting that can draw down to a soft glow. Shoji panel walls and doors, with Warlon acrylic, which looks like the paper panels but is far more durable. Soft white eight zillion count sheets and a gorgeous violet flowered comforter.
We put in a solid black basalt square, three by three by three with a two foot bowl carved into the top. Water flows up to the bowl just enough to keep it full, the water seems motionless as flows gently over the sides. The whole stone glistens. The catch is a rock pool, the water and the pump are completely silent, not even a vibe, don't ask what it cost.
We lunch at Le Caprice in the St. Pierre, take our time instead of more shopping. Chicory chopped salad and Dover Sole for Amaya, roasted beet salad and striped bass for me. Total yum.
Two fifteen, we’re at the Murakami's. Chloe leaps into my arms, I kiss her face a dozen times, Amaya repeats.
Ari, “I see you are rigid disciplinarians.”
“We thought we'd leave that up to the Japanese side of the family.”
“You have Japanese blood, priest.”
“Yes, and we are raising Chloe in the splendid tradition. Next year, to Kyoto. You and Hanshi will join us I hope.”
Ari nearly smiles, “I cannot let Chloe loose in Japan with a gaggle of gaijin, she would see it as a tourist, not a maiko.”
Maiko is half geisha, an apprentice. Amaya is geisha, not recognized in Japan of course.
“May I ask, is she maiko now?”
Ari, “Depends on today.”
Chloe squeals her delight, hands to mouth.
Ari snaps her a glare.
Chloe, “In trouble again, I am not supposed to be giddy, it is not refined.”
Ari softens, “She's learned something anyway. She can prepare tea. If she can keep the water from dripping all over the place and not slop the tea into the cup, if she performs in perfect order and doesn't embarrass her guests, then perhaps maiko.”
Chloe bows, suppressing a grin.
While Chloe performs the ritual, we are in quiet contemplation. The water heated, she proceeds. The tea ceremony is highly ritualized, from how the utensils are handled to the cleaning of the bowl. Chloe gets each step in order, from folding the cloth with which she will wipe the bowl and tea ladle with the fukusa, a thick cloth kept in her kimono. She pulls it out and folds it to a triangle, snaps it, folds it twice more diagonally, then twice underneath. With it, she will clean the top of the tea container (chaire) and use it to take the lid off the hot water. A separate white cloth is used to clean the chawan, tea bowls, both the kiochawan for thick tea and the usuchawan, bowls for thin tea.
Hot water warms the bowl, then poured into a separate container for later disposal.
Every detail of a tea ceremony would make for very long reading. There is more than enough information on the web, and YouTube offers several excellent videos of the actual ceremony if you’re interested, one conveniently posted right here.
Suffice it to say that Chloe had been well versed or Ari would never have let her perform for guests. Particularly in front of Hanshi, and the woman she had promoted to geisha a couple of years earlier, Amaya.
As we exit the tea room, Chloe remains to clean and put away the utensils.
Chloe emerges, “All done.”
Not good enough for Ari, she goes to the room to check for herself.
We wait with Hanshi, Ari returns, “Amaya, I know you picked up small flaws. It is your duty to correct them. However, considering this was her first formal ceremony with guests, there is no harm in allowing her to call herself maiko.”
Chloe is restraint itself, she bows silently, no grin, no celebration, only the humility of more to learn. I see the sparkle in her eyes, she can’t hide from me.
Ari, “Amaya, you must explain, it is one thing to make tea, quite another to become geisha. She must learn arts, to sing, and to draw. She is fortunate to have a geisha with the voice of an angel and a calligraphy master with extraordinary skill as her guardians. You want a geisha? Then it is your duty to create one.”
Amaya and I bow. Chloe came to us barely able to read, had to learn how to make change. Now, in just a few years, can speak Japanese, speaks the Queen's English, well along in French, can handle statistics, basic probability and has a decent grounding in finance. She practices kendo and is on the way to the dramatic and artistic skill of a geisha. How people underestimate their children. When parents have a low bar for themselves, do they seriously believe they can demand their children vault a high one?