Young Samurai: The Way of Fire (short story)

Young Samurai: The Way of Fire (short story) by Chris Bradford Read Free Book Online

Book: Young Samurai: The Way of Fire (short story) by Chris Bradford Read Free Book Online
Authors: Chris Bradford
the shrine to the snowline. Both soon caught up with Yamato, who was making his way down as fast as he could, his face now filled with terror.
    ‘Did you get it?’ he cried.
    Jack could only nod. Behind them a great plume of smoke rose into the sky, blocking out the sun. They raced through the snowfield as the volcano awoke from its slumbers. An explosion detonated deep underground and the earth was rent apart. The snow to their right dropped away, a great hiss of scalding steam shooting from the gaping hole as lava poured forth.
    Half running, half falling, the three of them fled down the mountainside. Reaching the old lava fields, they could now bound down in huge leaps, their impact cushioned by the thick layers of volcanic ash.
    Mount Haku shook again, clots of magma bursting forth from its summit. As rocks rained down, fissures opened up around them and fresh streams of lava bled from the volcano’s wounded sides.
    Knocked off their feet, they rolled head over heels down the slope. An avalanche of debris and molten lava now chased them. It surged down the gulley they’d escaped into. Scrambling up its sides, they just managed to reach the crest before the flow engulfed them all.
    But now they were trapped, cut off on either side by rivers of lava.
    The three young samurai, numb with shock, gazed at the hellish landscape of smoke, ash and fire. Jack couldn’t believe they had got this far and found the cactus, only to be stopped by a volcanic eruption. It was as if the mountain god was angry with them for stealing its flower.
    ‘It’s all over,’ cried Akiko, wiping the grimy ash from her tear-stained face.
    ‘There
must
be some way off this ridge,’ insisted Jack, but, when he looked around, he realized the grim truth. They were stranded on an island in a sea of boiling lava.
    ‘Over here!’ came a faint cry.
    On the opposite side of the gulley, beside a clump of green trees, Saburo stood waving his arms and jumping up and down in desperation.
    ‘We’re cut off!’ shouted Yamato.
    Saburo lowered his arms despondently.
    ‘Can
you
still escape?’ asked Jack.
    ‘Yes,’ said Saburo, nodding his head. ‘The gulley’s clear on this side.’
    Jack looked at his friends. They knew what had to be done.
    ‘I’ll throw you the gourd,’ he shouted. ‘It has the flower in it. You must get it to Emi.’
    ‘But what about you?’ cried Saburo.
    Jack didn’t reply as he launched the gourd towards his friend. The answer was obvious.

12
     

Lava Run
     
    ‘No!’ said Saburo, as the gourd sailed through the air and landed safely in his arms. ‘There has to be another way.’
    ‘Go!’ screamed Akiko. ‘Before it’s too late.’
    The ground shook as Mount Haku spewed forth more fire and brimstone. There was a sharp crack and several trees fell into the stream of molten rock. They burst into flame on impact. The tip of one tree, though, landed on the opposite ridge, the whole trunk spanning the river of magma.
    ‘Praise Buddha!’ Saburo exclaimed. ‘You can cross!’
    ‘You first, Akiko,’ insisted Jack, pushing her towards the makeshift bridge before she could protest. ‘It’ll be just like running the log during the
gasshuku
.’
    ‘But without the bamboo traps!’ she replied, flashing him a nervous smile. Weaving nimbly between the branches, Akiko was across in no time.
    ‘Your turn, Yamato,’ said Jack.
    But Yamato didn’t move and Jack could see the terror building in his friend’s eyes. While Yamato hadn’t had a problem with the log in the forest, Jack knew his friend was afraid of heights. Once Yamato had almost plunged to his death using a tree-bridge similar to this to cross a gorge. Now he had the added danger of being boiled alive if he slipped.
    ‘I’ll be right behind you,’ Jack promised, stepping on to the tree with him.
    Yamato shuffled forward. The going was painfully slow and halfway across Jack could smell the sharp aroma of burning pinewood.
    The bridge was on

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