“Memory is the scribe of the soul” ― Aristotle
The visions of Rose convulsing under the comforter played out like a movie on a faded screen as I stared up at the ceiling. My mind tried to make sense of it. Why would the Dragons hold onto the sadomasochist ways of the past unless they too were part of the old hegemony that had collapsed under the weight of cruelty, hypocrisy, and corruption? Faith was living proof they had not abandoned their secrets or their ideology of the past.
I shuddered to think what Faith endured in those formative years as an orphaned child in the care of a tortured prostitute. She said she also took the DNA therapy. I reached over and touched her hip and ran my hand down her thigh. There was no doubt of her femininity, her cultured grace, and charm yet my hand told me underneath smooth skin was dense muscle accustomed to labor.
The palm of her hand settled on top of my fingers calming my thoughts. Fingers intertwined and took me to her breast. She held on as she turned away on her side pulling my arm over her. We clung to each other in the edge of exhausted sleep.
My last thoughts were to continue to hear my Dragon Yobo as she unburdened her heart of the darkness she carried from her past. Her life was full of reminders that her destiny was in the hands of others whose intent toward her and me seemed nebulous at best.
The next day we slept in and discussed whether to go down to the protected harbor for a swim then buy fish for dinner from one of the boats coming in that afternoon. Faith decided we should start working out together each morning before any other activities.
She was relentless. I sweated like a whore in a confessional. We started in the courtyard with meditative stretching exercises. It was like a slow ballet together. We stretched every muscle and strained every joint as we twisted into contortions that would disable some of the favorite TV fitness trainers.
Next, we moved inside and put on our gear for fight training. My strength was no match for Faith’s speed and accuracy. Her kicks and punches landed with just enough penetration to hurt allowing me the critical feedback that my defenses failed. We stopped, reviewed, practiced at half speed then full speed, over, and over, and over again.
After training, we showered outside, cleaning the soil of our intense training from our bodies before sinking almost neck deep into a wooden tub of water. The hot water poured in from the mouth of a dragon fixture and out of a decorative pipe into a tank where the water was filtered and reheated before it poured over the dragon’s teeth and tongue into the tub.
Faith sat next to me with her hair pinned up and a towel draped over the top of her head. The soreness seeped out of my muscles as my Yobo massaged my back, neck, and thighs in the hot water. She remained silent and soon her taciturn mood left my mind wandering through the many questions I hoped to find answers to when her voice returned.
After some time staring out over the hillsides and outcrops to the sea, Faith stood and let the water cascade off her sloping curves. She wiped her face with the towel and let her hair down, shaking it out and letting it hang to the curve of her back.
Looking out over the garden, she reached down to me and accepted my hand lifting me to my feet. She grabbed a towel and handed me one. We dried each other off, wrapped the towels around us, and made our way out to the garden.
As we strolled along the pathways, we came to a bench under the shade of a willow tree next to the Koi pond. I placed my towel on the bench. We wrapped our arms around each other and used Faith’s Turkish cloth as a cover.
“Nae Yong,” she whispered against my cheek to get my attention.
“Does it hurt when I hit you?” The voice in my ear sounded intimate, innocent, and concerned.
“It hurts enough to get my attention.”
She placed her hand on my heart. “I mean, does it hurt you inside for a woman to hit you.”
“No, of course not. It’s necessary if the training is to have any meaning. There is no intent other than skill mastery, and that involves a lot of sweat and a good bit of pain. It doesn’t matter who hits me or how they hit me. It’s the intent behind it that’s important to me.”
“What if a woman hit you with the intent to harm you?” She asked in a halting voice as if she were afraid of my answer.
“If a woman’s intent is to harm me, I’d kill her,” I said with no emotion.
The killing was no longer a spirit-crushing event for me. It was as natural as breathing, eating, and making love. It was at times more enjoyable than anything a man could do including sex. The killing brought with it extremes in emotion because the act held consequences one could not escape. It was better to enjoy the taking of life than die in agony from hesitation and fear. It was my intent to live and leave the suffering to others.
“Would you kill me if I made you angry?”
“No, Yobo. Anger is not a dangerous offense. Emotions, good or bad are a part of being human.”
Faith looked out across the ridges trying to see what I saw. Shouts of anger, screams of injured men, and the mocking silence of the dead played in my mind. Those memories were alive when I cared who lived or died. Caring about life and death no longer held my heart and soul captive. I was satisfied that it was always my choice who lived or died, even my own life seemed within my control. Perhaps I was deluded about that.
I didn’t answer her call for my attention. I looked down into her dark eyes wet with the pain of her memories; memories I couldn’t fathom yet.
“I will tell you more about my life and treatments if you wish to hear it.”
“I do, Yobo.”
“You understand the necessity for pain as a teacher and as a mentor. Joy is our reward for enduring our pain. It is paid in small moments to prevent our corruption. I tell this so you will understand that it is the unbearable pain carried with the body and savored in the mind that bears the soul away from the corruption of simple minded living to the divine mountains of the warrior ethos.”
I listened as Faith’s voice took on a cadence and tone of one whose mind is distant from the body. She looked out beyond the horizon and paused to gather her thoughts. I slipped my arm around her shoulders as her hand rested in my lap. Her fingers sought asylum from the darkness of her past that rushed to the light in her eyes and found her voice.
“Rose was like a mother to me. She was beautiful, and her heart was pure. Rose did as she was instructed and gave comfort to men the Dragons told her to take as her clients. She treated them well but often their intent was to find their pleasure in her pain. She endured much pain from men, but she never wanted that for me.”
I listened to every word with the strange feeling, I knew this story. I lived it myself. I felt Faith and I was together for a reason. One we would not be allowed to know until the time was right. Her voice continued in that soft melody of hers. Her story unfolded in whispers and touches as the words hammered my heart like a drummer with heavy batons.
“She began to change over time. She would get aggressive when the men hurt her. She seemed like an animal when they took her to bed. It frightened me. Before she was in control and she brought the men to their climax with particular skill leaving them whimpering and sleepy at her side.”
“She would fix them tea while they slept and hurry them away afterward. I always hid in the alcove. I would lay on the floor and watch under the curtain. Sometimes while the men were on top of her sweating and grunting like a pig, she would look over at me and smile. She knew I was watching her.”
“When the treatments changed her, she was no longer passive toward the men. She dominated them. Some liked it, but most of her clients left and didn’t return. That is when the Dragons decided to bring in another girl older than I was. She already had her blood and was like ripe fruit for the clients to devour.
Her name was Jasmine and she was taking the treatments too. Later, Rose and Jasmine decided it was my turn to accept the dragon’s blood and learn the secrets of the dragon. This was when my life changed.”
Faith’s words cut into my heart. My grip on her tightened as her story spilled out of her like a confession of the condemned.
* * *
Image source: Artist Antonio Mora.