My fears about trying to find one unknown person in an unfamiliar city were unfounded. We crossed over the red painted bridge with trellis, trailing with more blossoms to see a ghostly figure blocking the path. Transparent and almost green in colour, the figure was of an old man – an extremely old man. I bowed low to the ground, spreading my skirts wide. “Master Ang.” I said softly and rose.
The ghost gave a flicker of a smile, as if half satisfied that his memory lingered on. “And you are?” He asked pleasantly and then snapped his fingers at a passing boy of about eight or nine years of age. “Tea.” He snapped as if giving an urgent order. For me and my new friend.”
The boy’s eyes widened and he bowed quickly before running off muttering a “As you command Master Ang.”
The ghost wandered off the bridge towards a low brick building – this too had been whitewashed like all the other buildings we had seen so far on Shing Jea island. He indicated the table set for two and looked at me once more. I took a seat, feeling as if I were a child about to be lectured – perhaps I was.
“My name, as you know is Master Ang, I am also called Ang the Ephemeral – for reasons that are quite clear.” The ghost said, again with a hint of a half smile as he looked at his hand – or through his hand, I wasn’t quite sure.
Clearing my throat, I looked up at him. “My name is Aimee Greenleaf, we were travelling with Mhenlo, the Monk. He received a letter from Master Togo asking for assistance.”
“Assistance?” Master Ang rubbed his thin chin and looked over our little group again.
“That’s it, we don’t really know. We arrived in Kaineng City a few days ago. There seems to be some viral infection impacting on the residents. Master Togo asked us to come to the Monastery – from there we were advised to see Minister Cho. When we got to his estate, Togo was already there. We found the Minister, dead. The guards and animals on his estate all seemed to have the same illness.”
Master Ang’s eyes narrowed. “What sort of illness?”
“Green spots.” Koss replied. “Sores that errupt, their bodies decay in front of your eyes. One moment you are talking to them and the next you’re wiping their muck off your shoes.”
Master Ang studied the warrior for a moment and then nodded, he took a seat opposite me and smiled brightly as the boy reappeared, carefully carrying a tray with a teapot, cups and saucers. The boy had even taken the time to place a sprig of blossom into a glass.
The boy set the tray on the table, bowed low once more and left us alone. I waited for Master Ang to nod and then began pouring the tea. He was obviously expecting to be waited on. As I poured the tea, Koss continued the story. Through it all, Master Ang listened quietly.
Finally, Ang leaned back in his chair, steepled long thin transparent fingers and looked at us. “It seems you must return to Seitung Harbor, from there you can find your way to Zen Daijun. If I am any scholar, I would say that is where Togo was headed. From what you have described it seems there has been a tear in the Mists.”
My eyes widened and I stared at him in horror. The mists separated our world of the living from the dead – if that was disrupted, or worse torn then the souls of the dead could return and … the thought was too horrible to contemplate.
“I hope I am mistaken – for once.” Master Ang said quietly and he rose. “I shall send Tijo with you as a guide. Zen Daijun is one of our most holy places.”