Traveler in the Desert

       Chris W Michael / Fantasy
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18 Jan, 1820
Day 1 of travel
It was a long journey to find the man and little girl that roamed the open desert. But after months of searching I crossed their path. He is simply known as ‘The Traveler’. I am known as ‘The Inkling’, I go to the farthest reaches of the globe documenting the great martial artists. I, too, am a martial artist, but I focus on my studies. ‘The Traveler’ is the greatest fighter this world has ever seen. He is known for the little girl by his side, and a style of fighting he invented. Forma del mono.
It was a normal Sonoran winter day. A slight breeze whistled through the canyons, and the sun beat down the chilly late morning air. The path along the cliff-side was enclosed by the parallel Palo Verde trees. The Traveler and his follower were standing in front of me: “I am the one they call ‘The Inkling’. I have come from the land of the colonizers to find you, to learn from you. All I ask is to follow you for a short period of time and I will be on my way.”
“Do you not speak English?”
“Inglas? No.”
The traveler raised his fists and pretended to fight, then pointed to me, then back at himself. He turned to the girl and said something very fast in Spanish. I knew that they were talking about me, but I didn’t have any idea what was being said.
“Do you want to fight me? I will, so long as I can come with you. If I win that is.”
I began taking off all my bags, and training gear. It weighs far too much sometimes. I looked up in the middle of getting ready, the Traveler was sitting next to his companion and both deep in either prayer or meditation. I looked to him: “I’m ready now.”
The Traveler stood up and gave his follower a hug. He stood to his side, right foot forward. His left heel was up and the ball was planted. Left hand near his face, right out (as if he were holding a fencing pose) he stood still. He was unbelievably calm. He must be in his prize form, but it’s not what I expected. I rushed to strike him, throwing everything I had in the first right cross. Before I knew what had happened he gently tossed my hand aside with the right and stomped on my foot. I backed up and tried again but with a left. He simply leaned forward—planted on his left leg, right hanging straight and elbow deep into my hip. It was impossible to walk, one foot nearly broken and the other hip in the same state. I stepped back and threw my hand up: “I yield.”
I felt there was no chance they would let me come now. I not only disrespected him, I made a fool of myself in the process. The two looked at each other and started speaking in Spanish, still not slow. The Traveler clearly asked the little girl a question, she paused and looked at me. “Eh. I like him.”
“Me too, he’s got a good spirit.”
I looked in disbelief, “I thought you couldn’t speak English!”
“I lied.” He was chuckling with the little girl. “My name is Paul, and this Oriana. I was going to leave you, but you attacked me twice. So I will grant your request, you may follow us.”
“Only because of that?”
“Yeah, you’re either stupid or brave. You had to know I’m called ‘the greatest martial artist’. So did you really ever have a chance?” He smiled, “let’s get off the road and I’ll tell you more.”
. . .
Once we found a shady spot behind a large rock formation we sat down, the Traveler looked at me. “What would you like to know?”
“Where are you from, why does she follow you, the basics for starters?”
“I’m not entirely sure of my heritage. I was found as a baby on a ship in the Far East, they brought me to a temple and I was raised by monks until I was ten. And Ori follows me because she is my friend, I found her the same as they found me. The Buddha does not discriminate, nor did Jesus, therefore it was my duty to help her.”
“What happened before you came here and after you were ten?”
“Do you know what an Abbott is?”
“I’m afraid I don’t.”
“Don’t be afraid, he is a teacher. He is the one that betters himself so that we may reach enlightenment. Or so it goes. He has great wisdom and is compassionate. When I was ten he took me on a private walk in the woods. He said ‘my son, you are destined to do great work.’ I told him that all Buddha’s children were. After that answer he made up his mind that I must go out into the world, spreading peace and love. I traveled to the west, made it to the Western countries, that’s where I learned English and Spanish. Around fifteen I sailed to this region of the world, shortly thereafter, I found Ori here and never left.”
“So where did you learn martial arts? The Far East?”
“Yes, in the beginning. But martial arts is more than what you are talking about now.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll learn in time, brother. Is there anything else you wanted to ask before we started on the road again?”
“When we fought, was that Forma del Mono?”
“No, that what’s known as Wing Chun. It’s what I learned as a boy.”
“Wing Chun?”
“Yes, it was invented by a woman actually. It’s about flow, and using your opponent’s moves against them. Come, we can talk more on the road.”
. . .
We walked for about ten minutes on the trail, and Paul finally looked back, “what else would you like to know?”
“I was informed by my superiors that you’re a part of a group known as ‘The Order’. What is that?”
“Your information is rather old if I had to say. I have not been a real member since I found Ori.”
“You haven’t? Why not?”
“I wasn’t allowed to ‘keep her’, that was what they told me. I couldn’t leave her. I have been her guardian for the past eight years.” We kept walking and Oriana looked at Paul. She rapidly rattled rhythmic words; Paul stopped and got down on one knee, Oriana climbed onto his shoulders and he stood. He was strong, holding her up with ease. A practiced gesture to be sure. Paul continued “I was exiled for my actions. You have come at the most interesting time, The Order has made me a proposal. There is a man known as ‘The Kraken’, should I defeat him, I will be allowed back into The Order.”
“What does The Order do?”
“Depends, mostly to the public, it’s catching criminals. Collecting bounties, dead or alive.”
“Dead or alive? How savage.”
“Hardly, almost no one kills the bounty. We make more on the live ones. If you kill a bounty you make more then and there. But a bounty never stops if you’re alive, you can turn someone in over and over, as long as they’re alive.”
“Where is this ‘Kraken’?” I asked
“Just outside Sebana, to the north.”
We kept waking until night time crept. Oriana was on Paul’s shoulders the whole time, he didn’t seemed phased by it. Finally, after stopping, Paul prepared a meal for them, and set up a tent. How they were able to hide all of their stuff was incredible. Their bags seemed like bottomless pits. Curious, I asked: “how did you learn all this?”
“All of what?” Oriana responded.
“Loading your camping gear so that it’s like you have none, making food appear and such.”
Oriana looked at Paul confused, it was just something they did. They knew they could, so much to the point it became part of them. Paul started, “I’ve just always traveled this way. I guess, Ori just picked it up after me.” Then Paul ran over to Oriana, picked her up, smiled and told her it was time for bed.
19 Jan, 1820
When I woke up, Paul was nowhere to be found. Oriana was standing on a large rock, her knees were bent as if she were riding a horse. “Good morning, Oriana.” I tried with no response. “Good morning, Oriana.” I said again with no response. As I was inhaling to say it again Oriana stopped me.
“Cut it out. I know you’re there—can’t you see I’m doing something?”
“Do you talk to Paul like that?” I said surprised.
“I would if he was annoying me.”
“What are you doing?”
“Kung Fu.”
“Why on earth would a little girl like you need to know Kung Fu?”
“I don’t really think I’m going to use it. It’ll make me better at other stuff too.”
“How so?”
“I’m not going to be able to do this in quiet, am I? Well, what you see is fighting, what Paul sees is love. You hear ‘martial’ and Paul hears ‘art’.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“That until you see it as Paul does, or I do, you might not really learn it.”
Paul came around the corner with two long sticks. He walked over to Oriana and began speaking in Spanish. He handed her a stick and said something else in Spanish. Is he teaching her how to swordfight now? “I can’t let you fight her, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Paul looked at me after I said that: “I wouldn’t worry about me, Ink.” He threw the other stick at me. “Be careful, she’s really good.”
Before I could even protest Oriana whipped me in the legs. I became enraged to the point that I started falling for their game, my right foot was back and the stick in my left hand. I raised the stick up and Oriana without hesitation jammed her stick into my armpit, stopping just in time for it to only scratch the skin. Paul looked at me, “told you she was good, now stop bothering her. Get your things we’re leaving now.”
We gathered our stuff and made way to the capital Grifo. It was a nippy noontime, another light breeze and long shades stretching across the landscape like tidal waves glossing the shore. Paul explained more of his situation and that he has raised Oriana this whole
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