🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #26
Chapter 3 – Reality Check
Martin had begun packing.
“Right, I need shorts, t-shirts and trainers. I’ll take my nunchuks, just in case he expects me to bring my own. What else do I need?”
“Toothbrush,” his mum said.
“No, don’t need that,” Martin said. His mother put his toothbrush and some toothpaste in his suitcase.
“Towel, take a towel,” she said. Martin grabbed a towel and threw it in his suitcase. His mother folded it up more neatly.
“Pants, socks,” she said. He started throwing more clothes into the suitcase. His mother began to get covered in clothes.
“I’m not folding all of these up for you, Martin, fold them up yourself.”
“They don’t need folding, mum,” he said. “Just push them in.”
“Nope. I’m not doing it,” she said, stepping back. Martin walked over and folded the pants and socks in a hurried, rushed way, so that none of them were folded properly. Then he closed up his suitcase, jumped on top of the bulging lid, and just managed to fasten it shut.
“There. All ready,” he said.
Myasako did not have much to bring with him. He had two pairs of pants, two pairs of trousers, three shirts and a pair of nunchuks. Real ones, not foam ones. His father demanded that he take them.
He didn’t tend to wear shoes, as his father thought it bred weakness, but his father gave him a pair, just in case.
“They might insist you wear these,” he said. “If you live in someone’s house you must respect their rules, and the lady you are living with might not have a cleaning bucket for your dirty feet when you enter the house. Take these.”
The shoes were black and thin and light, and Myasako took them with reverence.
Neither of the boys had ever flown before. Each one of them stared out of the aeroplane windows, marveling at the clouds and the seas and the lands and the people below that were now so small that they became invisible to them. Neither could quite believe that they were hurtling through the air, when it felt as if they were sitting still.
When they arrived, both of them felt excited. Myasako felt excited for the rest and relaxation he was about to experience. Martin felt excited about all the ninja training he would get to do. They arrived on opposite sides of the globe, happy to escape their own lives for a while.
Martin was met outside the airport by a tall man dressed in black. He stood tall and firm and motionless. He bowed as Martin approached him.
“My name is Takashi. I will take you to where you are staying.”
“Ok, thank you,” Martin said, struggling with his luggage. “Do we have a taxi?”
“No, no taxi. We run. Your training begins now. You have lots and lots of baggage, so your journey will feel more heavy. First rule of the ninja – travel very lightly, not only on the outside, but on the inside too.”
Martin didn’t know what he meant. All he could feel was the weight of his suitcase that he was dragging behind him, and his backpack on his back full of sweets and fizzy drinks.
“Come!” Takashi called to Martin, already running off ahead. “Come, we run now!”
Martin could barely run whilst dragging his suitcase, but he tried. He ran through busy street markets where people were yelling and trying to sell him food. He saw Takashi in the distance gliding between people with ease, like his feet were making no impact with the ground. Martin was clunking and apologising and crashing into people, feeling exhausted already.
He was struggling to breathe freely, and after what seemed like hours of rummaging through the streets trying to keep site of Takashi, they eventually reached a clearing, out of the bustle of people, where there stood a small but grand little building, with stone pillars carved into the shape of dragons outside the hall.
“This is the dojo,” Takashi said.
Martin had a headache. He was too hot, Japan was too hot, there were too many people, he had too much stuff, perhaps he should have never…
“Greetings,” another man said, appearing at the entrance to the hall. He bowed. He was larger, thicker, more strongly built than Takashi, but he was dressed the same, in black, and he had a sword at his waist.
“My name is Kuyasaki. I am who you are to stay with. My son, Myasako, has travelled to stay with your mother. Welcome.”
He bowed again.
“Thank you,” Martin said, bowing but gasping for air at the same time.
“You need a drink,” Kuyasaki said.
“Yes, thank you, I’ve got some here,” Martin said, taking off his backpack, putting it on the dusty ground and opening it to reach for a can of soda. He pulled it out and cracked it open.
“Yame!” Kuyasaki cried. ‘Yame’ is Japanese for ‘Stop’, but Martin didn’t know that. Still the deep noise of it felt like it went right into his body, and he stopped drinking.
Kuyasaki slipped some sandals on his feet to walk outside of the dojo. He trotted up to Martin and took the drink from him, then inspected his bag.
“What is this? Is this what you put inside your body?”
“Yeh,” Martin said.
“Has your mother taught you nothing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Your body is made up of what goes in it. If you put rubbish in your body, your body will be rubbish. Come, we have fresh spring water inside, come.”
Martin was dying for the sweetness of that drink that was now being carried away by the large ninja, and he was wishing that he was back at home with his mum.