Small Gods and Big Trouble
by Chris Herron
Stone clattered to the floor. Tetsu dropped his cleaning rag, and as he turned his stomach sucked up into his throat. “Oh gods! Did you just…?”
Kenji looked around at what he had just knocked to the floor. His face drained as his eyes fell upon the broken statue of a small dragon. “Sensei is going to kill us!” he bent down and lifted the massive lump of sculpted stone back to its vertical position. Even with the head missing it was still taller than he was.
“I told you we should keep the temple out of bounds. What were you thinking trying to assassinate me in here?” Tetsu smacked Kenji on the back of his head, causing his face mask to fall off.
The short ninja in training rounded on him. “Hey! You’re the one who hid in the outhouse and shot me with a poison dart! By the time I woke up my legs had gone to sleep.”
“Only because you put exploding stink bombs in my bath salts.” Tetsu took a deep breath through his nose. “Ok. Whatever, we can argue about this later. What are we going to do? If sensei see’s the dragon god missing its head we’re both going to be sorry.”
Kenji scratched at his chin thoughtfully. “How fast do you think you could learn stone carving?”
A chill breeze wafted through the chamber. Both boys knew this meant someone had just entered the main doors of the temple. Tetsu thought fast, grabbed his cleaning rag and the dragon head from the floor. He held the stone up in place with one hand and held his cloth over the obvious break as though he were cleaning it. Kenji whisked up his fallen hood and followed suit, an over-acted smile plastered across his face.
A screen door slid back and a wizened old man in black robes walked past. “Keep up the good work boys. I want everything in here sparkling for when Sensei comes in for evening prayer.”
As the old man left through the opposite door, Tetsu began to breathe again. “Go get a length of rope and some of that tree sap that master uses to bind wood together. I’ll stay here in case he comes back”
Kenji nodded and ran out the front of the building. As if things weren’t bad enough with the two of them always getting the lowest scores, this was sure to get them expelled. The dragon statue was older than the school, which itself had a lineage that would give most rocks a run for their money. It was one of the most precious possessions of the Yudai school of ninjutsu and they had gone and snapped its head clean off.
Kenji was back in a flash. After a few hurried minutes, the sap had been applied and the ropes were holding everything in place.
“Not too shabby, think anyone will notice?”
“Do I think anyone will notice twenty pounds of sticky rope wrapped around the neck of a god?” Tetsu glared at his friend. “No Kenji, I think we’re in the clear.”
Kenji gave a palpable sigh of relief. “Good, I was starting to worry.”
Knotwork had never been one of Kenji’s strong suits, as evidenced by the stone head of a god once again on the floor of the temple.
“Watch it!” Tetsu knelt down and inspected the head for damage. “It’s cracked all along the nose!”
“Let’s hide it. We’ll put it behind the mess hall, nobody will look under all the rotten leftovers.”
The stone head began to crumble in Tetsu’s hands. “Damn it Kenji…” Something green glinted up at him from beneath the stone flecks. “Wait a minute, what’s this?” he pointed out the emerald gleam to Kenji.
Eyes gleaming with the promise of treasure, Kenji pried another large flake from the stone head. More was beneath. The two boys made short work of the rest. Before long they held what looked like a dragon face carved from shimmering green metal, like tinted gold.
Kenji tapped on it “Think it’s worth anything?”
The eyes of the dragon sprang open. Tetsu tossed the head so fast it bounced off the wall, and for a third time clattered to the floor with a sound like a dropped wok in the cookhouse.
“Ow! What’s the big idea? That’s no way to wake up a… wait a minute.” The dragon head looked from side to side. “Why can’t I move?”
Reaching out with a foot Tetsu nudged the dragons head until it could see it’s own body.
It sighed heavily, “Well… could be worse.”
Kenji brightened, “Really? How?”
“I could be one of you two.”