Julie and the Monkey Witch

Chapter 9



Manti inspected the warriors he had selected for the scouting mission to the Paea village, and then Oranta’s stone structure. They were all loyal to him, he knew, and would not compromise this mission to check on Unaki, to see if she was willing to come back to the village to face trial or live out the rest of her days in exile with only P’li as a companion. Was there something going on between them?

Anyway, Manti knew that his political rivals were outmaneuvered, at least for now. He could see it in their body language; no matter what, angry faces are universal, and so are postures of fury. He smiled, knowing that none of the warriors he picked were in the pay of these men. He could rest easy.

The departure was delayed, but for a good reason. Kame also walked up and down the line of warriors, brushing them with palm leaves dipped in palm oil, a Teo-only ritual to bless the warriors and give them the power of the Gods. Just in case. Kame chanted, brushing the palms over their tattoos on their chest, legs, and face.

“I just need you to find Unaki,” he repeated. “If she refuses to come, you must respect her decision, and tell her that she is to live out her days in exile. If she agrees, you must bring her back alive so she can stand trial. Is that understood?”

YES, CHIEF MANTI!” they cried like US Marines.

“If, and ONLY IF she attacks you, you are allowed to defend yourself,” he continued. “None of you are to engage combat, understand? Because I WILL find out!”

YES, CHIEF MANTI!

“Excellent! Now move out!”

There was no departure or farewell ceremony or haka. The warriors turned and left the village, carrying their weapons and supplies for the possibility that they could be gone for some time. The Teo knew their home island like the back of their hands, but anyone can get lost on the island. It is larger in size than you might expect, and tribal control only extends to about the island’s middle before the only government is hyperlocal self-governing villages that have resisted tribal authority for years. That and all the nooks, crannies, forests and ruins dotting the topography meant it was easy to hide.

But they were positive they were going to find Unaki. And they were also positive it was going to go on without a hitch.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Unaki was waiting for them.

As she and P’li got accustomed to the destroyed village, she would spend hours sitting in her old hut, making potions, experimenting with spells, and perfecting her magic. P’li would try to talk to her, but she dismissed him, telling him to be prepared should the Teo come for them. It didn’t scare her as much as it did for P’li.

He was terrified.

The stories told of traitors who got what they deserved. Let’s just say “drawn and quartered” is tame compared to what the Teo did to the worst traitors. Technically, he wasn’t going to get the worst of it, just imprisoned should he come back.

That’s still not good, of course.

“Relax,” Unaki said as he began to pace about. “They are not going to cut you open.”

“HOW DO YOU KNOW!?”

“Just tell them you do not want to return,” she said. “They will likely leave us alone.”

“How. Do. You. KNOW?”

“Be. Cause. They. Are. Not. Fools.” She replied. “We will only fight back if they attack us, remember?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” P’li replied. “But what about the haoles?”

He didn’t see it, but Unaki quietly growled and clenched the dirt. “They are not to be of concern,” she said.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

The new research team members arrived that morning on a boat that came from Brisbane. The researchers who were leaving packed their gear up onto the boat, followed by the crewmembers of the Australian Navy vessel and the departing team members. Their “tours of duty”—a term the researchers playfully used, in spite of John’s objections—had ended. Now it was time for the new researchers.

They, too, came from universities all over the Pacific Rim—University of Alaska-Anchorage, University of Tokyo, Far East Federal University in Vladivostok, the University of Seoul, University of Indonesia, UNAM, the University of Oregon and the University of Queensland.

Gina, as the team leader, greeted them all on the beach, ready with a handshake and an open palm. Of course, unlike Monsieur Thenardier, who sang the song that was just quoted, Gina’s intentions were sincere. And also, unlike Thenardier, Gina informed the newbies about just what they were getting into.

She told them about the Teo Tribe, and how things were not going well amongst them. She also told them about how Unaki had almost split the tribe apart but forgot to tell them about the whole monkey-witch thing. She also told them there was a jungle boy and girl couple living deep in the rainforest, living like Tarzan and Jane, and “No, Mr. Tarasenko, that is not a joke, I am completely serious!” Gina finished. “Julie was a member of our team last year, but she has decided to live with her Tarzan-clone boyfriend Karza like, well, Tarzan and Jane. Please stop laughing.”

“I’m sorry!” Mr. Tarasenko laughed, and Gina rolled her eyes.

“Oh, dear,” she said to herself. “Well, at some point, you’ll meet up with them, and then we’ll see who’s laughing.”

For sure, the newbies would meet the jungle-dwellers soon enough. Just not right now.

Being a good mistress of the house, Gina showed them around the campsite, and when she got to the tent Prof. Ishida was murdered in, she spilled the beans about the murder. But again, she neglected to mention Unaki, P’li, and the internal problems plaguing the Teo Tribe. It just didn’t register in her mind that this would be important.

After the newbies got acquainted with the campsite and set up their tents, a couple of the newbies asked to go out into the jungle to have a look around. They went with some veteran researchers who knew the place better, who would lead the way. Didn’t want the newbies getting lost on their first day! Just think what their universities would think! And Gina didn’t have the fucking time to deal with all that shit. She had more important things to worry about, and that was getting them all settled in and keeping them safe.

The tour group left an hour later, which was around the same time the Teo Tribe search party also left the village.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Julie was still so angry at the tribe’s Council of Elders a couple of hours later sitting in on a tree branch 20 feet above the jungle floor. Fucking stodgy old men who think they know what’s best for everyone, even if it means nothing but trouble, are all the same, no matter where they live. Old men like her grandpa, on the other hand, who understand that his time was past, were better. But what would grandpa think?

Hey, I hate old men, too! He laughed once as they sat on a Santa Barbara park bench overlooking the Pacific. This was the summer before she went off to UCLA. You can’t trust ’em, especially me! I mean, how many times did I pull the too slow trick on ya?

Julie’s thoughts turned more to her grandpa. She thought about how she missed him the most. She missed everyone. That was the biggest regret she had about staying on Greystoke. But had she moved out of California to say, Chicago or New York, she would have missed them all the same way no matter where she moved. But it didn’t make her moment of sadness any less valid, especially when her current situation left her on a tropical island thousands of miles from home because she fell for some jungle boy. Regrets were inevitable.

But she got so caught up in her thoughts that she didn’t notice the lean, athletic figure creeping towards her in the trees. Getting distracted and letting your guard down in the wild is a bad “idea,” for lack of a better term. She was so caught up in her own little world that the branch’s light shaking, a signal that her “guest” had joined her on the tree branch, failed to catch her attention. To be fair, the branch she occupied was pretty thick, something her “guest” seemed to recognize.

In her slight defense, the branch she occupied was thick and sturdy.

Her “guest” recognized this, crouching down and gently moving towards her. The guest reached out as it approached, opening their claws. Julie didn’t move. Then, without warning, the “guest” grabbed at her shoulder and cried,

“BOO!”

Julie shrieked and jumped up and off the branch. Catching the branch, she looked up and growled at the sight of someone laughing at her. “DAMMIT, KAI!” she shouted.

“You should’ve seen your face!” Kainak laughed before reaching down, grabbing her arm and pulling her back up onto the branch. He didn’t stop laughing when she punched him hard on his left bicep. “Okay, okay, sorry!” He kept laughing.

“Asshole!” she snapped. “I could’ve fallen!”

“Well, serves you for getting distracted,” he replied.

“YOU see what happens when I do it to you!” she snapped back. He visibly begrudgingly got her point, waving his head around in thought as she sat back down on the branch. He followed suit.

“So why were you looking off in the distance?” asked Kainak.

“Oh, I was just thinking,” she wistfully replied. “About my grandpa.”

“You miss him,” Kainak said, not having anyone to miss back in Canada, aside from maybe his aunt.

“Yeah,” she said.

“When did he…” he hesitated, worried that he might hit a nerve or bring up some bad memories. Her response was not what he expected.

“He retired to Mesa 10 years ago,” she said. “He lives in a retirement community now.”

“Oh,” he said, understandable surprised. “What about your grandma?”

“She still lives in Santa Barbara,” she replied. “They got divorced around the time he retired. Why, did you think they were dead?”

“I—I didn’t mean it that way!” he blabbered and sputtered. Julie laughed. “I just—it’s just—I thought you were—”

What a lovable dork, she thought. “Don’t lie,” she said aloud. “Nah, they’re both really healthy 80-somethings, and they’ve got some time to go. Heck, I hear grandpa’s quite the lady’s man!”

“Well, that’s even better,” he said.

“He was talking about how old men are jerks,” she continued. “I kind of agree with him.”

“The most powerful member of the Council is arguably Hana, a woman,” said Kainak. “I don’t like her. It’s thanks to her that I got kicked out of the village in the first place.”

“Ugh,” she said, remembering that it’s never always cut and dry, etc. when discussing certain matters. Indeed it turned out for the best because even though Kainak not only managed to survive but thrive in the jungle and return to the village. She felt thankful to the Gods that he was allowed to stay because things would probably be a bit different… or the same. But how things would have been different had to be put on the backburner for the things that mattered right now.

“Old women are just as bad,” she said. “Oranta, especially.”

“Is that the lesson we have to learn?” Kainak asked. “Forget it. I saw Manti and some warriors leaving the village. And yes, I heard about the Council’s decision, too. Why are you so upset? She’s going to get the justice she deserves.”

“Knowing them, it’s going to be some ridiculous show trial making her out to be some kind of monster and not the victim of horrible abuse.”

“Cool motive! Still murder!” Kainak replied. It made Julie scoff.

“Now I regret making you watch B99,” she muttered. “Oh, and Gina’s showing some newbies around the southern jungles. Something bad is going to happen; I can just tell.”

“Oh, that’s just perfect,” Kainak said to himself. “I already know what you’re thinking. They’re just going to go and see how she’s doing. I guess we just have to stall them—”

“Good idea!” Julie interrupted, turning around to face the Jungle Dude. “I’ll track Unaki down, you go and stall the search party.”

“Stall!?” Kainak asked. He got up with Julie. “This is a bad idea. I have no idea what you’re thinking, but don’t do it!”

“Oh, come on!” Julie replied as she prepared to leave the branch. “All you have to do is stall them! You don’t have to fight!”

“That’s called obstruction of justice in Canada and America,” said Kai, “And it’s bad here, too!”

“I’m not going to do that!” Julie replied. She reached for a vine, but Kai firmly grabbed her arm.

“Julie, Unaki is a killer, and she has to face justice,” said Kai. “You want to save her, right? I could get some help from Manti, and she could be exiled. It’s pretty much what her current situation is. Just PLEASE don’t do anything rash!”

“Kai, I’m not going to risk it!” she replied. “And let go of my arm, your grip is really tight.”

“They’re called ‘plea deals,’ right?” Kai asked. “Your uncle is the lawyer, not mine. “All we have to do is convince Unaki to come back, face trial, plead guilty, and they’ll let her go. Or, maybe, even better, convince her not to come back.”

“Yeah, they’re called ‘plea deals’,” said Julie. “I just don’t want her to be punished for her aunt’s sins.”

“That’s okay,” said Kai. “But like I said, she’s killed Teo people. She’s gotta face the music.”

“Then at least let me convince her to give up!” she said. “It’s that way, right?” She pointed to the Northeast.

“Why do you have to be so stubborn?” he asked. “And yeah, it’s that way—wait! Don’t be so stubborn!”

“It’s who I am,” she said. “Lady hormones have nothing to do with it. Besides, someone has to stop this from turning violent.” She ripped her arm out of Kai’s grip, grabbed the vine and swung away, leaving him alone.

“I didn’t say that, but at least you admit your flaws,” he said aloud as if she were still there, as much as he hated to admit it, of course. Her White Savior Complex might still have to be fixed, though.

Deciding he had something to do, he leaped off the tree like a wuxia hero and leaped through the branches to find Manti’s search party.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Yes, Julie wasn’t thinking as straight as she should be at this moment. Even though things were not likely going to get violent, she still wanted to prevent it. To be fair, it’s honorable, but not when you’ve got a lot on your mind, and you’ve forgotten precisely where your query lives.

Julie swung and jumped through the trees, trying to find any trace of Unaki. She moved swiftly and quickly, despite not being able to fly like Kainak and the others quite yet. That would take some time or… something. However, as we mentioned earlier, Unaki took precedent. She imagined multiple scenarios, all of them ending badly or worse, like if Unaki knew the Tribe was coming for her and was in no mood to go. She could slaughter all of them! Or just as bad, she feared that one or two of Manti’s Koa might be a little too trigger-happy, for lack of a better term, and decide to kill her without so much as a chance to defend herself.

And while the possibility that this could all end peacefully crossed her mind, it didn’t last. She just wanted to stop a big problem before it got worse.

Only stopping to regain her bearings, she figuratively flew over the forest floor. She also occasionally paused to try to smell the air, only to be reminded that her scent was nowhere near as strong and honed as Kainak’s just yet.

Speaking of which, he reluctantly went off in his direction, and once he stopped to smell the air, he picked up the researchers’ scent, albeit rather faintly.

But Julie wasn’t going to give up easily. Even though she was lost and stubbornly unwilling to admit it, she did know where she was; she just didn’t know which direction the Paea village was. But she knew she was going in the right direction, just by the direction the winds blew and the sun’s position in the sky. She was close enough, and she could see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

But she had to stop at a certain point. She stopped in one particularly big tree, where she doubled over to catch her breath and wipe the thick sheen of sweat from her eyes. Her mouth was dry, too. Then she remembered that she didn’t have any water before setting off on this fool’s errand.

Then she heard other sounds; people were approaching, judging by the sounds of men chanting, approaching footsteps and foliage being pushed aside. Instantly knowing just who it might be, she crouched down into a cat-like stance and slowly and carefully crept across some of the branches until she reached the branch nearest an old trail. She recognized it. It was an old trade route that had been used for centuries, as evidenced by the lack of vegetation in the path, having been trampled underfoot all those centuries. And it ran parallel to the direction she was going. She kicked herself for not remembering, but she also felt thankful.

She waited for a few moments before the people she waited for arrived. They jogged briskly and energetically. They also carried weapons. Warriors. And of course, she recognized Manti by the colorful helmet and cape he wore.

She almost laughed at her luck. Buuuut, the little laughing gasp she made was loud enough to catch someone’s attention. But she stayed put instead of departing, preferring to sink into the branches for camouflage. Even though she wasn’t covered in mud to help herself blend in, godsdammit.

“HULI!” Manti called.

Shit!

She shrank into the foliage a little more. “Come down from there, Huli,” said Manti. She answered back with a bird’s call. “Impressive,” said Manti. “You sounded just like a bird of prey. But you need to work on throwing your voice. By the way, I know what you want to do. Kainak ran into us after you left him behind. I know he was trying to find your learning friends. He told me. And he also told me you wanted to get to Unaki before we did. Would you care to explain yourself?”

Julie wasn’t sure what to do now, so she laid her head against the branch. Several ideas popped up, but none of them were particularly appealing. But he may be bluffing, for all she knew. And what would he do if she did run? Probably nothing. For the first time in this situation, she stopped to think and get her head on right, which dismayed her, as she liked to see herself as a rational, thinking person, especially a highly-educated, intelligent person like her.

“Huli, is it possible you do not know where Unaki’s dwelling is located?” Manti asked.

That did it. Julie thought again and concluded that he was right although she didn’t want to admit it as she jumped down to the ground to greet him. “I knew where she is,” she said. “I was just making sure you knew.”

Manti could only chuckle. “I admire your pride,” he said. “Even if it is to a fault.” He turned to his lieutenant. “Hilo, get her some water and food. She looks fatigued.”

Julie ate a mango and drank some coconut water before following Manti’s scout party to the Paea village.


Tip: You can use left, right, A and D keyboard keys to browse between chapters.