Time seem to stop for Hanabi. In this moment, she felt the kami around her in ways she never had before. The spring below that fed Clear Water’s two wells raced along. The fire around them was indiscriminately hungry.
"Stop!" Hanabi yelled at the flames.
The fire stopped and its kami looked at her. "Why should I? Hungry!" It flared towards them again, but everyone behind Hanabi had already stepped back out of its reach. She twisted her body away from the oncoming flames to protect her brother and sister
"Bad fire!" Hanabi screamed again. She felt heat on her outstretched hand. The fire recoiled away from her as the villagers threw water on it. It screamed in pain.
Hanabi ran a few steps back to where Sachi and the others waited. The fire claimed houses and trees above them on both sides of the path, but left all of them alone.
"Hanabi, the fire listened to you," Sachi said with admiration. Hanabi turned to her friend, but she was still too shocked to reply. Taji and Anda squirmed until they could see out of the sling. They cried and shook when they saw the flames. Hanabi absently petted them.
Hanabi looked at the scared, soot covered faces around her and saw hope. "You can save us," their eyes said. She nodded to them.
Meanwhile the adults had put out enough of the fire that the children could join them around the well.
"Sachi! Come on run through now, before the flames cross the path again!" Sachi’s father coughed the words out. Juro had blisters on his hands. He saw his daughter holding her cousin. Sachi was frozen in place and her eyes darted between Hanabi and the inferno devouring the paper houses and trees.
"Run all of you!" Juro said again. He would have to lead them to safety. Even if all adults died, the children must live.
Hanabi concentrated on the kami around her too intently to be scared. She was not leaving anyone behind.
"Hungry! Hungry!" A finger of fire leapt towards Juro as he stepped towards the village’s future.
"Quiet!" Hanabi told the fire. It flinched away from the sound of her voice and Juro reached Sachi safely and grabbed her hand. Hanabi took his other. Shijo held her left hand.
“Everyone, grab a hand. Let's go," Juro said calmly. Sachi hugged her father tightly with one arm. He led a chain of children through a fiery tunnel.
"Back! Back!" Hanabi ordered the fire whenever it approached them.
"Ouch! The words hurt! The words hurt! Hungry, hungry!" the fire roared but wouldn’t get too close to them.
The children joined their parents at the well. "Back, back!" Hanabi snapped again at the fire surrounding them. The fiery tunnel they’d just rushed through rejoined the larger fire surrounding the well.
"Too many of us, you can't hurt us now!” Several fire kami screamed in a triumphant chorus. The fires circled closer to the Papermasters. They coughed from the smoke and heat. Many of the buckets, made from the Papermasters’s paper, had already burned. Some villagers rushed to their children, wanting to spend their last moments embracing. Others threw water from their hands or beat at the fire with wet clothing to give their children a chance to escape.
Hanabi’s parents threw water on the flames. “Hanabi, when there’s an opening, you run! Don’t look back, just run!” Nami turned and looked Hanabi straight in the eye. “I love you, always remember that.”
No, I will save everyone. This is not goodbye. Hanabi thought. A water bear would destroy this fire!
Bears terrified and fascinated Hanabi. She spied one eating honey this summer. It was every bit as fearsome as she’d imagined, but luckily it hadn’t seen her. Her parents told stories of bears eating villagers, even when they walked on two legs. Three springs ago Udo, Taro, and Shijo killed a bear who awoke early and attacked the hibernating Papermasters. The bear pelt was proudly hung in the village hall.
"Water bear, water bear," she cried desperately to the spring’s kami. "Water bear, eat the fire and save us all!"
Hanabi heard all the fire kami laugh as they closed around the villagers.
Part one is here: https://steemit.com/fiction/@clarastorm/fire-and-water-part-1
Picture By 663highland - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1162806