I had never seen such a sight. Usually, Badger Mouth Pass was magnificent, but not today. Today, I stood there, rooted to the spot, my eyes staring distantly at the blood-strewn battlefield. The death toll of our army was at least 500,000 people, including Cheng Li Pang. The field that we had found so beautiful in our childhood now looked so ugly in the fading light under a red blanket of blood. I turned, tears streaming out of my eyes, and picked up Li’s lifeless and bloodied body to take him home. Taking one last look at Badger Mouth Pass, I fled. This is our story.
Li and I had been friends since birth, and had grown to be like brothers. When we were young, Li’s big dream was to travel the world and see all the places that he could. He always was interested in what was around us, wanting to know different lands and features of different places. The closest place we could get to that was Badger Mouth Pass, and we were always exploring the peaks surrounding the pass. We even found a cave that we made our hideout. To other kids, Li’s interest just made him seem weird, but to me, it was part of what made him great. Even as we grew older, his interest in traveling never weakened, although there were few ways to travel great distances. Unfortunately, we were drafted to fight the Mongols in northern China to protect our country’s territory. And yet, Li was always thinking about what it would be like to explore other lands. Unfortunately, that fateful day came before he could live his dream.
It was a dim, cloudy morning, as if the sky was foretelling the events of the day. Our general called all soldiers to withdraw from the cities and make a stand at Badger Mouth. Lots of our soldiers were overconfident, as we outnumbered the Mongols greatly. Li and I weren’t so sure. I wish we had been wrong.
We all were sitting ducks. The general thought the Mongols would only perform a frontal attack. Genghis Kahn led the Mongols in the front assault, while the other attacks came over the peaks and were soon attacking us from all sides. Our defenses were rapidly failing.
Li and I were caught in the middle of all the chaos. The carnage was the worst sight any of us had ever seen. Everywhere we looked, our men were knocked off their horses, the Mongols’ weapons slicing through the bodies. As Li and I fought for our lives, it was hard not to trip on the bodies of our comrades, lifeless as blood flowed from their wounds. Since our first fight in school, we had always fought side by side. As I was fighting off four invaders, a Mongol raised his jian to slash down on a fellow Jin warrior. I was able to stab the Mongol just in time to save my comrade. What rattled me was right after my sword entered the Mongol’s body was his face, the face of a young boy, at most a teenager. The terror and pain I could see reminded me of myself in my first battle, seeing the havoc and blood for the first time.
The battle continued to rage on. During the time I had just saved a Jin warrior, I had become separated from Li, which worried me, as we had always battled together, never separately.
As I cut down two more invaders, I was cracked on the head by the butt of a sword when a Mongol rode by, dropping me onto the ground. Looking to my side, there was a Jin soldier lying on the ground with a large cut through the center of his body, his hand holding his wound as he searched for his arm. Blood was splattered everywhere, with random body parts lying around. The grass, once a beautiful green that stood up almost happily, now was matted down and dyed with the red stain of blood. The sun was a dark orange, barely shining through the gray clouds that hung over the battlefield, the air deathly still.
I finally got up and defeated two more Mongols with my dao when I saw him, lying in a pool of blood, barely breathing. Panicking, I made my next decision on the spur of the moment, and in one, fast motion, I picked up Li’s dying body, and ran towards the little cave we had found and made our hideout as children. My sword was out, the blade flashing in the setting sun as I cleared a path towards the cave where I could hide Li’s body. Arriving at the cave, I set Li down, but his body was stiff and cold, his chest no longer rising and falling. He was dead. As tears dropped from my eyes, I looked at the cloudy sky and screamed in a fit of rage. How fitting, I thought, the sky being a dimly lit red as the sun set, and giving the battle field a dark, evil look. There was still one final thing I could do for him.
It was a clear autumn sky with a beautiful sunset, with the leaves on the peach tree falling off and scattering as a gentle breeze blew through. The grass was green as ever, and slowly rustling with the wind. Only I was still alive to attend. I took Li’s ashes, paying last respects. The small funeral was next to a river, not too far from our home. As a very last action for my best friend, I took his ashes, cast them in the river, and sat, tearing up, watching my friend leave for good, finally reaching his dream of traveling the world. The river would carry Li beyond Badger Mouth Mass.
© Roger Nakagawa, Hill Middle School, Denver, Colorado