Telling Tales 236
“I could not procure these boots for you.”
She agreed that he could not.
“But I could be these boots for you.”
Yi-Min did not understand.
“I believe we have the opportunity to do one another a service. If you can help me, I will be in your debt, a debt which I will be able to repay by delivering you to your husband’s side as quick as the wind.”
Yi-Min agreed that this was acceptable.
“You must know that I am faster than any seven-league boots,” began Haraka. “Cheetah gave me her feet along with this red-spiked flower, which is a great more than it seems to be, and in exchange I am to hunt Jackal, who not only tricked me but likes to trick everyone he sees. I joined a flying ship with seven other travelers because until that moment I had not been successful. I am very, very fast and I am a good hunter, but I am not as good a hunter as Jackal is a runner. I joined this group in the hopes that I could learn from them, become a better hunter, and successfully capture Jackal on my own.
“You see, I understand that you must do exercise your own will to find your husband. My friend who shot the arrow, the arrow that I chased and fell to the earth by your side, he has the sharpest eye of any hunter alive. He could shoot the glint out of Jackal’s eye for me, but then it would not be me who hunted Jackal and I would have Cheetah’s legs and paws for nothing. I owe Cheetah the letter of our deal, that I would find Jackal, and I owe myself its spirit, that I will succeed by my own skills. Had I my friend’s skill with a bow and depth of vision, I would do it myself. He has taught me and he is patient, but I fear it is not enough.”
Yi-Min agreed. It would not be enough.
She explained, “I have met Jackal not once, but many times in these days that it has taken me to wear through three pairs of iron boots. Some days he helped me. Some days he stole from me. Some days we talked, and some he refused to speak.” She considered her words. “You are hunting Jackal. As a hunter, what is the most useful thing you could know about your prey?”
Haraka thought. “His weaknesses. Jackal eats many things, including dead things. He is fast and he is the color of the ground and the dead plants around him. He is cunning and can see through poisons and many traps. He is a very smart adversary.”
“You admire him.”
“Then I will tell you his weakness as I understand it. Jackal is very smart, this is true. This is part of his weakness. He is also proud. This, too, is part of his weakness. But most of all, the thing that is always and every time Jackal’s downfall? He cannot help himself from talking and doing. He must always be busy. His mind is faster than his legs. That is his weakness and that is how you will catch him.”
“I see,” said Haraka. “Yes, that will do. Now you have done me a good turn. May I be your seven-league boots?”
For the first time in three pairs of iron boots, Yi-Min smiled.