“Here it is,” she announced as we entered the room.
“Quite an impressive collection,” I said admiringly.
“Thank you,” she replied.
I became more awestruck as I looked around the room which served as storage for her collection of weapons. There was no wasted space or lack of organization. Most of the weapons were pre-modern ranged weapons or melee weapons.
The only firearms were the pistol sword and the dart gun, though there were decoy grenades. After I had spent considerable time looking at the throwing weapons, the bladed weapons, the polearms, the bows and arrows, the rope and chain weapons, the staves and bludgeons, and the other assorted weaponry, I noted, “Some of these look pretty wicked.”
She nodded in agreement and, ever philosophical, she added, “If you intend to maim or kill, then you lose something, no matter how righteous your reasons for doing so.” She took a long pause, obviously in deep thought.
Finally she told me, “There have been weapons to chop off limbs, weapons to infect an opponent with poisons, weapons to start fires, and the like, but this is probably the most sinister weapon in my entire collection.” She headed toward the display of daggers and knives and picked out a small knife in an ornate silver sheath. “This is a Korean knife called a ‘jangdo’.” She nodded toward one of the daggers. “It’s similar to the Japanese kaiken.”
She unsheathed the jangdo and held it out for me to see it, but didn’t hand it over to me. Sheathed it was only about the length of the hand, and the blade looked only about as long as my pinkie finger. I wondered what about the knife could justify her claim. “What was it, an assassination weapon?”
“No, that’s the bi su,” she replied, once again nodding at one of the knives. “This was carried by women.”
“It was a self-defense weapon?”
“That was one purpose.” She heaved a sigh and her voice began to quiver. “You see, Korea has had its history of invasions, most notably by the Japanese. Sometimes, when a woman’s husband was out fighting, an invader might come by and decide to take… a different kind of plunder.”
I began to grow alarmed. “You’re talking about rape, right?”
“Mmm-hmm,” she replied softly. She hesitated before continuing. Then her words came quickly, as if she felt she had to spill it or else she wouldn’t be able to finish at all. “If it was apparent that she couldn’t prevent it from happening, or if it had already happened, she was expected to use this, to save the family’s honor.”
I stood there stunned as I realized what she was trying to tell me. When I found my voice, I asked, “Are you telling me that if… if they were raped, or likely to be raped, they were… they were supposed to commit suicide?!”
“Mmm-hmm. It was their expected duty.”
“That’s crazy! If they willingly cheated on their husbands with the invaders, like those French collaborators who slept around with the Nazis, then have a court hand out some kinda punishment for collaboration after it was all said and done, but to make a woman think she has to kill herself after being raped!? That’s insane! It’s inhuman!”
“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir.” She sheathed the jangdo as if she couldn’t stand looking at the blade anymore. “People try to excuse it, but we both know that everything you just said is right.”
She returned it to its place in the display, and I could understand why she hadn’t handed it to me. I would’ve been even more freaked out than I already was if I’d held something like that in my hands, especially if I’d thought that it had actually been used.
We stood there in silence for several moments. Finally she said, “Let’s look at some of the less disturbing and more interesting items in my collection. It’ll help take your mind off that horrid thing.”
“Sure. I’d appreciate that. Thanks.”
"Hey, you're preaching to the choir." She glanced down at the blade. "People try to excuse it, but we both know that everything you just said is right."
For long moments afterward she stood frozen in place staring silently at the blade. She had a sad and anxious expression on her face, and I could see in her eyes that something horrible was going through her mind.
Finally I asked, "So, you have that as a reminder to people?"
Her trance broken, she cleared her throat and replied, "Yeah. Some things shouldn't be forgotten, no matter how horrible."
"I agree! Pretending something horrible didn't happen isn't going to change the fact that it did, and it sure won't stop it from happening again. People need to know about things like this."
She looked up at me and smiled. "Thank you. I can tell you really mean everything you've said."
"Sure. I'm not one of those monsters who doesn't care about people."
"I can tell. You're a very sweet guy."
She quickly re-sheathed the jangdo. I could understand why she hadn't handed it to me. I would've been even more freaked out than I already was if I'd held something like that in my hands.
We stood there with our thoughts for several moments. Finally she said, "Let's look at some of the less disturbing and more interesting items in my collection. It'll help take your mind off that horrid thing."
"Sure. I'd appreciate that. Thanks."
She returned the knife to its place in the display. As she did her long sleeves briefly slipped down, and I thought I saw something that added another level of horror to the situation. I only caught a quick glimpse, but I thought I saw scars, about as long as my pinkie finger, on her wrists.
Written by Raidra