Ziyi rode at the back of the old wagon. She
huddled in the corner to escape the cold and to
give her time to ponder past events. The deaths of all those she
held dear and her meeting with the kikage zumi remained
foremost in her mind.
eyes clamped down tight as visions of her clan being cut down returned
to haunt her for yet another time. The
foul stench of death that lingered upon the dead
seemed to trail behind her, never to let her body forget even if her mind
survive such an endeavor was proof of the blessing of Lady Moon, so the
kikage zumi told her, and the newly formed tattoos on her skin attested to it as
chance at vengeance,
the promise held in her mind.
The Hitomi monks had attempted to show her the way of battle, but
the memories terrified her. Brought
back in force as they would approach her, she would crumble and fall to the
ground, frightened like a newborn babe.
They told her it would pass. They
would chastise her weakness. They
would shame her for failing the Lady.
At last in disgust they sent her off. A family of three disposed of their land was headed south,
and she was to travel with them. Better
to leave their sight, than to remind them of her weakness.
The travel was arduous, but the peddlers were kind to her.
At times she almost felt herself open up when the young boy would bring
her flowers, or when his grandparents offered her food from their meager stores.
Almost. Part of her
felt that she did not deserve such kindness.
Early one day, as Lord Sun’s light had
cleared the horizon, the wagon came to an abrupt stop.
The commotion outside awoke Xien Ziyi from her nightmare.
Voices were rapid and panicked outside the wagon.
outside the wagon, Xien Ziyi felt a snug at the back of her kimono as she was
jerked outside and into the ground. Pain
and panic overcame her
as the blunt end of a naginata struck her across her face.
body shook with fear as she glanced about.
Numerous men who smelled of
sour sweat and dung surrounded them, while a couple
more rummaged through the wagons with
eyes filled greed. One held a
weapon at her, his scarred face daring her to fight back.
Another continued to yell at the family, asking where the treasure was
hidden. And the last watched the bandits’
ponies, confusion and some fear on his young face.
boisterous bandit continued to interrogate the old man and woman.
Growing angrier and angrier with
the answers he received he struck out, beating the old couple.
again... not again,” cried
Xien Ziyi as she rocked back and forth.
Finally spitting upon the ground, the disgusted bandit drew his
rusty blade. Waving it in the air,
he voiced his
Ziyi’s eyes closed and the panic disappeared.
Before she could react she felt warm blood upon her hands as she ripped
her hairpin from the throat of the bandit that guarded her.
his weapon fell from his hands she grasped it and spun it about in a wide arc
above her head, continuing the spin as she sunk
low to the ground.
bandit hovering over the old couple eyes widened in surprise as he saw his blade
descend from above, his hand still upon its handle, but no longer attached to
he could turn he felt his legs buckle from beneath him as they no longer could
support his weight. His last vision
as he crumbled to the ground was a blur of death coming towards him.
Xien Ziyi’s body continued to move of its own volition.
Her mind barely registered a thought as blood splattered about and
screams of terror and surprise were silenced.
It seemed like eternity when she finally stopped.
Her clothing was thickly
soaked in the blood of the bandits. Before
her stood a scared boy holding the ponies, his lips quivering in fear.
my lady, spare me,” he whimpered, “I had no choice… no one was suppose to
get hurt… I swear.”
woman turned around, her voice devoid of emotion.
believe you.” She said leaving the lifeless body behind her.
Two men stood watch over the wagon at a distance.
They both wore little to protect them from the elements,
yet the chill of the morning did not seem to bother them.
Their bodies were covered in exotic tattoos that marked them as members
of the ize zumi and kikage zumi order.
The smaller ize zumi was lithe and graceful.
His face was thoughtful as he watched the scene from afar.
The larger kikage zumi was stout and taut with muscles, and
he grunted in satisfaction at the whirling melee.
The ise zumi knelt forward with his hand to his
barren face. “For a moment I felt we would have to intercede.”
The kikage zumi shrugged, “The Lady had chosen her.
I had no doubt she was up to
The smaller man’s eyes fell to the ground and his
voice held a tint of sadness, “I met her once long ago… she was such a
gentle soul. To hold so much
violence… so much rage…”
“Restraint and abandon are two sides of the same
coin,” the larger one said, looking at
his friend, “We just saw the coin flipped.”
“You sent those bandits to their
deaths… or worse yet, those people could have been hurt.”
“I fed the bandits information of possible wealth
to be had,” the kikage enforcer sneered, “and she is one of us, that family
was never truly in harm’s way.”
The larger tattooed man crossed his hands across his
chest. “Besides, the bandits should feel lucky that
I did not kill them. “
once more to the carnage below he growled, “Then again, perhaps I was not so
merciful after all.”
A deep bellowing laugh echoed as the winds howled