Dojo Hard Part 4
“Hey, Willow-chan,” Buffy greeted her friend. “See you made it through the attack on the castle okay. I was kinda worried for a while ‘cause I didn’t know where you were.”
“I got stuck in a closet with Cordelia, just like I said I would,” Willow told her. “Hey, I was all Prophecy Girl and I didn’t even know it.”
“Poor Will-chan, that must have totally sucked,” Buffy commiserated.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Willow said. “We found something to keep ourselves occupied.”
“I’m guessing it wasn’t discussing haiku,” Buffy said. “All Cordelia ever talks about is kimonos, sandals, and boys. Did you tell her about that cute kitsune fox spirit Oz who seems to be interested in you, or did she do all the talking?”
“Uh, no, a little more intimate than that,” Willow revealed, blushing. “We – uh, we kinda, uh, well – hey, Buff-chan, I think I’m kinda gay.”
The primary venue for entertainment in Sunnydale was the local Ryokan, The Bonze. Xander walked past the statue of a Buddhist priest, after which the tavern was named, and entered the building. A Kabuki play was being performed on the stage, and Xander winced at the singing. “Kabuki music – the music of pain,” he muttered, and headed for the area in which drinks were served.
He obtained a pot of sake and then wandered towards the billiard table. The exotic foreign game had been introduced to Sunnydale by a shipwrecked English mariner, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, and had caught the imagination of several of the locals including Xander.
There was no-one playing on the table tonight and Xander looked around for a prospective opponent. His eyes fell upon someone who he was distinctly unhappy to see. A compact yet well-muscled ninja with dyed blond hair. Xander changed his course, but it was too late; Chopstick had already seen him and approached with a sardonic smirk on his face.
“Well, if it isn’t the Taikomochi from the castle,” Chopstick grinned. “See my dozy minions didn’t manage to kill you. Fancy a game of billiards?”
“Uh, so you’re not going to kill me yourself?”
“Nah. Like I said, there’s no honor in killing a Taikomochi. Long as I’m not out for a bit of tsuji-giri you’re fairly safe from me, and nobody’s given me any new swords lately.”
“Uh, that’s a relief,” Xander gulped, being well aware that ‘tsuji-giri’ was the custom of trying out a new sword on a random passer-by.
“Not for me,” Chopstick said. “Could do with a new sword. Dropped hints to Dru, but she’s too away with the Yosei to take any notice.” He grinned again at Xander’s obvious discomfort. “So, fancy a game then?”
“Uh, okay,” Xander agreed, “only I’m not all that good.”
“We’ll keep the stakes small, then,” Chopstick suggested. “How about a hundred yen a point?”
“So that’s why I’m kinda broke right now,” Xander reported to Giles. “Uh, any chance of an advance on my next pay?”
“Certainly not,” the Shogun told him firmly. “You must learn greater prudence. Why did you not simply stop playing when you realized that you were outclassed?”
“And risk pissing off that Chopstick guy?” Xander said. “Hey, getting my ass kicked at billiards by the ninja beats all kind of hell out of getting my ass kicked for real. I don’t like to think of what he might have done with the cue.”
“Maybe he was cheating,” Angel suggested. “He is utterly and totally evil, after all.”
“I think it was just all that ninja skill with sticks,” Xander said. “I don’t think he was cheating.”
“Taking advantage of someone with your, ah, disadvantages is in itself cheating,” Giles said. “I have been considering making such sharp practice illegal, as part of my new code of justice in which the punishment should always fit the crime. I shall achieve that sublime objective in time.”
“So, what would the punishment be for fleecing Xander-kun at billiards?” Willow asked. “Something humorous but kinda lingering, with maybe boiling oil or molten lead?”
“Dear lord, no,” the Shogun said. “I think, perhaps, that an appropriate penalty would be for him to dwell in a dungeon cell on a spot that’s always barred. There he would be condemned to play extravagant matches in fitless finger-stalls, on a cloth untrue with a twisted cue and, perhaps, as the final touch, elliptical billiard balls.”
“Seems a little hard on the guy just for being good at billiards,” Buffy commented. “What about the way he murders haiku? What do you have in mind for that?”
“Ah, perhaps sentence him to recite them to an audience of bronze Buddhas,” Giles suggested. “Or cut out his tongue, perhaps. I’ll have to think about it.”
“I’m all for cutting out his tongue,” Angel said. “He’s evil, remember?”
“Yeah, I get that, but you gotta admit he has style,” Buffy said.
Angel bridled. “He is despicable and unworthy. Remember that he has slain two of your own order of girl ninja, and desires nothing more than to add you to his tally. Death is too good for him.”
“Whatever,” Buffy said, unconcerned. “Hey, I’d better go. Mom’s expecting me back home.”
“So soon? I had hoped that you would stay for tea,” said Giles. “Perhaps you would care for some tea, Angel-san?”
“Sorry, Giles-sama, I don’t have time,” Angel declined the offer. “I’m meeting an informant in an hour.”
“I have to go too, Giles-sama,” Willow put in. “Shall we walk home together, Buffy-chan?”
Giles frowned. “I don’t want to take tea alone. Xander-san, you must join me.”
“Yeah, I guess, it’s one of the things I get paid for,” Xander agreed. “But hey, I want overtime for this.”
“Green baize battlefield
Cues of wood, ivory balls
My victory complete.”
The audience applauded Chopstick’s haiku commemorating his defeat of Xander at billiards. No-one held back; whatever their private opinions might have been about his poetic abilities, his capacity for lethal violence was undoubted and nobody wanted to lose his head over poetry.
Dru pouted. “You should have killed him, my Chopstick-san,” she complained. “Covered the nasty green cloth with beautiful red blood.”
“Would have just soaked in and made it a sodding ugly brown color, Dru-chan,” Chopstick pointed out. “Plenty of time to kill him later. Tell you what, pet, I’ll go kill Angel.”
“No!” Drusilla exclaimed in alarm, and then moderated her tone as she saw Chopstick raise his eyebrows. “He will come back to our side, I know it,” she explained. “His contract of servitude with the Shogun forbids him to deflower virgins, and he must wear his sandals at all times. He may forget himself with that Buffy girl and thus be dishonored and free to rejoin us.”
“She’s too good for him,” Chopstick muttered under his breath.
“If he resists that temptation,” Drusilla continued, “I think that I can work out a way of causing him to lose his soles.”