Previous parts are HERE.
Dojo Hard Part 6
“I’ve worked out how to cure you, pet,” Chopstick announced to Drusilla. “Turns out that the gaijin Canon Quentin Travers was good for something after all. He teamed up with Dalton to do some research and they think they’ve cracked it.”
“Clever Chopstick,” Drusilla praised. “What do we have to do?”
“Travers solved the mystery of ‘debase the beef canoe’,” Chopstick explained. “Bit of a mistranslation there, apparently; it really should say ‘leather canoe’, that is, ‘kayak’. We have to debase, that is cut the bottom out of, a kayak. Then you have to stand inside the bottomless kayak and be anointed with the blood of your Sensei.”
“Angel’s blood?” The corners of Drusilla’s mouth turned down. “I hope we don’t have to use too much. I want Angel to come back to our side, not to die.”
“We’ll just keep ladling it on until you feel better and then we’ll stop,” Chopstick promised. “Don’t particularly want to kill the git but I will if I have to. Important thing is to get you well again. No more of those nasty headaches.”
Drusilla’s forehead creased. “I suppose so. Is that all there is to it?”
“More or less,” Chopstick said. “We have to do the ritual to the sound of shakuhachi music, maybe a bit of drum accompaniment, and there are some words to say while we splash the blood on you. That’s pretty much it. I’ve sent some of the blokes out to look for a kayak. Once we’ve found one the next step is to kidnap Angel. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
“The nasty Slayer will try to stop you,” Drusilla warned.
Chopstick grinned. “Canon Travers has come up with a plan to neutralize her. A colorless liquid that will take away all her strength and skills. She’ll be helpless. Something called gin.”
Angel, Lord High Executioner, checked that his hair was sticking up impressively enough, adjusted the position of his mighty Ôdachi two-handed sword in his sash, and strode forth into the village to revel in the importance of his new status as Lord High Executioner.
“Defer,” he commanded a peasant, “defer, to the Lord High Executioner.” He passed a merchant. “Defer,” he ordered, and the merchant deferred. He entered The Bonze and passed the Three Geisha Girls, who were sitting drinking sake in a corner. “Defer,” he commanded them, and strode on to the bar to join Buffy.
“De-fur? What does he mean?” Harmony wondered.
Cordelia grimaced. “I think he wants us to shave our pussies,” she said.
Harmony screwed up her mouth. “That is, like, totally gross,” she complained. “Mr. Pussy will get all cold and he’ll look like one of those skinny Sphynx cats. And how come Angel-san even knows that I have a pussy?”
“Everything’s all set up ready for the ritual,” Chopstick beamed. “I’ve had Buffy lured to The Bonze with a fake message and Canon Travers is in position ready to ply her with gin. Dalton’s keeping an eye on Angel and he’ll call me when the brooding git heads for somewhere we can snatch him. Fancy a shag while we’re waiting?”
“Not tonight, dear, I have a headache,” Drusilla told him. “I’ll just go and not feed my koi.” She wandered away humming to herself.
Chopstick gritted his teeth. “This ritual had better get those damn headaches sorted,” he muttered. “Haven’t had a shag in so long I’m not sure I could tell one from a cormorant. Maybe I should have taken that cute Geisha girl Harmony Kendall up on it. Pretty little piece. Sort of like Buffy, I suppose. Only, she’s a bit, well, vacant.” His forehead furrowed in concentration as he composed a haiku.
“Pretty but shallow
Streams in spring sunshine sparkle
We don’t care.”
He shook his head. “Nah. She’s not worth it. Could do a decent one about Buffy, though.” He struck a pose and declaimed to the empty room.
“Storm of the summer
She dances like the lightning
Beauty and danger.”
Dalton entered in time to hear it. “Magnificent, Chopstick-sama,” he praised. “Your haiku are beyond compare. And I say that most sincerely and entirely uninfluenced by my natural desire not to have chopsticks driven through my ears and into my brain.”
Chopstick shook his head. “Wasn’t for public consumption, y’know. So, you got news of the Brooding One?”
“Angel is patrolling the village and is headed for Willie’s Sushi Bar and Opium Den,” Dalton reported. “He is alone.”
“Right, let’s go snatch the pillock,” Chopstick said. He picked up a heavy shakuhachi flute. “This should sing him to sleep easy enough. Blow on the ear and he’ll follow us anywhere.”
“Greetings, Angel-san,” Willie the Snitch said, bowing obsequiously. “How can my humble self serve your mightiness? My opium den is at your disposal.”
“Nice deferring there, Willie-san,” Angel said, nodding in satisfaction, “only with my promotion to Lord High Executioner it really should be Angel-sama.”
“I grovel in your general direction, Angel-sama. How can I serve you?” Willie repeated.
“Oh, I’m not after anything particular, I just wanted a bit of deferring,” Angel told him. “Nice work. Keep it up.” He swung his gaze around the shady characters in the bar. “And a general warning to you guys. I’ve been appointed to serve and protect the Shogun and that’s just what I’m going to do. If a few heads have to roll in the process that’s fine by me. I have an Ôdachi and I’m not afraid to use it. Defer!” The shady crowd of yakuza and ronin bowed low before him. Angel beamed in satisfaction and swept majestically out of the opium den.
Chopstick was lurking behind the door, the shakuhachi flute poised, waiting in ambush. As Angel left the building Chopstick brought the flute down hard across the back of Angel’s head. The Lord High Executioner fell unconscious. Chopstick beckoned to summon Dalton and together they carried off their captive.
“It’s a refreshing drink made from juniper berries,” Canon Quentin Travers explained. “Very popular in my country.”
Buffy hesitated. She had, of course, been warned not to accept drinks from strange men. He was, however, a holy man and so presumably trustworthy. And she was bored. She had had a message that Angel wanted to spend the evening with her, and had hastened to The Bonze at once, but the social evening hadn’t materialized. He had turned up, but only to dispense his usual enigmatic warnings and to command the bar staff and the other patrons to defer to him, and had then swept out again leaving Buffy high and dry.
“Okay,” she said, and accepted the gin. “It’s kinda … perfume-y. Nice.”
“I’m glad you like it,” Travers said. “I gather you have the ear of the Shogun?”
“Yeah, only I left it in the pocket of my other kimono,” Buffy said. “Hey, just kidding. Shogun Giles does listen to me, yeah, on account of me being pretty much his chief bodyguard. Why?”
“I’m hoping that he might give his approval to the construction of a Christian church,” Travers told her. “Not that I’m really hoping to make many converts, but one must keep up appearances.”
“I guess he won’t mind,” Buffy said. “I’ll mention it to him, yeah.”
“That would be most kind of you, my dear. Another gin?”
“Sure, why not?”
Travers smiled and gestured to summon the proprietor. “More gin for the young lady, if you please, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce. Tuppence worth.”
“Xander-san,” Giles frowned, “are you quite sure that you put enough stamps on those parcels containing the pieces of the Dread Judge of the Nether World?”
“Yep. All stamped and licked, Giles-sama. Why are you asking?”
“Because the parcels have been returned to sender for insufficient postage,” Giles informed him sharply. “Really, Xander-san, you have made rather a mess of things. If you weren’t a Taikomochi I’d have to insist on you committing seppuku.”
“Hey, I put on just the amount of stamps that Angel-san told me to,” Xander protested. “It is so not my fault if he’s a tightwad.”
“That attempt to shift the blame is unworthy,” Giles said. “Oh, well, I suppose it’s my fault for asking a Taikomochi to do a responsible job. I just hope that Willow did a good job of insulating the packages now that they are all piled together in one …”
The Shogun’s voice trailed off as the thin card boxes all simultaneously split and the sections of the Dread Judge rolled inexorably together. They joined together as if by magic, probably because it was by magic, and formed into a dark figure.
“Irie, mon,” the figure said. “I and I is Kendra.”
“Dear Daimyo!” Giles exclaimed. “Are you the Dread Judge of the Netherworld?”
“Yeah, mon, dat I,” Kendra replied. “Truly dread. I and I has come to fight against Babylon, long as it am not too much boderation. Hey, mon, you look mighty hitey-titey. You top ranking aroun’ here?”
“I suppose I am, yes,” Giles admitted. “I am Giles, Shogun of all Sunnydale.”
“Got any ganja, mon?”
Canon Quentin Travers had expected Buffy to be under the table after consuming a whole tuppence worth of gin, but instead she was standing on top of it.
“Typhoon strikes city,” she declaimed.
“Chrysanthemum blossoms fall.
Travers groaned. “You haven’t been watering the gin, have you, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce?” he asked. “She should be unconscious by now, not spouting haiku that makes the works of Chopstick seem masterly by comparison.”
“I most certainly have not been watering the gin,” Wesley emphatically denied. “It’s the traditional English strength; ‘drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence’. It’s just that you forgot to allow for import tax.”
Willow pushed her way through the crowd that had gathered around the ninja girl. “Buffy-chan!” she called. “Buffy-chan! We need you.” The crowd dispersed. Travers sidled away a short distance but then stopped and stood listening.
Buffy swayed on the table and gazed at her friend with wide unfocused eyes.
“I will still be strong,
After the boys of Summers
“Hi, Buff-chan. We got trouble. The Dread Judge of the Netherworld has turned up after all,” Willow explained. “Although, she’s a pretty nice girl and I don’t think we need you to get all with the fight-y with her. Only, when she first appeared, Giles sent people to look for Angel, and they found out that Angel’s been kidnapped. Probably by Chopstick.”
“Chopstick?” Buffy frowned. “Kidnapped Angel?”
“Yeah, whacked him on the head with a shakuhachi flute and carried him off,” Willow said. “We don’t know why, but I’m guessing it can’t be good, right?”
Buffy struck a pose symbolic of determination and recited a new haiku.
“Hair like winter snow
This Chopstick prowls our city.
On completion of the final line she swayed, wobbled, and fell from the table top. Willow looked down horrified as Buffy curled herself up on the floor and went to sleep.
“Chopstick is coming! Chopstick is coming!” Xander ran frantically through the castle waving his hands and contorting his features in terror.
Cordelia yawned. “Like I’m supposed to be scared? Buffy and Angel will protect us. Anyway, I met Chopstick and hey, he’s not so bad.”
“Angel has been kidnapped! Buffy is drunk! And Chopstick is accompanied by a vicious order of terrible assassins!” Xander claimed. “A man of huge size with but one eye! A man who is a seething mass of crawling bugs! And a woman with a harquebus!”
“A harquebus? I knew we should never have let that English guy Wesley Wyndam-Pryce settle here,” Cordelia said. “He’s brought in all kinds of gaijin stuff like billiards and golf and Morris dancing and firearms. Totally un-Japanese. Plus, he’s a lousy kisser.”
“You kissed him?” Xander frowned. “When?”
“Only professionally,” Cordelia assured him. She rolled her eyes. “Not like it’s anything to do with you anyway, Xander-san.”
“Oh no!” Xander wailed. “While you have been talking, Chopstick has been coming closer. It is now too late to run. We must hide. Quickly, to the closet!”
Cordelia raised one perfectly-shaped eyebrow. “Oh, so that’s your game, huh? I bet Chopstick isn’t coming at all. In fact I bet he’s not even breathing hard.”
“Oh, he is, he is, I can hear his sandals clopping towards us right now,” Xander insisted. “And hey, if I had the two halves of a coconut handy you’d totally hear them too.”
The corner of Cordelia’s mouth twitched briefly. “You are totally determined to get me into the closet, aren’t you?” she said. “Oh, all right. But hey, you so had better be a good kisser.”
“I don’t like having my hair washed with blood, Chopstick-san,” Drusilla complained. “Can’t I use Shiseido Macherri shampoo as usual?”
“It’s supposed to be going on your forehead, not your hair. Keep your head still, you dozy – uh, Dru-chan.”
“Don’t waste it!” Angel scolded both of them. “I don’t have all that much to spare.”
“Tough luck, Peach Blossom,” Chopstick said. “Gonna use as much as it takes to get Dru-chan’s head fixed.”
“Peach Blossom?” Drusilla asked.
“Long story,” Chopstick said. “Tell you some other time.” He stared at the cut that he had made on Angel’s arm. “Bummer. That one’s dried up. Have to start a new one.”
The door of the stronghold burst open. A sinister dark figure strode in. “Hey, rude bwoy, you done let dat lion go, you hear? I and I is gonna kick your bumbo.”
Chopstick stared at the dreadlocked figure with his eyebrows raised almost to his hairline. “Who the oni are you?”
“I and I is de Dread Judge of de Netherworld,” Kendra informed him. “De court am in session. Let de man go or you got to deal wit’ I.” One of Chopstick’s ronin ran at her with a katana. She blocked his swing with a backhand blow to his forearm and then struck inwards to the jaw with the heel of her hand. The man flew backwards across the room and crashed through one of the paper walls. “I and I is badda dan dem,” she pointed out. “You is through, rude bwoy.”
“Don’t think you can take all of us, Judge,” Chopstick said. “Not on your own.”
“She stands not alone
On this cool night of winter
I stand beside her,” Buffy announced, walking unsteadily in through the open door.
She was carrying a six foot long koto zither. “Hey, I hear you fight with musical instruments. Well, I’ve brought one too. Uh, that’s ‘too’ as in ‘also’, I wasn’t going, like, ‘one, two’.” She swung the koto in an awkward blow at a charging yakuza knife-man and knocked him from his feet, but she nearly overbalanced in the process. “Oops!”
“You brought a zither to a flute fight?” Chopstick asked incredulously.
“Uh, maybe it was a pretty dumb idea,” she admitted, and laid the koto down on the floor. “Do we really need weapons for this?”
“Considering that the Dread Judge of the Netherworld seems to be as strong as a sodding bear, I’d say the answer is definitely yeah,” Chopstick said. He put his hand to his katana but then changed his mind and selected the shakuhachi flute instead. “Come on, then, got a ritual to complete. Don’t just bloody hang around. Let’s fight.”
While Chopstick and Buffy had been talking Drusilla had climbed out of the debased beef canoe and had picked up a long and wide bamboo tube with a string protruding from a hole near the base. She lit the string, raised the tube to her shoulder, and pointed it at Kendra. “Bye bye, little black bird,” she said.
The tube spat fire and shrapnel in the Dread Judge’s direction. Kendra had time to say only “Nuttin’ nah go right, mon!” before the blast hit her and shattered her into her component pieces. Dalton seized the largest piece and raced away with it in the direction of the Post Office.
The recoil sent Drusilla flying backwards through one of the internal paper walls. Sparks from the gunpowder ignited the paper and the building caught fire. Some of Chopstick’s band began to fight the fire, some fled, and only a few tried to fight Buffy. She flattened them all with a succession of kicks and punches and made for Chopstick.
Chopstick held up the key to the manacles that held Angel firmly to a thick wooden beam. “If you want to get the Lord High Brooder out of here before he gets fried you’re gonna have to get this off me,” he taunted her. He closed his fist tightly over the key and swung a punch at her.
Buffy seemed to stumble, but the near fall took her under the punch and her recovery brought her up in a perfect position to swing a punch of her own. Chopstick blocked her blow with a forearm and brought up a foot in a spinning kick. Buffy swayed backwards, almost reeling away, and avoided the kick in the process.
“Sod it!” Chopstick cursed. “Drunken Master Chinese boxing. Didn’t know you could do that, Slayer.”
“Neither did I,” Buffy admitted, stumbling forwards and hitting Chopstick in the chest with an awkward but powerful elbow blow. “Hey, you learn something new every day, right?”
“Yeah, full of bloody surprises you are, Buffy-san,” Chopstick conceded, and hit her across the neck with a hand-sword. “Can’t retaliate with the same style ‘cos I’m not pissed.”
“Oh? Well I’m majorly pissed that you’re sacrificing my boyfriend,” Buffy said.
“Not sacrificing the pillock,” Chopstick denied. “Just needed some of his blood, is all. Traditional ninja headache cure. The blood of the Sensei.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “So what was wrong with acupuncture?”
“More fun sticking the needles in Angel than in Dru,” Chopstick explained. He grinned broadly and threw a punch that was a little too slow. Buffy caught it, bent down, spun under Chopstick’s arm, and threw him. He went with the throw, well prepared to roll and minimize the effects of hitting the floor, but he landed squarely on the hard wooden body of the koto zither.
The koto shattered under the impact. Chopstick arched his back in brief agony and then went limp. His hand opened to display the key. Buffy snatched it up and made for Angel’s manacles.
“Let’s get out of here before the whole place goes up,” Angel urged as soon as his shackles were unfastened.
“Wait, Angel-san, we can’t just let Chopstick burn to death,” Buffy said uncertainly.
“Of course we can,” Angel said. “I’m Lord High Executioner, and I hereby sentence him to death for kidnapping and the attempted murder of a high official of justice. Death by burning. Now go!”
Buffy took a step towards the unconscious Chopstick anyway. A section of burning wall collapsed in front of her, the flames licking up and cutting her off from the ninja, and she recoiled. Angel snatched her up and ran for the door. She resisted for a moment but he was much stronger than her; she could have freed herself from his grasp in several ways but they would have caused him serious pain, even injury, and so she refrained and stopped fighting.
Once out in the open, away from the flames, she stared into the burning building with big sad eyes and was almost oblivious to Angel’s gloating over the death of his enemy. Almost, but not quite; enough of it got through to make her feel rather ill. Later, however, she attributed that feeling to the effects of the gin, and put Chopstick out of her mind. Or tried to.
“Okay, Xander-san, I’ll concede that you’re a better kisser than Wesley,” Cordelia said. “Better than Willow, too.”
“So, do I make your top ten?”
“Straight in at Number One,” Cordelia admitted.
“Same with you for me,” Xander told her. “Just one thing, Cordelia-san. When Angel was going around telling everyone ‘Defer!’ I think maybe you got the wrong idea.”
Drusilla waited until Buffy and Angel had left the building before scuttling to Chopstick’s side. She lifted him easily, slung him over her shoulder, and headed off in a diametrically opposite direction to the one taken by the Slayer and the Lord High Executioner. She had to break through a door to escape but she kicked it from its hinges without even needing to put Chopstick down. Once outside she laid her burden on the grass and took a deep breath to clear her lungs of smoke.
“Wake up, my Chopstick-san,” she urged him. “We must depart before the Shogun’s men arrive.”
Chopstick stirred and tried to sit up. Nothing happened.
“Come on, Chopstick-kun, this is no time to be lazy,” Dru scolded him. “Get up and let’s run away.”
Chopstick’s face twisted. “Can’t get up, Dru-chan,” he told her. “Something’s not bloody right.” He reached down with his hand and pinched his thigh. “Dru-chan! Something’s bloody badly wrong. I can’t feel my legs!”