Dojo Hard Part 10
Oz and Dalton brought the palanquin to a halt outside a craftsman’s shop. “Is this the place, dude?” Oz asked.
Chopstick peered out of the palanquin at the sign above the shop door. “Yeah, this is it. ‘Desoto Wakayama. Baby-carts for the discerning mother.’ Should be able to pick up some wheels here, save you two from having to carry me everywhere.”
“Will a baby-cart not be too small, Chopstick-sama?” Dalton asked.
“Have to see, won’t we? Might have to have my feet sticking out of the end, but it’s got to be better than this, right?”
Oz wiped his forehead. “Not gonna argue with you there, dude. Carrying that thing around is hard work.”
“On the plus side,” Chopstick said, as three craftsmen scurried out of the shop bowing and scraping frantically, “it makes me look like a really important official.”
The castle gates swung shut behind Buffy and guards rushed to slide home the big wooden locking bar. She paid no attention to them, except perhaps for a vague thought that they were not as smartly turned out as usual and that Shogun Giles would be displeased if he saw them, and she moved on into the castle.
A net dropped towards her, thrown by someone on the castle walls, weights around its edge bringing it down speedily to envelop her. She drew her katana by reflex and slashed through the strands as it fell. “Hey!” she protested. “This is so not the time for a training exercise.” She frowned as she slid the katana back into its scabbard.
“It’s no exercise, Slayer,” one of the guards told her. He advanced towards her with a club raised. Other guards, and unfamiliar figures in the black garb of ninjas, appeared all around her and closed in. “Shogun’s orders. He says that we have to tie you up before we bring you into his presence.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Giles-sama said that? Why?”
The guard shrugged. “Ours not to reason why, ours but to serve the guy,” he said. “Oh, and Giles-san isn’t the Shogun any more.” He stepped forward and swung the club at her head. Simultaneously a ninja dived at her legs.
Buffy ducked under the swing of the club, caught the wielder’s arm, and threw him over her shoulder. He landed on the diving ninja and both of them crashed heavily to the ground. “Seriously, guys, I’m not in the mood,” Buffy said. She side-stepped a charging guard and swept his legs out from under him. “Hey! What was that about Giles not being the Shogun?”
One of the guards delayed a tonfa strike to speak. “There has been a coup.”
“Bless you,” Buffy said.
The guard frowned. “I wasn’t sneezing. A palace coup. Giles has been overthrown.” He advanced and tried to hit Buffy on the head.
“A coup?” Buffy twisted the tonfa from the guard’s grasp, dislocating his elbow in the process, and hit him across the side of the jaw. “How could there be a coup? He hasn’t been away to speak at the United Nations. It’s unconstitutional!” Her brows furrowed. “At least I think it is.” She spin-kicked a ninja and punched a guard on the nose. “Who is the new Shogun anyway?”
“Angel-sama, may his dynasty reign for a thousand glorious years,” a ninja declaimed.
“Angel? So Harmony was telling the truth,” Buffy realized. “Hey, what dynasty? He’s gonna start one with that ho Drusilla?”
“Play your cards right and you could be part of it,” the ninja said, and dived at her in an attempt to deliver a shoulder-strike to the solar plexus. Buffy met him with an elbow and a knee and the ninja fell limp and unconscious.
“Why didn’t Angel come to meet me himself?” Buffy wondered. She blocked the attack of one of the guards and brought her knee up sharply between his legs. The guard staggered away clutching at himself and groaning.
“That is probably why,” the massive ronin Olaf commented. “That one will not be engaging in any merry sport for a long time to come, that is certain. Angel-sama would not have wished to suffer the same fate.” Olaf twirled his mighty hammer and advanced cautiously. “You would do well to surrender, woman, for we are many and you are but one.”
Buffy dropped into a cat stance and awaited Olaf’s attack. He seemed to be a formidable opponent and her attention was concentrated on him. She didn’t see a ninja on the battlements poised to throw a kusari-gama weighted chain until it was too late. The chain whipped around her legs and jerked her off her feet. She was helpless to avoid Olaf’s hammer.
“You’re in luck,” Warren said. “We have just the thing you’re looking for. The Anointed One ordered a great big baby-cart, for his triumphal procession when he conquered Sunnydale, only he never showed up to collect it.”
“Probably ‘cos I cut his head off,” Chopstick said. “Bloody brilliant. Want some special modifications made, though. Naginatas built into the side rails, armor plating, maybe a harquebus or two mounted on it, that sort of thing.”
“That would be totally cool,” said Jonathan. “Uh, why do you want it, dude?”
“Costume party,” Chopstick told him. “The theme is ‘great samurai of legend’. Gonna go as Ogami Itto and Daigoro.”
“Awesome choice, dude,” Warren said approvingly.
“Where is Master Desoto?” Dalton wondered.
“He’s, like, out in the forest, trying to find out if a tree makes a sound if it falls when there’s no-one there to hear,” Andrew explained. “It’s a Zen thing. Zen and the art of baby-cart maintenance. He left us here to get on with the work and to practice clapping with one hand.” He sighed. “You’re Dalton-san, right? I think you’re totally the greatest ninja. You’ve got that whole intellectual thing with the books and yet you’re deadly too.”
“Thank you, Andrew-san,” Dalton said, bowing. “I am but a humble shadow of the great Chopstick, however.”
“Sho Kosugi totally rules,” Jonathan said.
“Nobody can match Ogami Itto,” Warren stated.
“He was a samurai, not a ninja,” Jonathan pointed out. “And Zatôichi was a cooler samurai anyway.”
“Oh, yeah?” Warren’s lip curled. “What’s so cool about a samurai who can’t see?”
“He didn’t need to see,” Jonathan said. “He had these, like, heightened senses.”
“Yeah, well, Ogami Itto had heightened senses and he could see too,” Warren retorted.
Chopstick frowned and rapped the hilt of his katana against the door of the palanquin. “Get a bloody move on,” he growled. “Haven’t got much time here.”
“Okay, okay,” Warren said. “We’ll get right on it. Andrew-san, you get on over to The Bonze and see that gaijin guy Wesley about a harquebus or two, okay? Jonathan-san, you do the armor plate. I’ll work on the naginatas.” He bowed to Chopstick and headed back into the workshop.
“Did you not sing about wanting to strangle him, Chopstick-sama?” Dalton asked.
“Well, yeah, but that was just ‘cos ‘Warren Meers’ rhymes with ‘beers’,” Chopstick replied. “Don’t have anything against the bloke. As long as he does a good job on the baby-cart he’s safe from strangulation.” He sighed. “S’ppose there’s nothing to do now but wait, yeah? I’ll work on a haiku or two. Got the makings of one already.”
“Winter’s steely skies
Echoed in baby-cart armor
Juggernaut of death.”
“One too many syllables in the second line, Chopstick-san,” Oz pointed out.
“There are?” Chopstick’s lips moved as he counted. “Yeah. Bugger. Oh well, I’ll keep working on it.”
Buffy raised her hands in what she knew would be a futile attempt to fend off the fall of Olaf’s hammer. She only hoped that he would remember that they were trying to capture her and not to kill.
The hammer did not descend. A young woman unfamiliar to Buffy stepped out into the square and spoke sharply. Olaf glanced aside at her and was distracted.
“I knew that something was wrong,” the girl said. She wore a fringed dress and a battered red hat. “The Shogun seemed too young to have known my Aunt Lucy years ago. So he is an impostor?”
Olaf stared at her. “By the divine Kami, that is a girl with whom it would be good to make merry sport,” he said approvingly. “Shogun Angel is no impostor. He seized power in proper fashion and threw the old Shogun into a dungeon.”
“Oh dear,” said the girl. “That isn’t right.” She gave Olaf a hard stare and he quailed at the intensity of her gaze.
“My dear Ampata,” Quentin Travers said from behind her, “I assure you that Shogun Angel will treat you just as well as Shogun Giles would have done. He is an honorable man.”
“Oh yeah?” Buffy put in, as she took advantage of the distraction to unwrap the kusari-gama chain from her legs. “I’m his girlfriend and he treats me like this. Don’t count on any honorable treatment from him, girl.”
Ampata turned her hard stare on Travers. “I would not want to be bound up like a mummy,” she said. “I don’t think that he can be trusted.”
“Do not criticize our Shogun!” a ninja snapped. He grabbed hold of Ampata by the arm but took his hand away hastily and looked at his palm with suspicion. He wiped his hand on his shinobi shozuku uniform and his mouth screwed up in disgust.
“Oh, sorry,” Ampata said. “It’s just marmalade. It does tend to get everywhere.”
“Enough of this!” Olaf snapped. “We should take both the girls. Angel-sama can make merry sport with Buffy, and perhaps he may let me have the other. Seize them!” The ninjas and guards rushed to obey.
By this time, however, Buffy had freed herself from the kusari-gama. She pulled hard on the chain and dislodged the ninja from his perch on the battlements. He fell to the ground and released his grasp on the end of the chain that bore a deadly sickle blade. Buffy whirled the chain around and the attackers fell back in confusion.
A ninja with a bo stick lunged at Ampata. She dodged aside, grabbed the stick, and wrenched it out of his hands. Instead of striking with it, however, she thrust one end into the ground. As a fresh wave of ninja charged at her she took hold of the pole, launched herself into the air, and spun around it. Her feet shot out to kick the attackers away as she rotated.
“Nice technique,” Buffy commented.
“Thank you,” Ampata replied. “One must learn many things to survive in Darkest Peru.” She released her grip on the pole and landed on her feet. She paused to snatch up her hat, which had fallen to the ground as she twirled, and then pulled the pole from the ground and ran towards the castle walls. Buffy threw the kusari-gama at a group of ninjas and followed Ampata.
Ampata used the pole to vault up onto the battlements. Buffy followed suit. Hardly had they landed when a fresh wave of ninjas and ronin rushed out of the yagura tower and charged along the parapet to attack them. “Jump for it!” Buffy yelled. She leaped from the wall and rolled to break her fall.
Ampata hesitated before jumping after her. She frowned, held onto her hat with one hand, and then vaulted the wall; but as she did so the hand of a ronin closed on the collar of her dress. She was brought to a halt and hung for a second before the seams of the dress parted and she dropped free. She landed beside Buffy stark naked save for the battered red hat.
The castle gates swung open and Olaf emerged at the head of a mob of ninjas. The two girls scrambled to their feet and ran.
Olaf shook his hammer at them and roared. “You do well to flee, girls. I will catch you, and I shall deliver Buffy to Shogun Angel, and I shall make merry sport with the attractive bare from Peru.”
“Where can we go?” Ampata wondered. “I do not know this land or the people. I have only my letter of introduction to Shogun Giles. If he is in the dungeon then I am alone.”
“And without any possessions apart from the hat,” Buffy said. Her eyebrows quirked upwards. “What’s with the hat anyway? You seemed pretty determined to keep hold of it.”
“I keep my belongings in the hat,” Ampata replied. “The letter to Shogun Giles, and a few gold coins, and of course my supply of marmalade sandwiches.”
“Marmalade sandwiches? Okay, whatever floats your dragon boat. Where to go? That’s a problem. Home is the first place that they’ll look for me, and hey, Mom would just totally wig if we turn up there with you all naked. Maybe I can sneak in later and pick you up some clothes of mine. For now, though, I don’t know. Hey, wait a minute! I have an idea. There is a place where we might get to hide out for a while. The Bonze.”
“The Bonze?” Ampata echoed.
“It’s a Ryokan. A night club. The guy who runs it is a gaijin, an English guy, but he’s okay. Not like that Travers creep. He’ll take care of us, I guess, as long as we pay him, and you said you had gold, right? This way.”
Buffy led the way at a fast jog. The streets were quiet, as rumors of a coup had alarmed the populace, but even so several men in their wake were left rubbing their eyes and wondering if they were dreaming. There was no sign of any of the guards, however, and Buffy congratulated herself on their escape.
Perhaps too soon. Suddenly three gaijin in scarlet robes jumped out in front of them. “Ampata Gutierrez,” one boomed in sepulchral tones, “we have come for you. The wrath of the Spanish Inquisition is upon you, heretic, harlot, and sinner.”
Ampata’s mouth dropped open. “Maymantataq hamunki?” she gasped.
“Hah! You didn’t expect us,” the gaijin grinned. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise… and fear. Our two weapons are…”
Buffy drew her sword and struck three times. “Well, my chief weapon is the katana,” she told the dead Spaniards. “Okay, Ampata, The Bonze is around the next corner.”
They reached the Ryokan just as a young man emerged with two harquebuses slung over his shoulder. He looked towards them, saw Ampata, and blushed. He bowed and scuttled away.
“I hope he doesn’t tell anyone he’s seen us,” Buffy muttered. “Oh well, it’s not like there’s anything we can do about it. Come on.” She led the way into the building.
Wesley was behind the bar even though it was too early for the establishment to be open. “Good day, Buffy-san,” he greeted her. “What can I do for you?” He saw Ampata and his eyebrows soared. “Good heavens!”
Buffy bowed. “Greetings, Wesley-san. Please look after this bare?”