Dojo Hard Part 12
Angel turned the key in the massive lock, grinned, and threw open the vault doors. “At last,” he said, “the Shogun’s treasure is mine.”
“Ours,” Drusilla corrected him. She clapped her hands and beamed. “You shall put strings of pearls around my neck, and jeweled combs in my hair, and pin diamond brooches to my kimono.”
Angel raised an eyebrow. “And what do I get out of it?”
Drusilla put a finger into her mouth, sucked on it, and then pulled it slowly free. “I shall be very, very, grateful.”
Angel grinned. “Fair enough. And I’ll take the coffers of gold.” He stepped into the vault and his grin faded away. “It’s full of books!”
“No gold?” Drusilla joined him inside the vault. “But there must be gold. The taxes from the peasants and merchants of Sunnydale. The Shogun has untold wealth.” She stared around and saw nothing but bookshelves and a large wooden crate. “What would be the point of being Shogun without the riches?”
“Well, being able to have anyone who annoys you executed isn’t a bad perk,” Angel pointed out.
“But I kill anyone who annoys me anyway,” Drusilla said. She pouted. “Giles must have spent all the taxes on books.”
“Hey, maybe they’re valuable,” Angel said. He pulled a random volume out from the shelves and read the title. Or tried to. “It’s a gaijin book,” he said. “I can’t make out a word. Useless.”
“Silly Shogun,” Drusilla chided him. “We have a gaijin close at hand.” She stepped back out of the strong-room and beckoned to one of the ninja guards. “Fetch Canon Travers,” she ordered. “We have work for him.” The ninja bowed low and then scurried away. Drusilla re-entered the vault and found Angel examining the wooden crate.
“Maybe this is full of gold,” Angel said. “It’s too heavy to move.” He found a label stuck to the side of the crate and frowned as he read it. “Japanese script,” he mused, “but I don’t understand the word. ‘Acathla’. Is it a name?”
“Doesn’t it mean ‘darling’ in the tongue of the gaijin from Ireland?” Drusilla suggested.
“That’s ‘acushla’,” Angel corrected her. “I think I’ll open this up and see what’s inside.” He put his hand to the hilt of his Ôdachi but then reconsidered. A samurai sword was not to be used for such a menial task as opening a crate. “Dru-san, get the guards to bring me a hammer or a pry-bar or something,” he said.
Drusilla popped her head out of the door and passed on Angel’s command. “That reminds me,” she said as she re-entered the vault, “I wonder where Olaf is. I expected him to have caught the Slayer by now.”
Olaf clambered laboriously to his feet. He bent down again to retrieve his helmet from the ground and groaned as the movement exacerbated the throbbing pain in his head. There was no sign of the Slayer, or of the men with the armored baby-cart who had arrived to rescue her, but there were plenty of signs of the column of guardsmen who Olaf had been leading. Pieces of them were scattered all over the road.
Olaf bit his lip. The Slayer’s house was but a short distance away. It was possible, even probable, that she was there now. If he made his way there immediately there was a good chance that he would catch her. However then he would have to arrest her. Buffy would resist arrest, of course, and she was a formidable fighter. Olaf believed that he could probably defeat her, his greater reach and strength outweighing her superior speed and skill, but it would be a close thing and the distraction of his headache might tip the balance against him. Also, she might not be alone.
Olaf was almost certain that the man in the baby-cart had been Chopstick. It appeared that rumors of his death had been exaggerated. Olaf was puzzled as to why Chopstick would come to the rescue of the Slayer but it seemed that he had done so. If the two ninja warriors had teamed up they would make a team far too dangerous for Olaf to take on alone. He would have to return to the castle, confess his failure to the Shogun, and pick up some more red-shirted ronin. Olaf shouldered his hammer and set off.
Canon Quentin Travers peered at the title page of the book that Angel had plucked from the bookshelves. “I doubt if it is valuable. ‘Ye Fine Payre of Orangef, or, ye Scandalouf Conduct of Miftreff Nell Gwynne of Drury Layne and ye late King Charlef’.”
“Oh,” Angel said. “Gaijin politics. Well, maybe some of the others might be valuable.”
Travers opened the book. His eyebrows shot up. “It’s, ah, not politics,” he said. “I think that I had, ah, better keep this book in my custody to avoid it contaminating impressionable minds.”
Angel frowned. “It should be safe enough in the treasure vault,” he said. He took the book away from the Canon and glanced inside. His eyebrows ascended to match Travers’. He turned the book sideways. “Wow. Now that is a fine pair. No wonder there was scandalouf conduct.”
Drusilla snatched it from his hands and put it back on the shelf. “We’ll sell it,” she said. “Travers-san, kindly identify the other gaijin books for us.”
Travers bowed. “Certainly, my lady,” he said.
“Okay,” Angel said. “Now I’m going to check out that big wooden crate. There has to be some gold around here somewhere.”
“That’s quite a vehicle you rolled up in,” Buffy remarked.
“Yeah, bloody great, innit?” Chopstick grinned widely. “’S a Desoto Hia 873. Custom job.”
“That kinda goes without saying,” Buffy said. “There can’t be much of a market for huge armored baby-carts.” She cocked her head to one side and her eyebrows descended. “Although, 873? Does that mean there are another eight hundred and seventy two of them?”
Oz flexed his fingers. “It’s the weight in pounds.”
Joyce entered the room bearing a tray of tea-cups. “I think that in the circumstances we can probably dispense with the ceremony,” she said, and began to place cups in front of all the guests. She paused at Chopstick and gave him a hard stare. “Have we met?”
“Uh, you hit me with a naginata one time,” Chopstick told her. “Remember? ‘Get the hell away from my daughter’.”
“Oh.” Joyce picked up the tea-pot and began to pour. “Do you, uh, live here in town?”
“Sort of,” Chopstick said. “Your daughter burned down the place where I was living.”
“I so did not,” Buffy protested. “It was Drusilla who set fire to the temple.”
Chopstick frowned. “Yeah, maybe you’re right,” he said. “Got a bit distracted round about then. Could be a bit mixed up about what happened.”
“You are,” Buffy said. She lifted her cup, sipped at it, and then set it down and stared directly into Chopstick’s eyes. “Okay. So, what’s the deal?”
“Simple,” said Chopstick. “Promise you won’t kill Dru and I’ll help you overthrow Angel.”
“No deal,” Buffy said. “Drusilla’s behind the whole coup thing, I just know it. Angel wouldn’t have just turned against me. She has to have some kind of hold over him. Maybe some freaky Shugenza mojo. Something to do with that ritual with the blood of the Sensei that you were doing.”
“That was just supposed to cure her sodding headaches,” Chopstick said. “Nah, Dru can only do mojo on blokes with weak minds.” He pursed his lips and nodded slowly. “Second thoughts, you might be right.”
Buffy glared at him. “Either way, Drusilla doesn’t just walk.”
“Yeah, well, if she doesn’t walk, neither do I,” Chopstick said. “Doctor House of Flying Daggers says that the only cure for my back is for her to walk on it and do massage with her feet. Dru goes free.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh, if that’s all it takes,” she said. She grabbed Chopstick, pulled him from his seat, and pushed him face first to the floor. In his partially paralyzed condition he was unable to resist her.
“Hey!” he protested. “Stop it! You’ll break my sodding spine!”
“Oh, shut up, Chopstick,” Buffy snapped. She kicked off her sandals and stepped onto his back. “I’m fully trained in all forms of massage.”
“But…” Chopstick began. His scarred eyebrow quirked upwards. “All forms of massage?”
“Shut up, Chopstick,” Buffy said again. She walked along his spine, her feet flexing and her toes probing the nerves.
“No, wait, gerroff,” Chopstick spluttered. “It’s not that bleeding simple. The doc said that the massage had to be done by – ouch!” His legs kicked out and his body rocked violently enough to make Buffy sway and throw out her arms to keep her balance.
“Careful,” Joyce cautioned. “You nearly upset the tea.”
“Sorry, Mom.” Buffy stepped down from Chopstick’s back. “There you go. All done. Now get up off the floor.”
Chopstick rolled over onto his back and looked at his feet. He raised one leg, lowered it, and then raised the other. He bent his knees and then straightened them again. “Bloody hell,” he exclaimed. “You’ve fixed it.” He rolled again, put his hands to the floor, and sprang up. He stood upright and stretched. “’S a miracle.”
“A miracle?” Buffy frowned at him. “You said it was what the doctor ordered.”
“Not quite,” Chopstick told her. “What he said was that the massage had to be done by my true love.”
“Your true love?” Buffy’s mouth dropped open.
“That’s exactly what he said,” Oz confirmed. “I know, ‘cause I was there.” Dalton nodded agreement.
Chopstick’s gaze ran down from Buffy’s head to her feet and back up again. He tilted his head to one side, ran his tongue over the edge of his teeth, and smiled. “Bit of a surprise, yeah, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse,” he said. “Always said you were a smart bit of talent. So, pet, you want to team up against Angel and Dru? As you wish.”
“Can I move yet?” Ampata asked. “I’m beginning to get cold.”
Fuji squinted at her, made a few fast strokes with his brush, and then stepped back from his easel. “I have finished,” he announced. “Your poster is ready, Wesley-san.”
Wesley passed Ampata a kimono and then went to examine the artist’s work. “Ah. Yes, that is rather good,” he said. “It should serve very well to draw in the crowds. ‘Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and his Amazing Dancing Bare’, just as I specified.” He handed the artist a purse of coins.
Ampata donned the kimono and stepped down from the stage. She stood beside Wesley and gazed at the painting. “He’s got my boobies right,” she said, “and I like the way he shows my, uh, legs, but I’m not sure about the face.” A crease developed on her forehead. “My mouth isn’t that small – and my eyes are nowhere near that big.”
Angel pried the wood free of the last nail and ripped the front of the crate open. An ugly grey stone statue, the size and approximate shape of a Sumo wrestler, met his eyes. “What the hell?” he said. “What’s this?” The wood dropped away and revealed the whole of the statue. The hilt of a katana was sticking out of the statue’s chest. Angel examined it closely.
Gold glinted in the torchlight. The sword hilt was a superb piece of workmanship. Gold wire bound the sharkskin grip and the guard was gilded and set with gems. The end of the tang bore an emblem of a wing and a gaijin letter H. Angel touched it lightly with his thumb. “That’s quite a sword,” he said. “I think it’s the legendary Honda Fireblade. What’s it doing stuck into a statue?” His eyebrows descended low over his eyes. “And how do we get it out?”
“There is another note inside the crate, Angel-kun,” Drusilla pointed out. She retrieved it and read it out aloud.
“Wash your bloody hands
For to enter Acathla
Angel winced. “That’s as bad as one of Chopstick’s haiku,” he said. “What does it mean?”
Drusilla shrugged. “I do not know. But I do know that if you can pull the sword from the stone then no-one will be able to say that you are not the rightful Shogun.”
Angel tugged at the sword with all his might. It didn’t move as much as a millimeter. “I guess the haiku is some kind of a clue to how to get the sword out,” he said. “That guy Dalton might be able to figure it out.”
Drusilla frowned. “I have not seen Dalton since we took over the castle,” she said. “I think that perhaps he has returned to Chopstick.”
“Okay, so who else do we have who knows about that kinda thing?” Angel asked. “The top expert is probably the former Shogun but I don’t think he’s likely to be all that willing to help. What about Travers?” He glanced across to where the Canon was rummaging through the bookshelves.
“He was useful in deciphering the manuscript that held the instructions for the ritual of the Blood of the Sensei,” Drusilla said, “but much of that was written in a gaijin language. Do not build up your hopes.”
The guard who had brought the pry bar, who was standing at the door of the vault, coughed. “Excuse me, Angel-sama,” he said, “may my humble self make a suggestion?”
“Sure, go ahead,” Angel said.
“The three apprentices of Desoto the cart-maker spend much of their time in deciphering puzzles,” the guard revealed. “Should I have them summoned to your august presence?”
“No, we can’t wait that long,” Angel replied. “Summon them right now.”