Happy birthday to mangosorbet007 and to deborahc
I’m pressing on with ‘Dojo Hard’ as it is drawing near to the conclusion. Two chapters in 3 days. This one is exactly 2,000 words. Rating R. Banner by spikeshunny. Warning; may include traces of marmalade sandwiches. Previous chapters are HERE.
“Waiting for me?” Buffy’s thumb tensed under the guard of her katana ready to flick it forward for an iaijutsu draw. “Why?”
“’Cause I need a date for Shogun Angel’s accession party?” Whistler suggested.
Buffy’s lips narrowed. “I have had a really bad day, okay?” she told him. “If you have information worth having, then I am grateful for it. If you’re gonna crack jokes then I’m gonna pull off your hat and insert it as an extra ribcage.”
Whistler winced and put a hand over the basketwork hat. “Nice imagery there. Okay, I’ll cut back on the jokes. I’m a mystic monk.”
“Guessed as much,” Chopstick put in. “Enigmatic bloke in a basketwork hat, playing the flute, ’s always some kind of mystic. Narrative causality, innit?”
“Bright boy,” said Whistler.
“Okay, so you’re a monk,” said Buffy. “And?”
“My abbot was the one who told Shogun Giles to employ Angel,” Whistler revealed. “We knew he was gonna be important. Only, we figured he was gonna save the Shogunate, not destroy it. Okay, he was a yakuza thug, but Mitsubishi Shogun was no angel, heh heh, and he turned out to be one of the greatest Shoguns ever. We bound Angel to Shogun Giles under threat of dishonor and we thought that would be that. We didn’t see Drusilla coming.”
“Didn’t often see it myself, what with her bloody headaches,” Chopstick muttered.
“She rigged it so that he lost his soles,” Whistler went on, “and then persuaded him that, now that he was dishonored, he had nothing more to lose.”
“And he staged a coup and deposed Giles,” Buffy said. “Yeah, we know. We’re getting a revolution under way right now. If you’re gonna help, fall in line.”
“If it was just the coup I’d leave you to it,” Whistler said. “In the big scheme of things an occasional brutal and despotic Shogun doesn’t matter all that much. The next guy will be better, or the next. But if you don’t stop him soon there isn’t going to be a Shogunate any more. Or a Sunnydale. Maybe not even a world.”
“How so, dude?” Oz asked.
“Acathla,” Whistler said. “The stone demon locked away in the Shogun’s treasure vaults. Paralyzed by the Honda Fireblade jammed through his chest. Angel’s trying to get the sword out. And, if he does, Acathla wakes up.”
“Acathla,” Dalton mused. “Isn’t that a servant of the Overfiend?”
Whistler raised his flute to his lips and played a few notes. “Give that ninja a cigar,” he said. “That’s right. More than a servant, even. Acathla is the Gatekeeper.”
Buffy, Chopstick, and Oz looked blank. Dalton’s eyes widened. “Oh dear,” he said.
“Yep,” said Whistler. “Once Acathla is awake the doorway to Makai, the realm of the demons, opens and this world will get sucked in. The new neighbors won’t be friendly. There will be torment, death, destruction, and lots of uses for tentacles that a nice girl like Buffy couldn’t even imagine.”
“Why would Angel want to cause that?” Buffy wondered.
“He doesn’t. He just wants the pretty sword,” Whistler said. “Maybe you can persuade him to leave it alone. Otherwise, you’re gonna have to kill him.”
“Fine with me,” said Chopstick.
“Shut up, Chopstick,” Buffy snapped.
Dalton cocked his head to one side. “If I recall correctly,” he mused, “the sword can’t be pulled out by just anyone.”
“That’s right,” Whistler confirmed. “It can only be withdrawn by someone who is a turncoat twice over.”
“He sold out the Aurelius ninja clan, and then he sold out Shogun Giles,” Chopstick said. “Angel fits.”
“He sure does. And he has to anoint himself with his own blood first. Now maybe he won’t figure that out, but, if he does, then we have big problems.”
Buffy gritted her teeth. “Okay, I’ll do what I have to do, if it comes down to it. Only, hey, he kinda has us way outnumbered. You got any good ideas on how we can level the odds some?”
“Sure,” Whistler said. “There must be seven of you. It’s a mystic number. Seven samurai can win against any odds.”
“One, two, three, four,” Buffy counted, and then she looked pointedly at Whistler. “Five?”
“Oh no,” Whistler said. He put the flute to his lips but didn’t blow. “I’m a mystic monk, not a warrior monk. Count me out.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, right. Okay, I think I know where I can get two more recruits. We’ll get by.”
“Well, good luck,” Whistler wished them. “I’ll see you around.”
“Wait. Where are you going?” Buffy asked.
“I’m hungry,” Whistler explained. “I’m going for a mystic pizza.”
“Why didn’t it work?” Angel snarled and thumped his fist against the bookshelves. A knuckle split and a few drops of blood smeared across his hand.
“Perhaps you have to make a sacrifice rather than just using someone you were going to kill anyway,” suggested Drusilla. “Or perhaps it has to be a particular type of sacrifice. Probably a virgin.”
Angel nodded. “Good thought. I don’t know where I’m gonna find a virgin around here, though. Hey, I know. That Peruvian girl. We can offer her a choice. Merry sport with Olaf, or getting sacrificed. A win-win situation for us there.”
“He hasn’t caught her yet,” Drusilla reminded him.
Angel grinned. “Ah, but look what one of the patrols has just brought in.” He unfolded a poster. “See. ‘Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and his Amazing Dancing Bare.’ She’s at The Bonze. Send out Olaf once more. And this time he’d better be successful.”
Xander had managed to get as far as the castle courtyard but the gates were locked and guarded. He hid in the shadows and wondered how he was going to get past them. Fighting was out; he was still unarmed, as the kitchen implement that he had snatched up had turned out to be a wok, and his Taikomochi training hadn’t included combat anyway.
He shivered in a corner and waited for some opportunity to escape to present itself. At last, just when he was beginning to think that the gates would stay locked for the rest of the night and he would have to try to make his getaway by daylight, a crowd of ronin assembled in the courtyard under the command of the mighty Olaf. Another, smaller, group of men with shovels came out of the castle carrying a heavy bundle between them.
Olaf shouted an order and the gates swung open. Xander gulped, jammed the wok down on his head to simulate a helmet, and stepped out of the shadows. He tagged on to the rear of the ronin column and followed as the two groups of men left the castle.
Once across the moat the shovel bearers carried their burden towards the graveyard. Olaf led the other group towards the town. Xander followed them, falling further and further behind, and as soon as a street branched off the road Xander turned onto it and ran as fast as he could until he was well out of sight.
He stopped under a cherry blossom tree and leaned against the trunk. “Okay, I’m out,” he panted. “Go me. Now to find Buffy.”
Wesley met Ampata at the edge of the stage and handed her a kimono. “You were indeed amazing,” he praised. “I’ve taken more money tonight than I do in a normal week and it’s all due to you. Marmalade sandwiches for supper?”
“Yes please,” Ampata said. She smiled at him. “I must get some clothes of my own. May we go out tomorrow, if I can borrow a coat to wear?”
“Of course, my dear,” Wesley promised. “You shall have the finest coat in Sunnydale.”
The door crashed open and a huge figure in a horned helmet entered the ryokan. Eight spear-carrying soldiers filed in behind Olaf. Ampata took a step backwards.
“The show is over for tonight,” Wesley told the new arrivals. “You’re too late. We are still serving drinks, but that’s all.”
Olaf raised his hammer. “Step aside, puny gaijin. I am taking the woman.”
Ampata clenched her fists. “You shall not take me. I’d rather die.”
Olaf grinned. “Shogun Angel offers you that very choice, pretty one. Come with me. Resistance is futile.”
Wesley’s hand blurred. There was a metallic click and Olaf found himself looking into the barrel of a gun. “This is a .57 caliber flintlock pistol,” Wesley announced. “Far more advanced than the matchlock harquebuses that I sell to all and sundry. It could blow your head clean off. And I will do just that if you lay even one finger on Ampata.”
“There are nine of us, Englishman, and you have but one shot,” Olaf growled.
Wesley drew another pistol with his left hand and cocked it with the heel of his right. A four-barreled ‘duck’s foot’ pistol. “You were saying? Now get out.”
“I have brought trouble upon you,” Ampata said, after the Shogun’s men had made a reluctant retreat from the ryokan. “I am sorry, Wesley.”
Wesley uncocked and holstered his pistols. “There is no need to be sorry. It’s not your fault that Angel ruined this pleasant and ordered society. Nor that Olaf lusts after you. You can’t help being the utterly amazing, beautiful, charming, and simply delightful person that you are.”
Ampata’s cheeks acquired a tinge of color. She lowered her eyes and her long, dark, eyelashes fluttered. “Thank you. You are a true English gentleman, Wesley, and I admire you very much. You are handsome and brave and I am so glad that Buffy brought me to you.” She put a hand on his arm and squeezed gently.
Now it was Wesley’s turn to blush. “Ah, you are too kind. Thank you. Ahem. I shall get you your marmalade sandwiches.”
Xander scuttled through the streets, jumping at every noise, stopping in every shadow. He didn’t know where to look for Buffy, but starting at her house seemed logical, and so he headed in that direction. He was still quite a distance away when he thought he heard her voice.
He changed course and made his way towards the sound. As he drew nearer he could hear an odd rumbling noise, like that of a barrel rolling down a ramp, and occasional squeaks. “Sounds like a Hellmouse,” he muttered, but he pressed on.
He turned a corner and saw a group of four people. Two of them were pushing a very large, jet black, baby-cart. The other two walked behind the cart and were engaged in an animated conversation. One of them was Buffy.
Xander grinned and was about to rush out to greet her when he recognized the other figure. Chopstick. This was a surprise, as the ninja poet was supposed to be dead or seriously injured, and somewhat worrying, even though Xander’s previous encounters with Chopstick had been reasonably amicable. Xander halted and listened.
“Don’t know the Peruvian bint,” Chopstick was saying, “but I’ll take your word for it that she’s a good sort. Wesley, well, he doesn’t usually get involved, but I suppose he might this time. Even if he does, though, that only takes us up to six. That whistling monk bloke said that there has to be seven.”
“Oz-san, what about your friend Devon?” Buffy asked.
One of the two cart-pushers spoke up in reply. “Nope. Devon’s a lover, not a fighter. He faints at the sight of blood.”
Xander recognized the voice. Oz, the biwa player who was courting Willow. A friend. It looked as if Chopstick was, inexplicably, on Buffy’s side. Xander walked out into the street to join them.
“Hey, it’s Xander!” Buffy exclaimed. She smiled broadly, delighted to see her friend, but then raised an eyebrow. “Xander-kun, what are you wearing on your head?”
Xander pulled off the improvised helmet and held it in front of him as he made a bow. “Hey, Buffy-chan,” he greeted her. “Cavalry’s here. Okay, the cavalry’s a frightened guy with a wok, but it’s here.”