Angel descended the stairs into the dungeons and walked along the corridor towards the cells. “Hi, honey,” he called out. “I’ve finished with the tax collectors now. I’m all free to join you in…” Angel reached the cell door and looked in through the grille. His eyebrows soared and he drew in a deep breath before resuming his speech “…torturing Giles,” he finished.
What Drusilla was doing to Giles did not fall into any category of torture of which Angel had previously been aware. Giles lay on his back on the mattress and Drusilla knelt above him, straddling him, and she was rising and falling rhythmically. Her kimono hung open and Giles’ hands were reaching up to caress her body. She tossed her head back and forth. Gasps and groans escaped her lips.
Angel gritted his teeth. “Hey!” he called out. Drusilla ignored him. Angel turned away from the door. He walked over to the women’s cell and peered in. Hostile eyes stared back at him. For a moment Angel considered going in and amusing himself with one or more of the women, but then he remembered that he hadn’t brought any of the guards with him, and he reconsidered. There were five of them, after all, and he might suffer a severe scratching and hair-pulling before he subdued them. He turned his back on them, leaned against the door, and glared across the corridor towards where he could hear Drusilla in the throes of ecstasy.
A silk sash extended through the grille. It twisted in the air, passed in front of Angel’s neck, and turned around. Angel’s eyes opened wide in surprise and he started to move. He did not react fast enough. The end of the sash dived back between the bars, moving like a striking snake, and hands fastened upon it on the inside. All five girls pulled hard upon the ribbon of silk. It closed around Angel’s throat and he was jerked back against the door. He raised his hands and clawed at the silk. To no avail. The girls heaved again and Angel’s head impacted the bars of the grille. His vision swam and he couldn’t breathe. The sash tightened remorselessly.
Ampata slid her rapier from its scabbard and extended it in front of her. She placed her left hand on her hip and turned so that her right side faced the enemy. “Bring it on, gringos,” she challenged.
Wesley looked at her stance, noting the way that her thumb protruded past the cross guard and rested on the flat of the blade below the basket guard, and nodded approval. “I see that you have studied your Agrippa,” he commented.
Ampata’s teeth flashed as she grinned at him. “These ronin will not know of Capo Ferro,” she replied.
Wesley’s eyes widened. “I think that I’m in love,” he said under his breath. His left hand went to his belt.
Olaf’s eyebrows sounded the klaxon, slammed shut the hatches, flooded the ballast tanks and plunged downwards. “Enough of this,” he growled. “Take them!” The ronin and ninjas surged forwards.
Wesley’s hand came up holding the ‘duck’s foot’ pistol. He pulled the trigger and the four barrels belched flame. A ninja fell dead. A ronin dropped his yari spear and clutched at a bicep that was suddenly spouting blood. A sōhei clapped his hand to the side of his head, yelped, and began scanning the ground for his ear.
Xander avoided a thrown manriki-gusari, ducked behind the baby-cart, and used a tinder-box to light the match-cord of a harquebus. “Hey, the Xan-san is a dashing hero,” he chuckled. He passed the gun to Dalton and picked up the second harquebus.
Buffy and one of the leading ninjas simultaneously threw shuriken at each other. Buffy’s hand followed through from the throw in a grab for her sword hilt. The katana came out in a blur of motion and swatted from the air the shuriken that was whizzing towards her head. The target of her throw tried the same move but was less successful. Instead of the blade of his ninjato hitting the throwing star it was the back of his hand that made contact. He yelled in pain and dropped his sword. A charging spearman crashed into him and knocked the ninja to the ground.
Wesley drew his dueling pistol. He swung the gun up to point at Olaf, but then spotted a ninja leveling a harquebus, and he changed his target. He fired and sent the harquebusier reeling back into the onrushing mob.
A warrior charged at Ampata with an Ôdachi raised over his head ready for a mighty downward blow. Before it could fall Ampata’s rapier licked out and pierced the ronin through the heart.
“I’m definitely in love,” Wesley sighed. He drew his own rapier and parried a slashing ninjato blade. He thrust forward with a deadly riposte and the ninja dropped in his tracks.
Chopstick’s sword swung and sliced off the tip of a yari. Before the spearman could adjust to suddenly finding himself holding a bo stick instead of a spear Chopstick struck again. The spearman was presented with another change in his circumstances, and this time one to which no adjustment would be possible. He didn’t have a head.
Oz found himself facing a ninja who wielded a pair of real kama. The ninja grinned at the sight of Oz’s improvised weapon and twirled his twin kama in an intimidating display of virtuosity. Oz watched impassively. “Don’t make me angry,” he warned. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
The ninja merely grinned and whirled his kama around his head. Oz snarled, allowing the wolf spirit side of his nature to take control, and his face distorted into an ugly lupine visage. The ninja’s jaw dropped and he fumbled, losing his impetus, and the kama wobbled out of position. Oz struck out with his own sickle and drove the blade home behind the ninja’s collar bone. He left the blade there and resumed his human appearance as the man fell to his knees. Oz scooped up the fallen pair of genuine kama. “Thanks, man,” he said, and moved to meet the next attacker.
Olaf’s men were at a disadvantage in the first moments of the battle because their numbers hampered their ability to use missile weapons. Only those at the front had a clear line of sight. A ninja bowman sought to change that situation. He turned to the wall of the alleyway and began to climb up it, using shuko hand-claws to gain a grip, in the hope of finding a vantage point for archery.
Dalton fired his harquebus and the bowman plummeted to the ground.
Angel pulled a tantō dagger from his sleeve. He brought it up and sliced through the silk sash, cutting himself slightly along the jawbone in the process, and he stumbled forward as the pressure was released. He sucked in a great gulp of air, let it out again, and inhaled deeply once more. He rubbed his neck and his face twisted in a hate-filled grimace. “You bitches!” he snarled.
“That’s ‘witches’,” Willow’s voice answered from within the cell. A ripple of laughter followed.
Angel snarled again, silently this time, and wiped blood from his chin. He frowned at the smear on his hand. What with the split knuckle, and now this, he was getting altogether too much of his own blood on his hands. If he had to get covered in blood he would much prefer it to be that of someone else. He turned around and, rather cautiously, put his face to the grille. He kept the tantō poised in case they sprung some other surprise on him.
Cordelia was helping Amber to rise from the floor and Harmony was standing rubbing her posterior. Obviously some of the girls had overbalanced when the sash parted. Jenny Calendar looked down her nose at the face peering in. “That will teach you to mess with a couple of Shugenza, Angel-san,” she said.
“Yeah,” said Willow. “Being locked up makes me cranky.”
“But you have nothing to use in spells,” Angel said. “Drusilla searched you all. She took everything that had any magical uses at all.” Angel clenched his teeth and his eyes rolled upwards as realization struck him. “Harmony. Drusilla forgot to search Harmony.”
“Yeah, doofus,” Harmony sneered. “Who’d have thought that a few cosmetics could come in so handy, huh?”
Angel’s lips curled back from his teeth. He pushed hard on the door with no result and then put his hand down to the lock. The keys, however, were still in the door of Giles’ cell. “Okay, you laugh while you can,” he said, giving up on the futile attempt to open the door. “I’ll see how much you laugh after a couple of days without food.” He turned away and stormed off back to Giles’ cell, from which the noises of Drusilla enjoying herself had now, mercifully, died away.
“Oh, crap,” Cordelia said. “No food. I guess it’s kinda good for my figure, only, hey, I don’t need to diet.”
“Uh, Willow, you can conjure up food, right?” Harmony asked.
“With your face powder and kohl, bangles, and a tea bag?” Willow shook her head. “I could maybe summon an animal native to the environment, is all. Anyone for rat sashimi?”
Chopstick’s Suzuki katana cleaved through the inferior metal of a ninjato and carried on into the head of the ninja. Buffy brought her blade, a product of the equally skilled swordsmith Kawasaki, whistling down towards a frantically parrying ninja and she replicated Chopstick’s feat. They exchanged grins in the midst of the fighting and turned to face the next opponents.
A ninja struck at Ampata, who swayed aside, and she lunged in her turn. He dodged her thrust with equal ease but then he learned a painful lesson; that a rapier could change direction far faster than a katana, or a ninjato, unless the Japanese sword was wielded by a true master. Ampata’s backhand cut laid the ninja’s face open to the bone and sent him stumbling back out of the fight.
Wesley drove his rapier through the chest of a sōhei, withdrew smoothly, and parried a cut from a ninjato. Wesley and the ninja ended up close against each other, sword hilt to sword hilt, in the corps à corps position. The ninja brought up his left hand to take hold of his sword’s long grip and gain extra leverage to force his opponent back. Wesley used his left hand to draw a main gauche dagger and he plunged it into the ninja’s side.
Oz parried a sōhei’s naginata blow with one of his kama, stepped in under the naginata shaft, and slashed the other sickle across the warrior monk’s thigh. The sōhei lost his balance and fell against the wall. Oz drove a kama home into the monk’s back and finished him off.
Olaf growled. His forces were losing. He hadn’t expected to encounter an enemy force outside The Bonze and his men had entered the battle in a formation entirely unsuitable for this sort of fight. Hastily he pulled back the remaining spearmen and formed them up into a solid block. A row of yari points stuck out like the spines of a hedgehog. This was more like it. A single spearman would be lucky to last a second against Buffy or Chopstick, and the battle had revealed that Wesley, Ampata, and Oz were also superior to any of Olaf’s men, but in a body the spearmen should be able to prevail. There was no way to outflank the formation in the alleyway and from the front they would have a significant advantage. Olaf wiped the back of his hand across his brow and grinned. He might yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Angel glared at Drusilla. “You boinked Giles,” he complained, almost in a whine. “What in the name of the oni did you do that for?”
Drusilla fastened up the sash of her kimono. “You know that torture turns me on,” she said. “Sorry. I was in the moment. Anyway, you boinked Buffy.”
“That’s not the same,” Angel said. “We weren’t together then. And you were boinking Chopstick at the time.”
“I wasn’t,” Drusilla denied. “I used to pretend I had a headache. I hadn’t boinked Chopstick for months. Anyway,” she said, with a wicked smile on her lips, “it worked better than torture.”
“You found out how to get the sword out of the statue?” Angel’s glare was replaced by an eager grin. “Tell me.”
“It has to be your blood on your hands,” Drusilla revealed. “It won’t work if it’s someone else’s blood. And you have to say some words.”
“My blood?” Angel held his hand in front of his face and looked at the bloody streaks on his skin. “Hey, it’s almost as if someone was trying to tell me something. That’s great. Hang on a second. Words? What words?”
“He didn’t say,” Drusilla told him. “I got a little too caught up in the moment round about then. I could go back and do it again, if you like?” Her hand returned to her kimono sash.
“I do not like,” Angel growled. “I bet the words are the haiku that was in with the statue. We’re in business.”
“Yes.” Drusilla toyed with her sash for a moment and her eyebrows descended. “Angel-kun,” she said slowly, “Giles says that there isn’t a city of treasure inside the statue.”
“That’s no big loss,” Angel said. “It’s the sword that I really want.”
“It is a gateway to another world, yes,” Drusilla went on, “but it’s the demon realm of Makai. We’ll all get sucked in and the demons will do very naughty things to us with tentacles.”
“He’s just trying to put us off getting the Fireblade,” Angel dismissed the idea. “He knows that once I have that sword I’m set up as Shogun for life.”
“I don’t know.” Drusilla shook her head. “I used a Shugenza glamour to make him think that I was Jenny Calendar. Why would he lie to her?”
“Are you sure that he thought that you were her?” Angel countered.
“Well, yes. Why else would he have boinked me?”
Angel raised his eyebrows. “Have you looked in a mirror lately, Dru-chan? He’s a guy. Of course he’d boink you. Especially if it meant that you stopped torturing him.”
“Oh, Angel-kun, you do say the sweetest things.” Drusilla smiled. “But seriously, I’m a little worried about what he said. I don’t think that he was lying and I’m not sure that I want demons to do naughty things to me. That’s your job.”
“And Giles’, it seems,” Angel couldn’t help reminding her.
“Are you jealous, my Angel-kun?” Drusilla fluttered her eyelashes. “I’ll make it up to you. Shall we go back to bed?” She put her hands on his chest and ran her tongue across her lips. “I’ve been a naughty girl. You should… punish me.”
“Yeah.” Angel began to smile. “You need to be spanked.”
“I do, I do,” agreed Drusilla. She wriggled her ass and Angel’s smile broadened. “And you’ll wait before you pull out the sword?” Drusilla pleaded.
“Okay, I won’t do anything rash,” Angel promised. “I’ll do some more research first. I might check things out with Canon Travers. He’s a holy man, so he should know about demons. Or one of the sōhei might be a mystic as well as a warrior.”
“Clever Angel-kun,” Drusilla praised. “Let’s go to bed.”
Xander put the wok ‘helmet’ back on his head and then seized the handle of the baby-cart. Dalton took hold of the bar beside him and the two men began to push the armored cart forward. “Bonsai!” Xander yelled. “Or do I mean ‘banzai’?”
Buffy finished off the last of the ninja and jumped aside out of the onrushing baby-cart’s way. Chopstick sheathed his katana and joined Xander and Dalton at the back of the baby-cart. The heavy vehicle gathered speed. Oz jumped into the cart and pulled a lever. Blades extended from the sides.
Wesley flattened himself against a wall and began to reload his pistol. Ampata joined him, her rapier held up as if in salute, and flashed him a beaming smile. “You are a great warrior, Wesley,” she said. “You would have made a very good Dread Pirate. I think that the Lady Winifred was a big fool to choose someone else.”
“I’m extremely glad that she did,” Wesley replied. He rammed a bullet home into the pistol barrel. “Or I would never have met you.” He opened the flash pan. “You really are…” he primed the pistol, “the most amazing girl.” He would have gone on to say more but at that moment the baby-cart smashed into the spearmen. Wesley and Ampata stepped away from the wall and advanced to resume the fight.
The spearmen’s formation shattered. Some were crushed under the baby-cart’s wheels, the protruding blades slew others, and Oz’s whirling kama caused further carnage. Buffy, Wesley, and Ampata followed in the baby-cart’s wake and fell upon the survivors with flashing blades.
The baby-cart came to a halt. Chopstick released the handle and returned to the fray. Oz jumped down from the cart and followed. Dalton bent over the carriage to retrieve the remaining loaded harquebus. As he did so a spearman, who had been knocked over by the cart and had lost his spear, climbed back to his feet and delivered a shuto blow to the back of Dalton’s neck. The ninja scholar fell unconscious and the spearman grabbed for the harquebus.
Xander lowered his head and charged. He butted the spearman in the back and slammed him into the steel-plated side of the baby-cart. “Between a wok and a hard place,” Xander cried gleefully as the spearman’s breath was driven from his body by the impact. Xander straightened up, punched the man twice, and then pulled him downwards and slammed the spearman’s face into the side of the baby-cart. The man went limp and Xander threw him to the ground.
Olaf made one last desperate attack. He whirled his mighty hammer in a huge circle, drove Buffy back, and advanced upon Ampata. His weapon outreached her rapier and he kept it constantly in motion. She had no opening for a lunge and could only back away. “Die, foolish gaijin woman!” Olaf roared.
Wesley sighted along the barrel of his pistol and fired. The bullet struck Olaf’s helmet in the very center of his forehead. The iron headpiece saved Olaf from instant death but didn’t completely stop the bullet. Fragments of iron and lead ripped into Olaf’s face and he staggered back with blood pouring down past his brows.
Everyone thought that Olaf was dead or dying. Nobody followed to finish him off as he shambled away with his face a mask of blood. He turned a corner, halted, and leaned against a wall. He pulled the helmet from his head, examined its shattered front, and tossed it aside. His forehead was lacerated in a dozen places but that was all.
“It seems that the yamabushi who prophesized that I should die only at the hands of a witch may have been correct,” Olaf mumbled to himself as he held a wad of cloth to his wounds. “A narrow escape. Angel forbade me to return without Ampata, but he must be told of this defeat. What should I do?”