Chapter 11 Assaults
Nyoko traveled for two days through the woodlands, avoiding any sign of farm or village. But on the third day, she found herself on a road that led into a castle town on the road that lead to the only good pass through the mountains she wanted to go.
It was late and she was tired. And her heart, her heart was too heavy to describe.
She used the mirage, Shinkiro to turn her garments, made ragged by the hard use they had been put through, to look like the pleasant clothes of a merchant’s daughter. Her feet tapped along on high getas. In her hand was her fan. As she neared town, she spotted a young man who looked at her appreciatively.
“My, my,” he said, drawing close to her. He wore the clothes and carried the sword of a young samurai, not of high rank but not of low rank, either. His clothing was of saffron and blue silk, and he carried himself like a man used to commanding. “What is a pretty thing like you doing out on a road like this so late in the evening?”
She hid her face behind her fan. “Ah, Dono! I am returning to my mother’s home, and I am terribly late.”
“You must let me walk with you,” he said. “I hear this area is filled with bandits and foxes.”
“You are too kind, Dono,” she replied, trying her best to act like a giggling, bashful girl, peeking out at him from the top of her fan, then looking away.
“But why are you so late?” he asked. “Girls like you shouldn’t be on the road this time of day.”
She glanced at his aura, at the filaments of Shinkiro that wrapped around them. She saw lust, suspicion, and the smell determination wrapping around him. Between the two of them was a dark thread, and a thread that was dark then veered off to light. Nyoko sighed silently; she would have to be very careful. “O, Dono, I was at my mother’s sister’s house. She and my uncle live on an outlying farm, and she kept me soo late. She wouldn’t hear of me leaving earlier. But now I must hurry, for my mother will be frantic.”
He grabbed her sleeve, and pulled her to face him. “You are very fair, girl. And so very far from home. My officers tell me reports about a fox woman who has been stopping men here and tormenting them.”
Nyoko looked at him with wide eyes. “I wouldn’t know anything about that, Dono. I just know that I have to go home.” She tried to jerk her sleeve out of his hand.
His hand moved from her sleeve to her arm. His fingers closed over the skin with an iron grip, and she could smell the lust rise from him, and something dark as well. His aura tinged dark red as he pulled her towards him. His eyes, narrowed and hard, stared at her face. “Tell me your father’s name, girl.”
She swallowed. “He....he....he’s dead, Dono.” She tried to drop her eyes, but as her heart beat wildly in her ears, she couldn’t break eye contact. Her fingers began to tingle as the first glimmers of foxfire gathered there.
He pulled his tanto out of her belt, lifted it to her throat. “I have a blade to your neck, girl. I am betting you are a fox. You are too pretty, too perfect to be just a village girl heading home.” He dropped his hand on her arm. “Don’t move. If you move, I’ll cut your pretty little throat.” His hand tugged at her obi knot. It released and fluttered down to the ground. “I bet if I cut your neck, you would transform into a fox,” he whispered in her ear. His hand pushed back the neckline of her outer robe. “They would applaud me at the castle if I brought the carcass of the fox woman in,” he said, pricking the tip of the knife against the white skin of her throat. A bead of blood appeared.
“Kwannon, have mercy,” said a soft, old voice, as the shape of an old nun stepped out of the shadows. “What type of Samurai are you, to attack pretty young women on the road?”
He dropped his knife from Nyoko’s throat. Immediately, she ducked down and ran into the woods. The man tried to follow her, but the old nun stood in his way.
“What in the name of Buddha are you doing, Nun? That’s not a woman, that’s a fox!” he screamed at her. “You’re between me and my quarry!”
Shoving at her, he pushed her aside and darted down after Nyoko. The nun swerved, pointed a paper roll at him, and yelled in a voice much louder than one would expect from such a small form “Fall!”
Suddenly, the man was on the ground as if hit by a heavy club. The nun calmly picked up Nyoko’s obi, tied the samurai’s hands together, then walked off in the direction the Kitsune woman had fled.
Excerpt from the Adventures of Nyoko by Sachio Hayashi writing as Michael Mitsuo
Lillian stared at the man standing a table away from her, shouting something in her direction she didn’t know. Suddenly, a young man, obviously a university student from the book he had been reading, shot up, looking at his watch, bumped into the shouting man, spilling hot coffee all over the front of his shirt. At the table between Lillian and the stranger, a young woman, almost the same moment, evidently startled by the yelling, scooted out and got up, hitting the college student, which the student even more into him. Water spilled, and the man, screaming something no one understood, pushed at the student and slipped, falling on his backside.
Someone grabbed her wrist. “Let’s get out of here before crazy man does something else,” he said.. She nodded, grabbed her purse and ran.
As they raced to the door, the poor counter clerk ran to the downed man with towels. “O my God,” she said. “Are you all right? Are you hurt?”
The door slammed behind them.
“Let me get you to your car,” he said. She nodded. “You need to get out of here, fast.”
“Thanks for the help,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything quite like that.” She looked at the man who had helped her out. He was medium height, but actually tall for an Asian. Dressed in a red polo shirt and jeans, he gave her a pleasant but serious look.
“Are you OK?” he asked. “I’m Masuke Hayashi. Glad I could help out. Wonder what that guy’s beef was?”
“Hayashi?” she said.
“Yeah, he’s my uncle,” Masuke said.
“I work for him,” Lillian said. “I didn’t know he had family in the area.”
They heard the door to the coffee house, and someone yelling. “Go now,” Masuke said. “I’ll get Uncle to call you.”
Someone began running her way. She pulled out and headed home.
Ayume, stretched out on the hotel bed, her light hair puffed out around her head, clicked off the TV as her cell phone rang. She sighed. “Hello?”
The voice on the other end was serious, but calm. She could make out traffic sounds in the background. “Yashou spotted Lillian,” Masuke said. “I was damn lucky to be able to get her away from him before he could do anything.”
“Damn,” said Ayame, sitting up. “Now that he’s on her trail, he won’t give up until he’s sure she’s gone. Right now, don’t think we can relocate her. There’s some heavy duty magic wrapped around her. Uncle doesn’t even know who she is.”
“I’m trailing her home and I’ll keep watch from the front of her apartment building, but I’m edgy. I haven’t seen Sukeo yet. And if he found Yoshikata, and is bringing him into town, we need Sukeo to stay with him. Having Yashuo and Yoshikata near each other is always a bad thing. Last time they got too close in San Francisco, we almost had Armageddon. But I don’t like how I can’t watch the back. Can you send Ichisuke over?” he said.
“He’s not here right now. He said he had some business to take care of before we got started.” Ayame stood up and started reaching for her purse. “Little did we know that they would get started before we did. What about Sachio?” she asked. “Have you called him? His house is the best protected of any place I know around here.”
“Maybe. You think Uncle can handle it?”
“He better,” said Ayame. “He’s one of the reasons we’re dealing with this mess in the first place.
“You’re cold, Ayame,” Masuke said.
“Just call him, and tell him that someone almost attacked Lillian, and she’s shook up. That might be enough.” She grabbed her keys. “I’m off to see that Senin. We need backup.”
I stand at the door, for some reason nervous. This is the first time I have stepped into Lillian’s private life, her private space. The apartment building is pleasant enough, two stories high, one of the ones on the southeast side of town. There were many trees and ponds decorating the landscape of the subdivision, and a small park with elm and fruit trees lies across the street from her. Her building overlooks one of the ponds. It is a pleasant place with an air of harmony about it.
But something feels wrong, even knowing what my grandnephew told me. Something has affected the Shinkiro here. It was a powerful manipulation, to leave this much residue. There are few beings in this town that can manipulate the mirage, and I thought I knew them all. This does not feel like the working of any of them. But it does not feel hurtful, just that it doesn’t belong.
And I realize as I stand there, the source comes from her apartment. This makes me very uneasy.
I take a deep breath of air, noting no scents that seem out of the ordinary, and knock. I hear her quiet, precise footsteps, and then a pausing at the door. She is cautious. She looks through the peephole. I smile up at it. Slowly she throws the locks, opens the door.
“Mr. Hayashi,” she says. “This is a surprise. Your nephew said he was going to call you – “
“I am sorry to disturb you, Miss Reynard. But yes, my nephew did call and let me know of your incident at the coffee shop. I thought I would come over and see how you were doing myself,” I say.
There is uncertainty, hesitation in her aura as she thinks. Her aura has been tinged with something, something I can’t quite make out. Threads of Shinkiro wrap around her, gold and green, red and black. For some reason, she has become a fulcrum for something. This truly makes me nervous, although I try hard not to show anything but kind concern for my young friend.
“Would you like to come in?” she asks.
I nod and she leads me into her living room. There is a picture with foxes on the wall there. I find this, for some reason, ironic. We sit, I on the lovely blue sofa, she on the chair at right angles to it.
“What happened?” I ask, softly, kindly, tweaking the power to ease the reluctance she might feel in confiding in me. She describes the incident. I listen to her voice go on about the man who came into the coffee shop, and yelled at her, and who followed her into the parking lot. My nephew is sure that it is Yashou stalking her. Her soul must remind him of my sister’s, to have the darkness in his body react so wildly. This makes me look at her with new eyes. Perhaps that is why I feel so comfortable in her presence. I will not let myself make the same mistake twice. I will not let him feed on her soul.
“Come back to the house with me,” I find myself saying. “I’ll fix you one of my mother’s favorite recipes, and then you won’t have to worry about every bump and noise this evening. I’ll even break out the special sake I’ve been keeping for a special occasion.” I watch her hesitate, look around the room. “I think my nephew might join us for dinner as well.”
She is not certain about this, and no doubt feels she is imposing, but I tweak Shinkiro, just for luck. With a little persuasion, she agrees.
There are powers at play. Some of the great Kami are using us, my poor battered family, and this girl as markers in some cosmic game. All my life, I have felt like I was being manipulated, but the sense is very strong today. When we return, I will light incense and ask for Kwannon’s guidance. This is a very delicate time. Too much is getting ready to happen. I can read the signs.
Looking with my fox sight, the clouds of Shinkiro are almost impossible to read, yet I see there are tendrils of light that bind us, Lillian and myself together. The tendrils are now larger, brighter than they were last week. Between me and her, there are no dark strands. I wonder what role in this cosmic mess my life is wrapped around belongs to her.
Standing up as she goes and fetches her purse, I contemplate the nature of fulcrums. Could she be her?.