Disclaimers: See Part 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This story is tied in with, The Conqueror and Ri, A Twist of Destiny. If you have not read the chapters from both tales preceding this one, please do so. It's probably a hassle to read awesome stories that has an interlacing plot, but it'll pay off in the end. Believe me, I have spoken. ;-)
Feedback always welcomed, sometimes needed at, Alexjanos612@yahoo.com
Xena and Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 5: Bushido Code
The sun had already exchanged places with the moon as five horses made their expedition to the seaport of Scione.
Xena was assiduous of everything in front of her while she and Gabrielle trailed behind, from the four horses, the three Samurai, to Kenji, the monk who brought about this mission. The Warrior Princess thought of her impending return to Japa, the country she'd never wanted to go to again. A location that filled her with so much strife, sadness and failure. All from one person.
A tap on her arm temporarily suspended her assiduity.
"Xena, what's going on, you seem tense?" Gabrielle asked.
"Not now, Gabrielle."
The bard wouldn't relent. "Should we be following these guys, when it could be a set up to ensnare us? And who is, Akemi?"
"Gabrielle." Xena said in an ominous tone, she had enough. "How about you try focusing on our surroundings so that we won't get trapped, and stop with all the damn questions."
Gabrielle didn't understand her soul mate's attitude towards her. Things were peaceful between them since the proposal in Thebes. They talked, shared their feelings and made love more. They had sex like they were already newly weds, even earlier in the afternoon of today, and not so long ago was about to do it again.
The blonde amazon removed her left hand off of Xena's waist to inspect her silver ring.
'Maybe I have made a mistake.' she wondered sadly.
Gabrielle believed that her and Xena's love would blossom, but now she feared it would only be that way when Xena was happy and not facing any type of adversity. The bard wasn't positive she could put up with a fickle wife. No matter how dire the situation, communication should always be the key in providing a strong relationship.
Still, Gabrielle did what she was told, tuning herself to the area while remaining quiet.
After silencing her young lover, Xena continued her concentration. The steeds that belong to the Samurai, wore matching armor as its rider. Kenji's horse was the only one that was bare. It had nothing on it, not even a saddle.
'Fits his position as a monk perfectly.' Xena summed.
The dark haired woman was prepared for a double crossing. Anyone who would dare use the name of Akemi had to know of not just her's, but her entire family's fate. To presume she was alive wasn't only foolish, it was impossible.
By the time they had arrived at Scione, it was midnight. Gabrielle looked at all the closed trader markets and merchant shops. If they had made it early, she wouldn't have missed her chance to haggle with them, then she realized that she had little money. The bard spent almost all of it on Xena's bonding ring. She avoided that small detail with Xena in the stream, yet knew she would have to break the news to her lover soon that they were near dinar-less.
Not long after entering the port, the six armed riders approached a giant warship. Xena, once being a pirate of the seas herself, admired the gigantic ship. However, her uneasiness hadn't rescinded, she remained cautious as Kenji, and the others dismounted their horses.
"When we are boarded, I will take your horse to the stables, and someone will show you two to the quarters you'll be staying in until we reach Japa. The Shogun will probably speak with you at first light tomorrow, if not tonight." Kenji explained.
Next, the monk walked over to take Argo's bridle, but Xena pulled her mare away from his grasp.
"What is the meaning of this, Xena Sama? Are you to help us, or not?"
"Tell me, Kenji." Xena stated as she grabbed the monk's robe, yanking him off his feet, and making him drop his staff.
'What are you doing, Xena?' Gabrielle thought, but kept silent.
The Samurai adorned in the sunfire armor went for his wakizaski.
"No." Kenji threw up his hand to halt the Samurai's actions, in advance of addressing Xena. "What is it that you wish to know?"
"Me and you both know, Akemi couldn't have sent you to me. So you better start telling me the truth, before everyone here has a really bad night."
"I am not lying to you Xena Sama. Akemi did send us for you." the bald foreigner replied.
"And she sent you directly to me. Uh uh. How did you know exactly where I would be? Greece is an enormous place for one individual." Xena said, her grip tighten.
"Akemi told me not to venture as far as the Corinthian sea. So we were lucky to land here in Scione, when a young woman pointed your direction out after we debarked our ship. She said that you were last seen in the middle of here and Mende." Kenji answered.
'Must've been Tanya.' Xena deduced.
Then she lifted the poor monk closer to her face. "I believe half your story, but I'm still having a hard time accepting that a ghost asked for my help."
'A ghost?' the bard questioned internally.
"I swear by the sun Kami, Amaterasu, it's all truth. If you don't help us, the daemon, Yodoshi will consume more souls. He'll ravage all of Japa."
Anger spread across Xena's features.
"They're all dead!" she shouted, throwing the monk to the ground hard.
Fortunately, no bones was broken on Kenji and he was free from pain, he pondered how much longer though as Xena got off her horse, unleashing her blade.
"I seen them die. With my own two eyes." she growled.
The three Samurai felt they couldn't tolerate anymore of Xena's disrespect for Kenji, and unsheathed their katanas in a synchronous fashion. Gabrielle jumped off Argo II to draw her twin sais, ready to engage the armored warriors.
Next, the short haired blonde saw the silhouette of a person standing at the top of the ramp that was connected to the warship.
"Enough!" the aged sounding voice yelled.
Instantly, the three Samurai looked upon the figure atop the ship, sheathed their weapons and bowed. Kenji picked himself off the ground to do so as well.
Xena just glared at the man who started to make his decline down the ramp. Gabrielle kept her sais trained on the shadowy figure, even when the moonlight illuminated him.
He was covered in a helmet and armor also. His was crimson red with two katanas and a tanto equipped to both sides of his hips.
"We came a long way to find you, Warrior Princess. Surely we deserve better honor and respect." the man spoke.
From his voice alone, Xena determined that he was old, and from the way he commanded the others, he was either a Daimyo, or a Shogun. She on the other hand, didn't give a damn.
"I want answers." she pointed to Kenji with her sword. "This monk claims to have seen a dead woman. Not only that, he also says a dead man is absorbing souls. Tell me why should I step foot onto your ship? Make me believe these dubious fascinations."
The red armored warrior moved closer. "Kenji, tell her everything."
'So this is the Shogun.' Xena mused with her sword still on the monk.
Kenji dusted himself clean from the dirt. "Me and my friend, Gaija are from the Shinto valley. We are monks that honor the great Kami of the celestial sun, Amaterasu. All of Shinto is under the feudal protection of the Shogun, Harukata."
"That would be you?" Xena wanted to be sure cutting in Kenji's story.
Harukata nodded, then said. "Resume, Kenji."
"While we were traveling from the Asakura Shrine to get back to the Imperial Palace, we were caught in a drenching rainstorm when Gaija noticed a tea garden. The circumscription of it outlined a surreal tea house. It was strange, because we haven't seen it coming to the Asakura. Gaija became perturb by it and decided that we needed shelter from the rain. I advised him that we should keep to our journey home."
Kenji breathed in deeply to steady his nerves. "It was real dark, and to be honest, I was discombobulated about the miraculous appearance of the garden tea house. It was all unnatural to me. Gaija ignored my words. He ran into the tea house and I reluctantly followed after him. Inside were three geishas, one was playing a beautiful melody from a shamisen, the other two were naked in a huge tub filled with water and lily pods. They asked for us to join them, but I held steadfast in my faith as a monk. Gaija, did not."
Kenji paused, his facial expression was sadden.
Xena was losing her patience. "I could care less about a monk's renouncement of his belief. Get on with your tale."
Gabrielle felt that Xena was being too hard on Kenji whom had lost a fellow companion so easily to worldly vices.
"Gaija stripped off his robes and garments, and went in the water. As they were frolicking, I turned my attention on the young woman playing the lovely tune. Suddenly she stopped, telling me that I was a good man and should leave. Before I could remonstrate, she pushed me out the back door. Still, I would not leave Gaija. I wish I had." Kenji admitted.
'He must have saw something awful.' the petite amazon assumed lowering her weapons.
She glanced at Xena, and could see that the stoic warrior showed no emotion.
"A strong gust of wind blew the front door of the tea house open. I thought it was from the storm, but then I seen a super size snake with the head of a deformed man enter. The scene was horrible, but I was scared stiff, and I watched it all happen. The geishas gather themselves collectively to the side wall, as the snake body transformed into some kind of daemon. I could hear and see Gaija screaming, but my mind wouldn't allow my muscles to react. The daemon blew out an icy wind that froze the water and Gaija. After that, the evil daemon inhaled greatly and sucked Gaija's soul right out of his body. I could see his soul, fighting to hang on to the ethers of the human plane, before being swallowed up by that monster." Kenji described while a tear fell from his eye at the memory.
"When the daemon's evil glare came upon me, it was then my feet carried me away from the demonic tea house. The storm was at its worse, and I fell into a pond. Once I climbed out, I gazed up at the same geisha that played the shamisen and tried to warn me. She told me that I needn't fear her, saying I had a compassionate heart, and that is why she spared me from suffering the same fate as my friend. She revealed to me that the daemon who took Gaija's soul was, Yodoshi, Lord of the Darklands, and that her and others were forced to seduce souls for him to entrap. Giving me a katana, she bid me to go west, far beyond the setting sun. There I would find Xena, the Warrior Princess." Kenji finished.
Xena made a show of clapping her hands in mock applause. "Brilliant fable. But Akemi, Yodoshi and her whole family tree is dead. I will no longer listen anymore to non sense."
Xena spun on her feet to saddle Argo, when Harukata asked. "You don't trust the word of a monk? How about the word of a Samurai?"
Xena knew that the Samurai was bound by a Bushido code of honor. Still, on the contrary, every Samurai didn't live by it the way they should, and she had been tricked before.
"I don't trust anybody." she announced.
"Will you trust this?" the Shogun replied as he unsheathed one of the katanas, stabbing it into the dirt.
"It can't be?" the bronze skin warrior whispered.
Xena walked towards the Japa sword to analyze it, hoping that her eyes was deceiving her. It was the same grand katana that Akemi had coax her into locating all those years ago.
"It is, Xena. Yodoshi is growing powerful everyday. Soon he will attack Higuchi, after that, Shinto. Then all of Japa. Akemi is not the sole soul that needs your aid. Many do, with me being one of them. Me and my Samurai can not handle Yodoshi by ourselves. If you come with us, you'll have my word as a Shogun Samurai that you and every possession you bring along will be under my protection. No harm will come to it." Harukata swore.
Xena couldn't comprehend these events. How was it possible? Akemi was dead, she was more than sure of it. She remembered the anguish of watching her ashes being scattered by the unforgivable, heartless chilly breeze.
"Xena." the Shogun began as he put his hand on her shoulder. "It is my destiny to destroy Yodoshi, but I can not do it alone. I am in need of your assistance. Please."
Xena's steely gaze fell on his face that was covered by his decorative helmet. She was hopeful that he would honor the art of Bushido. And secretly, she desperately wanted to see Akemi again.
With a nod of her head she acceded.
A hidden smile sprouted on Harukata's lips. "We will be forever indebted to you, thank you. Forgive an old soul for I am tired. We will make formal introductions at first light. Kenji will stable your horse for you."
The Shogun turned his back and while walking forward to the ramp, said. "Keep the katana Xena. Akemi meant for you to have it."
Next, he quietly spoke with the Samurai in the blue armor, in advance of his and the other two Samurai's ascension up to the deck of the warship.
"Thank you Xena Sama, and you also." Kenji showed gratitude to the Warrior Princess as well as Gabrielle.
Picking up his staff in one hand, and taking Argo's bridle in the other, the monk led her up the ramp. After reaching the top, he gave a shrill whistle for the four other steeds to follow. The blue armored Samurai remained.
Gabrielle sheathed her sais as Xena did the same with her sword.
"Wow. I am glad we got through that without a scuffle. Well, except for Kenji." the bard said, not knowing what else to say about what just occurred.
"Yea." Xena gave a short remark.
Gabrielle looked in the lone Samurai direction. "What's up with him?"
"Let's find out." the dark haired woman replied while she pulled the grand katana out of the ground.
When the duo gotten closer to him, he inclined his head slightly. "My name is, Zicalus. I am to escort you both to the cabin you'll be lodging."
Blue orbs eyed the Samurai up and down before she walked up the gradient. Zicalus gazed upon her as the Warrior Princess ascended, until a voice called his attention.
"Thank you, Zicalus. My name's, Gabrielle."
Even though it was dark, he could see the pretty smile and the greenish blue irises that sparkled.
"Please to meet you, Gabrielle San." he responded.
"Lets go!" Xena commanded.
They both started walking the slope when Zicalus whispered. "Kinda bossy, isn't she."
Gabrielle smiled. "You have no idea."
The blonde amazon noted that the Samurai's accent wasn't quite opulent like Kenji's, or Harukata's. She imagined what his appearance would look like under the helmet as she took steps beside him.
They were lodged three tiers below deck. Their quarters were nice, especially when compared to the outdoors. The wooden floorboards could be refurnished, if not painted over, but with that aside the cabin had sufficient amount of space for Xena and Gabrielle. Before Zicalus' departure, he did offer to put the bard up in her own room, but she declined the propound proposal.
The cot was a bit smaller than she'd liked, but it would suffice for what she had plans to do on it with her soul mate.
'Now if only I could get her on here with me.' Gabrielle thought.
Since they'd occupied the cabin, Xena took off her scabbard, along with her weapons, and sat on the floor with the grand katana in front of her to meditate, while Gabrielle removed her sais and boots to relax on the cot. That was almost a hour ago, with neither of them speaking doing that time.
A light knock was heard on their door, breaking Xena's focus to her agitation and to Gabrielle's delight.
The petite blonde opened it. "Hello, Kenji."
"I know that it is late, but I just wanted to ask did you, or Xena Sama need anything?"
"Thanks, but we're okay for now-"
"Wait." Xena interjected getting to her feet, her footfalls moving towards them. "Where's my horse?"
"In the stables, on the bottom fourth tier." Kenji answered. He then wanted to put her mind at ease by adding. "She is being well taken care of, Xena Sama."
"I'll be the judge of that myself." she retorted.
Kenji lingered a little longer, not knowing what to do next.
"You can leave now." Xena snapped.
Kenji quickly bowed and just as fast, closed the cabin's door.
"Xena." Gabrielle's eyes stared at her lover in disappointment, before she left out the room to follow after the monk.
He turned around to face her. "Have you changed your mind about wanting something?"
"No. I wanted to apologize for my lov-" Gabrielle caught herself. "For Xena's behavior. She's dealing with a lot."
"She is making a monumental sacrifice."
"Yes she is." Gabrielle agreed, thinking about their shelved wedding and honeymoon. "Still, bad manners are bad manners, and I'm sorry you're catching most of it."
"All will be right. I accept your apology on her behalf." he replied.
Gabrielle smiled, then went on to say. "I'm also sorry for your lost friend, Gaija. Some people believe in something greater than themselves, but succumb to foibles. Trust me, I know first hand. So don't think any less of him."
The bard was ruminating on her own learnings with Eli. Accepting the Way of Love, only to throw it all away to save Xena's life from the Romans. She haven't just pushed it to the side temporarily, she cast it away permanently after being resurrected.
Kenji really looked at the young woman and was a shamed that he didn't bother to learn her name. "You are very generous to have shared that with me, and must be very wise to be a companion of Xena Sama. Pardon me for not asking sooner, but what is your name?"
"It's, Gabrielle." she said offering her hand out.
The monk happily shook the proffered hand in his. "Thank you, Gabrielle San."
"You are welcome." the blonde said withdrawing her hand.
The amazon turned her head to see Xena standing in their shared entryway, with a masked expression.
"Coming, Xena. Goodnight, Kenji."
"Night, Gabrielle San." he exchanged, watching the red scarlet clad woman saunter into the room.
Finally his eyes connected with Xena's, and it chilled him to the bone. The monk wasn't entirely positive what he was feeling when the Warrior Princess slammed the door, but if he was a betting man, it would be on relief.
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