Disclaimers: See Chapter 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This story is tied in with, The Conqueror & 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, or comments welcomed at, Martinkendell19@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; the four horses, the three Samurai, and Kenji, the monk who brought about this mission. While she and Gabrielle trailed behind, 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 Xena's arm, temporarily suspended her assiduity.
"Xena, what's going on?" Gabrielle queried. "You seem tense."
"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. "How about you try focusing on our surroundings so 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 newlyweds, even having it earlier in the afternoon of today, and not too long ago, was about to do it again.
Removing her left hand off of Xena's waist to inspect her silver ring, she sadly wondered, 'Maybe I have made a mistake.'
The blonde Amazon believed their love would blossom, but now she feared it would only be that way when Xena wasn't facing any type of adversity and was happy. Gabrielle 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, the bard did what she was told; tuning herself to the area whilst remaining quiet.
After silencing her young fiancée, Xena continued her concentration. The steeds that belong to the Samurai, wore matching armor similar to its rider. Kenji's horse was the only one bare. It had nothing on it, not even a saddle.
'Fits his position as a monk perfectly.' Xena summed.
The dark-haired woman prepared for a double-crossing. Anyone whom would dare pronounce the name of Akemi had to know of not just hers, but her entire family's fate. To declare she was alive wasn't only foolish. It was impossible.
By the time they'd 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 they had little money. Gabrielle spent almost all of it on Xena's bonding ring. She avoided that small detail with Xena in the stream, yet knew she would soon have to break the news to her lover that they were near dinar-less.
Not long after entering the port, the six riders approached a giant warship. Xena, once being a pirate of the seas herself, admired the gigantic ship, nonetheless, her uneasiness hadn't rescinded. She remained cautious when Kenji and his companions 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, walking 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, yanking the monk off his feet, making him drop his staff.
'What are you doing Xena?' Gabrielle thought, but kept silent.
The Samurai adorned in 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 you wish to know?"
"You and I 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, suspended in air.
"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 affirmed, her grip tightened.
"Akemi told me not to venture farther than the Corinthian sea. We were lucky to land in Scione when a young woman pointed your direction out once we'd debarked our ship. She avowed you were last seen between the middle of here and Mende." Kenji answered.
'Must've been Tanya.' Xena deduced, lifting 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?' Gabrielle internally questioned.
"I swear by the sun Kami, Amaterasu, it's all truth. If you don't aid 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.
Fortunately no bones were broken on Kenji, and he was free from pain. He ruminated how much longer though, as Xena got off her horse, unleashing her blade.
"I seen them die. With my own two eyes." Xena growled.
The three Samurai felt they couldn't tolerate anymore of Xena's disrespect for Kenji, unsheathing their katanas in a synchronous fashion. Gabrielle jumped off Argo II, drawing 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. Sheathing their weapons, they bowed, and 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 adorned in a crimson helmet and armor also, with two katanas 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 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." Xena pointed her sword at Kenji. "This monk claims to have seen a dead woman. Not only that, he states that 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 he's a Shogun.' Xena mused, her sword stayed on the monk.
Kenji dusted himself clean from the dirt. "Me and my friend Gaija are from the Shinto valley. We are monks who 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 in response. "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 espied it during our trek to Asakura. Gaija became amazed by it, and decided 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 dark, and to be honest, I became 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 that was 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 saddened, coaxing Xena into losing her patience. "I could care less about a monk's renouncement of his belief. Get on with your tale."
Gabrielle felt Xena was being too hard on Kenji, who had lost a fellow companion easily to worldly vices.
"Gaija stripped off his robe and went in the water. As they were frolicking, I turned my attention on the young woman playing the lovely tune. Suddenly she stopped, then began telling me 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 presumed it was from the storm, until I saw a super-sized 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 had gather themselves collectively to the side wall whilst the snake's body transformed into some kind of fiend. I could hear and see Gaija screaming, but my mind wouldn't allow my muscles to react. It blew out an icy wind, freezing the water and Gaija. After that, the evil daemon inhaled greatly, sucking Gaija's soul right out of his body. I could see his soul fighting to hang on to the ethers of the mortal plane before being swallowed up by that monster." Kenji described as a teardrop cascaded from his eye at the memory.
"When the daemon's evil glare came upon me, that's when 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 upwards at the same geisha that played the shamisen and tried to warn me. She told me I needn't fear her, saying I had a compassionate heart and it's 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 she, along with others, were forced to seduce souls for him to entrap. Giving me a katana, she'd bid me to go west, far beyond the setting sun. There I would find Xena, the Warrior Princess." Kenji finished.
All was quiet, until 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 to drivel."
Xena spun on her feet to saddle Argo when Harukata inquired, "You don't trust the word of a monk? How about the word of a Samurai?"
Xena knew the Samurai were bound by their Bushido code of honor. However, on the contrary, every Samurai didn't live by it the way they should, and she'd been tricked before.
"I don't trust anybody." She professed.
"Will you trust this?" The Shogun withdrew one of the katanas, stabbing it into the dirt.
"It can't be?" The bronze-skinned warrior whispered.
Xena walked towards the Japian sword to analyze it, hoping her eyes were deceiving her. It was the same Sacred katana Akemi had coaxed her into locating all those years ago.
"It is, Xena... Yodoshi is growing powerful every day. Soon he will attack Higuchi. Afterward, Shinto, then all of Japa. Akemi is not the sole soul that needs your help. Many do, with me being one of them. My Samurai, including myself, cannot 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 get scattered by the unforgivable, chilly breeze.
"Xena." The Shogun put his hand on her shoulder. "It is my destiny to destroy Yodoshi, but I cannot do it alone. I am in need of your assistance. Please."
Xena's steely gaze viewed the decorative helmet that covered Harukata's visage. She was hopeful he would honor the art of Bushido, and secretly, she desperately wanted to see Akemi again.
With a nod of her head she acceded.
"We will be forever indebted to you. Thank you." A hidden smile sprouted on Harukata's lips. "Forgive an old soul, for I am tired. We will make formal introductions in the morning. Kenji will stable your horse for you, and keep the katana, Xena. Akemi meant for you to have it."
The Shogun turned and walked to the ramp. He quietly chatted with the Samurai in the blue armor in advance of his, and the other two Samurai's ascension 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. Once he reached the top, Kenji gave a shrill whistle for the other four steeds to follow. The blue armored Samurai remained.
Gabrielle sheathed her sais and Xena did the same with her sword.
"Wow. I'm glad we got through that without a scuffle. Well, except for what you did to Kenji." The bard averred, not knowing what else to say about what just occurred.
"Yea." Xena gave a short remark.
Gabrielle looked in the lone Samurai's direction. "What's with him?"
"Let's find out." The dark-haired woman asserted, pulling the katana out of the ground.
When the duo had 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 from top to bottom, before she strolled up the gradient. Zicalus glanced at the Warrior Princess as she ascended when a voice disrupted his observation.
"Thanks, Zicalus. My name's Gabrielle."
Although it was dark, he could see the pretty smile and the greenish blue irises that sparkled. "Please to meet you, Gabrielle San."
"Let's go!" Xena commanded.
They both started walking the slope when Zicalus silently asked, "Kinda bossy isn't she?"
Gabrielle smiled. "You have no idea."
The cropped blonde noted the Samurai's accent wasn't quite opulent like Kenji's or Harukata's. Taking steps beside him, she imagined what his appearance looked like under the helmet.
They were lodged three tiers below deck. Their quarters were nice, specifically when compared to the outdoors. The wooden floorboards could be refurnished, 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. However, it would suffice for what she had plans to do on it with her soul mate.
'If only I could get her on here with me.' Gabrielle cogitated.
Since they'd occupied the cabin, Xena took off her weapons and scabbard. Then she sat on the floor with the Sacred katana in front of her to meditate, while Gabrielle removed her sais and boots to relax on the cot. That was almost an hour ago with neither of them speaking during that time.
A light knock was heard on their door, breaking Xena's focus to her agitation and to Gabrielle's delight.
Gabrielle opened it. "Hello, Kenji."
"I know that it is late, but I wanted to ask did you and Xena Sama need anything?"
"Thanks, but we're okay for-"
"Wait." Xena interjected, arising to move towards them. "Where's my horse?"
"In the stables on the bottom fourth tier." Kenji proclaimed, wanting 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.
The Warrior Princess simply gaped back, before Gabrielle left out the room, following 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. I'm sorry you're catching most of it."
"All will be right." He informed. "I accept your apology on her behalf."
Smiling sadly, Gabrielle commented, "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 firsthand. So don't think any less of him."
The Amazon 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 hadn't simply pushed it to the side temporarily, she'd cast it away permanently after being resurrected.
Kenji really looked at the young woman and was ashamed 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 announced, offering her hand out.
The monk happily shook the proffered appendage in his. "Thank you, Gabrielle San."
"You are welcome." The blonde said, taking back her hand.
The bard tilted her head to see her fiancée standing in their shared entryway with an expressionless look. "Coming, Xena. Goodnight, Kenji."
"Night, Gabrielle San." He exchanged, watching the scarlet velvet-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 certain what he was feeling when Xena slammed the door, but if he was a betting man:
It would be on relief.
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