Disclaimers: See Chapter 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This tale is tied in with, The Conqueror and Ri, A Twist of Destiny. If you haven't read the previous chapters leading up to this one, you should do so. It has come to my attention that some of my readers (yes that would, or could be you if you decide to stay) have chose not to read both stories. It would be in your best interest, as well as mine if you begun to do so. The plot will thicken... Very soon, muhahaha. For those of you that are following closely on said stories, I am proud of you, and would love to give you all a cookie, but sadly I ate them all :-(. A profound shout out to the bard, Silvermoonlight. Because of your feedback, you have invigorated me to strive onward and upwards. Forever thankful for your words. Now on with the story. Enjoy.
Xena and Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 6: Shifting Madness
The loud bang of their cabin door being closed with force startled Gabrielle. "Xena, what was all that for?"
Xena eyed her sternly. "I don't want you hanging around that monk. The last thing I need is for you to conform and adopt his philosophies."
"Is that a dig of some kind, Xena?" Gabrielle asked becoming agitated.
The dark haired warrior sat crossed legged on the floor again, replying. "You know how you can be. You meet a new person, discover their ways and sooner, or later wind up being absorbed by whatever they said that intrigues you."
Thoughts of Khrafstar, Najara, Aidan, and Eli plagued the bard's mind. All of them had entered her life at convenient times, offering some form of solace in what she was beginning to understand, a destructive world, only to leave scars of their own on her very soul.
"Why are you speaking to me this way?" the young blonde was vexed.
"I have a lot to sort out." Xena said. "I don't want you changing on me again when I'm loving the person that you are."
Gabrielle smiled, her unsettling thoughts diminishing, but her lover missed it as her blue eyes closed so that she could resume her meditation.
Gabrielle moved behind Xena, and started to massage her strong shoulders. "I'm no longer that gullible, nor easily fascinated woman that needed others to guide her. I am who I am today, because of you."
After working out the knots in Xena's muscles, her massage turned into a caress. "You're the one that always believed in me. Had faith in me to get things done, no matter the challenge. You've pushed me to exceed all my limitations."
Bending down to her knees, Gabrielle begun kissing Xena's neck, while her fingers unbuckled the bronze armor, removing it to the side. "Come to bed with me. I know we're not married yet, but allow me to be a wife to you." the petite amazon whispered into the Warrior Princess' ear, before extending her hand over a broad shoulder.
Xena grabbed it, and they both lifted up onto their feet. Gabrielle laid on the cot as Xena took off her boots, before resting beside her.
"I'll help you forget about the stress of tonight." Gabrielle purred, finding Xena's lips with her mouth.
Xena was falling into her younger lover's world, their tongues colliding together in a thorough embrace, untill Gabrielle broke the kiss, saying. "I will aid you in leaving this Akemi non sense behind."
With that admission, the taller woman halted their intimate activity, much to Gabrielle's puzzlement.
"What happened?" she questioned looking at the dissatisfied expression on Xena's face.
"Akemi isn't non sense. None of what has taken place tonight, is balderdash." Xena answered, settling her back on the cot.
Gabrielle curled up against her, placing her head atop Xena's chest feeling confused. "The affairs of Japa disturbs you that bad?"
"Yes. All of this alarms me."
"You trust the Shogun and everything he told us?"
"For now, but I fear there is more to it." Xena admitted.
Greenish blue irises glanced up to sapphire ones. "Should I stay vigilante and on guard?"
"A warrior should always be doing that at all times."
Gabrielle ignored the reprimand and mused. 'So long honeymoon in Egypt. Maybe that's why Xena is irritable. She must be disappointed in going to Japa instead of where we planed.'
Next, she noticed that her stomach wasn't feeling queasy, and that could only mean. "Xena, if you want, we can jump ship. It's not even in motion yet."
"We are still docked, but we aren't going to abandon this mission." Xena replied.
"You owe me big time for this." Gabrielle puffed.
"I'm sorry that we have to postpone our bonding. I just got to know if Akemi is really there."
"And assisting in stopping Yodoshi." Gabrielle added.
"Yea... That too." Xena said in the manner of an afterthought.
The way her soul mate responded sent warning signals inside Gabrielle. She recalled Xena's facial features when Harukata revealed that unique sword. The same sword that was now lying in the middle of the floor.
"Who's Akemi?" the bard questioned again from earlier, only this time a bit timorously.
Xena decided not to be reticent, and answered truthfully. "She was a poet, something like yourself."
That got Gabrielle's full attention. "Akemi, was like me?"
"Not exactly like you. Similar to you, she had a way with words. A wonderful understanding of nature and how to describe it poetical." Xena affirmed. "She told me many of poems. I still can remember some of 'em."
Gabrielle was feeling slightly jaded from hearing this new information from an upbeat Xena. "She... Akemi recited poems to you?"
Xena was lost in her reminiscence. "It was short and sweet. 'Yesterday the moon took lodging on my sleeve. Today I have hope for even the broken hearted stars.' She was truly talking about me."
If Xena was being invidious it was taking effect on Gabrielle, making her more than envious.
Instead she hid it well, wanting to learn more. "So beautiful. To say something like that, she must have liked you very much."
Xena became sad. "The truth is, Gabrielle... She broke my heart."
Gabrielle was internally outraged. 'You said after, Caesar you've never loved another person again, even when you thought you did. You claimed it was me. I broke the shell enclosing your heart! So how could Akemi break a shielded one?'
The petite blonde wouldn't accept that what her soul mate told her in Thebes was a lie. She couldn't.
"I don't comprehend. When did you meet Akemi? It could not have been before Caesar, was it? Is she really a-"
"Gabrielle." Xena interrupted her barrage of inquiries. "Before we reach Japa, I should tell you everything that happened there last time."
The Warrior Princess expelled a breath and then started her tale. "Many years ago, before me and Borias left Chin after Lao 'Ma exiled us from her kingdom, he told me about a young girl who was kidnapped by a warlord there. She'd been taken from a mighty island, even farther east than Chin. The land of the Rising Sun."
'Japa.' Gabrielle thought sardonically.
"We found her being held hostage by a loser named, Kao. Akemi already knew who I was, and she had spirit. A fire I'd never seen in a young woman then. She told Borias and Kao, that I wouldn't let any harm come to her. That she would be my student and I would teach her everything I know."
Xena chuckled softly. "Seems like a lot of young girls I meet have that in common. Wanting me to train them."
Gabrielle put a grin on her face for show. 'I'm nothing like Akemi, nor Tanya for that matter either.' Not forgetting the young warrior who pretended to be the Destroyer of Nations, only to beg Xena to teach her and allow her to travel with them both.
"Akemi prophesied that I'd fall in love with her. I was drawn to her by that prediction. I wanted to tame her and prove her wrong. I offered fifty pieces of gold to buy her, but Kao didn't care for the offer. So I did what I did best doing them days." Xena explained.
"Kill them all." Gabrielle stated.
"Yup. Once we left, all I wanted to do was use her to not only get the ransom from her father, but to also get some kind of toehold in Japa and utilize it to conquer every land between there and Britannia. Akemi was insistent that I would be a great teacher, and if it wasn't for Borias' taunts saying, I couldn't teach a dog how to bark, I probably would've not taught her anything. Instead, I did, and it was brutal at first for her."
"What did you do to Akemi?"
"I damaged her ribs."
Xena answer shocked her young lover.
"I'm not amazed that you can still astonish me by how cruel you could be back then." she confessed.
"Anyway." Xena continued. "Borias broke off from us, reminding me that he was entitled to half the money. When I travelled with Akemi to her island for the ransom, I was to learn that my heart was seeking something else. Akemi had us traversing all over Japa, until we arrived at a gravesite. She told me that we had to receive her grandfather's blessings in order to succeed. I had no clue what she was talking about. When I thought that she was taking me to her father's castle, Akemi was playing me for a fool. I was contemplating killing her there, but when she spoke of a weapon far superior to mines, or any other blade, I became enticed to have it."
"What was this weapon?"
Xena pointed her finger and Gabrielle raised her head to see where she was directing, when her gaze fell on the sword that laid on the floor.
"It's a sacred katana, I always called it the grand katana though. Akemi manipulated me into fighting her father's Sensei in order to obtain it."
Tons of questions were spouting in Gabrielle's brain, so she settled for asking one. "If Akemi was so conniving, why did you fall in love with her?"
"I didn't know it doing the time, and I really craved having the katana. My ambition combined with Akemi's schemes aligned perfectly for her plight. I was the tool she needed." Xena pronounced.
The blonde amazon had various emotions for Akemi, from indifference to plain dislike. Enmity was winning out.
"She sounds like a bitch."
"Gabrielle!" Xena was disapproving of her lover's uncharacteristic language towards a deceased person, let alone Akemi. "You have to discern it from Akemi's angle. I discovered from her that she wasn't kidnapped, her father sold her and she was used like a body slave. Women, as you are aware, doesn't have many rights compared to men. In her country it is worse, unless you are born to a caring father, or married to a devoted husband who have no desire to control you. Other than that, it's a woman's duty to honor and obey."
'She could have lied to you. Besides, what women go through there does not sound so much different than any other place, save for the Amazons.' Gabrielle speculated.
Xena could tell the last part of what Gabrielle was thinking just by looking at her face. "In Japa, women are more disfavored to a male. A father could kill his daughter without any grounds for arrest in almost every area of the country. He could also whore her out if he wants to, causing her shame which is very important to honor. A woman can not gain honor by becoming a warrior of any kind. If she isn't placed in a prestigious position, the best she can hope for to gain some form of reputation, is becoming a geisha."
"Aren't they prostitutes as well?" Gabrielle inquired.
"There are different types, but mostly a geisha is simply an entertainer. She doesn't have to sleep with another person unless she choose to. A geisha can become very popular and amass good wealth, including respect and honor."
Gabrielle always became lured by Xena's knowledge of the world. Laying her head back on Xena, she said. "Finish your story about Akemi."
Picking up where she left off, Xena divulged. "After I defeated them. You can say, murdered the Sensai and his retainer of Samurai, I stole the grand katana. While we were alone, Akemi started reciting more poems of love. I did not want to hear anymore of it, because she was slowly getting to me. She asked me to show her how to do the pinch that I had done on Kao. I told her that it was a sacred trust. She'd agreed, so I taught it to her."
Gabrielle arose once again.
"You knew her for a few weeks and you taught her the pinch?" she was appalled. "Xena, in all the time I have been with you, you've only showed me how to take it off. I can't believe this."
Gabrielle distanced herself from her soul mate, but could only move so far considering the small amount of space on the cot.
"Gabrielle, that was me long ago. I made a terrible mistake teaching Akemi how to do it. She used what I taught her to kill her father, Yodoshi." Xena proclaimed.
"Yodoshi is Akemi's father?" Gabrielle was dumbfounded.
Xena was disconsolate. "That was her plan all along. To learn from me, just to enact revenge against her father."
Gabrielle made her way into Xena's arms. "I'm sorry Akemi mislead you, Xena. Do you think she truly felt anything for you?"
"I'm not sure, but I was deeply in love with her." Xena responded the truth.
That didn't sit right with Gabrielle. She now had confirmation that her future wife hadn't been totally honest with her in Thebes. Xena already gave her love to another poet before her. Another deceitful person shattered Xena's heart again.
Gabrielle really began to hate Akemi. "What happened next?"
"With Yodoshi dead, Akemi put the pinch on herself, imploring me to restore her honor by decapitating her using the sacred grand katana and placing her ashes in her family shrine with her siblings and mother. I was seething in anger that I wouldn't get any riches, but I couldn't bring myself to hurt her. I saw in her eyes that she was intent on having it no other way. After her last entreaty, I ended her life." Xena said.
"You killed Akemi." Gabrielle accepted the revelation. "Did you carry out her request?"
"I tried to, but when I begun my trek at night to get there, word spread fast while I was cremating Akemi's body. The people of Higuchi knew what Akemi had done, and demanded that I shouldn't place her ashes in her family's shrine." Xena answered.
"I don't understand, why would they care?" Gabrielle was perplexed.
"Yodoshi was the Shogun of the village. Although he was an atrocious family man, Akemi had dishonored herself by committing patricide. She murdered her father and their political leader. To hinder my travel, the crowd began throwing stones at me. One of them hit the pottery that I was carrying her ashes in and it shattered. I was in a drunken, dishevelled state, alone and broke. All I wanted to do was a simple selfless act, and some idiots ruined that. So in retaliation, I picked up a touch that was used to light Higuchi at night, and with the remainder of my saki, I set the whole town village ablaze." Xena's face formed a gloomy smile of pride. "Finally I left Japa, hoping never to return again."
Peeking at the katana, Gabrielle asked. "What you do with the grand katana when you had it in your possession?"
"I tossed it in the fire with Akemi. Obviously, it didn't take, seeing that it's here and in perfect condition, but I swore it melted. It was gone when the pyre's flames abated." Xena responded.
"Why did Akemi want vengeance in the first place?"
"Yodoshi supposedly had slaughtered her grandparents, including her mother and siblings. One brother, two sisters." Xena answered, growing weary of the questions now.
"Do you... Do you still love her?" Gabrielle had to know.
"Don't ask me that." Xena replied.
"I want to know, Xena." Gabrielle stayed firm.
An answer wasn't forthcoming, so Gabrielle played a different tact. "Do you look forward to seeing her again?"
"Yes." she said without hesitation.
"You do love her." the amazon surmised.
"Just because I want to see her again, doesn't mean that I love her." Xena was annoyed.
"And it doesn't mean you don't either."
"Gabrielle, I do not have the will, nor patience to deal with your jealous outbursts." Xena rebuked.
Gabrielle, quiet down. She deserved the comeuppance that Xena gave her. She had no reason to feel jaundiced. Akemi was a ghost, a specter. It was no way possible she could take Xena away from her. Also, Xena gave her a promise that nobody would ever break them apart.
Small hands guided up Xena's torso, to her raven hair. "Forgive me and my ways, Xena." Gabrielle placed a gentle kiss above the cleavage Xena's brown battle dress accentuated. "I love you so much, I can't imagine my life without you in it."
Her lips placed moist pecks up her lover's upper chest and the hollow spot of Xena's neck, before nipping at her mouth, coaxing the blue eyed beauty to open them for her wet tongue. Xena was still upset, but relented as she grasped Gabrielle's short golden hair and pressed her mouth fully to her's. A profound moan escaped the confines of Gabrielle's throat while their tongues were immersed together.
For some unknown reason, Xena couldn't stop thinking of Akemi. She began pulling from the kiss, but Gabrielle deepen it even more. The younger woman could feel Xena trying to halt her advance, though she didn't fathom why Xena would want to be diffident. Deciding to disconnect their mouths, Gabrielle crossed her arms and lifted off her halter top. Next, she placed Xena's hands on both her bare breast.
"Make love to me." Gabrielle cooed.
That did it for Xena, as she jumped off from the cot. "I can't do this."
Gabrielle was angry now. "What the hell do you mean, you can't do this?"
Putting on her foot ware and walking towards the door, Xena replied. "I need to clear my head, I'll be back."
"I'm laying here, half naked for you, begging for your touch, and you need to clear your head?" Gabrielle was seeing red. "You're doing it again, Xena! You are pushing me away!"
"I am only going to check on Argo, I'll be back!" Xena yelled as well, leaving out the room.
Gabrielle knew Xena wasn't coming back tonight. It was already late and the sun was some hours away from rising. Getting up, she blew out the lantern letting the darkness engulf her, thinking. 'She's going to go brooding over this. I'm just not sure if it's over this entire situation, or a singular person. But which person, the father, the daughter, or both?'
Gabrielle laid back on the cot, she brought forth every detail of what Xena had expressed to her tonight, by her words, her actions, and feared the answer she came up with to explain the Warrior Princess' behavior.
Gabrielle really disliked the mist of spring, but she was now positive that she hated Akemi more.
"Akemi." she said aloud in disgust.
Xena traipsed the long hull that was the third tier of the warship in a complete circle, looking for a way to get to the stables. She was not very attentive to her environment, cause her focus was preoccupied with trying to abnegate what happened in the cabin with her blonde lover.
Looping around again, Xena spotted one of the Samurai that was with Kenji. He was still wearing his full purple armor and mask, but rather than being accoutred with all the weapons he had earlier, he only was equipped with his katana, sheathed to his right hip.
"Excuse me." Xena called out, pacing at the heels of him.
He whirled to face her, his gloved hand holding the handle of his sword.
Xena held her hands palms out to signal that she wasn't causing any disorder. "Just wanted to ask you, how do I get to the bottom tier? I want to inspect my horse, Argo."
Not uttering a sound, the Samurai walked past her. At first, Xena thought that he was ignoring her, but then made the decision to follow him. Coming to the stairs that ascended to the top tiers and the deck, the purple armored warrior knelt down to release a latch to an inconspicuous compartment in the floorboards.
'That's why I missed it.' Xena grinned.
The Samurai stood, gesturing with his hand where she would find the stables.
He nodded his head and walked away as, Xena climbed down the ladder below. After finishing her descent, she observed two walkways to the right and left of her. Smelling the unmistakable scent of horses, Xena went down the left path.
While touring the stables, the dark haired woman seen all of the Samurai's steeds. The armor they once wore was disassembled, and she wondered how the Samurai denoted which one belong to its rightful owner. Xena had a good memory when it came to people, especially horses as she came across the dark brown horse that Tanya rode off on.
'Great.' Xena snorted. 'She's on board too?'
Argo's whinny from the next stall halted Xena's grousing cogitation.
"Hi girl, did you miss me?" Xena asked while she viewed the stall, noting the fresh hay and water bucket.
"Ah, I see that they have taken very good care of your needs." Xena announced.
Next, she reached into the saddle bags that were placed in the corner of the stall to take out an apple. "But I bet they haven't fed you one of these."
Argo II let loose a joyous neigh as Xena started feeding the fruit to her.
"What am I doing, Argo?" she begun saying. "Gabrielle is everything to me, it's just... I miss Akemi, and I can't talk to her about my feelings for another. Gabrielle can not conceive how important Akemi is to me, including this mission to Japa. She'll only get jealous and angry. I don't want that."
Once the apple was consumed, Xena stroked the mane of her mare. "Am I being selfish. I did run out our cabin when we were on the verge of making love. I don't want to accept it, but how can I tell her, everything she was doing and the words that she spoke out her mouth, reminded me of Akemi? Gabrielle will kick my ass for sure."
Xena's fingers aimlessly went through Argo's hair while a retentive flashback played in her mind.
"In a flurry of snow, two breaths of the wind unite, and become as one, then disappear into each other."
Her poems of love again. Enough is enough.
"Listen, Akemi, I don't want you to take this the wrong. I really love this sword, and you're a nice kid, but I just came for the ransom."
"I don't believe that." she disputed.
I could care less what she believe. If she doesn't cease her foolish talk about eternal bullshit, I might strangle her.
"What do you hear?" Akemi inquired.
Here we go with this again. Fine, I'll indulge her silly game. I close my eyes, listening intently.
"Snow falling on cedar." I say mockingly, until I hear something else. "No. Your heart, beating harder than normal."
Akemi makes her way to me and takes my free hand that isn't holding the katana into both of her's. What is she doing? Why am I allowing her to affect me like this?
"You're a master of war, yet you know no words to speak of love. And then you go and save my life. There's no greater gift of love a teacher can give a student than that." she explained.
I see it in her pretty dark hazel eyes that she is being sincere. Oh how I want to drown into her. I thought Lao 'Ma was the only woman I had a sexual urge for, though she never took me up on the offer, and now after what I'd done, she wouldn't ever. I know Akemi will as I catch a gleam in her dark orbs.
"I have another gift I must ask of you."
Always something. People always want something.
"I saw what you did to kill that coward, Kao." she said.
The pinch? She wants to learn the pinch.
"It's a sacred trust." I reply.
She smiles. "I would be honored beyond words if you teach me that."
"All right." I respond smiling also.
Next, I jabbed the fingers of both my hands into her neck, watching as she fell on her knees desperate to breathe.
"You have thirty seconds to live." I taunt, leaning above her. "Is this what you want to learn?"
Blood runs from her nose as she gasp for air, croaking. "Yes."
I glare at her, a part of me wanting to see the life leave her body, while the other half needed to feel her body.
Dropping down too, I undo the pinch. Her mouth makes a sibilant sound as she wheeze for oxygen. I wipe the trickle of blood off her bottom lip and nose.
"Show me, Master." she rasp.
"Do you desire me to be your Master?" I purr, running my hand in her ebony hair, much like my own, before gripping it tightly.
She winces, but manage to say. "You already are."
I refuse to hold myself back any longer. I kiss her small luscious lips, forcing my tongue into the cavern of her mouth, exploring it, wanting to take and taste every ounce of her. Akemi's silent moans drove me on as I held her hair in a vise grip, plunging my tongue deeper down her throat, unlike a savage.
Suddenly I stop myself with that realization. I don't want to take her the way she told me Kao had done. Not like this. Not to her.
"Not like this." I repeat out loud, drawing away.
Her hands touch my cheeks delicately, making my blue eyes look onto her's.
"I'll teach you, then you can teach me." she tells me, gently kissing my lips. After that, she said. "I'll help you forget about the stress of life." Going for one more, she claimed. "I'll cure and aid you in leaving your shifting madness behind."
Hearing that false assertion, I closed off our kiss. I am not some sort of affliction that can be cured. Mines is power, and one day every living soul will know my name to represent fear in all locations of Gaia.
Akemi must have known something was wrong now. Ha, maybe she could hear it in my heartbeat, because I'm ready to lay into her, and not with my fingers, but with my new grand katana.
My katana, where is it?
I look to the right of me, seeing its blade sticking into the snow covered grass. Damn it, I dropped it carelessly when I put the pinch on Akemi. Turning back to face her, Akemi was already taking off her furs that protected against the cold and untied the sash to her white kimono that was wrapped around her waist, exposing the erect black crests on her petite ample breasts to me.
She take my hands again, placing them on both her bosoms. "Make love to me, Master. I'll teach you."
It was over. She had won.
At this moment, I fell into her, and secretly knew that I wouldn't deny her anything.
Xena felt herself foment at the memory of that night with the younger woman who taught her the art of passion.
Her hand was frozen in one spot on Argo's tanned cream mane, so she began rubbing it again. She let out a dreamy sigh, saying the name of the person she would forever love.
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