Disclaimers: See Part 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 of both stories preceding this one, you should do so now.
Feedback always welcomed, sometimes needed at, Alexjanos612@yahoo.com
Xena and Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 8: Righting Wrongs
Three bodies made their way up the stairs to the first tier, onwards to the Shogun's conference cabin. The monk was at ease knowing that soon the curse of Japa would be ended. The two women that was following him weren't at all as their minds battled with despair for each other.
'I shouldn't have said what I did to her.' the bard felt annoyed at herself. 'It was wrong of me to throw our violent past in her face. I've done hurtful acts too that she could toss at me as well.'
Gabrielle watched Xena walk ahead of her, acquiescing that she had to remedy the pain she'd caused.
She stretched out her hand to hold onto the tall woman's wrist. "Xena, I didn't mean-"
"Yes you did." Xena cut her apology short without turning her head, or breaking stride. "You meant every word. Let us leave it at that."
Although the skin that Gabrielle held was warm, it began to feel cold to her touch after Xena's interjection. With the relinquishment of her soul mate, Gabrielle's vexation at her own actions grew as they came to their destination.
Kenji opened the door for the women and when they entered inside he closed it, remaining outside in the entrance way. The Warrior Princess and the bard saw Harukata, along with the three Samurai sitting at a lengthy rectangular table still adorned in their full armor. The Shogun was seated at the end, the two that wore sun fire and purple armor sat spaced out on one side together, while the blue armored Samurai was settled on the other side alone.
"Good morning to you, Xena and your companion. Please take a seat." Harukata greeted.
Xena observed the armored warriors in front of her with a keen eye and once she noticed that each of their katanas was lain out on the table in arms reach of their owners, she immediately regretted coming to the meeting without her weapons. Cerulean orbs glanced at Gabrielle and seen that she was also unarmed.
'I told her to stay on guard and still it would be like her not to carry her sais with her.' Xena thought. 'Well, if they try anything at least I have my breast dagger.'
Next, Xena smiled, hating the fact that she had no choice but to trust Harukata's word from last night that no harm would come to them.
She responded. "Morning to you all."
Then she sat in the chair at the opposite end across from the Shogun so that she could keep a view on everyone, leaving Gabrielle to sit in the last chair beside the blue Samurai.
"Morning." Gabrielle said to the three men, before greeting the man next to her. "Good morning, Zicalus."
"To you too." he returned back.
"Thank you again Warrior Princess for deciding to assist us and showing up to this gathering. Here we will discuss the issue of Yodoshi in detail and our plan of attack, but first introductions are in order." the Shogun announced, un-clasping his crimson helmet to reveal an older man with grey hair tied to the back of his head.
The color of Harukata's helmet and the fashion of his hair flashed a memory in Gabrielle's mind of her dream. She closed her eyes to shake the image of the elder Xena and Glaphyra away.
Xena and Zicalus both regarded her, but stayed quiet as Gabrielle composed herself.
"You already know my name is, Harukata, Shogun of Shinto in Japa." he said, setting his helmet on the table.
Next, he gestured for the other concealed Samurai to do the same. The one wearing sun fire yellow removed his to show a Japian man in his late thirties, with cropped black hair.
"This is, Koska, my third in command." the Shogun affirmed.
After that, the purple armored Samurai took his off to expose another Japian man with spikey brown hair. His face was badly disfigured by scars running diagonally from both sides of his cheeks to meet below damaged lips to his chin.
"That is, Moku, my weapons expert." Harukata pronounced.
'Looks like he met a few of them personally.' Xena deduced.
Finally Zicalus unmasked, unveiling a young man who had the appearance of mixed ancestry and medium sized ebony hair that cascaded around his light green eyes.
'He's handsome.' Gabrielle thought.
"And this is the newest member to join under my direct command, Zicalus." Harukata disclosed. "Now that's out of the way. We all know who you are, Xena, but what's the name of your travelling friend?"
"She can introduce herself." Xena replied.
The petite blonde wasn't certain if her lover was saying that out of courtesy, or spite.
"Her name is, Gabrielle." Zicalus answered for her.
"We are grateful to you as well, Gabrielle San."
"Thank you, Shogun. Hopefully I can be of some help to bring peace to Japa." Gabrielle responded with a small smile.
"We all know each other's names, let's move on." Xena had a touch of annoyance in her voice. "How about we begin with the analysis of Yodoshi."
"Koska will provide that intel." the Shogun replied.
A deep gruff voice began speaking. "Yodoshi, Lord of the Darklands is amassing an army using the souls he had acquired. His numbers surpassed the higher thousands. The Daimyo will ensure that his Samurai will try to keep Yodoshi's forces from destroying Higuchi."
"Who is this, Daimyo?" Xena inquired.
"Morimoto and he is my second in command." Harukata answered. "I left him in Shinto with a retainer of Samurai while we came to Greece for you. He will protect Higuchi until we arrive."
"So he is the first line of defense?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes, but he only has five thousand Samurai with him. The rest has to remain in Shinto just in case Yodoshi change tactics and attack it, or manage to defeat the Daimyo in Higuchi, which could happen. The daemon's warriors outnumber his." Zicalus responded.
'Sounds like a recipe for disaster.' Gabrielle mused.
Xena crossed her arms over her chest. "Doesn't seem the odds are in our favor at all, Harukata."
"You will address him as, Shogun." Koska said strongly.
Xena stared at the sun fire armored Samurai. After everything she had went through not to long ago with Gabrielle, she was ready to release her pent up aggression on anyone.
Koska glared back, trying not to let the ice blue orbs intimidate him.
The Shogun eased the tension by saying. "It is okay, Koska. The Warrior Princess isn't fully aware of our methods in customs. It's alright for her to break decorum." Gaining Xena's attention, he continued. "You are correct. It would appear that we are on the losing end, but you did not hear everything yet."
"Let's hear it. My patience is very thin and I rather not waste any seconds with idle talk about titles. Before this mission fell upon me, I was engaged-" Xena paused and glimpsed at her soul mate.
Gabrielle's greenish blue irises connected with Xena's and for an instant she saw warmth, then it cooled into dispassion.
"I was engaged to a glorious affair." Xena said esoteric. "Though the possibility of that is falling apart, I can still think of places I can be other than here."
'What is she implying?' the bard was fearful as her hand unconsciously started to twirl the silver band on her left index finger.
Zicalus noted the velvet clad amazon fingering her ring and stored the information for later investigation.
"Understandable, Xena." Harukata acceded. "Morimoto has five thousand warriors to defend Higuchi if we don't reach Japa on time. However, I still have twenty thousand in Shinto and that's not including the eight hundred of the best Samurai on this warship. It will take us a month and a half to reach Japa, so if Yodoshi ravage Higuchi, he won't do the same to Shinto."
"I'm puzzled by that, Shogun." Gabrielle admitted. "You could have travelled in a smaller vessel instead of using an enormous ship. It will take us longer to get to Japa when time is a huge factor because of the size, correct?"
Harukata merely nodded his head.
Realization dawned on Xena. "You're either planning an attack, or anticipating one using this warship, aren't you?"
"Yes." Harukata answered. "Nobody knows when Yodoshi will converge on Higuchi. We can only be assured that he will by not just Akemi's confirmation to Kenji, but by the incursion Yodoshi has already done on minor villages, before he had invaded Kyushu."
"I thought he had just begun trying to destroy parts of Japa and was beginning with Higuchi?" Gabrielle was baffled. "How long has Yodoshi ran amok before y'all came for Xena?"
"Two months." Harukata replied. "We thought that we could handle the situation without coming to a foreign land searching for a woman we wasn't positive existed. I sent a garrison of Samurai to guard Higuchi, but when no army came, I withdrew them. While on route back to Shinto they saw activity in a nearby village. They engaged the belligerents and were crushed. After I got word of what happened, I sent one thousand Samurai to seek out the people responsible. An injured sole survivor returned back, telling me that it was Yodoshi and that the Lord of the Darklands spared him to instill fear in Shinto. It was then we embark for Greece."
"Was there any importance in destroying Kyushu?"
"May I answer Gabrielle San's question, Shogun?" Zicalus offered.
"You can." he asserted.
"In Japa there are three temples called, the Tri Sanctuaries. Each one has a specific significance and are placed in three locations. The first is named, Kashiko-dokoro. It is there that people go in worship of their ancestors and is located in Kyushu. The second is, Korei-den. That is where worshippers go to receive aid from ancestral spirits and it's in Higuchi. The final third is named, Shin-den. That is where all the people of Japa attend to honor the sun Kami, Amaterasu and it's placed in Shinto. We don't know why he chose to invade Kyushu first instead of Higuchi. We assume to gain more souls, but he already destroyed Kashiko-dokoro. We now believe, Yodoshi intends the destruction of them all. It's safe to say that Higuchi will be next, ending with Shinto and then every area of Japa will fall easily."
The bard was captivated by the young man's storytelling and was eager to learn more. "That is the cause of Yodoshi's invasion of Kyushu, to destroy the ancestress temple?"
The blue armored Samurai nodded.
Xena observed the interaction of Gabrielle and Zicalus. She didn't like it one bit and it added to her anger.
"How long ago was it destroyed?" the cropped blonde asked.
It was Koska that answered. "A month after we set out on our voyage here."
"I'm not taking any chances." the Shogun began declaring. "I pray that we make it to Japa before Yodoshi does, but if we are too late, we will launch a counter strike from this ship."
"How did Yodoshi come back to life anyway?" Gabrielle was curious. "Xena told me that Akemi killed him, would that have anything to do with it?"
After asking that, Gabrielle looked over to her lover and could see that Xena was unhappy with her decision to share that information. The petite woman didn't need to be an Oracle to discern that she was making matters worse between them. She commenced twirling her jade ring once more.
"Akemi told Kenji that, Yodoshi's heart was so impure that the underworld rejected him. Somehow he made a pact with an unknown entity to become a daemon soul drinker." Harukata replied. "It seems that you and Xena have more insight on how both father and daughter died. I've heard hearsay and to be honest, I rather learn the truth from a person I know was there."
All eyes turned to Xena, except for Gabrielle's. Her's were downcast at the table, because of inadvertently putting Xena on the spot.
"Yodoshi was the Shogun of Higuchi. I have no idea what kind of governor he was, or if his rule was just and fair. What I do know for a fact, is that Yodoshi was an evil man towards his family. He murdered his parents, wife, son and two daughters. Then, he sold his only living daughter, Akemi to a warlord in Chin. It was there that I discovered her and brought her back to Japa, to her father for my own means. After being reunited with Yodoshi, Akemi committed patricide by killing him. With her obligation for revenge sated and her cognizance that she had disgraced herself, Akemi asked me to restore her honor by beheading her and placing her ashes in her family's shrine. I succeeded in taking her life." Xena stopped for a moment and gazed at Gabrielle, who still held her eyes down, but would glance upwards slightly.
It reminded Xena when they were in the prison inside Ming Tien's kingdom, Gabrielle would barely make eye contact with her then.
'When she betrayed me.' the dark haired warrior thought bitterly, before saying. "But I had failed to restore her honor. That is the only reason I am on this vessel now. I'm righting wrongs for a friend in need."
She said all of that while staring at Gabrielle, to convey that she truly wanted to simply fix an error from her past.
"Not just wrongs for Akemi." Koska mumbled.
Gabrielle turned her focus on him, asking before Xena did. "What do you mean by that?"
The Shogun glared at Koska, making the sun fire armored Samurai feel chided.
"We had covered enough for now. Let's get some breakfast and we will convene later." Harukata announced.
"I don't think so." Xena responded. Koska's last statement, coaxed Xena to feel weary. She already knew that Harukata wasn't telling her everything and after what she'd found out from the Shogun this morning, it made some things unclear. "What did your Samurai mean by his words, Harukata?"
The Shogun looked apprehensive, but yielded. "I would like to talk with the Warrior Princess, alone. Tell Kenji to go down to the galley and hold off our departure until further notice."
Every one of his Samurai stood up bowing, leaving their helmets and katanas as they exit the cabin.
"You too, Gabrielle San. This is for Xena's ears only." Harukata avowed.
"No. I stay with Xena." the petite amazon was determined.
"I don't want you here, Gabrielle." her soul mate stated, causing her to feel more than un-welcomed to remain by Xena's side. "Do as Harukata request."
Gabrielle slowly arose from her chair and with leaden feet proceeded to leave the room, thinking. 'She's angry with me. Fine, I can tolerate the anger. Just don't leave me, Xena.'
Once the door opened and closed, Xena became earnestly stern. "Cut the shit, Harukata. You have thousands of Samurai warriors yourself to counter Yodoshi's and don't insult my intelligence by saying that, Akemi wishes for me to be there in Japa. That isn't grounds enough for a Shogun to abandon his citizens when clearly you didn't want to when Yodoshi began his assault. So tell me and tell me honestly, why am I really here?"
"Do you remember the night you tried to take Akemi's ashes to her family's shrine?" he asked.
"You know I do. I just told you about it." Xena answered becoming vexed.
"You recall setting the village of Higuchi in flames?"
Blue orbs narrowed in uncertainty. "What are you getting at, Harukata?"
"After you set the village ablaze, a wind nourish it, causing the fire to grow."
"I know that. What does it matter?" Xena was on the verge of yelling.
"Xena, you are the cause of forty thousand deaths in Higuchi." the Shogun revealed.
"I couldn't have." she was troubled by what Harukata had told her. "I torched the town village. I knew that there would be many casualties, but nowhere near the estimate that you claim."
"When the fire grew from the wind, it engulfed not only the village, but almost the entire city." Harukata explained.
'The air currents were powerful that night.' Xena recollect how it blew Akemi's remains away.
"Why did you torch the town?" he inquired.
"The villagers shattered the pottery that I had Akemi's ashes in. I was drunk and vengeful at what they had done."
"That did not constitute the right to burn them." Harukata rebuked her. "The citizens of Higuchi were justifiable for impeding you. Yodoshi wasn't only Akemi's father, he was their provincial leader."
"I was a totally different person back then. I didn't give a damn about those people." Xena said truthfully.
"If you were capable of such ruthless acts in Higuchi, I can imagine how you treated others callously. You claim that you've changed, but tell me, was Gabrielle San anything like you were?" the Shogun questioned.
Xena's tone became ominous. "Say what you want about me, Harukata. Everything I had done wicked in this world can be laid at my feet, but don't you ever dare to put Gabrielle in the same category as me. She is the complete opposite of me in every way you can fathom when it comes to being virtuous."
The Shogun noticed that there was adoration in Xena's voice while she described her friend, with a touch of something else. "So hanging around villians isn't in her nature?"
Xena's hands gripped the table, her brain set on violence.
The old Shogun held out a hand. "I believe you. Gabrielle San does possess an aspect of light and goodness."
Xena calmed down. "Before we digress and jump all over the place, let's get back on track. I have killed a lot of innocent people when I was a warlord and spent my life now trying to atone for the terrible deeds I have done. This news of Higuchi saddens me and enlighten me to no longer aid you for Akemi's sake, but also for the people that perished because of me. I will help for the Greater Good."
"What are you willing to do Warrior Princess, in order to save Japa?"
"Whatever needs to be done. This is part of my atonement and hopefully the forty thousand lives I had taken can find peace while resting." Xena answered.
"The forty thousand souls aren't resting, Xena. They are being utilized." Harukata responded.
'Used?' the dark haired woman was perplexed. "I don't follow. How are the souls being-"
Xena's inquiry ceased as possible answers hit her. "The souls created Yodoshi. But Akemi supposed to have told Kenji that a mysterious entity made a deal with him... The souls are in Yodoshi!"
"Yes." the Shogun clarified. "Yodoshi can use every soul he consumed for his own whim."
"Almost twenty-six thousand warriors against his forty thousand." Xena was distressed.
"Not forty thousand anymore, Xena. That what Yodoshi started with. It's one hundred thousand now." Harukata corrected.
The Warrior Princess was more uneasy. 'What have I condemn Gabrielle to? It's no way we can secure a victory. Even if we do miraculously win, there will be great losses.'
Sapphire eyes locked onto old dark ones. "I have many skills, Harukata, but not a copious amount to defeat a hundred thousand warriors."
"A battle will occur, but our main focus is the Lord of the Darklands. With him destroyed, all the souls he had devour will find their rightful place in the afterlife. There, they will await their cycle for reincarnation." Harukata replied. "I was blessed by Amaterasu to slay any type of soul if I choose to. Once I am close to Yodoshi, I will kill him, which I am ordain to do and send him back to the nether realm where he belong."
"Yodoshi will be well protected. How will we be able to get remotely close to him?" Xena asked.
It was time for the Shogun to tell Xena the main purpose she was summoned. "Akemi need you in the spirit world with her. After you enter there, you and her can contain Yodoshi so that I can deliver the fatal blow."
"How do I get to the spirit world?"
Harukata's appearance was pensive, causing Xena to dread the un-answered question.
"How do I get there?" she repeated loudly.
"It is only one way, Xena." Harukata began to reply.
The solution made Xena's eyes widen in fright.
"You must die."
Gabrielle leaned on the wooden double doors of a room around the corner from the conference cabin, in deep consternation.
'Why did I have to argue with Xena, when I should've listened to her. Why did I have to open my big mouth and tell the Samurai what Xena had confided in me.'
Next, the petite blonde started to bang the back of her head against the door.
'Stupid, stupid, stupid. She's going to call it off, I know it. I can feel it in my gut that she is going to break off our wedding.'
"Stupid, stupid, stupid." Gabrielle shut her eyes and chanted, still rocking her golden covered skull on the door.
"Hey." a voice broke Gabrielle out of her chagrin.
Her eyes popped open to gaze into light green irises that belong to, Zicalus.
"What are you doing?" he inquired. "If you really want to get some kind of frustration off, instead of abusing your pretty head, you could go inside the armory behind you. It also serves as our training room."
The bard was slightly embarrassed that she was caught unaware in her predicament.
"Should have figured y'all had a training room on this huge warship with as many warriors there is on board. I'll keep that in mind when I get frustrated again." she tried chuckling to hide her anxiety.
"What's wrong, Gabrielle San?" Zicalus detected her dismay.
"This mission to Japa has me in dire straits, but I'll be fine." she lied a little while her body straighten up off the door. "I hope Morimoto can hold Yodoshi at bay if we reach Japa late."
"Don't worry too much over that. The Daimyo is well equipped to protect Higuchi." Zicalus offered a smile of confidence. "We have you and the Warrior Princess in addition to our ranks. I have belief that everything will work out. I must admit, even without her armor, or weapons, Xena Sama can still intimidate."
"Yea, she can." Gabrielle returned a smile of her own as she took in Zicalus facial features.
He looked to be about her age, the dark hair that dangled around the sides of both his eyes gave him a feminine flair. No doubt he was very attractive.
"Thank you for easing my concerns." Gabrielle said in gratitude. "I do not want to delay you from your responsibilities, or anything."
"Well, breakfast is being dished out and to be truthful, I don't have a taste for raw fish wrapped in seaweed."
Gabrielle grinned. "It won't bother me none. I can get severe sea sickness. I use a pressure point to repose it. After that, the aftereffects numbs my tongue, so I won't taste a thing."
"That's a shame. I didn't want to eat my nut bread by myself and wanted to share it with you." Zicalus offered.
The short haired bard felt her stomach rumble. "Nut bread you say?"
"I purchased some from a shop when we docked here in Scione." Zicalus responded. "My mother made it for me in my youth and now I love it."
"I enjoy nut bread as well." a big smile formed on Gabrielle's face. "I might take you up on that offer, prehaps I can get in a few bites before we begin sailing. I'm going to tell Xena, so she'll know where I'll be."
"Okay. I will wait here for you." Zicalus said.
The petite amazon walked to the cabin Harukata and her soul mate was in, but she held off knocking when she heard Xena's exclamation.
"This is a trick!"
Concerned, Gabrielle secretly listened closely to the rest of the conversation.
"It's the truth, Xena. Personally I feel it is your duty to do this, but the choice is your's. I will not threaten you, nor coerce you. You have vocalized how adamantly you care for Gabrielle San and I completely understand you not wanting to risk her life to the dangers of war. If you choose, you and her can leave this-"
"No!" Xena exclaimed, interrupting the Shogun's sentence. "Gabrielle is important to me, she always will be. Still, this situation is bigger than her and too extreme to ignore. When Akemi calls me, I will go to her."
Gabrielle backed away from the door hurt and confused. 'Go to her? Akemi's more of an importance than me?'
"I've lost, Xena." she whispered to herself with tears emanating from her aqua orbs.
Spinning on her heels, Gabrielle ran, sprinting past Zicalus, who was left in disconsert.
"Gabrielle San?" he called out for her to no avail. "What about the nut bread?"
Gabrielle continued to run, disappearing down the stairs of the first tier.
To Be Continued
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