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 previous chapters preceding this one, you should do so now. I usually have something witty to say here, but my mind is blank right now. I will say/write this though, for the readers that have been reading both tales, it all will pay off in this chapter. If you have not, it's never too late to jump on the band-wagon. Let's begin and enjoy.
Feedback, or comments welcomed at, Martinkendell19@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 soon the curse of Japa would be ended, but the two women following him weren't content at all as their minds battled with despair for each other.
'I shouldn't have spoken what I said to her.' Gabrielle felt annoyed at herself. 'It was wrong of me to throw our violent past in her face. I've done hurtful acts that she could toss at me, too.'
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 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 while 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 whom wore sunfire and purple armor sat spaced out on one side together, whilst the blue armored Samurai was settled adjacent to them, 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 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 to acknowledge she was unarmed also.
'I told her to stay on guard and it would be like her not to carry her sais. Well, if they try anything, at least I have my breast dagger.' Though dyspeptic, Xena smiled, hating the fact she had no choice but to trust Harukata's oath from last night that no harm would come to them. "Morning to you all."
Next, she sat in the chair at the opposite end across from the Shogun, so she could keep a view on everyone, leaving Gabrielle to sit in the last chair beside the blue armored Samurai.
"Morning." Gabrielle pronounced to the three men before greeting the man next to her. "Good morning, Zicalus."
"To you, too." He returned.
"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, unclasping 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 professed, setting his helmet on the table.
Then he gestured for the other concealed Samurai to do the same. The one wearing sunfire yellow armor 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 spiky brown hair. His face was badly disfigured by scars running diagonally from both sides of his cheeks to meet below damaged lips on his chin.
"That is Moku, my weapons expert."
'Looks like he met a few of them personally.' Xena deduced.
Finally, Zicalus unmasked to unveil a young man who had the appearance of mixed ancestry and medium length of ebony hair cascading around his light-green eyes.
'He's handsome.' Gabrielle thought.
"And this is Zicalus, the newest member to join under my direct command." 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 others 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 the intel." The Shogun proclaimed.
A deep, gruff voice started speaking, "Yodoshi, Lord of the Dark lands, is amassing an army using the souls he has acquired. His numbers surpass the higher thousands. The Daimyo will ensure 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 clarified. "I left him in Shinto with a retainer of Samurai while we came to Greece for you. He will protect Higuchi until we arrive."
"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 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." Harukata averred.
'Sounds like a recipe for disaster.' Gabrielle mused.
Xena crossed her arms over her chest. "Doesn't seem like the odds are in our favor at all, Harukata."
"You will address him as Shogun." Koska declared strongly.
Xena stared at the sunfire armored Samurai. After everything she had went through not too long ago with Gabrielle, she was ready to release her pent up aggression on anyone.
Koska glared back, trying not to let her 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. Xena, you are correct. It would appear we are on the losing end, but you did not hear everything yet."
"Let's hear it. My patience is very thin and I don't want to waste any seconds with idle talk about titles. Before this mission fell upon me, I was engaged..." Xena paused, glimpsing 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 was esoteric. "Though the possibility of that is falling apart, I can think of other places I'd rather be than here."
'What is she implying?' Gabrielle became fearful, her fingers unconsciously began to twirl the silver band on her left index finger.
Zicalus noted the velvet-clad Amazon rotating 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 in time. However, I have twenty thousand Samurai in Shinto and that's not including the eight hundred of the best Samurai on this warship. It will take us a couple of months to reach Japa. If Yodoshi ravage Higuchi, he won't do the same to Shinto without a fight."
"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 avowed. "Nobody knows when Yodoshi will converge on Higuchi. We can only be assured that he will, and not just by Akemi's confirmation to Kenji, but by the incursions Yodoshi has already done on minor villages before he'd 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 confirmed. "We surmised that we could handle the situation without coming to a foreign land, searching for a woman we weren't positive existed. I sent a garrison of Samurai to guard Higuchi, but when no army came, I withdrew them. Whilst 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 came back, telling me it was Yodoshi and that the Lord of the Dark lands spared him to instill fear in Shinto. It was then we embarked for Greece."
"Was there any importance in destroying Kyushu?"
"May I answer Gabrielle San's question, Shogun?" Zicalus offered.
"You can." He assented.
"In Japa, there are three temples called the Tri Sanctuaries that are connected to the sun Kami, Amaterasu. 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. It's where all the people of Japa attend to honor Amaterasu directly and is located in Shinto. At first we didn't know why he chose to invade Kyushu ahead of Higuchi. We assumed to gain more souls, but he chose to destroy Kashiko-dokoro. We now know that Yodoshi intends the destruction of them all. It's safe to say Higuchi will be next, ending with Shinto, then every area of Japa will fall easily."
The bard was captivated by the young man's morbid storytelling and became eager to learn more. "That's the cause of Yodoshi's invasion of Kyushu? To destroy its temple?"
The blue armored Samurai inclined his head in agreement. 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 short-haired blonde queried.
It was Koska who decided to respond, "A month after we set out on our voyage here."
"I'm not taking any chances." The Shogun declared. "I pray we make it to Higuchi before Yodoshi does, but if we are too late, we'll launch a counter-strike from this ship."
"How did Yodoshi come back to life anyway?" Gabrielle was curious. "Xena told me Akemi killed him. Would that have anything to do with it?"
After asking, Gabrielle looked over to her lover and could see 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. Disgruntled with herself, she commenced twirling her jade ring once more.
"Akemi told Kenji that Yodoshi's heart was so impure, the underworld rejected him. Somehow, he made a pact with an unknown entity to become a daemon soul drinker." Harukata predicated. "It seems Xena have more insight on how both father and daughter died. I've heard hearsay, nonetheless, to be honest, I rather learn the truth from a person I know was there."
All eyes turned to Xena, except for Gabrielle's. Hers 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, Yodoshi was an evil man towards his family. He murdered his parents, wife, three of their children, and sold his only living daughter, Akemi, to a warlord in Chin. It was there that I'd discovered her and brought her back to Japa to her father for my own means.
Once being reunited with Yodoshi, Akemi committed patricide by killing him. With her obligation for revenge sated and her cognizance knowing she had disgraced herself, Akemi implored me to restore her honor by beheading her as well as 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 of when they were inside the prison of Ming Tien's kingdom. Gabrielle would barely make eye contact with her there, too.
'After she betrayed me to the Emperor.' The dark-haired warrior bitterly cogitated. "However, 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 expounded all of that while staring at Gabrielle, hoping to convey how she truly wanted to simply fix an error from her past.
"Not just wrongs for Akemi." Koska mumbled.
Gabrielle turned her focus on him before her soul mate did. "What do you mean by that?"
The Shogun glared at Koska, making the sunfire armored Samurai feel chided.
"We have covered enough for now. Let's get some breakfast and convene later." Harukata expressed.
"I don't think so." Koska's last statement coaxed Xena to feel wary.
She already felt 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 to bow, leaving their helmets and katanas as they departed the cabin.
"You too, Gabrielle San. This is for Xena's ears only." Harukata stated.
"No. I stay with Xena." The Amazon was determined.
"I don't want you here, Gabrielle." Xena uttered, causing the cropped blonde to feel more than un-welcomed to remain by Xena's side. "Do what Harukata requests."
Gabrielle slowly arose from her chair, and with leaden feet, proceeded to leave the room, ruminating, 'She's angry with me. Fine, I can tolerate the anger. Just don't leave me, Xena.'
After 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 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 once Yodoshi launched 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 inquired.
"You know I do. I just told you about it." Xena became perturbed.
"You recall setting the village of Higuchi in flames?"
Cerulean orbs narrowed in uncertainty. "What are you getting at, Harukata?"
"After you set the village ablaze, a wind nourished it, coercing 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 divulged.
"I couldn't have." She was troubled by what Harukata had told her. "I torched the town village... I knew there would be many casualties, but nowhere near the estimate you claim."
"When the fire grew from the wind, it engulfed not only the village, but almost the entire town." Harukata explained.
'The air currents were powerful that night.' Xena recollected how it blew Akemi's remains away. 'It couldn't have made the blaze kill all those villagers.'
"Why did you torch the town?" The Shogun asked.
"The villagers shattered the pottery I had Akemi's ashes in. I was drunk and vengeful at what they'd 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 truthfully confided.
"If you were capable of such ruthless acts in Higuchi, I can imagine how you treated others callously. You alluded that you've changed and I want to believe you... Tell me, is Gabrielle San anything like you were?" The Shogun questioned.
Xena's tone became ominous, "Say what you want about me, Harukata. Everything I have done wicked in this world can be laid at my feet, but don't you dare put Gabrielle in the same category as me. She is the complete opposite in any way you can fathom when it comes to being virtuous."
The Shogun noted there was adoration in Xena's voice whilst 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 raised a ceding 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 trying to atone for the terrible deeds I've done. This news of Higuchi saddens and enlighten me to no longer aid you for Akemi's sake, but for the people that perished because of me also. I will help for the Greater Good."
"In order to save Japa, what are you willing to do, Warrior Princess?"
"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 asserted.
"The forty thousand souls aren't resting, Xena. They are being utilized."
'Used?' The raven-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 how? Akemi apprised Kenji that a mysterious entity struck a deal with him, transforming him into a soul drinker. He must've devoured the souls of Higuchi. The souls...' Xena comprehended. "The souls are in Yodoshi!"
"Yes, Xena." The Shogun concurred. "Yodoshi can use every soul he consumes for his own whim."
"Almost twenty-six thousand warriors against his forty thousand." Xena was distressed.
"Not forty thousand anymore, Xena. That's what Yodoshi started with. It's one hundred thousand now." Harukata corrected.
The Warrior Princess felt more uneasy.
'What have I condemned Gabrielle to? There's no way we can secure a victory. Even if we do miraculously win, there will be great losses.' Sapphire orbs 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 Dark lands. With him destroyed, all the souls he absorbed will find their rightful place in the afterlife. There they will await their cycle for reincarnation." Harukata claimed. "I am blessed by Amaterasu to slay any type of soul I choose to. Once I encounter Yodoshi, I will kill him and send the daemon back to the nether realm where he belong, which I am ordained to do."
"Yodoshi will be well protected. How will we be able to get remotely close to him?" Xena prompted.
It was time for the Shogun to tell Xena the main purpose of why she was summoned. "Akemi need you in the spirit world with her. After you enter there, you and her can contain Yodoshi so I can deliver the fatal blow."
"How do I get to the spirit world?" Harukata's visage was pensive, making Xena dread the un-answered query, so she repeated loudly, "How do I get there?"
"There is only one way, Xena." 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 while 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 she had entrusted in me?'
Next, the trim 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.' Shutting her eyes and continuously rocking her skull on the door, Gabrielle chanted, "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
"Hey." A vocal broke Gabrielle out of her chagrin.
Her eyes popped open to espy 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 serves as our training room, too."
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." Gabrielle 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, straightening her body 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 gave a smile of confidence. "Besides, we have you and the Warrior Princess in addition to our ranks. I have belief everything will work out. I must admit, even without her armor or weapons, Xena Sama can still intimidate."
"Yea, she can." Returning a grin of her own, 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 honest, I don't have a taste for raw fish wrapped in seaweed."
Gabrielle laughed. "It won't bother me none. I can get severe sea sickness and have to use a pressure point to repose it. I won't be able to taste a thing since the aftereffects numbs my tongue."
"That's a shame. I didn't want to eat my nut bread by myself and wanted to share it with you on the deck." Zicalus proffered.
The 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." Gabrielle's face beamed. "I might take you up on the offer. Perhaps 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." Zicalus smiled. "I will wait here for you."
The Amazon walked to the cabin that Harukata and her soul mate were in, but 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 true, Xena. Personally I feel it is your duty to do this, but the choice is yours. I will not threaten, nor compel you. You've 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... 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."
Hurt and confused, Gabrielle retreated from the door.
'Go to her? Akemi's more of an importance than me?' She ruminated, whispering to herself with tears emanating from her aqua orbs, "I've lost Xena..."
Spinning on her heels, Gabrielle ran, sprinting past Zicalus who was left disconserted.
"Gabrielle San?" He shouted for her to no avail. "Where are you going... What about the nut bread?"
Gabrielle continued to run, disappearing down the stairs of the first tier.
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