Authors: Eric van Lustbader
Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure
Eric Van Lustbader - Nl3 White Ninja
White Ninja is the third novel in a series - beginning with The Ninja and continuing with The Miko - about the life of Nicholas Linnear.
All the books are interrelated, but they are by no means interdependent. Still, the novels may be seen as being akin to concentric circles, and are meant to complement one another.
This is for Henry Morrison, my friend as well as my agent, without whom...
The winds that blow -ask them, which leaf of the tree will be next to go! -- soseki
He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare... -- JEREMIAH 48:44
He awoke into darkness. Outside, it was noon. In the Kan, a businessmen's hotel on the seedy outskirts of Tokyo, with the steel shutters closed like a raven's claw over the window, it was as black as the grave.
The image was apt. The room was hardly larger than a coffin. The ceiling and the floor were both carpeted in the same deathly shade of grey. Because there were only four feet separating them, any light created an unwholesomely vertiginous effect upon the unwary guest when he awoke.
But this was not the reason why, when rising from the futon bed, Senjin did not light a lamp. He had a far more compelling reason to remain in the shadows.
Senjin thought of his mother as he always did when he was either drunk or homicidal. He'd had two mothers, really, the one who had borne him, and the one who had raised him. The second mother was his aunt, his mother's sister, but he always referred to her as Haha-san, mother. It was she who had suckled him at her breast when his blood mother had had the effrontery to die a week after he was born from an infection his long labour had caused. It was Haha-san who had cooled his childhood fevers and had warmed him with her arms when he was chilled. She had sacrificed everything for Senjin and, in the end, he had walked away from her without even saying goodbye, let alone thank you.
That did not mean that Senjin did not think about her. With his eyes open, he remembered venting his anger against the white, marshmallow-like softness of her
breast, of her giving while he took, of his overstepping his bounds time and time again, and of her loving smile in response. He hit out, wanting only to be hit back in return. Instead, she drew him again into the softness of herself, believing that she could swallow his rage in the vastness of her serenity.
He was left with this dream, like scoria upon the blackened side of a long exhausted volcano. Senjin watching while Haha-san is repeatedly raped. Senjin feeling a kind of despicable satisfaction that borders on rapture, and which, without any physical means, rapidly brings him to a powerful climax.
For a long time, Senjin watched the milky beads of his semen slide down the wall. Perhaps he dreamed. Then he turned onto his back, and got up. In a moment, he was dressed, moving as silently as a wraith. He did not bother to lock the door behind him.
Late afternoon. In the street, the sky was the colour of zinc. It was as dense as metal, as soft as putty. Industrial ash turned the air to syrup. White filter masks were much in evidence, not only among the cyclists whining by, but also over the mouths of pedestrians fearful of lung damage.
Daylight had torn the neon night down, but what had it replaced it with? A colourless murk, aqueous and acrid, the bottom of a sunless sea.
He had many hours to kill, but that was all right. It was how he had planned it, emerging from an anonymous lair, travelling solely by foot, also anonymously, creating a path through the maze of the city only he could know or follow.
Despite his surroundings, he felt galvanized, ten feet tall, monstrously powerful. He recognized the signs, as familiar and comfortable as a well-worn shirt, and he smiled inwardly. He could feel the slender bits of metal lying along his bare flesh beneath his clothes. Warmed by
his blood-heat, they seemed to pulse with a life of their own, as if his burgeoning strength had infused them with a kind of sentience. He felt like a god, a heroic avenging sword sweeping through Tokyo, about to excise a disease that was rotting it from within.
Down narrow streets he went, a man of silence, a singular icon of brutality and death. He crossed puddles of stagnant water from which arose like a miasma the stench of fish innards. Like oil slicks, they threw back the rainbow colours of the fluorescent dusk.
It was evening by the time he made his way towards the doorway of The Silk Road. It was festooned with multicoloured neon, garish plastic flowers and cheap glitter tacked against faded crepe paper. Seen from a distance, the entire entrance was made up to resemble the inner petals of an enormous orchid or, if one's mind ran to such images, a woman's sexual organ.
Senjin passed through the glass doors into a space filled with reflected light. It was like being inside a prism. Revolving disco lights refracted blindingly off walls and ceiling, both covered in mirrored panels. The result was as momentarily disorienting as had been Senjin's coffin-like hotel room. He felt at home here.
American rock music was playing at such a volume that the speaker diaphragms were taxed to their limit. The result was a thick, heavy sound, furry with bass and electronic distortion.
Senjin walked across the black rubber floor, identical to that used in children's playgrounds. He passed a bar consisting of columns of coloured water bubbling through plastic tubes. The top was Plexiglas.
He caught the eye of the manager, who turned away from him, hurrying to the sanctuary of his office deep in the back of the building. Senjin found an empty table stageside and sat down. He waved away the waitress as she began to weave her way towards him.
Senjin looked around him. The club was packed, mostly with businessmen out on their companies' expense. The atmosphere was dense with the fumes of cigarettes, Suntory Scotch and the sweat of anticipation. Senjin's tongue emerged from between his lips, licked at the air as if tasting the mingled scents.
The minuscule stage before which Senjin sat was teardrop-shaped Plexiglas, one of several on three different levels. The revolving disco lights spun off the scarred surface of the Plexiglas, sending distorted rainbows sparking through the club.
Eventually, the girls emerged. They wore oddly demure robes that covered them from throat to ankle so that they had the aspect of oracles or sibyls from whose mouths the fates of the men in the audience would soon be made manifest.
Apart from their faces, one could not see what they looked like at all. One had, rather, to trust those gently smiling faces that looked like neither angel nor vixen, but were suffused with such a maternal glow that it was impossible to find them intimidating or frightening. Which was, of course, the point. Trust me, those expressions said. And, automatically, one did. Even Senjin, who trusted no one. But he was, after all, Japanese and, whether he chose to believe it or not, he was in most ways part of the homogeneous crowd.
Senjin concentrated his attention on one of the girls, the one closest to him. She was as startlingly young as she was beautiful. He had been unprepared for her youth, but far from disconcerting him, her age somehow heightened his own anticipation. He licked his lips just as if he were about to sit down to a long-awaited feast.
The music had changed. It was clankier now, more obviously sexual in its beat and in the insinuation of the brass arrangement. The girls simultaneously untied their robes, let them slip to the Plexiglas stage. They wore
various forms of street clothes, most of them suggestive in one way or another. Strobe lights flashed. In unison, the girls began to strip, not in any Western bump-and-grind fashion, but in a series of still-life tableaux, freeze-frame images held on the video of the mind. The poses, as the garments came off, were increasingly wanton, until, at length, the girls were naked.
The music died with most of the light, and Senjin could hear a restive stirring in the audience. The scent of sweat outmuscled all others now.
The girl in front of Senjin had flawless skin. Her muscles had the firmness, the roundness of youth. Her small breasts stood out almost straight from her body, and the narrow line of her pubic hair would have revealed more than it concealed were it not deftly hidden in shadow.
Now the girl squatted down. In her hands were fistfuls of tiny flashlights imprinted with the name of the club, The Silk Road. She offered one to Senjin, who refused. But, immediately, there was a mad scramble over his back, as the businessmen lunged to grab flashlights from her hand.
When the flashlights were gone, the girl bent her upper torso backwards until her nipples pointed up at the mirrored ceiling where they were replicated over and over. The bizarre image looked to Senjin like the statue he had once seen of the teat-bellied she-wolf who had suckled Romulus and Remus.
Balancing herself on her heels as deftly as an acrobat, the dancer began to part her legs. This was the climax of her act, the tokudashi, colloquially known in leering double entendre as 'the open'.
Senjin could hear the clickings all around him as the tiny flashlights came on, insect eyes in a field of heaving wheat. Someone was breathing heavily on his neck. He was sure that every man in the club was concentrating on that one spot between the girls' legs. The flashlight beams probed into those inner sanctums as the girls moved about
the stage, keeping their legs remarkably wide open. It was a discipline to walk this way, as difficult to master as diving or golf, and no less deserving of admiration.
Senjin watched the muscles in the girl's legs bunch and move as she slowly scuttled around the entire perimeter of the stage as easily as if she were a contortionist in a circus. All the while, her face was as serene and in control as if she were a queen or a goddess under whose spell these mortals had come. As long as she held her legs apart for the most minute inspection, this girl-and the others above and around her - maintained a magnetic power as hard to explain as it was to define. Senjin, totally uninterested in that spot of female sexual potency, wondered at its hold over others.
The lights came up abruptly, dazzlingly, breaking the hushed, florid silence. The rock music blared anew, the girls were reclothed in their robes, once again mysterious, their faces now devoid of any emotion or involvement.
But Senjin was at that moment too busy to appreciate the dancers' splendid manipulation of emotions. He was already wending his way through the red-lighted warren of the club's backstage corridors.
He found the cubicle he was looking for and, slipping inside, melted into the darkness.. Alone in the tiny space, he set about taking stock. Against the rear wall he found the window, grimy and paint-spattered with disuse. It was small, but serviceable. He checked to see if it was locked. It wasn't.
Satisfied, he unscrewed the bare bulbs around the large wall mirror. There were no lamps or other sources of illumination in the room. He reconsidered and screwed one bulb back into place.
When Mariko, the dancer who had been the object of Senjin's attention, walked into her dressing room, she saw him as a silhouette, as flat and unreal as a cut-out. The single bulb threw knife-edged shadows across his cheeks.
She did not, in fact, immediately understand what she was seeing, believing him to be the image on a talento poster one of the other girls had put up in her absence.
She had been thinking about power - the kind she possessed here, but apparently not elsewhere in her life. There was a paradox lurking somewhere within this synergistic puzzle of power, but she seemed at a loss to discover what it was or, more importantly, how it might help her attain a higher status than was now accorded her.
She had yet to learn the secret of patience, and now she never would.
Senjin detached himself from shadows streaking the wall as Mariko opened the door. He was against her, pressing himself along the entire length of her as if he were a malevolent liquid poured from the shadows.
Mariko, still half-stunned that the poster image had come to life, opened her mouth to scream, but Senjin smashed his fist into it. She collapsed into his arms.
Senjin dragged her into a corner, and pulled apart the flaps of her robe. There was now a small blade, warm from his own blood-heat, lying in the palm of his hand. He used it to economically shred her clothes, denuding her in precise, coordinated quadrants. Then he arranged the strips just the way he wanted.