Read Samurai Online

Authors: Jason Hightman

Samurai (9 page)

BOOK: Samurai
4.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 15

. G
entered a world of confusion.

He knew nothing of Japan, or its language, or its customs, and he was still reeling from the shock that there was another person on Earth who shared the Dragonhunter’s blood.

The life of this person could be in danger, and they had to move quickly. Aldric had been able to retrace his footsteps from his previous journey here, but his memory remained vague and cloudy. At least it had led them here.

Simon and Aldric stood in armor, cloaked by their long trenchcoats, and kept watch over a Japanese home, an art deco house spread over a generous space in the overgrown city of Kyoto. It was made of dark
wood with narrow slit windows, a three-tiered cake of a building with an Oriental roof design. He couldn’t imagine how Aldric could forget the place. It was odd and pretty, but it didn’t feel secure enough—the boy could be in there, and the Ice Dragon might still be after him.

It was morning, and mist pulled itself from the ground and shrouded the home.

Suddenly, there was a motion behind the frosted glass of one of the high windows. Simon tensed.

“Doesn’t look like any struggle’s taking place,” whispered Aldric.

The two waited, crouched in an alleyway near a temple that looked to be a thousand years old or more.

Another car pulled up to the Asian mansion, a long black 1950s sedan, custom-made from the look of it, unlike any Simon had ever seen. From out of the car came a stocky Japanese man in a suit, and from out of the house came a small boy with a black satchel, who bowed to the driver.

Simon couldn’t see the boy well at this distance, but another figure soon joined him, his mother, still in her bathrobe. She hugged him and kissed him on the top of his head.

“It’s her,” said Aldric quietly to himself.

The driver opened the door, and the boy—a little
kid, younger than Simon surely—got in. The sedan sped away into the mist.

“Come on!” said Aldric, and he dashed back for their rented Citröen—it was old, too. They had gotten it from a shady guy with the only car rental shop open at three
. It was loaded with their Dragonhunting equipment, and one very temperamental fox, who growled in fear as the car surged forward.

Simon could never stand Aldric’s driving. His heart rattled inside him as Aldric hit the gas harder and the car swooped into the mist, chasing the boy’s sedan.

Seemed like a spoiled little brat,
thought Simon.
Gets a fancy car to take him to school every morning, his mom waiting on him hand and foot. It was clear which St. George boy had gotten the raw deal, and it wasn’t this little jerk.

“I can hardly see in this fog,” muttered Aldric.

“If you go any faster,” Simon sighed, “they’re going to know they’re being followed.”

“Don’t lecture me.”

“But you’re not doing it right.”

“When you get your license, you can do the driving,” his father grumbled.

“That day ain’t coming fast enough,” complained Simon, and the car hit an unexpected bump, shutting them both up. Aldric had hopped a curb as he trailed the other sedan in a turn.

“Where is he going?” Aldric asked himself aloud.

“It’s morning, it’s Tuesday,” said Simon. “He’s going to school. Normal kids go to school on weekdays, it’s something that happens all over the world.”

“How do you know?”

“I remember being normal.”

The heavy fog was still misting the windows, but it gave Aldric’s car some cover.

“Don’t go so fast,” Simon advised again. “You don’t want to crash into the kid.”
thought Simon.
A small concussion,
he reasoned,
just a slight one, to even the score a little bit. Rich little punk.

The boy’s sedan passed into a clearing at the edge of the city, revealing a startling sight: a huge windmill lay ahead in the middle of a rice field, its propellers spinning softly and tossing back mist, and its tower crowned with a pagoda-style building.

It was one of the oddest things Simon had ever seen. Then the sedan stopped to let the boy out, and he joined many other children who were walking in a line to get into the giant windmill. They all wore dark clothes, had the same dark satchels in their hands; single file, orderly and perfect.

The huge windmill was a schoolhouse.

“You have got to be joking,” Simon said. His father had taken him out of the Lighthouse School, and somehow, on the other side of the world, the other St.
George was going to a Windmill School?

“The Windmill School for Gifted Children,” Aldric read aloud, seeing the English words on the building, beneath Japanese symbols.

said Simon disdainfully.

Aldric shook his head in disbelief.

“Are we going to warn him?” said Simon.

Aldric looked nervous. “I…I’m…”

“Are we going to tell him who we are, who he is?” Simon asked.

Muttering in his usual way, Aldric just opened the door and stepped out. Simon let him take a few steps before joining him, curiosity winning out over anger, and the two walked into the mist. Their car disappeared behind them, but the spinning windmill pushed away the fog so the children were easily seen.

I feel like some kind of Dragonhunting stalker
, thought Simon.
What are we even going to say to him? We don’t speak Japanese; we’re going to sound like aliens.

They were closing in, amid the rushing mist, as more children joined the line, their parents watching them go.

Simon hoped he and Aldric looked unthreatening. They hadn’t yet reached the boy when Aldric spoke to him. “Uh, excuse me, there, if I might have a word,” said Aldric, sounding like a butler, all polished-up consonants and proper English manners.

Oh, this kid gets the special treatment,
thought Simon. “
If I might have a word.” Yeah. Here’s a word for you….

The boy kept walking toward the school. When Aldric called hello again, the other children helpfully tapped the boy on the back.

He turned around, and Simon was startled to see a kid who looked half-Japanese and half–St. George.

“I wonder if we could talk to you for just one quick moment,” said Aldric, his face clearly showing the same surprise that Simon felt.

“A moment? Before school?” asked the boy, puzzled.

The Japanese boy spoke English.

Of course. Gifted,
thought Simon.

“May I ask who you might be?” he said, but there wasn’t an ounce of suspicion in him. He had the most innocent, nicest face imaginable. He looked like he wanted to be helpful to

“We think you could be in terrible danger,” said Aldric, getting closer. “This may be an emergency. I think it’s better if we don’t talk out in the open.”

At the door of the Windmill School, a female teacher looked up, and walked toward them.

“What possible trouble could there be…” started the boy, “out here?”

Suddenly, Aldric was smashed from behind by a powerful blow. He tumbled against a fence, and
Simon turned to see a group of several big Japanese men rushing forward.

The first one did not hesitate to toss Simon to the ground with a push so hard it knocked the wind out of him.

Aldric rose quickly to find one of the men had a gun. In response, Aldric fired a tiny dart from the miniature crossbow mounted on his wrist, and the arrow flew from his sleeve and slammed into the attacker. The gunman howled, and his shot went awry, stinging the back of the windmill. Instantly, the giant fan began swinging violently fast—something had gone wrong with its motor—and a shock of wind swept over them.

Children screamed and ran, and Simon watched the spectacle of Aldric in an elaborate fistfight with five men in black suits, the swirling white mist around them a stark background.

Simon rushed one man, who was as big as a small tree, and grabbed him by the neck as the attacker lunged for the other St. George boy. He hung on grimly.

Aldric was having a rough time of it. Simon had never seen him struggle so hard with Dragon henchmen before, but he had one thug clasped by the head, a crossbow to his face.

Then the man somehow flipped Aldric in a move
Simon could not believe, and Simon himself was whirled around, as the attacker sent him flying into the field.

With the mist rushing by like galloping white horses, the Japanese men swept up the mystery boy and threw him in an already moving sedan—the boy’s own.

“Come on, come on!” yelled Aldric, running after the sedan, firing his crossbow at it. “GET THE CAR!”

Simon ran for their Citröen, and hopped in, driving crazily for his father, his inexperience at the wheel quite obvious. He soon caught up with Aldric running like a madman down the misty road.

Aldric jumped in the passenger side, and spurred Simon on, shouting.

Simon smacked the gas pedal, swallowing hard in fear, and watched the mist racing past, as the car burned rubber in pursuit. For a moment, there was no sign of anything, and then—
—Simon slammed his car into the mystery boy’s moving sedan, which accelerated out of the collision.

“I didn’t mean it, I didn’t mean it,” Simon was saying, but immediately, the attackers leaned out of the sedan’s windows and began firing.

Bullets swam past the old Citröen.

Fenwick the fox gave a squeal, scurrying over Simon’s head and scratching him with his tiny claws,
before rolling himself into a tiny ball in the backseat.

Aldric was leaning out of the speeding car—“Faster, Simon!”—as he shot arrows into the sedan. The metal squealed. The arrows dug in. But the car sped on, to no effect.

The white haze swirled around the two racing cars, and Simon began to see the world that was taking shape around him. They were headed back to the heart of the city.
The heart of the city, where there were more buildings, and people, and cars…

He yelped in shock.

His car barely missed plowing into two monks and a cyclist in white. As Aldric reloaded his crossbow—barking orders to Simon to miss this, miss that, speed up, slow down—the two cars roared past an intersection where scores of people were crossing the street. The pedestrians scattered off, yowling as the cars exchanged fire.

“They’re not hitting a thing,” said Aldric, confused.

“Close enough,” said Simon, as part of the windshield cracked from a bullet.

“Warning shots,” muttered Aldric, but he fired again at the sedan, his arrow shattering the rear taillight.

Simon was veering too wildly to help Aldric very much—he hadn’t practiced driving nearly enough
back home, and this was an emergency. Terrified, he meant to hit the brakes as a rickety little train rushed toward him from the right, but instead he hit the gas, and was nailed back to the seat. Simon rocketed past the train.

“Nice manuever. We’re still on them,” said Aldric.

Simon had no thoughts in his head. His heart was beating too loud to hear anything.

His legs had trouble reaching the pedals, so the car sputtered a bit, until Simon arched his back and plunged his foot down on the accelerator, losing his view for a moment as the car roared forward and closed the gap with the enemy.

Then the other sedan took a turn, and darted down into a tunnel, with Simon following. But the tunnel closed up behind him, and Simon had the awful feeling he’d just driven into a trap.

Chapter 16

the tunnel. There was just enough light to see the sedan up ahead. It was as if they’d stumbled on a secret passage.

Suddenly, the cars emerged in a giant underground circle, and Simon’s car scratched the concrete edge of a wall, sending sparks flying as it took the curve. The circle was completely different from the tunnel—it was well-lit, with square, painted lanterns, wooden sides, and a wooden floor, all surrounding a beautiful exotic tree.

The other sedan stopped. Simon slammed on his brakes.

Aldric leapt out, but Simon was still too rattled to move. He watched from the car as Aldric confronted the attackers. The mystery boy was taken by one man and
whisked up an ornate pagoda elevator that disappeared into the wooden ceiling. This left four assailants.

Aldric had his sword out, and Simon hurried out of the car to follow suit.

Their enemies brought out swords of their own. Samurai swords.

Aldric held off three of the attackers while Simon swung his sword at another one, who quickly disarmed him with a move of his Samurai sword, and turned away, as Simon fell to the ground.

Not so fast
, thought Simon, and he tossed a silver dagger at the attacker. It stuck into the man’s sword arm, just as he was preparing to slash at Aldric. The man looked back with surprise, but did not seem to be in pain. He pulled loose the dagger.

Aldric was atop the Citröen, surrounded on three sides by assassins.

“No one has to die,” warned Aldric. “You can give me the boy you took, and leave with your lives.”

The large man who had fought Simon now spoke in Japanese to the others, who lowered their swords, bewildered.

“The boy we took…?” the man said, in good English.

Simon could see Aldric was just as baffled. “Where is he?” demanded Aldric. “We’re here to protect the boy.”

“So are we,” said the man.

Aldric lowered his sword.

The Japanese leader moved back slowly, and lifted Simon off the ground, light as a feather, and pushed him forward, toward Aldric. Simon could see now that the man was fairly young, younger than Aldric, and had a strong face, without the dull eyes of a Dragon henchman.
Too intelligent,
Simon thought.

protect the boy,” the leader said, “and you appeared to be doing him harm.”

Aldric jumped off the roof of the car to stand by his son. The others fell close around their leader, still tense.

“Nothing of the sort. We had reason to believe the boy would be under attack,” said Aldric.

“Under attack by who?”

“A Serpent, if you need to know,” said Aldric, and the word got a reaction. These men knew what he was talking about.

“And how is it you know of the men-Serpents?”

Aldric blinked. “How is it
know of the men-Serpents?”

Simon looked at his father. He looked at the tall Japanese leader. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.


Tea was served.

Simon and Aldric stood uneasily on one side of
the room, examining mysterious Japanese screens and sparsely placed bonsai trees. Through long, thin windows Simon could see their cars in the underground circle below, and Fenwick down there scratching at the windshield.

“It’s customary to sit,” said the Japanese leader, who had joined his comrades on the floor. They had not disarmed. There were no furnishings; only cushions provided any comfort. It wasn’t like the elegant home they’d observed this morning, with its antique chairs Simon had seen through the windows.

“I’ll stand, thank you,” said Aldric. “And I’d like an answer to my question. If you don’t work for a Serpent, who do you work for?”

The Japanese leader looked at his partners. “Self-employed,” he said.

Aldric took a deep breath. “Like to play at riddles, do you?”

“No,” said the leader, and he kept his eyes on his friends and away from Aldric. “I watch others play at riddles.”

One of the largest of the men, an overweight, imposing fellow, looked for an instant like he might laugh. Simon was sure of it.

The humor left no question who was in control here. All of the men were dressed in similar black suits. They looked impressively relaxed, as if they
could fight off a surprise attack from a resting position. They were all very muscular, inert but intense, like a row of sharpened knives.

“If you’re trying to get my attention, you surely have,” Aldric continued. “No one knows of the Serpent ways except me and my son, and I have great interest in knowing how it is you’re familiar with the Creatures. If I can’t get an answer freely, I may force it from you.”

The leader frowned.
I’d like to see that
, he seemed to say, and Simon felt a bit worried. “The time for gnashing teeth is over. Would I offer you tea if I wanted to continue this fight?”

Aldric eyed him distrustfully. “I assume you want to know what it is we know,” he said. “We are from the Order of the Dragonhunter, and we hunt this evil you speak of, wherever we find it. We follow the code of the Books of Saint George, and beyond that, I don’t think you need to know anything else.”

“Your names,” said the Japanese leader.

“Ah, well,” said Aldric. “Aldric St. George. This is my son, Simon St. George.”

“Taro Yamada,” said the leader, introducing himself “Good to have you back.”

Aldric seemed taken aback, but kept his cool. “You are familiar with me…?”

“Somewhat,” said Taro. “I am certainly familiar with your messes.”

Simon could see his father had no clue what all this meant. Then he noticed a dim figure behind one of the screens, but the shadow seemed to step away, its shape dissolving. Was the boy back there?

“Sir, the one who should be explaining himself,” continued Taro, “is you.”

“I told you. I was hunting a Serpent. I thought the boy was in jeopardy.”

“Which Serpent?”

“It is a killer from Zurich.”

Taro looked to the others, who turned grim. “A second Serpent? In Japan?”

“We’re not sure.” Simon broke in. “We may have killed him at sea.”

have killed him?” Taro grunted. “You mean you may have let him go?”

Aldric bristled. “We don’t often make mistakes. This one’s clever. And he had a great deal of information about the boy you protect.”


Aldric nodded, recognizing an offer of kindness in the giving of the boy’s name. “He may still be in danger from the Zurich beast. We’d like to see to it he’s kept safe. We’d like to know…where such a boy comes from.”

At this, Taro looked startled, though he quickly hid it. And then to everyone’s surprise, the boy
stepped out from behind one of the opaque, painted screens. “You mean you don’t know?” asked the boy, in English.

“Kyoshi,” scolded Taro, and the other men leapt into action, moving around the boy protectively. “You were to stay out of the way.”

Simon looked at the boy, who seemed ashamed at disobeying Taro, but his eyes were filled with curiosity. Simon could see him well now. He took him to be about eleven years old.

Taro stood, and frowned again at Aldric. “Meet your nephew,” he said.



It was a most interesting morning. It seemed the Japanese side of the Order had some things to learn as well—they acted surprised to be unknown to the St. Georges. Simon’s head was filled with wonder at their remarkable situation.

They’d been led to a second room in the secret base, dark and filled with Japanese scrolls. As the leader Taro spoke, and Kyoshi watched from the side, Aldric and Simon stood surrounded by the other men.

“You are not alone in hunting the Serpent,” said Taro, and he hit a switch. The room lit up, with gleaming Samurai swords, suits of armor, rifles and spears, and devices Simon had never seen before.

“The Asian Order of the Serpentkillers has existed for centuries, though its origin is unknown. We may even have crossed paths before. Certainly we knew of your Hunters since your Medieval Age, when someone from the European ranks pursued a Dragon here and required help. It is said this partnership was highly difficult, but little else is known. The Hunters always protected the island, and I am the logical extension of that great cause.”

Simon passed a quick glance over the other warriors. Their eyes were active with thought, and gentle when they found Simon’s gaze, but certainly bore no respect for him, a mere boy. They obviously understood English, but they were content to let Taro alone do the talking.

“The first Samurai of this secret group were men of valiant honor, who let nothing be known of their work. Our world fell out of touch with yours. The strict adherence to our code of purification meant that anyone who discovered us was brought into the fold, or eliminated by death. I can tell you these early times were filled with treachery, and our oral history tells of many betrayals by foreigners coming into our formation. But we have heard from no one in your Order for many, many years.”

He regarded Aldric for a second, tapping a steel claw-like weapon on a display table. “And we have
had no need of support outside of ourselves.”

Like the men, Kyoshi said nothing, standing completely still. It took effort to notice him in the room, in his black school uniform, leaning against the dark wooden wall.

Taro indicated the scrolls on the table. “The deathspells of the Asian Serpents are recorded here, some translated from the European spellbooks, some original. We are the caretakers of these works, which were once maintained by monks, who have all passed away.”

“What are these?” asked Simon, drawn to several tiny silver bullets, warm to the touch.

Taro clicked his tongue. “I’m telling our life story. It doesn’t interest you?” Annoyed, he took the bullets from Simon and replaced them in a case. “The bullets contain serpentfire. The fire is held in check by an ancient Magician-forged metal. Same with the swords, same with the arrows, which I’ll thank you not to touch. The tamefire is the safest way we have of killing the Serpents.”

“Tame…” pondered Simon. “I’ve never heard of tamed fire.”

Taro looked weary. “The word is…well, a bit
. The fire is a necessity. Using Dragonfire against the enemy is superior to deathspells—though the fire rarely behaves as intended.”

“You were saying?” prompted Aldric. “How did we get from medieval Japan to today?”

Taro took the interruption with a slight smile. “People here in Japan passed down the work of the Hunt to their children, and their children’s children, and we five here are the last of them. We are the remnants of the Samurai in the Modern Age.”

There was no boasting in the way he said it.

“Although, without a true leader, we are more aptly called
,” he added. “Not that we are waiting for anyone to fill the job.”

“But how do you…” Simon spoke up again without asking permission, and saw Taro’s surprise. “How do you hunt the things? You can’t see them, can you?”

Taro looked to Aldric, perturbed, perhaps. “For a good, long time, this was a great difficulty. We followed the codes given to us in the old scrolls. We hunted in the dark, of course, looking for the Dragonsigns, the wrinkles and creases in nature, the storms, the pestilence, the anger and hopelessness that grows around such animals. When we thought we’d found one, we watched. If the Thing was seen to spread evil, a decision would be made, and we would cut him down.”

“You must’ve done a pretty good job.” Simon said. “We haven’t noticed much evidence of Dragons in
this part of the world.”

Aldric gave him a look. “Well, you know the reason for that, Simon. For centuries, we only had one of the Saint George books. It made little mention of Asian Serpents.” He turned to explain this to Taro, who seemed disdainful of arguing in front of strangers. “It’s our own ancient collected knowledge. It wasn’t until we recaptured the White Book of Saint George that we learned there were so many here, and others whose ancestors must have left this region a long time ago, like the Dragon of Zurich,” he added.

“Strange that a Serpent from so distant a place would take interest in Kyoshi now,” said Taro, “since we keep to ourselves. But if he were not with us, we’d be lost. Kyoshi is our guide, you see. Long ago we found him. He was on television, on the news, after a terrible fire here in Kyoto. He was ranting about having seen a Serpent-like man who had started the inferno. He was a very small child back then. We were tracking the beast, and naturally, we came to the boy. He had seen…what we could never see.”

“You…see them, too?” asked Simon solemnly. Kyoshi looked at him, nodding.

Taro glanced down with pride. “We had searched for such a person for centuries…and there he was.”

Kyoshi nodded again, serious, looking the very picture of obedience.

“Yeah,” muttered Simon, looking at Kyoshi questioningly. “There he was. I just don’t get where he came from.”

Taro seemed embarrassed. “We might better answer that question with more comfort, back at our house,” he said.

Aldric nodded, as his eyes moved toward the tree nearest him. The bonsai was twisting, its branches seemingly alive, as it shriveled and bent low, the earth around it now spitting forth little worms.

“I think,” said Aldric, “the Ice Dragon may be making an appearance after all….”

BOOK: Samurai
4.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Misfits by James Howe
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
The Emperor Awakes by Konnaris, Alexis
Secrets of the Heart by Jenny Lane
You Own Me by Shiloh Walker
Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson