THE SAMURAI VAMPIRE SCROLLS

"She takes the heads of the undead."

For fans of manga epics, the KILL BILL movies, and old-school adventure stories.

After Oyomi's entire family is slaughtered by Lord Toyogomi, a powerful Vampire Lord, she is brought up in an abandoned temple by a ghostly woman-ninja and taught swordsmanship by the Shakuhachi playing son of the King of Hell. When she is old enough and well-trained enough in the Way of the Sword, she sets out to kill both Lord Toyogomi and his jeering, sadistic hunchback sidekick Shuzo. But first she must cut through the many other sword-wielding Vampires standing in the way of her singleminded quest for bloody vengeance . . .

The Samurai Vampire Scrolls: Scroll 1

(Translated from the Japanese by A. G. Hardy)

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7. The Reeds of Musashi

 

 

Big, hulking, soot-stained Jiko sat by the dull coals of the fire warming his hands and watching Mother rock back and forth on her heels.

 

Then, after some time had passed, he yawned and stretched.

 

-I'll be getting back to the village now. I'll bring you good people some more food tomorrow. I'm sorry about your husband.

 

Mother didn't reply. Her long hair covered her face.

 

-Until then.

 

Nothing in reply. Silence.

 

Jiko sighed, stood up and went out, ducking his head under the low lintel of the hut's doorway.

 

He didn't take a lamp. The moonlight was brilliant enough to show him the path. His footsteps padded off.

 

Silence.

 

Mother sat still for a long time. Then she let out a low crazed groan, clutching her stomach.

 

She jumped up and paced back and forth like a wild animal in a cage.

 

Brother slowly pulled aside the quilt and got up. He went in hesitant steps toward Mother then stopped. Frozen.

 

They stood staring at each other -- Brother's gaze dull and empty, Mother's wild.

 

Mother resembled a demon with glittering eyes.

 

-Come.

 

Mother picked up Brother's coat and put it over his shoulders. Then she knelt and put straw sandals on his bare feet. Brother merely stood there like a scarecrow in a barley field.

 

-Come, dear, Mother said.

 

She took his hand and led him out of the hut. Oyomi was snoring softly under the quilt.

 

As they rushed down the path toward the village, Brother stumbling a little as he tried to keep up with Mother, Mother began singing, her voice a frenzied whisper:

 

-Wind in the pines, crows in the sky/A glow in the East/but the moon's still high./Where's my love tonight?/Has he crossed the high pass?/Is he on the rustling plain of Musashi?

 

They entered the village just as the moon scraped the horizon.

 

Mother, clutching Brother's hand, led him stumbling down the dusty street.

 

They stopped near the gate of their house. Mother pushed Brother down behind a cluster of reeds.

 

-Stay here. Wait.

 

She padded quickly to the gate alone. Brother watched her go, crouching in the shadow of the reeds. The reeds were silvery with moonlight. The wind shook them a little and made them rasp and click. Brother shivered.

 

He watched as Mother took down something that had been mounted on the gate post.  There were lights on in the house and he could hear drunken singing.

 

In the reeds the wind went hssshhhhshhhssshhhh.

 

As Mother turned and began to run with whatever it was in her arms, there was a shout.

 

-Halt!

 

Two samurai darted out of the gateway, only half dressed. They scrambled after Mother.

 

-Ah! she screamed, as they caught her and threw her into the dust.

 

One of the samurai kicked away what Mother had been holding. It rolled into the shadow of the reeds. Brother bent over it, staring.

 

The two samurai lifted up Mother, writhing and kicking and biting, and carried her back through the gate and into the lighted house. The door slammed.

 

After staring at it for a long time, his heart thumping in the silence, Brother picked up Father's head. He carried it up the street. At the end of the street was a tiny shrine in a small grove of pines.

 

Brother placed the bloody and eyeless crow-picked head at the base of the shrine. He rang the bell. It tinkled faintly in the rising wind. He clapped his hands, bowed. Then he turned and walked back down the street.

 

The moon was gone. It was dark and cold. Brother walked past the rustling reeds. He went almost to the gateway, crouched, and slipped under the fence.

 

He crawled through the wet grass and leaves on his belly toward the lighted house that resounded with drunken singing and ugly shouts.

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