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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26. The Three Iron Lords of Death

Oyomi stood in the falling snow.

Lone Wolf stood at her side, lean and hard.

The Cub was silent in his baby cart, frowning, his lips pressed together.

Footfalls. In the hazy snow. Then three slouching figures appeared out of the white fog.

All three wore straw hats, straw cloaks, leggings, deerskin shoes that squeaked in the snow, and the two swords of samurai warriors.

Oyomi stepped forward. The men stopped short. She shouted, harsh-voiced

-I, Oyomi, will now kill you and take your heads to offer at the grave of my husband, Ryuchi, in Kyoto. Prepare to die.

The men laughed, glancing at each other, and one stepped forward, dropping his cloak, and held up an iron war club studded with nails.

-I am one of the legendary Three Iron Lords of Death. I will crush your skull, brat. Tell your friend with the baby cart to move aside.

Oyomi looked at Lone Wolf. He nodded and took hold of the cart's handles and rolled it ten steps away in the deep and drifting snow. Then he turned to watch. Daigoro, the Cub, was watching keen-eyed, his brow furrowed.

Oyomi drew her Mitsune sword. She howled,

-I am ready for you.

The man with the club rushed at her, six fast steps in the falling snow.

Oyomi did not step forward or back, but turned her body slightly, holding the sword in the jodan posture.

As the club whistled at her head, she ducked under it and cut through the man's waist deeply with her sword blade.

Wisssh!

A gush of blood splattered the snow. The man staggered, dropped his terrifying iron club, and fell on his face.

His scream echoed a little. Then all was mysteriously quiet, but for the caw caws of some distant crows.

Oyomi wiped the blood from her Mitsune sword on a sheet of paper that turned red as a peony, and tossed it over her shoulder.

-Next! she cried.

The two men let out growls of indignation. One drew from his waistband an iron-ribbed war fan, and spread it wide. The other showed Oyomi the iron claws on his hands. They shouted and ran at the girl together.

Oyomi sprang over their heads. She rolled in the snow behind them. As they turned, she bounded to her feet and cut off the head of the man with the war fan. His head flew to one side and bounced from the trunk of a pine tree, shaking snow down from its thin branches.

The last Iron Lord of Death screamed and slashed at Oyomi with his iron claws, tearing away a sleeve of her jacket.

A splash of blood fell into the snow.

Shouting in rage and pain, Oyomi struck aside a slash from the other claw, the steel of her sword clanging on iron.

Then, in a lightning like reverse cut, she struck off the man's left arm at the elbow.

He slashed at Oyomi's face, even as the forearm with claw attached slithered across the snow. Drawing her short sword, she parried the blow. As he staggered backward, grunting, Oyomi thrust the blade of her short sword into his throat and jerked it out again.

Blood showering in all directions, he ran forward -- Oyomi jumping to one side to elude him -- and fell face down in a snowdrift.

Oyomi, panting, her hair full of snow, her face streaked with blood -- she had lost her straw peasant's hat in the fight -- rose from a crouch and, slowly, sheathed the long and short swords. Then she picked up a handful of snow and pressed it to her bare, wounded shoulder. It wasn't bleeding too badly, she realized; the cuts weren't deep.

The Lone Wolf said:

-Sublime.

He pushed the cart forward. Daigoro was standing in it, now, clapping his little hands.

-If you will permit me, said the Lone Wolf. And as Oyomi stood still, he went from man to man, cutting off their topknots.

-I must take these to prove the men are dead. But the fee I was paid to assassinate these villains -- five hundred ryo in gold, paid to me in advance -- is yours, girl. It was worth every ryo to see you fight.

Oyomi shook her head. She was still gasping a little. Snow fell from her hair.

-Iye. I don't want it.

The Lone Wolf stopped short.

-Are you sure?

-You and Daigoro use it. It's your money. If I hadn't cut these men down, you would have done your work and taken the fee as usual. I interfered. For that I am sorry. Thank you for giving me the chance to avenge my husband.

Oyomi bowed.

-You are welcome, demon girl, Lone Wolf said, bowing slightly also. We'll be off, now. There are always more men to assassinate.

Oyomi stood in silence watching them go, the cart wheels creaking.

Then she bent to the work of cutting off heads.

 

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