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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20. The Wolf

 

As they staggered in the snowdrifts, Haigo held one of the cloth straps and Tachi the other. Miju's basket was suspended, bobbing, between them. Every time Miju whimpered, either Haigo or Tachi gave him a hard slap with their free hands. Haigo chuckled when the boy ducked his head and covered it with his arms.

-Don't worry, little crippled whelp. You're going to meet Amida soon.

Tachi let out a growling laugh.

They'd gone about a mile along the path; ahead was the clifftop, and blue space with crows flying in it.

-Ha ha, almost home, Tachi said.

Miju sniffled.

Then a dark figure stepped out from behind a pine tree. It was if this figure just appeared in space. He was a samurai in a black kimono and a straw coat and bearskin boots. He was wearing the two swords, and a conical straw hat, and his face had a lean, hungry wolfish look to it.

Haigo and Tachi stopped, the basket swinging.

-Hah. Who are you? Haigo asked, his breath steaming.

-Death, said the samurai.

Haigo and Tachi dropped the basket into the soft snow and put their right hands on their sword hilts.

-We're two renegade samurai from Kiso, and we've killed more men -- and women, and children for that matter -- than you'll ever see. Get out of our way, or choke on your own blood, mountain samurai peasant.

-I'm Kasagiri, the samurai said, his wolfish lips drawing back from his teeth. Son of Yama, the King of Hell.

-Ha ha! shouted Haigo. We'll see!

Haigo and Tachi drew their swords. By the time Haigo's had cleared the scabbard, he was cleaved in half down the middle, and in a storm of blood the two halves fell apart.

Tachi got his sword out, but threw it away when he saw Haigo cut in half and started running through the snowdrifts, screaming inchoate cries for help and wild curses.

In his panic, he was running for the cliff edge to jump over, rather than face the wolfish samurai's katana.

He almost made it. Or rather, the upper half of his body did make it -- plunging with a frenzied scream headfirst off of Ogami mountain to crash into the rocks at the base of the cliff.

The lower half of Tachi's body slid in the bloodstained snow and came to a stop just before the edge. A bundle of entrails slipped out and fell into empty space. Crows dived out of the sky to chase it down to the bottom.

Miju took his arms away and raised his head.

-Kasagiri.

-Little brother.

Kasagiri whipped blood from his sword, sheathed it, and knelt by the basket. He put his strong hand on Miju's head. The hand was as cold as ice and snow, but Miju didn't mind. He laughed and said:

-I knew you'd save me. Where's big sister?

Kasagiri raised his eyes.

-There, he said.

Oyomi had just dashed out of the trees. She skidded to a stop and stood, panting, sweat dripping from her hair, holding the battle lance with its bloody tip.

-Ah ha ha ha, she said, her skinny chest heaving.

Then:

-Kasagiri.

The wolfish samurai nodded.

Then:

-Miju, you're safe.

Miju clapped:

-Hai!

Oyomi collapsed onto her knees in the deep snow, still trying to get her breath.

-The samurai. Dead?

-They're extremely dead, Kasagiri's growing voice said. You killed the other three?

Oyomi nodded.

-Warrior-girl, you've done splendidly, said Kasagiri. Let's go back and collect their heads.

 

That night in the temple, after washing the heads clean of blood and oiling their hair and putting them on display on the Buddhist altar, Lady Shiomata, Miju and Oyomi dressed in their finest clothing and conducted a prayer ceremony for the spirits of the dead men, reciting the Hannya Shingyo.

This was at the insistence of Kasagiri. To show respect, he said.

As the moon sank, Kasagiri collected the heads and wrapped them in a bundle, which he tied to his sash. He said:

-And now, I return to my cave on the mountain. But first. Oyomi, give me your wooden sword.

She did so, kneeling before the wolfish samurai to place it into his hand.

-Ha. Still bloodstained, I see. There is no way to wash these stains from oak. Lady Shiomata, please bring us the exquisite Mitsune blade you once so kindly showed me -- the sword that belonged to Oyomi's noble father.

Lady Shiomata did so, taking the sword wrapped in its white silk from the wooden case she'd been keeping it in all these years. She knelt beside Oyomi in the flickering lamplight to hand it over.

-No, give it not to me but to this great and deadly warrior you see at my feet right beside you. After today, Oyomi is no longer a little girl. This is a bushi. Oyomi-sama, take the sword now, put it in your sash, and wear it always. Keep it by your pillow at night. And when you draw this blade, be sure to never return it to its scabbard until it has drunk its fill of human blood.

Lady Shiomata gave her the sword. Oyomi took it and bowed deeply, holding it on her knees. Lady Shiomata also bowed. Even Kasagiri sank to his knees to give a deep, sincere bow, touching his forehead to the polished floor.

Miju also, without leaving the cushion where he sat with his withered legs crossed, made a deep respectful bow.

-Ai. Time for me to go and play my flute, Kasagiri growled. Then he got up and was gone almost before Oyomi could see him go.

Silence.

-Thank you with all my heart, Oyomi-sama, said Lady Shiomata. We are lucky to have such a warrior in our family.

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