Dragon Sword

A blind swordswoman in China seeks revenge on the cunning and deadly Manchu general who killed her parents.

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30. binding

 

 

 

Zu takes Edward back to the inn. Staggering a little on the pebbles, he clutches at her elbow.

 

 

 

It's a long way down the mountain. By the time they reach Dragon Gate the moon has sunk below the mountain's cratered peak, where sits the stone shrine to Kali the Devourer.

 

 

 

It is very dark in the streets and alleys of Dragon Gate and sometimes they must step over drugged or drunken sleeping bodies. Zu striking away the grasping hands of beggars with her stick.

 

 

 

They stagger into the room. She lowers him to a seated position against a wall.

 

 

 

Wakes the boy in darkness.

 

 

 

Please help, she says.

 

 

 

He jumps up, alert all at once.

 

 

 

He scrapes steel and flint for sparks, gets the stove going, boils water. Tears a shirt into strips.

 

 

 

Boils the strips in the little tin pot.

 

 

 

To pass the time Zu cleans her sword, oiling the blade. She tests it on an edge of her scarf. It cuts cleanly. It no longer reeks of blood.

 

 

 

Meantime Edward lies on a quilt, moaning a little, already feverish.

 

 

 

Once the strips of cloth are boiled, Zu and the boy clean Edward's wounds gently and thorougly.

 

 

 

Then Zu pours alcohol onto the cuts -- rough wine splashed from a clay jug. Edward wakes up, writhing, and starts to howl, but the boy stuffs a rag into his mouth and he bites it, eyes wide staring at the flickering lamplight and shadows crawling on the ceiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zu and the mute boy bandage Edward's wounds, Zu running her fingertips over the bandages to make sure they are firm and tight.

 

 

 

Zu takes the cloth out of Edward's mouth. Tosses it onto the fire. It flames up. He sits up shakily and glugs wine. Emptying the contents of the wine-jug without lowering it once from his lips.

 

 

 

The boy squats to stir the shimmering charcoal pieces. He blows on them. He empties the little blackened pot, fills it again, throws tea leaves into the simmering water.

 

 

 

Finally Edward sags backward and drops the jug with a clunk. He falls asleep and begins snoring. Zu covers him with the quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

The boy brings her a bowl of tea. She drinks it down. It's bitter. She says, Thank you, boy. You can go to back to sleep now.

 

 

 

He smiles, goes back to his corner and lies down. The coals fade to amber. Then, gradually, it gets dark. Zu merely feels the lessening warmth from the coals.

 

 

 

She is sitting crosslegged like a Zen monk. She isn't sleepy. She breathes in and out, in and in and in, out and out and out. She is in the waterfall, cold. Then she is walking in a desert, her hair like flames. 

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