Dragon Sword

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


40. the sanskrit letter A




Meantime Zu is seated under the scraggly willow tree. She's no longer looking with her ears. Relaxed. Everything seems to have gone out of her, like water from a broken jug. She's no more or less sentient than one of those crows perched on a nearby wall. The crow raises its break and cries: rawk.




Zu is silent. We understand that she's reliving a memory. In her body, deep in her body. Nothing will distract her from it. In a way this memory is clearer to her than THIS moment of life.




By the magical powers invested in movie making, we see a younger Blind Zu garbed as a Buddhist pilgrim, that is all in white, a white veil hanging from the brim of her straw hat, wearing a prayer amulet painted with Sanskrit characters, walking along a road in the mountains. These mountains are lush and green, the mountains of South China, and they are also jagged, so the winding path is thin and tenuous yet Zu moves with calm energy as is her wont.




We hear the roar of a churning waterfall, a torrent like Dragon Gate's. We see the arcing rainbow that Zu herself cannot see, though she hears the roar and her nostrils widen to breathe in the cold mist.




Along the road in single file four horse riders are approaching at a walk. They're the same riders we just saw pass Zu as she sat immobile under the willow tree, earlier in time, and what's more they're riding along in the exact same quasi-military order.




As she approaches them they pay her no attention whatsoever, she's just a Buddhist nun wandering in these mountains. But once she reaches the first rider -- she is only a few steps from his broad-chested horse, moving to the side to let him pass -- Zu rips the sword free of its scabbard and leaps, soaring, at the shaggily bearded and cunning-eyed General.




He draws his sword and parries the cut that would have sent his head rolling into the waterfall.




It's all as quick as quick can be.






Zu turns a somersault and lands on her feet and leaps again but the General is already kicking his horse into a gallop and she misses him, cutting off a few black strands of his oiled hair that's all.




And now the Warrior Witch flies at Zu. Doesn't leap. Really flies, straight as an arrow, her sword drawn. Screaming.


To quote the common stage direction in Shakespeare, "they fight."




Dust whirls up and blue sparks shoot from the swords each time they cross steel, Zu and this screaming Warrior Witch.


Zu loses her prayer amulet. The string cut, it flies into the waterfall.




Zu attacks the Warrior Witch like a fury, driving her to the edge of the cliff.




The Mongol has now drawn both his pistols. Taking the horse's reins in his teeth, he aims and fires at Zu. Zu lowers her head; the bullets ricochet, whining, from her hat.




And now we see that the straw hat has been lined with iron.




The Warrior Witch is standing on a ledge that crumbles. She falls backward, into the waterfall mist. But then we see her fly straight up. Screaming like an angry crow.




Zu runs again at General Khang. He raises his sword. He seems unafraid, no, even more than unafraid. He seems to relish this attack.




The Japanese samurai throws something small -- a brass star. It zips at Zu with a hornet buzz. Zu strikes it away without even looking. Intent on the General.




A fireball streaks between Zu and her target, the scowling General Khang, and Zu must roll to one side to avoid getting scorched. Grass goes up in a roar of flames.




It's the Warrior Witch. Perched on a nearby pine branch she is screaming an incantation, and now more fire streaks from her palm directly at Zu.




Zu somersaults backward -- over the cliff. Into the streaming waterfall. The mist swallows her up. The spot where she stood goes up like a bomb, in flames.




General Khang is breathing heavily, his face in a sweat. The Mongol finishes reloading his pistols and tries to calm his horse. The samurai holds his own horse absolutely still, gazing down at the waterfall with an expression of almost bemused wonder. The Warrior Witch flies -- straight as an arrow, screaming and black -- into the chasm. She flies out a few moments later, soaked and shivering, her hair a tangle, landing on her saddle. Disgustedly, she sheathes her sword.




With a murmured spell and a small gesture of her fingers, she puts out the two grass fires that are scaring the horses.




Then she holds up something she's held clenched in one of her hands. It's the prayer amulet. Tosses it to General Khang, who frowns at it, then tosses it to the trampled dirt of the path.




They ride their horses on, muddy hooves almost trampling the Buddhist amulet.




They're gone, into the mist-soaked valley.




We see it. The Sanskrit letter A.



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