"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)


19. The Five Samurai


It was about noon when they left the summit. It was slower going down than climbing up. Oyomi had to be careful of her footing. The cloth straps chafed her shoulders. Miju, she could sense just by the way the basket hung on its straps, had fallen asleep.

Getting thirsty again, she stopped at a small waterfall, set down the basket, and taking off her footwear stepped into the clear, icily cold pool to drink from the cascade. She opened her mouth and let the water splash into it, soaking her hair and dripping from her chin. She was engulfed in the roar of the waterfall.

When she finally stepped away from it and opened her eyes, shaking drops of cold water from her hair, Oyomi saw five men standing around the basket. Miju was still asleep. The men were all wearing scraps of samurai armor and three carried lances; they all wore the daisho, the long and short swords. They were bearded and rough-looking, their long hair matted and greasy, as if they'd been living off the country for a long time.

Oyomi noted that two of the men had filthy brocade bags hanging from their sashes, and judging by their shape the bags held the severed heads of enemies taken in battle.

She touched the smooth wooden sword stuck into her obi. All the samurai were looking at her coldly. She parted her lips and said, in an un-naturally loud and imperious tone:

-Who are you men? Speak up!

All five of the men began to laugh: unpleasant, jeering laughter.

At that, Miju woke up. He glanced around, a little wildly, and went pale.

-Come over here, the biggest samurai said to Oyomi, beckoning her with a lazy wave of his arm. His teeth were clenched, and he spoke through them. He had a fearsome, haggard look, and glaring eyes.

Oyomi stepped from the pool onto the snow. She put her feet into the deerskin and rabbit fur shoes. She was shivering -- and not just from the icy cold of the falls.

-Just look at this tasty little rice bun, another man said.

-This one's mine, so you can look but keep your filthy hands to yourself, the leader said, and there were no voices raised in objection.

Oyomi looked into his eyes. She stood to full height, with her shoulders squared.

-I'm a samurai, she said. So is this boy. We live on this mountain, and we are protected by a demon. If you know what's good for you, you'll step away and let us pass.

-Oho, a samurai?

All the men laughed long and jeeringly. The big man fixed Oyomi with his leering gaze and shouted:

-You say you're a samurai. But I say you're just a slave girl who's going to share my blanket tonight and every other night, cook and serve my meals, and speak only when she's spoken to. Which of us now do you think is right?

Oyomi drew her wooden sword -- a blur of motion. She let out a hoarse YAH! as she attacked. The big man parried the blow with his elbow, the sword edge clanking on his elbow-protector, and with his other hand seized Oyomi by the hair, yanking it so hard she lost her breath and tears rushed into her eyes and nose He lifted her howling from her feet and threw her face down in the snow, then put his boot on her neck as she writhed.

-Ha ha ha!

All the men laughed; long and uproariously.The big man said over his shoulder:

-You! Haigo, Tachi! Grab that basket with the cripple in it, carry it over to the cliff-edge back there and toss it off the mountain. It's unjust to make a crippled brat live when so many warriors with good legs are dying. Go!

Oyomi shrieked. The boot pressed harder, smothering her shriek in the snow, so that it turned into a long, growling moan. Snow filled her eyes and nostrils. She heard Miju curse the men as they picked up his basket, and the shocking noise of a slap.

They were going to throw Miju off the mountain.

They were really going to do it. She heard the steps going away. Miju whimpering.

No! No! She couldn't let them.

Oyomi relaxed, letting out her breath. She let her shoulders sink. She stopped struggling completely, went limp as if the consciousness had left her skinny body.

-Hey, Baikan, watch out, I think you stepped on the skinny little morsel too hard.

The snow crusted boot heel left her neck. Oyomi drew in a slow, deep breath.

-Get up, little rabbit, the big man's voice said. Try hitting me again. You can't lie in the snow playing dead for long.

Oyomi waited, sprawled and limp. Gathering her strength into the hara.

The boot kicked her ribs. She didn't grunt.

-Maybe a spear point will wake her up, Baikan said.

Oyomi waited. Baikan's crunching steps went away and stopped. Then they began to come back. She rolled to the side, grabbing at her sword -- rolled to her feet and stood facing Baikan with the bokken held high, blinking snow powder from her eyelashes. Shivering.

-Oh ho! Fierce!

Baikan sneered at her. He was holding the samurai battle lance with its cap off, the blade glittering.

-Let's see how fierce you are once I've pricked some holes in you, rabbit.

He lunged at her, stabbing with the spear point. Oyomi struck it away with a loud thock.

Again. He lunged, the point flashing. Oyomi ducked, and it went high over her shoulder. She dashed forward and struck Baikan in the face with the rounded point of her bokken. She heard the crack as his nose broke; blood splattered the snow, and Baikan staggered back, screaming like a crow.

The two other samurai drew their swords at once. Baikan whipped the lance at Oyomi, and she dodged it. She struck at his arm, hitting it inside the elbow, and he staggered again, dropped the lance and sat in the snow, holding the nerveless limp arm in his lap.

The first samurai to run at Oyomi took the point of her wooden sword in the pit of his stomach. He sank down, gasping for breath.

The second samurai tried to cut off her head in a single slash, but she ducked under it and hit his legs from behind. He fell heavily on his back with a grunt of shock.

Oyomi didn't stop to gloat. She dashed at Baikan and stuck him with all the force in her body on the crown of the skull.

YAI! she screamed.

But not even her resounding shout could cover the sickening CLUNK the blow made in the still, snowy woods.

Baikan's eyes rolled up and his body fell sideways, a stream of blood shooting from his smashed head.

Oyomi threw down her bokken and snatched up the lance. Whirling, she thrust the point into the throat of the samurai just getting to his unsteady feet. He grasped the lance in both fists, his eyes rolling wild. Oyomi pushed forward, step by step, turning the blade, as he struggled and choked and his blood turned from a trickle into a hissing stream.

Oyomi let go of the spear, and he fell backward glaring at the sky and its white clouds.

The other samurai was now struggling to his feet also. Oyomi hurled herself forward. She took hold of the hilt of his sword as he tried to raise it and smashed the sword guard into his face. As he staggered back, dazed, she ripped the short sword from its sheath in his sash and drove it into his belly under the leather and iron plate chest armor, cutting upward with a harsh cry.

Hot blood spurted over Oyomi's hands and wrists. She let go of the short sword as the samurai tried to bring his katana down on her head, stepping smoothly to the side. He fell on his face, his legs jerking. Oyomi kicked his head and he groaned and went still.

She dashed to the dead samurai with the spear stuck in his throat, jerked the blade out, and began running -- running with all her speed and strength, frantic and gasping, in the footprints of the two samurai who'd carried away Miju in his basket.


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