"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)


17. The Well




Oyomi woke to clear dawn freshness. She heard crows cawing in the pines. She dressed quickly and went outside in her kimono, sliding the doors shut behind her.

The cold air thrilled her nostrils and made her scalp prickle. She walked in her wooden clogs (geta), sinking in the snow at each step, to the well and drew up a bucket of sloshing water, and dipping her cupped hands in it she splashed her face, wincing a little at the shock of cold.

-Hah, she said.

Nobody was listening. The sun had just risen and as the light struck her face she shut her eyes to feel the warmth.

It was a few days after the New Year. She had now been living in the old temple on Ogami (Wolf) mountain for five years, since the night Jiko brought her and left her with Lady Shiomata and the crippled boy Miju.

She was ten. Lady Shiomata had told her just last year what happened to her parents, recounting it almost word for word as Jiko the Blacksmith had told it to her, in a soft, clear but subdued and infinitely sad voice.

Oyomi, kneeling nearby, had listened with her head bowed. Miju had listened to the story also, his head bowed, biting his bottom lip. When it was over, Oyomi wiped the tears from her face and went out to gather more firewood

What else could be said? Before telling the story, Lady Shiomata had displayed to her, unwrapped carefully from its silk covering, the beautiful and cruel looking Mitsune sword -- the weapon that was now hers alone since it had belonged to her samurai father.

Oyomi, putting a sheet of paper between her lips, had drawn out the blade a few inches to study it. She saw her eyes reflected in the cold and dazzling steel.

Ever since she came to the mountain temple, Oyomi always did the same thing every morning at dawn. She got up in the darkness, went outside to wash standing at the well, then walked away from the temple a short distance to practice kenjutsu techniques with a wooden sword -- a smooth stave carved out of sturdy oak.

She kept the wooden sword in her kimono sash at all times, and by her pillow as she slept. Lady Shiomata had told her she must become used to always going about armed.

She knew the Mitsune blade was not for practice. In time, she would wear the real sword in her obi, and walk Japan killing vampires and the human filth that protected them or did their will. And in the end, she knew, she would draw her father's sword to cut down the dark Vampire Lord Toyogomi.


In a clearing near the old temple, Oyomi stripped off her kimono, and stepped out of the wooden clogs.

She walked forward holding the sword until she was close to the edge of a precipice, from which she would see the entire valley in the province of Aoi spread out below, snowy and dazzling with sunlight.

She raised the wooden sword. Attack. She dashed forward three paces and struck with a shout. YOH! HA!

Then she retreated, just as quickly, three gliding paces in the soft snow.

Each time Oyomi cut down with the wooden sword, she the same hoarse, gutteral shout exploded from her skinny naked body.

Soon, despite the intense cold she began sweating. She held the bokken in a light but firm two handed grip. She practiced every single attack and parry that Lady Shiomata had taught her, without any breaks in between.

Crows, sitting in in the big pines, watched Oyomi practice. Sometimes a crow fluffed its black wings, or jumped on a pine branch -- and a clump of snow would fall, shattering in the lower branches.

After about an hour, she was done with her morning practice. She bowed, sweating and breathing hard, to the risen sun and the blazing blue sky. Then she wrapped herself again in the coarse blue cotton kimono and tied the black sash.

Thrusting her wooden sword into the sash, she walked back to the well and once again drew up the bucket on its creaking rope to splash her searing hot face and arms and to drench her bowed head. But this time, steam rose from her head as she poured water over it.




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