Dragon Sword

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


28. dragon gate falls


It's night. Late. The mute boy is asleep. Zu is suddenly not drunk any more. She blows out the oil lamp. Gets up in the darkness. Leaves the room, passing briefly across blue light from the small barred window.




Leaving the boy asleep in their wretched little room, Zu walks up the mountain to the waterfall, it takes about an hour, and there she strips and walks gleaming naked into the thundering cataract holding her bamboo cane sword tightly in both hands as the rushing water tries to pry it from her numbing fingers and she stands under the cold roaring that slicks the hair to her head and pounds her shoulders and shatters the breath from her body and there she prays for the satisfaction of her vengeance.




After it seems an eternal struggle leading to the deepest calm even in the roar of the Dragon Gate Falls Zu staggers out from the cold mist and shivering puts on her clothes: the trousers and shirt, the cotton jacket, the straw sandals. She picks up her sword cane from the pebbled river bank when she becomes aware of another human presence in the bamboo grove and stands waiting, relaxed and ready to fight, and after a few moments Edward Savage steps from the darkness still garbed like a Bedouin all in black with a strip of black cloth covering his face.




Zu smells him and knows. It's the Blue Eyed Devil. It's the man from the wine shop. He is not here to fight she senses at once but to speak to her, about what she can only imagine. Revenge, maybe, since it is the one subject that seems to obsess every visitor to Dragon Gate.




He wishes to know who she means to slaughter here in this stinking town at the edge of the Western deserts and the end of the civilized world.




I know you.




You know me by my smell.




Also by your steps.



Ah. That's why you're so good with that sword.





She laughs. Edward laughs with her.






They walk silently together through the bamboo grove to the mountain path. Zu touching the jointed trunks of the bamboo with her cane and moving smoothly and without effort over the undulating ground strewn with dead bamboo leaves.





The moon is now risen and in its light Edward turns and beholds Zu this blind drunk woman assassin dripping and still shivering a little from the waterfall. He looks at this raving blind beauty with something like love.




 Then he asks if she is in Dragon Gate for Kut Habba. The vile and obese head of the Red Turban Clan.




She doesn't answer. She shivers. Tossing her wet hair back.




 I must know.








Because I must. Because I want him. Because I intend to kill the man to pay a debt.




She laughs.




Kill Kut Habba? That's interesting. How?




With my hands.



Not with that strange thin sword you carry?




No. With my hands. I'll squeeze the breath from his throat with my own hands. I want to feel him die and spit into his eyes as they go dark.




What did he do to you to provoke such hatred?




He sold me as a slave in Khartoum. Had me bound hand and foot and branded at the slave market and then pocketed the gold laughing like a jackal and rode away on his camel into the bloody sunset.




And now Edward Savage holds out his forearm and takes Zu’s forearm and guides Zu's fingertips to the raised scar. She touches it and drops her hand.




 I am not here in Dragon Gate for Kut Habba. Go. Get your revenge. Enjoy it.



We can help each other.









Maybe if you tell me who you're going to kill I can help you and you can help me also.




I kill alone.




Is that your final answer?








You're with a little mute boy. What will you do with him when you go to kill your man?




Nothing. He'll be on his own. We're just together for now. I am not his mother.




The boy isn't going to let you abandon him that easy. He'll try to help. He might get hurt.




No. I think not.




 He shrugs. They begin walking back toward Dragon Gate.




You're shivering, he says suddenly. Take my cloak.




No, she says. Keep it. I like the cold. It keeps me awake.




He sighs. They both begin to walk a little faster.

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