Dragon Sword

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


43. riding in the wastes



The boy is even now riding his mule out in the red-brown-gray desert, filing through the chasms and canyons, leading the horses in a slow walk. They stop under a dead tree and he glugs thirstily from his water gourd. The sun is intense, hopeless, dazzling, and his dark face sweats. He spits out water on the dirt, next to a scorpion probing the hot air, and looks at it. No blood. His tongue has healed. He kicks sand on the scorpion, which lowers its body, goes tensely still, then scuttles away under a rock. The grisly wound in his mouth still throbs but the boy hardly notices the pain today. That ceaseless sharp throbbing of the cut tongue has just become part of being what he is, an orphaned trapper's boy scalping away the afternoon out in the Gobi desert with his mule and horses. He squints at Dragon Gate. He can see it on the horizon, the spreading soot-black charcoal smoke haze from the marketplace. He lets each of the horses and the mule drink some tepid water from his cupped hands then slings the gourd over his neck by its string and swings up onto a gleaming big red horse and exclaims Huh! and kicks the horse while turning it and jerks on the lead rope he has fastened to the mule's cracked leather bridle and they begin to walk back to Dragon Gate out of the searing white afternoon wastes.




He's thinking about the blind swordswoman's warped and tattered secret Dragon Sword manual. He's decided he wants to learn martial arts. He has a taste now for killing bandits. He wouldn't mind slaughtering a few more.



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