Dragon Sword

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


39. torn paper


Edward gets up. Unsteady. Holding his injury, his face tight.




Pain. Laughter. Then fresh pain. He "grins and bears it."




I am describing all this as if it were a movie.






You are at the cinema. You are a cineaste. You are sitting in a darkened theater, staring at a large white screen, and then the lights go down, you hear the whirr and clatter of a projector, it lights up the smoke drifting over your head, it beams through the thin floating haze and magically, magically, an image, a moving image, appears on the screen. It appears. You see it, a mountain in the sunlight, a green vastness of rice paddies, a sampan on a muddy river, the Ganges, an elephant dragging logs, whatever. Maybe you see Blind Swordswoman Zu walking through the desert. Maybe you see Edward, the Blue Eyed Devil whose motto, etched in the form of a tattoo on his bicep, is: "Life is brief; we must play 'ere we die."





He's standing up. In the grimy little room in Dragon Gate. The torn paper in the windows rattles with cold wind. It's autumn. You can smell the toilets, the roasting meat, you can smell the dust of the Western desert. You hear a woman wailing as if in orgasm. It's dark but your eyes can see, there's a little light. The light is from the sun. The sun is a fire in the sky, a fire that mysteriously never goes out, it just rises and sets, it travels through the sky's abyss ceaselessly.




We see Edward crouch at Zu's little bundle. She's left it there, lying beside her rolled mattress. Taken the sword cane but left that little bundle, a few objects wrapped in blue cloth.




Deftly, his fingers open it. He's hardly aware of the motion. He's staring into the bundle. He takes out a tattered book. It's the Dragon Sword Cult manual. He studies the Chinese characters. Very old, this book, bound in dirty yellow silk. He turns the pages, flips them with his thumb, and we see a scattering of line drawings showing how the martial arts are to be performed.




He slips the book back into Zu's bundle and goes over to the dead fire, pours himself some thin bitter lukewarm tea, drinks it, dashes the grounds into the cold ash.




Wipes his mouth. His eyes gleam in the darkness. You can almost smell the ash, taste the dirty air. He studies his bandage-wrapped arm. There's some spotty blood-soaking on the bandages. He returns to his pallet, picks up the Toledo rapier, thrusts it into his waistband.




Goes. We hear his soft footsteps. Then nothing. Shouted voices, clamor from the street, wind rattling the torn paper in the window.




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