We did defeat the undead menace, though to my shame I did little in the battle, save cast a few ineffective spells. Black Match defended our own vessel bravely, whilst Tuatara and Avery leapt heroically on to the ghost ship and brought down Whalebone Pilk and his foul necromantic bell. Avery was sorely hurt by the power of death, but he recovered.
We sailed on to the Ushigawa Isle, where we hoped to decipher the strange writings tattooed on my back. I loved the place; the strange mix of delicate beauty and ritual of the Minkai culture was intoxicating, as was the rice wine!
I visited a lovely geisha called Tigerlily; we talked about poetry and calligraphy. We performed a dance of my relationship with Maksana. We drank tea in a strange ritual. We did make love, but it was weird; what came before was just as special. She was so sweet and pretty.
The next day we visited a scribe, but he refused to translate the tattoo. He actually seemed scared, telling us that it was in the Royal script and that only the Shogun could translate it.
After Black Match bought a lemur, we visited a dwarves smith to find out about the mantis blade. I’m ashamed to say that the old Alicia resurfaced, and I teased BM with a made up story about his father.
Anyway, by chance the Shogun visited the smithy, and we were able to speak with the formidable Minkai Lord. And everything changed……….
He was with his daughter, Princess Amaterasu. I can’t find the words to describe her beauty when I saw her. Her hair was purest white, her eyes were sapphires, her kimono of saffron silk, her face entrancing with a modest fan in her delicate hand. She was so perfect. Our eyes met. I can’t describe the feelings that went through me. Nothing mattered anymore from the instant I saw her.
Almost in a trance, I was aware that the shogun, who seemed far nicer than his reputation, examined the tattoo, and offered to come to our inn the following day having consulted ancient scrolls. Looking back, maybe we should have suspected that a man of his station was willing to come to us?
That evening, we received a message to visit an alley in urgency. Half suspecting an ambush, we were met by a black clad ninja. Clearly female, with a figure to die for in close fitting silks, and when I saw her eyes, I knew who she was. Beauty like Amaterasu’s could never be disguised. She was the sun and the stars.
The princess explained that her father was an evil man; he had immediately understood the writing on the treasure map, and planned to kill us at the appointed hour on the morrow. Amaterasu promised to take us to her grandfather, the former shogun, now imprisoned in a small house, set within a wild garden guarded by a terrible beast.
We reached the old man without encountering the beast. Amaterasu had already slain the two human guards. The former shogun was a great man; he embodied honour. He translated the message, but only if we would assist him to commit seppuku, and that Avery would then wield his katana with honour, unlike his treacherous and greedy son.
I stood next to the trembling Amaterasu as her father prepared. I whispered to the old man that I would protect his granddaughter with my life and my soul. She slipped her arm around me, and we held each other as the deed was done. The current shogun would face that a greater man than he had died with honour.
We had to meet our ship at the bay at the edge of the city, so we fled quickly. Amaterasu’s small hand held mine as we fled. It felt so special.
But then the beast attacked. Bursting through the ground. Huge, horrific, like a shark, with clawed feet and savage teeth and thick armour. It leapt into the air, and crashed down on Black Match. I heard the sound of breaking bone; Black Match cried in pain, and weakly lashed out with his sword, but the monster had him pinned. Avery and Tuatara rushed in, swinging weapons into the beast. Amaterasu threw two shuriken, I blasted the power of lighting into it, but could only scream as its jaws closed over the helpless ranger and bit hard. So much blood.
The beast expired with further blows and magic, but we were too late. Black Match was dead. I’d been horrible to him, and I regretted it now though too late. I needed to be better.
Time meant we had to flee to our ship, joined by a ronin warrior who was exiled from the shogun’s service, and we left, sailing into the night. We knew where to go, but also knew that the wicked shogun also knew the way, and that we would meet him again, especially now that he would be enraged at his own daughter.
His daughter. His daughter. As the lantern lights of Ushigawa twinkled in the receding distance, I stood on the stern castle, hand in hand with Amaterasu, looking back to her homeland, possibly for the last time. She was so beautiful.So gentle. So courageous. So the person I wanted to be with forever.
She looked into my eyes. Sapphires and emeralds met, and she whispered a question in a single word, a question that asked a million words;
I answered, “always.” We kissed gently. Alicia and Amaterasu. Always.