The Ronin, Fukitso, returns in...

Fukitso and the Golden Egg



A 9-Chapter Sword & Sorcerer of the Mighty Ronin!

by Jeffrey Blair Latta
 


Previously: The Ronin, Fukitso, is employed as the Niban, in charge of the Ichiba's palace guards. Suspicious of Fukitso's sympathies with the peasants, the Ichiba sends him to arrest some conspirators who are organizing a revolt, but the Ichiba plans to arrest Fukitso as well. The Ichiba's power depends on a "kurocho", a sorcerer whom the Ichiba controls through the possession of a mysterious golden egg.

Now, outside the palace...

Chapter Two - A Sinister Gift

AS FUKITSO STALKED ANGRILY from the presence of Hayai-Kuchi, he thought at first merely to retire to his chambers to gain some slight sleep before the evening's raid.  But, then, the dry, gritty feel of his hide and the sour flavour on his lips suggested that his time might be more pleasurably spent in the palace baths.  It had been a most enjoyable night, but the after-effects left much to be desired.

Thus, he descended the wide, stone stairs of the palace and exited through the forward archway into the parched, suffocating dawn.  The bloated scarlet orb poised lazily upon the rim of the western wall like a ghastly stab-wound in the breast of the heavens.  The Ronin adjusted his wide-shouldered overmantle against the burning rays and set off across the courtyard at a firm but steady pace.

As he walked, his mind returned to his conference with the Ichiba, and a low snarl curled his lips.  It was evident now that Hayai-Kuchi suspected him of treason, though he had been too slow-witted to realize such at the time.  But why should the man doubt his loyalty?  Had he not done all in his power to preserve the tyrant's undeserving life?  Had he not gone out of his way to acquire information regarding the potential revolt?

To Fukitso, raised as a Samurai, the thought of betraying a ruler to whom he had pledged his loyalty was as abhorrent as was the thought of being wrongly suspected of such treason.  He was a new-comer to the suspicion and intrigue of the court.  In the East, a man's word was unshakable.  It never occurred to him that the acquisition of power itself could be reason enough for suspicion.  And, thus, his savage brain sought a baser motive.

No doubt it must be his foreign heritage.  Certainly Fukitso was no stranger to racial discrimination, and during his travels his dark hide had earned him a number of interesting titles.  More than once had the gleaming Ginago avenged his wounded honour, and the boards of many a foreign kurabu were stained with the blood of an overly-garrulous drunkard.

Yet fully half the country's Zaki were composed of Bunda warriors.  What matter that the Niban should be alien as well?  Even the so-called "pure-blooded" families of Kari-Zak, the Ichiba included, could not claim direct lineage to the golden-skinned Ioni.  Many years ago, interbreeding with the dark-skinned Andu on the north shore of the Samba delta had removed that distinction.  But, because the crossing had produced less visible changes, the ruling members of Kari-Zak found it quite easy to ignore this fact.

Yes, these politicians were a strange lot.

Fukitso stopped before a low structure of simply-carven stone.  The door was woven of pale reed bound by long, brown grasses and set on large brass hinges.  From beyond came the sound of joyful splashing, and wisps of white mist drifted enticingly through the cracks.  For now his worries could wait.  He pulled open the door and vanished into the baths.

***
The swollen sun blazed directly over-head when next the Ronin stepped from the misty doorway.  He strode hurriedly across the courtyard, thin steamy spectres rising from his damp sandals as they contacted the scorching stones.  But the terrible heat affected him very little.  It was miraculous how fresh a man could feel when bathed, massaged and oiled.  And the fact that his kimono still bore the dust of the previous season bothered him not at all.

From the baths, Fukitso made his way directly to his chambers.  He hoped to achieve at least some partial rest before the evening arrived.  Yet, even as he approached the cloth-covered doorway to his quarters, a vague sensation of unease crept slowly up his spine.

It was common for a Zaki to remain posted outside this doorway, ostensibly for his own protection, though he knew this was actually to keep track of his comings and goings.  Yet, strangely, the flickering light of the wall torches revealed the hallway to be deserted. Sweeping the curtains aside, he slipped stealthily into the dimly-lit chamber.

Immediately, his flared nostrils were greeted by the savoury scent of well-cooked meat and, glaring about the cushioned interior, his strange-eyed vision alighted upon the marble table next his couch where sat a sliver platter heaped with enough meats, mushrooms, dates and wines to satisfy the most demanding appetite.  Warily he crossed the room and stood watchfully over the food as if half-expecting it to hatch some monstrous abomination.

Then a sound whirled him about, and Ginago gleamed silver and white in the unsure light.  For a moment, he stood thus, crouching like some wild beast, all senses alert, the hilt of his katana firmly grasped by both hands.  Then he let out a gusty laugh and returned the Silver Jaw to its sheath.

"And who are you?" he rumbled.

The young girl seemed little perturbed by his action, and merely smiled at his question.

"I am a gift, master," she responded in a soft, whispering voice.

She was cloaked in a white, brilliantly-woven kimono, likely of samadhi pelt.  Only her face was visible, and this she held down-cast in an attitude of humble subservience.  But, by the dim light of the hanging lamps, he could still distinguish her dark, fine-lined features.

Her jaw was straight and firm, her lips full and moist, her nose aquiline with flaring nostrils, and her cheekbones high and well-formed.  Fukitso guessed that she was pure Andu, and sight of those glimmering eyes peering seductively from beneath dark, sultry lashes sent a burning fire coursing through his veins.

"A gift from who?" he said.  "For what reason?"

"From Hayai-Kuchi," she answered simply.  "Of his reasons, I know not, master.  I am only here to please."

She risked much for one of her calling to refer to the Ichiba by his actual name.  Truly she must "please" well indeed.

"Are you 'panch'?" he asked, coming straight to the point.

"Yoi desu.  My blood is clean, master," she answered confidently.  "I was initiated in the Rites of Siri.  I can bring you much pleasure."

Fukitso had heard of the female "Rites of Siri", similar to the male "Veeaga, or "Dance of Dignity", but, while the latter ensured survival of the fittest, to Fukitso's mind, the former delt with far more crucial matters.

"Very well," he said, after another thoughtful pause.  "Let us see the value of this gift."

Without hesitation, the girl drew open her kimono and let it slip gently from her shoulders.  In spite of himself, Fukitso drew a sharp breath at the sight.

The dancing light bathed her supple, brown limbs in a soft, lurid glow, and glanced off her jewel-encrusted loin-cloth with sharp, scintillant flame.  She had the carriage of a goddess, sleek and slender of limb, wide curving hips, and a firmly-molded torso which made his senses fairly reel with passion.  Delicate veils enticingly teased her thighs and her ebony locks fell like ink-black waters over her shoulders just touching the taut slope of her waist.

Though his weird, blind-seeming eyes continued to stare just over her left shoulder, his white knuckles gave no doubt but that Fukitso's attention roamed much farther.

"What matter his motives!" thundered the giant, tossing some thick and downy cushions onto the couch.  "Hayai-Kuchi has excellent taste.  Come!  I accept his gift!"

All fatigue and hunger was forgotten in the overwhelming rush of his primordial desire.  Like a drunken man, he fumbled at the sheaths of his swords, removing first Kyodai from his belt, then Ginago from his back.  He placed both gently upon the marble table.

"Rest here awhile, Ginago," he laughed.  "This is one sport of which the Silver Jaw need not partake!  Come, my beautiful child of Siri!  Your master awaits!"

Like a shadow, she drifted to his side.

She was well-bred and experienced.  But the soft life of the city had never prepared her for the full, unleashed fury of a Samurai's passion.  With a cry of surprise, she was borne down to the couch.  Fierce hands bruised her limbs and fiery lips caressed her straining throat.  To Fukitso, the heady scent of her fragrant perfume, the writhing of her supple flesh beneath his grasp, the pitiful moans of indecisive pleasure were like blazing rays of sunlight upon dry wheat, igniting his barbaric voracity still further and causing his blood to pound like molten stone through his chest.

Small wonder that he failed to notice one delicate, brown hand slip free of his furious embrace and slowly steal across his broad back.  Nor did he notice as a finger began to trace a tiny circle upon the skin at the base of his neck -- a circle which glistened with strange, sinister ointment.

Suddenly, a deep silence settled over the chamber.

All was still.

Then, with a callous heave, the young Andu rose from beneath the senseless giant, tumbling his form onto the carpeted floor where it lay inert and unmoving.  For a moment, she stood, hands upon her hips, appraising her handiwork.  Then she bent and drew a small pouch from beneath the cushions.  Setting this upon the table, she seated herself on the couch, and set to work...
 
 


Previous episode: Thus, He is Dangerous
Next episode: Treason at Midnight


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Fukitso and the Golden Egg is copyright Jeffrey Blair Latta.  It is reprinted here with the author's permission.