Wisdom over Warfare
This was the third time Raizo found himself on his back.
Noriko stood above him calmly, her face neutral, her breathing even, and her face annoyingly free of sweat. Raizo, on the other hand, felt his whole body perspiring; his wife-beater was soaked through, and he couldn’t help but wonder how the Murasaki ninja had taken him out so easily…thrice.
“You have strength and speed, Raizo-san,” she coolly shook her head, as though reading his thoughts. “But your mentality is flawed. When you go for the death blow so eagerly, your opponent only resists that much more.” Gracefully, she circled him, looking down at his sweaty form. “The key is to neutralize your target first, and quickly so, without killing them. Death comes later…painless, and without knowing.”
Raizo’s mind suddenly flashed back to one of the first attempts on his life in Berlin.
Hi…excuse me. If it’s not too much trouble…could you help me with this?
The Murasaki ninja at the Laundromat had tried to “talk” to him. She’d smiled sweetly, beguilingly at him. He’d fleetingly wondered why she even bothered. Ninja did not “chat” with targets; they simply eliminated them.
“I don’t understand,” Raizo finally admitted, and blinked at how breathless he already was. A round of feminine snickers rippled through the room; he didn’t bother looking at the kneeling ninja to his right; Shiori no doubt had taken a front row seat for his humiliation.
“Are we killers?” Noriko mused. “Yes. But as Takako-sama teaches us, ‘a killer can be as humane as a monk tending to a wounded traveler.’” She chuckled softly, going to the weapons rack and casually choosing a polished black naginata. “The Ozunu frighten their targets with letters of black sand. They emerge from the shadows and let their targets see them coming—this too cruel, Raizo-san. It is better to let a target go peacefully…in their sleep, even.”
“And do you think killing them kindly will save you from hell?” Raizo chuckled, slowly rising to his feet. “You think technique can change what we really are?” He laughed harsh, bitter laughter, his head rolling back and his hair dripping sweat. “Is that what the Murasaki tells itself? It makes sense. Every clan has its lies; the Ozunu called itself ‘family’; Lord Ozunu himself often called our training ‘gifts’. As though this life could be a gift to any child.”
Noriko clearly didn’t like what he was saying, even as she struggled to hang onto her signature calm. And Raizo could feel the Murasaki stiffening, as though he’d just uttered some horrific form of blasphemy.
Raizo smirked sadistically, pushing their buttons a little further.
“So,” he snickered, “what lies did your proud Murasaki mother tell you…Noriko-san?”
Mika Coretti, despite herself, was steadily falling in love with the Murasaki.
The library had computers only, a series of flat-screened black Dells which archived five centuries worth of diaries and letters. The walls were painted with murals, like her room was. They were also faded, but they were still beautiful. They were showed women, beautiful women dressed in gorgeous, brilliantly colorful robes and carrying blood-tipped daggers and fans.
“Who are these women?” Mika asked, breathless with awe and she circled the room in a daze, the well-worn tatami mats soft beneath her feet.
“These were Murasaki who poised as oiran or geisha to eliminate their targets,” Kiyomi explained off-handedly, using a Braille keyboard to rapidly access the Murasaki records. A feminine, albeit computerized, voice responded to her input.
“In the old days,” the blind teenager explained, “Murasaki studied with geisha and oiran to learn their abilities of appearing charming, irresistible, and most importantly, harmless. We did not always dress in black and haunt the night, you know.”
“I see,” Mika murmured, already in another world. “How many such Murasaki were there?”
“Three hundred and forty-seven,” Kiyomi recited crispy. “Murasaki Rin was the deadliest. She logged over a thousand kills by the end of the 18th Century. Such was her killing that the clan poets wrote, ‘For the grim sound of a samurai’s rolling head doth Mistress Rin live.’ Of course…before she was a Murasaki, Rin was Ozunu.”
Mika’s head snapped towards Kiyomi. “She was Ozunu?”
Kiyomi nodded. “She was in love with a fellow ninja named Katsuro. That, as you know, was strictly forbidden by the Ozunu. Rin was the superior warrior, so they decided she’d get to live. When they were only fourteen years old, the Ozunu clan lord sent Katsuro to kill a samurai, long before the boy was even ready. Needless to say, the samurai sent young Katsuro’s body floating down the Shinano-gawa.”
Mika frown slightly. “So…Rin switched sides? Is it really that easy?”
Kiyomi shook her head, confirming Mika’s suspicions. “It’s never that simple. The Ozunu weren’t happy with her inevitable outrage and sought to cut out her heart as punishment, but as usual, Murasaki wisdom prevailed.”
“Your history is most fascinating,” Mika sighed blissfully, closing her eyes and leaning against a mural.
“You’re logged in to workstation seven,” Kiyomi told her. “Your password is ichiban. Read all the ‘fascinating’ history you like.”
Lunchtime arrived around noon. Sweaty and numb, the Murasaki warriors filed in for their afternoon meal. Raizo came last, moving stiffly and trying not to flinch. He was the sweatiest and bloodiest one there. Only when he dropped to his knees by her at the table did she notice the horrific oozing lashes across his back.
“What the fuck?”
The words flew from Mika’s mouth before she could even think. The split second after they emerged, she half-expected to be carted off to the whipping post herself…best case scenario, of course.
Instead, Noriko spoke up with her usual, dignified cool. “Raizo questioned the purpose and humanity of this clan,” she answered simply. “Guest or not, such blasphemy will not be tolerated. Above all, Murasaki prize family. For centuries we have tried to build strong, long-lasting bloodlines.” Her eyes narrowed slightly on Raizo. “We will not have our legacy debased by an Ozunu sadist.”
“Be that as it may, you’re still killers,” Mika snapped, even as her mind advised her to do otherwise. Woman…what are you doing? You better shut the fuck up while your mouth is still in tact, bitch! “Call it whatever you want…at the end of the day, you’re still murderers.”
Shiori chortled, “Oh, please. One person’s murderer is another person’s problem-solver, Mika.”
“And against many odds we have maintained an exceptional legacy,” Noriko reiterated.
“Oh, I’ve read all about your legacy,” Mika snorted, filled with a bravado she could best describe as insane. “I spent the whole morning reading about your legacy. I pored over volumes filled with…with samurai heads rolling across tatami mats—” and here Shiori and several other Murasaki burst into snickers, even as Mika furiously went on, “—blood spattering the walls of teahouses, and ninja posing as geisha or oiran, while hiding sheathed daggers in their vaginas just so they could pass friggin’ weapons checks!”
Raizo’s head snapped her away as he blinked in disbelief. “What?!??” he exclaimed. He turned bewildered—and slightly accusing—eyes onto Noriko. “The Murasaki said that was just a myth!”
“We have no shame in our work,” Noriko replied coldly, ignoring Raizo. “A true warrior knows no shame.”
Mika was suddenly on her feet, shouting at Noriko without thinking. “A true warrior fights out in the open!” she yelled. “Against an equally matched opponent!” She felt Raizo twitch next to her and ignored it—for now. She had read way too many disturbing things this morning and she had a few things to say—to someone…anyone— about this madness called “ninjitsu.”
“This taking of life—for money, of all things—is not honorable,” Mika spat, and with far more venom she ever knew she had. Her eyes seem to fire dark bolts of pure rage. She didn’t miss how the eyes of the Murasaki widened as she stood and went off like a woman possessed. “The power over life and death belongs only to the gods. Ninja are not gods. No…you’re just a bunch of dark alley blades for hire! Your clans are no different from big city gangs filled common street thugs! Come on, Raizo!” She grabbed Raizo’s arm and jerked him forcefully to his feet, eliciting a tiny yelp from him. She dragged him from the dining room, out the door, through the main hall where all the red fountains stood (whose water she now understood was reddened with actual human blood…in keeping with an “old tradition”), and upstairs to her room.
Meanwhile, Raizo was turned on as hell.
The lashes of the whip burned and oozed, but he’d suffered far worse before. He was “spoiled” now. A life without daily abuse was still unfamiliar to him, even after all these years. And after seeing Mika stand up to over a dozen seasoned ninjas, he barely felt the lashes at all.
She knelt at her futon, carelessly ripping up one of the dresses Shiori had brought her, no doubt to bind his wounds (which were already slowly healing anyway…but she was about to put her hands him and there was no way Raizo was discouraging that). Willingly he lay down on the futon on his stomach, folding his arms beneath his head and closing his eyes.
“They had no right,” Mika grumbled angrily. She lightly placed strips of cloth against his bleeding flesh; her gentle touch warmed him. He felt himself grow hard against the mat. “What about the no-harm clause they touted when we first got here?”
“Lady Kameyo made it clear that if I step out of line I’m to be ‘corrected’, remember?” Raizo snorted softly, his eyes still closed. “Shiori was clearly overjoyed to apply the whip; it was like a great honor for her. In many ways, she reminds me of this ‘older brother’ I had within the clan. Takeshi was his name; he was my greatest rival. Because Ozunu had the rule of failure being sewn into the flesh—hence my scars,” Raizo absently gestured, eyes still dreamily closed, “—Takeshi loathed losing a match…least of all to me. When I bested him while blindfolded one time,” Raizo snickered, “it was as though I’d cut off his balls and handed them Lord Ozunu.”
Raizo laughed freely for a moment, as she rarely heard him do. It was rich, deep, rumbling yet musical laughter; he had a singer’s voice. It went well with his dancer’s body….
I’m touching him, Mika panicked suddenly. He’s shirtless and sweaty and we’re alone and I’m touching him. What if…stuff starts happening again? What if Noriko walks in and tells me it’s my turn at the whipping post?!??
“Takeshi was such an ass-kissing apple-polisher,” Raizo mumbled with bitterness so sudden, Mika wondered if she’d missed something he’d said. “No wonder he took such pleasure in executing Kiriko in front of me.”
He stiffened as soon as the feminine name came out of his mouth; even Mika paused, hands in mid-air as she fleetingly wondered, Why am I still bandaging him? He’s practically healed already.
And while we’re on the subject…who the hell was Kiriko?
Raizo rolled over suddenly, smiling sweetly and murmuring, “Mika, Mika…why’d you stop touch—”
“Kiriko?” she demanded, her voice dangerously soft and light, like a sweet summer breeze, heralding a violent thunderstorm. The part of her brain which connected to her mouth was slowly shutting off again, much like it had down in the dining hall.
Raizo opened his mouth but he was dealing with a jealous woman now, and no gentle explanations were going to save him.
Mika practically lunged forward, planting her open mouth on his, kissing him angrily.
I left my job for him.
Raizo was dazed at first, but then caught himself and starting kissing her back. He let her head, let her take whatever it was she wanted or needed—anything to keep from having “the conversation.”
He didn’t have to rip the dress from her sleek, dark body; he wanted to but at the rate they were going she’d run out of clothes. Besides, she was sliding out of the dress on her own, untying the straps around her neck and letting it fall, baring her splendid round breasts.
I left my life for him.
Raizo watched her step from the fallen white cloth, before she came to plant a knee on either side of him. With a flash of purposeful, wicked defiance in her eyes, Mika leaned in towards his navel, dragging her tongue slowly and cruelly up his chest, sopping blood and sweat.
I almost died for him.
His mouth hung open as she worked her mouth over his bruises and scars, causing blood to pool even faster in his groin, until his breath was coming fast and he was unsure how much longer he could just lie there while a naked woman licked him.
“Shhh!” she silenced him harshly, slipping her fingers into his waistband and firmly pushing down. She kissed her way down—wetly, teasingly—to where he strained towards her, throbbing and pulsating.
She pounced without hesitating, taking him into her mouth and hands, working him relentless and deliberately, her mind focused on a single notion as she stroked, tugged, and orally caressed until Raizo was lying back, head rolling to side to side as he gave in.
I don’t know who all came before me, but as far I’m concerned now, he belongs to me.
“Oh, Mika…Mika…Mika, Mika, Mika….”
He made the mistake of glimpsing down at her, to see her head vigorously moving as her mouth pleasured him in an almost brutal manner. The afternoon light caught the glint of copper in her cornrows, that ridiculously efficient hairstyle of hers which he knew more Murasaki were going to adopt once they mastered the technique. Mika’s hands slickly worked him, her mouth diligently worked him…circling, laving, sucking and stroking until his eyes simply rolled into the back of his head.
When he finally exploded, Raizo lost sight and hearing, faded into the warm black, forgetting who and where he was.
Mika wordlessly watched him collapse into weariness, recalling words she’d only read hours earlier.
I am who am named Midori by my Murasaki kin do write these words devout…I follow the will of Takako without question, and will choose crossing minds over crossing blades in the name of war. I will build walls rather than brave battlefields, for in so doing, I shall ever protect what is mine.
And that which is mine shall be touched by none else.
Mika pulled his pants off fully, while he was still too dazed and euphoric to protest. She wasn’t finished with him.
Not by a long shot.