Friday, April 30, 2010

"Seven Jade Doors" -- Act V

"Seven Jade Doors" is copyright 2010 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE SCURRYING ANIMALS: Wherein Zom Loa Receives Training at the Temple of the Frosted Moon; Zom Loa is Trained with His New Weapons; Sarut's Anger Leads to a Betrayal; Ketsueki Sato Lays a Trap Within the Town of Liu-wal


Part 1

Zom Loa stayed within the Temple of the Frosted Moon a few days. He watched as the students meditated, practiced their martial skills and as White Lotus acted as orator, speaking of Xiao-tep's tales. He admired the uniforms of the students, their snow white cloth made in the village below with orange and gold lapels and an orange belt. Only Butik wore a bright gold belt and Zom Loa recognized it as an signifier of some higher order above theother students, yet below Master White Lotus.

One day, whilst speaking of the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration, White Lotus said, "As Fei Li Mi and Xiao-tep fought, the battle below took notice."

Zom Loa had to interrupt. He said, "That is not entirely true. Many took notice, truthfully, but not all. Some were so steeped in the acts of battle they knew only the enemy before them."

"I suppose the one that caused the falling of the stars should know the tale of the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration best," White Lotus scolded Zom Loa for the interruption. "Come," he said, "tell us what you saw."

Afraid to deny the Master his wishes in his own temple, Zom Loa told of what he saw, what he witnessed, what he did to aid in the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration. And, as he was sitting in a temple dedicated to Xiao-tep, he made certain to speak of the fish-god often.

"I've a question, if I may ask it," said Butik.

White Lotus nodded to his student.

"Why is it that Xiao-tep then fought. I would assume he fought because it was the proper course of action to take against Yaska Selith. He has also fought and previously defeated the demon Ketsueki Sato. Now Ketsueki reigns with new terrors in the world. Why does Xiao-tep refuse to fight at this hour?"

"As he felt it was the proper course of action previously, he feels it is not the proper course of action now," answered White Lotus. "We must respect his wisdom in this."

"But he's defeated the demon before," argued Butik. "Surely he could once more. And once he has rid the world of Ketsueki again, then he could follow the path of peace."

"We must trust in his wisdom," said White Lotus again.

"But so many die and suffer as we speak!" Butik became angered. "He could end this suffering!"

White Lotus said, "We must trust in his wisdom."

Butik bit his lipless mouth in fury, bringing himself to silence.

"If I may," said Zom Loa, "I might be able to speculate on the matter."

"Speak your mind," allowed White Lotus.

"Xiao-tep is definitely wise. I doubt I could find many that would argue this point. But I've had the opportunity to meet with him, though minimally. He struck me as wise in a way that wisdom comes through compassion. He fought at the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration to end suffering, this is true. And as a collector of tales, I know he fought Ketsueki Sato once before, but to free himself from the Cottonwood Chamber. But know you Xiao-tep fought at least once before this? He fought and did slay the troll Been Eter.

"If we are to examine his purpose, if we examine the calls he answered to the specific fights, we learn much about Xiao-tep. He fought and killed Been Eter as a matter of survival, this is true. Been Eter came upon him to eat him as Xiao-tep's father had wanted to eat him upon his birth. Therefore, in a sense, Xiao-tep was fighting his father. He was fighting with furious passion and anger and, dare I speculate, with incredible hatred and contempt. And when he struck down the troll, Xiao-tep laid himself in the snow to weep for the loss. This fight was steeped with emotion in every respect.

"Then came his fight with Ketsueki Sato within the Cottonwood Chamber. It could be argued Xiao-tep fought merely to free himself; he was indeed fighting for his freedom and his life. He fought for no other certain purpose. We could argue he fought for the freedom of the imps and his sister Wu Chan Chu and friend Comet Fox, but he did not yet know his sister nor was he yet friends with Comet Fox. They merely happened to be fighting each for their freedom against a common enemy. It could be said, then, Xiao-tep's purpose then was selfish."

At this the students stirred and accused Zom Loa of contempt for their chosen god.

White Lotus raised a hand to quiet his students and when he received silence, he said to Zom Loa, "Carry on with your thoughts, but be careful how you express them."

Zom Loa swallowed hard, nervous, but he continued to speak. "If we then examine the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration, Xiao-tep was called to action because a great evil had entered the world in the form of Yaska Selith the Demon-dog. This, it could be said, was the first time he fought selflessly. It may be true he wished to know more of Fei Li Mi; it may be true he wanted to help his sister Wu Chan Chu whom he had grown to love and help his friend Comet Fox whom he had grown to respect, but I think the strongest argument lies with his selflessness. He foguth at the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration because he felt it the right course of action despite the ramifications, good or bad, that would come unto himself.

"Now," said Zom Loa in a low tone, more thoughtful than before, "Now an old enemy rears its head once more. Ketsueki Sato has been brought forth once more. And I am ashamed to confess to you now, but I feel I must confess this sin against the world, that it was I who raised Ketsueki from his grave this time. As I was once foolish and stole the jewel of Zingtai, so now I was foolish and placed the Ruby Bug that brought life to Yaska Selith within the maw of a wooden idol and gave life to the demon once more. Woe be the shame I feel. Woe be the heart that sinks, beating with difficutly, within my breast. I am sorry, Master White Lotus. And as I sit before you I apologize to the world for this."

White Lotus watched Zom Loa come nearly to tears and felt the sorrow of the Immortal. Hoping to distract Zom Loa from himself he said, "Have you reason for Xiao-tep's choices now?"

Zom Loa wiped tears from his eyes and nodded. "That I have. Xiao-tep is a most beautiful god and wish that I could have grown as he has. Now he refuses the fight, I suspect, because, it must be remembered, he is the Ankh-fish of 100,000 Sorrows. I can only suspect he refuses the fight because he has recognized that he cannot persuade sorrow from the world if he cannot first chase it from his own heart. How might a blacksmith make a shoe for a horse if first he cannot know to fire and bend steel? He does not give up the fight against indignity and injustice, nor does he abandon the people that have come to love him. Rather, he fights a battle now none of us can see. He seeks the opposite of sorrow. He seeks the root of love, of healing, of compassion. For if he can find this root within himself, he can return to the world with this root and teach us each to plant it in our own garden. Though he may appear selfish refusing the fight, what he does now is his most selfless act. To fight to save the lives of his loved ones would be the truly selfish course of action for him to take at this moment."

White Lotus and his students considered this. Master White Lotus commanded his student to meditate upon this and then, late in the night, called Zom Loa to his side into privacy in the commissary.

Together White Lotus and Zom Loa sat in the dark, only a small fire made for their warmth.

Said White Lotus, "Zom Loa, you are our guest here. You are welcome here for as long as you need, but I must ask, where will you go from here?"

"Demons haunt me, Master White Lotus," said Zom Loa. "I fear my next destination. If I lie in the wrong bed, I fear they may grip me a final time and drag me to the depths of the Many Hells."

White Lotus said, "You have shown great wisdom and understanding of gods, demons and important tales. Would you accept a permanent place here as a student at the Temple of the Frost Moon?"

"Me? A worshipper of Xiao-tep?" asked Zom Loa, shocked and honored at once.

White Lotus nodded.

"I must confess I've felt safer here than any previous place since my resurrecting Ketsueki," said Zom Loa.

"If you accept," warned White Lotus, "you must give up your garments. You must rid yourself of the grisly skull you wear upon your head. You must take on the uniform of a student. I will have one made to fit your form. And you must give up all matters outside this temple. You cannot fight, much as Xiao-tep now refuses to fight. When one becomes a student at the Temple of the Frosted Moon, it is a dedication for life. You can never leave. And should you leave, you may never return. It is an oath each of us has made in turn, including myself."

Zom Loa considered this. He was uncertain he could make such a dedication for he had never been presented with such an opportunity. He asked, "May I have time to consider this matter?"

"You may," said White Lotus.

That night, while Zom Loa lie on his small mat in the bedchamber with the others students, everyone sleeping but himself, he thought over White Lotus' offer to join the temple. He slept little, but when he arose the next morning, he went straight away to White Lotus and asked to see him.

Zom Loa bowed deeply before White Lotus as he had seen the other students conduct themselves. he said, "I should like to accept your offer, Master White Lotus. I should like to find peace within the Temple of the Frosted Moon. I should like to become your student."

White Lotus smiled and agreed to Zom Loa's acceptance. A message was sent to have a new uniform made for Zom Loa and when it came later that day, Zom Loa packed away all his other articles and donned the new uniform.

And so Zom Loa joined the Temple of the Frosted Moon.


Part 2

Zom Loa was placed as an aide to Ada in the task of cleaning the commissary. He went to this work at first with great enthusiasm, using his tentacles to benefit himself and speed up the process. The duty of caring for the statues of Xiao-tep within the courtyard was then added to his list of duties. He was not allowed into the hall for White Lotus' orations. He soon tired of the work, his body growing stiff and his mind numb with the repetition. Yet he did not complain. When night came to the mountains he would lie awake, rubbing away the pain from his knuckles. Soon, though, he wondered why White Lotus would disallow his presence during the orations. He grew cantankerous, even argumentative with his fellow students. He rarely spoke to White Lotus as doubts of his own worth plagued him.

At last, whilst having lunch with the other students and White Lotus, the Master of the temple asked of Zom Loa for more curry powder. Zom Loa, irritated by own his thoughts, said wickedly, "Does the Master find himself without feet? Does he no longer have hands? Can he, this sage-child, not fend for himself?"

The commissary grew silent with the accusation. Said White Lotus, "It was a simple request, Zom Loa. If you do not wish to show me respect enough to merely bring forth a pinch of curry powder for my noodles, how then should I expect you to respect me in a class?"

"How can I respect a child that uses me to keep his temple clean?"

Ada leaned in towards Zom Loa and whispered in his ear, "Zom Loa, your words are offensive. Do not think to chastise the Master."

"Rise, Zom Loa," White Lotus commanded.

Zom Loa did this.

White Lotus rose and gripped his hands in the shape of a mantis'.

"What is this?" asked Zom Loa. "You wish to fight me?"

"No," answered White Lotus. "You wish to fight me."

White Lotus leaped across the length of a long table and came crashing down on Zom Loa's head with a quick, hard jab to his forehead.

Zom Loa backed away in horror, grimaced with contempt, then raised his own fists against his master.

The other students scattered to the far walls of the commissary. Butik called for Zom Loa to cease his aggression. Ada called upon White Lotus to have mercy.

Zom Loa moved swiftly, bringing his dark tentacles up under White Lotus to grab at him.

Once more White Lotus leaped at Zom Loa, dodging the grasping tentacles and smashing his palm into Zom Loa's nose, breaking it and causing blood to spurt from his nostrils. His fellow students cried in horror at this.

Shock absorbed Zom Loa and he backed away.

White Lotus leaped a third time, yet now Zom Loa caught his master mid-leap and squeezed at him. White Lotus struck downward with pointed fingers to jab intense pain into Zom Loa's tentacles, causing him to cry out and release White Lotus from his grasp.

Zom Loa stumbled backward into a wall. White Lotus ran at him a final time, making his way between the tangle of black tentacles and jumping at the last possible moment, raising his knee to strike Zom Loa under his chin and knock the Blessed One's head into the wall. Zom Loa's field of vision fell into darkness then erupted with thousands of exploding stars. He fell to the floor of the commissary incapable of fighting any further. He gasped for air, blinking to see. Bllod ran over his new white uniform.

White Lotus knelt near him, bending low to bring his mouth to Zom Loa's ear. He spoke so all could hear. Said Master White Lotus, "I do not condone fighting any more than Xiao-tep, but your experiences are far beyond my own, Zom Loa. With your history of demonic dealings, of battles, of tales both told and lived, how could you respect a child such as I? I knew the moment I thought to invite you to join this temple I would have to command respect from you in ways I otherwise would not allow myself with other students. You needed a demonstration of my skills. I apologize to you, your fellow students and to all that shall ever gather within this temple for spilling blood within these walls. But now that you have been allowed this demonstration of my skills, you may join us for the orations and take in my wisdom."

With this White Lotus took his leave from the commissary. He went into the meditation room and prayed to Xiao-tep to forgive him his transgression, to forgive him his violent act. There he remained until late into the night.

Zom Loa was helped by his fellow students. Though Zom Loa had been the receiver of the brutal beating, all felt the might of White Lotus' skill and they each respected him moreso for his abilities.

Zom Loa cleaned himself up and set his nose. That night, as his fellow students slept, he found himself unable to sleep. He rose from his sleeping mat and went into the meditation room where he found White Lotus meditating before a single candle and three sticks of burning incense. Zom Loa, seeing his master, came to kneel at his side before the candle and incense. He spoke, "Master, I am truly sorry for my selfish ways. But the wrath you delivered unto me was needed. I am humbled in your presence and, in truth, in the presence of the all things. Long did I desire to be immortal. I achieved this. Yet I continue to search for things outside of myself. Perhaps I should be more like Xiao-tep. Perhaps I should look inward for my answers instead of choosing to take offense to real or imagined transgressions. I apologize, Master. Please forgive me."

White Lotus breathed deep. He said, "The path of the teacher is to learn and then teach, then learn again. I suspect we've both learned something this day."

Zom Loa said, "I have, Master. I've learned I only wish to know my place in the course of matters and I should not place value upon sole desire."

White Lotus nodded. "Good. Tomorrow you will begin your lessons."

So began Zom Loa's training with White Lotus. His fighting skills increased. His knowledge and understanding of all matter opened up. White Lotus even began to create a curriculum specific to Zom Loa's form, teaching him to strike out with all his tentacles at once, to entangle as a the vines of a climbing rose might. Zom Loa meditated. He cleaned the commissary and took great care of the statues, often speaking with them as though they were Xiao-tep himself. He them began to carry stones and wood with which to make repairs to the temple and snow in buckets to be melted for water. White Lotus began training his students to ignore pain by having them spar and, on occasion, throwing fiery coals at them to either catch, knock away or be pelted with. Indeed, the Master of the Temple of the Frosted Moon even had his students spar atop a bed of hot coals.

Soon all the students, Zom Loa included, found their bodies changing with the efforts of their lessons. Their backs grew strong, their arms wide with muscles. And as each student progressed, White Lotus chose for them a weapon with which to train. He chose a weapon specific to each student's abilities. For Butik, for instance, White Lotus chose for him a five-clawed bagh-nakh. Combined with Butik's strength and slowness to counterattack, White Lotus felt the five-clawed weapon would do the most damage according to Butik's personal style.

For Zom Loa, White Lotus chose the katara and with it he learned to stab, to slash and to strike down in a killing blow. So in love was Zom Loa with his katara that he took on a job in the village below late at night. He slept little as he worked all day at the temple then worked cleaning a public stable for traveling merchants at night. He saved his money, made a few donations to the temple and eventually was able to commission the village smith to make for him two more of the weapons so that he had three in all. He did not fight with the kataras in his hands. Rather, he left his hands free and wielded the three blades with his tentacles.

White Lotus looked upon Zom Loa and, though he worried over his student's love of the weapons as a possible sign for a lust for fighting, he was proud.


Part 3

Ketsueki Sato, Elkhorn and the Eternal Empress' soldiers came to rest outside the city Liu-wal, a grand port city specializing in fishing and shipping. It overlooked the southern oceans and bristled with life at all hours except in the earliest morning when ghosts and uglies are said to roam the land. The soldiers set up camp and prepared an evening meal of rice and the meat of a pig they had previously stolen from a farmer. They threw raw pork to Neboshazzar and offered the same to Ketsueki Sato. As they ate, Elkhorn broke the silence of the night by asking, "Ketsueki Sato - your fury is unmatched. Why is it then you do not return to the Many Hells but instead remain here in the realm of mortals?"

Ketsueki scowled at this as he ate the pork, his portion raw and unprepared in any way. He said, "You know the reason by now more than any."

"I do, but I cannot understand it. You aide the Eternal Empress in her quest, which may be beneficial to your own desires. But as a demon you need not do this. Why, then, do you carry on with us at your side?"

Ketsueki Sato put aside his raw pork and said, "I do not appreciate your questions, Elkhorn. You are a foul, useless man like so many others. But I will entertain your question as a matter of my own grace. And," he added, seeing a wonderment and awe in Elkhorn's eyes for him, "your knowing may be beneficial to me.

"I have returned to this world with the intention of destroying the fish-god Xiao-tep and, if I feel the need, his friends. But that end will come soon enough, perhaps too soon, and then I will no longer have purpose in this or any other world. Think you that I might be allowed to return to the Many Hells? Not after my disgraceful defeat within the Cottonwood Chamber, not after I foretold of my desires to usurp the Yama Kings. I would not be allowed even to stand at the entrance to the Many Hells. Therefore, once my task is complete and Xiao-tep is dead, I will have no place to go. But if I make a friend in the Eternal Empress, then one day perhaps I can rule here where the mortals are weak and the pains they feel are deep. I would never die of hunger of torment whilst living with and ruling over mortals."

"Then you position yourself to take power here," Elkhorn wondered.

"I do," answered the demon Ketsueki. "And when I do, I shall need a general for my armies. I must admit, I've thought of you for that position. Your ways are both wicked and effective. You would do well at my side."

Elkhorn felt greed and love for the demon grow within his heart. He felt within himself a shift of loyalty to the now distant Eternal Empress Sulia Laree and the far nearer and more gruesome demon Ketsueki Sato. "I would follow you," said Elkhorn to Ketsueki Sato.

Ketsueki nodded his pleasure at this. He picked up his raw meat once more and suckled at the remaining droplets of blood there. He said, "Until the hour of our reign comes nigh, Elkhorn, we shall have some fun. We shall hunt gods and the Empress' daughter and leave a wake of destruction and pain wherever our forms flow over the land."

After their meal, a caravan of merchants came upon their campsite. The merchants had heard of the demon Ketsueki and his band of villains, but dared press on to Liu-wal despite the rumors. When they came upon the campsite of wickedness, they were set upon by the demon and his followers. The merchants were slain and the blood offered to Ketsueki Sato who drank deeply. Their goods were plundered and their carts smashed for firewood. But this was not to be the final visit upon the evil encampment. At the next day's dawning same a second visitor.

With incredible anger, with a hatred so foul it left bitterness within his mouth, Sarut the Ladybug flew aimlessly away from his former companions. He wished he was larger so that he could have, in the past, fought Faryad the Exploding Sword when he killed Sarut's family. He wished he was far larger so that he may do grave acts of destruction upon the world. Tiring, he stopped a moment upon a branch of a wild cherry tree and there allowed his anger to force him to tear apart a leaf.

Thought Sarut, "If only I could harm Exploding Sword and his friends. If only I could kill his lovely Yele Prin Prin, I could cause him the anguish I have felt as a result of his terrible fists." Sarut thought on this, thought of ways he could cause damage unto the world. He said to himself, "Perhaps I could make a friend in one willing to cause such destruction."

And then a vile idea did come into his mind. He thought on his former companions' destinations and desires. He turned south, took off from the tree and flew as swiftly as he could.

He came to Ketsueki's encampment as they were readying to leave for the city of Liu-wal. He spied the wooden demon from afar at first, afraid of his horrible form. But his hatred overpowered his fear and soon he lighted upon one of Ketsueki's long tentacle0like vines. The demon swatted him away, missing Sarut entirely. Sarut called out, "Demon! I have come for you! I have brought to you news of a shared enemy."

This small voice intrigued Ketsueki Sato. He raised a vine before his face and said, "Come to me, little one."

Sarut once more landed upon the demon's vine and looked upon him. He shook with fear and hatred. He said, "Know you that at this hour the warriors Stavros and Exploding Sword and Yele Prin Prin seek you out? They come for the city of Liu-wal where they plan to lay in waiting before they spring a trap upon you, your destruction on their minds."

Ketsueki squinted at the small bug. He felt a kinship with the tiny creature and said, "Who are you? What are you called?"

"I am Sarut and once I was friend to Faryad the Exploding Sword. The warriors come for you as we speak!"

Elkhorn said, "What he speaks may be lies."

"I speak no lies!" argued Sarut. "As I have said, once I was friends with Exploding Sword, but our friendship was folly for he was the murderer of my family. I come to you to tell you of their plans so that I may bear witness to their destruction!

"And what of the trickster, Comet Fox? Would you call him a friend, also? If so, perhaps you are here as part of his treachery and guile!" Elkorn accused as he drew nearer.

"I care nothing for the fox-god!" yelled Sarut as loudly as he could. "Besides, he flies north to the Peony Teahouse to find some other friend. He has taken with him the Eternal Empress' daughter."

"The gods be damned!" cursed the demon upon hearing this.

"I must admit," said Elkhorn, "he knows too much to not be in some way connected with our current ventures."

Ketsueki said to Elkhorn, "If what he speaks be true, then it is not a matter to us. We want the girl and the fox-god only. What care should we have for these others?"

Ketsueki said, "True, these others are not our desired fight, but it is a fight just the same. We must revel in their destruction for it shall cause Comet Fox and Xiao-tep all the more agony. We will fight these audacious warriors."

"Then we must first lay our own trap within Liu-wal before these others arrive," suggested Elkhorn. "We've little time. yet, how shall we do this thing?"

Ketsueki considered the wreckage of the merchant caravan and said, "You will dispose of your trappings as soldiers and men of the Eternal Empress. You will don the clothing of the dead merchants and enter the city in their stead, making no more noise than one innocently passing through the town."

Elkhorn found wisdom in this and said, "You are quite wise, my new Lord and Master Ketsueki Sato."

To hear such esteem from Elkhorn pleased Ketsueki and he smiled as he had not smiled in half his lifetime.

"But," added Elkhorn, "what of you, Master? How would you gain entrance into the town? You will be recognized immediately as a demon."

Ketsueki once more thought. He then said, "I will come into the town swathed in the robes and rags of the ill. I shall pose as a leper so that none shall wish to touch or draw near me. If asked why I am in Liu-wal, I shall say I seek an alchemist. And should no alchemist be present within Liu-wal, I shall say I am passing through in search of one."

Both Sarut and Elkhorn smiled wickedly at this plan.

Ketsueki Sato looked upon Sarut and smiled. He said, "Sarut the Ladybug, what a beautifully small creature you are. Yet your true beauty comes from within. I can feel the ill-will within you. I hunger for it yet feel a kinship with it. I could not allow such anger to remain in such beauty. That is the place of the Eternal Empress. If you speak lies to me, it matters not, for I've a remedy for such a thing." At this Ketsueki twisted a bit of another of his vines and bit it. From the vine came forth the tiniest droplet of blood. He presented this to Sarut and said, "Drink, little one. Drink of a demon's blood and discover the power within. Learn why we demons rule all the Many Hells and increase your love for pain. Become anew. be born anew. And with this drop of blood, you shall be made horrible and mighty."

Sarut did this thing. He approached and drank of the blood until the entire droplet was gone. He soon cringed in pain and fell from Ketsueki's vine as he grew. He grew and grew to incredible size until his back arched over the head of Elkhorn. His face distorted and broke free with two wicked mandible claws capable of severing limbs from mortals, Gods and Blessed Ones alike. He was made immortal himself, a creature of demonic origins and powers. And he found that when he belched, he spewed forth a stream of flames like liquid fire. He felt the demon's blood flowing within himself and knew at once he was bound to Ketsueki's demands, but cared not. He growled in his new voice, "Thank you, Master Ketsueki! I shall be able to destroy all who oppose me!"

"He could not possibly join us in Liu-wal," said Elkhorn. "And neither could Neboshazzar."

"No, they cannot," agreed Ketsueki. "But they both feel the pull of my command. Sarut and Neboshazzar, you two shall wait here in hiding amidst the woods and behind the hills, far from this merchant's path. When the hour comes for our battle with Comet Fox's friends, I shall urge you to my side and you shall feel my command within your hearts. Come then and destroy all who stand against us."

Sarut and Neboshazzar both nodded and happily made their way into the nearby woods to hide.

Before they set out, Ketsueki said this to the men, "When the fight begins, kill all who draw near. Show no mercy. Let not a single limb remain attached to our enemies. Do not pull your weapons from out their breast until their breathing has stopped completely. Kill everyone and everything and continue to kill until I command you to stop." This was agreed upon by all.

The soldiers dressed as merchants, stripping themselves of any large weapons and keeping on them only easily hidden daggers. Ketsueki wrapped himself in rags and two robes until he looked like a proper beggar and leper.

The soldiers were allowed first to enter Liu-wal. Some time later came Elkhorn on his own. Lastly came Ketsueki Sato and, upon seeing him, the people in the town avoided him, refusing eye contact and did not see his true form or identity.

The soldiers dressed as merchants went carousing within the nearest tavern, but remained near the door to keep a watchful eye upon the town.

Elkhorn entered the market to browse the goods there and sell a few things he had stolen from the merchants they had killed.

Ketsueki Sato sat in the center of town, near the road, a bowl he had taken from the merchants set before him in askance of alms.

The trap was set. Only the scurrying animals need now come by.


The sixth and final act is nigh! Come back next week for Act VI of "Seven Jade Doors"!

No comments: