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Part Three
Usho and Mari walked together down the road. Before them was Jotokura, a small village nestled in Shintami valley, beneath the Kotoro school. The way was steep and, despite the brightness of the sun, still muddy. Usho grunted as he hopped along, his severely damaged balls interjecting themselves into his gaint most painfully. Still, Usho tried put a brave face on his defeat. Although he was leaning upon the girl’s shoulder, he straightened his posture to make it look like they were merely walking in a half-embrace.

Mari did not enjoy the pose. Although she tried to move in a way that provided the greatest utility to the injured Usho, the necessity of maintaing the swordsman’s carriage confused her. She kept stepping too slow or too slightly, which tripped Usho up.  Men are such children, thought Mari. He looks more foolish now than he did when he was fighting!

The road was crowded that morning. Asho, the adopted stable-boy, was traveling alongside old Hidemi Asko, the woman who swept up for Tokomora Maoko. They were joined by a cartful of carpenters who'd been at the school to take measurements for a possible expansion of the student barracks. The Maji brothers, Gen and Tsunda met them on the road just West of the Okasi Bridge. They had bushels of fresh rice strapped to their backs, and were sweating.

As they walked along, Asho spoke of Trump. "And then he brought his sword down like this! Hai!" he said, swiping the air with a phantom blade. "And Takoda went 'aiaiaiai!"

Asho capared ridiculously, feigning injury. "It was the best duel I've ever seen," the boy concluded, running back and forth across the robe.  "I've seen every duel since the new year so you can count on my opinion! Trump is the best! He’s real stiff; stiff as steel. Just a hard-ass daddy, through and through." 

Maji Gen laughed jovially. "It must have been some bout," he said. The farmer was barely twenty, and little more than a boy himself. It had been only one and one half summers since he had capered in the road, telling tales of swordsmen and wandering priests. He spoke with expertise.

"It was truly unusual," added Hidemi Asko, her expression noticably brighter than usual. "This Trump will be a famous swordsman someday, I’m sure of it."

Gen scratched his head. "Perhaps I'll go to the school tomorrow, and see his bout with Genji," he said 

Tsunda, his older brother, spat in the road. "Trump's best fight is over and done with, even if Asho is right. Tokomora Genji is a mama's boy. Tomorrow will be an execution, not a fight.”

Usho and Mari, traveling several paces behind the group, floated through the overhearing of their shame like spirits; insubstantial. Usho's face was red as a beet and his hair, stuck to his scalp by still-congealing blood, struck Mari as particularly pitiful.  Mari looked upon her lover with concern. Then, quick as a summer storm, it became a different feeling.

"Asho!" she barked. "How dare you laugh at a man's embarassment like that!" The call surprised even herself.

Asho froze. "Eh?" he said as he noticed Mari and Usho, seemingly for the first time. The brothers, Gen and Tsunda looked back curiously while the carpenters, talking quietly among themselves, grew silent.

The old woman, Hidemi Asko, played peacemaker. "Now Mari," she said, in her liliting, finely cultivated voice. "You know how boys can be, especially when it comes to swordfighting. Little Asho meant no offense. Besides, he's an orphan, with no one to teach him manners. If we are to be humane, he must be held to lower standards.”

"That's right!" Asho agreed, vehemently. The priveledge of invoking a public offense was, to the poor boy, a fresh pleasure.

Mari continued, with tears streaming down her face: "Usho has been injured enough by that beast, Donald Trump!  He doesn't need rude little boys making light of his humilation! Asho's circumstances are no excuse for this lapse in manners."

Unexpectedly, Mari whirled around and found wet earth rushing up at her. She shrieked as she landed in the mud. Takoda Usho, her lover, was standing livid on the road above her.

"You bitch!" bellowed a voice she barely recognized. Mari's tunic was dripping and dark, her hair slimy.

Usho could barely stand. The crowd stopped walking to watch the unnerving scene.

Usho was screaming: "You think I need some stupid girl to fight my battles for me!? You think some kid's words hurt worse than the sword that thrashed me this morning?"

"I -- " Mari began. "I --"

“You cow! You stupid slut! Who cares what you have to say?"

Mari wilted, shamefaced.

"I'll get over this defeat and be a better swordsman for it. You'll see! But you'll stay right where you are, you peasant trash! No man of status would marry a girl such as you." He spit on the road to make his point, then wobbled off, indignatnly, deeper into the Heikei woods, When he dissappeared beneath the spreading trees, the Maji brothers came forward to assist Mari. The girl felt hollowed out, like a spent bonfire.

"He shouldn't have done that to you," said Tsunda tersely.

"Swordsman can get pig-headed when they lose," Gen added. "Try not to take him seriously." His hand brushed Mari's cheek with tender familiarity. He, too, had been her lover,  although it had been nearly a year since their last liason.

"T-thank you," Mari said. Gen's touch felt, to her, like the rake of a witch’s fingernails.

Hidemi Asko approached the younger woman, smiling. She offered Mari a small cloth. Mari, still dazed, wiped the mud from her face.

"You will come to my house before we reach the village," the old woman demanded. Her voice was kind, but certian. "Don't let this experience make you melancholy. Passion is a fine quality in a man, but some types undoubtedly take it too far."

"Yes," Mari agreed. "Thank you.”

"It is no trouble," said Asko, sliding her arm around Mari's waist. "Come, we'll walk together."

So they did, all the way to the Hidemi Manor.  When Mari and Asko left the caravan young Asho let out a sqeal of delight and resumed his previous game; liberated by the sudden homosexuality of his company.

Mari could still hear the boy, as she walked arm-in-arm with the old woman through her meticulously tended garden. He was playing Trump.

aaa

Mari took her time in the bath. The Hidemi family was originally overseen by Hidemi Akira, a samurai renowned for his skill with the lance, and it was for his martial accomplishments that Emperor Zog provided him with the resources necessary to create and sustain a famous household. Their bath house was cavernous and dark. It was built over the babbling outlet of an underground hot spring, and had space for five men and five women to bathe together in separate pools. It had been a long time, Mari knew, since the old widow Hidemi Asko had entertainet more than one guest, for Akira’s days of glory were long gone. The old woman lived alone and paid only for part-time servants. As Mari sat, steaming, the regular storm blew in. Rain fell, pit-pat, pit-pat, against the roof of the bathhouse. The wind, surging at the spaces in the boarded wall, made her feel like the whole manor had sunk, somehow, beneath the ocean.  

I'm drowning, Mari thought, sliding beneath the warm water. It was the closest word that came to mind. The feeling, in fact, was totally alien. The girl she had been that morning seemed impossible; a grotesque figure, an actor in a mask, a hopeless spirit, wandering hills where it had died. Beneath her right breast, an ugly bruise was spreading. Had Takoda Usho really done that? What happened to the delighted soul she had that morning?

Hidemi Asko knocked on the bathhouse door after a little less than an hour. She did not scold her young guest for overstaying her welcome, as Mari expected, but instead, delivered the young woman a fresh kimono and sandals, along with a brilliant sash embroidered with cherry blossoms.

"For when you finish," said Hidemi Asko, bowing. "And I've taken the liberty of making a small repast. I would be honored if you could join me, Mari-san."

The rain was still falling. Asko was wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat. Its edge was dripping coldly. "Certainly," said Mari. "Of course."

The girl slid into her kimono and walked through the storm to the house. Inside, a single lamp sat burning on a low table in what was, at one time, the grand dining hall. The two women knelt, in their bubble of light, alone in an immensity of shadow. We are underwater, thought Mari. Some whale has swallowed us up!  Outside, the wind was a ghost in pain. The rain, like silver bells, rattled in the procession of its funeral. The whale’s stomach rumbled, with a sound like thunder. They ate in silence.

When the meal was concluded, Hidemi Asko collected the dishes and carefully deposited them in an adjacent room. She returned quickly, smiling her indulgent smile. Her eyes, Mari noticed, were like hunks of flint, although the kindness of the flesh around them made the effect tenacious, rather than simply cruel.

"Mari," said the old woman. "With your permission, I would give you some advice."

"Oh," said the girl. "Yes, Hidemi-san. Of course."

Asko's smile widenend. "Good," she said. Outside, the door to the bathhouse had blown open. It flapped wide, then shut, flapped wide, then shut. It sounded like a giant playing the wood block.

"You are still a young woman," Asko began, "and you are very beautiful. You may not understand what you are feeling right now, but I assure you: it happens to us all. There comes a time in every woman's life when she finds that being beautiful is not enough, and that rather than trying to avoid ugliness she must, instead, create it. Once this is done girlhood is ended and the task of maturity begins."

Mari still felt hollow. "Yes," she said, with a slight bow.

"Do you understand me?" asked Asko. The door was still flapping, the ogre still playing his instrument: tok - tok - tok!

"I am talking about what Usho did to you." The flint in the old woman's eyes ignited, catching the brilliant orange of the lamp before her. The darkness around them seemed to teem with phantoms.

Mari felt her unknown feeling: deeper, stranger, stronger than ever before.

"It has put something in you," said Asko, tenderly. "Like a child."

Mari felt it.

"It will grow and grow. And, eventually, you will need to push it out. Otherwise you will grow sick, and the both of you will die. Do you understand?"

It was raining harder. The ogre's tempo increased maddenenly. Tok! Tok! Tok! Tok!

"Usho has humiliated you, but he has run off. Cowardly boy! You must find someone to bear the weight of his dishonor, or else the thing in you, the small goblin, will get up to all kinds of mischeif. He will pluck out your black hairs one-by-one while you are sleeping and cut lines into your face. He will make you meek and fearful.”

Mari saw then, with perfect clarity, the contents of her soul.  I am enraged, she thought, amazed that the word had elduded her for so long. She'd been angry before -- with her sister, with the other girls in the village, with her lovers -- but that feeling had been hot and temporary, like a brief fever. Mari's rage was cold as the frozen surface of Hideki Pond -- and as undeniable as a springtime storm.

"I must kill Donald Trump," she said. It was he who had taken Usho from her, he who had sparked her rage. That man in the road -- that beaten dog -- that wasn't the swordsman she had loved. Trump had killed her sweetheart.

Asko smiled demurely and bowed. "So you shall," the old woman said. "But first, we will have tea."

ssss

The storm passed just after sundown. Tokomora Genji, returning from his constitutional, returned to the Kotoro School. His soaked tunic clung to his body, tight and cold, and the boy’s teeth were chatteringl. At the gate he met Shonzo Itori, one of the beginning students.  "Good evening, Tokomora," he said, bowing low. 

Genji roused himself from his contemplation and took notive of the neophyte. He bowed, too, somewhat awkwardly. "S-Shonzo-kun," he said. "How are your studies progressing?"

"Very well," said the the student. "You should know that your father has been looking for you all evening. He let us know that you did not appear for dinner."

"I was walking in the forest," said Genji.

"I- I believe Bush-sama wishes to give you advice for the duel tomorrow. Your mother has told all the students…She's even told the laborers in the east barracks so they can get there early and find good places."

"My mother is a kind woman and my father is very wise," said Genji, distantly. "Please, Shonzo-kun, would you deliver a message to them on my behalf? I am considering my approach to the battle tomorrow."

Shonzo's face fell. He dreaded informing George Herbert Walker Bush that anyone -- much less his own son! -- had denied a summons. "But Tokomora-san," he stammered. "Trump has been in the company of Bush-sama and mistress Maoka all evening. I-it would be disrespectful not to coverse with him and share a meal!"

"Tell them I am not hungry and require solitude to prepare for tomorrow's fight," Genji repeated. "Send my apologizes. But tell them that I must prepare in my own way to uphold the victorious tradition of the Kotoro School."

"Yes," said Shonzo, bowing curtly. "I will do as you say Tokomora-san."

"Thank you," said Genji, bowing in turn.

The younger student ran off, hoping to discharge the unenviable errand before his anxiety got the better of him. Genji watched him mount the stairs to the main building, ascending towards the brilliant light that poured out the windows of the second floor. My father is in there, he thought. The whole world was dripping, blown by wind -- alive. Owls hooted from the darkness of the woods. Tokomora Genji headed for the shrine.

Katagurama was the oldest structure on the Kotoro grounds -- a moldering old shack with white-painted walls and a curving roof the color of mint leaves. Hundreds of years before, when war between petty monarchs had scourged the countryside, Katagurama was said to have been the home of a wildman priest: a monk so holy and so strange that he sat muttering to himself, with his eyes closed, for a hundred years -- lost in the mutlifaceted truth that stretched between birth and death. This monk (whose name was never recorded, for it is said that he had dispensed with the utility of names) became an object of veneration for the war-ravaged peasantry. Before long they began making offerings of incense and rice to the holy man and, soon afterwards, began accompanying these tributes by leaving lit candles around his cave. The people discovered, after several weeks, that the candles they left aroung Katagurama never extinguished -- their wics burned eteranally, and their wax refused to melt. Even after the monk had died, the candles of Katagurama had kept on burning.  It was a miracle.

Genji wasn't sure if he believed the story or not. Still, he'd never seen anyone replace the candles -- nor, in fact, had he ever seen one of the candles extinguish in his presence. It seemed impossible, however, that the same flames had been burning since before George Herbert Walker Bush had even been born. At one time, Genji suspected trickery, but the night before his duel with Trump was free from doubt.

Katagurama was a small shrine: a single room, filled with candles burning on simple, unadorned shelves, tiered like ascending  rows of benches. At night, the tiny motes of flame combined to fill the space with a fulvous and unearthly light, a diffuse illumination which gave off no warmth and swirled across the golden Buddha which sat, it was said, in the same place and position as the nameless monk who had won the shrine its fame. Genji regarded the figure: a fat man in ill-fitting robes, his head craned backwards, overcome with laughter. The detail of his lips and tongue had always disturbed the young swordsman. On that night, they reminded him of Trump.

Tokomora Genji sat cross-legged before the statue, listening to the wind howl among the cryptomeria trees, scattering water. He bowed once, low, and asked, simply and silently, for guidance. All around him, the stars of the enchanted candles blazed with their ceaseless, inscrutable response. Genji knew it was worthless to practice his sword technique -- it had been too long since he had practiced with dedication, and the skill had never come easily to him. If Trump were to be defeated, it would not be by martial prowess. Demons, he knew, were cut more by truth than steel.

Genji sat in silence for an hour, as constant as the candles. Then a small voice, like the plantive mewling of a hungry cat, spoke from the darkness, purring his name.  

The student did not move. The voice had been so low, so slight, that he assumed he was hearning things.

"Genji-san," it repeated, more forcefully.

"Who's there?" asked the student.

Slim fingers found his shoulder. "It's me," said the mysterious voice. Genji felt a rush a terror -- a coldness, radiating from the touch. He whirled around, expecting to find himself face-to-face with a scowling kappa with bright green eyes. His right hand found itself gripping the hilt of his sword.

Before him sat a young girl, kneeling sweetly beneath the eerie lights of Katagurama. "It's Mari," she said. Her face was kind, and white as porcealin.

"Y-you work in the kitchen," Genji said, embarassed by his fear.

"Yes," she said, bowing. "Oh Genji!"

All at once, the young swordsman found himself accousted -- the smooth shape of the woman, warm and round beneath her sheer kimono, poured itself against the muscles of his chest. Her hair pressed against his lips and the bottom of his nose, a fragrant darkness.

She wept.

Tokomora Genji had never seen a woman cry before who was not his mother. His usual instinct -- to bow low and beg forgiveness -- seemed suddenly shameful to him; a proof of immaturity. The student wondered what his father would do. Would George Herbert Walker Bush chasten the servant for her impudent familiarity, or smile kindly, as he sometimes did when his mind was whole, and whisper words of brief encouragement?

His right hand departed from his weapon and found the curvature of Mari's spine, a ridge of silken stones beneath her rainment. "It's all right," Genji whispered. "You're safe here.”

She gripped him tighter, squealing in despair.

“No more of that,” said Genji.

Mari grew quiet, but stayed snugly in Genji's arms, sniffling.

"Do you know the story of this shrine?" the student asked. "It is said that these candles never go out, and never will, as long as there is goodness on the Earth. Whatever your troubles may be, the light of this room proves that they are passing. He distanced himself from the girl demurely, moving his hands to her shoulders. She looked pathetic: a waif with red eyes and tear-stained cheeks. "No evil can long withstand the truth," said Genji.

"Oh G-Genji-san," she said, collapsing back against him once again. "I know you're right."

"Now," he said, with a benevolance and constancy borrowed from his father's better days, "Tell me what the matter is."

She resumed sobbing, her words tumbling out in a torrent of whining, pleading and whimpering. She explained that on her way to work for the noonday meal she had seen the scene in the dojo that morning -- and her curosity had compelled her to learn more of Trump's arrangement with Genji's mother and father. Although she had known Genji for many years, and long admired him, she admitted with despair that her maiden's heart, naturally nervous, and his exalted position, disqualifying for a miserable peasant such as herself, had conspired to keep her in silence about the nature of her affection.

"I love you, Genji-san," she admitted, tearfully. "I love you and I cannot watch you die."

All at once she retreated from his touch, bowing so low before the flabberghasted student that strands of her hair spread, like streams of ink, across the floor of Katagurama Shrine. "I know that I am just a fool," she said. "And that my young heart must mean nothing to a man of skill and rank. But I beg you, on your honor as a swordsman -- do not fight the stranger Trump tomorrow! Have pity on me, miserable as I am. Trump is a monster. He will not fight fairly, or with honor."

Her tears fell, like summer rain, upon the stone beneath her -- two drops, then three. They caught the light of their surrounding fires. Like jewels, thought Genji. Like --

"My heart has broken every day," said Mari. "Every day I see you, wandering the grounds of this beautiful school. Every day I see you practice, and wander in the woods like a holy man, as kind and beautiful as they say your grandfather was, when he first arrived in the Heiki province. Every day my silence strikes me like a dagger."

She raised her face to Genji's. Mari's eyes, full and violet, danced like opals, alive in the cascading candlelight. "Do not ask my heart, so long afflicted, to mourn the man it loves so dearly.”

"Mari," said Genji, tenderly, placing a comforting hand upon her tear-slick cheek. "Mari..."

"Please, Genji-san," she begged. "I may only be a silly girl. But if you should die, I - I - I -"

He pulled her close. "Shhhh," he said. "Shhhh."

She cried again, for what felt like hours.

Then, as if by magic, they made their plans.

cunt

Things happened quickly after that. Mari took a small, jade handled mirror from her sash and used it to correct the paint and powder on her face while Genji watched her, smiling in spite of himself at the good fortune that had provided him with such a lovely match. When all trace of the evening's tears had been removed, the girl kissed Genji goodbye and headed up from the western path, towards the barracks where Trump had been provided sleeping quarters. After a few minutes pause, Genji left the temple as well. He snuck around the permieter of the school, entering the Eastern building by its rarely-watched back entrance. From there he crept into his father's trophy room and retreived the mighty ash-bow, carved with dragon heads, that George Herbert Walker Bush had weilded in the seige of Kajihara. He also took two dozen black shafted arrows, and a small amount of sake. He left the School the the way he'd come, and returned to the Heikei woods.  The moon was full and the forest, still dripping, seemed as full of stars as the cloudless sky. It was, the student thought, surpassingly beautiful.

Before long he arrived, unobserved, at the Western bank of the Sejioko stream, where stood the ancient covered bridge of Lo. Genji had been careful to avoid the trail, and walked only on soil occluded by an appropriate carpet of fallen leaves and nettles, so that his passage left no trace. Beneath the bridge, beside the water, he hunkered down. Genji laid the bow before him, and carefully stuck six arrows from his over-stuffed quiver point down in the moist earth, so he could retreive them easily.

The cryptomeria trees on the opposite shore bent gentley with the midnight breeze, their movements rippling in the waters of the Sejioko. Beside the Eastern end of the bridge, a ruddy lantern with blood-red glass swung back and forth, casting murderous shadows. Genji waited a long time. 

The wind was intermittant. Sometimes it blew, raveling the canopy of the Heikei. Sometimes it didn't. The Sejioko babbled across its rounded rocks regardness, swift and clear and cold, a perfect mirror for the brilliant moon. I will remember that moon for the rest of my life, the student realized. It will hover, round a white, behind my eyelids -- a lidless orb, staring me in the face. Terrible and beautiful. Round and white. Mari's face, without the lips or eyes. A good omen for our life together. The night was still, but Genji's heart was beating quickly. Pit-pat, pit-pat, it said. Pit-pat, pit-pat. 

The scheme worked. Before long, Mari appeared. She was leading Trump along the Eastern path, clinging to him demurely. Just wanton enough to fool the barbarian, he thought, proudly. But no more. The couple stopped in the middle of the Lo. They stood looking out, over the water, just as Mari said they would. Genji raised his father's bow and knocked an arrow. The muscles of his arms grew tense as he pulled the bowstring back and took his aim. Pit pat, said his heart. He fired. Pit-pat. Trump, slumped across the railing of the Lo in a pose of relaxation, shot upward and yowled in pain as the arrow struck him. Genji retreived another  from the bank, took aim, and fired again. The second shaft lodged in Trump’s neck. Pit-pat, said Genji's heart. The swordsman poured over the side of the bridge like jelly, landing with a silent splash in the waters of the Sejioko. The current carried him away, and cleared the water of its crimson stain. 

Mari could not contain her glee. She rushed down the Eastern bank and, hopping lithely from rock to rock met Genji at his hiding place. She cleaved tightly to his body, stiff yet yeilding, and threw her alabaster arms around the neck of the triumphant student. She lavished him with compliments, and kisses, and the two stood giggling together at the cleverness of their deed. “You are perfect,” she said. “The best shot in the province!” 

“We’ll start over,” said Genji. “Somewhere far away.”

And so it was. They headed out before the sunrise, traveling along the trading roads past Mount Aso, until they arrived at Kagashima, by the sea. Genji, whose foresight had provided their travelling pack with several volumes of zen philosophy, begged for admission to the famous Kunagawa Monastery. He was, after an appropriate probationary period and a series of interviews, accepted. Mari found work sewing nets for fishermen. They made a home together. Genji spent his days in prayer and study, while Mari worked and maintained their modest home. A year after arriving by the ocean they had a son, George Jr.., and two years later a daughter, Crackhead Nightmare. They grew old. For the rest of his life, Genji never forgot the full moon in the waters of the Seijoko.

He imagined holding it under his tongue like a sunflower seed while watching white-capped waves roiling across an ocean of green glass. He closed his eyes and saw it when the girl was born and when the boy nearly died of fever. The moon -- and Mari. It made his heart beat quick, the very thought of it. Pit-pat, pit-pat.

A cold wind blasted from the North, roaring like surf through the black canopy of the Heikei. The moon, hanging before Genji's eyes, split into a thousand ivory corpuscles. Pit-pat, said the student's heart. Pit-pat, Pit-pat, said a sudden burst of rain.

Genji was still waiting for Mari, and Trump. I have gotten ahead of myself, he realized. His life with Mari vanished like morning mist -- dissapating as the freezing water set Genji's teeth to chattering. He hugged his robe tightly to himself, disappointed by the world. What is taking her so long? 

An arc of lightning shot through the largely cloudless sky, and the rain grew harder. He sank into the mud. Genji's arrows, like the stalks of winter flowers, splayed half-defeated from the melting earth.

"All your life, you look to women," Said George Herbert Walker Bush. "To your mother, most of all. You have committed the most terrible of youth's transgressions. You have been duped into believing that, if you only try hard enough, they will favor you with love."

Genji scowled. The lamp beside the bridge of Lo swung back and forth, bobbing like a fat red fish in the swift surface of the stream. "You think you have escaped us; escaped your fate. Ha! You've traded a hen for a hatchling, that's all,” his father continued.

It was a hodge-podge of the man's advice; a slurry of half-memories from before the fever and the sickness – the ghost of George Herbert Walker Bush as he once was. It lived in Genji's head like an unwanted spirit, and found him utterly pathetic.  

"Be smart, my boy," said Herbert Walker. "Do you want to end up like me? A puppet with an iron-rod up his backside? Hm? This girl; Mari. She's asked you to betray your family. To besmirch your honor as a swordsman. She's made a mercenary out of you, that's for sure!"

"Quiet," Genji snarled.

But the ghost just laughed. "Tomorrow she'll disappear. Nowhere to be found! Oh, she might write you a nice letter, making excuses...  if she's determined that she still has a use for you, that is," He laughed again, bitterly.

Footsteps approached along the western path.

The ghost grew grave. "There is no love in this world, son," he said. "The only truth is cold steel. Men cage themselves with oaths for women's benefit: to help maintain, for the mothers of our race, the impossbility of civillization. The world of the naked storm is True; all else, a falsehood.”  

Trump and Mari appeared above the path, shining like red Buddhas beneath the lamp beside the bridge of Lo. Instinctively, Genji raised his bow and nocked an arrow.

The demon whispered: "Glory does not come to men who are deceived.”

Genji released his grip. The first arrow flew -- striking Mari in the heart. She gasped and crumpled, awkwardly, over the far rail of the bridge. Her white kimono, stained with red, floated lazily downstream. It reminded Genji of a jellyfish.  

Trump drew his sword. His eyes -- those calm, clear eyes -- scanned the woods below the bridge. Mari had promised to get him drunk but had, apparently, failed. The warrior was nimble and aware. "I see you," he said, locking eyes with Genji. 

Tokomora nocked another arrow, took aim, and fired. Trump staggered back, clutching at the shaft buried in his left shoulderr. Genji fired again. He speared Trump through his open mouth, so that his voice was stifled and his tongue pinned to the back of his throat. The swordsman twitched tremendously, but did not fall.

Genji fired again. He hit Trump in the heart, and killed him.

Trump's body fell flat upon the curving wood of Lo bridge, which Genji found anti-climactic. If only he had toppled over and splashed as Genji had dreamed! The student climbed up the muddy bank, gained the bridge, then shoved Trump's corpse off of it. The beast hit the water with a satisfying plunk, then drifted away. All the while the rain grew harder.

Tomorrow, thouht Genji, I will in fact become a holy man. 


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