Do you remember that poor bloke, left by me in the lurch last Friday? Down and out, barely alive and looking for his Key which had been stolen? I am very happy to continue his story.
His head was throbbing when he heard somebody’s light, cautious steps. He smelled trouble but his situation simply couldn’t go worse, could it? He had been robbed, his mission failed, he was left with nothing than a hangover, a slash in his thigh and a bunch of smelly, dirty rags…He closed his eyes and sat down, or rather tumbled down, waiting for a blow or a dagger, not even having enough strength left to stand like a man and defend himself. Not this time. He was undone. Let somebody finish him – just make it quick and painless.
First he caught her scent. Magnolia flower mixed with lemon and sandal wood…underlaid by something spicy… not exactly perfume but not a normal bodily scent either. It had to be a woman’s scent. Something as exotic in this place as a jewel in a gutter. Then a melodious, low voice asked:
“What’s your name?”
He opened his eyes and closed them again. It had to be the creation of his delirious imagination. Not bad for a half-dead masculine brain, not bad at all but still… not real either.
“I asked you a question. Your name.”
Her voice became imperious and demanding now.
“Kanji,” he answered feeling like a fool. He was talking with an apparition or a mirage. Soon enough he will talk to himself, dance, sing and recite poetry on the streets like those insane beggars he’d mocked so many times. Oh, it didn’t matter. He smiled to himself. He was dying, wasn’t he, and a beautiful female angel came to collect his warrior soul with one kiss of her luscious mouth and take it straight to heaven…
“Can you stand up, Kanji?”
He frowned. Not exactly a question he expected from an angel. His beatific vision became a bit fuzzy.
“Perhaps I can. I might try. Are you real?”
A silent hiss like that of an angry cat.
“Open your eyes and see it yourself.”
He opened his eyes as he was told and she stood there, as real as the dirty wall, the silent inn and the pavement, still trash-strewn and smelly. A pretty young woman, delicate, almost dainty, scantily clad and very sure of her dark beauty. With long, black hair. The corners of her lovely mouth were twitching – apparently she was suppressing a smile. He tried to touch her but couldn’t raise his arm high enough. If he only were stronger…
“Have you retrieved the Key, Kanji, the youngest and the stupidest son of the Stone Lord?” she asked and the tone of her voice awoke his brain instantly as if she poured a bucket of icy water on his head. There was a lot of derision in that voice, a subtle mockery of the most piercing kind which made him wary despite his tiredness.
“Who are you? How do you know about the Key?”
He made an effort and finally stood up although his legs were shaking dangerously under him. Her answer, though, made his blood turn into a winter river covered with ice floe .
“You failed Kanji. Of course you did, like every scum of the earth with no brains is bound to. Your pathetic, weak face is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. Your name will be dishonored among your people, along with the name of your haughty father. Serves you both right, I suppose. Like father like son.”
He saw dark patches swimming before his eyes and her words made his gorge rise. How could she know his most intimate thoughts and his own feelings? He started to defend himself without thinking, almost as if somebody else spoke using his mouth:
“I was…it was my mistake, I admit, but nothing is lost forever yet and I am still ready to…”
“To do what exactly?” she cut in, her voice as sharp as a knife. “Die in a gutter? Piss into your breeches, throw up, stink some more and make me suffocate on the spot? What exactly are you ready to do now, Kanji?”
Her ironic questions lashed his face like a leather whip. The tone was especially shocking as it was coming from the mouth of such a beautiful, refined young lady; it made him even more disoriented and desperate . It was a torture he wasn’t expecting. Hasn’t he gone through enough hardship?
“Help me, please. I am ready to start anew and improve matters. I beg you, help me or kill me on the spot.”
She came nearer, her hips swaying in an arousing way, her smile as predatory as that of a tigress if that animal could smile before the attack. Her sweet feminine scent surrounded him, intoxicating and deceitfully pleasant. Kanji swallowed audibly, preparing himself for death. She surprised him once more because now her voice was pure, smooth, delicate silk.
“Of course I will help you , Kanji, my dearest one; especially as you are asking so nicely. That’s why I came here. But not for free. Never for free. Be sure – the price will be steep indeed. I have planned everything.”
Then she told him her name and her family moniker, stroked his cheek and kissed him.
“You are mine.”
Her words were dripping with poisonous glee.