Jeffrey Bolden

A Blues for Niah

 

Part One

“I see my Blade has fallen in love with the Hand of God. ” Blu stooped in the canopy of cherry blossoms. The pink petals disguised the silhouette of an assassin unseen in the summers of Corruption, U.S.A. It was one of those rare days where happiness accompanied heat. Blu heard babies cackling through the rustling of branches and blossoms in the background. Children raced across the windswept planes of Sakura Cherry Blossom Park. Garden of Eden in the center of hell itself.

Blu couldn’t hear the sounds of the happiness happening all around her. She only heard the whispers of the man she had known her whole life as Father. She imagined the bounce of his white curls on his shoulders. The piercing nature of his blue eyes. Blu stared upon him as she would God. In awe by the man’s powerful stature., The rhythm of his words. His utter indifference to the fact that if he waved his hand, mountains would crumble. She loved him. Loved when he spoke. Loved when he breathed. “I will not relinquish my weapon.”

Blu was his Shield. It was her duty to protect him. Even from a broken heart Or a failed daughter.

She camped in the branches. Her breath controlled and silent. Her movements nonexistent. She was an apparition, weaving and blending with the pink pillow petals surrounding her in softness. Only her glare was hard. Only her aim.

She hefted a bat-shaped bow and set her eye on the red fletching of her arrow. Her sight focused. The mass of people enjoying the summer day faded away. Only her target came into focus. An all-black three-piece suit with a white lily on the lapel. He strolled through heatwaves with a smile. Sun rays were filtered by the cherry blossoms. Warmth grazed the vanilla wheat of her freckled skin. The mahogany of his complexion drunk the sun. His smile was large. He held a little girl with alabaster skin and loose curls in one hand. Father’s Blade in the other.

Blu’s tiny features pouted. “How could you do this, Niah,” Blu whispered to herself. Her voice was the thick sultry of Marilyn Monroe voice. “How could you?”

Blu gazed upon Niah. Her kinky red curls flailed in the breeze behind her. The crème texture of her contoured countenance radiated a golden hiss of bliss. Love pulsated off of Niah’s athletic build in sickening progressions. Blu stilled the bile rising in her stomach. Her features expressed the disgust her tongue had no words for. “And for him?” Blu shaking her head, examining her target’s slight build. Pulled the bolt back until tension vibrated the strings on her fingertips. “Hand of God,” Blu spat. As if the target— more boy than man— weren’t enough to fit her myth. “I’ve never crippled God before.” Blu smirked and released the arrow, waiting to see if the Hand of God truly would divine an intervention.

***

Her name was Niah. She was the mystery Cable was drawn to. The three of them, Cable, Cable’s daughter, Victoria, and Niah, walked among the throngs of people captivated by the falling of cherry petals. Cable stole his attention away from the ramblings of his eight-year old daughter to gaze upon the contoured features of Niah’s vanilla wheat complexion, seeing hope in the dark recesses of her eyes. Hope for a love once thought denied to an assassin. The prospect of that love excited Cable. His heart raced, feeling the velvet box in his pocket thud against his thigh.

Today was the day. July 17th, 2015. Today was the day he finally asked her to marry him. Cable knew it the moment he greeted the dawn. Knew it when he kissed her soft on her eager lips pouting and smiling in her sleep. He knew he could stare at that sleeping innocence forever, grateful that he got to kiss her before the sun did.

There was nothing to blame for their falling in love. Just happened.

Niah and Victoria laughed together while Cable thought of the first time he had ever met Niah. And the last moment he could ever imagine without her. She was sent to kill him. Try her hand at The Hand of God. The clash of their blades became something more. In that dance of blades and sword strikes there struck a connection between killer and killer, Death and Death, love and love. Cable remembered striking the sword out of her hand, the two of them standing in his kitchen, dripping in shadow. Cable could still feel the rumble of the pounding thunder. Saw the fear and awe in her eyes as she stood before him. But there was something else in her gaze. Curiosity. Cable ventured one step forward with his arm extended, blade and right arm still rigid and ready, poised to attack. The wariness of his training, evident. But Niah stood completely still, raised her center of gravity and stuck her chest out. Cable smirked, corners of his mouth curling with an almost malicious pleasure atin her suffering. Or at least that was how Cable tried to justify the racing of his heart and the fluttering of his stomach. But Cable knew that the coat of sweat greasing his palms was not from the sensation of victory. The quaking knees. Pounding heartbeat. These were not how he was taught to react to victory. To toss a warrior’s wariness, succumb to an overt display of arrogance. These were not normal traits of the Hand of God. These emotions should not have existed to a man who likens himself to death. But as Cable’s arm fell to the side, and he ventured closer and closer to Niah, Cable knew that this was the feeling he had known once and never known again. A muscle memory long forgotten pushed Cable’s lips on to Niah’s, only to find her kiss warm and welcoming. It was that night where they committed their Cardinal sin. Niah fell in love with her prey. The Hand of God became mortal.

But the morning after was a prayer. And every night after that, became everything Cable had ever prayed for. Love. Peace. Happiness. Fleeting feelings he had once thought lost to him now surfaced on the surface of his heart. Magma pulsed where blood should have flowed. Heat warmed the tundra of his ventricles. Cable was complete again. Niah was worth every sin. He could not fight against what they were becoming. Could not fight her. And Niah never fought him.

In time, Niah became as much part of Victoria’s life as she did his. It seemed their lives were filled with teaching the little eight-year old how to hold swords, fold origami, draw calligraphy, running through parks, running, jumping, loving, kissing, becoming. Cable’s head was on a swivel. Feelings such as these not known in almost ten years. Lost the moment Victoria was born. And here he was again, reminded of that story. Boy met girl. Assassin met girl really. Okay, really good assassin met girl. Really good assassin and girl fell in love. Girl got pregnant. Girl lost life. Baby girl was born. The world turns. Cable didn’t like to be reminded of his time with his first love. The scar was still healing, the skin of the scar still stitching itself back together. Still an open wound of black, throbbing heartache.

But though the story was similar, Cable still felt something new with Niah. A sort of freshness that reminded him of the moments where Cable would just cradle Victoria on his chest just so he could take in the scent of the black curls growing on baby fresh skin. This was a newborn love. And Cable knew it deserved the justice of being able to define itself apart from his past.

“What you thinking about?” God had spoken. And the sultry tenor had woken Cable out of his reverie.

He gazed upon her, remembering the days he had spent trying to paint her in one of his fit of inspirations. He remembered the compulsive nature in which he tried to find and mix and create the perfect vanilla wheat for the texture of her skin. Tried to apply the subtle constellation of freckles scattered across the space of her contoured face. Tried to apply shadows near the smile lines of her face that didn’t diminish the youthfulness of her beauty. Tried to paint the radiance of her presence. But no stroke could do his red haired warrior goddess justice. It was the one stroke he could never master.

His artistry and the inspiration she drove him to never ceased. After he failed at capturing her beauty on canvas, Cable resorted to poetry. And Niah, a lover of words, exchanged with him the sweetest of sonnets ever sung from the lips of babes.

Their love terrified Cable. Doubts were raised in his spirit. A familiarity lingered over their passion that Cable could not ignore. Nerves shot through his stretched frame, lightning arcing all throughout his body. This was the moment. The horror and the terror of what could come would be leagues less tortuous then the seconds spent hating himself as he tried to find the nerve to propose to her again. No moment would ever be this perfect. Never again. “I’m thinking that I don’t want to spend another minute without you being my wife.” Victoria stopped. Niah stopped. The whole world stopped. Cable felt the eyes of deities and destiny on him. It was now or never. Cable turned toward Niah, clasped his fingers around her left hand and dropped to his knee. His right hand was shaking. But Cable recalled that moment when two warriors faced one another on that dark and stormy night, each sensing the curiosity in one another, and in that moment, Cable realized exactly what it was he felt in that room with Niah. He felt her. Rummaging through his soul, pushing aside the wreckage and the baggage, the skeletons and the corpses, the heartbreak, and seeing him for who he was, for what he wanted to be, for what he wanted in life. Love. Peace. And happiness. And she wanted to give him all three. Just as he wanted to give those things to her and Victoria. That’s all he wanted. All he needed.

“Ca..Ca…Cable.”

Cable closed his eyes, smirked. Then opened them, pupils dilated, absorbing the ruddy nature of her face, tears welling in her eyes, her right palm covering her lips and stifling her tears of joy. A single tear streaked down his face. His smile was tight-lipped and determined. His voice was measured. He was ready. “The only thing I want to do for the rest of my life is travel with my family, love, cherish, honor, and make love in every country with you. Niah. Will you be my wi…” Thuck. Cable’s words stopped mid-stride in his throat. A black bolt struck through his temple. A stream of blood leaked on to the angled planes of his face. His body wavered to the side before crashing on the grass. The fletching of the arrow was slammed upward, the rest of the arrow pushing upward through the exit wound and the afternoon sun gleaming on the blood, brain, and skull fragments coating the tip and shaft of the arrow.

***

Her arms felt like disco lights. All tingling weightlessness with the corpse of her lover in her arms. The man that made her feel. The man that gave heart to a Blade. Niah stared down down at the pallid of his mahogany features. He looked older. At peace. Smile still on his face. Eyes still on her. He only had eyes for her. Couldn’t see death flying toward him.

Niah’s eyes wore blank faces. Soon the image of her lover disappeared. The sounds of screaming and pandemonium faded into the distance. The scent of cherry blossoms became her only solace in the shadows of her thoughts. How could you? A movie of memories played in a panoramic screen smashed on the shadows behind her. Niah recalled standing behind Father gazing out into the sunset, standing with his back toward her, kingly voice trembling when he spoke of God. “Eight years,” he said with a sigh, white curls rolling with his shoulders. Father straightened his back, arms bowed to his side, fists locked and trembling. “Eight years since my daughter died.” Niah’s eyebrows furrowed, a line of confusion drawing down the middle of her eyebrows. The omnipotent supreme aura that emanated off of his powerful body dulled in Niah’s eyes. God wasn’t supposed to have weaknesses. “Eight years since he took her from me.” God wasn’t supposed to have enemies.

Father turned on his heel, eyes almost dark blue and blurry, alabaster skin exuding a kind of brooding only meant for the defeated and the lost. Niah’s entire body tensed. She crossed her arms over her bosom and just stared at Father break down piece by piece. “He’s a monster.” Fear. “I wouldn’t ask this task of anyone else, my Blade. You’re the only person I can trust to ease the hatred in my heart.” Emotional. “I need you, my Blade.” Needy.

Niah jerked her head back, the corner of her mouth twitching in disbelief. She wanted to say, “You’re betraying your teachings. Vengeance is our way. This monster, this Hand of God, was supposed to have been slain already. Your daughter. Her honor.” She wanted to ask, “How could you not avenge her death?” Wanted to ask, “How would you ever avenge mine?” But it was not her place. She was his Blade. So Niah nodded her head, sighed under her breath, and turned on her heel. Father watched her go. But he was Father no more. He was God no more. He was simply man. And the Hand of God was simply a target. A target that was ultimately hunted and killed.

That realization sucked Niah back into her reality, Cable’s corpse stretched out across her thighs. Only seconds passed in her thoughts. The world slowed all around Niah, and she was able to deduce quickly the proper course of action. This of course was her gift. Bestowed upon her by God, by Father. Deep breaths, my Blade. Become the steel you wield. Allow the light of day and moon to  illuminate all that is around you. Niah took two deep breaths and stared at Victoria. Her eyes grew distant glaring back into Niah’s countenance. No tears scratched the surface of that cherub face. The jubilation, the euphoria that once made her creamy mocha skin glow with ravishing happiness was gone. She was as pale as her father. Innocence touched by death. Niah had her ally and a new daughter to protect. Niah’s eyes scanned the park taking in the sight of men and women and children running to and fro, sirens blaring in the background. The Force was coming. Her old friends and eager assassins would fall upon them at any second. Clear your mind. Niah looked back down at the shell-shocked little girl, frozen in place by a terror her young mind couldn’t comprehend.

They would take her. The daughter of The Hand of God. It was the perfect act. The most beautiful vengeance. They would take her, rape her, break her, and build her in His image. His weak and diminished image. Just like they did Niah.

What is your objective? The only thing Niah could think of was protecting Victoria from The Force, from her past. And that meant doing the hardest thing she could ever do. Let Cable go.

Niah forced the tears back into their ducts. Her angled features became rigid and sharp. Slowly, she let Cable’s corpse fall on to the grass. His eyes still on her and a smile still on his face. Niah doubled over his corpse and kissed him soft on the lips with a whisper. I will protect her.

***

“Pack all of your stuff, sweetheart! We have to get out of here!” Niah threw articles of clothing in the two open suitcases sinking into the rumpled white comforters. Victoria stood in the middle of her father’s room, the austere esthetic reminding Victoria of the simplicity that was her father. From the purple velvet tapestry underneath her bare feet to the white walls rising to vaulted ceilings. The room seemed to rise into shadows. Victoria smirked, feeling as though her father were watching them from the darkness.

Memories of her father silently pushing the door to Victoria’s bedroom and peeking his head to listen to the song of her sleep echoed in her mind. Victoria’s smile became Heaven’s Gate, gleaming with nostalgia. She always liked snoring just a little louder just so her father could hear her breathing and be reassured.

Victoria’s gaze rose in the cool slate blue of the shadows that hung in the air between her and the frantic Niah, only the sounds of Niah rushing back and forth between opened bureaus and bed, throwing toiletries, clothes, knives, collapsible quarter-staves, and other weaponry that may serve her later echoing off of the marble of the room. Victoria wondered why it was that her and her father always worked and loved under the guise of the night. What inspired this nocturnal worship? Why did she have more memories of moon than sun? The thought perplexed Victoria, her crème brown cherub features crinkling in deliberate contemplation when her pinpoint eyes stopped on a memory captured in the light. A moment that shone bright as the smiles in the photograph.

Victoria stared at her five-year old self, smile full of gaps, in the arms of her father. He seemed small in holding her high and close to his chest. She didn’t realize how little her father was. The sleepy nature of his stare. The ease of his serenity. Victoria could see the sadness and secrets weighing down on his slender frame. There was so much he never told her. So much she never got to share with her father. A warm film of tears coated her stare. Her tiny fingers flexed into trembling fists, unfurling and curling again. Her upper lip quivered. “Victoria?” Why did you have to leave me, Daddy? Victoria only had eyes for the smile on their faces, the light of that moment dimming with the distance between father and daughter becoming too vast for love to reach. Victoria still loved her father, still reached out for him. But she couldn’t feel his hand anymore. Couldn’t feel his love anymore. Victoria’s knees began to buckle, and she couldn’t bear the melancholy anymore.

Victoria fell to her knees, chubby arms falling limp at the sides of her white dress. The same frills and lace and bow she wore in the picture with her father. And suddenly the white she wore seemed tarnished. Her features twisted in great sadness. Tears ran down her fat cheeks.  Mucus fell into the cleft above her lip. “Daddy,” Victoria whimpered with face flushed with sadness.

Her sobs broke the palpable silence around her. And in her moment of anguish, Victoria was all alone. Until she wasn’t. Milky alabaster fingers wrapped their long length around Victoria’s stubby digits. And in those empty fingers, the slight curve of a black hilt wrapped in braided leather. “Do you know what this is?” Niah’s voice was soft and soothing. Victoria’s sobs stopped.

Victoria examined the slight curve of the blade, remembering how her father’s forearm would become ropes of taut muscle holding the sword before him and painting blue slashes in the dark. She used to watch from the open space of his private dojo, watching the ritualistic dance of man and blade across soft wooden floors. There was love in her father’s movements. They moved as lovers did. Man and blade, gliding with grace and power. That same grace in her hands now, the white ivory carved and capped at the bottom of the braided hilt glowing with a moon blue aura. The black lacquer of the scabbard emitted an eerie glow as well. It too was capped by etched white gold, molded to look as though it melted into black. Her father’s grace was in this blade. She and this blade were the only legacies left of him. Victoria nodded her head. “Yes.”

Niah stared down at Victoria. Hard. There was nothing maternal in her gaze. Just the hardness of tempered steel, the glare of a living weapon.  “It’s yours.” Victoria looked up, Niah’s delicate features hardened by shadows. “But you have to be strong to carry it.” Victoria looked down at the sword. Then back up into Niah’s eyes with her expression impressive and clear. Her little features set in determination. She had the same eagle stare of her father.

Victoria nodded her head. Niah’s lips curled into a smile. “Good.” Her hand shot out and gripped the braided leather. With a clean schlick, steel separated from sheath and Niah crouched in front of Victoria. “I need you to stay behind me, okay?” Victoria clutched the scabbard close to her chest, trying to squirm around Niah and catch a glimpse of the danger that lie in the dark. The danger she could not see.

***

She still had on the crème dress from earlier. The blood splatter on the dress tarnished radiance. Niah stood with her stance lowered, her legs coiled with springing power, in front of Blu’s target. Did you get the girl? Blu didn’t understand why the girl was a part of the mission, but stepped out of the shadows of the threshold ready to accomplish nonetheless. “Bitch,” Niah barked. “It was you, wasn’t it!?”

Blu smirked. Flicked her dark blue bangs with her free hand. Unsheathed the blade swinging at her side by the black silk ribbon tied to her scabbard. “Someone had to complete the mission you abandoned.”

Blu could see her nonchalant nature had an effect on her adversary. Niah always hated to lose control of Blu. Had since the two of them were children, exclaiming at the vigorous training tThe Masters put their little bodies through. Hated for Blu to see her fear. Her moments of weakness. Niah closed her eyes. Took a deep breath and stood straight, her head bowed in contemplation with her red kinky curls swallowing the perplexed nature of the crème vanilla of her countenance. Blu looked down at the little girl, the little target, and noticed the reverence inside of her dark eyes as she stared up at the petite Niah. She looked at Niah as though she were the only thing keeping Blu from her mission accomplished. The arrogance of youth. Blu pointed the tip of her forty-one inch katana at Niah’s bosom and said with a smirk and smile, “And I will complete my mission.”

Niah’s eyebrows furrowed and looked around,. “But your mission is already complete,” with confusion crawling inside of her jazzy vocals, trailing off as her eyes darted side to side on the purple velvet tapestry rivals stood upon. Blu watched the realization suffuse in Niah’s still baby-soft features. Blu smirked. “You won’t touch her,” Niah snarled with her eyebrows nearly meeting in the middle of the bridge of her nose.

“I guess you’ll have to stop me then.” Blu became a black blur, disappearing into the dancing shadows that surrounded the women, reappearing in front of Niah with her arm drew back before thrusting her blade toward Niah’s exposed stomach. With lightning reflexes, Niah turned her torso away from the blade and pushed Blu’s hand. Blue clumsily fell forward, the steel of the blade running through the falling black waterfalls of hair on Victoria’s head, the blade gliding just above the flesh where ear met skull, just beside the plump cheeks of Victoria’s face. Victoria didn’t dare move. Neither did Blu. Blu merely trembled, realizing her folly when she felt Niah staring down on her with eyes that could pierce fortresses. Blu’s defenses were down. Blu herself, exposed. Blu slowly turned her head upward, Niah looming over with features steeled, covered in silhouettes.

Blu knew what was to happen next. She smiled at the thought. Anticipated the second in which her death was to occur. In that moment, Niah dipped into an off-balanced spin, the katana in her hand rising in an arc of blue steel, coming down with a slicing whistle to accompany the soundtrack to her own death.

Blu closed her eyes, waited for the descending of the sharpened steel. But a sharper scream filled the room. One that stopped death in its tracks. “No!”

Blu’s eyelids burst open. She had to gaze at the one that pardoned her. All she saw was a little girl still plump and innocent staring back at her with supple lips pressed into a straight line and the piercing dark gaze of the man she had killed hours prior. And Blu knew that she was undeserving of this new fate. And only one questioned accompanied that realization. “Why?”

***

“Do you know what it means to be a Sword Saint, Victoria?” Victoria recalled the inquiry her father posed in unsurpassed detail. As vivid as a first memory. It was the one time the white marble carving was warmed by the glow of a crackling fire. The smell of charred ember and smoke filled the air. The glow brought radiance to her father’s soft features. Hairless and delicate. Even back then, Victoria realized that in no way was her father an average sized man. He was short at best. But he emitted a sort of aura that granted him the cool indifference of a man that can alter destiny at a whim. Such was to be a man given the name The Hand of God. Her father. “It’s supposed to mean to walk alongside death for the rest of your life.” Victoria remembered the meditative concentration her father put into running the slightly dampened sandpaper across the edge of the blade. “To move with the intimacy in which you show a lover.” Her father paused in his movements. Eyes stopped dead on the silver sheen of his blade. The dark brown irises rose, his gaze holding an undeniable honesty within his stare. “But to be Saint means to be benevolent. To protect life, not take it. To a be a shield for man.” Her father resumed his work, running the postage stamp-sized piece of sandpaper along the edge of his katana. “Never forget that, Victoria.” Victoria watched her father clean his blade, eyes never leaving the edge, the edge never leaving his voice. “Never.” Victoria nodded her head in an ingratiating manner, the promise taking root in her mind and blooming in her present.

“Why?”

Victoria was sucked back in the pale blue cool of her father’s room, remembering the promise she had made to her father a year ago.

Looking directly into Blu’s pleading gaze, Niah standing as death’s silhouette with her father’s blade at the back of Blu’s neck, Victoria said, “That’s my father’s blade.”

“So you want to be the one that does it huh, little Sword Saint?”

A sardonic grin wriggled and curled on Blu’s features. Niah pressed the edge of the blade into the surface of Blu’s skin. Victoria’s gaze shot at Niah, the corners of Niah’s eyes gleaming with restraint. Victoria’s eyes dropped back down to Blu, noting that Blu was still suspended in the motions of her blade thrust. Their eyes met, Victoria revealing a conviction uncanny for an eight-year old. Victoria’s head shook slowly.

“Then what is it you want, little girl? Spit it out!”

Victoria kept her gaze for a few more seconds than necessary. She channeled her father’s spirit, recalling the measured nature of his tone when he spoke. There was never a song on his tongue. The melody rested in his eyes. His smile. His blade. “To protect you.” Victoria nodded her head toward the blade at the back of Blu’s neck. “That’s what that sword is for. To be good. To save life.”

“So you save my life?” Blu rose slow, her katana dropping from the side of Victoria’s face. Niah kept the edge of the blade to the back of Blu’s neck, her forearm roping with tense muscle poised to strike. She faced away from Blu and Victoria, stared off into the distance with an expression so attentive, it appeared she were listening for any change in vibration, any signal that Victoria was in danger. But Victoria was in no danger, and with a child’s sense of victory, Victoria smirked and nodded her head. “Foolish.” The smirk shattered on Victoria’s face, reappeared on Blu’s. “You think…” Niah’s eyes cut in Blu’s direction, her blade lifting off of her flesh by an inch. “…you can protect me!? You protect nothing!” Victoria ogled at Blu, sensing the sadness warp her freckled features. She was breaking. Tears ran in diagonals to her pointed chin. The blade in Niah’s hand dropped to her side. Her neck coiled with a snake’s grace, bulged at the sight of witnessing Blu fall to her knee, piercing the blade through the purple velvet carpet underneath her feet, and sobbing ferociously. “So just get on with it!”

The blade in Niah’s hand rose in the air again, high above the red natural sprouting from her scalp. Eyes screaming murder. Face warped into a mask of sheer hatred. Niah was ready to oblige Blu’s request.

But before the blade could come down in whistling slash, Victoria rushed toward Blu and wrapped her soft arms around her neck, pulling her close and burying her face deep into the crook of her neck. Blu stopped crying when she heard Victoria whimper, “No.” Stopped blinking. Just stopped. Victoria pulled a bewildered Blu deeper into her embrace and again, whimpered, “No.”

“You know she is the one that killed your father, right!?”

Niah’s head jerked and twitched when she looked down at the blade extended to her side. Her jaw dropped, her eyes bugged, and her breathing ragged. But Victoria held on tight, only whispering, “My daddy. Not his dream,” and the whole room fell silent with understanding. There would be no bloodshed. Not tonight.

***

“You know I can never forgive you for what you’ve done.” It was said as more of a statement than a question. Even if it were posed as a curiosity, Blu would have drawn a blank.

All Blu could do was stare ahead with a smirk on her placid expression, comforted by the soft snoring of the little lord that spared her life. For the first time in Blu’s life she had true purpose. No aim. No ambition. Just a fish swimming downstream into destiny. “I wouldn’t know where to begin expressing…”

“Just don’t. My Queen has spared you. I spared you.” Niah turned her head slight, her rage shining in the corner of her moonlit gaze. With a tempered tongue, Niah asked Blu, “What will you do with your pardoned life?”

Blu blinked her eyes, slow and soft, sighing before stepping forth into the shadows that congregated in the threshold leading to the corridor. Through the living room. To her fate, only whispering, “Protect her,” before disappearing into darkness. Death itself.

***

They all gawked at her. All of them watched Blu traverse across the breaking oak wood with her sheathed katana swinging in tune with her stride. A smirk slashed up her face, parallel to the angles of her set features, dark eyes peering toward the sliding paper door. Glaring at the mural of a golden shield with rabid wolves snarling and growling around the immaculate watercolors of the gilded shield. The symbol of The Force. A shield for Corruption. And the feral dogs of war like her that protected Corruption’s lawless lifestyle.

Dogs. Dogs of war. Blu looked around the expanse of the dojo setting, dozens of men and women each equipped with a practice versions of their respected weapons. Wooden swords. Quarter-staves. Bows and arrows. Her students, all youth and awestruck expressions, ogled her. So had a woman built with a warrior’s physique and a beauty as exotic as a blue rose in the Mediterranean. She nodded her head with her sly smile crawling on her tanned brown vulpine features. Blu was utterly struck by her approval and nodded her head. “It seems my god slayer has returned.” Blu turned her head to see Father standing where the shield had been, emitting the same radiance as that motif in his lean blue-cut suit, tailored around cords and mounds of powerful muscles. Bountiful white curls bounced on his broad shoulders. Blue eyes locked sights on Blu. The stare of a god sizing up the mortal with the audacity to challenge a deity. Blu smirked, knowingly. Godslayer. He had it right. “Welcome back to The Force.” Blu said nothing. Just smirked with distance in her smile. A nonchalant obsequiousness. With her arms crossed over her bosom, Blu tilted her head to the left and swallowed Father into her stare. Constellations and destinies became the abyss deep within her glare, catching the uneasiness in Father’s demeanor. Gone was his subtle flair, that natural air of command that separated king from peasant, god from man. He stood before her a man. Perhaps, a man that knew his death was to come. “Come,” Father demanded with a cheer in his tone and a sweep of his hand, pointing to the opened space the opened partition left blank. “Let me offer you congratulations with a glass.” Father arched his back, stuck his chest out, and barked for the rest of the students to get back to their training. “Soon, you all will be following under my Shield’’s lead. I want you Dogs to be ready for when that day comes.” Blu bowed her head, hiding the flushing of her cheeks and wondering if that moment was about to come. “Come.”

She followed, the screen door closing behind the two of them. Father’s office was bathed in warm light, the myriad of weaponry of ancient and great legend hanging as though trophies on the bamboo walls. Father’s office had the feel of the log cabin that Abraham Lincoln would have built had he lived in the Kumamoto Prefecture. Tapestries of legends past were painted on the rice paper sheets lining the walls. Images of Father pointing a blade in the direction of a little shadow surrounded by whipping tendrils of watercolor black. The blip in which Father pointed his blade at seemed familiar to her now. As if she had been in close proximity with this apparition.

The clinking of glasses brought Blu’s attention back to Father standing over his desk, pouring bubbling streams into two flute glasses. Blu looked down at the flute glasses in disgust, then back up at the ingratiating manner of her host, her Father. Her lip curled into a sneer. “When are you going to stop this farce,” Blu barked, silencing the white noise of Father’s jabbering. “You see I did not come here with a little girl. You see I did not complete my mission. Are you not going to punish me?” Blu’s hand flashed in front of the black sash wrapped around her waist and drew her blade in blinding speed. Two slashes filled the air. And at first silence. Then suspicion. “Or were you going to try and poison me?” The flute glasses shattered. The champagne bottle split in half, the bottle neck of the dark green bottle covered in thick mercury red blood. Father looked at his hand, noticed from the bottom of his knuckles up to the musculature of his forearm had been sliced through, leaving his arm seemingly halved and useless. Father fell back, releasing a blood curdling scream while holding the mangled arm. This is what I almost died for? Blu recalled the feel of bowing toward that little girl, Niah’s blade suspended just above the back of her neck. This is the man that I almost died for? The thundering of footsteps pounded behind the rice paper sliding door. Father rolled on the ground screaming in agony. Blu shook her head and walked over the jerking body of her Father, not seeing the god she used to see, but something else, something in pain. Something in need of euthanizing. Blu raised her blade in the air and drove the piercing steel into the curls on his head, the twitching stopping before his body seized and locked into rigor mortis.

Blu drew her blade from the head that served for a temporary scabbard, her foe defeated and her charge protected. The rice paper door flung open. Blu stood over the corpse, knocking the base of the blade with the back of her fist and listening to the gasp escape from the woman whose admiration she had gained just moments before. “What have you done?”

Blu turned on the heel of her foot, looked directly into her new adversary’s eyes and spoke with saliva frozen on the tip of her tongue. “What you couldn’t.” And as if recognizing the Godslayer in front of her, the adversary fell to a knee and stared up at the tiny Blu. Others filed around Blu’s knew subject, fell to their knee as well, pledging their fealty to a new Force. Blu.

 


 

Jeffrey Bolden, affectionately known as Boosie in his community, is currently a graduate student in Chatham University’s MFA program. A Southern transplant to Pittsburgh, Jeffrey hails from places such as Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, as well as Japan, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. A victim of wanderlust that’s never seeking the antidote.

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