Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai: “IN UR ENDING”

Learning the secret of perfect defense, Tomo begins her career—here!

She saves lovers Meg and Cho.

She reforms two night-grim thieves.

She establishes the standard special effects LIGHT and I’M IN UR FIGHT, BLOCKING UR ATTACKS!

A fearless warrior, her actions shake the status quo.

Defending the oppressed she defies order!

Even terribly offensive shogun Daiimon falls before her perfect defense!

But a resurgent shogun attains a perilous insight

and braces himself to crumble the foundations of kung fu!

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

It seems to him that it is over. That he will win now. That he is in the moment of his victory.

He feels a rippling pressure, a rising-falling feeling, like the sensation of the passage of a wave when one is drifting on the sea.

His hand moves forward another quarter-inch.

Daiimon sees her.

He sees Tomo as she might have been had her early life been kinder: tall and straight and gentle, clean, and kind.

But most of all, he sees her smile.

He hears her laugh.

Her sword comes around:

Whump.

I’M IN UR FIGHT
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

Daiimon staggers back.

He shakes his head.

“Ridiculous,” he says. He is in the temple of stationary defensive samurai Kon. Tomo is far away. “You aren’t even here.”

He inverts his palm. He makes it flat like a mortar knife. He strikes.

She catches his arm. She moves his blow around in a great arc until it strikes the temple wall.

Gently she protests:

I’M IN UR FIGHT

On a pillar of fire he charges. Smoke wreathes his arms. He screams harsh challenge.

DARKNESS

The fire dissolves.

He falls to the ground.

Pathetically, he surrenders.

In that moment Daiimon understands what it is Kon saw in him: why a man, once terribly offensive, would be worth the stationary defensive samurai’s time.

“Ur in my fight,” he concedes.

She’s been in his fight since the moment they crossed swords.

She’s contaminated him, somehow.

Gotten under his skin.

“Nasty trick,” he says aloud.

Kon looks up.

“Eh?” Kon says.

Daiimon ignores him. He staggers to his feet. He walks out the temple gate and balances unsteadily on the air. Then he kicks off, hnh! and he is gone.

It is very clear to the terribly offensive castaway what he must do.

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

This is CAPITAL CITY SHANG LOVELY.

Its guards include the THOUSAND PERFECT EMPEROR WARRIORS and the SEVEN GUARDIANS OF ICE.

Tomo is shopping.

The capital city is very boring because of all the perfect emperor warriors but it’s still the best place to get kung fu kimonos.

She studies the menu at an important kimono outlet. She frowns mildly at the prices. She taps one entry with her fingernail and starts to speak.

AN EVIL FEELING!

Where?

To the east!

She feels a fire warrior charging towards the city. She senses seven guardians of ice and a thousand perfect emperor warriors converging on his Chi.

“O!” says Tomo.

There’s too much lag time involved in putting down the menu. She can’t possibly get to the fight and block anyone’s attacks. Her only hope is that this enemy is strong—

A thousand warriors fly up like tenpins. Seven guardians of ice dissolve in flames.

Sweet joy spreads through her.

It is as if she has just eaten a hot peach bun and the jam of it has hit her stomach. It warms her. It makes her fingers tingle.

“IT’S U!” she says.

Like a snake on the water, left-right-left, he cuts towards her through the crowd. He leads with the point of his sword. Fire bursts. She cannot help noting, with approval, that he’s tumbling the citizens rather than igniting them.

The intensity of his Chi in the air makes it difficult to breathe.

He’s going to stab her.

Calmly, she lets the menu flutter to the ground.

Her sword leaps to her hand.

LIGHT

Everything is still. The faces around them do not move. The carts do not roll and the birds are frozen on the wing.

He isn’t making a second attack.

She doesn’t quite get that.

She frowns at him. She says—

I’M IN UR FIGHT
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

“Me 2,” he says.

“What?”

ME 2!

It’s ridiculous. It’s too funny. She’d snort milk out of her nose if she were drinking any. But she isn’t.

So she plays along.

Ever so gently, she kicks at him.

LIGHT

A whip of fire bursts from his hand and

LIGHT

“O!” she shouts, like this were the best thing in all the regions of the world.

LIGHT;

LIGHT;

LIGHT;

LIGHT; and

LIGHT.

That’s how it goes: the legend of the perfectly defensive samurai.

The beginning to the ending, and the breath of blocking u.

And it’s hard to say how much of it is true and how much of it is false, but there’s a pretty easy way to know.

If you go to DESERTED CAPITAL CITY SHANG LOVELY, you’ll find that they’re still there today; in their fight, forever, blocking one another’s attacks.

It is the most beautiful thing you will ever see, people say, unless you get struck on the head by a piece of flying debris and die.

Then it’s still beautiful! But dying like that isn’t good at all.

Merry Christmas!

Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai: “The Breath of Terrible Fire”

Learning the secret of perfect defense, Tomo begins her career—here!

She saves lovers Meg and Cho.

She reforms two night-grim thieves.

She establishes the standard special effects LIGHT and I’M IN UR FIGHT, BLOCKING UR ATTACKS!

A fearless warrior, her actions shake the status quo.

Defending the oppressed she defies order!

Even terribly offensive shogun Daiimon falls before her perfect defense!

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

Children grow up. Clothing wears out. Flowers blossom on old graves.

This is SEVEN YEARS LATER.

A terribly offensive man in ragged clothing washes up on Kon’s temple’s shore.

Kon looks down.

He calls down, “I’d come help you, but I’m a stationary defensive samurai.”

A seagull floats down. It lands on the ear of the man. It bites.

Red rage obscures the man’s vision. His arm loops up. It catches the bird by the throat. The bird ignites. Burning, it writhes free of his hand and flutters unhappily down the shore; and if it lived, or if it died, we do not know.

Kon puffs up one cheek and pokes at the side of his mouth with his tongue.

The man looks up.

His eyes are red-rimmed and they burn with terribly offensive Chi.

“I’ll lower a rope,” Kon says.

And he busies himself with this task.

And he says, “We should have tea.”

So Daiimon climbs, hand over hand, and with great difficulty; for the sea has tumbled him sore.

He flops onto the temple’s edge.

He drags himself in.

Kon wraps him in a blanket and brings him to a chair.

“Tea,” Kon says.

Daiimon snarls and reaches out and

LIGHT

Shivering and whimpering, Daiimon recoils back.

“I know that light,” he says.

“Oh!” says Kon, happily. “You’ve seen Tomo. Is she well?”

But Daiimon does not respond.

After a while, he skitters forward and takes his tea and gulps it down.

“Tell me,” he says. “What is the secret of the perfect defense?”

“You couldn’t learn it,” Kon says. “You’re a terribly offensive castaway!”

Then something stills him.

Some glimmer— a hint of potential in the flash of Daiimon’s eyes— an impossibility!

Kon does not say whatever else he might have said.

Instead he sips his tea.

“I want to destroy it,” Daiimon says. “The gods do not make a thing that cannot be destroyed.”

“What are gods to such as you and I?” says Kon.

Then he frowns and looks away. The terribly offensive castaway is crying.

“If I teach you,” Kon says.

He stares off at a distant mountain.

“If I teach you, what will you do?”

“I will hang her head on the highest mountain in the world,” phlegms Daiimon, “and scatter the pieces of her heart to the four winds. I will drape CAPITAL CITY SHANG LOVELY in her entrails and—“

Kon holds up a hand.

“She’s my student,” he says, in mild rebuke.

“I’m sorry,” says Daiimon.

He laughs a bit.

“I’m terribly offensive,” he explains.

“Well,” says Kon. “It is not for a golden pig to lecture the gods of kung fu; and it’s not for a stationary defensive samurai to decide who can learn and who can’t. Begin!”

He flips up the tea table. Lukewarm tea falls all over the terribly offensive castaway.

Daiimon drips.

Dark leaf juice colors his sleeves and face.

“You see,” Kon says. “No defensive talent.”

Daiimon gives a little laugh.

“Pathetic,” snorts the terribly offensive castaway.

He shakes off his ragged sleeve. The tea falls off; his leaf-stained garment goes clean.

“Oho,” says Kon, with sudden interest. “You suspended the falling beads of liquid in a colloid of your Chi. But can you handle this?

And the candles behind Kon brighten and burn; and a lance of cold light like the spear of a god strikes forward at his guest.

“That’s not in the tea ceremony!” shouts Daiimon, rising, and he makes a circle of his hands and steam beshrouds the light. He plants his left foot, slides it forward in the start of an attack—

Kon clears his throat.

“Defense,” Kon reminds him.

Daiimon sags.

Kon seizes up a thousand-pound iron fork, spins it lightly in his hand, and thrusts.

LIGHT

Daiimon is slumped against the temple wall. The fork is embedded in it, above and to his left.

“Well,” Kon breathes.

And he clasps his hands over his chest, and bows.

“There is no secret,” he says. “There is only the One-Spirit. It flows through you and makes you terribly offensive; through her, and powers her perfect defense; through me, and holds me stationary in the sky.”

“The breath of terrible fire,” Daiimon says.

“The same.”

“But that cannot be so,” he says. “For when I saw the terrible potential of that fire, I saw no perfect defense.”

He opens the gates of his Chi.

He stares into the fire world and witnesses the red flames that writhe about the rock and the blue fire that is Kon.

He looks about for the One-Spirit power of perfect defense and nowhere does it protrude.

“It is not in the world,” Kon says.

“Oh?”

“It is in the heart.”

And the vistas of the universe open to Daiimon’s enlightened mind; and he sees the ten thousand bridges of the ten thousand enlightened ways; and six Great Roads; and the eye of his mind turns to Tomo’s path.

I’M IN UR MIND
ENLIGHTENING U

And seeing it, he knows he can destroy it.

One blow.

That’s all it would take!

The Great and Humble Road would break; and Terribly Offensive Shogun Daiimon be the ruler of the world.

I’M IN UR MIND
ENLIGHTENING U

“U MUST DIE!” he shouts, and he takes his stance, and he pivots his hips, and his hand comes forward.

The world slows down.

He is on kung fu time. The color bleeds from him and the air is thick and it is exactly as if he has had a hundred times the tea he has actually consumed.

In his mind it asks:

U SURE?

The breath of fire in him steadies the trembling in his hands.

“Damn straight.”

He strikes.

Next time on Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai:
IN UR ENDING

Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai: “Shogun and Samurai”

Learning the secret of perfect defense, Tomo begins her career—here!

She saves lovers Meg and Cho.

She reforms two night-grim thieves.

She establishes the standard special effects LIGHT and I’M IN UR FIGHT, BLOCKING UR ATTACKS!

A fearless warrior, her actions shake the status quo.

Defending the oppressed she defies order!

Now the fiery power of terribly offensive shogun Daiimon seeks her end!

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

“Gods of kung fu,” whispers Tomo. “Is this what it is to involve oneself in the world?”

She stands in impasse in the forest—confronting

SHRIEKING OFFENDED MONKEY!

“I’m sorry,” she pleads.

Tomo’s heart is like rice-husk armor—it’s just too delicate! And the monkey’s heart—it’s harder than stale bread!

“I meant no offense!”

It dances!

It shrieks!

And tears run from her eyes and she leaps for the branches and she flees, blindly, sniffling, pursued by shrieking offended monkey, and filled in her heart with an overpowering awareness of the transience of all things; o Merciful Buddha, shelter us from suffering.

Suddenly—

AN EVIL FEELING!

She skids to a halt. She snaps up her head. She looks up and to the east.

Hope gulps down the sorrow in her heart like a dog that hasn’t eaten in too long.

The sky is full of light and evil Chi.

LEISURELY VACATION CITY TURULL is burning.

Fire and ashes fall on Turull from above. Great pillars of red and white spear down.

It is as if the stars have tired of the world and turned their weapons here.

It is beautiful.

It is terrible.

It is amazing.

Tomo trembles and shivers like a race horse waiting for the gun.

She wants to block it so very, very much.

With the back of her hand, she wipes her eyes.

She scans the trees.

She charts a path for jumping—but—

AN ADDITIONAL, ONLY TANGENTIALLY RELATED EVIL FEELING!

Right behind her!

Time slows. She turns. The sword scrapes on her sheath. She has to steady it with her free hand.

This new attack is the sword of the terribly offensive shogun, Daiimon.

It blasts into her like falling, like confusion, like not knowing where one stands.

Inside and outside, she’s in turmoil!

She does not even have time to say it:

I’M IN UR FI—

LIGHT

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

Tomo staggers backwards. Her sword arm is burning inside and out.

LIGHT

Her lips have gone dry. Her heart is struggling with great difficulty to beat.

LIGHT

The aura of Daiimon snaps at her leg like the fangs of a great beast. His sword is a single point of light in an infinite darkness of kung fu. He is strong. He is so TERRIBLY strong.

A scissoring, like the world were twisting around itself.

LIGHT

They draw apart, panting.

Tomo’s lungs burn.

Joy stutters up inside her but he shatters it with twelve biting words.

“You are here, fighting me. So you are not there, blocking that.

Turull is burning.

It tears her heart.

Turull is burning, and she cannot be in that fight and she cannot be blocking those attacks.

She is adrift, her moorings sundered.

Her mind whirls.

He moves, and

LIGHT

Somewhere Daiimon fights Tomo. Somewhere a monkey, perhaps overestimating its own importance, throws a peach pit from behind. Somewhere the world is all in motion and her heart aches fierce.

But Tomo is not there.

Tomo is in a flashback.

“I will teach you the secret of defensive kung fu,” says STATIONARY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI, KON.

“O?”

Kon looks at the distant mountains.

He says, “Through all things in the world, Tomo, a breath flows. We are united in this breath. It is the One-Spirit.”

Tomo thinks on this.

“Is it for blocking?”

Kon hesitates.

“Each of us has our own vision of the One-Spirit,” he says. “For you—”

He nods.

“For you, it is the ‘breath of blocking u’.”

“Show me!” she demands.

And he strikes, lightning-quick, and his fingers on her forehead open the gateways of her mind.

She sees it.

The stone of his temple breathes blue vapors. Kon is livid with red breath. And the grass in the cobblestones breathes greenly; and the distant mountains wreathe themselves with purple gas; and even the sun—

Tomo breathes with it.

She breathes with it, and shares its One-Spirit, and knows in that moment that she will never have sunburn again.

“I cannot leave you in this state for long,” says Kon.

His words come to her from far away. They hang in the air, like shapes behind a watered glass.

It tempts her.

She knows that she could live the breath of blocking words and she would never hear this thing, which she wishes that he would not say.

“You will need laborious training,” Kon says, “to master this. Hours of work in all manner of abnormal training positions, and difficult exercises of great mystic import which I will have to make up on the spot.”

It is so tempting.

One movement.

One movement— one block— and nothing will ever touch her again.

If he tells her otherwise, she does not need to hear.

If the world says otherwise, she does not need to hear.

The spiraling aquamarine coils of rationality breathe and she may easily be one with that great breath, and blocking it.

She breathes. She starts to say:

I’M IN UR FIGHT…

But there is something else.

It it hoving into view. It is giving its shape to the borders of her world.

Insight strikes her like one of those horrible gasp-inducing blows to the stomach, and so beautiful it is that she does not choose to block.

“I see it,” she says.

It is everywhere. It underlies everything. It is the bones of the world.

It is the Great and Humble Road.

LIGHT

LIGHT; LIGHT; LIGHT

She moves on instinct and Chi. There is no other way. No human mind could track the blizzard of their swords’ exchange. No human eye discerns such subtle movements. The fight between Tomo and Daiimon is the “bamboo forest,” where the swords seem great and long and numerous and their sound is hollow ‘thok, thok’ and they sway gently in the wind.

She follows the twisting, winding path of the breath of blocking u.

Her sword spins and dances and it drags her in its wake.

Then she is laughing.

She takes a great deep breath like on the morning of the world and she crows like a child’s laugh and she says, “I love u, I love u, I love u,” as the swords twine and play, and Daiimon is falling back and his face drains of blood and—

LIGHT

The sword of the terribly offensive shogun flies from his hand and cleaves through a rock into the earth.

He slips to one knee.

He says, gasping greatly, “How?”

“Eh?” she says.

“Turull burns; but how did you forget?”

And lightly she laughs and she holds her hand to him and she says, “It’s all right.”

“Eh?” he returns.

“I am Tomo. I am the PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI. It is not important,” she says, and now the wind blows around her. “It is not important to block big attacks. It is not important to block important attacks. It is good to block fire and rain and the power of the stars. But it is not important. This. This right here.”

She touches her heart. She touches his hand.

“This is important. This being in ur fight. This blocking ur attacks. To live where u are and when u are and to breathe the breath of blocking u.”

“No,” says Daiimon.

He shoves the ground and slides back twenty yards.

“No,” he says.

“In the now,” she explains.

He screams, “NO!” a final time and runs away; for staring into the abyss of the truth of her, the terribly offensive shogun has gone mad.

Next time on Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai:
THE BREATH OF TERRIBLE FIRE

Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai: “Legendary Kneeling Lieutenant”

Learning the secret of perfect defense, Tomo begins her career—here!

She impresses her master Kon.

She saves lovers Meg and Cho.

She establishes the standard special effects LIGHT and I’M IN UR FIGHT, BLOCKING UR ATTACKS!

She even reforms two night-grim thieves!

But she has drawn the eye of a terribly offensive shogun—

DAIIMON!

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

Bats scream silently in the airy heights of Daiimon’s citadel.

The terribly offensive shogun taps his fingers on his throne.

“I am displeased,” he says.

Before him—the LEGENDARY KNEELING LIEUTENANT,

MAY!

May lowers her head.

“Why is that?” she asks.

“It is difficult to govern as a terribly offensive shogun if I am not feared,” he says.

“And you are not feared?”

“‘He cannot destroy the perfectly defensive samurai’—people say. ‘Lo, his grip on this land weakens’—people say. Fear runs out of them like rain out of a gutter. Soon the last of it will be gone.”

“Then send me,” May says.

Daiimon looks up. His eyes are bleak and set deep in his head.

“If you fail,” he says, “I will end you with the lightest breath of the TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE TECHNIQUE.”

“Ha!” agrees May.

Then she is gone.

Tomo sits under a pink and white umbrella. She eats a sticky hunk of rice and melon. She leans back and looks at the sun.

“Ur hot,” she tells the sun. “But u can’t burn me. I can feel the breath of blocking u.”

The sun, she thinks, is obligated to agree.

But suddenly—

AN EVIL FEELING!

Time slows.

Tomo breaks the umbrella into three pieces with the side of her hand. The top blows away in the wind. The bottom falls to the ground. The middle piece is a great thin sword.

She pushes off from the ground with one hand, dirt griming up her fingers. The other hand swings the sword forward to block.

LIGHT

May staggers backwards. She falls into a kneeling position. Her sword slips back into its sheath. A lock of hair falls over her eye.

“No less,” May says, “from the legendary defensive samurai.”

“PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE,” Tomo clarifies.

“We’ll see!” says May.

She is a blur. She outpaces the green and blue of her kimono so that the color bleeds off of her to stay behind her in the air and she moves forward as a sepia ghost. She moves in that other world of kung fu where great scars cut through the air and the wind blows hollow.

Her sword is out. It is inevitable. It is invincible. It cuts towards Tomo’s neck.

LIGHT

The umbrella sword explodes. Tomo lurches back and to the side, May’s sword passing right by her neck.

May twists her wrist in a fashion that causes the tendons to jangle with great pain. But Tomo’s foot has found the bottom piece of the umbrella and kicked it up

LIGHT

May’s sleeve sword falls into her second hand. It jabs.

Tomo smiles ethereally.

She exhales: haa.

Her hand comes around. There is nothing in it. Yet:

LIGHT

And May rolls at terrible speed along the ground in a snapped-to-color world and black rocks cut into her skin and shards of broken umbrella catch in her hair and she fetches up against a stone building wall, KLUN.

Her sword snaps back into its sheath.

Tomo is transcendent.

She stands there with her hair floating back and her leg back in stance and a thin mist of dirt falling away from her hand.

May kneels.

“You are my master,” she says. “What would you have of me?”

Tomo hesitates.

Tomo explains:

I’M IN UR FIGHT,
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

“Your will!” May agrees, knocking her head.

And for three long weeks and three more days, where May fights, Tomo blocks, laughing. But a weed of guilt eats at the rice paddy of May’s heart. It grows to choke the ox.

Tomo’s spirit is too bright for May.

So May abandons Tomo and goes to the mountain, to a certain place she knows where Tomo cannot block Daiimon’s attacks, and she waits.

The fire of the TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE TECHNIQUE comes down from the sky and burns May’s shadow to the stone.

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

Tomo walks along the road. She munches on a peach. She tosses the pit aside.

It hits a monkey.

“O noes,” Tomo says. She is horrified. Her face stretches in an expression of plaintive apology.

She is a perfectly defensive samurai!

She does not mean to attack!

But the monkey is not kind.

It chitters.

It shouts.

It jumps up and down.

It is an angry monkey, this monkey, and it does not forgive.

THIS IS THE SADNESS OF THE WORLD
PEOPLE LEAVE US
MONKEYS GET OFFENDED
PEACHES DO NOT REMAIN

Daiimon rises from his distant throne, and his eyes burn red.

Next time on Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai:
SHOGUN AND SAMURAI

Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai: “Shadow of Terribly Offensive Shogun!”

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

Learning the secret of perfect defense, Tomo begins her career—here!

She impresses her master Kon.

She saves lovers Meg and Cho.

She establishes the standard special effects LIGHT and I’M IN UR FIGHT, BLOCKING UR ATTACKS!

And all things fill with righteousness—

But wait!

Wait!

Who is this running through the streets of LEISURELY VACATION CITY TURULL?

This is MASTER MERCHANT BAO!

He is portly and panting. He is waving an umbrella. He is chasing after two night-grim thieves.

They fear him, rightly.

Their third partner has already fallen to a tactical umbrella blow.

They slip into a back alley. They run left. They run right. They emerge onto the street.

They look left. They look right.

A shadow covers them.

They look up.

Master Merchant Bao descends!

LIGHT

For a long moment, the thieves aren’t sure what’s happened. They’d braced themselves for the afterlife; or, worse, to living and having the constable drag them off.

But that hasn’t happened.

LIGHT; LIGHT; LIGHT

and the puffing and grunting of Master Merchant Bao, and three great clamors of umbrella upon steel.

Their eyes clear.

And Tomo says,

I’M IN UR FIGHT
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

“But they’re thieves,” protests Master Merchant Bao.

“Don’t make me repeat myself,” says Tomo. “I do that already.”

Master Merchant Bao hesitates.

One of the thieves performs the hook dagger insinuation. He waits, blade in hand.

LIGHT; the hiss of steel in air; and LIGHT

The hook dagger clatters to the ground.

“Also ur attacks,” Tomo says.

And she turns to look at the thieves. And they see the apples of her cheeks and the twisty hair that falls down over her brow; and her smile cuts them worse than any knife.

“What have we been doing with our lives?” they cry.

For what is thievery and night-grimness compared to the joy of the perfectly defensive samurai?

Master Merchant Bao’s lips are very thin.

He is not pleased.

“Can’t you be in someone else’s fight?” he asks. “Blocking their attacks?”

The wistfulness that washes across Tomo’s face almost makes him weep.

“O,” she says softly. “O. If only.”

If only! If only she could be everywhere! In every fight! A PARALLEL PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI!

But she shakes her head.

“It’s not to be,” she says.

“Forgive us,” cry the thieves, knocking their heads; and Master Merchant Bao sits heavily down upon the ground.

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

Here is TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE SHOGUN—

DAIIMON.

He sulks in his mountain fortress. He chews bitterly on an old fish head.

He says, “Someone has disrupted the threads of fate.”

“Master?” asks one of the HUNDRED SHADOWS OF TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE SHOGUN DAIIMON.

“Two of my thieves,” he says, “have ‘repented.’ It is the influence, hmmm, of a powerfully defensive samurai.”

“Say no more,” says the shadow.

It dissipates into the mountain.

Tomo is bounding from rock to rock. She is running across the humans’ land. She is looking for a fight. She is also looking for sake.

Often, Tomo has found, she may satisfy these urges together.

Two seagulls are squabbling over a bit of food washed up on the shore—the dried-out prince, she suspects, of a distant kelp kingdom. She blocks their attacks; she maketh them to reel; but it is not much to block the attacks of seagulls.

She thinks of the wars of the stars above; and a part of her wishes she could be there, soaring the sky, parrying the twinkles that must be blades of light—

But she has made her peace with being a creature of the earth.

“Oh no,” says FIRST DUPE, on the strand up ahead. “I feel a strange urge to fight.”

“As do I!” says SECOND DUPE.

“Have at it!” they say, together.

They are jolly-seeming dupes in white masks. Tomo’s heart quickens with joy. She kicks off her right foot’s rock, moving just a little bit faster now.

The blades blur forward.

LIGHT.

The dupes move past one another. They wait to see which of them will explode in blood—assuming that it is not both.

It is neither.

I’M IN UR FIGHT,
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

They turn on Tomo.

“What?” says the first dupe.

“You would block AR attacks?” the second dupe protests.

Two blurs of outrage; laughter on the sea, and—

The world goes still. Tomo sees everything moving very slowly.

Not two blurs. Three.

She flicks her attention sideways. Something is rising from the water, something black and sea-dead, something moving very fast.

She breathes out a puff of air: haa.

Three lines of death converge on her; there is a sound like the screaming of the vultures that eat Prometheus’ flesh; and—

I’M IN UR FIGHT,
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

says Tomo with deep joy.

The shadow of the shogun Daiimon staggers back. It is pale with shock. The two dupes are quivering upon the beach.

“But how?” asks the shadow.

“I am Tomo,” she says, clippedly. “I am the PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI.”

And the wind catches up the salt scent of the sea and makes all things that were bad and sorrowful now fairly well once more.

Next time on Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai:
LEGENDARY KNEELING LIEUTENANT

Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai: “Typical Wuxia Lovers”

In this world there are six TERRIBLE TECHNIQUES of martial arts.

They are beyond ordinary people.

Ordinary people are divided against themselves. They are constantly acting against the motivations that drive them.

A martial artist cannot afford such things.

This is STATIONARY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI—

KON.

Kon lives in a white temple on the far side of a cliff. He chose the location of his temple poorly. Erosion ate away the ground. Now his temple hangs over the sea.

It does not fall.

He is a stationary defensive samurai.

Kon wears a white kimono with a pattern of blue flowers. Now and then a student searches him out. Most he discards immediately as unworthy.

Not Tomo.

Tomo has the potential, he thinks, to be a perfectly defensive samurai.

They’re sparring in his temple. He kicks two lit braziers into the air and punches them into her. She reflects them off the edge of her sword. It’s pretty good.

He fills his lungs with the stationary Chi of the temple.

He coughs.

He turns blue.

Then, with a great effort, he does an internal-external conversion and blows a great gout of raw power at her.

She sights the “secret center” of the wind.

She lifts her sword.

She cuts.

There is a riot of waveforms and a great fluttering of tapestries. Then Kon gestures with his hand.

All goes still.

“You are good,” he says.

“O?” Tomo says. She looks pleased.

“Yet—“

He hesitates.

“O?”

“You cannot master one of the TERRIBLE TECHNIQUES,” says Kon, “if you act against the motivations that drive you. So you must tell me, Tomo—what drives you?”

Tomo does not have to think.

The secret of her existence spills forth as a shaken bottle, once opened, will bulge with its weight of heavy foam.

I’M IN UR FIGHT
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS.

“Huh,” says Kon.

He’s been prepping to explain to her the kinds of situations where an enemy might twist that motivation against her.

And hoping to let her down slowly if it were something like, say, “sex up the mentor.”

But instead he just stands there and feels the subtle hand of destiny, and he says, “That’s pretty good.”

[LEGEND OF PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI]

It is far away.

These are TYPICAL WUXIA LOVERS—

MEG and

CHO!

Atop a hill at night, under the falling blossoms, Meg and Cho fight.

Cho stumbles.

For a moment, Meg has the advantage. She lifts her sword. She says a silent prayer in her heart:

Gods of kung fu save him; may I die instead.

The gods of kung fu are kind.

There are too many cherry blossoms in the air. They foul her vision. The blow does not strike true. Cho twists and catches it in his side and not his heart.

Meg dances back, quickly, but not quickly enough.

Cho is on his feet. Cho is surging forward. He is as inevitable as the stone wall that divides their families. He is as powerful as the sea.

He says a silent prayer in his heart:

Gods of kung fu save her; may I die instead.

But he knows it cannot be.

They will die together, in the final clash.

That is the way of things for TYPICAL WUXIA LOVERS.

And indeed, he can see it.

She is using the hidden palm iron blossom sake sword. He can see it before his eyes like a long white slash.

He breathes: Ah.

He resigns himself to fate.

I’M IN UR FIGHT,
BLOCKING UR ATTACKS

There is a flare of light.

Between them stands Tomo. She is blocking Cho’s sword with her sword and the hidden palm iron blossom sake sword with the palm of her free hand.

A flower petal lands, awkwardly, at the very top of her head.

“What?” says Cho, startled.

“I am Tomo,” she says, clippedly. “I am the PERFECTLY DEFENSIVE SAMURAI.”

“How dare you?” he says.

And Meg is already swirling around, moving to cut off Tomo’s head with her razor-edge sleeve—but

LIGHT

And Meg stumbles back.

Cho takes the viper step. It’s the kung fu step a viper would take, if a viper knew kung fu

and had legs

and for a moment he imagined that he’d succeeded; that his sword had sunk into her side; but

LIGHT

And he realizes in that light something that he did not realize before.

Tomo’s face is burning with absolute joy.

The sword falls from his hand.

Behind Tomo, Meg is falling to her knees.

Meg says, “Is this what it is to live with true dedication?”

Cho gulps.

He wants to say something flowery like that but he can’t even think past the sudden awareness of the beauty of it.

It is perfect, the movements of Tomo in the darkness; the joy of her face; the way that she is in their fight, blocking their attacks. It is transfiguring. It is transformative.

He faints.

Tomo stands there for a while.

She says, “No more attacks?”

“Are you a goddess?” asks Meg. “Are you here to remind us that we can find hope and happiness, if we just learn to see one another and open ourselves to risk?”

Tomo considers.

Generosity moves in her. She says, “Okay.”

Then, since the fight is over, she does the departure step and she is gone.

Next time on Legend of Perfectly Defensive Samurai— SHADOW OF TERRIBLY OFFENSIVE SHOGUN