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September 22, 2020

Hrioshango smiled and lifted a pipe to his mouth, enjoying a few well-deserved puffs of delirium. His gaze broke away as he temporarily watched the sky. Not even the starlight reached his cold eyes. 

“What do you think, Shindara? Are you a coward or a demon? Or something greater?”

Shindara’s head snapped up.

“How could you possibly know about that conversation?”

“Answer the question.”

Shindara glanced down at the Obsidian Blade. It was never far from his side these days and he felt unwhole when it was tucked away.  It seemed to have become an extensio...

September 3, 2020

“We live and die by the sword,” Mikoto said, facing the revelers with a frenzy in her eyes. Blood trickled down her face from where a piece of shrapnel had cut her. “As we all know, life can be cruel, short, and oftentimes meaningless. There isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t reminded of this in some way. Sometimes I’m reminded by the smoke on the horizon. I’m reminded by the stench of rot wafting from a nearby battlefield. Or maybe I’m reminded of the fact that we have an infant child sitting on the throne.” 

Most men knew better than t...

August 13, 2020

Shindara tried to sleep that night but he found it nearly impossible. As he curled up under the stars, he closed his eyes and felt as if he couldn’t breathe. The breath rattled in his chest and he sensed the shadows pressing in around him. His heart pounded louder, almost insistently when the night approached.

He wasn’t sure whether it was a sign of anxiety or if the darkness was awakening his connection to the Yomi. Regardless of the cause, he couldn’t escape this outpouring of desperation.

When at last he fell asleep, his worst fears were realize...

July 20, 2020

Shindara laughed so vigorously that a sharp pain began to flare between his bruised ribs. 

“Buddha and the gods above, I needed a laugh like that. It’s been a while. Thank you, Hachi.”

He threw back his head and looked to the gray sky, marveling at this strange sensation on his face. It felt as though ages passed since he could sincerely smile. 

With a heavy sigh, he said, “I’m cursed, Hachi. Don’t you get it? I’ve been touched by another realm.”

“What?”

The scribe stopped to admire a secluded water mill among the wreckage. 

“It happened in the siege o...

July 2, 2020

“Extraordinary,” Mikoto breathed. “You opened a gateway to another world.”

Shindara scoffed.

“And as you can see, I was punished for my arrogance. This darkness around my hand festers like a disease, constantly feeding and driving me into the shadows. When I stand in the sunlight, I feel like dry tinder about to burst into flames.”

“Well, it seems I was wrong to label you a demon. Is there any way to undo this curse?”

Shindara chuckled.

“I fear not. This curse is slowly spreading from one part of my body to the next. As for the final outcome, my body...

June 10, 2020

Beneath the blood and dirt, the soft edges of her face drew a contrast to the ferocity in her eyes. There was a powerfully seductive quality about her smile that made the hairs stand up on the back of Shindara’s neck. 

She wore a distinct breastplate made of black leather scales and metal, not unlike the “do-maru” of the lesser samurai. A skirt of iron plates was laced to her belt and her arms were wrapped in chainmail. Indigo blue silk was a prominent element in her armor, whether it tied the shin guards around her calves or strung together the p...

May 12, 2020

Shindara panted for breath. He was kicked in the ribs and dragged to his feet. He winced as fingers coiled around his throat. A demonic face peered back at him through the smog, scarred with deep ridges and furrows. As his pain subsided, he realized the face was wrought of metal, not flesh. The red mask was carved in the likeness of a demon or “yokai.” Fangs curled and protruded from the mask in an unnerving snarl.

Two pronged horns jutted from atop the man’s helmet. His narrow face was completely concealed except for his eyes.

Inside those twin...

April 25, 2020

Shindara couldn’t comprehend how the samurai reached the city as swiftly as they did. He ran through the temple compound, calling out for Aya.

His love had to be somewhere among the refugees seeking shelter. Damn Priest Kobo for not bringing her soon enough. If they outlasted the siege, he vowed to kill the monk himself.

“Aya!” he screamed.

Arrows arched over the walls and the monks before Shindara writhed and crumpled to the ground. He tumbled down the stairs as a second and third volley followed, blanketing the steps outside Nigatsu-Hall.

Shind...

April 1, 2020

The samurai were locked in battle with the warrior monks of Nara. Shindara was stunned by how well the monks were faring. That is, until he realized the Taira samurai were unarmed.

They couldn’t raise a sword or bow in their defense, otherwise they surely would have. Shindara’s masters were butchering the Emperor’s messengers at their doorstep. Those who weren’t quick to flee were forced to their knees and beheaded.

Once more, Shindara’s hand drifted to his sword. He often watched the monk soldiers train in the temple courtyard, so he knew how to h...

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