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 plates of her “kusazuri” skirt.
An impressive tachi sword hung from her waist, its handle wrapped in blue leather.
Glee danced in her eyes as she reveled in Shindara’s anger. She noticed the jeweled flask dangling from a chain around his neck.
“Isn’t that quaint. You must have pillaged one of the temples to get your clutches on this. The city burns through the night and you slip in and out with her treasures. Not even I would stoop that low. You’d better let me take that off your hands before you get hurt.”
Sudden desperation cut through the fog of Shindara’s mind. He would never permit Aya’s ashes to fall into the hands of treacherous thieves.
He cried out as the flask was yanked from the chain. The bandit wasted no time looking over the gorgeous etchings with intrigue.
“Hachi, take this back to the camp,” she said. “This should fetch a nice price in the capital--”
She darted right as a dagger whistled past, plunging deep into a tree instead of her back. She turned around and saw Shindara struggling to stand. Clutched in his hand was a long blade chipped away at the edges.
The woman grinned, intrigued more and more by the lone wolf.
“I was going to let you live,” she lamented.
With those words, a pair of highwaymen launched themselves at Shindara. Metal rang against metal as he deflected an offensive strike. A single bandit pressed the attack, darting ahead and thrusting left, always aiming closer toward Shindara’s chest.
Shindara retreated several steps and lost his footing as he tumbled through the dirt. Recovering quickly, he slapped a blade aside and countered high.
From the side of the road, the woman watched her prey with interest, marveling at how gracefully and savagely he moved.