Whispers of Fire chapter 13, Red Tape, is up on AO3. Merry Christmas!
And now to our poor confused Herald and Guards….
Evil, Yamagata realized, pushing through the angry, increasingly confused crowd minutes later, letting the white bulk of Kamiya’s Companion break a path for them both. There is evil at work here. A taint I’ve not felt since…. “Himura!”
Small. Red gi and off-white hakama patched and worn, humble as the low, flame-scarlet ponytail of a wandering swordsman. Only one sheath by his side; no trace of the honor blade his heroism had won.
Yet that one blade flickered, fast as the wind, felling three swordsmen in one swing.
Himura’s sandals touched the ground. He stood among twenty-odd fallen bodies, cool gaze turning toward the source of the crowd’s fury. “One left.”
Lip curling back from his teeth, Jiki growled.
Kamiya nudged her Companion forward; Yamagata caught her knee. “No. Wait.”
Two pairs of blue eyes glared at him. “If you think-”
“Call a miko, Herald. Or some priest you trust. Now. There’s more peril here than you know.” Sensing Tostig and his men arriving in their wake, Yamagata yet kept his gaze fixed on the ringleader, ki sense recoiling from the darkness of that tainted blade. “Himura can’t let him draw blood.” Not if we want to stop this mob without killing every last one of them.
Left-handed, Himura rested the hilt-guard of his sword against the crook of his elbow, ignoring the muttering crowd to watch his foe. “Swear that you will set that blade aside, and see a priest for cleansing of your soul. Then we can end this. And this one will submit to the Guard, for drawing a blade on the streets.”
“Silence!” Sweat dripped down Jiki’s face, sparking in ki sense with inhuman hate. “I cannot bow to you!”
Gripping his sword, he charged.
“That stance – what’s wrong with him?” Kamiya exclaimed. “If he connects like that-!”
He’ll break his own arm, Yamagata finished, seeing it as clearly. As if the creature that holds him even cares.