Drifting – 15

“Why is there a bounty on your head?” I ask.

Still walking. Marching. She takes a left and then a right. Then another left and another right. We’re seeing the backs of many shops and residences.

“Someone needed killing,” she says at last.

And she need say no more on that topic. It is the great tragedy of the wulin that they become outlaws for correcting those rare injustices that are beyond the purview of the law to correct.

We emerge in the middle of a bustling open-air marketplace filled with merchants, customers, and passersby yelling at each other. Haggling for prices and competing for attention.

Sword Witch slices through the crowd without slowing down. I should mention this is not the sword type of slicing. It’s entirely a matter of navigation and some shoving.

I follow as best I can in her wake.

Note taking difficult.

Everyone weirdly sweaty.

That guy smells.

Very rude phrase. Will not repeat it.

Elbowed in head. Unintended, yet no apology.

She stops and I bump into her arm. I can’t tell if that’s armor or muscle under the robe.

“They’re here,” she says.

And, indeed, there in the churning sea of humanity before us, three men stand out. Two of them have swords. The third has a spear. I don’t recognize them from Bottomless Zhao’s, but everything about them reminds me of everyone I saw there. Their beards are unruly. Their eyes are wild and hungry. Their clothes are a patchwork of styles and sizes. Looking at them it’s as if they became bandits by adhering to a checklist.

“There’s a fourth somewhere,” Sword Witch says.

“But I’m out of ink!”

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