A new short story set in medieval Japan. A man retired from war, and the quiet village he set up shop in. When a strange woman comes to him for a tattoo, he reluctantly takes her money, and tries to unravel her mystery. Meanwhile, savage men threaten his newfound peace. Can there be friendship in exile, for a man who is so scarred and cast out?
I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of my shop, slowly grinding my daily ink, lost in the rhythm of the chore, when I heard my shop door open. I didn’t have to look up, I could see perfectly well out of the periphery of my vision, having perfected long ago where to sit to take advantage of this, and thus appear at least a little mystic.
“Go away, I don’t tattoo children,” I growled.
“But I am not a child.” She flipped back her cowl and revealed a round, smiling face with a tattoo streaking one cheek. “I do, however, want a tattoo.”
Now she had my attention. What was a grown woman doing in my parlor? The daughters of Japan, or, given her age, the wives, do not ask to have marks made on their bodies by strange men wielding bamboo splinters with gall ink. Yet here she was, with her face marked, and wanting more. I wondered what her husband was thinking. She dropped her cloak on the low table I used for clients who needed to lie down, and revealed that she was short, sturdy, and dressed like a samurai on his day off. There was nothing feminine about her.
Unless you watched how she moved. She certainly had my full and undivided attention as I watched, still sitting on the floor with a vantage point for her matter of fact strip tease. She peeled down to a strip of soft cloth that was wrapped around her waist and groin, revealing a body that was padded subtly in the right places, but when she moved you could see the muscles. At a certain point I was experiencing sensory overload. I stood up and reached out. She let me take her arm and turn it over, inspecting her skin. She wore tattoos like lace gloves, up almost to her elbows, crisscrossing lines, mostly thin. There were marks everywhere I could see, from head to toe.
“Who did this to you?” I demanded, upset at the way her body had been defaced.
She smiled serenely, amused. “I was told you were a man to be trusted, Aya. I see that faith was not misplaced.” Read More…