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I felt the wind as the katana sliced at my throat. Ha, I thought. Missed me! And then I felt the pulse of blood flowing out.
I did the only thing I could. I straightened my tail out, stiff like a plank and fell over backwards. If the thief thought that I was dead, I may have a chance to heal myself before doom fell. I heard a cry, whether from Nya, Gami or Mir’Itus, I could not tell.
I slowed my breathing. Willing my heart to stop its flutter. I didn’t want to move, not just yet. Then I felt a hand on me. I carefully cracked an eye. Hekari was kneeling beside me. In my mind’s eye I saw flowing water and the golden light of a summer morning and I gathered the two into a ball and imagined swallowing it. I heard Hekari gasp. I squeezed her hand.
A moment later, I felt a breeze as the thief’s body hit the floor near me. I sat up, slowly because I still felt lightheaded. I saw surprise and then anger on Nya’s face. Gami-Gami dropped her weapon and Mir’Itus shook his head in wonder.
“I being OK. No dead. Just play the dead to not be dead, yes?” Nya turned away without a word. Gami bent slowly, as thought she were ancient, and picked up her blade.
“What?” I asked Mir’itus. “What’s the problem here?”
“We thought you were dead.” I raised my whiskers. “Yes, and….?”
“If you died, think about it Te’Ka, if you died, Gami-Gami would have to follow you. She swore an oath to protect you.” His words meant less to me than the fact that he used my name. I cannot remember the last time he called me Te’Ka. I bowed to him. “Thank you for my life, honored Mir’Itus.”
I approached Gami-Gami, who was slowly cleaning the double blades of her weapon. “The thanks of a humble rat go to you, great warrior Gami-Gami! Count the stars in the sky to number the blessings of being your companion.” I bowed low and held my bow for several seconds. When I finally met her eyes, she said “Aye.” And no more, but she seemed satisfied with my thanks.
One more apology — Nya. I found her in the larger chamber. She’d climbed on her horse, as though to leave. I looked down at my robes, the blood heavy at the collar. I pulled them straight and adjusted my belt. Deep breath and then I spoke:
“I am forever in your debt, for my life. Thank you, great warrior, for protecting me in my time of need. I am… not worthy.” And I bowed low. The only sound was the hooves of her horse as he moved nervously. I vowed to hold the bow until she spoke.
Finally she said, “Don’t mention it. Ever.” As I raised up, I caught a glint as though she’d been crying. And then she was gone.