The Ring of Sky by Chris Bradford

The Ring of Sky by Chris Bradford

Author:Chris Bradford [Bradford, Chris]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Ages 10 and up
ISBN: 9780141971025
Publisher: PUFFIN BOOKS
Published: 2012-08-02T04:00:00+00:00

36

Bid for Freedom

With Riku struggling to rise for a third bout, even with the help of two attendants, Jack turned to daimyo Kato and declared, ‘Final match is forfeit. I win.’

‘No!’ said daimyo Kato firmly. ‘You cheated.’

‘I used tactics,’ corrected Jack. ‘You said the conqueror and conquered are decided in the blink of an eye. Riku blinked.’

Outfoxed, daimyo Kato fumed, his face contorting in silent rage. His hands gripped his fan so tightly it was on the verge of snapping in half. Then the referee stepped in.

‘The gaijin is disqualified,’ he announced, ‘for being over his start line.’

‘I wasn’t –’

‘The referee’s decision is final,’ cut in the daimyo, with an imperious sneer, as the sumo official turned his back on Jack’s protests and left the ring.

Jack realized the samurai lord had been playing a cruel game with him, one that he’d had no intention of letting Jack win. Incensed, Jack glanced at Akiko held prisoner at the feet of the smugly smiling daimyo. Forever bound to one another, he mouthed to her, then leapt from the dohyō.

The samurai patrol, clustered round the defeated wrestler and their crushed comrades, were too distracted to notice Jack’s bid for freedom. As he touched down on the dojo floor, Jack targeted the neck of the nearest samurai with a knife-hand strike. The man collapsed like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Jack swiftly unsheathed the katana from the samurai’s saya as he fell.

The patrol officer, suddenly realizing what was happening, rushed to draw his own sword. Jack floored him with a spinning elbow strike to the jaw. He took out the next samurai using the brass pommel of his katana’s handle, embossing the man’s forehead with the dragon design that adorned the end. The five other samurai finally pulled themselves together and drew their weapons. In a frenzied attack, Jack charged into them, knocking one samurai over the writhing body of Riku and attacking another with his sword.

At the same time as Jack was decimating the patrol, Akiko dropped forward as if to bow to the daimyo, then mule-kicked the guard behind her. The samurai went flying. He landed unceremoniously on his backside and skidded across the polished woodblock floor. Leaping cat-like to her feet, Akiko raced to help Jack. But the two sumo wrestlers from the earlier bout charged to intercept her. As they converged on either side, determined to crush her between their bloated bodies, Akiko sprang into the air and somersaulted away. The two titans collided head first. There was a sickening crack of skulls and they collapsed in a fleshy useless heap.

Jack fought furiously, but with only a single katana to keep the four samurai at bay he was in mortal danger. As he deflected a blade slicing for his chest, he heard the ominous whoosh of a sword cut from behind. With no hope of avoiding it, Jack anticipated the icy sensation of razor-sharp steel scything through his flesh. But the blade missed and the sword clattered to the floor as his attacker let out a pained grunt and crumpled where he stood.



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