By Jonathan "KnightMysterio" Spires
All characters copyrighted to Koei as well as Chinese and Japanese history/legend and used without permission for non-profit amusement purposes. Comments, compliments, and constructive criticism are not only welcome, they are encouraged. Thank you.
"You're probably wondering why I asked you here," said the young, brown-haired girl as she sat down on the battlement of the tower. She dusted her white, loose-fitting tunic and sighed, two white dogu statues floating around her idly.
"I assume it's for the same reason you've called me out here the past ten times, Lady Himiko. To simply talk, and vent frustrations and feelings of the day," said the bowing figure behind her. He was much too tall to be human, his voice raspy, giving Himiko the impression of spider legs every time he spoke. His feet and hands were inhuman, three-digited and clawed. And only a single eye shone from underneath his helmet.
Himiko smiled at him. "Not… exactly," she admitted. "Would you sit by me?" she asked, patting the ground right beside her.
The slender, demonic warrior nodded, obediently moving next to her and sitting down in a lotus position, waiting patiently for Himiko's next word. Himiko let her legs dangle over the side of the battlement, staring sadly at the warped, blasted land around them.
"I… I have a question to ask you, Sheetweaver," she said, "And I can't think of who else to ask."
Sheetweaver blinked. "What of Lady Da Ji? Are you and she not close?"
Himiko shook her head. "Da-chan… What I have with her is different. And the others… Masamune's boring and noisy, Dong Zhuo's a perv, Keiji I can't take seriously because of that stupid haircut, Lu Bu is a big meanie, Fuma is creepy and would just laugh at me, Kiyomori is even creepier than Fuma, Lord Orochi scares me, and Sima Yi is a dork. You're the closest thing to a friend that I have."
Sheetweaver fidgeted, uncomfortable with the term. "…You are aware that I'm a Dodomeki, a proud general of the Serpent King Lord Orochi. I am a warrior, not a counselor."
Himiko nodded, and fell to one side, leaning up against Sheetweaver. The Dodomeki blinked, startled, but didn't shy away.
"You're still my friend, right?" she asked, "You've always been willing to talk to me?"
Sheetweaver frowned underneath his helmet. "You are a high ranking officer in Lord Orochi's army, and the key that brought my master back to life. I would do whatever you ask of me."
Himiko frowned. It wasn't the answer she was hoping for… "Do you even know what a friend is?"
Sheetweaver shook his head. "I am unfamiliar with the concept."
Himiko stared at him in a way that made the Dodomeki uncomfortable. "…Could you guess?"
Sheetweaver frowned. "…From what I know of human culture, a friend is someone you feel you can trust implicitly. Someone to share thoughts and secrets with that won't openly mock you for them."
Himiko giggled and poked him. "Silly. You say you're unfamiliar with the concept and yet you got it right in one try."
Sheetweaver sighed, looking away. "I am not human, my lady. Trust doesn't matter to my kind. Only obedience and the mission at hand. We are all just pawns in our Lord and Master's great and glorious design."
Himiko shook her head. "No, I don't think so," she said, feeling more confident about talking with him now, "And I don't think you do either."
Sheetweaver blinked, confused. "My lady?"
Himiko smiled up at him, a warm, pleasant smile that made the spider-ninja-demon feel quite uncomfortable.
"I've seen you out in the field, Sheetweaver," she said, "I've seen you rescuing your comrades from death at the hands big meanies like Zhang Fei and Hanzo."
Sheetweaver frowned underneath his helmet. "We cannot serve our lord if we are dead. My brothers do not see that logic, although Orochi agrees with me."
Himiko blinked. "Really? He always seemed like the 'survival of the fittest' type…"
Sheetweaver shook his head. "Fitness includes fitness of mind. The weak die in battle. The strong live on to keep killing. If that includes running for it when things go badly on the battlefield, then so be it. There is no shame in running from a situation that you have no hope of overcoming."
Himiko flinched at the mention of killing. "Which brings me to why I asked you here."
Sheetweaver nodded, curious.
Himiko sighed, snuggling her head into Sheetweaver's side. "I… Da Ji has always been good to me. The Mommy I never had. And despite my problems with the others, I do like them. Even scary Lord Orochi and Kiyomori. But I've heard some things…"
Sheetweaver frowned underneath his helmet. "My lady?"
Himiko bit her lip. "Mister Masamune said that Lord Orochi can save the land, but when I talk to nice Miss Diao Chan about it, she just gets this really sad look on her face. Are… are we the good guys?"
Sheetweaver cringed inwardly. "Such concepts are abstracts to me, my lady. Would you explain what you mean?"
Himiko shook her head. "Good guys… They help people. They protect them from the bad guys. They save lives."
Sheetweaver sighed. "Then no. We aren't. Lord Orochi tore apart the world and the timestream so he could fight the greatest, noblest warriors of the land. Dong Zhuo is a lech who would violate any beautiful woman he comes across and bend them to his will. I and my kind devour human flesh. Sima Yi abandoned his homeland and his people out of mere pride. Fuma is a madman who worships chaos. Lu Bu craves nothing more than battle," he said, hesitating before adding, "And if you ever wish to have a night without nightmares ever again, never ask Da Ji about the Bronze Toaster, Wine Forest, and Gem Palace."
Himiko shivered, clutching herself even tighter to Sheetweaver. "Mister Masamune…"
"Is deluded. He is desperate for something or some ONE to believe in, and does not handle change very well. He has latched onto Orochi as a source of stability and refuses to let go."
Himiko shivered softly. Sheetweaver grumbled inwardly, wondering if he'd hurt her somehow… and how badly Da Ji would hurt him for doing so.
Himiko shook her head after a moment. "But people can change, right?" she said, hopefulness in her voice.
Sheetweaver shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I care little about humans other than the fact that they are tasty when served grilled with barbecue sauce."
Himiko giggled, although it was somewhat melancholy. "I… People say all these bad things about Da Ji… That she's mean, and corrupt, and would betray you at the drop of a hat… But I've never seen that. She's always been nice to me, always been kind… And from what she's told me, she freed Lord Orochi the first time around because she felt sorry for him. That's a nice thing to do, right?"
"I suppose…" Sheetweaver admitted, not really having considered it before, "But keep in mind that Lord Orochi was imprisoned because of the atrocities he had committed against humanity."
Himiko winced. "Yeah, I guess… But still, I think everyone can change."
Sheetweaver rolled his eyes. "Even my kind?"
Himiko nodded, and said in her most sincere voice, "Even your kind. The fact that you're here talking with me is proof positive of that."
Sheetweaver sighed. "Whatever makes you happy, my lady."
Himiko stared out over the blasted plains. "And even if… Even if we are actually the bad guys, Da Ji's still my Momma-chan… I still love her… And she loves me…"
Sheetweaver shook his head. "Lady Himiko, you have to accept that Da Ji is…"
Himiko gestured, one of her Dogu flying up to Sheetweaver's face, silencing him. "Don't," she said, "I get that every day from every one of the rebels, and I don't' believe it. She's risked her life for me, even after Lord Orochi was revived. Just last week she took a couple arrows to the back while moving me out of the way of an attack by that mean bow lady."
Sheetweaver blinked. He remembered Da Ji coming back bady injured last week, but the hu ji ling had refused to state how she had gotten injured.
Himiko nodded. "Da Ji… whatever she was before, she's different now. I can sense it."
Sheetweaver just stared into the distance, unsure of what to make of what he had just heard. Himiko kissed him, thanked him for letting her get her feelings out in the open, and went to go find Da Ji.
"Hnh…" he said a few minutes after Himiko left. "Da Ji… nice?"
The Dodomeki got to his feet, and went back on his regular patrol. As he did, though, he heard singing. Blinking, he followed the sound of the voice, unused to hearing such gentle music coming from… well, anyone in this castle.
Eventually, he found his way to Da Ji's private quarters. Staying in the shadows, he peered into the room, his eyes widening as he say Himiko laying in Da Ji's lap, a contented smile on her face as she slept, Da Ji gently stroking the 'girl's hair and singing an old children's lullaby in Chinese, the throne she was sitting on silhouetted by the fireplace.
Sheetweaver, unnerved, started to leave, when Da Ji called out, "I know you're here. Come in."
Slowly, the spider-demon walked into the room, kneeling before Da Ji. The fox woman sneered her characteristic sneer at him. "What do you want, Sheetweaver?"
The Dodomeki frowned beneath his helmet. "I was just… surprised, is all. Himiko occasionally comes to me to talk, and spoke of you… well, actually being as good as she says you are…"
Sheetweaver cringed, bracing himself for death. To his surprise, all that happened was Da Ji sighed, and stared into the fire.
"Maybe I am changing…" she said, "Everything was so simple before… And now… After meeting this girl…"
Sheetweaver blinked. "My lady?"
Da Ji sighed. "I don't… feel right, about sending her into battle… I don't… when she gets hurt, or captured, it feels like my soul is being ripped out, and nothing else matters, not even Lord Orochi's safety, until I get her back…"
Sheetweaver frowned. "…Himiko thinks of you as her mother… Her Momma-chan, she calls you…"
Da Ji looked at Sheetweaver, and to the Dodomeki's surprise, there were the beginnings of tears in her eyes.
"Me? A mother?" Da Ji said, chuckling weakly, "Gods help this child…"
Sheetweaver sighed. "She values you, my lady. Whatever else happens, she values you. I accompanied you and Morion when we went to free Lord Orochi, and have served alongside you the longest. I have learned to trust your judgement. Perhaps it is out of place for me to say so, but maybe if you are feeling less like Lord Orochi's strategist, and more like a mother, perhaps it would be best if you focused on that instead?"
Da Ji frowned, and then gestured for him to leave. Sheetweaver stood up and bowed. But before he left, Da Ji said, "Thank you for speaking with me, at least…"
Three weeks later, Da Ji and Himiko disappeared from Koshi Castle.
And Sheetweaver, even as he led a hunt for her in Shu territory, began to wonder…