I woke up rested.
When I bade Liu Sanjie goodbye, there was no response. The entire cemetery, I noticed, was silent. The air was absent of birdsong and the voices of insects.
I was alone with the trees and the dead.
Life was as it should be.
I adjusted the Colts in their holsters and made my way out of the cemetery.
I’d gone less than a mile before the birds returned with force. Their song tore through the air and shook me as wind slammed into my chest and threatened to push me back.
While the birds sang, the air settled into a gentle breeze, and crickets added their voices to the cacophony around me.
The noise brought a smile to my lips, but the smile didn’t last long.
In less than a hundred yards, as I turned down around the right side of a grassy hill, I spotted a group of soldiers. Ten of them dressed in cotton uniforms and armed with rifles and long-handled grenades.
I came to a stop when I saw them, and the ten looked at me.
One stepped forward and, in the strange manner of the people here, spoke directly into my thoughts.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“A traveler,” I answered. “Nothing more and nothing less.”
“Where is your passport?”
“I don’t have one,” I admitted. “You’re the first to ask. Where would I get one?”
“Back in the city,” he stated. “We will escort you there.”
I shook my head and planted my feet. “I’ve been there. I don’t much care for it. I’ll be on my way if you don’t mind.”
The men unslung their rifles, and the leader glared at me.
“I am not giving you a choice,” he snapped. “You are coming to the city with us, and we will see who you are.”
“You want to know who I am?” I asked, lowering my hands to my Colts. The soldiers cocked their rifles.
“My name is Blood,” I snarled and drew the Colts.
The impact of my name stunned them, and before they could fire, the Colts thundered.
None of them escaped.
The leader died last, a hole in his head and his face pointing to the sky.
I reloaded the Colts and robbed the dead for their coins and what little food they had. I took a rifle and as much ammunition as I could carry.
With the rifle slung on my shoulder, I stepped over the dead and went on my way.