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Author's Chapter Notes:
(SEPTEMBER 2, 1907)
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It was Labor Day; the end of summer vacation season. And, the day after tomorrow, Howard Ashton Phillips, Junior, would be returning to school. True, temperatures were still warm; the humidity, still quite high; and the first calendrical day of fall was still more than two weeks off. Yet, some trees were beginning to show early signs of the autumnal rainbow, all the same. So, for this ten year-old boy, summer was as good as over.

Thus, with resolve in his heart, he entered the lodge's sound-proofed library.


The forty-eight year-old archeologist looked up from his research.

"Oh! Hello, Ash. What can I do for you?"

"I was wondering if you would finish that story for me. The one about Ishimura Takeo and the Black Cross Knight?"

"Now?!" exclaimed his father.

"It's already four o'clock. And, Mom expects us home at six!"

Professor Phillips looked at his pocket watch, and compared it to the grandfather clock in the corner.

"Why, so it is! Okay, then. Scoot on over here and climb on my lap."

The joyful grin that adorned Ash's face was proof positive that he did not need to be told twice!

"Now, where did I leave off the last time?" asked his father (semi-rhetorically).

"Ishimura had just revealed himself to be a spy for the pirates. And, the Mercedarian priest had just revealed himself to be a Knight Hospitaller from Rhodes!"

"Ah, yes! Well, as you can imagine, they were quite eager to trade blows. Ishimura, because he coveted the Golden Dagger-axe of Hsia Jie for its evil power. And, the Black Cross Knight, because he wanted to punish this traitor. Unfortunately, for both of them, they were interrupted by a giant mermaid named...Taranga!"

* * * * *


"Please!" she exclaimed: "You must not injure yourselves. For I like to eat all my morsels, alive. So, which of you wishes to be first?"

The Black Cross Knight looked at the ronin (and vice-versa) before declaring that he had an idea.

"Let myself and this traitor settle our accounts with each other, Milady. And, if I am the sole survivor, I promise to throw myself down your beauteous gullet with no resistance."

Taranga gazed down at Ishimura.

"What say you, little warrior?"

"A samurai fears no gaijin. I make the same promise!"

Taranga giggled and brought both of her hands together. So that both of her palms formed one huge arena.


Ishimura immediately tried to vertically cleave the Hospitaller in two with his katana. But, the latter parried the blow with his main-gauche. While simultaneously bringing his cruciform "bastard" sword up and around for the same type of blow! The ronin was quick to duck under it, however. Leaping away, and spinning counter-clockwise, in an attempt to bisect this gaijin with his katana held outward, horizontally!!

Yet, the Black Cross Knight swiftly fell to one knee, before rolling over on to his back. Thereby evading the strike. Ishimura had anticipated that, however, and skidded to a halt. Moving clockwise, once more, to try and impale the Hospitaller with his katana. Unfortunately, the Black Cross Knight had already somersaulted back on to his feet. As a result, the only thing penetrated by the katana's point...

...was the epidermis of Taranga's left palm.

"AHHHHH!" yelped the mer-giantess: "That hurt."

This was the opening the Hospitaller had been waiting for. He entangled the katana within the sword-breaking qullon of his main-gauche's hilt. While applying leverage with his cruciform sword against the opposite side of Ishimura's blade.

It did not prove easy. But, the katana ultimately broke in half! Whereupon, the Black Cross Knight made a left-footed kick to the side of Ishimura's head. Stunning the ronin and landing him flat on his back!!

Yet, the Hospitaller made no move to finish him off. Which naturally puzzled Taranga.

"Why do you hesitate, victorious one? Finish him! So that I might savor the taste of your victory in my mouth."

"It is not in my nature to kill an unarmed foe. But, I shall honor my pledge to you, all the same."

Whereupon, the Hospitaller threw his sword and main-gauche down, on either side of the ronin.

"Keep these as a reminder of our duel, traitor. And, always remember the courage displayed by a man of honor."

Whereupon, the Black Cross Knight turned and nodded upward at Taranga. The mer-giantess smiled before opening her mouth wide. And, the Black Cross Knight ran forward, yelling (for all the world to hear, as he did so):


Yet, as he passed the boulder-sized teeth of Taranga's lower jaw, she failed to see what the puzzled Ishimura saw. Namely; the Black Cross Knight unslinging Le Bec-de-bardiche Giserne Chinois from his back.

* * * * *

"You see," explained Professor Phillips: "...the Black Cross Knight knew there was only one weapon that might be powerful enough to kill such a giantess. The magical Golden Dagger-axe of Hsia Jie!"

"And, did it work? Huh? Did it work?" his son demanded, excitedly.

"According to Ishimura's autobiography, it did. The Black Cross Knight used the Hsia Jie-ji to cut his way out of Taranga's very stomach! As a result, she gave forth with an indescribably loud shriek of pain, and fled back into the depths. Of course, in the process of doing so, she dropped Ishimura into the sea."

"Ishimura then swam over to the Black Cross Knight, who was slowly sinking beneath the surface from the weight of his chain mail. Yet, the ronin quickly saw that the Hospitaller wouldn't drown...as he had already died from burns caused by Taranga's stomach acids."

"Fortunately, for Ishimura, himself, the trained osprey he had been using to secretly send messages back and forth (between himself and his father-in-law, Zahir Khan), was waiting for him on a nearby piece of drifting mast. So, Ishimura swam over to it; shrank himself down; and flew back to Debal astride the osprey's neck."

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