By Daniel Braum
“Oh great Emperor,” the gyoji said, continuing the ritual. “These two honorable warriors can not agree who will step aside, and who will join the sacred battle to return you to us. We would gladly send all our sons, but the Council of Infinite Japans says there may be only twenty-one. So now they must fight to decide.”
“May the best warrior join the fight,” the crowd answered in unison with the gyoji.
The gyoji stepped back. Asashoryu stared into Takanasuro’s expressionless brown eyes. The match would begin upon a tacit agreement between them. He kept Takanasuro’s mid section in his field of vision while focusing on keeping his own face blank. He knew the beginner’s lesson as if it were part of him; faces deceive and betray, but all movement starts at the hips.
About the Author
Daniel Braum is the author of the short story collections Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales (Cemetery Dance 2016) and The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic(Independent Legions Publishing 2017). His short stories have appeared in publications including several appearances in Cemetery Dance Magazine and anthologies including The Beauty of Death 2 and Nightscripts 3. He is the host of the Night Time Logic reading series in New York.
About the Narrator
Serah Eley is the original producer, editor and host of Escape Pod. She mispronounced her name as Steve Eley at the time, but has since realized that life is much more fun as a woman, and came out as transgender in 2015. Serah lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her two spouses (she prefers “spice”), Sadi and Cat.
So if there were ever any betting pools on what happened to Steve: the dark-horse winner is “changed sex and joined a committed lesbian love triangle.” She is, obviously, still Having Fun.