Written by Jason E. Turner
CLANG! CRASH CLANG! The sound of steel was the only thing that Rikimaru could hear. His movements were swift. Hanzou was smug with his skill. Hanzou threw a kick to Rikimaru’s stomach. Kneeling and gasping for air, Rikmaru held his head up to face Hanzou. Hanzou bellowed out laughter wickedly.
“So skilled are you? Ha! you are merely a tool of simple trickery. You are not a warrior. You are-”
He was cut short by the upward strike of Rikimaru’s blade. CHOONG! Hanzou barely had the time to block it. Hanzou roared with anger.
“You sneaky bastard!”
Hanzou kicked up some dirt into Rikimaru’s face. Rikimaru stepped back, but Hanzou was pulling a something from his cloak. It was a black powder pistol!
The Dragon leaped in front of Hanzou.
Hanzou shook his head.
“GET OUT OF THE WAY, RYU! I’LL KILL YOU!”
Suddenly, a cloud of smoke erupted in front of Hanzou. Rikimaru pulled the Grey Dragon out of his scabbard. Poised with both swords ready, he smelled the air. Something was wrong.
“Need a hand, ronin?”
A voice from the dark whispered. Hanzou looked down at his arm. His hand was cut off!!! It lay on the ground in front of him, still poised to pull the trigger. He fell to his knees and picked up his hand. He then scrambled to flee. Ayame and Ryu followed. Ryu called out to his father.
“Wait! Father! Ayame, come with me!”
Ayame drew her blades and ran beside him. The mysterious voice spoke again.
“Alone at last.”
Rikimaru stood perfectly still. ZIPP! He was nearly stabbed with a flurry of shurikens.
“You know who it is, ninja. I’ve waited a long time for this.”
A black clad figure stepped out from the forest. His hair was long and flowing. His eyes were fierce and his wore ornate armor on his arms, shins, and feet. In his right hand, he held the head of one of Hanzou’s dead soldiers.
“Been admiring your victims. They really weren’t ready for you, were they?”
Rikimaru turned cold at the sight before him. Standing in front of him was a worthy opponent. Someone he feared and respected.
Onikage laughed loudly. “
More or less. I tricked you, ninja. I was not dead. It would take more than you to destroy me. Lord Mei-oh granted me a certain degree of immortality for serving him. At first, I did not believe his spells would work because ironically, he perished by your blade. But I was wearing chain mail underneath my clothing. I was not going to pin my hopes for survival on silly incantations and faith in his black arts. Therefore, I patiently waited for the right time to strike.”
Rikimaru was puzzled.
“But you lost a lot of blood. I saw you.”
“Well, the black magic must have worked, because I live. I am glad you killed Mei-oh. He was not smart enough to survive. Just like this fellow.”
Onikage began to juggle the severed head in his pale white hands. Rikimaru stood back.
“You are sick.”
Onikage cackled and began to throw the head higher into the air.
“Come now, Rikimaru, have some fun in your bloody practices. I told you when you were still a boy that only servants of darkness can appreciate this.”
Rikimaru inched forward toward Onikage. Suddenly Onikage placed both hands on each side of the head and crushed it with a grotesque popping sound. He then flung the gore at Rikimaru’s feet.
“Careful, ninja. You are not fighting some amateur samurai.”
Rikimaru had both Izayoi and The Grey Dragon ready to strike. The wind picked up and lighting crashed. Then it began to rain.
“Come Rikimaru. Let us see how three years have made you in combat.”
Rikimaru lunged forward. Onigkage round house kicked him in the forearm. The Grey Dragon fell to the ground, sticking up in the wet earth. Onikage smiled as Rikimaru winced from the pain.
“You only need one blade to fight, ninja.”
Rikimaru gripped the handle of Izayoi with both hands now. He launched a strike at the throat of Onikage. But Onikage threw his armored forearm in the way. The vibration from the blow made some of the rainwater on the sword fly off.
“You’ll have to do better than that, ninja.”
Rikmaru began to breathe heavily.
“Enough talk. Defend yourself!”
He threw a kick to Onikage’s eyes. The blow knocked Onikage back, but he smiled. He threw a combination of punches and kicks. The last kick knocked Rikimaru’s body into the mud. Lightning flashed and thunder cracked overhead. In the light of the lightning, Rikimaru spotted a samurai’s helmet nearby. He then looked at the Grey Dragon, still embedded in the earth. Rikimaru stabbed the samurai helmet. It stuck on the end of his sword. With a two handed strike, the helmet slid off the sword and flew into Onikage’s head with a thud. Onikage grunted after the impact, but continued to move forward. Onikage walked slowly towards Rikimaru.
“Come on, is that the best you can do?”
Rikimaru ran towards the Grey Dragon. Without looking, he threw Izayoi behind his head directly at Onikage. Onikage’s hands clamped on the blade with a sharp ringing sound. He kept walking closer. Rikimaru still ran towards the Grey Dragon. With rain pouring into his eyes he leapt into the air. Onikage’s eyes widened. Rikimaru placed one foot on the handle of the Grey Dragon. With all of his might, he leaped off the bending blade and kicked Onikage directly over the heart. He then moonsaulted over him and kicked Onikage in the kidneys. Onikage went face down in the mud. Izayoi flew out of his grasp. Rikimaru recovered it after looking for it in when the lighting flashed again. The wind began to pick up. Onikage’s face pulled away from the mud. He turned to face Rikimaru.
“Now that was clever, ninja.”
He threw muddy shurikens at Rikimaru’s eyes. Rikimaru leapt back away from the deadly instruments. Onikage rose to his feet. Rikimaru looked down at his opponent’s armored hands. Onikage now held the Grey Dragon in one hand.
“A souvenir of our reunion. I hate to leave, ninja. But I want to savor this night. We shall meet again.”
The wind blew harder and the rain went into Rikimaru’s eyes. Then, Onikage was gone. Rikimaru began to trudge through the mud towards the direction his comrades went. Lightning crashed, and thunder roared overhead. The wind howled, but very faintly, Rikimaru could hear the laughter of Onikage.
Hanzou was bleeding very badly from his handless arm. He began to feel faint. Then he heard footsteps.
Hanzou began to run.
“Stay away, Ryu. I will deal with you later.”
He wrapped a cloth around his wound to slow the bleeding down. The he arrived at a cliffed waterfalll. It must have gone down a mile or so. The Black Dragon and Ayame arrived behind him. He truned to face them.
“You have dishonored me, son.”
Ayame shook her head.
“You’re wrong, Hanzou. You have dishonored your son and your clan. He chose a different path, but he still cares for his father.”
Hanzou became enraged.
Ryu began to move closer. Hanzou took a step back. The waterfall roared. The rain poured.
“No closer, son. This fight is finished for now.”
Hanzou leapt backwards into the waterfall! Ryu, saw his father smiling as he plunged into the icy depths below. He stared for several moments. Ayame ran to his side.
“I’m sorry, Ryu…Come with me. We have to find Rikimaru.”
Just then, Rikimaru found them. He looked at the waterfall. He then looked at Ryu.
“If you choose to, Dragon, you may stay and continue to train with us at Gohda Castle. You would be very welcome there.”
The Black Dragon smiled.
“Yes. I would like that.”
The fierce rain had finally ceased and the exterior walls of Gohda castle glistened. Lord Gohda raised his glass. Sitting around the banquet table were Rikimaru, Ayame, Kiku, and the Black Dragon. Even though his face was now scarred, he was still handsome. Kiku smiled at him through curious eyes.
“A toast to the return of our very much alive comrade RIkimaru. And to his student who saved us from Hanzou that night of the raid on our castle. Cheers!”
All raised their glasses. Rikimaru saluted his master.
“It’s good to be back. Thank you master. And Ayame I am sorry about-“
“I’ve already forgiven you. Let’s put it behind us.”
Kiku smiled again at Ryu.
“You should hear the stories they could tell about their earlier days.”
Gohda stood to his feet.
“Well, they can tell their stories another day. I must rest now. I suggest you all do the same.”
All stood to salute Lord Gohda. Rikimaru spoke for all the ninja at the table.
“We are exhausted as well, Lord. Goodnight.”
Ayame looked at the dragon tattoo on her arm. Then she promptly fell asleep.
Alone, and finally able to rest, Rikimaru drifted off into a deep slumber. He dreamed of his old master, teaching him when he was a boy. Soon, he slept peacefully. Through an open window in the castle, a sparrow flew in. It fluttered about the room and landed on Rikimaru’s sword. It let out a small shriek. Rikimaru awoke to the sound of fluttereing wings as the bird flew threw out the window. Then, it was gone.