Written by Cordis
Rikimaru panted heavily as his knees buckled under the pressure of yet another sword swing. It was evident that Mei-Ohs reputation didn’t exceed him. He quickly thrust his sword forth once more nearly impaling the Azuma ninja.
Rikimaru’s mind worked at lightning speed as he quickly back flipped out of the way, feet hitting the wall solidly. He then leapt off the temporary post, charging straight towards the demon who wanted the soul of Princess Kiku.
Rikimaru dove in with a low attack aiming for the demons knees. Mei-Oh didn’t even move as the ninjas sword dug firmly into his outstretched leg. Invigorated by the progress, the ninja quickly drove the blade in deeper feeling the sickening sensation of the blade going further into Mei-Ohs thigh, exiting out of the other end.
To his horror, Mei-Oh simply laughed loudly at the wasted effort.
"Foolish mortal! Do you think you can beat me? I am Mei-Oh! I am superior to you in every way. There is no hope of defeating me!"
The Azuma ninja said nothing but ducked low into a crouching stance then struck again, this time aiming the Mei-Ohs extended belly. Suddenly there was a flash of light at Rikimaru simply gaped in shock as the demon was completely gone from sight. The ninja quickly pulled back his blade into a defensive formation, turning his head right and left searching for where his target could be hiding.
"Enough games Mei-Oh!"
Rikimaru shouted, becoming slightly tense at the demons sudden disappearance.
"Face me with honor! Coward!"
A soft chuckled inched its way around the walls filling the Azuma ninja with new dread.
"Coward? I do not fear my destiny mortal! It is you who are the coward. I have seen into your future mortal. The only thing which awaits you is death, that much is certain."
"I make my own destiny demon!"
the Azuma ninja called out in defiance.
"I will not allow you to defile Princess Kiku with you detestable actions! Now face me and we shall see who shall die this day!"
Again the same laugh echoed around the walls.
"Foolish mortal. So be it. You shall learn the price of your arrogance."
Suddenly out of nowhere Rikimaru heard the hissing sound of a blade as it was speeding through air. By sheer reflexes alone, the Azuma ninja quickly dodged to the side breathing heavily as he saw the large form of Mei-Oh fly just inches away from where he was previously standing, sword outstretched and glistening with a hungry tint of blood lust. The young ninjas mind quickly began to lose itself as false images of a quick and painful death at the end of Mei-Ohs blade swiftly began to invade his sense. Rik imaru shook him head to rid himself of such images. No! He thought to himself in angry frustration. I must focus! I cannot allow this monster to overrule my own temple of peace.
Mei-Oh was unheeded by his near miss. He ruthlessly raised his sword and to Rikimarus shock, the demon began to glow a fiery lightning blue color. Once again reflexes overpowered senses as he quickly jumped towards another position. Huge bolts of lightning suddenly burst forth from Mei-Ohs sword hammering into the ground where he once stood.
Rikimaru exhaled a shaky breath. I must strike now before he has another chance to unleash something even more deadly.
Rikimaru charged forwards, angling his sword slightly behind his back. This brought back memories of his youth. Times where he was more inexperienced and believed the best offense was attained by a position of stealth. He realized how wrong he was after the course of 10 years. There were times for a stealthy offensive stance just as there were times for the more direct approach. However in this case, Rikimaru saw the supreme opportunity and used his stealthy skills to the best of his abilities.
Mei-Oh once again launched another bolt of lighting. Rikimaru ducked barely underneath the attack then pulled his concealed arm away from its position behind his back. He saw the slightly shocked look on Mei-Ohs face just seconds before he struck forth with the honor blade Izayoi, impaling the demon directly under the armpit.
For the first time, Mei-Oh cried out in pain. The sound was so repulsive, so nerve wracking, Rikimaru took a second to steady himself. Yet that was his biggest mistake. In the midst of a powerful enemy, the young ninja closed his eyes. Immediately, the Azuma ninja regretted his decision as he suddenly felt the stinging pain of lighting hammering his body from all corners. The ninja shook with every jolt that passed through him. Finally the attack ended and he found himself falling limply to the ground.
Rikimaru barely raised his head and saw a smiling Mei-Oh standing over him. His ominous presence was almost too much for the platinum haired ninja to take.
"Didnt I tell you?"
"Your destiny is to die! You cannot escape it!"
Rikimaru let out a low growl yet in his state it came out more like a moan. Mei-Oh continued to laugh in front of him.
I cant die! Rikimaru thought drastically. I still have to save the Princess. I have no right to fail her! It is my duty to protect her. I cannot
Mei-Oh continued to laugh as he watched his foe slowly crawl about on the floor, making useless efforts to stand up.
"Useless human! You are merely delaying the inevitable!"
With that, Mei-Oh raised his right leg and rammed it hard against Rikimaru’s back. The Azuma ninja screamed out in pain as the demons stilts dug into his back. He gripped the ground in pain, trying to dub out the hazy sensation of unconsciousness as it began to invade his mind. I will not fail the princess! His feverish mind continued to holler amidst the pain. I will not fail!
After digging his stilts around ruthlessly for a while longer, Mei-Oh finally drew his foot back and lifted the hapless form of Rikimaru up with his one arm.
"You despicable, insignificant bug! You dared to oppose me! I am lord Mei-Oh! I am above your petty ninja skills."
I will not fail
"You will die by my hands Ninja!"
Never fail his majesty
"Your blood will spill about my hands bathing them in your everlasting torment!"
Never give up
"I will bask in you agony! Your torment will last forever!"
Never fail master Shiunsai! Never AGAIN!
Suddenly with the strength neither of them thought he had, Rikimaru swiftly brought his sword forth plunging the blade deep into Mei-Ohs inhuman heart. The action was so fast and swift that the demon of darkness had no time to react. He simply screamed in tormented agony as blood began to poor from his dying veins. Rikimaru fell limply to the ground but by force of will alone, rose back up to his feet.
Without warning, the Azuma ninja rushed up to Mei-Oh and drove his sword across the demons belly slicing it open so that all the innards began to pour out. Mei-Ohs scream grew even louder making Rikimaru wince slightly. That tortured scream would forever haunt his dreams. Finally he pulled himself back as he began to see the demon levitate, still screaming in agonized rage and pain.
"How can this be?"
Mei-Oh screamed in a mixture of disbelief and pain.
"Beaten by a mere human?"
If the demon was going to say anything more it was lost to Rikimarus ears as he suddenly became engulfed in the enormous void attached to the back wall of the room. Within mere seconds, all traces of Mei-Oh having ever been there were gone.
Rikimaru flexed his blade, giving Mei-Oh the deadly salute of one whos lived his life as an assassin of the Azuma Ninja clan.
"All of lord Gohdas enemies die by this blade."
He said in a quiet almost reverent voice.
Suddenly his thoughts were broken.
If the ninja ever smiled in his life, now was the closest he ever came to it. The deadly precision and ruthlessness in his eyes died immediately as they rested upon the innocent form of Princess Kiku as she ran up to him.
He said in a mixture of shock and gratification.
Suddenly another figure walked up slowly and protectively behind the princess. Rikimaru recognized the slim and attractive yet deadly form of his ninja partner immediately.
"Ayame saved me."
Kiku explained, her eyes dancing with the horrors of all she had seen in the past few hours.
"But I was scared! I didn’t know if Id ever see father again! It was awful!"
"Don’t worry Princess, you’re safe now. Were here now and we wont let anything happen to you."
Ayame interrupted. The ninja turned to face her and saw a collage of emotions dancing forth in her eyes. It was a rare occurrence for the young Azuma female and Rikimaru found himself more then a little curious about them. There was a mixture of anxiety, pride, worry and something else he couldn’t really place, all revolving around in her dark irises. Rikimaru diligently forced these sudden curiosities out of his mind as he focused more on what his partner had to say.
"Its dangerous here!"
She said, emphasizing by pointing to a nearby wall that was now suddenly beginning to crumble to the ground.
"We have to get out!"
Rikimaru nodded his agreement, similarly observing the falling debris as they began hammering into the ground. He quickly scooped Princess Kiku up in his arms then turned swiftly to Ayame.
"Well use our grappling hooks to get out! Its the fastest way!"
Ayame replied then fired her hook into one of the nearby walls and promptly flew up from the recoil. Rikimaru soon joined her as he positioned his hook to do likewise. In no time at all the two ninjas were grappling left and right, struggling to find an exit out of the gave.
Finally they reached the high grounds and knew with a certainty that it was the way out. So skilled were they in their stealth training, they didn’t even need to trade words to communicate with each other what the other was thinking in situations like these. They merely followed each others leads.
Thus, both of them quickly sprinted down the hallway with Princess Kiku. Suddenly yet another earthquake shook them all causing more boulders to crumble and fall. They ran even faster, trying to beat time. Unfortunately time was not with them as a single huge boulder crashed down a few feet in front of them. They stopped immediately.
Ayame said with anger and a heavy amount of fear in her voice.
Trapped The word continued to ring through Rikimaru’s mind. He couldnt figure out what to do. He knew there were other exits to the temple but there was no way they could reach them in time before the whole castle fell. They were trapped. They had no way out unless.
Rikimaru clenched his eyes shut as the familiar words began to ring through his mind once more. Didnt I tell you? Your destiny is to die
No! Rikimaru’s mind screamed frantically in defiance. I will not die this day! I cannot die! Not yet! Not NOW!
Your destiny is to die
I cannot! I must protect Princess Kiku!
The sounds of destruction began to intensify as they drew even nearer to them.
To die You cannot avoid it!
I I cannot allow the princess to die this way
The ground began to shake violently beneath them.
I must do what is best for lord Gohda.
Even if it means sacrificing my life and my happiness.
You cannot escape it!
I WILL PROTECT PRINCESS KIKU AND HONOR MY MASTER EVEN IF IT MEANS SACRIFICING MY LIFE!
Suddenly Rikimaru snapped his eyes open wide and gently set Princess Kiku down onto the ground then followed suit by lowering the honor sword Izayoi down next to her.
Ayames eyes widened at the sight of Rikimaru setting down the sacred sword of their clan. Her eyes searched his silently, desperately asking for an explanation. Once again Rikimaru gently closed his eyes then stood up to his full height. He promptly walked past his partner, gently brushing against her side. He knew that that was the last time he would ever see her, the last time he would ever touch her. They had never been involved but he still could not deny the slight feeling of regret his heart beg an to ache with as he once again locked eyes with her.
Without a second thought, he diligently leaned his back against the newly fallen boulder and gripped the ends up it with both arms. Sucking in a shaky breath, he gathered all of his remaining strength and hosted the rock as high as he could.
He said in between gasps of pain and determination.
"Take Princess Kiku and my sword and go!"
Suddenly he could see the Princesss face light up with fright and dread.
"No! Rikimaru no! We cant leave you! We wont leave you!"
Once again Rikimaru closed his eyes as he struggled against the weight of the rock. He suddenly shot his eyes open again and looked hotly towards Ayame with a fury he expressed only towards his most dreaded foes.
"Ayame! Heed my words! There is no other way! Take the Princess and leave right now!"
He could see the sudden streak of a tear as it silently and gently drifted down Ayame’s cheek and onto the dirty ground of the temple. Without another word she picked up the honor sword Izayoi then gripped Kiku’s hand in hers as she pulled the young Princess forth. As her face passed once more by the face of the friend she had known so long in her life she could no longer hold in the dread that expressed itself in her eyes. Rikimaru saw her look and nearly faltered himself. Yet he stoically pushed it to the back of his mind as his responsibilities once again guided his actions.
"You have your duties to uphold just as I have mine."
The Azuma ninja said quietly, still struggling with the .
"I wish you well Ayame."
The young womans face hardened as she too took in the oath they had all taken years ago. She nodded slowly then continued to pull Kiku through the whole.
Kiku yelled in defiance towards Ayame.
"Stop it Ayame! Rikimaru’s behind there! We cant just leave him!"
"Come on! Lets go!"
Ayame said, stifling a grief stricken sob as she continued to drag the Princess further down the hallway.
"Stop it Ayame!"
Kiku continued to yell.
"I order you! I order you to let me go right now! I order you not to leave Rikimaru behind!"
This time Ayame couldnt stop the stream of tears that washed down her eyes. She could no longer bridge the dam of grief the threatened to tear her heart asunder.
"Lets go Princess. Think about your father. Think about your people! This is for the better good of them all!"
"I don’t care!"
Kiku yelled back, sobbing hysterically.
"I don’t care about any of that! We have to go back for Rikimaru!"
"I’m sorry Princess."
Ayame said in a quiet voice. Without warning she fired her grappling hook one last time, this time towards the opening. Kiku heard the familiar clicking of the hook as it attached itself to the outer wall.
" Don’t do it Ayame! Please don’t do it."
Ayame fired the recoil and suddenly they were soaring high into the air.
Kiku screamed again futilly.
"I hate you Ayame! I hate you! Don’t leave him!"
Just before they reached the outer surface Kiku yelled one final time.
Then everything was darkness once more as the young Princess simply passed out in the older woman’s arms, the last image she saw was of the recently upheld boulder falling to the ground followed by surrounding debris, burying the once proud Azuma ninja into the rubble below.
Your destiny is to die
You cannot escape it