Tenchu Gaiden: Shinobi no Michi

Written by Hayabusa

Author’s note : This is set after the events of Tenchu 2, but before the events of the original Tenchu. There may be spoilers present if one has not played/beaten Tenchu or Tenchu 2. Also, phrases in Japanese will be followed by a translation in ‘<*> marks, for example ‘Ikuze!! <*Let’s go!> Now, read on!

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Act 1 ~ Intro

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(Japanese musical instruments can be heard through all the flashing scenes)

~A boy is shown standing on the edge of a cliff, with his katana held at his side, looking out onto the horizon as the sun sets on it~

~A girl is shown sitting in a tall tree in a dense forest with her arms folded, looking at the sky as clouds slowly pass overhead~

~A panning shot of a Japanese village is shown, with people going about their business inside~

~The boy from the first scene is shown again, this time he is in a castle, he inches along a wall to get to the corner with his blade drawn as he sees some shadows coming from the adjacent wall~

~The girl from the second scene is shown on the roof of a temple, she looks down and spots a lone guard walking his route. She then smirks as she unsheathes a dagger and prepares to leap down upon him~

~The boy is shown in combat with another ninja. The other ninja slashes, but the boy counters with his katana and spins behind him, while simultaneously slashing his blade down upon the ninja’s back, holding the pose. Some blood spurts forth as the other ninja collapses in a heap~

~The girl is shown, hiding behind the corner of a wall as a guard turns and prepares to walk away. The girl dashes from the wall, kicking the guard in the back of the legs causing him to drop to his knees. While he is helpless, the girl slashes her daggers across the back of his neck in a diagonal circular path, causing him to collapse~

The scene fades to black as the sound of rain falling can be heard. After a few seconds, a lightning flash lights the scene as the loud clap of thunder is heard, revealing a vast grassland, covered in a faint mist because of the rain. The camera pans wide right across the field as female Japanese voices begin to vocalize. The camera then stops in a wide shot of two shadowy figures, standing with blades drawn some distance from each other. The female choir singers heighten their voices as the first figure is shown in a close up of his face. He has a young looking face, with but only one scar running diagonally across his left cheek. He has emerald green eyes, and spiky brown hair. They boy does not wear a Ninja hood, however he has a black Ninja kamen <*mask> covering the lower portion of his face. The camera then shows the other figure up close, though his features can not be made out as easily, save a small vertical scar inches from his right eye. Male voices now begin to vocalize as the two are shown in a wide shot again. Then they step toward each other simultaneously in a rapid fashion. The female voices sing again as the figures come near each other. Both leap high into the air as their blades meet. The voices reach their peak as the blades collide, creating a bright flash of white. Then, in bold black letters against the white background, the title is shown:

Tenchu Gaiden: Shinobi no Michi <*Tenchu Side Story: The Road of the Ninja>
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Act I: The Mysterious Threat

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Since the defeat of the Burning Dawn, the notorious gang of evil ninjas, all has been peaceful. Both Rikimaru and Ayame have achieved the rank of True Azuma Ninja. A few years have passed, though all ninjas who live in the Ninja Village continue in their intense training routines. Rikimaru and Ayame, being full-fledged Azuma Ninjas, have decided to assist in the training of the up-and-coming ninjas .Two of the most promising young ninjas, Ren and Naoko, must face their final tests to be started on the Ninja’s Path, ‘Shinobi no michi . <*Road of the Ninja> However, there is a new evil arising to meet them..

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Chapter 1: Ninja’s Tests

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‘Ah!

~The young ninja-in-training Ren suddenly awakes from his sleep, in a sweat. He looks about himself for a few moments to get his bearings, and then seems to calm down.~

‘Must have just been a dream. but it seemed so real! I actually thought he was going to cut my head offI suppose I’m just tense because our final tests start in the morning.I wonder if Naoko is nervous?

~The boy tosses and turns for a few minutes, then drifts back into sleep. A few hours later, training begins. Ren wakes up as dawn breaks, dresses in his ninja attire, and reports to the Training Grounds. While on his way, he meets up with Naoko. She is also dressed in her black ninja attire. Her mask has a hole in the back which lets her long black ponytail hang out its full length, down to her mid-back~

‘Hey Ren! You ready for our last tests? I know I am!

~Ren looks at her in a sideways look as they walk~

‘She seems.cheery today.but what am I saying? She’s like that all the time!

~Ren responds in a friendly tone as they near the gates to the Grounds and pull their masks over their faces~

‘I’m ready.

~Naoko smiles as she pulls her mask up over her mouth and nose~

‘I think he’ll make a great ninja.on the same level as Rikimaru, even! But, could I ever be as good as Ayame?

~Ren smirks and waves a hand as he turns and walks toward the Throwing Weapons Area. Naoko heads toward the Ninja Acrobatics Area. Ren is greeted by Rikimaru. Rikimaru hands Ren shurikens, caltrops and smoke bombs~

‘First, I want you to throw the shurikens at the targets ahead, both still and moving.

~Ren smirks as he takes aim at a man running at a distance with padding and a target strapped to him. He tosses the shurikens in rapid succession, never taking his eyes off the targets, with deadly accuracy each time. Rikimaru then directs Ren to a series of small roofless corridors~

‘Now, run down this corridor without making the floorboards creak, while dropping the caltrops behind you. Then, drop the smoke bombs to hide yourself as you exit at the other side.

~Ren readies the caltrops in his hand as he takes off down the corridor, running lightly so as not to make any floorboards creak. He disperses the caltrops across the floor as he runs, littering the floor with small spikes sharp enough to punch through armor. When he nears the end of the corridor, Ren slams the smoke bombs down, completely obscuring him from vision as he escapes out. After this session, Ren looks over to where Ayame is completing her training with Ayame, high on a series of rooftops~

‘Naoko, all you have to do is jump across these rooftops which vary in height, getting from this end to the other.

~Naoko looks down at the ground far below her, then looks at the buildings ahead. Without warning, she dashes forward, leaping with ease across each rooftop, while keeping her balance on the narrow ledges. She flips across the last few roofs and does a stylish dismount as Ayame folds her arms~

‘You don’t need to show off.Now come with me to the Swimming Area. Here, I want you to enter the water without much noise, treading water to the halfway point. Dive under from there, using the Breathing Reed to rest if you need to. However, I do not want to see your head above the water until you reach the other bank.

~Naoko steps into the water, carefully to avoid making excess splashing sounds. She treads water across to the halfway point, then dives to the bottom of the pool, swimming for a short time at the bottom. When she needs air, she lets her body slowly rise closer to the surface as she pulls out the Breathing Reed. She stops for a breath among some natural reeds, then swims to the other bank, exiting the water as quietly as she entered it. Ayame smiles~

‘Good, very good. Now head over to where Rikimaru and Ren are, its your turn to do those exercises.

~Naoko bows as she goes to the Throwing Weapons Area, and Ren goes to the Ninja Acrobatics Area. They both complete the separate exercises, and then are lead to a dense bamboo forest. Rikimaru speaks~

‘Now, you must complete your actual Stealth Training. There will be obstacles within the forest, but your goal is to reach the entrance to the Temple at the end. You will be using wooden versions of all your normal weapons. You may travel separately, or together if you choose. Now go. You have until an hour, though I doubt it will take you that long to make it.

~Ayame waves as Ren and Naoko step into the forest~

‘Good luck, you two!

~Once inside the forest, both Naoko and Ren move as expert ninjas, advancing in silence while always seeking cover. However, they have put some distance between them, so as not to get in each other’s way. Naoko jumps to the high branches as Ren stays low to the ground, using the terrain as cover. As Ren creeps over a small hill, he spots a guard, standing near a bamboo tree. Ren unsheathes his wooden katana as he steps forward, slitting the sword across the side of the guard’s neck and chest, a maneuver which would have quickly killed the guard, had Ren been wielding his katana Lighthawk instead of the wooden sword. However, the guard plays along, and falls as if though he had actually been cut. Ren steps over him as he searches for the next guard~

~High in the trees, Naoko spots a guard who seems to be walking in a straight line in her direction. She pulls her wooden daggers, and drops from the tree, landing mere inches from the guard. He gets a look of surprise and looks like he’s about to call for help, but Naoko quickly touches both daggers to his chest, signifying a stabbing motion. The guard sees this and only lets out a small yelp as he collapses as the previous guard had done. Suddenly, she hears the sound of two more guards approaching, so she drags the ‘lifeless guard’s body, placing it in some bushes. As she puts the bushes over him, she whispers:~

‘Don’t you dare tell them which way I went!

~The guard nods as she suddenly jumps back into the high branches, waiting for the other guards to approach. One guard starts to search around in the bushes as the other stands still, listening intently for any sounds that might give away Naoko’s position. The guard who was going through the bushes seemed to find the guard Naoko had dispatched. As his attention is diverted, Naoko leaps from her perch, swinging a dagger out across the guard’s exposed back. Before he can call his friend, Naoko kicks him into the bushes, then runs up behind the other guard, reaching her arm around and slitting her dagger across the front of his neck. Naoko then dumps him into the bushes as she advances around the next corner with a smirk~

‘Ha! This is WAY too easy! I hope real missions won’t be this boring!

~As Ren moves along the ground, he can sense that someone is aware of his presence, so he immediately crouches as low as he can, searching frantically for the alerted guard. He breathes a small sigh of relief as he sees the guard looking in almost every direction as frantically as Ren was looking for him. The guard was partially hidden by some dense bamboo trees, so Ren sneaks around the trees while the guard looks away. When close enough, Ren kicks him in the side, making him stumble into the tree, then swings his sword at his chest, making the guard collapse. Looking up after dropping the guard, Ren sees the temple, and dashes forward, reaching the entrance safely. Naoko sees him sprint ahead and follows after making sure that the coast was clear. Naoko smiles~

‘Well.we made it! Heywhat’s that?

~Ren looks and sees a small statue near the entrance with a scroll attached. He picks up the statue, reads the scroll, then turns to head back into the forest~

‘Well, what is it!?

‘A note telling us to bring back this statue to prove we made it. Now let’s go, time is running out. I think we took out all the guards, so we shouldn’t have any problems.

~Upon their return with the statue, they are congratulated as the newest Azuma Ninja. A few days later, they receive their first mission~

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Chapter 2: Proving Grounds

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~Some time after completing their training, Ren and Naoko report to Lord Ghoda’s chamber to receive their mission briefing. Ghoda is sitting on his decorated tatami mat when they enter. He sends his handmaidens away as he speaks.~

‘Good evening, you are here about your mission, correct? Well, I will be brief. There is a band of notorious men who are terrorizing a local village. They can be identified easily by their green clothing. I simply want you to sneak in after dark and exterminate them. I’m not certain of their numbers, but I want them all taken care of. Also, be sure to avoid the innocent unless absolutely necessary.

~Ren and Naoko bow as Ren speaks~

‘Yes, my lord. Consider it done.

~Ren and Naoko leave the chambers, traveling the short distance through a forest to reach the village. When they get there, the sky is almost pitch black, with only a few stars and the light of the Moon illuminating the area. The side of the village that they enter from has a series of small mountains, so they climb, utilizing their grappling hooks to reach the high ledges. Once they reach one of the peaks, they observe the village, which is silent for the most part, except for the sound of chirping crickets. Naoko speaks~

‘Ren, should we clear the village from opposite sides, meeting at the middle, or start on the same side?

~Ren folds his arms~

‘Same side. That way, we won’t confuse each other with the enemy so easily. Now, let’s go.

~The ninja leap down the mountain ledges gracefully, reaching the village rather quickly. Ren grapples up onto a roof, while Naoko stays on the ground level, using shadows for cover. Naoko is the first to spot one of the gang members, sleeping soundly near a gently crackling fire. Naoko dashes from the shadows and instantly plunges a dagger into his exposed neck, taking him out before he can even wake up. She removes her dagger and flings the blood into the fire as she heads for a square-shaped building~

‘One down.but how many more to go?

~While creeping along a long building’s rooftop, Ren hears two gang members making idle conversation, though he can’t see them anywhere. He looks down from the center of the roof and sees some shadows dancing along an inside wall~

‘They must be inside.

~Ren drops from the roof silently, so as not to alert the men. He stands flattened against one of the adjacent walls to the entrance, and takes a deep breath before unsheathing his katana slowly~

‘I hope this works.

~Without warning, Ren runs into the building, flinging Lighthawk at one of the men. The blade hits him square in the chest, dropping him before he could even finish his sentence. The other guard looks on wide-eyed and prepares to pull his sword as Ren dashes toward him unarmed. Just as the man has his hand on his sword’s handle, Ren spin kicks him in the face, knocking him on his back. He then reaches down to the first one, pulling his katana out from the man’s chest, inserting it into the feistier one’s. The gang member stop trying to fight as his arms drop to the ground. Ren pulls his sword, flicking the blood away as he exits the building, grappling back onto its roof. After reaching the opposite end of the roof, Ren grapples up onto a slightly higher roof with only a small ‘thunk sound as the hook makes contact with the roof. After scaling to the top, Ren drops on one knee as he surveys the area~

~Naoko flattens herself against the wall of the square building, freezing completely to listen to the sounds around her. She can hear someone walking; sounding like it was slightly above her, but inside the building. Naoko then spots a small balcony that she grapples up onto. She then peers around the corner into the doorway to see a figure wearing green clothing, walking away from her. She unsheathes her dagger, running up behind him, making sure to keep her footsteps from being heard. Once she is close enough, she gasps slightly as the man looks to his right to see her shadow approaching because of the light from a torch behind them. He tries to reach for his sword while calling for help, but Naoko quickly reaches her hand around the side of his head, covering his mouth while bringing the other hand around, slitting his throat with her dagger. She smirks as he drops to the ground, but looks wide-eyed at his sword, realizing the noise it will make when it hits the floor. So, she reaches desperately for the sword with her free hand, but she had decided to act far too late, as the sword made a loud clatter as it hit the ground. Then, she hears some men shouting in Japanese, followed by lumbering footsteps coming up some nearby stairs~

‘NANI!? Nikai da! Shinnyuusha da yo!

<*What!? Upstairs! It’s an intruder!>

~Naoko sighs, putting out the torchlight then running forward into some shadows adjacent to the stairway. She growls lightly, thrusting a hand into a pouch at her waist~

‘Shimatta.

<*Damn it.>

~Naoko then pulls a handful of spiked caltrops from her pouch tossing them in the fallen man’s direction. She then leaps several vertical feet straight up and presses herself in the nook between the ceiling and two adjacent walls, hoping the shadows will conceal her. The two men stop at the top of the stairway, then run toward their fallen comrade. They step on the caltrops, hollering and grabbing their feet as they scream out curses. As they are left defenseless on the floor, Naoko drops down unsheathing both daggers, plunging each one into a man’s chest, stopping their screams. She closes her eyes as she does it, not wanting to see their painful expressions, abruptly pulling the daggers out, flinging the blood of them. She does not open her eyes again until she climbs back out through the window, sitting on the roof. She wraps her arms around her knees as she looks at the pale moon~

‘Well..someone has to do it….

‘Naoko, what’s wrong?

~Ren climbs up, onto the roof, standing beside her. She smiles a half smile as she looks up at him~

‘It’s nothing Ren.

‘Having second thoughts?

‘Yeahbut it hurtsevery time I take a life. Even though I know they are evil

‘Naoko, this is what we do. We are Azuma ninjas. Protecting the innocent is our way of life. It is what we are. As you said, someone has to do it. And, we are the ones who were chosen. You simply have to learn to take it in stride. It is our dutyour responsibility, to do what we must do

‘You’re right. I understand what you meanlet’s finish this and go home.

Agreed.

~Ren turns and readies his grappling hook and fires it at a guard tower where he sees a man in green clothing on patrol. Naoko watches as Ren hangs on the edge as the guard looks over it. When he turns, Ren flips up over the edge, slashing the guard in the back, causing him to stumble forward over the opposite edge, landing with a sickening thud. After watching the guard fall. Ren signals to Naoko.~

‘Ok, I think that’s all of them. Lets head back.

~After one last sweep of the village, the two head back to the mountains heading toward home. Later, they get back to the Master’s chamber. Ren speaks.~

‘Master, the deed is done. The village has been freed of its tormentors.

‘Well done. I am glad that your first mission was a success. You two have truly proved your worth.

~Ren and Naoko bow, then head to their homes. For a few days, they only train, then one day, they receive their next mission~

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Chapter 3: Always Protect the Innocent

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‘Hey Ren, what do you think our mission will be this time?

~Naoko asks as the two walk toward their master’s chambers. Ren gets a slight look of annoyance.~

‘We will see when he tells us.

‘Well, no need to get all uptight about it!

~Ren sighs as they enter~

“Yes, my Lord?

~Both ninjas speak simultaneously as they bow down before their master~

‘Good evening. I have received word that there is a hostage situation in a village a few miles away. The hostages are being kept in one of the taller buildings A loyal messenger of mine informed me that the terrorists were of the same gang as the one you two met last time I called you here. However, this mission is far more serious, and far more dangerous, because last time, these men were only looking to steal from villagers. This time, they will kill if their demands are not met. This mission requires the utmost caution, as lives are at stake. Under the special circumstances of this mission, I would prefer that only one of you go, as that will improve our chances of saving everyone. Now-‘

~Before he or anyone else can speak, Naoko steps forward~

‘I will do it.

~Ren protests

‘Naokoare you sure you will be able to handle it?

‘I will put my own feelings aside to save the innocent. It must be done

‘Very well.

~The ninjas exit, as Ren heads to the Ninja Training Grounds and Naoko travels toward the village. As he is walking he sees Rikimaru. Ren then sits on a small rock and watches as Naoko leaves~

‘.Will she really be able to put her feelings aside so easily.?

~Rikimaru walks up to Ren and stands with his arms folded.~

‘Rikimaru, since I am not going with Naoko, I would like for you to train me, if you do not mind

~Rikimaru stands unmoving for a moment, then he smirks~

‘Hmm.very well. Since you wish to train I want you to attack me.

‘Nani!?

<*What!?>

‘If you will not, then I will make the first move!

~At that, Rikimaru pulls his katana, and swings it toward Ren’s head without warning.~

~As Naoko moves through a forest area heading toward the village, she hears the clashing sound of two katanas, sounding like it came from her village.~

‘Huh? Must be those hotheaded rookies training

~Later that night, Naoko reaches the outskirts of the village. Naoko grapples up onto a rooftop to try to spot a building that could possibly hold the hostages. She then remembers that it would be one of the taller buildings, and she sees a few off to her right. As she hops from roof to roof, she looks about the village.~

‘This village seems deserted.I have not seen a single person yet. All the villagers must be cowering in their homes now.what the!?

~Naoko stops in her tracks as she spots some gangsters atop a nearby roof. She crouches down, as it seems they are not aware of her presence. As she unsheathes her daggers, she smirks.~

‘I am not afraid of this anymore

~Naoko leaps across to the roof when the men are not looking, slashing her dagger across a man’s back, causing him to drop. The other man turns and pulls his sword as Naoko steps toward him calmly. He swings his sword at her, but she counters with one dagger, bringing the other across his chest, making him stumble off the edge of the roof, plummeting to the ground below, making contact with the ground in a soft ‘thud . She then kneels beside the first man, searching through his pockets. Finding a few shurikens, she kicks him off the same edge as the other man. She then looks to her left to see a lone guard dressed in green, with a bow and arrow in hand. He heard the commotion, and is able to spot Naoko on the roof. However, instead of being wise and calling for help, he readies an arrow to try to solve the problem himself. After seeing the arrow fired, Naoko deflects it with a dagger, sending it flying off, hitting the ground safely. As the man readies another arrow, Naoko backflips off the roof landing gracefully in the shadows behind the building. The man then has a look of fear on his face as he desperately tries to see where Naoko went. This continues for a few seconds as Naoko silently climbs up the roof the man is on. She stands behind him, amusedly watching him for a few moments. Suddenly, she kicks him in the back sending him over the edge~

‘bakayarou

<*idiot>

~Naoko sighs and exhales, blowing a few long strands of her long black hair away from her brown eyes. The strands fall right back into place, so she pushes them to the side. She then looks toward some nearby tall buildings. After readying her grappling hook, she leaps from the building, grappling onto the next~

‘…Ren must be having a fit right about nowor dying of sheer boredom…”

~Actually, it would appear to the average bystander that Ren was having the most deadly fight of his life right now. Ren was at a disadvantage from the very start, and Rikimaru would not let up. Ren had to give everything he had just to keep up with the lightning fast strikes of Rikimaru’s katana. If Ren tried using extra power in his strikes, Rikimaru proved his stronger. If Ren tried using speed and quick strikes, Rikimaru proved faster. Even though almost every move was parried, Ren still found himself with a bleeding scratch across his side. After a clashing of katanas that had a particularly bright flash, Ren found himself rolling backward down a small hill after being kicked in the gut. Ren rolled into the bamboo forest, and was stopped when he collided with a large rock. He shook his head and looked around~

‘…Man, how can he kick so hard!?

~Ren gritted his teeth when he heard Rikimaru’s voice~

‘You must do better than that!

~Ren quickly stood up and readied his blade while looking around him. By now, Rikimaru could be anywhere. All was silent. Ren could not even hear the sounds of the forest animals. Suddenly, Ren heard an almost inaudible rustle of leaves. He attempted to turn his head toward the sound, but immediately felt a sharp pain in his back from an airborne foot. The pain caused Ren to cry out as he saw the forest floor fast approaching his face. Then, right before contact, he was pulled back up as an arm went around his throat. His eyes went wide as the life felt like it was being strangled out of him. If felt as though his head was just about ready to pop right off his shoulders as his vision began to blur.While flailing around, trying to escape, he got a better glimpse of the arm around his neck. It was not a man’s arm! And, there was no katana, but a dagger enclosed in the fist. His eyes went even wider as the grip tightened. Then he heard a female giggle~

‘Crying like a little baby! Aw, did my kick hurt too much?

~It was Ayame. She kneed him in the back, in the spot where she had kicked him earlier. She angled the dagger close to Ren’s neck while speaking in a sweet voice~

‘You know, on the real battlefield, you would be dead right now.

~Ren drived a blind elbow into Ayame’s gut, and managed to barely slither out of her grasp as her grip loosened slightly. After rolling a few feet away, Ren began gasping for air~

‘Howcan youhave a grip..so strong!? It was like I was being choked by a Sumo Wrestler!

~Ayame smirked and folded her arms, daggers facing behind her~

‘I do plenty of push-ups!

‘You

~Instantly, Ayame was upon him. With dagger still in hand, she punched him square in the nose, sending him flying off his feet, crashing through the bark of a bamboo tree~

‘Why are you letting yourself get beaten so badly!?

~Ayame walked up to Ren and kicked him before he could get up, knocking him back even further, until he cracked into another large rock. In a sitting position after colliding with the rock, Ren winced at the pain, and wiped the blood from his nose. By now, his vision was blurred, and Ayame decking him in the face did not help matters much. He’d had enough. He grabbed his katana, and lept straight up into the treetops, Ayame followed effortlessly. Ren leapt from the trees down into the open field, near where Ren had started with Rikimaru. He gritted his teeth as Rikimaru walked up to him, stopping a few feet away. He growled softly as Ayame leapt from the trees, landing on Ren’s opposite side~

‘…Grr…are they trying to kill me!?

~Back at the village, Naoko spots a guard exit a building at the ground below. She waits until she is safely out of his sight before dropping down and rushing into the building. Looking around, she saw lanterns everywhere. Then she thought she heard some voices coming from a stairwell nearby. While descending the stairs as silently as possible, she heard some rather loud footsteps coming up. To hide herself, she leaps up into the high shadows while stabbing her daggers into the adjacent walls to hold herself up. After the men pass by, she drops down and continues downstairs, until she reaches a large, circular room, with hostages tied up everywhere They began begging her to free them, and she started cutting ropes loose. As one freed man ran past her up the stairs, he was knocked back down, sending others back with him. A few guards dressed in green came down, and drew their weapons~

‘And just what do you think you are doing!?

~Naoko stood, readying her daggers~

‘I’m here to free them. If you get in my way, you will die.

~The men began to laugh as they brandished their weapons~

‘It’s 4 on 1. You won’t survive. Anyway, these guys will fetch us a nice reward.

‘You will pay for your evil

~Naoko smirks as she rushes forward~

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Chapter 4: New ‘Acquaintances

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~The guard brandishing a katana smirks as Naoko approaches~

‘So, this ninja girl thinks she has what it takes to beat all 4 of us, hmm? Well then little girl, now you will see what happens when you mess with the HISUIIRO NO GETSUEI!!

<*Jade Moon!!>

~Naoko quickly brings a dagger to the chest of the guard carrying the sword, and he counters just in time to create a bright flash. Suddenly, the scene fades to black as another clashing of swords is heard. Then Ren is seen, clashing katanas multiple times with Rikimaru, as Ayame sits on a rock, watching. Neither Ren nor Rikimaru can get a clean hit off, as each strike is parried and followed by another of even greater power and speed. After a few minutes of this, Ayame gets bored, and decides to jump in. She thrusts a dagger toward Ren’s back as Rikimaru comes forward with a slash. After sensing that Ayame had entered the fight, Ren centers himself and jumps straight up several feet into the night air, looking down at his opponents. While in mid-air, Ren gets an idea and smirks. He reaches into a pocket drawing a couple smoke bombs. He flings one downward, which explodes on contact with the ground, obscuring Rikimaru and Ayame’s vision. While they are blinded, he tosses his grappling hook, connecting with a nearby branch. After securing himself on the branch, he looks toward the huge cloud of smoke he just created. It was still far too dense to see anything through it. Ren smirks again~

‘Heh.got ëem.

‘Think again, Ren.

~Ren slowly turns his head around and sees none other than Ayame, smiling and waving a hand, but a few feet away from him, on the very same branch. Rikimaru is standing on the branch next to it, folding his arms with his back against the bark of the tree. Ren cannot believe his eyes~

‘.Ikaga ka..

<*.How..>

~Ayame smirks~

‘That move you just pulled was VERY predictable.

~Without another word, Ayame punches Ren in the face, sending him flying from the tree branch, toward the smoke cloud below. Ren composes himself and lands on one knee, trying to feel the area around him, to sense where Rikimaru and Ayame were. He called out~

‘JEEZ! What is it with you punching me in the face all the time!?

~Ren feels Ayame’s arm go around his neck, putting him into a choke hold~

‘It’s fun! Strangling you is fun too!

~At that, Ren reached behind his head, grabbing Ayame by the back of her head. In one swift motion, he flung her over his shoulder, slamming her to the ground. As she reached for a dagger, Ren drove his foot onto her wrist, causing her to drop it in pain. At the very same instant, Rikimaru came forward from the haze, swinging his katana. By the time Ren blocked the strike, Ayame was back up, slashing her daggers at Ren. Ren had to give his all in order to parry all the attacks, especially with his vision being hindered by his own smoke bomb. After parrying one of Ayame’s more vicious strikes, Ren kicked her in the gut with more power than he had intended, sending her sprawling. After that, he dodged around one of Rikimaru’s slashes, spin kicking him in the face, sending him to the ground. Ren sensed that Ayame was back up, and parried one of her attacks. However, by using his katana, he locked blades with Ayame, swinging her over his head, causing her to land on top of Rikimaru. After a few moments, the smoke starts to clear, and Rikimaru speaks~

‘That will be enough training for today.

~Ayame jumps up and smiles again~

‘Good job Ren!

~Ren looked at them without saying a word, holding his katana to his side~

‘…They aren’t even injured! All that fighting we just did…and they don’t have a single bruise between them! It felt like I was fighting for my life…

~Ayame looks at Ren with a look of concern~

‘Heydaijobu?”

<*Are you O.K.?>

“We were just playing back there, nothing serious. Come on, let’s head back.

~Ren, Ayame, and Rikimaru walk back to the village together. A while later, Ren begins to wonder about Naoko~

‘I wonder how Naoko’s mission is going?

~Back at the basement of the tower, Naoko had fully engaged combat with the gang, with bystanders looking on fearfully. However from the look of things, Naoko was winning. The guard with the katana struck out at her, and she countered by dodging to the side while giving him a side kick which knocked him into a wall. Another guard follows up by whipping his spear around, trying to strike Naoko. Naoko dodges each attack gracefully, suddenly grabbing the opposite end of the spear, swinging the guard into another wall. Next comes a guard with claw-like appendages stapped to his hands. He runs forward, swinging his claws blindly. Naoko blocks and parries a few swipes, kicking the guard in the gut. As he doubles over, Naoko kicks him in the face, sending him flying back several feet, leaving a trail of blood through the air. Last comes a guard weilding two katanas. He laughs as he and Naoko lock blades several times. Naoko began to think about what she should do~

‘He seems a lot more skilled than the others wereI haven’t even been able to hit him yet.

~Suddenly, without warning, the man’s eyes go wide. He disengages with Naoko, falling down to the ground in a pool of his own blood. Naoko looks on amazed, because she still hadn’t hit him yet. She began to suspect that someone else was present, and looked about her, toward the directions of the other guards she’d already dispatched. They were all back up on their feet by now, and each looked at her with anger and hate, because to them, it looked like she had killed the guard.

‘You..will pay for killing him.with your LIFE!

~Suddenly, Naoko saw a figure completely covered in shadow. She couldn’t make him out, but he moved in a blur. He unsheathed some kind of weapon. Naoko recognized it as a katana, and it had the blood of the first guard still on it. The figure raced toward the guard with the spear in a blur. The guards eyes went wide, as blood came forth from a wide gash across his chest. The guard dropped to his knees, his face frozen in terror. He fell to the ground, unable to even see what attacked him. The other two guards had seen the figure by now, and were backing away in fear, holding their weapons close. The guard with claws lashed out at the figure, but the figure moved too quickly, slashing his katana across his chest also. The guard fell, his claws clattering to the ground. The guard with the sword called out~

‘You may be able to get us, but whoever you are, you’ll be crushed by the Hisuiiro no Get–urrrk.

~The figure had already sunk his blade into the guard’s chest. Upon removing it, blood spurted forth as the guard fell to the ground. All this time, Naoko had been looking on, only half-believing what she was seeing. Then she caught a glimpse of his face, though he was still shrouded in shadow.

‘Who are you?

‘Iambut a simple shadow playing on the wind. Call me Shadow if you wish

~ The figure began moving in a blur toward Naoko. Naoko struck out, but the figure parried and rushed past her, up the stairs. As quickly as he’d entered, he was gone, leaving destruction in his wake. However, Naoko noticed that he only attacked the guards. He never even bothered the villagers who were also cowering in the area. At that, Naoko rushed up the stairs, but saw no one once she reached the top. After a few moments, she called down the steps~

‘It’s all right! They’re all gone! It’s safe to come up now!

~The villagers came up the steps, and slowly dispersed back into the village, to their homes. After making sure they all got out safely, Naoko grappled to the rooftops, hopping from rooftop to rooftop, heading home. While on her way, she began to wonder~

‘Who was that guy?

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Chapter 5: Complications

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~As the night wears on into the early hours of morning, Ren can’t help but feel a bit worried about Naoko. An hour or so earlier, he’d climbed up on top of one of the village’s higest towers, to see if he could spot Naoko coming from a distance. With nothing to accompany him except for the near-constant chirping of crickets and other assorted nighttime sounds, Ren took a break from his watch, lying down, looking up at the stars that filled the night sky. As he looked at the crescent moon, he sighed.~

…Naoko….Where are you….?î

~Ren got up, and hopped down from the tower, landing silently on the ground far below. Heading for the Village Gates, he went through them, toward the dense forest nearby.~

Maybe if I head into the forest, I can meet her halfway.î

~As Ren made his way through the forest, he noticed that it was unusally quiet……WAY too quiet. At first, he simply shrugged this off, but he could sense someone’s presence, within his immediate area.~

….Naoko…?î

~In an instant, Ren saw a silver flash off to his side out the corner of his eye. It was a dagger. Ren’s reaction time, however, was not quick enough to avoid it entirely. As it whistled past, it scratched his arm, causing a small amount of pain before it went on along its path, thunking into a tree. A bit of blood was drawn as Ren put his free hand over the wound. A couple tense seconds went by as Ren looked at the lodged dagger, noticing that it was certainly not one of Naoko’s. As his instincts told him to reach for his sword, he heard the sound of a twig breaking behind him. By the time he turned his head, the side of his jaw was met with a forceful kick, launched from a tree branch. The kick knocked Ren off his feet, rolling a short distance, near the edge of the forest. Gaining his balance, Ren stayed in a crounched position, unsheathing Lighthawk. Ren looked up, trying to see who his opponent was. However, it was too dark, most of the light from the moon and stars was blocked by the trees of the forest. Ren did notice however, that the figure was male, and had drawn a katana, and was approaching him. Ren smirked as he slowly rose into fighting position.~

Heh, I’ll get him back for that dagger…

~Ren brandished Lighthawk as the figure dashed forward, in a blur, raising his katana. Ren brought Lighthawk to his chest to block, though his guard was temporarily broken by the figure’s powerful strike. With Ren’s sword arm safely away and to the side, the figure connected with a quick elbow to Ren’s chest. This attack contained more force than was apparant, as Ren was knocked into a tree. Composing himself, Ren was able to regain his footing, and use the momentum from the previous attack to launch himself forward, taking the figure by suprise by quickly swinging Lighthawk upward in a slashing motion. The figure moved his head just barely in time though still suffered a deep scratch near his right eye. Ren smirked.~

Heh….î

~Ren rolled upon landing, pivoting and jumping back at the man. The figure swung his katana forward as the two locked blades. The figure used Ren’s momentum, swinging his blade around in order to toss Ren away. Ren flipped in mid-air, though he was thrown out of the forest, landing in the tall grasses outside. As Ren focused his attention on the forest to try and find his opponent, it had started to rain. The rain had started off slowly, but built up quickly and before long, had formed a sort of mist surrounding the area. Ren tensed as he saw the figure emerge from the trees, landing a medium-sized distance away from him. Neither one moved a muscle, trying to see what the other was doing. This lasted for a full minute, the only motion being the falling rain, swaying grass and trees. Lightning flashes and thunder booms several times. Finally, the two step toward each other simultaneously, growing in speed with each step. As they near each other, both leap high into the air, thier blades colliding in a bright flash. Both leap away at the same instant, landing away from each other, though not as far away as they had been before.~

Who in blazes are you!?î

Hmph….I am Shadow, of the Dark Blade.”

Shadow!?î

There are more of us, Ren.î

How do you know my name?î

~At that moment, both Ren and Shadow hear the sound of someone approaching through the trees. Shadow shakes his head.~

It’s that girl…..perhaps another time, Ren. Until then.î

No way! Wait a secó

~Ren runs forward, trying to grab at Shadow’s arm, but Shadow moves his arms through some ninjutsu positions, vanishing completely with a flash of lightning aiding his escape.~

…..Shimatta

<*Damn it>

……he got away….î

~Ren shakes his head slowly as Naoko notices him, jumping from a tree to land in front of him.~

Hey Ren, you won’t BELIEVE what happened on my mission……..hey, what’s wrong?

There was a……ninja…..he ambushed me….moved in a blur….

Could you see his face?î

No….it was too dark……but he had a katana….gave me a heck of a fight…..î

~Naoko goes wide-eyed, putting hands on hips.~

Hey….there was a guy I ran into, he killed all the guards that were keeping the hostages….but didn’t lay a finger on me…He used a katana…..said his name was….î

Shadow.î

YEAH! That’s it! Shadow! You fought him? How did he get here so quick? Where did he go?”

I don’t know….he just vanished. Not with smoke bombs or anything like that. Just did some kind of movement, and was gone. He knew my name, said he was with the Dark Blade, that there were others.

Never heard of them.î

Me neither……But you said he killed some guys from the Jade Moon. Then why did he attack me?

No clue…..

Maybe Ghoda has some info….let’s go find out.

Alright.

~Ren and Naoko then head back to the village, seeking Lord Ghoda’s chamber.~

To be continued …