Usagi Shinobi (finale)
Chapter 4: Full Circle, Guardians of Banīburo
Written and Edited by AeroQC
Just like every day, as the sun crept over the hills and fields, the residents of the village of Banīburo began their days as they usually did. And while the farmers started milling about their equipment and the shopkeepers opened up their stores, three sets of unseen eyes stood watch among the trees just on the outskirts of the fields.
Judy kept her eyes peeled on the forest and fields as she lept from branch to branch, a hint of worry marking her face. While her Sensei wasn't exactly a morning mammal, a fact that her team had found out on more than one training session, she was surprised to find the fox nowhere in her home when she had woken up that morning.
"Anyone hear from Sensei?" She called to her team over her headset.
The teenage doe stopped in her tracks and strained her ears in hope to locating him.
"Where could he be?" The bunny muttered.
"I'm pretty sure he's around, Judy," Ben chimed in. "He did tell your dad that he was gonna stay out of sight."
"Yeah, if anything, he's at least an expert at doing that," Jack added. "And knowing that mangy old fox, he's probably hanging around in the forest."
Nick sniffled from his less than comfortable position. Having been taken captive by the bandit leader, the fox was promptly tied then strung upside down from a branch. At the mercy of every single mammal in the camp, he had been batted around like a punching bag since he was there and drenched with cold water an equal amount of times.
"Mind if I ask why you insist on having me catch a cold?" Nick asked the badger who had just tossed a bucket on him.
"The boss told us to keep you soaked so that you don't burn through the ropes," she answered.
"I don't know if I should applaud his ingenuity or his imagination," he noted sarcastically. "Wait, it doesn't matter. My paws are tied anyway!"
The badger growled at her prisoner.
"Do you want to lose your breakfast, you wet mop?" She threatened.
"Does that mean you're going to feed me first?" The fox smirked.
A swift punch across his jaw was the only answer he got before he started swinging.
Judy stopped in her tracks as she thought she felt something different from inside the forest. The doe intently scanned her surroundings only to find nothing. But relying on a gut feeling she had, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the sounds around her.
The bunny's ears swiveled at the slightest of noises: a cricket's chirp, the wind through the trees, a falling leaf. None of these were what she was looking for, and her racing heartbeat was not helping her cause. Judy breathed out steadily, willing her heart to slow, and as she breathed in ever so slightly, she noticed.
It wasn't a sound that was different, but a smell. It was faint, but the doe could sense a slightly spiced aroma that was lingering in the air. A scent that she recognized almost instantly.
"Sensei!" She muttered as she leapt into action, following the scent.
The trail led Judy to a small clearing in the forest, a site that showed the signs of a previous fight. Slashes were seen in the bark of a few trees and a sword was found to be lodged in a fallen log a few paces away, along with multiple places were the ground was visibly driven into as if someone stomped there with incredible force. But the key clue that linked the place to her teacher was the torn up crimson gi that she found lying in the grass.
"Guys?" The bunny called into her headset. "I think the bandits got Wilde-sensei."
"Oh that's just great."
Jack and Ben met up with their teammate not long after, but immediately started regretting the decision once they were there.
"Yup. He was here alright," the hare choked.
Ben, for his part, started to wrap a scarf over his face to try and dull out the smell.
"Guys, this is serious," Judy scowled. "Sensei's gone, most likely kidnapped by the bandits."
"Yeah, we got that," the cheetah remarked, the response muffled by his scarf.
"We have to find him," the doe suggested.
"Any idea on how to do that?" Jack asked, having followed the same idea as Ben and wrapped a scarf over his own nose. "None of us have seen a single bandit all day and combing the entire forest might take the week itself; there's no way to find their camp."
Judy felt like she was in the company of idiots at the moment.
"Guys, Sensei gave us a way to find him. He left his scent as a trail straight to them," she pointed out.
"If you think I'm gonna risk MY nose for that excuse of a teacher, then you've got another thing coming," Jack objected, his finger firmly pushing Judy away.
"JACK!" The doe huffed.
"Judy," Ben quickly butt in. "I really want to help find Sensei, but I can't stand his scent either."
Judy pulled on her ears in sheer frustration.
"Nnnngh! There is nothing wrong with Sensei's scent!" She objected. "It's nice! It's great, even! It reminds me of when I used to help my siblings tend the fields as a kit! It feels like home! It-"
Judy stopped herself as she noticed her teammates staring at her with wide eyes, her ears burning red with embarrassment. The doe cleared her throat as she tried to regain her composure.
"What I mean to say is-"
"You like him."
"SHUT IT, JACK!"
The hare backed a step away with his paws up.
"What I mean to say is that I don't mind the scent, so I can lead us to the bandit camp," Judy explained. "I just want to know if you guys are willing to help me get Sensei back."
The doe held out her paw as a plea, hoping that her teammates would help her cause. Ben smiled behind his scarf and placed his paw over hers.
"I'm your friend, Judy. Of course I'll help."
They both looked to Jack, who stood with his arms crossed. He shrugged and walked over before placing his paw with his teammates'.
"If it means kicking some bandit tail, I'm in."
"Let's go save Wilde-sensei."
Nick carelessly yawned from where he hung as a gaggle of bandits kept watch on him.
"Hey, you guys mind giving me some water to drink?" He asked.
"Gods, does this guy ever shut up?!" One of the bandits nearby called. "Why are we keeping him around anyway?"
"Because the boss said so," another bandit answered. "Now go get the bucket."
"You know, I've actually been meaning to ask," the fox smirked, eliciting a groan from every bandit within earshot. "But why DOES Mr. Burns want me around?"
"Because I want to see your face when I destroy the village you're here to protect," a voice growled.
Nick twisted himself around to find the jackal he fought the night before standing in front of him.
"Well, I'm pretty sure that's going to be a pretty hard thing to do, unless you intend to carry me the entire way," he sarcastically remarked.
"You're not going anywhere, Ninja," the bandit leader snarled. "I'm gonna bring back the heads of those farmers to show you the deed is done."
The fox pondered this for a moment.
"Very good idea… Nice intimidation factor… Just one slight problem," he pointed out. "You do know that village is filled with rabbits, right?"
The jackal stared at him with some confusion.
"Well, not that I should expect you of all mammals to be good at math, but…" Nick chuckled at the thought. "Rabbits are good at multiplying."
The bandit leader swung at the fox with a blinding fury, a move that ninja saw coming with ease. Twisting backwards to avoid the blow, he snapped his fangs at the paw ever so slightly as a warning.
The jackal yanked back his paw in pain, but upon reviewing it, saw that no blood had been drawn. He glared at the upside-down fox that was returning a sarcastic smile.
"If I wanted to take your paw, I would've done that," Nick told him. "But since you've been so kind as to not muzzle me, I figured I'd return the favour."
"Next time, you won't get the chance to bite me," the bandit leader threatened.
"You know what, I'd actually like to see you try," Nick taunted. "I won't even try to bite you this time."
The jackal let out a roar of rage as he started his flurry of punches and slashes, the whole camp gathering around the unexpected event.
Just above the impromptu fight, Judy and her friends were trying to come up with a plan to save their teacher.
"Okay, I gotta admit, that fox is doing a pretty good job while being tied up," Jack noted.
"Jack. Focus," Judy hissed. "Sensei obviously knows we're here, why would he make a scene like this otherwise?"
"So… What's the plan?" Ben asked.
Judy looked down at the camp from their perch. While her teacher was avoiding the leader's attacks just below them, a fair two dozen bandits were gathered around them in a circle. While they had the element of surprise on their side, as soon as they dropped down they would be spotted.
"We need to get the crowd away from the fight," Judy thought out loud. "We need some sort of disturbance that won't stop the fight but still be enough to get those bandits away."
Jack bit his lip as something came to mind.
"I've got an idea," he quickly said before leaping off to one side of the camp.
Judy sighed, not liking how he didn't share his plan. She looked to her friend for help.
"Ben, how about you?"
The cheetah simply smiled.
"Lunch time," he said before heading in the opposite direction.
Judy yanked her ears in frustration once again.
"Idiots. Both of them," she whispered to herself.
Seemingly left to her own devices, the doe tried to come up with something. But her mind was all a jumble as she watched her teacher twisting in place below.
Nick was fairly confident in his ability to dodge the jackal's furious attacks, taunting him with every miss.
"Hey, you almost got me that time."
"Is that a breeze I feel?"
"Are you getting tired, Burns?"
"SHUT UP!" The bandit roared in clear frustration, causing a little murmur to spread around the gathered crowd.
"Hey, hey, no need to lose your cool, Burns," the fox smirked.
"Stop calling me that," the jackal snarled.
"Sure thing, Jackie," Nick dismissed. "Say, I can't help but notice that you could probably use some tips."
"And why would I take any advice that you have to say?"
"Well, you seem to be just wasting your time trying to hit me, and I've got nothing better to do right now," the fox shrugged.
"I'd rather hear you whimpering in pain, Ninja."
As the bandit leader wound up for another flurry of punches, a subtle thud rang through the camp, followed by the sound of a tree crashing down.
"What- Go see what that was!" He ordered, a slew of bandits rushing to check what the commotion was.
Almost immediately, an explosion was heard at the opposite end of the camp.
"Someone destroyed the foodstores!" A bandit called out as vegetables started raining down around the camp.
"Find who did it and kill them!" The jackal ordered, again causing a group of bandits to swarm on the attack.
He turned to the fox with anger flaring in his eyes, Nick merely grinning lazily from where he hung.
"This was your doing, wasn't it?" The bandit demanded, as he swung at his prisoner.
"And how exactly do you expect me to pull all that off, when I'm tied up here?" Nick questioned as he dodged another swing.
"I don't know, you tell me, Ninja!"
The fox chuckled.
"Tell you what, I'll give you a quick lesson in being a ninja and maybe then you can tell me how I did it," Nick smirked.
The jackal merely roared in anger as he dealt out a flurry of swings and slashes.
"Rule number one about being a ninja," the fox explained as he twisted around each attack. "Always keep your presence hidden unless you want it to be known."
"Seems to me like you broke that rule, Ninja," the jackal commented before resuming his attacks.
"Oh? You think so?" Nick chuckled. "Rule number two about being a ninja: Don't engage in a conflict if you can avoid it. Now I think I'm doing a pretty god job at that, don't you think?"
"Just hold still so I can kill you quickly," the bandit threatened.
"If you want. Besides, there's only one rule left," he noted.
"And what's that?" the jackal grinned as he readied a final attack on his prisoner.
The fox smirked and flicked his ear.
"Rule number three about being a ninja… Always be in control of the situation."
In nearly the same instant that Nick finished his sentence, Judy launched herself at the jackal from where she was perched. Landing feet first into his face, she kicked off in a backflip towards the rope that held her Sensei suspended in the air. Grabbing onto it and sliding down, she pulled out her kunai to slash at the bonds holding the fox tight. The two of them landed on their feet just as the bandit leader hit the ground.
"You okay Sensei?" Judy asked without averting her eyes from the jackal.
"Just peachy, Fluff," Nick replied as he stretched out his slightly numb limbs. "Took your sweet time in getting here, though."
"Yeah, well, you didn't exactly make it that easy to find you in the first place," the doe returned, whirling around to face him.
"Fair enough," the fox admitted. "I take it Stripes and Spots were the distractions?"
"Fluff?" He asked as stopped what he was doing and focused on his student.
Judy's mind went practically blank as soon as she turned to see the fox. He was clothed completely in dark green, just like her hero from all those years ago. Her heart skipped a beat as thoughts clicked into place, like pieces of a puzzle scattered about.
It all fit perfectly.
"Sensei, are you-?"
Nick dived into Judy, pushing her backwards onto the ground as the bandit leader whizzed over then. Nick rolled to a readied fighting stance against the jackal as Judy remained slightly dazed from the impact.
"So it looks like the ninja wasn't working alone after all," the jackal stated.
"Bingo," the fox confirmed. "And guess what, you win a prize. A special beatdown given by me!"
Nick lunged towards his target in a fury.
Judy sat herself up with her head still ringing, immediately she noticed her sensei engaged in a brawl with the bandit leader. The jackal was visibly stronger than the fox, but Nick redirected almost every blow and gave back twice as much with his speed and agility. Punches, swipes, chops, kicks; it nearly looked like a fair match between the two. Until the jackal caught one of Nick's punches in his paw, then the other, and with what looked like a maddened grin bit down on his right shoulder.
"Sensei!" Judy called out as Nick howled in pain, blood seeping into his clothes.
She got to her feet as quickly as she could and tried to close the gap between them.
Seeing this, the bandit spun around and flung the fox towards the doe. While Judy meant to catch the fox, the force of the impact had them tumbling back a few feet, fortunately with Judy on top of her Sensei. With him out of the jackal's grasp, the bunny placed herself in front of the fox, ready to attack.
The jackal grinned as he licked the blood on his muzzle.
"You really want to trade your life for this fox, little bunny?" He asked.
Judy clasped her paws together.
"You leave my Sensei alone," she calmly stated.
The bandit chuckled.
"I don't think so," he replied before charging the doe.
As the bandit inched closer and closer, Judy closed her eyes and pulled her chakra to her center. With nothing but the safety of the fox on her mind, her paws made a flurry of sings until she released the energy inside.
A large cloud of smoke billowed outwards, filling the camp completely. The jackal stopped and looked around in a desperate attempt to see his target through the thick fog. It didn't take long for the cloud to dissipate.
The fox was nowhere to be seen, but all around him and up in the trees were hundreds of exact copies of the doe.
"Wha- What is this?!" The bandit exclaimed.
At this, the crowd of bunnies started to laugh.
"You really don't pay attention, do you?" One of them called out.
"Didn't you hear what Sensei said, earlier?" Another added.
"We bunnies are very good…
"AT MULTIPLYING!" They all roared together.
The jackal's ears wilted as the hundreds of bunnies rained down on him, pelting him with jabs, kicks, and the odd bite here and there. It didn't take long for the bandit to be subdued and subsequently tied by the kerfluffle of Judys.
"Okay Judy, the coast is clear!" One of them called out.
Another Judy landed close by, supporting a bandaged and weary Nick.
"Thanks. Sorry I had to ditch, though," She apologized to her clones as she propped the fox up against a tree.
The clones all gave her smiles and thumbs-up before disappearing in puffs of smoke, leaving only the three of them in the camp.
"Looks like you're getting better, Fluff," Nick weakly smiled. "Though I have to say, that wasn't your typical Clone Jutsu…"
"I-I know, I don't know what happened," Judy stammered. "I just- I- I couldn't stand to see you hurt any more…"
Judy's ears burned as her embarrassment grew.
"Not after you'd already saved me when I was a kit," she meekly added as she rubbed one of her ears.
Nick gulped and averted his eyes from how cute his student looked at that moment.
"So you, uh… You figured that out didn't you?" He prodded.
The two stood in an embarrassing silence for a moment.
While Nick had turned to face her, Judy had stepped forward to bolster her confidence. What neither of them had expected was for their lips to touch. Both of their eyes went wide and Judy hopped a foot away, her ears standing on end in surprise and completely flushed red.
They both looked at each other in surprise, having said the exact same words.
"Sensei…" Judy hazarded as she stepped forward. "I… You're my hero."
Nick stared into his student's eyes.
"No…" He stated. "Your mine."
The fox gave her a big smile as he said this, and Judy couldn't help but hug him as tears ran down her face. Nick winced at the contact, but didn't push her away.
"Judy! Where are you?!"
"If she thinks that we're gonna be the distraction AND the cleanup crew, she's got another thing coming!"
Judy tensed up as her friends appeared from around the tree, the hare and the cheetah closing in on the tied up jackal. While she tried to get up, Nick held her close.
"Sensei! Let go!" She hastily whispered between her teeth. "I can't have them see us like this!"
"Carrots, relax," he replied. "Didn't you forget about rule number one?"
The doe looked up at the fox, a clear smirk on his muzzle.
Judy woke up from the simulation with a stretch, the image of being in her fox's embrace still fresh in her mind. And while the events were already starting to fade away, something about it seemed a little… Off for her. She shook her head, assuming it was nothing important, and went over to where Nick was seated.
Except he wasn't there.
The doe looked all over the booth, but couldn't find a single trace of her fox anywhere. Only his distinct scent lingering in the booth proved that he had been there before. As Judy stepped out, she found that Nick had gone off towards the concession stand without her. Wanting swift payback for leaving before she was awake, she snuck up behind Nick and nuzzled into his back while grabbing around his waist.
The sudden attack caused Nick to tense up only slightly, but it was still enough to spill a bit of the popcorn he had just bought for the two of them.
"Looks like I'm the better ninja, Slick," Judy chuckled into his back.
AN: Hey everyone, AeroQC here. I hope you enjoyed this short story about ninjas. For one more time, I would like to thank Cimar Turalis of WipdeHopps for letting me take part in this collaboration project, as well as putting up with my lack of writing for the past few months.
So in the end here, there were no new words that I snuck in this final chapter. But if you ever feel like reading this adventure again, be my guest, because I did sneak in a few references and cleverly hid some puns in the story.
You can find more of my work, along with this story, here on FanFiction as well as an extra archived piece over on Archive Of Our Own, all under the same name AeroQC.
Have a good day, everyone!
AN: I want to give a huge shout out to AeroQC for writing this fantastic story. :) I was excited to hear he wanted to write a ninja story and he really showed up to the plate with this one. So please make sure to head over to his site and read his other amazing stories, alright? :D