Rowen hit the rocky ground, tumbling downhill to a stop against a clump of rock in a heap of battered armor. He winced as he started to get back up, only to receive a vicious blow to the back of the head as his helmet was kicked off and a knife shoved under his chin. He cried out as their assailant took a fist full of his short blue hair and pulled him to his knees.
"ROWEN!" Sage and Cye shouted in unison.
"Let him go you bastard!" Kento roared as he started to stagger up the slope into a run.
Rowen winced as their opponent shifted behind him, holding his knife harder against Strata's exposed throat. A soft chuckle came behind his left ear. "Such spirit…you Ronins are all they say to be and more…"
Rowen choked on the blood surfacing from a cut in his mouth. "Take…me…" He said through gritted teeth.
Kento had finally gotten too close for their attacker's liking since he pulled Rowen's head back harshly and pressed his weapon deep enough into Strata's pale neck to draw a line of blood to trickle down the blade. "Back down Hardrock! Or you'll loose another teammate!"
The Chinese man's face melted into horror. He thought this guy was full of crap. Now he had a knife at Rowen's neck and was actually drawing blood. Sage stopped short behind his friend. "Only a coward would use an enemy as a shield!"
The man, dressed in a black cloak laughed. "Do not bark morals at me, mortal! I do as I am told!" He looked at Rowen. "Now, what did you say?"
Rowen grimaced. "Take me…instead…"
The man grinned. "I can see this ordeal has been worse on you. Were you his second? Do you wish to decline the role of leadership?"
"Take me instead you sonuva—Ahh!" Rowen felt the knife bite deeper.
"I'm afraid deals like these can not be made unless my employer is present." The man informed darkly. "Besides, I kind of like the effect we have right now…you four fools rushing blindly into a fight. You'll be perfect."
Cye hobbled up on his fractured leg behind Sage. "For what!? What do you want from us!?"
"I have an invitation." The dark attacker explained. "And to give it too you—" He shoved Rowen back into the ground with a fierce push and set his booted foot on Strata's back.
He reached into his cloak and pulled out a card. "I needed one of my hands."
He flicked it at Kento and Sage. The two Ronins stood ready with their weapons as they let the card land on the ground.
"Now…there is one condition not mentioned on that card." The man explained. "You need a party of five…and he or she must be a mortal like yourselves."
Sage growled. "You picked the wrong people to mess with!" He warned.
The man flashed a smile. "So I have heard…but we have our trunk card now. You can't touch us unless you are willing to risk his life."
Cye winced as he used his yari as a support. "What do we get in return if we do this?"
"Your friend, alive. And under your new contract with my employer, every Ronin Warrior must be willing to submit their armor in the event they fail. And all rights to the Nether World and its throne." The man informed as he stepped off of Rowen and gave him a swift kick to the side with his cracked ribs. Rowen tumbled down into Kento's arms as he threw down his staff. The man turned and started to leave.
Sage glared at him. "What happens if we don't show?"
The man stopped and looked back. "We will hunt down your families and your friends…and kill them. And then we will kill you." He said. "Instant forfeit…but the first person to die will be your leader."
He laughed and faded away into the glaring setting sun.
Halo wasted no time getting to Rowen; he was fading fast from the blood he was losing and a collapsing lung. Kento pulled away to pick up the card before the wind took it. Cye sat down with a heavy grunt beside his friend and look on while he nursed his leg. "What's it say?" Torrent asked.
Kento growled as his fist closed in around the paper. "There is a boat we need to catch…"
Unwanted Confrontations is undergoing revisions. Minor edits have been made to this chapter. Be on the look out for a Major edit, including new material and repairs to story continuity, also in relation to YYH series and some RW edits.