Ninja Chronicle: Path of the Shinobi
Wow. It's been a very long time since I last updated. Reality tends to keep one busy in ways one may not necessarily approve of. Well, anyway, I just managed to spare some free time whilst being in the writing mood and decided to update this story. I hope to do so on a regular basis now, since my schedule is a little more free, but I can't make guarantees. Anyway, enough of my personal life. On with the story!
Chapter 3: Victim of Circumstance
Ryu took light steps as he approached the campus of an unusually large high school. The school itself was an international high school that was constructed close to the American military base, so it came as no surprise to Ryu that the architecture was far from Japanese. It was actually difficult for him to select what most consider 'normal' clothing, since he led a life that was everything but normal. Pushing the thought aside, he stopped and glanced around, only to realize the strange looks he was receiving. In particular, the female portion of the crowd, who looked at him with dazed eyes. It was only then that Ryu realized that he had actually arrived early, and that classes had yet to begin.
He decided it would be as good a time as any to ask directions to the school's main office, which would place him one step closer to his objective. He approached the nearest group, consisting of all females. They were staring at him intently, barely registering that he was walking over. However, they were snapped out of their daze when he spoke, his voice commanding and resolute.
"Excuse me ladies. I need some assistance in locating the main office. Would one of you be so kind as to point me in it's direction. It would be of great help to me." he said in the most polite voice he could muster. They simply stared at him for a minute, stupefied by his straightforward approach. Finally, one of them spoke up, drawing the attention of the other girls nearby.
"Uh, yeah! Just walk along this path to the double doors over there. Then head straight past the first hallway. It's the first room on the left, in front of the cafeteria." she said, a slight blush gracing her delicate features. Brushing the thought aside, he muttered a quick word of thanks and made his way past the crowd of students, who were now making their way inside as the bell to get to class rung. Stopping near the doors mentioned before, Ryu waited for all the students to make their way inside, so as to avoid hampering his progress by trying to push past crowds of rushing teenagers.
After the crowd dissipated, he entered the now quiet building. Only the school security could be heard walking, their footsteps echoing through the hallways. His own footsteps made no noise as he approached the specified door. It made it much easier for him to identify the location thanks to the unnecessarily large sign posted right beside the door, labeled "MAIN OFFICE".
He quickly stepped inside. The office itself was rather spacious, and a multitude of people were scurrying about their business. The guest area was not very spacious, but then again, there seldom were guests in the main office to begin with, from what he had heard. Focusing on his task, he walked up to one of the secretaries present at the main desk. She was talking on the phone, but looked up and smiled to let him know she knew he was there. After hanging up, she wrote something down, and then quickly turned her attention to him.
"Good morning. What can I do for you?" she asked politely, the smile never leaving her lips. His reply was equally polite.
"I'm actually searching for a student. It is imperative that I speak to her. I was wondering if you could tell me where she might be at this particular time?"
"Sure, I can help you with that. Could you tell me her name?" she asked. She continued to smile.
"Kasumi." came his short reply. The secretary's smile became even brighter, and her response rather warm. From the look on her face, he could tell she was fairly well known here, as she did not even inquire as to a last name.
"Oh, Kasumi! She's the new girl who started here a few months ago. She's an office aid for fourth period. She should be in Physical Education right about now. Do you know where that is?" She asked. As expected, he let out a quick 'no' in response. She simply continued to smile.
"Well, after leaving the office, turn left and head straight to the double doors leading outside. Make a right, followed by a left at the first path. Walk straight, past the sheds, and towards the track. Look for a teacher, and he'll bring her aside for you. Here's a pass." she explained, and proceeded to hand him a pass which would allow him through the school campus without question. He took it and thanked her, giving her a quick bow, and turned to leave.
He turned left as instructed, past a few students who were apparently late to class. He exited through the specified double doors and looked around. Without prior knowledge of the school's layout, one could easily get lost here. It was certainly different than a Japanese school's architecture. To the far left there were two locker rooms, followed by a fork in the path. One led back into another section of the building, one led to a vending machine area, and another led to a gym if he was reading the signs correctly. However, he quickly disregarded it, as he was instructed to turn right. He did so. He noticed another fork in the path at the very end, one leading to a makeshift outdoor cafeteria from what he could tell, and another leading back into the main building, to the library specifically. However, he once again pushed the thought aside and took the path he was instructed to take. He followed the path past a few rooms, a vending machine, and came up next to some sheds. He continued to follow the path towards the rear section of the school. He noticed yet another fork in the path. To his left were basketball courts, straight forward were more sheds, and to his immediate right was his objective, the school track, where he could see a multitude of students performing various kinds of exercises.
"Excuse me, sir." Ryu said aloud, drawing the attention of a man who looked to be in his forties. Judging from the way he was dressed, Ryu assumed he was the instructor. The man looked at him for a second, but quickly collected himself and replied.
"Yes? How can I help you?" he asked, looking rather irritated.
"I am searching for a student by the name of Kasumi. I was told she would be here." Ryu replied, ignoring the man's obvious bad mood. The man scrutinized him for a few moments, as if suspicious.
"You got a pass?" was his simple reply. Ryu silently gave the man the slip given to him at the main office. After taking it, the instructor looked at it as if to make sure it was real. Ryu simply waited, wondering why the man was being so cautious. He ignored the thought, and focused once again on the task at hand. Having given Ryu another looking over, the instructor finally turned back towards the track and called out to the group of students conducting exercises on the field.
"Kasumi! You have a visitor!"
Just about every student turned in the direction of the instructor, and half of them then turned towards the student in question. Ryu immediately saw her face. She had a look of confusion on her face, which quickly turned into surprise, and then worry when she saw who her visitor was, exactly. She then began a slow jog over to the instructor.
"This guy is here to see you." was his short comment, as he walked over to the students to instruct them as to their next activity. There was a short, uncomfortable silence as Ryu and Kasumi stared at each other. After collecting his thoughts, Ryu spoke in his usual, emotionless tone.
"How have you been, Kasumi?"
"Fine. And yourself?"
"How did you find me?" she asked, hinting that she wanted him to get straight to the point. Ryu, however, thought the question itself to be ridiculous.
"I am a shinobi, and more so, your guardian. It is my duty to know where you are at all times. Let us leave it at that, shall we?" he replied, in an almost mocking tone. She merely narrowed her eyes for a moment, before regaining her composure.
"Very well. What is it that you want? I would imagine it is something rather important if you came in person to see me."
"I have come to ask for your assistance on a mission given to me by the Emperor."
For a moment, she looked confused. But the look soon passed, and her voice took a more serious tone.
"A mission, you say? I thought you were a loner when it came to such things."
"Trust me, if the option to go alone were available to me, I would not be here, asking this of you." he replied, his voice cold and void of emotion. She thought it wise not to pry the issue any further.
"I see." was the simple reply as she contemplated her next question. It quickly came to her.
"Because, I need someone I can trust." he said, his voice coming out slightly warmer than before.
"And you believe you can trust me?"
"You have not yet given me a reason to believe otherwise."
'Smart.' she thought. As she continued to think in silence, Ryu looked up for a moment, only to the notice the gazes of half of the group Kasumi was with. The looks on their faces ranged from confused to curious, and some even jealous. The sound of Kasumi's voice snapped him out of his thoughts.
"What reason would I have to accept?" she asked, suspicion hidden in her voice.
"The answer to that question would depend entirely on whether or not you still believe you have any attachment to the Mugen Tenshin clan." was his straightforward, yet somewhat cryptic answer.
"What do you mean?" she asked, worry and confusion etched into her voice. Ryu gave a short sigh, finding himself now contemplating how to answer. He looked at Kasumi while he thought, and noticed how her demeanor had changed drastically from when she first walked over to him. Ignoring the thought, he spoke up again.
"Do you still care for your family and friends in the Mugen Tenshin clan?"
"Yes. Of course." was her simple reply.
"Would you rush to their aid if they needed help, even if it meant you might be captured and executed for being a runaway shinobi?" he asked, his voice becoming cold and deadly serious again. She paused to think of her answer, but she quickly replied with certainty in her voice.
"Yes. I would."
"And what if I told you they were all dead?" he asked, the volume of his voice becoming almost inaudible, but still holding all the grave seriousness from before. Her eyes became wide, and she trembled slightly. She opened her mouth to speak, but quickly shut it, as if fearing her own reply.
"A-are...they really...dead?" she asked, in a clearly shaken voice. Even though Ryu hadn't actually stated as much, she could tell what his question had meant.
"Yes." was his simple, yet powerful reply. Her trembling became even more apparent, and she grabbed her arms, as if she were cold. He could already tell what the next question would be.
"And...my brother?" she asked, tears already rolling down her cheeks. She looked as if she would collapse onto the ground at any moment.
"Hayate has suffered minor injuries, from what I could tell when last I saw him, but he is alive and well, I assure you." He replied, his tone warm again. He saw her eyes brighten up at this, but still, she remained silent. Eventually, she spoke again, asking the next obvious question.
"The Mugen Tenshin clan was attacked by creatures known as Fiends, no doubt from the former Holy Vigoor Empire. As to why, I am not yet sure. I did not bother to ask your sister during our short meeting last night."
"Ayane is alive as well?"
"Yes, she and Hayate were the only confirmed survivors."
Her shoulders sagged slightly at the news. A few minutes passed, and Ryu could make out the sound of Kasumi sobbing, noticing some tears drip to the ground. After a few more minutes of this, she collected herself. She looked up, and with silent determination in her eyes, spoke again.
"Give me the details about the mission." she said, in a commanding voice. He smirked, as if everything had gone according to plan, and began relaying to her what the Emporer had told him.
"Where should I meet you?"
"Meet me at my shop. Do you know where it is?"
She nodded in reply.
"Right. Meet me there tonight. Make sure to bring all the equipment you can, and we'll sort out what you'll need and won't need for the mission. Afterwards, we'll get some sleep, and meet up with Hayate and Ayane at the airport tomorrow morning."
She gave another nod.
"I will see you then." he replied, and quickly turned to leave. She watched him go, and once he left her sight, she turned back to her classmates. She could already tell she would be bombarded with questions from her friends.
"Who was that?" one girl asked.
"What kind of friend?" another asked mischievously.
"Just a friend."
"He looked kinda old to be 'just a friend'." another one commented.
"What does it matter?" Kasumi asked, annoyed.
"Well, what did he want?" another one asked, ignoring her question.
"Yeah right. There was no way that was just 'nothing'. We saw the whole thing!"
"It's none of your business!" she yelled, irritated.
"Does he have a girlfriend?"
"I don't know."
"Well, tell him if he's interested, that he can have my number." another girl said with a grin.
"I'm pretty sure he has more important things to worry about."
"What, you mean he's gay?" another girl asked, curiosity in her voice.
"Hey, you don't have to be mean about it." the girl said defensively.
"Just leave me alone!"
"Fine. You could have just said he was your boyfriend from the beginning." the first girl said, turning away as the rest of the girls followed, chatting about Ryu's looks, amongst other things.
"He is not my boyfriend!" she replied, though her words were unheard by the group, which was busy chatting away. She gave out an annoyed sigh, as someone came up to her.
"Umm...Kasumi-chan?" the person in question, a boy around her age, tried to get her attention. She turned around and scrutinized him for a second. Seeing as how he appeared to be timid, she replied in a polite a voice as she could muster.
"Since he isn't your boyfriend, does that mean you're available?" he asked, now with confidence in his voice. She suddenly became angry, and with a frustrated huff, she turned on her heel and walked away, answering his question for all the guys who were wondering the same thing.
Hayabusa's antique shop was deadly quiet. He sat in silent meditation, thinking about how he had involved people he did not want to involve in a matter that should only have been his own. But thinking that now would do him no good, and so he ignored the sentiment and once again took to reviewing the equipment he had selected while he waited for the arrival of Kasumi.
A smirk graced his face as he thought how lucky it was that he kept all of his equipment from his first trip to the Vigoorian Empire. He didn't feel the need to carry everything from that particular trip, but some of the more useful equipment made its way into his luggage. Even then, it was still quite a lot. Of course he would have to carry his trusted Dragon Sword with him, as well as his shuriken and kunai.
Other items of particular interest were his bow and arrows, the Lunar, and the multipurpose Vigoorian Flails, all items which had served him well in the past. He also prepared an extra bag with other essentials, such as food and other miscellaneous and nonessential, but nonetheless useful, supplies. His green eyes darted across the room and his hand already had a weapon at the ready as soon as he heard a noise on the window outside his room, in the shop.
His movement was slow and deliberate as he made his way to the doorway of his small room, which was exposed to him since his room door was wide open in expectation of his company. He silently hoped it was who he thought it was, because if it was not, as was an enemy attack, then this mission of his was already going badly before it even really began.
As he positioned himself in a favorable spot to attack any invading parties, he waited in silence. The person that had arrived made no obvious attempt to hide him or herself, as the audible thump that was heard on his floor upon the person's landing was a clear indication of that. What he heard next relieved him, and the breath he didn't realize he had been holding let itself exit his body.
"Hayabusa? I'm here."
"Yes, I'm back here. Come on in."
Her graceful figure appeared at his doorway, and he took a moment to admire her physique, something he hadn't had the time to do during their short meeting at the school. Indeed, he didn't see much of her these days, and so every time he saw her he would have to take a moment to admire how much she had grown. She was in that period of her life, after all. Her body had indeed matured considerably from when last they had met. Her breasts had grown a little, he could see, enough to be noticeable to his keen eye. Her waist had gotten thinner, and her hips had rounded out nicely. She still had that girlish face of hers, however, that made her look a tad younger than she really was. What an odd combination to have, a mature woman's body with a young girls face, all slapped together to make what he was staring at right now. And her Mugen Tenshin ninja attire that she so commonly wore only made her body that much more alluring. Had he not been a man of principle and not possessed the self control that he imposed on himself, he might even have become quite aroused by merely her appearance. But he had to set such thoughts aside for the moment and focused his attention to the task at hand. They had to be properly equipped for the mission before he could continue to amuse himself with such things.
"Sit down and show me your equipment while I prepare some tea."
She silently nodded her head as he turned and went about his self-appointed task. He could hear her laying out the various things she had brought with her. They weren't as numerous as he had assumed, from what he heard, but he told himself that not all ninja clans trained as rigorously or with as diverse a set of equipment as his. As he finished preparing the tea, he poured two cups and placed it between himself and Kasumi, to the side of her small equipment spread.
"I see you have packed all the essentials for equipment and rations. However, your choice of weaponry is rather lacking."
His observation was straight to the point. Before she could say anything he stopped her with a hand and opened up some of the equipment lockers in his room. They were numerous, as he possessed a wide range of weaponry for a multitude or purposes. Noting her physical ability had likely not improved much since their last encounter, he thoughtfully looked over his various weapons, making a few choice selections that would help her.
"Take these, and these, and these as well."
He tossed her nunchaku, explosive shuriken, and Kitetsu. He thought twice about his last choice, but as he looked at her, he was sure she might need the help for the task they were about to undergo. After a quick explanation of the sword's abilities, he turned to the rest of her equipment and told her it was fine as is, and instructed her to gather it all together for when they were to move out. He looked at the time on this antique clock, and it told him they still had a few hours before they were to head out for the airport. He himself did not own a car, but a taxi was simple enough to find at any hour in this city, and so he did not worry himself much over such details. As he sat in silence and drank his tea, she did much the same, and just like that an hour flew by. The silence was broken when she finally decided to speak.
"Tell me, just how dangerous is this mission going to be?" she asked out of curiosity. It wouldn't hurt to gather as much information prior to the mission as she could.
"All I can say for now is that where we're going, anything and everything can kill you before you even bat an eye, so be alert at all times. Assume everything is an enemy until they give you a reason to think otherwise, and even then be cautious. Our enemies are cunning and numerous, and will stop at nothing to complete their objectives."
He omitted details, as they were as of yet at a dangerous place to be sharing that kind of information. Specifics would have to wait until they were at a more secure location.
"You sound like you've had a great deal of experience with whoever this enemy is. If so, why is it that you need assistance?"
Her curiosity had been piqued, and her amber eyes reflected as much. However, she would have to wait.
"As I told you before, if I had the option of going alone available to me, I would do so. But an order is an order, and I made the best decision I could have based on that order."
She seemed somewhat disheartened at that comment for some odd reason. Surely she didn't want to be pulled away from the relatively comfortable lifestyle she had been living the past few months, but that was the story of her life, she supposed.
He noticed she had slumped quite a bit at his remark, and thought briefly if he had made a poor choice in words. He collected his thoughts for a minute and spoke again.
"Listen, it's not that I don't have confidence in your abilities, but you know that I would never willingly put you in danger. I'm supposed to protect you from harm, not put you where the harm is most likely to reach you. All I'm saying is that you should be extremely careful on this mission. It won't be like anything you've ever faced before."
He placed his had on her shoulder to try and reassure her. The gesture was something that was very unlike him to do, and she looked over at him in mild shock because of it, but she suppressed it and smiled at him, letting him know she would be fine. For his part, he was glad the gesture had produced the effect he desired, as she seemed to be in slightly higher spirits. As he removed his hand from her shoulder he looked over at the clock and noticed it was almost time to leave.
"I hope you brought a change of clothing. It won't exactly look normal if you go to the airport wearing that, especially at this hour."
She looked down at herself and nodded in agreement as she went into Hayabusa's bathroom to change. He was already in normal attire, and grabbed his bag as Kasumi exited the bathroom and did the same. As Kasumi made her way towards the shop front door, Hayabusa turned and looked at his room one last time, and took a deep breath, as if it would be the last time he ever did so. For all he knew, it would be. He did the same as he walked through his store, and finally, as he locked the front door to the shop, he looked it over one more time, as if saying goodbye to old friend. He turned towards the cold and lonely street, where Kasumi awaited him, and they set off towards the deeper parts of the city, where they were sure to catch a taxi and a ride to the airport.
It was going to be a long night for him, he could tell. He would not get any sleep that night, thinking about the dark times that yet awaited him and his friends…
Well, I'm sorry it took so long to update this (almost 4 years now), but its updated, and I plan to start doing updates on a more regular basis from now on. For more info on this and my other projects, please check out my profile page. Hopefully you all enjoy this short chapter, its more of a teaser of things to come. You may notice that there is a slight change in writing style between the first and second half of the chapter. This is due to the two halves being written two years apart from each other. Don't mind it too much. Anyway, plays read and review, I'm looking forward to your feedback.