A/N: Finally got to chapter one. It was a pain. Simple. Please tell me either how much of pain it was for you to read…or how painless it was. I'm not too proud of it, but it's better than not having done it at all, right? I rewrote it after the first time, and still its crap…but if this continues I'll never get to the good stuff…so yea. Here it is.
Anyways, onward we all go!
Dedicated to: Reijiro…everyone has her to thank for this chapter getting out.
First Draft Beta: Donnie-o
Final Draft Beta: No one…I was too impatient.
Chapter Warning: It's boring in my opinion. You tell me.
THE KING AND THE CLOWN
Chapter 1: The Summons
Across the galaxies and within the mysteries of the multi-verse, there was a fabled place known only by the most wise of historians and skilled of fighters. Renowned warriors spoke amongst each other, a place of reputed skill, strength and courage, they would say, but among all else: honor. For a warrior without honor was nothing more than a brute and a savage unworthy of any praise or respect. It had to stay secret, told only to those deemed fit to know of its existence. Though the untrained and foolish ear might think it mere fantasy, one with a greedy heart would seek it out to discover what hidden treasures lay there. For that only a select few had knowledge of it and kept its secrets in their hearts.
Every couple of years a great tournament would be held and warriors all over the multi-verse took a pilgrimage to that amazing place, using mystic means only granted to them and them alone; for great powers kept it inaccessible to those not meant to enter. There the warriors tested their strength against each other, and in the end of a bloodless battle, only one would be crowned Battle Nexus Champion.
Truly the Nexus was a place like none other: with its history of tolerance. Any creature, no matter race, gender, or age could walk in the open unmolested. It was a land of neutrality, with its red and purpled hued skies which seemed to tower endless in the heavens. Its cities teeming with trade and commerce, cheer, confidence, and strength…
…even a monster could find acceptance as long as he kept his honor and heart intact.
In the world of Third Earth, such things as honor and acceptance were hard to come by. It was difficult enough for the dominant species, the humans, to accept one another; they tended to find miniscule things such as ones skin color to their belief in the afterlife excusable enough to kill each other with no remorse. Anyone deemed as different were labeled as 'freaks' and sought out. Some were incarcerated over such things as being 'suspicious'; while others were put on 'freak shows' to be gawked at like brainless animals. The lucky ones were butchered on the spot, while the less fortunate ones were used as experiments to prove in some way that they were inferior to the average human.
These unfortunate ones, these 'freaks', sought sanctuaries in places unseen. They kept to the shadows, and lived their lives to the best they could, trying with all their might to survive in a world that would like nothing more than to annihilate them out of fear and ignorance. They, among all else, knew the nature of secrets, and how vital it was the guard them with their lives.
The Daimyo who ruled over the Nexus knew that his old friend Hamato Splinter and his sons were among those unfortunate ones. He could easily remember the first time he saw Splinter, then a normal pet rat accompanying his master. Hamato Yoshi had brought him to the Battle Nexus in a cage that was never really locked, allowing the little animal full reign to wander as it pleased, and wander it did. The Daimyo recalled that on the day the human was crowned as Battle Nexus Champion, Splinter had come scurrying from the cheering crowds as if it had watched the entire brawl. It leapt into its master's arms, and Yoshi made sure it was secured on his shoulder before turning to accept the champion's ivy crown.
"I can have someone hold your pet for you, Hamato-san," he had suggested to the martial arts master.
But the human shook his head, smiling gently at the little animal as he replied, "No, it is fitting to have my family with me."
Merely months after such a great victory word reached the Daimyo that Hamato Yoshi had been slain. Silently mourning the loss of the warrior, he often found himself wondering of what became of little pet rat. Had it perished with its master, or did it wander aimlessly, no better than any other animal of its kind?
Nearly thirteen years passed before the Daimyo met Splinter again, and though the rat was not as he remembered him to be, the aged lord could never mistaken him for any other creature. 'Hamato' was the surname he used to register, the name of his master, and 'Splinter', the name he was given by the man he looked up to and loved as family. And it was in his name that Hamato Splinter, with all odds against him, took the title of Battle Nexus Champion, earning himself a statue next to the one of his beloved Yoshi.
After the celebrations had died down they spoke long into the night, Splinter revealing the origins of his metamorphosis, and the circumstances that lead him to becoming the father and master of four rambunctious yet brilliant students. The Daimyo offered Splinter a home in the Nexus, a world where he and his sons could live in the open without fear of what the light might reveal. His offer was denied gently, Splinter telling him that his home would always be on Earth, even with the all its dangers and hardships. He and his sons were ninja, and it was fitting that they live in obscurity.
Obscurity. Secrecy. Without identity.
With a heavy heart the Daimyo raised his head, looking down at the sitting figures of his old friend and four sons. They had been waiting for him for some time now, patiently allowing his aging mind to drift into the past, as his mind tended to do of late. The War Staff was placed on the floor to his right, an old habit to have it by his side at all times. The gold tengu mask was tucked securely within his flowing robes; formality was not needed before the Hamato clan.
Yet this meeting demanded his words to be formal and careful.
"Hamato Splinter-san," the Daimyo finally spoke, his voice rumbling, "it gives me great pleasure that you and your sons responded so promptly to my summons."
And summon them he did, the scroll he had written himself mere hours ago was held carefully in the clawed hand of Master Splinter. His old friend must have had to awaken his son's by the tired and shadowed looks mirrored on the four young faces. The champion in particular was having a hard time stifling his large openmouthed yawns, to his father's chagrin. He was not surprised though, knowing Splinter as he did, he knew his friend would come. The Daimyo could never doubt the bond of their friendship.
That was why he had called for them.
That was why what he was about to do was unforgivable.
Splinter bowed graciously from his seat, his sons following suit as he responded, "It is always an honor to see you, old friend, even if the visit is more business than pleasure." He paused, looking up at the Daimyo with dark eyes. "It is business that calls us here?"
The Daimyo nodded gravely, his hands clenching into fists on his lap. His friend was always sharp, age only sharpening his wits. "Indeed."
"What troubles you, my friend? And how may my family and I help?"
At his beckoning, a masked servant came from the Daimyo's left, carrying on an embroidered pillow a sealed scroll. The old rat took the parchment, nodding in thanks to the servant who smoothly melted into the shadows. Carefully breaking the red waxed seal with a claw, Splinter unraveled the scroll, his furred features becoming solemn with every word.
In the silence that followed, the Daimyo took a moment to study his friend's sons. Two sat on either side of their master; Leonardo, the ruler observed, sat at his father's right. The oldest of the four, he was given the role of the leader, the brother who would become the head of the small clan once Splinter could no longer lead. For years now, the young ninja led his brothers into battle, carrying the burden of success or failure on his shoulders, life and death of his family. It was heavy; this responsibility of being leader and ruler of others, the Daimyo knew how the mind could play with the fears and paranoia that came with such status. Often leaders broke from the weight of it, but true rulers somehow managed to defeat their inner demons to become truly mighty.
Beside Leonardo sat Donatello. Splinter always spoke of this son with a proud smile on his whiskered face. Had it not been for his vast intelligence the small family would have perished under the hands of a far more technologically advanced enemy. Passive, yet frighteningly fierce when angered, he was protective of his family and inventions. A dangerous weapon, Splinter often said, one who could easily manipulate, and with logical insight use everyone to his advantage…that is if he pulled away from his lab to even THINK of doing evil.
Raphael sat at his father's left, and looking at red banded youth the Daimyo remembered the numerous times Splinter had confided in him about his worries of this particular son. Rash to a fault, temperamental to a fault, loyal to a fault, fierce to a fault; Raphael was a constant extreme, hardly ever falling into balance. Easily angered, easily shattered, were Splinter's greatest fears. Any master would despair at having such a student, yet the father could see that when the family was threatened, it was Raphael who defended, Raphael who supported Leonardo when he stumbled and fell, Raphael who watched the backs of his sometimes distracted brothers.
The Daimyo could only smile at the sound of his old friend's voice when referring to the youngest of his brood, Michelangelo. Great talent, great skill, great potential; so little focus. The Daimyo himself observed the young ninja's potential during the tournament, his ability to find a weakness and use it against his opponent, may it be the spiked horns of a foe trying to kill him, or the temper of an older brother wanting to silence him for mouthing off one too many times. Michelangelo could vanquish any foe, if only he tapped into his focus properly. However, Michelangelo was anything and everything but proper, leaving his father to wonder in bafflement where he went wrong with the boy.
Said turtle was at the moment practically clambering over his brother in an attempt to see the scroll that his father was reading. "What does it say? What does it say?"
"Clam it, Mikey," growled Raphael, bringing an arm up to ward off his overenthusiastic brother.
At the weary sigh from Master Splinter, the Daimyo turned to watch the old rat placing the parchment on the ground before him. Lifting his head, the two faced each other, and the Daimyo knew the question before his friend uttered it: "Is there no one else?"
"I have plenty ninja and spies at my side, Splinter-san, all loyal to me and dedicated to the protection of the Nexus in its entirety." The Daimyo shut his eyes then opened them, explaining as carefully as he could, "However, your sons' were specifically requested, and there will be no further negotiations or treaty unless they are present for the proceedings. I have delayed this for months now, hoping that things will change, but nothing has and time runs out as my suspicions grow." His gaze sharpened onto Splinter, making sure that his voice was firm, yet gentle enough to allow his friend to understand the position they were both in. "I know this is not your clan's battle, old friend, nor do you or your sons hold any allegiance to me. You have the right to refuse, but as the ruler and protector of the Nexus I have no choice but to ask this of you."
The ruler did not have to look at the four brothers, knowing that they were glancing at each other in confusion. In a way it was cruel, keeping them ignorant when in the end the responsibility would be on their young shoulders. But they would not act unless they had their master's approval, until they had their father's blessing. Truly, they were still so young…
"I do not wish them to go," Splinter said, almost sharply, almost angrily, almost as if he, the Daimyo, were a threat. "There is too much unknown, Daimyo."
"So speaks the father in you," he replied with steel in his voice. "What of the master? Does he have no say?"
"What's that supposed ta mean?" Raphael, had risen onto his knees, his hands on the hilts of his sais, prepared to attack at the indirect insult to his master.
Splinter placed a claw on his son's tense shoulder, not needing to put to much force in pushing him back down. "It's alright, Raphael. The Daimyo asks a valid question," his voice was soothing enough that to calm his son. Once the temperamental one was settled, he address the ruler, "The master would like to make the unknown known, Daimyo. Only then would I allow my son's to embark on such a journey."
"Sensei," spoke up Donatello, and even the Daimyo could hear the note of urgency in his voice. "What is going on?!"
"I will explain everything, young ninja," said the Daimyo, getting everyone's immediate attention. He looked to his friend, waiting for the slight nod to allow him to proceed. He could see the tenseness of those thin shoulders, the deceptive calm of those open claws on his lap. The Daimyo knew he was the cause of his dear friend's distress, but as lord of the Nexus, there was no turning back. "Long ago," he explained, "when I first created the Battle Nexus Championship, I traveled across the multi-verse seeking different worlds and inviting warriors to participate in it. With each world that was invited, a treaty of peace had to be signed, for the Nexus is a neutral zone where no outside ambivalence and discrimination is allowed. Think of the Federation and the Triceratons…both nations have warriors fighting in the Battle Nexus."
"It makes sense," spoke up Leonardo for the first time with an awed look on his face, "why this place is so popular among the fighters. I hadn't thought of it until you mentioned it!"
"Indeed," the Daimyo smiled at the blue banded ninja. "However there were some who opposed signing the treaty and were banned from having access to the Nexus and its championship. Among those were the Testudines, who at the time I approached their ruler were in the middle of a world scale war with their enemies the Gastropods…"
"Wait, wait, wait, wait!" Interrupted Donatello, waving his hand at the Daimyo frantically, his eyes wide. "The 'Testudines'? You…you don't mean…"
The ancient ruler smiled, and nodded his head. He had known that of the brothers, Donatello would make the connection first.
"NO WAY!" Donatello was practically shrieking, startling Leonardo beside him as he threw his hands up to grasp his head as if it were about to explode. "This is SO cool!!"
"Hey, genius," crouched Raphael, leaning forward to glare at his brother, "mind sharing?"
"Guys!" the purple wearing ninja seemed flabbergasted at blank look on siblings' faces. "Think for a moment! Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Sauropsida, Order: Testudines!!"
"Oookay," said Michelangelo, scratching one side of his chin. "How about English? We all speak English here, right?" He looked at his brothers for support.
With an exasperated sound, the more intellectually inclined turtle let his shoulder's droop and his head drop in defeat for a second before looking up balefully at them and explaining all in one simple word:
It took eight minutes to quiet all of them down, and two extra minutes before Donatello stopped looking at his brothers as if their brains had regressed to the size of a single unshelled peanut. The Daimyo watched this with a small smile gracing his lips.
"Please," said Splinter tiredly once he had managed to settle all four of his sons, "continue."
The Daimyo did just that: "Shortly after the last Battle Nexus Championship, I received a missive from the Testudines' current ruler. He asked if he may come and visit the Nexus to see what another world must be like, for his people have never left their world and he wanted to learn more of other worlds before signing any treaty. As you all know, I was in no state to allow any visitors, so it was only after you freed me from Draco's control that I had the Testudines king come." The Nexus ruler turned to Michelangelo, watching the youth sit up straighter when he addressed him. "Michelangelo, he saw you win the grudge match with Kluh and was very much in awe at your accomplishment. He told me later that he would not sign the treaty unless you and your clan came to his world to attend the negotiations of the treaty."
"What? All 'cause of Mikey?!" Raphael voiced his disbelief, jabbing a finger at his youngest brother. "The only thing ta be in 'awe' about is his big mouth!"
"Hey!" protested the object of his ridicule.
A withering glare from their master silenced the bickering brothers. "You mentioned that you were suspicious about something," Splinter reminded, used to the interruptions that came with having four boys.
"Yes," nodded the Daimyo, glad to finally come to this. "The Testudines ruler, King Rrhexis, explained some things to me which made me wary of his true intentions. As I mentioned, his race were at war with the Gastropods centuries ago in which they defeated their enemies. Since then, the population of the Testudines has increased to an alarmingly large scale, and their world has become overpopulated. He explained that he intends to slowly allow his people to migrate to new worlds through the Nexus, something that had been prohibited by his forefathers." He paused, watching the boys' reactions carefully as he explained, "I sent some of my spies to their world, and for the most part, everything that their king has told me was true…however, the ones I sent to investigate the army found that the Testudines' army was fully trained and armed. Something odd for a world with no wars." Taking a deep breath, he looked to his friend apologetically, "Splinter-san, I cannot send anymore of my spies to the Testudines' world, and I cannot send an emissary of peace without spies to watch in case of foul play, and an emissary will not be allowed to enter without the Battle Nexus Champion and his brothers. I am in need of your son's aid, old friend; I am in need of skilled ninja."
Truly, he was cruel, the Daimyo thought bitterly to himself as he watched the four sons look to their father beseechingly. With great calculation, and the manipulation of an expert he had dangled a gem before these young unfortunate children who had never known a life without being considered different or freakish. He had given them a possibility, a choice that had never been placed before them…a world of creatures very like themselves. A world the Daimyo was sure in their inexperienced minds they might find a place they could finally belong. No more hiding. No more shadows. No more obscurity.
They were too young to realize that though on the surface something can be similar, once opened something completely different existed.
The Daimyo was sure the four brothers did not see the old rat flinch at the sound of their innocent inquiries. They had no clue of how aware they were being manipulated, and how aware their father was that he could do little to protect them. They had gone against nemesis from the past and the future, traveled to different timelines and battled many foes coming out victorious. They thought themselves ready for an adventure.
The master may agree, that their skills could get them through the mission the Daimyo was sending them on.
"Please, please, please!"
"Imagine sensei! A world of evolved turtles!"
The father however feared sending hi sons off to a place where danger may lurk. Perhaps he felt some kind of malevolent force; the same feelings that came over the Daimyo every time he thought of the Testudines king. The ruler knew that Splinter wished to deny him his request for aid and take his children back to the safety of the New York sewers and its familiar dangers…
…but the master in him knew that he could not forsake and old friend…
And in that, the Daimyo of the Nexus manipulated Hamato Splinter…pitting the hopes of his sons' against him, pitting his honor against him.
The Daimyo would not blame his friend if he chose to never forgive him.
The children could not be denied an answer. All four crowding around their father, hoping, begging, pleading to let them go.
When Splinter's tense shoulders slumped foreword the Daimyo knew he had won. "I will allow my son's to aid you, Daimyo."
For the second time in the Daimyo's presence, all four brothers cried out in jubilation. And with a grave eye he watched the children jump at each other, talking excitedly at the prospects of going to a world inhabited by creatures such as themselves. Though he had succeeded, however, the Daimyo could not feel victorious; his heart gripped in a frigid hold that would not loosen; his thoughts far away.
He watched Leonardo grasp Raphael's forearms, shaking them excitedly as his brother laughed.
He watched Donatello swinging his arms around the both of them, listing exuberantly of the possible species they would be meeting.
He watched Michelangelo come from behind Splinter, gripping his father by the shoulders and leaning forward in a half hug. The youngest of the Hamato clan's face was alit in joy as he exclaimed happily, "Isn't it great, Sensei? The king asked for us cause of me! I never thought winning the championship would lead to something so, so cool!"
And the Daimyo watched as the father patted his son's arm, "Yes, you have been noticed, my son. You have been noticed."
"Wow…" the young turtle sat back, his eyes far away as his creative imagination took him to a place not even his father could follow…
Truly…what he had done was unforgivable.
King over friendship.
King over fatherhood.
The Daimyo had made his choice…
….there was not turning back.
TO BE CONTINUED….
A/N: Sorry it took so long. Sorry it was so boring. But this was a must. I had considered just scrapping the whole chapter and starting further along in the plot…but it wouldn't work.
I hope after this debacle of a chapter I still have people reading…but ah well.