Disclaimer: The wonders of Tenipuri do not belong to me, and as such I am not profiting from them. This fiction was written purely for enjoyment.
Warning: Contains violence and yaoi. If either of these things bothers you, please don't read – this fic is not for you. No complaining about things you were warned about!
Author's Note: I seem to find myself doing a lot of AUs recently, which is a bit weird for me. Oh well, I blame Tenipuri crack. Another multi-parter, will probably be 14 chapters plus this short prologue. I'm not doing anything crazy like updating daily again – it'll probably be one chapter everything three or so days.
One other thing I should point out is that while this is a ninja AU set roughly in the pre-Meiji Restoration era, it is not at all historically or culturally accurate. Accuracy would remove most of the fun parts of both the action and the romance, so I made a conscious decision to exert creative license in these areas. I'm already quite aware of the liberties taken, as I studied that aspect of history quite thoroughly at University; please just ignore them and don't waste your time pointing them out to me, as unless you happen to have completed a Masters in the subject you won't be telling me anything I don't already know. Thanks in advance.
After that way-too-long author's note… Hope you enjoy!
A Traditional Ninja Romance
Ryoma clenched the shuriken in his left hand tightly, holding his breath lest it gave him away. Biding his time, he waited for what felt like an eternity, willing himself not to move even a muscle.
His target ambled into the room, yawning and scratching at his stomach. Ryoma tensed, muscles flexed and ready for action. He forced himself to remain patient and focused. There would be an opening… any minute… there! With cat-like speed, the black-clad teen snapped out his wrist, sending three shuriken flying with deadly precision through the air. As soon as they left his hand, he was already moving, leaping to the side. His attack wouldn't - couldn't - miss, but their trajectory would reveal his position and it was just stupid to take that risk.
The target, with an almost uncaring nonchalance, produced a kodachi from what seemed to be thin air, deflecting the first two throwing stars with the short blade and catching the third with his spare hand. Ryoma cursed as the projectile came spinning back towards him. Rolling to the side, he threw another shuriken. The man dodged it easily, but he wasn't the target. The throwing star sliced into the wire behind him.
A heavy lamp dropped from the ceiling. The target nimbly dodged sideways, and immediately hit a trip wire. Brown eyes widened as the ankle snagged it, and he lurched forward, ducking low in anticipation of another trap.
The wire was just a ruse. There were no more traps hidden in the room. But it forced the man off balance and put him within reach. Ryoma darted forward with his own kodachi brandished.
Blood spattered across the floor.
Ryoma nearly forgot himself when the blade actually met flesh. Had he actually done it? Did he actually land a blow on the old man? Even if it was a shallow wound, that he'd actually drawn blood…
The victory was short-lived. In an instant, the man's eyes had hardened, and Ryoma was being driven back towards the corner under a flurry of insanely quick blows that he barely managed to deflect. An instant later his sword went flying from his hand, he was thrown with an audible thump against the wall, and a blade was at his throat.
They stood there at a silent impasse for a long moment. Ryoma was acutely aware of the prick of cold steel against his neck and scarcely dared to draw a breath. A strange mixture of hate, respect and fear bubbled within him.
The slightest of smirks grazed his opponent's lips as he finally withdrew. "Heh, not bad, brat. You actually managed to land a blow on the great Echizen Nanjiroh."
Ryoma cursed silently, wondering if maybe there would be a long enough moment of distraction to try and get the old man with the blade still hidden in his shoe. In the end, he decided that he'd endured more than enough humiliation for the day.
The old man was looking at him somewhat contemplatively now, absently wiping the blood from the shallow gash on his forearm. "Hmm, you're fourteen by now, right?"
Ryoma scowled. You would think his own father would know his age. "Fifteen."
"Right, right. Ho ho, if memory serves me correctly she'd be about that age... yes, yes," Nanjiroh muttered, nodding to himself in satisfaction. He whirled and proclaimed, "Boy, I think it's time for another mission."
Ryoma perked up, ears alert.
"It'll be deep long-term undercover," he said with a wink. Now Ryoma was interested. He'd done a couple of short term undercover missions, but the cover usually only had to last long enough to get him close enough to the target to kill them. The rest of his missions had either been simple retrievals or straightforward deliveries.
"...You'll infiltrate the Seigaku clan."
Interest abruptly turned to wariness. He was supposed to infiltrate a ninja clan? That would be considerably trickier than dealing with security-conscious merchants and unskilled bandits. "The one that serves Ryuuzaki-daimyo?" he clarified.
"The same!" Nanjiroh chuckled to himself. Ryoma had heard of the Seigaku clan, but that was about where his knowledge ended. They were not a particularly notorious clan, which meant that they were either very small or very good at covering their tracks. There was a rumour that they had emerged victorious from skirmishes with the Fudomine and Hyotei clans recently, though. It wasn't so surprising with Fudomine - they were relatively new blood - but Hyotei was a large, well-known clan backing a powerful daimyo and boasting a pool of top class ninja. Seigaku might be an unknown now, but if they continued messing with Hyotei, things would not remain that way for long.
The suggestion was an unusual one from his father. The old man liked to avoid notice as much as possible; Ryoma had not missed the fact that all of his missions were safely neutral, work-for-hire sort of contracts that wouldn't tread on any political toes. Infiltrating a ninja clan was about one toe-step away from assassinating retainers.
"How would I infiltrate?" he asked, not seeing an easy way to do so. Fortunately Seigaku was not based around family like most other clans - otherwise there would be no hope of gaining access. Even becoming hired help in this situation would be a risky endeavour; no matter how flawless the act, there were bound to be background checks that he couldn't pass. Fooling paranoid merchants was easy with the right preparation. Attempting to fool professional spies was just plain stupid.
"Heh, I go way back with the daimyo's wife. She used to lead that clan – she'll get you in no questions asked. I'll set up a meeting."
It wasn't exactly undercover then, was it? "The objective?"
Nanjiroh snapped his fingers and leered at him. "Seduce their leader."
Ryoma was becoming irritated. "Quit joking around." His father's expression didn't change, though. "...You're serious?"
"Don't question your mission directives! You've got three days to prepare. I'll set you up with an audience to get you in. You'll have to sneak out and report back at every half moon. You'll probably have other missions on the new moon nights."
Gritting his teeth, Ryoma managed a shallow bow. "Understood." His father grinned at him and sauntered away.
A dangerous infiltration and seduction for no apparent reason? Dirty old pervert. How was he supposed to do this?
"Ho ho, at last the boy will become a man!" Nanjiroh sung the next room over.
Ryoma's hand tightened around a shuriken. He was definitely going to kill that old man someday.