Moonshadow: Wrath of the Wolf

~1~

~2~

PURSUIT

Moon Shadow leapt into the air, narrowly evading Asuma’s blade. He struck down with his own sword. But Asuma was quick. He reeled back his samurai sword and used it as defense. Both swords clashed, metal sparks flying everywhere. Moon Shadow heard a slight whoosh. He ducked. A shuriken sailed by above him. Asuma chose that as an opportunity to attack. But Moon Shadow did a back flip and slid down the side of the building. Jiro had thrown two shuriken, but Moon Shadow had evaded them accurately with his back flip. Asuma had taken it as a getaway. But then he saw the shuriken. He pulled back his sword and tilted to the side. Jiro had thrown the shuriken at the exact speed and time, so that the opponent could deflect one of them, and get hit by the other one at the exactly the same time. Asuma had tilted to the side, dodging one shuriken, and then he deflected the other one with his sword. “Real smooth, Asuma,” Jiro said. “I’m trying to get the kid here. Not you.” “Shut up, dweeb,” Asuma said, “before I go after you instead of the boy.” Jiro shrugged and jumped off the roof. Asuma followed suit, and landed softly on the old, cobblestone floor. Asuma put a finger to his lips, telling Jiro to shush. Then he put cupped a hand to his ear. This way, sound waves would be captured more easily, and Asuma would be to have better hearing. THACK, THACK. It was Moon Shadow’s footsteps on the cobblestone floor. Silver Wolf had been smart to use cobblestone tiling. It amplified the sound of footsteps, making tiptoeing futile. “Let’s go,” Asuma said. Jiro nodded and ran after him.

~3~

The only problem was: If they could hear Moon Shadow’s footsteps, what was to keep Moon Shadow from hearing theirs?

As a matter a fact, Moon Shadow had learned the same technique. His hand was cupped around his ear, and he could hear the repetitive rapping of probably Asuma’s footsteps. Jiro must’ve been following him. Moon Shadow was amazed. The last time he had met the two, they had been arguing over everything. But now, they were working more like a team. Silver Wolf must’ve trained them well. Asuma and Jiro were both walking at the exact same pace. The key was to make the enemy think that there was only one person coming, but then they would split up, still walking at the certain pace, and ambush the enemy from behind their back. But Moon Shadow was prepared for this. Snow Hawk was hidden somewhere in the fortress roofs, waiting for Asuma to walk by. Ground Spider was doing the same, except this time, he was waiting for Jiro to walk by. Moon Shadow was the decoy. As usual. But, luckily, Badger (Moon Shadow’s sensei) had thought up the plan, teaching his pupils before he had sent them on this mission. Moon Shadow gave a thumbs-up sign to both Snow Hawk and Ground Spider. But Moon Shadow had stretched his arms out too far, letting Asuma to catch sight of him. And sure enough, Asuma was walking toward him right now.

Snow Hawk got out of her hiding place, and threw a demon wind shuriken. It was larger than an actual shuriken. About a yard across. The shuriken crashed into the wall, inches from Asuma’s face. Asuma reeled back. The shuriken was rigged, which meant that it was attached to a thin line of thread. The thread was the color of black, so it camouflaged in the night. Luckily, Asuma hadn’t noticed that. He had held out his sword. But Snow Hawk was already sliding down the thread. Her boots slammed into Asuma’s

~4~

face. As Asuma fell back, Snow Hawk clipped her foot with Asuma’s sword, and pulled the sword away. The sword clanged away in a few feet. Asuma regained his composure, realized that he no longer had possession of his samurai sword, and began doing hand-to-hand combat with Snow Hawk. Everyone knows that samurai are only half as good with their swords. So, through hand-to-hand combat, Snow Hawk had an advantage. She leapt in the air, and spun round like a tornado. The heel of her boot hit Asuma in the stomach, and if it weren’t for his armour, Asuma would’ve been knocked out cold.

Ground Spider had been trailing Asuma and Jiro the whole time. When Asuma and Jiro had separated, Ground Spider had stalked Jiro. But Jiro had eventually noticed him. It seemed as if Jiro had led Ground Spider into a trap. They were in an alleyway. Three buildings around them had sloping roofs. When Jiro had spun round, and hurled three shuriken (instead of two) at Ground Spider, four samurai leapt off of the sloping roofs. One was beside Jiro, another to Jiro‘s left and right, and one opposite Jiro. Ground Spider was cornered.

The same thing was also happening to Snow Hawk. It had all been an act. Asuma had pretended to be weary from Snow Hawk’s roundhouse kick, but it had only been a diversion. Four samurai appeared before Snow Hawk. They surrounded her, holding two swords in each hand. Snow Hawk was obviously surprised. She looked around at the four samurai, letting her guard down. Asuma got up and drove his elbow into the spot behind Snow Hawk’s ear. Snow Hawk went unconscious.

~5~

Ground Spider eyed the samurai closely, trying to calculate their weakness. Moon Shadow, Snow Hawk, and Ground Spider each wielded a different ninja weapon. Moon Shadow had a duelist sword; Snow Hawk had a long bamboo rod with a short scythe at one end; Ground Spider wore gloves with one-foot-long blades that could slice through almost anything. But was it enough against these samurai? Then, each of the samurai pulled out a shuriken and flung them at all of Ground Spider’s weak spots. Ground Spider dodged/sliced most of them with his hand-blades, but one of them reached their mark—Ground Spider’s cheek. Even if it had barely cut his cheek, the shuriken must’ve been poisoned. And the effects were already showing. Ground Spider felt lightheaded and his movements were those of a sloth. He moved groggily for a while, and when he could handle no more, he collapsed.

Moon Shadow knew that both of his friends were in serious trouble. But what could he do? Soon, the samurai would come after him. And, of course, he would be terribly outnumbered. But if his friends got captured and held as hostages, who knows how much information they might be forced to give out. Moon Shadow had to do something. But he couldn’t save both of his friends at the same time. Then his answer came… There was a sudden whoosh in the sky. Shadows began to dance around the courtyard. And he heard it: The quiet poof of a smoke bomb, and the repeated thuds of fallen men. Giant birds were looming over him. They zipped down and picked up Ground Spider and Snow Hawk. But birds didn’t have hands. No, these were people—Air Ninja to be exact. Air ninja had been thought to be extinct. They were ninja who could fly. Somehow they were here now. And they had Moon Shadow’s friends. Moon Shadow tried to throw a shuriken at one of them, but they just tilted to the side, and the shuriken ricocheted off of their backs with a metallic clang.

~6~

Moon Shadow tried to follow them, but they already a mile away; they and his friends. It was hopeless, like trying to catch a bird that is a hundred feet in the air with your hands. Moon Shadow watched as his friends sailed away, until they were a tiny speck in the horizon.

~7~

STUPIDITY KILLED THE SPIDER

I couldn’t believe it. Groundspider (the idiot) was about to fight against one of the most powerful ninja of all time. Honestly, I was scared. Groundspider could be so annoying sometimes that you just want to drug his cereal. But this was too far. Groundspider had always been careless, but this had to have won the Gold Medal. As for me, I was just lying down in the Bahamas, drinking a smoothie, and watching my Prince Charming get killed—did I mention that I was dying. Yep, I had been just as careless as Groundspider, fighting a legendary ninja. Even the emperor feared Silver Wolf. But I just had to leap into the air, looking all cool, and look at me now. I had ended up as road kill; road kill that was just about to beaten by a wolf. Yuck! What a disturbing image. I wonder if wolves eat spiders, because Groundspider was about to become rotten meat. Anyways, Groundspider and Silver Wolf charged one another like a rampaging bull. Groundspider had on hando-burēdo—not hand burritos, but hand gloves—and Silver Wolf wielded a two-foot-long ninja sword. Silver Wolf ducked at the last moment and swung his sword horizontally. I swore that I could hear the whoosh of the blade slicing through the air. The blade would’ve left Groundspider with no legs if he hadn’t jumped. Groundspider had jumped ten-feet into the air, clung to the ceiling with his handoburēdo, and flung himself over Silver Wolf, landing softly on the tiled floor in a low crouch.

~8~

Silver Wolf had seen all of it and had tried to do a roundhouse kick on Groundspider, but Groundspider had craftily landed in a crouch, and the foot had hit only the air. With Silver Wolf on one foot, Groundspider did a ha kyōfū no arashi (swinging one’s leg in a horizontal circle while in a crouch. It is intentionally done to trip one’s opponent.) But Silver Wolf knew it all too well. He impaled his sword into the floor and used it to propel himself into the air. Groundspider stopped before he got his foot amputated, dug his foot into the floor, and used his foot as an anchor as he performed a roundhouse kick to Silver Wolf’s torso. Thrusting himself off his sword’s handle and into the air, Silver Wolf narrowly evaded Groundspider’s leg. But he had made a mistake by leaving behind his sword. Groundspider grabbed it—which goes into number two of the most careless things he has done—and screamed. He tried to let go of the sword, but the metal layer had started to move across the surface of the sword’s handle, and onto Groundspider’s hand like frost. Soon, the metal had enveloped Groundspider until he had become a metal statue—or Metalspider, if you must. Hey, that sounds sort of catchy. Silver Wolf stood up and dusted himself off. “Well…that was exciting. But, I’m sorry. I can’t kill you now.” Silver Wolf bent down and slammed his palm on the floor. Everything began to shake and tremble, like a miniature earthquake. But then I felt like I was sinking in a pool of syrup. I looked at the floor. It was no longer a floor, but a gray pond. Groundspider and my body slipped right through, and we kept falling into an endless void.

Silver Wolf promised that he would kill me, but I never knew that I would die from boredom. The only thing that kept me awake was pain—it was everywhere, and, at least, it showed that I was still alive. As a ninja, I was trained to see in the dark. But right now, this was darker than the night itself. Just imagine the life without the Sun; darkness everywhere, and then again, we wouldn’t be alive. But was Groundspider still alive. I couldn’t hear any other sound besides my breathing, so I called out his name. Instead a cold hand clasped over my mouth.

~9~

“Shush…” said a voice. It reminded me of that man that we had met in the cages. I would’ve protested or fought back, but all the fight had been sapped out of me. The man picked me up in his arms and carried me away. It felt like only a few minutes, but in this endless void, time didn’t seem to exist. Who knows, Groundspider could’ve grown a beard by now. I shivered at the unpleasant thought. No offense, but Groundspider was good just the way he was. But I should give him some slack for getting his butt kicked for my behalf. To me, that was pretty brave, which I hated. Women don’t always need men to watch over them as if they were defenseless pets. No. And to tell you the truth, I was not a defenseless woman, and I hated it when a man swoops in to rescue me. If I was Rapunzel, my Prince Charming would be the one needing to be saved—by me, of course. The man slung me over his shoulder, and then thrust out his free arm, causing a huge chunk of the wall to melt away like lava. We walked out of the endless void and into a brightly lit hallway. I had never been so glad to see Groundspider in my life—even if he was just a hunk of metal. The man gently placed me on the floor. I tried not to look into his beautiful brown eyes. He was still the enemy, and it would take a lot more than taking me out of a room to set things right between us. The man walked toward Groundspider. He lay down on his knees beside him, and rested both his hands on the statue’s chest. As much as I hated to, I watched as the metal layer that encased Groundspider started to evaporate in fumes of gray steam. Groundspider’s color began to return to normal and the sword that he had been holding fell out of his hand. The man helped Groundspider to a sitting position. Groundspider seemed awfully stiff. Being a human, and then turning into a statue, and returning back to human form was a very turn of events. Even for a ninja like myself. Now Groundspider was back to normal, I was free, Moonshadow was still in Silver Wolf’s fortress, and our enemy was standing right in front of us acting like a hero. That was a very bad equation. But as long as we were in the Air Temple, we were far from safe. And this could all be a trap. I stared at Groundspider. We both exchanged uneasy looks. But it was final. We had to take this slowly; one obstacle at a time.

~ 10 ~

In other words, Groundspider punched the man. His chin went high, and he spat out blood. I threw two pinged shuriken at the man and they twirled around him, the string that they were attached to wrapping him in a tight bundle. Once I knew that the bonding was firm, I tugged on the string. The man fell forward onto the floor with a soft thud. Groundspider loomed over him, awaiting another attack. “What’s your name?” I demanded, tugging harder on the string to tighten the grip. “Look guys—“ “What’s your name?!!” The man lowered his head in defeat. “My name’s Hibachi.” I thought about that for a while. The ma might’ve been lying. “And why are you here?” Groundspider asked. “Groundspider, please, let me handle this.” I faced the man. “And why are you here?” “Look, you guys want a way out. Then I can show you.” The man wiggled around for a while and the string began to burn until it was useless lines of burnt wax. “Follow me. You may not trust me, but I am your only chance.” Groundspider shrugged. He followed the man. But it could still be a trap. And I would never forgive myself if it was. A ninja had to take risks sometimes. It was life. And if it was a trap, I will stay a few paces behind. I glared at the man as he walked away with Groundspider at his heel. I followed them.

Saying that a comrade has been captured can make a ninja's mind go bananas. Like I said, the ninja world is very dangerous. If you think life right now is bad, imagine how it was a thousand years ago. Nobody trusts anybody; and anybody can’t be trusted.

~ 11 ~

There are many ideas that might pop into one’s mind when a comrade has been captured, especially the one that say: Now, we will all be wiped off the face of the Earth—a.k.a. you’re done for. But it was worst having masters that like to make their students miserable just because they were. Like for example, Badger: “What?! They’re dead! Why did you let this happen? I knew he wasn’t ready.” Heron, my only female master, placed a comforting hand on Badger’s shoulder, but Badger shrugged it off. “Look, we shouldn’t be blaming things on Moonshadow,” she said. “If he has saved us before, then he can do it again.” I forced Heron a smile. Ever since I had arrived at the Grey Light Order Academy, Heron had treated me like I was her son. I had lost my parents in a fire, and had become an orphan ever since. The Grey Light Order—particularly Heron—had adopted me into their customs, and now I had become a legendary ninja, which could be a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing was that I had finally fulfilled my dreams of becoming noticed as a full-fledged ninja and there was nothing Badger could do about it. The bad thing was that the popularity brought along more enemies and rivals. I had to be more careful now, or the Grey Light Order—a secret clan organization—would no longer be a secret. “Meow!” A Siamese cat jumped onto my right shoulder and purred in my air. I cradled the cat into my lap and it purred some more. “Hey, Sofuto,” I exclaimed, gently stroking its fur. (Sofuto means “soft.”) Badger cleared his throat. “Uhem. Back to business. You said Snowhawk and Groundspider are at the Air Temple?” I nodded my approval. “Yes, sir.” “Then that’s where we must go.”

~ 12 ~

Mantis got out from his quiet corner. He was tall, robust, and the youngest and most skilled combat ninja amongst my masters. He had brown, shaggy hair that fell over his eyes, and he always seemed to be grinning. “But how do we know where they are?” he asked. Badger stared at the wall, as if he were in a deep thinking process. “Let’s just say, I have had some bad pastimes.” I rolled my eyes. That was what he usually said. He used it to avoid any unwanted conversation—especially those of his past. Badger may have not looked old, but the white streaks in his dirty-blonde hair gave it away. He had once been a famous Japanese poet and author, but after some dangerous massacre that he had to witness, he gave up that occupation. But his many lectures, strict teachings, and love for calligraphy are still the things that prove that he had once been an author. I stood up. “So am I going or not?” I questioned. Badger clapped his hands. Saru—Badger’s pet baboon—sauntered into the room, carrying folded Ancient Japanese Armour and a black ninja veil garment, which kept you hidden in the night. I smiled. Any mission—no matter what it was—made me happy. I loved the feel of danger; it was the only way to escape the Heron’s poison art concoctions and Badger’s annoying lectures. Mantis was okay—most times—but that didn’t mean he didn’t ramble a lot. I left Sofuto a few yards away from Saru. Believe me, when they were together, it would make Wrestle Mania seem lame; no holds barred is an understatement compared to these two animals’ brawls. Sofuto hissed at Saru, her fur standing on end. Saru banged his fists upon his chest and screamed. Hurriedly, I took the clothes away from Sofuto, and ran to the Changing Rooms. Snowhawk, you’re Prince Charming has arrived.

~ 13 ~

PRINCE CHARMING

Throughout history, when you see a door with skulls and crossbones, then you know that that place is dangerous. But that’s exactly where Hibachi led us to. The door was steel-coated and was boated in with a master lock and many bolts. Groundspider and I both exchanged looks. Was this guy insane? And to think I trusted him. But when you are at your last resort who should you trust? As long as he gets us out of here in one piece, then I’m grateful. Hibachi dusted the steel-coated door. “This is it,” he informed. I shrugged. “Well, how are we going to open it?” I questioned. Hibachi rolled his eyes. “I have my ways,” he said, matter-of-factly, and showed off another one of his smirks.

~ 14 ~

Right now, I wanted to use Hibachi as a battering ram. His head might not be able to knock open the door, but at least he’ll learn a lesson. Hibachi closed his eyes, breathed in a mouthful of air, and blew on the door. The door seemed to corrode and soon a large hole melted away. I inspected it. We might’ve been able to fit through it. Hibachi said, “Ladies first.” I grabbed Groundspider and shoved him through the hole instead before he could protest. Hibachi and I laughed. Then, without thinking, we both jumped through the hole, but we were too big, and we ended up getting stuck. It was Groundspider’s turn to laugh. I gave him a glare and he went mute. Hibachi faced me. His face was so close to mine that I could feel his breathing upon me. And his eyes, so brown and gleaming; I couldn’t help but stare. “Uhh…?” Hibachi said. “I will get out.” “O-okay.” Hibachi tried to get out and I tried to go through, but we ended up getting intertwined. We both fell through the hole; Hibachi was spread-eagled with his back on the floor, and I was atop him. If you think a tough girl like me would never blush, well, guess again. I could feel my skin getting hotter; Hibachi’s was too. I had never been this close to a man in my life—besides the time I was having an awkward fight with Moonshadow. And, by the way, I won. That just adds to the thirty other times that I have beaten him. We awkwardly separated ourselves. I made Groundspider to be in between us as we walked.

~ 15 ~

The room reminded me of the endless void: it was dark, dark, and dark. (Did I mention that it was dark?) Hibachi seemed to know the place pretty well; he switched on the lights, and my eyes almost popped out of my head. All around me was things I had never seen—or I had never known existed. Metal was very scarce in Ancient Japan, but in here, metal was like dirt; it was everywhere. White bars hung on the ceiling. They were giving off light ten times more than a candle. “Those are fluorescent light,” Hibachi informed. “And that’s a flashlight, and that’s a television, and that’s radio, and that’s a printer…” That seemed to go on forever. I have always liked learning, but this was overwhelming. Throughout the entire tour, my mouth was agape, and my eyes were as big as the light bulbs. I asked Hibachi what genius had discovered all these things. “My father,” he answered, “Silver Wolf.” “You’re what?!” Groundspider spluttered. “Silver Wolf made all these.” “But this is ancient Japan! And from the look of things, these things are from ancient.” “Let me explain: my father has told you that he has the ability to alter molecules and atoms. Well, that also means that he can alter DNA. Silver Wolf is known as ‘the Immortal One’, because he is over four hundred years old.” That statement almost made me want to gag. I have seen how ugly hundred-yearold people can be, but four hundred years! Gross! And a four-hundred-year-old man had defeated two young ninja. Now that was even more mindboggling. Hibachi continued, “If Silver Wolf can alter DNA, then why can’t he make himself younger? And that’s exactly what he did. He made himself younger…and wiser. Wiser than any man that has ever walked the face of this earth.” Hibachi waved his arm around the room.

~ 16 ~

“Look at this stuff. Hibachi was the one who created them. How were Air Ninja created? Through the invention of the airplane, of course. But he has created something that is more spectacular, yet deadly. It could destroy the entire country of Ancient Japan.” I gulped. Silver Wolf was the most feared ninja in all of Ancient Japan, but this thing would take him off the charts. Hibachi walked through another door; Groundspider and I followed. We were now in a smaller room. It had many cabinets, beakers, and other stuff you might find in a laboratory. But what stood out was a large Plexiglas cylinder that stood in the middle of the circular room. The cylinder touched the ceiling. Radiant liquid swirled around in the jar. The entire room was empty, but the cylinder left an eerie environment for whoever walked into the room. Hibachi turned to me, his eyes filled with melancholy. “This is my father’s secret weapon, and ultimate creation. It has the capability of killing millions, and wiping out an entire country. It is…a nuclear bomb.”

~ 17 ~

INTERROGATION

Running through a forest with every ninja weapon on Earth strapped onto you during midnight may cause people to be jealous of you—did I mention that I was free-running and doing parkour like crazy? Yeah, ninja skills. Heron and Mantis had supplied me with so many things—medicine; weapons; words of wisdom; bear hugs; etc. It was like I was going off to a Civil War and there was a slight chance that I might not come back. But then again, that was sort of what was happening. And with the weapons and other necessary supplies, there was still one major problem: I didn’t know the layout of the Air Ninja Temple. Plus, the place was obviously heavily guarded. But what kept me going was Snowhawk. She had a certain personality that makes a guy want to gives his all. Also, I wanted to prove to her that no matter how many times she has beaten me in ninja trainings, I was still the better ninja…. Badger, the information expert, said that the Air Ninja Temple was located at the tallest point in all of Ancient Japan. Well, that was pretty easy. Mountains were tall; especially ones named Fuji. And that was where I was. After many long minutes, I had finally made it to the summit. There were many sakura trees—cherry blossom trees—that dotted the base of the mountain. I plucked a few off and gently placed them in my travel pouch.

~ 18 ~

This would make a good present for Snowhawk, I thought, zipping shut the travel pouch. From the height of a tree, I could see all the guards that were posted along the entryway. I laughed. The temple was more like a fortress. And a fortress isn’t complete without a moat. Sure enough, there was a moat. It gleamed orange with a reflection of the torch lights. I unstrapped the crowbar off my back. It had a little eye-piece attached to the top like a mini-telescope (or a one-piece binocular). With the help of the eye-piece, I could see the guards’ mouths move as they had a conversation. One of the guards was holding a canteen, and was standing still, leaning on the wall, laughing. I pulled out one of the flares that Mantis had given me and slid it through the crossbow’s catch, and fired. The flare was like a bullet; it crashed into the wall, right beside the guard holding a canteen, and exploded like a firecracker. All hell let loose. The guards were running around hustling for their weapons. As they ran about, I let loose a volley of poisoned darts. All of them found their mark, but I let one of them run back to tell the others. The bigger the diversion, the better. Hurriedly, I leaped off the lowest branch, light on my feet, and sprinted for the moat. When I was near enough, I dropped the crossbow at the other side, and did a graceful cannonball into the rushing water.

Even in the Middle Ages, moats had never been a fashion sense. They were more of a necessity. So, of course, they stank.

~ 19 ~

I pulled out a bamboo straw, and put it to my lips. (No, I was not taking a drink. Seriously, what human would take a drink out of a used toilet. Sick, huh?) The bamboo straw was an old trick that Japanese schoolboys had invented. There was always a pond near every Japanese school. It was said that the boys got out of school early, snuck into the pond, and when the schoolgirls walked by, they would jump out and scared the socks out of them—did they wore socks back then? Well, after hearing this, ninja have adapted this prank to their own customs. Now, the straw trick was used to hide for long periods of time underwater. Especially if a large amount of enemy shinobi were coming after you. And right now they were— “Is he still here?” I heard one of them say. “Yeah, who else would it be? Maybe he’s coming for those hostages that we found the other day?” “Probably.” “Oh, look! There’s the crossbow!” “So he is still here!” Yes, I was. And boy did I let them know. I jumped out of the moat to kick some ninja butt. But then I stopped. “Wait. You’re Tall and Short,” I said. They were ninja that I had met—heard—at the sewers. They both exchanged looks. Tall shook his head in disbelief; Short folded his arms, and pouted like a baby being forced to eat spinach. “I hate being called short!” Short yelled. Tall patted him on the back, and said, “Please, let me handle this.”

~ 20 ~

Tall turned to me. “Yes, I am tall,” he said, and faced Short. “And he is short—” “Don’t call me that!” “—but is that yours, by any chance?” Tall continued, pointing at the crossbow. “Yes,” I answered. “And you want to know what else is mine: my foot!” I did a roundhouse kick on Tall; he collapsed into the moat. Short looked at me with fear etched all over his face. I noticed that even I was taller than him. Short then kneeled down, and bowed to me. “P-please don’t kill m-me!” he pleaded. “Well, you better go help your friend before he drowns,” I said. Short nodded his head, vigorously. “Yes, sir!” he said, and then jumped into the moat after his friend. He looked like a penguin, except, when he was in the water; he was looked more like an anchor. Finally, he and his friend’s head bobbed the surface. “Help!” he spluttered. “I can’t swim! Help!” His screaming would soon gather a lot of attention. I had to get out of here—fast. I sprinted to the exit, and smiled. Okay, let’s rephrase that: Snowhawk, your Stink Charming has arrived.

~ 21 ~

RINGGGG! went an alarm. Groundspider, Hibachi, and I all looked up. There was a loud blaring noise, and then someone’s voice spoke, “Intruder alert! I repeat: Intruder Alert!” I covered her ears. Then I turned to Groundspider. “We have to get out of here!” I yelled. Groundspider nodded, and then turned Hibachi. “Got any secret moves up your sleeve?” Hibachi nodded, signaling us to follow him. The three of them ran through many aisles and stairways. It seemed all too confusing for me to accept, so I just gave up on her senses and followed Hibachi. Soon, we stopped before a wooden door. It had the Japanese symbol for EXIT. I was the first to barge through the door— And bang into a wall. “OOF!” I staggered backward. Groundspider caught me; Hibachi stood guard in front of the two. He pulled out a supaiku-muchi. (Picture a long steel chain attached to a bowling ball with metal spikes coming out it.) I looked up at the man, and recognized him immediately. Images began to flash through her head. Moonshadow—on a bridge—pushing someone over it— [i]No. It couldn’t be him [/i], she thought. But it was. I recognized his arrogant voice when he spoke: “Remember me, peasant?”

~ 22 ~

I didn’t reply. I did remember him. And Moonshadow would too. This man had been a legend, a ninja more feared than Silver Wolf himself. He had killed hundreds without gaining a single scratch. People had treated him like a god, told stories about his being “immortal.” And, after that last incident with Moonshadow, my doubts had been washed away. He was known to be immune to sharp objects, like sword blades. His name was… *i+ “Fumetsu */i+,” I spat. (This means: The Immortal One.) Groundspider gave me an uneasy look. “You mean, ‘*i+ The Immortal One */i+?’” I nodded. “What do you want?!” Hibachi asked Fumetsu. “Nothing, really. Hey, where’s your boyfriend?” Fumetsu said. Hibachi looked at me. “You have a boyfriend?!” I shook my head no. “No. No, I don’t.” I mean, I liked Moonshadow. Or I guess I liked-liked him, but I didn’t know if he liked me back. [i] How could he have survived that? [/i] “Snowhawk, get a grip! We have a legendary ninja who is about to chop us to bits.” Groundspider’s voice brought me back into reality. I grabbed hold of my weapon—wara-dātsu—and pointed at Fumetsu’s chest. He examined all of us, as if seeing our weaknesses, and then laughed. “You really think you can beat me?!” he boomed.

~ 23 ~

“We’ve done it before and we can do it again,” I said, trying to sound upbeat. Fumetsu laughed again. “No, your boyfriend beat me.” “HE’S NOT MY BOYFRIEND!” I screamed, and ruthlessly punched him. Or tried to; Fumetsu caught my blow, and bent and twisted my wrist into a painful lock. Fumetsu grinned. “I was hoping you’d say that, because it gives me another reason to kill you…and your friends.” “Hey! Let her go!” Groundspider commanded. He leaped into the air, and, with a flick of his wrists, pulled out his hando-burēdo. In an attempt to slice off Fumetsu’s pitiful hands, Fumetsu blocked it with a roundhouse kick. But Groundspider, still in the air, did a tight somersault and evaded the attack. After the somersault, Groundspider landed in a handstand. He moved as if he were doing the windmill (the dance move) and flung his leg in an arch straight at Fumetsu’s neck. But Fumetsu was a master ninja. He moved with such skill that you would’ve thought he had eyes behind his back— Fumetsu ducked. And Groundspider was taken off-balance that he had to do a backward somersault just to regain his posture. This was happening so fast that I barely had time to scream as Fumetsu put me in a headlock, reeled back, and I threw me into a wall. I would’ve been knocked out cold if not for my legs. I did a little parkour off the wall, rolled on the floor, and brought up my knee in between Fumetsu’s legs. (Every man knows how painful that might’ve felt. And forgive me for giving you a nasty image.) Talk about being immortal to blades, Fumetsu didn’t even move a muscle. He didn’t even show any sign of pain.

~ 24 ~

*i+ Or did he not have any…? */i+ I retreated. [i] Was this guy even human? [/i] It was Hibachi’s turn to attack. He lobbed his wara-dātsu and tried to use the chain to wrap around Fumetsu’s legs. Fumetsu dodged that as if he were jump-roping. He pulled out one of his samurai swords, and used it to pin down Hibachi’s wara-dātsu. After that long battle, a loudspeaker went out: INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT! Minute by minute, armed ninja started pouring out of the doors. We were surrounded. Groundspider and I lifted up our hands in surrender. Then Hibachi spoke in a voice that surprised me the most: “These are the prisoners. Send them back to their cells.” One of the ninja patted him on the back. “Good job, Hibachi. Your father will be so proud.” As they led us away, I took one last glance at Hibachi. His eyes had changed. They were no longer the confident ones that I had admired. Now, they showed despair.

~ 25 ~

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