Tale of a Shadow
14 years ago
A large temple sits in the middle of nowhere amidst a light snow. Outside in the courtyard, several young participate in rigorous martial arts training. Various exercises are done all over while a number of sparring matches take place in the middle. One match is between two younger boys. The two ferociously throw punches and kicks, blocking each with precision. Finally, one boy's counter slips through the other's defenses and lands. The child was knocked back a few steps. He finally stopped attacking and smiled.
Ryuga: Damn, you got me!
Jiro: Yeah, this time it's my win.
Ryuga: True. But next time, your dead! You get me, haha?
A few yards away from them, a girl of about the same age ended a fight with a muscular man with a destructive flip. When she finished, the two bowed and she ran over to the two boys.
Jiro: Nice match!
Komori: Thanks! You too! I think you two hit a new record just now. You two started that one match about an hour ago right?
Ryuga: Yeah, it got pretty heated, but after Jiro here got in a lucky shot...
Jiro: You must have thought! I got you fair and square!
Ryuga: Whatever. But you know the master has been watching you right?
Jiro: Yeah, I noticed.
Komori: I that means what I think it means, then he should be considering you for the shinobi promotion test!
Jiro: Wow, when is it?
Jiro: Huh? Really?
Ryuga: Don't sweat it man! If you beat me, I know you'll knock that test out of the park.
Komori: Yeah, as long as you don't do anything stupid like last week when you threw your weapon away. I know your opponent lost their weapon but you didn't have to take it easy on them.
Ryuga: Yeah, dude! Don't do noble stuff like that. It pisses the master off! Remember, we're ninjas, not knights.
Jiro: I'll try to keep that in mind.
Komori: Now let's get inside. It's freezing out here!
Night fell and the light snow grew into a raging blizzard. The inside of the temple was dark, lit only by candles scattered throughout. There was a large arena like dojo in the center of the building. Inside is a lone Jiro silently meditating. He is completely still. The only sounds were the wind howling through the building's halls. Suddenly 5 shadows dropped from the ceiling and surround the boy. He opened his eyes, looked around and stood up, pulling his neckerchief up over his nose. The ninjas all brandished different weapons. The boy picked up a sword from the floor and unsheathed it and took a fighting stance. One of the ninjas ran at Jiro and swung a spear at him. The boy blocked the hit an swung back. Another ninja came at him with a pair of hand claws and slashed rapidly. The boy dodged and countered with a swift strike to the chest. After this, the ninja stopped and retreated. A third ninja ran into the fray threw a low kick at Jiro's legs. It landed and he tripped. The others tried to take advantage but the boy fell into a one armed hand stand and blocked with his legs. The child got back to his feet and slashed both. Those two retreated as well. The remaining two ninja wielded chain sickles. The two got on either side of him and started to swing the bladed chains wildly at him. The boy bobbed and weaved between the incoming blades each time. One of them wrapped around his blade and the attacker yanked it away. Jiro kept dodging barehanded. He finally rolled over to where his sword was. The attackers took another swing but Jiro parried both. The two retracted the blades on their chains and ran at Jiro. However, he had flipped over their heads and landed behind them, striking them both on the back. The two stopped and retreated into the darkness. Jiro was alone for a moment. He was on his guard, keeping a sharp eye all around him. He couldn't hear anything. Then, he felt a single breath on his shoulder. He wheeled around swiftly, only to be hit in the stomach and sent back a few feet. He looked up and saw a single shinobi clad in heavier armor than the others. He took calm, controlled steps that made no sound. He moved a couple steps to the side into a nearby patch of darkness and vanished. A second later, he stepped out of a shadow behind Jiro. The boy turned around at the last second to see another punch coming and barely dodge it. Jiro jumped back 2 yards, watching his opponent's every move. The shinobi stopped pacing and drew his blade, pointing it at Jiro who regained his composure. Jiro ran at his opponent and made many rapid slashes and thrusts, all of which where dodged in quick motions. He then mechanically slashed back, narrowly missing Jiro. He regained his composure again, but his face scarf had been cut and fell from his face. Jiro ran back and crossed swords with the attacker. The shinobi repelled his attack again but this time, pursued Jiro further. Jiro blocked his advances but was forced to retreat across the room. The ninja went after him at high speed, running on the wall. He dismounted and came at Jiro with a diving slash. Jiro managed to block it but was thrown back against the wall by the sheer force. He was breathing heavily and his legs were shaking slightly. However, he took a deep breath and calmed down. The shinobi took a single step forward when Jiro bolted at him once more. The ninja got ready and took a stab but Jiro ducked and slipped past the blade. The ninja made a wide slash to his side only to find Jiro gone. He looked around but the boy was nowhere in sight. The ninja stood still looking around for a sign if movement somewhere in the shadows but saw nothing. In an instant, Jiro came shooting down from the ceiling right above his opponent. The ninja saw at the last second and attempted to parry but Jiro managed to knock the blade out of his hand. The shinobi stopped moving completely, waiting for Jiro's next move. However, Jiro looked at his own sword and tossed it aside as well. The shinobi remained still for a moment, and then adopted another fighting stance. They ran at each other and began trading blows. The two were locked in heated combat, the noise from their attacks echoing throughout the temple along with the howling winds outside. Finally, the two were deadlocked for a moment and then back away from one another. Jiro then jumped toward the shinobi who replied with a strong straight punch. But Jiro twisted around in the air, rolling off if the attack and with a spin, landing three solid kicks to the ninjas face. The ninja fell to the floor. After a moment, he got back up, bowed to Jiro and vanished. Jiro took a breath of relief, and left the dojo. He walked to the main hall where his friends were waiting to greet him.
Komori & Ryuga: Jiro!!!
Komori: How did it go? Did you pass?
Jiro: Yes! I did it!
Ryuga: Alright! That's awesome man! I knew you could do it!
Komori: I'm so happy for you!
Komori jumped on him and hugged Jiro tightly.
Jiro: Ow, not so hard! I took some nasty hits, hehe.
At that moment, the head of the temple walked into the room. Everyone else fell silent. Jiro stood at the forefront of the crowd. The master slowly approached him and looked him in the eyes.
Master: You defeated every opponent that was presented to you and showed great courage and skill. However, you showed mercy to enemy and discarded your weapon. This was a foolish error.
Jiro: Master, I...
Master: You discarded your teachings and risked defeat at the hands of your opponent! Such stupidity is unfathomable!
Jiro: Master, I understand! However, I will never take advantage of an unarmed opponent! I will always fight on even ground, even with my enemy and act honorably to the very best of my ability! That is what I feel is correct within my being and that is the path that I follow!
Master: There is no place for this fashion of weakness among our ranks. I cannot allow one such as yourself to remain at this temple! You must leave! And I rescind the name that we gave you! You are no longer Jiro Takamori! Now be gone from this place!
Ryuga: No! Wait, master please!
Komori: You can't do this!
Master: Be silent, or you will share his fate!
Komori: If you kick him out, where will he go?
Ryuga: Jiro, just promise that you won't do it again!
Jiro: If this is how it is, then there is no place for me here.
The main hall doors opened and the cold blizzard winds rushed in. Jiro began to walk out.
Komori: Jiro, what are you saying? Come back! Jiro!!!
Jiro: Komori, Ryuga... I'm sorry. And thank you for everything!
Jiro walked out into the night and the doors shut behind him.
11 years later
A small pub sits by the beach at sunset. The inside in dim and relatively empty. There is one patron at the bar, downing a bottle of whiskey. He finally puts his head down, the bottle still firmly in his grip. Suddenly, 4 gansters with baseball bats walk in. They look around and spot the lone customer on his stool.
Gangster #1: Hey, buddy! How'v you been? Long time no friggin see!
The thug put his hand in the patron's shoulder but then began to squeeze violently. The man didn't respond.
Gangster #2: I think he's too boozed out.
Gangster #1: Turn him around.
Two of the men grab the bar fly and turn him to face outwards on the stool. The drinker's eyes are closed and his head won't stay up. The guys start to smack him but still get no response. One of the thugs tries to take his bottle. However, the man's arm automatically wrenches it away and he takes a long swig. His eyes opened slightly.
Gangster #1: We've been lookin all over town for ya! So you can imagine how happy we are to find you here, ya know?
The man still says nothing. The others look at each other with puzzled expressions.
Gangster #1: Look, to make a story short, you owe us a lotta money. All we've been doin is trying to collect whats ours but you slip away like a little rat each time! So to fix that I was thinkin we break your legs, just to keep you in one place.
The gangster wound up his baseball bat, ready to swing. However, the drunken man stretched his leg out and kicked the thug in the stomach, making him fly back almost a full yard. The man got up and walked toward the door, ready to leave. The others surrounded him, readied their bats and swung. The man dodged all of their wild swings with lazy ducks and leans. One of them tried to hit the man's head with the back of the bat but the man side stepped and countered with a flick to the forehead. Finally, all of them rushed him at once at the man fell back to his stool. One of them took another swing at the man. But he quickly looped his foot between the stool's legs and kicked it into the face of the thug, breaking it. He did the same with the stool next the that one and the next one as well. He finally came to rest on the final stool of the row. The first gangster had pulled out his gun and pointed it at the drunk.
Gangster #1: Alright! You've f##ked with us for the last time, damn it!
Before the thug could react, the man had thrown his bottle. It hit the gangster square in his face, knocking him out. The man slowly walked over to the unconscious thug, grabbed a fistful of bills out of his wallet and slapped them down on the counter. He then reached over, grabbed a new bottle and made his way to the door. Suddenly, another man crashed through the window. Upon landing, he pulled out a gun, flashed it around and then put it away.
Lekhram: All clear!
Palmer walked through the door with multiple pairs of cuffs in hand. The bar-goer backed up from him.
Palmer: What happened to these men?
The man only took another swig and made his way toward the door again. Palmer stepped in his way.
Palmer: While we're not here for you, we will need you to come with us for questioning.
Lekhram had taken a seat on one of the unconscious thugs.
Lekhram: Hey cap, I think he's so drunk he forgot how to talk.
Palmer: You probably want to decline. But I'm sorry to say that this isn't optional. So, do you have a name?
Man: … Steven … Heiwajima.
From outside, an engine to a large containment vehicle could be heard roaring. One of the windows rolled down.
Harding: Hey! Hurry the hell up in there! We don't have all night!
Lekhram: Shut up out there! We're working on it!
Palmer: Our driver seems to be getting impatient so let's wrap things up here.