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A Traditional Ninja Romance - Chapter 4

Title: A Traditional Ninja Romance

Author: Sinnatious
 
Summary: TezRyo Ninja AU.  Ryoma's mission:  To infiltrate the Seigaku clan and seduce their leader.
 
Rating: M for violence and yaoi.

Author’s Note: Next chapter up on Sunday.  Hooray for long weekends!
 
____________________________ 

A Traditional Ninja Romance
 
By Sinnatious
 
Chapter 4
____________________________ 
 
 
“So boy, how goes the mission?”
 
“I have successfully made contact with the target.”
 
The old man nodded. “Good, good.” A leer. “What did you think?”
 
“I think you’re crazy. I still don’t see the point of the mission.”
 
Nanjiroh rolled his eyes. “I told you not to question the mission objectives.”
 
Ryoma glared. Completing missions with so little information when he was deep in enemy territory was unnecessarily dangerous. Was this yet another elaborate test?
 
“How long do you think you’ll need?” the old man asked eagerly.
 
“A lot longer. I only made contact three days ago,” he responded dryly. 
 
Nanjiroh pouted. It was so undignified. Ryoma couldn’t help but compare him to Tezuka. When Tezuka discussed missions or clan business, he remained serious and focused. Actually, Tezuka was always serious and focused. “Fine. Don’t take too long, though. That’s too boring.”
 
His father’s complaining was so tiresome. He tugged up his facemask. “I should start back. Someone might notice if I’m gone too long.”
 
“Right, right.” His father waved him off. “I expect progress next time, kiddo.”
 
Scowling underneath the black fabric, Ryoma left the house. It was over two hours at a steady run back to Seigaku. These reports were an unnecessary risk, not to mention a giant waste of time. He would accomplish the objective. Why his father wanted all the details for this mission was a mystery, especially since it didn’t involve some curvy woman. Probably wanted to make fun of him.
 
Ryoma carefully crept back into the compound well after midnight, confident that the guards and patrols hadn’t seen him. He didn’t relax until he was back in his room, though. Stepping lightly so as not to wake his roommates, he pulled off his mask, relishing the liberating sensation of the cool night air on his face. Talking to his father was always so tiring. He couldn’t relax for even an instant – there was no telling when the old man might attack and test his skills. Likewise, he could never resist looking for his own opportunities for an ambush either.
 
He slid under the warm futon covers, checked that his dagger and collection of shuriken was safely stashed beneath his pillow, and slowly drifted off to sleep.
 
The next few days were routine. The hours were either filled with training or trifling missions – usually delivering messages for the daimyo. Ryoma didn’t mind this so much, as boring as it was, but it hadn’t turned out to be at all conducive to furthering his own objectives.
 
It was a difficult situation.  In order to seduce the captain, he needed to get closer.  But getting face time with Tezuka was almost impossible - Seigaku's leader was somewhat reclusive, spending most of his time in conference with Lady Ryuuzaki or buried underneath paperwork.  The only time the rest of the clan really saw him was during mission briefings and the occasional mealtime. He did accompany them on one delivery that brought them through Hyotei territory, but the journey was uneventful. Ryoma found himself disappointed. He sort of wanted to see Tezuka fight again.
 
Ryoma walked through the halls, contemplating heading towards the training ground. Some girl was walking down the hallway in the opposite direction. “Eep!” She’d frozen in place and was staring at him.
 
“Is there a problem?” he asked, wishing she’d hurry up and stop blocking the pathway.
 
“No-no… that is…”
 
That’s right, he remembered this girl. “You’re Lady Ryuuzaki’s granddaughter, right?”
 
“Um, yes,” she replied demurely, face burning a fierce red. “…I… that is… you can call me Sakuno. Your name?”
 
It was possibly the first time he’d come across someone in Seigaku that didn’t already know his name. “Echizen Ryoma.”  He probably wouldn’t have bothered replying if she weren’t nobility. "What happened to your fingers?" he asked, spotting the numerous bandages adorning them.

Her face turned bright red.  "I... um... Tomoka was teaching me how to cook..."

First she was trying her hand at being a kunoichi, and then a cook?  Nobility were weird.

"Ochibi!" Kikumaru called as he darted down the hallway past them.  "We've got another mission!  Head to the briefing room!"

Ryoma came alert, quickly following and leaving the blushing girl behind without another thought.  He still wasn't used to working in team missions, and would need to focus.  It was going to be necessary to impress Tezuka if his overall objectives were to progress.
 
The rest of the main squad was already gathered. Quietly slipping into the room, Ryoma took a seat between Kaidoh and Oishi. Tezuka stood, and the chatter dissipated. He launched into the briefing without preamble. “Ryuuzaki-daimyo has requested an assassination. The brother-in-law of a neighbouring lord has claimed a significant piece of land to the east, and is contesting Ryuuzaki’s ownership.”
 
“A daimyo’s relative…” Fuji murmured. “Will we be able to handle the repercussions?”
 
Inui stepped up. “We’ve assessed the risks. The intelligence I’ve gathered suggests that the marriage was not approved amongst the family. While it may sour relations, it is unlikely any reflexive counter-attacks will take place. So long as they keep cool heads, they will recognise that we are acting within acceptable boundaries and that a skirmish will not result in a favourable outcome for them.”
 
“It’s strange that he’d take such a risk, though,” Oishi mused. “It’s an awfully bold move to make without some serious support.”
 
“Hired mercenaries?” Fuji asked.
 
“There is a high probability,” Inui conceded. “This is why we’re sending a significant force. Momoshiro, Tezuka and myself will remain behind, but the rest of you will be moving out tomorrow night.”
 
“What?! But I-” Momoshiro started to say.
 
“You were injured while sparring against Kaidoh yesterday,” Inui observed. “You’re favouring your left ankle. You will be a liability, and slow the group down.”
 
He went red and backed down, grumbling under his breath about ‘the damn Viper’. Inui started going into more detail about the mission, describing the target, location and timeframe. It appeared that the target was a little paranoid and moved around a lot, which made tracking him difficult. It certainly made sense – even idiots didn’t make designs on another daimyo’s land without expecting trouble.
 
They finished the briefing quite late in the day. Ryoma lingered, hoping for an opportunity to talk to Tezuka, but it looked as though Fuji was bending his ear over something. He eventually gave up and returned to his room. There were weapons that needed to be sharpened and prepared for the mission, after all – he couldn’t waste his time loitering around the captain. How annoying. It was difficult to further the overall mission when the more immediate ones Seigaku assigned him to kept taking precedence. This infiltration stuff was a lot of work.
 
Late the next evening, the team gathered by the gates and moved out. Ryoma was slightly put out by Momoshiro’s absence. The lanky ninja was usually his partner, and while it still rankled him to partner with anyone, at least he was used to Momoshiro.
 
Fuji ran next to him as they darted through the trees. “Is the mask really necessary?”
 
Momoshiro would also be a useful shield against this man. “It’s standard for night-time missions. I’m surprised no one else bothers with one.” His face was slightly paler than average, and would stand out as a beacon in the darkness. Why did Fuji even care? Ryoma had not yet seen his eye colour.
 
“Saaa, Kaidoh wears a black bandanna to cover his hair most of the time, but Eiji’s the only other one who bothers. Personally, I think he just likes the look.”
 
Ryoma glanced over. The redhead was currently mask-less, but it would make sense to cover up that bright hair on stealth missions. It was true that an accomplished ninja wouldn’t really gain that much more from a mask, but the thin fabric was protection from more than searching eyes. It hid the frown at the edges of his mouth from his teammates, just for starters.
 
“Fuji, shhh, we’re almost there!” Oishi hushed them.
 
They fell back into silence, focus shifting back onto the mission. Slowly, the trees began to thin and the ground became rockier. The cover soon disappeared altogether, giving way to a sizeable field surrounding a large, opulent residence. They halted their progress just beyond the tree line, taking stock of the situation while they were still safely hidden from sight. The property was bounded by a tall stone wall, with large wooden gates serving as the only entrance on to the property – not that it made a difference to them. The building itself was also rather lavish, featuring a multi-tier tiled roof.    The outer walls were all solid pine – something of an anomaly in the area – but a warm orange glow could be seen framing a number of windows. 
 
In the wash of the glow, shadows drifted around the house.
 
"It's Fudomine!" Eiji whispered. 
 
“Are you sure?”
 
“Of course I’m sure!” The lively redhead seemed insulted at the question of his eyesight’s reliability.
 
"And here we are without Momo, Inui and Tezuka," Oishi cursed. “Fuji, Eiji, go run reconnaissance around the perimeter.”
 
With a quick nod, the pair split apart, circling the property. For several tense minutes the team lay silently in wait. Ryoma strained his eyes in the darkness, but none of the shadows surrounding the building changed their pattern of movement. Their presence was still secret.
 
In a whisper of wind, Fuji reappeared by their side, followed swiftly by Eiji. "It doesn't look like they brought Tachibana or Ibu with them," Fuji reported.  "That means we outnumber them 6 to 5, and they're missing their two strongest members.  We can probably break through with the people we have."

"We shouldn't underestimate them," Oishi warned.  "They managed to get the better of Hyotei at least once, after all."

"What do you propose we do then?  You're in charge," Fuji reminded him.  "Should we abort the mission?"

Oishi chewed on his lower lip for a minute.  "...We don't know when we'll be able to get another shot at this guy.  If he's hired Fudomine for protection..."

"So we're going, then?" Kawamura asked.

Oishi nodded reluctantly.  "Yes.  Okay, we'll go in pairs.  Fuji and Taka, you try to sneak in from the back first.  Eiji and I will go from the west.  Echizen and Kaidoh, you go through the front.  We'll try and do this quickly and quietly - the best way would be to complete the mission before Fudomine realises we're here.  If it's already too late, they'll be less inclined to fight."

There were murmurs of agreement, then everyone dispersed.  Kaidoh glared at him.  He was probably cranky at being lumped with the 'rookie'.  "You’d better not slow me down, brat."

"Che, same to you senpai."

Kaidoh stalked past him.  They hugged the shadows of the outer wall.  The main gates into the complex were closed, but that was of little consequence - they were easily climbed.  Kaidoh frowned at him, and waved him back as one of Fudomine's ninja went running past.  There was yelling coming from the rear of the house - it sounded very much like Kawamura.  Obviously he and Fuji had been seen and were now caught in combat. The soft orange glow leaking from the windows vanished, and the weak silvery sheen of moonlight took precedence once again.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Ryoma caught sight of a glint of metal – Oishi and Eiji had also found their path blocked by another two of Fudomine's ninjas.

"Fssshhhuuu, better move fast brat.  Looks like it's going to be up to us," Kaidoh hissed at him. Ryoma didn't respond, but sped up a little anyway. Small tufts of grass were kicked up in the air and whisked away by the breeze as they headed full speed for the house.
 
Ryoma abruptly skidded to a stop when a shadow detached itself from the house and dropped in front of them. The first thing he noticed was the shockingly bright red hair – rather close to the same colour that Eiji sported - that left only one of his eyes visible. 
 
He didn’t have time to notice anything else, as he was drawing steel to deflect the dagger thrown his way. A gasp caught in his throat when a mere second after the dagger went flying the redhead was in his face, striking with his blade. Ryoma stepped back several times in succession, parrying quick blows and ignoring convincing feints.
 
The ninja leapt backwards abruptly. Faint hissing reached Ryoma’s ears only moments before gleaming white fangs struck through the darkness towards the redhead. A viper. The snake reared up, ready to strike again. Their opponent eyed it warily.
 
Then the ninja was moving again, dancing to the side as the snake struck once more. The venomous fangs were only a finger’s width away from grazing skin. Even the quickest of ninjas had trouble keeping up with the speed of a snake’s strike.

"Hey!" Kaidoh barked at him.  "I can handle this guy.  You finish the mission!"

Ryoma was dubious - this ninja was fast - but the mission came first.  They weren't here to fight Fudomine, after all.  None of them needed to win; they just needed to stall their opponents long enough for one of their number of get through.

He didn't hesitate, and darted for the doorway.  Surprisingly, the red-haired ninja Kaidoh was facing off against didn't make a move to stop him.  That was a little suspicious - enough to slow his steps so that he could check for traps and trip wire.  The dark hallway was devoid of any tricks, though.  Maybe they had moved the target already?

If so, there was no point in fighting at all, unless it was to buy time to let the target escape.  Ryoma picked up his pace.  He had never failed a mission, and did not have any intention of starting now.  Silently darting through the house, he slid back door after door, checking each of the rooms.  They continued to come up empty.  This was taking too long...

A muffled murmuring reached his ears.

Senses alert, Ryoma paused, then tiptoed lightly towards the source of the noise.  It led him to a rather luxurious bedroom, with a large futon pushed to the side and embroidered pillows piled up along the walls.  Bright golden eyes carefully scanned the dark room.  Fudomine had been smart to douse the lights when they'd attacked, but it wouldn't be enough to blindfold him. 

There was whimpering coming from the corner, a pathetically weak keening sound.  He zeroed in on it, immediately identifying the target - a portly man with a thin moustache.  "Please don't kill me.  Please don't kill me."

Ryoma didn't acknowledge the whispered begging.  He unsheathed his kodachi with his right hand, and crept towards the target.

"You really shouldn't proceed any further," a voice mumbled to his right.
 
Ryoma whirled; steel bared and eyes darting about the shadows. There was a whisper of movement near his left flank. He flung out his hand, sending a shiny thread of metal whipping through the darkness.
 
A blade arced through the air and the thread was cut in two. Ryoma dropped the wire with a frown – it was almost useless once severed from the weighted tip. Annoying. Even talented ninja had difficulty cutting such flexible wire; it would sooner wrap around their swords and leave them easily divested of their weapons.
 
A pale, solemn face framed with dark, straight hair emerged from the gloom. Ryoma took a step back, quickly analysing his position. There weren't supposed to be any more of them - he was supposed to have a clean run to the target.  But then, what sort of ninja would they be if they didn't keep at least one card up their sleeve?  "Who are you?"

"Ibu Shinji.  I don't recall seeing you before.  You're awfully young.  Are you sure you're a ninja?  What's your name?"

The guy was awfully chatty for a person who was presumably about to engage in battle; although Ryoma had the suspicion that half of those muttered comments were not supposed to be said out loud.  He didn’t respond.  What kind of idiot ninja so willing shared his name with his enemies?  Maybe it was an alias. Although... he recalled Fuji mentioning an Ibu as well as a Tachibana.

No way.  Was this guy the second-strongest ninja in Fudomine?
 
“That’s so rude. You’re supposed to introduce yourself after someone gives you their name. I suppose in our line of work it’s not recommended, and the captain is always telling me to be more careful with it, but what does it matter anyway? If he dies he won’t be able to tell anyone else my name, and then…” The mumbling became unintelligible at this point. 
 
Ryoma eyed the target still cowering in the corner.
 
Four sets of spiralling stars whizzed through the darkness. Ibu’s mumbling abruptly cut out, blade flashing through the air to intercept them. His eyes widened when the path of shuriken suddenly turned. “What the-?”
 
He was fast – not as fast as the redhead from before, but impressively quick none-the-less. Leaning backwards, he avoided the curving path of the shruiken, and batted the second one out of the way with the hilt of his sword. “That’s not going to be enough to-” His voice cut off when the shuriken he’d just turned aside boomeranged back towards him. “How-?”
 
Underneath his mask, a smirk tugged at the edges of Ryoma’s lips.
 
Ibu whirled, blade blazing in an elaborate dance around him. One by one the shuriken spun wildly out of control, thudding harmlessly into the walls. The last hit only a hand’s width above the man whimpering in the corner, eliciting a short squeak of fear.
 
“I see. Shuriken attached to wires,” Ibu remarked dully. “You’re a tricky one.”
 
Ryoma’s smirk grew. Even with all of that, his opponent had only picked up a few scratches. It wouldn’t even slow him down. This was going to be interesting.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
argentum_luna
May. 2nd, 2008 11:26 am (UTC)
OMG SHINJI. I LOVE YOU.
sinnatious
May. 2nd, 2008 12:02 pm (UTC)
Secret found to unlocking argentum's heart: Shinji.
roseofthine
May. 3rd, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
-laughing kind of very hard-

and, hey, sunday? D< you're seriously planning to leave me all messed up, aren't you. ;~;

Yay for long weekend, though. =D
sinnatious
May. 4th, 2008 03:36 am (UTC)
IT'S ALL PART OF AN ELABORATE PLAN.
tezukaryo
May. 2nd, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
Aaaw Ibu, so confidient that you give your name so freely. *grin* You are so wicked...give us little tanizing glimps of Tezuka...poor Ryoma. *heehee*
sleepingfingers
May. 2nd, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
Oh Shinji. It's kind of sad to see them fight, but it's really getting interesting. :D
jade_peace
May. 3rd, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
SHINJIIIIIIIII.

♥♥♥

I have to say I love these ninjas.
roseofthine
May. 3rd, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
Eeee, Shinji! And Ryouma and Kaidoh as a pair! *________*
firedraygon97
May. 3rd, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC)
Haha, I like how you're integrating canon facts into this AU, like how Fudomine beat Hyoutei once. XD

Lovely work~! Ninja AU! I'm having fun reading so far. Please write more soon!
sinnatious
May. 4th, 2008 04:14 am (UTC)
Heee, observant of you to notice. ;)

I hope it keeps your interest. New chapter is up!
gwynhafra
May. 4th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
Shinji has made an appearance. ^^ . Way of a ninja-be stealth. Shinji has obviously failed this. XD

Going to read the next chappie now. ^^ .
ichinonaru
May. 26th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
LOL! Shinji! ROFL! Gawd sooo many more chapters to go! XD
~~ Hikari Manganji ~~~
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )