The Art of Shadows

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
The ruthless Shinga is ruler of the guilds, or the black market. The noble Samurai warriors are marching to war against the Shinga. The army soon realizes that chaos is found when searching in the shadows.

Submitted: May 02, 2010

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Submitted: May 02, 2010

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Noboru stood in front of the mirror at the back of his small room. He was dressed in the customary black clothing of the Ninja, with the crest of the Black Dragon Guild emblazoned on his tunic. Armed with two curved swords strapped to his back, a dagger on his belt, throwing stars and darts dripping with snake venom, he was ready for his next mission. A mission, he knew, that would cause chaos in the organized military ranks of the Samurai.
Taken off the streets by an official of the Black Dragon Guild, Noboru had been trained in the art of Ninjutsu since he was 10 years old. His Master had made him into an assassin, a killer, schooled in the arts of combat, secrecy, poisons, and survival.  As silently as a cat, Noboru slipped outside the guild house and made his way to where he knew the battle would begin.
Takeshi patted his horse when it began to pace nervously in the formation. The young and inexperienced warrior worked hard to cover up his fear as they waited for the command to charge. It was his first real battle, his time to bring glory to his family, or even to die with the highest honor. He was dressed in the heavy black and gold armor of the Samurai, armed with a sword and longbow. They were preparing to march against the Northern Province and conquer it; the wild land of thieves, guilds and murderers ruled by the ruthless Shinga. The Samurai were preparing for war.  
Takeshi was a noble, his father and father’s father Samurai before him. His family had lost the Emperor’s favor, and it was up to Takeshi to bring back their honor. The command was shouted, and Takeshi rode alongside hundreds of armor-clad warriors as they charged forward. Battleships with hundreds more infantry sailed down the wide river toward the central tower, where the Shinga ruled over his system of many guilds.
Yuuki had all the information she needed to take back to the Shinga. Disguised as a simple servant girl in the General’s house, she ran the secret intelligence network across the border and gathered information for the guilds. Loyal to no one in particular, Yuuki would only sell her information to the highest bidder. Many times had the guild’s Ninjas or the Emperor’s soldiers attempted to kill her. On the brink of war, her information became even more valuable. Business rose, but so did the dangers of being caught. Trained in the Ninjutsu arts herself, Yuuki was able to retrieve the all-important battle plans the General had in place. She prepared to make the perilous journey back across the border, where the Shinga was waiting.
Noboru watched silently from atop a hill outside the city wall as the Samurai war boats, loaded with soldiers, made their way underneath the bridge down the river. He guessed that they planned to siege the city and capture the tower. Sprinting down the hill, he made his way atop the bridge and crouched there. He took his crossbow and loaded a bolt, then carefully struck a flame and lit a rag on fire.
Whoosh! A flaming bolt whizzed right through the sails and grazed the ship’s deck, causing startled soldiers to cry out and look up to the bridge. The fire did its work, however, and soon the sail was burning. He fired off a second bolt, and it didn’t take long for the dry wood of the ship to catch fire. Men ran about frantically as their ship went up in flames. The ones who jumped overboard had no hope of swimming to shore, and were dragged to the depths by their heavy armor.
Confident in his plan, Noboru crouched again and watched. Five hundred or more Samurai troops marched on foot towards the city; two hundred more on horseback came in from the east. Only two warships remained on the river, delayed by the sinking ship he had set on fire.  What caught Noboru’s eye, however, was a figure sneaking along the wall of the city. Looking closer, he saw it was a woman, dressed as a Ninja. Curious as to who this woman worked for, Noboru crossed the bridge and silently followed her along the wall.
Yuuki realized she was being followed when she was about fifty paces away from the bridge.  Putting a hand to the hilt of her sword, she continued forward, keeping her eyes peeled for signs of movement. Suddenly the shadows exploded, and before she knew it a gloved hand held a dagger to her throat. Somehow, she knew that this person would be able to kill her without effort.
“Who are you working for?” the man growled, putting more pressure on the blade against her neck.
“I work for nobody,” said Yuuki defiantly, although the sheer intensity of this man struck her with terror.
He lowered the dagger, and then spun her around to face him.
“Tell me who you’re working for. If you are a spy for the Emperor, I will kill you.”
Yuuki thought for a moment. Originally she had planned to wait out the war and join with the winning side, until she took this job from the Shinga. Surely this man could help her with her task. She also noticed his guild emblem, and decided that allying herself with the most powerful guild in the city could have benefits in the future.
 “I am not a spy for the Emperor,” she said. “I work for the Shinga, and have important information that may change the events of this battle.”
Noboru believed this rogue woman was telling the truth. He was impressed at her ability to survive without a guild for protection. “I will escort you to the tower,” he told her. “If what you are carrying could indeed help us win the battle, it is my duty to help you get there.” He took out a grappling hook and tossed it over the wall. Giving a slight tug to make sure it was in place, he began to climb. Yuuki followed up behind him. The Ninja were at peace in the darkness of night, like deadly shadows.
 The General watched his army move northward while safely inside the Emperor’s palace. With over eight hundred Samurai warriors marching to do battle against the Shinga’s city, it seemed like an easy win. However, the General knew different. The Shinga ruled over many powerful guilds, and likely had spies hidden across the border. The silent warfare of the Ninja, the guilds’ greatest weapon, was still unknown to the General. He knew that even against his formidable force, the Shinga still had many tricks to play.
Noboru and Yuuki stood on top of the wall and looked out at the city. The Shinga’s fortress had started preparing its defenses for the oncoming army. Having no time to spare, Noboru motioned for Yuuki to follow and they slipped down onto the street below. They made their way over to the tower, set on a small island in the middle of the river.
“Who goes there?” asked the guard.
“Noboru of the Black Dragon.”
Suspiciously, the guard turned towards Yuuki. “And you?” he said.
“I carry an important message for the Shinga,” she said. “Tell him Whisper has arrived.”
The guard turned a crank and the small bridge lowered. Noboru looked quizzically at Yuuki. “Whisper?” he asked.
“I must keep my identity secret,” Yuuki replied.
Noboru nodded as if understanding. They walked across the shaky rope bridge, feeling the eyes of many hidden watchmen upon them. The Shinga knew at all times who was coming and going and could easily order a rain of arrows down upon an enemy. A man at the door of tower beckoned them inside.
“Welcome, Black Dragon,” he said to Noboru. “The rest of your guild has also arrived. All the guilds of the city have come to prepare for the oncoming battle.” He turned towards Yuuki. “Welcome, Whisper. Your stealth will be highly rewarded. Come, the Shinga has summoned you both to his private chamber.”
Entering the large room, Yuuki was stunned by the luxury of the place. Fine cloths and artworks decorated the chamber. Seven people were kneeling around a small table, two of whom Yuuki recognized to be the leaders of the Black Dragons and the White Tigers. The only other woman in the room was the leader of the Coral Snake Guild, where Yuuki was trained and raised before she left her guild to be a rogue agent. Yuuki bowed politely and took her place at the table, taking out the paper scrolls containing the plans of their enemies. Noboru nodded to his guild leader and kneeled down beside her.
The Shinga in all his glory entered the room. He was a bold and intimidating figure, with sleek black hair and a patch over one eye. His cloak was of the finest black silk, and the hilt of his sword contained many jewels.
 “Our enemies fast approach us,” he said. “We do not have an army to defend our city, but with the combined forces of the guilds –“
A guard burst into the room. “Sir! The Samurai are attacking from the east side!”
The Shinga commanded him to secure all the defenses. Noboru stood up quickly and cleared his throat.
“Ahem.” All eyes in the room turned to the powerful fighter. He bowed to the Shinga, and said with a wicked grin, “I believe I have an idea worth mentioning.”
Hundreds of hooves thundered down the steep hill towards the city. Takeshi found himself taking up the battle shouts, “victory for the Emperor!”. Leaping his horse over the remnants of the broken wall, he rode into the city. He was pained by what he saw. The Samurai had torched most of the buildings and were beginning to loot the others. He saw street children hiding in the waste-filled ditches, heard a prostitute scream and beggars wailing.  What is this terrible land, where thieves prosper while innocent people struggle to survive on the street?
He turned and headed to the great tower, where the great army stood on the riverbanks. The siege was taking place. Warriors from the remaining battleships rowed to the island fortress. The first shots were fired from the tower. Whoosh! Archers fired arrows onto the soldiers below with deadly aim. Dark forms leaped from the tower and engaged the Samurai with deadly swordplay. Whoosh! More soldiers fell in the second rain of arrows. As more warriors made their way to the island, the more fell. Takeshi realized the defenses of the island tower were not going to be penetrated easily.
Noboru felt uncomfortable in the heavy Samurai armor, much preferring the loose, mobile cloth he was used to wearing.  Flanked by at least eighty other Ninja, all in their Samurai disguise, they waited for the signal from the tower. Leading the small band, Noboru and his men had silently dispatched the patrolling Samurai and taken their armor and mounts. Encouraged by how smoothly the first attack had gone, Noboru was confident the plan would work. Using the valuable information Yuuki had provided, the Ninja could use the element of surprise to their advantage.
 Yuuki easily parried and countered her opponent’s clumsy thrusts with her light sword. She searched for openings and seams in the soldier’s armor. Diving to the right with amazing agility, she blocked upwards with her sword and slashed through the man’s abdomen. In a lightning-fast motion she took out her throwing stars, and five more soldiers fell with deadly-sharp disks imbedded in their necks. Seeing more Samurai making their way to the island, she knew they could not hold them off for much longer. It was time for the Shinga to carry out the ultimate plan.
 Hearing the signal horn sounded from the tower, Noboru shouted for the attack. Confusion washed over the ranks of the Samurai as warriors began to turn against each other. Slashing the throat of a soldier next to him and aiming a well-placed kick at another, knocking him off his horse, the men didn’t even know what hit them. The organized army started to fall into chaos. Grinning, Noboru defiantly led the Ninja into battle.
Takeshi was overwhelmed with confusion as a wave of his own comrades started attacking one another. Many warriors fell, slain by another in the same armor. Taking up his sword, he slashed at a man who seemed to be part of the chaos and had already killed many. The man easily kicked out, causing Takeshi to fall off his horse. Rising up to meet his opponent, Takeshi recognized the two-sword fighting style of the Ninja. Overcome by rage, he roared and charged with his sword. They engaged in a deadly dance, Takeshi’s raging thrusts easily matched by the curved twin swords of his opponent.
Noboru was impressed by the strength of this Samurai swordsman. The man was blind in his rage, however, and had left an opening. Noboru parried to the side, and was able to stab the man in the shoulder. Leaving the soldier Noboru ripped off his heavy helm and breastplate and went to join his fellow Ninja back at the river, proudly showing the crest of the Black Dragon.
Takeshi could barely hold his sword as waves of agony coursed through him. He felt hot blood pouring down his arm, but realizing his wound was not fatal, he was able to stand. Weak from the pain, Takeshi looked around at the battlefield. Most of the Samurai had fell into retreat, not knowing who to trust as friend or foe. The warships that remained were easily held off by the defenses of the tower. The deadly Ninjas and the strong Samurai fought against one another in savage combat. Not understanding the ways of the Ninja, the secret killers who could sneak unnoticed into the military ranks of their enemies, the ones who practiced the art of shadows, Takeshi had no desire to meet one in battle ever again.
 
 
 
 
 
 


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