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Shadows in Edo
‘WE GO TO BATTLE!” the shogun’s voice boomed across the meeting hall. His immense figure appeared larger than life while standing on the podium. He seemed invincible wearing the traditional Japanese armor. Four of the best shinobis, kneeling before him, bowed their heads in his domineering presence. He brought forth his gleaming katana, thrust it in the air, and yelled, “Bring me their heads!” The four had vanished into the shadows before the shogun could bring down his weapon.
On the rooftop of Edo castle four figures, clad in all black, crouched in a huddle. The pale moon cast a luminous glow over the castle. They were discussing a plan to infiltrate the house of Orochi Akutagawa. He was the pompous tax collector of Edo and had made a fortune by stealing from the Shogun throughout the years and lately his attitude towards the Shogun had been vulgar. The pack leader, Kiba, was sitting cross-legged with a distinguishing black headband tied around his forehead and carved on it was a fang. He had joined the ranks a few years ago and at 20 years old, and he had already established himself as one of the elites. Twisting dragons shone on the katanas resting on his back. His fighting abilities were above average but what distinguished him was the ability to analyze dangerous situations.
“The shogun has entrusted us with a dangerous mission,” stated Kiba. “We must be thoroughly prepared and formu-.“
The massive shinobi next to him called Roukyou, stirred then interrupted, “It won’t be that hard. It’s just 15 crappy guards and 7 samurais.” Roukyou, loomed at least a foot over the others while crouching, the veins pulsing on his arms which were the size of a grown mans legs. He carried a monstrous claymore on his back and had an onyx gauntlet donned on his left hand.
“Everything seems easy until I find you surrounded by a group of guards and have to save your butt,” teased Akira. He was the silent assassin who liked to flow through his opponents, slashing at vital points then disappeared before enemies could retaliate. His two daggers resting on his sides were the only visible weapons in his arsenal. “Next time there may be a group with fighting prowess,” he warned.
Roukyou, turning a little pale, grunted, “I don’t remember asking for your help and anyways I was just waiting till there were enough enemies to give me a challenge.”
“Hahaha. Then can I ask why you seemed so relieved when I took down half of them?” Akira quickly replied.
Roukyou clenched his fist, bolted upright, and growled, “You won’t be laughing when I send your head flying!”
“Oh, you believe that your slow strike will reach my head? My dagger will sever your throat before your eyes blink twice,” Akira challenged back. Both men were gritting their teeth and waiting for the other to make a move.
“Both of you shut up!” commanded the fourth member before the leader could intervene. The shinobi’s heads darted in the direction of the voice. Ryu, rested on his side with his head propped up by his arm, was glaring at the pair. His bright gray eyes, illuminated by the moon’s radiance, pierced the tension like a shuriken tears through paper. Akira and Roukyou, startled by the audacity of Ryu, towered over him as he laid there not taking his eyes off the pair.
“What’d you say?” barked Roukyou as he lifted his right arm and wrapped his hand around the hilt of his claymore.
“You should know it’s not wise to meddle in the affairs of others,” stated Akira while fingering the tip of his dagger.
“Sit down,” Kiba added before the Ryu could react. Kiba knew the capabilities of Ryu and didn’t want to have to stop a fight between the three. He had worked together with Ryu during a past mission. Kiba’s first impression of Ryu was that of a slacker with minimal talent. He would add nothing during meetings and at most times just lay against a tree whistling a low tune. But, in battle he-
“Okay hurry up and get on with it,” groaned Ryu.
Kiba glared at Ryu and continued from when he was interrupted, “As I was saying, we must be aware of every detail and there cannot be any variables. His security is not comprised of only 15 guards; otherwise three of us would not be needed. The governor is aware of the shogun’s feelings toward him and has increased his protection. There are 4 archers guarding the main gate, 2 keep watch from the each guard towers on both sides of the mansion, and a 10 other guards patrolling the walls. Akutagawa has built his mansion with protection in mind. The design is similar to a fort or a castle. That is just the beginning. 2 well-trained samurais guard the entrance to his mansion and 1 of them has a very quick draw. Once we get inside, I trust you will be able to react to any situation that we may face.” Kiba took a deep breath and said, “Okay, here is how we execute. Akira, you being the quickest one, will have the responsibility of taking out the guards on the towers. Roukyou, your job is to silence the archers guarding the main gate. Do not let them sound the alarm otherwise Akutagawa might get a chance to escape. Ryu and I will start from the back wall and head in opposite directions, taking care of the 10 guards. After the first phase is completed, three of us will get inside through the chimney while one of you will keep watch outside. After that we only have one other goal. Find Akutagawa’s room and take his head. Are there any questions?”
“Who’s going to keep watch?” asked Roukyou.
Akira curtly replied, “Of course, it’s going to be you.”
“Why would it be me huh?”
Akira snickering, “We can’t have a clumsy giant lumbering around and waking everyone.”
“Shut up. I am as nimble as a cat,” sniffed Roukyou.
“A cat with 3 legs,” Akira added.
“Do either you ever close your mouth?” said Ryu.
“I agree with him,” said Kiba. “I doesn’t matter who is outside. Would anyone like to volunteer?’
Ryu waved and said, “I’ll do it.”
Kiba nodded and asked, “Any other questions before we move get started?”
Roukyou raised his hand with a worried look on his face.
“What is it?”
“What if the fireplace is still lit?” he muttered.
Akira broke into laughter, Ryu chuckled, and even Kiba couldn’t help smirking.
Akira replied, “Then you’ll be the first one to go down and put the fire out with your big butt.”
“Okay if that’s all then lets go. HAJIME!” commanded Kiba.
With that, the pack disappeared from the rooftop leaving the ominous glow of the moonlight to bathe the castle.