HEART OF THE NINJA: WATER
Duncan has survived his greatest battle - but the fight is far from over. Now paired up with a new instructor, he is being drilled in the ways of a master adept to control the presiding power growing inside him. But time is running out, the enemy is preparing to strike, and Duncan is far from ready to be the great protector he's meant to be.
Uncertainty grows and with it comes a new threat - mysterious assassin cells wielding a Dark Ninja Magic that binds the users with a demon. To save everyone on his team, Duncan's inner power takes over, but the loss is more than he can cope with.
Alone and rejected by his friends, mistrusted by his own people, Duncan must now master his power and set things right before the Dark Ninja Magic consumes them all.
“Ahhh!” I was yanked out of the Darkness with so much force and suddenness I wasn’t sure what was going on. Pain from the thing being ripped from under my skin was like being dragged through a bed of broken glass, and it mixed with a horrible burning pain in my side. My hands went limp and I dropped my swords.
“Sorry, kid, but I had to.” Master Katsumi’s voice rang firm yet remorseful in my ear; his strong arm was around my neck, holding me in place, as he twisted his kuni, driving it deeper into my side.
He let me go and I fell to my hands and knees. Blood poured on the earth as I hunched over and braced myself. Icy needles of pain spread throughout my body, making my arms tremble and my body shiver. Life was leaving me quickly, but at least I already knew how it felt and what to expect.
“Sensei,” I struggled to get the words out between pants of pain as I held the open gash, feeling warm blood flow through my fingers, “I’m sorry. I can’t control it. You did the right thing.”
He stooped down in front of me, bloody kuni in his hand. Dazed, I watched blood drip from the blade tip as he spoke. “I had such high hopes for you, Duncan. You were doing so well for such a long period of time. But I made a vow and had to fulfill it.”
Unspoken understanding momentarily flashed in my eyes before the pain intensified. I coughed blood and my body spasmed as I slid my knees close to my chest. I hunched into a fetal position and felt a tickle in the back of my mind – something was contemplating life and blood. I had this thought once before…
“Hand me my swords so I can finish the job,” I said, reaching out a bloody, shaky hand.
The hilt felt warm in my palm and I welcomed the feel of the steel as I ran my other hand down the blade, weakly positioning it. I hesitated, thought about all the things I would miss: Uncle, Mayumi, I never got a chance to fully enjoy her, my friends and the thrill of being alive.
When I die, so do you, I thought to the It, hoping that this would finally free me.
I held my sword before me, point aimed toward my solar plexus.
“When it goes in,” I said, pausing to stifle a bolt of pain, “force the blade up so it penetrates my lungs and heart – make sure I don’t miss.”
“Tell Uncle I love him – and – and I’m sorry.”
I drew my arms back to run myself through.
I woke to the smell of death, destruction all around and blood running down my face. Small fires burned here and there, giving light to the densely dark forest. From the looks of charred trees and landscape it was quite clear something devastating happened, and it centered around me – Duncan Kimura, a highly trained assassin not quite seventeen. Somehow I had just survived the most dangerous battle of my young life.
I pushed parts of trees, burnt brush, and heaps of rocks and dirt off of me as I struggled to my feet.
“What happened?” My voice echoed off of the empty landscape.
I didn’t remember anything – only my death. The Darkness was taking over, I was slipping away into Death, and the Shadow Master was pacing close by.
Then I passed out and woke to a changed world. What caused the forest to look like this? What did I do?
As I surveyed my surroundings I noticed that I was standing in what looked like a small, shallow crater. Burned energy blasts scarred the earth, leaving long, dark marks that started at my feet and spread outwards. My advanced eyesight dimmed, leaving only darkness still lingering in my eyes and I wondered how it had been activated in the first place. My hair didn’t stir on its own, yet my advanced hearing was turned on and slowly fading. It was obvious the thing sharing my soul, living off my Ki, did what it had to do to survive. But I didn’t make a deal with it. I didn’t feel it take over. I only felt its warmth deep in my center before I died. So, what happened?
I checked my body. Other than a few cuts and deep scratches on my shoulders and chest I was completely healed. The katana wound in my side and the gash in my chest where the scythe ran me through were closed and healed. Only remnants of blood remained. Creepy, yet amazing.
And the Shadow Master – Master Tsubasa – what of him? I could only imagine that he finally got the battle he was hoping for and, by the looks of the devastation, I could only assume it didn’t go in his favor. I speculated that he was dead, but felt I needed to find his body to know for certain. For all I knew he had survived the destruction and could be hiding, just waiting for a chance to finish me off when I was no longer in my power form. Therefore, it was important for me to see for myself.
In the dimness of the night I carefully picked my way around fallen trees, uprooted bushes and plants and overturned boulders. In places the earth was churned, like it had been plowed, and the entire area was deadly silent. The night creatures had gone into hiding, or possibly were killed.
The only power I had left was a little bit of my eyesight and hearing and I decided to use those while they were still handy. With minimal effort I focused, my vision cut through the dark forest and debris like our night vision goggles, only I saw things as a light gray/green. I could see through the top layers of earth, skirt the edges of rocks and boulders and practically see through the broken boughs of trees. Suddenly, my hearing picked up the faint groaning of a man. My paced quickened as the sound got closer. I was so busy looking at the ground, trying to find the man buried under something that I failed to look up until I was almost upon him.
There, impaled on large splinters of a tree broken in half, was Master Tsubasa. Stakes of wood stuck out of him, blood oozed, some of his entrails peeked out from the gashes, and I couldn’t help but think how he reminded me of Shi’tori when she met her fate at my hands. Will I kill everyone this way?
“You put up quite a fight, Demon Boy.” He rasped and coughed, choking up blood as he hung mercilessly on his crucifix.
At first I just stared at him, not sure what to say. The once great legendary assassin was now a broken man, crucified on a majestic pine that had been snapped in half by a great force.
What have I done? The killings – so many; Shi’tori, Doctor Yen, the many Shimoshuki and now Master Tsubasa. During the killings sometimes I knew what I was doing, other times I had no clue for I had been taken over. But death and blood were on my hands – the hands of a young professional killer. In a way it ate at my gut, gnawing like a fiendish beast, but at the same time I felt numb to it, suppressing it – just like we were trained, instructed and counseled. Was this really my response to death – so cold? Perhaps it was the result of the It housed within and using me to kill. Turmoil weighed me down, but I had to focus despite it all. Keeping a solemn expression so as to not give away my inner grief, I stood proudly and faced my dying foe, as an assassin is expected to behave.
“Master Tsubasa, sir,” I felt speaking very respectfully was the least I could do in his final hour. “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t remember what happened. Did I do this to you?”
He choked out a weak laugh and lifted his head to look at me, though he didn’t quite have the strength to do so.
“Let me get you down,” I offered.
“No! Leave me,” he insisted, and then in a more demanding voice he said, “How can you say you don’t remember? You don’t know what you did?”
“No, sir, I blacked out,” I said, looking at him in a hopeful manner. I needed some answers and he was the only one that could give them to me.
“At first I thought you were tricking me.” He coughed and spat blood then regained his self. “You laid so still after I ran you through I was almost disappointed you had died on me. I purposefully missed your heart with my scythe. I wanted to push you to your limit.”
“I did die,” I protested.
“No!” His body spasmed, and then became still. He suddenly got quiet and in a near whisper continued, “No, you didn’t, you flared to life.”
“What do you mean?” I leaned forward a bit to hear him better, but he suddenly, yet slightly, raised his voice in excitement.
“A blue light flamed all around you, and when you stood the trees bent away from you, the forest animals fell silent, and the power emitting off of you was so great I felt myself being pushed back.”
“Was the blue light a very light blue color?” I had to be sure it was the same as I had experienced before and not something stronger. Being taken over by the thing inside had me worried.
“Did the blue light resemble flames?”
“Exactly what did I do?”
He coughed and choked up more blood. A watery, gurgling sound vibrated in his lungs. I could tell he didn’t have much time left.
“You flared to life. Rose from the ground. The blue flame covered you as you advanced toward me. I backed up in that direction.” He nodded toward the area where I woke. “As you moved the trees bent away from you, the very essence of nature gave you wide berth – like you were a God.” He paused, smiled weakly and gasped for breath before continuing. “I fought you, but couldn’t even get close. You cast out an Elemental Attack unlike anything I’d ever seen. I countered with my own.”
I was disappointed that I would never know what it was, what it looked like, and the only man that could call it forth was dying. I was sure, however, that it must’ve been amazing.
“I threw out all the stops. Almost had you once, but you blasted the area like a small bomb went off. Lifted me off my feet and flung me through the air. This,” he looked down at his self, “is where I landed.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. In his weakened state Master Tsubasa couldn’t tell me much. The story was broken down, vague. Not much detail to go on, at least, not the type I was interested in.
“You fought honorably.” I was at a loss for words. What does the victor say to his foe as he lay dying? This was never covered in training. “Is there someone I can notify?”
He weakly shook his head and panted in pain. “No one,” he finally strained out. “I have no one. No family. No legacy. But…,” he choked out more blood, “if I were to have had a son he would’ve been like you.” He said it admirably.
I was awestruck.
I snapped to attention and gave him a short, respectful bow then knelt on one knee to listen to any instructions he would give me.
“Upon my death take my weapons, burn my body and go to my camp and destroy it.”
“Until nothing remains?” I verified this request.
“Yes. You are a ninja. You know what must be done.”
He was exactly right; I knew the drill. A ninja’s body is full of secrets and upon his or her death those secrets must be destroyed. If they had no clan or family left the body was to be burned, the ashes scattered and all that belonged to them had to be dismantled and ruined. But if they had a successor, or appointed one, those items would go to them. More or less, I was now that successor.
Through much hacking up blood and struggling with fluid filling his lungs, Master Tsubasa eventually revealed to me the location of his camp. Our conversation ended with him suffering, experiencing a grisly death that led to drowning in his own fluid and choking on blood. When his body relaxed and no longer spasmed with inner agony I climbed the tree to release him. I had to use my foot to pry his large, highly developed form from the long tree splinters. He landed with a sickening whump! and crunch! on the ground.
The last of my power had faded during our conversation, so building a pyre was a bit daunting and slow. I quickly removed Master Tsubasa’s weapons and belt, as well as kuni and stars that were scattered all over his person. His scythe lay close by and I examined the unique weapon. The blade wasn’t an actual sickle shape, but more of a curve with the upper portion longer than the rest. It reminded me of an ancient weapon I saw in history books and this one had a twist – the top of the blade folded down, held in place by a trigger. All I had to do was touch a button on the staff handle and the blade snapped into place. Interesting and deadly.
The bracers were next. I put them on and reveled in the feel of the worn leather and the intricate working mechanism of the blades. Flexing the forearm muscles made the blades stand up. I considered taking his boots, but thought better of it and also left his face covered by his mask out of respect. I set fire to his pyre and watched as he burned to nothingness.
Night was quickly coming to an end and I had to hurry to his camp. As luck would have it the entrance was close by, just behind a large cropping of boulders near the top of the waterfall. A short tunnel through the mountain led to a protected opening enclosed by trees and boulders. Master Tsubasa had built a cozy dwelling of wood, rocks and bamboo with a fire pit outside and a small fireplace inside. Animal furs lined inside as well as on a cot. He had simple, basic needs and, like a true ninja, lived off the land, taking only what was needed, living in harmony with life and nature.
I quickly went to work finding all of his weapons and uncovering some booby traps, but I didn’t deactivate them. I knew I should tear down the shelter and burn all of it to the ground, but I couldn’t. It was so well hidden, so perfect and I felt a time would come in the future where I would need to come here and hide away. Against my better judgment I left things as they were, keeping the booby traps and placed a few of my own to keep out animals and trespassers.
As I descended the mountain I stopped to check on the pyre. All evidence was finally burnt to ashes, blending in with the scorched earth. Using my ninpo and inner magic I gathered air around me and pushed a gust of wind toward the pyre, scattering the ashes.
With my task finally finished I loaded myself down with the Shadow Master’s weapons and headed for home.
The sun slowly rose above the sleeping Village of the Chiao, cresting the forest and mountain. Birds woke, animals stirred and I was relieved there weren’t many people outside at this early hour to see me trudge toward home.
It had now been three days since I was last seen in my village. I was tired, dirty, and hungry, wearing only my workout pants and tabi boots and toting a heavy burden of weapons. Those people that did see me stared in disbelief. I wasn’t sure if it was because of my appearance, my upper body and arms were littered with bloody cuts and bruises, or if it was due to the weapons I carried. Either way, I was sure the people in my village would start rumors and talk would spread like wild fire.
Exhaustion teetered on the brink of taking over as I reached home, and a familiar creak on the front porch tickled my memory and made me look up. There, sitting in his favorite chair on the front porch was Uncle. He slowly stood mouth gaping open, eyes wide in disbelief. He took a few steps toward me, legs shaking as he tried to walk and I thought for sure he would collapse before I could reach him. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
I stopped at the bottom of the steps and looked up at his kindly old face. He gazed down on me. Love, wonder and disbelief flashed across his face as he held onto the porch railing for support.
“Uncle,” I said breathlessly, giving him a respectful bow, “I’ve returned.”
Regaining his self he cleared his throat and stood up straight. Clasping his hands behind his back he said, “And where have you been, young warrior?”
“Behind Shimoshuki lines. Captured. Tortured.” I was very serious, professional and surprised even myself, but was too tired to care. He raised his eyebrows at my comment.
“And your burden?” He nodded toward the weapons I carried.
“Spoils, Uncle. They’re rightfully mine,” I stated proudly. I wasn’t sure exactly how much I should reveal, though my heart said to spill my guts, tell him everything that happened. Deep down, I just wanted to disregard my maturity, breakdown and cry like a child.
He reached out a hand to me. I took it with a strong, determined grip. In one swift motion he pulled me to him and locked me in a fierce hug, which I returned all while fighting back tears. A ninja didn’t cry, didn’t allow emotion to control him. But this ninja was having a hard time complying with the rule and I buried my face in his neck to hide those few that did stream down my face. After a short moment Uncle pried us apart, blinked back tears of his own and cleared his throat.
“Well done.” He patted me firmly on the arm and steered me inside.
I stiffly walked to my bedroom. Fatigue was taking over and my body ached from the ordeal. Uncle followed me, keeping a few steps back. I assumed he didn’t want to smother me.
For some reason home didn’t seem the same. It felt different, as if I were seeing it from another body, another life. I knew it was my home. I knew this was my room with all of my special things neatly displayed. It just didn’t feel the same anymore. Was I in shock? I propped the scythe against a wall and dropped the other weapons to the floor with a tiresome thump! My body relaxed, weakness took over, and all of the past days of fighting to stay alive ran off me like a river. I turned to Uncle as the room started to tilt and realized I was falling.
“I need water, Uncle…please.”
Next thing I felt were his strong arms around me and the softness of my bed beneath me.
X X X
I woke some time later. Half empty cups and glasses littered my side table and dresser. It was clear Uncle had been forcing water and tea down my throat and I didn’t remember any of it. But the most wonderful thing to wake up to was a beautiful kunoichi smiling down at me, while gently wiping my forehead with a cool, damp cloth.
“Hey,” Mayumi said softly as I blinked my eyes open.
“Hey,” I whispered back. My throat felt raw.
She brushed a strand of hair out of my face and lovingly caressed my cheek.
“I was worried…”
“I know.” I grabbed her hand and held it to my chest. Paused. Meditated on her presence. Her love and inner strength flowed into me and warmed my heart. I didn’t want to let go and squeezed a little tighter.
Mayumi leaned closer to me and softly said, “Duncan, do you want to talk about it?”
“I’m not sure what to say.” It was true. What exactly could I tell her? If I revealed the truth about my inner voice she’d think I was a freak and not want to be with me. I could tell her some of what happened, but definitely not all of it.
“The three Shimoshuki teens that attacked Hikaru and me over a month ago were the ones that got me,” I said, reaching for a half empty glass of water and downing it before continuing. “They were here in our village looking for something and I stopped them. They got the jump on me. The Shimoshuki had this doctor that liked to do experiments on people…”
I paused and looked at her with a very serious expression. “That’s right. Had. I made sure he would never do another experiment – ever. Especially after what he was doing to me.”
“What was he doing, Duncan?” She practically whispered the question, beautiful dark eyes wide with fear. I knew she could only imagine what I would say, but I didn’t want to gross her out. I kept it short.
“I couldn’t even tell you. Horrible stuff. It didn’t make any sense. All I know was that this guy was a crazed wacko that loved torturing people until they died on the table. He was also helping to create new types of poisons.”
“For what?” she said, looking very concerned.
“I don’t know. But their leader, Lord Tatsuya, said they only had a month to get them ready.”
“They’re either selling them on the black market to other countries – or planning on using them against us,” she speculated.
“My thoughts exactly,” I paused and kissed her hand before returning it to her. I then sat up, swooned and plopped back down on the pillow.
“Lay still. You’re still dehydrated and you need to eat.” She was demanding, but sweet. She then leaned out into the hallway and shouted, “Tou-Pang sensei! He’s awake!”
She sounded just like her mother at that moment, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.
In a matter of minutes I heard the padding of feet and the slight rattle of bowls coming down the hall. Uncle appeared in the doorway with a wide grin and a tray of food.
“It’s about time,” he said, sitting a tray of rice, fish and vegetables next to me. The aroma was heavenly.
Mayumi helped me sit up and propped several pillows behind me. She then set the tray on my lap. I immediately dug into the food, slopping rice and sauce on my blankets.
“Eat slowly,” Uncle advised, smiling at me.
“How long was I out?” I said with a mouth full of rice.
“Most of the day,” he said.
“So, it’s still the same day? The day I came home?”
“That’s right. It’s late afternoon and you’re friends have been asking about you. Shinji, Masa and Akira are anxious to visit.” He motioned for Mayumi to get up so he could sit in her spot. She quickly complied.
I paused and stared at him blankly for a moment before saying, “I don’t want to see my friends yet, Uncle. I want to get myself together first.” He didn’t respond to my comment and that’s when I decided to ask a crucial question. “You know, I really don’t understand something. Why did I pass out after I got home?”
“Stress,” he said. “Battle fatigue. You must’ve been under a great deal of it for a long period of time. It’s from pushing your body and mind to the limit, using up your Ki and inner magic.”
I nodded my head slightly in acknowledgement as I continued to eat. Everyone knew our Ki and inner magic were connected, as was our ninpo. Once used up our special abilities fade, leaving us vulnerable.
Mayumi chimed in, “We covered it in class. Obviously you were not paying attention.” She threw me a mischievous grin.
“Mayumi, would you gather up these cups and glasses and take them out to the kitchen for me?” Uncle said in his kindly tone.
Once she had done as he bade and we were alone Uncle leaned close and said, “Duncan, you need to tell me all you can about what happened. It’s important that you don’t hold anything back. What the Shimoshuki are doing is important, yes, their plans and strategies. But more importantly – what happened to you? What did they do to you? How did you get away? What transpired? And did you have anything to do with the destruction in the forest not far from the top of the waterfall?”
His questions hit home and I knew what he was driving at – my inner presence. Yes, he knew about it, but he had always dismissed my talk and speculations about it in the past. I never revealed to him all of my newfound abilities, though I did try to tell him of a few. Now, it seemed, he was more concerned than ever. I had to come clean.
“The destruction in the forest was because of me, but it wasn’t from fighting off the Shimoshuki, it was from fighting off someone else.” I put my bowl and chop sticks down and looked him in the eye. “The same three Shimoshuki teens that jumped Hikaru and me were the ones that captured me. Seems they had a grudge from our first fight as well as my run-in with them in town during Night Ops. The night I went to Mayumi’s house they were here in the village looking for something. I followed and confronted them. In the midst of our fight they blew a white powder in my face, which rendered me paralyzed yet fully alert.”
“Ummm, that sounds a bit like Lilly’s paralysis powder she’s been working on,” Uncle muttered.
“You know,” Mayumi said, suddenly appearing at my door and making us jump, “Lilly said she thought someone had broken into her house weeks ago because some of her lab work was missing from her bedroom. At the time she just blew it off as misplacing it.”
“Mayumi, dear, thank you for sitting with Duncan, but do you mind if we have some time alone?” Uncle said.
She nodded respectfully and gave me a shy little wave before leaving. We waited until we heard her slide the front closed door before continuing.
“I didn’t know about Lilly’s house,” I said, drifting off into thought about the time Shi’tori befriended Mayumi and Lilly and hung out at their homes. Lilly must’ve run off at the mouth and told Shi’tori what she was working on. Of course the Shimoshuki would want in on such a prize.
“Neither did I. I’ll have to talk to her about it later,” Uncle said.
I shook myself from the idea and continued on with my story. “Anyway, they knocked me out and took me to their village. When I woke up I was strapped to a table with wires and tubes sticking out of me. This little old man, Dr. Yen, had me hooked up to a box that shocked me with electric current.”
“What? What for?” Uncle said perplexed, and a bit upset at the idea.
“He wanted to bring forth my power form,” I said flatly, then became quiet and waited for his response. His mouth hung open slightly, eyes wide with disbelief – he was completely taken by surprise.
“He what! How did he know?”
“W-well, I-I, um, never told you, but, um…”
“Duncan! What did you do?” Uncle was aghast with the possibility of what I had done to draw so much attention to myself from the enemy.
“It’s not as bad as you think, Uncle, serious. Remember when you caught me sneaking out? Well, that wasn’t the only time. Once I actually caught who I thought was Kikaku exchanging information for money with one of the Shimoshuki teens. The teen and I got into it, he was brutal, I freaked out, couldn’t control myself and changed…h-he saw everything.”
“Um, well, you see, there’s something inside me. I tried to tell you about it before but you always blew me off. I hear this voice in my head and now it’s got a mind of its own. When I get really mad it comes out, sort of takes over.” I paused and looked at him, waiting for him to get angry, or upset, but he didn’t. He just looked at me. His elderly face was stern and hard, lost in thought. “You’ve known about this all along – haven’t you?”
“My opinion is of no concern. Continue.” He dismissed my comment with a wave of his hand.
I wanted to press the issue, mainly due to overhearing Master Katsumi and Captain Yoshida’s conversation practically a week ago. However, to do so would be to compromise my own stealth. I had to be satisfied just knowing that the man that raised me was, in fact, aware of this thing inside me. The extent of how it would progress was most likely the biggest surprise to everyone involved. At least, that was my opinion. Keeping that in mind I continued.
“I seem to become something else, Uncle. My eyes turn black, a breeze kicks up around me making my hair stir on its own, and I get enhanced hearing and eyesight. Sometimes I can run really super fast. Remember I told you about that? This thing is becoming scary and each time it takes over I find it more difficult to suppress and remain in control of myself. I’ve figured out that it’s attached to my Ki in some type of way. If I use too much Ki I weaken – and so does It. Lately it’s starting to talk to me more, but only under stressful situations or when it comes to the surface. I’ve recently discovered that I can be part me and part It at the same time, but its becoming a powerful force and wants to take over, so I can’t let it stay at the surface too long, or too much. This thing talks to me – in my head, but not all the time, just once in a while, or when I’m threatened in some way.”
“I see,” was all he said, sitting back in his chair and stroking his short beard.
“It does have an upside. Through this thing I’ve learned to master my Elemental Attack and my animal fighting style. It helped me get away from the crazy doctor doing experiments on me. It healed me and helped me survive when I couldn’t go on.” I paused, took a drink of tea and prepared to dive into the crucial part of my story. “Uncle, it brought me back to life when Master Tsubasa killed me.”
That got his attention. He sat up in his chair and stared in amazement. I’d guessed Uncle knew the name of the legendary assassin, but I didn’t know what type of effect mentioning the name would have.
“What did you say?” He leaned forward and touched my forehead and I assumed he was checking for fever. “You couldn’t have died, for here you are. And Master Tsubasa has been gone for a very long time, Duncan. So has his clan. You can’t be serious.”
“I’m very serious. He’s been hiding in the forest, selling his services for only the best of jobs and, most likely, to the highest bidder. I encountered him the night of my fight with the Shimoshuki teen. All those weapons,” I pointed to the spoils I had dragged home, “are mine. He gave them to me with his last dying breath.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Uncle, I killed him after he ran me through with that,” I gestured to the scythe, evidence of dried blood still on the blade. “I felt myself die. The thing inside me took over. I don’t remember any of it. I don’t even know how it happened. The next thing I knew, I woke up, the forest was blasted, I was healed, and he was the one dying.”
Between finishing my food and tea I told Uncle of all that happened. I even elaborated on my escape from the Shimoshuki Village and how I dispensed of Master Tsubasa’s remains. However, I didn’t tell him about the Shadow Master’s hidden camp or about my suspicions of Hikaru. It seemed like hours had passed by the time we were finished talking and I finally felt strong enough to stand and move around on my own.
“This is very serious, Duncan,” Uncle finally said following me around as I pulled out fresh clothes and straightened my bed.
“Tell me something I don’t know.” I kept talking as I went across the hall to take a shower. “I tried to tell you something wasn’t quite right about me.”
“Yes, yes, I’ve heard all that. However, this other thing, with the Shimoshuki still looking for something in our village, dealing with poisons and now they’ve developed an interest in you. Not only that, but they used a paralysis powder to capture you after Lilly’s house had been broken into. The question is how did they learn about it in the first place?”
“Shi’tori,” I said from the shower. “She had to be their link.”
“But we were all under the impression she was acting on her own. That her clan didn’t know she was here.”
“I told you before, Uncle, I saw her making out with Kikaku behind the dojo. She could’ve told him and he could’ve told his contact with the Shimoshuki.” Clean and refreshed I stepped out of the shower and toweled off, allowing my long hair to hang in my face like I always do. I walked into my room to change as Uncle stepped out into the hall, giving me privacy.
“I still can’t believe that, Duncan,” Uncle said. “Kikaku can’t be that hateful to his own people. There is no proof that he knew the kunoichi before she showed up here. And there’s no proof that he’s selling information to the Shimoshuki or that he has a contact with them.”
Donning a T-shirt and black workout pants I emerged from my room carrying tabi boots.
“Well I’ve seen proof,” I said, holding his gaze a heartbeat before turning away. “There’s talk of him sneaking out late at night. Therefore, he’s possibly meeting with someone. I could’ve sworn he was the one meeting with the Shimoshuki teen that night. Besides, no one really knew where he was during Night Ops in town. He could’ve met up with his contact then, too.”
He paused and looked at me, then reached for my hair. “Maybe you should start tying your hair back?” he said.
“Nah, I like it like this.” I pulled away, not allowing him to touch it and headed for the door.
For some reason I didn’t tell him about my suspicions of Hikaru. Perhaps I felt if we busted Kikaku then Hikaru would be cleared, at least, in my mind he would be. The question of what exactly was up with him still wrestled in my mind.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Uncle’s pace quickened to keep up with me.
“Just outside,” I said with a cocky grin. “You did say my friends wanted to see me.”
“I don’t think you should go anywhere alone,” he said sternly. “Besides, you’ve only just regained yourself.”
“Uncle. I’m a ninja. A highly trained assassin.”
“One that’s now hunted by the enemy and almost got himself killed!”
“I’ll be fine.” I blew him off and swung open the door to find a hulking shadow blocking my way and a hand reaching for me.
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Copyright © 2003 - 2011 Silver Leaf Books, LLC. All rights reserved.
Company Information Order Options Booksellers Careers Charity Programs
Copyright © 2003 - 2012 Silver Leaf Books, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Copyright © 2003 - 2015 Silver Leaf Books, LLC. All rights reserved.
Review by: Ninfa Hayes, Bookaholics Book Club
Although I'm not the target audience for this series, I really enjoyed this book.
It's fast, full of action, and the figure of the Ninja is explored in such a new way, it gives it a fresh interpretation that I couldn't help but enjoy.
Duncan is a strong and tortured young hero, he has so much power and he can't figure out how to learn to control it, before it starts controlling him. With the enemy closing ranks and his training still not completed, not to mention the mishaps every teenager goes through with love, friendship, and classmates that just don't get you, Duncan has a lot on his mind.
I enjoyed the story of this third book in the series; it is a nice continuation to book 2 and develops Duncan's character nicely. I must say, my favorite characters in this book were Akira and Morgan. Morgan is just incredible, with the wealth of knowledge he seems to be sitting on, I can see him becoming an even more important player in the next few books.
Akira's story was also very touching and gave his character a new dimension.
I'm a little sorry that we didn't see more of Mayumi, and that her romance with Duncan wasn't explored more, but I'm hoping this will be addressed later on in the story.
All in all this is a wonderful read that I would highly recommend for young boys and girls that love action and mystery, and to all who enjoy Manga and Fantasy, as there is a heavy component of the fantastic which is very enjoyable in these books.
I look forward to the next installment, and who knows, maybe a Manga with Duncan as the hero? ;)
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Copyright © 2003 - 2016 Silver Leaf Books, LLC. All rights reserved.