Friday, February 3

If I felt like writing a story about a Ninja, it would probably go something like this...

He knelt down to touch the soft soil. It had rained a couple nights ago, which meant the air still smelt fresh. He knew it couldn't be much further, but then again, he hadn't paid too much attention to his pace. Four days of travel only got you so far, and he hadn't made himself in a hurry about it. As long as he got the job done, what night it happened on didn't matter. Unsure of how much farther it was, he had keep alert for people on the trail. Nearing civilization could mean the unfortunate circumstance of people walking on it. In the pleasantly warm weather that came this time of year, there was plenty of leisure time for most people, which meant walks through the woods, and people looked with strange eyes upon single travelers. Talk of bandit attacks kept people worried and wary, so usually people didn't wander far, but children sometimes got caught up in adventuring. He would have to hate to put down some children if they saw him. For their sake and his own, he stepped off the trail and resumed his trek.

The trip was longer than he had expected by several hours and light was almost over when he thought he caught some voices. He stopped, checked his surrounding area, then squatted comfortably. He heard it again but it was not getting louder. They must be returning to their homes for the night, he thought. He was a fair distance off the trail and here was as quiet a place as any to camp for the night. He opened his knapsack beside him and ate what food he had with him. He had begun with food for four meals, and along with his hunting of small game each day, it had been plenty. Since a fire was out of the question tonight, he had to resort to his dry food: crackers, salted fish and several handfuls worth of rice. He regretted having no soy sauce for his rice or fish. It didn't do it any justice to eat it so bland like that. If he was hungrier he knew he wouldn't have cared about something like that, but as it was, he saw it fit to be displeased. His traveling had actually worked out quite well, he thought. If he really was within a few miles of the temple, he would have all day to check it out tomorrow and he could get the job done at night. Better to have arrived now and investigate in the light than arrive midday and be between rushing and waiting another full day, and he knew he wouldn't have leaned towards waiting another day. Five nights of travel made him anxious: no one to talk to all day and all night.

It was quite unusual. This wasn't even a job for one man. His master had intended to send three including him, but Master had picked Sun-ja Woo and O-lima Kamaguchi, both older and supposedly just as skilled. Master Wong had intended for them to patch up their differences on this trip and despite hearing his displeasure clear, Wong refused to send anyone else. "It's them or noone. If you are too stupid to accept people you need, then good luck. May the gods be merciful to you." He couldn't take their cockiness. He had fought them in training; it had been fierce and close, but they never let him forget that they were better. Something in their eyes made it clear that they felt he was inferior. Despite training harder than anyone else, it was like he would never be as good as them. It was just too maddening, and traveling for two weeks with the people he disliked most didn't appeal to him enough for him to take back his words during his temper. He wondered if he should have apologized and had their company. What if he really did need them? He tried to push those thoughts aside. There was no point to them now; he had chosen to go alone. He counted his heartbeats and soaked up the atmosphere until sleep called his name.

He awoke to the birds and realized light had descended upon the forest to fill the fauna with shadows interspersed with rays of the dusty white light that had filtered past the upper leaves of the branches many stories above. He felt quite rested, and excited about his final day. But first, he would have to catch himself some food. He laughed as he realized he had overlooked how he would catch something all the way up until now. He hadn't passed any ponds or streams to wait by all day yesterday, but he knew if there was a village, there must be at least a stream somewhere. So he forged ahead, knowing most of the villagers would be in the fields already. He trekked forward for under a mile before the first house and a clearing appeared. He soaked in the view: at least 30 houses were visible from his spot, most of them perched off the trail, and he spotted some workers hoeing and tilling the rice fields higher above him. The hill slanted to his right, where he figured most of the water could be found. Skirting civilization's view, he circled his way around until he first heard, then saw the stream several feet in width. After washing up and getting a much needed drink, he perched himself on a comfortable-looking branch, and waited.

An hour had passed before he sighted his prey: rabbit. The bunny hopped along at a curiously slow pace, pausing frustratingly often, but with a definite intention of reaching the stream. He was glad of his fortune. Rabbit was rather chewy but good nonetheless, and a single arrow would kill it quickly and easily, without the hassle of following a bloody trail. "Come on, little rabbit. Get your drink. Nobody is waiting to eat you! I'll even let you drink before you feel the sting of death piercing through you!" Patience came easily for he knew he would get his meat. He drew his arrow and notched it on the string. It was almost time. Suddenly, it was in a dash away from the stream, a fox sprinting forty feet behind. "Fool!" He cursed his luck as his meal ran out of range into the distance of the forest. Would it make it back to its hole to live another day? If it did it would have the fox to thank. Ironic. One thing was for sure, he wasn't going to be eating that rabbit. Perhaps now would be a good time to change spots. He pondered the question. Once he moved he would have to wait a while anyways, for motion always delayed visits to water. Animals were smart like that. He had a well-concealed spot, and comfortable enough. He decided to stay.

He was rewarded. The sun had barely moved when two squirrels scampered into sight. He had almost not noticed them for his lack of attention, but a twig had turned over and caught his ear. They were pretty far off and he questioned whether they would come nearer. If they didn't, he couldn't make the shot. The rodents took their drink quickly, only to begin a game of tag. Soon their zig-zagging led them near. He enjoyed their playful spirits. He almost didn't want to kill these particular creatures, but his stomach was growing emptier by the minute and he needed to have his full strength today. He readied his arrow for their next pause. One squirrel pounced on the other and as they began to wrestle each other, an arrow ripped through its stomach, pinning it to the ground. The second squirrel was gone in a second. He jumped out of his branch, gave his bones a much needed stretch, and ran to the site of the kill. The rodent still kicked futilely, resisting its inevitable death. He frowned at its size--not much meat there once you got the fur off it. A rabbit would have been better. He picked it up and snapped its neck to end its struggle, then went in search of wood.

After cooking his breakfast it was almost midday. He decided it was a good enough time to check out the target, and soon he was there. Immediately, he didn't like its position. It was too far away from the woods. Houses were a hundred yards off, but guards were everywhere. Watching them, he saw several passing in and out of the doors wrapped into their conversations. He tried to count them--four were on the porch, and two more by the door, and perhaps three had gone inside. Some might even be eating right now, so there might be two or three more at most, and he had no idea how many were inside, but since it included a school for calligraphy, he guessed quite a lot--too many for one night of killing. There were too many to make this assassination easy on him. He wondered if there was a meeting going on, for there were more guards about than he would have guessed for this sort of place. Maybe another day would be better? No, he didn't feel like waiting another day in the forest, hunting small game alone. Once this was over with, he still had to go all the way back. It was a long time to go without talking to a person as it was, and there was no indication that tomorrow or any day after that would be better. Even if some people were visiting, the weather might change. Today would be rain free, which meant quiet and quick footsteps. No, he wouldn't wait.

After observing what little there was to be observed, he decided to get more food. He was still frustrated about the rabbit, and one squirrel was a poor substitute. He was still hungry, and without being able to enter society without arousing a suspicious eye, he looked upon his task without relish. No. Screw that. He would pay an empty farmer's home a visit. In and out. It would be much easier that way.

It was like he had thought: easy. He sat back down in the forest against a tree and opened his knapsack full of goodies. He had taken discreet, unnoticeable amounts of rice, and a couple pounds of pork, the plate of which he had set on the floor to make it appear that someone's dog had gotten into it. That dog would get a beating for sure and perhaps a neighborly quarrel would result. Regardless, he stuffed himself happy, had a nap, then decided he'd watch the flow of people until night.

He had watched for hours and he still wasn't sure how many there were. He was too far away to recognize faces, so it only got confusing when he tried to remember if he had counted them already or not. The important thing was that he knew his target would be sleeping inside one of the center rooms tonight, probably near a terrace, which meant easy access from the roof.

The tree across from him was chopped free of bark from the hundreds of ninja star throws it had taken, and two thin bamboo trees had been chopped clean in half in his boredom. He peeled out his blade to feel the coolness of handcrafted steel; one of the finest blades a man could make, he had inherited it from one of his first big targets and never liked the feel of another sword as much as this. He would use it tonight, even if he didn't need it. Then he checked his dagger: a two-sided, six-inch, carefully balanced throwing dagger. He could throw it accurately farther than anyone Master Wong had known, but for him, he intended it entirely for slitting throats, for he had grown attached to this baby over the last year. His bow was another finely crafted weapon. Built for medium-range targets, he found its arrows delivered smoothly with an almost magical consistency. He had taken care of it well, and in turn it had favored him with perfect shots. With twenty arrows in his quill, he felt confident they were more than enough. One arrow usually meant one death, but two made it faster. And his six throwing stars. They were rather weighty individually, but they were balanced well and deadly. Down a hall or across a room, they came quicker and more silent than the actual death itself, and that was saying something.
He was ready to kill. He had trained hard and he had some experience, but he still found himself nervous.

One group in the distance was gathered around a table, possibly playing a card game. Their laughter carried across the air to meet him on the edge of the forest. He would probably have to kill them tonight. It was a shame. He didn't have anything against them personally, but they were there to protect someone he meant to kill. They would fight back and try to kill him if he let them. They were trained too. Most importantly, there were a lot of them. Each person he killed meant one less alarm, one less pair of eyes to point him out, and more chance he would live through the night. He would do a lot to make sure someone he didn't care about didn't end up with his death. The good thing about being an assassin was there was always work to do. You could go killing every day of your life and still there would be more people to kill. These men--they had the advantage of numbers, a building for protection, and they knew the terrain. He had surprise and not much else. Stealth. One on one he could take them all out, but not if there were arrows flying his way, and not if they caught him on horses. "This would have been so much easier with Sun-ja and O-lima here" he admitted as an afterthought. He probably could have used their thinking and planning too. They were more precise. Then again, they would probably stay here and wait another couple days until they knew everything they wanted to know, and that would have only pissed him off. He was ready and he didn't need their help. People are killed easily, especially when you have the right help, and he was strapped full with all the help he would need.

The sun finally dipped behind the horizon. He pulled out his knapsack and had some more pork and rice. Not too much though, he wanted to stay light on his feet. He questioned whether he should nap, for it would be another several hours yet. He lay back to rest but knew sleep was impossible right now. People had slipped inside their homes for the night, and candles lit the windows of the village all across the hillside. They had no idea what was going to happen.

Now was the hardest time--deciding when to move, or rather, waiting to move. He waited until darkness had engulfed everything while the cool breeze did nothing to slow his heartbeat, which seemed only to beat faster as the hours progressed. He waited until the stars left the air with a bitingly fresh feeling to it, and clouds gathered around what little was to be seen of the moon. He waited until crickets began their nightly ritual, and bullfrogs croaked their presence to the females. He waited until birds had returned to their nests and the furry critters had nestled themself in their holes, while others stirred to begin the night. It was time.


Blogger Casey undoubtedly said...

Suddenly, a Pirate appeared. He wasted no time uppercutting the Pirate into unconsciousness, then into a coma. He studied the Pirate for a moment: eyepatch, curvy sword, billowy blue and white ruffled shirt, MC Hammer parachute pants, a black and white striped bandana and manly locks of shoulder-length hair, before tossing him into the air and Dragon Kicking him in the chest. For some reason, Chuck Norris, appearing from his time machine, delivered a roundhouse kick to the face as the Pirate flew through the air, then disappeared back through the tear in the Time-Space Continuum. Then, a zombie clown surfaced from below the ground and began juggling bowling pins. Our hero got fed up with this crap and killed everyone, including his target, all the kids, women and villagers, all their mothers and mother’s mothers, all of their descendants, and even the guy writing this script. Oh wait, that’s me....ahhh!

6:04 PM  

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In the year 2006 I resolve to:
Blame Canada.