CCC #116 - Voting Thread - Ronin

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Ronin
Ronin

Hey, folks! Oscuro asked me to do the voting thread. The theme this time was "ronin." We had to create a ronin, and tell what it was that disgraced them!

We have six entries again this month (Yay!). So, let's get right to it...

The voting rules:

  • READ the stories, PICK your favorite one, and CAST your VOTE!
  • If you wrote, you should vote! (It's just sporting)
  • No voting for yourself. (Also sporting)
  • The voting deadline is Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 11:59pm New York Time (click the link if you're unsure). That's 2 weeks and 1 day to get us past Valentine's Day, so no excuses! Get your love on, get your read on, and get your vote on!
  • Remember: All are welcome to vote - writer or reader, and the winner gets to pick the next contest.

The stories:

Batkevin74 - Untitled (Chōsokabe Takakazu)

These are the last words of Chōsokabe Takakazu, former samurai of Lord Shinzo Kumoyuki. When my master was slain three winters past, I did not follow him into the afterlife. I remained…a coward perhaps. But being a man of the blade, I found work as a sell sword which is essentially murder prostitution.

When the siege of Osaka happened, I was hired by the Tokagawa shogunate. It was two years of slaughter, blood, and fire. Finally when the castle walls fell, I was first inside swinging my sword like a scythe through wheat. By my side were dozens, hundreds, of other masterless samurai as in the years previous many of my brothers had joined the sea of wave men. Osaka was taken and the Tokagawa were successful.

This should’ve ended my service with the shogunate. But the eight year old son of Toyotomi Hideyori, Kunimatsu, was taken prisoner by myself and I escorted the boy back to Kyoto.

Upon reaching Kyoto he was presented to the Shogun and judgement was rendered. Beheading. And that task fell to me because none of them had the stomach, resolve, or coldness.

This is the reason these are my last words, as I beheaded a child for the princely sum of twenty koku.

Any good I did in my life was made forfeit by the blade through the boy’s neck. Any chance of a restful afterlife was forfeit when his head hit the floor. Any right for me to remain alive was forfeit when the dead child’s eyes locked on mine.

I am damned.

Chōsokabe Takakazu

(Based on real events that occurred during the Seige of Osaka 1614 to 1615 and its aftermath, in which an eight year old boy was murdered because of who his father was)

The Impersonator - The Immortal Ronin

The Immortal Ronin

Year- 1854 A.D.

Hiro Koboyashi was one of the finest warriors to ever live in Japan. But the fact remained clear that without a master, he was still considered as a ronin. Therefore, he couldn't prove himself worthy of being a true samurai. The former warrior of the Koboyashi Clan, endured trials and temptations of serving Lord Shingen. The current ruler of the Yashida Clan, was a terrifying force to reckon with. Many warriors have gathered around his castle, and offered gifts from various cities in Japan. Foreign powers have also come to play, in order to join an alliance with him. These days, Hiro always thought them to be greedy men who only wanted to seek power. As Lord Shingen was always been this way from the very beginning, he had donned the main title from previous generations of the Yashida Clan. Yes, he was indeed powerful, and that most villagers still respected him. Nobody would dare to challenge him. Not even Hiro Koboyashi.

But of course, Hiro was quite different from the other warriors of each samurai clan. He sat down on the floor mat along with the others. Yes, he was among the finest that Japan had to offer, while he worked as Lord Shingen's bodyguard. The Yashida Clan had been strong enough to overcome their enemies, such as the Hand and the Mikage Clan. While witnessing the grand ceremony, Hiro remembered the day of his first training that he got struck down by the sword of his opponent. For that reason, he was deemed unworthy of becoming a true samurai. But something happened to him, miraculously. His deep wounds were healed, even to this day. He didn't know what he really was, and yet he still survived during the previous years of battle. Against all odds, he even had the courage to defeat his opponents, for those who were the true samurai. And Hiro believed that a samurai didn't have to be relied upon the status of either a family member, or some kind of political regime. He scoffed at it, and others often looked at him, thinking he was crazy as any other ronin out there. And sometimes, they whispered to each other, saying, "Isn't he the one who can heal himself?" And the other replied, "Yes. I hear he's one of the Akuma. No doubt about it." What the samurai meant was that Hiro couldn't die, nor get killed by ordinary men. Therefore, he was classified as a demon. By hearing this, the masterless samurai cared less about what they just said. Dealing with a bunch of fools was not his specialty.

After the ceremony had ended, Hiro walked out of the castle. The moon was full, and the samurai decided to follow him. They wanted to see if he could get beaten, as the other ronin had failed to do so. Not that the samurai couldn't believe anything of their "strange" tales, but they needed to see it with their own eyes. As the old saying goes, Seeing is believing. After all, these were warriors of the highest order, while still serving Lord Shingen. Hiro could feel them approaching, and then sighed. He knew the time would come for him to show what he was made of, but then again, he had no other choice. He stopped walking, and turned around to face them.

"What do you want?" Hiro said firmly. He knew there was bound to be trouble, as he pulled out his sword, slowly from the back of his right shoulder, even though he had one on his hilt.

Hashi, a powerful samurai of the Tsurayaba Clan stood before the ronin. He said, "Oh... We wanted to see if the stories are true, Mr. Koboyashi." The other warriors snickered at the thought of it. Then Hashi pulled out his sword.

"What stories?" Hiro said, sounding confused.

"You know... Your wounds?"

"What about it?"

Hmm... Hashi thought, as he began to feel a bit irritated at the moment. It's just as I thought. This one is quite feisty. I'll handle him. Without saying another word, he swung his sword at the ronin. Hiro stepped backwards, as he gradually moved the other way at top speed.

"What?" Hashi said, while still raising his sword. He found himself in a different position, when he realized that Hiro did something to him. What trick is this? Then he looked at the enemy's sword.

That sword... Where did he get it from? His mind kept lingering until he realized, what just happened here. Wait... He pulled it out from his back. But... He had a hilt. At first, the sword looked like a piece of wood, but it wasn't. It turned out to be something else, and entirely different from the other wooden swords, which Hashi had practiced since he was a young boy. He thought, This man is truly Akuma. He gave out a battlecry, as the other warriors just stood there and watched. Hiro moved into another position where he spread his legs apart, and took out another "wooden" sword from the back of his left shoulder. Then he slashed the samurai.

"AAH!" Hashi almost fell down, while he looked at his bleeding arm. The others became stunned, as they whispered to each other. The Tsurayaba warrior couldn't believe it.

"WHY YOU!" Hashi rushed towards him, angrily. He couldn't even stop thinking of what Hiro might do next. As expected, the ronin jumped high like an acrobat, and struck him down from behind. Hashi's hair had fallen off.

No! Hashi thought. Hearing his heartbeat, he knew that he must commit the hara-kiri. At this day and age, he would have to face the consequences of being the worthless samurai that history had ever recorded. And not to mention, he was defeated by a ronin.

"NOO!" This time he cried out loud, and tried to ignore the piece of his wonderful hair on the ground. The one that most of the geisha, often times touched it. It felt wonderful. But...

"NOOO!" The great Hashi Tsurayaba of the Tsurayaba Clan, shouted so loudly that he held his sword tight, feeling the pressure of it. His friends felt sorry for him, as they knew that nothing else could have been done. Hashi gave another strike, swinging his sword as if it were a child's. But once again, Hiro still managed to hit him from the back. Hashi screamed painfully.

"That is enough!" It was Lord Shingen's harsh voice, which reached their ears at this time of evening. After witnessing the outcome of the battle, he noticed that Hiro was a great skilled-swordsman, who just stood there with both of his swords, still intact. And then, he noticed something different about them. They weren't either katana, or wooden for that matter. They seemed to be almost made out of bone. Like it had been sprouted out from one's body. Then he looked at Hashi Tsurayaba.

"You know what to do."

"But..."

"Do it, Hashi."

Hashi gulped, and couldn't complain any further. He wished he hadn't started this racket in the first place. It was a disgrace to find out that a ronin like Hiro, had managed to beat a true samurai of the Tsurayaba Clan. For what it was worth, Hashi had indeed started this silly game, knowing that he could win. He always wanted to fight Hiro, and make a shame of him for what he already was. A damn ronin at that.

Hashi knelt down, slowly. Then he turned his sword around, pointing towards his gut. Lord Shingen looked at the ronin and said, "Would you care to do the honors?"

"No, my Lord," Hiro replied. "Let someone else do it." He put his "wooden" swords inside the back of his shoulders, and left. Lord Shingen turned around to face the others, waiting to see who would aid the hara-kiri. They gulped too. Among them, a young man named Mitsu Harada of the Harada Clan, who was friends with Hashi for years now, stepped behind him. He pulled out his sword slowly, and then raised it high. He said, "Please... forgive me." But Hashi didn't say anything. After all, he knew the rules of a ritual suicide, and that one cannot prevent it. And it would cause much further shame to his own family, including his younger brother, Matsuo Tsurayaba. Hashi stabbed himself through the gut, and then twisted it. Tears flowed through the cheeks, as Mitsu chopped his head off.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Year- 1954 A.D.

In the training room, Hiro Koboyashi was getting frustrated. He never knew that Kikyo Mikage of the Mikage Clan, had survived during these past years or so, and yet he joined Project X to become a living weapon. Compared to other self-healing mutants out there, Hiro was quite unique amongst them, including Kikyo himself. Both Japanese mutants fought each other for a while now. There seemed to be no end to it. The former samurai, Kikyo used the adamantium blades from both palm of his wrists, and struck down the ronin of the Koboyashi Clan. Hiro felt the pain, as he swung both of his own adamantium blades, which he had unleashed them from the back of his shoulders. He also struck the silent mutant, as heavy as possible. They were quite similar, but different in a way that nobody had expected. A ronin and a samurai.

Hiro gave out a battle cry, as he used his old techniques to defeat his past enemies. But Kikyo had the upper hand. He raised his sword while looking at him, and then stabbed his chest. The former ronin couldn't believe it. Not thinking for one second that a samurai like Kikyo, could strike him too easily. He was emotionless, cunning, and quite dangerous. William Stryker was monitoring them from above, while the psychic mutant named Psi-Borg, stood there besides him.

"What do you think?" Stryker said.

"Hmm... I think they'll turn out well, Mr. Stryker. Besides, these mutants are worthy assassins. I've got to hand it to them."

"Do you think they'll remember anything about their pasts?"

"Not at the moment. If their true memories do come back in some form, we'll have to deal with them. Planting false memories do take time, of course."

"I hope you're right about this, Aldo. You're one of the best psychic mutants, who can do the damn job. Considering the state that you're still in..."

"Heh. You don't have to worry about my... state, Mr. Stryker. All you have to worry about is those two. They're the best."

Stryker sighed, thinking that the Mexican mutant was right. He activated the speaker and then said, "That's enough." Both mutants stopped fighting, while still looking at each other. Breathing heavily, Hiro placed the adamantium blades inside the back of his shoulders. Kikyo said, "You're good, Hiro. You could've cut my head off, when you had the chance."

"Heh. That goes the same for you, Kikyo. But Stryker needs us."

Kikyo looked at him for a while, and then said, "You're right." The door opened before them.

"Alright," Stryker said. "You both did well. But we have a major problem."

"Problem?" Hiro said.

"Yes... A feral mutant has escaped again."

"I wonder who would that be," Hiro chuckled.

"Don't get cocky, Hiro," Psi-Borg intervened. "This one is feisty, and a wild animal at that."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes," Psi-Borg replied. "We need to extract him. Think you can handle it?"

"Um... yeah, sure. I can do it. What about you, Kikyo? Are you up for the task?"

The silent mutant looked back at him, and nodded slowly.

"A man with a few words," Hiro chuckled again. "I like that."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes

-This story takes place in the Marvel Genesis Universe (Fan-Fic).

-Hiro Koboyashi is an original character, who's somewhat related to Amiko Koboyashi from the Marvel Comics. Haven't decided on the relation yet.

-Lord Shingen is not the same as Shingen Harada from the comics and the movie, The Wolverine. But more like a title that has been passed down from each generation, after serving the Yashida Clan for a number of years.

-Hashi Tsurayaba is also an original character, and the older brother of Matsuo Tsurayaba, the Yakuza crimelord and the leader of the Hand.

-Mitsu Harada is another original character who's somewhat related to Kenuichio Harada, also known as Silver Samurai.

-Kikyo Mikage appeared in both anime versions of Blade and Wolverine.

-Psi-Borg is a psychic mutant who's responsible for planting false memories in test subjects of Project X, a version of Weapon X from the comics.

Wildvine - American Yokai

Born from death, raised from pain

Raining blood and bone

The Jobokkko is never satisfied

for all the misery and hate

Thwock! Thwock! Thwock!

With each swing of the axe, Date Korehide felt some of the rage ebb away from his soul. Not very much, but this tree had quite a few chops left to be felled. Not only so, but this was the mere start of another back-breaking workday. Plenty of other trees to channel his fury into. Date Korehide, known as Ronin to his gaijin friends. It was a bit of a running joke among the camp. Half the group didn't know why he was called ronin when he didn't look the least bit Irish. The other half pretended they understood the joke. Ronin did not realize that any wordplay was in effect when he was addressed.

Ronin did not hate all trees. He did work through his rage on them, but that was only his due penetrance. There was only one tree which Ronin hated with all possible fury.

Thwock! Thwock! Thwock!

It was cold. No. It was frozen outside. Ronin's breath plumed out bright before him. Some of the men who viewed him at work swore they could see steam rise from his body as he powered through timber-titan after timber-titan. He never seemed to get tired. He was never heard complaining. He just worked his axes to a dull edge, then when the day was over, he sat by the fire sharpening his blades back to a glorious cutting edge. It would be inspiring if he was not so intense.

Some of the men were afraid of him, not that they ever admitted it. Frightened men stranded far from home often do one of two things. They pick a fight, or they tell stories. Both of these tactics are primitive forms of controlling the situation, even if the methods themselves were widely different. No one wanted to fight Ronin, so they told stories about him to the new work hands. They said he was a killer hiding from justice. Or he was a ruler from a foreign country driven out by his evil brother. They said he could fell an ancient tree with barely a twist of the wrist. They also said he had split a man in twain with barely the same flick of the wrist. He knew the stories, and he let them have them. They believed mythologizing something placated it. That theory would be tested soon.

Thwock! Thwock! Thwock!

In another life he would have challenged some of them to a death duel, for infringing his honor. But now he was ronin. He had no honor to insult. There was no dishonor to deflect. it all just stuck like mud to his soul. A just treatment he could not disagree with.

They wouldn't believe the truth if he had shared it. His master, Ashikaga Nobutomo's violent demise. The deformed red-black skin of the tree. The thing he didn't kill. The curse he could have prevented. The soul he couldn't save. The one he couldn't bring himself to free. The life he was too cowardly to end.

Ronin did not hate all trees, just one. But since he could not bring down that tree, he chose a life of exile and soul crushing labor. Ronin offered a brief prayer to any forest spirit listening before delivering the final chop, bringing down another giant, silent sentinel.

It was several hours later when he was forced to stop a moment to relive nature. His back was only turned for the briefest time, but when he turned back one of his axes had disappeared!

"Hm." Ronin grunted in surprise. Surely none of the new workers were bold enough or foolish enough to perform larceny against him. Off the path Ronin heard the sound of something moving away from his position. Taking up his remaining axe Ronin gave chase to the mystery intruder. What he saw almost made him pause. It was a shaggy, four-footed creature with a curved back, brown and gray fur, and long powerful jaws. This creature was holding his axe in its mouth.

"Hahhhh!" Ronin yelled, trying to frighten the beast. The creature took off running instead of dropping the axe as Ronin had intended. "Hrm." Ronin began the chase anew, dodging trees and leaping over a narrow stream. The strange animal was not getting any closer. Ronin lifted his remaining axe with both hands over his head and launched it at the fleeing creature. It was a fast and sure throw and would have connected easily if there had not been a second creature with amazing speed and reflex.

"Ehh?" Ronin grumbled in shock as the new axe hound plucked the axe from the air with its own jaws. This axe hound was not as quick to run, and Ronin grabbed his axe before it could turn. He now found himself face to face with glowing yellow eyes, and a deep unfriendly growl. To complicate matters the first axe hound circled back, Ronin's axe still locked in its teeth. Ronin wasn't really surprised to encounter Yokai in America. They weren't exactly region locked.

"Grrrrr!" The axe hound snarled at Ronin.

"GRRRR!" Ronin growled back, still not sure what to do in this situation. but he was not going to lose both axes for which he had traded his Samurai sword to obtain. The first creature cocked its head as if in confusion of this odd scene.

As though in answer to their exchange, there came a strange screech. The men believed Ronin was more than a mere man, but that creepy sound made his hair rise. It was not a sound of anything that belonged in the forest. It had a profound wrongness to it. At once the forest took on an impossible silence. No animals, no wind. Even Ronin's heartbeat seemed to have become muted. Another yokai. One more powerful then these two.

The hounds dropped their prizes at once and turned back-to-back, facing different directions. Instinct told Ronin these two animals were not a danger to him at this time. A demon had announced itself, and now he and the hounds were prey to a horrifying predator that defied visualization on multiple levels of perception. Following intuition, Ronin recovered his two axes and turn his back to his former foes, now strange allies.

The scream rang out again, shattering the silence. The normal forest atmosphere flooding in almost deafeningly in contrast to the absolute vacuum of sound.

The moment passed; Ronin looked to the twin creatures. "yip-yip-yip." One of the Axe hounds bounded off excitedly into the trees, brushing off the previous tension. The second, larger hound seemed to roll its eyes at Ronin in annoyance. It momentarily eyed Ronin's axe, to which the former samurai raised one axe as a warning. The axe hound snorted before following its brother into the brush.

He would later learn the dog things were Axe Hounds. And the screaming demon was something called a Hide-Behind. Though no one could give a clear explanation what the demon was beyond that. No one had seen one and lived to recount the tale. Ronin did not fear being killed, but he would welcome a worthy death. perhaps then he could find redemption.

Mrmonster - If a Bear Comes

If a Bear Comes

By mrmonster

For most of my childhood, I never thought much about Fumio.

Fumio was my father’s farmhand. You have to keep in mind that in my village out in the Japanese countryside, very few farmers employed farmhands, most simply had sons who could do the work. However, the goddess Inari had not blessed them with good luck; I, their only daughter, was the only child my mother managed to bear before getting sick and dying when I was just two years old. I knew my father loved me, but he couldn’t hide the disappointment he felt in his only child being a girl. Even though I assured him that I could do everything a son could do, he still insisted on hiring a male farmhand.

He hired a wanderer named Fumio when I was quite young, and he mostly kept to himself. My father could not afford to pay him in money (we already paid the Daimyo every coin he could squeeze from us), but he was able to pay him in his own quarters, and two meals a day. Outside of work hours and meal times, he’d mostly just keep to himself in the shack he lived in, and I never thought much about him.

That was, until the day he saved my life.

_________________________________

My father was out at the market trying to sell all the rice he could at the market, leaving Fumio and I to do our usual farmwork.

It seemed like a perfectly normal morning, until Fumio shouted “Aiko, get inside!”

I was puzzled. “I can’t go inside, I’m not done with my…”

“Get inside, now!” He shouted as he ran back to his quarters.

I was in too much surprise to even move; I had no idea why he was telling me to go. And then, a bear emerged from the nearby woods.

I tried to turn and run, but the bear was quickly gaining on me. Worse, I tripped and fell over trying to escape from it. I thought I was going to die; that is, until Fumio charged at it, and sliced it’s head clean off it’s shoulders with just one swing of a katana.

“Are you okay?” He asked me as he helped me back up.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I said.

“Good.” He said. “If anyone asks, this wasn’t me. Tell them it was soldiers passing by, or make up any other excuse you want, but this was not me. Understand?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Good.” He replied. “Now let’s back to work.”

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about him for the next several days. Katanas could only be owned by the samurai class, but what would a samurai be doing out here? Of course, he could’ve simply stolen the weapon, but he used it perfectly. Such skill couldn’t have been self taught.

That meant only one explanation; that his master had died and he was a Ronin, a wandering, purposeless samurai.

________________________________

The next day, the Daimyo's men came to collect taxes. They came in a posse of four soldiers; they weren’t samurai, so they couldn’t carry katanas, but they had plenty of weapons they could carry to intimidate the peasant class.

“This is it?” Daiju, the meanest of the lot, had to say when my father presented him with his payment.

“It’s been an exceptionally dry spring.” My father explained. “The rice just hasn’t been growing like it has in years past.”

“It could be that.” Daiju said. “Or maybe you’re just lazy.”

“You call him lazy!” I shouted. “All you do is walk around collecting other people’s money.”

The men were furious. “She didn’t mean that.” My father said. “Please, forgive her.”

Daiju looked at me for a bit, and then slapped me across the face.

“Teach your girl some manners.” Daiju said. “Or I will.’

Fumio looked at them with a cold look in his eyes; as if he wanted to do something, but knew he shouldn’t.

“Something the matter, peasant?” Daiju asked insultingly.

Fumio said nothing.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” He said as he kicked some dirt over Fumio’s feet, and then walked away.

Later that evening, I went to Fumio’s quarters to have a word with him.

“What is it?” He asked.

“I want to know how you got that sword?” I asked.

“None of your business.” Fumio said.

“Yes it is.” I said. “If you’re going to live with us, I need to know why you have a samurai sword. Are you a ronin?”

He sighed and said “Yes.”

“Good, that means you can help us.” I exclaimed.

“Excuse me?” He asked.

“That means you can help free us from the Daimyo.”

“No, I can’t.” He said solemnly. “After my master died, I was supposed to kill myself in his honor. But I couldn’t. I was too much of a coward to honor him by ending my life.”

“But you don’t have to be a coward anymore.” I said. “I’ve seen how fast and precise you are; you can do real good for people like me and my father.”

“And I will.” He replied. “By helping on your farm. But sorry, the only time I plan on fighting anymore is if a bear comes.”

___________________________

The next week, the Daimyo’s came back. Only this time, things turned horrible.

“This is it?" Daiju asked. "Now I know you're just cheating us."

"I'm sorry, believe me. We're working as hard as we can." My father pleaded.

"Well, this isn't enough." Daiju said. "We're going to need something else. But it doesn't seem like you have anything of value here."

He then turned to me and said "You know, I think we've found something that'll make the Daimyo overlook your lackluster payments."

"RUN!" My father shouted.

I only got a few feet before one of the soldiers captured me. And then, I turned around to see them stabbing my father until he bled to death.

Fumio stood at the doorway, cold and expressionless as ever.

"Congratulations, this farm is now yours.” Daiju explained. “Try to do a better job of running it than this trash.”

As they pulled me away, I shouted "You're right, you are a coward!"

___________________________

They took me to the Daimyo's palace, and escorted me to the servant's quarters.

“Get this one prepared. She’s gonna be serving in the dining hall tonight.” where a group of older women prepared my makeup and got me dressed in appropriate servant clothes.

“Word of advice: don’t make a mistake.” One of the servant women advised me. “The Daimyo does not tolerate any mistakes in his dining hall. If you spill even a drop of sake, he’ll personally beat you.”

“Um, thank you.” I said.

She then pulled up her shirt to reveal a nasty looking bruise on her stomach. “This was for accidentally presenting him a dessert fork during the entree course.”

“Hurry up, it’s almost dinnertime.” Another servant said, and she hurriedly finished my makeup so I was ready to serve the Daimyo and the officers under his command.

For the first two courses, all was good. I just had to help present salad and soup, no big deal. But then, in the middle of the entree course, some of the hot juice spilled off a plate and onto my hand, and I dropped the plate onto the floor.

“Well, well.” The Daimyo said. “Do you really have such little respect for me and my officers that you’d just throw our food on the floor?”

“No, Daimyo, sir, I would never intentionally…”

“And do you really show such little respect for my palace that you’d create such a mess in it?” He asked sternly.

“Sir, I didn’t mean to…”

He then grabbed the back of my head and held me against the table. “Looks like you need to be taught a lesson.”

Before he could hurt me, we all heard a loud bang from the outside, which worried everyone. I didn’t know what it was, but everyone else seemed to.

“Since when do our men have muskets?” The Daimyo asked.

“They don’t, sir.” One of the officers said.

“Then who just fired a shot?”

Moments later, guards began swarming the room. “Daimyo, sir, the palace is under attack.”

“How many?” He asked.

“Just one.” A guard said. “But he’s already killed four of our guards.”

Moments later, Fumio came down the hall; and not as his normal self, he was now in a full samurai uniform, wielding both a musket and a katana.

“Let the girl go.” He said. “And all your other slaves too.”

“And if I don’t?” The Daimyo asked.

Fumio quickly drew his musket and fired at one of his officers. He then drew his katana and said “Then you’ll all regret it.”

The Daimyo looked worried. He scanned the room, wondering if he should just cut his losses and give up.

But as they say, pride always comes before the fall.

“Sorry, but I don’t bargain with ronins.” He said. He then addressed his men and ordered “Kill him.”

Everyone at the table got up, drew their short swords and came towards him. And then, in a move so quickly that I could barely even keep up with it, Fumio simultaneously sliced one’s head off while kicking another in the throat. Both of them died within seconds.

“Surround him!” Daiju shouted, he joined the other five remaining officers in forming a circle around him.

Two of them came at him with knives, trying to stab him from different angles. Fumio moved like a whirlwind, both evading their strikes and countering with his katana at the same time.

Another officer took the opportunity to try to stab him, and he landed a solid blow to his back. However, the knife was only barely able to pierce Fumio’s armor, at which point Fumio simply grabbed him, picked him up over his back, and threw him onto the floor, neck first. Even from where I was, I could hear the crunch of his neck breaking.

Another officer landed a punch, which caused Fumio to stumble over in pain. The officer tried again, but that was the last blow he landed; when he tried to punch a second time, Fumio simply blocked it, grabbed him, and pulled him right into his blade.

One hopped onto the table and tried to swing at Fumio from above, but Fumio simply ducked, rolled towards him, and slashed at his feet. Next thing you know, he was falling right onto Fumio’s sword.

And then, finally, Daiju was the only one remaining.

“Let the girl go.” Fumio said. He was beaten, in pain, and clearly exhausted, but there was still a scary amount of fight left in him. “I’ll cut you a deal and even allow you to keep the rest of your servants, just let me leave with her.”

“Fine.” Daimyo said. “Just take her and…”

And then, Daiju spun around, and disemboweled the Daimyo.

“And just like that, I became the new Daimyo.” Daiju said. “Get out of here, or I’ll kill you, and kill her just for fun.”

Before Fumio could reach him, Daiju reached me and placed his knife over my neck. “Last chance to just walk away; I won’t make any promises about what kind of life she’ll have under my rule, but I at least promise I won’t kill her.”

Fumio then put his sword back in it’s sheath. Daiju then relaxed his knife and said “Alright, good. Now let’s…”

But before he could even finish that sentence, Fumio grabbed a chopstick from off the table, and threw it directly at his face. It distracted him for just long enough to break free of his grasp.

Before Daiju could catch me again, Fumio ran up to him, and kicked him backwards.

He then drew his sword and tried to slash him, but Daiju parried it with his blade and then slashed him across the leg.

“Aiko, get out of here!” He ordered, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just leave him there.

Daiju then threw up a crescent kick that easily would’ve carried knockout power if it made full contact. Fumio evaded most of it, but it still grazed his chin, and clearly hurt him.

Daiju then seized the opportunity to try to stab him, but moments before his knife would’ve made contact, Fumio instantly raised his sword and sliced his hand clean off.

Before he could even scream, Fumio stepped forward and slashed his sword at the base of his neck, decapitating him with a single swing of his blade.

After leaving the palace, Fumio approached the first peasant farmer he saw and said “The Daimyo is dead, and congratulations, you’ve just been hired to replace him. Try to be better than the last one.”

“But, what if people ask about the old one?” He asked.

Fumio chuckled. “Trust me sir, no one’s ever going to notice. Almost everyone who knows the Daimyo’s face has just been killed, and if anyone else still hasn’t, they’re probably several shogunates away, not caring about ours at all. All you have to do is put on a few pounds and no one is going to be the wiser.”

“So, what now?” I asked.

“What now is that I do what I should’ve done years ago.” He explained. “There are Daimyo’s like him all over the Japanese countryside, and I’m going to find them and give them what they deserve.”

“I won’t force you to come along if you don’t want to. It’ll be difficult and dangerous. But if you’d like to come, I’ll take you.”

“Fumio, I’ve been wanting to see more of Japan my whole life.” I said. “I’m certainly not going to turn down the opportunity now.”

“Good.” He said. “Then let’s go.”

Cbishop - The Origin of Wantowin Battles- The Royal Army of Oz

The Origin of Wantowin Battles- The Royal Army of Oz

The slap resounded solidly, and the samurai who were sure their master was not looking at them winced at the sound of it. "Fool!" yelled the daimyo. "How dare you not follow my order on the field of battle?"

The slapped samurai lowered his eyes before his daimyo, and said, "Forgive me, master, but would mercy not be preferable to killing? To forge alliance with those who were once enemies over littering the land with their corpses?"

"If I tell you to kill the enemy, you do not ask 'When!' It is when I have said it! You do not ask 'Why!' It is because I have said it!"

The samurai bowed further. "Daimyo. I merely wanted to win the battle with as little bloodshed for our men as possib--"

"That is your problem, Ombi! You want to win battles! I want to win wars!" raged the master.

The samurai finally looked up, and stood straight. "At what cost, daimyo?"

"Raarrrgghh!" the daimyo yelled as he struck the samurai again. "You dare? I will no longer tolerate your insolence! You are samurai no longer, and you are no longer welcome on my lands! From this day forth, the name of Ombi Ambi will not be spoken by anyone!"

Ombi bowed to his former master, simply saying, "As you wish, daimyo. I will leave at once." With that he went to his quarters, shed his samurai gear, put on a green and gold robe, his swords, and left the land of his daimyo.

***

Some months later, Ambi was wandering the countryside. He had taken to the life of a ronin, but rather than hire himself to another daimyo, he hired himself to those who needed help against obake, yokai, and other creatures. He had grown wise to many of their tricks, but had not had to face any of them for several days. He was growing weary of this new life.

No sooner had he thought that than a puff of smoke exploded before him, revealing a warrior in strange grey armor with a blue do and kabuto, as well as a blue mask. "Greetings, ronin," he said.

Ombi knew he was not a man- he had been dealing with such creatures for too long. He considered that it was best not to show what he knew just yet, and simply said, "Warrior. What can I help you with?"

"You defied your daimyo to save my head," said the warrior with a slight bow. "The question is how can I help you?" The mask's features did not move, but as the light played across them, the painted smile almost seemed to turn sinister.

"I need nothing," Ambi assured him, "but thank you."

"Nothing?" asked the warrior who was not a warrior. "What if I said I could grant you wishes?"

"I would say why would you waste such power on one such as I?" said the ronin, starting to walk around the warrior.

The creature moved very fast, and was once again standing in front of Ombi. "I told you: you saved my head. Allow me to repay you. Three wishes," he offered, holding up three fingers for emphasis.

"I do not want your wishes," insisted Ombi. "Let me pass."

"Alas, ronin, I cannot. Allow me to repay you, or I will be forced to stay with you until I have had the chance to do so."

Ombi Ambi sighed with frustration as he looked down into the mask of the creature pretending to be a warrior. To play their game was dangerous, but he wished to be done with this creature. He narrowed his eyes as he stared into the inscrutable mask, and then his face ligtened as he thought of his first wish. "I wish to have a long green beard that goes down to my knees--"

"Intriguing," said the creature suspiciously.

"--that turns red when I am in the presence of evil magic."

Immediately, Ombi's beard grew to the specified length, turned green, and then immediately to red. He smirked at the wish-granting "warrior." He said, "To be honest, I doubted that you really had the power to do this."

A deep growl came from behind the creature's mask. "Fine, you have uncovered my intent. But you have made your first wish. You must make the other two, or you will never be rid of me!"

Ombi stroked his new beard as he thought, and as he did so, it turned green again wherever he stroked. He pulled the full length of his beard through his hand, wondering at this marvel, and then let it drop again to his knees. Looking at the creature, he said, "I wish to keep my soul as my own."

The warrior-clad creature stood bolt upright, and said nothing for a long few seconds. Then it shook with rage, and he stomped his foot, and he raged aloud, and shook his fists in the air. "Raaaarrrrr! Very clever, mortal! My bait no longer comes with a snare! Make your third wish that we may be done with each other! And then hope that you never meet The Wishing Demon again!"

The ronin stroked his long new beard, looking at the masked warrior thoughtfully. The creature stared back with its arms crossed. At least, Ombi assumed that he stared back. The mask was at least facing in his direction. He thought for a few minutes. Then he paced. Then he sat down on a large rock, and rested his chin in his hand, that armed propped on his knee. The creature sat across from him on another rock, waiting. Ambi was silent for a long while, then sat up with a finger in the air, apparently having had an idea. Then his face fell, and then the finger as well, and he rested his cheek on his fist, and that arm once again on his knee. The creature growled in frustration, but continued to wait.

Finally, wanting to wait no more, The Wishing Demon groused, "It is a wish, ronin! There is nothing that you want?"

Ombi scowled. Then his face softened. Then he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, and he said, "In truth, the only thing I really wish for is a place where I can be a samurai, but death is not involved; where peace rules, but I may still serve in the army of a good master."

The Wishing Demon rocked back on his rock a bit as if to get a better look at the ronin. Then he chuckled. Then laughed. Then laughed long and loud. Then he threw his arms in the air, hands spread wide and palms to the sky as he cried, "I know of just such a place, Ombi Ambi, although there may come a time when you regret your choice!" Twisting his hands outward, then sweeping them down into a thundering clap towards the roning, he growled, "Wish... granted."

Ombi tumbled backwards off of his rock, was enveloped by a thick fog, and felt like he was falling for a long few moments. The fog parted suddenly, and he found himself standing in a field full of poppies. He heard someone shouting a warning, and turned to see very short people running towards him. He went to bow, but instead fell into the poppies, fast asleep.

***

Ombi woke in a small bed. So small, that his knees bent over the end of it, and his feet rested on the floor. Sitting up, he was greeted by some of the short people he had seen earlier, and they were dressed all in green. "Hello, tall one! We are the Battles family! We're Munchkins! I am Ottowin. This is my wife, Gonawin, and our daughter, Borntawin. And you are surely not from around here, because everybody here knows to stay out of the poppy fields! Who are you?"

Thinking of his daimyo's command that no one ever speak his name again, and not knowing how far or how close he might be to his home, Ombi did not wish to endanger others by giving them his name. So, he simply said, "I am... a ronin. I have no name to give."

"Ah, I see," said Ottowin. "We have sent for Glinda the Good Witch. She likes to meet anyone new to our lands." He waved for Ombi to follow him, and they went outside of the small house. Everything was in bright and varied shades of green.

Ombi looked at them strangely. "Did you say a... good... witch? I have never met one before."

Gonawin and Borntawin let out a high pitched giggle, and Gonawin said, "You are definitely not from around here then."

Pointing the the sky, and a bright pink bubble that floated down towards them, Borntawin said, "Look! Here she comes now!" Her declaration brought other Munchkins running to greet the Good Witch.

The bubble descended lightly, touched down, and although Ombi thought it would pop as he had seen soap bubbles do, it instead shimmered like a steady candle, then simply faded until it was gone, leaving a beautiful woman in pink standing in its place. "Hello, Ombi Ambi, and welcome," she said sweetly. "I am Glinda the Good."

The ronin looked horrified on hearing his name, and Glinda said, "Don't worry, Ombi Ambi, we are far from the land of your master now."

Ombi bowed. "All the same, dear lady, I feel honor bound to his last command to me that no one speak my name."

"You have come to stay, yes?" she asked.

He bowed. "If permitted. I was sent here by a Wishing Demon that granted my wish."

"Oh, him," Glinda said dryly. "Well, if you are going to stay here, you will need a name."

"If I may," said Ambi, turning to the Battles. "Ottowin, your family has shown me great kindness, rescuing me from the poppy fields when I arrived. Would you do me another, and allow me to take your family name here?"

Ottowin stood up straight and smiled proudly. "Of course!" Looking to Glinda, he said, "We'd be glad to adopt one so tall into our family!"

"You're a Battles now," Gonawin said with a smile.

"A family name is very good," said Glinda, "but what shall we call you? What will your name be?"

Ombi tilted his head thoughtfully, then looked towards the ground. It was then that he noticed that his beard was still green, and not red as when he dealt with the Wishing Demon. Delighted at this realization, he thought again of his daimyo's words to him, and then of his new family's names. Smiling, he bowed, and said, "Good witch, you may call me Wantowin Battles."

Borntawin smiled broadly at Wantowin's choice in name, and beamed at her parents. They were smiling proudly as well, and nodded their heads at each other happily.

"Well, welcome to Oz, Wantowin Battles," said Glinda. "I see you wear swords. Are you a soldier?"

Wantowin bowed slightly. "I was a samurai, and am now a ronin, but I suppose yes, a soldier either way."

"A soldier with green whiskers," wondered Glinda. "How would you like a position as army?"

Wantowin bowed deeper. "I'd be honored to serve, lady."

"Then I name you The Royal Army of Oz," she said sweetly. "You shall have a room in the Emerald Palace, and shall protect the Munchkinlands from danger." She smiled as if she'd just told a joke, and added, "In truth, there is never much danger here, but it is still good to have someone for the job. Does that suit you?"

Smiling himself, Wantowin said, "I think that suits me very well, thank you."

"Then come along. We shall go to the Emerald City." She waved her wand, and a pink bubble formed around her and Wantowin, and they floated into the sky.

Below, the assembled Munchkins waved goodbye, and cheered for their Good Witch and the Royal Army of Oz. Ottowin and Gonawin smiled proudly after their adopted family. And they giggled that one so tall would be known as a Munchkin.

***

Many years later, Wantowin Battles stood before the Princess Ozma and Glinda, and bowed deeply. "My princess, not long after our ally Heironymous went back to his world, my beard turned red. I fear that it was not just fairies, but a terrible magic that has been wrought against him, and his missing friend, Crystal Salt."

"Your red beard does suggest the presence of evil power," acknowleged Ozma. "What would you have me do?"

"I would like to journey to Heironymous' world, your majesty. To warn him of the danger, and help him if I may."

"You have been in Oz a long time, Wantowin. The dragon's world will be much different from when you left it."

Nodding his head, Wantowin answered, "All the same, Princess, I need to try."

"Very well," she said. "Heironymous came to us in our time of need, and proved himself our ally. And so we will send our Army to help him as well." Looking to Glinda, she nodded, and the Good Witch waved her wand. A pink bubble formed around him, and he immediately floated away, headed towards the Deadly Desert and the lands beyond.

*******

Notes: OC this time was the daimyo, Ottowin, Gonawin, and Borntawin (Battles being Public Domain and already established). Returning OC's are The Wishing Demon (formerly Imp's, inherited by me), Heironymous and Crystal Salt (mentioned), and my versions of Public Domain characters Wantowin Battles, Princess Ozma, and Glinda the Good Witch.

I changed the spelling of Wantowin's other name, "Omby Amby," to Ombi Ambi to make it seem more Japanese-ish. I did attempt to look it up- couldn't find it exactly as I needed it, so I took a little license with it.

Story and original characters owned and copyright Chris Bishop 2022.

Oscuro - Crest of the Exiled Leviathan- Chapter 0

Crest of the Exiled Leviathan- Chapter 0

It's early autumn, a gentle breeze passes through the trees that encircle the Sakai family home. Lord Sakai stands near the entrance of his home, directing his young servant Hiroshi to hang paper lanterns across the roof.

"No, hang it a bit lower than that. No, more to the right....Excellent work, Hiro. Now come down, carefully."

"Yes sir."

The two men observe the decor thoughtfully. Lord Sakai nods in approval and gives Hiro a gentle pat on the shoulder.

"I think Sasuke will like it."

"I'm sure he will Lord Sakai."

"I appreciate your assistance. Return to your quarters and prepare for dinner."

Hiroshi jogs off as Lord Sakai paces back and forth, inspecting each detail of the decorations meticulously. He goes to straighten up a banner by the doorway when a voice breaks his concentration

"A bit ostentatious don't you think?"

Lord Sakai turns to see a paunchy, balding man wearing a navy blue kimono approaching. Sakai turns his attention to the banner once more.

"Perhaps, but I haven't seen my son in many months. He deserves a proper welcome home, Renji."

"Shishio, this would be a fitting celebration for the shogun himself," Renji says with a chuckle.

"Make yourself useful and get us some wine," the lord responds while pointing towards the back of his home.

The familiar sounds of a horse's gallop can be heard in the distance. Lord Sakai smiles as turns to look towards the entrance of the his home. A young man, wearing a mino over top of his samurai armor, rides up to the main house and dismounts. The older man rushes down the steps, arms wide for an embrace.

"Hello father," the young man says as two hug.

Welcome home, my son.

His son gestures towards the lanterns adorning the roof. "Don't you think this is a bit much?"

"I said the same thing. No one ever listens to me," Renji says as he descends the stairs, a gourd of rice wine hand.

"It's good to see you Renji." he says.

"Why were you riding without your kabuto?" his father asks, interrupting the pleasantries.

"I've never liked wearing them. You know that." Sasuke replies matter of factly.

"I'm sure you'd like an arrow through your skull even less. Hmph." Lord Sakai grumbles as he ascends the stairs.

Sasuke watches his father and notes how much older he seemed compared to when he left. The old samurai was still in good shape considering his age, but he looked a bit weary.

"He worries too much, but he means well." Renji says as if knowing Sasuke's thoughts.

"It's like he forgets that he taught me everything I know. I'm as skilled as anyone."

"Well, being your father takes precedent over being a warrior, but if you're desperate to display your combat prowess, we can spar in front him. I'll even let you win." Renji says as he gives Sasuke a playful nudge.

"My old friend, I think that would be dishonorable. It's unbecoming of a samurai to strike a pregnant person." Sasuke says as he pokes Renji's pot belly. "Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Actually, it's twins. So I'm drinking for three."

The two of them share a laugh as they go upstairs to the house.

________________________

Later that evening, once all the dinner guests have left, Sasuke and his father converse about his travels over a cup of tea.

"Training with wood elves?"

"Yes. They possess an affinity for stealth tactics. I had a rigorous training regimen to attempt to replicate their Mask of the Wild technique. The art of being lightly obscured."

"Lightly obscured? How does that work?"

"They use nature as a means of camouflage. Be it snow, rain, mist, flora and so forth. Anything that could provide even a moment of cover or obstruct the sightline of an enemy."

"It certainly sounds like a remarkable ability, but I think I'd just hide myself completely in order to avoid detection."

"I guess I'll give you a demonstration in the morning."

"Hahaha. I look forward to it."

Sasuke clears the table, while his father steps outside to look up at the night sky. His son joins him shortly after.

"Your mother used to love looking to the heavens. We would play a game, where we'd try to picture objects made out of the stars. I'd typically see samurai or oni, but she'd always see you. Even before you were born. She'd say 'That's our child. Our son.' You were the gift from the gods."

The young samurai stands silently, tears welling up in his eyes.

"I truly hope that I've honored her. I raised you as best I could."

His son simply nodded. His mother had passed away when he was still a boy and his father never fully recovered. The sense of calmness and joy that once inhabited their home was replaced with one of rigidity. Sasuke understood very well why his father became so overbearing and protective.

Lord Sakai sighs. "I think it's time for me to get some rest, but before I do......."

His father disappears for a few moments and returns with a katana and wakizashi.

"I had these forged for you as a welcome home gift. I hope you like them."

Sasuke admires them, noting the family crest of the sea dragon on the tsuba.

No Caption Provided

"They're perfect. Thank you."

"My pleasure. Now these old bones of mine are going to bed. I'll see you in the morning."

"Sleep well, father."

________________________

It has been several weeks since Sasuke has returned home and he's taken to patrolling the surrounding areas. It's been relatively peaceful, save for an occasion encounter with bandits and petty thieves. After finishing his normal rounds, he heads back, making it about halfway home when he discovers a distraught couple near the road.

"What happened?"

"Our son, Akira. They took him."

"He was playing by the road and they just snatched him up."

"Which direction were they headed? What did they look like?"

"They were wearing brown cloaks. Headed northeast on horseback."

Sasuke immediately begins up the road and out of sight. His time spent with the wood elves, in addition to his training from his father, would prove invaluable. The road itself was frequently used, but there were definitely prints from horses' hooves. Based on the spacing, they were mostly likely in a hurry.

He presses onward, following the prints for miles. Whoever it was, they didn't seemed concerned with covering their tracks. He begins to have difficulty discerning where the tracks are, when he spots trampled grass that leads deeper into the trees. Further in sits a patch of bushes that seem out of place. He approaches the bushes and gives them a slight pull.

"What?" he says with a confused tone.

The bushes appear affixed to a door, which leads to an underground tunnel. Sasuke draws his katana and enters cautiously. Following the length of the tunnel, he reemerges above ground near a small pond. Across the pond is a shack sitting at the bottom of a hill and atop hill are two men in brown cloaks.

"I don't see the child. Perhaps inside the shack."

He makes his way around the pond, careful to stay out of sight and approaches the shack. He slides open the door as quietly as possible, hearing the sobs of the young boy inside. Sasuke finds the boy shackled to the wall, his face bruised and bleeding.

"Are you Akira? It's ok, I'm going to take you home to your parents."

At that very moment, the door slid open. Sasuke swore as he rose to his feet, sword in hand.

"I have returned my little miko." the man in the doorway says in a singsong way

CRACK!!

Sasuke drops his with one punch, his body shaking with unbridled rage. Dragging the man's unconscious body inside, he retrieves the key from his kimono and frees the boy. The two step over the kidnapper and scurry back to the tunnel. Sasuke pushes his horse to its limit as he races the boy back home.

The grieving couple are inside when he returns.

"Do you have any place you can stay for a couple days?"

"My brother lives in Shimoda village. We could go there."

"Go quickly. Stay off the main roads. I fear they may come looking for you."

The young warrior's suspicion are confirmed nearly an hour later, when three men on horseback come flying up the road. The man he knocked out earlier holds a bloody handkerchief to his nose.

"You're the one who hit me, aren't you?" he says staring daggers towards Sasuke.

Sasuke says nothing in response.

"Kill him, now!"

His fellow kidnappers leap from their horses and draw their swords. Sasuke merely shakes his head in disapproval.

With a flick of his wrist, he throws a kunai at one, catching him just beneath the collarbone. The shrieks in pain as he staggers back, dropping his sword on the ground. The other charges in, his sword slashing downward. Sasuke steps out of range with catlike quickness and thrusts his own sword twice into his attacker's arm, disabling it.

With both his thugs in bad condition, the bloodied man rides off in a hurry. Sasuke takes time to question the two men.

"Who was that man with you and why did you kidnap the boy?"

"He's the son of the daimyo. His father hired us as his bodyguards. To keep him out of trouble."

"Trouble?"

"The sick bastard has a...fascination with children. We just do what we're told. The daimyo would have us killed if something happened to him."

"Who's to say I won't kill you right now?" Sasuke replies coldly. "Both of you, get on your feet. My father will know what to do with you."

Sasuke leads the men back to his family home. He reveals the events of the day to his father, who shakes his head in disbelief.

"If this is true, we must notify the daimyo immediately."

"He knows." the wounded man says flatly.

"What?!"

"The daimyo knows about his son's activities. He had to pay off some noblemen across the sea over some trouble Ichi caused a few months ago."

"Good gods." Lord Sakai replies with a facepalm.

"No one is above reproach, father. If he's guilty of more than just what he did today, he must be punished."

"I agree, but I've never encountered such circumstances. I'll pay a visit to the daimyo in the morning and try to sort all of this out."

Sasuke kept a watchful eye on the two goons as hours passed. The calmness of nightfall swept over the household and then was suddenly broken by the thundering of many hooves on the ground. He motioned for the men to go outside ahead of him as he readied his sword. A sense of uneasiness washed over him.

A band of about ten men rode through the gate of their home and were not at the bottom of the stairway to the house. Sasuke immediately recognized two of them. Daimyo Aito and his son Ichi.

"What brings you to our home at such an hour, honorable Daimyo?" Lord Sakai says as he walks to the top of the stairs.

"I think we both know why I've come calling Lord Sakai. It seems that our sons have crossed paths and in doing so, some unfortunate truths have been revealed." Aito says calmly.

"Unfortunate to say the least. I notice that the men you've brought with you are armed. A bit much for a couple of wounded thugs, don't you think?"

"Astute as ever. I brought them to ensure that your son Sasuke would come along peacefully."

"My son? You can't be serious, Aito."

"Very much so. You see, your son attacked mine unprovoked and that is a crime. A crime that must be punished."

"I think this is more about the crimes that yours has committed. Now that your true intention has been made clear, let's be very up front about what's about to happen. If you wish to take my son away for uncovering your sins, I'll cut down every one of you myself."

Aito doesn't reply. He simply points towards the Sasuke and his father, his men charging in with weapons drawn. The martial prowess of the Sakai family is on full display, as the two seem to be a whirling dervish of fists and steel. The Sakai stand back to back as the remaining three men circle around them.

"Sasuke, on my signal, go for your horse and ride into the night. I'll hold them off."

"No, I'm not leaving you here."

"No one is leaving!" Ichi screams as he charges in pass his father's men.

With one sword stroke, Sasuke cuts him down, his blood spraying across the leaves on the ground. Aito cries in anger as he too rushes in with his men. In a flash, the quarrel is over. The men lay dead on the ground. Lord Sakai stands, his breathing ragged. Sasuke stands before Aito, his sword nearly cleaving his skull in two.

"Father?"

He turns to see his father now on one knee, barely maintaining consciousness. Sasuke runs over and holds him in his arms, tears welling up in his eyes.

____________________

Several years later, Sasuke now finds himself as the captain of a small ship called The Sea Dragon. His motley crew willing to follow him headlong into danger in pursuit of coin and adventure.

On this particular day, he is conducting some business with a group sent by the Wild Geese leader Pip Bernadette. As he speaks with the strange group, he feels a tug at his belt.

"Hey! What the fug?!" he screams.

The group's half elf darts off into the distance, cackling like an idiot.

Remember: Votes due by Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 11:59pm New York Time (click the link if you're unsure).

See you in two weeks and a day, folks! I hope you make a love connection this Valentine's Day! If not, just wait- it'll come! In the meantime, please be safe, and see you on the 15th! :^D

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#1  Edited By cbishop

Voting Table

Writer:Votes:
Batkevin74:
  1. cbishop
The Impersonator:

-

Wildvine:
  1. batkevin74
  2. Oscuro
Mrmonster:
  1. The Impersonator
Cbishop:
  1. mrmonster
  2. amazing_webhead
  3. wildvine
Oscuro:-

I'll add 'em as I see 'em.

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cbishop

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@wildvine or @nordok: if one of you fine, fine folks would pin this, and unpin the CCC 116 contest thread, it would be much appreciated. Thanks! :)

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Nice, will read everyone's stories in due time.

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FicOPedia

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Nice, will read everyone's stories in due time.

Cool. They'll be here. :)

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wildvine

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@cbishop: Can I get a title edit? I had a title American Yokai. I just forgot it in the post. It was my working title in the PM chat

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@wildvine said:

@cbishop: Can I get a title edit? I had a title American Yokai. I just forgot it in the post. It was my working title in the PM chat

Done.

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My vote goes to Mrmonster.

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The Impersonator

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batkevin74

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Okay, two read three to go

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batkevin74

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another one down

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batkevin74

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cbishop

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After reading them all, it seems that most of us took an abrupt turn at the end. Including myself, and I'm not so happy with that ending now. I wasn't down with Batkevin's when I first read it, but with all of them in mind, his is the only one that doesn't take that abrupt turn at the end. Voting @batkevin74 this time.

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batkevin74

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mrmonster

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I've just finished reading all of them. I'm not ready to vote yet, need a bit of time to think and maybe reread the ones I most preferred, but I will vote within the next day or so.

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mrmonster

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#16  Edited By mrmonster

Voting was tough. It was very close between @oscuro and @cbishop for me, I went back and forth for a while as to which one I wanted to cast my vote for.

I'm voting...

@cbishop's The Origin of Wantowin Battles- The Royal Army of Oz

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cbishop

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@mrmonster: Woot! <confetti falls> I'd like to thank the Academy... :)

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Oscuro

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This might be the most fun I've had and most frustrated I've been with my handful of contest entries.

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FicOPedia

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About 21.5 hours left to vote! All are welcome to vote!

@wildvine and @oscuro: Don't forget to vote! :)

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amazing_webhead

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[Slides in under the door Indiana Jones style]

Cbishop - The Origin of Wantowin Battles- The Royal Army of Oz

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wildvine

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*Trips and falls in my rush to reply. Slides facedown to the most recent post*

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... vote for CB

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cbishop

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[Slides in under the door Indiana Jones style]

Cbishop - The Origin of Wantowin Battles- The Royal Army of Oz

@wildvine said:

*Trips and falls in my rush to reply. Slides facedown to the most recent post*

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... vote for CB

LMBO... thanks, y'all... I needed that laugh. <3

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cbishop

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20 minutes to get your votes in, peeps! :)

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cbishop

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#24  Edited By cbishop

Oscuro messaged me on Facebook, and voted for @wildvine. :)

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cbishop

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Well... okay, peeps, looks like I win. Thanks, and I'll have a new one up soon-ish. :)

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batkevin74

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@cbishop: rack'em up lets go again! Well done on another pixelised trophy mi amigo

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cbishop

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mrmonster

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cbishop

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@mrmonster: Thanks! ...Working on the next contest.