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Wow! Another story?! Holy shiznit! Well, this one isn't exactly new, but I've not posted it here before. Enjoy this lots and lots, and remember, all the characters are copyrighted to meee! Steal them and I will end you. This will turn into a proper series, and I have started on the second chapter, so have no fear! There will be another.


Blood of the Samurai

Japan...the Land of the Rising Sun. It is said that an ancient god dipped his sword into the sea, and from its blade fell three perfect drops. These drops formed islands of Japan; Honshu, Kyushu and Hokkaido. These islands used to be ruled by a single Emperor, but after years of warring, the land is divided amongst the Feudal lords. Each lord is vying for control of the land, but none have been successful thus far. But this tale does not focus on this conflict. Instead, it focuses on a single man. A Samurai, a Ronin. Once a member of the proud Samurai elite, his lord was slain, so he wonders the country, masterless, not knowing what he seeks, but sure he will know it when he finds it. His swords are his only companions, and that is all the companionship he requires....


He was tall, taller than average at least, dressed in a purple kimono so faded it looked grey, with two swords at his belt; a Daito and a Katana. The sword's sheaths looked very used, with numerous slash marks in the black leather covering. The seasoned oak that the scabbards were made from was beginning to show through. He wore a straw sugegasa on his head, so most of his face was in shadow. He looked to be a snake anthropoid, although it was hard to tell what species. His long green tail was held just above the ground, and the tip twitched occasionally. He walked with his arms inside his kimono, the sleeves hanging loosely by his sides. His fingers were tucked into his faded lavender sash, and he seemed to be smiling about something. It was a very cold day, the cold was dry, and so the road was dusty. Not that he minded, even though it was cold, he was well insulated, having stopped to stuff his kimono with dry bamboo leaves. But even in the cold you get thirsty, so he was soon walking away from the road and down towards a small stream. He reached into his kimono and withdrew a bamboo flask. He removed the stopper and lowered it into the stream. He looked around at his surroundings. He could see rice fields in the distance, the water long since frozen. Once he had re filled his flask, he replaced the stopper, and stowed it safely in his kimono before drinking directly from the stream. Once he had sated his thirst, he went back to the road, wiping his mouth. He had not gone a hundred yards however, when there was a rustle in the bushes either side of the road.
"I will assume you are bandits." The snake said aloud.
A group of five armed men stepped out of the bushes, battered and rusty weapons drawn.
"Oh dear. It would appear you are bandits."
"Hand over your money and those swords, and we'll let you live." One of the bandits said (the leader, it would seem)
"My swords?" the snake said, raising his head slightly, his arms filling the sleeves of his kimono. "Are you aware that a Samurai's sword is an extension of his body...nay, his very soul?"
"Yeah yeah. Enough with the philosophy, hand ‘em over."
"If you know that, then you must know that once I draw my swords, I may not re-sheath them until they have tasted blood?"
"There's five of us, and one of you. Don't be stupid."
"Oh?" The snake said with a smile and placed one hand on the Daito's sheath
"For you, only one sword I think."
"Enough of this. Get him." The bandit leader said.
As he and his men advanced, the Samurai slowly pushed the sword from its sheath with his thumb.
"My name..." he said, causing the bandits to pause "Is Yamamoto Ikkaku."
He reached up and pulled off his hat, tossing it into the air. As the bandits raised their heads, Ikkaku moved. The first one to die was the bandit leader. As Ikkaku drew his Daito, the blade slashed the bandit across the chest. Ikkaku brought his left hand up and gripped the hilt of the Daito, bringing it down on the second bandit in a double handed stroke, slicing deep into his skull. Ikkaku whirled around and disembowelled the third bandit. The fourth bandit brought his rusty Naginata round in a clumsy swing. Ikkaku simply caught the haft, and stabbed the Bandit through the heart. The final bandit had seen the fate of his comrades and was turning to flee. Ikkaku kicked the corpse off his blade and turned, flinging out his arm as he did so. The Daito flew through the air like an arrow from a Yumi bow, and went straight trough the bandit's neck. Ikkaku walked forwards and pulled the blade from the body, just as his hat landed back on his head. The Samurai cleaned the blade and re-sheathed it.
"My apologise gentlemen." He said with a bow, before setting off again.

As the sun was beginning to set in the sky, Ikkaku crested a tall hill and saw an Inn a little way from the road. It was ringed by a wooden fence, with a paddock for horses to one side. The paddock had two horses grazing quietly in it, both bearing the brand of the Shogun's messenger service and wearing warm coats. As he approached, the door slid open and a sandy coloured snake anthropoid slithered out. She was wearing a plain red Kimono and carrying a paper lamp. She used this lamp and a wooden taper to light the other lamps hanging along the edge of the inn's roof. She turned when she heard Ikkaku approach
"Good evening Sir." She said with a bow
"And a fine evening it is." Ikkaku replied "Would you happen to have any rooms for the night?" he continued
"Yes sir. Please follow me." The snake said and slithered back inside.
Ikkaku followed her, sliding the Inn door shut behind him. The Inn's ground floor was large and tidy. It was well light, with low tables and cushions arranged around the edges of the room. There was a wooden staircase going up to the sleeping quarters. In the middle of the room was a large fire pit with a pan of rice and a pan of stew simmering away on it. The two messengers were sitting cross-legged at one of the tables. They had small bowls of Sake in front of them and were talking quietly. The rooms only other occupant was a Samurai seated in a far corner. His Katana was laid next to him, and there were several empty clay bottles on the table. He wore very battered black hakama, with a grey top. The only thing about him that actually looked well kept was his sword. Ikkaku didn't even need to study the wolf in this much detail to come to the conclusion that this was not a Samurai, but a Ronin, much like himself. Ikkaku headed over to one of the tables and removed his Daito from his sash, setting it down next to him as he sat. He crossed his legs and removed his hat, setting it on his other side. The snake slithered up to his table carrying a tray. She set it down in front of him, and took several bowls off it. One was filled with rice, the other with stew. There was also dish with a grilled fish on a bed of steamed vegetables. Ikkaku placed his hand over the Sake bowl when the snake went to pour him some.
"I do not drink. Water shall suffice then some green tea for afterwards."
"Yes sir." The snake said, and slithered off to get his water. She came back with a cup and a small clay jug, which she set in front of him.
"Thank you. Itadakimasu." He said and picked up his chopsticks.
The meal was incredibly good, and Ikkaku enjoyed it thoroughly. He sat with his back against the wall, observing the room with his tea and a plate of sweet dumplings on the table next to him. What held his attention currently was the drunk in the corner. He seemed to be going through a fairly peculiar routine. He would fill his sake bowl very carefully, and drink very slowly from it. Once a bottle was finished, he would place it very carefully on the other bottles. It seemed he was trying (and succeeding) to make a pyramid shape out of the empties. Ikkaku let his tongue slide out quickly in the dunks direction. This quick taste test told him it wasn't Sake the wolf was drinking, but Awamori, a much stronger rice spirit.
"" he said with heavily slurred speech when he noticed Ikkaku looking at him. Ikkaku, surprised the drunk had noticed him raised a brow (although not an eyebrow, has he had none).
"You have a very interesting way of drinking." He said
"It'sh sho I don't drink to mush. I get...get...violent...if I drink toooOO mush."
"Surely a Samurai should show a little more restraint?"
"Heh...‘m no Shamurai no more. Nop...not me. Not since the last rebellion against...against th' Minamoto."
"I see..." Ikkaku said, sipping his tea.
"Didn't like it shee...ushed to fight for...for the Hojo...but nooooo....some o' those bastards ain't honourable. I ain't gonna do it no killing from me...nop nop nop..." the wolf trailed off and laid his head on the table. Soon there were rather loud snores coming from his prone figure.
"Even a Ronin should have some respect for himself." One of the messengers said
"Maybe..." Ikkaku said with a smile.

When Ikkaku awoke the next morning, he saw the Messengers had already left. There was a snorting sound from the far corner of the sleeping loft. It seemed to be coming from a heap of blankets. These blankets turned out to be the wolf from the night before.
"Something small and fuzzy has died in my mouth...I think it might be my tongue." He said
Ikkaku pulled on his Kimono and picked up his swords.
"I'd advise you to drink less then." He said and headed downstairs, placing his hat on his head and adjusting it slightly.
The sight that greeted him was somewhat less pleasant than he had been expecting. He stopped quickly and moved out of sight behind the corner of the stairs. In the main room was a group of very ugly looking men. There was a window on the stairs, and Ikkaku could see a river near the bottom of the hill. There was a large looking boat on it.
"Wokou...." he thought.
"You owe Captain Rin money." One of the men was saying, a particularly foul looking otter.
"I owe her nothing! We paid off our debts!" the barmaid said defiantly.
Ikkaku noticed her sleeve twitch. The sleeves of her kimono were long enough to obscure her hands, so it made it hard to see them move. Ikkaku saw something move behind her. It was a section of bamboo screen. He smiled when he realised that only a single piece of bamboo was moving.
"A Bo staff?" he thought. "This could be interesting."
"You know what we did to yer master, so you'd better cough up the Ryo!" The weasel said, grabbing the snake's arm. There was a cracking noise and the otter stumbled backwards. The snake had hit the bamboo screen, causing the Bo staff to spring forwards and smack the otter over the head. The snake grabbed the staff and smacked the otter across the jaw, sending him quite finally to the floor. The snake span the staff in an eye wateringly fast circle and stopped it suddenly, held out in front of her like a spear. The other pirates looked somewhat nervous now, and began backing away.
"How long do you intend to lurk there?" she said aloud.
The pirates turned, and Ikkaku stepped into view, right in front of the exit.
"My my...and here I thought I had been careful to hide my presence."
"W-who are you?" one of the pirates asked, backing away.
"Yamamoto Ikkaku. You are breaking the law. The crime for piracy is death."
"Hey! I don't want any killing in here!" The snake said indignantly. "I just changed the matting!"
Ikkaku looked at the snake from under his hat.
"What is your name?" he asked
"M-Matsumoto Tsuzumi..." Tsuzumi replied
"I see..." Ikkaku said. "To attack without provocation is to attack rashly. You have no time to assess the strength of your opponent, or to devise a strategy for defeating them. In short, I am never the first to attack. You must always wait for your opponent to strike, as this is the moment he leaves himself vulnerable."
One of the pirates opened his mouth to begin speaking, but Ikkaku held up a finger.
"Think carefully about what you are about to say. It could be the difference between life and death."
"We surrender?" the pirate said
"That was the right choice. Now...."
Ikkaku was cut off as part of the Inn exploded. The force of the blast hurled him very hard through the air, where he landed outside of the Inn and skidded along the ground. He blinked open his eyes, his ears were ringing and his vision was blurred. He tried getting to his feet but ended up rolling onto his side. He shut his eyes tight and shook his head. This helped clear his vision slightly, and he saw Tsuzumi lying a few feet from him. Blood trickled down her forehead and she was unconscious, but other than that, she seemed fine.

A rank, sulphurous stench filled the air as the Inn burned.
"Black Powder!" Ikkaku thought as he crawled to his hands and knees. "Where did pirates get Black Powder?"
He looked up, and through his blurred vision, he saw a figure walking away from the wrecked Inn. It was hard to make out any distinguishing features, but they were definitely female, wearing a bamboo sugegasa. At her hip, she wore a long straight Katana. Ikkaku knew only one female pirate that used a Katana.
"Ikeda Rin..."
The sound of mocking laughter floated to his ears as the figure slowly faded out of view.
Ikkaku managed to heave himself to his hands and knees then fell back, landing painfully on his tail. The sharp pain immediately cleared his head, and caused him to curse loudly. He staggered to his feet and went over to Tsuzumi, rolling her onto her back. He saw she was still breathing, and smiled. It was a shame the same couldn't be said for the pirates that had been caught in the blast. It seemed they had shielded the two snakes somewhat from the blast. Then Ikkaku remembered the wolf that had been upstairs. He looked around to see if he had made it out alive, but as he got up to go and look, he winced. He looked down and saw a long wooden shard sticking out of his calf. He gritted his teeth and grabbed the splinter, yanking it out. He ripped a strip of cloth from his kimono sleeve and tied it round the wound. He stood up and wiped his face, turning at the sound of someone coughing. It turned out to be the wolf. He pushed himself to his feet with his sword. Patches of his fur were black and singed, but he otherwise seemed fine.
"This is quite possibly the worst hangover. Ever." He said, and toppled backwards with a thud. Ikkaku winced.

Tsuzumi blinked, and opened here eyes. She frowned. As far as she was aware, the Inn's ceiling wasn't made out of stone. She sat up and looked around. She was in a small cave with a fire burning in the middle of it. A snow storm raged outside, so heavy in fact, she couldn't see more than a few feet out. There was a rustle, and someone came into the cave, brushing snow off a long bamboo cape. He turned and pulled on something, causing a straw curtain to fold down behind him. He lit a few lamps which Tsuzumi recognised from the Inn. In the better light, she saw that it was the Samurai from the inn.
"I salvaged as much as I could." He said.
"What happened?" she asked, rubbing her head, surprised to find a bandage.
"Pirates. They blew up your inn."
"What!? Blew it up!?"
"With Black Powder."
"Bastards!" Tsuzumi shouted, then looked around and saw another figure lying on the ground.
He was covered with a blanket, and had a bandage wrapped around his head. His arm was out from under the blanket, and she saw that was bandaged too.
"Where are we?"
"A cave near the Inn, I managed to get plenty of thatching for coats before it all burned. I also found this."
He picked up something that looked like a pile of matting. Tsuzumi realised it was her tail cover. Snakes with tails instead of legs had long since developed special clothing for the winter and moving around. In this case, it was a tube made out of bamboo that the wearer would slide their tail into. It had a padded straw bottom to keep the wearers coils off the ground. It also had jointed sections in it to allow movement. He tossed it to her, and she caught it. She slid herself into it and sat up.
"Thank you."
"Don't mention it. You'd be stuck in this cave for the rest of the winter if I hadn't saved it."
Tsuzumi smiled and then sniffed. She noticed a pot was over the fire, so she shuffled over to investigate. It was Chankonabe, a stew containing whatever was on hand at the time. Tsuzumi found her mouth watering at the smell.
"I suspect you're hungry." The Samurai said "You've been asleep nearly ten hours."
"Ten hours! What time is it?!"
"By my reckoning...nearly five o' the evening."
"Why did you bring us here?" she asked.
"Well, I was salvaging as much as I could after tending to you and him, when I noticed the snow storm blowing in. I tried to find shelter as quickly as possible, so here we are in this cave. I also made these coats. They should keep out the cold and the snow."
"You really plan things out, don't you?" Tsuzumi said with a grin
"And you don't act like a lady should."
"So? I was raised by the S?hei. There isn't much room for ladies with them."
"The S?hei? The warrior monks?" the Samurai said
"The very same. Hence the staff, although I was saving up for a Naginata...but I guess that's all gone now."
They both whipped around to see the wolf sitting upright, clutching his head.
"Worst. Hangover. Ever!" he said "Seriously...I could use that food?"
The Samurai laughed and picked up three bowls.
"I should certainly hope so, otherwise it would not have been worth cooking." The samurai said, grapping a ladle, and spooning stew into one of the bowls, handing it to Tsuzumi. He filled another bowl and handed it to the wolf, before filling the third bowl and picking up his chopsticks. Tsuzumi noticed a pair of chopsticks resting on the edge of her bowl, so she picked them up and started eating. It wasn't a particularly fine or well made stew, but she was hungry enough not to care.
"You said your name was Ikkaku...didn't you?" Tsuzumi asked, thinking back on what had happened that morning.
"Yes, that's right. And you said yours was Matsumoto Tsuzumi."
"You know when you said that those pirates were breaking the law and would be executed...are you actually authorised to do that? Execute them I mean."
Ikkaku laughed and set down his empty bowl, while the wolf helped himself to more stew.
"No. I'm not authorised, I haven't been a Samurai for nearly five years now. But they didn't know that."
"Who didn't?" the wolf asked with his mouth full, some bamboo shoots hanging out the corner of his mouth.
"Pirates." Ikkaku said
"Oh that! I was wondering what all that noise was this morning. That how I got all these bandages then?"
"You could say that."
"Names Echi by the way." He said, then stopped, as if realising something for the first time. "My Katana! Where is Akuma!?"
"You mean this?" Ikkaku said, holding up a very fine looking Katana.
"Yes! Please give it to me!" Echi said, reaching out for it.
Ikkaku handed it over with a thoughtful look.
"Tell me, Is it just that your sword has an unfortunate name, or is there a purpose to it?"
"It is called Akuma, because that is what it is. A didn't manage to save any alcohol from the Inn did you?"
Ikkaku smiled and tossed him a bottle of sake.

Echi caught the sake and pulled the stopper out of the bottle. He took a big gulp and sighed. It didn't quite have the same kick as Awamori, but it'd do. This Ikkaku person seemed like a reasonably decent person, saving him from the Inn (whatever had happened), and more importantly, saving his sword. He also gave him alcohol, so he can't be that bad. He also wore two swords. It was unusual outside of paintings and the nobility. Then he noticed it wasn't just a Katana and a Wakazashi, but a Daito and a Katana.
"How strong are you?!" he blurted out
Both the other snake and Ikkaku looked at him, and then Ikkaku looked down at his swords.
"You mean physically?"
"Well I guess you'd have to be pretty strong in skill to use two swords like that."
"I don't boast about my strength, physical or otherwise. But suffice it to say, I am strong enough to use both."
"You use twin sword techniques? Impressive." Echi said taking another swig of sake.
Ikkaku smiled
"Yes...twin swords...If you like."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you shouldn't overestimate someone's abilities."
"You mean you can't fight with two swords?"
"I didn't say that."
Echi opened his mouth and closed it again. This damn snake was winding him up on purpose! Fine then, he could play this game too.
"Okay then." Echi said with a grin "I'll accompany you until I understand what you mean."
"I have no problems with that. Although I only fight if I am attacked first."
"Like that's gonna be a problem. Once them pirates figure out we survived, they'll be after us again."
"We never said we were attacked by Pirates." Tsuzumi said with a sly grin
Ikkaku and Tsuzumi burst out laughing.

Meanwhile, not far from the cave, someone had erected a tent using a fir tree as the central pole. Outside the tent was a small cart with handles so it could be pushed by hand. There was a hole in the wall of the tent, and a small chimney was poking out of it, emitting a steady stream of smoke. Inside was a Panda. He wore a blue kimono with white triangles on it, black hakama, and was wrapped in a blanket. He was reading a book, while sipping tea from a small china cup. He had a pair of round glasses perched on the end of his muzzle, and a long katana shaped Sabre leaned against the tree trunk.
"You certainly know how to have fun." said the tents other occupant.
"You certainly know how to talk." The panda retorted. "I was under the impression that Shinobi where supposed to be stealthy." He continued, looking up at the Arctic Rabbit opposite the small iron stove that was heating the tent. She wore a female travelling kimono in dark grey. But underneath was her Shinobi uniform. She also wore a metal forehead protector. It was hard to tell what else she had due to the Kimono, but you could be certain there was more.
"I am, when the situation calls for it. Which it does not, Sanji."
"Don't call me that! My name is Deng Ning Kuang!"
"Yes, and saying that here in Japan will get you arrested or killed. Possibly both. You hired me to protect you while you explored Japan, didn't you?"
"No, Furika, I didn't. I saved your life and you said you were indebted to me, and you would travel with me until that debt could be repaid."
"Did I?"
"Doesn't sound like something I'd say."
Kuang glared at the Shinobi over the top of his glasses, then sighed and closed his book.
"How someone like you ever became a Shinobi I do not know."
"You don't know anything about Shinobi." Furika said
"I read a lot, and I listen to the stories. I know that they are some of the most dangerous warriors in Japan, and that they fight with stealth...."
"You are aware you're telling all this to a Shinobi? really are new here. Look, in case we run into any Samurai or law men, your name is Sanji. If they discover that you're from China, then they'll suspect me as well."
"Samurai don't like Shinobi?"
Furika looked at the panda with a raised eyebrow.
"No. Samurai do not like Shinobi. Quite the opposite in fact."
"Wow...I'd better keep that in mind then. I hope not to use this much while I'm here." Kuang said, patting his sabre.
"Are you actually any good with that?" The rabbit asked, stroking one of her long white ears.
"I don't know if I'm the same level as one of these ‘Samurai', but I'm fairly proficient. Tai Chi is not something that should be taken lightly by anyone."
"Sure, we'll see if its half way decent."
Kuang glared at her again and snapped open his book, reading furiously. Furika had always wondered how you read furiously, apparently, this was how.

The next day, the snow storm had abated, and Kuang and Furika where heading along the road which had about a foot of snow covering it. They soon came to the foot of a hill, and began making their way up it. As they reached the top, Furika frowned and rubbed her chin.
"What's with that face?" Kuang asked
"There used to be an inn up here." She said "But all I see is some blackened timbers sticking out of the snow..."
"You can thank Ikeda Rin for that." Said a voice from behind them
Furika turned and saw two snakes and a wolf. They were all wearing bamboo straw capes, and seemed to have come from the woods near the burned down Inn. They all carried provisions on their backs, and the Wolf was drinking from a gourd bottle.
"Ikeda Rin?" Furika said. "You mean the pirate?"
The tall green snake who had spoken shrugged, and as he did so, his cape rose slightly, and Furika and Kuang saw the two swords at his waist.
"No, the Kabuki actor." The wolf said sarcastically.
"You'll have to forgive him, he's worse sober." The green snake said. "My name is Yamamoto Ikkaku, this is Matsumoto Tsuzumi, and the wolf, is Echi."
"My name is Furika, and this here is Sanji." Furika said with a bow. Kuang scowled.
"It seems your panda friend doesn't like being called by a Japanese name." Echi said, hiccoughing.
"It's better than Echi." Kuang said with a sly smile.
Echi paused, the gourd half-way to his lips.
"What was that?" he asked in a dangerous tone of voice.
"I said that Sanji is better than..." Kuang was cur short when Furika smacked him over the head.
"You'll have to forgive him. He still needs to learn proper respect." Furika said, glaring at Kuang.
"Well then, we'd better head off!" Tsuzumi said, tugging on Echi's sleeve and practically dragging him down the road.
"It was a pleasure." Ikkaku said with a bow, before following Tsuzumi and Echi. The sound of Tsuzumi scolding Echi slowly faded into the distance.
Furika turned to Kuang who was rubbing his head.
"What was tha..." he began but was cut off by Furika
"Never insult someone's name!" she hissed "Especially not samurai!"
"They were Samurai? I thought you said women couldn't become Samurai?"
"They can't! But those two men were!"
"They didn't look like it."
"Then they were probably Ronin, but that's not the point. Even if they were Ronin, they still retain their pride as a Samurai, which means you do not insult their name! Understand?"
"Yes! Okay!"
"Good. Now let's get going."
"By the way...what's a Ronin?"

"Who do you suppose they were?" Tsuzumi asked
"Not a clue...that little panda bastard was this close from a beating though." Echi replied, swaying slightly.
"Don't you think you've had enough to drink?"
"Listen...I ain't even got started yet....this is nothing."
Ikkaku smiled. He just knew what sort of relationship this would turn out to be. He also knew that once Ikeda Rin knew that they were still alive, she'd come after them. Although Ikkaku and Echi had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, Ikeda Rin was the kind of person who never let someone escape once she decided to kill them. And after this attempt failed, she would most certainly come back a second time. Another thing that intrigued him was the way Echi moved while drunk. He always seemed to be off balance, but never fell over or staggered unintentionally. Every movement was perfectly balanced and almost graceful. It was strange considering the canine was pretty much off his face on sake. It'd be interesting to see how he fought in this state, the same with Tsuzumi. Although he had only seen her take one of the pirates by surprise, he suspected she was more than capable of holding her own in a fight. She was one of the S?hei after all. He just hoped that they wouldn't get attacked.

Meanwhile, Ikeda Rin was quite angry. Well, quite angry isn't really the word to describe her mood. So far she had punched three members of her crew, and stabbed a peasant through the head for not cowering enough. She then got annoyed because her sword got stuck in the stupid mans skull, so she got one of her crew to cut off his head, which she then used to bludgeon the rest of the peasants family to death. Then she burnt their house. And stole their livestock. While laughing. Maniacally. This didn't really help her mood however. She wasted a barrel of perfectly good black powder to kill that stupid snake bitch, and only succeeded in killing a few members of her crew. The two that survived the blast reported that three people had survived, including the snake. Rin decided to crucify the men, shoot the full of arrows, and then throw them in the river. Sensibly, most of her crew were staying the hell out of her way.
"Captain Rin! Captain Rin!"
Rin turned and saw her fist mate, a snow leopard named Ito Hideki running towards her. He skidded to a halt and dropped to his knees before her, bowing his head.
"We found where they are headed!" he said "They are on the road to the port Wakasa!"
"Wakasa?" Rin said, raising her eyebrow. "Maizuru-Jo Castle guards that port. We'd better be careful..." She rubbed her chin, and then grinned; her eyes seemed to come alight with terrifying light.
"All hands!" she shouted "Full sail! We head for Wakasa!!"
There was a great shout from her crew, and the ship slowly began to move. The massive vessel was once an Chinese imperial warship, with many levels for fighting, a large deck, huge sails and luxurious captains quarters. As the huge Junk left the river mouth, a smaller warship pulled along side it, then another, and another. Soon there were seven ships following the imperial ship in formation. These eight warships flew a flag depicting a dark blue background with a golden phoenix emblazoned upon it. Not very terrifying, until you saw the phoenix had a jet black spear piercing its heart. Ikeda Rin's ship was named "Terror", and was considered the bane of the Chinese imperial navy, and the scourge of Japan's coastlines. Now her fleet was on the way to a busy seaport. Rin stood at her ships bow, here eyes gleaming.
"Time to steal! Time to kill! Time to buuuuuuuuuurn!!!" She howled to the wind.
Hideki swallowed and hurried below deck. He didn't fancy being this close to his captain when she was laughing like that.

Echi stared at the sign. He'd been doing this for five minutes now, and the damn letters still wouldn't stop moving. He decided to leave the sign alone (this time) and followed Ikkaku and Tsuzumi inside. He looked around, wondering if this place had anything to drink. They had arrived in Wakasa a few hours ago, and had wondered around looking for an affordable place to stay. They found one down a narrow alley. Apparently it was used as a stop for prostitutes and their clients. Rather unfortunately, the man at the front desk had mistaken Tsuzumi for a whore, and was currently trying to scrabble away from the enraged snake, clutching a bleeding nose and missing several teeth. Ikkaku was holding her back, although this was proving to be difficult. The tails of legless snakes tended to be immensely strong; this of course, made it almost impossible to hold her back.
"Can we just go up to our rooms please?" Ikkaku said, pulling her back.
"Fine! But if he calls me a whore one more time..."
"I only said it once!" the gecko said
"Once was enough!!"
Echi wondered over to the two of them and peered over the counter at the downed gecko.
"Oooo...decked by a girl..." he said shaking his head, losing his balance, and grabbing the edge of the counter to stop himself from falling.
Ikkaku grabbed both of them and dragged them up the stairs. He was quite surprised to see the rabbit and the panda from before, coming out of a room, which turned out to be right next to theirs.
"Oi! Four eyes!"
Ikkaku sighed. Echi stumbled over to the panda and poked him in the chest.
"Howwww'dd you get ahead of us?! Huh?! Come on! Come ONNNN!!!"
Kuang blinked
"We took a shortcut." He said
"Oh...okay then!" Echi said with a sudden smile. "K-know any good taverns? ‘Course you don't! HAH! You don't live here! Hahahahaha!"
With that, he fell over. Kuang prodded his prone body with his foot before stepping over him.
"He should really watch what he drinks." Furika said, following Kuang
"I've only known him for a day and a half, and I already want to give him a lecture on alcohol." Ikkaku said, before opening the door to their room and dragging the now snoring wolf inside.
When he had finished, Furika and Kuang had already gone.
"This guy is gonna be more trouble than he's worth." He said
"Why not just ditch him?" Tsuzumi said. "As a matter of fact, why haven't you ditched us both yet?"
"Well, Ikeda Rin is not going to be happy that her target survived, and we aren't exactly safe if she knows we're associated with you."
"You know an awful lot about her."
"We were...previously acquainted."
"How so?"
"Bitter rivals."
"Why am I lying on the floor?"
Tsuzumi and Ikkaku sighed.
Later that night, while the town had grown quiet. Ikkaku lay awake staring at the ceiling. People in the room above seemed to be enjoying themselves. Very loudly. He rolled over, but couldn't quite get rid of the feeling something bad was about to happen. He sighed and closed his eyes. Whatever it was, they could deal with it in the morning.
At that very moment, eight large, dark shapes slipped quietly into the harbour. The harbour guards falling into the water with arrows protruding from their bodies. Ikeda Rin grinned as she surveyed the sleeping town.
"Burn it. Burn it all!" she cried.

Echi rolled over. He frowned in his sleep and rolled over again, falling off his bed and rolling along the floor. He sat up and rubbed his head. Blinking, he walked to the small window and looked out. He frowned and sat down again. Then he got up and looked out the window again. He went over to Ikkaku and shook him.
"Hey! Hey wake up."
"There's Pirates sacking the town." Echi said.
He'd never seen anyone go from virtually asleep, to wide awake and vertical that quickly.
He ran to the window and looked out. Lights were on all over the town, with yellow flames springing up from several houses.
"Ikeda Rin! She found us already!?" he said
"Well...She hasn't actually found us yet."
"Shut up. We have to get out of here." Ikkaku said as lights came on in the inn.
"Too late." Said Tsuzumi's voice from somewhere near the floor.
She was lying on the floor, with the side of her head pressed against the floor.
"They're already downstairs." She said, looking up.
Ikkaku and Echi looked at each other and drew their swords simultaneously. There was the sound of people coming up the stairs, and then the door was kicked open. A large pirate stood there, brandishing an axe and a burning torch.
"Hello fatty!" Echi said cheerily, staggered to the left, struggled to regain balance, and cut off the pirates head. It hit the floor with a thud and rolled a little way.
"Holy shit!"
The three looked out of the door and saw Kuang standing there with an odd looking Katana. Another pirate came up behind him, but before anyone could shout a warning, a kunai hit the second pirate square between the eyes. Ikkaku, Echi and Tsuzumi ran out into the corridor and saw Furika. She was wearing dark grey trousers with enclosed slippers. The toes had iron claws attached to them, and she wore a dark blue tunic with a black waist band. She wore a machete at her waist, and had a number of Kunai strapped to her thigh.
"I knew it!" Echi said "You're a fucking Shinobi!"
"No time for this now!" Ikkaku said running past them holding the torch the first pirate had. "We need to get down to the docks and find a boat."
"But that's where the pirates'll be!" Kuang said running after them.
"Yeah, we'll just steal a pirate ship." Ikkaku said with a grin "That'll piss her off."
"But where do we go from here? The pirates are everywhere!" Furika said
"They'll mostly be headed to Maizuru-Jo Castle to deal with the soldiers stationed there." Tsuzumi said as they emerged onto a main street. The lanterns that were usually stretched across the street were either on fire or lying on the ground. Pirates were smashing doors and windows, overturning carts and slaughtering people.
Ikkaku snarled and ran down the street, lowering his sword by his side. The others followed him, Furika drawing her curved machete. A pirate came out of a building holding a spear, and saw the group running towards him. He was about to strike at Ikkaku when he realised he was no longer holding his spear. He then realised his arm was lying on the ground a few feet away, and that there was a large slit in his stomach, out of which his organs were pouring. His eyes glazed over and he slumped to the ground.
"Any pirate that gets in your way, don't hesitate to kill him. But if you see Ikeda Rin, run away."
"How do we know what she looks like?" Kuang asked, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"Oh trust me, you'll know. Now, we have to get to the docks as quickly as possible, without attracting her attention. A large group of us like this will get discovered pretty quickly. Furika, Sanji and Tsuzumi, you head down that alley. It should take you to the main street and then down to the docks. Echi and I will carry on this way. It takes a bit longer, but it leads to the docks as well. We'll meet you there."
"Hold on." Kuang said. "I don't recall ever taking orders from someone like you."
"Oh shut up! Just do as he says you little chinky bitch." Echi spat.
"H-how did you..." Kuang said, somewhat astonished.
"You're accent." Tsuzumi said. "Now let's go!"
She headed towards the alley Ikkaku had pointed to, Kuang and Furika following; Kuang glaring at Echi over his shoulder.

Ikkaku looked at Echi.
"What?!" Echi said
"You had to go and say that didn't you?"
"Forget it. Lets go."
They both turned and headed along the street; Ikkaku reaching down and drawing his Katana. As they rounded a corner, they came across a group of pirates. Some of them were armed with bows. They turned at the sound of running feet and saw the two Ronin, saw the drawn swords, and reached for their arrows. Ikkaku was slightly surprised when Echi stumbled, lost balance, and fell towards the floor. But as he hit the ground, he rolled twice and sprang to his feet, right in front of the pirates, cutting a bow in half as he did so. He swayed slightly and staggered to his right, grabbing a pirate for support, while stabbing him through the stomach. Ikkaku had heard of a Chinese martial art that practiced acting drunk to confuse the enemy, but he'd never heard of someone actually being drunk, and using a sword. He decided not to dwell on it and joined Echi in the fray, slicing outwards with his two swords, killing one pirate, and wounding another. Echi had fallen to the floor after pulling his sword from the pirate he had slain. He rolled towards another pirate and stabbed upwards, taking the pirate through the groin. Echi staggered to his feet and wiped the blood from his face.
"Talk about a warm shower." He said, spitting.
"That's disgusting." Ikkaku said, kicking a corpse from his Daito.
"You don't look any better." The wolf retorted
Ikkaku looked down at himself. He had blood stains covering his kimono.
"Lets worry about this later shall we?" he said, and continued on down the street.
"Okay...Oh wait..." Echi said, and stumbled over to a wall, throwing up.
"Gods? Why do you forsake me?" Ikkaku sighed exasperatedly.

Meanwhile, Tsuzumi, Furika and Kuang were standing at the mouth of a dark alley, looking at the main street.
"That's a lot of pirates." Kuang whispered.
"Oh yes." Furika replied.
"We'll have to go through them." Tsuzumi said.
The other two stared at her.
"What?! You're a Shinobi aren't you?" she hissed at Furika. "And...well whatever you do, I hope you know how to use that." She said to Kuang.
"Of course I do! I just don't think...."
"Then don't." Tsuzumi said, and span her Bo staff a few times, before slithering into the street.
The first pirate to notice her was cracked across the side of the face, and sent sprawling to the floor. Several beleaguered looking soldiers looked up at this, and grinned in relief. Tsuzumi tripped another pirate over, and drove the tip of her staff into his spine. Furika followed the snake, slashing another pirate across the face. She placed one and on his shoulder and vaulted over his head, landing behind him in a crouch, holding three shuriken. She let fly, two hitting one pirate, the third slashing another across the wrist. Kuang followed somewhat tentatively. He'd never actually killed anyone with his sabre before. He'd fought unarmed, that was easy. But he didn't think he could actually kill someone. He sighed and sheathed his sword, he doubted he could ever be as ruthless as a Shinobi or a Samurai. This train of thought was interrupted by a pirate attempting to behead him. The panda grabbed the pirate by the wrist, and twisted, forcing the bull to drop his sword. He forced the much larger anthropoid to his knees, before letting go and kicking straight up all in one fluid movement. The bull was sent reeling backwards, missing teeth and sporting a broken jaw. He looked over at Furika and Tsuzumi, who were looking at him with a mixture of awe and respect.
"Damn!" Furika said
"That's one mean kick you got there." Tsuzumi said.
The pirates around them had noticed this, and where now bearing down on them.
"Well, I think its time to go!" Furika said, and ran down the street towards the docks. The three of them emerged from the smoke onto the cobbled waterfront. All the storehouses had been broken open and emptied. But there didn't seem to be anyone around. They made their way along the dockside looking for a small enough boat. They spotted one of the pirate ships. It was a small, fast looking war ship, and had a single sentry on board. As they approached, the sentry yawned, and received a kunai through his mouth. He slumped to the deck. The three of them climbed aboard, and Furika quickly unfurled the sail.
"Have you noticed..." Kuang whispered "That we seem to be right next to the flagship?"
"How can you tell?" Tsuzumi whispered, tugging on a rope.
"It's the biggest?" Kuang said.
"He got that right!"
The three looked up, and Ikeda Rin landed with a thud on the deck.
"Oh....bollocks!" Furika breathed.
Ikeda Rin drew her sword. It was long and straight, with a black blade. The sharpened edge gleamed silver in the moonlight.
"Who would have thought my caution would pay off like this? That some people would be brave enough to approach my ships? You have guts...but soon you won't...Because I'll be the one gutting you!!" She said with a deranged laugh, and lunged towards Kuang.
The panda had never seen anyone move so fast before. He was only just able to move, the katana cutting his arm. Saw she missed out of the corner of her eye, grinned, and sent Kuang sprawling across the deck with a powerful backhand.
"Denkouissen is hungry tonight!" She hissed, licking Kuang's blood off her blade.
She didn't even look when Tsuzumi swung at her. She simple caught the staff and twisted it out of the snake's hands, and hit her in the stomach with it. Tsuzumi doubled over, wheezing. Ikeda turned to Furika and grinned, her eyes wide and bloodshot; her pupils were small black pinpoints. The rabbit had never seen anyone look so insane.
"Just you and me now bunny-wunny!" she cackled.
"Tell me. Have you noticed something?" Furika said.
"I notice how you're about to die...and then your friends will follow."
"Yes, well, I was just wondering if you noticed that we're moving."
"What!?" Ikeda said, and looked to see the side of her ship sliding past.
"Maybe you ought to pay more attention to your surroundings?" Echi said. He was sitting at the back of the boat, holding the mooring cable. The night breeze was filling the sail and carrying the boat quickly from the harbour.
"You bastards!!" Ikeda howled, and lunged for Echi.
Her sword was hit by something else so hard, sparks flew. The other sword slid down Denkouissen until Ikeda brought it up and locked. She glared into the calm stare of Ikkaku.
"Hello Rin. Long time no see."
"Ikkaku...You fucker!!" Rin shouted and pushed Ikkaku back, swinging at him. Ikkaku stumbled, but brought his second sword round to counter the blow. He recovered his stance and struck back with both his swords. The force of these two blows hitting Rin's sword made the boat rock. Rin snarled and span her sword, deflecting Ikkaku's blades away from her, and towards the ground. She punched the snake across the face as he went over. He hit the ground but rolled upright again. Rin was immediately on the attack again, striking a series of blindingly fast blows. Ikkaku was hard pressed to defend himself under the onslaught. Rin hit hard, and sent the Daito spinning out of Ikkaku's hand.
"You still fight the same! Have you not improved at all!?" Rin sneered
"More than you think." Ikkaku replied with a grin.
"Bullshit." Rin snarled and lunged forwards again. Her blade slicing Ikkaku's cheek, Ikkaku grabbed her sword arm and, using her momentum, swung her over his had and brought her crashing to the deck of the boat. Rin rolled away from the snake, and got to her feet, clutching her side.
"That was new." She panted "When did you learn that?"
"Just now..." Ikkaku replied, wiping blood from his cheek. "You're leaving yourself open, Rin!"
"Not half as open as you!!" Rin said, and flung out her arm. Something small and very heavy hit Ikkaku in the stomach, knocking him off his feet. Rin snapped her arm back, and caught the lead ball. It was attached to a long wire, which was hidden up her sleeve. She flexed her arm and the wire retracted with a ‘zwwwip' noise. She walked towards the snake, raising her sword.
"Now you die!" She hissed, and brought the blade down.

There was a loud clang and a shower of sparks. Rin blinked, and looked at the Wakazashi blocking her sword. Ikkaku looked up at her and grinned. His tail was wrapped very firmly around the Wakazashi's hilt. He kicked out, knocking Rin's legs from under her. As she toppled forwards, Ikkaku rose from his prone position, swinging his katana as he did so. The blade caught Rin in the side, spinning her round. She landed with a thud on the deck, blood seeping from the wound.
"Gaaah!" she cried as she tried to roll over, pushing herself to her hands and knees. "!" she gasped
"That's me." Ikkaku said, and hit her across the face with the hilt of the Wakazashi. Rin slumped to the deck, unconscious.
Ikkaku straightened up, sheathing his Katana. He winced as he rolled his shoulders back.
"Damn...she got better." He said, walking over to his Daito and picking it up. He examined the blade before re-sheathing it. He span the Wakazashi round in his tail, and re-sheathed it in a hidden scabbard on his back. He turned and saw the looks on the others faces.
"What? What'd I do?" He asked
"You sir, are quite possibly the best fucking Samurai I have ever met." Echi said.
"Aren't you going to finish her off?" Furika asked.
"No. Take her below with Tsuzumi and Kuang and bandage her wounds and see to the others."
"What!? Why?!"
"Because she's my sister!" Ikkaku snapped.
"Woah...your mother was definitely having an affair." Echi said
"Shut up."