AD 2200 01/7 13th Hierarchical City of Kagutsuchi – Area 25
Ronin-gai remains silent as the early morning sky hangs overhead, the moon has nearly finished its descent into the horizon, and all is calm as the people of the humble town lay fast asleep in their beds. As the citizens continue to slumber, a lone ninja makes his way across the numerous rooftops and alleyways contained within the district, his sharp eyes scanning every inch of his surroundings for signs of any suspicious individuals or activities. In the three years that have passed since the fall of the Ikaruga Federation, Bang Shishigami has led his people as best he can, and devoted himself to preserving the spirit of Ikaruga in these trying times. However, the time has come for him to leave his people and search for the child of Lord Tenjo, who is destined to rule over the people of Ikaruga and guide them back to true greatness once more.
“Lord Homura…” Bang’s expression is stoic as he thinks of his highness. Lord Homura had been only a child when his father fell to the blade of the villain Jin Kisaragi, what he must have felt when he heard the news… Shaking himself to rid his mind of such negative thoughts, Bang smiles brightly as he towards the rising sun, his mind turning to more pleasant notions. After all, today is the day that Master Carl’s training as an honorary shinobi truly begins, and it is unactable for a man of love and justice to spoil his disciple’s initiation with thoughts of doom and gloom!
Coming to a stop on top of a pylon about thirty feet above a bridge that lies somewhere near the center of the town, he stands watching as the early morning sun bathes the town in its warm light. As he looks over the small town that has been his home for the past few years, Bang feels a strong sadness pulling at his noble heart. While he has no doubt that his fellow shinobi will protect their fellow citizens against any threats, he will still sorely miss the life he has managed to make for his people here.
As the early morning sun beams in through the window, it casts its light onto the figure of a sleeping teen, slowly but surely dragging him from the pleasant world of unconsciousness. With a low groan, he slowly rises into a sitting position, his small hands wiping away at his eyes to remove the mucus build up from his tired lids. Once the grime is gone, he reaches to the small table to his right where his clothes lay folded into a neat pile inside a small box, retrieving his glasses and balancing them on the bridge of his nose.
“Good morning Sis, how are you feeling?” Carl leans over before pushing himself to his feet, stretching his body as he looks towards a corner to his right, furthest from the window and the doorway.
“…” Nirvana stands calmly in the shadow of the curtain, her claws folded neatly at her waistline as she looks on with her closed eyes and blank porcelain mask. Whatever she has said or not said causes a giggle to escape Carl’s lips, his expression now one of mirth as he sighs in satisfaction once his body is fully awake.
“Sis, it’s bad enough that you have to mock Mister Bang’s snoring, but must you do so with a condescending smirk on your face as well?” Carl steps off the small futon before calmly leaning down, folding the sheets neatly, and carrying them out into the hall. Nirvana shadows his movements with her usual lumbering gait, stopping as he comes to the hamper and deposits the sheets in an orderly manner before frowning in discontent and looking out of the window towards the communal baths that the locals frequented.
“...?” the doll tilts its head as the young man sighs in a show of reluctance before turning back to the hallway, making his way towards the guest bedroom that Bang has allowed him to occupy in the last week. Nirvana follows him and stares on as he slips his feet into a pair of sandals that Bang was kind enough to purchase for him along with the kimono he is currently wearing.
“Maybe there won’t be as many people there because of how early it is…” Carl reaches down and lifts the box into his arms before striding calmly out of the room, Nirvana following and shutting the door behind them. As the pair walk towards the front of the house, Carl pauses and shifts the box so that it lies cradled in the crux of his right arm before reaching upwards and retrieving a small basket containing the necessary toiletries and placing them in the box between his boots and hat.
“…” Nirvana continues to shadow the young puppeteer as he leaves the house entirely and makes his way down the steps and towards the bathhouse, a slight blush on his cheeks throughout the entirety of the trek.
“T-Thank you once again elder, y-you certainly haven’t l-lost your touch with the n-needle and thread!” Bang blushes brightly as he exits the house of the village elder, who has made it her business to keep the uniforms of the shinobi of Ronin-gai in working conditions since they relocated to Kagutsuchi.
“Why thank you dear, your words warm this old heart of mine. Now then, I just have one question before I can let you wonder off with those clothes. Where did you get the measurements you gave me for that uniform? They certainly weren’t yours or any of the other shinobi around here.” The elder looks at the scruffy vigilante skeptically as she eyes the clothes folded neatly in the cloth satchel slung over his left shoulder.
“Oh! W-Well you see I merely asked M-Miss Linhua f-for them, M-Miss Litchi h-had to patch up his c-clothes after Tao g-got a little too rough in t-their first sparring match.” Bang sweats bullets under the old woman’s scrutiny, though he speaks the truth, he feels as if she is keeping him under the metaphorical gun and judging him with her eyes.
“Well, that certainly sounds like Tao, that girl needs to learn to hold back on young guys like him and yourself. We wouldn’t want either of you getting a hip like mine at your age, right?” The elder chuckles before moving back into her house, she wonders how Bang can possibly convince the teen to wear the outfit. She has seen the boy and that uniform was certainly… different from his usual steampunk opera house get up.
“Fwoo… Thank goodness, she decided to go easy on me today, I need my mind in top form if I am to find the young Master. Now then, there is only one thing I need to do here before my search can truly begin… Toh!” With a loud grunt, Bang takes off in a burst of speed that leaves a strong breeze in his wake, making his way towards his home, where his youngest disciple is probably finishing his morning routine.
A small smile tugs at Carl’s lips as he places the kimono into the hamper, closing the lid and placing the small box now containing only the pair of sandals that he had worn this morning atop it before making his way out of the house with Nirvana by his side. After closing the door behind them, the young vigilante begins to make his way down the walkway towards Orient Town, his smile vanishing as a determined expression takes hold of his youthful features, his thoughts turning to the Azure Grimoire in belonging to Ragna the Bloodedge. Today is the day he says goodbye to Master Bang and resumes his hunt for the Grim Reaper, he refuses to make Ada wait any longer. However, fate does not always prove agreeable with a person’s goals and ambitions.
“Master Carl, where are you going? You weren’t planning to abandon your training so soon were you?” Bang comes to a stop directly in front of the younger male, causing Nirvana to move to protect her wielder, smacking Bang comically atop the head.
“OUCH! The pain, it is excruciating Master Carl!” Bang groans as he holds his injured cranium, his teeth grinding together, the impact of the automaton’s claw atop his admittedly thick skull causing a throbbing headache to take root. Sighing in irritation and worry, Carl sternly glares at his fellow vigilante before scolding him for his unnecessarily shocking arrival.
“Mister Bang, the only thing you will achieve by sneaking up on me is making my Sister angry. If you don’t want her to smack you on the head again, then I suggest you not try to get the proverbial drop on me again any time soon.” Carl adjusts his glasses as he states his case in a matter of fact manner, much to Bang’s disappointment and worry. Letting out a final moan of misery, Bang stands to his feet shakily, doing his best to shake off the pain and face his disciple with the maturity befitting of a true master.
“Master Carl, why are you leaving now? Your training is only beginning! As of today, you will be an honorary shinobi in training! Now then, take off those clothes!” Bang shouts his words passionately to the sky, and proceeds to pull out the clothing that the elder has prepared for his young student.
“W-What are those? W-What’s the m-meaning of this Mister Bang?” Carl’s face tints crimson once again as a scandalized expression makes its way onto his face. The ensemble includes a baggy purple hakama almost identical to Bang’s, a white sleeveless Chinese style shirt that is cut so short that it would only cover his chest, adorned with multiple purple laces and a bronze clip for the high collar. There is also a purple sash with a bronze buckle, a pair of bronze gauntlets that are more akin to those of Bang’s subordinates paired with a set of white gloves identical to the ones Carl wears now and a…
“I-Is that a purple loincloth? M-Mister Bang, y-you cannot be serious! T-Those clothes l-leave nothing to the imagination, you can’t seriously expect me to wear them!” Carl’s eyes are wide with shock as he meets Bang’s determined gaze, disbelief replacing his previously scandalized expression.
“Master Carl, this is the garb of the Ikarugan shinobi, and the village elder put her very soul into sewing these garments! You cannot simply dismiss the opportunity to train in Ikarugan ninjustsu with such little consideration!” Bang feels his soul burn righteously in his breast as he makes his declarations. While he does not wish to force Carl into anything he does not want, he cannot allow his disciple to dismiss his offer without so much as a second thought!
“…” Nirvana assumes an aggressive stance as Bang continues to shout at Carl, clearly growing increasingly cross with the shinobi with every word that leaves his mouth. Carl senses his Sister’s ire, and he coldly glares at the older man as he speaks his own piece.
“Mister Bang, my Sister is absolutely right! You cannot expect me to be your apprentice when I need to be hunting Ragna the Bloodedge. Now please, stand aside or we will be forced to make you see reason ourselves.” Carl tenses as Bang stands in silence, his eyes narrow in suspicion as the older man sighs a few moments later. Bang reopens his eyes and stares evenly at Carl, his amber gaze measuring the younger male and evaluating his stance on the matter. Straightening himself out, Bang puts the clothing back into the bag slung over his shoulder before speaking once again.
“Master Carl, while I admire your passion and confidence, you are not ready to face such a villain, even with the help of your sister. So, if this is the only way to ensure your safety and continue your training properly, I challenge you to a man to man contest of speed, agility and endurance!” Bang points to his would be student with a fiery gleam in his eye, unwilling to back down now that he has the chance to train his disciple in the ways of his people.
“…Will you stop bothering me if I agree to this challenge of yours? I want your word that if I win you’ll back off and let me continue my search for Ragna.” Carl returns Bang’s stare with cold blue eyes, the tension between them has attracted the attention of several townsfolk, and even Bang’s subordinates are standing in shock at the sight of the contest of will between the two.
“You have my word as a man of Ikaruga, and a protector of LOVE AND JUSTICE!” Bang’s body seems to glow as he takes a powerful battle stance, though really the sun is simply reflecting off the ridiculous amount of sweat that his body has accumulated as his passion has grown.
“...?” Nirvana loosens her stance somewhat, her face turning to Carl in what appears to be a motion of concern. Carl looks at his Sister with softened eyes, offering her a reassuring grin before returning his gaze to the older man.
“Very well, I accept your challenge Mister Bang, and if I lose then I will become your… disciple. You have my word.” Carl speaks with complete sincerity, confident in his abilities and sure of his chances of achieving victory over the older man in this contest of his.
“Master Carl… Very well, if we agree, then follow me, I will take you to the place of our contest, and you will be a shinobi in training before the sun sets on this day.” Bang shoots Carl a look of absolute confidence before turning and speeding off towards the cliffs, leaving Carl alone with the small crowd of onlookers.
“Don’t worry Sis, Mister Bang may be older than me, but I’m pretty sure I can handle whatever he throws my way. I wonder what exactly he has in mind for this ‘contest’; guess there’s only one way to find out.” With a confident smile of his own, Carl moves to follow the shinobi, his Sister following with a strange air of something akin to worry about her.
To be continued…