Ronin: Fury from the Sky

The walk from the cave in the desert was an arduous one. Between the stifling heat and the dryness of the air after the sandstorm Masayoshi was exhausted. This small town was heaven sent. A small oasis in otherwise bleak surroundings. Stopping at a food stand and doing his best to order what looked best, but having to resort mostly to pointing and hand gestures with the language barrier being so great. Eating the kebab-like dish of an unknown meat skewered on a stock. Though dry, it was pretty tasty all things considered but ‘hunger is the best seasoning’ after all.

The streets were abuzz with people coming and going from stand to stand trading and going about their day. Masayoshi breathed it in. Taking in the relative peacefulness of it all. Of course that didn’t stop him from keeping the free hand on his blade, and making sure his coin was tucked securely away. But after fighting and fighting and fighting it was still nice.

Finishing his food he found a place to put the stick, before continuing on, looking at the little stalls. Trying to remember what it was like before his life was consumed by fighting. Between stands Masayoshi watched the people moving around a bit. As he looked, someone caught his eye. Someone who didn’t belong. Her hair was silky black, and her skin was porcelain white. Not fit for this climate, but one his eyes focused fully on the woman a sharp pain shot through his head like he’d been struck. He squeezed his eyes closed for a moment, and focused.

When the ronin opened his eyes it was as if night had decided to rise early, and the woman had vanished. The sky was filled with thick black storm clouds, unnaturally formed. Masayoshi knew he wasn’t seeing things because everyone had taken note of the supernatural storm. Bolts of hot lightning arced to-and-fro among the clouds.

The ronin’s focus narrowed, his training activating itself. Hand on his sword. He stretched his fingers one at a time opening and regripping and the other left contact with the hilt.

A crash of thunder shook heaven and earth causing even the heartiest of men among the citizens to flinch. And in a flash something massive streaked from the sky, landing with the grace of a boulder tossed into a lake, sending stone and wood into the air.

Masayoshi could see what the others could not. In the dust, rising from its knee pulling itself to a standing position a massive Oni… or rather that’s what it was meant to appear to be. But it was big…bigger than anything they’d sent after him before. And they’d never attacked in town. His old master must be further gone, or desperate or maybe a bit of both.

Once it was fully standing and Masayoshi could see the bulk of its monstrous form, the beast raised its blade high above its head and swung down with enough force to cause the lingering dust cloud to part and disperse, but completed the arc swinging in the direction of stunned onlookers. Masayoshi didn’t have time to react before the group was cleaved through. Not just as if nothing was there but the damage the gnarled and chipped cleaver of a blade did was disturbing. The poor souls exploded in a gout of gore. They didn’t even have time to scream.

The Oni launched at Masayoshi fast…too fast. It took every bit of focus Masayoshi had to even get his blade to a half draw before having to block the oncoming attack. Even then his lack of readiness prevented him from pushing back the attack. The charge sent Masayoshi flying backwards horizontally. His body collided with a wall crashing through. Wind knocked free, and laying in a pile of rubble, Masayoshi struggled to turn over and right himself. The sounds around him dulled by the intense ringing in his ears. Even so he could hear the screams of the people and the growls of the oni.

Managing to stand and stagger his way to the hole he made he placed a hand on the cracked edge the streets were once again filled with dust, and the smell of copper. Masayoshi’s eyes saw the slaughter this creature laid before him. The streets painted red with gore and viscera. Building sliced like they were butter. This thing was stronger than anything Masayoshi had faced thus far. It’s twisted face was incapable of smiling but he could tell it wanted Masayoshi to know it was pleased with itself for the chaos it had wrought.

“Masa…yoshi” the oni spoke in a slow broken way, as if this was the first time its throat had ever formed anything but growls and grunts.

“This is new.” Masayoshi thought, as he staggered to meet the beast.

“Re…turn…the…bla…de.” it growled out, pointing at the katana Masayoshi held.

“Come take it.” Masayoshi said, digging his feet into the ground, and readying his blade.

The Oni lunged with tremendous speed once again but Masayoshi was ready this time. It took a great deal of his power to not be sent flying again. But his heels dug in and the oni pulled back.

“Strong.” he said slowly, raising the massive blade to his shoulder. “Good.”

Masayoshi took a new stance, vanishing suddenly leaving two afterimages in his place. The Oni’s three eyes tried to track the ronin, and the moment he felt Masayoshi it was too late. The ronin’s blade carved a deep diagonal gash across it’s back. The Oni let out a thunderous rawr and it stumbled forward.

The Oni swung wildly behind himself, Masayoshi’s eyes shot wide, narrowly douging the incoming attack. That didn’t stop him from feeling the change in air pressure caused by the oni’s sheer brute force.

It’s wild swing left an opening Masayoshi exploited. Sinking the blade halfway in and pulling it back. But before it was fully free the Oni’s fist connected with Masayoshi side. Sending him sideways into the remains of a food stand. Landing with enough force to cause him to cough up blood.

“Shit…” Masayoshi groaned, pushing himself to his knees and standing. Masayoshi lowered his head and whispered to the blade. The sword Masayoshi held began to thrum with white energy.

“Weak.” The Oni bellowed before charging Masayoshi like a streak of lightning, Masayoshi matching his speed. The sparks from their clash exploded like fireworks, and the force shook the ground.

The two traded attacks, their speed carrying them across the remains of the Zataran town. Anyone left to see the battle would only see streaks of bright white and dark green light surging through the artificial night.

But Masayoshi could feel the weight of his sword growing heavy, the side effect of using its power for this long was starting to damage his body more then the beast had. “I have no time to waste. I have to finish this.” he thought.

Masayoshi purposefully left a slight opening, one he knew the Oni would exploit. But he planned the moment just right. The Oni raised the cleaver high, like he was about to split a log and that’s when Masayoshi struck. Sinking the blade deep under the Oni’s chin as deep as he could.

What he’d not planned for this not being the coup de grace.

The Oni laughed a gurgling laugh, its mouth filled with blood, as it dropped its blade to free a hand to strangle the life from Masayoshi. He twisted and rocked the blade, pulling it a few centimetres out then sinking it back in as he felt the Oni’s hands wrap around his ribs.

He felt the beast’s grasp crushing him, his stabs became more rapid, desperate as the light began to fade. Like a panicked animal, thrashing at air for a simple chance of survival. As the black closed in, and the ability to breath was gone, Masayoshi thrust the blade limply one last time, and felt the hands around his midsection drop free. And a moment later his back collided with the stone ground, followed by the Oni’s body doing the same.

In the fleeting twilight of consciousness Masayoshi felt two pairs of hands grab under his arms, and he was vaguely aware of the rough ground sliding beneath him. Voices he couldn’t understand were around him, some panicked, some lightly argumentative. But when he opened his eyes he saw six survivors, dusty and bloody, but alive, all staring at him. With bated breath to see if their saviour was alive.

“I have to make sure it’s dead.” Masayoshi said trying to stand but was pushed back to sitting and a woman shook her head, as he checked his injuries.

A man spoke, broken but understandable. “How would you tell?” he questioned.

“It melts…” Masayoshi wheezed, as the adrenaline was beating its way from his blood he started to realise how hurt he really was.

The man peeked out from their hiding spot, watching as the skin of the beast slothed off and melted, leaving behind gooey bones.

“It’s dead.” the man assured Masayoshi. Causing the Ronin to lean back, able to turn off the fight.

“Good…go…” Masayoshi said before passing out.

< Prev : Prelude to a Daring Rescue pt2 Next > : Autumn's Homecoming - Prt 01