Ronin Warriors - Love and War Ep. 1
High above the skyline of the Japanese city of Toyama, past the rays of the sun that blessed the citizens with its light and warmth, upon clouds that slowly changed from white to gray to black the higher the height, stood a castle resembling the fortresses of a bygone era. But this castle was in no way pleasant or inviting. Its intimidating, dominating presence, painted in blood red and the darkest shade of black, would strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest of people once they set eyes on it, and much more to the ordinary.
And that was merely the outside. Deep inside, in what could otherwise be called the heart of the castle, all was darkness and black. Were a mere mortal to step in, they would instantly be bombarded with the evil that hung upon the air like the densest of fog. Of course, the actual occupants of this palace of death and despair were no mere mortals. Indeed, one could hardly call them human at all, especially the lord of the castle, who stood in the very center of it all, scanning the darkness for anyone who would dare interrupt him on this most important of days – or rather, the beginning of the end of days.
Once certain that he was alone, the castle lord gazed into the crystal sphere that stood in front of him, the only source of light in the whole room, perhaps the entire fortress – not that he needed it, of course. Indeed, as he continued to stare at the oblivious state of what he knew was going on in the world beneath him – what we humans call everyday life – he could feel the void where his non-existent heart would've been become deeper and darker… And oh how he loved and reveled it.
"Foolish mortals," he chuckled to himself, his eyes almost glowing with insatiable hunger and bloodlust. "You are almost worthy of my pity…but I think not. Soon my little game of hide-and-seek will come to an end, and you will all be nothing but fodder for my voracious appetite! I have waited far too long to be satisfied, but fear not. Your blood will soon be mine to drink, your pain mine to consume. And even better, this time, you will not have your precious little warrior brats to bar the way to what is rightfully mine!"
Just then, a knock on the door at the other side of the room reached his ears, causing the malicious monster to turn his back on his sphere. "Who dares?!" he shouted in frustration and annoyance. If this trespasser had anything less than a good reason to interrupt his plotting… "Enter at your own discretion!"
The intruder – who looked remarkably human for one who made his home in such a dark and dank dwelling – did so, the sound of the door opening and then being closed echoing throughout the large and empty cave-like chamber. "Milord," the uninvited guest began, the little light of the sphere that reached him revealing his green hair and serpentine eyes, "do forgive my intrusion. I know how eager you are to set your plan into motion, but I–"
"Cease!" the castle lord snarled, and the intruder quickly obeyed. "Put your tongue to good use before I cut it out of your mouth!"
"Y-yes, milord," the trespasser stammered, then reminded himself of his master's not-so-idle threat. "It seems we may once more face opposition to our plans for conquering the mortal world."
"Our plans?!" the castle lord scoffed cruelly. "Since your memory fails you, may I remind you that I am the one who has been lying in wait for eons to conquer what will be mine, and only mine?!"
"Forgive my insubordination, milord," the intruder nodded, the look on his face resembling that of an abused dog – submissive, but ready to bite the hand that fed him. "I only meant to inform you that our opposition this time around may be larger, and stronger." The castle lord felt tempted to dismiss his subordinate's obviously ill-founded claim. After all, it had been several years since the last time he'd faced humiliation and defeat. Certainly not long for him, but long enough for human mortals to forget about and move on from.
But the lord quickly reminded himself not to repeat the mistake of underestimating the threat posed to him. One such mistake had cost him victory before, and he would be wise to avoid any chance of making it again. "How much larger, and how much stronger?" he asked, his interest growing with every word. "Though I despise to admit it, you have roused my curiosity."
Hoping he wouldn't rouse anything more severe, the trespasser replied, "The Ronin Warriors are still out there, milord. They may have grown used to the passage of time since the Dynasty's last defeat, but they remain a threat as long as they live. And this time, they might bring reinforcements – five, to be specific."
Had the castle lord any blood in his veins, it would've boiled at the very mention of the accursed Ronin Warriors – the so-called defenders of humanity, when they were in fact a scourge upon the Netherworld. Twice in a row had the Dynasty suffered defeat at their collective hands. Every army sent against them had been destroyed. No matter what tricks or strategies the Netherworld threw at them, these mortals somehow managed to out-maneuver and out-fight them every single time.
"Do you mean to tell me there could be even more of them?!" The lord bellowed, the fury of his voice ringing as it echoed throughout the chamber.
But then, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that there could be a silver lining beneath the proverbial clouds – not counting those upon which he'd made his home. Sure, the Ronin Warriors were of that despised race called humanity, but they were far from mere mortals. In fact, were it not for the mystical armor each of them wore, they couldn't have possibly defeated the Dynasty even once, let alone twice.
The lord also recalled once again that, given how much time had passed, they might very well still believe their victory had been final, therefore leaving them entirely unprepared, never mind these possible new allies who likely had no knowledge of the Dynasty's very existence at all. And of course, just as time brings change in the world of mortals, so too had it brought great change in the Netherworld.
"Allow me to congratulate you, my friend," the castle lord smiled a predator's smile, both he and the intruder well aware that the word "friend" in this place was used in the loosest sense possible. "Indeed, you may have brought me more good news than bad." He then resumed his authoritarian bearing, and gave orders to his subordinate. "Find these new so-called warriors. Even if they may not appear to be much of a threat, they are a threat nonetheless. We cannot afford to take chances."
Although puzzled at how his master was now using the word "we," the trespasser bowed in deference. "Yes, milord. But, what exactly are my associates and I to do if we do find them?"
"When, not if," the castle lord corrected him. He then turned back again toward his sphere, gazing at where it stood in the distance, his anticipation of facing – and defeating – this new enemy force rising with every second. "And don't you worry too much about that," he added, his lips curving into a grin far more malevolent than the one before. "For if they are like what I am beginning to think they are, I would like nothing less than to use them for my own purposes, and drive those wretched Ronin Warriors mad!"
Meanwhile, in the world below, four young men had gathered in the living room of the house belonging to one student-professor Mia Koji. They were waiting for a fifth to arrive, some more impatiently than others. Gathering together like this was all too rare nowadays, and the situation they planned to discuss had definitely called for such. If only it didn't have to remind them of demons they'd long thought forgotten and buried in the past where they belonged.
"Man!" one of the guys groaned in frustration. "When is Ryo gonna get here?! He's usually the first of us to arrive at these things…" He trailed off as a troubling thought dawned on him. "Hope he didn't get in an accident or anything like that, or face some crazy threat without us."
"You're one to talk, Kento!" another faced him, chuckling at his own words. "Still," he then admitted with a frown, "you do have a point. It's not like him to be late for important things like this."
"I'm sure he's fine, Cye," a third spoke up as he stared out the window at the otherwise flawless weather. "We would've known by now if he wasn't. Don't forget, Mia's not here either, and we should be grateful she leased her house to us at a moment's notice."
"We are, Sage," the fourth remarked from where he sat on one of the couches, arms crossed. "But this isn't about Mia. It was Ryo who said we should all come here to talk. If his experience was just an isolated incident, he'd have probably tried to figure it out for himself before he brought it up to us."
"Thanks for sticking up for me, Rowen," a fifth voice said as the door then opened. In walked the undisputed leader of their ragtag team of heroes, an apologetic look on his face. "Sorry I'm late guys, seriously. You'd be surprised at how bad the traffic was."
"Why didn't you just come on White Blaze then?" Kento asked as though only he knew what was obvious. "He would've plowed straight through it for you."
"And caused a ton of damage in the process," Ryo pointed out with a slightly joking tone. He strode over to the couch where Rowen sat and took the seat next to him. "Not to mention all the attention none of us exactly want right now."
"Speaking of which," Rowen then spoke up, "before we get started, are we all sure this isn't just a coincidence or an isolated incident of some kind?"
"No offense, but I seriously doubt it," Sage replied as he turned to face the rest of his cohorts. "It was clear to me when we all discussed it with each other over the phone. As much as we might not like to admit it, I for one can't deny that this has something to do with our callings as Ronin Warriors."
"Me either," Cye let out a sad sigh, his shoulders slumped slightly in defeat at his admittance. "I can't deny it either, I mean. It's just…" He trailed off for a moment as he searched for the right words. "It's like, no matter how much we try to get away from it, our destiny keeps coming back to us in some way or another."
"Well, I'm not gonna be bummed out about it," Kento asserted. "Besides, it's not like we're all alone in this. We're all in this together." Though he may not have noticed, everyone raised their eyebrows at his surprisingly profound sentiment.
It was Ryo who first spoke in agreement. "Kento's right, guys. We gotta put our heads together and find out what this all means for us. If anyone has any idea what these dreams…visions…whatever they were, are, I'd love to hear 'em."
"Well, I say we all look at the common denominators first," Rowen reasoned. "For one, we all had these dreams on the exact same night. Two, Suzunagi appeared to us, just like she did last year."
"Wait a minute," Kento interrupted. "How do we know it actually was her? I mean, I know she was always spooky and mysterious and all that, but still. If this does mean something bad, I'd rather not be a sitting duck."
"I believe it was her," Cye countered his friend. "Though the only reason is I seriously doubt any enemy we've met before would approach us wearing something as holy as a rosary."
"Me too," Sage agreed with him. "And from what I remember, we also faced what felt like imminent danger in each of our dreams, but then a mysterious, shadowy woman showed up before things could get too bad."
"And unlike Suzunagi, they mustn't have all been the same person," Rowen added like an eager detective about to crack a cryptic case. "She worded it differently for all of us, but Suzunagi basically said our futures are bound with these women. But who they are, and how and why we're bound, is up to us to figure out."
The whole time, Ryo had been listening intently to everyone's input, even as he himself wanted more and more to see the picture that'd surely show up once all the pieces fit. "Are we sure they aren't people we already knew?"
"What do you mean?" Rowen asked. "Like Lady Kayura? I don't know about you guys, but it sure wasn't her in my dream. And I know from experience. Besides, she's been ruling the Dynasty in peace ever since we finally defeated Talpa."
Once Rowen brought up the name of the self-proclaimed arch-nemesis of the Ronin Warriors – and all that was good in general – a new thought lit itself on fire in the back of Ryo's mind. "Wait," he interrupted, his eyes wide as everyone lent him their attention. "What if Talpa hasn't been finally defeated like we thought? I mean, I know we have new armors and everything. But the Ancient One did say that as long as there was darkness in the hearts of humanity, Talpa would wage war with us."
"Perhaps he did say something like that," Cye momentarily agreed. "But, like you said, we each have new armors that were given to us by Suzunagi, ones that are free from Talpa's influence. Even if he does rise up again, with our new armors, who's to say the third time around won't be the charm?"
"That is a good point," Sage admitted. "But whatever kind of armor we're wearing, free of Talpa's influence or not, the Dynasty is not something to be taken lightly."
"And you think we don't know that, man?" Kento half-glared at him, his frustration returning in full force. "If you don't remember, Cye and I spent as much time in that dank dungeon as you. My wrists hurt a bit whenever I even think about it."
Seeing how fast this was getting out of hand, Ryo shot up from his seat and raised his voice. "That's enough, guys!" Everyone's eyes turned toward him once more, and he knew immediately what to say. "We've all experienced Talpa's cruelty firsthand in some way or another. But regardless, it's been five years since we defeated the Netherworld. Maybe Talpa has been lying in wait all this time. Maybe it's someone completely different and new. Whatever we're facing, what we need to focus on now is finding out the meaning of Suzunagi's newest message, and the identities of the women we saw."
To Ryo's relief, everyone seemed to calm down, nodding in agreement with their leader – though Kento muttered something intelligible only to him – when Rowen's eyes lit up. "I've got an idea!" Once he had the attention of all, he explained. "In my dream, Suzunagi said we would know these women when we saw them."
"But, what does that even mean?" Sage asked in a tone that was baffled rather than accusing. "I mean, are we just supposed to walk around Japan trying to find them? We have next to no clues. For all we know, they could be anyone or anywhere."
"Well, if you ask me," Cye replied, "I'd be the last one to say it'd be easy. But we are Ronin Warriors." Upon being met with confused faces, he elaborated. "Even when we're not in our armor, we can sense and see things no one else can. If we were to search for these women, we should probably use these senses."
This time, only Kento seemed struck with bewilderment, which quickly turned into disbelief as he asked with visible sarcasm, "So you're suggesting we use…ESP to find these girls? Like using a metal detector?"
Undeterred by his friend's comment, Cye only shrugged his shoulders, then smiled as he nodded with utmost sincerity. "That pretty much sums it up."
Ryo also nodded at his fellow warrior's words. He almost smiled himself now that they all finally seemed to be on the same page. Once again directing everybody in the room, he asked, "So, we're agreed then? We're all gonna search for these women Suzunagi told us about?"
"To be honest, sorry Ryo," Sage suddenly interrupted, then apologized. But Ryo silently urged him to go on, and Sage did so, declaring, "I'm thinking we should split up." Before anyone could oppose him, he added, "Yes, we've run into trouble when we struck out on our own before. But this isn't just about us, it's about those women, too. And they more than likely have no idea who we are or that we're Ronin Warriors."
Rowen seemed the first to figure out where Sage was going with this. "That's a good point. But they must be seriously important or special for Suzunagi to tell us about them, vague though she was. Still, I agree with you, Sage. This matter needs to be handled delicately. If we all went together, it'd just make things way more awkward. Not to mention it'd make us look intimidating."
His words were met with Kento's unmistakable laugh. "I'd like to see you try though, Sage. I know how awkward you can be around girls."
Sage furrowed his eyebrows at him in annoyance. "That doesn't mean I don't know how to act around them when it's called for! I wouldn't just immediately tell them I'm a Ronin Warrior and screw it up from the start."
Realizing they were returning to where they were just a minute ago, Ryo once again put a stop to the argument before it could start. "Look, the point is, each of us has a girl to find. Whoever they are, they must be important in some way, just like Rowen said. And just like Cye said, even if the search won't be easy, we'll at least have our special senses to help us out. And, like Sage said just now, it would be easier to break the ice to them if we all did this one-on-one."
Though Kento looked disappointed at not being mentioned, he quickly saw the sense in what Ryo said, and nodded. "You're right buddy. It's a good thing we have you as our leader."
In spite of the veiled comment that'd been picked up by everybody, especially Sage, Ryo reasoned calmly, "So this is the plan, right? We strike out on our own and search for the woman we saw, and once we find them and fill them in, we get in touch with each other and let each other know. Everyone who agrees, say aye; and everyone who doesn't, say nay."
One by one, all of the young men in the room said, "Aye." Ryo also voiced his agreement, satisfied that they now at least had an idea of what Suzunagi's message meant, and a plan to figure out the rest. But even as he called the meeting adjourned, Ryo couldn't help but listen to the doubts and questions that soon accumulated in his mind, almost begging to be answered.
I know we've faced tough situations before, but it still feels like we're treading new ground. Then again, we are sort of recruiting new members to our team, if I'm not mistaken. Still, I hope we get the answers we need soon, and that things won't turn out too badly for any of us…
Disclaimer: I do not own Ronin Warriors, which belongs to Sunrise. Apart from that, any OCs that do appear are mine.
Note: I used to have an image posted here like all the other chapters, but when I edited this one, it disappeared, and I have no idea how to get it back. Even adjusting the preview thumbnail isn't working. If anyone has tips they can give me I'd really love to hear them!
Episode 2: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 3: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 4: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 5: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 6: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 7: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 8: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 9: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 10: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 11: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 12: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 13: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 14: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Episode 15: www.deviantart.com/maskedlady7…
Thank you very much everyone for the praise and accolades. I honestly never dreamed someone as obscure as me would get praise like this on this site. I feel humbled yet very much honored. Thanks again!
So, funny enough, I started watching Ronin Warriors again recently and found this right before I finished up, so the timing was perfect. This was a really good first chapter - interesting, well-paced, and it didn't drag at any point.
The guy with green hair... Surely that isn't Sekhmet. I really hope he didn't get sucked back into Talpa's control. Also, Talpa can now smile? He has...facial expressions!?
I have a few of those myself, but they take a backseat as I'm working on my ongoing original story, which is posted here. I release a chapter every few weeks or so. I'm excited to read a continuation of the Ronins' story, having just watched the series again ^^