Fuusenkunoichi, Chapter 9

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Deep within the bamboo forest the wispy branches and leaves swooned and floated around near the top of the stalks, like an eternal and organic green mass. In the background they watched a tall snow-capped mountain that appeared to be bathing among the crystal clear blue sky. It was a plain yet beautiful sight; that is until a large dark round shadow began to fly around on the surface of the bamboo canopy.

Up in the azure sky, a dark blue orb with an deep shiny luster hovered over the bamboo sea, almost perfect in its roundness except for four cones for limbs and a tiny head with a healthy and shiny black ponytail flapping in the wind like a banner.

Kamiko the Fuusenkuniochi was flying around, but not on a mission to steal anything or assassinate someone, but instead she just needed to relax. She decided to heed the advice of her mentor Tomoko earlier in the day to go out and soothe her nerves after her mission at Lord Hanzo’s castle. She had known that her special abilities to inflate herself and others as a weapon gave her great power, but what she did last night instilled a sense of shock and awe not only in the elite ranks of Lord Taro’s aristocracy, but within herself.

As she shifted her head around and admired the panoramic view she had of the area, she sighed deeply and wondered:

“Sometimes I feel like this forest is about as big as my task at hand. How much longer will I have to go on as an instrument in Tomoko sensei’s plans? I don’t know why I trust her, but for some reason she really does know how to make things better for people out there.”

As Kamiko contemplated her conflicted feelings, she closed her eyes as she floated gracefully over the forest and remembered the time when she sat beside the bed of her dying stepfather, Yoshiyuki. She remembered how pale and weak he looked, and how his once-hearty and tanned face had transformed into what looked like white wax. Kamiko placed her hand on his side, feeling the gasping breaths shake his dying body.

“Oh Kamiko, did… did you ever know you were more like a true daughter to me rather than, than, an adopted one?”

“You treated us all like your own papa-san. You helped us grow into something better.”

Yoshiyuki sighed and narrowed his eyes as he heard Kamiko speak. Her voice soothed his battered nerves as he fought of the onslaught of the disease wreaking havoc within his body.

“Kamiko, Kamiko-rin. I am dying, I know it. But I don’t feel I am dying in vain. You right next to my side is proof enough, as well as Minako, Rin, Eiko, and Mao. All of them have grown up to be such mature and fine example of women. It makes my withering heart feel full again.”

“Oh please papa-san, don’t despair like this! You may look like you’re in bad shape now, but you’ll eventually get better.”

“Kamiko, this disease has eaten away at my health for almost two months. I am reaching the end of my life for sure. But please don’t waste your energy trying to bring me back. I want to see you and your sisters keep things going well around the farm, I know you can do it.”

Yoshiyuki looked up towards the ceiling, just as his breathing began to slow down.

“Before I go Kamiko, you must know this. I know the harvests haven’t been doing too well. I think the rice paddies around here have been loosing a lot of their vitality. There hasn’t been enough water to go around and keep them fertile. It is a shame really; I miss the time when Lord Hideyoshi was in power. He and I were such good friends and he made sure everyone else had enough resources to keep their crops healthy and productive.”

Yoshiyuki sighed as he thought again about Hideyoshi, remembering his once-proud rule over the land.

“However I don’t trust the ones who have replaced him. They have let the farmers down by neglecting their relationship with us. I don’t even know who the name of the new ruler is, its madness.”

Kamiko put her hand on Yoshiyuki’s forehead and gently rubbed his sweaty brow to sooth his slight frustration.

“Kamiko, dear Kamiko, if you can in some way, get him out of power. We need someone again who isn’t selfish and neglectful. We need help, and the ones who have protested have had their opinions fall on deaf ears. It may take time, but you have to work in a way that neither he nor the hawkish eyes of his cronies ever catch a glimpse of your motives.”

“But, but I’m just a girl.” said Kamiko.

“That has nothing to do with anything dear. People out there might think men are the ones who can do everything, but I’m not so sure of what they think. I have seen women who have done greater things than men, and they have sacrificed themselves in ways that even the strongest and hardest men would cringe over.”

Yoshiyuki began to cough hard. Kamiko quickly ran to the bucket of fresh water than she had on hand and attempted to pour some down the mouth of her ailing step-father. However he just turned his head to the side and refused.

“Please father, drink. You need some fluid to regain strength.”

“Don’t worry Kamiko; I have all the strength in the world. It isn’t in me, but I see it right in front of my face.”

Yoshiyuki’s eyes then began to slowly close as his last breath filled his lungs. Then he expelled the last gulp of oxygen that he would ever take as his heart within the deep recesses of his chest began to slow down its beat. Kamiko just kneeled by his side staring into the lifeless eyelids of Yoshiyuki and tears welled up in her eyes.

A single tear drop tapped the leaf of a bamboo leaf at the tip of a branch perched at the top of a chute as the still-inflated Kamiko sobbed over the bittersweet memory of Yoshiyuki’s passing. She hovered steadily as she remembered the pain of losing the man that helped her grow into a young woman. She then realized how his final words were not just an emotional farewell, but they were the means by what she could justify her current lot in life. She knew about Lord Taro’s neglectful rule not just from the mouth of Tomoko, but from Yoshiyuki as well. What she was doing as a Fuusenkunoichi might seem strange and sometimes violent, but it did have a distinct and worthwhile purpose.

Ahead of her she looked towards a single tall bamboo stalk that stood out among the others. She hovered over to it and gained a bit of altitude. After she positioned her globular bottom over it she began to expel the huge mass of chi-heated air inside her and descend. Kamiko tilted her body to the side so that her right foot would alight upon the tip of the bamboo chute. It gently touched the blunt bamboo edge as Kamiko’s body continued to compress and release the gas inside her. After a mere few seconds of deflating, Kamiko was back to her normal lithe feminine form. She kept her legs close together as she balanced herself on the tip of the bamboo stalk, then she crossed her arms as she looked off into the horizon and began to contemplate some more. It was a beautiful sight, and her hawkish eyes used the magnificent panorama in front of her to fuel her imagination.

Just a mere ten miles away from the bamboo forest, the castle of Lord Taro towered above the village in front of it. Perched on a hill, the brilliant red pagoda watched over the humble residences like an eternal imperial guard.

The main courtyard within the imposing heavily-guarded walls housed calm and serene stone gardens with fountains, creeks, and a few swooping pines. Lord Taro strolled towards a small Shinto shrine at the far-east corner of the garden. There Lord Hanzo kneeled and prayed at the wooden edifice, praying and chanting while uttering the name of his horribly deflated daughter, Kazuko. Taro just stood behind the hunched-over man as he prayed towards the recovery of his daughter. Feeling a presence behind him, Hanzo lifted his torso up and looked behind him. His eyes opened in shock as he turned towards his master and knelt before him.

“Oh Master Taro! Do you have good news regarding my daughter!? Please tell me we can get her back to normal.”

Taro’s grey eyes just glared down at the groveling man, both filled with a slight sense of pity, yet also with a hint of disgust.

“Well my dear Hanzo. It is too early to tell whether your daughter can be helped. However I do have someone who might be able to lift both your spirits and satisfy my needs.”

Hanzo still bowed his head to the ground in front of Taro’s feet, he felt a little confused upon hearing his master’s news so he looked up into his face and asked…

“Someone? Like who?”

Lord Taro stepped aside to reveal a woman in a white robe with plain embroidered blue flowers lining her sleeves. Her smooth black hair was done up in a tall and long ponytail as she stood with her arms planted on her front, looking towards the kneeling Hanzo.

“May I introduce you to Sadako, probably the best female assassin in the land. I have hired her specifically with the intent of dispatching the person who obliterated your castle and disfigured your daughter.”

Hanzo kept staring at the serene yet deadly woman in front of her, his once-morose face morphed slowly into a gleeful grin. He know had a chance for revenge and whenever Master Taro summoned someone who could do the job, he knew the people whom he hired would succeed.

“Please bring me her head, so I can spit upon it.” requested the vengeful and delighted Lord Hanzo.

Sadako just bowed her round and graceful face towards Lord Hanzo in compliance and turned around. She walked towards the doors that lead to the main yard so she could embark on her mission. As she disappeared Lord Hanzo turned towards Master Taro and again bowed deeply.

“Oh thank you. Thank you so much my Lord.”

“Quite an impressive request dear Hanzo. Just make sure I am around when you claim your trophy.” Lord Taro chuckled slightly in glee at the thought of his sycophantic minion defacing Kamiko’s decapitated head; that is if Sadako the assassin did her job.

As the day passed, the sun began to dip towards the horizon, tinting the once-blue sky into a deeper shade of orange. Kamiko still stood perched on the tip of the bamboo chute, staring off into the distance. As she continued to think about her current quest to bring stability back to the kingdom, Kamiko felt a low rumble within her stomach. She remembered that she hadn’t eaten the whole time she had been away from the temple.

“I’d better go back to Tomoko-sensei’s place. I hope we can have ramen tonight.” Kamiko sighed in pleasure at the thought of a hearty bowl of steaming ramen to fill her empty belly. Just as she was ready to inflate herself her senses tingled but not out of hunger; there was something near her. Quickly she looked behind her and jumped backwards. Just as she did this a long spear swooshed past her, flying up towards where her torso used to be before she moved. As Kamiko flipped backwards she landed right on top of another bamboo stalk and saw the spear that had almost skewered her and discovered that it had a thin chain attached to it. The long chain then suddenly turned taut and it pulled it back through the bamboo canopy from where it came from. Kamiko looked towards where the spear disappeared and she immediately jumped down feet first into the sea of bamboo leaves.

After landing into the ground and standing up from a crouch the blue and rubbery Kamiko saw an elegant lady with white robes standing in front of her. As lifted her head to stare into Kamiko’s eyes, Sadako grinned and slung another chain-attached spear towards the Fuusenkunoichi. Kamiko quickly leaned back and fell back-first onto the ground as the chained spear flew over her and embedded itself into a thick stalk of bamboo. Sadako tugged on the chain and rocketed the speak back towards her and also caused the large bamboo chute to break at the spot right below where the spear had embedded itself, pulling the jagged bottom of the chute right toward Kamiko’s head on the ground. She swiftly rolled to the right as the deadly bottom of the bamboo stalk hit the ground where she once-laid. The rest of the bamboo just fell down to earth, emitting a loud dull thud.

To avoid another attack from the spear-chucking assassin, Kamiko jumped up towards another bamboo pole, grabbed it, and held on as she eyed the deadly woman below her.

“Who are you!?” Kamiko yelled at the killer woman below her. “Who sent you!?”

Sadako just grinned and grabbed her white robe, pulling it off with a swift pull and flinging it to the cold forest floor in back of her. She wore a loincloth around her pelvic area, similar to what a sumo wrestler would wear. On her legs she wore a pair of long white knee-high stockings and a pair of sandals on her feet. Her arms had two elbow-length black-leather gloves adorning them with metal studs on each of her knuckles. On her chest she wore some tightly-wrapped strips of cloth around her chest and a red vest over her shoulders, with white cherry blossoms as a pattern. Sadako spread her legs apart and placed the two spears connected by a single long chain behind her shoulders and said…

“I am Sadako, or the Bloody Blossom as some people prefer to call me. I hope you enjoyed the fun you had with Lord Hanzo and his daughter, because I am going to place a price upon it. And now you must pay.”

Sadako then lifted both spears and positioned them horizontally above her head. She began to spin around, slowly at first, but quickly she began to pick up speed. She allowed the spears to dangle from their chains as they suspended themselves in mid-air from the centrifugal force. Now Sadako was spinning around like some sort of possessed top, she let the spears out further and further, any bamboo stalk that got in the way of them instantly got cut cleanly in half. Kamiko realized that Sadako was turning herself into a giant spinning rotor of death, so she flung herself off the pole she clung to and ran away while ducking the falling bamboo stalks that were cut down by Sadako’s deadly spinning fury.

Furiously trying to avoid Sadako’s whirling onslaught, Kamiko desperately tried to think of a way to escape. She couldn’t inflate and fly out of the way; Sadako’s flying spears would surely pop her as she flew off. To make matters even worse; as Kamiko ran away from Sadako she followed her. Kamiko knew she had to run towards an open space so Sadako’s spinning spear attack wouldn’t be as effective due to the lack of bamboo stalks to cut down. Since Kamiko had lived in the forest for a while she had grown accustomed to remembering the layout of it, especially the clearings that were within. She remembered that there was a particularly large one to east and she was currently running in that direction. All Kamiko could do right now was get away from Sadako in a quick and efficient manner so she ran towards a nearby bamboo stalk, grabbed the stalk, and swung around it a couple times like a gymnast. She then let go and propelled herself towards another stalk, grabbed it, swung around, and flung herself towards another stalk.

Kamiko was able to escape the deadly spears of Sadako in a quicker and swifter fashion once she had become more dexterous as swinging off the bamboo stalks. She did this method for at least five minutes straight until she spotted a light ahead.

“There’s the clearing!” Kamiko thought.

She sped up a bit to reach the clearing faster and then she finally slingshot herself into the open area and landed on her feet. She started running towards the middle of the large spacious grassy space and waited for Sadako to emerge from the side she had just emerged from. Within the bamboo forest the sound of the whirling spears and shattering bamboo grew louder, louder, and louder, until a few stalks began to explode from the clearing fly towards where Kamiko stood. The athletic and inflatable ninja girl jumped out of the way of a particularly slim rod of bamboo that flew towards her and planted itself in the ground. It was at least six feet long and it was totally hollow in the middle. Kamiko plucked it from the ground and held it as the spinning Sadako emerged from the forest. Sadako still spun wildly and approached Kamiko, but as she grew closer to her Sadako slowed down and began to reel in her spinning spears. As the spears came closer to Sadako’s body, she slowed down her spinning whirl.

“I can’t believe she isn’t falling to the ground yet. She should be dizzy as hell.” thought the impressed Kamiko.

Finally Sadako stopped her spinning, planted her feet into the ground, and grasped both spears by their handles firmly in her hands and held them over her head. She then held them in front of her and crossed them.

“You’re good at running, but you still haven’t proven your fighting skills. Young girl.” snarled the sultry femme. “Now let’s face off against each other.”

Kamiko’s right hand grabbed the small katana tied around her wrist and pointed it towards Sadako.

“Let’s go.” Kamiko held the long bamboo pole in front of her and held the katana in front of her, ready to clash weapons with her adversary.

Immediately Sadako tossed both spears at Kamiko, still crossed while flying through the air, and as they neared the ninja girl the two spear-tipped poles closed up while attempting to cut Kamiko in half like a pair of oversized scissors. Kamiko jumped up into the air, landed feet first on the spear handles, and jumped towards Sadako with her katana aimed at her head. Sadako saw Kamiko hurdling towards her with the small katana, so she pulled the spears back towards her, let the limp chains fold upwards and smack Kamiko’s right wrist, forcing her to let go of the katana. This caused Kamiko to stumble about in mid air as the mini-katana swiveled about in an arc and planted itself blade-first into the ground.

As Kamiko fell towards the ground she firmly grasped the bamboo pole that she held, swung it forward and pointed it towards the ground. As the tip dug into the ground the rest of the pole vaulted forwards, and Kamiko pointed her feet in the same direction. As the pole completed its arc, Kamiko landed feet-first on the ground and pulled the long stick out of the ground. Just after performing her impressive acrobatic stunt, Sadako turned towards Kamiko and shot one her tethered spears towards her. Anticipating this move, Kamiko lifted her left arm with the grappling arrow tied around the wrist, aimed it towards the approaching spear, and fired. The swift arrow flew towards the base of the spear’s handle and wrapped itself around the chain section, and Kamiko tugged the string attached to the arrow towards the left, allowing the spear to just narrowly miss her head.

After missing Kamiko, the spear hit the ground, but before Sadako could pull it out, Kamiko did the job for her by giving the string within her left hand a powerful tug. The base of the spear flew towards her and Kamiko grabbed the base of the spear just before it could hit her. Wasting no time, Kamiko established a firm grip on the spear’s handle and with all her might gave it a gigantic tug strong enough to allow the stunned Sadako to let go and start spinning around as she lost her grasp on her prized weapon. Sadako spun around a few times and just as she began to stop she fell down towards the ground on all fours. While Sadako lost her balance, Kamiko saw that she had fallen down with her butt facing her. As Kamiko stared at her snowy jiggling buttocks she instantly got a fantastic idea.

Immediately Kamiko pointed the long and thin bamboo tube towards Sadako’s backside and began to sprint right towards it. Before Sadako could get any chance to respond she felt a hard cold shaft penetrate her hindquarters. Her eyes bugged out in shock at what had just happened to her as the bamboo pole that Kamiko brandished violated her. At first she couldn’t do anything but stay frozen in her squatted position, unable to comprehend what had just happened to her. Just as Sadako started to turn her head to face her opponent, Kamiko took a huge breath, large enough to distend her stomach to the look of a nine-month pregnant woman and blow into the long bamboo tube. As Kamiko’s large stomach deflated, Sadako’s stomach billowed out. Sadako winced in pain as the warm air flowed into her, blowing her up.

“Oh, oh, oh GOD!” Sadako shrieked as she placed her hand on her naked round belly and felt how huge it had become.

Showing no mercy, Kamiko took another huge breath and blew into the tube again, inflating the hapless Sadako like a party balloon.

“Stop, STOP! The pressure! It’s, getting, too much!” Sadako pleaded with desperate mercy.

“It isn’t too comfortable, isn’t it?” said the confident and victorious Kamiko. “I can blow myself up like a balloon all the time, and I don’t bat an eye. And yet you can’t handle any of this. I thought you were a professional.”

“You’re a witch! A freak that needs to be burned so that your presence can never plague this world again!”

Upon hearing her insult, Kamiko took another puff into the tube, this time causing not only Sadako’s stomach to billow out to gargantuan proportions, but her limbs to plump up and her butt to billow up. All Sadako could do was wiggle her arms and legs as she rolled over onto her back and stared up into the sky. Sadako’s view of the purple night didn’t last long as Kamiko’s masked face blocked it and looked straight into her frightened eyes.

“I see Lord Hanzo and Taro have sent you to get me back for giving them a slap in the face. And it looks like you’ve just failed.”

Tears began to well up in the eyes of the swollen and defeated woman warrior as she began to ponder how horrible her fate was. Being blown up like a balloon at the hands of a smaller and presumably weaker feminine opponent.

“However, don’t think that you won’t see him again. You can tell Lord Taro that you screwed up, and I’ll let you return back to the castle since you bothered to come such a long way to meet me.”

Sadako stared into the eyes of Kamiko. She could see a grin form underneath shiny blue rubber that covered her mouth.

“Now, before we leave, I have to meet someone before you begin your journey.”

Kamiko’s face then dropped out of Sadako’s view. Her brow was drenched with sweat as she frantically wondered who Kamiko was going to meet. Then her eyes bugged out in fear as she heard Kamiko inhale and blow another large gust of warm air into her.

The last thing Sadako saw was her belly rise up into the cool night air and the strips of cloth around her breasts snap and fall off.

Back at Lord Taro’s castle the midnight moon shown above the blue roof tiles. Within the lop level of the pagoda, Taro himself was preparing for a good night’s sleep.

“That assassin I sent hasn’t come back yet.” Taro scratched his chin as he wondered about the whereabouts of his hired minion.

“Maybe she decided to camp somewhere when it got dark. Her little tiff with Tomoko’s helper probably took a little longer than expected.”

Taro then stretched his arms above his head, laid himself down on the bedding, and looked up towards the white ceiling. Before he could doze off, Taro began to hear a bunch of commotion among the guards in the main courtyard down below his window. Irritated by the disturbance he got out of bed, stomped towards the window, and slid it open. He looked down and saw a group of guards pointing upwards. The sentries on the walls held bright lanterns to shine light at an object in the night sky.

“What on earth are you all shouting about down there?!” Taro angrily screamed at the guards below.”

“Commander Taro!” One of the sentries holding a lantern yelled back. “There’s something in the sky approaching the castle! It’s getting near the wall!”

“What!?” gasped the puzzled Taro. He looked upwards and spotted what looked like a large round thirty-foot diameter blue orb approaching the floor right below him. On the shiny blue orb were what looked like a pair of tiny feet sticking out, another pair of little hands down below, and while the huge balloon tumbled towards the towering castle, a tiny masked head with a black ponytail rotated over the horizon of the huge floating globe.

“It’s Tomoko’s assassin girl! She’s foolish to think she can infiltrate the castle like this!” Lord Taro grinned at the chance to dispatch the intruder easily and effortlessly.

“Archers!” shouted Lord Taro. “Shoot her down! Let us pop this silly balloon girl!”

The tiny face on the huge balloon-female suddenly began to shake around and murmur in protest. Lord Taro couldn’t hear what she was yelling due to her distance and also the huge bulging cheeks that prevented any intelligible words to escape her mouth.

“What are you waiting for!? Take her out men!”

Down below, three men reached for arrows in the containers behind their back and placed them on their respective bows. They placed the butts of the arrows on the tight strings, pulled them back, and aimed at the huge inflated rubber-clad girl above them. They grinned at the easy shot and fired the deadly pointy projectiles.

A split second later, a huge explosion echoed throughout the village below the castle, instantly forcing the inhabitants within each house to wake up.

Just a mere minute after the huge explosion, Lord Taro exited a door on the bottom floor of the pagoda and entered the main courtyard. There was hardly anything left of the pneumatic intruder that had harassed the castle just a minute earlier. Many of the guards were still rubbing their heads after having been knocked over by the blast. There were a few spots of spattered blood on the castle walls and some limp pieces of blue flaccid rubber lying around in random spots.

“Ugh, look at the mess she made. But at least she will not bother us again. Now I can hunt down Tomoko and get her out of the way as well.” said Taro.

“Commander Taro! We’ve found her head!” shouted the captain of the guards as he approached his master.

“Excellent! Now my friend Hanzo can have his wish.”

As a guard ran towards Lord Taro with the head of the now-popped girl dangling by the long ponytail that he grasped firmly within his hand; he kneeled in front of Lord Taro and offered it to him. Taro gleefully snatched the disembodied head and held it in front of his face. The girl’s eyes were rolled back into her head, frozen still after she expired, yet the rubbery mask still covered her mouth and nose. At first Taro grinned, but then he noticed something suspicious about the face that he looked at. Quickly he pulled the mask down and his eyes grew wide with shock. It was Sadako.

Lord Taro’s face grew red with fury as he tossed Sadako’s head at a nearby guard. He caught it as it hit his chest and knocked the breath out of him. All Lord Taro did was storm off towards the entrance to the castle, fuming at Sadako’s failure. But before he could return to his room and stew with anger, another guard approached him from behind and called for him.

“Lord Taro! We’ve just found this small scroll among the remains! It appears to be a message!”

“Quickly Lord Taro turned around and snatched the small rolled-up piece of paper from the hands of the guard, opened it up, and read…

“Greetings Taro,

This is just the first thing that will blow up in your face.


After seeing Tomoko’s name at the end of the brief message, Lord Taro’s face turned a crimson red as he tossed it to the ground, raised his arms into the night sky, and bellowed furiously towards the heavens.

Back at the old temple nestled within the middle of the bamboo forest, a dim light shone from within. Inside Kamiko was enjoying a nice large bowl of hot ramen while wearing her comfortable light red kimono. She wolfed down the thick hearty noodles, the battle she had with Sadako had famished her. Kamiko took a pause from eating to look towards Tomoko who sat on the floor on the other side of the room and read from a parchment.

“Did you hear that sound just now sensei?”

“Yes, it looks like Hanzo just broke our ‘little’ present for him.”

“Ugh, I’d hate be there now.” grimaced Kamiko. She tried to imagine the fate Sadako had just met, but quickly put it out of her mind.

“Hmph, that Sadako was always a wild card. Oh she seemed calm at first, but she would lash out at your without any warning.” Tomoko reminisced. “Quite a few villagers lost their lives that way when she walked by Taro’s side a few times.”

Kamiko put down her bowl and turned around to face Tomoko.

“Why must he use such violent and careless people to accompany him?”

“You need force from others before you can show everyone how powerful you really are. Just as samurai instill fear in the peasants Lord Taro does the same via his own group of thugs.” Tomoko looked towards the planks on the floor and sighed. Now people will learn that his posse can be defeated, and when he has nobody left to turn to the people can overthrow him.”

Kamiko listened to Tomoko’s observation and tried to fathom the support Lord Taro had.

“But just think how many people we’d have to get out of the way. Plus doesn’t Lord Taro have his own army!?”

“Yes that is true. His army is powerful and perfectly complements his junta, so we might have to find a way in the future to cut them down to size as well.”

Kamiko’s eyes widened at Tomoko’s proposition.

“Take on a huge army!? Are you nuts!? He must have five-thousand people working for him!” Kamiko shrieked.

Tomoko just shook her head and chuckled. “Oh Kamiko, you have already blown down two castles and dispatched a trained assassin with your powers, so what makes you think you can’t take on a five-thousand man army?”

Tomoko got up and walked towards the main door. She slid it open and walked out into the cool evening air. Kamiko just leaned back and stared into the twisty and steamy mass of ramen noodles within her bowl. All she could do was reflect on not only what she accomplished up to this point, but also what her step-feather Yoshiyuki said on his deathbed. She looked at the noodles, all of them represented a path in her life that she had to travel on, and they all were contorted into complicated squiggly shapes that made her get confused and lost as she tried to follow them.

“And yet it all leads somewhere.” she thought.

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