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"To hell, allegiance! vows to the blackest devil!
Conscience, and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation: To this point I stand, -
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
Let come what comes; only I
ll be revengd."

- Shakespeare


TH, 1958

Oroku Nagis coffin rested before his family and friends, a smattering of roses and other flora placed on and about it. Rain drummed against their heads, hats, and umbrellas, and the thunder continued to rumble.

Appropriate, Saki angrily thought to himself.

He could not hold it in any longer. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he threw himself against the coffin, breaking free of his mothers adamant grasp. "Nagi!" he cried out. He beat against the coffins side relentlessly until his mother dragged him off of it. "Nagi!"

Miyoko was sobbing as well. "Nagi has gone to your father and sister, Saki. There is nothing anyone can do for him now. It is no easier for me than it is for you. Please understand."

"No!" Saki screamed. "I know his murderer! I know his name, his face! Hamato Yoshi shall pay for this with his blood!"

"You are only seven years old, child!" his grandfather, Ishii, said. "Do not make this any harder on yourself."

"I swear it! I swear it!" Saki stormed away from the coffin, pushing his way through the people. None pursured him. Alone and away from them all now, he went to lay against a tree.

One of the black-clad men gathered around the coffin approached Saki. It was not a man he recognized as one of their family, so he could only assume it was one of Nagis friends.

"I could not help but overhear you, Oroku Saki," the man whispered, as eerie shadows hung in his black eyes.

"What do you want?" Saki snapped.

"Only to help you." The dark man leaned closer. "Your brother Nagi was a member of the Foot Clan, an elite clan of ninja. Perhaps he told you of us in confidence. We have been operating for some time in secret, but I believe it just might have a place for you. If you are interested."

"What can it do for me?" Saki snapped, the tears still streaming down his face. "I want my brothers killer dead! Dead!"

"Hamato Yoshi was exiled to America for his crimes, where he and his wench still remain. The police may have not given them a second thought, but do not think his crimes will be so easily forgiven by his brethren. He broke the code. He killed another Foot. The circumstances are irrelevant." The man met Sakis gaze. "The Foot Clan can temper you, Saki. Given time, under the tutelage of our masters, you shall become an unstoppable fighter, easily an equal to Hamato Yoshi. Then…vengeance shall be yours. Yours for the reaping."

His anger dwindled for a moment as he considered the mans words. "You… you will teach me to fight like my brother?"

"Yes, and much more," the man assured him. "I trust by your question you are interested in my proposition…?"

Saki swallowed his fear. "I-I am interested. What do I need to do?"

"Do not worry, little one. We will keep in touch."



While his grandparents were inside their new Kyoto home comforting his mother, Saki sat on the porch steps with Minya.

"Why do bad things happen to good people, Minya?" Saki asked after an uncomfortable silence that had lingered minutes. The playful, child-like games and banter simply didnt happen anymore. The now-eight year-old Saki had spent the days since the funeral brooding, thinking, rethinking, and spending time with the only friend he had left.

"I… I dont know, Saki."

"No… no one can. My father… he used to say everything happens for a reason… that there is a purpose behind every act…"

Minya, not knowing what to say in response, only scooted closer to him and put her arm over his shoulder. They sat there, huddled together, for a time before Saki spoke again, "I am leaving tonight."

"Leaving…? But, Saki… to where?"

"I… I dont know. But I know it is something I must do… for my sake and my brothers."

"I-I dont understand…"

Saki sighed. "You wouldnt… Im not even sure I do."

"How long will you be gone?"

"A long time, I think."

"Oh, Saki…"

Something painful flashed across Sakis face. "I… I wont ask you to wait for me when I do come b"

"Ill wait for you as long as youre gone, wherever you go." Her answer was quick and heartfelt. "Even if Im an old lady by the time you get back."

Saki smiled boyishly, something he hadnt done in some time. Calmly, he stated, "Im going to marry you, Minya."


A knock, then another.

Heitchi, in the arms of Miyoko, watched with Miko as his father got up to answer the door.

Kenji smiled and gave a laugh as he made his way toward the door. "Must be Saki and Minya…" he said, "Those two kids…"

"Oroku Kenji," boomed a deep, distinguished voice as the door was opened. A dark hooded figure appeared out of the doorway flanked by two others in gray jumpsuits, a menacing man clad nearly head to toe in steel plated armor crowned with a samurai-esque steel helmet. All three entered. "You have crossed my brethren. I come for compensation."

Kenji stood still, befuddled. "Who…who are you?"

A glint of malevolence could be seen in the figures hooded facial features. "I am known as The Bladed One, the instrument of your admonishment. Again, I come for compensation."

"The arrangement I made with your people…I told them I would pay them for their services within the week. If its more money youre asking for, I will gladly give you wh"

"You misunderstand, Oroku Kenji. It is not monetary compensation I seek." The Bladed One edged closer. Saki could see curved, savage-looking blades jutting out of the plates on the mans wrists. "It is life…" He shot a look at little Miko. Both Kenji and Miyoko gasped in horror. "And the life of your daughter will do just fine!"

"No!" Kenji shouted. Raising his fists at The Bladed One as his oldest son, Nagi, ran from upstairs to help, the scene dissolved in a mottling of reds and dizzying hues.



Saki awakened exactly where he had passed out while trekkingin the bushes. It was still nighttime, probably a little after midnight, he guessed. Shaking off the dreamthe same dream he had been having every night since the death of his father and sister, a dream that didnt even cease after the death of his brotherhe threw back on his pack and continued on.

His back beginning to ache under the weight he was bearing, Saki emerged from the scattered forestry between an unpaved road and the clearing he had found himself drawn to upon leaving the city hours ago. It was rare to see such rural land left in Japan.

Shifting his sack to other shoulder, Saki pressed on. Vengeance fueled the boy now, and what a powerful fuel it was. Saki was following his heart, driven on the determination to find his absolution, the means to make himself better than the villains of his life.

Better, and then one day… one day…

No, he decided, better not to think on that now.

Saki continued walking nearly until sunrise, slipping into a state of mind that could almost be described as a trance.

He never saw it coming.

He felt a sudden, sharp pain to the back of his head before a warm, nauseating darkness enfolded him.



Sounds. Voices. Light. Faces. Men in jumpsuits. Pain. Lots of pain.

"I see you are with us again, Oroku Saki. Welcome to our training grounds."

Saki stirred, moaning lightly as he rubbed his eyes, then the back of his head, where there was now a bump.

"I apologize. You must understand that we operate in strict secrecy, particularly with those not quite yet amongst our ranks." As Sakis eyes focused, he saw the speaker. It was the man from his brothers funeral, though he was garbed in a gray jumpsuit like the jumpsuits of the three around him, though he had his bubble-eyed mask off so Saki could recognize him. "Tell me, Saki… did you seek us out to join our ranks?"

Something took ahold of Sakis subconscious then as he was asked the question, something that washed out the cobwebs of his nausea and grogginess. His answer was terse and firmly felt, "Yes, sir."

The man bowed then. "My name is Tenchi," he at last introduced himself. "I am something of a recruiter, if a discreet one. In time we would have sought you out, but your coming to us only proves your determination to the grandmaster of training and myself, his adjutant. If you have any questions, let them be answered now."

Saki didnt have to think hard. "Tell me… about the Foot Clan…"

Tenchi did.

The Foot Clan was an organized criminal syndicate originating in Japans feudal period in the year 1373 by two ronin members of the Gosei Samurai Clan, a syndicate dealing in drug smuggling, arms running, and assassinations. The Foot was currently in a period of expansion across the world, establishing bases of operation in major cities, each one placed under the jurisdiction and leadership of established ninja. They were ruled by a Council of Eight in the head lodge in Tokyo, administrated by "The Faceless One." The Foot was unlike the traditional ninja clan in that it had thoroughly adapted itself to twentieth century civilization. Its members werent adverse to using modems, high-tech weaponry, and surveillance devices in addition to their time-honored techniques of ninjitsu. Tenchi explained that the Foot gained its clan name from the style of fighting they preferred, one which used extensive kicks and other leg and foot strikes. Nearly ten thousand ninja were members of the Foot total.

"It can temper you, Saki," Tenchi said, confidence in his voice as he put his mask back on. "You have the potential to be so much better than your brother…I can see it in your eyes. We can make you the best of the best. If you are still interested…"

"Of course."

"Good." Tenchi raised an arm, beckoning Saki outside the small bamboo-like cabin between the three other Foot. "Then you must go before the grandmaster for your rites of initiation at once. This way."

Saki hobbled off the hard excuse for a mat he had awakened on and followed Tenchi into the open training grounds. After his glance traveled over the dozens of Foot in training, either sparring or performing various exercises as part of their daily regimen, it settled on the burly, looming figure to whom Tenchi walked.

It was the grandmaster of training, clad in his full steel regalia—the Bladed One, the man from Sakis dreams in full steel, wrist-bladed regalia.

The man that killed Kenji and Miko.

It had not been mere hoodlums Sakis father had been dealing with. It had been the Foot Clan.

"Greetings, young one," the Bladed One spoke down to him, his gauntleted arms crossed over his massive chest. He looked like a shogun. Saki looked the killer of his father and sister straight in the eye, straight in his scarred, exposed face as he went on, "I am the grandmaster of training. I taught your brother… while he was still with us." He suddenly gave a half-bow. "Oh, how impolite of me… I am known to our brethren as the Bladed One."

Saki winced, narrowing his hate-filled eyes as he returned the bow. "I know," he rasped.

One day…


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