Ryo screamed in pain. Bushido didn’t matter now, very little mattered now to Ryo. He had lost everything; his clan, his friends, and worst of all, his empire. The Emerald Empire had been overrun with the foul beasts of the Shadowlands. For the past ten years, Ryo had been on the run, fighting skirmishes when he could, running for dear life the rest of the time. This time though, Ryo’s luck had run out and he had been caught. He now hung in a converted prison in the middle of what used to be Clear Water Village.
“Not so tough now, eh samurai?” The big Tsuno torturer asked mockingly. “Don’t think Im through with you yet! Theres much more fun to come.” But Ryo couldn’t hear the tsuno’s last words, he had already blacked out from the pain of the lash.
******Nine years in the past******
Ryo stood on a hilltop overlooking the Fortress of the Jade Hand. A gruesome sight lay before him. It appeared that a battle had taken place only hours before Ryo had arrived, and from the looks of the battlefield it had been titanic. Scraps of jade colored armor and limbs of humans and various Shadowlands creatures were strewn everywhere. Ryo made his way towards the fortress, thoughts of finding friends overriding common sense. Suddenly, a hand grabbed Ryo’s leg, startling him from his thoughts and causing him to nearly decapitate the wounded Hida on the ground. “What has happened? Where is the Legion? Who won the battle here?” Questions raced from Ryo’s mouth.
The wounded Hida pointed towards an area of the battlefield more cluttered than the rest, a huge oni’s body lying among the corpses. “It called Keitko short…” the samurai managed, and then he met his ancestors.
Ryo made his way over to the great pile, saying prayers for the spirits of friends he recognized among the dead on the way. He saw Hida Okami, lying in a circle of death cut with his twin swords in the Niten style. Great gashed in the chest and neck areas of the oni, multiple lost limbs, some still clutching crude weapons. Further on was Hida Yagimaki, supporting and being supported by the Jade Hand’s battle standard, two tsuno impaled on the shaft. Finally, by the great oni’s body itself was Keitko, hands still grasping the broken shaft of his tetsubo, buried in the oni’s eye. Looking at the destruction, Ryo knelt down and wept, his grief breaking a samurais firm control of his face. At least they died as Crab, was all that Ryo could think later. When he had finished his mourning, he set out to find if any others had escaped the slaughter.
Ryo woke suddenly as black, disgusting water was poured over his head,
drenching him. “This game is tiring, who has been helping you?” The Tsuno demanded.
“And what… makes you think… I need help to battle the likes of you,” Ryo gasped through cut lips.
“Still fighting me?” The Tsuno roared. “Then you will feel the lash again.” Thankfully, Ryo had already collapsed into oblivion once more.
****Eight years in the past****
“Are these all the survivors?” Ryo asked, quite dismayed at how few samurai had gotten through the Shadowlands purge of Jade Hand castle.
“Unfortunately, it would seem so,” came a voice from the entrance of the warehouse the group had gathered in, “but you’ll be pleased that Im here, and I brought someone else along for you. I found her in the old Yasuki lands.”
Hiruma Teri, Im happy you are still around old friend. But who did you fi…” Ryo trailed off as a small figure stepped from behind Teri, a figure Ryo had thought he would never glimpse again. “Ami,” he breathed, tears threatening to claim him. He had met her on guard duty at the fortress, and over time and tea the two had shared stories and a friendship that eventually had grown into love.
“Hai, Hiruma Teri and Tamori Ami reporting for duty, Ryo-sama.” Teri and Ami snapped into bows, quickly covering for Ryo’s stunned show of affection.
“We are all equals here Teri, I have done nothing to deserve a command or a title. But if we are all here, it is time to start.” With those words from Mirumoto Ryo, the revenge of the Jade Hand began.
END Part 1
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