The most sleep Chiaki or Midori got that night was three hours at best.
Still, they had to get up bright and early. Chiaki had to nudge Midori out of bed. He even used his talk about tokusatsu as a threat if Midori didn’t wake up early. When he heard that the young boy bolted out of bed and Chiaki would laugh right after, he felt like a dad.
When both of them had prepared themselves for the day, Chiaki got to the pilot seat of the spaceship and, using the various buttons in front of him, set coordinates for their next destination.
“So what exactly are we doing now? Where are we supposed to go?” Midori asked. If he was being honest, he still didn’t have a full grip on what they would be doing on their journey, despite accepting Chiaki’s invitation to join him.
“My master gave me a map marked with important places. One of the planets we have to visit is where ninjas and samurai live. We must find a young ninja who is supposed to be the successor of the clan.” Chiaki pointed at a specific point on the map, circled in red. “You’ll want to sit tight since it will be a few hours before we get there.”
Ninjas living in space sounded very odd, and farfetched, but were very real.
The spaceship landed inside a forest where a large area conveniently wasn’t covered in trees. Chiaki and Midori waited for the ship’s body flap to fully open up before dismounting the ship. Once they had both gotten off, Chiaki grabbed a small controller device out of his pocket and pushed a button that closed the spaceship’s door. He inserted the controller back into his pocket and looked straight ahead of him.
“Come on, Takamine. If we move far ahead enough, we’ll find the Ninja Clan’s base!” Chiaki turned to face Midori and pointed south. Midori sighed in response and gave his arms a quick stretch before following behind Chiaki.
As they continued their journey through the large forest with only minimal light coming from gaps within tree leaves, both of them noticed that the deeper they went into the forest, the more different these trees looked; they had significant marks and cuts on them, and Chiaki even stepped on an abandoned shuriken, which almost startled him when he stepped on it. All of this proved they were getting much closer to ninja territory.
“Morisawa-san, how are we going to approach these ninjas…? It doesn’t feel right for us to just walk in unannounced. What if they think we’re intruders or something? Then they’ll lock us up… and interrogate us… jeez, just thinking about what will happen is so draining.” Midori remarked with a sigh, as he could already feel sweat fall from his body. He was really starting to wish he left Chiaki on his own with his adventures. Chiaki stopped to turn around.
“You raise a good point, Takamine… There are guards at the entrance of the Ninja Clan’s village, so if we calmly walk up to them and explain our business with the leader- I’m sure things will turn out fine!”
Things were not fine, however. Midori could hear the bushes rustling while Chiaki decided to monologue about his plans, making him uneasy and worsening his sweating. Midori’s eyes darted behind Chiaki and he could clearly see ninjas had just appeared in the trees, waiting to ambush them. Midori was visibly very nervous and tried to ignore them. He tried waving his hands in the older man’s face. Trying to alert him with noise would do no good, he figured the ninjas that were so close to ambushing him would attack the moment he made a peep. Unfortunately for Midori, his efforts were in vain.
One ninja held a shuriken in their fingertips, ready to strike as they were in a position where they were ready to throw it. Midori noticed this from the corner of his eye, and when the ninja was just about to throw a shuriken- Midori ran towards Chiaki and pushed him out of the way, landing both of them on the ground. Chiaki made a painful “Oof!” as he hit his head against the dirt. The rest of the ninjas didn't hesitate to ambush the two as they jumped out of the trees and other hiding spots. They were knocked out, and everything, after that was a blur as both of their worlds, went black.
“Nnngh…” Chiaki could feel his head throbbing intensely from the fall he took earlier and his vision was blurry. He tried to move his body, but it seemed his body was stuck in a kneeling position, with his head on the floor. He couldn’t move his arms, which made him quickly realize that he had been tied up. He struggled to get his body upright, and once he did, he looked up and noticed a boy standing before him. He turned his head around in search of Midori, only to realize he was next to him, to his right.
“Eyes up here, intruder,” the boy blurted out with his arms crossed. Chiaki looked upon command. Standing right in front of him was a short boy whose bangs covered his left eye, and a large, ugly scar across his face. His eye had a piercing glare that made Chiaki and Midori uneasy. The room was barely lit by a single torch at the back of it, casting a shadow over him which only made him scarier, along with two guards at the entrance of the room covered in completely black clothing, they almost blended perfectly within the shadows if not for the yellow lighting of the room.
“What business do you have with the Ninja Clan that you feel the need to step onto our territory, uninvited?” the scary-looking boy interrogated, his body not moving an inch. Right beside this boy was another taller than him, their hair tied into a side braid.
“Well, ah- um…” Chiaki stuttered. “This may sound hard to believe but, I come because I need to recruit someone for uh- something really important! I was sent by a prophet to seek out the next in line! The leader’s son-”
“You mean the Jonin? I am his son, de gozaru.” the ninja boy interrupted.
“Really? Then that’s perfect! Okay so- we need you to… to… we need you because the universe is in danger! The prophet- my master said a dark order is coming. They’re coming to take over the universe as revenge from a war long ago…!” Chiaki’s tone was extremely nervous, which made him sound very unconvincing. He felt silly for being intimidated by someone who was significantly younger than him.
Raising an eyebrow, it was obvious the ninja boy was skeptical of Chiaki’s information, even with the minimal light. “Uh-huh, a likely story. Everyone knows that all the prophets are dead.”
“But one survived..! My master did… you need to believe me! Please..! Neither I nor Takamine came here seeking harm... We only ask for your help!” Chiaki explained, sounding more desperate than ever.
“Even if that is true, there will be people after them once word of a surviving prophet comes out… Oh jeez, I’m very sorry for speaking out of turn!” The tall ninja said, feeling nervous and embarrassed. The shorter one put a hand on their shoulder in reassurance and his expression softened. He then refocused on the current situation.
“Enough with the bullshit, de gozaru. I don’t know who sent you… but you will answer us with the truth, now. ” The scary-looking ninja’s gaze intensified, his eyebrows furrowing.
“This is the truth! I promise you, I would never go into unknown territory trying to harm other people!” The intense nervousness in Chiaki’s voice failed him once more, sounding very unconvincing.
“You only make claims through your words, but how are we so sure you mean what you say? I cannot risk the safety of the clan because of two intruders wandering on our territory, de gozaru.” The young ninja crossed his arms, still very unconvinced.
“Besides, if you didn’t mean any harm to us then you would’ve properly notified us beforehand of your arrival. That’s what you’re supposed to do prior to entering our territory.” He continued.
“I’m very sorry! I should’ve done that, but I didn’t know any better because I came from earth!” Chiaki blurted out, he was willing to bring up anything about him if it could possibly defend him at this moment. That seemed to only raise suspicion about Chiaki and Midori.
“Chief, should we imprison them?” The taller ninja accompanying the heir asked, waiting for the other's affirmation.
“NO!” Chiaki yelled desperately.
“Yes,” The young ninja looked at the two ninjas guarding the door as if he was telling them what to do telepathically. The two guards dragged Chiaki and Midori out of the room. Chiaki tried to convince the two to reconsider, but the moment he opened his mouth, the guards shut him up.
Soon the guards, Chiaki, and Midori would disappear from the room.
“Agh, Shinobu… I need to stop calling you ‘chief’, especially because you don’t like it…” The tall teenager rubbed his head, seemingly frustrated with himself.
“Please do not fret over it Mayoi-dono, I just want you to know we aren’t strangers to each other anymore. Anyways, let’s go. We need to let my father know about these ‘visitors’.” Shinobu reassured him, both of them left, leaving the room empty with only the light of a torch filling its space.
Chiaki and Midori were thrown into a prison cell like they were trash. Both fell hard on their backs, which left them with aching pain. Their journey wasn’t off to an amazing start, especially for Midori. He accepted the offer to join Chiaki on his mission and now he was a prisoner? Perfect, just perfect. This is definitely the ideal circumstance for both of them.
The walls of the prison were completely made of cobblestone, and they seemed to be underground. The floor was very uncomfortable to sit on, it felt cold and hard. It sent chills across their bodies.
“I seriously didn’t think our first destination would land us in prison…” Midori grumbled. He sounded like it was more of an inconvenience than a serious problem. “I mean, how are we supposed to get out of here..?”
There was nothing nearby to help them escape. The only thing that lay in the cell with them was a bunch of dust. Chiaki then stared down at his palms with an idea in mind.
His hands were still recovering from the fight he had the day before. Despite the fact he wielded fire magic, he had to be careful with how he used it. If he didn’t use his magic carefully, his hands would suffer from burns. But in this case, there was no other solution and because there was no rush to fight anything, he could focus all his energy towards his magic.
“Takamine, I have an idea,” Chiaki spoke, his voice echoing in the empty halls of the dungeon. Midori said nothing in response but he looked up at him like he was saying, “yeah, I’m listening.”
“I can get us out of here easily. I’ll use fire to melt the bars. But now we’ll go directly to the ninja clan’s leader. His son doesn’t seem to like negotiation that much, so we have to sneak around until we find the leader himself, and hopefully, he’ll listen to us…” Chiaki explained, readying his hands and reciting a spell in his mind to summon fire into his palms.
“But, we’re in a palace full of ninjas, Morisawa-san… I’m sure they’d be better at sneaking around, and would probably even catch us trying to sneak into their leader's room. We’ll look so suspicious and they’ll probably kill us. Ugh, this is all so stressful,” Midori complained as he put his hands to his forehead.
Whether or not this Plan B would work was really debatable, ninja’s were known for their stealth and sneakiness, along with being able to blend into their surroundings well. Because of this, it was possible to be easily caught by anyone they didn’t even know was nearby.
Chiaki’s hands were covered in flames, and he gripped the bars of their cell tightly until he could feel them melting. He tried hard to channel every bit of energy in him to his fire, but he couldn’t help it if his hands stung just a little bit from the flames. He moved his hands to other parts of the bars once the ones he was touching previously completely melted. Midori watched curiously; with Chiaki’s expression, and the amount of energy he was putting into it, he thought the older man was in pain.
Soon, enough of the bars melted that both of them could exit the cell with no problem. Midori moved out after Chiaki, and both were no longer trapped in a confined area.
“Morisawa-san, can I get a look at your hands..?” Midori asked, already looking at his palms. Chiaki put his hands forward and Midori put his own hand underneath Chiaki’s. His free hand was above Chiaki’s and his fingers did a fluttering motion until small green sparkles fell from his fingertips and onto the burn marks of Chiaki’s hands. He looked down at his healing hands in amazement; he had no idea Midori was capable of such magic.
“Amazing, Takamine! This will be super useful in future battles. Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Chiaki squeezed Midori into a hug that was way too tight for Midori’s liking.
“Argh, Morisawa-san, please let go of me! Just because I healed your hand doesn’t mean you get to squeeze me into a hug!” Midori yelled, struggling to get out of Chiaki’s arms. Chiaki apologized sheepishly and let go of him.
“Geez Morisawa-san, you’re like an over-excited father,” Midori pouted, looking away from him.
“You think I act like a father?” Chiaki asked excitedly with a bright smile.
“That’s not what I completely meant… nevermind, I regret saying anything.” Midori sighed.
The two of them would walk in the long narrow halls of the dungeon until they found a spiral staircase, which seemed to be the exit to their prison. They’d journey their way up the stairs cautiously, making sure their steps weren’t too loud for any nearby ninjas to hear, although it was difficult because of the creaking the wooden flooring made. They continued until they found a hallway, lit up with torches and the windows leaking in sunlight which told them they had exited the dungeon area. The wooden palace had many decorative murals on the walls with dull, light colors.
Silently, Chiaki and Midori tiptoed out of the hallway and looked around to find which room could possibly be where the ninjas' leader is. Chiaki assumed the largest door would be the correct room, so they both walked down the route leading to that place.
Poor Chiaki and Midori had the misfortune of encountering Shinobu as they approached the room. For a few moments, they stood dead still, staring at each other.
“You two…” Shinobu said in a low growl.
“Run,” Chiaki whispered to Midori, and they dashed off before Shinobu could say another word. But that wouldn’t stop him from chasing after them.
“Get back here!” Shinobu yelled angrily, grabbing a shuriken from his pocket and throwing it at them, Midori screamed as the shuriken passed by, almost slicing him.
They ran into a wall and Shinobu was about to charge at them. Quickly, Chiaki clapped his hands together to shoot fire from his hands, hoping Shinobu would keep away. A smirk appeared on Shinobu’s face, fire was like child's play to him. The little ninja did a flip, dodging the fire and landing on his feet. He would then point a weapon at Chiaki and Midori’s necks.
“I was going to go back into the dungeons and take you to my father if you had just stayed in your prison, but it seems the two of you were too impatient to be let out,” Shinobu explained, looking annoyed.
“Of course we’re impatient, we’re on a really important mission…” Midori mumbled under his breath. No one could continue the conversation; since another man walked into the scene.
“Shinobu, what is all of this ruckus? I said to get the prisoners so I could meet them, I don’t think that’s a very difficult task- is it?” Said an old man with Mayoi behind him, approaching the scene.
“Father! That’s exactly what I was going to do until I found these two escaped!” Shinobu explained himself, lowering his weapon.
“Chasing them isn’t necessary, just bring them to me, son.” His father responded.
“But! What if an enemy from our previous missions sent them to ambush us? Is it really alright to risk our safety because of these two?” Shinobu objected. The idea his father was proposing made him very anxious, but he tried to not let it show.
“I don’t even know why these people are here in the first place. Let us hear why they came here first and then I will see if they are to be trusted or not.”
Shinobu sighed, giving in to his father and putting his weapons away.
“Good child. Now come on, all of you. Let’s go somewhere so we can discuss these things more properly.” The leader said, waiting for the three to catch up to him and Mayoi.
The halls were dark until they reached an area with large windows that let the sunlight peak into the building. They entered a room where it was much brighter and everyone was easier to see.
Chiaki looked at Shinobu and Mayoi and wondered if they were possibly siblings because of their closeness in age and how close they seemed.
The clan’s leader cleared his throat.
“Now that we are in a more inviting scene, please state your business.”
“Of course, sir. I come from the last surviving prophet. He found me from earth and took me into space. The entire universe is in danger, and I need to seek four people to help me on my journey. One of the people I was sent to look after was your son.” Chiaki spoke respectfully, bowing after.
“I do not understand why I am required for such a journey. Why not my father? He is much more capable of such a task than I, de gozaru.” Shinobu asked. He was still extremely skeptical of whatever the two were trying to rope him into.
“Pipe down Shinobu, we should hear them out completely.” It was almost as if his father was tired of his skepticism. Midori tried his hardest to not snicker at it, but he couldn’t help but let out a giggle and a smile on his face. Shinobu immediately glared at him, and Midori quickly humbled himself in fear.
“After I scout all four people, we are to look for the remains of the meteors that once created this world. Their power will help us against the Dark Order, an evil organization on the rise to try to take over the universe.” Chiaki revealed his necklace that held the red meteor fragment. All three ninjas stared in surprise, wondering how some earthling was able to get his hands on an ancient object.
They started to look more convinced, which made Chiaki wonder if the meteors magic was making people believe what he said. That somehow seemed more magical than whatever was supposed to unleash when the five meteors reunited.
“And we are sure the Dark Order isn’t something you just made up because..?” Shinobu interjected.
“They’re real. They took my family away from me in front of my own eyes. They took so many people away. It’s only thanks to Morisawa-san that I wasn't captured by them, myself.” Midori answered sternly. Chiaki turned to face Midori. He hadn’t spoken a word since they had woken up, captured by ninjas.
Despite the claims given by Midori, Shinobu didn’t say or do anything to show his change of perspective. It was hard to read him in general; his expressions were like a blank slate. But perhaps that was intentional. He was a ninja, after all.
“I fully believe you, but it is up to my son whether or not he wants to go with you. Please give him some time for his decision. I imagine he would not be able to make up his mind on such a sudden matter so easily.” The Jonin looked at his son. Shinobu nodded.
“Alright then, I guess. In the meantime, please feel free to stay in personal rooms, or explore the palace with caution. Do not enter any forbidden rooms unless you seek trouble.” Shinobu said, “Let’s go Mayoi-dono,” Mayoi nodded.
“Yes, Chief,” he responded in a shaky voice. Mayoi seemed visibly nervous by the new people appearing in their territory so suddenly.
Chiaki and Midori followed Shinobu and Mayoi until they reached a guest room within the palace. It had a few lit torches, and the furniture wasn’t luxurious, but it was fancier than any ordinary room.
Shinobu got down on one knee, facing the ground.
“I should apologize to the both of you for being so violent. I thought being cautious would help keep our clan safe, after all as the heir to this clan I do not want to be the reason why anything bad ever happens to us.” He explained himself and everyone in the room stared down at him.
“It’s alright,” Chiaki responded, Midori gave him a weird look, as to say Really? It’s okay that this crazy kid just tried to kill us not too long ago? Because I definitely don’t agree with that!
“I have no clue what being a leader is like, but I imagine you’d want to take the extra step in protecting everyone and, well- imprisoning and interrogating suspicious people who wind up in your territory. This place is your home after all.” He continued.
“Of course, the outside world knows nothing of us besides the little rumors spread by travelers… but that’s how it should be.” Shinobu nodded in affirmation. He decided to change the subject after that.
“I am called Shinobu Sengoku, my friend over there is Mayoi Ayase. Our encounter may not have been ideal, but I do hope the rest of your stay here is well.” Shinobu would say formally, still looking down and not making eye contact.
“I’m Chiaki Morisawa!” He smiled, looking at Midori, and gave him a nudge.
“...and I’m Midori Takamine,” Midori added in his soft voice.
“Whether you join us on our mission or not is up to you, but I do hope you chose to go with us. Your company would be greatly appreciated.” Chiaki said. Although this was a prophecy, forcing someone to do something for him felt wrong in his eyes. Even if it’s their fate.
Moments later, Shinobu and Mayoi would exit the guest's room, Shinobu had to decide if he really was going to leave his home. Everything was happening too quickly for him, he really needed to think about it. The two of them stood in an empty hallway, staring at the ground.
“Are you really going to leave with them, Chief?” Mayoi asked, looking at the shorter kid from the side.
“I am not sure, I already have responsibilities as our future leader… I should be here for my people, no? But at the same time, this bigger issue is looming over us. If I do not involve myself with the meteor ordeal, then very soon I will not have a place to protect anymore.” Shinobu thought out loud, uneasiness filled his voice.
There wasn’t much time for Shinobu to dwell on the issue much longer, because a guard was running towards him.
Shinobu looked in the distance to get a closer look at the guard. Mayoi noticed his change of focus and looked behind him as well.
The guard stopped and panted. “Shinobu-dono, your presence is requested outside the palace.” They said tiredly.
“Come on Mayoi-dono, let’s go investigate.” Shinobu and Mayoi would then walk down a few hallways and stairs to the entrance of the palace. The palace was so big it felt like hours before they could reach the entrance. Outside in the garden in front of the palace were two armored guards that clearly were not from the clan.
“Hello gentlemen, what is it the two of you need, de gozaru?” Shinobu asked,
“We’re looking for a man,” One of the guards said.
“With all due respect, there are several men here. If you don’t provide us with a better description we will not be able to help you.” Shinobu responded, saying you’re looking for a man was a really bad way to ask for help, he thought.
“You know- A MAN!” The other shouted as if it was supposed to be obvious as to who they were talking about.
Shinobu was getting annoyed already, but he did his best not to show it. He had to act professionally if he were to be a proper leader for his clan.
“Can you at least describe what this man looks like?” He asked, trying to sound polite.
In the distance, near the entrance, Chiaki and Midori could be seen exiting the palace being escorted. One of the guards fixed their focus on Chiaki and pointed at him firmly, Shinobu and Mayoi turned around to where the guard was pointing.
“You need Morisawa-dono..? For what reason?” Shinobu inquired, he was starting to get concerned for what would happen next, he kept his guard up and made sure they wouldn’t approach Chiaki just yet.
“You ninja bastards need to mind your own business. We are the Destroyers of Light, but you may know us as the Dark Order. Now the man, hand him over .”