Iron Fist: Cold Eyes and Cold Hearts
The azure beasts formed by the ninja child who named himself Tobirama Senju lashed violently at Sentinel as he braced himself for the imminent assault. His body tensed as his mind worked through the flurry of varied stratagems and approaches he could take towards the cocky young ninja. The first two water dragons arced to opposite sides, approaching him from the left and the right respectively, while the third and final dragon flew directly towards him. The torrent of rushing water seemed to howl as though the physical forms of the attack truly were the ferocious beasts they embodied.
Sentinel, countless clashing thoughts still racing through his head, abruptly threw himself flat on his back, slashing up towards the spot in which his torso had been. He felt his hand jerk as his shining blade jarred into the middle dragon’s form, and almost lost the weapon as the remaining two slammed into the same location. A light misting rain fell over him from the collisions of the aquatic assailants above him, and his skin soon felt wet and irritated as he shook himself in an attempt to regain his composure. Gazing at his opponent, he saw Tobirama furiously gesturing with his hands in a variety of poses. Hearing the rush of water, the samurai tilted his head to see the other two projectiles swerving back on trajectory towards Sentinel.
Rolling deftly to his right and bounding onto his feet, Sentinel brought himself upright and stared blankly for a moment at his opponent; while his body was thin and relatively small, Tobirama held himself well, with his stance alert and ready. His face, from his burning crimson eyes to the dark red marks below each eye and on his chin, seemed to have been forged with a bloody hammer. As such, his appearance screamed of complete and total confidence, as well as inclination towards violence. Sentinel shook his head with a hint of sorrow playing about his brow. He had trouble remembering why he had first thought of this cold, harsh warrior as any sort of child until their eyes locked.
The hint of fear was so subtle there most people would say that it was the day dreaming of an arrogant warlord. Sentinel knew it existed, however, for the feeling had lurked just beneath the surface of his own mind for what seemed like an eternity.
The two roaring dragons of liquid still charged towards Sentinel. Not taking his eyes off of the boy, he calmly placed his sword back into its’ sheathe and brought his bow to his shoulder, nocking an arrow to the string as he did so. Breathing in deeply, his body relaxing, he loosed the projectile to his right and dropped the bow without hesitation, his hand falling instinctively back to the hilt of his katana. Tobirama’s brows almost rose to his hair, his mouth falling open in shock as the fatal arrowhead pierced one water dragon through the eye, with Sentinel twirling his blade nonchalantly through the other.
A splash of cool water hit Sentinel, drenching the samurai, which caused him to shake his armor off and muss his hair a tad in a lazy effort to dry off, but leaving him completely unharmed. He ran his thick fingers through the damp dark locks of his hair, he grinned tauntingly at the startled ninja.
“Oi, thanks for that lad. It’s hot as hell in this damned oven you call a forest. How about some more, only this time, consider not being so predictably volatile in your technique placement.”
Tobirama swore, his face twisting in unspeakable rage, and began to weave hand signs faster, his hands thudding against each other audibly as the force of his hands continued to showcase the linear minded nature of his fury.
To the side, the ground was scarred with long ruptures of earth and plant. The towering oaks nearby, though they had been cut and chipped from the dragons’ rampage, remained unscathed. The samurai and ninja each huddled on their own opposing sides of the forest merely glared at each other apprehensively, fingering their idle weapons in anticipation; though they had prepared to do battle in similar regard as the two currently fighting, a fierce glower from Tobirama and a halting fist from Sentinel had placed the two groups in a broad circle around the two combatants. This delicate meal would first be sampled between commanders before the soldiers even got a taste.
Hideyoshi watched in awe as torrential waves of water mounted again from Tobirama. The level of power that this young man, who appeared to be barely older than Hideyoshi himself, was a scale that the page had never seen before. Indeed, the situation seemed impossible for Sentinel to ever possibly…
The samurai charged forward in a blur, his own speed unreal, his own ability to react incomprehensible, and Hideyoshi found himself choking back his thoughts as Sentinel crashed into the young Senju leader before the startled youth could let his water dragons fly once more.
Tobirama barely drew his own sword up before Sentinel slammed down his shining blade, forcing the ninja down to one knee. The Senju howled in a pain of effort, and his face began to perspire heavily as he began an impossible, vain struggle to hold back the samurai’s incredible strength. Sentinel gazed down in empathy, slowly applying more pressure to his weapon as his sword continued to move towards the young ninja’s head.
“On second thought…” he spoke slowly, deliberately showing the lack of effort he was putting into subduing his adversary.
“…I don’t believe I would like another bath today.”
Tobirama, his hind leg being pushed back and disturbing the dirt where he stood, grunted in agonizing strain, his complexion growing scarlet as he fought to regain ground. He attempted to bring his hands a bit closer together, perhaps to weave some minimal signs for a jutsu, only to be slammed back with a sudden show of force from the samurai.
Tobirama hit the ground with a crack, gasping as several of his ribs shattered within his chest. Blood gushed from the corners of his mouth as he rolled across the ground. To his credit, Sentinel had to admit, despite the immense pain he must have experienced in that split moment, the ninja seemed to recover quickly, rising to his feet and weaving signs once more. Before he could finish, however, Sentinel nimbly covered the gap and once more slashed viciously towards the boy, forcing his opponent to forsake his hand signs once more in order to defend himself. Sentinel clicked his tongue disapprovingly, as though admonishing a foolish student who refused to learn his lesson. His voice carried the same lecturing tone as he berated the youthful ninja.
“Excuse me, what did I just get through saying young man? There will be no more of that today. Now, we will test how well you may use the weapon of a warrior. Remember to hold true to your form and-"
“GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! You...dirty...piece of trash! Don't you mock me!"
Tobirama shrieked in frustration as he began slashing wildly at Sentinel, his body seemingly animated by a greater force, and for a moment the veteran warrior was taken aback, required to abruptly check his footwork as he was driven backwards for a few steps before bringing up his own blade. The two brought up their katanas and exchanged blows, dancing with their swords as the sun did upon the reflection of the metal. Sentinel met a downward slash with a firm block, and thrust his blade towards the Senju’s torso, forcing the ninja to leap back. The samurai keeping an intimate pursuit, never straying more than two or three feet from his opponent, the two so near that each man was covered in an equal amount of the other man’s sweat.
Hideyoshi, who had been joined by the elder samurai on the trip, Katsuie Shibata, looked perplexingly at his older comrade.
“Why is Sentinel-sama maintaining such a short distance? His sword is longer than the ninjas! He could easily win if he maintained a pattern of feigns, retreats, and attacks!”
The burly, black haired samurai, tugging pensively at his impressive forest of a beard, shook his head in disagreement.
“Ah, you must not have studied much about ninja yet, eh Kinoshinta?”
When the youth nodded his head, Katsuie mimed his hands similar to the fashion which Tobirama had upon arrival, his deep voice rumbling out an explanation.
“The greatest weapon of a shinobi is their jutsu. These seemingly magical techniques give them a large power advantage over us in battle. However, they have one fatal flaw; the handsigns are the only way to use most of these techniques.”
A cocky smile formed upon Shibata’s face, and he nodded in appreciation for his commander and brother of Bushido.
“Sentinel knows this, and, in order to counter the ninja’s greatest advantage, formulated an almost flawless strategy to counter it; he does not permit enemy ninja to weave their hand signs in order to activate their jutsu. By maintaining an incredibly short battle distance, he forces them to fight on his terms…in which he always has a superior edge, given his strength and ability with the sword.”
Sentinel rammed the hilt of his blade into Tobirama’s face, knocking the youth back, before gracefully flipping the blade into the ninja’s hand. Tobirama fell onto his back, a bloody gash slashed upon his fist, while his blade flew towards the foliage behind him. The white haired youth, so proud and sure of his extraordinary abilities at the start of the battle, stared up dazed as Sentinel firmly placed his mail plated foot upon the young man’s chest with a metallic clank. Sentinel flipped his blade, now held loosely in his right hand, downwards, leaving it hovering over the Senju’s chest. The samurai kept a cold look upon his face, appearing unfazed by the distasteful prospect he was about to carry out.
“The reason that Sentinel was chosen for this mission, Hideyoshi…” Katsuie continued, trying to distract the young page from the gruesome nature of the spectacle, speaking with a touch of sorrow.
“That man is a self taught ninja killer.”
The blade, shining in a slick sheen of steel and blood, arced towards the ninja’s chest…
…to meet a thick branch with a thud, right above the ninja’s breast plate.
Sentinel’s face shot up in shock, and as he examined the trees above, a new ninja had appeared without warning. The man was slightly larger than Tobirama, his own armor blazing red on his broad chest. A long wave of black hair sat elegantly upon his firm, yet kindly face, and his eyes were lit up with caution and curiosity all at once.
The stranger made a single motion with his hands, and another tree limb lashed from the earth towards Sentinel, who, not having time to draw his blade back for defense, blocked with his mail plated arms. He felt air bashed painfully from his lungs as the natural weapon threw him aside like a rag doll. He grunted as he landed in a thick cloud of dust twenty feet away from Tobirama.
The black haired ninja, who had the same senju crest on the collar of his armor and appeared to be not much older than Tobirama, extended his hand down to his defeated comrade, which was accepted as Tobirama was helped to his feet. Sentinel, who struggled to recover, forced himself shakily upright, and braced himself for the new enemy to begin the fight.
The samurai and the ninja on both sides of the clearing began to draw their own weapons, violent threats and shouts of panic beginning to echo across the clearing, before the newcomer, apparently another shinobi commander, raised his hand in peace and began walking calmly towards Sentinel.
“Peace, friend. I merely wanted to disrupt the fight you were conducting with my kin. It appears you have defeated one of our enemies before us…I must apologize for Tobirama’s lack of discretion. He must have made some sort of miscalculation.”
The man’s deep voice dropped off, and he smiled brightly at Sentinel. The smile, Sentinel noted, was possibly the most stark contrast that could have been made to Tobirama’s own fierce appearance; it was the kind of personal, well meant gesture that immediately made a person want to trust this man. The young ninja, apparently in his early twenties, extended his hand towards the samurai commander in good faith. After a moment, Sentinel hesitantly grasped it in a firm shake.
“Toyotomi Saizo. Also known as Sentinel. commander of these men.”
“Well met Saizo. I am Senju Hashirama. Also known as Hashirama the Meek!”
With a light hearted laugh, Hashirama turned about, leaving Sentinel puzzled at such an odd shinobi. The Senju man beckoned with his hand, waving towards his comrades.
“Come! I must hear your story! Follow me and my family to the village! I’m sure father would be glad to meet such an esteemed warrior!”
Tobirama immediately prickled up, glaring at the shinobi who apparently outranked him.
“Brother! It is forbidden! These men are obviously…”
Hashirama cut him off, looking over at his brother with eyes which had suddenly frosted over. Even Sentinel became perturbed at what he saw there; there was more than just the power of experience in those eyes...
“Tobirama…did I just hear you questioning your brother’s judgment of character?”
Tobirama’s face froze, his mouth struggling to work properly as he saw the transformation wrought upon his brother’s face.
“N-no, not at all Hashi. I just…father will probably be displeased if we bring total strangers to the village, when they are clearly armed and dangerous…”
Hashi’s face became light again as he scratched his chin deep in thought. After a moment, a sigh of depression escaped from his lips. An expression of almost comical sullenness crept over his face, and the commander who seemed so mighty thirty seconds ago made himself seem small as a mouse.
“Oh…” his voice became slightly scratchy and high, as though he were a small child once more. “…yeah, father will get mad, won’t he? Dang…I never think about these things.”
Hashirama skulked off into the woods past the other ninja, who turned about to follow, with Tobirama pursuing with a chagrinned frown.
“Oh, Hashi! Don’t be like that! Come now, brother! We aren’t alone, hold yourself with a bit of respect! Think of the family pride…!”
Hideyoshi was completely dumbfounded as he walked up to the commander, and regarded Sentinel with a moment of complete disregard of rank, overlooked due to the confusion of the entire incident.
“Err…commander, should we assault them? Now might be a decent chance…”
Sentinel waved off the young page, though he did so absentmindedly, as though he were lost in thought.
“No…let’s go to their village. It will give us a chance to for reconnaissance. Besides…I need to verify a few parameters. And…”
Sentinal dropped off, his face growing perturbed. Hideyoshi, who had never seen any sort of troubled expression from the experienced fighter, inclined his head in a gesture to go on. Sentinel glared at him, the icy expression slipping back over his face, and began to stalk after the ninja. Before he disappeared into the tree line, he glanced back at the young page in a concerning stare.
“And, most of all, because that child, Hashirama Senju, is stronger than I am.”