9 Rat in the Lion's Den

__________ POV Narration__________

The 7 Swordsmen of the Mist managed to collect the bounty successfully, but not one of them had forgotten the strange child that had attacked them.

Especially not the two that had almost died to him.

Fuguki walked forward in a robotic manner, trying to play out a scenario in his mind, where he would've survived that encounter.

But had it not been for his good luck, as well as having Samehada, he would have died there, instantly.

He, a Jenin, and a powerful member of the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, would've died to a child had his luck been any worse.

'Why was he able to hide his presence so perfectly?! It was as if he was blended with his surroundings, I couldn't even feel him when he was in front of me...'

Fuguki's back was filled with sweat as he remembered the cold feeling he got when that sword came for his head. No sound was made, and no killing intent was leaked for even a second.

Those were not the movements of a child. Those were the movements of a highly trained assassin. Not a single academy child would be able to come close to that kind of skill.

While Fuguki was thinking about stealth skills and assassination techniques, Jūzō Biwa was thinking about something else entirely.

Jūzō was a person known for his brutality. He had played with his opponents mercilessly before, he took the slightest bit of pleasure in seeing his opponents squirm.

He simply couldn't understand it...

How could a child be even more brutal than him?

Usually, he was playful with his victims, his brutality only extending as far as his actions did, as he preferred to mock his victims.

He wasn't against biting an opponent's neck in order to win, but the way it was done this time was simply... Creepy?

He could tell that the child was far from disgusted when biting into his flesh.

Rather, the opposite, he still remembered the corners of the child's lips pointing upwards. The muffled giggle as he crunched down tighter on Jūzō's neck.

Jūzō could only rub his bandaged neck as he remembered that moment with cold sweat on his spine.

It was as if he had been attacked by a rabid animal. He hadn't even heard a grunt of pain or a shout of any sort, even when almost ripping off the child's jaw.

He refused to believe that a child of all things would be so... Feral? So he no longer thought of the child as a human being.

'Good thing it's dead now...'

None of the Swordsmen felt the need to look further into the matter, only sending in the heads and receiving the reward for the bandits.

They also told the Daimyo the location of the paths that the bandits were taking.

Someone had to clean up the mountains after all...

And a squad was sent eventually, a few days later a squad of 10 samurai was sent to clean up the mountain of traps and corpses.

As they knew that the Jonin certainly didn't bother to clean up after themselves.

The squad was also led by a high-ranking samurai... A Hatamoto, a banner carrier or a guardian of the banner, direct guards of the Daimyo and considered vassals that owned mansions of their own.

Technically, each Hatamoto was just as powerful as a Jonin, but they were not experienced in any form of assassination personally.

Some could recognize them and protect themselves from them, but none could perform them, as they were considered cowardly tricks.

This Hatamoto in particular was told to go there personally in order to scout out the situation and find the original hideout of the Bandits.

The other men with him were nothing more than gate guards, only there to handle the cleanup as a Hatamoto was not to get his hands dirty cleaning up coprses.

The Hatamoto eventually managed to find a thin trail of blood... He followed the trail in one direction, and managed to find a pool of blood in a clearing with cut and exploded trees.

'A fight definitely happened here. But this was not in the report those Jonin provided. Just goes to show that you can never trust Shinobi...' The Hatamoto looked at the pool of dried blood on the ground with a sceptical gaze.

'No one would survive losing that much blood... Someone else might've dragged the body away.' He quickly came to that conclusion and decided to trace the blood in the other direction.

He told the gate guards in his squad to keep cleaning up the scene before following him.

He was confident in dealing with one bandit. And if there were more he could always simply escape and inform his lord.

Thankfully, the trail of blood had also not been covered up by snow, as there hadn't been any storms on that mountain recently.

He followed the trail of blood all the way to the site of what appeared to be a patched-up abandoned temple.

'This must've been the actual main base of the Mountain Hyenas...' He drew his blade silently as he walked into the compound slowly.

He could see the patched-up walls, the building was maintained... But the fire in the yard seemed to have gone out.

'It's possible that they have moved out... But I need to be cautious.'

The Hatamoto grasped his blade with a serious gaze as he looked at the main building of the temple.

He also noticed what seemed to be a small shrine near it. He was able to notice that it hadn't been built all that long ago, and some of the items on there were bloody.

'This is certainly recent... 10 memorial items, 10 missing deserters... It's been 8 years, but I guess Daisuke didn't make it in the end...'

The Hatamoto remembered Daisuke and his squad, he had been the one to give them the initial order that caused them to become deserters.

Their orders had been rather simple, Daisuke himself was a Gokenin at some point, two ranks below a Hatamoto, but still a vassal with his own land. So he was the squad leader.

They were tasked to send a message to the five Kage of each Shinobi village, to force them to end the war.

It was basically a suicide mission. They likely wouldn't even make it past the first Kage before being killed...

That was why Daisuke decided to save the lives of his squad and become nomads.

The Hatamoto looked at the small shrine with a scowl. ' I still remember getting scolded by our lord for his betrayal...'

He would've slashed the shrine in half from hatred, but dishonouring the dead was in poor taste, so he simply moved on.

The Hatamoto couldn't sense anyone inside the building, but he knew that there was a possibility for the one that had built the small shrine to still be inside.

So, instead of entering the temple he simply imbued his katana with his chakra, making it glow in a deep blue light.

It was a legendary blade gifted to him by his lord for his extensive service.

It was made out of chakra conductive metals and sharper than any regular blade said to even be on par with the with legendary blades such as the 'Sword of Totsuka'.

It was officially called 'The Severing Sword'.

With an upward motion, he sent a flying slash towards the temple, splitting it in half rather easily.

He then swiped his sword a few more times, cutting the temple more and more until it collapsed completely.

He then sheathed his blade and looked at the rubble with expectation in his gaze. Preparing for a quick-draw technique as soon as any assailant showed himself.

He stood in that position for a few minutes, then he noticed that there was simply no movement in the temple ruins. He narrowed his eyes as he proceeded to turn around.

The Hatamoto walked a few steps, before drawing his blade and slashing behind him at speeds that could barely be followed with the naked eye.

Quite a bit of sweat was present on his brow as he looked around, a foreboding feeling simply made him shiver.

'Something isn't right...'

He felt as if he was intruding into a lion's den.

As if a predator had its gaze locked on him... He was being hunted.

That was pure instinct that he had forged through countless battles, in comparison, the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist were still beginners to him, who had been a Hatamoto for a few decades.

His instincts were more honed, even if he was weaker in strength...

"S-Show yourself!" The fact that his voice trembled a bit only made things worse, and he knew that. Showing your fear to a predator was a sure way to die.

Unfortunately for him, he was not a sensory type. Even if he was, the odds of him sensing Ken were extremely low, unless he was on the level of an actual Kage.

From behind him, he could suddenly hear movement. He turned around quickly, only to see dozens of Senbo and Shuriken coming his way.

His mind panicked slightly, as his fear materialized, but his body moved as if on instinct, his blade swiped at impressive speeds, protecting his body perfectly from the projectiles in front of him.

As he was blocking the projectiles thoguh... He felt something strange as if something cold had slipped into him.

Looking down, he could see two blades sticking out of his body, one from his stomach and one from his chest.

He had already bled quite a lot, so he didn't even know when it had happened exactly...

"W-what...?" He looked forward, where the projectiles had been coming from, only to see a poorly set-up spring trap at the entry of the temple.

"N-no..." He tried to turn around, to slash his blade behind him, but by now his body had already lost a lot of blood.

His slower than usual slash was dogged perfectly as the blades seemed to slip out of him without any issue.

In front of him was a short masked figure. Nothing more than a child wearing ill-fitting red armour and tattered black rags around his shoulders.

A white mask with a large red dot in the centre, with no visible eye holes.

That figure seemed to be staring into his soul. The Hatamoto immediately collapsed to the ground, as he felt the strength leave his body by the second.

His blade was also dropped at that point.

Ken simply picked it up, looking at it with interest. Flowing his chakra through it while completely ignoring the dying man at his feet.

"A great blade... I'll be taking this." The Hatamoto felt more and more horror when hearing the nonchalant and young voice that escaped that mask.

"I don't appreciate you destroying my house... But I guess it's no longer home when I am alone." He said as he walked over to the Hatamoto, who was currently trying to crawl away.

'I must warn the others... They need to flee and inform the lord...' The man was concentrated on his duty, he felt it was odd that he unintentionally rolled around on the ground...

At least that was what he thought had happened up until he saw his body, a few meters away... Only his head had rolled off.

He could see in his last moments, Ken scavenging the scabbard from his corpse.

Ken then looked at the path that led down the mountain, as he knew there must've been more people there.

'I feel the need to blow off some steam now... These are the same people that forced us into the mountains in the first place anyway.' Ken then looked at the corpse of the man he had just killed.

His opponent had been strong, even able to cut down the large temple with ease.

Still, in Ken's eyes, he seemed weaker than the swordsmen that had almost killed him, at least he had less awareness when it came to assassination techniques.

Maybe he was a great fighter... But Ken wasn't out to fight him, he simply wanted to kill him. And that was much easier.

After all, he was an assassin by profession. Even if he was dressed as a samurai.

'They must be here to clean up after the Swordsmen from earlier...'

He then continued down the mountain, to clean up the rodents that had infested his former home...


Hope you liked the chapter!

Still on vacation, just managed to write another chapter for this one today :))

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