Puppeteer Chapter 8

The Fixed Game

“…and how could a single individual rig the ultimate game of life? I mean it’s not like he could spin the wheel to the game and stop it on a desired number and move ahead to the space he wants… can he? The game is fixed I say and another thing…” the gambler rambled on.

Shadow easily tuned out the rogue, but still couldn’t believe that out of all of his companions, he ended up with the only one he couldn’t stand. For one hour, Setzer kept going on and on about this, that, and the other thing. The gambler’s grip tightened around the ninja’s shoulders.

“Hey! Are you even listening?” the gambler asked suddenly.

“No,” Shadow replied honestly.

At that moment, Setzer felt that he could’ve been knocked over by a feather. He should’ve known that Shadow wouldn’t care about any of his hardships. Looking down the tunnel, which seemed like the last ten tunnels, the gambler wondered if they would ever get out of this underground labyrinth. Turning back to his dark companion, Setzer nodded confidently.

“Thank you for helping us out,” the rogue whispered.

“I believe the rescue is a failure.”

“What are you talking about? I rather be down here with you for the rest of my days, than spend another hour up there.”

With a turn of his head, the assassin noticed the sincerity in his friend’s eyes. A smile made it way to the gambler. Perhaps he truly was grateful to Shadow, or maybe he just wanted someone to talk to. Either way, the ninja smiled under his mask and nodded to his platinum haired friend.

“He fixed the game of life,” Setzer started but was quickly interrupted by the ninja.

“Not that again!”

“I always felt that I was in control of my life and that I could face any challenge that came my way. But has Puppeteer truly rigged my table where the dice will always land the way he wants…” the gambler broke off, noticing that the ninja tuned him out again.

“He killed Daryl,” he stated. That got Shadow’s attention. “He had someone sabotage the Falcon where if she broke mach one, the craft would lock up and fall into a nose dive. All this time, I thought her luck finally gave out.”

“Listen Setzer, people may influence our lives, but that doesn’t mean they control them. Daryl must have known this. Puppeteer doesn’t run our lives, we do, and he’ll regret hurting the ones we care about,” Shadow declared with more emotion than the gambler has ever heard come from him.

The rogue smiled and nodded at his friend. They continued on down the hall in silence. It didn’t take long for the ninja to know they were being shadowed. Doubling back to an open cavern, Shadow found some cover for Setzer.

Patting the air, the rogues cant to remain here, the ninja then put a finger where his lips would be. Shadow ducked back to examine the terrain and the tunnel they just came from. There was more cover in the cavern, with rocks the sized of a medium sized man and a few huge stalagmites. Behind him, south, was a tunnel that headed back where they started. Northwest laid the tunnel they just came from and east was an unexplored tunnel.

The ninja didn’t like the close quarters of the halls and this cavern made for a much better battleground. With Setzer hidden, their hunter would have no choice but to fight Shadow without a hostage. Finally, any chance of stealth would be lost once they walked out of the tunnel.

A second later, a figure emerged and three shurikens flew towards it. Faster than Shadow expected, the figure duck back into the hall and the stars bounced off the stone wall. The assassin didn’t get a long enough observation of the person, but there was no doubt they wore the robes of a ninja.

“Not too bad for an old man,” echoed a feminine voice.

Shadow nodded, but not for any compliments or insults that was given his way. He was a true ninja and knew that speaking in any form would give away an assassin’s position. Taking the advantage, the dark one leapt on top of a boulder in front of him and sprang from the rock to a stalactite above. He was vulnerable if the enemy saw him, but he took heart in his gi that it camouflaged him well with the stone that he hung on and the darkness within the cavern.

At the mouth of the tunnel, a cloud of smoke engulfed a twenty foot diameter area. Shadow listened carefully, hearing just in earshot, some shuffling coming from within the cover. Smoke bombs were usually used by ninja’s for a quick escape. Few would use it to enter into a dangerous environment.

After another moment, the shuffling ceased and the smoke cleared. Nothing appeared to have changed from the area of where the smoke was. A chill ran up the ninja’s spine. A sense of death emanated within the room, causing him to sweat. The ki that Shadow felt was powerful, but he took comfort in his experience that was far superior to this foe. Then… the throwing knife dug into his shoulder.

Without a flinch, without crying out, the dark one dropped from his vantage point, removing the blade on his way down. Once the tip of his toes hit the boulder, he pressed down on the rock, flipping backwards and just avoiding a wave of throwing stars. Gingerly hitting the ground in a sprint, Shadow stumbled with a trip wire that was set at his feet. Instead of listening to his instincts, he focused on his training and fell forward and tucked into a roll and sprang to his feet.

Seeing the unexplored tunnel just up ahead, Shadow increased his speed to draw the opponent away from Setzer. Escape came closer and closer. At the last moment he stopped, feeling something amidst. Reaching out ahead of him, he expected to grab nothing but his hand enwrapped something. A thin piece of twine, neck high, remained tight and tied between two stalagmites.

Jumping back, four throwing daggers just missed their marks. Shadow knew he didn’t have any more choices. Three tack stars came at him and into a cloud of smoke. There was no sound of metal hitting stone.

Upon a boulder, Throne eyed the smokescreen in amazement. Any normal man would’ve been dead by now. Her trick of throwing her voice back down the hall gave her some time to get to a vantage position. With the three openings she had, she only hit him once. Now he was trapped against a wall. So why would he use a smoke bomb?

A heartbeat later, the smoke cleared, leaving only a wall and an imbedded top to a gi. Dropping low, she cursed herself for letting her quarry escape from her sight. How did he do that?

“You should’ve learned from my folly. Don’t remain in one place too long,” a dark voice announced behind the white ninja.

A shift of one foot brought her up to face with her rival. The poise of the ninja seems calm with his Stunner, slacked in hand. His long brown hair laid on his shoulders tenderly. The female ninja slowly removed her own dirk, not trusting this one’s lack of defense.

“If you don’t drop that blade, I’m going to have to kill you,” Shadow calmly stated shifting to his side.

“I am the best assassin in the world,” she smirked. “I believe you’re scared, Clyde.”

“Have it your way,” Shadow finished with a charge.

Throne adjusted her defense thoroughly. She calculated his moves, studied him from afar. All of her training was for this moment, to prove she was the best. In every battle Shadow was in, she observed, he always left his right flank open and now, with his wounded shoulder, he favored the left side of his body.

She lined herself perfectly and struck out for the mortal blow. The attack was flawless… the strike went right through him.

Cold steel impaled her chest a second later, finding her heart. She stood before him, staring at him in disbelief. The moment was hers. Everything was perfect in her plan. How did he dodge the attack?

“H-how?” was the last word out her mouth.

Shadow waited calmly until the light in her eyes finally faded. Gently, he lowered her to the floor, closing her eyelids. Placing her dirk back into her hand, he crossed her arms. After finishing his respects for the fallen ninja, Shadow rushed back over to his friend, who was also awestruck. He knew Setzer must have seen the last part of the battle.

It didn’t matter. Lifting up his friend, the ninja started moving them out of the cavern. Crossing over the corpse, the ninja bowed one last time and continued on, kicking the broken Shadow Edge far away from them.

Chapter 9

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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