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Chapter 2

Later that afternoon, Henry watched the trainee ninja through his mask as she fought off an attack from a man with a sword. The swordsman was one of the newly promoted ninjas, and he made the rookie error of glancing away for a second to adjust his stance. The trainee ninja took advantage of the distraction to disarm him with a single kick to his wrist.

Master Wong nodded towards the door where Henry waited, and he stepped into the arena to face the trainee. This trainee, he noted, was a young girl, not much older than himself. She was about five foot four in height, clad in the usual black clothing. Her long plait was bound tightly, and her mask obscured her whole face except her eyes, which were light brown.

The trainee ninja sized up Henry as she sank into a crouch. Henry followed suit, and watched as the trainee started circling slowly. Her black rubber-soled shoes made no sound in the loose dirt, and her breathing was calm and controlled. Henry sprang at the trainee, and she rolled out of his way. She attacked him, and the fight raged for close to ten minutes before either of them made a mistake.

Henry ducked as the trainee attempted to punch him in the jaw, and she took the distraction as an opportunity to kick him hard in the middle of his chest. He slumped onto his side, quietly gasping for air as the power kick winded him. Before he could catch his breath, she had him pinned down with a knee in the middle of his back. Henry conceded defeat, and tapped the dirt with his left hand. Master Wong waved his stick, indicating the fight was over. The trainee carefully got to her feet, and Henry pushed himself into a sitting position. He jumped to his feet and bowed to Master Wong. Standing aside, he waited as the trainee stepped forward. “Very good, young one.” Said Master Wong. “You require no more training, and you have completed the final test. You are now a full ninja. Because of your hair, you shall be called ‘Ginger Ninja’.”

Shyla bowed to Master Wong in gratitude, glanced warily at her opponent once, then left the arena, giddy with elation.

Shyla raced home after her test, not even bothering to take the bus. She ran straight up the tree outside her bedroom and dived through her open window. “Mom!” she yelled, bursting into the kitchen downstairs. “Mom! I did it!”

“Did what, hon?” asked Clarisse, embracing her daughter tightly.

“I passed.” Replied Shyla breathlessly. “I’m now a full ninja.”

“Well done, baby!” said Clarisse excitedly.

Shyla pulled open the drawer and grabbed a handful of cutlery. After sorting through the handful and putting back what she didn’t need, she proceeded to set the table for dinner. Dinner was a noisy affair, with Shyla telling her mother everything that had taken place at the final test. Three hours later, Clarisse glanced at the kitchen clock and stood up. “Shyla, baby, it’s late.” She said with a yawn. “I don’t mind how late you stay up, since it is Friday, but please let me get some sleep. You can tell me the rest tomorrow.”

“Night, mom.” Said Shyla, standing up and giving Clarisse a tight hug.

“Night, hon.” Said Clarisse, her love for her daughter evident in the pride she felt. Andrew would have been so proud of his only daughter.

Shyla followed Clarisse up the stairs, and went to her room. She pulled on her black clothing and mask, then climbed through the window into the tree outside. The stars were bright against the clear black night, and Shyla could see all of the houses on the street just by the moonlight. She jumped down from the tree into her front garden and ran down the road. Jumping into trees and onto roofs, she made her way through the quiet suburb towards the centre of Rutherford’s CBD.

Henry sat on his roof watching the stars. His arms ached, and he had a perfect, shoe-shaped bruise in the middle of his chest. He had been a fully trained ninja for over a year, but the rookie girl had kicked his ass in a fair fight. Ginger Ninja had a quality he had noticed in most red heads; she definitely had a temper. Henry worried about that, because, with her training, she could seriously injure somebody in a moment of rage. That would ruin her chances of staying a ninja, and she would have to leave the ninja community. No ninja ever wanted that for another ninja.

Henry ran his hand through his curly black hair and glanced at his watch. The time read shortly after eleven o’clock. His thoughts turned to Shyla and the incident in science with Shaun earlier that day. Henry’s hands balled into fists as the words Shaun had said about his close friend echoed around his mind. “Stupid, overrated, violent bitch,” he murmured, repeating the words Shaun had said about Shyla.

The way Shyla had dumped Shaun onto the floor had caught Henry’s attention. That move was a signature one that Master Wong, his ninja trainer, had taught to all his students. She shouldn’t have known how to do it, and she certainly shouldn’t have known how to do it so well. Where did Shyla learn that? Thought Henry curiously.

A movement to his left caught his attention and he stared down into the trees. A dark shape sprang down onto the tarmac and ran across to a tree on the other side. Henry swung down into his bedroom and pulled on his black clothing and mask, intent on following the figure in black.

The whole movement, from the time he saw the shape to when he landed silently on the road, took thirty seconds. He followed the figure – which he could now see was definitely female – towards town, getting closer with every step. The young woman jumped up onto a roof, and Henry followed close behind. His landing wasn’t as soft as he wanted, and his shoes made a scrape on the flat roof as he landed. The other ninja whirled at the slight noise, and froze when she saw him. Henry stopped and examined the ninja in front of him. “Ginger Ninja.” He said out loud.

“How do you know me?” asked Ginger Ninja, holding her ready stance.

“I was the ninja you fought today.” Replied Henry. “My name is Dark Ninja.”

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