Shyla took an involuntary step back as Dark Ninja stepped towards her. She took in his full six-feet-two at a glance, but stopped when she reached his eyes. The green seemed familiar to her, but she couldn’t place the familiarity. That bugged her a little, that she should recognise this ninja, but didn't. “I would just like to congratulate you,” said Dark Ninja quietly, “on your achievement.” He pulled down his body-fit, long-sleeved top, drawing Shyla’s eyes to his well-formed chest and stomach. “Not many trainees can beat me in a fair fight.”
“Um, thanks, I guess.” Replied Shyla, suddenly nervous around this more experienced ninja.
The nerves suddenly got the better of her, and she turned and jumped over the edge of the building into a nearby tree. Dark Ninja followed her closely, attempting to catch her. Shyla hid under an archway in a deep shadow as Dark Ninja ran past her and up the street. Her heart pounded in her ears, blocking her hearing and clouding her vision. This wasn’t an unusual reaction, because Shyla was still new at reigning in her instinctive responses to being chased.
Shyla breathed deeply, but silently, in an attempt to slow her heart. As soon as she could hear clearly, she dived out of the shadow and headed towards her house. She was acutely aware of every noise, every movement, and this made her skittish. Her house was in sight, when a voice from behind her stopped her. “Ginger Ninja,” it said softly. “Where are you going?”
Shyla turned slowly to find Dark Ninja standing right behind her, hidden in the shadow that loomed over the lawn she stood on. “I’m going home,” she replied, barely audible.
“I’ll leave you then.” Said Dark Ninja, his green eyes glowing in the moonlight. “Will you be out tomorrow?”
“Maybe.” She answered with a smile.
“I’ll see you then,” came the stark reply, the dark figure vanishing into the gloom as he spoke.
Dark Ninja had departed into the black night, leaving her standing in the front garden of the house across the street from hers, bewildered. Shyla belatedly realized she was standing in Shaun’s front garden, his family having moved into the house from the other side of the suburbs.
Shyla turned and walked across the street to her house, sticking to the shadows as much as she could. She hoisted herself up the tree slowly and crawled through her window.
Henry climbed the tree outside his bedroom window. Gently lowering himself into the room, he made his way to the dresser on the far side. He yanked off his mask in rare frustration, revealing his angular face. His curly black hair was ruffled, so he absently smoothed it down with his hand. He pulled off his long-sleeved top and opened one of the drawers in the dresser. Taking out a white vest, he pulled it over his head, messing up his hair once more. He turned off his light and crawled under the covers on his bed. Sleep overtook him quickly, and he was soon unconscious to the world outside.
Shyla spent the next day working out in her basement gym. She needed to stay fit and strong if she were to have any hope of being the best ninja she could. As she performed her workout routine on the punching bag in the corner, she thought of Dark Ninja, and how he had followed her the previous night.
It concerned her, because she didn’t generally have contact with the other ninjas of the school. It wasn’t uncommon for full ninjas to assist in the training sessions of the trainees, but it was very uncommon for full ninjas to retain their contact with the school once their six months of assisting in training was complete.
Many went into other fields, acting merely as consultants should the master need assistance. Master Wong had some students who had stayed, but Shyla didn’t know their identities, as they didn’t know hers. She preferred it that way.
While it wasn’t necessary for full ninjas to remain anonymous to each other, ninjas who had not completed their training had a bad habit of accidentally revealing ninjas they knew in public. To curb this bad habit, the master made all ninjas – those assisting and those training – wear their masks to hide their identities. It helped a lot with blending into society, because ninjas who had not fully completed their training could be volatile. Add that into a situation they weren’t always equipped for, and problems could very swiftly arise.
Newly successful ninjas were inexperienced, often leading to ninjas entering into conflicts an older, more experienced ninja would have avoided. But their training usually kicked in, and they would go out of a situation with a lesson well learned.
But that was all part of maturing, a part Shyla was learning happened to everybody.
Henry sat down opposite Master Wong in his meditation room. He had asked the master trainer to speak with him over concerns about Ginger Ninja. Once they were settled, Master Wong inclined his head. “This is about the new ninja, is it not?”
Henry nodded. “I’m concerned, Master. She seems too volatile to be effective.”
Master Wong nodded in agreement. “I see what you are saying, Henry. But she is just young. Many new ninjas are exactly like her. Hot-headed, and a little reckless. It does not mean she has no discipline; just that she must mature and learn to pick her fights more carefully. Give her a few months, a tough assignment, and she will grow into her skills enough to avoid most fights.”
Henry had to agree with the master. After all, Master Wong had been training ninjas in Rutherford for nearly sixty years. Long enough to pick up on any trends. Henry took a sip of his green tea and turned the conversation over to other matters; the decision to learn the history behind the practice.