Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, December 13, 2014

MLP:FIM: The Dark Stallion - Episode 05

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presents

The Dark Stallion

Episode 05: I Can Be Strong. Train Me, Ninja Star.

**********

Last time on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:

An old schoolmate of Xander’s, LaRouse, came to town and challenged him to a wizard’s duel. Xander reluctantly accepted, and the two fought on the outskirts of town. Though it seemed that LaRouse had the upper hand, it was Xander who became victorious. Later that day, Xander revealed that his search is not only for the amulet, but also for the stallion who killed his father. Will Xander’s visit to Ponyville result in him finding either?

**********

“The Maikeru Blade: For centuries, this sword has served as the bane of evil and the tool in the endless struggle between good and evil, and it has been our family who has been tasked with wielding this blade as to better reign with justice over our kingdom.”

These words were spoken by a stallion as he sat behind a paper screen, upon which was cast his silhouette, revealing him to be dressed in oriental regalia.

In front of the screen, kneeling upon one knee with his head bowed in reverence, was Ninja Star, dressed in a black kimono and white sash.

Next to him stood an altar upon which the very sword being spoken of rested. There the sword lay sheathed within its black scabbard inscribed with ivory oriental characters.

Both the altar and Ninja Star bathed within the light of the morning sun as it poured through the door behind them.

“This sword,” the stallion behind the screen continued, “has been passed down through our family from generation to generation. As I now wield it, so too did my father before me wield it, and his father before him, and every other male within our family before them one hundred fold—and soon, it will be you who will wield this sword.”

Ninja Star kept his head bowed. “And when shall I wield it, father?”

The stallion behind the screen nodded. “When you are strong enough, my son.”

Ninja Star gave a small grin before returning to a more reverent expression. “Forgive me, father, but ever since I could walk, you have appointed the monks to train me in the art of the ninja. During those past 17 years of my life, I have received only the most rigorous physical, spiritual, and mental training. I dare say I even rival the captain of the guard in physical prowess. How much stronger must I become?”

From behind the screen, the stallion likewise grinned. “My son, in all forgiveness, I am sure that within those years of training, you would have learned by now that there is more to strength than just physical, and I dare say, even more so than spiritual and mental. To truly wield this sword, you must not only be strong in body and mind and spirit, but also in heart. When your heart cries out for all that is righteous and just, then will this sword be bestowed upon you.”

**********

Two Years Later

Ninja Star sat cross-legged on a patch of grass, his head bowed, his eyes shut, his one hoof positioned in front of his face in a praying gesture. Quietly he sat, unmoving, within the deepest of mediations. Only the wind could be heard around him.

Suddenly, a cluster of logs came flying towards him from either direction. He leapt in the air, drew his blade, and slashed through each log as it flew past him. As he landed upon his knees, the cut wood landed next to him into two neat piles.

Applause broke the silence as Fluttershy and the Apple Family cheered Ninja Star.

Apple Jack and Big Macintosh had each launched a pile of logs at him from their carts, while Apple Bloom, Granny Smith, and Fluttershy watched in the distance.

“I tells yah, Fluttershy,” Apple Jack said, “Ninja Star here is mighty handy when it comes to doing chores.”

“Eeyup!” Big Mac added.

“We should have enough firewood to last us all winter,” Apple Bloom said, having finished bouncing in excitement.

“More like several winters,” Granny Smith commented as she surveyed the log pile, which dwarfed the barn next to it.

Ninja Star sheathed his sword and stood. “It is an honor to be of service to the Apple family.”

“That’s good.” Apple Jack said, approaching him. “Now if you can only be a service and—”

Apple Jack stopped as she felt the ground tremble beneath her. Looking below her feet, she noticed several pebbles bouncing on the ground, bouncing faster as the trembling became more intense.

Everyone began to look around, confused and startled. Granny Smith squinted as she gazed towards the horizon. Her elderly eyes shot wide open as she saw dust clouds rising.

“Stampede!” she screamed.

From over the horizon stormed a herd of frantically lowing cattle that was quickly approaching the Apple Family farm.

“Granny Smith!” Apple Jack yelled. “You and Apple Bloom git in the barn, now! The rest of us will handle this.”

Granny Smith and Apple Bloom did as they were told and hurried into the barn, shutting the door behind them.

Apple Jack whistled for Winona, who came racing out of her doghouse and next to her master as she, Big Mac, Fluttershy, and Ninja Star began racing towards the oncoming stampede.

“What is it this time?” Apple Jack asked. “Another snake? Cattle rustlers?”

They stopped dead in their tracks as ten purple clouds exploded around them in a circle, preventing them from moving any farther.

“More like Shadow Clan,” Ninja Star said, drawing his sword.

From each of the clouds appeared a shadow ninja pony.

“Ah, dagnabbit!” Apple Jack exclaimed. “Ain’t no pony got time for this. You all handle them while Winona and I round up them cattle.”

Apple Jack rushed forward. Three ninjas charged toward her, only for two to be knocked away by her hind hooves while one was mauled in the neck by Winona. All three disappeared in a puff of purple smoke. Apple Jack and Winona continued toward the encroaching stampede.

The rest of the ninjas charged at the remaining three. Ninja Star, with every slash of his sword, did not neglect to strike down a ninja as it approached him.

Four ninja surrounded Big Mac: two with swords, one with nunchucks, and one swinging a chain with a mace. Nevertheless, Big Mac stood his ground, unfazed. The four charged at him and leapt into the air. Big Mac ducked, forcing all four to crash into each other and disappear into purple puffs.
“Nope!” was Big Mac’s only response.

While everyone else was preoccupied, Fluttershy had quietly slipped away and began rushing toward the barn. She nearly reached its doors when two ninja appeared in front of her. She shrieked, reeling back.

From atop the barn roof exploded a larger smoke cloud, and from it appeared Slash. He leapt down towards Fluttershy with a war cry, landing behind her, with the other two ninja standing before her, blocking her way to the barn door.

Fluttershy was surrounded with no way to escape. The ninjas brandished their swords menacingly at her.

“I’m afraid there is nowhere for you to run to, my pretty,” Slash spoke, raising his two pincer claws.
The yellow pegasus’s heart sank into her chest. She dropped to the ground, covered her head, and whimpered in distress.

Just as Slash was about to strike, he heard footsteps racing from behind him. He turned to see Ninja Star dashing toward him with sword drawn.

Slash leapt into the air, evading the attack, and forcing Ninja Star to strike the two ninja instead. Both disappeared in puffs of purple plumes. Ninja Star landed next to Fluttershy, who gazed at her savior with woeful eyes. He faced Slash opposite him, raced forward, and slashed several times, only to be blocked each time by Slash’s claws.

Slash made one last swipe at Ninja Star before somersaulting over him and Fluttershy and back onto the barn roof.

“Not this time, sword pony!” Slash grunted before disappearing in a puff of smoke.

The surrounding environment reverted back to silence as the threat was removed. Granny Smith and Apple Bloom peered from inside the barn and rushed outside when they saw it was safe.

“Whoo-hoo!” Apple Bloom cheered in a single jump. “You sure showed those bad guys, Ninja Star!”

Ninja Star sheathed his sword. “It is what I do best.”

From behind him approached Apple Jack, Big Mac, and Winona.

“Well that’s taken care of,” Apple Jack said. “Winona and I managed to calm the herd down.”

She surveyed her surroundings. “And I see that those shadow ninja thugs are long gone.”

She frowned upon noticing a certain young pegasus missing. “Where’s Fluttershy?”

Apple Bloom perked her ears as she heard soft whimpers from inside the barn. She peered inside to see Fluttershy huddled sobbing in the farthest corner.

The rest of the Apple Family and Ninja Star peered inside at Fluttershy.

“Poor thing is shook up with fright,” Granny Smith commented.

“Sugarcube?” Apple Jack asked.

Ninja Star raised his hoof to her. “Apple Jack-san, if you may permit me, I would like to talk with her.”

Apple Jack motioned for him to enter. “Be my guest.”

Ninja Star stepped inside and paced towards Fluttershy, her sobs echoing throughout the barn, her tears rushing down her face and watering the ground.

He knelt down beside her. “Fluttershy-san, the ninjas are gone now.”

Fluttershy gazed up at Ninja Star, her tear-stained face glistening. “Yes, but they’ll be back again.”

“I assure you, there is nothing to fear,” Ninja Star said.

“Easy for you to say,” Fluttershy gave a heavy sniffle, “You’re so big and strong, and I’m small and weak.”

“I do not believe you are weak, Fluttershy-san,” Ninja Star replied. “Not from what I have heard of you. Your friends have spoken of your bravery, how you stood up to a dragon, how you stared down a cockatrice, how you stood firm before a minotaur, and how you even fought off a bear.”

Fluttershy wiped the tears from her eyes. “Well, actually, I was giving him a massage.”

“Fluttershy-san, If I may, I would like to teach you how to defend yourself,” Ninja Star said.

“Defend?” she asked, shaking her head. “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t believe in violence.”

Ninja Star placed his hoof upon her shoulder. “Neither do I. There is a difference between violence and defense, Fluttershy-san. What the Shadow Clan have been doing by attacking innocent ponies and endangering them is violence. Trying to stop them from doing that is defense.”

He placed his hoof under her chin, directing her eyes into his. “I see great potential in your eyes, Fluttershy-san. You can be brave and strong, if you allow me to train you.”

Fluttershy gasped, looked down, and blushed. “Well, if you insist. I would love to.”

Ninja Star smiled at her, and she smiled back with a gentle giggle.

************

A cloaked figure, donning a brown shawl and a conical straw hat, leapt over the towering walls of the palace. Such suspicious individuals would normally try to scale the walls from the outside, and in doing so, would have been immediately apprehended by the palace guards. However, this cloaked individual jumped the wall from the inside, and with him being Ninja Star, he had the ninja stealth to sneak past his own family’s guards without notice. Often he would sneak out of the palace after a long day of training to mingle with the commoners and relax.

His family’s palace stood atop a hill overlooking a giant bay. Around this time of day, as the sun set within the horizon, the glowing orb appeared to melt within the orange waters until the two appeared as one. Upon these waters, bobbing with the gentle waves, floated dozens upon dozens of small boats with paper sails much larger than themselves. Being within a port town, the bay saw hundreds of ships sail in and out of its waters daily.

Between the bay and the palace stood a plethora of smaller buildings. Many were made of stone; others, out of paper. A few were pagodas that towered over the other buildings and bay, but failed to surpass the heights of the palace. Between these buildings were woven a network of cobblestone streets and alleys, through which Ninja Star found himself navigating.

These streets were normally packed during the day, to the point where it often became difficult to go from one end of the street to the other without squeezing past other people. But as the day drew to a close, the streets were far less congested, allowing Ninja Star to walk through with relative ease.

Most of the citizens of this kingdom were ponies like himself; however, many others were from different races. There was the occasional griffin, of course, but more commonly, there were those of races native to this land: kappa, tengu, and tanuki—humanoid raccoon dogs. Ninja Star passed by one such tanuki sitting behind a cardboard box with three bent cards set face down upon it.

The tankui peered at him with slit eyes as the pony passed. “Test your luck with Three Card Monty? Big fortune guaranteed!”

Ninja Star paid the tanuki no attention. Such creatures were normally shady hucksters.

He traversed through the streets and alley of the city, passing by the occasional pedestrian or by a merchant closing down shop. Cutting down an alleyway, he came upon a small shop, the light within glowing through the paper windows, and he entered through the doorway's flowery curtain.

Ninja Star entered a small shop, dimly lit by a few paper lanterns hanging from the rafters above. Three large wooden tables, each with a matching set of wooden benches on either side, stood between the door and the counter on the opposite side.

There a middle-aged mare dressed in a pink kimono stood behind the counter and hummed to herself while attending to something underneath. As Ninja Star approached her, she lifted her head, revealing a purple mane woven into a beehive and pinned together with a single red pin. She smiled as she saw him.

“Ninja Star,” she rang out. “I was expecting our favorite royal customer, and I have exactly what you want.”

She ducked behind the counter once more to pull out a small container filled with a dozen rice balls.
“I’m still surprised to this day that a royal as yourself would have a taste for commoner food. I’d figure that you’d have an entire staff of the finest cooks willing to cater to your every craving.”

Ninja Star removed his hat and pulled back his cloak as he approached the counter. “Trust me, Tsuri, when you lived within the palace for as long as I have, your palate becomes long accustomed to the royal staff’s cooking, and your taste buds long for something—simple.”

Tsuri blushed upon that compliment. “Still rather flattering to have a royal as a loyal customer.”

Before Ninja Star could accept the platter, he sensed something behind him. He glanced into the corner of his eye, and quickly spun around, drawing his bamboo kendo stick to deflect the attack flying towards him.

************

“Are you serious?” Rarity asked Pinkie Pie as they walked along the path to Fluttershy’s cottage.

“Apple Jack told me herself,” Pinkie replied. She carried a platter of pink cupcakes on her back.

“Ninja Star’s training Fluttershy in the ways of the ninja. She said it’s to help her with self-defense and confidence. Lucky girl! I wish I could learn martial arts.”

She leapt in the air and kicked her hind leg with a loud “Ki-yah!” before landing on the ground in a ninja pose. The tray of cupcakes, which had launched in the air with her, landed safely atop her head.

“Well it’s nice to know that our little Fluttershy is learning how to defend herself,” Rarity commented. “But let’s hope that this training doesn’t change her too much. Remember what happened with Iron Will?”

Having approached Fluttershy’s house, Rarity reached for the door and knocked. Once it opened, Rarity and Pinkie Pie gasped at what they saw.

“Konichiwa, Rarity-chan, Pinkie-chan!” Fluttershy greeted, bowing before them. She wore a red kimono with a yellow sash. Her hair was tied in a bun with red twine and two pink chopsticks. She drew a fan from her pocket and opened it to reveal its yellow and pink color scheme with butterfly pattern, matching her cutie mark. “It is an honor for you two to join me and Ninja Star for tea. Please, come inside.” She turned, but gave a soft “oh” before turning back, “I almost forgot: in oriental culture, it is customary to remove ones shoes before entering another's dwelling.”

Pinkie Pie raised her hoof and inspected it. “But we don’t even wear shoes.”

The three entered the living room where Fluttershy had set up for their visit. Normally, whenever Fluttershy invited somepony over for tea, she usually had it outside with a table prepared with a pink and white ceramic teapot with matching teacups and doilies. For this afternoon’s tea, she had set up a small wooden table that lay low to the floor with two green pillows set on each side. Upon the table was set an iron tea kettle and four wooden cups.

Rarity looked at the set up, then at Pinkie, then at Fluttershy. “So I presume we’re sitting on the floor?”

Fluttershy took a seat upon one of the pillows with her legs crossed. “Oh yes Rarity-chan. It is how they eat and drink where Ninja Star-kun comes from.”

With that, Pinkie Pie and Rarity followed suit and seated themselves. Pinkie placed her cupcakes upon the table.

“I see you brought over cupcakes as usual, Pinkie Pie-san.” Fluttershy was filling each of the wooden cups with tea and handing them to each of her guests. “I’m sure they will go well with my green tea with jasmine, but I have made something that will probably go better with it.”

When Fluttershy had finished pouring tea, she clapped her hooves twice.

From out of the kitchen hopped Angel Bunny, dressed in a blue kimono, carrying upon his head a tray with a dozen rice balls. He approached the table and laid the tray upon it.

“Arigato, Angel-chan.” Fluttershy bowed as the bunny hopped away.

“Ooh, what are those?” Pinkie Pie asked, her eyes sparkling with interest. “They look tasty.”

“Rice balls,” Fluttershy replied, having taken a sip of her tea. “Sweetened rice packed into balls and stuffed with small treats like sour plums.”

Pinkie Pie did not hesitate to sample one, swallowing it in a single gulp. “Mmm! Plummy!”

“Speaking of Ninja Star—” Rarity said.

“—you seek my presence?” Ninja Star replied. He had appeared seated upon the green pillow next to Fluttershy. His sudden appearance from nowhere startled both Pinkie Pie and Rarity, who spat out her tea.

Fluttershy giggled, and in Ninja Star’s language, told him, “I told you that would give them quite the fright.”

Ninja Star gave a small chuckle, nodded, and replied in the same language, “Yes. Perhaps it is best if I cease from appearing so suddenly.”

Pinkie Pie and Rarity gazed at one another, and then back at the couple across the table.

“I see Ninja Star has had quite the influence on you,” Rarity said, sipping her tea.

“Oh yes,” Fluttershy said after sipping hers. “Ninja Star-kun has been training me in self-defense. I never thought I was capable of that, let alone martial arts, but with Ninja Star-kun as my sensei, why, it’s much simpler than I thought.”

“So you’ve been able to pull off any cool ninja moves?” Pinkie Pie asked, making a karate chop in the air.

“Mostly a few basic moves,” Fluttershy continues, “but he says I do well for a beginner.”

Ninja Star nodded and set down his tea. “Indeed she has. Most monks at their training level have not mastered new moves within their first year as well as Fluttershy-kun has within the past few weeks. For quite the little thing, she has the potential to be a kunoichi.”

Pinkie Pie swallowed another rice ball. “Kuno-what-now?”

“Kunoichi,” Fluttershy replied. “It’s another word for a female ninja. But I have no intention of becoming one. I’m merely content learning the basics of self-defense.”

Just then, from the ceiling snapped one of the birdhouses which came falling toward the table. Before it could crash into it, Fluttershy leapt in the air, and with a single roundhouse kick and “Ki-yah!,” kicked the birdhouse straight through her door like a soccer ball into a goal.

Rarity and Pinkie Pie gazed in that direction with their mouths agape. They turned to each other, and then at Fluttershy, their mouths still wide open in disbelief.

Fluttershy giggled and blushed. “I was meaning to replace that old birdhouse anyway.”

Rarity nervously chuckled. “Good thing we were planning on going shopping after this.”

************

As Ninja Star spun around, he whipped out his kendo stick and used it to deflect the object flying right towards his head.

A rubber ball.

Like a bat striking against a baseball, so too did Ninja Star deflect the rubber ball. This attack sent the ball bouncing against the ceiling and onto the floor, where it bounced three times before landing into the hoof of a small filly. She looked like a younger counterpart to Tsuri, only with her hair twisted into two buns on either side of her head, with a cherry blossom sticking out of one.

The little filly giggled as she caught the ball. “Good one, Ninja Star!”

“Hana!” Tsuri chided her. “How many times do I have to tell you not to throw things at our customers?”

“Ah, but ma-ma, this is Ninja Star,” Hana replied. “He has super ninja moves so he can fight against anything.”

Tsuri sighed as she shrugged her shoulders. “I would expect nothing less from the prince who receives training from the monks.”

Hana bounced in place like her own ball. “And one day, he can train me to have super ninja moves like him, right, Ninja Star?”

Ninja Star closed his eyes as he smiled. “Perhaps.”

As he turned his attention back to Tsuri, he noticed something behind her. Sitting on a table was a glass case with a wooden frame and golden trimmings. Hanging inside it was a necklace, a sapphire jewel encased in a silver frame and hanging from a silver chain. Up until now, Ninja Star had never taken notice of this item.

“That necklace,” he said, pointing to it. “I have seen it before several times, but I do not believe I ever inquired of it until now. What is the history behind it?”

Tsuri turned to face the necklace hanging within the case behind her, her reflection showing within the glass. “This heirloom has been passed down through my family for generations. Admittedly, not much is known about it, other than an ancestor of ours, through total happenstance, managed to come across it.”

From behind the counter, Ninja Star glanced over the necklace. “I was about to say that it was peculiar for a lowly family as your own to have such a prized possession.”

Tsuri grinned. “It just so happens that, many years ago, a silver-maned stallion from the West came into my shop with a vested interest in our medallion. He said he had been searching for something like it for a long time, and had learned that our family had owned it. He had offered big money to take it off our hands, but we humbly declined. Even then, upon closer inspection, he discovered that it wasn’t the exact item he was looking for.”

Ninja Star raised an eyebrow. “I am surprised that you willingly turned down such an offer. With enough money, you could have given your family a better life than you currently have.”

Tsuri gazed back longingly at the medallion within its case. “Some things are more valuable than wealth, and when you manage to have things of such value in your life, you tend to hold onto it. This heirloom has been passed down from my mother, and her mother before her, and her mother before her—“

She then turned her gaze to Hana playing with her ball. “—and soon, it will be passed to my little Hana.”

Ninja Star smiled as he too stared at the little filly. “I understand how you feel. Our family has a similar heirloom, and soon, it will be passed down to me—when I am strong enough to wield it.”
Hana stopped playing with her ball to look up at Ninja Star. “But you are super strong, Ninja Star. How much stronger do you need to get to get your own family heirloom?”

Ninja Star accepted his rice balls and turned to pace towards the door, but not without turning to face Hana and Tsuri. “Strong enough for my heart to cry out for justice.”

With that, he left the shop with the two ponies waving him goodbye.

Ninja Star carried the small paper container of rice balls as he wound his way through the streets, meandering along until he reach the edge of the bay where the docks rest.

He stepped towards one wooden post and took a seat upon it. Taking a bite out of one rice ball, he gazed out over the bay and watched as the ships bobbed within the harbor and the sun melted into the orange waters.

He had finished his last rice ball when the sun completely melted into the water, making it impossible to distinguish it from the water. The sky above had slowly faded from orange to black with the stars faintly beginning to peer through from above.

As Ninja Star swallowed his last rice ball, he sensed a presence behind him, and turned to see another attack flying toward him.

************

Pinkie and Rarity followed Fluttershy, still dressed in her kimono, as she merrily pranced through the marketplace humming a song.

“Motto motto habataite tsuyoku, Motto motto hayaku, Hito wa hashiridashitara, Sora datte toberu n da,” she sang to herself.

Walking behind Fluttershy, Rarity leant over to Pinkie Pie and whispered, “Do you think maybe Fluttershy has been taking her training with Ninja Star a bit far?”

Pinkie Pie shook her head. “Ah, I don’t think it’s that bad. She’s just obsessed with him is all. I’m sure she’ll tone down the weeaboo when she gets tired of it. Besides, it’s much better than what happened with Ironwill.”

The three came across a stall selling a variety of wooden items including birdhouses, which Fluttershy began inspecting.

Rarity started scratching her chin. “Speaking of Ninja Star, we still don’t know that much about him, now do we? Wherever do you suppose he came from?”

Upon that note, Pinkie Pie reached behind her back and pulled out a stack of paper, which she showed to Rarity.

“My theory is that he’s from a time long ago in a distant land, where an evil shape-shifting master of darkness unleashed an unspeakable evil.”

The first page she revealed had the crude crayon drawing of a Japanese kingdom over which loomed a dark creature with green eyes and flaming red eyebrows.

She turned to the next page, which revealed yet another crude crayon drawing of Ninja Star fighting off the evil monster. “But then Ninja Star came along with his magic sword and stepped forward to oppose him, and the two of them had an epic fight scene.”

Flipping to the next page, she displayed yet another drawing of the monster opening a black and white portal into which he shoved Ninja Star. “But before he could strike the final blow, he was thrown into a portal in time, and flung into the future.”

The final page Pinkie showed had Ninja Star standing with his sword drawn in a fighting pose. “Now he seeks to return to the past and undo that evil future.”

Rarity continued to scratch her chin. “Well, Pinkie, that is certainly quite the imagination you have there.”

Pinkie Pie gleamed. “Thank you! I drew it all myself.”

Rarity gave a gentle shrug. “On the bright side, even with Fluttershy’s change, at least we can rest assured that Ponyville will always remain the same.”

Three arrows flew over their heads and into the stall, forcing the owner to yell and duck under the counter as they barely missed him.

The three fillies turned to see three shadow ninja archers standing atop a nearby roof with their bows aimed at them. Throughout the marketplace appeared other shadow ninjas in puffs of smoke.
Rarity dropped her ears. “Except, of course, for the raids by the Shadow Clan.”

**************

Ninja Star turned to see as three shadow-colored ponies with glowing red eyes appeared in puffs of purple smoke. As soon as their smoke dissipated, the three leapt toward him.

Ninja Star, in turn, leapt up from atop the wooden post he was sitting upon, and in a single motion, drew his kendo stick and twirled around in a complete circle, striking each of the three ninja as they approached him.

As each one was struck by his stick, the ninja disappeared in the same purple smoke that they had appeared in.

Once he landed upon the ground, Ninja Star was surrounded only by the fading traces of the purple smoke clouds.

Standing up, he surveyed his surrounding to see what going on. Throughout the city were dozens upon dozens of other shadow ponies, racing through the streets, destroying property, and frightening and even attacking innocent civilians.

With kendo stick drawn, Ninja Star dashed forward and raced through the streets, all the while, the cries of frightened civilians echoing through the streets and ringing within his ears.

Soon, he found himself surrounded by five more purple smoke clouds, disappearing to reveal more shadow ponies. This time, these ponies were equipped with weapons: one with a katana, two with nun-chucks, and two more with sai blades.

All five leapt toward Ninja Star, who, with a single spin, took out each one with his bamboo stick, striking their weapons from out of their grasps, and striking them in turn. All five disappeared once more into the purple smoke from whence they came.

Upon sheathing his stick, Ninja Star heard two shrill, familiar screams cry out from nearby. He quickly recognized who they were, and started racing into the direction from whence they came.
He turned down an alleyway, and raced toward a storefront, the curtain within the doorway having been shredded to pieces.

It was Tsuri and Hana’s shop.

**************

Once the shadow ponies appeared within the marketplace, Pinkie Pie took a few steps forward and began nonchalantly addressing everyone: “Okay, everypony, follow my lead!”

With that, she gave a loud scream and began running around. Everyone else followed suit as the shadow ninja launched their attack. Most of the other ponies in the market either ran for cover or made their way inside. Very few remained outside with the Shadow Clan.

Rarity and Pinkie were rushing out of the marketplace when two shadow ninja appeared in front of them. The ninjas nearly pounced on the two fillies when a yellow blur intercepted their attack and struck them each with a bamboo stick, making them disappear in purple puffs.

The yellow blur disappeared, revealing Fluttershy as she spun the bamboo in her hooves several times before posing with it in a fighting stance. “No pony hurts my friends.”

Rarity had to rub her eyes to make sure that what she was seeing was really there: a Fluttershy not running away from a threat and cowering somewhere, but taking a brave stand against it.

A circle of six shadow ninja soon surrounded the three fillies in smoke puffs. Rarity and Pinkie clung to each other as the ninjas leapt towards them. Before a single one could attack, Fluttershy struck down each one with her bamboo stick. However, she missed one, which struck her on the chin and sent her flying back upon her rump.

As that ninja charged toward her, a kunai knife stuck him in the back and made him disappear in a smoke puff.

The three fillies gazed up toward a nearby rooftop where stood Ninja Star.

**************

Tsuri and Hana huddled within the corner of their store, the case containing their family necklace behind them. Hana buried her weeping face in her mother’s bosom as Tsuri held her close.

Over them loomed the shadow of a giant purple praying mantis standing atop their counter and glaring over them with his pincers raised.

“The necklace,” Slash said. “Hand it over, and no one gets hurt.”

Tsuri glared at him as she held her daughter closer and tighter. “That necklace is our family heirloom. You cannot have it.”

Slash groaned. “Well, then, I guess I’ll have to take it the hard way.”

“Or perhaps you will leave these poor mares alone and leave,” boomed a voice behind him.

Slash turned to find Ninja Star standing within the doorway with his bamboo stick drawn and ready to fight.

Slash rolled his eyes. “The brave warrior comes to save the damsel in distress? Predictable.”

Ninja Star dashed forward, prompting Slash to leap down from the counter to the floor and parry his attack.

The sword pony struck three times at the praying mantis, each time having his attack deflected by the mantis’s pincers. By the fourth strike, Slash retaliated with one slash of his metal pincer that sliced through Ninja Star’s bamboo, cutting it in half.

As the other half of his staff dropped to the floor, Ninja Star felt his heart drop into his stomach.
Slash leapt into the air with a summersault, and with his legs, kicked Ninja Star away across the store and into the wall, forcing him to painfully collapse onto the floor.

“Ninja Star!” Hana cried out, he face streaming with fresher tears that she buried into her mother’s blouse.

Slash snickered. “So much for the brave hero.”

He turned once more to the frightened mother and child, with Hana crying even louder.

“I’ll say it once more: the necklace, hand it over.”

Tsuri buried her face into her child’s hair. “That necklace has been in our family for generations. It is the only thing of value we have.”

Slash leapt over counter towards them. The tremor of the floor boards caused them both to shudder as the mantis approached.

Struggling to lift his head out of the fresh rubble surrounding him, Ninja Star could only watch as Slash approached the two cowering mares.

“More valuable than your lives?” Slash asked them, raising his pincers. “So be it!”

Slash gave a single violent slash. The two mares let out the loudest screams that soon fell to silence.
He then raised his pincer once more and struck the case, breaking away the glass. He reached inside to take the necklace by the chain, inspecting the jewel as it dangled before his face.

Just then, a puff of purple smoke appeared, along with a kappa dressed in wizard robes—Squish.
“I see you have obtained the amulet, Slash,” he said as he approached the mantis.

Slash swung his pincer at Squish to show him the necklace dangling from it. “Is it the one that the Shadow Mare desires?”

Squish took the amulet and examined it carefully. His hand glowed with blue magic, causing the amulet to glow along with it.

The magic from his hand faded as he furrowed his brow in scorn. “Bah! ‘tis a counterfeit. The gem itself isn’t even real.”

Slash groaned in turn. “Figures that an artifact as powerful and legendary as the Amulet of Purity would hardly be in the hands of lowly peasants.”

From Squish’s hand began to form sparks of electricity, which encompassed the amulet and grew in intensity, illuminating the entire shop with a bright light. In a single flash, the sapphire exploded, shattering into countless fragments.

This desecration both shocked and angered Ninja Star as he lay on the floor, too weak to do anything else but watch as his close friend’s most precious artifact was destroyed.

Squish returned his gaze from the destroyed amulet. “The Shadow Mare will not be pleased about this.”

Slash scoured back at Squish. “If I remember correctly, the intelligence that led us here was your own. Clearly your own flawed intelligence is at fault.”

Squish groaned as he glared at the mantis. “My intelligence is never flawed, but that is beside the point. The Shadow Clan will simply have to continue its search for the Amulet elsewhere.”
With that, both the mantis and kappa wizard disappeared into puffs of smoke.

It was at that time that Ninja Star found enough strength within him to pull himself up. As he did so, he stumbled across the floor toward where Tsuri and Hana lay. He could barely stomach to look at them—or rather, what remained of them—but the gruesome image he saw filled him with a mix of disgust, rage, and remorse.

Along his bruised face trickled a single tear that fell to the hardwood floor below.

**************

Before he could say or do anything, Ninja Star found himself flying across the roof as a foe came from his right and kicked him. He drew his sword and drove it into the roof before he could fall off, then whipped it before him as two claws came flying down upon him. Standing right over him was Slash.

“I hope you’re ready to fight this time.” Slash said as he pressed against Ninja Star’s blade.
Ninja Star gave a mighty shove, throwing Slash off of him. He twirled his sword once before aiming it at Slash.

The two then leapt at one another and engaged in a dance of swords, each striking and countering the other. After a few seconds of exchanging blows, Ninja Star leapt back toward another roof and threw a kunai knife at Slash, who leapt into the air to dodge and fluttered his wings to hover in the air. He readied his claws before him, glowing red with energy.

“X Slash attack!” he screamed, thrusting his claws forwards, sending two red energy beams at Ninja Star, who back-flipped away from the attack.

Slash flew towards Ninja Star and crashed into him, only to be tossed across the roof. Ninja Star raised his sword and lunged toward Slash, who, with one slash of his claw, knocked him off the roof and onto the ground. Ninja Star groaned as he tried picking himself up, but the fall had knocked the wind out of him, weakening him significantly.

Slash glanced down at Ninja Star. “Heh, looks like your no more stronger when we first met, eh, brave warrior?”

He leapt off the roof and toward the fallen ninja. Before he could land, a yellow blur intercepted him, and with one strike of its bamboo stick, sent him flying into a nearby wall. Slash picked himself up and saw as Fluttershy stood over Ninja Star with her bamboo stick ready.

Slash scoffed. “I did not come to fight two ponies. Consider this a forfeit.”

Slash disappeared in a puff of smoke along with the remaining shadow ninjas.

Fluttershy knelt next to Ninja Star and picked him up. “Are you alright?”

Ninja Star groaned slightly as he clenched his side. “Just a few bruised ribs. Other than that, I’m fine.”

“Fluttershy, darling!” Rarity called out as she approached them with Pinkie Pie by her side. “That was magnificently breath-taking the way you fought off those ninjas. I must say, I never thought you had it in you.”

Fluttershy blushed. “Oh, it was nothing really. It was because of Ninja Star’s training that I was able to do all that.”

“Well if he can train you to pull off those awesome ninja moves, he can train anypony!” Pinkie exclaimed. In a pink blur she disappeared and re-appeared with a pink scarf wrapped around her head. She knelt before Ninja Star. “Oh, great ninja master, will you humbly accept another pupil for your training?”

And everyone laughed.

**********
“You were very fortunate that my men were able to find you, and that your injuries were not serious,” Ninja Star’s father spoke to him from behind the paper screen.

Time had passed since the altercation, and whatever injuries Ninja Star had received have since healed. Now Ninja Star once again stood kneeling with his head bowed in reverence before his father as he behind his paper screen.

“Had I known that you wished to travel about our kingdom, I would have more than permitted you to do so,” his father continued. “There was no need for you to sneak away behind my back.”

Ninja Star kept his head bowed. “My apologies, father, and what of the Shadow Clan?”

“What about them?” his father replied.

“They attacked our kingdom and our subjects, and they managed to kill at least two of them.”

“I have since strengthened our kingdom’s security. There is nothing else that we need to concern ourselves about them.”

“My apologies, father, but they are still out there and they still have malicious intent.”

“Our intelligence has informed us that they have escaped the boundaries of our kingdom, and if what you have told me about them is true, then they clearly have their aspirations set somewhere else.”

Ninja Star rose from his kneeling position. He was through maintaining appearances. “Their aspirations are to harm anyone they come across in order to pursue their own selfish gains. They have already harmed citizens within our own kingdom, and they could very well harm those within other kingdoms.”

“That is no concern of ours—”

Ninja Star snapped. “It’s a concern of mine!”

Silence hung between the two, tensions clearly rising between them.

“I have seen with my own eyes the evil they commit on others, how they have no reservations with attacking the powerless and defenseless. They cannot be allowed to roam freely, even if they no longer do so within our kingdom. It is beyond shameful to do nothing about this evil, and if you will do nothing about it, then I will.”

“You would betray your own father’s wishes and leave our kingdom to pursue this small band of mere ruffians?” His father asked, anger clear within his voice, though his silhouette revealed him to be sitting calm and collected.

“As long as they pose a threat to others, I will. It would be more dishonorable for me to allow them to commit such evil while I and everyone else do nothing.”

His father bowed his head in deep thought. Ninja Star stood his ground, expecting his father to bark back at him for speaking out of turn and for suggesting to betray his wishes and abandon his kingdom.

His father lifted his head, and though Ninja Star could not see it, he was smiling the biggest smile.
“My son,” he said in a more pleased tone, “You have earned the right to bear our family sword.”

Ninja Star gasped and raised an eyebrow confused. “Forgive me father, but I do not understand.”

“I told you that you would only be able to inherit our sword if you proved to be strong enough, when your heart cried out for justice, and you could not cry out any louder than you are now.”

Ninja Star turned to gaze at the sword sitting upon the altar next to him.

“Take it, my son, and go forth,” his father instructed. “You have earned the right to wield it. You cannot embark on your righteous crusade without it.”

His heart racing within his chest, Ninja Star approached the altar. He reached for the sword and unsheathed it from its scabbard. With a single motion, he whipped it out before him within a fighting stance, before eventually re-sheathing it, strapping it to his belt, and bowing before his father.

“My gratitude, father,” he said. “I will not fail you.”

**********

As the four ponies made their way back to Fluttershy’s cottage, Ninja Star reached into his shirt and pulled out a pink cherry blossom that he carefully studied.

As Ninja Star gazed at the cherry blossom, Fluttershy, who was walking next to him, took notice of it.

“Oh, my, that is a beautiful flower,” she commented.

Ninja Star broke his gaze from the flower to focus on the filly next to him. “It is a cherry blossom, the native flower of my homeland. Sometimes I look at it and reflect upon its beauty.”

He then offered it to Fluttershy. “Somehow, I feel that its beauty would be better accentuated by your own within your hair.”

With a blush, Fluttershy accepted. “Oh, thank you.”

She took the flower and placed it in-between her ear. “It most certainly looks pretty, but, I suspect you carried it with you for more than its beauty.”

Ninja Star nodded. “It is a reminder of my mission.”

**********
Upon a grassy hill overlooking the city and harbor, as the sun was setting upon the horizon, casting everything with an orange hue, Ninja Star knelt underneath the shade of a cherry blossom tree, its canopy in full bloom with pink and white cherry blossoms.

Before him lay two mounds of freshly-turned soil, each one with a wooden marker planted at their head. One had the name of “Tsuri”; the other, “Hana.”

As Ninja Star knelt before the two graves, he had his head bowed and eyes closed in reverence. He considered this location for the graves most ideal, as within his language, “Hana” meant blossom, and “Tsuri” meant tree.

Upon finishing his silent prayers, he unstrapped his sheathed sword from him waist and held it before him with both hooves as one would make an offering.

“Tsuri, Hana,” he said. “Your passing will not be in vain.”

With a flick of his hoof, he unsheathed the sword by a good inch, revealing an inch of the blade, its metal reflecting the light from the setting sun.

He stood. “I will not avenge your deaths, for there is no honor in revenge. However, I swear upon your graves that I will fight to bring justice to those who deserve it most.”

He fully unsheathed the sword from its scabbard and held it before him within a fighting stance, almost as if he were about to attack. “I will fight to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and help bring power to those who are otherwise powerless.”

Opening his eyes, he noticed as a single cherry blossom floated away from the tree and fell towards the ground, eventually gracefully landing upon the foot of Hana’s grave marker.

**********

Rainbow Dash: Hey, it’s me, Rainbow Dash! Sky Wind, you mean to tell me you haven’t gotten your memories back? Well, don’t worry, perhaps we can try something today that will get them back ASAP.

Sky Wind: I don’t know. Sometimes I’m afraid of getting them back.

Rainbow Dash: What do you mean?

Sky Wind: Well, the day I lost my memories was the day I met you. What happens if I get my memories back and I forget all about you?

Rainbow Dash: Next time on My Little Pony: “Do I Wish To Remember? Searching For Skywind’s Lost Memories.” Hey, how can you possibly forget a pony like me?