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Authors: Chris Bradford

Ninja

BOOK: Ninja
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Ninja: First Mission

by
Chris Bradford

For Stella, a little fighter

All proceeds from the sale of this book are being
donated to help fight her cancer battle

www.forstella.org

For more information on Chris and his books, visit:
www.chrisbradford.co.uk

First American edition published in 2012 by Stoke Books,
an imprint of Barrington Stoke Ltd
18 Walker Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, EH3 7LP

www.stokebooks.com

Copyright © 2011 Chris Bradford
Illustrations © Sonia Leong

All rights reserved. International copyright secured. No part of
this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the
prior written permission of Barrington Stoke Ltd, except for
inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

A catalog record for this book is available from
the US Library of Congress

Distributed in the United States and Canada by Lerner Publisher
Services, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.
241 First Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55401
www.lernerbooks.com
.

ISBN 978-1-78112-021-7

Printed in China
eISBN: 978-1-78112-059-0

Contents

1 Floor-boards

2 Dragon's Gate

3 Black Belt Test

4 Grandmaster

5 A Lesson from an Ant

6 The Scrolls

7 Black Eagle Castle

8 A Difficult Choice

9 The River

10 Decoy

Chapter 1

Floor-boards

Japan, Year 1580

I wait under the floor-boards.

I've been hidden here for over an hour, lying still as a stone.

My name is Taka. This is my first mission as a ninja and I must not fail.

I hear a door slide open and look through the crack in the floor boards. I watch as a man crosses the room; his feet pass close to my face. He wears a gold silk robe with the crest of a black eagle on his back. He carries two samurai swords on his hip. Across his right cheek is a long red scar.

It's Lord Oda – the samurai warrior I've been waiting for.

The war-lord doesn't know I'm here. He can't see me under the floor. He sits down on his bed. In his hand, he holds a scroll of paper. He begins to read it.

“I never dreamed such things were possible,” he mutters to himself.

After a few minutes, he puts the scroll into a wooden box by his pillow. He lays his swords beside his bed, blows out the candle and goes to sleep.

Outside, a full moon has risen over the castle. Its pale light shines through a small window and onto the cruel face of Lord Oda. Lord Oda is the sworn enemy of the ninja. My task is to stop him destroying our clan.

Now is the time.

I push softly at the loose floor-board above me and climb out of my hiding place. Using my ninja stealth skills, I cross the room without a sound. In the darkness I'm almost invisible. My black clothes and my hood turn me into a shadow. Only my eyes show.

As I draw close to the samurai lord, I see my hands are shaking.

Can I really do this?
I ask myself.

I've been training to be a spy and an assassin all my life. But I'm still only fourteen. Have I learned all the skills I need for this mission? Perhaps I
should
have waited for Cho. Can I save our ninja clan all on my own?

I have to prove myself. Tonight.

I'm now so close to Lord Oda, I can hear him breathe. As I reach out, my arm blocks the moonlight shining onto his face.

A small but fatal mistake.

Lord Oda's eyes snap open. For a moment, we stare at each other in shock.

Then he screams, “GUARDS!”

Chapter 2

Dragon's Gate

The Day Before …

Holding the silver
shuriken
in my right hand, I take aim and flick the throwing star at the target. It flashes through the air like a mini-bolt of lightning.

I've been practicing with this weapon every day, but even I can't believe it when the
shuriken
strikes the tree trunk dead center.

“Very impressive,” says Sensei Shima as he walks over to me in the forest. “That's five out of five.”

I bow to my teacher and kneel back in line with the other ninja students in the forest. A girl with long black hair smiles at me – Cho. She's a year older than me, and her acrobatic skills are the best in the clan.

“Well done, you
even
beat Renzo!” she whispers, looking over at a large sixteen-yearold boy with strong arms and a shaven head.

Renzo is glaring at me. He never comes second and he doesn't like it.

“It doesn't count,” he grunts.

“Why not?” I protest.

“You're not a real ninja. You haven't gone on a mission yet.”

Renzo loves to tell me this fact, and all my joy at mastering the Five Blades
shuriken
throw vanishes.

“You're just jealous,” says Cho.

“Taka was lucky, that's all,” snorts Renzo. “The
real
test is if he can do it under the pressure of a mission.”

Sensei Shima claps for attention. “Time for unarmed combat practice,” he calls. “Find a partner.”

I look to Cho, but Renzo's already at my side, towering over me.

“I pick
you
,” he snarls.

Before I can react, he grabs me by both arms. I try to shake off his grip, but he's too strong. Renzo throws me to the ground. I fight to get back up, but he drops on top of me and pins my arm down with his knee. I groan in pain as he presses with all his weight.

“Just as I thought,” he grins and twists my arm so that the pain is almost too much to bear. “You wouldn't survive long in a real fight.”

I'm forced to submit. I tap the floor.

“Change opponents!” orders Sensei Shima.

As I get up, I rub my hurt arm. It throbs.

Cho comes over to partner me. “Are you alright?” she asks.

I nod. “He's too strong for me,” I answer.

My arm's fine – it's my pride that's been hurt. I'll never gain the respect of the others until I've completed my first mission.

“Everyone has a weak point,” replies Cho. “I may be small, but few can beat me.”

Without warning, she drives her thumb into the space behind my collar-bone. A blinding pain shoots through my body, my legs go weak, and I fall to the ground.

“That's the Dragon's Gate,” she smiles. “It's a pressure point that will take down the biggest and
ugliest
foe.”

“Will you show me again?” I ask.

Cho repeats the move. Then she lets me try it on her. I press down and she collapses like a rag doll.

“Sorry, was that too hard?” I ask as I offer my hand to help her up.

“No, it was perfect,” she replies. Then she grabs my wrist and, with a quick twist, throws me onto my back. “But that's the last time I'll let you win so easily.”

“Stop training!” commands Sensei Shima.

Our clan leader, Tenshin, is walking towards us from the direction of the village. He's wearing his black
gi
, a ninja uniform with the crest of two hawks on the front. The two hawks are the emblem of the clan.

“We need all available ninja for an important mission,” says Tenshin.

At last, here's my chance!
I jump to my feet.

“Not you, Taka,” Tenshin tells me. “This is a black-belt-only mission.”

Chapter 3

Black Belt Test

“This will be my tenth mission,” brags Renzo the next morning as the ninja team get ready to leave. “Tell me again, how many have you done, Taka?”

I ignore him and get on with filling everyone's water bottles from the village well.

“You haven't even passed the Grandmaster's black belt test!” Renzo sneers. “Are you sure you can even do water duty on your own?”

My face goes red with shame as the other ninja try to hide their laughter.

The Grandmaster is the head of
ninjutsu
, the secret martial art of the ninja. When a student turns fourteen, the Grandmaster invites them to his temple to take a flower from his hand – without being detected. The Grandmaster must feel nothing, must not know they are even there. He is old and blind, but the task is far from easy. There are traps set all through the temple.

It's the ultimate test of stealth for a ninja.

Sensei Shima is the only ninja to have passed the test the first time and that was ten years ago. Once a ninja earns their black belt, they're ready to be sent on any mission.

I've failed twice already. Am I ever going to succeed and get my black belt?

As I hand out the water bottles, I watch as my fellow ninja complete their final equipment checks. How I wish I could go too! But Cho isn't among them. Then I spot her crossing the village square towards me.

“The Grandmaster has asked for you,” she says.

I stare at Cho. “Me? But why?”

“Why do you think?” Cho replies, grinning.


Black belt test
!” I exclaim. “But I'm not ready for it.”

Renzo overhears us and gives a cruel laugh. “Those who fail to prepare, must prepare to fail!”

“Don't listen to him,” says Cho as we walk away. “I've seen you practicing every day. You're ready.”

We cross the paddy fields, enter the forest and follow a path up into the mountains. As we draw near to the temple, I get more and more nervous.

“What if I fail again?” I ask Cho.

“Don't worry, it took me two attempts,” she replies.

“But this is my
third
!”

Cho stops and looks at me. “I'll tell you a secret. As strong and skillful as Renzo is, it took him
five
attempts to get his black belt – not the two he brags about.”

This news makes me feel better. But I'm still worried about my chances.

We climb a long flight of stone steps that lead up to a huge wooden gate. Cho stops before the temple entrance.

BOOK: Ninja
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