Who is the Kiko Ninja?: Part Two
PART II OF THE STORY OF NITEN HIRORU
RECAP: Young Niten Hiroru (Hiro) and his father arrived in Shenkuu, having flown from Kiko Lake in a ship provided by the Emperor.
At the Kendo competition, Young Ryshu flashed a confident grin in their direction before donning his caged mask. Kentari waved back at him. The spotlight was in the middle of the room where two darkly-clothed neopets with caged masks stood facing one another with bamboo sticks. A formal introduction was given where both neopets both bowed to the moderator, to each other, and then they began. It was nothing like anything Hiro had ever seen in Kiko Lake. His father smiled reassuringly at him. The two neopets looked like they performing some kind of dance, and with each second in which they circled each other, he felt the tension in the room thicken. It was shattered by Young Ryshu's voice, giving a quick shout before he heard the dull clang of their two bamboo sticks clashing against one another. The two neopets continued to spar with their bamboo sticks that collided in rhythmic succession: clang, clang, clang, clang, clang. Each lunge and block was punctuated by a shout from each neopet. Hiro was entranced by the performance before him. How could Ryshu move so fast? How could he see properly behind that mask? And just like that, as quickly as it had begun, the match ended, and the two neopets bowed facing each other once more. Kentari clapped for him, and Hiro and his father followed suit.
Ryshu thanked them profusively for watching his Kendo match, and suggested that they all eat dinner together at a restaurant afterwards. As they were being seated, Kentari playfully nudged his friend at the side, "When you shouted that first time, Ryshu, you sounded like a Quintilc petpet!" Hiro laughed along with them. The two Kikos, Nimmo and Shoyru were squeezed together at a small wooden table with benches enclosed by navy blue curtains.
"I’m so hungry after Kendo that I could eat a whole Negg!” roared Ryshu. “I eat here so often, even Chef Bonju knows who I am! … But there were those times where I let my petpet run loose in his kitchen - so I wouldn't say that we're on the best terms. You should have seen Chef Bonju's face - it was hilarious!"
Hiro chuckled nervously. Kentari gave him a disparaging rap on the head. He then politely sat up towards them, changing the subject.
"So what did you think, Kikos? Did you like it?" asked Kentari. "Kendo is one of Shenkuu's oldest sports, and it has a lot of history. It's kind of similar to my own training at the royal palace."
Of course he liked it! Hiro couldn't wait to tell his friends back home in Kiko Lake all about the Kendo match that he just saw. Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by a Blumaroo's cry from the restaurant kitchen.
"RYYYYYSHUUUUUU THIS IS THE LAST STRAW!!!!! I AM GOING TO TELL YOUR PARENTS TO SEND YOU TO MYSTERY ISLAND!!!"
Kentari glared at Ryshu who shrugged sheepishly.
"I may or may not have tried another prank on him after lunch today," Ryshu replied before darting behind the curtains surrounding their seated area.
The next morning, Hiro’s Dad had to leave immediately to sign a trade agreement with Shenkuu and Kiko Lake in order to approve of the import of their coral furniture. Kentari paid a visit to Hiro at his neolodge to see how he was doing after his samurai lessons were done for the day. His voice carried an ominous sense of urgency.
“Hiro! Hiro!,” cried Kentari, “When I was at the palace, we just received news from the Neopian Times that the Dark Faerie might be revived in Altador! The Emperor is greatly shaken by this possibility, and considering to close Shenkuu’s doors to all foreign Neopian lands. I feel worried!”
“My Dad went to the Emperor’s palace this morning!” Hiro told Kentari.
Kentari then suggested that they both go to the palace to check on Hiro’s Dad, and off they went together to the royal palace of Shenkuu.
They hopped into the nearest rickshaw, and then sped towards the royal palace. In the distance, Hiro looked up and gasped at the proud structure that quickly emerged before him: strikingly symmetrical pavilions with ostentatious embellishments of rock, wood and metal; looming, bright-emerald hedges that were trimmed in neat shapes, their reflections wavering over an expansive moat surrounding the palace. The wheels of their rickshaw clattered on a wide wooden bridge across the moat. Kentari ushered the rickshaw driver to pull up near the royal armory, and they slipped into the palace unannounced. Following Kentari’s swift Shoyru-footsteps, Hiro ran down the hardwood of an open-concept hallway, passing by tall, polished cedar beams and stretches of neatly-kept tatami mats. They rounded a sharp corner, and then Kentari gestured towards a corner ahead where he saw the back of his father’s Kiko head. His father was seated on the ground across a short table from a male Gelert and a female Aisha. The Gelert was dressed in long, brightly-coloured, flowing robes that billowed around him on the floor. The Aisha had her hair pinned up luxuriously with intricate, dangling hair-pieces. The Gelert’s facial expression was clouded and dark, and the Aisha was almost expressionless.
“Father!” cried Hiro, who stopped in his tracks at the intimidating sight of the two ornately-dressed neopets. They shifted subtly at his surprise entrance.
“To what do we owe this pleasure, Kentari?” asked the Gelert calmly, his eyes simmering in controlled emotion. Kentari immediately bowed apologetically, bowing so low at the waist that his helmet almost touched the ground. Hiro stood nervously behind Kentari, unsure of how to act.
“I beg of you to show favour upon these Kikos from Kiko Lake, Emperor,” entreated Kentari, “They are simple, carpentry folk who mean no harm to Shenkuu. In the panic of a dark uprising in Altador, I plead for you not to treat foreigners still in Shenkuu unfairly.” Kentari then bowed lowly several times more in succession, emphasizing the sincerity of his plea before the Emperor.
Before the Emperor could respond, a flurry of wings, squawking and pale blue fog interrupted them, and bounced erratically across the room. The flying creature looked oddly familiar to Hiro even when he was positive that there weren’t any petpets like that in Kiko Lake. A small, delicate voice could be heard chiding the petpet from behind a nearby folding screen.
The Aisha adopted an unamused expression on her face and muttered, “Eavesdropping again I see, Princess Lunara?”
A timid Cybunny peaked out from behind the nearby folding screen, and blushed. Her Kazeiru petpet twirled around Hiro’s father before deciding to rest on Hiro’s shoulder, nuzzling the bandaid on his smooth Kiko forehead.
Hiro’s father turned around, and pulled his son reassuringly closer to him. “I think that we’ll return to Kiko Lake sooner than expected, son,” he whispered softly. Across the table, the attention of the Emperor and the Guardian of Shenkuu had switched to the Kazeiru petpet who had suddenly began glowing, sparkling determinedly on Hiro’s Kiko-shoulder with Neopian magic.
Princess Lunara then exclaimed, “Kentari! My Kazeiru petpet has chosen your friend for something!”
Princess Lunara’s Kazeiru petpet’s glow intensified to the point where the room was lit in an ethereal blue. Outside where it had previously been sunny skies, there was suddenly thunder, rain and lightning. The room became dark. Hiro felt his Kiko body being warmed by the Neopian magic around him. He had never encounter Neopian magic in Kiko Lake before.
Hiro’s Dad called out, “Hiro! Where are you? I can’t see you!”
Hiro was confused because he did not remember moving from his father’s side. He heard a deep, gentle voice reverberate in his mind: I, the Kazeiru of Shenkuu, have chosen to grant you, Niten Hiroru, son of the carpenter from Kiko Lake, powers of stealth and invisibility. I am binding you for a lifetime of service in the protection of Kiko Lake. By my authority, you are now Niten Hiroru, the Kiko Ninja of Neopia. Thank you for coming to Shenkuu. I wish you a safe returning journey with your father. The bright light emanating from the Kazieru petpet glow then faded slowly, and the weather outside the royal palace returned to normal. The walls acted as if nothing had happened. But, in the middle of the room, stood a little Kiko by his father’s side wrapped tightly in black cloth with only his bright eyes visible.
“... Hiro?” asked Kentari, bewildered.
In his pocket, Hiro felt four-point paper stars. The Emperor narrowed his eyes, and cleared his throat authoritatively.
“The Kazeiru has appointed you as a ninja to protect Kiko Lake,” the Emperor stated, “May the powers of Shenkuu keep you as you train to fulfill your calling. As I had just explained to your father moments earlier, in the best interest of the safety of the citizens of Shenkuu, we are closing our doors to all outside influence for the time being. I have arranged for you and your father’s return to Kiko Lake by air ship.”
As they turned to leave the Emperor’s presence, Princess Lunara softly stopped Hiro.
“I hope that you were not disappointed from having your stay in Shenkuu cut short. My father is only doing what he thinks is best for our land. Thank you so much for your gift - I think that the coral furniture that you brought all the way from Kiko Lake is so beautiful.” She smiled once more, “I want to give you and your father some rice cakes for your return trip to Kiko Lake.”
Kentari then added, “I heard that Ryshu will be on the same ship as you guys … his parents are sending him to Mystery Island to study with Master Techno. I’m going to miss you guys, and my favourite rickshaw driver.”
After packing their suitcases once more, Hiro and his father got on another rickshaw and as they passed by a blurr of rice fields on their way to catch their next flying ship home, Hiro grew contemplative. What did being a Kiko Ninja mean? Why the Kazeiru chose him? How would things change when he returned to Kiko Lake? What did his father truly think about what happened?
On the ship, Ryshu gave them weak smile, a little reluctant to leave his home in Shenkuu for Mystery Island, but encouraged when he heard about the possibility of a Tiki Tour. Hiro’s father patted his son’s Kiko head endearingly, and said, “Wait until we tell your mother everything that happened, son.”
And from that day forward, the Kiko Lake carpentry store continued business as usual. Only the citizens of Kiko Lake knew the secret of who his son really was. Niten Hiroru grew up and became legendary for his intelligence mixed with good intention. He is the only Kiko ninja in all of Neopia to date. Maybe you fellow Neopians will have the fortunate fate to cross paths with him, and that it will be a welcome meeting as long as you do not disturb the peace of his beloved home, Kiko Lake.
To be continued…