The land is covered in a thick blanket of white snow; the snow of the recent storm lays still, hiding much of the grass and dirt beneath it. Off in the distance, there is a small river running through the thicket of the forest, with a wooden bridge overhead. Bursting out from the forest, Rikimaru lands in the middle of the bridge and takes a quick survey of the area. Behind him, a small path that leads through the forest. In front of him, a trail of footprints in the snow that leads through a small mountain pass. He takes a few steps forward to observe the footprints; there are two different sets. One set is of a larger pair, with a small set just in front of it. Rikimaru looks up from the prints and looks at the pass.
“It seems like they have a set route. Heading off into the mountain to lose anybody following them.”
Rikimaru takes a few steps into the snow, the sound of crunching snow echoes beneath his feet. He stops for one moment, listening to any kind of sounds that may be nearby. Picking something up, he draws his ninjato and inches his way in the snow, heading towards the opening of the mountain pass; it’s a single path that cuts into the mountain, wide enough just to fit three people. As he comes up to the first corner, he presses his back against one of the walls and peers around. There’s a single guard walking up and down the path for his route.
With his back turned, the guard stretches, knowing his shift will last long into the night. Taking the opening, Rikimaru dashes from around the corner, his steps loud on the snow. The guard hears the approaching steps, but his speed is no match for the shadow; Rikimaru put his hand over the guard’s mouth and drives the ninjato straight through the guard’s back and out through chest. The guard tries to let out a cry, but it’s muffled and quickly comes to an end as the blade withdraws from him.
Face first, Rikimaru pushes the guard’s lifeless body to the ground, a pool of blood staining the snow around it. He sheaths the ninjato before continuing through the mountain passage, navigating through various tight spots and corners. As he traverses the snowy terrain, he slays another patrolling guard, slitting his throat from behind in a fluid motion. When he goes around another corner, the path ends at the mountain’s base, breaking off into two split path, each leading through the forest in different directions. When Rikimaru looks down the path on the left, he quickly hides from around the corner and watches from a distance.
Slowly making their way down the path, there’s a guard and one more person walking through, leaving deep foot prints in the snow. In front of the guard, there’s a young woman, clothed in a dark red kimono that gently highlights her features, making her way through the snowy forest. Her head is drooped forward, hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her body shivers from the cold with every step.
“How much further do we have to walk…?”