northwind_gale: (A boy and his best friend.)
Gale ([personal profile] northwind_gale) wrote2016-07-02 06:17 pm

[FIC] Ryuusei no Redux - Tribe, Chapter 10 (Episode 17)

Series: Megaman Star Force
Rating: PG-13 ish i guess ? who knows.
Warnings: excessive amounts of "de osaru." so much "de osaru." also why is thi schapter so long i hate
Notes: as usual, the final edited version will be posted up to FFNet in a few days time, or whenever i can get to it.

Episode 017 – Aim for the Top! Let’s Go, Genin!

Jackie-sensei had lost no time in putting Gori and Hyde through their paces. While it was gratifying to see that they had just as much (if not more) difficulty with the training as the kids had (watching them flee from the large boulder garnered quite a few laughs from the group), Subaru still felt uneasy. He knew those two had no intention of actually putting in the years of training that was likely necessary to be a master worthy of inheriting the dojo. Heck, Subaru himself only planned on staying for the weekend at the most. There was no way any of them would stay remotely long enough to inherit the mansion and the right to search it for whatever treasures it held, whether an OOPart was included amongst them or not. No, those two would search and plunder its depths once they got the chance. Subaru would either have to stop them…or find the OOPart first.
 

Still…the most valuable thing the ninja mansion seemed to have was the Tiger Roll that Jackie-sensei claimed to hold all of his techniques. The Star of Shinobi certainly didn’t appear to be any sort of scroll of techniques-not even in name.

“Lies, cheating, deception! That is the way of the ninja!”

That was what sensei had said…Hm.

Maybe Subaru could go about finding out about the OOPart a little differently than the others, then…

0-0-0-0-0

It was a very chatty group of ninjas-in-training that sat down in what Jackie-sensei had called “ninja barracks,” but were really more akin to a typical hotel guest room, tatami mats and all. Perhaps true ninjas would have gone to sleep quickly and efficiently with little fuss, but as trainees, and young children at that, it wasn’t a surprise for them to be sitting in a circle, chatting away merrily.

The surprise at the true identities of “Fubuki” and “Kanimaru” had been great; the delight of meeting a famous pop idol had been greater. After the initial requests for autographs and such, the more awkward questions began.

“Ne, Misora-chan, how did you find out about this place?” Gonta asked.

“Heh? Well, Subaru-kun told me…” Misora started to say, oblivious to Subaru’s panicked motions to stop talking.

“Subaru-kun?” Luna interrupted slyly. “You two sure have gotten close since you both met at Nanska, haven’t you?”

“E-eh?!” Subaru’s face turned red as he stammered incoherently. Misora just looked confused.

“Heh? Met at Nanska?”

“You did just meet at Nanska, right?” Luna continued, a suspicious gleam in her eyes. “I mean, you did say you all just met up there by chance, right? There’s no way you could have known each other before then, right?” Both Subaru and Misora let out nervous chuckles at that and looked away.

“E-eto…”

“Well…”

“Neh, Subaru,” Gonta piped up again, seemingly realizing something. “How is it that you always get tickets for us anyway? You always managed to get them even when we heard they were sold out! And they’re almost always good seats, too!”

The look that Subaru gave him was less than charitable.

“I kept getting lucky, okay?”

“Subaru, you dummy!” Misora jabbed an accusing finger at him. “I always make sure to reserve seats for you!”

“EH?!” Subaru jerked back in surprise. “W-wait, seriously…?!”

“You didn’t notice?” She puffed up her cheeks in an admittedly cute pout. “Geez! Ever since I heard you say that your friends were huge fans and kept dragging you to concerts…I did that for you, you know!”

“Eh? I didn’t think-no wonder my reservations kept changing…”

“Mou! So ungrateful, you didn’t think I would pull strings for you?”

“I thought you’d get in trouble if you pulled stuff like that! You know how Kaneda-san is-he almost fired Cancer because of that stunt you pulled with that FMian materializer, remember?!”

“He threatens to fire me every time she runs off though, buku…” Cancer morosely cut in, only to be ignored by everyone else as the bantering continued.

“Ehhh…” Misora made a dismissive gesture. “He cries all the time about money, but he can’t make any without me. He’ll fume and puff up and everything, but he can’t do anything about it. I can just get another producer in a heartbeat, and he knows it!”

“So why don’t you, then, if he’s so annoying?”

“Because, Kaneda-san is easy to get away from! And he’s a jerk, so I don’t have to feel bad about leaving him in the lurch at all!”

“Eh…so you’re that sort of media star…” Subaru sighed.

“I’m positive she does half of it just because she likes causing him trouble…” Harp muttered.

“Sh…she would do that, huh…” War-Rock grumbled. “It’s like I say, women are troublesome creatures sometimes…”

“Humans in general tend to be fickle beings,” Berserk quipped, just barely out of hearing. For once, however, neither Subaru nor War-Rock felt inclined to correct them. If anything, they were finding themselves doubting the…generosity…of Misora’s getting him tickets.

“But…Subaru, you were getting us tickets before you met Misora at Nanska!” Gonta exclaimed, confusion evident in his expression.

“And you know the habits of her manager already…? After only a week or so…” Luna tapped her chin, staring them both down levelly.

“Eh…”

“Huhuhu…” Kizamaro pushed up his glasses in an all-knowing manner. “Rumors say that Misora-chan was at Dombra Lake, interviewing Kyu Demagawa about Dossy…and she was visiting Nanska along with Subaru-kun and the Class President…and both Rockman and Harp Note were sighted in those same locations at the same time!”

“E-EH?!” The group shout was highly un-ninjalike and easily conveyed their surprise.

“Wh-what are you saying, Kizamaro! Th-That doesn’t have anything to do with each other!”

“Well, that banter of yours sounds way too familiar to be friends for such a short period of time…And there’s the matter of those tickets…” Luna muttered suspiciously, still not letting up on her gazing.

“And Misora-chan and Harp Note are both cute girls wearing pink!” Gonta cut in triumphantly. Everyone looked on, but Gonta remained oblivious to their incredulous stares. The simple coincidence was viewed by the large boy as a brilliant epiphany, and it would take a large blow to shatter that victory…one that no one felt inclined to spend the effort to inflict.

“A…anyway…” Subaru stammered.

“Well, if you guys already know that Subaru-kun is Rockman, then there’s no point in hiding it,” Misora abruptly declared. “Yep, I’m Harp Note!”

“Eh-! Misora-chan-“

“It was pretty considerate of you to not tell them, Subaru-kun,” Misora interrupted him again. “But if they can keep your secrets, they can definitely keep mine!”

“W-well…” In Subaru’s mind, his secrets and the secrets of a popular celebrity like Misora certainly had different amounts of importance to them…

“Wow…you’d trust us with that sort of secret, Misora-chan?” Gonta looked starry-eyed as he said that, while Kizamaro adjusted his glasses in a rather superior manner.

“Well, you’re Subaru-kun’s friends, right? His friends are my friends, too! We’re all friends now, neh?”

“So cool! Definitely, Misora-chan!” Gonta crowed.

“Hold on! Being declared a friend isn’t that easy!” Luna snapped, invisible hackles seemingly raised. It seemed the mental defenses that prevented her from seeing the rather unremarkable and troublesome student Hoshikawa Subaru as her beloved Rockman-sama were also hard at work keeping her from acknowledging her idol Hibiki Misora to be the secret identity of her adversary-slash-love rival Harp Note.

“Heeh? Why not? You and I had a pretty good chat in Nanska…”

“W-well-!”

“This is just what I was afraid of…” Subaru moaned quietly.

“Sorry, Subaru-kun,” Kizamaro mumbled. “But you saw her putting things together already-it would have been a lot worse for you if she’d figured it out herself! You’re lucky Misora-chan spoke up when she did!”

“H-heh…if you say so…”

“Che, what a racket…” War-Rock grumbled. “This is why I don’t get along with women…”

“It’s not like you have the qualities that’d let you get along with them in the first place!” Harp hissed at him irately.

“Tch! What kind of qualities are those?” he snapped back. “Not like I would need them…”

“The ability to know when to keep that coarse mouth of yours shut, for one thing…” Berserk grumbled.

“What, you all aren’t still mad about that comment from back then? That was weeks ago!”

“In case you haven’t noticed,” the spirits deadpanned, “we’re rather good at holding grudges.”

“See? That’s why you have to be careful when talking to women, they never forget!” Harp concluded triumphantly.

“What do you and that bunch of old creeps even have to do with each other?!”

“Eh…” Subaru watched the back-and-forth go on between the two girls (and the three denpa beings behind him) go on seemingly without end, before he recalled something that he had wanted to do.

“Neh, Kizamaro,” he said, standing up. “I actually wanted to ask Jackie-sensei something, so I’m stepping out for a bit…

“W-what? And leave me here alone with them?”

“You’ve got Gonta to help, right?” Even as he was saying that, Subaru was edging towards the doorway.

“You know that’s not gonna be any help!” Gonta was the one who started this messy conversation!

“Well, it’s the perfect distraction for Gonta and the Class President right now, anyway. I wanted to ask more about that ancestor you mentioned…” Subaru muttered, just loud enough for Kizamaro to hear-not that he had to be that quiet, considering the racket.

“Eh? I see…”

“Uh-huh. I’m counting on you and Misora-chan, Kizamaro!”

“EH?! W-wait, Subaru-kun!”

The boy had already darted from the room-swift as a ninja, Kizamaro belatedly thought.

Subaru let out a sigh as he darted around the corner at the end of the hall. Maybe having Kizamaro as a friend had some benefits after all?

0-0-0-0-0

“Ano…Jackie-sensei?”

The room was devoid of said sensei, like so many others he had tried. Subaru honestly had no idea where to look in order to find their enigmatic instructor, but even looking about aimlessly was better than remaining in that guest room-sorry, ninja barrack.

Still, the room itself looked interesting, so Subaru poked his head in, ignoring any feelings of trepidation he felt.

Many artifacts donned the walls: a variety of scrolls, masks, and weapons; but otherwise the room was quite bare save for a few personal effects. It was upon spotting those that it occurred to Subaru that he might be in Jackie-sensei’s personal quarters, and he moved to back out when his eyes caught sight of a scroll hanging on the back wall just out of sight.

It was a simple one hanging amongst many other more elaborate artifacts, placed just so it could be easily missed despite it being large enough to cover a section of wall from ceiling to floor. In almost insultingly simple characters were written the words “Mu Ari.”

“Mu…here…?” Subaru read in dumb disbelief. It took him a few moments to process the simple meaning of the characters, before he stared at the scroll incredulously.

“N…no way…”

“There’s definitely some kind of trap here…” muttered War-Rock.

“We concur. It is impossible that the Shinobi would be so straightforward. They lack the necessary honor.”

“Oi, oi..! Are ya saying that you can’t be decent folk if ya like getting straight to the point?” growled War-Rock.

“You are hardly the most upright of creatures, much less honorable…”

“You-!”

Subaru chose not to comment on the validity of Berserk’s statements and continued to squint at the scroll.

“It can’t be that easy…”

“What cannot be that easy, my wayward student, de osaru?”

“Yiii-!” Subaru stiffened. “E-eh, um, nothing, Jackie-sensei.”

“Oh really?” the monkey-faced shinobi wondered. “So, what are you doing awake past curfew, de osaru?”

“Eh, um, that is…I was looking for you, Jackie-sensei!”

“Oh?”

“Un. I wanted to ask more about that ancestor you mentioned, Tararara Mu. I’ve been studying Mu, so…”

“So that was how you came upon our lands, de osaru? Not too soon, I might add! Such wonderful students I have never had! So determined, de osaru~”

Subaru didn’t have the heart to tell him that they only planned on vacationing there for the weekend.

“But if all you wanted was to hear about my vaunted ancestor, then I can forgive this instance of rule-breaking just this once, de osaru! Come and sit down, young Ryuusei-kun, de osaru!”

Subaru started at the nickname, at first foolishly thinking that the ninja had somehow discovered his alternate identity. Then he remembered that the “shooting star” nickname was currently more of an inside joke between him and a small bunch of kids, and that he’d merely affixed that moniker to his “ninja name” in the half-joking enthusiastic introduction they’d all done before. Despite that belated realization, Subaru still found himself sweating slightly as he sat down.

This guy...he took those introductions seriously…?

They kneeled opposite each other on small mats, and surrounded by all the trinkets and artifacts, the small child felt a little overwhelmed by the austere atmosphere until Jackie-sensei spoke.

“Now, this is a tale passed down many generations, de osaru!” the sensei began, his ever-cheerful tone completely destroying whatever oppressive feeling there was. “It might seem a little ~fantastic~-“ the word used there was an unfamiliar foreign one, further cementing Subaru’s belief that the man was a foreigner “-but I assure you, the stories are one hundred percent true, de osaru!”

If this guy really was from Mu, it probably is… Subaru privately thought even as he schooled his face into a neutral expression.

“Hai, sensei.”

“Mmm-him~!” The ninja’s overenthusiastic nod would not have been convincing under normal circumstances. “You see, all ninja back then took a completely new name when they became fully fledged shinobi-this helped keep their anonymity and reshaped their identity, de osaru.”

“Identity? How?”

“Well, by taking the name of their nation, Mu, they pledged loyalty to that country over all else, de osaru. A ninja must do whatever it takes to secure the mission, regardless of whatever other interests come into play, de osaru. That means they must be ready to disregard friends, family, and even their own self, de osaru! Taking the name of the country helps with that, de osaru.”

“Give up everything?! That’s awful!” Subaru exclaimed. “Why would anyone give up their connections like that?”

“Because, you connect yourself with the land, de osaru~! By giving up those personal connections, you are able to accomplish what is good for the entire country, de osaru. Giving up all personal sense of self for the good of the mission-that is the way of the ninja, de osaru!”

“But…isn’t it possible to be able to protect everyone without giving up personal connections? After all, if you have someone to protect in there, wouldn’t that make them want to protect Mu more?”

“Ah, but what if protecting them risked the mission, or was a danger to Mu? No, no~, loyalty must be to Mu first and foremost, de osaru! Or, it would be if it was still around, de osaru…”

Subaru grimaced slightly as Jackie-sensei continued to mutter on about the loyalties to Mu, and whether they counted or not when they were to a country that no longer existed. The idea of what a ninja operated as mad him feel slightly ill, and he found himself ruefully reflecting that if he hadn’t cared for protecting his friends and family, he would never has lived as Rockman, nor would Rockman have been very successful at protecting the earth so far. No, “Ryuusei no Subaru” would never truly be a proper ninja. He would continue to fight his own way, to protect those that he cared for and still succced in saving the world.

Subaru emerged from these musings just in time to catch the ninja-sensei returning to the story at hand.

“Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that Tararara Mu was not my ancestor’s true name, nor will we ever know it. He was one of many ninjas serving Mu, and he did nothing but the best work in its name, de osaru!”

“I…I see…” This wasn’t a very auspicious start to a “fantastic” legend…

“Anyways, the ninjas of Mu were said to do wondrous things, de osaru. They were said to disappear at a whim, to walk on air, and many other feats, de osaru! Tararara Mu, obviously, was capable of such abilities as well, de osaru! With skill sets such as this, it would be clear that Tararara Mu and other shinobi would be successful at many tasks, and made the Shinobi tribe a vital part of Mu, de osaru!”

“Sh…Shinobi tribe…” Subaru repeated, finally hearing some relevance to the final OOPart he’d been looking for. “There was a tribe of them?” he probed further, looking to see if the sensei would share any more information to confirm the connection between this ninja mansion and Mu-something more substantial than a name.

“Oh yes~, de osaru! The Shinobi Tribe of Mu was one of three great tribes-“

“A-and the other two, were they Berserk and Dinosaur?” Subaru interrupted, trying not to show the anticipation on his face.

“Oh my!” Jackie-sensei exclaimed, his mouth a perfect “o” in surprise. “You really have done some research, de osaru!”

“U-um, a little,” Subaru stammered, not wanting his seeming expertise to make the ninja neglect to tell him any vital facts. “I was able to find a little information about Berserk and Dinosaur, but Shinobi has been pretty difficult compared to find anything about. I guess they must have been really good at hiding their secrets…way better than Berserk and Dinosaur were!” he found himself adding, to the great indignation of Berserk.

Putting up with the specter’s injured pride was worth staking the pride of his ninja instructor, however, as the monkey-faced man’s countenance grew more open as he spoke.

“Well, of course, de osaru!” Jackie-sensei eagerly proclaimed. “The Shinobi were the tribe of secrecy, after all! Lies and secrets-that’s the way of the ninja!” He laughed loudly at that, and it took several moments of waiting before Subaru was able to get the conversation back on topic.

“But, if they were the tribe of secrets, how come this ninja mansion is on Earth instead of being hidden on Mu?” Subaru asked. “Surely your secrtes would have been safer there…”

“They would be, de osaru!” Jackie-sensei nodded. “If Mu was safe at all, that is…de osaru.”

“Eh? Mu, not safe?” For all the boasting the sensei had done, Subaru was surprised to hear him talk about his country that way.

“Mmmhm. You see, the country of Mu disappeared because of war, de osaru.”

“W…war…” Was this the same war that Berserk had mentioned? If so, then…

“Yes~! The tribes of Mu fell into infighting and disarray, although I couldn’t tell you the specifics as to why, de osaru! Those have been lost to time, de osaru.”

“So, because of the war, it wasn’t safe to keep secrets there?”

“That’s how it was, de osaru…not to say that the Shinobi couldn’t protect it, de osaru! The Shinobi, with their swift and sneaky tactics, were more than capable of winning, de osaru~”

“Right…” Subaru found himself dimly wondering how much of this “fantastic legend” was simply boasting.

“However, it would be unwise to consider the possibility of the side effects of war, de osaru. After all, war destroys indiscriminately, regardless of who wins or loses, de osaru. The secrets of the inja must be preserved at all cost, after all, de osaru!”

“S…so…Tararara Mu…”

“Devoted his very life to making sure the secrets of the ninja left Mu intact and undiscovered, de osaru!” Jackie-sensei finished. “He initially established this ninja mansion as the final stronghold against any who would seek to take the secrets of the Shinobi Tribe!”

“W-whoa!” Subaru reared back in shock. He hadn’t expected such a nonsensical story to end with such a bombshell. “Th-this mansion?!”

“This very mansion, de osaru!” Jackie-sensei nodded again, this time the goofy gesture having a note of seriousness to it. “Eventually he opened the mansion up for students in order to continue protecting its legacy, and that began a long line of the last Shinobi of Mu, de osaru!”

“The…last…shinobi…” If this story really was true….then sitting right here before him was truly a final remnant of the Shinobi Tribe: a part of the legacy of Mu itself! “W-wait, so this mansion holds a buch of the secrets of Mu?!

“Yes~, behind these very walls, de osaru!”

It was very hard to believe that such a final bastion was before him, monkey face and all. Even so, Subaru bowed, forehead touching the floor in a reverent manner.

“Please…you have to tell me more, Jackie-sensei!”

“Sorry, but that is all I can tell you, de osaru!”

“Eh? But why?”

“Secrets of this temple must not go farther than the master, de osaru! That is how things must be, de osaru!”

“But-“

“No buts, de osaru~!’”

“Jackie-sensei, this ninja mansion might be in danger! There are some people after the secrets here-“

“There have always been people after the secrets here, de osaru!”

“Y-yeah, but these people are dangerous!”

“As expected, if they’re after the power of Shinobi, de osaru!”

“But it’s not just Shinobi they’re after, Jackie-sensei! They’re after al of Mu’s power, all three tribes! And they’ve already got one!” Subaru exclaimed, remembering how Yeti Blizzard had yanked the OOPart out from right under their noses.

“And you think that them having another tribe’s power will even help them find our secrets, when the Shinobi were the strongest and smartest out of all three Tribes, de osaru?”

“This impudent human dares…” Berserk growled. Subaru ignored them in favor of arguing his point.

“This is different, Jackie-sensei! These people-they won’t stop, they’ll keep trying by an means, even right now, they’re-!”

“That’s enough, de osaru!”

“But-“

“That’s. Enough. De osaru.”

Subaru went silent. Whether the sudden steel in his sensei’s tone or the absurdity of the nonsensical sentence-ender getting punctuated individually had done the trick was up to debate.

“You have every right to be worried, de osaru. But, there’s no need, de osaru! The Shinobi secrets have ben safe all these years, there isn’t any reason for them to fail now, de osaru!”

“But if what I think is here is actually part of the secrets, then-“

“Then it is perfectly safe, de osaru! This is the end of the discussion, de osaru!”

Despite his cheerful tone, Subaru sensed that the ninja sensei really was getting agitated by the turn the conversation had taken. Rather than fight a losing battle, he decided to cut his losses and retreat before he had lost any more of Jackie-sensei’s goodwill (as impossible as it seemed). He bowed deeply once more.

“Thank you very much for speaking with me, sensei.”

“My pleasure, de osaru! Feel free to come back anytime to talk, de osaru!”

0-0-0-0-0

Subaru did not immediately return to the room where he was supposed to be sleeping. It was more than simply fear of the confrontation between the girls that was surely still going on back there (although that was quite a hefty part of his motivation, to be sure).

No, Subaru simply wanted some time to think over what he just heard. He had listened to Berserk’s bitter invectives about the Shinobi enough to know that they were considered, at least by that tribe, to be without honor or integrity. But now, after hearing about the shinobi code, their apparent willingness to sacrifice everything…he could now understand why they would have been called such. The rest of the story, though…

“What do you think, War-Rock, Berserk? You think there might be something hidden here?”

“That guy was a lot of bluff and bluster, kiddo,” growled War-Rock. “There was so much damn puffin’ up of the tribe an’ that Tararara guy that there wasn’t much worth listenin’ to. You had ta’ fish for the few important bits, an’ even then that was just more general stuff!”

“That is the Shinobi way, boy,” Berserk clarified. “The truth is veiled by clues hidden in nonsense, forcing those listening to hone their awareness and ability to speak in riddles to find it. IT’s how they learn and become set in their double-dealing ways.”

“So..Jackie-sensei was trying to hide something from us?” It was hard for Subaru to imagine it: the open-faced, monkeylike sensei being duplicitous in any shape or form. Still, it wasn’t like he wasn’t trying to keep a secret-even Subaru could tell that.

“Oh, very much so. Not very good at it either, his story was so boastful and devoid of content that what information it did have was easily picked out,” Berserk continued to grumble.

“So, we do know for sure that this place has ties to Mu,” Subaru deduced. “And something important is here, this ‘Tiger Roll’ of techniques…if it really is that…”

“An’ if this story really is ture, this might be the only place on Earth with a direct tie to the Shinobi Tribe,” War-Rock added. “I’m not sure if I believe that bunk about this Tararara guy bein’ the only guy sneaky enough to escape with a bunch of secrets, though…”

“For the Shinobi, you are right. They would not be so foolish as to keep all of their secrets in one location, and in the hands of one person. This tale is highly suspect.”

“So, you think that he was lying, and there really isn’t anything here?” Subaru deflated as he asked that.

“We believe there is something that he isn’t telling us. Whether it is due to trickery or ignorance, we have yet to figure out, but there is one thing for certain: something is hidden here.”

“Eh? But didn’t you just say-“

“The tale that was told to us is highly suspect, yes, but as you said, there are some things to be deduced from it. You see, our senses are being muted here…”

“Muted…?”

“Yes, something is masking the denpa signatures in this area, camouflaging it using the surrounding ambient waves. It’s a simple technique, one that can easily be broken through with some effort. However, the fact that such protections are there…”

“…means that there’s something here worth protecting, whether it’s the Tiger Roll or something else!” Subaru finished, realizing what Berserk was getting at.

“Heh, so coming here wasn’t completely pointless after all!” War-Rock cheered, while Subaru merely looked pensive.

“I have to find some way to get it before Gori and Hyde find it first…but if Jackie-sensei won’t help…”

“We don’t need that faker! He seriously doesn’t know anything worthwhile, and if he did, he wouldn’t tell us!” War-Rock was his usual vocal self, but the spirits of Berserk were oddly silent. Usually, they would have either violently agreed or opposed the alien by now…it felt so strange having them be quiet that Subaru kept pressing his point, if only to keep the conversation going.

“Yeah, but to take it away, even if it’s to protect it from Gori and Hyde, to do that to him without him knowing…it’s important to him. It feels wrong, you know?”

“Worrying about that wannabe ninja ain’t gonna help us beat Gori and Hyde, kiddo!”

“That is true, boy,” Berserk finally concluded. “That instructor, as devoted as he is to his art, appears to have nothing of value that we can obtain from him.”

“No way…” Subaru sighed.

“However…” the spirit continued. “If he does indeed have more information hidden away, it is very likely that you will soon find it, boy.”

“Mnn, if you say s…h-HUH!?” Berserk, expressing confidence in him? Had Mu been unsealed early and started bringing the world to an end? Subaru could hardly believe what he was hearing! “R...Really…?”

“Yes…we are not incapable of recognizing talent, boy. You have managed to pry information from unlikely sources several times now. Even if your soft and foolish nature prevents you from properly taking advantage of such information promptly and properly, there is no denying that without your endeavors, we would not be locating clues so quickly or easily.”

“Um…thanks?” There were some insults in there, but was that really a compliment? “But you’ve been a big help too, Berserk…”

“Naturally.” Subaru sighed. “However, your contributions are not insignificant. It’s a wonder that your gullible kindness has actually managed to procure results…”

“It’s not that surprising! People like it better if you’re nice to them, you know? Kindness is responded to with kindness! It’s part of being human!”

“’Part of being human,’ is it? Is it also not true that the opposite happens? Kindness being ignored, or responded to with cruelty?”

“Well yes…” Subaru shifted uncomfortably. “But that’s not what a lot of people do, or even want. People working together, helping each other, being nice to each other…that’s the best part of being human.”

“The ‘best’ part?”

“It’s not the only part, or the part that everyone sees. But it’s because of that part that our world has grown so much, almost caught up to your technology. You shouldn’t underestimate the power of human Berserk. Acting like a decent person Is the only thing I’ve done to get as much information as I have, that’s all there is to it!”

0-0-0-0-0

Berserk was silent on the way back. Subaru was as well. Putting aside the strange comments from Berserk that had ended the conversation, the conclusions he had mad put him at a crossroads.

There was something definitely hidden in the ninja mansion, OOPart or otherwise. But there was absolutely zero hints as to where it was, or even what it was other than what Jackie-sensei had told them – and he was refusing to say much. Gori and Hyde were both snooping around, and with much less compunction than him when it came to stealing the item. It would be difficult to search for the relic without alerting them to his presence, especially in such closed quarters. Was direct conflict inevitable? And Gori still had Dinosaur’s OOPart…what would happen if they clashed again? Would the Dinosaur try to take him over a second time? Could he fight back if it happened again?

These were sobering thoughts. Not for the first time, Subaru found himself wondering if he could really handle all the twists that the revival of this ancient Murian war kept throwing at him.

He sighed, then braced himself for stepping into a completely different sort of battlefield before opening the door to the sleeping quarters.

What he was greeted by shocked him despite his mental self-preparation. Misora and the Class President were both giggling over something together, sitting side by side like two old friends at a sleepover. Gonta, Kizamaro, and even Cancer were all sitting off to the side, looking just as surprised and frightened as he felt by this turn of events.

“What happened?” Subaru whispered as he lowered himself down next to them.

“I-I don’t really know, Subaru,” Gonta stammered. “One minute, they’re at each other’s throats, and then the next, they’re best friends! I don’t get it…”

“He’s right, Subaru-kun. It was truly mysterious…” Kizamaro concluded.

“Even with all the time I’ve been here, buku, I still don’t really understand humans, buku…” Cancer sighed.

“I…I see…”

War-Rock grumbled something inaudible under his breath. Subaru rather suspected that the AMian was keen on avoiding the revival of the squabble with Harp earlier, if he was keeping his thoughts to himself.

The boys and girls stayed apart for the time being. Subaru kept silent as the other boys continued to mutter about the strange occurrence. Even as the others slowly drifted off to sleep, he stayed awake, his mind still puzzling over the problem before him. When it looked like everyone else had fallen asleep, Subaru opened the screen door leading to the courtyard, sitting down on the wooden walkway outside. The small courtyard with its picturesque little bond glistening in the moonlight was truly beautiful, but Subaru saw nothing of it, still lost in thought.

“Uwaah, pretty!” a familiar voice chirruped suddenly, startling him. “You can’t even tell that we were training near that koi pond earlier!”

“Eh? M-Misora-chan?” Before looking up to see her next to him, Subaru belatedly noticed the battered target posts in the distance, only barely seen thanks to the moonlight glinting off the shuriken still embedded in them. “You’re still awake?”

“Yo, Subaru-kun!” was her cheerful response. “You’re being super-serious again, you know that?”

“Well, it’s not like I don’t have good reason to be…” Subaru scowlwed half-heartedly as Misora plopped down next to him.

“So, there really is an OOPart here, huh?”

“D-don’t say that kinda stuff out loud!” He flailed slightly before settling down again. “Besides, I don’t even know for sure what it even is…”

“But, there’s something important here, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be worrying so much!”

“There are other reasons to be worried, you know. Gori and Hyde…”

“We can take ‘em, easy!”

“By themselves, yeah…but Gori still has that OOPart, too…”

“…”

“I mean, if we fight, what’s gonna happen? What if…”

“…I already told you, didn’t I? I’m not gonna let what happened at Dombra Lake happen again! You can count on it!”

“Eh? But-“

“But nothing, Subaru-kun! I’ve saved you a buncha times before, this isn’t any different!”

“U…un…” But saving him from himself…wasn’t that different from everything else she’d saved him from so far?

“We doubt that would happen again, in any case – at least not with Dinosaur.” Berserk’s voice completely shattered the tense moment, and the two looked to Subaru’s Star Carrier in surprise.

“What do you mean, Berserk?” Subaru eagerly asked, frantically picking the device off his waist pouch to talk with them better.

“Dinosaur…they are a tribe of beastly savages. They hunt on the land like animals, and their means of staking their prey is just the same. When a predator stalks a group of prey, it selects the easiest to isolate and separate from the herd: the sick, the old, the young. You were unaware, you were a child, and you were putting yourself in their range – to them, you were an easy catch. They underestimated you at their peril…as we once did. Your mental fortitude allowed you to break free even without being aware of what was going on…and they did not expect you to have us in your debt…”

“So…they thought I was easy to take over…?”

“Indeed. They will not make that mistake again. The Dinosaur are savage, but certainly not foolish. No, they have their own week prey to subdue now…”

“…I…I see.”

“So, if that’s not gonna happen again, then we don’t have to worry, Subaru-kun!”

“…I guess so.” One less thing to worry about, anyway.

“Still, we still gotta deal with those two jerks snooping around, and with that so-called sensei not helping us there’s no telling who’s gonna find it first!” War-Rock grumbled.

“Sensei? You talked with Jackie-sensei?”

“Yeah, but…” And Subaru told her the details of their encounter. She devoured the tale with interest, clearly puzzling over it by the end of his retelling.

“Hehhh…that’s a bother. It’d be nicer if he helped us, but it’s not like we can’t take it without him…”

“Not you too, Misora-chan…”

“Still, we found a lotta good information from people from just talking to them, so missing out on that chance would suck big-time! But how would we get him to talk? Um…” She adopted an admittedly cute pouting expression for several moments, while Subaru looked on curiously. The silence abruptly ended when she snapped her fingers in excitement.

“Subaru-kun, it’s obvious! We just gotta prove ourselves to him, and he’ll tell us! “

“Huh? Prove ourselves?”

“Yeah! You said he was super excited to talk about Mu when you mentioned his ancestor, right? He must really want to tell somebody all about it, especially if he’s been up in the mountains by himself his whole life. But he’s also super loyal to his traditions, if he won’t tell you anything even after all that!”

“Um…” Subaru mumbled, not really seeing what she was getting at.

“So, we make him want to tell us – which isn’t gonna be that hard for a lonely guy like him, right? And we do that by being super awesome ninjas!”

It took Subaru a few moments to process that.

“…Huh?”

“Yeah! We just gotta work real hard at bein’ ninjas, and he’ll totally spill everything! IF we blow his expectations outta the water, then he’ll give us that ‘Spring Roll’ and maybe tell us more about that ‘Tiger Roll’ too! It’s perfect!”

“Eh?! Misora-chan, isn’t that kind of assuming a lot? I mean, we can only be here for the vacation weekend, can we really impress him in that short of a time? Look at how things went today!”

“That was just a warm-up! Now we can really take this seriously!”

Subaru felt like it was best not to mention that everyone already had been taking the lesson seriously.

“Don’t worry! We’re Rockman and Harp Note! There’s nothing we can’t face if we’re together!”

“Don’t say that kinda stuff out loud!”

Well…it wasn’t as if he had any other ideas. Maybe he’d just trust her on this.

0-0-0-0-0

If Subaru hadn’t been so distracted, he would have noticed that the people he thought were asleep really weren’t. No, Luna and the others were listening in as best as they could. Granted, they really only could catch what Misora said – she had none of Subaru’s prudence and spoke loudly whenever she got excited (which was often). But due to the distance between them, and how Subaru’s hushed tones meant that they could only hear half the conversation at most, the topic of their discussion was very much up to the imagination.

It didn’t matter. For Luna, her imagination was enough.

“Gyehh…those two, speaking out in the middle of the night like that…how dare they! It’s so undisciplined!”

Neither Gonta nor Kizamaro (and especially not Cancer) had the courage to point out that attempting ot eavesdrop on a private conversation was equally undisciplined. Instead, they watched her seethe with apprehension.

“Meeting up and talking like this…they’re definitely up to something! Gonta, Kizamaro! We’re gonna find out what!”

“Heh? But Class President, if Subaru and Misora really are…do you really have a chance-“ Gonta started to say.

“Not that, dummy!” Her face turned red, and she looked so flustered that the two boys weren’t surprised at how she failed to stammer out her usual denials that she wasn’t worried about having a chance with Subaru, as her heart was all for her beloved Rockman-sama.

“Don’t you get it? Rockman-sama and Harp Note haven’t been seen fighting together ever since the FMians stopped attacking us! IF they’re starting to show up together again, like Kizamaro said they did at Dombra Lake, and they might show up together here…there’s something big going on! Rockman-sama might be in danger!”

The two boys looked at each other. Thankfully, Gonta attributed Kizamaro sweating bullets to a perfectly reasonable amount of nervousness, in no way suspecting that he smaller boy already knew the answer. Instead, he turned back to Luna.

“Even if we did know what was going on, could we even do anything?” he asked.

“What kind of a question is that?!” She looked over quickly to the open door to see if they’d been overheard. Thankfully, that didn’t seem to be the case, and she thought back to the conversation she and Misora had earlier.

“I owe him a lot, you know. He saved me back then. Just like he did for you, and a bunch of other people. But he did something else for me too, something I can never pay him back for: he gave me my first real friend.”

“Th…then you’re saying Hoshikawa-kun was-“

“Eh? No! I didn’t even know who Rockman was back then, just that he kept Harp from making me do something terrible and that I owed him big-time! I only really got to meet Subaru-kun for real near the end of the FMian stuff!”

“So, by first friend, you mean…”

“Harp, of course! Since that first time he stopped me, that let me have the chance to get to know her for real. Someone to talk with, to sing with, to play with, someone I can confide it without it ending up all over the gossip rags, someone I can really be myself with, without anyone dictating me and my songs to the exact image they want! Until I met Subaru-kun for real, she was the first and only being I knew that was like that….I can’t ever thank him enough for saving me and giving me…no, us…that chance. And then, I got to know him too, and now, everything that he and Harp have done for me..it’s made my own world so much bigger. I’ll do whatever it takes to protect that. And now, thanks to him, I’ve met you guys, and now you’re part of my world too. I’m just so happy…I bet you feel the same too.”

She could never imagine that someone like her reclusive classmate could become such a pivotal force in someone’s life, but there it was. And it wasn’t just one person: not only was she indebted to him, but the entire world was now, whether they knew it or not. What he had put himself through for that..it was difficult bringing up the memories up from that day without wanting to wretch; seeing the unbreakable broken, lying in a crater larger than what some tossed aside vehicles had made, the size showing just how hard and how far Rockman had fallen when he hit the ground. And now he was getting himself into something like that all over again.

What could she do, other than cheer him on, obliviously running into trouble that he would endanger himself getting her out of? What could any of them do, other than be a burden?

“We have to do something! Don’t be so pessimistic!” she hissed, turning away from them as she lay in her cot. “As the Class President, it’s my duty to make sure that all the students in our homeroom are safe! So you are gonna help me do that!”

She huffed, curled up in her blanket and ignored the questioning glances that the boys sent her way (the ones they always sent when she gave one of her self-contradictory Rockman-not-Hoshikawa-kun statements). Instead of drifting off to sleep, however, she clasped her hands together underneath her blanket, and recited a mental prayer for Hoshikawa-kun to be safe.

0-0-0-0-0

Gori Monjirou and Hyde were together in a room. There was nothing unusual about this – after all, they had been assigned to bunk in the same room due to the ninja-sensei opting to group his students by age. What was unusual about this was that they were currently together in a room completely different from where they’d been bunking, and with the ninja-sensei of all people! Not only that, but he’d been talking and talking for what felt like hours…

You see, Gori and Hyde had sat up in their cots as soon as the bratty kids from the next room over had finally fallen asleep. They’d sat up, nodded at each other in that way mortal enemies and rivals do, and set out on their own individual quests for the remaining OOPart. They’d each come across various tricks and traps in the dark that would have nearly ended their lives had they fallen for them. Blindly groping around in the dark somehow led them both to the same room, where they stumbled around each other, feeling up pots and shelves and odds and end wherever they could, until light suddenly shone upon them.

“What are you doing here, de osaru?!”

He sounded angry (and understandably so), so both men took a defensive position. Hyde had stammered something unintelligible, and Gori had been about to make a demand for the location of the Tiger Roll this guy had been mentioning before, when a grin crossed Jackie-sensei’s face. The suddenness and strangeness of such a gesture in this situation was enough to get both Gori and Hyde to stop in place.

“Oh, I get it, de osaru! You’re here to listen to the story of Tararara Mu, like young Ryuusei-kun, aren’t you, de osaru!”

“Mu!” both intruders involuntarily breathed. That admission was all it took to seal their fate, as the monkeylike ninja immediately moved up closer to them, seating them all with alarming rapidity before either of them could protest.

“It’s wonderful that there are so many potential students interested in the history of this mansion, de osaru! Too many simply wish to learn parlor tricks to show off and leave when the training proves to be too strenuous, de osaru! To have such motivated students, wanting to learn even in the dead of night, why, it lightens my heart, de osaru! Come, let me tell you all about my ancestor of Mu, de osaru!”

What followed was a long and repetitive tale of a single ninja’s heroic exploits, running for the past hour and showing no sign of stopping. Neither Gori nor Hyde had thought to ask the questions that Subaru had to derail the story – and after all, there were parts of a ninjas tale that simply couldn’t be told to children, no matter how curious they were!

The result of this was that Gori and Hyde were truly trapped, stuck listening to constant, pointless drivel that seemed to have no end.

“H…How did we get stuck listening to this…” The ninja instructor was oblivious to their suffering, and talked on even as they slumped to the floor in defeat.

0-0-0-0-0

The next morning brought a new, harsher training regimen. Apparently the first day was simply an introduction course – a small taste of what abilities the true ninja held. Staying after the discouraging chase he had led them on, he said, proved their earnest desire to learn. Subaru reflected that for half of them, it proved their earnest desire to find the OOPart, at least…

The training itself, however, was no joke, as silly as the monkey-faced ninja appeared. The physical conditioning required to even think about performing such tasks was extremely great, or so he had claimed. Not only did they have to move fast to deceive the enemy’s sight, they had to have the stamina and poise to make it seem effortless and instinctual, to make plans on the fly while making it seem like they had planned for the attack all along. That sort of ability didn’t come with practice, practice, and even more practice!

So practice they did, and the morning passed in going over agility drills, running laps, and endurance tests. Subaru found that Misora’s seemingly impossible idea of impressing the sensei with their performance was actually somewhat possible after all.

Because of their prior experience in combat, Subaru and Misora actually had an advantage over the others. Their battle instincts were already honed, and their minds were already familiar with such exertions, even if their human bodies weren’t as strong as their Denpa-Human forms.

Even Gori and Hyde, with their experience as Denpa-Humans, had a hard time keeping up with them. They’d only met their partners an unspecified time after Cepheus’ appearance unsealed them, after all, so experience-wise they were already at a disadvantage. And, the most important difference of all, Gori and Hyde were adults with no previous habits of exercise. A wealthy business tycoon with all of life’s luxuries at his fingertips couldn’t be more different than a struggling starving artist, but they were similar in that neither lifestyle necessitated a regular habit of exercising, and similar in that they were in no shape to keep up with a pair of children on the cusp of adolescence.

The running exercises, throwing drills, physical conditioning – Subaru and Misora dominated them all, to the surprise and awe of many. Following their top ranking in the class were Gori and Hyde (because age and experience had to count for something), then Gonta, Luna and Kizamaro (in that order: Gonta was the physically strongest of them and Kizamaro the weakest, with Luna holding a happy medium), and lastly, Cancer (who, despite being an FMian longer versed in combat than any of them, and able to defy any natural human laws of phsyics, remained the worst at all the tasks, often to a comical degree).

With such a class, being the highest rank wasn’t difficult. Indeed, the praise from Jackie-sensei came frequently, which surprised the young boy. He would have thought that the older man would have resented him for all the intrusive questions he’d asked the previous night.

Apparently not.

0-0-0-0-0

“Well done, Ryuusei-kun, de osaru! You do the title of ninja proud, de osaru!”

“Th…thanks…” Subaru stammered, rubbing the back of his head.

“Che…stupid brat, thinking he’s so great, acing all these play-ninja courses!” Gori grumbled. He was a man of great wealth and greater pride, so not being able to immediately buy up what he wanted and thusly being forced to play along with taking ninja lessons for the time being had greatly offended him. Being continuously bested by two children only increased his ire further to the point that it took Yeti to point something out to his notice before he could think clearly.

“Oi! Isn’t ‘Ryuusei’ the guy who that ninja mentioned last night?” the Murian asked. “He’d been asking about that ‘Tararara Mu’ fella too!”

“So?” grumbled Gori. Good for him, the portly man thought, he hoped that kid suffered through that excessively long tale just as he’d been forced to.

“It means that he might be snooping around for Mu, too!”

“Tch! A brat like him?”

“Rockman doesn’t seem to be much older than him, you know! Besides..” Yeti went silent.

“Besides what?” Gori demanded.

“I already mentioned to you last night that some sort of Shinobi repression device is preventing us from directly sensing the OOPart or anything else that might be related to Mu. But, I can sense that this Ryuusei kid si being affected by the waves somewhat.”

“Which means that tiny brat has been giving off Murian waves for some reason?”

“Not only that, but with how good he is with these classes he might be key in finding whatever the Shinobi have hidden here,” Yeti continued. “We can’t let this kid slip away!”

“Got it!” Gori smirked, letting his gold fang glint in the sunlight. “Let’s see how that kid fares in a real test!"

0-0-0-0-0

“Oi, squirt! You think you’re so great, huh?!”

“E-eh? Not really…”

“Don’t think that I haven’t noticed! You and your girlfriend passing all these ahead of everyone else all the time – you think you’re better than us, dontcha?!”

“N-no!” Why was Gori Monjirou antagonizing him all of a sudden? Subaru found himself backing away warily, but he couldn’t’ escape the older man’s glare.

“He can’t sense you, can he, Berserk?” Subaru muttered.

“Under normal circumstances, our power would resonate with Dinosaur enough that he could, but the failsafes in this mansion should be preventing that,” Berserk murmured in return. “It seems that this man seemingly has a vendetta against you. Your success is likely hindering his efforts to get the secret of this mansion.”

“Mou…” Subaru had a feeling that drawing attention to themselves would cause problems, but he didn’t think it’d get this bad!

“I’m telling you, I don’t mean anything by it!”

“Oh really? Big words from our class bigshot huh?” Subaru flinched back. Just what was Gori playing at?

“U-um…w-what do you want?” he stammered out, trying to act as unassuming as possible.

“Just to prove that you’re not such a hotshot after all!

“E-eh? B-but!”

“Don’t worry. It’s just a little contest.” The glinting grin indicated otherwise and Subaru found himself gulping in apprehension.

0-0-0-0-0

How did things turn out like this? Maybe it was because Jackie-sensei wasn’t there that Gori felt free to challenge him in this fashion. Even with the man’s eccentricities, Subaru was sure that he wouldn’t have permitted a ring-out competition between a larger-than-average, fully grown man and an elementary schooler!

“H-he can’t be serious…” the boy whispered, watching Gori crack his knuckles.

“S-shouldn’t somebody say something?” muttered Gonta, apprehensively looking around. He kept glancing at Luna for direction, but the normally combative and take-charge girl was speechless, not making her usual protests. Instead, she looked fearful and uncertain, and without her guidance he felt at a loss.

“Misora-chan went off to get Jackie-sensei,” Kizamaro assured him. “He’ll stop this…”

Hyde looked on speculatively as all this went on. He had no incentive to stop this interesting turn of events.

“What could my rival be planning?” If it was just some kind of dominance play, or blowing off his pride…he’d have challenged me. What does he get out of challenging some little kid?”

“Obviously, there’s something special about that boy,” Ghost concluded. “Given his exemplary performance so far, it’s not unusual to assume. And the wards…”

“The wards…?”

“They react to him in a similar manner that they do Gori. I cannot read it precisely…but the wards will yield their readings to me by the end of the day. I am, after all, a Ghost of the Ninja. Those wards were designed with me and my kin in mind. We will soon know what puts that child at the same level as Gori and you. Until then, there is no reason to stop this ridiculous match. It will, after all, distract everyone from the true goal…”

“The Tiger Roll,” Hyde completed.

0-0-0-0-0

Oblivious to the pair watching him with an observant eye, Subaru sweated nervously as Gori looked on with a predatory gaze.

“Now, show me what you’re really made of, brat! Start!” he suddenly declared, before lunging at the boy. With a startled yelp, Subaru leapt aside, barely dodging the surprise attack as he stumbled to his knees.

“W-wueh? A-already…”

“That’s cheating!” Kizamaro shrilly declared.

“What a dirty trick!” Gonta growled out. “That jerk…oi, Class president, where’s Jackie-sensei already?”

Luna didn’t answer, instead clasping her hands together. Her usual indignation was smothered by fear and worry, and she was unable to articulate any of her jumbled thoughts.

“Heh, so you are sharper than you look. Don’t think that you can dodge everything so easily, though!” Gori laughed, before lunging again.

“Eh?!” Subaru scrambled to his feet and leapt to the side again. “That was supposed to be easy?!”

The limited area of the designated ring-out circle left Subaru with little room to dodge. Gori’s lunges and almost clumsy punches would have been easy to avoid in other circumstances, it was obvious that the portly man had been in the lap of luxury his whole life, and had little experience in fighting. It was only his sheer bulk and the small allotted space that let him have any advantage over the much nimbler Subaru. The boy had to dodge around, not allowing a single low to even graze him lest he end up with serous bruising. With all his energy spent in dodging, and a counter from him not even guaranteed to deal damage against someone of that stature, Subaru was at a loss.

It took until a particularly desperate dodge sent Subaru tumbling to the ground yet again for Berserk to lose their temper.

“Boy! How long will you disgrace us by running about like this?!”

“Berserk!” It felt like time was slowing around him as the voices in his head addressed him. “But what can I do without giving us away?” he thought back.

“…Very well. We will loan you some power.”

“But how? I’m not even transformed right now! Besides, we’re trying to keep you secret, right?”

“Fool! The ninja wards will mask our presence sufficiently – the most they can sense is the power of Mu, which any idiot who knows the wards’ properties can assume. You will also only be receiving a miniscule proportion of our power; as a mere human, you can only tolerate so much.”

“U…un.” Subaru hesitantly agreed. “But, how will I use-“

“It will happen automatically. We are merely giving you a small boost by suffusing our power into your nerves. By jumpstarting your receptors with our electricity, we will greatly decrease your response time. This will help your muscles move with more speed and power, although you will be…quite sore, afterwards. As such, we can only do this for a short time, unless you want your nervous system permanently fried…”

“…I’d rather not.”

“Then listen to us as you fight. WE will give you our experience – the fighting style of the Mu!”

“Eh?!” But he was already aware of his surroundings again, his body instinctively moving to the side to avoid another blow from Gori. Subaru bushed himself to his knees and felt a new lightness in his limbs as he stood up. It was like it took no effort to move at all, and he found himself shifting from foot to foot to relieve the excess energy.

“Listen to us, boy, he’s coming again!”

Berserk’s voices snapped him back to attention, and he locked eyes with Gori.

“Now, right!” the voices screeched, and Subaru obeyed. He dodged with only the slightest of movements, merely leaning his head aside to avoid the blow. The marked diference in his movements did not go unnoticed: everyone’s eyes widened in shock at the sudden change.

“Tch-you’re getting cocky now?” Gori snarled, before unleashing a flurry of punches.

“Left! Right! Turn, duck, and-“ Berserk instructed, and Subaru followed, moving his head this way and that to avoid the blows with minimal effort.

“Jump!” the voices of Berserk roared, and Subaru leapt up, barely avoiding Gori’s leg swiping out to trip him. Twisting his body into a backflip, Subaru landed on his feet at the very edge of the ring. Everything seemed to pause for that moment as everyone observed what had just happened.

“What…what was that?” Kizamaro stammered. “Could Subaru-kun always move like that?”

“I-I don’t think so…” Gonta mumbled. His Star Carrier began to vibrate, and he numbly took it out. “E-eh? These waves…”

The Star Carrier was picking up on something strange. It was muted, but the reading was still visible: brihg yellow waves that Gonta couldn’t help but think were familiar. They were emanating from Subaru’s Star Carrier and coursing through his body, and he couldn’t help but be entranced by the sight. Watching, watching…until…

“Eh? These are the same waves that that weird sword at the museum was giving off, aren’t they? Why is Subaru’s Star Carrier making the same waves?”

“What, it is?” Kizamaro stammered. He knew that War-Rock had accidentally swallowed the Sword of Berserk exhibit, and that was how Subaru had gotten into this whole mess in the first place…but it could influence Subaru too, even when untransformed…what did it mean? He couldn’t ask now, without giving himself away…but he found himself worrying, anyway.

“A…sword…” Luna mumbled.

“Wha-? Class President, do you know something?” Gonta asked.

“I don’t know, but…Rockman-sama has some kind of dangerous new power…”

Both boys found the current situation alarming enough that they didn’t comment on the Class President willingly linking Subaru to Rockman.

“New power?” Gonta continued.

“Um…yes. An armored form, with a large sword…”

“A large…sword…” the large boy mumbled, and Kizamaro could see him connecting the dots before his very eyes. Panicking, he stammered out-

“What does a sword have to do with anything? There’s no sword around now!”

“Eh? But this is definitely the same power as that berserker sword-“

“Sword of Berserk,” Kizamaro automatically corrected, before clamping a hand over his mouth. It was too late: Gonta had already confirmed his own suspicions.

“Yeah, the Sword of Berserk! Subaru’s definitely giving off the same waves as the Sword of Berserk right now!”

“Berserk…” Luna murmured. That was what Rockman had called that terrible yellow light, the power that had tried to make him so wantonly and callously…it was capable of influencing him like this? What did this mean?

Oblivious to the worry of the three children observing them, Subaru and Gori continued circling each other. They were effectively at a stalemate: Subaru wasn’t strong enough to really blindside Gori, and the larger man wasn’t nearly fast enough to catch the smaller boy.

“Don’t think you can play this game of cat and mouse forever, boy!”

Gori was right, Subaru thought. All it would take to end the fight as this point was Subaru slipping up just once…

War-Rock evidently had the same thought, because he spoke out just then.

“Damn it, how long are we supposed to be pussyfooting around like this?!”

“Do not try our patience. The Berserker style of the Mu does not involve the cat paws that you insult us with! No, the problem lies with you!

“What are you implying, ya senile old geezers?!”

“You are too weak!” the voices hissed. “The style of the Berserk requires forceful, powerful movements of a body honed through years of training and combat! The body of a young child, no matter how supple and flexible, simply does not have the strength necessary to perform the straightforward moves necessary to finish him off! No, all we can do is hop around in this sneaking, dishonorable manner, like the accursed Shinobi-“

“Sneaky and dishonorable, eh?” War-Rock interrupted. “We can do that! Subaru, get ready! This is the Berserker style of the Mu: Rockman version!”

“Eh?!” Subaru mentally cringed at the sudden change in plans, and Berserk’s resultant screams of blasphemy in his head, but he steeled himself to go along with it anyway. There was little he could do than trust War-Rock.

Gori charged forward, his fist pulled back for another punch.

“Subaru, now! Spin into his attack, instead of away!”

He did as he was told, pivoting on the balls of a single foot as he turned inward. Lowering his head to increase the speed of his spin, he ducked underneath the outstretched arm, bringing him right into Gori’s chest. Suddenly, Subaru drove his foot into the ground to stop his turn, and his upper body still following the motion, twisted forward to drive his elbow right into Gori’s gut.

“Ghack!” The large man doubled forward, spittle flying from his mouth. Subaru had struck him with all the force given to him not only from the spin, but from Berserk as well – and he had driven it all into Gori’s solar plexus. It was little wonder that the portly businessman folded in half like paper.

“Now, while he’s down! Aim up!”

Subaru pulled his fist back and twisted his upper body in a practiced motion. As Gori curled in on himself to hold his stomach, his face drew level with the young boy’s – and that was when he struck.

A swift and powerful strike was planted right in the center of Gori’s face, snapping his nose. Striking the weakest point in the face rewarded Subaru with a bellowing roar of pain as Gori clutched his bleeding nose. The man reeled backward, and Subaru didn’t need War-Rock’s next command to know what to do next. He didn’t hink, he simply moved.

“Now, finish him!” War-Rock roared, and at the same time, Subaru stepped back and kicked Gori right between the legs with all the strength he could muster.

All males in the immediate area reluctantly winced in sympathy as Gori immediately crumpled to the ground and began to roll around in agony…right out of the ring. Even Subaru looked mortified once he registered what had happened.

“Well…that’s one way to win…” he mumbled to himself as he stumbled backwards, his body starting to feel the strain of Berserk’s power.

“What sort of uncouth, disgraceful display was that?!” Berserk screeched at him. “Such a fight, that was-“

Wonderful, de osaru!” a new voice cut in, and Subaru turned around to see a clapping Jackie-sensei walking towards them, Misora trailing behind.

“To think that students would be so enthusiastic as to start a spar without supervision! What dedicated students you all are!”

He laughed heartily as he clapped, and everyone in the clearing (save the moaning and currently insensible Gori) wondered if the man had completely missed the point of him being called in the first place.

“I hope you were all watching this fight closely, my cute little students, de osaru!” he continued, either ignoring or oblivious to the fact that not all of his students were either cute nor little. “This fight is a prime example of how the Shinobi of old would triumph time and time again over foes that were larger, stronger, and more ferocious, de osaru! Cunning! Stealth! Patience! All these make up the core fighting style of the ninja, de osaru!! The Shinobi style is one of precision and efficiency, de osaru! To be able to understand and implement this ant such a young age…I commend you, Ryuusei-kun, de osaru!”

“Th…thanks…” Subaru answered shakily ignoring Berserk’s ranting about their vaunted fighting style being reduced to some shinobi sneaking tripe. “Doing that took a lot out of me though…”

“Quite understandable, de osaru! Such a style is surprisingly difficult to execute, and requires a great deal more stamina and conditioning than people give it credit for, de osaru! You are free to rest for the rest of the afternoon, if you so wish, de osaru!”

“Y-yes, thank you…” With that, Subaru hobbled off with a lack of dignity that set Berserk to ranting again. Ignoring it, he leaned against the trunk of a tree and slid down to the ground in exhaustion. His slumped posture deterred even his insistent school friends from coming to speak (read: interrogate) him, although Luna came very close to doing so. A significant look and insistent whispering from Kizamaro was the only thing that was able to deter her – but it didn’t stop Misora from briefly kneeling down next to him while Jackie-sensei was distracted with straightening Gori’s nose.

“Harp felt it. You used Berserk’s power to get out of that mess, ne?”

“Mm-hm…” Subaru nodded blearily.

“Hehhhh…it looks like that went smoothly.”

Subaru chuckled weakly in response.

“Actually, it was kinda…rocky…”

0-0-0-0-0

Subaru was, fortunately, much better in the evening after dinner (more ninja rations). Unfortunately, this left him open to being interrogated by his classmates.

“What were those moves, Hoshikawa-kun?!” Luna demanded.

“J-just something I learned from War-Rock…” That wasn’t exactly a lie

“But being able to move like that…”

“Well, it’s not like he doesn’t get a practice though, as Rockman…” Kizamaro interrupted.

“What does Rockman-sama have to do with this?!” Everyone sighed at Luna’s outburst.

“Neh, Subaru,” Gonta finally asked. “What about the weird denpa you were giving off during that fight?”

“Eh?”

“I mean, you were giving of some crazy waves – just like that Berserk sword at the museum!”

“EH?!” Subaru sweated profusely. “I didn’t know that…”

“The sword of Berserk did go missing in that virus attack…” Luna’s face grew thoughtful as she said that, and Subaru found himself backpedaling.

“I didn’t steal that!”

“Of course you didn’t, Hoshikawa-kun!” she snapped irritably. “No student of Kodama Elementary’s Class 5-A would get up to trouble if I, Class President Shirogane Luna have anything to say about it!”

“Way to go, Class President!” Gonta cheered.

Another sigh from Subaru brought their attention back to him. Way to go, indeed.

“That being said, why were you giving off waves similar to that museum piece in the first place?” Luna continued.

“I’m telling you, I don’t know anything about that!”

He received two skeptical (plus one apologetic from Kizamaro) looks in return.

“Hoshikawa-kun…” Subaru gulped. That ominous tone of voice never boded well.

“Ah, Ryuusei-kun, de osaru! Good to see that you have yet to retire for the night, de osaru!”

“J-Jackie-sensei!” Subaru tried to keep the obvious relief out of his voice at the timely interruption of their ninja instructor, Misora trailing close behind. Judging by the amused expression on her face as she positioned herself just out of sight behind the man, he wasn’t very successful. “What’s going on?”

“I would like to have a word with you, de osaru! If I could have a few moments of your time, I’d appreciate it, de osaru!”

“Uh, okay!” Subaru knew he’d answered too quickly to avoid sounding suspicious, but he really wanted to get away from the interrogation as soon as possible. He jumped up and scooted out of the room with nary a glance at Luna’s glare, Gonta’s confused expression, and Kizamaro’s apologetic glance. “Um, what did you want to talk about, Jackie-sensei?”

“That’s better discussed in my chambers, Ryuusei-kun! If you and Fubuki-chan could follow me, de osaru…”

0-0-0-0-0

“Grragh!” Gori snarled, his voice sounding slightly nasal due to the bandages on his nose. “I am sick and tired of this place!” He continued to stomp angrily around the room as Hyde, still stuck sharing lodgings with his less fortunate rival, tried to ignore his ranting. It was an effort made in vain.

“Damn this place! I came here for OOParts, not outdated ninja lessons! Doesn’t that close-minded fool realize that the world no longer needs shinobi?! I swear, I’ve had enough! I don’t care if that doddering fool that calls himself a ninja-sensei tries to talk me to death, I’m gonna raze this damn building to the ground if I don’t see any sign of OOParts by the next next morning! Pah!” The irate businessman stormed out of the room, not bothering to wait for everyone else to sleep like he had the previous night. Hyde smirked as he watched him go.

“What a bothersome guy, neh, Ghost?”

“Yes…it was difficult concentrating with him going on and on like that.”

“Alas, artists such as ourselves are fated to be oppressed by those who constantly interrupt the delicate artistic process!” Hyde lamented. “However, the truly great will persevere on, just like you, my lovely friend!”

“Yes. I was able to interpret the readings of the wards set here. Our suspicions were correct. Gori Monjirou is recording as exhibiting unusually high amounts of the power of Mu, not aligned with anything we have discovered so far. If anything, it is aligned with the Dinosaur’s Tribe.”

“I knew it,” breathed Hyde. “Dinosaur’s OOPart.”

“Yes. However, there is something else of interest, Hyde.”

“Oh?”

“That power was not detected due to being active. Instead, it was detected as it was resonating with something else giving off a similar signal. That other signal was much stronger and more prominent…and of equal density as Gori’s.”

“A stronger signal…ah. That pulse of Murian energy we felt during the fight.”

“The signal was coming from the boy. And its frequency…it was surely-“

“Another OOPart.” Hyde finished. “But only two of the three are actively being used now, are they not?”

“Yes. We Murians would feel the call of Mu itself through its seal if all three were active.”

“So this other OOPart must be Berserk. And the one in possession of Berserk is…”

“Rockman.” Ghost whispered the name in a quiet, quavering confirmation.

“So…our little star pupil ‘Ryuusei-kun’ is Rockman.” At that, Hyde let a sly smirk creep across his face. “That explains quite a bit about his extraordinary performance…I wonder if Gori will ever figure it out.”

“I wouldn’t put it past the Yeti unit with him to have already deduced it. As the one holding the OOPart, he’d be able to sense Berserk’s presence. However, his human is much too incensed to figure it out at the moment.”

“So much the better for us. Let him rant and rave about as he pleases. While he draws attention to himself, we can look around with no suspicion.”

Hyde chuckled. Unlike what Gori had declared, the shinobi lessons weren’t entirely useless. The ninja of old had prevailed because of how they outwitted and outmaneuvered faster, stronger opponents. With both Rockman and Gori both possessing OOParts, they held a large advantage over him. It was only through stealth and trickery that he could hope to best them now. And he fully intended to take that OOPart before either of them could. If one of the others got it before him, then no one would stand a chance. Having two out of three OOParts would make that person the one who would dictate the tide of the three-way war slowly building up between them. Indeed, this OOPart’s presence marked a very important turning point in their conflict, and whoever got it would determine the result of this battle.

That person would be Hyde, if he had anything to say about it.

0-0-0-0-0

“Neh, Jackie-sensei…what did you want to talk to us about?” Subaru asked as oona s the three of them had sat in his personal quarters. Beside him, Misora sat at attention, more focused than he’d ever seen her outside of battle or on the stage.

“Why, to congratulate you on your exemplary battle this afternoon, de osaru!” the monkey-faced ninja declared. The two children sighed in response.

“Sensei…you could have told me that back in the other room. What did you really want to tell me?”

“Sharp one, aren’t you, de osaru? You see, I wanted to discuss your spar in more detail, de osaru. There quite a few surprises, de osaru!”

“Eh, um…the fight itself was a surprise. I didn’t expect to get challenged like that…”

“And you extracted yourself from an unexpected ambush with aplomb, de osaru! As expected from a budding ninja student, de osaru!”

“Um, yes, but did you just want to compliment me on my fight?” Subaru pressed. “If that’s it, we probably shouldn’t be inconveniencing you anymore than we already have and go back to bed…” He didn’t actually want to go back and subject himself to more interrogation, but if he didn’t do something, Jackie-sensei would keep on with his meaningless rambling and never get to the point!

“Oh, no, no!” the sensei insisted, shaking his head. “It’s no trouble, I insist, de osaru! Besides, there were some points of interest that the fight that I wanted to discuss.”

Got it, Subaru grimly thought. “Like what, Jackie-sensei?”

“Like the style of battle you abruptly switched into partway through the spar, de osaru!”

“Eh…? You recognized it, Jackie-sensei?”

“I could sense it, de osaru! Perhaps not quite the fighting style of the Shinobi, but the basic technique shared between all of Mu’s warriors was plain to see, de osaru!”

“Basic technique?” Misora prodded. “What technique?”

“Why, the channeling of chakra, of course, de osaru! By directing the flow of chakra within the body, the Mu were able to enhance and develop their own unique fighting styles, de osaru!”

“Ch-chakra?!” Subaru yelped. He didn’t know anything about chakra..the only thing he was channeling then was… “You don’t mean denpa, do you?”

“Oh? Is that what they’re calling it now, de osaru? Whatever you call what you were channeling, it is clear that you have been progressing well in yoru studies of the Mu! Young Fubuki-chan tells me here that you have been studying the fighting style of the Berserk, no?”

“Uh…” Well, it had only started this afternoon, but… “Y…yeah…”

“Well, you have shown yourself to be quite capable of adjusting to the different styles! You will make a fine student, Ryuusei-kun!”

In an attempt to divert attention away from the possibility of him staying any longer than a holiday weekend, Subaru grasped for another question.

“U…um…did Miso-I mean-Fubuki-chan say why I was studying the Mu?”

“Ah, yes! She seems to be under the misapprehension that any Shinobi artifacts are in danger, same as you, de osaru!”

“It’s not a mistake, sensei! If this temple really is the last obstacle for anyone looking for Shinobi secrets, then it’s more than that now, it’s the last place that keeps the entire continent of Mu from falling into the wrong hands!”

“Well of course, de osaru! Or did you think that we would fall before the other tribes, de osaru?”

“It’s not that, Jackie-sensei,” Misora cut in. “Berserk and Dinosaur’s OOParts, they were already taken, and it’s only a matter of time before Shinobi’s one is stolen too! IF all of them are in the wrong hands, Mu’s seal will be broken, and its powers used for evil! We can’t allow that to happen, Jackie-sensei!”

“Shinobi’s OOPart won’t fall to common thieves, de osaru!”

“These aren’t common thieves, though…” Subaru sighed. “They’re teamed up with beings from Mu. They know Mu’s secrets!”

“That doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to take the secrets of Shinobi itself, de osaru!”

“They’re already here, though! And they don’t care how many secrets there are-they’ll just keep on destroying everything until they find it!”

“And? What do you plan to do about it, de osaru? What do you want from me, de osaru?”

“You have to let us see the Tiger Roll, Jackie-sensei Both Gori and Hyde are after it, so…”

“No, no! The Tiger Roll is passed only to the master of the ninja mansion, and none other! I cannot make any changes on this matter, de osaru!”

“But – Jackie-sensei-!”

“It is the ninja way that has kept the Shinobi secrets safe all these years, de osaru! Changing them now would only lead to disaster, de osaru!”

“Ah…” Berserk muttered. “The old Shinobi touch strikes again…”

“All that…tradition mumbo-gumbo, right?” growled War-Rock.

“Indeed. It seems the traditions passed down through the ninja themselves were particularly rigid…if this man’s devotion to this shack in the middle of nowhere is any indication.”

“But…traditions change…” Subaru murmured. “Over in Nanska, that tradition changed, or they would have destroyed themselves…”

“What was that, de osaru?” Jackie-sensei’s voice echoed, causing Subaru to jump.

“Traditions change, Jackie-sensei,” Subaru found himself repeating before he knew it. “If they didn’t, people wouldn’t be able to learn and grow, to face down new challenges…If people didn’t change tradition, they’d be destroyed…”

“Are you saying that there’s no good reason for tradition to exist, de osaru?”

“I’m not saying that! Tradition always has some reason for existing…it’s just htat the world changes, people change…if people don’t adapt, they’d get destroyed…”

“But what changes would even affect the Shinobi, de osaru?”

“We were just telling you-!” Misora interjected, and began regaling the threat of Gori and Hyde to a clearly disbelieving Jackie-sensei. As Subaru watched them bicker, he found himself wondering. What could he do to make Jackie-sensei understand that things had already changed for the Mu? What could he use to show that the modern world had already come close to surpassing Mu, had the capability to access its technology…wait.

“Um,” he started, and the two stopped arguing to look at him. “Look at this, Jackie-sensei. Do you recognize it?” He held out his Star Carrier, and the ninja-sensei gaped.

“That’s…the ancient terminal!” he answered. “It had once been standard issue to every ninja back on Mu…” Subaru internally grinned at the confirmation. The Ancient Star Carriers that Gori and Hyde used, the one he’d asked Berserk about at Dombra Lake…if the ninja really had been so strict about tradition, they would surely have been told about such a vital object even if it was now effectively useless to them in the modern day. Outwardly, he only shook his head.

“Not exactly…this is a new terminal, designed by AMAKEN. This is the prototype of something that’s gonna be distributed to the whole world!”

“Mu technology, to the whole world? Impossible, de osaru!”

“But it’s true, Jackie-sensei!” Subaru paused, taking a breath before he started speaking again.

“Mu secrets…they were only impossible to find because no one else back then had access to denpa technology. But now things are different! Denpa technology is used throughout the whole world, and they’re catching up to what the Mu used to be able to do. Eventually, they’ll be able to accomplish the same things – and when that happens, finding the secrets of the Mu is only a matter of time! Recognizing that…it’s the only way you’ll be able to protect anything here now!”

“He’s right, Jackie-sensei. Let us help you protect the Tiger Roll, please! You can’t do it by yourself, not anymore!”

They stared each other down. It looked like their words had had some effect on him as they waited – his countenance grew troubled as the implications set in. Surely, he couldn’t keep stubbornly clinging onto his views now, not after this!

“…I am afraid that I still cannot take you to the Tiger Roll, de osaru.”

“E-eh? Why?!”

“But – Jackie-sensei!”

“That useless-“ Berserk started, but then the ninja instructor held up a hand.

“Wait. Hear me out, de osaru!”

All protests died down at that, and they all waited with bated breath.

“You see…” Jackie-sensei started, speaking with difficulty, as if he was reluctant to even say anything at all. “The reason I can’t give it to you is because…”

Hesitation. Silence. Then:

“I do not know the current location of the Tiger Roll at all, de osaru.”

0-0-0-END of chapter 10-0-0-0

 


Episode Preview: I didn't expect Jackie-sensei to not even know where the Tiger Roll was...How can we even help him protect it if he doesn't know about it himself?

War-Rock: That lying, hypocritical-!

Subaru: Wait, War-Rock! It sounds like he wants to explain further! Next time, on Ryuusei no Rockman: Tribe: The Truth of the Tiger Roll! Finally, we'll find out something...


(A/N): goodness gracious me i didn't actually expect this chapter to be so LONG. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. this was the chapter that actually had to be split into two parts because tryin to pry open sensei's stubborn mouth proved to be a challenge, as you can see. Actually, if we were going by episode length, I can easily see this chapter being TWO episodes, the first one ending on a comical point by stopping at the moment where Gori and Hyde were "trapped" by Jackie-sensei. However, I ended up not splitting the chapter at that point, because 1) I've already split this arc into four episodes as is, which is twice as long as most episode arcs in this show, and one episode longer than the expanded Dinosaur OOPart and Nanska arcs. Pushing it to five episodes would put this on par with a season finale, and I didn't feel like pushing it that far. 2) the second half of the chapter would have been too short to make its own portion, tbh. Better to keep it one whole bit and keep it simple for myself.

More schoolkids interaction! Finally, we actually get to see what it's like for Subaru to hang out with his so-called schoolfriends on a daily basis! It's very tiring, as you can see. But at least he's got Kizamaro on his side now! It seems to help where it truly counts, anyway. And now they know about Harp Note's true identity as well! That can only end well, I suppose. But yay, Misora's officially part of the school crew now! I find she adds to the character dynamics nicely. :3

Also, War-Rock, Harp and Berserk being snarky invisible commentators is something I didn't know I needed until transferring this chapter. Seriously, they just wrote themseleves in there. I love them so much, i love this stupid dynamic, these ufckin morons

Denpa beings are capable of sensing each other, and those with OOParts can decidedly sense each other. It's proven in the three-way struggle episode in canon, as Yeti is able to identify Subaru as Rockman by feeling Dinosaur's OOPart react to Berserk. Despite this, they don't recognize Subaru any time earlier they're in close quarters, say, TRAINING INSIDE THE FUCKING MANSION TOGETHER FOR AT LEAST HALF A DAY. Either I ignore this bit of discontinuity, or I attempt to fix it by enriching the setting more. GUESS WHAT I DIIIIID. yes this is why mysteeeeerrriousss murian supressooorrrss are mentioned. yes, they will be referenced to again. yes, i will try to keep them consistent.

SURPRISE THE PLAN IS WORKING. A LITTLE TOO WELL. They got sensei to notice them, but now EVERYONE ELSE IS NOTICING THEM TOO. even the schoolmates are noticing. and getting nosy. uh oh. also, poor gori. getting ballbusted by a berserk-enhanced blow can't be good for any future legacy. alas, sacrifices must be made for the sake of being noticed by senpai sensei.

Shinobi and their dastardly traditionalist mind control strikes again! MUAHAHAHAAHA. At least it was broken a little easier this time? Ha.

Also yes, there is an in-canon reason for Jackie to not even know about the Tiger Roll's location. This reveal ain't coming outta nowhere kiddos. If y'all can figure out why he wouldn't know before I post the next chapter, give yourselves a pat on the back!

[stares at updating frequency] You'll definitely have time to figure it out, at least. :T

anyways, I hope this chapter was worth the long wait! Enjoy!




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