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As the night went on, Arden was having a little trouble remembering how this bizarre chase began, but he was having a hell of a fun time with it. The pale blond kept on running, leaping, gliding, and dodging through the streets of.. Was it Tokyo? Shanghai? Paris? London? New York? There seemed to be features of each of these cities. And it didn’t bother him one little bit. It all made sense, somehow. And he was like .. magic here. It was like he was unstoppable.
He dashed down the busy city streets, dodging cars, motorcycles, trucks, and cargo vans, not to mention the odd tractor-trailer. The city was lit up with neon of all different colors and shapes, and sometimes he would stop in his mad dash across the city – when he wasn’t in direct conflict with THEM. The dark garbed ones that had been chasing him – or playing their game of cat and mouse all through the streets.
He would stop and admire the structures, the lighting. It was like “Blade Runner” and all the great city squares were smushed together here. He was currently standing on the outside wall of a tall mirrored skyscraper, like gravity were sideways so he could stand there, instead of falling to his death.
There were so many skyscrapers like this here. They were like urban mountains to be conquered. He saw his pursuers again, and started off at a lope and then a fast run. He sprang away from the side of the building and let the wind currents luft him skywards.
He was amazing in this fast and nimble state – he could nearly fly like a bird! He was soaring even now, riding the wind currents like some creature with wings. He rebounded off a concrete and glass skyscraper and changed his direction.
His outfit was sleek and his jacket was nearly zipped all the way up, but he didn’t fear the cold or the rain that was coming down all around him. He was surprisingly dry, mostly, and the reflections off the wet streets made the neon lights of the city seem to go on forever.
Arden wore that respirator mask, and could hear his breath like Darth Vadar, as he laughed and flipped off the pursuing ninjas.
The dark clad forms were all wielding throwing stars, Sai, and katana, all still sheathed, as they glided and ghosted along the air currents. All 20 of them. He was surprised he could count them all. A hail of throwing stars sparked and clanged or stuck deep into the wall as Arden landed sideways and started running up the building at a different angle.
Arden laughed at the pursuers and flipped them off again, narrowly avoiding a thrown star from their leader – and sleek masked man with a small red band on one arm. The leader was young, slender, and muscled, and he narrowed his eyes in determination and with a sneer that translated through the soft black cloth that covered his face.
Arden felt like he was a rogue ninja, avoiding the minions of some dark overlord. No way he’d ever been able to do that before…
Just as Arden started to focus on what it was he couldn’t remember, he faltered, his cocky laugh turning into a wide eyed yell of surprise, as he started to slip and fall and was suddenly clawing at the air and the side of the building, desperately grasping for a hand hold. The ninjas seemed to gain on him fast now, but he kept on falling past them, and he was sure he was going to splatter on the concrete.
But he didn’t.
He landed super hard on a scaffolding window washer’s platform, and it crashed hard against the windows of the building. It cracked the glass, and he finally stopped screaming. The air was knocked out of him, so he could only wheeze like Vadar did at the end of Return of the Jedi, when he’d been mortally wounded by his killing of the Emperor.
At least that’s what Arden thought he sounded like. But the Ninjas were coming! Still! Running down the building like it was flat ground, their body’s half-stooped and their arms low and pointed behind them.
Arden grabbed a window washer’s squeegee and used it like an axe on the window that was cracked, and hammered hard at the plate glass until it shattered and crumbled inwards. Arden lept through, and rolled, his grace coming back with his wind, miraculously, and he started to run down through the building. He could hear the crashes and the patter of nearly silent ninja feet, as he tried to make it to the elevators. The gleaming stainless steel car was open, and he just made it inside before it closed, a throwing star sprouting from the back of the car, as he gasped and the doors finally slid shut.
He hit the down button, and glanced around. A young kid, no more than 14, was wearing a backpack and a school uniform, and was lickign a large spiral multicolored lollipop. He glanced up at Arden and winked at him, before he pulled a submachine gun out of the backpack and narrowed his eyes. “Come with me, if you want to live!” The boy shouted this, and then waved his lollipop in the air and a magical doorway opened up in the side of the elevator. “Go on! Go on through!” The kid grabbed his hand and yanked him with surprising strength through the magical gate, and it snipped shut with a sound like someone breaking a vinyl record.
“Where? Who? Wha….” The little boy opened fire on a group of black clad ninja-like figures that were standing in front of him – in front of a marbled corridor with pillars of the same substance, every 10 meters, leading down a football sized room, to a giant dias, with a throne. The little school boy laughed as he mowed down the ninjas without mercy, and then started running with loping strides towards the throne.
“COME … ON! What are you waiting for! This is it! “
The boy raced ahead, and Arden could only run after him, glancing behind, but finding no one in pursuit, but disturbingly, the bodies of the gunshot ninjas all started to rise, as if they were the undead coming back to life.
“Holy SHIT!” he shouted, and increased his pace, and tried to run like a ninja again, himself. He did, and each loping stride took him bounds and leaps towards the boy and the dias. Just as he landed, he skidded to a halt, as the boy slowly glanced left and right, and then simply mounted the stairs up the dais to a golden throne there, rimmed with pink neon lights.
The young man turned, placed the lollipop in a holder on the arm of the throne, and slung the assault rifle negligently in a basket by the side, and then leaned forwards. “Why have you come here, Arden Pennywell? Do you seek a boon of the Last Child Emperor? Or do you have some other mission here? You had better speak quickly, before the undead ninja hoard gets here. I won’t stop them from making you one of their numbers, if you don’t speak up.
Arden was stunned but he forced his mind to work.. Or tried to. This was all so bizarre! Nothing here made any sense!
“Oh,” Arden said finally. And he glanced up at the Emperor and shook his head. “You’re me, 14 years ago, aren’t you. I was the Last Child Emperor, in that little story I would play with my friends.. This is all the Dream Realm!”
“Not all of it is a dream, Arden Pennywell, “ The Emperor said in a wise voice. He almost sounded like Yoda. Arden laughed at that, but then glanced nervously over his shoulder, and saw the ninja undead hoard had covered half the distance.
“How can any of this be real? It’s just a dream world fantasy!” Arden said that like it was fact. The child laughed and shook his long black shiny locks, and grinned. “It can be your reality if you wish! All you have to do is ask!”
Arden narrowed his eyes and shook his head, and paced back and forth, before he stopped again in front of the emperor’s throne. He took a deep breath, and walked up the stairs of the dais, and when he reached the top, he turned and sat on the boy emperor – but not really. The two images merged and became one, and suddenly, Arden was The Last Child Emperor, but grown up!
The undead ninjas stopped their advance when they came within 3 paces of the dais, and they all knelt at his feet. “What is your command, my Master?” their leader said.
“Bring me the leader of the ninjas that were chasing me out in that building.. I want him, his lieutenants and their other ninja soldiers too. We need to have a little chat about who’s in charge now. “
The undead ninja moaned a laugh, and said, “Can I turn them if they resist?”
“What, make them like you? “
The undead captain nodded slowly, his eyes burning with a pale light. A hungry light.
“Serves them right. Is this all a dream? Well if it is, I am going to have some fun with it. Yeah, sure, turn them if they don’t come quietly. But I want to be able to talk to them, understand? “
“Yes, my master, “ the Ninja Captain said.
Arden steepled his fingers, as he looked down at his transformed clothing. He was wearing sexy silks that conformed to his body, and his hair was pulled back in a ponytail of pale graceful strands. His skin shimmered as if coated with rare oils and salves to keep him young and protected. He had slippers on now, and he felt like he could just about nap right then and there, on the throne.
And that’s when he woke up, his alarm blaring like the apocalypse had just arrived.
“Oh bloody hell.” Arden sighed and slapped off the alarm, nearly sending it flying across the room.
“Oh well, I guess it was a dream,” he said with resignation. He slowly pushed himself out of bed and wandered blearily to the bathroom, where he slapped on the lights, and there, before him, was the Ninja Captain, held on his knees by the Undead Ninja Captain. “Your prisoner, your Imperial Majesty, “ the raspy voiced dark clad warrior said.
Arden glanced sideways and saw his reflection in the mirror over the vanity. He was wearing the silken blue and gold robes he had been in the dream.
Or was this a dream within a dream? How far down the rabbit hole was he?
Arden smiled, and rubbed his hands together. “Cool! Now we’re getting somewhere! “ he grinned and walked up to the kneeling ninja captain, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me, what was your mission.. And who sent you? I have a score to settle with them…”
Story by: Dehrynn Shepherd
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