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The samurai named Jack was not having a good day. First, he had been ambushed by bounty hunters out to collect Aku’s reward on his head. They had been easily dispatched, but not without giving Jack some minor cuts and scrapes. Around midday, just as he was settling down for his lunch, he had to run from robotic droids out to get him. Now that the sun was setting over the horizon, turning the winter snow a rosy hue, Jack was getting suspicious and wondering when the next attack would come. There was a feel to the air, as if the blizzard everyone in the last town had predicted was coming. Not wanting to take any chances, Jack decided to find shelter for the night while it was still somewhat light. He didn’t find very much beyond the thick copse of trees, but a few swings of his sword and the proper bending of branches created a decent enough cover.

Minutes later, a fire blazed cheerfully and Jack was warming his hands over the crackling flames. His stomach grumbled, but it was too late to go out and get anything. Already, the first heavy snowflakes had started to fall. he fed another log to the fire and stretched his legs out in front of him. Lacing his hands behind his head, he was about to doze off when he heard the distinct sound of metallic feet crunching in the snow. Sitting up alertly, he slowly reached for his sword, his thumb resting between the underside of the hilt guard and the top of the wooden sheath. He sat there as still as a statue, the wind blowing snow and wisps of his hair in his face. The hydraulic sounds of the beetle droids got louder as they approached, Jack could count well over fifty of them coming to his right with another twenty or so headed from his left. His eyes narrowed as he squinted into the dark beyond the light of his campfire.

As soon as the droids had gotten close enough, Jack sprang into action. Sword bared, he sliced through the first beetle, sending sparks flying out into the night. A long splatter of black oil stained the once pristine snow. The beetle gave one last futile attempt to attack, then it lay still, cleaved in two. The other robots didn’t hesitate, they merely stepped over the ruined machine, their sole purpose to destroy him.

In the end, nearly seventy-five beetle robots lay ruined, their severed limbs gleaming in the faint moonlight. What was still being animated by whatever source of energy they ran on merely twitched. Jack stood amid the ruined robots, his gi torn and blood slowly dripping from various gashes along his body. These robots had been newer models of the ones he was accustomed to fighting, their blades sharp and serrated to do more damage. He could feel the cuts in his arms and legs and he didn’t really want to think about the deep gashes that ran across his back and chest. Taking the torn remnants of his top, he gingerly wrapped them around his middle, trying to staunch the flow of blood. Using his sheathed sword for support, he limped away from the wreckage.

The pale moonlight wasn’t very much use to him that night, for the blizzard had arrived and everything was a blinding mix of snow in the darkness. Yet he stumbled along, counting each step in an effort to remain conscious. He knew that if he stopped to rest, he might not get back up again. The night seemed to go on forever and Jack felt as if he was wandering around in circles, each step causing agonizing pain to shoot up his spine. Sometime before the sun rose, he fell to his knees, blood dripping down and decorating the snow with fat crimson droplets. Jack idly thought about how the cherry blossoms looked in his homeland during the spring and how they fell to the cobbled pathways in a similar pattern. Trying to hoist himself back up, his arms became wobbly and collapsed on him. He lay there face down in the snow for a long while before he tried to drag himself further. Exhaustion set in and he rolled over onto his back, his strength gone. Snowflakes gathered on his eyelashes and he blinked to shake them off. The last thing he saw before passing out was the sky glowing pink as the sun began to rise. He never heard the figures approaching him, or saw them hover over his body.

Jack’s eyes slowly opened, his surroundings coming into focus. He felt groggy, as if he had been drugged. The dark brown of the wood beams above him…he paused. The last thing he could remember was lying outside in the snow. Fully alert, he tried to sit up, but found out that his body would not let him. Head turning weakly to the side, he tensed at the sight of a small boy sitting nearly eye level to him. Before he could open his mouth to speak, the boy jumped up and ran out of the room, the fabric covering the doorway flapping in his wake. Again, Jack tried to sit up, but to no avail. Deciding to wait and see if the company he was in was good or not, he relaxed and kept his eyes trained towards the doorway.

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