Bathed in an orange flickering glow from the camp fire, Ayame gazed up at the clear night sky, almost dozing. She had quite a long way to go before she would reach her destination, and, exhausted, she decided to set up camp in an open plain for the night, near a patch of woods. As the night wore on, Ayame drifted in and out of sleep as her campfire waned, her twin short blades on the ground on either side of her ready at a moment's notice. As the last of the flame flickered dimly, Ayame woke with a start with the sound of footsteps, and what she thought was a red wooden demon mask, as if disembodied, floating towards her in the dark night, with a feint bronze reflection from the dying campfire. Ayame stood up promptly, her weapons at the ready as she looked around , searching for someone, something stalking her...and finding nothing. 'I really need some sleep' she finally concluded, yawning as she lowered her guard and settled back down, drifting off immediately as she laid down. ....Hmmmmph!! Ayame woke with shock as a gloved hand was tightly clamped over her mouth. Erupting into violent struggle, Ayame managed to elbow her assailant in the stomach, jump to her feet and launch a sweeping kick behind her, missing whoever it was. On either side of her, their were two kunoichis, each wearing grey kimonos, grey stockings and shoes, grey cloths over their noses and mouths, and brilliantly white short spikey hair, each with a pair of twin short swords, similar to Ayame's, ready to strike her down from either side. "Don't try it. You'll just be giving your lives away. Leave now and I'll let you live." Ayame declared to both of them, each of her blades pointed toward one side and the other. "You ought to be more concerned with whether we'll let you live, after the many members of our sisterhood you've mercilessly killed". The kunoichi on her left threatened. "Here is where it all ends", the kunoichi on the right chimed in. "Your sisters' deaths were a result of their foolish alliance with that fiend Onikage. If you two want to throw your lives away for them, so be it " Ayame responded, just as she jumped to her left and bore down on the first kunoichi with both of her weapons, a few gold sparks flying in the night as their blades clashed, followed by a low kick to her enemy's ankles, then a high kick to her face, stunning her and causing her to stumble backwards. But before Ayame could follow up on her weakened foe, the second kunoichi slashed at her from behind, tearing her top most of the way down the back, causing her to spin about with a kick that sent one of the second kunoichi's blades flying out of sight. Just as Ayame was about to press forward to finish off the partially unarmed kunoichi, several little beige colored balls dropped around her, and started spewing smoke all over the area, causing Ayame to choke and cough as the whole vicinity was enveloped in gray smoke, effectively blinding her. "So, you girls couldn't quite handle her on your own huh...she is a toughie..." Ayame could hear a woman's commanding voice in front of her, closer...closer. Suddenly, as if she had been borne of the smoke itself, a woman in a red, wooden demon mask and red kimono, as silent as the breeze, stepped into view, allowing Ayame less than a fraction of a second before leaping forward and striking her, powerfully, with a sweeping kick to the face, causing her to lose grip on one of her left blade, which fell away out of sight, and launching her into the air and back down, landing with a thud that took her breath away. Coughing and struggling to breathe, Ayame struggled to get back to her feet, trying to get her bearings, just as she was violently kicked in the side by one of the kunoichi, rolling her on to her stomach. "What's wrong dear? Can't see us? Aww...that's cute" One of the kunoichis called out, unseen, through the slowly dissipating smoke. "all...three of you cowards...will be missing your heads when I'm done with......uuugh!" After another attempt at standing, Ayame was slammed back down on her stomach by the red kunoichi, who had leaped on top of her, and now stood firmly on her back. "Oh but to do that you need to stand up. What are you doing? Get up" the red kunoichi commanded, stomping her slower back as she did so, sending waves of nauseating pain through Ayame's body. Desperately, Ayame lashed behind her with her one remaining blade, missing with the first few swings, then tearing the red kunoichis kimono with the fourth, just as she felt a boot connect with her wrist, slamming it down into the ground and grinding, with a force that felt as if it would shatter her wrist any moment. "Ah ah... that's not nice. You've done enough slicing and dicing." the kunoichi stomping her wrist took on a condescending tone as she reached down and retrieved ayame's remaining dropped blade. "Ha! You kick mine away where I can't find it, I take yours. don't like it? Tough!" the kunoichi declared, triumphantly. Ayame's mind swam with confusion over her the blinding pain from her crushed wrist, and the incessant kicks from the red kunoichi standing atop her. Why was she followed? she was certain no one knew where she was tonight. How could this be? Not good... With all her might, Ayame tried kicking behind her, doing all she could to knock her enemy off her, and gain some leverage to force the other kunoichi's boot off her wrist, to no avail. Suddenly she felt her head jerked backwards by her hair, exposing her neck in an incredibly vulnerable fashion. "Thanks Red" Said a voice to Ayame's left, the other grey kunoichi. brandishing one of her twin blades, she bent down in front of a startled and scared Ayame, the kunochi's narrowed eyes betraying her wide smile behind her mask, and, slowly slid the blade cross Ayame's neck, withholding just enough force to avoid breaking the skin and fatally slicing her artery. "Haha, you're dead. we killed you." The kunoichi teased, quickly standing back up. Ayame was stunned, confused. Why was she not dead?..."But of course you're not. We don't want you dead yet. That's too good for you, murderer." informed the red kunoichi astride Ayame. "Just how many of our sisters have you indiscriminately slaughtered during your assignments for old man Ghoda? What do you think, twenty, forty, a hundred? Answer me" she slammed her boot into Ayame's side for punctuation. "I...it...it was nothing....personal" Ayame breathed, exhausted. "Nothing personal? Does that bring them all back? Does that give them the lives they had left to live before you cut them all down? I think not. Girls, tie her legs up." "You won't get the quick death all you 'honorable' ninjas are supposedly entitled to. No, you will be humiliated, humbled, brought down from your arrogance to a point where your very existence is a mark of shame on the Azuma ninja clan." Ayame tried in vain to kick and thrash her legs as they were gradually bound up by one of the other kunoichis, until they were tied so tightly she could do nothing more to resist. "But don't worry, we'll let you try to fight us. If you're as good as they say being all tied up won't stop you." the boot trapping Ayame's right wrist finally lifted as the red kunoichi reached down and brought her wrists behind her back, tying them tightly. "Now.. stand up and let's have round two" The red kunoichi stepped off Ayame and pulled her by her hair, lifting her upright into a wobbly, standing position. Ayame now stood in front of her three foes, teh two grey kunoichis and the red in the center, all beckoning her to fight, even as her ankles and wrists were tied up and useless. How long were they going to toy with her? Surly this was just part of dream. 'Wake up Ayame. Come on. this is not fun anymore' she thought, desperately. But of course she didn't. This was it. Left with no choice, Ayame tried her best to fight back, hopping to the kunoichi on the left and trying to headbutt her, hoping to maybe use to blade to cut through the ropes. The kunoichi effortlessly stepped out of the way, slapping Ayame across the face and giggling. "You're so cute. Hoppity hop hop. Try again." Ayame almost fell backwards from the slap, only barely managing to keep her balance as she started forward once more. This was just a cruel joke. she had no chance like this. Ayame felt hopelessness wash over her, along with a looming and ever growing embarrassment. Just as Ayame hopped toward the kunoichi a second time, and felt a rip in the back of her top. The other grey kunoichi had sliced her blade through the rest of the torn top, cutting it in two and causing it to fall uneventfully in front of her. "Oh no, you lost your top. That's not good..." mocked the kunoichi behind her "I thought you were skilled...", she remarked, as if puzzled. Ayame's face turned bright red. "I...when I get out...of this. I will... I will..."The words wouldn't come. She couldn't do anything. they had her. "Do what sweetie? the grey kunoichi on the left asked. "You'll have to speak up. you're so pathetic it's hard to hear you". "I....alright you win." the words stung as they left Ayame's tongue. she'd never submitted to an enemy before in her life. "I....look I'm sorry for your friends. If I could...bring them back I would. Just please either kill me or let me go. I...can't fight you like this" Ayame felt sick. She'd always been in complete control, a shadow unseen, holding life and death in her hands, now, despite trying to sound stoic, she was grovelling to common kunoichis for mercy. this was unthinkable. The red kunoichi just looked at Ayame and slightly cocked her head, her red demon mask hiding her expression. 'Hm...I'm not convinced. Are we convinced girls?" "Nope" the two grey kunoichis said, almost in unison. "Beg some more. Fall down on your knees where you belong and convince us to let you go, pathetic prisoner" Ayame couldn't believe what she was hearing, but realized she had no choice. she tried to convince herself it wasn't real, that she was only doing what they wanted to survive, but she didn't believe it. it wasn't a tactic, it wasn't manipulation. She was at their mercy, and she was being shown just how helpless she was. Swallowing down the deepest dread, Ayame allowed herself to fall forward, collapsing to her knees in front of the trio. The vestige before her was almost surreal: two masked grey kunoichis staring at her, amused, each framing the red one in the middle, her demon mask bearing down upon Ayame with a backdrop of the moon. This unremarkable, common enemy might as well have been an actual demon god from Ayame's position of extreme helplessness. "...Please....I'm begging alright. I'm begging all of you, just let me go or kill me. You got me, you got your revenge, just please do something with me." Ayame hung her head in shame; her stoicism breaking down despite her best efforts. " "....Alright. Tell you what. We won't kill you, at least not right away, but we won't let you go. Oh no. I told you you would be brought to shame, and you haven't even come close to experiencing what we have in mind for you" "But..." Ayame started "But I'm doing what you want...I...agh!" the red kunoichi slapped her hard across the face. "I didn't allow you to speak again. Shut your mouth." Ayame looked away, far more submissively than she intended. "We will take you back to our camp, strip you of...well what's left of your outfit, keep you chained and gagged in a cage and let the rest of the sisters have their fun; at least until you can be used as a servant that is..." Horrified by what was going to be done to her, Ayame, wide-eyed, started to open her mouth in protest, but was greeted with another scornful slap. "Do you understand?" Ayame just looked up at her captor, not having a clue what to do but comply. If she resisted, they would beat her until she complied. They refused her an honorable death... "Yes...I...I understand." Ayame slumped her shoulders and hung her head, never feeling so low in her life. "Good girl". The read kunoichi stepped forward and, grabbing a handful of Ayame's hair, slammed her head into the kunoichis knee, knocking her out cold. Ayame fell sideways and landed on her side, her hands tied behind her back and her ankles tied, topless, as her enemies admired their catch, before, slowly the grey kunoichis picked her up, one holding her legs, the other holding the rest of her body as they slowly walked out of Ayame's campsite and out into the moonlit field, making the long trek back to their own camp, and to slavery for the disgraced Azuma ninja.