Chapter 3: A man’s word
Hisa stuck her arm out of the carriage window to feel the gentle wind against her skin. It not only felt nice, but also smelled pleasant, unlike the suffocating smell of medicine and burning fuel –which according to Hisa was the smell of war –in her home village, Rimae. Leaning slightly over the edge of the window, she allowed the wind to caress her face and blow through her hair. She smiled as the warm feelings of nostalgia embraced her.
She couldn’t remember the exact moment she had first felt like this, perhaps she had been too young to remember, but it made her feel like everything she had lost over the years were still part of her. It reminded her of the peaceful times they had experienced somewhere after the Great War. The village had been rebuilt and even though it had been very hard, they had learned to live with the loss of so many people. Those had been the first peaceful moments in the Imai clan’s history and whilst Hisa whished for those blissful moments to repeat themselves, she feared the worst for her people.
The Imai clan had always been a rather small clan, but they never had to fear for their safety. The only reason they had survived for so long among these aspiring nations was because there had always been fortune-tellers who would predict the wars, which would give them enough time to prepare for the wars. That is why people would usually target the fortune-tellers in the clan, killing them all except Arisa, Hisa’s mother.
Her mother had predicted that good-fortune would come to the Imai after the Great War and it happened exactly like that. But with her mother’s death, Hisa had been the only one left from the predicting blood-line and due to her inexact visions, small wars had started breaking out.
That had been the moment when the once proud clan had to put their pride aside and hold out a begging hand towards the Sakurai clan from the village Zenith. Thankfully, Tetsuo and Eiji had befriended each other in their younger years and the pact had worked out well for both clans. The Sakurai clan was a big clan and unable to provide their people with food and especially medical help during wars because most of them were trained to fight. The Imai clan happened to be known for skillfully managing recourses, which they had probably learned from all the timely preparations for the wars they had made in the past, as well as their healing techniques. To say the least, it had been a win-win situation for both of them.
Hisa was brought out of her reverie when she felt something cold and wet run down her arm. She looked at her hand as more and more small droplets fell from the sky. Glancing at the grey sky, she shielded her eyes by placing a hand on her brows like a roof. It had started to rain.
Hisa jumped back in shock when a shadow ran past her with the speed of light …or so it seemed from her point of view. She didn’t have the skills to follow the movement of a ninja with her untrained eyes.
“IT’S KAZU!” One of the Ninja yelled as Hisa held onto the curtain of the carriage when it came to a violent halt, almost knocking her out of her seat. Bewildered, she looked around wondering what was going on.
“If he’s here it means we ran into someone’s trap!” one of the other ninja shouted in a low voice, “Everyone, in position!”
All the ninja circled around the carriage with some sort of ninja tool in their hand, expecting the attack to come from anywhere.
Hisa was about to get out of the carriage when she heard the same low voice instructing her to stay out of sight.
She wasn’t sure if that meant she had to press herself against her seat or lie flat on the floor. This was exactly the reason that she failed as a ninja. She had no common sense at all, which left her instincts pretty useless. Irritably shrugging it off, she thought it was better to just die trying instead of die being indecisive.
As soon as she lied down and settled in her spot, Kazu landed in front of the window of the carriage after jumping down from a tree and stared at her actions.
Hisa could see the question in his golden brown eyes and inwardly cursed at her stupidity, “I fell…” she reasoned, getting up.
Being a man of few words…or no words in his case so far, Kazu opened the door and held out his hand to her. Hisa looked at his hand and blinked, a light pink color crawling up her cheeks. Kazu moved his hand a little, motioning for her to take it, but seeing her slow reaction, he just grabbed it and pulled her out of the carriage.
“Kazu, I’ll be counting on you!” The same voice from before spoke and that’s when Hisa noticed he was their team-captain, Nobunaga. She recognized him from the meetings he would attend with Eiji and her grandpa. He was a middle aged man with a big, white mustache and had matching thick eye-brows.
Kazu nodded once at him and turned to Hisa, “Excuse me,” he whispered in a low voice.
Hisa tilted her head a little to the side, wondering what he meant before he grabbed her around her waist. Her eyes widened knowing what was to come and she screamed bloody-murder but he had already jumped up in a tree with her in his arms.
“I’m scared of heights!!!” Was the last thing Nobunaga heard before they disappeared out of his sight.
“My humble apologies, Hime-sama,” Nobunaga said with a quiet voice before he attacked the ninja that was coming at him.
“BEKKOU!” Yoroi shouted with his rather high voice. He leaned against the tree, wheezing and puffing, close to passing out. “You fat chimp, wait till I get my hands on you…” he fanned himself with his hand.
After a good five minutes, he tied his dark hair back with a white thread and activated his power –speed.
He hopped from tree to tree hoping to catch up with his friend in time. Bekkou was very emotional, but his heart was in the right place. He was a short and chubby guy, but he had learned how to use his size in his advantage during battles. His hair was black and so were his eyes, in contrast with his pale skin. Bekkou had the ability to bend, twist or stretch certain parts of his body like rubber, hence he never felt the beatings he got from Yoroi.
“They brought our princess in danger!” Bekkou shouted, enraged. He felt awfully overprotective of their heiress because he had lost a daughter who would’ve been her age if he hadn’t lost her in the Great War.
He could still remember the day he had been sitting in front of her grave, feeling like he had nothing left to live for; his village had been destroyed, his family had been killed and his comrades were disabled. That was when he had felt a warm hand on his shoulder, giving him silent comfort…
Blinking his tears away, Bekkou tried to clear his vision to see who the hand belonged to.
“Imai-sama!” He quickly got up and bowed to Tetsuo.
Tetsuo smiled before letting out a chuckle, confusing Bekkou.
“You fought well,” Tetsuo praised, “This village thanks you.”
“Okaa-san…oto-san…please take care of Hiroko-chan until her dad can.” Bekkou heard a small voice next to him say this. He turned his gaze down and found Hisa offering a small prayer.
“Oto-san…?” Bekkou’s eyes widened as he stared at his leader in shock, “Does that mean Yosuke-sama…”
Tetsuo nodded before Bekkou could finish his sentence. Bekkou closed his eyes in remorse; why did this happen? His life could have been taken instead of Yosuke’s, Bekkou had nothing left here anyway. But how could a small child grow up without parents?
He felt Hisa’s small hands wrap around his before she offered him a warm smile, “I asked my parents to take care of her. Don’t worry, soon everything will be okay.”
That was when Bekkou had decided that while her parents were taking care of his daughter, he would take care of theirs.
But he had failed.
Right then, Bekkou was smacked off the tree and fell face-first.
“If you wanna die take me with you, you obese cow!”
Bekkou’s startled look from the hit turned into a smile, “Don’t get ahead of me, you twig.”
Yoroi returned the smile, “I got your back, bro.”
Kazu put Hisa down before he scanned the area to make sure they were safe.
Hisa immediately hugged the cherry blossom tree next to her, reassuring herself she was safe on the ground. Taking a few minutes to calm her nerves, she slowly let go of the tree and looked at Kazu’s back. He was still investigating the place, making absolute sure that no one had followed them.
Brushing her soaked hair out of her face, Hisa dared herself to say something. From previous experiences she had learned that he wouldn’t speak, unless spoken to.
“A-ano…” She started off but regretted it right after she caught his attention. He took a few seconds to turn around and gave her his full attention.
Instead of making the small chatter that she had intended, she had fallen into a trance once again, admiring his piercing eyes in this clear light. They almost seemed yellow and went well with his dark hair and pale skin. She couldn’t see his full face because he was wearing his mask, but judging from what she could see, he seemed very attractive.
Noting that she was not only being slow with what she wanted to say, but also gaping at him, Kazu walked over to her. He stopped less than a meter away from her before he spoke, “I will bring you back unharmed, I swear it on my life.”
A light breeze passed, lifting their hair up slightly and taking a few petals with it. Hisa blinked and tilted her head a little to the side.
He seemed to be a man of his word.