Divine Shadow by Seidon
Chapter 1: Exile
"Many have strived to posses the power that dwells within the beasts of the tower"
The writing on the grave of her brother made no sense to Ogawa. She sat in the rain atop the grave in the center of the dark graveyard with the tears running down her face masked by the rain. Shadows collected about her dispersed only by the pale glow of the moon. Master Murai had sent him away from the village, Ogawa's parents cried that night and they cried harder still when they found his body in the small river running nearby their village. Ogawa got to her feet and tried to rub the mud from her leggings, small puddles of rain collected where her knees has left an indentation in the ground. She was only thirteen but had been training as a kunoichi since she was five years old. Her older brother Kurokawa was the strongest of all the others in their clan with the exception of Master Murai he alone defended the village from the Black Spider Ninja clan whilst the others waged war against the barbaric nomads of the sacred wilderness. He saved allot of lives that day but it was not recognized by Murai he didn't even thank him. She wiped her eyes pushed her dark wet hair from her eyes, let out one last sigh of pain and paid her last respects to her brother before she headed back to the warmly lit village.
Ogawa weaved her way through the tightly knit houses, darting from cover to cover in a vain attempt to keep dry. She continued through the narrow lanes between each house until she came to the gates of the village. She splashed through shallow puddles as the rain fell about her; matting her hair to her face. She came to her home; the smallest of the lot and slid open the door. She stepped carefully across the threshold daring not to make noise in fear of waking her parents who were not aware of her midnight trip to the graveyard. Quietly she slid the door closed on the raging storm and began walking slowly toward her bedroom. As silent as a shadow Ogawa edged her way closer and closer to her bedroom water dripped from her as she walked making a soft tapping noise on the hard wooden flooring she was annoyed at herself for not foreseeing this. Thunder crashed and Ogawa froze daring not to breathe she waited for what seemed like an eternity in that small hallway until she felt confident enough to continue moving. Ogawa made it to her room and breathed a sigh of relief, she hadn't been caught. The candle she had left burning in a bronze dish on her floor was nearing the end of its life. Bathed in the warm dancing light Ogawa slowly removed the wet shozoko from her body, she folded it and placed it by her door. Climbing gracefully into her bed she said a silent prayer blew out her candle and fell into a restless slumber. Lightning illuminated the small room as it flashed across the night sky.
A solitary beam of sunlight that shone through the crack in the window shutters fell upon Ogawa's closed eyes. Awoken by the light she slowly opened her eyes. The room was dark and her skin was covered in a shining film of sweat. She had dreamt of Kurokawa, she dreamt of him fighting the black spider ninjas and she watched helplessly as he breathed his last breath in the river now running dark with his blood. She shook her hair from her face and instinctively rubbed at her eyes.
She got out of her bed and felt around in the dark room that was lit only by the beam of sunlight coming from the window. She felt around for her shozoko the one by the door was still slightly damp from the night before she felt around for a while longer before finding a dry shozoko by the bottom of her bed. She slipped into her clothing and tied her hair back. She made her way over to the crack of light that came from under the shutters of her window flicked the catch holding them shut and pulled them open letting the warm fresh morning air flood into her bedroom. She stretched her arms above her head and yawned while watching the villagers go about their daily routine. She walked across her room and slid open the door and made her way down the narrow hallway. Her father was sitting with his back turned to her eating rice. Her mother was still in her bedroom. Her parents had not yet come to accept the fate of Kurokawa. Ogawa slipped on her tabi boots slid open the door and stepped out into the arm sunlight without saying goodbye to her parents.
Ogawa walked through the village toward the small river where Kurokawa's body was found. She noticed some of the clan's ninjas' by the sparring circle and stopped to watch as they practiced with one another. A larger ninja in a white shozoko stepped into the clearing surrounded by a stone circle a smaller ninja in a brown shozoko stepped forward and joined him within it. It was evident that the ninja in white was teaching the others. Ogawa hoisted herself up onto a fence that separated a small farm from the rest of the village. She watched intently as the two ninjas' squared off against one another.
Both of the ninjas' within the circle raised their bokken in front of them. The brown ninja stepped forward and thrust his bokken out at his opponent, the white ninja hit the wooden sword aside pivoted on his foremost foot and swung for the brown ninja's legs. The ninja in brown jumped over the attack and brought his bokken down toward the head of the white ninja. But was caught by a vicious kick to the stomach and was sent flying from the circle. And hit the earth with a thud sending a plume of dust into the air.
The white ninja lowered his bokken
“Don't open yourself up unless you know you will make contact!” He barked at the brown ninja now on his knees holding his stomach.
“Next!” He yelled at the others.
Another of the brown ninjas entered the circle, and positioned himself opposite his teacher. He held the bokken in front of himself and waited for the white ninja to make the opening move. The white ninja dashed toward him drawing his bokken to his side. The brown ninja stabbed at the white ninja only to have him roll under his attack and end up behind him. In a flash of white clothing the teacher struck each one of his student's limbs making him drop the bokken and fall backward the ground.
“Range, Speed, Priority. Learn these three basic principles before you step into combat with another warrior.” He said to brown ninja who was still lying on his back and rubbing at his leg.
“That's enough for now” he told the others
The brown ninja's bowed toward their teacher and he returned it. The ninja on the ground got to his feet, dusted himself off and followed the others as they headed away from the circle.
“Sure they are good but not as good as Kurokawa” Ogawa thought to herself. She hopped off of the fence and continued on her way to the river.
Ogawa could hear the sound of flowing water as she made her way through the small section of forest that separated the village from the river. A few women were washing clothing in the River and a few children playing by it. Ogawa remembered a game she and Kurokawa used to play. They would race across the river stepping on the rocks that protruded from the waters surface she never won but she loved plying the game with her brother. She walked upstream until she came to the place where they played. Ogawa darted across the rocks, stepping gracefully from one to the other moving fast enough that she wouldn't slip on the surface. She reached the other side and a smile played on her lips; Kurokawa would have criticized her skill. She felt tears welling up in he eyes blinking a few times she tried to hold back the tears but to no avail. She leaned against a nearby tree by and breathed softly as tears ran down her face.
Ogawa sat under the tree letting the sunlight that fell through the branches caress her skin and the gentle breeze cool her down. She watched as the sunlight created sparkles in the river which danced happily as the water flowed gracefully down the river. Her peace was interrupted by the sounding of the village bell: the ringing of it echoed all through the village this meant that Master Murai had an announcement.
Ogawa got to her feet and walked toward the edge of the river. She knelt beside it and splashed her face with the cool water. She walked back down the river and crossed at the bridge the woman and children were already gone. Ogawa headed through the trees and thick grass that separated the village from the river.
It appeared as though the entire village had turned up for Master Murai's announcement. Ogawa searched through the faces looking for her parents but couldn't see them. Master Murai came out of his dojo where he spent most of the day, and stood upon the small wooden stage next to it. A woman followed him. She was beautiful: her light skin shone in the sunlight and she had a perfect figure. Her hair was a bright shade of violet and was half hidden by a dark hood. The woman clutched a well worn book in her arms.
Master Murai stepped to the front of the stage.
“We are all aware and sad of the loss of Kurokawa who gave his life to protect this village.” He said not looking remotely sad.
“Through his death we have survived and become stronger” he said to the sea of villagers whilst starting to pace from side to side on the stage.
Ogawa felt hate toward her master. He did not care for the well being of the villagers or for her brother. She bit her lip so she would not talk out.
“Whilst we battled the warriors of the sacred wilderness we came across an artifact that will give us power beyond imagination. The shadow ninja clan will rule this world.” He said with a gleam in his eyes.
“In seven days we will attack the Hayabusa ninja fortress.”
There was a collective gasp from people in the crowd at these words.
“And when we return victorious “Murai continued
“The shadow ninja clan will never again be threatened by any opposition. So my loyal brothers, train hard and train well. Because in one week you will be fighting once more for your survival”
Master Murai left the stage and reentered the dojo and the woman followed. The crowd dispersed with a collection of excited whispers and mournful mutterings. Ogawa released her lip from between her teeth and headed home. She wanted to know what was so important that Murai was willing to lay down the lives of his so called brethren.
Ogawa waited for nightfall and knowing what the consequence for her actions would be packed her clothing and some food. This was to be her last time in her home.
As the village was illuminated by the cold blue light of the moon Ogawa made her way swiftly through the houses toward the dojo. Her breath floated before her face in a fine mist as she darted silently from shadow to shadow. The torches in front of the dojo had since been extinguished by a member of the clan. A solitary guard stood before the doorway watching a field mouse scurry about beneath the wooden stage. He looked somewhat bored with his duty. After dropping her supplies and clothing she had prepared she slid along the outside wall of the dojo and was careful not to make any noise as she neared the guard. She lifted herself over the wall with unbecoming grace and crept ever closer to the unsuspecting ninja. The guard started throwing a small rock into the air and catching it in his hand, throwing it higher with every successive catch. Ogawa climbed on top of the piece of roof that extended over the doorway without disturbing the ninja or the field mouse. She smiled to herself knowing that she was more accomplished than most others here. She crept soundlessly across the roof until she was positioned above the guard. She counted how long it took for him to throw the stone and catch it: timing was essential. The guard stood blissfully unaware of his attacker throwing the stone. He threw it up once…..caught it. Twice……..caught it. Thrice………….it didn't come back down. Confused he stepped out from under the roof and looked up. Ogawa grabbed hold on the edge of the roof and swung down catching his head between her legs. She squeezed hard and counted to ten remembering her training.
“Cutting of blood circulation and oxygen to the brain can either knock your opponent out or kill them depending on your intentions. Ten seconds to knock them out fifteen to send them into a never waking sleep.”
Ogawa released the guards head and he dropped with a soft thud to his knees and then onto his face. He wouldn't be awake for a few hours. She dropped stealthily to the ground and took the dojo key from the now unconscious ninja. Quietly she opened the door and crept inside. The blue moonlight poured into the dojo from the open door. Murai slept in his own quarters near the back of the dojo. There would be no light to disturb his slumber. Like a shadow Ogawa crept through the dojo across the padded floor and toward the doorway at the back. Pushing the door open gently Ogawa stepped inside the hallway at the back of the dojo. There were three rooms leading off of the hallway: one at either side and one at the end. Ogawa headed toward the door at the end of the hall. It was locked. With practiced ease she picked the lock with the kit Kurokawa built her for her tenth birthday. She slid the door aside and stepped into Master Murai's chamber.
The room was as big as her home. Murai slept on a bed near the back of the room. Ogawa noticed was that there were no windows in this room. She removed a small box from one of the pockets on her shozoko and opened it inside there was a fine powder. She put the powder in the lantern by the door and it came to life. The light wasn't strong enough to wake Murai but it was strong enough to enable Ogawa to see. Over by the side of Murai's bed lay the book she sought. She edged her way toward it being careful not to make any noises. Se lifted the book from the table it lay on and she began to retreat from the room. She extinguished the flame in the lantern and headed back outside. The guard was still lying on his face when she left the main entrance.
Ogawa picked up her supplies and clothing from the outside wall and began making her way toward the river. She heard yelling as she began walking through the small forest and then a roar of rage. The torches in front of the dojo were lit and Ogawa watched as some ninjas' carried their unconscious friend away. Murai stepped out of the dojo and started barking orders at members of the clan. Ninjas' started going in different directions and two came toward her location. She started running but her supplies and the book hindered her speed and the ninjas' began closing in on her. They spotted her running upstream and shouted for the others before chasing after her.
More ninjas' came bursting from the forest and ran toward her. And Murai followed behind them.
The first two ninjas' caught up with her just as she came to the stepping stones. She knew that she didn't have the energy to make it across them and that the added weight of her supplies and the book would make it near impossible. One of the Ninjas' made a grab for her but she ducked under his hands and stepped backwards closer to the river. Her chest heaved quickly as her breath quickened and the mist it created was pouring rapidly from her mouth. The others began surrounding her forcing her closer to the waters edge.
A voice echoed in her head and she did what it said. She turned and flew across the rocks barely letting her feet touch them. She landed on the earth at the other side and turned to watch as one of the Ninjas' attempted to follow her. The river roared and raged downstream and caught his legs taking him with it. The dark river crashed heavily stopping the others from crossing. Ogawa turned and fled into the night as Murai roared in rage once more.
After running for what seemed like hours Ogawa stopped and leaned against a tree breathing heavily, her legs shaking. She looked at the book that was still held tightly in her arms and let out a strangled sigh of exhaustion.
A kunai with a violet flower attached flew past her face and stuck into the nearest tree with a thud. Ogawa walked over to it and removed the piece of parchment tied to it.
It said two words.
“ Hayabusa Village ”