Naruto: Crisis: Shinobi Fate


<

炎と雪の思い出 || Memories of Ice and Fire

Share
avatar
Hyuuga Hitomi

Posts : 47
Join date : 2016-02-13

炎と雪の思い出 || Memories of Ice and Fire

Post by Hyuuga Hitomi on Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:41 am

Hyuga Hitomi watched the girl enter her room. She was pale, thin and awkward. Her black eyes opened wide, in part because of the dim light but chiefly because it was her natural expression. In the girl's arms, cradled to her breast like a child, were a number of tattered scroll cases.

“Sensei?” she said into the darkness, her eyes not yet adjusting. The room was large--sparse but dignified--with two lone candles burning on either side of Hitomi's wooden chair. Wood was prized this deep in the Sokenzan Range, attesting to the woman’s. Indeed, the dwelling itself was enormous, able to house the entire village in a crisis. From a distance, it looked more like a mountain stronghold than the home of a sage.

Hitomi shifted in her chair, crossing one long slender leg over the other. The seat protested. Hearing the noise, the girl bowed suddenly, accidentally spilling many of the scrolls onto the floor.

“Greetings, Mariko,” she said in a distorted voice. She hated what her voice became when she wore her helmet. “I was told you were looking for me.”

“Yes, Sensei,” Mariko said, retrieving several scroll cases only to have more tumble from her grasp. “I have a great many questions.”

“Ask them, Mariko, but first I have a question for you.”

The girl paused from gathering the scrolls. “Yes, Sensei?” Her eyes were impossibly big in the candlelight.

“Nothing so serious, child. I only wish to know how your studies at the Jukai School proceed.” Her smile was hidden by the smooth indigo faceplate of her helmet.

“Ah, that is in part why I come, Sensei. My studies are well. The instructors tell me I will be a great kunoichi some day.”

“Good. You’re born to a great ninja-house; its no wonder you’ve progressed so quickly in such a short time. Still, I suppose it is too much to hope you will lose your way to the great school some day and pursue the life of a scholar instead of a warrior?”

Mariko bowed respectfully. This time she held tightly to the scrolls. “I am quite content, Sensei.”

“Yes, yes,” Hitomi impatiently waved away the girl's obsequiousness. “Of course. It is only that I know all too well where the lonely life of a shinobi leads… Have I ever told you of how my uncle - your great-uncle, trained me in the ways of the Juken?”

“You have, Sensei.”

Hitomi frowned. “Ah, pity. I enjoy telling it.”

“It is your life of the ninja I wish to discuss, Sensei, and your service in the war.”

Hitomi raised a ginger eyebrow “Is it? Ask your questions, then, child.”

Mariko took a deep breath, gathering herself. “It is only that everyone in the village reveres you and Sensei Obari. They call you heroes of the Crimson Pass.” Her voice trailed off as if unsure how to continue.


“As well they should,” Hitomi said haughtily, straightening in her chair. “Obari-sensei and I fought many battles in the war, always side by side. We defeated countless Yuki-nin.

“As you have often told me, Sensei. It is just that--” Again, she paused.

“Please, Mariko, no need to stand on ceremony. Ask your question.”

Mariko bowed, avoiding the silvery-white gaze she could feel from behind Hitomi’s helmet. “It's just that I have read everything in the great libraries on the war with the Yuki-nin, Sensei. I have scoured the scrolls for almost four years now, pouring over every word in 'Observations of the war for the North' as well as more obscure texts. And, and...”

“...and you can find no mention of either your Sensei Obari or myself, eh?” She asked, suddenly bemused.

Mariko kept her eyes on the floor. “How can it be, Sensei? If you are truly heroes, how can history have forgotten you?”

Hitomi scoffed. “Bah! Not all heroes were made at Ganzan Pass or the Battle of Silk, Mariko, and few of war's true heroes show up in those scrolls you covet. But I will tell you a short tale to ease your mind. Sit, stay a while and listen. I will explain why history forgot your Senseis while this village remembers still.”

The girl's eyes lifted, wide as ever. She sat cross-legged on the floor, neatly placing the scroll-cases in a row between her knees and Hitomi's chair.

Hitomi cleared her throat. “Well then, where to begin? As I said, Obari and I were in the service of Lord Honda when the War for the North began. Then we received word that Honda was pulling forces away from the Sokenzan Range to strengthen his army at Kuwabara. Obari and I had not been home since leaving for our training as a child, but we knew that Honda's move meant the destruction of our village, and the surrounding villages as well, to Yuki attack.

“Disgusted, we left Honda's service and returned to the Sokenzan. There we met a barbarian lord named Shinka. Ah, I see your scrolls have not forgotten him, eh? Good. Yes, Shinka was a fierce warrior who opposed Honda with every vein in his body. Obari and I became his most respected lieutenants.”

Hitomi paused, letting the memories pool in her mind's eye. Her voice became wistful.

“It was after a failed assault on Kuwabara that my brother and I left Shinka's service as well. A messenger had arrived, carrying a note from my father that urged us to return home. He had been using his ties to protect the village from Yuki, he said, but he needed our aid. Obari and I discussed the matter at length, and after the defeat it was clear that Father needed us more than either Honda or Shinka. I believe Shinka understood our obligation, for he never hunted us as we expected.

“Yet as Obari and I approached the village, we suspected that we were too late...”

* * *

Hitomi rode, scowling. Her massive mountain goat picked its way through a rocky path too small to ever be called a road, stepping around scrub, snow, ice and stone.

Hitomi's skin-tight chakra-enhanced combat suit protected her from the cold well enough, but she could tell the lashing winter winds were bringing a snow storm their way. Her breath puffed in bursts that clung briefly to her face before disappearing behind. Autumn was just beginning to tan leaves across the rest of Yukigawa, but high in the Sokenzan Range winter had long since arrived.

Yet a fire burned within Hitomi. She was angry, fiercely so. If she ever paused to examine her own heart, she may have admitted that her inner fire also came from fear. Hitomi had seen countless villages over the past days ravaged by Yuki, leaving nothing alive. At each village, the words of her father's message rang in her ears. I am weakening, he had written, and our village will fall to the Yuki without your aid.

He stole a glance backwards. Behind him, on a goat of dark brown, her Uncle Obari rode scowling as well. Obari was Hitomi's senior by well over three decades. He was born in a different time, eschewing modern advancements for the traditional hyuuga plate armour. Hitomi’s head was covered by her brilliant red helmet, her face masked by a sleek indigo pane, Obari’s left bare to the elements, his forehead covered by a thick steel plate adorned with two short horns.

Hitomi smiled ruefully. Perhaps their helms spoke to the real differences between them. Hitomi had been forced to hide the silvery light of her Byakugan for as long as she remembered, hunted by friend and foe alike throughout her childhood. Obari had always been a proud traditionalist, wearing his hair long and his face clean. he, to an outsider looked like all other Hyuuga men. Tall, proud and detached from the world. To her, she knew, beneath his polished exterior lay a rebel’s heart, just like hers.

“What?” Obari barked, and Hitomi shook herself from her reverie. She must have stolen more than a glance at her uncle.

“Can these goats go no faster?” Hitomi barked back. Explaining personal reflections to Obari was like explaining mercy to an oni, so he rarely bothered to try.

“We are almost there,” Obari said.

Hitomi faced forward, concentrating on the path. It was true. Recognition of their location filtered into her mind like a dream. The path had opened to a narrow valley, protected slightly from the howling wind that made its home in the Sokenzan Range. Here a stream flowed during summer. Yak were plentiful and easily hunted when the snow revealed grass. Hitomi's grandfather had told her how, when her own ancestors had discovered this place among the mountains, they had given thanks to the Yuki for their good fortune. Now it seemed the Yuki were set on reclaiming their gift.

“Smoke,” Obari grunted from behind.

Thin tendrils rose from behind the next bend, where their village lay unseen. Hitomi hoped fervently that the smoke came from cook fires, but the previous villages they had encountered suggested otherwise. She had seen far too much destruction during this war to harbor hope.

Yet still Hitomi's heart plummeted when she saw the figure standing in their path. They were too late to save their village from the Yuki.

It was the size of a man, clad in what looked to be samurai armor made of ice. Where its face should have been was a sheet of fire. Flames crackled in an aura around the ice-armor. As the two brothers approached, the creature raised a katana of flame, clearly warning them to stop.

Rage boiled within Hitomi, banishing all trace of fear. With a battle cry she leapt from the startled goat’s back towards the ninja. Her palms ignited blue, chakra erupting in the shape of roaring lion heads, fangs barred at the throat of the Yuki-nin.

The Yuki-nin of ice and fire faltered, surprised, yet recovered in time to bring its weapon to parry Hitomi's first savage blow. Hitomi spun and whirled with her arms, lion-fangs cutting open a crease in the armor along its belly.

The ninja made a gesture and ice leapt from its fingers to encase Hitomi's torso, pinning her arms to her side. Hitomi fell to the ground, dismissing the chakra around her forearms and crying out in fury.

A sharp clang echoed in the valley as Obari joined the battle. Two serrated and wicked blades flashed in his hands, one considerably larger than the other. Before it could bring its fiery sword to its defense, the creature had already taken several blows from Obari's onslaught.

Hitomi roared, expelling chakra from tenets throughout her body, shattering her icy bonds and returning to her Roaring lion stance. She moved her arms in circular motions, focusing her energy before her arms burst aflame with chakra once more. She leapt back into the fray. Before the outnumbered shinobi had a chance to turn in her direction, she lay her palm against the side of his chest. Ripping out from the opposite side of his armour, blood and body parts too mangled to recognize erupted and stained the mountain grass.

“This is what threatens our village?” Obari taunted, “It does not even seem to fight back!”

Hitomi narrowed her eyes as the ninja struggled to stand. Its armor hung in shards where the Lion’s blow had impacted. Flames faltered along its body, sputtering in the wind. The sheet of flame it used as a face looked up intensely and, Hitomi thought, imploringly.

“Wait--!” Hitomi yelled, but it was too late. Chuckling with menace, Obari had already advanced on the Yuki-nin. With a single swing from both blades, crossing in front of him as if drawing curtains, he beheaded the shinobi. Flames vanished in smoke. Ice immediately turned to slush, then water. What was once their foe became nothing more than a steaming puddle.

“To the village!” Hitomi yelled. They had defeated the Yuki-nin, but the victory had brought with it an indescribable dread. Her feet crunched in snow as she ran.

Obari shrugged as Hitomi passed, then joined his neice. Hitomi imagined that her uncle followed not because of a matching sense of dread, but in hopes of finding another Yuki-nin. Her Uncle’s  lust for war was insatiable.

Hitomi charged ahead, around the bend in the rock. Surprisingly, the village appeared unharmed. Small, round huts made of clay bricks and yak hide littered the valley. Smoke from a handful of cook fires climbed towards the Sokenzan peaks far above. The scene looked as Hitomi had remembered it--slightly smaller and less grand than a child's memory perhaps, but familiar. Only one part of her memory was missing.

“Where are the people?” she asked Obari, who stopped to survey the scene. Her Uncle grunted. The two made their way into the village warily. Hitomi half her palms at the ready while Obari's blades spun with anticipation in his grip.

As they neared the perimeter of the village, a man appeared from behind a hut. He was of middling age and obviously thin as a reed beneath a fur coat and hat. The man seemed to notice the Hyouzan-nin’s battle stances, his eyes growing wide at the sight of weapons. He bowed deeply before them.

“Greetings, Hitomi and Obari Hyuuga,” he said hurriedly. “I bid you welcome to the village of your childhood. I am Hideaki Minematsu, apprentice to your father and sent to meet you. Only,” he looked up, his face again a mask of confusion, “where is the Guardian?”

“Guardian?” Hitomi asked, “We have met no one alive in these mountains save a small band of thieves two days ago and a Yuki-nin just now.”

“All are now dead,” Obari added.

“I see,” the man said, stroking his chin, “But this is most unusual. Your father anticipated your coming and so sent the Guardian to escort you... Yuki you say?”

“A Yuki-nin wielding ice and fire, yes.”

The man paled as if suddenly slapped.

“Where is my father?” Hitomi demanded. “He should be the one to welcome us if he knew of our coming. He is, after all, the one who requested our aid.”

“Your father!” the man exclaimed, his face near panic. “If you have defeated the Guardian... Oh! We must see Master Yamazaki!” Without another word, the man turned and sprinted into the village. Hitomi had only time to exchange an annoyed look with her Uncle before giving chase.

As he waded into the village, Hitomi noted a number of villagers returning to their lives. She guessed that they must have scurried into hiding upon hearing the sounds of battle, with Hideaki's voice signaling safety once more. Or, perhaps, the sight of two shinobi was no longer alarming. Nearby a man began working on repairing a roof while below him a woman ground a root into paste. Small packs of children appeared in various states of play. Within minutes, the village was alive and vibrant. More than half of the people watched the two brothers openly, their faces a mixture of smiles and appraising stares.

Hideaki ran to a large hut at the center of the village. Without ceremony he threw the hide doorflap open and disappeared inside.

“What is going on?” Hitomi shouted to whoever could hear. With a violent motion, she pushed the doorflap aside and followed, Obari at her heels.

Smells of incense and herbs assaulted Hitomi's nose. The inside of the hut was dark and simple, with no decoration nor furniture save a small wooden chest against a far wall. Scrolls and books were piled in places, along with a myriad of candles, lanterns, and quills. In the center of the room were piled furs, and within the furs lay a man.

Hideaki knelt at the man's side, cradling a frail hand to his lips. Tears wet his cheeks. As Hitomi's eyes adjusted to the candlelight, a sob tore itself from Hideaki's throat.

“Father?” Hitomi asked, approaching the furs. It was difficult to match the skeletal face before him with memories of her father. The man Hitomi remembered had been strong of shoulder, cunning in expression, with fierce black eyes and a proud, graying ponytail. Here was nothing more than a sack of skin stretched over bones, hair white and thin, mouth gaping and toothless. It looked as if something had leeched all vitality from her father, leaving a husk.

“He is dead!” Hideaki wailed. “Dead! The Guardian was a projection of him, summoned from his own heart. When you killed the Guardian, you killed...” Hideaki did not voice his thought before another sob wracked his body. “Oh! What will we do? Our village stands only because of your father's jutsu!”

Dead. Outside, Hitomi could hear that someone, a woman, had overheard Hideaki's wails. “Yamazaki is dead!” she heard her scream, then someone else exclaimed in terror. More voices joined the chorus, rippling outward across the village.

Behind him, Obari said nothing.

Hitomi's mind turned inward. The fire within her extinguished, leaving a cold pit. Dishonor and shame stained her vision. Hitomi could hear nothing but that hated word, repeating itself in a dozen different voices outside. Dead. Dead. Dead. Her father had summoned a Guardian, something of his own soul, to protect the village from Yuki. Yet even the great ninja feared failure, and had turned to his daughter and brother. I am weakening, he had written, and our village will fall to the Yuki without your aid. In calling for aid, Hitomi's father had only succeeded in dooming himself and his village.

Hitomi had seen countless deaths in the Yuki War, seen atrocities of every kind. Yet only once before had she faced the death of family, the arrow wound that Hitomi was sure had killed Obari. Her uncle's slow recovery from that injury had restored an unspoken belief in Hitomi that although death came to many in the Yuki War, it did not touch the Hyuuga clan.

Now her father, killed by her own daughters' hands. Killed by the hands of Hitomi and Obari Hyuuga.

Several moments passed. Suddenly Hitomi realized that the shouting outside and turned from shock to hysteria. Screams rose around the hut, most from people running past. Hitomi looked to Hideaki but the man was lost in his own grief, still clutching her father's hand and weeping. With a snarl, Hitomi stormed outside.

Chaos. Woven baskets lay overturned, their contents forgotten, as villagers ran in every direction. One woman, pushed from behind by a youth, stumbled and fell at Hitomi's feet. Her wide eyes focused on her red armor.

“Help us!” she cried. “The Yuki have come!”

Obari emerged from the tent, pointing. Hitomi's gaze followed the line made by Obari's finger, upwards and to the east.

Countless ninja, all probed in thick cloaks and furs leapt down the mountainside. A veil of snow and mist following in their wake. The tinge of frost crept across Hitomi’s second skin, sending a shiver down her spine.

“We fight?” Obari asked, his hooded eyes ablaze.

“We fight,” Hitomi agreed, clenching her fist. The fire within her had returned. “We must be the guardians now. Father called us here for aid and we have failed him, failed him miserably with murder. We failed Honda long ago, and Shinka as well. I will not fail again, Uncle. I swear here and now that these Yuki shall not touch a single hut nor harm a single child!”

Obari smiled, twirling his blades.

They attacked.

つづく

    Current date/time is Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:40 am