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He hated cold, rainy night. He hated them mostly because he was outside during them. The boy looked at himself in a puddle. He saw a boy of thirteen with brown eyes and black hair. He was tall for his age, towering above most other boys. He was on the run; the daimyo’s men were after him for stealing food. It’s not like he stole a huge amount, just enough to last him the week. And look where that got me, he thought. The rain started to change to snow. Great, now I have to find someplace to shelter, or risk freezing to death.
After searching for awhile he came across a ramshackle abandoned shed. The fields next to it were barren and depleted. The growing season must have been hard this year. Either that or the daimyo ran the powerless farmers away. I put my bet on the latter. He went inside the shed, cleared the hay away from the dirt floor, and lay down for the night, unaware that he was being watched.
When the boy awoke, there was someone leaning against the wall next to him. He was so startled he fumbled for the hunting knife in his boot. When he finally pulled it clear of the sheath, the stranger said, “If I wanted to kill you, I would have done so while you were sleeping.” The frightened boy didn’t believe him. He stepped back and got into a defensive position, holding his knife in front of him. The stranger just gave the boy a devious smile. He propelled himself forward, towards the intimidated boy. When he was just a couple steps away the stranger finally broke the silence. “Put that useless knife away. I have faced cutthroat warriors and you, boy, are nothing compared to them.” The boy gave him an untrustworthy look. He did make a point thought the boy, thinking back to what the stranger about killing him while sleeping. After a few moments, the boy finally decided to sheath his knife. “The name is Mamoru,” said the stranger. “I followed you far too easily; you’ll need to work on that.”
When he had rubbed the sleep out his eyes, he got a better look at the stranger. He wore a simple white kimono and a pair of black hakama. He looked battered and tired, as if each night he slept on the ground. He had several scars on his forearms and one on his left check, running the length of his jaw. “Why are you here?” asked the boy.
“I’m running from the daimyo, like you,” responded Mamoru.
“Who said I’m running from the daimyo?” retorted the boy.
“Do you sleep in abandoned barns everyday then?” questioned Mamoru with a smile.
“No,” the boy said, “but you still haven’t answered my question; why are you here?”
“I want your help.”
“Help with what?”
“I want you to help me take down the daimyo.”
“I would be happy to help with,” He said putting the knife back in his boot. ”I grew up without a family because of him. But how do I know that I can trust you?”
“We don’t have to trust each other, just help each other survive.”
The boy carefully considered his offer. I can’t survive much longer on my own, he thought, I guess I have no other choice. “Fine I accept your offer.”
“Good. But it seems I’m at a disadvantage,” said Mamoru.
“Really? How so?”
“You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
“The truth is,” said the boy, “I don’t have one.”
Orochi sat on his throne his face getting redder by the second as the sergeant read his report. The sergeant was in charge of a group that was supposed to be searching the forest for ninja. Many of the men in his unit were poisoned or shot by hidden archers in the night. “I will burn these forests. Burn them until the ninja are forced to flee,” thought Orochi. “Silence!” he ordered the sergeant. “You will take the rest of your men and burn the forest down. Kill any who survive.”
“How can you not have a name?” asked Mamoru.
“When my parents were killed, they hadn’t named me yet. After they died I ran away from my village, and I have been living out here since then.
“How old were you when they died?”
“I was only three years old.”
“It must have been hard, watching your parents die, knowing you could do nothing.”
“It was,” said the boy, “I still get nightmares.”
As they weaved in and out of the towering trees, they came across a game path and followed it to a clearing. As they neared the middle of the clearing, Mamoru said, “Stop.” He then shouted out, “Come out my brothers, you need not fear.” As he said this fifty figures appeared through the trees. “These are my friends,” Mamoru explained. “They have also pledged their support in bringing the daimyo to justice. “Come let us meet them.”
They walked toward the group. The boy saw that they were all wearing the same thing as Mamoru, except instead of a white kimono they were black. Mamoru introduced him to Mikio, his second in command and Hisashi, Mamoru’s brother. Mikio was big and tall and looked like he would have no problem crashing a boulder. Hisashi, on the other hand, was small and wiry, and was more adapted to climbing trees. The group called themselves The Resistance but the daimyo called them ninja. As the ninja set up camp, including several big tents and a large fire, the boy thought, I could get used to this. It’s almost like having a family.
“Wake up boy,” shouted Mamoru, “Today we start your training.”
“Training for what?” the boy questioned.
“I thought you wanted to bring the daimyo to justice?”
“I do, just not so early.”
“That’s too bad,” said Mamoru. The boy jumped out of his cot, freezing and wet.
As it turned out, training consisted of lifting weight while standing on one leg. When the boy fell over for the third time, Mikio asked, “Why don’t you try keeping your balance, eh?”
“I’m trying, I’m trying. It would be a lot easier without the weights.”
“But what would be the point of that? You wouldn’t learn to be strong and graceful; powerful, yet elegant; sturdy, yet fluid.”
“It would still be easier,” he mumbled.
When to boy finally went to bed that night, he was utterly exhausted. Still being watched, he fell asleep quickly, and the watcher prepared to send a message to his master; he found them at last