Summary: Her mission, from the beginning, had always been clear, but now towards the end, where lines are blurred and dreams are faded, she must overcome an obstacle she could have never foreseen. . . love. [Tenten & Shino – Neji & Tenten]
A eight year old girl smiled happily as her mother hummed to her as she brushed her hair. The little girl tried to mimic the song so that she could sing along, but it was choppy and off key, unlike her mother, who's voice was smooth and comforting. The mother giggled lightly as was her nature, when it came to her eldest daughter. “There you go,” the mother whispered as she placed the brush on the dresser and kissed the top of her daughter's head. “Now off to bed with you.”
“Okay,” the brown headed girl chirped as she jumped into her futon and looked out the window for a moment. The smile on her face grew larger as a man approached their home. “Dad's home!”
“Shh, not so loudly,” her mother asked of her. “Your sister is already asleep for the night.”
The little girl's big brown eyes widened as she cupped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry,” she whispered when she finally brought it down.
“Underneath the sheets now, okay.” Her mother held the pillow as her daughter pulled back her sheets and climbed in. Her mother than gave her back her pillow before tucking her in. “I'll send your father in to say goodnight and then straight to sleep with you, alright?” The little girl nodded before her mother left her room.
A few minutes later, her father came through the door. “I'm surprised you're not sleeping,” he said as he knelt by her side.
The little girl said nothing at first as she sat up and threw her arms around her father. “How was your day?” she asked before pulling away.
She looked curiously at her father as his smile slightly faltered. “It was fine. Just fine,” he assured her as he gestured for her to lay back down. He then took her little hand with both of his before he kissed it. “Know that I love you very much,” he began, his voice sober. “And I would do anything to protect you, your mother, and your sister.”
The little girl frown at her father's strange words. “Dad?”
“Go to sleep now,” was all he said before she could really ask anything. He then turned off her light and before closing her bedroom door behind him whispered, “Sweet dreams. Don't let the bedbugs bite.”
The little girl yawned as she turned in her bed and told him that she wouldn't. And her dreams were sweet, but they did not last long as late into the night she was awaken by the sounds of her father yelling. Curiosity taking over her, she slipped from her bed and cracked open her door. She could hear murmuring voices, but not exactly what was being said, so quietly she tip-toed down the hall and looked around the corner. Sitting completely in the dark were her mother and father and two men she recognized from her uncle's court by their uniforms. As they spoke their voices steadily rose until she could hear every word that was being spoken.
“I will not allow you to put my family through this!” yelled a dark haired man in the middle of the night to the two men who sat before him and his wife, it was her father. “My daughter is only a child. She hasn't even entered the academy yet,” he explained. “She can't do this.”
The visitor's eyes were filled with concern, but they went unseen as the small party spoke. “Please, my Lord-” the visitor had began.
“Don't patronize me with such a word. You want to suck up? You do it to my brother and my brother alone.” The little girl's father looked at the men angrily. “Now get out my home, Ukon.”
“Hirokaru-san, please, you must understand!” Ukon begged of him.
“Ukon,” came the gentle voice of Hirokaru's wife, Osen. “My husband has asked you very kindly to leave, so I suggested you do so,” she suggested. “Now if my dear brother-in-law would like to pursue this matter, may he face us himself.”
Ukon shallowed hard, his hand shaking as it came to rest on the stealth of his sword. His action was then followed by his companion. “I'm sorry, Hirokaru-san, but you must understand, we were told to ask, but if you declined once again. . . we were to take the child by force.” There then came a sharp grasp by both of the visitors.
Osen gave a low small laugh. “That's. . .” she looked to her husband, “what's the word?” she asked as the blade of her twin tantos had been placed at the necks of their visitors. “Amusing?” She then looked back to Ukon and the other. Her tone became deadly serious as she regarded them. “If you want to walk out of here with your lives, you will lay down your swords and tell my brother-in-law, if he is to take anything by force from me and his brother, not to send sniveling little boys in a rush to die.” She looked back and forth between the two. Now do you understand me?” she asked.
“You do not give enough credit to our Feudal Lord,” finally spoke Ukon's companion for the first time. “He knows of your skills and that of your daughters'.” The edges of his mouth then began to curl up as he tilted his head just a bit so that Osen could see the glint in his black eyes. “We were not sent alone.”
Osen's eyes widen as she immediately jumped back, her husband now standing by her side with his sword drawn as more than a dozen men entered their home.
“Stop it,” the little girl whispered to herself as she saw her parents being circled. “Stop it,” she said louder, but still no one heard her. And then as she opened her mouth to say the words again, blood splattered across the wall next to her. The girl was frozen for a moment as she watched her mother and father taking out the men from her uncle's court. She then watched as her mother was too occupied with three men in front of her to notice the one behind her. It was only then the girl's voice was heard. “Mom, watch out!” Her warning came just in time as her mother was able to counter the attack.
Osen's daughter was happy for only a moment before she heard. “Grab the girl!” She grasped and took a step back as she saw two men run towards her, but was taken by surprise as they only passed her. They were going after her sister! She then ran down the hall after them, screaming for her sister to get up and run, but it was too late as they entered her younger sister's room.
The girl ran down the hall after them, but froze in the doorway as she found herself surprised yet again. The two men were bowing before her seven year old sister, who hadn't been sleeping as their mother had believed, but fully dressed, sitting on her futon with a bag prepared. The sister stood and gestured for the men to stand. “What is going on?” the eldest sister asked.
“I knew this was coming,” the younger sister began as she approached the other. “Uncle will let you all live, if I do this willingly,” she explained.
“Do what?” the eldest sister didn't understand.
“I'll miss you,” was all the younger sister said as she hugged the confused girl. She then slid to the side as she went to leave out the door, but was grabbed tightly by the wrist by her sister.
“Why you? As the eldest, this should be my responsibility, whatever it may be,” she told her.
“The answer is simply,” she began as she turned around to face her sister. She then quickly grabbed her wrist in return, loosening the elder sister's grip on her before turning her around and kicking the inside of her leg, causing her to fall to her knees easily. With the eldest sister's arms pinned behind her back the younger one slightly bent over and whispered, “Because I'm better than you.” She then looked up to the men in her room. “Let's go,” she demanded and in a blink of an eye they were gone along with everyone else that had entered their home that night.
“Where is she?” Hirokaru yelled when he saw only one of his daughters. “Where's your sister, Morigami?”
Morigami, still in the position her sister had left her in could not answer her father's question, as she had not heard it. Her hands balled up into a fist as they violently began to shake and tears fell upon them. Morigami then threw up her head back as she yelled at the top of her lungs, in the hopes that her sister would hear her. “I will not lose to you!”
The younger sister sat quietly on the floor with her hands on her lap in front of the Feudal Lord, her uncle, as she waited his instructions.
He looked fondly at his favorite niece. “Your name for this mission will be Tenten.”
To Be Continued . . .