A dark, stormy night... [finished]
The wind howled violently, rain pattered across the ground and beat rhythmically on the thatched roof. It was just like any other night this time of year, except Toshiro couldn't sleep a wink. His two sons didn't seem to have any problem snoozing, but all he could think about was his deceased wife. The boys were too young to remember her when she died, so they weren't in nearly as much pain.
He peered out of the door, remembering the time he and his beloved ran barefoot through a storm just like this one having been caught in it unexpectedly. Her breath was still on his neck as if it was yesterday...
"Daddy?" the older of the two brothers, Yama, said, tugging on his kimono.
"What is it, shouldn't you be in bed?" Toshiro said lovingly.
"The wind is too loud, it woke me up."
Opening the door had obviously disturbed him. Toshiro told the boy to lie back down and try to go to sleep, but he took one more look outside just for the memory. Suddenly a black figure dashed from left to right only a mere two meters from the small house. At first it only earned his attention, too hard to see even at that distance, but the second time it was more than alarming.
Moments later, both his sons came running, they heard something that obviously had them frightened.
"Daddy, daddy, someone's banging on the shutters!" the two young children said in unison.
Slightly panicked, Toshiro didn't know what to do. Then a shuriken hit the door as he was closing it, snapping him out of his indecision. He slammed the door and told the boys to go hide as best they could. He reached for the sword kept under his bedroll and took up a defensive position against the wall next to the entrance. If anyone was going to come in, it would be through there, everything else would leave the attacker at a disadvantage.
It soon became clear these weren't just any marauders; they had more than basic knowledge of jutsu. Ice spears came bursting into the house from every direction, what was only a normal night had become a living nightmare. The roof was ripped to shreds, wood splinters flew around violently and within seconds the place was all but destroyed. Somehow the spikes missed Toshiro and both his sons.
The boys were cowering in the far corner under a blanket, which protected them from the debris. Toshiro had a piece of wood find its way into his leg, which was yanked out quickly with a yelp of pain. Rain was now pouring into the house, almost every direction was open to attack and there was no front door anymore. He made sure the kids were okay, and then tested his leg to see if he could still stand. Shaken, but ready to fight if only to protect the children, He shouted out into the cold emptiness surrounding them.
"Hey, you picked the wrong guy to mess with! Show yourselves! Give up! I might still be merciful!"
Toshiro had no idea how many there were, but he knew there was at least two. For a moment, everything calmed down; there was no sign of the assailants, just the relentless rain. He knew they couldn’t have just run off, but neither were they doing anything. The man stood up, watered down blood flowing from his leg. The wound wasn’t deep and he could still use it effectively, but the pain was sobering.
Stepping out from the ruined home, Toshiro drew his blade. It had been many years since he had wielded it, but feeling the hilt in his hand brought back all the training. A blood-thirst came over the man, his fear turned to anger and his anger to hatred. A hatred for those that blindly disregard life, for those that merely follow orders. This was no different than that night so long ago; only now the tables were turned.
It was a night just like this one, and his squad had been ordered to slay all the villagers on the outskirts of a town that was to be attacked the following morning. Toshiro could still see the fear in the eyes of the innocent, the helpless. When it came time for him to deliver the killing strike to a young mother, he hesitated. Seeing this, the squad leader shoved him aside to do it instead, but the young shinobi killed him before he could. The man slaughtered his entire unit that night, and the next ten years was spent running for his life.
These memories flooded into his head in an instant. They had been suppressed for so long, but now clear as crystal. He thought that it was long since forgotten, but now he realized these thugs were here for him. Why else would highly trained ninja be wreaking havoc on his small farm? Toshiro had stopped running, but they never stopped searching. His hunch was confirmed when he remembered the shuriken that hit the door, he didn’t think about it at the time, but it had that subtle shape in the unique style of his clan. This was a matter of honor for the clan; one of their own turned traitor and fugitive wasn’t good for reputation, but left unpunished was unacceptable.
Rage boiled inside Toshiro, he didn’t understand why they couldn’t just leave it and let the past stay in the past. Then to come to his home and threaten his children, these people must have a death wish. His hand gripped the sword tightly as his knuckles turned white, his eyes became murderous and his heart beat faster with each passing second. Bolts of lightning flashed above in rapid succession, and his heightened senses went right to work.
“One, two, three, four…five” He counted off slowly under his breath in a growling tone. “There are five…alright…time to die.”
The surrounding shinobi had no idea he’d seen them, thinking their crouched positions in the tall grass was more than enough to hide them. Their eyes adjusted to the darkness again after the display of flashes, still fixed on Toshiro. He just stood there, an easy target, but these assassins knew that he was anything but that. They wanted to at least make a move; they were here to kill him after all. He had been standing in that one spot for almost a minute now, as if to taunt them into attacking. Being fanned out like this it was hard for them to coordinate the next move, each just barely close enough to see the next.
Their leader was at the end of a three quarter circle on Toshiro’s three O’clock. He gave a series of hand signs to his subordinate nearest him, then that one turned to pass the message to the next. It was a flaw to be on the end like that, it would take longer for it to be passed along than if he had been in the middle and given the signal to two at once. Not that it could be changed now, the positions were set and the plan was to stagger each attack to throw their prey off guard.
The last one turned to get the signal, and then saw his comrade fall before it was completed. The shinobi snapped his head to see if Toshiro had moved or thrown anything, but he was still standing there as lifeless as a statue. Then suddenly he felt something press against his neck, and a cold voice told him to stay still.
“Who…who are you?! Help!” He cried in vain, expecting the team to come rushing to his aid.
“They can’t hear you, you’re all alone…” The voice was like that of death, the sound of the rain seemed to be muffled when he spoke.
The ninja peered out to look at the man still standing there unmoved, then turned ever so slightly to catch a glimpse of the man holding a sword to his throat. It was none other than Toshiro.
“But…how?! You never moved!” The shinobi looked back at the motionless figure standing in the field and suddenly it vanished in a puff of smoke with the next lightning burst. “A shadow clone?!”
It had happened just after the large chain of lightning strikes when Toshiro counted how many ninja there were. As each one turned to give the signal to the next, the last one who gave it was cut down. The lone shinobi put it together in his head, and realized they didn’t have a chance from the beginning.
“What incredible speed for us to not have seen you…” He said in amazement, mostly to himself.
The man gave him the headbands from his fallen squad.
“Go, take these back with you. Tell that cowardly clan to either stop this foolishness, or suffer my wrath. Next time I won’t be satisfied with just killing a squad…”
With that, Toshiro disappeared, the last member of the team sat clutching the four headbands of his closest friends. He looked up and saw a lumpy figure dash out of the house and off towards the mountains; a father carrying his two sons off to someplace dry. In that moment, the once ruthless Jounin realized that it wasn’t his lack of power which made him weak; it was his lack of honor.