[Of Tales and Tastes] The Candymaker - Prologue & Chapter 1
Of Tales and Tastes
Savor Life. Be it Sweet or Sour, it's just matter of Taste.
Far before the establishment of the great Village Hidden in the Mist, the Water Country was a dangerous feudal land, divided between bloodthirsty demons and shadow lurkers, birthed by the gargantuan Maternal Mist. Between skirmishes, wars and massacres, the shinobi began to fall under different territories. Each clan would rule lord-like, their area of influence directly proportional to their power. And in that era, far from an alliance, the clans began showing an unspoken treaty of tolerance, fragile in its nature. Small settlements began appearing in neutral grounds, on the outskirts of clan-ruled lands, establishing themselves as inter-cultural points of exchange and communication.
The settlement of Yuugyo was located in the southwestern corner of the Water Country's main island. It served as communication in and out of the Otafuku peninsula, ruled by the great Hozuki clan and the great Kaguya clan, ancient enemies. The settlement was in charge of Temujin Otaghen, an influential young man of humble origins. The times were prosperous to both clans and the settlement, yet a threat came in like a plague. The Maternal Mist bore a devious demon and let it loose. The beast soon became known as the Candymaker, a name whispered in panic and yelled in secrecy, as it extended its territory to the whole of the peninsula. And peace fell prey to the monster.
Amidst the darkness, a stray dog bore its teeth at the caramelized meat beneath it. Gnawing on the charred black flesh coated in brown liquor, the famished beast tore it down ravenously, until it was frightened away by a piercing scream of a woman. It scurried away into the shadows, abandoning the treat. All but a tender chunk. A caramelized human hand.
The soggy wood planks protested under the weight of the man rising to the improvised pulpit. Around him, a diverse audience of sparse shinobi were gathering. Contrastingly, the man showed an engaging and assuring smile. His handsome features and broad stature were striking, and the shinobi grew calmer with his presence. The growl of the gathering grew dimmer until silence filled the morning mist. As he stood in front of the people, the man's expression became more rigid and serious. And in a strong Baritone voice, he spoke.
"It is with greatest regret that I give my bitter condolences to the clans of the victims. Yet I can assure you. We will catch the beast. And when we do, we will take justice into our own hands. It will be slow, and it will be sweet."
His brows stroke down with determination, before his expression loosen into a comforting smile. The rustling of the crowd grew once again, until a woman rose her voice and shouted:
"An’ how’d you say we should catch th’Candymaker?"
The crowd grew restless and loud, with several children cries and accusatory protest. The woman's grimy skin, pale blue, was glistening against the refraction of light from the morning dew, and her black eyes were bright with malice. An Hozuki no doubt. The man cleared his throat, and the chaos subdued again.
"Well, the answer is sugar-clear. We need to put our differences aside, and come together as a unified front against the threat."
The chaos ensued again, as the shinobi's opinions split in two. The handsome man patiently waited, keeping his gaze upon the Hozuki woman, until something caught his attention. He parted his lips and let in a great gulp of air, before turning south to meet the group or white haired people that approached the improvised plaza.
The new arrivals silenced the crowd once again, until the most prominent of them stood face to face with the man.
"A unified front."
"Yes, Kemono. That is what I propose."
Both man stared down at each other in brimming determination and heavy silence. The crowd around paled before their interaction. Kemono then spoke.
"Very well." He said, looking around the plaza, before resuming the eye contact with the man. "The Kaguya lend their power to you, Otaghen"
The statement calmed the conflicting crowd, until the Hozuki woman barked again, pointing an accusatory finger to the white haired man.
"So now the Kaguya act?! Yer people start dyin’ and all of the sudden we all-"
A loud slap was heard through the crowd, spilling water across the floor. Struck down, the Hozuki woman fell at the feet of the pale man before her. His blue hair and sly stature denounced him as the head of the Hozuki clan.
"Know yer place, Milia. Ye’re a woman. Behave."
The thin man stepped forward towards the opposing men. With a sleazy smile plastered across his face, the man spoke.
"I believe this union’ll benefit we all. I appreciate yer cooperation, Kemono, Otaghen. And I, Ayu of the Hozuki Clan, will do so too."
Shaking his slimy hands with each men, Ayu took his leave, followed by members of the Hozuki clan. With a courtesy nod, Kemono left in a different direction, followed by the Kaguya. Little by little, the crowd thinned down, until no one stood in the plaza but Ota and the Hozuki woman. He approached her and lowered his stance, to meet her eyes. It had not the malicious eyes of a slimy dog, but a glistening obsidian chrome. Ota reached her cheeks with the sleeve of his cloth, cleaning the tear pathway. His eyes showed compassion and his presence was suiting. Locking eyes, he confirmed her vulnerability, before she masked it with a determined and angry expression.
"I don't know what ye want, Temujin Otaghen, but I’ll bring ye down and rise the Hozuki clan back to its deserved place"
"I know, Milia. And I will be here."
The woman stood up and left into the shadows of the mist. Left alone in the plaza, Ota smiled to himself. The day started very sweet.