Description: His life has taken him to many places. Tragedy and strife is the legacy of the Ryouhara. For some, it is a cost gladly paid. For a boy who remembers nothing, the only time he can even begin to understand who he was is in his dreams. But in the end, who is he?
"There are," the aging shinobi stated, "three types of ninkougakusha."
He never seemed to change, really. Though he was certainly nearing his late 40s, he had seemed so for as long as Seishirou's memory could serve. Severity does that to a man, and otousan had been severe for as long as the young boy's memory could serve, as well. The long kimono was worn loose around his shoulders, in shades of dark blue and white. The lower hem had extremely fine embroidery blending in flights of black crows at the edges, barely visible to the eye for want of contrast. Three of their leaved Ryouhara kamon surrounded the jacket, at the shoulders and the back, and the powerful flame ninkou Kasaigetsu was sheathed at his back.
"The first are the specialist types. These make up the greatest number of ninkougakusha in the clan. Typically, this type of shinobi does not use more than one or two ninkou, and they use complementary ninjutsu to augment and extend their ninkou's reach. Many external shinobi who elect to make use of our weapons fight in this way. But they do not have the dark blood of the Ryouhara, and will never achieve the same level of expertise that a Ryouhara will have."
"The second are the tactician types. Less talented with simple ninjutsu, like our clan's Ryuuouin, they make use of many smaller ninkou or ninkou with a more specialized purpose. While they may not have any great focus on any one technique, their versatility makes them unpredictable in a battle."
"You're that type, right?" Equal parts excitement and recognition lit Seishirou's voice. The number of ninkou Seishirou's father knew how to use was mind-boggling, and the young genin could count at least six on his person immediately.
"Aa," the aged shinobi confirmed, warmth touching his voice lightly as it so rarely did. "Except that I am not weak with our ninjutsu. It pains me that you made that comparison so fast.." he mused aloud, then laughed in a short bark when his son's face fell.
"Anyway. The third type are the developer type shinobi. They aren't specialized at all for combat, but they've mastered the five elements and three angles of ninkougakujutsu. They are the treasures of the clan, because they create our strongest weapons, the musou ninkou."
"Like the Shinseikasen in the tower?"
"Yes. Our clan's founder, Ikou Ryouhara, was the strongest type of developer, having great ability in both the creation and use of ninkou. Many strong ninkou persisted for many years after his passing, and those wielding them made able and influential generals. Therein is a lesson. The number of ninkou used or made has little relevance on overall fighting capability. Our Kagero group is composed mostly of specialist types. 'Awareness' is more important than any ninkou. --Seishirou."
"!!" At this point, Seishirou had become himself infatuated with the small paper ninkou he was given. As he brought his bodily energy to his hands, the small paper crow spread its wings slowly. As his chakra ran out, the bird's wings tucked again. It was easy to imagine greater techniques, to one day be capable of commanding a weapon like the Shinseikasen. But as his father called his name, the iron in his voice stiffened the young boy's spine.
His father, with all of the impersonality of the distant sphinx, still had a way of lending gravity to his conversations with his son. "Ninkougakujutsu is the practice of creating tools capable of miracles. With the five elements and three angles, we create weapons that are not weapons, and tools that are not tools. We create something more. You have the eye of a developer, maybe even a tactician. But without 'focus' and 'awareness,' your ability will flag, and your capacity will be built on mud. It is imperative you understand this."
= = =
He steps into the middle of the group. Amongst him are the purveyors of the night, little more than living shadows underneath his eye. People from all walks of life. The hacker. The pirate queen. The dagger. The hitokiri. The smuggler. The sparrow. The preacher. The schoolgirl. His apprentice. And...
Though none of them had faces, they were familiar to him in a way that words could not adequately describe. The room was dark, an expression of contrasts between the dark and the light. The contrasts cut across his form, inking out his gold eyes when he turned just right away from the brightness cast from above.
"Together, we have planned a great trespass. And now, we approach the eve. Our audacity, our ambitions... our idealism. The investiture of the new world is at hand."
Only a short time later, they say that boy died.
= = =
Silk twists and intertwines. A man, stripped of all pretense, bleeding and dangerous. A woman, calculating and ethereal, leaving nothing and everything to chance. Cool confidence is her wintry coat, as her pitched contention against the young man in his bed is decided in only a moment. Bonelessly, she pins him to the bed just as surely as he stretches her tight across it. A slim hand presses against his throat. A steel knife presses against hers.
She smiles at him.
"Good morning, I thought I should drop by."
"You already know how. You have me the means, after all."
Her warmth atop him and the invitation of her scent clashed violently in his mind with danger, alarm, and intrusion. She was alive unlike any other. And in truth, by any measure of the word, though he was still and quiet there was nothing about him that was 'calm' in that silk-strung moment.
"...you have a way," he managed barely, "of finding the ends of my blades."
Her words cut into his senses. "It keeps you...sharp."
= = =
Seizaemon Ryouhara is a shinobi of great and severe resolve. He was terrified of him the moment he laid eyes on him, that much you could tell. Seizaemon warned him exactly once, and only once, as it was not his way to brook any disobedience or disrespect, not even from a guest. Atop this, he was a master at arms. Most shinobi can only wield one or two elemental types of ninkou, but Seizaemon gained his lofty position over his brother by being able to wield at least six.
The first time he met him, Seizaemon had taken an instant disliking to him. Those who held the Ryouhara's dislike were in immediate peril. The shinobi was well known for his skill with sealing and transformative ninkou--one step with his Dosokuri, and an enemy's feet were sealed. Another step, and an enemy's legs could be turned to jade. The strength of the ninkou Kasaigetsu was not in casting prisons of flame like the the hypothetical musouninkou Kagutsuchi, but that it could directly transmute the inelemental to the elemental. A rock could be turned not into cinders, but to flames itself, by changing the nature of the chakra within and around the rock. This gave the small blade a potentially limitless cutting ability.
One of the first and simplest things Seizaemon could do, it had been explained, is immobilize the enemy with one step, cut off their escape with the second, and cut them in half with the third. It was called a 'three step killing,' and it was one of a hundred other different types of combinations Seizaemon knew...
= = =
It was cold up here at the top of the Bantiankong Chemical Building. Multiple researchers clambered over the massive cannon mounted to the roof. Outriggers made of stone and iron clamp to the building, extending over the side like a spider preparing to jump. Paper seals orbitted the weapon slowly, as several of the ninkougakusha kneeled in a semicircle around the weapon. Their hands were flat on the ground, and the scrawlings of men with purpose networked out from their hands to those outriggers. In lieu of the true power source of the weapon, those men and women were powering it with their bodily energy. But firing it under such a circumstance would probably take several of their lives to do.
"A weapon devised from your family's legendary technology, is it not?" the wheedling smuggler spoke. He stood not far away from Seishirou himself, his younger. "They say it can strike the wings from a fly from across Taizhou. That you could build such a weapon...!"
"The Shinseikasen is only as strong as its power source," the shinobi replied evenly. "Taking the work of others and scaling it up is no great feat. The Rengehou was created by the genius Ikou Ryouhara. It was used to great effect in the war that liberated my clan. That is a weapon worthy of praise."
White sleeves lifted, draping his arms in silk as the shinobi folded them. "Great crafts prove themselves by changing the course of history itself..."
= = =
"My hand.. I thought I could fix it.."
"You can't. Do you understand what this is?"
"The core of the Shinseikasen...."
"No. It is much more than that. While a ninkougakusha may see only crystallized chakra and fuuinjutsu, it is the heart of the strongest musou-ninkou ever devised by our clan. Harnessing weaponized incandescence to rival the sun, it was touched by the genius Ikou Ryouhara's own hands. Inside the focusing array atop the mountain, that weapon has protected our village since the marriage of Hirano to Ryouhara. You were lucky even to get so close. Merely touching it would be enough for you to disappear instantly in the consecrating white."
"Seishirou. You are still young. It is my hope that you three grow up to be fine shinobi engineers, and that you exceed the limits that fate has bestowed upon us. But you in particular must realize your limits. And... as for fixing it, only I can."
"But.. you've already done so so many times. you'll get hurt again."
"That is the burden I bear for our clan. One day, you should hope to find such a burden to bear for those you love. Sacrifice runs in our dark blood. It is... a price gladly paid."
= = =
This creature is cold and dead. Everything around her is is drained of vitality. Her eyes are evil, they say. They seem beyond human, beyond understanding. She is a beautiful thing, in the way that a body retains beauty just moments after its owner passes from this world.
When she speaks to me, she speaks to the worst parts of me. The parts that demand vengeance for everything that has happened to us. The parts that Iga would have us forget. She gets too close. She oversteps her bounds. And when she whispers in my ear, a hundred things come to my mind. She promises. She plies. She offers me everything. I believe she is able to give me everything. Even Arinori. She is from the clan whose name must not be spoken. She above anyone else in this world knows that a price must be paid for everything gained. It is hard to remember why I need to burn her away.
She knows the path to Hell. And everything that lay trapped there.
I feel like... I've been there before.
Even worse, I'm wondering why I shouldn't go back. What in this world is worth remaining for...
= = =
You are alone in a clearing full of crows, by the expanse of a large river. Like a dye, black bleeds into the wide, broad expanse. Eventually, the whole length of the thing as far as the eye can see resembles bubbling pitch. Harsh, unapologetic darkness consumes the river. The crows watch you closely. It is only because of them that you are able to spread your arms wide.
But even though you feel strong, like you can do anything, dread is a poisonous thing. As the dark liquid boils and bubbles before you, the insidious feeling worms its way into the deepest recesses of your heart. It is a squirming thing, thousands of ciliae flagellating against your soul as something unclean winds around it.
The thing that comes from the pitch is something feared, something primal. Something that comes from the inky black trailing drops of blood. With its appearance is worry, caution, and the sort of dread accompanying only the truly unknown wracks at your heart. The only thing that keeps you there--the only thing that keeps you from the fear--is a tiny thread of indignant anger. It seems like nothing in the face of something far beyond you, but the thread ties to everything you've ever known, leaving you with no other choice.
The creature before you is less than human, but more than an animal. It opens a hand that is one index finger too many and one thumb too few. The words are hurt, not as you'd expect. Betrayed. And with betrayal comes atrocity.
"Weak children have no place standing before warriors of real resolve. The moment you picked up that toy of yours, your life came to an end. Let us see how dark the Ryouhara blood really is.."
= = =
"Do you ever wonder why we're called the crows over the Shinano?"
They were a hundred paces into the lake, bare feet dangling over the edge of the footbridge. The water was warm this time of year, but not as warm as the air. The cool touch was refreshing, the flow of the water gentle enough that the fields of lotuses blooming on the water's surface danced gently about their legs.
They were young, those two, young enough that their parents would be out looking for them soon if they stayed much longer. But it was the end of a warm day, and the sunset was beginning to stir a breeze across the mountain. For some reason, it felt okay to stay here. Just for a moment more.
He thought about it. "Hey."
The small boy was the girl's junior, but not by enough that the insistence in his voice held no importance to her. She blinked slowly, keeping her composure. He realized she had been thinking about his question the whole time, even if she didn't outwardly show it. She looked at him, light brown eyes focusing keenly. Much more like that of a hawk than a crow, if he'd had to guess. Hawks were beautiful, and strong.
"You know," he repeated. "Why are we called crows? And the river's not even called Shinano here.."
"Well," she started, thinking aloud. "I've heard that.. it's because a really important person almost died in the north. And now we watch the river from on high out of respect."
"Aaa," the boy complained, scrunching up his face. "That doesn't make any sense! --itte--"
The girl had just poked the boy in the nose, silencing further objections. "Sei-kun. I think it is something that you need to be a little older to understand, ne?" Of course, she laughed when she saw his hurt expression.
"Still seems weird," he protested. "We could be something better, like wolves. Or even owls...I hear they fly so silently, you wouldn't hear even if they were on top of you..!"
But by now, the older girl was paying little mind, instead looking towards the sunset. Even Seishirou trailed off when he noticed the way the golden light played off of her dark hair. Her silver hairpin shimmered in the light, causing motes of it to dance off of his hands, clasped in front of his lap.
"Naa," she thought aloud, staring into the distance. "..do you suppose we're all just made to fill a role in the world?"
= = =
It lasts 94 seconds. It appears on store display flatscreens and living room televisions alike. Military communications are jammed as the signal appears on almost every radio frequency, causing cell phones and satellite TVs to temporarily become unusable. The massive video billboards in Metro Square and Shibuya in Southtown are blasted with static as three lilting tones clears the air across the entire world.
The static clears, but only just so. A grainy full-color image of three leaves swirling around a center appears, replete with artifacts and the 'travelling line' crosstalk noise. They are errors in both digital and analog broadcast, as if the signal has had to travel through several mediums before arriving.
The symbol disappears, cutting to a dark room with a single light. Underneath that light, the face of Ryouhara Seishirou appears, pristine, as if he were still alive. "I am Ryouhara Seishirou," he says plainly.
"And I am sick of this world."
"Every day you live your lives as if you have nothing to govern you. Weak willed petulants who only know how to bully the weak and the infirm. Politicians, thugs and whores, who know nothing of real sacrifice and a world without limitation. This world must be properly civilized. My colleagues and I will build a new land, one where even the lawless obey law. The old world will be the battleground. On it, I declare war."
"The weapon I will use to wipe the slate clean is Katsuten: Hiroshima. With it, I will bring a revolution to the world unlike any before, and reset the natural order of things. I invite everyone strong enough to enter my Nirvana to witness the will of history itself."
The screen changes. A litany of news reports flicker across the screen, snippets of official-sounding voices filling the otherwise dim room. "The suspected terrorist Seishirou Ryouhara--" "--multiple bombing incidents throughout the world--" "--his group has claimed responsibility--" "--hacked recording of the terrorist leader--" "--believed to have been killed in a vicious gang war--" "--has taken over the entire city of Taizhou--" "--reports indicate that he may have access to a new kind of nuclear-style weapon--" "--fighters from all over the world have entered the city--" "--the Chinese military is attempting to stabilize the situation--" "--how much of this remains the terrorist's planning--" "--Is he still alive?" "--does he walk among them in Taizhou?" "--international intelligence experts remain unclear--" "--this wouldn't be the first time--" "--does Seishirou Ryouhara still live?"
The screen shuts off.
A small child stands in front of the television, a young boy with long hair, and a haunted expression. The remote control for the television is loosely grasped in one hand, as the stares at the fading luminescence left on the screen over the next several seconds.
"A.... ...am I... still alive? Who am I.."
"Come away from there, Seishirou."
The voice is warm, familiar to him. She continues, caring. "It's been a long time... and you promised me so much."
= = =
Memories collide with ideas. Idealism is a hard thing to define. She is the opposition. She is the wall that impedes the idealists. I only know of her based on stories I've been told. This is the truth.
She is a woman of principles. The world has crushed her, left her only a thin image of what she could be. She was raised as nothing and no one, left to survive on her own. Those such as these are whom will form the basis of the idealists in the future. Her strength and potential are great. That is why she must be eliminated.
But she is important. Does that mean I should hurt her, more than any other has been hurt? She is someone whom I owe a debt to. I am clearer than ever before, but she remains a ragged impression. ... something is wrong with me.
I do not know what to think of her.
= = =
The song was the only one worth playing on the lute. He drifted somewhere over the ruined shrine, the paper lanterns swaying against the mood of the otherworldly storms threatening to tear the whole world apart. It was a type of utajutsu, he knew. The other boy sat stop the ruined shrine playing the stone lute that would tie together the idealists in the next world. Something to do with the time spheres... but there, he couldn't begin to understand what that other boy had done.
He was him, but he could no more understand that boy's methods than he could understand his motivations. How could he? The other boy was so much better than he. But there was one thing he could recognize. The song itself.
It was a song the other boy's mother used to sing.
Wordless, the tune still carried through the ages. A song about a mother's pride for her children. A song about seven baby crows. It was an inimitably familiar song, played slow and sad in the Ryouhara style. The song took on a different meaning from the nursery song, when played that way. A meaning that only reached him.
The song would tie together the idealists, and he would find them ...in whatever came next.
= = =
The wall extended past for as far as the eye could see. Thick stone slabs erupted from nowhere and remained indomitably high. From the crenellations at the top of the wall, outcroppings suspended lanterns hung from short chains. The lanterns swayed ominously in the cold wind that ripped across the featureless plain. Words were carved into the wall; the only words that meant anything to him. The mnemonic that described for him in no uncertain terms who he was.
I am Seishirou Ryouhara. I am the last light of the Ryouhara shinobi clan, and the strongest practitioner of the familial style, 'ninkougakujutsu.' With my ability, I represent the cold and the destitute, those left behind by this world of tyranny, those known as 'roudoushakaikyuu.' I and mine are the unseen hands of history. There is no limit to this. The shadow war will go on forever, and there is still work to do.
The words repeated across each inch of the slabs, and went on forever. The young boy looked up to the sky, and saw nothing. He looked to the ground, and saw notthing but his blood, terminating abruptly at the wall, which was truly the only thing of note. Just that wall, and those words. He heard a very faint, sad song, about a mother crow's children. It was the only thing other than the wall. And he didn't mind.
Why would he be anything other than this? How could he?
The truth had proven itself, time and time again, he knew. He had stood here many times before. It was better to be nothing at all. To be the the will of history. Whatever was beyond the wall was not the mission. It was unimportant.
He turned away from it all, putting on his helmet of war.
And then, he walked into the endless black.
= = =
"Nii-san. Oi, nii-san!! Hey, he won't wake up...!"
"Aaa. Seishirou, you're such a lazy one. Wake up!"
Warm light and a cool breeze flooded the room.
"Feel that? You can't sleep through that. The light, the wind, the smells, the sounds and the sky...it makes everything feel fresh and brand new this morning. This is a day worth chasing, don't you think?"
Words full of dauntless optimism and bold idealism. Even half-awake, listening to her was like standing on a bridge in autumn at dawn and looking over. She always spoke like that.
"When you grow up, you'll always remember mornings like these, where you were safe and your whole life was laid out ahead of you. Knowing you two, you'll both be causing all kinds of trouble. That's okay, though. You're not perfect.."
"...but I know you'll make us proud."
Log created on 07:43:16 08/01/2016 by Seishirou, and last modified on 07:47:10 08/01/2016.