Gathering Clouds, Chapter 10

  • Chapter 10





                           ‘Why do I have to team up with a complete scamp like you, anyway?’ Ambarro’s voice was furious.


                    ‘What makes you think I’m any happier with this arrangement? You’re more likely to stab yourself than to eliminate the target,’ came the reply in Harrow’s colder, more even tones.


                    ‘Now, now, the two of you,’ Diia was the mediator as usual. ‘Takarro-ri will get angry if he hears us arguing.’


                    Takarro and Jorra had heard them minutes ago already. The Grandmaster shot his glaucous subordinate a reproachful look. Jorra flushed, embarrassed.


                    ‘I’m truly sorry, Grandmaster,’ he apologised. ‘I’ve yet to be able to teach Ambarro proper manners...’


                    The doors to Takarro’s office banged open. The white-furred elder Po’ Tun raised his eyebrows. Jorra braced himself for the worst.


                    Ambarro strode in, arms outstretched. ‘Hey, Grandpa!’


                    ‘Augh, Ambarro-to…’ Diia buried her face in her hands. Even Harrow looked away, shuddering inwardly. The imbecile is done for.


                    Ambarro winced as Jorra swooped down upon him from behind Takarro’s desk and rapped him hard on the head.


                    ‘Have you taken leave of your senses? Even if we ignored how you practically kicked the door down as you entered, to address the Grandmaster himself as “Grandpa” is completely… is utterly… it’s…’ Jorra threw his hands up in despair as he bowed his head at Takarro. ‘Takarro-ri, I make no excuses for my-’


                    ‘Oh, forget it,’ Takarro couldn’t help but laugh. ‘A grandson calling his grandfather his grandfather doesn’t exactly call for a court-martial.’


                    ‘Thank you, Grandmaster,’ Jorra said, relieved. He bent his head down to the young Po’ Tun’s ear and, in a low voice, growled, ‘Hurry up and thank Takarro-ri for his generosity.’


                    Ambarro blinked twice without understanding, then shrugged and said loudly, ‘Thanks, Grandpa!’


                    Harrow stared at him in disbelief. Diia let out a sound that was somewhere between sob and giggle. Jorra closed his eyes for a couple of seconds, then sighed heavily as he returned to Takarro’s side.


                    The kits were eleven years old now, and it was time for their first mission. Shinobi mission arrangements were flexible, but their first assignment was always executed in a group of three of the same year, with one selected as the leader. The mission would not be overtly difficult, and, unbeknownst to the kits, a second unit followed them to evaluate their performance.


                    The Grandmaster studied this newly formed team intently. His duties often kept him busy, and he saw little enough of the village’s children. Harrow stood to attention, his back straight, legs slightly apart and hands clasped behind his back. His raven hair was tied into an Akaviri samurai’s topknot, revealing ears flared up into points. His features had grown delicate and soft - he was almost the spitting image of his mother, but with none of the hard angles betraying his elven blood. Takarro was already thinking of possibilities for undercover work. His nose was small, celestial. A sharp chin completed his heart-shaped face. His dark grey tunic was bound tight with six belts around his petite frame, and behind his wide eyes and dark eyelashes, his silver glare could cut glass. No one could mistake him for a Nord now, but Takarro could see a ghost of Arngrimur around his brow and temple.


                    Ambarro switched his weight from one foot to another and back again, obviously impatient. His hazel eyes darted all over the office. His black fur was unkempt. He wore the same style of tunic as Harrow and Diia but hadn’t bothered to tie his belts at all, so the article hung loosely off his shoulders, allowing the fabric to run over the lines of his body whenever he moved. Despite his young age, the layers of muscle around his limbs were firm and strong thanks to his constant training. His whiskers twitched, then his nose, and then he yawned. A small white streak had begun to grow at the back of his head. Over the next century, that streak would slowly grow until Ambarro’s entire pelt became white as snow, as it had always been in Takarro’s family.


                    Diia’s own pelt was a sheen of honey-brown. The days of Po’ Tun only bearing shades of black, grey and white were long over. The Shadeclaws mingled quite freely with the Khajiit once upon a time, until some long-forgotten argument arose with their Mane and the shinobi became shunned. The girl obviously had more Khajiit blood than most – she was lither and more catlike than the others. Diia stole a worried glance at Ambarro. Her eyes were soft orange almonds, and a light stripe ran down the right side of her face. The asymmetry was quite endearing.


                    Silly old cat, Takarro berated himself. Back to the task at hand.


                    ‘Children,’ he said. ‘You have all grown well. If all goes as planned, your first mission begins tomorrow. I am proud to count you among my fellows of Tsukikage… but before you become shinobi in full, you must face one final test.’


                    Ambarro immediately asked, ‘What test?’


                    The Grandmaster began studying the three again as he stroked his goatee thoughtfully without answering.


                    ‘You’ll find out tomorrow,’ Jorra said, after an awkward silence.


                    ‘As Jorra-jo says. Report to this cave south of the Moonstone Gates tomorrow at noon. You will receive further instructions then. Dismissed.’


                    Harrow and Diia bowed, and the kits left the Grandmaster’s office. Takarro heard the boys renew their argument.


                    ‘I’m not quite sure putting them in the same unit was a good idea.’


                    ‘They won’t face much danger. They’re shadowed by another team, after all. Besides, Grandmaster, this is a good opportunity for the two boys to move past their differences.’ Jorra replied.


                    Takarro huffed. ‘Well, I’ve already agreed and made the arrangements, so it’s too late for regrets now. Let’s see how they do in the test tomorrow first.’


                    ‘So what do you think this test is going to be about? I wonder why we have to go so far from the village to some cave to do our test.’ Ambarro asked as they stepped out into Tsukikage. It was late morning, and the gutters were slick with melted snow.


                    Harrow, already tired of trading words with him, replied absentmindedly, ‘How should I know? Don’t be late tomorrow.’


                    ‘Humph!’ Ambarro crossed his arms and looked away pointedly. Then he said, in much softer tones, ‘You too. I’d hate to see you taken off the team.’


                    That got Harrow’s attention. He turned and raised an eyebrow.


                    ‘Don’t get me wrong,’ Ambarro stuttered, the fur on his nape ruffling as he went slightly red. ‘I’m only worried for Uncle Jorra. I don’t know what he sees in you, but he would be very disappointed if you were to flunk… or something…’ His stammering got worse as Diia smiled and bumped his shoulder.


                    Harrow’s face was unused to major expressions, but there was a shadow of a hint of a smile as he nodded and, without a word, walked away from the other two.


                    ‘Off to the library again instead of doing real practice, I’d wager.’ Ambarro sniffed as he pressed his arms tighter together. ‘The brat never works hard at all. Thinks he’s some kind of genius.’


                    ‘You can try to make up for it now, but that won’t work on me,’ Diia said, her smile widening as she tilted her head at him. ‘You just said something nice to Harrow-to. So you see, you can be friendly.’


                    Ambarro harrumphed and twiddled his fingers. ‘Anyway, we ought to train for whatever test we have to-’


                    ‘Changing the subject so easily?’ she teased.


                    ‘Diia, please!’


                    ‘All right, all right,’ she laughed. ‘Let’s head to the dojo. We could spar and go through the training runs there. I’ll try to help you with the stealth course, you barely passed the last one.’


                    ‘You’re the best,’ Ambarro beamed at her. Diia felt heat suffuse her cheeks for some reason. Now she was the one who felt like stammering.


                    Master Mokko had just finished a session. The pair could tell from the line of bloodied and bruised kits coming out of his training hall. Not wanting to draw his attention, they crept around the doors. Mokko sighed and called, ‘I can see why you failed your infiltration test six times.’


                    Ambarro flinched, and they both stood straight and walked normally to an adjacent room.


                    ‘That was embarrassing,’ Ambarro said, picking at his fur. ‘Should we get started?’


                    ‘Let’s get warmed up,’ Diia said, bowing and dropping into a low stance, her hands bent but not quite fists. ‘Ready when you are, Ambarro-to.’


                    Ambarro cracked his knuckles and flew at her with a kick. She caught his leg with a hand and flipped him over. He slapped his hands on the floor, rebounding from his fall and launching an elbow at her chin. She dodged to the side and snapped her own leg up, forcing him backwards. Three quick jabs followed the kick, one of them catching Ambarro in the shoulder. He used the momentum to leap backwards, and Diia pressed forward. Ambarro flipped backwards twice more, until he ran out of room. He planted his legs on a wall and rocketed forwards, catching Diia by her arms and slamming her to the ground. She rolled off to dampen the impact, then rolled again to her feet and delivered a hammer blow to his sternum.


                    Their dance continued on until they were both sticky with sweat and gasping for breath.


                    ‘I think we’re all warmed up now, wouldn’t you say?’ Ambarro panted.


                    Wiping her forehead, Diia agreed. As Po’ Tun, the pair naturally perspired less than the unfurred races, but their tunics still clung damply to their bodies.


                    ‘Right,’ she agreed. ‘Let’s go for projectile training after we’ve rested up a bit.’


                    Ambarro nodded, and sat down heavily. It took only a few minutes for their breathing to steady, and they spread out two paper targets over a wall pockmarked with grooves and holes.


                    Diia flexed her forearm and slid a cluster of throwing needles from her sleeve holster. Ambarro’s hands twitched, and half a dozen shuriken appeared between his fingers.


                    The darts flashed through the air, and throughout the morning and the afternoon, the targets slowly became peppered with even more holes.


                    Harrow was meditating by himself in his chambers. He sat in the lotus position, hands placed on his thighs, eyes closed. A wisp of incense smoke curled around his topknot, and candlelight flickered around the room. It was the dead of night, and a sliver of moonlight fell across his face from a gap in the paper window. Meditating was his favourite pastime besides reading. It was the one time when his head was free of any and all errant thoughts, and he cherished this state of mind even more than he did sleep.


                    The last of his incense stick burned out. The smell lingered in the air for a while, then dissipated out of the window. Harrow opened his eyes slowly, then stood and shook the stiffness out of his body.


                    They will expect a shinobi to be stealthy as well as capable in both physical and magical combat. The test will most likely be of my skills in these areas.


                    He raised a hand and conjured a small globule of electricity. Concentrating, the young elf split it into several strings, then twisted it into a helix. He straightened it, then curled it into a circle and allowed it to fade. His command of Shock magic had grown greatly since last year, and manipulating electricity-infused Magicka into various shapes no longer posed a challenge to him. In fact, he found the exercise quite calming.


                    Harrow’s equipment was kept in a chest in a corner of his room. He opened it now and took out an Akaviri katana, three feet long. The steel was well-worked but unenchanted.


                    A common myth among the peoples of Tamriel was that the Akaviri katana was the sharpest sword in existence, and so these already rare relics garnered an almost mythological reputation amongst collectors and mercenaries. A katana was really just another sword. And swords need to be polished and honed, Harrow thought as he reached for a rag, a waterstone and some flaxseed oil.


                    As he went through the monotonous, repetitive motions of grinding dust and grit off the blade, he also went through all that he had learned over the years in his head. Footwork and balance, how to move while conserving energy, how to blend into the shadows, how and when magic should be used, the various different tools of the shinobi – which ones to kill with, which ones to cause distractions with, and when the two are interchangeable.


                    He wiped the last of the flaxseed oil off the sword, cleaning the gleaming metal with a damp cloth. There were four candles around him. He breathed out and swung the katana around him in a perfect circle. The room went dark as he sliced off the burning tips of the candle wicks. Not a drop of wax touched the floor.


                    The katana went into a dark wooden scabbard he fastened around his waist. Harrow paused as he looked over the other weapons in the chest – he never liked using projectiles. I have magic if I need to cause distractions. After a brief moment of consideration, however, he slipped some smoke pellets and shuriken into his sleeve pouches. Best I be prepared nonetheless.


                    Harrow went to the window and pulled it up, allowing silver light to wash into the room. He had always wondered why Tsukikage was so named. The Village Under the Shadow of the Moons was never truly dark. The clouds were always sparse atop Mount Furiya, and soft moonlight shone on the cobbled streets and rooftops every night, illuminating the snow that floated gently down.


                    Are you watching from Aetherius, Mother, Father? Can you see me, wherever you are?


                    He shook himself. Those were weak thoughts. He had a mission tomorrow, and whether or not two people he had never known were looking at him mattered not one bit. He knew that. He knew that, but yet he still found himself pulling open his desk drawer and taking out the painting again.


                    Jorra had purchased it six years ago from the Summerset Isles and preserved it in a scroll. A portrait of Valesse, drawn almost six decades ago, when she was barely over twenty years old. Harrow’s hands trembled slightly as he unfurled the scroll for the thousandth time and beheld, once more, his mother’s face.


                    She had a light smile on her face, as if she was trying to keep down laughter at some obscene joke. Black tresses cascaded over her bare neck. The portrait was drawn from an angle, and Valesse was peering sideways with her vibrant green eyes. The artist had depicted her with a diadem set in her forehead, holding her hair back.


                    This is the only image I have of your mother, Jorra had said, looking apologetic. This was painted when your mother was still an apprentice in the Isles. It was a very long time ago, well over fifty years, but I can attest that Valesse-ko still looked much the same when she… well… I’m sorry, Harrow. This was all I could find for you. I’m no artist, or I would have drawn you your father myself.


                    Harrow had thanked Jorra over and over again for the better part of an hour that day, and spent an entire evening studying the painting. He was in better check of his emotions now, though. My father and mother are dead. They were my father and mother for barely a day. The test and the mission tomorrow are what matters. His face was a mirror and his heart a still lake as he put the scroll back into the drawer.


                    They gathered in front of the cave the following day, as they were told. It was exactly noon when Jorra appeared behind them, looking grim.


                    ‘Hey, Uncle Jorra!’ Ambarro was as energetic as ever. ‘Let’s get this test over with, eh?’


                    ‘Hello again, Jorra-jo,’ Diia said, in much politer tones.


                    Harrow greeted Jorra as well, noticing that he didn’t look as carefree as usual. Is the test so intimidating?


                    ‘Follow me,’ the older Po’ Tun said, walking into the cave.


                    Their surroundings darkened quickly as they went deeper and deeper into the rock. A normal person would never be able to find his way through the Shadeclaw tunnel system in Mount Furiya without a torch, but the kits’ two years of living blind had weaned them off reliance on sight. The differences in air pressure was enough to guide them through the tunnels.


                    The passageway led out to a large, circular cavern. There were two iron doors to the left and right of the circle. Jorra stopped at the middle, in front of three corroded metal chairs. ‘Draw your weapons.’


                    A pair of kunai spun into Diia’s hands. Ambarro pulled one out from his tunic as well. Harrow grabbed the hilt of his katana and it slid out of the scabbard with a rasp.


                    A thought struck him and he tensed. ‘We’re… not supposed to fight you, are we?’


                    Diia and Ambarro’s eyes widened. All three of them took a step back, looking wary. Diia raised her daggers, guarding her head and torso, Ambarro spread his knees to lower his centre of gravity, and Harrow lifted his sword above his shoulder.


                    Jorra took a long breath and let it out. ‘No,’ he answered after a few seconds. ‘You’re not. This test is really very simple.’


                    He went into the room on the right, leaving them standing there in combat stances and feeling quite foolish. He came out dragging three limp figures with sacks over their heads. They were dressed in nothing but ragged trousers. The kits stared at Jorra as he sat the figures and bound their hands and feet to the chairs. Ambarro shifted, uneasy.


                    Jorra pulled the sacks from the figures’ heads and shook them awake. A Dunmer, a Khajiit, and a Nord. All three were gagged. Tears and snot ran down their faces.


                    ‘You have learned a great deal, my young shinobi. For you, taking a life is now as simple as a flick of the wrist.’ Jorra gestured at the captives. ‘These are men that our superiors have deemed targets. Flick away.’


                    The captives had begun to thrash around and moan, their cries muffled by the gag. Diia looked sharply at Jorra. ‘Jorra-jo. Tsukikage does not target innocents. Who are these people?’


                    ‘A father, a son and a husband. The Dunmer in front of you has a daughter around your age. His wife passed away when the girl was only two. He sews dolls of cloth for her by day and reads her stories by night. Every night she asks him for more, her head filled with tales of gallantry and adventure. He always stays to tell her another story, until her head nods and she is sound asleep.


                    ‘The Khajiit in front of you, Ambarro, has a mother who was once a slave. The slavers beat her cruelly and her wits became dulled. The Khajiit grew up knowing the fear of always looking over his shoulder. He helped his mother escape. She is old now, and incapable of feeding herself. He brings her food every day, coaxing her gently to take her meals. He works hard to meet his quotas, so he can ensure his mothers’ last days are spent in peace.


                    ‘Finally we come to the Nord. He was an officer in the Imperial Legion in the Great War. When the war was over he went home to Skyrim and married the love of his life. They had a son. Five years ago their son died of disease. He lives in seclusion with his wife, who has gone insane with grief. He still tries to talk to her as if they were newlywed, and buys children’s toys and clothing to convince her that their son is still alive. Sometimes it works. Sometimes she goes into a fit and almost chokes on her own vomit.’


                    Jorra studied the kits as he spoke. They were gazing at the bound men, their faces working as they clenched their fingers. None of the three moved.


                    ‘Uncle Jorra,’ Ambarro frowned. ‘You don’t honestly expect us to kill them, do you?’


                    ‘If you don’t want to bloody your hands, simply open that door to the left, cut their bonds and tell them to run.’ Jorra pointed to the door in question. The captives turned to look. Their moaning and struggling intensified. The Khajiit began to sob and the Dunmer started mumbling incoherently. The Nord leant from side to side, trying to get free, but his chair was bolted to the floor.


                    ‘So what’s the other end of the story?’ Harrow asked, his face settling into an expressionless mask.


                    ‘Perceptive as always, Harrow,’ Jorra said quietly. ‘The Dunmer is a necromancer. Over almost fifty years he has murdered a hundred people and abducted twice that number from their homes for his experiments. The Khajiit is a slaver himself, one of the largest traffickers in Elsweyr. He has sold countless of his countrymen, young and old, into slavery and prostitution. He does meet his quotas quite often. The Nord is the head of a bandit clan that operates just off the foot of the Jeralls. His band specialises in sacking caravans carrying rich tourists and is known for leaving absolutely no survivors.’


                    Ambarro’s expression of revulsion had been replaced with one of conflict. Jorra paused to give them time to think, then said in even lower tones, ‘These are your targets. Make your choice.’


                    Diia did not hesitate. She shoved the tip of her kunai under the Dunmer’s chin and flicked her wrist. The necromancer slumped in his seat, gagging and choking, life leaving his body in great red spurts.


                    Ambarro stood still on the spot, his back covered in cold sweat. The Khajiit stared straight at him with eyes filled with tears. Please, they seemed to be pleading. Think of my mother. He could almost see the old woman, tottering about her room, waiting for her son to come with her next meal.


                    ‘The slaves you caught and sold like cattle…’ Ambarro murmured, raising his own kunai reluctantly after deliberating for almost a quarter of an hour. ‘They had mothers too.’


                    His wrist flicked. The slaver sobbed a final time, blood and air mingling in his throat as it opened. His head lolled back as his body began to twitch.


                    Harrow did not move. The Nord refused to look at any of his captors or fellow captives. His gaze wandered all over the cavern, and he chewed on his gag like a horse on a bit. Harrow saw that he was rolling his eyes and blinking, trying not to let the tears fall.


                    On an impulse, he reached forward and removed the gag. The tears fell then.


                    ‘Oh, please, young master,’ the Nord snivelled. ‘I’ll leave the band if that’s what you want. I’ll do anything, anything you want. Just please, please don’t kill me. I’ll fetch Sabine and leave Skyrim. I’ll leave Tamriel, even. I’m begging you…’


                    The Nord was in his middle years. Streaks of grey flecked his straw hair. My father had straw hair too.


                    ‘How old was your son?’ Harrow asked, his voice flat.


                    The prisoner blinked, at a loss for words for a moment. ‘He… was six when he d-died, sir,’ he answered, fumbling for words. ‘He’d be about your age now.’


                    ‘Harrow-to,’ Diia said tentatively, worried. ‘Don’t do it…’


                    Harrow flicked his wrist. Steel flashed and ropes fell from the bandit’s hands and feet. ‘No!’ Diia and Ambarro cried in unison.


                    Harrow walked over to the door on the left and threw it open. White sunlight streamed into the room, reflecting off the snowy landscape. The wind blew in with a flurry of snow.


                    ‘Go,’ he said.


                    ‘Harrow, no!’ Ambarro shouted, sprinting forward. Jorra held him back. ‘Don’t you dare throw your future away like this!’


                    ‘He’s made his choice,’ Jorra said sternly. ‘Respect it.’


                    The Nord scrambled to his feet, crying again. ‘Thank you,’ he stammered, tears of joy running down his face and into his messy beard. ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…’


                    He ran through the doors, breathing the sweet mountain air, catching snowflakes on his bare chest. ‘He’ll… probably freeze to death anyway.’ Diia said, her voice unsure.


                    Ambarro glared at the surviving captive, who was already thirty feet away. ‘What were you thinking?’ He marched over to Harrow and grabbed him by the collar, livid.


                    Then he noticed Jorra’s look of surprise and turned back towards the bandit, just in time to see a faintly glowing purplish blue outline erupt on the back of his skull.


                    Harrow’s rune hummed and burst. Rivulets of electric Magicka exploded from the Nord’s eyes, nostrils and ears. A loud pop rang out as the vitreous body in his eyes flash boiled, rupturing the sclerae. A single spasm wracked his body, and he fell over as smoke began to curl from his empty eye sockets, a relieved smile still frozen on his face. Even from a distance, the smell of disintegrated brain matter reached the Po’ Tun. Ambarro coughed.


                    ‘I wanted him to at least feel alive before he died,’ Harrow said, staring at his boots. ‘One last mercy.’ He seemed drained, tired. Jorra was not surprised. In addition to the emotional toll, generating lightning powerful enough to char the brain and cause near-immediate death required no small amount of magicka.


                    They were all silent for a while. Then Jorra patted him kindly on the shoulder. ‘You did well. His death came in an instant. He never felt any pain.’


                    ‘What would have happened if I let him go?’ Harrow looked up at Jorra, who had never seen the young man look so vulnerable.


                    ‘He would either have left his bandit group or continued on pillaging. We don’t know for sure. You, however, would still have been accepted into the ranks of the shinobi.’


                    ‘What?’ Diia and Ambarro looked equally shocked.


                    ‘Tsukikage does not force you to murder. On the contrary, a central ideal of the Shadeclaws is to avoid collateral damage. This is why we encourage stealth. You have learned today that every life, no matter how vile, matters to someone, somewhere.’


                    Then he asked suddenly, ‘Would you consider me a good shinobi?’


                    The kits all looked at each other, confused. ‘Is that a trick question, Uncle Jorra? Even Master Mokko respects you as a peer.’


                    ‘Oh? Mokko said that himself, did he?’ Jorra chuckled. ‘Well, then, it may interest you to know that I’ve never actually killed anyone myself in my entire life.’


                    Their mouths all dropped open at that. Harrow understood then why Jorra had looked so grim outside the cave. It wasn’t him feeling anxious, it was his sense of repugnance at taking a life – however indirectly. Admiration welled up inside him.


                    ‘Had all three of you refused to kill these men, you would still have been assigned missions – most likely intelligence gathering or sabotage – that did not require you to kill a target. After all, there’s always plenty of work for Tsukikage. It’s how we pay our rent to whomever is governing Tamriel.’ Now that the test was over with, Jorra seemed to be recovering his good cheer.


                    ‘How many kits have ever let their target live?’ Harrow asked, sheathing his katana.


                    ‘None in the past three hundred years,’ Jorra said quietly. None but me. Our village's instructors... are very good at making killers.’


                    There was another moment of silence as the trio pondered his words.


                    ‘Ah, no need to dwell on my personal mis... my personal feelings. Let us move on,’ Jorra waved the topic off. He stood straight and barked in a deep, commanding voice, ‘Ambarro. Diia. Harrow. Thus begins your career as shinobi. You will receive assignments and carry out your objectives in any manner you see fit. No more and no less will be expected of you. Hear now your first assignment.’


                    Diia laughed, putting a hand to her mouth as Ambarro punched the air triumphantly. Even Harrow had to struggle to keep a smile from spreading across his face.


                    Jorra grinned himself, then continued. ‘You are to eliminate the skooma lord known only by his moniker, the Adder of Cyrodiil. As you may have guessed, he operates in the very capital of the Empire. The request came from certain officers in the Emperor’s court, who claim that the Adder’s brand of skooma is finding its way into every nook and cranny of the province and yet the guardsmen remain incapable of doing anything to “halt the flow of poison”, as they put it.’


                    He paused, scowling. ‘Skooma dealing is a dirty business, built on addiction and extortion. Unfortunately, this is all the information we have – the name and the request. You will have to do some investigating of your own to pinpoint the target.’


                    ‘That should be right up Harrow-to’s alley, no?’ Diia said, smiling.


                    ‘You will be carrying out this mission as a unit of three. I appoint Diia as captain. Do keep the boys in line.’ Jorra winked at her and she nodded knowingly. ‘Are there any questions?’


                    Harrow tightened his belts and bootlaces, preparing to run. Ambarro spun his kunai and slipped it back into his tunic. Diia’s eyes were bright with confidence as she answered, ‘None, sir!’


                    ‘Then... one last thing,’ Jorra said, his voice becoming emphatic, serious. ‘You are shinobi now. And the first tenet of a shinobi, above everything else... is to survive. To endure. We are not knights and heroes meant to die on the battlefield in a blaze of glory with honour on our lips. No matter what you do, no matter what kind of filth you must crawl through, what kind of hardships you face - you must live. Not just for yourself, but for our village. Live, and ensure that intelligence is preserved, and passed on.’


                    They looked at him with cold resolve in their gaze. There was little doubt now. Almost a full decade of training, drilling techniques and tactics into their minds and bodies, and with this first act, this first kill on a living, breathing person who had been completely at their mercy, their final mental barrier had been brought down. Every single one of these children was now capable of killing without hesitation. Other instructors wouldn’t even have given them the details about their targets.


                    Is this... really all right?


                    He pushed the thought from his head. This was his village... and it was the only life he had ever known.


                    ‘You know your objective. Travel swiftly, and watch each other’s backs. Set off!’ Jorra ordered.


                    The three shinobi bowed deep, then sped out of the door. Jorra watched their figures recede into the distance, then shook his head and went about disposing of the bodies.












8 Comments   |   Sotek and 5 others like this.
  • Caladran
    Caladran   ·  August 14, 2018
    This chapter was so much that I can't even but like everything in it!
  • Karver the Lorc
    Karver the Lorc   ·  December 21, 2016
    I noticed that you keep reffering to the kids as "kits". Am I missing something? It's not a first chapter I noticed it. 
    • The Sunflower Manual
      The Sunflower Manual
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      Karver the Lorc
      I noticed that you keep reffering to the kids as "kits". Am I missing something? It's not a first chapter I noticed it. 
        ·  December 21, 2016
      Ah, 'kits'? It's a shorter word for kitten, since the Po' Tun are catfolk.
      • Karver the Lorc
        Karver the Lorc
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        The Sunflower Manual
        Ah, 'kits'? It's a shorter word for kitten, since the Po' Tun are catfolk.
          ·  December 21, 2016
        Ah. I thought it's deliberate, cause you rarely have typos. Hehehe. "Med Kits" - Medical Kittens :D 
        • The Sunflower Manual
          The Sunflower Manual
          Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          Karver the Lorc
          Ah. I thought it's deliberate, cause you rarely have typos. Hehehe. "Med Kits" - Medical Kittens :D 
            ·  December 21, 2016
          • Karver the Lorc
            Karver the Lorc
            The Sunflower Manual
            The Sunflower Manual
            The Sunflower Manual
              ·  December 21, 2016
            Hehe, just teasing you. :) Though now I can't get it out of my head... :D
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 8, 2016
    I liked grandpa too. 
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  October 8, 2016
    The rest of this was over shadowed by the 'Granpa!'

       Ambarro blinked twice without understanding, then shrugged and said loudly, ‘Thanks, Grandpa!’

    Hahaha.... Reminds me of Neesha and 'Gandad'.. ...  more