1 Chapter 1
I looked upon my child. Takeshi came into the room, the physicians leaving the room.
He came to kneel beside of me, looking at my son.
"It was a boy, then?" He asked.
I nodded. "Yes, a son."
"What a strange coloring," he commented. "Did the demon have white hair?" He asked.
"Yes," I said. "But the demon had dark gray skin, and a scarlet gaze. This child thankfully favors me more so than his father."
He looked at me. "I will name the child," he told me. "Since I am allowing him to live, and I am allowing you to remain my wife and keep the child, I will name him."
Hurt flashed in my mind as I looked at my son...but I gave a tight nod. "Name him," I said.
"'Koroshi'", he told me.
My son's eyes opened, and he met my gaze with his bright teal gaze, before he glared at my husband. Takeshi laughed.
"Oh yes, that suits you, or else you wouldn't have responded to it."
I supposed that was fitting. His father had been Katana, or sword. I was Saya, a word that meant sheath. It was only suiting that our child's name would mean "Killing."
Takeshi stood, and went to leave. He looked back over his shoulder at me. "I will give you time to rest."
I nodded, and as he left, I lay down with my child lying beside of me, and I latched him onto my breast as he ate greedily from me.
I drifted into a fitful sleep, thinking about what his future might hold.
"Get up, boy!" My step-father shouted at me. "You never let your sorry hide stay down when you are knocked down in battle. Get up."
I shakily brought myself to my feet. I only came up to his chest, a child warrior that he trained as his personal body-guard. My step-father was a wealthy War Lord, and now that he had won many battles and started expanding his territories, he needed reliable body guards. This was my job to learn, I had to be there to protect him at all times because he had spared my life.
I had been born only a year ago...the spawn of a dark, demented demonic creature that had raped my mother and forced me upon her.
In exchange for her safety and her village's safety, she had not fought him as he took her. Or so, she told me. The servants and warriors around the castle were not so kind in their description of my mother, but they showed respect to her anyway lest they invoke my step-father's wrath.
My step-father had originally been fearful of me, my rapid aging and my vast intelligence.
But he only saw to use this to his advantage. I was already on the level of many of his lower class warriors, and I was but a child.
Yes, I had been appropriately name "Koroshi," or "killing. He boasted that he was going to make me into a killer, his own personal assassin. That was the least that I could do to repay his kindness for allowing my mother and I to live.
In most cases, my mother and I would have been murdered as soon as the truth had been discovered. But my step-father had seen this as an opportunity, a benefit for himself. There was nothing else to really say about it.
I was fed, and clothed, at least. The guards were disapproving, and the members of the court refused to look upon me. I was a hanyou, a half-demon, and they couldn't disgrace themselves by letting their eyes rest on me any longer than was absolutely necessary.
I would never be a member of the court. I would never have a lush title. I would never inherit lands or wealth. But I would be allowed to live, live for the sole purpose of service. I was already hearing the guards talk about how my step-father wanted to breed me with his servants, making more fast-growing, smart warriors to serve him in battle.
I didn't want to be bred like a stallion with a bunch of brood mares.
My mother was kind to me, looking at me with sad eyes but a brilliant smile on her beautiful face. She was the only reason that I had not run away yet.
I wiped away the drops of blood on my chin from my busted lip, and my step-father huffed.
"Go on to your mother, boy. We are finished for now. I cannot injure you too much or your body will not recover." He turned his back to me, and his guards followed him as he left the courtyard.
I wiped the sweat from my brow before I ran off to meet my mother in the gardens. Such was our routine. It was one of the only places that I could spend time with my mother away from scolding eyes.
She saw me as I approached, and she opened her arms wide for me as I lightly came to embrace her, being mindful of her pregnant belly. I would be receiving a baby brother soon, if the physicians were right. They told her that from the way she was carrying, she would have a son. My step-father was proud, boasting that it was his powerful seed that would allow his line to continue by producing a son on the first try.
I knew that my siblings would be highly favored over me, and I tried not to let this hurt my feelings. It was enough that I could survive, and be around my mother. It had to be enough.
"How was your training today?" My mother asked.
"It is getting easier," I told her.
She brought my chin up to where I was looking her in the eye, and I hated the sadness that I saw there. "You are such a strong, good boy," she said, smiling.
I reached up and wiped her tears away. "Don't cry, mother," I said.
She smiled. "My sweet child," She said. She kissed my forehead. "Your conception may have not happened in such a pleasant way...but you've always been loved," she told me.
"What was my father like?" I asked. "What was his name?"
She sighed. "These questions again," she muttered softly, laughing.
"Well, you never answer me," I pouted.
She thought for a moment, finally giving a lighthearted sigh. "He had dark gray skin, and white hair. His eyes were the color of fresh-spilled blood and he was very tall and very muscular. He was arrogant, regal almost. He held himself with power. His energy was dark. He told me to call him 'Katana', but I am unsure exactly what his real name is. I doubt that it was the name he gave me."
"Do you hate him?" I asked.
She smiled, looking to the sky. "In a way, for forcing me into something that I didn't want. But then again, I don't hate him. Because he gave me you, even if that wasn't his intention."
I nodded against her chest.
"You have nothing to feel bad about, my son. None of this is your fault. Neither is it my own. All things work out the way that they are supposed to. You have to believe that."
I smiled, nuzzling into her.
"Well, you must get washed up and prepared for your meal before your evening training," she said, pulling away from me and wiping away her tears. "I must get busy with the members of the court. There are some lords and ladies coming today to discuss peace treaty terms with Lord Takeshi, and I must look presentable and be brushed up on the terms before they arrive." She turned, walking swiftly away from me, sniffles leaving her as she left me standing in the garden.
I sighed, looking down at my filthy body, my raggedy clothing. I knew that my mother had a hard time looking at me, spending time with me. As much as she loved me, she felt guilty for the mistreatment. She knew that I was given the minimum food, the most ragged of clothing, and I had to sleep outside in a shed in the courtyard like I was an animal, with the door locked.
But at least I had food. At least I had somewhere to sleep, clothing on my back.
My mother looking at me with her heart broken eyes, knowing that I had the least that I could survive with.
I knew that her heart broke for me.
A few months came and went, and I heard my mother one night crying as she labored to deliver my sibling. My step-father held a hearty feast in preparation for the baby's arrival and I had a single serving of rice and one small, thin fish. My step-father had decided to allow me a bowl of soup to go with it this time, since it was a special occasion, and I could feel my belly stretching with the effort it took to hold the extra food.
Finally, a roaring cry pierced through the night air, and my step-father and his men cheered as he went into the birthing room.
A few minutes later, he came out with a fist pumped into the air.
"It is a son!" He shouted, and his men erupted into shouts of praise. "His name shall be Ichiro!"
Cheering and whooping rushed through the night, and he and his men partied all night long in celebration of his son's arrival.
I had a brother. A half-brother, but a brother all the same. I would protect this child, I was sure. His life would depend on me.
It was early the next morning, as everyone was asleep from their alcohol and too drunk to notice, that my mother stumbled and limped her way out to my shed, sitting down beside of my futon with a bundle in her arms.
"Koroshi," She said softly, looking at me. "Would you like to meet your baby brother?" She asked.
I nodded, sitting up and looking around her arm to look at the child.
He looked like his father. He had dark black hair, and light brown eyes with hazel mixed in. His skin was red-tinted from only being born the night before, but he looked healthy.
"Ichiro," I said softly.
"Yes," my mother whispered. "That is what the name was decided to be."
Ichiro was an honorary name, meaning "first son". Clearly stating that Ichiro was my step-father's first son, of course.
"Do not be sad," my mother pleaded. "You will not be loved any less."
"I know," I told her. "But your time will be taken even more than it usually is," I said, already thinking about how much lonelier it would be.
She sighed, kissing my head. "I know," she told me. "But I love you very much, and you are still very important to me. I will make time for you, too, I promise."
I nodded, and she stood up shakily. "I need to get back to rest," she said. "But I just wanted to introduce the two of you."
"I love you," I told her.
She smiled. "I love you," she smiled at me. Then she left, and I felt the loneliness seep back in. I knew that my mother wanted to spend more time with me, but it just seemed as if she was afraid to be so openly affectionate of me.
Days continued to come and go, and even as my step-father continued to train me, I would occasionally see my mother and baby brother out and about on the grounds.
My step-father didn't seem to like my taking notice of his son...or my looking at him, in general. He always smacked me with the wooden sword, gaining my focus back to the tasks at hand.
It was only a few months later that my mother was revealed to be pregnant once again, and I watched as she struggled to get around for the months that she was carrying this child.
Jealously once again creeped up as I watched her and my step-father teaching my baby brother how to walk and speak, sitting and working with him in the floor while her belly continued to swell.
I still did not know how to read, or write. I had never been allowed to learn such skills. I was not fit for it, as I was only fit for battle.
During this time, I continued to grow, and I was now up to my step-father's chin.
Several months later, my mother bore another son for my step-father. This son's name was Akihiko, which meant "bright prince."
Finally, I was old enough to take out on the field. I was mature enough, and as my step-father dressed in his battle armor, he left me in a normal yukata and hakama.
He gave me a katana, and told me that he would give me a subtle nod when he wanted me to attack.
We met the enemy on a hill that overlooked a nice town, obviously a town that my step-father wanted to conquer, and when the leader of this village refused to bow to my step-father...well, I received the nod.
This was it.
This was everything that I had been trained for.
I shot forward with an inhuman speed, my katana finding its target rather quickly, and the soldiers fled as I cut off their leader's head, the corpse falling at my feet as the head rolled away from us.
I wiped my blade before I sheathed it.
"That was a good kill," my step-father said. "You are a natural-born killer. You have performed well, and your name suits you." He turned, walking into the village.
People bowed in reverence to him.
One of the people, I noticed....was a beautiful girl.
She had black hair, a pure and sleek black that nearly shown blue...like my mother's. I paused in front of her, and she glanced up at me from her bow on the ground. Her eyes were a startlingly beautiful jade color.
Her frame was small, and she looked young. She looked younger than myself, though I knew that I was only a couple of years old. She was certainly older than I was.
My step-father paused, looking back to see what was keeping my attention. He glanced at the girl.
"Koroshi," he said. "Do you wish to take her?"
"Take her?" I asked.
"As a prize," he clarified.
The girl startled, her hand jerking out to grab hold of a woman's hand next to her...her mother, by the looks of it. They looked almost exactly alike.
"No," I said. "I was simply admiring her beauty," I said. I turned, walking after my step-father.
He gave a tight nod. "We are going," he said. And he mounted his horse after he stuck his banners in the ground at the entrance to the village, and we were on our way back home.
Another year passed by, and my mother had just given birth to a daughter.
My step-father was taking me with him on almost all of his trips, now. And as it happened, we were going back to a village today that I had not seen in quite some time. A village with a young girl who was beautiful, and who I would like nothing more than to speak to.
We were going to make sure that everything was in order, as my step-father had to keep everyone in line and make sure that his new cities were under his control.
There were rumors going around about an uprising, a revolt against my step-father. And the rumors were that this village was the one perpetuating it.
While my step-father sat with the person in charge of keeping this village taken care of, my attention was caught when the girl that I had come to fancy came in with a small tray of dishes, laying them out before us and bowing.
My step-father glanced my way, but I didn't see him.
All I saw was the girl.
"Koroshi," he said. "Your gawking is shameful. Remove yourself from the room so that you do not bring further shame to yourself in my presence," he commanded.
I glanced at him, and I saw a neutral expression on his face. He wasn't angry. He was giving me leave to go outside and talk to the girl, if that was what I wished.
I bowed, standing and leaving the room.
I rushed out of the building, looking around for the girl. I saw her, scurrying away quickly.
"Hey!" I called softly. I knew it was night, and that most people were going to sleep by this time. I didn't want to bring attention to us.
"Please," she whispered. "I do not wish to get into any trouble! You did enough for me by refusing to take me last time, I don't wish to cause any more aggravation."
I paused. "You are beautiful," I said.
She paused for a moment before turning to face me. "Thank you, my lord," she said, bowing.
"I am not a lord," I informed. "I am a slave."
She startled. "I'm sorry-"
"What is your name?" I asked her.
She hesitated, before she gave a quick glance around, looking to make sure that she wouldn't get caught. "I am Shizuko," she said.
Her name meant "Quiet Child," and I could certainly see why. She had a very shy mannerism.
"I am Koroshi," I told her.
She nodded. "I know," she said. "I heard him call you that." She looked away. "I need to get going."
"Can I see you again?" I asked.
She looked at me again. "I do not think that is wise," she said. "If you are a slave, I do not wish to get you in trouble with your master."
I smiled. "Maybe, perhaps we can meet again someday."
It was in the night, late one night, that my mother rushed out to my shed, and pulled a key out of her long, flowing kimono sleeve. She rushed to unlock the door.
"Koroshi! Koroshi, quick! You have to get out of here!"
"Mother?" I rubbed my eyes, sitting up on the ground. "What's going on?"
"The castle is under siege. Now is your perfect opportunity to escape!" She shouted in a whisper. She got me up and gave me a hug, pressing a kiss to my cheek. "Please… please do not return here."
And I didn't.
As I watched the castle burning, I ran. I ran, and I didn't turn back.