A single moment

A soft seabreeze swept across the deck of the ship, tossing around small drops of seawater and sweeping Yoko’s untied hair in her face. She pushed the hair back behind her ear and closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. They were close to their target, and she was glad for it, the seatrip had taken quite some time. She had been a bit surprised and at the same time excited to have been chosen for this mission, together with a far more experienced ninja of her clan. Their mission was a simple and standard one, except for the distance they had to travel to reach their target. But that trip was nearly at an end and in a few days they would have found and killed their marks. A young girl named Ameyko and a boy named Hideo. She didn’t know why they had to die and hadn’t asked. It was her task to do the killing, she needed no reason for it other then that her clan deemed it necessary.

Yoko groaned softly in her sleep, the wound in her side throbbing, sweat glistening on her forehead, the fever burning deep inside of her. For a moment it looked like she would wake but before long she drifted off into a deeper sleep again

All around the small clearing were the sounds of the forest coming alive. Small animals scurrying around, birds calling out to their kind, the wind moving through the trees. And the sound of silent but heated conversation in a strange language. In the middle of the clearing Yoko and her companion were discussing a matter of importance.

Why do they need to die? My feeling tells me that there is something wrong here….They are no threat to our homeland, they are not of import….killing them seems wrong…

It is not your place to question Yoko, only to execute your orders, if you cannot do that then you are a shame to your family and clan.

Yoko’s eyes narrowed slightly at the veiled insult. She had observed their targets for days now and her entire being burned with the wrongness of what they intended to do. All of it went against the ideals her clan lived by, yet her companion seemed to be eager to go on with the mission, regardless

A shame? I do remember the way of our clan, what we stand for. Ako Suko Zan… or have you forgotten this? killing them would go against what we are.

the man, seeing in Yoko’s eyes the singular purpose behind those words, drew his sword and dropped into a fighting stance

then we have nothing more to talk about

Again Yoko turned and twisted in her bed, her breathing heavy

the fight had not gone on for long and would not go on for much longer. She had been cut several times, all of them but shallow wounds, but she had lost quite a lot of blood and it was starting to wear her down. And she had yet to strike her opponent. He was more experienced, faster and stronger then her, and she knew she had little hope of winning, but that did not slow her resolve. She gripped Blinkstrike better and dropped into a fighting stance again

you would do best to just give up and die Yoko, It is clear that you are no match for me. I have struck you several times already and am clearly superior.

Her eyes widened slightly and she smiled behind her mask. There it was, an opening in her opponents defense.

are you happy?

what…?

he sounded surprised at the question

A real hitokiri would not be satisfied by anything but a killing strike. That you have wounded me with shallow cuts means nothing.

she smirked and placed her left foot forwards, bringing the hilt of her blade up to her right shoulder, the point slightly down and pointed to him

Shiden no tachi…. you must be desperate to even consider using that against me girl…

with a furious look in his eyes he dropped into a crouch and charged at her. At the last moment she moved, stepping forward and sideways, stabbing her sword towards his neck. Pain exploded in her side as she felt his sword scrape against her ribs and bite deep into her flesh. But she had not missed her mark, her black blade cutting into his neck and severing his arteries, blood spraying over her face and arms. Without a sound he took a few more steps and then collapsed, a pool of blood widening quickly around his limp body.

Ako Suko Zan…

the words were barely a whisper. It had worked. A single moment had been enough to breach his defenses and deliver a killing strike. She smiled despite herself, even though she felt her strength draining quickly from her body, the accumulation of wounds becoming too much. At least she would die with her honour intact, no matter what he had said. As she dropped to her knees she noted two things. The blood on her blade had highlighted the words etched on her sword “Hitokiri wa hitokiri” which seemed to mock her with it’s irony. The second was the elderly woman standing in the treeline watching her. Then everything went dark.

A single moment

Jade Regent Milura