The Chiroptera Campaign
"Hakoto! We're not supposed to be out here! We're too far!" yelled a pint sized kid, chasing after his older sister. The brambles and tree branches whipped and snapped passed his face and arms as he ran.
"Calm down, Shobaku! It'll just be a minute!" replied the pint and a half sized Hakoto. She could almost smell the wheat field, and see the prize that stood in the center of it. Shobku's progress was halted a few times by tripping over some jutting roots. Eventually he caught up with his sister at the edge of the field, just outside the shade of the forest. There they saw the tree of their youth that seemed no different than when they had last seen it. That was before they were corralled with the rest of those even involved with shinobi within the confines of Chiroptera forest. It was no picnic for anyone, but not everyone were two kids who grew up on the farm that used to be next to this very field. Not everyone looked forward to the Autumn season so they could run about in the wheat and leaves before enjoying fresh apples from their own tree. These two children last remembered running from this field as they saw their house burning down in the distance. They never knew if the field or their beloved tree met the same fate, until now. The mere sight of it still standing there was nearly enough for Hakoto.
"Do you remember how they tasted?" Hakoto said when Shobaku caught up next to her. Shobaku was in awe-stricken silence. The painted sky was pierced by rays of sunlight through the clouds, illuminating the field and tree as if they were alive somehow. Of course Hakoto was referring to the apples that even from that distance they could see hanging heavy on the tree limbs.
"Let's go get some." suggested Hakoto. Shobaku hesitated, looking with worry as Hakoto took the first few steps. Seeing how she wasn't instantly taken by samurai, Shobaku decided to brave the field as well.
It was like something in a dream. The very heavens seemed to open up around them as Hakoto and Shobaku came through the field of gold. There was a stiff contrast between the gleam of the heavenly field and the grimy stains on the rags the children wore for clothing. They didn't care, though. They were in a rapture that brought them back to a time when things were warm, kind, and safe. During the long nights spent in fear of the hunting sounds of Chiprotera, the two siblings stuck together. After all this time of waiting and not knowing anything of what was really going on, or reassurance that things would ever be normal again, perhaps this was their divine reward?
Hakoto immediately scaled the tree trunk, and began reaping their well deserved blessing. Shobaku made an effort to catch the apples as Hakoto let them fall. Mostly he just did his best not to be smacked in the face by them. With their collection gathered, the two sat in the bright sun and sorted through to find which apple they would bite into first. It was the most beautiful moment they could ever have until then. An adult might have burst into tears, yet these two were able to smile and laugh as they relived the times that were stolen from them by the war. Care seemed a thing of the past, and the present was so bright that the even the future looked irrelevant.
The only thing that could ruin such a moment, of course was the very presence they were afraid of seeing in this place. Hakoto and Shobaku were suddenly aware of soft footsteps amid the golden grass. When they looked, they saw a man in typical uniform. The samurai greeted them in noble speak, a language they had no understanding of. The samurai repeated the greeting, impatiently pushing for an answer. The two children stood up, Shobaku hiding behind his sister who held him close. The samurai drew nearer, saying more in noble speak in a calm tone. Hakoto felt no choice but to pull out her kunai knife. She held it toward the samurai in her best effort to communicate "not a step further." The samurai stopped, at first. He eyed the knife in the girl's hand before his eyes went wide upon recognizing the weapon of a ninja. The samurai drew his sword and closed in on the children. Shobaku clung tight to Hakoto, and buried his face in her shirt. Hakoto's hand trembled as the samurai came close, raising his sword in the air. The kunai was held tight, but shook, and Hakoto closed her own eyes before she faced the striking blade of the oppressor.
The samurai stayed his hand when a shout came from behind him. Opening their eyes, Hakoto and Shobaku were not comforted by the sight of a highly decorated officer on horseback coming their direction. Two other samurai horsemen flanked the officer, with one holding the reigns of a fourth horse belonging to the man that almost ended the children's lives. The samurai and his superior glossed over some military banter before the officer shouted some order. The samurai sheathed his sword, bowed low to the officer, then left the children to take his horse. The officer kept his eyes on the samurai in an authoritative glare before turning his attention to the children. Hakoto and Shobaku stared back, unsure of what would happen next.
The officer nudged his ankles against his horse, and the beast slowly galloped closer to the tree. He scanned the tree before finding the most favorable fruit within his reach, then took it in his hand. After taking a bite, the officer looked at the children forcing a smile.
"Douzo." the officer said, stretching an open hand gesture to the apple pile.
"It is okay." he then said in common tongue, trying to gain their trust. Shobaku loosened his grip, looking at the apples then back at the officer showing them some form of kindness. The boy broke away from Hakoto, and went back to the apple pile. He stopped reaching, looking again at the officer.
"Go ahead." the officer urged. The other samurai were silently watching. One of the horses shook it's head in anticipation for a swift ride, calmed as the samurai tightened the reigns. Shobaku picked up an apple and began eating. Hakoto was swaying in apprehension on both feet, still holding up her kunai in defense, standing her ground as best as an eleven year old kid would be expected to.
"Nice little shinobi boy." said the officer. "Strong little shinobi boy." he added, getting Shobaku's attention. He dared not make another bite after a long gulp, as the officer stretched out his free hand and told him to come closer. Shobaku looked at Hakoto, who shook her head. The officer's expression turned stern.
"I said, come here." the officer said softly, yet holding back on his rage. His hand remained in the air, demanding Shobaku to obey. Shobaku dropped his apple, and tears pressed his eyes along with a hopeless whimper in his throat. He looked back at Hakoto, who also beckoned with her free hand. It was hopeless, as Shobaku was paralyzed in confused fear, sniffling from having to choose between his older sister and the scary man with the swords on his belt.
This moment, like before was interrupted, yet not by anything expected. The officer's breath was cut short. Upon realization, the officer came upon the spearhead poking through his chest, and his left lung within. He spun round, the apple falling from his hand, and the officer in turn falling from his horse as he tried to turn to face who the spear came from. The other samurai pulled their reigns, their horses kicking in the air as they spun around. At a distance, a lone horseman was seen. The mystery warrior threw off his cloak to reveal a splendor of armor, and his unsheathed sword. Upon the shimmering breastplate was a symbol on white in the shape of a series of ovals. It was a symbol the children were not familiar with, yet it struck a dangerous chord amongst the samurai.
"Sh-... Shiro no Hata." stammered one of them. The samurai repeated the words louder, drawing his sword and charging. Another of the samurai followed after, taking both sides of the mystery warrior. The warrior drew a second sword and charged toward them. The swords of the samurai swung through air, as the mystery horseman spilled blood on each side. After quickly slaying both samurai, the mystery warrior then charged after the third. The third samurai speedily mounted, then fled off as fast as his horse could manage, all the while shouting the words "Shiro no Hata" over and over. The mystery warrior stopped to observe the children for a moment, staring at them with sea green eyes. Shobaku and Hakoto were mesmerized by what they saw, and as quickly as the mystery warrior came, with a cry and a whip of the reigns, he was gone like the wind after the samurai.
Hakoto ran to Shobaku, took him by the hand, and they retreated to the woods. It wasn't long before they ran into another person. Shobaku screemed. Hakoto just froze. Then they both recognized who they ran into.
"Nori!" they both shouted. They then embraced the grown ninja woman, who welcomed the embrace but was very cross with the children.
"What are you two doing out here!? You know better than to go outside the woods! What in blazes were you thinking!?" she said, her brown eyes pointing angrily to Shobaku and Hakoto in turn.
"Nori! You won't believe what just happened!" said Hakoto.
"I already can't believe you two wandered out this far! What if you were seen by a Samurai patrol!?" Nori admonished.
"We were!" said Shobaku.
"What!?!?" shouted Nori, taking out a weapon scroll in one hand and kunai in the other.
"We were saved, though!" explained Hakoto.
"By who? Juichi sensei?" Nori asked, trying not to look like she was threatening an answer out of them with her drawn weapons (and failing).
"No." Hakoto replied simply. Nori blinked, waiting for the answer.
"It was a samurai!" said Shobaku, pretending to draw a sword in samurai fashion.
"Yeah. A samurai saved us!" confirmed Hakoto.
"Uh huh. And next you'll tell me the samurai's swords all turned into flowers. And they all pranced away to do other things with their life." said Nori in flowery sarcasm.
"But, it really happened, Nori!" said Hakoto.
"Enough with the stories! Just get your butts back home! We'll talk about this later." said Nori, pointing with her kunai in the direction of the refugee camp. With a sigh, the children obeyed and went on their way. "I hope my coffee hasn't run out yet, 'cause I'm going to need one big pot of it to settle my nerves now." mumbled Nori to herself as she made her way cautiously to the edge of the woods. Upon closer inspection, Nori could see the officer on the ground in front of the tree, with a spear in his back. After a moment of patient observation of nothing, Nori was about to turn and head back herself. Then the sound of galloping hooves could be heard. Nori took cover and watched from within a bush.
Several horse riders had come from the road. All of them had cloaks over themselves. They stood at the base of the tree. Then after some moments, a rider came galloping to meet them from the other direction. This rider had no cloak, but shining armor of a make Nori was not accustomed to seeing on most samurai she had ever encountered. After the lone rider met with the rest, suddenly all of them shed their cloaks displaying the same type of armor. The symbol on their chests caught Nori's eye. For some reason, she felt comfortable with coming out in the open. As she did, one of the horsemen raised a standard and unfurled a pure white banner. One of them, who had different armor and wore different symbol as well raised a hand in the air and let out a loud cry. The others answered the cry with their own. Then they took off their helmets, and tied head bands to their foreheads. When Nori came near, the horsemen looked her way and were silent.
One of the horsemen stood out the most to Nori. It was the lone rider who had came up to meet them, who had a very familiar looking hairstyle and eyes, and stature of a particular cousin she knew.
"Hiroki?" said Nori, staring the sea green eyed Hantaa in the eyes.
"Hey, cuz!! I'm back!" replied Hiroki, the horseman. Nori was squinting from the glare shining off of Hiroki's armor.
"What is with the-Hey! When did you learn to ride a horse!?" said Nori, dropping her weapons to the ground.
"Oh, man! We did so many crazy things when we took off with Koshi sensei!" Hiroki began to say. That is, until the one wearing black armor cleared his throat and galloped forward. "I can fill you in later, though." said Hiroki, getting back in formation. The strapping young man that came forward announced himself.
"My name is Higanashi, of the Skyblaze. I have come to be recognized by the Hidden Cloud remnant as a Lord General to unite the rest of our forces, and prepare them, as these, to fight back with dignity against the tyranny of the Onigami, and make peace with the other Samurai factions." said the horseman. Nori traded a glance at Hiroki, then Higanashi.
"Now I need, like, three big pots of coffee." said Nori, putting a palm to her shaking head.