The moon was high in the sky, dark clouds covering the vast blackness of the heavens above. Not a star nor light was in sight across the lonesome landscape. A quiet earth slept beneath the desolate sky. It was a night of mourning, with the silence speaking for its sorrow.
This somber night was an unusual occurrence for the land of Hoshido. It was country of light, and life, with vibrant sounds of peace and tranquility heard throughout its rich and lush landscape. Hoshido knew nothing of this sadness and dread this night spoke of.
The wind’s breeze sang its sorrowful tune as it rustled the branches of a single tree. The majestic tree was high, as it towered well above all the others in this area of Hoshido. Not only did its height hold something awe inspiring, but its weathered bark and deep scars spoke volumes of its ancient age. Its branches told many stories of the past, some of sorrow and some of happiness.
Yet, tonight the tree wept in its solemn silence as a young woman approached from a worn, and tired path. She stopped halfway in her tracks as the gentle breeze rustled her light white and red robes. Her eyes held steady on the sight before her.
Young Irikah could only gaze somberly at the lonesome tree from where she stood. An unseen force known only to her drew her here alone. Flashes of angry amber eyes, and red hair crossed her mind as she watched the tree. Images of a young man, full of fury and rage surfaced and evaded her every thought. Sadness came over her as she began to creep toward the tree once more. A sense of dread crept upon her as the distance between the tree and her came to a close.
Irikah’s eyes turned up toward the sky with sadness. The young man’s face flashed inside her mind once more. Irikah frowned as she remembered the coldness in those usually fiery of his. He was here, hiding from the cold world that needed him.
Saizo the Fifth had been found at last.
“Saizo,” Irikah whispered as she stood beneath the tree he was perched atop. She touched the trunk gently, as though she could somehow will him to come down. Irikah’s face fell as she glanced toward the unmoving shadow in the tree, “I know you’re up there,”
Irikah was answered with silence. Wind swayed the leaves of the tree, and to someone else, they would have believed no one was there after all. While the branches and leaves may have concealed him, Irikah felt his presence. She was sure that he knew as well.
There was no mistaking it: the fearsome Saizo the Fifth was content with ignoring her.
Everyone had told her he needed time to mourn. The pain of losing his last parent, his father, and inheriting a position of leadership was too much, even for someone as brash and cold as Saizo. On the day the Fourth Saizo was laid to rest, Saizo had made himself scarce. Even Kaze, his own twin brother and blood, had explained that Saizo merely needed space. Yet, Irikah knew this distance was different, very different.
Irikah’s visions and dreams had told her as much. There was a source behind Saizo’s scarceness that Irikah had seen with this foresight of hers.
Irikah’s concern over the Fifth only grew with each passing day. She had spent many sleepless nights agonizing over the darkness these visions had wrought. The most recent had paralyzed her with deathly fear, which is why she set out on finding Saizo this very night.
Irikah was well past her tree climbing days. However, given Saizo’s stranger than usual behavior and the visions which haunted her, she began reaching for the branches of the tree. With every branch she grabbed, she felt her heart sink deeper into her body. A warning of evitability, perhaps.
The climb allowed for Irikah’s mind to wander and wonder over the difficult young man. Saizo was never one to share his burdens with anyone. He found it better to isolate himself than to show a potential source of weakness. This self-imposed isolation was something of both for Saizo: a weakness, yet a want.
Desire, and wishes were weaknesses that Saizo refused to reveal.
When Irikah reached the top, she found the redheaded shinobi kneeling upon a thick branch. His eyes stared straight ahead, not bothering to turn his attention toward her. Irikah frowned, fear pooling in her stomach. She sat next to him, gazing at the moon high in the black sky.
“What do you want?” Saizo questioned, voicing a familiar bluntness in his tone.
The beauty of the glowing moon in the darkened sky did little to lessen the worry in Irikah’s mind. Irikah cast her eyes downward with her fists tightening around the fabric of her robes. She couldn’t shake the chill that crept down her spine.
Irikah gazed intently at the moon to build courage for her to speak at last, “Why do I have a horrible feeling that you’re going to do something foolish?”
The dread that had pooled in her stomach intensified when he didn’t answer. The worry she had tried to dismiss time and time again was all but confirmed. There was only one thing Saizo wanted: revenge.
Irikah turned her gaze to him, to a sight that made her heart fall further into despair. Saizo’s eyes were full of an uncontrolled fury and rage that she had never witnessed before. The Fourth’s death was much more to him than they all could possibly understand.
Saizo believed his father’s death was no mere coincidence: it was murder. It was a sentiment that he insisted upon to the village elders, who had in turn rejected his suspicions. With no evidence to support his claims, Irikah watched Saizo grow more and more distant.
All in one day, Saizo had inherited his father’s legacy, except without the honor of his father doing it himself. No, it was a stain, a memory that continued to haunt him in the passing weeks. Nothing would bring Saizo peace except for the head of the man who he believed was the source of this pain.
Deep inside her heart, Irikah knew that Saizo’s quest for vengeance would lead him nowhere. Of course, he would never see it that way. That fiery and impulsive nature of his prevented him from thinking clearly. His thirst for vengeance would lead him to his grave. This dire outcome came to her that first night: his screams of pain, blood scattered across the floor, his lifeless body. These very thoughts and visions kept her up for weeks. They were a warning she confided to him the day after the Fourth’s passing.
He had brushed her off. Saizo never listened.
Yet, now Irikah realized he didn’t need her sight to tell him, he already knew the fate he would endure. It didn’t matter, foresight or not...Saizo knew what happen.
Irikah shook her head, trying to find words to say to him that could possibly sway him from this path, “You never tell me anything of your struggles,” she sighed faintly as she looked to the dark night sky, “You never let anyone know,”
“It’s none of your concern, and I don’t require your aid,” Saizo replied with a tight voice of restraint.
Thick headed through and through. It was who he was. Once Saizo set himself upon a path, there was no one who could deter him. However, this path he had chosen for himself, it was one full of heartache and despair and death. Irikah wanted nothing more than to save him from that life.
The sinking feeling in her heart increased tenfold. A single tear trickled down her cheek while the corners of her mouth lifted upwards to form a faint smile, “So I’m right then…” she uttered.
Saizo answered Irikah with silence.
Even when Saizo needed support the most, he would never speak the words, “Why don’t you ever tell me...or anyone?” Irikah whispered.
“It’s none of your concern nor is it any of your business,” Saizo rebuffed.
Another warm tear rolled down her cheek. She wanted to know. More than anything, she wanted an answer to her question…at least just this once.
Irikah touched the tips of her fingers to his shoulder, feeling his muscles stiffen slightly beneath them. With a gentle, and soft voice, Irikah whispered, “Please,”
Silence answered her plea, but her hand remained upon his shoulder. She couldn’t see his face, but Saizo raised his head toward the heavens.
“You would attempt to stop me, and I would never find the answer I seek. I would always wonder,” he replied with a distant tone. He shook his head, “We both know that the survival of the clan depends upon my will being as hard as steel and unwavering. There can be no room for such doubt, no matter who it’s from,” Saizo’s voice was soft, yet firm. In his mind, his explanation was clear as day with no room for negotiation, but to Irikah, she could not accept such a statement.
“Even if it brings you pain or unhappiness?” Irikah’s voice shook.
For several seconds, no one spoke, not even the crickets chirped or the wind howled. Irikah’s tears fell silently, until Saizo turned to her, and nodded, “Yes. No matter what you or the others say, I’ll do what I must. This is my problem, and it’s best if you stay out of it,”
Irikah wiped the tears from her eyes, and turned them to the sky once more. His words broke her heart, but she smiled nonetheless to mask her pain, “Remember when we first met, Saizo? After Lady Yue healed me. Do you remember?”
A long silence followed before he answered. “You thanked me”
Irikah smiled, “Yes, I did. You both saved me without hardly knowing me. It was at a time when I was powerless to protect those precious to me,” her smile faded away into a frown as the ache in her chest grew. Those distant memories of a past land surfaced. That scared little girl, she was still here. Her voice wavered, “Is that what you want? Do you want to be lost?”
“Irikah…did Kaze put you up to this?” Saizo asked.
Her fists tightened, “People care about you, Saizo!” she raised her voice, “Has it ever occurred to you what this would do to Kaze if something were to happen to you?!”
Saizo shook her away, “I’ll do what I must to honor my father’s legacy and avenge him. Whatever may happen is a danger I’m willing to risk,”
The tumultuous feelings of dread intensified within Irikah. Nothing good would come of Saizo’s quest for vengeance. In her dreams, she saw horrors bestowed upon him. These visions of torture and pain, she felt them as if they were her own. The very thought Saizo walking down that path while she could only stand by and watch was defeating. However, no matter her objection, he would go regardless. Even if she told him of her terrible visions, he would still leave.
Irikah clutched her chest as she wept her silent tears, “S-so that’s it then… you choose your path”
Silence was defeat in its finest form. Without a sound or response, Saizo rose to leave his people for his journey of vengeance. He would always be an avenger...always.
It would consume and tear him into two.
Without a goodbye or response, Saizo vanished in a cloud of smoke. Once again, Irikah was left alone with the dark, and terrible unknown.
A tear rolled down Irikah’s cheek, as she gazed once more at the moon. Irikah rose from her seat, and stood on the tree branch, staring out into the horizon with a hand over her heart. The soft breeze swayed her short hair as the moonlight shined its brilliant iridescent light on her.
She couldn’t lose him, too. She had lost the home she once knew as a young child. It would break Irikah to lose anyone else from the home had found.
“Please, come back,” she whispered.
Please bring him back. Keep him safe.