The sound of the gentle rain outside began to fade and the world slowly became quieter and quieter. She had long feared the day where the last of her hearing would go, leaving her alone in a world of black. It seems that her fears have finally caught up with her.
It won't be long now.
She silently comforted herself; it'll be ok, she's not the first to go through this and she won't be the last. This is what's supposed to happen. It'll be ok. There's nothing to be afraid of. It'll be ok.
Take a deep breath.
Everything will be ok.
The ever familiar image of a spiky-haired shinobi came to mind.
Surely he was already on his way here. It broke her heart to have him see her like this but she was glad to know she wouldn't be alone in her final moments.
She was endlessly grateful to have met him, even if it wasn't meant to be. If only they had been born in a different time, in different lives, perhaps then fate would have been on their side. But there's no use wishing for what has already passed, she was happy with the hand she was dealt.
It won't be long now.
As the last of the rain's pitter patter faded, she remembered how it all began. It wasn't so long ago and, come to think of it, it was a day much like this...
"Hello, my name is Senju Hashirama, this is my brother Tobirama." a tall man with long dark hair greeted the guards at the gate. "We are here to see the Imada clan leader."
The guards signaled for the tall gates to be opened, revealing a short blonde woman who bowed to the men.
"My name is Imada Samaru, please follow me."
The woman named Samaru lead the pair through the small village, weaving the worn stone paths until they came to a house that was noticeably larger than the rest. As they entered, the Senju brothers noticed that it, along with the rest of the village, had a very traditional design, almost impractically so. Though, Hashirama thought, that must be because the clan didn't have a war to worry about, unlike so many around them.
"Senju-san!" A young man no older than the brothers emerged from the building, smiling as he walked up to the pair. "It's an honor to finally meet you!"
This must be Imada Toru, the newly appointed clan head. The man was tall with long black hair tied into a neat ponytail. His striking green eyes gleamed with intellect and he had an air of elegance about him. What surprised the brothers most were the garments adorning him; they couldn't help but notice that the deep green material was unlike the ones they were used to; it was smoother and flowed like water. They knew the Imada were expert silkmakers but a piece like this was still quite the sight to see.
"Please, this way." Toru led them inside and motioned towards a small room to their right. He whispered something to Samaru before the girl bowed and shuffled away.
"Your village is very beautiful, Imada-san." Hashirama grinned politely, taking a seat in front of the low-set table.
"You're too kind." Toru closed the door and took a seat across from the guests. "Anyways, about why I asked you here. I know my late father was firmly against conducting trade with other clans, but, as stated in my letter, I believe our work is something to be shared with the world. Your clan has long showed interest in our silk, so if you're still willing, I would like to discuss a trade deal between our clans."
As if on cue, the door slid open and Samaru stepped inside, handing a roll of glossy blue material to Toru. The young man unrolled a length of it, draping the rich fabric over the table.
"So this is the famous Imada silk, its an honor to finally be able to see it up close!" Hashirama smiled, picking up one end of it. He was surprised how soft it was, certainly unlike anything he'd ever seen before.
"That's great to hear! Come, I'd like to show you some of our finished garments." Toru smiled enthusiastically.
He lead the brothers across the large building, coming to a hall of elaborate, important-looking doors. Pushing open the first one on the left, Toru stepped inside, followed by the brothers whose eyes lit up at the sight before them.
The large chamber was filled with rows upon rows of hanging kimonos, each one gleaming with the same shine that only the Imada could achieve. As he approached the one nearest to the door, Hashirama noticed the incredible detail that graced the material: an elegant peacock fanned its tail proudly, each feather on the bird was embroidered immaculately, even its eyes seemed to be staring back at him. Blue and green tail feathers were scattered across the cream surface of the kimono, as if they had been carried up in a soft breeze.
The one next to it was no less breathtaking. The silk seemed to have captured spring itself: flowers trailed up the back of the garment, twisting ever so slightly before disappearing at the collar. The rich green tone of the fabric was one of a forest in the peak of spring, it almost seemed out of place in the current autumn season. Each kimono had a uniquely intricate design, but they were all truly stunning.
"As you can see, our silks are the finest in the country. They're lighter, smoother, and have an unrivaled shine to them. I can personally guarantee that there isn't anyone who can compete with our silkmakers."
Hashirama examined the garment with great interest, cautiously picking up the fabric and running his fingers across its brilliant surface. Tobirama, on the other hand, didn't seem nearly as impressed.
"It's wonderful! I've never seen anything like it! Our clan has always been impressed by your silkmakers, though we'd never thought we'd see them up close."
"What do you think? Are you interested?" Toru asked, though he had a feeling he already knew the answer.
"I don't think I can say no after seeing these!"
"Brother, should we really be focused on this kind of unnecessary trade while we're in the middle of a war?" Tobirama spoke for the first time since they arrived at the small village. "We have enough to worry about, we shouldn't be giving our attention to such a matter."
Hashirama smiled sheepishly.
"Well, the truth is, I haven't told you the real reason I agreed to the trade." Ignoring the glare from the younger man, he continued. "I've been researching an old legend surrounding the Imada."
Tobirama raised an eyebrow. His brother's interest in rumors and legends never ended well.
"They say there's a line of seers within the clan."
"Seers?" He scoffed incredulously. "You believe in that nonsense?"
"It's worth looking into." Hashirama defended. "If it's true, they might be a great asset to us, we might even be able to find a peaceful solution to the war!"
"And you agreed to that insanely expensive trade deal just so you can look for this 'seer.'" The younger Senju deadpanned, only to receive a sheepish grin from his brother. "How can you be sure the legend is true? We may be wasting time and money looking for someone who doesn't exist."
"I've thought about it and I think it's worth the risk. Imagine how quickly we could end this war if we knew what the other side was planning! We might even be able to make a treaty!"
Tobirama sighed at his ever-present optimism.
"Fine, but you better find solid evidence of this seer quickly or I'm cutting off the deal."
The older man sweatdropped.
"We're meeting with the Imada again in a few days, I'll see what I can gather before then."
Tobirama sighed and unrolled yet another scroll.
Hashirama's intent on finding this mysterious seer had,unfortunately, intrigued him. He had been searching through dozens of scrolls and, after many hours, had yet to find anything remotely helpful.
Records of the reclusive Imada clan were few and far between, but from what he had gathered he knew they were a relatively small group that had a long history of silk weaving. Though they did have a number of shinobi among them, they have not been involved in any significant conflict for many years. This was rather strange; wars were a common occurrence as they have been for a long time. One scroll, obtained from a clan that the Senju had conquered no more than a decade ago, detailed an elaborate plan to raid the Imada village for their famed silk, but it ended with a comment stating simply:
The Imada shinobi ambushed our forces, swift and silent.
Our plan was unsuccessful.
This scroll was relatively recent, from when Tobirama was a young boy. He recalled that the authoring clan was quite formidable, although smaller and weaker than the Senju, they should have crushed the Imada with ease. How could they have lost to a clan of silkmakers?
Could this be the work of a...
There are no such thing as seers.
Tobirama set aside the document, scolding himself for even considering such an irrational thing.
Despite this, he found himself searching through another scroll, then another, then another. He didn't know what he was looking for. Perhaps he was hoping to prove himself right, or perhaps he was hoping to prove himself wrong.
The night had slipped into day before the young Senju emerged from his study, having poured over the few scrolls repeatedly. It was not unusual for him to throw himself into a task like this, though it was usually something of greater substance. He had never shown much interest in legends and hear-say, but with the seemingly ever-growing war at their heels, he was looking for anything that could stop it, even if it meant chasing a myth.
Toru glanced at the lone female attendant standing in front of a large yet simple screen door. The girl nodded and motioned for him to enter.
As he stepped inside, he felt a familiar warmth wash over him.
"Those shinobi were very strong."
"I know, it's a bit intimidating. There's no way our men would be able to fight them off if they turned on us... was it a good idea to make a deal with them?" Toru sat down, a concerned frown etched on his features.
"I didn't warn you about them, that means nothing terrible will come of it."
Toru chuckled at the words.
"You know, I didn't expect them to agree to the deal, actually I'm surprised they did. It might just be me overthinking, but do they have... another purpose in mind?" he asked, concern evident in his voice.
There was a pause before he got a response.
"They're in the middle of a war that's been dragging on for years. You can imagine what that's like, Toru, the lengths one would go to stop it."
His eyes cast down and he nodded slowly.
"Then I believe you already have your answer."
The man remained silent.
"Don't worry about it. Everything has its time, just trust yourself to make the right decision and everything else will fall into place."
"It seems like I learn a new life lesson every time we speak." He chuckled. "I don't know if I trust myself, but I trust you. I'll take your advice, thanks for that."
"That's what I'm here for."
Toru glanced back at the door and noticed the light outside was dimming.
"It's getting late, I don't want to bother you too much. I'll come by tomorrow, try to get some rest." He stood and retreated towards the door.
"Thanks for visiting, Toru. Good night."
Hello readers and welcome to a new story! The first few chapters of this particular adventure will bring up a lot of questions but rest assured they will all be answered soon.
Thank you for reading, feedback is always appreciated, and I'll see you very soon!