The Ice Shadow

Akemi was born into Kori no Mura, a cold village with a dark history, and is current heir as Korikage. Her Father is strict and she is rather disliked by her peers, in fear of her strong abilities and unpredictable behaviour. But like most ninjas, Akemi's life is far from going to go smooth sailing. There are her hurdles she needs to jump, decisions she needs to make, and her her own path she needs to follow. But will she be able to follow the path she oh-so desires?

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5. Chapter 4

Father has forbade me to leave the house from now onwards. I overheard him explaining to Mother that Okami, the White Wolf demon, is on the rampage. This has been going on for a while now because rumour has it Okami's brother counterpart disappeared and she has been destroying smaller villages and even areas outside the village trying to find her sibling. 

I must say I feel for her though. Being alone out in the open without anyone to comfort her. If Mother were to go missing, I would probably do the same.

 

"I will be taking Taichi and his squad with me." Father explained, pulling on an arm guard, taking the second one off of Mother who was holding them for him.

"Are you sure?" Mother furrowed her eyebrows, looking at Father, mortified, "He's only thirteen."

Father nodded once, "He's more than capable. And anyway, he needs to experience an A Rank mission about now, so he can eventually become a Jonin."

Mother sighed, looking away from Father, "Ok. Just make sure there are plenty of others around him so he can remain safe."

Father nodded again, leaning over and kissing Mother on the forehead, "He'll be fine."

I was sitting on the stairs listening to the whole conversation, looking at my feet. I heard Taichi open his bedroom door and step out in his full ninja attire. When he stepped on the top step, I immediately leapt to my feet and wrapped my arms tightly around his neck. I felt tears stream down my face.

"Woah! Akemi, get offa me, I have no time for screwing around!" Taichi snapped, trying to push me off, but I wouldn't budge.

"Taichi-chan, please don't get hurt." I whispered into his neck.

Taichi sighed, "First of all, I am not a girl, and secondly I'll be fine. Okami is no major threat without her brother."

I made a loud whine noise in the back of my throat, tightening my grip. And finally, Taichi's body relaxed and he instinctively wrapped his arms around me.

"Don't worry Akemi-chan. I'll make it back, so make sure you wait for me to return, Ok?" he released me and smiled slightly.

I wiped my eyes, sniffed and nodded slowly, "Ok." I choked and formed a half smile.

 

"So soon?!" Mother gasped, as Father opened the door, Taichi at his heel.

"Yes. She needs to be able to defend herself in case, in the unlikely event, something does not go according to plan." Father explained, looking up at me as I remained perched on the steps, "You know where the scroll is, right?"

Mother nodded, "The shrine, right?"

"That's it. You have the key to open it. Then she can take it from there. Then you know what to do."

Mother nodded again, "As you wish, dear."

Father grunted, "Good. I'll be back soon." he and Taichi left the house, leaving me and Mother alone.

 

A few minutes after they left and the cries of the Shinobi died down as they left the village, Mother tossed over my cloak before pulling on her own.

"Come on Akemi-chan, we're going out for a while. There's something I need us to do." she turned to me and smiled, although I could see the severity of the task in her eyes.

I looked up at her, "Where are we going?"

Mother ignored me and opened the door. A blizzard whipped up and blasted into the house.

"Come, before the house gets covered." she held out her hand to me and we both left together.

 

"Okami," Mother explained to me, "Is a very strong demon. She was entrusted with the First's power. She was like his Inner Demon, even though she was found, not created, but when he died, she remained alive and he sealed his powers, his secrets, inside of her to be hidden for all eternity. But now she is unstable, she either needs to be driven away..." she took in a deep breath, "or ended."

"But it's not her fault, Mother." I exclaimed, clenching my fists, "Her brother is missing. She's trying to find him."

"And I agree. She doesn't deserve to die. But if it's for the safety of the village, I can't argue with your Father's ways." Mother looked ahead of her, "But I don't think it shall come to that. They'll probably just drive her away."

I wasn't too convinced, but I didn't want to argue with Mother. She's a very opinionated person, and I know I have inherited that trait from her, because I too have strong opinions and I know we would just clash.

 

"Right, we are here." Mother stood outside an old looking traditional Japanese building with a green roof and golden pillars.

I furrowed my brow, "Father told me never to try and get in here. It's forbidden to anyone who has no reason to go inside."

Mother smiled, "I know. But you have a reason to go inside."

The building was used to store sacred scrolls of forbidden jutsus, medical and herbal remedies and secret techniques. Father has kept it locked and people can only go inside if they seek him and give him a good and convincing reason. It's Mother who keeps a hold of the key to get inside, considering the fact she goes in there all the time to concoct remedies for her patients.

"Why Mother?" I asked, looking up in concern.

"You'll see." Mother's eyes sparkled in excitement as she pulled the key out from under her top. It was attached to a gold chain around her neck and the handle was shaped into a flower like formation. It was also rather rusty, considering how old it was.

She pulled the chain off her neck and pushed the key into the lock, twisting it with ease. When the lock clicked, a blue whisp formed in her hand and was absorbed into the lock.

"Chakra." Mother explained, turning to me, "Making sure nobody is using a jutsu or hiding their true identity. You know, prevents spies and rogues getting in and stealing our secret scrolls."

I nodded once in understanding, but I was not really concerned about rogues at this moment in time. I'm just curious about why I am here.

Another click was sounded and a louder clang. Mother pushed at the great oak door and it opened slowly. It looked way too heavy for me.

"Ok...Akemi, we need to look for the scroll for those with the Korikage bloodline." Mother explained, "But it is hidden away very well. The only way we can find it is for you to search for it."

I sighed, "You know I hate looking for stuff. I never find it. How will I know if it's the right one?"

"Oh you'll know. Maybe if you take a quick wander around, you'll find it." Mother gave me an encouraging hand gesture, as I turned to look into the dark room

Only a little light came in from the doors and two small windows at the back of the single room. The walls and floor were of traditional Japanese design and there were around nine ten rows of floor to ceiling shelves, piled high with scrolls and books. Dust lingered in the air and on the shelves, showing how derelict the area was, not even spiders or bugs were nestled in this place. It's definitely true when they say nobody often comes in here. In fact, I think only Mother comes in here.

I stepped further in and walked up and down the first couple of aisles. I opened some of the scrolls and read a few lines. Nothing of any use. Just jutsus and medicine recipes. I continued to browse and wander while Mother remained at the entrance, watching me eagerly. She gave me the supportive smile every time I looked at her. Clearly she couldn't help me because she is not in any way related to the Korikage, so even if she helped, she wouldn't find anything.

Just as I was about to give up I felt something. I gentle breeze blow through my blonde hair.

"Hm?" I muttered, turning around to see where the breeze situated. But there was nothing more, Was that...chakra? That certainly didn't feel like a normal breeze...and it was blowing from the wrong direction to be from the door...

I closed my eyes and focussed my chakra. As my chakra came to life, I felt a connection somewhere in the room, as if something was responding to my presence. A noise sounded. Kind of like an animal, but I am not sure what. I followed the call to the back of the room until I stumbled on something. Looking down, I noticed a wooden plank jutting out of place. Definitely been moved before... I knelt down and pulled the plank out of the way.

"Found something?" Mother asked, skipping over and kneeling down next to me.

I nodded, "I felt something down there pulling me over here. Something acknowledged my presence. I heard an animal. It was definitely an animal, not a human or something non-living."

"Ah." Mother nodded once at me and smiled, intrigued with my descriptions.

I closed my eyes again and focussed my chakra. The presence was definitely calling to me from underneath my feet. And the cry sounded again. This time I could hear it more clearly. It was...a horse?

"Down here." I pulled another plank of wood from the floor and felt around underneath the floorboards. Until my hand touched something cold and hard. A box. Wrapping my hands around the box, I pulled it out from under the boards and placed it on the floor in front of me. The box was made of ebony, I could tell, and it was locked with a distinctively floral lock. But there was no key hole.

"The...thing is definitely in here." I said, lifting up the box and twisting it around in my hands, looking for a sign of an opening or mechanism of some sorts, "But, I don't know how to get in."

Mother scratched her chin, "Hm, your Father didn't tell me that part."

Really? Does he want me to see what's inside or not? I narrowed my eyes and stuck my tongue out in annoyance.

"Well. It can only be opened by someone of Korikage blood, so maybe a blood donation, or chakra will be needed to open it?" Mother suggested, taking my free hand and putting it over the lock, "Focus your chakra."

I nodded once and took in a deep breath. Closing my eyes and concentrating allowed me to hear the noises inside again. It got louder and louder until...nothing but a click was heard. Everything else was silent.

"It's open!" Mother exclaimed, her eyes wide with excitement.

I opened my eyes and realized it was true. The lid of the box was slightly ajar in my hands, waiting for me to open it further. And that's what I did. Peering inside, a small scroll in a ruby red glass case was rested against a red satin cushion. This was clearly a priceless, unique scroll.

"That's it!" Mother whispered to me, "That's the scroll to summon your Inner Demon!"

Inner Demon?! My heart lurched into my throat. So...like Ronin? I will be getting my own Demon? Now?

"Now?" I whispered to Mother.

She nodded, "Father insists you are ready to have yours now. For safety purposes. And for future purposes of course."

I was speechless. Father has actually entrusted me with something as big as my Inner Demon. When I'm only eight years old! I smiled brightly.

"Let's do this then. I pulled the scroll out of the box, immediately twisted the case open, dropped the scroll into my free hand and opened it across the floor in front of me and Mother.

Inside was nothing but names of other people, "The five Korikages of Kori no Mura." I whispered, looking at the red writing written down the scroll.

Mother grinned excitedly, "Yep. And now...your name is going to be in there too."

I made a strange noise in enthusiasm and looked up at Mother, "Where's the pen? I wanna do this now!" I scrabbled around the pockets of my skirt, jacket and cloak, but I didn't have one, "Mother? Do you have one? Or ink? Or paint?"

Mother giggled, "I'm afraid it's not as simple as ink to paper. Have you noticed the writing is red?" when I hummed she continued, "It means you are, I'm afraid, going to have to use your own blood. You are of the Korikage bloodline, you need to sign it with blood or the summoning won't work, otherwise, if someone miraculously opened this crazy mechanism, anyone could sign it. Notice how Father bites his thumb before summoning Ronin?" 

I pouted my lips, thinking, then I nodded, "He does, doesn't he?" I then looked down at my own thumb, "But my blood is blue, not red."

Mother shrugged, "Still Korikage blood, right?"

I looked back down at the scroll, well...first time for everything right? I lifted my thumb to my mouth and bit down hard, "Ow!" maybe a little too hard. The tip of my thumb oozed blood rather rapidly, which is a relief as well as a pain. At least the signing will be easy that way. Squeezing the pale blue blood with my fingertips, I pressed it down on the scroll and began to write my name. It was rather stingy doing it against rough parchment paper, but at least it absorbed the blood easily.

"There...now what?" I asked.

My writing began to glow and a strong breeze exploded from the paper blowing into mine and Mother's hair. That familiar chakra presence came into my head again. And the cry also sounded. Definitely a horse. Snow billowed out of my writing and spiralled above us, twisting, merging, forming a shape. A body was formed, four legs were formed, a majestic mane and tail were formed, and then the head. Eyes firm shut, the creature lowered to the ground in front of me, first wobbly when it's feet first touched the floor, but then they tucked together and strongly straightened. 

The wind stopped and disappeared back into the parchment. The room remained silent. Until my creature released a loud snort. It's eyes snapped open, glowing a brilliant white before dying down to a pale blue, like mine. 

"A horse?" Mother whispered, looking the creature up and down in exasperation.

But that was not the final conclusion. Immediately a pair of feather like wings sprouted from her back, flapping back and forth releasing a breeze of their own before folding back and perch on her back.  

"A pegasus." I corrected Mother, smiling.

Mother rubbed her eyes and shook her head, probably trying to come to terms with what was actually standing in front of her. Not just an animal. But a mythical creature.

The creature lowered her head to my level, waiting for me with longing eyes. Cautiously I raised my hand and placed my hand onto her soft white muzzle and then ran it down her entirely white body. She nutted me in the head in affection and snorted again. My exasperation was replaced with a small giggle. Which turned into a laugh, "She's so funny!"

I turned to Mother who was still wide eyed but smiling, "Well, what are you standing there for? We're going to take her for a ride." she hopped forward, effortlessly lifted me into the air and pushed me onto the creature's back. She then raised her leg over and jumped on behind me, "Make her move. I surely can't."

I hesitated for a second, before Mother grabbed one of my hands and made me slap the creature's rear. The creature jumped up onto here her hind legs before charging forwards and out of the door, spread her wings and soared into the air.

The sensation was incredible. So free, so calm, so cool. An incredibly refreshing feeling. The cold air brushed through my air and fingertips. Both me and Mother laughed loudly.

"So what are you going to call your demon?" Mother asked, holding onto my arms and lifting them to my sides.

It took me such little time, "Aimi." I replied over the sound of the strong wind.

Mother giggled again, before a growl was sounded in the distance. She immediately frowned, "STOP!" she demanded.

Instinctively I wrapped my arms around Aimi's neck and pulled back to stop her. She obeyed immediately. Mother looked ahead, as did I and I could have sworn I saw two yellow dots glowing and a dark silhouette, moving and swerving in the distance.

Mother grunted, "Turn around." her voice was serious, and dark, "We need to lock up the shrine."

I shifted my weight so Aimi turned around and flew back to our destination.

 

Was that Okami I saw in the distance? How is she? How are the people of my village? I won't know until they return.

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