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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9. Chapter 8

Four years I have been quarantined. Four years I haven't seen the light, apart from the UV that shone above me in the snow white 'cell' as I like to put it. Four years, I have not seen anyone apart from Father and the Medical nin. I haven't seen Mother, or Taichi. All I have are the fictional characters from my books to keep me company.

I am chained. My arms so blood can be drawn from me without a struggle, and around my waist so I cannot escape the Hell I am living in. I've been stuck like this for four damned years, living off nothing but the measly rations of food I was told to have. I have no more feeling in my arms because of all the needles that have been inserted and removed. Not even when I hit myself with a book can I feel the ache.

I have pretty much just given up on hope. I haven't moved from the lying position on my bed for one of the three years. I used to study, read, write even, but from then onwards I'd given up. I made myself a state. Skinny, straggly, hallow eyed and cheeked. I became ill many times as well, so I was weak.

I also had many nightmares. Monsters with wide jaws, razor sharp needle like claws and black shadowed figures chased after me, but Okami saved me from those nightmares. She fended off my dreams and let me sleep peacefully. She'd wrap her tail around me and allow me to lean on her body until I calmed down and slept peacefully.

Father never managed to find out how to get Okami out of me. Whether it was down to my pure struggling, or due to the fact that there is no way, I'm not sure, but I can safely say that Okami is not going anywhere, and I will make sure of it. 

 

Today was different though. Father came into my room. I refused to look up at him, even when he approached. He never spoke to me, just got his sample and left. I haven't spoken to him, or anyone for nearly three years.

“Akemi.” he whispered, kneeling down next to me so his head was very close to mine

I didn't move or flinch, but my eyes opened a fraction in surprise at the fact he was actually speaking to me for once.

“Akemi, I’m going to let you go. You have been in here too long and it is messing with your mind. You need to breathe fresh air. And you need to enter your graduation exams.”

I suddenly whipped my head around, my eyes sparking in annoyance and anger, “So this is what this was all about? You don't want me out because you love me, or care for me. You don't want me out because I am ill and need help. You are still obsessed with me becoming Korikage! You care not for me at all!" I turned to look at the ceiling again.

Father stayed calm, “Akemi, you cannot stay here. Staying in here is messing with your mind. You haven't moved in a year and that is why you are getting ill.”

"I'm pretty restricted in my movement so what is the point in trying? I'm not going anywhere. You've strengthened these chains so much, it's impossible for me to break them." It's true. I managed to escape nearly twenty times in the first year, but every time I was caught again, the chains and metal getting stronger and stronger, chakra infused into everything in and around the room as well.

Father sighed and whispered, "I really have made a mistake haven't I? Many people have told me that, your Mother, Taichi, my psychics. I have ruined my beautiful girl and because of what? My paranoia."

I snorted, "And your paranoia will never go away. So please spare me the sob story and just leave me. I don't want to leave or go anywhere anymore. Not with you, or anyone else."

I felt the pinch of the chains in my wrist and waist subside and a pair of arms lift me out of the bed I lay in.

"I'm afraid that's not an option, Akemi." Father muttered, carrying me out the door.

My legs and arms were excruciatingly stiff so there was no way I could resist him, so I just let him do what he planned.

 

 

Arriving home felt so weird. It smelt different to when I was last here, but that was four years ago, so I probably do not remember what it smelt like anyway.

“Akemi?” Mother gasped, coming out of the kitchen. My eyes widened. She looked different. Her eyes were fear and worry ridden, her skin was paler and she had cut her hair so it was shoulder length instead of the waist length hair I was used to before. She also had deeper worry lines as well.

If I could move I would bound up to her immediately, wrap my arms tightly around her and cry until I had nothing left to cry.

"I can't believe you are back, and look at you. You look so much older and beautiful." I had no idea what she was talking about. I was skeletal, had greasy blue hair that hit the floor and grew out even further, and my eyes were pale and lifeless, "Put her down." she commanded Father and he obediently lay me down on the sofa. It was so soft I could feel myself sinking into the cushion, with no springs digging into my back. I could fall asleep here and now if I could, "You need some medication, Akemi, and a lot of it. Tell you what, I have some oil based medicine which I can put in the bath for you, and you can have a good long soak. Then your muscles will regenerate again, and your sickness will also be gone too. Then I will cook you a hearty meal so we can put some more meat on your bones." she smiled at me, her eyes sparkling. She was putting on a brave front, because I can tell she was sad. She walked upstairs and I heard her run the bath.

Father sat down beside me, his face grave and sorrowful, "Akemi, please forgive me. I beg of you, this is not what I had in mind. I was so foolish."

"Then why?" I whispered back.

He looked away, "I don't know. I guess I was...worried for you. But instead I ruined you, and destroyed your Mother and Taichi. This is the first time she has smiled in four years you know?"

That sounded impossible. Mother was always so happy, always thought positively and always had time to make people smile as well.

Father continued, "She will never forgive me for this. Neither will Taichi. And I won't forgive myself either."

Don't forget me, I thought to myself, I won't forgive you either. I did everything in my power to make you proud and do good for everyone, but you just threw it all back in my face. You made me give up on hope for nearly a third of my life, and worst of all, you don't trust me. I remained silent.

 

Mother called me to the bath, so Father picked me up and carried me up the stairs.

"Mother will make sure you are better in no time." he smiled a small one at me, but it was more out of bravery than happiness. He was trying, much to my shock, to make things better between me and him. I just hope he is fully aware that it is going to take me a long time to forgive and trust you again. And as for respect...that was completely out of the window as well.

Father put me down on a seat in the bathroom and nodded to Mother, "I shall leave you to it." he briskly left the room.

Mother shook her head, "He has changed so much." she looked over at me, a small smile playing her lips.

I raised an eyebrow curiously, "Really? That's hard to believe. How?"

"His spark has gone. Apparently he is not working as hard as he used to, he struggles to sleep, and when he does he has nightmares. About you. He fears you hating him Akemi, he really does. The nightmares are the same, you shunning him, rejecting him and leaving him. He wakes up either crying out or sobbing. And then he tells me how much he hates himself and what he has done."

"Then why did he not release me sooner?" I asked.

"The Medical nin always lied to him. Saying that they are close to a solution, when in fact they were nowhere near. He is also much quieter and submissive at home as well. When he argue he goes quiet. When he comes home from work, he refuses to eat much and goes to bed. Rarely does he spend time with Taichi or me. He just isolates himself and it took him until yesterday to finally open up to me. I was the one who persuaded him to ignore his staff and bring you home. But before you say it wasn't his idea to release you, he has thought about it in the past, but just never convinced his staff. That was also due to him being submissive."

He really has changed...I thought, Does he really regret locking me away? Maybe he does care for me after all...But it didn't change much of my opinions. I may be less harsher to him, but I still won't forgive him.

"Let me get you changed out of your gown." Mother reached forward and lifted me off the seat gently with one hand and removing the robe from around my thighs, before sitting me back in the seat and lifting the robe over my head and chucking it to the floor, "Sorry this is a little awkward baby but you can't move really can you?"

I shook my head. I couldn't even move my hands to cover areas of my body. I looked down at myself and for the first time noticed how much I had changed from an eight year old girl, to a twelve year old one. My hips started to protrude and my chest, not being particularly large, was not as flat as before.

Mother giggled, "You're not so little anymore Akemi, I'm afraid. I'm so gutted I missed you growing into a little young lady."

I scrunched up my nose, "It's not that fascinating. It's embarrassing." I blushed.

Mother's lip curled at the corner, "Come on then, let me get you in the bath." she effortlessly lifted me out of the chair and straight into the warm, almost hot water. Goosebumps immediately popped out of my skin as soon as it touched the water, but the water felt so good I could feel my stiff muscles relaxing almost immediately.

"I've added all the oils needed. Ones for your muscles and a few to make sure you are not suffering pneumonia or any kind of diseases that could have been lurking around. I'll just go and get some pills for you as well. They should help with your malnourishment."

I nodded as Mother opened the medicine cupboard and pulled out a good six bottles of pills. She then poured a glass of water, "Do you want them all at once or a few at a time?" she asked. When I shrugged she thought to herself, "Hmm, I suppose some of these are a bit big to take them all at once, so I'll put them in two at a time, Ok?" 

The coolness of the water felt so good in my desert like throat, and I could feel my voice and breathing going back to normal, not as raspy.

"Now Akemi, could you try and lift your arms and legs?" Mother asked, looking at me eagerly.

I wasn't sure I could feel my limbs getting any better, but when I tried to lift one of my arms, it moved effortlessly. I could feel my muscles tensing and relaxing. The same happened with my other arm and legs.

"Brilliant Akemi! Are you feeling any better?" Mother asked, smiling brightly again.

I pouted, "I am hungry I guess." but I didn't feel weak anymore. I never said my Mother wasn't a brilliant Medical nin for nothing. All those pills and oils have worked.

Mother laughed lightly, "I'm sure you are, only being able to eat the rubbish stuff they serve there. Tell you what? You finish off in here, while I cook some breakfast for you.

Breakfast? I thought to myself, Is it morning? I glanced at the clock next to the sink and my mouth dropped open. It was five thirty in the morning!

 

I finished scrubbing all the filth off of my body before vigorously washing my hair with three loads of shampoo and conditioner, before I climbed out of the bath. I was very wobbly on my feet, having not walked for a long time, but I managed to get the hang of it quickly again, taking slow uneasy steps. I wrapped myself up in Mother's silky red floral kimono and headed downstairs. But when I walked past Mother and Father's room, I heard a muffled sound inside. It sounded like...sobbing. Sniffling. And mumbling.

"Akemi...My little Akemi...what have I done? I'm sorry. Please don't leave me..." It was Father.

Slowly, I turned the handle on the door and pushed the door open a fraction. Father was lying in bed, on his side, facing his bedside table. He was clutching something. When I stepped forward, I realised it was a framed photo. He was asleep, but holding it tightly.

"My little girl...why did I do this to you? Please don't hate me. I thought I was doing good...don't run away, I want to look after you again. Be the Father you deserve so much...no...don't go...please..." he began to tense, his toned muscles contracting tightly. Only then did I notice how fragile his face was. His brow was creased into worry, his eyes were hollow and had had black bags around them, his face was showing clear distress. He had lost a tonne of weight as well, just like I had. His muscles were still toned, but where not as large or stiff as they used to be, they were more shaky.

My instincts told me to leave him alone, because it was his fault this had happened, but my heart told me otherwise, I need to wake him up. I need to assure him I am not going anywhere. I reached out and touched his shoulder.

He awoke with a start, his blue eyes dilated and his mouth formed an 'o' as a deep gasp escaped. He observed me for a second and reached out to touch my arm.

"Akemi?" he whispered, squinting his eyes, "You're still here?"

I nodded, "I'm not going anywhere."

He sighed loudly and pulled me in for a hug, in which I accepted with a bit of hesitation. I didn't smile, but I did feel comforted by his strong, familiar hugs.

"I will never keep you away again, Akemi, I promise. I will always be here for you." he whispered, and he continued whispering, sometimes repeating what he said already.

My mind was all over the place. The one side of me wanted to hate him for locking me away and ruining a lot of my childhood, but the other side of me wanted to love him and stay with him. He was clearly broken and he needs support, particularly me promising that I will always stay with him and not leave him.

After a while, I heard deep breathing, and felt warm breath against my shoulder. Father had fallen asleep again, but this time his face was relaxed. Gently, I pushed him away from me and lay him down in his bed, pulling the duvet up to his neck and kissing his forehead.

"Sleep well." I whispered, before tiptoeing out of the room and shutting it behind me.

 

I smelt something good cooking downstairs, so decided to follow the scent. But it wasn't Mother who was cooking. It was somebody else. He had dark hair and had a tall, muscular frame. He turned around when he heard me walk into the kitchen. I was met with a familiar face, soft blue eyes and pale skin. It was Taichi.

He smiled brightly and immediately bounded over, enveloping me in an embrace, "Akemi." he mumbled into my hair, "Oh my God I can't believe how long it has been. Four whole years without seeing you. It was so painful. I only just got you back after you left for Atogakure that time, only for you to be taken away again." his arms tensed around me before he continued, "I swear on my life that this will be the final time you are taken from me. From now on, I will never let anyone take you away from me. I will protect you at all costs." he pulled away from me and grinned broadly, "I have been training non stop since you were gone, waiting for this moment, where I can finally admit I am strong enough to look after you. I am now a Jonin and everything! I'm working my way up just for you, little sis."

My mouth dropped, A Jonin?! But he was a mere Chunin before I was taken away. How did he get there so fast? And at such a young age?! He's only seventeen now!

I didn't realise Mother was at the breakfast bar until she got to her feet, "He indeed has worked hard for you Akemi. Always mentioning your name when he comes home from training and missions, saying it was all for you.

I couldn't help but smile at Taichi. He looked so happy and pleased for himself, and I couldn't help being pleased for him either.

"Anyway, enough with the sap, let's get these pancakes down our throats shall we?" Taichi headed back over to the hop, flipped out a spatula and starting tossing pancake after pancake onto three different plates, effortlessly and in neat piles.

"You're definitely getting the hang of this aren't you Taichi?" Mother said, turning to Taichi and putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Nah, it's easy. I really enjoy cooking stuff, instead of leaving it to you all the time." was his reply. He picked up two plates, headed over to where I was sitting and placed one down in front of me before sitting down beside me, "You'll be eating a lot more dishes from me in the future, little sis.

I raised an eyebrow again, before digging into the pancakes. I didn't realise how hungry I was until the first bite entered my mouth. Then I couldn't stop eating. The plate was clean in mere minutes, much to the shock of Mother and Taichi.

 

"Right I had better get going. Early morning mission today." Taichi rolled his eyes before opening the front door, "I'll see you later. Oh, and good luck with your exam Akemi. I know you'll do great."

"Exam?!" I blurted out when the door closed.

Mother sighed, "Did you not know your final exam was today?" she asked, washing the dishes.

I shook my head, "No! And I haven't studied or anything! What do I do?"

"Calm down Akemi. Trust me, it will be easy. You are only assigned to do a couple of tasks. I heard Father discussing it with your sensei, Akuma-san. I think they are clone jutsus, long range target practise and simple combat. Nothing to advanced I am sure."

I bit my lip. I sure hope not. I am not sure I can do justu at the moment, I am still a little rusty...

"Come on, let's get you dressed for your big day. I'll cut your hair as well" Mother smiled to me and wrapped an arm round my shoulder, leading me upstairs.

But I couldn't stop thinking, My final exam today...will I be able to succeed, even though I haven't practised in so long?

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