Hotsuma would remember that dream for quite a while.
He woke up at around nine thirty in the morning, and for the first time in a while he was lacking sleep. It didn't feel good. He supposed that it was time to rebuild the village. But how? He had no one to help him, and he had no idea where to start.
"If only some of the Oboro had survived..." he said. Nowadays, most people weren't interested in becoming ninjas, or any other kind of martial artist for that matter. Even if someone was, they would have had to have been at least as young as Hotsuma when he was trained for the first time. He was about eleven. He didn't know where he would find any eleven-year-old people who would want to become ninjas, and he knew that the parents of these kids would not agree at all. He needed someone who grew up in a village of ninjas, and the Oboro were the last that he knew of.
"So this is where the Oboro clan sees its last days...In the hands of its leader who doesn't have a clue. Heh, that figures. I always knew I'd screw everything up," Hotsuma said with great disdain. He sat on a pile of rubble, thinking of how he could possibly pull the Oboro clan back together. Nothing would work unless new ninjas were trained.
"Grr, I'm so sick of this!" Hotsuma shouted, and he thrust his arms into the air.
Hotsuma, against his better judgment, decided to seek Kagari's counsel on the matter. He went back to Kimanu Shrine and knocked on the door. Kagari answered it and was surprised to see Hotsuma standing there. "Well, what a pleasant surprise! How are things working out for you, Hotsuma?"
Hotsuma shook his head and said, "Not too well. Could I ask you something?"
"Of course you can! Come in, please!" Kagari said with a bright smile. She must be really lonely, Hotsuma thought, to let me in so eagerly. Kagari led him inside and fixed him a seat. "Would you like anything, Hotsuma?" she asked.
"No, thank you. I have come to ask of your advice," Hotsuma replied. He explained his situation to Kagari, and when he was done, the priestess was silent for a long time.
She finally said, "It has been a possibility that some of the younger citizens of the Oboro village escaped the Hellspawn. I might have even seen one, once."
"Really? How do you know?"
"Well, on his shirt was the same symbol that you have on Akujiki's sheath," she motioned to the sheath strapped on Hotsuma's back. A small flare of hope lit in Hotsuma's mind, but he kept it concealed under his ever-serious face. "What did this person look like?" he asked her.
"Well, she was quite young¼I'd say she had to have been at least twelve years old. She wears a black shirt and black pants with the Oboro symbol on the back of the shirt. I see her around every so often. She's so fast, though, that I'm lucky I can catch a glimpse of her before she disappears into the dark," Kagari said.
Hotsuma rose from his seat, "Thank you, Kagari. I shall wait outside until nightfall then, to see if I can't speak to this girl,"
"You are quite welcome. Are you sure you don't want to stay in the temple?"
"No, thank you. You have done enough for me," with those words, Hotsuma walked out the door, jumped into a tree, and waited. He waited one hour, then two, then three, still no sign of the girl. Just when he was about to give up, he heard something. A rustle in the bushes caught his attention. He stood completely still and waited. As he was hoping, a young girl crawled out of the bushes. She was panting loudly, and she wiped some sweat off of her head. Hotsuma quietly jumped down from the tree, making only slight noise. The girl had sharp senses, though. She heard Hotsuma and was on her toes. She faced the direction that she heard the noise in. Hotsuma had quickly left that area, and had slipped behind the girl. The girl turned around and screamed when she saw him. She tried to run, but Hotsuma got in front of her. "Calm down," he said, "I'm not going to hurt you."
The girl stopped trying to run, but she trembled violently. She did not speak English, but for the purpose of understanding her, the things she says will be translated. She looked up at Hotsuma, "Are you a demon?"
Hotsuma was puzzled. He tilted his head to the side, wondering why she had asked such a silly question.
"I've heard only demons can have more than two eyes," the girl said.
"What? Oh, of course," Hotsuma said, removing his somewhat creepy mask. "I am human, just like you."
"Are you...a ninja?" the girl asked. Hotsuma nodded, "I am Hotsuma, leader of the Oboro Ninja Clan."
The girl's face brightened. She must have been in the village when it was attacked.
"You are the leader? It is an honor!" the girl shouted happily. Hotsuma knelt down to her level, "What is your name?"
"My name is Hana! Hana Sakamori!"
"Miss Sakamori, do you wish to return to the Oboro village and learn the ways of a ninja?"
Hana seemed a bit reluctant, but she nodded her head and smiled. "Hai!" she said.
Hotsuma knelt down next to her and told her to hold onto his back. Hana complied, holding tightly onto Hotsuma.
"Be sure to keep holding tight," Hotsuma said as he jumped into the air, and into a tree. Hana let out a nervous whimper, but she calmed down when she saw that they had stopped. Hotsuma looked back at her, "Are you okay?"
Hana nodded and laughed, "This is actually kind of fun!"
Hotsuma, though you couldn't see it under his mask, raised an eyebrow at Hana, but he shrugged her strange behavior off quickly, and jumped to a nearby building. Hana laughed every time he jumped from place to place. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Hotsuma constantly checked to make sure Hana wasn't slipping or anything. In the shrine, Kagari watched as they departed.
"Make her into a fine kunoichi, Hotsuma. I know you can," she said smiling.
When Hotsuma and Hana got to the Oboro village, Hana's face turned from happy to sad.
"Is this...all that's left?" Hana asked Hotsuma. The ninja sighed, "Yes. Unfortunately, it seems that we are the only two survivors of the attack. I am sorry,"
Hana's eyes flooded with tears, and she walked over toward where she used to live. The building's foundation and a few pieces were all that was left. "Mama and papa are dead¼aren't they?" she asked.
Hotsuma didn't answer.
"Of course they are...I would have found them by now if they were still alive." Hana said helplessly.
"You should not dwell in the past. I know this is hard for you, but there are much greater issues at hand," Hotsuma said. He walked next to Hana and got into his prayer position as he did for Kobushi-sama, "The Oboro Clan is in need of new members. The purpose of the Oboro is to ensure that the balance between Yin and Yang is not disturbed. If that is ever to happen, well, you saw the attack on the village. That is but a small taste of what the powers of evil can do," he put his arms back at his side and looked at Hana, "That is why the Oboro are needed in Tokyo. We have been around for the longest of time, and I am not about to let us die off,"
Hana looked back at Hotsuma and nodded. Hotsuma walked over to a small shack that was pretty much standing. He opened the door, went inside for a few seconds, and came out with two sheathed knives. He came back over to Hana and handed them to her.
"Here. These will be the first weapons you will be training with. That is, assuming you already know hand-to-hand combat,"
Hana nodded and smiled, "Hai! Master Kobushi taught me that!" Hotsuma was silent. So she was trained by Kobushi-sama as well.
"Well, you should be proficient then. Master Kobushi was the one who taught me how to fight, too. Alright, this makes things a whole lot simpler," Hotsuma said.
Hana looked at her new weapons curiously. "What will I be doing first, Master Hotsuma?" she asked. Hotsuma had never been called 'Master' before, and he did not quite like it. But, he took it in all the same. He put his arms up in a defensive position.
"You will be practicing regular dagger combat for tonight. Hold them like you would a walking stick," Hotsuma instructed. Hana adjusted the positions of the knives so that the blades pointed down.
"Good," Hotsuma said, "Now, you strike an opponent like this," he demonstrated by swinging his arm upward diagonally, "Make sure the blade is facing where the opponent is,"
Hana did this a few times, and soon got the hang of it. Hotsuma taught her some combos that would be useful with this weapon, and then they decided to call it a night. Seeing as Hana was still young, she would probably be more susceptible to the cold, so Hotsuma arranged a makeshift bed for her out of the softer material in some of the destroyed houses.
"Master Hotsuma?" Hana called to him as he walked a bit away. Hotsuma looked over to her, "Yes?"
"Are...things ever going to be the same in the village?" Hana asked. Hotsuma did not know how to answer that question. He didn't want to hurt Hana's feelings, but he didn't want to lie to her either. So, after some thought, all he could say was, "Only if we let them,"
This seemed to please Hana, who sat face up in her bed, looking at the stars through a hole in the roof of her makeshift house. "Then we will let it! Right, Master Hotsuma?" she asked him cheerfully. Hotsuma nodded and said, "We are certainly going to try, Hana. We are certainly going to try,"