"It isn't working," the midwife ground out in exasperation. "The baby won't turn!"
"Please," the mother-to-be gasped out, panting for air. Her face was drenched with sweat and her skin so pale it was nearly translucent. "Please...the baby...save him...save...please..." She squeezed her eyes shut and moaned as her body was wracked with another spasm of pain.
The midwife sat back on her heels, surveying the situation and trying to come up with a plausible plan. Blood had soaked through her kimono and the blankets beneath the laboring woman. More blood had caked on her arms, from her fingertips to her elbows and was beginning to dry. There was so much that she was afraid there would be none left to circulate through the woman's body and what was worse, it was still coming. Nothing she had tried had been able to stop it and despite every attempt, the baby was still coming breech.
"There's too much blood," her assistant whispered, kneeling next to her. The younger girl's kimono was also bloodied. "Even if we get the babe out, how will you stop the bleeding?"
She didn't look at the girl and she didn't answer because she didn't have one. She honestly didn't know. The woman was long past the age where it was feasible for women to be having babies and labor would have been difficult any way, but to have the child turned wrong? It was near impossible.
She stood and knelt by the suffering woman's head. "I can try and cut the babe out from the abdomen. I've never performed the procedure and I've only seen it done once, when I was an apprentice. It's very dangerous and I can't promise that you or the child will live."
The woman lifted her arm, seeming to struggle just doing that, and grasped the midwife's wrist. Her eyes were sunken, hollow, and dark. "Please," she whispered softly. "I know I won't raise this child or watch him grow. But I've lived a good life and his hasn't even begun. Let me speak with my husband and son, then take the baby. Save him by any means necessary."
The midwife nodded and patted the woman's hand, motioning that her assistant should fetch the two.
Both men stood waiting outside. They'd been there for nearly eight hours already, waiting for news. When they saw the girl coming across the lawn, both stood to greet her. The boy seemed to sense that it wasn't good because he stooped slightly, making himself even height with his father. Though just fifteen, he was tall and thin whereas his father had always been short and stocky. The balding man caught on soon after when he saw the tears beginning to fall from the girl's eyes. He questioned her with his eyes and she shook her head, looking at the ground as they both passed her and headed into the hut.
Two hours later, the beautiful wails of a newborn could be heard above the cries of those in the house who had watched the woman draw her last breath just after the babe had been lain on her chest. Mother and child had a brief moment to stare intently at one another before their time expired and one fled for the heavens while the other remained.
The midwife swaddled the newborn in clean blankets and stepped outside the door where both men waited, caught between grief and joy. "A girl," she informed them. "She left you with a daughter." She hadn't the heart to tell them then that the child might not survive the week. She had been early and her body was small, perhaps not as developed as would need be to be healthy.
"A girl..." the older man's eyes misted and he seemed lost in a stupor. She couldn't blame him, however. He had just lost his wife and was now faced with the challenge of raising a newborn alone.
The teenager, however, seemed to gather his wits about him quicker and took the bundle from her arms. "Rin..." he breathed, parting the blanket to see her face. "Mother said she would name her daughter Rin, if she had one, so that is who you will be. Rin."
The midwife nodded and forced a smile. "Very well. There is a young widow in the village who recently gave birth and lost the child. She should still be producing milk. With your permission, I would like to take Rin to her. My assistant will help you prepare your wife's body."
He nodded distractedly and walked into the hut as if he were in a fog. With a nod of her head, the midwife indicated that the teenager should follow her and stiffly made her way back down the trail to the village.
"Shut up! You are not my mother, so don't try and tell me what I can and cannot do!"
A five year old little girl sat against the large tree on the banks of the stream by their house. Her knees were drawn up to her chest and her forehead rested on them while she rocked back and forth, shoulders shaking with quiet sobs. The louder the voices within the hut got, the harder she cried.
This wasn't a new occurrence. The yelling and arguing between her parents and her brother was a usual event that she had grown used to over the past five years, but now her brother had decided to leave, to become a samurai for the lord who ruled their village. Samurai was a dangerous profession and she knew she would likely never see him again.
"Do not take that tone with her!" Her father's voice roared from within. For being the small man he was, his voice could shake the timbers of their hut with its bass volume.
"You're no better than she is! You betrayed our mother! I hate you both!"
There was silence and then her brother stormed out with a bag over his shoulder. Rin scrambled to her feet and ran to him, throwing her arms around his legs in an attempt to keep him still. Dropping his bag to the ground he reached out and picked her up, hugging her to his chest while she reached her arms around him as far as they would go.
"I've got to go. I'm going to be a soldier. But I'll come back for you, little Rin-chan, I promise." He kissed her cheek.
"What about Father and Mother? Will they come, too?" She leaned her head back and looked at him with large, brown eyes.
His expression hardened. "No. That woman is not our mother. Our mother is dead."
She frowned in confusion as he set her back on the ground. "But..."
"Goodbye, Rin-chan." He patted her head and then shouldered her bag once more and left without looking back.
"Oh, kami save us! How many?"
"There were nine dead and the girl was injured."
"Thank the gods they just hit those three homes and didn't come into the village."
She opened her eyes and blinked, clearing her vision so that she could make out the rafters above her. She could hear two women talking. It took her a minute to figure out what they were discussing, but it all came flashing back to her now. The fire, the men with bows and swords, the screams of her mother and father and then the pain that had gone through her when an arrow buried itself into her mother's chest, coming through just enough to lodge itself in her shoulder as her mother attempted to carry her to safety.. It was more of a dull ache now, but flared up when she tried to move.
Her mouth was dry and she wanted to call out to the women and ask them for water, but when she opened her mouth, nothing came out, not even a squeak. She did, however, manage a movement which drew their attention to her. One was the village midwife and the other was her assistant. Both Rin recognized with a sense of foreboding.
Since her birth, people in the village had been guarded around her. She was never quite sure why everyone seemed to want to be rid of her quickly, but she thought it had something to do with the whispers and perhaps with the fact that her mother was not the one who had conceived her. Her father had told her once that was the reason Nii-san and Mother argued. She had no way of knowing at the time that the superstitious people of her village saw her as a bad omen, a sort of mark of death, because it was her birth that had killed her mother. She only knew they treated her strangely.
It was later whispered that she was cursed and that it had been the curse that caused the bandits to loot those homes and kill the occupants. It was also decided the gods had seen fit to punish her by taking away her voice to keep her from communicating with the blessed people of the village. In light of such beliefs, it was quite understandable why no one was willing to take the orphaned girl into their home and so she was kicked out of the village as soon as her wounds had healed. She went to the only place she knew, to her home, and stayed there convinced that her brother would hear the news and come for her as he had promised.
But he had never come...
Author's Note: It never really tells what happened to Rin's parents so I'm using poetic license (is that the license?). I'm pretty certain that it states in Rin's first appearances that she has a brother who became a samurai or something. Anyway...