by Fuuko no miko
Author's Notes:
This was one of those ideas that go into your head and that just *refuses* to go away, just like Promises and two other fics I had lurking in my brain (one Mikoto and another which is Rurouni Kenshin). I wanted this to turn out a bit different from my usual WAFF menu ^^, hopefully it would do that in the course of time. It's a little more bloody and maybe a bit more violent. Perhaps a bit more adult too. Some of the characters I *really* had to alter and the storyline I had to twist in different directions to accomodate this idea, so please don't go ballistic if anyone in this ficcy goes major OOC. It's only fanfic after all. Okay, here goes...

A little Niponggo for those who aren't well-versed in the language:
Kami- God
Oni- Demo
Oniisan- big brother
Imoutosan- little sister
Sayonara- goodbye
Baka- idiot
Gomen nasai- I'm sorry
Arigatou- thank you

Such an irony...

Ironic indeed.

That the best swordsman in all of the ninja village...

Was a woman.

Every inch a woman if the truth be acknowledged. From the long, silvery tresses that the wind so often made fun of when set loose from her favored black ribbons, to the provocative curves that Kami-sama had granted her-a blessing or a curse- depended on the day or the situation. Her eyes were said to be most challenging when their crystal blue stare was thrown into one's way, and her full pink lips held promise to those who would dare seek their texture. She was one of the fairest, if not *the* fairest of the young, unmarried maidens of the ninja clan of Phantom Shadows and one of the most skilled as well. And while others had merely physical attractiveness, she had a head to match her outer appearance.

Her family was proud of her being such.

She was not quite as sure.

For the most part she had been loathing rather than revelling her God-given looks, especially when the more brazen of the young warriors from the village paid homage to this fact. Their attention was more annoying than the little children she had to forcibly babysit when the older Hokage members were off to battle. She would only reply to their promises of undying love a snort or a snide remark, if they were lucky.

The more shy ones simply stared and sighed. Knowing she was quite the untouchable, unreachable.

All the more making her desirable. A most coveted prize.

And whilst the men adored her, the women disliked, but for the most part, envied her. She was beautiful, intelligent, talented and respected. And if she had any more than this, the women of the Hokage village would probably have plotted her early demise.

Which was probably why Kami-sama had given her a little dose of tragedy to even out the odds.

Her parents have been taken away from her at a young age. They had died in one of the earlier battles their then relatively young and inexperienced leader Ohka led. It was a raid against a rival ninja tribe that ended tragically in the loss of the lives of many a Hokage. Her parents included. She was then a little girl of 10. Since then she had promised to avenge her parents' killing, and had trained strictly supervised by her uncle, Kyuso, one of Ohka's finest men. She had since become one of the ninja clan's best sword wielders. Only her gender sometimes got in the way of being involved in the battlefield. Ohka, wary of the protection of women and children, limited her exposure to the tribal wars that went on, despite her skills. It incensed her that he should think her inferior to his other men, thus relegating her to protector status, safeguarding the village when the rest of them went out to the killing fields.

"It's for your own good...and besides, don't you find it exciting to be here and protect everyone else? I trust you enough to be able to shield the village should our enemies come here." he would reason out.

"Ofcourse, Ohka-sama, I understand." she would say obediently, and curse him under her breath.

Such a day is today. Majority of the male warriors had gone out to be on the lookout for the rumoured arrival of the Oni, Oda Nobunaga, who was said to be on his way towards conquering Japan, and eliminating the ninja clans who dare opposed him. She had so badly wanted to come along, only to be shunned again by Ohka's repeated reasonings of having her protect the village.

"Kuso." she muttered as she watched the departing group of ninjas make their way through the thick forest. "Ohka-sama always underestimates me! Hell, I can do better than the rest of his footsoldiers put together!" She slammed her fist against her palm.

"Now is that an appropriate word a young lady should utter?" a voice came from behind.

A smile lifted a corner of her lips. She turned around and threw her arms affectionately around the bearer of the voice. "Oniisan!!!" She hugged him tightly, expressing her longing for him for the past few weeks. He had been sent to spy on Oda Nobunaga and the moments she spent with him were few and far between. He was, after the demise of her celibate uncle a year back, her last remaining blood kin.

"Now, now, don't get mushy with me. You'll lose your ice maiden front." he laughed mirthlessly, returning her bearhug.

"I don't care. With you I've always been mush." she replied, withdrawing from him and looking through his gentle brown eyes. "I missed you terribly."

He ruffled her silvery hair with his huge palm. "I missed you too, imotosan. Very much." His gaze shifted to a more serious note. "You know why Ohka-sama wouldn't allow you to go to the battlefields too often. It isn't safe...especially for a pretty young lady like yourself."

She snorted and turned away. "I am *not* a lady! I am a soldier! Kami, I am but his most able warrior and he dare leaves me to damn babysit!!! I would not stand up to this!"

Her older brother put a hand on her shoulder. "I know you feel overlooked, imoutosan. But this is the best for you. We all know what a fine warrior you are, and we recognize that. That's why Ohka-sama trusts you with protecting our home. Think of all the lives you're responsible for. A whole village! Don't you think that's important?"

"But I'm missing all the action!" she complained. "I don't want to be cooped up in the village until I'm senile and brittle-boned! I want to be in the fields, defending the honor of The Hokage Clan, wielding the ensui and making our parents proud...I want to come home a hero...like you." she lowered her defensive stance and embraced her brother's massive arm.

"You've always made me proud, imoutosan." he told her affectionately. "Always. And," he paused, "You know Ohka-sama thinks highly of you. He wouldn't leave the village to a handful of men if he didn't believe in their abilities to defend it. You're one of them. An unsung hero..."

She pouted. "But I don't want to be an unsung hero...I..."

"Usui-san!" another ninja called. "Hurry up over there, we'll miss the troop!"

"I'm coming, Yukaze-san!" he replied. The Hokage ninja turned and gave his younger sibling a tight hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. "Yukaze will have my hide. Sayo-nara, imoutosan. Promise me you wont get married when I'm gone." he teased.

"Most certainly not!" the silver-haired beauty protested. She held her brother tight, "Sayo-nara, oniisan." she whispered, afterwhich she let him go towards his awaiting companion.

Usui turned towards his best friend and confidante, Yukaze. He looked over his shoulder as his sister waved goodbye to him. "You know you should try and get to know Yukaze here a little more...he's very domesticated! Perfect husband material!!!" he joked, thus receiving an elbow from the other man.

"Baka..." she continued to smile and wave at her brother whilst reserving her inaudible comment to the man walking at her brother's side. She had known Yukaze for almost as long as she can remember and the two-syllabled word synonymous for idiocy was the best description for him. He was a warrior like her oniisan...an excellent one if she would take her older brother's word for it. A fact she was yet to see. His rumoured fighting skills she had not witnessed herself because as far as she can recall, Kaze had *never* beaten her in a sword duel...or any duel for that matter. Even if he used his madougu, the fuujin, like a pro, he was never able to defeat her everytime she issued a challenge. He had a tendency to be awkward and distracted everytime they faced in battle practice.

"And oniisan thinks he's husband material..." she rolled her eyes heavenward. Although she knew Kaze was an excellent cook and an organized housekeeper, those qualifications left much to be desired, for her at least. She didn't want a maid. She wanted to be swept off her feet by someone who had a nerve of steel but a heart of gold, like oniisan. It wouldn't hurt if he was good-looking either. Yukaze, well, he just didn't seem to fit the part. He didn't have much nerves, if it was to be based on the fact he gets tongue-tied everytime he spoke to her. A heart of gold? If he was her onii-san's best friend it was possible. As for looks, Yukaze was no head turner, but he had it, albeit it was more subtle than striking. His purple mop of unruly hair wasn't much to go on, though he had the most expressive eyes, whose hue varied from a bluish purple to deep violet especially when the sunlight danced in their luminous pools...


She whirled around to see the Hokage chief's wife staring at her. The younger girl quickly took to one knee.


Kagero pulled her up to stand. "No need for that, Mizumi-san." she smiled. "Come, we must make rounds of the fortifications for the village."

"Hai, Kagero-sama."

The older woman led the way as the younger one followed, all the while saying a silent prayer for her brother and his companions.

Three days and three nights Mizumi burned the midnight oil. Taking her position as sentinel amidst the tall, forest trees and diligently keeping watch. Her well-trained eyes scrutinizing every nook and cranny her vision would encompass. She counted the hours, awaiting for any signal of her brother and his companions' return. She gave them another day and decided, along with the other footsoldiers, to send a search party should they not return on the fourth moon. She had just decided on this matter as she jumped from her high perch and walked back towards the sleeping village. She was halfway there when she heard a movement amongst some bushes.

"Who goes there!?" she quickly drew one of her kodachis and pushed the offending bushes off the way, preparing to pounce at the source of the disturbance.


The frail, dark-haired boy initially looked frightened seeing her sharp weapon. But this he quickly concealed with a poker face, pretending not to fear, yet the morsel of bread he held fell on the ground as his tiny hands trembled.

Mizumi's heart softened seeing this child's attempt to be brave in face of her. She immediately resheathed her blade and bent on her knees. Her face leveled with the little boy's. "Gomen nasai, Kurei-chan. I didn't mean to scare you. Are you alright?"

He flinched when she attempted to touch him. He bit his lip as he tried to hold back tears, of fear or of sorrow, she could not tell. She turned to a pouch bag hanging on her side and took out a few pieces of rice balls she had no appetite to take for supper. "Are you hungry? Here...I haven't touched these." she offered gently. "You can have them if you want." Kurei eyed her skeptically, but quickly snatched the food from her hands in case she had a change of heart. He mumbled a weak "Arigatou" before dashing off towards the direction of the village outskirts.

The silver-haired girl stood up and followed Kurei with her gaze. She had known about the child's exile from the village, as well as that of his mother's, the once proud and haughty Reina. She pitied the boy. An unfortunate victim of circumstance, he was. She was thankful she never had to go through what he did, and was impressed by the child's fortitude in such a situation. Other children would have broken down if put in his place.

She was pondering on this thought when a brisk movement from behind a tree took her by surprise. Before she could think of a proper response, Mizumi found herself getting tackled to the ground by some heavy force. Her scream of alarm was muffled by a strong hand covering her mouth. Her eyes widened as she caught the sight and scent of blood on the palm covering her mouth. She kicked and thrashed violently beneath her captor as her left hand located the kodachi by her waist. Her struggle was only put to a halt when her eyes met those of her assailant, as a pair of familiar purple-glazed pools looked back at her, a fresh scar crossing their dark-lashed lids and a smear of blood brandished above those arched brows.

"Y-Yukaze-san?" she managed to sputter out as his hand fell from her mouth.

"T-tasuke...te..." he mumbled before losing consciousness.


"Nooo! It's not true! You're lying!"

Yukaze, brave man that he was, was almost afraid to look up and meet the accusing stare of one Mizumi. The pain in her voice pierced through his heart. Seeing the same in her eyes would too much for him to bear. Too much. For if his news hurt her, all the more did it hurt him.

Recieving no answer, the silver-haired maiden seized the injured young man by his shoulders, shaking him violently oblivious of the bandages the covered his head and half his torso.

"Tell me you lie, Yukaze-san!" she wailed in anger. "You lie! It's not true..."

Finally, Yukaze summoned the courage and met Mizumi's icy blue gaze. He tried, but with much difficulty, not to be affected by the pain he saw in their depths. "What good would it do to me to lie to you Mizumi-san?" he answered in a hoarse voice he almost didn't recognize. "We did what we could...but we were outnumbered, we were..."

"Noooo...." she turned away, letting him go abruptly and ran towards the open window of her house. Once there, she could no longer control the tears that cascaded from her silken cheeks. She sobbed. "It's not...it can't be..."

Despite his condition, Yukaze got up to his feet and cautiously approached Mizumi. He risked a verbal assault by putting his hand on her shoulder. She didn't react, however, merely finding comfort in the well of tears that fell from her eyes.

Silently he pulled from his leather bag a bloodied weapon and handed it to the crying girl.

"Oniisan..." her voice croaked as she reached for her brother's madougu, the Hyomon en. "Oniisan...how could you leave me..." and with that she collapsed into Yukaze's arms, releasing her agony in a violent outburst of tears. "How could he leave me like this, Yukaze? How could he...it's not fair..." she cried like a wounded animal.

The other ninja simply kept quiet as the young woman pounded angrily at his broad chest. He held her close, trying to comfort her with what was left of his strength. He bit his lip as he remembered how his best friend had received a fatal stab in the chest trying to save one of the older Hokage ninjas from a blow from one of Nobunaga's men. He had shed unmanly tears as Usui made him promise to take care of Mizumi, handing him the hyomon en as he recited his dying wish. That promise kept him alive as he fought to survive the unexpected battle their group of spies had gone through. Only he had lived to warn the village of the coming attack.


The young ninja looked up to see their leader standing by the open doorway.

"You are needed." Ohka said simply. His eyes, turning sympathetically towards Mizumi, who had lost her last remaining kin in the previous skirmish. "I'm sorry to hear about Usui, Mizumi-san. Your brother...was a great warrior..."

Surprisingly, the young woman said nothing. But her eyes told a different story as she looked back at Ohka with an icy glare that momentarily shielded her wounded soul. "He is...Ohka-sama," she returned flatly. "He will be missed..."

Yukaze withdrew his comforting hold on Mizumi and followed his leader. "I'll be back, Mizumi-san..." he told her.

As the door slammed shut behind her, Mizumi fell on her knees and slumped on the floor. "Oniisan..." she cried, holding the hyomon en against her chest. "Oniisan...your death will not be in vain...I'll get Nobunaga for this, I promise you...I'll kill him...I'll..."

In her solitude, Mizumi released full-blown the overwhelming tide of sorrow that enveloped her.

"We cannot use our madougus." Ohka said finally, speaking firmly above the vehement protests of his fellow ninjas.

"But Ohka-san, we have a standing chance against those demons if we use our psychic devices!" one ninja exclaimed.

"Don't be a fool Ashuro." an elder ninja interrupted. "It is as plain as day. Nobunaga has us severely outnumbered. We can fight all we want, but our chance of victory is as small as a grain of sand. We could probably fend them off a day, maybe two. But he'll come back with even more men. Our madougus may be powerful, but even so, you cannot attack should ten men come attacking you at the same time."

"Hajime-sama is right." spoke another. "I agree with Ohka-sama. Let us hide our madougus and fight to the death. Personally I cannot allow my precious Kougan anki to fall into the wrong hands. I'd rather die knowing I have not given an evil man a weapon to destroy the world with."

"It is a day of reckoning my friends. This is, without doubt, our last hurrah. We cannot allow our weapons to be used to hurt people. They have not been created for that purpose." Ohka spoke with authority. "I have discussed with all of you the advantages and disadvantages of this situation. What say you?"

"I say we fight to the last of our breath." the one named Hajime spoke.

"I am with you, Ohka-sama, Hajime-sama." another one piped up.

And it was followed by a chorus of everyone in the room, a chant of unity for fighting in what they had concieved to be their last battle. Ohka nodded grimly. It was going to be their last. If only they could spare their families from this terrible war. If only...


"You're not going." Yukaze stated as he watched Mizumi dress up for battle. Sheathing her sword and putting shurikens in her leather pouch. She tied her silvery mane with a black bow, seemingly not hearing what the wounded ninja was saying.

"Speak for yourself." she stated bluntly as she headed towards the door.

"Mizumi-san....I can't let you go!" Yukaze, with much difficulty standing, dragged himself towards the young girl. He blocked the way with his larger form. His violet gaze met Mizumi's blue ones. "I promised your brother I'm going to take care of you and that's what I intend to do. You are not going out there."

"You can't even take care of yourself." she snorted as she tried to pass him unsuccessfully.

Yukaze stood straight and held Mizumi by the shoulders. He looked her square in the eye. "Mizumi-san, please...don't do this...I...I don't want to see you hurt...or dead...Mizumi...I...I love you..."

If he had wanted to stun her, he could not have used a better weapon to hit her with. MIzumi gaped at her brother's best friend as if he'd grown a second head, and even a third one. Yukaze seemed to have been surprised by what he said as well. He bit his lip and tightened the grip on Mizumi's shoulders. As though flinching inwardly from the boldness of his declaration and her as yet to be seen response.

Wiping the look of surprise that registered on her face upon his announcement, the cold expression returned to the female ninja's features. "If you're saying that just to stop me..."

"I'm not...I mean...I don't...I mean what I've said Mizumi-san...I do love you. Since we were kids...I..."

A fire-lit arrow whizzed pass betwen their faces, finding its target on the wall beside them. A sense of reality hit them and seemingly breaking the momentary trance they were under.

"They're here." he spoke for both of them.

Mizumi found that opportunity to break away from what she deemed a most awkward moment and somehow thanking Nobunaga for interrupting them. For once she would've found herself without a retort to reply him with.

She felt his hand touch her shoulder as she proceeded out the door.

"I'm coming with you." he declared firmly, indicating there was no turning back. "I will fight them to the last of my breath...." he sighed. "For you and Usui..."

Mizumi nodded.

The clash of metal and the screams of determined warriors drowned the usual serenity of the Hokage village. Everywhere there was the spew of blood, the cry of agony, the sound of pain. Mizumi tried not to let the horrifying sight overwhelm her as she saw her beloved village get engulfed in the violent tide of war. She fought her way gallantly, showing the men she had taken down that she was the gifted warrior her family had become so proud of. She only wished Ohka-sama had given her a chance to use the ensui. She would've wiped them all with her madougu, if only...

"Kurei-chan..." the mumble escaped her lips as she saw the tiny five-year old crying helplessly beside his dead mother. But it was not that which so much as caught her attention as the soldier who had seen the boy and who proceeded to run towards him with his battle axe.

"He's only a boy!" she cried in protest as she picked up her feet and sped towards the two of them.

Kurei held a silent scream in his mouth as he saw the huge soldier approach him with a huge axe. He was trying to recall how to emit those magical flames from his hand when he felt another body from a different direction tackle him. His eyes widened as he saw his attacker fall forward whereas he fell backward. He thought the big man was going for him but realized a second later that he had fallen on his face. Dead.

Mizumi opened her eyes, certain that she had taken a deathblow on her back as she shielded Ohka's older son from the attack of a maniac. She was suprised when she saw the pool of blood and realized it had not been her own.

"Run, Kurei, run..." she instructed the boy as she got up and picked her kodachi and ascertaining that her adversary had indeed fallen. She was about to do it herself when she heard a moan from not too far away and recognized the voice.


The bearer of the spoken name lied in a pool of his blood, Mizumi realized. She gasped as she saw a nasty-looking gash upon his chest. He held on to it, oblivious to the pain, a strange smile of satisfaction painted across his lips.

"What are you smiling about, you...you...idiot?" Mizumi accused angrily as she kneeled beside him, ripping off his clothing to examine the depth of the wound. She tried not to react as she saw its fatal nature.

"Did I get him?" Yukaze tried to get the words out as the young girl attempted to put pressure on the bleeding wound with the young man's torn clothing.

"You did." she used all her might so as her voice would not quiver. It didn't take a genius to find out what had occured. Yukaze had obviously seen her attempt to save Kurei and had made his own attempt to save her and the child. In the advent of which he had shielded the two of them, recieving this now gaping wound on his torso, but not before planting his sword on the other man's heart.

With much effort, he raised his right hand and brushed his hand across the silver-haired maiden's cheek, smearing it accidentally with blood on his fingers. "Gomen nasai...I didn't mean that..." he mouthed out with much difficulty. His lips had become pale and his breathing became fast and uneven, showing evidences of the severe amount of blood he had lost.

"Shhh...you mustn't talk, you're weak..." she said, fighting a losing battle with tears. Mizumi positioned herself to carry her fallen colleague when he resisted.

"D-don't bother." he uttered weakly. "I know, it's...it's time for me to go..."

"Don't say that!" she protested angrily. "We'll get this fixed...I'll take you to Rauresu, he's.."

"Rauresu-san is dead." he stated, referring to the village healer. "Don't bother with a dying man, Mizumi-san. Go to the hills, save yourself. Get away from here."

"I won't...I can't...leave you." she argued. A tear fell involuntarily from her cheek. "I...I will defend my family's name to the last breath I take."

"Don't be silly." the other ninja said. "You must live...to...fight..another...day..."

"Why don't you take your own advice then?" she challenged. "Live...and fight with me another day?"

Yukaze closed his eyes and groaned from the pain of his injury. Yet, something inside of him felt a bit elated at her words. His weakening heart doing a tiny backflip. Could it be? Could it be, by some miracle of Kami-sama, that his beloved ice maiden, even a little, had cared for him too? What a silly notion to come by you at the moment of your death! he scolded himself. Had he been in a better state he would have asked her what she had meant. But now was not the time for romantic idylls. Not when his vision was beginning to fail him and his heartbeat was becoming faint even to his own ears.

Perhaps, another day...should Kami-sama give them the chance, maybe he could ask her...if she liked him too...even a little. Maybe in another lifetime...another time, another place, he would ask. But now...

"Yukaze...Yukaze-san..." he could hear her usually emotionless tone sound a bit panicky? Or was it? He couldn't really tell, he could barely hear it as his ears apparently have become deaf.

"Kami-sama! You're not leaving me too? Yukaze-san! Don't you dare...oh but you wouldn't dare..." Mizumi was in near hysterics as she called his name out loud, angered and frustrated.

But she knew that he could no longer hear her.

A rustle of bushes diverted Mizumi's attention from her fallen colleague. She turned just in time to see two of Nobunaga's men jump her. In a blink of an eye she had drawn her sword and had torn their hearts open. Mizumi quickly got to her feet as more men appeared from out of nowhere. She moved like the lightning, ripping her enemies apart. She paused only but a second to wipe the tears that stung her vision. She fought gallantly, knocking her attackers down one by one.

If only onii-san could see me now...she thought. She could almost feel Usui smiling down at her.

You've become quite a warrior, imoutosan. Oka-san and Oto-san would have been proud of you, he would have said.

But there was no one here to tell her that. No one to see her throw her mastered skills in bringing down their clan's enemy. No one to watch her fight in the name of the Hokage.

Because they had all been taken away from her. Okaa-san. Oto-san. Onii-san. Oji-san.

Kami-sama had taken her family away.

And now...even Yukaze was gone. He had left her too.

And though her head severely denied it, her heart spoke the contrary. Who was her brother's best friend anyway? Wasn't he just that? Someone who enjoyed pestering her, teasing her about her undomesticated nature? Someone who told her she would be better off left in the battlefield than in the kitchen? He was nothing more than an inconvenience she had to put up with. Only because he was onii-san's best friend. Nothing more.

Then why was it, that when he died in her arms, she felt as though a part of her died as well? As though another one of her dear family had gone?

Somehow she didn't want to hear the answer.

But the fact that he, her dear brother's friend had gone, a sudden realization struck her. Hard.

She was alone now...all alone in the world. Alone. It was one word but was worth a thousand.

"You're a pretty one, girlie. Why don't you and I just get outta here and find a warm place to snuggle in?" remarked her adversary as their faces came but a few inches apart as their swords clashed.

Mizumi spit in his face. "Not in your wildest dreams." she snarled as she kicked him away with a booted foot. She drove her sword into his abdomen before he could retaliate with a verbal retort.

The silver-haired ninja pulled her sword to face the other oncoming soldiers. She was about to pounce when she tripped. The warrior she had just stabbed, with the last of his strength, had held on to her leg causing her to fall and her weapon to be thrown aside.

Nobunaga's men wasted no time and attacked her. The fallen ninja tried to fight them off with her bare hands as her sword was out of reach. As one of her attackers poised to deliver a death blow to her abdomen, Mizumi caught the sword's blade in between her hands, using her strength to hold on. Oblivious to the blood that now flowed between her fingers as the sharpness of the blade penetrated them.

"It's no use, woman. Accept your fate!" the soldier taunted.

What is my fate? she suddenly found herself asking. If she survived this attack, what was to become of her? She would retreat to the hills...and then what? She doubted Nobunaga and his men would waste time looking for a non-entity like her. She would live her days, probably, as a hermit or a wanderer. The last-remaining of the tragedy-fallen Hokage Ninja Clan. A life lived in solitude...anonimity...loneliness....

Was that her fate?

It made no sense. No sense at all.

What sense was there to live? If there was nothing...no one to live for?

And at that moment she had chosen to gaze upon the stars that looked back at her on that dark, tragic night. Upon the ebony skies she could make out the figure of her onii-san...okaa-san...oto-san...her family...her dear, beloved family...and...Yukaze...his purple-hued eyes with that teasing sparkle...smiling shyly at her as he always did. She didn't know he had that kind of affection for her. She never knew. She never did give any meaning to the way he always seemed to blush when she caught him staring at her. Or to those moments when he'd open the door for her, or help her with the laundry. The way he'd cook her one of her favorite meals whenever she hanged out with Usui and him. Or when he'd go tongue-tied and clumsy everytime she challenged him to a duel. She thought he was only being so because her brother was his best friend.

While in truth...it was because he was in love with her.

Which was also why he gave his life to save her a few short moments ago.

It was certainly the worst of times when she had to feel a warm sensation upon thinking of Yukaze's little displays of affection. Just a few inches away from certain death as she held on tightly to the blade aimed at her solar plexus. But she could not help it. Not that she had not felt it before. She had...a little. Moreso because she had denied it. Denied liking the way he looked at her, denied enjoying his awkwardness when dealing with her, denied loving his cooking...she had denied everything.

Until now...

On the brink of death and she had to think of it now...how funny.

They said that when one is about to die, they get flashbacks of their entire life before their eyes. And as her grip on the hilt of the sword began to loosen, Mizumi suddenly had memories flooding upon her. Those days of happiness with her family, her friends, her fellow warriors...she had cherished them all. Days that could no longer be because, they whom she would share them with, have now gone to the afterlife.

The image of her onii-san seemed to be beckoning out to her, reaching out his huge, warm hand. "Come...imouto-san. " his lips moved in invitation.

Mizumi stifled a scream as she felt the sharp metal edge pierce through her body. Her hand had seemingly gone astray and reached out to the empty skies instead of blocking the instrument of her demise. There was a distant look in her eyes, the soldier had noted before stabbing her. As if she had changed her mind about this battle and had succumbed to her destiny of death.

The silver-haired ninja fell limp like a rag doll before the soldier pulled out his weapon. He made certain of her lifelessness, as he'd seen what the girl had been capable of had she been alive. He left to see to it that there was not a soul left in the burning village. Nobunaga would be very pleased.

From the skies a grotesque view could be made out, that of the burned remains of what was once a village of ninjas. The field was bathed in blood with bodies strewn haphazardly in a display of madness and violence. Amongst the corpses one would note that of a young maiden, of whom death had not robbed of her innate physical beauty lying beside that of a young man with dishevelled purple hair and whose blue-violet eyes seemed to be aglow despite his lifeless form. What was intriguing was that they were positioned strangely, curved against each other, in a Yin and Yang form. Complementing.

Something's wrong here...Mizumi through her clouding brain thought. I feel as though...my purpose in life has not been...fulfilled somehow, that there's still something to say, something to do. These thoughts seem to echo towards her brother, whose very soul now stood upon her feet, waiting to collect her. With the final fragments of her life, her head towards the dead young man whose body lay beside her. Right then and there, she realized what she wanted to do.

"Yukaze-san..." her mind spoke. "I wish...we had been given a chance...I should have had a chance...to tell you..."

But the light on Mizumi's candle had been extinguished.

Four hundred years later, the spirit of that flame still burned. Brightly.

Anou...that was pretty long for a prologue, no? ^^;;; It's a whole story in itself! Gomen nasai...gomen nasai. i hope you still have the patience to read the next chapters, no? I'll *try* not to make it too long...promise!!! Hopefully you got the idea who the stars of this fic are to be in the four hundred years after? Let's see...the pretty, snotty, silver-haired maiden with an ensui and the wild-haired, purple-locked guy wielding the fuujin...hmmmm...I wonder who they are?

About the names...Mizumi is a derivative of mizuumi which means LAKE. Usui is rainwater (instead of going for snow, I went for the rainy season) and Yukaze means NIGHT BREEZE/NIGHT WIND.

This story is dedicated to the Tokiya-Fuuko fans who are wonderfully supportive of my website despite the fact that I am an avid Raiha-Fuuko supporter (which I still am, make no mistake about that), to the *wonderful* people at the Flame_of_Recca mailing list (of which I have been a member of for *nearly* two years), to ChibiRaiha-kun (my dear friend and ward) and to the real life Tokiya Mikagami of my life (Who doesn't know he is, unfortunately ^_~)...without whom this is not at all possible. You know who you are and I hope you're not reading this, he he he. This one is FOR YOU, and inspired by YOU, whether you like it or not. So whatever happens, it's YOUR fault! I hope to get to the next chapter sooner...he he he..see ya all!