Haruki Adachi was the master of the Haruki clan. He was feared and respected by all who knew him. Most of his life was spent training the ninja warriors in his clan. Unlike many of the other ninja clans around the area however, Haruki believed in honor and made all his disciples practice the same ideals. He was strict, but fair. As formidable a fighter he was, he was also a wise and clever man. One night, Haruki became ill and was bed ridden for almost a month. During that time, the grand master trusted the clan to his best student, a ninja master named Takumi. Takumi was a cunning ninja warrior and would one day succeed grand master Haruki as leader of the Haruki clan.
Eventually Haruki began to feel better and almost made a full recovery when devastating news via secret messenger from a neighboring clan brought troubling news. The messenger told the Grand master his Haruki clan had been performing many dishonorable actions throughout the region behind his back such as assassinations and thieving. Haruki sent the messenger away in anger and disbelief. He refused to believe his clan would dishonor his name so blatantly. That night Haruki could not sleep. He lay in bed thinking about what the messenger told him until he heard a rustling in the darkness of his room. Haruki pulled a knife he kept hidden and waited. Suddenly, one of his clan members quickly approached him with weapon drawn and attempted to run his sword through the grand master. Haruki caught the attacker by surprise with a knife through the ninjas sternum killing him instantly.
Furious about the attempt on his life, Haruki realized his clan was no longer worthy of his name. That very evening, in the darkness of night, Haruki made his way through the camp and slayed every ninja in the clan with his knife as they slept. Takumi however, managed to make it out alive and ran as fast as he could. He only stopped to look back once. Takumi saw the silhouette of Haruki standing atop the mountain above him. The student hoped his master did not see him, but it was not so. An arrow from the mountain top pierced Takumi and knocked him down.
Still alive, Takumi nursed his wound until he reached a small village. He was taken in by a family who helped him heal. Soon after, Takumi killed the family and took all he could carry in food, water and supplies. It wasn’t long after, that Takumi started his own ninja clan. They were a band of assassins, thieves and spies who terrorized the land for years. Many feared them but not nearly as much as Takumi feared Haruki. Through many years, Takumi looked over his shoulders in fear that Haruki would one day find him and finish the job. However, Haruki had disappeared. In all the towns and villages, there was no word of the old grand master.
One day, Takumi received news that shook him to his core. Haruki had been spotted by some townsfolk. Soon, news of the grand masters return spread though the region like wild fire. The strangest news of all, was Haruki travelled with one single student. Takumi pondered why his old master would take on only one student. Haruki was known for teaching dozens of ninjas at a time. Takumi wanted to know what was so special about this student and so dispatched spies to ascertain the reason Haruki would spend his time training only one student.
After a few days, Takumi’s spies returned with word. Talk from the people was that Haruki claimed to have found a natural born ninja with abilities beyond any other and that he was destined to destroy the Takumi clan. His ninja spies brought him other news as well about the old grand master Haruki. Takumi’s spies told him they heard the townsfolk gossip that Haruki had taken ill and could barely walk. Takumi, seizing an opportunity, sent a group of assassins to find and dispatch the grand masters student while Haruki could not protect him. Days past and Takumi still heard no word from his assassins. On the fifth day, Takumi ninja scouts found the assassin’s bodies in the woods with arrows through their hearts not far from town. In the days to follow, Takumi succumbed to his hubris and gathered together his ninjas from across the land to set out after Haruki and his student. They searched for a week before word came to Takumi of the student’s whereabouts.
Quickly and silently the Takumi clan arrived at the known location of the student in the country just outside of town. The valley they entered was remote and the destination drew them into a large open area with tall thick grass. Under the cover of night, the grass was a perfect camouflage for his ninjas who made their way stealthily toward the student’s camp. Takumi watched his ninjas from afar and smiled. It was at that moment Takumi caught a strong whiff of oil. The smell reminded him of oil used to light the tip of an arrow. Takumi didn’t have time to think another thought before a burning arrow passed overhead toward the field. Seconds after the arrow hit the ground, the tall dead grass the ninja clan used for cover betrayed them as it burst into flames around their feet. Takumi realized the whole valley had been oiled so it would burn and watched in horror as his ninjas tried to outrun the flames but were unable to.
After only a few moments, Takumi was all that remained of his clan. He looked ahead just beyond the flames and saw grand master Haruki Adachi staring back at him laughing. Takumi stood motionless, paralyzed by fear and anger. He clenched his fists as the screams of his clan could be heard in the valley just beyond. Suddenly, an arrow struck him from behind. Takumi fell over and looked toward the direction the arrow came from only to see Haruki’s young student standing behind him with bow in hand. It would be the last thing Takumi would see.
To be continued…