Seirah stumbled through the rain of ash and smoke, her daughter's hand still held firmly in her own. The shouts and screams of battle were completely drowned out by the roar and crackle of flames.

"Come quickly daughter! We must not linger!" Seirah shouted over the roaring flames and snap crack of weakened timber.

"But mother! Father hasn't caught up to us yet!"

Seirah's eyes watered, not from the heat of smoke, as she looked back at her daughter as they continued to run.

Her daughter glanced back over her shoulder toward the burning village, understanding suddenly striking her like a low blow to the stomach. Her own eyes now welled with tears. ~*~ 30 Minutes Ago ~*~

Seirah Nesei sat before her dinner table, her husband across from her and her daughter to her left. Happily talking over how well the harvest was doing and how peaceful the last few weeks had been.

Tositrui Nesei was a Samurai, one of a dying breed of warriors, villages like hers were few. The Hidden, the guarded, there life styles were forgotten by all but those who lived within the village walls, but they were happy.

Kireiyina Nesei was but 14 years old, the pride of her mother and father, their only child, skilled in many things, but what was most admired of her by her parents was her skill as a spirit conjurer, the only female in the village ever to be accepted as summoner of spirit power.

But all their fighting days were forgotten, for weeks now they had been at peace, happy and healthy, living in what seemed to be a utopia - how were they to know it would be shattered in the span of a few minutes?

It started with a single cry, then a shriek of terror, finally a call to arms.

"Wait here!" Tositrui ordered as he grabbed his sword and lunged out the open door.

Seirah scowled with concern as outside the sound of clashing swords soon filled the air.

"Mother I must help!" Kireiyina cried, climbing to her feet.

"No daughter." Seirah replied, looking grim. "You can't win this battle."

"I don't understand, what's happening?!" Kireiyina replied, but before she could receive an answer their home began to burn.

"We must leave!" Seirah cried, grabbing Kireiyina's hand she darted out the door.

Outside they were met with a terrifying site, their village, their home, and their neighbor's houses, all in flames, rapidly collapsing from the overwhelming heat.

In the middle of the village square, all back to back, were warriors of the village, surrounded by their enemies, the black dragon, mercenaries and murderers, a gang of rogue samurai determined to kill off any who would oppose them.

"Seirah, Kireiyina!" Tositrui shouted to them from the corner of the porch.

"Father! You are not fighting?" Kireiyina queried, looking surprised and bewildered.

"Sometimes daughter, you must know when to fight. and when to protect that which matters most, come! We must flee, many have already escaped!"

"Come Kireiyina!" Seirah insisted, pulling her daughter from the porch.

"But the others! We can't abandon them!" Kireiyina cried in protest.

"We cannot help them now! Come!" Tositrui commanded.

The daughter dared not defy her father, and so she ran with her family, making for the south exit of the village.

They past the school, now in ruins and flame, open the smoldering porch steps Kireiyina saw a body. Master Kitsouni, her Sensei.

Her eyes watered slightly as she ran, past the school, past the now burning fields of crops, past the smoldering ruins of the meditation temple and toward the gate, they were almost there.

"Halt!" A commanding voice ordered.

Two men blocked their path, clad in the ninja garb of the Black Dragon's top assassins.

"None shall pass!" The ninja who had issued the ordered hissed.

"Stand aside!" Tositrui commanded, his voice radiating with power.

"None. Shall. Pass." The ninja repeated.

Tositrui looked to Kireiyina. Kireiyina's determined look was inspiring to her father. He could not let such a gifted child perish here. He turned his gaze back to the four ninja then looked to his wife and daughter once more.

"When they attack me, flee and make fore the bridge a mile south west... I shall meet you there." He whispered softly.

"Tositrui." Seirah whispered softly, her voice heavy with worry.

"Father." Kireiyina murmured, her voice nearly a whimper.

"I promise. I will meet you." He mouthed to them.

Turning back to his opponents Tositrui's sword flashed in the moonlight, drawn with lightning speed.

Even as the first clash of steel against steel sounded Seirah and her daughter were running, around the dueling swordsmen and through the village gate.

~ * ~ Present ~ * ~

"Where is he?!" Kireiyina cried, the tears now falling down her cheeks. "He said he would meet us here!"

"Kireiyina you must calm down!" Seirah cried, grasping her daughter's shoulders.

"But he's not here! He promised! He promised to meet us here!" Kireiyina shouted, shaking her head in denial of what she knew in her heart must be true.

"Kireiyina." Seirah replied, "He won't come."

"But he promised!" Kireiyina sobbed, her shoulders heaving as her voice caught in her throat.

"Kireiyina, Tositrui is-"

"NO!" Kireiyina shouted angrily. "Don't say it! He's not!!!"


"NO!" She repeated, throwing her mother's hand off her shoulder and taking a few steps back, turning away and looking over the edge of the bridge into the stream.

Seirah rung her hands slightly, tears trickling down her cheeks.

"Kirei..yina." The voice was a low gasp, barely enough to be heard.

"Father!?" Kireiyina turned as Tositrui staggered from the bushes.

The two women rushed to the wounded man as he fell to his knees. His daughter caught him in her arms as his wife cradled his hands in her own.

"Tositrui.!" Seirah moaned woefully.

"We're safe now." He looked up at them, their was no remorse, no pain, no regret in his eyes.

Kireiyina's vision blurred as the tears continued to roll, the clear liquid falling onto her father's blood stained robes.

"It is a beautiful night." the samurai whispered as he gazed up at the stars.

"Yes my husband." Seirah replied, gazing skyward with him as her daughter clung to the dying man.

"Kireiyina. Do you remember.? Do you recall when you were young.? We would go to the large hill. and count the stars together?" Tositrui asked, his fading eyes turning toward his daughters beautiful face.

"I remember." Kireiyina replied in a small voice.

"I will always. remember that." Tositrui whispered, his voice weakening. "As one of my most cherished memories."

He looked to his wife now, a soft smile on his face.

"My beloved wife, Seirah. Where would I be without your strength to support me. You were the brightest star I ever saw."

Seirah wept quietly as she watched her husband's life slipping away.

"Do not cry for me my darling family. I die a warrior's death. And I die with honor, knowing those I love are safe."

"Father. Don't say that." Kireiyina.

"Seirah, my dear wife, watch over our beloved Kireiyina. Keep her safe."

"Hai Tositrui." His wife replied, her eyes now closed even as her tears still fell.

"Arigaotou." He whispered to her with a gentle smile.

"Father no... Don't leave us!" Kireiyina pleaded.

"Do not resist Death Kireiyina. In death we are reborn, and we shall live again. My spirit will always be with you Kireiyina." He whispered, his voice now even weaker.

"Yes father." She whispered in return, gazing down at his pale face in the moon light.

"Oyasumi nasai. my daughter." Tositrui whispered weakly, the final traces of life slipping from his body as his eyes slowly closed.

"Oyasumi Nasai. Father." Kireiyina whispered, bowing her head and gently bringing her forehead to touch her father's.

- - - - - - - - - -

Author's Note:

I hope you enjoyed this story, despite the tragedy within it. If I've caused someone to shed even one small tear, I've accomplished my goal. Please review, I'd love to hear some comments. For those who may not know, Oyasumi Nasai means good night.