Author Notes: "Trio of Iga" is a story from my Seishin (Pure Heart) Series, which is an anthology series of short stories based on (hopefully) life-like ninja. You can find more information on it on my Wikia and blog. This first one is meant to be children-friendly (At least five years old?). The biggest possible concern is the use of a weapon. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for reading ~ MGW
Trio of Iga
Iga District, Iga Province. The famous home of the ninja.
The year was 1560 and it was Spring. For a short time, pink cherry blossom flowers widely known as Sakura bloomed all over Japan. The sakura were beautiful upon first sight and held a sign of good fortune. Three boys took a rare time off from their duties to play together. Hayato turned thirteen last January and was looked up to like a big brother, Shoutarou was ten years old, and Yoshizo was eight years old. If though their ages were different, the boys were very close friends.
During their free day, Shoutarou's father Lord Ryou went up to the three,
"Shinji is sick." He told them with a serious face.
The boys were surprised and worried.
Shinji was one of the older farmers that worked around Iga. He was taken to a Shinto temple for prayers of recovery. In these days, keeping everyone in good health was very difficult and sickness was often said to be the fault of evil. But, Shinji was a good friend and helper to the men and women of Iga.
"Shou, Hayato, Yoshi, I want you to go to Koga and get a pouch of medicine. I'll give you a letter so that they know it's me." Ryou ordered. He sent the trio of boys to a mountain pass that led them to their neighbors, the Koga Ninja. They lived in Shiga Province and were known for their medical practices. They were also known for their longtime rivalry, but both Iga and Koga made a pact to help one another if they were in danger.
Taking stone kunai (leaf-shaped tool that can work like a knife or hammer) with them, Hayato, Shoutarou and Yoshizo left for the mountains. The three had been through the pass to Koga before; it was like a walk in the park and they strolled through like it was their own playground. Halfway to Koga, they stopped on the mountainside, hearing a loud voice.
"WHO GOES THERE?"
There was no one in sight, and that really scared the kids. They were frozen with fear; then suddenly, the mountain rock next to them blew up.
The three backed away, and then looked up to see a large red man with large muscles, horns on its head, and razor sharp teeth standing over them.
"AH! It's a monster!" Shoutarou cried. Easily scared, he dropped down and covered his head with his arms. Little Yoshizo was hugging Shou's back, his eyes squeezed shut. His body was trembling; both were reduced to cowards, and out in front was Hayato who only stared in shock.
"It has sharp teeth and claws!" said Shoutarou.
"And horns!" said Yoshizo.
"You three! I rule this path and this path is mine, Akasandouji's (赤三童子)." said the oni (demon). Even though the oldest of the group, Hayato was still a boy and not skilled in battle. But, he was looked up to as the smartest; the thirteen-year-old was too scared to draw his weapon and he dropped to his knees to bow at the demon.
His first idea was to beg for a pass, "Please Akasandouji of the Mountain. Our friend needs our help. Please please, let us through so that we can get medicine for him." Hayato said.
The oni touched his large belly, "My stomach aches too much! It has been aching because I haven't eaten for days. Give me one of you to satisfy me." Said the oni. The three boys gasped; the beast wanted to eat one of them.
"Form in a line!" Aka ordered, "I will choose!" Shoutarou and Yoshizo stood up, eyes wet with tears and their hearts pounding. Now the trio stood side by side. They could see Akasandouji's fierce eyes searching them, then its claw pointed to the eight-year-old.
"You, I want you. Your fat flesh. I want it!"
Yoshizo had a round body and face that many kids picked on him for. He looked like the righr choice for the demon, but Yoshi quickly had an idea, "No no, you don't want me! I'm the youngest." He said.
"I'm the littlest. Have my friend, he's bigger and older than me." Yoshizo jumped out of the line and behind Shoutarou, pushing him forward. He then whispered, "Trick him."
"AH?" The ten-year-old could only let out a tiny scream.
Now Akasandouji's finger was pointing at Shou, "Then, I will eat you."
Shoutarou was thinner then Yoshizo but indeed older, perhaps more ripe in the eyes of the oni. Ten years old was closer to thirteen, and in these days it was an age close to an adult. Even youths had the courage of men far older then themselves, leading armies into battle and having people bow to them out of loyalty. But, Shoutarou did not have such a spirit. He shook his head as quickly as possible and said, "No no! You can't eat me. I am small and weak."
"Have my friend, he is the oldest and the bravest!" Then Shoutarou jumped behind of Hayato, whispering in his ear, "Please help us. We know you can."
Now the thirteen-year-old was the last one that Akasan could point to, "Then, mercy beggar, I will eat you! I think I like you the most anyway. Hurry up!"
Hayato was the oldest, the tallest, and easily seen as the bravest. He was a type of odd child who handled heights and dreamed of flying like a bird. He was also a good fisher and he took his ninja training seriously. Some say that he was like an adult before his time, very smart and could easily handle problems. Also, his hair was white as if to reflect all of that.
The thirteen year old stepped forward. The red oni reached for him with his claw, and caught nothing. Hayato stepped to the side; it happened again when Akasan reached with his other claw.
Next, the red beast's roar shook the mountains.
Shou and Yoshi hit the ground with their knees again and their bodies shook in fear. It may have been the end for Hayato for making the oni angry. That roar felt like a sign of the boy's upcoming punishment, but it did not happen. Hayato was standing in front of Akasandouji, who was grabbing his stomach like from the beginning.
The boy had a kunai in his hand; the red beast fell over and rolled down the side of the mountain. The boys who could hear his body crashing through trees.
"OW! My stomach! The pain! I feel pain! You filthy brat! Why would you hit there?" Akasandouji yelled. Hayato had hit him with the leaf-shaped end of his kunai.
Akasandouji disappeared that day, hungry and in shame. Hayato, Yoshizo, and Shoutarou hugged one another, safe and sound. The path was clear from danger and the happy trio reached Koga. They would have a small chat about how scared they were, how Hayato was so brave, and how one day they would all become very strong. Besides, Hayato couldn't do everything for them.
One day, for as long as they could, they wanted to be together side by side as true equals.