Chapter 1

I, Matsui Sayuri; daughter and only child of a great Samurai am set to leave my home to travel into enemy territory where I am to marry my father's greatest foe. I am only a contract to settle a final dispute; an offering to save my village from a siege.

People always tell me I have such a privileged life… they must ignore the fact that I and any other noble born females are bartering tools for more power.

Well, this bartering tool is leaving the premises. I refuse to marry Lord Okamoto Takeshi. There is almost anything I'd do for my father but I can never marry such an awful man. He is said to be the most ruthless man in all of Japan.

I shudder at the thought, pulling my cloak closer to my shoulders. The air has gotten chilly in only a few hours of travel. I'm not sure where I'm going exactly; having not a plan. Unfortunately, the weather does not care if I have a plan or a place to go. Everything has turned dreadful… why didn't I think this through a little more?

My cloak is thin and unable to keep the cold from seeping into my layers of kimono right to my skin. I'm so cold I don't think I can move much more. My legs have feel like lead.

Sighing, I lean against a tree for support. The view ahead shows the once dense forest becoming sparse as hills and mountains loom over the horizon. The sight has me feeling so alone.

What am I even doing? Running from this arranged marriage has only given me another set of problems to boot.

Freezing to death…

There's a growl behind me so low that at first I think I'm hearing things—until I feel hot breath on my back.

My heart pounds so hard, I'm afraid the beast behind me must hear it. Squeezing my eyes shut; I am more frozen with fear than cold at this point.

If I run I will be torn into but if I do nothing? My options will have the same consequences… My luck it seems has completely run out

I turn slowly because if I am about to die I'd like to face my killer. My eyes lock on the golden orbs of a wolf. His breath is rancid across my face.

This is it—I close my eyes, waiting for that final moment to come…

There's a whoosh of air right in front me. Jumping in surprise, my eyes snap open to see the wolf lying dead at my feet. Gasping, I take several steps back in alarm. Wwh—what just happened? Somebody was here—no they are still here. I can feel it.

"You're welcome," a male voice spoke right behind me.

A hand shot out just in time to smother my scream. I'm yanked hard into my savior's chest.

"Let go!" pulling the offensive hand away, I turn to glare where I am met with a shock of silver hair and blue eyes that look like crystals. They're such strange colors that at first I'm dumbfounded to silence.

"You do know that staring is considered rude, right?" he speaks in such a matter-of-fact voice and it nettles me to the core.

"Excuse me?!" I all but splutter, "Who do you-?" the man places a finger to his in lips in a hush motion.

"For your own sake, try to keep it down. We don't want the other ninja to see you just yet."

"Ninja?!" What have I gotten myself into? Oh no, no, no, no! "I have to go!" I make to bypass the ninja but he blocks my escape route.

"I'm afraid little lady that I can't let you escape."

"What?"

He sighs, "You've seen one of us. Something you mustn't ever do."

My heart is in my throat. "Why save me if you plan to kill me?" Maybe I can negotiate my way out of this.

A sly smile spreads across his face, like that of a lazy tomcat. "Yes, I wonder."

His answer has me worried. Not liking his expression, I take a step backward.

"Nevertheless, I can't let you go free. You'll have to—"

"Sadao-sama!"

The ninja I know now as Sadao cringes. "The most unwanted timing, that one." The annoyance wrinkling across his brows is hard to ignore. "Well then."

Before I even have the chance to protest, Sadao has my arm and I'm pulled after him.

"Just a minute! Hold up!" my words simply fall on deaf ears.