Chapter 67:

Grave Intentions


“I’m Doctor Masanori Shiotani, pleasure to meet you.” Masanori held a friendly smile for Saki trying to make her feel a little more at ease sensing the awkwardness between them.

Saki felt compelled to return the warmth shown. It made her feel a little better about being in the room, but the sense of being an intruder lingered with her. The thought of Takako pulled her eyes back over to her in the corner completely unresponsive. ‘Still nothing after so many days…I guess it’s not going to improve overnight, but still…’ Saki looked back at the doctor with a seeking expression that bordered on pleading. “Can you help her?”

It had been a vague question and Masanori was still partially distracted. “Miss Yamazaki, right… I won’t know until I do a thorough test and examination.” An uncertain answer wasn’t what Saki had been looking for as Masanori could see the hope in her face starting to fade away. He tried to quickly recover from it. “I was just checking to see if she would make a good candidate for our program.”

“Program? Candidate?” Some of the details from before had already disappeared on Saki, but hearing what the doctor said refreshed her memory. She had recalled the nurse saying something similar. Saki had unintentionally converted it into an immediate hope.

Masanori gave her a slow nod while he tried to sort through how to easily explain it. “We’ve made some recent advances in neuroscience that may help Miss Yamazaki. The program I’ve setup hopes to help recover patients from deep mental traumas through less invasive methods.”

Even in spite of Masanori trying to simplify his words, Saki still felt very lost. “What do you mean less invasive methods?”

He rubbed the back of his head looking a little shy suddenly. “Well…I guess you could call some of the things we do today for patients suffering from mental problems to be…a little barbaric perhaps? Our understanding is so limited in the way the brain truly works. It’s my hope our new understanding can change much of that.”

“…I see…” Saki was a little confused that a doctor admitted to the conditions that patients were being treated. She had only been thinking it in jest before, but thinking that it could be true worried her. Yet for the moment he seemed to be making her feel like she could trust him with how earnest he sounded. “You mentioned candidate before?”

“Ah! Yes, that’s right. As I said our understanding is limited and so I’m looking for patients with specific issues that connect with our research. So I was testing her responsiveness today for some preliminary work.”

“Is she a good candidate?”

The doctor pulled out the paper that he had on him and began flipping through them slowly. He seemed to be intently focused on them, not even uttering a sound as several minutes passed in strained silence. Once Masanori was finished he looked up at Saki. “I can’t promise anything yet…but it does look optimistic.”

Chapter 67 – Grave Intentions

Nearly outside of the city and completely surrounded by an overgrown thick green forest was the Chinen estates. Massive trees had grown up around a large Japanese mansion blanketing the entire area in shadow with its canopy. Most of the technology that they had had trouble working properly through the rapid reclamation by nature.

For Chiharu, her life had only begun to return to normal the day before after waking up. The grounds were in chaos now trying to find ways of dealing with the forest that surrounded them. They were even being visited by the wildlife that found their home to be much more like a small dot. She was left with managing the heavy burden of the house and the new problems that arrived. No one knew why it happened so it left most of her men unsettled, however she refused to let it visibly get to her. She kept her men on task clearing away paths needed to reach the town.

Chiharu walked barefoot down the hardwood floors to the underground level of the mansion. It was on this floor that they kept most of the things for their trade. Her purpose wasn’t for equipment as she firmly stepped through the hall with a cross expression. The weight of her family was on her shoulders and her grandfather’s death was still fresh in her mind.

In front of her was a large metal door that waited for her to put in her code on the keypad to the right. Her fingers played across the screen quickly inputting the code. Inside, the room was well lit and lined with cupboards and cabinets that housed a different sort of tools of trade. This was the examination room meant for investigation into technology and biological matters. The sterile polished metal table on the right held one of the bodies from the men that they brought back. His companions were set on the other tables further back.

Standing next to the naked corpse was Tamotsu. He tilted his head over to the sound of Chiharu’s entrance. “Good afternoon, Lady Chiharu.”

“Tamotsu…” She barely came up to the examination table that she approached. Her gray eyes traced the figure of the man drawing up images from the night she tried to kill him. Chiharu blinked once and turned her head up towards her guardian. “You’ve had five days. What can you tell me?”

“Yes, my Lady.” Tamotsu walked around the table and pulled out a computer tablet. He ran his finger across the screen bringing up the information. “They had no immediate identification on them. Which indicates these were professional assassins. However, because there were three it meant that they were in a group so it was unlikely that they were hired. Of the known three man teams in the world none of these fit their description.” He flipped through more data pausing for a moment.

Chiharu walked around the table, crossing her arms. “You said no immediate identification. That means you’ve found identification?”

“Yes, that is correct. After I exhausted my sources through hired channels I changed my search. As you know the Chinen Clan has a specific fighting style and training methods. Someone knowledgeable enough would be able to determine that from just examining either our fighting or our bodies. As such other groups have their own distinctions as well. It took some time but I was able to identify through their body’s scars and definition that they are from the Higoshi Clan.”

“…the Higoshi Clan…” Chiharu carefully measured out her voice to keep the anger from being caught. She was less successful in hiding it in her shaking arms and tensed hands. “One of the three main families…they’ve always clashed with us and now in our weakened state they choose to attack. They’ll learn that it was a costly mistake to attack my family.” She marched out of the room with Tamotsu chasing her down.

“My Lady! Where are you going?”

She turned around in her paused step causing her short hair to spin out rising in anger. Her eyes fiercely glowed from the restrained emotions. “I’m going to plan a counterattack!” Chiharu disappeared into the darkness of the hall, a plan starting to form.

Evening already came with her focused on planning out a strategy for their attack. She listened to the repeated protests from Tamotsu about her rashness. However, she plowed through with single-minded determination for her revenge. It was all she could think about once she woke up. She felt as though she wasted her time before and the rest renewed and revived her spirit. Chiharu drove all of her men scrambling to keep up with her pace.

While she had been unconscious it had left an empty lingering feeling of directionless actions for everyone in the household. There were none related to her by blood, but they had all been with the family for years and felt some sense of familial responsibility towards her. Without her presence to be felt they had no life; it was like death throughout the mansion.

All of that had changed when she woke up. They all eagerly took to any work and welcomed her harsh and rough speech. Even more than being alive again, it seemed to many that Chiharu had a different light that surrounded her than before. It was one that they felt could be followed in the darkest of tunnels and surrounded by enemies on all sides with the odds against them, but never feel as though they could lose. It could only be called undaunted charisma.

A door in a stretch of hall underneath the mansion opened allowing Chiharu to march out. An annoyed scowl firmly dug into her features. Behind her Tamotsu hurriedly tried to follow her. There was distress on his face. “Lady Chiharu! Lady Chiharu, please wait!”

“I’m done listening to your complaining, Tamotsu!”

Tamotsu disguised his frustration and hurried his pace to catch up to her. “I understand how you’re feeling, Lady Chiharu! But—“

“Do you, Tamotsu?” Chiharu had come to a quick stop and turned to face him back. The glare that he received from her was enough to make him hold his words. “Do you really? He was my grandfather! The only family I’ve known since I was three!”

There was a slow swallowing of his words as Tamotsu tested and measured out his next words carefully. “Lord Masahiko took me in when I had nothing and treated me like his own son. Lady Chiharu…I—“

“Then you must feel the same desire to see those that ordered his murder brought the point of the Chinen’s blade!”

“But what about the consequences of what you’re planning! The three clans have not been enemies in centuries, Lady Chiharu!”

“I’m quite aware of the history of the old ninja clans. It wasn't us that broke the truce between the three clans, but the Higoshi Clan. Their arrogance will cost them gravely, Tamotsu.” Chiharu began to walk again with her temper fading to an even boil.

Her pace forced Tamotsu to keep up through the underground until they came back out to the main level of the mansion. The smell of nature hung thick through the rooms despite the doors and windows being shut. He adjusted his senses before focusing back on Chiharu. “The last time this happened it meant war. It is no secret the location of the clans, but they’ve been competition and not enemies. This’ll change everything, Lady Chiharu! Please rethink your plan!”

“I never knew you were so much of a coward, Tamotsu…” Chiharu continued through the mansion with Tamotsu coming to a halt. He stared at her back as she disappeared around a corner.

Worry and frustration had blended on his face as he tried to search out for his place. “It’s not cowardice to be concerned about your well-being, Lady Chiharu…”

One of the men in the mansion slowly approached Tamotsu as he witnessed the exchange between the two. He was a young man in his twenties and carried a healthy grin. “Lady Chiharu is in good spirits today, sir!”

Tamotsu tilted his head over to see one of her subordinates nearby. “Yes, I’m grateful that she’s better, but her recklessness concerns me…”

“You’ve always looked after her like a father, sir. The Lady may be reckless at times, but that’s why we’re here to protect her. Right, sir?” The man had a strangely comforting smile on his face that played at naïve innocence while burying the dark jaded side that existed in all of them. It was an odd attitude for a killer.

“I suppose you’re right…” A momentary break of his stern appearance allowed a warm smile to appear on his face. It was gone in an instant as he corrected himself and walked on dismissing the man. His mind remained in deep thought. Plans of his own were being created and trashed as he tried to figure out his own strategy. ‘…however, what concerns me the most is the child. She took on the weight of the family without hesitation and her strategies are surprisingly intelligent. I didn’t think she’d cause my plans this much trouble… I’m still ahead, but this’ll be far more interesting than I expected from her…Lady Chiharu…’

In the right wing of the mansion, where most of the bedrooms were, there was a low echo from Chiharu’s feet marching through the hall. Only a few men were posted along the path with many still trying to carry out the recent orders. Clearing the forest wasn’t reasonable, but making a road out into the city was small enough. It still proved a painstaking task, however Chiharu’s plans couldn’t be put into action until there was a way out.

She acknowledged the low pounding and grinding from her men outside working on the trees. Chiharu kept her stern expression for her entire walk until she came to a stop in front of her room. Two men guarded the sliding doors. Their expressions quickly changed stiffly as they noticed her approach. Her eyes narrowed immediately reading their complaints. “Something wrong?”

Both men became even more rigid than seemed possible. Sweat quickly began to build up on them as Chiharu leaned in to apply pressure, which actually was pretty difficult considering her age (fourteen year old intimidating two grown men). The slow breaking down process in their faces eventually came to loosen their lips. “It’s all really creepy, Lady Chiharu!”

The guard on the left of the guard nodded in agreement with the other. “Yeah, it’s like something unnatural is at work.”

“I didn’t know I had such children in my ranks that they’d be scared with a little tree growth.”

“But it happened so fast!”

“It’s not possible! How can you not be unsettled by it?”

Her two guards had completely lost any composure that they might have had before Chiharu. “You simply accept it as reality. Nothing more, there’s no point in thinking about something you can’t understand. Once you realize that, it’s not an issue.” She snapped at the two of them with a cold glare that put them back into their positions. The guards quickly opened the doors for her so that she could enter.

“We’re terribly sorry, Lady Chiharu!”

“We’re an embarrassment to the clan! Please forgive us!”

Chiharu walked in ignoring the two. “…and they say I’m the child…” The guards closed the doors promptly behind her giving her privacy.

“It’s amazing…”

“Lady Chiharu’s so mature!”

A sigh escaped her lips as she went further into the room. The poor sunlight made her room dark and thick. It felt small and wrapped around her as though every part was connected to her. It made it seem less empty and alone than she actually felt. There were men all over her home and yet despite that it always felt as though she was walking alone unable to find anyone.

Chiharu slid open the doors to the back of her room. In the distance she could see a couple men making patrols. ‘…so empty…’ She turned back and approached a small table display with a picture of her grandfather at the center. Chiharu knelt down in front and brought her hands together quietly. ‘Please watch over me grandfather. I won’t fail you. I’ll show you that I can lead the clan. Grandfather…’

Night eventually came to the city. Chiharu’s men had finally finished making a rough path out to the entrance. It was a stump filled mess of vines and broken greenery unceremoniously being flattened into the ground by roaring land rovers. Each of the off road vehicles carried a heavily armed squad of five men dressed in black. Riding at the head was Chiharu in the backseat running her fingers along the blade of her short sword uninterrupted by the bumps of the terrain. Next to her Tamotsu quietly sat with his eyes closed looking displeased.

Chiharu sheathed the sword and tightened the belt on her pants. All she could do was run through her equipment waiting for the time to arrive for her. ‘Tonight…we have revenge!’