land of the crane: fukasu

Fukasu woke up to the confusing cacophony produced by Kakeru and Musashi both yelping in pain, Yagi snorting aggressively, and someone shouting "Charge!" Unfolding her wings, she looked up to see Kakeru clutching at a crossbow bolt sticking out of his shoulder, and Musashi pulling one out of his side.

Uh-oh, she immediately thought, ninja! Looking to her right, she saw two figures clad in black running toward her. She jumped to her feet, drew her ninja-tō, and tried to focus on her training.

Yesterday, she had received a final lesson from her sensei - the only remaining member of the party that had scaled Hizuru sixty years ago[1]. After reminding her to watch her footwork, he had admonished her to be careful.

"The world outside these walls is dangerous, and filled with those who have fear in their hearts," he said, solemnly.

I'm six feet tall, breathe steam, and can fly, Fukasu thought, I can take care of myself.

The old samurai cocked his head and pointed his finger at the young hanyō, "That's exactly the kind of attitude that's going to get you in trouble."

Fukasu started to object, but then grinned sheepishly and bowed - he knew her too well. Later that evening, as she wandered the halls of the daimyō's castle, she reflected on her sensei's words: "the world outside." The more she thought about that concept, the more worried she became. Finally, she sought out her uncle, Kakeru's father, who had raised her as his own.

"Uncle, I'm worried," Fukasu began cautiously.

"Fu-chan, what do you have to be worried about?"

"I've never been outside these walls. I don't know how people are going to react to me," she paused, "To what I am."

He grimaced. She was right of course - everyone in the palace treated his niece with great respect, but the outside world would be full of people who would fear and hate her. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, and then said, "The spirits of our ancestors will watch over you and protect you from harm."

"I know they will, but I'm still worried about how I should react."

"Ah," he paused and took a deep breath, "Well, the Daruma teaches that those who sow anger and fear will reap anger and fear, while those that sow compassion and happiness will reap compassion and happiness. You must treat others with the same tolerance that you wish to be treated with."

Fukasu nodded - it was a teaching she had heard a hundred times before, but one which she always found relevant. "Thank you uncle," she said.

Unfortunately, her uncle hadn't mentioned anything about ninja, so she only had her sensei's training to rely on, and he had trained her to kill. As the first black-clad figure approached, she made her figure as imposing as possible: expanding her wings to their fullest extent, drawing her six foot frame as tall as possible, angling her head so that her black ram horns caught the light of the fire, and exhaling deeply – sending a cloud of steam rolling up toward the night sky.

The ninja stopped in his tracks, and Fukasu could see the fear in his eyes. Seizing the opportunity, she closed the distance between them, and slid her blade between the ninja's third and fourth ribs. He gasped before collapsing at her feet. She breathed a sigh of relief, then looked over to see the second ninja rushing directly toward Musashi's katana. In the firelight, it almost looked like he was smiling.

[1]The Tsurukokan calendar follows a sixty year cycle.