Chapter 4: Sanctuary

It wasn't that his sister had said anything to break him from his daze. Jin simply sensed her desire to speak, and the knowledge of why she refrained pained him.

Jin blinked several times and rubbed his eyes, trying and failing to push back the exhaustion. Almost immediately, he returned to blankly staring at the single desolate loaf of stiff bread sitting on the cabinet shelf in front of him.

Several moments passed in despairing silence until a wave crashed into the ship's hull and again broke Jin from his trance. He shook his head, slapping his face lightly. With an unsteady hand, he reached into the cabinet and withdrew the loaf of bread. He carefully broke off a fourth of what remained and held it out to his sister.

Jin didn't even wince as Hikari accidentally clawed his hand with her fingernails in her desperation to get the paltry food. He watched, as if from a thousand miles away, as red lines formed on his skin.

Hikari wolfed down the bread in a matter of seconds, her gaze returning to the bread in his hand. He stared at the loaf for a moment before placing it back in the cabinet and shutting the door. His stomach groaned in protest, but he ignored it.

His footsteps were heavy as he walked to the stairs leading up onto the deck, and he paused at the base. Jin looked back at his sister, who was staring at the cabinet in hunger. It was obvious she desperately wanted to rush over and eat what remained of their supplies. However, she didn't, because she understood that they had to make it last.

Which was why his sister had stopped trying to get him to eat two days ago.

Jin was sure it hadn't been much longer than a week since they had set sail from Shikoku Island. However, so much had changed that he was beginning to question how long it had been. Every time he looked at his sister, he felt his heart rip in two.

She was in dismal condition, looking like little more than skin and bones to Jin. When she met his eyes, the look of hunger would fade, but that was the only time it changed.

Clenching his jaw, Jin fought against the exhaustion threatening to pull him to his knees, and began ascending the stairs. The cold ocean winds battered his face, a stark contrast to the musty stifling air of the hold. He squinted through the spray, slowly making his way toward the wheel, gripping whatever he could to keep his balance.

The wooden deck was soaked with water, and a wrong misstep could result in the strong winds picking him up and hurling him off the side of the step.

Securing his arm in a rope tied to a crate with extra fabric for the sails, Jin shielded his eyes with his other arm and looked out past the ship's bow. The ever-present mist was unchanged, giving no indication of whether or not any progress had been made.

Jin had tried to set a course toward Mitsukijima Island and done his best to keep the heading. There was no way to know if he had succeeded, and the island was nearing, or if they were sailing out into the Nagi Sea.

Yet again, Jin wished there had been a map on the boat. Not that it would have helped in such fog, which made Jin wonder how anyone sailed anywhere in the Land of Water. The Loyalists had, most likely, brought the map with them onto Shikoku Island, which meant it was a soggy bloody mess in the woods somewhere.

Jin winced as the deck careened beneath his feet, a wave battering the ship's hull. His shoulder cried out in pain as he lost his balance, but he didn't let go. After a few moments, things settled, and Jin got to his feet. He reached the helm and was relieved to find the wheel still tied firmly to the railing. It was his last hope. If the wheel came loose, the chances of finding land were not even worth considering. They would starve long before then.

The thought weighed heavily on Jin, feeling like a real weight on his shoulders, and he stumbled over to the railing. He tried to keep himself from leaning against it, knowing it was a mistake. However, his exhaustion refused to be ignored and eagerly dragged him down to his knees.

Jin clenched his teeth so tightly that they hurt, his knuckles turning white as he held himself upright. He couldn't let sleep claim him, but he also couldn't overcome his exhaustion entirely. He glared at the sea from his knees, begging and demanding that Kami part the cold white mist and reveal land.

Kami's response was a deafening roar of the wind that whipped Jin's hair about his face. He barely noticed, his eyes slowly beginning to close despite his efforts to keep them open. He couldn't sleep, he had to stay awake, or he might miss the island.

However, his body simply didn't care, and sheer exhaustion defeated Jin in the end. His resistance disappeared all at once, and he collapsed in a heap on the deck.

Jin would never know how many hours passed as he lay on the ground. He awoke with a start, drenched by a wave that had crested the ship's hull.

He leaped to his feet in a panic, for a brief moment not remembering where he was. He saw the large wooden steering wheel, tied with numerous ropes to the railing, and the memories came rushing back.

Using the wheel as support, Jin held himself steady as the ship rocked back and forth in the churning sea. It was raining, something he hadn't even noticed at first. Shielding his eyes with his arm, Jin ended up needing the wheel more than he'd thought he would, his legs nearly collapsing in relief.

Directly ahead of the ship was a beach, and beyond were large trees, the leaves whipping in the storm's strong winds. The mist had almost completely dissipated due to the wind.

The sight brought tears of happiness to Jin's eyes, which instantly mixed with the rain pouring down his face. It was land, and he didn't even consider whether it was Mitsukijima Island or not.

Jin glanced around, but there was nothing he needed to do. By sheer luck or grace of Kami, the ship was on a direct course to crash into the beach. The waves pushed the boat forward, and Jin couldn't have turned away even if he wanted to.

He hurried across the drenched deck, slipping and sliding the whole way to the hatch, which Jin threw open in his excitement. He barely caught himself from falling down the stairs and hurried over toward the bundle of blankets that was his sister.

Hikari stared at him, her eyes groggy as Jin shook her awake. He tried to tell her the good news, that an island was in sight, but his words were drowned out by the roar of the storm. Hikari stared at him, her sunken eyes full of confusion.

Jin swallowed, realizing for the first time how dry his throat was, and was about to try again when everything was thrown into chaos.

The boat had reached the beach and crashed into it. Jin and Hikari went flying, skidding across the floorboard of the lower deck. Thankfully, Hikari was protected by the cocoon of blankets wrapped around her.

Jin wasn't so lucky, and after skidding uncontrollably for a few brief seconds, his back hit a barrel at significant speed.

He groaned in pain, his whole body in pain as he slowly curled into a ball. Jin didn't move for some time, simply unable to. His restraints broke when he heard Hikari call his name, although he was sure it wasn't the first time.

Getting to his feet took almost all the energy Jin had, but he made his way to Hikari's side. It was easier to walk now that the boat was no longer moving, and Jin would have been surprised if the hull wasn't heavily damaged.

"I'm here, Hikari," Jin croaked, his voice barely louder than a whisper. His sister was pinned between a crate and support beam and was helplessly tangled in her many blankets.

He did his best to ignore the pain in his back as he worked to free his sister. She looked unharmed, and he sighed in relief as Hikari looked around, her eyes wide.

"What happened?" His sister's voice was throaty, unused, and raw. He felt a surge of painful emotions at the sound, but he pushed them aside.

"We're here," Jin said, although he wasn't sure where here was exactly. It didn't matter though, anywhere was better than the merciless sea.

"Is there food?" Hikari asked hopefully, and Jin grimaced but didn't reply. He slowly stood, the movement making his back throb in pain. Hikari accepted his help and got to her feet, and they began making their way toward the stairs.

Jin held the hatch open for her and followed after onto the deck of the beached ship. A quick glance off the side confirmed Jin's suspicions that the craft was no longer sea-worthy. The impact had torn a large hole in the hull, and the boat was firmly buried in the sandy beach. Jin had no doubt he couldn't move it, even with chakra.

The thought momentarily surprised him. He'd rather forgotten about chakra. Normally, the ability to finally use his power would have filled him with excitement, but he barely paid it any mind.

With Jin's help, Hikari clambered down the side of the boat and dropped onto the sand. He followed behind and immediately rushed forward to catch his sister as she tumbled forward.

He shifted her in his arms, shocked and worried by how light she was. Hikari cuddled against his chest, her eyes closed.

"I'm hungry... Nii-san." Her muttered words made Jin's heart seize, but he nodded and forced himself to stand. He carefully adjusted his sister in his arms and set out across the beach, heading toward the woods.

Rain poured down relentlessly, the storm threatening to knock Jin off his feet, but he pushed forward. He didn't have a plan, but it would be safer in the woods, where the wind was weaker.

The leaves broke the downfall's strength, but not by much, and visibility was actually worse. Neither bothered Jin. He was used to navigating in dense mist.

However, his exhaustion wasn't gone, and as his excitement began to fade, Hikari's frail form grew heavier in his arms. Jin searched for anything that could act as shelter, even if only temporarily. They would need to wait out the storm and then search for food.

Despite keeping his eyes moving, searching every inch of forest for something useful, Jin still didn't see the Shinobi in front of him until he was a mere ten paces away.

It was the Shinobi's shouted demand that drew Jin's attention, shocking him. "Identify yourself!"

Jin nearly slipped on the wet forest floor, but he kept his footing as he gripped Hikari tighter. His gaze immediately went to the Shinobi's headband and was overcome with relief at the sight of a gash through the Kiri symbol.

"Jin Arashi!" Jin shouted, his throat burning as he struggled to be heard over the howling wind that whipped his hair around his face. "My sister and I are survivors from Reiji Village! Please, help us!"

His blood stilled as the Shinobi's eyes narrowed, and he saw the man glance up at the tree canopy above for a brief moment. Jin forced himself to remain still as the Shinobi approached. He couldn't sense any menace in the man, but he was warily nonetheless.

"My name is Heiji Saionji."

The Shinobi's voice was crystal clear as if there wasn't a storm roaring all around them. Heiji glanced at Hikari before looking Jin in the eyes.

"How did you get to this island?"

"I stole a... a boat," Jin hurriedly explained, pausing briefly as he tried to clear his throat. His sister weighed heavily in his arms, and he glanced down at her. The rain had plastered her hair against her face, and for a brief second, he thought she was dead. Her chest rose ever so slightly, and Jin nearly cried.

"Please, you have to help us!" Jin begged, but Heiji's austere expression was unchanged.

"That boat is of Loyalist make..." Heiji said, his tone demanding an explanation.

"I stole it from them," Jin repeated. He didn't know what else there was to say that would make the Shinobi believe him.

Heiji stared at him for a moment, "You said your name is Jin Arashi?"

Jin nodded. For whatever reason, that seemed to change the Shinobi's demeanor, and the suspicious look in his eyes faded away. He waved his hand, and Jin flinched as four Shinobi dropped from the trees and surrounded them.

He eyed them all warily, holding Hikari tighter.

"We're bringing you to the camp," Heiji explained and gestured with some unknown hand signal to one of his companions.

Jin didn't even blink, yet the Shinobi appeared in front of him and took Hikari from him, breaking his grip easily. Before Jin could even move, the Shinobi vanished.

He opened his mouth, but before he could even speak, he too vanished as another Shinobi placed his hand on Jin's shoulder.

Rebel Camp, Mitsukijima Island, Land of Water, EN.

Jin carefully took his unconscious sister from the Shinobi, taking a moment to adjust her frail body in his arms. Heiji waited for him, and once he was ready, led him toward a large tent.

Most of the trip had been a blur for Jin, and he would have thrown up if there had been anything in his stomach. When the light had slowed and settled, Jin had looked around to find himself in a camp that stretched beyond the poor visibility from the rain. He suspected this was the rebel base and would have felt lucky if he wasn't so exhausted.

The inside of the tent was lined with rows upon rows of cots, most of them occupied by sleeping men, women, and children. However, not everyone was asleep. There were several groups about the space, talking in hushed voices.

It was impossible to hear them over the roar of the storm, but Jin didn't care to try either. He barely noticed the looks directed toward him as he followed Heiji further into the tent. An older woman looked at him, her expression full of concern as she saw Hikari in his arms. However, no one spoke to him, and no one approached him.

"Over here," Heiji said, gesturing to an empty cot pressed against the tent wall furthest from the entrance. Jin carried his sister toward it and carefully laid her down on it as Heiji carried another cot over and placed it down beside the first. There was a blanket lying on each, and Jin started to tuck his sister in with both.

He turned to Heiji and bowed deeply, "Thank you, Heiji-sama."

The Shinobi stared at him for a moment before nodding, his piercing black eyes scanning across the tent. Jin followed the man's gaze, noticing that some of the other survivors in the tent looked toward Heiji with gratitude, while others cringed and looked away.

"There will be a bell in a few hours when food has been prepared. Follow everyone else." Heiji said, his gaze coming to rest on Jin and his sister. Jin nodded, and Hikari stared at him for a moment before turning and leaving the tent.

Jin ensured that Hikari was as comfortable as he could make her and promptly sat down, his back against one of the tent's supporting beams.

We made it...

Jin's gaze drifted over the other tent occupants. All of them were survivors, like him, who had been saved by the rebels, or made their way here independently. No one looked the same. Some wore clean clothes, while more were tattered and patched, some still had dried blood caked in.

What do I do now?

Jin grimaced, the thought frustrating him for some reason he couldn't explain. He got to his feet and began moving toward the entrance. No one spoke to him or tried to prevent him from leaving.

The storm hadn't weakened in the slightest, and Jin's clothes were immediately drenched again. He didn't care, picking a direction at random and starting to walk. He needed to think, but he found himself distracted by the scale of the camp as he wandered along the paths.

There were people everywhere, mostly civilians, despite the pouring rain. Jin knew most people wouldn't go outside in such weather, but it was so common that people had gotten used to it. A few Shinobi were scattered about, most likely stationed as guards, but it was evident he wasn't in the Shinobi district.

Jin frowned, stepping to the side to make way for a teenage girl and a man he assumed to be her father. They shared a blanket between them which they had over their heads, a sorry attempt to block out the rain. He watched them disappear between the tents through his wet hair.

What am I doing? Jin wondered as he resumed his aimless trek through the muddied paths. Several fires glowed through the downpour ahead of him, and Jin turned his feet toward the lights.

The point where the civilian sector of the camp ended and the Shinobi sector began was quite obvious. The tents became more numerous, smaller, and there were Shinobi everywhere. Aside from clearings in which Shinobi sparred — even in the rain — almost every patch of grass had a tent erected on it.

Several Shinobi were sitting outside their tents, sharpening weapons, and Jin expected one of them to notice him and order him to return to the civilian sector. However, while some glanced at him, no one said anything.

Jin shrugged to himself and resumed walking down the path, absentmindedly watching the Shinobi he passed. The further he went, the more Shinobi he saw in the middle of various actions. He was most intrigued by the spars, but most were cleaning weapons, meditating, or talking to each other.

I need to get stronger... Jin thought as he watched two Shinobi spar, their swords briefly sparking each time they clashed. He shook his head but only made it another few steps before once again stopping, a new sight catching his eye.

Further up the path, a Shinobi was sitting off to the side cross-legged as he fiddled with a Kunai. His gaze was focused on another Shinobi, who appeared to be sleeping on a bench, unbothered by the rain.

Jin's eyes widened as the Shinobi with the kunai reared his arm back, and he nearly cried out a warning out of instinct as the Shinobi flicked his wrist. Jin's concern immediately proved to be unnecessary. Without so much as even opening his eyes, the 'sleeping' Shinobi smoothly snatched the kunai out of mid-air. Twirling it around his fingers for a moment, he drove it into the wood of the bench he was laying on, folded his arms, and resumed his nap.

Jin stared in disbelief for a moment before again shaking his head. I need to be as strong as that... even stronger...

He clenched his jaw, his fists tightening as the thoughts he'd suppressed came rushing back. The Loyalists are on their way here. That's why they took over Shikoku Island... to turn it into a base to attack the rebels, just like Wataru said. Hikari isn't safe here.

Although it had taken over a week for Jin to sail to Mitsukijima Island, Jin knew it wouldn't take the Loyalists anywhere near that long.

"Hey, you there!"

Jin blinked in surprise and looked around, trying to clear the rain out of his eyes. He realized he'd stopped in the middle of the path and hurriedly moved to the side, but there wasn't anyone in front of him or behind. He looked around, confused, and saw a Shinobi looking at him a bit further ahead.

The Shinobi was gesturing for him to come, and seeing no reason to refuse, Jin walked over and sat down in front of the Shinobi.

"What's your name, boy?" The Shinobi asked, his voice gruff. He had a wineskin in his hand that he took a swig of before looking at Jin expectantly.

"Jin Arashi."

The Shinobi raised an eyebrow, and Jin noticed the faint but large scar on his face. It stretched from his right cheek, across his eye, and disappeared behind his headband. Jin didn't let himself imagine what it must have looked like fresh.

"An Arashi, huh? The Arashi Clan lives in Reiji Village, doesn't it?" The Shinobi asked and then paused as if thinking about what he'd just said. "My apologies, ah. I forgot that Reiji was the first casualty in this damn war. It has gone on so long now, I've started to forget parts of it."

Jin didn't reply, unsure what to even say. The awkward moment was interrupted by a commotion further along the path, where it intersected with another. It was difficult to see through the rain, but Jin could tell quite a few Shinobi were passing by and got to his feet.

One Shinobi stood out from the other's, mostly because he towered a good head and shoulders over them. A large, cleaver-like sword was strapped to his back that was most certainly taller than Jin was.

The giant of a Shinobi was musclebound but wiry and wore black and white spotted arm and leg braces. The lower half of his face was wrapped in bandages, leaving everything above his nose visible. Four other Shinobi walked beside him, all of them traveling along the intersecting path off to Jin's right.

Jin couldn't explain how he could tell, but he could feel the Shinobi's power. Some part of him told him to be afraid, like prey in fear of its hunter.

"Who are they?" Jin asked, amazed. He hadn't really been speaking to anyone, but the Shinobi who'd called him over looked up anyway.

He chuckled, "Those are the members of the Legendary Swordsmen that are loyal to the rebel commander, Mei Terumi."

The Shinobi's tone was casual as if the sight of such famous Shinobi didn't phase him, but Jin gaped in awe. He had heard stories and tales of the Legendary Swordsmen, just like everyone else, and had always been awed. There weren't many other Shinobi in the Land of Water as famous as they were.

As the Legendary Swordsmen passed by, Jin noticed someone trailing further behind. It was a Kunoichi with long red hair, and strapped to her sides were two peculiar-looking swords. The metal was a deep blue, with two hooks at odd places along the blade. Jin didn't recognize her, but the feeling of overwhelming fear-inspiring power didn't fade in the slightest as he directed his newly found chakra senses toward her.

"You've spotted Ameyuri Ringo, I see. She's the wielder of the legendary Kiba blades. A tough Kunoichi that one." The Shinobi next to Jin said ruefully. "I'd never want to fight her, to be honest."

Jin nodded distractedly in reply. Something vaguely resembling a plan was forming in his mind, and although his better judgment screamed out warnings, Jin was already committing to it. He stepped out onto the path and began hurrying through the rain. The Shinobi called out in surprise, but Jin didn't hear him.

It took only a moment to reach the intersection, and Jin came to a stop in the center, blocking Ameyuri's path. He waited for the Kunoichi to finish speaking with a Shinobi who'd approached her, which was what had given him time to get in front of the legendary swordswoman.

He fidgeted nervously as the seconds ticked by, feeling his resolve fading, but he refused to back down. For some reason — he couldn't explain it — what he was doing felt right.

Ameyuri's conversation lasted for another couple of moments, during which Jin reconsidered his decision several times, but finally, the redheaded Kunoichi turned toward him. The look in her eyes made it clear she'd already noticed him and saw him as another annoyance to be dealt with next.

Jin nearly faltered then and there, wanting nothing more than to step aside and get out of the terrifying woman's way. Instead, he threw himself on the ground, bowing his head to the Kunoichi.

He could feel the stares of every Shinobi nearby and the fear he'd felt when he had seen the Legendary Swordsmen earlier returned in full force. A pressure weighed down on him, threatening to bury him beneath the earth and preventing him from breathing.

Keeping himself from shaking violently was the best Jin could manage, and it took all the strength that he had.

The torture lasted for a second longer, and then the weight abruptly vanished. Jin didn't dare to raise his head. Instead, he took a deep breath.

"Ameyuri-sama, please! Teach me the Shinobi Arts. I must protect my sister, and with your teaching, I could do it!" Jin shouted at the ground through gritted teeth.

The weight of the silence — despite the thunderous roar of the storm above — crushed Jin more than the Kunoichi's killing intent could have. With his newfound senses, Jin felt the legendary swordswoman start walking toward him. He cringed as she didn't slow, fully expecting to be kicked aside.

However, the Kunoichi simply stepped over him and continued walking like he wasn't even there. Jin felt a wave of relief, shock, and panic all at the same time and immediately jumped to his feet. As he followed after her, Jin tried to think of something, anything that would make the legendary swordswoman change her mind.

His frantic thoughts were interrupted when Ameyuri turned without warning, glaring at him. The crushing pressure returned instantly, stronger than before, and shock was all that kept Jin standing.

The Kunoichi's mouth was full of sharp, pointed teeth that she bared at him as she growled in annoyance. He didn't even see her disappear before she appeared directly in front of him. He watched the afterimage she'd left behind fade away before looking down at the Kunoichi's tight grip on his shirt.

Her coal-black eyes bored holes into his skull, and if he had been able to move, he would have screamed in pain. Several of the Shinobi nearby had gotten up and moved closer, apparently interested in seeing the legendary swordswoman beat down a young, naive boy.

Jin saw the Kunoichi cast an irritated glance at the Shinobi nearby before she fixed him with her eyes full of hellfire.

"What is your name?!" Ameyuri growled, and Jin involuntarily gulped.

"Jin Arashi."

Her eyes narrowed, and Jin felt like he was a minnow between the jaws of a tiger shark. Killing him would be as easy as breathing for the Kunoichi, and some part of Jin was surprised at how lucky he was to still be alive.

"You want me to train you, is that it?" Ameyuri spat, and Jin nodded weakly. He could feel his vision starting to fade under the pressure Ameyuri was releasing.

"Do you even know what it means to be a Shinobi, brat?"

Jin lowered his gaze, shaking his head. He couldn't meet Ameyuri's glare any longer, and breathing was becoming steadily more difficult. He could hear whispered conversation around him but was unable to make out any of it.

He stumbled for several paces as Ameyuri shoved him, but thankfully the weight vanished, and he managed to keep his balance, if just barely. He took a huge breath, his whole body shaking as he stared at Ameyuri. The Kunoichi seemed to examine him for a moment before she reached into her shirt and withdrew a necklace. She held it up in front of her, and Jin stared at the object hanging from it, his eyes widening. It was a shark tooth, but it was larger than should have been physically possible.

The mental image the tooth gave Jin was of a shark as big as the ship he'd sailed to Mitsukijima island on. It was a terrifying thought.

"This is one of Daku's teeth," Ameyuri announced. Her tone gloating. "Since I doubt you even know who Daku is, I'll explain. He's a shark, who through absorbing the chakra of the Three-Tails bijū some fifty years ago grew to become the largest shark in the Land of Water."

She casually twirled the necklace through the air, a smirk on her face. The sight of her sharp-pointed teeth was spine-chilling.

"I ripped this tooth from Daku's mouth with my bare hands," Ameyuri continued, her grin growing. "When I was twelve."

While many of the Shinobi nearby looked impressed, Jin was more than just impressed; he was unnerved. It was obvious what the point of showing him the necklace had been. He was twelve, and Jin knew there was no way in hell he would ever be able to do something like that. It didn't take a genius to discern what Ameyuri was going to say next.

Ameyuri slipped the shark tooth back under her shirt and pointed at him with a pleased look on her face.

"If you can bring me one of Daku's teeth, I'll train you."

With that, the legendary swordswoman spun on her heel and began walking away. Jin stared at her back in disbelief, but she said nothing more. He gulped and unsteadily raised his hands to his mouth.

"How am I supposed to find the shark?!" Jin shouted, struggling to be heard over the thunder.

"It's attracted by dead animals in the water!" Ameyuri returned over her shoulder, and before Jin could so much as blink, she was consumed by a searing column of lightning and vanished.

The Shinobi around Jin spoke with each other, but he wasn't paying attention. His eyes were locked on the ground beneath his feet. He stood there for several moments in silence, and when he finally looked up, he saw several of the Shinobi looking at him with sympathy.

They didn't think he could do it. It was a hopeless task, after all.

Jin tightened his fists and turned back down the path, heading toward the tent where Hikari was sleeping. A thousand thoughts raced through his mind as his hand found the handle of his father's knife. His finger traced the comforting, familiar patterns etched into the wood.

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This chapter was posted on: 5/29/21
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OC Creators of OC's in this chapter:

Jin Arashi (TheLegendaryOne)
Hikari Arashi (TheLegendaryOne)