April 10, 1993 - Minato, Tokyo
The sun shone down on the streets of central Tokyo as the city reached the middle of its day. Crowds of children and teenagers met with friends to lament the start of a new semester, while adults hurriedly rushed around, securing themselves lunches before returning to work. Trains pulled into stations, and busses collected passengers.
Such was the standard for a sunny Saturday, going unnoticed by those who frequented the city. However, this routine of life was being mulled over by one person as she walked towards her destination.
While she lived in the area, and was used to such a seemingly normal day, she could not help but feel that something was... off. She couldn't quite place it, but she had the distinct feeling, almost a premonition, that something was going to happen. Between this feeling, the causeless cracking of three of her best teacups, and the shattering of her family shrine, she felt that these were portents that should not be ignored.
Her immediate thoughts went out to her husband and son, both of whom she had not seen in nearly a decade. Had something happened to her family? It had, after all, been days since the last postcard her husband had sent her arrived, informing her that they planned to stop at one last place before they returned from their eight-year training trip. He had mentioned the name of the training ground, one that made her rather uncomfortable. 'Jusenkyo', the training ground of cursed springs.
By the itinerary he had sent with the letter, they should have arrived at the springs earlier this morning. What had happened? In his last letter, Genma had declared that the place was not cursed, claiming it to be little more than a silly superstition, but her own training made her doubt his words. What sort of horrific curse could exist in such a place? Had her husband and son succumbed to its terrible powers?
Saotome Nodoka broke herself from such thoughts as she arrived at her destination; a shrine she often visited when she had questions beyond those her own powers could answer. Tugging the strap of the canvas bag across her back, she began to climb the steps to the temple proper.
On the landing above, a familiar young girl was sweeping leaves and dirt off of the stone tiles. Her long, raven hair swished back and forth with the motions. She smiled at the girl. It was a shame her grandmother had not passed their Art on, for she was sure that the young shrine maiden would have excelled at it.
The girl looked up from her work, and smiled at the sight of a familiar visitor. "Auntie Nodoka!" she exclaimed, walking over to the steps. "What brings you to the temple today?"
"I've come to consult with your grandfather" she replied, keeping a smile on her face. "I've had some disturbing omens that I wish to ask him about. Is he here?" Her smile weakened slightly, thinking about the omens she had received.
"Yes Auntie, he was consulting the Fire, last I saw. I haven't seen him leave." Nodoka nodded at this. She knew her uncle could spend hours attempting to read the Fire.
She bowed to her niece. "Thank you, Rei-chan." The other girl, Rei, bowed in turn. With that, Nodoka walked over to the building housing the Great Fire.
She slid the door open, and peered in. True to form, her uncle was meditating before the brazier, a look of deep concentration on his face. He was so still that one might mistake him for sleeping.
Nodoka walked towards him. 'Surely he isn't actually asleep, is he?' she thought, as she reached out her hand, planning to grab his shoulder.
"It isn't very nice to disturb a fire reading, No-chan." The (apparently awake) Shinto priest said. Nodoka stopped her hand short, and retracted her arm. The diminutive priest turned around to face her, his stern expression lightening up in an instant. "So, how is my favorite niece doing today?"
He noticed her worried expression before she even spoke. "Not as well as I could be, truth be told." At his questioning glance, she continued, explaining her ill feelings and omens. He contemplated the information for a moment before reaching a decision.
"Sit down next to me, No-chan. Let us see of the Fire can give us some answers." As they sat down, he began to concentrate on the fire once more. They sat there for around ten minutes before he reacted again.
"I'm sorry, No-chan." He said, "but I cannot tell what caused the omens. From what the fire tells me, your family is alive and in good health. Perhaps the feeling is from something else?" he asked.
Nodoka sighed. Her family was safe! If they survived the train grounds, that means they should be returning home soon. "Thank you, uncle. If they are safe, then there is nothing else that matters."
Shortly after, they left the building, catching up on what had happened the last few weeks, and making plans to meet during the upcoming Golden Week. A few hours later, Nodoka departed, turning down an offer to stay for dinner. As she returned home, she was elated. Her family would be returning to her soon! Oh, how she longed to see how manly Genma had raised their son to be!
She passed her cousin's house, just a few doors down from her own. It had been Nodoka that had convinced her cousin and husband to move to Azabu-Juuban, and neither had regretted the decision since. If nothing else, it gave the two women plenty of time to chat while her cousin's husband was at work, and her two children were at school.
Stepping into her home, she placed the canvas bag with her Nodachi in her room, and opened her closet. She stripped out of her blouse and slacks in favor of a Kimono. It had been a while since she had worn one, but all of the Kimono were clean. She sighed as she went to make herself dinner. She preferred plain clothes, but it would be unbecoming of a Saotome woman, even one only by marriage, to greet her husband after such a long time wearing anything less. Besides, she had bigger things to concern herself with rather than her garb.
Her family was coming home.
She had much to do.
(A/N: So, first submitted fic. Let's see how long I can keep this up. Don't worry about the prologue being short; the next chapters are already longer.)