948 A.D. — Rural Ninava, Lakontey Province
After anxiously watching from inside his workshop as Mizuki walked out of the estate and down towards the town, Tsukuyomi hurried over and lifted the rag off a box that was hidden behind some tools. He took out the glowing ore that lay inside and held it in his hands for a moment, still in awe of its simple beauty.
He built up his furnace to its base smelting temperature, took the largest smelting pot he had and placed the ore inside. Gingerly placing the ore into the fire, he watched as the flames waved over it. He waited patiently yet nervous at what would happen, not really knowing what to expect from this strange lump of ore.
As he brought it out of the furnace, he could see that most of the blue glow had disappeared. The surface was melted, but it was still strangely held together in the same shape. He set the red-hot ore onto his anvil and, with a hammer and chisel, tried to chip off a bit of the ore to be able to get a better feel for its qualities. As he delicately tapped on the chisel, the point struck the ore and the whole surface cracked like an egg. He stepped back as, from top to bottom, the whole chunk of ore split in half. The two halves of the outer crust, still glowing red, parted, falling to the sides, one onto the floor, the other right into the bucket of water next to the anvil. Steam billowed from the bucket, filling the small room and blinding the blacksmith momentarily. The workshop was suddenly bathed in a bright blue light and Tsukuyomi had to squint and cover his eyes to try and see.
As the glow subsided, Tsukuyomi was able to open his eyes and see the source of the light. In front of him, as the steam dissipated, he saw a strange object on top of the anvil; a perfect metal octahedron the size of an apple. It’s surface was dull and greyish, but he could have sworn it was moving. Ever so slowly, it seemed like a million ants, smaller than the finest grains of sand he had ever seen, were crawling in waves and swirls just below the surface.
The object mesmerized him. He was flooded with emotions and questions impossible to name. As he got closer and closer to it, his eyes glistened with the very soft blue shimmer of the metallic octahedron. He reached out his hand and stuck out a finger, slowly getting closer and closer to the object as it began to shine brighter and brighter as he neared it…
“Honey! Dinner is almost ready!” shouted Mizuki from somewhere inside the house.
He jumped up and quickly covered the octahedron with rags, “Coming!” He hid the glowing ball of rags in the corner of his workshop, inside the box, under the larger rag and behind the tools.
— — — — — — — —
Tsukuyomi and Mizuki were laying together, next to the dim light of a single lamp, cuddled up against each other, full from dinner and warm in each other’s embrace. She finished signing his name on a couple of imperial orders.
“Did we check these already?” Mizuki asked.
“Are you sure, I thought we…”
“Don’t worry, it’s standard, I always have to make the same basic things for them.”
Mizuki smiled and signed the last paper, put it away, then picked up another piece and began to write, slowly, the Japanese logographic characters 自己. Tsukuyomi just lay there, holding her, watching every move of her wrist and flick of her long fingers, as if magic was coming from deep inside her and pulsating out of her soft movements into something that had meaning for those who could comprehend.
“I think this should be the name of your next art piece,” whispered Mizuki.
“Why are we whispering?”
“I just think it’s cozier,” she snuggled up closer to him.
“What does that mean?” asked Tsukuyomi.
“It means “oneself”. Don’t use this for the things you’re making for the empire. Use this for one of the statues or flowers you create.”
Tsuku took the small piece of paper, “you’re going to have to help me write it anyway, so I’ll let you choose which piece to name.”
“If I were you I wouldn’t give up Tsuku. I can still try to help you. I don’t understand why you won’t let me,” Mizuki said in her sweetest voice.
“But you’re not me. I’m Tsuku, you’re Mizuki, and unfortunately what’s inside Tsuku doesn’t allow him to learn that easily. I don’t need it anyhow, not as long as I have you.”
“Fine. I have a lot of other name ideas anyway. And not only for little statues…” she stared into his eyes, waiting for him to get the hint. When she noticed he hadn’t understood, she continued, “I suppose you don’t want to learn how to figure puzzles out either. I went to the town’s doctor yesterday. Tsuku… he said I’m pregnant again. This could be it,” she held his hands.
Tsukuyomi took a moment to sit up and take a deep breath before saying, “Mizuki, my love. It’s been years. Years and years… and seven horrible heartbreaks. I don’t know if I can survive another… I think the gods have forsaken us for what I’ve done and there’s not much more to do about it.”
She sat up straight away, “You’ve done nothing wrong, I’m so tired of trying to make you understand. I CHOSE to be with you, I don’t care what the rest of the town thinks about our status, my family’s status, that’s not who we really are, and I’m sure the gods don’t care either. I don’t care, something as silly as this is sure to be beneath them anyway.”
“Then why? Why can’t I call out to our son or daughter and hear the little feet tapping towards us ready to be held, to be taught, to be the future of this family.”
“I don’t know my love,” said Mizuki as she held him, “but perhaps the time has come. Perhaps it’s now. I can feel it. This child wants to be born and not even the gods will stop us this time.”
Tsukuyomi turned to her and stared into her eyes, “there’s nothing in this universe I desire more than to have a child with you. I wish with all my heart to the gods and the universe that you are right.”
— — — — — — — —
913 A.D. — Rural Ninava, Lakontey Province
“Wwwuu….. Waaaad… Waatooouu……” Tsukuyomi held the wooden tablet with a simple piece of paper with 私の名前は “My name is…” written on it. He was struggling to read, even at thirteen years old. Hanabira stood over him while his father drank some tea on the other side of the table. Slowly, the frustration got the better of Tsuku. He slammed the tablet on the table and, teary-eyed, began to curse his stupidity.
“I’ll never make it, I’ll never be able to!”
“Honey, it’s just a matter of time before you finally get…”
Tsukuyomi cut his mother off, “No! I’ve tried enough. I can’t do this. I’m too stupid mama. I’m too stupid,” he wept.
His mother took a moment to let him cool down before pulling him closer, “It’s ok Tsuku, we’ll try another day.”
As Tsukuyomi walked out into the night air to stay away from the shame of his father’s judging eyes, he heard a soft “psst” coming from the distance. He went to the corner of the house and was surprised by a hand covering his mouth. He struggled for a moment, panicking, until he saw Mizuki, her face close enough to peer at the intricate details in her irises. She shushed him.
He calmed down from the shock and whispered, “why do you always have to be so damn sneaky?! Seriously…”
“They can’t catch what they can’t see,” she waved her arms around clumsily as if doing some sort of martial arts move. Tsukuyomi watched, embarrassed enough for the both of them.
“Who would ever want to catch you?…” Tsukuyomi whispered, but not low enough for Mizuki to miss.
She stood on her right foot, in the pose of ‘the crane’. Her left foot was far too quick for him. He groaned on the floor, holding his private parts and cursing her.
They both gazed at the stars, laying in the middle of the field, and Mizuki asked, slightly worried “are you feeling better now?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Mizuki giggled. She stared at him for a moment. Then she sat up and took out a small folded piece of paper and handed it to him, “This is for you.”
“What is it?”
“Just open it.”
The paper had sweet little drawings covering it. Hearts, birds, trees and the like. He unfolded the paper and saw writing on it that he couldn’t read.
“It’s…. beautiful… thank you…” said Tsukuyomi with clenched teeth, holding in his embarrassment.
“I know you can’t read,” said Mizuki quite bluntly.
“Then… then why are you doing this? Are you making fun of me?” he held out the piece of paper for her to take back.
“I’m not! What’s written on that piece of paper is my name. I want you to have it,” she pushed the piece of paper to his chest, “and the day you think you can read anything in the world, then I want you to read my name first. I asked my mom why we have names and she said that, first, it’s so we can know who is one person and who is another. Then she said that the name, sometimes and for some people, is a picture of who they really are… or an idea…like seeing deep down inside you… I didn’t understand everything she said, but something like that,” she smiled at him as he just stared. “When you read my name, maybe you’ll know something more about me and we can be even better friends than we are now.”
Tsukuyomi sniffed and turned to hide his face from her.
“What’s wrong?” asked Mizuki.
“Just, a bug flew into my mouth,” he feigned a coughing fit and used the opportunity to wipe the few tears from his eyes.
“Thank you Mizuki. I don’t know if I will ever be able to, but I promise I will keep this and learn it.”
“Ok. Good,” she quickly kissed his cheek and ran off at full speed, “see you soon Tsuku!”
As she disappeared beyond the gate, Tsukuyomi inspected the shape of her written name while he scratched the itchy crescent moon shaped scab on the back of his head, thinking to himself if this could really be a reflection of her.
— — — — — — — —
948 A.D. — Rural Ninava, Lakontey Province
As they were getting ready to go to sleep, Tsukuyomi stared at Mizuki from across the room. It took a moment for her to notice.
“What are you looking at?”
“Nothing,” Tsukuyomi kept smiling. He turned around and folded the piece of paper with her name on it and hid it back under his side of the bed. As he turned to go to sleep, he saw a very faint blue glow coming from the window of his workshop.
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The third fan fiction contest was held on the ADA Ninjaz Discord Server from 16/04/2022 to 23/04/2022. Pick a ninja, tell us their story. Who they are? Why they're in their specific clan? What is their ninja drive?
The second fan fiction contest was held on the ADA Ninjaz Discord Server from 12/03/2022 to 17/03/2022. You helped us create the Twin Cities Kemuliaan and Kemenangan, now we want you to create your very own fight scene within its city walls! Pick a location(s) from the concept art of the city shown. Tell the fight scene! (don't forget to tell us why they're fighting). If your ninjaz battle scene is at multiple locations feel free to describe it in dot points. Two winners total. The storyteller will pick one, and the community will vote on the second!