Spring, with the cherry blossoms in full bloom brings the Ichiyo Sakura Festival. The noble Yoshida clan whose ancestry traces as far back as the Edo period, have remained one of the most powerful and wealthy families in Japan for over 100 years.
The weekend of the Sakura Festival is a very special time of year. It is the only occasion when the whole family; the main house and it’s branches are all together.
Since her husband passed away four years ago, Lady Aiko was assigned head of the household. Her 5 children had all grown up and left home, each travelling their own path. Aiko felt lonely for the first time. Dozens of servants and guards wandered the grounds of the traditional Japanese home. There were always people around her but it wasn’t the same without her family, the Yoshida mansion just felt empty.
However, there was one who never left Aiko’s side. She lived in the shadows her entire life and very few are aware of her existence, including her five younger siblings.
Naoko was born before Aiko became a Yoshida, a bastard child. Against all odds, Aiko was allowed to keep Naoko, but there were conditions. Lady Aiko’s husband, Hideo Yoshida made it clear that Naoko was not his family, she was to have no relation with their children. Naoko was to be kept hidden from the entire Yoshida clan; and so very few know of her existence.
Her entire childhood, Naoko was trained in a variety of martial arts, languages, computer hacking, espionage and more. She never played with friends or attended school. On one hand, she could count the number of people she had contact with. Even though she never received love or met other children, Naoko never questioned her life.
From the age of four, Naoko absorbed everything she was taught, honed her skills and became a martial arts master. By the age of ten, she had mastered numerous fighting skills and martial arts. She was raised to be an assassin, a spy, a bodyguard, to serve and protect the main branch of the Yoshida household. That was her purpose.
Possessing an extraordinary talent for martial arts, Naoko created her own style and became the Origami Ninja. Being an Origami Ninja, Naoko folded razor sharp paper into weapons such as shuriken, fans and other bladed weapons. The technique could also be used as a form of distraction.
For fifteen years, Naoko had served and protected Aiko, Hideo and their children from every threat and danger. She lost count of how many people she was ordered to kill. Whenever anything threatened the well-being of her mother and siblings, Naoko never hesitated to perform her duty.
Once the five children had grown up into capable adults, things began to settle down in the Yoshida household. Over the years Naoko watched from the shadows as each of her siblings left the nest to start their own lives, she was the only one who remained.
In the weeks leading up to the Sakura Festival, each of Aiko’s children returned home.
When their father died, all five of them worried about their mother, taking on the role of head of the household and living alone in the old family mansion. Among them, they decided to return home every year for the Sakura Festival, their mother’s favorite time of year.
The traditional mansion was surrounded by over 40 acres of land, more than the family needed. So, each year on the weekend of the Sakura Festival, the Yoshida clan open a fraction of the grounds to the public. The wealthy clan spare no expense to host the finest festival for the general public as well as their V.I.P guests. Every year, the once empty field is brought to life. Hundreds of people enjoy the never ending food stalls, games, musical & dance performances and the main attraction, fireworks.
Growing up, the five Yoshida children loved the weekend of the Sakura Festival, even more than Christmas. They squeezed through crowds of people, played games and stuffed themselves with a carefully chosen assortment of fried foods and goodies.
Now grown up, scattered around the world and successful in their careers, it was their turn to help organise the events of the Sakura Festival.
Kazuo was the first to arrive home. As the president of a private security company, he was in charge of the festival security. He needed time to familiarize himself with everything; the event schedule, list of V.I.Ps, registered stall permits and more.
Within two weeks, all 5 siblings were back home and busy working together organising the Sakura Festival celebration.
Naoko made her own preparations for the Sakura Festival. She set traps and triggers all over the estate, in places intruders would try to enter. In the four years since Hideo passed away, there have been no major disturbances during the festival. Still, Naoko never let her guard down and set new and improved traps every year.
Hideo’s niece (Naoko’s cousin) Nina inherited her father’s grudge against the main household. He could never get over how his younger brother, Hideo, inheriting the main household.
To claim what she believes is rightfully hers, Nina attends the Sakura Festival celebration held in the mansion house. With her, Nina has brought a dozen military trained assassins to kill Aiko, her children and the servants of the Yoshida’s main house.
To Be Continued…
As a big fan of the Naruto anime I remembered Konan’s paper shuriken jutsu while writing this story!