Born in Nuza, said to be the place of origin for the order of female ninja set up by Mochizuki Chiyome, Natsuko lost everything she had at the tender age of six. Soldiers raided the village, slaughtered the small folk and moved on. Natsuko and her sister were quiet as mice, like their mother told them, hiding in a closet. The daimyo’s troops never knew they were there, or couldn’t be bothered with two little girls. She never found out why the village was attacked, or how long it lasted – could be hours, maybe days – but the time in the closed felt like an eternity. She remembered darkness, she remembered screams and finally the rusty red color of dried blood splattered across their living room.
Rot and decay had mingled with the tangy, irony smell of blood. Natsuko and her sister looked for their parents, but found only a man. He was standing just outside their house and looked intently at their door as they stepped outside. He never introduced himself, only stating that they were to come with him. Natsuko knew she had to be strong, she was the older sister. She knew she would never see her parents again and tried explaining this to her sister who kept asking for their mother and father.
The man took the girls across the sea to what he called the Forbidden City. Natsuko always thought a palace was where princesses lived, but the Eunuchs taught her otherwise. Certainly it was beautiful, and Natsuko had silks, delicacies or anything else she might need. Except her sister. Upon arriving at the Forbidden City Natsuko was escorted to a small, but luxurious, chamber, and the man took her sister. She hasn’t seen her since.
Thus began her training. The Eunuchs, or so they called themselves, told Natsuko her sister was well. She cried, she begged, but they never caved. They fed her poisons, to teach her how to use them. They taught her how to kill using only her index fingers by the time she was eight. Promising her that her sister was safe and would remain so if only she did what she was told. She had made one friend in the palace, a little kitten who curled up against her legs when she went to bed. When the eunuchs found out about him, they taught her how to efficiently kill with a hairpin.
She was also taught how to be unseen, a shadow that no-one would remember. Take the form of a miko, a geisha, a noble lady or a common whore. She must be no-one to get close to her target. Be only a sliver of a person, but be the sharpest sliver they never see coming.
She became the sharp edge of a rose petal. But still the Eunuchs didn’t give her what she most desired. They claimed her sister was fine and well. When she came of age they arranged a marriage for her. Natsuko, they told her, was the deadliest weapon they had ever trained. When she came of age she got her first assignment. It was easy, a simple kill. Briefly she thought about the rusty blood stains on the rice paper, as the blood of her first victim, a minor lordling, gushed over her hand. That day she vowed to herself she would be the most valuable weapon the Eunuchs ever had. Just like she knew her parents were gone, she knew she would never see her sister again. Let them hone me, she thought; let them think they own me.