Bryant woke up in the infirmary, which was at first a confusing shift. His last memory was... what?
The forest. Strangers, Ben, and his mother, with a few guns on the side. The man aiming for Ben, but shooting his mother instead.
He looked around, but didn't see Raven. Either she wasn't seriously injured and had already left, or something had happened that he didn't want to consider. Maybe she hadn't actually been hit- but that wasn't likely, given the way she had crumpled.
He shifted uncomfortably. There was nothing wrong with the bed, but he couldn't feel comfortable not knowing what had happened to Raven. It was like eating underneath a boulder suspended only by a frayed rope.
Cade, Eva's older brother, appeared to be the only other person in the building. Lisa, the medic, was nowhere to be seen. Since Cade was all the way across the room, he couldn't be asked about Lisa's whereabouts unless Bryant got out of bed. If Bryant got out of bed, Lisa, when he found her, would probably drag him back to the infirmary and forbid him to walk for two days.
He sat up to get a better view out of the windows, but nothing was visible except for the usual scenery: trees. He turned to look out of the window behind his bed, but there was nothing there, either. He laid back down and waited for Lisa to appear.
After a while, she did come. She had been in the back room of the infirmary, where the medical supplies were kept. Noticing that Bryant was awake, she apologized for keeping him waiting and explained his current situation.
"You can walk," she said, "but don't run. I wouldn't recommend climbing trees, either. Not for at least a week."
Bryant got out of bed and found his boots, but Lisa stopped him before he could leave.
"Your mother... she was shot in the lung. She was gone before I could get there. I'm sorry, Bryant."
Bryant suddenly had trouble thinking.
"It's not you who needs to be sorry," he said. "It's the man who shot her."
Adan passed the infirmary in time to hear a struggle of some sort taking place inside. He went inside and saw Lisa trying to restrain Bryant, who was performing a combination of crying and freaking out. The young ninja was crying out brokenly in the secret language of Cohron, which Adan had never quite been able to grasp.
Seeing Adan, Lisa turned Bryant over to him and retrieved a few clean bandages to dry his face.
"What's he saying?" Adan asked quietly, as if it would keep Bryant from hearing.
"It's a shameful act to kill a ninja. Hitting one but aiming for another is a stupid mistake. Just shooting a ninja is stupid. Why couldn't he have shot himself; then we wouldn't have all this crap..."
Adan was almost ready to cry himself. The death of a ninja was shameful, especially one so pointless. Raven had been one of the most beloved ninja in the village, even if Bryant wasn't. Now she, a powerful fighter, a character who made the harsh winters hopeful, was gone.
She had been the only family Bryant knew. William, his father, had been driven out when Bryant was only a year old. It was easy to forget that he was only twelve- thirteen, now. He was normally fairly calm and rational, exactly what one would expect of someone older. But now he was crying all over Adan, not even bothering to put up his usually constant emotional shield.
Adan knew that Bryant wouldn't be able to take care of himself. He didn't know how to cook, mostly because of Raven's lack of ability in that area. Beside that, someone had wanted Raven badly, and since he was the offspring, they would now want him. For what reason this was so, he didn't know. No outsiders could possibly know about Raven's naginata. It had to be something else.
He guided Bryant to a stool and left, walking to the Fallenson house and retrieving the naginata. He ran his hands over the staff and partially unsheathed the blade before walking out of the house. He had never before personally handled the weapon.
When he got back to the infirmary, he handed the naginata to Bryant, who immediately paused in his crying to blindly check the staff for splinters or cracks and inspect the blade. Even half-functional, his training was still evident in the well-practiced manner with which he handled the weapon. For him, it was instinct.
Bryant finally managed to muster the strength to sit straight and dry his tears with his sleeve, ignoring Lisa's efforts to get him to use a bandage instead. Adan saw the shield go up again; it was like something he'd seen in a book a long time before. The reserve.
Bryant left almost more quickly than Adan could register. Even though he'd seen it more times than he could count, it still amazed him how much the boy, even in comparison to other ninja, moved like a songbird's wing. Fast enough that you're not sure you saw what you did, but so quiet, the most you hear is the air moving.
He stood for a moment, then tried to follow Bryant, but by now, it would take an advanced sense of smell to track him. There were many places to hide in the village, and Bryant, since he wasn't threatened, wouldn't be moving. A motionless ninja, as all knew, was an invisible one.
Adan decided to leave Bryant alone for the time being and went his own way. He could see a flustered-looking crow perched on the rail of his porch. It carried a letter.
He knew of only one person who used crows to send letters. That person hadn't sent a single letter for seven years. It could have been a coincidence, someone else sending a message, but it could not. Then again, even if it was the same person, it would still be a coincidence. Where there were ninja, everything was a coincidence.
When he approached, the crow held out the leg the letter had been tied to. He took the rolled paper and gave the crow some dried fruit. Satisfied with this compensation, it flew away.
Adan took the letter inside to read. If it was from his lost contact, he might have to sit down.
He opened it and saw familiar handwriting; it was from William. He had believed the man to be dead.409Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡMaR5nSxZ6w
It was an odd habit, but Adan could never read a letter from William inside. He walked back outside, not stopping until he was in a small, sheltered clearing near his house. The crow was there too- it knew that it might have to bring a return letter. After nearly a minute of internal debate, he lifted the dog whistle that hung on a chain around his neck. He'd had the whistle for longer than he could remember, but had only used it a few times, and only for the most urgent situations. After another, more brief hesitation, he blew it as hard as he could.ns 184.108.40.206da2