The weight of the past could tear them apart...
In his first mission as a shinobi, Sora Sanada has more than its success riding on his shoulders. Every move he makes is a reflection on his clan's honor. So when an unexpected scuffle leaves him injured and the mission in jeopardy, he'd rather be left behind--but his partner, the mysterious, masked Kaname, has other ideas.
Kaname breathes a silent sigh of relief when the younger, less-experienced Sora agrees to a plan to throw their enemies off their trail. As a member of the deposed Takeda clan, the last thing he needs is more disgrace heaped upon the family name should he lose the Sanada princeling.
His plan to disguise themselves as naked lovers is a rousing success in more ways than one. It sparks a bond that shakes them to the core--and the Shinano Province to its foundations...
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
November 17, 2009
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Sins of the Father by Anna O'Neill
The forested mountainside was growing dark. Though Sora and his partner stumbled through the woods as fast as they could, the sun was yet faster. It slipped farther below the horizon to the rustling sounds of disturbed bracken.
For some reason, Kaname insisted on staying with Sora. His voice betrayed no panic when he spoke. "They're gaining on us."
Sora grimaced as an evergreen branch grazed his knee, scraping past sensitive skin where his hakama pants had been torn open. The swelling was getting worse. "You have the jewel," he said, trying to run faster. "Take it and leave."
"I can't do that."
He very well could. But pride and misguided ideology would win out. What Sora did not understand--could never understand--was why Kaname still held firm to those ridiculous notions of his, that absurd priority system that valued people over the mission.
Shinobi were not brothers. Many young men from all over the Shinano province volunteered to serve their feudal lord by training to become experts in covert operations. Some women, or kunoichi, trained as well, though they were assigned mostly espionage missions. The training for both men and women lasted anywhere from two seasons to two years. During that time one lesson was emphasized repeatedly: partners were not brothers, which meant if it came down to the mission or the wellbeing of the squad, the mission came first.
A short while ago, Sora completed his spring and summer training and had come out of it a captain of his own team, while Kaname had been in the force for over a decade and only just recently transferred to Sora's squad. He did not know Kaname well, but Sora was quite sure that a man about to turn thirty ought to be able to think rationally. He tried to put some authority into his tone, but felt slightly ridiculous giving commands to a shinobi ten years his senior. "I order you, as your captain, to--"
"Sometimes we must use our own judgment and override orders."
Sora held his tongue when his knee made a popping sound. Pain lanced up his leg as if a hot poker had touched it. This could not go on for much longer. A maimed man in the dark did not stand a chance against an enemy force willing to move mountains to retrieve their diamond.
"They have dogs," Kaname said, matter-of-factly.
There would be no point in reminding his partner he'd injured his knee, not his hearing. The barking was getting louder. "Then it would behoove you to continue on without me."
"No. But if you insist on behooving me, you could try keeping your voice down."
"It's not my voice they're following. The dogs can smell me a village away."
"Then we better stay a village ahead."
It was a wonder Kaname had lived so long. The man was not ambitious, but he couldn't be that stupid. "This is as fast as I can run. It's only a matter of time before I am overcome."
"Then I will be there to meet them."
As you were not for the other two. "Were I you--"
"You would leave me behind. I know. Good thing for you, I'm me."
"Not if I can help it."
"The mission will fail."
"That's just too bad, isn't it?"
Sora tried a different tactic. "Kaname-sempai, if I told you I loathed you, would you change your mind?"
A pause. "No. You are my partner. It makes no matter if you like me or not."
Sora remembered the small stream ahead and took a sharp turn to the right. His knee buckled. Kaname had the back of his vest a moment before he crumpled to the ground.
"If you let me carry you--" Kaname began.
"I'll weigh you down even more. You still have a decent lead. If I stay back, I can give you some time before--"
"Unfortunately, Sanada Sora, you have quite a stubborn teammate on your hands." Kaname kept a hand on his back and pushed him forward. "Come this way. There's a plunge pool not far ahead."
"A rock shelter won't help us."
"I never said we should hide behind the waterfall."
"Are you thinking the water will throw off our scent? It won't work. Our trail will lead straight to it. If we follow in the stream, they will think to do the same."
"You are aware the stream leads away from base camp?"
"Smart boy. Give me your sword. I have a plan."
Sora shrugged Kaname off before he removed the sword from his obi, attempting not to fall on his face as he struggled forward through the forest. If his teammate could not be swayed, there was no harm in humoring a plan hatched on the run. Besides, a sword would not help him avoid death at this point.
He tossed it to Kaname, who promptly flung it into the stream along with his own. What good will it do anyone there?
He started to feel uneasy by the time he heard the roar of the waterfall ahead.
"How bad is that knee of yours?" Kaname asked.
"There is pain."
"Do you think you can swim?"
Sora narrowed his eyes. "Unlikely."
"Ah. The cold water should help that swelling, at least."
The moon hung over the pool like a white disk, casting shadows on the water. The waterfall was not large. Surprising, given the sound of it. Back in the forest if Kaname had told him there were a thousand stampeding bulls ahead, he might have believed it. His teammate currently turned his attention toward hefting a rock to the water's edge, where he dropped it next to a similarly sized one.
"All right," Kaname said, tearing off his kataginu vest. "Strip."
Sora stared at him.
"No time to waste. Unless you'd prefer to spend eternity at the bottom of the pool?"
"What are we doing?" When Kaname struggled out of his pants, Sora averted his eyes.
"Taking off our clothes. Then we will get in the water and pretend we are closer than we currently are."
"I don't follow."
Sora hesitantly untied his obi. "How will putting ourselves in a vulnerable position keep them from attacking?"
"If they see us--"
"Which they will, given that our trail leads right here."
"We didn't exactly have time to double back. If they do find us, they will continue on down the stream."
"How do you figure?" Sora removed his vest, faster now.
"They wouldn't dare bother starry-eyed lovers, now, would they?"
His stomach dropped. Kaname was not bad-looking, and Sora knew some of the other shinobi experimented with men, but... "Lovers?"
"The enemy wouldn't bother with lovers if they are chasing two shinobi on the run. Do they know you're injured?"
"No. I killed those who afflicted me."
"Good. Then they will have no reason to believe we would be compromised in any way. If we are not compromised, it would make no sense for two shinobi to stop for a...swim."
"I see." It was a good thing Kaname could not, though, in the dark. Otherwise Sora would have to explain away his sudden flush as a rash.