“Odai, this is Hattori Hanzō. He’ll soon become a ninja of Tokugawa.”
In a snowy afternoon, Hirotada, a poised man, brought the 7-year-old Hattori to visit Tokugawa’s mansion. Odai-no-kata, a young lady, gave them a warm greeting at the entrance. At this moment, a 10-year-old boy Tokugawa Ieyasu ran through the courtyard excitedly with rosy cheeks. Wearing a smile, he came to Odai, showing them a little snowman on his palms.
“Father, mother, look what I’ve made!” “Wonderful, my boy. Right, come here and greet our new friend.”
“Hattori is not a friend. He’s your servant. Odai, be aware of your status.” She kept on listening to Hirotada’s lecturing with a smile. The bored Tokugawa decided to ignore his words and gave the snowman to Hattori. “For you.”
“Tokugawa.” Hirotada came over with a long face and lectured again. Tokugawa bowed his head, but he also grimaced at Hattori. That funny face almost caught him laughing, so Hattori press his mouth hard instantly. As Hirotada finished his preach, he patted Hattori on the shoulder before leaving.
“You’re the ninja of Tokugawa. You must protect the master with your life, and be loyal for eternity.” “Roger that.” Hattori was born in a ninja family; Being a ninja was written in his stars. Not only he never questioned the fate of pledging loyalty to Tokugawa’s clan in his life, but he accepted the responsibility like it was the only reasonable thing..
Since then, Hattori lived at Tokugawa’s mansion. As a ninja, usually he stayed hidden to protect his master. Yet Tokugawa always managed to make Hattori show up as he never liked it, just like he did today. Tokugawa shouted in the courtyard after class.
“Hattori, where are you? Show yourself!”
“...How may I help you, master?” Hattori jumped off the tree and got down on one knee. Then, Tokugawa grabbed his arm.
“Mother has made some desserts. Let’s eat together.”
“I can’t. As a ninja, I’m supposed to protect——”
“I’m not in danger. So there is no need to protect me. Just come with me. This is an order.”
Hattori could not disobey hi master, so he had no choice but to have the desserts with Tokugawa and Odai. They never treated him as a servant. Instead they treated him like a family member.
The three had been leading a peaceful life in the mansion. At first, Hirotada would pay them a visit every 2 or 3 days. But then he suddenly stopped visiting anymore. Whenever Tokugawa asked, Odai all replied in tears, so he was afraid to ask again. Hattori would like to help investigate, but he never had the time for that. But soon the truth was exposed.
One day, he found someone lurking outside the mansion. Light-footed, Hattori sneaked up on the man from behind with a dagger.
“Who sent you,” he interrogated.
Shocked by the answer, he continued, “nonsense! Master Hirotada loves his son more than anyone else. No way he’ll——”
“Tokugawa is not his biological son!”
“But Master Hirotada believed that. If I were you, I would rather serve Hirotada than that bastard. With the exceptional skill you have, I’m sure you’ll be put in an important position.
“...I’m the ninja of Tokugawa. And nothing can change my loyalty to him.”
“Right, Tokugawa is my one-and-only master. I won’t forgive anyone who tries to hurt him, not even Master Hirotada!” he thought. Bloodlust surged within his heart. With a gleam of silver, the man was down instantly. Then, Hattori settled the body and told the news to Odai immediately. Only she did not burst into tears anymore, but smiled instead, as if she had already known it.
“Hattori, can you do me a favor?” She bowed her head; Hattori tried to get her up, but she insisted.
“Tokugawa is afraid of being lonely. Please don’t ever him.”
“I’ll risk my life to protect the master. You have my words!”
Soon, Odai passed away. However, Tokugawa’s clan did not mourn for her by organizing a funeral. His father Hirotada even hosted a celebration after the 100 days of Odai’s death. And Tokugawa was forced to attend. In the morning of the celebration, Tokugawa dressed up with a big smile.
“Master, are you smiling?” Hattori asked curiously.
“Hattori, today is a big day. Of course I’m excited about it.” Tokugawa opened his eyes, full of intense hatred. “Whenever I think about killing that man one day, I can’t help but smile...Anyways, is the carriage ready?”
“It’s all set.”
“Let’s go then.”
Hattori gazed at the courtyard while Tokugawa walked out. Everything remained the same but not Tokugawa. That innocent boy who used to smile snowman in the past had turned into a young man beclouded by hatred…
“Will I ever see the true smile of the master again?” Hattori sincerely hoped this day would come true...