"You'll never be as good as us, Kannagi!" cried a little bald-headed boy with green eyes.
"Yeah, girls can't do it like boys can," another explained, pushing up his small wire framed glasses.
"Girls aren't allowed, Kannagi! We'll tell on you!" The smallest boy, maybe seven years old shoved his index finger in her direction.
"If you throw it, you're just going to miss! You haven't even trained," sneered a plump brown haired boy, his face smeared with dust and sweat.
"This is for boys, only boys are shinobi." Daizen's words were stone cold, and his folded arms and lofty expression made it obvious to all of them who the leader of the band of children was.
Kannagi stood in the center of a group of boys her own age, all of them about eleven or twelve. They wore shorts, t-shirts, belts, hakama, and fitted boots. They were prepared for trekking, trapping, hunting, and fighting. Today was the day all of them would compete for bragging rights around the other children and Kannagi stood there stubbornly, her jaw set and her feet planted hard in the sand. "I can beat any of you! Dress or no dress, I can throw a kunai, too!" She declared shaking a fist at the boys. The blue haired little girl pushed her bangs to the side and stalked towards one of the boys: the charismatic and tough leader, Daizen.
"Give me a kunai and I'll prove it to you. I'll prove you all wrong!" Daizen looked down at her, though she was actually taller than he was, the condescension was pure in his gaze. "You're not aloud. You're just a girl. Go help in the kitchen or meditate or something." Her nose wrinkled as she took a deep breath. Kannagi was tired of being told what she could do, where she could go, and what her role in the family was. She understood and enjoyed the role of a woman, finding fun and laughter and love in the warm hearth of the Irezumi women. Kannagi just longed to do even more. She wanted to play and train and fight with the boys. She wanted to be able to be both a protector of the family and a protector of the family's spirit. Kannagi had in fact been helping her mother at home in the kitchen until boredom pushed her out the back door and towards the kunai competition. Now, she felt the powerful urge to drive Daizen to his knees with a hard kick to his no-no place. Instead, she reached out and grabbed for the kunai on his hip holster. The blue eyed girl snatched it up and held it out as a threat, before striding between two of the other boys and towards the target.
Kannagi closed her eyes briefly, concentrating on the target upon the post ahead. A gentle breeze helped move some of the hot desert air around. Beads of sweat tickled her hairline. She did a couple of centering breaths and opened her eyes. Kannagi reached up and pulled the girlish flower crown from her head, tossing it to the ground. The girl had gripped her flowing skirt and pulled it off too, revealing amidst the gasps that she wore tight black shorts underneath. Kannagi jumped around and loosened up her nerves before letting her body get into position. Squinting, the girl took aim and then threw the kunai at the target. It rushed through the air, moving quickly. She stood frozen in excitement and even Daizen stared slack jawed at the kunai. "Come on," She urged under her breath. "Come on.."
"Come one," She said out loud, ignoring the stares of the other shinobi around her. Kannagi's childhood memory faded out and she watched the kunai that she had hurled heading for the target. It hit the target, but more than a ring away from the center. Practice makes perfect, she thought to herself. When she was a kid, Kannagi had missed the target all together. The little girl she had been was punished and forced to stay home for an entire week of "reaffirming family time" and being taught the laws and roles in the Irezumi family. This time today, Kannagi had thrown the kunai from three times as far and managed to hit it. She took it as growth but a dark frown on her face told everyone the truth.
"Still not good enough," the woman murmured walking away from the crowd.