Excerpts from Nodomaru's Journals, as read by Kotomaru

I "...found it difficult to get jobs without a reputation.  So we decided on calling ourselves Saboten, owing to the rocky outcrops where I started out.  Cacti can grow with little water in the harshest environments, and that was exactly how our group worked.  We started with nothing, and built up.  I first met Togetsu in a small town while looking to trade for supplies.  While I was looking for some produce that I could carry for a few days, he was looking for a place that could make a decent udon soup.  Turned out the guy was something of a cook, always trying foods to learn more about cooking.  After we met, we realized we were traveling in the same direction and kept together.  I got rather fond of him after a few run ins with bandits, and he could cook to boot!  Fortunately I had some medical training, so even after we accomplished our tasks, we decided to make a go of it as a team.  Later we ran into the two siblings, Takeshi and Akane, who came to follow us as well.  Akane quickly took a liking to Togetsu, she loved his cooking but boy could she could be fiery, and I don't just mean her jutsu! Takeshi had a great tactical mind, but often had to reason Akane out of rash decisions.  I really do owe him for everything he taught me! We were the first four of the group to really accomplish anything.  It was really a miracle that our little band of stragglers grew any bigger than that."

II "Before I met Hikari, we had two young shinobi join our ranks.  The whole thing had odd written all over it; we hardly had any name for ourselves at all, and here come these two kids, asking about signing on like we were some famous organization.  We weren't rich and we weren't illustrious.  At this point we were mostly just friends looking to get by on a little mercenary work.  I guess that could have been the draw of it too: we may have appeared laid back and not terribly militarized.  But they were both highly intelligent; veritable sponges for knowledge and new jutsu.  Hideto and Ichiro, who didn't really seem too different from one another; at least, at first.  They were friends before they came to us, although as time went on, they started to grow apart, and their differences became more apparent.  It seemed to me that Ichiro had a chip on his shoulder about something, and that Hideto genuinely worried for him.  They learned a little bit from just about everyone, but, being young, never really got the respect I suspect they desired.  They really took everything that I taught them to heart.  I must have mentored them quite a bit more than the others.  Whoops. The little geniuses surpassed me with little trouble, even forging some of their own special jutsu based on the concepts I taught them.  What ended up being trouble was when Ichiro, the younger of the two, left the group with a bad taste in his mouth in our last days together.  This would have been right after our involvement with a particular assassination.  Unfortunately, Hideto feared Ichiro's anger, and followed him, hoping to bring some kind of peace to his conscience.  I still don't know what got under Ichiro's skin, but I haven't seen or heard from him since.  I've heard rumors of Hideto's whereabouts, but everything seems to be hearsay these days.  You can never really..."

III “…from Hikari.  I remember the first time we met.  Togetsu and I had just taken a bid on some mercenary work and were returning to our encampment when we passed her on the road hunched over with a small glow emanating from beneath her shadow.  I asked what she was doing, and when she turned around, I was awestruck.  Everything about her, her brown hair, the soft look in her eyes.  I couldn’t look away.  Hell, Togetsu had to nudge me back to reality so I could catch up with her answer and the question she left me with.  Turns out she had been healing a crippled bird with a medical ninjutsu technique, and asked us where we were going.  The part of me that wasn’t smitten was jealous, as I hadn’t mastered the Mystical Palm Technique yet, and was limited to my use of herbal medicines and remedies. Turns out she was looking for a place to eat, and, being the gentleman that I am, offered to let her eat Togetsu’s home cooked wizardry.  We arrived…” 

IV “…had finally noticed that I had feelings for her.  Hikari was always very gentle, and I certainly never wanted to seem imposing or pushy.  I suppose when I finally admitted it to her, she was relieved.  Somehow not just coming out with it had actually caused *her* some measure of stress!  I suppose it was because she could always tell, although to this day I’m unsure just why she never confronted me about it if she reciprocated my feelings.  Maybe she wanted to focus on learning about herbal medicine, since before she came along I had been the primary caregiver to our wounded friends.  I’ll admit, traditional medicine can only be of so much help when it comes to grave injuries, but even Hikari had been impressed by the stockpiles of raw ingredients we managed to maintain.  She had expla…”

V “…as close to married as a pair of travelling doctors could be.  We had spent so much time together that everyone joked about us being like an old married couple.  We knew each other inside and out, and by this point knew just about everything about each other’s jutsu and knowledge.  We could have never accomplished what we did alone, and our longtime dream was nearing completion: my specialized jutsu.  I had the chemical formulae and theoretical changes covered, and Hikari was taking the front on the technical aspects of the chakra control.  We had faced many failures and happy accidents, discovering subtle nuances in chakra manipulation.  What had started as an experiment to control my horrendous breath evolved into something much greater.  Around this time, we discovered our true crowning achievement: Hikari was carrying our child!  The thought of becoming a father was both frightening and a great sense of pride, far overshadowing anything I’d felt before, the new jutsu included.  Coming up wit…”