I am going to tell you a story. It is a good story. I think you will like it.

Once upon a time, in a land that never existed, there lived a ninja.

This Ninja had a broken heart. He did not know when it broke, simply that it did. Once he was whole, and now he was not.

His every step was mired in mud, and every joy was hidden from him. The world tasted of ashes, fires that died long ago. He felt grief and loss and hopelessness, or worst of all, nothing, and he never told a soul.

There came a time when he could not bear it, and he set off on a quest to find happiness.

He walked away on a clear road, but the road was strewn with rocks that were so tall and thick that he could not pass.

The Ninja then turned to the hidden paths under the trees, but the forest grew thicker as he went deeper, the branches tearing at his clothes and dragging him to a halt.

As he stood in the densest of forests, caught in the clutches of branches, the wind called out his name. The ninja's heart ached with grief, and he returned home.

Seasons went by with nothing to mark them. He was alone, and his heart was broken.

The Ninja lived, and nothing more.

One day, the ninja came upon a polished black rock. Summer was gone and the leaves were falling, for winter was drawing near.

The rock was surrounded by thorn-covered sticks, laid at its base like offerings. He thought they might have been roses, once.

Fall flowers glowed bright pink against the stone's base, still blooming despite the lateness of the year.

Their giver stood, her head bowed in grief, as she traced a name carved into the rock.

"Did you lose someone?" he asked, touching the soft flowers.

"Aye." The Giver's smile was as worn as his grief, and the ninja's broken heart twitched in his chest.

"What was their name?" Names were important, though the ninja could not remember why.

"He forgot it, and everything more, a very long time ago." She sighed and touched the stone again. "A evil man destroyed his mind, and wrapped him in illusions. When I called out for him, he did not reply. When I stood before him, he did not see me. And when I touched him, he thought me nothing but branches, tugging at his clothes."

The ninja's blood thrilled in his veins, but he could not imagine why. "Does he still live?"

"Yes, he does." The Giver pushed back the hood of her cloak, and her hair glowed as bright as her flowers.

His heart pounded against his ribs. "I know you, don't I?"

The Giver paused, and smiled like the sun. "Once upon a time."