Soooo, I've kind of been on a Naruto kick for the last couple of months and this is a little OC insert kind of thing that just sort of happened. Not sure how long it will run for, I seem to go through phases of liking different things! Might not be everyone's cup of tea, give it a go, see what you think. Read/review/follow/favourite as you see fit!

Edit: I've updated this chapter a little bit. I've decided to write this in present tense instead of past so I'll be changing the format. Sorry!


Chapter One: Lessons in Reincarnation

.

Darkness comes first.

Then comes cold.

And finally the beating of a distant drum.

It's hard to tell the passage of time and if you ask her she can't give you an accurate answer; mainly because she doesn't know and a little bit because she's pretty sure she doesn't have a mouth at the moment. Or lips, or teeth, or a tongue, just a floating consciousness in the dark.

That isn't quite right either though.

More like a consciousness spread through the darkness, interwoven; shifting and flowing within it, like water in an underground stream that's never seen daylight, has no concept of anything other than darkness.

The drum beat pulses and she tries to keep time by it, to measure just how long she has spent here, wherever here is. It's impossible though, she can't count that high and even if she could she's pretty sure she would go insane long before the drum beat faded. Maybe she's past that point already.

Eventually – it feels like years, decades – eventually the cold becomes less and warmth seeps back into her bones. Bones wrapped in muscle, tendons, ligaments. Spidery veins that wrap themselves around and through, clusters of nerves, lumps of meat and skin all swirling together to create the gruesome cocktail of a human being. Her brain becomes one again, a physical thing that takes it's place within the cage of soft bone that forms her head, and she revels in the welcome heat after so long in the cold.

There is too much warmth, as it turns out. The darkness around her boils, hissing and spitting, a seething black cat that turns the smooth ebb of darkness around her into monstrous tsunamis that crash against her newly formed being. It pulls her and she feels like she's drowning, struggling to keep a hold of herself. She tries to fight against the tide, wanting the calm inky dark back – if this is what having a body is like she want's no part in it.

But the choice isn't hers and she knows something is happening. What that something is though, well, that's anyone's guess and quite frankly, only a higher power could have known what was coming.

There's an unfathomable amount of pressure squeezing from all sides, like going down a water slide that's too narrow and getting wedged half way down, minus the awful squeaking sounds of skin rubbing plastic. Water sluices around her, blocking out everything except the tight band around her, pressing, pressing, until suddenly it is gone.

Then there is light, and with the light comes chaos.

Eye blinding white and blurred shapes that don't clear no matter how many times she blinks her eyelids. There is noise. The sound of water, or blood pounding in her ears, relentless. Voices, chattering all at once, too quick, too strange to make out the words. She squints but it doesn't improve her vision, only helps filter the light into something more manageable.

Indistinct people flitter around, like ghosts at the edge of her vision and above her an unfamiliar face coos. She frowns at that – willing her face into a familiar expression that her eyebrows are too insubstantial to convey.

It's a man, she knows that much, though other than a few basic facial features -a strong jaw, and a nose that has been broken one too many times - it's hard to distinguish much. Colours are unreasonably hard to tell apart – his shirt looks orange, no red, wait is his hair blue? Grey eyes or light green, a pale blue? She can't tell. Doesn't care. Who is he? Why is she - the thought slips away unfinished.

He smiles at her though. Teeth straight and white, lips forming words that slip through the haze of her mind without registering. The words are alien, she tries to tell him that she doesn't understand, but the sound won't come. She feels like she's been without water too long, her throat constricting but making no noise.

It's hard to concentrate. Part of her mind, the part that whispers this is wrong, so wrong, tells her this brain is too small to support all the things she knows. The other part, the newer part, is fighting the first half for it's need to sleep, and slowly gaining ground.

When the man above her moves, she moves with him and the other figures in the room fade out, unimportant. There is a moment of being passed and suddenly the face changes to a woman, with sweat soaked skin and dishevelled hair that looks blonde but might be grey and a smile that blazes like a miniature sun. Warm and radient.

The woman says something, too fast and in an language that stirs memories that can't be placed, her green eyes shimmering with unshed tears. More thoughts churn and fall away, too much to process. She lets them go, not important, and tries to keep her eyes from closing.

She is lifted, feels soft lips pressing against softer, newer skin then is cradled securely against a chest that cages a familiar rhythm. It shouldn't make her feel better, but it does. Thumping in time with the beat of her own small heart it's almost like being back in the darkness, like being home. Familiar and comfortable. That thought jars her and her mind shies away.

Things aren't how they were supposed to be, far from it, and god how has it even happened? Is it a dream – a nightmare? Her head aches with thoughts too big for it, so she pulls back, lets the other half take over and win it's battle for sleep.

She closes her eyes, and if the darkness isn't quite as complete, and the drum beat not nearly as loud as it had been, it is close enough. It feels like safety, and she welcomes it.

...

Time merges much like it did in the darkness, though it is chaotic and overwhelming without the drum beat to centre her. Full weeks pass before she manages to calm down and piece things together, around the headaches and the tiredness that crops up out of nowhere - from simply existing and growing - to drag her into impromptu naps and the blissful nothing of unconsciousness. She lets it come now, doesn't fight it like she did at first, napping isn't so bad when she considers her reality.

She is a child again, a baby, and how did that happened?-

A starless sky and a dark road, icy wind hissing through leaf-bare trees and cold rain slicking the tarmac

- So she is a baby – not herself as a baby though, oh no, that would be too simple. She is someone elseas a baby.

Only that isn't quite right either because she still has some very vivid memories of a life half lived already. She is pretty sure she is a thirty year old woman with a job and a house and a couple of cats that she desperately hopes someone, somewhere is feeding.

At least she feels like she is, if her thirty year old body had been unable to do anything for itself at least.

She isn't used to being dependant on other people, especially not these strangers. They feed her, clothe her, bathe her – hell they even wipe her arse for her, and damn if that isn't the most awkward and embarrassing thing in the world.

Solemnly she vows to never take bowel control for granted ever again, if only she can be the one to clean up her own messes.

So a baby and an adult. Herself on the inside and someone else on the outside, in a body too weak to do anything for itself, in a world where everyone speaks a language she doesn't understand and the only two people she has contact with are strangers who do everything for her, even when she doesn't want them to.

It is both frustratingand terrifying.

Nothing makes sense and the more she thinks about it the more it feels like her tiny head is going to crack open and decorate her cot like a Jackson Pollock painting. So for the first few whirlwind months of her new life she lets instinct take control. Lets the baby deal with the baby stuff while the adult closes it's eyes and sticks it's fingers in it's ears to block out the weird world around it.

It works, for the most part.

Weeks turn to months and she learns a word, repeated over and over in a hundred different ways but always with a reverence it doesn't deserve. She hears it spoken though smiling lips when the blue haired man lifts her from her cot in the mornings and in tender whispers as the green eyed woman rocks her to sleep. When the headaches become too much and she cries they soothe her with it, chanting it like a mantra between the shh-shh-shh's, and when she wakes them in the night with her screams, quivering with terror from things she shouldn't remember, they rumble it tiredly.

The word is Raika, and it is her name.

They have names too; guardians, caregivers, parents. Though not the parents she remembers.

She remembers –

Windscreen wipers working furiously and the electric blue glow of the radio display. One hand on the wheel, the other reaching behind the seat, groping blindly for

- Her new parents are strange people, with their rapid nonsensical speech and their weird sense of dress.

There are no brands; no Nike, no Lacoste or Superdry. The only thing she has seen that resembles logo's are the reoccurring swirls that adorns most of her parents sleeves and the odd little squiggle that is engraved into the metal plate and bandanna combo her mother occasionally wears around her neck.

They don't wear hoodies or jeans, there aren't any suits or ties or joggers in their wardrobes. Instead they clad themselves in nondescript blues and greys with an over abundance of bandages for two people in perfectly good health, along with green vests that niggle something at the back of her mind.

Her mother has impossibly green eyes that seem to draw in light and make them sparkle when she laughs, a high clear sound like bells ringing. She has dimples, delicate hands, skin like porcelain and a scar that wraps around her throat like a macabre necklace.

Her father is darker, with tanned weather beaten skin and laughter lines around eyes that swirl like liquid silver. He is hard muscle and soft smiles, gentle hands with strong fingers criss crossed with pale lines.

Their names are Hikari and Mugen, respectively, and for the first year of Raika's life they are all she knows.

Well, them and the cat.

The cat is not a constant in her life, not like her parents.

It simply turns up every now and then, sometimes scaring the shit out of her when she wakes up to find intelligent amber eyes watching from behind the bars of her cot, other times appearing while she rolls around on the floor, trying to make her wayward limbs respond in the way she wants them to. A fluffy guardian of unknown origin.

The cat never makes noise. She has never heard it meow, or hiss. Doesn't even hear the soft pad of kitty feet on the wooden floor that would have heralded the arrival or any normal feline.

Mugen and Hikari call the big orange tom Hotaru, which means little and less to Raika except that she has learnt another name.

Hotaru is smart, beyond the intelligence of a normal cat.

He never gets close enough for her small, uncoordinated fingers to grab a handful of fluffy orange fur or the weird blue bandana he wears around his neck. If she is reaching for something – a toy, or dummy – he will bat them towards her. Whenever she poops, he leaves the room, and does not return until everything is safe.

He stays out of reach but is always within bounding distance. There is one time when he accidentally manages to hook his claws into her shirt, just in time to stop her from rolling off the bed -betrayed by her own weak limbs - before her father can catch her.

It is at that moment that she decides there is something not quite right about their family pet, beyond is apparent ability to respond to her needs. This feeling is quickly proved correct and turns Raika's already weird and impossible new life upside down.

Hotaru – the cat – speaks.

Not that she has a fucking clue what he says, but he opens his mouth and very deliberately forms words – the same too quick gibberish her parents use. Not a purr, or a hiss, or a meow. A fully formed, perfectly clear sentence that makes her father laugh sheepishly and scratch the back of his head as he returns Raika to more stable ground.

At five months and twelve days old Raika entertains the idea that she has in fact gone insane, and that this entire situation is a figment of her broken mind.

Cat's don't talk – but then again adults don't become babies either, so who is she to judge what is normal?

Still, it gives her pause.

Raika knows, deep down at the centre of her being that something unnatural has happened to her. She has never been big on religion, not in this life nor in the previous one though she knew the concepts of reincarnation, but at no point in any of the texts she'd read had it mentioned being re-born in a world where animals talked. That didn't happen. Reincarnation didn'thappen. Which left her with the question of what the fuck had happened?

Something squirms inside of her.

There is something about this place, something familiar that her brain is having trouble processing. The answers are there, hovering at the back of her mind like a skittish hummingbird, always flittering just out of reach. It's feels like trying to catch smoke, as soon as the thoughts surface it's gone again, pushed away by some invisible hand. Raika tries to think back, to recall the memory when -

A glance into the back seat. Black ice and an approaching curve, eyes off the road for only a second

- Mugen picks her up when she starts crying, the talking cat momentarily forgotten as he pulls her close and murmurs soothing things in her ear while she hiccups and carefully doesn'tthink about anything. She lets the infant part of her mind take full control and tries to ignore the fluttering of thoughts in her head.

...

At the age of nine months Raika finally receives confirmation that, not only has she somehow slipped through the spiritual cracks of the universe and dropped her consciousness into the body of an infant, but also into a different world entirely. She had suspicions, sure, many of them, in fact. Half formed theories that make the headaches too strong so remained unfinished thoughts, to be poked and prodded at at a later date.

None of these sort-of ideas really prepare her for the truth though.

Her eyesight has, thankfully, cleared up wonderfully over the last few months and so when Hikari bundles Raika up against her will and takes her outside into the big wide world to do some shopping, she can hardly miss the carved stone faces chiselled into the mountainside behind the village, peering down at the citizens with stern expressions.

On the one hand, a lot of things that have been bugging her now make sense – the language barrier, the odd symbols, the talking cat, the strange inclination to bandage wraps and net clothing. It's even a little embarrassing that it's taken so long to figure out, considering the clues, but Raika decides it's quite literally anyone's fault but her own. Her brain has been scrambled, reformed and dumped unceremoniously into a the body of a baby, and that's a pretty good excuse, if she does say so herself.

On the other though, it raises more questions.

How, being the main one. It isn't possible. There is no logical way to explain it, probably not even a very good spiritual way either. Things like this don't happen outside of fanfiction and fantasy novels – and yet...

Raika looks up at the stone faces once more, her baby features scrunching up in confusion and more than a little denial as Hikari hums tunelessly, oblivious to her daughters impossible circumstances.

There is only one place those faces belong. One familiar place, though no where she'd ever been before - and that was in the Naruto-Verse. Manga or anime it doesn't matter, it isn't real and she certainly isn't supposed to be involved with it.

Raika swallows around the infant instinct to cry and instead lets the adult part of her brain sum up the feelings of disbelief, horror and confusion she feels with one thought; Oh shit.


Awkward entering the world chapter out of the way, growing up in the Naruto-verse soon to come! Thanks for reading. Much love.