Spirit of the Triage by emily4498
Note: This story was written by a teenager in 2016, over the course of one year.
As a kid, I always thought that being a hero would be cool, right? Risking my life, saving the day, the acclaim, and access to whatever the hell I wanted through obsessive fans. I'd settle for being the villain, a smart one, and take the infamy, fear of my name, and the other cool things associated with it, minus the indecent defeat at the hands of a naïve goody-goody. I thought it would be cool, I had fantasies about saving the day, or ruining it, depending on my mood, but it was never serious. I had a habit of chickening out when faced with any serious choices.
"Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave…" *
Sure, I was just a little pipsqueak when I read that specific series, but the story has absolutely nothing to do with this, just the words. I was walking along, minding my own business in the hustle and bustle of the big city. I think I was going to get my driver's license renewed, but I might have been filing my taxes, either way it didn't matter. I was minding my own business when I saw a kid getting shaken down by some mugger, barely out of sight of anyone except those directly in front of the alley. It seemed horribly cliché, but I stopped and those words ran through my head. My cell phone was in my hand, but I realized that the cops would take too long to arrive. I could have called them anyways, crime was their problem, not mine, but I knew that would have just been the easy way out. I took a picture of the mugger and stepped into the alley. I wasn't being brave, or even all that stupid. The mugger couldn't have been more than high school age, and the kid was a middle schooler at best, so it wasn't much more than breaking up a schoolyard fight. Little old lady teachers could do it, so I, a full-grown man, could stop it without much of a problem, right?
Since I felt like I was walking on clichés already, I decided to keep hitting it on the nose. "You know, kid, you really should pick on someone your own size."
"Stay out of this old guy!"
That was a bit offensive. I wasn't even thirty yet, for heaven's sake! I grabbed the teen's wrist. "Let the little one go," I ordered.
The teen released the kid, who ran like the hounds of hell nipped at his heels.
I let go and was about to walk away when I heard the distinctive click of a gun behind me. Almost at once, I heard the bang, felt a sharp pain in the back of my skull, which raced through my entire scalp.
My thoughts were along the lines of 'um, really, asshole?' The situation was over and I still get shot for my troubles.
I expected to wake up in one of three places: the hospital (which I was hoping for), heaven (which I wouldn't mind the slightest), or hell (which I sincerely hoped wasn't an option).
Imagine my surprise when I found myself slowly spinning on playground swings watching a handful of orphaned redheads run around a merry-go-round. And my front four teeth missing. I used up quite a bit of my cool when I recognized one of them as Uzumaki Kushina from a manga, Naruto, I read in high school. I had about twenty percent of my cool remaining when the kids started screaming in terror and my swing stopped spinning as I face the opposite direction: the village we were so obviously a part of being attacked by blurs and a heavy mist descending over everything. I knew what was going on. I didn't remember the entire story, but key points stood out to me and I had always been especially interested in the time before the beginning of canon.
An adult ran towards us, picking up a child and attempting to flee, but was cut down, along with the little boy.
I was very happy that what was 'right' and what was 'easy' fit together at that moment. This was not something I could fight and those damn kids didn't deserve to be cut down, nor did an attacking shinobi deserve to have the slaughter of orphans on their conscience. I spun and dashed towards the group of kids faster than I had ever run before, grabbed the first two arms I reached and yanked the terrified children towards the wild trees scarred and gnarled by seawater with Kushina and another boy each dragging another kid behind them. Two more kids caught on and raced after us while the others ran towards the village, calling for the orphanage caretakers. I led the group through the woods and to the docks where someone left boats painted with seals. I don't know how I knew they were there, I just did.
I shoved my two kids into the boat, followed by Kushina and the little girl she grabbed. The last four leaped in of their own accord while I yanked the ropes free from the dock, like any good little boy scout from a port city knew how, threw them into the boat, then shoved it away from the dock. When it was far enough away, I took a running leap off the dock, just as a Kiri shinobi appeared in the tree line. He ran forward and nearly caught my shoe, but I made it to the boat, if barely, with my knees cracking painfully against the side and sure I broke the wrist of the poor kid I landed on. The boat lurched about fifteen yards further into the strait, totaling twenty or so yards away from the deck. I should not have been able to make a five-yard jump, I certainly didn't question it until I was sure I was nice and safe.
The shinobi grinned and stepped out onto the water to follow, throwing a brace of kunai into the boat. Kushina scrambled up to shout, "I am Uzumaki Kushina and you will leave us alone!" She held up her hands in a familiar cross sign while an internal chant of 'get your scrawny, bony knees out of my spine' began in my head. Mist rose and the water swirled angrily around the boat, destroying the footing of the shinobi and dragging him beneath the water where he was dashed against the dock, his neck very obviously broken. Kushina collapsed and I barely managed to roll beneath her so she fell inside the boat instead of overboard. Everything went silent, even the poor girl whose arm I broke.
I, for one, was extremely proud of myself for saving eight kids, all under the age of six, from the massacre of Uzushiogakure, when formerly, only Kushina survived. Until I saw the state we were in.
I know I can never be a true hero and I will never try and lay claim to that title. I was too selfish. If I hadn't felt that there would be future strength in numbers, I would have just fled. Now, since there wasn't any active threat, I could spend a minute or so bemoaning the fact I had red hair that was a bit long for any self-respecting boy and was currently seven, which some niggling thing in the back of my head proudly informed me. Puberty had been bad the first time, with acne and a bit of a fanaticism for stories over playing video games like the 'cool' kids. The story fanaticism never faded. I hadn't been great at sports, overly smart, or hard working so I never stood out, except when less-sociable me was chosen for the brunt of immature jokes. Not that I paid enough attention to the other kids to care. Still, even though my first go-around hadn't been all that bad, I was not looking forward to another.
Even so, from the way six children barely old enough for school were looking at me (Kushina was out for the count and the girl with the broken arm was hunched over in pain and struggling not to make any noise) I had to take the lead. My adult thought process immediately broke down the situation into smaller, manageable tasks. The entire group was injured in some way, many of the injuries could become much more severe if left untreated for much longer, so I tackled that first, careful to keep my voice down.
"Everyone sit with your backs to the edge of the boat, but one at a time and go where I tell you." It was difficult to speak without my front teeth, but I managed. The boat was about the size of a large canoe and I was extremely thankful that orphans were generally undersized as a rule so there was just barely enough room for us to move without capsizing the boat. I directed three kids to press their backs against each side of the boat and dragged the unconscious Kushina into one of the places while commissioning the strongest and oldest-looking boy to help me with the girl with the broken arm. The boy I chose was also the only older kid not injured by the kunai thrown. I felt a bit sick as the blood in the bottom of the canoe was a bit more than just smears. I didn't have a lot of time.
I grabbed one of the kunai embedded in the wood and pulled the ribbon out of a little girl's hair, cut it in half, and tied the kunai around the broken arm as a makeshift brace, then told the girl to hold her arm against her chest, quickly replacing her with another boy who had a kunai through his upper arm and lodged in his rib. The boy commissioned to help me and a second volunteer held the whimpering kid down while I yanked the blade out. They kept the pressure on the wounds while I stripped off my shirt and cut it into strips, swallowing down the bile at being forced to play ER doctor, the whole time chewing on my tongue in the empty space in the front of my mouth. I knew the basics of first aid; I did a brief stint as a lifeguard in high school, but those classes did absolutely nothing for preparing me for taking care of eight redheaded kids stranded on the water that I was certain contained deadly whirlpools that would shake us to death. It took two more volunteered shirts before the wounds were bandaged well enough to stop us from bleeding out. I then stood at the rudder, which I found quite odd for such a small boat, and kept us pointed in the direction towards the mainland, searching for help of any kind, while the others huddled against the sided of the boat.
Somehow, I never needed to say much. It only took a few motions, maybe a word or two to direct the frightened kids around. The attack had started in the morning and by the time everything was sorted out, it was long past noon. I feared the cold that would accompany the night with wind that could kill us without even a blanket to cover. It wasn't a particularly cold day, with the clear skies and sun, but the night could be dangerous. I prayed to whatever god in charge of this universe that someone would chance across us, or that the other side of the strait would appear in sight. Kushina still hadn't woken and I hoped she would have an answer when she did.
It was almost suppertime and I was starting to second-guess my chosen method of death. The shock was beginning to wear off and the younger kids had begun to whimper in pain, fear, and cold while the blood had long since soaked into the wood. I felt sick from exposure to the sun and all of us were dehydrated. The smallest of girls had fallen unconscious. Our short arms couldn't even reach the seawater to pull that in to drink. Thankfully, Kushina was showing signs of waking.
It was nighttime when she finally regained consciousness and the cold had begun to set in. I could feel the first tremors setting into my small, half-clothed body, which didn't have the immunity to the cold my adult body had built up. "Do you have any ideas to get us to safety, Kushina?" I asked once she was alert enough to respond. She picked herself up and stumbled over to me. For the second time, I had to stop her from going overboard on accident. She leaned heavily on me, while I leaned heavily on the aft of the boat, and inspected the seals on the rudder handle.
"This one. Put chakra into that seal, it won't take much, and it will send out a distress signal to any nearby, local, civilian vessels, but it's too late for any of them to get it. That seal there will take you to the nearest mainland port so we can tell someone what happened and get help, but I can't do it, I don't have enough left."
"Um, can anyone else use chakra?" I asked hopefully.
The kids shook their head.
"Alright. We'll start there. Um, what do I have to do?"
It was sitting on the bottom of a blood-stained boat, in the middle of a strait, terrified of freezing to death, with a bunch of kids, my hair itching my face, and taught by a six-year-old Fūinjutsu prodigy that I learned to access chakra and sealed my fate as a shinobi of the new world I found myself in. I figured it was only almost as frightening and hellish as hell itself. On the bright side, I had a good story I could make, rather than just passively absorb the work of others for once.
If the moon followed the same time pattern as the sun (I wasn't sure because I had never needed the sky to tell me the time, nor was I interested), we reached the docks around midnight. Unfortunately for me and Kushina, the only ones of the group brave enough to speak to non-Uzumaki shinobi, it was at the exact same time as the Konoha shinobi and poor us were snatched out of our boat and dragged into an abandoned shack to be interrogated by the leader of the Konoha team sent to aid Uzushiogakure. One of the shinobi I recognized immediately. Hatake Sakumo, the White Fang, though he looked much, much younger than I remembered.
"Here's the deal, kids. I know you're from Uzu and my team and I are headed there now to help your families, but we need as much information as you can remember. Can you tell me anything?"
Everyone immediately looked to me and a few pointed as well.
"My brother Kichiro can tell you better than anyone what happened. He's really smart and strong! He saved us!" Kushina said and the other kids agreed.
The brother part caught me by surprise and I hoped I regained the memories of this Kichiro kid because I most certainly didn't want to be accused of being an infiltrator. Maybe I could arrange a convenient knock on the head and 'forget' everything as soon as the trauma died down. For now, though, I had to do my best to make sure that Hatake Sakumo survived whatever his mission was, but I at least had the tact to not want to tell the shinobi about the attack in front of a group of children.
Sakumo picked up on my uneasiness and led me out of the sheltered shack, carefully wrapping a warm blanket around me so I didn't freeze in the night air. "Tell me everything, kid." I automatically felt my back straighten as we stopped behind a nearby house.
"Except for one or two who might have slipped through the cracks, the entire population is dead," I started out bluntly. There was no reason to mince my words, the man was a shinobi, he could take it. "Um, they used a mist Jutsu to confuse everyone and obscure vision, simultaneously reducing the effectiveness of traps. The village never stood a chance. We escaped because we were at an orphanage near the strait. None of us have any family left to lose. We were all orphaned before the attack."
It was all starting to sink in for real now. I had just saved eight other kids from certain death when I remembered the actual story of this world well enough that only Kushina should have survived. I had saved eight kids. Those eight kids now owed their lives to me and I was now responsible for them. I knew I couldn't do it. I knew I was going to let them down simply because I could barely take care of myself as an adult. How the hell was seven-year-old me in a world I barely remembered from my childhood supposed to do anything right?
"Hey! Stay with me, Kichiro, I still need you to tell me how you got out."
I shamefully scrubbed at my eyes. "We were on the playground when the mist appeared. I grabbed who I could and ran to the boats. We all jumped in but someone tried to chase us. Kushina, um, killed them with some Jutsu and eventually we made it here. The shinobi had a Kiri forehead protector."
"What did Kushina's jutsu look like?" Sakumo asked, grabbing my arm to stop me from tipping over.
"I-it made a giant, um, whirlpool around us that dashed him against the dock."
"You've done well, Kichiro, don't let anything lead you to think any differently."
"I didn't want to do anything!" I stamped my foot with an immaturity that would have horrified me if I wasn't upset over the responsibility that I had hung about my own neck.
"Kichiro, listen to me," the Hatake ordered and put both hands on my shoulders. "Just because you saved those kids' lives, you're not responsible for them. How old are you? Six? Seven? You're not expected in any way to take care of yourself, much less anyone else, alright?" I looked up at him wishing I was actually a kid and not able to see the way adults use their 'adult power' to force kids into their point of view. "You shouldn't feel that way, kid, alright?"
I couldn't believe it. How the hell could I just change my entire point of view because the man just said so. The Hatake released me and I couldn't help myself. I punched the man in the face. Maybe it was the fact that I was smaller than his leg and he straight-up did not expect me to try anything like that. Or, maybe it was the fact that I had a decent mask for my anger and he was not expecting me to be able to hide them as well as I did. It surprised me as much as him that the strike actually connected and had the strength to snap his head to the side. Given, I had channeled chakra to reinforce my bones and muscles, but I still surprised myself. I didn't miss how he had drawn his tantō and channeled chakra into the blade before he managed to stop himself when I took a step back and cringed. Well, at least I'd have the bragging rights that I punched the White Fang.
He rubbed his jaw, studying me carefully. "You're right, kid. You're not a shinobi yet so I can't ask you to turn off your thoughts and feelings at will. I'll tell you this, though. You're a good person and a leader whether you want to be or not. You're the kind of person I want watching my back because I know you'll do your job whether you want to or not. Who knows, one day you might just be on my team."
I stood there gaping at him. In his own roundabout way, he had offered me a place on his team.
"Now, kid, you may still have all that adrenaline pumping through your body, but that gash on your head looks pretty nasty and I think our dear medic has finished up with your friends."
"They're not my friends," I corrected him. "I don't even know their names. Except for Kushina."
He ignored me and took my hand to lead me back to the others. While we walked, I prodded at the gash in my right temple and noticed that the blood had coated the whole side of my head and down over my shoulder. Well, I guess that could cover the memory loss if need be, considering I didn't even remember hitting my head, which was probably a bad thing. Walking into the little shack they had contained the kids in was a second punch to the gut. Standing up from where she knelt beside the youngest kid to survive, who was nearly five, was Tsunade. I probably shouldn't have been surprised. It was the village of her extended family that had been attacked and she had to have been a damn good medic for her age to be sent to help. Medicine, without a formal, standardized education program in place, had to be a lifelong profession.
I shied away as she turned to me and pressed her palm against the gash on my head. I found it hard to trust someone I knew to be a drunk, at least in the future.
"Oh stop your flinching, kid, I know exactly what I'm doing and I promise not to hurt you." With quick, practiced movements, she ran her hands across the front of my chest and down my arms, stopping to heal the damage to my wrist where I had caught myself in the boat, shaking her head at something while she turned me around and ran a hand down my back then down the sides of both legs, healing the damage to my knees from jerking backwards over the edge of the boat. "Right, kid, I'm surprised you were able to function at all. Your skull had a depression fracture and you had a pretty severe concussion. Don't get too frustrated if you have trouble making your body work like you feel it should be working. Also, I can't tell for certain because I'm not a Yamanaka, but I think you've lost a lot of your memories. If you were older, it wouldn't be as much of a problem, but for now, you have a nearly clean slate. Since I don't know your baseline, I have no idea how severe the damage is and I won't dare try and repair it here without getting a second opinion on the matter. For now, we're going to get all of you to Konoha and make sure you're safe."
"Wait!" Kushina cried out. "Does that mean Nii-san doesn't remember me?"
Tsunade looked at me for the answer.
I shook my head, a bit stunned at the fact I was the brother to a future Jinchuuriki and the lynchpin of the entire story, and she wasn't just messing around, not that I thought she would mess around in a situation like this. Kushina wrapped her arms around me.
"It's alright. I'll tell you everything about you so you don't have to not-remember anymore."
I nodded, slightly freaked out as she squirmed into the blanket beside me.
The adults left and the others began to doze off while Kushina and I sat against the door.
"The boy confirmed that Kiri shinobi were attacking the village and he claims that it's already been ransacked. We can leave someone here to guard the kids and go on, or we can rush back to the village and get a larger force to back us up when searching for survivors." Sakumo laid out while I felt the wall shift slightly as someone leaned against it. Kushina clung to me and I found myself more than a little uncomfortable at the proximity.
"If it is Kiri, we're in no shape to fight. Only Tsunade has a proper Earth affinity." A strange spoke up.
"So we're just abandoning them?" Tsunade demanded.
"There are nine kids in there we're saving, Tsunade. Are you going to risk their lives by getting in over our heads?" A second stranger spoke up.
"She has a point." A third stranger cut in. The voice sent chills down my back. "Those kids may be Uzumaki, their resilience and longevity will be beneficial, but it seems that except for the girl, Kushina, they know almost nothing of their clan heritage, considering they're orphans. Only her and the boy, Kichiro, appear to have any talent for the shinobi arts. Tsunade looked at their chakra networks and none of the others have any notable potential. Despite their general health, the Uzumaki are a mostly-civilian clan to begin with. We have Mito-sama's knowledge, so not all will be lost."
"Both options have equal drawbacks and advantages," Sakumo answered. "You all need to vote, there's nine of you if I remain impartial. Who thinks we should head back with the kids and bring back a stronger force?" There was a long pause. "Five to four, sorry Tsunade, we're heading back. Set up a perimeter around the shack. Tsunade, if the kids need anything, it'll be up to you, the rest of us will take hour-long shifts in pairs, I'll take the two sunrise shifts. We leave as soon as the kids wake up and have eaten."
"No!" Tsunade protested. "We leave now and carry them. They can sleep as we run."
"They only just got off that boat, are you sure?"
"They're just tired and hungry, we can stop to eat in the morning, but the sooner we get back to Konoha, the sooner we can get help to Uzu!"
"Can everyone handle that?"
A chorus of affirmation answered him.
"Right. Tsunade, they're most familiar with you, why don't you bring them out and we'll wrap them in our blankets to keep them from freezing in the wind."
The door opened and I found that annoying thing in the back of my head tightening my arm around Kushina. Tsunade crouched in front of me. "Hey, kiddo, we're going to head back to Konoha as fast as we can so—"
"I heard your discussion."
"You were supposed to be asleep," she reproached.
"Well, wait here for a minute, alright?"
I nodded and she started to pick up the sleeping kids and carry them to the door, waking them up just enough to meet the person carrying them. She disentangled Kushina from me last and carried her out. I followed her, tightening the blanket around my shoulders and dreading the indignity of being carried for who knows how long.
"Orochimaru, you're last," Sakumo said as Tsunade led me out with Kushina's face buried in the woman's neck.
"I'm not carrying some snot-nosed kid for hours. Carry him yourself, I'll run scout."
Sakumo rolled his eyes and crouched down. "Come on, kid, hop on my back," he told me.
I couldn't do it. I hated being carried my first time as a kid and as an adult I even stayed out of the piggy-back races when messing around after having a bit too much to drink. "I'll walk," I crossed my arms stubbornly.
Sakumo met my gaze for a moment before motioning for the others to move out without us. "We're not going to be walking kid—"
"Then I'll run—"
"If you were a Genin, I would consider it, but you won't be able to keep up with us. We don't have the time to teach you to tree hop, and you don't have the stamina to make it back to Konoha. You need to rest more than anything and I'm not above forcing you to sleep, got it? You can ride on my back and tolerate it, or you can wake up when we reach the village gates."
"Why can't I stay here?"
"You'll freeze kid, even with that blanket, or you'll be either captured or killed."
I ignored that statement. Sakumo crouched down and patted the ground beside him. I remained standing.
"You and I both know that this isn't about being carried. What's the real problem?"
I studied him carefully. I certainly wasn't a hero, but he clearly was. "If I told you, you'd think I was insane."
He was sincere, that much was certain. He genuinely wanted to help and I was significantly tempted to let him, simply because he could. If I could trust him. "On one condition."
He thought carefully. "What condition?"
"That you don't betray my trust by telling anyone else, no matter the circumstances, or think I'm crazy or evil."
"As a shinobi, I can't make that promise, kid. I'm required to disclose everything to my Hokage, pertinent or not."
"Then leave me here and catch up with your team. I'll be fine, I promise." I knew I couldn't back that up.
"I am extremely capable of forcing you to come."
"But you won't, because you're not that kind of person, Hatake Sakumo."
"How do you know my name?"
I sat down beside him and pulled up my knees, not meeting his gaze.
He sighed. "I will not lie to the Hokage if I'm asked directly, but I will keep you secret and hear what you have to say with an open mind."
"Swear on everything and everyone you care about." That was probably overboard, but I wasn't going to take it back. I couldn't be too careful.
I decided to start with the bad news. "If nothing changes, in the wake of the, um, Third Great Shinobi World War, someone who hasn't been born yet is going to release the Kyuubi on Konoha and devastate the village. Do I have your attention?"
I watched Sakumo carefully out of the corner of my eye. His hand tightened into a fist, but otherwise, he gave no reaction. "That is an entirely plausible scenario, but you have absolutely no way to prove it."
"What if I could?"
"Then I fear the two wars that are looming in the future much more than the attack of a Bijū. I know there is much more to this story. Let's start with the obvious question. Why are you telling me, of all people?"
"Why are you listening?"
"Because I have an obligation to my village."
"I may not know a lot about you, but I respect you more than you know. The impact you make on others, both good and bad, will carry further than you can imagine."
"You seem to have an inflated image of me, kid. I'm not as influential as you seem to think. There's no way for an orphan from Uzu to know who I am."
"It will make more sense in a bit." I paused before deciding to start from the beginning. "I died this morning. There was a kid, probably eleven or twelve getting bullied by a teenager. I broke it up and once the kid was gone, I turned around and the teenager killed me. I was twenty-seven. I died, but it wasn't in this world. When I woke up, I was spinning on the swings in Uzu watching a bunch of orphans. I can't prove it; I just know it's true."
"Say I decide to write you off as hallucinating. What would you do?"
"Just walk away. I would hide in a small, forgotten village and let events play out. It all turns out fine in the end."
"And if I believe you?"
"I'll tell you everything and fight like hell to keep them alive and stop the Fourth Shinobi World War, which is infinitely worse than any war you can imagine."
"Then tell me everything."
I was quite thankful that age wasn't a determining factor of worth to a shinobi. "Well, before I died, there was a story that I haven't read for years…"
I didn't tell him everything, I skipped over a lot of details, like relationships, who had kids, and things like that while avoiding specifics, like who exactly was sent to the Kannabi bridge and who the Yondaime was going to be. It took me less than five minutes.
"You haven't told me much," Sakumo commented.
"I don't remember much and things have already changed, there's no way it can stay the same now."
"Well, I guess we're now going to fight like hell to keep people alive, aren't we?"
"You're not going to tell your Hokage."
"He's your Hokage now too. You'll be a shinobi like me, right?"
"I've been enlisted in the military, but I spent four years in communication. I'm not cut out to fight directly."
"You can do it, I'm sure of it, Kichiro. For now, I think you've been working too hard. You need to rest."
Sakumo laid a hand on my head and the night's ambient light faded.
*Quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author's note: This is a time capsule from my past, written at a time in my life that is better kept in that past. Personal circumstances have made it so posting this story has taken far longer than intended, but the entire story will eventually be posted.
Thank you to those who have stuck with me from the beginning and a big welcome to the newcomers.
There is enough unkindness in the world, so please refrain from adding to it with angry or demeaning reviews.
I hope you enjoy and thank you for reading,