When Shizuko had first gained awareness, she found that she couldn't move.

She'd panicked briefly, trying her best to squirm about but only succeeded in tiring herself considerably. Eventually, she was able to piece together that she simply didn't have the strength to move. This was calming, to an extent, and she had attempted to take stock of her situation.

Her senses were heavily muddled. She suspected that if she'd had the strength to open her eyes, the world would appear to her as nothing amorphous blobs of color. While she could smell the world around her, her body had an increasing amount of difficulty in attaching smells to concepts. The only senses that seemed to function in a way similar to the one she only vaguely recalled were hearing and touch.

It wasn't until she focused on feeling that she noticed she was wrapped in something. Logic dictated that it was likely a blanket and though she could hardly tell if it was soft or not she decided that this was likely true. What she noticed next was that she was cold. Before she could properly remember exactly what cold was, she was gripped by fear.

She hadn't realized she was screaming until she was lifted from the ground on which she'd lain and upon this realization, she forced herself into silence, almost choking on her own terror.

Of course, Shizuko had not known it at the time but this was her introduction to Hirohito.

It was another week before Shizuko could fully grasp coherence. Of course, when she had, she found herself in a state of shock.

She had been dead hadn't she, before all of this?

She was certain the answer was yes; of all her memories, her death stood out the most in her mind. She tried her best not to dwell on it.

She remembered with disturbing accuracy the circumstances leading to her death and would argue that she was not, in fact, suicidal. It was only a coincidence that her mother had committed suicide only weeks before and that she was entirely alone when she fell into the river. It was also a coincidence that she was so close to the river, to begin with, while coincidentally not being able to swim at the age of thirty-one.

She couldn't support her family if she was dead, what sense would it have made to die so futilely.

Of course, regardless of intent, she had died. She couldn't continue on as she had even if she'd wanted to. It wasn't a comforting thought but it kept her from falling back into that heart-stopping terror once more. She'd be damned if she let that happen again; she was in control, not this pile of flesh that was her new body. She would not fall into madness because things weren't as they had been.

She felt, if not more confident, than at least the smallest bit more comfortable with her new situation. She relaxed slightly and allowed her mind to drift.

Shizuko discovered something particularly strange within herself. Ever since she had been reborn— at this point she'd accepted the fact— she held a keen awareness of her own inner workings, even if she hadn't focused on such things.

If she concentrated she could feel the beat of her own heart and hear the thrumming of blood through her veins. She could feel the air settle in her tiny lungs after every breath before she released it to the world once more. These were things she expected; things that were normal.

What wasn't normal was the system that ran parallel to her everything; funneling energy that was heavy and formless and blue— how she discerned color from mere introspection was a mystery of itself. She had no idea what she was feeling. Then, perhaps in a moment of infinite shock, she did the only thing she could think of.

Shizuko took hold of this energy.

It was severely draining.

She had nary a moment to comprehend the effects of the energy before she was steamrolled by exhaustion. Distantly, she could feel herself vomiting in the same anti-climatic manner all babies do and heard a cry of "Aniki!" before she slept once more.

Shizuko had taken the following weeks after she woke to experiment with this energy she'd found. She tried to ignore the implications— all of them because none were good— of what this meant and instead chose to devote herself to study.

For example, in the general vicinity of her left eye, was a dead space in The Blue; she assumed this to mean she was blind in that eye.

After these weeks she'd managed to figure how to draw on the energy without putting herself out, along with discovering she could direct the flow. She'd tried her best to exercise her body and with careful applications of The Blue, she'd made it the smallest bit easier to move.

It was during these breath bouts of exercise in the arms of the boy that he properly spoke to her for what was likely the first time.

His words were not pleasant.

"What are you?" Shizuko had been surprised enough at the boy's tone— full of gloom and uninterested; so much like her own— that she'd opened her eyes. The light stung for but a moment, her eye— as it turned out, her left eye did not work— adjusting far too quickly.

She couldn't see too well and funneled the last bit of Blue into her eye. The world came into startling clarity for the briefest of moments but it was enough.

The brat was young if looks were anything to go by. She had no doubt that he was working far harder than anyone should at that age— hypocrite— and the scowl that was etched on his face made him seem far too old.

This last direction of The Blue was enough to tire her enough that she couldn't ignore it, so reluctantly she allowed herself to rest and recover.

It was because of this that Shizuko was unaware of a discussion between two children, regarding a plan to escape and whether they'd bring 'the girl'.

The dock was crowded, at least far more so than it had been in a long while.

Mizu no Kuni— and, to a much greater extent, Kirigakure no Sato— was in such a state of disrepair that most merchants wouldn't venture too far into the land, venturing into its waters but only enough to shorten their travels by only the smallest portion. Few had the nerve to approach even the closest of islands. The chances of finding somebody with the brazenness to dock at Kirigakure itself were abysmal.

That, of course, is not to say that there were none. Among these solemn few was Suzuki Mori who cared very much about how well a job was done. Of course, if you did do your job correctly, he was very easy to please.

Currently, Suzuki Mori was not pleased.

It had begun simply at first: a dropped crate, crates that were dropped in the water, men he'd worked with for years suddenly acting as if they were incompetent, newly-hired brats. All-in-all, he found it extremely irritating but it was nothing that hadn't in the past. Even if it hadn't, he almost understood; his men didn't particularly like coming to Kiri. They "found the mist dis-heartening" they'd always say. He could almost understand that they didn't care nearly as much for the business as he did. It was Mori's after all; he was the one that silver-tongued them all into helping him.

So yes, his exasperation towards all of that was inconsequential when compared to the displeasure he had towards the trio in front him.

There were two men, both of which were only the smallest bit shorter than him— one being little more than two centimeters taller than the other— with brown hair that was so much darker than his own. Secured in the arms of the shorter one was a bundle of cloth, held as one would a baby and if Mori strained his hearing just enough he hear the steady breathing that came with sleep.

Though, as he listened, he found the breathing was far too... controlled.

Mori wasn't exactly a genius but he was hardly stupid. He may have been a merchant but he was born of two shinobi parents who'd fought in the Third Shinobi War. As he was growing his mother and father decided that no matter what he decided to become, they'd teach him to protect himself. So they taught him the shinobi arts.

It was this knowledge that fed this growing suspicion of his. This baby was some way or another, was feigning sleep. What baby could do that? Or would do that? That one would definitely be trouble.

Mori tore his gaze from the child and back to the taller of the men. He stuck a hand out and spoke. "Suzuzki Mori," he introduced himself flatly.

After a moment of hesitation, the stranger took Mori's hand in his own and shook with a smile. "A pleasure to meet you, Suzuki-san. I am Onishi Tora." Gesturing to the two at his side he continued. "This is my brother, Onishi Hirohito and my... daughter, I suppose, Shizuko."

Mori raised an eyebrow at that. "You suppose?"

Tora ran a hand through his almost black hair. "Well, she's not exactly mine. She was abandoned."

Mori could feel the attention that statement drew from the dock workers and fought to keep his expression decidedly blank. It could've been a ploy to gain some sort of sympathy but he'd been able to determine that at least that part of the conversation had been true. The rest was still under evaluation because something wasn't feeling right to him.

Pushing that feeling aside, he returned to the conversation. "Is there something I can help you with, Onishi Tora-san?"

'Tora'— because suddenly Mori was doubting his name as well— slouched and all traces of his previous pleasantness washed off of his features.

"We're in need of transport," he answered in a tone that Mori could only describe as grim; as if something more important was happening.

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Is there a reason you've decided my ship would be the best to take you?"

The one called 'Hirohito' spoke up. "Nobody chose you; there hasn't been a ship here in ages so the only choice we had was you."

To Mori, this sounded an awful lot like a sob story and as a successful businessman, he had an inborn immunity to sob stories. Still, the child was there and he'd be damned if he allowed such an obvious danger out of his sight. So, ignoring the younger brother, he turned to Tora with a nervous smile.

"Your daughter," he began. "Can I have a look at her? My mother's been wanting grandchildren for a while and I'd like to know what she finds so adorable about babies." He'd probably said too much— far too much— and Mori could feel how bad a lie it was but he didn't waver.

The brothers exchanged a look that displayed a degree of nervousness before Tora turned back to him. "I suppose so. She's sleeping so your silence would be appreciated."

Mori almost growled back that he didn't need to be told how to handle a kid but he held his tongue. He didn't need them rescinding the offer. So instead he approached Hirohito in the most relaxed manner he could manage. The younger brother held the baby a bit.

"She hates the cold so you gotta be quick, yeah?" Without waiting for an answer he parted the makeshift blanket enough that Mori could the entirety of the girl's head.

What first caught his attention was the tuft of grey hair upon the girl's head. No, not grey; that implied a dullness that her hair lacked. Silver was more appropriate. It was an odd color— outlandish really— had him recalling brief stories his parents had told him of "Konoha's White Fang" but he pushed those thoughts from his mind quickly enough. It wouldn't do to ponder upon such trivialities.

By the time he'd finished pulling himself from such inconveniencing thoughts, the child had opened her eyes and stared.

Mori could see why they named the kid Shizuko— quiet child. She made no sound aside from that of her breath and that was itself difficult enough to hear. He watched as her eyes seemed to take in his appearance— and later he would laugh at such a thought. What child could be so observant?— before her eyes rested on his. Distantly, he noted that one of her eyes seemed glossed over, the other being a pale blue, but that was overshadowed by the intelligence he saw in them— and perhaps he would later reflect that his first thought had not been nearly as funny as he'd believed.

With a disturbing sort of finality, the child closed her eyes and her breathing once more became slow and controlled.

He was not letting a potential danger stay in his stomping grounds. Kiri was his and like hell he was letting a future menace grow up inside of it.

Hirohito wrapped the girl's head again and Mori straightened himself before turning to Tora.

"She's like a cat." Before Tora add any of his own input Mori turned to his ship— many of his men had taken to watching but scattered beneath his glare— and cleared his throat.

"Tanaka!" The boy must've been waiting for him to call because within the next five seconds, he had placed himself before Mori, sopping wet black hair and all.

"Boss?" Tanaka's tone was curious and only the smallest bit amused.

"Clear up a bit of space in the cargo hold; we'll be having passengers this time around." Tanaka gave an affirmative before making his way onto the ship. Mori turned towards his new passengers. "We'll be docking a few kilometers east of a small town in Hi no Kuni. We'll take you there but after that, you'll be on your own. Until then, you will stay in the cargo hold and I will personally call you up for meals."

Tora gave a bow and Hirohito— after a passing glance at his brother— did the same.

"Thank you, Suzuki-san. We'll be sure to stay out your way."

Mori simply nodded. Turning around, he motioned for them to follow him and led them aboard the ship. As they made their way to the cargo hold, he kept a careful eye on his employees, noting which he'd have to reprimand for unwarranted curiosity later on.

He found Tanaka waiting for him at the bottom of the steps leading to the hold and gave him a quick order to leave. Once the boy was out sight Mori turned back to the trio.

"You'll be staying here. Do not leave unless I have personally come to fetch you. Understood?" The brothers both nodded. "Excellent." With that, he proceeded to climb the stairs.

It wasn't until he could no longer see the happenings below him that heard a gasp of air, reminiscent of those of a man who'd almost drowned, followed by a yelp of pain. Mori focused a portion of his chakra into his ears quickly enough to catch a voice— a child's voice.

"—pretty hard to keep up a solid Henge!"

The frown that some said was permanently etched into Mori's face deepened considerably. A solid Henge? No doubt that required an ungodly amount of control. And chakra. Not to mention the fact that he'd been duped by at least one henged person. That only spelled danger.

But he couldn't, in good conscience, revoke his offer, could he? Business was all about taking risks and sticking to deals, wasn't it? Yes, that's what he'd tell himself. So long as he got them out of Kiri without being killed, he could go about his business and no one would be the wiser.

Perhaps something good would later come of this? A high-risk investment in which only he'd lose anything of significance. That was appropriate; if it was stupid, he'd pay for his own mistake. He could live with that.

Maybe he'd ask for his parents' advice?

Author's Note

Kokeshi = Limbless Wooden Doll

First off, I will only italicize(Is that a word? Nevermind; according to Grammarly, it is.) the Hidden Villages or Lands if I'm using the entire name. For example, Konohagakure no Sato rather than Konoha or Konohagakure; Nami no Kuni rather than Nami.

For those who don't know or have forgotten, Nami no Kuni is the Land of Waves or Wave, however, if it comes up in this fic, I will refer to it as Nami or Nami no Kuni to maintain some sort of uniformity considering the fact that I will refer to all lands and villages as stated in the first paragraph of this note.

On a kinder— or at least a far less serious— note, how do you all expect this fic to go? What do you hope to see in it further down the line? Granted, I likely won't change anything just because you lot say, but your commentary gives me ideas and ironically enough I struggle with those despite the fact that I managed to think up plots for, I think, eleven other fics— only two of which are on this site.

So yeah, let me hear your opinions because without them I can't write well enough to please you folk.

And before someone says, "You don't need to please us! Writing is for the writer!"...

No. It really isn't. At least, I don't think it is. I write because I like to entertain people. Not because I'm brimming with ideas that I need to get out 'there'.

As a side note; I couldn't actually think of a plot for any stories until I'd attempted my first, which was a Soul Eater story. I deleted it but I feel a mite more confident in my abilities now so I might rewrite it.

P.S. I feel like, despite saying "on a kinder note", I went on to a topic that had roughly the same tone as the first paragraph.

P.P.S. Suzuki Mori is gonna show up later. I won't drop any hints as to when, but if somebody guesses it correctly I suppose I can, like, check out their fics or something? I can't give you any money or anything like that. Oh. How about— if you want— I right a little one-shot for you? It's that, or I check out your fics; you can't have both. I guess I'll PM you if you're correct and you can tell me which one you want.

P.P.P.S. Be warned; I'm not a very good writer. Like, I'm nothing compared to writers like Kayo-San, LovelyWeather, or jokergirl2001. Go check them out.

P.P.P.P.S. I hope the rest of my Author's Notes don't end up as annoyingly long rants like this one did; I didn't do it on purpose.