Chapter 1 Traveler's Road

The moon had risen long ago. Dinner was being cleared from the table when, amidst the clack of bowls and chopsticks hitting together, the dogs began barking. 'That's strange,' thought the farmer whose house had just been peaceful, 'I thought I put them in the back yard.' That was when the barking suddenly ceased.

He ran through the house and flung open the front door. Outlined from the faint light coming from inside was a figure garbed in black, petting the German Shepherd. It sniffed lovingly at him, and the figure smiled before standing straight. He looked to be in his very early twenties, but there was something different about him.

"I beg your pardon for the intrusion," he said in a breathy voice, clear as the night air," but if you could offer a weary traveler shelter for the night, I would be very much in your debt." Indeed, the years had wrought a great change over Uchiha Sasuke. His hard demeanor was replaced with a softer, sadly nostalgic air about him, and his eyes had a depth to them that was almost heartbreaking to look at.

The farmer was at a loss, but finally seemed to at least pretend to trust the stranger. "Well, we already ate, but we can spare a room. Just for tonight, though," he said in a voice in stark contrast to that of the shinobi. Sasuke bowed low.

"I thank you," he said, and with that, the night truly began.

Inside the house was a scene of chaotic peace. The house itself was sparingly decorated; simple, but it suited its purpose and was in no way in need of a change.

The raven-haired man was led to a small room in the back. It was even less decorated than the rest of the house, with only a futon on the floor and a small table set in the middle. 'Better than nothing,' thought Sasuke, and after casting the stranger a sideways glance the farmer left him alone. Sasuke unshouldered his pack and rummaged through the contents a little. It didn't look too bad, about two more days of food, a fresh set of clothes, and a few weapons were left. He pulled out an apple and crunched on it for a while, looking out the window. Cicadas and crickets stole the night, and stars littered the sky. The breeze swept the leaves into a mellow dance. The night was beautiful. Both beautiful and dark.

After a while, Sasuke seated himself in the main living room. Across from him was what appeared to be the grandmother, a nice old lady whom he immediately liked. The farmer was on his right, about ten feet away. His wife was next to him, having just finished putting her children to bed. After a time, the farmer's wife spoke up.

"What's that headband you wear? It's a shinobi headband, I think, but I don't recognize the symbol." Sasuke looked down for a long moment.

"It was the symbol of the hidden leaf village, right?' asked the grandmother. Sasuke just nodded.

"Well, I don't recognize it," said the girl. In a way, she almost reminded Sasuke of Sakura.

"No, you wouldn't. They disappeared, oh, five years ago now."

"Not in the least," said Sasuke, fingering his tattered forehead protector," we were destroyed, but we are still here. Just scattered and wandering like ronin."

"That's what I thought," said the grandmother," a village that strong wouldn't just up and go. But who would have been able to destroy you? Earth village rules now as the strongest, but they were nothing then."

"That's what we thought, too," said Sasuke, the sorrow in his voice evident. " I was fifteen, but I have relived it every night since."

Silence fell again until the farmer, who had just listened until now, could not contain himself any longer. " What happened to the ninja of your village? It was no small task to destroy that place, who could have that power? Even Iwa no Kuni at their current power couldn't have done it that fast."

"But they did."

"It's impossible."

"I stand here as proof, and I know how they did it, too."

"How?" Sasuke looked around, then down. It pained him to tell the story, but it pained him even more to not tell it.

"It all started when I was fifteen…"