The Silent Blade

Author: Carcinya (Isolde1 on fanfiction(dot)net)
Author E-mail: carcinya(at)yahoo(dot)com
Category: Angst/Romance
Keywords: Naruto Hunter-nin Iruka Kakashi
Rating: PG-13, might go up
Spoilers: Possible up to episode 80 (The story diverts after that)
Summary: All that glitters is not gold, all that is steel does not glitter... Kakashi is going to learn that the hard way, as he pries into something he probably shouldn't have. KakaIru
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto, various publishers including but not limited to TV Tokyo. "Lying from you" is Linkin Park's. No money is being made and no copyright infringement intended.

Now, now, people. If Naruto was mine, do you really think I'd be sitting at my computer, sipping bad coffee, and writing bad fanfiction? Honestly.

Author's notes: I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar mistake there might be in this story. I am French, and still only learning the beautiful language that is English. Besides, I don't have a beta-reader. Poor me. Any comments are welcome, but obviously flames will be used to roast marshmallows. Yummy.

Since we don't have that much information on Konoha Hunter-nins, I did not take heed of it, and designed my own Hunters. You can consider it an AU, if you want, though I will try to keep everything else as much canon as I can.

And now, enjoy your ride!

Edited version

Prologue: Tracking

To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less.

-- André Malraux


The Hunter, gleaming short swords in his gloved hands, crouching on a branch, was waiting.

Waiting for his prey.

On the edge of his consciousness, he felt the faint presence of the well-concealed ANBU warriors, not far from him. They, too, were waiting, ready to spring at his order. Kakashi-sensei, Kurenai-san, and a rookie he didn't know. It was his first mission -- soon he would taste the coppery tang of blood for the first time. A twinge of bitter pity for the young boy about to lose his innocence crossed his mind, and he shuddered in the cool night air as memories assaulted him.

Suddenly, the growing sense of foreboding he had developed while tracking the fugitive came back with a vengeance. Their prey was near. The hunter sniffed slightly, frowning as he picked up the stench of blood.

So the two others ANBU he had sent to drive the fugitive had completed their mission. Perhaps with a little too much ardor, he guessed dispassionately, but he couldn't really blame them. The ninja they were to slay was a missing-nin of the Mist, who had spied on them for weeks, and eventually killed three Genins to cover his flight when discovered. Three young, innocent children. No wonder the ANBU were enraged.

The Hunter himself did not feel prone to compassion, either.

One of the kids had been blue-eyed. Contemplating him, the Hunter's mind had been overwhelmed by one excruciating thought.

It could have been Naruto.

Above him, the leaves rustled faintly in the wind, and he started. Perfectly poised for attack, all his senses in alert, the Hunter fought off his distracting thoughts, berating himself for his carelessness.

When the missing-nin came into view, he jumped from his branch before him with feline grace, and tightened his grip on the twin blades. The fugitive shot him an horrified, wide-eyed glance, understanding at that very moment that his life would be soon coming to an end. Blood covered the right half of his face, and one of his ears was missing, the hunter noticed detachedly. The ANBU had obviously toyed with him longer than he would have allowed had he been there. Once again, he was torn from his musings by the whizzing of a kunai past his ear, which he dodged only narrowly. The man was not going to yield without a fight, it seemed.

Not in the mood for foreplay, the Hunter dashed forward, feinting with his right blade, the left one meant to kill. The missing-nin saw through his move, and jumped back swiftly. The technique, while rudimentary, indicated quick reflexes. His opponent was good, the Hunter noted, but he was also terrified, injured, and exhausted. And desperate, added the Konoha warrior wryly, as the fugitive lunged at him with a wild cry.

The Hunter decided to end it quickly. Deliberately, he chose not to dodge the kunai aimed at his left biceps. The weapon plunged into his arm, sending waves of pain through his whole body. Calmly, the young man used the hilt of his right blade to strike his adversary's jaw, effectively stunning him. The man stumbled back and dropped his weapon. His breathing short and ragged, he fell to his knees, his fevered gaze never leaving the Hunter's dark silhouette.

Kurohyou, the Black Panther, crossed his swords on his neck, and beheaded him in one fluid movement. The body fell back with a thud, the grass turning red in the chill moonlight, blood splattering the perfect whiteness of his porcelain mask.

The fight had lasted no more than a few seconds. The five ANBU had not even been given time enough to intervene.

"Kurohyou-sama, are you all right?"

The Hunter would have recognized the voice in his sleep. Kurenai-san. She must have noticed I am wounded. Hard not to, pointed out the more rational part of his brain, what with a kunai sticking out of your arm.

"Yes," he said tonelessly, "Everything is all right, Kurenai-sensei."

He could feel the ANBU's gazes on him as he sheathed back his twin blades, after cleaning them with a fistful of grass. He would have to polish them later, he thought idly. Now, the hardest part was to begin -- he had to erase the fugitive's very existence, and, no matter how many times he did it, the task never failed to disgust him.

"Go back to the village, and report to Hokage-sama," he ordered, trying to keep the weariness out of his voice. "Tell her I will see her tomorrow."

Kurenai took a tentative step toward him, in silent concern.

"Now," he said shortly.

She hesitated, then, slowly, nodded and disappeared in a puff of smoke. The four elite ninjas followed suit.

When he was certain to be alone, the Hunter drew the kunai out of his arm with a hiss of pain. He considered ripping his own black uniform to bandage the wound, but decided against it. Instead, he kneeled next to the dead ninja and tore a large strip of his garment. The Hunter pushed back his sleeve and carelessly dressed his injury. The cloth felt rough and itchy against his sensitized skin, but it would have to do.

He examined the body for a few seconds, breathing deeply, before he set to work, his shoulders tensing in grim resolution.

A few hours later, thanks to his skills and some chemical products, he had effectively wiped out all traces of the runaway's existence. He got up slowly, his whole body aching. The wound on his arm had stopped bleeding but was still sore.

As he went back to the village, the Hunter, true to his namesake, ran freely under the moon, wishing he could erase the weariness and doubts from his mind just as easily as a murderer from the world of the living.

He passed by the night watch effortlessly, like a silent shadow in the night. His house was situated in the northern part of Konoha -- he liked the Pine district, not too far from the Academy, but still quieter than downtown. He slid noiselessly through the window he had conveniently left open, not bothering to turn the light on as he removed carefully his uniform.

It looked rather like the ANBU one, but small, thoughtful differences showed that it had been designed specifically for the Hunters. All the steel sheets, for example, had been removed - rendering the attire both more discreet and exposed. It was composed of suede boots that came below his knee, close-fitting and flexible pants, a smooth sleeveless shirt which showed off his Hunter tattoo and clung to his lithe frame, a large belt to which hung his shuriken and scrolls pouches, leather armguards designed to hold four kunais within easy reach, padded gloves, and of course, the feline-like porcelain mask. The uniform was completely black, as was only proper for Kurohyou, the Black Panther of Konoha.

Now I'm beginning to sound like Gai, thought the Hunter, amused, as he trudged to the bathroom. How pathetic is that?

Feeling too tired to shower, he removed the makeshift, bloodied dressing. He disinfected the wound carelessly, wincing as it stung, and bandaged it again. He washed his hand slowly, attentive to remove all the blood. Then, as he reached for a towel, he caught sight of his reflection.

His black hair, slightly disheveled by the fight and the run, framed his drawn face, almost ashen in the cold moonlight. It contrasted starkly with his scar, he noticed distantly, a long-healed gash which crossed his well-defined nose. He fingered it absently, lost in painful memories of another life long gone, as a sudden realization hit him.

"And a happy birthday to me," he murmured.

Today was May the 26th.

Amidst pain, violence and blood, Umino Iruka had just turned twenty-five.

Feedback always welcome.