Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. The Phantom of the Opera, which inspired a great deal of this story line, belongs to Gaston Leroux. There's no way I'm making money from this and absolutely no way I'm affiliated with the creative process of these series/books.

Important note: This is an AU story. Consequently, restructuring of the plotline was necessary. Chances are if there's something that doesn't match up with canon, it's probably meant to be that way. If you don't think so, please, leave me a kind note. Also, please see author's notes at end of chapter. Edited June 16, 2005 for slight diction difficulties.

The Phantom of Konoha

Prologue: The Uchiha Slaughter

It was the fire that alerted patrolling ANBU members that something was seriously wrong.

They sped toward the flames, several blocks away, darting from rooftop to rooftop. For the fire to be seen from such a distance away meant one of two things: either the blaze had gotten out of control or no one had noticed it yet.

The last was absurd, of course, for as the team got closer, Hatake Kakashi realized that the fire was within the Uchiha Clan's compound. That was a bit of a surprise, considering how many of that clan specialized in fire jutsu. Kakashi signaled to one of his teammates, who peeled away from the group to alert the Mizuno Clan. It was the responsibility of that clan to put out fires that broke out in or around Konoha, and it looked like the ANBU squad would need their help as none of the team had much strength in water jutsu.

The light from the full moon illuminated the rooftops, making it unnecessary for Kakashi to pay much attention to his footing as he and his remaining two teammates bounded through the night. Kakashi began to feel uneasy as he neared the Uchiha compound. Only one house was in flames so far, but it wasn't going to take them much longer to spread. Why hadn't an alarm gone up already? Surely someone in Konoha's strongest clan would have noticed the blaze long before it drew an ANBU squad's attention.

Kakashi's signal to stop was sudden. The three ANBU members landed lightly on the gates of the Uchiha compound. "Taro."

She turned her face toward him, her cat-mask reflecting the moonlight. A quick nod and Taro focused on the Uchiha compound, the buildings glinting under the moonlight, shadows dancing in the firelight. Seconds later she snapped her head toward Kakashi. "I can't sense anyone in the compound."

"Anyone?" Kakashi reached into his leg pouch and drew out a kunai. The other two did the same.

"No one in my range," she confirmed. Taro had one of the strongest sensing ranges in Konoha.

Thoughts darted through Kakashi's mind, scenarios whirling furiously, each more grim than the last. "Saito," Kakashi ordered in a low voice, "go to Sandaime and tell him what's going on. Then get another squad."

Saito disappeared. Kakashi and Taro leapt from the gate and sped for the middle of the compound and the fire, senses alert for any sign of danger.

Instead of danger, they found death.

They stopped at the first group of bodies. Kunai and shuriken were embedded in corpses and buildings alike. The ground was soggy, but not from rain. Taro shook her head; they were all dead. The duo kept going, listening for the human sounds that were absent, straining to sense the presence of people who should be alive but weren't. Bodies sprinkled the streets, broken glass caught the moonlight.

Taro signaled that she sensed someone. They stopped instantly. Just one her next hand signal said, and then she pointed just to the west of the fire. The two ANBU members split to encircle the unknown presence.

Kakashi crept toward the target which was finally within his own sensing range. Whoever it was wasn't moving. He edged around a corner, ready to let his kunai fly, but stopped at the last instant. Sitting in plain sight was a little boy.

Kakashi moved forward cautiously nevertheless. The little boy was kneeling as if in prayer with both hands pressed to the ground supporting his slumped-forward body. His black hair concealed his face. In the light of the burning house the jounin could easily see the wound on the boy's left arm. It wasn't until Kakashi was a few steps away that the little boy noticed him.

A sudden jerk and the boy pushed himself to his feet. Terrified eyes and a tear-streaked face stared at Kakashi and the kunai in his hand. The boy took several stumbling backward steps and then turned around to run off, but Taro appeared behind him and caught him. He writhed in her grasp. "Let me go!"

Taro simply held on to him, until, with a suddenness that was disturbing, the child fell limp in her arms. She picked him up and moved next to Kakashi.

"It's the house of the head of Uchiha Clan," Kakashi said quietly. This close to the fire the heat was strong enough for him to sweat, making the ANBU mask rather uncomfortable. What was left of the house was barely discernable through the blaze. As they watched, the western wall collapsed, sending the two jounin hurtling backward to avoid the flaming debris.

As if the collapsing of the wall had been a summons of its own, the first members of the Mizuno Clan showed up. While they were busy extinguishing the fire, Saito returned with another ANBU squad and reported that Sandaime was assembling the rest of the ANBU and jounin to search Konoha and the surrounding area for any strangers. Kakashi was to lead the two ANBU squads to search for any survivors.

By daybreak the Uchiha compound was covered in water, blood, and corpses. The only survivor, Uchiha Sasuke, was placed in the hospital to recover from his wound and shock. The bodies of Sasuke's mother, father, and brother were missing, presumably in the fire that destroyed their house.

Although Sasuke was the only witness to what happened that night, he refused to speak. A few of the medical ninjas suggested that the boy's shock had repressed the memories, but that was difficult to discern as the boy never spoke in their presence.

The weeks went by, and Sasuke still refused to speak. He attended Academy classes, but there the children were frightened of him. Rumors began to circulate high and low through Konoha. Words were whispered here and there among the adults that perhaps the village had yet another demon-child on its hands. A demon-child that was much worse, because while the Kyuubi had attacked the village, at least he hadn't slaughtered an entire clan.

The cold eyes and scared children were just as difficult to miss as Sasuke's silence on the whole affair. Two months after Sasuke was found next to his burning house, he disappeared.

Author's Notes—

The Phantom of Konoha was originally conceived by Lazarus, a good friend of mine. The plan was for the two of us to do a doujinshi together (Lazarus drawing while I did the script). However, I've never done script format before. The two of us discussed our plans, and we decided that I would do the story in prose form and that later she'd go back through and use what I wrote to draw as it's easier for her to envision the setting and action if it's laid out in prose form.

That being said, most of the plot is of my creation—Lazarus told me what elements of The Phantom of the Opera she wanted to include and then told me to come up with the plot. However, the two of us bounce ideas off each other so much that I'm afraid I can't really point out which specific part was whose idea. From time to time Lazarus might pop up and add something in these author's notes. A great deal of thanks must be extended to yourfavoriteperson and Kilerkki who were willing to check this over.

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