Set during Episode 166.

She dreamed of dragons, that night, in a land of ghosts and unseen things.

She had always loved dragons, couldn't even remember when she hadn't thought them the most beautiful creatures she had never seen. She didn't know what her first word had been – the careworkers at the Konoha orphanage had too much to do to bother with such petty details – but they did tell her that as a toddler she had babbled endlessly about 'd'agons' and she liked to imagine that had been the first thing she had, in fact, said.

Her life had been shaped, to an extraordinary, subtle degree, by her love of dragons. Her expertise with blades had begun as play-acting that she had the fangs and claws of the great beasts. She had learned speed and agility for the chance, if only for a few precious seconds, to fly as dragons flew. Her technique involved spending a great deal of time in the air – that was not just a practicality, or a positioning for marksmanship and to avoid blows – there was something in the heart of it that was less prosaic and more fantasy.

Her Soushoryuu had been named for the twin dragons the summoning scrolls took the shape of as they spiraled into the sky; and she couldn't remember how she had gotten the technique to look that way, only that she grinned and grinned when she realized that it did.

That was as close she might be able to get to having real dragons under her hand.

She remembered when a classmate had told her in a superior, smirking voice that dragons were not real; only a myth, a story, that they had only been inspired by the dragon-shaped techniques every element had. She had flown at him, shrieking in rage more potent than either of them could believe from a six-year-old, and it had taken two instructors to pull her off. They had then spent the rest of the school-day telling her that she really needed to learn how to control her temper - and that her classmate had been telling the truth – there were no such things as dragons.

She had wept into her pillow for hours that night.

Then today, for a single beautiful moment, her childhood faith in something greater than humanity had been restored. It did not matter that they were in the middle of battle against a wandering ninja, faithless and honorless. It did not matter that the daimyo – who was actually female, something that would be of more interest to her in ordinary times – had been stunned and taken by the enemy.

All that she could see were the great dragons rearing against the evening sky, their eyes like yellow suns.

And then Kakashi had flung a kunai, and destroyed the true source of the dragons. They faded away like her dreams, and for a moment she had hated Kakashi, hated him like she had hated that child who had told her that dragons did not exist.

Soon enough she had returned to the real world, had flung herself into battle, and she managed to laugh at her momentary reversion to childhood foolishness. When the reality was here and now, was the impact of her weaponry against enemy flesh and the movements of her body as she wove in between strikes and blows, it was easy to forget.

But that night she dreamed. She dreamed that a dragon came to her.

The dragon coiled around her, smooth and surprisingly warm, for all its reptilian scales – but then the heart of a dragon was fire. She luxuriated in that armless embrace, unable to remember when she had felt so safe, so cherished…so unlonely. The life of an orphan kunoichi did not allow for many embraces.

The coils tightened around her, the pressure not at all hurtful. Within the dragon was strength enough to ground her into fine powder, but there was only the sensation of delicious tension. That in itself was a wonder and a joy – like having a hawk perched on her bare wrist, the nearness of danger an added flavor, an intoxicating spice.

She arched her back. The dragon shifted, and it growled – purred – as its sinuous length flexed around her body. She could feel it moving all around her, its smooth scales brushing against her skin continuously, all over, everywhere…

And all the while, she stared into eyes like twin suns.

When her son was born, she named him Ryuu.

His golden eyes glittered as she did.

I turn and watch the lightnings in the sky--
The glamour of thy footsteps in the North.
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die.