By Nes Mikel
I herby acknowledge that the work of fiction presented here is for my own personal amusement and entertainment purposes alone. Most of the story, characters, place names and other etc stuff in this fiction are copyright Naruto, Kishimoto Masashi, Weekly Shounen Jump, and any others I might have forgot.
We were similar, us three.
We were all orphans.
We were all gifted.
The same people raised us all.
And together, as a team, we grew stronger.
However, it occurred to me one day.
The way we think.
How we carry ourselves in battle.
The reasons for why we fight.
We were different, us three.
I had thought then it was the way it was meant to be.
But I was wrong.
It was only later when I realized.
He and she were similar.
And I was the only was that was different.
- Part One -
There were two people under the tree.
One, a child. The other, a young man.
The child, with his flowing black hair, was in deep thought, sitting lazily on top of the highest branch. The young man sat at the base of the tree, reading some scroll, letting the wind gently rock his silver hair back and forth.
There was no conversation. Only the bright moon high above in the sky bore witness to their silence.
How much time had passed? The child wondered. He moved for the first time in what seemed like decades and glanced down at the silvery youth beneath him.
"Hey, what do you think of those two?"
In reply to his question, the youth raised his head and exchanged glances with the child above the tree. Seeing his bored eye the child gave the youth the thinnest of smiles. It was not a smile that the child usually gave. Somewhere deep within that expression, there was a touch of ice, a hint of cold.
The youth's eyes moved away from the odd smile as he rolled up his scroll and slowly stood. Then, as if ignoring gravity, he jumped. He landed on the same branch besides the child without the barest hints of sway.
The silver-haired youth spoke. "Naruto and Sakura?"
The youth hesitated for a moment as he paused the conversation to think.
"Naruto is too unbalanced, whereas Sakura… she's too balanced. Of course, the same could be said for you too."
It was the answer the child expected from him. The child narrowed his eyes, and glared at the youth as if demanding him the answer to his answer.
The youth noticed this and laughed uneasily. He gave his answer.
"You know, when the Third gave me orders to be you three's instructors, I was actually angry, you know? Why do I, the 'Hatake Kakashi', a ninja whose name is known across all countries, have to be a babysitter for three brats? So, to tell you the truth, I thought I might just let you three die and get it over with."
The child did not look surprised. For a confession that was so shocking, it was as if the child knew from the start that it was the youth's intention all along.
"It doesn't bother you."
It was not a question, but a statement.
"Not really." The child replied. "I knew from the start that you disliked us… no, rather, you dislike the people in the village. Not that I care to understand why you feel that way."
The youth continued to grin.
An image of his father flashed briefly in the youth's mind. His father, the one who was forced into suicide by the cowards that accused him of being a failure.
"Well, what did you guys think of me, then?" The youth asked.
"What do you mean?" The child's brows furrowed at the youth's sudden question. The black-haired child was frustrated; the young man had essentially avoided his question.
Ignorant of his thoughts, the silvery youth continued with his question. "Well, the way I recommended you three into ANBU when you guys were just seven years old."
"I think nothing of it." The child said. "Isn't it obvious? Itachi murdered my family, my clan. For someone like me who wished revenge, the offer was something I couldn't refuse. But…"
The child's words drifted, then stopped. The youth wondered what had happened and studied the child's expressions, but he was cut off when the child continued.
"To be honest, I was against in Sakura joining the ANBU."
The youth's eyes widened suddenly, as if he was not expecting that answer. The child did not look bothered and continued with his explanation.
"She doesn't have a reason, right? For me, in order to take my revenge on Itachi, I had an ambition to be strong. And for Naruto, he chose a path that would protect himself from the rest of the village. But Sakura… she doesn't have a reason to choose this path of shadows. She is only intelligent, more talented than the average girl… and for such a girl to travel the path of blood and malice and into the life of ANBU, I couldn't understand."
There was a slight pause.
"I had thought she would refuse, saying she couldn't do such things… so I didn't say anything. Naruto probably thought so too. Despite appearances, I know he's much smarter than me. So that's why we weren't opposed to the recommendations. But nevertheless, she agreed. It was her decision to join the ANBU."
The child bit his lip. Blood flowed from the new wound. Perhaps, perhaps this child was regretful. For not being able to stop an innocent girl from staining her hands with blood.
The youth besides him just stared. The child looked up and back into youth's eyes and recognized the emotion. The youth was not trying to think of words of comfort; instead, his eyes were as if telling the child that only he could find the answer.
Yes, the silver-haired man knew the answer. He knew the reason why the girl had chosen the path of darkness. However, it was not his responsibility to tell this child the reason. Only the girl could do that. And so, the youth did not tell the child.
Especially because the youth himself was the reason…
"Mind if we get back to the original subject?" The youth asked the child lazily.
"Hm." The child's tone was low. Most likely he was still thinking hard about the words from before. But even if the youth realized the child's inner turmoil, he ignored it as he began to speak again.
"Still, you know, you guys went beyond my original expectations. You want to know my first impressions of you three?"
It was spoken in a teasing tone. It gave the child discomfort, but he only thinned his lips to let show. The child gave the youth a curt nod, urging his teacher to go on.
"Naruto… well, he was as I expected, being the container of the Kyuubi in addition of being that man's son. Those eyes, those untrusting eyes, gave me the shivers. And Sakura. She was just an ordinary girl; so ordinary she was still playing with dolls. I thought she was… unsuited for the project to raise the perfect shinobi out of children that were only slightly more gifted than others. And you. Eyes filled with vengeance, the sad child who had everything taken away from your older brother Itachi. I was excited imagining just which path you would take."
The child made a face at his words. He felt that last part was unnecessary.
The young man never missed a beat. "Did I make you angry?"
The child couldn't be bothered to get angry. Knowing this man, there would be no end to snide insults. If he constantly got angry at such trivial things, the child knew it would only ruin him.
"Well then, now that I'm done with introductions-"
"Took you long enough."
The man chuckled at the stab, but otherwise ignored it. "It was unexpected, you know? The one I thought who had no hesitation in killing people – Naruto – hesitated the most. And the one I thought who had the most hesitation in killing people – Sakura – didn't hesitate at all. You, I guess you were somewhere in-between. You had hesitation at first, but you don't think of it anymore, do you? But Naruto is different. He still hesitates, he still feels guilty. Do you remember?"
Of course he did.
That day, the child, along with Naruto and Sakura, was taken by the same young man and was running through the thick darkness.
Until today, their jobs were mainly along the lines of information and espionage, gathering information, still yet to be assigned to the 'other' jobs. Perhaps the upper brass had taken into consideration that they were still children, still young and innocent. Or perhaps, they were still deemed as too week. Either way, today, it was different. They finally were assigned one of the 'other' jobs.
When he first heard of his new assignment, the child did not feel a thing.
That was as much as he felt.
Perhaps he was too young back then to even understand what it meant to kill people.
The young man stopped running and stood still, concealed inside the tall shadows of the large oak tree. He raised his gloved hand and pointed at a large traditional mansion.
"That's our target. The master of the house has his hands in illegal trafficking of stolen goods, and at the same time is acting as an informant selling Konoha's military secrets."
"So we just have to kill everyone, women and children included, right? To make them an example of, to show the others what would happen if they should try something like this again."
It surprised the child. It was Sakura that spoke. He expected her to be the one that would drag them all down. Instead, she acted as if were a true shinobi, her tone, so emotionless, so cold…
Dammit, she was serious.
Unaffected, the young man only nodded. "Correct."
"Let's go, then." She said. Ignoring the fact that the youth was her superior officer, she jumped forward, stealthily approaching the mansion without waiting for the orders for attack.
Slightly startled, the child and Naruto exchanged glances and followed her trail, the young man not too far behind.
There was really no reason for the young man to follow. Today, his mission was simply to observe if these children would indeed prove useful. He would not interfere even if their lives were in danger, especially because the young man felt tried at this… this babysitting mission that was nothing more than a thorn in his side. True, he wouldn't probably feel anything if they had died. In fact, he would most likely be glad he got rid of them.
A flicker. A shadow of man.
There was someone in front of Sakura.
The mansion guard? The child and Naruto moved into intercept before the guard could attack, but…
The child almost doubted his very own eyes.
She had killed, just like she said she would. No hesitation. Clean stroke.
Her face, void.
The girl standing in front of him, the girl he knew almost all of his life, was no more.
What was standing in front of him was one perfect shinobi.
Even her voice was toneless as she continued forward.
They could only follow her in silence.
They entered the mansion, and the curtain of tragedy rose.
In front of them was a girl, beautiful as the mythical moonlight reflected off her pink hair.
Inside her heart there was only one thing. One person.
In order to walk the same paths at him, she was here.
There would be no regrets, no matter how many times she stained her hands with blood.
There would be no regrets, especially in front of 'that' man.
Never, in front of the man who tries to steal her precious person away…
Next in line was a boy with stark raven hair, his blood red eyes full of hatred and revenge.
Inside his heart there was only one thing. One person.
That hatred against that man, the man who had robbed of his parent's life, the brother that had disappeared in front of him.
There would be no regrets as he stained his hands with blood, as long as he killed him in the end.
He would walk any path; take any opportunity as long as he killed him in the end.
But doubt filled him. His bloodstained hands – is he not the same as his brother?
Doubt consumed him. But he slashed it out as his blade descended into his victims.
He wielded his blade as if to slash away his doubt…
The last was another boy, with golden hair and sea-blue eyes.
Inside his heart there were many things.
The memories the Kyuubi showed him. The memories of robbing the lives of many.
The memories of robbing the life of his father.
The memories carved a deep shadow within his heart, and gave him hesitation in taking another life.
However, on the other hand, there were his own memories. Memories of abuse. Memories of isolation.
Memories… memories of loneliness.
The days carved a deep shadow within his heart, and gave him hatred to life itself.
The two thoughts within collided, and the collision only served to dull his blade…
There was a shadow that watched over the three. Their observer, their mentor.
His lips were loose in a crooked grin.
He was enjoying the show. As if he were a child that was given a brand new toy.
For him, it was indeed like so.
For in this battle, the children, they had all shown him a side he never knew.
Yes, they would do.
They were going to give him something to do.
"…I liked it back then."
"Hm, what do you mean?"
They were under the tree again.
"I still believed back then that… we were all different."
Kakashi tilted his head to the side. He didn't understand. If Sasuke noticed this, he didn't let it show.
"I thought we were all different. Me, Naruto, Sakura. But… I realized, only I realized. Naruto and Sakrua were similar, and only I was different."
Sasuke's face turned somber. He still continued.
"Naruto and Sakura… they're pure. They're like… snow, pure snow that has never been dirtied. Me on the other hand, I'm stained. I'm consumed with vengeance against Itachi. I'm… I'm a stained existence."
"That's what makes you 'Uchiha Sasuke', right? Then why doubt? The reason why 'Uchiha Sasuke' is 'Uchiha Sasuke' is because of vengeance, no? To kill the man who had taken everything from you, to kill Itachi. Isn't that enough? So why doubt otherwise?"
Sasuke, still so young, racked his brain for an answer. But he never found it. And so, he let his shoulders slump downward and opened his mouth again to speak the words as it came.
"Yeah… you're right. I know it is vengeance that makes me "Uchiha Sasuke". But, looking at them… it… it makes me jealous. I… I wish sometimes that… I could be like them."
He spoke too much. He muttered a silent 'tsk' before he jumped up and disappeared completely into the darkness.
Kakashi never missed seeing the small tear in his eyes.
For someone like him who had already dried up all reserves of such emotion, it made him laugh. Not for his tears, but for the doubt the child had confessed to him.
Sasuke knows nothing.
Out of the three, he is the most pure.
'Pure snow that has never been dirtied?'
You've got to be kidding me.
Kakashi only smiled.