Prologue: A Flight Through the Dark...

"So they finally tortured him into running, lucky me…"

Trees rustled as the figure blew past them, kicking up dust and fallen leaves in his wake. He was practically growling through his half facemask, the night air turning his breath into visible puffs of vapour. He skidded to a halt at a fork in the path, sniffing deeply to recover the scent trail he was following. He was having difficulties following it at full speed, seeing how it blended in strangely well with the surrounding forest.

"Damnit, where are you kid?"

He sped off into the night, following the barely noticeable trail of his pint-sized target.

Said target was miles ahead of his pursuer, owing largely to the nearly 24 hour headstart he'd had. He stumbled along on a path that ran deep into the forest, tripping over roots and rocks in his panicked state. His stunningly blue eyes were red and raw from tears, his wild blonde hair matted to his head with sweat and he wheezed from fatigue as he ran, half-blind, through the woods. He'd been running for what seemed to be an eternity to his five year old body, but he dared not stop, for fear of what might happen to him.

The matron at the orphanage had mistreated him for as long as he could remember, hitting him and scolding him for things he didn't think were that bad. She beat that notion out of him fairly early on, turning him from a happy child into a weepy, insecure shadow of who he should have been.

One of the other boys had broken the matron's favourite lamp, and when she found it, he blamed it on the child, causing the matron to shriek for his blood. She'd threatened many thing in the few minutes she searched for him while he hid from her, quaking in terror. She'd even threatened to hire a shinobi to "Put him out of everyone's misery". This fact was not helped by the fact that a Konoha shinobi showed up at the orphanage house only minutes after said threat, the final straw that caused the boy to break and run, unaware that the shinobi was merely dropping off the monthly funds for the orphanage.

That had been yesterday, the ninth of October. Today was the tenth, ironically the boy's birthday. His presence was only missed when the elderly Sandaime Hokage had come to wish him a happy birthday, and he was nowhere to be found. Even the ANBU who was assigned to watch over the boy was astounded, he hadn't even seen the boy leave the house.

And now here he was, fleeing for his life from an enemy that he never expected to face. The shinobi of Konoha. He ran as fast as his weary legs could take him. He rounded a sharp curve in the path, when suddenly his right foot didn't find anything to step on, having stepped into a small sinkhole in the forest floor. The boy cried out as he fell forward, before the impact of his head on a rock silenced him abruptly, the world around him fading to black. The last thing he heard before total unconciousness was a sound like rushing water, and what sounded like distinctly feminine whimpering…

The man smirked to himself. The scent's getting stronger, I must be close. He laughed quietly to himself. Don't worry, Kyuubi brat. I'm coming to make it all go away… You'll pay for killing my sensei… He'd never even seen the kid before, due to the huge amount of missions he'd taken on in the last five years. He'd worked constantly, trying to atone for not being able to help his teacher during the attack. He'd denied. He'd bargained. He'd pleaded. And now he was on the last step of the program: Acceptance and Retribution…

He rounded a sharp curve in the path and came to a skidding halt. There, sitting on the road was his target. But it was not the target he was expecting. The shaking form of a five year old girl sat, hugging her knees to her chest, frightened tears welling up in her familiar blue eyes… Her long blonde hair was distinctly messy and caked with mud and blood. Her right ankle was red and swollen, indicating that it was broken. She stared up at the stunned form of the man in from of her, recognition dawning striking his face like a thunderbolt.

"K… Kazama…" He whispered in amazement, scarcely believing his eye.

The girl hugged herself tighter as her shaking intensified. "P-please don't k-kill me… I didn't break it, I swear!" She whimpered, her tears flowing freely now.

"I…" Kakashi's brain felt like it had gone through a blender set on liquefy. "I'm here to… Take you home… Naruto."

And here I go, the start of another story, with another (hopefully) provocative short prologue. This is my somewhat serious Naruto fic that I've written out in my profile, and will be my side project for when The Greatest Good gives me mental constipation. As with any fic, constructive criticism is welcome, and reviews are greatly appreciated. Ja Ne, everyone! -E. Red