Disclaimer: Anything you recognise is probably not mine.

Summary: The Academy textbook says that a ninja is proud to die for their country. This is rarely the truth.

Warnings: Death, unsurprisingly. Some violence, hints of sex, but nothing graphic.

Ten ways to die

1. Ito is on his first mission as a chuunin and runs into a patrol of grass ANBU when taking a short cut. He is fast with his sword, but they are faster, and he realises this mid-fight. He wants to run but there is no escape – they have circled around him and he knows they will get the scroll he was supposed to protect at all costs. He has failed for the first time in his life, and he dies with a bitter taste in his mouth.

2. Takashi dodges the wrong way. He is hit by a medic-nin wielding chakra scalpels and can only think sensei was wrong, these things do hurt before he dies.

3. Sayuri didn't want to be a whore like her mother, so she entered the Academy. Now she is a whore anyway, although they name her kunoichi and expect her to kill her 'customers'. The shame bites deeply, as the hands of men dragging across her skin adds up until she thinks she can feel phantom touches, until she cannot sleep for the disgust or eat for the ash in her mouth. She has honour, and she can think of no other way to keep it than to free herself to the Shinigami's touch. Her village has taken and taken from her until she is nothing but disgrace and a sharp sword pressed to her stomach.

4. Hiromitsu has been in ANBU for just under six years. In two months, he would have been allowed to retire. He suspects that is why the ANBU commander sent him on this mission – he is expendable, he would be slipping out of her grasp soon; she has no use for ninja not under her command. It is an unpleasant thought, but he made no objection because he is a ninja and ninja do not complain, and that is why he is lying broken on the floor as the S-class missing-nins debate which limb to cut off next as if it is some sort of art form. He is sure he is not meant to hate his commander more than his enemies, but he no longer cares.

5. Yuki is nine and there is a war going on. She thought it would be cool being a ninja, but that was before they gave her a kunai and sent her to front line to act as a guard and free up the higher ranks for proper missions. She thinks she just wants to go home, because she got ill about a week ago, and the coughs are wracking her body and an hour ago she began spitting up blood. The chuunin guard keeps snapping at her to shut her gob, but she can't, and she can't stop shivering.

6. Kenta is pain. He thinks he embodies the words; his arms ache as they hang chained above his head, his back screams from the whipping and the stuff that was rubbed in that he couldn't recognise but hurt like hell anyway and empty eye sockets burn and burn and won't stop burning. They want him to break, but he won't because all he has left is defiance, and he can feel the poison capsule in his false tooth. He hasn't used it yet because he thought his team would come through for him, but now he knows he was wrong. At least he can beat his torturers – he will never tell them what he knows. He never finds out that the information he had been given was a decoy.

7. Ichiro does not expect to step on a stray trap left over from an ANBU mock battle in the training field. It was such a waste, his jounin-sensei says when he is trying to find enough body pieces for a funeral.

8. Akihiko is playing bodyguard for some Daimyo. He and his ANBU team switch around at random times to prevent any enemy ninja from being able to exploit a predictable pattern, and he is confident in his skills as a ninja. He is sure this mission will go smoothly – until he finds his drink has been poisoned and he realises he didn't account for treachery from within his own team. The shock that courses through him only lasts a moment, and he dies with a curse on his lips.

9. Hitomi dies in the chuunin exams. It is a race – first five teams to the meeting point go through to the tournament – and someone decides to take out the competition. The genjutsu throws her off-balance just enough that she cannot dodge the shuriken flying at her gut – instead she thinks I am going to die and makes sure she fights for the time she has left, knowing that gut wounds are fatal and wanting her team-mates to have a chance to try for chuunin another year.

10. Yondaime doesn't want to die. His hands are steady as he paints the seal on the child, but his mind screams – screams that he is not ready, that he does not want to be forgotten, that he is the last of his line and that he has so much left to do. As Gamabunta jumps beneath him, he wants to just slip off the toad summon's back and run and run and never come back, but he knows his duty. He has never hated Konoha so much, and he feels sick as his hands move without his command, forming the seals that will kill him.

Death is nothing to be feared. The ninjas that die do so with pride, knowing they have protected our country, the Academy textbook says.

Anyone who would disagree is already dead.