A/N: Okay, I'm re-posting this because one of the characters in it started out vividly in my mind, but now I can't do anything with her, so I just deleted her from the story. She wasn't particularly important anyway. Also, this first person is really cheesy, but I promise that the rest of the story won't be so...melodramatic. But she sort of had to be.

Rating: Teen. Warnings - cursing, abuse, mild angst (sort of), and a focus on OC's. Disclaimer: I own nothing but some school books, so don't bother to sue. What I have isn't worth the legal fees.

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I still can't believe it sometimes. I find myself glancing up; looking for something I always forget isn't there, will not be there again. God knows we should have seen it coming. We had twelve years worth of warning, if we had only paid attention. But we didn't, and in the end, we could only stand in shock and horror on that cruel day. The day that Konoha lost its children.

12 Years Ago


Hikari giggled like a girl, turning away to hide her blush. Her lover just smiled and pulled her tighter against his side. "Beautiful" he whispered in her ear, letting his lips trail across her cheek as he pulled back. He rested his dark head on the shoulder of the young woman beside him. She sighed deeply. "God, I wish we didn't have to do this. I wish… I wish you could stay right here with me." The young man tightened the arm wrapped around her waist and lifted his head, waiting until her green eyes met his own brown ones. "Hi-chan, love, it won't be long." He reached out with his free hand, pulling one of her smaller hands in front of them both and letting his eyes drift briefly to the small silver ring she wore. "Soon, love, we'll tell the world. The papers will be ready soon, and there is nothing my clan can say to us once we're legally wed. Just a few more days, and my house will finally be home. Our home." Hikari's smile softened, and her free hand reached up to touch her lover's – no, her fiancée's – face. "I know." He released her hand and leaned in for one last kiss before he stood. "I have to go now; they'll come looking if I'm gone too long. I love you, sweetheart."


Hikari looked around curiously. Why was everyone looking so horrified? The entire marketplace was buzzing with quiet voices, but no business was being done. Spotting a young ninja weaving quickly through the crowd, she stepped into his path and asked what was going on. He spoke a few quick words before darting around her. Hikari stood frozen for a moment, shock written across her face. Conversations stopped and every face in the market turned to look as the pretty young woman in the purple kimono fell screaming to her knees.


Tears ran down her face. Her hands trembled as she placed a single, red rose before the cold black stone. "Why?" she whispered, her voice almost as broken as her once-bright eyes. "We were going defy the world, to throw their arrogance back in their faces. We were going to be happy, to raise a family together. Oh, God – why?" Hikari curled around herself, letting her dull eyes rest on the small bottle dropped near the foot of the memorial. Her eyes drifted closed, and she waited to join her beloved.


A dull beeping sound roused her partly to wakefulness. Green eyes slowly slipped open, squinting nearly closed again when confronted with the bright white ceiling. She lay still in the warm, slightly hard bed and tried to figure out where she was. 'Okay,' she thought. 'Bright ceiling, hard bed, beeping noise…hospital? But why - Oh.' Her eyes widened as memory rushed in. 'But wait…shouldn't I be dead? I'm sure I should be dead.' Just as she was about to sob, a warm voice spoke from the doorway.

"So, you're awake, huh?" She looked over to find one of the medical ninja standing just inside the room. "Why…" she started to ask, but couldn't quite finish. "Are you still alive?" the medic finished for her. Hikari just nodded slightly. "Because you got lucky. You'll really have to thank Kakashi-kun; if he hadn't found you then you would have died. As it is, you're fine. And while it's honestly a little early to be sure, it looks like the baby will be alright as well." As Hikari stared, a voice called out from the hallway. The medic gave her a brief nod before he strode out to answer the call.

Therefore, there was no one in the room to see Hikari place one hand lightly over her stomach. No one to hear the word she whispered softly. "Baby…?"


The ninja glanced down at the bundle she carried as she leaped through the treetops. 'Still secure. Good.' She shifted her attention when one of her teammates broke the silence. "Masara, why do we have to bring that back with us? It's slowing us down, and it's not even our responsibility. Masara glared at the man, but was saved from speech as her other teammate answered for her. "It is our responsibility, Jaken. It's all that is left of that disaster we called a mission. The Hokage can decide what to do with it, but for now we're bringing it back, and that is final." Masara glanced down as her bundle shifted. 'Damn' she thought, just before a loud wail erupted. She glared once more at her team. "You woke him up!"


Masara stood lightly on her feet, closely watching the old man. He, in turn, was watching the infant sleep. What truly amazed her, though, was the fact that he was not smoking. He had, in fact, put out his long pipe prior to stepping into the makeshift nursery. She could not recall a time when she had seen the Third Hokage without his pipe. Then the man in question looked at her and spoke quietly, making Masara pull her thoughts back into the present. "So," the Third mused. "The bandits the town wrote about were actually closer to an army, were they?" Masara nodded once. "Yes, sir. A small army, but still a large force. We beat them, but by the time we arrived at the town…" The Third just nodded, returning his eyes to the sleeping child. "And you're certain that this boy is the only survivor?" "Yes, sir. We searched, but he is the only one." The Third sighed. "Very well. I don't suppose he has a name?" Masara hesitated. "Well, 'Midori' was stitched into the blanket we found him under." The Third smiled, just a little. "Midori, hmm? Well, Midori-chan, welcome to Konoha."


'Hold on' the woman thought. 'Almost there, just…just hold on. Please, please God, let them listen. Don't let them turn us away. If they do… I don't think we'll make it much farther.' Aira paused, resting one slender hand over her swollen belly. Moving again, she stumbled and fell. She closed her eyes, trying to swing one shoulder back and take the impact on her side. Desperately trying to protect her baby – from a blow that never came. She opened her eyes as she realized that there were strong arms wrapped around her waist, setting her back on her feet. Hands that steadied her when her knees tried to give out and spill her to the ground. Her gaze traveled up an expanse of green, to finally rest on the face of a teenager with a blinding smile – and the biggest eyebrows she had ever seen. "Are you…from Konoha?" Aira choked out, forcing her bruised throat to work. "Why, yes!" the young man declared, fires springing to life in his eyes. Aira had one last clear thought – 'you know, I bet he'd strike some kind of pose if he felt he could let go of me' – and then the world went dark as she collapsed, leaving a rather bewildered ninja with his arms full of pregnant redhead.


Aira opened her eyes slowly, and for a short moment panicked. Before she could sit up, a gentle voice spoke. "Calm down. Your baby and you both need to rest." Aira found herself staring at a kind-looking old man in white robes edged in red. He smiled at her around a long pipe and turned away. When he turned back, he held out a glass of water, and Aira tried to ask her questions with her eyes as she gratefully took his offering. The elder settled down in a chair beside her bed, and puffed on his pipe for a moment prior to speaking. "Well, I must say, you made quite an entrance." For a moment, his smile went from gentle to highly amused. "I do not believe I have ever seen Gai quite so bewildered. He couldn't strike his favorite poses with you in his arms, and he couldn't carry you on his back because of your child." Now the man snickered. "He didn't know what to do with himself." But then the old man became more serious. "So tell me, what would bring a woman in your condition all the way to Konoha?"

Aira looked at the floor in shame. She knew what he saw when he looked at her. A small woman, too thin aside from her bulging stomach. Red hair, shorn short and ragged. Blue eyes made darker by the circles underneath them and fading bruises tracing patterns along her arms, ending in a ring around her neck in the clear print of a large hand. Then she swallowed her pride. This was for her child, so pride be damned. Aira looked the old man in the eye. "I came from the Mist village. I'm no ninja, but my husband is. I… I ran away, when he was out on a mission."

Her voice sharpened, quickened, reflecting anger and desperation. "Do you know what the Mist does to its' ninja students? I found out. They have to kill each other. I… I don't want that for my baby! I want my child to be safe, to be able to laugh and play. To have friends and teachers, not enemies and masters!" At the end of her tirade, Aira had to pause for breath. The old man just watched her for an instant, and then he reached over and laid one of his hands on top of hers. "Alright. I think that can be arranged." Aira broke down and cried for the first time in months.

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A/N: So, what do you think? Is it bad, good, okay? I can't improve if no one tells me what I do wrong. Just tell me you read it if nothing else. Also, any guesses on whose words the fist part is? I'd love to hear your suspicions.