Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any people, places or events from it. The new characters in this story are my own creations, and, like all events that take place in this book, are entirely fictional. Any similarity to persons or events living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Note: Romantically speaking this story has elements of SasuSaku and NaruSaku, it has NaruHina and ShikaTema, the rest of the Konoha Twelve don't play much of a role and so aren't romantically linked. It will run for fifteen chapters, give or take. It focuses on Naruto leading a team of ninja wile another Great Ninja War bubbles under the political surface of the five great nations.
It has some of the same elements as New Blood because it's the story New Blood was based on, being revised and rewritten over the old copy for your enjoyment. It's far less ambitious than New Blood though, it is just one Arc, and the named original character cast amounts to seven people, two of whom are dead at the start of chapter one, and another two of whom don't come into play until midway through the story.
She ran home after class every day.
She was a great runner, she could run fast and for a long time without getting tired, which was good because her father couldn't afford one of the nicer houses, they lived down town in the uglier part of the city.
She ran home to her only sanctuary, keeping her eyes peeled as she ran, hidden behind her darkened sun glasses she still managed to take in all the details as she moved.
Her heart pounded as she neared her block, this was the most dangerous part of the trek: the ending.
Her teeth were chattering, even though she wasn't cold. She wouldn't admit to being afraid either, she knew what was supposed to happen today, she knew she could avoid it if she was fast enough.
But she wasn't.
She saw the skateboard shoved into her path, her eyes didn't miss a thing.
But she tripped over it anyway.
No point giving them more reason to hate her. No reason to let them know any more than they already did . . . she'd pretend she didn't see it, fall, get hurt, and maybe that would be enough.
She tumbled and failed to keep a soft sob from escaping her mouth. Not because of her scraped knee, that was all but self inflicted since she'd chosen to trip on the skateboard.
She sobbed for that single instant because they laughed at her and closed in, rather than laughing and leaving. She knew what had to happen now.
As the bigger kids closed in on her, one of them, a girl nearly a head taller than her, and twice as wide pounded her fist into her hand, "You ain't trying to run home again, are you? Because you know that would make you the yellowest little chicken around, Freaky."
'Yellowest' wasn't even a word, but rather than point that out the smaller girl kept her mouth shut and stared up behind her sunglases at her harasser.
"We cut the last few minutes of class to be her with you, 'cause we knew your fast little butt would run right on home. For shame, Freaky. You even tried to steal my brother's skateboard. You all saw her try to take it, didn't you?" The girl snickered and her gang agreed.
Her teeth were chattering again.
She didn't want this . . .
"What should we do with this goober?" The big girl asked her cronies.
"Bash her face in, Akane!" One of them shouted.
"Kick the freak's teeth out!" Another girl sneered.
"What do you think, Hijiri, you worthless freak?" Akane asked. "You going to take what you got coming, or do I got to rough you up first?"
What kind of idiotic question was that? Wasn't a roughing up what she "had coming" anyway? That was like asking if she'd like to be beaten once or twice, what idiot chose twice?
"Freaky Hitomi, Freaky Hitomi, how much money do you owe me?" Akane sang, trying to step on Hitomi's fingers.
Hitomi pulled them away too quickly, and horrified that Akane might realize why and unleash hell, she wiped tears from behind her glasses.
They weren't imaginary.
She didn't owe this fat girl any money at all, Akane and her gang just liked taking money for no reason. The only money most kids had was supposed to be for lunch, so after school attacks were rare, and only seemed to happen to Hitomi.
Because Hitomi never carried lunch money before school Akane had told her she'd have to pay after, and either she'd pay cash or she'd pay with blood. What a twisted, stupid thing for a ten year old girl to say.
"How much you got on you now, Freaky, you worthless freak?" Akane sneered. "You got enough to keep from getting your beating? There's the toll for the road, the protection fee, your back payments, and oh yes, just for you, the Freak Tax."
That word was getting tiresome, but in the faint hope that this might be settled without pain Hitomi sobbed once more, pathetically, trying to appeal to whatever goodness might be inside Akane, hoping the older girl would feel at least a little bad about what she was doing.
Akane just laughed, and Hitomi wiped her eyes more furiously.
She didn't want this . . .
"You gonna pay?"
Shaking like a leaf now, Hitomi could only shake her head as she reached into her pocket.
Akane didn't need any sort of verbal confirmation, but then she was a monster of action anyway. She rushed in to kick her victim in the face, Hitomi considered taking the hit.
But why should she suffer injury for this cow? Just because this girl's parents couldn't afford whatever it was Akane and her gang were using all this money for that didn't give her any right to act like an animal. But if it was an animal she wanted, Hijiri Hitomi would give her one.
At the last second Hiromi lunged forward, between Akane's legs and came up, kicking the girl in the back of the knee, toppling her.
The other kids laughed, "Looks like she wants to fight Akane!" Someone shouted.
"I'll kill the little freak!" Akane laughed too.
Hitomi wouldn't let her laugh at her ever again. She jumped on the prone girl and, taking a rock she'd hidden in her pocket she lashed out, slamming the blunt object into the older girl's face.
"Oh crap!" Someone shouted.
"Stupid Freaky can't even fight fair!" Another jeered.
Yeah . . . being a head taller and having five friends was somuch fairer than keeping a rock no bigger than a baseball in one's pocket. Really, what had stupid Akane thought that bulge was? The money she'd never be getting from Hitomi?
"Gettroffmeh!" Akane howled, holding her face, Hitomi kicked her in the neck and tossed the rock with all her might at one of the larger boys in the gang as Akane's friends charged for her.
She wouldn't stop there, though she had no rock she still had fists, feet, and indeed her exceptional eyes.
She didn't want this . . . but by the powers she'd make sure it never happened again . . . they'd learn. She'd pay for it in blood now and punishments later, but they would learn.
Hijiri Shimon blew his bangs away from his eyes in frustration as he attempted to make dinner.
He wasn't the most proficient of cooks, in fact he was almost terrible at it, so when he heard the door slam he thought nothing of leaving the stove unattended for a second to greet his daughter.
She was rather late, maybe for once she hadn't been in such a rush to get home and shut herself in her room with her books and scrolls. Maybe for once she'd walked home with a friend, stayed after school to play a game, done something to integrate herself with the rest of the children.
He was sorely mistaken though. It was obvious when he laid eyes on his daughter, she was missing a shoe and limping, her dress was torn, he could see one of her knees was badly scraped and she had bruises on her arms and face so terrible he almost didn't recognize her.
The sunglasses he'd noticed missing that morning were on her face, one of them had been broken so that the lense was gone, and this eye Hitomi had no doubt kept shut up tight until she stepped through the door of their home.
He saw in that one eye that the physical wounds were nothing compared to the pain the girl was suffering inside, the tears rolling down her cheeks weren't being shed because of the physical pain, Shimon knew his child well enough to know that.
He reached out to her but she ran away instead, "Jun!" He shouted to his wife, "She's--" He began but like the crack of a whip his wife, who'd no doubt already heard Hitomi slam the door, rushed into their home's small living room, wrapping her arms around her daughter.
"What happened?" Jun asked softly, but Hitomi shoved her away.
"I hate you! You made me this way and I hate you!" Hitomi screamed, rushing into her room and slamming the door with a final cry of, "It's all your fault!"
Jun glanced at Shimon, "I told you . . . I told you if I had a child it'd be just like me."
Shimon staggered, leaning against a wall, "So that's it then? She's . . . like you?"
"Both eyes." Jun nodded. "And . . . the stove is on fire, hon."
Shimon swore, but it was a relief to focus on a problem he could actually fix.
What was he going to do for his daughter?
Hitomi snuck out of her room later that night. It was well after her bedtime, but it was also a weekend and she wanted to get something to eat. As she tiptoed down the short hallway she saw a light in the living room that froze her in her tracks, she heard voices speaking softly and peeked around the corner to see who was talking.
Akane's parents, as well as the parents of the other members of her gang were there, father looked stressed and mother looked annoyed.
"It took us this long just to get one of them to talk." Akane's father said sharply, "They were either too scared, or in my daughter's case, too busy having their jaws wired and laying unconscious in a hospital room!"
"I'm sorry about what happened." Hitomi's father said, "From now on I'll walk my daughter home from school every day, it won't happen again."
"What about the medical bills?" Akane's father demanded.
"We're not made of money," Hitomi's mother said coldly, "Your daughter and her friends are ten years old, my girl is eight--"
"Her father's a ninja! You taught her Ninjutsu, didn't you?" One of the other men roared.
"Keep your voice down, even if you don't care about our sleeping daughter spare a thought for our sleeping neighbors! And Shimon did no such thing," Hitomi's mother hissed, "you let your children run around picking fights and when they lose you honestly expect the victim's parents to pay the doctors?"
"Half our kids are hospitalized because of yours, don't you feel any remorse?"
"Our daughter was attacked and had to fight back, don't you feel any remorse? No, you feel greed, coming here demanding we pay you for the trouble your children caused?" Mother scoffed.
"Your husband is a Shinobi, and business has been good for Konoha lately . . ." One of the women pointed out.
"Get out of my house!" Jun snapped, springing from her chair, "Get yourselves gone now!"
"You have overstayed your welcome." Shimon agreed. "We'll do what we can for your families, but right now you need to leave. We can talk about this tomorrow, when we've all had a chance to cool down, and when we know how much the bills will be."
Hitomi glared at the other grownups as they left, some of them threatening to make a report to the Hokage, others claiming they'd take it was far as the Daimyo, and though she wasn't ready to apologize for what she'd said to her mother, she felt a great deal of appreciation for the way that she'd helped get all those people to go away.
"What'll we do?" Shimon sighed, "With the Chuunin Exams coming up so soon I can't take on extra missions, I have to be in Konoha to cover them."
"Don't worry about it." Jun whispered.
"I kind of have to," Shimon shook his head, "You're out of a job so the only money coming in is through me."
"It's wrong for us to have to pay, but still if the law sides with them we'll find the money . . . somehow." Jun assured her husband.
Hitomi felt sick to her stomach and suddenly she wasn't hungry anymore. She snuck back to her room where she tried and failed to sleep for a few hours.
When the sun rose in the sky she gave up on it and crept into the living room.
Her father was sitting with his head buried in his hands, Hitomi wondered if he'd gotten any sleep either. If Hitomi didn't know any better she'd almost think he was praying.
Take this terrible daughter away from me, give me a normal one with normal eyes was probably what he'd say if he were, but she knew he didn't pray. Few Ninja did.
She rubbed her eyes, a preemptive strike against any tears and heard her father say "Stop it, you'll make them red."
"They're always red anyway." Hitomi said.
Normally he would say that it was because she was always rubbing them, but today he just smiled weakly and said nothing.
A month later Hitomi's wounds had healed, life was normal again.
She didn't see Akane or her friends again, so they never tried to hurt her. But she was still referred to as "Freaky" and bigger, gutsier kids were starting to push her around. Her father told her that mother went away to see grandfather and beg for money to pay for "certain bills", but it didn't take a month to visit grandpa, by now Hitomi knew that Hijiri Jun had really just run out on her, didn't want to deal with a daughter like her. She'd left her a letter, but Hitomi would never read it. Maybe her mother would come back some day . . . but the girl didn't care.
So even without mother, life was rather normal. The chaos of her first fight was fading away, even though she knew she might have to be prepared to defend herself again someday with her father walking her to and from school every day life wasn't as dangerous.
But everything changed when the Hokage came to her house.
"I can't tell whether you're raising a gentle flower or a homicidal maniac!" The Hokage laughed, eyeing Hitomi, "She's so quiet and pretty, but when you look at the medical records . . . it's hard to believe this girl can do that."
"With all due respect, Hokage-sama it's hard to believe you can punch people through walls." A man with a scar over his face named Iruka said.
"True." The Fifth said brightly. She smiled warmly at Hitomi, "So which is it? Gentle blossom, or deranged killer?"
"Hokage-sama, please don't--" Shimon spoke up but The Fifth held up a hand.
"Spare me, I'm sure the other children have said worse to her. It hasn't occurred to you yet that I'm not in the business of making house calls, has it?"
"I'm aware, but--" Shimon began but the Hokage barreled on, continuing her speech as if she couldn't hear him.
"This girl is a danger to herself and others, in light of what happened to her mother--"
"Hokage-sama!" Shimon stood up, shouting, "You won't discuss that here."
Iruka whispered something to the Hokage, but Hitomi scoffed.
"I know she left. I know she couldn't deal with a child like me so she ran off. I don't care . . . she was a terrible mother anyway. Everything that's wrong with me is her fault."
The Hokage looked stunned, she glanced at Shimon, who's hands were shaking.
There was silence for a moment, but the Fifth regained her composure and bravado, "Nothing you do is anyone's fault but your own, live with that. Honestly, to hear you blame your parents for things you actively choose to do is repulsive. I can't believe such talk just escaped the mouth of one of my ninja."
"I'm not a ninja!" Hitomi balked. How could the Fifth Hokage make such a stupid mistake?
"Too right. Well . . . do you want to be?" Lady Tsunade asked.
The man named Iruka smiled, "Hitomi you're a talented child, and we've wanted you at the academy for some time. Your parents wanted to leave it up to you, let you decide when you were nine but we do take eight year olds as well, and . . . in light of everything that's happened we feel you really need to learn how to properly harness the . . . talents, you have."
Hitomi was shaking now, "When . . . when I'm a ninja, I'll be able to make everybody respect me, right?"
The Hokage and Iruka shared an odd glance, then "If you're a good ninja, you won't need to, they'll respect you all by themselves." The Hokage said. "So that's my offer for you to take or leave. Want to learn how to really use that brain and those muscles? Let us teach you what you've just been guessing all this time . . . what do you say?"
It was so stupid. Why did people always ask such stupid questions with obvious answers?
To Be Continued . . .
OC note: Hijiri Shimon is not an OC, he's a Chuunin examiner when Naruto takes the written exam. Because the examiners all dress the same the only way to describe him is that he is neither Izumo nor Kotetsu, the two most frequently seen examiners, and he's got really long hair framing the sides of his face.
His wife and daughter however, are Original Characters. His importance is more or less simply to be used as a genetic template for what Hitomi may have looked like . . . only more feminine.
The Matsuri in this story is the classmate of Konohamaru who speaks to the Third Hokage during Iruka's lesson in front of the Hokage monument, not the Matsuri from Suna.