Chapter One: The Mystery
The sun was shining brightly in the Land of Earth, summer's weather hot and dry, with little wind and shade for safe havens from the relentless heat. But it was only so in the heart of Earth Country, for at its border, where the towering and magnificent precipices of rock met with the cooling shade and forests of Rain Country and Bird Country, the weather was balanced and perfect, hot and cool. The forests were lush and a deep shade of green, fresh and calm, where Rain Country's weather offered the welcoming moisture, Earth Country offered the intense heat to feed, and Bird Country offered the beautiful lake not too far away from the forest's edge. Thus was where Earth's, Bird's, and Rain's Borders met, in the form of a healthy, almost untouched forest, with a deep, blue lake at one edge, and tall mountains and deep valleys at the other.
The sun, however, was beginning its decent to the West, lowering itself towards the Mountains of Earth Country and causing the vast heavens to change from blue to a soft pink and orange, while the drifting clouds burst into fluffy flames, red as deep as blood. In the quiet forests below, the sound of footsteps crunching against twigs and leaves and high pitched voices disturbed the peace.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
Three small but weathered shuriken embedded lightly into the trunk of an old birch tree, the metal dulled and grey, showing no luster at all as the setting sun's light hit its surface. The sound of laughter followed soon after as a couple of shadowed figures eagerly jumped away from the brush and towards the tree, happily taking back the sharp weapons from the aged wood.
"It didn't do much damage Keitaro…" One figure stated critically as he rubbed his chin, examining the small, almost invisible indentations on the tree's bark, "How can you ever become a Ninja if you can't even mark a stupid tree?"
The one who had retrieved the star-shaped tools pouted indignantly as he crossed his arms, mindful of the sharpness of his weapons. Two other figures emerged from the brush as well, eyeing their companions with both curiosity and amusement.
"Watch your mouth Dai!" The boy who held the shuriken threatened, "I may only be eight years old but once I pass the Academy I'll be just as good as Big Brother, and I'll even beat you to a pulp too!"
"I'll believe it when I finally see it!" The other countered as he stepped forward, his wind-tousled brown hair almost covering his eyes from the movement, "Let's fight right now!"
"You're on Dai!"
The third figure of the group gracefully moved forward and stepped between the two, "Now there you two, we came out here to practice your training…Not to pick fights…I knew it was a bad idea to be taking you out into the forests," She looked up at the darkening sky, her metal headband, signifying her position as a full-fledged kunoichi catching the last rays of sunlight, "It's getting dark now and I'm sure your parents are going to start worrying, we should start heading back…"
"But it was just starting to get good Aneko-nee-chan!" Both Dai and Keitaro complained, "Can't we stay for another hour? Okaa-san and Otou-san won't mind!"
The older woman smiled but shook her head, her dark blue eyes drifting off to the fourth and final member of their group, a young girl with long black hair and was silently playing with one of her kunai, "We can come back tomorrow…I'm sure all of you are tired. And Kaya-chan's parents may want her back now…"
And the sun finally disappeared behind the Mountains of Earth Country, plunging the land and the forest into darkness, the stars above twinkling into sight one by one. Keitaro and Dai had immediately gone quiet as they looked around at the darkness and young Kaya shuffled closer to the group, her eyes frantically looking around for sudden movements. Aneko, however, blew some of her hazelnut hair from her eyes as she looked around, a little exasperated.
"I should have ushered you guys out of here a lot sooner," She stated as she snapped her finger, chakra immediately surging there and creating fire for light, "I suppose we'll have to make do…I didn't bring a lantern and running in the dark is dangerous for you younglings, especially since you've never been here before…"
Kaya whimpered as she sidled closer to the teenage kunoichi, tugging on her skirt with clenched, knuckle-white fists, "I want to go home now Aneko-nee-chan…"
Aneko smiled as she pat Kaya gently on the head, "Don't worry Kaya-chan, we'll be back in Bird Country in no time," She turned to the two boys, "I'll lead…Kaya will be behind me and you two will be behind Kaya, side by side…Understood?"
"Yes Aneko-nee-chan," The two answered simultaneously, although their postures were tense and anxious.
Aneko just smiled reassuringly, "We'll be fine you three…Just stay close alright?"
After three nods of the head, Aneko turned and set her pace to the West, following where the sun had set, for Bird Country lay west of the forest. Kaya trailed silently behind, removing her kunai again from her pouch as she looked around, her teeth biting into her lower lip. Dai and Keitaro came after, their senses alert as they followed the little light Dai's sister provided on her finger. They traveled at a mild pace, not exactly a run, but not exactly a walk either.
It was a large forest and all four knew they were probably at the heart of it, being that they had been there training and running around since the early hours of the morning. Since it was also a summer's night, it was quite late now, and Aneko silently berated herself of having not watched the time and letting the children overpower her decision of going home early. Although, she did feel there was nothing to worry about, the forest they were currently in never received visitors due to it being tucked away between valleys, mountains, and lakes. Only Bird Country Citizens knew of it, and only traveled to its edge to pick any wild berries and to chop up needed wood.
"What was that?" Keitaro's voice suddenly cut through her thoughts, causing her to turn around and find out what was wrong. Kaya bumped unceremoniously into her leg and Dai smacked Keitaro on the head as he frantically looked around.
"Dai stop that," Aneko reprimanded.
"What's wrong Keitaro-kun?" She asked soothingly, her gaze landing back on the eight-year old, who was still looking around cautiously while he rubbed the back of his head.
"I saw something moving in the shadows Aneko-nee-chan," He hurriedly explained, "In the trees…It was flying and coming towards us…"
Aneko frowned; doubting anyone would be in the forest, but to appease the boy closed her eyes and spread her chakra, searching for anyone at all, but finding none, "There's no one around here Keitaro-kun…Perhaps it was a bird or a wild animal…I'm sure we're fine…"
"Yeah, we're fine!" Dai stated as he crossed his arms, "So stop scaring Kaya-chan!"
"…Sorry…" Keitaro responded as he dropped his head, "I just thought…"
Aneko smiled, "It's alright…It's good to be alert Keitaro-kun…Come on…We still have a ways to go before we reach home."
The four turned and resumed their pace through the forest, Kaya having shifted closer towards Aneko, her feet almost colliding with the older girl's heels as they walked. Keitaro was still cautious and looking around while Dai frowned deeply, his eyes narrowed, almost suspicious as he felt the wind pick up around them. Kaya shivered and Aneko put more chakra into her hand to create a ball of fire, so their only light wouldn't fade.
"…It's so cold…" Kaya whispered as she wrapped her arms around her body.
"I wish Big Brother were here…" Keitaro whispered as he walked a little faster.
Aneko grinned as she looked back at her group briefly, "Me too…"
"He's in your Chuunin Team, right Aneko-nee-chan?" Dai asked as he picked up his pace too to join the conversation. Talking was much more appealing than being paranoid about the things that could be crawling in the dark.
"Yup," Aneko stated, "Rai-kun and I make a pretty good team…Too bad he couldn't join us today…"
"…Are we almost home yet Aneko-nee-chan?" Kaya asked softly.
Aneko smiled, "Almost…We just–"
The kunoichi immediately stopped in her tracks and her free hand shot out to stop her younger companions from going any further. All of them looked up at her, surprised and a little fearful to be seeing the woman with her brows furrowed in concentration, her eyes hard, and her posture rigid and ready to strike.
"Shh!" The woman stated as she crouched down to their level, her free hand resting on Kaya's shoulder and the hand with the fire-ball closing up to extinguish its flame, "Listen…"
The three children snapped their mouths shut and followed Aneko's focused gaze, their ears straining to hear what she heard. Kaya was beginning to tremble and Keitaro was fidgeting. Dai however, cupped his ears to hear better against their shuffling.
'Help me…Please help me…Blood…So much blood…'
Eyes snapped open in both fear and apprehension. The voice was feminine and eerie and what frightened them the most was that it seemed to be coming closer. A rustle of leaves had Kaya jump up and almost screamed, had not Aneko clamped a hand over her mouth and pulled her against her to sooth the child. Her gaze however had shifted towards where the sound had come from and her eyes seemed to be following a movement in the darkness. Keitaro was afraid to follow her gaze and looked over to Dai, who was only doing the same as his older sister, his body tense and a wrinkle of fear on his forehead.
"What are we going to do?" Keitaro whispered as young Kaya repeated, "I'm scared," into Aneko's blouse.
Aneko was silent for a few moments, one of the hands that had been gliding through Kaya's hair for reassurance, going up to her mouth where she bit down into her flesh and produced blood from the small wound.
"I need to check this out," Aneko whispered, her eyes never leaving the darkness, "Something's wrong and I need to find out what it is if it's going to affect Bird Country…I will summon Torio and he will lead you back home…You will follow him and will not turn back, do you understand me?"
Everyone was quiet but Dai shook his head viciously, "I won't leave you Nee-chan. I'm coming too!"
"Dai!" She whispered harshly, causing him to stop his shaking and to look at her with broken eyes, which she met only briefly, before following more movement in the dark, "I will not and cannot allow any harm to come to you or your friends…Please do as I say…I promise I will be fine…"
'Blood…Blood…I smell blood…'
Everyone's eyes turned to the wound on Aneko's thumb which she had inflicted on herself, shivers crawling up their spines as they heard the crippling voice closer than before. Aneko remained calm as she set her thumb to the floor, drawing out three simple characters before muttering a few words under her breath. A small 'pop' followed and in the place of the three letters stood an elegant eagle, wings spread and ready to take flight.
"Torio," Aneko whispered, "You will lead Dai and his friends back to Bird Country…I must see to a problem…Inform Oowashi-sama of my hold up and tell him to send Ninja immediately, especially if I do not return…"
"Nee-chan," Dai pleaded, only to have the older girl embrace both him and Keitaro fiercely, her eyes still trained on the darkened woods.
"Stay safe Dai…All of you," Aneko whispered, her hands moving behind their backs as she slowly but efficiently performed hand seals, "I love you all…But I want you to run…Run fast alright? Don't look back and stay with Torio…"
Kaya nodded her head and Keitaro and Dai remained stiff, Torio squawked with surprise as its eyes caught something moving in the brush and Aneko tensed, "Aneko-nee-chan…We promise…"
"Torio," Aneko whispered, catching the bird's attention, "Mention to Oowashi-sama that this entity is strange and not of normal being…Future Ninja to investigate must take caution…On my signal…"
The bird nodded its head, spreading its wings apart, ready to fly, while Aneko turned back to Dai, "Keep Kaya-chan's eyes closed…"
Dai nodded and took Kaya into his arms, placing his hand over her eyes and feeling the wetness of her tears, his free hand grasped Keitaro's tightly, "I'll take care of them…"
Aneko nodded as she returned her gaze to the edge of the clearing where they resided. Keitaro noticed that her eyes weren't dilated to look far away but focused on something close. The thing was very much near them. At Dai's peripheral vision, something dark passed through the trees and he tensed as he tightened his hold on Keitaro's hand and Kaya's eyes.
"…Torio…" Aneko whispered; her arms still loosely draped around the three, "…"
'Blood…I want blood…I want flesh…'
The voice was just meters away from them.
A piercing scream echoed in the forest as something from the dark leapt at them, Kaya giving an equally loud scream as Keitaro closed his eyes and Dai watched the events unfold around him.
"Katon no Tatsumaki no Jutsu!"
Aneko opened up her arms and spread them out at her sides, away from the children in front of her as Fire spread forth from her fingers, thin bamboo holders on her arms opening up and spilling oil causing the fire to grow and spread around the group, offering protection. A scream of pain echoed in the clearing and Dai watched with wide and fearful eyes as a dark silhouette crouched in pain in behind their fire barricade. Relief then washed over him as he felt that his sister defeated the creature and they could go home together, but the worst happened.
Through the fire, the figure stood back up and looked straight into his sister's eyes, blood red eyes filled with hate and hunger. Her face was as pale as snow and her cheeks were tinged with crimson tears. Her long black hair covered her features but she started to move forward, into the fire and towards them, her walk angled and unbalanced as she continued to whisper 'blood…'
Her ebony hair started to rise and shot through the flames of their shield, latching onto Aneko's leg and Kaya's arm causing the younger girl to scream. He pulled for her while trying to keep her eyes closed, before he felt claws on his shoulder, the familiar hold of Torio. Aneko worked quickly, producing a kunai and cutting the hair off Kaya, before making work on herself. Dai, however, had his gaze fixed on the dark-haired monster, whose head was poking through the flames, eyes wide as it continued to stare at his sister, a killer intent in that crimson gaze.
"Nee-chan!" Dai screamed while he was lifted into the air, his hold on both Kaya and Keitaro preventing him from reaching out to her, "Nee-chan!"
The monster's eyes and head snapped towards his call and hair started to rise again to catch its other prey. Dai's eyes widened with fear as Torio flew up higher into the skies, Dai's minor vision catching the buildings and lights of Bird Country, but his gaze was fixed on below.
The hair shot up to catch him and his friends, but a kunai intercepted its path, causing the monster to switch its deadly gaze back on Aneko, who was panting yet standing, ready to fight.
"I'm your opponent!"
The Eagle gave a cry and Dai felt tears run down his face, his blue eyes watching with horror as the monster lunged through the flames at his sister, the dark hair wrapping around Aneko's throat as she struggled to get free, her kunai plunging into the pale skin where dark crimson oozed but seemed to have no effect.
Aneko gave a frenzied scream as her long hazelnut hair was pulled back before wild ebony covered what the monster was doing, the screams becoming more agonizing and guttural, causing Keitaro and Kaya to cry out and Dai to watch in terror as the hair pulled back leaving his bloodied sister, eyes wide, and skin pale. Then, the monster took her by the hair and dragged her away, gliding across the forest floor in the opposite direction of where Torio was taking them.
In the trees below, more monsters emerged, some of different shapes and sizes as they gave shouts of glee, following the first and the body it dragged, their dark silhouettes blending into the unknown abyss of Bird Country Forest. They seemed ready to feed…
Kaya cried, Keitaro screamed, and Dai continued to watch as his sister was dragged away into the darkness, tears sliding down his cheeks and into the foliage below.
'Give me blood…Give me flesh…Just let the darkness come…'
A/N: Okay guys, just wanted to take a crack at a Horror Fiction...So how am I doing? Bad? Good? Well, this story will probably be short just to see how it turns out. Sasuke, Sakura, and Naruto will be making their appearance in the next chapter. On a note, this happened a year before Sasuke left Konoha to go to Orochimaru, so they had been 11 years old at this point. In this next chapter they'll be much older, as said in the summary. Hope you enjoyed and I love feedback! Thanks!
Disclaimer: Masashi Kishimoto owns them...Not me...Unfortunately...
I will probably update in a few days, since I am kind of excited for this concept and I want Team Seven in the picture. Thanks to everyone reading and/or reviewing. I appreciate it!
(Soon To Be Known As Len83)
Edit: Sorry, nii-chan means 'big brother' so I changed it to nee-chan which means "big sister", my mistake! Thanks to Originalatorian for catching that for me!
EDIT 5/28/09: I've begun the revised version of The Curse. The first chapter is pretty much the same, just some changed grammatical errors (I hope I didn't miss any) BUT Chapter Two will be ENTIRELY DIFFERENT! I hope you enjoy this new version!