A/N: Yes, I'm on to another Naruto fic. This one will be more focussed on the cast than my last one, but... you'll see. And this is the prologue, so 'real' chapters will be longer.
Rated: T for language and non-graphic violence. Disclaimer: I own nothing that you recognize. Now, read and review please. Or just read. Enjoy.
The woman slipped silently through the streets, clinging to the shadows as she moved quickly toward her goal. Brown eyes behind a white mask briefly glanced toward the sky, noting with displeasure that dawn was swiftly decreasing her cover of darkness. The ANBU officer slowed her pace, every sense alert. She was fairly sure that she had not been spotted, and she did not want her target to notice her now. Not when her intuition was screaming so strongly that this so-called trustworthy man was enemy.
Her target strolled casually along the street, pausing only to unlock the back door of an 'abandoned' store. He walked inside, to all appearances nothing more than a man out to check on his property. She knew better than to go inside after him, but she sidled up close to the building. She listened carefully, eyes narrowing as she memorized every nuance of the two low voices in the room.
The things the pair had discussed over the last few hours were more than enough to bring them in for questioning. And then she heard one of the voices speak more loudly. "Oh, and… get the girl."
The woman stormed into the surgical prep room, blonde ponytails swinging and eyes blazing as she quickly donned sterile gear. Stepping into the room, she looked hurriedly at the medic-nin clustered around the patient, every one working feverishly to try and save the pale-faced ANBU on the operating table.
Six long hours later, they had to admit defeat. Between the poison eating away at her insides and the blood loss from so many injuries, the woman was unsalvageable. And as the now-exhausted Hokage stepped out of the room, another member of ANBU fell into step beside her. "Hokage-sama" the man murmured respectfully. Tsunade wearily gestured for him to continue. "Before she fell, she imparted a message. She said 'The storm is coming, and the dam will be opened by the wolves in sheep's clothing.' That was all."
Tsunade glared at the floor as they reached her office. "Damn." she sighed. 'Someone is going to come after Konoha' she thought, mentally translating the cryptic warning. 'And they'll be let in by traitors among us.' After a moment of thought, she gestured the ANBU over. "Alright, here's what we do…"
The Konoha Shinobi Academy was still and silent, seemingly waiting with endless patience for its students to return. The empty halls cast shadows in the afternoon light, supporting the idea of a place in stasis. All was quiet, peaceful… all but one tanned Chunin instructor, sitting alone in his classroom. One hand came up, fingers pressing on the scar that ran across his nose. He sighed then, reluctantly putting pen to paper. Umino Iruka hated this part.
A small sound caught his attention, and he turned a pained gaze towards the woman standing in the door of his classroom. The woman's brown eyes were dark with sorrow, and her voice was softer than usual as she spoke. "Anyone?"
It was barely a question, but Iruka answered it anyway. "Two. Another was close, but…"
"Close only counts with exploding tags, Umino-san."
The two Chunin looked at one another for a moment before Iruka broke the silence. "Do you want me to tell them?" He had to fight the urge to sigh in relief when the woman shook her head.
"No, I prepared them, it should come from me. No offence, Umino-san, but…"
"None taken; I understand." As the woman left, Iruka looked one more time at the papers spread in front of him.
Every year, Academy hopefuls took a pre-admission evaluation test after three weeks of very basic training. Every year, the children were judged according to strength, speed, endurance and intelligence. And every year, the rules forced out most of the young would-be kunoichi for scoring too low.
Sad brown eyes passed over the photographs of seven little girls, each bright eyed and eager. And he knew that five of them would be told that they would never be allowed to even reach for their dream. Finally standing, Iruka left the Academy with a heavy heart.
It would be another two weeks before the start of the next school year, when footsteps and laughter would bring life back to the quiet halls.