And So, I Wait

Chapter 1: Cacophony

oOo

Given the tens of thousands of residents in Konohagakure, it would seem like a simple task to just blend in. To no great surprise, this is not the case. The ANBU, viciously lethal and extraordinarily observant, were each assigned to a six-hundred to eight-hundred person "block" which they were responsible for observing. The areas overlapped, meaning that two, sometimes even three ANBU made notes about the residents. Even if they never interacted with the residents, they knew them. Some of the more whimsicle members of the elite body even gave some of the more notable members of their block nicknames.

New arrivals were, of course, noted within hours. Not a single person took up residence in Konoha without at least four or five different ANBU noting their arrival and collaberating on an investigation into their motives, background, and possible skills. Sometimes a relatively complete portofolio was assembled within a day's time. New arrivals were also officially welcomed, the smiling, vested-Chuunin residents making their neighbours feel at home in the vast streets. These Chuunins "happened" to run into the arrivals as a matter of course, introducing themselves and explaining their job and training to the fresh citizens.

It should surprise nobody that Konoha has the lowest crime rate in the world. Would-be entrepreneurs of the unlawful side of life are quickly and quietly encouraged to move on. Those that insist on staying are relocated to the country border. No doubt policies are in place to deal with those foolish enough to return, but nobody has been that foolish in recent history.

Thus, Konoha has the distinction of being one of the only hidden villages of the major five powers which is nearly impossible to infiltrate. This is directly in spite of the fact that it is also the largest hidden village. There are other hidden villages which are impossible to infiltrate, but that is only due to the fact they're too small for an insertion to be successful.

I knew all of this. I'd been briefed extensively on Konoha prior to Lord Orochimaru's attempt to destroy the place. I knew what it meant to be left behind in enemy territory. I knew what it meant to stay behind and fight that too-young man in the chuunin vest, to allow the Uchiha to go on without me. Even if I won, whatever pursuit followed this advanced force would claim me even if I wasn't defeated by the pineapple-haired kid.

And I honestly wasn't sure, going into that battle, which of us would succeed. From the records I'd studied, we were being chased by four genin and a chuunin so new to the vest that the title was little more than a formality. Those five bastards against the four trusted to protect Orochimaru's life while he killed the strongest enemy our master had.

Even if I'd never shown it, I'd become numb to the shock by the time Sakon and Ukon dropped off. Genin on paper, but I'll swear to my dying day that that idiot Kabuto misclassified their strengths. Any two of us should have been able to kill them all. Any one of us should have been able to slow them enough for the rest of us to escape. To bleed a member in an escape attempt every time the group caught up, then learn it was only one genin who remained behind to forestall one of the Sound elite: It was too much to bear.

We helped kill the Third Hokage. Yet Four genin and a chuunin nearly killed us all. Hell, even years later, it's galling to learn that two genin matched two members of our force in a one-on-one fight. No. Three genin. I've learned enough to have no illusions about the outcome of Uzumaki Naruto's fight with any one of us, had it come to that.

I still remember asking myself how it could have possibly happened, staring one leaf genin and one leaf chuunin in the face. All alone. And when the chuunin decided to hang back and stall me, allowing a genin, technically a subordinate, to race ahead...

I knew the truth:

The chuunin was the one their village put in charge.

But Naruto... That blue-eyed little jerk was their leader.

Through words, not actions, he dragged the ninja around him to extraordinary heights. Allowed them to face down foes capable of defeating two leaf jounin in one on one fights and succeed, at least enough to allow their comrades to press on with their mission.

I faced down my foe. I take a small measure of satisfaction, even to this day, that I'm the only one of my group to face down my one foe with success. Sakon and Ukon hardly count, so I find it hard to blame that idiot with the dog for losing. Those two linked morons were enough to overcome even the Uchiha, and he was supposed to be some fancy shit. He was supposed to be the only one of his class worth a look.

Supposed to. Fucking Kabuto.

We were supposed to succeed. We weren't supposed to have any problems. We weren't supposed to be wiped out to a man, with only one of us surviving four whole genins and their chuunin leader due to a trick of fate. None of were supposed to die ensuring Orochimaru's bright, shining future.

It was those thoughts which consumed me, crawling through the forest. I lost my forehead protector long ago in the crawl, my waistband similarily snagged by undergrowth as I forged my will to moving one arm foreward, digging in, and dragging myself another eight inches. I lost track of how long I'd been crawling.

Day turned to night, then night turned to day. Still, I slowly dragged myself eight inches after another eight inches away from my enemies and towards my master.

I don't know how long I crawled along the road. I suppose I crawled across it, and in my pain-maddened fever, convinced myself it was easier to follow it than fight my way through Konoha's undergrowth.

It was that bad decision which saw me picked up. It was that decision which lead me to meet the man who killed my comrades. He wasn't the one to wield the blade, but I slowly learned that it was he who forged the will of every man on his team.

I'll never forget the day I met Uzumaki Naruto.

oOo

Author's Notes:

This seems like a good place to stop for now. The concept was thoroughly inspired by The Melody of The Fox (which is wonderful, and you should go read right the hell now), though I'd like to think that I'll distance myself from that story in the details.

I always felt that the Sound Four were interesting characters who were unfortunately killed off before their time. Then again, Kishimoto manages to do that with a LOT of characters.

So I'll explore Tayuya. I've already worked out the outline, and I'll probably have the second chapter up within hours. And sorry, no appreciable progress on An Unforeseen Consequence. Though if you're a fan of me doing fanart for other authors, I've got something up for one of my favourite Ranma ½ fanfics in my profile.

Sorry.

Cheers,

Gaming Ikari