A/N: I've had this idea forever and finally wrote this down. Honestly, it's not so much that I like the pairing but that I'm really fascinated with their relationships to one another. Anyways, enough of me blabbing. Read and enjoy :)
Right From Wrong
"The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong"
Word spread fast in Konoha.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it spread like wildfire, providing its citizens with rich gossip and foreign news. Today was no exception.
The current news passing down the streets of Konoha revolved around a recent incident, the death of a certain man. However, this particular man's demise came about differently than others. Unlike Leaf shinobis who died with honor, he died in shame. Unlike those who died in the arms of loved ones, he died alone. Unlike any normal person, he died without a funeral.
Many people laughed and cheered, embracing the news with obvious delight. Some people breathed a sigh of relief while others merely shrugged, indifferent to it all.
Perhaps there was only one person mourning for his death. Sitting behind her desk in the Hokage office, she was most likely drowning her emotions with the taste of sake while reminiscing about the past. However, that one strong emotion refused to leave the crevices of her mind, forever plaguing her with its terror.
Despite the other reactions to the event, it was completely different for Mitarashi Anko. There were no outbursts of joy, no sense of relief and no presence of overflowing guilt. There was only emptiness, a lack of emotions.
Some say that it was a requirement for those in ANBU, and others claim that it was a trait given at birth. But for Anko, it was because of those three words.
"Orochimaru is dead."
The first time those words reached her ears, she could only stay frozen with shock. Once she had actually digested the meaning of the message, she staggered back and fled to the sanctity of her home, all the while with confusion in her eyes.
People stared. Their looks betrayed their suspicion, their disapproval. They had expected her to rejoice at the matter or at least smile in relief.
But she was not one to meet others' expectations.
Instead, she chose to lock herself within her room, barring herself from the outside. Flopping herself onto the bed, she stared mindlessly at the ceiling. Her face held no expressions but that was understandable; she did not know what to feel.
She only knew how to remember.
"...and you guys will go with Jiraya."
And with that, the three genin ran through the door, giggling with excitement at the name of the sannin. Sarutobi sighed. At least that turned out well.
"What about me?"
Sarutobi turned his attention to the purple haired girl.
"You will be assigned a personal sensei. Like you, he also received outstanding marks in his academy years and possesses a world of talent. I believe he is most suited for your likes," he said.
"So who is he?" asked the girl.
At that moment, the door opened and a tall, pale-skinned man walked through. His long, black hair draped over his shoulders and a hint of a smile was plastered on his face.
"Have you introduced us yet, Sarutobi-sensei?"
"Oh, Orochimaru. You have impeccable timing as always. I was just about to telling Anko here about her new sensei," remarked Sarutobi.
"Then I suggest we move on with the introductions then. We wouldn't want to waste time now, would we?"
She could sense the slight disrespect in his voice and the glint of mockery in his eyes. Although he was one of the sannin—even rumored to be the best—she did not like him.
"Oh yes, I agree," said Sarutobi, unaware of his mocking tone. "This is Mitarashi Anko. She graduated at the top of her class and has had her senseis say wonderful things about her. I believe that her abilities are most compatible with the teachings of someone like you."
"I am flattered sensei. Don't worry," he said, licking his lips. "I'll make sure she turns out satisfactory."
Turning his gaze to her, he held out his hand.
She closed her eyes. She could still remember every word and detail about their first meeting. Yet she desperately wanted to forget one thing.
His eyes. They spoke of hidden ambition and a lust for greater power. Those golden, snake-like eyes warned her of betrayal and destruction.
Yet she chose to ignore it, much like the Hokage, and many others at the time. They pried their eyes away from his vices and prided themselves with his virtues. They ignored the fatal warning, which eventually became their first mistake.
"What?" she asked in disbelief.
"It's fine," he reassured her, "I have permission from the Hokage to do this."
"But, why there?" she sputtered, "Why choose a deep, dark, underground place for my training?"
"Because," he paused, turning his eyes on her, "I wanted to."
She shivered at the sight of those eyes staring at her. They seemed to look past the surface and see into the core of her soul. He could probably see her fear, her unwillingness to comply with his demands.
Then suddenly, his eyes softened for a minute as he reached out his hand to pat her head. Despite the harmlessness of the action, she flinched.
At the sound of the word, she could only nod and follow.
Anko opened her eyes halfway and tilted her head slightly to look through the window. The sun was setting and a radiant burst of gold colored the horizon.
Gold. That was the color of his eyes.
Yet unlike the sunset, it was unusually cold. She remembered the chills she used to get when they exchanged looks and she saw his eyes. She remembered the fear.
"What is it, Orochimaru-sensei?"
"Look at me," he commanded.
She hesitated and then brought her head level to his. Her eyes remained focused on the ground.
A hand reached out and lifted her chin up, surprising her with the sudden action. She found herself forced to look into his eyes.
"I said, look at me."
She turned her head and tried to escape from his grasp but his grip on her chin remained firm. She was powerless.
Grabbing her chin more forcefully this time, he pulled her to him and spoke against her ear.
"Why are you afraid?"
She did not speak.
"Anko, why are you afraid of my eyes?"
She froze at his knowledge of her fear. It was a surprise however, she knew that he would find out; she knew that he could sense her fear.
"I-I'm not s-scared," she stuttered.
Slowly, he moved away from her face, patting her lightly on the head again. When he seemed to have left the matter alone, she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Anko," he spoke, causing a sharp intake of breath from her, "Do you know why you are afraid?"
That was the question that she had often asked herself. Never had she found an adequate answer even a question as simple as that. Anko had believed that eventually she would find the flaw that caused the presence of her fear and eliminate it. Apparently, her sensei knew her better than she did.
"Why?" she whispered.
He paused before replying, as if weighing the pros and cons of the answer. When he finally spoke, his answer was blunt, yet most sincere.
"Because you lack power," he stated as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Because you lack the power to destroy your fears. That is why you are afraid."
She stiffened. It was clearly not what she wanted to hear. She didn't want to accept that she was weak and unable to fend for herself. Despite her denial of her situation, she knew that it was the truth.
"Come with me," he said, "We will get rid of that fear."
"How?" she asked.
"I will teach you the meaning of power. Then you can throw away that useless emotion of yours."
He had never lied. His philosophy was that liars were cowards who were afraid of the consequences of telling the truth. He believed that honesty was a result of confidence and power, both of which he possessed.
Many people would say that he had lied to the entire village by betraying them but she knew better. He had never once lied about his so-called "hidden experiments"; it was just that nobody asked. He had always told them of his whereabouts and merely took advantage of their trust.
His ambitions, actions, morals, and goals were all corrupted but he always kept his honesty intact. It wasn't that he had hidden his true motives from them but that they were all too naive.
And true to his word, he did teach her the meaning of power.
As she punched at the target, three snakes shot out from the edges of her sleeve and wrapped around the wooden stake. She bit the bottom of her lip as she strained to keep her concentration. Blood was starting to form on her lips when the snakes suddenly vanished in a puff of smoke. Breathing heavily, she fell exhausted on the ground.
Finally, she had managed to master the technique.
Sweating profusely, she managed to raise herself from the ground while resting on one knee. Looking at her sensei, she searched for a sign of approval.
"Not bad," Orochimaru remarked. "You are every bit as good as Sarutobi had said you were."
Delighted by his compliments, Anko used her remaining energy to hoist her body back up. She returned into position and reached out her hand to test the technique again.
A pair of hands gripped her shoulders and forced her to stop what she was doing. She looked up and saw his face blocking the sky. Surprisingly, the eyes that she always hated were smiling at her.
"That's enough for today, Anko. Even though you're eager to get better, it's never good to overstress the body," he chided.
"Now, let's go home," he said, gesturing for her to follow.
And she did.
She stared down at the hands by her side. All of her power and strengths she possessed, she acquired them from Orochimaru. The very reason that she was a jonin, she owed it to him. He had taught her the basics of fighting and the foundations of life. He was everything that a sensei required.
Everything besides the betrayal part of course.
The loud commotion outside disrupted her thoughts momentarily as she hopped off the bed and walked over to the windowsill.
She saw the Godaime marching through the streets, breaking apart the celebrations for his death and screaming at certain people for slacking off on their paperwork, undoubtedly drunk at the same time.
Anko smiled as she continued to watch the drunken Hokage lash out at the innocent bystanders. The entire scene amused her to a point and lightened the atmosphere a bit. It also comforted her that someone else was sharing her thoughts. She wasn't the only one who remembered the good side of him.
"Why can't I join?"
"Because the game's only for cool kids, not losers like you," a red-headed boy jeered.
"I'm NOT a loser!" she fumed, "I'm stronger than any of you!"
"Yeah right," another boy taunted. "You're just a kunoichi. Everyone knows that girls suck at being ninjas."
The other two boys joined in the laughter while the red-headed boy imitated her comment about not being a loser in a mocking tone. She was livid.
"I'M THE STRONGEST NINJA HERE!" she yelled in frustration.
Those two words were the cue for her to move into position. Taking a deep breath, she reviewed over the logistics of the technique again before quickly forming the snake and tiger hand seals.
Like before, snakes shot out from the sleeve on her arm and lunged themselves at the unsuspecting group of boys. Screaming with terror, the boys staggered back and tripped over one another, landing in a tangled heap. She smiled with satisfaction at their cowering expressions before calling back the snakes.
"See?" she gloated. "I told you."
None of the boys moved. Fear had completely taken over their minds and glued them to the floor. After a long moment of silence, the red-headed boy spoke up.
The impact of that single word hit her harder than anything else, striking the very core of her soul. What had she done wrong? What had she done to deserve this?
"No wonder her parent abandoned her. Who'd want a monster like her?" whispered the other boy.
"They didn't abandon me! They died for the village!" Anko shrieked.
"Let's get out of here, she's going crazy," said the redhead.
"NO! YOU'RE WRONG! THEY DIED FOR THE VILLAGE! THEY'D NEVER...they'd never..." she sobbed hysterically.
She was alone again. She was always alone, never offered a helping hand. It was the same as when she had attended the Academy. She thought things would have changed by now and that they would have recognized her talent and abilities.
But it was the same. In the end, she was all by herself.
"They don't understand."
She stopped her crying momentarily and turned to face the speaker. She gasped when she realized that it had been none other than her own sensei.
"They have no idea about the pain of being alone. Only you and I, who have experienced true loneliness, can understand," said Orochimaru.
He approached her and kneeled down, stroking her hair as he continued speaking.
"Don't be deterred. They feared your power. And," he paused to wipe the tears trailing on her face, "that is never a bad thing."
Taking her slender wrist into his hand, he pulled her up from her place on the ground. Brushing off the dirt that clung possessively on her clothes, he bent down and lowered his face to her level.
"Don't cry again. Strong people don't cry," he reminded her. "And from now on, neither of us will be alone. We'll always be together, wherever we go."
"I'd never lie," he said. "Now come, I have a place to show you."
She smiled and followed his lead. That was the start of their relationship.
That particular day occupied a special space in her memory. She could also remember the place that he had shown her. It was also a place that she visited often.
Ever since her parents had died, she would always visit their graves whenever she could, each time telling them of her daily life. Whether it was sadness, happiness, or loneliness that prompted the visit, she would always end the visit by telling them that she missed them and placed a single white lily on each of their graves.
Her mother had told her that lilies, white ones especially, were her favorite flowers. Since her parents passed away when she was still young, she barely had any memories of them. This small, seemingly insignificant detail is the only reminder of their love for her; she would never forget it.
That day, she had visited a different grave. Orochimaru had taken her to his own parent's grave.
It was then that she saw how horrifyingly similar their lives were.
Their childhoods were full of misery and devoid of the appropriate love that families and friends provided. To put it bluntly, they had none of that.
Like her, his parents had died in a mission, serving the village.
Like her, he was left behind.
Like her, he had no friends.
She remembered her surprise upon hearing his unfortunate childhood and wondering about how such a prominent person could have a past so tragically similar to her lowly self.
But that day, he told her of her worth. He had taught her that loneliness makes one stronger and more motivated. He taught her that her parents' death should make her yearn for the power that prevents her from achieving a similar fate as them. He told her that they were alone together in the world, and that nobody else mattered.
Even if those words felt silly to her now, they provided a great deal of comfort and reassurance for her in the past. They were lifelines that she needed to survive.
And that time at the sunset, he promised her the world.
The sharp, bright rays of light emitting from the horizon line shone brilliantly on the water, dancing in glittering shapes on the surface of the ocean. A paltry breeze swept across her cheek, causing the hair behind her ears to come loose across her face. Closing her eyes, she massaged her temple delicately while trying to relax.
It was another bloody mission. People had died again. They had died by her hands again.
She sighed. It was stupid to linger on those worthless thoughts. "Ninjas are not to show any kind of emotion." This was her destined path.
Blinking a few times, she forced back her tears and threw her head back, inhaling deeply. She gasped when she saw the figure of her sensei looming over her.
"Sensei!" she quickly stood up.
"Relax, Anko," Orochimaru put his hand on her shoulder and sat down next to her. "You don't need to be so stiff all the time."
None of them said anything for a while. Anko kept silent and looked down for fear of spilling her worries and revealing her incompetence as a ninja. Orochimaru did not look at her at all. Instead, he remained staring straight ahead at the sunset.
"Do not be ashamed," he said quietly. "We are all like this. It is our human nature."
Anko shot him a confused look before widening her eyes in realization. He knew. He knew about her fears without even looking or asking.
"As ninjas, we fight to provide for ourselves. We fight to protect what is ours. And most importantly," he turned to gaze into her eyes, "we fight for our existence."
He turned his head back to the sunset and continued. "Look at the sun. It dominates in the day, giving light to everything around us. We are solely dependent on that light, and when it retreats at the end of the day, we are left helpless to fend for ourselves in the dark."
Anko shivered at the intenseness in his voice. She had only heard him sound like this a few times, not even using this tone when reprimanding her.
"We are controlled by the sun, as we are by the need to justify our existence. And to do that, we fight," he reminded her. "There are only two types of people: the conquered, and the conqueror. The conquered is forced to obey their conqueror and is thereby controlled by them, as we are by the sun. The conqueror can do anything they want."
"Anything?" Anko whispered.
"Yes," The ends of his mouth curved into a smile. "Anything."
"They can even stop wars?"
"If they wanted, they could stop all the fighting. They could bring peace to the land," explained Orochimaru.
"But isn't the Hokage the conqueror? Why hasn't he stopped it yet?" she asked.
His eyes hardened and for a moment, a shadow of hatred swept over his eyes. Then he spoke in a low, matter-of-factly voice.
"Because he is not our conqueror."
Scrunching her eyebrows in confusion, she contemplated the meaning of his words. If the Hokage wasn't their conqueror, then who was?
As if reading her mind, he answered, "Konoha has no conqueror. Neither does any of the Shinobi Nations." At this, he stood up and held out his hand. Anko looked at him questioningly.
"Let us be its first conqueror."
Although she still did not understand all the logistics behind the conqueror and conquered, she was certain of one thing; her loyalty to her sensei will never falter. Orochimaru, the closest to a father that she's ever had, was the person she admired—no, worshiped. He was everything to her.
She placed her hand in his and they walked off like that, hand in hand.
To a passing observer, the estranged image resembled that of a father and daughter.
She knew that what she felt for Orochimaru at that time had long surpassed the limits of admiration or even worship, and bordered dangerously on love. Whether it was due to the fatherly pretense or something else entirely, she knew that feeling.
She recognized the rush she felt whenever he complimented her; she recognized her racing pulse whenever she was around him.
And most of all, she recognized the agony in her heart when he threw her away.
"Why are you doing this..." she cried, grabbing desperately onto his leg. "...even though I have always respected you?!" And always loved you.
He bent down and raised her chin with his slender fingers, forcing her to look into his eyes. "You are lacking the will to seek power." His eyes widened, and Anko flinched at the raw hatred in his eyes. "Vengeance. Hate. And everything else."
His abnormally long tongue shot out and caressed the corners of his lips, as if contemplating his next few words. "But, just letting you live may be of some use to me."
She felt numb. Oddly enough, his intense gaze had not sent her into a quaking and quivering mess, as it would likely have done under any other circumstance. Her breathing was ragged, not from fear, but from the painful shock of betrayal.
Orochimaru tightened the grip on her chin and brought her face closer to his. His eyes, now full of malice, stared deep into hers as she returned the gaze with wide eyes filled with disbelief. When he spoke again, his voice was harsh and commanding. "Hey. Come with me."
Never had she disobeyed those three words. Never had she even hesitated.
Even though she knew it was wrong, she wanted to grab his hand again and go with him. She wanted to be by his side even if she was just being used; but this time, she couldn't bring herself to say "yes". Instead, she her shoulders slumped in resignation and she averted her eyes, escaping the temptation before her.
Seeing her obvious answer, Orochimaru removed his hand from her face and stood up, brushing imaginary dust particles off his body. "Well then. I'll find a more excellent child." With that, he stepped out the door, leaving her alone in the dark on the cold floor of the cell.
Only one thought crossed through her mind as she faded into unconsciousness. What about your promise? You promised that we would always be together. So how could you leave me like this...
She moved away from the window and collapsed onto her bed, closing her eyes.
She had realized now that he had not broken his promise. His farewell present, the cursed seal, had forever bound their souls together, calling her to him whenever his presence neared. Perhaps the method was unnecessarily harsh but at least he fulfilled his promise to her.
And she was still in love with him.
She slammed her fists against the bed, causing the sheets to cave in at the pressure. She hated herself for still loving that man, even after he killed their Hokage, and even after he betrayed her.
Against her will, tears streamed down her face and wet the sheets between her fingers as she cried silently.
Nobody would be able to understand her— why she mourned for him, and more, why she loved him. People would frown and criticize her for her naïvety, claiming that she had been manipulated by him. They would say that her love for him was wrong, and that it was just a result of her neediness at the time.
But they were all wrong. Love was an irrational existence, undefined in the shinobi handbook.
There was no right and wrong in love.
There was only pain in losing the person you loved most.
So...how was that? A bit angsty yes, but not too bad I hope? So click that button and donate a review to save my ever faltering self-esteem. Oh did I mention there are cookies involved? *winks*