Eien No Kessoku: Gouka
I am so exited! I have the most wonderful tingling in my stomach. Nervousness, anticipation… Oo-hoo-hoo! This is the best part! But first I must address some serious things.
Don't let all of this padding put you off. Since this is the first chapter, I am unloading a little. It's lengthy, I know, but this is the only chapter that will have so much stuff before I actually start writing.
If you already know who I am or have read Eien No Kessoku (known as EnoK from here on out) skip this next section.
Hello all! Here I am, IAmNotANut. I've finally begun writing again. Man, I missed EnoK…
Rating: M. Once again there will be violence and disturbing imagery. Foul language is a possibility. Smut probably not, but I'm all for fluff! Terror, gore, sailor tongue, Yeah… whatnot.
Disclaimer – This disclaimer stands for the entire story. I do not claim ownership over Naruto while writing this fan fiction. I write for enjoyment and am not making any money in doing so. Also, I do not claim ownership over the songs and artists I mention in the following playlists. All of these things belong to their rightful publishers, companies, or owners.
(That was a mouthful)
Summary of EnoK:
Here's your specifics for the story and a little catch-up session if you haven't read it in a while or haven't read it at all!...
Konoha's government has been disbanded. Thecouncil has overthrown Tsunade and the village has been evacuated. Before the chaos ensued, Naruto and Sakura escaped to prevent the Kyuubi's imprisonment from corroding Naruto's body. They seek to appease the beast's rage by finding the Hachibi. In the process, they were separated. Sakura's fate is mingling in uncertainty. She has found Sasuke, but the gears around them are turning and the path they are following is taking the turn for the worst.
The Akatsuki are in no better condition. Only six of the nine remain. And within the group, sides are being chosen. But all are having the same nightmare. Even the council buried safely inside of Konoha tremble at its potential…
In their selfish pursuit of power, they awakened a monster that they can no longer control…
Playlist: History (Funeral For A Friend), The Nobodies (Marilyn Manson), and Phase (Breaking Benjamin).
Even within the most beautifullandscape, in the trees, under the leaves the insects are eating each other; violence is a part of life.
In the early hours a thick line of people, within a thousand, were trudging through the forests. The air was dense in the morning's chill and the trees loomed over them like their own fears. The citizens of Konoha were exhausted, trailing behind the shinobi like ghosts. They had been walking for days, only stopping for sleep. The relatives of those left behind or those going off to fight huddled together like traumatized animals. But the children were not broken yet. Their light peaked around the corners of the adult's despair as they played and danced on the edges of the crowds. The children's ignorance was shielding them. Or so it seemed.
"I heard what happened from Ebizu." A voice in mid puberty cracked amongst the students. The ears of the older ones perked. Konohamaru muttered to a few of the boys. They were taking a short rest while the children played around them. "The old bags picked a fight with Tsunade-baachan. She wanted to go to war while everyone else wanted to hide in their beds."
Moegi spoke up from the side lines. She stood behind him, glancing at the adults walking past, eying them suspiciously. They could be listening. "What happened?"
"Yeah, why'd we have to leave?"
Konohamaru smacked the boy that uttered that and snapped, "We're goin' to war!" The boy stuck up his nose under Konohamaru's glare.
"I don't see why they kicked us out. The Hokage's the idiot!"
Konohamaru whispered harshly. "Everyone's gone to fight. Even the Sand nin are in on it. And they're fighting for our freedom. We had to leave. The old bags would have trapped us all there… Are you saying you wanted to hide? Would you rather be in Konoha wetting yourself?" The boy thought for a moment. He was surely imagining his father or brother leaving to fight. Then he shook his head. He was no coward.
Konohamaru gave a cut nod. The students muttered among themselves.
"We're at war…" The phrase spilled through their mouths.
"War!" The word fluttered about them.
Their parents and siblings and friends were all fighting for them in some far away country. A battlefield that none of them would ever see. Bravery, strength, hope… Pride filled them at the thought of fighting for freedom. It was their time. They were alive to hear about it instead of being told of wars long ago like they were bed-time stories.
"Even Naruto-niichan left. He's probably fighting right now!" Konohamaru stood and the children raced with him. They caught up to their families that had been steadily moving forward. The lone shinobi guarding nearby suddenly took interest. He walked over slowly as Konohamaru kept rambling. "Oh, boy, I wish I was there. I wish I could smack those Akatsuki around!" Cheers and whoops erupted excitedly.
"You'll do nothing of the sort!"
Konohamaru twitched at this voice and the younger kids around him scattered, disappearing into the crowds of people. The older ones stayed and awaited the man's words with agitation and insult on their faces. The man's face was sullen. His brown hair pulled back as tightly as his self-discipline. But, unseen by the children, a stray hair here and there was free of the uniformed look.
Iruka stepped closer, "Do you think you would stand a chance against the Akatsuki? Do you think you would help them?" Konohamaru huffed and turned his head. "What kind of help would you be? You are inexperienced in battle; you aren't even a Chuunin yet! Naruto and those fighting would be spending precious time protecting you as you gallivanted into a fight you never had a chance at winning."
"How would you know!?" The boy roared, "How would you know anything about fighting and war!? You've spent your entire life in a classroom!"
Iruka was still for a moment. He stared at the boys and girls gathered around him, all thinking the same thing. They waited for his response with smug looks on their faces. With a sigh, he gave them his answer: "When I was 10, maybe a little younger, we were at war with Rock Country. I stayed at home. I saw many of my friends leave and I watched only a handful return. I watched their faces become hollow, I watched them mourn over the loss of their parents." A few shivered. Surely their parents would be different. They would never die in war. "And when war came to us I saw the burning cities. But I never saw the people that had died. Wasn't there when the innocent were run down by murderers. I was far away where I couldn't help them. I saw a demon destroy our home but I go and fight for my injured friends. Sure, I spent my entire life in a classroom. But I still suffered under the shelter of our village. Can you imagine seeing your comrades die? But even worse, are you willing to step into a massacre with no skills or knowledge and be protected with the lives of those comrades? Could you keep from hating yourself when they died at your expense?" He watched their faces lose color in an instant. Iruka stared at them, and then sighed. He sadly shook his head. "If it meant preventing one more loss, would you stay behind?"
The adults behind them tuned out Iruka's words. It hurt too much to recall it. The children had gaping mouths as the truth settled on their shoulders.
Iruka smiled timidly. "You would, wouldn't you?"
Konohamaru blanched at the thought of Naruto battling some unbeatable force with the weak Genin standing in the way, watching helplessly. Moegi and Udon looked at him for guidance. The boy was frozen.
"Yes." He responded. His eyes focused once more on his teacher. A conversation with Naruto struck him suddenly and a revelation tumbled out. "But that doesn't mean we just give up and wait." He spoke barely above a whisper. The adults, still walking, didn't pay him mind but the other students appeared from the legs of their parents and hovered closely so they might hear. "Naruto-niichan wouldn't want us to be afraid." His voice was elevated with aggravation. "He wouldn't want us to trudge on to safety and push all our hopes on them! He would want us to make our own happiness. He would want us to make our own strength so someday we won't have to be protected anymore." He panted for a moment. All around him were dumbstruck. "We have to fight in our own way for the day that no one will leave for war. For the day that the weak can protect the strong."
His teacher smiled. "I see…"
Another realization set in and Konohamaru gave a breathy laugh. He stared into Iruka's eyes as he stated simply, "Why else would someone spend their entire life in a classroom, right, Iruka-sensei?" The shinobi laughed.
The students took in the words with new respect for their teacher. Satisfied with the lighter mood, the students slowly dispersed and began running around once more. Their frolic was just as intense, but awareness lifted their voices and made them bolder. Konohamaru stuck close to Iruka. He didn't speak, but the shinobi's company was comfort enough. Konohamaru wasn't the only one they left behind.
On the other side of the group there was a small outcry and a swarm of Konoha's defenders leapt over the people. Iruka joined in and Konohamaru glanced at the younger students, commanding them to stay put. He too followed the wave of fighters.
Already pinned to the ground by two large Jounin was a very startled ninja. That surprise quickly turned to annoyance and he stopped struggling. The minute his headband was in sight, he was let up. The Sand nin had arrived.
The man stood and brushed off the dirt. "What a welcome."
Iruka gave an abashed laugh. "We weren't expecting you for a day or two."
"You walk fast." He jeered back. Kankurou of Suna placed a hand on his hip. He looked to the forest and back at Iruka. "If I tell them to come out, will you attack me again?"
Laughter spread through the tense shinobi. Kankurou rolled his eyes and waved his hand. In a flicker dozens of shinobi appeared. The children watched in awe as warriors only a few years older stepped out of the shadows. Immediately they greeted each other and some of the younger ones began playing together. Others walked among the civilians handing out bottled water and food.
"You're about to reach the desert and Gaara had a feeling you wouldn't have the proper provisions…" Kankurou inclined a nod to his working soldiers.
"We were in a hurry." Iruka sighed, "Thank you."
"You can thank us when we get to Suna safe and sound."
The mood immediately dropped. The shinobi around them dispersed once more to guard their parts of the moving troupe. "Is something wrong?"
The Sand Sibling shook his head. "No, we're just being cautious. Now that our armada is gone, Suna is a little more defenseless than I find comfortable. Iwa already tried to take over and attacked with a couple hundred." Kankurou paused dramatically, "But the desert-" He managed an ambiguous look. "-beat them before they could get here."
"What about Rain Country?"
"Your shinobi have already arrived. Gaara sent confirmation just before I left. Shikamaru, was it? He's heading the whole operation… Took over as soon as he got there." His voice came off with some resentment, but, in truth, it was more likely jealousy. "Gaara's surprise attack was fading fast and Rain was just about to retaliate when Konoha started pushing back the forces. We managed to create a barricade and have successfully cut off their resources. Last I heard they were thinning out the ranks."
Iruka gave a relieved sigh. "I'm amazed at how that boy turned out." Kankurou raised a brow. "He slept through class every year. Taking charge was never high on his list of priorities."
The man grumbled, "I wish he was more like that now."
He looked up to the heavens and thanked whatever forces had influenced him. "That's the miracle of humanity: people change."
Kankurou grumbled, the antsy desire to join Gaara at the battlefront was getting a little too strong, "What about you. Were there any troubles along the way?"
"A couple of bumps here and there. But considering how many there are and how long we've been traveling, it's going along very well. Six days without shelter or decent food and we haven't had one riot." He paused and his eyes dimmed. "But I guess that's because those unfit for travel stayed behind."
"How many are here?"
"Almost seven hundred are here. There are five hundred still at Konoha. That includes the sick, injured, and elderly… Plus the dozen or so ANBU that stayed behind with the hospital staff. We didn't record the number sent to Rain accurately but we're estimating over three quarters of the populous escaped. That's the best we could do."
"What will those left behind do?" Iruka didn't answer but his expression explained clearly what fate awaited them. "Root hasn't followed you?"
"No. But we did have some problems with bandits." He looked around at the numerous shinobi, armed to kill. "Don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into." The soldiers laughed again.
Kankurou, however, looked uneasy. "I'm getting the same feeling. We took over Rain so quickly. Their real army hasn't shown itself yet and the Akatsuki aren't anywhere to be seen. I don't like it. We're playing in their hands… Dumb bandits."
"Dumb bandits…" Iruka murmured. "There are only a few dozen of us here, but these examiners have seen a lot of action. As soon as we get to Suna, we'll report to Rain with you and help your brother. If something goes wrong, you'll need all the help you can get."
Rubble and dust blew like a sandstorm into the eyes of Suna's forces. The echo of an explosion dulled their ears and sent shivers down their backs. The barricade was holding. The barricade was holding. The assailants bombarded the fortified defenses with explosive tags and smoke bombs, but the Suna shinobi were better. They waited patiently in the clouds of black for the Ame nin to sneak through.
One man stood, his body was aching in after shook, his breath labored out of fear, but he showed no sign of it. He waited, still. Slowly, his heart settled and he shut his eyes. The adrenalin pumped calmly through him and he could hear the footsteps of an enemy. They stalked past him. Gradually, in the midst of continuous smoke bombs, the Ame nin inched further and further through. At the edges of the group, Suna nin followed and closed in silently.
Suddenly the wind blew and a part of the cover was removed. The shinobi's eyes snapped open and he killed the soldier closest to him. The squad was taken by surprised and wiped out before a sound could be uttered. The skillful assassins then jumped back behind the barrier and waited for the next wave to attempt a breech.
Gaara stood back, his gourd of sand was tied to his back by a black cloth and dark paint was splattered over the subtly signs that once covered it. At closer inspection, one would recognize it as something more sinister, but no one dared to. Everyone was a killer. The Kazekage was no different.
"Gaara-sama, the far west end is being pushed back." An exhausted soldier cried.
The shinobi made eye contact with five others and they flew to aid their allies. When they arrived, a handful of dead rested peacefully in the opening the enemy had created. One of the five went to remove them and a rain of kunai shot out from the smoke. Quickly, he dodged and placed his back against the wall. The shinobi took in a deep breath and waited. In an unexpected brush of wind, the smoke clouding his vision dissipated and he whirled his head around to the opening. His eyes flashed and a second wave of kunai came through. They shot past his face, but they were seconds too late. The shinobi was already out of danger.
He went to the Kazekage's side. "I saw their formation. There's an opening from the left side. One explosion would disperse them." He glanced at his four companions. They immediately went to the other side of the hole and stood waiting. Gaara placed a hand to his face and, in the air, an eye condensed out of sand. It flew over the wall out of sight. The shinobi looked to the man beside him as he created a Bushin. It took up a weapon, then the clone and its creator ran to the wall, one to the left side and one through the hole. As soon as they opened fire, Gaara signaled the shinobi. Within seconds, an explosion shook the wall and all five vanished. Gaara released his eye and made a hand seal. He took in a deep breath and mumbled some words. Just as he released his chakra, all five returned unscathed.
The Kazekage dropped his hands and looked at them curiously. "What happened?"
"They ran off."
"Kazekage-sama!" Gaara searched for the voice. Down the wall, the shinobi were emerging from the other side. They looked to him in wonder.
One of the five with him ventured to the wall and peered over. "They're all retreating."
A young girl ran to Gaara from the east. She stopped at his side and caught her breath. "Konoha shinobi at the northern border are saying the attacks have stopped. Ame's defense is pulling back just inside the city limits."
Gaara's teeth clenched. His gut twisted. "Where are the Akatsuki…?" The warriors around him were silenced by the chill in his voice.
As the words were uttered, it started to rain.
The rain pecked at the old man's skin and the humidity made his white hair stick to his face. The intricate mess of piping and buildings in Ame were converging just ahead. He looked up across a large opening in the cluttered buildings. Their dull colors closely resembled a stormy sky and the tall towers around him almost faded into the cumulous clouds. An awning jutted out from the tallest of these towers. There three Akatsuki robes had gathered. They stood at the opening of a large tower and below them on an empty street were a few hundred soldiers. They stood silently, waiting for orders. They were all clothed for war. Jiraiya was baffled. Rain had been under siege for a week and these people didn't have any signs of being in battle.
Jiraiya stared intently at the three Akatsuki. Two backs were to him, the third face was covered by an orange mask. He slipped back into the shadow of the building and moved around the pipes and frames. Finally the opening came into view again and he could see the other two.
It was a woman and man. The man's hair was bright orange while the woman's blue hair rose and fell with the breeze. In her hair was a single, paper flower folded to perfection. Immediate recognition sent Jiraiya's stomach plummeting downward. He had known both of them long ago, but in his memories they were only children, lost after war had destroyed their homes and families. They had been his students when no one else would take them in.
Konan and Yahiko.
In the faint echo of the close space Jiraiya could hear them speaking.
"It seems that our goals no longer coincide, Tobi." Yahiko noted. His stoic face was covered in piercings.
Tobi laughed quietly. "No, they don't. But don't worry, we will be departing shortly." The man turned to leave.
"These shinobi won't follow you."
"You are mistaken." Tobi stared down at the army. "It seems that we share certain interests. They are no longer infatuated with your aim for world domination."
Konan broke in, "They will not abandon Ame in its time of need."
"Oh, yes. Yes they will." Tobi's exposed eye turned on him, "Yes… For revenge, a person will abandon everything." He sighed and looked down again. "These people have an old grudge on Konoha, you see. It is amazing how revenge can create hope from hatred." His eyes remained on his pawns below. Tobi's voice was pleasant, "Well, you have served your purpose, Pain. I'm sure this is the last I'll see of you."
He didn't wait for a response before stepping off the ledge of the tower and dropping into the opening. Tobi's black robe flew behind him as his feet skidded against the piping and concrete. Pain watched him land unharmed and clenched his fist.
From the shadows of the tower a fourth Akatsuki stepped out. "Yes, Pain."
"Where is the Kyuubi." His strange eyes watched Tobi approach the Ame elites.
Zetsu deliberated. Pain was already in a foul mood. He didn't want to be on the receiving end of that when his leader finally cracked. Zetsu's dark side spoke in his place, "It vanished after Deidara died." Zetsu's white side sighed. No reason to hold out now. He internally cursed his other half. "We lost sight of it… And Itachi."
"Find it. Find it at all costs. Report to me if Itachi interferes." Zetsu started to leave, but Pain stopped him. "Bring Kisame here."
The green abomination bowed and vanished. Seconds later, Kisame landed before the pair.
"What is it?" His pointed teeth were exposed in a grin the moment he saw Pain's flustered state.
"Tobi has betrayed us."
Something flickered across Kisame's face. It wasn't surprise. "Hmm… Has he left yet?"
"No." The leader stared at Kisame. "I need you to complete a mission for me." Kisame waited with disinterest. "Tobi is going to jeopardize our goal. He is a threat to everything we Akatsuki want and he must be exterminated. I will trust only you with this task. Eliminate Tobi."
The blue shinobi inhaled and scratched his head. "Huh, that's why you called me?" He scuffed his foot on the ground. A demonic smile split his face in two. "Sorry, Pain. No can do."
"I'm siding with Tobi on this one." Kisame watched rage furrow his former leader's brow. "Are you going to stop me? Deidara's dead and Itachi has disappeared… Sure, you've got Zetsu, but he's useless in battle." His shoulders shook with a chuckle. "Not to mention that you've got a village to look after. You've got nothing keeping me here and I promise that I'm not dying for a lost cause. The Akatsuki are finished," He kept a careful eye on Pain as he stepped closer to the edge, just as Tobi had. "So I'm betting on a winning hand." He fell.
Pain watched another fell further into betrayal, into heresy. They vanished into the shadows of the buildings. A feeling rose in Pain's throat. It was the feeling a God received when hope in his creations faded. It was the hate and rage that could destroy worlds. And he would. He would destroy worlds. He would destroy every path that greed and retribution had put these traitors on. He would destroy it before they could be satisfied, so they would feel the crippling defeat that they deserved. They could share his pain.
"Evacuate the city."
"To where? Our allies have already refused."Konan's passive face was startled.
Pain was quiet, weighing his options. Then his laugh rocked the piping, "It doesn't matter. They'll be dead soon anyway."
Konan's eyes burned, then settled once more. "Are we going to fight?"
"Yes," Pain gave her a condemning smile. "I am going to kill them all…"
The shinobi were dressed in dark colors. Their masks were up and their headbands were no were to be seen. Killing intent radiated from them along with the contrasting air of fear. At the front of the massive gathering Tobi stood.
Kisame stretched calmly. "He asked me to kill you."
Tobi laughed darkly. "Isn't that ironic… Of all the people to ask, it had to be my most loyal follower."
"Hmph, you can laugh. He wasn't too happy when I said no. And I'm not losing my head because of your games, Madara."
"As soon as we leave, Itachi will be your only assignment."
Kisame chimed in darkly, "Are you trying to comfort me? Itachi is more dangerous than any force Konoha could put up now."
Tobi glared at him. "You've delayed long enough." Tobi could read him like a book. Kisame tugged at his Akatsuki cloak uncomfortably. "You don't need that anymore."
"I still think I'll keep it." Kisame adjusted the collar, "I've made a lot of good memories in this thing. Call it sentimental, but it's a good coat."
Tobi passed over the man's strange attitude and focused on the matter at hand. "We're leaving soon." Tobi twined his fingers into a seal.
Kisame was shocked, "Are you gonna transport all of them to Konoha?"
"Did you expect we would just walk out of Rain with all of these pests in the way?" Tobi's chakra spiked.
The shinobi shrugged. "It's your funeral. I know you can't take over 600 in one go. Not that far."
"Getting out of Ame is all I'm concerned about. I can manage transporting this many five miles away at most. We will slip just under the radar."
Kisame eyed him curiously "You're playing this a little close, don't you thing?"Then abrupt disappointment hit the blue man, "Are you saying we have to walk the rest of the way? Damn, I hate walking."
The chakra swelling from Tobi covered the clearing like a deadly shadow. The shinobi looked around worriedly. In the hole of Tobi's mask the Sharingan was spinning wildly. Slowly the ink transformed the red iris and solidified.
"It is time."
Then in the blink of an eye, the clearing was empty. The rain paused in mid air for a millisecond, and then it hit the ground with a stronger noise than before. It was as if there had never been a soul on the vast concrete.
Above the terrifying spectacle, Jiraiya's jaw hung open and he breathed in and out weakly. He had never heard of such a jutsu. It was impossible. Jiraiya staggered out of sight and placed a damp palm to his forehead. Such things could be done through summoning scrolls and special weaponry like the 4th's jutsu, but with just one seal? He had to tell Tsunade.
The man's hands flew to a scroll on his back. He bit his thumb and placed it on the black scribbles. It released and, in a puff of white, a small frog leapt out. Jiraiya's voice caught in his throat as he tried to address the messenger frog. He sputtered out what he had seen. What could he do? Yahiko and Konan had been his students. They were his responsibility and it was his fault they had become this way. He had to take care of them himself. Although surveying the area, gathering all the insight he could, and waiting patiently for news of Naruto had been his objectives, this new development could not be overlooked. He had to help secure Rain so they could return to Konoha and save the village. The villagers were all at home, defenseless. They had no way of knowing what evil was in store for them. Yahiko had to be defeated. His students had to be stopped. Quickly, Jiraiya whispered sad goodbyes for the frog to give a certain woman waiting in Konoha.
Pain's eyes bulged. Without Tobi and Kisame's massive chakra to distract him, he noticed a very strong shinobi hiding not far off through the rain. A laugh escaped him and he turned to the buildings across the way. An old familiar chakra greeted him. It had been a while since Pain practiced with his teacher and he was itching to kill a sinner.
Sakura strode down an unfamiliar road surrounded by strange faces. Her hair was effectively covered by the large hood hanging over her head. The striking transition back from inky black made her overly conscious of its natural hue. Yet, it had also changed since she had last seen color on her head. The intensity of it was weakened and become a pale pink. From a distance it was practically white. It was impossible to not turn your head at the sight.
But she managed to pass through town unnoticed. She had been longing for a break for weeks, but because of Naruto's problems with the Kyuubi, as well as her own brand of agony thanks to the demon, she couldn't keep from worrying. On top of that, the council's rash actions that pushed Naruto to leave the village had created a whole new layer of stress. It was time to breathe easy.
This town was quaint. The many curving roads fit into the mountains side deep inside Fire Country. She paused in front of a small house. There stood a woman with bleach blond hair. Her back was turned and, as she hummed an unnamable tune to herself, she organized her herbal shop. The woman's figure was voluptuous like someone she knew well in Konoha.
The woman turned. The face that greeted her was not the same as Sakura had hoped. Sakura's staring didn't stop and made the lady speak.
"Can I help you?" Her voice was scraggly, like she had indulged in too much smoke or drink over the years. Her face was warm, like she had known Sakura all her life. Her hair hung at her shoulders, free of elastic bands. She had on comfortable apparel that clearly wasn't fit for anything more than ordinary tasks. Her sandals flopped loosely on her foot. If she were to try running, they were sure to fly off.
When Sakura's silence lengthened, the woman tried again. "Are you lost?"
Sakura snapped back to life and stuttered, "I need a place to stay."
The woman smiled at Sakura's shyness and coaxed her over with her hand. "I know a good bed and breakfast nearby. My friend owns it, real nice lady. You can stay as long as you like and her cooking is the best around." The woman produced a pencil and paper, she began writing on it. "I'll give you directions, you hear? It's not a long from here and it's pretty cheap." She finished her scribbling and held out the paper. Sakura hurriedly accepted it.
"Thank you very much."
The lady gave another gentle smile, brushing off the formality, "No problem," and returned to work.
Sakura turned and started walking, quickly reading the instructions. She passed dozens of small homes tucked into the shelter of trees and friendly faces greeted her. It was so strange.
They were polite. They were simple. They didn't care where she was from, they had no idea. They didn't ask her what she wanted. For a while, this puzzled her.
What's missing? Why is it so peaceful?
She strolled along the road, deep in thought, and slowly came to a stop at a ridge. Below the rolling hills, in the little valley, the village was settled. Sakura had never seen it before. She searched with her keen eyes for movement, as her village often had. She looked for people flying through the trees, children throwing kunai, or students practicing jutsu. But there was no movement. Only serene silence.
There were no shinobi.
She laughed at the thought. But there was not a hint of violence in their lifestyles. There wasn't a feeling of deception in that woman's voice. She didn't have a tingling superstition about the place. But it wasn't empty. There were people. They were all potential killers, just like all humans. But it was so different.
It was uncomfortable. She felt like everything was fragile. She might break this tiny, unknown world of peace. She could become a pebble in their calm, wrinkleless reality. It terrified her.
Tension gathered in her back. It tugged at her senses. It gathered in her stomach and she sunk to the ground. It made her sick to think about it. A world without shinobi. A world without reasons to kill each other. Why didn't she have that? Why wasn't her world like that? Would Sasuke have left? Would the council have turned on Naruto? Why couldn't she live in that world?
Is this what it's like? To not have war or violence? To not breed power and raise soldiers?
Her legs began shaking under her and she began hyperventilating. Her breath came in and out in small cries. Minutes felt like hours as the pain slowly spread. Suddenly, amidst the pain, she realized what the cries were. A whimper is an unspoken desire. She tried to say it aloud but the whimper only grew louder, choked at the last moment in the back of her throat. Embarrassment and fear kept her from saying it. It kept the pain inside and turned it into tears.
"I hate being a shinobi."
"I don't want to be afraid."
Her weeping cracked in her throat. She was too distracted with the desire to speak clearly to notice that the tears had stopped coming.
"Why can't it be mine?"
She grasped her sides. The knots of energy were sluggishly scrapping against her nerves. they sent pulses of heat over her.
"I want that world."
She curled into a ball on the grass and let the cool wind blow across her slightly moistened cheek. The tears were already drying. Her eyes were open, staring into nothingness. Her mouth shut and she sat in silence.
"I want that world."
Yes, but that's not what I have.
She took in a deep, cleansing breath and the heat subsided. Sakura released her legs and stood. The little paper in her hand gave her a reason to step forward. With a hand over her chest, gripping the skin over her heart, Sakura took in gulps of air and stared at the sky. The foggy atmosphere thickened and Sakura noticed the misty rain falling. The drops could barely be seen on her clothing, but it was raining. The wind blew it into her face and stung her eyes.
She had to move forward. If she wanted to change the way things were, she had move first. There's always a first step.
Sakura's eyes flickered from the note to the name on the entrance. This was the house. The kunoichi smiled at its simplicity and coziness and knocked on the door.
A small woman swung the door wide. Sakura flinched back at her openness. The woman didn't bother to check and see if it was a murderer or an assassin waiting on her porch. Instead she immediately pulled away the screen door and allowed Sakura to enter.
"Tsu-chan told me you were coming."
Sakura's breath caught. "Tsu-chan?"
"Yes, Tsubame. The woman at the herbal shop?" She looked at Sakura's frozen face and gasped, "Did I get it wrong? She said you had pink hair…" Her fuzzy eyes saw the hood and mistook it for her hair color. "I'm so sorry I dragged you inside! I thought that—"
"No! You're right." Sakura quickly removed the hood, flustered because the other woman had noticed.
The old lady saw the strange color and her stature eased. "I was so worried. I have a habit of getting ahead of myself. There are so many customers lately. Tsu-chan has a way of spreading news about me… You're the third person today to ask for a room."
Sakura looked around for the first time. The living room was decorated with the optimistic colors of spring. There was a large couch in the center and stacks of books on every surface. The light protruded through large windows, but they couldn't feel the cold. There was a fireplace in the corner that sent waves of comfort throughout the room. Everything was in plain sight. Through those open windows anyone could break in. A shiver in her shoulders told her someone was out there.
The woman continued to talk as she led Sakura up a stairwell to where she would be staying. The hall was bright. More windows. She peeked into every room, the paranoia bred into her being couldn't help but check. Thanks to this, the kunoichi caught a glimpse of her temporary neighbors. The room was occupied by a young woman. She was short and dainty. Fragile, much like the town. Suddenly Sakura blushed when a taller man stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around the woman's tiny waist. He was well built. He would have been an excellent soldier had he lived in Konoha.
The woman stopped what she was doing and looked up. They both stared out of the large window, cuddling contently. They looked so perfect as they stared out at the beautiful wilderness. Sakura bumped into the woman infront of her, effectively distracted by the adorable scene, as she stopped before a blue door. The paint was pealing, but it gave it a well-loved appearance.
"This is it."
Sakura stepped inside. There was an old chair in the back covered with a thick crocheted blanket. There was a small desk and chest of drawers of matching colors, deep auburn, and a hollowed out spot on the wall that held wooden hangers. A small white door in the corner lead into the bathroom, she assumed. But, in the center of the room, the focal point of this fairytale tranquility was the double bed in the center. It had to have three mattresses under the small white comforter. She looked closer at the cloth and noticed the intricate navy flowers that didn't draw the eye at first. It was a beautiful bed…
But there was only one.
"I-I'm sorry." The woman smiled curiously at Sakura. "I have a friend staying with me."
Sakura felt a wave of guilt wash over her when the woman's expression dropped. "I had no idea. A family has already reserved the room with two beds." She placed a hand to her mouth, nibbling on her knuckles with her lips. "They asked me for it weeks ago…" The woman stood quietly, musing what to do.
When she looked up, her face was apologetic. Sakura's defense mode kicked in. They needed a place to stay. "It's alright. We can share, I'm sure." It looked like she would be forced out of a bed once again by a boy.
Her lie comforted the woman and her shoulders dropped in a sigh. "I'm so sorry for the inconvenience."
"No! Not at all. Thank you for taking us on such short notice."
The little woman wouldn't waste time and scurried to the stairs. "Dinner will be ready at 7PM, I won't disturb you until then. If you need something I'll be right in the kitchen." She started down the stairs with a new hop in her step, then she jerked her head up with a little gasp, "I'm Shizuka, by the way."
Sakura laughed breathlessly, "Thank you, Shizuka-san."
The woman finally left and Sakura retreated to her room.
She looked around at the furniture and her eyes were gradually drawn to the world outside. It was so peaceful in the mountains. No wonder Shizuka had so many customers.
"I don't want to leave…"
Sakura ran her fingers across the sill. The wood was unstable, the house creaked, but it was a home. The sound, defensive houses and apartments in Konoha were always prepared for war. This house wouldn't stand a chance against an attack. But…
This frailty made it more precious. This was a home.
She fell backwards onto the bed and shut her eyes. A chill passed through the room. She was very far from the fireplace. Sakura shuffled onto the tall mattresses and wrapped herself in a blanket matching the one over the chair. She leaned against the headboard and started to doze. Even in this simple house, she felt more secure than in Konoha. There were no shinobi looking for her here. No one knew who she was. Or what she was.
She nodded off into a dreamless awareness. Her eyes drifted across the room and her ears caught everything. The place was so empty. The shelves in her room had simple, bound books. No scrolls. No weapons. She could hear the creaking of feet and the muted talk between the couple. The manner of it was like honey on her tongue. No one had ever addressed in such a way. It was soothing and somewhat bittersweet. Nothing was that calm in Konoha.
Finally sleep settled on her and her eyes shut. The jitters that constantly plagued her danger filled life were silencing themselves. Her ears were the last to rest and as they lost their attentiveness she heard was a tap at the window. It was as if cold water had poured down her back. Her eyes snapped open.
There was a shadow staring at her through the glass.
Well, there's that. My first chapter. I know it doesn't spend much time with our favorite characters, but I assure you that everything in here is incredibly important in the long run. Did you all think I spent my lengthy break just twiddling my thumbs? I've condensed a very complex plot into fewer than twenty chapters to avoid pointless babble. Everything you read has meaning and will have an effect on the future. If you aren't paying attention, you'll lose your way!
Thank you for sticking with me in this first chapter of EnoK. I look forward to your comments and criticisms, so please review!
Next Chapter – Horripilation
Fear is a tyrant and a despot, more terrible than the rack, more potent than the snake.