Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, or any of the characters, places, or events from Naruto. I don't get paid for this at all so please don't sue me, I'm fairly poor.
Fore note: This is a sort of sequel to New Blood, it takes place just before the fifth arc, the first arc of the sequel. One doesn't need to read New Blood to read this because almost everything is from Tai's perspective, Tai doesn't know whom anyone is (he knows Sasuke by reputation) and he explains the setting. Those who have read New Blood and plan to read the full sequel don't necessarily have to read this to understand what's going on there, all in all this should be able to stand alone but also sets up the first chapters of Old Souls.
This was written as a one-shot but ended up being ridiculously long. Thus I've split it into chapters, but posted it all at once anyway. The chapters may or may not end at less than perfect moments, but in any event this should make it easier to take breaks while reading, after all not everyone can sit through twenty pages with the real Naruto cast not showing up until the ending. For those who have not and do not plan to read New Blood I guess I might explain why the Naruto cast does not show up until the end . . . Orochimaru came back to life, won a Great War that took place during New Blood, and now the Naruto characters are in hiding until they can strike back . . . yeah. Check my profile for a link to our message board.
She didn't make a single sound as she leapt from roof to roof. At one point she landed centimeters from a nest, and was so swift and silent that she didn't disturb the birds.
She came to a small dwelling, the lights were on, the inhabitants were home.
She stealthily moved over the roof, the neighbors were all asleep or had at least doused their lights, only the street lamps and the dim glow from within the house lit the moonless night.
She tilted her head to the side and looked through the solid roof, her eyes showing her the inhabitants within. Their location, their number.
The owner of the home was a historian, a recorder, and he had some sort of strange and utterly incorrect idea that history should be recorded as it happened, rather than how the Shogun proclaimed it.
The man was wrong and he had been given warnings, still he refused to change his writings, insisted on recording the ending of the war as he had experienced it, rather than as the Shogun had commanded it be remembered.
All of his neighbors knew what would happen to him. They had doused their lights early as a sign that they would not be witnesses, they would not say a word, condemning him and his family for fear of what might happen to them if they didn't.
Her target as well must have known what his rebellion of the written word would cost him, but he was firm in his decision . . . she supposed it was brave.
Brave . . . but foolish.
She smiled, taking a head count. Husband, wife, three children.
The children were asleep, their mother was with them, watching over them.
But the father stood alone in a separate room.
There was no one else anywhere near, she could be in and out in mere moments.
She sprang from the rooftop and leapt in through a window, landing soundlessly.
She rolled to her feet, hands empty but lethal on their own.
The historian turned to look at her.
"We thought it would be tonight . . ." He said calmly, the woman smirked and tilted her head to the side, "what took you?" Her target asked, and she just gave an exaggerated shrug.
She cracked her knuckles, it was the first noise she'd made since beginning the mission. The historian turned to her and said "Your orders are to take me?" he reasoned.
She smiled and shook her head, the color drained from his face just a bit, "To kill me then . . ." he sighed but the young woman let her eyes very noticeably dart towards the room where the man's children slept and where his wife watched over them.
Now all the color drained from the man's face, he said "Please . . . not them. I know I must die but . . . this never concerned them."
"Yes it did . . . it was always about them," The woman said, finally speaking, "don't try to lie to me, what is the recording of history for if not the next generation? You defied the Shogun for the sake of your children and their children."
The man hung his head, tears rolled down his cheeks, "Kill me first." He whispered.
"Kill you? But if you die tonight, how will you learn from your mistakes?" The young woman sneered, and she stretched forth her hand, flames forming in her palm.
The man rushed forward "No!" He screamed, "No, I beg you, I'll do anything!"
She diverted her hand and set flame to a chair, "Burn your writing, burn it all this very moment. Every scrap of it, destroy the history you recorded, forsake everything you claim to believe in . . . and your children will be spared."
To the man's credit, or perhaps against it, he didn't move right away, he hesitated, and that made the kunoichi's entertainment all the greater.
Finally he did move, he gathered together scrolls, writings, notes and moved towards the fire.
He hesitated again, his wife burst from behind the door to the children's room, "No, don't!" She cried, "let her kill us, you carry on, don't let the sacrifices the Konoha ninja made die with them, make sure that future generations know that the Nine Tails and the Village hidden in Leaves stood up against this evil!"
The young woman smiled sinisterly, "Burn the writing, I'll destroy it either way, you might as well save yourself and your family . . . all it costs is your beliefs."
The man glared at her, then threw his scrolls in the fire.
"I will record the history the Shogun commands." He said calmly, "Spare my family."
The young woman smiled sinisterly, "My orders are very clear . . . you have pleased the Shogun, therefore . . ." She reached into her sleeve as if she meant to draw forth a scroll of pardon, instead she drew a knife and threw it. It sank into the man's throat and he fell to the ground grasping at his neck, "therefore I grant your request to die before your mate and whelps."
The man's wife looked horrified, "Why? You told him if he burned the--"
"I just wanted to toy with him, see if he'd do it." The kunoichi smiled. "Now, we can do this the easy way . . . or the entertaining way. Care to see how far you and the little ones get?"
The woman's lip trembled as tears rolled down her cheeks, "I'll curse you with my dying--" suddenly the woman was unable to finish her sentence.
"Easy way it is." The young ninja sighed, wiping the kunai she'd used to slice the housewife's neck on the dying woman's sleeve, "Maybe the kids will be more fun."
The woman, trying to breathe through a gash in her neck grasped the younger woman's ankle with surprising strength and tried to stop her. The kunoichi smiled, "Fine, fine," she said, "you win old girl . . . I won't set foot in that room." Her hand moved to her side, selecting a capsule of her own blood she smashed it against a tattoo on her left palm and a great purple, furry spider the size of a young horse appeared in the room.
"Go kiss the children goodnight." The ninja ordered her minion.
The spider clicked its mandibles and sped off through the still open door. No sounds escaped from the children's room, but the kunoichi knew what was happening in there.
She smiled at the children's mother, the wife of her real target, the woman was dead, but a look of horror and helplessness was chiseled onto her face, the last expression she'd ever make.
The younger woman tore her leg free and stood in the doorway of the children's room, honoring her promise not to actually enter for no reason other than her own amusement. She called her minion back, it gave her a look then disappeared.
She smiled and removed a scroll from her equipment pouch, a list of the laws and dictations of the Emperor and the Shogun.
She stuck it to the front door with a bloody kunai, then calmly left the premises, walking leisurely through the front door, stopping to admire her own handiwork.
Aside from the kunai in the door one would never know anything was wrong even the flames from her fire Jutsu had dispersed themselves at her will, rather than burning down the entire house.
She put her hands in her pockets and returned to her master.
Ito Taiki was like any other seven year old boy, or at least he thought so.
His father was a general, his mother was the daughter of one of the most powerful merchant families in the Empire, but that was them. Tai himself was normal.
He enjoyed the festivals, sports and games, he didn't like girls very much. That isn't to say he hated them, he just didn't like them, they were kind of dumb and irritating, always giggling over every little thing.
He went to the worship ceremonies every Wednesday, he didn't really like them, but he went. He burned incense and offerings at the Serpent shrines, even though they scared him.
And like any other little boy he hated the ninja.
But as normal as Tai himself was, his parents weren't. His father was Ito Yoshi, a general of the armies Mizu, his mother was Ito Ichiteru, first born daughter of the Ishida clan of merchants which had its shops and representatives in every land.
And since his father, Yoshi, was a samurai, Tai was a samurai. He would someday become a soldier of the Water Country.
Despite all this he was a normal boy, he didn't choose to have famous parents or to be rich, he didn't choose to have everyone worship the ground he walked on, really he didn't.
Whenever he expressed this his mother would always smile and say that he reminded her of someone she used to know, but what help was that to him?
His father would always just say "We cannot escape our destiny."
That was even less helpful.
He practiced with a wooden sword when his father made him, but he wasn't really all that good at it, and since he wasn't good at it he didn't like it.
It wasn't even necessary, the war was over, the ninja had been wiped out or driven to hiding, the Lands of Fire were now the Lands of Sound, the Serpent God had been reborn as Emperor of all five great nations and peace reigned.
It was so peaceful that wealthy families like his could even holiday in other countries, something that would have been impossible in Tai's youth because of the war that was being fought. He and his family were vacationing in the Land of Waves, a beautiful place really, he liked the look of it.
But none of his friends were there, and none of the kids around wanted to be his friend, for the most part they kept their distance, bowed, and stuff like that.
So he was lonely.
His closest relative was his aunt Eri, she lived in Otogakure, but she didn't have any kids he could play with and he hadn't seen her for a year.
She'd been kind of weird, but she taught him to climb trees and he'd liked that.
His mother hadn't, and she liked it even less the more of Tai's clothes got ripped and torn as he climbed trees, so he'd had to lay off the climbing whenever his mom was around, but being a kid he was always happy to show off in front of his friends.
Not that there were any friends here to show off in front of, of course.
But sometimes you just had to show off for yourself, and with hours to wait before supper Tai spotted a really nice tree and, having nothing better to do he'd started to climb it.
Climbing it was easy, the branches were close to each other and sturdy, in no time he was at the top, he took a look around, surveying the scenery.
The City of Waves had prospered greatly it covered an entire island and a great deal of the coast nearby, connected by a long bridge the two halves were called the old city, where the wealthy merchant and samurai families lived and where Tai was currently, and of course the city on the coast was the new city, where everyone else lived, where most of the work was done.
From this tree top he could just make out the bridge and the ocean, but the new city was too far away to be seen.
Still, he could just imagine it, a bustling town full of the lower castes. He hadn't seen it when the ship that carried him and his parents in from the major island of The Lands of Water. They'd arrived by the private port of the wealthy, so that the lower lesser peoples couldn't bother them and so they wouldn't inspire envy.
Tai didn't like it. He was curious about the lower castes, after all if he were supposed to be a Samurai someday, a warrior who might have to die for the people he wanted to know who or what he could be dying for, whether or not it was worth it.
Maybe it was because he was just a kid, but he didn't want to die at all, let alone for someone he didn't know, he didn't even want to fight for someone he didn't know, let them fight for themselves. He didn't understand why anyone should ever fight for someone else, unless they were friends. Tai always helped his friends when they got into fights.
He sighed and stared out at the distant mainland.
It was so much bigger than his home, the island that hosted the capital city of Kirigakure, no longer a ninja village, the former Ninja Academy was now a Samurai school which Tai would be attending starting next year.
By then he'd have to understand why he was going to devote his entire life to the art of war.
Not that there were any wars now that the Emperor and the Shogun had put peace to the world.
Tai sighed. He wasn't a prince longing to be a pauper, he didn't want to live in the lower castes' part of the city, but he wanted to see it, see what it was like . . . and see if he was as normal as he thought.
Did poor boys play the same games or talk about the same things? Did they read the same scrolls, study the same histories he studied?
His father had gone to the poorer districts the other day with a few soldiers because of some security issue, apparently a Shinobi had been spotted and a family had been murdered, and even on holiday a Samurai Taisho was a servant of his Daimyo, so in the interest of serving the Daimyo, Tai's father had investigated the attack.
Tai had wanted to go along, but he was told it wouldn't be appropriate, "There could be danger, besides, you don't want to see a murder scene do you?" His father had said, and he was right, but Tai did want to see the city.
He sighed, he was about to climb down since seeing the city forbidden to him was starting to depress him, and since mother would expect him back soon, but as he climbed down he heard something.
"Careful of your step," A robed man at the bottom of the tree said, "you are Ito Taiki, yes?"
Tai blinked, this man wore a gray robe. It had a hood, but the man didn't have that on.
He hadn't shaved in some time but he didn't have a well organized beard like Tai's father, just thin stubble so he probably shaved usually but hadn't managed to get around to it lately. His short hair was black, but since he was so far down the tree his eyes were too far away for Tai to really make out their color, but they didn't seem hostile or dangerous.
So Tai answered the man's question, "Yes I am," Tai said, though he wasn't about to go any further down the tree until he knew for sure that that wouldn't be a bad idea, after all only stupid kids approached strangers.
The man tilted his head to the side and smirked, "I'm an associate of your father's, has he returned from the city yet, or should I wait for him?"
"I dunno." Tai admitted.
The man nodded, "Right then. You want me to escort you home, or would that make you feel too uncomfortable?"
Tai scoffed, "I'm not scared of you!" He shouted.
"And you've no need to be." The man said, still smirking, "I couldn't hurt a fly, believe me, I've tried. They're crazy hard to catch you know."
Tai smiled slightly, but he didn't feel fully at ease.
Some strange man in robes had appeared out of nowhere and started trying to act all friendly and nice, claiming to know Tai's father but then everyone knew of Tai's father so it wouldn't be impossible for this person to be a liar out to kidnap him or something then ransom him back to his parents, after all his grandfather had more wealth than any other merchant.
Not as much as a Daimyo of course, that would be illegal.
Tai didn't move from the tree, the man shrugged and said "I'll just go wait for your father then, and no worries, I won't tell your mother you were climbing trees. Have a good day."
And with that he simply left. Tai watched him go and when he was certain he was gone he climbed down.
He ran home--or to their vacation home anyway--as fast as his legs could carry him, arriving just in time to see his father climbing down from his horse.
"Father!" Tai said, bowing low, "How was the city?"
"Let's not talk about that," Ito Yoshi grunted, stroking his beard thoughtfully. He eyed his son and smiled, "Climbing? Your mother won't like that."
Tai smiled disarmingly, was it that obvious he'd been climbing? He had been very careful not to rip his clothes . . . when they reached the door Tai realized how his father knew, because when Tai's father removed his shoes before entering Tai found that he'd never put his back on, in his rush to get home he must have forgotten them.
Slightly panicked he was about to turn and go back for them but his father slapped his shoulder and said "I'll order one of the servants to find them, it's going to be dark soon, we should be inside."
"Was there really a ninja, father?" Tai asked, wondering if maybe that was why his father didn't want him out after dark, but his father just shook his head.
"Don't concern yourself with that sort of thing, my son. It'll be years before you need to worry about things like ninja."
Not true, but Tai didn't realize that at the time.
To Be Continued . . .