Prologue: A Kunai in the Sunshine
"Come on, come on! And there'll be no turning back! You were only killing time and it can kill you right back. Come on, come on! It's time to burn up the fuse. You got nothing to do and even less to lose."- Jim Steinman
The floor boards creaked lightly as the robed man walked about his office, inspecting the carefully laid pentagram of candles before him. Wizened eyes scrutinized every minute detail in the hopes of ensuring the ritual would go as smoothly as possible. When he was satisfied, the man knelt down and begin lighting the candles, a faint rustle and a spark of blue chakra the only warning before the obsidian candles sprung to life.
As the room was bathed in an eerie orange glow, the elderly man's gaze made its way to the object occupying the center of the pentagram.
Heart, skull, bone, and flesh.
The four requirements to create the effigy necessary to complete the ritual.
The Black Sacrament.
The old man grimaced as he moved closer to the effigy and withdrew a small dagger and began to gently rub it with the violet petals he kept in his breast pocket.
The villagers called it "nightshade." Anyone could spot the unique flower growing in the woods, but only the most skilled of alchemists could convert the odd petals into poison.
Satisfied with his work, the man returned the remaining petals to his pocket. With a grimace he raised the dagger and plunged it deep into the "body" laying before him. As he continued to brutally stab his creation, he quietly whispered the words he knew to be necessary.
"Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear."
The man finished by driving the bloodied dagger into the heart of his "victim," leaving it there as he rose and wearily moved to sit in his chair. As his aged brown eyes kept watch over the now smoldering effigy, a chill breeze swept through the room, dousing the candles. The man's eyes widened as the few remaining wreaths of smoke swirled about the darkened room like angered specters raised from the grave, before they coalesced into a thick blanket of swirling gray and a lone figure stepped forward from the unnatural shroud.
"I honestly didn't expect to see you tonight. Surely you have people that handle errands such as this."
The smoke dissipated and revealed a tall figure wearing a black cloak and hood. "Hiruzen-sama, surely you knew that I would see to such a… sensitive matter personally?"
The Hokage sighed as he drew his pipe and lit it, once again filling his office with whorls of smoke. "I see… you always paid great attention to detail, Lucien."
The man smirked even though his cowl hid it from sight. "My dearest Hokage-sama, details–especially the minute ones– are the very essence of my existence! Speculation, inference, word of mouth, these things are such trifles!" The man answered as he sat down in a chair on the opposite end of the Hokage's desk. "I simply make it my business to know."
Sarutobi scowled at the hooded man. "Then surely you must realize the purpose of our meeting was not idle chatter?"
"Done with the pleasantries already, Hokage-sama? And here I thought we were friends," Lucien simpered.
"What I do is for the good of the village, my hand has been forced and I've chosen the lesser of two evils; no more, no less, Lucien." Sarutobi replied in a clipped manner.
Lucien's grin disappeared as leaned forward. "Then I'm sure, Hokage-sama, that you know there is only one person capable of doing what you ask. And surely you know what he'll demand from both of us…"
Sarutobi rubbed his temples wearily; he was in no position to bargain. "I am prepared to honor his request."
"Excellent!" Lucien exclaimed before a predatory grin flashed across his features. "But there is still the matter of your payment to the Dark Brotherhood, Hokage-sama…"
Sarutobi cringed. "What do you want, Lucien?"
"As the Speaker for the various sects located in Hi no Kuni, I've prevented my subordinates from taking direct action against many of your shinobi… I've kept them out of your affairs, so to speak. I am aware that you reciprocate this by allowing us sanctuary in your village, but what you are asking is no small favor. What you have in mind will most likely leave me in need of a new Silencer, Sarutobi. As such, 'what I want' is a replacement…"
The Hokage's blood ran cold… he knew who Lucien wanted, and if Lucien wanted someone that meant they held already met… certain criteria. Feeling much older than he actually was, Sarutobi sighed as he sat back in his chair. "Very well, then. I will not oppose your… involvement in the boy's life, and I will also see to it that Sasuke is kept safe. When can Itachi act?"
Lucien chuckled heartily. "It will be done before morning, Hokage-sama. The Uchiha were quickly becoming a thorn in my side; far too many of them have been whispering about openly opposing us."
Sarutobi nodded gravely, the Uchiha weren't known for making friends. "And what of Itachi?"
The mysterious man grinned as he stood up. "I'm going to have him keep tabs on another mutual enemy, Hokage-sama."
Sarutobi wore a resigned look on his face as he processed Lucien's answer. "Akatsuki?"
Instead of confirming or denying the man simply bowed his head. "Farewell, Hokage-sama. May the Night Mother keep you in her loving embrace."
With those parting words, Lucien promptly faded into the blackness, leaving Sarutobi with nothing but the weight of his decisions.
It had started out as such a great day– the best, in fact. He had been passing time at the park as he waited for the sun to finally dip below the horizon so he could go home and make his evening meal; a prospect that had excited him to no end.
He was making ramen that night, after all.
So when the great big ball that brought him morning finally touched the stretch of ground that was farther away than his young mind could comprehend, bathing the purpling sky above in an ethereal orange glow, he had decided to begin the long trek home.
It was then that he had seen it.
Partially submerged in the dusty grains of sand filling the sandbox, the glinting edge of a discarded kunai called to him as it reflected the fiery hues emanating from the day's dying sun. His light blue eyes– filled with awe and wonderment– darted back and forth, searching for any potential threat.
A few years of having enraged villagers chase and beat him had given him a healthy sense of paranoia.
Convinced that no one was going to appear and flog him, he bent down and snatched the abandoned blade from its sandy confines and held it up for a closer inspection. Adequate lighting revealed the kunai to be in… acceptable condition. The bands of cloth wrapped around the hilt had unraveled and fallen away, leaving the metal shaft bare and rusty. The actual blade itself had lost most of its natural luster, but when he held it just right it refracted the sun's light and shone in way that let him catch metallic glimpses of himself reflecting off the kunai's monochromatic surface.
He had giggled like a child possessed as he flung the blade around, slashing at invisible enemies only he could see. It was the most spectacular feeling he'd ever experienced, the rush of fending off vicious attackers from lands far away, and imagining himself a brave hero sent to stop the reign of tyranny and injustice plaguing his homelands.
He soon found himself swept away in his imagination, that beautiful thing all children possess that they can escape to when reality becomes too much. In his mind he could find love and acceptance when he rescued the Daimyo's captured daughter from villainous mercenaries. He was never alone when he charged into battle with his oldest friends and comrades as they prepared to fight the final battle that would see an end to 'The War' and finally bring peace to the Elemental Countries.
But the thing about imagination is that it is rooted in reality. No matter how much the boy willed it, he wasn't really there, and he wasn't really him. He was Naruto Uzumaki, and he was an orphan playing by himself in the park because he didn't have any friends.
But surely that would change when he started his lessons at the academy next week; Ojii-san had said so.
Naruto returned his attention to the dull blade currently grasped in his right hand. As he was vanquishing his enemies, a rather intriguing fact had wriggled its way into his mind: this was a ninja tool! Somewhere out in the world, a shinobi had used this kunai in battle! How many opponents had the simple blade slain for its previous master? Perhaps this blade was the one that saved its master's life!
So it was with visions of grandeur and heroism that Naruto Uzumaki had made his way home with, greatly excited by being the only student in his class who would possess an actual ninja tool! The young blonde was in such high spirits that he for once found himself oblivious to the cruel and hate-filled stares of the villagers.
What did it matter? What were the worries of day to day life to a little boy who had suddenly found himself on cloud nine? They mattered not, apparently. The boy had quickly come to the conclusion that everything was going to get better; as Naruto turned into the back alley he used to discreetly enter his apartment complex, he couldn't help but smile as he tucked his newfound possession into the baggy sleeve of his shirt.
Naruto quickly made his way over to the alley's back wall and pulled the latch that released the ladder he used to scale the building's fire escape. A few years of running from angry mobs had quickly taught the boy that multiple escape routes were necessary for survival.
As his small hand reached for the first rung on the ladder, a rock impacted the side of his skull with a terrible "crack." Naruto fell over sideways, clutching his head as shockwaves of pure agony radiated from the now freely bleeding wound located just above his right temple.
Naruto quickly attempted to crawl away– to at least find some form of shelter from his attacker. The blonde set his eyes on a large dumpster near the fire escape and hurriedly began making his way towards it, ignoring the horrible stinging in his knees as they were dragged across the alley's abrasive surface.
Naruto looked back and saw that his assailant was quickly advancing on him; the man's pace made it clear that Naruto was not going to find shelter soon enough. Praying that whoever this man was he possessed even a shred of mercy, Naruto attempted to appeal to him.
The villager watched as the demon turned to him with tears in his eyes.
"P-Please! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'll make it up to you– whatever I did I-I'll… I'll fix–"
The blonde's pleas died abruptly when the man grabbed Naruto and violently slammed him against the alley, pinning the young boy to the wall by his neck.
"Look at me."
Naruto continued to struggle even as breathing became harder and harder, until the man shook him again and tightened his grip on Naruto's neck.
"LOOK AT ME!"
The man gained a small amount of satisfaction as a pair of wide, blue eyes met his own. "You took from me, everything that I had, demon. YOU STOLE MY LIFE! On that night, you murdered my son and wife, you snuffed out their lives like they were mere insects…"
The blonde's eyes bulged as his would-be murderer began to strangle him with both hands.
"And now, demon, I'm going to watch the light fade from your eyes, I'm going to watch their luster flicker and die as I send you to the Hell you so rightfully deserve…"
Naruto could feel his heart thundering inside his chest, threatening to burst from all the fear and stress. His throat ached and burned from the pressure being exerted on him. The boy continued to weep as breathing became harder and harder, and a creeping sense of finality washed over him.
The cruel specter had finally come for him.
And it had started as such a good day, too.
Naruto's arms finally began to tire and slacken as the oxygen deprivation became too much.
Then he felt it.
With strength he didn't know he possessed, Naruto gripped the cold steel in his wrist and drove it forward; sinking it deep into the man's ribcage. The man's grip slackened as he stumbled backwards and fell over, Naruto on top of him.
With a feral roar, the little blonde plunged his bloodied weapon into his attacker over and over again. Each successive stab produced a number of wet and cracking sounds as the kunai ruptured blood vessels and shattered the bones protecting the assailant's vital organs.
But the man's eyes, they never changed. From the first stab, they never moved from staring into nothingness. Even as the man gurgled and drowned in his own blood, even as his body spasmed from the pain and shock, and even as Naruto plunged his kunai into the man's neck, burying it to the hilt, those glassy, brown eyes never moved as they tried to comprehend what was happening.
Even as the brain shut down, firing a few last-second transmissions throughout the nervous system, those eyes would know nothing. All they would have was the final image burned into the now dead man's retinas.
A hellish vision of glowing, crimson eyes with slitted pupils staring into his own as his own life faded away.
It wouldn't come off.
No matter how long he sat under the shower head, the blood wouldn't wash out from his clothes. As he had run home crying, he could feel it. It was in his hair, it covered his hands, it dried under his fingernails, and it soaked through his clothes.
He had scrubbed for hours, crying as the blood stained his shower water a grotesque pink, in his attempt to wash it all away, the memory, the man, the eyes… but most of all, he wanted to get rid of the feeling.
The boy shuddered violently and quickly stripped off his clothes and kicked them into the far corner of the shower. The feeling was a mild improvement; it had become painfully obvious that his clothes would have to be thrown away. In reality, buying new clothes was the very least of Naruto's problems.
He had killed someone!
Was he going to jail? Surely he was; Ojii-san wouldn't be able to help him this time.
Naruto never ceased crying as he dried himself and crawled into bed, one thought playing over and over in his addled mind.
"Will Ojii-san visit me in jail?"
Naruto woke up shivering. A bitter chill had entered his drafty apartment and disturbed him from his sleep, the ratty comforter he used to keep warm incapable of retaining a sufficient amount of heat to keep him comfortable. The bleary-eyed boy sat up and looked around his dark apartment, and his eyes locked onto the blue drapes he hung over his window for privacy. Said drapes were currently billowing quietly as a cold breeze blew into his bedroom.
Immediately Naruto was on edge. He never left his window open.
Naruto crawled to the edge of his bed and flicked on his lamp. As the light crackled to life, the young blonde jumped back in horror as the fluorescent light revealed a black-robed man sitting at the edge of his bed.
"You sleep rather sound for a murderer, child."
The blonde's blood ran cold. Somehow this man knew what he did.
"I-I… I don't know what you're talking about!" Naruto squeaked as he scooted back to the far edge of his bed.
"Oh?" The man replied as he reached into his sleeve, "Then I don't suppose you would recognize this, would you, child?"
Naruto flinched as the man withdrew an old kunai from his sleeve; the glinting metal dulled by the crusted blood stuck to its edge.
"Who are you and what do you want!?"
The man chuckled as he lowered his hood, revealing light-brown eyes, slightly tanned skin, and a thatch of short, black hair. "Where are my manners? My name is Lucien Lachance, child. Might I ask yours?"
Lucien smiled as he continued to scrutinize Naruto's discarded kunai. "Tell me, child, why is it that you abandoned this weapon? Why did you leave it to rust in that dank alley? A memento such as this is to be treasured!"
The boy looked down in shame, tears welling up in his eyes. "I d-didn't wanna get caught… I thought if I hid the kunai, everyone would think someone else d-did it…" Naruto broke down as sobs wracked his small frame, his own admission of guilt finally getting to him.
Lucien smiled as he picked up the crying boy and sat him down in his lap. "It's okay, Naruto-kun. That man was going to hurt you, what you did was only natural."
The crying boy looked up as he desperately clung to Lachance's robes. "N-Natural…?"
"But of course," Lucien drawled, "We have been watching you for quite some time, Naruto-kun. Our family makes it a priority to keep an eye on promising individuals such as yourself…"
"Your family's been watching me?"
"Ah, I'm afraid I've forgotten to mention some details pertinent to our discussion… one's memory tends to fade as age seeps in, Naruto-kun," Lucien joked, earning a rather wet giggle from Naruto, "I am a Speaker of the Dark Brotherhood, a rather… unique family that performs certain services for those who know how to contact us."
"Shinobi are a lie, Naruto-kun. They live in the dark and deal in lies, riddles, and death, forever bound to the village they serve. The Dark Brotherhood is bound only to the Night Mother and the Lord Sithis… and we, dear child, are the ones who tell lies to the liars."
"Who's the Night Mother?" Naruto asked as he wiped away a few stray tears.
"She is the one that guides our family, and She has seen how the village has treated you, Naruto-kun. Every blow that you've been struck with, She has felt. Every cruel word yelled at you has echoed in her ears. And every tear you've shed, She has wept in sorrow with you.
"That is why She sent me tonight, Naruto-kun. I am here to offer you a place in our family. Join us and I can promise that you will never be alone again, no more will you have to fear the villagers' wrath, and no more will you go wanting in this life."
It almost seemed too good to be true; to the boy who had been denied everything in his life, the promise of a loving family was all he could ever want.
But a specific thought stopped him in his tracks.
"B-But I k-killed someone!"
"That you did, Naruto-kun, that you did. But you must understand that we are different from the common ilk found in this village; the Dark Brotherhood won't fault you for such trifles. If anything, we would encourage it. All that we ask of you is your loyalty, pledge your loyalty to the Dark Brotherhood, the Night Mother, and the Dark Lord Sithis, and we shall never abandon you. Join our family, and we will train you to be an instrument of the Unholy Matron.
Lucien smiled as he looked down at Naruto. "Join us, Naruto-kun, and we can give you all that you'd ever want or need."
Naruto nodded in acceptance, despite the guilty feeling gnawing at the back of his skull.
"Something still troubles you, Naruto-kun. Your face easily betrays your emotions."
The young blonde buried his face into Lucien's chest. "When I… did it… I… I felt– it felt…" The final word came out as barely a whisper, "…good."
"Children these days, so eager to make friends…" "Poor, poor, child. This village and its foolish ways have corrupted your thinking. They would scorn you for taking pleasure from the kill, but the Brotherhood? We will encourage it. Do not fight the feelings of joy and pleasure at watching your enemies die and listening to the breath fade from their lungs… embrace them! Use those feelings to strengthen the resolve in your heart, and never forget that whatever you do, you do it in the name of the Night Mother!"
Naruto sniffed and nodded, his fears somewhat assuaged.
"For the Night Mother?"
Lucien smiled. Things were always so much fun when all the pieces willingly moved into place.
"That's right, Naruto-kun. For the Night Mother," Lachance answered as the shadows whisked him and his young charge away.
A/N: Firstly, you can think pudgypudge for issuing the "Oblivion CHALLENGE." Without him this story wouldn't be here. Now, it's important to remember that this story is an AU, so some things will be different this time around; The Brotherhood's involvement in the Uchiha Massacre is a good example. Next, is the concept of "family." Naruto has always longed for a family to call his own, and in a lot of stories author's change things around and give him one. This usually results in "Happy!Naruto" where the young Uzumaki becomes a clan leader and masters techniques at an alarming pace. I don't have anything against such stories, but I've always liked the idea of giving Naruto a family, and having him turn out far worse than would have had he been left alone. Anyhow, for pairings, I'm probably going to go with Naruto/Haku/Hinata; the three of them seem to be the best bet for advancing that particular aspect of the story in the best way possible. I hope you enjoyed the prologue, and I hope you'll chime in with your comments and/or suggestions.
P.S. I still plan on updating my other story as well. I plan on finishing both of my Naruto stories, so I won't abandon them.