Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters are created by Masashi Kishimoto, but the new plots are mine. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
Title: The Lost One
Summary: Memories lost, Itachi began to settle into life as a civilian in a secluded village. But when fate thrust Sakura into the picture, he knew he could no longer avoid his past. ItaSaku. Spoiler up to Manga Chapter 449. 50-shinobi Theme No 28: Blood Limit.
A/N: Welcome to another one of my ItaSaku multichaptered story. It is actually the first part of a much bigger story. Anyway, as with all my other stories, I hope that you will enjoy this one as well. Here goes…
The Lost One by elle6778 – Chapter 1
Bright rays of sunlight.
That must be what the warmth bathing his face was, he decided. The glow beyond his closed eyelids suggested that much. He could also detect the fresh scent of the earth and trees; the intensity of the scent and the dampness of the ground against his back immediately informing him that he was in some form of forest, and that it was spring.
Most importantly, his senses told him that he was alone.
It was oddly disorientating, comprehending his surroundings without actually visualizing with his eyes, but his subconscious told him that such was the norm for him. His subconscious told him that he had been viewing the world thusly for a long time, long enough for it to be second nature.
Perhaps he was visually impaired, simply incapable of actually seeing with his eyes. Somehow, such a notion did not sit well with him. It brought forth a feeling of anger, of betrayal, and finally, a sense of acceptance. The rush of emotions was unexpected. It was odd, to say the least.
Needing to know the truth, he willed himself to open his eyes.
For a while, he struggled with the motion. It felt as if his eyelids were fused together, refusing to part, refusing to allow him to see what lay beyond the thin film of skin.
He persevered, not accepting defeat.
And then a shaft of brightness shone through a small horizontal slit between his lids. He gritted his teeth against the uncomfortable glare. This, at least, informed him that he was not completely sightless.
Ignoring the less-than-pleasant sensation, he opened his eyes fully.
Colors flooded his vision; the various shades of green of the leafy canopy above, the brilliant blue of the sky beyond, and lower, the wild forest flowers of various hues. There were birds of different shades of color flitting from tree to tree, their flapping wings keeping them afloat in the air. A feather escaped, fluttering down at him, almost as if it was dancing in the air. He caught it with his fingers, studying the fineness of the individual branches.
It was breathtaking.
It was breathtaking because every object appeared so sharp, so perfectly outlined. And he knew now that his earlier assumption must be correct, that he had been visually impaired. Now, however, his vision was perfect. But how was it that he was capable of such feat?
Blinking slowly, he pushed himself up on his elbows, lifting his upper body away from the ground. Yes, he was in a forest. It was an unfamiliar one. Then again, everything was unfamiliar to him at the moment.
Carefully, he straightened his limbs and stood up shakily, steadying himself against a nearby tree. His muscles were stiff, telling him that he had not moved for a while. A quick perusal of his form assured him that he was physically sound, albeit a little hungry and dirty.
What had happened to him?
Staring into the depth of the forest, he attempted to recall what he could. Fragments of memories flashed across his mind, each disconnected with another. It did not make sense, no matter how he attempted to piece them together. The images were separate, disconnected pieces of unrelated events.
He saw a flash of engraved metal; a swirl with a pointed corner. Then there was another image, a wisp of smoke and a black feather floating to the ground. There was a target fixed upon a tree trunk. He saw himself practicing with a pouch of shuriken and seals.
A stab of pain in his head broke his concentration, and he bit back a groan. Inhaling deeply, he told himself to remain calm, and to focus on retrieving his memory.
The seals, he reminded himself.
Fingers flashing, twisting to perform the required seals…
An explosion of water and of fire…
The cry of pain as the attack connected with its target…
The sharp, gleaming blade of a katana as it sliced through flesh, bringing forth a gush of thick, red blood…
And it came to him from nowhere. He did not know how he knew, but he just did.
He was a ninja.
Another sharp pain cleaved through his head, and this time, there was no stopping it. He held his head as pain pounded through his skull. His attempts to recall his memories seemed to be the trigger for the pain, as if it was simply too much effort for him to remember. As if his mind did not wish for him to recall any of his past.
Grunting in pain, he fixed his focus on another indistinct image, another shadow of memory.
A flash of a metal studded face, and a deep voice calling out to him, almost in a rumble. The face was oddly familiar, and yet unfamiliar. He strained to focus on capturing the elusive memory, knowing that it was important. The lips were moving, forming words, some kind of incantation. Then it was saying something else, something…
And then he caught it.
The voice was calling out a name.
The voice was calling him Itachi.
The splashing sounds and the tinkling of children's laughter as they played at the riverbank reached Itachi as he walked by. At his approach, two of them paused, and then waved cheerfully at him. In response, he inclined his head at them, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
He walked to the edge of the river and knelt down, staring at his reflection as he did so. The image which stared back at him was almost unrecognizable from the one which had reflected back to him more than a year ago. Then, his face had been pale, gaunt and his hair long. Now, the wholesome village life had rounded his cheeks and taken away his pallor.
He continued to stare at his reflection, recalling what had happened then, beside another river.
…He stood at the bank of a gently flowing river, staring at the running water for a moment before he crouched next to it. Dipping his hands into the water, he cupped a handful of the cold liquid, bringing it to his lips to quench his thirst.
Once satisfied, he dropped his moist hands to his side and glanced up to scan his surroundings. He was encircled by trees which he subconsciously knew were not native to where he had come from. The land he was in seemed almost wild. Untouched. Unspoiled.
Predictably, he did not know where he was. Somewhere to the west of where he had woken up. Still, that did not matter. He had no particular destination in mind, although he knew that he should avoid shinobi villages, lest he was recognized. Tactically, that would be unwise, for it would put him at a disadvantage as he did not even know who he was.
For the past one week, he had wandered aimlessly, trying to work out some form of plan as he did so. The only break in his monotony was the three encounters he had with bandits travelling through the forest. With several efficient moves he could not remember how he had came to be aware of in the first place, he had disabled them in less than a minute each time. The fact that he had done so suggested that he was not a weak fighter.
Still crouched by the edge of the river, he stared down at his reflection. In his right hand, the dagger he had taken from the last bandit dangled loosely.
He would describe himself as average-looking, but certainly on the gaunt side. Long black hair fell freely about his pale face. Deep grooves slashed under his onyx eyes, perhaps making him appear older than he was. He would not know, as he had no knowledge of his actual age.
Instinct told him that until he rediscovered his background and knew where he stood in this unfamiliar world, it was best that he disguised himself. Regardless of his lack of memories, he was certain that there was someone out there who would recognize him. Someone who knew who he was. No one was completely alone, after all. If anyone recognized him, then he would be taken by unawares, as he would not be able to recognize either friend or foe.
His reflection stared back at him from the surface of the river. He needed to modify his appearance. It would not do to be recognized before he was in possession of all the pertinent facts about his past.
The sunlight hit the blade of the dagger as he brought it close to his face.
And in minutes, the reflection that stared back at him was not quite so familiar. The dagger being the only sharp implement he possessed, the best he could manage was to crop his black hair close to his skull, but not quite bald. When he arrived at the next village, he would purchase a better tool and finish the task properly.
For the moment, this would suffice…
As the memory faded, Itachi averted his gaze from his reflection and moved away from the river. He had kept his head shaven since then, as a part of his disguise, even though it had been unnecessary as he had not left the village since the war had begun. It had been fortunate that the war had not spilled into the village, for such a thing would surely force him to reveal his shinobi background.
When he resumed his 'patrol' around the village, Itachi thought over his life for the past one year. It was the only life he knew so far. The villagers were friendly, trusting him even though he was a stranger. He could abuse his position and leave the village vulnerable if he chose to, but it appeared that such things did not even cross their mind. Not that he had any intention of doing so.
This village had been good to him, and he was content to remain indefinitely, although there was always a voice at the back of his mind, reminding him that there was a task he needed to perform before he could settle anywhere permanently.
His memories. He needed to recall his past, even though he was not certain that the past was something he wanted to recall. And yet, needing and wanting were two completely different things.
At the moment, he was reluctant to upset the peaceful life he had found here. However, he knew that one day, he would have to venture out of this village, and he knew that when he did, it would be time to unearth his past.
As he continued to walk along the dusty streets of the rural village, he recalled how he had ended up there in the first place.
…He had travelled for a long time. Perhaps a month or two. He had stopped counting after a while, for it seemed pointless. Villages after villages passed in a blur; they had been indistinguishable from each other after the first ten or so, but the terrain had changed from the wet, rich soil which encouraged greenery to the arid dryness of the desert, to his current location of a temperate mountainous terrain dotted with countless wild hot springs.
It was winter in this country. Dry leaves crunched lightly under his feet as his made his way through the deciduous forest. He had made no attempt to silence it, for it would give away his ninja abilities. Dressed in a nondescript outfit of black top and pants with a rough, sand-colored woven cloak he had purchased from Wind Country with money he had taken from one of the defeated bandits, he strived to appear as no more than a lone civilian traveler.
As he continued to walk, he caught sight of a cliff in the distance, and what looked like a cave opening.
His steps stilled, his brows furrowing slightly in deliberation as he sensed a pulse of energy from within. Whatever was within seemed powerful, and he immediately wondered if he ought to investigate the cave.
However, before he could come to a decision, a shrill scream sounded in the distance. Itachi's attention slipped away from the cave and he turned his eyes in the direction of the sound. From this distance, he could not see the source of the scream, but the voice clearly belonged to a woman.
Another scream pierced the air. This time, it was followed by the unmistakable guffaws of several men.
Itachi's eyes narrowed as he realized what must be happening. The first and foremost thought was that he had no reason to get involved in the situation. It was none of his concern. However, another part of him urged him to assist the distressed and obviously outnumbered woman.
The woman screamed again, and a choked cry followed soon afterwards.
In moments, he found himself stepping into clearing next to a spilled and trampled basket of herbs, right behind three men who were standing over a young woman who had fallen down to the ground. Her long black hair curtained her face from sight, but it was obvious that she was terrified. A stab of disgust coursed through him at the sight of the men taking advantage of someone who was obviously weaker than them.
The woman turned a pair of large, teary dark eyes at him and for a moment, another face, an older woman's face flashed across his mind. Eyes teary as well, the woman in his mind seemed to be begging him to stop. The sight made something constrict within him, just before the memory faded out of existence.
"H-help m-me…" the young woman, no more than in her mid teens, cried out in a trembling voice.
The men spun around, eyes widening slightly in surprise. Itachi supposed they had not heard him approach.
One of them snarled, "Get lost, brat!"
Itachi simply tilted his head slightly, his eyes assessing his soon-to-be opponents. They were bulky men, clearly used to physical tasks, but he suspected that these men were not fighters. The chance of them being shinobi was slim to none, for they lacked the slender build typical of shinobi. He concluded that it would not take long to defeat them.
Another one laughed. "I think this one wants to be a hero, boys."
"Let's give him what he deserves, huh?" the third one sneered.
The three of them charged at him simultaneously, but Itachi easily sidestepped the clumsy attack. Foolish men, he thought as he spun on the ball of one foot, sweeping his other leg in a high arc.
His kick connected with two of his opponents, sending them flying. Even before their bodies could hit the ground, Itachi had already caught the third one by the throat. The man gasped, desperate hands coming up to grasp Itachi's wrist, his eyes bulging as he struggled for air.
Grip not loosening in the slightest, Itachi simply watched the man flail. And then he leaned forward and said quietly, "Perhaps next time, you should consider the possible consequences of your actions before you act."
The man let out a choked sound, which Itachi assumed was a concurrence to what he had said. Only then did he release his hold, and the man immediately scrambled away from him, so desperate to leave that he had forgotten about his two beaten friends.
Itachi turned to the frightened woman, who still sat trembling on the ground. She returned his perusal with a pair of large dark eyes.
"Are you alright?" he asked flatly.
The woman nodded quickly, her tearstained face and her runny nose making Itachi uncomfortable. Emotion, he finally identified. Such open displays of emotion unsettled him, he realized. It was curious, and a little unsettling how as each day passed, he found out more and more about himself.
"T-Thank you." She raised herself to her knees, and then slowly to her feet.
He nodded stiffly. And then, wishing to be elsewhere but next to her, he glanced around their surroundings until his eyes landed back on her. The woman was clearly still shaken, and he knew that she was still vulnerable. A voice in his mind cautioned him to retreat, for he had done more than necessary, while another pushed him to see to her safety.
"Where do you live?" he asked.
"Live?" She blinked, and then pointed south. "A village there."
He did not recall seeing a village earlier, making him suspect that she might be lying. Still, he said, "You should return. I will escort you up to your village gates if you direct me."
Gratefulness shone in her eyes as she nodded eagerly. "Thank you again." She pointed south again. "Just straight there."
He began to walk away from the clearing, not glancing back to see if she followed. Her rapid footsteps were enough to tell him that she was directly behind him. He was not certain why he was doing this, but he hoped not to repeat it. The situation was… discomfiting.
A short while later, Itachi's steps stilled at the sound of thundering footsteps against the forest floor. He watched as a crowd of villagers appeared from beyond the trees. They were carrying all manners of makeshift weapons.
One of the men cried out, "Hitomi!"
"Get away from her!" another shouted, his pitchfork pointed forwards in a supposedly threatening manner.
"No!" the woman protested, rushing in front of him. "You got it all wrong!"
"Hitomi." The older man reached for her, taking her arm gently. "We heard your scream." His eyes swept over her torn attire. "And your yukata…"
The woman called Hitomi shook her head. "No, he saved me, Ojii-san. The bandits did this to me. They are back there."
Itachi watched impassively as the villagers gave him a look of surprise before resuming their fussing of the now red-cheeked young woman. Realizing that it was no longer necessary for him to remain there, he turned to walk away.
"Wait," a voice called out.
Itachi paused, glancing over his shoulders to find a middle-aged man walking towards him. The man carried with him an air of authority which suggested to Itachi that he had some standing in the village.
The man stopped behind him. After a moment of scrutiny, the man said, "I'm Minamoto Takai, head of the village."
Itachi inclined his head, but said nothing.
"I thank you for helping Hitomi." He sighed, sounding weary. "This is not the first time this has happened. Recently, rough men and bandits seem to be growing in numbers. Especially since the rumors of the coming attack by some big shinobi nation."
He did not know what the man was referring to, so he remained silent. However, the news that this place might soon be covered with shinobi concerned him slightly. He did not wish to be identified by others until he knew where he stood.
Minamoto Takai continued, "Well, night is almost upon us. As repayment for your kindness, please accept our village's hospitality."
"I'm not aware there's a village nearby, Minamoto-san," Itachi remarked in a quiet voice.
The other man's lips quirked. "Yes. It is somewhat protected. An old legend explains why no one could see it unless specifically invited by the villagers. We'll tell you more if you'd like to follow us home."
Itachi considered the invitation, his interest somewhat piqued by the so-called legend. In the end, he decided that there was no harm in accepting the offer of a good night's rest from well-meaning villagers.
And so, he said, "I accept your offer, Minamoto-san."
When he had accepted the village head's offer, he had not expected to enter a village which was so securely hidden by a high level jutsu that it was all but invisible to outsiders. He could tell that it was not a common jutsu, and it was most likely the blood limit of some clan. How he had surmised all this was beyond his understanding. He had simply known.
The village was as any rural village; simple, peaceful, wholesome and pleasant. Itachi knew deep inside that he had not hailed from such a village, and yet, the place appealed to him. Perhaps it was the simplicity of it. He had a feeling that his life had been anything but simple before he lost his memories. In fact, he was fairly certain that it had been filled with duplicity.
His life in the village was pleasant, and he was mostly left to his own devices, something he appreciated. The villagers were curious, he knew, but they seemed to sense that he would not appreciate any form of intrusion into his privacy.
Continuing his walk through the village, he passed a familiar house. It was a modest wooden abode, which he had inherited from an unfortunate villager who had died shortly after he had arrived. Kenta was his name, Itachi recalled. And Kenta had been the sole fighting force of the village, performing tasks such as scouting the perimeter to ensure that the village was secure and dealing with any unsavory outsiders.
And now, it was a task which had fallen to him.
Itachi made his way to the centre of the village, reaching his destination several minutes later. Once there, his steps slowed to a complete halt, his eyes fixed to a glittering object.
The pearlescent gemstone floated several feet in the air, seemingly weightless. He had been told that this gemstone, which was approximately the size of an adult's head, was the source of the village's protection and it was merely a fragment of another larger gemstone. The village head also told him that as long as the gemstone floated in the air, it stilled functioned. Legend had it that the gemstone itself came from the gods, brought down to protect villages which cultivated and cared for their land well.
Itachi was not certain if there was any truth in the legend, although the gemstone was certainly acting together with some jutsu to keep the village invisible from outsiders. He could sense a strong chakra from within, solidifying his initial suspicion that a ninjutsu was at work here. But he would not disillusion the villagers. They were content to believe in their legend, and Itachi had no reason to change that.
Yet, the shinobi in him could not help but wonder if the powerful gemstone could be used for other purposes, while another part of him cautioned him against the notion of tampering with what the villagers viewed as a sacred object.
The approach of someone familiar broke into his thoughts, and he slowed his steps.
Itachi turned around to find a teenage boy running towards him, his expression pale. The boy lived at the edge of the village with his grandparents, his parents having passed away long ago. As the boy came closer, Itachi could clearly discern the panicked look on his face. Something was obviously wrong.
"Itsuki-san!" he panted as he skidded to a stop. "You need to come help us!"
"What is the matter, Ichiro-kun?"
"My grandparents… They're sick. It happened so suddenly." Liquid glimmered upon Ichiro's lashes. "Please."
Itachi grimaced. "Where are they now?"
"At home. I can't get them to the healer alone."
"I'll assist you."
Gratitude shone in the boy's blue eyes. "Thank you, Itsuki-san!"
Itachi followed closely behind as Ichiro ran all the way back to his house. And when they arrived and stepped into the house, Itachi was immediately assailed by the unmistakable scent of illness and vomit. He knew the boy had not been exaggerating when he noted the unhealthy pallor of the two elderly figures on the bed in the main bedroom. They were wheezing as they breathed. There also seemed to be some rashes on their skin, although Itachi did not know if it was part of their illness.
After instructing Ichiro to dress his grandparents in warm clothing, Itachi went outside to retrieve a cart. Once the elderly couple was settled, Itachi and Ichiro carefully lifted the front of the cart and pulled it along at a rapid pace in the direction of the healer's home.
Before long, they arrived at their destination and the healer, Okada Kaito came out to greet them with a smile. However, when the man saw the condition of his patients, his smile disappeared and he quickly helped them into the warmth of the building. Between them, they managed to get the two patients settled in beds in the treatment room.
"Since when have they been like this?" Okada asked.
"One, two days?" Ichiro's face scrunched in thought. "It wasn't so bad before, Okada-san. It just got really bad today."
"I see. Now stand back a little, let me see what I can do."
The healer worked on the couple while Itachi and the boy stood to one side, watching silently. The bitter scent of herbs and medicinal roots soon filled the air as Okada prepared the medication and administered it to his patients. Sweat beaded the man's forehead as he toiled, the furrow between his brows deepening as the hours passed.
And yet, he clearly made no progress, for the old couple was not any better than when they first arrived.
"They are not responding to anything," the healer lamented agitatedly, running a hand down his face to wipe off his sweat. Looking distraught, he continued, "I can't think of what else I can do."
"But you have to help them!" Ichiro cried out, frantic with worry and obviously growing more panicked by the moment. "Okada-san, you're our healer!"
The healer simply shook his head slowly, sorrowfully, as he walked out of the treatment room. Both Itachi and Ichiro followed him out, the latter clearly about to badger the healer further.
However, before Ichiro could say a word, the door to the healer's house slammed open, revealing the breathless figure of Hitomi, the girl Itachi had saved about a year ago. His eyes narrowed slightly when he noticed her red-rimmed eyes and her shaky form.
"Ojii-san!" she cried out. "You must come. Kana-chan and Obaa-chan are sick."
Kana, Itachi recalled, was Hitomi's youngest sister. She was only seven years old. The image of another young face, a little boy with dark eyes and dark hair flashed across his mind, as it always had done when he thought of Kana. It was another face from his past, he knew, and Itachi suspected that this boy might be related to him, considering the similarities in their appearances.
"Sick?" the healer looked stricken. "What's wrong with them, Hitomi?"
"They are shivering and vomiting," she explained hurriedly, worriedly. "And Obaa-chan is wheezing badly."
The familiarity of the symptoms struck Itachi, and he asked, "Since when?"
"Last night, I think. But they really got worse today."
Okada darted a look at him. "You think they are connected?"
Ichiro turned to him then, eyes begging him even before the words did. "Please, Itsuki-san! Please do something!"
Itachi was at a loss as to what to do next. He was not a medic, but he assumed that if a civilian medic could not help this couple, then perhaps a shinobi one would be able to. The knowledge that chakra-based healing could help was in his mind, but as always, he did not know how he came to be aware of it.
"Rumor has it that there is a shinobi village in this country. Is it true?" he asked.
Okada frowned. "Used to be one a long time ago, but I heard that they quit their practices. But now, with the war and all, who knows?"
"When Rin-san came back from Wind Country months ago, just when the war started, she heard rumors that the shinobi hidden village was rebuilt," Hitomi supplied. "So I guess the war brought it back."
"Are there medics in the shinobi village?" Okada asked.
"There usually are some," Itachi replied carefully.
The boy's eyes rounded in hope. "You think they could help?"
The healer interjected quietly, "It's not a short trip, and it could be dangerous. The war might not even be over, and no one knows what it's really like out there now."
Ichiro dropped to his knees. "Itsuki-san. Please help us. Please don't let them die. They are the only family I have."
Family. The word sent a pang through Itachi, but he did not know why. It was strange, for he had no memory of his own family.
"Stand up, Ichiro." The moment the boy stood up, Itachi turned to the dark-haired girl. "Okada-san will see to Kana. In the meantime, can you find out if there are others who are ill?" Shifting his attention to Ichiro, he told the boy, "Assist Hitomi. I will watch over your grandparents."
Nodding quickly, the two teenagers disappeared out of the door with Ichiro while Okada quickly packed his supplies and left to tend to his relatives, leaving Itachi alone in the building with the two elderly man and woman.
Itachi frowned thoughtfully as he sat down on a nearby chair. He suspected that something infectious was spreading through the village. Whatever it was, it was clearly beyond Okada's healing abilities. Which meant that he would have to venture out to the shinobi village to seek assistance, for he knew that no one else would do so. It meant that he would be exposing himself to his own kind.
He sighed inwardly. Fate had intervened and it seemed to be telling him that was time for him to leave the sanctuary of the village to seek the truth of his past.
A/N: Edit: There's a drawing of Itachi as he looks in this story in my profile, if you're interested! And yes... he will eventually regrow his hair!