The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
original concept by Diet Soda
written by A. E. Stover
this version is self-edited

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NOTES:
1. I haven't gotten the hang of portraying all of the Akatsuki, so there will be OOC moments, especially because there's a lot of gag-humor parts in this chapter. It's the introductory chapter, after all.
2. I crossed out Uchiha Madara's existence for this story. Tobi is just the overly exuberant, cute, and adorable Tobi we were all fooled into loving.
3. The Japanese I use here ― and throughout the rest of the story ― are all title-related. If you're bothered with me using Japanese titles for Japanese characters in a story set in Japan, then there's clearly no pleasing you.

Baa-baa a child's way of saying "obaasan", which means "grandmother"
Oyabun title for Yakuza "boss" man
-gozen suffix used to show respect for women (for nobility/aristocrats)

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THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO


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"I think every family has a secret.

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"When I was younger, my father often had people coming to visit him. I remember how they towered over me, and how they always came in groups. When they came, my mother kept me inside my room. I wasn't supposed to come out and I didn't know why. I couldn't stand the secrecy, so I snuck out one day to see what kind of people visited my father and why I was kept in my room.

"I would never forget that day.

"I noticed that the door was slightly ajar when I drew close enough, and I was able to catch a glimpse of a man who was wearing nothing but a long, summer yukata, white with beautiful, rich, red flowers, standing with two dark suited men in front of my father.

"I realized a little later that those were not red flowers.

"It was blood.

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"My father was a respected man. People who came to visit him always bowed low to the floor, like the monks at the temples I had seen with my baa-baa in the fall who bowed to the statues of Buddha. I sometimes wondered whether it would be Buddha who would bow to my father, or my father to Buddha. I wanted to ask him, but I always forgot to when I came home.

"I think, in a way… I was scared to ask.

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"When my mother and I spent the day in the market square, sometimes merchants would greet us and ask us how our father was. They addressed my mother as Tomoe-gozen, and gave her many gifts. I remember she once received a beautiful holding fan made of vibrant blue silk. I used to run my finger along the long body of the embroidered silver dragon, petting its silky black as if it were real.

"This is Seiryuu, my mother would tell me whenever I asked to see it, Remember it well. (1)

"I remember that it was my mother's favorite gift.

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"Sometimes, when the people who came to see my father saw me, they smiled and pinched my cheeks and gave me gifts and little paper cranes for good luck. Sometimes, they gave me umeboshi or dango.

"I remember the sweet and sour taste of the sticky umeboshi treats that I chewed and kept in my mouth to see how long I could wait before I finally swallowed it down. I remember how they sometimes stuck to my teeth for hours. My mother would tell me not to eat too much, that I would become like baa-baa and have no teeth left. But I never cared enough to brush my teeth as my mother would always tell me to.

"Those were my happiest days.

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"One day, one of the visitors who had come to see my father was crying. He was the first grown-up man I had seen who cried.

"My most deepest apologies, I remember the man saying, Please, oyabun, take this and forgive whatever inconveniences my departure creates for you.

"I was outside when it happened, even though I wasn't supposed to be, and the door suddenly rattled opened all the way. A man I had never seen before came out, and I looked down at my feet in fear. I tried not to look, but my eyes rose moved up until I saw his hand. The man had a white, bloody bandage over the edge of his hand, but that wasn't what surprised me. What surprised me was that he only I four fingers. I know he did, because I counted.

"I looked up, then, and saw that he was looking at me with a wet face and a small smile. He left without saying anything, and I never left my room when people came to see my father again.

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"I learned from my teacher that oyabun is what you call the father of the yakuza. Back then, when I was younger, I had laughed. My father was not yakuza, I had thought. My father was a business man. My father was a respectable man.

"But from that day on, nothing was ever the same to me.

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"I noticed that whenever my father wanted something, all he had to do was ask. I learned that when my father called someone to come over, they were already on their way. My father never had to wait for anything. That was a good thing, because he was not a very patient man. My mother had said that it was because he was still a young man.

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"One day, my father died.

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"I was nine years old.

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"When my friend's father died, her mother had to find work at the market. Her older sister left school to work as well, and soon even my friend had to leave to work, too. But my mother never worked. I was never asked to leave school to work. When I asked my mother why this was so, she called me a foolish girl.

"We don't need to work, she said, because Seiryuu protects us.

"I did not know who, or what, Seiryuu was then, and I did not care. In time, I came not to believe her because I discovered how we got what we needed.

"The people who came to visit my father when he had been alive continued to come to our home after his death. They would give something to my mother, bow, and then leave.

"But I no longer saw smiles from them. They rarely looked at me, and when they did, it was just because they had noticed me watching from outside the door of the my father's old room. They didn't bring me any gifts anymore, and the people at the market avoided us. Gone were the beautiful gifts of silk kimono and fans my mother had loved so much.

"And gone were my sweets.

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"Sometimes, they came early in the morning, before the sun rose. And sometimes, they came late at night, when the moon was high in the sky. And always, whether the skies poured or the winds blew, there were people to escort us wherever we went.

"Always.

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"One day, I was introduced to someone who would escort me to and from school. I was nine years old.

"He was a very kind person who sometimes bought me dango from one of the vendors on the way home. I called him niisan because I did not know his name. He never told me. I was old enough then to know that I was not supposed to ask for his name. One day, he did not come back. Nobody did.

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"When I turned twelve, my mother went out to buy a cake for me.

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"I never saw her again.

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"I was sent away to live somewhere else. Somewhere far, far away. The woman I lived with was wonderful and kind-hearted, and said that she'd give me as much dango and umeboshi as I'd wanted. I was grateful to her, because she kept her word and always made sure we had dango or umeboshi at home. She understood, somehow, that those were all I had left of my family.

"Each time I ate the store-bought umeboshi, I remembered the homemade ones my father's visitors would gift to him and remembered eating with my father in the winter who always like to tell me stories of good luck Seiryuu brought to those who were honest and hard-working.

"Each time I ate the store-bought dango, plucking them off the wooden sticks and stuffing the day-old rice cakes into my mouth, I thought of the fresh, hand-made dango my niisan sometimes bought for me.

"And always, after I've eaten my treats, I'd go to the bathroom and brush my teeth. I'd brush and brush and brush and brush, because I know my mother wouldn't want me to have teeth that looked like baa-baa's.

"I spent five years like this, and one day I gave up my sweets. Thinking about my family, I realized, was just too hard. After all, I already had a permanent reminder of my family tattooed on my back forever reminding me of who they were and what they did, and what it all meant for me as well. I lived for them, carrying the weight of their actions on my back, and became

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the girl with the dragon tattoo."

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AUTHOR'S NOTES


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1. Seiryuu is one of the four guardian spirits of cities and said to protect the city of Kyoto on the east. The dragon is a powerful symbol, and a commonly chosen animal amongst Yakuza, for their power and nobility.