AN: If there is anyone reading this let me first say that I'm sorry. I've stated before that I'm a brand new writer, and as such I'm still not very good.
As of 4/15/10 I've added some content to this chapter that should be fairly important to the plot, so it's recommended that you scan through it again. You should expect this type of behavior (posting a chapter and then playing touch-up with it) whenever I post a new chapter. Sorry again for the inconvenience, just blame it on me being ADHD.
Propped against a wall, Jiraiya stared down at the blank white page of his note pad. The toad sage remained that way for few more minutes before he sighed dejectedly and slipped the notes into his vest. It seemed that the muses weren't on his side today.
His mind wandered as he continued to wait in the reception room outside of his sensei's office.
What had been so imperative that it required his immediate attention? And if this issue was so important, why had he been standing outside of the Hokage's office for nearly two hours now? It just didn't make any sense!
Of course, nothing about his unexpected return made any sense.
The old lecher had been lurking around the local hot spring, catching up on his ever important research, when a small orange monkey suddenly poofed into existence on his shoulder. If not for his ninja training, the toad sage may have very well screamed like a little girl. He may have been a veteran ninja, but there was no shame in being startled when primates began popping out of thin air.
The lion tamarin had rolled its eyes at Jiraiya's un-ninja like behavior before handing him a communiqué from the village, then promptly poofing away.
The transcript he'd received had been heavily encoded, and took close to an hour to decipher. Decoded, the message was mockingly concise.
In short, it had read: You are hereby ordered to return to Konoha. We need to talk.
Grudgingly, Jiraiya had followed the Hokage's orders. He began the long trek from lightning country back to the village hidden in the leaves, cursing his sensei as he traveled past numerous hot springs that were open for mixed bathing. That tragic incident aside, however, the rest of his journey had gone by without issue. Only after arriving at Konoha, did he slowly begin to realize that something was wrong.
As the Sannin had wandered through the streets, waving to the familiar faces he saw, he got the distinct impression that the villagers were hiding from something. Their eyes darted back and forth nervously. It was like they were expecting to be attacked or something, and when he'd greeted them, they'd just sent him a startled look before quickly hurrying on their way.
At first Jiraiya had thought nothing of it. Perhaps they were just running late. Yes, that was it! They were all just running a little late that was all. He paused. Every single villager, all at the same time…right. From there, things just got weirder.
As he began to approach the Hokage's tower, a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Leaping across the rooftops in tight formation were no less than twenty ANBU. That had definitely set him on high alert.
But it was only after entering the Hokage's tower that he realized the extent of this strange behavior.
Instead of being swallowed up in the building's typical noisy din, he was instead greeted by silence. Dead silence.
The staff had remained perfectly still when he'd entered the room. It was almost as if any sudden movement would spell instant death for everyone in the room.
Their deer-in-the-headlights phase had only lasted for a few seconds before the room slowly returned to the hectic environment that he remembered it to be, but now the pervert was certain.
Something was horribly wrong.
"Jiraiya-sama." addressed the soft-spoken receptionist from behind her desk.
His head snapped up and he turned to look at woman.
"The Hokage will see you now."
Jiraiya nodded and moved stiffly towards the heavy wooden doors. He pushed them open and was immediately greeted by the face of his old teacher. Or at least he guessed it was his teacher's face.
The man looked terrible!
Gaunt, hollow eyes stared back at him, sad and grey, as though all the laughter had been forcibly ripped out of the old man's life. His mouth appeared to be twisted downward in an eternal scowl that locked the man's pipe securely in place. Small particles of dust and soot had collected on the brim of the Hokage's ceremonial hat, and Jiraiya idly wondered if his teacher had moved at all during his many years of absence. But it that wasn't what shocked him.
What shocked him was the new set of scars that twisted across the old Hokage's face. Four angry purplish lines ran across the length of his face, starting at his jawbone and traveling upward, past his lips, across his nose, and over his right eye until they disappeared underneath his hat. It was almost as if he'd been raked across the face by the claws of an animal. But surely that couldn't have been right.
"What happened to you, old man?" the toad Sannin questioned, a look of concern spreading across his features.
His teacher ignored the question and released a long stream of blue tinged smoke in to the air.
"Please take a seat Jiraiya." The scars on his mouth writhed angrily as he spoke.
The toad Sannin gave his teacher a quizzical look before taking a tentative step forward. Behind him the double doors slammed shut, trapping him in the dimly lit, smoke filled room. He suddenly felt very claustrophobic.
The old Hokage took a long drag on his pipe, saturating even more of the room's dwindling air supply with the sweet scented smoke when he exhaled. Judging by the amount that was hovering above their heads, Jiraiya could safely assume that his sensei had been here for awhile. He just hopped that this wouldn't take to long, he still wasn't very good at sitting still and paying attention. A grin spread across his face. Not unless hot springs were involved.
"Still perverted I see." The old man stated knowingly.
Both men chuckled at this, slowly tapering off until silence once again permeated the room. At least his sensei still acted the same.
"What's this all about old man? Your letter said something about us needing to…" He trailed off when he noticed the pained look on teacher's face.
Sarutobi gazed through an ash smeared window down at the village. Even now, hoards of ANBU were the only things that could be seen.
"Jiraiya." He began, still looking through the window, "When was the last time you were in the village?"
The younger man flinched at his leader's purely ceremonial question.
He was well aware that old man Sarutobi liked to keep up the appearance of being a harmless washed-up old ninja, even in front of his students it seemed. However this couldn't be further from the truth.
Though he appeared old, his skills were just as sharp, if not sharper, than they'd been when he was in his prime.
Always pushing oneself further was just another aspect of life for a shinobi. If you managed to survive long enough to experience the wondrous roller coaster of ghosts of missions past and chronic joint pain that encompassed old age, you were able to do one of two things.
You could either:
A. retire and live out the rest of your life in moderate comfort; becoming forever known as "that old ninja".
Or B. Mold your mind into a weapon scarier than any jutsu; becoming forever known as "that old ninja."
Not even a kill-me-orange wearing, ramen obsessed, moron would fail to notice the path that Sarutobi had decided on.
The Sandaime Hokage was the very definition of a "that old ninja". He was an assassin, a puppet master, a tactical genius who hid himself under the guise of a kindly old man. He could smile at you to your face that morning, later that night order the complete eradication of your entire family, and then hold your hand through the funeral the very next day. The Hokage was a scary old bastard.
There was no way in hell that the old man had forgotten when his student was last in the village. In fact, Jiraiya was fairly certain that Sarutobi still remembered exactly what the Sannin had eaten for lunch after they'd passed his bell test nearly four decades ago.
In any case, the point was moot. His Hokage had asked him a question and like an obedient subordinate he would put aside his personal feelings and answer the question to the best of his ability.
"About four years ago." Jiraiya sighed, "After Minato gave his life to seal the Kyuubi I-I had to leave. The pain of losing my student… it was just too much for me I guess. I withdrew from the village and everything related to it."
The Sannin hung his head in shame "I couldn't even bring myself to take care of my own godson."
The Sandaime turned back to him, unconsciously running his hand across the scars his face.
"Godson." He echoed in a far away voice.
Jiraiya sent him a puzzled look. "You know, Naruto, cute little kid with big blue eyes and whiskers on his cheeks."
His teacher cringed.
This was immediately noticed. "What's wrong? Did the kid do something bad?"
The third's jaw dropped and his pipe clattered noisily to the desk.
The two ninja stared at each other with mirrored expressions of perplexed shock.
Sarutobi recovered first.
"Things have changed while you were away." He stated solemnly as he retrieved a thick manila folder from his desk. He released the seal binding the reports and slipped the document into Jiraiya's hands.
The toad sage opened the folder.
Inside, appeared to be the dossier of a ninja. He began to examine the first page. It read;
Name: Aboki Horo
Age: 24 (deceased)
Cause of death: Severe lacerations to the thoracic and abdominal area, resulting in massive, irreversible hemorrhaging
His face began to pale when he looked at the photos attached to the report. The ninja in question was laying face up in an alleyway surrounded by a pool of deep crimson liquid. Bits of mangled flesh and gore were plastered to the ally walls along with a liberal amount of kunai and shuriken. Deep claw-like gouges, eerily similar to those that now resided on the third's face, littered the man's legs and torso. The report detailed that the nin had finally died when his chest was ripped open. Massive hemorrhaging was an understatement! Jiraiya didn't even try to locate the deceased ninja's shredded heart, and still managed to find it with relative ease.
Jiraiya had had enough. He may have been a ninja, but there were limits to what even he could stomach. He turned to the next page and his felt his blood run cold.
The next page was practically identical to the first; the only thing that changed was the name of the person on the sheet. His eyes shot down to the bottom of the page.
Age: 10 (deceased)
Cause of death: Blunt force decapitation.
'Blunt force decapitation!?' he thought in disbelief 'what the fuck is that, and why was it used on a ten year old for Kami's sake!?'
He looked at one of the photos and felt the bile rise in his throat.
'Oh… so that's blunt force decapitation.'
For a shinobi, death was something that came with the job. As academy students, they were taught that ninjas played five vital roles. Assassin, mercenary, spy, saboteur and thief. Out of these five duties, two of them were involved directly in act of taking a life. Assassinations, by definition, required that a ninja take the life of their target. Coincidently, the act of being a mercenary entailed the full scale slaughter of an opposing army. Bloody? Of course. Just? Perhaps. Sad? Nearly always. But in the end as long as you got paid, it didn't really matter.
That being said, Jiraiya was an excellent ninja. Even being a semi-competent ninja meant having a lot of innocent blood on your hands. When you were one of the legendary Sannin… let's just say that the silly carefree pervert had more than a few skeletons in his closet. Having fought in both the second and third great ninja wars made him no stranger to blood and death; however the style of execution portrayed in these photos… they just didn't seem possible.
Most of the kills he'd been exposed to were clean, quick, and efficient, exactly the way a veteran ninja was taught to operate. But these kills were entirely different. Flesh had been torn were it should have cut. Lethal strikes were constantly missed a hair's breadth, to perfect in their precision to counted off as lucky hits. In fact, a majority of the reports so far, seemed to indicate that the attacker had prolonged its victim's demise. Allowing them to escape and then hunting them down again, like the whole act was nothing more than a sadistic game of cat and mouse.
Jiraiya turned to the next page and choked when he read the name
"Oh Kami, no…" he whispered.
Name: Hatake Kakashi (Copy-nin)
Rank: ANBU Capt.
Age: 18 (deceased)
Cause of death: Singular, severe laceration spanning the length of the thoracic cavity, resulting in massive and irreversible hemorrhaging.
A feeling of emptiness swept over him, forcing him to close the docket.
"How?" he asked helplessly. "Kakashi was an ANBU captain. How could he have died?"
His mentor gave him pained look before answering.
"Kakashi died protecting me." He said in a voice heavy with grief. "He threw his body in front of an attack that was meant for me. His sacrifice allowed me to escape with these." The third gestured to his face.
He looked back at Sarutobi weakly.
"What in the hell could have done this?"
The old man's hand began to once again trail over his scars. After a long while he finally answered.
AN: So what did you think? Is it worth continuing? This is my first story so any feedback would be very helpful.