Heeey! Look! Another update! Lookatit!
I cannot express the love I have for you people- you guys gave me over two thousand reviews. Almost four thousand favorites and follows! Seven hundred thousand views.
You guys are awesome. Even that weird person several chapters back that wrote a review talking about nothing but how stupid this story is. You know what? I love that guy too. He/She thought I was so important in their lives that they had to leave something negative just for the sake of being negative. That means something, guys.
Anyway, end of Naruto, so… ugh. Yay, I guess. I mean, I guess I'm glad it's over, because I kind of felt it was a trainwreck from a certain point on, so I'm not really surprised even by the surprises. I don't know, maybe it's just me. Either way, this story is going, no matter how long it takes (and I hope you guys have better things to do in the meantime, because I'm in college all the way to a phD and it will be a while).
I guess I'm kind of breaking the fourth wall in the beginning, but… oh, well. Yes, I get requests for Jiraiya bashing, but despite this being Naruto fanfiction, I'm trying the best I can at writing a story. Someday I might go back and fix all those horrible errors in the first chapters, but in the meantime, I'm just glad when I'm suddenly struck by inspiration to keep on chugging. I write as a hobby, but it's been a pretty long time since I wrote anything Naruto. Not that I actually post anything other than what I have up on my profile, I quite literally write for my own pleasure (and incidentally, I rarely actually finish my own blurbs, so I swear it isn't just you guys).
Anyway, kind of a long rant, but I hope you guys ride this out with me to the end! I'm enjoying this story, really, it kind of gives me milestones in my own development as a writer. I used to want to be a professional fiction writer as a kid, so every person that reads and reviews is a huge encouragement as well as a great help for me to grow in that! Thank you again for everything you guys offer to me, and without further ado,
"You know… no one blames you if you want to back out." Rae stirred sharply from her thoughts, blinking away her haze. She was rather startled to see Jiraiya sitting in front of her, looking uncharacteristically serious. She'd only just seen the older man the day before, in one of many meetings with the Hokage, and he hadn't seemed off, then. But then again, she wondered what she would know of any of them, even with everything she knew.
"What are you talking about?" she asked shortly, snapping her book shut as she straightened. She was on duty again, something normal between the stressful phases of the upcoming Chunin Exams. Between conspiring against the plot of a hapless puppet, ensuring the immediate death of an extremely troublesome traitor, and the little nitpicky details like all the people that would be caught between them, everything was falling apart to her. It was like she'd only seen a single side of a shape with many, many more, unable to fathom the complex shapes contained within.
She'd seen an invasion, but she didn't know how many survived. She didn't know where the civilians went during the alarms, how many genin had joined the fight and died or had stayed down during its entirety. She didn't know anything about the jutsu that Jiraiya and Hiruzen were cooking up, planning to finally destroy what remained of their once-teammate, and she didn't know what she would even be doing during this entire fight.
Between it all, she still didn't know just how badly she'd screwed everything up behind the scenes. The words she'd crossed out in her pages, the ones she'd added, they scared her. But all the worse, the many blank pages that followed in her notebook haunted her. She never even knew the end.
"Come on, girlie." Jiraiya looked to the brown book himself, grimacing. "I mean it. You can't handle this kind of stress. You wrote that whole thing in your own language, so why don't you just translate it for the rest of us? Back out, let us fix this, and live through it." He nodded at her, tired from her recent lack of good sleep, dressed in an apron over her dark clothes with some goggles on her head. "Wouldn't it be easier if you just didn't know?" A sharp laugh escaped almost impulsively, and she pocketed the book.
"You have no idea how much I wish I didn't know."
"No… I think I do." Both fell silent for a long moment. "You never told us the end, you know."
"What?" Rae asked sharply, suddenly wondering if he was referring to the manga itself. Jiraiya shrugged, shifting on his stool.
"You talk about the events like they're part of a story. You talk about the beginning, the stuff that led to where we are now, and we're in the middle, right? You've only told us middle stuff." He held up both hands at her stare. "Hey, don't look at me like that, I'm a writer. I know this kind of stuff."
"You write porn."
"I write good porn." Rae twitched, but didn't reply. She just didn't want to agree out loud. "But it's basic stuff. Everything has an end, doesn't it? You never tell us if we win the war or not, but you tell us this story where the little things start to fall apart, and then suddenly everything is turned upside down. That's the climax, right?" Jiraiya winked. "Which I take very literally in my own writing."
"Oh my god." Rae slapped a hand over her face. "You really are a per- excuse me, super pervert."
"What, were you expecting something else?" Jiraiya's easy grin faded after a moment. He gave her a quizzical look at her stony silence. "… Seriously, I thought you knew us? What were you expecting when you met the people you saw in visions?"
"I wasn't expecting people!" Rae snapped back, slapping the book down in sudden frustration. "You weren't real! None of you were! You were just some weird people in a horrible place I would never be in, and just- just characters in a story! You're never serious! You're just goofy poses and 'super pervert' and- and you- you're just one more person who dies somewhere in the middle!" Her hands shook on the ramen counter, and she took in a deep, shaky breath before exhaling. Jiraiya's gaze was still perfectly calm, not at all reacting. "I never knew the end," she told him, voice shaking. "Because my own life happened- worlds away from any of this- and I never bothered to learn what happened to any of you! I don't…" She rubbed at her head beneath the goggles, swallowing a knot in her throat. "I don't know what happens," she admitted. "Not in the end. I know plot twists, I know the important characters, but… I don't know if anyone else comes up. I still don't know who Obito is!" Jiraiya reacted to that, straightening.
"Obito?" he repeated sharply. "Uchiha Obito? Who told you that name?" Rae blinked.
"I don't- I don't remember. It's not from… It's from the visions. Just something aside." Jiraiya leaned back, looking entirely puzzled.
"Your visions work like a story," he said slowly, almost as if to himself. "So why would they show you the name of a kid that died thirteen years ago?" Rae hesitated. She didn't know it was a kid, she just thought it was someone who died in the Uchiha Slaughter. But before even then…
"He was thirteen years old when he died. Kind of a babyish little kid, cried pretty easily." Jiraiya's gaze was distant. "He was always late for everything, and always had a weird excuse for it. Though I never knew if he was telling the truth…"
"You knew him? But how-" Rae cut herself off, brow furrowing as she reconsidered his words. "Wait, always late with a weird excuse?"
"Sound familiar?" the sage asked dryly, quirking an eyebrow. "He was Kakashi's best friend as a kid." Rae stared at the man incomprehensibly. "And the reason he's got that eye under his headband." She was able to draw up the image then, a boy with orange goggles and a cave. She hesitated.
"T… That's right! He was on his team, and there was a mission during the last war- something about a bridge I think…!" Jiraiya nodded slowly, watching her intently. "He was crushed in a cave-in. Half of his body was gone, and he'd just awakened his Sharingan…"
"That's right, and he gave his eye to Kakashi," Jiraiya finished. "I wouldn't go asking Kakashi about it, though. He's a pretty private kid, and I don't think he'll appreciate that your future knowledge includes one of his more private memories." Rae nodded at that. She'd feel like an utter asshole bringing up a dead childhood friend to Kakashi, even if he was an ass himself (though something reminded her that even he wasn't that much of one). "Why would you have visions of that? Everyone that was there that day is either dead or… well, Kakashi. You said you knew the plot twists, didn't you? But not the end," Jiraiya muttered to himself, not waiting for an answer. "I see… this is like a mystery, isn't it? The clues are in the beginning, not the middle."
"But this isn't a story! It's not- I thought it was, but it-"
"Listen, girlie." Jiraiya chuckled suddenly, then gave her a very familiar sunny grin. "Of course this is a story. Everyone's life is some kind of story, a sub-plot to the big book of life we all go through. Some people have more chapters than others, and we all like to think we're the main character… but we all have our time. Sometimes we have those big, plot-shaking moments, sometimes we're the side characters, and we pass in and out of the main character's life with something to offer. Sometimes we're a background character, someone without a memorable name that doesn't seem to matter in the grand scheme of things… but we affect the plot in ways that the reader could never hope to expect." Rae hesitated. "Now whose story do you think this is? It's not mine, not anymore."
"It's Naruto's," she answered automatically. Jiraiya raised an eyebrow.
"Oh? Are you so sure?"
"He's the one that changes everything. He's the big hero that saves the world, he… I know he can win this." She shook her head slowly. "He's the one everyone believes in."
"Well… he isn't the only one to believe in." Jiraiya smiled a little, leaning on the counter with his arms crossed. "It isn't just the main character that matters in a story, you know. When the main character is trying to save the world, it isn't just because he wants the world to keep spinning on. Sometimes he might even think it doesn't deserve being saved."
"But he wouldn't-"
"Hush, I'm in the middle of a very good roll." Jiraiya waved away her scowl. "When you write a story, you aren't just making up some world that only exists for the sole purpose of spinning around the main character. There are the side characters that give the protagonist hope and encouragement. The antagonist that tries to break him and only ends up making him stronger. The background characters that spring up from the shadows, just to help him up if he stumbles. And it isn't always just one main character… it's a pretty big story, you know, considering how it encompasses every living being in the world. We can't always think it's our story alone, that our choices affect only our own little sub-plot. You need to think so much bigger than that, because no one stays the main character for long. We pass that on to the side characters, to the background characters. In the end… we're all people." He tilted his head. "Provided there's a good storyteller to show the reader that." Rae stared at him for a long moment, astonished.
"… That was… extremely profound."
"Thank you! I like to think I can still weave up some good words!" Jiraiya grinned merrily. "I should put that in my next book! Did you get any of that down? I'd have to replace a lot of the 'story' parts with some more erotic suggestions…"
"Yep, and there's the super pervert." Rae rolled her eyes to the heavens, tucking away her book. "You're the weirdest guy I've ever met, you know that?"
"Ha! I take that as a compliment." The sannin pondered her. "So… Are you just going to give out on your main character, girlie? Let him save the world by himself?"
"I'm still not a main character," Rae insisted. "I'm barely a side character!"
"Well… Speaking from a side character that used to be a main character… That's a pretty influential place to be." She stared at the man, stunned. Something in his words just clicked in her mind, and she straightened with a start.
"I need to talk to someone." She untied the apron in a hurry as she stumbled out of the stand, and Jiraiya straightened.
"Oi, oi! I still want some ramen!"
"Make your own damn ramen, pervert!"
"That's super pervert!" Jiraiya huffed when Rae ignored this, running down the street. "… Well, ramen can't be that hard to make." With that, he slid himself into the stand, gleefully stretching both hands for the half-cooked pot of ramen.
Somewhere on the other side of Konoha, peacefully enjoying his vacation day on a picnic with his daughter, Teuchi shuddered violently.
Kakashi quietly watched the young woman that stood in front of him, calculating her disheveled appearance accompanied with her very odd opening statement. After a long moment he leaned back against the tree he stood under, and scratched his head.
"Okay, so… I just heard you say that 'you need to train Sasuke'."
"Obviously, apart from what I'm already doing with him… so you're hinting that I should teach him the Chidori?" Rae fidgeted in front of him, and he hummed aloud. "No."
"Look, Kakashi- I was wrong, okay? Do you want me to beg or something? I thought-"
"I don't care if you were wrong." Kakashi folded his arms as she stopped, appearing stunned. "Personally, I wouldn't have cared too much if you were right and I thought he needed it desperately. You're asking me to teach the most powerful jutsu I have to a boy who I know, from personal experience, is already mildly unstable. Don't get me wrong, I understand he's doing the best he can, but if he's truly in danger of going against this village, and from what I understand, he is… I'm not sure what you can say to change my mind." He held back a sigh when she still looked upset. "Just because you have the knowledge of what may or may not happen, Rae-san, it doesn't mean you can just make our decisions for us. Are you saying that Sasuke isn't a threat of defecting?" She faltered, then looked down. "You didn't really think this through, did you?"
"Don't rub it in," Rae growled, wrapping her arms around her middle. "I'm not saying Sasuke's acting like he's just going to stick around- but damn it, it's not even his fault!"
"… I'm not sure I understand."
"Look, Sasuke does not like this village. And you know what? That's not- I get it. I'm not talking about the village itself- the people, I mean," she was quick to add at his raised eyebrow. "I'm talking about the politics, this whole damned cloak and dagger crap, all of this- can you honestly say there isn't anything wrong with any hidden village? Even this one?" Kakashi remained silent for a long moment, still gazing at her blankly. He tilted up his head to the sky and sighed very quietly, then looked back down.
"It's not perfect, Rae-san," he said in a low tone. "But it's still the best we have."
"No, it isn't." Rae's hands clenched into fists at her side. "Itachi wasn't even-" She cut herself off, face losing a little color briefly as Kakashi straightened. Based on her expression, he wasn't supposed to hear that much.
"Itachi wasn't what?" he demanded sharply. Rae's eyes darted from side to side, seeking escape, and when he leaned forward, she took a step back.
"I never said that," she whispered in a hurry, eyes wide in fear. "I forgot you- you don't know. I'm not supposed to know, but- but I have to go. Now."
"Look, Kakashi, let's get something straight. I have about as much love for this village as Sasuke does." Kakashi stood up straight again, staring at the woman that shook her head. "But Naruto- my stupid kid brother- cares about the people here. And when he finds out all the dirty secrets it has, the same that Sasuke will eventually figure out, it does nothing but strengthen his resolve. He doesn't just want to be Hokage in the end, he wants to try to make things better. I know you worry about him being Hokage, but do you ever worry about that ramen-loving moron not being able to make friends?" It was true, Kakashi had to allow. Naruto was an honest blockhead with a very strong loyalty to those he cared about. It was only the Kyuubi in his stomach that allowed him to survive as a ninja despite that, or so he'd always thought. "And I'm talking about real friends, the kind that don't backstab each other."
"Yes, thank you, I know what a real friend is." Kakashi rolled his eye briefly, almost missing the strange look on Rae's face. But he noticed it, and frowned beneath his mask. "What?"
"… It's nothing." He wasn't so sure, but let it go for the moment. "The point is… Don't bring up Itachi. Please. Don't mention I said anything about him."
"And why not, exactly?"
"Because the Sandaime will kill me." Kakashi's brow furrowed, because Rae looked extremely serious. The Sandaime was a dangerous old man, sure, but she really didn't think he'd kill her for accidentally saying some blurb about a missing-nin? After a long moment, he decided not to test it just yet.
"Fine." Rae exhaled harshly, shoulders falling. "But you're going to finish that someday," he warned. She looked a little ill at the thought.
"I'm not sure even you want to know." Puzzled, he watched her walk off in another direction, only to falter some steps away. She struggled with herself, then turned back around. "What if he doesn't defect?" she asked him. "What if the creep dies before he ever offers power? And Sasuke doesn't see any opportunity outside of the village?"
"Why should I offer him anything even then?" Kakashi asked her. "He still doesn't care about the village."
"Because he still cares about all of you." Rae looked rather sad, rubbing her arms through that old jacket. "And he'll fight for you if you tell him the truth first." Kakashi frowned again.
"Like I said, I'm not sure even you want to know." Rae sighed harshly, turning away. "But you will, eventually." He watched her leave through the surrounding trees, puzzling over her words. He did care about Sasuke, and so he wasn't going to give the boy a weapon to help him destroy the people he apparently did care about. That would only help him destroy himself in the end.
He found himself hoping that Rae was right, and Sasuke cared about his team a lot more than he hated his village.
In the days drawing nearer and nearer to the Chunin Exams, Rae found herself spending half the time in the Hokage's office, quietly watching the plans that several others made in regard to undoing Orochimaru's plan before it ever came to fruition. They all stood around a large table with a map of Konoha spread over it, marking positions for squads and movements based on possible scenarios. She knew that while Orochimaru seemed to be the biggest threat to all of them, only a few of them, including herself, knew it would only get harder with or without him around.
She also knew that if this succeeded, things would start to immediately change. Already there was little she could do to help, and though she didn't like to admit it, Kakashi was right. Just because she knew a lot about their futures, she couldn't just decide what they should and shouldn't do. She had to admit she hadn't entirely thought out the sudden decision to talk to him about training Sasuke, and so had given all the more thought to something else entirely.
Something else entirely stupid, that was.
"Chiyo has already coordinated with us to ensure that the majority of Sand forces will not attack in the invasion," Hiruzen told the room, expression grim. "However, to ensure that Orochimaru still goes through with his plan, there will still be those who believe that they are meant to invade Konoha, even after we attack Orochimaru. We need to immediately clear the stadium of all genin rank and civilians, while your team, Shikaku, will capture the secondary target."
"Right, right. That kid that's been genin for years." Shikaku frowned darkly. "And you're sure he's a threat that all of us have to attack at once?"
"A highly-skilled combat medic, according to sources, yes. Capture him alive if you can, but if he proves to be too much, kill him immediately."
"What about Shukaku?" Inoichi asked gruffly. "According to sources, he doesn't even care about the invasion." Hiruzen was silent briefly, glancing over to Rae. Rae swallowed, holding herself a little tighter.
"If you are unable to control the demon, attack the host. If worse comes to worse, we'll have a sealing team on hand to extract the tailed beast from his corpse." She knew she was doing the right thing. She knew that this was all out of her league, that she couldn't save them on her own. She knew these decisions had to be made by those who needed a say in their own futures, who wanted to do anything possible to make it better for themselves.
She knew that the more they unraveled the storyline, the less certain she was that it was all heading to a better place. This had been a story in her world, a manga. A manga could have a horrible ending, but… but she never believed this one would.
But what if everything that came together just right, the things they couldn't plan for, the little coincidences that kept the main characters alive, what if that was all they needed to win?
What if she'd made everything so much worse?
After the meeting, the Hokage dismissed everyone but her, calling her in front of his desk. Kakashi was one of the last to leave the meeting room, meeting her gaze briefly before heading out the door. As it closed behind him, Hiruzen cleared his throat, folding his hands in front of him.
"You mentioned you had a question for me, Rae-san. Is something wrong?"
"No, ah… I'm just trying to think ahead." Rae fidgeted with her jacket before forcing her hands to still. "After this, things will change, but if there's something still unconnected that tries to happen anyway, and something screws up away from where any of us can see…" She trailed off, aware she wasn't making too much sense. The old man frowned.
"Are you saying that you believe we should already be considering the changes that lead two years down the road?" Rae swallowed, then nodded.
"… Very well. What was your idea?" Completely and absolutely stupid. But maybe crazy stupid enough to save their skin. She took in a deep breath.
"Is there any way to contact Uchiha Itachi?"
Aaand thus concludes the Pre-Chunin Exams! We've finally escaped the deep, dark pit of despair that this story has wallowed in for the past few years! Ha ha ha OMG
This arc wasn't so funny, and more focused on Rae and adults, but now we can get back to those kick-butt kids and their hilarious antics! Yaaay! This chapter was a little hard to write, but a couple weeks ago, I watched a movie (that had absolutely nothing to do with anything Naruto-related) and suddenly was inspired again! And then I wrote the first part, then it died off. Then a week later, inspiration again! Then I forced myself to write the third part anyway, so this is all a little short, but I've finally reached where I want to be!
But seriously, guys, the end of Naruto? Did anyone else just sort of feel the despair of utter cliché and slow, spiraling madness of unresolved plot lines that dwindled off into something just… ugh. Or was it just me? I was all psyched about the fact that (spoiler alert) part of the plot was Kakashi's fault. I just didn't feel he got enough closure about that, or nearly enough screen time. But maybe I'm just ranting because it didn't go in a direction I liked. Oh, well, at least I've got my own Naruto world to play with.
Another short chapter, but this one is a little longer, at least. I'll try to make a goal of 5k words from now on, and between school and the horrible, terrible thing called work, I'll do my best to update as well. I hope you guys are as excited for the Chunin Exams as I am! Let's charge into the first major plot line and see just what kind of train wreck ensues!
Also, the poll clearly states that no, readers will not accept a multitude of unfinished stories, and they want me to finish the ones I have. I still can't say if Eclipse will be updated anytime soon, but I have the next chapter of Farblondzhet partially written, and I'll try to get that up soon! In the meantime, I have like twenty minutes to get ready for class that I almost entirely forgot about until right this second. O_O I still love all of you guys to pieces!
(PS: What Jiraiya knows about Obito is based more on a personal headcanon that back when he was around Konoha more often, he loved to bother his former student and his own little team- this also hopefully explains the interactions that I have between Kakashi and Jiraiya in earlier and future chapters)
Edit: UnstableFable pointed out a whoopsie I made a few chapters back, hinting that Kakashi already knew about the Uchiha Massacre being a conspiracy. That shouldn't have been there, because I really don't think that the Sandaime would have seen any reason to tell any jounin, even Kakashi, about one of those dark, nasty little secrets of the village just because it might have some influence on events happening anyway. I fixed it, so thank you for pointing it out!
ANOTHER EDIT (January 2016): Hello there, I am still alive, just trying to make sure you guys know I haven't dropped off the face of the internet. I am still working on this story, but between upcoming graduation and work and an inspiration of absolute zero to write anything Naruto-related, the next chapter might be a while coming. I'm so sorry, but thank you for your patience! I'll finish this story if it kills me! (it might)