AN: Standard disclaimer applies. Also, I realise the writing style is odd here. It will alter to something more normal in the next chapter.
In His Shadow
(Lie the Hounds of War). A young Naruto remembers his past, altering the intended future. Who is he, really?
Naruto is dreaming. He knows he is dreaming, because he is too old and too tall for it to be reality. His hands are big and long fingered and capable, covered in nicks and tiny white scars and he is not wearing orange, which is a shame because he likes orange. Instead he is wearing long dark pants, the way older shinobi do, and a boring white top. Naruto doesn't really like white. It reminds him of hospitals, and he doesn't like those either.
When he looks up from examining his own body, events are happening in photo-flashes of stillness.
First he is standing at the gates of Konoha, next to two boys and a tall man with white hair. The sun has barely risen, and the leaves on the trees are set on fire by the shafts of sunlight crawling over the walls. No one is moving. There is a chuunin on guard behind them that is caught mid-yawn, and a butterfly that is fluttering just half a metre to the right of his head.
One of the boys is squinty eyed with a shaven head. The other one has long hair, pinned back weirdly, but Naruto likes him because he is wearing some orange, unlike the others who are all dull. The white haired man is really tall, and his hair is spiky and long.
Naruto blinks, and they are no longer at the gates. Instead they are in a forest, and it is night. There are two tents set up, and a fire is frozen mid-crackle between them. Squinty eyed boy has a kunai out and looks to be sharpening it. The boy wearing orange is napping on a log. The white haired man is poking at the fire, where a rabbit is cooking. Naruto feels hungry, and wishes he could eat the rabbit, but it is only a dream. He has a needle out and is mending a rip in his pants. His stitches are not very neat, and the thread is the wrong colour. Naruto blinks again.
They are standing in the middle of a ruined village. It has been burnt down. Some of the houses are only half ruined, but most are collapsed and broken. There is a big oak tree in the middle of the village, but that has been burnt too. It is now a big black skeleton, standing against blue, blue skies. Squinty eyed boy is frozen mid-speech. He looks worried. Orange boy is kneeling, sniffing at a dark patch on the ground. White haired man's face is blank, and Naruto knows that he is thinking hard because of it. There are no bodies, which is odd. He blinks.
There were no bodies in the village, because they are all here. Naruto whimpers softly, unable to look away. There are three long rows of pikes, and each one has a body impaled on it. Some of the bodies are young, young, young, and Naruto wants to throw up when he sees a little baby in the second row. He looks to his right and sees that orange boy is throwing up, and squinty eyed boy looks to be panicking. Even the white haired man looks a little sick. Naruto blinks again, quickly, wanting to change the scene.
He is holding a scroll in one hand. The bodies are still there, and the scroll seems to be covered in blood. There is a strange symbol on it – a circle with a horizontal line through it, and two squiggles, above and below. Naruto focuses on it so he doesn't have to look at the (rows and rows of) corpses. He shivers, blinks.
They are camping again, but this time they are all huddled close to the fire-
Blink, and it is morning, and they are tracking someone through a forest. The person they are tracking has left a clear trail behind, and Naruto wonders if he wants to be found-
Blink, and they are leaping from a tree into a clearing-
Blink, and Naruto is looking into the face of a man who is snarling. His eyes are wide with rage, and there is spit flying out of his mouth. He has blond hair and blue eyes, but he does not have whisker marks, which Naruto is oddly grateful for. He is not wearing a hitae-ate. He is very close to Naruto, and his left hand is holding onto Naruto's shoulder. His right hand is further down, and Naruto looks down to see what it is doing.
It is holding a kunai, and the kunai is buried in Naruto's stomach. It looks weird from this angle, but it doesn't hurt at all. His white top isn't white any more, but has a small red splash beginning on it. The red is really bright and Naruto swallows in fearful anticipation, expecting pain in a way he can't quite understand-
He blinks again –