IMPORTANT: This is a sequel to my other story, titled Blind. If you have not read Blind, I would recommend doing so, because otherwise you are going to be VERY CONFUSED.

A/N: I'm sure you thought I all died. Man, I cannot stress how guilty I feel , but at the same time, I've become very busy with school. A basic run-down of my life over the past four years are as such: purchase of a new property that demands renovations, table-saw accident, various school items, two-month study abroad/vacation, mother got a kidney tumour, and getting a new dog. Along with other minor incidents. I've been taking a creative-writing class which has helped me greatly improve my writing. I'm still proud of Blind as a well-constructed story, but the writing is pretty poor in retrospect. I know some of you are thinking "But Blind was so good!". Well, if I think Blind is poorly written, you can really tell the kinds of stories I limit myself to reading. I can't read bad literature anymore. Like, actual published literature. So reading fanfictions has ceased entirely, with some exceptions.

This fic will eventually be rated M. Mostly because of Orochimaru. For those of you who don't understand why Orochimaru would make this fic rated M (who also have Windows XP at the same time): Pull up the Control Panel. Select 'Speech'. Set the speed to the slowest. Type in the text box: "My name is Orochimaru. I like small boys." Hit 'Preview Voice'. ...That's why.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, which makes me exceedingly sad, because the plot could use some major revision.

Important Note: I'm going to be experimenting with a new writing style: something akin to the TV show, Lost. I'm going to be doing flashbacks, to show what happened during the timeskip between Blind and this story. You'll figure it out, but just thought I would give you some forewarning.

Chapter One: Survival


Two pieces of wood fell to the ground. Itachi rested the axe against the chopping block and knelt down, feeling around with his left hand. His fingertips brushed one of the pieces, splintering wood pricking his hand. He wrapped his fingers around it and stood. He turned his body and tossed the log. A rattle of wood collapsing followed its landing in the woodpile. Itachi knelt down again and found the second piece, lobbing it after the first. Wiping sweat from his brow with his right hand, Itachi took another log.

The diameter was too wide for his palm. Sighing, he shuffled to the pile, crouching down so he could hoist the log onto his hip. Taking careful steps, he lowered the log onto the block, feeling around the edges to make certain it was centered. He felt the top—it would need to be split into four pieces at the least. Eight would be better.

He grabbed the axe with his hand. He rested the blade in the log's center, then lifted it above his head.

'More to the left. Your aim is crooked.'

Itachi shifted the axe's position to the left, and swung. The axe embedded itself half-way through the log. Itachi lifted and swung again, the weight of both the log and the axe causing strain on his shoulder.


The log split in two. Again, Itachi leaned the axe against the block, and felt around for the pieces.

'Farther back.'

Itachi reached, and found one of the pieces. He set it on the block. An inward itch grated at the back of his mind. Ignoring it, he reached for the axe. He aimed, and waited for a note of correction. Only silence greeted him. Itachi frowned.

'How is my aim?'

A pause.

'Aim more to the right.'

The voice sounded annoyed. Itachi swung the axe. It embedded itself into the chopping block, missing the log. Itachi sighed. The itch in the back of his mind turned smug.

"Not now," Itachi muttered.

Itachi dislodged the axe and aimed again. He swung without asking about this time. The log split at the first strike. The smugness evaporated. The itch returned, squirming in the back of Itachi's mind. It was a deliberate attempt at distracting him. Itachi didn't react, and only picked up the pieces of the log. He focused his thoughts on what would be for dinner. Itachi sensed annoyance now. He smiled to himself.

'The old woman is coming.' A hint of a sulk was laced in the statement.

Itachi heard the shuffling gait. He could imagine her petite body, shuffling to the doorway of the cottage, her hands clasped together. She watched him as he continued to work. He kept silent until she spoke—it used to make her uneasy when he reacted to her before she had let him know she was there.


Itachi straightened up and turned his ear towards her voice.

"Chie-san, is there something you would like me to do?"

He heard a chuckle.

"You are such a good boy, Itachi-kun," she said. "Always trying to do more work than I give you."

He smiled. "I'm hardly a boy anymore, Chie-san. I'll turn thirty-two this next month."

"Phoo, compared to seventy-three, you're still a boy," she teased.

"Fair enough," Itachi answered.

"I'm going to go into town to pick up some groceries. Would you come with me to help carry them?" she asked.


Itachi swung the axe into the chopping block.

"Let me change out of my work clothes first, and then I will be ready to go."

"You should wash your face as well," Chie chuckled. "You have dirt smeared on your forehead."

He felt his forehead with his fingertips. He could feel the grit against his skin. Sweat had dripped down into his blindfold. He would change that as well, he decided. He headed towards the house, moving past Chie in the doorway.

"I won't be long," he said.

I stand surrounded on all sides. Five enemies circle me, their weapons drawn. I tense, listening carefully for the first indication of motion. They hesitated to attack, I note. They have learned from their comrades' mistakes.

"Uchiha Itachi," says one from my left. "You are to come with us and return to Amegakure. Failure to do so will result in forcible detainment."

A wry smirk passes over my mouth, despite my unease. Pain still has not given up on finding me.

"I cannot return with you," I say. "Please leave."

"We cannot do that," the man answers.

'Behind you.'

An image flashes across my mind of a man with a raised kunai lunging at me. I whirl quickly and use an upper block with my right arm. My left hand forms a fist and throws a punch into his exposed stomach. I hear the wind knocked out of him. I throw myself on him and wrestle with his hand to pry the knife from his fingers.

'Two more are coming.'

Another image. I roll out of the way, landing on my feet. I slash with the kunai and I hear a grunt of pain. My knife tastes blood, the smell fills the air. I knife strike with my right palm. My motions are frantic, I slash and stab at each sound, my knife biting in all the wrong places, my palm missing the desired targets.

'A little help would be nice.'

More images flash in my head. I prompt mentally for more as my knife strikes home in someone's throat.

'You are doing fine.'

Four years, I think to myself. My elbow plunges into a ribcage behind me. Four years without sight, fighting without sight, yet I find myself still uneasy each new battle. Each anxiety rises anew as I fight people I cannot see, can only hear, feel.

A scoff.

'Have I let you die yet?'

I ignore the question. I keep plunging with my knife, keep striking with the edge of my right hand. I pay acute attention to the signs of defeat: grunts of pain, the smell of blood, the resistance my arms encounter as I land a hit.

But still, the fray continues.

Itachi dried his face with a towel. He rested a hand on either side of the sink basin. The stone felt cool beneath his left hand, and under his right palm. He straightened up and faced the window. He could feel the sun shining through the glass and onto his hands. He imagined what the view would be like—a forest glade with green grass, and yellow flowers.

'Stop being sappy.'

Itachi chuckled. He turned away from the sink and loosed the blindfold from his head. The cloth fell away and he laid it across his right palm. He put it with his washing in his room, taking another blindfold as he left. He wrapped it around his head, holding it in place with his right hand so it would not slip.

Outside, he could sense Chie waiting for him. He knelt down on the ground.

"Would you mind tying this?" he asked her.

He let Chie take the ends of the cloth. She made tsk-ing sounds as she tied them.

"I don't see why you insist on wearing this thing, Itachi-kun," Chie said. "You have such lovely brown eyes."

"There are scars, from my accident," he said.

"Yes, white scars on the whites of your eyes," she scolded, tying the knot tight. "You have such a handsome face, Itachi-kun. But the girls won't be able to see that if you have your face covered all the time."

Itachi smiled, and shook his head. "Chie-san, I am not in a position to take care of any woman."

"You take care of me, don't you?" Chie said. "It doesn't matter if you don't have any fingers on your right hand. You work hard and work well."

"That is not what I meant," he said.

Chie sighed. "You always say something like that. There must be a girl from your past that you cannot forget."

He straightened up and dusted off his knees.

"Something like that."

My breath is ragged in my throat. My limbs shake from exertion. There is silence around me. The stench of blood is heavy like a haze. My clothes stick to my body from it, my hands are slippery with it. My foes are scattered at my feet. Most of them are dead. I listen carefully if there are more.

'They're all dead.'

'An exit?'

A window appears in my mind. A sliding window with a wood trellis and paper screen. I make my way towards it, stepping over the bodies. I fumble with the latch, but quickly manage to pry it loose. I slide the window open.


An image of the ground passes through my thoughts. I see each blade of grass and each little rock in the path. I crawl up on the windowsill and jump. I fall down two stories; I brace myself for my landing. A well of chakra passes to me, and I take it gratefully, pushing it to my feet at the last second. I land neatly.

'Go. You're seen.'

I hear the gasps first. I run in an arbitrary direction. I cannot know what I pass, but directions words flit through my head as I move. I flick right, left, leap, and duck at the mere mention of the word. I hear someone yell for me to stop. I continue to run. The words in my head guide me. Not a finger brushes me.

'We're away.'

'But how long before they mount a pursuit?'

'Soon enough.'

I keep running. I head more south as I am instructed to. So long as I continue to escape trouble, the direction matters not.

"Good afternoon, Chie-san."

"Good afternoon."

"Are you and Itachi-san heading into town?"

Itachi heard her footfalls come to a stop in the road. Likewise, he stopped behind her, standing quietly. Chie had once said to him that he acted like her hired bodyguard, standing behind her, and not meddling in her affairs. The tone had been affectionate. Itachi knew it was out of habit.

"Yes we are. I need to do some shopping and Naomi-chan needs a check up on her pregnancy," Chie said.

"You might get to see some shinobi when you're in town, if you hurry."

The back corner of Itachi's mind erupted in discomfort. He felt has hand clench over the handle of the basket, though he made certain his outer appearance did not change.

'Shinobi. We should leave.'

'It does not necessarily mean trouble. It's been years since the last time we were attacked. They gave up on us.'

'Or they couldn't find us until now.'

Itachi blocked out the voice, though he could still sense the anxiety. It was not like he was at ease himself. The gravel path into town had been normal before. Now he scoured the area for any noise out of place, any tremor in the ground. He held very still.

"Shinobi?" Chie asked. "What a rare treat. And here I had been hoping the fishmonger had come to town."

"I'm afraid not. They're making a pit stop or something."

"Well, isn't that exciting?" Chie said. "I hope we see them. Good day to you."

"Good day, Chie-san."

Itachi heard Chie's footsteps on the path. He followed her, keeping silent, listening carefully.

'What are you doing? We should leave.'

'Chie-san could be in danger. I owe her too much to leave without warning.'

'They're after you.'

'You don't know that.'

Resentful silence.

I do not stop running until the anxiousness fades from the back of my mind. My breath tears ragged through my throat and my legs are on fire. The blood dries sticky on my clothes and skin. Water. I need to find a stream.

I cock my head to the side and listen. I only hear wind and trees. I sigh. I do not sense anyone nearby, however I cannot be certain. I must keep to the path.

'Watch for road signs.'

Mute understanding flickers in response. I walk onwards, listening as I go.

After an hour, rain begins to pour. The drops are light at first, but then they become the size of pebbles. I wait until I am soaked before taking off my shirt. I squeeze every inch of it with my good hand. I hear water trickle out of it, and hopefully blood will go with it.

Though I am thankful for the water, I find myself worried. I am reminded of Amegakure's endless torrents. The pressing memories are sharp in my mind, clearer than when I experienced each event. Pain has never come himself to get me, thankfully. I do not seem high on his list of priorities, though I know that can only last so long. This rain is safe.

He sent Konan once. She never saw me, but she was there. I sensed her anxiousness as I made my escape. I hesitated from my position in the trees. It had been two years since I had seen her last. But the pressing feeling weighing down my mind urged me to continue. I knew I had to go. That was the last time I saw her.

I hold up my shirt in front of me.

'Any better?'

'Not really.'

I smile wryly, but put the wet garment back on. As the rain continues, I try and rinse my hair and clean my blindfold. I shiver against the rain, but there is little else I can do. I left my travelling cloak behind, along with my small food supply. I carry all my important belongings on my person, in the event that I am forced to flee. I have my headband, though I never wear it.

I smooth my hair out of my face, and tilt my chin upwards. The rain washes the grime away. Konan hated the rain.

'Stop thinking about her.'

I keep my thoughts blank in response.

'She's one of them.'

'I know.'

The rain becomes heavier, and the water somehow seems chillier.

'Sometimes, I don't think you do.'

"I have to go check on Naomi-chan," Chie said to Itachi.

She took the basket from him and patted him on the arm. He stood with his hands handing loosely on either side; but he never stopped listening. The noise in town was the same level as to be expected for a small town like the one they lived near. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, except for the sound of more excited whispers than usual.

"I don't think you'll want to come a long for that," Chie continued. "Why don't you head into the bar and catch up with some of the boys? You spend too much of your time with this old woman. Spend some time with men your own age."

"But I would like to accompany you, Chie-san," Itachi said. The squirm in the back of his mind was twice as paranoid he was.

"Nonsense, Itachi-kun," Chie exclaimed. "Run along now, you know how to get there. I'll meet you at the bar."

She gave him a shove with her spindly arms and quickly dashed off in the other direction, chuckling to herself like she had played a wonderful joke. Itachi felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. He could not be upset with her.

'You're a fool. If you kill us both, I won't forgive you.'

'You never liked me anyway.'

Itachi was met at the door to the bar by some of the old folks who usually spent their time on the front step smoking pipes. Itachi said some quiet words to them and slid the door open. The bar had a quiet atmosphere and he always imagined it dim inside. The air was stuffy; people spoke in low voices to one another, and aside from the sound of rolling dice or the quiet sip on a sake dish, conversations went unheard.

But there were unfamiliar voices in the bar today. Itachi approached the counter with his usual gait, putting his right hand in his pocket. The new voices were down the length of the counter from him, speaking low, but in the hush of the bar, their voices carried. Itachi sat down on a stool.

'And who do you think is sitting in this very room with you?'

'They haven't attacked me yet.'

Heavy footsteps of the bartender echoed down the other side of the counter.

"Ah, Ita—" the bartender started.

"Just some water today, Tanaka-san," Itachi said. "I won't be here too long."

Itachi sensed the bartender's surprise, but he went away without another word. Itachi put his good hand on the countertop, feeling vibrations in the wood as it groaned under the weight of arms and scraping glasses. Itachi turned his ear toward the sound of the talking shinobi. In the corner of his mind, there was disapproval.

'Last time, you almost died. Don't forget that.'

Itachi blanked his mind.

Hunger gnaws in my stomach. I crawl on the ground, my hand groping the earthen path. Each fistful of dirt is another six inches gained. I have not eaten for two days, and though nobody seems to pursue me, I cannot stop moving forwards. My strength is sapped. The only reason I am alive is from the same thing that causes me to be chased. I claw another fistful of dirt, falling down onto one elbow from my crawl.

'Don't act as if I wanted to be put in you.'

I loosen my grasp on the dirt and my arms shake as I struggle to keep myself from falling face-first in the dust. My breath comes out in heaves. I swallow, my dry throat scraping against my tongue. I let go of my resentment.

'You are right,' I think in response, 'I apologize.'

'Tch. You're too polite for your own good, Uchiha Itachi.'

I try and pull myself forwards again, but my arms refuse to move properly. I lick my lips and try to move again.

'Rest. I don't want to spend more chakra on keeping you alive.'

'You are surprisingly considerate,' I muse.

'For a dying human, you're surprisingly good-humoured,' was the dry response.

The 'thunk' of a cup down on the counter next to Itachi caused him to start. He groped around on the surface until his hands met the cool glass. He nodded politely.

"Thank you, Tanaka-san," he said. "I am sorry I was short with you."

"Don't worry about it," the barkeep replied.

The two shinobi had not reacted at all to anything that happened since Itachi's entrance. He took this to be a good sign. He sipped his water quietly.

"I keep telling you, we should take the route northwest to get to Konoha," the one said.

Itachi paused ever so slightly. He took another quiet sip from his water.

'Can you tell what village they are from?'

'Musical note on the headband.'


"That steers us too far to the west, we'd have to backtrack," countered the second.

The first speaker's voice was raspy. It sounded like he had damaged his voice somehow. The second speaker's voice was normal, but sounded a little more panicky, uncertain. Itachi deduced that the first speaker must be the senior of the pair, while the other was a lesser-experienced subordinate.

'What do they look like?'

A flicker of an image passed across his thoughts. The image did not tell Itachi which voice belonged to which man, but he could guess. One man had a scar across the bottom of his chin. His clothes were presentable though well-worn. He wore an Otogakure headband sideways on his head. This would be the raspy-voiced man. The other man was younger, and wore his headband on his arm—also from Otogakure. The metal was unmarked, and his clothes were newer. This was the younger anxious-voiced one.

"That road is more travelled," said the rough-voiced man. "We'd more likely be discovered."

"Don't we want to approach from the south end of the village, anyway?" asked the younger voice. "If the road is more travelled, how come the south gate has the weakest defence?"

"It's because most of Konoha's enemies are on the east side of the village, and the south is where their allies travel from," said the gruff voice. "If we approach from the west they are less likely to discover us than if we came direction from Otogakure. Additionally, we wouldn't pass off as traders, now would we? It would make more sense to sneak in from the west."

"Konoha's defences are better than they were years ago. Targeting the leader of Konoha's Police Force doesn't seem smart. Especially since he's in charge of the defences, wouldn't he make sure he's the one who's the safest?"

Itachi was surprised. If the Force was operation again, that could only mean that it had been restarted. There was only one person he could think of that would bother to do something of the sort.

"We need to get close, that's all, remember?" said the gruff one. "We're not after him. When we meet up with the others it'll be quick. And when we're done, Uchiha won't know what happened."

Itachi stood up. It took him a moment to register that he was on his feet. The men had stopped talking. Itachi didn't entirely understand what had compelled him to stand. But when he had heard his last name mentioned, the vague loyalty to Konoha sparked. He was aware he had stood unmoving for a few seconds now. The back of his mind had frozen with shock, but now it ordered him back into the shadows.

'Sit back down. Say you thought you heard the old woman,' said the voice, 'You owe nothing to the Village Hidden in the Leaves. You have no obligation to forewarn them. No obligation to stop these men.'

'My brother—'

'Hates you.'

'—is in danger.'

Itachi approached the men. He heard them shift in their seats. He felt their wary gazes. They would be reaching for weapons.

'Uchiha! What are you doing?' the voice roared.

Itachi forced it out of his head. The men would wait to see what he was up to. He himself did not know what he was going to do. His glass of water was still in his left hand. The back corner of his mind started to panic, seeing his thought pattern. Itachi moved suddenly. He took his right hand out of his pocket and charged with his right shoulder. After touching the first body, he brought down the glass on the man's head. He let the voice back in.

'Foolish human! If you get us killed, it will be at no fault of mine!'

Itachi groped among the shards of glass for another weapon. He felt a kunai pouch. He seized it with his good hand and wrenched it as hard as he could. It was securely fastened to the shinobi's belt. The pouch ripped instead.

'You haven't failed us yet,' Itachi responded, 'I trust you, Rokubi no Raijuu.'

The ring of metal came from beside Itachi's ear indicated the pouch's contents had spilled out. He grabbed at a weapon. It was a knife of sorts, but not a kunai.

'Get back!'

Itachi sprang back. The sound of metal into wood—a kunai had been thrust downward. Now a din had risen up in the bar. Villagers were emitting sounds of shock and confusion. The sound of the demon in the back of his head in addition to the sound of scraping chairs only added to the uproar. Itachi could barely hear his enemies.

"Whoa, Itachi-san," the barkeeper shouted. "What are you doing?"

A hand came onto his arm. Itachi shrugged it off and flinched away, and mentally scolded the demon that a hand had been laid on him. An image flashed—the shinobi rising to their feet. The younger one had a bloody forehead. Itachi prompted for more. Another image. The younger one taking a fighting stance, the older one tugging on him to leave. Itachi was shown an image from behind him. More reaching hands.

'You can help me, or hinder me. Either way, we are discovered,' Itachi growled.

"Come!" said the voice of the raspy one. "We're leaving."

"No way! He attacked us!"

Itachi took a step away from the reaching hands. He eased into a stance that would allow him quick movement. The demon bristled angrily. Itachi lunged blindly toward the shinobi. Grasping hands only brushed the fabric of his shirt—he was faster than expected.

'Foolish human,' the demon roared.

Itachi felt the demon's chakra wash through him like a burning heat. Everything melted into view. He saw. He saw every flicker of every movement, every detail. Chakra sparked at the nubs that had been his fingers. The chakra condensed into five extensions off of his hand. Serviceable fingers of chakra flexed.

Itachi only had a split second to register the new information. It was enough—he could see. He could see the man had a knife out, and Itachi was in direct line of attack. Itachi reflexively countered the attack with his own weapon. The older of the two men hauled the younger man out of the way.

"Go," he shouted.

The two of them ran out the door. Itachi followed before any of the villagers could stop him. He used the demon's chakra to launch himself forwards with speed had had been unable to use in years. He came in front of the men. The two of them halted, surprised at his newfound abilities.

"Who are you?" gasped the younger.

Itachi reached with right hand and hooked the collar of his shirt with one of the chakra fingers. Pulling the fabric down he saw the shock spread on their faces.

"A Konohagakure headband!"

"Look closely," said the raspy-voiced man. "It has a scratch across it."

Itachi lowered his right hand, covering his headband again. The raspy-voiced man stared at him with wary eyes.

"Who are you?" he asked, echoing his companion's question.

"Someone who has no intention of allowing you to fulfil your plans," Itachi replied.

A beat of silence passed. And then the youngest man panicked. And charged.

I rest my head back against the trunk of the tree I sit under. I spent the last of my strength getting into the shade of the leaves. My body is failing, and the demon is responsible for keeping me alive. It is doing more work than my own body to keep me from dying.

Even keeping my head up takes more energy than I have. I head slumps forwards again. My chin rests on my chest. My breathing eases out the longer I sit. I wonder if I will die this way. To have survived so long, only to be killed off by starvation and thirst. Yet I do not feel upset. I feel this time I will die. I thought so the same day I received the demon. Contemplating my mortality seems much less momentous the second time.

I do not know how long I sit, but as I do, a melody creeps into my mind. The lullaby my mother used to sing to me when I was a child. The demon is beginning to sacrifice other functions of its chakra to focus on keeping me alive.

'It's an annoying song,' it comments.

'It is fitting,' I reply.

I never made it to Sasuke's doorstep. But he knew it would be my dirge. I do not know how he did it, but using a genjutsu, my mother's lullaby plays in endless repeat in my head. Even the demon could not break it, but it was able to lower its prominence—turning down the volume down, so to speak. It was only a faint background noise, and only if I tried to hear it. But now, the demon has relinquished its hold on the genjutsu, just keep me alive.

'I want to thank you, Raijuu,' I tell it, 'and apologise. Because of you, I am alive, and because of me you will die.'

A scoffing sound echoes over the lullaby. 'I would have left you dead years ago, if I could have.'

A weak smile crawls across my lips. 'What comforting words from a dear friend. Thank you.'

I imagine the demon rolling its eyes. I try and sink into sleep. Somehow, it seems that it'll be less painful that way.

Blood on his hands, and bodies at his feet, Itachi stood in the main square. There was a deafening silence. Nobody had tried to stop the fight; Itachi had learned long ago that the villagers didn't know where they fit in the shinobi world. Now, as the two spies from Otogakure lay dead at his feet, he sensed the shock of the people watching.

The people in the bar had come out. He observed how many of them stared. For the first time, Itachi saw the faces of people he had lived among. He vacantly noted the irony that he didn't know whose voice belonged to whose face. The man in the apron must be Tanaka the Barkeeper. His face was in absolute shock.

Eyes still on him, Itachi stepped over one of the bodies as he made his way over to a water barrel. He washed his hands of the blood as his sight began to fade again. The demon's chakra retreated with a tingling sensation following in his wake.

'We need to go,' Raijuu told him.

'I know,' he thought in response, 'Guide me back to the house.'

He went back to the bodies and took all the weapons they had on them. His sight faded back to blindness. People found their voices again. Tanaka called out to him. He turned his head toward the crowd, smiling apologetically.

"I should have told you who I was," he said.

Before anyone could ask him anything, he turned towards the road. Using the chakra supplied to spur his movement, he headed back to Chie's house, the demon verbally guiding him in the dark.

The small hut seemed melancholy when he stepped through the threshold. Raijuu told him that he was being sentimental and to get over it. But in spite of that, Itachi felt doleful as he packed he few belongings—mostly clothes, some extra food, matches. He navigated the inside the house with his good hand. He'd never seen it in all the years he had lived there.

He opened a pack and stuffed the gathered items inside. Clothes were at the bottom, followed by the food in a separate bag. He felt bad taking one of Chie's canteens for water. He put the matches, and some tinder inside. A short length of rope was coiled at the very top.

'I know what you are thinking,' Raijuu said, 'You are going to return to Konoha.'


'They will only lock you up, question you, and never let out again.'

'I have to take that risk.'

'On a stray piece of information.'

'I owe it to Sasuke to protect him,' Itachi said fastening the bundle shut.

'I am sure he will be very understanding,' was the sarcastic answer.

Itachi didn't reply. He straightened up and went to the front door with his bundle. He took a travelling cloak from the wall. Chie had made it for him, fashioning it to his liking. He'd asked to put a collar on it that was high enough to cover his chin. He told her that high collars kept his neck warm. Not only had she sewn on a high collar, she had made buttons that could be fastened with one hand.

As he donned the cloak now, he thought of different ideas to communicate the situation. Leaving a note would be impersonal, cold. The situation was far too grave for that, he concluded.

'The old woman comes towards the house,' the demon informed him. 'Don't bother.'

The door banged open. Itachi caught her as she stumbled in the door. Her breath was heavy from exertion, and even before her breath calmed, she spoke.

"Itachi-kun!" she gasped. "What's going on? They say that you killed two shinobi in town. Why are you dressed like that? Where do you think you're going? Those rumours aren't true, are they?"

Itachi put his hands on her shoulders, kneeling down to her level. He bowed his head, the same apologetic smile crossing his face.

"Chie-san, it is true what they said about the shinobi," he said. "I did kill them."

"Why? How?"

"I killed them because I am also shinobi," he said. "I have been running from my shinobi past, but now I have learned that the only remaining family I have is in danger. I cannot run anymore."

"Itachi-kun, what are you saying? Why didn't you ever tell me?" Chie's voice was laced with confusion.

"Sooner or later, it will be found out that they have been killed," Itachi said instead. "They will send more men to investigate, they will come here. I didn't want to put the village in danger, but unfortunately, I have done so. Listen carefully. When these men come. Do not try to protect me. Tell them everything you know about me. How long I have stayed, how long ago it was that I left. Leave nothing out. Tell them Uchiha Itachi killed their men. Tell them that he has gone to Konoha . Tell them everything."

He took Chie's hands. The wrinkled skin was warm, and her bony fingers shook.

"Thank you for everything, Chie-san," he said. "I will never forget what you have done for me, or the kindness you have shown me. I hope one day you will be able to forgive what I have done here."

He dropped her hands and straightened up. Her shocked silence trailed after him as he moved past her and out the door. She was too kind, too good, for the misfortunes he had brought with him. She did not deserve them.

I fade in and out of sleep. At some point, it began raining. My clothes are wet, but my body is too exhausted to even shiver. I lie in a semi-conscious state. The rain and the song in my head are the only things I process.

And then the rain doesn't touch me anymore. I hear its sound, but something has stopped it. Something blocks the rain. I struggle to lift my head. I only manage to tilt it slightly to the side. I sense someone close, someone standing over me.

"Hello?" my voice barely works.

"Don't worry, young man," says a tender voice. "This old woman has come to save you."

A/N: Finally done chapter one after the course of a few months. I'm having a lot of trouble getting started. Gone are the days where I can just sit down and write, it's like I have to force it out of myself.


Um, and with that closing note…yeah. See you…next time?