After his battle he was supposed to head straight to Orochimaru. That was the reason he was out here in the first place. Uchiha Sasuke had just become the newest traitor of his village, and he had no other choice but to move forward with his decision. There were men sent to take him away and were most probably waiting close by for him to locate them. Once he met with them, there would be no turning back, and the dark-haired boy didn't want to. He wanted this. He wouldn't have tried so hard to get away if he didn't have the resolve to leave everything behind.
If Naruto hadn't interfered he probably would've been hours away from this place, whatever it was called. A massive statue of Shodaime was looking across into the eyes of another statue of a man he didn't know. Sasuke briefly wondered what sort of important event could have taken place there that incredible monuments had to be erected, but the thought was irrelevant and was dismissed quickly.
Konoha's newest missing-nin, slowly dragged his drenched, pain-laden body away from an unconscious blond boy, and crossed the rain-soaked field wearily. The surrounding forest was just ahead of him.
His thoughts went to what would happen now that he no longer had any right to return to the only home he knew, and he almost turned his head to look back. But he didn't trust himself at that moment. He did not want to waver even the slightest bit. To look back would be to see the road back to the place he had been born in. To turn his head would be to see that prone twelve-year-old body on the ground, bleeding, barely breathing, and Sasuke did not want to admit it but one more glimpse of that boy just might be the one thing that could shatter his resolve.
That boy could have been his friend. Almost had been, in fact. But there was only one thing that he could keep in his heart, Sasuke reminded himself. Only the burning hatred for his brother could carry him through to his ultimate goal. Anything else would be a distraction and a hindrance, and he did not endure the last five years just to give up halfway.
The last few years Konohagakure had hardly been a home to him. His house had only served as a shelter from the weather and provided a place to sleep at. And sleep had rarely been a peaceful one for him. The village had nothing else to offer, except for low class missions and meager training that was not enough to nurture the true potential in him. There was nearly nothing more to be gained by staying and he had nothing he wanted to take with him except a few memories that would remind him what he had been through.
Now his only option was to go to that vile snake-man who offered to give him what he wanted. Sasuke believed that Orochimaru understood him somehow. The village was a wall that had hindered his growth and he had gained a wealth of knowledge the village had refused to offer. If he joined that man, all that knowledge would be imparted to him. Sasuke was ready and willing to accept.
But there was just one thing that could be a slight problem.
Cloaked within dense forest shadows, Sasuke stopped walking. What would Orochimaru do once he finds out that the boy he'd been expecting was no longer a boy? A glance down revealed the small breasts covered only by the rain-soaked, high-collared blue shirt she regularly wore. There was a disturbing feel to the mounds of flesh she'd just acquired. It wasn't her fault that she had no bandages prepared to hide them. The new weight bothered her. She hadn't expected the change to happen so early. Or at all. Somehow, in the middle of her heated battle with Naruto she had changed back and she hadn't realized at all until her heart beat had returned to normal and they both were down on the gound.
Closing her eyes, she recalled how it all began. Her mind went back to a time when happiness was constant; to a time when her world had not shattered into sharp, unrecognizable pieces.
Five-year old Sasuke stirred at her mother's shocked, muffled voice coming from just outside the living room where she was in. The cushion her head was resting on still held her mother's warmth telling the young girl that Mikoto had left the spot just recently.
"It is the grand elder's will," answered another voice. Drowsily, she recognized that it belonged to her father.
"Why," Mikoto whispered almost tonelessly, yet angry. At the same time it was heavily resigned.
"I don't know." Sasuke wondered if the helplessness in her father's voice had only been imagined. She'd never heard him like that before. He was always so stern, and carried himself with an air of pride and authority. To her he was an image of infallible strength and it was so strange to hear otherwise. She drifted back to sleep with their conversation as her lullaby.
When she had awoken again some hours later, she had nearly cried out in surprise at the old, wrinkly face peering straight down at her. It had taken her several moments to recognize the person as grandma Emiko. Young Sasuke had always found it funny how her name meant 'smiling child' yet she was neither a child nor did she smile frequently. In fact, Sasuke had only seen her with scary, humorless expressions and found her always grumpy and even sterner than her father. Nonetheless she'd always respected grandma Emiko who was the head of the family's council of Elders. She was the eldest and only woman in the council, which probably meant something.
That day, before Sasuke could do or say anything, the grand elder's bony hands had grabbed her face firmly and had made her look at those stern, black eyes that looked much like her own. She could not identify the old lady's expression.
"A boy will be better," the raspy voice had said.
Later on she had found out the little something different on her body. It hadn't mattered to her at that time. What difference did it make for a child? She had been very happy, in fact, that she could relieve herself standing up, exactly the same way as her brother. It hadn't taken her long to get used to her new body then, so she deduced that it wouldn't be much different now for the reverse.
Besides the strange feeling on her chest she felt no different from before. She supposed in time there may be things that would cause some inconvenience, such as menstruation, but surely it wasn't something she would not be able to handle.
As she moved further in through the dense growth each step forward made her feel more exhausted, and doubts began to come to life. A gnarly tree root caused her to stumble and it took all her will power to keep upright and drag her feet through the dim, uneven path. Orochimaru made her think she needed him and promised her power under his guidance.
She wasn't blind to not see his careful manipulations nor was she stupid that she believed every single thing he told her. Initially she thought she didn't mind becoming his puppet, but now she realized how foolish she'd be to go to him.
He wanted to make her stronger for his own self-interest and wouldn't care whether she would achieve her goals. It was a game she couldn't win when all she would be was a puppet under his influence.
She wouldn't go to him. She wasn't obliged to him in any way, she thought without a stir of any emotion, as if the rain washed it all away into nothingness. Turning her body towards a different direction, she pushed forward, resolving to seize the future with her own hands.
If Orochimaru or anyone else didn't find her soon enough, it would steadily become more difficult to do so. They certainly wouldn't know that they should be looking for a girl instead.
Three years later…
"Stop right there!"
Shiranui Genma, special jounin of Fire country's Konohagakure, halted instantly at the sudden whisper by his ear. The point of a cold, sharp steel was poised dangerously at the side of his neck and he held his breath instinctively. Slowly, turning his head he could see just enough of the person who had sneaked behind him and he cursed himself for being careless. He should have known better than to lower his guard, even if it was just a little bit.
He'd been walking to his temporary residence from a tiny bar just two blocks away and it was late. His companions had left earlier and he was alone in the shadowy street, or so he'd thought. He recognized the attacker immediately, though, and he was very pleased at the sudden turn of events.
The curly-haired, stocky man was the suspected missing-nin he'd been following for a few days. When Genma lost track of him earlier in the day he decided not to pursue further, knowing that he'd probably been spotted and the suspect could be waiting for him in the next corner. Having a fight in the busy street would blow his cover, and so he had chosen to leave it at that.
"Do I know you?" Genma asked innocently.
"Don't play dumb. I know you've been following me for a while, so I decided to introduce myself." Genma heard the smirk in the man's voice even though he couldn't see it. "You looked pretty dangerous, but surprisingly, I'm disappointed."
"Sorry that I don't meet your expectations," he replied, and with a few quick movements, the man was on the ground with his own kunai impaled on his left arm. Before he could do anything, Genma kicked him in the face hard enough to make him pass out.
Glancing down at the unconscious man, he sighed, relieved that nothing went wrong. He took out a long senbon needle from the inside pocket of his civilian vest, placing it in his mouth triumphantly.
Back at the the small inn his team was stationed at, a message arrived at the room he shared with a teammate. It contained confirmation of the man's status as a Sand missing-nin and orders and information for a new mission. Genma swore as he absorbed the hastily written words.
"What is it?" From his perch on the wide window sill, his young teammate's pale eyes stared at him. He tossed the scroll to the newly appointed jounin who in turn caught it with graceful ease. A glare darkened the expressionless face as he read the contents.
"Akatsuki," he said in a quiet voice. The menace in his voice was unmistakable.
"That's right, Hyuuga. Pack your things. We'll leave as soon as I gather the rest."
Genma stepped out and quickly entered the room beside theirs to relay the message that they'd been dispatched to confirm the unverified report of an Akatsuki sighting in a town close to the one they were located in. They were ordered not to engage unless absolutely necessary, and hopefully it wouldn't come to that. Their four-man team might not stand a chance especially if they encounter more than one member of the notorious group. There would be no room for carelessness this time, if they wanted to stay alive.