Chapter 13

Root is Life

Disclaimer:I own nothing. All Buffy-related material belongs to Joss Whedon and all Naruto-related material is owned by Kishimoto.

Warning: Mentions of near Super!Buffyness. Slice of life and all the inane things we face in life. Stories are based on Canon, but are changed to better integrate Buffy. Slightly skewed timeline in Naruto-verse - if events and people don't match up, make a note and comment. All questions, comments and concerns can be addressed in the review section.

"Report," the voice intoned.

Wasting no time, the lone Root Agent kept his voice steady as he kneeled before his Lord and Master, voice void of any and all inflection as he gave his account. "Yes, Danzou-sama. News has spread of the woman's startlingly similar appearance and her claim to the boy; the entire village believes her to be the container's maternal aunt and the Hokage-sama's continued meetings with the woman only further support this claim."

"Yes, these meetings - Hiruzen has been keeping much from his council of advisors," Danzou mused momentarily before continuing on with his line of questioning. "Have you been able to decipher the nature of these so called visits the two share?"

"No, Danzou-sama."

"I see," Danzou stated, his voice sharp and crisp; there was nothing soft to the man. He was all sharp and jagged edges - a product of much fighting and bloodshed, a product of Shinobi life. "Then what of the boy?"

"The demon container appears overjoyed with his connection to the supposed Uzumaki woman. It is said that wherever she appears, the container is not far behind."

"And the villagers? How do they take to her foreign presence?"

"While curiosity has them eager for information on the woman and her activities within the village, they dare not approach lest a repeat incident at the Academy should occur. At the present time, most are content to keep their distances from the woman and child, but they do so more out of fear than common courtesy."

"As expected. The wayward sheep would no doubt be able to sense the dangers that lurk behind that innocent facade. And the Shinobi under Hiruzen's control? What do they make of the woman and her sudden appearance into the very heart of the village?"

Throughout their exchange, the Root Agent had kept his gaze to the floor, allowing his bangs to obscure his face from view - a servant had no place gazing upon their Lord's form. It was ingrained into them that they were of different ilk, that they were inferior in every way, shape and form, and that it was their fate to obey, but just this once, the boy hesitated.

His eyes strayed from the cold and hard floor, discretely taking in Danzou's form and what he saw left the boy afraid of answering. Danzou's voice had been just as cold and inflectionless as the his own, but his eyes, they told of another story - they shined with the light of curiosity. His Lord was truly interested in his answer and that was never a good sign in Root.

Immediately he thought of Shin. He thought of the new round of tests, a new round of experiments that left the body on the brink of death and the soul wishing for its sweet release. A bead of sweat began to form on the youth's temple, but he dared not make a move lest he bring notice to his sudden hesitation. Knowing that there was no way to avoid his fate, he forged on, pushing away all the unwanted memories to the darkest recesses of his mind until only dull lifeless eyes shone through. Until he was the perfect Root weapon.

"The Shinobi respect her Danzou-sama." The very air around him seemed to freeze as soon as he finished his sentence and he unconsciously tensed, his entire body going rigid, waiting for the threat to come and go. But that was wishful thinking on his part - it had always been.

Root was life.

"Explain," Danzou replied, his voice as chilling and cold as the very air around them. From his covert glances, the boy could clearly see the tightening of the man's lips until they formed an angry line and the slight narrowing of the man's eyes.

"While they do not trust her, they respect her Danzou-sama. They have seen her conviction, the lengths that she would and could go to protect her charge and the skills at her disposal," the youth hurriedly replied.

There's no point in delaying the inevitable, he thought, before he took a much needed breath, and carried on. "Because of this, she has caught the interest of many Jounin, one particular advocate of hers being Maitou Gai, the talented Taijutsu specialist. It is the talk of the town, how the man follows her night and day just hoping to get a glimpse of her."

When the raven haired youth finished, he was met with silence, which only served to unnerve him further. While it was true that the Danzou was not a man of words, there was never a moment that he was at a lost for them. Seeing such a side of the otherwise unflappable man was truly disconcerting.

It seems that times are indeed changing. What else will change because of you, Uzumaki-san?

After what felt like an eternity to him, Danzou finally replied, breaking the boy out of his musings. So absorbed in his thoughts, the Root trained soldier had missed whatever his Lord's next words, and momentarily flushed in shame before stuttering, "Y-yes, Danzou-sama?"

"I said that will be all for today."

Following his statement, Danzou slowly began to rise, the rustling of cloth as his robes pooled around him and the familiar echoes of his trusted cane impacting the chilly surface that was made up the cavern of Root's headquarters could be heard. Before exiting the chambers, the Leader of Root stood with his back to his subordinate, before imparting his last words of wisdom for the day. "Perhaps, it is time you were reminded what it truly means to be a member of Root."

With his parting words, Danzou was gone.

In his wake, the raven collapsed onto his knees.

And so it begins.

To be a Shinobi meant death, meant everlasting sacrifice and duty - the Village was above all else. Even one's own life and happiness paled in comparison to the whole. Just from his voice alone, the Root agent understood all that his Lord had sacrificed over the years and would continue to sacrifice in the name of Konoha.

But what of the Root agents that have come and gone over the years. They were orphans, the outcasts and the trash that the Village could not and would not take claim of. When they fell in battle, their names were not etched on the Memorial Stone that stood testament to the fallen. They had no friends, no family to remember them when they had passed on from the World of the Living.

To be a Shinobi meant death. To be Root was to be a ghost - never seen and never heard. To be Root was to be alone. To never exist. They had no hope. No escape. Contemplating all this, the youth could not help but remember Shin again, his first and last friend and what the teen had said all those years ago.

Root is Life

To Be Continued

A/N: I have no excuse for not updating, but let's not dwell on that. As usual, forgive the less than polished work I release and comment if you could.