Notes: Okay, this is experimental for me, but I had fun doing these. This uses the Naruto world very loosely as a backdrop but you don't need to know anything about Naruto or its characters because, well, it's only very loosely related. For the same reason there may be some discrepancies with Naruto. Please forgive me for that but I may have tweaked things to fit the story—and because this presumes that the war is over.
Disclaimer: I don't own DCMK or Naruto.
Pairings: Mainly KaiShin, but includes some HakuRan and references to HeiKazu
Extremely simplified glossary for Naruto terms you might want to know:
Chakra = A kind of life energy used to perform specialized techniques
Gennin/Chuunin/Jounin/Kage = Listed in ascending order, they're all levels/ranks for ninja.
Genjutsu = Basically techniques involving the mind, like illusions, but they generally don't cause physical harm.
Taijutsu = Think about them as physical techniques.
Drabble Set 1: Meetings
The first time they met, Kaito had been told that his next assignment would be to guide a squad as they escorted one Lady Suzuki Sonoko to a city in the heart of the Land of Rice where she would be marrying her fiancé. He hadn't thought much of the assignment but apparently this was one of those few arranged marriages where the betrothed already knew and loved each other—and hey, who wouldn't want to help out true love? It sounded like an easy jaunt anyway and he'd heard some interesting stories about this squad he'd be guiding. So he went to meet them with light steps and thoughts of perfecting the technique he'd been developing that would let him walk on air for short periods of time. The short part was a little annoying, but he'd work on that once he got the walking part down.
What he hadn't expected was to find himself face to face with a boy about his own age, maybe a year younger, with eyes the same endless blue as the sky and features that, while different, resembled his own to an unusual degree for people unrelated by blood.
"My name is Kuroba Kaito," he had announced as he made his entrance in a veritable aurora of lights and swept into a showman's bow. "I will be your guide for this venture."
The boy with the blue eyes had looked at him quizzically for a moment before asking, "Are you sure you're a spy?"
Kaito had laughed at that, surprised and amused by the peculiar question. "Absolutely positive. Don't worry, I leave the flashing lights behind when I'm on business. Most of the time."
The dark-skinned youth—he'd introduced himself as Hattori Heiji—stood squared off against a blonde Kaito recognized as the Hakubas' only son. He'd met the latter a few times in the past and didn't particularly like him. He was a little too by-the-book and expected everyone else to do the same. Those who didn't he had a tendency to patronize. It didn't make him a bad person, just irritating and a bit of a stick in the mud.
Apparently, he was just the right blend of personality to rub the team's sword expert the wrong way.
Their village was almost renowned for having strange squads, but even so Kaito had never seen a team quite as apparently dysfunctional as this one. Although he'd heard stories that the current Hokage had had a pretty disjointed one himself back in the day.
And off to the side the squad's remaining two members—Kudo Shinichi, the one with the blue eyes, and a kunoichi by the name of Mouri Ran, who reminded Kaito of a friend of his who was currently out on a mission of her own—sat and watched with the longsuffering expressions of people who had seen it a hundred times already. Kaito himself was being rapidly inducted into their ranks as this scene played out at least twice a day, sometimes more over various, little, practically inconsequential details.
Despite the frequent arguments, the squad did work well together. Every one of them seemed to have a role which they played and which allowed them to really be a team and not just a handful of ninja on an assignment.
Mouri Ran was the peacemaker and taskmaster, partially because the others all respected her but mostly because she had both the ability (as one of the village's taijutsu masters) and the temper to break a few bones if sufficiently irritated. Hakuba Saguru, whom Kaito was beginning to suspect had a soft spot for the aforementioned girl, managed both the team's finances and travel schedule. He'd always been a bit of a math nut, or so the spy's impeccable memory recalled. It seemed he was now putting those skills to good use. Hattori Heiji, his constant opponent on the verbal battlefield, was one of the team's main actors. If they were a single entity, he'd have been the sword-arm. Quick action was definitely his forte. Then there was Kudo Shinichi. It turned out that he was the team's strategist. In the handful of sticky situations they had encountered thus far, Kaito had noticed that he was always quick to take in and not only analyze the situation but find multiple ways to solve it. And the others trusted his judgment to the point where none of them ever questioned his directions, even when they seemed illogical at the time. And their faith had yet to be misplaced.
Overall they were a rather fascinating set of personalities, the spy mused, and he himself had slid into their midst with seamless ease. Their mission required them to first travel to the house of the lady they were to escort before taking her the considerable distance to her fiancé in the Land of Rice. The territory in question was currently politically unstable and Kaito, who had spent the last few months studying it up close, was one of the only people in Konoha who knew the details of the situation and could predict the way things were shifting in each area. As such he was their guide and in charge of picking the routes where they were least likely to be mobbed. That wouldn't stop any assassins that might have been hired by those opposed to Lady Suzuki's marriage and the alliance it would form, but that was a different matter and not part of his jurisdiction anyway.
Their guide was . . .not what any of them had expected—to put it mildly. Heiji had fretted the entire day before they'd left on their assignment over the possibility of being stuck with another one of those "damned, stuck-up know-it-alls"' while sending pointed looks in Hakuba's direction. So he'd been more than relieved when the spy had introduced himself. A few days of association later and he realized that Kaito was indeed one of those people who seemed to know everything and weren't afraid to brag about it, but he didn't carry about him that "you are inferior" air that most such people did and that made all the difference. It was just a bonus that he also seemed to annoy Hakuba simply by existing (all right, that might be a slight exaggeration, but Heiji had never had so many laughs at the blonde's expense and he was relishing every minute of it even if he himself wound up being the butt of some of the spy's other jokes). Hakuba on the other hand wished fervently that their guide had been anyone else.
Ran herself found the spy refreshingly well-mannered. He treated her with the utmost respect but without being stiff and he actually listened to what she said all the time without having to have his arm twisted. He was easy to talk to and full of stories and she had to wonder why she'd never heard of him before. Though she did think he could lay off on the pranks a bit, at least while they were on the road. On the flip side, his antics made Saguru stick closer to her (as her presence seemed to ward off some of the spy's more elaborate tricks) and she wasn't going to complain about that.
For his part, Shinichi found the spy simply to be puzzling. Yes, he was cheerful, and yes, he was easy to talk to and all those other things, but at the same time he was a closed book that had had its cover wiped clean and its pages glued shut. Perhaps it was a side effect of being a spy, but it seemed to Shinichi that their guide's open, friendly attitude—while not exactly false—was far from all there was. It was about as telling as the surface of a lake. No amount of reflections obscured the lake itself, but the nature of what lay underneath was a different matter entirely.
It was kind of unsettling, but no one else seemed to notice so he put it out of his mind.
After all, there was nothing false about that smile, even if what it was aimed at or what it really meant were indecipherable.
"Isn't that one of the Medical Core's advanced textbooks?" Kaito asked curiously as he dropped onto the grass beside Shinichi.
The shorter boy didn't even bother to look up from his reading as he answered with an affirmative noise. Paper crackled and pages turned.
"So why are you reading that?" the spy prodded when it became apparent that no further commentary would be forthcoming.
"I'm thinking about transferring into the Core."
"Oh?" Kaito took a closer look at the book in his companion's hand. It wasn't just advanced. It was one of those books the medics didn't even allow their own beginners to touch lest they end up causing irreparable damage. Said medics also had a tendency to watch their books like hawks for the same reason. If Shinichi was reading this one, then he'd obviously had both the skills and the interest to get a transfer for some time.
Curious, he asked Hattori about it while the two of them were scouting out the next stretch of their current route.
"Oh, that," the dark-skinned shinobi had said with a shrug. "The three of us have been trying to get him to send in a request for ages now, but he keeps putting it off. He's worried about what might happen if he abandons us I think, even if he knows we can take care of ourselves. I mean, I'm quick on my feet, and Hakuba's no slouch even if he can be a bastard. And Ran's smart. But that's just Shinichi for you. Always has to be right there—first on the scene and last one off and all that or he'll worry." Hattori paused for a moment's thought then laughed. "Can't really blame him though. I guess I'm a bit like that too. It's hard to sit back when your friends might be in trouble. But if we're all like that we might as well stick together."
"Still," he added, tone growing more contemplative, almost as though he were thinking aloud rather than talking to the spy. "I think he'd be better off if he got that transfer."
It had started when Lady Suzuki, a rather energetic woman, had announced with great irritation that she was bored. They had stopped to make camp for the night. Seated around the campfire, she had suggested that they each sing a song. Ran had approved of the idea and so the impromptu concert had begun.
"You really don't want to hear me sing," Shinichi had told them when it was his turn, but the lady had rolled her eyes and demanded that he play his part. Resigned to his fate, he'd obliged and sang a few lines.
"You're right," the lady remarked, wrinkling her nose as she waved him ino silence. "We really don't need to hear you sing. How about you do something else then?"
He stared at her. "Like what?"
"I don't know. Anything. You have to take a turn."
A rather confusing few moments passed before Kaito volunteered to take Shinichi's performance slot as well as his own. He'd proceeded to sing a short marching song—in Shinichi's voice, only in tune and on beat.
Shinichi couldn't help but gape as Heiji and the girls applauded the performance. "That's just creepy."
The spy flashed him a mischievous grin. "You ain't seen anything yet."
He'd proceeded to sing every song that had been sung that evening in a perfect rendition of the voices of those who had sung them the first time around.
Their first major obstacle arrived in the form of a heavy fog that rolled in as they were making their way in single file along a narrow path above a deep gorge. Heiji had let out a startled yell as the rocky ledge beneath his feet gave way. He had the presence of mind to let go of the people on either side of him so that he didn't pull them down with him as he slid downward, but the crumbling spread into a full out rockslide. When the rumbling and shaking finally came to a stop the entire side of the gorge had collapsed and no one could see or hear anyone else. With both the fog and the unstable grounds working against them, it was impossible to mount a search.
Shinichi, who had been at the front of the procession with their guide, wanted to wait where they were for the fog to clear then go back and look for their vanished comrades, but the spy objected.
"The land's not going to get any more stable," he'd pointed out. "And there might be another rockslide. We should keep going. I know a plateau not too far ahead that has several alternate paths attached to it. We can wait out the fog there and then I'll send some birds out to lead the others there."
"Relax," Kaito told his companion as he watched Shinichi pacing back and forth across the breadth of the plateau. "They'll be fine. Don't you trust them?"
Shinichi sighed. "I do, but—"
"Then come here, sit down, and have a biscuit. It won't do anyone any good if you wear yourself out worrying."
"You're awfully unconcerned about all this," he noted as he let out another breath and sat down on the indicated boulder.
"I've always found that wearing new paths in solid stone with my feet isn't generally a productive way to spend my time. Besides, can't do anything useful on an empty stomach, right?"
Despite his anxiety Shinichi had to laugh. "Weren't you going to give me a biscuit?"
Ran was the first to arrive in the wake of a flurry of small, dove wings.
"Wow," she'd commented as she joined them and took a biscuit from Shinichi. "You're not running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I'm impressed."
Kaito laughed as Shinichi spluttered in indignation. "Not for lack of trying, I assure you," he told her, earning himself a glare from the boy in question.
Heiji was the second to arrive, looking rather battered but intact. Shinichi set about healing his injuries and he'd just finished when Hakuba made his appearance with Lady Suzuki in tow.
Shinichi had never liked the idea of killing. He had met many ninja both while he'd been in training and since who had reveled in the ability to crush an enemy. For some it was a matter of pride and proof of their skill, for others the guarantee that they would have the strength to protect their friends—there were even a few, thankfully rare, who delighted simply in the ability to kill. Most of them had come to see death as simply an inevitable side effect of the lifestyles they led. It was unpleasant, but it couldn't be avoided, and if it couldn't be avoided than it was preferable for the deaths to be on the other side of the battle.
But Shinichi couldn't help but think that those must be the same thoughts running through the heads of that 'other' side. They all fought because it was their duty to do so for someone, somewhere, or something. Those things and people and places differed and that was where the battles began, but it meant that any death was a loss to be mourned. Life was, after all, the greatest treasure given to men.
And really, what could killing actually solve in the long run? In the end it just made more enemies which eventually led to more killing. It was a vicious cycle but a cycle that was ingrained so firmly into their lives that it looked impossible to break.
And because of that there were times when death couldn't be avoided. So it was that, when duty demanded it, he did his job and defeated the enemy in that final, irreversible way for all that it made him feel sick inside. All he could do was make sure that he never dragged it out if he could and he refused to learn any techniques aimed only at causing pain. It didn't make killing feel any less like a sin—didn't make him feel any less like a monster when the battles ended, but it was all he could do.
They had been ambushed. The enemy outnumbered them four to one. Shinichi had pushed the startled Lady Suzuki at Kaito and asked him to get her to safety. Kaito had done so without complaint, but he had summoned a dove and left it with his companions so it could let him know when it was safe to bring the lady back or call him if they needed help. They hadn't needed him though. By the time he brought the lady back all of the assassins were dead and the ground was splattered with fresh blood.
They had left the area quickly after that just in case the ambushers hadn't been alone.
"Are you all right?"
Kaito raised an eyebrow at the unexpected question being directed his way. He was probably the only one of their lot to whom the phrase 'all right' could currently be applied without lying through one's teeth. His fellow ninja had all sustained varying levels of injuries which Shinichi hadn't yet had the time to tend to and the lady was shaken to the point of actually being quiet—a first since they'd picked her up from her father's house. "Of course. But why do you ask? I wasn't the one who just fought a battle."
"The blood bothers you."
The spy paused a moment in surprise. No one had ever noticed that before. It wasn't a fact he advertised and he was usually careful to keep it tucked away from the public. Had he slipped? But he never slipped.
"A little," he admitted finally. "But it's not as though it's anything I haven't seen before."
It was only later, when he spied Shinichi washing his hands in the river for the thirty sixth time that evening and their short conversation resurfaced in his mind that Kaito found he now understood Hattori's cryptic remark about how his friend might be better off elsewhere. The realization left him feeling odd all night.
Lady Suzuki invited them all to her wedding and Ran, who had become fast friends with the energetic woman over the course of their travels, had insisted they accept her offer. It was a huge event involving not only the entire city but several of the nearest towns and villages as well. In no time at all the escort party found themselves recruited and put to work helping with the preparations. By the time the actual ceremony came around Shinichi was ready to swear that the wedding preparations were ten times more tiring than the mission itself.
Sitting on one of the roofs overlooking the plaza where the wedding was currently underway, he let out a breath of relief. He was definitely looking forward to going home.
He jumped, head snapping around so fast he made himself dizzy. There, seated beside him, was Kaito—whom he hadn't even noticed approaching.
"When did you—"
"About three minutes ago." The spy was smirking rather smugly. "You should be more careful."
Shinichi rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to the wedding. Nothing had really changed in his few moments of inattention. Letting out his umpteenth sigh of the day, he turned his eyes upward. There was a hawk circling slowly overhead. Its silhouette was stark against the pale light of the sky and the path of its flight a graceful stroke on the flawless blue canvas.
"Do you like birds?"
Shinichi started again, having almost forgotten he wasn't alone. "Yeah. I wonder sometimes what it feels like to fly."
Kaito hummed, leaning back on his hands and turning his gaze to the horizon. "What it's like to fly huh? I'd say it's like the greatest freedom and the greatest regret since even though nothing can touch you while you're up there and you can leave everything behind, you also know that you'll have to come down eventually."
"You sound like you actually know what you're talking about," Shinichi observed.
The other laughed. "Maybe I do."
There were three things that made Kaito the brilliant spy that he was. Two of these reasons were obvious to any given the opportunity to see.
First was his ability to do perfect transformations and hold the shapes he took on for almost indefinite amounts of time.
Second was his uncanny talent for acting. He could impersonate anyone perfectly down to the most minute of mannerisms after only a negligible amount of time to study them. No one ever saw more of his thoughts than he wished them to, and they only ever saw the thoughts he left out for them to find. It was a game he enjoyed and he relished in his ability to fool the world. He liked showing off and being flashy, but there was a certain kind of thrill to be had in the perfect deception.
The last of the reasons however was much less easily detected though possibly the most frightening of them all for it was his mastery of the art of manipulation. It wasn't just the everyday kind of manipulation woven from words and misguided thoughts—though he excelled in that kind as well—no, it was the ability he had to delve right into people's minds, unearth their most innermost thoughts and emotions, and bend them to his own ends, helped along by an innate talent for genjutsu. Once, when he was younger, he'd overheard Nakamori-sensei telling his mother, "That kid of yours, he could probably take over the world if he wanted to."
His mother had laughed but in that light, knowing way of mothers. "Then it's probably a good thing that he doesn't want to."
Shinichi always remembered the way his parents smiled. His mother had a bright, ecstatic kind of smile that always looked like it was about to tell a joke at your expense. A lot of times it was true. But it was a warm smile too in a bubbling kind of way. His father's smile was quieter and much less easy to see. It was a knowing smile that made those who saw it wonder what he knew that they didn't. Thinking back, he realized that he'd never really been able to see behind their smiles. He'd never thought he had to because he knew their smiles were genuine even if he didn't always know what they were smiling about.
The smiles they'd worn the day they left to travel the world had been different though. They'd been excited in a way he'd never seen before—like people who had finally seen the sun after too long spent in the gray clutches of a storm. It was, he recalled, the first time he wondered how much he didn't know about them. How much he didn't understand.
And even now, years later, he still didn't understand. He didn't understand why it was only on the day they left that they'd looked free. He didn't understand why they had chosen that particular day to leave. He didn't understand how they could abandon their duties to the village the way they had. And he didn't understand why they had left him behind.
Kaito had never liked to spill blood. Neither did he like seeing others engage in the act. Life was precious no matter who it belonged to, and often the enemy was only an enemy because their respective homes, leaders, and loved ones demanded it. But there were also those dark-hearted bastards of the human race who did nothing with their lives but harm others and cause pain. There were people who did not deserve second chances.
Kaito had never liked to spill blood, but he didn't have to. He was a master of illusions and the arts of the mind. Because of that, those truly evil souls who crossed his path never died, but neither could they ever raise a hand against another living creature again.
Hakuba Saguru had never liked taking risks. It wasn't that he lacked a sense of adventure or courage, but he hated the idea of failure. Maybe it was a different kind of cowardice, but he would much rather take his time and be absolutely sure of a plan's success before executing even the smallest part of it. He liked to call it caution, and most of the time he found it paid off.
At the same time however he had noticed that it had led him to miss certain chances he could have had. It was something he hadn't noticed until Shinichi had asked him after a particularly heated fight between himself and Hattori whether he really thought there was no place for impulse. He'd stopped and looked back and he'd realized that most of the biggest disappointments he'd had in his life had come from actions taken too late. It had been a hesitation that twice cost him the chuunin exams years ago—both times in the final rounds. And it was his ongoing reluctance to discuss anything with his father because he could never predict how the man would react that was putting their relationship under constant strain (he knew his father cared for him, but his own expectations for himself kept him from asking for help, be it with training or work, and he hadn't realized until recently that the man felt estranged by that).
With that in mind he'd gathered up his courage and taken the risk to ask Mouri Ran if she would allow him the chance to see if he was someone she would be willing to spend the rest of her life with. And he was glad he'd taken that risk. Her smile had made all the uncertainty worth it.
It had taken some careful planning and he'd had to pull a few strings (most of whom never realized they'd been pulled), but Kaito had managed to arrange for both himself and Shinichi to be in the village for the spring festival. He'd bid his friend and neighbor Nakamori Aoko good morning before excusing himself.
"I'll see you later by the sakura when the taiko performance starts, right? There should be a good view from the first hill."
"Yep. Though we may have to do some seat-grabbing if that's where you want to watch the show from."
"Oh, didn't I tell you? Akako said she'd get us a spot." The girl looked away, a bit embarrassed. "You don't mind do you? I know you two didn't used to get along, but . . ."
"Don't worry about it," he assured her, hoping the red haired kunoichi known as the master of the Puppet Strings techniques he remembered as being the owner of the name Akako had mellowed out some in the years since he'd last seen her. "I'll be bringing someone too so I can hardly tell you not to."
"Is this the friend you made on that mission to the Land of Rice you won't shut up about?" she asked curiously.
He offered her a mock wounded look in return. "I never realized you disliked talking to me so much. But alas, I suppose now that I know I cannot keep assaulting your sensibilities with my words. I will, however, forever mourn the loss—"
"Oh shut up!" she exploded, laughing and scowling as she punched him in the shoulder. "Honestly, what's gotten into you today? I feel like you're about to start bouncing off the walls at any moment!"
Shinichi hadn't gone to the spring festival in years. He was always either out of the village or too tired to bother or just didn't feel like it. Wandering by himself through noisy crowds held little appeal to him. He used to go with Ran since she made a point of dragging him there. But this year she was going with Hakuba Saguru, and while she'd asked if he wanted to join them he had no inclination to spend the day as either the proverbial third wheel or playing chaperon.
Hattori sometimes told him that he thought there was something wrong with him since he'd rather read a book at home than go to a festival. And sometimes Shinichi thought he might be right. But that thought didn't make him feel any differently.
Still, when he answered the insistant pounding on the door to find a grinning Kaito inviting him out to a day in the festivities he found himself agreeing with barely a second thought. There was just something about the eager light in the other's indigo eyes that made him feel oddly light and he couldn't refuse.
"Hello, I'm Nakamori Aoko, it's nice to meet you."
Shinichi returned the greeting and introduction while trying not to stare. The girl before him reminded him an awful lot of Ran, just wilder around the edges. A few minutes of conversation though and he'd found that they were rather different. Yet they both had a way of making him feel like he was missing something.
"So you met Kaito on that escort mission he helped with, right?" she asked when the spy in question had gone off in search of more snacks followed by a red haired friend of Aoko's.
"The Lady Suzuki mission," Shinichi agreed.
She nodded in the manner of someone who already knew she'd been right. "So do you like him?"
He'd paused at that, puzzled at the rather odd question. "Well . . .I don't exactly make a habit of spending my free time with people I don't like . . .?"
The look she'd given him had started out confused and disbelieving before she'd shaken her head at him and gone on to ask a lot of questions about the things he'd done, the people he knew, the things he liked and didn't, and so on and so forth until he really wanted to be anywhere else. It wasn't that he disliked her company, she seemed fairly nice, but he wasn't accustomed to discussing, well, himself with even people he'd known all his life. Doing so at the behest of a near stranger was extremely uncomfortable. But there was just something about the way she asked the questions that made him answer. When Kaito and the redhead got back he took the chance to excuse himself and fled for some fresh air.
Aoko watched him go with a bemused expression before turning to Kaito and meeting his raised eyebrows with a shrug. "He's honest, I like him. But he seems a bit slow on the uptake."
Kaito laughed. "I've never met a faster and more effective strategist actually. It just doesn't seem to translate well to certain other things. What did you say to him anyway? He sure ran away from you fast."
"I was just trying to get to know him," she said dismissively.
"Ah, that explains a lot."
She shot him a glare. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"My dear Aoko, while your skills in the interrogation room are formidable, they are not meant for social occasions."
"I know that!"
"Uh huh. I'm sure you do."
Her expression grew stormy but Shinichi chose that moment to return. He took one look at the thunderclouds on her face and the grin on Kaito's and wondered if he should leave. But the redhead cut in before any of them could say or do anything by pointing out that the performance was about to begin.
Kaito had always loved the taiko performance held every spring festival. Much as he liked being the showman, he could also admire the shows of others, and there was a power and grace in the almost dance-like drumming that was thrilling to behold. But this year he found his gaze kept wandering away from the drummers on the stage. Instead he found himself watching Shinichi's rapt face and the wondering smile that currently occupied it. It was distracting to say the least, but in a good way.
A.N: There are three more drabble sets. I'm mostly done with them but I need to edit and make sure there's nothing I need to add. The next part should be up within two weeks. Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for reading!