Hello everyone! Please read this first, if you don't mind! ^_^
So, it's been nine months since I first wrote this little story, and at that time I planned only for it to be a little drabble of a plot that had been itching at my ears. But after receiving several encouraging reviews, including one from the wonderful DarthTaisha, I decided to continue it! Ever since, I've been pouring my heart and soul into this piece, putting off even my novel, which has been suffering major writer's block. So, this has been a good side project that helped me practice my writing and to help chip away at that darn block. I have every chapter finished as of today, May 13th 2012, coming up with twenty parts all together, including this (which is now the prologue), and nineteen chapters with a small epilogue at the end of the final chapter. I plan on releasing parts every Monday and Friday, meaning that this should stretch for about two and a half months! I decided on that schedule to leave time in between for new readers to find it and latch onto it. I've worked very hard on this piece, and would love for it to reach as many readers as possible!
So! I present to you the now multi-chap Defining Innocence! ^_^ If you have the time, please leave reviews – each one means so much to me as a writer, and I promise to reply to every one as long as I'm able – meaning you must have private messaging enabled. If not, I'll give you a shout out of the beginning of the next chapter!
I hope you enjoy!
*Disclaimer* I do not own, nor claim to own, any aspect of Naruto in any way, shape, or form. This is merely a fan work, and I receive no profit.
Night would soon fall.
Itachi knelt before the Elder Council, gaze fixated on the floor a few feet before him. He had just received his last briefing for his final mission as a shinobi of Konoha. Adorned in his ANBU gear, he felt numb. After months of failed treaties and compromises, of spying on his family and betraying his own flesh and blood, it was over. Tonight, he would slaughter his entire clan, save for his younger brother and most treasured person, Sasuke.
"We trust you will be able to perform this task to the best of your ability – you must not fail." Danzo stared down at the kneeling boy, his gaze cold and, if one looked closely enough, triumphant. "As agreed, your brother will be spared and protected."
Itachi, not trusting himself to speak, merely nodded.
"Now...there is one final piece of this act that you must complete."
The boy's eyebrows drew together in a small frown, but he did not move his gaze. They had already gone over the plan in full – what else had they decided to burden him with?
"There has been unrest as of late in the Hyuuga clan regarding the two daughters of the main house – Hinata and Hanabi. Hiashi wishes for Hanabi to take her older sister's place, but cannot undermine tradition by electing her over her sibling. To settle this...dispute, you are to visit the Hyuuga compound once you have seen to your clan, and kill the elder Hyuuga daughter, Hinata." Danzo held out a scroll. "This is a map of the compound, upon which her bedroom is marked. Memorize it, then destroy it."
Gingerly, Itachi took the coiled paper in his gloved hand. "Yes, sir."
"Very well. That is all. As scheduled, you will attack at nightfall. By morning, you will be hunted. I suggest you get moving."
In a blur, Itachi disappeared, leaving the council and current Hokage alone.
Hiruzen held his face in his hands. What is this village coming to...?
Itachi sat upon the Hokage tower, legs crossed, and opened the map of the Hyuuga compound. It was large and complex, as expected of the largest clan in Konoha, but with a few glances of his Sharingan, Itachi had it memorized. The girl's room was in the east wing of the main house, near the compound wall, with two windows and one door. It would be easy to slip in, kill her, and escape unnoticed.
But as he held the scroll, Itachi's hands shook. At the bottom was a detailed bio of the girl. She was only eight, just like Sasuke. Wide eyes and a small, shy smile. Completely defenseless, and still innocent. His clan was smaller than hers, and Sasuke was the youngest, followed by a twelve year old cousin – there would be few children to slaughter in his own family. But this girl...she had done no wrong, and yet she was to be killed for clan politics and power. The thought sickened Itachi. Though he had grown up immersed in politics and power struggles, injustice of any kind was his bane. He stared at her picture, almost willing for it to disappear, for her existence to just fade away without her blood coating his already-stained hands. But still she stared at him, looking right through him with her gaze.
Before he could change his mind, he blew a small spark of fire at the scroll, watching as it turned to ashes in his palm, slowly carried away by the wind. The sun was fading beyond the village wall, and stars were beginning to emerge. Soon his clan would die, and he would live the rest of his life being hated and hunted. Wiping a stray tear from his cheek, Itachi bounded off across rooftops toward his family's compound. The one who called himself Madara would soon be there, waiting to assist the youth in his cursed fate. He could only pray to the gods that the Genjutsu he planned to catch his family in would ease their pain as he sliced their flesh with his katana.
As it was summer, the coming of night was late, and the compound was dark as the light faded. Making his way to the highest roof of the compound, Itachi waited for the last of the lanterns to extinguish. It was when the final light winked out that he felt an ominous presence land silently beside him.
"So," the older man murmured. "This is how it ends...with a one-sided slaughter. Two brothers, and an old man all that are left...the death of the glory of the Uchiha clan."
Itachi ignored him. Instead, he noiselessly dropped to the path below, drawing his katana with a slow hiss.
The one who called himself Madara chuckled. How long he had waited to take revenge on this clan – the clan that had betrayed him. Tonight he would see them die, and even get to get his hands a little dirty. Let's go have some fun...
With every house Itachi went through, he caught the family within in a powerful Genjutsu, showing their eyes another world, one without pain and murder, as he ended them swiftly. Across the compound, the stranger had other plans, drawing out the suffering of the Uchiha as he toyed with them before ending them permanently. It took only hours between the two to bring the powerful Uchiha to an end.
But when Itachi moved to take his parents, he heard something. Straining his ears, he heard Sasuke running through the gore, calling for survivors and crying. Growling, he hissed, "Get out of here – your work is done. I'll handle this."
The older man smirked, knowing of Itachi's deal. "Very well. But don't worry...we'll see each other again soon." With that, he disappeared, leaving the two brothers as the only alive within the compound.
Silently, Itachi approached his brother, letting the younger boy see his aniki covered in blood and emotionless.
Genjutsu. Pain. Torture. And then, finally, he showed his brother the gruesome sight of his parents being murdered right before his eyes. Giving his brother the hardest glower he could muster, Mangekyou Sharingan blazing, he murmured, "Foolish little brother. If you wish to kill me...hate me, detest me. And yet survive in an unsightly way. Run, run and cling to life, and when you have the same eyes as mine, come to me." And then, before he could stop them, two tears escaped his eyes. With movement too fast to be seen, he disappeared to the compound wall, running toward the last part of his mission.
Drying his eyes as he moved, he tried to numb the pain. Everyone was gone. Sasuke would live to hate him. His only ally was a shadow claiming to be the man who betrayed his clan to their fate. As he tried to smother his emotions, he came upon the western wall of the Hyuuga compound. Taking a moment to gather himself, he looked out over the clan's land, the memorized map dancing behind his eyes. Steeling himself, he ran along the wall toward the eastern border, keeping his soul together for one last kill.
Both windows were open to let in the summer night breeze. Lilac curtains were swaying lazily in the wind, reaching out and beckoning the boy closer. With silent footsteps he approached the sill, crouching in the window as he glanced around the room.
Despite being heiress, her room looked...normal. There were a few stuffed animals scattered about the floor, but otherwise the room was tidy. A large chest of drawers rested against one wall beside a desk, a closet was shut, and a tiny bed was occupied across the room. The Uchiha made his way across the carpet until he was standing over the girl.
She was lying on her back, the covers hanging over her small chest. She was tiny. One hand was up on her pillow, the other across her front gripping her blankets, head turned ever so slightly to one side. Her chest moved up and down as she breathed through her open mouth, large eyes shut. Dark hair haloed her pale face, a few strands hanging over her nose.
For some reason, despite what he had done that night, and what he had been told to do by his village, Itachi felt calm looking at her. There was the perfect example of innocence, what he was fighting to protect, and she was beautiful. With a shaking hand, Itachi brushed the hair off her face, smiling. She had haunted him when he observed her picture that evening, but seeing her in person gave a whole new feeling. He wanted to protect her, like his brother, only...different. He supposed it was some sort of attraction – he had never really found any female to his liking. How ironic that only now, when he was meant to kill her, would he find a girl who took his heart with only a look – and she wasn't even awake! Pain blossomed in his chest.
He couldn't do it.
Just like his brother, he could not stand to see her die, to feel her blood on his hands. Tremors shook him, and he pinched the bridge of his nose as he silently wept. Killing his clan he had done out of duty, after seeing what was threatening the peace he sought. But this...this was too much. His knees bent as he squatted beside her bed, face held in his hands. What could he do? The council had made it quite clear that if he didn't follow their orders, his brother would pay. But how could he choose between two innocent lives? One was his brother, and surely his most precious person, but could he really condemn a young life so freely? The boy's heart broke even further. There was only so much a human could take.
Jerking his head up, Itachi's eyes widened as the girl stared at him. She was sitting upright, large pale eyes wide and small brow drawn, full of concern. He was amazed that she had not screamed, finding a blood-covered stranger in her room.
"Are you...a-all right?"
Her voice was soft, gentle, and kind...like his mother's, only younger. He could sense her fear – he would have thought her mad if she hadn't been – but more than that he sensed her concern. Clearing his throat, he croaked, "Yes...I'm fine..."
"But...you're c-crying. And you look hurt."
He tried to smile, and replied, "No, I'm all right. Just...go back to sleep, Hinata."
She didn't question how he knew her name, or why he was in her room. She just stared at him, those pearlescent eyes looking right through him. He stared back, not knowing what else he could do. He could not kill her now.
"Hinata," he said gently. "I need you to do something for me."
"I need you to scream as loud as you can."
Hinata looked confused. "But...why?"
"It's a secret. But I can tell you that it will help keep you safe. Can you do that for me?"
The girl hesitated, but slowly nodded. Taking a deep breath, she let out a blood-curdling scream.
Within moments, several Hyuuga branch family members rushed to see what was ailing their heiress. For a moment, they saw a young boy crouched in her window, katana drawn. Then, he disappeared, running out into the night.
One woman cradled the girl gently while several men searched the room, Byakugan blazing. "Did he hurt you, Hinata sama?" she questioned, knowing that any harm that came to the girl on their watch would result in severe punishment.
But oddly, despite her scream, the girl looked fine. "N-no...he just frightened me."
The adults remained for several minutes, shutting and locking the windows, and promising to keep close in case the boy returned. Hinata agreed, waiting until they left to stand at her window. A full moon was tinged red, casting the village in an eerie glow. But Hinata didn't see the boy, and she felt sad.
"I need you to scream as loud as you can."
"It's a secret. But I can tell you that it will help keep you safe. Can you do that for me?"
"There's a good girl." With gentle hands, the boy smoothed her short hair, tucking some stray locks behind her ear. "Be safe, Hinata..." And then, so quiet she nearly missed it, he added, "I'll never forget you..."
Sighing, Hinata crawled back into bed, tugging the blankets up under her chin. She was certain that she would never forget the strange, sad boy. Slowly, her eyelids drooped, and she again fell asleep.
Through her window, Itachi watched her for several minutes before leaving Konoha for the last time, off to meet the man who claimed to be Madara and begin his life of lies.
All right! This is the new-and-improved prologue! I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, I would appreciate a review – even a little snippet telling me you liked it really makes my day ^_^
A quick note – I will try to stay as close to the manga as possible (where it fits with the story), which is the prologue and first few chapters. As of this posting, the mystery surrounding Tobi and Madara has yet to be fully explained, so I pray for your forgiveness if things should change – as I've said, this project is complete now, and thus may become out of sync in some regards as new chapters of Naruto are released. I hope you'll indulge anything that diverts from it, though most of the story does take a separate path from the canon story ^_^
All my love!