Warning: Contains some graphic images.
A/N: I've been working on a crack fic but still stuck. Instead I came up with a story that's the exact opposite, perhaps as a result of recent discussions with some people. And for some reason, I pictured the whole thing as if through the lens of a moving camera. Voyeur much?
Body free, mind in shackles...
Behind That Smile
Pan from a dark moonless sky at past midnight and down across the village illuminated by a soft muted glow emanating from rows of old lamp posts that line both sides of an empty street. Travel slowly through a narrow alley and step onto a dirt road to the right then come upon a field of grass hardly in motion without wind. Pass an uneven growth of trees and bushes beside a lake ever still, barely glistening in the absence of light save that which is cast by the stars above.
Pan left and forward to a small wood cabin, bare and unpainted from outside, a view of the window from the dock resting by the lake's edge. Zoom in to the window with panels ajar until a first view of the interior becomes visible.
Framed paintings line one wall, so evenly, systematically, without a hint of randomness of thought as when they were first placed there, untitled, untouched, and unnoticed since.
Enter the cabin through the window and turn to the right-most corner, a single bed, empty, with a plain, undisturbed white pillow by the headboard and the white sheet underneath neatly stretched and tucked in.
A black mouse suddenly darts past across the floor and hurriedly traces the wall's edge. Off it goes left, out of peripheral vision only to reappear from the right over and over, scampering the corners as if being chased. It is no ordinary mouse to be sure for it is made of ink.
Pan from the slatted floor steadily across and the source of the animated creature is revealed. An open scroll stretches wide, black ink mice line the surface, similar to the one currently mobile, only flat and unmoving. Stray a little out of the scroll and a hand is in sight resting on the ground as if lifeless, palm up and holding on to a brush but so loosely that it is about to slip off.
From the hand upward, zoom out, a dark figure sits still by the corner, pale face diffused by the darkness, long-sleeved black shirt and loose trousers exposing only hands and bare feet. His back leans against the wall, head slightly tilted upward and dark eyes half-open staring blankly into space. His left knee is raised to support an elbow that leads to a half-closed fist. The other leg is slumped limply on the ground, almost parallel to the right arm whose hand the brush rests.
If anyone was to find the scene, he would think this human dead. Apart from the scampering mouse, however, there is another movement, that of dark irises skittering endlessly left and right, up and down, indistinguishable as they do so only in the dark within the still figure's eyes.
What are those eyes looking at? What darkness lies within the deep recesses of that mind? Pan in to those eyes, inward and then out, and the answer becomes clear.
Screams of terror, tears, anger, blood...
Danzou's dead. He's been dead for a month now. The initial realization struck him then like an electric jolt to the heart. He felt a tingle, an uncomfortable prickly sensation as the cursed seal slowly disappeared from his tongue. He's finally free. At least, that's the general consensus of those who knew of his bondage. He's free to say anything, free to talk about everything. And that was exactly what was demanded of him and of his comrades soon after their master's death.
Standard operating procedure required they divulge all of Root's secrets to the Hokage, the interrogation team and the leadership in general. And that's what they did. That's what he did.
He confirmed the notorious and somewhat mythical training system within Root, the spying missions and more importantly, the list of political names successfully eliminated under orders apart from the high-profile nins crossed out from the bingo book.
With each name came the method of execution. He noted the grim faces of the panel and the discussions that went on as they analyzed Danzou's motives for each kill. Motives that involved power struggle or squabbles regarding international policy were alien to him. All he knew of each order was that the target posed as a threat to the Land of Fire and must be dealt with swiftly. The interrogation went on for days and he would return to his cabin far more exhausted beyond any physically demanding activity.
In truth, he did not reveal everything. After all, with the freedom to speak also came the prerogative to hold back, at least, little details that would not ultimately endanger the country.
When he related his assassination of a council member from Tsuchi no Kuni, he excluded the part where he had to kill a young servant who suddenly entered the room soon after. Nor did he elaborate on a rival country's Daimyo's murder, omitting the instance when he slashed through the body, even as the man faced him and revealed his infant son in his arms. Nor the time when he had to cut through an entire household that shielded the main target with their bodies. No, such details are insignificant. The high-profile names are the only ones that matter to the leaders, only the persons that could affect the country's own standing. The rest of the victims - the servants, the guards, the children, the wives, anyone who got in the way are all irrelevant.
Finally the debriefing was concluded. He was promptly dismissed and reassigned to Team Kakashi and his Root comrades integrated within ANBU, all of them thanked for their cooperation and congratulated for their new-found freedom.
So now he sits freely in the darkest corner of the room, staring into space and seeing things he'd rather not, things that he gave no thought to before Danzo-sama's death, images that were forcefully drawn out from memories buried deep within just before he was tasked to dig them out. The terrorized faces, the pleading, the screaming, the copious amount of blood, the images disappeared as soon as the task was done. But they seem to have re-emerged all at the same time specifically just to haunt him, to rightfully accuse him of murder.
For with each name came a face clear, words distinct, threatened, inquiring.
'What are you doing here? Who are you?'
'Please no, please...'
In most cases, the victims were not given a chance to even speak. All they could manage was a pained groan, 'ungh...' or a quick gasp just before the heart stopped beating, and sometimes none at all as he deftly performed his mission, ruthlessly, without hesitation, without a tinge of emotion and with skilled precision. He was, after all, Danzou's prized agent, the best of his generation, a generation almost wiped out entirely due to that very mythical training system. And what of them?
What of the blood of his fellow Root trainees that he shed so mercilessly? He on one end, Shin on the other. The faces have suddenly become so clear to him now. He can recall each expression of either resignation or defiance that lay in the countenance as his rival took his last breath. All of those faces will be forever unknown, except to him and Danzo-sama. And now, his master's gone as well and he is left to brave the terrorizing faces alone, the anguished voices too.
Not all days are bad. Missions keep his mind focused and his body immediately succumbs to sleep with every chance of rest. It's the idle days that bring dark thoughts to the surface. The days are certainly better than the nights. There are numerous activities to keep busy with while the sun is up. When dark settles, the images come. And he lets them. He lets them scream at him, to expose the deep gash as blood squirts out or trickles down, their eyes bulging exactly like in those moments when his sword struck their hearts or when his animated snakes squeezed their necks. He now stares intently at the tears of anguish and listens to the screams to be later replaced by silence...silence, but only for a brief moment before the images of terror repeat themselves over and over throughout the night.
He is possibly capable of killing his emotions again to block them out. His training functions as an emergency button readily available for activation in dire moments. He certainly manages to blot the images out during the day just as easily as a single brush stroke on canvas. He would be useless as a ninja if he fails to do otherwise. But he is less than able to in idle moments such as tonight, or maybe he just willingly allows them to come. Perhaps he feels he owes them at least that, a short time to release their grievances because he knows they're incapable of anything else. So he allows them to torment him, perhaps partly to atone for evil deeds past.
The solitary mouse continues to trace the edges of the room, drawing out his chakra ever so slowly. A mission awaits him in the morning and he knows he needs to rest. He must say goodnight for now to the screams, to the tears, to the blood. Finally, a distinct movement as he tilts his head slightly downward and his gaze strays out from space and onto the scroll on the floor with numerous black mice painted on.
Ninpo chouju giga.
The mice jump out of the scroll and follow the action of the first mouse, round and round and round through the edges and all four corners of the room. They do so until his chakra is depleted. Devoid of strength, his half-closed eyes shut fully and his mind and vision fade to black.
Pan from the wall with untitled paintings inside the cabin and out the window to a view of the early hours after sunrise. The sound of birds chirping unseen behind leafy tree branches can be heard echoing across the lake. Pass the trees and across the green field then left to a dirt road leading to an alley and finally a village bustling with activity, the old lamp posts lining the sides of the street now unlit. Two young ninjas approach, a pink-haired female and a yellow-haired male.
"Good morning, Sakura."
"Good morning, Sai."
"Good morning, Naruto."
"Ozu! You know Sai, you should really work on that freaky smile of yours. It's driving me nuts-dattebayo."
"Really? I'm working on it."
I really am.
Naruto & characters © Kishimoto Masashi
A/N: Sai is a character that people often either dismiss or make fun of, forgetting the fact that he's a former black operative who knows and experienced far more than he lets on. His old functions, after all, embodies what real-life ninjas were in feudal Japan. Not kiddie fare and not very escapist. Sorry.
This is my first angst-themed story, also technically my first Naruto one-shot, and first time writing a story that doesn't follow the standard plot elements. Feedback is always appreciated. Thanks.