Chapter 1: Heartache

"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it."
Emily Brontë

There are so many ways to die, some peaceful…some not so much…but it is something intrinsically unavoidable. The bare truth of life was that everything that liveddied and there was not much you could do about that. I was never a religious person…mostly because I couldn't find it in me to trust organized religion. There is something so horrible about being told that at the end of you there would be a judge that would sentence you to either torment or salvation…it just didn't seem right. What was the point of living if all your life was only a test to get into some utopia at the end of it all?

It wasn't a pleasant thing to think about…death…not because it ends you…it is the loss of everything you hold dear that scares you. At least that was what used to scare me most about death…leaving everything and everyone you love behind. On the day, I died it had started out normally enough, wake up, get dressed, go to work, come home, make dinner and watch a movie snuggled into my love's side. I'm not sure how I died…one moment I was drifting off to sleep and the next nothing. What was horrible about the entire thing was being ripped from that blissful nothing into cold, pain and awareness.

Everything felt wrong, I was small, I was in pain, it was cold; someone was holding me…a giant…their hands (whoever it was) spanned almost my entire back and as the hands rubbed water roughly washing my nude body I realized I couldn't see. Everything was blurry, like I was trying to see under water, and the shapes were blurred together in indistinct colors. Someone shoved their fingers down my throat and swirled them around like they were looking for something I tried to shout in protest. What came out was a weird gurgling, whine, cry and it startled me silent.

Why couldn't I talk? What was wrong with me? Where was I? Who were the people handling me so roughly? I was wrapped up in an itchy blanket and placed into another giant's arms…the squishy cushion of the placement made me assume it was a woman this time. I was exhausted, I was uncomfortable, and I didn't understand. The first few days passed and I was not any closer to comprehension than I was when I first...woke up? The people around me spoke another language…vaguely familiar but I was far from understanding what they were saying.

The question most pressing on my mind was…where was he…my love…my heart…my other half? I searched for him futilely, I tried to call out for him but all that came out from my throat was cries and incomprehensible gurgles. Something was wrong…and I wasn't where I was supposed to be. It took a month before my sight became clear enough for me to actually distinguish the things around me…it only left me more confused. Was I dreaming? I was sleeping before, just sleeping, and since the last thing I remembered was going to bed…maybe this was a dream.

In the condition I was in there was very little to do but lay there and think. My world now revolved around a woman, she was beautiful, the kind of beautiful that I used to envy and she was perhaps the most beautiful woman I had ever encountered off the silver screen. She fed me, bathed me, changed my diapers, dressed me and held me as she murmured incomprehensible things into my ear. I could barely move, I could hardly see, and in the condition I was in there was very little I do with myself besides trying to puzzle out my situation.

I was a baby, I knew that, but this didn't seem like a dream. Yes, it felt surreal but I think that was mostly me trying to cope with the sudden loss. However, it felt real because I felt hungry. I felt exhausted; I slept here and woke up the same way. This couldn't be a dream, so what was it? I wasn't in the practice of lying to myself but the only explanation I could come up with was so farfetched. I didn't remember dying, but the only thing I could think of was this might be something like reincarnation…or a coma induced dream world.

Either way there wasn't much I could do with myself because my body was floppy and too new to handle any moving around. So investigating was out of the question for now and with little else to occupy my time I tried to puzzle out what the hell that beautiful woman was saying. She repeated one thing enough that I assumed it was my name, "Natsumi." It was pretty but it felt all wrong. It wasn't the name I was used to and I thought it might be a while until I remember to respond to it.

Time passed by at a crawl when you had very little to do but think. Before all this happened I was something of a story teller, I loved to write and sometimes it seemed to be my only talent so while I lay there I told myself stories to pass the time. I made up a new background for that beautiful woman every day, she was a princess stolen in the night, she was a traveling artist selling her wares, and sometimes she was a geisha with a generous benefactor.

These stories saved my sanity because without any way to communicate or interact with the outside world I was trapped within the confines of my imagination. I knew that this beautiful woman was my mother, and not just because of ah…feeding time. That was one thing no one talks about how freaking mortifying it is to have to drink from your mother's ahh…while you consciously know what it is you're doing! No, I knew this woman was my mother because she was the only one I ever saw.

I heard voices from time to time, muffled as if coming from another room, but I only ever saw that beautiful woman. I wanted my old life back terribly, I wanted my love, I wanted to not be trapped here in this tiny helpless body but there wasn't much I could do about it so I gritted my figurative teeth to bare it. It took me a few months, but slowly I began to understand what my new mother was saying. It was a huge relief because it meant I could begin to puzzle out more from this life.

Where I was, who my mother was, and what my situation truly encompassed. My mother's name was Aiko. She liked to talk Aiko, about everything and some things I don't think she would have told me if she knew I could understand. It was from her little rambles as she talked to me in a gentle soothing voice I began to understand three very important things I wished I could thank her for. One, Aiko kept her pregnancy secret thus she saved me from death before I was ever born. Two, she paid for my upkeep on her knees and on her back. Three, she kept me hidden from everyone so that we could stay together.

Aiko was a whore, and certainly not by choice I later found out. When she had been fourteen her father had sold her to pay a family debt and she had accepted her fate with unimaginable grace. I admired her, because somehow she managed to avoid being bitter about her unhappy life. She had been pregnant six times before, and every instance the house mother had taken her to the doctor to have the babies cut out. This news made me incredibly sad because even though I knew Aiko wanted to cry at her admission, she kept a small smile firmly on her face for me.

When she got pregnant with me, Aiko did her very best to hide her baby bump as long as she could because she wanted me. She was still a good five years from buying her way out of her contract but Aiko couldn't take losing another one. I think she told me these things because she had no one else to talk to about it. I was familiar with this, my mother from before was a single mom with few friends and often talked to me in the same way. It was so blessedly familiar that it was comforting and I knew my new life might not be so different from my last.

I was a good baby, I hardly ever cried and when I did, I did so quietly. One of Aiko's greatest fears was that I would be discovered and taken away from her. So I stayed quiet for her and listened as she recounted her day. I wondered if Aiko knew who my father was, as unlikely as that was, because I was curious. Aiko was very popular, one of the most beautiful women in the red light district, so she had certain luxuries the others couldn't afford. For one, she had her own set of rooms that gave her privacy and allowed her to hide me.

It also meant that she could be selective with her clientele and that an hour of work often paid more than four hours of the other girls' time. This bred jealousy and some hatred for my mother. However, as gentle as she was with me I could tell from the way she spoke that my mom was one of those dangerous women. The kind of woman that knew how to use her body to the greatest effect and she exuded confidence from every pore of her body. She was intimidating, Aiko knew her own feminine power intimately and wasn't afraid to wield it.

She was everything I wished I could have been before, gorgeous, graceful, elegant, and unabashedly confident. I wanted to be like her. Somehow time passed and soon I was able to sit up on my own allowing me to investigate my small world. Aiko often left me on her futon surrounded by blankets and pillows so that if I rolled myself out of it I wouldn't be hurt. There was very little in her room I could grab, everything was too high, and I wouldn't have much luck until I was larger.

There was one thing on the floor though, a hand mirror was laid down just at the edge of the futon and if I could get there I might be able to see myself. I wanted to see what I looked like very much because I had no reference on this new body so I was still picturing my last one. I hoped I looked like Aiko; she had pretty blonde hair that fell down to the small of her back in gentle waves and pretty bluish eyes. She had these high cheek bones with a very full mouth and a cute little nose. The kind of face that looked prefect just waking up and she had a very slim a body.

She was curvy, but very tone. I wanted to see if I could find Aiko's features in my new face. It took me a while but I managed to scoot/crawl over to it. I leaned over eagerly but carefully placing my tiny hands on the glass as I looked into it eagerly. Once I did I froze, I felt like a robot asked a looping questions, the words 'does not compute' rang out inside my head. At first I thought I was albino, my hair was white and there was this redness around my eyes that seemed to indicate it. Then I took a breath and really looked.

What I found was strange, I was strange, fluffy white spikes floated around my face, my eyes were more green then blue and it looked like someone had put eye liner under them in red leaving little marks that reminded me of fangs for some odd reason. Absently I was ridiculously relieved that my eyebrows were black and not also white since it would make me look stranger than I was already. I sat there staring for a while, dimly noting that my face was all my mom but the exotic looking features made it look foreign. What was wrong with me? In the back of my mind something began nagging at me, I looked familiar, my features at least did and I couldn't quite remember why.

It was like having something right at the tip of your tongue that you couldn't quite grasp. I did the only thing I could, I stared, cute little baby nose, and a pouty mouth paired with eyes that looked a little big for my face gave me that puppy dog look. I blinked; I guess my new face wasn't so bad but being a baby still sucked. I was used to my grown womanly body that had already gone through the horrible time that some called puberty.

I sure as hell didn't want to go through that again but I didn't have much choice in the matter. I sighed looking at myself, flat baby chest, chubby hands, pudgy baby cheeks, all in all I was adorable and had I been the old me, I would have cuddled this baby into oblivion. A painful squeeze around my heart caught me by surprise and made tears well up in my eyes as I thought of him. We were going to get married, and we had already had that baby talk. I had always wanted to be a mom and now I was so far from that goal it was laughable.

For the sake of my sanity I pushed those painful thoughts aside and concentrated on the task at hand. I looked familiar, why? I stared at my white hair and the red marks around my eyes. My vision doubled and I pictured a boy, with spiky white hair and identical red marks suddenly. Jiraiya? I looked like Jiraiya from Naruto. I giggled, that was ridiculous because Naruto was just a half watched show I used to follow when I was a teen. I hadn't even watched the Shippuden series and only knew the bare facts about that.

Why would my mind think of that? Well, I had to admit that I did sort of resemble Jiraiya, but it wasn't like that guy actually existed…right? Suddenly I didn't want to look at myself anymore and scuttled my way back to the center of the futon. This was some dream; this couldn't be real, because things like this didn't happen! I plopped onto my back and stared at the ceiling. Ok, I took another deep breath and forced myself to calm down. If this was some crazy alternate dimension where the Naruto show I once watched was real then I could prove it right now.

If this was a place anywhere close to that it had to have one vital thing, Chakra, and if I was by some messed up twist in any way related to that toad man then I should have it too. So I laid back and took stock of my body. The beating of my heart, the ache of my muscles, the feel of my curls brushing like silk against my face and tried not to think of anything. I don't know how long I sat there mentally examining my body but eventually I became aware of something. Under the pulse of my heart there was something else…it felt like…I don't know how to describe it.

It was like trying to explain color to a blind person…there were no words in which you can use to articulate that feeling. It was almost like having another heart but not…it was just there. I was quite startled I hadn't noticed it earlier but I supposed it was like someone taking note of breathing. You might do that if you had a reason to notice taking a breath but until you have that reason it didn't really register to you. It was so natural to this body, but not to me.

Now that I noticed it, now that I was looking for it, I felt uncomfortable as I felt it move within me and as I became more aware of it within myself the more aware I was of it around me. It was like I had opened a door inside my mind that had been blocking a sense and now that I had, I was overwhelmed. It was like being put in the sunlight suddenly after being blindfolded, decidedly uncomfortable and slightly painful. Then it hit me that I felt it, Chakra, and if I felt it, my crazy, insane, impossible, improbable, frightening, exciting, confusing, wild idea might just be true.

I was in some place similar to a show I half watched as a teen. Huh, somehow confirming that made me both disbelieving and mystified. All my life, my first life that is, I used to imagine scenarios where something like this happened to me and gave me the opportunity to prove something. Whether that was to myself or someone else I wasn't too sure. Faced with the reality of it I was terrified. What could this possibly mean? Did my half remembered facts about that show Naruto have any standing? Could those events happen? If so where was I on that timeline?

Aiko didn't talk about life outside the whore house but I knew for certain I wasn't in any town called Konoha, we were in Yorokobi. What did that mean for me? I pushed all these thoughts aside, none of this matter, I was an infant there was very little I could do about any of this anyway. Right now I had to concentrate on what I could do, learn how to talk, walk, read, write, and maybe learn how to control this chakra thing inside me. Little steps, because if I thought about it all I would overwhelm myself.

Thankfully Aiko returned soon after that to feed me and I was able to lose myself to her chatter. Still in the back of my mind I thought over the small facts I remembered from the show, Obito, zombie armies, Biju, Jinchuriki, a war, an organization with black cloaks and red clouds. Where could I fit in with all that? How do you shoulder something like that? What could I change even if I wanted to? How would I survive it if I did get involved?

I wasn't anything special. I was a gentle person by nature and I didn't like hurting people at all. Plus I was a pansy with pain; did I have it in me to stand with people like Naruto? How could I? Should I get involved anyway, because they did a pretty good job without me mucking things up! What if I made things worse? That was terrifying and I tried to put this all out of my mind for now. Why would I need to take this all on anyways? What was the use of this information if none of it would happen anyway? How could I be sure people like Naruto even existed?

Sure I resembled Jiraiya a little but that didn't mean the man himself existed. The one good thing about this whole mess was that it gave me something to concentrate on because if I thought about him…about before…I don't think I could last long. I started trying the whole talking thing when I was about five months into this new life and it was slow going. There were about a hundred different muscles involved in speech, it is a skill you learn and definitely not a skill you are born able to do.

For one thing speaking involved not only a coordination of all those muscles but a certain control over your breathing to make the sounds attributed to speech. I remember a study I read once that studied 'feral children' who weren't exposed to any form of human speech from a very early age and were only ever able to use very limited speech later in life as a result. Learning to talk was so very important as an infant/toddler because it wasn't a skill you could pick up later on in life.

I tried my best but even though I was getting better at understanding the language spoken by my mother I was still thinking in English and it was totally different dialect. Every time I tried talking it was like I was trying to use the two languages at once and all that came out was jumbled up baby babble. It was frustrating. Aiko was excited about it though; cooing about her little genius and making me feel slightly stupid. It wasn't her fault, she thought I was a baby and like any mother she was prone to fits of silliness when faced with their baby's cuteness.

Even though I knew Aiko didn't mean anything by it, her baby talk felt like she was mocking me and it just made it so much worse! The only thing that made it better was that I was beginning to be able to crawl around now so I wasn't trapped so much anymore.