The white mask he wore on his fragile face could be disposed of, but the true mask of persona would never disappear. He had tried tearing at it many times, his precise fingers digging deep into the rotten soul he possessed. No matter how hard he struggled, how much he wanted it to stop, it was impossible.

Who am I? Even my name is nothing more than a cover. A mistake. Because although I may be called Kabuto Yakushi, I was born as someone else. Someone I will never know.

Maybe that was for the best. This shell he had unknowingly created may be better than the monster of a person he had been born into.

I will use this shell to make a difference, no matter how small. I will protect him. I will aid him. I will stand for everything he believes in. And when it is my life or his, I will die for him. He will lead a new village into happiness, whether the world realizes it or not.

He now knew this village was the source of misery and pain, and it was a village he now despised. He swore his alliance to konoha away. This was no longer his home and may never have been. He had fought for this place; he had killed for it. And he had healed for it. His hands had saved the lives of countless ninja who never deserved to even live. He had lived this life for the orphanage and for his "mother". But she had not recognized him, and it was not because of the literal mask he wore. He had not been wearing it then, in fact he rarely ever did. It was the facade he had become. He was no better than these servants of konoha.

I will make it better. I will be better.

But he shouldn't still be here.

Orochimaru sama will notice my absence if I do not join with him soon.

His reasons for walking down this street were illogical and dangerous, but yet he still did so. His feet carried him where he shouldn't be walking. Each step left another unnecessary mark on the village. But he wore his mask for the last time, and it was unlikely anyone would recognize him. It wasn't as if they ever did before. No one cared about anyone other than themselves, and perhaps that was why he vowed to care about others. Even if no one understood him and his motive.

There were many others walking near him, but very few ninja. This was the civilian section, a part he knew well. He had lived as a civilian for the first years of his questionable life here. A life so different from the disgusting person he was now. He passed a shop known for some of the finest seafood and known to him as his favorite. Eating here had been a reward from his mother when he was younger..when she still knew him. The old him. But now, as he walked by, it resembled walking away from his old life forever. Whether he wanted this or not, his life was forever changed by his choices.

A thousand changes, ten thousand transformations..

There was a park up ahead that carried just as many memories. When he had been very young and shy, he remembered sitting on a bench and watching others play. Although he was incredibly grateful for the glasses his mother had given him..it helped him see things he didn't want to see. The happiness in others did, however, bring small smiles to his lips.

Now, however, he realized that they had grown up ignorant. They didn't know the affairs of shinobi in this village. And perhaps that was the best..until the people they once respected betrayed them. Until Danzo ordered his people to kill the innocent.

The playground came into his view and his eyes immediately went to the bench he used to sit on. He didn't expect it anyone to sit there

But there was.

A young girl, barely more than a toddler, sat in the very same spot he had claimed many years ago. But while his face used to hold a sad smile, her eyes shined with more than just loneliness. She looked hurt and confused. His onyx eyes observed her wobbling lips and the small arms that hugged her own body. And he probably would have continued walking on had he not watched her suddenly rise from the bench and run off the playground and into the nearby woods. Although he no longer held any responsibility here as a ninja, as a person he couldn't help but feel slightly concerned. And as a medic, he couldn't help but worry for her safety. Has she been a ninja, he would have easily went on his way and rejoined Orochimaru. But she was only a young girl..a young girl who had looked as lonely as he once felt. And perhaps that explained why he, nothing more than a pathetic shell of a human being, followed her.

Unlike her loud, rushed footsteps, his were stealthy and quick. Her sobs were now audible and although sympathy wasn't an emotion he easily vocalized, it began creeping up on him. I really shouldn't.. he thought, however his decision was already made as he appeared in front of the little girl.

He must have been too sudden, for her voice cracked as she let out a frightened gasp and suddenly fell over, her tiny feet tripping over a tree root sprouting from the earth. She backed away, trying to rise on her feet and escape. Perhaps the real him wouldn't have scared little girls, but the person he was now certainly did. He began to question his decision, realizing this was probably a mistake. He was about to leave before she started screaming, however she looked up at him before he had the chance to disappear. For some strange reason, she didn't look scared anymore. What ultimately made him stay was the way her lips pulled upward in a smile that was full of sadness.

"You're a ninja." she said softly, looking at him with a sense of awe and respect.

He allowed his eyes to scan over her, paying more attention to her appearance. The most astounding feature was the bright pink hair that rested on her head. It was a very unnatural color, but somehow fit her perfectly. The second thing he noticed was the bright emerald eyes that glistened with tears. She had that rounded, chubby face typical of children her age, and he wondered what her family was like. Did she have loving parents? Or were they like a majority of the people in this village: selfish, greedy, hateful.

"You're a bit young to be out here." he stated. Truthfully, they were still in konoha territory and it was unlikely any harm would come to her. But noticing that blood was dribbling down one of her arms, his warning was for the best. When she tripped and fell, she must have hurt herself on a fallen branch. Studying it further, he realized the injury was rather deep, and he looked back towards her face to see tears welling in her eyes. He couldn't help but wonder if this was due more to physical pain or emotional.

"I-I know..I'm sorry.." she apologized, looking down. But seconds later, her head snapped up. "I'm going to be a ninja some day too. M-My mom really doesn't want me to but..I want to be strong and cool and protect a whole bunch of people and.." her words cut off short, realizing she was rambling. He hadn't particularly minded, however she seemed embarrassed. It didn't annoy him. It was quite strange, but perhaps her age and gender made it tolerable.

He approached her with the same speed as earlier, however this time she didn't appear frightened. In fact, she looked rather trusting.

Trusting strangers was a faulty quality for an aspiring ninja. He knew that now. He was wearing an anbu mask, but caution would have been a better reaction. No, he didn't mean her harm. But mistrust was often safer than misguided trust.

There are only two people I trust anymore..myself and Orochimaru sama.

Kneeling down in front of her, he reached out for the bleeding arm. One gloved hand held it in place as the other lightly skimmed across the wound. And while his eyes remained on the injury, hers were fixated on him. He could feel it. It wasn't until the tingling feeling as her pain diminished that she looked down to her arm, seeing his covered hand glowing brightly.

"Woah..you're a doctor"

A flash of amusement passed through his features, hidden by his mask. "I'm a medic nin."

"Are you strong?"

"Psychically, I'm average". He hesitated, tempted to tease her. "You're much stronger."

"No way..you look really strong. Only strong ninja wear those masks."

"Strong ninja and very good medics" he corrected, waiting until her cut was completely healed and scar free to pull away. He watched as she looked at her arm, then back at her, and then back at her arm repeatedly.

"That's really cool.."

He stood up, preparing to leave. He had healed her and warned her of the dangers in the forest, and he really should be heading back to Orochimaru. He was late enough as it was. However, suddenly he felt a tugging at his leg. He looked down to see her looking up at him anxiously.

"W-wait..please don't go. I..I have more to ask."

Hesitantly, he nodded and returned to his kneeling position. "What would you like to know?"

"Are medics really good ninja?"

"..what do you mean by good?"

"Do people look up to them and want to be like them?"

"It doesn't matter what type of ninja you are..many will look down on you regardless."

"O-Oh..well..what about other ninja?"

"Other ninja will use you for their own gain" he said honestly, not even thinking to tell her any less harshly. She looked at him with surprise and confusion. She didn't understand.

"But..ninja are really cool. And they protect a lot of people. Why are you being so mean to them?" she asked, sadness laced in her voice. He had successfully upset a little girl. His conscience told him to fix this.

"Ninja..are cool. And they save many lives. But ninja also harm. As a medic nin, the urge to save and the urge to kill often conflict, and that's why I spoke harshly. Eventually, as a ninja, you have to kill people that may not have deserved it. "

She paused, seeming to consider his words, although he knew she was too young to fully understand.

"Why do you want to be a ninja? If it's just to look cool, I think you should think more about it."

"Well.." Her cheeks turned a bright pink as she fiddled with her fingers. "I just..I want someone to look at me proudly."

Her reasoning was all wrong. Then again, many shinobi because such because of wrong reasons. He, like many, were practically forced into it. He stayed silent, allowing her to think.

"Do you think it would be..more right..to be a medic nin? Is that why you're one? Because you like to save people? Because..if I could save people..that would be really cool too."

The sudden realization that the words he, no longer a konoha nin nor a person worth much of anything, could change her entire future, hit him suddenly. He knew what was best.

"I think there is no ninja that will ever be fully right. You will live with many regrets. I don't think you should become a ninja. It is much safer, and happier, to live a normal life."

"I'll never have a normal life!" she shouted, and suddenly her drying eyes were full of tears again. She looked down, trying to be silent, but he could hear her cries. He remembered the way she looked on his bench, and the way she had held herself as she ran sobbing. For such a young girl, she was already so sad. Instinctively, and certainly not out of experience, he reached to hold each of her fragile arms in a gentle hold. Not quite a hug - he was not a hugging person - but still comforting. And she cried harder, holding on to him, and he let her. Because although he really did need to be going, and he really didn't have the right to be nice to her, his conscience was again telling him that she was nothing more than a little girl and he had to give her this.

When she calmed down, the first thing she did was wipe her entire face to get rid of any trace that she had been crying. She really seemed to hate crying.

"I'm sorry.." she apologized again, her voice heavy with her last breakdown.

"Why did you run from the park crying?" he questioned.

She clearly hadn't been expecting the question and he realized she hadn't known he followed her here. She tried to find her voice again, finally speaking. "I..well. There was this boy. And..I was trying to be nice to him. But..everyone else really hates him. And they saw me and I tried saying something really mean to the boy..and then they got madder at me saying I wasn't cool and they weren't my friend anymore. And I know I shouldn't have been mean to him..so now I feel really bad and I have no friends and.."

"I think" he started, "you should apologize to the boy and not think about the people who were being mean."

She was silent again for a moment before nodding. "I think so too." A small smile appeared on her face, although hesitant and a little scared.

"What's your name?" he asked softly, knowing it really didn't matter what her name was. And I still really need to be going. Still, he was curious.

Her smile grew. "My names Sakura Haruno! Whats yours?"

"It's a secret. I'm not allowed to tell anyone."

She looked a little sad, however accepted the answer. And then an idea seemed to dawn on her. "Do you think..maybe..you could teach me some ninja stuff? Because I know you think being a ninja is bad..but you're still one. So it must not be that bad to be you. So..if I could be like you..that would be really nice. And I promise I'll try and focus and do my best and become really strong. And then..maybe I could learn how to heal people."

He knew he was going to let her down again. Because within a couple of days he would be a missing nin and it was very unlikely he would ever lay eyes on this girl again. There was absolutely no way he could say yes, and that was actually a bit disappointing. However, he knew he was in no position to be teaching others. He still had a lot to teach himself and had his own teacher. But the prospect of being in control of her future was both heavy and exciting, and a challenge that may have even benefited himself. But if she were to become a ninja, the last thing he wanted was for her to be a konoha nin. Because konoha was his biggest enemy now and she didn't deserve to be labeled as such. Of course, it also seemed she was too adamant on being a ninja to give up. He had to stop concerning himself with her future.

"I can't." he said finally, crashing her hopes. "I'm going on a very long mission..and I'm not the role model type." The next thing he said was a complete and utter lie, yet it was safer. "I don't think you should become a medic nin. They aren't strong, and you said you wanted strength. So unless you find a very strong medic to teach you, I think you shouldn't. "

"Oh..." she said, disappointment very clear. "Okay.."

"I'm sorry" he found himself saying.

"It's okay..Is..Is your mission dangerous?"

"Very."

"Will I ever see you again."

"Doubtful."

Tears clouded her emerald eyes, but she held them back to the best of her ability. "Please..be safe..and don't get hurt. I really like you..you're really nice..most adults don't really pay any attention.."

That was almost laughable. Him, nice? He was despicable. He was different. He had no idea who he was, but he knew what he wasn't was nice. And yet, he had done something very kind. He had wasted his time and made himself suspiciously late for Orochimaru, all to cheer up a young girl. Why? He wasn't a heartless person..but he wasn't nice..what was he?

Maybe she sensed his inner turmoil, or maybe she worried for his life. But either way, it didn't matter. What she did next, however, mattered very much. Because in those next moment she had reached and wrapped her small arms around him tightly. She was hugging him in a very caring, emotional way that he was not used to. A little girl was holding on to him and being nice to him. He may not have been nice, but she was the sweetest person he had met in a long time. And in a couple of years, this little girl would be his enemy. It was sad, really.

He let her hug him, and suddenly realized that she had determination in her too. She was waiting for him to hug back, and it was clear that she didn't plan on letting go until he did so. Yet he wasn't the kind of person, nor did he deserve it.

"It's okay" she said softly, snuggling into him. "I know ninja are supposed to be really tough and emotionless, but I think that's really mean and I think ninja should be very emotional and do what they believe in. So I think you should hug me back."

She was also very bold.

And he was also very in need of a hug.

Because he knew he would never get one again. Although he wouldn't admit it, he would miss that. He would miss any sort of kindness. But this village was full of hatred and he wouldn't find it here, either. Aside from this little girl who was looking up to the wrong person and holding him in such an inviting away. And it may have been an irrational feeling, it may have been pointless and greedy and very unfair because she didn't know she was holding a future missing nin, but he gave up. He gave up on himself and soon returned the hug, wrapping his much bigger arms around her tiny body. She was just a little girl, yet she made him forget about all of his struggles.

He realized that although he chased after her to comfort her, she was the one comforting him.

"You shouldn't worry about me" he said honestly, still holding her.

"Well I am."

"It's pointless."

"I know."

"It's irrational and wont help you at all."

"I know."

"It's annoying." he said, however his heart..if he had one..wasn't in it. If anything, he was speaking to himself. And despite being so young and naive, she saw right through it.

"You're a really bad liar." she accused.

"I know."

And then she was giggling as if she didn't have a care in the world. It was the laugh of an innocent person who had yet to see the travesty of her village. Maybe she never would. Or maybe she would become the travesty.

He let go of her then.

"If I ever see you again..you'll remember me, right?"

He answered honestly. "I will never forget you. Even if I wanted to, your hair would remind me instantly"

She pouted, not really liking his answer. "Now you're being a meanie.."

"I've always been one"

"My hair isn't that bad.."

"You're going to regret the color when you become a ninja. But it is very.."

"Very what?" She asked sweetly.

"Adorable." he said finally, running a hand through it loosely.

She blushed again. She seemed to be blushing a lot. Girls..

"How will I recognize you if I see you again? I don't even know what you look like.."

It wasn't as if she would. The chances were very unlikely. He didn't plan on dying any time soon, but he would be many villages away. Pretending like it was possible, however, wouldn't be too harmful. He hoped.

"If we're within the same area, I'm sure I'll see you first."

"Promise?"

"..Promise."

She reached out for his hand and he hesitantly let her have it. He was unsure why, however, until she reached for his pinky with her own.

"Pinky promise?"

Well, he hadn't lied. If they did ever happen to be in the same area again, he would see her.

His pinky wrapped around her own and he nodded slightly.

"Pinky promise."

He then stood up straight, regaining his balance on the earth below him. Looking up at him with a wide, hopeful smile was the pink haired girl he had comforted on his last day as a konoha shinobi. He returned the smile with one of equal happiness, but she couldn't see.

"Goodbye, Sakura-chan".

He would miss the many years of her childhood as she sprouted from a young girl to a preteen. But the moment he laid eyes on her next, he would remember her instantly. Sakura Haruno, the girl who had given him unconditional love that only the young and naïve could give. The girl that he vowed to do his best to protect, even if it was behind the shadows. The girl who he protected in the chuunin exams. The kunoichi who had done as he said; she was taught by an incredibly strong medic nin. The kunoichi that had become something amazing, just as he had hoped. The kunoichi who he healed on tenchi bridge. She was always chasing after a boy who never deserved her love. . But who was he to judge? Because although he didn't deserve to, he had loved this girl. First as a daughter, then as a younger sister. And then, when she was older and in his last, crazed moments when he lost himself entirely and allowed himself to suffer forever under the power of the boy she loved and his older brother, he was still able to realized he loved her as so much more. The woman who had captured his heart would never know it, but he had fallen love with her. She had never escaped his mind. But she deserved so much more than him, and he never told her. He never wanted her to hate the masked man who had chased her into the woods and held her as she cried. Because if she knew who he was, she would despise him even more.

Who am I? I don't know. I'll never know. I was given the name Kabuto Yakushi, but that is only a name. I suppose if I were to give my best answer, I would have to say that I am simply a lost man. A hopeless case. And very much insane. But if you were to ask her, the pink haired kunoichi, who that masked man in the forest had been, I think she would have given a different answer entirely. But I'm not sure what she would say. I'd like to hear what she would say.

Maybe someday..

Maybe somehow..

Maybe..