Naruto: Sekai ni Hi o Tsuketa
Disclaimer:
I do not own Naruto

A/N: Title Translation – Naruto: Set the World on Fire.
Chapter one! This takes place fourteen years after the series ending. (Which hasn't happened yet, this is my own interpretation of the end.) So all you need to know is THIS:

Naruto has become the Rokudaime and Sasuke has returned to the village. Madara, Obito, and Zetsu are dead, summing up the series plot. Whoo.

Full Summary:
Fourteen years after the end of Naruto: Shippuden, two rivals from the Land of the Leaf engage in battles against one another to outwit each other. As the Chuunin Exam nears its way, the two decide it's finally time to pick the winner, but they may have grabbed more than they bargained for. The best part? The alliances are crashing, and every country is on the brink of war.

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Prologue: Part I
"
The Rivalry"

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EIGHT YEARS AFTER THE END OF THE FOURTH SHINOBI WAR
KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
THE ACADEMY

Uchiha Hikaru hated Nabari Takeshi from the start.

Being an Uchiha, from the gecko, he was looked as if he were a demon of sorts. Being a spawn of Uchiha Sasuke, a former traitor of the village and an easily swayed person, didn't grant him many other merits either. Having the Sharingan didn't give him a promising future or tell people he could be an asset to the village. All anyone ever saw was the fact that he would be bad one day, just like his father.

Not that he knew any of that. He knew about the Sharingan and that it was powerful, but that was just about it. He'd never awoken it thus far, only being six years old. It only made it that much harder to explain to him why no one liked him, and why they didn't try to be friends to him. The kids at school seemed nice amongst themselves, but when he stepped into the picture they became hostile.

Not that they knew any of it either. They only knew the propaganda their parents had given them about the Uchiha.

To the young prodigy, being at school was like being alone in a crowded room. The teachers gave him praise – mostly Umino Iruka – for his soaring all A's achievement, but again, that was about it. He never "swapped lunches" or played tag or even any word games. When it came to choosing teams for the Ninja Game at school, he was always picked last.

Nabari Takeshi, however, was always picked first, if he wasn't already a captain. Grade wise and shinobi wise, the two were neck-in-neck in their class. Takeshi never seemed to pick up on it, but Hikaru did. And he absolutely one hundred percent hated Takeshi. Well, hate was a strong word – maybe he was merely jealous of the popular boy? Yes, maybe that was it.

Everyone loved Takeshi. He was one of those magnetic people that could get just about anyone to be his friend. He had a hilarious laugh and a kind smile, even though he was from a civilian family and his father was dead. It just made the boy realize how much more to appreciate the things and people he had. He was outgoing and made everyone feel welcome, even Fukamura Chiharu, a shy girl who didn't like to participate all that much.

It didn't make sense in Hikaru's head. For one, he didn't know why he had to compare himself to the likes of the civilian-born child. He was nothing special. Why did people think he would be the Rokudaime's successor one day? He could be just as great of a Hokage as he could! He was better than him, richer than him, and had an amazing Kekkei Genkai. Who needed people when you had that?

Those were the things he asked himself day after day. He sat in school in the back row, staring enviously where Takeshi sat in the front, grinning at Hagane Kagura like an idiot or writing down his notes and taking everything in just like an achieving student would.

He just didn't understand. Why did everyone avoid him? What made him so dislikeable? He hated sitting alone – he hated it, he hated it!

But his class was blind to his growing hatred and loneliness. They enjoyed their youth outside, while he sat indoors, pondering the ways he could beat Takeshi and show them all who was better once and for all.

At the start of the second semester, Hikaru got his chance.

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It was a sparring day. It was a lesson to show how to fight against those from your village – the customaries and whatnot – and how to engage in a battle against your enemies. They were partnered off based on their skill they had shown in their first year, so that the best student in the class wouldn't be paired with the worst. In other words, they tried to make it as fair as possible.

Hikaru wouldn't have asked for anything else. He was the best in class, rivaled only by Takeshi. This meant they were finally going to face off.

Oh, Hikaru was going to beat Takeshi with his own knee!

They stood across from each other, about a foot apart. Folding their ring fingers and pinkies into their palm, they extended their arms and folded their fingers together. Takeshi smiled at him and gave him a small, polite bow once they pulled apart, but Hikaru gave him nothing in return.

A girl from their class, Hagane Kagura, called out viciously, "You can do it, Takeshi-kun! Beat him up!" There was a chorus of "yeah, get him!".

Takeshi shrugged at Hikaru, as if to say, Eh? What're you gonna do?

Hikaru took a battle position, and Takeshi immediately pulled away from his "fans" (so to say), and got ready to fight.

Iruka swiped his hand down like an axe, "Begin!"

Their movements were swift: Takeshi ran at Hikaru, throwing a punch out forward. Hikaru ducked, dropping down like a crab and slashing his feet out at Takeshi's knees. The boy saw this coming and jumped to avoid it. Hikaru pulled back and did a faltering back-flip (hey, prodigy or not, he was only six), landing shakily on his feet.

Takeshi ran at him, always headstrong as ever. Hikaru dodged from the oncoming blows several times, until finally he grabbed one of Takeshi's fists and swing at him with his free arm. However, Takeshi took Hikaru's idea and trapped his punch into his palm, bringing the two at a staring-contest stand-still.

All of the rage pent up over the last couple of months was driving him insane. He pushed harder onto Takeshi, never letting his eyes leave Takeshi's, but the boy responded with the same amount of strength.

Iruka began to advance towards them, "Alright, you two! Show's over." But no one was paying attention.

"Come on, Nabari!"

"You can do it!"

"G-G-Go Takeshi-kun!"

"TA-KE-SHI! TA-KE-SHI!"

The boy they were calling out to grit his teeth in frustration – although he bore no enmity to Hikaru, he still wanted to win, and they were knocking off his concentration.

Hikaru smirked – this was his chance to prove himself to them! This was it! He wouldn't be alone anymore! Not anymore! God, he hated Takeshi! Hated him! Hated him!

"Okay, okay, you two, I think you've proved your point," Iruka started again, reaching for them, but Hikaru was too quick.

He pulled back just ever so slightly, dropping down again and sending his feet into Takeshi's gut. The child cried out, gasping and falling back. There were gasps in the audience, and Hikaru sprung forward, tackling the boy down.

Iruka shouted something, but Hikaru wasn't listening. The mantra of hatred and loneliness was still echoing in his skull. He slammed his knuckles into Takeshi's jaw, and again in his eye, then once more, and again, and at his nose.

And just as he was about to slam his elbow into the boy's neck, a pair of strong arms pulled Hikaru away from the bloody boy, and he snapped out of whatever angry trance he was in. Takeshi was on the ground, eyes wide and staring at Hikaru as if he were a beast.

As for the other kids, they were just like Takeshi: speechless. The sparring sessions weren't supposed to go that far. You were only supposed to pin them down for three seconds or more.

Iruka glared down at Hikaru, "You're done for today. I'm having a parent-teacher conference after school."

He set the boy down, who nodded with small tears in his eyes and ran off without an apology.

A knot formed in his gut.

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KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
WEST FOREST

He didn't go back to class. He couldn't. He hadn't meant to really hurt Takeshi; he just meant to show him up. Did his pride get to him? Or was it just his neglected feelings? There was no reason for Takeshi to be the embodiment of his hatred – he was just a good person and trying to be nice.

How could he face Takeshi knowing what he'd done? There was blood running down his face from his nose and over his lips. What if he broke his nose? He would probably have a black eye too.

The young Uchiha growled in frustration. Now he was going to be in trouble, too. His dad wasn't lenient on punishments. He never enforced any physical or verbal damage, but still, he was in deep kimshee.

So he ran off without any indication of where he was going – even he didn't know – and just let himself carry off to who knows where. He ran down streets and alleys he wasn't familiar with, until he was lost altogether in a forest area that was probably a training ground. He stopped at the edge of a black-water lake and sat on one of the many white rocks at its rim, sinking his feet into the cold water (after taking off his shoes first and setting them neatly at his side).

For hours he just let his feet prune as he kicked unenthusiastically at the water, staring at nothing. Even as the sun began to dip in the horizon, he couldn't believe what he'd done or why he'd done it. It's not like Takeshi was ever mean to him. A little rude unintentionally sometimes, but what kid knew any better?

He sighed. He should have just given up when Iruka told him to.

"So you punch me and then run off? For shame, Hikaru, for shame."

Hikaru jumped at the sound of the voice, whirling his head around. His black hair flew around him, his matching eyes meeting with Takeshi's rain-blue eyes.

Although expecting a scowl on the bruised boy's face – yeah, he definitely broke the boy's nose – he found a lazy smile. Hikaru's eyes widened, "Uh-ah, Take… what are you, why are you?" Nothing coherent could really come out.

Takeshi rolled his eyes, standing behind him and leaning over him so that when Hikaru looked up, Takeshi's face was there. "Uh, duh, I couldn't just let you show me up like that!"

The young Uchiha's face flushed, "I, umm, sorry, I just-"

"Nah, it's okay. I probably deserved it. You looked like you really hated me. …You punched at me like you really hated me." He easily said this with a simple shrug and a pained smile.

A pang of guilt hit Hikaru, and the coil in his stomach tightened. "No, that's not… I didn't mean it like- it's just that no one likes me and everyone likes you."

"Have you tried to not punch people?"

Hikaru glared.

"Right, right. Sorry."

Takeshi sighed, moving over to Hikaru's left and taking a seat next to him. He didn't dip his feet in the water like Hikaru did (on account he still had his shoes on). He looked to him, "Well, if you weren't so quiet, maybe we'd be friends."

Hikaru scoffed, "No one likes me."

"They don't know that until they meet you."

Grabbing a stone in his hand, he threw it angrily at the water. "But they won't! They won't because I'm an Uchiha!"

There was a brief silence between them. Hikaru figured it was because Takeshi hadn't known about his being an elite, and that he was probably just telling himself to go home now, that he wasn't worth his time, that-

"Um, so?"

Hikaru blinked. He looked up at Takeshi, who more or less looked like he had no clue what a fricking Uchiha even was.

"…It's because of my dad. No one likes him. So they don't like me."

"….No, I mean, I have no idea. Who's your dad? Is he a big deal, or something?"

"His name is Sasuke Uchiha?"

Takeshi didn't seem impressed or fearful. He just started like, Okay? And?

Hikaru sighed, "It figures that you wouldn't know any elite shinobi families since you're from a civilian one."

The blond boy raised an eyebrow, "Huh? Who said that? My dad was a shinobi. He fought in the Fourth War – and lived!"

Hikaru stared at him in surprise. Not many people can back from that war. Well, his dad did, but not many others. His dad's student, Fujioka Jin's dad, never came back. Besides, if he hadn't died in the war, then how did Takeshi's dad die?

"But, then how-"

"Dunno. My mom said there was an accident, but she never told me exactly what happened. In any case, why don't people like the Uchiha? I've ne'er heard of 'em."

It took him a moment to answer – he was still on the subject of Takeshi's dad when the question came out. When he did, he just shrugged, "I-unno."

"You don't? Then how do you even know if they're right about you?"

"I…" Hikaru was at a loss for words. Takeshi was absolutely right! Who was to say that just because his clan "did" something "bad", then that meant he was bad? No! It wasn't right at all!

Takeshi smiled, his black eye slightly cringing as he did, "See? Now that we've covered that…" His voice trailed off, but before Hikaru could ask, he felt a hand on his back, shoving him to the water. He slid, becoming enveloped in the black water.

He pushed his way up to the surface, gasping and sputtering. He glared up at Takeshi, "What was that for?"

Takeshi grinned cheekily, "That was for this." He gestured to his beaten face.

His ears went pink, and then he smiled, "Oh, right! Then I guess I should pay you back for this!" He grabbed Takeshi's ankle and pulled.

Splash.

Mimicking Hikaru's resurface and sputtering technique, Takeshi wiped the water off his eyelids (cringing when he put too much pressure on the black eye) and looked at Hikaru, who sniggered.

He shoved his hands forward, splashing him.

"Hey!"

"Well, you pulled me in!"

"You did it first!"

The two children laughed, trying to duck each other under and splashing one other. Takeshi pulled himself out of the water, Hikaru short behind. The former tapped the black-haired one, and shouted, "Tag! You're it!"

"Come back here, evil doer!"

"I shall never surrender, Uzumaki Naruto!"

"Oh yeah? Taste this, Madara! RASENGAN!"

They then ran at each other, Hikaru pretending to be wielding a Rasengan and Takeshi "powerless" to stop it. He screamed, "Oh, no! YOU GOT ME! Bleh!" Then he fell over, dramatically dying.

Hikaru laughed, dropping at his side. As their giggles died down, they stared up at the last rays of sunlight that flew through the trees overhead.

The young Uchiha closed his eyes, breathless, "Takeshi?"

"Yeah?"

Something in his heart suddenly wasn't heavy anymore – like a burden had been lifted.

"Thanks."

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KONOHAGAKURE, FIRE COUNTRY
THE ACADEMY

No one understood how they became to be best friends. One day, they're punching the heck out of each other, and the next, they're sitting next to each other in class, taking notes side-by-side. What started out as a one-sided hatred became something that they both depended on. It was as if without each other was just as bad as seeing your family murdered… twice.

They spent the night at each other's houses, hardly ever going to their home without the other one. Though Sasuke tired of this, his wife Sakura found it adorable. She couldn't get enough of it. The same went to Takeshi's mom, Nabari Minami, who quickly became friends with Sakura.

The days they had to spend apart were probably the worst of the time. They got down on their hands and knees and cleaned the entire classroom when Iruka changed their seats. They even began to work harder just so they wouldn't be separated. (Which left him baffled – it was the first time it had happened. The last time he saw people this close were when he had Shikamaru and Chouji in his class, but even they didn't clean the classroom because of it.)

Honestly, they didn't know why they hadn't been friends up until that point. Fate had an odd way of uniting two people. It also had an odd effect on both of them – but especially Hikaru, who was now the utmost center of attention at school.

All of the girls loved him. At first they were unsure of him – as he'd beaten up their (ahem) boyfriend – but as he showed his true nature, they instantly fell for him.

Most of the time – when he wasn't busy hating Takeshi, that is – he was actually a sweet kid. He was soft-spoken and polite, and very kind. His mother always fawned over him and said he would make a great groom-to-be one day for a very special girl. And he would. He had a nature that was usually very calming. The only thing that had ever tipped him out of character was when he realized people liked Takeshi more and hated him.

But now he had no reason to hate Takeshi, so he reverted back to his mannerly persona. It was very contrasting to Takeshi's strident, slightly obnoxious and headstrong mannerism. Although it didn't seem all that likely for them to be friends, they were.

However, not many boys in the class were very, how do you say… friendly, towards him. One of the boys in particular, Juruko, really didn't take to him.

"Tell me again – why is the Uchiha in our group?" He asked Takeshi for the nth time when Hikaru took the bathroom pass.

Takeshi rolled his eyes, "Because he's my best friend – duh."

"But he punched the living snot outta you!"

"So? It's all healed." He gestured to his now-flawless child complexion.

Juruko's best friend – well, more like his right hand lackey – Oikawa Ryosuke leaned forward, "Yeah, but don't you know about the Uchiha?"

"No. And why should I have to know? It's not like Hikaru did it."

"Yeah, but-"

Hagane Kagura dug her first into Juruko's arm, "Shut up, you weirdo! If Takeshi-kun says he's okay, then he's okay? Got. It?"

The two shied back from the little black-haired girl's menacing tone. (Hey, just because she wore a little blue dress didn't mean she wasn't deadly.) "R-Right." They both stammered.

Takeshi smiled at Kagura, "Thanks, Kagu-rawr." He giggled at his own little nickname for her.

She blushed a shade of red, "N-No problem, Takeshi-kun."

To which Hikaru returned, handing back the pass and taking his rightful seat at Takeshi's side.

"Did I miss anything?" He wondered.

Takeshi smiled, "Nah, nothing important."

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Nothing important, indeed. Within merely two weeks, the entire class had finally taken to Hikaru, boys and girls alike. This was much to their parent's concern, but what did they care? It was their children's choices, their life, and even if they brought it up, they would ignore it. As Takeshi said, Hikaru wasn't his dad.

As his popularity grew, Hikaru realized that while recognition is a good thing, too much of it can be overwhelming – especially when it came from Kagura. She had gone from trying to vie for Takeshi's to trying to vie for his attention.

"Wait up, Hikaru-kuuun!" Her voice sang. Takeshi, Hikaru, and Yamanaka Koushiro (a quiet boy from their class who was actually amazing friends with Kagura) stopped, backpacks slung over their shoulders, on their way to another day of school.

Takeshi gave a pained smile – Hikaru had realized they'd become more pained lately. He figured it was because he liked Kagura (enough to give her a cutesy nickname and ignore her cooties, at the very least). He waved, "Hi, Kagu-rawr."

"Oh, hi Takeshi-kun. Ne, Hikaru-kun, will you sit next to me today?"

Hikaru smiled, not wanting to be impolite but still wanting to preserve his friend's feelings. "Um, no, I think I'll sit next to Koushiro today. How about it, Koushiro?"

Koushiro nodded, "Y-yeah, sure!"

Takeshi took over from there, tapping Kagura on the shoulder, "You can sit next to me, Kagu."

Dismayed, the young girl sighed, "Okay, I guess."

The two boys exchanged mischievous looks, followed by a quick fist-bump.

It's always easy when you're young.

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"What do we write this paper for?" Hikaru wondered to Takeshi – the former had been in the bathroom when Iruka had explained the assignment.

Takeshi got out a piece of paper and readied his pencil between his fingers. "We're supposed to write about what we want to do once we're ninja."

The Uchiha nodded once, "Oh… cool!"

"Tell me about it," Kagura said dreamily. "I already know what I'm going to do. I'm going to be a Hyuuga!"

Juruko stared at her, "You realize you have to be born a Hyuuga to be one of them, right?"

"Really? Aw, that sucks."

Takeshi laughed, "But good try anyway, Kagu-rawr."

Kagura giggled, blushing. Hikaru stared at his paper, then to Takeshi. "What do you want to do?"

Takeshi didn't even stammer, his confidence infinite, "I'm going to be Hokage, duh."

"You-you'll make a great Hokage, Nabari-san!" Koushiro cheered.

"Thanks, Koushiro. I'll make you my second right-hand man."

"Second?"

"Course. Hikaru is the first."

Hikaru beamed in pride – Takeshi actually picked him first? An Uchiha? He smiled at him, positively embarrassed, "Thanks."

"No problem – so, what do you want to do, Hikaru?"

All eyes were on him. Hikaru thought about it for a moment. While Hokage sounded cool, it wasn't something he was after. He grinned, "I want people to like my clan, is all. I guess I just want to make people see we aren't bad."

There was a moment of silence as they all stared at him.

"That's better than seeking title of Hokage, I'd say," was all Takeshi ever said on the matter.

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After school, they had played in the park until after sunset. They played games like Ninja and Assassin, or even tag and hopscotch. (Who said it was a girly game? It was still fun.) The two had chased around a raccoon until it disappeared into the thicket of a forest, and tried to build a fort out of large branches. It was just as they'd finished the third wall that they had realized the sunlight was almost gone.

"I should probably go home," Takeshi figured. "My momma's gonna kill me when she finds out how late it is."

Hikaru nodded, "Yeah, okay. Meet you up at the usual meeting spot tomorrow morning?"

Takeshi laughed, "Duh. Where else?"

"I-unno. In any case, bring your paints tomorrow. We have to color in our camouflage blanket."

"Paints. Got it." The blonde boy mentally made a note to himself.

The two reached the stairs that led out of the park.

Hikaru waved his friend off, running off to the left, "Just don't forget!"

"I won't!"

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He forgot, I bet that's why he's late, Hikaru grumbled to himself, sitting down in his usual seat. The seat next to him – Takeshi's – was empty, which was strange that in itself. As Iruka called roll, he said,

"Nabari Takeshi."

There was no response. Hikaru glanced worriedly at his seat. Takeshi was never late or absent. He was going for perfect attendance. So where was he?

"Huh? Is he not here? Oh, I guess I have to mark him absent…" Iruka seemed distracted. He was probably on the same mindset as Hikaru.

Twenty-three pairs of eyes, sensei and students alike, stared at the empty seat.

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On the third day of his absence, Hikaru decided he would go to Takeshi's house. He went there often, so it wouldn't be weird if he just suddenly showed up. Minami liked him, and Takeshi was probably just sick, so there would be no harm so long as he got home on time.

But as he headed toward the front gates of the Academy, his eyes fell on a familiar, lean figure. His hair was black and fell around the sides of his face, wearing a police badge on over his chest.

He blinked. His dad never ever came to pick him up. He was always training his students this time of day. He came to a stop at his dad, who flashed him a warm smile.

"Dad? What're you doing here?"

Sasuke held out his hand, "I got out of work early. Come on, let's head home."

His after-school plans suddenly flashed in his head. "Uh, can we stop at Takeshi's house? I haven't seen him in a while. He's been absent."

Sasuke didn't say anything at first, hesitating. But instead of telling his son what he needed to, he just merely held out his hand further, "He's in the hospital, son. He'll be out in no time."

Hikaru gasped, "The hospital? But why is he in the hospital?"

"He's just sick. It's a little contagious, so we won't be able to visit him until he's cleared. Okay?"

A pang of disappointment and worrisome thoughts hit him.

Nonetheless, he took his dad's hand.

"Okay."

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A week passed, then two. Still, there was no sight of his best friend. He had been begging his dad to just go to the hospital and see him through a window or something, but every answer was the same. Honestly, Hikaru wondered if parents had the ability to say "yes".

He told everyone in class of the problem, so they all constructed a "Get Well" card for him. Even Iruka signed, albeit reluctantly. Hikaru kept it in his possession in case he was ever granted access to the hospital. But as the days grew longer, Hikaru realized that without Takeshi, he was almost nothing. He didn't feel all that happy at school, for he was plagued with worry and fear. What had become of his friend? Was he so sick that he couldn't get up? He seemed fine the last time Hikaru saw him.

But then something entered his mind the nth time he asked his dad to see him. He realized that his dad would never look him in the eyes when he said no, that he was sick and he would make Hikaru sick too. Why wouldn't he ever look his first-born in the eye? He always busied himself with papers or meals or even on objects that were nearby like a vase of flowers. And then there were the times Sasuke would just say no and walk away, trying to get the attention of their gardener, Juugo, or Sakura. He would even use Naruto – his uncle and the Rokudaime Hokage – as an excuse to be pulled away from his son.

It hit him later why he wouldn't look him in the eye – he was lying to him.

But why would his dad lie? Was Takeshi not in the hospital? If so, then where was he? Was he in trouble? Did he leave the village? (Well, he was probably too young for that alone.)

He finally just sucked in his gut and decided he would go to Takeshi's tomorrow. Even if he had to cut school, he had to go to Takeshi's house. If he wasn't at there, then he would check the hospital. Surely someone would let him in, right? Especially since his best friend in the whole world was in there.

They would, right?

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He hated them – all of them. How could they be so happy, so innocent? Couldn't they see that there was a problem with the picture? Did they not see the empty chair that had been collecting dust for weeks?

Takeshi struggled to open the door, his chest still pained. His hair was no longer blonde – it was an ashy gray color. His wrists were bandaged as well as his forehead, and his skin was red on his ankles. He pushed into the classroom with difficulty, having to limp due to his right leg.

No one really looked at him when he first entered. Figures. The lot of them were all oblivious. Did they know where he had been? Or did they just make up lies?

"Nabari? Is that you?" Umino Iruka's voice was in disbelief, risen so the whole class would hear. Shocked – he was back! – they turned to him, but their smiles fell short when they saw him.

Why wouldn't they stare? He was disgusting now. He was probably a good ten pounds (give or take) lighter than the last time they saw him, and his skin was pale and gray now. And if it wasn't, then there were purple, yellow and green bruises on him. The only things that hadn't changed about him were his light, crystal-blue eyes.

"T-Takeshi-kun?" Kagura stammered, her dark eyes wide.

"Takeshi!" Hikaru cheered, as if he hadn't seen the bruises or the hair or anything. He ran up to his friend, lunging at him and pulling him in a tight hug. Takeshi gasped and stumbled, a small cry of pain escaping his lips. Sheesh, those doctors weren't kidding when they told him his ribs were bruised severely.

Hikaru didn't notice, though. He just pulled back with a stupid grin on his face, "Takeshi! You're okay! I was so worried about you! What happened to your hair? Are you still conta-conta- contagious?" He struggled with the word.

Although he expected to be lighter in mood when he would see Hikaru, his chest grew heavier. His eyes grew darker, deadlier. "Get away from me."

The young Uchiha boy finally sensed the mood in the classroom, his utmost joy disintegrating. "H…huh? What do you-"

Takeshi, just wanting to avoid them all, pushed past him, limping, "Just what it sounds like. Go away."

The room grew quiet. Deciding it best to leave him be for a while, Hikaru let him go.

It was the last chance he ever had.

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The class adapted quicker to the changed Takeshi than they did with the original Hikaru.

The changed Takeshi was strange to the way he had been. Instead of laughing, he moped around on the swing that hung under a large oak tree. Instead of making more friends, he detached himself from not only the class, but the teachers too, until all he had hanging onto him was Hikaru, who hadn't given up on their friendship.

Also, Takeshi was absent a lot now. It happened every other week on Thursdays. On the Wednesdays before he would leave, he would ask for all of the work for the next day and turn it in on Friday. He kept up his grades, and they were actually probably better due to his lack of distractions.

He used to suck up to the old Takeshi, but nowadays Juruko made it his priority to bother the distant child. He was worse to Takeshi than he had been to Hikaru – spitting spitballs at him during class, tripping him in the hallways, taking his backpack and having a girl put it in the girl's bathroom until a teacher would find it and return it. (He stopped doing this when Nara Temari-sensei, an upperclassmen teacher, found it and gave Juruko a run for his money.)

And Juruko was a major factor to the way kids saw things. He was the biggest reason it took so long for kids to like Hikaru. They all saw his behavior to Takeshi, so they backed off from the sullen child. He was different. He wasn't the same Takeshi. He didn't laugh or play or joke around. The light in his eyes just vanished.

The numbers of people who wanted Takeshi back dwindled. They began to hate him just like Juruko did; and being children they didn't really have a reason. It's easier for a kid to let go of friends.

Before long, Koushiro, Kagura, and Hikaru were the only ones left.

They hung to his memory by a shoestring.

OoOoOoOoO

He had been quietly mourning for weeks, not saying a word at all to the children since he had first come to class. There wasn't really any reason to.

But they were testing him, all of them. They wanted to know his breaking point – they wanted to know what happened and why he was hurt and why he suddenly changed.

Takeshi shook his head, dismissively, No. It wasn't sudden. They just don't understand.

But most of all, even over Hikaru, was the young girl, Hagane Kagura. She used to be nobody like Hikaru once, until Takeshi… well, the old Takeshi… stood up for her. Everyone called her ugly because of her stupid dark eyes and her straw-like black hair. She didn't come from an esteemed family, so she didn't have any pretty dresses. They all called her "Ugly Betty" and "Kagu-baka" and "Rag Doll".

But while all of the kids made of her, she began to cry, and Takeshi suddenly pushed Ryosuke, and said,

"Hey, stop that, I think she's the most beautiful girl in the world."

They laughed it off at first, but Takeshi had been serious. He did think that way of her, and it meant so much to her that she declared her love for him privately and dreamed that one day they would be married.

Sure, there had been… distractions. But who wouldn't find Uchiha Hikaru positively adorable? He was sweet but with a soft manly side to him. His Uchiha genes made him irresistible too. So she fawned after him for a while, but the biggest reason was to make Takeshi jealous. She wanted to remind him that she could find boys just as quickly as girls caught his eye, so that she would be more desirable. And it worked, for a time, until he suddenly stopped showing up to school.

He hadn't spoken a word to her since he came back. She was going to find out if it killed her, too.

"Takeshi-kun?" She said one day on the playground, while he silently sat on his swing. He merely looked at her, not moving his head or showing any condition that her presence disrupted him.

"Um, well," she began, since it didn't seem like he was going to reply any time soon. "I, I was just wondering if we could eat lunch together – like we used to?"

He looked away.

She puffed her cheeks with air, anger twitching in her eyebrow. Why did boys have to be so stupid?

"Don't you care that no one likes you anymore? I thought you were going to be Hokage!"

He didn't move.

She grabbed both of the ropes on the swing, making him look her in the eyes, "TA-KE-SHI! Why are you being so mean? I thought you were nice! But I guess you're just a big IDIOT!"

His icy eyes glared at her.

"At least I'm not a skinny twig with straw hair! What are you, a rag doll?"

Kagura's eyes widened, and she let go of the ropes. Out of all people, she had never expected him, Nabari Takeshi, the love of her life, to call her those mean names.

Her lips trembled, tears in her eyes. She suddenly shouted, "Oh, yeah? WELL AT LEAST I'M NOT A BIG JERK!" She turned on her heel and ran off the playground, to find a silent place to cry on her own.

Takeshi rolled his eyes, and began to murmur to himself like he always did now.

Over in the sandbox, Koushiro and Hikaru exchanged glances.

OoOoOoOoO

The two boys, deciding to take on the man-only man mission, decided to approach him after school. It was probably just some of the kids that made him edgy. The real Takeshi they knew would never ever say mean things to Kagura that she repeated through a tirade of tears. He was probably just upset over being sick for so long? Yes, that had to be it.

"Takeshi!" Hikaru shouted down the road, making the boy stop. Takeshi turned with his ashen hair falling over his eyes, the life that had been in him once almost gone.

"N-Nabari-san!" Koushiro shouted in tune with Hikaru, and they came to a breathless stop in front of the detached boy.

His voice came out soft, "What?"

Koushiro was the first to speak, "Don't- Don't you think you were being a little mean to Kagura-san? I mean, all she wanted to do was help."

Takeshi narrowed his eyes, but said nothing.

Hikaru took over, "Ta-Takeshi" – he was still breathless from running – "I don't know why you're suddenly mean now, but it's no reason to call Kagura ugly! I thought you liked her?"

The Nabari said nothing, again, but his fists were clenched when he had said "suddenly".

The young Uchiha huffed, and tried a different approach, "Come on, Takeshi, don't you want to go play or something? We can play Naruto versus Madara again if you want."

Takeshi scoffed, "I don't have time for childish games. Leave me alone."

Koushiro grabbed the hem of Takeshi's shirt, "But- Nabari-sa-"

"But nothing!" Takeshi suddenly shouted. He shoved Koushiro off, "I don't want to play your stupid games. I have bigger and better things to- SHUT UP!" He shrieked at nothing, glaring at the sky, for nothing was talking other than him.

Hikaru flinched back, then narrowed his eyes, "Takeshi, you're being weird! Just calm down and-"

Takeshi grabbed a fistful of his hair, "Just shut up, Mr. "I have to be perfect all the time". Just shut up and leave me alone!"

Koushiro tried again to grab him, but this time he sent his fist flying at Koushiro, nailing him in the jaw. The blonde boy cried out and toppled over, leaving Hikaru to gasp.

He raised his fists at Takeshi, and without thinking, charged at him. They met each other with fierce grips, wrestling each other to the ground. They rolled around in the dirt, punching and kicking and scratching at whatever they could.

Koushiro cried out, pulling at their shoulders to separate them, but they bat him away, and kicked at him, causing him to fall back. With nothing else to do, he ran off in search of an adult before they killed each other.

Yet somehow, he knew it wouldn't be the last fight.

OoOoOoOoO

It wasn't. In the next upcoming months, they couldn't go near each other without battling it out. Most of the class were what you would call "buffer states", and made sure they didn't go near each other. They had never seen them fight, except for Koushiro who would rather forget, but they didn't want to.

That is, until Juruko decided to ignite the flames. He thought he'd get a quick couple bucks by having a formal fight and getting people to pay for tickets. He went behind both their backs, saying to Takeshi what horrible things Hikaru "said" about him, and vice versa to Hikaru. The two got so mad that they just randomly tackled each other at recess, resulting in a fight.

They were progressively worse after that. Kids got excited about the rivalry, and took sides (Hikaru had the majority). Bets were made on which one would get better grades, and which one would win their fights that were hosted every Friday by (duh) Juruko. It was always a different place – at the playground, on the Hokage Monument, in the Training Grounds, in the street, in an old weaponry warehouse (that one was a mistake), and even at one of their classmate's yards if they volunteered. It became like a ritual of sorts, and they all enjoyed it.

Takeshi and Hikaru didn't try to stop any of the propaganda either. In fact, they encouraged it. For one reason or another, their bitterness toward one another grew. Hikaru's reason was fairly obvious, although no one really knew why Takeshi was spurring it on. Although considering the time since his change, no one really knew anything about him anymore.

In any case, every Friday afternoon at four o'clock, the two of them would meet wherever they wished. Today, on their fourth year, the two of them faced across each other, standing on a bridge that stretched over the Karakuri River – Takeshi to the South, and Hikaru to the North. The class sat on whatever side they were on, which meant that twenty-one kids were to the North, and Fukamura Chiharu sat to the South.

She was the only girl in the class who still didn't take to his new personality. She was too kind of a person to go along with everyone else, although no one thought she was socially bad. They understood she was far too accepting and fair to just take Hikaru's side, no matter what she thought of either one. Honestly, she felt bad for Takeshi's lack of fans.

Hikaru took a ready stance, while Takeshi stood with a kunai in his hand (they were now allowed these in their fourth year) rather unenthusiastically. He had a small black stud on his lower lip now, as well has two spider-bite studs on his left eyebrow. One of them was white, the other gray. Also he wore a hoop on the curve of his right ear, and on the other ear he had a rod sticking out, across to the hoop.

His newest edition to his little pierced collection, however, was a yellow star just below the rod. Now, he had six.

Juruko smirked, "I see you have a new addition to your juvenile look, Nabari. What's the star for?"

Takeshi didn't seem fazed to the untrained eye, but if you knew him well enough like this you could tell there was twinge of anger in his eyebrow. "It's for someone."

Kagura rolled her eyes on the sidelines, jabbing her elbow into Koushiro lightly and gesturing to the other side where Chiharu sat. Koushiro shrugged.

The Uchiha didn't care – what Takeshi did to his face was his business. He got himself ready.

A boy by the name of Satoshi stood on the rim of the bridge at its midpoint. He held up a black and white flag – which is really the only reason he was referee was because of it being in his possession – and shouted, "ARE YOU READY!"

Takeshi gave him an icy glare, "This isn't a stupid game. Just say "go" and be done with it."

Satoshi sighed, muttering something about a lack of respect. He waved the flag lamely and said, "Okay, okay, first one to hit the water loses, go."

Without hesitation, the two ran at each other, kunai raised. With a quick drop and slide, Hikaru went for Takeshi's knees, who jumped to avoid him. He tucked his head into his body and preformed a front-flip, bringing down his ankle on Hikaru.

The crowd cringed when it hit Hikaru on the shoulder. He cried out but didn't let it slow him down, so he grabbed Takeshi's ankle and tossed him over the rim of the bridge. He fell over but caught himself, flipping under the bridge and catching himself on the other side, thus pulling himself up by Satoshi.

Takeshi gave a triumphant grin, "Gonna have'ta work harder than that, Wonder Boy."

The Uchiha clicked his tongue, "Call me that again and I won't have a problem kicking your ass."

There was murmur of "oooo's" among the crowd – they were only in the fourth grade and "ass" was a word their mommies didn't want them to say.

"Ha!" The Nabari laughed. "I don't think you could if you had help, Wonder Boy."

Hikaru charged to the side of the bridge (Satoshi "eeped" and got out of the way) and threw a punch, but Takeshi jumped over him and landing on the platform.

"Is that all you can do, Nabari? Jump out of my way?"

Takeshi ran at him without another word, and they began close combat. Punches were thrown as they tried to knock one another off their feet by attempting to trip them out of their stances. They jumped and flipped and twirled out of harm's way, and in a certain angle it seemed like they were just preforming a dance.

Then, Hikaru swung his kunai forward, and there was a gasp in the crowd as Takeshi fell back, blood on his shoulder. Hikaru's eyes widened – he had gone too far.

The tip of the kunai extended out of Takeshi's shoulder blade – it had gone straight through his heart.

Takeshi fell back, blood falling out of his lips, and collapsing with a thud.

"Ta….Takeshi?!" Hikaru shouted, alarmed, and knelt at his side. He hated him, but that didn't mean he wanted to kill him! The children stood, all placing their hands over their mouths. (Did Hikaru do what they just think he did?) Hikaru took the body into his arms, shaking the boy. "O-Oh god, what have I…"

Poof.

A cloud of white smoke enveloped Takeshi, and like that, he disappeared without any trace except for a log in his place. Hikaru stared down at the wood, completely baffled. What just…

"HYAA!"

Hikaru had no time to react when Takeshi suddenly came from under the bridge with a battle cry, shoving Hikaru off of the bridge. He fell into the water with a SPLASH.

"Takeshi is the winner!" Satoshi announced, earning a loud eruption from the crowd – some cheering and some merely baffled, while some (namely Kagura) shouted about how unfair it had been.

Hikaru surfaced, coughing and sputtering. "Takeshi? But, what did you-"

"It's called Substitution no Jutsu, id~i~ot~." The boy sang, looking down at Hikaru from the bridge. "But still, nice to know you care so much!" Sarcasm was dripping feverishly in his undertone.

The Uchiha's face flushed red. How did he expect Takeshi to have already mastered it? They hadn't gone over it in class yet!

"You- that's cheating!"

Takeshi shrugged, jumping away from the edge and heading south.

"All's fair in love and war!"

OoOoOoOoO

Hikaru had been holding back.

It wasn't on purpose, obviously, but he went home that day, and felt guilty for some reason. But what should he feel guilty about? Takeshi had shoved him in the river, Takeshi had been a jerk, he had… well, he didn't cheat, but still. Takeshi had been to blame for his bad day, so why did he feel bad?

He didn't sleep, he paced; but the more he walked, the worse he felt. Why in Shodai's sake did he feel so- so!

"Ugh!" He suddenly cried out, not really caring if his little sister was asleep or not. He jumped back down onto his bed, growling and throwing a pillow over his face.

How could his best friend, his leader – how could he turn into a jerk? "All's fair in love and war!" Hikaru suddenly shouted. "All's fair in love and war my BUTT! Who does he think he is that- that- that UGH!" He picked up something – a cup or something glass on his nightstand; he wouldn't know, he wasn't looking – and chucked it at the mirror.

The glass shattered and screamed – its bloody cry rang through his room, shrieking in Hikaru's ear. Its body fell to the floor with a sickening silence that Hikaru didn't want to listen to. His breaths were raspy as he stared into what was left of the mirror, hanging onto its wooden frame for life. His own reflection was distorted and broken, but a flash of red caught his eyes.

There was voice in the hallway – probably his mother or his father – but he wouldn't listen to it. He traced one of his fingers on his bottom eye lid, wondering if his eye had bled from the broken looking glass. When he felt hot liquid, he was alarmed, but when he pulled his hand away, it wasn't red. They were tears.

The old Takeshi Hikaru once knew washed down the river, the shoestring snapped, and suddenly, the new Takeshi was the only one Hikaru knew. There was no "friendship" or "past" with Takeshi, and now, there was only a future between them.

A smile crept up to Hikaru's lips – Takeshi would regret those words.

"All's fair in love and war, huh?"

OoOoOoOoO

A/N: Well, the second and final part of the prologue will be posted soon! As you can tell there are just minor mentions of characters from the original series. I plan not to make it all about them, but they will be included in this as the story progresses. This is my second attempt at this, so maybe it's better now? Worse? Let me know in a review!

Also, I should probably let you know I'm BIG on symbolism: REALLY big. I like to bring it up a lot in my works, so look out for it.

Thank you for reading! Until next time,

~Fired Feathers of a Phoenix