A/N: I've read many self-inserts with an OC who almost passively accepts the Narutoverse's absurd policies and traditions and just seems to go with being the heroic protagonist. Really, if you were placed in a dangerous as hell environment, you'd be willing to selflessly sacrifice your life for strangers? Just like that? You think it'd be easy adjusting to a universe which goes against all of your ingrained beliefs and in which others were out to kill you?
This fic tries to portray a realistic self-insert which exposes the constant dark undercurrent of being trapped in a crapsack world. I write in British English as I am Australian, so discrepancies in spelling and specific terms will be apparent to you US readers.
My writing is also dependent on your feedback, so please review! Con crit is always welcome and appreciated.
〇一 | lotus (rebirth)
Throughout my awfully shortened lifetime, I had proudly proclaimed that there was no heaven, purgatory and hell, no reincarnation or other delusional human fantasies of an afterlife. Such silly wishful thinking could have been debunked by the brilliance of simple logic, reasoning, blah, blah, blah, insert skeptical, freethinking, atheistic rant and praise for science here.
Well, fuck me dead and proper, how wrong was I.
I used to think that death was a perpetual state of nothingness, like an eternal sleep. The thought of non-existence scared me shitless as I had so much left to accomplish, so many regrets and a to-do list the size of the figuratively bloody Universe. I had also held the mistaken belief that I was an extremely skilled jaywalker, and that arrogance was, unfortunately, my own self-inflicted undoing. My deepest apologies to whoever's job it was to clean the resulting mess up and scrape me off of the literally bloody asphalt.
All I could remember was this sudden, all-consuming agony before total darkness. When I came to, I expected to be lying in a hospital bed, as my rational mind would have thought. Alas, I was experiencing my worst nightmare: childbirth. I felt the sensation of some release, a rush of cold air and the infernal sound of a screaming, bawling infant. Jeebus, I thought, couldn't anyone shut that little fucker up? And then, it dawned on me.
I was the source of the torturous sound. I was that little fucker.
Holy shit, reincarnation was real.
I was bombarded with the faces of surgically masked strangers, a blinding light and deafening noise. My only natural reaction was to cry like a goddamn baby, because, well, I was a goddamn baby. Amongst the commotion, there was a happy exclamation in an unintelligible foreign language that I couldn't quite identify through the sensory overload. Well, this was a pleasant surprise. I was already bilingual in my past life so a third language would come in handy. Multilingualism, here I come!
They were manhandling me into a swathe of soft blankets before I was shoved in front of the face of a very tired-looking woman. Strands of dark hair were plastered onto her sweaty forehead and her lips were chapped but her brown eyes brightened at the sight of my pathetic, crying and undoubtedly ugly form. Her expression immediately morphed into one of unadulterated happiness and relief. Inexplicably, from that single moment, I couldn't help the feeling of love that flooded through me for this stranger who was to become my second mother. She hushed my cries, soothing my burning lungs and cradled me gently in her arms.
Japanese. I was Japanese. At least I got to keep some aspects of my former life as being both Asian and female. My eleven-year old self as a disgusting weeaboo would have squealed at this dream come true… but wait, Kurenai? It was an interesting name that rang a bell. I was instantly reminded of Naruto and wondered if my parents were massive otaku as to name me after a manga character.
Large hands transferred me into the arms of another stranger but when I set my gaze upon his face, I was shocked to stillness. Red eyes. Paralysing red, ringed eyes. What the hell? Maybe it was some medical condition? I'd never heard of such a thing but surely…
"Welcome to the family, Yuuhi Kurenai."
No. Oh, HELL NO. I could only recognise the two words of my full name but the impending doom was all too evident. This was not happening, this was utterly, completely, fucking insane—
"You will make a fine kunoichi someday, my daughter."
As soon as I heard the word, "kunoichi", as if on cue, I began to wail.
Success, in most Earth-bound societies, is based primarily on intelligence, diligence and a pinch of Machiavellianism. It is a meritocracy where one climbs the academic ranks at the beginning of our schooling, studying our asses off to get straight A's and stumble our way through a tertiary education application for acceptance into top-tier institutions. Extracurriculars are also highly favoured and the wankers deciding the fate of our future careers think that they show "character", evidence of not solely being a massively socially inept nerd. So, armed with charisma, intelligence and healthy ambition, one can have a successful career, a thriving social life and die with a little more dignity than everyone else. Of course, it is a different case if you have talent coming out from your ass and can be some famous or celebrity athlete or musician, artist and what have you but those are rare exceptions.
Now, facing my newfound dilemma, I had to defenestrate all of that aforementioned bullshit and figure out how not to get myself killed in the average day.
Solution: Become a ninja.
Pros: Magically superhuman abilities, self-defence, a great paycheck, a fit bod from all of that training and societal recognition.
Cons: Insanely detrimental psychological consequences and being in immense danger with death constantly looming over my head.
Well, the pros certainly outnumbered the cons but they sure as hell didn't outweigh them.
Aside from my world-shattering problem, I also had to deal with the total pain of not being able to utilise my limbs properly or openly vocalise my thoughts. I felt so disabled and relinquished of my free will. Everyone was sickeningly patronising with the way they treated me and fine, it wasn't their fault but it still pissed me off. I was trapped in the body of a helpless newborn with the mind of a young freakin' adult. I had almost finished my first year of university, having just begun to find some footing in the "real world", as they called it and now, it was all stripped away from me. I mourned for the loss of my friends and family and I wondered if they were returning the favour. I wondered how many people attended my funeral. But that was all in a past of which I had to put behind me.
Being a baby was also mind-numbingly boring. In the beginning of my second life, a majority of my time was spent crying, sleeping and drooling over my own chin like a pitiful vegetable. However, my mind was constantly rife with thoughts of the future and something hugely different from my past universe: chakra. There were pinpricks of sensation throughout my entire body. It was slight at first but grew to a familiar consistency, pooling into a comforting warmth within my belly. I could feel chakra actively flowing through their pathways. It was totally fascinating. I often tried manipulating it to no avail; I was still too young.
Over the next few months, I improved on my Japanese and could eventually understand most rudimentary terms and phrases, expanding my previously crude knowledge attained through watching anime and reading manga. Experimenting with my physical abilities also proved to be of some entertainment. My vocal folds seemed to be too underdeveloped for me to produce any coherent form of speech and much of it came out as gurgles and idiotic baby talk. I also still couldn't navigate myself at all. From what little I could remember from developmental psychology, I had no idea how a baby with a fully developed mind could fit into any theory.
Hinoiri, my mother, stayed at home and played the domestic role most of the time of feeding me, putting me to sleep and changing soiled nappies. Much dignity was lost with someone else cleaning up after my own piss and shit. She was kind-hearted and lovely but held a fierce streak, the quintessential yamato nadeshiko. Yoruo was often away on missions as a shinobi but was a dutiful father and spent whatever free time he had with his daughter. His stern face contradicted his hilarious behaviour whenever he was around me. Playing peekaboo with a jounin who could kill you in two seconds sure did no favours for their reputation. I had to hand it to them, though. After willingly putting up with all of my crap, figurative or otherwise, I grew to truly appreciate and love them as my own original parents. I finally had a functional family.
They knew that I had an above-average intelligence, though. The little things gave it away. Seemingly self-aware actions, appropriate reactions and my premature ability to recognise and differentiate between people were all noted by my parents. They thought that I was gifted, that I would make a good kunoichi. This terrified me. I did not want to be a prodigy and be forced onto the front lines as a child soldier. I did not want to have my first kill at less than five years of age and I refused to be brainwashed into blind patriotism à la Danzo, Koharu and that other guy of the shitty council. Hell, I wasn't even certain if I wanted to become a kunoichi at all.
So, I dumbed down. Just a tad, though. Some prideful part of me still wanted recognition for being bright.
Friends and relatives often came to visit and annoyingly cooed at me while I was forced to stay put and endure comments along the lines of, "Aww, she's so cute!" I deliberately spat up on the more irritating individuals and burst out crying at the pricks who thought that it was a good idea to bounce an infant. Contrary to popular belief, no, it is neither stimulating nor fucking calming to the baby when you bounce them. It felt more akin to experiencing an earthquake and it was scary as hell.
With the coming and going of various people, I recognised a few of them from the Narutoverse. Yoruo was a reputable jounin and had connections in the shinobi network, maintaining amicable ties with several clans. The future clan heads of Ino-Shika-Chou once paid me a visit as their genin selves and I found a great delight in tugging all three of the men's long hair. My family was acquainted with various Uchiha as well, most likely out of respect for the Yuuhi's mastery of genjutsu.
My father was not too shabby at all and also shared an acquaintance with the Sarutobi clan. Somehow, he had managed to secure an invitation to the home of Sarutobi Hiruzen, the motherfuckin' Hokage himself.
"Kurenai-chan, is it?" he smiled down at me with a younger face while I giggled happily and kicked my legs around in his arms. "My son is only a few months younger than you."
Handing me back to Yoruo, the Hokage took a smaller, swaddled infant from his wife, Biwako and presented him to both my father and I while wearing a proud expression.
"This is Asuma."
Holy motherfucking shit. I was staring at my future boyfriend and the future father of my child. No, wait… Kurenai's future boyfriend. While I did think that Asuma was pretty awesome in the series, I wasn't sure of how much I wanted to bump uglies with the guy. It was really, really disturbing to think of sex and the same baby right in front of me together in the same sentence.
Oh great, I had to go through puberty again.
I also had no notion of how this timeline worked. Was it self-consistent? Would everything in canon inevitably happen, regardless of my actions? Was I fated to bear Asuma's son?
Was everyone doomed to die?
Looking at Asuma now, he was a tiny little thing, sleeping peacefully and completely unaware of how in thirty or so years from now, he would be dead. Almost everyone who I had met earlier would also be dead. Suddenly, foresight of the future didn't seem very appealing. I was no hero. I was never virtuous in my past life and all in all, used to be quite a self-interested bastard who really didn't do much for others. Being part of the military was definitely not on my agenda and I had no intentions of dying yet again. Patriotism was a laughable concept to me and the Will of Fire? Ain't nobody got time for dat shit, yo! True Neutral 4 lyfe.
I must seem like a despicable person but every other average individual was sure as hell not selfless or a martyr. Not everyone could be the Good and kickass shounen protagonist, or else Naruto wouldn't have been named after a single goddamn character. Who was I kidding? I didn't deserve this second chance at life.
But they didn't deserve to die, either.
Moral quandaries were such a bitch to figure out. My temperament and qualities were better suited to a behind-the-scenes position, something like Research and Development. I was also defiantly opposed to going into politics. Could I even be bothered to meticulously map out future events and have a plan of action to change them? And even then, could I even be successful in doing so? There were too many risks and not enough certainties.
Someone was laughing. I was pulled from my depressing contemplations and set my eyes on Asuma who had managed to reach out and had taken hold of Hiruzen's goatee. My father was chuckling unabashedly at the Sandaime who looked positively delighted at his son's development.
"It looks like he'll definitely follow in his father's footsteps to grow a beard!" Hiruzen joked, laughing before letting out a small exclamation of pain at the sharp tug of his facial hair.
The scene before me was so… precious. That father and son bond was going to fray in the future and would never be mended due to Hiruzen's death at the hands of Orochimaru. But I could prevent that. Orochimaru would be captured and imprisoned early so that countless many could be spared. Obito and Rin didn't have to die, Kakashi could be happy and Obito wouldn't go batshit insane, so no Kyuubi destruction, no Minato or Kushina dying and no Fourth Shinobi War! Naruto wouldn't be orphaned and then something had to be done about the Uchiha massacre… I could potentially save everyone. I could make a difference…
Christ, I might as well be playing god. And I had learned well enough from Frankenstein that that could never end well. No one should be able to wield that much influence and power over future events. And putting that much responsibility on me? A mere mortal? A self-serving, morally questionable and chronically lazy jerkass? What in the nine circles of Dante's Inferno were The Powers That Be thinking?!
"How the time passes," Yoruo sighed. "Before you know it, they will be in our current position, holding their own children in their arms."
Hiruzen smiled. "Ah, yes. I can only hope that I live to see the day when my younger son will grant me a grandchild."
Shit. I hated having a conscience.
A/N: A yamato nadeshiko is, "the personification of an idealised Japanese woman".