Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me. Not even a little bit.
Warning: Antagonistic OC, death, gore, kidnapping, etc.
Beta: Not at the moment.
Summary: The stories goes with someone always trying to do good in the Narutoverse, but good is a subjective term. What qualifies as 'good' for them, could be drastically different for those who actually live in the Narutoverse. Realistic Antagonist OC. OC SI Self-Insert Antagonistic!OC Gray!OC Dark!OC
This is an Antagonistic!OC. As in there will probably be some less-than-sociably-acceptable things in this story. If you're uncomfortable with those types of things, or character death, please don't continue (not that there's all that much in the first chapter).
I don't think anyone really wants to be reborn in the Narutoverse. Not… Not in the real Narutoverse. Not in the harsh and cruel one. The good one, maybe. Where everything seems bright and alright in their eyes, maybe. The real one, though? No… no… you would have to be an idiot to want to be reborn there. I know I didn't want to be reborn in this world; I was perfectly content with sitting back and reading others' stories or daydreaming about a perfect and bright world.
I didn't actually want this.
That wasn't going to say I was going to fight it, either. What was there to fight, anyway? It happened already, there was nothing I could do to stop what had already occurred. All I could do was make the most of the situation. And what was that exactly?
Survival for starters.
It was such a strange thing. Knowing that I had to actively work and train just to survive the upcoming events. I had never had to do such a thing before in my previous life. Never had to go the extra mile, push myself to the limit both mentally and physically… just for the right to live. The concept itself was alien to me, and unsettled me. It was a reminder that I was no longer in my safe world, no longer in my home world period.
It wasn't as hard as I feared it would be, though. The discipline would be hard, yes. Extraordinarily hard compared to my rather lazy (in comparison) lifestyle before. It was my body, my very structure and the way I subconsciously moved.
I had been lucky in the way I was reborn, I suppose. I had been blessed (or cursed) enough to be reborn in a shinobi clan, with generations of shinobi and kunoichi trailing behind me. My body was built far differently than what I was used to. For instance, I had more control over my physical body than what I thought possible for someone of my age, and my muscles weren't so loose and flabby at birth. There was a feeling of endurance seemingly built into this body, and at times it both thrilled and terrified me.
I was thrilled that my body was made for combat, it was made for training and that alone would make reaching my goal of being strong enough to survive, far easier. It also made adapting to my small body easier - I wouldn't have to feel so helpless when I could easily grip or move about.
It terrified me because it was yet another reminder that I would inevitably be using this body to kill. That I became a weapon.
And of course I would travel the kunoichi path. Civilians died far too easily for my liking unless they had connections. Besides, due to my family, I had everything I needed to train.
… and I wanted to change one thing.
I was reborn in roughly the same time period that Kakashi, Obito, Kurenai, Asuma, etc, had been born in. And I knew that immediately there was something I could do to stop the catastrophes that would erupt around Konoha, and thus improve not only my survival chances significantly… but it would help better their lives.
It was such a small thing, what I planned to do.
I planned to prevent Obito from ever falling in love with Rin. Preferably, from ever meeting her. I knew I couldn't definitely prevent her death, or the rock fall (I probably wasn't going to be on their team), but I could actively prevent him from falling in love with her. The only reason I could gather that he originally fell for her was because of her kindness and her support of him. If I could get him to receive that kind of support from someone else (say… his little brother, perhaps), then he would instead be attached to them, and Shisui (Obito's younger brother) wasn't scheduled to die for a long, long time. And who knew? Perhaps by preventing Tobi from ever being born… the massacre may not even happen in my lifetime.
Not to mention the plan itself was so simple. It wasn't elaborate or dangerous or risky… worse comes to worse…
Well. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that.
I flexed my tiny, tiny fingers. I watched as the old woman before me smiled warmly at me. Her bright red hair was done up in twin buns, and she wore rich robes as she kept me in her lap. She brushed a long, wrinkled finger across my cheek and she continued to coo to me.
It had been roughly a year and a half since I had been reborn. A rough year - a year where I discovered just what happened to me and who I was. A year of mourning, of raging at the events, of acceptance of the circumstances, and of subtle adaption. I was a quiet child, and I knew it unsettled some people. I did not speak, not only because I didn't fully understand the language, but because I couldn't find anything to speak about. For the first portion of my new life, I was sullen and moody, disliking the circumstances, and it was because of that, that I stubbornly refused to utter a sound. However, that only lasted a couple of months before I was forced to accept the situation and devise a plan on what to do.
I still didn't speak, but this time because I just didn't see reason to. There was no need to speak, when I could point or gesture to what I needed. No need to utter a sound, when I had no real reason to. Besides, I would much rather listen to what they said, than put my own two-cents in.
I lived with my grandmother and my older cousin. I was technically orphaned. My new mother died in childbirth (she was too old to have children) and my new father died two days before my birth. Tragic, I suppose, but I didn't know them and I have already mourned my real parents. My grandmother was warm and gentle, unminding of my silence. She had a twinkle in her eyes, a knowing spark in them, and she treated me as an intelligent individual. From what I had seen from her interactions with my cousin, she treated her in the same manner.
She oozed grace, as well, and at times, I envied her. Despite her age, she was still beautiful and blooming with life. She had a mischievous side, as well. From what I had gathered from gestures and a handful of recognizable words, she was a bit on the wild side at times, and her temper was infamous (apparently). Most of time she remained composed and dignified, but there was a fire inside of her.
My older cousin had a temper, too. Her blond hair was tied low in two long pigtails, and her warm chocolate brown eyes had a spark in them. She seemed to love holding me in her lap, playing with my short, chocolate brown hair. She wasn't around all too often, and I knew it was because she was busy with missions and her boyfriend, Dan.
Grandmother seemed to be smirking at me, and I realized it was because I had been lost in my thought too long. I shifted in her lap, wiggling about until I was able to crawl out. I walked away, casting a huffing expression over my shoulder. She laughed heartily, before she followed sedately behind me, moving slowly. She never moved fast. Once upon time, she might have, but not anymore.
"Where are you going, little Naasica?" Grandmother asked, her soft voice trailing behind me. I didn't respond, as always, and continued on my way. We traversed the long, lifeless hallways, and entered the family's library.
"Another one?" Grandmother asked, her voice amused. "Very well. Choose a story, little on."
I smiled at her.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
When I finally decided I was old enough to begin training (two), I became torn. On one hand, I wanted to inform my grandmother and cousin of my sudden development, but on the other hand, I wanted to keep my training secret. Privately. I wasn't sure how they would receive my choice to begin, whether they would discourage it due to my age, or if they would encourage it perhaps a little too fiercely for my liking. I settled on training small, and then deciding for myself when I wanted to try more serious things (such as tree-walking, water-walking) if I wanted to include them.
I pulled out a book from the library, it was labeled as basic chakra controlling exercises, and I pulled out another scroll that seemed to have been read often that instructed the necessary exercises and stretches for a child to go through before participating in taijutsu.
The stretches and exercises were similar to yoga of my old world, but there were a few defensive positions mixed in.
The purpose of this beginning stretch was to work the muscles and the body, not only to build them up and make them more flexible, but to also get the shinobi-in-training used to moving their body in such a way. Taijutsu required precise control over one's body, demanding the hand-eye coordination to be exact. In my past life, such demands would be seemingly impossible for me to meet, but in this life… in this body, it seemed almost innate. A lot of things seemed innate, actually. My reflexes were better, too, in comparison to what my reflexes must have been at this age in my previous life.
Every morning, before I left my room, I had to follow the set exercises that were designed for me. Due to my age, there would be little exercises that actually focused on building muscle. For the most part, I was to get into a position and hold said position for a set amount of time. Positions like the cobra, or eagle, and splits. Stretches for the most part, were designed to decrease the muscle tension and stiffness, while increasing range of motion and promote circulation. They also prepared the body for the actual stress of exercise, so when I did begin the actual exercises, my body would be better suited to handling it.
The stretches lasted roughly thirty minutes, and left me feeling loose, and hungry. Due to my younger body, my muscles were less stiff and more limber, making the stretching easier. However, because it was still straining my body, and it was still a foreign thing when I started, it still left me a little sore the next morning.
The actual stretching and small exercises were the easier things in my training.
The harder part being chakra control.
Let me confirm and explain something first.
I had a lot of chakra. More than what most children my age should have. More than what Genin should have, probably. As I said before, generations upon generations of shinobi and kunoichi before, left my body better developed and bred to handle the kunoichi lifestyle. Due to the nature of my clan, however, my chakra wasn't something to sniff at, either. On my grandmother's side, their clan was known for their massive reserves, and their special control over their chakra. On my grandfather's side, their clan was also known for their massive reserves and their ability to completely dominate their respective chakra natures. Due to the combining of the two highly chakra-intensive families, it was only natural that I, my parents, and my cousins had insanely high amounts of chakra.
I remember my cousin telling me that she was a bit luckier in her control. Her father, while born and bred a shinobi, married her mother, who was born and bred a civilian. She lost out a bit on the massive reserves, but that didn't mean her chakra reserves weren't anything to sniff at, either. She still had to go through special training to reach the control she had now with her reserves. I remember, a time where she held me and laughed, telling me that because both of my parents were shinobi, I too would have to go the extra mile to gain the fundamental chakra control required.
Despite knowing that, I had thought that because of my ability - of my awareness - of my chakra, it would be easier.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Chakra felt…. Chakra felt comforting. While I knew it was inside of me, it felt more like I was wearing a warm coat (or a cool coat on hot days), just buzzing right outside of my skin. That was incorrect, because chakra grew inside of me, traversing along my nervous and cardiac system, but it was what it felt like.
When I held the first leaf in my hand, after doing my basic stretches, I concentrated hard on what I knew to be my chakra. The book instructed to concentrate on the chakra (I had skipped ahead, as the first chapter informed me of how to find chakra, but I already knew where to find it, and how to find it. It was constantly there, a constant reminder of the difference between this body and the previous one), and to pull it towards my finger.
I felt goosebumps crawl up and down me and I concentrated hard on that warm sensation wrapped around me. I could feel a sort of rush slowly crawl away from my shoulder, and tip-toe down to my fingers where I held the leaf. The instant the rush touched the leaf, the leaf burst into flames.
I gave a small squeak of surprise and threw the leaf away, wincing at the burn it left on the tips of my fingers.
I had pulled only the smallest bit of chakra, yet it was still too much.
The smallest bit.
My shoulders sagged and I gave a tiring sigh. I have way too much chakra… this is going to take way too long.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Roughly two weeks after I began my training, my cousin decided to take me out for ice-cream. I was carried on her shoulders, and I took in the world with wide, wide eyes. I had only been allowed outside of the compound a handful of times - three to be exact. The first time was when I was actually born into the world, the second time when I visited my parents' grave, and this made it the third time.
I knew why I was kept inside, secluded. There were so few of our clan left, not only because the majority of us kept dying on missions, but because there were so many assassination attempts and kidnappings… My cousin's mother died from an assassination, from what she told me. The majority of our family went out onto the front lines and died, though. My father being no exception, and while we weren't at war currently, there were still many who would wish us dead.
Who would wish me dead.
Just because of what family I was born in.
I rested my chin on the top of her head, taking everything in with wide, wide eyes.
"Hmm… let's see… what, oh, what can I get my favorite cousin?" Tsunade wondered, a light chuckle in her voice. "This will be the second time outside our home, right, Naasica?"
I nodded my head, noticing the glances and gazes that turned in our direction. I felt uncomfortable under them, so I focused my attention on my cousin.
"Let's see… there's a toy-store around here somewhere. I just got a nice juicy paycheck from my last mission. Obaa-chan been scolding me to keep out of the gambling, but I just have this urge to use it. How about a new toy, Naasica?" Tsunade asked.
I nodded again, kissing the top of her head affectionately. Tsunade laughed and leapt up onto the rooftops. I felt my stomach rise and drop at the action, and a pleasant thrill went through me. She leapt effortlessly over the next roof, and the roof after that. After a couple more leisurely jumps, she landed back down on the busy street, and stood before what I knew was a toy store. She lifted me off her shoulders, holding me up to the bright, blue sky and smiling at me.
Beaming back at her, I wiggled in her hands. Taking the hint, she set me gently down on the ground and took my hand. I trailed after her, and once inside, she released her hold on me. "Alright, Naasica, take your pick. You get one toy."
Nodding my head, I eyed the store. It was filled to the brim with stuffed animals, and toy kunai and shuriken, and all sorts of things that screamed shinobi child. There was a childish glee that bubbled inside of me, and despite how mature I was, I was still a child. I still held childish emotions and childish hormones, I just knew how to control and ignore them better. At that instant, though, I didn't bother.
I ran about the store, deftly avoiding and twisting around other shoppers. Tsunade kept behind me, content with watching me marvel and stare at everything. I finally stopped wandering around when my eyes found a small stuffed creature.
It was brown and black, its wings tucked against its body and head tucked in. Upon touching it, I realized that the wings were movable and its head - which was tucked against its body - was also movable. It was lax and soft, and very much a chibi-version of the animal.
I picked it up, smiling adoringly at it. I had always wanted a flying pet of my own. I never got one in my previous life because I already had cats (that apparently outlived me), and didn't want to risk harming the creature. That, and I only wanted a specific kind of animal that you couldn't exactly buy in a pet store.
I wondered idly if I would be able to have my own pet bat in this world.
Turning back to Tsunade, I held up the bat, smiling shyly.
"A stuffed bat, huh?" Tsunade asked, picking it up from my hands and grabbing my hand with her other hand. "Hmm…"
After purchasing the creature, I held it tightly against me with my right arm, and continued to hold Tsunade's hand with my left hand.
"I think it's about time to find something to eat, don't you think, Naasica?"
Nodding my head, I glanced about.
"I think I know just the place to treat you two lovely ladies!"
With a snarl, Tsunade snapped her head around the rather empty street. There, standing completely relaxed with a cocky grin, was Jiraiya.
"Don't you even think about it, Jiraiya," Tsunade growled. "I told you already that this was my day off. I've decided to devote this day to my little cousin, and you damn straight are not going to butt in and corrupt her."
Jiraiya grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. "Oh, come on. Me? Corrupt such a sweet little girl? Don't be ridiculous. I only want to escort such pretty ladies to a divine restaurant that recently opened up."
Tsunade pulled me behind her, facing Jiraiya square on. "Get. Lost."
Jiraiya pouted before he smirked. Faster than what I could follow, he had appeared before me and picked up my pet bat from my hands and kneeled in front of me. He held the bat out to me and in a squeaky voice he said, "Come on, Naasica. Don't you want to eat lunch with your cousin's best friend?"
"You are not my best friend and give me that toy, now," Tsunade demanded.
I was uncomfortable with the situation. Mostly at the fact that Jiraiya was holding my new toy without permission and the childish side of me demanded he released it. The other part was that - I had never been introduced to Jiraiya before. So essentially, as far as I was concerned, a complete stranger had waltzed up and grabbed my toy right out of my hands.
Shifting, I fiddled with my fingers. How did a normal child react to the situation? Moreover, how was I supposed to react? I know I had been perceiving myself as a normal child (normal being a child that refused to speak, and that was more intelligent… however given my family and the lack of reactions, I assumed it was completely normal, if not expected, for children to be bright in the clan. The silence was a bit odd, but the clan was known for its quirks, as well), but how was I supposed to react? I knew Jiraiya meant well, but I wasn't supposed to know that.
I chose instead to hold out my hand to him, silently asking for him to place my bat back.
He gave me a blank look, and scratched his chin, confusion clear in his eyes.
I bit my lip when I realized that only Tsunade and Grandmother could know my silent gestures. They had been accustomed to my silence from the start and knew how to read me.
"She wants you to give her back her new toy," Tsunade muttered, glaring at Jiraiya. "And you better, before I kick your ass."
"Why doesn't she just ask?" Jiraiya retorted.
"She doesn't have to if she doesn't want to," Tsunade snarled, balling up her fist and I saw Jiraiya flinch. Suddenly uncomfortable with the idea of Tsunade hurting Jiraiya, just because he couldn't understand me, I gave a small squeak.
"P-Please," I said, stumbling over the word. It was foreign on my tongue. I rarely spoke out loud, and it had been a long time since I had… and it would have been the first time I had done so in front of Tsunade. Due to the lack of speaking (and thus lack of practice of the strange language), I sometimes stumbled over words or sounds.
Tsunade's eyes widened and her fist sagged. She stared at me in disbelief and Jiraiya beamed at me. He promptly handed me back my bat. "Can do, kiddo."
"You… you spoke," Tsunade said, staring at me in disbelief.
"... Is that a big deal?" Jiraiya asked incredulously.
Tsunade gestured wildly to me. "She has never spoken before. It's her first word!"
"Is not," I muttered.
Tsunade's eyebrows shot up.
"Grandmother makes me speak. She says it's a necessary tool, and so long as I can use it, I am supposed to."
"Why didn't you speak in front of me before?" Tsunade sighed.
"I didn't need to. You understood me," I mumbled.
Tsunade smiled. "Oh, is that your excuse? Honestly, Naasica…"
I shifted again, patting my stomach. Tsunade glared at me. "Oh, no. Now that I know you can speak, you're going to have to. I want to hear my cousin's voice, got it, brat?"
Glaring at her, I hugged my bat closer to me. "... Fine. I… I am hungry. M-May we please eat? I don't care where. A-And… who are you?"
The two adults blinked in surprise before Jiraiya gave me a sheepish look and Tsunade chuckled.
"That's right. I hadn't introduced the two of you… Naasica, this is my comrade, Jiraiya. Jiraiya, this is my youngest cousin, Naasica."
I held out my hand and Jiraiya took it dramatically, dropping into a very low bow, while he still kneeled. "A pleasure, Naasica-hime."
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
"Jiraiya-san," I whispered quietly, tugging on his sleeve. The very restaurant he had bragged about was Ichiraku (which wasn't surprising). I sat in between the two adults, my own bowl of ramen half eaten in front of me. Tsunade glanced over at me, while Jiraiya looked down.
"Aw, drop the san, please, Naasica-hime. What can I do for you, hime?"
I pointed past him.
He didn't turn around. "He's starting to bother you now, isn't he? Minato, quit creeping out the cute little girl! Get in here."
A blond man with bright blue eyes entered the stand, giving Jiraiya a sheepish look. "I'm sorry, sensei. I was hoping to grab your attention without disturbing Tsunade-sama or your little friend."
Jiraiya dismissed his worries with a wave of his hand, and Minato took a seat next to him.
"Sensei?" I echoed.
"Technically not anymore," Jiraiya said, yawning. "Minato's a regular Jounin and will be applying for his own apprentice and team soon enough."
I gave a curious look over to Minato, offering him a smile. Minato blushed in embarrassment at me, smiling. "Hello. I don't think we've been introduced before, huh? I'm Namikage Minato."
"Senju Naasica," I returned. "You seem like you'll make a good sensei."
He blushed again, rubbing the back of his head in a sheepish manner. "Thank you, Naasica-chan. Will you be entering the academy this year?"
"She's two," Tsunade snorted. "She'll enter when she's four, no sooner."
Minato ducked his head. "Oh. Sorry. I would have thought you were older."
I smiled at that.
Jiraiya affectionately ruffled my hair. "You've got a good eye, chibi-hime."
"You must be a good sensei, too, Jiraiya-san."
"Drop the san," Jiraiya whined.
"Well, he's not the worst," Tsunade sniffed, "but anyway, I didn't know you were applying for a student, Minato."
Minato nodded his head, smiling. "I won't actually qualify for another four years… I need to have a set amount of time working as a solo Jounin."
"Maybe you can practice being a sensei to Naasica," Jiraiya joked and I tilted my head at that. I wasn't quite sure I would like that idea. I still wanted to continue training in private, yet… yet I didn't want to be deemed a prodigy and shipped off to the front lines without worry. Perhaps if I had the excuse that I had a trainer…?
There was a small voice in the back of my head. It screamed out the denial as firmly as could be. There was a gut instinct inside of me that seemed to scream that having Minato privately train me was a bad idea, and I had to agree. When you trained with someone, when you taught someone privately… you really got to know them. It would be inevitable that my intelligence would be found out, and it was just as possible that with prolonged exposure, I could slip up on something and if that happened…
I didn't care too much for a trip to the T&I.
And my gut seemed to be demanding the answer no. I didn't have much of a gut instinct in my previous life, so it was strange. Perhaps it was a sixth sense - how shinobi and kunoichi knew they were in danger, when their body tingled or they somehow knew senbon or kunai were flying towards them even though they couldn't see or hear it…
Minato laughed. "I think she's a bit too young to start training so soon!"
Jiraiya and Tsunade laughed at that, and I inwardly let out a relieved sigh.
However… a thought formed in my head. "... What would you do if your student had too much chakra?"
Minato glanced over at me, frowning thoughtfully. Tsunade cast me a sympathetic look. "That's right… because of our genes, we're kind of stuck with too much chakra."
"Let's see… practice is key, of course. It'd be best to start with easier things… I wouldn't suggest starting off with fine-tuning control, like the leaf exercise - an exercise where you channel your chakra into a leaf and repel or stick it to you. That would come later… I would probably start off with chakra-forth and layering."
"What and what?" I blinked slowly, staring up at him blankly.
"Well, the leaf exercise is for those with smaller reserves," Jiraiya interjected, "It requires very little chakra to use, so those with larger chakra reserves, the harder to use. Chakra forth is literally calling your chakra forth, like this…"
Jiraiya held up his hand and in a matter of seconds it glowed a pale blue, the chakra around his hand lapping about. "Then you layer it."
His chakra, which had been moving like waves crashing against each other, suddenly stilled and dulled, hugging tighter around his skin until it was a perfectly smooth layer. "Then when you have a smooth layer, you add a second layer on top of it, without disrupting the first layer… it would roughly be the equivalent of balancing a second leaf on your finger. After you get up to five layers on one hand, you move on and try both hands… after that, you can choose where to go from there."
"... What do you mean?" I asked hesitantly.
Tsunade smiled and held up her index finger. It glowed a dull blue, signaling a single layer was wrapped exclusively around that finger. "You can either fine-tune your control and work on wrapping your chakra around individual fingers, or you can move on to tree-walking, which requires roughly the same control as holding three layers on both hands."
"... How is that any easier than the leaf-exercise?"
"It requires more chakra for one thing," Minato said. "And it's more open to error from the start, whereas in the leaf-exercise, if you mess up, you mess up immediately."
"Oh," I said, making a mental note to starting using this exercise immediately.
"Why? Looking to start early?" Tsunade teased and I shook my head, falling into silence.
I had no reason to speak anymore.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
"Well, I hope we get the chance to see each other again," Jiraiya told me. Tsunade was carrying me in her arms again, and Minato and Jiraiya stood before us.
Nodding my head, I smiled brightly.
Jiraiya affectionately patted my head before Tsunade pulled me away from him, glowering. "Keep your lecherous paws off my cousin!"
"I'm not a pedophile!"
Tsunade sneered. "Oh? Then you won't mind telling me the age difference of you and the girls you chase after?"
Jiraiya muttered under his breath before huffing and storming away. Tsunade rolled her eyes.
"Ah, well it was nice meeting you, Naasica-hime. Good luck when you decide to start training," Minato said, winking. I smiled in return.
Once he left, Tsunade lifted me up to look at her at eye level. "Hmph. Can't believe you could talk this entire time, you brat. Alright, let's get you home, ne?"
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
My hand glowed blue as I tried to smooth out the chakra flow outside. I watched the blue chakra waver and shift and as I willed it to quiet down, it fluctuated. Sweat dotted my brow, and my hand shook. Minutes ticked by until I was finally able to smooth out my chakra.
I held it for a total of ten seconds before I had to relax, wiping away my sweat and breathing heavily. It was a strain, a huge, mental, tiring strain. I gave a strangled cough, trying to even my breath. Channeling so little chakra when every fiber of my being demanded I channeled more was a constant tug of war; it was four-hour long exams over material you didn't even understand: painful, draining, and humiliating.
I had thought it would be easy, but I was wrong. It would be hard to bring myself to continue something that I disliked so much.
Yet it was that, or death for myself, and if I died… I would have failed.
I hated failing.
Maybe I was just a sore loser, but the prospect of failing (especially when it meant death) irked me so much.
"Damn it," I said softly, closing my eyes. "Damn it, damn it, damn it."
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
My hand shook and my knees ached, but Grandmother remained perfectly poised as she mimicked my position. In front of me was a long strip of parchment, and in my hands I held a delicate brush. Ink coated the bottom of the brush and I meticulously moved the brush across the parchment.
The calligraphy lesson seemed on-going in my mind. Endless. Eternal. Quiet.
In some cases, it was tedious and I had to struggle to hold my attention to it. In other cases, though, I was lucky enough to slip into a sort of trance and absent-mindedly do the work. It was comforting when I did that. Normal. Repetitive.
"When will Tsunadenee-chan be home?" I asked suddenly, resting my brush.
"She should be home within the month," Grandmother said softly, before she coughed. Immediately, I turned towards her, my eyes widening and hands reaching out. Her coughing fit was over, though, and she only wheezed at me. I gripped her arm, looking up at her.
"I am fine, Naa-chan," Grandmother said gently, smiling warmly at me, but it was a weak smile; strained.
I lowered my eyes.
I knew that she would be dead soon. It never specified the time that she had died, and it didn't specify when exactly Kushina received the Kyuubi from my grandmother. I had assumed that she received it when she was young - still a child, almost, but seeing how my grandmother was still alive and Minato was a young man, proved that assumption wrong. Now, though…
Now I knew she would be passing on.
She was sick and old, and lately she had been overcome with coughing fits. Some of them left her out of breath to the point where she fell to the ground. The ANBU that were stationed outside and around our compound - we were one of the founders, it was only natural that the Hokage provided us with protection… considering how we could no longer properly defend ourselves without Tsunade around. Or at least I couldn't. Perhaps Grandmother could pull a Chiyo - had to come and assist her up. We had medical-kunoichi ANBU that was constantly stationed nearby. Two, actually, because they switched shifts.
Regardless, she was reaching her time.
And I wasn't sure how I felt about it.
I had dealt with grief before; I had lost parental figures before, cousins and friends… It wasn't a new thing, but each time it came to me, I was unsure of how to approach it. Here was this graceful woman had who had raised me in this lifetime. She was very much a maternal figure for me, and I had sincerely grown to love her fiercely. The fact that she would no longer be at my side for much longer… I could already feel my heart circumscribe and my throat tighten as I struggled to catch my breath.
Part of me felt guilty for my grief - she wasn't dead, yet, was she? So why was I preparing myself already? - because I knew it wasn't what she would have wanted. Another part of me felt disgusted with myself. I couldn't stand tears, least of all in myself. I hated the weakness, the confession and admission of such a pathetic moment. Especially in a world where it really was the strongest who survived. I didn't want to paint myself as someone weak; regardless of the reasons.
Yet I couldn't help it. I didn't want her to leave me, it ate at me that she would.
And it broke my heart that there wasn't anything I could about it.
"I think I could go for some food right about now. Something spicy," Grandmother said, slowly standing up. "Come, Naa-chan. We can continue your calligraphy lesson later."
Grabbing her soft hand, I nodded my head in agreement. With a quiet giggle, Grandmother began to guide me through our home to the kitchen.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
I relaxed my body, wiping the sweat off my forehead. It had been a handful of months since I started the new training regime and I could now layer with both hands - although I lost focus when I reached the third layer on my second hand. I was no longer sore in the morning afterwards, and I actually found myself enjoying my 'yoga'.
Still didn't like my chakra training, though.
I estimated a couple more weeks before I felt confident enough to begin tree walking - although it would be more like wall walking in my case. Another month or so and I would be ready to start the next level of taijutsu training.
Standing up, I changed out of my pajamas and slipped into my day clothes. I left my room, intent on finding Tsunade or Grandmother.
Tsunade was the first to be found. I entered the library, and she looked up at me. She rubbed tiredly at her eyes. "... Wha' time is it?"
"Morning," I mumbled, heading towards her. She had notes spread out around her, and books upon books stacked behind her. It seemed she had spent another night reviewing her medical training.
She gave me a smile before lifting me up and setting me in her lap. She hugged me tightly.
"Why are you hugging me?"
"Do I need a reason?" Tsunade mumbled into my hair.
Choosing not to respond to that, I asked instead, "Are you hungry?"
"I could eat," Tsunade said, yawning. She leaned back, toppling over her books as she laid down in the pile. I turned in her lap and laid on top of her, closing my eyes and listening to her heartbeat.
Was there anything more comforting than a heartbeat?
Tsunade ran her fingers through my hair. "I'm not heading out for a couple days. Is there anything in particular you'd like to do, Naa-chan?"
"Na-uh," I grunted.
"Really? Ah, well, let's get something to eat. Then I think I'll go ahead and take a nap…"
"Can I join you?"
Tsunade smiled softly at me. "Of course, Naa-chan."
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
"Well, well, hello there."
Jiraiya stood before me, grinning lecherously. He squatted down to my level.
I waved my fingers in hello and he rolled his eyes. "Back to not speaking, are we?"
Jiraiya puffed out his cheeks in a manner that reminded me of a toddler. He let them out with a loud breath and ruffled my hair. "Oh, well. At least you're pretty cute."
I blushed at that, giggling nervously and backing away.
"Now what did Tsunade say to have you convince that a comment like that from me was bad?" Jiraiya asked rhetorically, actually looking partially offended.
Shrugging sheepishly, I scratched the back of my head.
"Tch. You better not be hitting on my little sist - cousin. My cousin," Tsunade snapped, appearing at the doorway. "Thank you for answering the door, Naa-chan. Why don't you head back to your lesson with Obaa-chan?"
I lifted my arms up to her and Tsunade immediately bent down to me. I kissed her cheek goodbye before heading off. I wouldn't be seeing her for a week or so, depending on how the mission went.
Grandmother was in her room, resting in her bed. Today she wasn't able to bring herself out of bed, and not wanting to add any extra strain to her, I offered to take my lessons in her room. She agreed and I set up the calligraphy set and pulled out some cushions. When I entered the room again, she was sleeping soundly.
Tiptoeing lightly across the room, I peered at her another moment or two - just making sure that she was only sleeping. Satisfied she was, I took a seat and set back to work.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Time passed in such a strange manner for me then. Weeks blurred into months so easily. Since discovering my position, for the first time I had found myself content with it. My training was progressing at a nice rate, and I planned on finding out my natures and deciding my first ninjutsu soon. Granted, it would be a small one, regardless. Manipulation, to be exact, but more on that when I actually reached that stage.
I had a small family, true, and I wasn't allowed outside of the compound. However, it was a tightly-knit family. Even in my previous life, I hadn't had such a bond. And I knew it couldn't last forever - nothing could - but I didn't seem to mind the thought so much. I had these moments with them now, and I needed to cherish them now.
Besides, it seemed fine. Everything seemed fine. Dan was still alive - I had met him a handful of times with Tsunade - and I suspected he wouldn't die for a while. Grandmother was strong and while I knew she would die, I also knew it wouldn't be for a long time.
I was… content.
"Is that rain, Naa-chan?"
I looked out of the window from Grandmother's bed. I was reading to her. She had kept her eyes closed, telling me that she was happy to just listen.
Rain gently tapped away against the window, the curtains covered it, though, so I couldn't actually see the rain.
"I think so," I said.
She opened her eyes, dragging her pupils slowly towards the window. "Be a dear…"
Not needing her to say anything more, I crawled out of her bed and crossed the room. I pulled the curtains apart, and I found myself staring at a gray sky. There was no lightning or storm, just rain falling to the ground.
"It's been a while since we've had such a soft rain," Grandmother whispered.
Not responding, I tried to recall the last time Konoha had ever had a 'soft' rain. I couldn't find any such memories.
"It must have been… it must have been when Hashirama and I…" Grandmother trailed off, her eyes fluttering close and a smile finding its way on her lips.
"... You and… Oji-san…?"
"Aa," Grandmother said quietly. "I haven't… I haven't spoken about Hashirama with you often, have I? I apologize, precious one. Come… sit with me. I will tell you a story."
Obediently, and anxiously, I climbed into bed. She opened her eyes and lifted up her arm. Taking the hint, I curled up against her, allowing her to drape her arm over me.
"We first met under a soft rain…" Grandmother began.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Tsunade would be returning home soon, again.
In between my two fingers, I held chakra paper.
After I determined my nature, the scroll instructed me that the next step would be basic manipulation. For instance, a fire nature would take a candle, and see if they are able to manipulate their chakra to have the fire grow stronger, or smaller. They would hold their hands over the flame, exerting their chakra and wrapping it around the flame to gain control. In some cases, if you didn't have the materials, you could try the basic change of nature.
This would be allowing your chakra to flow freely from your hand - your hand because your hand is where your strongest chakra points were, where you could manipulate chakra the easiest. Changing your chakra nature is an innate ability - wind users instinctually know how to sharpen their chakra, it's just a matter of consciously recognizing that ability and bringing it forth. However, if you were capable of deeper meditation, you could allow your subconscious to manipulate your chakra while you were still conscious enough to recognize what you were doing.
Then after repetitive use, you would get a better feel for what you were doing and you could bring forth your chakra consciously, without needing to slip into meditation.
That is what I planned on doing.
Anxiously, I gripped the paper and channeled a portion of chakra into it.
Neatly split in two, half of it water, the other half earth.
I felt confused for a moment, before I recalled that I was still Hashirama's descendant and that Tsunade had the same nature-type. It wasn't so off base that I had a double affinity, as well.
Although, I was curious to which nature would be dominate - which nature would my chakra lean towards when I slipped into meditation?
I folded up the chakra paper and threw it away before I sat against the wall of my room, closed my eyes and relaxed.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
I opened my eyes.
My right hand felt weird, stiff and awkward. I assumed that I had an earth-nature dominant chakra, and that I had consequently turned my exerted chakra into mud or dirt. The process was an odd thing. The best way to describe it would be like taking off a really soft sweater and running it across your bare skin.
I looked down.
I started hyperventilating.
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.
No. No. No. No. No.
Nonononononononono, please don't do this to me. I hadn't been nearly so bad as to deserve this.
Tears pricked my eyes and panic was bubbling inside of me. I scrambled up from my spot, staring in horror at my hand.
No. No. I did not want this.
Oh my God. Oh my God. Orochimaru is going to kidnap me. Oh my God. Oh my God. ROOT is going to kidnap me. Danzo is going to kidnap me. I'm going to get killed then be dissected. Oh my God. OmiGodomiGodomiGod!
A wooden hand stared back at me and I shook my head, denial wanting to burst through my lips. No. No. No. No!
I was shaking, frantically looking around. No one saw, right? No one saw, right?! Oh fuck, oh fuck-fuck-fuckity-fuck!
How the hell do I turn this back?!
I was starting to get lightheaded and dizzy and there was a faint ringing noise in the back of my head. I had to get this off. I couldn't let anyone see. I didn't want anyone to see. They would use me. I would be sent off to the front lines.
I would be kidnapped and poked and prodded at. I would be a tool and my free will would become nonexistent. I couldn't - that just - that wasn't right -
I had to get rid of it. Get rid of it. Getgetgetridridgetridofit -
My eyes landed on a kunai that rested on my bed and I dove for it. My left hand shook and I could feel tears falling down my eyes. My vision was blurry now, and I had to sniffle back in the snot because I could feel the sobs building up in my chest, but I didn't dare voice them. I couldn't risk drawing attention to myself. I couldn't - I just -
I jammed the kunai down into my wooden hand, feeling both horrified and relieved that I didn't even feel it.
With frantic vigor, I started hacking away at wooden hand, chipping it off. I would burn the wood when I was done, throw it out back.
As for my hand? I would say it was an accident. I could live without a hand.
I could that. I could definitely do that. It would work out. It had to!
It was better… it was better…
No one could see. No one could know.
I didn't want to be in ROOT. Nor did I want to be experimented on by Orochimaru. Nor sent off to the front lines so soon.
Hack, hack, hack.
Get rid of the evidence. No one could know. No one could see!
I managed to lob off the majority of my hand, before I had to stop and wipe at my eyes.
Shaking, I opened my eyes and prayed desperately for my hand to return to normal already. I wasn't entirely sure if I could safely hack off the rest of the wood without cutting into the actual flesh. Chakra fluctuated inside of me and my bottom lip trembled.
Come on, Naasica, I tried to coach myself. Y-You remember how it went before. J-Just do it again. In reverse.
Taking a deep gulp of air, I tried to calm my breathing. Hiccups escaped my lips, and tears continued to fall. It seemed as if an hour passed by before my panic had subsided enough that I could think more clearly, and it was an hour before I was able to slip off into meditation again.
When I opened my eyes again from meditation, my hand had returned to normal - no signs of damage, actually - and I felt ashamed at my reaction.
Mostly ashamed at the fact that I had cried. I still felt sawing off my hand would have been perfectly reasonable if I couldn't manage to transform my hand back to flesh.
Could you imagine…?
Could you imagine having such an ability in the time of war? With ROOT in full-swing and Orochimaru prowling around?
It terrified me.
I couldn't trust the ANBU - which one worked for Danzo, and which one didn't? - so I couldn't be seen practicing by the ANBU. I couldn't turn to anyone, for who would I turn to? Tsunade? Grandmother?
Could I even trust them?
They were loyal to Konoha, weren't they? If they knew I had such an ability, wouldn't they tell Konoha? And Konoha… wouldn't Konoha then turn and try to use me?
I couldn't trust them.
The door opened and I jumped.
Tsunade peered in, frowning when she caught sight of me. "Naasica-chan?... I'm home. Hey, have you been crying? Naa-chan, what's wrong?"
She moved towards me quickly, concern in her eyes.
I licked my lips.
"Sorry. I was working on a wood sculpture with my kunai, but I got frustrated with it. I'll clean everything up later, okay? I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
Tsunade stared at me another moment, eyeing the kunai and the wooden splinters.
She smiled. "Alright. Hey, want to get something to eat?"
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
The week afterwards was easily one of the most stressful times in both of my lives. I jumped too easily at the smallest noise, heart pounding, head spinning and frantic thoughts of I've been found out! I've been found out! I couldn't even bring myself to sleep at night, not on my own. I would lie awake in my bed, eyes wide, alert and focused on my surroundings, and I would be unable to bring myself to stop. I couldn't relax on my own, because I couldn't trust my own home anymore. ANBU prowled around, and Tsunade was so worried about me (my sunken eyes, pale skin, and how I flittered about) that she would scarcely leave me alone.
The only haven I had was in my Grandmother's room. She slept the majority of the time, and the ANBU kept their distance from her out of respect. Tsunade didn't even enter her room without her permission. But, I did. Truth be told, aside from myself, I was certain only one other person saw Grandmother regularly. A young woman with fiery red hair that every time she came around, I scuttled away so I never actually met her. It seemed, though, that the young woman knew Grandmother would be passing on soon, so she had to be on hand at all time in preparation.
Grandmother did not mind me hiding in her room, didn't even mind me sleeping in her room. I even started training in her room (yoga only, I was too wary of chakra).
It was nerve-wracking, that week. It was horrible and long and painful. I wanted to run away. I wanted to pack all my things and flee that village, but that wasn't an option. Where would I go? I was too young; my body too immature and my skills too low to properly defend myself. I couldn't even escape Konoha in the first place.
I was a Senju. One of the last three. I would be guarded zealously, kept tight under lock and key.
It was suffocating already and then…
And then I had to go and have his genes. His mutation. Because wasn't that what it was supposed to be? Just a fluke? A mutation? What did I have that Tsunade didn't? What made me so unlucky?
I was trapped. Thoroughly and efficiently.
Yet it wasn't so terrible, I thought to myself, watching Grandmother sleep soundly. My options may be limited, but that's the way it's always been. I can't really complain, and so long as I don't advertise my ability, they won't find out. And… and I have family who love me. I may not… I may not trust them right now, but… but they still love me and I still love them.
Holding up my hands, I laid back in Grandmother's bed, curling up against her warmth. She continued to sleep soundly, her breath coming out evenly. I flexed my fingers, looking at them as if they were alien appendages.
When I tried to call up a single nature, I ended up using my wood-style. I can't recall Hashirama using any other nature-ninjutsu aside from his wood-style, and things related to it. Could it be that's part of the issue? Am I doomed to only being able to use wood-style? Or do I just need to learn to differentiate earth and water chakra from wood chakra?
I lowered my hands, resting them on my stomach and closing my eyes.
If that's the case then... I'll need… I mean I'll have to learn to control it. At least enough so that way I can use earth and water nature separately, otherwise… Otherwise when I finish the academy and my sensei starts instructing me in ninjutsu…
Already, I could feel the panic and resentment rising inside me, ready to boil over in a mass of fear and rage, but I couldn't release that emotion. I was not allowed to. It would be too risky, too dangerous, and too inappropriate.
I had to wear my mask. I could not let anyone see me - not ever. I had to smile.
It could be worse, I told myself.
But I couldn't see how.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Tsunade was not returning home.
Two weeks after I decided to begin training my chakra, the Sandaime came to our door. The ANBU opened it for him, and because Grandmother was too… tired… I had to keep him company.
He had sat across from me, his face hard and somber and nothing at all like he would (could?) be during Naruto's time. We were at war. There was no time for soft smiles, or jovial moods.
I was three and a quarter, then. He knew that, but he treated me older. He must have known that I was intelligent. Tsunade often bragged about my intelligence, she said it was expected, of course, given my heritage. That she and her brother were the same, and Grandmother said it was only natural.
It was so strange. I wasn't even five.
This world and my old world… there were so many different things. In a lot of ways, this world disgusted me. How they sent children out to the front line. How a six-year-old could become a Chūnin and kicked out to the front lines and forced to murder over and over again. It was a miracle that Kakashi didn't experience any detrimental PTSD in his later life. And Itachi…
Sarutobi Hiruzen, Sandaime of Konohagakure, told me, Senju Nassica, three year-old little girl, that I was now the heiress of the Senju Clan due to Senju Tsunade's abandonment of Konoha.
I noticed how he said abandonment instead of defection. As in, Tsunade was just out and ignoring us. That she hadn't betrayed us. That we weren't going to hunt her down like an animal.
Part of me was glad for that. I was relieved for the woman that I had come to love so dearly was going to be left alone to mourn. I was particularly thankful that the Sandaime was still soft enough to hold favorites for his student.
Another part of me was upset. Betrayed. I couldn't help but think; How could you leave me here? How dare you pass this responsibility to me.
The rest of me, though, just accepted the news.
I knew it was coming. It was unavoidable, actually. There was nothing I could do to prevent Dan's death - I didn't know when he would die. I didn't even know how (just that it was slow, bloody and cruel).
When the Sandaime finished explaining, I nodded my head, keeping my face carefully blank. I wasn't sure what expression I was to hold - should I be happy that she was safe? Should I be upset at her leaving? Or was it just expected of me, as heiress now, to just stoically accept this and move on with my life?
"If there is anything you or Mito-sama needs, please let me know," Sandaime said, his tone softening.
I almost said: We don't need anything.
But, I stopped.
It would not due to throw away his words so quickly. I had to wear my mask for him, as it was my duty and obligation as heiress.
Smile, smile, Naasica.
I considered his words.
"Obaa-chan… " I took a steadying breath. "Obaa-chan will not… will not be staying with us for much longer, will she?"
Another crack in his stoic facade. His eyes trailed down. "No."
"Where will I stay?"
He took a deep breath, and through the corner of my eyes, I noticed that the ANBU had stiffened.
"I have a son about your age, two sons, actually," Hiruzen said quietly, but his voice still echoed around the room. "You are of the prestigious clan, Senju, and as your Hokage, I am allowed to offer you a place to stay."
Stay with the Hokage? In bustling house filled with servants and ANBU? I was lucky enough that the moment I didn't need a nurse-maid, Grandmother sent her away. She hated being waited on by servants, preferring her privacy (hence why the ANBU respected her enough to keep their distance), and Tsunade had no patience for them. The ANBU stayed outside for the most part, so I was allowed the necessary privacy to train.
However, if I lived with the Hokage, that privacy would be nonexistent.
Remembering my manners, I bowed lowly, my forehead touching the floor and my hands spread out on either side of me. "Forgive me, Hokage-sama, but I respectfully decline. Like my Obaa-chan and Nee-chan, I prefer my privacy."
I raised my head and straightened up when I heard Hiruzen's quiet murmur, "I understand, and no offense is taken. However, given your age and your status, I cannot permit you to live on your own for the moment."
"Do you have anyone to suggest, then?" I asked politely, curiosity in his answer, having me anxiously shift my position.
Hiruzen noticed and recognized my curiosity, and the rest of his facade was broken. He gave a slow, knowing smile. "I have quite a few people who would be honored to be the temporary guardian for the Senju heiress."
Then spit it out! I wanted to say, curling my toes.
I could swear he wanted to chuckle at me.
"I will send over a list to you," Hiruzen said. "Perhaps Mito-sama could shed some light on a few people."
I bowed my head. "Thank you, Hokage-sama. I will inform Obaa-chan of the situation when she is well-enough."
"See that you do."
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Three days later, I lugged a large scroll into Grandmother's bed. She was awake and alert when the scroll first arrived, and I informed her about it. She instructed me to bring it to her, and I did just that.
She unsealed the scroll, holding it up and unrolling it. "Good grief."
I crawled into her bed, and she shifted to allow me to sit in her lap, so I could read the names, as well.
"Wow," I said, suddenly feeling intimidated at the long list of names.
"The majority of these are hoping to be your guardian for political gain," Grandmother muttered, a fire lighting in her eyes. Frustration and anger radiated from her and it took her a couple heartbeats for her to steady her breathing. "If my clan were alive today, there would be no question to who you would go to, my precious one."
I leaned back into her, closing my eyes and breathing her familiar scent - soft rain. "Is there no other Uzumaki in Konoha?"
"There is," Grandmother murmured, "but I'm unsure if she would be up to the task of… Well. She has a good heart. If no one else, then she would be my choice."
"Inuzaka… family-oriented clan, isn't it?"
"Good heart in general," Grandmother allowed, "but they wouldn't be able to assist you in Senju and Uzumaki traits. They have no experience with sealing, and all of their ninjutsu is based around their canine partner."
"Akimichi… Mn. Same as the Inuzaka, right?"
"Correct," Grandmother said, before turning her head and coughing. I tensed, my body prepared to sprint outside and call for assistance, but her coughing subsided soon enough. "... Nara? Mn… a good clan, very bright and observant, and a massive library. They could assist you with sealing, but they've had no formal training as a whole. We can consider them..."
A clan filled with observant geniuses. There would be no way I could hide anything.
"Yūhi? An aspiring genjutsu clan, no, no… Yamanaka? No… that won't do? Hyūga? Not even over my dead body. Uchiha? No. Aburame? Same issues with the Akimichi and Inuzaka. Sarutobi? You already declined them. Let's see… Hatake? Sakumo is a good man… a good shinobi, but he's a single parent, isn't he? Already having to raise one boy and while I heard this Kakashi boy is bright enough…" Grandmother trailed off, her eyes glazing over as she considered the Hatake family. "... but you wouldn't be a hassle, would you, Naa-chan? We can consider them with the Naras. Who else?"
And so it went on, two hours passed before we even neared the bottom. Three names caught our attention, though, and Grandmother had to laugh quietly at it.
"Orochimaru, Jiraiya and Namikage Minato," Grandmother read. "Orochimaru and Jiraiya are Tsunade's teammates - do you remember them, Naasica?"
I did, but fear at seeing Orochimaru as even an option kept my tongue for a moment.
"I do," I managed. "I don't… I really don't like Orochimaru-san."
Grandmother giggled and she bent down to whisper in my ear, "I don't, either."
Relief fell through me and I relaxed. "Jiraiya-san is a good man, as is Minato-san."
"Aa. Both are capable, too. Very well, we can consider them, too…"
In the end we had it narrowed down to Kushina, the Naras, Jiraiya, Minato and the Hatakes."
"Do you have a preference for any of these, Naa-chan?"
The Naras are a definite no. I don't want to deal with a suicidal man, nor am I certain I could handle a rule-obsessed Kakashi. Kushina is possible, not only because she's had training in seals, but she's less-likely to be so observant of me. She'll be preoccupied with her new status as a jinchuuriki, and juggling missions. More often than not, I'll be left alone. The same could be said for Minato, and while I'm sure both of them are intelligent and observational enough, they weren't renowned for it. However, Minato may not take Kakashi in if he's already taken me in, and I don't want to risk that, so he's out. Jiraiya is possible, too, but I don't know when exactly he chooses to leave Konoha to become Konoha's spymaster. I thought it was sometime around Orochimaru's defection and I don't know exactly when that's happening, so I would rather not risk Jiraiya being forced to stay in Konoha to care for me.
"Uzumaki-san," I said out loud. "... Jiraiya-san, if not her."
Grandmother gave a thoughtful hum. "Kushina is acceptable. Write a letter to the Hokage and inform him of our choice."
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
The letter was written and sent that very day, and the following morning Kushina herself arrived at the front door. She was nervous, even I could see that, and when I opened our door, she looked at me in surprise.
She gave me a warm smile and squatted down to look at me at eye-level. "Hello. You must be Naasica-chan. I've heard a lot about you. I'm Uzumaki Kushina, it's nice to meet you, dattebane!"
Kushina beamed at me, and I gave her a hesitant smile. Opening the door wider, I gestured her inside. "Hello, Kushina-san."
From habit and experience of entering the compound numerous times before, Kushina glided inside.
"I already have some tea made up. May I pour some for you?" I asked politely, keeping one hand behind my back to hide my stuffed bat. The creature was rarely seen without me, and Tsunade used to tease me endlessly about it. I wasn't quite sure how Kushina would handle it, so I opted to not give her the chance, yet.
"Oh. Polite, aren't you? I would love some tea, thanks," Kushina said, looking a bit nervous. I doubted she was used to being hosted by a three year-old and she wasn't quite sure if she expected to offer assistance, or if it would be considered rude.
Taking pity on her nerves I said, "I'm a bit too small to reach the counter easily. Would you please assist me, Kushina-san?"
Relief had her shoulders sag for a moment before she was up and brimming, pleased she could help. I had to hide my smirk. Her emotions are too easily displayed.
Allowing me to take the lead, the two of us walked into the kitchen. Kushina had to think for a moment or two before she recalled where the cups were. Grabbing them from the top shelf, she quickly grabbed the hot pot before I could. She deftly poured the hot water into two cups and grabbed two tea bags, setting them inside.
"Is there anywhere in particular you would like to drink the tea, Naasica-chan?" Kushina asked brightly.
"Outside, if you don't mind, Kushina-san."
"It is awfully nice outside. That sounds like a wonderful idea. I'll grab the tea, if you don't mind."
Not verbally responding, I chose to instead head out of the kitchen, down the hall and out to our well-cared for garden. Grandmother normally paid fresh Genin to care for the garden as a D-Rank mission. I took a seat on a plush, large chair beneath the canopy. Kushina sat across from me and sat the two steaming cups of tea on the table.
"So," Kushina said, "Hokage-sama contacted me last night and told me about yours and Mito-sama's decision. I thought that, um, that you would prefer to live with me, dattebane."
Ah, she was nervous again. I watched as her eyes shifted between her lap and my own. She was moving, twitching, and there was a pleasant flush across her cheeks. She was flattered, that much was obvious. She was nervous because she knew that this would technically be the first time we met, too. She wanted my opinion of her to be acceptable - after all, if she was going to be the guardian of me, she wanted me to actually like her.
I already did, though. Even if I hadn't heard of her before, hadn't seen who she is, I would have already grown fond of her. The way she showed her emotions so blatantly, so honestly, was both endearing and warming. How she was actually nervous and worried about my opinion of her was humbling, too. From the warmth in her eyes, I could tell right away that she had a big heart. Something you didn't normally see in shinobi and kunoichi.
She was a good woman, just as Grandmother had said.
I gave her a smile. It felt awkward on my face. I hadn't really smiled since Tsunade left.
Since Grandmother started getting worse and I had been forced to start training to control… control my wood-style.
Something I still couldn't do. No matter how hard I tried, or how many scrolls I tore through, I couldn't differentiate my water and earth chakra from my wood chakra. It just blended together like one chakra. Almost as if I didn't have two chakra natures, that instead I just had one that was in a separate unit. It was both frustrating and fearful. Frustrating that I couldn't do it, and fearful that I couldn't do it. Perhaps I could plead that I just had no luck in controlling my massive reserves and be a taijutsu maniac like Gai or Lee, but I knew that wouldn't happen. I did not have the self-discipline to work as hard as either of those two, I wouldn't be able to keep up my form to handle that level of taijutsu. It just wasn't happening.
Maybe I could skip the ninjutsu area and work on genjutsu and seals. But, I knew seals would be hard work to learn (even if I was expected to learn it, due to my heritage), and genjutsu required finite control… Control I wasn't sure I was even physically capable of doing.
Kushina automatically smiled back.
"That's right," I said. "Obaa-chan thinks highly of you. I trust Obaa-chan's opinion, and after meeting you for myself, I've decided that I like you, too."
"So soon, dattebane?" Kushina blurted out, and I had to smile at her nervous-yet-excited verbal tick.
"You're an easy person to read," I pointed out.
She sighed, sagging. "So I've been told." She perked up. "But that means you approve, right?"
I dipped my head in agreement and she beamed. "That's great! I mean…"
I giggled. "I understand, Kushina-san. Thank you for agreeing to care for me."
"Happy to," Kushina chirped. "Would you prefer to stay at my place, or…?"
Frowning, I tilted my head. "I prefer to stay in the compound, but…"
"No problem," Kushina said quickly. "I - "
"But," I continued pointedly, "I believe it would be better to keep the compound sealed away until I am capable to return to it on my own. I have… memories here. I am afraid that wh… when Obaa-chan leaves, I will be… reminded of them. I have already lost Tsunade-nee, and when I lose Obaa-chan…"
Falling silent, I looked down at my lap, where I had my bat. Kushina followed my gaze, her eyes settling on the stuffed creature.
"I understand," Kushina said softly. "I have an extra room at my place. Would you like to go furniture shopping…?"
"I'll pay for my own furniture, and Obaa-chan will discuss the monthly deposit with you," I responded. When Kushina appeared ready to object, I cleared my throat. "The Senju clan is a very wealthy clan, Kushina-san. I do not want to add any unnecessary burdens to you. If it bothers you so much, then you can strictly use the allowance for me."
"I just don't want you to think that I'm agreeing to be your guardian because of the money," Kushina admitted quietly.
"I don't, and Obaa-chan doesn't," I said.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Kushina visited us daily, then. She stayed for long hours, and when Grandmother was awake, the three of us conversed (well, they conversed and I listened), but those times were few and far. It was nearly time, I knew.
And I couldn't quite decide how I felt about it.
Grandmother ran her fingers through my hair, brushing back a few stray locks. "Naasica-chan, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
I blinked in surprise at her question, lowering the scroll I had been reading out loud to her. "What?"
"I wanted to be a seal-master," Grandmother said patiently. "I am proud to say I have reached my dream, but what is yours, precious one?"
"I… do not have one."
She smiled serenely at me. "You will find one, then."
Unsure of how to respond, I only nodded my head. Silence fell in the room, and I looked back down at the scroll.
"Do you know what a jinchuuriki is?"
My head snapped up, eyes widening in mild disbelief. "What?"
"It's illegal for me to tell you," Grandmother said, her eyes focused on something beyond me - she saw straight through me. "However… However life is already unfair for you, my grandchild. I do not want you to be so left in the dark when I am gone and while Kushina is a remarkable young woman… she is not direct family. I want you to understand, Naasica-chan, that I will choose the day I die."
I stilled, shock at her statement causing words to escape me.
"Many decades ago," Grandmother said, "Hashirama and a man by the name of Uchiha Madara entered battle. It was a long and grueling battle, something I hope you never have to experience. Madara had called forth one of the bijuu, the fox. In order to prevent the fox from going on a rampage - because Hashirama was occupied with Madara - I used my sealing capabilities and sealed the creature inside of myself. That is what a jinchuuriki is, Naasica. We are the guardians of the bijuu.
"When I die, the beast will be released and I cannot allow that - not when it would wreck havoc on this beautiful village. Not when it would wreck havoc on my family. That is why Kushina has been visiting me before. I have chosen her to be the next ward of the fox. When I am ready, Naasica, I will be escorted out of the village with Kushina and the bijuu will be extracted from me and placed into Kushina."
"Is that how it goes?" I whispered, feeling a strong sense of loathing at the situation.
"In most cases the bijuu would need to be placed inside a newborn, but because of our Uzumaki genes, we are capable of holding the bijuu with our chakra networks fully developed," Grandmother responded. "Kushina will become the new guardian, and I will die."
I lowered my head, my hands curling into fists. My emotions were thrown into turmoil and I felt physically sick. "Do you… have you decided when…?"
I had to bite down on my tongue to keep from crying out.
"There, now, sweet one. Do not waste your tears on me."
Grandmother gently lifted my head to meet her eyes. There was no fear, no resentment, no distaste. There was only acceptance and warmth in her eyes.
I was going to miss those eyes.
Taking a steadying breath, I smiled at her.
Smile, smile, Naasica.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
I was not prepared for her to leave.
At the end of the week, after that impossibly long short week - surely it was only a day, surely she wasn't leaving me so soon - I dressed in a black kimono. Grandmother was dressed in white, and she moved slowly through the house, to the door.
She was holding my hand.
I was squeezing hers, trying hard to still the shakiness inside of me.
Grandmother stopped at the door, the wide open door. I saw Kushina outside, dressed in black, along with numerous ANBU and the Hokage. The clouds were oppressive above us, dark and looming. She stopped at the large front door and turned to me. She smiled at me. "This is where we must separate, Naasica."
I swallowed roughly, my eyes glassy. Grandmother knelt in front of me, her eyes warm with love. "I love you. Always remember that."
"I love you, too," I whispered thickly. "I…"
Please don't leave me. Please don't go. Don't abandon me in this mess. I need you. Please!
She brushed back a stubborn bang from my face. "Sweet one… do not join me for a long time, alright?"
"I won't let you down," I whispered, closing my eyes.
I refused to watch her leave.
I knew that if I did, I would lose my composure.
I was heiress to the Senju Clan, last member in Konohagakure.
I was not permitted to show weakness.
Smile, smile, Naasica.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
The ANBU were not watching me. For the first time in a long time, I was completely without supervision. I knew they were allowing me privacy - they understood I could not properly mourn with them around. In most circumstances, I would be grateful for their absence, but I found that I could bring myself to care too much for anything.
After sitting still on my bed for a couple hours, doing nothing but staring up at the ceiling, I finally decided to leave.
It would be the fourth time I left the compound, but unlike the other times, I would not be accompanying anyone, nor would I be informing anyone of my absence. For the moment, I just wanted to fade away into the world, and not have to think too hard on anything.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
I had chosen to stay in a tree in a small park.
"Your grandfather actually made a tree for me. It was a beautiful thing, twisted and curved into a work of art," Grandmother said, smiling. "I would sit in it for hours on end, daydreaming of the next time Hashirama would be returning to the Uzumaki compound."
My hands rubbed across the bark gently. If I made a tree for you, would you stay in that tree and watch over me, Grandmother?
I closed my eyes, biting my bottom lip and resting my forehead against the tree.
No. No, I couldn't ask you. You deserve to be with Grandfather, not stuck watching over someone like me.
I was shaking then, and tears fell out against my will.
I hate you for leaving me.
But I love you anyway.
Somehow, I had fallen asleep like that. Night had fallen and I knew the ANBU would be looking for me. Tiredly, stiffly, I climbed out of the tree and dropped to the ground. Turning around, I prepared to head home when a sharp pain entered the back of my skull.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
My eyes flew open, adrenaline coursing through me and I looked around wildly. I was in the back of some form of cart, and we were moving quickly. I was bound and gagged, but from the way I could still feel my chakra thrumming through me, I knew I did not have a chakra-suppressant seal on my bindings.
There were two others in the cart with me, but there was too poor lighting to properly see them.
"Well, looks like the Senju prize is awake," snickered one of them.
I stilled, listening intently and trying to see if I recognized his voice.
"Shuddup, you idiot. Knock her out. We're not clear from Konoha, yet."
The first one snickered again, a wheezy laugh. "Heh. Right, right. How much you think she'll fetch on the market?"
My blood ran cold.
Before I could make another move, or even finish my thought, I was knocked out again.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
I awoke for the second time to hear the screams and cries of battle. The cart had been thrown off to the side, and the others weren't around. I could hear the crackling of fire above me, followed by lightning.
Someone attacked the caravan.
Wiggling around, I took control of my chakra. Turning my hands into wood, I twisted my wooden hands to sharp and saw through the cloth that bound me. After that, I ripped off the cloth on my mouth, and sawed through my feet bindings.
Shakily, I stood up and slipped out of the cart, not paying mind to the bloody battle. We were in a forest.
I looked around, my eyes scanning the area quickly to see if there were any other victims. Not finding any, I turned on my heel and sprinted into the forest.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Heart pounding, I stumbled along the roots and undergrowth. I knew that the caravan was so very far out of sight, then. I could feel the thrum of forest around me, the natural swirl of chakra that wrapped around me. As I advanced further through the forest, I could feel the chakra almost slowing, dulling, darkening, as if something else was sucking away at it.
And as I wobbled on, I could feel a strange familiar sense to where I was. It was strange, as I was certain I wasn't in any key event - I wasn't near Konoha, nor any of the other shinobi villages, so I was confused as to what it meant. My foot tripped on another root and I fell to the ground.
Wincing, I rubbed at my chin - as I had landed on my chin, but thankfully I had relaxed my jaw in time and my tongue was safely tucked in the back of my mouth during the fall. I could feel my stomach drop as I stood back up.
It was almost pointless, wasn't it? When the bandits finished destroying the caravan, they would come looking for me.
Unless it really was just a random attack. Not hired mercenaries sent out to kidnap or kill me. Maybe I'm just being self-centered and paranoid.
I sincerely hoped that was the case.
Nevertheless, onwards, I pressed. Finally… Finally…
I fell through a hole.
Well, it wasn't so much that, as I tripped (again), and stumbled down into a covered hole, and rolled down a dark, rocky hill, to the bottom, which seemed to be the entrance to a familiar cave.
I sat up, eyes wide and heart in throat as I stared up at the light that trickled in from above me. It was too high up for me to climb, and I didn't want to waste what precious energy I had to climb it (not to mention I still hadn't perfected the tree-climbing exercise, so…)
I turned my head in the direction of the darkness, swallowing roughly. I wobbled to my feet and moved towards it, deciding that if I couldn't escape the cave, I could at least hide in it until it was safe enough that I could escape.
I had to strain to see, all my other senses kicking into overdrive to compensate for my lack of sight. When I just couldn't take any more of the darkness (and I actually couldn't see the tiny pool of light I had come from), I reached into my pocket and pulled out my lighter stick. I snapped it in half, and with a crack, light bloomed around me.
There, no more than seven meters, was a very familiar old man, sitting on a very familiar old chair, in a very familiar cave.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
"... Hello," I whispered, feeling the cold thrill of fear coil inside of me.
Madara was staring blankly at me, his expression unreadable, but his eyes were squinted. Strained. Uncomfortable with the light.
I hid the light behind me, knowing that it didn't do me much good either way, and that it only bothered Madara. Still, I couldn't quite bring myself to put it out completely, yet, either.
"Hello," Madara rasped, his voice a low, tired, whisper.
I shifted to the balls of my feet. "... I'm Naasica."
"Hello, Naasica," Madara whispered.
Chills crawled up and down my spine when he said my name.
"... Are you okay?"
Madara gave a low, wispy, laugh. There was nothing malicious in it, and I felt myself oddly relaxing at it. I squeezed my light and buried it in my pocket, leaving us in relative darkness. Madara was still laughing by the time my eyes adjusted - just vaguely I could make out his figure.
"I don't know," I responded, my voice quiet. My feelings were in jumbles. I was still panicked over the attack, thankful for it in the same instant, but meeting Madara… it threw me out of the loop. I thought that all I had to do to change the future was to keep Obito from falling in love with Rin. It seemed so simple, so perfect. I couldn't keep either of them from dying for certain - too many variables, but I could prevent Obito from falling obsessively in love with the girl. But meeting Madara…
He didn't seem so evil, then. He just seemed like a tired old man who wanted to change the world.
I shifted again, taking a hesitant step towards him. "... What may I call you?"
"... It doesn't matter."
Deciding not to press that response, I whispered, "Surely you have a name."
"Names are trivial things. They fade away with time, losing their meaning," Madara responded, and I took a couple steps closer.
I wonder… is Zetsu around? Has he even been made?
"Then what word would I use to refer to you as? Jiji?"
Madara laughed again, that same, low and raspy laugh. "It doesn't matter."
Moving closer, I responded, "It does to me."
A heartbeat passed but then: "You may call me Ushinatta."
"Lost?" I echoed, taking a few steps towards him. "You're lost?"
"You could say that."
"But I found you. Do you not want to go home?"
He snorted. "I have no home."
I was close. A couple more steps and I would be able to reach out and touch him. "Are you lonely, then?"
"How old are you?"
"You speak quite well for a four-year-old of this time."
"'Of this time?'" I quoted back.
"It would have been expected of you to act as such in my time," Madara responded, chuckling.
I took two more steps towards him. It was strange. So very strange. I must have gone insane, somehow. I was willingly moving towards him. Alone. In the dark. And no one knew where I was. I was completely helpless against the Uchiha Madara… and it was by choice. Yet… yet I wasn't bothered by it. At least, not in the way that you would assume. I was bothered that I wasn't bothered, but…
There was no malice from him. No malicious intent, no dark thoughts, or even a hint of scheming. He didn't ooze greed like my kidnappers, he didn't even seem overly concerned with me.
He was a tired old man.
And I… I felt drawn to him.
No. Not like that. He was tired and old, and I…
And I felt tired and old.
I had been ready for peace. I had been ready to relax and sleep forever in that warm, comfortable place… no worries… no cares… But then I had been ripped away from that. That option was stolen from me, and I was forced into this… into this… hell hole.
Every day, every fucking day, it was all about the lying and fighting and the God-damned training. I had to fight every day just to survive - I wasn't even in the double-digits, yet. I had to hide away from those who raised me, I had to train in secret because I was afraid my own village, my own supposed allies, would turn against me and use me for their own means. I had to lie to my own family because I was so damn paranoid, that I felt I couldn't trust anyone. And worse of all… at this point… I was absolutely right.
I was four years old… and I couldn't trust anyone.
Then there was the actual training… I trained and studied and worked my tiny little ass off because I had to just to survive.
Why did I even bother trying? Why not just… give up…? Just go back to that warmth…? Forget everything?
No, no, no.
I wasn't that type of person.
I was born here. I hated it here. I hated it with such a passion… but the people… could I…. could I be so selfish that I would deny those people their chance? That I would turn my back to them, that I would essentially orphan a warm, bright-hearted boy, shatter the heart of another one, and watch as the ripple effect takes place and everything just… everyone just… decayed?
Could I be so selfish… could I…?
I couldn't. No. I could… but I wouldn't. It wasn't who I was before, and it certainly isn't who I am now.
I hated the situation, that was true, but that didn't mean I would selfishly turn my back.
It was unfair, though.
So very unfair.
I reached out a hand, and my hand rested on top of his knee, and I closed my eyes, letting out a long, tired sigh.
"That is a very heavy sigh, for one so young," Madara observed.
And suddenly, it was just too much. The lies, the secrets, the training, the constant worry on if I would fail and if everything would be for naught and I would just die… again… the conspiracies, the future…
I dropped to my knees, bowing my head.
I was ready to stay blissfully asleep. I was happy. I was happy! I had a good life before. I didn't want… I didn't want to be reborn. I didn't want this family. I didn't want this kekkai genkai. I didn't want any of it. So then why was it given to me? Was I just that unlucky? Did I just land in the wrong spot at the horribly wrong time? Did I screw up some time in my past life that I can't recall?
In the end… did it even matter?
Could I change the past? No.
Could I change the future? Maybe.
But it would be hard and painful and long and…
… and I was already so very tired.
"Do not presume me to be so young," I whispered. "Do not presume that you are the elder, Uchiha Madara."
I was beyond caring at this point. It was just… too much. I just… I just needed to not care for a bit. Just a bit.
He did not react right away. He was too tired to care too much. He was curious, I was sure, but it wasn't a demanding need to be answered. "How old are you, then?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," I rasped, then giggled. It was a high-pitched giggle. Frantic, almost.
"I have seen many things, one-who-is-not-a-child, very little surprises me," Madara responded.
I nodded at that. "Let's see… I was born in this body four years ago, but I lived until I was thirty. So… this year… I would be thirty-four."
Madara made a small noise, an acknowledging noise. "If you had told me about reincarnation decades ago, I would have dismissed you, but…"
I giggled. "I bet you're wondering how I know who you are, aren't you? I know more, too. I know about the Sage of Six Paths, the princess and the Juubi… has Zetsu been made, yet? The clones."
At that, Madara did stiffen, and shift. Silence pressed between us before he gave another, low, raspy, laugh. "You're right. I am curious to know how you know that. You are not Uchiha. You could not have read the tablet… and I know you are the first human to have stumbled across us in a very… very long time."
I lifted my head up, unable to make out his eyes, and I could only see the figure of his head . I placed my other hand on top of my hand that still rested on his knees. He couldn't see my face, I was pretty sure of that, so he couldn't see the bitter smile that crawled its way on my face.
"My past life. I know things from it. I know there's more to it, but does it matter? At this moment… does any of it matter?" I asked.
"That is something I ask myself often," Madara whispered.
"Have you ever been able to divulge an answer?"
"No. And that is why I am here. I must believe… I do believe that the answer will reveal itself to me."
"At least you have that," I reasoned.
"At least I have that."
Silence fell between us again and I felt a wave of fatigue press on me. It was easier to ignore it from the adrenaline I had felt from the attack, but here… after my tiring revelation…
"You are tired."
"I am always tired," I said quietly.
"You may rest here, if you wish," Madara responded. "It is not often that I get visitors."
I closed my eyes and sagged.
My light went out.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
I opened my eyes to darkness. It took time to readjust myself to what was transpiring around me, to where I was and whose lap I was curled up in. He probably didn't have the energy (or place) to put me anywhere else, and he didn't care too much for a four-year old sleeping on the cold floor at his feet… I assumed.
"You are awake."
"I am," I responded, my voice still quiet. "I thank you… I am grateful for not only your hospitality, but your ear."
It was true. I still needed time, though. I still needed to remain apathetic to everything for a while longer. I wasn't ready to face the cold world, yet. I wasn't ready to deal with all those lies again…
"You claim to know me, but you do not fear me," Madara observed.
"I fear you plenty, but not… not now. You can't use your Sharigan or Rinnegan, you're too old… too tired… to hollow. You're just an echo of what you were now, hooked up to the Gedo Statue… You could snap my neck, I suppose. Strangle me. Kill me in some other way, but… but I don't care. At this point… I don't care."
Madara gave a soft grunt. Just a soft one, because this darkness that pressed down on us seemed to demand silence, and it felt that if we spoke any louder… if we broke that silence anymore than necessary…
"Do you not have someplace to return to?"
"I do; but I don't think I am rea… I don't want to. I am tired of having to hide who I am," I whispered and smiled. I held up my hand to him and shifted. I grabbed his hand, his old, wrinkled hand, and placed it over mine. I felt the warm hum of chakra, and the odd tingling sensation I got whenever I used my kekkai genkai. My hand formed and shifted and became wood, no longer flesh.
Madara was quiet for a long, long time.
"You are the only Senju in your family since Hashirama to have been able to utilize this kekkai genkai."
"You hide it."
"I do not want to be their tool."
"Everyone is someone's tool," Madara scolded me. "You cannot fight that."
"I do not want to be their tool."
"Then who's tool do you want to be?" Madara retorted.
"I don't know," I whispered.
"... You must be hungry," Madara said. "I had… Zetsu… fetch us some food. Go ahead and eat… You may stay here as long as you deem is necessary."
"Thank you," I whispered, mustering up all the warmth and gratitude I felt to show him I sincerely meant it.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
There was no day and night in there. There was the cool darkness, and the quiet whispers exchanged. Zetsu was able to find some mats and I slept on them, next to Madara. I did little else in that darkness, but think and whisper to the older man. It was… refreshing… no, it was wonderful to be able to talk to someone other than myself on an intellectual level. It was even nicer to confide to someone about my past life. I didn't bring it up, much, the only time I talked about it was the first conversation, and another one where I remarked I'm too old for this shit and Madara made a snide comment about how I was still a child to him. I didn't talk about it, but it was nice to know that I could and that he would listen.
It was scary the way he would listen. He was an attentive listener, and in a way, he reminded me of myself. Of how I must have appeared to everyone. Quiet.
"What's it like?" I asked one time. I sat at his feet, my back resting against his chair and my eyes closed. I rarely opened my eyes anymore. "... Mn. What was it like… to have that big family? To have… to have someone you could always rely on?"
After so much time passed, I began to think he wouldn't answer until he said, "Warm. It was hard, then, true. I lost… I lost so many loved ones… but it only made me cherish the ones I still had even more so. You couldn't have found a tighter family, I often thought. And… having Izuna… I could always drop all guards with him. There was no barrier, no secrets, and I knew that if I ever fell… someone would catch me. That kind of crutch can be both damning and freeing, because that kind of bond… when Izuna was gone…"
I placed a hand on his knee, and he broke off. Even I could hear the pained undertone in his voice. "Was it worth it?"
I retracted my hand, setting it in my lap and contemplating his words.
How many people had already lost their 'crutches' in this war? How many people would lose their crutches in the war to come? In the Akatsuki attack, in the Kyuubi attack, in the missions, in the battles, in the…? How many people had to die, and how many people had to suffer because of others? Madara suffered, he lost his brother and his clan's trust all because of…
… because of what? Because Hashirama was the favored one? Because Tobirama and the rest of my so-called prestigious clan remained hypocritical? Citing they would trust the Uchiha and work with them to build Konoha… but in the end they refused to trust the one man who thought of the idea in the first place? Who wanted and believed in peace in the first place?
How was that fair?
Granted… he could have taken it better, perhaps. But, his entire family, the ones he believed he could count on the most… they turned their backs to him when he needed them the most. Coupled that with Izuna's death, and the fact that he knew the Uchiha would be screwed over by Konoha (and they were), yet he couldn't do anything to stop it… That kind of stress… how could anyone handle it?
Then Naruto… Naruto that bright and shining sun. Words failed me to describe him, his adventures and his ordeals. He didn't deserve that kind of suffering. He didn't deserve that kind of burden.
And Kakashi… Minato… Jiraiya… Tsunade… Kushina… Hinata… Neji… Sakura… Itachi… Nagato… Konan… Yahiko…
None of them deserved…
How was it fair?
And despite how idealistic Naruto was, and despite how amazing he was, he wasn't a true miracle. Despite the great shinobi alliance, there would still be people out there, set to do harm. Violence and blood-shed just went hand in hand with this world, and with it… tears and heartbreaks.
It was so… depressing.
Even if I prevented all those deaths, got rid of the Akatsuki before they even started… what then? So what if I kept Obito from falling in love with Rin and I kept both of them alive and happy? Yahiko would still die, regardless, unless I interfered directly and if I did that… what then? Hanzo and Danzo would try another method, something I wouldn't be prepared for and maybe it would be Konan that dies then.
Let's say I did. I saved everyone and I didn't even have to kill anyone to do it (Ha! As if that would ever happen). What then?
In ten… twenty years… what then?
I'll tell you what: It will repeat itself.
All the stories I read with the characters so dead-set on saving everyone… so what?
So what if they saved them?
They'll still die in the end. There'll still be wars. There'll still be lives lost… blood-shed… tears… widows… orphans…
So you saved the ones you knew about.
And the ones that you didn't know about?
It was all so selfish. So petty.
If I did save them all… what would be the point?
What was the point?
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
"Don't you ever get lonely?"
"How can you stand this darkness?" I asked, shuddering. It pressed down on me, all around me. It was almost suffocating.
"How can you stand the light?" Madara retorted and I got the feeling he wasn't talking about daylight or moonlight.
I shook my head, walking around on the smooth rock floor. I had been here long enough that I memorized where everything was and I could walk around with ease in the darkness. "I can't. I can't stand it. It's why… it's why I'm here. I hate the darkness… but I can't live in the light anymore."
Madara let out a long, tired sigh. "That is why I stay in the dark. The light always changes, flickering back and forth from one thing to another, fading and lying… promising warmth, but somehow never delivering on that promise… there is no promise in the dark. There is no warmth, but there is no coldness… You don't need to hide in the dark, because the dark hides you."
Suddenly, I found that I quite liked the darkness.
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
"Konoha will destroy the Uchiha Clan," I told him.
Unable to help myself, I turned my head in his direction. I wasn't sure why I felt compelled to inform him that his clan would be destroyed by what he had essentially created. However, after hearing his tired acknowledgement, his acceptance of the situation… I realized I had wanted to test him.
On what? I wasn't sure.
But his response… it made me angry.
No… not at him. For what could he do at this point? He was a tired old man and if he returned to Konoha at this point, he would be killed without question. I was mad at the situation. I was mad at Konoha, I was mad at the Uchiha Clan, I was mad at this fucked up world.
I was nearly done being apathetic. I could feel the disgust and anger swirling in my stomach.
In the long run, saving them would be pointless, wouldn't it? Everyone would die in the end and the cycle would rinse and repeat - maybe even get worse. And there wasn't shit I could do about it. I had all this knowledge and the supposedly legendary kekkai genkai and there wasn't shit I could do to really help anyone. The massacre would happen, maybe not by Itachi or the Elders, but it was going to happen. Maybe it just wouldn't be so one-sided. Who knows, maybe by saving the Clan from the massacre, all I did was instigate a rebellion to take place at a later date, killing even more people in the process.
God damn it! This wasn't meant to happen. This knowledge… it wasn't right. It wasn't just; it wasn't fair.
But life wasn't fair.
I was tired of it.
I was so damn tired of it.
There had to be… there had to be something I could do… something… anything…
(ง ⌣ ~ ⌣) ง
Despair had taken me. That and blind anger. It shook me, wracking every fiber of my being and left me breathless. Madara seemed to know what I was going through - Of course he did, he already came to that conclusion long ago when he discovered the truth about chakra and the Sage of Six Paths - and he seemed to know exactly what I needed: silence.
During that time of high emotions, we did not speak. I did not want to. I did not need to. He did not press for conversation, and he did not offer any advice. He allowed me to work through it on my own, to mull and agonize over the realization and that was exactly what I needed.
Towards the end there, I had been grasping at air, trying to think of ways to solve this world. To fix it. I had been listening to Madara's heartbeat in the same instance. While in the darkness, I had taken to quietly train myself, as I had before. It was comforting, that repetitive schedule. It was stable. I was slowing my own heartbeat and breath, enhancing my sound with chakra and listening to that soft (and oddly comforting) heartbeat of his… when it came to me.
His heart was in the right place, in the long-run it might have worked. Maybe. There were so many flaws with his original plan, though, that it didn't fall through. With my knowledge, though, it would work, wouldn't it? Ha. Haha! Wouldn't that be a change. It would fix the world, wouldn't it? But it would be a shallow fix…
It would be like placing a tiny band-aid over a gaping, gushing wound - putting a band-aid over a cut artery with the victim on an adrenaline rush. It was too flimsy. A genjutsu over the world? Please. What would they even do in the genjutsu…? Not to mention, you couldn't take the other route… take in the Juubi and become it's jinchuuriki then use fear… No… no… Fearbroke people, and when people reached the limit… when certain people reached the edge and they felt they had nothing to lose, but everything to gain from resisting…
It would be moot. The genjutsu itself would have been nice, I suppose. But they would have had to instigate in a way that they (everyone, save the caster) didn't know about it. Then what if the caster grew tired? What if they were ready to die? Who would they pass the genjutsu off to? Because let's face it… nobody lives forever.
And what about babies? Infants? Would they automatically be born in a genjutsu… how would people move about in a genjutsu?
Or would be a compulsion genjutsu? That made sense. A constant compulsion to do good, maybe. But everyone defined good different. Maybe a compulsion to…
You know… I bet nobody would kill if they had to relive the lives of their victims.
I paused in that train of thought.
A genjutsu… that every time you hurt them… you had to live a bit of their life…? No. Too violating for the victim.
A compulsion to obey the laws set by the caster, then? Then the laws would dictate what the caster defined as good. That was all that had to be said and done - maybe? Or maybe just a compulsion to flee instead of fight. Instead of our instincts telling us to fight, the genjutsu gives us the instincts of flight…? There wouldn't be any fights if everyone kept running away, now would there? But then they would adapt… it's too vague.
Why was I even considering the genjutsu approach? It was… it was wrong wasn't it?
… Wasn't it?
Was it wrong to slaughter an entire clan, the guilty and the innocent? Was it wrong to wage war over something as trivial as land or gold, slaughtering hundreds in the process? Was it wrong to hate someone for what their grandfather or mother did? Was it wrong…?
I thought so.
It still happened.
The saying went two wrongs don't make a right. And a genjutsu that took away free will…? That was wrong. It was disturbing and cruel, but…
But what if it wasn't permanent?
What if… what if it was just temporary? What if it was used to bring this generation and the next one, and maybe the third and fourth one… to a new society. And then… and then when everything was so engraved, when everyone was so against killing, thieving, raping, betraying… they would raise their own in such a manner. And it would be so engraved into them, into their very core… the genjutsu wouldn't be needed anymore. They would adapt, wouldn't they? If this world had taught me anything… it was that people could and would adapt.
If it was just temporary… would it have been so bad? In long run… wouldn't it have helped?
My breath was caught in my throat.
With my knowledge… with my knowledge all those unnecessary deaths could be avoided, that was true, but it was so much more than that. With what I knew… all the mistakes and holes in the plan…
… they could all be fixed.
And in the genjutsu, any mistakes we had made along the way… poof. Everything was better. Everything was brighter and… and everyone would be okay.
I felt my heart constrict and thunder as my mind worked through the process. My mouth went dry and I sat up from where I had been laying on the floor.
Madara seemed to notice the shift in emotions in me. He stirred, I could feel him moving. I crawled over to him and sat in front of him, my legs tucked underneath me. I was shaking from excitement and nerves. I looked up at him, at where I knew his eyes would be.
But I couldn't do it alone. I wasn't that smart or cunning or witty, and while I knew of this world, I didn't know this world. I needed someone who was that cunning, that witty, that strong, that smart and who knew this world. I needed someone who was all of that and could implement it all.
"Madara-sama," I whispered.
"Please. Let me be your tool."
And understanding seemed to light his eyes, and though I could not see him, I knew he was smiling.
My knowledge would not go to waste.
They would get their happy endings.
Whether they wanted to or not.
No more smiling, Naasica.
This story will remain as a oneshot, unless I decide to continue it. Don't bug me about continuing it. If I continue it, I will add anything addition that you (as the reader) need to know (i.e., update schedule, any other AU changes I made, warnings, etc).
I wrote this as an antagonist!OC, because I had yet to find a decent one. I mean legitimate let's take over the world type of OC in the Narutoverse. Not for 'love' or because their lover/brother/sister/family was bad. But because THEY wanted to. I wondered what it would take to make that person.
I chose 'Rowan' in the title because Rowan usually symbolizes protection / purity. A 'rotted protection' or 'rotted purity' would be a metaphor for what Naasica would become. Her perspective's become off-center so her view would be considered 'twisted', but she would still believe she was doing everything for the greater good, that she would be 'protecting' them.
I chose for Naasica to have the wood style to feed her paranoia. I would be absolutely PETRIFIED to have that ability in Konoha. Just... urk.
Oh, Naasica is pronounced Naw-sih-cuh. That's how I've always pronounced it, anyway. p:
Reviews are love!