I don't own Naruto.
Her porcelain skin glowed with the light of the moon itself, royal blue tresses tumbling down her back, bangs falling down her face, covering her gentle red eyes. Her puffy pink lips pulled up into a benevolent smile, snowflakes melting from the warmth exuded. She was so close, yet she was so far. She was a siren. Singing a song in the distance that resonated with the gentle, soothing breeze.
Naruto wanted to go closer - but he knew. It was all a dream. She was a siren, he repeated to himself. If he got too close, then he would die, but he still wanted to approach her. He wanted to die in her embrace. He wanted to stay with her - to caress her cheek and say 'I'm here with you.'
What is the point of living?
His gaze drifted down to his hands, coated in blood. His eyes widened as he tried to grasp his head in pain, but his arms were too heavy to lift. He couldn't soothe himself.
What am I doing?
He fell to his knees, feeling at home with the bitter cold ground.
I'll just drift off and wait for death to take me
Closing his eyes, he gave in. He didn't care anymore. Peace… it didn't matter if he couldn't share that peace with her. Her song was a lullaby, singing him to sleep. It told him to embrace the darkness, where he could be with her forever. For now, he was content to just exist and fade away.
Don't give up.
Naruto felt himself lifted off the ground. He wanted to protest, tell whoever who was disturbing to leave him alone. He willed his eyelids open, dead blue eyes widening as his vision was blinded by red. He was pulled into an embrace and felt a warmth fill him up slowly.
Everything will be okay.
How could anything be okay? Nothing was. He couldn't find it in himself to speak his mind. So he just rested. Rest. What an unfamiliar feeling.
Just open your eyes and let tomorrow come.
Black. It consumed his vision. Comfort gone, a pulsing headache hit him once more. He opened his eyes that he didn't know were closed and squinted as light hit him. He felt the damp cloth of his pillow rub against his cheek. He would have winced, but he didn't have the energy to do so. Eyes refocusing, he looked up, not moving his head.
"Mornin'" The voice of his master greeted him. Naruto fixed him with a dead stare and didn't reply. Ryo frowned. "Get up."
Naruto didn't reply once more, his body a corpse: unmoving, unresponsive.
Ryo sighed, walking out the room. He had a vague idea of what happened, but he needed to hear what happened from his student's mouth. Picking up a bucket from the next room he had already prepared, he strolled back into the room and poured it all over Naruto.
Naruto shriveled into himself.
"Leave me alone."
Ryo ran a hand through his hair. "Kid, ya gotta get up," he said. Naruto had never been so unresponsive before. He just wanted Naruto to get up because he was scared for Naruto.
"I've talked ta Mifune and he'll leave ya alone for a couple a days. Just get up. For me?"
Forcing himself to sit up, Naruto let out a long breath.
"Let's get ya outta those wet clothes," Ryo said, pulling Naruto up. Naruto didn't meet his gaze and stared at the floor.
"I don't want to."
"You'll get sick."
Naruto's eyes widened. The word 'sick' was a trigger. Bringing a hand to his mouth, his cheeks bulged. Getting the message, Ryo brought the bucket to Naruto. Naruto managed to grasp the bucket in time and emptied the contents of his stomach into it. Coughing and spitting out any remains of the sick from his mouth, Naruto looked up.
"What do I do with this?" His voice was hoarse and dead. Ryo took the bucket off him.
"I'll take care of it. Change ya clothes."
Naruto nodded, brushing a blond lock of hair out of his eyes. Turning around, his lumbered to a chair in the corner of the room where he noticed that there were some folded clothes. Shrugging off his top, revealing his muscled torso with a single diagonal scar down it. He brought a heavy hand up to it and stroked it gently, hand slowly tightening into a fist, he felt a wave of anger crash into him.
The man who had given him that scar - he had taken away Souji and as far as Naruto was concerned, was partly responsible for Setsuko's death, too.
He knew Katsura ordered it… but he hated Shinbei more.
His arm went limp. He didn't want to be like Mamoru - obsessed with revenge, but how couldn't he? You never truly know how somebody feels until you experience those feelings yourself - and he now understood. He feel empty and it was so tempting to let hate fill that emptiness.
But Naruto was too tired to let himself be swallowed by hate and he soon felt it dim under the pressure of other feelings. He would never had the chance to speak to Setsuko again. He could never hold her. He could never see what could have been. His hate for Shinbei was transferred to himself. It was his fault despite what Keisuke said.
She broke down because of him.
She cried because of him.
She killed herself because of him.
He couldn't bury the self loathing. Robotically putting on the clothes resting on the chair, he didn't know when he finished and sat on the ground, cross legged.
He heard Ryo's footsteps and looked up, seeing the man sitting across from him.
"What happened?" Ryo asked. It was a soft tone, one that Naruto didn't know that Ryo possessed.
"I-..." Naruto choked. "She…" He buried his head in his palms. "S-She's dead - Setsuko."
Ryo noticed the droplets of water running down Naruto's forearms, but didn't say anything about it.
"I thought so…" Ryo looked up. "Did ya…?"
Naruto looked up fiercely. "No!" His lack of energy seized his body. "No - I could never…" returning his gaze downwards. "She… k-killed herself."
"I see," Ryo rubbed his eye, trying not to let Naruto see him performing the action. "I'm sorry."
"So am I."
"D'ya really think that she'd wanna see ya like this?" Ryo said, not really knowing how to deal with this. He had never really grieved for anybody.
"She's not here, though, so it doesn't matter," Naruto drawled. "Just leave me alone. You're not helping. I just want to rest."
"Rest? Fine then, I'll let ya rest."
Naruto inched his head forward a little in acknowledgement. Sighing, Ryo stood up, walking out of the door, closing it behind him. He stumbled to a wall around the corner so Naruto wouldn't see him. Leaning against it, he slid down, head in hands, his age catching up to him.
This is my fault. He mourned for the loss of one student's life and another's innocence. No kid should have eye like that.
Mamoru walked through the green forest, tall man by his side. They both wore black cloaks adorned with red clouds. Mamoru carried his Katana on his back and his wakizashi inside of his cloak.
"How is this making me stronger? That bastard better not have been lying to me." He scowled, bags heavy underneath his eyes. The word 'Hate' was proudly displayed underneath one of his eyes.
"Getting irritable, are we?" His partner joked.
"Don't play games with me, Kisame, or I'll kill you where you stand."
"Hehe, just try it little samurai."
"I will kill you if you keep on playing games, Kisame. I'm a true swordsman. I don't need to rely on my sword's abilities Dare call yourself a swordsman? You're nothing but a freak with an equally freaky sword."
Kisame set Mamoru a dark look. "Talk bad about me all you want, but dare badmouth Samehada in my presence, and I'll show you why they call me the 'Monster of the Mist.'"
"Your sword is nothing but a fancy wand," Mamoru scoffed.
In a flash, Kisame swung his sword at Mamoru's head with one hand. Without turning, Mamoru deflected the strike with the sheathed blade on his back. In a flicker of lightning, he appeared behind Kisame, sword drawn and held up to his neck.
Looking down, Mamoru noticed the kunai held to his stomach.
"Guess you're not so bad, little samurai," Kisame smirked.
"Tch…" Mamoru scoffed. "You're not terrible, either." Pulling away at the same time, they continued walking like nothing ever happened.
Shinbei stroked his beard. "Hm, I should have guessed. Nothing we can do now, though."
Katsura stroked his long black locks. "I suppose we'll have to go with that plan, Shinbei."
Frowning momentarily Shinbei said: "I wish it didn't have to come to this… but I'll do anything for you, Katsura-sama."
"Head up, Shinbei-dono. You are a strong warrior. Hold your head high."
Shinbei looked up, easygoing smile on his face. "You're the only man I would bow to. After all, you are the one who gave me a purpose."
"I just helped a man who needed help. Just like I will help this whole country."
Standing up, Katsura walked to a window, looking out of it. "One day, I had a vision. It was of an Iron country that truly prospered. We were not plagued by old social stigmas, we were not ignorant to the world around us. I had a dream where everybody was truly free… and it was beautiful."
A victim of such social injustice in the samurai system himself, Shinbei could only nod. Remembering his days of going nowhere despite his strength, as a Samurai of Iron country always made him bitter.
"If a few bystanders fall in pursuit of my vision, then consider them martyrs." Katsura snapped his head back. "I did not wish to do this. Shinbei - contact the sand. For the second stage, we will need a little bit of assistance."
Katsura closed his eyes.
'I will be the one to fight you, father.'
Naruto looked at his food with a blank expression on his face. He had one bite, but he felt as if he couldn't eat another lest he throw up again. Meeting the concerned gazes of the other inhabitants of the room, he looked away immediately.
"Sorry," he muttered underneath his breath.
Megumi, from across him, bit her lip. 'He's gotten worse. What happened?'
Feeling herself being poked from the side, she looked to the side to see Ryo shaking his head at her.
Naruto stood up, walking away with a lazy wave.
As soon as he left, Megumi asked. "What's wrong with him? Is it Souji?"
Ryo stroked his growing stubble. "Sorta. Somethin' else happened an' it really got ta him."
"Not my place ta say," Ryo answered, looking away. "I'm off too."
Ryo left the room. A clouded look in her eye, Megumi followed Ryo.
Nobody said anything else. Finishing their food silently, they all went their separate ways. They had all felt the strain of war.
Not turning around, Ryo knew Megumi was behind him.
"Whydya care so much for the kid?" Ryo asked, curious.
Megumi stopped in her tracks.
"He… I…" She looked down, clenching her fists. "He reminds me of my big brother. He reminds me of him so much it hurts. The casual informalities, the annoyance and most of all his smile. Seeing him like this is like seeing my brother upset."
"I'm from an old samurai family… we prided ourselves on our honour and our loyalty, but… money was becoming hard to come by," she swallowed the lump in her throat. "So my father, in a bid to keep the family afloat, tried to practically sell me away in an arranged marriage. I didn't like it and he knew. I couldn't do anything about it, though. I had given up."
She rubbed her eyes.
"When my big brother found out how I really felt, he confronted my father. Things escalated, and my brother ended up killing my father. Our family dissolved, I was free, but consumed by guilt, my brother insist he die by my mother's hands. She was so angry at him - so she did it. She killed him and disowned me. She then killed herself in grief and regret."
Ryo nodded. ""Why did'ya tell me that?"
"I don't know," she replied with a smile. "I just felt like it."
Ryo nodded. "'kay. I'll give ya some advice. Don't flirt with him or anythin' like that. I know why ya do it. Ya feel that ya have nothin' else to offer than your looks, don't'ya? He's hard to approach, so ya tease and mess around instead a lettin' him get ta know ya. You're a nice girl, don't think otherwise."
Megumi's eyes widened. "O-okay."
"Heh, don't expect me ta be so nice all tha time. I was jus' returnin' the favour."
"Keisuke, I am sorry about your sister."
Keisuke looked up at Katsura, his eyes cold, scar almost glowing across his face.
Katsura frowned at Keisuke's blunt answer.
"I would never send her on a mission I knew that she couldn't complete. I told her not to go, but she didn't listen. She said it was her duty."
Keisuke nodded stiffly.
'How long is he going to keep on lying?'
"I understand. Just tell me what you need."
Katsura evaluated him for a second before relenting.
"Very well," he conceded. "I wish to inform you of our battle plans."
Keisuke didn't answer, just gave him a dead stare.
"This is a plan to end the war. I did not wish to resort to this, but all of my hands have been played."
'Is this a game to you, you piece of shit?' Keisuke raged inwardly.
"At four points in the city, we will be starting fires. With the assistance of shinobi, we will do this without being noticed. The loyalists will have to put out the fire and uses troops to dispose of the culprits. Using this as a diversion, we will commence a full out attack on the loyalist base. I will fight Mifune-dono, and we will end it all. I know what you are thinking… what about the civilians?" Katsura paused and looked into Keisuke's eyes. "They are a necessary sacrifice. You understand don't you? Setsuko-dono would do it, so I trust you will make the right decision."
'Bastard. Don't even say her name...'
"Okay," Keisuke replied, standing up and walking away wordlessly.
'I do not want to manipulate him… but it is necessary.'
Keisuke stood in the snowy night, hair fluttering in the breeze.
Katsura's plan was fucking disgusting and he couldn't help but feel sick at working for the man. He lied to his face and was using him. He saw everybody as a means to an end.
But he had spent so much time fighting in his side. Not for that man, but for his sister.
She had joined the rebels. She had fought against the government. She had shed blood for this cause.
So he did, too.
His only loyalty was to his sister, but he was truly confused. What would she - the real Setsuko - have wanted? He wasn't quite sure. And for that reason, he had to make a decision. To keep on fighting for the rebels and destroy countless lives, or to betray the rebels and get his vengeance whilst doing the right thing?
He looked down, spotting a loyalist squad walking below him on the street. His hand twitched to his sword, but he decided against killing them. Walking away so he couldn't be seen, he looked up into the sky and contemplated his decision.
'What do I do?'
Naruto looked at the mirror. His skin was sickly and pale. His blond hair was losing it's exuberance. The messy, lazy spikes on his hair had fallen limply, covering his eyes completely.
He couldn't just stay like this. Setsuko would call him pathetic but she wasn't here… Souji would tell him to man up, but he wasn't here, either.
Still, if he kept on moping around, he would be dishonouring them. His fists tightened. He just didn't have the energy anymore.
Regardless, how could he call himself a man if he backed out here? He'd started this war and he would finish it. If not for him, for all the people who supported him.
Even if he couldn't share it with her, he'd maintain a country where he and Setsuko could have been happy together. No conflict, just… peace.
He would do it. Grasping a red ribbon in his hand that Keisuke had given to him - the one Setsuko was wearing at the time, he brought it to his head, underneath his bangs and tied it around the back of his head. It fell to his shoulder blades and pushed up his hair, revealing his eyes. They hadn't gained any light, but they had gained resolve, frosting over.
'I'll stop this war.'
He walked off, intent on training until he couldn't stand.
He was not at peace, but, for now, he had found a reason to live.
And that was enough.
This chapter is short, I know, but it's only as long as it needs to be. I hope I haven't crossed the border into wangst; I hate that a lot.
For all those who are angry about Setsuko, I understand. She's a very weak character by nature, and if she lived, the chance of a relationship between her and Naruto working out well would be very slim, but I think that's part of her charm? Obviously, there are going to be many people who dislike her; she's self destructive, delusional and mentally fragile. However, much like Naruto, she's young and foolish.
If the story took place about 2 years later, based on her character, things between her and Naruto would have turned out very differently, but they didn't.
Even as I was writing this, I didn't intend to put her blame of the situation on her. Yes, she's at fault, but so is Naruto. However, the real fault lies in the war itself.
I went really off course there, but I basically want to say, I understand why you'd be angry.
About the chapter title, a widower is a man whose wife has died and he has not remarried. I know it doesn't completely fit in this situation, but it works in it's own way, I suppose.