Snap Back to Reality 19
Physical therapy was quick and painful in this world. They took you off pain medication and just straight up expected you to soldier through walking until you got it right. Of course they stopped and healed you with chakra once you were done, but it wasn't an easy process. I was panting like I'd done several marathons with Guy once my first session was over. My hip hurt like hell, not to mention my legs were burning. They'd mended the bone with medical ninjutsu, but that meant the bone was brittle. I needed to walk on that shit, and it hurt like all hell.
"Today's your last day kiddo, do a lap around the field and they'll let you out," Sensei said ruffling my hair.
I nodded determinedly. Today was the day no amount of tiredness would take me down. I rubbed at the dark circles under my eyes and walked stiffly to the field. My therapist, a particularly hard-assed older man was waiting there with his binder, ready to note down my progress. I took off quickly, shutting my eyes and focusing on making sure I didn't stumble, and that he saw a clear view of my hips moving freely. It wasn't a particularly hard lap to do but twisting my hips had been painful and I tried to keep a straight face once I finished.
"Hn, she's free to leave, but no strenuous exercise for more than 3 hours a day on that hip," the man said abruptly before leaving for another patient. Poor guy was swamped.
"Good job kiddo, let's go get some celebratory food," Sensei said grinning.
"Eh, Sensei can you help me with decoding that Fuinjutsu scroll?" I asked
"Once you get some rest. No need to stress over it, Fuinjutsu is an art learned and mastered over decades."
That certainly made me irritated. I wanted results but Sensei was right. Fuinjutsu wasn't progressing very fast for me. It didn't help that I could find hardly any useful material on it in the library. I had half a mind to actually visit Orochimaru for some help, since contacting his more elusive Sannin friend was impossible.
"Do you want to ride Yama?" Sensei asked as his dog yipped in agreement.
"Nah, that's ok but thanks Yama. I can't be carried, forever can I?"
Sensei and I went back to the Akimichi sweet shop we first went to when we met. I ordered chocolate waffles with strawberry and he ordered a swirly sundae. It wasn't often I ate sweets, but I did enjoy them. Sensei seemed uncharacteristically silent though.
"Hina, I want you to take this request very seriously."
Oh what was it now? I played with my fingers nervously as I glanced at Sensei and then back at my waffle. He hardly looked this serious, but it felt like I was seeing more and more of it recently.
"Sensei, you're worrying me with that Uchiha look," I teased.
"Hina, take this seriously," he said with a frown.
"Sorry Sensei," I said quickly.
"We don't normally send Shinobi your age to the kind of missions you've been to," he said, brows furrowing with anger. "What happened was uncharacteristic of how Konoha operates."
Sensei was phrasing things weirdly. I blinked and then realised he was talking to me with double meanings. This was about our conversation with Orochimaru, where I had correctly deduced that I was in fact put out in the front lines with a purpose. For what reason though, I was unsure.
"You've been requested for a psyche evaluation," he continued, taking an innocuous bite of his ice-cream.
I froze and it took all my effort not to just snap my head in his direction. I zeroed in on my food and let the implications settle. We were having this conversation here and not at his house because we were being watched. Kami, what had I done to gain this kind of attention anyway? Why would sensei call back to conversation we had on the mission and then abruptly jump to mentioning a psyche evaluation? What was I missing, other than a subtle warning about the evaluation itself?
"I'm perfectly fine mentally," I replied.
He rose a brow at that. "What about those eye-bags I'm seeing."
Now that was genuine concern. I winced away. Stupid persistent nightmares! I was better than this. I had no idea what I was so stressed over anyway. So what if I killed people and felt nothing about it? I bet there were a bunch of other shinobi who didn't care about killing, who felt a thrill during battle like I did. I wanted to get confirmation, but I always froze. What if I was the only one? What if I got noted down as a potential village risk or something? These questions made me stop in my tracks and keep these feelings to myself.
"I couldn't sleep because of the pain," I shrugged.
"I can smell lies you know."
"How can you smell lies?" I asked incredulously.
"I just can, and you can tell me these things you know. Everyone is prone to nightmares."
"Well, it's ridiculous. I'm better than this," I hissed before refusing to talk and digging into my waffle. "We came here to celebrate my recovery, right? Can we talk about this later?"
"Later," he agreed, pursing his lips.
I sighed. The cat was out of the bag, not that it wasn't already. I needed to invest in a make-up kit so I wouldn't look like a sleep deprived missions' receptionist.
I sat down with Shisui by the river we often frequented. This time it was just the two of us. I munched on a dango as we watched the twinkle of the sun reﬂecting from the water. It was very peaceful… well it would be without the looming psyche eval this evening.
"I wish we could do this every day. It's so peaceful," Shisui sighed.
I nodded in complete agreement. No training, no war, nothing to worry about. Just enjoy some food and watch the river. It was all supposed to be so easy, still it felt like something was clawing at the back of my throat pulling me back into danger. It always felt like that now, since the ﬁrst mission at the Border Post. Even during a peaceful moment my body refused to remain perfectly at ease. Oh how I had taken safety for granted in my old life.
"Do you think there's any real point to all this ﬁghting?" Shisui sighed.
I paused, wondering exactly where that thought came from. When I turned to look at Shisui, he looked nothing like a child. His eyes were dark, and his expression was grim. For a second it was easy to forget he was only 9 years old.
"That's a loaded question."
"Humour me," he said smiling.
"Hmm... I would say the point is to make sure we aren't you know— invaded," I said dryly.
"But why can't we just not invade each other. Imagine if all of the nation's combine to work together?"
Well wasn't that an optimistic thought.
"We'd need a unifying world ending threat for that. People speak with violence and with strength. You see that ant colony there?" I asked pointing at an ant hill by the river.
"What about it?" Shisui asked frowning.
"Come on, look closer."
I got up and knelt by it and Shisui sighed before he did too. He narrowed his eyes and looked confused. It was actually a rather large ant colony to be inside the village, but he probably didn't see much beyond that. Not many people did.
"It's just a bunch of ants running around," he said exasperated.
"No, look closely. Do you see something off?"
He looked a bit closer. I'm sure he noticed what I was seeing. Certain ants were bigger than others and some were smaller. The smaller ones were carrying food to the next while an off-colour species of giant ant was invading the others nest.
"They're at war?" Shisui whispered in disbelief.
"Shocking isn't it? We're so caught up in our own human lives that we don't see something as inconsequential as an ant war," I replied with a chuckle.
"What's so funny about it?" Shisui asked, his expression looking uncharacteristically sad. I dropped my smile. I hadn't meant to make him unhappy.
"Ahh I'm sorry... I just— well, I like to think the world works with certain universal rules. Gravity attracts, the world goes around the Sun, and people kill for power."
"That's depressing," Shisui said.
"Well I guess it kind of is, but there's no use wishing for something better when it will never come. We could have peace for a while, maybe for the rest of our lives when this war is done, but that doesn't change the rules. We'll forget once again and war will live on, because we live on," I said picking up an ant.
Shisui looked down at the mound and frowned. He noticed it too.
"Why are the smaller ants ﬁghting now?"
"Ah, that's because the bigger ants— the warriors-failed. The little ones are now tasked with keeping the larvae safe, so they pick up the pheromones of the bigger warrior ants and take their place."
"How do you know so much about ants?" Shisui asked with a mixture of baﬄement and amusement.
I chuckled too. I'd learnt about ants in my ﬁrst year of chemistry, when I looked at their pheromones and how the ants used them to maintain a social hierarchy. That line of inquiry somehow made me stumble upon the invisible war that was being waged around our world by these tiny creatures. They fought like we did, even though there was enough food for everyone. It made me realise, that if ants were doing the same thing humans were, then humans weren't the issue. The world's rules were botched. We were born into a cruel playing ﬁeld, one we simply did not have the power to change.
"So if war will never end... what is the point?" he sighed.
I whacked him over the head.
"Hey! What was that for?"
"For being an idiot," I replied frowning. "The point, is that you live your life to its fullest despite your circumstances. You can't change the world, or its rules, but you can change your own life. Don't give up on it, or the people you have a duty to. We have a responsibility to our family. That is the rule of this world."
Shisui stared at me for a moment in stunned silence before a grin took his face.
"You sounded like Hokage-sama for a second."
I spluttered. What? I bit back a blush of indignation. I sounded like the head of a military state dictatorship. I didn't know whether to feel flattered or insulted.
"You should be the future Hokage Hina-chan," he teased.
"Me, a Hokage?" I snorted. "I'd rather choke on ramen."
I ﬂoundered on how to change the subject. There was no way in hell that I'd ever accept the position of Hokage, even if by the unlikely chance anyone would even want me there.
"You said you would teach me the Shunshin right? Can we do it now?"
"Hina," he said depreciatively. "You said we were going to relax today before your psyche evaluation."
"We did relax, now I wanna have some fun learning a new jutsu."
"It's really hard. Come back to me when you don't break your legs using the Wind Walker technique."
"That was one time," I grumbled in embarrassment.
"I'm serious. The Wind Walker is basically a variant if Shunshin. While Shunshin is good for quick bursts of speed, and is faster than the Wind Walker, the Wind Walker allows for the user to manoeuvre themselves while in the technique. If you can't even change direction with half the speed of a Shunshin, then you can't land a Shunshin."
I huffed but nodded in agreement. Shisui had practically mastered that technique, which in my opinion made him the fastest Shinobi in Leaf, asides from the Sannin, Hokage and Minato, but then again Minato could teleport, and that was just on another level of broken.
"Then teach me a training technique," I hounded.
Shisui sighed in resign. I did a little internal victory dance. This kid may not have been that much older than me physically, but he was a genius, and there was no way I wasn't going to use that to my advantage.
"Ok, the ﬁrst step to a good Shunshin is—"
I'd never really been to a therapist in my old life. As far as shit that traumatised me went, I was taught to deal with it on my own. Then again, I hadn't been to war in my old life, and I liked to think I had pretty thick skin, so all my previous trauma seemed so inconsequential in comparison. Despite never having been to therapy before, it did occur to me that therapy was usually held in a nice spacious area, preferably with a chair you could lay on to rant all your problems. This room looked more like it branched from the torture and interrogation department.
Then again, I was sure Danzo was on my tail, so therapy might as well have meant indoctrination…
I sat stiffly on the wooden chair, the incandescent light bulb swung lightly above me, casting shadows back and forth across the metal table in the middle. The man in the far end of the desk had a smile on his face, a rather disarming smile. Honestly, it would have been far more disarming if the room didn't make me so uncomfortable. Seriously, no windows? What kind of psyche eval room was this? He ordered a few files together before sitting down on his seat and looking up at me, dark brown eyes now firmly on my figure. I suppressed a shiver.
"How are you holding up?" he asked.
What a vague question.
"Just peachy," I replied, cracking a grin of my own.
"It says here you've been to the front lines on Orochimaru-sama's team despite being a Genin."
"Ah yes, I have," I nodded agreeably, keeping my smile firmly in place.
"I've taken note of your training. It seems like you're quite a hard worker Hina-chan. What makes you so dedicated to getting stronger?"
I forced my fingers from fidgeting when his eyes briefly glanced at my hands. My fear was getting to me. I folded them before leaning back and taking in a deep breath. All clear thoughts came when you took a moment to breathe and think. That's what mom had said… and she'd never been wrong. So what was his play here?
"Well I'm sure you have notes on my physical condition when I was born—the abundance of yin chakra," I supplied.
"Yes, but that doesn't really explain why you train so hard does it? You've overcome this condition, there's no need to push yourself anymore," he said.
"Ah, well it's simple actually," I said humming, as if to feign thinking. "I don't want to be expendable."
I gave the man a sharp look, and his jaw clenched ever so slightly. So he was working with Danzo. A ROOT member then? I kept my expression neutral, despite wanting to scowl and tell the man to go take his shitty organisation somewhere else.
"How would you have been expendable Hina-chan? All Konoha shinobi are treated equally."
It's a meritocracy was left unsaid. I had to hold back a scowl. Equal my ass. I wanted to tell it as it was, that the Clan kids got preferential treatment, that when it came down to it, they would rather throw in civilian children as canon fodder than to lose someone with a powerful kekkai genkai and Clan backing. If I, a civilian had graduated normally, I would most likely be dead within a month. I held my tongue for a moment.
"Ah, sorry Shinobi-san. I didn't mean to imply anything distasteful. I train hard because staying in the Academy would not have done me any good. My family needs financial support."
"That's admirable Hina-chan. You're working hard for your family, and you have a drive to be strong. We are however concerned about your mental health. Normally we do not allow such young children to the front lines or even to the border posts as it can be very mentally taxing. How are you handling your kills Hina-chan?"
Wow, what a question to ask a six-year-old. I blinked, a little taken aback. I shifted in my seat and for the first time I couldn't help but let the frown take my face, before I pushed it back into a more neutral expression again. He was asking me a question that I had to bear my soul out to Gaku-sensei, to even admit. How was I handling my kills? The nightmares popped to mind, and I pushed it back down.
"I don't need to handle my kills. I am doing what's necessary, beyond that there's not much to feel about," I insisted.
There was no way in hell I was going to tell this probably ROOT agent about my nightmares. I hated them. I only killed those people because they were the enemy and yet my mind haunted me with nightmares. It was ridiculous. I should be beyond something like that. To my irritation the man seemed somehow pleased by my answer.
"I assure you Hina-chan, that someone with your potential would never be a disposable to Konoha. We have taken note of your skills and would like to offer you an opportunity to join a program that could make you even stronger."
Oh here we go. I kept my face schooled, although my nerves were wrung high by now. I wanted to get out of here. I didn't want to end up one of Danzo's emotionless lackeys. If I wanted power, I could get it the old-fashioned way—by training and gaining experience.
"What does the program do?" I asked instead.
"It's a well-guarded secret within Konoha. We only offer it to Shinobi who show potential. Think of it as an off-chute an ANBU training camp."
"Would I be getting into ANBU through this?" I pressed, hoping to catch him off-guard.
"No," he said, his smile a little forced now. "It caters towards a more specialised position. That information is sensitive, but yes the training that you will go through, will be more effective than what ANBU experience."
"Seems a little above my league, don't you think? I am only a Genin," I pointed out, hopefully to get him to finally leave me alone.
"We have a program for children too, and we find they become the strongest operatives."
I wrung my fingers together and tried to think of more excuses. He was an insistent fucker. How the hell was I meant to get out of this now? It would look so incredibly suspicious if I refused. I had no reason to believe that ROOT was some amoral organisation bent on turning children into cold emotionless killers. I was probably recorded down as an opportunistic and clever kid who was eager to become stronger. It would be in my character to agree to this. Heck I definitely would have if I didn't have future knowledge.
"Ah, you seem to be thinking over the offer. I should rephrase," he said, his grin getting a little sharper, less kind. "This program is not a suggestion, although we do offer it as such out of courtesy. You will be joining it, as is your duty to Konoha to obey orders."
I found myself straightening my posture subconsciously before it hit me what emotion he had just evoked. I had to pause and take a moment to rationalise what had just happened. He had snapped from kind to authoritative quickly, catching me off my guard. That was the tone team leads took out in the field and so I had jumped into attention like some good little solider. I had to supress the scowl that pulled at my lips.
"I understand. It's for the village after all," I said stiffly.
His smile came back, but the sharpness remained. "Good girl. Now no doubt you should know that this conversation was never said."
I was kind of hoping he would somehow forget mentioning that fact so I could go out and drop heavy hints to both Sensei and Shikaku. I had no doubts that they would be tailing me for weeks until I proved myself capable of keeping my mouth shut. I had somehow managed to get myself taken hostage without even being whisked away. At least… at least Shikaku had caught onto the oddity that was my mission assignments. He had said he was working on figuring it out. Knowing him it wasn't an uncertainty but a matter of time when he'd stumble upon ROOT and Danzo's secret dealings. I could hope that someone would get me out of this… right.
"Ah, about the program," I said with a strained smile.
"How do I know where to go?" I asked.
"You don't. We will find you," he said before standing up.
So the meeting was done, and honestly, I could safely say he was the worst therapist ever. I shoved my hands into my pant pockets and kept the trembling to a minimum. My heart was hammering, and I felt like I'd run a marathon, and this was just from a conversation. I was just so—so angry and a multitude of other emotions ranging from frustrated to worried. This was exactly what I wanted to avoid, but somehow, I had managed to get myself unequivocally fucked.
Ah the start of all of Hina's troubles. It's going to be so much fun from here on out. As for that whole ant thing, it's actually real and super cool. Search up ant war or something. There's a cool kurzgesagt video on it. It's definitely one of my most favourite scenes in this story. It really encapsulates early Hina's idea of the world. Changing her beliefs and ideologies is my favourite thing to write.
gogo bananas- Minato's hair and Naruto's hair looks incredibly soft for some reason to me XD
RileyBlue00- I'm glad you liked the wedding scene. I need moments of levity or the hardcore death and war really wears the readers down. Orochimaru is a key character in the story going forward so I'll be indulging you with him for a long time!
Redvsbluedays1214- Thanks! I'll think about it!
Ptbv- Aww, what didn't you like about the scene? I'd like to know for future references to improve my writing 😊
Immortal Potatoe- Thanks, dialogue is my favourite thing to write. I'll definitely have Hina develop some cool moves in the future like that!
Frankieu- Thanks for leaving a review
Cwrywn- Aye it was adorable! Hina only ever really gets down time after a mission and so she gets a very limited time to work on Fuinjutsu, hence why it gets thrown to the back later on when she gets really busy.
.77770- Thanks for leaving a review!
Guest 1- Hahaha if Hina was older and Nami was single it would be cute
Guest 2- Hina has a little crush on how bishounen Minato is XD
ShadyWillow- Thanks a lot for leaving a review! Yeah I needed some humour and levity to prepare everyone for the shit that is to come XD