Snap Back To Reality @jazhop
Chapter 20

Snap Back To Reality 20

Nightmares were always something I quietly woke up from. I'd learnt to stop my body from moving or screaming at night. If I did then I would become a liability out in the field. That didn't mean it didn't leave me shaken when I awoke.

I wiped the sweat off my face and took in a deep breath. I hadn't drowned... I was still here. Those people— the ones that I killed, were still just a means to an end. If only my subconscious agreed because it was acting out of whack. I was stone cold indifferent during the day, and really even in my dreams I didn't care that I killed all those people, yet it was like my brain was trying to tell me I needed to feel guilty. I let out an aggravated sigh and took to the kitchen to find me something to do with my time awake.

I paused in step when I noticed Yua sitting by the kitchen bench, hot cup of tea in hand. Her attention was on the window. It was raining. I paused, wondering if I should go back to my room, but it was too late, and her eyes locked onto mine.

"What's wrong Hina?" she asked me, a frown taking her face.

"It's nothing," I said tightly.

"Was it a nightmare?"

"Oh what a joyful, caring mother I have all of a sudden?" I replied sarcastically, giving her a look of distrust.

Her lips pursed and she looked almost guilty for a second. She looked tired, which was rare. It was usually dad that looked tired, often putting on a smile despite the weight behind his eyes. Guilty or not... she had hurt me before and I refused to hold her to any kind of expectation she would inevitably fail.

"You're going to be an older sister soon," she said instead, a wry look to her face.

I nodded dismissively before striding to the fridge and bringing out some milk. I may as well since she was deigning me worthy enough to talk to all of a sudden. I poured myself a cup before taking a seat on the opposite end of the table.

"I'm going to make sure I don't mess up this time."

It was meant to be a whisper, and no normal child would have heard it, but I did. I bit back down the sudden pain at her words. I put the cup down and blinked back tears. The rational adult side of me reminded me that I had a mom, a real loving one who wasn't here with me anymore, that I was an adult who didn't need another one. Still, I came to accept that a part of me, the physically 6-year-old side, was in fact affected by the lack of affection and the strain I put my body through day in and day out. So I attributed this moment of weakness, the sadness that bubbled inside to be a weakness of my biologically childish body. I would grow out of it… right?

"I'm keeping this family afloat with my money," I reminded her, eyes narrowing.

She pursed her lips and had the gall to send me a look of pity. I nearly broke the cup in my hand. Why? Why did it hurt so much to just be around this woman?

"You shouldn't have to," she whispered.

"And yet I am, and instead of being grateful you consider me a failure. The feeling is mutual," I hissed, blinking back tears. She flinched at me and I enjoyed the reaction. It was good to know I could hurt her like she hurt me.

My anger burned further when I looked at her stomach. "And I do hope you don't mess up again. I would not take it lightly."

I was surprised by the venom in my voice, but I was angry and afraid. Yua could treat me like shit all she wanted, but if she ever hurt the baby I would— I wouldn't know what to do. The idea of her rejecting my new kid sibling, treating them without the love they deserved... it made my blood boil.

I didn't want to further this conversation, so I decided to go out of the house. I didn't care if it was the middle of the night, I just didn't want to be there. Yua didn't stop me. I practically stormed out before making my way into the empty street. The moon was full above me, and for a moment I wondered if it would start bleeding, like it often did in my dreams. The moon didn't bleed, but the smell of metal, sweat and copper caught attention. Before I could blink a man in a blank mask was behind me. I jumped away but his hand reached out and grabbed my collar.

"You are summoned."

With that he flung me into a Shunshin again and again until I was dizzy from the speed of his movements. It took a moment for my brain to catch up with my body and I realised that I was being kidnapped to ROOT. Of course the creeps did it in the middle of the night! Almost as quickly as it happened it stopped. I was shrugged off and stumbled forward from the larger man's arms as I barely managed to catch my footing.

The walls surrounding me were wide and tall, yet without windows. The metal stretched far down the hall and to the end was a doorway. I was shoved once again and took that as my cue to move. There was no way I could beat the man behind me. He was definitely ANBU level, and I didn't want the whole of ROOT on my tail.

I silently cursed as I walked in front of him, before descending into more and more stairs, passing hallways where I wasn't sure where it led. We passed through one more hallway before entering a room. A dozen or so ROOT members stood eerily still by the left wall. An elderly man turned to me, half his face and arm covered by his kimono and bandages.


I stood straighter, unable to mask the uncertainty and fear on my face. I didn't want to be here. This may as well have been the worst possible situation for me.

"Utsuro," he greeted.

I blinked in mild confusion. Hollow? Why did he choose that word specifically? I took a step back out of wariness when he strode forward to me. This whole thing screamed cult, and I didn't want any part of it. I'd even turn a blind eye and walk away, never to speak of it again, if these creeps would just leave me the fuck alone.

"You have caught my attention Utsuro," he said, drawing his one hand to my face and pulling up my chin.

I jerked my hand to shrug him off, but a ROOT ninja grabbed it warningly. Danzo gave him a sharp look and the ninja backed off, kneeling with his head bowed. I turned my attention back to Danzo when he moved my chin. Utsuro... he had used it to refer to me.

"My name is Suzuki Hina... you might have gotten the wrong person," I tried, voice coming out more wary than I wished it would.

"No I haven't. Tonight, you become a member of ROOT. We are the very foundation that Konoha stands on, our lives a testament to its strength, for Shinobi stand strongest in the shadows."

I let out a breath when he moved his hand from my chin and stood up straight. His cold brown eyes bore down at me and I felt incredibly helpless. It was almost like facing off against an insurmountable iron wall, a force of nature no human could confound. I stood no chance, not a single one to be defiant in this moment. He was forcing me to submit. The psyche eval was only yesterday. I had someone on my tail. I thought I had time to throw suspicion off my back before I took my concerns to Shikaku. I knew I would pay dearly for that assumption.

"Who do you fight for Utsuro? In whose interests?"

I fought for my own interests. No one controlled me. I was my own person with my own will and reason to fight. No one, not even Danzo could take that from me. For a brief moment defiance took over my fear response and I spoke before thinking.

"For my family and for myself," I bit out.

I barely saw the hand that came to my face before the blow resounded with a sharp echoing sound in the backdrop of the enclosed room. I fell onto my back hitting the compact rock painfully. I held my cheek in shock before snapping my attention back to the viper in my presence. His expression looked disappointed.

Did he think I would be cowed simply because I was a child, simply because he overpowered me by every right? I cursed my incompetence. If only I was stronger—

"No shinobi fight for themselves. They fight to serve the Village. You will do well to learn this. You are but a leaf in a tree. Your strength comes from the roots and you will respect it."

His voice was harsh and demanding as it carried through the room. I stood up shakily and squared my jaw before nodding. I needed to stop antagonising the man who could easily kill me... who could easily kill Sensei or my family.

"Do you know why you are here?"

"A training program," I said, managing to keep my voice steady.

"That's right, a training program for those who will become the foundation of this Village. You should be honoured. It is your duty to lay down your life for this Village, as it is the duty of all Shinobi. ROOT embodies the core of what it means to be Shinobi. Show me your tongue."

"M-my tongue?"

My body jerked instinctually to run. It told me to run the fuck away, to escape whatever was making the hairs on my neck stick up. I made to move back when two agents grabbed me on either side. Danzo knelt down so he could be eye level with me.

"I won't ask again. Your tongue Utsuro."

I wanted to glare, to scream and curse and find a distraction to run the fuck away, but the man's cold gaze, and the piling enemy presence in the room made me obey. I opened my mouth hesitantly and stuck out my tongue. I didn't think this would happen so soon. He was— he was going to brand me, and I could do nothing about it.

When his fingers held my tongue and pulled, I shut my eyes tightly. The ROOT agents holding me firmly in place didn't let me budge an inch. I blinked my eyes open to see Danzo's passive face before he narrowed his eyes slightly and my tongue burned. I shuddered as his chakra seemed to seep into me... into my very tenketsu, and I could feel it inside of me. I wanted to puke. The burning pain in my tongue didn't compare to the wrongness that was his chakra in my body. My breath hitched and tears blurred my vision. I had to blink them back as he kept my tongue firmly in his fingers. It only took a minute, but it felt unbearably long before he let go and I breathed raggedy, trying to get my bearings again.

"This seal will ensure you are unable to tell a soul about ROOT or our plans. Doing so will cause pain and instant paralysis. Do you understand?"

I nodded, taking in deep breaths to calm myself. Danzo took a step back and levelled me a look.

"You are the future of Konoha. This duty you will do for the village will be to further its cause. It is an honour," he said, making me bristle in anger. "Hakanai, escort Utsuro to her initiation."

The agent to my right nodded before grabbing my forearm and dragging me away. I half walked and half ran as she dragged me along, her strides too long for me to keep up with. We turned left and then into a frigid and cold room, empty and metal lined like the rest of this godforsaken compound. This room was dark— too dark to see in, but I felt the multiple chakra signatures, their shiver of cold metal and lack of any defining scent other than the metallic tinge of blood that engulfed everything else. It was like— like they were nothing but the smell of a battle work kunai. Not human. Tools.

I quivered as a spark of killing intent made me fall into my defensive stance. The air current in front of me wavered, and I jerked back as the kunai I sensed whizzed past my face. I jumped onto my hands and back onto my feet when the sound of a tanto caught my ear. It brushed my shirt, cutting it in the middle. They barely gave me a moment to think, and if it weren't for Sensei's intense training in fighting blind, I would have already been killed. I froze momentarily as the killing intent spiked from all directions, sending my senses into a flurry. My hands gripped the sole kunai I had on me in a reverse grip and then the real fight began.

I dodged a blow to my side only to feel a fist to my face. I flung myself back onto a wall and let out a cry of pain as I was unable to dodge a shuriken. It lodged into my arm as I tried to block it and another volley of other shuriken to my right. I jumped down hard, propelling myself with Chakra slide and slammed my feet into the side of one of the enemy-nin's knees, breaking bones and incapacitating him before I grabbed their head and crushed it with a chakra enhanced knee to the skull.

I ducked from a kunai only to find my head caught between someone's hands. I let out a cry of shocked pain when knees rammed into my ribs again and again. I was flung back from the blow and only barely managed to catch myself before I used my fire release bullet jutsu. The flames momentarily revealed the room and I was frozen in surprise when I noticed there were 4 ROOT agents in the ring and countless more all lined against the wall.

I'm going to die

The thought was followed by me ducking a kick. My ribs scraped together in my chest and I was once again reminded of my first fight at the border posts, and the absolutely incredible pain that were broken bones. I breathed hard. What— what had I done during my fight with the genjutsu user? I remembered my mom's words, urging me to calm down and to— breathe.

I breathed

I closed my eyes, remembering the feeling in my stomach, and inhaled in from my diaphragm. I stopped it this time before the chakra spiked too far, my blood bubbling inside of me and my tenketsu flaring with new energy. I could feel the steam escape my teeth as I drove my kunai into my next assailants' hand before using tiger claw in rapid succession to assault their mask. I curled my fingers with Chakra before breaking through their mask and then stabbing them again and again through their eyes and into their brain until their screams died and my fingers were coated in blood and brain matter.

Before I could take a moment to gain my bearings I was tackled from behind. I flipped into my aerial manoeuvre stance and threw the surprisingly light weight off me. I then grabbed the dead ROOT ninja's kunai from their hands and rushed at the chakra signature to my right, trading blows with them. They were rather clumsy. I didn't have time to wonder why though, not when their kunai stabbed my shoulder. I let out a cry of pain before biting back the agony and grabbing the assailants' neck, cracking it swiftly.

The final chakra signature near me was small and fickle. I could hear a whimper, a soft subtle thing I wouldn't have noticed if it weren't for my enhanced sensory abilities. I jumped at them, my blood boiling and body screaming in pain, but I didn't kill this one. I grabbed their neck and jabbed my finger into a pressure point before knocking them out. They had hardly put up a fight. They fell to the ground and so did I. My weight giving into me and I gulped in air greedily as I tried to stumble to my feet.

There were agents all around, I couldn't possibly relax. Almost suddenly a weight lifted from my shoulders and I realised it was the killing intent that had driven me into a frenzy. Just as abruptly the lights turned on and I winced away, blinking my eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness.

The room I barely managed to get a glimpse of when my fire briefly illuminated it, suddenly looked much clearer. I glanced around the box like dojo I was in, and then slowly to the dead bodies on the floor. My breath caught in my throat as I saw their mangled and bloodied forms. They looked so small... too small. What had I done? What had I... children? I took a moment to get over my confusion. Judging from their physique they were about 12-14. They were— they were trying to kill me. I had no choice.

I stumbled away, into a defensive stance when the ROOT agent who brought me here stepped out. Her cold mask screamed danger. She shunshined behind me and I felt my world black out.

I blinked awake to an aching pain. I let out a shaky breath before stumbling up.


Then the pink hit me, and I blinked once again to get my bearings. I was back in my room, but I had been—no… that couldn't have been a dream. I got out of my bed and lifted my shirt to see gauze wrapped around my chest and a scar where I had been stabbed in my arm. Then I noted an unfamiliar black box in my room, and I walked over to it, surging my chakra through it to check for traps. When I opened the box, I was greeted with the unwelcome sight of a ROOT uniform. The mask I was given was like the others, white with two beady black holes for eyes, and an animal nose and mouth. I didn't have the heart to check out the rest of the uniform.

I closed the box and looked up to my dressing mirror and sighed. I looked like shit, and yet I had somehow never slept so well. Not a single nightmare, at least one good thing came from being knocked out.

You slaughtered children

I cut of my thoughts when that unfortunate fact reared its ugly head at me. I was simply protecting myself. I had no choice and really when it came down to them or me, I would always choose me. I didn't know them after all. There was no reason to feel guilty, yet if I knew, I wouldn't have been so brutal. I would have given them more merciful deaths or tried to incapacitate them. I had though hadn't I? I heard a child's whimper and I knocked them out instead of killing them. I wasn't cruel. I was realistic. It was a do or die situation.

Hesitantly I opened my mouth and pulled out my tongue. It was hard to see, what with it being at the back, but the chakra there was thicker. I sent some chakra to the area and the seal appeared. I snapped my mouth shut, nearly chopping off my tongue in the process when I flinched back. I made a noise between a whimper and a scream as I bent down into a squat, holding my head in my hands.

"What am I going to do?" I whined, letting out all the worry and frustration I had bottled up inside of me.

Gaku-sensei knew the psyche eval was shady. He had warned me as much, but even he wouldn't know about ROOT. It was a heavily guarded secret. I needed to get the word to him somehow. I could act suspicious. If I took off the gauze and showed him my bruises by 'accident' that wasn't telling him, was it? I would just have to find creative ways to hint it to Sensei, and if Shikaku found out Danzo's ass would go through the wringer. The man was a genius, and I was sure he wouldn't take too well to letting a rogue organisation run around Konoha.

I bit my nails. Would it work though? Would Shikaku knowing change anything when not even the goddamn Hokage lifted a finger to stop Danzo. Sarutobi was bending over backwards for that man. There was no way the old man would dismantle his childhood friends traitorous project, not when he was weak enough to let Orochimaru get away with the shit he did. Maybe Minato could when he became Hokage... but that would mean I'd have to wait years.

I only let myself wallow in hopelessness for a minute before it turned into anger like all my ugly emotions seemed to like doing. I let out a frustrated growl before punching my dressing table and breaking a hole into the wood. I stood up and took deep breaths.

"Weak," I grumbled to myself.

This happened because I was weak. If I were strong no one would dare take advantage of me. I just needed to train harder. I refused to die a weakling, someone discarded and forgotten. I shut my eyes tightly and turned to my dressing table. Wood splintered out and some of my clothes inside were scrunched up from the blast.

How exactly was I going to explain that?

I found myself in front of Kakashi's house. I didn't know why I went; I just knew I felt the sudden urge to do so—like somehow this was the last chance I would get to talk freely. I'd never visited his home before. It felt like a place he normally didn't let people into. I paused outside the front yard holding the packet of mochi unsurely.

It was a big house all things considered, which was unusual in Konoha because almost everyone lived in flats of some kind unless they were from Clans. Our family only had a house of our own because it was directly above our place of business, which was usual for a lot of people, especially weaponsmiths, bakers and some restaurants.

Kakashi's house looked distinctly old, like a house that had been built during the founding of Konoha, and not a house built for a newer clan. I wondered why there weren't any other Hatakes' left. I was so lost in thought that I only snapped out of it when Kakashi opened the door. He was wearing a dark blue scarf with a light blue triangle pattern on it with his usual black sleeved shirt under his sleeveless grey jacket. He noticed me and his normally half lidded eyes widened a bit.

"Hina," he greeted.

It was a relief to be called by my name, after my ordeal from yesterday. Not many people called me by my first name either and so it was... well it was a good feeling. I smiled at the boy.

"Want some mochi?" I asked shaking the bag.

He looked like he wanted to say no for a second before he paused, closed his eyes, and nodded. He turned around and I took that as an invitation to follow him. I entered his house tentatively and was genuinely surprised by how neat the house was. I spared the boy a glance, wondering if he was also secretly a reincarnated soul like me, because no kid his age had the right to be this mature and organised. He sat down at his futon and I made myself comfy opposite him.

I opened the paper bag and rolled the straw covering to reveal the rainbow mochi I had bought. Kakashi looked at the sweets with hidden excitement I noted with mild glee.

"Why did you come by?" Kakashi asked.

I plopped a pink mochi in my mouth so I wouldn't have to answer that question right away. I only barely understood that answer myself. I just felt the inexplicable need to make my presence aware to the boy today, as if I wouldn't be able to do so in the future. I felt like this was somehow a last chance to be honest about my feelings, and if I weren't, I'd regret it forever.

"I've been a bad friend, haven't I?"

I put the mochi down that I had in my chopsticks and my smile dropped. I looked at the table, a deep shame coming over me. I hadn't seen Kakashi in months and he was probably still grieving, alone in this big house, surrounded by memories of a father who died in this very lounge room. I shut my eyes tightly and caught my emotions.

"What makes you say that?" he asked, looking confused.

"You've been through so much and I—I was too busy to be here for you because I was training," I laughed bitterly.

"I've been fine," Kakashi said dismissively, putting down his chopsticks and looking away.

He was lying. He was lying and I could see it. His eyes were cloudy, looking at the spot on the mat a meter away where I could smell the blood. His eyes were replaying the memory of his father's death. He was drowning, drowning alone and I, the only other child he had ever opened up to had not helped, because she was afraid to show any vulnerable emotion. Kami, how pathetic was I?

"I'm sorry Kakashi... it's okay to not be okay," I said softly.

His shoulders stiffened and for a second his eyes teared up before he closed them for a little longer than a second and when they opened, he had shut himself in again. Then he somehow managed to take another bite of the mochi without me seeing his mask down. I looked back down at the table and felt the uncomfortable emotions bubble inside of me.

"It's been lonely," he admitted, voice soft and eyes distant. Then his grey eyes fell on me and a worried expression took his face. "It's not your fault. Your missions were longer and more dangerous than what Genin are allowed. I don't know why you were assigned them."

"It was a mistake on the missions administrations team," I lied easily.

"Why did you come here today?" he asked again.

I shuffled awkwardly. "I don't know entirely. I guess I felt like if I didn't do it now, I'd never do it... I don't know what the future looks like, so it has to be now."

It had to be now because I didn't know what I would be like either. This world—this world has been dragging me down to places I'd never imagined, to do things I would have reviled in my old life. I had become so far removed from Joanne Linus that I wondered if even a modicum of her was left. Because of ROOT I was worried that whatever humanity I had left from my previous life, what I had been holding onto so dearly for would be broken. Would I even be the same person after that?

I realised then, that the reason I had visited Kakashi today was because I didn't know how long I had left to talk to him like this, to talk to the boy I had grown up playing in the park with.

Kakashi, Guy, Hanami, Gaku, Nami, Shikaku, Rin, Obito, Kurenai, Asuma, Shisui, Noritaka, Taichi, Yua...

I had people in this life now, people I would die for, people who had my heart. It felt like it was going to fade away painfully. I was aware of what ROOT did to those who joined them. A cursed seal wasn't the only thing that would cage me to them, eventually I would be asked to give up my humanity, to give up ties and become but a tool for Danzo's wish because that was the inevitable fate of someone who went through ROOT.

Could I even overcome that?

"We're Shinobi, it's our job to complete our missions successfully. If you die completing your duty, then it is a good death."

I guess I signed up for this didn't I? I signed up for it thinking of it like it was just another job. I envisioned a job where I would complete some missions, and yeah, I didn't feel too terrible about killing, but I didn't expect anything at this level of moral ambiguity. I had signed up for something I thought I understood and now I was beginning to realise just how wrong I was. Kakashi, a six-year-old understood it before I did. I balled my fingers together into fists and this ugly feeling in my chest tightened painfully.

In the end Shinobi weren't strong, Shinobi were tools.


Oh my god Hina, this is what happens when two pessimistic jaded idiots come together. They come to the wrong conclusions. :D

The ROOT arc is essentially setting up character development for Hina, because a lot of her character flaws are best challenged by Danzo. What better antagonist for Hina, than the one who threatens what she holds most dear; the ability to take care of and protect her family. Hina has a lot of character flaws. I did a breakdown for it around chapter 30 I think, once I can post what is essentially a mini essay about her character development, themes, and growth without spoiling the story.

Hina's childhood happens to be the shittiest part of her life. She's like Kakashi in that sense. Her childhood holds much depression, death, war, and all that fun stuff, but it's really so I can take Hina into a route that I think a lot of people will appreciate. I know I can't please everyone, but I hope I can do this right XD

Review Responses:

senbon-dono- Indeed she is. Shit is only going to go downhill for a while now XD

Chillingbear- So I know the whole ROOT plotline has been done to bits, but things are a little different in this story. I'm writing in ROOT more for character purposes than plot-fixing purposes like some authors do. This story has never been, and will never be, about Hina fixing up the shit that happens in Naruto canon. I think if you stick around you'll find that the ROOT arc takes a different turn entirely.

RileyBlue00- Yeah ROOT will definitely up the stakes, but you'll find that Hina is going to end up more than just a simple ROOT agent 😊 Thanks for always leaving a review!

Frankieu- Hina is definitely not going to try and go through this alone, but Danzo has plans to ensure his recruits aren't able to go spill the beans to everyone else. He knows Hina is related to some powerful people, and so he's playing things smart with her.

Zekral- Shit did get real XD And it's only going to get more tense from here on out.

Riveria- I swear I'm waiting for the moment I get to write Danzo's death. It will be a glorious event!

Inheritance1990- Yeah ROOT is definitely the rot in Konoha. That's a way better analogy for them. Legit any shitty thing that happens in early Naruto can be either linked to Madara, but mostly to Danzo.

Guest- Thanks. I'm glad you like ROOT, not a lot of people do :')

Hi Exclamation Point- This comment was legit awesome. Thank you so much for the constructive criticism. I'm going to try and incorporate more diverse descriptors and similes in the future for sure! I'm glad you like the ant scene. That was definitely my most favourite scene detailing Hina's thought process in the early part of the story. It's really fun to compare chapter 40 Hina to chapter 19 Hina. I can't wait for you to see her development (devolvement?). Also I'm glad you like the review response thing. I love interacting with you guys.

Immortal Potatoe- Thanks for always leaving a review! Yes, the whole ROOT thing is going to make her stronger for sure. All that tor—erm—training is going to help!

Flygar- Honestly yeah, fuck ninja villages!

Cwrywn- Thanks for always leaving a review! And yeah people will notice, but Danzo has plans cause he's not an idiot in this story. Fortunately, Hina also has plans because she's also not an idiot. May the least idiotic win I guess XD

Matt- You're more than welcome to drop this fic since it does go down the ROOT route. 😊

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