Snap Back To Reality 28
Maybe it was the constant rush of life, but months came and went with nothing of note happening. The notion that my world would almost instantly fall apart didn't happen. That I would find my family killed, my sensei sent out on a suicide mission, and my humanity ripped from me. I thought maybe I'd be unable to sleep ever again without another nightmare, that when I looked in the mirror all I'd see was blood, and that I'd begin scrubbing my hands until it was raw like I had on that night when I first woke up from my nightmare. But there was nothing. No death, no suicide mission, no feeling of intense guilt and no nightmares. I didn't even feel numb, I just felt normal, and the world went on with the whisper of a promise of death to come.
It was still jarring, being taken to ROOT to train with a tanto and learn more specialised assassination skills. It was still jarring to see a man cut open and writhing on a table, to watch as Orochimaru twisted a person's body to their absolute limit while they died in agony. It was definitely jarring to go and train with Sensei and eat lunch with Nami after I had done those things. It was like I was ripped from one extreme to another, and yet I didn't know how to feel. One moment there was an intense almost blinding self-hate and then the next… nothing. No emotion, no feeling other than an out of place normalness that shouldn't have even been there.
Despite how terrible the things I had done had been, it had helped me progress to an incredible level. I had resources now that I didn't have before. I could control my total concentration breathing for about 10 seconds now. I could use a tanto and name several assassination methods that no other Genin could. I had information, scrolls full of notes that I was denied before meeting Orochimaru. I had progressed so far in all these things, and yet a part of me screamed that it didn't come without a price. Why had ROOT stopped trying to brainwash me? Were they brainwashing me without me even realising? Why was Orochimaru putting up with a joint Sensei relationship just to keep me?
Why… just why were things so peaceful?
These thoughts plagued me as I rushed into another spar in the Foundation's underground network. I traded another blow with Kusari as he jumped away. He was a better swordsman than I was. I preferred the strikes I could land with my body, although I did admit that a sword could do more damage than a punch with less chakra. I didn't mind learning how to wield a tanto. I still wanted to be a Taijutsu and Ninjutsu specialist, but I was fine learning a bit of Kenjutsu. There was nothing wrong with branching out, but it annoyed me that I had to do it so early in my career. It would have been better to master one thing then move to the next, rather than split my attention on multiple things at once.
It felt like time was running out. Kusari had changed in just the two months I knew him. He had broken, and only a glimmer of what had been his kind blue eyes were left. I had told myself I would protect this boy, and yet I was the one who was allowed to go back to my family, who was saved from the beatings, while he took my place. We were both branded, and yet we lived entirely different lives. I wanted to protect him, but I didn't know how.
We had a new instructor. I didn't care to remember their name, not like I had with Hakanai. I didn't need to remember the name of someone I would eventually drive a sword through given the chance. We continued our dangerous sparring. Kusari didn't hold back, not even with a real tanto. He slashed me through my abdomen before the sparring was called to a close. I grabbed the wound and hissed. Stupid ROOT uniforms… why did they have to be mid-rift. Who in their right mind would wear what was essentially a crop-top into battle?
"Utsoru, you're cleared to leave," a medic nin said as she tied up my wound.
"You are cleared to leave," she repeated, a no-nonsense tone taking her voice tightly.
I turned my attention to Kusari and frowned. They've been limiting our time alone together recently. I wanted to be with him for a bit, to sneak in another romance novel that he was beginning to enjoy reading. Every day I was separated from him, the light in his eyes died a little, leaving what looked like a hollowed-out person I couldn't even recognise.
The breath left my lungs when a hand went straight towards my face. I reflexively shut my eyes, my body freezing as I expected another blow… nothing came. I looked up to see the palm hovering in front of me, engulfing my vision. A shiver racked through my body and I backed away.
"You are cleared to leave."
That was a final warning. I gripped my shaking hands and turned away with a grimace. Why—why was I so afraid? It was just some pain… I was meant to get used to it, so why did I jerk away in fear? I felt sick when I was too frightened to turn and look one last time at Kusari, and when the door closed behind me, I felt a pitiful sense of relief. I walked shakily over to the locker room and changed my clothes before slamming the locker in an irrational bout of emotion.
"Dammit," I shouted, before shutting my eyes tightly.
Was my voice as weak as I felt? I didn't know, just that I was terrified of this feeling. I could feel the heat tingle at my skin, the palm strike my face, the hand grip my hair and jerk me around. It wasn't the giddy feeling I felt when I remembered the exciting thrill of battle, it was something uglier and suffocating. It ripped the air from my lungs, made my head dizzy, and my skin prickle with phantom pains. It was like I was back in the moment of weaknesses, back to being beaten bloody until I couldn't move, back to grovelling and screaming and begging in pain as I was put into another genjutsu that burnt me from the inside out. Back to being helpless.
What was wrong with me?
I walked home tiredly, with none of the usual enthusiasm that came with knowing I had another session with Gaku-sensei after. I pulled at the door at the bakery and found it didn't budge. I pulled again and grimaced. Why was it closed, and more importantly, why was it locked? We never locked our bakery during the day.
I turned around to see a frequent customer.
"Ohayo, Tatami-san," I greeted. "Do you know why the bakery is closed?"
Tatami's eyes widened slightly. "Oh, you didn't hear. Your mother has gone into labour just last night."
"Congratulations!" I heard him call out as I sprinted away.
I didn't know what this feeling in my chest was. I'd never been around when a sibling was born before. I wondered if it was a boy or a girl. I wondered if my new kid sibling had green hair like Yua's and mine, or brown like Taichi's and dad's. Yua's pregnancy had been going along without a hitch so far, but there was always a chance for complications during labour. I didn't even know what the methods were here, if the technology and techniques had a higher rate of survival than it did back in my old world. Even the slightest chance that mom could be hurt, or the baby wouldn't make it, made my stomach churn painfully.
I practically burst through the hospital door, running straight to the front desk. No one turned to look at my frantic running. I was sure a lot of people burst through the door like I did. The receptionist looked down on me momentarily before fixing up her glasses.
"U-um, do you know which room Suzuki Yua is in?! She's my mother!"
She pulled out a book and flipped through the pages before a smile tugged at her face. I didn't know whether to be relieved or urge the woman to just get on with it.
"She's up in level 3, room 4. Congratulations on your new sibling."
I was prone to incessantly worrying over everything out of my control. I knew I should have taken a moment to calm down before bounding up the stairs, but I couldn't help myself. When I saw Taichi outside on a bench I practically barrelled into him.
"Tai-nii, how is kaasan? Is she ok? Is the baby ok? How long has she been in labour? Is it still going on?"
"Ah—um," the boy squeaked.
"Ah, right! Kaasan's ok. She's been in labour for about 10 hours now, so it should um—be soon," he explained hastily.
"No complications?" I asked urgently.
"No, they said it's a good birth," Taichi said, a smile tugging at his lips before he pet my head and forced me to sit down. "Hi-chan, come on you need to calm down ok. Everything will be ok."
Oh god my ten-year-old brother had a more level head than me. I grimaced at the thought before taking in several deep breaths and still finding myself jittery from the nerves. I could hear the screaming from inside and I got right back up and started pacing.
"You know that's not going to help Hi-chan," Taichi sighed.
"I can't help it! I'm worried ok," I grumbled looking away.
Why were my emotions so out of whack? I was going to pace some more when Taichi forced me to sit next to him and began rubbing my back. I blushed in indignation. Dammit, why did I need a kid to calm me down? It was working though, so I decided to let him continue, and hours passed by with me simply tapping the ground when finally the door opened, and I jolted right back up. I jumped on the balls of my feet, bounding over to the doctor who looked rather tired.
"Are they ok? Is the baby good? Can I see?"
The man chuckled before pulling down his face mask. A good laugh then! I nearly felt all my anxieties deflate at just his expression.
"You can go in now, but you have to calm down a bit ok. Your kaasan has been through a lot, and she wouldn't like it if you were shouting and jumping about."
I felt Taichi put a grounding hand on my shoulder and I forced myself to calm down again before we entered the room. I looked at the bed to see Yua sitting there, long green hair an absolute mess, eyes rimmed red, skin a little clammy and still sweaty, but the smile on her face broke through everything else. She had a little bundle in her arms, and I gravitated towards it in awe. I looked up at dad who was smiling down at me, and then to Taichi who despite having been calm a moment ago had now run straight up to his mother. I found myself frozen in place a meter away from the family. I watched as Taichi touched his new siblings face.
"Whoaa, she looks so weird," he said, childish voice raising an octave.
Yua chuckled. "No Taichi, this is your new otouto."
A boy then. I wanted to go see the baby too, but I suddenly didn't have the energy. I didn't know if I was welcome to go jump by her bed as casually as Taichi did. I gripped my shirt and looked down only to feel eyes on me. I looked back up to see Yua smiling my way, gesturing for me to come. My heart fluttered warmly as I hesitantly made my way to her bed, slowly and deliberately keeping my steps light and silent as I walked over. I pulled myself onto the bed next to Taichi and looked at the baby.
"He looks just like you did," Yua said with a warm smile.
I looked at the baby in awe. He was so tiny, and his skin was really pink. His eyes were closed, and his mouth was slightly open and to my joy a tuft of green hair, the same shade as mine, poked out of the blue cloth wrapping around him. I touched his face gently and marvelled. This was amazing! It was so miraculous, and warm, and made me want to be better and I didn't even know why. All I knew was that I loved him already, and I'd never felt this kind of love before.
"Say hi to your baby brother. Suzuki Tsukiya."
Taichi and I went home with massive grins on our faces. Taichi, having had more free time than me, had already begun knitting little clothes for his new sibling. It was all in various shades of green of course. I had only had time to purchase a toy, and I made sure it was a soft blue bunny. It was more out of nostalgia that I did that since it was one of the few memories I had as a child. Dad had already added in a cot in the old spare room we didn't use.
"I can't believe it! I'm going to be an aneki! Ahh Tai-nii, what do you think Tsu-chan will call me? Aneki, one-chan, or maybe he'll love me so much he'll just call me ane-chan!"
"Tsu-chan can't even talk. How would he call you anything?" Taichi laughed, before he puffed out his cheeks. "Plus, he'll call me nii-chan first."
"Is that a challenge?" I ask grinning.
Taichi smiles, and for the first time he looks about ready to throw in for a challenge. I cackle a little evilly and his smile widens but never reaches his eyes.
"You're on!" I exclaimed before pouncing on him.
"Hey, this is not a wrestling challenge!" he shouted in sudden worry.
I put my big brother in a choke hold, laughing evilly, when I felt a large hand grab me by my collar and hold me up. I turned to see dad behind me, sighing. He turned his amused expression to us before realising that he should probably be scolding us.
"Hina, you shouldn't use your training on your brother like that," he chided mildly before putting me down.
There's a knock on the door and dad gives us one last look, to make sure we aren't going to fight. Taichi and I grin innocently back, and his serious expression folds and he lets out an amused snort. I had expected maybe a family member, or a friend who wanted to congratulate us on our new addition to come over, but the familiar green flak jacket made me stand a little straighter. It was a Genin corps member. They usually ran mission summons. I knew this of course, but I'd never received one personally before. Everything usually went straight to Sensei.
"A mission summons for Genin Suzuki Hina. You are to report to the mission's desk. Estimated mission length will be 2 weeks."
The Genin looked around in confusion, probably wondering where said ninja was. I sighed and walked to the door. Dad took a step back, giving me a curious look.
"It's me," I replied a little dryly.
The 16 something year old Genin Corps member blinked in shock before frowning in confusion.
"I can't exactly give this scroll to anyone or I'll get in trouble. Uh, can you get Suzuki-san here for me," he says looking at my dad.
The amused smile that tugs at dad's lips makes me want to throw a chair at him. I blush in indignation before snatching the scroll from his hands.
"This is Suzuki Hina," dad says a little too playfully.
The boy looked a little flustered as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, sorry about that…"
"It's ok," I mumbled before he hastily took his leave.
"A week huh. That's not too long," dad said catching my attention.
"It isn't," I frowned. "But I was kind of hoping to be here when Tsu-chan gets settled."
"I'm sure you'll have a lot of time with him later. It doesn't look like you're going to go to an outpost this time," dad said with a smile.
I nod. Yeah outpost missions lasted 2 months minimum. Was I finally getting my first proper, non-war related mission? I didn't know how I felt about that. I wasn't particularly excited either.
I ﬁnished packing rather quickly. I always kept my Shinobi gear folded and ready to put away and my ration bars were stored into a sealed scroll, which meant it didn't go bad and I could just chuck it into my bag whenever. Really, I had already had a pack set up ready to go and all I needed to do was add in an appropriate amount of clothes and weapons for the trip.
"Take care. I hope this mission is uneventful," dad said patting my head and giving me a hug.
"I'm sure it's probably just a quick delivery mission," I said consolingly.
"Still be careful and safe ok."
"Take care of Tsu-chan ok!"
I said bye to my family before grabbing my pack and making my way to the missions desk. I remembered how annoyed the Chunin was that I came in through the window the last time, so I decided to play it safe and actually walk in through the door. The Chunin administrator looked to be in near tears. I fumbled in confusion.
"A-are you ok?" I asked, unsure of what to do.
He sniﬄed and wiped away his tears, his expression turning grim as he straightened his back.
"I just— I can't believe someone ﬁnally came through the door," he said sniﬄing.
I handed the man my handkerchief and watched in complete baﬄement as he blew into it before handing it back. I just grimaced and put the snot covered cloth back on his table. Why was he so emotional for? What a weirdo.
"My mission," I said, hoping to pull him back to his job.
"Ah yes. Position and ninja registration number."
"Genin, Suzuki Hina and here's my ID."
I pulled out my licence for the ﬁrst time. I wondered if I would ever use it and the time ﬁnally came it seemed. I wasn't practically proud of it... they happened to snap the picture when I looked like I was about to sneeze, and I looked absolutely ridiculous in it. I heard that's the picture they used in Bingo books. A shiver ran through my spine as I imagined that picture being printed in a book people actually read. I vowed then to never have my face in a bingo book.
"It says here that you're to report to the Hokage's desk. Do you know the way from here?"
I took my licence back and nodded in shock. I had only ever reported to the Hokage once and Gaku-sensei had been the one to take me there. I walked in thought until I reached the Hokage's oﬃce at the top of the building. The man was short, but he held himself in a rather digniﬁed way. I turned my attention from him to Orochimaru and it dawned on me why I wasn't picked up by Gaku-sensei. My ﬁrst proper mission was with... Orochimaru. A sense of irritation and worry suddenly plagued me.
"Hokage-sama," I greeted as cordially as I could, although the apprehension didn't leave my tone entirely.
"Hina-chan. Orochimaru was telling me how he managed to ﬁnd a Genin. Now if only he could ﬁnd a team without a Sensei," he sighed.
"One child is enough," Orochimaru grimaced.
Not a kid person huh. That made me oddly less worried. The Hokage sighed before handing Orochimaru the mission scroll.
"It's a simple C rank. There's a group of bandits near a village by the South border. They're all from farming backgrounds."
Orochimaru took the scroll and his lips thinned in irritation. The Hokage just smiled back, like his student's irritation was amusing. Hina could sympathise with the Hokage in this moment, even if her opinion of him had soured. Surely if she were a military dictator, she would also abuse her position to annoy her subordinates. It seemed only right to do so. Why else would anyone want all that back breaking responsibility?
"If you want a student, you'll have to be ready to teach her. Thankfully Hina-chan here has another sensei in case this doesn't work out but do bring her back alive."
The warning was thick. I wondered if they ever had such a passive aggressive relationship in the story before. I couldn't seem to recall it. It didn't really matter. I didn't hold the story canon to that high of a value. If the butterﬂy effect was a thing a lot of things would change the more I continued to exist here, if the story even completely applied in the first place.
Orochimaru looked like a thoroughly admonished child, which looked entirely out of place and made this all seem extremely wrong. He was meant to be strong, sly and give you that grin that said he was about to fuck you up if you even breathed wrong in his vicinity. Heck he would kill Sarutobi in the future if all went according to canon. So why was he currently unable to stand up to his sensei?
We made our way down to the South wall and didn't even bother to show our scroll to the Genin Corps members. Everyone instinctually backed away from the Sannin, his reputation alone being enough of a give away that he was allowed to pass through. I followed after the rather silent to-be S ranked criminal silently. We travelled in relative silence for two days before he finally spoke up beyond the small talk we occasionally made before.
"I'm going to go on an errand. Take care of the mission for me."
He handed me the scroll and then abruptly disappeared in an impossible to see body-flicker, leaving me alone and confused. I opened the mission scroll and panicked. What was I meant to do? I stumbled quickly through the scroll mission directions and then found that I was still confused. We were to take care of some bandit activity near the Serotaki region, but it didn't detail how exactly to find said bandits. I pulled out my map and motioned my finger across the surface until I found the region I needed to head to.
"What am I going to do?" I lamented.
I was top of my class in taijutsu, ninjutsu and academics, but that wasn't saying much considering I had graduated in a class full of 5-year old's who had only been learning their ABC's. I wasn't taught any of the shinobi protocols and had only been learning it second hand from Gaku-sensei because normally he took over that role. He hadn't taught me any generic mission protocol. I'd only ever done war related tasks and those were treated completely different from general client-based missions.
I knew for a fact that if we weren't desperate and smack in the middle of war times, I would not have been allowed to graduate, not for my lack of fighting skills, but my lack of operational knowledge. I hadn't gone through 5 years of schooling detailing how to get mission scrolls, how to write reports, what to do in situations that involved tracking bandits, or even basic intel gathering. I had been thrown directly into the middle of battle, and everything else was just about following the orders of people who knew how to organise and do the thinking. Not to say I was stupid, but I didn't have any experience with standard protocol, intel gathering, or even taking out bandits.
My knowledge on reading maps came from my one road trip nearly 16 years ago in my old life. I was undeniably lost after running in my presumed direction for about 2 hours. I had no idea where I was going and felt so inexplicably alone and scared. I hated being lost! I was directionally challenged for fucks sake! What was I meant to do? In my panic I barely noticed it was a hand on my shoulder before I pounced up in the air like a particularly frightened cat. I twisted in the air and brought my knife down to the man's throat before my eyes caught onto his civilian garb.
"Oh kami-sama! I'm sorry!"
I jumped off his shoulders and gave him an apologetic look. The man seemed to be in his 20's, with such a mediocre chakra pool that he had to be civilian. And judging by his rather basic clothes, a little too shallow skin and dry hair, he looked to be somewhat poor. He held up his hands nervously in a universal peace sign, smiling sheepishly as he noticed my forehead protector. He looked terrified, even if he was trying to hide it. I noticed the dirt in his fingers and the smell of soil and ash and wondered what his profession was.
"No, it's my fault for startling a Shinobi. I didn't um… expect your kind to be so… small."
My hackles raised mildly. I wasn't small, I was six. My age was a perfect excuse to be small. I snuffed out my immature irritation before coughing. I wasn't going to lie to myself. I was terribly relieved by the appearance of another human being, even if I didn't know him or trust him one bit. I pulled out my map and found my cheeks heating up in embarrassment.
"U-um, it's ok. Actually can I ask you for a favour?" I hated how small my own voice sounded.
"Y-yes! What is it you need?"
"I ah—I don't know hot to get to the Serotaki region. I need to… do some D rank chores there."
The man gave me a dubious look, before rubbing the stubble in his chin. Kami, that was a pathetic lie. It was obvious I was lost, so why couldn't I bring myself to admit it?
"You got separated right. You Shinobi are always travelling in groups. It's rare to see one alone… don't worry though. My village is close by, I can take you there. I was just collecting some firewood. Let me go grab it and I'll be with you."
I let the man walk aside and watched as he went to go grab the bundle of wood not too far away. I let out a relieved sigh when he was looking. Ok, I could just follow him, and then ask the villagers where they'd last spotted bandits. That seemed to be the most reliable course of action… although I had no idea if that was textbook standard, considering I hadn't read the textbook yet…
Fuck you Orochimaru!
I always imagined a real, non-war related mission, would be me breezing the easy stream escorting a caravan or running some scrolls with Gaku-sensei. I know because of sensei's specialisation being tracking and taijutsu (mainly taijutsu), that I wouldn't get any intel jobs. I had been syphoned into the role of a front-line general combatant but being Orochimaru's student now meant that would change. I really didn't want it to change. I wanted to be strong, and I didn't want to fail my missions, but the idea of being on the fast track as an ANBU or ROOT agent made me want to bury myself into a hole. There goes my plan of making Jounin and retiring to the Nara R&D division after the war… if I even survived this bloody war.
I lamented my terrible, terrible fate, when the man began to show me the way. I impatiently followed after him, itching to break into a run because we were going so goddamn slow that I wasn't so sure we'd make the village in an hour like we could. The man—Mitsuo, tried to make general conversation, but I just gave him stilted responses. I didn't want to be rude, but I was nervous. I had never done a mission alone before.
"How old are you?"
"Nearly seven," I replied.
His eyes widened and his mouth parted in shock. "They're really that desperate now huh? But you're lucky you know."
"Really?" I said, unable to keep the amusement from my voice.
Mitsuo nodded, displeased by my amused dismissal. "You Shinobi get good pay and most of all you aren't weak. If I had been born into a Shinobi village, I would have taken that position in a heartbeat."
"That's a fair conclusion," I nodded, taking back my earlier statement. "Being a Shinobi is hard, and you could easily be killed, but it's always better to be killed while being able to put up a fight than to die at the mercy of someone else with absolutely no chance."
"Gee thanks kid… making me feel much better about my position already," he grumbled, voice laced with frustration.
I winced. I just had to run my mouth of and make the man guiding me hate me. Now I had to suffer through the awkward silence he was putting me through.
"I'm sorry," I bit out an apology. "It's all I've ever known in this life, so sometimes I forget to take into consideration how civilians feel. I don't even know what the war's like for you… well not here in the Fire Country anyway."
His dark burgundy eyes gave me an appraising look before he sighed, rubbing the scar on his arm, and looking wholly like he hated himself for a second.
"It's been hard on us. While you Shinobi fight and the Daimyos sit on their thrones eating well, the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves. It's never safe out in any trade routes now. I used to bring cotton in from here to Ami, but the wars practically destroyed my business. Now I just do odd jobs anywhere to feed my kid."
"Ah, that… sucks."
"At least you live up to your name." It meant something that he was working hard to provide for his child. He was definitely an unsung hero. Mitsuo the unsung hero… had a nice ring to it.
My condolences meant nothing though. This man was clearly worked to the bone, dead tired and extremely thin. Words meant nothing in his situation. Only change would. I almost had enough pity to just give him my scroll full of rations. My thoughts went back to Emi. The Furukuwa family, who had been miners, had lost their whole way of life and income to a war that hardly even had anything to do to them. Their village had been raided by enemy shinobi, and some weren't lucky enough to host kinder Shinobi like Gaku and I. Once again, I felt justified in my pursuit to be a Shinobi. There was all the reason to strive for power in this world. It was decidedly not safe like my previous world was… or at least where I lived in my previous world. As a shinobi you were still in danger, but you also had the power to be something more.
We walked silently until I sensed the chakra of several people in the distance. Something smelt off. Why did I smell blood? Not animal blood, but human too. I discreetly sniffed the air again. I turned to the man, but he didn't seem off, just a little nervous, but he'd been like that since we met. I did hold a knife to his throat, so I didn't fault him for that.
"Is the village close by?" I asked.
"Yes, it should be down the clearing."
"Is it often attacked by bandits?" I asked.
He froze, and his hands began shaking. So that was a yes then? It must have been hard for him. The idea that just anyone could come raiding whenever, take everything you own, rape and pillage as they pleased—well I could understand why he was trembling.
"It's ok Mitsuo-san," I said exuding as much calm as I could. "I may not look it, but I'm a strong Shinobi, Genin or not. I'll protect you."
And I meant it. I didn't back away from him, playing it cool as we closed in on the village. The smell of blood became stronger and now I was mildly confused. Unless everyone in the village had been killed, it made no sense for so little chakra signatures to be around. I suddenly felt the two weak chakra signatures run up behind me, and I could smell the blood on their metal. I didn't even need to pull out my kunai to easily block their blades with just my palm alone. The two attackers were pushed away easily.
"Get behind me Mit—"
Before I could say more, I felt the man grab at me. I was shocked by the sudden contact and lost my composure for a second as he jabbed something into my neck. I stumbled away in disbelief, before jumping onto a tree out of their reach. I looked down at my guide and scowled.
"What do you think you're doing?" I hissed.
"It's nothing personal. I need to kill you before you alert more shinobi about us," Mitsuo replied with a frown.
I cursed as I rubbed off whatever liquid was dripping from the shallow wound on my neck. It had numbed the skin around the area, and I wasn't so sure what it was. I scowled in frustration, unsure of what to do.
"You lot are the bandits around this area," I concluded.
Their silence was answer enough, and in the time, I was talking, more rushed into the clearing. I let out a sharp sound as I stumbled off the tree, my chakra going haywire. What had he done to me? Mitsuo grabbed a sword from another bandit and pointed it in my direction.
"I'm sorry Hina, but it seems you need to die here today. You won't be able to move in a few seconds."
"A neurotoxin," I mumbled, eyes widening.
"We may be weak, but we refuse to be fodder to you shinobi," he said spitting the word as if it was poison. His eyes set hard as steel, and face twisted in desperation.
I could feel my legs going numb. I looked around at the 20 or so bandits and cursed. How had I been so stupid as to trust this man just because he looked weak? I was going to die because I wasn't careful… I was going to die by bandits. Normal civilian people who happened to wield swords… that was who was going to take me out.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
It was a fast moving toxin. I could feel the coldness seep quickly into me. I probably only had about a minute left. The only thought that went through my head at that moment was that I didn't want to die. Not like this. Not like how I had died before in a meaningless way. I had never been so terrified before, not even when I was fighting to protect Emi and I was so sure of my death. The fear made me stumble forward despite the numbness, despite the chakra not moving to my will.
I don't want to die like this!
Hina's way to trusting of civilians. These bandits may be civilian level but they sure aren't going to bend over backwards and die easily. Hope this also gives a little perspective on how war negatively affects civilians. And Orochimaru sucks ass at being a sensei XD
Also Hina's little brother is finally born! It's been 9 months since the reveal (ToT) Anyway I'm a little nervous for the next three chapters cause it's going to be a mixed bag of responses. Either you'll love it or you'll hate it.
Lena- Ah sorry can't answer that. It would be spoilers!
firemaster101- Yeah their relationship does grow and evolve into something (relatively) good? Can't say for sure because Orochimaru is pretty selfish when it does come down to it, although he's not incapable of caring.
Phelipebr- There definitely will be more!
Dacube24- Glad you're enjoying it and getting inspired for your own story! Yes Orochimaru does have his very human (not villainous) moments in this story, but he's still very much an amoral man. Hina's attachment is not to Konoha but to some of the people inside of it, so yes hypothetically if they did go out of the equation, she would most definitely not stay. Even if she doesn't leave I guarantee a lot of her future missions will have her travel far and wide!
Warga- You're literally me with that evil laugh XD
Zekral- I'm glad you want more! Honestly I feel this with fanfictions I like too. I just want the next chapter!
RileyBlue00- Roleplaying Orochimaru sounds hard! Writing him is hard enough XD Can't imagine doing it on the fly. Also I'm glad you like him cause he'll be around for the future!
Menuoe- If Orochimaru mastered the total concentration breathing he would become way too op so I feel you there. It's a terrifying thought!
Sarki- There definitely will be after 4 or so chapters. Orochimaru and Danzo get pushed to the side for a bit.
M2R- Depends on the situation really. Orochimaru would be a shitty option if she was on the operating end of this situation, but you're right! In her position Orochimaru is definitely the better option, but probably not less amoral than her position with Danzo.
kurokitsune31- Is it? I'll let you see. It's not exactly a plot twist moment when it happens. Pretty predictable which is a fault in my writing ToT
SODAPOP1974- In some ways she does become a mini-orochimaru, at least on a surface level with techniques, and visual aesthetics (the whole long sleeved kimono thing), but she doesn't take on his personality or anything!
Hi Exclamation Point- You're on point with that deduction! Orochimaru only respects Hina because of their uncanny similarities. I love writing it. Thanks for always reviewing!
Nobels- Glad you're enjoying this! Also you're spot on with your criticisms. I think I could have done more scenes not written so far, and always maybe push his perspective more! Thanks for reviewing!
KadeBear- Yes Hina does show symptoms of mild sociopathy. She's always been a bit of a sociopath, but I hope I'm not writing that negatively. I find that irl sociopaths aren't cold blooded killers or anything. They're just apathetic on varying degrees and find it hard to understand both their, and other peoples emotions/ what is morally right in any situation. I wrote this in purposefully so Hina could experience and try to understand other peoples situations (morally/emotionally) in a way that kind of makes her more malleable to those ideas… if that makes any sense! Also There will be a timeskip somewhere about chapter 39.
MonsteraGecko- Oh no I spoiled you ToT I swear to god I will die of joy if you make an amigurami of Hina. Please dm me the picture of it on Insta if you do and I'll give you a shoutout!
RyusakiUchiha- It's a long road but I hope to eventually get her to a respectable S rank!
Nashane- There will be some shipping material next chapter for Guy XD Honestly I personally find it hard to ship her with anybody, but that's because I'm not a romance writer. Thankfully she's a kid so I don't have to worry about it XD Glad you like Orochimaru. He's not going to be as sweet as Gaku-sensei, but he does care in his own cruel way.
Notvisiulebliss- How so? So I can better understand my writing issues. Also yeah Shisui is hard to write because of how so little there is on him, but he did eagerly go to his death, so I wanted to allude to his suicide there.
Oblivious IJ- Yeah both Danzo and Orochimaru have Sharingan fetishes XD
- The fact that you so very nicely explained Orochimaru's psyche is amazing! You were spot on! Yes, both Hina and Orochimaru have different levels of sociopathy in my eyes. Hina has a minor case of it, whereas I think Orochimaru displays more symptoms. He does go through some changes. I'm glad you find Hina's characterisation refreshing, because I really hate it too when people constantly keep feeling guilty about murdering others, unless the story is about pacifism. But then I'd expect the character to never kill again and for that to be challenged on the daily. But so often authors just write in the guilt and make the characters continue killing, which does annoy me.
Spica75- I agree with you about Grim-dark not equating to development, but if you take a moment to evaluate Hina's ideals and thought process you'll see it ties into identity. She believes in the biological imperative, which is why she is adamant in keeping her family care for and alive. Danzo is threatening what she puts her very value in.
I don't agree with you on brutality not being a part of training. I literally just stole this method of irl methods of indoctrinating child soldiers. It's sick, but children are taught in a series of pleasure/pain scenarios, and often times incredible brutality is used to get them broken and in line. They use similar tactics on marines and other special ops military groups where they put an intense strain on the trainees bodies until they're near fainting exhaustion and pain. Also Hina only figured out Danzo was on her tail during a long-term mission, and she wasn't back for very long before he acted and sealed her tongue. And this will be explained later on but ROOT is not illegal in my story. Danzo is running his operations with Hiruzen's explicit knowledge.