Snap Back To Reality 51
To think I would one day find myself in Konoha's torture and interrogation ward. It did cross my mind several times to maybe join this sect with Anko in the future, live the rest of my life torturing people for better reasons than Orochimaru's scientific research. Then I'd quickly throw away the idea, fantasising instead of a nice desk job working in Konoha's R&D side, a 6am-5-pm job with weekends off and time to have some friendly spars on the side. Sitting here in the darkness, my hands chained firmly behind my back and caked blood drying uncomfortably on my body, I wondered if those dreams had meant anything.
I had killed Danzo, my greatest dream of all.
I had made him suffer and cry in his last moments, but all of that held no meaning now. It felt empty. The anger had gone and now all that was left was a familiar depressing grief. I didn't even have the energy to look up when Yamanaka Inoichi walked into the room and placed a file down in front of me. It wasn't until I noted the energy signatures of both the Hokage and another strong, unfamiliar face, that I finally looked up. I was surprised to see Uchiha Fugaku stand by the Hokage in this barren dark room.
"Suzuki Hina, you have committed a crime against Konoha for the unsanctioned murder of Elder Shimura Danzo and the murder of 350 Shinobi in ROOT proper," Sarutobi said gravely as he put his hat down and sat opposite me.
I didn't respond. What was there to say? I neither wanted to deny that claim nor cry about forgiveness. I didn't regret what I did, just everything else in my life I had committed to get to this stage. No one was left who would purposefully harm my siblings. Now I could finally die in peace.
Hiruzen sighed and the deep lines of stress on his tired face caught my attention. I felt no sympathy for him. He had allowed all this to happen because of his wilful ignorance of his own subject. Some Hokage he was.
"Hina-san, I do not wish to torture you, nor do I wish to bring anymore distress to a child."
I snarled at that. "Don't pretend like you care about that."
"Hold your tongue in front of the Hokage," Fugaku growled.
Hiruzen turned around and shook his head, a silent tell for Fugaku to stand down. I glowered. What was it with this man and pretending to be some kind of kind fatherly presence? At least Danzo hadn't lied about his intentions. This farce of his was a disgrace.
And what was Fugaku doing here? I could understand Inoichi, but Fugaku was an Uchiha and it was common knowledge that the Uchiha were being discriminated against by the Council.
"I am not going to pretend Danzo was a good man, and that you had no reason to kill him as you did, but I hope you understand the position this puts both you and Konoha in," Hiruzen said.
"You mean how I activated the seals on every single ROOT agent and brought it to the ground and murdered Danzo in cold blood?" I asked in mild satisfaction.
Hiruzen nodded. Well whoopdie-fucking-dah, I still didn't give a shit. I didn't regret it one bit. I would do what I did again without hesitation if I was allowed to, and I would do it gladly. In fact it felt almost like torture that Danzo was dead now. This hate, this anger it still remained, overshadowed by a familiar tired grief that I was finally succumbing to now that he was gone and there was no extraneous motivation to keep me going. It made me wonder if death was so bad of an ending now…
"I'm going to be sentenced to death. Don't sugar coat it, just give it to me straight and get it over with," I huffed.
"We're not so eager to sentence you to death," Hiruzen said catching my attention.
I looked up curiously now. Fugaku for the first time since his defence of the Hokage spoke up.
"Danzo was found with Uchiha eyes embedded into his right arm, an arm we can confirm belongs to one of our Clansmen," Fugaku said, his voice calm but his eyes furious.
I narrowed me eyes. I was not in the mood to implicate Orochimaru. As much of a shitty human being he was, a part of me did not want him to die. He had helped me against Danzo. Our fight would have gone much differently if he hadn't tiered out the old bastard to let me have the easy pickings. Now that I thought about it, I could understand why he let me have Danzo. It wasn't for any altruistic reason, but simply a way to keep his involvement in Danzo's death minimal. It was why he didn't summon Manda that night to fight Danzo's elephant summon. It would implicate him instantly.
I would take the brunt of the fall for this while he could maintain that he wasn't involved. I'm sure he had already come up with a way to dodge any accusations being pointed his way should I come out with the truth. In the end Orochimaru looked out for himself first and foremost, even if he did leave scraps of comfort for his followers should it benefit him. I couldn't even bring myself to be angry. There was no reason to feel betrayal when there was no trust in the first place. We used each other and that was the crux of our messed up relationship… even if that bastard got me to care for him somehow.
"I want to ask for your permission to enter your mindscape Hina-san," Inoichi finally asked.
"Pfft as if my consent ever mattered in this god-forsaken village," I grunted. "If my opinion doesn't change a thing then don't bother asking."
I knew I was being snappish, but honestly a part of me right now was too tired, too confused to think up of a good way to get out of this situation. I was still sitting here caked in Danzo's blood, reeling from the high that had been his death. After such a high, I was reminded again what the low was. So even when Inoichi took the Hokage's place, and he leaned forward, to complete the Mind Body Disturbance technique, I couldn't find the energy within me to struggle or resist.
I found myself in a familiar nothingness except this time I had a form. When I turned around Inoichi looked like he was nauseous. He held his head and grunted in pain and confusion as he looked around. I didn't blame him. This place fucking sucked. Had I died and bought him with me again or something?
"What is this?" Inoichi asked holding his head in pain.
"Honestly, I don't think you could comprehend it if you tried," I snorted derisively. "I'm just surprised you haven't gone insane yet."
"Why aren't you affected?" he asked, struggling to move in this space.
"I guess I was given the knowledge to understand it by someone or something. I'm not sure. It happened when I had temporarily died. I guess you could say my mindscape is exactly like the after-life in a way," I explained before I went to hold his hand.
Despite not wanting to be interrogated, I also didn't want to end up killing someone for no reason at all. It was already surprising enough he wasn't driven insane by just being here. His mental fortitude must have been really strong. So I willed myself deeper into my mind, somewhere where the laws of time and space weren't in constant flux.
I found myself sitting on the outside porch of my house back in Australia, overlooking the lake that I had grown up living besides. I had missed this sight so much and looking at it now I remembered how much a part of me still grieved for my old life. It would have been perfect if the screaming and crying in the distant bushland hadn't ruined it. It wasn't until Inoichi groaned besides me, still recovering from my mindscape that I took notice of him.
"Are you feeling better here?" I asked.
"Much better," he grunted. "I'm almost afraid to ask what that was back there."
"Probably best if you don't try and comprehend something beyond a mortal," I chuckled humourlessly.
"And what exactly are you?" he asked looking at me with wary interest.
"I'm… hmmm maybe not a mortal anymore," I said unsure, trying to ignore the screams in the distance.
"And what are those sounds?" he asked.
"All the people I've killed over the years," I replied, feeling the weight of their souls once more.
"All your psychological evaluations expressed how healthily you've dealt with your situation. I'm surprised you've been able to hide it this well," he said frowning.
I must be a sight huh. An eleven-year-old with enough trauma to rival that of ten grown men. I never let it show. How could I? What was I meant to do? Brood all day, every day like an angst ridden Uchiha and make my family and friends worry?
"I've grown numb to their cries over the years," I admitted. "There's only so much guilt I could take before I gave up on it all."
"You've given up on yourself?" Inoichi pressed.
I sighed, finding no reason to hide this from him. "I was warned against it. Someone once told me that there were more important things than even your loved ones, that I shouldn't lose my soul on the way of my cause. But I have lost it. Now that he's dead and the hatred doesn't drive me any further, I wonder if it was worth taking all those lives. If the lives of my brothers were worth my soul."
It wasn't the screams of the people I had killed in battle that were shouting in the distance. I realised those cries. It was the blood curdling screams of dozens of people I'd killed alongside Orochimaru in his experiments. The others were the moans and pleas of the children I had killed in ROOT. Killing was inevitable. Killing in war had been for survival, and that was fine. What I had done under the orders of Orochimaru and Danzo however… the lives of those innocent children I killed in the darkness, of the men and woman ripped from their human rights on a metal table, for the innocent merchant I wronged as equally as I tainted Anko simply to get away with murder. I had committed the same crimes to others that Danzo had committed to me... and a selfish part of me wondered if my actions were worth the price of my brothers lives.
To think Satomi-san's advice would one day ring true to me. Hadn't my mothers warned me in my nightmares too? I never listened. Now all I could do was sit here feeling empty, knowing it was what I deserved.
"You clawed onto survival and did horrible things to ensure your family was safe. Hina-san, some might call that true sacrifice. What you're feeling now is a lack of self-respect and love for yourself because of the actions you committed that were inherently against your moral code."
I blinked up at the Yamanaka in confusion and chuckled. He raised a brow and I waved it away with an amused smile.
"I thought you were here to interrogate me, not give me a free therapy session," I said in tired amusement.
"I can feel out an individual quite quickly. There is no such thing as a good human. We are but the actions we choose to commit, some more good than bad, some more bad than good. It isn't so easy to determine how to live. What is good to one may be bad to another, and so I know what kind of person you are Hina. You are selfish in love, and so selfless with your own well-being. The typical self-destructive sort. I get quite a lot of your type on the daily basis. Don't think you're special or anything," he said with a light jesting smile that I found myself relieved to receive.
"You get a bunch of idiots who have killed their own parents and hate themselves?" I asked with a small smile as I tried to recover some levity to these tiresome dark conversations.
"Not exactly that scenario, but close enough."
"Huh, this world really fucking sucks."
"It does, so help me understand what happened leading up to Shimura Danzo's murder tonight. Believe it or not, the Hokage does not want to execute you. You will have to stand in trial, but you will have our support, but to do that we need evidence to support you."
Inoichi held out his hands and I hesitated. He was surprisingly good at moving speeches. Even though a cynical part of me reminded me this was a technique to simply get him a free and safe entry into my perilous mind, that he was just trying to have me warm up to him, I couldn't help but like him. Plus I really had nothing much to lose considering I was on my way to the chopping block soon.
All I would logically have to somehow do was keep him away from any reincarnation memory that eluded to future knowledge, or anything to do with Orochimaru's experiments so I wouldn't get implicated on the way. A part of me couldn't be bothered to cover it up either, feeling too tired to keep hiding it all. I let out a deep breath and took his hand. He helped me up and took me to the backdoor of my old house.
"What's behind that door?" I asked.
"For you, I'm not so sure. Your mindscape is unusual, but normally it's how I access memories," he said.
I held his hand a little tighter and nodded. Then after feeling childishly reassured that he was beside me, I opened the door, closed my eyes, and entered.
When I opened my eyes again, I was met with a long wooden hallway, stretching as far as the eye could see and lit rather well. Inoichi looked rather unfazed to so I began moving forward curiously. There were pictures on the wall, pictures of my past life, all moving. It started when I was a baby, and I presumed the more we went in the older I would get in those pictures. The doors had large locks on them, surprisingly.
"Do you know who this child is in these pictures?" he asked.
"It's me," I said, rubbing my neck nervously.
To think the first person I would ever tell of my reincarnation in this world would be Inoichi of all people. I had just met the guy and so it felt wrong to spill such closely guarded secrets. Apparently, he was waiting for an explanation while I had been awkwardly silent.
"I have memories of a past life, from another world—no—universe entirely."
Inoichi blinked in shock then let out a kind of worried sigh as he pushed his blonde hair out of his face. The poor man was probably having a little panic attack. I doubted very many people could confirm exactly what might happen when you die. Considering he had been in a place that existed outside of times normal rules not a moment before and was still standing here able to take things relatively calmly was rather impressive.
"Reincarnation of all things," he said in disbelief as he pulled at his chin. "You're correct if this was a split personality you two would have appeared together. And what do you mean by another universe?"
"Well the Elemental Nations didn't exist where I came from before. No chakra or jutsu or shinobi either. It was a different world, with different constellations, and a different history," I explained.
I kept the fact that this world was in a story out of the conversation. I wasn't in the mood to open up the can of worms that would come from that single admission alone. The fact that I was a reincarnation should occupy Inoichi's mind long enough though. Eventually we did get going after being unable to open the doors of my previous life's memories. It was only until we got to the ROOT based memories that we stopped at the doors.
"This is where it began?" Inoichi asked.
I nodded. "I was recruited when I was near the age of 7. The induction was a slow process. I would go every few nights at random for months on end while I also trained with Inuzuka Gaku. He of course became suspicious of my injuries. During this time I had come up with a breathing technique that increases the users blood flow and by extent oxygen and chakra production. Because of its similarity to opening a Gate, I was taken in by Orochimaru as a student."
"Shall we start from when you activated the breathing technique?" Inoichi asked.
I nodded. Then I opened the door into my memories.
The memory blurred by too quickly for me to dwell on it. I gripped hard onto Inoichi's hand, feeling all too small before realising that I in fact was. I was physically seven again, and sitting inside the room where I was first questioned.
"How are you holding up?" he asked.
"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?"
"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."
"To dress it up as a psyche evaluation," Inoichi grunted shaking his head in disgust.
I felt uncomfortable viewing these moments alone with him. To think my life would be viewed by someone else was invasive in a way I had never been intruded on before and countless men and women had attacked me whilst I was naked in a shower, so that said something. I shook my head and stayed silent, feeling too childish in my need to keep holding Inoichi's hands despite him being this source of discomfort.
"Did anything else happen after you left?" he asked.
I paused and frowned. To Inoichi I shouldn't have any reason to know about ROOT at this stage. He didn't know about my foreknowledge of this world and its people.
"I suspected something was up," I said, keeping my lies hidden in truth. "Before I could alert anyone a ROOT agent was sent to trail me. I could sense him because of my mild sensory abilities at the time."
"And you knew to keep your head down at that age?" Inoichi asked.
"While I was often overtaken by childish emotions—" I said consciously pulling my hands away from his, "—I also retained my adult reasoning. The emotions of my childish body though are... hard to control. I thought I could wait a few days, shake of suspicion and then tell Shikaku or Gaku-sensei at the time for help—but ROOT didn't give me the time to do so."
And just like that the scene changed and I was in ROOT's familiar underground system. This time standing in a line as Hakanai beat down defenceless children again and again until their bones were broken and they could stand no more. I couldn't help but inch closer to Kusari who stood in the line, blue eyes wide and blurry with fearful tears. I touched his cheeks unable to truly feel them under my fingers and the tears that sprung from my eyes made me feel numb once more.
"Hina get a hold of yourself. Your emotions are affecting your mindscape," Inoichi warned from behind me.
I noted how blurry everyone else had become in my memory. I nodded silently and stepped away from the boy I had failed. A warm hand fell on my shoulder in a familiar reassuring way that reminded me of Gaku and father.
"That boy was the one assigned to your recent mission, wasn't he?"
"Kusari—h-he was my partner. ROOT assigns each of its members to a partner, so we can get close before we're forced to kill each other. It's a way to solidate our devotion to ROOT and kill our emotions."
I noted how Inoichi's hands stiffened at that. Had he not known? I shook my head. These memories were pointless.
"Now you have seen a fraction of what I had to go through under Danzo's thumb. I don't want to drudge up any more painful memories," I said gritting my teeth.
"I know it must be hard, but we need the full picture," Inoichi apologised.
"What for?" I snapped. "The Hokage already knew of these things. He simply did nothing about them. What more could he possibly want to know about— oh… This was a mistake! I should not have let you in here. You don't want to help me. You want to implicate Orochimaru!"
I snapped the both of us out of my memories and back into the corridor. Inoichi sighed and pulled his frazzled hair out of his face. I scowled at him, wondering why the hell I had been so trusting of the man. Had he done something to me with some mind-fucking jutsu to get me to listen to him? Either way I had no intention of letting him in further.
"I really didn't want to force any of this on you Hina-san, but you must understand the position you are in."
"—In an interrogation room being questioned about killing a fucker I have no regrets on killing. Don't bother with a trial then. Just end my life and save yourself the trouble," I hissed.
"Believe it or not, I don't want you to die. We just want to know what Orochimaru is planning so he can't do to others what he's done to you. We have had a pin on Danzo's movements for a long time, but Orochimaru has been hiding his tracks too well, and I know you're hiding something about him," Inoichi said straightforwardly probably trying to come of as trustworthy. I'd been betrayed enough times to know that I shouldn't give into my emotions.
I couldn't help but snort in a humourless chuckle. Yeah, right. As if I was just going to bow to the Hokage's whims now that he suddenly wanted to actually do his job. I doubted Orochimaru didn't have a contingency plan in case Konoha did decide to turn on him. I didn't doubt they'd do the same to me as I'd been a part of his experiments, but while it wasn't an ideal scenario, I was sure there were alternative plans in play.
Plus it seemed Inoichi didn't understand the workings of my unique mind enough to force himself into my memories. He needed my explicit permission, and he wouldn't get it. I also didn't think the Hokage would torture me too hard. For all his neglect on the blatant child abuse that had been going on, he was too soft to do it himself.
"Orochimaru-sama has done some things that Konoha would not approve of, that is no lie, but it is nothing worse than what Danzo did himself," I finally retorted.
"Why are you defending him?" Inoichi asked.
"Because he is my… sensei," I said with prolonged distaste at the last word. "And he's a man I'm greatly indebted to. I won't bother to pretend he's a good man, or someone who did me no wrong, but he is useful to me."
I didn't want to admit that I had grown to care for him. That a part of me did begin to see him as an ally despite how much it hurt to know that he was in fact someone who did detestable things. Human experimentation and torture, the two things I had become familiarly introduced to under his hand, and yet—he took me away from ROOT's torture, gave me the tools to become stronger, and he helped me defeat Danzo.
"I'm truly sorry Hina-san."
Before I could do anything else, Inoichi jabbed grabbed my head, his thumb digging into the middle of my forehead and his other hand pressing his thumb into my chest. I felt my world tilt suddenly as memories flashed through my eyes at an insane speed. I struggled to process the world as it went by, all those memories and the emotions that came with them welled up inside of me all at once. The euphoria when I killed Hakanai, the disgust when I experimented on a man on the metal table for the first time, the absolute agony that was the night I murdered my parents, the tiredness of the torture after, and then the fresh wound of my failure in Kiri hit me and I screamed. Inoichi's chakra was flung out of my system sharply as the pain overtook me.
I let out the energy that had been building inside of me in a cry of intense pain, and then I stumbled forward and onto the ground, feeling my mind creak and break until I was flung somewhere deeper inside. The deafening sound of a door shutting instantly cut off all those emotions, leaving my mind blank suddenly, and the corridor ahead of me dark and colourless. I looked around in confusion, feeling oddly muted when I should be panicked, and when I turned to see if Inoichi was there, I was relieved to see he wasn't. I turned back into the corridor and walked down, feeling the span of time and space enter a kind of stabilised fluidity, like it had a pathway this time instead of an infinitely indiscernible number of branches.
When I moved forward, I saw thousands of boxes as far as the eye could see and I walked to the closest one. My old body stood motionless inside. It was unmistakably my old face and body. I turned around to the glass box to the other end of the corridor and was met with the body of a man I couldn't recognise. He wore old Spanish style clothing with some kind of odd chest brace. This box however was bound in chains. Then as I walked down, met with countless bodies bound in chains I began to realise what was going on.
"My past lives," I whispered.
My heart hammered faster in growing fearful panic, but my expressions remained as passive as a stone wall. There were too many boxes, too many lives, and as I ran down trying desperately to see and end, I felt my mind spin in fear.
NO, NO, NO
This couldn't be my fate. It couldn't… I couldn't keep doing this. Once was enough to nearly break me. If I could remember this life in my next, and if that pattern repeated again and again, I would truly shatter to my core.
'You shouldn't be here. You seem to be good at being in places you're not meant to be.'
"P-please make me forget! I beg of you! Don't let me remember. End this cycle after this life," I begged in desperation at the disembodied voice.
'I have tried and failed. There is another like you. They have remembered for a millennium and have not yet come with a solution.'
I stopped running after hearing that. A thousand years… this could go on for an eternity and there would be no end? Even through the thicket of a fog that had come over my emotions in this dark grey room, I was beginning to feel the onset of a profound panic, and the ringing of death in my ears. The sound got louder and louder until I snapped.
I felt like I couldn't breathe as I shot up from the chair and bounded back as the chains strained to hold my panic. The hands on my shoulder pushing me down and the stern voices telling me to breathe barely registered at first, until the beating of my heart slowed down and the ringing in my ears died. I was left panting and utterly drained. A horror had set into my heart. I couldn't die again. I couldn't go through that ever again. To be ripped from one world to the next for all of eternity.
I didn't want to die.
Never before had I been so afraid of death, that the thought itself paralysed me. I had always accepted my own mortality. The idea that I lived a fulfilling life mattered more than the end, but now it felt like even that ideal was twisted into something rotten. I had lived for my family. I had atoned by my parent's deaths by killing Danzo. My debt was paid. So why was I being tortured like this?
I snapped my attention up to see Inoichi's fingers in front of my face, snapping away. I realised my breathing had gotten laboured and I had nearly fallen into a panic attack. I cleared my mind and went through my breathing exercises.
"Why—w-why would you do that to me?" I asked Inoichi breathlessly.
"I did not anticipate such a violent reaction. It's not normally the case," Inoichi said with a grimace.
"Is she mentally well?" Hiruzen asked.
"I cannot say for sure. If what I saw in there was true, then Hina's mindscape is entirely unique compared to anyone else I have ever seen."
"Don't ever expect to get in there again," I hissed. "Or I'll lock you up in eternity until you go insane."
Inoichi seemed to visibly falter at that threat, but both Hiruzen and Fugaku bordered more on the displeased. I had probably spoken too out of line, but I was too angry to care. I snarled at Hiruzen in growing anger.
"If you want to put away your student, how about you confront him personally instead of resorting to these lowly tricks."
"I think you're forgetting that we're Shinobi, Hina-chan," Hiruzen replied with a forced smile.
I scowled at that. Why did he have to go and be logical? Now I looked like an idiot. I composed myself and sat back in the chair trying to regain the dignity that I had already inevitably lost.
"Hokage-sama, there are things we need to talk about in private," Inoichi said changing the subject.
I faltered at his request. What had he seen when he browsed through my memories? Had he seen it or was it simply something I felt? If he caught wind of my future knowledge, then things would take a bad turn. I didn't have the luxury of dying anymore. This life wasn't an atonement like I thought it was. It was a fucking mistake, a mistake that could happen again if I were to keep remembering all my lives.
"Well then, I must take my leave Hina-chan. You will not be allowed any visitors until after your trial, but I want you to know I am on your side. Name one person you want to talk to before the trial and I will grant it to you."
My lips thinned and I narrowed my eyes at the man. What would he gain besides some weak brownie points from me by doing this? Maybe he planned to listen into the conversation and seeing as how he showed clear aptitude in the more underhanded side of being a Shinobi, I wouldn't put it past him. There was only ever one person that I felt safe talking to… the only person outside of my team I trusted wholly to never betray me.
"I wish to talk to Inuzuka Gaku."
Hahaha (laughs nervously) this is probably going to be a really controversial spin on the traditional si/oc. I know some people don't like exploring how si/oc's get to another world, they just want the concept of them being there. Which is fair, but also not what I was going for with my story. It was the reason why I sprinkled a lot of little easter eggs about how Earth is connected to the Elemental Nations. If anyone can find the quote that practically explains it all, I'll—I don't know—I'll give you a call out or something XD
Also Hina is not really afraid of death as much as she is afraid of ending up remembering her past lives and constantly being ripped from one world to another. For someone like her, that's her own brand of a personal hell.