Shinobi Isekai!: Round Three! @morrowyn
To Be or Not To Be

Um, I've never done a chapter specific trigger warning, but there's a bit of suicidal ideation in this one. It's not in depth and there's no self harm, but it's there. Once again, my sister read through this to make sure I wasn't being a horribly insensitive idiot, but if you think I handled something badly, please let me know.

I don't know when y'all will be able to read this, since the site is bugging out, but this was chapter was originally published on Nov. 3rd, 2020.

You know, there are worse things than being my jinchuriki. You could be Matatabi's. Or! Or Shukaku's! That would be so much worse. Can you even imagine? No, no, no, you're so lucky you ended up with me! And I'm lucky I ended up with you! Well, not so lucky that Keiko-chan died like that, but definitely lucky I got someone who knows most of the story! I already shared as much as I could get from your memories with those of my siblings that haven't been cut off from the joint mindscape—such a handy term, by the way—so they can take steps to avoid that horrible future that evil Kishimoto person wrote for us. Really, I can't thank you enough for that vital information.

Choumei prattled on, his Batmanesque voice totally at odds with his bouncy tone. She didn't reply, choosing instead to stare straight up at the sky. There were no trees in the temple, leaving a nice big patch of blue available for her perusal. Fluffy white clouds drifted by on air currents too high up for her to feel, sweat beading on her skin in the humid heat and rolling down the side of her face to collect in her hairline.

Of course, it wasn't really her skin or her hair. No, the entire body she was now inhabiting actually belonged to six year old girl named Keiko. She was Choumei's original jinchuriki, but she'd died when the bijuu took advantage of the newly applied seal to try and get them away from the psychopaths who thought sealing a primordial chakra beast into a child was a good idea. Apparently,the strength with which he'd seized control was enough to yeet her soul into oblivion. He'd actually thought he killed the kid, but then she showed up, slipping on the body like a borrowed cardigan.

Except, she couldn't take it off or give it back. She'd survived the same process that killed Keiko. Her soul had better staying power, or something. Which…she wasn't sure how to feel about, honestly.

Was Keiko in her body, now? An apparently nonverbal six year old in her eighteen year old body was a hard thought to process. How would her family react? How would poor Keiko be treated? It was already hard enough for her and she'd known them her whole life. They would be strangers to Keiko and no one would have any idea what was going on. She could only hope that the somewhat conditional love she'd experienced would extend to the child that might have ended up in her body.

She looked down at Keiko's hands, the rich, dark skin beautiful but foreign. After years of wishing, she was in a female body. Now, she was wishing she could leave it. While her life hadn't been easy by any means, she was at least used to it. She had resources she could use to change her situation. Hadn't she been about to start her college life, far away from the 'friends' and family who insisted on misgendering her? There were communities all over the country ready and willing to help through the next phases of her life and transition. She'd even reached out to the university's LGBT center for a way to change her name in the system without her family finding out. She had plans. She was excited, if a little apprehensive.

Now, all those plans were moot.

And a little girl was dead. That was the important thing. She hadn't been granted a new body through the infinite grace of God. No. Someone had died. An innocent child who'd apparently lived a life full of more suffering that she had, if Choumei's ramblings were anything to go by. An illegitimate child born to the previous jinchuriki, a woman named Hotaru, she was confined in an underground prison until the time came for her to take her mother's place. The first time she saw the sky was also the last.

It was so sad. She knew it was sad. Tears welled up in her eyes every time she thought about it. Still, she couldn't decide if the tears were for Keiko or herself.

There was a part of her that, despite the circumstances, was actually a little happy. The surgeries for a full transition were more than she could ever afford in a million years, and her family would never help her. Now, she was in a body which needed no changes, free of charge, and her family would never be able to hurt or belittle her, intentionally or otherwise, again. It was, quite literally, a dream come true.

She squashed that little piece of her, shame bringing even more tears to her eyes. How could she think like that?

Look on the bright side, Choumei interjected, his cheerful tone not at all welcome. You're a real girl now.

"I was a real girl the whole time!"

His presence in her mind—another thing that bothered her now that she knew it wasn't a dream—became much smaller, rolling up like a roly-poly in response to her white hot anger. She sighed, running a hand over Keiko's face. It wasn't his fault, she knew. He had literally zero experience with anything regarding gender or sexuality. He was technically a sexless mass of sentient chakra, after all. She could hardly hold him to the same standards she would a human from her world.

That was another thing. She was in Naruto. The fictional universe, Naruto. It was hard to wrap her mind around it and she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to. The Naruto world she remembered was bloody and violent and filled with war, aliens, and death. She hadn't even finished the series because the power crawl was so poorly managed. A story about a kid succeeding despite all the odds being against him somehow became a story about reincarnations and gods, totally derailing any moral it might have had about pursuing your dreams. Plus, the running theme of not trusting the corrupt government which continuously pits people against each other was completely abandoned the instant the 'good guys' took power. Because the system was only bad when bad people were running it.

Blegh.

She was nowhere near educated enough to understand the repercussions of ending up in a world that should have been only fictional, but she didn't need to be to know it shouldn't have been possible. She didn't belong in this world. She didn't belong in this body. Maybe—

Don't you dare finish that thought.

Choumei was serious, exerting his power over her mind to render her literally incapable of doing so. That was one of the many issues she had with him, but she was wary of making the ancient being handcrafted from the fragmented soul of god angry.

I won't allow you to hurt this body, he continued. I promised her mother I would save her.

"But you didn't, did you?" She asked despite herself. "She's not here. She's gone. I don't belong here and I really don't think I want to stay. If this body dies, you'll be free from the seal, too!"

Enough.

She shut her mouth with a loud clack of her teeth. Ah, she really didn't like that. Having her autonomy stolen from her was such a freaky feeling.

I can understand your logic. The link between our minds makes it easy to follow your thought process, and my access to your memories helps me with the many, many, many concepts unique to your world. However,he stressed the word, for the first time sounding like an ancient being of unimaginable might instead of a child with a voice filter. You need to take a moment to really think about things. Yes, you'll probably never go home, but is it a place you even want to go back to? The people there were cruel and unkind, your very family standing against you and others like you. Your safety was never guaranteed, even in your own home. Here, you don't have that issue. Even if this body were not in alignment with your sense of self, there are jutsus and other techniques to correct this that literally anyone can learn! Even if you don't pursue the way of the shinobi, with me inside you no one will ever pose a threat! How lucky!

He was right. She'd already considered these things, herself. Still.

"This isn't my body, Choumei. It's Keiko's. How can I possibly live here knowing I took that away from her?"

Choumei's sadness welled up inside her, again. You didn't. I did. I made a mistake and used too much of my power on a newly sealed jinchuriki. I did it quite often in the beginning, you know, when they first tried to seal me into people. More often than not it was on purpose, too. I just wanted to go home. When they sealed me into Keiko's grandfather, Keigo, I was just so tired. I resigned myself to captivity like so many of my siblings, and I forgot how easy it was to kill a human. Especially a child. I am so immensely grateful for you. Because of you, I can say I didn't really fail. My third generation jinchuriki didn't die because I was an idiot who forgot how much chakra is too much. So, thank you. Please don't leave me.

Tears were running freely down her face now and she rubbed futilely at them. She wrapped both hands around the cross hanging around her neck. She had no idea why there was a cross in Naruto, but she wasn't going to question it. The old familiar comfort the religious symbol gave her was enough of a reason to excuse it, and she sent her thanks to Mary for letting her have at least that much.

"I-I'm s-sorry," she stuttered out through hiccoughing gasps. "It's j-just so much!"

I know. I know, I shouldn't have expected you to just accept it. I could have handled it better, I'm sorry.

She rolled over onto her side, curling up into a ball as she cried. The stone beneath her was warm from the sun, moss clinging to the once ornate carvings that time had reduced to gentle indents. There was a cat—an orange tabby, this time—sitting just out of reach, paws tucked under its body in that iconic cat pose. It didn't look at her, but it didn't leave, either. It simply sat there as she wept. It wasn't the only one. A weird dog looking animal waddled over to sniff cautiously at her hair, followed by an obscene number of offspring who watched as their parent investigated the weird intruder. Another of those cool beetles—or maybe the same one, she couldn't tell—landed on her thigh, its tiny voice whispering encouraging words. A baby cow started munching on one of her sandals, tugging on it like a dog would a rope.

It was hard to stay sad when all of nature united to make you feel better.

With a sniff, she pulled herself up onto her knees, all the animals except the cat dispersing but not going far. She clasped her hands together and bowed her head, sending a prayer to Mary for Keiko's soul. Surely the Holy Mother would look after a wayward child.

Thank you.

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