A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
New Leaf Arc, Red Ribbon

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

(EDIT) 5/14/19: Cleaned and fixed it a bit up.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the canon characters! ...or do I?

WARNING! RATED M! There will be blood, violence and swearing! ...or will there? Sorry 'bout that. There is more mental trauma though.

New Leaf Arc,

Chapter Three: "Red Ribbon"

"When life gives you lemons, freeze them and then throw them as hard as you can at whoever is making your life difficult." -Anonymous

My mother was sitting in our garden tending to the tomato's. Her long red hair was tied into a hightail with her favorite red ribbon and she was wearing the light blue yukata she always used when gardening, it was covered in dirt and the old ink stains that never quite came out. I was picking some flowers that grew near the edge of our clearing when I noticed it.

Blood...

It wasn't something I'd often see, not here in our little world. I moved the leaves aside to get a clearer view, I saw there were red feathers and more drops of blood. I followed the trail into the shrubs out of the clearing when I heard a cry! I hiked up my long skirt and ran through the foliage until I saw a small red bird trying to fight off a snake! Without a second thought I reached for a fallen branch at my feet and ran towards the fanged predator! It hissed at me as I approached and I swung as hard as my arms could muster and it flew off to the bushes, out of sight!

With the danger dealt with I dropped to my knees and looked over the small bird. It's feathers were mussed up and bloody and it was chirping pitifully, like it was crying. I did the only thing I could do. I called for my mother.

"Kaa-chan!"

She was next to me in a heartbeat, she kneeled down and looked over the little red bird then she looked at me. Her face was blank as she carefully took the little red bird into her arms and started a walk back towards the house. I followed as well as I could, I was much too focused on the little birdie. The sounds it was making was heartbreaking. Kaa-chan set the birdie on a blanket on the big table and disappeared into the other room, she came right back with our first-aid kit. I clambered onto a chair to get a closer look at what she was doing. She cleaned the blood away and I think she disinfected a gash that was on it's back. She was cleaning it like a person's wound. Were you supposed to do that? The birdie got quieter and quieter as Kaa-chan fixed it, but when she got to the belly she stopped.

"W-What it?" I asked anxiously.

She looked at me with sad eyes, "It was bitten by the snake, Sora."

I didn't know what that meant. It was poisoned? Was it a poisonous snake?

"...is? Is it gon' be okay?"

She paused, carefully choosing her next words, her face blank, "...I don't know, Love."

"Butit has to! Can't you fix, Kaa-chan?" I insisted. Maybe I was acting like the child I looked like, but I just couldn't seem to stop myself these days. Getting swept up like this.

"I..." she hesitated. It looked like she had wanted to tell me something but she changed her mind. Kaa-chan then gave me one of those false smiles she uses when she lies to me. "I've done all I can. It's up to the bird to get better now."

I couldn't muster up a smile in return and turned to watch the bird as it took shallow, quick breaths. It's wing had been broken, I guessed that was how it became that snake's prey. The snake had managed to leave a gash on it's little red body and bite it. It was probably poisoned and Kaa-chan didn't want to tell me that it wouldn't last through the night. So... I stayed up the entire night, tending to the small bird. Remembering all that I could about treating a wounded animal. I made sure there was water, that when it started to shiver I put a soft cloth over it and I prayed for it to recover.

...why?

Why did I care so much about the little red bird's life? It was just a bird. So what if it died? Everything dies eventually. Plants. Birds. People.

Nothing lives forever.

At some point in the night I'd fallen asleep, Kaa-chan must've carried me back into my room because I woke in my bed. I woke up slowly but I quickly remembered about my new friend and I vaulted from our bed and I ran into the living room and heard a sound that caused a wide grin to split my face.

Healthy, happy chirping. The little red bird had survived the night!

Over the next few weeks I tended to Akane-san, I named him, as his wing healed. Kaa-chan watched me with obvious affection all the while and before I knew it, the time to let Akane-san go free came around. I didn't cry. No matter how many times Kaa-chan said that was okay to cry.

I. Did. Not. C-cry...

We were outside and Akane-san was nestled into my arms, Kaa-chan put a gentle hand on my back to signal me that it was time. I mumbled a goodbye through my sniffling -allergies, of course- and lifted him up in my hands. He spread his wings out and took a few experimental flaps and as he prepared himself, I lowered my hands and crouched for a boost and launched him up into the air. It was terrifying watching as he fumbled his first few thrusts but he recovered beautifully and soared over our heads.

I scrubbed the water and snot from my face and waved like a madwoman.

"Bye-bye Akane-san! Fly safe!"

Ouch...

My head hurts...

No. Correction. My everything hurts.

Why does everything hurt? Also, my bed is reallllly soft. Was it always so soft? I don't remember going to bed. Did I fall asleep on Kaa-chan again? I probably did. I probably fell asleep awkwardly and that's why my neck is hurtin—

Something cold slid against my neckKaa-chan screamed

My eyes flew open and my hand went to my neck. My fingers touched a thick cloth wrapped around my neck and it hurt to breathe! I looked to the aching in my right arm and saw it was in a sling, bandaged. I was bandaged. There was something beeping like mad over and over -beep-beep-beep- it kept getting faster, but I could barely hear it now over the roaring in my ears. My chest was heaving now, just trying to breathe! Why can't I breathe? I was having a panic attack. Where's Kaa-chan? I want Kaa-chan! I need my Mother with me! I can't feel her chakra! I couldn't feel any chakra? I've always been able to feel some kind of chakra for as long as I could remember! What is happening?!

I took the deepest breath I could manage and tried to call for my Mother but I made no sound other than a horrible wheezing. My eyes flickered around me for something I could use to call Kaa-chan. I finally noticed that there was an oxygen mask -that was actually an oxygen mask-on my mouth, I yanked it off and saw the needles in my arms connecting me to—bag, machines, was that an IV? Where the hell was I?! I reached out with numb fingers to start unattaching the wires but a black gloved-hand appeared on my wrist, stopping me. My eyes traveled up the arm attached to the hand and I recoiled when my eyes met with two dark holes in the animal mask of the ANBU Black Ops Agent.

I tried to scream but no sound left my lips.

I yanked my arm from hishertheir grip and scrambled back as far as I could away from the stranger, until my back hit against a wall. They released my arm and didn't make any further move towards me. They must've taken pity on me because they raised their hands up in surrender, like I was some frightened animal. I tried -futilely- to calm my racing heart as I curled into myself. As I was fighting off the sudden urge to empty my stomach on the bed I realized that it was one of the ANBU from the fight. Maybe. Unless there are multiple Cat-san's? That beeping was making it really hard to think.

After staring at each other for a minute the door burst open. We both turned towards it and saw as men dressed in white clothing came rushing in and I panicked as they came straight at me! I tried to get out of reach by rolling off the bed I was in and scream but I felt their hands on me, stopping me from going anywhere. Nonono! Don't touch me! Thrashing, I swung my arms blindly as they held me down, pulling on the tubes in my arms. Desperately—pleadingly, I looked towards the ANBU for some sort of help.

They did nothing but watch.

Someone raised a hand over my face, I had only a second to spot a soft green before the world was dark again.

I was awake again, I didn't know how many hours it's been but I could feel chakra again. Though, I didn't bother to open my eyes. I already knew my Kaa-chan wasn't there. I couldn't feel my mother anywhere near me even though I felt so many other chakras that didn't recognize.

Like the stranger sitting near me. I was nearly blinded by his chakra, it was just so much bigger than I've ever seen. Granted, my experience really didn't amount to much considering I've only even known Kaa-chan's and my own. Still, It was monstrous compared to Kaa-chan's coils.

Hot and Earthy. A feeling like a roaring campfire, comfortable, warm but can threaten to consume everything around me.

"Are you awake now, Sora-san?" rumbled a deep, gravely voice.

Guess I've been found out.

I opened my eyes slowly, taking in my surrounding properly. I saw a white tiled roof above me, a fluorescent lightbulb in the center of the roof that wasn't in use. I slid my eyes to the wall on my left, it was bare but painted a soft, calming green. I could see a white door left ajar but my eyes drifted to the white-and-red robe of the man sitting at my bedside.

He has a funny-looking hat.

I was still feeling the effects of the sedative the nurses had given me so I did not burst into hysterical/manic/self-depreciating laughter. No, I did not. As it was, I stared dully at the Sandaime Hokage who was smiling softly at me and was looking like a kindly grandfather. He's just as old and wrinkly as I had always imagined, though he did still have a bit of color in his hair. Odd.

But, he wasn't very important at the moment. Not really. Right now I wanted nothing more than for my mother to wrap me in her arms and run her fingers through my hair and tell me we were safe now and all the bad men were dead and we were safe. I wanted to know where my mother was.

As I opened my mouth to ask, I remembered how there was something so very wrong.

Slowly, I reached a trembling hand up traced my fingers over the bandages tied securely around my neck. The same throat that that been cut open. I grasped at it as I remembered the feeling of the blade sliding across, my nails dug in as Kaa-chan's stricken face flashed through my mind. The burning pain coming from the wound stopped me from trying to deny what happened really happened.

The Sandaime lifted his hand and tried to reach over but I flinched away from him, sitting up in the bed. He read my expression as clear as day.

I don't want to be touched.

He leaned back into his chair and folded his hands on his lap where I could see them. I hadn't realized I was holding my breath before that. I relaxed minutely before mouthing, 'Okaa-san.'

His face turned solemn and my heart sunk into my gut.

"...I'm sorry." he told me. My eyes widened and I felt the pressure build up behind them as I sat up to fully face the old Hokage. I shook my head at him in denial and mouthed 'Okaa-san' to him again and again.

He didn't take back his apology and watched as my cheeks became wet, tears running down them freely. I opened my mouth and tried to scream for my mother but I was mute. I could only choke on my breaths, I was incapable of making one sound. Not a grunt or whine or even sob or my mother. I looked to the old man and asked why over and over, why was my mother not here.

He read my lips and answered me, "She gave her life to save yours, Sora-san. I'm told Ikari-san used the last of her chakra to heal your injuries."

My hand reached for my throat again, my chest constricting.

"Chakra is our Life, my Love." she whispered as she guided my small hand over her seals, over the spiraling inky designs. The weaving, interconnected lines thrummed vibrantly with Kaa-chan's chakra under my fingertips. "It is what keeps our hearts beating and our blood running through our veins..."

How could it have been that bad?! It couldn't have been so bad that Kaa-chan had to die for it!? Clutching my neck, I looked frantically for something—a mirror, anything—to see for myself. There was a tray on the bedside table to my right. I reached for it in a panic -spilling all that was on it onto the floor while I was at it- and I ignored the crash of something fragile breaking onto the floor, the ANBU that had melted out of the wall in response, as I held the metal tray up to my face I yanked down the thick bandages around my neck.

There, in the metal reflection was a sickly looking little girl. Her skin was an unhealthy shade of pale, round face puffy and red from crying. Her long, once soft, strange orange-pink hair was now knotted and matted to her scalp with sweat. Her violet eyes were wide and reddened from tears. Small pink lips were pale and trembling. And stretching across her neck, from side-to-side was a jagged scar. There were no stitches, no sutures to have repaired it.

Just an ugly, red, tear across her neck.

I set the tray on the bed numbly, not really registering or caring when the ANBU took it away from me.

My mother is dead and I'm alone.

She died to save me but she left me behind.

The only sounds that rang throughout the room was my desperate intakes of breath as I mourned my Mother. I couldn't sob or cry out or yell at this stupid world for taking from me the only person I loved. I couldn't mourn in the way that she deserved to be. I mourned my life. She was everything that I had here and now she was gone.

Just like They were.

The Sandaime -and my god, the Third Hokage was sitting there- waited patiently until I cried myself dry and I'd calmed myself down before he gently continued speaking to me. "Sora-san, do you know who I am? Or where you are?" he asked.

I took a long moment to think about my answer.

I shook my head in the negative.

I'm all alone now. Kaa-chan can't protect me if anyone wanted to put me in a box and throw away the key. And it's not like I'm lying to him... technically. Kaa-chan had never told me anything about what was outside our forest. She hadn't told me where we were going, who we were going to or even who we were running from in any explicit terms.

What I do know, I know only because of my extenuating circumstances. It's best if I don't shoot off my mouth—figuratively speaking, and say something I can't explain knowing about. 'Sora' knows only what her Mother had taught her and all she knows is Fuinjutsu and cooking and music.

My heart ached painfully, a physical pain that had me wanting to grab my chest.

The Sandaime nodded with an impeccable, yet wrinkled poker face. If he saw through my lie, I would never know... unless I ended up in jail then, yeah. He did. I don't think he did though.

"My name is Sarutobi Hiruzen, and you are in the hospital at the Village hidden in the Leaves." he informed me kindly. I nodded showing that I was paying attention. "Do you know why your Mother was taking you here, Sora-san?"

Yes and no. I know why she was taking me I just didn't know it was here. How do I explain that with nods and shakes? Mouth it or...

Write it.

I lifted my hands and charaded writing with a pad and pencil. Hiruzen he nodded wordlessly and lifted his hand. Right after doing so Cat-san reappeared in the room with a brush, ink pot and a notepad. I took them with a grateful nod towards Cat-san and wrote down what I needed to say. Turning it around when I was done to show the Third Hokage.

"Mother didn't tell me where we were going. She did tell me that we were running from a bad man, but she never said a name."

His eyes seemed... sharp, now? I didn't like that look. He clasped his hands together in his lap and asked me more. "I see... do you know where you lived before you left, Sora-san? Where your home was?"

I shook my head. "No. And I'm pretty sure that Kaa-chan blew up our home." and with that sentence, both his eyebrows rose up and I felt surprise in his Campfire-like chakra. That was weird. I've never felt someone's emotions besides Kaa-chan's.

"Really now... well, do you know how long it took for you to travel here then?" he asked. Ah, that's actually a good question. Someone that actually knows what a map looks like could narrow something down. I thought back, counting the days and hours we traveled.

"Kaa-chan ran for three days without rest, she carried me on her back. On the fourth day we stopped at the inn because she said we were close to wherever she was taking us. We didn't get to sleep there because—" I couldn't finish the sentence, having to open my eyes wide to try stop the tears from springing up again.

"The inn at Otafuki Gai?"

I shrugged uselessly.

"I don't know the names. I've never left home before. Until a couple days ago I'd never even seen another person besides Kaa-chan."

"Sora-san..." the man started slowly, carefully. "What do you know about the Hidden Villages?"

I shrugged again.

"Why are they hidden?" I wrote in question. It is a valid question after all. They're also not very hidden by any standards. The only actual hidden village is Waterfall... I think.

He chuckled softly and asked another question, ignoring mine. "What about the elemental nations then?"

"Elements have nations?" was my childish response.

He hummed contemplatively, raising his hand to stroke his beard. "Your vocabulary is very good for someone so young, Sora-san. Yet, you don't know about nations. Can I ask why that is?"

"I'm seven and a half." I corrected with unintentional pout, his lips twitched up slightly. "And Kaa-chan said she'd teach me about the world when I was older."

I thought that she'd actually be teaching me this year. She'd promised that she would tell me about all the places she's been to before, about the place she grew up in. The stone city by the sea that was always filled with light and music. Never in a hundred years would I have imagined the kind of world that we were living in was super-violent and filled with sociopaths.

I sighed, and it was pitiful that the only sound that escaped my lips was a gentle whoosh as I exhaled. That reminded me... I took up the brush again, showing it to him with a very important question written on it.

"What's wrong with my voice?"

The old Hokage looked at me sadly again. I was quickly finding that I didn't like that expression.

"I am afraid that the damage to your throat wasn't completely healed..." he took a breath through his nose before continuing. Dread pooled in my gut. No... no. Please don't say it. Please don't say it... "Although you have been treated by our best medics, it is their opinion that you might never regain your voice."

Haah...

Deep breaths.

In and out...

Deep breaths.

You still have your life. That's what's important here.

I was taking in steadily albeit shaky breaths when the old Sandaime motioned Cat-san over, taking something from them before turning back to me again. "Sora-san, my friend here found something that I thought you might like back."

I stopped teetering on the edge of hyperventilating long enough to look up and see—a metal Ocarina. He was holding it out towards me in an open palm, waiting. That was... that was...

Our Ocarina.

I took it with cold fingers and held it in my lap as I stared at it, remembering all the hours I spent with Kaa-chan by our pond. I felt the tears start to fall again but I didn't feel the need to gasp for air and sob this time. Instead I raised the instrument to my lips and played.

Only one song came to my mind when I felt the cool metal pressed against my chapped lips. I felt a bitterness grow in my chest as the notes played.

Sadness and Sorrow.

How ironic...

The Sandaime and Cat-san listened to me play without comment, and so did the other ANBU I could sense who were still hiding in the walls. A strange comfort filled me with the knowledge that I could still be heard. Proof that I was still here.

After I finished the Sandaime continued with his questions. He started me off soft, asking kid stuff.

"What is your surname?"

"I don't have one. Kaa-chan never said anything about one."

"And what about your Father? Did you ever meet him?"

"No. Kaa-chan said he was blonde and had eyes like mine. Don't know his name. Kaa-chan really didn't like talking about him."

"Did you have any pets before coming here?"

"I took care of Akane-san while his wing healed. He's a bird."

"That was kind of you. Do you have any family you know about?"

"Only Kaa-chan. She said everyone else was gone."

"I see..." he murmured, still smiling kindly. "Do you have a favorite food Sora-chan? My favorite dish is anything that has hijiki with it."

"I liked the food from our garden but sometimes Kaa-chan and I went to the river for fish. She taught me the best way to grill what we caught. I guess I like grilled fish best."

"Ah, yes, that sounds very good. What other things did your Mother teach you?"

'Did she train me to fight?' I'm pretty sure he meant. I thought about the question seriously, quickly considering my options. By no means did I know how to defend myself, but... but I did know how to create an explosion with a flat surface and some of my blood. That... would be considered bad to most, right?

Right, thought so.

So, I could not mention that. But not mentioning it also meant not being able to practice it and I... I've spent years practicing Seals now. It calms me. Designing and structuring the formulas for my seals helps me focus when my mind starts thinking about things that drive me into that darkness. I was desperate to sketch up something right now, if I'm being honest.

If I denied knowing about my seals then my options were never practicing it again or doing it in secret and if I were ever caught in a lie... I didn't want to ever find out what the ninjas would do if they found out I was lying.

Honesty it is.

I attempted a smile as I wrote, "She taught me a lot of things! Like cooking, sewing, gardening, reading, writing, music, chakra control and Seals."

Everyone paused. Not outwardly, of course. But I could feel how their chakra reacted to the last bit. That was still weird to feel.

"Did she now?" the old Hokage murmured with a warm smile still in place. His chakra wasn't soft like Kaa-chan's is—my heart clenched—was. "Do you think you can show me one of these 'seals', Sora-san?"

Wow. If I didn't know exactly how dangerous this man was and that this interrogation was holding my future in the balance, I would've told him everything I knew. Just to get some sort of irrational approval from this stranger who happened to show me a little kindness and seemed to care for my well-being after the nightmare I just went through.

He's good.

As I pondered the moralities of professional killers and the Sandaime's sleeping habits, I'd pricked my hand and drew the blood necessary for the seal I had in mind and began sketching. Pointedly ignoring how Cat-san had appeared to stand near-ish to me when they spotted blood. At least they were respecting my need for space. I started with a Barrier bigram to contain what I had in mind, I wasn't going to do anything flashy or something that could be remotely considered as threatening of course. Even though I haven't decided if I really wanted to live in trouble magnet Konoha. I mean, this place gets invaded Four? Five times over the next two decades? And one of those times the village gets turned into an actual crater. Yeah, no. Staying here isn't a good plan long-term. I'll just leave in a couple years when I can support myself.

I became an adult once Before. It should be easier the second time around, right?

Focusing back on the paper, I added some personal flourishes to the Lightning Kanji and drew a couple minor characters limiting the boundaries of my barrier to roughly that of a snow globe size. Throw in some Force and Release characters, minus the Release... more flourishes along the edges... aaaand done! I carefully tore the page from the notepad and held in my palm, looking at the man in permission. He nodded, an expectant look in his eyes.

I pulsed the chakra into my palm, just as Kaa-chan taught me, and an orb of pale-blue light appeared from the paper.

It was the first real seal that I'd ever done without Kaa-chan's supervision. She was so proud of me after I showed her the fruits of my labor. The way it worked was that the chakra I was feeding it was being converted by the Elemental Manipulation Kanji, turning into real lightning. The lightning chakra held shape and mass with the barrier bigram that I used, creating a snow globe-sized ball of active light. It was dim, but that was only because I wasn't feeding it a lot of chakra. More chakra equals more light. We found that out the hard way when Kaa-chan had used it and almost blinded us both by accident.

I smiled, even though it was still hard to breathe.

It was my very own personal flashlight, for when the nights became too dark and I started to see those shadows.

The old Hokage stared at the little piece of paper on my hand, looking just the bittest surprised. When he turned his eyes away from the ball of light it was to look at me with a smile. "That is very impressive Sora-san!"

I cut off the charka powering the light and picked up the notepad again, writing. "Thank you!"

"Do you know other seals?" he asked, sounding innocently curious. Yeah, I was already expecting this.

I nodded in affirmation, then quoted my mother's first lesson word for word. "But Seals are dangerous tools and should not be taken lightly or used for fun and games."

He chuckled good naturedly as he apparently found my statement to be amusing. That was a bit patronizing. "Very wise. Your Mother taught you that?" I nodded again. He hummed, looking at me contemplatively again. "Do you know who taught your Mother?"

Easy question. Kaa-chan was always vague enough that I didn't actually have a real answer.

"She learned from her family. Back when she lived in her home village."

"Do you know what this village was called?"

I shook my head.

"Just that it's gone like Kaa-chan's family. She told me that I was all she had left."

That it was okay, that I was all she ever needed.

It wouldn't be until later tonight that I would have a panic attack as all the facts that have been staring me in my face all my life would connect my Mother to being one of the last survivors of Uzushiogakure.

But, that wasn't until tonight...

"I see. Thank you for answering all of my questions, Sora-san. It has been very helpful." the Sandaime eventually said, looking and feeling sincere. Okay, sincerity wasn't something I'd felt from Kaa-chan outside of when she told me how much she loved me. This all felt so weird.

I did not take this chance to glance out the window towards what I was sure was the -previously- fictional Village of Konoha. The man with the funny hat was as much reality as I was willing to take for the moment.

"Sora-san, I have one more question for you, if you wouldn't mind." he announced, leaning forward in his chair and giving me that sharp-eyed look again. "Do you think that you would like to live here, in our village? We'd love to have you here."

Oh, here? In the militant environment where you train your children to become killers? So I could raise my chances of dying young even further?

I smiled like my life depended on it and stuffed all the cynical remarks that came to mind in a dark Box and buried it in a deep hole before nodding furiously. The old Hokage chuckled again, pleased. Ah, good.

"I'm glad to hear that! I'll see to where you'll be living but in the mean time, you should get some rest and recover." he told me, rising from the chair at my bedside. He dipped his head towards me. "I'll see you again soon, Sora-chan."

I waved goodbye and he gave me another smile, leaving the room along with most of the ANBU. I felt I could breathe a little more with his overwhelming Campfire gone. Well, almost. Cat-san and one other ANBU were still in the room, although I'm probably not supposed to know that. I was still being watched.

I finally took a real look at the room I was in. There was only one bed in the room and I was sitting in it, an uncomfortable-looking chair that the Sandaime was previously sitting in on the left. On the right was a large window with the blinds drawn shut except for the little bit of sunlight that was streaming in.

I moved toward the edge of the bed, finally willing to distract myself from the dark thoughts I was sure were headed my way in favor of hoping for a good view. I was about to swing my legs over when Cat-san reappeared right-in-fricken front of me! I flailed, scrambling away from the painted mask and back to the other side of the bed. My fingers twisted into the paper-like sheets as I watched the ANBU slowly crouch down to the floor, hearing an odd sound after. Something like glass being swept up?

Cautiously, I inches back towards the other side to see just what the masked-ninja was doing only to stare in surprise at them holding a dustpan in their hands. On the floor by the side of the bed was the pieces of a clear vase, broken... by me, now that I realize it. It was on the tray I yanked off the table. Whoops. I would've stepped on it if Cat-san hadn't—

Oh...

There was also a small puddle of water with the shards of glass along with an abused-looking flower on the tiled floor. I tilted my head, looking at the red flower closely. I think it was an Amaryllis.

My Grandma used to grow those in her garden.

Cat-san stood up again, looking so very strange in their black leather uniform holding a dustpan and broom in their gloved hand. They walked over to the trash bin and dumped the shards of glass in, like this was a completely ordinary situation, which... I supposed it was to them. Out of curiosity I consciously filtered through all the other, many, chakra I could sense in my range to focus on the ANBU. To maybe understand what they were feeling? It sounded better than to feel what I was feeling in that moment. Their chakra felt surprisingly... Soft.

Soft and Easy, like swimming through a stream. But underneath there was a firmness, Solid and Unwavering.

I opened my eyes again -when did they shut?- to see a gloved hand gently placing the red flower back onto the nightstand beside me. Odd. That reaction was much more... human then I had honestly expected of the elite killer.

My eyes met the two empty holes of the mask yet I was not nearly as unsettled by them as I had been earlier. Faster than I could comprehend the ANBU kinda, shuttered away in a blur of movement and I was left alone on the bed. Well, almost alone. I could still feel Cat-san's Soft and Easy chakra sitting in the roof directly above me.

It was... actually comforting to know I wasn't alone in that moment.

Back to distracting my mind from wandering thoughts, I clutched my Ocarina closer to my heart and swung my legs over the side of the bed and dropped the short distance to the floor. The tiles were cold on my bare feet but it was nothing compared to the burning in my throat still, I tugged down the back of my hospital gown when I felt an uncomfortable draft. Sparing only an idle thought to the idea of getting real clothes as I stepped over the puddle of water to the window. Gripping the stiff blue curtains with my free hand, I pulled.

I stood in awe of it for a moment.

The setting sun painted the carved faces in the mountain a golden color, emphasizing the sharp lines of the Yondaime's cheeks and the narrow eyes of the Shodaime.

Buildings, dozens—hundreds of buildings for as far as I could see. I was at least a couple floors high in what had to be the Hospital so my view was nothing to scoff at, that's only added to the fact that the building seemed to be built on top of a hill. My stomach twisted funnily as I looked down at the people walking down the streets in front of me. These very real people.

This really was it.

Konoha.

The Village was there. Not on a page or screen, but in front of my very eyes.

I was in the Village Hidden in the Leaves.

I think I just stood there for a couple hours, even after the sun set and a nice-smelling nurse came in to usher me back into my bed.

My time spent in the Hospital was mind-numbing.

I was confined to the hospital for an entire week. I was at least bathed and given some clean clothes, that actually fit me, that I could wear instead of a itchy paper gown. I was given paper and ink so I could communicate and draw if I got really bored, but mostly I spent the waking hours staring out of the window and playing my Ocarina. Which, was a lot of the time. I was awake most every night, I couldn't help it. Each and every time I closed my eyes, I would relive that night again and again.

Most times, I would wake gasping, choking on the memory of drowning in my own blood. It wasn't very pleasant.

I was never alone at least. The Hokage saw fit to leave me two ANBU guards to watch out/over me. It wasn't too bad as it was usually Cat-san who would keep me company and stay up the nights with me, so I kinda got used to having their Soft and Sturdy chakra always hovering nearby.

On my fourth day in t Konoha, I was given a majority of my mother's personal effects. All the things she had on her when she died. It wasn't much. Clothes, empty notebooks, a picture of me and her when I was just born. I hadn't known she even had that. And then there was a red ribbon.

Her ribbon.

I cried for another few silent hours after trying and failing to tie up my hair.

The Sandaime came to check up on me each day, even if it was just for couple minutes just to make sure I hadn't suddenly changed my mind about staying. We talked about a lot of pointless things, he asked me about what other Seals I could make. I would always smile and show him the harmless ones.

On my eighth day, the old ninja came with the news that I was finally well enough to go to my new 'home,' in someplace he called the Southern Residential District.

It was the Leaf's very own Orphanage.

It wasn't a nice-looking place, but it was maintained. I could see where there were patches in the roof and a broken window that needed to be replaced. There was also a small yard with some grass but it was mostly dirt. Children ran about freely, cheering, laughing, yelling. It was alive. The place wasn't nicer than the hospital, but it was an improvement in my book.

The Hokage left me there with a few words of support and the promise of visiting again the next day. Two ANBU I wasn't really familiar enough with stayed behind on a nearby roof. The head caretaker -a weary looking woman with greying hair- showed me the bed I'd be sleeping in in the largest room in the building she called the 'Common Room.' Most of the children all slept and ate and even bathed together she explained, showing me the nursey for the babies and ending the brief tour in the yard before she left me to chase after a little boy that had started to streak down the street, buck naked.

I sighed -I sighed mentally or I just get depressed otherwise- and dragged my body to lean against one of the shabby walls and just let my gaze wander. I looked on my new home and tried to ignore just how heavy my heart and body felt.

It was a beautiful day, I realize belatedly.

The sky was clear and endlessly blue above my head. The sun warm on my skin. There were energetic children running around playing a game of tag or something. I could hear the voices from inside the orphanage. An adult scolding someone for breaking something. I could hear chatter wafting up the road from the markets I passed on my way from the Hospital.

It really seemed peaceful here. If it wasn't for all the big bads and destruction coming here soon enough, I think I'd probably stay in Konoha. Maybe even like it.

Kaa-chan would've liked it.

I sat there and entertained the idea of living in peaceful Konoha along with all the tree-huggers while twirling the red ribbon around my fingers. It was a funny idea that I was already planning on ignoring.

Oddly enough I'd felt more relaxed in that moment than I'd been ever since Kaa-chan appeared in my room all those days ago. That is, I was relaxed until my eyes rested on a young blue-eyed boy with messy blonde hair sitting all by his lonesome.

I.

Saw.

Whiskers.

Fuuuuuudge!

New Leaf Arc,

Chapter Three: "Red Ribbon"

END

A/N: I wonder who the blonde could possibly be? Well, poor Sora... so much trauma. I'm a mean person! I'll try for some funnies in the next chapter 'coz this is turning out to be WAAAY more depressing than I intended. And a little timeskip! I hoped you enjoyed this!

A BIG Thank You to Yuki Suou and Guest 1&2 for your reviews! I love hearing from you, it makes me smile like an idiot. Author Question!

"If you could be a part of a 'Naruto' clan, which would you choose?"

Me? I'd choose Uzumaki. Not because of how totally OP they can be but because they seem like a warm and loving clan. Passionate for sure.

Wuv yew! 'Till next time!

-Nanami

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