A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Montage Arc, Let's Talk

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: Haah, it's looking like the name 'Montage' is turning out to be ironic. Sorry. More explanation/apologies at the end of the chapter. Also: WARNING! This chapter is graphic and can get dark so if you want to keep your merry mood, then do not read until later! Please!?

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the canon characters! If I had, then I'd give all these little babies happy stories where nothing bad ever happened. Probably. Maybe—You never know with me!

WARNING! RATED M! Cause, yah. I don't give these babies happy stories... And Ikari's shit. She went through some shit. Yuuuup.

Montage Arc,

Chapter Forty-Nine: "Let's Talk"

"Failure is not final." -Anon E. Muss

Perspective:

(Sky)

Sora, June 13th—Hot Springs

(Days Until Invasion: 18)

I deeply regretted this plan of action already.

Before me, the Great Toad Sage, renowned author, Hero of the Second War, Jiraiya of the Sannin, was currently squatting in the bushes as he peered at some girls splashing around at the base of a waterfall a little ways away from us. Giggling with a perverse grin on his face all the while. I knew he knew I was here. Hell, he probably knew I knew he knew and he was still acting like a super pervert in front of me.

Fudge, I need coffee. I don't get enough sleep to try and think like one of these old fudgie ninja. Why didn't we have coffee in Konoha? We have tea and soda, why the hell don't we have coffee?

Did I mention regretting this?

"Sora-chan!" the Hero happily called out from where he'd been cursing at another adorable little tadpole. He was quick to jog over to me with a grin on his face. "What're you doing here?"

I nodded to Jiraiya and he made a face, whiskers scrunching up.

"You want the Pervy Sage? What for?!"

Before I could even answer, Jiraiya had started chuckling in an unsettling manner that could very easily be interpreted as lecherous. Haah...

"Isn't is obvious, kid?" he asked, turning around to face the two of us with his hands on his hips with a grin plastered on his face. His emotions weren't into it but it sure looked real enough. I tried not to let my annoyance show on my face. I really didn't like dishonesty done so well, the Toad Sage's other personal flaws aside, that was just my own hang-up. Professional liars—the really good ones? I just don't like being around.

That, and I still had a semi-irrational dislike of the man personally.

Jiraiya struck a flamboyant and very over dramatic pose. "She's a fan of my work and she's come for the Jiraiya's autograph!" he announced confidently. Naruto blanched and I scrunched up my nose. How the hell did he come to that conclusion? Not that it was exactly wrong, but—Jiraiya held up a hand with mock sigh. "Sorry to disappoint missy, but as much as I appreciate all my fans, I prefer my readers to be legal age."

The hell?

"WHAT?!" Naruto blared. Right next to my ear. Ouch. "Like hell Sora-chan would be a fan of yours 'ttebayo!"

Actually... as much as I would really like to know whatever happened to Takeo after that massive cliffhanger in the last chapter - still need to find time to get another copy of Icha-Icha to replace my last one - that's off-topic and not what I came here for. Focus Sora! Before any further misconceptions could be made I quickly produced my notepad, writing and showing. "I came to ask for your insight on a Fuinjutsu theory."

There, simple. No misconceptions to be made there.

Jiraiya's mouth twitched but he kept that plastic grin in place. He took in a breath, chakra telling me he was about to reject me, but before he could form the words I tacked on another sentence.

"All I'm asking is for five minutes of your time to look over my research." I wrote. Then, because I sometimes forget that people in the world actually use manners and to butter him up some: "Please? I really need help and you're my only hope."

Jiraiya paused. Something flickered over his face and stirred up his chakra too quick for me to recognize as his mouth closed again and looked liked he was actually mulling it over in his head. After a long minute of him and I staring at each other - with Naruto obliviously glancing between us with a growing frown - the Toad Sage heaved a very put-out sigh, looking to all the world like he'd rather be playing in that waterfall than here.

"Fiiiiiine." he groaned. I perked up considerably as he sat down and crossed his legs under him, planting his chin in his hand. The corner of his mouth twitched up into a crooked smile. "I've never been able to turn down a request from a cute girl."

Lie. He still doesn't consider me any cuter than last time. But I could really care less about why he's agreed, the point is that he did. He ordered a riled up Naruto - he started yelling at Jiraiya to not be weird, or trying to 'put the moves' on me—where the hell is he learning these things? - to go back to his summoning training, which he did so reluctantly after I reassured him that I'd be fine.

I wasted no time as I unsealed my Big Red Book of Fuinjustu and opened up to the Revival Seal notes, pushing it over to the white-haired man. He started off by being openly surprised when he looked over the first page out of the stack of thirty-two. Which, I didn't know whether was an accomplishment for stunning him with my pure skills or a mark against my oftentimes rushed and sloppy note-taking.

I tapped my fingers against my leg in a mockery of a song that I couldn't remember the name of, half in impatience and half out of nervousness. He was spending a lot of time looking at the housing base of the seal and I was getting more anxious the longer he did. I've spent weeks going over the formula myself, every time I ended up hitting a dead end. Both a figurative and literal one. Each time I ran the logic through my head the subject would end up dying some horribly gruesome death. Whether it be by asphyxiation or sudden and unexplained fiery combustion, I couldn't come up with a way to get the Revival Seal to work. I couldn't think up a workaround to get it to do what I wanted.

I needed it to work.

He set down the papers.

"Yeaaah, that's never gonna work."

I stopped tapping, looking up at him.

"Why not?" I wrote.

Jiraiya huffed as he hunched over the notebook, spinning it around in the dirt towards me to point out various issues as he explained: "This here is going to require at least two operators. And that, hell even I don't have enough in me to do!" he flipped a few pages and continued, dropping his finger right on the stasis function of the Seal. "and here, you need a lot more knowledge with both medical jutsu and fuinjutsu training to accomplish this. Extensive training. You've made it too complicated for one person to use! Too much! You just can't do it."

Ah.

In the background, Naruto cursed as he summoned another too-small toad.

He was right. I was trying to do to much with one seal. I wanted it do be able to do all the work for Hiruzen's injuries but there's no predicting what is going to be affected and what it'll need to repair itself. The seal missing the human element. Without it, it's... That, had been my half-assed plan to keep Hiruzen's heart beating, somehow, and now I know it can't work without a competent - someone versed in everything from cardiac treatments to neurological injuries, just to even be prepared for unforeseen complications - medic and fuinjustu user that is already familiar with the seal's functions. I'd already known that the idea was grasping at straws at best, but it did nothing to abate the sinking feeling in my gut.

It was too much.

I swallowed thickly, my mouth feeling like it was filled with sand.

"Hey," Jiraiya muttered, looking awkward all of a sudden. His face was pinched together, making him look a bit constipated. "It's a good idea in theory. Just... not so easy in practice. S'why there aren't that many fuinjutsu practitioners involved in the medical field in the first place."

I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep, steady breath. Swallowing my disappointment, I brought forward my writing pad again. I couldn't wallow in this. There were other problems that needed resolution. One in particular that I hoped this man would be more helpful with.

"Do you think it's possible to create a Seal capable of siphoning a person's chakra to the point of unconsciousness? Or suppressing it, at least?"

His eyes widened to saucers at the question. Normally, I'd be all for enjoying causing people to have that look but this was a fairly serious question and I was feeling his chakra intently for any sign that he might brush me off. If there was anything I've learned lately, with the Snake's seal, is that I'm not even scratching the surface of what is possible with Fuinjustu. I need another perspective to give me insight on my theories, and this old perv is all I got right now.

I needed him to give me something.

For the first time since I've met the man, Jiraiya regarded me seriously. Like, really seriously. His fingers tapped along his knee in a random pattern as his dark eyes looked over me with intense scrutiny.

"How much chakra are we talkin'?"

I withheld from letting out a breath of relief, already in the motions of pulling out my research and laying out what I've learned so far. He hadn't agreed to anything yet, I cautiously reminded myself, he was just still looking over things. It was scarcely a heartbeat before he'd taken up the new set of papers and began going over them, repeating some of my notes under his breath as he reviewed them. One brow slowly arching as he did. For a moment, he had looked so serious and professional, that I'd almost forgotten that he is notorious for frequenting women's bathes and writes smut for a living. Almost.

In the papers, there was even more written down and documented than what I had on the Revival Seal. Where the Revival seal had been a fairly new concept design, I've always been fascinated with the idea of creating a seal for chakra absorption/suppression, having seen it used Before on Naruto's four-tailed cloak after the time-skip. The muse for it was reignited with Gaara's appearance and the recent changes to my foreknowledge. It's something that could be immensely useful for even beyond the Invasion. A lot of the monsters in this world would be a lot more easy to deal with if they had one hand tied behind their backs.

Jiraiya muttered a swear and squinted, tilting his head at my handwriting. In the background, Naruto threw his head back and yelled at the sky about his newest adorable tadpole. I idly inspected a very smooth stone on the ground.

But, sadly... it's only been a pipe-dream so far as I have never been able to begin recreating the process of the Seal structure by myself. I've only been able to hypothesize that using a Force bigram as a housing base thrown in with a ridiculous amount of Physical Manipulation characters might come a little close to replicating the suppression effect? Maybe? A very loose maybe. Most times I run the logic though, I end up with some kind of countering effect as the functions of the individual characters fall back on one another and collapse. Resulting in an End Game screen essentially. And lemme tell you, it is very frustrating when that happens.

Honestly, I've just been shooting in the dark with these flimsy excuses for Physical Manipulations, really. They hardly could be considered effecting anything physical as much as they are nearly causing blood clots in the brain due to the distinct lack of Physical representation in the formula. You could say I've been... experimenting with the limits of my Fuinjutsu knowledge as of late. Bending the rules here and there while trying not to, yanno, rip holes into space/time. Coz that would be bad. And I hate dealing with Time/Space Fuinjustu in general—there is so much that could go wrong there, that it gives me intense anxiety just thinking about it. I swear, Minato Namikaze was a goddamned madman for creating the Hiraishin. You don't just go around tearing holes in space/time without unforeseen repercussions! Same with Obito, too, and his hack-y Sharingan magic.

God, thinking about how many pinpricks there might be in the fabric of this reality makes me want to crawl under a rock and die!

Damn ninja. No respect.

Oh, you're just upset you have no natural talent for that School, Terra drawled then. Same with making things go boom! You have you think around it more than with the other stuff! Not like meeee~

'That is completely beside the point!' I retorted, glaring at the grass. So what if Terra understood the principles of the Force and Release better than I did? It wasn't an actual School of Sealing, like the Space/Time subject. So what if I didn't get Space/Time principles like I ought to. So what if I was more suited towards every other branch of Fuinjutsu besides that one damn subject!

...yeah. You're toooootally cool with this. I can see that now.

Hmph. Whatever.

I Wonder If I Have An Affinity Towards The Skills You Are Lacking? My darkest aspect wondered idly.

Red flag. Red flag. Biiiig fucking red flag there. I am going hard pass on even acknowledging that any further because the idea of It having any sort of control over the delicate fabric of reality—and fuck it all, I already have a sorta-kinda God complex! It sure as hell didn't need any encouragement!

I felt It's sense of displeasure and shuddered.

...anyways.

I just don't know what it takes to close the gap between the physical requirements of chakra suppression and the spiritual. It's like there's another School of Sealing that's just missing. Kind of like that Fuinjustu off the Uchiha rock. The Sage of Six Paths symbolic scrambling formula that causes that warm tingling feeling in my stomach whenever I look at it? Yeah... Anyway, as I have no way of safely testing any kind of formulas and as Kakashi had ran off with Duckie to go be emotionally stunted together, I was fresh out of adults with first-hand Fuinjutsu experience.

Well, except for one guy.

Jiraiya dropped the papers back down with a huff. I locked eyes with him and was still holding my breath. He looked... exasperated? What'd I do? Usually I have to do something to earn that look, and I'm fairly certain I've been on my best behavior so far! He rubbed his temple like he was staving off a headache, looking at me wearily. Again, I don't think I've done anything to be the cause of this.

"How the hell did you even come up with something like this? You're like, twelve, right? Shouldn't girls your age more focused on your looks and on schoolgirl crushes?" he wondered aloud, not expecting an answer.

My jaw hit the ground and a flash of indignation hit me. I'm fourteen! And then some! Not to mention I've been—He looked at me like I was dense and just not getting it. I was two seconds from glitter bombing him, I knew I still had one leftover from our pranking days. He waved his hand limply at my papers as the pained look on his face intensified.

"The worst part is how you're just... toying around with the foundations of Natural and Spiritual energy without even realizing it! You know this isn't some kiddie stuff, right? You can't take Fuinjutsu experimentation lightly, this is some serious stuff."

My face was red and burning from anger and frustration. I have been practicing with Fuinjustu for ten years. How fucking dare he try to imply that I'm taking ANY of this light—I stopped, blinking. A click went off somewhere in the back of my head. Did he just say 'Natural energy'? Natural energy as in...

My breath caught in my throat.

Goosebumps broke across my skin.

My heart began beating just a touch faster.

...is he really saying what I think he's saying?

Jiraiya's expression lightened and he looked at me as if I wasn't completely hopeless. He dropped a finger on the top of my papers and tapped at the string of Physical Manipulation, the one that kinda causes blood clots in the brain. A hint of a smug grin pulled at the corners of his lips as I looked at him with wide eyes, pulling out my pad to write down his every word.

"This here? This is where you want to start..."

Sora, June 13th—The Main Gate, Konoha

Naruto and I sat on the roof of a building overlooking the Gate out of town. We'd been watching the people come and go for nearly twenty minutes now, just waiting for a certain hair of red hair to show up. We would've been waiting at the Gate, but the chuunin stationed there kinda told us to scram. What a time for Kamizuki-san and Hagane-san to be off doing something else for once. We passed the time together talking about ramen and chakra control, mostly the latter and about how badly he sucks at it and I just reassured him that he'd get it eventually. Even reminded him to do some chakra exercises while we waited, which is why he had a leaf stuck to his forehead.

Then I saw her.

Karin walked a few steps behind an older man with a grass hitai-ate and flak jacket, who must've been the Grass jonin rep by the way he held himself. Little Karin though had her head was bowed as they were escorted to the gate by a squad of Leaf chuunin. Inexplicably, I thought that she looked more like a prisoner in that moment than someone that was going home. A glance towards Naruto's expression told me that he didn't like the look of it either. I frowned, signaling Naruto with my elbow when the Grass rep went to register their departure.

My eyes fluttered as I pulsed my chakra outwards, reaching towards the gate. In reaction. Karin's head had snapped towards us so fast I thought she might've given herself whiplash. I couldn't see the expression on her face but I could tell that she clutched the Storage seal I'd given her to keep her seedling in her hands.

The Hero waved his arm over his head, the other cupping around his mouth. "HEEEEY, KARIN-CHAN! NEXT TIME YOU VISIT, WE'LL GO GET RAMEN AGAIN 'TTEBAYO!" he shouted, causing a bunch of people to look up at us in bewilderment. I couldn't help the smile the broke across my face as I started waving my arms in goodbye as well.

She took a step forward, almost unconsciously, towards us.

A hand landed on her shoulder and her head jerked back up to look at the Grass jonin as he turned her away, and they began walking towards the exit. She looked over her shoulder at us one last time as she walked out of the Gate. I leaned on the roof and crossed my arms over the edge, resting my head as I watched the little red head disappear into the forest beyond the walls.

"Man, it sucks that Karin-chan had to go so soon." Naruto frowned beside me, dropping his chin on his folded arms. His brow furrowed as he stared at the gate. "She didn't... she seemed like she wanted to leave yet. 'Ya think, Sora-chan?"

No. She really hadn't.

"I wish there was somethin' I coulda done so she could stay longer..."

We could adopt her.

Huh.

I chewed on my lip, glancing to the side and seeing Naruto's frown.

That's... certainly something we can do. Not in the remote possibility of things he was thinking he could have done, but... Well, not at this very second. There's still an Invasion happening in about two weeks and then everything is going to be thrown to hell—but after that I could really take a look at the rules surrounding reestablishing a Clan in order to technically swipe a active-duty ninja from a foreign Village. It'll be a process, but one we can definitely get started... but, I'd have to be careful about how I would bring it up to Naruto. Because the last time I brought up taking the Uzumaki name for myself, he'd...

Naruto had told me no.

Perspective:

(Anchor)

Entry 70

December 4th, Tuesday
(495 Days since meeting Orochimaru-sama)

Orochimaru-sama has returned from his latest mission for the Leaf.

I am glad for this. The laboratory is always more alive when he is here.

He brought me the research notes of his latest toxin for me to study. I only glanced over them but they appear to be a debilitating neurotoxin that paralyzes the victim's nervous system and cause a slow, tedious death.

I wonder how I could improve upon it?

Entry 79

December 12th, Thursday
(504 Days since meeting Orochimaru-sama)

I have not been sleeping of late. Memories haunt the night hours and keep me awake. Orochimaru-sama has given me sleeping remedies to help with the memories but I still dream of it even now. Years since it happened.

The City, our ancestral home, blazed with fires against the night sky as the scent of burning flesh and acrid blood overpowered the native Hamanasu.

Entry 80

December 13th, Friday
(505 Days since meeting Orochimaru-sama)

The sleeping remedies did not help and Orochimaru-sama has advised me that I put my dreams to paper in an attempt to reconcile with them. So that they hold no power over me. I do not want to be a burden to him, so I shall do as he asks.

Father's face is often the first one that appears, for I do not know how he had died. He had been in the Archives at the time we were attacked, one of the first buildings to have fallen to the fires. I occasionally imagine he had died trying to preserve our heritage, by sealing it away.

Or perhaps he was the one to burn it so that our enemies would not claim it as theirs.

Shō had been out with the rest of the Warriors. He would've been among the first to die when we were attacked. Hitode-oneesama had not said so, but her expression had told me she thought as much.

She had been killed hiding Tōdai and I from the enemy shinobi with no headbands. I had to keep my hands over his mouth to stifle his cries and keep him from revealing our hiding place. After they had moved onto the next house, I had to blind Tōdai as I led him through her blood and over our sister's slowly cooling corpse.

She and Shō had been expecting their first child that summer.

Next was Grandfather. We had found his remains in the Main Plaza further on into the night. We hadn't witnessed it, but it was obvious to me now that they had dragged him out from the Marketplace where he had no doubt been playing his Biwa and cut off his head. Leaving his body to feed the crows and bleed into the streets.

The streets had been bloody with so many faces of our neighbors and relatives coloring the stone and tainting the water an unpleasant shade of Red. We could hear the sounds of battle and explosions echoing through the stone walls of our city, coming from all directions. We had kept to the shadows as we tried to make our way to the harbor to hide until either help arrived or they had left.

Help did not come that night.

We were discovered.

Tōdai, my crybaby twin brother—(The following words are crossed out over and over until the page bled into the next with ink, running a hole through it)—I had not been so lucky to die with the rest that night. Instead, I had been taken and sold in secret. Like a commodity, for my uncommon hair color and the smoothness of my skin.

I traveled for many weeks after being taken from the ruins of Uzushio. Though, I confess that I do not recall much of those days anymore. My mind is oddly empty when I think back on it. Orochimaru-sama says this is for the best.

My captors had sold me to a Pleasure House near the capital of Fire country, an outlying town that was of no importance. I had only been there a few weeks before Death followed me there. The Second Shinobi World War had swept through the countryside without restraint.

But it hadn't been all bad.

That had also been when Orochimaru-sama had saved me.

Ikari, Age 13—?

My body felt oddly warm. A contrast to the chill I felt in my bones. Slowly, I opened my eyes to a strange ceiling in foreign surroundings. This wasn't the shared room in the Pleasure House, I noticed. There were gaps in the roof and the walls were peeling from neglect, an old building. There was no light from the outside. So it was night, then. There was also a blanket tucked up to my nose, responsible for the warmth that surrounded me. Odd.

How did I get here?

There was a presence in the room with me.

I turned my head where I lay to see a man sitting beside a fire, reading a book. He was wearing the Leaf Shinobi uniform, I recognized the jacket they wore and the image of Uzushio that they paraded on their arms. Long dark hair swayed as they turned to face me, a metal headband imprinted with a leaf glared at me from above a pair of bright yellow eyes.

"Sleep well?" they asked me, their voice soft and indistinct.

I said nothing.

A smile grew across their pale face before they turned back to reading.

How odd.

I've never met this person before, so why was I here in this strange place with them now? The last thing that I remember was—

Around me, the bodies of the other women lied on the floor as the shinobi fought and tore apart the town. We were only casualties, caught in the middle of a War that had nothing to do with us. The sights of spilled innards and the scent of blood and ash brought back the scenes of Uzushio to my mind in vivid color. It was happening all over again. All around me was fire, the fighting and Death—Why did this keep happening to me?! I was so tired of this happening—so TIRED—all I want is to just lie down and NOT WAKE UP to this HELL—

I—

I had stopped shaking.

An oddly calm breath left me as I stood from the blood pooling around me, hardly seeing the clash of the swords through the curtain of my red hair. The screams of the others were lost as a dull roaring filled my ears. I walked over to the distasteful tapestry that hung on the wall, slitting my palm open with a shard of glass and watched my blood flow down my wrist and arm. Catching some on my fingers.

I began sketching.

All the hours I'd spent learning beside Kushina-nee had come to mind as I did, the tedious hours practicing our calligraphy under Grandfather's discerning eyes—I created the housing base—Tōdai never could grasp the theories or application of Fuinjutsu as easily as I did. He would always ask me for help to understand—I applied the correct string of Force and Release characters, feeling the pulse of raw energy flow under my fingertips— Hitode-oneesama's handwriting was always so much more beautiful than mine. No matter how I tried, she was always better than me—I finished with a flourish that Father would've most certainly deemed unnecessary, but he would have secretly smiled proudly upon.

My memories were all I had now.

I pressed my palm to the center of the seal and pushed my chakra into it, breathing life into my blood. The writing had lit up a pale, growing until it became a blinding light that consumed my vision. The explosion engulfed me and all my senses were overwhelmed with a blinding white heat—

"Oh." I said quietly, blinking away the images.

Right.

That was what had happened. I silently lifted my hands from beneath the blanket to see how meticulously they were wrapped in bandage, a strong-smelling ointment oozing out from under them that soothed the faint burning sensations along my arms I now registered.

I had survived?

A feeling bubbled up in my chest, slow and strong. Washing through my body and flooding my limbs until it became lodged in my throat, choking me. A feeling of anger and frustration. Why? Why did I survive? Why was I robbed of my chance to join my family in the tides? Why was I always cursed to survive when everyone around me were slaughtered and sentenced to a cold, cruel death?

"Why?" I asked brokenly, my eyes beginning to burn with unshed tears. I looked towards the stranger to see yellow eyes staring back at me. They tilted their head slightly as their smile faded, long black hair swaying to the side of their face. "Why am I alive."

"Is it your desire to die, child?" they asked curiously. Their calm demeanor infuriated me beyond reason. I sat up in the bed and pushed the blankets to the filthy ground.

"There's no point in living," I bit out between clenched teeth, glaring venomously at them. What was left of my pride had forbidden me from crying in front of them, no matter how weary I felt in my bones. I held my head high as the Last of the Uzumaki. "So, why not?"

Yellow eyes stared unblinkingly at me long enough that a hope rose in my chest that I might have a chance to rejoin my family after all. Then, they had spoken in that soft voice again. "There is nothing left of the Umaji township, you know?" they closed the book and set it to the side, regarding me with their whole attention now. "Nothing left of the shinobi forces either, from any side. There was no trace of life until I had come across your small body curled up in front of the most intriguing Fuinjutsu design I've seen since before the Fall of Uzushiogakure. You could only imagine my surprise at finding a survivor of that tragic clan, here, of all places."

My heart shuddered in my chest, fingers digging into the mattress under me. My tongue darted out to wet my cracked lips. "...Y-You know of my clan?" I asked quietly.

The stranger dipped their head in a nod. "My sensei always spoke very highly of the Uzumaki people, and of their unique traditions. My teammate had actually visited the City once, many years ago, to learn techniques from the scholars firsthand. He had brought back with him stories of how the people would hold festivals every month, celebrating anything they deemed to be grateful for. From the bounty of the season or to the blooming of the flowers... he told me it was a city built of stone, music and light."

My heart calmed, thinking about those very festivals the stranger had mentioned. The music festivals were always the best though, far more lively than the harvest festivals. I'd get to play Grandfather's Ocarina for the entire plaza to hear while people danced along under the high moon.

A tear slipped from my eye.

"Kill me..." I asked softly. The plea had fell from my lips without permission, but it did not stop me from asking again. "Please, kill me."

The stranger had shaken their head, sighing softly.

"There is still so much potential inside of you, yet to be even discovered."

Tears continued to fall.

I was tired.

I just wanted to sleep.

"It would be a waste for you to die, silly girl."

What are they talking about?

A... waste?

I was already so tired... why did it matter?

Let me sleep.

What could I do?

"A life is a pure and unique thing, child. It is a rare treasure that each creature in the world is only gifted a single one of..." they whispered reverently, watching me with those yellow eyes. "There are so many things one can accomplish in just a single lifetime. There is so much to discover about the very world we live in that it could take countless lifetimes for a single being to learn it all. So, to discard one's life so easily without first using it to it's upmost potential is... abhorrent to me."

I stared at the stranger for a long time as my tears subsided and dried, though I imagine that it had not been nearly as long as it had been in my mind.

"The least you could do is give it to someone who could actually do something with it."

The question left my lips before I had even understood what I was asking.

"Something like what?"

Yellow eyes shone like a light in the darkness.

I was tired, but I was also curious...

—(A addition had been tacked onto the end of the page, written in a careful and loving hand)—

I had followed him from that day on, and promised my life to him to use as he wanted. Orochimaru-sama had been the one to save me.

My life is his until death takes me.

Perspective:

(Sky)

Sora, June 14th—Training Grounds

(Days Until Invasion: 17)

Yamaka dove after me, I rolled in the dirt and kicked up some behind me for shoddy smokescreen. I'd already taken out Irabu as soon as I could, the vicious fucker he is. With a well-aimed roundhouse I planted my boot into the tracker's muzzle/snout/nose-thingie and dispersed it in a satisfying cloud of smoke! Yesssss! Before I could get too giddy though, I reminded myself of the last target. I crouched to the ground as I reached behind me and pulled out a pearly white case from my tools bag, along with five sheets of paper and some wire. I opened my new brush set and got to work. I could feel Anko's position and kept keenly aware of it as I drew up a four-pointed barrier formula. Being hunted by a sadistic jonin was awfully familiar so I thought I might try out that trap I never got to pull on Kakashi during the Bell Test. Even if it didn't work, then I will have at least gotten to test it out.

My hand was steady and quick as I printed a Barrier qwazigram, layering a Physical Base character over it for extra fortitude, adjusting parameters for a fairly wide spread, accounting for width and chakra input so that energy wouldn't be wasted. I strung the characters out, building the network of chakra for it to flow through annnnd... DONE!

I took a breath as I attached the tags to kunai, slipping them into my pouch. She'd never walk so easily into my trap, so I had to be the hunter this time. A thought that, oddly enough, didn't freak me out as much as it ought to. I credited that to the seal I just constructed. Nothing quite calmed my nerves like Fuinjutsu did. There was no guessing or preparing for unseen variables, unlike when dealing with people. When you plan something to go a certain way, it always preforms it's function without fail. With Fuinjutsu, if you knew what you were doing, you only had to follow the logic when presented with a problem. It either fit or it didn't. A always led to B and B went to C and so on.

It was simple.

It was calming.

I set the Raiton charge of the taser function to High. I was not going to take any chances with this crazy bitch. Fried Anko was on tonight's menu! Concealing myself as best as I could in the nice foliage of the trees, I slowly jumped my way towards the spot where her chakra was casually situated in the center of the training grounds. When I finally spotted her, she was... she was... she was eating goddamned dango! She was just leaning against a training dummy as she snacked away without a care in the world! I could've been mauled by her bloodthirsty snakes!

She would suffer for this transgression, I swear it upon my honor as a fellow Dango aficionado.

While she was distracted by shoving another stick of sweets down her throat, I leapt down from the trees. The taser tags were in my hands and ready to fry her—she shunshin'd, oh shit—I saw her evil face before—hrrk—the world spun and I felt sick—shiiiiit—center of gravity flipping—I'm gunna be siiiiiick—my face was shoved into the side of the tree, bark digging into my cheek as Anko pinned my arms behind my back. She twisted my arms painfully until I released the kunai, dropping them harmlessly on the ground. Fuck this.

"You really suck at this, don't you?" she drawled, moving uncomfortably close to my ear. I could smell the red bean flavor on her breath now. I squirmed petulantly and tried to kick her. I heard the smirk in her voice, even though I couldn't see it. "Though since I'm in such a good mood, I'll give you points for actually getting past the snakes today, maggot."

I inwardly cursed her to go to hell and rot with all of my soul... Hrrk! I bit my lip and swallowed down my motion sickness, tasting the bile in the back of my throat. Okay, I'd curse her to hell as soon as I was sure I'm wasn't going to harvey all over myself.

As if she had heard my inner thoughts, Anko threw her head back and cackled.

Sora—Red Light District, Undisclosed Location

I laid my head on the table and pretended to be as dead as I felt. My only thanks in that moment was that the Waitress/Angel Ume kept everything in the exclusive ninja bar relatively clean so I could do exactly this. She also gave me free ice for my swelling face, telling me that a woman's face can often be their most lethal blade and that I should be taking better care of it. Anko said nothing of her opinion on the subject nor seemed to hold any remorse that she was the cause of my blade's abuse.

She was tossing back drinks and giving me tips on how to more efficiently stalk a target when a surprisingly familiar face walked through the door of the bar. Straight brown hair tucked into a tight bun sans the Konoha medical uniform. Scary Doctor Nori was here. Those brown razor-sharp eyes scanned the room and there was a tense, supremely awkward moment when she noticed Anko and Anko pretended not to have noticed her.

I lifted my hand and waved at Doctor Nori, smiling with my half-swollen face.

Anko's boot collided with my shin painfully.

My forehead hit the table as I silently cursed and spat profanities. Murderfudgering-butternutter bullshit! I glared at Anko through my bangs, absently noticing Doctor Nori scowl at the back of Anko's head but was interrupted by the appearance of someone else calling her in the other direction of us. Leaving me to my pain.

'What did you do to make her hate you.' I asked, then amended. 'Specifically. I can understand why someone would hate you in general.'

I ducked my head to the side as Anko half-heartedly threw a cup at my head. But, apparently she was just into her drink enough to give me sort of an answer. Well, technically she just muttered while filling up her next cup of sake. "She's still pissed at me because I fuckered up her last relationship. She really needs to learn to loosen up and move the hell on."

'So you stole her boyfriend.' I surmised. I could see that happening very easily. Anko didn't seem to have much respect for personal boundaries, even less for the idea of monogamy I would think.

"No, you brat! I don't go butting into other people's personal shit!" Anko denied with annoyance, giving me a bit of surprise. Huh, then why? I leaned my chin on my fist and looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to continues sharing. She lifted the saucer to her mouth again, averting her eyes to somewhere off to the side. "...I cheated on her."

Huh?

My brain caught up. Oh. Oh.

Well...

'So you have intimacy issues.' I corrected, because this is the real Truth of the matter. Yes, now this I can believe whole-heartedly. Anko threw her cup at me again, I ducked to the side already expecting—pain erupted across my faceShit! She threw the bottle too! It hit me square in the brow! Fuck, that smarts!

A few minutes later I was holding a small cloth filled with ice to my head, courtesy of my heaven-sent angel that is the deadly waitress Ume, and was still glaring at Anko who just looked too damn pleased with her aim. Now would be a good time for some alcohol to not work for me. Too bad for me that Neko had spoken with Gobe the Bartender and had used some of his intimidating elite ANBU Captain pull and kinda sorta implied that anyone giving minors - hitai-ate or not - alcohol of any kind was going to get a surprise visit from a Black Ops member. Which, I found to be hilariously endearing as I did a tad overbearing on his part. Oh well. At least I wasn't the only underage shinobi to be restricted from trying to get sozzled, so that's good.

"Your buddy told me about your refusal to preform a Genjustu. Said it was getting in the way of your training." Anko commented, staring at her cup. I made a face. Great. Now is she going to get on me about it, too? She threw back her head and downed her cup, setting it back on the table. "It was a smart move."

I blinked. What the hell.

I narrowed my eyes at the older woman in suspicion, signing. 'Neko wasn't happy about it.' She shrugged indifferently. I frowned. 'You don't have any problem with it?' I ventured to ask. I could've sworn that this crazy lady would've sooner beat the shit out of me for disobeying her explicit commands.

"It's smart to keep something like that close to your chest, brat." she explained, tapping next to her eyes in case I'd forgotten she knew about that. Right. "If you went around showing off the cards up your sleeve, then someone just might take advantage of your special talents."

I shifted uncomfortably, eyes darting towards the activated Silencing Seal on the table to look out at the faces of the other customers around us. It was irrational of me, yes. But I couldn't help but imagine seeing a white mask sitting the in the shadowy corners of the room. A white mask that wasn't really there, just something from my memory. I let out a breath and slumped forward, laying my head on my arms as exhaustion caught back up with me.

I was so tired of always being so tired.

"He'd picked me right out of the Academy," she said suddenly. I glanced up to see a strangely somber look on her face as her eyes watched the liquid in her cup. "I'd, ah... I had been toying around with Toxicology as my specialization that year. Hadn't really been that into it at the start. I'd just done it to piss off the Kunoichi studies teacher and get out of her classes. But, I found I had a knack for mixing and matching certain herbs. So I went with it."

Anko threw back another drink and refilled it, her cheeks already turning pink from all the sake she's had tonight. I didn't so much as move as I watched her brown eyes turn distant.

"Everybody in class had to do a study project at the end of the year, to show off what you learned and shit. Others did tricks with shuriken or went up against an instructor to prove their taijutsu. I made a poison that after entering the blood stream, thickens and expands after a few minutes. Causing clots to start popping up all over the body at once, killing the subject in a very painful and slow manner as they choked on bile. The instructors had stared even after the rabbit had stopped twitching." she smirked bitterly then, upper lip curling up in a sneer. "I had met him about a week after the project—I had got flying marks, by the way—He had been sooo impressed with it after seeing it action and said I had a... ohh, what did he say? Ah, right! He said that I had an 'unusually developed sense of creativity.'"

She let out a harsh laugh at my horrified stare, that bitter look never leaving her flushed face. Anko leaned onto the table with me, mirroring my position by laying her head on her arms.

"You wanna know the reeeeally sad part about this whole story?"

She looked smaller than usual somehow.

She looked... vulnerable.

I swallowed thickly, barely nodding.

"It made me feel fucking euphoric." she whispered painfully soft, dim brown eyes boring into mine. "He was one of the greatest heroes of the war and I felt like a God had just descended from the top of the fucking mountain to pay attention to a little nothing-nobody like me. He wanted me to be his apprentice and to train under him. It was like living a fucking dream..."

Something inside me twisted at her words. Something raw and angry that left a blackened taste in my mouth. It was such a stupid thing to realize especially since I'd already known it.

They all really did love him at one point, didn't they?

Anko straightened up again, tossing back the rest of the bottle. I followed her example, stretching my spine and pretending not to see her wipe at her eye. In the next heartbeat with a smooth smirk, she was back to being the obnoxious special jonin that I loathed to be around. "I accepted the apprenticeship and the rest is a Rank-S secret." she finished.

I nodded, letting out a breath as the heavy mood began to lift off our little booth. It was weird to see Anko so serious. Nearly unnerving, actually. Didn't look forward to that happening again and hoped it didn't. But, I wouldn't say that this little talk was... unappreciated. It certainly gave me a perspective that I hadn't known I needed, of someone that loved him. I had to wonder if this is what Kakashi-sensei had hoped for when he asked Anko to teach me? Eh, probably but he had no real proof either of us would tolerate the other long enough to get here. So it's just pure luck on his end that this hasn't ended up with me hospitalized yet. The month isn't over yet either.

I raised my hands, signing. 'So about the Doctor...'

Anko grinned as she kicked me again. Fuckeerrrr...

Yeah, so... I might be able to tolerate Anko a bit more after this.

Montage Arc,

Chapter Forty-Nine: "Let's Talk"

END

A/N: OMAKE TIME AGAIN! This is Song!Canon, just a little thing that I couldn't find room for in the actual plotline.

OMAKE: "Plots of Mice and Overprotective Friends"

"Friends are the like the bacon bits in the salad bowl of Life." -Anon E. Muss

Sora, June 17th—Hospital

Hinata smiled, gently clapping her bandaged-wrapped hands together in applause. I did a dramatic bow as I placed my Ocarina away, moving to take my seat beside her bed again. Before I did however, there was a little yip of a bark followed by a ball of fur and utter adorableness that rushed into the room and jumped onto the bed. Hinata gasped as Akamaru nuzzled his head under her chin. I looked towards the door as Kiba and Shino walked in, the former blinking at me in surprise.

"Pomegranate!" he shouted, a canine peeking out of the corner of his wolfish grin. "What're you doing here! Shouldn't you be getting all the training you can before you get your ass kicked by me in the exams?"

'Hello Shino.' I signed. Pointedly ignoring the Dog-Boy, much to his ire and wounded pride. Hah, silly little boy. He makes it so easy sometimes.

The bug-user dipped his head politely, a pleased feeling bubbling in his chakra as Kiba scowled beside him. "Hello Sora-san. It's nice to see you are doing better. Because: You had most of us worried for your health during the preliminaries."

I averted my eyes and scratched my warm cheek. It's nice to be cared about, but it's also kinda embarrassing when it gets brought up again. Akamaru hopped into my lap then and I began to shower him in affection with kissy noises, riling up Kiba even further.

"Thank you for the song, Sora-chan," Hinata softly interjected, coincidentally heading off whatever Kiba was about to bark at me about spoiling his partner. She waved her hand at the stack of books at her bedside next. "And for all the books you've brought me to read. Though, I don't think that I'll even be able to finish them all before I'm discharged!"

Reminded of the reason why she was here in the first damn place, I scowled darkly. 'You shouldn't be here at all.'

Being of similar mind for once, Kiba growled menacingly, cracking his knuckles. "That asshole cousin of yours is gonna get what's comin' to him soon enough. I'm gonna be sure to be the one to kick that guy's ass in the finals."

'No. He won't get past Hero.' I denied, making the Dog-Boy turn his snarl to me. 'But I will make sure to get my own revenge on Stick after. I am working on a plan.'

Shino tilted his head in question as Kiba's curiosity was piqued. "What do you mean by that, Sora-san? And, are you in need of any assistance."

I felt the unmistakable pull of an evil smirk on my lips as Hinata squeaked in worry.

Shino adjusted his glasses ominously, a dark and vengeful aura oozing from him.

All of Kiba's teeth flashed as he grinned ferally, Akamaru yipping his two cents.

Stick won't know what hit him.

Somewhere in the Hyuuga compound

Neji let out an abrupt sneeze.

He looked around briefly, feeling as if someone had just called his name.

To Be Continued~

A/N: Okay, so. At the beginning of 2019, I had honestly thought that I would be past the Chunnin exams and onto the next arcs before the end of the year and there is no one more disappointed in the fact that I haven't more than me. I actually intended on not posting another chapter of this until I had finished up the rest of the Montage Arc, just for everyone's sake, but then I wondered what the point was?

I write all this because I want to share it with you guys as soon as I can! I love getting to hear your thoughts and sharing in your excitement for this! I don't want to hold back, even if the chapter isn't action-packed or filled with canon related changes! Honestly, I have gone over the planned materials for this arc over and over again and I've come to the conclusion that everything that Sora concocts here, every little interaction, is going to create butterfly effects all the way to the very end of the story—(Which, by the way, I know how this all ends.)—And if you have patience with me, I promise to deliver some amazing twists and heartwarming relationship building!

Okay so after such a long time away, I am going to get to responding to everyone's reviews! Sorry for the wait, but I didn't want to show up with empty handed! For fans of my other work, I have also updated 'Life is not a Shoujo Manga' and I have posted two new My Hero Academia fics for reading! All my One Piece ideas are still on the backburner, but they are slowly getting built up as well!

Author Question!

"New Year's resolutions anyone?"

To write more chapters for you guys to read, of course! But also, I want to get out of the house more. I love the outside and it's such an inspiration to me. And for third, because I can never just do one thing: I intend to step out of my comfort zone and try to be more social with people! Try to make more friends and build my relationships with real, non-fictional people. Hahahaaaa… we'll see how that last one works out, huh?

All right guys, it's Christmas Eve 2019 and I wish you all to have a wonderful night and a wonderful day tomorrow! Stay warm and remember: I love you guys! See you in 2020!

-Nanami

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