The Road is Long.
Onyx and Ivory
"Final body count; three hundred and seventy two."
The Third Hokage sighed deeply, his eyes shutting in remorse, "There are two survivors, Uchiha Itachi and Uchiha Sasuke. Who is the other person we are counting?" Hiruzen asked his ANBU.
"According to witnesses, Ginyoru Hoshiko was slain by Itachi."
"What witnesses?" He asked sharply. Hiruzen couldn't believe that. He knew the real reason why Itachi had killed his clan; he refused to admit that the selfless boy would kill his friend.
"Me." Danzo said, entering the office.
"Danzo…" Hiruzen grumbled in displeasure.
Danzo hobbled up to the desk, the ANBU bowing and leaving them alone to talk. "I feel as if I am partly to blame for this unfortunate attack." Danzo faked his guilt.
"What have you done now?"
Danzo went and sat on the couch at the side of the room, "After taking young Hoshiko under my wing in Root and sending her on missions, she became very isolated. When news of Uchiha Shisui's death reached her she was adamant that Itachi was to blame."
"It was a suicide," Hiruzen said, lighting up his pipe.
Danzo nodded in agreement, "Yes, but she refused to believe it. She then deserted Root, seeking out to kill Itachi. I fear that because of her training she was a threat to him and because Itachi could not reveal anything about the Coup he made the decision to end her life to protect himself."
"It doesn't seem like him." Hiruzen sighed. The loss of the Uchiha and Hoshiko in one night was a devastating loss for the village.
"I trained her myself, Hiruzen. I know what she's like…I saw her body for myself. My men have taken her back to headquarters and she will be released to her mother for burial." Danzo gritted his teeth. That wasn't true at all. In fact he had no idea where Hoshiko's body was. When his men had gone back to fetch her from the forest they had returned saying that she was gone. Danzo was sure that she had to be dead; he had impaled her sword right through her chest. She had bled out almost her entire bloodstream before he had left her.
Danzo stood up from the couch; "It was an unfortunate night for everyone." Danzo left the room. Hiruzen sat in the dark, smoking the rest of his pipe. For once, he felt at a loss for what to do.
The first thing she felt was pain, a scalding pain in her chest. Then she could feel movement, she felt like she was flying on clouds. She didn't have the energy to open her eyes to see where she was, but every so often she would hear a soft voice, feel a gentle caress. She was drifting in an out of consciousness. She had no sense of time, seconds could have passed or days. One thing was for sure. She was alive and Danzo had tried to kill her. She would recognize the robes she saw anywhere. She could remember in her last moments of consciousness that she had heard him speak.
When she came to for about the fifth time she was slightly more aware of herself, the pain in her chest was still burning. It hurt to breathe, but at least it told her that she was alive. How was she alive though? She had felt the sword impale her right in the center of her chest, surely there was no way a medic could have healed her in time, she had bled out too quickly.
For the first time since being stabbed, Hoshiko was able to open her eyes. Her pupil less silver eyes cracked open. Her lids felt heavy and it was a fight to keep them open but she managed. She glanced around the room she was in, seeing nothing familiar. It looked like she was in a simple rural home. Tatami lined the floor and she was lying on a soft futon. Hoshiko lay there for a little longer, letting her body adjust to being awake again. When she felt she was ready she moved her arms and tried to push herself up. A sharp pain shot through her chest as she cried out and slumped back onto the futon, panting.
Seconds later, the shoji door was opened hastily and a woman stepped into the room, "You're awake."
Hoshiko looked over at the woman, her guard instantly going up. Her cautious expression changed to that of shock as she recognized her, "Aishi?"
Aishi smiled down at her. It was her, the fortuneteller she had met in Hanabira when Hoshiko and Itachi had gone on their ANBU mission to locate the missing children. Her long sandy blonde hair was braided over her shoulder and her coal black eyes searched her face for something.
Aishi came and knelt down next to Hoshiko, "You shouldn't move. Your body is still healing."
Hoshiko frowned at her and then glanced down at her body. The sheet that had been covering her and slipped when she had tried to get up. Her chest was bound, with gauze and tissues placed in the center. "I was stabbed."
"I know." Aishi said softly, "I saw." Hoshiko gazed at her again, silently asking her to explain. "Sometimes during the year I travel to Konoha, I have a friend who lives there and I do some tea readings for her and her family. On the last night before I was departing I was drinking from my cup and it cracked. It was the same cup you had drank from when you came to me so I knew something was wrong."
"How did you find me?" Hoshiko asked. Her voice sounded hoarse and croaky from being out for so long.
"My father was a shinobi, he taught me some things before he passed away. I found you in the forest and waited until that man had left before I took you away."
"How am I alive?" Hoshiko asked, gesturing to her chest. "I thought for sure that I was dead…"
Aishi gave her a knowing look. Hoshiko then took in her appearance; she had dark circles under her eyes and her cheeks looked hollow. Hoshiko squeezed her eyes shut, "I'm sorry. I would never want to her anyone."
"It's alright," Aishi said, placing her hand on her shoulder. "You only took what you needed to survive. Your body has been healing on it's own, but I fear it will be a long time before you are fully healed. There are no shinobi medics in this village, only our own healers."
Hoshiko was silent for a moment before she sighed, "Thank you. You didn't have to do this." Hoshiko glanced around the unfamiliar room. "Where am I?"
"Sadao's farm house," Aishi said with a smile. "When I arrived in Hanabira with you Sadao agreed to take you in. It's the least we could do for what you did for us."
Hoshiko rubbed her face, feeling sore but alert. "How long have I been out?"
Aishi looked at her nervously, "Three weeks."
Hoshiko's jaw dropped, "What? No, I have to get out of here!" she cried, pushing herself up.
"Hoshiko, stop, you can't!" Aishi tried to push her back onto the futon without hurting her.
Angry tears appeared at the corner of Hoshiko's eyes, "No you don't understand! I have to go home! They need me!" In the struggle, a sharp pain ripped through her chest, causing her to clutch at it and scream in pain.
Aishi caught her before she hit the futon, placing her down gently, "Hoshiko…I know what happened. News travels fast when something like this happens…"
Hoshiko stared at her with wet eyes; she could feel her heart breaking all over again. She could remember running into the Uchiha compound, seeing the mangled corpses. Calling out for Sasuke and then finding his parents murdered in their own home. Finding Sasuke after he had placed him under a strong Genjutsu and then trying to fight him and failing…again.
"The boy…the one you came here with…" Aishi whispered. Hoshiko squeezed her eyes shut; she didn't want to think about it. She didn't want to think about him. "He…"
"He killed his clan," Hoshiko finished for her. "I tried to stop him…but I failed."
"No." Aishi said as she reached out and took Hoshiko's hand in her own, "You did everything you could. There is nothing to be ashamed of."
"I have everything to be ashamed of!" Hoshiko winced as the outburst irritated her injury.
Aishi looked down at her compassionately, "You need to rest. I understand you want to return home, but in your state you will most likely die. Please, rest. You will be well enough soon."
Hoshiko ripped her hand out of Aishi's, giving her a glare as she turned her head away from her. She couldn't yet roll onto her side because of her chest injury. Aishi took this as a sign that Hoshiko was done talking. She rose to her feet and opened up the door, before she left Aishi glanced over her shoulder. "I am sorry, truly." The last thing Aishi heard was Hoshiko's quiet sobs.
Four days passed. Four long and painful days for Hoshiko. Her strength was slowly returning to her day by day. She was now eating solid foods and drinking regularly. She could now sit up unassisted but needed help standing and walking. She felt like an old woman, especially since her helper was always Ren. The child she had saved when her and Itachi had rescued the children. In some ways Hoshiko found similarities in Ren and Sasuke, and she wouldn't feel so homesick. Ren was eleven now, older then Sasuke but just as annoying.
He was always asking her questions about being a Kunoichi, things like 'what's it like to jump through trees?' or 'how many people have you killed'. Hoshiko couldn't answer that, as she didn't know herself. Every night her dreams were plagued with bodies, the bodies she had seen on the ground of the Uchiha compound. She would dream of Itachi murdering his parents before her eyes, then he would laugh manically and kill her. Then she would wake up crying and gasping for air.
Ren would usually come running in, worried that maybe someone had come to kill Hoshiko. After he realized it were only nightmares he would sit with her until she fell asleep again.
On the morning of the fifth day, Hoshiko felt like she was ready to go outside. Or better yet, she needed to go outside. She had been cooped up in this small room for almost four weeks. She hadn't bathed properly in four weeks. Aishi came round every other day to sponge bath her but nothing comparing to sinking in a hot spring or actual bath.
Hoshiko was currently propped up on a stack of pillows. Ren was feeding her breakfast because she was still too weak to hold her own bowl. It irritated Hoshiko to be so handicapped but she welcomed the help. It was either this or be dead.
"I want to go outside." Hoshiko stated to Ren once she had finished.
Ren set down the bowl, "Aishi-san says you aren't strong enough to go outside yet."
"I don't care," Hoshiko snapped.
Ren gave her a sympathetic look, "It's cold outside, Hoshiko. Sadao-san says that winter hits us earlier because we're so far north. It wouldn't be good for you."
Hoshiko had to give the kid credit, not many people could say they told Hoshiko she couldn't do what she wanted and lived to tell the tale. She sighed, "I don't care. I need to get out of here, Ren."
Ren ignored her completely as he collected the bowl once more, "I'll be back in a few hours, I need to help Sadao-san with—Hoshiko!" Ren yelled and dropped the bowl as he watched Hoshiko try to stand on her own.
Hoshiko was grunting and gritting her teeth against the pain as she tried to push herself up and onto her feet. Ren tried to protest against her getting up without help but Hoshiko continued to do it anyway. With a frown Ren hurried over to her side and helped her up.
Hoshiko wobbled as Ren tried to take most of her weight, "Aishi-san's going to kill me." Ren muttered under his breath.
Hoshiko could feel the sweat building up on her forehead but didn't have the strength to lift her arms up and wipe it away. When Ren thought she was stable enough to stand on her own for a few seconds he ducked down and grabbed her blanket, throwing it around her shoulders to keep her warm.
With her frail body leaning against the boy who was almost as tall as her, Hoshiko took slow steps onto the outside porch. Ren had opened the door for her as they both stepped outside into the chilly weather. It was overcast, the clouds dark and the wind biting. Hanabira was the northernmost village in the fire country. The land of Waterfalls bordered it so winter arrived early for the region than other parts. Hoshiko sucked in a deep breath, feeling the fresh air filling her lungs.
"We shouldn't stay out too long, it's not good for you," Ren commented. Hoshiko ignored him and continued her staggered walk. Her arm reached out to the nearby wooden post as her hand fastened around it tightly. When Ren was sure that she was able to hold herself up he let go of her and took a step back, leaving Hoshiko on her own for a bit. He had half a mind to stay with her and make sure that she would be ok, but he guessed she would want some time on her own, so he turned and walked back into the farmhouse.
Hoshiko heard him leave and was thankful for some time alone. She sucked in another deep breath of fresh air, and felt the sharp pain that came with it in her chest. Willing herself to be strong enough, Hoshiko held onto the post with one hand and slowly lowered herself down off the porch and onto the grass. She could feel the ache in her chest and body from tensing up but ignored it as her foot touched the cold and dewy ground. Even if it was cold, it meant that Hoshiko was feeling something; it was proof that she was still alive.
She took another step, releasing the post as she walked further out from the house. The little voice in her head told her that this was stupid; she was not well enough to be outside in the freezing cold. She could already feel the dizziness settling into her, the nausea was creeping up slowly but she pushed it away as best she could. She had been cooped up for so long, she wanted this time out here.
A breeze rustled her loose clothes, her knotted hair tickling her nose as she brushed it away tenderly and felt something wet land on her hand. Hoshiko put her hand in front of her face, enabling her to see the small snowflake melting against her skin. She tilted her head back, her silver eyes searching the sky as she began to see hundreds of tiny snowflakes falling from the heavens.
Two weeks later Hoshiko jolted awake from her sleep. This was a nightly occurrence for her. Every night she was plagued with nightmares. Sometimes it would be about the massacre; sometimes it would be fighting Itachi again. Other times, like tonight it would be of Danzo standing over her. She would be frozen to the ground, her hands and feet heavy as she watched Danzo plunge the sword into her chest again and again. She would scream, and it would only be after the fifth stab that she would finally wake up. Clutching at her chest, tears on her cheeks and her heart racing.
Hoshiko felt betrayed, not only by Itachi but by the village too. They hadn't stopped Itachi when they could've. Hoshiko had given her life to protect the village, and what had Danzo given her in return? An attempt on her life and an ugly scar to match. She had given so much to the village and she had been given nothing in return. Only death and heartache.
Hoshiko wiped the sweat from her forehead, pushing away the soaked strands of hair that had plastered themselves onto her clammy skin. She pushed herself up into a sitting position. Most of the pain had gone from her wound. It had been six weeks since she had been stabbed. Six weeks since she had probably been pronounced dead. As she thought on it, it didn't seem to bother her as much anymore.
So what if everyone thought she was dead? She had failed as a Kunoichi and as a friend to those who needed her. She didn't deserve to go home. Better yet, how could she face them? Especially Sasuke.
Sasuke. The boy she had treated like a little brother. The boy whose brother she had let slaughter his entire family. There was no way Hoshiko could face him after what had happened.
In a way Danzo was right…she had been useless. She hadn't stopped anything, she was to be used to help the village and yet nothing changed. The coup still happened and she deserved to be exiled.
Hoshiko stood up slowly. She still had to be careful with how she moved; otherwise she would get pains in her chest again. She padded across the tatami mats and to the mirror that hung on the wall. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. The light from the small candle illuminating her room, she was fearful of sleeping in a dark room still. Worried about what might be lurking in the shadows.
She still sported dark bruises under her eyes from her restless nights. Her hair was limp and frail, her eyes dull. Hoshiko pulled the front of her shirt down to reveal the still healing scar. It sat center of her chest, about the length of her thumb. The skin was still pink and raw and she knew that a scar would stay with her forever.
Hoshiko thought back on her time as a Kunoichi, how since she was a child she had strived to be the best. She had given her all to be accepted by the village, to prove that she was worthy. In the end she had been cast aside, but isn't that was a Shinobi is supposed to be. Hadn't Itachi told her that a long time ago?
It was the night of the winter festival. After Itachi, Shisui and Hoshiko had taken their photo together the oldest Uchiha had run off, claiming to have seen a girl that he was supposedly dating.
Itachi and Hoshiko walked together through the streets, the snow was falling slowly now and Hoshiko was glad that she had brought her thick coat tonight. Itachi was escorting her home, like the gentleman he was.
"Ne, Itachi?" Hoshiko suddenly said. Itachi glanced over at her, seeing her piercing silver gaze staring at him openly. "It's my ANBU test in a few weeks."
"Aa." The Uchiha replied, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
"Do you think I'll pass?" Hoshiko asked him.
The girl glared at him, "Can you give more then a one word answer?"
Itachi smirked slightly, "No."
Hoshiko scoffed and shoved him lightly on the arm. She sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "I hope I pass. I feel like it's the only way for everyone to see that I'm dedicated to the village. Once I'm ANBU, everyone will know who I am. Even you'll have to acknowledge me finally."
"You truly believe that is what being a Shinobi is about?" Itachi questioned her. "Being acknowledged by everyone?"
"Well no!" Hoshiko defended. "I mean…I don't know…I never really thought about it." Hoshiko glanced over at him again. She could see that his brows had been pulled together tightly, he was thinking about something. "Do you remember what Inoue-sensei used to say…about our Ninja way or something like that?"
Hoshiko rolled her eyes at his blunt response. "Well, what's yours?"
Itachi was silent for a few moments before he spoke again, "To work in the shadows to protect the peace of the village. That is what I believe a true Shinobi should be."
Hoshiko's eyes narrowed at her reflection. Instead of working in the shadows to bring peace, all you did was cause chaos. She thought bitterly. Hoshiko faced away from the mirror. She had made her decision.
I gave my everything to the village. I'm done being their pawn. I'm done with being a Shinobi. I worked in the shadows to bring peace, but peace was out of my reach.
His head inclined at the sound of his door opening. "Uchiha-san?" A voice said. He recognized it immediately as Tobi, the personality that Madara fashioned around the others. The door closed as Itachi stood from his chair and faced the masked man. The younger Uchiha was garbed in the black cloak with red clouds. His slashed Hitai-ate secured across his forehead. On his finger was his 'Shu' ring.
"You seem to be settling in well." Madara commented, his voice changing. Itachi nodded his head. "The official report from the Massacre has been released. I think you'll find that something might interest you about it." Itachi turned away from him. "The lists of names were also released. Ginyoru Hoshiko was one of them. It was listed that you killed her."
"You think this interests me?" Itachi retorted, keeping his voice level.
"You were ANBU partners, weren't you?" Madara enquired.
Itachi cursed in his head. So Madara had known about that too, he must have been sneaking around Konoha longer then he thought. "Briefly. What has this got to do with anything?"
Madara chuckled, "Oh, nothing. It's a shame really. She was the last of a feared clan, she could've been useful to us."
"She got in the way. I eliminated her."
"Of course," Madara said with a slight nod of his head. "Well, I'll be leaving on a mission soon."
Itachi inclined his head in farewell, "As will I."
"Tobi." Itachi replied politely as the orange masked man exited his room. The door shut with a soft click as the younger Uchiha let his façade slip slightly. His eyes dropped to the floor, his mouth turning down slightly.
Dead…Danzo must've…I never made a deal with him to keep her safe, only Sasuke. Forgive me Shisui…I could not keep my promises to you.
"It suits you."
Hoshiko turned at the sound of Aishi's voice. Her silver eyes settled on the older woman, her long blonde hair loose as it fell around her shoulders and to her waist. Aishi's coal eyes always reminded her painfully of someone else's, but she had reminded herself that they weren't his. She was dressed in a long grey dress and coat, perfect for the cold winter day.
Hoshiko's fingers went to the tips of her newly cut hair, the ebony tips just brushing her shoulders. That night she had turned her back on being a Shinobi, she had taken a kunai to her own hair, hacking the long tresses off and watching them twist and float down to her feet. She had felt good, feeling like she was starting a new chapter of her life finally. She wouldn't be used by anyone anymore.
"I could have cut it for you, you know," Aishi said with a smirk as she sat down opposite her at the kitchen table. Hoshiko poured her a cup of tea and handed it to her.
"It was kind of sudden…" Hoshiko said quietly. Sipping the hot drink.
"I can tell." Aishi said with a smirk, hiding it behind her cup. Her smile dropped slightly. "So…you're pretty much all healed up by now. What do you plan on doing?"
Hoshiko met her gaze for a moment before dropping it down to her cup and twirling it around in her hands. "I'm not sure."
"I thought you wanted to go home, you practically almost gave yourself a hemorrhage all those weeks ago." Aishi said with a slight teasing tone.
Hoshiko sighed and rested her cheek on her hand, "Things changed…I've changed."
Aishi gave her a sympathetic look, "You know what happened wasn't your fault, right?"
Hoshiko looked away, "I know, but I can't help but feel guilty. For now, I want to regain the lost time that I had. I spent all my life trying to be this great Kunoichi. Someone who was acknowledged by everyone…but after everything that's happened…it's not important to me anymore."
Aishi reached across the table and grasped onto Hoshiko's free hand, "You know you are always welcome here. Sadao-san will gladly let you stay. We'll protect you here, no one will know who you were."
"Arigato, Aishi." Hoshiko said with a weak smile. Sometimes Hoshiko forgot that she was only fourteen years old. After everything she had been through in her life, she felt at least twenty years older then what she was already. Maybe it was finally time for her to be her age, to care about the things normal civilian girls her age cared about.
"Well I'm glad you think that, because I have a surprise for you." Aishi said with a knowing glint in her eye.
Hoshiko smirked and rolled her eyes at her, "And what's that?"
Aishi stood up quickly and extended her hand down to the teenager, "Come on, I need to show you." Hoshiko eyed it wearily but reached for it anyway and let herself be helped up.
Hoshiko walked with Aishi through the streets of Hanabira. She was strong enough to be outside for hours now, but she hadn't tried any strenuous activities yet. She wasn't yet willing to exhaust her body yet, just being outside was good enough for her right now.
Hoshiko was bundled up in a coat and a head warmer that Aishi had borrowed her. Hanabira had been blanketed under a thick cover of snow for the past week, winter was definitely settling in. Aishi was chatting away in her ear exuberantly, talking about some customers that she had come to her over the past couple of weeks. She was still going strong with her fortune telling, and she would often ask Hoshiko if she wanted her to read her fortune again but she always declined. The fortune that Aishi had told her all those months ago was enough for one lifetime.
Not to mention that it had all come true…
They stopped outside of a small but busy teahouse. Aishi normally brought her dango and biscuits from here sometimes. "What are we doing here?" Hoshiko asked, glancing over at the taller woman.
Aishi gave her a knowing smile; she looped her arm through Hoshiko's and dragged her gently into the warm shop. Hoshiko shook off some of the snow as she glanced around the cozy building. Just over half a dozen tables and chairs were set out in the room; people drinking and eating occupied most of the tables. There was a counter with a middle-aged man serving behind it. Aishi pulled Hoshiko over to him.
The man, with kind brown eyes and short dark hair smiled with he saw Aishi and wiped his hands down on his apron, "Aishi-chan. What a pleasure to see you here."
"Takita-san," Aishi said as she pulled Hoshiko into her side and gestured to her. "This is the girl I was telling you about. This is Fuyuko." Hoshiko recognized the fake name that they had come up with. It was still too dangerous for Hoshiko to use her true name still.
"Hello, Fuyuko," Takita said with a smile as he extended his hand over the counter for Hoshiko to shake.
Aishi bent her head closer to Hoshiko; "Takita-san was a close friend of my fathers before he passed away. I explained to him that a friend of mine was coming to live here from a nearby village and needed a place to work. Takita happily offered you a job." Hoshiko saw the wink Aishi gave her. It was the story that they had come up with. Hoshiko had a new name and was from another village. It was risky to say that she had recently come from Konoha.
"That's very kind of you, Takita-san." Hoshiko bowed in respect.
"Not a problem, girl. Any friend of Aishi's is a friend of mine. Can you start now?"
Hoshiko beamed, "Of course!" she said happily as Takita beckoned her around the counter as Hoshiko shrugged off her coat and tied on the apron that Takita handed to her.
Hoshiko watched as Aishi smiled at her, waved and started to walk out of the shop. Hoshiko waved back and silently thanked her, knowing that she would have to repay Aishi back with something special soon. It was now, as Hoshiko stood listening to the advice that Takita was giving her, that Hoshiko finally felt that she could be herself for once.
And that she could finally be at peace, with nothing to worry about.
But fate works in mysterious ways…
I am so sorry guys! I know it's been a while since I updated and I apologise so much. I know this chapter was a little boring but the next few will just be a little more like this until we have our first big time skip. Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me so far and again I'm sorry for taking so long to get another chapter up. I will try and have another one up soon for you all!
blueeremartian - I'll miss Shisui too, but he'll be referenced and remembered all throughout this story in flashbacks and conversations as he was my fave character to write! Their kiss killed me literally i was so upset to do that to them but oh well hahah.
AugustRush - Thank you! Sorry it took me like actually forever to get a new one out!
mikan26 - Don't worry, i shed a tear for them more then once last chapter. I'm a horrible person but it'll all be worth it in the end, promise!
Guest - Thank you! Sorry it took me forever! Please enjoy!
Dark Rose Charm - Thank you! Yeah I felt horrible doing it but it really was a beautiful scene between them. I can't to write the reunion between them! It'll be epic let's say that! haha and yeah still can't wait for me to kill Danzo off
Alera33 - I cried too writing and reading it over. I'm horrible to them. As I said to someone else before, I can't wait to write their reunion!
Deepti917 - I know I'm horrible and no it's far from done. We've still got a long way to go before I'm finished with this story!
WindsRoar - Thank you! Sorry I never got in touch with you about the art, I really am forgetful most times!
lizyeah2000 - Danzo still a big ole bitch ahaha thank you!
abandonedforevermore - Same fam
PrismRootStarlight - Thank you so much! Sorry for the super long wait, i do apologise and I know this isn't the most exciting chapter but it will get better soon!
Pine Pair - Thank you! Sorry it took me forever!
Again thank you everyone! See you next time!