Main Pairing: Uchiha Sasuke and Uzumaki Naruto

Sub Pairings: Expect the unexpected

Genres: Drama, Angst, Historical, Romance

Rating: Mature

Author’s Notes: Thanks to reading a lot of samurai-based manga and WWII-based novels in the past few months (don’t ask), the muses got a-roaring again, and I’ve decided to sink my teeth back into Naruto fan fiction. Now, unlike pure samurai stories, I have taken plenty of liberties with this one. Just like Kishimoto’s Naruto world seems to be a blend of the old and new, so will this story. There will be modern devices here and there, but many throw-backs to the Tokugawa/Edo era as well. I do not know if supernatural elements will appear yet (as in special fighting skills etc. etc.), but if that does happen, it happens. With that said, I would really appreciate people not sending me snippy comments about how this doesn’t fit into that. Even though I’m blending two eras, I am still doing my research to keep things as authentic as possible.


Secondly, this story is dark and will have scenes that might be unpleasant or too graphic for most readers. I make no apologies for that, because back in the day torture and abuse was rampant and not fun either. I do, however, make apologies for any typos you might notice. I tend to write fast, and do my best to edit afterwards, but I might miss one or two things here and there.


Thirdly, the ‘voice’ of the characters might appear to be older than they are, and that is because it was envisioned with the main characters writing out their tales when they are…well…much older. So if you read it, and notice that Naruto sounds like he just stepped out of college, just imagine him as some older guy sitting in his office, writing out his memoir. I’d like to think he’s much smarter by then. Don’t you?


And last but not least, to anyone who even considers ripping off this story and posting it as theirs, please do NOT even contemplate doing that. It really upsets me to see this happening more and more, and I honestly now dread posting my work on this site. So please, if you enjoy the story, direct others to it, but do not pass it off as your own!


And to those who do read it, your comments/feedback is always welcome and very much appreciated. Enjoy! :D




Chapter 01:

Porcelain Skin


Our life in this world

To what shall I compare it?

It’s like an echo

Resounding through the mountains

And off into the empty sky

-      Monk Ryokan



It was impossible to miss her.


She easily stood out amongst the other grimy occupants of the congested, claustrophobic, and heaving bus; her porcelain skin like a beacon for those who cared to notice.


It was an anomaly in the grand scheme of things; though she did her best to blend in with the rest of us dressed in yukatas or Sunday Bests that had seen better days. I would almost laugh at her attempt to look like ‘one-of-us’, but I was too busy admiring her very presence to show my uncouth manners. Besides, I wanted to make a good impression despite my -


“Move it kid,” came the gruff retort as I was shoved unceremoniously to the side; nearly falling on my ass to the mud-slicked floor in the process. There was barely enough room to breathe and yet this gigantic moron had almost tried to kill me with just a jab from his meaty elbow. It didn’t help that he stunk of raw fish and stale cabbage, and as he oozed himself between two skinny men  - who seemed to shrink aside in fear (or maybe the stench) - I sighed and rose to my feet; now eager to find a seat lest I be made to stand for the lengthy journey. 


Unfortunately, the only empty seat was two rows ahead of the subject of my admiration, but at least it was on the opposite side of the bus, so if I was careful, I could sneak a few glances here and there without attracting too much attention. Clutching the brown paper bag tightly against my chest, which contained a pitiful number of personal belongings I was allowed to bring, I squeezed in next to a passenger who was already snoring in the midst of the din surrounding us. Unbelievable.


Dressed in a gray yukata, he looked like he was in his twenties, though with the struggles of this day and age I wouldn’t be surprised if he was actually a teenager like me. His shaved head seemed to gleam beneath the pale sunlight that filtered through the dusty windows, and subconsciously, I ran my fingers through my blond tresses; wondering if there would come a day when I’d have to shave it all off too. It had grown a little longer in the past few months during my stay at Tosho-gu, forcing me to keep it in a loose ponytail. I would have preferred to have it back to its familiar short length, but who had the time or money to go to a barber these days?


Suddenly feeling morose at the sight of the drool accumulating in my new companion’s mouth, I sighed and tried to make myself comfortable, but it was practically impossible. The seat was of hard wood; the kind that dug into your buttocks and made it hurt with every movement. There was no arm rest, and I dared not set my bag down as the likelihood of it disappearing within seconds was high. My traveling companions were not exactly the most innocent of people after all, and though the sun was yet to reach its zenith, it was still blistering hot in these tight confines. Sweat drenched our flesh and soaked our clothes; the dark, patchy stains beneath armpits, backs, and chests ugly reminders of our pitiful situations.


“Move it! Move it! Come on! We ain’t got all day!” came the impatient wail from one of the conductors outside as three more passengers were shoved into the already pregnant bus. Grumbles and mumbles began in the back, and it didn’t take long for someone to mutter out loud about the dismal conditions.


“We ain’t animals,” came the complaint. “We ain’t even got room to jerk off.”


Amidst the bleak situation, this statement did get some of us laughing, but I immediately blushed in embarrassment as I realized that such a crude joke might not be appreciated by our lone female traveler. I dared to steal a peek; thankful that the newcomers were moving toward the back so as not to obstruct my view.


I wasn’t sure of what to expect; that perhaps she would be frowning in distaste or pouting in disapproval. However – and much to my reluctant admiration - she didn’t seem fazed at all. If anything, her attention was focused outside the window; an expression of indifference (or boredom) etched on those pale features.


She must have witnessed plenty of such crude behavior, I deduced; now wondering if she had grown up in those homes where yakuza often paid visits on a daily basis. Or perhaps she was the daughter of a yakuza. It would make sense then if she was ‘one-of-us’; though it was a rarity that such people were actually brought to justice. Yakuza were known to pay off the watchdogs (police) and could get away with cold-blooded murder even with witnesses all over the place.


“Everyone in?!” a conductor yelled, but his grating voice could have been miles away for all I cared. “All right! Bus Number 2308…GO!”


There was the piercing sound of a whistle being blown as the doors closed and my journey to a new life officially began. However, I was still preoccupied with thoughts of the girl and a life story I was readily creating for her.


You must have lived such a rough life, I thought sadly; allowing my fantasies to take flight as the bus gave a loud groan – as if finally tired of being forced to remain in one position for so long – then a jarring jerk that sent most of us nearly hitting our heads or crashing our bodies against each other, before finally cranking its way out of the parking lot.


The commotion had finally awakened my companion, who blinked several times as if unsure of where he was. His beady dark eyes eventually cleared and after throwing me a cursory glance, he effectively dismissed me as non-threatening and snuggled closer to the window in an effort to get more comfortable. In less than a minute, he was snoring again! I had to admire his ability to block out everything else, though my ass was now beginning to hurt even worse than before. I already wanted to stretch my legs, but there was no where it could go. The space between seats was way too limited.


“Settle down, you worthless pieces of shit!” came the sudden loud bark which was promptly followed by the near deafening clank of an unsheathed sword struck against the steel barricade at the front of the bus. Whether it was the sound of his voice – which bore a striking resemblance to thunder – or his size, which was intimidating in itself; our watchdog for the journey was a living, breathing monster.


The familiar uniform – the black kamishimo, striped hakama, and adorned crest (in the shape of a fan) – almost always sent a sliver of fear down the spines of many. As a little kid, I had always wanted to be a member of the elite watchdog force; to be able to walk down the streets in my costume with my swords and handguns fighting for the peace and stability of our towns and cities. I could still remember the many hours I’d spend just stalking Officer Dosu, who actually didn’t seem to mind that he had an overzealous fan like me. In fact, he had called me over while enjoying a break with a fellow officer at a local noodle shop.


At first I wasn’t sure if he was actually calling me, considering I had been hiding behind several large barrels outside the shop, but when he specifically pointed at me with his wakizashi, I knew the jig was up. I figured if I was going to get punished, I might as well take it like a man. Besides, I would only brag about it to my friends later on. It wasn’t everyday any of us could show our scars from getting a beating from a watchdog. It was like a badge of honor!


“What’s your name, boy?” Officer Dosu had asked as I stood before him with what I hoped was determination on my face. There was no need to show fear, but damn if his katana didn’t look long and shiny. I wanted to touch it so bad, it hurt.


I stood at attention and opened my mouth to belt out “Uzumaki Naruto!” at the top of my lungs; much too loudly I guess because a few of the other patrons gawked at me, some with displeasure, others with amusement. Dosu was of the latter, for he burst into loud laughter and slapped his thigh, while his companion chuckled and shook his head.


“He’s a brash one, isn’t he?” Dosu remarked and grinned. The motion made the rugged scar on the left side of his face twist even more cruelly. I wondered what had happened to cause such a wound in the first place. A sword fight gone wrong? Though he was still alive, wasn’t he? He pointed to his wakizashi. “Do you know what this is, Uzumaki Naruto?”


“It’s a sword, sir,” I replied with an eagerness I no longer tried to hide. “A sword given to elite officers.”


“That’s right. It is a sword for the elite.” He paused as if considering something, and then with a light shrug, he withdrew the katana from his obi and held it out to me. “Would you like to hold it, Naruto?”


“Dosu,” his companion warned in a low voice, though he continued to sip on his sake.


“He’s just a kid,” Dosu reasoned with a playful wink at me. “Besides, I think Uzumaki Naruto here wants to become an elite like us someday, don’t you?”


“Do I!” I squealed breathlessly; unable to believe I was actually allowed to hold something so powerful in my hands. The scabbard alone was exquisite, and even ‘til this day, I can still remember how its intricate gold design had shone beneath the sun in all its glory. However, as I tried to lift it and to swing like I had seen some ronin do in the past, I found myself stumbling and falling flat on my face! My embarrassment was complete when the officers burst into laughter and even a few of the patrons snickered and seemed to mock me. Sure I was just a seven-year-old snotty-nosed orphan that roamed the streets; it still didn’t give them the right to make fun of me.


Feeling my eyes burn with tears, I grit my teeth and staggered to my feet; using the sword as leverage. It was much heavier than I thought, but I was determined to at least swing it once. I tried again, and the result was no different. I barked my shin, scraped my knee and wound up with a bloody nose, but I wasn’t going to give up. No way. Not while I had this opportunity. By this time, they had stopped laughing and some were beginning to look at me with pity, but I didn’t care. Sweat poured down my face in rivulets and stung my eyes. My arms were tired; unused muscles protesting with each motion. I had lost count of how many times I had tried to swing the damn thing, and just as my knees trembled in my final effort to save face, I felt the larger hand clasp mine gently but firmly.


“It is not your time, Uzumaki Naruto.”


I looked up and into the pity-filled expression on the officer’s visage; the bitter bile of defeat filling my tongue. Gently, he took the sword away from me, but first wiping the sweat and drops of blood I had imprinted on it with a silk cloth. I envied how effortlessly he seemed to lift it before attaching it back to his hakama.


“Perhaps in a few more years, hmm?” He reached out to ruffle my hair. “Keep working hard at it. You show signs of promise.”


My ass, I thought bitterly before doing the unthinkable.


I spat at his feet.


That alone would have gotten me beaten black and blue, if I had been caught, but I was just too fast for them. They finally gave up the chase after about an hour of me running through back alleys and secret hideaways; one of the many advantages of being another faceless orphan in this city. All the same, I think I cried myself to sleep that night and yet swore to train on my own so that someday I could show Officer Dosu and his stupid friend that I could become one of them. I knew it was a lofty goal for someone like me, but I was never one to back down from such grandiose delusions. I had latched on to that dream for most of my life.


So much for that now.


“Jesus…” I groaned as my companion’s foot dug painfully into my ribs. The idiot had raised his legs onto a seat that was hardly wide enough for one person! Talk about being inconsiderate.


Tempted to push him hard, my plan was thwarted when a shadow fell over me. I looked up and into the watchdog’s towering features; wondering what I had done now to deserve such special attention. In fact, it seemed like everyone else in the bus was now staring at us in anticipation. What the hell happened while I was lost in my thoughts? Did I miss some important announcement?


“You!” came the angry command laced with spittle.



As if in slow motion, I watched the officer’s wakizashi being whipped out of his obi – braced myself for the hit - before it was struck hard against my companion’s face. The effect was immediate as his howl of pain was lost in the gurgle of blood that now filled his mouth and dribbled down to his chin. Something white and shiny plopped onto his lap, and I realized he had lost a tooth as well. It didn’t help that spatters of his blood had ended up on my face and arms, but I dared not wipe them off now. Not in this tense situation. Hell, I dared not breathe!


“Whaaadaaaadoooo?” the man gurgled in panic, fear, and confusion. And who could blame him? He was just enjoying his nap for crying out loud. There was no need for the violence.


The watchdog’s lips parted to reveal teeth that were as sharp as razors. I shuddered in repulsion at the sight. He couldn’t be human.


“Sleeping already?” the officer drawled as if in amusement; though the glint in his dark eyes spoke otherwise. “Enjoying yourself, are you? Let’s see how well you sleep now, you filthy asshole.”




To my horror, the man was dragged by the scruff of his yukata and tossed into the middle of the aisle; where the other men seemed to shrink away subconsciously as if aware of what was about to happen. In this state, my former companion looked small and petrified as he tried to scramble to his feet, but he didn’t get very far as he was kicked hard in the stomach; sending him toppling back to the floor with a grunt of pain that was accompanied with the emptying of whatever he must have eaten that morning.


The beating was terrible, and I couldn’t get myself to watch; though listening to it was even worse. No one said a word; only bearing the agonizing sounds of flesh upon flesh until even the victim’s voice was silenced. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was dead. These watchdog bastards wouldn’t give a shit anyway. They’d probably toss him out and make room for one more straggler.


It’s what we deserve, a part of me whispered, and I closed my eyes as I wondered what awaited me. Would I be tortured to the point of death? I had heard stories of this place we were heading to, but…but…


I don’t want to die. Not like this. Not now.


I suddenly felt the hairs at the back of my neck prickle with awareness; the awareness that someone was watching me. Fearing it was the second watchdog – who hadn’t moved a muscle from his position beside the bus driver, I lifted my lashes and tried to see who it was. Not surprisingly, most of the men now had downcast gazes; silently chastised at the brutal show of authority by the officer in charge. No one dared look in defiance now for they knew what awaited them. So who could it…?




The sudden thud of my heartbeat superseded any fear it could have conjured up for the bastard watchdogs. It was only for a moment – barely enough to even contemplate it being more than her probably looking in my direction and not directly at me – but it was more than enough. Eyes as black as night; piercing in their intensity – had effectively knocked the wind out of my sails. It wasn’t just how they looked (after all most of the people here had black eyes), it was the expression in them; an expression of quiet disgust and…anger perhaps? It was hard to tell.


She can’t stand it either. Of course she can’t! Such brutality is not fit for a lady like you. If I could protect you, I would, but this is our reality now. There’s no turning back.


“Anyone else want to consider this ride a pleasure trip?” the officer growled to the silent occupants.


“Eh? Anyone?!”


Of course no one did. Who would be stupid enough to answer?


“Remember this, you scums of the earth.”


Scum. I had been called worse in the past, but it still stung to be insulted all the same. I bit my inner cheek hard enough to draw blood.


“…where you are going is a place to remind you of your sins and to cleanse you from them. You are all here for the same reason. You are murderers, rapists, burglars, gold diggers, whores, scam artists, cheaters, drug dealers…and trash.” He emphasized this by tipping the chin of a mousy-looking man who was just about ready to pee on himself…if he hadn’t already…with his sheathed sword. “Some of you will make it, and some of you better start praying reaaaaal hard before you even get there. The purification of your tainted souls begins today.”


Purification, huh? What purification? So yes, what I had done was inexcusable, but I had good reason for it. I had to do it. It was for survival. Where was the sin in killing a man for your survival?


It had rained that night. I remember. Raining pretty heavily. No one could have heard the scuffle. No one would have heard the raised voices. The gun had felt so damn heavy in my hand, and before I knew it…




My lashes flew open and for a second, blind panic filled me as I looked around with wide eyes. It was considerably darker now; a sign that it was nightfall. Had I fallen asleep? When? I couldn’t remember much of what happened after Officer Asshole’s lecture, and I don’t remember having anything to eat either as my stomach began to growl in response. Many of the men in the bus were fast asleep as well, and a quick glance down the aisle revealed that my ex-companion was still comatose in a pool of blood and vomit around his battered body. I wondered if the stench filling my nostrils was from the combined body odors of the other men or his decaying body, though a light twitch of his leg revealed he was still (un)fortunately alive. My stomach growled again and I sagged in weariness…and then something even worse happened.


I needed to pee. Badly.


The painful stomach cramp began almost immediately, and I winced and struggled not to reveal my distress too much. Had the bus stopped for a break when I dozed off? If that was the case, I was screwed.


Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!


I clamped my thighs together and tried to think of other things, but no matter what, my brain refused to cooperate and kept sending the damn signals to my groin.


Oh God. Please….please…make this bus stop…even if it’s for just a few seconds. I’m begging you!


The very notion of urinating on myself was too humiliating. Not only would I reek, but there was a girl I was hoping to impress, and presenting myself in a soiled linen suit was definitely not appealing. She’d probably scream and kick me in the nuts before bolting for her dear life.


I stole another quick peek as if to make sure she wasn’t already laughing at my discomfort. However, she was asleep…and something about watching her head nod ever so often against her chest made me smile despite the pain. Did I forget to mention her hair? Unlike most of the girls who seemed to like wearing it long these days, she had kept the black tresses short enough at the back but still long at the sides, so it framed her slightly angular features nicely. Ah ha! That’s it! She’s got ‘handsome’ features; those girls who could easily pass off as boys with just the right haircut.


Suddenly, the most beautiful sound in the world was heard. The screech of brakes and the bus finally…finally coming to a stop!


Thank you, God!


“Five minutes!” Officer Asshole barked as the men began to rouse out of their stupors. I didn’t need to be told twice. I was out of my seat, nearly knocking over a few other guys before jumping out of the bus and toward…huh?


Where the fuck were we?!


If anyone had hoped to make an escape in some wooded area, they were completely out of luck. We could have been in the middle of nowhere for all the landscape presented us. Besides what looked like Mount Bandai in the distance, we were surrounded by mostly flat lands and skeletal communication poles with wires.


No time to admire the scenery Naruto! Get to business!


…aaaaah. Bliss. Who knew peeing in public would be the greatest feeling in the world? And I didn’t even mind that I was sharing the ‘space’ with two other men beside me. Their relief was just as palpable.


Speaking of which…how would the girl manage? I wondered if she would have to hold it in until we got there, and I was sorely tempted to walk up to her and to tell her that I’d hide her if need be. Though I realized it was a stupid thought, all of that was squashed in one fell swoop as I noticed her approaching…or rather heading back into the bus.


I gulped and zipped up in embarrassment as she glanced at me briefly. If she acknowledged I even existed, it was not obvious, but that’s okay, I knew I wasn’t exactly attractive. These damn scars/whiskers on my cheeks had put off many girls in the past despite my many attempts to explain that I had been born with them.


However, seeing her this way was enlightening. Outside…at least when not sitting, she was pretty damn tall for a girl – at least taller than me by an inch or so. She didn’t walk like a girl either, but I’m guessing that’s because of her upbringing; after all being around men so much would make you pick up a few things here and there. Her strides were confident and unflinching. In fact, her very aura seemed to scream ‘back off!’ and I could feel my chances of chatting her up slipping faster than the wind. She would never want to get with a person like me anyway. Whatever sin she might have committed, it couldn’t be as bad as shooting a man to death. She didn’t look like she belonged with us. Her kimono alone – though plain blue and white striped – looked well-made.


“If yer done staring,” someone sneered behind me; causing a rush of color to flood my features.


Once everyone was back in the bus – though there was a brief delay as someone passed out with hunger and had to be dragged in by the disgruntled watchdogs – we were eventually on our way again. Time began to lose all meaning as I drifted in and out of consciousness. Between my stomach growling, the lack of proper sleep, and mini-fainting spells, I wanted this journey to be over already.


We stopped for another break sometime mid-afternoon the next day, and the effects of our lack of nourishment were now more obvious. Some of the men refused to leave their seats; some so weak they had even let go of their bodily fluids right there. This, of course, only got the officers more pissed off and needless to say, there were a few more beatings enforced. However, we were now somewhat numbed to the brutality, and I had learned to tune myself out of those moments and to focus on other say my childhood or my life before the shit hit the fan.


As evening approached again, I wasn’t sure if I could last another hour. My tongue felt parched and heavy in my mouth. I hadn’t even had a drink of water for over twenty-four hours. The stomach cramps I was experiencing now were not a product of bladder issues, but of my body demanding some kind of nutritional relief. However, I knew I couldn’t bear to show any weakness; not with that girl probably watching me.


What’s the point? My mind screamed in protest. Like she gives a shit when she’s been stuck in this bus with you for the past –


“We’re here,” someone whispered feverishly behind me and that forced my heavy lashes to open. “I see them gates.”


Like wild fire, the men passed on the news to each other, and just like that, our hours of dazed stupors were wiped away with an overwhelming feeling of fearful anticipation. I gripped my paper bag like a lifeline and squinted to make out the view before us. The bus was pulling up to a pair of towering wooden gates where four guards –dressed in the black watchdog gear – stood waiting. One broke ranks to approach the driver, and after a brief discussion, an order was given for the others to open the gates.


We all seemed to hold our breaths collectively; our eyes widened in disbelief as we stared at the impressive courtyard illuminated by seemingly thousands of oil lamps and lanterns. Well-tended lawns, miniature ponds, and clean paved surfaces cocooned the bus which seemed to be making its way towards an impressive temple surrounded by several neat townhouses and what looked like one or two dojos. It was picturesque. It was ideal. It was like something out of a tourist postcard.


It was too damn surreal.


Was this really the feared Byaku-Shinkyou? Where were the people who were painted as demons and who were ready to lead you straight into the pits of hell? Where were the torture chambers and sacrificial domes set up for prisoners to be executed? What was with all the flowers and trees and the false sense of peace and calm? This couldn’t really be it…could it? When they had said purification, had they actually meant just coming to a temple to become like monks? If that was the case…


Might not be so bad. I might actually…like it.


I thought too soon.


For no sooner had I began to relax into my happy assumption that all would be well, did the bus seem to take a sudden turn toward a much darker section of the seemingly endless compound. Though the gardens were still well tended, the buildings on this side were considerably less appealing to one’s aesthetics. The houses looked like they were in need of repair, but that became the least of my worries when two rows of about ten large men, dressed in white togas, turbans, and wielding large spears (bokken? Can’t tell in this light) suddenly marched out of nowhere and stopped beside the bus.


“All right, everyone!” Officer Asshole bellowed with an unnecessary clang of his sword against the barricade again. “Let’s make this quick and organized! One at a time now! One at a time!”


Obediently, we did as we were told. I had no time to wonder if the girl was going to be all right as I was immediately dragged off the bus by one of the toga’d officers – nearly falling to the ground – and pushed into a rough line with the other men.




It was fucking coooold; a painful reminder that we were way up north now, where the nights were bound to be bitter come the winter months. Wishing I had worn a kimono instead of my cheap linen suit, I tried to control my shivering as we were ordered to form groups of five.


Where is she? I thought frantically as I found myself amongst a group consisting of the fat bastard that nearly tripped me and the other who had sneered at me gawking at my unrequited love. But try as I might, I couldn’t make her out anyway, which was odd. Had she escaped? How? Or maybe girls were taken to another section of the –


“Get moving!” came the gruff command as I was – again – pushed towards a set of wooden gates the guards must have come out of. It came as no surprise to realize that they seemed to lead into a cave of sorts. This was a mountainous area after all, so such things shouldn’t have been unexpected.


So much for the picturesque front.


 Whoever ran this joint was damn smart. I’d give them that.


For how long we marched into this cave, I had no idea. I was already weak and tired from hunger and weariness; and I could have sworn that I must have fallen asleep while walking at some point. Every now and then a loud bellow from the guard, the crack of a whip, the yell or groan from a prisoner would jerk me back to consciousness. After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally ordered to stop, where some of us promptly collapsed, while others threw up whatever little food they had left in their stomachs. I slumped against a wall and willed death to come. I could feel something warm and sticky trickle between my toes, and I knew it wasn’t sweat but blood from walking for so damn long on rocky paths with shoes not geared for such trips.


Someone shouted an order, and on autopilot, we responded – forcing ourselves back to our feet. There was a new set of officers…no…not officers, but fellow prisoners I’m guessing, only they must have been here much longer than we have. They were dressed in plain drab gray kimonos, and as the officers began to bark their orders again, numbly we did as we were told and stripped down to our skivvies. The cold bit into my naked flesh, and as I took off my shoes, my worst fears were confirmed. The soles of my feet were raw and bleeding freely now, and I could barely take a step without wanting to scream in agony.


“Disgusting scum,” one of the officers muttered beneath his breath as he noticed my predicament. “Shikamaru!” he suddenly called out with a snap of his fingers.


One of the older prisoners, a boy no older than I was, stepped out of the ranks of his fellow inmates and approached with an impassive expression on his visage. “Sir?”


“Get him treated and bring him to the pit immediately.”


The pit?


“Yes sir.”


Shikamaru turned to me and gave a curt nod; hardly glancing at my feet. “Can you walk a couple of steps?”


“I think I can manage,” I replied with a weak smile as I shrugged into what would become my outfit for the duration of my stay. For my bravado, I was rewarded with a light shrug as he turned to lead the way. 


I’ve always been told I am a stubborn brat; heard that all my life in fact, and that trait couldn’t have been needed more than now. Walking was hell, but I grit my teeth and did it all the same. It was funny having to sort of walk like you were tiptoeing, but fortunately for me, the ‘infirmary’ was closer than I thought.


If you could even call it that.


It was just a room with a bed that was barely comfortable. Shikamaru motioned for me to sit while he lit another lantern to give the room even more illumination. My attention was immediately directed to the small sink with its faucet, which had my parched throat longing for a taste of some much-needed water. I licked my lips and dared to ask. Surely he wouldn’t deny me the pleasure of just a sip, would he?


“Uum...may I?” I asked almost shyly.


He shrugged. “Help yourself.”


Nearly bursting into tears of joy, I hobbled towards the sink, turned on the faucet with a trembling hand and nearly attached my entire mouth around it in an effort to get as much water as I could into my dehydrated body. I didn’t care that the water seemed to have a caustic taste. All I needed was right here. I could think again.


“Take it easy now,” Shikamaru was saying. “You might start...”


The cramps began even before he could finish his warning. That was the bad thing about drinking too fast especially after not having anything for a while. The body protests and it’s not a pretty sight. I managed to turn off the tap, hobble back to the bed and wait for the pains to stop. Geez.


“We might have to wait a while,” Shikamaru explained as he went over to a side table with some medical equipment – that in all honesty - looked archaic. “Kabuto tends to take his sweet time whenever he wants.”


I nodded and with a groan dared to lay flat on the bed in exhaustion. Compared to the chair and the million-mile walk, this was heaven!


“What are you in for?” I finally asked after what seemed like an eternity of agonizing silence, broken only by the muted and almost haunting sounds of movement from elsewhere in the caves. Shikamaru wasn’t much of a talker was he? He had a studious kind of face…no…a face that looked studious, but also looked as if he didn’t really give a shit about anything. He could pass for a slacker, if you took into consideration his long hair – which was in a ponytail – or the fact that his ears were pierced. I lifted my lashes to see if he was still even in the room with me considering he hadn’t answered immediately, so I sat up on my elbows and tried again.




He was sitting on a stool, arms crossed on his chest with his features hidden in the shadows. “Some stupid shit,” he finally drawled.


I opened my mouth to retort at his smart ass answer, but figured two could play the game. “Yeah,” I replied with a light shrug. “Me too.”


Another tense silence fell…and not used to dealing with such ‘quietness’, I decided to engage him in conversation again. “So…eh…is there a place for girls here?”


He raised a brow in confusion. “Huh?”


“Girls…chicks…babes?” I laughed a little. “You forgotten what those look like?”


“What kind of a dumbass question is that?”


I smirked as if sharing a secret. “I met this really hot chick on the bus on the way here. I tell you, she is…” I whistled and lay back on the bed, hands beneath my head as I closed my eyes and pictured the girl with the porcelain skin. “She was fine. I hope they don’t do anything weird to her though.”


“That’s impossible,” Shikamaru answered.


“What’s impossible?”


“Girls are not allowed here,” came the bored reply. “You must have seen a guy who looked like a girl. No more. No less. There are many of them around here, so it’s easy to get confused.”


I could feel my cheeks beginning to burn with a convoluted mish-mash of conflicting emotions ranging from embarrassment to anger to disbelief to…well…no fucking way!


“It was a girl,” I mumbled angrily; hoping what he was suggesting wasn’t actually true. The very notion that I could have been…that my heart could have been…


Oh God. I need to throw up.


Shikamaru – the evil bastard – smirked. He really was enjoying watching me suffer. “What did this ‘girl’ look like?”


“None of your fucking business,” I growled.


But he wasn’t done yet. “Black hair? Skin sort of like…pale…?”


Something in my expression must have given it away, because he burst into laughter. “What’s so funny?” I hissed; though my entire body was now burning with humiliation. I hoped to goodness he wouldn’t go around spreading the rumor that I might be one of ‘those guys’. It was the last thing I needed.


“Oh, you’ll see,” he replied cryptically, and though I wanted to find out more about this mystery ‘girl’ who was not actually a girl after all, the door opened to reveal a bespectacled man, who looked no older than us. Dressed in royal purple kimono, with a stethoscope around his neck, he must have been coming from another patient’s room because he looked a bit frazzled. Even his silver pony-tailed hair was in slight disarray.


“And what’s his problem?” Kabuto – I’m guessing - asked with a quick glance at me and then Shikamaru.


“His feet.”


Kabuto sighed heavily, motioned for Shikamaru to get off the stool, and dragged it closer to the bed before sitting on it. For the next ten minutes, the man was an efficient machine, which was admirable besides the fact that his hands were as cold as fucking ice. His only orders were for Shikamaru to get whatever supplies he needed, and after washing my feet with what felt like liquid fire, wads of bandages were applied and a curt instruction not to put too much pressure on them because he sure as hell wasn’t going to work on these things again.


He was out before I could even muster up a ‘thanks for nothing’.


“Geez, what’s his problem?” I grumbled as Shikamaru helped me off the bed after assisting me into the pair of straw slippers provided.


“Can’t blame him. He’s the lead doctor here.” He balled up the sheets I had stained with my blood and dumped it into a corner of the room.


“A kid like that?”


“He might look like a kid, but he’s older than us…and smarter too. This way, Blondie.”


“My name’s Naruto.”


“So what?”


“Don’t call me Blondie, jackass.”


“Shut up, moron.”


But he was smiling a little, and I knew then that I had at least made a (tentative) friend in this dump.


“So what’s this pit all about?” I asked as he led me down the now empty cave corridor of horror.


“Hmm…consider it a briefing room,” Shikamaru explained. “You get to see the head honcho and he welcomes you before purification begins.”


That word again. ‘Purification’.


“And are you purified?” I asked with a sneer.


Shikamaru threw me a glance over his shoulder. “I’m still here, aren’t I?”


What the hell did that mean?


We made a turn and were immediately met with two of the robed guards who nodded to Shikamaru before pushing open the heavy oak doors into what could only be described as an underground auditorium. Only there were no seats for the audience. In the ‘bowel’ of the room, all the new prisoners stood around waiting; some muttering to themselves or sharing muted conversation with their fellow inmates. Towering above the bowel, were storied alcoves – nearly ten feet high! - where guards stood like sentry watching over us in silence. The older inmates – like Shikamaru – stood in a line on the first level as if not wanting to contaminate themselves with the new breed of sinners.


I limped my way into the pit to join the others, and as if they had been waiting specifically for me to arrive, the ground beneath our feet suddenly gave way to send us neck deep into water that nearly blocked my airways.


Can’t breathe! Can’t breathe! Can’t fucking breathe!


There were screams of terror as the icy needles of the water pierced our skins. Panic-filled prisoners thrashed about in an attempt to escape and in the process knocked me deeper beneath the surface.


I’m going to die here! Jesus fucking Christ! I can’t…! I just can’t!


It was with an effort that I somehow managed to find the strength to yank myself back to the surface, but it was only because the water was now receding…disappearing back into the cervices we were  unaware of, and in its wake, leaving drenched, bedraggled, shivering (and a few comatose), prisoners.


Unfortunately, we were barely allowed to catch our breaths when the process was repeated again. It wasn’t so much the water, but the speed at which it came at us. One minute you thought you were on dry land, the next you were sinking beneath below freezing waters, struggling to breathe. If this was ‘purification’ then this was the stupidest way of doing it…ever!


This happened for a total of seven ‘cleansings’, and by then, most of us were barely able to move, let alone function. I was flat on my back, my chest heaving in a desperate attempt to swallow much-needed gulps of hair. The rubber band that had once held my ponytail had broken apart earlier, and my hair now lay plastered upon my head and cheeks like limp strings. The pathetic kimono was stuck to my body like a second skin. I was so cold that I was numb all over. I couldn’t feel anything, and I yet I was in agony.


“For sinners such as yourselves, this is only the beginning of your journey to salvation.”


The voice seemed to come from everywhere, and through hooded lashes, I struggled to make sense of its exact location.


“You are all children of sin,” the voice continued as I staggered to one knee and squinted to look above me.


There. On the top most level was a tall, skinny man who was a pale as a sheet with hair of darkest night that seemed to go down to his waist. He was dressed in a long robe of gold and black, and in his left hand was a staff with its head shaped like that of a serpent. There was something decidedly creepy and revolting about the ‘leader’, and it was all I could do to control the shudder of disgust that ran down my spine.


However, it was the person standing by his side that had me doing a double take and catching my breath for a whole other reason.




That person being the ‘girl’ I had crushed on for a few hours. That ‘girl’ who was now dressed in the black colors of the hateful watchdogs - the elite forces I had once hoped to become as a child -  complete with his swords and guns; looking for all the world like he belonged. I felt my blood begin to boil with fury; perhaps more at myself for being such a fool and allowing myself to get caught up in the notion of him being a member of the opposite sex. Oooh the shame! The…HUMILIATION. Or maybe it was because I realized he was not one-of-us after all.


And perhaps he knew that as well, for though he was seemingly miles away from me – in his lofty position - I knew he could see me; that he recognized me, for a slow smug smirk came to his lips as his master rambled on.


Welcome to hell, Uzumaki Naruto, those dark knowing eyes seemed to say. This is your new reality.






Chapter 02

Naruto Fiction

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