Chapter 03:

Things don't die or remain damaged 
but return: stumps grow back hands; 
a head reconnects to a neck, 
a whole corpse rises blushing and newly elastic. 
Later this vision is not True: 
the grandmother remains dead 
not hibernating in a wolf's belly.

-Kimiko Hahn

Her hair smelled like fresh roses, and when I buried my face within the soft pink strands, her giggles of pleasure were like music to my ears. I reveled in that sound; wrapping an arm around her slender frame to pull her tighter against me. Her breathless sigh let me know that she was becoming aroused again, and who was I to deny the love of my life the opportunity to use me as much as she wanted.

Naruto, she moaned when I found that pleasurable mound of heat between her legs all over again. Naruto…Naruto…

Sakura, I groaned and buried myself so deep I could go no further. She felt so damn good. 

With a grunt, I swiftly changed positions so she was now flat on her back; a motion which had her giggling again and calling out my name with a breathless squeak. Feeling my excitement begin to reach a fevered pitch, I intensified my thrusts; hoping to bring her as much pleasure as she gave me.


Look at me, I begged desperately as her head remained stubbornly turned towards her left. Look at me, goddamn it!

But she continued to ignore me, instead finding pleasure in biting a finger and absently bucking her hips to meet my frenzied motions. Was I not good enough for her? Was she simply going through the act just to please me? What the hell did she find so interesting over there? Why couldn’t she give me the attention and love I deserved?

Look at me!

Instead, I received yet another breathless sigh. I could have been making love to a mannequin for all her enthusiasm, and it pissed me off – almost as much as I had felt when I saw her naked with that bastard…

Why are you wasting your time with me, Naruto? she finally asked, and even before she turned that face to give me her full attention, I could already feel the scream building up from deep within me. I knew what I would see, but I couldn’t turn away. She wouldn’t let me turn away.

Do you enjoy fucking the dead, Naruto?

Her lips parted to show a grin that had my penis shriveling with fear and revulsion, and still she wouldn’t let me go. It was as if she had clamped my organ within her inner muscles like a vice and would chop it off in a second if I dared move.

Oh God…

Don’t you find me beautiful, Naruto?

With half of your face blown off? I don’t think so.

Blood so dark, it looked black and inky, mingled with pieces of brain matter, bits of bone and folds of flesh that dangled off the side of her face like something out of a really bad horror movie. I could see the inner workings of what was left of her once beautiful face, and with each deadening pulse of a muscle or blood vessel, my stomach lurched in aversion.

I’m so sorry, Sakura. So damn sorry this had to happen to you…

Are you? She asked with a sneer; a skeletal hand – once pink and supple but now with flesh hanging around the bone like strips of cloth - reaching up to cradle my face. I don’t think so, Naruto. I think you’re happy this happened to me. You were glad I was killed, weren’t you? After all I cheated on you and this is what I deserve…

No one deserves death…no one…

Liar. Liar. Liar. Liar. Liar. You are such a liar.


You just couldn’t wait for me to die long enough before moving on to someone else, eh?

There is no one else…there will never be anyone else…

Liar. Liar. Liar. Liar. You are such a liar, Naruto, but it’s okay…I’ll never let you go. You know that. You and I will always be together. Always. You are mine, Naruto. Never forget that. You will always be…mine…Naruto…

…my Naruto…





“Oy! Wake the fuck up already!”

The sudden sharp pain, of something prodding my ribs, had my lashes flying open quickly. I shied away from the offending object, wincing as my legs and lower back protested my awkward motion. Reconciling my nightmare and what reality presented took a minute longer as I blinked rapidly before rubbing my eyes which still felt as heavy as lead. I couldn’t tell if it was morning or night, no thanks to my current sleeping quarters in a dungeon, miles beneath the surface of the earth. A pathetic excuse for a blanket, which was nothing more than a burlap sack that itched all over, coupled with a moth-ridden mattress so thin I could still feel the uneven rocks beneath – had been my only protection and comfort for the night.

I eyed the long wooden pole that was responsible for poking me before finally looking up to meet the amused gaze of my tormentor. He was safe behind the steel grille; a sturdy design in which you only had enough room to stick out an arm like a beggar. However, there was a little rectangular space at the bottom, from where a flat tin pan of food was shoved toward me.

“You better eat,” came the quiet advice. “You look like shit.”

I lifted my middle finger in response and - though I loathed having to do this - forced myself to crawl on my hands and knees toward the meal. The soles of my feet were throbbing and I wasn’t sure if I could walk on it at all, let alone do the tiptoeing routine. I reached for the pan, on which sat a lone medium-sized plain rice ball that was lukewarm and congealed. However, considering this was my unofficial first meal since…since whenever, I couldn’t complain. I ate hungrily, not caring that he was watching me with acute interest. It was finished in about three bites. When I was done eating, he was kind enough to shove a small tin cup of water through the space, and just like the rice ball, it was finished in seconds.

I belched. I was still hungry.

“That’s it?” I asked as I licked my fingers; despite the grime that’s accumulated so far. I knew I was filthy, but this was no time for proper decorum in these conditions.

“This isn’t a five-star hotel, you know.”

“I noticed.”

The lights from the lanterns in the hallways illuminated his features ever so often, and I had to admit that it was good to see him again. I was ridiculously close to tears for some reason.

“How long have I been down here?” I asked, clearing my throat lightly to prevent myself from sounding so gruff and emotional.

“Two days,” Shikamaru replied quietly. His dark eyes scrutinized me carefully.

Two days?! How…why…?

“They tried to bring you out yesterday, but you were running a pretty high fever and blabbing some incoherent shit. Had to talk them into leaving you alone.”

He placed the stick on the ground gently, glanced behind him and then side to side as if making sure the coast was clear, before digging into his kimono. “I got something for your feet. Swiped it from Kabuto’s office when he wasn’t looking.”

He held up a small tube of some medication which he slid through the opening. I dove for it and hid it within my kimono just as quickly.

“You might be getting an infection,” he explained with a soft nod. “Just rub it every now and then. Should stop it from spreading.”

I eyed my feet; someone must have applied fresh bandages while I was in my comatose state. It would be easy to peel them off, apply the cream, and replace them again.

“Thanks, man,” I said with utmost sincerity. I would have said more, but he was already rising to his feet with the stick back in hand. He began to move, and I struggled desperately to think of some other topic of conversation that would make him stay for a while longer. I didn’t want to remain in this place by myself. The loneliness alone just might kill me.

“What time is it?” I asked quickly, now crawling closer to the grille to clutch the cold bars like a lifeline.

He stopped and turned to face me again. He seemed to debate whether to keep speaking to me, but after another long minute, he finally gave me answer. “It’s almost noon. That’s why the dungeons are a little quiet. Most of the others are out working.”


He nodded. “Yeah…you get to do different things until your fate is decided.” He opened his mouth to say something else, but seemed to reconsider it. All the same, I could tell. There was something else he was keeping from me.

“What do you mean by fate being decided? I thought everyone got to serve the same punishment.”

He sighed heavily and took a step back as if to get away from me. “Some people’s sins are worse than others…that’s all.”

“What happens to them?” I asked, feeling my stomach begin to churn with anxiety and the cold claw of fear. “Come on, man, please tell me!”

“Keep your voice down,” he hissed. “I shouldn’t even be here at all. You know how much I had to pay that bastard guard just to let me see you?”

I tried to look contrite, but I was burning up now. I had to know what his cryptic words meant.

“Are they…are they going to torture me?” I finally asked in a voice that felt raw.

His lowered gaze was more than enough of an answer, and my grip on the bars tightened despite the pain of some of the bolts digging into my flesh. I bit my lower lip hard and rested my now feverish forehead against the cool steel; trying to tell myself that whatever those bastards planned for me, I could deal with it. If I could survive that stupid purification process, nothing they could throw at me could possibly be worse.

“Who’s Sakura?” came the sudden question that had me looking up quickly in surprise. Shikamaru had an expression that seemed to be a conflict of pity and curiosity. It was as if he was trying not to feel too sorry for me and couldn’t quite manage it.

“She…” I swallowed tightly. “She was my girlfriend…about two years ago…”

Before she got shot by the guy she cheated on me with.


“She’s dead,” I replied flatly, and at his raised brow, I shook my head slowly. “No…I didn’t kill her…that’s not why I’m here.”


“Why do you ask?”

“You kept muttering her name,” he replied before sighing heavily. “Guess that definitely tells me your mistake was honest.”

Mistake? What the hell was he talking about? I was confused…until I noticed the small quirk of his lips that sent a flood of color rushing to my cheeks.


“Fuck off,” I muttered in embarrassment and turned away as he chuckled and excused himself.

His soft laughter would continue to echo within my head even as I crawled towards the darker corner of the dungeon so I could tend to my wounds. It wasn’t that large of a place anyway. Just about the size of my living/bedroom of my apartment. I winced as I peeled off the bandages slowly. It was hard to tell from the pitiful light from the lanterns in the corridor, but I could still see the changing hue of the bruises. They were beginning to turn a sickly shade of purple with possible pus accumulating, and if Shikamaru was right, I could be experiencing the worst kind of infection yet. Definitely something I didn’t need if I was going to be tortured later.

Speaking of which…his reminder of my ‘mistake’ only did more to fuel my burning fury at the face of that guy…who had looked anything but girlish in his uniform that night. The fact that he was standing next to the person Shikamaru had described as the ‘head honcho’ made me think that the guy was probably a high-ranking official. So what was he doing spending two days with us on that hell ride? Spying? Probably. Wouldn’t surprise me if he was there just to scout out the prisoners and make recommendations to his boss.

So where does that place me?

My hand stilled its rubbing motion as I was immediately hit with a dull sense of panic.

Oh shit! Had I given off any weird vibes? Sure I had stolen a few glances here and there, but I never spoke to him; don’t think I even gave him any real ‘look’ of encouragement either. I hoped to goodness I hadn’t come across as someone desperate for his attention, but then again what had that look he gave me in the pit meant? It wasn’t the look of someone who was all too happy to see me again. If anything, he looked pissed behind that shit-eating smile. He looked like a guy who enjoyed his role as second-in-command and all that it entailed. In short, he had all the signs and symptoms of being a first class son-of-a-bitch.

…and you just had to go googly-eyed over him…

“Except I thought it was a her, damn it!” I hissed to myself and continued to apply the medicine. The smell was awful; like a mixture of sulfur and rotten eggs. Still, it was working a little and as I began to put the bandages back in place, the throb was now ebbing into a state of numbness.

With nothing else to do with myself, I decided to investigate my new home…at least for now. I held onto the wall for support and struggled to my feet…only to nearly fall back to the ground as my leg muscles refused to cooperate with me. I latched onto the cool rocks and counted to ten before taking a step (on tiptoe naturally) and then another. I continued this until I came back to where I started. My cell was exactly 114 steps all around – steel grille included. I hobbled back to it and tried to look out…as far as my neck could go…which was virtually impossible. I couldn’t even get my face through one of the squares. So I strained my ears and tried to listen for anything.

There were no guards – which was surprising in itself; although I had to wonder if there was one actually hidden beyond my line of sight. The corridor itself was no different from the endless one we had marched through that first night. Oil lanterns hung from hooks carved into the stones and besides the crackle of the flames within them and the occasional lonesome dripping of unseen water…I could have been the only person on the planet. Just what part of the prison was this? Was this the section reserved for murderers like me? If so, there ought to be a whole bunch of…

/Most of the others are working. /

I sagged limply to the ground. I couldn’t believe I was thinking this, but I would have killed to be working right about now. Even if it meant scrubbing toilets…anything to get out of this hell hole. I needed the fresh air. I needed to see other people…to talk to other people…to feel alive again…

…and to relieve myself.

And since there wasn’t exactly a toilet around here…


A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. Proper decorum be damned.



Haruno Sakura was my one true love.

At least I had thought she was for about a year and a half.

Looking back now, it was hard to believe that she could have even considered a guy like me for a boyfriend. We couldn’t have been any more different or on far ends of the spectrum. It was your typical nerd meets gorgeous babe and they fall in love and live happily ever after. The only problem with that scenario was that ‘happily ever after’ never quite came to be after all.

I must have mentioned my difficulty in getting girls to see past my ‘whiskers’ and brash behavior, and it was that way for the first sixteen years of my life. I seemed to have just about everything going against me from day one. I never knew my father, and my mom passed away when I was about two or three-years-old to cholera; a disease that was floating around like crazy back then. I was born in a small fishing town near Shikoku – yep. Waaaay down South where the summers could be blistering hot and downright unbearable. We weren’t exactly wealthy, and if I had any relatives; they never bothered to check up on me that’s for sure. The only reason I didn’t end up joining my mother on her death bed was because I was found a couple of days later by a traveling medicine-man.

The irony of it all still fills my mouth with bitterness to this day. If only he had showed up a week earlier, perhaps my mother would have survived.

Either way, instead of leaving me – as many others would have back then – he decided to take me to Nagasaki, where I was left in the care of his younger sister…a widower who definitely did not want to deal with an extra mouth to feed.

I was treated like trash; no other nice way of putting it. She would make me sleep outside even in the dead of winter, wouldn’t let me eat with her real children and at that, I usually got the scraps or leftovers. I got hand-me-down clothes; some so torn and worn out, they barely covered me. Shoes. What shoes? I was lucky to even have a slipper to walk around in. She was always quick to remind me of my place; that I was never one of them and at no time was I to consider myself a part of her family. To be honest, it hurt…a lot, so what did I do to mask those feelings? I became a pain-in-the-ass to everyone especially to her ‘precious’ children. The little monsters – there were five of them in all, of which two were about a year older than me – were out for me too. Not one of them tried to be nice to me even when Mom wasn’t home. In retaliation, I’d pull the meanest pranks I could possibly manage; cutting off the oldest son’s hair while asleep, using a knife to shred some of their best clothes, putting sand in their meals, or making them do stupid things like daring the little ones to cross a river while reassuring them there was absolutely nothing wrong. Of course I would always have the last laugh when they’d run crying off to their mom, thanks to being stung by leeches.

Except my enjoyment never lasted long.

I was beaten for my antics, and I always took them with a stubborn determination not to cry in front of the kids; for they’d line up like sullen brats just waiting for me to break down. I would try to think of other things while my buttocks and back dealt with the lashes from her hands or whip; other things like the day I’d become an elite member of the watchdogs and make sure she was locked up…she and all her little minions.

The final straw came when I realized that she actually planned to kill me. I guess I should have realized it when I started experiencing some weird stomach aches and a severe case of diarrhea. If it wasn’t for me walking past Old Man Ishizuchi’s pharmacy that afternoon, and overhearing her asking him fervently if he was sure the medicine would cause severe vomiting, I might have been dead that night.

With nothing to my name, I ran away from ‘home’ at eight years old, and began the life of a nomad. I refused to remain in any one place for longer than six months; always journeying between towns and villages so no one could really get to know who I was. I changed my name a bunch of times and lied about my age so I could work and get some money to survive. As for education, I had no formal one. I received excellent lessons from life itself, but did manage to master reading and writing eventually, thanks to a kind family I settled with during my early teens. I doubt I would have done well in a proper school anyway. I get too antsy to remain in any one place for too long, remember?

When I turned sixteen, I returned to Nagasaki; hoping I could find the medicine man and to thank him for not letting me die….and then maybe giving him a report on how ‘wonderful’ his dear sister had treated me. However, I was met with bad news on arrival to the familiar small town house. My surrogate father had passed away a few years ago, and because he had made little to no money from his traveling business, he died with a massive debt over his head. His home had been put up for auction, now run by a group of yakuza that was considered the most powerful in all of Japan.

It would be my initiation into that dark, seedy underworld; a place I really had no plans of being except for that stupid side of me that felt I owed it to the old man. I had to pay off his debt somehow, and if it meant working for the yakuza…then so be it.

Enter Masakata Kojima…the man I would eventually kill.

Kojima was my friend and mentor or at least I thought he was. He was a junior member of the Bakufu syndicate, and was one day hoping to be ‘made’. In the interim, he was one of their go-to guys for smaller jobs like threatening the locals who owed the syndicate money, or dealing with pesky individuals who just didn’t know when to shut up or who thought about skipping town. Though I wasn’t allowed to follow him when at ‘work’, he would always regale me of his escapades over a beer and good food at his favorite restaurant.

I thought he was the coolest cat around. He was always dressed like he was going to a party. With his slicked black hair – a throwback to the days of rock and roll – his white linen suits, colorful Hawaiian shirts, which would be opened to reveal a hairy chest adorned with an expensive gold chain and dark sunglasses, he was the consummate showman. A cigarette would always dangle from the corner of his lips, and when he spoke, his words came out in a low drawl as if he had all the time in the world. There were times when I found myself trying to emulate his speech pattern, only to stop in embarrassment because I knew I sucked at it. Each finger on his large hands had at least a gold or silver ring; one of which was the most important because it signified he was a member of the Bakufu.

“One day, man,” he’d drawl and blow a ring of smoke in my face. “One day…you’re gonna get your own ring, Naruto. You and me…brothers for life.”

I wanted to tell him that I had no interest in being a yakuza; that the only reason I was even hanging around them was because I had to keep giving Kojima or his partner – Ichimura (a big, ugly bastard) their payment every two weeks. If I didn’t, I’d be in trouble. However, having Kojima on my side had been a blessing. He claimed he had negotiated on my behalf in regards to the bi-weekly thing. If not, I would have been working my ass off to get the payment every fucking week, something I could barely afford.

I, unofficially, became his ‘younger brother’, and found myself being introduced to places and things I never thought possible. For instance, the first time I was taken to the red light district. I could still remember the conversation and how red-faced I had been through it all. That stupid Ichimura just had to be there to witness my humiliation, hadn’t he?

It all started with Kojima complaining about the broad he had slept with the night before.

“Think she give me the crabs, man,” he grumbled while adjusting himself. “I’ve been itching like crazy.”

“Might wanna go see the doc,” Ichimura suggested as he shoveled some more of the spicy noodles into his mouth. “Heard its spreading these days.”

Kojima grumbled and stuck a cigarette in his mouth. He leaned forward, giving me the honor of lighting it up for him. After taking a long and much-needed drag, he adjusted himself again and then made a face. “I need to let it cool off…might be heading off to the RLD soon.”

Ichimura – all folds of flesh and spittle – guffawed and shook his bald head. “Oh yeah? What about the kid? He gonna follow us?”

Kojima eyed me for a long minute, while I tried my best to keep my cool. I had never really been with a woman before. The closest had been in my fourteenth year when a couple of friends of mine had dared me to sleep with a local older woman who had seemed to take a liking to me. She had gotten as far as taking off my pants and was just about to go down on me when her husband suddenly showed up! Needless to say, I never lived down the embarrassing incident. Here I was, an innocent fourteen year old kid, running down the street with his pants around his ankles and some old geezer shooting at me. I could have died that night!

“You ever been there before, Naruto?”


“The RLD?” Kojima asked with a light smirk. I thought about lying, but I knew he’d figure it out before I was even done shaking my head.

“Well…I uh…passed it…one time…” Which wasn’t a lie actually. I had more than passed it a few times, and every time I had told myself that it would be the night I’d finally have the balls to walk into one of the buildings and demand a woman to satisfy me…I’d chicken out at the last minute.

“You passed it one time,” Kojima replied before bursting into loud laughter that seemed to ricochet around the restaurant. I wanted to die.

“You never fucked a girl before?”

Someone kill me now, please.

“Never sucked a girl’s tits? Eh?”

“Besides his momma’s!” Ichimura added insult to injury by cupping his man boobs and pretending to be a girl by pouting his lips and trying to come on to me. “Come suck my titties, pretty Naruto. I’m here for you.”

Kojima snickered. “Not even tasted a woman’s cunt?”

Ichimura – again – stuck out his tongue in a decisively rude gesture that made me burn with shame and disgust. I wanted to shove the plate of food in his face until he choked on it.

“That’s it then,” Kojima decided with a slam of his fist on the table. “We’re gonna give you a good ol’ initiation party to become a man tonight, Naruto.”

And that was that. No amount of arguing or pleading with Kojima would make a difference. In less than an hour, I found myself being ushered into a room in one of the most expensive brothels (as you might have guessed we only got in because of his Bakufu status), with a beautiful dark-haired beauty who must have been at least ten years older than me.

“Is this your first time?” she had crooned when she noticed that I was still kneeling with my gaze lowered to the tatami mat. I felt as frozen as a block of ice and was sure I would screw up with even the simple task of taking off my shirt. I felt so awkward and shy, I wanted to run out of the room and never look back.

“It’s okay, baby,” she breathed into my ear; and boy did my crown jewels get as hard as a rock at her voice and touch. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know to please a woman.”

And with the silent whisper of her kimono dropping to the floor, I had my first introduction to the female body, and allowed myself to be taken to a whole new world where indescribable pleasures and desires were revealed.

Morning came too damn soon.

“So…how does it feel to be a man?” Kojima had asked me later that afternoon with a knowing smirk on his visage.

How did it feel? Like I could do absolutely no wrong. Just remembering how many times I made that woman call out my name made me rub my nose smugly. She had been a good teacher, but the student had eventually surpassed even her greatest of expectations. I could still taste her warm juices on my tongue and lips.

“Ask for me when you come back,” she had invited; looking absolutely delectable with the sheet pooled around her waist and her full breasts bearing my imprints of passion. Her card was still burning a hole in my pocket, and I knew I’d definitely be making many repeat visits.

I kept my word…for a few months at least. Each session with ‘Kiyo’ was more intense than the last. It did suck that I had to wait for her on some nights since she was apparently in demand, and I guess the novelty began to wear off when I realized that I was never really going to be the only man for her. I would have to keep sharing her with others, and that knowledge began to turn me off.

It was also during this time that I met Sakura, and no, she was not working at the red light district.

One of my many odd jobs was working at a small bookstore which was right beneath a cram school. I worked the evening shifts, and that was when most of the students would begin stomping up the steps beside the shop to make their way to the school. Sakura was one of those students, and I had the pleasure of meeting her up close and personal when she first stopped to purchase a few notebooks and writing materials.

The funny thing was there were many girls who came walking through those doors; most of them were the bookwormish kind and some I felt were way out of my league and wouldn’t even give me a second look. Sakura fell in the latter category, and from the moment she walked in, I experienced dual sensations of intense euphoria and misery. Euphoria at how cute she looked in her black and white school uniform with that pink hair held up with white ribbons. She had given me a polite smile and bow when she walked into the store with a friend, and I had assumed that was that. All the same, I pretended to arrange books as I ‘stalked’ her down the aisles. She seemed to be looking for something, and in the process of praying that she would call on me for help, yet hoping she wouldn’t because I might say something stupid – she did call on me in the end.

I couldn’t recall our first conversation because I must have been on cloud nine through it all. I do remember her smiling at me again as I rang up her purchases and wished her a good night. As she left, I honestly assumed that would be the last of it; that I’d never see her again and she would have forgotten me completely.

However, when she returned the very next day to buy just a pencil…after browsing through the shelves for almost half-an-hour, I figured I just might have a chance. I tried engaging her in conversation, and before you knew it, she was laughing at my stupid jokes and suggesting we meet at the park on a Saturday.

I couldn’t believe it! The very notion that this gorgeous girl would want to be seen with a bum like me…it was too damn good to be true!

“What you’ve got there, little brother,” Kojima had said with a smirk, after I gushed about it to him. “Is a girlfriend.”

“A girl…girlfriend?” I stammered with a blush so hot I felt I would go up in flames.

Kojima laughed and patted my shoulder. “You’ve got to treat her right, all right? Show her a good time. Make her feel special and all that.”

Burning with determination to be the best boyfriend in the world, I all but pounced on my mentor. “Teach me everything! I want to know what to do…I don’t want her to leave me, ever!”

For the next few months, I played the role of perfect boyfriend for Sakura. On the nights I wasn’t working, I’d diligently wait for her outside the cram school and take her home on my motorbike. I saved up some of the money that I wasn’t giving to the syndicate to buy her the nicest things, which she’d gush over in delight. Our first kiss was shared in a movie theatre where she made me watch some sappy movie I didn’t even really like. I got to first base in her living room when her parents weren’t home, and we finally got to go all the way in my cheap apartment, which I had done my best to clean because I knew she was coming over. Not only had she prepared a great hot pot, which we finished  in one sitting, her shy invitation for me to finally take what I had silently begged for since we began dating – was well worth the wait.

I finally introduced her to Kojima six months into our relationship, and looking back now, I guess I should have figured something would go wrong with that fated meeting. Perhaps I should have been more careful with the way she seemed curious about Kojima. I had only assumed it was because of his looks – he was handsome after all – or the fact that he was a yakuza and that in itself was intriguing. I really thought nothing of it.

How stupid and naïve I was.

“You’ve got one fine chick there, brother,” Kojima had told me one morning while having a smoke and beer on the docks. We could see some watchdogs rounding up a couple of rowdy teens in the distance.

“Yeah,” I replied with a shy smile. “I think I’m gonna ask her to marry me.”

Kojima spit out the beer he just drank, stared at me incredulously before bursting into loud laughter. “Marriage? Already? You ain’t even seventeen yet, and you’re already marrying the chick.”

“I love her,” I muttered with righteous indignation. Who was he to laugh at me? He slept around with different women every night and had the crabs to show for it. I had a beautiful girl I could talk to whenever I wanted. “And she loves me too,” I added just in case he doubted it.

Kojima rolled his eyes and snorted. “Yeah, sure she does.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing,” he replied with a playful wink. “Just be wary of bitches, Naruto. They ain’t always as they seem.”

“Sakura’s not a bi…bitch,” I hissed; hating he would even attach that label to the girl I loved. It was damn disrespectful. “She’s a wholesome beautiful girl.”

“Yeah, yeah, invite me to the wedding then,” came the drawl of dismissal.

I guess my hate for Kojima began from then, and it only festered when he made no attempt to apologize for his attitude towards Sakura as time went on. My hatred came to a head on the night I was to make my monetary delivery. It was a terrible night; one in which the heavens seemed really pissed what with how hard it was raining. Visibility sure was poor, and I had almost crashed a couple of times. Guess I should have figured that was a bad omen.

Usually we had our meetings in the restaurant, where the money would be given and either he or Ichimura would count it out to make sure it was all there. However, neither of them were in the restaurant that night, which had me bewildered. Querying the cook yielded nothing. He hadn’t seen the duo either.

My next option was to go directly to their homes, and since I had no clue where Ichimura lived, I figured Kojima wouldn’t mind me popping into his lavish apartment; a place I had visited a few times in the past. If there was any reason for one to become a yakuza, their accommodations would have been a good enough excuse. They seemed to own the most modern buildings and with that all the extra amenities denied to lesser mortals.

Just stepping into the elevator gave me wild fantasies of becoming a yakuza boss someday and building a mansion where Sakura and I would live with our four kids…okay maybe five kids and no more. My foolish fantasy was so imprinted in my mind, I was sure I had a goofy smile on my face as I stepped up to Kojima’s door and knocked on it. I could hear the loud music blasting from within, and I knew he wouldn’t hear my knock or the bell ringing no matter how many times I pressed it.

I really wasn’t expecting the door to be open, after all yakuza had to be careful of enemies showing  up at their doorstep at anytime. So it came as a big surprise when the door knob turned quite easily on the first try.

“Kojima?” I called out as I removed my shoes and sunk my sock-clad feet into the plush red carpet. I hoped he didn’t mind me dripping all over the place. My umbrella had barely protected me from the harsh weather. “Kojima?!”

A popular rock band blasted from the speakers and made it virtually impossible to hear oneself think, and as I made the turn from the foyer into the living room, I was met with a sight that should have not been all that surprising.

Lines of cocaine were intermingled with cigarette butts and what I was sure was rolled marijuana; the air was sickly sweet with the smell. Several hand guns; some of which were still brand new, lay either on the floor or on the white leather couch on which women’s lingerie was draped as if taken off quickly.

“Ko…jima?” I called out warily. Where the fuck was he? Should I even be here? Maybe I should just drop off the money and get the hell out of here while I can -

“Stoooop!” came the playful laughter that was quickly followed by the very naked figure of a girl I had once thought wholesome, innocent…mine.



It had to be someone that looked like her, that’s all.

And yet, she had just dashed into the living room, clutching nothing but a bed sheet to her chest and laughing at the man who was just as naked, but tattooed all over, as he sauntered into the room with a pair of handcuffs dangling off a finger.

“Come on, babe. Come to Dadd…” he began, only for the words to die out as he noticed me standing like a zombie in the middle of his living room.

Sakura was a little slow on the uptake, for she had turned to reach for the marijuana on the coffee table when she finally realized her lover was no longer chasing after her.

“What made you…oh!”

Her breathless gasp of shock would have made me laugh if it wasn’t for the dull throb of rage that was beginning to paint my world a muted shade of red.

“Naru…Naruto…” she began with an expression that was a cross between fear and irritation. “It’s not what you think.”

Not what I think? Not what I think?! You fucking bitch! You are naked and smoking weed in his apartment and you’re telling me it’s not what I think?!

“He made me do it,” she blurted breathlessly, now walking towards me with a weak smile on her visage. “I swear, Naruto. He said if I didn’t sleep with him, he’d …he’d…he’d kill you for not paying off the money you owe.”

My eyes widened at this news and my fevered gaze darted to Kojima, who was now smiling a little. He shrugged and tossed the cuffs aside. “The bitch is right…not all the way right though. I did tell her she had to sleep with me, but she didn’t put up much of a fight. Thought she’d be all pissed off at the idea, but all it took was one phone call and she was letting me bang her all night long.”

“Stop lying!” Sakura shrieked, while trying to press herself against me, but her smell…the stench that reeled off her was that of sex. The sickening perfume of another man’s seed all over a body I had once worshipped. For the first time – no second time – in my life, I really wanted to hit a woman badly.

“What is she talking about?” I asked instead; in a voice that sounded very unlike me. It was deeper…colder…detached from the happy-go-lucky Naruto they both knew. They must have realized it as well because Sakura took a step back and even Kojima now seemed to tense a little. That’s right. They’ve never seen me pissed off before, have they? Well say hello to the monster you’ve both created.

“What do you think I’m talking about?” Kojima asked with a shrug. He walked to the coffee table and picked a pack of cigarettes. Lighting up one, he took a drag and then reached for one of the newer gun models. He eyed it and seemed to test its weight on his palm. “Thanks to you, the boss ain’t too happy with me these days, Naruto.”

My jaw worked silently. “I’ve been paying you diligently. I haven’t missed a single payment. Not once.”

“That ain’t the point, fox boy.” Fox boy was a nick name he had given me because of my scars, and I didn’t really like being called that. I thought it degrading, but couldn’t really tell him that, could I? He grinned and revealed his perfect white teeth, marred only by the lone gold tooth as a left incisor. “See? I put in a good word for you, but they are becoming impatient. They want more…and often. Meaning, you gotta double the amount you give …and it’s gotta be every week now.”

I was furious. “You never told me that! How the fuck am I gonna get that much money to pay every week?! You know how many hours I put in at work, you asshole!”

“Better watch how you talk to me, kid,” he drawled and pointed the gun at Sakura who gave a yelp of horror and clung to me. “It’s either that…or the girl goes…or you go…either one don’t matter much to me.”

My heart sunk low in disbelief and with a deep sadness I could not put into words. Was this the same Kojima who had laughed and shared some of his private moments with me? Was this the man I had really considered a big brother? Why was he suddenly treating me this way? What had I done to deserve this? Hadn’t I done all I was required to do?

“You fucking bastard,” I growled. “You son-of-a-bitch!” I roared again; making a lurch for him just as a particularly loud clap of thunder seemed to rock the very foundation of the building. However, I should have known that I was dealing with a yakuza in the first place. Did I honestly think I was going to inflict any damage on him?

Even before I had reached halfway across the room, he had reached for a baseball bat I hadn’t even noticed and swung it hard across my stomach; sending me crashing into a side table where my world exploded in pain. Vomiting and spitting out blood, I tried to stagger to my feet; panic setting in as I heard Sakura’s shriek of terror. The world was swimming before my eyes, but I could still make out that my girlfriend was now on her knees; tufts of her hair clutched tightly in Kojima’s hand as he pointed the gun to her temple.

“Don…don’t,” I wheezed and tried to stagger towards him, but I lost my footing and stumbled; falling on my face like the weakling I was.

“Don’t kill me!” Sakura was begging in loud gasps and harsh sobs. Her tears and snot ran down her face and she looked anything but beautiful now. “Please don’t kill me! I’ll do anything! I’ll do anything for you! Please don’t kill me! I’m begging you! Don’t kill meeeee!!”

“Oh for God’s sake, you bitch! Just shut the fuck up!” Kojima bellowed.

The deafening sound of the gun going off made me think at first that he had fired a warning shot to keep Sakura silent, but when I felt the hot drops of blood splatter on me and the subsequent slump of her body to the floor, I could only stare in mute horror at the one good eye left – an eye that would haunt me for many nights to come. That eye seemed to blame me for all this. If only I hadn’t gotten involved with Kojima. If only I hadn’t tried to be the good boy and to pay the old man’s debts. If only. If only. If only.

If only we hadn’t met.

“Damn bitch messed up my couch,” Kojima was mumbling as he eyed the mess he had created. He didn’t seem to give a shit. Why would he? He killed people on a daily basis, so why the fuck would he care that he had just destroyed the one person who meant the world to me?

“Goddamn…” he was muttering; now bending to pick up several fallen pieces of his weed. It gave me an unpleasant view of his ass, penis and balls, and the sudden urge to blow them all to hell overwhelmed me.

Make him suffer. Make him feel pain. I’ll fucking kill him.

I could see another gun about a foot away. Thanks to my fall, I had knocked it closer from its original position. I knew I had to move carefully. He was too preoccupied with his clean up and assumed I was still passed out or stunned from what had just happened to even think of doing anything.

I slid an inch closer to my target…an inch more…and yet another. It felt like it took an eternity to reach it, but as my trembling fingers finally found the cold weapon, I gripped it like a lifeline and hoped to God it was loaded.

It felt so damn heavy.

Another clap of thunder; a glance at the eye socket that glared at me with hate even in death, and the pool of her blood slowly making its way toward me.

Get up, Naruto! Get up, Naruto! Get up, Naruto. GET.THE.FUCK.UP!

I was in excruciating pain, but I managed it somehow. I rose to my feet unsteadily and cocked the weapon.

He heard it, of course, and turned around slowly with a raised brow.

“Ooooh? You gonna shoot me now?” he drawled and then chuckled. “Surprise. Surprise, but then again…you and I both know you ain’t got the balls to do it, Naruto.”

“Sh…shut up,” I hissed, hating how petrified I sounded. I held the gun in both hands, and I was still shaking like a fucking leaf.

“Sh…sh…shut up,” he mimicked my stutter and laughed out loud. “You still remember how to use that damn thing? Heeeey, now I remember. I was the one who taught you how to shoot, didn’t I?”

Yes, he had. For fun, he had taken me to an abandoned warehouse where he set up empty cans and showed me how to try shooting them off from a distance. I hadn’t been good at it, and to be honest, it had put me off the weapon. I had never liked guns and still don’t.

But for now…I would make the gun my friend.

“Go on, Naruto,” he dared. “Go on and shoot me. Come on.” He pounded his chest on which an impressive tattoo of a dragon seemed to be drawn all over it all the way to his back. He was a muscular and well-built bastard that’s for sure. Not the kind of guy you’d want to mess with on any given day.

“Do it, you chickenshit!” he screamed when I remained frozen. I was sobbing now; ashamed of how weak I was turning out to be. I hated him and yet I realized that a part of me would still be grateful for his friendship. A part of me still saw him as my brother; still saw him as the guy who had stood up for me a few times. I couldn’t kill my brother. I just couldn’t!

He spat in disgust. “I just killed your girlfriend, and you can’t even kill me. God, you are such a goddamn wuss, you make me wanna puke!”

He growled and reached for his gun and that was when I knew I was going to die. It was now or never. He was faster than me, and he’d always be faster than me. There was simply no more time to think over anything.

I’m so sorry…so sorry…so sorry…so sorry…so…


Already deafened by the first shot, I barely heard the second, but did feel the effects of firing the weapon all the same. It felt as if my arms would fall off, and I almost lost my footing too. I watched in mute fascination and horror as his eyes widened a little as if unable to believe I had finally done it.

He looked down at his chest, and I swear I hadn’t exactly planned to hit that area – I was just pointing randomly, but apparently I made a direct hit to his heart. A perfect shot. I could make a damn good sniper if anyone was in the mood to do some recruiting.

“You…” A gurgle of blood erupted from his mouth, but the bastard seemed to be smiling for some bizarre reason. “Knew…you… had it in you…you bas…”

He fell on his face before he could finish his words, but I had heard enough anyway. Slowly, feeling all the power seep away from my legs, I sunk to my knees and allowed the gun to slip from my fingers and to the blood-soaked carpet.

I was officially dead; in mind and spirit.

I would be caught. My fingerprints and footprints were all over the damn place.

I don’t remember how long I remained frozen in that position, but eventually I realized that I had to get my butt moving if I at least hoped to escape before his yakuza friends found me. I had done the unthinkable after all. Killing one of their members was a guarantee you were not going to live to see the next day.

In motions that felt automated, I covered up Sakura’s body with the sheet, said a quick prayer for her and hoped she’d forgive me in the afterlife.

I was bloodied and still limping as I left the building, but was lucky enough to not encounter anyone who was going to ask any questions.

That night, I packed up my few belongings and left Nagasaki.

For the next two years, I was hunted; by both the yakuza and the watchdogs who were no doubt going to be on their side – at least the corrupt ones. I knew it would only be a matter of time before all the leads would come back to me. All the same, I tried to live the life of a good man; to lay low and keep my nose out of trouble. I bought wigs and changed my name many times over. To hide my ‘whiskers’, I’d have to apply thick layers of foundation; a pain in the ass to do every morning, but necessary all the same. I must have lived in over ten cities, towns, and villages within that two-year span, while counting down the days, minutes, and seconds until I’d be finally brought to justice.

My arrest was almost anti-climatic, and all because of a silly mistake.

It might have been two years, but if there was one thing about the watchdogs, they never gave up on criminals on their Most Wanted list. The past week had been particularly trying because my face had appeared on the news a whole lot more than usual. I couldn’t go out as much as I wanted, and I was beginning to run out of food. I had to get something to eat lest I starve to death in my apartment. It had only been a five minute walk across the street to pick up a loaf of bread, in the wee hours of the morning, and in my haste and desperation I had forgone wearing my wig and contact lenses.

The storekeeper  - a nice old lady who was pleasant to talk to on any other given day – had just about screamed when I stepped through the door. Her husband – who was also a pretty nice guy – had run in from the back room to see what the commotion was about. He hardly gave me a chance to explain myself before whipping out his shotgun and telling me to stay put as he ordered his wife to call the police. I made no attempt to run, and though I tried to reassure them that I wasn’t going to do anything to harm them, they refused to believe me. There was a hefty bounty on my head after all, and if there was anything good that came out of me being catered off to the local jail, it was that the old man and his wife would have some money to keep their business going for a couple more years.

Naturally my arrest had the Bakufu syndicate and watchdogs arguing over who had the rights to my death. The yakuza, of course, wanted payback for taking the life of their own, but I guess the Chief of Police finally got them to agree to me being sent to Byaku-Shinkyou, where they were sure that my punishment would be a whole lot worse than death.

I’m sure monetary negotiations were involved, but whatever the case, I was no longer on the yakuza death list. The watchdogs – or Byaku-Shinkyou - would deal with me however they deemed it fit.

My fate was simply no longer in my hands.

I deserve whatever comes to me.



“Hey, you! Wake up!”

I lifted my head slowly – from where it had been resting against my raised knees - and blinked blearily at the sudden flood of light bright enough to nearly blind me. Lifting an arm to shield my eyes, it was hard to make out who it was at first until the guard finally lowered the lantern. He stepped aside to reveal a watchdog I did not recognize. He was pretty tall with a beard that gave him wolf-like qualities except its tip looked more like a goatee than actually shaggy and wild. His eyes – beneath the glow of the lantern – looked like liquid pools of brown chocolate, and he might have been kind…though he wasn’t exactly smiling at the moment.

I swallowed tightly. Damn. Was it time already?

“Are you Uzumaki Naruto?” the watchdog asked in a voice that seemed to ricochet off the cave walls.


He gave a light grunt and removed a sheet of paper and a pen tucked within his kamishimo. I watched as he scribbled something on it.

“All right,” he mumbled before turning to the guard. “Get him as cleaned up as possible and bring him out to the courtyard to join the others within the hour. The first captain will be doing the inspection.”

“Yes, sir.”

With a final brief, and almost dismissive look in my direction, the watchdog left the dungeon, only for two more guards to appear out of nowhere.

“On your feet, scum,” one of them barked and proceeded to strike me with his bokken across my shoulders.

I swallowed my cry of pain and stumbled to my feet; having just enough time to hide my precious medicinal cream below my burlap blanket. I dared not remind them of my aching feet, but luckily one of the guards remembered and ordered for them to lead me out carefully.

“Don’t want his tainted blood staining our sacred ground,” came the stupid rationale, but I could care less about the insults now. I was finally free…well for a couple of hours at least.

I had no idea what awaited me at this so-called ‘inspection’, but I hoped to God that whoever this first captain was, he’d be kind enough to give me a break or at least move me to a better cell.

I might have been a goddamn sinner, but even God Himself had mercy on us every now and then. So why couldn’t mere mortals do the same?






Chapter 04

Naruto Home



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