LILY OF THE VALLEY: CHAPTER ONE - THE KINDLING OF A FIRE'S WILL

The thunderstorm raged as she watched the man attack the Matron. In the flash of lightning from the storm his dirty, blood encrusted blonde hair could be see, as well as the dead black eyes and the creepily satisfied smile. His knife had pierced her lung, and after slashing open her stomach, he'd slit her throat and watched the light in the matron's eye fade into nothingness, as her lifeblood spilled onto the floor.

She'd watched, afraid, as the man pulled the knife out and slowly licked its crimson edge. She stared, in shock, as he approached one of the younger girls – small, dark hair, barely three by a week – and began to chuckle as he lifted the knife into the air. The girl screamed, and that piercing shriek spurned her into action. She was only six, of course, and knew that she could not do much. But still, she had to try.

She made it to the girl in time, and just as the man was lowering the blade, she kicked. With all her might and all her adrenaline-enhanced strength, she kicked his wrist. There was a harsh, snapping sound – the bones of his wrist, she realized in an instant – and the knife went flying. It arced into air, blood splattering the room, the man, and her face and clothes as it spun, and impaled itself into the wall. The man screamed, in rage, fury, hate, and pain, and smacked her so hard with his other hand that she went flying.

She got up, coughing, as the man approached her, another knife already drawn and held menacingly in his other hand. He ran at her, slashing wildly, and she did her best to get out of the way. Her efforts saved her life, but she wasn't fast enough. Her clothes were ripped, and blood was dripping from her arms and side. She retaliated with another kick, this one to the balls, and with the same force as to one that broke his wrist.

Needless to say, something else broke.

The man's dead eyes took on a semblance of life while in pain, and bugged out, crossing as he let out a shrill, sickly scream. Figuring the man was down for the count, the girl went to go check out the orphan child he'd been threatening to make sure she was all right. Bending down to check on the toddler, she heard a mad, guttural scream from behind her. Turning about, she saw the man reach back, with the knife in his hand. Lightning struck outside, and the blade seemed to glow with its power and energy as it was flung towards her head.

CRASH!

Something dark and gleaming – a kunai perhaps? – blew a hole through the window and smashed into the incoming knife, sending it off course. Just then the door crashed open and two figures charged. Green flack jackets, a headband with a stylized leaf on their foreheads, and the kunai in their hands, the two figured were revealed to be shinobi! The two ninja got in front of her while taking defensive positions. Then, one of them moved his hand his hands forming signs faster than her eyes could see.

The man's headband was worn like a haori; and from what she could see, only one eye was visible. "Suiton: Mizuame Nabara," he cried. {Water Release: Starch Syrup Capturing Field} Then a slightly luminescent, viscous liquid erupted from his hands, catching the murderous madman and effectively preventing him from moving.

Then, the other man, whom had a bandage around his face, drew one of the blades from his back and casually stabbed the madman through the heart. Blood poured out from the wound as the man died, and it didn't bother her in the least that he was killed in front of her. What she did find freaky, however, was the fact that the man's eyes were just as dead after his abrupt end as they had been in life. That was just downright creepy, actually. The ninja with only one eye showing turned towards her while the other man headed towards the body. He glanced towards her, concerned: after all, she was visibly shivering.

One-eye, as she had swiftly come to think of him, crouched down to get onto eye level with her, which she most certainly appreciated. She hated being talked down to. "Little girl," he asked, his tone light but filled with concern, "Are you all right?"

She cocked her head, thinking as best she could around the shock. After a while, she replied, "Yes. I have a few cuts here and there, but I believe I'm pretty fine overall." "If you're fine, then why are you shivering, lass?"

She blinked, the told him somewhat shakily that, "His eyes are just as dead and empty now as when he was trying to kill me. I know it won't happen, in my head… I mean, but I cannot help but feel that he's just going to get up and come after me again…"

At that, One-eye put his arm over her shoulder, which caused her to flinch slightly. "Don't worry about it. He's dead as dead can be, right Kotetsu?"
"Yeah, he's dead all right Izumo," called out the bandage man with swords who was apparently named Kotetsu. One-eye – er, Izumo rather – looked her straight in the eye and said, "There, see: that psychopath is a cooling corpse, and even if he could get up, you have two fully qualified shinobi here to protect you." She nodded, though was still creeped out by the dead man's eyes. He then continues, "So, little girl, what's your name?"

A moment of fate, and of a divergence in the timeline –

"Suzuran." {Lily of the Valley}

"Well Suzuran-chan, have you ever thought of becoming a ninja?"

She blinked in surprise. "What?"

"Kotetsu and I were watching while everything was going on, waiting to get a clear sight on the target without potentially harming any of the children here in the orphanage. Because of that, we saw what you did. It was pretty impressive for an untrained six-year-old girl. You fought back, didn't panic, and did your very best to protect those weaker than you. That's pretty much some of the most basic things being a ninja are all about. So, what do you think?"

She glanced around. The concept itself hurt, an almost physical sensation: this was home, it was all she had ever known, and the little girl owned nothing except for some clothes and her experiences in the orphanage and the village – here, and in this place, was her entire world. But then she recognized that this world was not for her. She had no future by staying here – probably ending up a wife, or a whore like her mother, she realized. The best she could expect was maybe ending up as a cook or a seamstress, all things considered. Being a ninja seemed a much better option, especially if she could save other children, the way One-eye and Bandage-man had saved her. Her resolve solidified, she looked him straight in the eyes and said that "I would love to be a ninja of Konoha."

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It would be several days before they left, the two Leaf-nin explained, because their mission to guard the town ended then at the end of the month. She looked One-eye and asked, "What will I need to bring?"

He tipped the wooden chair he was sitting in back, balancing on two legs, as he rubbed his stubble-covered face, thinking. "Well first of all, you probably won't be able to get into the academy till your eight or so, so you won't be doing much ninja stuff yet." At the slightly indignant look on her face, he chuckled, and then explained, "Look. First we have to make sure that you have all the basics down, things that even the civilian children in Konoha know. Besides, can you even read or write?" At her her flush, he nodded. "See, you'll have to learn a lot of stuff to be able to keep up with the rest of the class, and you want to good at what you've chosen to do with your life, right? Besides, you've chosen a pretty dangerous occupation, you know.

A few moments of thought, and she said, "I think I get it, Izumo-san," she answered, blushing slightly, "And thanks for explaining it: I probably would have rushed into it without thinking, otherwise."

"No problem, kid."

"So, what other sorts of things should I know before I sign up for the academy?"
"Hmm… Basic mathematics, numbers you know, a bit of history, perhaps. You'll have to get into better physical shape as well. I'm sure you'll be able to do it." After she beamed at his comment, he patted her on the head somewhat awkwardly and sent her off to bed.

A few days later, they were off to Konoha.

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Maito Gai ran at speeds surpassing those known to man towards Konoha, energized by the powerful flames of youth. His shiny hair danced in the wind as he returned home from an arduous A-ranked mission. While successful, there had been some complications at the end, and he had received some information that he was sure that the Hokage would most definitely be wanting. It seemed that missing-nin from Iwa had been gathering and were serving some conglomerate of shipping tycoons.

His target, Kurosaki Iroh, had papers in his safe indicating that he, Gato, and Kaminari Midori had been in the process of undermining the government of Nami no Kuni, using the missing-nin and bandits to slowly gain territory and prey on the citizens of the nearby country. As Nami was one of the chief suppliers of Hi no Kuni in seafood and glass, this was a concern that the Hokage needed to know as soon as possible.

'If I do not make it to Konoha in three hours,' he thought, while a manic grin spread across his face, 'Then I will walk around the village on my hands fifty times while balancing a boulder with my feet!' Unbeknownst to him, several travelers were permanently traumatized and mentally scarred by the 'glorious' green spandex suit, the slightly disturbing grin, and the flames of youth conflagrating from within his eyes.

Truthfully, however, he just wanted to get home and eat after reporting in, and then maybe challenge his oh-so-hip rival to a contest of skill and strength. Eternal rival Kakashi had been in a bad way for the past several years, ever since the man's sensei had died. It had been the final straw that broke the camel's back, his father's suicide, the pain of the deaths of his teammates in the Third War, and finally the attack of the Kyuubi upon Konoha. Its assault had been halted back by Yondaime-sama, who had fallen in defense of the village. However, without him there, Kakashi's mind could not handle life in a healthy manner anymore. He'd retreated into himself, taking nearly nonstop missions for ANBU all higher than B-ranked, and had become apathetic about almost everything else other than his unyouthful porn. It was why Gai constantly challenging him, trying to ignite the youthful flames that he knew, without a doubt, were smoldering somewhere underneath all of that pain.

He'd been tree hopping for six and a half hours when he spotted two figures further up ahead. Speeding up he tensed slightly at the potential for violence, wondering if the two he saw up ahead were enemies or allies. After catching up to a better distance, he relaxed, and grew curious. It was two Konoha shinobi, who were also leaping from tree to tree, one of whom had a small white haired child on his back, clutching tightly to his neck.

"Yosh," he called out, trying to get their attention, "My youthful comrades, might I know what is going on and if I might be of any assistance?"

The two turned, looking at him. He saw that it was Kotetsu and Izumo, who many of the shinobi of the village had bestowed the most unyouthful titles of "The Eternal Chunin Duo" and "Those Gate Guard Guys." He knew for a fact that it was only their preference that they remained Chunin. The two of them had served with him in ANBU for many years, and he would take them at his back over many a ninja he could name.

Seeing him, Kotetsu scratched at his bandage and then said, "Nah, we were just coming back to Konoha. We finished a mission and found a little girl who would make a good prospective ninja, and asked her if she'd like to come with us to Konoha. She agreed, and by the time the mission finished, so had all the red tape, so she was cleared to come back with us. Little Suzuran sleeping there on Izumo's back is a future ninja of Konohagakure no Sato." As he was speaking, Gai caught up with them, and the trio moved forward in a cohesive fashion. The spandex-wearing jonin glanced at the child at that, looking at someone who would one day burn with the fires of youth for Konoha and guard all of its inhabitants. She was small and had white hair; her eyes were closed in slumber, but had little red marks – which for some reason tickled at his memory – coming down slightly from each eye. She looked like a child's doll made large: delicate and fragile. Kotetsu continued, "Little girl's an orphan, no family whatsoever, her mother's was a whore, dead now of either the pox or some accident, not sure which. Suzuran never knew her, so I guess it doesn't really matter. When we met her, she was protecting some of the other children in her orphanage the best she could from a serial killer that had just left the matron of the floor slashed and cooling right in front of them. Kept her cool as best a child could, too; so, after we saved them, we offered her a place in Konoha. She accepted, and from what we got from her, it was that or end up warming someone's bed when she was older.

Anyway, when we get there, the little thing has to go through a stint at T&I, and have a Yamanaka look into her mind to make sure she isn't a spy or a sleeper agent. After that's done with, she'll need a medical check-up and we will need a chunin or jonin to sponsor her." Gai nodded at that, thinking. The sponsoring of an orphan from outside of Konoha was a law, enacted by the Nidaime to make sure potential ninja didn't up and leave with techniques, as well as to make sure that they were safe while they practiced them. Usually it wasn't a mentorship, though it was at times; however, under most circumstances, said ninja is just a neighbor or lives in the same apartment building or one nearby, who checks in on the child and makes sure they are eating correctly and still motivated toward becoming ninja.

This little one seemed to have quite a bit of youthful potential, and he knew from experience that a successful ninja career starts early. Many bad habits can be caused early on all unknowingly, and good habits - like flexibility training (which is best started early), mental training (such as puzzles and strategy games to help develop the mind), and a healthy diet for a growing child - are often ignored by those with civilians for parents or those without parents. He thought about his situation, he had friends, and a youthful rival, but he lived alone and his fiancé in the Medic-nin division didn't live with him. They had both been saving for years to be able to purchase a home and property with enough room to raise a child and with a good amount of space for training was taking a lot of time. (If one might wonder who would take a green-spandex wearing man to wed, well... the fact the he was so well sculpted that he had been begged to and accepted C-ranks to pose for swimsuit magazines and sculptors might be a reason. Another would be the fact that he had once taken a dare in a truth-or-dare session during a celebration for Anko's promotion to Tokubetsu Jonin to perform one hundred push-ups with his tongue, had performed it and surpassed it by doing two hundred. Needless to say, many women had been willing to overlook his demeanor and state of dress in exchange for that sort of talent since then.)

He had always wanted to be a teacher, but he did not believe that he had the time to do so just yet. He wanted his status as a Jonin to be a bit more well known and he wanted to improve his taijutsu and ninjutsu some more before he began to seriously pass on his skills - his genjutsu and Summons had actually been good enough to get him a spot as a Tokubetsu Jonin before his bump up to full Jonin, though he did prefer specializing in taijutsu. However, the opportunity to sponsor an incoming potential ninja student might be an excellent way put his foot in to test the waters of youthful teaching. With that thought in mind, he put forth to his friends, "My youthful comrades, I believe that I shall be the one to sponsor this youthful flower. I know the apartment at the end of my hall in my apartment building is vacant. However, as I have never sponsored anybody before, this should be a most youthful experience."

A few more hours of tree-hopping had them at Konoha's main gate. While Izumo and Kotetsu left to drop off their mission report, Gai went to the Hokage's Tower to inform the Sandaime of Kurosaki and his partners' gradual takeover of Wave and of his decision to sponsor the youthful Suzuran. He nodded to the ANBU guards outside of the entrance as he approached the Hokage Tower - their masks being Hawk and Lizard. Making his way past the various secretaries, guards, and paperwork-nin (the common adage for those career chunin who spent a majority of their career doing D-ranks and low C-ranks when not doing their usual work at the Hokage Tower filing for missions and filling out paperwork, hence the title), he arrived at the Hokage's youthful office.

Sarutobi Hiruzen, the Sandaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato,was an old man - nearly eighty years of age - and still going strong. His prowess on the battlefield had earned him the title of "The God of Shinobi" and his mastery of the basics and more of every aspect of shinobi arts had given him the title of "The Professor." He wore the Hokage's Robes of State and sat behind his desk, glancing petulantly at the myriad of paperwork stacked upon it. At feeling Gai's flaring of Chakra in a specific sequence known only to Jonin of Konoha, which specifically indicated important information being delivered, he glanced up in Gai's direction and asked "Ah, Gai-kun, how did your mission go?"

"The assassination of Kurosaki Iroh went as planned, I was noticed by no one but Iroh himself, and his unyouthful enforcers are all dead as well. However, when I was there, I looked through the things in his safe. It seems that he, Kaminari Midori, and Gato are all involved in a most villainous scheme to take over the country of Nami no Kuni."

"Do you have the papers themselves with you Gai? With something like this I need to see the proof for myself."

"Hai, Hokage-sama," Gai replied as he took out a sealing scroll. Releasing the papers from the fuinjutsu {The Art of Sealing}, he handed them to the Hokage. After the Hokage looked over the papers to see the man's plans, he called out, "Tora!"

An ANBU operative with a tiger painted on his porcelain mask emerged with a smoke-swirling shunshin {Body Flicker}. "Go bring me Nara Shikaku. This is not an emergency level meeting, but I want to see him as soon as possible. It seems that there is a plot to take over one of our allies. I would like to see what can be done about this, and I need my Jonin Commander's point of view." With that, the masked ninja disappeared in a swirl of smoke.

"Now, Gai, is there anything else you wish to tell me before your go write up your mission report and turn it in?"

"Hai, Hokage-sama. As I was returning from my mission I ran into my most youthful comrades Izumo and Kotetsu. It seems that while they were on their mission they picked up a young girl who wishes to be a future ninja of Konoha. In recent years, I have thought of taking a student, but I do not think that I have gotten to a high enough level in my ninjutsu and taijutsu yet."

"Gai, you have some of the best taijutsu in the village."

"Nevertheless, I have not thought myself at the level to spend my time devoting myself to imparting my knowledge to someone. However, I believe that I might sponsor the girl, and give my assistance there, as a mentor rather than a watcher. I think it might be a good way to learn how to teach someone; moreover, I believe that young Suzuran has a future as a most youthful shinobi from what I have heard from my youthful friends. Apparently she did her best to protect the younger children in her orphanage from a most unyouthful murderer after the Matron of the orphanage was slain. Truly, I believe she will one day burn with the youthful Will of Fire."

The Hokage's eyes lit with understanding and a look of anticipation for the future. Gai knew that the Sarutobi-sama always thought of the children of Konoha as a symbol of the future, the next generation to burn with the desire to protect most youthfully. "I see," he said, "Very well. I authorize Maito Gai, Jonin of Konoha as sponsor to one Toguro no Suzuran {Suzuran of Toguro}. (Toguro means Coil, and is Suzuran's hometown.)

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Sup, folks. Don't worry about my True Power of Love fic, that's still going on. My computer is currently screwed up and getting fixed, and my already finished chapter is on that. I'm using a different computer in my house to write this Naruto OC fic. Now that University has started again, I will be writing more often. This is because I tend to write when I am bored during classes while listening to the teacher. I cannot focus on just one thing at a time, so this let's my spastic imagination have an outlet while my more serious self is absorbing facts of chemistry and biology. After I write a rough draft in class, I type it up in my spare time with additions and changes. Anyway, I think it's pretty obvious who Suzuran's dad is, hopefully some of you guess. So, if any of you guys see a grammar problem, please tell me. Thanks, and enjoy.