Her name is _ and she's falling.

Falling, Falling, Falling-

Falling where? Falling when? She doesn't know. Everything is melding together, her past and future intermingling into a color that doesn't exist, and she herself is being broken down into nothingness. Being rebuilt again and again, falling once more in this endless plain.


She chokes, air vanishing from her lungs, her eyes so heavy she has to struggle to open them.

Falling, Falling, Falling-

"Read it again?"

A ghost curses at her, hissing and spitting words she doesn't understand for reasons she doesn't know. This face, this ghost, it's so familiar and she-

She reaches out, pretty whisps vanishing between her fingers, and tries not to cry.

And even still, in spite of her pain, she continues to fall.


"Shippo, you're going to be late."

Her eyes open. The spinning ceiling is highlighted in morning light, streaming beams filtering through her shades and painting pretty pictures where they fall. Judging by the brightness it's still early. She doesn't sit up, knowing the moment she does she'll be hit by a bout of nausea.

"Breakfast is on the table for you. I'm heading out now."

She doesn't respond and instead waits for the world to come to a standstill. Hana takes her leave, closing the door quietly behind her, and Shippo stays in bed to process what she can.

She had a strange dream, but she can't exactly remember what it was. She feels too groggy.

She lets out a shaky breath and, at last, sits up.

Aomaru is curled into her side, still asleep, and Momo has settled herself at the end of the bed. Kiba, for once, is nowhere to be found. She crawls out from under her covers.

She goes about her morning routine in something of a daze, pulling on clothes, brushing her teeth, and tugging her hair into order. By the time she's done Ao and Momo are waiting at the door for her, tails wagging impatiently.

"All right then," she says softly, "let's go get breakfast."

True to her sister's word a simple feast of rice and fish is laid out on the table and Shippo settles to dig in. She loses herself in thought, mindlessly chewing and swallowing what passes between her lips, while her pups eat beside her.

When she's done she cleans her plate, stretches, and heads out for her morning exercises. To her immense surprise, Kiba is already there.

"...Good morning," she calls, padding out to take her place beside him.

"Morning!" he replies cheerily, sweat trailing down his face as he takes his next form.

She doesn't ask why he's already out here, why he's already awake even, and starts stretching out herself.

The rest of the morning passes quickly like this with little words spoken between them until they've each run through their full set of exercises.

"Are you ready for today?" she gasps out between wheezing breaths, Kiba already collapsed next to her.

"I'm excited!" he says, grinning wide, "This is where we really become shinobi!"

"Yeah," she says, "I guess it is, huh?"

She gets up, dusts herself off, and hoists her brother onto his feet.

"We should go before we're really late."


They take off for the house, grab their packs, and start making their way to school. The pups, unused to this routine, tail after them excitedly; dashing forward to sniff something new and rounding back to their legs with happy yips.

The path to the school is uneventful and it isn't long before the building is coming into sight, before they're once more trailing through the winding halls and into their desired classroom.

Iruka-sensei is already there, stationed at the front of the class and watching over them all with a keen eye. He smiles warmly when they enter, but doesn't say anything. There still doesn't seem to be a seating arrangement, so she and Kiba make their way to the desk they had chosen for themselves previously.

She looks around the room, still nearly empty despite the time, and waits idly while more students enter the class.

She picks Aomaru up and plops him onto her head, pulling up her hood so that he's almost completely covered. Momo is settled snugly into her chest and she zips up her jacket to hold her more secure. They whisper to her quietly, asking about where they were, what they would learn, and how long this would take.

When Iruka-sensei gives one final sweep of the class, it's still barely half full.

"Alright then everyone," he says, "it's time to begin class!"

Her stomach twists in nervousness and she gives a half glance around the room.

The last time she was here the class was nearly bustling with life, chattering students filling up every seat animatedly. Had the student sizes really been cut down this much? Would it continue to be cut down even more?

Naruto chooses this moment to burst in, tripping over himself and going into a spiel about how he woke up late and it really, really wouldn't happen again.

"Take your seat Naruto0kun," Iruka-sensei sighs in response, and with a cheeky grin Naruto does.

"Already getting up to trouble, huh Naruto?" Kiba whispers at him.

Naruto blushes, but his smile doesn't drop, "I didn't mean to!"

"If you look in the back of the class you'll see a board that will change weekly," Iruka-sensei interrupts them, "on it you'll find a job you've been tasked to do such as cleaning the classroom, bringing in lunch, and giving morning introductions. Please be sure to check it before class!"

The whole class turns to look at the aforementioned board, using the opportunity to once more break out into childish chatter.

Iruka-sensei doesn't reprimand them, choosing instead to turn to the chalkboard and begin scrawling something out.

Chakra it said.

"Who here can tell me what chakra is?"

In front of her Sakura's hand immediately flies into the air, almost waving with her need to be called on. Although Shippo can't see it, she can already imagine the look on her face - ever so eager to prove herself, her knowledge. Her strongest asset.


"It's a combination of spiritual and physical energy that flows through our body in circulatory system-like pathways called the Chakra Pathway System. Each person's chakra is unique and their specific signature is typically passed down through genetics."

Iruka-sensei doesn't answer right away, clearly taken aback by the intelligent answer, before composing himself and nodding.

Shippo sinks into her seat, embarrassed by her lack of reaction to the question. She's supposed to become the best kunoichi like this? Yeah right.

"Very good Sakura-chan," Iruka smiles, "can anyone tell me what we use chakra for?"

Sakura flings her hand up again and Shippo, jaw clenched tight and unwilling to be outdone, does the same.


Sakura's hand wavers for a second more before lowering, and Shippo holds back a triumphant smile.

"Chakra is used for almost everything shinobi-related," she says, "but we use it mostly for Ninjutsu. By honing in our chakra through specific hand gestures we're able to expel it into our techniques. Even the most basic techniques require chakra."

"Exactly," Iruka-sensei says, turning to the board and writing Ninjutsu in bold, "over time you'll learn how to control your chakra and cast Ninjutsu. However, it's important to note that chakra is not infinite. There is a limit to how much you can use, and if you use up all of it you'll die."

It's something she already knew, of course, but hearing it still made her feel a little queasy all the same.


She was no stranger to death, but it didn't fill her with dread any less.

The kids around her don't look concerned by his words and it makes her chest feel tight. She glances at her brother, and looks down at her desk when she sees the determination in his eyes.

"We also use chakra for Genjutsu," Iruka-sensei continues, "which are illusions cast to confuse our enemy."

Genjutsu is written neatly on the board.

"Sensei!" Naruto calls out loudly, waving his hand in the air rapidly.

"...Yes, Naruto-kun?"

"When are we gonna learn awesome jutsus?"

Iruka-sensei sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. Shippo can practically feel the distaste waffing off him in waves.

"You are not ready yet to learn 'awesome jutsus', Naruto-kun," Iruka-sensei says, "first you must learn how to control your chakra, like I was just explaining."

Naruto slumps back in his seat with a whine and Kiba pats his arm reassuringly.

"Chouji-kun," Iruka-sensei calls suddenly, "can you tell me why chakra control is so important?"

Chouji startles and hunkers down in his seat a little, mumbling his answer beneath his breath, "uh, because wasting chakra can be dangerous…"

"Correct. You never want to mould more chakra than you need into a jutsu," Iruka-sensei says, "as the chakra will go to waste and make you more tired quickly. A ninjutsu fight most often favors the user that conserves their chakra the most; it's not just about throwing as many jutsus as you can at the enemy."

"I'm sure many of you dream to be like the Kages, but you must understand that there is more to being a shinobi than cool jutsus. Stealth, tracking, infiltrating, and espionage are all things you must learn if you are to survive as a shinobi in this world."

The class is silent, listening - for once - intently to his words. She finds herself surprised by how serious he is, how serious this is, and can feel the weight of what he was saying pushing down on her. There is a long road ahead of her, and she's not the only one who thinks so judging by the conflicted and resolute faces surrounding her.

Cutting down, she thinks.

Iruka-sensei relaxes his shoulders after a moment and calls for them to take out their books and turn to his desired page. On the page are various illustrations of hands making seals.

"These are the hand seals that mould our chakra into the jutsus we summon. It is impossible to cast a jutsu without them and each jutsu uses a specific combination of hand seals that no other one does. Everyone look to the Monkey sign and follow my motions."

She looks down at her book, running her fingers over the sign she sees and purses her lips.

Okay. Hand seals.

It's relatively easy and most of the class gets it right immediately. Iruka-sensei has them practice the motions of the seal multiple times until he's satisfied.

They move through the rest of the hand seals slowly, oftentimes with the class getting confused or frustrated at the awkward motions they're forced to commit and the uncomfortable ways that they have to bend their wrists and twist their fingers.

It's a clumsy process, but Iruka-sensei guides them through it steadily. He walks around class, fixing some students' seals and praising others. He shows no favoritism, for which she is thankful.

By the end of the day he stands at the front of the class with a smile.

"All of you are doing very good!" he says, "At this rate I expect you'll have these memorized by the end of the month."

Shippo perks up a little, pleased, and hears Naruto groan. She bites her lip before turning to him, leaning forward to see beyond Kiba.

"I know it's difficult Naruto-kun," she whispers, "but if you're going to be an amazing shinobi this is something you have to learn. You won't let something like this stop you, right?"

Naruto stares at her for a moment, brows furrowed, before he starts rapidly shaking his head.

"Of course not..! I'm gonna be the best Hokage ever and learnin' some hand seals is nothin'!"

Iruka-sensei dismisses them with orders to practice their seals at home and read through the first chapter of their chakra control book. Most of the students book it towards the exit the moment they can, eager to spend the rest of the day playing, but Shippo takes her time bundling her pups more securely into her jacket - both fast asleep - and easing out of the room.

Naruto and Kiba were both chatting up a storm about their first day of class and she listens with half a ear. She was already planning out the rest of the week in her head - she was sure when she got home their mother or Hana would be waiting for them and ready to begin their training.

Stealth and tracking. It still bothered her a bit, but nothing would come of her going against her natural born talents. She would need to embrace them to advance the way she wants.

She sighs. At least she would have plenty of resources at home - whether it be through her clan members or their library - on how to even begin honing in these skills.

"Wanna go get some Ichiraku?"

She looks up here and cuts in before her brother can say anything.

"Actually we need to head home for training," she says with an apologetic smile.

Naruto's face falls, but she doesn't waver. Training came first, even if Kiba looked sad about it.

"You can...come by for dinner later if you want Naruto-kun," she redirects, "eating ramen all the time isn't healthy. It doesn't have much nutritional value and to be a strong shinobi you need to eat right."

Naruto's face wrinkles up in disgust, "what? Like vegetables and stuff?"

She shakes her head with a smile, "there's lots of good healthy food Naruto-kun. How about you come over when it starts getting dark out and I'll show you what I mean."

"...Fine," he mutters, turning his face away, which was starting to turn a bit red, lips curled into a smile.

"We'll see you later!"


Grabbing Kiba's hand she turns and breaks into a jog, heading for the road. Kiba picks up and keeps pace with her easily. She wonders for a moment which of them is faster and decides to settle it later.

The jog is nice, the air fresh, and by the time they reach home she feels energetic and ready to train her heart out.

Hana meets them when they come inside with a smile, arms scratched up to bits, and leads them outside.

"Alright," she says, "where did we leave off?"


The days begin to pass in a blur - school, training, studying, grooming, the list never ends and she finds herself always occupied. She quickly learns to stay on task and takes on all of her duties with fervor. The work is good and the distraction is welcome. She feels more on point than she has in years, feels like she's starting to do something with her life than just play the part of a child.

It hits her just how much she misses being an adult.

She is all the more thankful for her pups who provide her comfort and peace when she needs it. The work they give her is fun in ways the rest isn't - she enjoys getting down on the ground with them and pushing the bounds of their senses as much as she can. True to Akari's word Momo excels in tracking, fulfilling each task Shippo gives her with boundless energy and happy pants.

Ao is much more laid back in comparison, evading Shippo's senses and sneaking around their endless forests with ease. It's a fun game and she's found that pitting the pups against each other brings out their best performances - Ao hiding while Momo tracks him down. Ao has yet to evade Momo until the timer Shippo has set runs out, but she's confident that one day he will.

Kiba is an almost-constant presence, training with her every step of the way and it builds her confidence up into a strong foundation. Seeing Kiba's progress ignites a competitive spirit within her, a spirit that forces her to go just a bit more, to push just a bit harder. She finds that speed is her greatest asset, learns to use their growing difference in sizes to her advantage, and where Kiba is a hard hitter she's a fast one. Her clan's style is becoming second nature to her and she's sure that she'll be able to catch up to Kiba - who seems to live and breathe the style like air - one day.

Each day her class size dwindles down, more and more students leaving until soon it tapers out to just a mere handful.

Naruto spends so much time at their home that he's practically one with the family and it makes her heart grow warm. Everyone has come to welcome him with open arms and he, too, takes on his own training with a seriousness that surprises her. He can't quite match Kiba and her, but he's still trying far more than she thinks he would have otherwise. He no longer plays the class clown and participates in class in a way that has Iruka-sensei nodding his head in approval.

Her Tuesdays are dedicated to learning the language of flowers, to identifying and administering different poisons, and the power of wardrobe. Secret messages hidden in plain sight, a perfumed letter with a mist of nightshade, and the way prettily painted nails can catch eyes. The classes are more interesting than she initially gave them credit for, but even they see a noticeable drop in students as time goes on. Ino and Sakura buzz to her like bees and though their friendship isn't entirely true, Shippo appreciates the companionship nonetheless.

She passes her hand seal test and they begin learning the intricacies of Genjutsu, of moulding their chakra into their hands and releasing it out into the world as their crafted illusion. It's difficult, far more difficult than anything she'd done so far, and leaves her often feeling frustrated or worn out.

Her chakra is a powerful force running through her veins, but harnessing it seemed like such an impossible task. It was wild and uncontrolled, evading her grip in playful whisps. Kiba struggled twice as much as she did, having yet to grab a hold of it entirely.

"The Inuzuka curse," their mother had grumbled, Hana nodding in agreement.

"You've practically mastered chakra control," Shippo had said, shocked, "that's why you're a medic!"

"Yes," her sister had replied, "but it took me a long time to get there."

Sakura far surpasses her here, finetuning her chakra into micro-manageable bundles and crafting illusions that has even Iruka-sensei impressed. Shippo tries not to let her frustration get the best of her and hunkers down to dedicate her time to mastering this seemingly impossible task.

Obey, she thinks, eyes shut tight and hands clasped into the rat seal. The chakra surges into her hands and splutters out, messily painting her room into the vision of an open field that vanishes the moment she opens her eyes. Her bed is a mess of strewn about papers and books, the theory of chakra weighing high on her mind and the practice of genjutsu rendered useless. She abandons her studies to take her frustrations out on a log outside, training until at long last she is exhausted and panting on the ground.

And this is when it hits her, her mistake. Obey, she had thought, like it was hers to control - like anything at all in this world was hers to control. Her chakra was a part of her body, yes, but it too had its own will. It was playful and wild in a way none of the books described. She sits up, closes her eyes and reaches out.

Please, she thinks, feeling at the mass of energy tentatively. Warm and pure and good. Like the essence of her soul, the promise of power. She takes it into her hands gently and lets it take over until when she opens her eyes that field is painted around her perfectly.

Ah, she thinks. She knows this place, though she doesn't remember it anymore. Something from the life before.

She'd used too much chakra in the jutsu, but it was fine. This progress was better than nothing and though she can't quite match up to Sakura she passes this test, too, efficiently.

The clan talks about her progress in excited whispers that she tries not to let affect her. The elders are superstitious and take her mounting success in school as proof that the Inuzuka clan will rise beyond the bounds they're currently restricted by. It's dangerous talk, but they keep it quietly contained within the clans walls; whispers slithering across the wood to find their way home in her ears.

Two months pass and she's taken up learning anatomy; finding soft spots in armor and exploiting flesh in the most painful way she can. They are taught the standard Konoha katas and fighting style, religiously practiced day after day until deemed satisfactory and set against each other.

She learns a lot about her class like this.

There's hesitance behind every hit Sakura administers that belies her lack of confidence in herself, smug assertiveness in Ino's that she hides behind the fear of getting mussed up, and zero weight to Hinata's which is indicative of her low self-worth. Against her fellow kunoichi Shippo excels in taijutsu. The only real match she's found is against the fledgling shinobi. Kiba and her often end up in stalemates and their one vs one ratio is pretty much even. Shikimaru gives up immediately every time, Chouji is incredibly powerful when he actually manages to hit her, and Shino has beaten her almost every match - he's fast and strong and takes this more seriously than the others. Sasuke and Naruto - her prospective future teammates - make her feel mixes of frustration and thrill.

As it is now Sasuke is no prodigy, but she can't deny his combat prowess either. The shinobi he's meant to become is already budding beneath the surface, if only given the right nudge. For now though they're relatively equal matches that leaves her feeling a little...underwhelmed. She'd somehow expected more from him, although she knows he won't begin taking this more seriously until…

Naruto on the other hand carelessly runs in and practically gets his ass handed to him. If he just put a little more thought into his battles he could become such an intimidating opponent. Even despite his recklessness she could feel the strength behind his hits, the fluid motions of his body. There's a Kage's genetics hidden underneath his bright smile and blundering personality that she can see even despite his consistent failure in battle. Under the right guidance she's sure he could become so much more than he is now, but-

There was nothing she could do about it. She would let things fall where they needed and help him how she could later when they were actually teammates.

She even learns things from the students whose names she's not keeping track of. The leftovers from the cut-downs. The side characters.

There's a dark-haired girl who could match Chouji's strength in equal measures, a brown haired boy who passes every test thrown at him with ease, and a boy who had such a strong grasp on chakra control he could give Sakura a run for her money. Even so she doesn't give them much thought besides a cursory glance.

She's sure if the circumstances were different they would make the cut. The majority of them are surprisingly steadfast and resolute, but compared to the undeniable strength of clan training it's no wonder they likely wouldn't make it to graduation - even Sakura blended in well with them. As it is it's been 32 years since the last clan graduating class. It's unfortunate, but all other students would have to take a step-back.

She's satisfied with her taijutsu and can already tell it will become one of her strongest assets. She's forbidden from practicing her clan style against her classmates just yet, but she's excited to see how she fares against them with it - for now she was restricted purely to the Konoha combat style.

Month three passes and into month four she's introduced to the art of bukijutsu. She's handed her first kunai and has to hold back the urge to scrape her finger down the edge, to feel the sharpness of it for herself. It's lighter than she thought it would be, carefully crafted steel held gently in her fingers. Iruka-sensei lines them up with strict instructions to never pass beyond a marked line and shows them how to hold the weapon, and how to strike. When she flings it it's fast, arcing through the air and past her log target and into the bushes with a thump. Adrenaline runs through her veins as she takes aim again and again and again. Not only would she one day throw these at moving targets, but they, too, would be thrown at her. It's a terrifyingly exhilarating concept.

It takes a few more weeks before they're entrusted to shuriken - weeks during which she finally managed to consistently hit the log with her kunai - and she can tell right away why the wait was so long. These are sharp all over with almost no safe edge to hold onto. Iruka-sensei hands them to each student individually, showing them how to hold it one-by-one with a patience that showed how much he cared that they not hurt themselves recklessly. She carefully grips the top, flat steel and arcs her wrist the way sensei indicated, watching it whizz - fast, far faster than the kunai - through the air and sink into the log.

They're steadily introduced to more and more weapons as the month treaded on, some taught in person and others through mere depictions.

This is how fast this weapon is, this is what happens if you're hit with this weapon, if you're interested in taking a poison-specific class talk to Iruka-sensei later - the list goes on and on. The sheer number of weapons this world bares scares her and she finds herself often overwhelmed trying to remember them all. She continues to practice what she'd been given and aces her test even despite her heightened anxiety in regards to the whole thing.

On and on the months march by - history on the elemental nations, literature, math, the history of Konoha - and their work load decreases as they're expected more and more to take up their studies at home.

Ao has stopped growing and is a little over the size of a puppy, fitting easily on her head, while Momo continues to bud. She spends her spare days in the library scoring through every book she can, reading on the history of this world and their clans and their wars. There was little information on conflicts before the First Shinobi World War and the in-between period of the Second. Anything regarding the Senju and Uchiha clan was under strict lock and key and thus the very origins of the village were something of a mystery. Only the most vague basic outline was given to her on the state of the world back then, and try as she might she couldn't find anything regarding Madara or Obito. Information, it seemed, was scarce.

She watches with tight lips as Naruto flunks every test he is given, every chakra control exercise thrown his way. It takes all of her willpower not to interfere and the guilt gives her racing nightmares of children being hunted for sport. She takes her stress out through more training and her body has a light muscle to it that was unfamiliar to her as a whole. She can run on all fours without hindrance and more clan techniques are being taught to her by the day. Tsume is pleased, Hana is proud, and Kiba is keeping up with her steadily.

When the year closes and the students are released on break it is with a newfound confidence that previously seemed unattainable. She was faster now, stronger too, and her teamwork with her pups is fluid and strong. She closes the year as top of her class and ready to begin the next.

When break is over - spent training and reading and playing - and she enters her class she's unprepared for the downcast eyes and rapid whispers - gestures to an empty seat and high energy strung through the air.

Ah, she thinks when she sees who's desk it is.

It was about time for the Uchiha Clan massacre.


Tumblr dev-fiction.