Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

Key Terms

Bocchan = young master/young lord

ojou - sama = young lady from an influential family

Raining Pebbles

As a baby you have a lot of time to think in between the phases of 'holy shiz i'm hungry' and 'someone please change me because i'm sitting in my poop'.

So Maruyama Akane used to have many, many questions like...

Is reincarnation real, or is this the afterlife?

That sounds like Japanese, why does that sound like Japanese?

Does pride as a grown woman in a baby's body, REALLY matter if i'm starving and can't talk yet?

These questions cycled in her mind for a whole season, before she reached a sad conclusion. There was no point in wondering all these questions if she couldn't find the answers to them. It was like trying to prove deities were real and always looking for signs of their existence, which some individuals devoted their life to figuring out - but Akane was not one of those people.

So she decided to accept it, accept the new world around her and the new life that was given to her.

So she didn't kick up a fuss when she became hungry, merely wailed quietly until someone came to feed her. She accepted the warm hugs and quite liked the feeling of being carried as she was lulled to sleep. The moment she turned three months old, she began to become more cognizant of the world around her. She explored as babies would, as she plastered her hand over different objects, taking in the textures of smooth silk and rough tatami mats. Akane would focus on listening to foreign conversations, picking up words and associations as she continued to learn. Growing up as a baby was easier than she thought and the youngest Maruyama was content with the beginnings of her rebirth.

She had even begun to develop an appreciation for this new life (like a lot).

Not that Akane just forgot about her past life, she still remembered it well. The woman had been 26, a civil service worker, with a stable 9 to 5, but it was boring and she held little passion for it. She had a small clique of friends, and a very loving family. But it wasn't really anything special. (She loves them very much and will still miss them dearly, but it's not anything out of the ordinary)

But at her second chance of life, it was like she was reborn into a fairy tale.

She realized as she was slowly swaddled in silk robes - incredibly comfy and a godsend in the sweaty afternoons of summer, and had been attended by several women bringing her a new toy after every cry that she was no longer ordinary.

In this world she was a spoiled and pampered princess.

Except, well - she wasn't technically a princess but rather a daughter born to a very wealthy and influential family. She had been blessed to be born as the grand-niece to the Daimyo of the Land of Earth (ethnocentric name if you asked her), and her maternal grandfather ensured the relationship between the Village Hidden within the Rocks and the Land of Earth was peachy keen perfect (you protect us, we give you food and other necessities).

Akane supposed she was born lucky, being spoon-fed luxuries and leisure, she would have an easy life. Despite her mundane days being rather routine and boring like her previous life, the thought of living lavishly and security of knowing her future was pretty much guaranteed, would make this second go of life a cake walk.

Well, only if she followed the rules of high society...

But that can't be too hard can it?

Akane is forever thankful she was reborn a month younger than her cousin Tetsuya. He was her mile-stone marker, and if she had relied on her past knowledge of babies it would have spelled trouble.

In her previous life Akane, as the eldest in a large family, had many younger siblings and cousins to take care of. Thus, it became ingrained in her to recognize the exact months babies should be able to smile, crawl, talk, walk, etc. So, when she was able to pick her head off the ground and start crawling at three months instead of the normal 7-10 months, she thought she was a bigger anomaly than she already was.

But her fear drained immediately as her mother picked her up and cooed sweetly. An even bigger surprise, was when her aunt Emiko encouraged Tetsuya who was already toddling on two feet at four months, to walk towards her.

In this new world, children developed quickly. Physical development jumped after a few months after birth and motor development that shouldn't have started till she was at the earliest 2 years old, like turning the page of a book without ripping it into shreds, started at 9 months.

Thus, at the age of two the duo had begun their calligraphy lessons. Pudgy hands could grab brushes and swirl Kanji in determined strokes. The final product although lacking the elegance and grace of the famed art, had straight and even strokes resembling symbols.

Tetsuya and Akane could hold conversations and read simple sentences before 2, and were expected to study the works of famed scholars at the age of 3. Brain development occurred so quickly, the youngest Maruyama felt like she was moving on auto-pilot. Days blurred by as she realized she only recalled memorable experiences and discarded the rest as babies did. To her, she was in a 3 year old's body doing activities 7 year old's were capable of.

This experience further solidified the fact she was definitely not in Japan like she had thought, and drew a conclusion she was possibly not even from the earth she knew of.

Akane's days were routine as they consisted of waking up, grooming, food, and lessons. Her education varied from reading scriptures, flower arrangement, to learning music, all qualities expected of a young girl in her household. The instruction was a little less droll when she was accompanied by her cousin.

"Straighten your back, bocchan."

Tetsuya let out an anguished sigh as he attempted to correct his lackadaisical position. His black cowlick sprang out of his neatly combed hair and it took him every ounce of childish restraint not to smooth it down and even more restraint to not muss it up just to spite their teacher. Perhaps it is was a shame Akane put on the persona of a stickler, making life harder for her cousin. The mantra her uncle continually used to scold the boy would always be, "If Akane can do it, you must do it better."

The woman in a child's body likes to think that her uncle isn't trying to be sexist (she knows he is a little, it's hard not to be in the patriarchal society she was born into), but he is attempting to groom his heir. For even though Tetsuya is only 3 years old, he will be the next lord of the family and his role is crucial to ensure their descendants and legacy will be able to prosper. So he must learn and he must excel, Akane's uncle expects nothing but the best.

"You as well, ojou-sama."

Akane sat ramrod straight, ignoring the prickling sensation going up and down her legs. If she had learned anything in her past life coming to her current one it was self-control. Unlike her black haired cousin, she would listen to her teachers and she would do as they said without complaint because it was always the better option. As Tetsuya had his role as the Maruyama heir, Akane had her own.

She stared at their teacher Mitsuka, who's eyes as dark as a crow stared back at her approvingly. The elderly women with smooth hair tied neatly into a salt and pepper bun, nods as her young mistress complies to her words. They move onto their next lesson, Akane, who will focus on her more feminine duties in the afternoon as Tetsuya switches teachers to discuss the basics of economy to foster his growth as a young lord.

Akane stared enviously at her cousin's retreating back. Although the young girl knows she would hate to sit in on lessons about supply and demand, she wished some of her lessons had a form of academic rigor to them. Her underlying curiosity to learn about the world around her, resulted in an interest to learn everything about this new world. But she would lose her inquisitive thoughts the moment Tetsuya would relay information about percentages and rates of economic growth. The young girl had never been fond of numbers and mathematics in her previous life, a trait that continued onto her new one.

So she relented and began to listen as Mitsuka-sensei instructed her on the symbolism of flower colors, at least they were beautiful to look at.

It is only a little while later that the shoji door slides open and her raven haired cousin looks at the scene with a frown.

"Why does Akane have to do that? It's stupid. No one cares if the flowers are in the front or back."

The youngest Maruyama cannot help the small twitch of her lips as she contains her laughter. Her cousin is cute, always defending her even though all that is in his mind is for them both to go and play ninja. (But it is not in the way young shinobi or civilians play, no, as young lords and ladies the most they can do is tell stories and meander around the courtyard with a hop in their step)

Mitsuka looks on with her lips pressed against each other. There is a fine line she must walk to be our respected teacher, and disciplining her future lord. "It is a practice for young ladies, bocchan may not understand because you are a boy."

At this, Tetsuya only scowls.

But Akane is smarter and can read the context clues as Mitsuka embeddes not only the meaning of flowers but the intricacies of talking to members of the inner court. Which is why Akane gratefully learns this information and absorbs it into her mind. Akane will continue to learn about pretty things such as reciting sweet poems, arranging flowers, and dancing as those are the things that will save her from being married off to just any lord.

She will be groomed to be a perfect bride, sought out by pot bellied old men and to her hope a young agreeable lord that will benefit Tetsuya and the family. As Tetsuya is to her Uncle, Akane is to her mother, and she will be the woman her mother was supposed to be.

That is her role.

The Maruyama household have a few rules every member must follow, and one of them is, dinner will always be eaten together. It does not matter if uncle has business with others, it doesn't matter if someone is ill, it doesn't matter if relatives are hostile towards each other. They are family, and they will all rise and prosper together or they will all go down as one. Her aunt, her mother's little sister, is the only exception to the rule. As a woman who married into another family, per tradition she had moved into her husband's compound and resides in the capital.

Her grandfather Maruyama Toyotomi is the previous lord of the the household. Wrinkly hands stroked his graying beard as he looked down from his seat at the head of the table, "How was your meeting with Onoki?"

Her uncle paused as he set down his chopsticks, a crease forming on his forehead as he answered, "They're sending out more troops, the skirmishes are getting too close to the border for my liking." Maruyama Iemitsu sat on her grandfather's right, both mirror images of each other except for the jet black hair of her uncle and the graying strands of Toyotomi's hair.

A loud throaty grunt emits at the head of the table, "The Land of Fire is getting rather ambitious, filthy liars all of them."

Akane remains silent, as most children do at the dinner table. But she wants to put in her two cents about how strange the beginnings of the Third Shinobi War is. She found it odd how the Village Hidden in the Leaves, would declare war on Iwagakure after just finishing another war prior. She had figured their priority would be to recuperate and build up their forces after their fight with Amegakure, instead they were pointing fingers and accusing Iwagakure of invasion. But all the same, Akane wasn't the slightest bit worried because she was confident Iwagakure, who's military strength far surpassed Konohagakure, would end up victorious.

Her black orbs blinked as she heard Iemitsu continue on with the conversation, "Onoki-san also wishes to dine with us a week after our visit to the Daimyo."

Tetsuya shot her a glance from across the table, at the news, his toothy grin the opposite of Toyotomi's ire. "Hmph, so close to Children's day! He still has no tact after all these years!"

Aunt Emiko, forever the peacemaker, tucked a stray brown hair behind her ear as a gentle smile graced her features, "Perhaps he should come here instead? It will do well for him, to be out of his residence." away from the reminders of war goes unsaid.

There is an exchange of glances, so quick the young girl wouldn't have spot it if she al wasn't already waiting for the Lord of the household's usual scathing remarks concerning the Tsuchikage . Her mother, Sunako, and her uncle look at each other with pursed lips and the smallest crease on their brows. The action is fleeting, but Akane can only feel cold dread fill her as she watches her mother smiles sweetly.

"Then we must prepare for his visit, it is the first time in years after all."

The warmth of her smile never reaches her eyes.

"No, no, no!"

It's hard not to flinch at the anger behind those words but Akane does not move an inch, too used to the scolding.

"Akane-sama, I need you to put your heart and mind into it," her music teacher, Manaka, preaches. "What are you trying to convey in this piece? What do you want it to do?"

Her fingers abandon her koto as she places her hands on her lap, eyes unwavering at the young woman's sharp stare. "I want mother to feel relaxed and joyful when listening to my music."

The gaze sharpens as Manaka digs deeper, "You cannot just form intent, you must envision. What brings Maruyama-sama joy?"

The black haired child knows the only thing that would make Sunako's heart soar is if her so-called father would return, from wherever he was - whether it be from some hovel in Iwa or rising from the dead. However she will never let those words leave her lips, cannot tarnish her mother's reputation and instead says, "When she's in the garden drinking tea while enjoying the scenery of the cherry blossoms."

Manaka brings her face close enough for Akane to spot the flecks of green in her hazel eyes, and hears her instructor jab the tatami mats with her finger as she enunciates, "Then, that is what I want you to convey in your piece. As you pluck each string I want each sound to have meaning. I want you to make me see cherry blossoms and that garden to the very last petal."

Manaka is the only one who pushes Akane to her limits, and for that she is grateful. However the manner that the brown haired woman speaks to the youngest Maruyama is borderline social suicide, if her music teacher were to ever instruct Tetsuya in the same way, she would not only be fired with no future for employment but receive 15 lashings to the legs.

Akane's gaze sharpen with determination as black orbs meet hazel, and feels the taut string beneath her fingers bend as she begins to pluck at them. Akane breathes in and feels herself tremble as she focuses, closing her eyes and envisioning the memory of her mother sitting in the garden. With a slight gust of wind that makes her mother's hair blow and the scent of cherry blossoms filling the air. Her fingers work faster, picks up the pace as her hands fly across the koto as she begins to pluck in quick succession.

"More, Akane-sama."

The stinging of her fingers worsen as she continues playing, her abdomen on fire from either sitting too long or eating a questionable candy Tetsuya asked her to try earlier in the day. But the warmth blossoms throughout her body and she can feel the tips of her fingers grow hot as she nears the end of her song. Akane stills herself to take slow deep breathes as she brings shaking hands onto her lap. She can never describe the feeling after Manaka's lessons - it's exhilarating like the feeling she used to get when her adrenaline was pumping from activity, blood thrumming through her veins as a wave of euphoria washes over her. A feeling she would never receive outside of her lessons, not in her role as a fragile young mistress groomed to be a prized bride.

Similar to her mother when speaking of the Tsuchikage , there's a glint in hazel eyes of the short bobbed haired, woman paired with a sweet smile, "Excellent, it felt like I was really there."

"Thank you, Manaka -sensei."

The toddler slides the shoji door open, smiling at the sight of a black-haired beauty gazing out the window in thought. Akane glides across the tatami mats, hardly making a sound as she sits down in seiza and waits for her mother's reverie to come to an end. In her previous life she had grown up with the love of two parents and several siblings, in this life she had been brought up with a single mother and loving relatives - no father in sight.

But all the same Sunako was a strong woman, and raised Akane with love and care despite being a social pariah. The raven haired girl vowed she would do anything for her mother to be happy, whether it was to become an easy child to raise or to fill her with so much love it would fill the void in her mother's heart.

Soft hands tucked a stray hair behind Akane's ear, and suddenly the toddler was alert as she looked into concerned eyes.


A smile tugged at the woman's lips as she began to speak, the as if knowing the thoughts running in her daughter's head, "My dear, I know you hold me in your heart but please follow your dreams and passion too."

Startled, she shook her head quickly, "Mother, I-"

Delicate hands clasped around her own as a gentle voice coaxed, "Akane, your father doesn't want to see you like this."

The woman trapped in a child't body doesn't comment on the way her mother always talks as if her father is still alive. It does not bode well with Akane as that means one of two things; either her father had abandoned her mother and left her to be a social pariah or her mother is disillusioned.

Her mother with her soft and flawless skin, with her small face and big eyes accompanied by a demure but lovely smile had been the quintessential Yamamoto Nadeshiko in her younger years. Talented in areas of beauty and classic literature she was the perfect trophy bride, academic yet lovely to look at. However, in the eyes of the nobility the number one sought out daughter-in-law of the Land of Earth soon turned into a harlot as her once slim frame became heavy with a child and no husband to claim responsibility.

Aunt Emiko had a different view, a story of star-crossed lovers where her mother and father fell in love despite incredible odds against them. A tale where her father loved both Akane and Sunako dearly, but for their protection had to hide in the shadows. The young girl had appreciated her aunt's attempt to shelter her from the truth she saw, a man probably of commoner or ninja status knocked her mother up and was afraid of the wrath of the Daimyo. It did not change the fact he deserted her mother, it would never change the fact Sunako had faced ridicule from those around her for all these years.

Akane had devoted her life first three years in this new world into grooming herself to be the perfect child. A young mistress who would be obedient, intelligent (but not smart enough to outsmart her future spouse), kind, and most of all beautiful. She would become a woman who would be sought out by many, be a woman who would help the Maruyama household prosper, and most of all be the daughter everyone would remember to be the product of Sunako's love and care.

But what did that matter when her mother looked at her with doe eyes touched with sadness? What if by being a "perfect" daughter she had actually caused her mother pain?

The black-haired child could only smile masking her melancholy with a happy acceptance, "Okay, mother I will."

Dear Father,

Mother and I miss you so dearly, when will I get the chance to meet you? Please be careful during these times, Iwagakure is strong, but I fear the war will get worse. I'm not able to eat my favorite sweets from Hizata confectioneries anymore as our esteemed great uncle passed the ban on all Land of Fire merchants. But it's okay, Mitsuka is trying to teach me how to prepare some sweets. I hope one day you may be able to try them together with mother in the gardens during cherry blossom season.

I am practicing with the koto more, Manaka-sensei has taught me a new song recently. I like to imagine how happy I would feel seeing you and mother relax while I play it in the background. I hope you like to listen to music father.

Mother says that she hopes that I am more willful with my feelings, do you wish the same father? If so, I will allow myself to be a little bit selfish this time.

With much love,

Maruyama Akane

Akane had decided it was time to start to be a bit wild, at her mother's suggestion.

To have a little fun, but Tetsuya's idea of fun and her own were not exactly the same.

Protection isn't necessarily needed in Iwagakure. There is no living individual who does not know the existence of Tetsuya and Akane, even if there was, their clothing was always a tell tale sign of being figures of importance. Despite being a few months into war with the neighboring villages, it hardly effected the two Maruyamas'. Guards stood vigilant on the borders and Iwagakure had natural protection from the massive mountainous rocks that surrounded them. No one was allowed inside or outside of Iwagakure unless they were cleared ninja or the Maruyamas themselves. Although there were less shinobi in the village, it did not mean the Household was any less protected.

Akane paused in thought as she re-evaluated her surroundings, as she spots shining metal on foreheads of children not much older than her. There is a heaviness that weighs on her as she looks at a young girl with bangs just a tad too long and the hiate shining underneath. That could have been her, in this time of war and she is forever grateful to be born into her family, despite the constrictions due to her social standing. But it could have been worse, she thought, I could have been a child soldier.

Something that Tetsuya is still oblivious to, during their walks in the village, as he takes off running past their caretaker and off to find an adventure.

Too used to the young lord running Hiyoko, Tetsuya's personal maid servant, only turns a stern glare at Akane and barks out a firm, "Stay here!" before running after the raven haired boy.

For the first time in her (new life) Akane disobeys and walks.

Although she had often been confined in the compound, there was always somewhere she wanted to visit. Iwagakure had focused largely on militarianism, and less on their economy which made it easy for her relatives to keep a leash on the shinobi. Due to their poor economy and less than stellar architecture there was only one truly mesmerizing area in all of Iwagakure.

The Stone Monument, located near the Tsuchikage's residence, was serene. In the middle stood the Will of Stone, a pedestal created by the more artistic shinobi representing the ninja way of the shinobi loyal to the Tsuchikage. There was a small pool of flowing water surrounding the pedestal, and Akane had wanted to be adventurous and grab a rock, one of many, that filled the pool. She could hear the inner stickler in her screaming in distress at the very thought of doing something so unexpected.

But she had to, this was where her father and mother (supposedly) met mentioned in Aunt Emiko's love stories.

The small black-haired girl blinked as she stared at someone already lingering at the pedestal. There was only one way to describe him, he was huge.

She observed him from behind, staring at the top of his red straw hat down to the flaring of his scarlet and gray plated armor.

Tentatively she stepped closer, she knew the ninja were always an easily startled bunch and froze the instant he whipped around.

To her surprise his face was young, he couldn't be more than a tall and gangly preteen with a face still clinging to the rest of his baby fat. His eyes were chilling, as his gaze poured a strong sense of distaste as he looked at her. His red eyes began to dart around her, after finding nothing his eyes settled on her once more.

Akane gave a shy smile, hiding how terrified she was actually feeling. Standing still she clasped her hands in front of her and gave him a small bow, not too formal as really he should be the one bowing in her presence. Her bow was returned with a flat stare as he stuffed his hand into his pocket, watching her. The toddler could hear the steady stream of water entering the fountain, and wanted to do nothing more than walk slowly away and be anywhere but there. But she was determined to get that dang rock and be done with her "selfishness" and curl up in her soft bed or play the koto all day.

She walked to the outside edge of the pool and laid down her handkerchief to sit, as Mitsuka would have a conniption if her silk robes imported from the finest of the Land of Fire were damaged.

Her hands were itching to snatch any random rock and just run back to the compound. But every cell in her body screamed how that was NOT a good idea. Instead she smiled plesantly, and looked into scarlet orbs, "What's your name, sir?"

She didn't think he would answer her, but was surprised when she heard a baritone voice answer smoothly, "Han."

"My name is Akane."

By the way he inclines his head, there is something in his stare that she cannot quite figure out. It does not help she can hear the distant calls of a name and cannot focus, "Ojou-sama!"

She can feel her heart beating quicker, thrashing against her rib because what if her mother was disappointed in her little stunt? She blurts her next few words out, already standing and fleeing from the fountain, "I-it was pleasure meeting you, Han-san!"

It doesn't take the young girl long to find a grinning Tetsuya and an enraged woman standing by his side. Hiyoko's forehead is slick from sweat as she pants out, "Ojou-sama! I told you to stay put."

The line is practiced, the same one Tetsuya uses as she lets out a sweet smile and replies, "You were taking too long to come back, and I wanted to go back home. I apologize, Hiyoko."

But her thoughts are hardly focused on the apology as she could only think of how the giant scarlet clad boy stared at her.

Accusing eyes had sparked with familiarity as he gazed at her and it wasn't because she was a Maruyama, it was because she was Akane.

AN: I was always interested in the politics of the Naruto world which has always been largely ignored (the desire to write this has also stemmed from me watching too many historical dramas). This is going to be very AU.

Originally I was going to have her as the most spoiled bratty girl who didn't give a shit but decided living in a household like this, that character wouldn't have lived long.

Constructive feedback is much appreciated!