A New Beginning

Karin dreamt of finding an escape to the grim fate that was the lesser of the many available evils, of finding an ally out of nowhere that would pass the test she administered through her outrageously good sensing. Someone without second thoughts, someone who simply saw the situation Karin and her mother were in and said 'no''.

The red-headed girl awoke to the cold wind whipping on her face despite the layers of cloth she had placed over it, and there was no grogginess or leftover tiredness when her eyes opened, her left hand quickly placed her glasses over the bridge of her nose, and when the world went into focus, her breath caught.

It wasn't a dream. Karin turned her head to the side, where another bundle of thick clothes and covers hid from sight her mother. The Uzumaki didn't need to see her in order to be sure about her conditions, her chakra was frail, and thin, but steady nonetheless, like it had been during the years she spent all but a prisoner in Kusa's hospital.

Then her hands clamped on the floor, the somewhat soft, tickling floor... what?

The Uzumaki truly remembered what the escape from Kusagakure had consisted of, and she eyed the back of her savior with awe clearly written on her face.

So easily the ninja who couldn't have been much older than herself had managed to take her mother away, every action had been deliberate: Karin had felt constantly the steady breathing of the shinobi, who had walked perfectly across the streets of Kusa, avoiding those shinobi he couldn't befuddle with a quick genjutsu. A clone of his carried her mother until they were all a kilometer out of the Hidden Village, and then he burned through half of his reserves.

Hence the brown, soft floor that was made of large feathers. The redheaded girl gulped quietly as her eyes roamed over the large back of the eagle that was carrying her small group, the world she could see beyond the horizon made of the creature's wings and tail feathers was blue, with streaks of white that she understood were clouds.

Karin had known about the existence of Summons, who didn't? But she had never expected the newly met ninja to be able to call an eagle the size of a carriage, nevermind to actually fly away from the prison that was Kusagakure. At the moment, she had accepted it without freaking out, the day had been surreal since she overheard the clearly secret meeting between Jiraya and the shinobi who presented himself as ìì.

A part of her wanted to scream at being at such a great height from the ground without having any form of control over the eagle, whose chakra clearly expressed how little the creature appreciated being used as a mount, the other... her eyes roamed again and again over the sea far below, and then over to the East, where the sun had long since completed its awakening and burned brightly. It was hard to deny such beauty, and coupled with her changed situation... it was freeing.

Tears welled up in Karin's eyes, and she didn't bother blinking, letting her focus wander from the new circumstances of her life to the shinobi who was sitting cross-legged just behind the head of the eagle, using his chakra to casually warm the immediate surroundings.

Now that she focused on him, she let her sensing take over and she looked with amazement at the cloud of swirling fire natured chakra that surrounded him: it moved in perfect synch with his breath, describing twin looping patterns that crossed behind his head and where she supposed he was keeping his hands.

"We're almost there." the voice of her savior was scratchy, and it did an admirable job of hiding his youth, to the point that had Karin not known that his appearance was a disguise, her senses would have been fooled.

After a second or two during which Karin bit her lip, unsure if she was allowed to ask clarifications from her savior, whose determination only seemed to shine brighter and brighter the further they were from Kusagakure, the Uzumaki spoke: "Where are you bringing us?"

"From the files I stole, your mother cannot sustain living on the road, and you're too weak to be brought up to speed in a potentially dangerous environment." the recently grey-haired shinobi replied.

Haruto... it would be easier to call him that if it wasn't obvious that he chose the name only to keep his real one hidden. "What?" she frowned under the thick clothing that kept the harsh winds from stealing all of her warmth, "I suspected that about mom, but... bring me up to speed?"

At that, the strange shinobi turned his head, looking at her from over his shoulder with an arched eyebrow: "Unless you have a clan protecting you, a bloodline is a curse more than anything else, it makes you a target, and without a careful teacher you risk becoming over-reliant on it. What sense would it make, if I dropped you with your mother somewhere and forgot about you?"

"You..." Karin's eyebrows climbed up on her forehead as she took notice of the complete seriousness of the shinobi, only for her to parse through what she had just heard: "You speak from experience, don't you? About having a bloodline..."

His chakra spiked uncomfortably then, and the Uzumaki had the feeling of being under scrutiny: "...Perhaps." the grey-haired ninja replied, "I'm going to teach you, and we'll be remaining hidden away until you'll be able to meaningfully contribute to our defense, should the need arise."

He turned fully then, both of his dark eyes locking with the red ones of the recently freed girl: "I know that you know that Haruto isn't my true name, and you're smart enough to pick up on details that I didn't think to hide from you because of your age and inexperience, such as my likely age."

Karin gulped, feeling the steely determination of the ninja in front of her bleed over the tiniest spark of fear, when he spoke again: "Just as I am doing what I can to protect you and your mother, I ask that you try to protect me by not snooping around those secrets that I choose not to share: deal?"

"Deal." the red-haired girl replied immediately, inching back minutely at the unexpected request of her savior.

"Since I'll be teaching you, you'll call me Haruto-sensei, and if you cannot find any meaning in my fake-name, then focus on the 'sensei': because that's what I'll be to you." he grinned then, his teeth flashing from behind the untamed mustache that partially covered his lips.

Despite the surreal situation, Karin found herself grinning as an answer: it was hard not to, not when she could feel Haruto-sensei's chakra burn fiercely as he spoke with no deceit in his words, no shade of greed behind his eyes.

She was about to ask what he was going to teach her when the eagle carrying them let out a sharp screech, which made the artificially grey-haired shinobi turn sharply towards the head of the creature.

He can understand it. the Uzumaki blinked in surprise, before shrugging and writing it up to the shinobi having a signed contract with the Eagles.

"We're here." he laconically announced, stopping the red-haired girl from speculating further on his possible abilities.

Carefully, Karin looked down from over the edge of the eagle's body, and once she fought through the brief moment of vertigo, her breath caught in her throat. This is no random island.

The mass of dirt they were flying over was surrounded by choppy waters that eventually fell into this or that whirpool, the tall waves crashing loudly against the jagged cliffs that were the border of the island. And as the eagle started its spiraling descent towards their destination, Karin spotted stations that had been clearly made by hand at a regular interval along the broken cliffs.

"This," the voice of the now grey-haired shinobi brought her back from her reverie, "is Uzushiogakure, the birthplace of your ancestors."

As the eagle kept up its constant downward spiral towards the landmass, Karin couldn't help but ask: "Why did you bring us here?"

"It is very isolated, your clan was the only thing to bring value to this place, on its own... it's too far from any Hidden Village to be properly maintained as a border post, and there are no useful natural resources." the Eagle-summoner turned his head and once more observed her from over his shoulder: "It makes a good place to temporarily hide while I train you and your mother rests. Besides, I'll be training myself, and doing so here will allow me to try out something more eye-catching than what I'd be able to do in clandestinity anywhere else in the Elemental Nations."

As the eagle carried them over the plateau that topped the cliffs, which still carried the unforgiving signs of the assault that had ultimately destroyed Uzushiogakure, the red-haired girl found herself realizing that while Haruto hadn't told any lies, he might not have been told her everything.

"Besides, I'll work on my sealing too, and maybe you'll prove yourself talented in the Art, as many of your people once were." Haruto shrugged uncaringly, "Clans often leave behind things only accessible by their own blood, it would have been a waste to not check this place out."

"So you do have a second purpose." the red-haired girl frowned as she accused him. So soon ends the magic.

"Two things can be true at the same time, you know?" he replied without heat to his voice, even if there was a spike of doubt making him waver, something that she only picked up thanks to her extraordinary empathetic sensing, "Had I left Kusa on my own, I wouldn't have come here, no. But since I'll eventually teach you what I know of Fuinjutsu, it would be a waste to not see if there is something that can help you or your mother along."

"My mother?"

Confused by the apparent non sequitur, Karin's jaw dropped open when Haruto replied: "Her chakra-system is heavily taxed, and her life force somewhat spent, and while I doubt she'll ever be a terror on the battlefield, I wouldn't discard her opinion if she proves competent in any given field."

Not for the first time, the Uzumaki was reminded that she knew jack-shit about her saviour.

No, she corrected herself when she confirmed that he hadn't been lying, my sensei.


Again, a part of me wanted to write a chapter about the escape from Kusagakure, but there wasn't any reason to: escaping Kusa was as easy as entering it, so a brief adventure to kidnap Karin and Akari (Karin's mom) from the clutches of a random hospital of a minor village wouldn't have brought any development besides slowing down the story.

So, yeah, we're in Uzu for the time being, which will be a training montage of sorts for both Karin and the MC, who needs to start exploring his newly obtained contract, and it will give me the time to introduce the OC that is Karin's mom.

As for my decision to bring Karin into the story: writing OC that aren't the main character is time-consuming if you want it done well, so if I need a character for a prolonged length of time, I'm going to pluck one that has seen little or a lot of screen time in order to cover the role that I feel makes sense for them to cover.

Outside of the Great Five Hidden Villages, there aren't many characters that I could casually drop along with our MC without blatantly railroading them: Kusa was a plausible element of the Chunin Exams in Suna, as well as the MC's casual decision to show off. Which eventually brought us to Karin.

I remember most of the manga, I never watched a filler episode, and I missed the movies completely. So the only characters avaliable for me to drop in without using an OC, are someone in Orochimaru's hands, Haku, or Fu from Taki. The latter is a Jinchuriki and there was no way for me to drop her in the Suna chunin exams, nor for her to 'casually' meet with iraya and Sasuke while they roamed around. Haku is fuck off somewhere with Zabusa, Orochimaru's merry gaggle of prisoners are Orochimaru's, and the MC clearly doesn't want to get close to any of those.

So... Karin was conveniently available, had potential, and allowed me to build the shift in character I was desperate to find a catalyst for.

The Si starts with a standard pack of [seek power-be free], shifting around the chunin exams to [seek power-be free-give a hand to the three people he somewhat cares about], to culminate here with [seek power - be free - give a hand to the three people he somewhat cares about - help an innocent if you reasonably can].

I mean, if an average joe (which is exactly what my SI starts out as, character-wise) knew that someone was eventually going to be gnawed on for the rest of their life after years of casual experimentations, would they do nothing even when the risk associated with taking action is relatively contained?

The only other option to enact this particular change was Fu, but she's in Taki, the MC never went around those parts, and being a jinchuriki is dangerous unless you are fuck-off strong.

I mean, I could have left the SI in Konoha to milk canon for all of its worth, but while those are fics enjoyable to read (when written somewhat well), they're boring to write, and the character's growth would have been built off Naruto, which is something already seen everywhere.

While typing on the keyboard, besides my new attempts about character-building (I'm somewhat still finding my feet with those), my lore exploration -slash- lore building (which are always fun), I want to type out a story that is interesting (for me) to think about. When I plan the next steps, I want the freedom of touching only those canon-events that are either useful to me as an author, or that still fit despite the many changes the actions of a single individual have brought.

Ultimately, while the MC has a general plan, canon and the 'butterfly effect' are that which he needs to contend with (at least plot-wise: for example, he doesn't know shit about Naruto's current predicament, and he only suspects about Neji's place in ANBU).

My job as the writer is, while having fun with the characters, the lore, and the plot, to make it so that you readers are interested in only the plot, only the lore, only the character, or any random combination of those (for example, I cannot stand to read a work that only revolves around a character's emotional hurricane, I need a larger plot to support it, and while I don't strictly crave Lore-Building, it is a nice seasoning to me).

Opinions on this chapter? On the story as a whole? On the characters? Don't be shy and let me know!