- Prelude -
It was dark and quiet. The stillness of the night was tormenting and thrilling at the same time. The flutter of the winds, the chirping of insects, and the luminous light of the Moon were ideal compared to the destruction that had just happened below.
Beneath the dark gloom and the luminous Moon, existed the village Hidden in the Leaves. One of the most powerful villages to ever prevail in the ruthless world of Elemental Nations. The village was a manifestation of both power and peace. Shinobis, ruthless and powerful individuals, were the dark side of the structure while civilians, the ones who constituted the majority of producers and consumers of the economy, were the light that contrasted the dark.
From the countless years since its creation, Konoha invariably remained at the top of the world. Numerous people believe it was because of the powerful shinobis it gave birth to over the course of time, while others charged it on the foolishness of the remaining villages. Whatever the reasons were, Konoha never failed to win.
From the powerful duo of Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha to the fabled once in a millennium genius, Minato Namikaze, Konoha always possessed someone to preserve it above everyone else. People like Madara Uchiha injected the fear of Konoha's military might into everyone's hearts, while others like Tobirama Senju awarded the whole Shinobi world with numerous invaluable aspects and strategies.
One could detest it or worship it but they couldn't deny the fact that the village was the pinnacle of everything in the nations. Konoha was something every other village wanted to be, but could not emulate successfully.
"We couldn't find him anywhere, Hokage-sama." A voice resonated in the deep dark chamber, completely apathetic to the chaos which was transpiring in the village above. The lone eye of the speaker was emanating nothing but detachment to the ordeal.
Something stirred in the shadows of the room. "I know Kakashi-kun, I know." Another voice responded, sounding as apathetic as the initial speaker. "There is nothing that we can do now." The voice wavered as a surge of sadness struck the speaker.
"But you are the Hokage, Hiruzen-sama!" The lone eye of Kakashi narrowed in hatred. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You can do anything!" A moment of silence accompanied his outburst as his eye began to gleam between red and onyx.
Dull brown eyes glanced down, attempting to find an escape from the sharp words of the teenager. "I can't, Kakashi-kun," Hiruzen whispered, frowning ever so slightly at the dull expression of the boy. "I couldn't even save Naruto." A lone tear trickled down his weary cheek, staining the cold floor of the room. What was left unsaid was the fact that the child was most likely already dead, but Hiruzen still had a tiny portion of him yearning for his words to be proven false.
Kakashi didn't say anything, his trembling shoulders were enough to convey his feelings. He was broken and his heart was enduring an unimaginable amount of pain at the moment.
"Don't talk about him like that" His heart-shattering whisper nearly slashed through Hiruzen's stoic veil. "He is not dead! HE MUST BE ALIVE!" Kakashi shouted, looking slightly deranged with his lone sharingan spinning wildly. "When we find him, we will treat him like a hero, just like his father and mother. We will give him the training and the family he deserves, and nothing less!" He couldn't contain the anger inside him anymore and sneered at the old man. Kakashi felt truly disgusted at the fact that Hiruzen dared to think that his sensei's son was dead. There was no way that could happen!
Hiruzen nodded his head, totally agreeing with the words. Naruto was just like his father, blond hair and bright blue eyes. He was everything Kushina and Minato expected him to be.
"You are absolutely right, Kakashi-kun." His words hardly managed to get a reaction out of the boy. "Naruto's death will not be forgotten. He will always be remembered as the hero of Konoha."
Kakashi's silence didn't last for long as his eyes finally turned over to the corner of the room. A dark and cold area where the shadow of a man was sitting silently, observing their conversation with his sharp eyes.
"Jiraiya-sama," he grumbled, "you truly are a failure."
As soon the cold words left his mouth, the Hokage clenched the old desk tightly with his bare hands.
For someone else, it would have been a warning of brewing danger, but for him, it was an indication that his words were able to inflict the desired effect. The man sitting in the shadows was one of the most irresponsible and horrible people. Not only did this man forget to inform them earlier about a possible kidnapping, but he also made sure to only appear after everything had transpired. While the ninja of Kumo were torturing little Naruto, this man was enjoying the touches of women from brothels in a nearby city.
"I'm not saying anything wrong, Hokage-sama!" Kakashi continued, unfazed by the clenching of Hiruzen's hands. "This man is nothing but a walking failure, just like the other two students of yours!" He knew his words would sting the old man and his assumption turned out to be true, when the said man flinched at the jab.
"Aren't you speaking a lot, brat?" Jiraiya finally stood up from his position, his huge form towering the window of the room easily and soon the only ray of moonlight was barred from entering the dark place.
Now, the only source of the light was the solitary glowing Sharingan of Kakashi. Ever so slowly, the room was drowning in the ominous shade of red.
"No." The eye of hatred blazed momentarily. "Everything I just said was true and I-" He was not able to complete his statement because a rough hand made contact with his face and sent him flying towards the entrance of the room.
"Do you even know how much Naruto meant to me?" The old sage whispered, his dull eyes expressing no interest in the discussion whatsoever. For them, everything was dull and meaningless now. The undying fire that was keeping them alive until now was no more. Naruto was no more. He died, taking his will to live with him to the afterlife. There was no reason for him to live in this cursed world now. "He was the only family I had."
"Liar… Naruto meant nothing to you. For you, his value was less than that of a harlot." Kakashi finally got hold of himself and stood up on his feet. His face was bruised because of the backhand he had received from an angry Jiraiya. He wouldn't lie, the whole part was stinging badly, but at the moment, he had these two old men who really needed a dose of reality. So swallowing the pain, he made a trek towards the old shinobis.
"Kakashi, enough!" His feet wavered a little when the old man sent a blast of chakra towards him, but he managed to withstand it. Today, there was no one who could stop him from revealing the idiocy of these so-called experienced shinobi.
"You both are the worst." That managed to silence everyone, even the hidden ANBUs who were present from the start. "You call yourself a strong and wise leader, Hiruzen-sama, yet you failed to correct your biggest mistake… Orochimaru. It's only because of you, and only you, that countless innocent children had to lose their lives. That monster, whom you call your beloved student, performed every inhumane experiment one can think of on those poor children and still you've yet to express your remorse for those consequences. Every time someone asks you about that monster, the explanation you give them is how depressed you are for your student. Even after all the inhumane things he had done and is probably still doing, you still feel sorry for him."
The silence was suffocating. It was the first time Kakashi had shown so many emotions at once. He allowed every suppressed emotion inside him to erupt in the form of words and the result was astonishing.
Hiruzen Sarutobi was stunned. The professor was stunned.
Still, Kakashi didn't feel any pride at the notion. For him, the man was nothing but a living example of hypocrisy.
"And you, Jiraiya-sama" he turned his eyes towards the man who immediately stiffened because of the recent occurrence. "I only have one thing to say about you." He began.
With that, Kakashi strode out of the room, slamming the door loudly behind him.
Darkness claimed the room.
The interdimensional void was a place covered with nothing but arrays of vivid color and emptiness. It was a vast land situated amidst the boundaries of three major dimensions: Heaven, Underworld, and the mortal world, also known as Earth.
True to its name, it also served as a place that could be used to travel from one dimension to another. Though visited by countless guests daily, the place surprisingly had only two permanent residents: first being the Dragon of the Apocalypse, also known as Great Red; while the other being the Infinity Dragon, Ophis.
Throughout the ages, both of the Dragons had fought each other countless times for the ultimate dominion of the realm and only settled down when the Great Red was finally able to overwhelm his foe, Ophis, through small but sufficient differences in raw power and magic.
Defeated but not finished, Ophis never accepted her defeat and continued to exist in the deep dark corner of its former home, hoping to one day take what was hers from the very beginning.
Centuries passed away but unfortunately, the Infinity Dragon was unable to achieve what she dreamed of. Every time she tried to fight her rival for her home, that powerful Dragon somehow managed to defeat her again and again.
After a few more unfruitful attempts, Ophis finally decided to stop the continuous cycle of battles and destruction. She might be clueless, but even she understood that there was no way she could defeat a being as powerful as her opponent, the Great Red. He was just too powerful for her.
So, after thinking about her dilemma for a while, she understood that the source of her problems lied within herself. She was uninformed and uncommunicative. While the Great Red had a mouth that could put anyone to shame, she, on the other hand, possessed little to no communicative skills.
One might think why she was worried about such a trivial aspect, but Ophis was certain that her inability to provoke that red giant during their battles was one of the main reasons why she always ended up being on the losing side of the conflict. She also thought that her own inability to feel anything played a major part in her frequent losses.
As she thought of who she could learn from, she drew up a blank. Sure, there were gods out there who knew how to orate very well and could probably teach her how to feel emotions, but she knew that her presence would either make them mute, make them piss their pants or a combination of both. The few people that wouldn't do that could be counted on one hand. They were Yahweh, Hades, and Izanami.
Hades and Izanami were out of the question; both of them would likely try to use her for their own means. And while she could obliterate them with a snap of her finger, she really couldn't be bothered to make such an effort.
That left only Yahweh, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that he wouldn't be much better than the previous two. She could see through the grandfatherly mask he put on and honestly thought that he was far worse. Under the kind facade was a cold and ruthless god who wanted his own religion to be the only one in the human world.
Last she heard, Yahweh made something called the "Ten Commandments" and wanted his followers to kill whomever didn't follow his religion. She thought it was ironic that one of the commandments was "Thou shalt not kill", yet he encourages the killing of non-believers of Christianity.
She started to realize that perhaps she could not find what she wanted in this world. Everyone who had the ability to help her likely would not. While she could force them to, she knew that it would never be a long-term solution. She needed someone who would help her willingly and would be by her side whenever she needed them.
For the first time in many millennia, unbeknownst even to herself, the little Infinity Dragon felt lonely.
Looking towards that red annoyance, who was doing aerial acrobatics, she decided enough was enough. With an expression of distaste on her face, she tore reality open and jumped into that tear, hoping that whatever world she landed in, she would be able to find someone whom she could learn from.
As the rift closed, said red annoyance immediately stopped doing barrel rolls in midair and started hovering there, with his face arranged in an unreadable expression.
"It seems… that I have failed." Great Red rumbled into the nothingness, his gaze sweeping the kaleidoscope of colors that adorned the space of the dimensional gap.
"I had hoped that with myself being so noisy and rowdy, you would feel something other than apathy. But I must had taken the wrong path in that regard."
Heaving out a sigh, Great Red started drifting around slowly and solemnly.
"Wherever you end up, I can only pray for your success. I hope that you'll be able to find your emotions at last."
Looking back once more towards the place where Ophis disappeared, Great Red let out one last sentence before entering a portal that he created.
"Good luck… Ophis."
-Land of Hot Waters -
The Land of Hot Waters was a country that attracted both tourists and shinobis alike. Situated between the two major countries of Lightning and Fire, it was a place filled with beautiful rivers, dense and lush green forests, and soul-warming hot springs. Its beautiful features, resource-rich geology, and ideal location not only made it the perfect tourist destination, but also helped the village to become the ideal nexus for the trade routes between its neighboring giants.
For years, it continued to remain as the trade giant and served as one of the most important allies of the Fire country. Everything was going perfectly for the country and its people until its other neighbor, Lightning country invaded its beautiful towns.
What used to be a flourishing and economically stable haven soon became a barren and desolate wasteland filled with the remains of the glorious past. Hot springs and forests, which used to attract countless tourists and keep the economy going, became ravaged by the invasion, and the people who were dependent on them for their livelihoods were left with no choice but to travel to foreign lands.
The ghosts of the past and ninjas of Kumogakure continued to haunt and abuse the remaining populace of the country until a miracle happened, a miracle that led to the death of the crazy Raikage. With him gone, Kumogakure was left with no choice but to withdraw their numerous forces from the country.
With the ninjas gone, mother nature began to heal itself, and soon the country found itself walking on the path of glory once more. Knowing that they needed their main attractions back, the people of the region started restoring the remains of their lost Hot Springs, forests, and other major tourist attractions.
In a small attempt to boost the morale and aforementioned actions of his poor citizens, the Daimyō of the Land of Hot Waters, made an agreement with the Daimyōs of the neighboring country and declared his land as a valuable tourist attraction, one which was open to everyone and was needed to be protected at all costs.
It wasn't long before everything returned to how it used to be in the past. Some people took possession of the businesses while others decided to keep building more fabulous pieces of art. The continuous improvement of the infrastructure and development in the field of tourism soon led to the country becoming the most important and safest tourist destination in the whole world.
The country continued to mark its presence upon the history of the world and reaffirmed its position as the top tourist destination. The residents, who in the past barely had the money for a single meal, were now among the wealthiest people in any minor country. Sure, they couldn't compete with the merchants of the five major countries; but for them, what they had was enough.
Among those residents, there was an old couple; the Kawagishi family of Yugakure, a hidden village located in the beautiful Land of Hot Waters. The household was a very well-known family in the town as they were the ones who constructed the very first hot spring on this side of the country using their own hard-earned cash. They were also among the very few who steadfastly refused to leave the country when Kumo invaded, and were lucky enough to keep the majority of their possessions.
Their residence was situated beside the beautiful banks of river Bibou, where they owned an inn that had the third largest hot springs of the land. Despite being somewhat removed from the main village, their inn was actually one of the most famous ones, with many people, including foreign shinobi, stopping by each day.
It was at this inn, Ophis found herself wandering into one night.
- Bibou River -
"... Peculiar," Ophis said to herself as she walked along the banks of river Bibou.
She had arrived in this world around a month previously and traveled far and wide. She saw the harsh deserts of Suna, the rocky mountains of Iwa, and the floating islands of Kumo just to name a few places. She even entered the villages, completely oblivious to the scandalized and pitiful gazes of the inhabitants upon seeing her walking around in her attire. She would have stayed longer and tried to learn more, if not for the fact that she could sense the pure fear from the shinobis who were jumping around like headless chickens trying to find whatever they were trying to find.
She was confused by the reactions she caused to the shinobis. Did she do something wrong? She made sure to mask her entire power, so there was no way anyone could sense her. They should have just thought she was a random child and ignored her.
What she didn't know, however, was the fact that the way she dressed was only seen among prostitutes in the red-light districts of the villages. Combined with the fact that she looked like a young child, led everyone to the sickening, but wrong, conclusions.
That was only what the civilian side of the population saw. The shinobi side could immediately feel the power she exuded, but they were unable to pinpoint the source of it because it seemingly came from everywhere and nowhere at once.
While it was true that Ophis masking her power would have usually worked, she didn't take into account that she was in a different world and things might not be the same. Indeed, her attempt to mask her power only hid what seemed like a sliver of her power and basically flooded the entire village instantly.
Her very presence alone, even if she didn't do anything except walk around aimlessly, caused every village she entered to immediately go onto the highest alert and track everyone's movement. The respective kages of the villages didn't know where the source of the power was, so they could only send whatever shinobis they had to carry out recon. They did not know how such a being of power could just randomly appear in the middle of the village, with no logs of them entering at all. As such, they were scared out of their wits and could only pray that whatever had entered their village didn't mean any harm.
She soon realized that she wouldn't get anything from walking around so openly. Everyone she asked either looked at her weirdly and hurried away, or just ignored her. She quickly decided that stealth was the best option and started quietly observing from a distance.
She didn't care about the chaos she caused to the shinobis by suddenly disappearing in broad daylight and her power suddenly vanishing.
As she watched the people from afar, she learned quite a few things about the humans of this world.
Back in her own world, none of the humans had the ability to use chakra, only the Youkai could; assuming that this world's chakra was the same as her own. She noticed with interest that some of these "shinobi" might actually be able to go toe-to-toe with a mid-level Youkai, with a select few able to take on the higher level ones.
Focusing on a few of the stronger individuals, she closely watched them, taking notice of everything they did, from eating to traveling to talking. She wanted to understand what drove them and how they went about their day-to-day business. By doing so, she hoped to sort out her own emotions and figure out how they worked.
However, this didn't work as well as she hoped because they would instantly go on guard whenever she tried to get close. Even the weaker ones would start acting uneasy and nervous, despite not being able to see her.
Left with no choice, she randomly teleported to a location, which just so happened to be the Bibou river, which is where she is currently walking.
"I must have done something," she thought as she trudged along the bank, uncaring about the mud that splattered her dress, "they act so nervously around me… They shouldn't know who I am… yet they are still scared."
As she thought alongthese lines, she felt a small, sinking feeling somewhere in her chest. She had absolutely no clue what it was and had nobody to ask, since nobody would talk to her normally.
"Maybe this world isn't the right one. Maybe I should find a different one... One where they talk to me normally."
As she raised her hand, preparing to open another tear in reality, an elderly voice called out to her, making her stop.
"Hello there! Who might you be, young lady?" A strong, but slightly wizened voice spoke up from ahead of her.
Looking in the direction of the voice, she saw an elderly man waving at her, holding a fishing rod in one hand, sitting on a crate of what she assumed was fishing tools.
The man looked to be around in his sixties, he was wearing a hat with fishing hooks along the brim, a striped shirt with orange and black patterns, and a set of ordinary khaki shorts. He had black hair—with streaks of grey indicative of his old age—along with a goatee and rather thick eyebrows. His face and his body were fairly well toned for someone of his age, but showed signs of going to seed. Despite all of that, his muscles were still relatively well defined. Overall, he looked like an elderly veteran that has been in wars.
Walking towards him, Ophis plopped herself down on a rock beside him and started speaking to him in her monotone voice.
"I am Ophis."
She watched the man's face closely for any sign of recognition, as this was the first time she had actually told anyone her name. She had no chance in the past, and she wanted to know if her name meant anything in this world.
"Well then Miss Ophis, what are you doing out here by yourself?"
The man was deeply concerned with what he saw. He had noticed her deep in thought and had gotten a good look at her face and her clothes. He saw the almost dead-fish eyes, saw what she was wearing, and got a general idea of how old she was. He arrived at the same conclusion as everyone else, but unlike the others, he was determined to know more about her. If he was right about her origins, then he would never forgive himself if he didn't at least attempt to help her through the trauma she must have suffered.
"I have no reason. I am wandering aimlessly."
The sheer bluntness of what she said disturbed him greatly and he was starting to think that his theory was correct. Having made up his mind, he slowly got up and picked up the box he was sitting on, making no sudden movements in case he scared her away.
Ophis stared at him confusedly. Why was he acting so strangely? Did he also not want anything to do with her?
She felt the same sinking feeling earlier, returning with a vengeance.
"It's almost night time. Do you have anywhere to go, Ophis?" Upon seeing her shake her head in denial, he continued speaking. "Then would you like to come with me? My wife and I own a small inn, and we have space for you."
As Ophis stared at him unblinkingly, he started feeling very nervous. With a sudden jolt, he realized what was wrong. He was an old man in the middle of nowhere, inviting a scantily-clad child to the place where he lived. Yeah, he understood why she'd be staring at him so intently, and he almost kicked himself for not noticing it earlier.
"It's completely alright if you don't!" He hastily said, dropping the items he was carrying and waving his hands around frantically. "I'm just worried that because you're so young, you might not have anyone to take care of you. I just wanted to give you a place to live and rest, nothing more!"
This made Ophis even more confused, why was he suddenly explaining himself to him? What did he think she was? She decided that it might be a good idea to follow this man, as he seemed sincere about offering a place to stay. Quite frankly, she was getting tired of sleeping in trees and on the ground. An inn sounded nice, and being "taken care of" was something she had never experienced before.
"Okay, I will follow you."
The man's ramblings were broken off as soon as he heard what Ophis said, letting a smile form on his slightly wrinkled face, he picked up his items and motioned for her to follow. He didn't attempt to make any physical contact with her because by now, he was almost certain of his theory, that she had escaped from her unwilling servitude in a brothel.
He felt a fit of simmering anger the likes of which he had not felt for years rising within him. If he ever found what depraved establishment would use children to fulfill their sick desires, he would make a bonfire and personally burn every single person involved in it. Alive and screaming.
He was shaken out from his dark thoughts when he felt a small hand poking at the back of his head. With a start, he realized that somehow, Ophis had managed to get on his back and was piggybacking him.
He was glad that she had put so much trust in him, and without further ado, he hoisted up his fishing rod and box and started walking back towards the inn.
A few days had passed since Ophis had followed the old man, who she came to understand was called "Ito Kawagishi", back to his inn. She recalled the first time she had experienced sleeping in a soft bed at night, and found that she wanted more of it.
His wife, Tsuga Kawagishi, was also someone that Ophis would remember. She was the one who gave Ophis her first warm bath in the hot spring, and she discovered that it was a very pleasant experience. Well, pleasant if one didn't ingest the soap.
To this day, she still doesn't understand why Ito and Tsuga would laugh whenever she asked why soap tasted so nasty.
She was given a new set of clothes to wear; they consisted of an orange and blue flowery yukata with a set of simple undergarments. They felt a bit weird on her body, and when she asked why she had to wear them, the two looked uneasily at each other, but still answered.
These past few days were far more productive than the entirety of the past month. Her short stay had allowed her to learn so much more about the world around her and, more importantly, about herself. She could now identify the sinking feeling she felt earlier as "sadness", and she disliked that feeling. She never wanted to feel it again.
The fact that the majority of the people who arrived at the inn were speaking to her warmly and normally also made her feel very grateful. She could, at last, ask people directly about lots of different things and receive actual answers.
However, she wasn't able to learn much about the shinobi lifestyle, because it seemed that the only patrons there were only civilians. When she asked Ito and Tsuga about why there weren't any shinobis around, they too, didn't know. Even though the village had been turned from a hidden shinobi village to a major tourist attraction, there still used to be plenty of shinobi who arrived here, but recently, there have been none.
They didn't mind too much though, since the business was fine without their patronage. And to be completely honest, they didn't care much for shinobis anyway. Given their past experience with Kumo shinobis razing their village, a village that had long given up on shinobi business, nobody could blame them. They would treat them just like any other guest, but they wouldn't show any special preference towards them.
Ophis slowly started to find that she actually enjoyed this place. She enjoyed being around the couple who took her in; she enjoyed talking with the other villagers; and above all else, she enjoyed the hot springs and a warm bed. As a matter of fact, she found herself starting to not care about the silence she craved so much anymore. The more she thought about it, the more she found herself not wanting to return.
'Is this what I have wanted?' she thought to herself as she sat in her room, staring at a flickering candle. 'Is this what I have been craving all this time?'
She formed a small snake and watched it slither around the candle, ignoring the heat from the flame.
'I like this world. It feels nice. I have never felt nice in the other world before.'
She didn't even realize it, but she has started to refer to her old world as "the other world". She was truly starting to gain emotions.
'I don't want to leave. I want to stay here. I want to know more and understand myself'
Little did she know, her wish would be granted very soon, in the form of three Kumo shinobi carrying a wriggling sack.
I hope you liked the chapter.
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