An SI story, though perhaps a little different than usual. Perhaps.
I'm emulating a self from the past who is operating on limited, and at times completely faulty information, mirroring my own complete ignoring of the franchise until only like a half year ago. Something of a mindless, masturbatory, if highly-detailed, wish-fulfillment story.
But hey, you guys like that kind of stuff, don'tcha?
I woke up in darkness, sticky and sore.
Red. Red. Red.
Something was spinning, black shadows contrasting scarlet light. My eyes felt crusty and dry, my bones heavy and drawn out, compressed and hollow. My breathing was shaky and I was sure I had a concussion, or at least a hang-over.
Mind wholly blank, I push myself up from the floor, eyes scanning the hardwood floor beneath my smooth hands. Sticky—hot, and wet—something rubbed into my fingers and palm. Confused, I sat up and leaned back against the wall, raising the hand to my face.
And through my fingers, I saw them.
Two still bodies in the harsh moonlight pooling through the window.
It was obvious, somehow, though I had no idea how. My breath hitched for just a second, but that was all. I had seen dead people before and gore besides—after you've seen a deer get pulverized by a speeding train and become so much pink mist dotted by chunks of flesh and bone across the landscape, regular gore just didn't stack up all that much—this wasn't even that gruesome, aside from the already coagulating blood coating the floor.
Ah... So it wasn't my blood. That was a relief, at least. That I wasn't hurt. Hard to care about complete strangers in a situation like this. Probably in shock, to some extent too.
If there was an emotional element to go with the dead bodies; if I knew them, I was pretty sure I would have been more bothered. As it was, there was just a detached part of my mind at the wheel, overlooking everything calmly and coolly.
Had there been some kind of accident? They were just lying there, in the middle of the room. The conspicuously Japanese room. "What the fuck...?"
Where was I?
Standing up on shaky feet, I made my way over to the dead dark-haired couple, stepping around the blood, absently wiping the coating on my hand onto my pants, my full attention glued to the mysterious corpses. Adult. Wearing relatively plain if somewhat traditional clothes, no jewelry or other markings. So probably not yakuza or anything... Slim and quite fit by all accounts...
And definitely larger than me.
That was unusual.
They were definitely Asian, too. And I had never met an Asian larger than me before. I wasn't gigantic, but I definitely towered over the average Japanese man. Wait... My hands looked all wrong, I realized, staring at them again. They were too small.
I was too small.
"What the fuck...?" I repeated again, realizing finally how high-pitched my voice sounded.
Shaking my head, too wrought by confusion and apprehension for any clear thinking, I get up and turn my back to the unknown dead. They have nothing to do with me and my plight right now. I need to get out of here and...
The house feels like a maze, my thoughts as awhirl as my steps, eventually finding my way out onto a packed dirt street. A cruel moon hangs high in the sky, peeking down from behind thick, turbulent clouds onto the low rustic architecture, hammering home that it's not just the house I was in that's completely alien.
Vaguely Japanese wooden gates and walls enclose the street, adorned with...
Adorned with a painted white-and-red fan.
The clouds subside, leaving the full moon to shine down in all her glory, revealing the numerous dead littering the streets and corners like leaves in autumn, dying the sand red and splattering the white walls with their lives.
No, maybe this is all just some fever dream. My head is pounding as if I have a concussion, no reason to trust my senses...
I collapse to my knees and close my eyes and try to just breathe, trusting the inhale that expands my chest and torso to tell me if there was anything wrong me with, slowly cataloging the various sensations pressing against my senses until I felt relatively centered and fine. As my eyes opened with a final, shuddering exhale, that sensation of surprise was there, telling of having successfully entered meditation, however momentarily.
Sighing and seeing nothing changed, I looked up at the starry sky above ignoring how it seemed to spin, knowing that that was just in my head.
It took a long while for me to find a familiar stellar formation. But it looked wrong too, somehow.
I looked down again, accepting that it was in fact the Uchiha fan painted on the white-washed wall before me. After all, if the Big Dipper was inverted, then sure why the fuck not, I was somehow in the Naruto universe.
"Shit. Fuck. What the hell."
I am become Uchiha Sasuke.
I wasn't born as Uchiha Sasuke, and I certainly didn't remember dying as someone other than Uchiha Sasuke before this. But nonetheless, I was undeniably Uchiha Sasuke from the Naruto series right now. Oh, and my—no, that still didn't feel right. The whole Uchiha clan, sans myself(?), has just been massacred the night before by my older brother(?), Uchiha Itachi.
It was a set-up and story I was more-or-less familiar with, if not quite as intimately as the reality of the situation should have called for, leaving me in a confused mess on the streets until ANBU personnel responding to the massacre had eventually found me and taken me to the hospital, where I was currently trying to figure out how and why the hell I was suddenly here.
So, enter Sasuke—me(?)—seated on a hospital bed.
"Sasuke-kun, are you alright?" the nurse asked again, for the nth time.
I looked at her and she didn't quite flinch as she met my eyes.
Wasn't that what he always said?
Or was that fanon? I was pretty sure I remembered his general demeanor without problems, though. In short, he was a bit of a loner. At least acting the part of an anti-social jerk shouldn't be too hard. I was practically one since before whatever all this was, anyhow.
She gave a strained smile, nodding with understanding. "If you need anything, we'll be just outside the room, okay?"
On the one hand, I could understand her worry, staring at her retreating back, given all that had happened to Sasuke just now. His entire clan had just been gutted in the streets and in their homes, leaving him orphaned and alone. Hell, I would be worried about Sasuke's mental health at this point. But at the same time, it was aggravating being treated like the... however-old child my body was when none of it really mattered to me.
I grimaced, lying back down to stare at the ceiling.
The whole Uchiha clan had been massacred, but it didn't really concern me - I hardly even knew them. But I had been somehow thrust into this mess, completely out of place and untethered from my old reality, leaving me just as lost and displaced as the real Sasuke must have felt when this had happened to him.
Real Sasuke? What did that make me, then? Some kind of counterfeit or replacement?
Did he snap and break from the trauma?
Should I or shouldn't I feel something in his place? What was I even—was there some greater purpose behind my being here?
"What the fuck..." I whispered again for the nth time, marveling at the absurdity of the situation.
Then, I wondered at my voice again. "Aaaa. AaaaAaaa..."
It wasn't the voice I expected; the voice I knew from the Japanese anime. Then again, no one here spoke Japanese, so...
Still made no sense. None whatsoever.
I was familiar with the franchise and story... but really mostly in a tangential sense, having consumed staggering quantities of fanfiction based on the original story once upon a time, something like a decade prior to whatever it was that had caused me to awaken as Sasuke.
Sure, I watched the anime back when it first aired—religiously checking Dattebayo's website every week while waiting for the part 1 fillers to end and for the anime to get to the time skip... Only to pretty much completely drop it before Shippuden got off the ground. I vaguely remember Gaara dying... Maybe?
Or had that been some fanfic?
Fuck, it wasn't just a matter of being untethered to this world in terms of not remembering the past—my familiarity with the setting wasn't even all that solid, being more than a little bit muddled up by hundreds and hundreds of stories about the setting, most of which only loosely followed the original premise, given it was nearly all set before the timeskip.
Try and remember, I still frequented places where people who did read and watch Naruto talked about it... Forums and imageboards were different, so I remembered them differently from where I had read the stories. Think about those associations and memories; they should be mostly free of fanon.
There was something about making a better Rasengan with elemental power or something, maybe? A bunch of people died, there was some dude with ridiculous eyes and orange hair, too...
It wasn't much.
Then what did I remember of Naruto, fanfiction included?
"Naru-kun", "Hina-chan", shipping, shipping and even more shipping. Constantly wearing training weights, endless variations of chakra control exercises, angry and drunk mobs chasing Naruto and beating him to a bloody pulp every year, convenient strangers showing up to teach him super cool jutsu that no one else knew, meddling councils and completely nonsensical plots centered around rewriting scenes to be as cool as possible without changing anything else in the story so that the author wouldn't have to put in any additional effort... Wearing masks and hiding your abilities and pretending to be stupid, bashing, bashing and even more bashing. Hell, I still can't use the word 'precious' unironically after how many times I've read the words "your precious Uchiha" in so many angst-filled rants about the injustice of the world...
So it was actually somewhat baffling that I was now Sasuke, rather than Naruto, given how I couldn't remember reading a single story centered on the last Uchiha and how much my preferred reading had tended to antagonize him. I think I might have self-inserted so damn much as Naruto that I actually did hate Sasuke...
It was such a damn long time ago, making it hard to remember. I was pretty sure I had skipped school for a month straight, always walking to the library while it was empty during the day to use their computers, just to read fanfiction, before heading home at the right time to appear as if I was just returning from school so that I could read even more fanfiction.
God, I wanted to slap my past self upside the head so hard, sometimes. Not that I had much improved or matured as a human being since; I had just gotten better at getting away with my idiosyncrasies.
I am become Uchiha Sasuke.
Shit, this means I don't have the Kyuubi.
That was a huge negative; being a demon container was a massive crutch, even if it did come with some considerable downsides as well.
Though that was probably for the best; I had acquired a twisted fetish of sorts from reading too many stories with the demon fox playing a larger role. Of having an incredibly powerful yes man (or more often, woman,) constantly by my side, always willing to help and tell me what to do. Like a set of training wheels that never came off. I hadn't recognized it for what it was until much later, until I had read some Chinese web-fiction and Japanese light novels where protagonists constantly relied on similar aides, be they ancient disembodied masters, assist systems, or game-like frameworks for leveling up.
It was just cowardice.
A crutch for people who had always been told what to do and needed constant emotional and rational support. An easy way out, the same way everything they were familiar with from the real world, that they liked, worked. Being ordered around by parents and school and the workplace and all that, but without all the bits that made it unpleasant at times, before you actually set out on your own.
The power you couldn't have in real life without the responsibilities or the risk of actual failure that came with it.
The way to improve in the real world was through failure and self-reflection, not mindless grinding, cultivation, or blind obeisance to something that convenient. Being an adult means making your own damn decisions and then accepting all the shit that came with fucking up, or alternatively not doing it and accepting the consequences of that, too.
That, and the word "kit" was just as seared into my memories as pure and utter cringe. And bold text for demon speech. Luckily, actually being here, even if I did meet a demon or tailed beast, I wouldn't have to suffer reading that stuff anymore.
Thank fuck for small mercies.
Of course, that didn't mean the fetish had disappeared anywhere. Oh no.
Even now, it was starting to dominate my thoughts. If the Kyuubi turns out to be a super hot demon chick, I'm going to be fucking pissed about missing out on the fox-eared fluffy waifu with big milky konners.
I'd bloody well read the Denarian trilogy—and all the Dresden books, now that I thought about it—like four times in its entirety just because the fallen angels in those coins were pretty much alternate-flavor Kyuubis in my mind. I had started to meditate and create a tulpa at one point, until I had discussed the matter properly with someone more experienced with the practice of self-induced schizophrenia, and had accepted that molding a part of my brain to constantly run a second personality of the opposite sex, whose only purpose was to fawn over me, was probably not a healthy thing to do.
For a variety of reasons.
I shook my head, staring out the hospital window.
Was all of this just a delusion? The butterfly who dreamed of being a man, thing.
Either I could be the man I remembered being, inexplicably dreaming of being Uchiha Sasuke for some reason. I vividly remembered lucid dreaming about being in Hogwarts at the point in my life where I bookmarked and binged through nearly every Potter fic over the 100k word limit. But this didn't feel like that. It was thinking too much, analyzing everything in too much detail.
Then perhaps I was the traumatized Uchiha Sasuke who now suddenly believed that he was someone who had not been Uchiha Sasuke hours prior. This sounded like the kind of pop-psych disassociation phenomenon a half-assed writer would use for a dramatic reveal at the eleventh hour, though.
Could I prove that I was someone from another world, at least to myself? That would settle some of the doubts in my mind about my situation.
I tried to ponder that question for a long while until I was forced to conclude that I couldn't. At least not so easily. Most of the things I knew I could have learned as Uchiha Sasuke before now, though much of it would have been a hard sell. Information I wasn't supposed to know and things to come that I could predict weren't necessarily proof of anything.
Something like the Kyuubi being sealed in Naruto or what kind of test Kakashi would have his genin squad do wasn't information only possible to acquire through having been someone other than Uchiha Sasuke.
Or was it?
I'm overthinking it, being hyper-skeptical for the sake of being hyper-skeptical. In my heart of hearts, I would always be a contrarian, even to my own thoughts and beliefs.
It was why I accomplished very little of what I considered possible. By the time I had a half-decent plan worked and was ready to start, I had accrued at least a dozen critical faults and problems, all proving that I shouldn't even bother trying, really.
Anything I ever accomplished was actually in spite of my talents, really.
Fuck it. If there was some way to prove that this was or wasn't a delusion, I'd figure it out somewhere along the way. It wasn't like I'd stop thinking about it now; quite the contrary.
But as far as my immediate situation went, it didn't matter. I wasn't the type to care about exact circumstances; what was, simply was. I was a good lucid dreamer because I just went with the flow in these situations. There was no point in arguing with observable reality, regardless of how nonsensical, unfair or unlikely it might seem.
Regardless of the exact circumstances and reasons—still shrouded in mystery—from now on I would be Uchiha Sasuke.
Wherever I went, everyone walked on eggshells around me.
People kept their distance, but pointed me out, always, whispering when they thought I couldn't hear.
I could tell that not everyone had liked the Uchiha clan, but following the massacre, the looks of pity overrode all other feelings as far as the public went. I had half-expected getting to meet some of the higher-ups of the village in the days that followed, but it turned out that I wasn't that important in the grand scheme of things.
Still important enough that despite being an orphan I wasn't having any problems with just moving on. Probably some kind of clan privileges that I just didn't know or understand properly, allowing them to self-govern and tell the rest of the village to fuck off when it came to internal matters. Then again, Naruto was an orphan and he had a fair bit of freedom, too, so who knew?
The only person who visited me in the hospital to inform me of what had been going on was some distant relative who worked in some administrative position in the village; the second or third cousin of my father's second cousin. Apparently.
He really only wanted to inform me that none of the other Uchiha had survived and that Itachi was the presumed culprit in the ongoing investigation, but so far they had no leads on him. Which made sense; I had been tight-lipped until now, too strung up to even try speaking to anyone. Hell, I technically didn't even really know if Itachi had killed everyone. I certainly hadn't witnessed it with my own eyes.
For all I knew until this relative explained and unwittingly confirmed things for me, Itachi hadn't necessarily existed as anything other than a figment of my possibly shattered mind, either. I hadn't been certain whether to be relieved or worried that I had been right in nearly all of my assumptions until now, so I just kept quiet.
"Hn," I answered most of the time and just as the nursed had, this relative would squirm before me. Playing the part of the moody avenger certainly came easy when all who could have recognized the act for what it was, were dead or on the lam.
He had even quietly suggested that I could go live with him; that the inheritance from the clan would keep me comfortable for the rest of my life, somehow managing to sound honest and without a speck of avarice as he told me so.
What did I want with this life?
Bad question. I had never had many desires in my life beyond my own thoughts. I was the quintessential man Rudyard Kipling and Alan Watts warned about; always thinking. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Thinking for the sake of thinking.
Dominated by thoughts to the extent that reality often ceased to matter to me.
Then, what would Uchiha Sasuke have wanted?
To restore his clan and to kill a certain man, I remembered clearly even now. Did I have some kind of obligation to, if not fulfill, then at least follow in part that original desire? To lay a foundation for that future, assuming that things would at some point return to the way they had been before?
Maybe. But it wasn't really convincing enough for me.
But there was something attractive about taking up the mantle on those desires. Not dreams, but rather, ambitions.
Accept this relative's offer and do nothing... Or become a badass ninja and wreck shit?
And whatever I was, when faced with those two options it seemed like only one path truly lay ahead of me. Because while I wasn't afraid per se, somehow the thought of turning my back on fighting and more or less just running away didn't feel right.
Call it the will to survive or will to power or whatever, but in a world rife with what had been to me before unattainable superpowers, it seemed a pretty obvious choice. It's a man's romance thing. Where logos and ethos fail, pathos knew the way!
So I spurned his offer—if at least somewhat politely—and informed the village that I wished to become a shinobi, which he interpreted as my wish to become a ward of the Hokage. An orphan, in other words, though a rather wealthy one given all that I would be inheriting. Seeing how little resistance I faced following that choice, I suspect no one expected me to choose any differently, that in this world it was that civilian relative who was the odd one. I had half-expected to be forced into some form of therapy or to be assigned some kind of ward, but apparently those were relics of a world that only currently existed in my memories.
No wonder everyone I would meet would be a nutcase of one kind or another. Assuming I wasn't already the nutcase.
Not that I complained, given how convenient it was.
Papers were signed and wills sealed until my age of majority, leaving me still with a relatively large monthly stipend to draw on along with a monthly meeting schedule for the handling of the surviving holdings and businesses to be handled. As it was, I was leaning towards simply selling off everything to avoid the hassle, but for now I would wait and see.
Though I did find out that a lot of my situation was made more clear-cut by the fact that I was a clan kid; we apparently operated on a completely different set of rules than the regular population. So, though I was nominally a ward of the Hokage, I very nearly already emancipated, legally speaking at least.
So I returned to the clan compound at the edge of the village in the evening of the same day that the village had found out about the massacre, finding it bereft of both living and dead, but otherwise untouched. The corpses of my clan had been removed, but the dried, blackened blood and signs of battle lingered still.
I spent the three days simply cleaning everything, not knowing what else to do.
If I hadn't been so utterly detached, I'm not sure I would have mentally managed with handling it all on my own.
No one approached me and outside of the times when I used whatever money I had found to buy food and ventured into the rest of the village, I never really interacted with anyone either. It wasn't until a week later when someone showed up to look for me in the form of a silver-haired man wearing dark slacks and a green flak vest.
I paused, looking up from where I had been piling up the ruined paper screens that would need to be replaced, of which there were many. Some had been torn and broken, some had been cut, while others had been soaked in blood and otherwise ruined.
He blinked as our eyes met and for a pregnant moment he seemed as if he too wanted to shy away from my gaze. But then he cleared his throat and forged on.
"Sasuke, you haven't been coming to the Academy. Is..."
The adult licked his lips, suddenly unable to finish the question of whether I was alright.
"...I forgot," I answered.
It was true, from a certain point of view. I had no idea where the Academy even was or when my classes took place. Gloomily I realized that I had no recollection of what I must have already been learning there until now. How long had I been there, anyway?
This could be a problem.
"Well... Why don't you come with me now... We're about to start the afternoon taijutsu lessons soon. If we hurry, we'll still make it on time," he suggested.
I glanced at the pile of screens before shrugging and putting my hands in my pocket. "Hn."
The teacher—Mizuki, the guy who would trick and very nearly murder Naruto in the future, I now realized with some amusement—smiled weakly as he nodded and then turned to lead the way.
Honestly, there wasn't much cause for worry that I wouldn't be able to fit back into the Academy.
We were still only being taught the very basics of the basics when it came to everything, even as I gathered that my class was in its third year of education. So if I couldn't the exact technique necessary for throwing a shuriken, it was hardly even a blip on the senseis' radars. Or rather, when I did do less than best-in-class, the pitying looks from the senseis clouded them from seeing the truth.
Uchiha Sasuke had been better before.
But he had obviously just been traumatized by the massacre of his entire clan.
So no one pushed the matter.
I had played around with origami shuriken, frisbees, and throwing knives enough, in what I thought now of as my previous life, to get the hang of it quickly enough that I re-took the top spot among the actual children. Taijutsu sparring, too, was quite easy even if the Academy forms were completely unfamiliar to me, so more often than not, I simply improvised and adapted what I knew from my previous life. Even an orange belt in karate served me well enough to easily keep my standing.
Well, that and the judo and boxing and all the fencing and the other training I had dabbled in. But mainly I just used the karate, because it looked close enough to the Academy forms.
But it was hard to feel proud about beating kids when most of them could still be brought to tears by a scuffed knee.
To my great and hidden relief, chakra hadn't even been introduced yet. But that was hardly cause for me to celebrate as instead we were being taught to read, write and count alongside a large variety of physical training disguised as games. Arithmetic was child's play, and while katakana and furigana were sensible enough with Japanese, how that worked when we—to my mind, at least—spoke English, I had no idea.
It was honestly an excruciating affair, much more so than the massacre of my supposed clan was, which spoke volumes of how skewed my priorities and values were quickly becoming. It was like having to smash square pegs through round holes. One could only raito raiku dissu fō so long before they snapped.
Maybe Itachi had been an otherworlder too and this had been the true reason behind his snapping?
But no one else seemed to notice the dissonance, so I kept quiet.
Good lord, kanji.
"Special" was written with two characters mashed together to form one single new character. These two other characters being the characters for cow and temple. Because a cow in a temple was so special it was worth being the character for the concept itself. Insane bizarro-logic moon runes could go to hell for all I cared, but I grit my teeth and learned them through rote memorization.
Practice made perfect. But suffice to say, I would never be a bookworm or a scholar in this world, despite my old love of reading and writing.
Though maybe I should be thankful that we still spoke English since my Japanese would not have stood up to even to most casual of conversations. I would have had to brush up for a month or two by just listening in on conversations. If I really was insane, there would have been no better way of informing everyone in the village about it than to suddenly have lost all ability to speak. I didn't know what they did with mentally ill ninja and I really didn't find out, considering what apparently still passed for sane in the original story.
Regardless, months passed by and very little changed as I played catch up with everyone else.
Thankfully since most of the lessons were very physical in nature, I didn't have a very hard time keeping my sudden gaps in knowledge from showing. But sometimes there were questions I just couldn't answer, very much not having been present at the lectures in question. Occasionally I bluffed through, occasionally I just ate the humble pie of not knowing.
Even so, my handle on the role of Uchiha Sasuke grew more confident with each passing day, gaps filling in and routines falling into place until finally, I felt confident that I could play the part well enough that no one could have told a difference from canon.
Well, aside from the fact that I had apparently awakened my Sharingan on the night of my own awakening.
The reason why people so often flinched before me and squirmed beneath my stare was due to the fact that I tended to unconsciously activate them when glaring. I hadn't even realized that there was a reddish tint to everything until I grew consciously aware of them and noticed the distinctly crimson hue my vision took when agitated.
There went that dramatic moment from the Wave arc. Not that I intended to follow canon. Probably.
And no one had apparently thought to mention or point this out to me—rightfully, I supposed—guessing the cause being the massacre of my entire clan and as such a sore point.
Well, at least I could just memorize kanji and let my super special eyes handle the bullshit for me from now on. The difference otherwise—with merely one tomoe in each eye, which represented some level of maturity and power in the eyes, as far as I remembered—didn't seem that dramatic though.
And the awed whispers that I had been hearing behind my back made some more sense after that realization.
But well, I felt zero connection to a bunch of prepubescents, so was it any wonder that I ignored everything they said? The biggest blow from the realization was that most of my seeming superiority in taijutsu sparring stemmed from my Sharingan activating whenever I was being pushed back and losing, but while I did feel sheepish about having such a blatant cheat assisting me, my peers and teachers didn't see anything wrong with relying on a bloodline limit to win. So screw it, neither was it. Cheat, cheat, cheat motherfucker. If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying to win.
Well, there was still that one kid who called me 'evil eyes', but he was just Uzumaki Naruto, so I ignored him. What did he know?
It was another slightly baffling change, probably brought about by ignoring the franchise for ten-some-odd years and having changed as a person, from someone who had originally just used the character as a vehicle for self-inserting to someone who actually had rather strong opinions of himself and others and as such had to read stories from an outside perspective. It wasn't that I thought myself having become a better person, but rather that I had grown disillusioned with the things I had once believed in and too entrenched to just forget them whenever convenient.
And as such came the fact was that I couldn't stand the little fuck; he was absolutely unbearable.
I hadn't thought of myself as someone who liked silence or felt very strongly about order and cleanliness, back when I had read a lot of Naruto-related things, having actually been a very rowdy and undisciplined kid myself, but since then I had had a little sister, and boy had I discovered that I hated people who lacked the concept of an indoor voice, personal space, and boundaries. And Naruto reminded me about everything I had come to hate about my younger sibling, magnified a dozen-fold and lacking the hey I used to change your diapers so I feel a bit protective over how fragile and pathetic you are.
And on top of being a loudmouthed braggart, he also had no concept of actually working towards things he desired, no doubt due to his less-than-stellar upbringing, and categorically refused to listen to any advice.
For all his boasts for the future, I never saw him work towards it meaningfully. Maybe he was ashamed looking like he was struggling and just did it out of view. Regardless, he really made it easy to hate him, even if he really still was just a snot-nosed brat. Though for all that we shared an animosity towards each other, it hardly reached the levels I vaguely remembered in canon between, and barely above what he and the Inuzuka currently had.
We just had something of a cold war going on.
Perhaps my memories were tainted by fanfiction—since I certainly hadn't ever seen a mob chasing after the blond troublemaker—but to me, it seemed like he just didn't like me, the same as I didn't like him, rather than the all-out war I had pictured in my head. There was no deeper animosity behind those blue eyes. Perhaps it was because Haruno Sakura and Yamanaka Ino hadn't for whatever reason fallen for me, yet at least, or perhaps there was something more pressing on the lonely boy's mind, but outside of the Academy he hardly spared me a glance.
Honestly, it didn't matter to me one whit.
Good riddance and stay downwind from me you orange menace, I say.
Another change, certain to have disillusioned a younger self who had still been an avid fanfiction reader, was that I felt no desire to aid Naruto. Not in the Academy, nor in the things to come. Sure, I knew Akatsuki was gunning for him and there was trouble brewing in the future, even if I hadn't bothered to follow along the story to find out what exactly it would be, but I knew that Naruto would prevail in the end, becoming Ninja Jesus or something. But, well, I also knew that there was a sequel—Boruto or something. And it, too, was a shounen manga. Which meant that nothing had really changed. Because that's not how shounen manga worked.
In fact, it was probable that things had just continued to escalate.
Besides, having read so much fanfiction, it somehow felt obvious that he would sooner or later pull through; what obligation or necessity did I have to help him?
Perhaps if I had shared his loneliness, I might have been tempted to reach out...
But unfortunately for him, I had lost most if not all sense of kinship and desire for closeness with humans a long time ago. It wasn't even anything dramatic, like being betrayed by my closest friend or discovering some hidden truth to the world that set me aside from the sheeple. No, all that had happened was that the internet had proved so utterly superior to all other forms of socialization that I had tricked my brain into not caring that I was functionally alone all the time anymore until the need for real socialization had atrophied so much that I just didn't feel it anymore.
Which says something about the generations raised on the internet, eh?
Maybe in a few years, once I settled in and became more certain that I wasn't just some temporary manifestation of an alternate personality or stuck in some fever dream, and my brain chemistry reset back to normal-for-local's-levels the desire to mingle like a human being would resurface.
And it wasn't that I couldn't admire his strength of character in the face of such overwhelming hatred and disdain. In his position, with a much wider worldview and more experience with dealing with life, I might have been able to stick to my sanity, but he had none of that and still stuck to his guns. Admirable for sure. But that was one thing and his utterly repulsive personality was something quite different.
Get thee hence, orange menace! Downwind of me, I say!
So for now, I tended to hang around Aburame Shino, since I could always count on our similar looks and disposition to keep myself from standing out in the crowd. He wasn't stupid either, so it wasn't like I looked like a complete genius in class either.
Nin nin, vanish into the crowd jutsu...
Anyhow, I had more pressing issues right now, like the fact that had no recollection of how to use chakra or the Great Fireball jutsu. Which I must have learned before now, since I remembered a scene with Sasuke using it over a lake after being shown how by his father. Or, at least failing miserably and disappointing the man. Perhaps there was some of that elemental chakra transformation stuff that had been briefly touched upon in one lecture or I just needed to be shown the handseals again, but regardless, I couldn't use it at all as it was.
The Academy certainly wasn't much help as only in my second month here did we begin to explore the concept of chakra and handseals. How had anyone graduated within a year of enrolling with the pace we were being taught at? I had sort of understood that that kind of thing was common among the top tiers of ninja society, when you wanted to be jounin before puberty.
Bloody homeschooling and bloody lost memories.
I had worried and stressed and agonized over my apparent complete lack of chakra until then, reassured only by my Sharingan that I did in fact possess it.
Until the first time we were instructed to perform the ram handseal and focus our breathing.
And then it came rushing in like some great raging tsunami, almost overwhelming me with its potency, my chakra that is. How the hell I had missed until then was something I had difficulty grasping, when even those sitting next to me in class could feel it, creating some alarm and disrupting class for a few minutes.
Though the senseis praised me for getting it so quickly, I could feel their gazes on me for the rest of the day. Was this a consequence of the imbalance between my mental and physical selves? I was years older than I was, so surely that would have some kind of effect?
Then again, Sasuke had always had potent chakra.
It was one of those things I still remembered from reading fanfiction; the excuse so commonly used to justify why Naruto always failed the basic Clone jutsu. That his chakra was simply too massive, too powerful, and too potent for the paltry technique, which was also why he could use the Shadow Clone jutsu so much better. It was just the kind of excuse people who would write about wearing masks to hide their powerlevel would use.
That they were just too good for something that they continued to fail in, that others could do. That they were just misunderstood. Because as I recalled observing, in the Wave training montage, it was Sasuke whose chakra control erred on the side of too much to stick to the tree, while it was Naruto who had a difficult time putting in enough to stick at all.
Now that I knew what to look out for, sensing my own chakra was child's play.
The best description I had for it was the same slight sensation as when the inside of my body expanded and shrunk with every heartbeat. It was something I had done before, practicing breathing techniques based on Tummo meditation, where when I got deep enough into it I could feel the rushing blood pumped into my leg and how my inner thighs sort of expanded on the inside with every exhale with a rush. It was sort of a useless trick I had picked up, like being able to detect my heartbeat in different parts of my body like my left and right hand and measure the delay, or knocking myself out by exhaling powerfully and tensing every muscle.
Anyhow, it sort of felt like the sensation of blood rushing within my body, just, more potent and easy to feel.
Of course, it still only worked when I was using one of the handseals and focusing on my breathing, which was rather annoying and something I would definitely work on. It was one of the observations I had made about the series fighting, that the use of hand seals to use jutsu was a massive handicap and made switching fluidly from taijutsu to ninjutsu or genjutsu very cumbersome. What was the point of jutsu if it took a hundred handseals when in the time I could just as well put a knife or dozen through someone's eye?
But I knew it was possible to do away with them, at least to a degree.
Wasn't that exactly what the Rasengan was? Or more relevant to my current situation, the use of the Sharingan? Sealless use of chakra? It was especially relevant to my interests because I had a difficult time telling when it was active and when it remained dormant, despite the crimson tint I had observed.
It was as if every time the excitation flipped a switch in my brain, it put me into a laser-focused state of mind where everything else fell away in the ultimate state of flow.
But it did neatly explain why my energy levels at the end of the day varied so much; depending on just how challenging the day at the Academy had been, I had at times been walking around with my copy wheel eyes spinning for hours at a time. Not so often during sparring mind, but rather when trying to learn how to read and memorizing ridiculous kanji.
As such, lacking anything to do and left to my own devices in the old Uchiha compound that I had inherited and cleaned up to the best of my ability, I spent my time sitting and going through the handseals taught to us and trying to familiarize myself with my newfound and eminently tangible life energy.
So fucking cool.
It was like how I distinctly remembered that in 5th grade I had decided that I wanted to be able to move my ears after my father claimed that I couldn't do it unless I had been born with the ability. The notion had pissed me off, so I had spent the rest of the year trying to figure out how to move the damn things. It wasn't anything dramatic—nothing like Ace Ventura in that one movie that had inspired the conversation—but I did eventually figure it out to an extent. Years later I did the same thing to learn how to feel my own heartbeat when I started dabbling in meditation and breathing exercises.
It took me about another month to learn the exact feel of my chakra and to become familiar enough with it to start playing around. It wasn't entirely independent study either, since it seemed like the Academy was starting to focus on just that as well now, so at best I figured I was only ahead of the curve.
At least I figured out how to control my Sharingan properly, which couldn't hurt.
"Sasuke, you bastard! Fight me!"
Naruto was left behind, fuming as I walked back inside class.
Learning how to control my Sharingan turned out to be a mistake.
It had been the only thing keeping the fangirls at bay, for some reason. At first I thought it might have just been puberty, or canon reasserting itself somehow, but that couldn't have been it, since we were all still too young. For the former at least. As for the latter, too much had already changed, so I wasn't particularly worried about some force of narrative causality rearing its head anytime soon.
No, it turned out that whenever I had stared at them with annoyance my Sharingan had scared them off. Now that I had learned to control it and didn't want to waste the chakra—or memorize their faces with photographic clarity, which really was too horrible to describe—they took it as tacit approval to approach me at every opportunity. By the time I had realized my error, it was too late, as by then they connected the dots with the Uchiha massacre, my newly awoken mysterious power, and suddenly my previously anti-social behavior and rudeness became something mysterious and cool.
I know it makes no sense, but kids are stupid.
Maybe I could have warded off their interests by doing something differently, but by now it seemed that they weren't changing their tunes about worshiping 'Sasuke-kun' as the hottest thing ever.
Shino was still as reliable as ever, especially since I could count on his social ineptitude and apparent coldness to shield me from the most stubborn of idiots who couldn't take a hint during class.
"But Shino, I want to sit next to Sasuke-kun!"
"I will not move. Why? For I have sat in this place all day and do not wish to relocate, the distance and angle to the blackboard optimal for my taking of notes and continued excelling."
Definitely my MVP; it was hard to understand why I hadn't thought much of him before now, but maybe that was just the difference between reading something and living it. Or then again the decade's gap between my Naruto-fan self and my current self.
Akamaru was also alright, but I had always been an animal person.
I had had cocker spaniels, mixed-breed labradors, Polish Tatra sheepdogs, and Havanese dogs, who all had fairly similar cranial structures to Akamaru, and they all had the same floppy ears, too. The ninja dog might look like a cuddly Havanese right now, but I knew he'd eventually be even bigger than the Tatra sheepdogs, which was just plain cool. It was almost enough to make me wish that I had awoken as Kiba instead, though his fighting style always seemed pretty lame. Also, his sister had a memetic "hot girl" status in fanfiction, I vaguely recalled, so maybe I could try my luck with that a few years down the line since I hadn't been born as dog breath.
I still hadn't even started growing any hair down there, so I doubted she'd even give me so much as a second look right now.
Kiba was... He was Naruto, but with even worse personal hygiene. Well, even if Kiba considered me a jerk, Akamaru would bark up for me and keep him off my back like the true alpha he was.
"But Shinoo..." the pest whined.
I sighed and opened my eyes, giving what I hoped was a baleful glare at the bothersome individual, only to sigh again as she squealed when our eyes met.
"Do you wish for me to give my away place, Uchiha Sasuke?" Shino asked, noticing and probably misunderstanding the byplay just now.
He stared at me, implacably from behind his dark shades before giving me the smallest of nods. "Very well."
I think he was pleased as we continued to ignore the cacophony around us, until finally Iruka returned from lunch break to rein back the madness.
"Alright, sit down everyone..."
No one listened. Naruto jumped up on a desk, shouting loudly something to Sakura while she and Ino loudly argued about something.
"I SAID SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP! NARUTO, THAT GOES FOR YOU, TOO!"
My ears hurt. Even though I reasoned that sitting as far away from Iruka as I could would help save my poor eardrums, it didn't seem to be working as well as I had hoped.
Tuning out the rest of the show by resting my closed eyes against my hands, I simply focused on my breathing. Counting breaths, heartbeats, and slowly cycling the chakra within my body. Deliberately. Intently. A little bit, then a little bit faster, then slow it down. Under control.
It was like a muscle that needed to be worked, I reasoned. So I worked it whenever I could.
"Alright, now starting today we'll be learning our first jutsu!"
Iruka's words brought me out of my meditation and I looked up, hiding a satisfied smirk behind my bridged hands. Finally.
"It's the simplest of the three which all Academy students will be expected to master by the time they graduate and the basis for the other two: the Transformation jutsu."
"The handseals are dog, boar, and ram, like so," Iruka lectured as he showed. "During which you must gather your chakra and then imagine the appearance of whoever you wish to replicate. The end result of which, should be this."
There was a puff of smoke and as it cleared, Iruka was gone and in his place stood one of the other teachers we had, normally for outdoors taijutsu lessons, to the great awe and excitement of the class.
What did he mean basis? I thought the Replacement and Clone jutsu were their own techniques entirely. Did this mean that they were the same technique applied in different ways?
I considered turning on my Sharingan to take a closer look at how Iruka had done it, but hesitated. Would that copy the technique and rob me of the more intimate knowledge I could acquire from learning it properly? It's a common technique, I could copy it any time I want. Let's try it normally for now.
Ignoring the continued talking, I closed my eyes and lowered my hands beneath the desk into the dog seal, gathering the chakra and then imagining an appearance as I shifted to the boar seal and... The chakra escaped my control. I opened my eyes, surprised.
Looking up, only Shino had noticed that I wasn't paying attention, so I gave him a nod.
Another fifteen minutes later where I only paid half attention to what was being said, I finally felt I had figured it out. Dog to gather the chakra from my whole body, boar to assume the form and lock it into place and then finally ram to execute the transformation. Or so I figured, without actually doing it yet. But the handseals tended to cause my chakra to move in certain ways when I breathed, so it made sense.
Until I actually tried it.
It turns out that the boar following a dog is not the same as a boar by itself, stacking and mutating for a better word. Like a self-evolving cipher, it did something completely different when used after a dog and probably would be something just different again after any other handseal. It was useless trying to reason it out, so I gave up, for now at least.
Dog. Boar. Ram.
A puff of smoke, making Uchiha Sasuke vanish and leaving in his stead a near-perfect replica of Iruka.
"Oh! Well done Sasuke. It's been a while since anyone managed to learn to Transformation jutsu so fast. Though, with your Sharingan, it's no wonder, huh..."
He praised me effusively, but I didn't really pay attention, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with my clothes in the technique. They had come out with a few mistakes, which I couldn't quite reason out. I hoped that showing off before the end of the day would mean any mistakes I did would be corrected, but aside from the praise, Iruka-sensei had little to say other than to continue practicing to perfect it.
This was starting to grow on me. Acting like a dismissive asshole towards everyone and getting praised for it, that is.
The Transformation jutsu was a godsend.
For a while, at least.
Getting to walk around town as someone other than Uchiha Sasuke made life a lot easier. Coming from a world and life where I had enjoyed near-complete anonymity, being a sort of semi-celebrity like the last member of a prestigious clan wasn't something I had been very comfortable with.
But eventually, that too lost its luster.
I couldn't remain transformed in the Academy during the lessons to avoid the attention—the teachers didn't stand for it—and soon enough everyone knew who I was outside of the lessons through the process of elimination. And there wasn't much to do in the rest of Konoha anyhow either, Uchiha or not.
At least it had served as decent practice, cutting the time it took me to transform in half from when I had started.
So I focused on other things, like the other jutsu we learned in the following weeks: the Replacement and Clone techniques. Which despite what Iruka had said initially, did not seem to bear any kind of resemblance to the Transformation jutsu. They shared some handseals, yes, but given that there were only twelve standard handseals, some overlap was to be expected.
But the order and use were completely different. As far as I could tell, they were nothing alike, the small blurbs in their textbooks which Iruka had seemed to be citing aside. He had almost given up in his frustration and used the Sharingan to copy them. I had for some reason thought they all only required the simple ram seal, but apparently, they all used multiple seals. I could have sworn that Naruto in the anime had only used a single seal when he tried, so perhaps that was something we would be learning later.
I had hoped to figure out exactly how the techniques worked and perhaps get rid of the handseals by imitating the way the chakra moved by itself. Like reverse engineering it and then becoming able to do it naturally. But turns out wasn't quite that easy. The handseals were the big muscles of the chakra molding, doing most of the hard work. Most people could, with a bit of practice learn how to do a back-flip. But how many people could do a back-flip without legs?
It was something like that, I suppose.
So far I hadn't found anything or anyone who could explain why handseals did what they did, nor why you had to focus your chakra in certain ways for certain techniques, but I had deduced that it mattered quite a bit after I used my Sharingan to copy Iruka's Clone technique.
It had been on accident when I had been staring at my own body while trying out the different handseals again, when I had seen it happen and it had come as a sort of relief. I had for some reason assumed that I would copy the exact technique and replicate it mindlessly without even understanding it myself, if I used the Sharingan—no doubt the result of having read so much fanfiction that had been negatively predisposed towards the Uchiha and their jutsu-stealing ways.
But rather it was simply that I could see and understand the workings of the technique with much greater insight, than without my Sharingan activated, making it simply obvious for me how to do it myself.
So most of my worry turned out to be unfounded.
I could see the way the chuunin compressed and swelled his chakra, the deliberateness and timing of each handseal, and how the transformation rippled out much more smoothly than mine own had and immediately it had informed me of how I could improve my own technique. It wasn't as if I couldn't do it the wrong, or rather, more amateurish way I had been doing it before anymore.
But it felt silly to do so.
It was difficult to explain just how more profound my understanding of the jutsu had become from merely seeing it once through these eyes. Like the difference between being handed an unknown tool and trying it out awkwardly, and then actually being shown how to use it first. Feeling as if I had been carrying a wheelbarrow by hand, rather than pushing it on the wheel. Like realizing that I could peel a banana, rather than eating it whole or using my hands to open a soda bottle when I had been using my mouth and teeth on the cap the whole time before.
Obvious yet compelling realizations, which made me feel really stupid for not getting it immediately. It was like having been granted eyes when before I had been blind.
The Sharingan really was bullshit.
But, as expected, none of that understanding really carried over to any of the other jutsu I knew, despite the supposed crossover between them, which I supposed a slower, more general understanding acquired through legitimate training would have conferred. So I set about trying to practice the Clone jutsu as often as I could to reverse engineer it to see if I could apply its improvements to the other two techniques without having to copy them, too.
It reminded me a lot of Katori Shinto Ryu; one of the oldest surviving Japanese sword schools, and the way students were taught there. I was by no means an expert or even anything more than passingly familiar with the style and its history, but I had stumbled with the school and its practices in the past.
There was very little instruction per se during practice, but rather prospective students were expected to sit by the side and observe their senior students who were performing the various kata in pairs. Then, once they felt confident, they would get to try their hand at doing them and perhaps receive some corrections from their seniors and teachers. Small corrections, fixing the greatest misunderstandings, nothing more. Because in the end, the point was for the students to develop themselves "spiritually" until they could quite literally steal their seniors' moves and use them properly themselves.
Their own words, as far as I remembered.
The fact that students did not know why certain things were done in certain contexts was very much intentional, as only once someone had been acknowledged would the teachers take them aside to explain some things to them. One little change here, one thing to focus on here, "this is what you're aiming at" or "you want him to think you're doing this, when you're actually doing this", and suddenly the entire kata would evolve into something completely different.
It was the same in other old martial arts as well, leading to a lot of moves losing context with the passing of time and generations. Karate in particular had lost a lot of its depth in the absence of the true intent to maim and kill. I could appreciate the method for developing an independent understanding of the martial arts, Shuhari, and all that jazz, but it was still an extremely inefficient and wasteful method for passing on skills and teachings within the context of just that art.
Western traditions, especially those following the Enlightenment and Renaissance were much more to my liking, where the emphasis on why was much more distinct. It was one thing to be taught to always strike in a certain way and another to know that the hand was faster than the rest of the body, because it was lighter and thus subject to less inertia and thus you had to strike in a certain way if you wanted to avoid getting hit in turn by being faster.
Still, it was a Japanese setting, so I could appreciate the efficacy of my eyes of insight and their ability to steal techniques.
Uchiha Stronkest, Number One!
And it did explain how my throwing had improved so quickly; I had been keeping my eyes activated nearly all the time during shuriken practice for the improved clarity and precision it conferred. By now I must have copied the skills of at least a hundred different people, all with varying skill levels, granting me a fairly intuitive grasp of how to throw shuriken and kunai, despite my nonexistent interest in the theory behind throwing weapons and how little I trained outside of the Academy practice sessions.
The original Sasuke had been fairly adept with the things, often using things like fuuma shuriken and ninja wire, wasn't he? I wondered how much of his skill had been similarly acquired. I suspected his had been acquired the honest way and thus acquired a more profound skill with them.
Personally, I didn't really see the point.
Shuriken and kunai were the common tools of the trade for ninja, filling in the gap between long-range ninjutsu and taijutsu, but that didn't mean I saw much point to using them when there were clearly better alternatives around.
At range, throwing weapons were inefficient and inaccurate—there was a reason other civilizations back home all turned to using bows and other tools for propelling projectiles, rather than relying on just the strength of arms—and as melee weapons, they were simply too crude. For gutting someone they were perfectly fine, but if I had to deal with another weapon I wanted something a little bit longer and sturdier. Something with a handguard and better balance. And without the edge profile of a damn chisel.
Didn't Sasuke also use a sword at some point?
Couldn't hurt to get started on that a little early. I had never been a huge fan of kendo or kenjutsu, but I knew the basic ten kata for the tachi and kodachi, so that should be enough to get me started. Of course, without a partner, it would be a bit of a drag, but I'd deal. Need to get my hands on Shadow Clones pronto. They're way too good to pass up on. And while I'm at it, maybe I should consider looking into sealing and other weapons to train with.
If the Sharingan's insight allowed me to skip most of the hard work and become at the very least competent in a variety of fields, then all that really left me with was focusing on improving my physical constitution and acquiring mastery in something that I did like. But with my body still that of a growing child, anything harder than what the Academy was already putting me through was inadvisable.
I mean chakra obviously changed things, but it still felt only sensible to follow what I knew about biology from before. Shounen training montages were cool and all, but if I could do things in a smart way rather than the hard and high stakes way, I would obviously rather do that.
The most important thing in my mind was laying a solid foundation and to master the basics for now.
Being a jounin at 10 was good and all, but I'd rather live to see 20 or even 30 this time around. Or to put it another way, would I rather peak at jounin at 10 or keep growing and be a legend at 20? I knew Sasuke had the potential for that, originally being the rival character for Naruto, so there was no reason to assume I couldn't achieve just that, once I set my mind to it.
As the end of my first Academy year in Konoha began to draw to a close, my plan for how I should train was starting to take shape even if my general plans remained quite shaky. It didn't seem like there was any point to aiming for anything specific, like befriending people or figuring out how and why I was here, so I had more or less fallen back on what I remembered that Sasuke wanted—To rebuild the Uchiha clan and to kill Itachi.
Sounded simple enough.
If you want to try out breathing techniques, look up Wim Hof. It's a real rush. Of course, it kind of fucks with your CO2 sensitivity, unless you're constantly exercising to keep it in check, so don't overdo it.