A/N:

Once again a new story. But this time, the idea for it isn't mine. All credit goes to Holy Chaos author) with the story 'Future Paths'. It's an outstanding one, so I can only tell you to read it – if you haven't already. This fanfiction though can also be read separately.

Disclaimer:

Don't own Naruto, and neither the vision that has sparked this story. Credit goes to Masashi Kishimoto and Holy Chaos, respectively.


What Might Be

He has tried killing himself so often that he has lost count. Poison, drowning, starvation. He has tried anything he could think of. But his amazing regenerative powers, the ones that have made him such an exceptional ninja, have become his downfall. They keep him alive whenever his will doesn't.

And then, there is the beast in his stomach. The beast within him that refuses to let him die because it would die together with him. But he can't let it win. He can't let it have the last say in his fate. He can't let it dictate his life by making him immortal. So he merely sits there, waiting for the beast's power to wane throughout the years.

He has been sitting there for a long time, always hearing the beast growl within him, but never moving to obey its command. The one time he has given in to its voice, he had killed his friends.

His plan had been very risky: He had known that Konoha would never get peace with Akatsuki still on the hunt for him and the other tailed demons. So he had searched them out on his own, thinking that while they were busy freeing his demon, them tampering with his seal would grant him enough power to take them out in one swoop. He had trusted in Yondaime's sealing abilities to keep the beast from escaping, and his trust had been proven true. Despite a great weakening in the seal's structure, the beast was still caged within him.

But he should have told someone where he was going. As soon as Akatsuki had started working on his seal, more and more of the demon had bled into his mind. When the rescue team from Konoha – his former team members, and team 8 – had appeared, he had already been too far gone. The beast had taken over his consciousness and had blissfully swallowed him whole. The last thing he remembered was Kakashi-sensei's horrified expression.

When he had woken again, he had been standing in a spray of blood, tasting red liquid between his teeth, smelling its metallic scent in the air. In front of him, there had been a crater of epic proportions. In his hands, there had been a single hitae-ate. It had been a hitae-ate he was very familiar with, having inflicted the scratch through the leaf spiral himself. A few bluish-black hairs were still clinging to it, and he had let out a howl of unbearable pain and agony in recognition.

Then, he had run.

He had run as far as his feet were able to carry him, and then some more. He had kept on running until his body had collapsed upon itself in the woods, far from his home in Konoha. That had been the first time he had almost succeeded in killing himself. But the beast had lent him its stamina. While he had been too exhausted to move for a week, it hadn't killed him.

He had been left alive with the knowledge of having murdered his friends.

When he had found enough strength to get up again, he had started wandering aimlessly because he didn't want to be tracked down by Konoha or any other ninja. He was too dangerous.

During his travels, he had tried several other ways of ending his life. Slitting his wrists, ingesting poisons, stabbing his heart, drowning himself in rivers. Any combination thereof. But every time, he had been thwarted by the beast within his stomach. The weakened seal had given it more power over his body, and it had healed him every single time.

So he had taken to starvation. After three days of neither eating nor drinking anything, his tongue was horribly swollen, his dried-out eyes refused to work properly, and his breath was rasping painfully in his throat. Whenever he could, he was staggering on, and whenever he couldn't, he was just lying there. After a week of no water, he was still alive. A feverish delirium made his thoughts hazy, but he was undeniably alive. The beast kept his body going far beyond any human capabilities.

Two weeks, and his body was getting thinner, his strength waning as he refused to take any nourishment. Three weeks, and he was still waiting for death. He had become used to his swollen tongue, his raspy throat, his empty stomach. And he was still moving, by now far away from any ninja countries, barely more than a skeleton covered in rags and brittle skin.

Four weeks. He was still waiting.

After five weeks, he lost count. It was getting colder, but the ice didn't kill him, either. His hair had grown so long that he was living in a permanent twilight of shadows, never aware of the pitying stares he was grazed with. And despite the lack of food, his body was slowly maturing into a man's. His bones became longer, his chin sharper, his barely-used voice deeper.

When it was getting warmer once again, he was still alive, and the beast within him was still growling. One day, the man merely sat down and refused to move. He was dimly aware that he was sitting against a wall, a small town surrounding him, but that wasn't important. His bony knees huddled to his chest, he sometimes looked at the world through the long bangs shadowing his eyes.

He was waiting for death to claim him.

People occasionally threw coins into the dirt in front of him, thinking him a beggar. He never picked them up; others did. One day, someone placed a small bowl in front of him in hope he might collect the coins and take better care of himself, but he refused to take the money. He was no more than dry, cracking skin spanning tightly over bony shadows, but he was still refused to die.

Day by day, coins were clattering into his bowl, and night by night, other beggars and thieves took them once again. Only when someone wanted to take his bowl, too, did he look up. He felt the beast surge against the weak remnants of the seal, and when he saw out of his own eyes again, he was drenched in blood. The bowl was still standing in front of him.

Days were turning into months, months into years, and he was still sitting there, never moving. Only few people still threw him coins; most saw him as no more than an ingeniously crafted statue. Buildings were falling and growing around him, and he was still waiting for death to take him.

There was a point down the decades when nobody took notice of him anymore, and he lost himself. Around him, the town was growing, changing, slowly forgetting him as he forgot himself.

Now, he lives in a timeless void. His thoughts have withered as much as his body has. He is like an animal that has lied down to die. Nothing can move him. The world around him is turning, but he doesn't participate anymore. Life is lost to him.

Wooden houses have changed into stone ones, simple oxen-driven carts into steam and electricity powered ones, but he does not really see any of it. He doesn't notice the language grow and change gradually around him. Every now and then, words reach his ears, but they have lost all meaning. In his mind, he already is dead although his body refuses to die. And the seal on his stomach is still sustaining him with the strength of the beast.

The formerly clean, fresh air has turned heavy, choked with dust and fumes, making him cough every once in a while. Sometimes, the ground is trembling, but he doesn't care. Sometimes, the beast is growling, but he doesn't even curse its gift of immortality anymore. Within his timeless void, he can feel it getting weaker, having to sustain his life for such a long time, and he patiently waits for the last of its strength to seep out.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

Sometimes though, fragments of reality seep into his mind, and within his emptiness, they reverberate for a long time until they are lost once again.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

A glimpse of a little girl pointing at him, its mother ushering it away quickly.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"Mister, are you ok?"

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

Young men dressed in the same uniforms walking down the street in lock-step, carrying long pieces of wood over their shoulders. From somewhere, he hears the word 'gun'. 'Rifle'. 'Soldier'. 'War'.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

He can feel that the atmosphere around him has changed. People are always sad now. He can smell their fear beneath ashes and gun powder.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"… will become chancellor, and then I'll stop that war!"

Laughing of children.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

A dirty, blackened coin clattering into his bowl, the first one in years – decades? centuries? The bowl is so old that it breaks apart.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"I'll stop the war!"

"Keep dreaming, dobe."

"Just wait and see, you bastard, I'll be chancellor one day!"

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"I'm the future chancellor!"

A small boy with short, unruly black hair is running through the street. His limbs are smudged with blackish-brown dirt. He looks thin, frail limbs powered by graceful strength. He almost looks like…

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

A slender woman with black hair, and pale, dirty skin, crumbling onto the street. She is crying. She cradles her hands to her chest, rocking back and forth. She is thirty, maybe thirty-five.

"Why did you have to leave me, Hiroto," she moans.

It takes a long time for her to get up again. For the brief instance their gazes meet, he can see her face. Work and sorrow have wrinkled it beyond repair. He is looking into the face of an ancient woman.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

The next time he sees the boy, he looks older, maybe seven or eight. He is leading a small girl by her hand.

"You see, Michiko, there's nothing to be afraid of. Mr. Spooky won't hurt you because I'll protect you! I'm the future chancellor, and I'll stop the war!"

She presses harder into him.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

Another vision of the boy. This time, he is running from one of the uniformed men.

The boy smells scared.

The man smells of killing intent.

The next time he awakens, he smells blood on his skin and in his hair. His clothes have rotted away a long time ago. The beast's growling within him is satisfied for the moment.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

In front of him, there is the boy.

"Thank you," he says. "Thank you for your help, Mr. Spooky."

It takes days for the scent of blood to be washed away.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"You know what happened today, Mr. Spooky? Soldiers came by our house, and Hiroshi joined them because he's old enough. Mom is still crying. I swear, when I'm chancellor, I won't let soldiers take my brother away!"

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"Mr. Spooky, it's winter, and you can't sit in the snow without clothes. If she could see you like this, my mom would scold you! Here's a blanket; it'll keep you warm while I go to Sunday school."

The blanket smells of the boy.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

The boy is sitting next to him on the ground, not minding the wet and dirty blanket. He is crying quietly.

"You know, Mr. Spooky, today, while I was working in the factory, a soldier came by our house. He told us that Hiroshi's dead. Kaneda's scared. He's almost old enough to be drafted."

The boy swallows.

"And in three years, it'll be me…"

The beast within him growls. The boy doesn't look older than ten, eleven.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"Akira, what are you doing? I told you to get our grocery rations!"

The boy looks up from his perch on the wet blanket, tousled black hair hanging into his sooty face. It had rained last night.

"Yes, Mom," he hollers back, "I was just telling Mr. Spooky about the nice girl who waited in front of me!"

"Come here right now! You should be working, not talking to a statue!"

The boy bristles in indignation. "Mr. Spooky's no statue!"

"Sure, whatever. Aren't you a little bit too old for such games?"

"I'm not playing games! I'm the future chancellor!"

Looking around, the boy tries to see if someone's watching. Quietly, he opens the meager bag of groceries, taking out a small, hard loaf of bread, and hides it beneath the soggy blanket.

"Here, Mr. Spooky," he whispers, "You look hungry, and I don't think you get any food stamps. You know, you gotta take care of yourself."

With those words, the boy takes off. "I'm coming, Mom!"

From far away, he can hear the woman scold the boy for bringing only four loaves of bread instead of five.

"I've already eaten mine," says the boy, "I'm not hungry anymore."

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

"Mr. Spooky! I don't know how you do it, but I can't have you bringing back your food all the time! Mom thinks I'm stealing it, and you've got to eat; you're too thin already! I know, the bread doesn't taste good, but it's the only thing I can give you. I can't have you die now because who would I tell that I've become chancellor?"

Nonetheless, the bread returns every time. The boy is too thin, too.

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

The boy smells of tears.

"Sorry, Mr. Spooky, I've got to leave tomorrow. I've been drafted. Will you wait for me until I come back? I promise you, once I'm chancellor, I'll come and visit you every day.

"You know what, maybe, I'll be in Kaneda's division. Last time he wrote, he was heading for the eastern border, protect our forests from Wind's army and stuff. Those Wind guys are so greedy! First they use up all their wood, and then they want to take ours by force! It's not fair; why can't they live with what they have? When I'm chancellor, I'll never do something like that!"

-oooxxx!xxxooo-

He looks up just in time to see the boy follow a few uniformed men. The boy doesn't struggle; he merely turns around one last time and shouts. "Good bye, Mr. Spooky!"

None of them catches sight of the shadow following them.

Only few citizens notice that a small, artfully crafted statue of an emaciated man has vanished; the only thing that remains is a clean spot on the sooty ground.

After the next downpour, it is gone, too.


A/N:

Any comments on this story? Then review, please! And don't forget to read Holy Chaos' story 'Future Paths', it is the one that has inspired this fanfic!

Sakiku