Chapter One

"LAND HO!" Kakashi yelled, spotting the green landmass with his telescope. Far, far away on the horizon, an island could be seen; giving Prince Kakashi a feeling of excitement as he recklessly swung down from the crow's nest and ran to his cabin. His hands grabbed his belonging, stuffing them unceremoniously into his pack as he prepared to explore the island.

They had been at sea for over two weeks now without a thing in sight. The days had drifted by in a manner that reminded him of molasses on a cold day; in other words, painfully slow.

These explorative voyages served two purposes. One: to explore the vast and diverse world that held so many wonderful secrets. Kakashi loved secrets. And two: to royally piss off his father, King Sakumo, for trying to restrict his son's life. Luckily his uncle, Duke Jiraiya, had interfered on Kakashi's behalf, encouraging Sakumo to let the boy explore. After all kings were supposed to have knowledge of the world around them, let the boy gain some knowledge.

Kakashi smiled, remembering that before his ship had cast off, Jiraiya had handed him a small orange book with a dramatically graphic scene on the cover. The old Duke had just winked and whispered, "More knowledge."

Years had passed since that first voyage, Kakashi had traveled far and wide, but there was still so much to see in the world. The time spent at home was filled with his father's insistence upon marrying a princess and his advisors' attempts to civilize him with the impossible politics of the Court. But the young Prince didn't want any part of that. The court was full of nothing but bootlicking pretenders and princesses had cooties. Besides twenty-four was far too young to be married. Far too young.

I don't think I could stand being married to some cootie-licious snot nosed beauty with a rock for a brain. Hmm… A normal lifespan is somewhere around 70-80 years, so I expect I'll get married around 50 or maybe even 60. That way I'll have less life spent actually being married. Hopefully I'll die post-orgasm in my old age. Yes, that's how I'd like to go out. Post-orgasm…. Hmm.

As the island drew closer, Kakashi grew antsy, ready to be off the ship and deep in some foreign tropical forest exploring to his heart's content. His mind already imagined the scenery; the way the trees blew in the wind, the scent of the breeze, vibrant flowers, and crystal clear shallows. Finished packing, he returned to the deck, tossing his pack into the rowboat. He was ready to go.

Iruka furrowed his brow at the thing on the ocean's horizon. It was faint but growing more defined as it neared the island.

"People are on that thing, you say?" He asked the dolphin, who had pulled itself as close to the beach as possible without leaving the cool waters.

Yes, it said.

Thoughts flew through the little man's mind. What are those people doing? Who are they?

"Keep an eye on them." He told the dolphin, who squeaked in reply and swam back into deeper waters.

Walking back into the forest, Iruka wondered if he should warn the Rain Village. They should know about the strangers, but Iruka doubted they would welcome him and his news. After the last time he visited the village, the little man wasn't sure he'd ever want to go back.

"There's a storm coming! You have to get to higher ground." Iruka yelled to those gathered around him. Desperately he spun around, searching for someone who would heed his advice and be saved.

"What storm? It's been beautiful for days." Someone called out from the crowd.

The little island man paused for a moment. Should he tell them exactly how he found out? The villagers already disapproved of Iruka's odd talent for talking to animals. And for him to tell them that the animals had warned him of the upcoming storm would only bring out the worst in them. However no decent lie came to mind.

"The animals," he said quietly almost to himself. "The animals told me. They feel a sort of—disturbance, an imbalance in the air. Something's brewing in the sea."

A chorus of laughs broke out throughout the crowd. Several jeering voices reached his ears, "Crazy hermit", "Go live with the fishes, fool!" and "Hey Iruka, tell me what my pussy's telling you right now!"

"I'm telling you the truth!" Nothing he said would ever get through to these people, no matter how hard he tried. "Fine. Stay here; when the storm comes I hope it ravages this place. I've given you fair warning." The words just poured out along with the little man's frustrations. Pushing himself through the crowd and past the jeering calls, Iruka made his way out of the village.

The path in front of him led to the huge tree house he called home. There were things he needed before he made his way further inland on the island to a heavily sheltered cave on high ground -mostly provisions and various other valuable things that could easily be transported.

Giving one final glance toward the village, Iruka prayed. "Please let them make it through this. Please let the storm miss us. After all the ocean's a wide open place, the storm could have plenty of other places to go."

But whatever god answered his prayer was not a kind one. Sure enough a few days later, the sky turned a deep, deep gloomy grey, foretelling the imminent storm. Winds swept through the forest, whipping branches and limbs to and fro, even tearing some from the trees. Leaves bore holes from where the rain fell so hard. Iruka sat in the back of a cave, warming his hands by the small fire and listening to the catastrophe outside. He was the only one in the villages' emergency shelter. That fact somehow made his heart sink. No one had listened and by the sound of the wind and the rain outside, Iruka feared that villagers' inability to listen to the warning may well have cost them their lives.

Iruka frowned at the memory of the days after the storm and his hike back down to the village to witness the damage. It had astounded him.

Houses were flattened, corpses hanging from branches where the wind had thrown them or laying on the ground mouths full of water from the unrelenting rain that had drown them. The few that survived moved away the debris, searching for anything salvageable.

"I warned them." Somehow that didn't comfort the little man as well as he hoped it would.

"YOU! You did this to us! This was your fault." Someone yelled as they caught sight of the virtually unscathed man.

"Yea, you cursed us!"

"Witch! You commune with beasts and curse our village with storms!"

Pieces of debris were soon pelting toward the little man. Sticks, stones and even the pitiful corpses of little animals.

"Get out of our village. We'll kill you next time we see you here, WITCH!"

Before poor Iruka could even get a word out to plea in his defense, one last villager threw a stick. Unfortunately for Iruka, the man had thrown it like a spear.

Its sharp tip slashed Iruka across the face, leaving a line of fire prickling with wooden splinters.

Iruka ran and the villager went back to picking the dead from the rubble.

Fingers lightly traced the scar that marked the stick's slash. The thing hadn't healed right because of the infection caused by the little splinters left in the wound itself. Now it was just another one of the unique features of Iruka Umino.

He found it funny that the villagers hated him for his strange ability to converse with animals, dolphins in particular, and yet he did not miss the company of humans.

Coming to his tree house, Iruka climbed the familiar boughs up to the platform high in the thick interwoven branches. The house was his pride and joy, being build entirely by his own hands and nature. The platform consisted of several logs all bound together and covered by a huge palm branches all layered to make the roof. Various shells were piled in one corner, each with it's own use. There wasn't a great need for walls in the tree house for the closely woven branches surrounding the platform kept most of the foul weather out and there weren't any people from whom Iruka needed privacy.

Looking at a space between branches, he peered out at the ocean. Sharp whistles echoed across the calm surface of the ocean. The floating thing was closer; it had lowered something small onto the ocean. The small thing appeared to be some kind of raft that the people rowed close to the island.

Maybe I should see what they're up to. Then I make a decision whether or not to tell the Rain Village. That is if they'll even listen to me.

He sighed. Grabbing his hunting knife, he bounded down the tree, running at top speed back to the beach. By the time he arrived, the raft had reached the shore allowing the people to disembark. Iruka quickly dove behind a bush, delving deep into its foliage. The leaves effectively hid the man as he spied upon the newcomers.

They were definitely not from around the island. Their clothes were strangely cut and made of different material, covering most of their bodies. Several fell to the ground hugging the sand as if happy to have their feet back upon the ground. One stood a little off from the others, looking about him in amazement.

The one standing apart caught Iruka's eye. This one was tall and slender with pure silver hair like that of some ancient sage, but the man was young, perhaps only a few years older than Iruka himself. The bleached colour of his skin was unlike any the island man had seen before. He glanced down upon his own skin, conscious of its golden tan.

It's so different. Shaking himself out of his daze, Iruka continued to study the silver haired man. He's very handsome. I bet that face haunts the females of his land. So immersed in the study of the silver haired man, Iruka didn't even notice his own situation.

Hands grabbed him, pulling him from the bushes. Two men stared down at the strange thing they had found in the bushes. Instinctively Iruka began to fight using tooth, nail and foot, striking whatever he could. However his struggling only made the captors grasp him more tightly. Their hands countered every move, every attempt to free himself from their grasp.

"Get off!" He cried. The silver haired man had turned to face the struggle, watching with dark grey eyes. Then he raised his hand in some imperious gesture.

"Stop. Put that man down, he doesn't appear to be very dangerous." Said the silver haired man.

The hands released their grip, allowing Iruka to pull away from them. Though he was happy to be free, the "doesn't appear to be very dangerous" had struck a sore spot in him. I'm very dangerous. He thought indignantly. I just don't feel like kicking your ass that's all.

The silver haired man came over to him, offering a hand in what Iruka recognized as a greeting. "My name is Kakashi. Who are you?" He smiled.

Looking down upon the pale hand outstretched toward him, Iruka nodded and took the hand. "I am Iruka."