Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Naruto characters, unless otherwise stated. In this case, I only own Kimi and her village. Who is that? Read and find out . . .
Author's Note: I know the whole Itachi love story is kinda cliche and over-done, but this little tale (though it's hardly little) has been growing in my mind for some time now, and I thought it might deserve to see some light. Not much is known about Itachi's childhood, so most of the facts here are kinda best-guess. I know there are probably some facts that will contradict with the anime/manga, but one can't be expected to know every little detail, right? Anyway, here's Juusanbi. The title will be explained later . . . a lot later. I hope you enjoy!
10/18/08: I've added a bit more to the title here. It's not much, but enjoy!
Part I: The Enigma
The noon sun filtered green through a high canopy of leaves, casting formless shadows around the still form of a nine-year-old boy and flashing off of the protective headband he wore across his forehead. The boy's chest rose and fell in a slow, steady, and controlled motion; his arms hung limp at his sides. A gust of air swirled through the small break in the trees around him. Stirred by the sudden breeze, the boy's long black hair – tied back into a low ponytail – shifted to reveal the emblem of a fan etched into the back fabric of his shirt.
As the spiraled symbol of a leaf carved into the headband marked the boy as a Konoha ninja, the fan upon his back marked him as an Uchiha – a member of the most powerful clan in the Leaf Village.
Without warning or any indication of his intentions, the young shinobi leapt into the air, twisting as he did so and appearing to hang upside down in mid-air. Kunai knives seemed to appear in his hands. Time appeared to slow as his still-closed eyes finally opened to reveal irises the color of fresh blood. In half a heartbeat, he had absorbed every detail of his surroundings. As the other half throbbed in his chest, his hands flashed outward. The kunai flew, barely blurs in the dim light, and thudded into the targets scattered around the small clearing.
Continuing to twist, the boy landed lightly on the balls of his feet. The red of his eyes faded to black as he straightened up and allowed his bored gaze to flick around the wood. Though his face showed no real interest, his eyes sought out every bull's-eye. Each knife thrown had found its target – dead center – perfect.
Itachi Uchiha sighed and lifted his eyes up to gaze abstractly at the high branches above his head. Grim thoughts ran circles through his head. Everyone – especially his father – expected so much from him. The weight of his perfection hung heavily on his shoulders, hanging over him like some ominous storm cloud.
Dropping his head back down, Itachi took a step toward the nearest target. It could not be helped. He was what he was. He would simply have to make the best of it and discover why he had been gifted so. Surely there was a purpose behind his perfection.
As the boy crouched to remove the kunai from where it was imbedded in the wood, the hair on the back of his neck prickled. Itachi froze in place, hand hovering over the ringed hilt of the knife; something was not right. His head cocked a fraction of an inch, mind seeking the source of the uneasy feeling prickling across his skin. The air was silent. Itachi's eyes narrowed slightly. Where had the birds gone? Why had they fallen still?
Itachi remained on the balls of his feet, poised to leap into action at the slightest indication of an attack. The blood-red Sharingan had returned to his eyes and now studied his immediate area with sharp focus. Not even the slightest twitch of a leaf was missed by the kekkei genkai dwelling in his sight. Still, nothing revealed itself. He was alone. His eyes narrowed further.
The young boy indifferently returned to his task, though he did not drop his guard the least bit. Perhaps he had imagined it; perhaps not. There was no need to take chances, regardless. Itachi remained alert as he moved from one target to the next. Still, nothing happened. His stomach gave a slight twist of unease as his mind shuffled through various possibilities.
Could it be his squad-mates? No, probably not. Their sensei had given them the day off after they had returned from their latest mission, and they knew he liked his privacy when training as he was. Even if they were looking for him, they would either be calling out for him or he would have heard them coming long ago. None of the genin from his graduating class could sneak up on him.
So what did that leave? Other ninja? Training or on a mission? He was a good ways out from the village, far from the conventional training grounds, so that would rule out any visitors being there to train. So, on a mission perhaps. Friend or foe? Ally or enemy? His mind spun through possibilities and courses of action to take should some come true as his hands worked smoothly on his task.
Finished with the final target, Itachi scowled slightly as he rose to his feet. Still, there was nothing. Was he imagining things? Was he seeing enemies where there were none? Itachi allowed the Sharingan to fade from his eyes, his thoughts returning to darkness. He had heard the adults talking several times when they thought he could not. They were proud of him – proud of his achievements – but they were concerned that his power would alienate him or even send him into madness from the stress of trying to meet impossibly high expectations.
His mother, Mikoto Uchiha, worried especially. Itachi had no real friends to speak of. He was popular, true, among his fellow genin; the girls in his graduating class – and those not for that matter – were all smitten. His power, though – his genius – always set him apart from the rest of the kids his age. No one could connect with him. No one could relate to him, though one of his fellow Uchiha, Shisui, tried.
Itachi Uchiha was alone in the world.
Standing once more in the center of the clearing, Itachi closed his eyes and pushed those dark thoughts from his mind. This was not the time to think like that; this was the time to focus. He began the calming process, regulating his breathing and shutting down any more stray thoughts that still fluttered stubbornly at the edge of his mind.
As he did so, a small sound touched his ear. Itachi stopped, holding his breath and focusing on that sound. There was something there! He poured his energy into his senses, honing in on the source of the sound. What was it?
Itachi opened his eyes and drew in a slow breath. He turned his head to the right, peering into the shadowy forest. Crying. Somebody was crying. The sound was soft and faint, but still there. He snorted and shook his head, returning to his own exercise. It was not his problem. He did not need to worry about it. It was not his concern – not his business.
He could not focus. Though the wind had shifted and the soft crying had faded, its echo still lingered in his mind. It tugged at his conscience and kept him from focusing properly on his training exercise. Itachi heaved an exasperated sigh, reopening his eyes and glaring in the direction of the distracting sound.
"This is pointless," he mumbled to himself as he took the first step to investigate. Setting his face into a mask of bored indifference, Itachi moved smoothly and silently into the shadows of the trees.
Itachi trotted through the endless maze of brush and trees. Due to the thorough shade cast by overhead branches, only sparing bushes and ferns grew on the forest floor in the occasional broken patch of sunlight. The day before had brought with it rain, and thus transforming the layer of dead leaves on the ground into soft mush – which in turn muffled Itachi's light steps, making them essentially silent.
As his jet eyes scanned each shadow and low-lying branch for signs of life, Itachi focused on locating the sound once more. It seemed to have vanished, but his instincts told him that the source was not far off. A small voice in the back of his mind warned him of a trap – one set to lure compassionate shinobi to their deaths or capture. He faintly wondered which would be worse, but quickly shook the loose thought from his mind. No distractions.
A barely choked off sob from a copse ahead of Itachi caught his attention. He rapidly shifted his stance into a half-crouch, continuing to move forward in a smooth and almost cat-like gait. Flattening himself against the rough bark of an ancient tree, the young shinobi slid sideways to peek around the side.
A young girl, no older than he was, sat hunched in a small dip in the ground between a trio of great trees. Her legs were folded on either side of her, and she was rubbing her left ankle tenderly. Was it twisted? Broken? Itachi's eyes flicked to the other child's tear-streaked face in time to see her wince in pain, another sob escaping her lips.
Eyebrows furrowing, Itachi studied the young girl's feature in an attempt to discern her identity – or at least her village of origin. He did not recognize her from his own village and was certain that he would have if he had caught a glimpse of her before. Her long hair was an odd shade of blonde that seemed to shine pure gold in the ray of sun that touched her through the trees – though in the shade, the pale yellow was unremarkable.
As Itachi watched, the girl lifted her right hand to catch a stray lock of hair hanging over her left eye and brushed it up to the black clip over her right. When her fingers reached the clip, she seemed to lose her motivation for the act and lowered her hand back to her lap, allowing the hair to slip over her eye once more. She sniffled, a shudder running through her body. Fresh tears spilled from her eyes, spotting the azure fabric of her oriental-style dress.
Itachi stiffened as the girl's hand fluttered nervously through the air, almost appearing to make a series of half-formed hand signs, though each was not solid or steady – if that was even what they were. Her fingers flickered through the air for a few more moments before falling still again. The girl's chest shook with small, gasping sobs.
Straightening his back, Itachi pulled back behind the tree and fought off the urge to comfort the girl. He puzzled over the movements her hands had run through. Were they really half-made hand signs as they appeared to be – or were they merely nervous wringing? Was it a trap? Was she a shinobi? He peeked back around the tree. She had not moved from her spot on the moist ground, tears glistening on her cheeks.
Itachi forced himself to turn away and return to his target-filled clearing, knowing grudgingly that he would get no more training done with his mind still lingering back with the distraught stranger. Why did he even care? Stiffly, the young shinobi gathered the several wooden disks and stuffed them into his backpack. Without pausing, he all but sprinted from the ancient forest, moving rapidly through the trees until he finally reached the dirt road that lead to the village gates.
Pack slung over one shoulder, he allowed his pace to slow into a more relaxed gait, though his jaw was still stiff, teeth grinding together. Why was there a part of him that wanted to rush back to that girl's side? Why did he feel like there was a knife in his chest, twisting with each step that took him further away from her?
Itachi's feet ground to a stop in the dirt and rock, his thoughts mimicking the motion. He turned his head in the direction he had come, cocking it slightly as a new thought blossomed in his mind. Perhaps it was time for a new kind of training – well, not 'training' exactly – more like an experiment of sorts – exploration.
From the moment Itachi had laid eyes on the girl, she had intrigued him. There was no apparent reason for this curiosity, and the fact bothered him greatly. He had never felt something like this before, this strange tight feeling in his chest. He wanted to help her, and he wanted to know why.
Turning on his heel, the genin moved back toward the tree line. As he approached the shadows, a flash of white caught the corner of his eye. Glancing down, Itachi spotted a flower among the sparse grass, four wide petals spreading outward from an indigo core.
On a whim, Itachi stooped and snapped the delicate stem, cradling the blossom in the curve of his fingers. Then, continuing the smooth movement, he vanished into the forest.