_ _ _ _ _ _ _
When I look down upon the young people of the world now, so full to the brim with their own work and bubbling with emotions they have no time to exert, it hits me as a jolt of pain to realize that what they are doing right now is possibly the worst of exploitation of all the sacrifices which were made years ago to make the world as it is now. These people are highly oblivious about the mesmerizing, enticing stories of the people they regard as simply their long forgotten ancestors, and in turn, about the most massive of outbreaks that I see looming in their future. The world, with its precise, calculated timings and uncountable number of weapons housing the hugest, and the most deadliest reserves of poisonous energy, is now filled to the brim with humans who have lost themselves into the layered darkness of war and greed, of people who have turned vengeful for the misdeeds they suffered by hands tainted beyond recovery, and of people who have no sense whatsoever about the actual essence of humanity.
As a non-existent deity in the mind of this advanced race, it would be honest of me to say that the way things turned out was the last setting on my mind when I thought of a future hundreds of years ago from now, and somehow, with a twisted sort of taste in humor, it is quite amusing to see that the people are unconsciously playing the part of a character who existed in a story whose knowledge can never be found among the heaps and masses of ancient bundles and manuscripts the humans have seemingly dug out from the bowels of Earth, and branded them to be the sole witnesses of acts ever unheard and long forgotten in history. On a closer look, I feel that the lost anecdote of centuries is rotating itself yet again, and I think it is time for me to step in their lives, like before, and try to bestow justice upon the blissfully ignorant people of the world when they are soon to be fighting against each other, on the brink of their world's demolition.
Apart from the old yet beautiful maiden who keeps on spinning new, silvery, active threads of time and circumstance on her rusty old spindle, even I know of the story that achingly resembles the one unfolding upon the surface right now, and it is that which I intend to pen down and write, complete with the views of each of the characters present in it. A story about the purpose and the dread of humanity; about the creation, the destruction, and the resisting nature of bonds; about people hugely diverse, of people hugely similar, and certainly, of those in between. A tantalizing version of the current story, only set back a millennia before, and written in the hopes of returning the dead to their sub consciousness, I will spare the readers a discreet glance into the crevices of each of the lives of the characters, reveal the inner workings of the ever so complex human mind and emotions, and then, just lay back down and wait. The rest will unfold all by itself, and for now, I can only try, and see if the old lady finally relents back to consider the destruction of an entire sphere created with time itself.
Once upon a time, centuries before from now, there existed a beautiful land. It had no name, no recognition, no inhabitant, but still, it was complete in itself. Known to all the alert creatures living upon the surface- however big or small- to hoard maybe one of the most startlingly diverse kinds of active, natural cycles of life, and to boast of lush green vegetation and floral vigor displayed humbly out for anyone who wished to experience the dangerously beautiful concoction of beauty and danger, the land was almost irrevocably separated from the outer world by an indivisible mountain chain, save for a small, narrow cavern in between the foot of the mountains, which was, naturally, the only means of connection of the land to the outer world, with suspiciously uneven ceilings, and never yet heard to be tainted with the dangerous footsteps of humanity.
To the animals living there, the land was home, to the Earth layering down huge masses of rocky hedges to soft mud and sand just to create a suitable base for the land to poise erect upon, it was a treasure, a valuable resource, and to a thirsty traveler in search of peace and salvation, it was equal to heaven.
As time passed by, the human race beyond the boundary of the land evolved and advanced. They had numerous conflicts between them, borne solely of suspicion, disagreement, and misunderstanding, and waged raging wars against each other- ravaging houses, tearing apart families, brutally massacring innocents- to reach to the same, indisputable result each time- bloodshed, loss and grievance. One by one, all the countries- which were a part of the same land yet divided up by human limitations- came into war with each other. The mortal disputes destroyed the world completely, and every single living being was reduced to ashes.
But, withstanding this great destruction, that beautiful land still stood bravely, unscathed and untouched by the searing claws of blood lust and dominating mindsets, and while the Great War nearly took out the whole of the outside population, two warring groups of the demolished human race survived and discovered the pathway into the land, whose ground, soon, was marred by the scanty, scattering footsteps of a new, unknown, yet actively thriving alien species. They were sworn enemies of war who wanted to kill each other, but having nowhere else to go, they settled in that peaceful land and named it Konoha, the land ‘hidden in the tree leaves’. One group on each side, the people who originated from the Village of Sound or Otogakure, and called themselves the Uchiha, settled upon the north-east frontier of the land, just at the foot of the circling mountain range, and the people who came from the Land of Fire, the Haruno clan, claimed the southern part of the Konoha, a few miles away from the rocky, jagged edge of the cavern that they first used to enter the land. The calm, serene land became a cold, human battlefield, and the two clans, each lying on such extreme ends of the spectrum, began an era of hate and mistrust blooming in the hearts of the people they ruled over for all the upcoming generations, which lasted for every of the innumerable years that were to later come.
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His head felt heavy, his body pitifully beaten and bruised; he lay on the ground helplessly, as the feeling of the merciless heat of the flames curled around, rising up in revolt to the bitingly cold winds roaring about during the storm and stealthily approaching his quivering stature. His eyes were bloodshot, dry, and strained from crying profusely, battered tear tracks scabbing the soft skin of his cheeks; the incessant wails that hoarsely escaped his clogged throat, and the broken shivers that strongly traversed down in tremors and wracked the small frame of his tired body made it all the more impossible for him to even try to get up and flee from the destroyed village he once called home. All he found himself doing was to struggle almost mechanically, purely on instinct, but even his primal survival impulses were made to weaken against the larger, stronger pressure of his disposition and disarrayed emotions. All he could do was to stay in the midst of the burning debris, trembling and helpless and now, too weak to even shout out a cry for help …The heat was too strong, too scorching hot for his poor vision fogged by the dust and smoke around to keep on working, and he felt himself giving in to the urge to close his eyes and just wait for the inevitable end to his misery.
There was once a time
When the spring was awaited
And the flowers would lure;
Towards that sunshine
O little joy of mine,
Heal this dark world
But come back home by nine…
He lay on the ground, the fire alarmingly close to his body, but he could not find it in himself to care. His innocent thoughts filled with horrendously deprived questions were now effectively subdued, and he wanted nothing but to curl up in a small ball and fall into the waiting clutches of a deep slumber. His head hurt, so did his heavy, lanky limbs and every other part of his body, but the music ringing on and on, tirelessly in his ears, acted like a healing balm for all of his cuts and bruises, both internal and external. He felt warm, but not the cruel hotness of the evil flames around, but of warmth that enveloped him safely in his entirety, and remind him of how it exactly felt like to be close to his mother after a long, long time spent apart.
His eyes drooped down unconciously, and the last thing he felt was the sensation of being sucked into an eternal, dark pit of an endless oblivion, forever.
A long, screeching call of a siren was heard in the distance, which stirred Sasuke up from his slumber and signaled him to get ready and start on his daily morning routine. Pushing the highly familiar yet unpleasant sound into the background and effectively ignoring it, the raven-haired boy concentrated on bringing back the control over his painfully numb body, utterly despising the jelly-like feeling in his bones and having quite the difficulty in clearing off the hazy vision of his sleep-encrusted eyes. A petulant frown blossomed on his face mere seconds later, as he sat up straight on his futon and contemplated- he fiercely believed he was, by now, already capable enough to handle the nightmares which were prone to him almost every night nowadays, but it so seemed adverse today. Furthermore, leaving aside the consistent headache, accelerated heartbeats and the throbbing pain ringing all over his body, his sheer inability to shut off his mind of the nostalgic melody instead of playing it over and over again ever since he woke up was truly frustrating.
…Heal this dark world
But come back home by nine…
Sasuke shook his head sideways, trying to steer his mind clear of the distracting thoughts and poorly succeeding. In a vain attempt to convince his stubborn conscience to realize where its loyalties lay, he reminded himself again and again that he was an Uchiha- and Uchiha warriors only live to kill their rivals, not for overthinking on confusing and conflicting matters and start off an internal feud inside their brains early in the morning. He had been shielded from death by these people when he himself knew he was beyond surviving, and he was utterly thankful and grateful to the clansmen for that- or rather, he was expected to feel such strong emotions even when he knew he could not feel them, but that could not be helped. Though however stifling or suffocating it might be, this mansion was the only place he could afford to stay in without being starved or killed, and he knew it was good enough for him for now.
He thought back to the various rules of the clan that had been laid down for people like him, and clearly remembered the punishments executed upon those who broke them. The morning bell had rang about some long minutes ago, and he realized that he was still lounging about on his bed on the floor. Steeling himself to completely forget about the dream and the song, Sasuke winced as his still ragged breathing inflated his lungs, almost bursting against his ribcage, and his hands almost buckled under the weight of his body as he reluctantly flopped himself upright and on his legs upon the bed. He had a vigorous morning training to attend to, and he desperately needed himself calm and strong enough not to lose there.
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“Sakura, please, wake up!”
Fire exploded through her eyes as she burst out of the gushing water, eyes bulging with streaming tears and mouth agape in an open, mute scream; and almost all at once, almost painfully so, reality crashed down upon her as hard as it could.
Bright white light flooded her vision, and Sakura covered it with one hand as she let the difference between her subconscious and reality fall back to place in her mind. Reeling from the unexpected pressure of the dream, and the more of the dream breaking up, she removed her hand from her eyes once she thought she was ready, and squinted at the figure of her mother sitting hunched beside her, golden blonde hair combed to perfection in the glinting sunlight, yet sparkling emerald eyes almost drowning in motherly concern.
“Kami…” Mebuki breathed out as she saw her daughter wake up, clamping a hand over her forehead and closing her eyes in a show of gratifying relief, “Sakura, I shook you so many times, but you were so deep in sleep…For once, I feared that you might never wake up.”
Sluggishly sitting up in her futon, Sakura winced as her mother opened her eyes again and presented a wholeheartedly kind and relieved smile to her daughter, mouthing a small 'Good morning', and then eyed her curiously as Mebuki shuffled with a neat pile of clothes heaped beside her. “Here are your clothes,” Sakura heard her mumble softly, pushing the attire towards her in a semi-formal fashion. “Your father will be meeting our people in person today, and there will be many officers and honorary figures present, so do not be late and try to look your best, okay?”
As all traces of sleep and curiosity wiped off her daughter’s face and a blank, almost cold expression morphed upon the surface, Mebuki knew that her request was not to be fulfilled anytime soon. Releasing a quite breath she did not know she was holding in, the golden-haired woman wore a small and utterly fake smile to cope with the situation, and without leaving any parting words, quietly got up and left the room, her smile still intact in its place.
Behind the closed door, Haruno Sakura sighed a held breath of her own, and eyeing the pile of clothes on the floor with a conflicting stare of empathy and distaste, she silently picked up the garments and got up to the start of another new yet monotonous day of her life.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
“Okay boys, that is enough for now,” Kabuto announced rather brusquely to the people training on the huge ground, and eyed them cynically with scorn and distaste as they all fell back and relaxed. They were many in number, and littered the training grounds heavily everywhere he turned to. Addressing to the crowd before him, while seeing each of the trainees huffing and panting even with such a minimal amount of physical exertion, almost felt direly horrible and pathetic, and the sight of the sun settling down low upon the sky beyond the horizon reminded him about how another day had gone by, completely and utterly wasted by him, yet again.
Again, he seemed to realize what he had realized countless times before; that he was leading nothing but a pack of weak, worthless and lowly servants who were foolish enough to call themselves eligible warriors of the Uchiha clan, and it was a terrible waste of his valuable time and potential to even try and train them. It was dubious how Orochimaru still insisted on recruiting normal, talent less people and assigned him to breed them as the soldiers they would never ever be with such limited knowledge. The situation was odd: a large number of youngsters had been recruited to train as warriors to assist their clan in the upcoming battles, under Kabuto's wing, but he had been personally ordered by the Serpent Saanin to see that those boys do not proceed over to anything complex, or undergo even the most basic of Shinobi training.
Strange were the ways of their leader, who wanted supreme ninjas emerging from here without having the actual knowledge about their world and advanced combat, but Kabuto knew better than to suspect his hidden intentions when he knew that Orochimaru never did anything if he didn't have a good reason to do it. Kabuto diligently followed the orders bestowed upon him, believing in the delirious, maybe even a little eccentric notions of their leader to bring in fruitful results in the end. The creation and usage of power was something one could seamlessly learn from the Saanin, though he doubted if anyone would be able to par at his level even through a plethora of elaborate training structures and experiences. But if he was being completely honest with himself, being a trainer whose training was ultimately futile to their cause irritated him after an extended period of time, and most of Orochimaru's plans always went over his head anyways. Honestly, the only thing that had been keeping him from expressing this particular concern aloud was the sudden upliftment in his wages since the inception of their new clan leader, and he did think the reason was important enough for him to ignore the obvious development of a useless army when they had few, yet the choicest of talented Shinobi around, including himself.
Sasuke enclosed his sword inside the sheath attached to his waist with smoothly practiced ease, and sneaked a quick glance at the silver-haired medic standing a little away from him from the corner of his eyes stealthily. He recognized the gaze of the cold, calculative eyes hiding behind outsized spherical glasses balanced precariously upon Kabuto's nose almost immediately, and frowned; Yakushi Kabuto…People like this certain character, who worked right under the direct leadership of Orochimaru were accustomed to look down upon the ‘mediocre’ people of the clan, including Sasuke, yet, they still insisted to train the servants in basic weapon-using techniques, who were only meant to be used as sacrificial pawns in times of war. He didn't like or trust that man- neither his eyes nor his smile, and never his incredibly lithe, deadly and flexible body movements in combat, but he could not but feel himself to be lucky to be assigned under him out of all the other chief tans of the clan, who were known to eradicate anyone who could not meet up to their standards immediately, without a moment's hesitation. Kabuto was strict with his training, and stern in demeanor, but he was never rash; he was patient, observant, giving a chance to everyone and assessing each of their skills and loopholes in a short period of time. But he was sharp, calculative, who could brew up a number of different strategies and analyses, and use them in battle accordingly.
To him, a war was a game, the soldiers fighting in it, his mere pawns, and the result, was dependent on one's sheer skill and technique in treachery and strategy. His mind worked in a way that was analytical, maybe even succeeded to pose by as complex to some, but Sasuke believed in his morale to never trust in a person when he didn't know how to decipher the way that person thought about every imaginable subject, took out what from a concept, and reacted to every insignificant thing one could ever come by. If you didn't seem to work out a person inside out, it was no use trusting him blindly.
He would be lying if he said he hated living here, but he did not particularly like staying here, confined within the endless, yet sturdily bound shadows of the great barrier of the wooden wall that protected the Uchiha Mansion, and tied each of its residents solely inside the only place they were ever allowed to call their home. It was better here than roaming haywire around the dense, impenetrable wilderness of Konoha, but more often than not, he felt proverbial chains holding him, tying him down brutally to the only active part of his life, successfully trapping him inside this place which soon felt like a hellhole if subjected to a prolonged state of captivity.
Though it was likely that he would get used to his surroundings after spending so much time as a servant in the clan, Sasuke could never get enough of becoming tiresome and weary of the people and the places associated with it. He had to train hard as a warrior here to keep himself from getting killed like the other people, but this continuous effort of escaping the impractical excuses of the chief tans to slaughter him for survival was something he could not take any longer, adding to the growing sense of impatience and bouts of urgent frustration that didn't really have a place to be exerted out.
He let out an almost inaudible sigh; he had thought over these things from time to time in the past years, but could never reach a satisfying conclusion. His current situation would not change- he knew it, and as long as his opposing thoughts were not known by Kabuto, he felt he was fine. His skill in swordsmanship was quite exceptional, and he was positive that he could be at par even with Hoshigaki Kisame- the commander of the warriors in times of war, and Orochimaru’s right-hand man after his two ‘shadow’ warriors- if given a chance to prove himself, in the art. The only reason he never fought with his full potential was for avoiding the notorious gaze of Kabuto; once you are caught in it, it is impossible to break through.
His life was highly unremarkable for being such a unique personality though, and he preferred it more than anything. He was a quite individual, which was uncharacteristic for his age, and had minimum communication with people, let alone have friends. In his daily life, he had only two things which he thought was enjoyable, and one of them was to wait; wait enough till this wretched clan was submerged totally in darkness, and then see it engulfing itself and getting wiped away from the face of the Earth. What would become of him then was something he could not care less about, as the thought itself was sufficient for him to keep trying to survive each passing day.
A small, very miniscule part of his being though, strangely heaved with the fire of becoming stronger than all the people around, and why, he did not know. He just wanted to be someone who would provide for a matching rival with the greatest of warriors, maybe against Orochimaru, or the Haruno clan leader, or…him, yes, definitely him. Whoever it was, after regularly attending the monotonous pattern of Kabuto’s training though, Sasuke knew he would never get any stronger than what he already was, and so, he knew better than to pay any heed to that horrible example of an ambition, and rather carry on with life again.
Turning his attention back to where he stood, Sasuke realized that he was one of the few people who had remained on the ground after the lunch hour was announced. He was far from hungry, his regular training failing gloriously in tiring out the heightened stamina and endurance of his body, and seeing Kabuto far away from his sight, he decided to make the most of his chance. Quietly making his way out of the training ground, he took care to see that he was not being followed, and reached the foot of the giant boundary that loomed about a head higher than his height. Pulling out his right hand to grasp on the topmost base of the wall, he thrusted his body upward by putting just the right amount of pressure on his feet, and nimbly leaped over the impending boundary, landing noiselessly on his feet and out of the building at last.
He was not running away, not in the least; he had seen the fate of the people who had tried earlier, and the punishment was nowhere near pleasant. He was just going to give himself a break from his rather annoying routine, and come back again before anyone noticed his missing, most-of-the-time-ignored presence.
Expertly, he took the shortest way possible to reach his destination in quick time, and began walking. Ahead of him, the gigantic, rocky mountains that bordered the country came into his sight, and the road sloped upwards as if on cue. The haphazard array of light and shadow falling in and among the trees growing in a disarray around the light cover of the woods returned a nostalgic feeling in his mind, while a strong, free-flowing gust of wind passed by and ruffled his pitch-black mop of spiky hair adorably, returning Sasuke that exact sense, that same feeling he had long since forgotten- the feeling of not being held back, of not being bound to one same place for eternity; the same feeling of being free, the feeling of freedom.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
“And with that, my fellow people, I end my speech. I hope that you all will fight together and in perfect unison, and one day, be the pillar of victory for our rule over the Uchihas. May this land be ours once and for all!”
Haruno Kizashi stepped down from the raised platform, and nodded in satisfaction at the tremendous uproar of applause bestowed upon him by the best of his officers. Far across from him, almost intentionally concealed from the eyes of her father at the back of the crowd in the large, spacious room, Sakura felt herself frown disapprovingly upon the sight of both Kizashi and of his officers, and the deliberately sugar-coated and falsely inspirational speech he just addressed to the representatives of their clan only added fuel to her already burning flame of rising annoyance. She exited the Grand Hall quietly, careful to see no one noticed her absence, as her father got up to say another string of encouraging words to his ‘people’ on their persuasion and began speaking again, never noticing the back of the retreating figure he would have otherwise recognized as the form of his own daughter.
Long bows and curt gestures of respect followed her around as she walked through the dainty yet crowded corridors towards her quarters, as all the people, who were previously busy with their own work now stepping aside to make room for the heiress of their clan, and hiding her face or advancing cautiously seemed futile in this part of the mansion. Politely receiving the genuine show of respect bequeathed upon her and walking as fast as she could without breaking into an agitated sprint, Sakura slammed open the entrance to her room, crossed over the exquisitely decorated threshold, cast aside the sliding door which looked over the garden outside, and almost excitedly stepped down her foot onto the soft cover of the trimmed and weeded, green layer of grass covering the backyard.
Short, crisp tresses of pink hair flew haywire in response to the blowing wind which greeted her as she stepped outside in the garden, and glowing jade eyes, which had pulled on a dull, muted veil over themselves since morning, seemed to break out of their confines at last. Her intricately designed and heavy robes of a cherry-red kimono suddenly seemed to highly impose its weight upon her, and the frilly, matching obi holding her garment safely around her seemed to be suffocating. Though the physical repercussions were merely intense imagination on her part, none could deny the sudden sense of longing and vacancy which simultaneously now engulfed her.
The trees swayed in perfect rhythm to the wind which gave away the sweet, musky scent of the faraway mountains, and the sight of the open fields and thick, dense forests looked inviting, and in stark contrast with the looming wooden boundary of the wall that surrounded the mansion, leaking an evilly ominous and restrictive aura about it. She breathed in the refreshingly fresh bouts of oxygen the roaring wind provided access to her almost hungrily, and as her long arms crept up to spread long and wide at her sides like the non-existent pair of wings she so longed for, she readily gave in to the blind urge to close her eyes and imagine herself running and flying away from everything that held her back, and though it wasn't how freedom was, she was free at last.
This was what she wanted, rather than to sit in that crammed room and listen to her father inspire her clansmen towards objectives and ideas which would hardly be plausible within the next ten years. Seeing how Kizashi valiantly lead the clan, learning how to be prim and proper and quite like her mother, and then be the perfect heiress of the Harunos…this was what she had been imposed to do from the moment she was able to walk and talk and think rationally, as people knew it, but would they ever believe if she disclosed her naïve, childish notions which were fragments of a dream discarded long ago? No, they would not- Sakura knew it, and when she had realized it, albeit regretfully, she had decided to change, or to rather lock herself up and throw the key into some dark, endless pit forever.
She was to be the next leader to her clan, and in order to do so, one must be strong, intelligent, and respectful towards their age-long customs and traditions. Sakura was highly intelligent, and few people knew she was hardly eligible to be rated as weak, but the worst setback of the situation was the third criteria- the criteria which demanded the protection and utilization of practices and processes that might become partial or unfair with time. And one of them was the inheritance of the position of the leader passed down the generations, bound solely by the bond of blood.
She had once admired and respected her father, but with time, she knew she could never fit in his position. If being the clan leader meant to get locked up in a room with twisted people and cut off ties with your own family, it was no better than being locked in a prison. People should, or at least the leader himself should decide his heir from the whole of the clan, rather than place someone who never even wanted to rule in the position. She wasn't ready, not yet, maybe will never be, to accept everything that came with the position of becoming the leader. Granted, she might not have to be how her father was, maybe even be allowed to rule in her own, rightful way, but she could never accept the cruel slashes of reality her father seemed to endure, or worse, change himself more and more to be like one of those people to cope up with the situation, everyday.
Sakura was never someone to handle being chained down from her share of freedom and happiness, but to do something which risked losing the true essence of her being, just so that she could retain her power over the people and fool them into thinking that her rule was for everyone's best of interest?-Never. And because that precisely seemed like her inevitable destiny, she knew she could never become truly happy in this place she was used to call home.
Accepting her situation had taken a long and tedious effort, everyday putting up a fancy façade while she kept on battling with herself to gain control of not her emotions, but of their exertions. By the time she deemed herself capable enough, she had found herself locked inside the shell of a maiden with the soul of a persistent child. Battling, fighting herself always had toughened up her insides, made her aware of her still-consisting yet childish desires, and sharpened her enough to make the intimate connections and find a way to gain her own happiness amidst the various restrictions. She would give in to any rule if it meant the betterment of her family and of her people, but she would never give up the only thing that she had the right to claim and possess as her own, and if that meant that she would forever remain a child at heart inside, no one really needed to know.
She had sneaked out of the castle many times before, completely ignoring the fact that her father would blow up quite a storm if he got to know about her row of escapades. It wasn't anything much difficult, just climb onto one of the higher branches of the old peach tree that grew just near the wall that bounded the mansion, and then jump down over the wall and onto unmarked ground. It was a rather secluded part of the mansion, so there weren't many guards who would spend their time looking out for enemies or spies around that particular place, and the secret training sessions she had been having with her sensei- illegally, as Kizashi knew nothing about them- had also wonderfully worked to enhance her strength and endurance, so much that she could easily manhandle each one of the officers who deemed themselves to be great people of bravery and power, and not get hurt by the steep jump around the barrier.
As she began trudging of through the rather long road that would take her to her destination, she knew that she had nothing to worry about- she could finally have some alone time, away from her clan and from her responsibilities, tasting the succulent taste of freedom that had been so long overdue by now, and if she could manage to return back before the evening sun set far beyond the horizon, then she would just put on the mask of an eligible heiress and take rein of the exertions of her emotions yet again, and all the while, secretly relish in the lasting inertia of those moments when she had really been free.
The only thing that she couldn’t even think of was that though everything would go just as she planned, her whole life would be turned upside down thereafter, and would never be the same one from that one, certain moment; never, ever again.