All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
— Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Rights
There’s something terrifying about being launched into the unknown, whether it’s a country, a relationship, or even a new café. Her problems however, lay within a much bigger area.
Reincarnation was one thing, but this? This... world, this society, this story?
Her heart pounds at the thought of it, at her role and what she has to do. She is the main character in a story that glorified a violent system in an extremely open way. Her original world wasn’t pure and all good either of course, she wouldn’t have been a human rights lawyer if it was. But it was... more stable. Less morally reprehensible?
If it were any other world, she thinks she could handle it, but the Shinobi world? In fanfiction, when she still read it daily before the duties of responsibility caught up to her, people only focused on the ninja aspect, on the killing and murder and morality, and while she’s concerned about that, looking at the way society is built here makes her want to vomit.
She studied to be a lawyer in her old world, but she had dabbled in history as a hobby. And everything in this world seemed to reflect the same twisted sort of madness her old history used to have as well. Violence was the currency here, with leaders and puppet masters pulling the strings to conduct pointless wars. She had seen the effects of pointless wars in her old world, had witnessed how often countries would tug and pull smaller societies to their whims solely for greed and gain. But at least she could pretend there. She could try to fight against the system, no matter how small it was.
Here, doing so means certain death.
There’s no reason to change a system that people are used to, that people are taught not to question or stray away from. Konoha may be the ‘nice’ village, but it follows the same doctrine as all the others. It just hides it better.
A small part of wants to yell at how stupid it is, at the lack of critical thought and action that no-one wants to take, but something stops her. Forces her to reevaluate. She can’t judge people based on a morality system so vastly different from hers. And yet... it’s hard not to. It’s hard not to look at the ninja jumping past her and wonder: How many people have you killed? How much blood is on your hands?
Konoha is the nice village, but it is still a military dictatorship. The daimyo were rarely, if ever explained, and she wonders how civilian leaders would even be able to keep shinobi under control. Does the army of the daimyo have shinobi in it? Is it stronger than a ninja village? Is it a mutually beneficial deal, where the daimyo handles the civilian side, while the Kage handles the shinobi? She doesn’t know.
But she needs to. She needs to educate herself, to try and find a way to survive in a world that goes against every facet of her being.
And that was the crux of her problems. Knowledge. An abundance of it, despite every facet of it coming from fanfiction and whatever discussion boards took her fancy. She had read enough fanfiction to understand the plot, to know what happened and how it ended, but the details, the intricacies of it were lost on her. Too time-consuming for a fandom she barely dipped her toes in.
And then she became a lawyer and all semblance of interest had fled her in favour for work. Sure, she kept up with some of her favourites from time to time, would reread the ones she saw as ‘classics’, but what little investment she’d had in the beginning was all but gone.
Still, she’d read enough fanfiction to know about her situation, as unbelievable as it was. She didn’t understand why some divine being thought the best thing to do with her consciousness or soul or whatever she has was to shove it in the main character of a series she barely had anything to do with.
She didn’t know what she would have to do to survive. Would she let her morals die out for the sake of living? Would she ignore the banging drum inside her head that screamed that this was all wrong, that this couldn’t continue, that people were suffering because of this-!
She wonders. Does she have the right to change a system that is violent, even though that system has been in place for decades?
She was intricately familiar with death and crime. Her job in her past life had revolved around the worst aspects humanity could throw at her. After almost fifteen years, she liked to think she’d seen it all. She could unflinchingly stare down the most horrifying criminals the world had seen, was able to push down the disgust and violent shock that hit her the moment she came home. She’d reviewed cases that would give people nightmares for years on end, and pushed through until they could put them in the hands of justice.
She had been thirty-something when she died, and hadn’t really expected to live much longer, not when she had a bad heart and worked in a stressful job. She’d seen lawyers come and go out of the profession, unable to handle the type of cases she waded through for years. She didn’t blame them.
Her death wasn’t anything to write home about. Nothing like the fanfiction she would read in her spare time, no big dramatic exit, no murder or car accident. Her bad heart just... gave out one day, unable to handle the stress, the high pressure, the violent aftermath that plagued her dreams at night. The pain came, sudden, strong, harsh, so she’d looked her wife in the eyes, kissed her on the lips, and died.
Except something went wrong. And she found herself waking up in the grass of a village that seemed only faintly familiar, stuck in the body of a six year old.
And maybe she would have been fine with it. Maybe she could have built a new life.
If there hadn’t been several major problems.
First of all, as she slowly grew, it became obvious that her new home wasn’t her old world, didn’t have the laws and rules she was used to. The shinobi taught her that, the casual references to violence she saw everyday, the ease in which killers walked amongst children. Oh she knew the plot and the main characters, but only due to fanfiction and the wiki. And even then, this place was... different. Slightly more twisted, a bit darker than the bright colours of the story, lines of harshness where before there had been enjoyment.
Again, she maybe could have lived with that. She could’ve stayed a civilian or something, tried to advocate for rights in her own, subtle, not dangerous way.
But then she was faced with a dilemma that ripped out any chance she could have at slipping away unnoticed. One that automatically changed her path onto an already set one, and took away any freedom she might have had.
She’s the main character.
She is Naruto.
And unlike in fanfiction where the character’s gender is changed to fit your own, real life is not like that. She is in a male body. A part of her looks down and feels sick, but she forces herself to carry on. Yes, it makes her uncomfortable, but she’s sure she can find some HRT or do that weird transformation jutsu or whatever and be done with it.
(If there was one good thing about this world, it was how things like these could be easily dealt with through magic, chakra, whatever the hell it was.)
She has worse problems to deal with, and being trans is not one of them. Not when she’s faced with a future she knows faintly from her time reading fanfiction. Not when she knows who she is.
And this is where the third reason came in.
She hates Konoha. Hates the entire world she was forced in, because it’s a contradiction to every single one of her morals. She can’t help but bristle at everything around her, even as she tries to force herself to stop and listen, to give it a chance despite the wrongness of it all.
But while she was used to unnecessary hostility and sub-par treatment in her old world because of her sexuality, her situation in Konoha is... different. Here, she is ignored. Eyes glide over her, but whispers follow her every step, low, poisonous, disapproving. She is treated like a ghost, like an inconvenient rock at the side of the road. Her entire existence is a problem to everyone around her, and that does things to your psyche. At least she had support groups in her old world; with people who were like her or who just didn’t care about those sorts of things. At least she’d had her wife in her old world.
But here she is, stuck in a world that wants to make her kill while trying to kill her.
It makes her skin crawl. She can’t live like this. She can’t.
She’s not going to live out the rest of her days doing work that goes against her values, her ideals, her very life blood.
No, she refuses to dance to the puppet strings that Kishimoto, the Hokage, Danzo and so on want to place on her. She refuses to follow the road of murder and crime that she had fought against in her last life. Just because it’s accepted here doesn’t mean she has to follow it.
She’ll have to be subtle, be cautious and careful, but the first chance she gets, the moment she’s strong enough to leave, she’ll bolt.
Hopefully, it would be before she has to decide between her life or her morals.
It doesn't actually hit her until she is four years old, plonked in the middle of the garden and watching a bunch of grubby kids run past her.
One moment she's a sticky, dirty three year old, sitting in the mud, before suddenly being a sticky, dirty three year old with the knowledge and experience of an adult woman who viewed both this world and herself as fictional. The overload of information, the pure shock at being fully aware of who she was and her surroundings is too much for a young, pretty undeveloped mind.
She passes out, soft pleas in the back of her mind that no, she isn’t where she thinks she is. Except when she wakes up hours later, tucked into bed by one of her caretakers, it hits her that yes, this is real. She is real.
And she’ll most likely die in this world that has no place for people like her. Not really.
Because for God's sake, she’s Naruto, and Naruto already had a hard enough time surviving without being screwed over with the morality and knowledge of a human rights lawyer.
This entire world is a walking human rights violation, a contradiction to every one of her morals, of her goddamned job. And if she wants to live, then she’ll have to play by those same rules.
She swallows harshly, ignoring the bile that pools in the bottom of her throat, and tries not to panic. She barely knows what happens in ‘canon’. She never read or watched the series, her ADHD stopping her from fully investing in it, and now she’ll pay for that misstep.
How is she meant to live in a world like this? In a world that watched a village massacre its people and looked away?
She would either have to capitulate, or make changes. Serious changes to herself, the supposed 'canon' and the dangers that Naruto’s future would bring her. A part of her tells her to slow down, to reconsider, because if she makes a mistake, if she misjudges, then she’ll probably end up dead. But she can’t accept this. She can’t. Not for herself.
She would let herself die again before she did any of the things they expect her to do, that the plot expects her to do. She might be desensitised but her morals are her life, her job was her life, and she refuses to go against them. She refuses to become one of them for the sake of the story.
But... the question blares in her mind. How much should she change? She’s determined not to become a tool in the hands of old warmongers who live for conflict, who serve and strengthen their military dictatorship and bring children into a service that will end up killing them. She knows what that kind of service does, she had seen the impacts and trauma those sort of people cause in their quest for power and superiority. It’s disgusting. It’s so deeply and fundamentally wrong and-
She takes a breath. Pauses. Thinks it over.
No-one here has an issue with it. No-one sees a problem. Well, no-one except for those insane fools at the Akatsuki, and they really aren’t prime examples since they’re using the exact same tactics as the system they want to eradicate to achieve their idea of ‘peace’.
She should run. Should forget it all, should ignore it and focus on surviving, but-
Does she hold some responsibility to change the system? To fix it, to... make it better? Can she even do that? Does she have the right to do that? Could she swing into this world and declare it wrong, to make changes despite the fact that the people had lived like this for a long time, to twist things to fit her idea of morality and justice?
Or is she just making excuses?
She decides to shove those thoughts away to think about when she wasn't a drooling toddler.
First things first though, she has to change her name. She isn’t Naruto, and she never will be. She can’t be, not when the plot of his life leads her down a path she doesn’t want to go down.
Thus, she becomes Nana. She announces it cautiously at dinner time with the other orphans, curious to see their reactions to her sudden name change. Weirdly enough though, it isn’t that hard to enforce the others to call her by that. Maybe it’s because the orphanage was practically run by the older orphans. God knows the Matron is barely around, instead only dropping by every so often to make sure they’re alive.
But it seems like gender and sexuality is quickly accepted here, at least in most circles. She’s heard that some civilians act different, but most of the time, no-one bats an eye. In the orphanage alone, there are several people like her. Haru and Kyoko prefer neutral pronouns, Kanna, her main carer is also a trans woman, and just last week, Ryuu announced that he wasn't always a guy, and would let people know how he was feeling. And that is the end of that.
Her vague memories remind her of her carers, children barely older than thirteen who had changed her diapers, fed her bottles and sung her childish songs. All of the orphans older than ten have to pitch in, which means that everyone knows everyone, and somehow, it brings them closer. Almost like a family. They couldn't care less about the fact that people ignore her, curse her, calling her a demon, an abomination, because these children are used to being the bottom of society. In their eyes, she’s just another orphaned child, another shunned and rejected member of society. She is one of them. And in order to survive the wretched world that has it out for them, they need to band together.
And somehow, she finds herself loving these children like her own family.
Nana is six when she meets the Sandaime Hokage for the first time, and the entire experience is... uncomfortable. Uncomfortable and eye-opening, because it hadn't completely hit her before. She's dealt with war criminals before, glimpsed at military dictators several times, but she's never liked it. She can school her face into neutrality, into distant acknowledgement, but inside, she's trembling as she stands before a man so revered by his subordinates, even as he sends them to their deaths with a smile. It was easier before, seeing those criminals, because they were locked up in shackles, and didn't really have any magical ninja powers that could kill her with barely a flick of a finger. She's not in a courtroom, not in her territory. This is the enemy's land, and she's nothing more than a tiny child caught in the politics of death and dictatorship.
Here is the man responsible for making her life hell, who lets his old friend kidnap and torture children, who trains children into soldiers and lets them run to their death, who acts a kindly old man but holds the final word above all. There are no laws in the shinobi world, only Kage.
Her past and knowledge gnaw at her mind, burning and itching against her skull as it whispers about duty and promises, hisses deaths that will happen and that have already happened due to the system. A soft guilt wells up in her chest, because she has never run before, never ran in her old life, would face her cases stoically and strongly, determined to see justice but-
She is nothing more than an ant swept in centuries of militarism, of dictatorship and tradition. She may have sworn an oath as a human rights lawyer to bring criminals to justice, but how can she do the same here, when every adult, even every child she meets should be locked away for war crimes? She is one person, just a single person in a flood of killers, of a society that has been allowed to continue for far longer than it should have, and deep inside her she knows that there is little she can do. It doesn't matter that she's the protagonist, that she has unlimited power hidden beneath her fingertips. The only way to change this world is through death and destruction and-
She can't do it. How can she uphold her oaths in a world like this? How can she fight for justice and equality when Ninjas have no concept of such a thing, no laws to keep it in check? Violence and death is the currency here, not diplomacy and justice, not communication and betterment. Power is absolute here, and it has turned this world into a rotten husk.
But in the moment, she can't let those feelings matter. Can't let the Hokage see her thoughts, see who she is, see the hatred she holds for everything around her. The Hokage is smiling gently at her, bowed slightly to match her tiny tiny height, and she hates.
"Hello there young one. What is your name?" he asks kindly, warmly, his eyes soft and grandfatherly. Of course, he knows who she is, had summoned her himself, but he's giving her a chance to introduce herself, some illusion of control. He can see the way she fidgets, the discomfort in her position, the wariness in her face, and offers her some measure of control to calm her down. There is no way Nana can hide the roiling unease in her posture, not from a man like him. Whether his actions are sincere or a ploy to get her guard down, she doesn't know, but she sees him wait patiently for her response, sees the warm interest hiding the truth, and she swallows.
"Nana, I'm Nana." It sounds like a promise, like a stone tossed against water making the first changes to an already changed world, and she wants to vomit. Maybe she should have said 'Naruto', it would make it easier for her to change her name and disappear later on, but she's called herself Nana for years, can't betray who she is, not when she's absolutely sure that the Hokage already knows her name.
"Nana," he sounds out, nodding slowly, as though he's weighing her name on his tongue, weighing her in his mind. The Hokage looks over her, looks at her patchy dress, her messy hair pulled back into a childish braid, the dented flower pins crammed into her hair for some illusion of dignity. Kyoko had shoved the pins in her hair this morning, worry and fear forcing their hands to tremble.
"That's a cute name," he says finally, warm smile on his face, "did you choose it yourself?"
Nana ducks shyly, hesitantly nodding her head, trying to convey an aura of timid childishness. His smile grows fond, and he places a hand on her shoulder, subtly grabbing her attention to make her look up.
"Do you know who I am, Nana-chan?"
Of course she knows. Every child, no matter how old knows who this man is, how much power he holds in his hands. But it's only the orphans who truly understand what exactly he can do. What exactly, he lets happen.
Kids who catch the eyes of old men never come back.
It's why Kyoko and Ryuu and Yuji paled when they got the missive, why Kanna couldn't look at her without tears slipping down her face. They lost little Ume barely three weeks ago, so clever, so agile, her ability to sense chakra past what was usual for a little orphan girl. She showed it off during Academy Recruitment Day, and she was gone within the week.
And now the Hokage himself wanted to see Nana, wanted to talk to her, Nana who was hated far beyond the normal disdain for grubby orphans, Nana who had huge amounts of chakra and intelligence that surpassed most teenagers let alone a six year old.
Nana, who nobody but nameless, unimportant orphans would miss.
"Play it down," Yuji told her, "show you're not interesting, not anything special, even though you are." He was the one to braid her hair, hands shaking, and gave her a bigger breakfast than usual. He had hugged her tightly before they left, held on tightly and desperately, unspoken pleas between the two of them, before he was forced to let go when the ninja escort cleared his throat.
"You're just a normal six year old girl, who likes normal things. Make sure they see you struggle with words, don't say anything clever," Kyoko whispered as they tangled the flower pins in her hair. They had found them in a dumpster, bent and battered, but they had straightened them out again, scrubbed them with a rag until they shone. They fiddled with Nana's hair over and over, until there was no longer an excuse to keep her there.
"Play dumb," Ryuu demanded, her face narrowed and worried, "I don't care what they think, as long as they label you and idiot and unworthy of their time. But be subtle. Don't let them notice, don't let them know what you're doing." She grabbed her shoulders, brought her close to her face, until Nana could see the cracks in her foundation, the smears of mascara at the corners of her eyes. She had been crying. "Do you understand, Nana? Don't show off. Don't show them how clever you are. Talk slowly, be dense, have a short attention span, look away when the try to talk to you, do you understand?"
She had only released her after she nodded, after she whispered her agreement softly.
"Don't get taken." She had stared intensely at her for another moment, before giving a decisive nod, and a quiet kiss against her cheek, leaving behind smeared lipstick.
Kanna had to be pried away from her, sobbing into the scuffed kimono they were able to find, begging for her to come back, to please come back.
Something small in her broke, at the resigned acceptance in Yuji's eyes, the quiet terror in Kyoko's hands, the hidden outrage in Ryuu's words, the distraught grief in Kanna's tears. How used to this were they? How used to saying goodbye, to being forced to watch their family be torn away from them? To the knowledge that they were powerless to stop it?
She had gathered their advice, repeated it in her head like a mantra, even though she knows that the Hokage will see through it. Even though she knows that out of all of them, she is the safest one. She will never be taken by Danzo, not with her prominent status, not when the Hokage has eyes watching her at all times, trusted eyes, not faceless, nameless ANBU members. Being a jinchuuriki has its drawbacks, but it also gives her a layer of security none of the other orphans have. Nana will never be stolen away in the night, not without some seriously dedicated ninja willing to fight through several layers of ANBU protection.
(But a part of her questioned how willing Danzo would be if she let slip her intelligence. How desperate, how dedicated to spiriting her away?)
The kids at the orphanage don't know she's safe, don't know that Sarutobi wouldn't let anything happen to Minato's child. She shouldn't know that either, but it weighs down on her, both as a security blanket and as a reminder that escaping Konoha is going to be hell. They're not going to let someone as genetically important as her get away. Not only does she have her father's potential, but she's a direct descendent of a pure-bred Uzumaki. Any children of hers would be viable jinchuuriki candidates, not to mention the variety of other abilities they could inherit. She's an asset through and through, and Konoha would tighten their grip as much as they needed to keep her from slipping away.
And yet, the irony lies in their unwillingness to foster loyalty or goodwill, to give her reason to stay and pro-create, to defend the village with her dying breath. It heats her blood, makes her furious at the hypocrisy, the injustice, the sheer stupidity of it all, but she tampers it down, lets her righteous anger simmer deep inside her, fuelling her determination to leave.
The Hokage is still waiting for her answer, and she forces herself to squeak in embarrassment, to nod and give a sheepish grin.
"You're the Hokage," she finally says.
You're a war criminal, she wants to scream, you perpetuate a society that only benefits the powerful and tosses the innocents to the wolves you-
She clamps it down, tries to balance an aura of air-headed distraction while still showing the excited worship of a kid meeting their hero, meeting the man they've been brainwashed into revering.
"I am," he chuckles out, pleased at her response, but he leans closer, winks as though he's telling a secret, and asks, "do you know what I do?"
You send children off to die, her mind hisses, you toss the broken beneath your feet so you and your comrades can climb higher, you pushed a child out into a sea of hatred and expect them to-
"You're the strongest ninja ever! You look after us all!" she cheers out over the bitter words rattling in her skull, in her heart. The Hokage grins, laughs a happy laugh and ruffles her hair, enthused by her excitement, her childish glee, and she burns.
"I do indeed!" He's beaming, smile wide and delighted, and he asks: "Do you want to learn how to look after people as well, like I do?"
She wants to hate this man, wants to see him as the criminal he is, but... is he not a victim as well? He believes he's doing the right thing, believes he knows best-
(but don't they all? Don't they all first start out with good intentions, before the power beings to coil around their hearts and minds until they rot?)
She sees an old man over the image of a war criminal, sees a father and a grandfather smeared alongside a dictator, sees a tired, grieving, regretful man even as she imagines him signing the papers sealing so many deaths.
She breathes, and pushes it down.
It doesn't matter who he was, who he wants to be. He stands in such a position of power. If he wanted things to be different then he could have brought that change. How many times did she glimpse across a courtroom and see such a familiar visage, see another mourning leader who never meant for it to get this far-
But it did. It did, and people died because of it, people suffered for it. People are suffering now, and she thinks of the orphanage, her family in everything but blood, her children who she would protect with her life if her body weren't so small, thinks of the squalor and grime they live in, the tinge of fear that coats every laugh, every smile. She thinks of her children, forced to bend and break in the face of society's dismissal, their disgust, their refusal to take responsibility.
And deep inside, she makes an unconscious choice, unknown to her yet, but the soft embers of determination are lit beneath her skin.
"Yes," she answers, still keeping her voice light and cheerful, but there's something heavier to her agreement, something sombre and unwilling, but resolved all the same.
And maybe the Hokage hears it, maybe he can feel the deeper meaning behind her words, but he gives no indication other than a gentle smile and a pleased look.
(But she has been reading people for so long, can spot the darkness within, the regret, the heavy weight of a decision. She is six years old, and they're going to prepare her for war. She is a weapon, she is their weapon but-
She refuses. She refuses. She is her own weapon, and she will do it like she did in her last life: with her words and logic, because her battleground is not a war zone, no, it's a courtroom, and there, she has her say. There, she is in charge. Because ninja and kunai can kill, but words can topple governments.)
(And they will.)
(She guarantees it.)