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return to innocence

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Nagato could still feel the blood on his hands, an odd pin-prickle sensation in his eyes that felt almost like tears but, at the same time, undeniably not


Mother... Father...

They were dead.  Gone.  He had seen the men - shinobi, he thinks - kill them in front of him, as they sacrificed themselves so he could live.  But he hadn't ran, frozen in his place even as the shinobi came toward him, their eyes wide and saying something that he couldn't hear, their voices drowned out by the dull roar that had built up in his ears as he stared blankly at the bodies on the ground and -

He hadn't been thinking after that, just that soul rending pain within him driving him forward, and he had... killed those men, those shinobi with the swirl shape on their forehead protectors.  He had slumped down then, a sick squelch as his hands pressed into the warm blood pooling from the cooling bodies, his hair moving again to cover his eyes... when he wasn't there anymore.

The sticky blood that had covered the wooden floor was gone, but his hands were still covered with it.  He was kneeling on a dirt ground, and everything was dark.  He gets up, trembling, and tries to squint into the darkness.  

The sound of footsteps.  Nagato falls to the ground again in a rush of panic - he had killed the shinobi who had slaughtered his parents, but he didn't have a weapon anymore, and he couldn't imagine killing again - when he hears the voice of a boy maybe just a bit older than he was go, "Oi, Nagato, you in here?"

He knew his name.  How did he know his name?  He had never - 

A light illuminates his face, and he peers up into the shocked, wide-eyed visages of two older children - a boy and a girl.  "...Nagato?"  The girl asks, unbelieving.  "You're so little!"

"Did you shrink?"  The boy demands, eyes narrowing.  "Just when I thought you couldn't get any smaller -"

"I don't know any of you!"  Nagato screams at the two of them, scrambling away from them the best he could.  "I - I don't - How do you know my name?"

The boy and the girl share a look.  "He's younger," the girl says.  "When I found Nagato and Chibi in the first place, this was how he looked."

"But that doesn't make any sense!"  The boy exclaims, obviously frustrated.  "How did Nagato turn back into a little kid?"

"We have to find Jiraiya-sensei and ask him," she replies surely, before turning back to Nagato, holding a hand out to him.  "Hi Nagato.  I know this sounds really crazy, but we're your friends.  I'm Konan, and this is Yahiko.  We know you when you're older."

He looks up at them suspiciously, and makes no move to take her hand.  "Believe us!"  The boy - Yahiko - cries at him, a bit desperately.  "You're my best friend, Nagato, and we can't find out what's going on if you don't come with us, because there's no way we're leaving you in this weird place."

"What's the last thing you remember, Nagato?"  The girl - Konan - asks kindly.  

He replies, despite his initial reservations.  "M-Mom... D-Dad... They -"  His voice cracks, but the two other kids seem to understand what he means, especially after they stare at the blood on his hands.  

"Crap," Yahiko says bluntly, and Konan turns to glare at him.  "I'm sorry!"

"Yahiko and I met you a year after that happened," she tells him.  "A lot of stuff has happened since then, we went through all of it together.  The three of us worked together to survive.  A while ago, a man named Jiraiya-sensei took us on as his students.  We've been training under him for more than a year now."

Nagato pushes himself up and eyes the two of them suspiciously behind his bangs.  "...Why should I believe you?"

"Ugh, why are you always such a paranoid bastard,"  Yahiko bemoans.  "Come on!  We're not gonna hurt you, I mean, if we were, we would have done it already!  Just come with us and we'll find out how to turn you back to normal."

Nagato swallows, wipes the tears from his eyes, and realizes that he believes him.  "Okay," he says shakily.  Konan smiles prettily at him even as Yahiko bares his teeth into a huge grin.  

It is surprisingly easy to get out of the weird room they were in, but they soon found themselves in an even more unfamiliar building.  Yahiko ran to a window, pressing his nose up against the glass to stare at the outside.  "We're in Ame!"  He shouts, awed.  "See, it's raining and everything!  But everything looks so much newer."

"How did we get here?"  Konan wonders.  "Jiraiya-sensei would definitely notice if we got kidnapped, and he would have come for us - he would have.   Even if he's off with his teammates right now -"

"He is?"  Yahiko exclaims.  "But I just saw him yesterday, when he was teaching Nagato about another way to use those weird eyes of his!"

"No, Yahiko..."  She says slowly, "that was last month.  Jiraiya-sensei left yesterday."

Nagato looks between the two of them worriedly.  "What's the last thing you remember, Konan?"  Yahiko demands.  

"The three of us were attacked when Jiraiya-sensei wasn't there.  I... I used the new technique I developed,"  Konan replies shortly.  "He - He was a bandit, I think, he was trying to rob us -"

"What the hell, that didn't happen!  The last thing I remember was -"  His expression tightens.  "I killed a guy who was trying to take you away from us."

"That was last month,"  Konan repeats, sounding even more sure.  "I... I think I'm from a little bit more in the future than you are."

"I don't get it!"  Yahiko groans.  "Nagato's a little kid, you remember stuff that I don't remember, and Jiraiya-sensei's disappeared.  Where the hell are we?"

"We'll find out,"  she decides.  "It doesn't matter from when we're from.  The three of us are still friends, and we're gonna work together to find out what happened, right?"

"Yeah," the orange headed boy agrees.  "Nagato, stay close to the two of us, alright?  We don't know who else is in this place, but Konan and I can beat them up before they hurt us.  So don't worry, alright?"

To his own surprise, Nagato realizes that he doesn't.