Understanding Does Not Presage Peace (Naruto, Insert)

Chapter 1: The Grumpy Mechanic

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member
A/N: This one will probably lose steam the fastest of everything I’ve written, but it’s the last of my plot bunnies that I’ve been needing to unload in order to actually be able to focus on my original books. Hopefully.

Understanding Does Not Presage Peace

The tale of a plasma physicist in a world of Ninjas



A plasma physicist reincarnates in the Elemental Nations. But since past life regression is a less than spontaneous affair, he only remembers this during his near death experience when the Kyuubi attacks the village. He does not consider this a fair exchange for the lives of his wife and children. But what can a mere civilian do but trudge on?

Chapter 1: The Grumpy Mechanic

“-. October 10, 5 ANB .-“​

I had my wife and kids cremated. Besides making sure that their bodies wouldn’t be desecrated by the various lunatics that inhabited this world, this also made it easy to bring the urns along on my annual October 10th walkabout. The attack of the Nine-Tailed Fox was the biggest tragedy in Konoha’s history, the Hokage didn’t do anything as morbid as throw a festival on its yearly observance. He left that stuff for the Rinne Festival in December. Instead, October 10 was a solemn day when people commemorated their lost loved ones in their own manner. If there was a higher number of traveling peddlers and longer open hours for the various locales, nobody was tone-deaf enough to mention it.

Being more of a skinflint with each year that passed, I ignored them all on the way to the empty lot where our family home had once stood. I could easily picture the place as it used to be, my ability to visualize had carried over from my last life. Two stories, kitchen and den downstairs, one staircase leading up to the bedrooms. Master bedroom empty. Kenzo alone in the kids’ room, looking out the window just in time to see the random wind blast that bisected him and the entire second floor in the first minute of the beast’s appearance. A load-bearing beam snapped and pulped my wife Ume. My daughter, Yui, was frozen in shock. I was half-way to her when the second wind shear came, burying her under the debris that everything had suddenly become, save for the small patch of load-bearing wall that happened to be between me and the blast. It didn’t stop the roof from caving in, but at least the wall didn’t fall on me too. I was ‘lucky’ enough to spend a day buried alive instead of dying with the others.

I reminisced about all that and more as I sat in the middle of the lot, three untouched saucers of sake between me and the urns, each with a framed picture behind them. Both my kids would be of age by now, by this world’s standards.

“Did you know, son? In another world, your name would’ve been Vali.” I was already on my fifth drink, but I didn’t even feel it. Sake had a ridiculously low alcohol content, especially for something drunk in shots. It was sweet, though, which is the only reason I didn’t stop in disgust after the first couple of sips. I was that rare and unfortunate breed of man that began to hate the taste of spirits after the first glass. Another thing that had carried over from my previous life. “My name was Miron.” I took a bite from one of the apricots my wife was named for. “No equivalent for Ume or Yui in my mother tongue though. English either. Or French. Or Latin. Pretty sure Italian and Spanish don’t have them either, though I’m admittedly spotty on those.” I considered the apricot pit in my hand and pocketed it. Maybe this would be the lucky one that sprouted.

I used to worry about being overheard or spied on. Well, not so much worry as hope. Unfortunately (or not?), despite being Big Brother central, ninja villages could be really up their own ass if you weren’t a ninja yourself. It made it a surprisingly pleasant place to live in for civilians, but a very frustrating one for a sole survivor trying to channel your self-destructive depression into something at least potentially constructive for the world while you rambled at your children’s names on the memorial stone. Or here. In languages that didn’t exist. “I’m thinking I’ll finally sell this place off.” I yawned, even though it wasn’t that late in the afternoon. Don’t get much sleep in the nights leading up to this. “Gonna fund that expansion, finally. Get that water wheel installed.” After the Kyuubi attack, property prices quite understandably crashed. They were still low when I finally got past the worst of my depression, so I used the disaster monetary grant and the savings I’d made for the kids to get a spot with a bit of stream running through. Maybe I’ll even play with piezoelectricity at some point, I certainly had the space. “Motive forces and all, you need’em when your hobby is energy physics. For all the good that will be in this world of magic and murder.”

I spread the offered sake on the ground, took the urns and photos back to the cart and set off back home.

As I walked, I watched the people passing by. The ninja academy always gave a day off on this date, so the streets were packed with a lot more baby shinobi than would usually be about on weekdays. How I felt about that tended to vary depending on the day. Today, the sight of them irritated me. As usual when I disapproved of a reality whose necessity I couldn’t discount.

Konoha was a ninja village. That meant a lot of things. For civilians it meant unparalleled security, protection from scummy business practices, no property taxes, and your family’s first piece of land for free. But it also meant a long waiting list (I only got in because my long gone grandfather applied before the last war) and you only became a resident if you agreed to have no inherent right to privacy, as well as one of two things. One: any kids you have will be signed on to the ninja academy. Or two: you contributed to the village in other ways meaningfully enough to equal the strategic benefit of one genin. For each of the children.

For me of now, that sounded like a recipe for abuse. Credit to pre-fox me, he’d opted for the second option too. Not because he mistrusted whatever or whoever calculated the ‘strategic benefit’ – he didn’t, the Hokages had been fairly sane about it, at least during peacetime. It was Ume who didn’t want that kind of life for her children.

Kenzo had almost finished wearing both of us down, though, when the disaster happened. And now, given what I knew of this world and its future, I wasn’t sure anymore that the risk of early death wasn’t worth the power than came with being a shinobi. Even dying early would be better than to be around when the insanity really took off and you got body-snatched or turned into a tree battery. Maybe if this was a place like the Hidden Mist I’d have an easier time finding the ninja way reprehensible, but Konoha actually did live up to its claims of an enlightened way of life. Relatively speaking. True meritocracy, for both the ninja and civilians, but without cheapening the value of inheritance. I could testify to that by the simple fact that the amount of propaganda here was less than a tenth of what it was in the world of my previous incarnation. The people of this land were also quite spiritually minded as well, even though their ancestral, animistic beliefs hadn’t survived Kaguya and her children.

Unfortunately, there was a deliberate and enforced divide between the ninja and civilian branches of the village logistics. Well, actually this was Konoha’s one, massive advantage that the other villages didn’t practice. It enabled a strong middle class with a minimal attrition rate that produced abundant wealth for the village to run on, as well as nurturing the highest citizen loyalty of all other places on the continent, save maybe the Land of Iron where the Samurai code still endured.

It was unfortunate for me personally, though, because it meant that civilians didn’t have ready access to certain things. Like the Anbu ‘hotline.’ Or the one of only two newspapers in Konoha that the ninja actually bothered reading. Why You Shouldn’t Bully a Dragon, Neuroplasticity and Murder, The Dangers of Exclusivity, all the columns and articles I contributed to the Konoha Herald had given me precisely zero in with the Konoha Sage, despite the professional sourcing standards I brought with me from my previous life.

Even more annoyingly, the Konoha Military Police didn’t seem to have paid much mind to them. Despite there being a whole department of Uchiha chunin whose entire job was to read and approve or disapprove of everything civilians submitted for any sort of public print, same as for postage to anywhere outside Konoha. Whether it be a single-word shop sign or pages-long article, it needed nin approval, so I know they were all read. I’d made some pretty good points in them too, when I threw shade at everything from child persecution to being forced to shoulder the entirety of the village’s resentment. I was not just talking about jinchuriki there.

I refused to believe I was too subtle for the shinobi intelligence services. It was why I hadn’t submitted the big one – if they didn’t take me seriously before, why would they do it when I ‘attacked’ their entire institution? More likely they’d snatch me out of my house in the middle of the night and genjutsu me into an early retirement for ‘abusing Konoha’s goodwill’. I was two years past the point where I didn’t care if that happened to me.

Maybe I should file for a D-rank mission to have a message delivered straight to the Hokage’s desk, I thought grumpily. It’d raise questions if nothing else. I swear, massacre prevention shouldn’t be this difficult.

“Hanzo! Do you ever not glare like a stung boar?”

“Oh I’m sorry, I can come by another day.”

“Still can’t take a joke either,” Ren grunted as I stepped past him into his shop. “Load’s in the back, I already laid them out for you. There’s Shiori’s wagyu in it for you if you if you get them all done today.”

“I’m only doing this because you’re good advertising.”

“That’s what everyone says!”

I snorted as I took the stairs to the cellar. “If your wife didn’t have to nag you for even the most basic kindness, we’d have other things to say too!”

“Oh just fix your merchandise! Or don’t so I can have my wife’s cooking all to myself.”

She’d put the same effort into your food as she does for strangers if you weren’t such an ungrateful ass.

The man was an efficient businessman though, you had to be to make it in a ninja village. The items were laid out in neat rows with all the necessary space to get to work. The most important pieces were even labelled in order of priority. I took a seat, spread my tools and set about opening the first one – yes, it was the capacitor just as I thought. I was right to bring a whole pack of replacement wire. Then again, if I couldn’t even guess what a drunken lightning jutsu accident had done to stuff I made, I might just have to quit life. Toy kunai and shuriken patterned off fidget spinners. Actual training models done in the same manner. All with motion-activated electric lights built in. There were even a few that were actually mission-rated, on request for unexpected ninja clients who apparently liked to use them in night-time training and distractions. I didn’t expect this when lightning release techniques and seal tags were a thing, but I won’t complain. The balancing on them had been a bitch to get right, but somehow I’d managed. I even got a request to create a fuuma shuriken with van de Graaf functionality along the central ball bearing. Salved my pride a little, in those two months between electrical refurbishing contracts when my main source of income was children’s toys. In a ninja village.

What kind of lightning jutsu does this on accident though? This stuff isn’t exactly disaster-rated, but it’s no slouch in the rugged department either.

Shrugging, I got down to business. Changing capacitors and connectors was drudge work, but I could easily pretend to be meditating so that’s what I did. I made sure to do the labelled ones first, then did a couple of each other type so Ren could put something on the counter before the evening rush finished. I could hear the bell ring more and more as time passed, doubly so after I sent the first stuff up. Business was good, and this was just one of four shopkeepers I had contracts with.

I heard the commotion upstairs the moment it started, the place wasn’t exactly soundproof. Ren only sounded annoyed instead of alarmed though, even as it escalated, so I figured it was just kids being a nuisance-

“And stay out, you brat!” Thud.

Guess I was right.

Unfortunately, being right did precisely nothing to prepare me for the absolutely deafening racket that suddenly erupted outside barely ten minutes later. There was a crash. Then a second. A shadow blurred down the slope behind Ren’s house, rumbling loudly past the small window.

I ran upstairs and made it out the door just in time to see the runaway wagon smash through Ren’s back fence and right into my cart.



“What in the Sage’s name did-“ Ren stumbled out after me and froze. For a moment. “That… that devil child! He must have done this!”

“YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!” Came a child’s holler from… somewhere behind. I didn’t look. I couldn’t look away from - “THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS TO ALL WHO TRY TO CHEAT THE GREAT UZUMAKI NARUTO!”

Ren ran past me, broom held aloft and screaming bloody murder. I didn’t care. I stumbled past him. Almost tripped in my rush to get to my cart before-but the damage was…

I fell to my knees. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The mess…

The cart was somewhat intact, but that was it. My things were scattered. Family pictures broken, frames in pieces and glass shards everywhere. And… the urns…

I stared at my children’s ashes. Spilled out in trails. Mixed with the dirt. Mixed with each other where the urns had crossed paths and…

The street had stopped. The crowd was gawking. I must have lost time because I belatedly noticed Ren’s wife next to me, speaking softly and holding out a brush and tray for who knows how long. I took them and stared at them. I didn’t say anything when she knelt in the dirt next to me. I only flinched out of my daze when she began to gather my wife’s remains.

Stunned, I did what I could to collect my son and daughter. To try and… separate them back but… Shiori ended up giving me a spare jar for the ashes I couldn’t pick apart.

I should’ve left them at home, I thought numbly. This is a ninja village, I should’ve expected…

But since when are walls good for anything in a shinobi village? Or fences? They can’t even corral five year-old runts.

I didn’t finish the repair job. I didn’t take the food to go either. I mechanically answered the questions of the police nin and then walked home in a slump. My eyes were downcast the whole way. I didn’t dare raise them. No chance was too small that I’d spot a head of yellow hair and spit out something I’d end up regretting. For a long time. Or a very short time. Possibly shorter than it took me to get home depending on who was on Kyuubi watch duty today. I dragged my feet. One second of delay was one second I didn’t have to turn back and see the desecrated remains of my family.

When I got home, I cleaned up the urns as well as I could and put them back in my little tatami room. I stared at the can with the mixed ashes for a while, not sure what to do with them. The sight reminded me that Kenzo and Yui had hated playing together, their interests were just so different. I couldn’t just mix them back in with the rest, but I wasn’t just going to throw them away. Or maybe I should? Scattering the ashes was a done thing back on the old world, and some people did it here too.

Maybe I’ll do it later, I thought glumly. Scatter them from the top of the Hokage tower or something. But should I scatter the rest too, then?

Hours later, I woke up from a far too pleasant dream of Uzumaki Naruto falling face-first into a pit of tar and feathers after coughing himself to tears on my children’s ashes. Kenzo might have let it go, but Yui was a vengeful little creature, I’d been dreading having to take her in hand with the kind of attitude she was developing. I groaned softly as I turned on the floor, my neck and shoulder stiff. I’d fallen asleep in the tatami room.

Hauling myself upright, I stepped out of the room, past the hallway into the kitchen. It was dark. Looking out the window, I saw that it the moon had been out for a while. Checking the clock, I saw the hands pointing close to midnight.

I drank a cup of water, poured myself a second and made for my bedroom when I heard a noise from downstairs.

The basement?

I stood frozen, the faint moonlight the only thing in the entire house to see by.

My study was closer than the bedroom, so that’s where I went instead, walking quickly to my desk. There I carefully put the cup down and opened the top left-side drawer, reaching underneath to pull out the revolver I’d taped to the underside. Becoming a gun smith hadn’t been on my list of life’s dreams in either incarnation, but this was a world where people could move fast enough to leave afterimages. If you wanted to survive against anybody confident enough to go burglaring in a ninja village, especially as a powerless nobody, you either killed them in the first blow or caused a big enough racket as to draw the attention of every allied nin in a mile. That’s what I figured anyway. Guns, bless them, fulfilled both functions at once and then some.

With pistol in hand, I walked silently down the hall. My wife and kids had all been annoyingly light sleepers so moving quietly had been an essential skill for someone like me, who always needed to get up in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature. Had to renovate swathes of the previous home too, a long and stressful job I made sure I wouldn’t need to repeat for this one too soon. There were no creaky floor boards in this house.

As I reached the stairs to the basement, I wondered if I’d finally have to use this thing. The Naruto manga had guns showing up randomly in ninja shops and Gato’s hideout up to the end of the Wave arc. There was that kid with air-spewing palms in the chunin preliminaries too, who had his arms described as gun barrels. And I think one of the past Mizukage had a technique he called the water finger gun? But the author later said firearms didn’t actually exist, and even admitted conventional guns would be a mortal threat to even jonin. I certainly hadn’t seen or heard a whiff of firearms in this world all my life. Gunpowder existed, but other than fireworks and the occasional firecart used to launch them, it didn’t see much use outside the odd ninja bomb. Which made sense. In a world where superhumans could still be harmed by iron knives thrown by five year-old children, guns would have changed the shape of the battlefield every bit as much as they did in the old world.

I’ll probably get kidnapped, I thought testily. If it’s a ninja and I actually kill them, my life won’t be my own even if I live, and the world order will crash and burn as soon as the secret to mass producing these things gets out.

Or maybe not. Either way, that was future me’s problem. Current me, it turned out, had a different problem entirely.

I stopped in the darkness half-way down the stairs and stared dumbly at the small window. The little window up on the opposite wall whose only purpose was to let in a bit of air. And only when it was open. During the day, not at night. The tiny window that had been locked on the inside. Had been. Now it was open wide to make room for a dangling rope. A rope that one tiny hellion of village-wide infamy was just barely finished wriggling down.

Uzumaki Naruto, I though in dismay. What did I ever do to you?

The five year-old child landed with a thunk on the ground and froze at the noise. Just stayed there, half-crouched, his face stuck in a positively unsound cringe that I had far too much trouble not finding hilarious. It was all I could do not to facepalm.

When nothing seemed to happen, the child straightened and looked around the place like he was looking for something. What could he possibly want with me? Hadn’t he already done enough? Eventually, though, the kid realized that the little moonlight shining down on him through the window didn’t let him see shit in the rest of the room, so he rifled through his bag and took out a flashlight.

That’s one of mine, I realized as the kid turned it on and shone it over the room. Is that what Ren short-changed him on? I almost jumped when it passed over the stairs, but it missed me by a step and the kid stopped waving it like a madman when it alighted over my worktable. Right where I’d put the broken pictures of my family to replace later.

No no no, I chanted mentally as the kid quietly cheered and beelined to the place, huffing and puffing as he wrestled the chair into place. Come on, kid, I already know better than to give you too much benefit of the doubt, don’t do this, whatever you’re planning can’t be-

Naruto climbed up on my chair – cursing all the while, he was tiny and I was a very big man – and still had to stand on his feet to reach over the table. I couldn’t see his face, but he stood there just staring at the pictures for a while, and the family snapshot that was there, the only one intact of the lot that I always had on my workbench. Just when I was about to say something, Naruto reached into his bag and pulled out a little hammer. Then a bunch of thin little nails. And a roll of clear scotch tape.

Then, very carefully, the kid gathered up the glass shards of Kenzo’s picture frame and…

And began to tape them back together.


For a while I just stayed there, staring at my home invader. I looked from him to my gun a few times. I quietly went back upstairs and taped the gun back to the underside of my desk drawer. I briefly considered leaving it be. Maybe pretend surprise in the morning. I was pretty good at pretending with kids, which was good because the idea that a bit of scotch tape could fix my shattered family picture frames was the sort of ridiculous idea only a five year-old could believe. But fatherly responsibility won out in the end – my last workshop might have been child-proofed, but this one was decidedly not.

When I made it back downstairs, Naruto was pulling on his hair and angrily cussing at my worktable.

“Dammit you stupid tape, stop bunching!” He hissed ‘quietly.’ “And you shut up!” He snapped at his frog wallet, what was that doing there? “I’ll spill your stuffing when I’m done, but it won’t help, you know! You can’t fix hurt people with money, I know I can’t fix it but I’m gonna try anyway, so there!”

Well damn, don’t go hitting all my feelings at once, kid.

Finally unable to cope with the most pathetic sight I’d ever seen in my life, I walked over, cut a strip off the tape dispenser that Naruto hadn’t recognized despite it being right next to him, told myself it had a lid so I should forgive him, and held it out for him to take.

“Thanks,” the kid whispered, squinting and biting his lip as he carefully applied the tape in place of… nine failures that I could count.

Kid didn’t lack determination, that’s for sure.

“Yes!” Naruto ‘quietly’ cheered, pumping his fist. “I did it!”

“Good job.”

Naruto beamed up at me. It kind of pissed me off, nobody should be that adorable after inflicting me with the second biggest heartbreak of my life.

I held out another piece of tape. He quickly took it and was half-way done ‘fixing’ the third shard when he froze. His head then, sinisterly, craned around like one of those wooden puppets whose head rattled in place for every inch it turned like a broken axle.

“GYAAAH!” shrieked the messiah.

He jumped out of the chair before I could blink and OHSHIT “Kid, NO-!”

“Ugh!” Uzumaki Naruto slammed back-first into the giant rack of shelves stuffed with my proofs of concept for kunai and shuriken and razor-sharp knives-




The rack tipped over with a hellish racket, and as my back erupted in pain, it was all I could do to throw Naruto away from where I’d jumped over him before thick, solid wood smashed me in the head.

I made it this time, was my fading thought.

The next thing I knew was I could barely breathe. I was in pain too. My spine felt like Ume must have felt when that beam fell on her. There was a babble in my ears too, but it was unintelligible. I ignored it and did my best to turn on my side instead. It was hard, the shelf rack was heavy and I groaned in pain from the sting of cuts and stabbing pain in half a dozen places. One of them was in my back. A big one. One of the standard kunai I kept for comparison, it had to be. But when I took a breath, it didn’t hurt inside. Didn’t reach the lung.

Painfully, I managed to get a grip on the side and tried to drag myself out. “Agh!” The… whatever it was in my back caught on something. I turned some more and pushed myself up instead. The rack was solid wood, but I managed fine. Which was good because I had to put most of my attention into not aggravating the thing stabbing me in the ribs on the way up.

I swear I nailed this thing to the wall.

The crash was almost as loud the second time when I finally dragged drag myself out from under it. I collapsed on all fours, wheezing, resenting how shallow my breaths had to be so the thing in my back didn’t send more pain through me-

“-old man, are you okay, please say something, I didn’t meant to, I swear, I just wanted-oh crap, there’s a kunai sticking out of your back, I’ll get it-“


Naruto flinched so hard he fell on his ass.

My sight was blurry, but that didn’t stop me from turning my head to glare at him. “Stop. Helping.”

Naruto opened his mouth, then closed it when I snarled at him, biting his lip and sniffling tearfully.

Curse my bleeding heart.

Carefully, I climbed back to my feet, leaning on the wall and waiting for my head to stop spinning. It worked, but the clarity only made it easier to feel the blood trickling down my back and lower. It wasn’t gushing, so I’d gotten away without a slice to any major veins or arteries. It was still a lot though. The blood was all the way to my knees now, soon I’d start leaving footprints.

Looking around, I saw that the mirror next to the rack was broken too, because of course it was.

I took a long, slow, deep breath to gather myself.

Then I grabbed Naruto by the scruff, hauled myself up the stairs, almost fell down the stairs– “Uzumaki Naruto! Stand still and shut up before your dumb luck finishes the job!and staggered out of my house, turning left towards the neighbour I didn’t like because, unlike the other one, he owned his own cart and an ass.

Smash, smash, smash, went my fist on the door. Each hit felt like knifing myself in the back and punching myself in the head at the same time, but my mind was preoccupied with much more important concerns. Like the fact that Naruto had almost killed a man and still no Anbu or nin was in sight even though I was hauling him like a meat sack and smash, smash, SMASH-

“I’m coming, I’m coming! Whoever it is, this had better not be some sort of – SAGE ABOVE!”

“Yori,” I said calmly, blood trailing down my face. “I need a ride to the hospital.”
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Chapter 2: The Way of the Civilian

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member


Chapter 2: The Way of the Civilian

“-. October 11, 5 ANB .-“​

Good news, I was going to live. Better news, I didn’t have a concussion. Bad news, I’d be sore for weeks. Worse news, the Third Hokage was next to my bed.

“Mister Masanari.”

My name is, indeed, Masanari Hanzo. The irony is not lost on me. “Lord Third.” There was silence. It was awkward. For my uselessly laid out self, not him. I think. “Since I’m not with T&I yet, I assume Naruto’s fine.” We’d been separated pretty much immediately on arrival.

“He is quite fine.” Puff puff went the pipe. “I believe he will be delighted to know he was the first thing you asked about.”

“Please don’t.” I pushed myself up with a groan. I didn’t feel dizzy, but I waited a bit just in case. Unfortunately, the man continued to not say I wouldn’t be in T&I if Naruto was less than fine. How nice to know guilty until proven innocent was still in vogue. For the victim too. “He doesn’t need any more-“ provocation “-encouragement.”

“I assure you, he is quite distraught at the night’s events.”

He must be if the Hokage is visiting a civilian’s hospital bed at one past midnight to subtly hint that I’d better not question his word instead of literally anyone or anything else. “That makes two of us then.”

“I know it will be no compensation for tonight’s events, but I’d like to thank you for this thorough lesson in unintended consequences, however accidental.”

Awkwardness was back, but alas for it, I wasn’t part of the ninja forces and it hadn’t been that long since I was still suicidal. “… How honestly do you want me to reply to that?”

Sarutobi Hiruzen didn’t laugh. Wonder of wonders, though, he didn’t get angry either. He just looked baffled. It was actually kind of funny, if it was real. “I give you permission to surprise me. This once.”

Which said nothing of how he’d react if the surprise was bad. “Uzumaki Naruto damaged my main means of transportation, desecrated my dead family’s remains, broke into my home and then almost got me killed in my own home, all in the span of one evening.” The smile was gone, but the anger still wasn’t there. Visibly, anyway. “I hope his watcher’s been disciplined for that.” Surprise again, or at least that’s how he wanted to appear. I’ll take it. “It’s October 10th, I assume the kid would’ve been under surveillance even if he isn’t under constant guard the rest of the year.” Look at that, a civilian is lecturing the local military dictator on opsec while alluding to three different S-class secrets, one of which he might not even know. Hopefully the mortician will remember to cremate me too before-

“I was told you were unusually perceptive,” the Hokage said ‘casually,’ now I know where Naruto gets it from.

“Hardly, it’s just common sense what with the whole “–I waved vaguely- “rabbit of the moon thing he has going on.”

This time the look on his face had to be genuine, my pride as a fatalist demanded it. “Rabbit of the moon?”

“Wiggling snout, ridiculously long ears, even longer rear paws, able to leap tall mountains in a single bound, it was clearly a rabbit.”

The Third literally bit his pipe to contain his laughter before he mastered himself. “Perceptive and brazen, I see.”

“Does that mean my articles have finally filtered up?” I didn’t even try to moderate my exasperation. “I don’t suppose the censor nin can be given a kick in the rear for taking so long?”

The Third blinked and slowly lowered his pipe. “Mister Masanari.” Ah, so that’s what will pressure feels like. “Are you admitting to being a spy?”

“Sorry to disappoint you, but no.” This should probably have been the point where I started sweating or lost my breath or my heart began to race or any number of fear reactions, but I just didn’t care about my own life enough for that anymore. My silver linings had the biggest clouds, in case it wasn’t obvious. “Powerless civilian nobody unable to survive against a five year-old who isn’t even trying to kill me, that’s all I’ve got for you.”

“Very humble too, it seems.” The pipe was back, though the Hokage seemed oddly pensive now. “You should not be so quick to put yourself down, Mr. Masanari.”

Oh. Well, that’s a nice thought, but. “Five years is hardly quick,” I shrugged, though I didn’t feel it. The Third was going way out of his way to let me lead the conversation. And wasn’t leaving. Or having me dragged into a dark hole. Even if this was just the soft approach to interrogation meant to make me hang myself on my own rope, honestly, it was still better than anything I’d hoped. So. “Besides, I’ve got less than a year to make myself heard before the real disaster.”

“And what disaster is that?”

“The complete and irreversible breakdown of Konoha-Uchiha relations.” And there’s the killing intent.

My heart did skip a beat this time, but that was it. Huh.

The Third Hokage stared at me.

I stared right back.

The silence dragged on.

“… I don’t really know how to proceed from here.” I admitted. “There are laws that say I’ll be executed if I bring certain things up, which is why I haven’t submitted my research yet. While I’m not one to weigh one life against hundreds, I don’t want to die either.” Anymore. “Could I bother you for a spot of pre-emptive amnesty?”

The Third Hokage lowered his pipe and stared at me a long while. “Normally, I would disbelieve that a mere civilian would have any actionable intelligence, but the fact you are willing to make such a preposterous, borderline treasonous claim leaves me hesitant after tonight’s events.” The killing intent faded, but the pressure remained. “You will be contacted. Very soon. I expect proof. Verifiable proof. I trust I needn’t explain what will happen if I do not find it to my satisfaction?”

No yes or no on the amnesty then, I thought glumly. “No, Lord Third.”

“This matter is tabled then.” He put away his pipe and clasped his hands behind his back. “Come.”


But I got up and followed, because obviously.

He led me out of the room, down the hallways and stairs, past bustling and bowing nurses and doctors. Stately. Sedately. Apropos of nothing, Sarutobi Hiruzen was a very, very short man.

The room we entered was full of a thick, almost buzzing feeling in the air I assumed was waste chakra, clearly wafting from the medic nin and various seal arrays around the room, and that’s all I managed to glimpse before the return of The Menace.

“It’s you! You’re okay, I’m so glad, you were hurt and it’s all my fault, there was so much blood and I thought you were gonna die and that would’ve been awful, I can’t become Hokage if I’m in jail and if you’d died after all that it would’ve been so sad, why did you have all those knives there anyway?”

Where did you come from? I despaired as he yanked so hard on my hands that I barely managed not to fall on my face. “So little hellions guilty of involuntary manslaughter can have an easier time blaming the victim,” I grunted through the spike of pain. Unfortunately for my unequalled wit, Naruto didn’t understand a word I said. I sighed. “You’ll do the same when you get older,” I managed to say. “The sharpest stuff always go on the highest shelves, it’s a habit you have to get into when you’ve got little kids in the house, and I never got out of it after mine died.”

“Oh.” Naruto was glum again. “I’m really, really, really sorry about the ashes mister but look, look, they’re fixing it, see. it’s all gonna be fine, see, they’re fixing it, ninjas are the best!’

This is why I hate everyone’s kids but mine – wait, what are those doing there?

“Crow,” the Third called.

An anbu appeared on bent knee out of nowhere. “Lord.”

I blinked. His voice was indistinguishable but he was lithe and not much taller than the Hokage.

“Please take Naruto home.”

“But I wanna watch!” The boy whined, dropping to the floor with arms crossed. “You keep saying I need to be more responsible, that means I gotta stay and learn how to do this for next time!”

He’s planning a next – gods, please no.

“Think of it as your punishment. Go.”

Naruto jumped behind me to hide, but ‘Crow’ was already on his third afterimage and then there were two more fading out the open and shut window.

This power play was hardly necessary. Why even let this meeting happen at all if he was just going to get Naruto spirited away immediately?

I rubbed my face and looked away from the vanished Menace to… my urns. They were there on the table, all three of them. Emptied. The new jar too. There were two medic nin and a chunin all… doing something. Separating the dirt from the ashes somehow. And… the ashes from each other? An earth technique and two glowing orbs of pale green light working in tandem to… was this really happening? How did that even work? “Can they really do that?” I asked quietly. “You’re not just putting on a show, are you? Because if you are, I’ll wait for you in the afterlife and… do things.”

“We’d both best live as long as possible then,” the Third said mildly, as if he didn’t know how that sounded to the one with none of the power in this situation.

We stood there for a while until I was about to drop and a nurse offered me a chair, which I gladly took. My emotional composure was going on strike. Also, I almost died today and a whole pint of my blood was feeding the cockroaches.

For some reason, the Third stuck around until the very end, when the three nin finished and the senior medic presented me with a box containing the freshly cleaned and refilled urns of my wife and children. “… Thank you.” I thought I’d be more choked up, but maybe the blood loss had sapped me of that too. Or the hit to the head.

But no, it wasn’t just that. It was everything catching up to me at once, robbing me of what should have been the deepest relief in years. There was just so much, and for this amazing show of skill and goodwill… the things that had to happen… Even in the short time since I left home tonight…

The Third exchanged some last words with the medic nin and beckoned me. I quietly followed him to the entry hall, where I was confronted with the sight of my cart just outside, all fixed good as new. It… didn’t make me smile. My grip tightened on the box handles and I grimaced.

The Third watched me carefully. “You are still displeased?”

“I get that this is all in good faith, I do, it’s just…” It’s just that state spooks had gone into my house to take my most precious possessions and… do with them whatever they wanted. On a whim. Without asking. Without me even knowing. Even the sight of my repaired cart had a bitter aftertaste, just drove home that I lived at the sufferance of an absolutist police state. And where was that police state while the state’s ward was bringing my workshop down around my ears? I sagged and smiled wryly. “It was nice to pretend I had some control over who goes in and out of my home, for a little while there.”

“I see.” The Third seemed sympathetic, which I didn’t appreciate seeing as how he wasn’t going to act on it in any way, but it’s not like I expected an absolute dictator to apologise for being an absolute dictator. “Then it is a good thing this is not your compensation either.” The Hokage held a hand to the side. The anbu from before reappeared and deposited some sort of permission slip in his hand, which the Third then gave me. “One-time-use direct line to me. Show it to any ninja and they will see you brought to me, or a message delivered if preferable. You may use it at your discretion, to request a boon within reason, or keep it for an emergency. It is up to you.”

Unlike everything else, I thought perhaps too unkindly.

“It was an interesting meeting, Mr. Masanari. Crow will escort you home.”

The Hokage disappeared in a puff of smoke before I could say anything else, so I turned to the Anbu. He formed a seal and transformed into a nondescript teenager with a biddable manner and genuine looking smile. I smiled weakly back and complied when he invited me to climb into my cart. The nin took the handles and set off towards my home.

I didn’t feel particularly brave, but I was increasingly discovering that fatalism was a very effective substitute. “Uchiha Shisui, right?”

The kid almost stopped before recovering. He didn’t answer for a while, probably deciding if he should keep up the act.

I’d comply with the tacit command if he did, but-

“How did you know?”

“The body flicker.” It had been most impressive. ‘Shisui of the Body Flicker’ was famous for good reason. “You look like you can still grow a bit too, so you can’t be any of the seniors. But you’re also too old to be the only other baby Anbu us civilians know of.” Uchiha Itachi was the current ‘face’ of black ops, so to speak. Because politics. “Also, the Hokage let you handle Naruto. Even put you in place of whoever dropped the ball the rest of today.” Unless that was you too, in which case shit job, kid.

“That’s honestly impressive, sir.”

“Not really.” And I still wasn’t lying. “Half the people I know would be able to pick you out in a crowd.”

“Please, sir, no need to exaggerate.”

“I’m really not.” How to explain this without causing offense? Oh look, I can’t. “Admittedly, you’re easier because of the fame of your shunshin technique, but… You know about people and snakes, right?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Snakes are the one, universal, natural predator of humans that have been there for our entire existence as a race, even after we secured our spot at the top of the food chain. We’ve evolved to be hyperaware of them. We react to them instinctively, spot them from afar even when we’re half blind, they seem bigger than they actually are to our eyes. And even the weakest baby reacts unconsciously to the sound of hissing and slithering, or just to being stared at by a serpent. Humans know when they’re being watched, but with snakes it’s even worse.”

“… Are you calling the Uchiha snakes?”

Don’t knife me, little Crow. “I’m saying we’ve been conditioned to react the same way to humanoid creatures that use mind control.”

The knives didn’t come out. Shisui’s easy going manner dimmed though. “I hear what you’re saying but not how you got there. We don’t use Genjutsu on just anyone and- the Uchiha aren’t creatures.”

“You’re not, it’s really not your fault,” well, not this generation’s anyway. “Pay attention, I said it’s an evolutionary trait. That means it’s induced over a very long span of time, it doesn’t just crop up in a handful of generations. Though in this case, I could see it being accelerated due to the sheer scale at which it was used.” I hesitated on what came next, but this was too good an opportunity and it was a fair distance to my home, that’s why I needed the lift in the first place. “How much do you know about ancient history? Ancient as in before the wandering clans era, I mean.”

Creak creak went the wheels. They hadn’t oiled them. I was absurdly relieved by that oversight.

“I know the academy course and my own clan’s chronicles, plus a bit of reading on the side, but I’m dying to hear your own take on it, sir.”

“Right, well, I’m only going to say what’s been passed down to me.” By a work of fiction from another world, but I wasn’t going to say that. “So don’t be surprised if it sounds hyperbolic.” Even though it’s really not.

“Cross my heart, sir.”

“You say that now.”

And so, for the rest of the way to my home, I regaled poor Uchiha Shisui with the condensed history of the Ootsutsuki ‘demon’ parasites, the Shinju, Rabbit ‘Goddess’ Kaguya the Enslaver, the tale of the two brothers, and the life of the Six Paths Sage and his many-tailed children that were subsequently undermined and enslaved by his non-tailed children. And their children’s children. And their children’s children’s children and that’s where I stopped because I was on a deadline. I made sure to use all the proper names. I even mentioned 'Kaguya’s will’ that escaped into the world at the end of the apocalypse to set up the stage for her return through mind-bending corruption.

I only left out that thing about the moon maybe, possibly being populated. I didn’t want to sound like a complete lunatic.

“And that’s why the uncanny valley exists,” I finished when Shisui stopped at my gate. I climbed down from my cart. “Animals generally have no trouble with other creatures that resemble them, but we humans experience fight or flight instinct if another person looks… well, wrong. It means that, somewhere, somehow, human-seeming creatures must have preyed on us for a long, long time. Long enough for it to become a survival trait to recognize them on sight. And because mind control was the equivalent of paralytic venom for the things, it got lumped in with the rest. That’s how the tradition goes, anyway.”

The nondescript transformation technique stared at me. “That’s quite the story, sir.”

I looked at him flatly. “That reaction is exactly why us powerless sods avoid telling you lot anything. You ninja are all capable of reshaping the landscape with magic and making us think we’re stuck in hell as ducks, but somehow it all becomes unbelievable when somebody else does it. I don’t know what kind of trait that is, but it’s not a survival one. All that chakra must be going to your heads.”

I wasn’t entirely joking. Since chakra reincarnates, wouldn’t that actually happen? There had to be a reason why some people advanced fast enough to become elite murderers by age five. It’s not like accelerated maturation was a regular phenomenon or anything.

Oh well. I looked at the ninja. “Thanks for the lift.”

Shisui waved, and then I blinked and realized it was already just an afterimage. Of course.

Way to enforce the stereotype.

I stowed my cart in the shed and set about checking my home over. I hadn’t stopped to look after the accident, so I couldn’t tell if someone had been through the mess in the basement. I did check the wall though. The holes were there, but all the nails seemed to have just… slipped out. Despite that some of them were very rusted. Which didn’t make sense. Unless it ate right through and literally severed the things, rust just made nails stick harder. There’s no way a bump from a strip of a boy would have done this.

A setup? The thought chilled me, as if I wasn’t in limbo already. But why? And for who? Me or Naruto? But then why didn’t they act when it happened? Or at any other point?

Come to think of it, how would… whoever it was even know it would happen that way? Were they there, watching the whole time? Could they see the future? Or maybe that wasn’t all they did. Was the Anbu an undercover Root? Did the Hokage know? How far did the rabbit hole go? Was there a rabbit hole at all? Disquieted, I walked around my workshop, tugging on all the other shelf racks I had, which were also nailed to the wall. They all held firm.

This makes zero sense.

Too disturbed to sleep, I went over my entire house. I didn’t find any seals in the obvious places, or in the not so obvious places I could get to without turning the entire place upside down. It would have been nice to think that meant there weren’t any surveillance bugs, but ninja could have rearranged all my furniture and put it back well before I even got to the hospital, never mind the time since. There was an ear seal or whatever it’s called in every single joint my bed had, for all I knew.

I hate it when I can’t tell paranoia from common sense.

I couldn’t sleep, so I just stayed at my desk for a while, gun in one hand and papers in front of me. I collected and arranged the big one. Stacked all the excerpts and references in a neat pile. I could only assume the ninja who retrieved my funeral urns and cart had done only that. If they’d searched my place properly, I doubt any of this would still be here. Or me, even. The title was kind of damning.

The Breakdown of Konoha-Uchiha Relations: Sabotage or Malice?

I once thought I’d have to come clean about my reincarnation to someone and hope for the best. Then I did an academic-level article for the newspaper on a whim – the first of its kind in this world, there were people outright citing my pen name these days, I was the father of academic rigor – and I was thoroughly baffled at how much data just… floated in the public consciousness. And public records. It made the censored stuff like the continuity of Kyuubi jinchuriki and Naruto’s parentage stand out like his orange jumpsuit. Which Naruto didn’t have yet, incidentally.

I pondered my talk with Shisui. Wondered if he had finished reporting it to the Third yet. I wasn’t lying, I’m not the minority thinking like that, even without the whole snakes and mind control thing. It’s why I have any confidence at all in… well, this thing that might see me executed by tomorrow evening. Tobirama’s ‘boon’ to the Uchiha was a white elephant. When your clan is the only one enforcing the law, that means that everyone hates you for every mistake ever made by law enforcement. Moreover, it means constant, simmering resentment because who would actually bother to contest any perceived police injustice after the third dismissal, when the same people committing them are the ones handling the appeals? ‘We have examined our actions and deemed them to be righteous’ was the vastly prevailing perspective, regardless of how true. The Konoha citizenry was unified in its mistrust and resentment of the Uchiha.

And everyone who disagreed was quickly ostracised out of fear of retaliation. Quietly, but effectively. My neighbours would ruin me if they knew what I talked to Shisui about. If I didn’t use a pen name on my articles, I’d long have been vilified for stirring the pot. And while there were a fair few who might express dislike to this part of Konoha culture, they all blamed the Uchiha for that too.

And all the while, the other shinobi clans watched all of it happen and passed judgment.

The thing that pissed me off most is that the solution was so simple.

But since when did those in power ever do the simple thing? It was like finding bigfoot. In both of my lives.

I still couldn’t sleep, so I went back down to my workshop to clean up. I didn’t rush, I did things good and thoroughly and even nailed the shelf rack back to the wall again. But it wasn’t morning when I finished. Curse my efficiency.

I sat at my worktable, looking at the broken picture frames and Naruto’s clumsy attempt to fix them. The nin hadn’t done anything to this for some reason. I hope that didn’t mean the Hokage intended for Naruto to come and try again. He couldn’t be, right? I haven’t offended that badly, or at least I hadn’t when he ordered this.

I decided to make new frames then and there, just to make sure that wouldn’t happen. I even had enough spare glass. And it still wasn’t morning when I deposited the pictures back to their places on the fireplace mantelpiece.

I went to the back yard then, to watch the sky like my wife used to. For all of two minutes. I never had patience to do nothing.

I went back inside and down to the workshop to tinker. From what I knew about Sarutobi Hiruzen, and what had been confirmed today, he liked the soft approach, which was why he used Shisui today and why he would probably continue to do so to put me at ease. I had a few hours, more if the Hokage decided to give me time to rest.

The look on the kid’s fake face when he saw the tesla coil was only surpassed by his reaction when I hooked it up to my gramophone and made the spark on top play and dance to its own music.

“Mister Crow. I guess I’m being summoned.”

Shisui, to my gratification, actually had to put effort into tearing his eyes away. “Yes, sir. I’m to lead you there at once.”

He didn’t ask. That, too, was most impressive.

I picked up the binder I’d prepared, reluctantly didn’t look at the drawer where my second gun was stashed, and followed Shisui to the Hokage tower. And as I walked, I pondered the nature of whims and the dramatic change they seemed to bring about in this world.

In my past life, I was a plasma physicist. I wasn’t particularly ambitious, and I didn’t achieve a capstone in my field or anything. But that didn’t mean there weren’t others who did. And it certainly didn’t mean that the whim didn’t strike me to do something similar here. Unlike with my side work in journalism, that whim wasn’t followed up on. Now, though, I was having second thoughts.

It probably wouldn’t lead anywhere, but that was alright. Between telephones, audio tapes, television, computer networking, miniaturising anything, cars, there would surely be something I could break the status quo's spine on that the ninja wouldn’t immediately shut down. Most of the technology existed already.

If nothing else, I’ll at least be rich.

My mind flashed back to the tesla coil.

I wonder how chakra will interact with that?

In my past life, plasma physicists with means not much different than mine had successfully created plasma-based lifeforms.

If I was still alive tomorrow, I was going to recreate the experiment.
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Chapter 3: The Burden of Referencing Standards

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member
A/N: I forgot where I saw the bastard explanation, but it was in some fanfic or other, possibly a gamer Naruto one. Or maybe not.

Chapter 3: The Burden of Referencing Standards

“-. October 22, 5 ANB .-“

“-. Sarutobi Hiruzen, Third Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaf .-“​

“In conclusion, the Uchiha Clan’s so-called ‘Curse of Hatred’ as coined by the Second Hokage has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though founded by Tobirama Senju and ostensibly given entirely to the Uchiha as a sign of trust and good faith between the Senju and themselves, the Konoha Military Police has instead become the white elephant through which the Uchiha Clan is being alienated. This is further exacerbated by a variety of ancillary factors: building the police station next to a prison, the lack of involvement by the Uchiha clan in countering the Nine Tails’ attack, moving the Uchiha Clan grounds to the outskirts of the village instead of inward during the rebuilding, and the visceral fight or flight response experienced by humans to the threat of mind control – which the Uchiha habitually resort to, even outside those rare cases where they have to act against other shinobi. This is coupled with the perceived lack of mechanisms for appeal in case of police overstep, as those handling the appeals are the same, either literally or figuratively, as those committing the perceived abuses to begin with. Based on the statistical trends laid out previously, an irreversible breakdown of Konoha-Uchiha relations will most likely reach the tipping point in as little as a year. Therefore, a fundamental change in policy and practice is urgently required, both to break the ‘abuse privileges’ narrative that has resulted from this monopoly on punitive force, as well as to provide alternative vectors of interaction through which the optics of the Uchiha Clan may be rehabilitated. The following are the scenarios most likely to occur according to current projections, with recommendations given to hopefully prevent them, or failing that mitigate the consequences.”

At his signal, Crow paused the video that Hiruzen and this expanded version of his council were still not done picking apart despite having already watched it eight different times during their closed-room discussions, with abundant pauses and rewinds during each. His old teammates Mitokado Homura and Utatane Koharu, Root Commander Shimura Danzo, Jonin Commander Nara Shikaku, even the head of the Konoha Torture and Interrogation Force was present, Morino Ibiki. Hiruzen had also chosen to always have Uchiha Shisui among the Anbu on duty for these past four days, as an unofficial liaison with the Uchiha Clan head. Uchiha Fugaku’s attendance during the first day had almost devolved into a screaming match between him and Danzo, before the former stormed out in disgust. Sarutobi was honestly surprised Fugaku had requested to be present for this ‘final’ ‘evaluation’ of Masanari Hanzo’s ‘scientific thesis,’ despite his so very personal stake in the issue.

Shikaku sighed gustily and rested his chin in his hand. “That this man is not a shinobi is a damned tragedy.”

“Are we still sure he isn’t?” Fugaku grunted, pointedly not looking at Danzo.

“We’ve investigated thoroughly. If he’s a ninja, he’s both the best and least effective damn spy in all of written history,” Ibiki replied. “Also, I disguised myself and ‘ran into’ him the evening after. Said I saw him coming out of the Hokage Tower and asked him what it was like to be a civilian inside. The man looked at me like I was insane for thinking he wouldn’t make me – even though I fooled experienced ninja with the same trick and half the effort. He then told me, very seriously over his armful of copper thread, magnets and rubber bands, that he wouldn’t know because he was too busy potentially signing his own death warrant in service of ‘defending his doctoral thesis in political science.’ I didn’t even have to fake my laughter, I thought him seeing through me was just a lucky shot in the dark, that his self-awareness was an act, after all, what kind of doctor is that?”

“Isn’t he though?” Homura mused. “He identified the symptoms, diagnosed the disease, investigated the subject’s medical history and provided treatment recommendations.”

“Quite,” Ibiki agreed. “Seeing as the man has literally invented an entire new scientific field just for this, I figure he can title himself whatever he wants.”

‘Entire new scientific field’ was putting it mildly. It had taken three hours for Masanari Hanzo to finish ‘defending his thesis’, five more for him to flag under their questions about his methodology (which came with a stack of papers even thicker than the thesis itself, and that wasn’t even counting the appendices, whose collective volume exceeded everything else combined), a night-long closed door Council session just to understand the procedures used, three days for them to go over it individually, an entire week for them to discuss it in council, and now they were trying to figure out where to go from here.

Not very successfully.

The introduction of the ‘thesis’ amounted to just over ten thousand words all on its own. The man then provided ‘background’ in the form of an extensive ‘literature review’ covering every fact about the Uchiha Clan history and Konoha Military Police that wasn’t restricted or classified. The man then dedicated fifteen thousand words just to the description of his methodology, the scope of which even Danzo found, quite frankly, intimidating. A ‘quantitative research of police action trends' using pragmatist philosophy’ based on a ‘statistical analysis of verdicts and appeal outcomes between the 745 - 739 AS period.’ Except that statistical analysis was actually six different kinds of statistical analysis, four of which nobody in that room – or elsewhere – had ever encountered before. Masanari Hanzo seemed to have come up with them himself, and even included extensive documentation on the procedures and calculations, altogether exceeding the actual final content of the thesis itself.

There was something called ‘analysis of variance,’ another named ‘Finn rank correlation’ after his odd pen name and ‘explained’ as ‘a nonparametric measure of rank correlation showing the statistical dependence between the rankings of two variables’, a positively torturous descent into Yomi called ‘polynomial regression analysis’ (that came with almost as many pages as everything else combined just to illustrate the mathematics involved), and a four procedure called a ‘prescriptive analysis’ full of more graphs and charts than all the others combined ‘in service of guiding fture decision-making.’ Masanari ‘confessed’ that one of these methods actually belonged to someone name Carl Gauss who died long ago. It did not appease anyone. At all. It had taken Hiruzen an entire sleepless night to understand. A success matched only by Shikaku, before the man rubbed his tired face, burst into laughter and loudly proclaimed that he was stealing all of it. Ibiki needed two days, but at the end of which he also declared the same as Shikaku soon after.

Feeling vengeful, the Hokage, Ibiki and Shikaku had pulled up their sleeves and meticulously checked all the man’s numbers. Good news, they found errors. Bad news, they only spotted those errors after painstakingly inputting what little they could of the data into their computers, which civilians didn’t have access to. Worse news, fixing those errors only made Masanari’s results and conclusions tighter and his many tables and charts look even more damning.

And then after the ‘quantitative’ part of the ‘thesis’, as if to show pity to the poor sods who couldn’t keep up with his calculations, the man also devoted some thirty thousand words to a ‘qualitative thematic analysis of unstructured interviews’ with ‘an ad-hoc sample of Konoha’s citizenry’ on ‘the perceived impact of the Konoha Military Police on the social dynamics involving Uchiha clansmen.’ Which came with their own appendices in the form of yet another stack of papers, this time filled with transcripts.

Wrapping up everything was a ‘metanarrative discussion’ of the ‘trends’ and ‘themes’ in the context of the official laws, regulations, decrees and statements given by the Hokage Tower relative to the Uchiha Clan, versus the latter’s official responses ‘as published in the Konoha Sage journal since the first issue to the present day.’ An itemized list of all excerpts used was included in the ‘bibliography,’ alongside the extensive list of books consulted and cited throughout the paper, complete with author name, title, date of publication, and volume or issue number where relevant.

Typewritten, formatted and ‘referenced’ to ‘standard’ with matter of fact, vicious factualness. A standard Masanari himself had set and was already being followed on by others, according to reports from Konoha and elsewhere.

Civilians have no less pride than shinobi, it seems, Hiruzen pondered somberly. But they don’t draw it from violence and death.

“I don’t suppose we have any better idea of who the man’s been talking to?” Fugaku was looking at Danzo quite pointedly now. Danzo ignored him. Fugaku grit his teeth.

“He was very conscientious about protecting his sources,” Ibiki answered instead. “I know he’s not a ninja, but I still want him in my department.”

“You can ask,” Hiruzen allowed. “And only ask. No coercion. Either way, I doubt he’ll agree.”

“Don’t bother,” said Danzo, the first thing he had said all day. “He is too soft.”

You mean his moral values are too strong, Hiruzen thought as the others reprised prior talking points for the nth time. The ‘thesis’ preceded its conclusion with an extended tract about research ethics and how the complete redaction of all names, dates, verbal tics, demographic details, and all other ‘personally identifying information’ – literally everything that could possibly help identify the people who obviously didn’t know where their talks were headed – was insufficient ethical rigor. Because it apparently wasn’t enough to satisfy the principles of ‘anonymity,’ ‘confidentiality’, ‘beneficence’ and ‘non-maleficence’ if the research lacked ‘authenticity.’ Which, in this case, was apparently undermined because the ‘primary data collection’ was done without the participants’ ‘informed consent.’

Danzo beheld Hiruzen with his lone, gimlet eye. “You cannot mean to follow the lead of this man.”

“Doctors are in the business of healing,” he deflected. “Will we begrudge a man for trying to heal nations instead of individuals?” Konoha was not technically a nation unto itself, but Hiruzen could easily imagine the man setting his mind on even wider horizons.

“I suppose the matter is simple then,” Homura murmured, which got meaningful silence from around the table and a weary sigh from the Jonin Commander who was glaring at Hanzo’s frozen image on the screen. The man did not appreciate all the sleep he missed.

“I disagree,” Danzo said severely. “We are ninja. We do not simply accept information without verification.”

Shikaku slouched in his chair. “Except everything is easily verifiable since it all comes from public sources and common knowledge in the village.”

“Nevertheless, I move to have him detained and subjected to a Yamanaka mind dissection. The matter is far too sensitive to risk.”

“No,” Hiruzen said mildly, ignoring Danzo’s glare. “Neither he nor Inoichi warrant such duress.” Or mental crippling.

“You cannot tell me you are ready to ignore all these… incongruities. There is nothing in the man’s background that accounts for his-“

“Impressive skillset?” Shikaku interrupted where even Hiruzen’s old colleagues were too hesitant. “You yourself said Root has been keeping track of his comings and goings ever since his second publication and never saw him dig anywhere he wasn’t allowed, why are you only raising issue now?”

Danzo’s one eye stared flatly at the other man. “Nothing in his file accounts for any of this… intelligence gathering expertise.”

“Masanari Hanzo, Age 28, civilian, occupation: electrician, handyman and occasional inventor of toys and, only very recently, the odd ninja tool with built-in electrical functionality,” Koharu read, before putting the very thin folder down. “We’ve seen similar changes in life paths for many after the Kyuubi attack, with much less blatant trauma. The shift in interests can easily be explained by the tragic loss of a family to entertain and provide for.”

“You are making excuses for him now as well?”

Hiruzen shook his head. “I will not begrudge a man his competence-“

“Then you should begrudge his arrogance and presumption.”

“-Especially when he revealed it to me fully expecting the very motions you are setting forward right now, Danzo. That’s why he asked for amnesty pre-emptively, which I will remind you was granted.”

Danzo’s eye narrowed.

“That man is a brave citizen of this village risking his own life to prevent the greatest tragedy Konoha may ever see. By your own admission, his conclusions are credible enough to push for crippling interrogation. By your own admission, he’s done nothing suspicious other than not being a ninja.”

That’s the Root of it, isn’t it old friend? He embarrassed you. His intelligence gathering embarrassed you. Really, he embarrassed all of them, a mere civilian. And none of them could wash the insult away without literally destroying the research and killing the man as well as everyone else in the room.

The atmosphere chilled under Danzo’s mood.

Hiruzen did not back down. It was hardly unreasonable for a civilian to fear overstep, especially in light of laws like the Kyuubi Taboo which the man had broken at several points during his ‘defence.’ Particularly while summarising the section on ‘potential sabotage by missing-in-action Uchiha survivors or defectors subverted by enemy factions.’ Fugaku had been offended at the insinuation, but a reminder of Madara’s late life was as quelling as ever.

Hopefully Danzo would not take this personally like everyth-

“And what of the sensitive secrets he has stumbled upon? Are we to suffer those as well in his defenceless hands?”

There had been one and only point when Hiruzen almost lost his composure and nearly had the man arrested, despite having signed off on the pre-emptive amnesty. Masanari Hanzo had accurately inferred that Naruto was the Fourth Hokage’s son, based purely on his appearance and the fact that Hiruzen had ‘chosen the soft approach to inculcating the Will of Fire philosophy’. The man dared question his intentions towards Naruto – the words had cut surprisingly deep – in the same breath that he pointed out how Naruto was publicly ostracised and vilified since before his pranking days, despite his close relation with Hiruzen. Which was apparently ‘clear evidence of a conflict of interests on the matter so great in scope as to dictate the conduct of the entire Ville Hidden in the Leaf, from the lowest civilian to the highest ninja.’

That was bad enough, but the man had also deduced Kushina’s identity as the previous Kyuubi jinchuriki based on Minato’s known relationship with her, his choice of vessel, and the timing of Mito’s demise right after Kushina’s arrival to Konoha. Then, as if half of everyone on the other side of the stands wasn’t itching to have him permanently silenced already, the man went and theorised sabotage by third parties during Kushina’s birth. Based purely on the superlative sealing expertise of both Naruto’s parents, the vitality of the Uzumaki, and the lack of Kyuubi rampage during Mito’s own childbirth.

And then, to add injury to insult, the man afforded barely a page to speculating on the potential aims of such a third party, the intelligence gathering capabilities – or insider knowledge – needed to know when and how to strike, and the likely abilities required to overcome the Yellow Flash – including space-time manipulation that, notably, none of the Uchiha still in the village actually possessed at the time. Instead, the man moved on with a brief ‘but this is beyond the competence of this researcher to speculate and beyond the scope of this thesis besides’.

Ibiki had smiled.

Hiruzen hadn’t.

That at least half the Konoha leadership needed a mere civilian to spell that out to them was absolutely galling.

“To be quite honest,” Nara Shikaku suddenly said amidst the tension. “The fact that Masanari expects Konoha to punish good service instead of rewarding it has me wondering where we failed.”

Fugaku pounced immediately on that oblique shot against Danzo, starting a whole new rush of arguments. Hiruzen left them to it and looked grimly at Tobirama’s portrait. Did you know this would happen? He looked to the Fourth’s frame next. What didn’t you have time to tell me, Minato?

“Lord Hokage,” Koharu called just as the tension was about to snap into shouting like they’d barely managed to avoid since that first, disastrous afternoon at the start of this mess. “What have you decided?”

I want this man on my staff, Hiruzen groused internally. He might actually know what peace looks like. A vain hope, but it was nice to dream. “There is hardly anything to say that has not been said and re-said. What remains is to determine how the relevant parties act on this information.”

Hiruzen looked at Fugaku then.

Fugaku tossed Danzo one last glare, frowned and pursed his lips as he looked down at his copy of the Masanari Treatise. Glancing at the page, Hiruzen saw it to be the much debated and controversial ‘Predictions’ section.

Hiruzen turned the pages on his own version and skimmed the words for the dozenth time. The scenarios most likely to occur according to current projections. Alienation. Defection. Exodus. Aggressive action. Bloody counter action. Internal schism. Violent schism. Coup d’etat. Failed coup d’etat. Pre-emptive decapitation strike. Failed decapitation strike. Consequences the same in all cases, different only in the degree of severity. Moral failure for Konoha, moral Failure for Uchiha, diplomatic failure for both sides, loss of life, collateral damage, unrelated casualties even if the Konoha Military Police does not take advantage of its position to hold Konoha’s general populace hostage, all scenarios will foment worry among other clans about being similarly suppressed and purged. Total war unlikely to conclude without survivors that will harbour resentment and betray Konoha to other factions, will eliminate the Sharingan as an asset and/or let hundreds of sharingan eyes to fall in the hands of bad actors, loss of major strategic deterrent will invite overstep by independent actors and any clandestine organisations seeking to fill the vacuum. Total war will lead to either Konoha’s destruction or a complete Uchiha Massacre, butchery of countless men and women and children, worst case scenario, avoid at all costs.

Study limitations: the thesis perspective may be influenced by the researcher’s personal bias that ‘all costs’ does not include ‘moral costs,’ as there are no moral costs, only losses. Disclaimer: this researcher does not presume to dictate Konoha ninja policy or culture.

Hiruzen looked from the binder to Fugaku. He wondered what the man was thinking. He wondered what it said about himself that he didn’t instantly dismiss the possibility that he would ever order such a thing. He wondered what it meant that he was nonetheless determined not to push things to that point but a random civilian still believed it might happen. Just a year into the future.

Finally, Fugaku lifted his eyes from the binder. “I want to talk to him face-to-face.”

Hiruzen barely suppressed his relief and carefully did not look down at the ‘Recommendations.’ That was not a refusal. “Then it’s a good thing I took the liberty of summoning him for an appointment today. In fact, I believe he has been waiting for over ten minutes already.” Hiruzen pulled the crystal ball out of his drawer and activated it, focusing his intent on the public half of his office.

The image and sound cleared just in time to show Masanari Hanzo not even trying to hide his disgruntlement as Naruto talked his ear off while crawling up and down the Hokage’s office looking for magic scrolls. “-gotta be some around here, there’s no way there aren’t, the Old Man never leaves me in here on my own, that’s gotta mean he left something for me, believe it!”

“On my own, he says, what am I, a ghost?” Hanzo deadpanned, slumping in his chair. “What did I do to deserve this? I get the waiting, it’s a standard power play, but why did he have to drop you on me too?”

“Hey! What’s your problem!?”

“You’re my problem, weren’t you listening?”

“But I didn’t do anything!”

The man lifted his head from his hand to stare at Naruto incredulously.

“Oh come on, that was last week and I said I was sorry!”

“Kid, you apologise and hope that maybe the other guy will forgive a harmless mistake. Destroying my only cart, desecrating my family’s remains and breaking into my own home to almost kill me isn’t an honest mistake, it’s at least four cardinal sins piled on top of each other.”

Naruto opened his mouth, closed it, crossed his arms, turned his back on the man and sullenly dropped on his behind on top of Hiruzen’s desk.

Far from being moved, Hanzo quietly sighed and leaned back to enjoy his moment of peace.

Hiruzen frowned, unable to suppress his disappointment. He’d hoped that putting them in a room together would… Ah, but he was starting to understand that Masanari Hanzo had a fundamentally different perspective than the rest of them.

“I wasn’t trying to kill you,” Naruto muttered, notably not disputing the rest.

“I know kid,“ – Naruto perked up – “but that only makes you even more of a menace, you do realize that right?” And now Naruto was deflating like a balloon. “Oh, don’t give me that look, my kids were ten times cuter than you and it never worked for them either.”

Naruto balked in outrage. “I’m not cute!”


“Gah!” Naruto shrieked, shaking his fist. “You suck!”

“Do you even know what that means?”

“It means you’re a poopy head!”

“Okay, so you don’t know, thank goodness.”

“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean!”

Hanzo winced and rubbed his temple. “Kid, I can already see you there. You don’t need to keep yelling at me.”

Somehow, that struck Naruto mute.

The man huffed, crossed his arms and dropped his head, clearly hoping against hope to doze off.

Hiruzen was struck by the sight. We’ve been abusing your goodwill, haven’t we? They’d been doing that all that time, come to think of it. They made him hold his presentation the same day he was let out of the hospital with instructions to take it easy. I’ve been holding a civilian to the same standard of fitness as my ninja. But the man made it so easy…

“Nobody else does,” Naruto muttered just as Hiruzen was about to end the view.

Hanzo grunted like an honorary Uchiha. What a disturbing thought.

It only emboldened Naruto. “Nobody else sees me. I don’t know what they see when they look at me, but it’s not me! They’ve been glaring at me since forever! Well, now they’ve got a good reason! I’m sorry you got caught up in it but I’m not sorry I did it, so there!” Naruto was more perceptive than he let on, if only- “I wish I at least knew why they hate me so much.”

“It’s nothing you did, kid.”

The mounting levity around Hiruzen abruptly vanished.

“What that supposed to mean-wait, you know what it is? Tell me, tell me!”

Hanzo recoiled from the face of Naruto that was suddenly there. “Safe distance, safe distance you menace!”

“That’s so mean!” But Naruto backed off. Just enough to swing back and forth on his heels and- “Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me-“

Hanzo glared and Hiruzen was just about to signal the Anbu when- “It’s your hair, alright?”

… Eh?

“At least that’s part of it. For some people. Relatively speaking.”

“Stop using big words like I’m an idiot!”

“Kid, you’re blond.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Look, kid, I’m only telling you what other people told me alright? Other people will have other reasons and-”

“Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me-“

“Not until you stop nagging.”

Naruto, with visible effort, stopped talking. He still swung back and f-

“That means stop with the swinging too, you brat!”

-orth no longer. Hiruzen was honestly impressed. Now if only he could trust a hope that the man wasn’t going to stretch the terms of his amnesty, he might-

“Anyway, Uzumaki are redheads-“

“Like you?”


“Sorry, sorry!”

Hanzo opened his mouth-

“So like you?”

“Yes, like me, but I’m not-! Gods kid, you complain people ignore you and then don’t even listen to me when I don’t?”

“Well so-rry!” Naruto huffed then withered under Hanzo’s glare. “I mean I’m sorry. I’ll listen now.”

Hanzo glared for so long that even Hiruzen thought he’d just drop the talk in disgust. “Look kid, I’m going to use simple words so even a dumbass like you can understand.”

Naruto puffed out his cheeks but did his best to keep quiet. He almost succeeded.

Hanzo scoffed, then looked at Naruto and spoke. Very slowly. “Uzumaki are redheads. You’re not. The Uzumaki are all dead. You’re not. As such, some people resent you for living when the ‘real’ Uzumaki they actually knew and liked don’t.”

The silence in the Hokage’s office was deep and as damning as everything else Hanzo had revealed in those two weeks.

“Good job. Now you can talk.”

“But… but that’s not fair – and what’s even – I have a clan?!”

“Neither was it fair when you broke into my home and nearly killed me.” Naruto collapsed like felled by an arrow through the heart, the man was not letting that go, was he? If only it wasn’t such an apt distraction. “Also, you’re not living it up like royalty even though the last two Uzumaki were practically princesses.”

Naruto jumped back to his feet, eyes sparkling. “We had princesses!?”

As such, certain people think you’re a bastard.”

There was a stunned silence. On both sides of the crystal ball.

“But I don’t wanna be a bastard!” Naruto whined, falling back down to his knees dramatically. “They made me do it!”

“Like I made you almost kill me?” Naruto punched the floor even more dramatically, is this what his grandson was going to be like? Hiruzen wished his daughter luck if- “Not that kind of bastard. A literal bastard. Kid with no legitimate parents, born out of wedlock, spawned on the wrong side of the sheets, etcetera.”

Hiruzen met the eyes of those around him with every bit as much incredulity. It couldn’t be so easy to-it couldn’t possibly have been so easy all this time, could it?

“… I’m a bastard?”

“Never saw your birth records so I can’t say,” the man masterfully avoided saying a single lie. “But you’re blond instead of a redhead, you live off the village dole instead of literally anything else, and you’re so obnoxiously loud that I have literally spent the last ten minutes wanting to kill myself.”

“Why are you always so mean to meeeeeeeee?”

Hiruzen ended the technique before Masanari Hanzo went and really made him feel like a fool.

And now he got to enjoy the awkward silence with just the shinobi elite, how wonderful.

It was Shikaku who broke it, and the smirk he sent the hokage was as self-deprecating as it was insolent. “The man just can’t stop embarrassing you, Lord Hokage.”

“So it would seem,” Hiruzen groused. “If it pleases you, Fugaku, we’ll go meet him now.”

“It would please me very much.”

“After you then. Everyone else, dismissed. Though please leave the man be for now. We’ve crowded him enough, I think.” And I don’t want to think what he’d do to embarrass one of you next. He met Danzo’s gaze on the way out. Again.

The moment they walked in, Naruto invaded the Hokage’s personal space with a literal deluge of where and what and how and “Why didn’t you tell me I was a bastard, I can’t believe it!” and now he had to explain to a hyperactive child that no, he was not a bastard but it was important that nobody else know that because of reasons only grownups can understand. Hiruzen truly envied Fugaku in that moment, but he supposed he brought this on himself.

“Mister Masanari.”

Hanzo stood. “Chief Uchiha, please forgive me if I don’t meet your eyes.”

“I understand the sentiment.” Which said nothing of his tolerance for it. “But this is the Hokage Tower. There are elite Anbu watching us. I am not permitted to inflict genjutsu unprovoked in this place.”

There were indeed Anbu and… yes, Danzo had used their access passages to take a spot behind the fake wall.

“… I suppose we are only ever at the Hokage’s mercy.” The man met Fugaku’s eyes.

Hiruzen wondered not for the first time why this man’s words cut him so easily. “Crow, get Naruto home please.”

“But-NO, NOT AGAaaaiiiinnnn-!“ Naruto’s voice faded into the distance before the window shut, re-activating the sound trapping arrays.

“I’ve some questions about your treatise,” Fugaku said once calm returned.

“I’m sure there’s nothing in there that you haven’t all thought about yourselves,” Masanari demurred. He wasn’t even playing coy.

“No indeed,” Fugaku said dryly, not saying what they were all thinking.

The fact that a mere civilian (and not even the only one) could talk so frankly and insightfully about something of that magnitude based entirely on public information was a slap in the face of each of them and the village as a whole. Shikaku was right. If a mere civilian could pin all that down without any skullduggery, what the hell had they even been doing with this village?

“I have only one question about this... treatise,” stated the Uchiha Clan Head. “When you spoke about ‘clandestine factions’, what specifically did you have in mind?”

“… Lord Hokage, I don’t suppose my amnesty’s still short of its expiration date?”

Oh dear. Hiruzen barely countered Danzo’s hostile will burst before anyone noticed it. Why did I let Fugaku get my hopes up? “… I’m willing to extend it to include today, notwithstanding anything… self-incriminating, let’s say, about acts committed outside this period.”

“Right,” Hanzo muttered. “In that case, I can only say that I earnestly hope you weren’t actually trying to keep it a secret.”

Fugaku’s eyes flickered imperceptibly between Danzo’s location and back. “This ‘it’ being…?”

Hanzo looked back to the Hokage uncertainly. Hiruzen sighed. Ordering silence or anything else would make Hiruzen incriminate himself, and if a civilian had somehow found out, what point even was there? “Please speak freely.”

“Right, so… my wall.” What followed was a thorough description of Masanari Hanzo’s basement shelf rack, the wall behind it, a tract on the material physics involved in the rusting of nails, and everything that didn’t make sense about the whole thing, after which Hanzo finally finished with “-and so I’m really hoping the ones who clearly had the wrong idea about me have had their orders clarified. While I understand that village security is important, I hope I’ve sufficiently proven I’m working for rather than against it by now. I’d appreciate if I could live without the uncertainty of whether or not I still have a sword hanging over me, if you get my meaning.”

Why don’t I have a harder time believing this is happening? “… You know what, Mister Masanari, I’m not sure I do get your meaning. Please elaborate.”

Hanzo looked at him worriedly. “You know… them. I couldn’t say what you’d even call them, The Spooks? The Anbu’s Anbu? The cleaners, the stealers, the nin-that-must-not-be-named, you know the ones.”

Fugaku casually walked around the office, incidentally stopping to lean right against the wall that Danzo was hiding behind. “That’s quite the theory.”

“Yes, it truly is,” Hiruzen carefully didn’t let his mood slip. “Quite the leap to make from just that suspicion, however.”

“Suspi- Lord Third, at least half the village knows about them.”

Fugaku was suddenly holding Danzo’s wall in place with his chakra-coated foot. Hiruzen hoped the man was just being overcautious. “... Describe your thought process.”

“… I guess? Even the blackest of Anbu have days off and can be contacted by their family through official channels, however delayed. So when academy students or genin get recruited only to vanish off the face of the earth without such official channels being available, parents tend to notice. They also tend to notice when they’re being stonewalled through said channels for literally the rest of their lives. The lack of non-disclosure agreements is another glaring sign. I hate to say it, but when the occasional baby shinobi goes missing in action, don’t be surprised if the parents assume it was the nin-who-must-not-be-named instead of the official story.”

Oh, how it must burn Danzo that he didn’t eliminate this man as he clearly wished he’d done now. “I suppose those assumptions are reasonable, however unsupported.” How far past my boundaries have you gone, Danzo, if the general population can see through you now? “Is that all?”

Hanzo looked to Fugaku now. “I’m sorry to cause offense, but this policy of inserting certain high-status children into Anbu for the express purpose of propaganda does its own part to convince people that Anbu aren’t the real Anbu.”

Fugaku crossed his arms with a glare. “Are you questioning my son’s competence?”

“I’m answering your and the Hokage’s question. Don’t kill the messenger, please.”

Fugaku grunted, irritated but not murderously offended. “… You say the civilians all know about this?”

“I don’t know about all, but a lot of us, yeah. Were we really not supposed to?”

Did he really just ask that? “Mister Masanari… if such an organisation existed, and if I, the Hokage, was unaware of it or did actually tolerate its existence, why would you possibly assume it wasn’t supposed to be a real secret?”

“Well… because it’s treated like one of those polite fictions only you lot are allowed to be coy about? In my experience, people generally treat it like the Jinchuriki Taboo but… well, there was never an actual decree about it. Which makes sense if it’s rogue or a secret among black ops secrets, not mentioning it is the done thing, obviously. But this ‘let’s abduct people and hope they don’t notice’ approach has an expiration date, and it must have passed ten or twenty years ago at this point. It’s the fatal weakness of any clandestine faction with high turnover, everyone knows that.”

Everyone knows that, repeated over and over in Hiruzen’s mind. Everyone knows that, everyone knows that, everyone knows-

“If the nin-that-must-not-be-named only recruited from Anbu it wouldn’t be so obvious, but they don’t. So we try to keep mum about it up until we’re overwhelmed by panic or grief. Or, well, booze. Then we commiserate.”

“And yet,” Fugaku said silkily. “Despite it being such a sprawling crisis as you claim, not one complaint has passed my desk.”

Or mine, but then again how much reach does Danzo have if-

“Because we’re not allowed to complain?” Hanzo’s tone, damn him, was as unhappy as it was resigned. “We all knew what we were signing our kids up for when we moved here. Or we thought we did. It’s not like we have input on whatever ‘strategic benefit of one genin’ means, or get to see how that compares to our other contributions to the village. We tell ourselves the village just claimed its due earlier than we expected and try to move on with our lives, praying we’ll hear from our children again someday. Those who can’t cope with that leave. Or kill themselves.”

And that, Hiruzen thought bleakly, was the most damning thing Hanzo had said since he first met the man. Has the spirit of the Will of Fire truly been perverted to this degree?

“How did this not filter up through the ninja grapevine?” The man asked when neither of them could find anything to say, sounding every bit as baffled as Hiruzen felt. “Our outdoor venues aren’t exactly segregated. Then again, it took me five years, and in the end I only got my say because Naruto happened to… well, whatever’s been going on with my damn wall.”

“This is all I wanted to know,” Fugaku suddenly declared, pushing away from the wall and making for the door. “I’ll be back to discuss plans at your pleasure, Lord Third. We’ll explore options on our end until then.” Hiruzen’s heart leapt, was the man actually agreeing to-? “I think I’ll look into this matter as well, and try to find out how many of those families who left actually got to where they’re going. Personal interest, you understand.”

Hiruzen’s heart promptly sank down again. You just had to end on a sour note, didn’t you? Damn that man.

The door opened and closed, leaving the Hokage and Hanzo alone with only the Anbu and Danzo’s hidden presence for company.

“So,” Hanzo said. “Am I being executed?”

“Mister Masanari.”

“Yes, sir?”

“You are dismissed.” The man was too surprised to move. “Rest assured, there are no outstanding orders for your elimination.” Surveillance was a different matter, but Hiruzen really just wanted to have someone else doing that for a change. Say for the next year or three. “We have looked at your findings very closely and will take what measures are necessary. You will be called at a later point to discuss compensation, but for now please go with my appreciation for your diligence. And for your patience. I know this has been stressful for you, especially so soon after a hospital stay.”

“This has been a breeze actually.” Could the man stop being a contrarian for one min- “I was ready for several years of scrutiny and weekly interrogation when I started this, assuming I didn’t get lobotomised or tossed into a black hole somewhere by the nin-that-must-not-be-named.” Again with the - what kind of village did this man thing he was running here? “Instead, I got to prepare my thesis in peace and got to defend it in a setting where I could actually delude myself into thinking my bigger stature compared to all of you actually made a difference to my survival prospects! Thanks for that. By your leave?”

If only you knew how deeply your self-awareness cut. “Go.”

Finally, Masanari Hanzo left him in peace.

The wall slid open. “Hiruzen-“

“Not now Danzo.”

“This situation cannot be left to-“

“Danzo,” said the Third Hokage of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. “I never pardon the same sin twice. You know that, don’t you?”

“... Yet your advance pardon allowed this man to commit the same sin over and over in the course of mere hours.”

“Are you here to request a few for Root’s deviances? Because I must say I am quite keen to learn all about them now.”

The silence almost broke under its own weight as their wills and chakra scraped against each other.

Finally, Danzo inclined his head – barely. “I suppose it is called common sense for a reason.” The man withdrew. From the room and, soon, from the tower entire.

You’ll never stop twisting the spirit of my law, will you?

Despite himself, Hiruzen had Crow bring him the thesis. Looked at it for a while. At the ‘Recommendations.’ Minimize the use of mind control. Move the Uchiha to the inner village for more consistent contact with the general populace. Recruit Hyuuga shinobi for more operational flexibility. Recruit Inuzuka for tracking and forensics. Consider the use of Yamanaka auxiliaries. Shared leadership on rotation between the three clans. Membership to ideally be opened eventually to any law-abiding applicant of relevant skills regardless of background.

Hiruzen barely saw the words anymore. All he could think was that he couldn’t believe Konoha was a place where citizens could only do good in spite of him and his Shinobi. He didn’t want Konoha to be a place where people talked to him believing he might order them executed at every moment. That madness was for the lawless, for Rain, for the Village of Mists, not here.

He got up from his chair and went to the window. Looked at the Hokage monument. Looked down at the people going about their day. Somewhere among them, there was a large minority, perhaps even majority, of civilian people who understood how he and his shinobi worked better than most genin. Yet the invisible divide between them and the ninja was so large that nobody saw fit to recognize that, never mind report.

Konoha’s citizens are no fools at least.

The thought wasn’t as happy as it used to be.
Chapter 4: The Art of Messiah Wrangling

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member

“-. October 28, 5 ANB .-“​

Naruto was stalking me.

It was horrible.

I felt watched whenever I passed a second-floor window, the chair outside my gate was always an inch off, my neighbours were drawing away, the vendors were giving me the hairy eyeball, every time I was out I felt like I was being followed, I was getting a complex whenever I stepped out on the streets, Uzumaki Naruto was ruining my life.

This could not be borne.

Pre-emptive action was urgently required.

I briefly considered the positively absurd notion that feeling myself being watched meant I wasn’t also being watched by ninja because I couldn’t feel them. I promptly dismissed the notion. Obviously, ninja knew how to run surveillance without looking directly at people. The ninja way had a lot of problems, but skill wasn’t one of them.

The way of the powerless sod it is.

Business as usual then.

I’d already twisted my exalted specialty towards the ignoble task of toy making because Konoha’s power lines were mostly decoys except for the isolated network installed on the main streets for shops and restaurants to tap into. I also had to become an accredited doctor in the opposite of my specialty just to avoid becoming a passive accessory to mass murder. Now it was apparently time for an experimental dive into the field of social psychology too.

It went something like this.

“Yori! I'm in a pickle! The Menace won’t leave me alone, what do you think I should do? No I don’t want to go to Fumihito about this, you know how faint of heart he is, that’s why I came to you. The neighbours say what? Well clearly they haven’t called on your wisdom as much as I have, please indulge me goodman. No, I can’t do any of that because there’s ninja watching us now. I know, it’s unconscionable for the rest of you! Wow, all my options are shit, aren’t they? You’re right, the only thing I can do is try to train the beast into something that at least acts enough as a human to get some peace around here again. I’ll tell everyone what you said and let them know there’s no hard feelings, Fumihito will be relieved.”

“That’s not what I – I didn’t mean – Masanari wait, Hanzo, HANZO!”

“Fumihito! You won’t believe what Yori told me, I went to him for advice about the damned Menace stalking me and it turned out my only option is to indulge the brat and hope I can train it to act human for the sake of the rest of us. Figured I should let you know, I know how tense you’ve been with what’s been happening, I don’t want you to keep stressing out. No, I’m sorry, I’m pretty sure the ninja will keep watching us forever now, but hey, at least the Menace means it won’t be the nin-who-must-not-be-named, that’s something, right? Hey Fumihito, why don’t you go lie down, you’re looking a bit pale there, I’ll do your groceries while I’m out looking for hellion bait, bye now!”

“I’m not – How’s that supposed to – Why would the nin – Hanzo, HANZO!”

Yori was that insufferable extrovert that wanted to know everything and gave you unsolicited advice on everything while eating your best food and planning how to best step on you to get ahead. Fumihito was that easily exhausted introvert that couldn’t say no to anyone and dealt with his problems by hiding in his backroom until you went away. Fumihito’s wife was the stereotypical screeching gossip that couldn’t keep a secret any more than she could let you mind your own business, especially if it gave her an excuse to go over your head and speak to the manager.

The entire neighbourhood was despairing over Naruto’s impending ‘infestation’ and blaming Yori for it by next morning. The men dropped by in ones and twos to drink my booze. The women descended on me all at once to dispense their pity. Nobody suspected me of anything for even a second. I was the poor widower putting on a strong front for the invisible ninja after the brat desecrated my family’s remains and put me the hospital. Yori was the neighbourhood asshole.

Sorry old boy, negative karma called and asked for your address.

Now for the second half of this crisis.

The Menace seemed to have precisely no trouble waking up at the crack of dawn, seeing as he needed to cross a fair chunk of the village to begin his haunting as early as he did. I could already feel the staring when I walked out my gate for my morning shopping. I couldn’t even stay inside and space my outings to confuse the brat anymore. There hadn’t been a single day since Exposition Week that I didn’t need to go out in the morning. I kept running out of fiddly bits for my tools, and the tools to make better tools, and some of them could only be made by craftsmen on order. Most importantly, today was time for me to pick up my extremely fragile order from the glassworker.

Naruto could not be allowed within a hundred meters of that.

Now, I knew how this world functioned with regards to corralling messiahs. I therefore seriously considered the nuclear option. Pictured myself breathing deep, my hands on my hips, head tilted back and screaming ‘NARUTOOOOOOOOO!’ at the top of my lungs. Maybe my head would even grow to thrice its size like a certain academy teacher.

But because that was absolutely ridiculous, I instead unveiled a big sign with an artistic rendition of me seated on my chair and a mini Naruto sitting sullenly on the ground in front of me. Then I took a seat on said chair and waited. When that didn’t do anything for five minutes, I went inside, came out with some of the pity cake that the neighbourhood housewives had used as pretext to get all up in my business, and began to eat, a second plate next to me in the open.

Naruto was in front of me in less than thirty seconds.

I took another bite, took my time chewing and only spoke when I finished. “Good boy.”

“I’m not a dog!”

“No, you’re a Menace.” I gave him his serving.

“You suck!” But he took the slice and practically inhaled it, immediately looking longingly at the empty plate.

I took it back and gave no hint that I had ten times the amount back inside. Someday Konoha would suffer Uzumaki Naruto on a sugar rush and it won’t be my fault when it happens. “Kid, you need to stop stalking me.”

“I’m not stalking you!”

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not.”

“Just for that you don’t get any more cake.”

“You have more?!” Naruto gasped before he could catch himself. “I mean, I don’t care about your stupid cake, believe it!”

“I don’t, in fact, believe a word you say,” my mild tone made the brat all but shriek in outrage. “What do you want from me that you haven’t already taken, kid?”

Naruto opened his mouth, closed it and crossed his arms, turning away with a huff.


Naruto turned back around. Sullenly.

“What’ll it take for you to stop following me around?”

“I’m not following you!” Naruto lied. Badly. “I can go wherever I want! It’s your fault for always being in the way!”

“Kid, let me make this clear for you.” I leaned forward and spoke, very blandly. “What you’re doing is creepy, it makes my skin crawl whenever I leave my house, the salesmen look at me like I’m cursed and it’s driving a wedge between me and my neighbours.”

“I’m not a stalker!”

“Yes you are, kid, the word literally means exactly what you’re doing.”

“… It does?”

Yes.” Thank the Sun, he finally gets it! “You need to stop. It’s creepy and makes people want to throw you off the Hokage monument.”

“Do you want to throw me?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

“When will you stop being so mean?” Naruto whined. “The Old Man says good people forgive each other!”

He told you that even though you’re the one causing all the trouble? “There’s no each other, kid. I never did you wrong ever.”

“I know!” Naruto burst, surprising me and all the eavesdropping neighbours, bloody busybodies. “I know…” Naruto deflated. “I’m trying to help!”

I stared at him in disbelief.

Naruto puffed his cheeks. “I’m trying to figure out how to help, alright!”

I snorted. I just couldn’t… what even was my life? “I don’t need nor want the help of a snot-nosed brat.”

“Who’re you calling snot-nosed?! And what gives, my help is awesome, why are you saying no?”

“Kid, you already helped me closer to my grave, that’s enough to last me a decade.”

“Why are you still so mean, it’s been ages! Do I have to apologize again?”

“No. Because you don’t mean it.”

“I do so mean it!”

“No you don’t. You know why?”

“Alright, shitty old man, tell me why then!”

How harsh can I be here without doing more harm than good? “Because you haven’t made amends, kid. The Hokage swooped in to fix all your damage. You didn’t fix my cart. You didn’t heal my back. You didn’t wrap my bandages. You didn’t do favors for the local anthill to have them sort my dead children’s ashes. Now, I don’t expect you to do any of that, you’re a tiny 5 year old child. But you still shout and yell and break people’s things and stalk people to the edge of madness because they happen to be in the way. You haven’t changed, kid.”

“But that’s why I’m here!” Naruto stomped his foot in frustration. “I’m trying to do a good thing here, what kind of weirdo says no to that?! I’m doing you a big favour, Uzumaki Naruto isn’t a charity you know!”

How many people used that on you that you know how to use it without knowing what it means? “Look kid, why are you so obsessed with me?”

Naruto opened his mouth to yell something, paused, closed it and then spoke with all the certainty of someone repeating the words of his authority figure of choice. “The Old Man says you have to make it up to someone when you do wrong. I want to try to help you somehow, if I can? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”

Sarutobi Hiruzen, you absolutely suck at this. “Not when it’s not your decision to make.”

Naruto opened his mouth and closed it, not understanding.

“Look kid,” I sighed. “You do not decide for other people. Especially when you caused the harm in the first place. Your attempt to ‘help’ me last time only made things worse. In fact, all you showed me was that you have more power over the bad things in my life than I do. Why would I want more of the same? Why would I want to see the same person exert more power than me over the good in my life too?”

Naruto’s face scrunched as he tried and failed to understand what I was saying.

The intellect of 5-year-olds is as annoyingly inconsistent in this world as their attention span. “Right. Forget about that, this isn’t working.” I sighed and brushed my hands clean, then leaned forward. “I’m here. You’re here. I can see you. I acknowledge that you exist. I’m listening. What do you want?”

Naruto warbled, sniffled, scowled, angrily wiped his nose and eyes with his sleeve and failed at imitating my angry snarl of so long ago so badly that he looked like a pouting bunny.

I waited.

But in the end, Uzumaki Naruto was an ostracised child who didn’t understand what he wanted. The next outburst was inevitable.

It was just the content that surprised me.

“You lied to me.”

Eh? “… I don’t follow.”

“You lied to me!” Naruto hollered. Loudly. “You said they-people don’t hate me ‘cuz of–it’s not because I’m a bastard! Most people never even thought of that, did they?” Because it was perfectly fine if everyone in Konoha heard him breaking the Jinchuriki taboo. Apparently. “It’s something else they hate me for, the Old Man admitted it!”

Thanks for the big fat nothing with no more amnesty on top, Sarutobi. “You caught me, kid.” My bland tone completely derailed Naruto’s rant. “It’s only some people that hate you for being a bastard, literally like I told you last time.”

“You-that-stop trying to confuse me!” Naruto shrieked. “Tell me the truth!”

“What truth?”

“What do you mean what truth, the truth is the truth, isn’t it?”

“It is, but you’re not – did the Old Man put you up to this?”

“Forget the Old Man, I’m asking you!”

And that was no small thing with Uzumaki Naruto, was it?

I leaned back and watched Naruto thoughtfully. “Alright kid. I think I know what to do now.”

The Menace twitched in place, not knowing what to do.

“Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

I went inside and came back a couple of minutes later with my Plan B. Naruto was scowling with his teeth bared at the neighbours craning their necks over their various fences. But he was still right there where I left him.

The kid almost collapsed in relief when he saw I hadn’t just stood him up, then his eyes zeroed in on the coloring book immediately.

“My family has a tradition.” My ancestors had a tradition in a different era in a different time and world. “It’s called the Gifting Cycle. We don’t impose on the hospitality of others lightly. We only do so to enrich each other, and we always bring one of two things: important news, or an important gift. The Gifting Cycle isn’t about money, it’s about keeping good relations. A gift can be not just an object, but a favour, protection, sharing something, love.”

Naruto’s eyes snapped up from the book to my eyes.

I’m about to disappoint you kid. “For you, though, there are only two gifts that you can give me right now. Peace and quiet. Time and space..” Freedom, but that’s not on you.

Naruto backed away, looking hurt. “… If you want me to go away, you can just say so.”

Is that why you didn’t show your face, to deny me the opportunity? “Don’t get all dramatic.” That startled Naruto all over again. “Kid, it’s called the Gifting Cycle, not the ‘Let’s See How I Can Make You Go Away’ Cycle. The value of a gift is in the amount of wellbeing it brings, not by what the gift is or by the act of giving. If I give you a gift, it’s because I want good to happen to you too, not just me.”

Naruto fidgeted, not meeting my eyes. “So… is that for me?”

“Maybe. Do you understand what me giving it to you would mean? For you?”

Naruto’s face twisted as if thinking actually made him uncomfortable, but it was probably just because he didn’t get many nice expressions to imitate during his formative years, with all the- “I’m supposed to give something back.” No duh, kid- “And… and I can’t bother you again until I have something for you that’s just as good?”

“No, kid,” I sighed. “Well, yes, but not how you mean. It means that I appreciate your intentions but not your actions and want to fix this Cycle of Gifts that you started so horribly badly.”

“Oh!” Naruto said as if he understood, even though he probably didn’t. “Why didn’t you just say so? I mean-hey, that was still mean!”

“I’m being honest, kid. Because I hope you don’t actually want everything you do to keep hurting me.”

“I didn’t-don’t! I don’t! I really don’t, I promise!”

“I believe you, but I don’t believe you can help it. Your decisions have all been crap, kid.”

“Ack! I get it, I get it, mister, geez…”

Of course, Naruto was actually right about the side benefit of the Gifting Cycle, because his thing was to be exceedingly perceptive only when it was most annoying – the other guy did tend to only visit when he had a gift at least as good or meaningful as the last one you gave him.

Let's see how Naruto deals with that.

But first. “Come on, kid. Show me where you live. If you behave yourself, I’ll even answer your question.”

“I’m super well behaved, you better believe it, but what question-I mean, my question, duh, yeah, that!”

Yeah, that.

Now let’s see if I can catch lightning in a bottle a second time.

“Right. So, the only other idea I have about why people are mean to you is pretty crazy, but remember, kid, you asked for this.”

“I did! I wanna know! What is it?”

“The curse of the Moon Rabbit.”


And so, for the entirety of the way to his home, I regaled the positively star-struck Uzumaki Naruto with the condensed fairy tale of the evil horned brownie clan, the Shinju chakra tree, Rabbit ‘Goddess’ Kaguya the Enslaver, the tale of the two brothers, and the last act of the Rabbit Herself who, in her spite at being imprisoned at the heart of the moon, inflicted a terrible curse on the Six Paths Sage and his brother and children. And their children’s children. And their children’s children’s children and that’s where I stopped because Naruto couldn’t wait no more to hear why people thought he had the curse. I made sure to describe all nine of the ‘distinctive birth marks’ exactly. I even mentioned ‘the Moon Rabbit’s shadow’ that always emerges to stir up the curse in some dreadful new way.

“And that’s why your whisker marks have people convinced you’re bad news,” I concluded when Naruto finally stopped in front of the familiar building I knew from another life. He was already living alone, how early was he removed from the orphanage? Why? “It sucks, but their concerns are legitimate. It’s unfair, but that’s how it is, kid. And for those who were on the fence, a lot of them have made up their minds now that they’ve seen what you did to me. You really just punched yourself in the face with that one.”

Naruto was staring at his feet. “… I’m sorry, mister. Am I really cursed?”

Despite myself, I smiled and poked him in the head. “You’re certainly something, you Menace you.”

“Stop that!”

“Oh? Maybe you’ll like this better.” I ruffled his hair. My hand was big. It engulfed almost his entire head. Naruto leaned into it.

Then he froze.

But didn’t pull away.

I pulled back first and tapped his head with the coloring book. “Here you go, kid. It’s a couple weeks late, but Happy Birthday.”

Naruto took it gingerly, carefully, as if it was the most important thing in the world.

“Only open it inside. I made it all myself so I don’t want anyone other than you to see inside it first.”

“… Thanks, mister,” Naruto sniffled. Hiccupped.

Tug at my bleeding heart, why don’t you. I sighed and ruffled his hair again.

He jumped me and tearfully clung to my waist for the next five minutes. He just won’t give up until he grows on me like a fungus, will he?

I’m not going gently into that good night, you little brat.

Naruto did untangle himself from me eventually, but I had to nudge him all the way to his building’s front door, the kid wiping his face with his sleeve all the way over. Even then, he lingered. Staring at the cover and the words. ‘Hanzo’s Peerless Coloring Book, Collector’s Item, Only One of its Kind.’

“Well kid, I gotta run. Lots to do today, as every other day. You have fun now and don’t put anyone else in the hospital, hmn?”

“How do I change but still stay me?”

… Whoa.

I stared down at the kid who seemed incapable of looking at me anymore.

Don’t ask all the hard questions at once, kid

Naruto didn’t say anything else. But he didn’t move either. Not beyond carefully hugging the book close to his chest and looking down.

I watched the kid some more, thinking. “If you’re serious… Then you start by changing the stuff you do that’s reactionary. You already control what you with your own ideas. But when you react to someone else, it’s them controlling you, not you.”

“… Like my pranking, right?”

“And the stalking, the yelling, even everything else I’ve seen you do after those didn’t turn out how you liked them.”

“Like when I put you in the hospital because I pranked the shopkeeper.”

“That’s right. And you pranked the shopkeeper because…”

“… Because he short-changed me?”

“No, that’s what he did, now what you did.”

“I got angry.”


Finally, Naruto looked up at me again. “… And that’s it?”

“No. Your anger was legitimate, the man wronged you. That’s not the problem. It’s what you did with it.”

This time, Naruto had to pry his own words out through his teeth. “I wanted payback.”

“And you looked for the quickest, loudest way to get it.”


How much could I say that a five year old kid could remember? How far was I allowed to go before someone intervened here? “Justice and vengeance aren’t the same thing, but they do overlap a lot of the time. Unfortunately, you can’t tell between them, never mind the rest. And your response is never equal to the crime because you never stop to wonder about it, Naruto. You have no restraint. If you ask me how you can change but still stay you, my advice is to start there.”

“… Okay.” Naruto sniffled, wiped his nose with his sleeve and put on his best ‘this is me determined to be good’ face despite the huge tear tracks on his cheeks. “I can do that.”

I flicked him in the forehead. Gently. “Then I’m rooting for you, kid. Go on, upstairs you go.”

Naruto grudgingly made tracks, stopping to look back at me repeatedly, even lingering in the doorway just to check I was still there before finally disappearing into the building.

And with that it was over.

Somehow I expected this to be a lot more difficult.

It was probably my daughter’s fault. My little Yui, now she was a brat and then some.

I turned around and set off, checking my pocket watch to track the time. It had been a big expense, but time keeping was essential in the field of physics. Also, it was essential to measure how long it took to be accosted by or on behalf of the Anbu or Hokage, or whoever else was currently looking through Naruto’s new gift while he was washing his face in the bathroom. Paging through the scale-accurate line art of the life story of the nine tailed beasts, complete with their birth and their dad and their growth to adulthood and their real names.

It didn’t happen on the way back to pick up my cart from home. It didn’t happen on the way to my appointment. It didn’t happen while I was inside, bartering for discounts on repeat orders. It didn’t happen while I was loading my cart with my very fragile box.

It did, however, happen just as I passed the first side alley on my way back home.

“You’re quite the loremaster, Mister Masanari.”

The same nondescript appearance. The very kind of conversation opener I expected. My free will gibbered in the self-same existential terror as for every Uchiha before. But the dread was ever so slightly lesser, the casually subdued mimicry had been replaced by merely subdued mimicry, and the voice was coming from slightly lower than before. “Uchiha Itachi, right?”

“Hah! I told you he’d notice!”

Uchiha Shisui had just flickered into being on my right, and he was not transformed.

A burst of smoke, and suddenly Itachi wasn’t either. “I never doubted you, Shisui. I merely assumed it would take more time.”

“You mean any time, little cousin.”

Oh fatalism, where have you gone – oh there you are. “Am I being arrested?”

Shisui snorted. “Not hardly, we’re here bearing gifts!”

“Compensation for services rendered,” Itachi corrected. “Also, a missive from my father. I am to hand it to you and confirm your receipt.”

I took it mechanically. That was one fancy envelope. “Do I have to sign anything?”

“No, my witnessing will suffice. Good day, sir. It was a very revealing meeting.” Without another word, Uchiha Itachi disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I stared at the empty space, feeling more than a tad dumbfounded at seeing Uchiha Itachi quite literally run away. “… I didn’t expect him to be shy.”

I think I meant it as a joke, but-

“Don’t mind my cousin, that’s just how he is.”

Wait, that’s really what happened? I didn’t just hallucinate that? “Uchiha Itachi is shy?”

“And hides it behind professionalism, yes. When he doesn’t know how to deal with a situation anyway. It’s been happening less and less, I was worried I wouldn’t get to see it anymore. Ha! The day he snaps will be a time for the ages. Anyway, I can take the cart if you’d like to look over whatever that is.”

“… Thanks for not just doing it.”

Shisui’s smile faded and he nodded seriously. “We do listen, sir.”

I tried and probably failed not to show how my heart sank at the potential secondary meaning of what he just said.

Shisui handed me a shoulder satchel and was soon pulling my cart, still not transformed. I began to pry the envelope open while I walked alongside. “Publicity stunt?”

“New optics Clan policy,” Shisui nodded. “The KMP is still reviewing proposals, but Lord Fugaku feels it best that non-police clansmen be the first to begin rehabilitating our image, as per your recommendations.” Bloody hell. “I’ve been empowered to answer your queries about that and anything else, insofar as I don’t reveal any clan-only secrets.” Insofar as he didn’t – that said nothing of anything I already knew or deduced. Holy- “I’ve also been given similar dispensation by the Hokage relative to the very belated dispensations detailed in that bag. I’m technically off duty right now, but I volunteered to answer any questions you have. There’s quite a few things in there, some of whom won’t go forward without your agreement. I’d prefer if we were in private when going over it, but it’s your decision.”

I immediately began mentally running through what public locales I could stand. No offense to Shisui but paranoia didn’t exist when you lived in ninja central.

That’s when I finally opened the envelope, read the thing inside and promptly discarded that plan. I did not have nearly enough money to play patron for the amount of time this would take to sort out. “… Is he serious?”

“I don’t actually know what’s in there, sir.”

“An invitation. In formal slant. To Uchiha Sasuke's birthday party.”

Shisui actually stopped in surprise this time. “Wait, what?”

I came to a halt too, eyes wide. “He sent you into this blind?” That was just… “Unbelievable…”

“Not just me, apparently,” Shisui shook his head, mouth twitching.

“Who-wait, Itachi? He didn’t know what was in here either?”

“If he did he wouldn’t have vanished, Gods, it’s just like that man to test his son’s loyalty like this, I’m going to make fun of Itachi for days, this is just too good.”

Fugaku sent his kid to deliver an invitation to his other kid’s birthday party without telling him. That man was something else.

Shisui resumed walking, so I forced myself to walk along. The wheels were starting to creak again, I’d have to oil them again soon. “It says here it’s six months from now, is this normal?”

“For weddings, maybe, it can go as long as a year or more actually. For this though, a month or at most three is the done thing.”

“What does it mean? I have my own suspicions, but…”

“I think we both know well enough by now that your ‘suspicions’ are probably the way to go, sir.”

That was supposed to be flattering, I was sure of it, but somehow it just made me dread my life even more.

This was all Naruto’s fault. If he hadn’t cursed me with seven years of bad luck when he broke that mirror, none of this would have happened.

I’ll need new formal clothes for this, won’t I? I looked at Uchiha Shisui, weighing the risks to our budding friendship against the risks of false friendship with a quick cost-benefit analysis in my head. “I guess I need to see a seamstress. Sorry to impose on you, kid, but since we’re already out…”

“I’m hardly a child, sir.”

“You just turned thirteen,” I flatly said. “Be glad I’m letting you pull my cart, never mind everything else you’re too young for.”

Shisui looked at me intensely for a moment, then shrugged. “Fair enough.”

We drew many, many bewildered looks on the way to Madam Aimi, but since Shisui was ultimately still a kid mid-way through his growth spurt, there was more surprise and sympathy on my behalf than wariness and resentment, so that was something at least. I expected Shisui to accompany me inside, but he declined. “I’ll stay here and put myself on display for the kids over there. They look like they’ll escape their parents’ leash any moment now. Good ice breaker, right?”

“Good luck proving you’re not one of those guys, then.”


Formal clothing was always expensive, but not so much as right after the Kyuubi attack, so it turned out I could afford something relatively nice even if it would cut into what I’d set aside for my experiment. The seamstress had a wide selection of fabrics and patterns. I briefly lamented the styles – though there were various casual options in this world, most of the continent and especially Fire Country were explicitly Japanese in customs. So I couldn’t, alas, commission anything resembling the traditional men’s dress of Ireland. Well, I could, I’d doodled enough to come up with a positively regal adaptation of the historical garb, if I do say so myself. But alas, I’d look ridiculously out of place in a trius and léine.

I still took a few liberties, though. I chose the strongest fabrics I could, even splurged on a fine over-layer for the haori just in case. I chose mostly shades of yellow (I was traditional like that) though I chose red for the haori lining, and the obi and under collar had subtle abstract brocade for the hems, done in green to go with my eye color. I also, despite myself, decided in the end that I couldn’t make do without at least some homage to my distant past life, so I ultimately commissioned an actual mantle as well, though done in the thinnest wool available and outlined with tiger fur instead of fringing (I was rebellious like that, and it was cheap since Konoha sourced it from the regular cullings in the Forest of Death). I left after setting a proper appointment one week from the day, for final designs and price negotiation.

I found Shisui leaning against the fence next to the cart, looking pensive. Something must have happened, but I didn’t pry. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“It’s fine, Mister Masanari.” Shisui set off with my cart as soon as I was close enough that I wouldn’t have to run to catch up. “Gave me time to think.”

“Dare I ask?”

“Oh, It’s nothing much, just…” Then Shirui made a face, then several others, and suddenly his entire mood and manner changed. “You know what, it’s not nothing.”

“… Alright?”

“With your permission, I’d have the rest of our walk to your home to happen under the Sound Muffling Technique.”

Well that doesn’t sound good. “I guess that’s a privacy thing of some sort. Wind-based?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, if it’ll make you feel better, okay.”

Shisui flashed through several hand signs, and suddenly I couldn’t hear anything beyond a meter away except jack shit. “Right.”

The mini-nin didn’t speak immediately though, just grabbed my cart and led the way to my house. It wasn’t until we were past the last bend that he finally finished psyching himself up for whatever it was that- “If you suddenly found yourself having mind control as your super special tool, what would you do?”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, sir. If it was you who drew this… lottery ticket, what would you do with it?”

Holy buggering fuck, am I the Morality Pet? “What are the parameters?”

Shisui looked surprised. “Parameters? Like how the technique works?”

No I’m not just stalling, believe it, oh gods now I’m doing it too! “What kind of ability is it? Is it temporary, permanent, is it defendable, is it breakable, does it have side effects on the target, does it have side effects on me, does it have a cooldown?”

Uchiha Shisui only almost stopped in his tracks this time. I had no idea if that was good or bad, but unless he was about to go absolutely insane and tell me about Kotoamatsukami, I should still be fi- “Right, those are pretty good questions, as expected from you, Doctor!”

What did he just call me?

“Well let’s make it nice and clear-cut then, I should have remembered you hate ambiguity, it’s everywhere in your work. Alright, let’s say it’s cast through the eye, that’s the standard Uchiha go-to. Let’s assume it lets you enter the mind of anybody you see. Let’s have it go really deep, say it lets you manipulate people by giving them false experiences, makes it seem as if they were doing things of their own free will. You could even use it to give them false memories, so the other guy would be entirely oblivious to the fact you’re manipulating them. Something like that. As for limitations…” Oh my god. “Progressive blindness, I’d say that sounds like a fair price. It’s also a pretty big deal, so you wouldn’t be able to throw it around like shuriken. You had the right idea with the cooldown, let’s give it… oh, ten years or so.”

I’m dead, I thought numbly. I’m fucking dead because Konoha fucks kids up to the point where they’re killing machines before they reach their teens so they don’t know injury from the biggest crime against humanity if you hit them on the head with it, why is this happening to me?

“I guess it is kind of a loaded question-“

“Holy shit, kid.”

Shisui closed his mouth at looked at me surprised. Then startled. Then with dawning comprehension that swiftly turned into grim realization. His face went through a rapid series of emotions and counter emotions and then came a moment, long and terrifying and almost mind-shattering, when I thought he was about to turn those back eyes red and rip my mind to shreds.

Instead, the kid sighed, closed his eyes and pinched his nose. “It seems the old fogies aren’t the only ones taking advantage of your goodwill. I apologise.”

“… You apologise.”

“Yes. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

What was I even supposed to say?

Belatedly, distantly, I realized we’d reached and stopped at my front gate.

When did this happen? Why? How? I thought in despair. I mean I guess it makes sense? Whoever named the Morality Pet trope was a complete jackass, but it kinda makes sense? My code of ethics is clearly superior to that of literally everyone else on this planet and the moon and several dimensions to the left of sideways, but that’s a way dramatic change in my status, isn’t it? “… A cat.”

“… What?”

“If it were me-if I suddenly gained the ability to completely and irreversibly rape someone’s soul in any way, I’d use it on the first stray animal I see.”

Uchiha Shisui was looking at me like… I had no idea what that look even was.

“If I was able to wait or didn’t find a feral animal to tame before I got past my knee-jerk reaction-” and if you hadn’t dropped this nuke on me expecting me to have a ready answer like some wise guy “-I’d inquire at the hospital about people with trauma-induced or jutsu-induced or whatever other kind of incurable psychosis and use it to heal that. Immediately.”

Shisui was still watching me strangely. Intensely. He was one word from me having a panic attack.

Would I know if I was under an illusion spell? Would I know if he’d mind-raped me? Would I be able to wonder about this and tell him to waste his mightiest technique if he did? “Kid, come over here. Please.”

Uchiha Shisui’s eyes sharpened and his hands tensed, but he let go of my cart and approached.

I put my hands on his shoulders. Mostly to keep myself upright. “Kid. I’m sorry you don’t have anyone in your actual life to confide in. I’m honoured you think I’m trustworthy enough to lay out this entirely hypothetical scenario even though I’d break under torture in less than a minute. Now would you like to come in?”

“… Well-“

My grips tightened. “You said you volunteered. Well I need you to volunteer right now unless you want me to collapse right here in the middle of the street.”

I was a civilian. Uchiha Shisui was an elite Jonin, an Anbu, a wielder of the second strongest dojutsu known to mankind. If he refused, that was the end of it. If he refused violently, that could well be the end of me.

But instead… “Asset denial, huh?”

I slowly let go and waited, hoped for my knees to stop shaking. They didn’t. Because holy shit, holy shit kid, this is the one thing that Shimura Danzo will stop at nothing to get even it means committing high treason, why are you doing this to me?!

Shisui looked at me, then his eyes flickered over the neighbourhood and back to me. There might have been a flash of red in them, but I couldn’t be sure because it was only there when they were aimed away from me. I don’t know what it meant. I don’t know how it made me feel. I don’t know what I looked like, but whatever it was, he didn’t like it. In fact, he didn’t like it so much that he stepped forward to walk me inside my own yard.

Somehow, I didn’t flinch in existential dread. “I have cake,” I blurted.

“That sounds great, sir.”

Shisui had small hands, but his grip was firm and his steps sure. Which was good because mine weren’t.

I just wanted to create life, I thought despairingly. Is that so much to ask?

Somehow, I made it to my living room without having a meltdown. Then I just sat there. On the couch. Stupidly. What was I supposed to do now?

With a face as blank as my mind, I slowly turned to look at the mini-ninja that was awkwardly standing in the hallway door and said the first thing that popped into my head. “You’re too young to be in Anbu, kid.”

“…You know, sir, I think I’m starting to think the same.”
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Well-known member
Oh my god, I had only planned for Hanzo to make a mini tesla coil or van de graaf generator for Sasuke to use to train his lightning affinity, but this is so much better, I'll definitely use this, it's genius!
Heh, sounds good. Think that particular song does need atleast 2 coils though, preferably 3 like shown to get the sounds right. So its gonna take a bit of setup to play it right. Especially if you want it analog given lack of civilian computers.
Still doable but involves may more specific setup I would guess.

That channel has a lot of song choices too by the way. Including the memetic Doom. I just attached the Naruto one for obvious reasons.
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Chapter 5: The Life and Times of Collisionless Plasma

Karmic Acumen

Well-known member
A/N: Credit to @Abhishekm for the incredibly topical suggestion of auditory enhancement.

Chapter 5: The Life and Times of Collisionless Plasma

“-. October 25, 5 ANB .-“​

Turns out I’m rich.

Not enough that I wouldn’t have to work for the rest of my life, but the equivalent of an S-rank mission was apparently a fair bit of money. Especially the equivalent pay for an infiltration S-rank mission. Paid by the day. For the entire period that I was engaged in my research project, which was basically the entirety of the past four years. Though the Third had apparently tacked an extra year’s worth on top as a bonus. I stared at the numbers. I’ll have to go to the seamstress to modify my order, I thought dimly. If Shisui hadn’t just desensitized me to literally everything by turning me into the most terminal sort of intelligence leak, I might have gone into shock.

Then again, that wasn’t even the most surprising thing in there. That honor went to the book deal. A book deal. For my research methods. And not with any random mouthpiece from Shukuba-Machi, it was for Sword Drop Publishing out in Heian-kyō, the Land of Fire capital. ‘Merely’ the third biggest name in the business. Considering that the first owed its fame to the Daimyo’s patronage, and the second ran entirely on trashy romance novels like Jiraiya’s Icha Icha series, Sword Drop might actually be the brand with the highest business acumen of all of them. It clearly had the most discerning taste.

A book deal. To be published either under my real name or my pseudonym. If I’d been any less depressed and suicidal at the time, I might have been less of a troll when I took フィン・マックール as my pen name of choice. Now I had to live with it. Hopefully this didn’t mean I’d have people asking if I could transform into a giant baby and shit out basalt. “I was sure my research would be classified to the deepest hell, what gives?” Maybe modern statistical methods weren’t as diagram-shifting as I thought?

“It was strongly suggested,” Shisui mercilessly ruined my hopes for mankind’s collective good sense between spoonfuls of cake. “But the Hokage overruled those arguments.”

Fuck you too, Shimura Danzo. Also, what? Maybe Sarutobi Hiruzen was feeling so indebted that he didn’t think he has the right or vision necessary to censor anything I did anymore? Yeah, that’ll happen. Then again, if he wasn’t at least a bit self-deprecating about his performance as Hokage now, I’d be worried about his self-awareness.

Though speaking of self-awareness… “Hey kid, was that 10-year time frame the cooldown for the completely hypothetical holder of that horrifying crime against mankind you theorised, or for whoever were to, say, steal the eyes for their own use.”

Damning silence.

“Well that’s just great. If you didn’t want me to be even more existentially terrified, you’ve failed miserably. Incidentally, my knees are suddenly all weak again and I haven’t had lunch today. There’s pilaf in the fridge, and some steak, bring them out will you? That’s a good lad, now why don’t you heat them up, the slow way without fire techniques that entirely relies on that stove over there. Wouldn’t want you to make poor excuses and run away to ‘spare me the burden of your company’ or ‘stop taking advantage of my goodwill’ or something silly like that.”

Shisui complied but not without giving me weird looks throughout all of it, the nerve of him thinking I’m the strange one, honestly. Kids are all ridiculous, and becoming assassins before puberty apparently makes them even worse.

I looked back down at the folder. “This book deal, is it a one-time thing or can I add anything? Exchange? Make a counter-offer?”

Shisui glanced at me between checking the pans precisely as often as necessary because he apparently had experience. That’s right, Shisui was the breadwinner for his parents, right? Or just mother now, maybe, his father’s already dead isn’t he? “The matter was raised in council pertaining to your claim to your techniques. The Hokage will respect your decision if you wish to classify them, but I’m afraid their use by those present for your presentation is out of your hands.”

“Don’t be silly, the ways of science should be transparent to all. I’m definitely taking the book deal, can you imagine if someone like Orochimaru reads it? You realise it includes raw, scientific evidence to the inadequacy of his inhumane approach to human testing, right? Can you imagine his reaction? I’ll probably enter the bingo books as the one who got closest to killing him once he finishes having his aneurism. No, I’m more wondering if I could have two books made. One for this, one for all this basic history you lot seem to be completely ignorant to. Honestly, the fact none of you ever heard the name Ootsutsuki is unconscionable, you do realise Kaguya is where the Kaguya clan comes from, right? And the Sage and his brother were her kids too, the Uchiha and Senju all descend from her and Emperor Tenji, ultimately. Indra? Asura? The sage’s kids? Ring any bells? No? Gods, kid, this is kind of a big deal to just forget about, it hasn’t even been a thousand years.”

Shisui pursed his lips as he served me a portion, and then one for himself after I stared at him long enough. “I think you seriously underestimate the value of the lore you possess, sir. The Warring Clans era was not kind on record-keeping, and even harsher on oral traditions. If you can prove the veracity of your tales even a tenth as well as your other research, you can probably expect to be called Loremaster in addition to Doctor.”

Yes, I am officially Doctor Masanari now. I am a physicist who went and betrayed my field and all of STEM for the fickle fibs of soft science. Go me. “Proof like knowing several different languages nobody else in the world seems to remember either?”

Shisui blinked. Whether at the information or the fact I admitted it, I couldn’t tell. Probably the latter. “That would probably go a long way, yes.”

For that and other things, I’m sure, most of which I probably wouldn’t like. “Well, don’t get your hopes up. Or mine. Unless you can rustle up Tsunade Senju – unlikely – and a Kaguya – despite the Land of Water being Fire’s enemy even now – the odds of a successful genetic cross-comparison are negligible.” The Kaguya should still be alive as a clan right now though, and Yagura wasn’t even Mizukage yet for Tobi to mind-fuck into starting the bloodline purges. There was never a clear timeline on when all of that happened, alas. Not that I had anything but the vaguest recollections anyway. “That’s without the minefield of the third subject of that genetic test being one Uzumaki Naruto.”

Shisui had been quiet for a while. Looking at him, I saw a look of raw surprise on his face – oh, he’d just tasted the steak. I smirked as I partook of my own. With a fork because I’m an asshole like that, thank you very much. For years now I’d been amazing these poor souls with my Irish traditional broiled steak with whiskey sauce. Never had a single failure.

Shisui controlled himself at my look and deployed that most ancient face-saving strategy known as changing the subject. “I don’t suppose I need to ask how much you know about Orochimaru and related matters.” Okay, the strategy of changing the subject but not really. “I admit, with the benefit of hindsight it’s surprising you didn’t bring him up in your presentation. Even in the thesis proper, you made no mention of him after the Kyuubi incident.”

I grimaced. “Yeah, well… That’s because Orochimaru had to have gotten his hundreds of test subjects from somewhere. By the hundreds. In mere months at best, given the time frames involved. There’s a difference between ‘everyone’s guessed about the nin-who-must-not-be-named’ and ‘by process of elimination I now know exactly who in this here room has been kidnapping and doing unspeakable things to our children.”

Shisui paused mid-bite and lowered his chopsticks, giving me a look that was outright worried. Worried and taken aback, but I doubted he really hadn’t known or deduced all this. “Mister Masanari, that…”

“Has me surprised I still haven’t suffered a tragic suicide, yes.” Half of everyone may know or suspect about everything happening, but the identity of the man behind it all? I was technically the only one who categorically knew. That wasn’t a ninja anyway. Also, for that number to even be possible, Danzo must have had free run of the orphanages – at least – which means Sarutobi had looked the other way. His whole reign. Possibly still was. But I wasn’t going to tank my goodwill on that front. “Incidentally, when you’re the head of the most secret of secret organisations but everyone from one coast to the other still knows you on sight as ‘Shinobi no Yami’, you are terrible at your job.”

Shisui gaped.

That reminds me. I reached in my pocket for the little notebook – I had lots of them, even spread over my house for when I got brainwaves I needed to write down before I forgot, which was often – and made a note – in English – to include a list of species that shared genetics with humans. Just in case Orochimaru felt like banging his head against the walls in the future that may or may not be. Frogs, toads, mice, rats…

Through it all, Shisui continued to stare at me in horror. Literal horror, I could actually read him this time.

Baby assassins should not be this cute.

Shisui flushed. Because I’d muttered that part aloud. Just because.

“Mister Masanari, could you at least try not to be so careless with your life? For my sake, if nothing else? Please?”

“Says the kid who just leaked me the most sensitive actionable secret of the Village right now.” I watched the colour leaving the kid’s cheeks as fast as it had come, until he was pinching his nose, eyes closed in clear upset. “The chief-who-must-not-be-named will kill me if he finds out, I hope you know. Before or after he uses me as bait to draw you out.”

Shisui put his chopsticks down and clenched his fist. “I was only speaking in hypotheticals. “ I truly apologise for that.

That’s what I chose to take it as anyway. “Eat your food, I worked hard on it and you’re still growing. Actually here, have some seconds.” Spoon clank. “I know you ninja burn through energy faster than Naruto eats through my goodwill.”

Shisui’s expression soured, but he complied again because of course he did, he was a hypercompetent contract killer that only felt guilty when he didn’t mean to kill you.

While Shisui finished eating, I went to my garage – yes, I had invented the garage before the car, because why the hell not? – and carefully carried my very fragile package from my cart to my dumbwaiter. It barely fit, but that was fine, making it as big as possible without having to carry it down the stairs was the entire point.

I spent the rest of the time preparing the rest of the food and cake for him to go. He tried to refuse, but didn’t insist because manners. Good boy.

He looked worried as he lingered in my dining room though. Worried and tense. “Mister Masanari-“

“You can call me Hanzo if you like.” Don’t see any point to wait until I bleed for you, but I didn’t say that. I was jaded, but not that unkind.

“Mister Hanzo then.” Shisui hesitated, visibly choosing his words. “I… need to know exactly what you know about Orochimaru versus what everyone else might reasonably infer, absent of your personal experience.”

I smiled sadly down at the kid. As I would even when he finished his last growth spurt. I felt for him, really, but I wasn’t going to indulge his vain hope that the distinction would make a difference just to make him feel better about himself. “Orochimaru is a mean scapegoat, but the logistics don’t make sense for a single person, no matter how powerful or sly. It was too many kids in too little time.” And the fact he could even mistake Yamato for dead amidst the multitude of corpses meant he’d done the experiments all at once in a very short span of time, before Sarutobi found him. “Besides, he had to have received his more… atypical training from someone, and I doubt it was Sarutobi Hiruzen.”

Shisui grimaced. He sealed the casserole in a storage seal – on his skin, and took a deep breath.

And he still didn’t leave.

Instead, he looked from his arm up to my eyes and very seriously said “Ask me something important.”


Shisui ran through hand seals at a speed I could actually track. I could see and feel faint wisps of smoke around the lower half of my face.

“This is the Loose Lips technique, an illusion ninjutsu I cast during our talk on the street, to protect us from lip readers in addition to the wind barrier.”

I gaped at him in disbelief.

“The only ones who know about Kotoamatsukami are the two of us for now. I haven’t even told th-“


Shisui stopped.

Then I sat heavily on my wife’s glory box and put my face in my hands. The silence that followed was deep, heavy and earnest. It pissed me off so fucking much.

“… This is precisely why I didn’t say anything before, I know you’re sensitive to illusions-“

“I’m sensitive to the threat of mind rape, not light-bending ninjutsu barely one step removed from the basic clone technique that every other kid in this village can use, and that’s not the problem!”

Shisui paused in front of my outburst. “I’m only trying to establish mutual leverage. It’s how we ninja show goodwill.”

“Shisui.” I rose back to my feet and very pointedly looked Shisui right in the eyes. They were still black, but who’s to say that wasn’t an illusion too? “I get what you’re trying to do. But there’s one, big, fatal flaw with this plan of yours: I’m not a ninja. I have no power, no skills, no ability to defend myself or any knowledge from literally anybody of consequence, I can’t enforce any leverage. So please, when you think about making me privy to even more sensitive information, do us both a favour and-“ Suddenly, my words stopped as my thoughts made a course-correction. My critical reasoning skills made it past my wall of dismay and fear and replaced everything with just one, sudden, thought-searing flash of absolute misery so deep I couldn’t understand what it was for a moment. Then I did, and I couldn’t believe I ever thought I was above such feelings. “This is just another fucking test, isn’t it?”

Shisui’s expression flickered like-

But no, I just didn’t care anymore. “You have my gratitude for volunteering to answer my questions, honourable ninja. I’m grateful for the Hokage’s generosity and have learned all I needed about his dispensations and ancillary matters. I have no more questions.”

“… Mister Hanzo, I-“

“Beg pardon, sir ninja, but I couldn’t imagine imposing on your time any longer. I will resort to the standard channels of communication when I have my answer for the Third. Thank you for your assistance.”

“… You’re welcome, then.”

Finally, Uchiha Shisui quietly, blessedly, left my house.

What proof of good faith do you people still want that you haven’t already taken?

I watched him go. I didn’t need to see the neighbours to know they were out there being inconspicuously conspicuous. I recalled that this entire visit began with Shisui’s revelation that the Uchiha Clan had followed my advice to begin redressing their optics in the village.

I still almost slammed the door. Almost.

I was going to invite you to watch me create life in a bottle.

Police states suck.

“-. .-“

Mercifully, I had a true best friend that would always distract me from my woes and who’d never betrayed me – science.

As with most other things in this world, the existence of magic and four world wars in quick succession had made science very unevenly developed, and even more schizophrenic in its application. This world knew about charge neutrality and Debye length, for example, albeit under different names. But it didn’t know about plasma double layers even though they form naturally in any sufficiently complex plasma. Like, oh, lightning, the aurora borealis, literally any form of current-carrying electricity, even neon lights. In fact, this world didn’t even have the term plasma, calling it all lightning or electricity or some variation thereof. Which made sense, plasma was only coined by Irving Langmuir after he noticed its resemblance to living blood cells.

Maybe there’s a foreign continent out there with more advanced science, like from that film with the kid with a magic rock for a heart, but I doubted it. Based on the maps of this place, the Elemental Nations added up to roughly the same landmass as the combined continents of my past life. Also, things like the Kurama Clan, movie theatres and the Land of Snow didn’t exist, so that foreign continent probably didn’t exist anymore than all the filler stuff. Which was good for me because I never watched any of it. I already had a hell of a time just fitting chakra into my research paradigm, never mind anything else like, oh, the Ryumiaku for example. Though it certainly would explain where the Shinju found the energy to harvest chakra from. Or make it.

I was still developing my theories there. Also, I got sidetracked.

Back on the other Earth – or maybe the same one in the past or future, who the hell knows what Pangaea was like way back – a guy called Bohm discovered that putting electrons into plasma made them stop behaving like individuals and instead as if they were a part of a larger and interconnected whole. Even seemingly random movements of individual electrons actually added up to collective, organised effects. Effects not unlike what you’d see in a biological organism. The plasma behaved like an amoeba, constantly regenerating itself and isolating impurities in a wall, like a unicellular organism might isolate foreign objects in a cyst. The plasma literally formed into a double layer that behaved like the membrane of a living cell.

I didn’t have a computer, never mind the sort of system that could run and display models of molecular dynamics. So I couldn’t do like Tsytovich and virtually simulate the right conditions in outer space where particles of inorganic dust could undergo self-organization, as their electric charges become separated until the plasma becomes polarized, thereby forming helical structures that interact with each other as if they were organic life.

I did, however, have the means to recreate the Lozneanu-Sanduloviciu experiment. Which is to say, I should be able to simulate the ionising superstorms of primordial Earth by inducing the right conditions within an isolated environment of low-temperature plasma.

My order from the glassworker had been for what basically amounted to a giant fishbowl. Except instead of housing fish, I had just finished mounting it upside down over my little setup of empty space populated by two electrodes in the middle, three Tesla coils along the outer circle, and all over the floor was a layer of the closest approximation of space dust I could rustle up. My heart had been in my throat for the entire time that the glass bowl was suspended on my jury-rigged crane – it was too wide to carry by hand – but I was eventually able to lower it in place without shattering it to a million pieces and causing me to self-combust from pure apoplexy. It had been the most stressful part of my preparations, even though the real drudge work went into making everything airtight.

When it was over, I went around locking every door and window, then spent another ten minutes running like a chicken with its head cut off from one end of my workshop to the next, tossing nails and wrenches all over the place at random. When I was panting from exhaustion and still hadn’t nailed any invisible watchers with my crazy behaviour, I decided I was as observer-free as I could possibly get. Unless the Hokage was taking time off during his work hours to use his crystal ball to watch me right this moment, I should be alright.

Unless there were spells or seals to see and listen remotely, but I doubted it. If those things existed, ninja wouldn’t need power lines, bulky film cameras and VHS tapes.

… Portable earpiece radios were a thing though. Or would be by the time Naruto graduated, did they exist already right now? I don’t remember them in use prior to Naruto’s birth from the series, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t used during the Kyuubi attack either.

I still spent another half hour checking every nook and cranny for bugs and even ultramodern spy cams I was pretty sure didn’t exist here yet before I decided to call it. Blessedly, I didn’t find any.


Time for science!

I carefully uncorked the two valves on the glass vessel, leaving one open for the air to escape through while hooking the other to my pressure can of Argon gas. And boy, collecting that had been another bitch and a half, even in this little quantity. Not only did I not have the right equipment for cryogenic fractal distillation, but this world didn’t even know the element existed. I’d had to recreate the Rayleigh – Ramsay isolation method from first principles and repeat it ad nauseam for days.

When the little lightning arc began to turn purple between the little pair of powered electrodes I was holding near the opening, I quickly closed the valve. Then I just stood there before my setup and waited for my jitters to die down. They always seized me when I was about to commence an experiment. It took a fair bit of willpower to refrain from the immediate gratification of doing science without minimising the risks of something going wrong. When the jitters took their sweet time leaving, I checked everything over again. Even tossed various things at the walls and corners in increasingly silly ambush setups to trip up any invisible watchers. Three times. Finally, I was calm enough to proceed.

“Igor,” I called with perhaps too much glee. “Pull the switch!”

I pulled the switch.

The Tesla coils came to life.


Suddenly, the inside of the glass dome was filled with arching electricity amidst purple light. Lightning shooting here and back all over the place.

I watched as the lightning became softer and softer, jagged crackling bolts increasingly turning into sustained, continuous beams whose tips crawled languidly over the inside of the glass as the purple gas was steadily ionized. No tiny balls of lightning spontaneously coming to life though.

It was just as well. This was just the preparatory phase anyway. First you ionized the atmosphere to create the birth conditions of Earth-that-was. Then you played god.

The lightning calmed to slowly meandering streams, like thistle spurs bending around each other. Or the coronal mass ejection of a star. It was a much more advanced effect than I expected, I didn’t think the Tesla lightning would change behaviour so soundly, how exactly and how far had the environment changed? Slowly, I thumbed the switch to off.

The coils deactivated. The arching lights disappeared. The purple glow lingered like an afterimage. Amidst it all, the dust hung suspended, spread all throughout the orb as if weightless. I’d expected some manner of disturbance from the coil bolts, but not this. Not gravity nullification.

Then again…

The theory was that plasma helical structures could undergo the same changes as biomolecules. Divide, form copies, interact to induce changes in the neighbouring structures, induce evolution into completely new structures. Could that mean that it’s possible to make structures that interact with energy and force in ways that are fundamentally different from the rest of matter? Even if that wasn’t the case, though…

Gravity and static electricity are the same force at the Planck scale.

Quietly, I thumbed the second switch.

The two electrodes at the centre of the medium came to life, the space between them split in half by bright, vivid lightning in a continuous arc.

A faint shriek broke the silence, like birds chirping far in the distance. Sparks flew between the metal rods and away. The suspended dust ripped in place.

Nothing else seemed to happen for a while, not even that I could see through my lens array. Curse this world for its lack of electron microscopes.

I dragged a chair over and sat down just outside the circle of rails that my amplification lens array was mounted on. Watched the spectacle before me, the lights and shadows dancing all over me and the floor and the walls top to bottom. I wonder how Primordial Earth looked like, when it was all like this. What I’d done was improvise the Earth as it was back before life began, when the planet was enveloped in electric storms that caused ionized gases to form in the atmosphere. Even as I watched, the arc of electricity between the two electrodes looked more and more like a miniature lightning strike, increasingly so as the concentration of ions and electrons raised around the positively charged electrode.

Then, suddenly, something happened like what I imagined a nova looked like, and there was a little sphere of light floating there.

I got to my feet and cautiously approached, hoping I wasn’t imagining things.

I wasn’t. It really was there. Just floating-

The sphere moved. It was about the size of a pinhead, but it was bright. Clear. Somehow I could see it moving in place. I quickly drove the lens array along the rails around the medium for a better look. I hadn’t imagined it, the sphere was moving under its own power. I almost called it its own orbit, but then the thing moved the other way as if-

No, not as if, I nearly missed it with how fast it happened, but it literally moved out of the way of second cell that appeared. I tried to tell myself it was just the effect of the moving gas, but then the sphere wandered off, avoided a couple more of its kind, phased through dust particles without issue, absorbed a few stray sparks, and then passed through the inactive Tesla coil as if it wasn’t even there.

Collisionless plasma. It wasn’t the gas. The thing had moved of its own accord. Survival instinct. I forced myself to breathe. Be still my pounding heart.

The positive electrode birthed another sphere. And another. And a fourth. And more. I could only stand there goggling at them through the lenses. I could almost imagine the plasma particles beading together to form string-like filaments. Filaments twisting into helical strands not unlike DNA. The electrically charged strands of ‘not-DNA’ being attracted to each other into helical structures functionally and visually the same as biomolecules. DNA, RNA, proteins. Their energy-based counterparts at least. But alas, if any of that was happening, it was at a very small scale, too small for even my oversized setup of three huge lenses chained together to see. If I squinted, though, I could almost swear I could glimpse the aftereffects of those structures coming together and apart, like swarms.

It was ten minutes before I shook myself out of my astonishment and began furiously taking notes, then more notes for over an hour as tiny specks of ball lightning came to life and went wandering out of the way of the dust to move about. Fade. Brighten. Disperse. Merge together, even. Eat.

I stared at the life I had created. I had absolutely no words.

Two cells suddenly merged. Then three. Then ten. It seemed to have happened by chance because they just happened to ride the currents of gas to the same vague point, but I wasn’t completely sure. Suddenly I didn’t need my ridiculously low-tech alternative to the microscope to see what was happening in there. There was a plasma sphere larger than all the others wandering around the place. As it did, it avoided, touched and ate the sparks and argon particles and even a dust mote until it became, quite literally, gigantic. The largest human cell was the ovum, which could reach 0.2 mm in diameter and could only barely be seen with the naked eye. The plasma cell before me right was now as large as a mustard seed. And it was still moving. Behaving in an increasingly complex fashion. Moving around to avoid some charged dust flakes and pass through others, hovering near crafted steel as if curious about it – no, don’t you project now, Hanzo – and then, out of nowhere, the thing wandered over to the very edge of the glass and began rolling along the inside like a ball.

I hastened to drag my magnifying array over and spent the next half an hour absolutely mesmerised by its increasingly unique behaviour when, suddenly, it split.

In half.

Like a cell.

I gaped, utterly spellbound.


I speechlessly stared at the whirling spectacle in front of me.

Fact: primordial earth had a highly ionized atmosphere. Fact: LUCA was the last universal common ancestor. Fact: In my last life, my predecessors theorised that maybe a plasma form of life emerged on the primordial Earth. Fact: Ancient mythology described the world as being made from a gigantic eldritch creature. Kronos, Brahma, Pangu, the cosmic egg, of Ymir's flesh was fashioned the earth, the mountains from his bones, the ocean from his blood, and the sky… The sky from the big primordial’s skull. And by sky they meant all the sky, the firmament, the starry darkness way up high, the oral traditions of the oldest humans weren’t talking about blueshifted air, they meant the heliosheath.

… Tentative Inference: if plasma life forms acted as the template for the more familiar organic molecules of carbon-based life, then…

“Did I just discover the first universal common ancestor?” The acronym formed itself in my mind without my input. “Wait, no! I am not calling it FUCA.”

Then my heart almost jumped in my throat as one of the now two biggest cells tried to pass through the glass and died.

I winced, though I was also surprised. Collisionless plasma should have passed through just fine, what happened?

The original cell rippled and turned back to its native environment, spending the next ten minutes… eating some more, its luminous sheet growing brighter but also thinner as the cell grew in volume even more. When it returned to the edge of the medium some time later, it was three centimetres wide. I could literally see inside it despite the light it gave off. It wasn’t empty. It wasn’t homogenous. There was an inner nucleus of… it looked like gas. Careful and amazed that this was happening on a scale I could actually study, I brought my magnifying array as close as I could. There were tiny lightning bolts running through the space between the inner nucleus and membrane.

“Plasma life… successfully created in laboratory conditions…” I breathed reverently. I don’t know how long I stood there, just absorbing the reality of my accomplishment. “Ur-specimen will be dubbed…” Yimir was a bit too on the nose, but it was ultimately just a later version of the original sacrifice known to the ancient Europeans, wasn’t he? “Ur-specimen is hereby dubbed Yemo.” My mouth felt dry in the wake of that dedication as I wrote down the words. “A luminous sheet acting as cellular membrane. Double-layered plasma life form with an outer layer of negatively charged electrons and an inner layer of positively charged ions. A nucleus made of gas atoms with an electric field present between the boundary and nucleus, within which electrons are accelerated. Morphological assumptions pending verification.”

Yemo floated there, his nucleus pulsing in and out in a steady, rhythmic inhalation. Breathing. Far behind the first and most precocious of my new creations, the swarm of young lives grew larger and brighter by the minute.

Yemo split again. The child tried to pass through the glass again. And succeeded.

I was shocked.

It lingered out in the open air for a moment, seemingly as astonished as I was. Then it rushed back only to sadly disperse before it could… reunite with its parent?

I swallowed, feeling oddly sad. Maybe it wasn’t tough enough to survive outside its native environment yet? “The evolved sphere appears as a stable, self-confined, layered, luminous and nearly spherical body,” I muttered as I wrote. Reluctantly. Every moment spent writing was a moment I had to look away from them. “Capable of reproduction through mitosis. Reproductive process appears to include inherited command and control functionality for the child cell. Resulting cells identical and capable of immediately acting with coordination. Propagation capacity of ‘genetic’ memory uncertain. The amount of energy in the initial spark seems to govern their size and lifespan.”

Yemo had another feast and even merged with another couple of smaller cells before splitting a third time. The ‘child’ repeated its exodus, but immediately dashed back into its home and merged back with the parent cell. Then Yemo… hovered a bit in place before turning back and floating over to the closest Tesla coil. Then it entered stable orbit around the toroid and didn’t seem inclined to do anything else.

Briefly, I seriously considered turning the coils back on.

Instead, I first turned the power dial on all three as low as I could, and then activated just one of them on the lowest setting, the one farthest from Yemo.

There was barely a spark instead of the great arcs of lightning from the beginning, but the change was immediate. The entire environment was disturbed. The floating dust shuddered. The swarm of young plasma cells clustering around the electrodes down below flinched with almost uncanny coordination away from the coil, and Yemo was knocked out of his orbit.

But then, most of the swarm broke off from their… birthing place and gathered around the Tesla coil instead. A few got too close and were zapped out of existence. The others, though, seemingly learned their lesson and settled into a safer orbit. Yemo wandered around the outmost range of the rest, other cells flying to him and back. Either I was seeing things or they were developing social dynamics. Communicating. They also really wanted to be close to the coil for some reason. More than they did the electrodes. Static electricity works as fuel? They only managed something resembling far orbit though. Any closer and zap goes the sparkling. I couldn’t turn the coil down any lower without shutting it completely off. I wasn’t sure it would mean anything to them if it was weaker. And turning it off seemed mean now that they chose it over their literal birthplace.

I was amazed at their coordination. Cooperation, even from Yemo who’d grown so large in part by eating a whole bunch of the rest. Well, merging with them, if there was a difference. “Based on the synchronised pulsations of the larger observable specimens, I theorise that the creatures communicate information by emitting electromagnetic energy, making the atoms within other spheres vibrate at a particular frequency. I will need to develop a proper microscope and the appropriate electromagnetic spectroscopy equipment to be sure.” At least one other experiment I read about had observed just that effect, similar to the vibrating diaphragm in a telephone which enables information to be communicated from one point to another. “My new children are telepathic, heh – wait, no, don’t write that down, never thought I’d be glad for the lack of recording equipment.”

Yemo, probably because of his larger mass, went closer than all the rest and allowed the Tesla lighting to hit him. For a moment I thought he was dead, the membrane rippling and the inner working stuttering in place. But then his membrane actually grew stronger, and Yemo’s jittering movements from the shock of the strike steadily smoothed out until he was… floating in stable orbit around the Tesla coil. Oh my god, that’s just-. And then Yemo’s membrane grew thicker and brighter and – magnifying array, quick! – and… and now it was giving off lightning of its own too, like it was some sort of antenna for the Tesla coil. The arcs were tiny and soft, floating loosely like strands of hair, but I could still see them, barely.

And then I didn’t need to see them because it became obvious what was going on when the many other, smaller cells swarmed around Yemo and began to orbit him, all but hanging off the other ends of the beams he gave off. Other plasma cells now wandered close to the Tesla coil too, as close as they wanted, even float as one in the shape of a double helix around the one, big, smooth arc of unliving lightning because the bolt was now a single, stable arc permanently and safely locked on Yemo’s form like… like he was a satellite.

Yemo turned himself into the moon, I thought nonsensically, though the thought quickly felt increasingly less and less absurd. And he’s basically protecting and nurturing the others now. That’s my boy!

Hesitantly, but not as much as previously, I turned off the power to the electrodes.

Some of the larger kids – heh – swarmed over to check on the sudden quiescence of their previously chaotic birthing place, but then seemed to shrug in unison and went back to their new home to… crowd around their big brother and live their lives I suppose.

Just hanging there.

Living the life.

… Oh my god, I’ve created life!

I stood there for a while, just watching my creations, awestruck. I hadn’t really expected anything to come from this. It was just a whim, a point of pride for me to put at least some effort into my passion, after I spent almost everything I had on soft science and the most exhausting self-imposed task of both my lives, bar none. All for the salvation of a bunch of people that I wasn’t sure deserved it anymore.

No, that’s not really fair. Realisation descended on me out of nowhere, as tends to only happen when you’ve had a good break from wallowing in your problems. I wasn’t sure I welcomed it right now though. Maybe Shisui was deliberately being obtuse at the end there. Maybe this is something Danzo pushed on Sarutobi that Shisui wanted to fail on purpose and I didn’t live up to his expectations.

I was almost sure this was the case the moment it came to me, but instead of the embarrassment or shame I might have felt any other time, I just felt angry because fuck that shit. Shimura Danzo should be six feet under with not a headstone to his name after everything he’s done, not getting his way over the Hokage even now after everything.

I grit my teeth. My fist was clenched. Within the medium, my creations lived their little lives completely oblivious to the world outside. Ah, the bliss of ignorance.

Alas, I couldn’t make the same claim to composure as them.

Sorry, children, but daddy wants to bask in your presence a bit. I promise not to be too overbearing.

Slowly, so slowly, I walked over to stand next to the table with the medium. Stood there. Bent over to watch as close to the glass as I could. Hesitantly raised my hand and tapped on the glass with my finger. Just once.

The creatures started in place. Like a school of fish they jolted away from their prior trajectories, the swarm moving relative to the source of the vibration without exception. And near his place around the head of the Tesla coil, Yemo lurched out of orbit.

Then shot over to the origin point as fast as he could, the other creatures hovering in his wake, their pulses uneven and lacking the synchronisation of before.

Yemo came as close to the glass as he could without passing through it. Rolled around like a ball in a perfect circle along the inside, searching. Waiting.

I tapped the glass again.

Yemo shot to the spot immediately and all but hugged the wall.

That’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

Sorry, kids, daddy has a new favorite.

Behind my new angel, the rest of the beings came together in a unified cluster, a cord of lights swaying back and forth in rhythm with the Tesla arc, now bereft and distant.

That gave me an idea. It was kind of silly, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided it was a crime that I hadn’t done it from the beginning. After all, what kind of creator would I be if I didn’t give my world music? The Professor would be ashamed of me!

First I recalibrated the other two coils and activated all three at once. The sudden re-emergence of life-giving energy from all three megastructures caused a whole new form of chaos in the medium. It gave me ten more minutes’ worth of new observations to write down.

But this time, when the creatures acclimated to their new, richer environment, Yemo chose not to enter orbit like before.

Instead, he flew over to the edge of the glass and began hovering back and forth in a circle. Like it was looking for me. Increasingly so as the others again began to come over and join him like the tiniest school of fish. School of the tiniest fish, I mean, the swarm was anything but small now, there must have been hundreds of them now.

Being well past the time where I had to worry about extra variables contaminating the experiment, I brought over my phonograph. Fate was with me for once and I already had the setup I needed to divide the audio signals by channel, I’d played around with the music function a lot since I left Shisui speechless that first time. I’d had to build a lot of the hardware myself, but I was used to that.

I turned off the Tesla coils.

Sorry, kids, dad’ll only be a second.

But a second was probably ages at that size, wasn’t it?

This world was still way off from software equalizers, but I’d managed well enough to split sound channels into three streams, which I hooked to each of the Tesla control boxes.

Then, crossing my fingers, I activated the Tesla coils all at once.

The medium came to life. The lightning sang. My creations danced.

Despite themselves, even. Maybe. The song was a sad one. But it was also one of the few familiar to both the lives I’ve lived, and I didn’t have the heart to pretend positivity.

Sorry, kids, dad doesn’t have a lot of happiness of his own to give right now. I walked over to stand next to the glass. Well, no happiness that doesn’t come from you, little ones.

Sad as it was, the song was beautiful. One of my favorites regardless of life and planet. And the little ones seemed to enjoy it too, despite my worries. I was glad. It’s not every day you get to bend thunder to your will and make it sing. It’s not like I had my wife or kids around either, for them to ask incessant questions and make me rush from one end of the workshop to the next and haul them away amidst laughter in a vain attempt to keep clumsy hands from destroying my laboratory.

Maybe I should’ve named them Dexter and DeeDee.

Or maybe not. Yui may have fit the stereotype, but Kenzo wasn’t nearly enough of an introvert in comparison.

Within the medium, the creatures swam in concert, one long, continuous loop flowing like a river in a circle between the Tesla coils, made of two separate funnels swirling around each other in a double helix.

In that moment, I experienced a deep, fervent feeling swelling in my chest like I hadn’t ever since my past life awakening. My breath felt tight. My heart beat loud in my ears. These creatures were small and fleeting and had only the most basic of life’s instincts, but they were wonderful and luminous and mine.

I tapped on the glass.

Yemo rose from the soul stream, big and bright and still in rhythm with the music, and came over to the source of the sound. And waited. Alive, pulsing in concert with the many others trailing after him, and patient.

I really must stop projecting intelligence on single-cellular life. But I couldn’t help it! Here they are acting alone, here they aren’t, here they are behaving like a hive, here they are eating lightning, look at them dancing and looking for the faintest sign of their creator wherever they find it, oh Occam’s Razor, wherefore hast thou gone? Why have you forsaken me?

I tapped again. They swarmed closer, Yemo leading the way as their dance got even more elaborate, somehow, despite not breaking rhytm with the thunder song. They were completely in sync with my heartbeat actually.

Anam was the Irish word for soul.

Finally giving in to the impulse, I pressed my fingertip against the glass and left it there.

“I name you Anami.”

Yemo was there in an instant, a child cell detaching from him and shooting into and out of my skin in a rush to return to its parent. It tingled. Then it tingled even better when Yemo divided again, then again and again, the child cells coming together more and more until I was looking at a vague likeness of my fingertip.

Children learn through imitation. Was I projecting again? Or was this more than an unconscious reflection of how subtle matter behaved? Wait a minute…

The process hadn’t finished. The division continued. The tip of my finger was perfectly reflected in their amalgam, and they still weren’t finished subdividing and recombining, what were they-oh.

I was looking at a blue, glowing, perfect replica of my fingertip, down to the slightest detail of my fingerprint. “That’s amazing.”

I allowed myself the impossible thought that the way they flickered was due to my praise. Hearing my voice. The way they communicated via vibration wasn’t that different from hearing, was it? They wouldn’t be able to dance otherwise. For a given meaning of the term.

Slowly, I pressed the rest of my finger against the glass, and more, until my entire palm rested on it. Little cells birthed littler cells that strung forward in a chain until theye were mimicking the Tesla bolts almost perfectly, streaking and winding in and out of the medium through the glass, tingling atop my skin. I bent forward as close as I could, until I could see my eyes reflected in the glass. See them reflected in the reflection of my eyes, as they lived and pulsed and came together into a unified synchronicity of tiny individualities.

And there it was, finally. There they were, formed into the perfect mirror of my hand. My heart felt like it might burst. “… Good job.” I… I had proud, happy tears running down my cheeks. I could swear I could feel my words and my feelings vibrating through my arm and the glass and all the way to the heart of my little creations and their congregation. “I’m proud of you.”

Something happened. Something amazing. A wave of light rippled over the surface of the shining, mirror likeness of my hand. I could barely tell the little things apart anymore.

Then, without warning, the hand shot through the glass as if it wasn’t even there and right into mine.

“Fuck me!”

I jerked away with a hoarse shout, reflex throwing me back from the glass but not enough to save me from a nasty fall. I crashed hard on my side, but I barely spared the flare of pain any attention. My hand came alive with feelings, some old, some unexpected, some completely bizarre and unknown. My skin, my flesh, my nerves tingled increasingly as if I’d plugged my hand in a power socket, but it felt strangely good and my heart didn’t scream as if about to give up the ghost from palpitations. At the same time but separately, I felt like that time when I spent an hour with my hands on a Van de Graaff generator just to fill up with static and see what happens. But the feeling was localised below my wrist and what was happening now was not what happened then, and then the tingle reached my nerves and overlayed the neurons.

Humans can’t feel their individual cells, I thought breathlessly as I stared at my hand, who spared no time in proving me wrong immediately with its skin and folds and creases and dead cells, my mind looking over the sweat and fat glands and past the tiny hairs to their roots and beyond, deeper and deeper until I saw the blood. Humans can’t see their- the tingle reached my brain and I-

My hand…

I suddenly knew it, down to the individual haematid and leukocytes and the vessels they travelled through to reach the bone and muscles and nerves, with their cells and mitochondria and every bend in the tiny, endless ball of yarn that was my DNA several trillion times over and… and…

… There was a lot.

And I knew all of it. Everything. To the molecule and everything they contained. And did. They say a drop of DNA has storage and processing capacity comparable to a quantum computer. I could believe that now, this tangled ball of genes and their connections and lack of connections, tangled and folded and wrapped around itself, enclosed in protein and so much else, the cytoplasm beyond with so much more in it than my biology studies had taught me, the biomolecules, the acids, the mitochondria, the membrane of the cell beyond, and all around the cell and over it and through it now there was a subtle, luminous field like...

Exactly like.

Collisionless plasma.

A human cell. A plasma cell. Overlapping perfectly.

The paranormal. All the weird stories and urban legends and strange phenomena back on the old world. Double layer balls of plasma were theorised by some to be the reason behind all of it. I doubted it because I doubt most theories that try to give a single explanation for everything under the sun, but…

… Did my cells just gain their own souls?

When my reality was finally once more macroscopic, when the vivid memory stayed stuck in my mind even as the knowledge didn’t because my short-term memory couldn't offload it fast enough to save even a percentage of it, there was one, immanent thought spanning my whole mind.

Humans are stuck in survival mode.

My second thought was a feeling, like the faintest net of semi-autonomous bio-circuitry laid alongside my blood vessels and nervous system, spread throughout my hand like a half-woven web. It was weak, atrophied and hungry. The chakra circulatory system, I thought sluggishly. My cell souls. It was… eating them? I don’t think I like it.

My third thought was pain.

My sides hurt. And more. There was a sharp, persistent pain under my rib cage and my gut. I tried to stand- “Hgh…nnnn-agh!” I failed. The pain flared, severe and sharp, coming in waves. I could feel it. I could feel it spreading, out from my back down my gut and lower, until it was everywhere from below my lungs to my groin.

My fourth thought was I need to get to the bathroom.

Right now.

Gritting my teeth, I managed to use the wall to climb to my feet – barely – and thanked all my basement dweller forebears for the tradition of always having a restroom next door. Somehow, I made it.

Then I didn’t.

The pain of before was nothing. The moment I let loose, sheer, horrible agony flared from my bladder all the way to the end and I screamed.

It burns, I thought amidst the flames burning my thoughts. Like acid.

My urine was…

It was black.

The shock was the only thing that kept me upright, but even that failed when I thought the worst was behind me, only to see black replaced by red. I was pissing blood.

I fell against the wall and almost the rest of the way before I caught myself on the sink. The glass cup was knocked aside, falling to shatter on the floor, scattering my toothbrush and razor.

I… I could barely think. I need to get to the hospital.

I stumbled out, back into my lab and past it, gasping and moaning in pain with every step, but I barely made it to the door before my knees gave out. Somehow I still managed to crawl up and unlock it, pull it open. But then I must have passed out briefly, because the next thing I knew I was crawling on all fours up the stairs, barely pulling my weight.

Why is it dark? I thought dimly. Squinting up, I saw the familiar sight of moonlight casting faint shadows along the walls at the top of the stairs. When did it get night?

I made it all the way to the next to last step before my body gave out.

I’m not gonna make it, I thought desperately. I’m not gonna make it this time.

I tried to call for help even though I knew I was too far away, even discounting the walls between me and the next person, but it came out as a hoarse, wordless scream.

What’s happening to me?

There was an anbu kneeling over me.


Tall. Lean. Mask with the stylised face of a dog. His hands were already mid-way through a series of seals.

They came for me after all.

Well… that explained the pain.

“Kuchiose no jutsu!”

Archaic Nifon, I thought disjointedly. Jutsu mnemonics are in a different language?

White smoke. Brown fur. White fangs.

“Akino, see if you can track down the poison.”



The ninja dog jumped over me and down the stairs.

“Hang in there, big man,” the Anbu hoisted me up in a fireman’s carry. “Would be a shame to make my junior sad twice in one day.”

Without further words, Hatake Kakashi rushed me off to the hospital.

I was perversely glad when my size didn’t let him jump out the window.

A single thought was left to percolate through my fading consciousness when we finally made it out and he pushed the ground away in a blur.

Was that dog wearing sunglasses?

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