The sky had acquired the color of a bloody red, mirroring the battlefield below. She along with a couple of other medics was working relentlessly, looking for survivors. Bodies of countless enemy shinobi littered throughout, their blood seeping into the ground.
The air smelled of death and ash.
It couldn't have been more than a couple of hours since it ended, but already she could see the crows and vultures circling high above…. Waiting for their feast.
The very air seemed heavy with the stench of death and decay.
And the scary part.
It was all the work of one man.
They split up scanning the battlefield for survivors.
As medics it was their jobs not only to ensure the survival of their troops but also to bring in any enemy shinobi alive, if possible.
But that didn't seem likely.
"Found him. He is still breathing." One of her comrades shouted from some distance away. Rei hurried over and both of them already administering first-aid.
One look at him and the first question that came to her mind was..
How in the name of Kami was he still alive?
He was young. No older than her. More a boy than a man really. But then again, no one is a child in a battlefield. His body was a mess. He had lost half of his armor, exposing his body. The skin over his arms and chest looked like it had been burnt off. His face was charred black and his once blonde hair now sported a disturbing shade of red.
"Rei we need you here."
Channelling chakra into her hands, she began to work. After the preliminary work was done to ensure he wouldn't die before they reached camp, they prepared to place him on the stretcher.
Just as they were about to lift him up, he suddenly reached out and grabbed her wrist.
A little startled she tried to gently pry his hand, but he only held on tighter. She tugged harder but she might as well try to move a mountain for all the progress she was making.
"I need help guys." She struggled to keep her voice calm.
And then she suddenly found herself struggling to breathe.
She couldn't move. She wanted to scream, but her throat had gone dry. The part of her mind which was still somewhat functional, registered that her comrades weren't faring any better than her.
One of them had actually collapsed and was now dry heaving, the other had simply frozen.
The pain on her wrist caused by his grip was the only thing which was keeping her somewhat coherent.
She had to get out of here. She had to get them out of here.
Using her other hand she tried to pry his fingers from her wrist.
It was no use, they might as well have been welded to hers.
The boy slowly sat up, like a man rising from the dead not unlike the one she once saw in a really corny horror movie. She had laughed then, but it wasn't finny now. She became more frantic in her efforts to get away, but it was no use.
He turned his head towards her and opened his eyes.
Rei woke up, gasping. Her body was wet as she realized she was sweating. It took her a few seconds to realize that she was in the safety of her home, in her bed and not the battlefield.
It took her another half a minute to get her breathing and heart rate to relatively normal levels.
The clock on her nightstand read two AM. Great she had been asleep for exactly an hour and a half.
That nightmare again. It had plagued her for the last six years. She had hoped that with time it would get better. But it hadn't. If anything it had gotten worse. She had been sleeping less and less lately.
She pressed her fingers to her temple trying to alleviate the pain, before finally getting up and making her way to the bathroom.
Opening her bathroom cabinet she pulled out her pain meds, popping two of them and washing it down with the water from the basin.
She ran a hand through her dark hair as she studied her reflection in the mirror. Her green eyes looked tired and puffy.
She could try to go back to sleep, but that ship had sailed.
Making up her mind she got dressed, put on some makeup to hide the dark circles under her eyes and went out.
Fifteen minutes later she found herself standing outside a nightclub waiting for the bouncer to let her in.
She didn't have to wait long.
The bouncer took one look at her and opened the barricade.
Despite herself she couldn't help the smirk that came over her face, as she walked past the envious crowd.
Beauty had its perks after all.
The place was illuminated with blue lighting, with an oval bar at the centre over a pool of water.
Several walkways led from the dance floor to the bar.
The dancing bodies grinding against each other, the blue lighting and the trance music gave the place a psychedelic effect.
Manoeuvring around the obviously high dancers and dodging more than a couple of hands trying to grope her along the way she made her way to the bar.
She barely made it to the bar when she was approached by one.
"So, what's your poison?" He asked her.
Rei studied the man. There were three others who had tried to make it to her. He just got here first. He was attractive enough she supposed in the forgettable kind of way. With brown eyes and jet black hair.
He will do for tonight.
"Why don't you surprise me?" She said planting her best demure smile.
The man smirked and beckoned the bartender.
"Blue Dragon for the lady." He requested the bartender.
Rei smiled to herself.
She woke up with a splitting headache to surroundings she wasn't familiar with. That didn't surprise her. It wouldn't have been the first time afterall. She turned to see a naked guy sleeping next to her, covered waist-down with a white quilt they had been sharing.
Hurrying, she silently got out of bed, looking for her clothes which were strewn all over the place.
Throwing on her clothes she checked her watch. She still had forty five minutes before she had to get to work. Just enough time to get home and take a shower.
She pushed the revolving door of the Justice Department as she rushed in. It was established four years ago. Two years after the Fourth Great Shinobi War. The war had been devastating to say the least.
It had done more damage to the elemental nations than all the previous three put together, resulting in the loss of 90% of the shinobi forces and the remaining one scattered in the general populace.
Long story short, in the space of a few short months the most powerful forces in the world led by the five great ninja villages were reduced to little more than ashes on the ground.
To rectify the situation, all the Daimyos came together, pooled in their resources and a new system was born out of the ashes of the old one.
The Justice Department was one of the success stories. It was their job to police the masses and maintain law and order.
Rei wasn't a native here. She was originally from the Land of Iron. She had trained as a medic, and was one of the paramilitary forces assisting in the war efforts. Then at the end of the war her role as a combat medic earned her a job in the Justice Department, which was still in its infancy back then and she stayed here ever since.
The Justice Department which had started as a two-storey structure was now 30 floors of mammoth concrete.
"Well well, look who decided to show up for work today." Came the mocking tone of her partner Yamada Satozuki.
"Screw you." She grumbled. Despite her best efforts she had managed to be fifteen minutes late. Which wasn't so bad actually. But saying so would only add more fuel to the fire that Yamada was trying to build up.
"So, what was your hunting ground last night?" He said, not letting up. "I would ask you for his name, but we both know that's a lost cause."
"You know I don't kiss and tell, so stop asking." She went to her desk, before she got too much into it.
"I am sure there was more than kissing involved." He continued cheekily, and soon found himself faced with Rei's shoe sole.
"You were saying?" She asked nonchalantly, buffing her nails against her shirt.
"That I was a little out of line, and I won't tease you again." He said.
Rei put her foot down.
Of course he wasn't going to stop. It was their thing. He made light of her dysfunctional lifestyle and she pretended to kick his ass for it.
"The boss would like to see you by the way." He said.
"And exactly why wasn't that the first thing you told me?" She deadpanned.
"Well I am telling you now." Yamada shrugged. Seeing she wasn't letting up her glare he added. "You might not want to keep him waiting."
"This isn't over." Rei warned him before walking away to see, what was needed of her.
Ryuren Takeshi was the current head of the establishment. A hard-as-nails, tough Samurai who earned his stripes in the war.
She knocked on the door to his office and was granted permission with a soft 'come in.'
She entered the office and gave a bow to her superior before standing in attention. The man sitting behind the desk was in his mid-thirties, sporting an impressive moustache and a top-knot, looking every bit the honorable Samurai he was. A scar on his left cheek was the reminder of the war he had survived.
The office itself was plain and simple, with no extra furniture other than a table and three chairs. Two of which lay on the visitor's side. The table was littered with files.
"At ease." He said addressing his subordinate. "Take a seat."
Rei pulled up a chair and sat silently waiting for him to begin.
They sat silently for a few minutes as Takeshi studied a file, not raising his eyes once. Just as Rei was beginning to wonder if he had forgotten about her, he tossed the file he was studying to her.
"What do you make of it?" He said in a no-nonsense tone.
Overcoming her initial surprise, Rei opened the said file and studied its contents. The first thing that greeted her was the photograph of a body. With its head removed. Was he giving her a new case? Which was a little strange, because they got their cases from the mission desk.
And as gruesome as it was, it just begged the question.
"Is this my new case sir?"
"You were a combat medic before joining the Justice Department weren't you?" He asked her.
"Well, I could use your input on this. So tell me what you see."
"It's a severed head sir." She said, not quite understanding what her superior wanted from her.
"Your powers of observation serve you well Miyamoto-san." He said, keeping the sarcasm out of the tone which was evident in his words. "But I would suggest you read the report first."
Blushing in embarrassment, Rei did as she was told. The man was Daichi Homura. Forty five years of age. Was a mid-level beaureaucrat. No family to speak of. Nothing special about him. Nothing that stood out. Her eyes widened in surprise as she finished reading it.
"That's not possible." She exclaimed.
"That's what I thought too." He said grimly. "But the facts tell the story."
Rei went through the report again.
According to the report, the cut had been clean, precise and efficient and had gone through the muscles and bone like a hot-knife through butter.
In her experience, no cut was that precise. The slashes from even the best of swordsmen, changed angles when they met the bone after cutting through the muscle.
So, that could only mean one thing.
"It was a jutsu, which did this?" She said, coming to the inevitable conclusion.
"So it would seem." He nodded.
And all of a sudden it became obvious why she had been summoned. As a medic during the war, she had seen stuff like this a lot. The destructive potential of jutsus fuelled by chakra the shinobi utilized felt like stuff from legends and fairy tails.
If she hadn't seen it, she wouldn't have believed such feats were possible.
While the samurai did have the ability to use chakra, but it was nowhere close to the versatility the shinobis used it with. For samurais chakra use was limited to supplementing their weapons and to use it to fuel their bodies for boosts in speed and strength.
Only medics like her could use chakra in ways which rivalled what the ninjas did. But even she couldn't imagine the combat potential chakra had, when used the way the shinobi did.
"So, you'd want me to investigate?" She said getting to the point.
"Yes, we would Miyamoto-san." Came a voice from behind her. Rei turned around to face the source to see a middle-aged man dressed in a blue formal yukata, as he entered the office, obviously having been privy to the conversation.
"Rei-san this is Masamoto-dono." Ryuren introduced the distinguished man.
Rei knew who the man was. Hiroshi Masamoto was the Minister of Internal Affairs and said to be one of the most powerful men in the nation.
To say she was feeling humbled would have been an understatement. But then that begged the question, what was the interest of an administrator of his stature in an ordinary murder investigation, despite the unusual nature of the case?
"You're probably wondering what I am doing here?" The man said with a smile, obviously reading her thoughts.
Rei fought down a blush, but bowed and said. "Just surprised Masamoto-sama."
"Its okay, I expect you are, but there is a reason the Government is concerned." Hiroshi said. "As you can see, the preliminary investigation suggests shinobi involvement."
"But aren't they supposed to have been….. disbanded?" Rei said.
"Yes, but the evidence obviously points otherwise." Masamoto said. "As you can imagine we are keeping a close lid on this one. We can't have people panicking after all, with a shinobi gone rogue."
"Yes sir, we will do our best and keep it low-key." Rei assured the Minister.
"Actually, I have a suggestion to make." He said and Rei knew there was more to his visit than met the eye. Because he may be putting it across as a suggestion, but Rei knew an order when she heard one. Even when it came under the guise of honeyed words of politicians.
Rei waited patiently as she waited for the ferry ride to get over. It had been almost six hours since she had embarked on this….. voyage.
The first hour wasn't so bad. The sea air was fresh and the humidity wasn't so bad. But as they kept going north, the weather turned colder and misty.
Three hours into their journey, visibility had been reduced to zero, making the journey exponentially more uncomfortable.
The fact that she was being led to the most secure prison in the entire land made the journey that much more grim.
The Black Water prison was situated on an island fifty miles off the coast of 'The Land of Waves'. It currently housed the most dangerous criminals in the known world.
If that place was hell, she had just earned herself an appointment with the devil.
She had been told in no uncertain terms that the man she was about to meet was arguably the most dangerous man in the elemental nations.
She hadn't been told much about him, other than the fact that he used to be a shinobi and was a ninjutsu specialist. Someone who can help her with this case.
She was sure there were others more qualified people who could do this. Then why was she the one who was being sent to deal with a potential psychopath?
The blare of the foghorn informed them of their arrival at their destination. With a strange mixture of apprehension and relief she disembarked from the boat.
The prison warden met her on the shore to escort her.
After exchanging greetings Rei was led across three security check-points to the facility.
The prison was a grey single storey structure, in the shape of a pentagon, with an open space in between.
After everything Rei had heard about this place she was rather underwhelmed by what she saw.
She had expected it to be bigger.
But as she entered the building she realized there weren't any prisons there.
The warden chuckled seeing the puzzled expression on her face as he led her to what looked like an elevator.
Comprehension dawned on Rei as she realized the prison was underground.
Dark and dank were the two words that came to mind as she went down the elevator. Her mouth fell open as the spectacle that was the prison Black Water was revealed to her.
"The Black Water has been around for over a hundred years." The warden said. "It was established in the beginning of the Great Village Era. Used to be a holding cell for civilian criminals."
"You mean it wasn't used to imprison shinobis?" Rei asked.
The warden shook his head.
"No. The villages didn't bother imprisoning traitorous ninjas. It always ended with death for them."
"So, why is he here?"
"That is something I can't answer. Need to know shit and well above my pay-grade." The warden admitted. "He was transported here a year ago. An incident led us to confine him to solitary."
"For his safety?" Rei had heard some horror tales of what the inmates did to new prisoners and him being a shinobi probably didn't help his case.
She was surprised to see the warden shake his head.
"On the contrary it was for the safety of the others that we did it Miyamoto-san."
The warden had to speak up because of the loud racket the other prisoners seemed to be creating, banging their mugs on their cells.
"So, how long have you been here?" Rei asked trying to get the conversation going while trying to process what she had just been told.
"Twenty three years, six months and eighteen days." The man replied.
"That's a long time warden. Don't you have a family?"
"Had a wife once." He admitted gruffly. "Been dead for fifteen years. This hell-hole has been my home ever since. What about you?"
Rei hesitated for a bit before finally saying. "No, I don't have a family." The elevator finally stopped and the doors opened to reveal a narrow corridor, with white walls and dim lighting.
Two more guards joined them as she was led to the interrogation room.
"Why don't you leave?" She couldn't help asking.
"Because hell needs a watchman to make sure the demons stay locked away from mankind Miyamoto-san." He said in a cryptic tone as he opened a door and ushered her in. "And it isn't a job for angels I can tell you that."
Rei studied the prisoner from the other side of the glass compartment. His dark blonde hair famed a bearded pale face. Dressed in the prison garb of gray he looked like just another convict. He was staring straight ahead at them, even though Rei was sure he couldn't see them. His youth surprised her.
"Is that him?" Rei asked the warden who was standing next to her.
"Yeah." The man said. "That's him. Shall I let you in?"
Rei took a deep breath before nodding.
The warden inserted a key in the door and opened the door letting her in.
"Careful Miyamoto-san." The warden gave one last warning. "He has a way of getting in your head."
The man turned his cerulean blue gaze towards her. Their intensity and focus surprised her. But she met them and walked confidently towards him, pulling up the chair at the opposite end of the table.
She opened her bag and withdrew the file in it and lay it open and placed it in front of him, his eyes never leaving her.
"You're late." He said as soon as she sat down, his voice thick and rough from evident lack of use.
"Excuse me?" Rei asked completely nonplussed.
"I have been sitting here for over two hours now waiting for you." He continued as if this was a rendezvous in a park and not an interrogation in the most secure prison facility in the world. "I'm a busy man."
Rei wasn't sure if the man was joking or not. So she decided to ignore his rantings and got straight to the point. This place gave her the creeps and she didn't want to stay here any longer than she needed to.
"What can you tell me about this?" she said
The man leaned forward, his eyes never leaving hers, the chains on his arms rankling as he did so.
"You know I am the one chained like an animal and yet you're the one who seems to lack manners." He said.
"Excuse me?" She said taken aback by his words.
"You heard me." He leaned back on his chair seemingly relaxed. "You want something from me, but you don't even have the courtesy of giving your name. I'm a little offended, considering I have been waiting here for two hours."
Rei sat motionless. She wondered exactly what had she walked into. This conversation wasn't going the way she envisioned.
Feeling she had no choice she complied.
"I am Rei Miyamoto." She said. "Level-C officer of the Justice Department."
"Pleased to meet you Miyamoto-san." He said. "I am…."
"I know who you are Uzumaki-san." Rei interrupted, not wanting to continue this conversation. "If you can help me, I will be much obliged."
"So, you've heard of me." He said, a smirk playing on his lips. "All good things I hope."
"I really don't have time for this." Rei said losing her patience. "So, can you help me?"
The man studied her for a while his fingers locked over his mouth as if considering something.
"Why should I?"
That question stumped Rei. Throughout this conversation he had managed to keep her off-balance. He may come off as goofy and an idiot, but she could see he wasn't. When she had been told to seek his help she had assumed that all that she would need to do was ask him. But it obviously wasn't going to be that easy.
She knew appealing to his conscience probably won't do much good. He was in here for a reason after all. So she did the next best thing.
"What do you want in return for your help?"
The smile on his face widened.
"What you're not going to convince me by saying that this is the right thing to do?" He mocked her.
Rei was getting angry now. But she realized that's exactly what he wanted. And she was done playing games with him.
"Fine. I will help you. Kami you're uptight." He sighed. "Well this is what I want you to do."
He stated his request and despite her best efforts she couldn't hide her astonishment.
"You want what?" She exclaimed.
"You heard me." He said keeping his face straight, no trace of humor in them.
Rei wondered if he was still playing his game.
"And just exactly what assurance is there that if I do this for you and that's a bid if, that you will help me." She said.
"Now that's a..... what is it you would call? Ah yes a conundrum isn't it?" He said, looking extremely thoughtful, running his hand through his beard. "Think about it this way. If you get me what I want, I might decide not to help you." He paused for a little dramatic effect. "But if you don't get me what I want, I most definitely won't be helping you."
Rei gritted her teeth. She wanted to walk out right now, but that won't be productive.
"I am a man of my word Miyamoto-san." He assured her.
"Fine." Rei conceded. "But if you try to screw with me after this…." She left the rest of her threat unsaid as she stormed out, not noticing the smirk that played on his lips.
Chapter notes: Okay guys, welcome to my latest offering. I came across this idea when I was sifting through some time-travel fics. So many of them. Something goes wrong and some weird plot-point allows Naruto to go back in time (Most of the time Kyuubi using some space-time technique or him being transported via Obito's sharingan) But I have yet to come across one which deals with what it would be like if the war didn't go that well and then dealing with the consequences. If you have the stomach for that kind of fic, you're at the right place.
Otherwise you're wasting your time with this. Fair warning.
Its unedited, so if you come across mistakes do point them out.
Like my other fics Naruto is the main character. So, do give it a read.
Chapter end notes: well there we go. Feedback appreciated