Some say that whenever one makes a choice there is another world that coexists where one chooses differently. When one follows this confusing thread, far in the reaches of the void that separates these worlds, one can find a world very different from the one they know. A world which is inhabited with different people, world that is defined by a different history created by countless choices differing from any other world like it. This is a story of such a world!
A young girl was standing on a cardboard box with some trash in it, one not unlike many more that could’ve been found across Konohagakure, especially in the spring season when people were tidying up and throwing out the trash that they had as leftovers from winter. The substance and contents of said box mattered little to the twelve year old girl, only its location in the central district of the village. The actions she performed on said box were quite unlike what any common villagers had seen before causing crowds that couldn’t have been called as small to gather around the child and observe her peculiar behavior.
Konohagakure was a ninja village through and through, people that lived in it may have lived under the illusion that it was no militaristic establishment however they weren’t quite right. The village made its due from ninja performing missions for both its villagers and the village itself, most of the time ninja faced off against other ninja and no place, that benefits from violence and conflict can be called non-militaristic. As many rights these villagers enjoyed, as believable as this illusion of peace was – they lived in the village of hired muscle that did not shy away from killing. Perhaps that was why this girl proved to be so interesting to the audience.
The girl with a slightly tanned skin and dark hair, tied behind her back with a forehead protector with the Leaf’s mark carved into it, wearing a casual flowery black dress similar to what normal girls of her age wore and sandals was performing tricks for the audience’s amusement. Her performance consisted of tricks both simple and utilizing ninjutsu, something that not that many people have seen before. Ninjutsu was made to be a tool of murder and stealth, a tool of accomplishing the task at hand and this child was using it for amusement of the audience, making harmless but highly visually appealing sparks, using her natural affinity for sleight of hand as a kunoichi to quickly hide and reveal objects. The public ate the little girl up…
The girl opened her eyes in the morning as Sun felt its need to blast all of its luminescence into her closed eyes slightly earlier than the young genin would’ve loved it to. She scratched her tired eyes and sat up looking around the bright room, her somewhat annoyed and tired eyes slipped back to the piece of cloth illustrating one of her favorite books that was hanging on her window, acting as a cover, as a mean to protect her from the light. The girl’s hand reached up and tore it off with a quick pull, “Thanks, I’ll remember this, Shikio-kun…” she thought sarcastically thanking the character who was depicted on the cloth. The illustration was one of his iconic battles with the Kirigakure ninja which was currently hard to believe when in reality he failed his duty to protect a young girl from sunlight in the morning. Life was truly unlike fiction…
“Mana, when will you get down!? You don’t want to be late for your “One-Time-Thank-You-Tour”, do you?” father’s voice echoed from below. The man was a chuunin of Konohagakure and had quite the powerful voice, he was more of the intellectual type so he had that certain shade of confidence and strength to his voice without making it sound too husky and dark. He had the perfect voice for a teacher but he used it to berate the opponents that fell into the traps of “Konoha’s Great Trapster”, as he was known, instead. The only reason why Mana knew all of this was because sometimes father’s friends gathered and they kept telling the girl all of the stories, always sounding so proud of all the violence, always making her doubt just how much of content of those stories was true. Surely Hibiki-san couldn’t jump fifteen meters in the air to catch the scroll they were supposed to retrieve, right?
Mana jumped out of the bed and slipped into a white shirt, buttoning it lazily and making the bed. This day was actually a special one and that meant something having in mind the fact that she just graduated from the Ninja Academy three days ago. Today was not supposed to be the day of her life as a ninja however, this was more of a day for magic! The girl had a strange little hobby for a kunoichi, she performed magic tricks on a cardboard box full of trash for everyone to see. It was a strange thing to do for those who did not understand the deep hidden meaning of Mana’s behavior.
This girl with messy dark hair that was all over the place and skin that was several shades short of making everyone think she was from Kumogakure was actually a very peaceful and kind soul, she despised the notion that ninjutsu was an art for killing. To Nakotsumi Mana all life was sacred and magical, ninjutsu was a part of life so it was just a special kind of magic, magic that was meant to protect the source of all magic – life. Because Mana believed that ninjutsu was magic which was meant to protect the stronger magic she had to express that belief, she had to show everyone that ninjutsu was not meant for killing but rather it could be given any number of meanings depending on the person that used it.
The hunched and sleepy figure slothfully stumbled down the stairs from her room into the kitchen where mother had already made her some pancakes, Mana’s mother worked in a café further into the village center called “Nakotsumi Café”, she knew all sorts of weird dishes and beverages. She knew how to make that weird “coffee” drink, a lot of villagers came to her home for a visit just to try it, for some reason mother wanted Mana to keep away from it, maybe it was some sort of alcohol or something? The girl slumped down on the chair and started stuffing her lovely little cheeks with the breakfast. A kitchen knife flew and dug right into the column of pancakes that were stacked in the center of the table.
“I hope you’re not going to thank Mr. Hanada like that, you do realize he sponsored your act, right?” mother spoke, the woman was a kind one but had a rather feisty character, she was also the only one in the family with the darker skin making Mana somehow wonder if she wasn’t the one whom the little ninja-magician inherited it from. “I’m going to dress up and do my hair later, mom, I want to spend as little time in that uniform as possible.” The girl replied after swallowing the breakfast, by now the knife flinging did not bother her one bit. “Excuse me?!” mother yelled out with a smile in a funny tone “We made that uniform together, you know? Put it together from scraps of cloth”. The family shared a laugh.
“Hanada is a crook though.” father spoke, he had his chuunin vest on, most likely he was supposed to run off into an assignment pretty soon. “Yeah, somehow doesn’t feel too great knowing that my daughter’s act took off because of a person with such a reputation…” mother scratched her forehead as she was still working the pan with the reinforcements to the pile that was currently on the table. “Well, he may be a slimy bastard but I guess he’s an admirer of art… Let’s just hope it’s his artistic side that is interested in Mana and not the one I’d be glad to pound.” father concluded the topic and finished his tea. “Well, I’m off, tell me how it went.” he said his farewells and dashed off as Mana and mother waved him away.
One day, not too long ago, Mana was doing her casual thing, working on those little magic tricks she did and a man in a fancy attire approached her and after the little show was over offered to sponsor the first year of her performances in a village hall in the northern district of the village just in case if she was willing to take it further. The hall was mostly used by actors who kept playing the same stories over and over again: “Adventures of Shikio”, “Stories from the Great Shinobi Wars”, “Tales of a Gutsy Ninja” which, to be entirely honest, to Mana looked pretty much like a hentai-story from little she had seen.
Naturally the young magician felt much obliged to return Hanada the favor in some way, she decided to give him a show for free, show him what he was financing, luckily enough his son’s birthday was just around the corner so he felt very happy about all of that. Children did comprise the vast majority of Mana’s audience anyways, they also were quite firm supporters of her craft which in terms made the mature villagers look at her with the “she’s not hurting anyone anyways” stares and smile as they passed by the cardboard box that Mana performed on. That was the plan for today, later she’d have to train for a little bit because father told her that soon she should receive a letter about the meeting of her team. That was just the way things went in the village – genin worked in teams, not that the girl wasn’t excited about meeting them.
After the breakfast the young magician rushed to get a shower and to dress up, the magician uniform did look weird but it was fun in a way – she looked like a little monkey in it and it was tight, not a thing Mana would’ve loved to be caught in a fight wearing but she looked like a fancy lady-man in it which amused her somewhat. The young kunoichi was one of those girls that didn’t mind looking cute, obviously she was instructed about the practical attires in the Academy but during her days off she didn’t mind looking silly just for the sake of it. Her attitude towards outfits matched one towards ninjutsu, if one wanted they could’ve just had some fun with it and not cared about the consequences. Father also looked pretty happy about the uniform, he also gifted the girl with a seal in her round top hat that could’ve been used to seal things into it and unseal them, sadly enough Mana wasn’t skilled enough to use it yet but father said it’s a gift for the future anyways.
After slipping on her magician’s uniform and fitting it with all the card decks and tools she used for simple hide and reveal tricks like spring devices that could’ve been loaded with light objects and then just shoot them out when flicked for a visual effect, the girl admired herself in the mirror for a couple of seconds before giving herself a playful smile and dashing down the stairs and rushing off after waving her mother goodbye. With a slow and confident step Mana was heading off into the large western district of the village which was all just large mansions and big houses that made the small home of Nakotsumi family blush like a schoolgirl being complimented.
Feeling a bit nervous the magician pressed a button which in term made a light flicker making some hired security gather up near the entrance to check her. These men weren’t ninja, they were all mercenaries however a lot of the mercenaries started as ninja before mucking something up or they lived outside the village walls and grew up in an adapt of perish kind of environment making them just as strong as a ninja and much more crafty. Picking a fight with them wouldn’t be good in any way and annoying them would be a poor demonstration of Mana’s manners. The men stared the weird looking kid down and let her through with a smile. They also were kind enough to lead the magician into the mansion and handed her over to Hanada Katsuo himself. The man was a tycoon who built his fortune on combination of “business” and “lucky breaks of right people disappearing at the right time”, being in his presence wasn’t pleasant to the girl in any way but he was her sponsor and she couldn’t help it but accept his small donations just for as long as her shows take off.
The man was a tall and well-built gentleman, he wore a rather fancy attire comprising of a white silk shirt and a vest, his overflowing golden hair and gentle facial features combined with what looked like eyeliner and make up made him look a little too feminine for Mana’s comfort but his strange looks wasn’t the most uncomfortable thing about this man. Being an advocate of justice and peace, and a kunoichi of Konoha, the girl suspected she’d have to take this man down when he becomes too ambitious and makes a mistake but for now she was wise to stay on his right side. “I’m quite glad that you decided to accept my offer to bring your art to the stage instead of… Cardboard boxes… I understand that you may be too young to understand this, Mana-chan, but… Art is a business and your art is so exotic and strange, its meaning is so yet unseen that an artist like me cannot stay neutral in its presence. My son Koji is right there, he and his friends cannot wait to witness what you do. I must compliment your attire, it’s rather classical, as you might see if you look around, I am a man that sees the value in the classical…”
The man made a gesture for Mana to look around and witness the countless statues and art that was everywhere in his home. Somehow this just made the girl feel less comfortable as she felt like she was not unlike this poor busted up statue of a naked lady. Petrified and put on display, her arms broken so she cannot resist because her art somewhat depends on her benefactor…
“No way! Guys, it’s Konoha’s Sorceress!!!” the teenager on the expensive looking armchair yelled out and jumped up pointing at Mana as she and Katsuo entered the room. “Konoha’s Sorceress?” Mana looked at Katsuo, he shrugged and smiled like a litterer would smile being caught red-handed. “I thought of it, has a certain ring to it, all good artists have stage-names, you know… Use it at your discretion, or don’t if you don’t like it.” he laughed out before turning around, wishing Mana good luck and leaving. Mana looked over the kids and teenagers that were staring at her expecting to see a miracle. When she was performing on a cardboard box without a care in the world it felt so different, now she was… Almost stage-frightened. “Okay, you might want to move now!” Mana ordered herself when the pause became a bit too uncomfortably long as the girl extended her arms.
“Alright, who wants to see a magic trick?” Mana smiled through her newly discovered stage-fright she was starting to get used to just for her audience to cheer on. People in a militaristic ninja village rarely got to have some fun, art was supposed to change all of that and Mana’s art was quite unlike anything anyone may have seen. Maybe that was why she was starting to pick up some popularity around the village…
Naruto: Tales of a Ninja Magician by Captain Claymore