It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a Hidden Village to raise a ninja.
(Originally published 2/18/2005)
Vague Kakashi Gaiden spoilers. Other than that, I've nothing to say.
The first time Shikamaru killed a man, he thought, not for the first time, that he wasn't really cut out to be a ninja.
He was fourteen and he didn't think the other guy could've been much older, judging by his height and build; and Shikamaru was usually right about these things, the same way he was usually right about everything. They were in the forest somewhere between Konoha and the far edge of Fire Country, and the other guy was just a tad too slow, or maybe too stupid, or maybe he just made a freak mistake like humans do sometimes, and Shikamaru's first kunai hit him in the shoulder. He flinched involuntarily, presenting a perfect target for just a split second, and that was long enough for Shikamaru's second kunai to find his throat. Shikamaru may not have had much strength to go with his smarts, but at least he had some speed.
After the battle was over, he stood and just kind of stared at the blood on his hands, until his teammate shook him by the shoulder and told him they were leaving.
When he got home, his father grinned fiercely, clapped him on the shoulder, and congratulated him on truly becoming a man.
He went to go wash the blood off, and ask his mom what they were having for dinner.
When Kiba was a little boy, he asked his mother why their clan fought with dogs.
"Because ages and ages ago, an Inuzuka made a pact with them," she told him, "that we would take care of our special dogs forever, and in return they would go into battle with us."
Kiba frowned, because that didn't sound quite right to him. "But that was a long time ago... what if the doggies now don't wanna fight? Or hurt people? What if they're peasa... pasi... uh, peace doggies?" He clutched Akamaru against his chest. Akamaru was small and cuddly and happy and licked his face a lot, and he didn't think Akamaru had any particular interest in being a fearsome ninja-dog, and Kiba thought that he liked him better the way he was anyway.
"All dogs want to fight," his mother told him. "It's in their blood. Just as it's in yours."
"So you mean they don't even get a choice?" Kiba pouted.
His mother ruffled his hair and laughed, and that made him feel a little better. "Why would they want one, silly?"
When Ino turned fifteen, they sent her on her first special mission as a kunoichi.
The target was a rich old blob of a man who was reportedly fond of barely-legal blondes, so Ino was right up his alley. She "happened" to meet him one evening as he was coming out of his favorite bar, and they flirted a little, she playing the part of the young ingenue just barely discovering sex. It wasn't too hard, since it was pretty close to reality--the hardest part, actually, was being able to maintain her composure throughout the exchange, because he was really fucking ugly. Even nastier than he had looked in his photo on the mission summary.
He took her home, and she seduced him into thinking he was seducing her. His hands were oily. She called out his name when she came, because the other girls had said for some reason it really helped make a target more pliable. He laid back in the afterglow and she teased him into giving up all the information she needed out of him, then she left him with a kunai in his heart and slipped out to go home.
She made her report, and went to take a long shower.
When Shino was a baby, his parents gave him to the kikai.
He was far, far too young to remember it, but they told him about it every now and then as he grew up, so he would know how to do it for his own child someday. They signed their son's name onto the pact of summoning, then they made a tiny cut on his baby skin and each let one of their kikai crawl inside, female from his mother, male from his father. Baby Shino cried a little because it hurt and felt strange. The bugs traveled up his skin and inside his body, sucking up the precious bright chakra of a newborn child, and they mated. Together they would create Shino's own kikai colony.
When he was slightly less young, he could remember the sound of the bugs crawling inside him all the time. As he grew older, he learned to tune them out when he didn't need to hear, those faint miniscule clicks that were only audible to him.
He wondered sometimes what it would have been like to live without kikai, to use his own chakra as something other than an offering, to train in jutsus and feats of strength like the other children. But he supposed he would hardly know what to do without his one great weapon.
His student, Kakashi, had graduated the Academy when he was five.
The teacher who would one day be known as Fourth often felt at a loss as to how to relate to this boy. It seemed as though Kakashi had never been a child. At times he idly entertained thoughts of his student springing straight from the womb with a dagger in his hand, ready to practice.
He often felt guilty where the boy was concerned. He tried to encourage Kakashi to spend time playing, or socializing, or reading, but Kakashi only wanted to train. He wanted to become the perfect ninja, he said, to follow in his father's footsteps. The teacher supposed Kakashi must have felt this was the only thing he could do for Konoha's late White Fang -- to not be a failure, as his father had.
So the teacher sparred with him, and taught him jutsus, because if they were not training, Kakashi didn't want to spend time with him. Didn't want to spend time with anyone.
The man who would become Fourth wished that students were not allowed to graduate from the Academy at five.
But he supposed they needed all the warriors they could get.