Kodomo Namida

BY : Turtlenoise
Category: -Misc Anime > General
Dragon prints: 497
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

The nindo life is hard, tragic, and unfair. Men are perverts and Namida lives in the real world. She is only a year older than the rookies of Konoha but Naruto feels she is eons more mature and intelligent. He knows those eyes, that look, that pain.

At the age of nine, Namida is taken to Konoha to meet her betrothed, and the Kodomo assassination takes her mother and grandmother. That is when her father issues her death sentence and her brother betrays her to steal her inheritance. But Namida is a prodigy. She is ten when she graduates the academy, by eleven promoted to chuunin, and fourteen on the cusp of jounin testing. But when she was nine, she learned how to start plotting.

Tags mainly for later chapters.

Chapter One: The End

The bride of Kodomo Jomei was of a family not especially well known for their ninjutsu, but the Hirose did have wealth and honor, respect and history, and a pragmatic knowledge of military prowess passed down from one generation to the next. Kodomo Yuki née Hirose was no kunoichi, but she had experienced her fair share of war, sabotage, execution, and legislation in her relatively short form of life. She was a strict, strong woman who had a practical understanding of the world around her and its politics. Yuki only became colder in the wake of her marriage to the then dubbed "Ice Prince." She gave Jomei two children – Namida and Junichi.

At the gates of Konoha, the Sandaime Koorikage Kodomo Akahana arrived with her young grandchildren, her daughter by law, her guard, and the rest of their robust company. The Sandaime Hokage Sarutobi Hiruzen was there to greet them. There wasn't much fanfare, as was Akahana's preference, once the main carriage had opened and Sarutobi offered his arm. Akahana didn't particularly need it, but she did hunch more than he did in their ripe age (more of an act, he was sure) and she enjoyed some practices of courtesy on occasion. Sarutobi was one among few who'd earned that respect.

It had been a grossly long period of time since they last met, and they had much to catch up on. After commenting on how aged he had become since their last reunion, a jibe that elicited an earnest chuckle from Hiruzen, Akahana immediately addressed her next concern – her granddaughter Namida was only nine and prone to illness. The trek from Yamagakure was long and hard on civilians and students alike, and the girl had developed a fever down the heavy mountains.

"She must need rest."

Their men knew what they were doing, and the two Kages trusted them to reign the horses in, clear out of the way, and attend to the tired children. Junichi crossly had to stay behind with his sister, relocating Akahana's responsibility to an equally irritable yet frigidly polite Yuki and the rest of their dutiful servants. The two old friends traveled a peaceful and solitary path up the Hokage Monument in no time. And old they were, their age beginning to creep into the wizened lines around their eyes and mouths. But they were ninja still.

"Her mother was adamantly against allowing her to come," Akahana complained.

"It's a dangerous passage."

"The girl can't be sheltered in the snow and ice forever. Her brother already takes after their mother, cold and sullen. And their father, eager to be a brutish and foolhardy warrior. Nami-chan needs to see the world around her."

They had reached the top and Akahana looked down at the industrious, homely village fanning so far out in every direction. She could clearly make out the army of lanterns being lit upon the arrival of twilight. The road to Konoha had truly taken longer than they had intended. It left Akahana feeling particularly drained and weary, more than she'd care to admit. Whether the celebrations were prepared out of the excitement for her queenly visit, coincidence, or an everyday ritual, Akahana could not care to remember. But she breathed in deeply and allowed herself to relax. It felt as if she had not done so in years, but she could trust Sarutobi, as she had in the past with her life.

"My granddaughter needs a husband… While there are many years to come before that, she needs to be betrothed soon."

"You know… the Uchiha won't agree." Akahana turned toward him with a preemptively raised eyebrow, patiently waiting for further explanation. "They know the Kodomo custom. As a matriarchy, in any marriage, their son would live with you in Yama. They'd be insulted by the suggestion that their children would have the Kodomo name."

"I don't know if it would be a suggestion. And the only opinion that really matters is that of young Fugaku, isn't it? Unless the poor boy has been simply overrun by the opinions of those he officiates?"

Sarutobi frowned over the village pensively before finally looking back to Kodomo. "It is in every head's interest to listen to the voices of his family, for they are the ones to whom he answers and is ultimately responsible. One cannot rule without careful attention to the views of those over which he manages."

Kodomo, as always, did not miss a beat. "One cannot rule without considering their needs, either, even if they cannot see it so clearly. You are right, of course, but it is also a leader's responsibility to decide what is best for his or her family, for the greater population and lesser men are – more often than not – blinded by fear, prejudice, and the mentality of the mob."

"They would not give up their heir, regardless of your jewels and wealth. Even the idea of longstanding truce is lost on them. What could you possibly offer? I think you'd be better off arranging your granddaughter a marriage with the younger son."

"Unless someone can point out the… advantages to naming young Sasuke-kun the Uchiha heir, should Itachi relinquish his claim to live a comfortable life in Yama… as our future Prince."

"Prince is only a name given to Kodomo trophy husbands."

"Well, obviously the Koorikage name belongs to Nami-chan only, and rightfully." Yamagakure did have an awfully antiquated system of inheritance rather than merit for their leader. Others outside the family were still welcome to challenge for the title, though not many dared for fear that the combat would become sudden death or, even worse, the dishonor and social pariahdom upon defeat and survival. That was the price for contesting the true Koorikage, so they said. The success rate of those who did partake was nonexistent. Within the family, there were no rivals to the main branch heir out of respect. And what's more, being such a small country, even the civilian lords and ladies in all of Yuki no Kuni answered to the Koorikage, making it more of a kingdom than a military force. "But what will he be here? Head of the ineffectual Military Police? He has too much talent to waste on that, I've heard. Give that title to Sasuke-kun. Itachi-kun could have influence over Yama and its forces. Real power."

"Limited power. I've heard of how much luck your daughter by law has had in that department, and so have the Uchiha."

"Power can be found with limited agency. It is what you make of it. My son's wife was no Uchiha. She was a Hirose. And so long as Itachi-kun's loyalty is to his wife, there should be no problem with his power." Akahana was never fond of her daughter-in-law. "The delicate sensibilities and strict manners of Yuki-chan are tedious. She is a highborn lady. Not a soldier or a fighter. She does not understand the shinobi way." It was true that Yuki could comprehend the game and how to play it, but she had to work with what she had, which wasn't much. Akahana saw to that, for she did not trust the family she came from, nor had she ever trusted Yuki's personal intentions. But Akahana had reliable sources, and the young prodigy Itachi was well known for being a clever and carefully compassionate boy. His old soul could be worthy of her granddaughter's longstanding and hard-won affection, partnership, and attention. "Worse yet, she prattles on and on about how Namida must be proper, and how she must sew and study."

"Namida is smart. And sickly."

"Namida is intelligent, and sly. She's a little fighter, that one. You can't keep that child off the mats."

"Taijutsu, really? She is awfully slight."

"So is Jun-chan, but I see no one fussing over him. And, unlike him, she can compartmentalize difficult information beyond her years. She has honed great skills preparing herself against opponents larger than her."

"I imagine she has a lot of practice."

Itachi wasn't sure what to make of the Kodomo. He was thirteen and understood what was happening better than Sasuke, at eight. The girl… He knew one of them was meant to marry her. He just wasn't sure which one of them it would be. He didn't even think that was something his parents knew, not yet. It seemed his mother and father had not come to a decision, but now the arrival of the Kodomo was upon them.

It would be inane to refuse offering at least one of their sons for a matrimony of that caliber. It had been an idea worth playing around with for years, but the day of reckoning had come far sooner than anyone could have anticipated. Even now, he keenly caught the curious whispers of family members and common villagers alike. But the only whispers Itachi really engaged with seriousness were that of his parents, late at night and in secret. Itachi found it to be the most reliable source of information – straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

At first, years ago, he thought it would obviously be him. There didn't seem to be any question about it, in his young mind. A match between a male heir and a true-born daughter simply made the most sense. As he grew, he learned that not only was Namida older than her twin brother, but that the Kodomo were a firm matriarchy, and what that meant. This girl was as true an heir in her own family as he was among his. That made matters into a more complicated state of affairs.

Certainly, she could not abandon the succession to live with him any more than he could for her. So, she could marry Sasuke-kun. Clans sent off second and third sons off all the time for alliances' sake. It was not unusual. His information gathered somewhat recently how the Koorikage wanted her heir to take up residence in Konoha for the duration of the engagement, until the marriage some years in the future. Itachi considered the motives behind that rather odd line of reasoning, and didn't quite believe some speculations he'd overheard wishing Namida a well-rounded understanding of her betrothed's culture and lifestyle. It never seemed to matter before. Surely, her formative years were better spent in her own home village, being tutored and prepped for her future roll.

He wasn't sure he liked the idea of Sasuke moving up to the cold mountains, so far a distance that it took nearly a week to travel at shinobi speed, any more than he enjoyed the idea of going there himself. This was his village. This was their home. It wasn't fair, but he might've put it all aside for the sake of duty.

Had he not known it was going to be pointless in a few month's time anyway.

Shisui was already dead, after all, and there was no stopping the horrific plan now.

Little did he know that there was another plot working toward fruition at a greater velocity, aimed to be executed that very night.

But now, the festival was in full swing, and he was dressed in a black and red yukata finished earlier that day by his mother. When he spotted Namida, her clothing was blue and silver of a professional quality. He had heard of Kodomo Yuki's seamstress skills and marveled at a firsthand account, for so long and so often picking up on the envious chatter of village civilians who made it their life's work, something Yuki-san apparently undertook as a hobby.

Namida's hair was silver, and so long that Itachi didn't think she'd cut it in all her life. He was surprised that, instead of being pinned up in some sort of intricate knot or style or braid, it hung free and wild down her back. She also had her family's silver eyes, and her family's crescent-shaped sigil on her back, mirroring his own crest that weighed heavily, screaming, between his shoulder blades.

He was more interested to see their kekkei genkai. Itachi had never seen this Aisugan of the Kodomo personally, and he was always curious. He heard it activated slowly, but it looked just like ice – the bright and frozen blue of a glacial lake – which covered both the iris and the pupil. It was said to reflect all manner of light no matter the lighting. An inner luminescence like a winter fire.

Itachi was excited and thought that it couldn't hurt to active his early Sharingan to see if her bloodline… reacted. If it had been a fast activation, he couldn't have done such a thing (it could have reacted badly, seen as a threat, and would have been outright rude if he was caught). But this girl couldn't have been much. Indeed, there was no instant response. There was no response at all. He kept eye contact just a little longer, holding out for a small hint that it was starting, before he gave up and deactivated his eyes. All the while, Namida just stared at him, perhaps waiting.

"Uchiha Itachi."

"Kodomo Namida?" He didn't know why he bothered phrasing it like a question. Clearly, the young girl could see right through him.

"I heard you're sick. Like me." He frowned, taken aback. "From rumors," she explained bluntly. There was a sound somewhere between a squeak and gasp made by the handmaiden at her elbow, who had short red hair and freckles uncommon to Yama. But her pale complexion certainly proved her residency. She grabbed Namida's arm as if that would pull back her words or, at the very least, warn her against speaking so candidly again. Itachi watched the transaction, noting how aggressively familiar the touch was, something that would not have been tolerated normally had they not been… friends, he supposed.

"Nami-chan," she chastised, the informal way Namida was addressed only confirming Itachi's original assessment, "that was rude." So, they were probably good friends, then.

"It will go away," he defended coolly, ignoring the common girl. "It always does."

Namida ignored her, too. Not unkindly, just dismissively and blasé. She was used to getting scolded, Itachi was willing to bet, from peers and adults alike. She maintained an eerily sharp focus on Itachi, and it was then he knew that she knew the big secret. She was testing his waters, as her potential future matrimony. "We both know that's a lie our parents tell us and each other."

He stared back at her. Her skin was gaunt, already flushed a bit at her drawn-in cheek bones from the Land of Fire's heat. And under her eyes hung a tinge of shadows – pink, slightly swollen, and pinched … Not like she'd been crying, but like she was naturally poor in health. Despite that, she was very pretty, as he'd heard all Kodomo were.

Sasuke picked an opportune (unfortunate, for him) moment to wonder by the trio. Itachi plucked him up and set his brother down between him and the girls, an active human shield. Sasuke wasn't much younger than Namida, but Itachi could already tell he was leagues more naïve and obviously shorter, something that made him pout.

"Outoto, this is Kodomo Namida-hime. Be nice to her.

She may one day be your bride.

Itachi's parents discussed what to do with Kodomo Namida more openly after what happened that night. The girl had nothing else now other than a handful of staff that had survived and whatever grace Konoha gave her. After the ceremonies commenced and were close to conclusion, a secret party assassinated the Koorikage and her daughter-in-law, along with over half their company. Namida would have been dead, too, had it not been for Itachi. A large portion of the rest fled like bats out of hell. And everyone knew exactly who was behind it.

The son of Akahana, Jomei, had seized power. He became the first male Koorikage since its beginning. Normally, in the case that the Koorikage was survived by no daughters, as Akahana had no surviving daughters, it would be passed to her eldest son's eldest daughter. And should she not be of age, her father – or even her mother – could act as interim. But Jomei proclaimed himself Koorikage and, with one true born daughter still living and now a bastard daughter as well, named his escaped son Junichi his only heir.

Most of their company returned home, pleading amnesty. Even the loyalists either assimilated or absconded indefinitely. It left three abandoned children who were picked up under the protection of Konoha, which included Namida herself, her handmaiden, and a young Nakamura heir who was not welcomed back after his uncles had selfishly decided to seize the opportunity (perhaps in cohorts with Jomei from the get go) to take hold of their clan's leadership.

Jomei demanded Konoha's return of his true born daughter, who had survived the night. But it was not something that Sarutobi, as the late Kodomo's friend, would have ever allowed.

"If you don't appease him, he will make you regret it," Namida had told him when he had told her, only after she had persistently and tiresomely demanded answers. It was only fair she knew, despite her young age.

Sarutobi had sighed. "It would only be to your death."

Namida had stared at him with a pearly new scar, a deadened look on her face. "Perhaps that would be for the best."

It had only strained the tension between the Hokage and the Uchiha, who called for the Hokage to give in to Jomei's demands, if only for their own interests. They did not want war with Yama (only civil war). And they reasoned it was not clear what would become of Namida if they sent her back. Kodomo weren't savages. Would they really kill a main branch family member with the potential for their bloodline limit? Or would they let her live the life of a second born child and a lady of their household, to be used as a soldier or a breeder?

But if Sarutobi was intent on keeping her under his protection, the Uchiha could still make the most out of the unforeseen turn of events, as they were wont to do. Fugaku discussed it at the dinner table now, openly with his wife and in the presence of their children and other uncles or cousins. Itachi could marry her now without stipulations. Even though she may have possessed little-to-nothing to her name and the Uchiha would benefit no titles or trade profit out of it, it would be in aligning the bloodlines and combining the Aisugan with the Sharingan that they might make their fortune. Even if Namida never received it, it could be laying in wait as a dormant, recessive gene for their future children.

Producing hybrid offspring had been done before, with mixed results. Sometimes, the children would simply succeed to either/or. But whether they inherited the eyes of their mother or father, the bloodline would be incredibly strong. Some never received the power at all. Others went blind, snapping under the intense pressure of overloading power.

Itachi would never want his children blind. He could never risk it.

"The old fool is still trying to hold the peace," Itachi's eldest uncle barked. "The Kodomo have waged war for less than a little girl." Itachi bit his tongue, use to letting the insults wash over him. Itachi grew up listening to one thing and thinking the other. It wouldn't help him to fight and be marked as some sympathizer, no matter how pure his logic was or how educationally he had the capacity to express his ideals. It would fall on deaf ears. Instead he listened, and soon he would have to listen to it no more.

Itachi was still wrestling with the thought of what was asked (ordered) of him, trying to comprehend it all. Was it all truly right? Was there no other way? Or was Danzo and the Council manipulating him for their agenda?

Itachi was too far gone. He was in too deep.

"While that girl lives, Jomei's reign is in question," Fugaku agreed, glancing at his eldest. Itachi couldn't tell what he was thinking. Was Fugaku pleased his son had saved the girl? Or annoyed? Did he even care? Part of Itachi thought his father intrinsically knew that his time was coming, now. And even if he remained willfully unaware, Fugaku had the practical mindset of accepting what was done was done, and there was no need for hindsight or anything other than moving forward. Planning their next move in direct reaction to the current fallout of Itachi's actions, whatever that fallout may be.

Itachi took that was his cue to speak up. "If either Sasuke-kun or I were to marry her, we would run the risk of being in open rebellion against Yama. The Hokage might try to stop it."

"He's doing a good job of angering the Kodomo all by himself," another uncle offered angrily.

Itachi shrugged facially. While he wasn't expressionless, per se,he did choose his body language deliberately. His father could be a closed book, but Itachi was an actor by then. "Or because he's already angered them. Perhaps arranging a forced marriage with a proud man's daughter would add insult to injury. But perhaps the Hokage could be made to see it as an opportunity to show Konoha's solidarity in protecting an honored guest, betrayed under our very own nose."

His eldest uncle wrinkled his nose. "But who could care about their interests and opinions and the good will? Who cares about getting the old man to see things differently, or solidarity, or foreign bitches being stolen."

His mother shot him a displeased look and pointedly dismissed her youngest son. "Sasuke-kun, why don't you go to your room and get ready for bed? I believe dinner is truly over, now." Itachi also wondered if his contribution disappointed his mother.

Maybe they were too eclipsed by blood red moons, blinded and bitter. Maybe they were too far gone.

Namida was nine and pissed.

"Why are we here?"

She was surprised she'd managed to lead the older boy so far out without him finally noticing. While she was sure Itachi had noticed, actually, he was free to speculate until he decided to give up and ask. She continued into the small clearing. It was more like a cove, but Namida could work with tight spaces.

"You're not courting me, Uchiha. You're training me." She turned back when she noticed he'd stopped on the mossy floor, just inside the break in all the trees. "I have nothing else left. No family, no home, no future. At least, not a happy one. I'm being shielded and packed away and I will not just be your wife – or anyone's wife – until I have a reason to have a family. Until I take back what's mine. I won't bear your children and be forgotten. I will not sit idly as the old men decide my fate. It is mine to do with as I please and they will not stop me. You know war, Itachi-san. Teach me war."

Itachi could think of no other response other than to start training her in the woods, in secret.

Namida was still nine and Itachi was gone.

All Uchiha were gone, and suddenly she didn't have to worry about marriage. Sasuke didn't have to worry about family. Itachi didn't have to worry about rebellion. It was all only silver linings, if known at all, which most of the mystery wasn't. Namida didn't understand. Sasuke didn't care to. He was just angry.

She approached him after what had happened and she had been promptly rejected. She said she was sorry, offered her sincerest condolences. While she might not have particularly liked the Uchiha, she recognized how no child should have been put through such horror. But that wasn't why she'd come and Sasuke could sense that. She was only being courteous. "Itachi-senpai trained me. We weren't taking long garden walks, or any kind of walks at all. He was training me in the woods, far from all their eyes. And now that there's nothing but ghosts and blood for the both of us, I thought we could train together. Would you like to train with me, Sasuke-kun?"

"You'd never train Sasuke-kun this way," she'd told Itachi once, teasing. Exhausted, she was taking an impromptu break with her body stretched out on the winking bank of grass. "You're too delicate with him."

"Sasuke-kun is pressured enough as it is." Itachi had paced around her in a semi-circle, holding tightly to the stick with which he used to beat her mercilessly. Namida could tell by his impatient prowling that he would not wait long for her to regain her breath. No sooner than he said what he said, did he lunge at her again in an arching attack. Namida's hand flashed to her own identical staff at the same time she kipped up and blocked in one continuous motion. He hit a few more times, and they exchanged blows back and forth.

"You're getting faster."

She had grinned. Praise from the renowned genius made her feel alive again.

Presently, Sasuke snapped, "And what? Start calling you sensei? Senpai? Marry you someday now that it doesn't matter?"

Sasuke was almost nine, but it seemed like an odd thing for him to say. She was used to saying it. Dreaming with other girls about who they'd want to marry. There were plenty of great warriors and cute boys to dream of in Yama. Baachan would have disapproved, but it was an easy topic that made the other girls laugh and love her. Her grandmother could be prickly. Namida was nothing but sweet and docile and doting. It earned her favors. But never any from her father. Junichi might've been occasionally swooned but, all things considered, that was probably snuffed out.

"To be fair, we'd make beautiful babies. Powerful children. And maybe once the dust settles we could leave them a great and proud legacy." She winked. "Maybe you get your vengeance. Maybe you can scheme a little bigger. Plan accordingly in the world around you. There are plenty of ways to get what you want."

"I want nothing to do with him. I want nothing to do with you."

"You're grieving, so I'll forgive you and beg you to reconsider." She didn't look like she was begging. She didn't look pleading whatsoever. "We could look good fighting together. I like our odds."

"And how could a sickly loser like you help me learn to fight? Help me become powerful enough to beat him?"

That actually stung, but it wasn't the strongest of insults so she shook her head and smirked. "I was never sick, Uchiha."

"I said no. Leave me alone."

Her lip and eyebrow quirked, and she shrugged. "Fine then."

Sasuke didn't wonder until later, after his blood settled and he returned to a more normal state of mind, what she'd meant. "I was never sick."

Namida was ten when she graduated the academy, only a short year later.

Sarutobi was both surprised and impressed. He'd allowed her to train and learn in his village to keep her busy, but now that he was staring down the barrel of this new predicament, he felt worry. "You'll never be allowed to return to Yama once you become a kunoichi of Konoha, you understand?"

Namida smiled bleakly. "Good." He didn't need to know it was a lie. If he had his suspicions, he honestly couldn't tell the fact from the fiction. Namida had learned performance skills from Itachi as well as fighting. But Sarutobi knew from the look in her eyes that she had other ideas.

She graduated with Ayumu, the second daughter of the Sasaki clan who had been sent from a young age to live among the Kodomo as a handmaid. And they were joined by Daisuke, technically the heir of the Nakamura clan. The boy had come with the Koorikage's party on the visit that ended her life with his older brother who was killed in the uproar. Yet another reason to make Sarutobi wary of Yamagakure's wrath. He put Team 13 under the tutelage and supervision of Masaru Kuro, a young and impatient jounin aspiring toward ANBU, who's steady progress was halted by the unexpected opportunity to tutor the young children. Kuro had been fairly annoyed, Sarutobi could tell, but he didn't complain. At least, not to the Hokage.

"It will be a good learning experience," Sarutobi assured him. Certainly, the young man could gain the value of patience among a squabbling squad of displaced refugees. Another thing that irked Kuro was how, out of all three genin, none were truly Konoha's. They'd been given blank forehead protectors, but he didn't catch the children wearing them often.

Kuro had been as unimpressed with the genin when he first met them as they – mainly Namida – had been with him. They were scrawny and stumped by his presence. They couldn't seem to comprehend what this boy was doing among them, wearing the standard-issue jounin outfit.

Namida had taken one look at him and didn't seem pleased. "How old are you?"

When Kuro raised an eyebrow, it was toward the Sandaime. But he turned back to his new squad when he told her, "Fourteen." He was around the age Itachi would have been by then, and undoubtedly shared similar prodigy-like signs despite his lack of elite clan membership or bloodline limit.

Namida looked sharply toward Sarutobi and scowled. Then she said something in a language Kuro did not know, but could hazard to guess the subject of which, pertaining to him, was not nice.

"You give us a baby?"

"I assure you, Kuro-kun is more than able."

"We graduated with kids only a few years younger than him." Her accent was thick, but when Sarutobi replied in the common language, so did she. "We are only a few years younger than him."

"And when has age," the Hokage answered, "ever stopped anyone around here?"

"Look," Kuro said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "It's fine. If they do not want me, Sandaime-sama, then I will gladly be reassigned so that someone more qualified may replace me."

"Nonsense, Kuro-kun. I respect Namida-chan's valid concerns and maintain her every right to voice them. However, you will be Team 13's instructor."

Namida didn't have a choice. And neither did Kuro.

In a year's time, Namida was the only member of Team 13 to pass the chuunin exams.

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