18 April 2007 @ 09:04 pm
[ Naruto ] Wraiths and Strays, Act I
Notes: It's been a while since I've done much of anything around here, but this is why. This is the fic that is Consuming My Soul. Seriously. Originally, I was noticing a sudden surge of fanmixes/etc going on in some of the communities I stalk, and I thought about doing something like that, along the ItaNaru lines because it's probably my favorite Naruto pairing of the moment. But it's hard to take a kind of cracky, baseless OTP and throw some songs at it and assume it will make sense, so I thought I'd drabble a bit for each one. But then it grew, and instead of drabbles, I settled on short chapters set to a soundtrack.

This part has been finished (mostly) for a while, but I had some stylistic issues I wanted to address. I'm not completely happy with it, but I'm a lot closer than I was last week. This is an experiment, and I'd love to have some serious c/c before I release it to the World at Large.

With that said, I'm dedicating this mess to [livejournal.com profile] somekindofen , because she is a fabulous genius and I want to kidnap her and keep her all to myself and covet her and her fiction for all eternity, and [livejournal.com profile] horses_and_men , because it's all her fault anyway. :D

Act One, set to Coil - Rosa Decidua/In Memory of Truth.


Wraiths and Strays, Act I
(I've put away the poisoned chalice, for now)

The first thing Naruto notices is the return of sound. It blossoms slowly around him, hesitant at first but growing louder. Wind whispers through a grove of bamboo, pulling eerie moans from the throats of weathered, severed stalks. To his left, a pair of oururi sing softly to each other over the rasping song of cicadas -- he can gauge his uncertainty by the shudder of his breath as he takes a small step forward.

Beneath his feet he hears the crunch of coarse stones, freshly raked.

The next sense to return is smell. He smells wet earth like morning after a rain, but above it the fragrances of plum and sweet osmanthus are overwhelming, swirling through his mind, cradling his scattered thoughts in a pleasant, hazy cloud. He sways unsteadily on his feet, slightly dizzy as he takes another step. The wind whips past, adding a frantic ensemble of windchimes to the chorus of his surroundings.

Naruto tells himself he's not afraid, but he's beginning to smell the blood and human decay rising from the earth, and he is terrified.

Touch, then sight. He feels the cold wind across his face moments before opening his eyes to a landscape drenched in lifeless moonlight, old and faded like a washed-out watercolor. The trees shiver and shake, scattering petals across an obsessively-kept garden, pale pink and yellow spinning wildly before falling to the white sand below.

To his right, a familiar fan crest adorns the inner walls, proud even as it shows obvious signs of age and disrepair.

House Uchiha.

Naruto has never dared to walk this path, only looked on from the outside. He does not belong here.

Behind him, beyond the old compound gates, there is nothing but an inky void.

Slowly, he begins to follow the stones across the courtyard. He is sure he is dreaming -- no time, in reality, does the earth feel like the life has been sucked from it in this way. It's like stepping into a painting half finished, a whole body rendered half-alive by ancient, unshakeable power.

Footsteps echo empty through the courtyard; Naruto turns to see the ghost of a small boy run blindly across the grounds, ignorant of the careful arrangement as he scatters sand and uneven footsteps in his wake. Naruto is intimately familiar with the boy's features, the expression he remembers as so somber now screwed up into a mask of barely restrained terror.

He's ready to wake up now, but he can't, and so he passes the stately bamboo grove to reach the veranda surrounding the old house, following the disappearing trail of the child. The door is already open, and shredded rice paper flutters weakly from the panes.

There is a moment of hesitation before he slips inside. The smell of blood is thicker here, and his hand shakes as he reaches for the wall to steady himself. Fear trickles like cold water, sliding heavily down his spine.

Inside, the anemic light of a single candle gutters on a low wooden table, casting flickering shadows across worn tatami mats. The weak light doesn't quite reach the alcove, and so it takes him a moment to distinguish the form of a corpse bent against the wall, a spray of blood drying slowly across the face of an ancient-looking scroll that hangs there.

At its feet, a wilted arrangement of summer flowers lies scattered, abandoned.

In another area of the house, he can hear the boy screaming, a sound of primal agony.

He's ready to wake up now, but he can't. Naruto does not want to intrude on the private agonies this boy holds close to his heart in the places he cannot reach -- he is unwelcome in this memory, and he knows it.

Something is drawing him further in. Helplessly, sorrowfully, he follows, a faltering path steeped in the blood of another's madness and misery.

He knows how this story ends.


*


The passageways are littered with corpses and pooling, drying blood, and Naruto thinks he'll choke on the scent with every step he takes. Kunai and broken blades are buried in beams and furniture and bodies, and some of these corpses bear the telltale wounds of vicious sword strikes.

There is carnage everywhere, and not a single living person in sight. Despite his utter revulsion, Naruto feels a twinge of something -- wonder, perhaps, over the sheer brutality on display. Some (the unarmed, he thinks, and supresses the urge to gag) show signs of precise, instant kills, throats split wide open like second, gaping mouths. This is merciless in every aspect; were his thoughts any less lucid, he would pass it off as nothing but the darkest of nightmares, if only for the sake of his sanity. Men have gone mad for less, he knows it and reaches out to gague his own breaking point.

The screams at the far end of the hallway have dampened to sobs, punctuated by the occasional keening cry. Naruto tilts his head toward the sound; his legs are frozen and he is momentarily overcome by the intense desire to flee in horror. He should not be here. He should not be here this is not his to carry runrunrundon'tlookbacknever-

Shakily, he crosses the final stretch, and trembling fingers grasp at the door.

(In retrospect, Naruto will think, between the two of them perhaps he is the lucky one. It is a fact that his lack of a true family bears the blame for a fair share of his developmental psychology. Fulfilling that emptiness is something he can hope and labor to achieve, yet in the end, what he will have can only be an imitation.

It begs the time-worn question: is it better for one to be born blind and never know what is missing, or to be born with sight and spend the rest of one's life in mourning for what has been lost? Generally, Naruto will choose the second option, and laugh, and say "well, at least I once knew."

Generally.)

Naruto will never really understand how to act like a brother, because he has never had the experience. Despite this, he knows without a shred of doubt that this is not what a brother does, forcing the mother and father who surely love him to their knees, perfect sacrifices to some pointless evil and there is a clean slice and blood slick and heavy and pooling into the thirsty grooves of the floor again and again and again. This is undoubtedly not what a brother does. This is not what a son does.

The child shaking so fiercely, pale round face hovering inches from the corpses, babbling softly to the cold face of his father (the body is still fresh, the blood sliding from the corner of his mouth has not yet begun to congeal). This is his line, Naruto thinks sadly; this is his boundary and he has been gone for years and years. Naruto kneels beside this child, reaching out to lay a comforting hand on the trembling shoulder of the memory of his closest friend.

In the shadows, there is movement, the flash of dull tainted silver as the bloody blade catches a shaft of moonlight. Naruto lifts his face to the other (Itachi, his mind says in Sasuke's voice), calling his power to his hands, rage stirring his chakra in a fierce, angry surge of raw energy. Perhaps this is simply a dream, perhaps it is something else entirely, but he cannot stand idly by and let this go unpunished.

"No." The word is spoken sharply with a voice full of imperious authority -- despite himself, Naruto falls back on his haunches in a cringe. There is power in Itachi's words and it sucks him dry, violently tearing away the red-heat of his chakra away to nothing at all.

Enraged, Naruto leaps toward this shadowed assassin, forcing all of his energy into this sudden attack. And he is fast, but this man is faster, easily absorbing the weight thrown against him as he turns and pins his would-be attacker against the wall.

"Why?" He forces the words out from behind gritted teeth, angry and struggling for air against the strong arm pressing against his throat.

There is a moment of utter stillness, and then he is swallowed in the deep swirl of spinning crimson eyes.

*

Thoughts?
Current Music: coil - rosa decidua
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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on April 19th, 2007 07:33 am (UTC)
Thoughts...
Thoughts...are good! XD I fully support thoughts! Mind you, I'm not having very coherent ones as I'm still fairly jet-lagged from Italy, but I thought what the heck--I have very conflicting thoughts about this piece. They are, emoticonally speaking, between a very enthusiastic and giddy :D and a skeptical :/. To elaborate:

The :D -- first, your writing is gorgeous. No, really, it's breathtakingly lovely. You manage this--blend of clear narration with a sort of visceral lyricism and it's a complete delight to read. You juggle phrasing that shouldn't be possible without sounding melodramatic and a bit silly, and pull it off instead with grace. I love it. ♥

Your insights into Naruto and Itachi's essential personalities/reactions as you've shown 'em, thus far, are dead-on. It's something I've noticed in your other fanfiction, is that you're never going to commit the crime of mistaking who a character is and pushing them out of their original persona, and you color your portrayal of a character with astute observations that make it very sharply 'him' or 'her'. In the Naruto fandom this is, um. A bit of a rarity. Not to sound like I'm some huge expert; as far as I'm concerned I suck beyond all previous conception of sucking at writing the vast majority of Naruto's huge cast. XD I can write, like...maybe four characters convincingly without flailing around like a moron.

The :/ : I must state first off that ItaNaru makes me go :/ as an idea in the first place and thus I am hugely biased. I would be interested in being convinced, if you could throw some of your reasons for liking the pairing at me sometime. XD That said, the main thing that struck the wrong chord with me in this fic was, weirdly enough, your gorgeous writing that I liked best about it. It didn't--fit, exactly! Does that make any sense? Because this fic, insomuch as I can grasp it, you're writing in a third-person narration perspective via Naruto, noting in elegant detail what Naruto's seeing, experiencing, feeling. And yes, everything you describe certainly makes sense and a lot of it gives me that tingle of 'oh yes exactly.' Naruto's sense of wrongness in the Uchiha grounds, his revulsion and sadness, was especially on-the-mark. The bit about what brother does--that, too. And the wonder at the brutality. I read your descriptions of what Naruto's thinking and feeling and what he knows and doesn't and I understand what they mean, applaud the language and think yes, that's right.

But your narrative voice didn't seem in alignment with Naruto as a person, to me. It left this lovely veil of description of the circumstance, but was kind of suffused in a...solemnity, I guess? that dampened my idea of Naruto as a character in the circumstances. I guess I think that Naruto, even in the extremely horrifying situation your fic has cleverly dumped him into (and believe me, I like that XD), is still himself and possessed of that raw energy you make reference to at one point. He doens't percieve things in adjectives. Things hit his senses immediately and too much introspection makes him uncomfortable. All the reasons for his sickness and horror won't be laid out in neat sequence in his mind as images get thrown up to him. I know that it's far from a first-person narration and I certainly wouldn't ask anyone to write in Naruto's voice (egads, that'd be hard! I don't really see him as having the patience to Write Things Down and his vocal narration'd be a bitch!) but I usually latch onto fanfiction that reflects its focus character in some way--in what they notice and how they notice it. If that makes any sense, ack.

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[identity profile] vazavati.livejournal.com on April 19th, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)
....more thoughts?! *hides*
In that vein, I got thrown off by a few phrases that just seemed too precise or academic for the context. Y'know, English-teacher language. It is a fact that his lack of a true family bears the blame for a fair share of his developmental psychology. Fulfilling that emptiness is something he can hope and labor to achieve, yet in the end, what he will have can only be an imitation. That sounds more like a dispassionate analysis typed up by Naruto's therapist after a few weekly sessions, not something Naruto thinks directly.

This fic also made me want to ask how old Naruto is in it. 'Cause I'm curious.

Overall, though, even though it's aimed straight at ItaNaru, I want more of it and I want to keep reading because I like your writing, because it's edgy and intriguing, and stuff like that. XD So there. Get your butt in gear.

.......blaaaaaaaah, that was probably way more thoughts than you wanted. ^^;;; I'm sorry! I really didn't intend to go into Paragraph Mode! 'Pologies... Let me disclaim again to say I really have no idea what I'm talking about and I'm seventeen and I'm a huge dork and waaaah. *goes to hide in a hole* I can't believe how long that went. Holy hell.
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on April 19th, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
Re: ....more thoughts?! *hides*
*covets this essay* I love you so hard. ♥ Does this mean you are back from the land of a million vineyards?

First off, thank you so much for the love. I squiggle with inordinate amounts of glee because srsly: you may be a young'un, but your level of fantastic is somewhere I'd like to be someday. No, that's not empty ass-kissing -- I totally mean it. LIEK WHOA. (Also, I'm glad the characterization works. I like to try to get into characters' heads, but sometimes I think too hard about it and, I dunno, maybe get the wrong idea or find perspective that some people might not jive with.)

Okay, so. Yeah, Itachi and Naruto, wtf. That's where I start blaming Mai, because until recently I didn't even like the fella. I still don't know if I really do or not, but if anything, he fascinates me. That's where Naruto comes in -- he's got that freaky effect on people (that folks like Tsunade like to point out on occasion), and I wonder what Naruto's effect on him would be, which is kind of what started me thinking about this. Itachi, I think, is a cold man, but not completely so, and he's certainly not as empty as say Seishirou, or some of the colder bastards of fiction. He's more of a subtle character, but that might be because we don't get to see him very often, and half the time we did get to see him it was through the lens of Sasuke's rather biased memory. The big ??? with him (at least for me) is his motivation, and the lack of it in canon makes him a lot more difficult to portray with any form of accuracy in my head. I'm definitely going to be cautious, though, so no sunshine and ponies and wuvvy gay sex full of cuddles and twu wuv promises.

Part of the experiment, though is making it work without smacking anyone out of character.

Writing: yes, third person, focus on Naruto. First off, I'll answer one of your later questions -- this is Naruto with a few years added on. I'm not leaving specific ages because when I try to do that, canon will inevitably give me the BIG FINGER, but definitely more matured, say, seventeen through twenty. Given the way he's grown in the years we've been reading about him, I didn't think it was a horrible stretch. Description-wise, I thought about that as I was writing it, especially at the beginning -- he's a ninja, so him being able to determine sounds/smells as being what they are didn't seem like a horrible stretch, because I imagine sensory deprivation/determining things while deprived of particular senses being something a ninja would go through in training.

I get you on the solemnity, though. In this particular situation, I saw Naruto as being in the position of the kid forced into doing something he knows is wrong and kind of terrified of getting caught at any time, even though he has no choice in whether to be there or not. He doesn't want to be intruding on what he knows is essentially Sasuke's defining memory, because he's old enough and smart enough to know that's what it is, and he doesn't really know what's going on beyond that, which just makes it that much more discomfiting. I do know what you mean, though, and I'm pretty certain that it's not going to go beyond these particular sequences. He's still Naruto, promise -- just a little older, and a little wiser.

The, uh, academic-sounding bit was kind of something that happened when I wasn't paying attention. I ended up keeping it in parenthesis (another bit of experimenting) because I rather liked it, and felt that it provided a kind of bridge/deep breath between the before (Naruto wandering through the wreckage) and after (finally stepping in on the intimate part of the murders). Also, since picking up writing again, I've noticed that I tend to do the narration in a seperate tone, and often it's slightly dispassionate. Sometimes (like here), more than others. I'll try to be better about watching it, at least. Oops? D:
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on April 19th, 2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
(I can talk forever. Watch me.)

I'm glad the overall impression seems to be (mostly) favorable, though -- it's going to be relatively short (I'm thinking seven parts, don't quote me on it, though), and a lot of focus on character development/interaction because this whole thing is an exercise on Could it Work?, and all that good stuff. I've got more done, and I'll get it out as soon as it's worth letting other folks see. :3

♥ ♥ ♥

For now, though, I have a long-ass drive ahead of me. Thank you again for the long, thorough comments; you make me happy long time in the greatest ways. <3
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[identity profile] somekindofen.livejournal.com on April 19th, 2007 02:45 pm (UTC)
God, I was just coming on briefly (HA!) before my tutorial and now this! This! Not cool, miriya, NOT COOL.

Okay, since I'm late now anyway, I might as well tell you that this was gorgeous. So beautifully paced... and- and- It was just, very dynamic but muted, and that was an odd feeling. Like watching the story through a paper screen. I don't know, you write with this sort of earth-shaking apocalyptic feel, which is totally different from Makoto Shinkai's mellow filmography style (which is random, I know. I just watched 5 Centimetres per Second the other day, so sorry.) in the sense that it's just nerve-rattling to read. Maybe this wasn't your intent, but that came across to me. And you dampen it with all this scenery-set, lush imagery and then sudden pullbacks into more razory academia lingo. You know, I think it all works, really. Brilliantly.

Moreover, what I mean to say is that we love you long time and please update soon and (more importantly) that I read this twice instead of trying to pass my exams.

I know, I know: life=hard.
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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on April 19th, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC)
OH GOD OH GOD I'M SORRY DON'T FAIL ON MY BEHALF PLZ KTHNX. :O :O :O

All I can say, is kyaaaaaaaah. I love you so! ♥ I will do my best to be fast on the updates, and the boy is poking me because I was supposed to have left half an hour ago so I must leave now but thank you so much!

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[identity profile] somekindofen.livejournal.com on April 20th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
Hehe, no worries. I could be bum-jugging it or possibly dead in a box, but it would not matter because this (points up) marks the first ever fic dedicated to me. I cannot textually depict my love.

God, I'm such a dunce... I didn't see that there before, because then there would be significantly more shameless, dirty and easy squealing on my part. And I read this AGAIN because I'm four kinds of lame like that and practically chewing my bottom lip off because I KNOW, I know you're going to break my heart over this one. Didn't I say I'm not over Inertia yet? (Plus, as you can see, I've clearly fallen off the run-on sentence bandwagon. The withdrawal was bad enough the first time.)

So, like, I'm pretty cool with being coveted and all. And you're cool with the kidnapping and stuff. Omg, HAY. We totally have complementary neuroses. MY SHINY GOLD STARS AREN'T STRONG ENOUGH.
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[identity profile] ronsard.livejournal.com on April 21st, 2007 07:22 am (UTC)
I... have no useful comments to make. I... may have lost the ability to articulate feelings. I... blame you and your writing. No, no, go right ahead, it wasn't as if I needed my heart to, y'know, not die or anything.

What stood out the most for me about this fic (fic-bit) is the lushness of the language, how every slice of description keeps layering over one another like you might layer colors in a painting. Like the setting of a mood.

For some reason, the color scheme that came to mind for me was dark tones of red, underscored with black -- which, okay, given the darkness and blood and death, totally not surprising -- but the important thing is that it gave me the impression of watching a stage performance, curtains rising, the eerie twang of koto strings like a raking wind, things of that nature. Like life imitating arts.

Obviously, there is as yet little dialogue, and we haven't even met Itachi officially, but I'm looking forward to their interaction, sparks of humanity (or lack thereof, considering) to intersperse the syrupy heaviness of the background.

Which is my round-about way of saying I LOVE THIS MORE PLEASE I'M SO GLAD YOU WERE BUNNY-BITTEN.

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[identity profile] arclights.livejournal.com on April 21st, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
Crap! I totally killed the browser window I was using to reply with and lost a tiny essay. Damn. D:

Anyway, I was saying something along the lines of HAHA, YOU READ ME WELL. Originally, both of them were in ceremonial clothing (which wasn't so much discounted as flat-out not-mentioned), and Naruto, hands bound, was following the sound of a koto. And then I realized that I was channelling the Fatal Frame series, and to a lesser extent the fabulous Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Malice. Ditto with the red and black scheme, though I attributed that to this part being Itachi-grounded.

I'm glad you liked what's out so far -- I agonized over it a lot, but it seems to have been worth it. More forthcoming as soon as I get it together. Itachi is awfully hard to keep together sometimes. :x
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[identity profile] ronsard.livejournal.com on April 21st, 2007 06:54 pm (UTC)
HAHA, YOU READ ME WELL.

DID YOU EVER HAVE ANY DOUBT?

Itachi is somewhat horrifically difficult to get together. He is the Frankenstein's Monster of fanfiction -- these are his hands, they are very pretty but if you want them to be touching boy-parts inappropriately then you'd better be prepared to deal with his eyes, which might be, well, killing said boy, etc.

Yes, yes, more, pom-pom ra-ra, and agony is good, it makes the sweet all the more sweet or some rap like that.
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[identity profile] tango-of-doom.livejournal.com on August 14th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
O.O oh my god...this is- dare I say- brutally awesome! Just the sheer display of carnage alongside madness and wonder brings about it a sense of beauty that Naruto could never hope to understand. (Sry, you're making me go into writers mode from this fic.) I still don't know exactly what's going on, but I'm sure something will come up and explain itself (and so the child succumbs to it's guilt to tell it's guardian about the shattered window- but was it all in vein? The glass mocked every sense about his beloved mother.) SEE!? >.> This is what fics like yours do to me....hm...[saves it in favorites] this might come in handy one day....

Love it! (And the soundstrack that STOPPED BEFORE I WAS FINISHED! >.>)
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[identity profile] gunners-view.livejournal.com on August 14th, 2007 05:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the compliment! I'm pleased that you liked it so, and I'm always happy to be of help when it comes to inspiration. :3

Glad you like the soundtrack, too. Coil is one of my favorites, ever, and the music just fits so well! <3 <3 <3
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