Gato was having a really shitty day.

First off, every time he went to have a meal, the cooks reported that someone stole his food right from the kitchen. That led to him now needing to find some replacement cooks. It probably wasn't the last one's fault it happened but failure just couldn't be allowed.

Gato also hadn't been able to sleep all night. Ever time he was about to fall asleep a harsh shrill, like flute played off key, screeched so loudly it had him jumping out of his skin.

After he had decided to just get up for the day, he went to take a bath and somehow his soap made all of his...sensitive bits burn like it was on fire, and now it wouldn't stop itching.

Then every single pair of pants he tried on suddenly got a split in the back when he put them on.

It was so early in the morning that the sun hadn't risen yet and most of his staff weren't awake. The only people around were the guards and some of his people that would relay orders and occurrences with the docks.

His hair was still a mess and greasy because he didn't trust his shampoo or his brushes. He also replaced all his toilet paper with the stuff from the general employee bathrooms.

So he went down to the kitchens himself, for the first damn time in years, and cooked his own breakfast of bacon and eggs. He didn't trust anyone else making it.

Then, with bloodshot eyes, rumpled hair, and pants that had a half-assed sewing job, he began to take a bite of his slightly burnt breakfast. Then a runner came into the room.


"What!? What do you want!? If this is about the soldiers saying they are seeing giant crabs again, I swear I will hang you on a tree and have you whipped!"

"'s about one of our ships. It was attacked when it tried to leave port. It's rudder and sail were completely destroyed." The runner said nervously.

Gato's eyes narrowed. They were interfering with his business now too?

"Who did it? What happened?"

The runner made a slight choking sound and mumbled incoherently.

"What? Speak up!"

"It was...uh...done by giant gold crabs."

It was ninja. It had to be. They were using illusions or something to make it look like the silly local legend was doing this.

"How is the cargo? Did it get damaged?" Gato growled. A single lost shipment could lose him more money than he could make up for with dozens of other shipments.

"No. All the cargo was completely untouched, minus a crate of produce that got knocked into the ocean." The runner promised.

The ninja were trying to leave his product alone? That meant they didn't want to destroy his business. That was something he could use.

"Tell the men to get the ship back into port for repairs. But first go get my guards. Looks like I need to have a talk with my own pet ninja." Gato stood up, leaving behind his plate of uneaten food.

It tasted like shit anyways.

He had three guards quickly catch up with him as he left the dinning room. He marched his way up to the door for the waste of money inside.

Zabuza was in the same position he'd left him. Laying flat on his back while the masked woman watched over him.

"Zabuza. You need to fix my problem."

The supposed Demon of the Mist looked up at him from his place on the bed. "I'll have the bridge builder's head for you, as soon as I recover. Only a few more days-"

"I don't care about that shit right now." Gato interrupted. "Someone has been in my room. Stolen my food. Damaged my clothes. Messed with my shit! And now they are stopping my shipments! If I'm hiring you, you are going to fix this!"

The ninja stared at him for a moment before letting out a low chuckle.

"Oh no. Not for all your money. I was hired to kill a target, and I'll do that, but I'm not taking a new contract from you right now."

Gato felt his face burn. He couldn't believe the impudence of the the stray dog. "How dare you! I'll give you money. That's all your lot cares about. You WILL do this!"

Zabuza gave him a flat stare. "No. I don't like the odds."

Gato grit his teeth. How dare this useless piece of shit refuse! He was under Gato's employ right now! Gato took his cane and took a step forward to show the cripple what refusing him got someone.

However instead of being able to swing down his cane, he found his hand in a cold vice. The masked woman had somehow moved across the room without him noticing and grabbed his arm, the pressure was enough to make Gato cry out in pain as his bones creaked in complaint.

"Haku. Enough." Zabuza ordered.

The bitch immediately released his arm and backed off. Gato cradled the arm to his chest, and for just a moment, he swore he could hear his fathers drunken laughter.

"I'll still honor our contract, Gato. But you aren't the only person willing to pay ninja to get rid of their problems. If you wish to renegotiate our contract, I'm more than happy to just cancel it."

Gato grit his teeth. He didn't want that. The bridge builder did need to be taken out. He was giving people ideas. No sense in trying to hire someone else for this. Besides, the two ninja might just kill each other and he wouldn't have to pay anything more.

"Fine. But if you fail again I'll have my men kill you themselves." Gato growled and stomped out of the room.

He was loath to contact another ninja to come in and deal with his problems, but he just couldn't keep living like this. He marched back to the dinning room to at least finish off the bacon, only to find the plate empty with a note on it saying "You're a shit cook. Also, seasonings are a thing."

I felt confident that Gato was close to breaking and asking for backup. Which, if that was the case, meant I'd need to find the closest thing the man had to a second in command quickly. Once Gato called for reinforcements things would probably unravel rapidly.

Tayuya had apparently been waking the man up all night long and reported earlier that morning that he didn't have a breakfast worth stealing. So I left a note on Tazuna's door letting him know I wouldn't be bringing breakfast that morning. Instead I went to check up on my other subordinate.

I found him perched on top of a cliff that overlooked both the ocean and Gato's docks. The docks only visible if one was comfortable leaning over the edge of the cliff, making it a great place to keep an eye on the port.

"Kidomaru-kun. Anything new?" I asked.

Kidomaru turned and gave me a brief nod of acknowledgment before turning back to peak over the cliff side as he spoke, "After the first ship came back into port the sailors were panicked, but I did manage to find one guy that immediately ran to check on the warehouse you said to keep an eye on. So we at least know who Gato's guy on the docks is that deals with the ninja stuff."

I gave a hum of acknowledgment. That was good news. If I couldn't find out who Gato's right hand was from the big boss himself, I'd have to find out from his subordinates.

It shouldn't be this hard to find out the command structure of a business. It's amazing Gato made any money.

"How did your spiders take the water and your gold web all over them?" I asked as I sat down, sticking my legs off to the side and tucking one end of my dress under the leg.

"Not great. They are going to want a lot of food to make up for this." Kidomaru said, face pinched.

"I'll make sure they get it." I promised.

We lapsed into silence. Kidomaru kept glancing back at me to see if I was still there before going back to gazing over the edge of the cliff. What ever was going on in the docks was also surely not so important he needed to keep a constant eye on it.

Kidomaru was uncomfortable with me. He was one of the ones that was loyal to Orochimaru himself, and not the power or the fear. He didn't like my sudden change of character, clearly. When Orochimaru found him he was from a hidden village that had been wiped out. The Village Hidden in Caves was no more.

I suppressed the part of my mind that whispered that's what happens when your entire village is underground and can be completely gotten rid of with one cave in. They were still people and they still all died. It had a great impact on Kidomaru, who found himself without kin and home. And of course Orochimaru was more than happy to swoop in and act as the savior.

"Kidomaru-kun. What do you want in life?" I asked.

The spider summoner looked up at me in confusion. "I'm sorry?"

"What do you want in life? Do you want power? Food? Prestige? Love? Knowledge?" I asked.

"I want to live in service to you, Orochimaru-sama." He responded.

"That's flattering. I appreciate that. Really. But what do you want besides that? And if you want to serve me, why? Don't say anything about me in your response. Why is it that you want to serve me?"

"I just...want to be part of something great." Kidomaru replied. "There are so many powers and villages that don't make any impact on the world. I know that by serving you, I'll be a part of history making events."

As far as reason went that wasn't a bad one. Though reading into more I knew exactly what he meant. He wanted his mark made on the world. He wanted to a part of something that would be in history books, so that even when he finally died, something he contributed to would be around forever. It was no different than the drive for many an artist and scientist. Hell, a bunch of a religions started from just wanting to be a part of something greater. But I had one worry.

"Will that make you happy?"

My subordinate's eyebrow rose and he gave a profound, "Huh?"

Apparently not many ninja bosses ask if the fanatical loyalty of their minions will make their underlings happy.

"There are many ways to be a part of something greater Kidomaru-kun. There are those that become monks and gain enlightenment. You can become an artist and make a work of art that will be talked about for ages. Or you could start a family, and have a bit of you live on for however long humanity lasts as your line continues through time." I promised, "There are many ways to leave a lasting mark on the world."

Kidomaru let out a snort. "Me? A monk? Or a father?"

"If you want." I stated. "I'm confident you could be a great one if you pursued it. A great artist too. Your webs can be a beautiful sight to behold."

"Are you trying to make me quit?" He asked, dumbfounded.

"Of course not. You are one of my best men. I just want you to be happy. Your goals to be accomplished. I'm not making you follow me. I just want you to know I appreciate you, and all my ninja. I want all of you to be able to accomplish everything in life that you set out to do."

"I...thank you Orochitama-sama. But I'll be fine serving you. If I die in your service, I will have no complaints." Kidomaru said before glancing out again. "Someone went into that factory. I'm going to see what they are doing."

He leapt away.

"I'd have complaints." I mumbled.

I heaved a sigh and resigned myself to the fact that I can't change a person's entire world view in a day. I gave him enough to think on for now.

Besides, for the first time, he didn't hesitate to call me Orochitama. I'll take the win where I can. I rose to stand up and began walking back into the heart of the island. I had a barbecue to prepare for.

Sasuke took deep breaths, wiping one hand across his face, removing the dripping sweat. His progress and been constant since he began. Each attempt got him just a little bit further than the last.

"One more time!" Naruto yelled before making a dead run at his tree rapidly gaining altitude before he slashed a mark and fell off the tree. Said mark was almost a meter higher than the last one, though the last one had almost a dozen notches all clustered together.

Naruto was rapidly gaining on him in massive spurts of improvement.

Just a few months ago, Naruto had been a loser. So far beneath him that the blond could be handled in seconds.

And he was gaining on Sasuke. How little must he be improving that Naruto, of all people, was catching up with him?

"Ara Ara. You two have improved so much!" A familiar voice called.

Sasuke tensed and turned to look at the woman approaching. She, for once, wasn't wearing a dress, but instead a pair of dingy black pants and a ratty brown shirt topped with a black apron. She was also pulling a boar that was almost as tall as she was behind her. The boar clearly dead from a single puncture wound in the middle of it's forehead. Possibly the cleanest kill Sasuke had ever seen.

"Orochi Lady! Hey! Look look! I'm totally catching up with Sasuke!" Naruto cheered.

"You are." Orochitama acknowledged, "That's impressive. Especially since Sasuke-kun's improvement would be considered genius worthy by itself."

Sasuke scoffed. Itachi had done this by the time he was eight.

Orochitama produced a rope from somewhere, he wasn't sure where. Perhaps under the apron there was a storage seal? She then threw the rope over a branch and began tying one end of it to the boar's back legs.

"Ha! Cause I'm a genius too! By the time I'm done I'll kick that Zabuza's ass myself!" Naruto bragged.

"I don't think you are going to be quite on his level for a little longer Naruto-kun." Orochitama said before picking up the other side of the rope and began heaving the boar to hang in the air.

"Idiot. That monster would still slaughter you." Sasuke scoffed. There was no way, even teamed up, that they could take Zabuza themselves. Not yet.

"Wha- Sasuke! We totally took him that last time!" Naruto complained.

"No, he's right." Orochitama said as she tied the rope to the tree. "Zabuza could take you both pretty easily. Though calling him a monster is a bit unfair."

"He's trying to kill Tazuna! And he works for Gato!" Naruto objected.

That hadn't quite been what Sasuke meant when he called Zabuza a monster, but he was inclined to agree with Naruto. Zabuza was clearly not a nice person.

"Yes. He is a man who was hired for a job. And if you think that Kakashi-kun hasn't worked for people just as terrible as Gato then you will be in for a very rude surprise as you get older."

"What? Kakashi-sensei would never do something like that!" Naruto objected.

Sasuke kept silent. Konoha had a reputation for not taking distasteful missions. They marketed themselves as the village that civilians shouldn't be afraid of. However, Sasuke was also very confident that if the money was right all kind of things would be done very quietly.

"He has. But that's okay. Well...not okay. Normal maybe?" The woman seemed to consider for a moment. "Yeah. Normal works. But you shouldn't demonize your opponents. Always remember that who you are fighting is another person with the own reason for being there."

"Please. Some aren't people. Some are just fighting for the power and bloodshed." Sasuke said without doubt. He knew there was a darkness in many people's hearts and there were people out there that would kill their own friends and family for power of it. For the fun of it.

Sasuke glared at the woman, daring her to contradict what he said.

"Yes. There are people like that." Orochitama confirmed, though continued, "But even then they often have their reasons. People aren't generally born monsters, Sasuke-kun. They're made."

Sasuke wanted to dismiss the words, but there was a kernel of truth in it that he couldn't shake the feeling of. He didn't want to believe it, but his mind whispered that it would explain so much about That Man. Sasuke looked away, seeing Naruto's face that also looked troubled.

"So you're saying someone can make someone else a monster?" Naruto asked.

Sasuke was abruptly reminded of the look in his teammates eyes when he was alone. When Naruto thought no one was watching and he got lost in his own world. There was a darkness that would frighten Sasuke if it wasn't so familiar.

Sasuke wondered what Naruto knew of monsters.

"I wouldn't say make. People always have a choice." Orochitama said as she placed a large bin on the ground underneath the boar. "However you would be surprised about how many saints are just one big push from being monsters, and what scum bags have codes of honor that even gods can't break. People are what they make themselves. But they are also very much colored by their environment."

"Colored how?" Sasuke asked.

"All kinds of ways. Pressure from superiors. Parents that didn't show their love. Loyalty to a cause that isn't so nice. Panic, fear, and hatred. All of these can turn a well meaning person to the most bloodied of murderers.."

Sasuke wondered why she maintained eye contact with him the entire time she said that. Except for the brief moment her eyes flicked to Naruto, when she mentioned hatred.

"And what makes it where you know so much about monsters." Sasuke shot back. Suddenly finding himself very uncomfortable with the conversation.

"Simple, Sasuke-kun." The woman pulled out a knife and drove into the belly of the boar and ripped it up the side, spilling blood and intestines into the bin she'd placed under the creature. "Up until three months ago, I was one."

Sasuke's mind came to a halt.

"Huh? No way. Not you." Naruto said with a shake of his head.

"No. It's true. Your sensei warned you about me. He was right to. I have done some very bad things. It took some...soul searching to really find myself changed." The woman said, as if she was telling a joke.

Sasuke turned away. He didn't care to hear about redemption. People didn't change. Plus the air had become uncomfortably thick with the stench of blood. Sasuke ripped his mind away from where it had been going and set at this tree again.

He didn't have time for whatever manipulations the woman was trying to make. He needed to get stronger.

Nothing else mattered. He wouldn't allow himself to get distracted by unimportant things.

"Naruto! Wanna learn how to skin and bleed a boar to get it ready for cooking?"

" I have to?" His teammate complained but walked closer anyways.

Perfect. It allowed time for Sasuke to secure his lead more.


About the author


Bio: I'm just someone who writes and is quite surprised that people give a shit about what I write.

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