Chaper 41 – Notes and Spoilers

Author’s Notes:

Happy Lunar New Year 2018! I know it’s been a year since I posted, lol, exactly one year! But here it is…Naruto’s transition into Akatsuki. And it’s unapologetically huge. I hope you like it and it was worth the wait. He’s definitely Naruto now, just a much darker version of himself. Now on to Sakura and Sasuke!! And, as I promised earlier and didn’t deliver, I have updates to the rest of my stories coming. I haven’t given up on them! So read and review! There’s more to come! And as always, there’s a ton of extra notes and spoilers at the website.

Chapter Notes:

So…Naruto has made the jump to Akatsuki. These chapters have gotten harder to write because it’s tricky to write about a positive character giving in to a dark side…and yet still keep him likable. But I feel like this one does it. And yes, he kills someone at the end…I hope everyone takes it in stride. There’s going to be death, but it won’t be gruesome or gratuitous. But I will try to write authentically about what they’re facing, and focus more on the fear and outcomes than on the violence.

I’ve spent much of this year working on projects and writing for this story on the side…specifically I realized it was easy to write for Naruto but much harder to write for Sakura simple because there was just no more story for her after Pain Arc. So, I’ve invented lots and lots of storyline for her. I think that’s why this chapter was so long in coming — I was having a hard time with the direction of the rest. But once I got that figured out, it went fast. I’m so excited about the stuff coming up. So keep reading!


Naruto’s changes-

• Two changes have to happen in this chapter. Physical and mental. And of course, I’m not going to make anything easy for Naruto. The physical is pretty straight forward. But the mental…in the first part of the chapter he is still very much like Katsuro and Naruto from the manga. He’s whiny, angry, stubborn. But by the end, he’s completely embraced his new life.

• Naruto’s change in look — first off, when he’s in the tent with Itachi, he looks very much like Naruto from the manga. Wild haired, red cheeked, bright eyed and loud. But by the end of the chapter, his hair is slicked back and tamed, he has a pierced lip, no whisker lines on his cheeks, and his blue eyes are cold and soulless. So in many ways, Naruto has just traded one disguise for another. We all know this version isn’t really him either. (So in reality, when he was Katsuro, when he was fully in a disguise, he was more of the real Naruto than he is now.)

• Cold and warmth, ice and fire — so in the beginning, Katsuro’s death feels like he’s being frozen. But when he ‘comes back to life’ after he dispels the clone, he feels warm again. This tug of war between Katsuro’s identity and Naruto’s goes on for the length of the chapter, until Naruto finally feels comfortable in his own skin. But the problem is, instead of being fiery and a hot-head, he’s going to take on the persona of the cold calculated killer he saw his own clone to be. In the end, the ice wins out.

• Transitioning from Katsuro to Naruto — So, this chapter was really hard, making it believable that Katsuro would give up who he was and grow into this hardened, goal-oriented akatsuki killer. He couldn’t have done it on his own. But, like Naruto in the manga, Katsuro responds to competition. And Naruto the clone represents an obstacle to overcome. So the idea of the cold-hearted shinobi in the clone become seared on Katsuro’s psyche. And this is the only way he’s able to leave Katsuro behind and truly become someone else. Otherwise, he would have just been Katsuro in another body.

Themes –

• Clone rules — in this story, it’s a big unpredictable power. It’s not stable, reliable or consistent. This is a break from the manga, where Naruto can produce carbon copies any time he wants, reliably and with no physical drawbacks on the original. So, when Katsuro created clones before, each one was a different aspect of his behavior, with it’s own bent to obey or disobey. So basically, some where good clones who did what Katsuro asked, and some would be ‘bad’ and do whatever they wanted. And Katsuro never knew who he was going to get. But with forming Naruto as a clone, he was the blank slate. All power and no emotional side. He was Katsuro/Naruto, and yet he wasn’t.

• Disguise rules — once Katsuro is freed from his disguise, he can never use it again. It messes with his head. He can’t control it, and eventually it will break apart, reverting to the users original identity. But Itachi, being a terrible person, sees that Katsuro is fighting it and decides to let him stay in the disguise, just to see how far it can go.

– Both of these rules serve the purpose of giving Katsuro/Naruto a new goal to focus on (that of becoming a perfect shinobi) to pull him forward, and make returning to his life as Katsuro an impossibility, thus shutting off his past.

• Water as chakra — starting from this point, and working it’s way through Naruto and Sakura’s stories, chakra and water will follow the same rules, moving through things, holding in vessels or being emptied out, and being used to control.

• Vessels — there are lots of vessels in Naruto, not just Naruto himself. Pain is a vessel for Nagato’s chakra. While the Rain temple is a vessel for Nagato, who makes the whole thing work but is basically ‘trapped’ there, tied to wires and tubes that keep him alive. Sasuke is a ‘vessel’ of sorts, housing eyes that Itachi will one day take. Tsunade is a vessel of abundant chakra that she uses to heal others (the living) with, and Chiyo is a vessel for chakra that she uses to animate puppets (the dead) with.

• Back stories— I’ll try to investigate just what happened and why. What’s the story behind Konan and Pain’s piercings? What’s the story with the secret chakra-infused metal they used? What’s the story with why Tsunade became a healer? Etc.

• Chakra control — Konan controls paper and metals; Sakura can heal and shoot chakra into the ground, as can Tsunade; and Chiyo can use her chakra to animate puppets. The strongest women don’t use weapons, they channel the life force into and onto what they want to control.

Story Notes

• This was it, he thought. This was the true end…. — Okay, a joke from the manga. Where the chapter titled “The True End” was not the end either.

• The cold cracked off like a shell, falling away in large pieces. — The idea here is that he has been in a literal shell. And now he’s breaking free. The ‘shell’ is both the death shell, and the deeper shell that was Katsuro.

• “But I let it happen. I can still read you like a book, after all.”  — Itachi here saying the words that still put Katsuro in his place, even if he is in Naruto’s body. So it’s a bit of a put-down. But also, like all labels that people put on you, it takes a different tone after Katsuro’s change to Naruto, and it begins to sound more like an obstacle for Naruto to overcome. Not just the standard dig from Itachi.

• His blue eyes were strangely bright against his flushed face. His yellow hair stood out, like Katsuro’s did. He was wild and unmanageable, just like Katsuro. He looked at Itachi, waiting, hoping he might understand. — Basically, he looks like normal manga Naruto. But by the end of the chapter, we see that Naruto as an Akatsuki assassin has a very different look and demeanor.

• Naruto at Katsuro’s campsite — the language here is that of erasing, in this moment of Katsuro. The “fire circle was being trampled out of existence” and “the men swooping in like vultures to rip apart the only remnants of his old life.” They are literally erasing his life and everything that was his by taking it apart. Once they’re done, there will be nothing left. Not his possessions, not even the fire circle. And when Naruto comes upon the men, he is seeing what it’s like to die through the eyes of those around him. He is seeing what happens to a shinobi (or anyone in their life) after you die.

• “Gomen, Kiro-sama—“ A few cringed at the slip of the blond’s nickname, but they kept backing away, heads bowed. — So the nickname for Naruto the clone is a play on the word ‘yellow’ in Japanese. (The correct spelling is kiiro, but autocorrect kept changing it. However, fun fact: after a super quick google search, “kiro” in Japanese can also mean a fork in the road or at a crossroads, or to find one’s way back. Seems fitting!) I had the camp men call him Kiro because using Naruto’s first name would be too familiar and disrespectful for them (they call Itachi the Big Boss), so the nickname becomes an immediate sign of authority. And also, even though Naruto’s not in disguise anymore, I think he won’t go spreading his name around. He may use Kiro more in the future, adopting it himself to keep people at a distance if he has to give someone his name.

• Naruto may not know how that felt. But he could fake it. — So Naruto, falling back on the old advice he gave Sakura. This is how he’s always managed to survive, so there’s a glimmer of his old self in there.

• He cleared his mind of the other men, the campsite, his old possessions. He erased Katsuro from his mind. — So at first it was just the men wiping away Katsuro from the campsite, but now, Naruto is the one who is actually erasing Katsuro’s existence. He’s literally writing over it with this new body/persona of a cold methodical killer, a perfect shinobi.

• Naruto said nothing. He straightened, squared his shoulders, stepped over the destroyed belongings and blackened smear that used to be a fire circle and never looked back. Let them have whatever they wanted. Those things didn’t belong to him. They belonged to Katsuro. And Katsuro was dead. — So by the end, Naruto is the one who tramples out the fire circle — the physical remains of Katsuro. And Naruto’s thoughts have changed from Katsuro being ‘gone’ to Katsuro being ‘dead.’ So he leaves the campsite a very different person than when he went in, acknowledging that Katsuro was dead and even doing the erasing himself.

Whenever he needed kunai, he had to steal them. — A bit of a window into Katsuro’s young life, having to steal weapons. But this is important now as it has trained him to not get too attached to any good weapons and that anything can be used as a defend yourself

• He turned his head slowly, studying them. They were masterfully made, as if to someone’s exact specifications. More than just sharpened strips of metal, these were works of art…. Naruto’s fingers stretched out to touch the precisely molded grip of the kunai, wondering what it might feel like in his hand — And this sets up for the future, when he gets to live in a village and see what ‘real’ shinobis are like, and that a weapon isn’t just a hunk of metal, it’s special and personal, made for individual shinobis. Some are even passed down. So this is foreshadowing for another scene, much later, in Konoha, where Naruto gets to see what it’s like, and even get to hold such a weapon. But not this time.

• Naruto never blinked, never stopped. But he had gone cold inside. — So this was after passing the two drunk men who were celebrating his fight. Up until now, Naruto looked the part, acting fierce at the campsite. Then in the munitions tent, Naruto acted the part in his exchange with the weapons master (he didn’t have to threaten him, respect was just given to him and all Naruto had to do was accept). But now, passing these men, and reading his value in their eyes — or rather, the lack of value for Katsuro’s life — Naruto now feels the part, inside. He’s gone cold. Literally.

• He strode back through camp, feeling more alone and isolated and purposeful than he thought possible. — Again, he’s changing into Naruto, the perfect shinobi. It is becoming clear it’s no longer an act.

• He felt unchained. Finally. The camp was falling away around him, breaking into individual pieces that he was finally seeing. He was thinking analytically, logically. Just like his clone had done. Without emotion holding him back. — Same language as the falling off of the death shell and Katsuro’s disguise. But instead of internally, Naruto now sees it externally.

• Naruto pulled back the canvas door and entered the tent soundlessly. Without looking up from his desk, Itachi noticed. “That’s an improvement, at least.” — In the paragraph before, Naruto decides to conceal his footsteps, instead of stomping around camp ‘like a child.’ He’s doing it for himself, but it doesn’t matter if he does. No one else in the camp would even notice. Except Itachi. This line is significant: In being soundless, Itachi takes notice. That shows what level Itachi is on. When Naruto left, he exploded out of the tent. Now Naruto is re-entering the tent as a shinobi and stepping up to that same level. He’s crossed over a line, left Katsuro and the camp behind, and will only move forward into this new world. Naruto doesn’t acknowledge Itachi’s comment, but it’s a parallel to when he left. Itachi already know what we do — that Naruto has come back changed.

• There was nothing he couldn’t do. If he put his mind to it. Itachi had chosen well. — A little introspection on Itachi’s part. Just as Naruto is looking to the future, seeing new goals on the horizon, so is Itachi. He’s constantly reworking his plans, adjusting his goals. And Naruto is one of those goals.

• “Yes,” Itachi said frankly. “So do it. Those who want power must move continuously toward that goal. Only then are you worthy of the gift you’ve been given.” — Double message. First for Naruto, who has the gift of the kyuubi. The second for Itachi who had the gift of being the most powerful Uchiha in history.

• That power running through your veins can no longer kill you.” Itachi’s voice was serious. “It’s only then that your real power can be harnessed.” — Another double message. It can be Naruto harnessing the kyuubi’s power, or Itachi harnessing Naruto’s power.

• Naruto’s breath caught in his throat. “There are others? Like me?” Itachi didn’t blink. “No.” — Yeah, Itachi’s totally lying to Naruto.

He’d always been able to rely on the kyuubi. But this time, he couldn’t. It was a horrible feeling. The worst was when he went to pull out the chakra, his arrogance at how easily accessible that weapon was, he couldn’t get there. The channels were cut. Before he had been all confidence, practically dripping with chakra and power, but during the fight it slipped away, dried up. There was nothing there. He was alone. — So, some of the deeper language of Naruto is that of being a vessel. He is either full or empty. Either way is not satisfying. If he’s a full vessel, a container for a demon, then he is being used by for some other purpose than just being a human. But if he’s empty, if the demon leaves or is stolen, then Naruto must face a lost of power that might kill him, or the idea that he was alone, emptied out and left behind (like the cup at the side of the well in the abandoned temple). After all, the demon is what sets him apart. So this emotional tug-of-war is not just Naruto’s feelings, but the product of being a vessel. This will come back later on too.

• Naruto’s brow was furrowed, but he didn’t look comical. “So…it’s like they are untamed rivers. And they’re either flooding over or running dry.” — Naruto likens the demon’s chakra and the connections to running water. This reference will come back in the end of the chapter, and again at the end of the story.

• “Right, that’s a good way of putting it. And when you turn 21 the channels will set. If the chakra flows like a wild river now, then imagine turning it into a stone canal, reliable and capable of bringing consistent power to wherever you direct it. — Again, Itachi says the goal is to get water into stone canals. It’s metaphorical, but it also references the building inside him where the demon is housed.

• Itachi was quiet for a moment. Finally he spoke, but with a tone of gravity. “Long ago, the Uchiha clan was gifted with an ancient source of information. It spoke of the demons and their nature and those who could control such a gift. Only a few Uchiha could read it, and fewer still could understand what it meant. And even then, some of its secrets remained a mystery, until—” — Sooooooo, this is a background of Itachi’s family, how he believes they were meant to control the demon, and how they became the cursed clan. This is a piece of that puzzle. More on this to come.

• Itachi waved his argument away with a laugh. “The kyuubi is old. Very old. You are certainly not the first human to house it.” His voice had turned deprecating, as if he were speaking to Katsuro. But he stopped, analyzing the man in front of him. His tone changed. “But you are by far the most powerful.” — Again, a double message. Itachi has his eyes on the prize, Naruto. He is by far the most powerful jinchuriki and he is loyal to Itachi.

“You are free from your disguise, but the danger from Konoha and from all other villages remains. You must use this time to train and prepare yourself to handle the power of the kyuubi. Akatsuki can provide a network of protection. Pain may even offer you some other details on the kyuubi, although anything he knows would have been stolen from the Uchiha generations ago. So take it with a grain of salt,” his tone was unimpressed as he always was with anything outside his own clan. —  Itachi has a rivalry with Pain and the rest of the Akatsuki, even though he’s in it and does their bidding. He still sees the Uchiha as superior, and still values his own plans over that of Pain.

• “You owe a debt of gratitude to the Rain. As do I. Without them, we never would have gotten this far. But I can let you go to them because I know no matter what you do for Akatsuki, no matter what Pain may say or what he might offer you, your allegiance is still with me. Someone — something — like Pain could never understand— Underneath it all, there is a bond that can not be broken.” — First, Itachi is asserting that he has a prior claim over Naruto, and that Pain could not break it. It’s more than just loyalty from Naruto. Part of Itachi’s future plans for Naruto has to do with Naruto obeying Itachi over Pain at some point. He emphasizes their bond. Second, Itachi refers to Pain as some thing. So he is hinting that he knows what Pain is, not fully human.

• “Don’t forget, Naruto, all of this,” he held up his hands, “everything I’ve done, I’ve done for you.”  — Double message. Again, this is Itachi, so it has two meanings. First is that he’s done it for Naruto to help him, and second, whatever he’s done for Naruto he’s done to one day harness him.

• Naruto did remember. Long ago, before his escape from Konoha, Itachi had struck a bargain with him. Itachi would rescue and train him, and in return, he was to help Itachi stop his younger brother and avenge the death of his family. Itachi had explained it then that Sasuke was so powerful, it would take two equally powerful to take him down. And there was no reason to doubt him. After meeting Sasuke himself, he was certain it was true. Even one Uchiha could be as powerful as an army. Itachi would need Naruto’s help if he was going to bring down Sasuke. And all those years ago, Naruto had sworn he would help him. — Won’t get too much into this here, but it’s just revisiting Naruto’s pledge to kill Sasuke for Itachi. Naruto swears to it now…but later he might start to change his mind.

• Somehow, Itachi had known what he could grow into. And now it was up to Naruto to finish the job. — Eh, not really, but Itachi has trained him for this role. To be the perfect shinobi. Which is really just a perfect tool for someone else to use. This is just to show that right now, Naruto is still very much believing in Itachi and that Itachi wants the best for him.

• He was actually looking forward to trying out his skills and running missions. It almost felt like a game. Or a competition. — So Naruto is still thinking of this like a game. Just like Naruto in the manga would think of it. But this naivete will wear off as he gets deeper in. It’s just a reflection of how he doesn’t realize yet the world he’s entering into.

• The water was his only companion. It had been tamed in the old village, running through stone sluices in pleasant low tones. It was not like the rivers that cut through the rebuilt areas, throwing themselves against the concrete walls, or the vast black sea that surrounded this forsaken land. Here the water was almost peaceful. The only thing accompanying him was the occasional knock of the rolling stream and the steady plink of rain. — Water, rain, canals. Echoing language of the chakra channels from earlier. And thinking of chakra like water, it can take many forms, be harnessed many ways.

• Poking out from the leaves was the corner of an old stone lantern. A bird’s nest was in the hollow, but it was empty and sodden, as abandoned as the rest of this place. — Reinforcing imagery of a home abandoned.

• Papery leaves covered gravel and wisps of bamboo draped into the trickling water. A curving roof rose far beyond treetops, as if on a hill. Probably the highest spot on this land— He decided he’d probably found what passed for a holy place in this village. — This whole scene is a parallel for the assassination scene in the garden. First, it’s physically the same, a pond, a gravel walk, a thicket of bamboo. Second, Naruto talks a little about ceremony at the temple pond and in the Rain temple. But he admits he has no notion of ceremonies. So this serves as ceremony ending one phase of his life (as Katsuro, and by fulfilling Katsuro’s last promise), and then the garden assassination scene becomes the second ceremony, marking his new life as an assassin and going to the Akatsuki.

• Naruto quietly walked past old markers. Only the drum of rain on bamboo accompanied the steady grind of his feet on up the wet gravel. These stones were the last remnants of the fallen warriors of Rain. Now there were too few left to remember and too many who had died on foreign ground. So this place — like all of the waterlogged old village — was forgotten. — Using sound here to really reinforce the loneliness of the place.

• He held it for a moment, thinking there was probably some prayer to be given or some old Rain oath that should be uttered on the passing of one of their soldiers. But he had no idea what such a ceremony like that would involve. He had no notion of temple or nation. — Again, he’s getting ready to join Akatsuki, but he has no idea of the kind of loyalty that would lead you to live and die so far away from a land you knew you’d never see again. But Katsuro brings the scroll there anyway. He understands loyalty to the Old Captain. But loyalty to a group is something he can only see from the outside, not truly feel. This of course will change, but this event foreshadows his induction into Akatsuki (which is more soldierly than sacred) and his future of understanding what village loyalty is about.

• Now it was done. The captain was home. And Katsuro was…gone. — So even though Naruto ‘erased’ Katsuro in the campsite, this was really the final end. This was Naruto letting him go, once and for all. He was laying them both to rest in the pond.

• He ran his hand back over his head, slicking back his pale hair, and stepped back from the pond. — So, the deed is done, and Naruto slicks back his hair in the rain, immediately changing his appearance and preparing him for the life ahead.

• He left, never looking back at the lonely stones or the trembling bamboo or the wall of rain strengthening behind him. By the time he returned to the rebuilt territory of concrete roads and metal-sided buildings, the drizzle had turned to a cloak of mist, closing off the old village entirely. — Konan controlling the rain. So Naruto felt alone, but really he wasn’t. And Konan keeps the rain and mist around the old village, making it off-limits to most and leaving it a shell of what it used to be, very much like Pain.

• He’d been down this one particular road before. As if remembering too, his stomach growled on cue. There had been a ramen stand here. Looked like a frog or something. He turned the corner, remembering exactly where it stood and practically letting his stomach guide the way. — Oh so close! If only Jiraiya had still been there!

• The cold temple was quiet and creaking. Birds fluttered from the open windows. The patched metal statue groaned where it had been had been attached to the old structure, as if resenting the unholy merger. For Naruto, knowing that the soaring space was the empty hull of a body somehow made it feel more abandoned than if it were just some ancient building. — Another creepy reality of life for Konan and Nagato. Not only do they work with the reanimated corpse of their lover/friend, but they are headquartered in an empty husk of a building.

• He didn’t look too hard in the dark, just moved toward the center platform that would take him up through the body to the top. But in the blackness beyond the platform, something was dragging along the floor…slithering against the ceiling…something large…crawling and writhing in one large mass— — This is Nagato, connected to wires and tubes in the bottom of the temple, keeping the whole thing alive. Really, he is another soul trapped in a larger vessel.

• Her amber eyes went wide at the sight of him — like she was seeing a ghost. Naruto glanced away, suddenly uncomfortable. But when he looked back, her expression had sunk into disapproval. — He looks very much like a young Yahiko now. She doesn’t like it.

• On the third platform she opened a door, spilling warm light out into the otherwise freezing wood stairs. She held the door, beckoning him in. — Again, Pain is a corpse. So to keep him…um…fresh…they basically keep the place like a refrigerator. It’s all pretty gross and depressing if you think about it. I think Konan’s story is the most tragic of the whole series.

• It was clear in his voice that this question was a test. Naruto nodded without hesitation. He could be loyal to both. He didn’t see that those were two conflicting interests, no matter how much friction existed between Itachi and Pain. That had nothing to do with him. — So Naruto realizes that there is friction. But as of yet, he sees their power struggle as having nothing to do with him. He thinks each powerful man must think they alone are the most powerful.

• Konan looked at him as if he were speaking another language. But then she looked down at her nails, the chipping black against pink skin, and shook her head. — Konan paints her nails for a reason very different than beauty. And she is utterly surprised for someone to comment on it. It’s a part of her outward appearance, but the very nature of it — chipped nails (from use) against pink skin — makes her much more human than her counterpart Pain. To have it mentioned to her, and she is surprised, shows how much she’s forgotten that humanity.

• “No,” she said softly as she unrolled the fabric. “No, you don’t have to paint your fingernails. But you will need one of these.” — Uh yeah. So Yahiko’s a corpse…so…. Black fingernails hide the purple underneath. Kinda makes what Konan’s going through a little more real. If Naruto is feeling connected to this group of monsters by the cloak, then Konan is also staying connected, in her own morbid heartbreaking way, to Yahiko.

• He looked at them, confused for a moment. But when he looked up, he realized what he was seeing. It was a piercing, like Konan and Pain’s. He was expected to have one too. — Another way to make Naruto look more like an Akatsuki and less like a nice friendly guy.

• Pain answered first. “None of the other Akatsuki are as valuable.” Naruto stiffened slightly. Konan cut her eyes back at him. But Pain was not fazed. “You have the most potential. Your time as a Leaf nin is over. We are training you in the ways of the Rain now. You need to be connected to us at all times.” — Another reference (from ceremonies to headbands to traditions) that Pain is trying to separate him from Itachi’s education and indoctrinate Naruto fully into being a Rain shinobi, and under their complete control. This reinforces the friction between Pain and Itachi.

• “These are unique. Very hard to come by.” — These are the metal bits, the best parts of the special ores that were mined, and mentioned earlier in the story. This little plot thread will play a part in the future.

• Before his eyes, the raw-edged metal smoothed and twisted and rolled outward as if it had turned to grey clay. She twisted it back and forth, until the center was needle thin and a round ball had formed at the one end. She stopped, pinched it, and it snapped back to hard metal. Then a sizzle ran over the whole surface, up to the top and back down again, never hurting her fingers. — I wanted to explore how those special piercings might have been made. And since Konan controls paper, she could easily control metal. This is also a theme that will come out in the future, with Sakura, Tsunade and Chiyo — one of women able to control their environments through chakra. To heal bodies, to break up the ground, to control as puppets. The story tells us that these women are powerful, but it doesn’t show us.

• “No.” Konan was unyielding. “Not this time.” Pain was not pleased, but he relented. — Konan understands that Naruto is human. And Yahiko is not. He would give that away by being for forceful with his piercing, like he was with the other red-haired corpses from a few chapters back. So Konan intervenes.

• The grey was transformed to the deepest black, ringed by a silver shine so bright it made the ball on the top of the pin look like a drop of liquid rather than a lump of metal. — Think smooth, round, polished hematite. That’s what this looks like.

• Her breath fogged once in the cold air of the room. “I don’t have anything to numb the pain—“ — Again, Konan is realizing that Naruto is human. Not a corpse.

 Naruto couldn’t ignore it. And Pain nodded again, clearly thinking the same thing. Konan wouldn’t turn around to see it, but that didn’t matter to Pain. — Konan, as a human, does not want to see how closely Naruto looks to Yahiko. But Pain, the corpse, has no such problem. Even though Pain is animated by Nagato’s chakra (so in reality Pain is a corpse, but it’s really Nagato’s voice and personality…yet both of them are gone, one in soul and one in body), neither one is interested in Konan how Konan struggles with these very human emotions.

• The scroll said nothing about why. Just the target’s name and an address. Someone who needed to be erased. — Naruto has now become the one who erases others.

• He slipped into the town unobserved. He was a shadow on the wall of a compound, a puff of wind at the open gate, a stray leaf blowing towards the family wing. — Language of wind, being a stray leaf, literally. Naruto will use his wind thing in a negative manner here. All this is to give the feeling of what Naruto will be doing now. Killing someone, in the dark, with no breaking in and no exit signs. Just like he was never there. So Naruto will become like a classically trained ninja.

• Life bustled in the raised structures around him, with people moving from room to room, talking, laughing. In the center of the compound was a garden, still elegant in the blue-black light — a rectangular pond, posing statues, picturesque benches and potted plants, staked and tied and tagged with names of remote places he’d never heard of. – Very similar to the area below the rain temple. But it’s not. Naruto says it’s not sacred. But the ceremony and beginning of a new chapter is parallel to that experience in Rain.

• He was no more than a breeze sweeping through the garden. — This is Katsuro’s ‘wind thing,’ as Sakura put it so long ago. But now Naruto is using it (though he doesn’t yet realize it) and adopting it into his life as being as quick and swift a shinobi as the breeze. Later on, he’ll understand why he has such an affinity for wind. And what Sakura saw in him so long ago. But not yet.

He reread it, dragging a finger down a particular section and speaking to himself before he lifted the hand to gently push another moth away from the lantern. — Naruto is going to kill a man who wouldn’t harm a moth. Literally. This description — a bit nutty-professor, working late, talking to himself, and shoo-ing away moths — is meant to give a window into the type of figure Naruto is being sent out to kill. Naruto executes everything perfectly as an Akatsuki member. But one day, he may come to see some of his targets in a different light. One that is already there if you don’t focus on Naruto

Pulling the papers closer together, he moved an open wooden box holding an ornately carved stamp onto the center of the pile to hold them down. Then he stood to slide the door closed. — Another clue: The man’s an official of the town or a local diplomat, not necessarily a wealthy man displaying his riches, like Naruto assumed when he first walked up.

• A hand fisted his hair, wrenched him down and pulled his head back, exposing his gasping throat and pounding jugular vein. — Naruto has fully become his clone, killing his first Akatsuki target the same way.

• “This is where it ends—“ Naruto said softly, never looking down at his terrified victim.  — Naruto uses the clone’s words, which had been used back and forth by Katsuro and the clone in the fight, ending with the clone using them before delivering the killing blow. But here, Naruto is saying it his own way. It’s not a threat. He’s not looking down at the man to terrify him. He’s not interested in his pleas. Naruto’s looking ahead. He has a job to do, and he’s going to do it. So with this act, he has very much become the cold, heartless clone.

• He flicked out a kunai from his sleeve and plunged into the crease in the man’s neck, slashing the vein that pounded with his heart. Blood sprayed across the tatami mats and pelted the white screens. — Ties in to the quote at the beginning, which give you some idea as to how the chapter was going to end

• The flame flickered in the hollow of its lantern. The edges of the scrolls lifted in the breeze. A limp body slid to the ground. — Writing about death is tricky, especially if it’s someone that you like. So yeah, I will have Naruto kill. And Sakura too. But it won’t be gory. And there will be complexities of situation, and fear and guilt, and ways to be redeemed. So…I hope this doesn’t offend anyone. But it’s the only way I can write their stories authentically.

• He stepped over the open-eyed body, past the red blood that was spilling out onto the floor in an eerily similar pattern to the cloud shape stitched on the front of his cloak, and slipped out the way he came. His first job for the Akatsuki was complete. — So in my story, the inspiration for the shape on the cloak isn’t red clouds…it’s pools of blood.