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    It started out as what she saw as ‘fun’.

    It was just the two of us, running away together like we had imagined when I was a young girl, when she was only seven.

    Kirigakure was our home, a place we could never forget, but that didn’t stop us from leaving.

    It only fueled us.

    Loyalty didn’t stop me, love didn’t stop me, it was those two things that drew me away from the village. Those two things encompassed in a young ninja, Umeko.

    My name is Hide Kioko, and I am merely the descendant of those who came before me.

    I hope that my children will only be able to say the same of my generation, praising our power when it feels so weak.

    I prey off the emotions of others, while cutting off any connection to my own passions.

    That is the curse of the Kihakugan...to feel other's pain

    I was a leader, well-liked and respected, but also too young to be trusted.

    My village should have known that I couldn’t handle a village at my age, but they handed it to me on a silver platter.

    This is why I left.

    This is also why I had to return.

    It’s all connected, you see, my leaving, my return, and my only sister, my little Umeko.

    There was no blood between us, I raised the girl, and that was enough for her to be able to convince me to journey, to abandon everything I knew and everything I loved, except her presence.

    “Kioko, the village is at peace. There are no wars, no famine, no desperate pleas for help to call you.”

    “That’s all the more reason I should stay, Chibi-chan, I am Mizukage, I cannot just come and go as I please!”

    “But there may never be an opportunity like this again…don’t you want to be strong for your village? Kioko, we can go, and train as we like, see the world, and return and…..”

    That’s all it took.

    One simple question.

    It echoes in my head to this day, haunting me.

    What leader doesn’t want to be strong for their village?

    I had always known I lacked control over my bloodline.

    I was frail and weak, but no one had ever challenged my leadership.

    What would happen if they did?

    I had allies with strength beyond belief, so I had no fear of my village being destroyed, but rather, my pride.

    Not only that, but couldn't get rid of the feeling that if Umeko was alone, something would happen.

    She was set on leaving, and part of my life's mission was to protect her.

    And so, we left.

    We took very little, mainly colthes and our weapons.

    We left no trace of our exit, no note to warn of our absence.

    Umeko’s warm smile and excitement had eased my discomforts.

    We traveled, far from other villages, searching for friends with which to train with, and we defended ourselves against all who tried to attack us.

    Her skills blossomed, and I felt myself beam with pride, like a mother.

    Our days were bright for the longest time, and I wished it could stay like that forever.

    I couldn’t believe that she decided to come with me.

    I wasn’t sure that my big sister was truly capable of unselfish love.

    Nor was I sure that she was capable of leaving it all behind.

    She gave many things up for me, one could say she gave up her life, but it was more than that.

    She gave up her memories, her homeland, and her people, all for me.

    She was a firm, and sometimes harsh and bossy sister, but she never wanted anything but the best for me.

    I wanted the best for her too.

    I gradually became stronger, more diligent, more efficient, but she only improved a bit at a time.

    She had reached a plateau, but there was no teacher who could improve her strengths.

    So she trained everything but her bloodline.

    It was to no avail.

    Her improvements were few, while mine vast, but she seemed so happy for me.

    I began to wonder how she felt about being a shinobi anymore.

    She didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that she hadn't gained new skills.

    The first years went quickly, but then the dark times came.

    We couldn’t avoid people anymore, and Kio-chan seemed so very tired.

    She was trying so hard to help me, but there was nothing left for her to show me.

    I had never been good with using or blocking genjutsu, and genjutsu was what my master knew.

    She had attained a level that was high, but nothing was high enough for her.

    She was chasing after some type of dream level, one that she couldn’t find.

    It was as if she was trying to catch up with someone else, who had started the race an infinite number of years before she was born.

    The times changed, they had to.

    Things became harder for me.

    I spent all of my energy helping Umeko, while trying to train myself and by the end of the day I was exhausted.

    She had begun to go and train on her own, doing target practice and the like.

    She was always close enough that I could hear her call to me, so I thought she was safe.

    That was my only rule for her.

    She came back to our base camp, happy and alive every night, but something seemed wrong, she didn’t seem to be fully there…

    Namikuro-sama was always so helpful.

    I didn’t want to be a burden to her, but I wanted to go farther than her ears would hear, so I did.

    The training areas I found were wonderful.

    There were places that fit every element, there were nooks and crannies to hide in, plenty of targets…

    It was fantastic, and I felt strangely free.

    Free from life, cares, and Kioko’s watching eyes.

    One day I called to Umeko and she didn’t answer me.

    I went to her usual training area and she was nowhere to be found.

    Umeko wasn’t the type to get lost, but in her teenage years she had started to become rebellious.

    I thought I was alone.

    I thought I smelled blood.

    I was wrong.

    I was right.

    There were so many of them, people I had wronged in my life.

    People who hated me, people I had hurt.

    Kioko was there, and my parents-

    -my real parents were there.

    It was so surreal.

    My heart ached, my pulse quickened and before I knew it, they were gone…

    I found them, using genjutsu on her, the one thing that she had never learned from me, the one thing that she had never understood, and they thought it was fun to torture her with her own doubts and insecurities.

    They were worthless, cowardly scum.

    We had defended ourselves against their kin, and they sought revenge.

    ...and all I could feel was a numbness, and a warmth starting in my heart.

    As I rushed in to stop them, the ringleader brandished a blade, and thrust it straight into her chest.

    I saw Kioko, and I felt so many things after the warmth, but mainly shame and terror…

    How could I have done this to her?

    I cried out to her, and I drug her across my lap.
    I wanted to yank out the very sword in her chest and to use it to kill those who tortured her.

    I wanted to destroy them, but I was overcome with emotions…

    Her emotions.

    How could I do this to you, why did I ever leave, where are you going?

    Our thoughts echoed and clashed in a whirlwind of hopes, desires, dreams, and loves, all crushed in a single moment.

    My eyes grew wide with terror as I realized what was happening

    I shuddered as the thought crossed my mind

    Umeko was dying

    Her eyes closed slowly as she muttered one last thing to me…

    G-Gomenasai, Kio….chan

    Umeko was dead

    My escape and paradise had become my worst nightmare.

    She was my reason for living, my reason for living my life in such a way, and now she was gone.

    A scream of frustration and fury rang throughout the forest after I had sent the girl to the afterlife.

    The voice was dark, high pitched, and warped.

    It was the sound of a thousand glasses shattering, a life being broken.

    As I felt my mouth close, I realized that I had just heard my own scream.

    My kusari-gama clinked expectantly by my side, and I answered its request to be used within that hour.

    Those boys had never witnessed my wrath or my genjutsu.

    They called for their mothers, but no one came, they asked for their deaths, but I was not so kind as to give it to them.

    I gave them hope.

    They fled the area, and I took it as an opportunity to practice my skills.

    Umeko’s words, warped by grief echoed throughout my mind:

    But there may never be an opportunity like this again...

    I found them quickly, and one by one, I destroyed the very hope I had given them, as well as their dreams.

    I destroyed them like they destroyed my sister.

    There is no mercy for the unjust, and I prayed that when the time came for me to go, that there would be no merciful savior to rescue me.

    My scythe was swift, my aim precise.

    How could I do this to you…?

    Screams chimed throughout the forest, but I was the only one to hear them.

    Why did I ever leave?

    I left only gore in my wake, strewn limbs and blood creating a path behind me.

    Where are you going?

    I tried to escape her thoughts

    I wandered aimlessly for a year

    A year’s worth of repentance

    A year’s worth of regret

    A year’s worth of mourning

    Yet …her thoughts still follow me.

    I could never shake her questions, her thoughts...

    That is why I return