Ani woke along with the other children, quietly got dressed and dutifully followed her comrades into the cafeteria. There was no talking allowed. Ani took her bowl of rice and bowed to the man who served her. She found an empty table and sat down. She hated it here. She was a foundling and so she knew no other life. The orphanage was run by a private organization. She wasn’t sure who yet. As she ate quietly, she stole glances from time to time watching and listening. The children were treated like cattle. They were provided with the basics. Food, shelter, clothing, basic education. But there would be no affection offered, no comradrie allowed. She was only 6, but she understood only too well. There would no loving families visiting to pick children to take home with them. Children were nothing more than a commodity in war time. She was lost in thought when she heard a commotion. “Bug eyes.” She heard some other the older boys call. When Ani looked up, she saw him. A boy about her age. He had the biggest eyes she had ever seen. She tilted her head. “Bug eyes.” she whispered to herself. She saw nothing wrong with them. They were full of sadness, uncertainty. One of the bigger boys about 13, knocked the boys tray out of his hands. He just stood there. Ani watched to see what he would do. The bigger boys enjoyed picking on the smaller kids. The staff rarely intervened, believing wholeheartedly in the survival of the fittest. There were three boys confronting him. The boy simply picked up his tray and attempted to simply move past them. “You’re not going anywhere, bug eyes.” The biggest one announced. In the next second, a second boy struck him from behind. When the boy turned to defend himself, he was struck from the behind again by the third boy. Ani stood up then. Three against one was far from fair. Ani went up to the leader and tapped on his shoulder. “What do you want, brat?” He asked while he was holding the boy by the front of his shirt. Ani punched him square in the face. He let go of the boy and fell on his butt crying. Ani grabbed the new kid and drug him to her table. The staff finally intervened, but only to take the bully to the infirmary. The boy just watched Ani, eerily quiet. She took her bowl of rice and bowed, offering it to him. He didn’t move. “Do you want me to feed you, too?” She whispered. He nodded and took the bowl from her. “What’s your name?” “Tenzo.” He answered in a similar whisper. “My name is Ani. You’ll need to stand up for yourself here.” He nodded. “If they think you’re weak, they’ll send you away.” Tenzo had eaten some of the rice and offered it back to her. She nodded. “It’s alright I’m not hungry.” “I’m here looking for recruits for my organization.” Ani listened, but kept her head down. Tenzo turned to look at the voice. Ani grabbed his hand. “Don’t draw attention to yourself.” She whispers. Tenzo turned back to his rice. The staff led the man to a seat. After a moment, the staff called out. “When we call your name, line up.” Ani stiffened. Tenzo watched her. Names were called about twenty children were lined up in front of the men. Both boys and girls. They were between five and thirteen years of age. The man went to the older girls first. He looked them over. The girls that were well developed piqued his interest first. He nodded in the direction of the ones he liked, and the staff took them away. He did the same with the boys. The rest of the children were allowed to return to their seats. Money changed hands. Once the man had left, the children were dismissed. Tenzo followed Ani and the other children. They were divided into equal groups and led into classrooms. Ani took a seat in the back and Tenzo followed her.
The day was spent studying different subjects and Ani enjoyed the work. She helped Tenzo get on track with the rest of the class, showing him what was expected. “Ani?” The teacher called, “you need to face forward in your seat and focus on your own studies.” “Yes, sir.” Ani responded blushing at Tenzo. In the evening, the children were allowed to be outside for about an hour before they were expected to return to their beds for the night. Ani grabbed Tenzo’s hand and led him to her favorite spot. A large, old tree in a lonely corner of the grounds. Tenzo blushed as he sat down next to her. “Why are you being so nice to me?” He asked as they lay on the cool evening grass. Ani shrugged. “No reason.” She said at first. Then after a moment. “Your special like me. I don’t know how yet though.” Tenzo thought about that. He watched her for a moment, her hair seemed to glimmer. He touched it. It turned bright red. Ani gasped and pulled away from him. “Sorry,” He said. “Please don’t touch my hair.” “Why?” Ani sighed. “It takes a lot of concentration for me to hide it.” Tenzo looked her confused. Ani smiled, “I’ll show you. But you must swear that you won’t tell.” Tenzo nodded. “Swear it.” Ani tells him. “I swear I won’t tell.” Ani took a handful of her hair and ran it through her hands. It turned bright red again. Tenzo smiled. It was beautiful. Her hair went back to brunette again. There was the sound of footsteps and Ani froze. Before she could move, someone grabbed her by her hair and she screamed. Tenzo watched as a staff member pulled Ani off her feet. Her hair turned bright red then. In front of every one. Tenzo kicked the man who was holding her in the leg trying to get him to let go. She was crying now. Another man picked him up by the back collar of his shirt and followed his comrade. Somehow, Ani had managed to bite and kick the man that carried her. Tenzo watched as the man punched her hard before throwing her unconscious body over his shoulder. They were taken to a small room. The man threw Tenzo in roughly and he hit the floor. Ani was thrown on the floor as well. Tenzo caught her as best he could so that she wasn’t hurt. After the door shut, he heard it lock. Ani was unconscious. Her red hair was to her waist. “Ani.” Tenzo called. And heard her start to cry. “I’m sorry.” “Its not you’re fault.” She tells him. They were left there until the next morning. When Tenzo woke, he found Ani laying on his shoulder. Her eyes puffy from crying. When she woke up and saw him watching her, she blushed. Tenzo watched amazed as she ran her fingers through her fiery red hair to remove the tangles before watching it turn back to brunette once again. There was a bang on the door then. They both froze. When the door opened, a man walked in. “Sir, she’s an Uzamaki. I’m sure of it.” A man chattered excitedly behind him. The tall wiry man was wearing glasses. He pulled Ani to her feet, “What red hair?” The man bellowed. The other man looked at Ani, confused. “Sir, I saw it.” He insisted. The administrator frowned. If she was an Uzamaki, she would fetch a high price. Ani stood very still, her breathing steady. The other man walked in and looked at Ani. He could have sworn. Suddenly, he reached out and yanked Ani’s hair. She screamed and began to cry, but the man watched as her hair turned bright red again. “She was hiding it with a jutsu.” The administrator breathed. Tenzo stood there and watched, his small hands balled into fists at his sides. “What about this one?” The administrator, asked, pointing at Tenzo. The man shook his head. “He was trying to protect her and struck one of the guards when we brought her here.” The administrator looked Tenzo over. “His chakra is interesting. That’s for sure. Where was he found?” “We picked him up on a run in another village.” “Contact Lord Danzo of the Leaf Village. He may find an interest in them.” The man nodded. “Yes sir.” “Feed them and get them cleaned up and dressed for presentation.” The man nodded again. Ani and Tenzo were led to another room where there were two beds. They handed Tenzo a set of clothes and a man supervised him while he showered and dressed. A female staff member did the same for Ani. Once they were ready, they were left in the room and fed. Not just rice this time. Fish, beef, dumplings. A feast for ones so young. After they had eaten their fill. They each got into their own bed. “Goodnight, Tenzo.” Ani says. “Goodnight, Ani.” Tenzo listened as Ani settled in and soon fell asleep. It took him a while longer. What was going to happen to them? They were being treated differently all of a sudden. Separated from the other children. He felt butterflies in his stomach. He wasn’t scared, but he was worried. Something about Ani had excited them. Who was this Danzo person?
The following morning, they were led to the administrator’s office. Ani had hidden her hair again. A large man was sitting ina chair across from the administrator. When they were led into the room, the man turned and looked at them. “I’m Lord Danzo, you have both been chosen to come and stay with me.” He wore a fake smile. Ani and Tenzo looked at each other. “Show some respect, children.” The administrator ordered. They bowed then. “You say she’s an Uzamaki?” Danzo asked the man. “Yes, sir. The girl is using a jutsu to hide it.” Danzo smiled. “Quite a feat for one so young.” “Yes sir.” Danzo stood up then. When he reached to touch Ani’s hair, Tenzo stepped in front of her. Danzo stopped. “Quite protective, isn’t he?” Danzo says. “Yes sir, the staff here got a little rough with her and he took on that role quite eagerly.” Danzo got down on one knee and smiled at Tenzo. “That’s quite an honorable thing to do, young man.” Tenzo didn’t flinch. “I’ll take them both.” The administrator’s eyes lit up. “At double the normal fee. I sense potential in these too.” “Yes, sir.” Danzo got up and started towards the door. “Come children.” He ordered simply. Ani took Tenzo’s hand and they followed him. Tenzo blushed but didn’t pull his hand away. Danzo smirked seeing how obviously close they had become. This was going to be entertaining to say the least.