The residents of the village moved to the edge of the street, curious yet fearful. They had heard many stories, and even more rumors, of the man who walked with their leader today. Even so, his presence in their tiny town, an insignificant, obscure place in the heart of Grass known only for its plentiful corn crop, was utterly unexplainable.
Some speculated he came in search of more men- for rumor had it he was building a great army, one to rival that of Konoha. No, others asserted, he wanted to relocate the village and build a base for his mysterious "research", the practices that had reputedly earned him expulsion from the leaf village.
All, however, were merely guessing. They were all surprised, therefore, when he reached the end of the avenue and stopped, silently observing the small tent before him.
Even those far away felt a chill at the wide grin that spread across his delicate features, momentarily lending his face an animalistic quality. The governor, clearly fighting the urge to run and hide, but terrified of the retribution sure to follow such an act, wiped his neck with a sodden handkerchief and said nervously, "He's in there, Lord Orochimaru. If there's anything else I can do for you, please just say the word. I know having everyone crowding around you must be getting aggravating, if you want I coul-"
He was silenced with a wave of the Sannin's hand. "Enough. I openly made arrangements with you before my arrival, thereby calling attention to myself. If I had wished to speak with Kidomaru-kun secretly, I could easily have done so. Their presence is not a bother, but yours is beginning to be." The governor gulped, bowing wordlessly.
The villagers could nearly see him inwardly resolving not to open his mouth for the remainder of Orochimaru-sama's visit, a wise decision. Ending the interaction, the object of the village's unanimous focus slipped into the tent, ducking his head in order to avoid brushing against the filthy cloth. The entire structure was in ill repair, and so weathered it was impossible to discern its original color.
Once inside, he paused, snakelike pupils adjusting to the half-light that swallowed the room as the tent flap swung closed. Although it was high noon outside, within the confines of the tent the only light came from the remains of the rays that had manged to filter through the tent's material. On the other side of the tent, a dark, misshapen figure rose hesitantly, moving over to a small, squared shape, and withdrew from it a candle and book of matches. It spread its many limbs to accomplish this task, and Orochimaru studied its movements with interest.
The candle's flame flared into being in his hand, throwing the small space into sharp relief. It illuminated a small, flat bed, the chest from which the candle had been drawn, and two game boards which Orochimaru identified as shougi and go. The floor was dirt, and although the design of the tent included windows, it was clear from the tape around their perimeters that they had not been used in a long time, if ever.
Far more fascinating than the space itself, though, was its inhabitant. The boy before Orochimaru, who the village leaders had said to be nine, was slight, tanned, clad in pants and a shirt as filthy as the tent, and possessed six perfectly formed arms. Orochimaru extended one pale hand, saying smoothly, "Kidomaru-kun, I presume? I am Orochimaru. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
The boy stared warily at the proffered limb, apparently suspecting some sort of diabolical hand-trap, before taking it quickly and shaking briefly. "You, too." was all he could think to say, squirming under the intense glare of the imposing man before him. Three days prior, the governor and a few village elders had paid him an unexpected visit to inform him of the imminent arrival of Orochimaru, the famed genius of the Sannin.
Although Kidomaru had never heard of the Sannin or Orochimaru, the term 'genius' immediately piqued his attention, and he listened raptly as he was given a short overview of what was known of the illustrious man's history and notably volatile temperament. They impressed upon him especially the need for perfect manners, as this man was known to be easily insulted and was perfectly able to raze the entire village and all its inhabitants in under ten minutes if incensed.
They had been unable to offer any explanation as to why such a man would seek an audience with Kidomaru, the village freak, rejected by his family and feared by all, but had repeatedly and strongly insisted that he make a good impression. The governor, especially, held hope that the Sannin might offer to add their village to his lands if he was pleased, protection that would almost certainly be a step up from the lax defense afforded by Kusa.
Now, though, with the man who held the future of his village in his home, Kidomaru was unable to recall a single polite phrase or honorific he had been so hastily instructed in the use of. An that intense stare wasn't helping matters. It seemed as though he was being dissected, inch by inch, his every secret and though laid bare for judgment. It wasn't a pleasant sensation.
"Kidomaru-kun." A harsh command, but Kidomaru wasn't sure what it was telling him to do. His gaze, which had wandered to his feet, snapped up to meet the smoldering glare he was being subjected to. "Yes, sir?"
Too late, he caught his mistake. 'He is very poweful' his makeshift instructors had warned him. 'Normal respect is an insult to him. Refer to him as Lord Orochimaru, and nothing else.' Kidomaru flinched, bracing himself for the impending punishment. None came. He relaxed slightly, looking up again, and was relieved to see that the Sannin looked amused. Maybe he wasn't as bad as they said.
Orochimaru spoke again, this time more softly, "Do you know what you are?" Kidomaru was taken aback by the question. He had always assumed what the village priest had asserted was correct, that he had been deformed in the womb by God as punishment for his parents' and perhaps the entire village's sins. So what did that make him? A human scapegoat, sacrifice to a vengeful god?
He said slowly, "I...I don't know, my lord." Orochimaru smiled, an eerily predatory look that made Kidomaru shiver, and replied, "Would you like to know?" Kidomaru started. He knew? Was that why he had made the long journey to this obscure place, just to reveal to him his true nature? Somehow, it seemed unlikely, but Kidomaru's curiosity was sparked. "Yes, please."
"So polite," Orochimaru mused. He stepped closer, the proximity between their bodies beginning to make Kidomaru uncomfortable, and ran a hand along one of his extra arms. Normally, Kidomaru would never have tolerated this kind of invasion of his personal space, but he kept in mind the identity and position of the offender and held his tongue. "You're a chimaera." Orochimaru stated, his eyes wandering the length of the limb. Kidomaru stared at him confusedly. A what?
"Um...I'm not sure I understand....my lord." He hastily tacked the honorific onto the end of his sentence, nearly forgetting it again in his confusion. Orochimaru, now studying the limb's companions, moving fingers and bending elbows with careful deliberation, explained, "A chimaera is an organism that is comprised of parts of two vastly different organisms. In your case, it happens to be a spider and a human."
Kidomaru was still confused, perhaps more now than before. "But...neither of my parents are spiders. I'm pretty sure I would have noticed." Immediately, he clamped a hand over his mouth. That had come out much more insolently than he had intended. "I don't mean to question you, it's just tha--" He broke off as Orochimaru gestured for him to be silent.
Sure, once again, that the end was coming, he looked straight at Orochimaru, determined to meet it head-on. The Sannin, however, seemed deep in thought, as though debating the best way to answer. Seconds passed, hours in Kidomaru's mind, and with each one he became more and more certain that he was not in imminent danger. So all of those stories about this guy being a ruthless, sadistic murderer had really been only stories, huh?
"Kidomaru-kun," Orochimaru began after a long pause, "this is not an easy question to answer, but I am glad you asked. You think. You question. This is a valuable asset, as long as you do not take it too far. Some things should not be questioned." Kidomaru hesitated, unsure if he was being reprimanded.
"This is not to say you have said anything amiss; it is a perfectly logical question." Oh, thank god. "I believe it is safe to assume that spider DNA was not spliced into you as a zygote, correct?" Kidomaru remained silent, unsure if it was a rhetorical question. Zygote? He had never even been to school, was he expected to know what that meant?
Sensing his confusion, Orochimaru clarified, "While you were in the womb. And, to answer, of course you weren't. There's not a viable lab within a hundred miles, and even then, there are few save myself who would even consider such an alteration." Kidomaru nodded, feeing extraordinarily stupid.
Orochimaru continued, still examining Kidomaru with interest, "So that leaves few other options. In your position, it would seem, at first glance, to be an accident. But that doesn't make sense, does it? Unless your mother had a strange spider fetish, which I highly doubt given the strict orthodoxy of this town, it was most certainly intentional."
Kidomaru frowned, falling farther and farther behind the man's circular reasoning. "But I thought you said it wasn't intentional."
Orochimaru laughed, a grating sound that twisted Kidomaru's guts and made him feel like running away until his legs gave out, then continuing on under the power of his arms. He could probably get pretty far, as well. Despite these urges, though, he stayed put, squeezing his eyes tightly shut and attempting, unsuccessfully, to control his trembling.
When his hilarity subsided, Orochimaru wiped his eyes with the palm of his hand and responded, suppressing another bout of laughter, "That's absolutely correct, Kidomaru-kun! I did. That was badly worded, though. I meant that the change that forced a deviation from the traditional blueprint of the homo sapien was not applied directly to you by a human, not that it occurred naturally."
Kidomaru, failing to see the humor, remembered that this particular man was taken to sudden episodes of extreme merriment as well as his infamous rages. He fervently hoped the sudden outbursts were not linked. "S-so.." he chanced saying, his mouth still fear-dry, "It happened to someone else and I caught it?"
Orochimaru shook his head. "No. Genetics. You inherited it." Kidomaru stared at him, suddenly sympathizing with the small children whom he sometimes saw trying to join in on adults' conversations, completely out of their league. "But neither of my parents have it, and none of their parents do, either."
Orochimaru finally straightened, moving back, and Kidomaru involuntarily breathed a small sigh of relief. It was good to have a bit of distance between yourself and someone so allegedly mercurial. At least you would have time to see your life flash before your eyes if he decided to off you. Not that his was much to see. The only things he really found worthwhile were board games, and even those paled in comparison to the 'video' games he saw in abandoned magazines, sold in specialty stores in more highly developed regions like Konoha or Suna.
Taking his mind away from his unfulfilling life, he returned his attention to Orochimaru, who seemed to be having a slight bit of difficulty translating the complexities of genetic manipulation and their historical tie-ins into a language that could be understood by an uneducated preteen.
"Well, Kidomaru-kun, it begins many years ago, centuries in fact, during the golden age of science. Before the Great Shinobi Wars began." Kidomaru's eyes widened. He had never considered a before. Why had he never been informed that there was a time before the wars?
"The clan allegiances that have dominated our period were secondary to regional loyalties, that is, countries and villages." Kidomaru nodded, fascinated but wondering what this could possibly have to do with him. "This system worked very well, as far as we are able to tell from the bits of information we have found. Two centuries of worldwide warfare tend to erase most marks a civilization leaves behind. With each country able to focus on progress in lieu of constant strife, they began to experiment. I believe that they built great machines, and factories fifty times larger and more numerous than we have today."
Kidomaru considered that. It would be amazing, but it seemed unnecessary. After all, nothing in his village was factory-made, and they got along perfectly fine without complex machinery.
"Even more impressive, though, were the medicinal advances they made. We have several records that managed to survive the wars, immeasurably precious, and they contain information that we could not even dream of obtaining. One suggests that they actually walked on the moon!"
Orochimaru was obviously becoming excited, academic fervor consuming him and sweeping Kidomaru along for the ride. "This gives you an idea of the wonders the inhabitants of that age were capable of. Now, would you believe me if I told you that the infamous bloodline limits, the feared and revered kekkei genkai, were created by these humans?" Kidomaru nodded vigorously, short ponytail bobbing.
"They were. At some point in time, tensions between the countries began to run high. In labs throughout the world, experiments were conducted that vastly bettered each country's chance of victory in the war that was either taking place or was anticipated to occur. No one is completely positive. Doctor Uchiha Isai, a famous man in his day, was at the forefront of development. He created the Sharingan and gave the ability to every child born within his clan. It soon became apparent that the trait was hereditary. Other distinctive talents, the Byakugan, the ice release, the Rinnegan, every one of them, was created by various scientists throughout the world and sold to wealthy individuals or families, presumably for a heavy profit." Kidomaru listened intently, enthralled by this account. Everything was so different from what he had been led to believe!
Orochimaru continued, smirking slightly at the look on Kidomaru's face, "Some radicals, however, were not content with simply enhancing key aspects of the human body. They began to experiment with more drastic alterations. Extra limbs." He said, noting how Kidomaru looked reflexively at his own many appendages.
"Animalistic features." Again, Kidomaru studied himself, beginning to understand his strange situation.
"Multiple humans merged together, or mutated with viruses and chemicals. Some were even combined with plants." Kidomaru looked up, shocked.
"Whoa...so..what happened?" Orochimaru sighed, a look of regret passing quickly over his features.
"It erupted. That kind of power could not possibly be safely contained. It started with a small conflict, but through a series of other conflicts and apparent political manouevers, the entire continent and perhaps the entire world was dragged headlong into it. The solid countries of before, weakened and bankrupt, quickly disintegrated, and the clans banded together. Thus began the great period of war, child fighting child with weapons they did not understand. The human race regressed. Some technologies- radio, plastic, computers-were salvaged, but most went down in flames. Only select structures, places that were located underground or on high mountain peaks, survived the carnage. The mindlessness of this destruction...."
Orochimaru paused, trying to find words strong enough to explicate his emotions. "Just incomprehensible. Absolutely neanderthal."
Kidomaru nodded, burning with questions. Noticing this, Orochimaru pulled himself from his melancholy contemplation and said wryly, "But I suppose you're wondering how this ties to you, when no one in living memory has had your particular alteration."
"Yes, Lord Orochimaru." Orochimaru ran a hand through his hair, looking frustrated.
"It happened that as all of this knowledge was lost, the people began to fear the more wild alterations, denouncing them as the devil's servants. Because of this, the radicals' experiments' descendants were hunted down and killed or driven into seclusion. A very, very few actually ended up marrying or having sex with normal humans, but the genes that controlled their...unusual traits were not dominant. This meant that the children, when they were born, would carry the gene without actually displaying the traits that gene prescribed."
Kidomaru waited with bated breath, aware that it was about to all tie together. "Now, this went on for years. In your case, the spider-like characteristics were simply waiting within your ancestors' blood for an opportune moment to manifest. Both of your parents must have had the gene that created these alterations within you, and when you were conceived the dual submissive trait was finally given a chance to show itself."
Kidomaru stared in shock. So that was it? He just gotten it from his parents, like brown eyes or long legs? But then that meant... He blurted out excitedly, "You said there were a lot of those experiments, right?!" Orochimaru nodded.
"So that means there are other people like me!" Orochimaru smirked, pleased with the boy's deduction.
"Quite correct." Kidomaru looked up at him eagerly. "Have you found them, too?!"
The crooked grin widened, showing a pair of unusually long, sharp fangs that glistened as an inhumanly long tongue snaked out over them. The Sannin's golden eyes shone in the light from the candle, their slitted pupils more prominent than usual. "I've made the acquaintance of a few."
Kidomaru stared in disbelief, completely taken aback by implications of the odd resemblance to a snake this man bore. How had he neglected to see the connection?
"Now," Orochimaru said, dusting invisible bits of dirt off of his kimono, "We come to the reason I wanted to meet you. I would like to offer you a position as my student." Kidomaru's mouth fell open. How many more revelations was this man going to reveal? He wasn't sure he could take any more.
"You will be around people similar to yourself, and" he gestured to the game boards, "I could certainly provide you with some new games."
"Like video games?!" asked Kidomaru excitedly. Orochimaru smiled. Children were so easy. He hadn't even needed to explain everything- he could have simply offered the boy Halo 2. "Of course. I daresay you will be quite formidable. Not many gamers can operate three controllers simultaneously."
Kidomaru bowed, remembering what the governor had said about proper respect, and said with a broad grin, "Awesome! When can we leave?" Orochimaru turned, walking towards the door.
Kidomaru hesitated, leery of abandoning everything he had- just like that. Orochimaru pulled open the tent flap, blinding light flooding in. It filled the small area, negating the candle in Kidomaru's hand, which he put out and set down. He looked around at the dirty, simple possessions that he was leaving behind and immediately followed Orochimaru out of the tent.
Walking towards his new life, he shrunk away from the intense gazes of the villagers lining the street. They had all come out to see this? Suddenly, Kidomaru felt proud. The man they all feared, who was richer than all of them put together and multiplied by a hundred, wanted him. He was more important than them, by far. What did their mistrusting stares and cold words mean now? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Orochimaru walked calmly out of the village, ignoring the governor, who once again pathetically (but silently) attempted to endear himself to the sannin. Once, he looked out of the corner of his eye at Kidomaru. The boy was strutting along, one pair of hands on his hips, another crossed across his chest, and the third locked together behind his head, obviously enjoying his new position already.
The Sannin licked his lips in anticipation. That bodily structure was just begging for a themed alteration. Maybe he would graft extra eyes onto the boy. Or what if he was given the ability to shoot webs? Strong, functional weapons, though, not actual spiderwebs.
Orochimaru turned his gaze back to the street before him. The possibilities were endless.