I have an on and off love affair with Naruto, and at any given time, I don’t know how I feel about it. On the one hand, it has a cast of thousands, and a good number of those characters get whole arcs to themselves, which is awesome. On the other hand, the story is really looooooong. And the large cast means that we don’t get to spend nearly as much time with certain characters as I would like. One such character that always fascinated me was Anko Mitarashi, Orochimaru’s former pupil.
Personality wise, Anko is a lot like Naruto—loud, robust, and driven. By the time the manga starts, Anko has it out for Orochimaru. She used to aspire to be like him, until he experimented on her and betrayed the village. White Knight, Burning Bright takes place in a world where Orochimaru was captured before giving Anko the Cursed Seal. Now, Orochimaru lives out his days in Konoha with most of his chakra sealed away, and with Anko his only ally.
I’ll admit that the setup for this story kind of threw me off at first, because it’s hard to imagine Orochimaru and Anko actually getting along. Nevertheless, I decided to check it out and was pleasantly surprised.
White Knight, Burning Bright is the first part of a series called Cry Havoc, written by blackkkat (sometimes spelled black.k.kat). I’ve been following her works for a while now, and I have to say that blackkkat is one of the better authors I’ve come across—I was also surprised to learn that English isn’t her first language either, because I honestly couldn’t tell that from her writing alone. The work she produces is fantastic and better written than many other fics I’ve read and enjoyed, and White Knight, Burning Bright is no exception.
The fic is told entirely from Orochimaru’s point of view: he’s spent the past seven years without the use of his chakra and unable to conduct any more experiments. Anko has become his only ally and friend, and because she’s the one person who still likes him, he finds himself grudgingly changing his opinion about her—the past seven years have taught him to actually care about her as a student and not as an ingredient in an experiment. For Orochimaru, I suppose we can call this an improvement.
His life takes a turn for the interesting when none other than a young Naruto takes a liking to him. Orochimaru finds himself amused by Naruto, due to his similarities to Anko, and Naruto finds himself drawn to Orochimaru, because they’re both treated as monsters by the rest of Konoha. Naruto demands that Orochimaru take him on as his student so he can be strong enough to be the Hokage someday. At first, Orochimaru doesn’t relish the idea, but as the Hokage is the only one capable of breaking his seals, he eventually agrees.
From there, the story devolves into Anko and Naruto becoming rivals competing for Orochimaru’s attention and teachings. The two of them gain a sort of antagonistic sibling relationship, and it’s their interactions and rivalry that add a lot of relief and enjoyability to an otherwise serious story.
Anko’s grin is incredibly nasty. Naruto just sticks his tongue out at her and crosses his eyes, entirely undaunted.
Somehow, Orochimaru doesn’t picture their relationship improving.
Before they can continue bickering, he cuts in. “Naruto, I am well aware that you had class today. Shouldn’t you be doing your homework?”
Naruto pulls another face. “But it’s boring,” he whines. “I wanna learn an awesome jutsu, an’ we’re just learning about affinies.”
“Affinities,” Orochimaru corrects, unable to help himself. It was a habit with Jiraiya as well.
“Well, it’s boring because you’re stupid,” Anko growls, still looking aggravated—and still hanging off his elbow the way she hasn’t since she was fourteen. “Affinities are incredibly important if you’re going to be a shinobi. After all, how can you be ‘an awesome ninja’ if you don’t study?”
With a fierce scowl, Naruto tightens his grip on Orochimaru’s sleeve, winding his fingers into the fabric, and answers, “Because I’m awesome, that’s how!”
“If you don’t know anything about being a ninja and try to be one anyway, you’re just going to be awesomely dumb!”
“Anko consistently scored among the highest in her class,” Orochimaru says, and if it’s a little sharp he thinks he can be excused. His temper is wearing thin. “I would not have taken her as a student otherwise.”
Anko’s grin is entirely triumphant. The boy makes another face at her, then pauses as an idea seems to come to him. “So,” he says slowly, “if I get good grades, will you be my sensei too?”
Anko huffs. “Why would he want to be sensei to some brat?” she protests vehemently. “And besides, he’s my sensei!”
“I,” Orochimaru informs them testily, “am not a possession. Cease your squabbling immediately.”
It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? The capabilities of a jinchuuriki—and the jinchuuriki of the strongest bijuu, at that. Tests don’t always have to be invasive, not where existent abilities are concerned. Sarutobi can’t even complain, because it was he who threw them together. And really, two monsters allying against a world that hates them is simply common sense.
Seven years Orochimaru has been a captive, a slave. There is no way for him to strike back, no way for him to free himself. But—
He slows his steps, coming to a halt at the very edge of the Forest of Death, and gently shakes Anko off. She shoots him a look, but is familiar enough with his tells even in her pique to know not to protest as he turns, dropping to one knee in front of Naruto. He meets blue eyes squarely, unafraid; he is the biggest monster here, after all. Jiraiya has told him so, whispered it the way he once framed words of love.
As much as I enjoy Anko’s character all the time, I’ve never really liked Orochimaru all that much until discovering blackkkat’s fics. She manages to both keep him in character—at no point does he stop being manipulative and spontaneously become a good person—while expanding on who he is and delving into the reasons why he acts the way he does.
As lighthearted as Anko and Naruto make this series, Cry Havoc can be a little dark at times. And in the sequel, there’s a scene featuring self-harm, which is something to look out for if that’s a trigger for you. You can check out White Knight, Burning Bright and its sequel here on AO3.