“I didn’t realize it was possible for you guys to hide that thoroughly.” Kaisuki thought quietly. Khrai, who had gone looking for Saeka for what seemed like the hundredth time, had just returned from another one of her excursions empty-handed. It had been a two weeks since the fiasco at the main matches of the Chuunin Exams, and Saeka had yet to return to Kaisuki’s senses. She could usually feel all three of her spirits within automatically. It was simply a sense, sort of like feeling one’s own heart beat.
It had been two weeks, and Izumi, Khrai, and Kaisuki had seen neither hide nor hair of Saeka. The youngest of the spirits had hidden, and she had done a ridiculously good job of it. Kaisuki couldn’t feel her, and none of them could find her.
“It’s not easy,” Khrai answered, “I can do it because I know how. Saeka hasn’t been dead nearly long enough to have perfected that trick to this extent.”
Kaisuki sighed, depressed. “Saeka always had a knack for doing things perfectly on instinct. She didn’t know how to do that full body transfer until recently,” she stated, “And yet she managed to make the complete transition that time when I was five.”
Izumi hummed in agreement, “If she doesn’t want to be found this badly, we won’t find her. It would be best if we just left it alone. She’ll come back when she’s ready.”
The Yurei frowned unhappily, picking out a few cups of instant noodles for Naruto, before heading to the checkout counter. “I just… I wish she’d just tell me she was okay.”
“Well, we know she’s okay.” Khrai reassured. Khrai and Izumi had been significantly less worried than Kaisuki all along. The Tsubaki didn’t know why she couldn’t get her nerves to unravel from where they’d been bunched up after her encounter with Teara, and Saeka’s level of fear towards him. “She wasn’t seriously injured, and she isn’t trapped in a genjutsu. She’s hiding because she’s upset. She does it all the fucking time, remember?”
“Yea, but I can usually still feel her presence.” Kaisuki mumbled in return. Listening to herself, she was beginning to feel sort of like a brat. Khrai heaved an impatient sigh.
“This is also the first time she’s encountered that Teara guy since she died two years ago. She had the shit scared out of her, Kaisuki. She needs to recuperate.” Khrai said firmly. “Get the fuck over it. She’ll be back.”
Kaisuki internally hummed in affirmation, still feeling a little down and out. She understood that Saeka thought that if she lost her temper or got excessively upset around Kaisuki, her hostess would stop liking her. And the Yurei had made a point to reiterate several times that that was not the case, but it seemed like every time she said it, it went over Saeka’s head. What did she have to do to get the girl to understand that she didn’t need to hide her emotions, and that it was alright to snap at any of them when she was unhappy about something?
She handed the cashier the money for the groceries, and left the store, offering a halfhearted farewell to the older fellow. Naruto and Kaisuki had been sent back to the hotel room when Jiraiya-san had spotted a very beautiful brunette and – evidently – decided to attempt a conquest. He had sent his charges back ahead of him, and, after Naruto had fallen asleep from sheer boredom, she had decided to go out and buy something for them to have for lunch.
Kaisuki had sort of been spoiling him to offer her thanks for him saving her life from Teara. She had run out of chakra in the middle of Saeka’s battle against the blue-eyed man, and if it hadn’t been for Naruto’s very quick thinking, he would’ve killed her in some unsightly way.
She always spoiled the blond for a while after he saved her life. She’d treated him to Ichiraku’s five times in a row after they’d gotten back from their mission in Nami no Kuni, and she’d treated him ten times after an incident when he’d talked Saeka down from one of her fits – one that had almost persuaded a large portion of the jounin in Konohagakure to appeal for Kaisuki to be executed for the safety of the village.
Kaisuki dodged and weaved through the foot traffic in the small city. They were tracking Tsunade-san, another one of the Sannin. Jiraiya-san had heard from some unknown source recently that Tsunade-san had been through the place. It was a nice little place, full of lively people and interesting bits of culture that seemed to be exclusive to the city. It was an artisan’s dreamland, really, with small bands, and solo musicians, arts and crafts shops everywhere, and specialty artistic services on every block. Kaisuki had grown to quite like the place since they’d arrived a few days ago from a tiny hamlet just south of Konohagakure.
She didn’t know why they were tracking down Tsunade-san. She had a tiny bit of a gut feeling she might know why, but she couldn’t say for sure. Jiraiya-san had told Naruto that his old teammate owed him a favor, and he was calling it in, but that had been as forthcoming as he’d been. The blond, of course, had been perfectly willing to accept that reasoning, despite not being told what the white-haired Sannin was going to request of his teammate.
Kaisuki turned down an alleyway to cut to the next street over, ignoring the three sketchy guys standing against the wall of the narrow alley. If they tried anything, they were going to have a few broken fingers, to say the least. She walked past them, and she heard one of them whisper something to another, but they didn’t try to follow her. That was good. She didn’t really feel like breaking hands today.
She had just crossed the threshold to the other side of the way when her stomach abruptly twisted into a knot. She slowed to a stop, hand seeking out the nearest wall as her heart rate suddenly spiked. Dark spots were beginning to show up in her visual field, and she felt incredibly nauseous. She swallowed several times, trying to quell the urge to vomit.
“Kaisuki, are you okay?” Izumi’s voice cut into her racing thoughts. She tried to conjure a reply, but she couldn’t get any words out. Then, all at once, a tsunami of emotions that weren’t hers slammed into her. Fear, anger, and disbelief were just a couple that she felt most strongly. Her mind was racing with thoughts that didn’t belong to her, and she was losing track of her surroundings.
Her vision abruptly went dark, the sensation of being violently wrenched out of her own body jarring her. She couldn’t tell if she was moving or if she was still standing where she’d been. She didn’t know what was going on.
“Kaisuki?!” Izumi’s calls echoed in the distance, and Kaisuki searched for her in the complete darkness. She still couldn’t find her words. “Kaisuki, where did you go?!”
Then, with startling suddenness, she was back in control of herself. Her eyes widened when she realized that she was in motion, and she quickly brought her legs forward to catch herself. She wound up having to tuck and roll, surprised by her own momentum. She rolled back up onto her feet and looked around, bewildered. Where was she?
Kaisuki walked over to the edge of the building she had apparently leaped onto, peering over the edge and trying to figure out what storefronts were around. “Izumi? Khrai? Where are we?”
Khrai didn’t answer at all, but Izumi spoke up immediately, “I don’t know. Everything went dark for a minute, there.”
“Yea, same for me.” She replied, spotting a familiar store. She was three blocks towards the hotel room where Naruto was waiting for her. Why had she been heading there? Who had taken over? Where was Khrai? She still couldn’t feel Saeka, so it couldn’t have been her, right?
She took several steps away from the edge of the building, taking a moment to try and actively seek out Saeka’s presence. Maybe it had been the black-haired girl. She poked around within herself, looking for any sign of the girl, but there was nothing. Just as she was beginning to give up, a renewed surged of panic shot through her, and everything went dark again.
This time, though, it was different. It was like the times in the past when Saeka had possessed her in a fit of rage and attempted to kill Sasuke or Kakashi-sensei. The same feeling of dread, the same burst of emotions that weren’t hers. Thoughts that didn’t belong to her flew through her mind, too fast to catch. She could hear things occasionally, but she couldn’t make any sense of it. She looked around the darkness again, feeling heat building all around her.
Her heart was hammering away in her throat as she called out through the darkness, “Saeka? Is that you? What’s going on?” But there was no reply. Where was Khrai? Izumi had also fallen distressingly quiet, and the Yurei just didn’t know what was going on.
He’s going to kill him.
The thought came to her, but she could feel that it wasn’t her own. She didn’t know who’s it was. It sounded like her own voice, but it wasn’t her thought. She didn’t even know who the thought was about, but she could feel the urgency, the fear in that voice that was her’s, but also wasn’t. Someone was in danger. She was beginning to feel the first vestiges of her own panic as she looked around frantically, searching for an answer, for anything at all.
“Kaisuki, where did you go?!”
“Maybe next time.”
It was starkly familiar from a painfully vivid memory, but she didn’t know why she was hearing it. Even so, Itachi’s voice seemed to ring through the emptiness around her, igniting a powerful hatred that wasn’t her own. It burned strongly alongside the hammering of fear in her chest. A jarring feeling of protectiveness pushed up around the terror and the anger, guilt coming with it.
Why am I doing this for him?
The temperature around her was continuing to rise, even though it had long since surpassed what felt like the melting point. Her body was tingling, she was overheating, and it felt like her skin was on fire and her insides were burning up. The strength of the emotions and the speed of the thoughts and the overwhelming heat were making it impossible to think straight. The inside of her skull was beginning to pound with a debilitating headache, and spots were appearing in her vision.
“-… so soon.”
“Do you think Sasu…?”
I don’t know what you’re up to, but stay away from him. Stay away from both of them.
A sharp, stabbing pain erupted in her bicep, and she grabbed at it, eyes widening and watering. When she looked down at it and moved her hand away, she could see a wide gash carved into her arm, bleeding freely. She had taken an injury? How? What was going on out there?
She could faintly hear voices, some from memories, and some that were foreign to her. The conversation was impossible to understand. Too many overlapping voices. To many racing thoughts that weren’t her’s. Too much going on for her to possibly follow.
“… for over an hour…”
I’ll kill you.
“I guess we found Saeka.” The dry, echoing remark from Khrai was the last thing Kaisuki heard before she completely lost hold of herself and sank away into the deepest, darkest plarts of her inner landscape.
For a moment, he could only stare. He didn’t really know what he’d been expecting, what with Sasuke rather foolishly rushing at the prodigious Uchiha Itachi, as though he thought he would be able to do anything with a head-on attack like that. Normally, Sasuke was the one hiding and planning and thinking of a strategy, so to see him worked up enough to completely abandon all logical thought was… disturbing, frightening, and worrisome, to say the least.
As it was, the attack Sasuke had attempted to kill his brother with (Chidori, which Naruto had recognized immediately, thanks to being a teammate of Kakashi-sensei’s) had been easily deflected. Now, Itachi had caught his younger brother’s wrist in an iron grasp, and Naruto could see that he was cutting off circulation to Sasuke’s hand with the sheer strength of his grip.
He needed to do something. Itachi’s partner – who had yet to be introduced to Naruto – had an equally strong grip on his shoulder, large fingers digging into the joint. A threat of dislocation, if he had to guess. It didn’t really matter though, Naruto would be willing to take an injury as superficial as that if it meant getting Sasuke (and, if possible, himself) out of their current predicament.
“Let go of me, you oversized fish!” Naruto snarled, trying to pry the huge man’s hand off his shoulder. The man’s hold on him only tightened, and a second later, he’d been slammed into the wall with enough force to crack the wood. His breath left him in a gasp, but he refused to let up.
“Hey, kid,” the man addressed. “If you don’t stop squirming, I’m really gonna cut off your arms and legs.”
Naruto paused, stiffening. He looked up at the man and glared at him murderously. He’d already lost the Kyuubi’s chakra to the bastard’s weird weapon, and in the same breath, he’d lost a considerable amount of his own chakra. With his strength so sapped, there really wasn’t much he could do, aside from squirming and yelling at them.
“Let go of him!” Sasuke abruptly snarled, and when Naruto looked over at him, he could see that he was charging another Chidori in his other hand. Sasuke could only charge that twice in a day. He was going to use up too much chakra, and then he wasn’t going to be able to do anything. He wasn’t thinking straight at all. He wasn’t using his head. He ought to draw a kunai and aim to stab Itachi in the wrist, not try to land a finishing blow to his relatively out-of-reach chest.
If Sasuke wasn’t going to use his head, Naruto was going to have to do it for him. He opened his mouth to yell at his teammate, but he didn’t get a chance to speak. Itachi, who had disinterestedly turned his attention away from Sasuke, slowly shifted his gaze back to his brother, his expression completely still.
For a moment, Naruto thought Itachi was just going to kill Sasuke right there, and his heart rate skyrocketed, panic surging through him and stealing his words from him.
“You’re annoying, Sasuke.” Was all the older Uchiha said before he jerked his hand and sent a crack like a gunshot through the air. Sasuke’s eyes widened, his face draining of color, and a split second after his wrist had been broken, he cried out loudly in pain, the sound quickly shifting into a strained scream. Naruto could practically hear his teammates throat closing as he dropped to his knees, cradling his arm to his chest and hunching over in an instinctive need to protect the fresh injury.
For just a moment, Itachi stared down at Sasuke’s slightly trembling form, as though waiting to see if he was going to attempt to get back up. But after that moment passed, he returned his attention to Naruto and his partner.
“So, can I cut his legs off?” The larger man asked, sounding only slightly impatient. “He’s been a real bother so far. I expect he’ll only get worse.”
Naruto tensed, staring at Itachi, unable to control the fear that very nearly paralyzed him. Itachi looked directly at him, eyes void of emotion, and didn’t say anything at first. The silence was thick enough to cut with a kunai.
Then, Itachi finally stated, with complete and utter calmness, “You can sever the tendons in his ankles.”
Itachi’s partner snorted, “I think I can live with that.”
“Don’t… you dare…”
He looked to where Sasuke had been, only to find that he was standing up, using one hand to brace himself against the wall while his broken arm hung useless at his side. He was breathing heavily, his face the color of sour milk, and his teeth clenched.
“If you hurt him… I swear… I will rip you apart.” The younger Uchiha ground out, glaring all the hate in his being at his brother. Itachi slowly turned around, and Naruto didn’t miss the highly impatient glint in his eyes.
Then, with speed so fast that Naruto barely caught the movement, he buried his fist into Sasuke’s gut and sent him flying down the hall, where he slammed into a wall hard, before sliding to the ground.
Oh no, no, no, he just had a ton of surgery there. Naruto thought frantically, the wounds will reopen, oh no, oh no… I need to do something. I have to do something.
He watched as Itachi started down the hall, where Sasuke was slowly standing up again, even as he was spitting up mouthful after mouthful of blood. That blow had to have reopened his internal injuries. He would die if Itachi hit him hard enough to make the wounds bigger than they already were.
Naruto swore loudly, turning his attention back to the large man still easily holding him against the wall. He pulled a kunai out of the kunai pouch attached to the back of his belt and attempted to jam it into the fish guy’s arm to force him to let go. He didn’t know why he’d thought that maybe it would succeed. Sometimes, he really was just an idiot.
The man caught his wrist easily, digging his fingers into Naruto’s shoulder ever harder, pushing the joint apart slowly. The blond cried out in pain, kicking out with his legs uselessly. His eyes were watering from a mixture of pain and impossible frustration. Where was Kaisuki? Where was Ero-sennin? That stupid old Sannin was going to be too late to save anyone if he didn’t hurry up with his stupid conquest.
Where is Kaisuki, though?
His eyes were welled with tears, and he blinked them away angrily, gritting his teeth. The man pinning him wasn’t even looking at him. He was looking down the hall, where Itachi and Sasuke were, a highly amused look on his face, even as he continued to dig his fingers into Naruto’s shoulder and squeezed his wrist until the blond thought it might break.
Naruto looked down the hall, his heart hammering. Sasuke was trying to get up again. His nose was bleeding, and there was more of the red stuff still spilling past his lips with every gasp and cough. Naruto could see the tremors wracking his body. He had to be in absolute agony. Why wouldn’t he just stay down? Sometimes, he had to wonder who the real idiot on their team was.
Itachi stooped down and grabbed Sasuke by the collar of his shirt, easily picking him up off the ground and slamming him into the wall. Naruto watched, helpless, as the older Uchiha switched his grip to his brother’s throat and squeezed, restricting Sasuke’s airways. His teammate immediately reached up with his uninjured hand and started trying to pry Itachi’s fingers off his throat, his expression pained.
That wasn’t good. If Sasuke needed to spit up any more blood, he was going to choke on it. Was Itachi actually intending to kill him? Panic surged through Naruto again, but he couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t get away from his man. He’d lost access to both his arms. He couldn’t even try to throw a kunai or twelve at Itachi’s back. There was nothing he could do.
Was he going to have to watch Sasuke die again?
“You’re pathetic.” He heard Itachi say icily. “What was the point of coming here if you’re still as weak as you were then?”
Itachi’s grip tightened, cutting of Sasuke’s airways entirely. The younger Uchiha, clawed at his arm, lips parting as he tried to take in a breath, eyes wide and filled with hate and fear. Naruto heard Itachi’s voice again, but he couldn’t make out his actual words, and only a moment later, Sasuke’s eyes widened even further, his pupils dilating. A spasm wracked his entire body, his mouth opening and tears filling his eyes.
The older Uchiha dropped Sasuke unceremoniously to the floor, and Naruto could hear him wheezing and gasping. He was staring straight ahead at absolutely nothing, listing to the left until he collapsed onto his side, twitching and trembling.
Abruptly, the man who had been pinning Naruto to the wall wrenched his hand back, releasing his hold on the blond, as the familiar sound of blood hitting the floor reached him. Before he could process what exactly had just happened, someone grabbed his bicep and wrenched him away from the huge man. He stumbled and almost fell, but managed to catch himself on the wall.
He looked up to see Ero-sennin, the Sannin he’d been waiting on the whole time. Naruto had never seen him look so serious. There were no jokes, there was no sign of his usual humor, and not so much as a trace of a smile on his face. It was unsettling to see him like that, but to Naruto, it highlighted how dangerous a situation they were in. He could see the Sannin’s eyes darting from the man who had been pinning him, to Itachi, and finally resting on Sasuke.
“Oh-ho, Itachi-san, we have company.” The larger man said, smirking. He reached over his shoulder and gripped the handle of his huge, strange weapon. The same one that had stolen his and the Kyuubi’s chakra. He swallowed hard, unsure of what exactly he ought to do. He wouldn’t go anywhere without Sasuke. As it was, Itachi could easily pick the younger Uchiha up and threaten his life to get whatever it was they were after.
They’re after me. Duh.
“Naruto, don’t move from this spot.” Ero-sennin commanded lowly, and Naruto could only nod mutely in reply. His heart was hammering in his throat. Sure, the white-haired man standing beside him was one of the Sannin, but would he really be able to take on the notorious Uchiha Itachi and his equally dangerous-looking partner?
Before either Ero-sennin or the large fish guy could make a move in either direction, Itachi called from down the hall. “Kisame.” The icy undertone had gone from his voice, and he looked fairly disinterested, though Naruto couldn’t help but notice that he looked a few shades paler than he’d been moments ago.
Kisame, as he was apparently called, dropped his hand from where it had been wrapped around the hilt of his weapon and turned to look to his partner. The Uchiha’s eyes fell on Naruto once again, and the blond stiffened slightly, but didn’t move.
“We’re leaving.” He stated, and Kisame stared at him for a long moment, looking almost hesitant, but Itachi reiterated his statement firmly. “Now.”
The blue-haired man sighed, shaking his head and still smiling, “Yea, yea, alright.” He said, turning his back to both Naruto and Ero-sennin, and heading down the hall towards Itachi. They turned around the corner together, neither sparing Sasuke a second glance, though Naruto was sure he heard his teammate’s name come out of Kisame’s mouth.
Naruto waited ten seconds after they had disappeared around the corner before he took off at a dead sprint, going to his knees and skidding to a stop in front of Sasuke. He shook the Uchiha’s shoulder as gingerly as he could stand (which was probably still too hard), but Sasuke didn’t respond at all. His eyes were glazed over and sightless, his pupils dilated hugely, blood still dripping slowly out of the corner of his mouth. There were bruises forming around his throat already.
“W-what’s wrong with him?” He asked, unable to hold back the tremor in his voice. That had to have been one of the worst scares he’d had in his life thus far. He looked over at Ero-sennin as the older man crouched down beside him, giving Sasuke a brief once-over.
“It looks like he got the same treatment Kakashi got,” he muttered quietly, and Naruto froze momentarily, before looking up at his mentor with wide eyes.
“What do you mean, the same as Kakashi-sensei?” He questioned, “Is Kakashi-sensei in the same condition…?”
Ero-sennin looked over at him, his gaze still serious. “Yes. He’s at the hospital right now. He won’t wake up.”
“He won’t…” Naruto stopped mid-sentence, the direness of the situation hitting him like a ton of bricks. Kakashi-sensei wouldn’t wake up, and now Sasuke was in the same state. There had to be something they could do. There had to be some miracle cure, or some irou-nin, or some something that they could do or get or find that would wake them up.
“Naruto,” he jumped at the sound of an almost unfamiliar voice, looking up in surprise.
“Kaisu-…” Naruto stopped himself when he took in the condition Kaisuki was in. There were huge gashes on her arms, another, even larger one marring her side, just above her hip. Her lip was busted and there was a ring of bruising around her throat.
And her eyes were green.
He swallowed hard, “Izumi?” He said uncertainly, and the irou-nin nodded. She looked distressed, and Naruto was afraid to ask why. “What… happened?” He wanted to know, but she shook her head and walked over to them silently, kneeling on the blond’s other side and giving Sasuke her own check-up.
“Where’s Kaisuki?” Ero-sennin wanted to know. She bowed her head slightly, and Naruto’s stomach dropped like a rock. Something had happened to Kaisuki, as well? Had Itachi gotten her too? What were they going to do about it? Was there anything they could do?
“I don’t know,” Izumi finally confessed, her voice quiet. “Saeka, as you know, had been missing for a couple of weeks. Today, she came back suddenly and took over, and I gather she was in a fight, but I don’t know who she was battling because she wouldn’t let us see. And… we haven’t heard or seen Kaisuki since Saeka took over, and now she’s disappeared as well too. It’s… It’s just me and Khrai right now.”
Naruto’s eyes widened as he listened to her story, his reaction likely written all over his face. Kaisuki had disappeared? How was that even possible? She’d been pitched to the back by Saeka before, but she always returned immediately afterwards. How far back had she been thrown, to have completely disappeared from Khrai and Izumi’s awareness?
“Is there any way to bring her back?” Naruto asked, unable to hide the anxiety in his voice.
Izumi glanced at him briefly before returning her attention to Sasuke. It looked like she was healing the internal damage. That was a relief, at least. “Khrai and I are going to take turns searching for the two of them. I don’t know how long it’ll be before we can find them, though.”
His face fell, and he looked at the floor, depressed. It seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong was going wrong this particular afternoon. He turned to Ero-sennin, swallowing hard before he spoke, “What are we going to do about Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei?” He asked, expecting to hear more bad news.
“We do what we’ve been doing,” he stated confidently. “Tsunade is the best irou-nin in the Shinobi Nations, and she’s got plenty of experience dealing with the victims of the Sharingan. The Uchiha clan’s only been gone for four years, after all, and we’re over fifty. You can do the math yourself.”
Naruto’s eyes widened, and for a moment he thought he might cry. “So… they’ll be okay?”
His mentor nodded, “They’ll be fine. We just have to find Tsunade.”
The blond took in a shuddering breath, looking back to Sasuke, “What are we going to do about him?”
“Khrai can carry him back to Konohagakure.” Izumi supplied before Ero-sennin could. Naruto nodded, eying the wounds scattered across Kaisuki’s arms, settling for a long moment on the huge gash on her side. It wasn’t bleeding, but it looked really bad.
“Don’t worry about it,” Izumi answered his unasked question without even looking at him, “I’ll take care of them when I have the time.”
She pulled her hands back from where they’d been hovering over Sasuke, settling them in her lap instead. Her eyes slowly closed, and there was a palpable shift in the air around them. When she opened her eyes again, they were a bright shade of blue, and that was all Naruto needed to see to know that it was Khrai.
“Hey, Khrai,” he greeted, and she looked up at him from where she’d been staring at Sasuke. Her expression, which was set in a scowl as usual, softened somewhat as she scrutinized him.
“You’re not hurt?” She asked, and Naruto blinked. Was he hurt? He wasn’t sure how relevant that was, all things considered. But Khrai seemed to like him a lot, so he supposed it sort of made sense for her to inquire after his wellbeing after all the fun he’d just had.
“I’m alright,” he reassured her. “I’m gonna have killer bruises, but they’ll be gone by tomorrow.”
Khrai let out a breath of halfhearted laughter, “I bet.” She sighed heavily, “Well, I guess I should probably get a move on, huh?”
Ero-sennin hummed in agreement. “His wrist is still broken. Try not to make it worse while you’re traveling.” Then, he added, “Thank you for taking him back for us.”
Khrai nodded, despite the darkening of her scowl as she basically glowered at the Sannin, “Yea, no problem.” She said rather coldly. The Sannin she spoke to blinked, looking moderately bewildered by her sudden change of attitude.
Despite her evident dislike of the white-haired Sannin, Khrai let him help her maneuver Sasuke onto her back, while Naruto stood on the sidelines and watched. He felt useless. Helpless. He’d been unable to do anything while Sasuke was being essentially tortured by his brother. He hadn’t been able to so much as throw a useful kunai. He hadn’t done anything. If his white-haired mentor hadn’t shown up when he had, Naruto didn’t have a clue what would’ve happened. The blond might’ve been taken off somewhere for whatever reason, and Sasuke might’ve been killed or something.
I’m so weak.
He looked up when he heard his name, finding Khrai watching him again. There was a long pause before she spoke, “If you feel weak, get stronger. There’s no point in moping about how fucking useless you are. Get your shit together so that next time you see them, you can tear them to shreds.”
He stared at her, unable to formulate a reply. Finally, he simply nodded, taking in a shaky breath. “Yea,” he agreed quietly. “I’ll get stronger. Much, much stronger.”
Khrai didn’t smile. She didn’t look particularly approving, nor did she offer any words of support or encouragement. She just nodded at him, and then at Ero-sennin. “I’ll see you when you get back. Don’t you dare come home empty-fucking-handed.”
Ero-sennin smiled, though the expression was a little strained. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Khrai turned away without another word, heading down the stairs at the edge of the hall, in the same direction Itachi and Kisame had gone. Naruto stared after her. He had never felt so anxious in his life. He really hoped they’d be able to find Tsunade-san quickly. He didn’t know how hard she’d be to find. He didn’t even want to think about the consequences of them not being able to find her at all.
We’ll find her, he told himself over and over and over. We’ll definitely find her.
At first, she didn’t know where she was.
Her hands were smaller. Her whole body was smaller, actually. She looked up and around, confused and trying to figure out where she was. She was wearing a kimono that had been stained with red from cherry-flavored shaved iced, and there were people all around. She was standing on the edge of the road, and people dressed up as dragons and phoenixes and demons and angels were dancing down the street with lights and colors and songs.
The Spring Festival, just before she’d turned five.
Kaisuki didn’t know why she had returned here, of all places. A hand touched her shoulder and she looked up in time to see Itachi crouching down beside her.
“Kaisuki, have you seen Sasuke?” He asked, sounding extremely worried. Kaisuki stared at him for a long time, emotions swirling within her like a tempest. But her four year-old self wasn’t thinking of that. She looked around herself again, searching for the familiar mess of black hair, but she didn’t see him.
“No,” she replied after she’d finished looking around. “He didn’t tell me he was leaving.”
Itachi nodded, his brow creasing with concern, his eyes betraying his anxiety. How had this nine year-old boy – who had adored his little brother – become so cold and heartless? How could he have changed so much in just four years? He used to think the sun rose and set on Sasuke, and he would’ve died for him.
Itachi stood up, offering her a hand, which she took, forgetting that her hands were sticky from the shaved ice. But Itachi didn’t mention it, just tugged her along. She watched him as they walked along for a moment, while he searched for Sasuke, and it wasn’t long before she was seeking her best friend out as well. They walked along for a while, but Sasuke was nowhere in sight.
Itachi paused long enough to pick her up, which allowed him to move faster. She could tell that he was nearing the point of desperation.
“Ah, Itachi! Kaisuki!” She heard a familiar voice calling, and it only took her a moment to spot her mother and father. Itachi strode up to them hastily, allowing Kaisuki’s mom to take her away from him. “Is something wrong?” Her mom asked upon seeing Itachi’s stricken expression.
“Sasuke’s missing,” Itachi quickly explained. “He has been for over an hour. I need to go find him. I’m sorry, I know you wanted me to look after her…”
Mom’s eyes widened, concern immediately showing on her face. She turned to her husband, Kaisuki’s dad, and said, “Help him look, would you? I’ll take Kaisuki home and put her to bed.”
“No!” Kaisuki immediately cut in, “I want to help look for Sasuke!”
“Honey,” Mom started to say, but her dad let out an exasperated sigh and ruffled her hair.
“It won’t hurt for her to help, Ren.” He told her, “You can take her with you. I’m sure she’ll get tuckered out on her own. If you try to put her to bed now, she’ll just sneak out to go hunt him down anyway.”
Mom nodded, frowning, but resignedly replied, “Alright. Let’s go find Sasuke, Kaisuki.” She looked around briefly before nodding to dad and Itachi, and started off across the street, cutting through the parade.
After an hour of searching while the festival sung around them, Kaisuki began to feel real anxiety about Sasuke’s whereabouts, despite her increasing fatigue. She couldn’t hold her head up any longer, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Sasuke. Where had he gone? Where could he have gone? Why hadn’t he stuck with Itachi and Kaisuki? Why had he wandered off? He was such a thoughtless idiot sometimes. He’d probably gone off to that lake to see the fireworks…
“Kaisuki? Where are you?”
“Ah!” Kaisuki suddenly cried out in the middle of a conversation between mom and Itachi, pushing herself off her mom’s shoulder with a rush of adrenaline. They both looked at her, confused, and she quickly told them, “Did you check the lake? Sasuke wanted to see the fireworks from the lake. He’s been talking about it for weeks. I’m sorry I only just remembered…”
Itachi paled, his eyes widening before he quickly replied, “No, it’s fine, Kaisuki. Thank you. Why don’t you take her to bed, Ren? She’s done great tonight. Thank you again.”
Mom nodded, “I’ll let your parents know where you’ve gone if I see them.”
Itachi nodded, before turning away and briskly walking through the streets, though it wasn’t long before his pace turned into a jog. Kaisuki saw him cut through an alleyway as her mom started walking away. She hoped Sasuke was at the lake. She didn’t know where else they could look.
“I can’t find her anywhere.”
They ran into Mikoto-san and Fugaku-san on the way, and Kaisuki listened to her mom tell them where their older son had gone. She faintly recalled seeing them race off to the lake as well, and the next thing she knew, she was being tucked into her bed.
“Good night, Kaisuki.” Her mom said quietly, kissing her forehead. Kaisuki blinked blearily at her.
“Did they… find Sasuke?” She mumbled, and her mom hesitated before smiling gently.
“Not yet, sweetie, but don’t worry. We’ll find him, so you just go to sleep, alright?” Her mom reassured, and Kaisuki nodded, even though her gut was telling her she should get up. Even though she had a really bad feeling. Even though something inside was telling her that Sasuke and Itachi needed her.
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be found.”
She was only four, though, so there was no way she would win the battle against sleep, anyway.