“Hello?” Sasuke called as he stepped into the office. The Hokage had secured it for the Uchiha to meet with Izumi in, as there weren’t really any other private places they could go. Kaisuki’s apartment would pretty much guarantee that Kaisuki would eventually find out that Sasuke was Izumi’s mystery patient, and his own apartment wasn’t a place he wanted people to intrude upon. It was a wreck, to be quite frank, and the state of it would reflect poorly on his mental health, he was sure.
Izumi came out a side room that looked to be about the size of a closet and smiled upon seeing him. “Hello, Sasuke.” She greeted him, gesturing towards the vacant couch and armchair. He closed the door behind him before walking over to the couch and sitting down. The irou-nin took her seat in the armchair, holding a mortar filled with some kind of herbs and a pestle.
She started crushing up the plants with the pestle, and began, “How many hours have you been sleeping on average since you saw the Hokage about your scratching?” She asked.
Sasuke frowned, lowering his gaze to his knees. “Not a lot.” He replied quietly. “Maybe… three or four hours a night?”
Izumi nodded, “Have you been stressing out about myself and the others finding out about it?”
He didn’t answer right away. He didn’t really want to admit that he had been stressing out about it to the point of actually losing several nights of sleep. Kakashi-sensei and he had made amends somehow, but he’d still managed to give himself three separate panic attacks about it. He was just glad that this whole matter had been taken out of his jounin instructor’s hands. He didn’t know what he’d do if the man had inquired after his parasomnia.
Or our wrists, for that matter.
But if he didn’t tell her those things, she wasn’t going to be able to do anything at all about it. This was the first time they were meeting in private, and while he didn’t have a whole lot of faith in her (not because he didn’t think she was able, but because he had tried everything), he wanted her to have the information she needed to give it her best efforts. He didn’t really want to be referred out to a specialist. He felt insane enough as it was.
“Yea,” he finally conceded. “I’ve… lost a few nights of sleep over it.”
“How many nights?” She wanted to know, and he had to think about it for a moment. He wasn’t entirely sure he remembered. It wasn’t like he tried to keep track of how often he didn’t get any sleep. There was no way he could.
“Uh,” he muttered. He hadn’t slept for the three days immediately following Kakashi-sensei and the Hokage first finding out. He’d missed two days before his current meeting with Izumi, and he hadn’t been able to sleep from Friday night until Monday night. “Eight, I think. I don’t usually miss that much sleep.” He added.
Izumi hummed thoughtfully. “Eight nights in two weeks. That’s quite a lot, considering how little you’re getting when you do sleep.” He nodded in agreement, and she continued. “How are the nightmares? Any better or worse than usual?”
A hundred times worse.
“They’re…” He trailed off, staring at his hands as he picked at his cuticles, His wrists immediately started to ache, but he ignored the pain. “Worse. A … a lot worse.”
“On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the absolute worst you could imagine, how bad have they been on average?” She stared poking at the salve she was making with the pestle, likely checking it for consistency.
He hesitated momentarily before truthfully replying, “Fifteen.” He watched as Izumi’s hands stopped poking at the salve for a few seconds. He looked up from her hands to meet her gaze, only to find that she was looking at him with real concern in her eyes.
“Do they usually get this bad when you’re stressed?” She questioned, and he shook his head.
“They don’t usually get higher than a ten. I mean,” he stopped picking his fingers as the ache in his wrists began to intensify and instead wrapped his arms around his middle. His wrists burned from the pressure, but he ignored it. “When the… For the first few months after the… the…” His throat constricted, so he swallowed hard and took a deep breath before trying again. “After the m-massacre, they were this bad. They were worse than this, actually. A lot worse. Those scaled no lower than a five hundred.”
Izumi smiled at his halfhearted quip, though the expression didn’t reach her eyes. He returned his gaze to his knees as she replied, “Do you always have trouble saying that?”
He had been hoping she either wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t comment, but he supposed that if she was going to be investigating his mental health, he should’ve known she would say something. He didn’t say anything in reply, simply nodded slightly, and she hummed thoughtfully.
“We’ll get to that another time, if you want to.” She said as she set the pestle and mortar on the end table beside her chair. She then slid forward where she sat, “May I see your arms?”
His stomach plummeted through the floor. He had known she would ask, but he still felt sickened by the idea of letting her see. He’d been scratching practically every other day since his secret had gotten out. He had destroyed his wrists. He’d been keeping them wrapped in gauze to protect them, but in terms of his scratching, it had been completely ineffective.
He had considered asking to see Izumi sooner, if for no other reason than to get her to heal the damage, but he’d refrained because he hadn’t really wanted her to see in the first place. Now, of course, it looked like he’d taken studded sandpaper to himself, and so showing her was much worse than it could’ve been.
Although, we’ve been doing that so often, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
“I…” He started to speak before he even knew what he’d wanted to say. Izumi was looking at him expectantly, and his heart was hammering. She was going to tell the Hokage to refer him to a specialist after all, and then he was probably going to get thrown into a psychiatric ward for the foreseeable future. “It’s… bad.” He finally mumbled. “Really bad. I’ve… been doing it a lot.”
He refused to look up at her. “May I see?” She asked again, her voice quiet.
Sasuke slowly unwrapped his arms from around his middle and undid the buckles on the ends of his arm warmers. His stomach was churning as he slid them off his wrists, revealing the thick layer of gauze he’d wrapped them in that morning. Izumi didn’t speak as he pulled the tape off and started unraveling the bandages from his left arm, and then his right.
When he had finished, he turned his wrists up so she could see the damage. He looked up at her, because he didn’t want to see his arms any more than he had to. She looked very alarmed. He didn’t know how deep the wounds were. They’d only been getting deeper and deeper since the first day he’d made them. Normally, they would’ve healed into clean slates just in time for him to do it again. Instead, they had become gouges in his flesh.
Izumi reached out and took his right arm, which was the worse of the two because he was primarily left-handed, and examined it carefully. She ghosted her fingers just above the injury, fingertips beginning to glow. She wasn’t healing it, though. He had no idea what she was doing, but if he had to guess he would say she was probably seeing how deep they were.
“I’m going to heal these,” she stated. She hovered her palm over his arm, and it began to emit a soft green light. His wrist tingled and itched as the chakra seeped into the injury and sped up the healing process. “This has gotten dangerous. You’ve hit your tendons.”
His heart skipped a beat and he clenched his teeth. He hadn’t realized he’d done that much damage. If he’d known he was close to hitting them, he would’ve sought out Izumi days ago. It had been hurting his wrists when he moved his fingers for a couple of days, and he hadn’t understood why. He hadn’t given it much thought, but he supposed he should’ve known better than that, considering how often he’d been scratching.
He didn’t say anything, just watched as Izumi healed his wrists. He didn’t know what else to do. His words had been rather rudely taken from him, and he felt a bit nauseous. Maybe Kakashi-sensei had been right to worry that he’d accidentally kill himself, after all. Maybe he should be thrown into a psychiatric ward. He worked his jaw, letting his hands fall back into his lap when Izumi let go of his freshly healed wrists. She leaned back in her seat and picked up her salve again, poking at it a bit before standing up.
“Wait here for a moment,” she told him, before crossing the room and entering the closet-room. He ran his fingers over the scars on his arms as he waited. He hated that he did it. He hated it because it was a reminder of how broken he was. He hated it because it was just one more thing in his life that he had no control over. He worked his jaw and put his arm warmers back on, scowling at the floor once he was done.
A few minutes passed before a wooden flask appeared in his line of sight. He straightened up from where he’d been slouching and took it out of her hands, watching her sit down. Once she had settled, she indicated the flask and explained, “Put a tablespoon in a cup of green tea – and only green tea – every night, about an hour before bed. It’ll make you tired, and once you’re asleep, it’ll keep you from dreaming.”
Sasuke’s eyes widened. He’d never heard of such a thing. “Will it… really?” He asked in disbelief. Izumi smiled and nodded, and he found himself staring at the flask. If it worked, he would be nightmare-free for the first time in four years. He barely remembered what that was like. He felt like crying.
“It should. If the nightmares are causing the scratching, this should put a stop to that as well.” She instructed, looking very serious. Sasuke found himself wishing it was later so he’d have an excuse to sleep right after he left. “If you’re doing worse, don’t wait two weeks to tell me. Tell Sarutobi-san immediately that you need to see me urgently, and he’ll let me know for you. I don’t want you getting down to your tendons again.”
He nodded, and she smiled at him again. He managed to return the expression, and her green eyes lit up. “I’ll see you in two weeks at the latest. Same day, same time.”
“Alright,” he replied, “See you then.” He stood up and exited the room, shoving his hands in his pockets as he walked back down the halls from whence he had come.
He had no real reason to imagine that her concoction would work any better than anything else he’d tried, but he felt better about the whole thing. Maybe he didn’t have to worry so much about how Izumi was going to react to how he was doing at any point in time. Maybe he could stop thinking about how there were four people who knew about his scratching.
Maybe he would stop scratching and having nightmares. Then it wouldn’t matter.
I should really fix that optimism of yours. It’s only gonna hurt more later.
“So like, have you heard from Sasuke lately?” Naruto asked offhandedly. He was trying to sound disinterested, but Kaisuki could hear the slight pitch of worry in his voice. She smiled slightly, watching the ground as she walked.
“No,” she replied. “I haven’t seen him at all, actually. Neither has Sakura. I saw her yesterday. Maybe he’s avoiding us.”
Naruto glanced over at her, and she met his gaze evenly. “You’re not worried?” He asked, sounding a little hesitant.
Kaisuki nodded, “Not at all.” She replied, “If something was wrong, Kakashi-sensei would tell us. He’s probably just training his face off. He’s going up against that redhead from Sunagakure, right? Khrai said he’s really dangerous.”
Naruto blinked, “How does Khrai know?” Kaisuki shrugged.
“Aside from the fact that she watched his match, I have no idea.” She said. “I think she knows something about him.”
Her best friend nodded, “Y’know, the Kyuubi seemed pretty agitated during his fight against Lee. Speaking of which, are Neji and Lee okay? I never checked in with you about that.”
Kaisuki sighed heavily. “Neji’s going to need four different surgeries to correct the damage to his arm, and he’s going to need about six months or more of rehab. Lee’s…” She trailed off into silence, her stomach churning. Sasuke was going up against the redhead from Sunagakure. That person had destroyed Lee’s left arm and leg. “Lee might have to give up being a shinobi.”
Naruto’s eyes got hugely wide. “W-what?” He asked, his voice a little shaky. “How do you know?”
“Izumi said something about it when I was seeing him and Neji in the hospital. She said the damage to his arm and leg was probably beyond correction.” Kaisuki replied quietly. “She said that she didn’t have the surgical expertise to make the call with certainty, but she said Lee’s future wasn’t looking too good.”
Naruto nodded slowly, looking horrified. “Sasuke didn’t see that match. Do you think he’ll be okay?”
Kaisuki shrugged again. “I don’t know. I hope so.”
The conversation lapsed into silence, which was fine. Kaisuki was comfortable enough with Naruto that she didn’t feel like she had to be talking to him when they were together. The blond had once told her that he felt the same way, which Kaisuki had found amusing. Naruto was probably the loudest, most talkative person she’d ever met, so the thought of him truly enjoying the silence between them was a little odd.
She looked up from the ground ahead of her feet in time to see a trio of people walking around a corner. The team from Sunagakure. The one that normally wore face paint (he wasn’t in his usual getup) was holding what looked like a map, turning it in various directions. The redhead was walking beside him, though he wasn’t walking very close to his team. The tall blond girl was peering over the painted-face guy’s shoulder, frowning.
“This map is impossible. Why don’t we just ask someone?” The blond girl finally declared. She looked up and spotted Naruto and Kaisuki, who were only about six feet away at that point. She strolled up to them, looking a little irate.
“Hey, are there any places in this village where we can get omu-rice?” She asked bluntly. Kaisuki blinked, exchanging a brief glance with Naruto as she scoured her mind for the name and location of the new restaurant that she knew served omu-rice. It wasn’t a very popular dish amongst the natives of Konohagakure, but the restaurant made a killing on tourists because they were able to get very fresh octopus from Wave Country since the bridge had been built.
“Uh,” Kaisuki opened her mouth and then closed it, eyes drifting towards the sky. It was close to Ichiraku’s, she knew. After a moment of thought, the location of the restaurant reached her, and she spoke, “Ah, yea. It’s like… let’s see… Ichiraku’s, that candy store, the boutique… and some other store or whatever. Yea, it’s like six doors down Uotani Street from Ichiraku’s. We can walk you there, if you want.”
The blond blinked, glancing over her shoulder at the rest of her team. The painted-face guy shrugged, and then nodded. She turned back to Kaisuki and Naruto, planting a hand on her hip, and replied. “Sure, that’d be great. Thanks.”
“No problem.” Naruto answered. “Temari-san, right?”
The girl snorted, “I’m hardly a -san, you brat. But yea, I’m Temari. This is Kankuro,” she gestured to the brunette who normally wore the face paint. “And that’s Gaara, though I doubt you could’ve forgotten his name.”
“Actually,” Kaisuki said, staring at the redhead. He was looking off to the side at something. He looked exhausted. “I wasn’t really present for any of those matches. I got to see Sasuke’s, but then I blacked out. So I didn’t know any of your names.”
Kankuro stepped over, furrowing his brow, “You looked pretty attentive to me, at the time.”
“Ha,” Kaisuki chuckled. “That wasn’t me. That was Khrai. She’s… a dead girl.”
“I’m not a girl.” Khrai grunted, sounding like her mood had been soured by something. Kaisuki had thought she’d heard the sounds of fighting earlier in the day, but she hadn’t actually heard from Khrai all day. Izumi had been around on and off, and Saeka had been pretty much gone for the past two days.
“Oh, don’t be so inflexible. I’m making you sound younger.” Kaisuki quipped. Khrai snorted in her ear and Kaisuki felt her settle down close to the front. She was observing, then.
“I’m nine hundred and fifty thousand years old, but I ain’t dead.” Was the reply, and she could practically hear the woman smirking. Kaisuki resisted the urge to grin, and addressed the team from Sunagakure.
“Well, shall we?” She asked, gesturing down the street. Kankuro smiled and nodded, and Kaisuki stepped around Temari and started walking.
“C’mon, Gaara,” Temari said, her voice gentler than it had been when she spoke to Naruto and Kaisuki. Gaara looked up and over at them, and his eyes fell on the Tsubaki. His eyes narrowed, and he glared at her. She smiled at him, and he diverted his gaze elsewhere as he fell into step near Temari.
“He’s hilarious.” Khrai remarked, and Kaisuki internally hummed in agreement.
“So like, who do you think is gonna win?” Naruto asked, turning around to face the team that was following them. “Gaara or Sasuke?”
Kankuro snorted, “Gaara, obviously.” Temari nodded in agreement.
“What about you, Kaisuki? What do you think?” He asked, “I bet Sasuke wins. He’s a cockroach like that.”
Kaisuki chuckled, tilting her head back and forth as she considered the question. Naruto was drifting to the right, and he was about to run into someone, so she grabbed his elbow and pulled him over to her side. They linked elbows so she could guide him, and then replied. “I dunno, honestly. I think it could go either way.”
“I agree.” Khrai stated, “Gaara’s got an ultimate defense in the form of the sand in that gourd. You didn’t get to see that match, so you don’t know. I’ll show you tonight when you go to bed. So, Gaara’s got defense to kill for, but Sasuke is driven and he’s not going to let anything stand in his way. Not even… well, yea. Never mind. That’s my opinion.”
“You’re being really cagey lately,” Kaisuki commented. “Like, really cagey. What is it about Gaara that you’re not telling me?”
“It’s not relevant at this point. I’ll tell you if it does become relevant, but not before then.” Khrai replied evenly. “I would hate to sully anybody’s opinion of anybody else.”
“You know what would be a good fight,” Naruto said, looking skyward. “I think Khrai versus Gaara would be a good fight. That would get intense, I think. Someone would die though.”
Kaisuki snorted, “Khrai wouldn’t kill him, she has a soft spot for ‘kids.'”
“Wow, she calls us kids?” Naruto said, looking offended.
She smiled, “Well, she’s like, nine hundred and fifty thousand years-old, so yea, we’re children in her eyes.”
Naruto’s eyes widened, “Wow, she’s old.”
“Oh my lord, Naruto, you don’t tell a lady she’s old.” Kaisuki retorted, laughing.
“I would hardly call myself a lady.” Khrai muttered in the background. Kaisuki had to refrain from bursting into renewed laughter. Khrai’s sense of humor was dry and sarcastic, much different from Saeka’s wittiness. Both of them were hilarious, though, and Kaisuki was glad to have them. She didn’t know what she’d do if she had been stuck with three spirits who didn’t have any form of a sense of humor.
“Oh, shit, sorry.” Naruto replied hastily, glancing at Kaisuki with a sheepish smile. She shook her head, chuckling. She glanced over her shoulder to do a quick headcount. Everyone was still present, though Gaara was looking more and more tired with each passing moment. His eyes were half-closed and he was dragging his feet. His slouch also looked worse than usual. She had no idea how he could carry around a gourd full of sand. It had to weigh well over fifty kilograms.
“Are you alright, Gaara?” She asked, “You look pretty out of it.”
He glanced towards her, somehow mustering the strength to glower, though the fatigue in his eyes sort of ruined the expression. She didn’t falter, just waited for his reply. Temari and Kankuro had also glanced towards him, both immediately looking worried.
“Are you okay?” Kankuro asked, and Gaara crossed his arms, looking irritable.
“I’m fine,” he replied, his voice quiet. He really didn’t sound well. “Just tired. My back hurts.”
Kaisuki furrowed her brow, “Do you want us to stop for a minute?”
“No.” He replied icily.
She frowned, turning back to face forward. “Izumi,” she called. “Izumi, are you around?”
“Yes, I’m here.” She replied, “What is it, Kaisuki?”
She felt like she was intruding upon his privacy, but she wanted to be sure that everything was alright. “Did you see Gaara? He looks really tired. And he says his back hurts.”
“Well, yes, he’s carrying probably a hundred pounds of sand on his back.” Was the slightly sardonic reply. Kaisuki smiled just a little, her head bowed forward a little. “As for the fatigue… Well, remember that he’s an insomniac, Kaisuki. He probably gets like this most nights.”
She hummed internally in agreement, “Okay. I just… I wanted to make sure nothing was wrong with him.”
“Fraternizing with the enemy, hm?” Saeka’s voice floated up out of nowhere. “Kaisuki, do you have a thing about tragic characters?”
“Oh, hush, you.” She replied, “I don’t have a crush on anyone and you know that already. Are you feeling better, now?”
“Yea,” was the simple reply. “Khrai isn’t though. She left when I showed up. I think she’s mad at me still.” Her voice got quiet, and Kaisuki immediately knew what she was thinking.
“It’s okay, Saeka. Khrai’ll come around. She just needs more time to blow off steam than you do.” Kaisuki reassured, “People fight. It happens, and it’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” Saeka answered softly. “It was a stupid fight. You’re right. She’ll… she’ll get over it.”
“Here we are,” Naruto said, and Kaisuki looked up. Sure enough, there was the omu-rice restaurant. The Hanajima Bed and Breakfast. She had known the name of the place had the word flower in it. They stopped in front of the door, Kaisuki turning around to face the team from Sunagakure.
She smiled at them, “Enjoy your dinner,” she said cheerfully. “I’ll see you at the main matches, if not before then.”
Temari smirked, and nodded. “Yea, we’ll see you then, at the very least. C’mon, you two,” she said to the two younger boys standing behind her. Gaara was staring at the restaurant with a look of moderate disdain on his face, whilst Kankuro was peering in through the window, his eyes bright with curiosity.
Kaisuki and Naruto turned away as they walked into the restaurant, offering a final goodbye wave before turning and heading further down the street. It was dark out, though Kaisuki was pretty sure it wasn’t all that late.
“That Gaara kid looked so tired,” Naruto commented. “Maybe Sasuke’ll win because he falls asleep during the match.”
Kaisuki snorted, shaking her head. “He’s an insomniac, according to Izumi. He’ll probably be fine during the matches because they’ll be during the day.”
The blond hummed and nodded. “I guess. Oh, here’s my turn.” He said, coming to a halt. Kaisuki stopped as well, turning to him.
“I’ll see you later?” She said, and he nodded enthusiastically. They gave each other a quick hug before Naruto started down his street backwards, waving at her.
“See you around, Kaisuki!” He said, before turning around and starting off at a light jog. Kaisuki watched him go, still smiling. She was very pleased that she got Gaara’s name. She shoved her hands into her pockets and continued down Uotani Street. Her apartment wasn’t for another couple of blocks. Naruto was very lucky to have a place so close to Ichiraku’s. Sometimes, she was certain that the blond was single-handedly keeping that small business open.
Kaisuki walked for several more minutes before she was heading up the stairs to the floor her apartment was on. She pulled her key out of her pocket and unlocked the door, stepping into the house. She didn’t bother to turn the light on, instead heading straight to her bedroom. She was beat, and she wanted to see Gaara’s fight against Lee.
She changed into her pajamas and clambered into bed, getting comfortable and closing her eyes. “Khrai?” She called, heading down the path. A moment later, she arrived at The Door, and walked into the little room. Khrai was the only one present, looking as though she were brooding about something. Kaisuki walked in and sat down at her place at the table, clasping her hands on the wood.
Khrai looked up at her, blinking, and then smirking. “Brace yourself. This fight was… gnarly, to say the least.”
She nodded understandingly, and Khrai sat up on her knees, leaning over the table, and placing a hand on Kaisuki’s forehead. All at once, everything she could see melted into darkness, only to be replaced with the image of Rock Lee and Gaara standing on opposite ends of the arena. Everything was completely still for a long moment, not a single sound to be heard. Then, after what seemed like ten minutes, Lee finally spoke.
“Don’t get hasty,” the younger Green Beast said, before dropping the cork from Gaara’s gourd. She glanced over at Naruto, and he was attentively watching the match. Sasuke was gone, having been taken to the infirmary. Sakura looked incredibly worried. The faces of Kaisuki’s peers ranged from worried to excited to endlessly fascinated.
She had an incredibly bad feeling about this match. Something terrible was going to happen. She knew him far too well to expect anything else. She just hoped he didn’t go on a rampage. She wanted to maintain her cover for a little longer. Hayate Gekko lifted a hand into the air to quiet the audience, and spoke.
“Let the ninth match begin.”
She presses herself against the stone wall, wheezing around her broken ribs, eyes welling up with tears. He is slowly crossing the atrium towards her, twirling a knife in his hand, a grin plastered on his face. Panic rushes through her, and the increase of her heart rate only serves to aggravate her ribs further.
“What? Are you scared, Saeka?”
The setting changes and she’s walking down a dock. There’s blood caked on her hands, and her chest feels hollow and cold. Ayumu is dead. Ayumu is dead. Ayumu is dead. It repeats in her head over and over and over. Her only child is dead. He was only twelve. He wasn’t supposed to go like that. He was supposed to outlive her. All she can think of is the whisper of his voice, the light fading from his brown eyes. His father’s eyes.
it doesn’t matter if she dies now- it doesn’t matter if she ceases to exist like everyone else on this god forsaken planet- it’s not like anyone will miss her- it’s not like anyone will mind- it’s not like she has anywhere else to go but down– she gathers chi to her fingertips and pressed them to her- blood sprays out of the wound- fading light from the sky- the sound of her own laughter- she’ll never fall as low as they did- she’ll never be as weak as he was- she’ll never stop hating him.
“I give you my heart…”
“Kaisuki, for the love of fuck, wake up!!”
Kaisuki’s eyes flew open and she flailed into a sitting position. Her heart was hammering. She took a moment to catch her breath, uncertain about what she’d seen. The person in the first place had been completely unfamiliar to her, but he’d been speaking to Saeka. The second part had contained pain identical to the agony she knew Izumi carried with her. The third part-…
“Kaisuki, you need to leave. You’re going to forfeit the fucking exams.” Khrai interrupted her train of thought, and just like that, the dream was gone. She blinked, and glanced over at the clock on her nightstand, eyes widening in horror. She was really late. The first three matches were probably already over. Sasuke and Gaara were probably fighting by now. If she didn’t get to the stadium quick, she was going to miss her match, which came right after the Uchiha’s. Naturally, the one day of her life that she overslept was the day of the main matches of the Chuunin Exams.
She hastily threw her clothes on and hurried out of her apartment. She took off at a run down the mostly deserted streets of Konohagakure – practically everyone in the village was at the stadium to see the main matches. They were the only public part of the Chuunin Exams, so they always attracted a large crowd. And since Sasuke – one of only two remaining Uchiha in the Shinobi Nations and little brother to the very infamous Uchiha Itachi – was competing, there was even more demand for seating that what was usual. Kakashi had told them that much when they’d met the previous afternoon for lunch. Kaisuki was sure the village would make a bucket of money on the matches this year.
She hurried down an alleyway that cut across the largest of the residential blocks, very nearly running into someone when she came out the other side. The stadium was more than halfway across the village from where she lived. If she wanted to get there in time, she was going to have to take every shortcut she knew.
She thought she heard the faint sounds of whispering in the back of her head. She could feel that someone was angry and afraid at the same time. It felt like Saeka, though she didn’t know what was wrong. She rounded a corner, deciding that she’d simply wait for the girl to tell her what was wrong.
“Kaisuki,” and sure enough, Saeka spoke up. “I need to take over. Now.”
She sounded highly agitated, but her tone was urgent. Kaisuki slowed to a stop halfway down another alleyway, and frowned. “What’s-…” she began, but Saeka cut her off.
“There’s no time. Give me the reins.” The girl interrupted, and Kaisuki could feel her invasive presence pushing forward. She hesitated for a moment. Saeka sounded like something was really wrong. The last time the girl had sounded anywhere close to this urgent, she had been protecting Sasuke and Tazuna-san on the way to Nami no Kuni.
She bit her lip, lowering her gaze to the ground and closing her eyes. “Alright. Be careful.” She let Saeka step up front, moving back so she could do whatever it was she needed to do unhindered. And, in return, Saeka didn’t hurl her as far back into her subconscious as she could throw her. Instead, she was permitted to have front row seats, where she could see everything that Saeka saw, hear everything Saeka heard, and so on.
“Khrai,” Saeka called out, leaping up to the roofs and taking off. She moved so fast, Kaisuki almost couldn’t follow her surroundings. She felt Khrai’s presence appear beside her, but she didn’t say anything. She glanced to her side, seeing the woman standing there with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. Something was wrong.
“What’s wrong?” Khrai asked, sounding a bit alarmed. “Who happened?”
“I need level four.” Was the only reply the blond got. Kaisuki felt Khrai stiffen, and wondered immediately what they were talking about. Level four? Level four of what?
“You need to be in your own body for that, first of all. And secondly, why?” The older woman demanded. She could feel anger seeping around them. Saeka was close to the boiling point and Kaisuki didn’t know why. It was getting incredibly warm. She felt her hands move through several handseals, hearing a slightly higher pitch of her own voice speak – “Zenshin kirikae no jutsu.”
A swirl of fiery chakra surrounded them momentarily, and when it cleared, everything felt different. She could feel the talons that replaced her fingers, she could feel how much lighter her body was. She could see the black hair than fell in front of Saeka’s eyes, and she noticed how much better her vision was.
“Khrai.” She said, voice strained. “I need level four.”
Khrai didn’t reply, and the heat of Saeka’s agitation only grew. “He’s here. They’re all here.”
Kaisuki frowned in her inner form, confused. Then, she recalled what Saeka had said at the very beginning of the exams – “He’s here.” Was she talking about the psycho that had attacked Sasuke, whom Saeka seemed to know? Had he brought company? What exactly was going on?
There was a long silence as Saeka crossed the village in record time. They had cleared nearly the entire distance in under ten minutes. The girl was in a hurry. Something bad was about to happen. Was the village in danger? Did they need to alert the Hokage before anything else? What exactly was Saeka sensing? She knew the girl was a sensory-type, but she couldn’t feel Saeka’s perception of chakra. She didn’t know who was coming. She didn’t know what the immediate threat was, or who was in danger, or anything.
“Level three.” Khrai finally compromised, her tone final. “I’ll let you up higher if I think it’s necessary.”
“Khrai,” Saeka growled. “Level six won’t be enough. It was never enough.”
Kaisuki’s eyes widened, and she looked at Khrai again. The woman hadn’t changed her expression at all, and she seemed to be firmly set in what she had decided. The Tsubaki watched her for a moment, worried, before she felt a steady increase in the pressure around her. At first, she thought it was just Saeka becoming angrier, but then she realized that what she was feeling was the familiar, hot weight of Saeka’s chakra.
It enveloped the girl’s body, and her speed doubled, if not tripled. Kaisuki was no longer able to follow the scenery around them as they went. It made her head hurt to try, so she simply focused on the stadium as they approached it.
Saeka scaled the stadium wall instead of running inside and taking the stairs. Kaisuki could feel that she wasn’t using her chakra to adhere to the wall, either – she was simply moving so fast that she was able to get up the three kilometer walls before gravity sent her falling back. They landed atop the walls, but Saeka didn’t stop moving. She ran along the flat concrete, staring down into the stadium. As she’d suspected, Sasuke was battling Gaara. If the lack of injuries on Sasuke was any indication, they had only just started.
So abrupt that it startled her, Saeka turned on the balls of her feet and started running down the walls. The amount of speed they gained was frightening, and Kaisuki had no idea how the girl could see where she was going. Saeka’s feet left the ground as she leaped forward, twisting in midair and swinging her talons with speed unlike any Kaisuki had ever seen. The Tsubaki couldn’t follow the movement at all.
She felt her talons connect with something solid. It had felt as though they had gone in relatively deep, and that whatever wound had been inflicted wouldn’t be pretty. She swallowed hard when Saeka’s feet finally hit the ground again, squarely between Gaara and…
“What? Are you scared, Saeka?”
A man with dark blue eyes looked up from where he had landed, a large gash over his collar bone. He didn’t look to be at all bothered by it, even as it seeped blood down his arm. He stared at her for a while, looking surprised. Then, as he slowly straightened up, a purely evil smirk widened across his pale face. Kaisuki could feel Saeka’s heart racing in her chest, she could feel the terror and the hate filling her to the brim.
“You look well… imouto-chan.”