Snap Back To Reality 65
Orochimaru came back into my life with the force of a cyclone. There were very little men that demanded the attention he did. He was like a particularly needy cat, who dropped in once in a while to force me to interact with him, and at other times just disappeared of to do who knows what. Today he walked into our lab with an intensity I had almost forgotten he held. He threw on his lab-coat and gloves, before making his way to the door without even a look in my direction… but then he stopped and turned my way. I put down the research notes and assessed him for a moment.
"What are you waiting for?" he asked.
It took a moment to register the fact that he was asking me to go with him. It had been too long since this air of chill had frozen me still, as if to remind me I was in the presence of a predator and not this needy cat I'd begun to see him as. His yellow eyes seemed to catch my gaze and I felt my limbs move before my thoughts could even catch up. As if on autopilot followed behind him without further prompting.
We moved into the once empty depths of his private, hidden lab. I itched my arm, wondering why I hadn't forewarned Fugaku of this particular labs potential use. I just could not fathom that he would bring anyone back in here considering how compromised this place had become. As I entered the room, I expected many things; the low groans of captives, the shapes of dozens of humans chained and hanging in their cells, their hopeless dull expressions, or the fiery panic I'd been used to—but not this empty silence. There wasn't anyone here. I looked back at Orochimaru with silent questioning and he pulled out a syringe.
"Hold out your arm," he ordered.
"What is it?" I asked, eyeing the syringe and then the exit.
"Ever the inquisitive mind. Do you trust me?" he asked.
I managed to draw out a genuine laugh from his throat, but he forcefully pulled out my arm and I felt locked in his vice grip. I eyed the clear fluid with a snarl.
"I'm inquisitive, because I'd like to know what the fuck you're putting in my body," I said.
"You're right not to trust me little neonate, but for once you have nothing to fear. When have I ever modified your body without your consent?"
I hesitated. "Never."
He put the needle to my arm, kneeling in front of me to get eye level with me. I searched his face for any kind of malice, anger, maybe even joy because he sure as hell was sick enough to get a kick from someone else's pain… but nothing. He looked neither angry, excited, happy or on edge. For a moment I felt inexplicably like trusting him, which went against every bit of logical bone in my body. His grip on my arm loosened as if to tell me I could let go, but I didn't. I locked my arm in place and I was given a rare genuine smile from Orochimaru that brought forth something instinctually warm.
What was I doing?
"I knew you were the only one," he said.
That felt like too overwhelming a thing to say to me in this intimate position. Those words gripped at me harder than his power ever could. I stood there unsure again. What was going on? Why was I staying? What in the name of Kaguya's big moon titties was I doing sharing a moment with Orochimaru… my sensei, the man who… who what? Took me out of ROOT? I floundered to find the reason but couldn't grasp it, and yet my body stood still under his handling.
Even as the needle pricked into my arm and he injected the unknown substance into me, I felt as frustratingly reassured as I was afraid. I expected pain, the burning searing pain of a fire jutsu in my veins, or the bubbling toxicity of poison, I expected I would die a fool, having trusted someone as ridiculously untrustworthy as Orochimaru, but I didn't. I didn't feel any sort of pain, but rather my body seemed to relax, and I felt a warm numbness reach over my arms and spread across my entirety, as I lost my footing.
"W-what was it?" I asked, feeling my tongue begin to stiffen.
Orochimaru caught me, his hand on the back of my neck tilted my head up so I could look at him in my panic. "It was simply something to knock you out."
Oh… what had I been so afraid of? Maybe what was coming after? Everything had begun to coalesce together in a moment of confusion, and then my brain blanked. I couldn't feel, then I couldn't hear, then I couldn't see, and then my thoughts left me entirely.
I'd come to understand that Orochimaru was possibly a megalomaniac, maybe delusional, and a hundred percent an amoral narcissist… yet a part of me could somehow look past all that and still see a person. Sure it wasn't hard to recall him torturing me for misbehaving, or the absolutely inhumane shit he partook in on the daily, but it had mingled in with the moments he'd instructed me with patience, the rare occasions where he complemented my ability, and that one moment he'd looked at me and deigned to gift me with his Clan markings. So when I woke up to the familiar sounds of ominous machinery and his terrible face, it was rather calmly. Yeah, he'd drugged me, sure he could experiment on me without my knowledge in this vulnerable state, but I'd woken up on a couch, in a lab, and not on a metal table bound down in chains with my chest splayed open… so maybe I wasn't so stupid for trusting him.
"Your body is quicker to wake up. That's good. It is becoming resilient," he said, a smile taking his lips, a purely scientific smile I told myself.
"Was this some kind of trust exercise?" I asked, rubbing my drowsy head.
"Quite the opposite actually. I don't trust you at all."
"Touché. Ok, so then why drug me?"
He turned to the room behind him, and I finally took proper note of my surroundings as I stumbled out of the couch and took the wall to the left of me as a crutch. It wasn't dark, neither was it bright, but it was lit dimly enough to see, and the fluorescent lights above illuminated what could only be described as some kind of cryo chamber. Inside was green liquid, maybe a sort of thick gel like substance, because it held up the vague shapes of small naked bodies hooked to wires and breathing tubes behind. I couldn't look away, and to ease this bubbling trepidation, I walked toward it, slowly, each step put over the other in careful deliberation. Then I touched my hand against the frosted glass and wiped away the condensation to peer inside something that felt forbidden. There inside was a child. A small five-year-old girl. Her body looked twisted and deformed, her head just a little too swollen on one side, and one arm entirely too small and stunted in growth. Her features were eerily similar to mine, and she was bald. I turned to look at the dozen other pods and knew it was filled with children too.
"I thought you stopped experimenting on people," I said lamely.
My throat felt dry and only the cold against my hand stopped it from becoming sweaty. I turned to Orochimaru. He seemed taller in the shadows, and his yellow eyes stood out strikingly in it's iridescence in the darkness. He drew forward languidly, a wide smile on his face.
"I had for a while—been restricted by Konoha. You were right about one thing. I do not truly wish to be Hokage, not if it takes me from my work and my goals."
"But why children?" I asked, hoping to possibly reason with him. "Adults would give you better results. Their tenketsu systems are developed and more similar to your own. Children are—"
Before I could continue my tirade, Orochimaru carded his fingers into my hair, running the sharp of his nails against my scalp. I froze in place as his palms rested heavy against my head, like a hot warning before he applied just enough pressure to twist me like a puppet to look up at the frozen child. "—Are weak, pitiable perhaps? Do not conflate science with your empathy little neonate. These children aren't for me. They're the failed artificial bodies I was making for you."
I felt any semblance of control I had leave me as my eyes widened and I gave away the pure shock. He chuckled, fingers finally withdrawing their hold on me. I turned to give the deformed child another take and noticed she did look like me. I didn't expect for the body to blink from within the pod. I couldn't help the gasp that escaped my throat as I stumbled back and turned to Orochimaru with confusion and terror.
"These bodies were failed, but viable enough to transfer some children's souls into. I didn't want to mangle your mind in the process. So far they've been unsuccessful. They fail to retain a cognitive sentence."
"Why go to all this trouble?" I asked.
"This body of mine is neither male nor female, nor is it even human. I have transcended whatever bounds nature had placed on me. There is no system Hina-chan, there are no unbreakable rules, no chains to hold back progress. Nature doesn't care if we follow the system it dictates, we simply pretend it does."
For how much of an evil, truly terrible man Orochimaru was, he was certainly smart. What he said resonated with me the same way Shisui's words did. Because he was right in a weirdly twisted way. Because we weren't simply just bound to natures laws, not in the way animals were. But I didn't feel any kind of excitement from this understanding, or any form of desire to be more. I was never a loud woman, or a brash woman, or even an outgoing woman. I had always just been… well… normal. Sometimes I was a recluse, sometimes I enjoyed hanging out with friends, but most of the time I was a dedicated worker with very little ambition outside of these vague ideals of a safe domestic life. Then when I worked, I felt something more, maybe the spark of genius or madness, this obsessive nature that hid behind a brick wall built on logical and acclimation. A spark of something most would call evil.
But overall I was beginning to realise that I didn't have some golden character, that my protection and love extended only so far as I could save myself, and that those moments of self-sacrifice was a lie. Because I did love my family, and I adored my precious people, because it was my duty to do so, because love was an obligation that came attached with feelings… because people only held as much value as your placed on them.
Because when I looked at this child in front of me, I began to realise this cold dread within me, had been disgust and fear that deep down inside… I didn't care enough to stop this.
In the end that was what all normal people were; people who were selfish, people who languished in the idea of their own heroism and moral character. No one wanted to be the villain of their own story. No one wanted to be the bad guy. In the end they weren't, not by some arbitrary value system, but because no one was truly any one thing. When I looked at the girl in the pod, I knew this to be true, because I wasn't going to save her, I was going to let Orochimaru do as he pleased, and no amount of justification could excuse the fact that I would kill children… that I have killed children. This vague notion of my own goodness was absolutely destroyed in this moment.
I put my forehead to the cold glass and felt myself go cold. I couldn't forgive myself, I realised. I told Kakashi it wasn't our fault, but that was a lie, a lie so I could live with myself. It was my fault… maybe not what happened to Kusari, but everything else, from killing my parents, to accepting Danzo's vile missions, to murdering those children in ROOT, to the torturous experiments I conducted on unwilling men and women.
"What are we going to do with them?" I asked, ignoring the crack in my voice.
Orochimaru gave me a disapproving look. No doubt the conflict had written itself all over my face. I could barely stop myself right now. I didn't have the heart to look unfeeling or uncaring. This was my mission, and I could barely bring myself to pretend. I was the epitome of pathetic right now. I should be faking excitement, or simply getting to business, but instead I stood in front of this child as an accomplice to their torture, and I had the audacity to prematurely grieve as if my sorrow meant anything. Maybe she would survive, but I doubted it. Maybe I could save more lives in the future by going along with this, but it didn't make hers any less of a loss.
"I'm going to make you a new body," he said, turning his gaze back to the pod. "I will need a host for myself, a perfect body, but for you I will create one of my own fashion."
"So I'm going to become a robot or something?" I asked, unable to hide the wry quirk of my lips.
Because why not? At this stage I wasn't much of a human anyway. I'd lost so much of the dignity that came with being a person, that sometimes I just felt like a thing. For Kusari, I told myself I would regain it back. That it was enough for now. I needed to finish things for good, to put and end to every threat on whatever was left of my family and sanity, and then once all was said and done, I could break free of my chains and out of my own free will, I would die properly. A part of me whispered I didn't deserve that ending, but a larger part of me acknowledged I was selfish enough to strive for it. Overall I just felt… tired.
"You will be a biological life form," he answered my question without noting my humour.
"I don't mind but you can't change my hair. That's my only condition," I said.
Something about my hair spoke of memory and identity. I couldn't detach myself from it, from the way it reminded me of Yua and the blood on my hands. Most of all it felt like family. It didn't, however, feel like me. Because I was esoteric as a concept, a incorporeal being given corporal form, and this body, while familiar, was never truly me.
"It wasn't my intention to change your appearance," he said dismissively.
I frowned as I followed behind him. Once again, he made a subtle powerplay. It was a frustrating habit both he and Danzo shared—this idea that people weren't people but pieces in some game, or roles to be filled. Something about being seen as the daughter and student made me itch uncomfortably. It was a role I knew well. In my previous life I paid no heed to it because my parents were never controlling, and always open to encourage self-expression. I was less a version of them, as I was someone to be nurtured into her own independent person. Looking back at that, I realised how lucky I was to have parents like that, ones who let me choose my religious affiliations, ones who encouraged me to try new things and find new passions. Even as hands off as they were in raising me, they had never once tried to force me into a role. The same couldn't be said about Orochimaru, or even Yua… which I didn't want to admit had done much the same. I was a role and never a person. I turned my tongue inside my mouth in disgust, feeling the lingering touch of the seal that was once there.
Yet I didn't feel more dehumanised than I already had been. That feeling had probably peaked when I'd been naked amongst a group of older men and women, blasted with cold water in that torture dungeon after I'd murdered my own parents… when I'd nearly become hollow. Utsuro. In comparison to that, I didn't feel any attachment to the body I inhabited. It was me, but I had also been tan once, with thick long black waves and honey brown eyes.
"I want in on the process," I said.
Orochimaru turned to give me a scrutinising look, and I kept my face blank. He narrowed his eyes for a moment before a smile stretched across his face. He had expected I would ask this no doubt. Either way he looked pleased as he opened the door to the last lab, and we came upon a familiar cold table. There wasn't a pleading adult strapped to it, but rather a small naked form, cold and lifeless. I peered closer and took a good look at the naked female in front of me. She was flawless in every way. Her legs were long and toned, her arms wound together with tight muscles, her body almost perfectly carved like an untouched porcelain doll wired with strength. I ran my finger over her arm, squeezing it and finding it to feel too much like me.
It was her face that took me out of my trance. She looked like me, but without any imperfections. My nose was crooked from being broken one too many times, and my right eye was slightly more slanted than my left, and if you looked closely enough, you'd notice that my jaw didn't quite match up. I wasn't disfigured, and you'd have to pay close attention to see those flaws, but it felt almost blaring now that I looked at how perfectly symmetrical the face beneath me was. She looked inhuman in her perfection, like some other worldly creation.
I knew for a fact that this was going to be my new body. The green snake tattoo around her eye was a dead give away and so was the long straight green hair the exact shade as mine. She looked slightly older than me… and sculpted by a man who admittedly cared too much about appearances.
"Not quite perfect, but stronger," Orochimaru hummed tracing his hands across my future body's forehead.
I feel vaguely weirded out. This body was naked outside of the cloth over my privates, and I realised he'd given me very little in the way of curves, and I looked entirely more androgynous than I assumed I'd be given the chance to grow up naturally. I sent him a raised brow for a moment, wondering if he was projecting some gender issues of his own onto me.
"You've already made the body. How can I be a part of the process now?" I asked.
"It is one thing to make a body, and another to attach a soul to it," he replied.
"We can try the mind body transfer technique," I suggested.
He huffed for a moment as if exasperated by my stupidity, granted I'd said that in hopes that he wouldn't shut it down immediately. The look he gave me next confirmed my fears.
"You've been doing independent work on figuring out the soul."
So he had been monitoring what I'd been studying in my spare time. I didn't try to dissuade him from continuing, because I wasn't even sure if it would matter in three months anyway. Hopefully by then I could just take this meat sock puppet and run away from this whole mess. I'd be back in Konoha, with Gaku and my family and I would be studying properly with Hiroto and going on missions with my team.
"You claim to not care about immortality, but I see that drive in your eyes," he said, eyes appraising me.
I wanted to wilt away into the ground and die. Really? How did one go about telling a man who desires immortality, that they already had a bootleg version of it, and that they'd like too very much not be immortal? Going through puberty twice is already hell, making it a third time just seems like a cruel and unusual punishment, not to mention the whole heap of other issues that came with being ripped from everything you've built and established in your previous life again and again. I felt entirely too much like a Nara when I felt like voicing the one singular word that could explain away my entire existence: troublesome.
"I have been researching the properties of a soul," I admitted. "Because there is a literal Shinigami that you can summon with Fuinjutsu, and there was a man once who gave people energy enough to do the things we do, and there are tailed beasts, and alternate dimensions with talking animals. Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one who thinks all of that is plain crazy."
"You speak like someone who is new to this world," he noted, way too on the mark for it to be funny.
"Aren't we all? We only live a measly 90 years if we're stretching it," I shrugged.
Apparently, I was getting good at this play along with Orochimaru thing because he nodded his head and went back to looking at the naked body in front of us… which I was suddenly questioning a lot about.
"How come this one was perfected, while the other's failed?" I asked.
Orochimaru looked displeased for a second.
"My own body is not human, not anymore. The one you will be inheriting will be, and so there were failures in the creation process as there would always be. I admit, this body is partly mechanical, but the majority of it I grew myself in a lab, mostly your DNA, a white snake's, and mine."
I felt my mind almost blank at the implications. It took about all my remaining self-control not to point out how creepy this whole thing was.
"The subjects you saw in the cryo pods were stunted and deformed, and so far, this has been the only successful trial."
"Partly mechanical?" I asked.
Excitement shouldn't have been a word associated with this at all. The fact that he added a part of his own DNA into the mix was absolutely ridiculous but being part mechanical was… admittedly awesome. I was just exaggerating before when I said I would be a robot… but judging from things cyborg isn't too far off either.
I was curious too. The elemental nations didn't often deal with anything engineering or mechanical related. Those were fields for scholars unrelated to the Shinobi force, and even within Konoha R&D there weren't that many. Sand and Iron had the most notable engineers, but Konoha had always been known for its revolutionary medicine. I had specialised in bio-chemical engineering. I knew how to splice DNA, and stimulate the immune system, and do a plethora more things that would increase the human bodies capacity to fight disease and strengthen its core. I was not a bio-mechanical engineer by any means, although it struck me that I could be. I didn't have to stop my studies because of circumstance. I could learn a lot now if I was given the chance.
Orochimaru to my surprise trailed his index finger just underneath the bottom of the body, and I noticed an intricate lay line of seal work activate at his chakra, as the inky black array travelled down this puppet bodies entirety. That was not as surprising as the fact that the skin around the mid-section down to the stomach opened up like a refrigerator door. That's when I got to see the insides of… my future body… what a weird concept. I was stunned by how insanely impossible this was. Looking back at Orochimaru, I felt jealously like nothing ever before. He had made this—this impossible piece of art. I didn't know whether I was awed or madly envious of his skills.
The insides weren't made of blood and flesh, although they were in a way. It was different in scent and texture but so similar in every other way. It felt artificial and unreal, and even as I put on gloves and touched the sinew and bones, I was left feeling like I didn't know if it was organic or not. I wanted to know the components, I wanted to know the way he grew such tissue, how blood or whatever energy drew through this body, could be reproduced. Then I paused and frowned.
"If I enter this body, then I would lose my ability to perform Total Concentration Breathing and whatever chance I have left at studying Sage Mode," I said.
"I've deducted your ability to perform chakra control to the extent you do is not due to your body, in fact your body is hindering your abilities. There is an increased amount of brain activity when you activate your breathing technique, and you don't work in tandem with your tenketsu system."
"You mean I'm not controlling chakra naturally like everyone else?" I asked.
"Yes, you seem to require hyper-focus to get the desired control, and because of that you are aware of every single chakra point in your body. You will lose your ability once you've finished growing and you've memorised and grown familiar with your tenketsu system. We need to find an artificial way to keep it new and different or your brain will grow complacent."
That made a lot of sense. Chakra had been such a foreign, disturbingly loud energy when I was a child. Even as a toddler I had felt every single little prick of its warmth and running power, and it felt so foreign and so new, that I never had gotten used to the feeling. Even now I sensed the energy within me like a separate entity rather than something that was intricately a part of me. I'd always thought it odd that everyone else didn't really feel it as much as I did. Chakra was everywhere and in everything that it was hard to ignore it at first, but a few years of living around Chakra and I'd begun to ignore it too.
This body of mine wasn't ever truly mine. I felt most comfortable as an adult, in sun kissed brown skin with long black waves and deep honey brown eyes. The paleness of my new body, the straightness of my green hair, and the seafoam teal of my glowing slitted eyes was something new, something not entirely me. I wasn't so attached to this body and neither did I feel separate from it. Any one body wouldn't ever truly be the real me, because the real me wasn't tied to a meat sack that I needed to be corporal. So looking down at this puppet made me feel neither terrified nor excited for the reasons most would think.
But I probably wouldn't even end up in it. Once Orochimaru defected, I would do my job and gather intel before stopping him. Then it would be a matter of figuring out how to kill Zetsu, convince Pein that committing mass genocide was not ok, help Obito find a therapist, and figure out a way to entirely destroy my soul. After that… well I didn't know what would happen.
"Don't you think we should leave? I mean, I have a mission I need to report to soon," I said as politely as I could.
We had spent way too much time presumably off somewhere outside of Konoha's borders because no way in hell was Orochimaru drugging me to just bring me into another secret lab within the walls. This meant we needed to leave now if we wanted to throw off suspicion… not that I wouldn't be reporting this to Fugaku.
"We're not going back to Konoha."
I froze. "What?!"
"Fugaku is plotting against me. And it's come to my attention that you helped him become Hokage," Orochimaru said, a chilling grin twisting his face.
I step back and felt suddenly like death was washing over me. He took a step forward and his slitted eyes narrowed, full of anger. I could barely blink before he appeared next to me, hands grasping at my neck, dragging me up in his crushing grip.
"Children are as treacherous as they are loyal," he lamented, his face too close to mine.
I knew better than to kick or struggle, but it didn't stop the instinctual need to pry his fingers off my vulnerable neck. A part of me knew I should be pissing myself in fear, but there was a detached sense of understanding taking over me, and I was reminded of all those horrible moments where older men and women had me under their thumb. When Hakanai broke my arm and kicked my ribs until it shattered, when Danzo had me kneel in front of him like a dog after killing my parents, that time Orochimaru punished me with an hour long fiery genjutsu just because he was pissed off about something he'd forget in a few hours. I felt all that and yet… I was too calm. He didn't like it, because he dropped me to the ground and the only thing I did was control my breathing until the terror washed over me and left in its wake adrenaline.
"How long have you known?" I asked, rubbing my bruised throat.
More importantly, why hadn't he already killed me? I didn't voice that because I still had some self-preservation instincts left in me. Orochimaru regarded me for a second.
"A will of your own," he answered, as if it spoke everything I needed to know. "All children feel like they have one, but they don't realise their actions are dictated by the will of adults. You were never entirely my creation. There were too many people in the equation."
I stared at him with a passive face, but all I could feel inside was a roiling sense of indignation and disgust. Scratch giving Obito a therapist, Orochimaru needed one first. Something about being as infantilised as I was, made me want to tear him to pieces. I was a grown as woman, and while even adults needed love and company, they did not need to be dictated to like some sort of fucking impaired idiot who couldn't chose for themselves. Orochimaru thought I was some pathetic little thing that looked to the wise counselling of the adults around me, as if I danced to their whims and desires. I was a role. He was filling some kind of make-believe fantasy with me, and while every single little part of me burnt with the rage of a thousand suns at the very thought of it… I stopped myself from expressing it. Because this was good. I could fill a role. This was a mission… just a mission.
I had no misgivings about my sudden position, but I also had no clue how Orochimaru's thoughts operated. In fact, he was one of the biggest mysteries to me. One moment he was cold and unforgiving, and the next to guided me with the patience of a teacher, and at other times he was distant and intangible, fixated only on a world of progress and curiosity. Mostly he embodied strength. And to see him want to play this make-believe game of house felt oddly out of character for him, for someone I'd come to see as detached and purely selfish.
"What about Anko and Rui?" I asked.
"They were never as smart as you," he said.
His praise felt empty and manipulative. But I was more worried about the dark look that took him.
"But they were still my creations and so I've left them with a gift."
Whatever worry that I'd felt before did not compare to the gnawing dread that gripped my body frozen. I felt the breath leave my lungs and my hands clench at my sides. He had marked them… he had marked my team! I felt rage and fury pulse over me and for once I didn't care of this was a goddamn Sannin in front of me. I charged him without wasting a moment, caught in the heat of silent blinding fury. It was like the world went into hyper focus and I barely needed a one finger seal to throw a wind blade at him which caught him off his guard enough to cut his cheeks. But before I could even get close, I felt an impossibly fast blow to my chest, and then and even more unrelenting kick to my gut that had me crash unceremoniously into the corner of a shelf. The metal and books toppled over me, but it barely registered against the cold rage.
"You won't touch them!" I coughed.
"I already have," he replied in dark amusement.
Rage engulfed me. It was all consuming and furious, my limbs vibrated with its energy, and the air entered my lungs double fold with its driving presence. In that moment there was only a primal feeling of fury. Something dark and eternal. Something alien and terrifying. Something devoured me in that moment.
I threw the metal shelf off my back, and with the speed of a thousand chakra slides, I shot forward. The air cut between my figure. I could feel its growing pressure to my sides. The blood in my body boiled, and my muscles heated up, growing to expand for the pressure I was putting on it. I felt infinitely stronger, and lighter. The distance between me and Orochimaru was overcome in a split second, and I watched with satisfaction as his eyes widened for a moment and he was forced to actively push himself to move away. I wanted to rip out his eyes. I wanted him to know that he could do anything he wanted to me, but if he fucked with the people I cared about, that he would regret it, if not now, then in the future.
For the first time in my life I managed to put him on the defensive as he blocked my numerous kicks and punches. I breathed in deeply, again and again, until my lungs felt like they were going to explode, but the world seemed to be so hyper focused on just the fight that I barely even felt the pain. It allowed me to see that thread—the smallest amount of an opening to strike and I struck my palm into Orochimaru's chest and kicked him back. He didn't go flying back with anywhere near the same speed I did. He bent his knees and skidded back, allowing his momentum to naturally slow down before throwing himself forward. I blocked his blow to my neck with my forearm but the strength behind it broke my wrist and the resounding pressure had me crashed through the wall, breaking off some of the rock there and making me lose my focus. Orochimaru picked me up by the scruff of my collar, a dark, pissed off smile on his face.
"I suppose I should be proud. To have gotten so far to fight a Sannin, even for a moment, but is this really the way to thank your Shishou for all the effort he's gone through for you?"
"Thank you," I said sarcastically through a harsh breath. "But you'll regret touching them. That's a promise."
Orochimaru chuckled, as if I'd said something entirely too hilarious. Then he dropped me on the floor and fixed up his kimono. I rubbed my sore throat and clenched my fists. They would all regret it, regret pushing me this I meant it. I meant it more than I ever meant anything in my life. I was sick and tired of people hurting my friends and family. The anger inside of me had died from its burning rage to this cold persisting resentment. I could feel it chill my bones even now. When I looked into Orochimaru's eyes, I realised it wasn't just towards him. No… it was this world that was intent on taking things from me. I wanted it back. I wanted it all back.
I realised in that moment; I would do anything to get there.
The punishment I received after was painful, but I bore it silently. Orochimaru was probably getting more irritated with my lack of any outward reaction to the pain than anything. He called me a masochist before leaving. I grinned at his defeat, although that grin faltered when I had to pop my dislocated shoulder back in place. I thought about Anko and Rui… the utter agony they must have been in when Orochimaru marked them, and then I prayed that Shikaku had gotten there in time to help them out. I knew Anko would pull through. It was Rui I was worried about. He wasn't in the story I read in my past life. I always assumed it was because Anko was the only one out of her three-man cell that survived the cursed hickey. Rui was… well he wasn't a 'canon character', and he wasn't even a character at all. He was a human, and so was Anko, and maybe they'd both die this time around.
I would have lost myself in this downward spiral of anxiety induced thoughts if the door hadn't opened to reveal someone I never thought I'd see. There before me was a boy with grey hair tied at the base of his head, with round glasses framed in black. He was small, but maybe it was because he was somewhere 1 or 2 years physically my junior.
"You shouldn't do that yourself," he said, pointing at my shoulder.
"It's ok, I have medical knowledge," I replied, barely wincing as I rolled my arm.
The kid knelt down next to me, eyes still slightly glazed over and lost. I had a feeling he was going through some shit, so I let him hold out my arm, and pull up my kimono sleeve before touching my joints gently to search for a possibly wrong bone alignment. He let out a breath and seemed mildly relieved.
"You did relocate it properly, but it was done too harshly. I will heal you now," he said.
I watched in fascination as the tiny little kid went through a diagnostic and now a healing jutsu flawlessly. He was beyond talented to do something so well at such a young age.
"My name is Suzuki Hina," I said.
He froze, cheeks flushing slightly as if realising he'd just blurted it out. I raised a brow, and his face went back to its previous passiveness. Still there was a mild downturn to his eyebrows and lips that spoke of pain.
"I know who you are," he said, this time with more poise. "Orochimaru-sama told me you killed Danzo and that you're his student. I'm Yakushi Kabuto."
I frowned. I knew as much to figure out that Kabuto didn't join Orochimaru until much, much later down the original timeline. By then he would be about 14 and he would have come to Orochimaru broken after killing his… mother. I winced. Had it happened already? I looked at his dead eyes and knew that it had. His mother had already been brain washed and sent to kill him and Kabuto had retaliated, confused, and broken until Orochimaru found him.
"Thank you for killing him," he whispered.
Maybe I should have hugged the kid, maybe I should have wiped his tear-stained face, maybe I should have held him while he grieved, but I didn't. He cried ugly tears as he fixed up my wounds, and once all that was said and done, I took his hands and looked him in his eyes.
"You should never let anyone else be the master of your actions Kabuto-kun. Never again."
He looked startled by this. I knew it would be hard. Harder than any feat in this world, but Shisui was right—it was in our hands what we wanted to do, and if we did something for someone else, then it should be our choice. I didn't want Kabuto to be a tool, didn't want him to become some hollow shell that would be filled by someone else's desires.
"Always be yourself Kabuto-kun. No one can do it better than you."
I didn't mind the fact that he wiped away his tears and looked away with hardened eyes too old to be young. I didn't mind that look of absolute disbelief in his eyes as he rejected my words. I definitely didn't mind him silently getting up and leaving me in the room alone. I looked up at the ceiling and sighed tiredly. Anko and Rui would be safe… I had to believe what I'd done could save them. I had to believe that what I was going to do would be worth the pain.
Nothing good ever came easy, and I wasn't going to take this mission for granted.
Orochimaru time! Also we're like 3 chapters away from when I can finally start releasing the crossover story with Snap Back I'm writing ToT It took me forever to finally get up to that stage. Sorry about the wait.
Anyway writing this story has been a joy. It's helped me build up some thick skin. People leave the shittiest comments sometimes and it's good to know I'm past the stage where it used to make me feel bad. Now I just kinda shrug and take it for what it is XD I'll need to be able to take criticism and hate when I eventually write a book so good experience lol.
Also happy Easter! Hope you guys get a lot of chocolate and love and Jesus if you're into religion!