Author: HextheDaydreamer PM
With wedding bells still ringing in her ears and the cries of her new baby, Ari is ready to take on the role of wife and mother. But with Cobra taking some dangerous steps towards total government control, Nyx suddenly has a lot more on her plate to deal with. With her child's odd behaviour and fellow Joes disappearing all over the world, Ari has to make a choice: Duty or family?Rated: Fiction T - English - Family/Adventure - Chapters: 25 - Words: 76,656 - Reviews: 48 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 03-17-13 - Published: 10-09-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8596747
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Ten: Skin
Ari woke up to silence, her hut was empty and she realized that the thing she was clutching tightly to her chest was much too fluffy to be her ninja. Opening her hazel eyes, Ari turned her head to stare outside, a brown blanket had been nailed in front of the door and a darker sheet covered the only window. Ari reached down and felt her side, discovering that someone had bandaged her up sometime during the night. With a sigh, she placed her arms on the bed and pushed herself into a sitting position, hissing slightly as a dull ache started to travel up her side. Her stomach growled and she was half tempted to just yell for someone but Ari was a mature young woman…or at least, that's what she told herself. A pair of faded brown shoes waited for her in front of the curtain and some fresh clothes were neatly folded on the end of her bed. As pleasant as these were, Ari wondered how she would go about changing if moving was not allowed. She shrugged and pulled her T-shirt off, tossing it to the ground and pulled on a black tank top with a high neck. She was thankful that someone dressed her in sweatpants after her presumed death and really, they were clean so she kept them on. Two long black gloves with the fingers missing waited for her on the bedside table and she pulled those on, she shuffled to the shoes and put them on, and her hat was hanging off a small hook beside the door. Putting that on as well, Ari put one arm around her waist and walked outside.
The fire from last night had been put out and two sleeping bags had been rolled up and were leaning against the logs. Ari walked around the miniature campsite and into the heart of the village. What Jace said was true, there were still visible signs on the fire but the hospice had been rebuilt and it looked almost bigger than before. She spotted Koyla walk outside and gave him a wave, he walked over and put a hand on her back. Koyla had long black hair that he kept in a bun, Ari remembered plenty of times when guys in her school would tease Koyla and then regret it as Koyla enjoyed laying the hurt down on anyone who felt like pissing him off. His eyes were brown and from the way sunlight hit them sometimes, they looked kind of orange. His new leg was silver and black, he walked very well on it and he pointed ahead at a fenced off area. Ari squinted in the sunlight and saw Sedna sparring with Kiseki.
"She likes him, Sedna was the one that kept his mind occupied so he wasn't worrying about you."
"I'll have to thank her for that, where's the food?"
"I believe your brother is preparing breakfast, Snake Eyes and Duke should be over there too. I shall tell him that you're awake. And one more thing," Ari looked up at Koyla. "Should I be at all concerned about your brother's cooking skills?"
"…Not to my knowledge?" Koyla nodded and gently pushed Ari forward, there was a stream of black smoke coming from a chimney nearby and Koyla hurried hobbled over to check it out. True, Jace was no Iron Chef but he wouldn't burn food…just make it crispier than needed. Ari walked over to the others and caught sight of Snake Eyes mediating and Duke was sitting on the fence and trying to distract Sedna. Ari whistled and Snake Eyes broke out of his trance and came to her side.
"How are you feeling?"
"Alive and hungry, thanks, why were you up so early?"
"I was interrogating Katana."
Snake Eyes clapped his hands and Sedna put Kiseki in a headlock, he told Kiseki that he was taking Ari to see Katana and that he should come and find them if Jace managed to finish cooking breakfast before they got back. With that, Snake Eyes took her hand and led Ari behind the village and into a large cave; she made a mental note to ask Jungle Cat about his village's origin.
They stepped into the mouth of the fissure and travelled into its depths until the sun's light became a dim memory, smaller lights lit up as they passed until the tunnel opened up into a large room. Ornate pictures were carved in the walls depicting battles with animals or rituals; Ari recognized pictures of constellations and the sun and moon. The rock floor was cold and grey but a great iron disk was stuck in the middle of the chamber, Snake Eyes pushed it slowly and it rotated, there was a person locked in its center. Eight chains were attached to the edge of the disk and all of them were wrapped around the solitary figure which was Zanya. She looked up at Ari with a snarl and fought to stand but her feet had been stuck inside iron boots which were bolted into the ground. But Snake Eyes and Ari were not here to see Zanya though so the ninja led his wife around Zanya's prison, Ari paused to spin the disk around and Zanya swore and cursed the assassin as Snake Eyes opened a door. Inside sat the Zanya decoy from last night, her nose was crooked from Sedna's cartilage-breaking punch and the scent of jasmine permeated about the room.
"She hasn't said a word since coming here, I've exhausted every method I'm willing to use." Ari saw no visible scarring on the girl so Snake Eyes either tried to be friendly or his usual mind games didn't have the desired effect.
Katana was watching Snake Eyes move his hands as he spoke to Ari, her dark eyes narrowed while her face was otherwise perfectly neutral. She knew what he was signing and her mouth quirked in amusement as Snake Eyes admitted to not giving the interrogation everything he had.
"Katana isn't your real name, is it?" The girl didn't move, her eyes were focused solely on Snake Eyes. Katana's imprisonment was limited to having her wrists bound in front of her; a plate of untouched food lay beside her. The room was completely bare; the plate was a spongy material so she couldn't break it and use its shards as a weapon. Ari walked over and pulled Katana's arms up, pushing her sleeves back and finding the red tattoo on the inside of her left arm.
"Can you tell me what this is then?" Snake Eyes leaned forward and saw the mark and he too sat down, pulling off his glove and rolling up his sleeve, he started rubbing the skin and Katana's eyes widened. The exact mark was inked onto his skin in the same spot but on his right arm instead. She looked up at him and screamed something rapid in Japanese, getting to her feet and trying to attack him. Ari didn't catch the meaning of the girl's screams, not only because they were screams but because her grasp of the language was limited. It was like listening to her relatives speaking Italian, moving over the words too fast for anything to be properly understood, Snake Eyes was more proficient with the language and therefore he understood her completely.
Ari held Katana against the wall and sat on her legs, glaring at her while sensing that Snake Eyes had covered the mark up again. Katana stopped struggling after a while, breathing heavily through her nose as she fought to regain her previous calm. Then she gave Ari a quaint nod, signally that she fine, and Ari got up and backed away until Snake Eyes opened the door. Once they were outside and the door was locked behind them, Katana appeared in the small window of the door and stared at them.
"Traitor." She hissed and Snake Eyes turned around and kicked the door, she jumped backwards and moved back to her original place against the wall. Zanya watched them leave quietly; keeping whatever thoughts she had to herself. The two assassins didn't talk again as they rejoined the others, Jace had cooked up some scrambled eggs from two ostrich eggs ("I almost wanted to make an omelet for myself but, well, it was just too big"), and he made the bacon a little too crispy with blackened specks on it. After breakfast was finished, Jace told the group that they would be leaving Australia around noontime so they could properly interrogate Zanya and Katana back at base. Jungle Cat put an arm on Kiseki's shoulder and turned to Ari.
"With your permission, I'd like to give your son a small parting gift."
"Oh?" Ari raised an eyebrow, watching Kiseki grin.
"He wants to give me a tattoo!" the boy said, his multicolored eyes lighting up in excitement and silently pleading with his mother to allow the ink marking. With a dramatic sigh, Ari nodded her head and Kiseki jumped up, following Jungle Cat into small tent, Kiseki took off his shirt and lay on a bed. Ari and Snake Eyes trailed in after him as Duke and Jace cleaned things up and went to get their things. Jungle Cat smiled faintly and picked up a thin paintbrush.
'Now, this ink will sink directly into your skin, nothing will be able to remove it. And though the mark may fade over time, its meaning will remain a part of you forever. Don't choose something that you'll regret later in life." Jungle Cat chuckled at some sort of joke and Kiseki rested his head on his arms, humming under his breath for a few minutes before looking over his shoulder and nodding.
"A black snake crawling up my back, but don't colour in the eyes, leave them clear." Kiseki said firmly, turning his gaze back to the front and taking a deep breath to calm his nerves. Ari sat down slowly and carefully placed one leg under her bum, smirking and placing her hands on the edge of the seat.
"Methinks you've had this on your mind for some time now." Ari said coyly and Kiseki's ears starting turning red to match his cheeks. Jungle Cat snorted and dipped the brush into the ink and Ari watched as the man drew the outline of the snake, placing its head in between Kiseki's shoulders blades and drawing careful waves to represent the crawling action, the tail ended an inch short of Kiseki's pants. He grabbed an even smaller brush to draw the eyes then started colouring in the snake. Jungle Cat said that the ink would need thirty minutes to set properly so Snake Eyes and Duke rode out on horses to secure the landing site for the plane due to pick them up.
In the meantime, Ari moved her chair to the front of the tent so she could see Kiseki's face, his eyes were closed but that crazy grin was still in place.
"Yep." He opened his eyes and reached up to brush the hair from his face, Ari smiled as she looked into his blue and yellow eyes.
"I'm happy then." She grabbed one of her feet and examined it, Kiseki saw faded lines on her ankle.
"What's that?" he pointed and Ari carefully stuck her foot out, Kiseki saw several little oval-shaped marks around her ankle.
"Just a stupid little thing I got some years ago, they're supposed to be grains of sand."
Kiseki counted eight black pieces of sand.
"One for each of my parents (I didn't know my father was so cruel), one for Jace and my little sister, and three for my students. Maybe I need two more?" Jungle Cat looked up and picked up the pot of paint.
"I'm sure I can think of something better."
Ari was sitting in between Snake Eyes and Jace, trying to fall asleep as she pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Oh, how she hated flying. Kiseki was sitting across the aisle and leaning his elbow against the window, Duke was sitting beside him and every now and then, the two of them would talk to one another but Ari wasn't paying attention to the conversation. She just wanted to be home and crawl into bed and sleep off her nausea, she didn't dare move to the back of the plane to lock herself in the bathroom; both Zanya and Katana were back there under careful supervision from an armed guard of ten men. Ari turned around in her seat and leaned against Snake's shoulder, tapping her arm gently with the tips of her fingers.
"That tattoo, where'd you get it?" she signed, smirking as Jace watched her curiously.
"Every member of the Arashikage clan got this, since I was raised by them, I was given the tattoo as well."
"Why'd you hide it?"
Snake Eyes shrugged and took her hand in his, shaking his head and signalling that this conversation was over. Ari frowned and punched his shoulder, resting her head there and closing her eyes.
"You, sir, are incredibly annoying." Snake Eyes chuckled and Ari made an exasperated sound before punching him again and growling angrily at him. Jace simply shook his head at the exchange as the plane rose further into the sky. Ari groaned when she looked out the window, silently praying that she wouldn't throw up.
When the plane touched down in the hanger, Ari limped her way to the exit with the intent to take a one hundred hour nap in a bed that wasn't flying miles and miles above the ground. However, Snake Eyes steered her around to the infirmary where Malady was waiting for her with the Serum, she had three small needles for general cuts and bruises and an exceptionally large one for her ribs. Snake Eyes helped Ari lie down on the examination table and Ari bit one of her knuckles as the needle was pushed into her side, gently scrapping against the bone. Ari squeezed her eyes shut and whimpered; it very much felt like someone had forced their finger into her skin. The bones began to mend with a few painful snaps and Ari lay still for a moment or two to catch her breath. After about ten minutes, Ari sat up and Malady applied a few much smaller needles into her skin.
"There seems to be a slight problem." Malady held up a mirror, the scar across the bridge of her nose along with the one across her chest had not healed at all. Ari looked up and raised an eyebrow.
"Maybe Zanya's claws were dipped in some kind of anti-Serum? It's only fair that Cobra could come up with something to counteract it."
Ari reached up and ran her fingers along the first scar, sighing softly and shrugging her shoulders.
"Whatever, it's been a while since I've had a lasting scar." She looked at Snake Eyes suddenly with a smirk. "I look more dangerous now, don't I?"
"Whatever you say."
End of Part 2
Ari: Hey, are you going to say anything?
Ari: Hex? Hello?
(sigh) Life may take away the few pleasures in my life but it will not take away my right to mope, sulk, and brood. Carry on.
Ari: Um...Hex apologizes for the "lameness" of this chapter and her foul mood. See you next time?