chapter one - the darkest burning star
:-:-: theme; war machine by fightstar :-:-:
I remember running from them. Their loud groans and heavy breathing were enough to keep me going, my adrenaline high only amping my speed all the more.
It wasn't enough, though. It was never enough.
In my panic, I tripped over one of the corpses that littered the infested city's ground. Only it wasn't really that dead. It's boney, grotesque hand (or what was left of it anyway) snapped up and tried to claw at my ankles.
My breath had hitched, fear striking me in the back of the head like a metal baseball bat. I was frozen solid for an entire second before I quickly curled my legs closer to my body and scrambled backwards onto my feet (it wasn't enough; nothing was).
I needed to keep running. The horde was getting closer.
I had been living in this nightmare for over a year. I had witnessed my friends and family either die, or lose themselves in a downward spiral. Right now, the only thing keeping me going was my will to show those undead-living fucks that they can try to take over the world, but they sure as hell weren't going to succeed.
Not while my group and I were around, working on a cure for this insane disease.
My legs were in motion again, but they were stinging now and it hurt so so much to move them. I couldn't—wouldn't stop though. Not until I reached the safe zone. I was almost there; it was right around the corner. Right there.
It was too late, though. Running was never enough in this world. The survivors had to be cautious, wary, quiet, and armed. Along the way, I had forgotten a few of these things.
I watched a whole horde swallow and rip him apart. My brother, my poor baby brother.
Panic consumed, gasps fill the air. Their dead eyes were on me now. Must run, had to run.
Slippery fingers dropped the sharp blade. The only thing worth using that was with me. All I had were my legs then, so I ran and ran and ran.
There was a gun in my pocket, but with only one bullet left. It was for me. It was always intended for me.
My legs caved in on me, and I slid across the pavement. I was so out of it that I couldn't even cry out in pain. Instead, the only thing I could comprehend at all were the long, disgusting looking scratches on one of my ankles.
Despair, horror, dread, and so many other things rushed through me. Time to stop running. You've fought for so long, why not stop for a little while? Leave saving the world to the pros; the ones that don't forget the rules along the way.
With crying eyes and shaking hands, I watched the approaching horde of the undead with a smirk on my face. My pistol was in my hand, cocked and ready to fire. I aimed it at the closest zombie— the one that I had tripped over; the one that had marked the end for me.
"You can try all you like, but I will never be one of you."
With the barrel on my head, I pulled the trigger.
If you're not afraid to die, then I guess you should keep on living.
Before the world went to shit, I was your usual male college student, trying to make a name for myself as a major in immunology. The only thing particularly unique about me (or something others would often question me about), was that I was born a female.
The story there isn't anything too amazing. In short, one day I realized "she/her" wasn't me, and slowly began to start transitioning myself. For awhile, I was known as a trans male, but around my senior year of high school, I finally managed to complete my conversion.
Of course my change wasn't easy (on myself or others), but in the end everything worked out.
That was then though, and now my only regret was that I hadn't found my true gender sooner. As life after death wasn't what those religious loonies had chalked it up to be.
One moment, I literally felt myself —my soul— slip through my body like I was a snake shedding its skin, and then the next I felt like I was in a bottle of slimy vaseline. I drifted in and out of consciousness frequently, but I was never fully there.
The more time that went by, the more I forgot about myself and my past. Every now and then however, my memories would come back to me and I'd begin to panic. I'd squirm and kick— doing all that I could to try and escape wherever the hell I was. The attacks would never last long however, because soon I'd tire out and drift into unconsciousness again.
This went on in a cycle before one day I was finally released. Leaving the gooey prison wasn't something I clearly remembered. All I can really recall is feeling the impact of cold air against my naked body, and that someone was handling me— rather gently might I add, despite my extreme thrashing.
I had plenty of time to think while I was in that dark place. One of the things I had pondered on was reincarnation. It was something I genuinely hoped was real, as I would prefer to live a life that severely lacked undead monsters that were out to get me. I wanted to be able to live again; truly live this time. I would never take what I had for granted again, and I would make sure to cherish every single person in my life.
My new life only truly began when I figured everything out. I was in my new mother's arms, being lulled to sleep by her and my father's coos. Another body was on the bed next to my mother, curled up at her side as they looked on at me— the bundle in her arms. My new family was speaking in Japanese, and if nothing else had clued me in enough to my reincarnation, that was surely the deal breaker since I had been living in America before.
I wanted to smile, but my muscles weren't under my complete control at the moment, so I could only manage a small twitch of my lips. There was an amazed 'ooh' before I felt a hand wrap over mine. It was smaller than my mother's so it had to be the person beside her. My new sibling.
My father chuckled, "He's cute, isn't he?"
The language came to me instantly, as if I had known it my whole life, when really I only knew English and a few words in Spanish. As astounding as that fact was, what really caught me was the pronoun that had been used to address me.
'Male pronouns. I was born as my gender? I don't have to start all over again?' I wanted to cry, but tried to restrain myself. If I let loose even the smallest tear, I knew that my child's body would turn it into a loud tantrum that would only serve to stress my family (and ruin this sweet moment).
"Yes!" The child replied. My family's voices were beginning to grow softer the more I drifted further into unconsciousness, my body growing tired once again. "I'm a nii-san now?"
"That's right, Sasori-kun." That was my mother's voice… "This is your little brother, Kyojin."
As a teenager in my past life, there was a brief period where I found myself completely obsessed with anime and manga.
I had seen thousands of episodes, read multiple chapters, and owned various kinds of merchandise. I was a fan of plenty, but there was one single series that I had been attached to since before I even knew it was an anime: Naruto.
Naruto was an anime/manga that plenty of people knew about. Young, old— it didn't matter because somehow, there was a chance that they'd have heard of it. You may not have remembered it, but it had most likely crossed your mind at one point.
So, despite how long it had been since I had read or watched the series, it wasn't hard for me to conclude where exactly I had been reborn. As the moment I began to see clearly with my brand new eyes, I nearly had a heart attack when I came face to face with none other than Akasuna no Sasori.
Well, he hadn't exactly received that title yet, but it was hard to miss those familiar droopy eyes and his disheveled red hair. My parents were behind him, smiling down at me in all their glory. For some reason, I smiled back— as if their happiness was contagious.
Sasori grinned down at me, and even though he was only four-years-old (or around that age) I could see genuine intelligence in his eyes, mixed with the sincere love he was unknowingly shedding onto me. This kid was like a beacon of light, and right away I could feel some sort of connection between us. Perhaps it was a bond between brothers, or maybe it was something else. Either way, it made me feel closer to him and in return, I could tell he already felt close to me. "Say, Saso-nii."
My mother laughed, pulling Sasori up into her arms as my father scooped me up in his. The two of them brought my brother and I closer together, making it possible for Sasori to actually reach out and touch me. Shaking her head in amusement, mother kissed the side of Sasori's head, "I don't think Kyo-chan can speak just yet. He just opened his eyes, little one."
Suddenly, the small redhead's eyes widened as he pointed at my face. "We have the same color eyes!"
"You do," Mother nodded, gently patting me on the head, "Can you tell he has your Kaa-san's hair also?"
"No— Kyo doesn't have any hair…" Both of my parents chuckled, brushing up against my brother as they exchanged amused glances. Sasori looked up at them in confusion, a small frown forming on his lips when he began to think they were making fun of him. "Look," He began to fuss, gesturing at my head. "Nothing's there!"
Though I was kind of being insulted, I couldn't help but let out a small amused gurgle along with my father and mother. Sasori was just too cute for his own good sometimes and a part of me wanted him to stay like this forever. I hoped that Sasori would remain the innocent child he currently was, and would never turn down the twisted dark path that he took in canon, which eventually led to his death.
If I had to give myself a goal in this new life, that would be it. I would do all I could to keep Sasori sane and alive. Maybe I wouldn't be able to prevent him from leaving in the end, but despite that, I would do whatever it takes to keep him breathing.
Chiyo became a constant presence in both Sasori and I's life as soon as our parents were sent back into the front lines. I'm sure she was around often before my birth, but for now, her part in the family was new to me.
She was always there, holding me or speaking to me from where I lay in my crib. Every now and then she'd hoist Sasori into her arms and sit down in the rocking chair beside my bed, humming lullabies to us both as she rocked back and forth.
Chiyo was a sweet woman, however it was obvious to anyone that she was still a badass kunoichi, whether she was retired or not. A fact I found out when I noticed her slipping poison into my food and drink. If I was any other person, reborn from a normal world, I would probably be very alarmed by this. However I wasn't a normal person, and instead was thankful that the woman was helping me develop an immunity for the various substances early on. For a moment I had wondered if I was too young for her to be doing this just yet, but even if the poison posed a huge problem, I knew Chiyo would give me the antidote before I was once again whisked to another life.
Of course, I wasn't the only one that she was preparing for the tough life of a ninja; Sasori also seemed to be working with and around poisons. Obviously my brother had more experience with them than me, so it was no surprise when I saw Chiyo and him discussing a book about venomous animals in the Land of Wind. Sasori seemed to like the topic so much that he would even review what he learned with me, as if I could reply to his findings. It was cute nonetheless.
Other than that little detail with poisons, my time as a baby was pretty normal, albeit painful and boring at times. My schedule was so ingrained into my brain that I began to count down the seconds until feeding time, playtime, and nap time. It wasn't hard to memorize the pattern after a while and it sucked, because something like this reminded me of the repetitiveness of my former life. How everything was always the same: eat, sleep, survive. This life could be kinder, but sticking with the same schedule was going to drive me mad.
The only eventful moments in my life happened whenever my mother and father managed to come home at the same time. Sometimes one was here for a week, while the other couldn't come until the next one. Seeing them individually wasn't bad, but when they were together...it really brought us together as a family.
The door opened and in walked my mother with a happy smile on her face as she peered down at me. She was still dressed in her battle gear, as she had been ever since she arrived back home a few days ago. I guess it was just a precaution in case she was told to leave early, because dad was doing the same.
"My little Kyo-chan~" She hummed, reaching into my crib to scoop me up. I was growing fast, and mom was probably relieved I still recognized her, what with how she's never really here. I blame the war for that, though. Not her.
I cooed back at my mother, reaching up at her face with my hands. She laughed when one of my tiny fists patted her on the face, and rubbed her nose against mine. "Kaa-chan's missed you so much, you know!" She held me up, making me giggle on reflex at the sensation. "Let's make this whole week a family week. Hopefully I can get Sasori-kun to put down his books, yes?"
Cheering at her statement, I was taken from my room and into the living room, where the rest of my small family was residing. Chiyo had Sasori in her lap as they read through a book together, while dad sat across from them with a blissful smile on his face.
At the sight, a warm feeling began to grow in my chest. Without my control a happy gurgle left my lips, and just like that everyone's attention was on me.
My father stood up, an amused grin on his face as he held his arms out, ready to take me from mother. "What was that just now? Was that a laugh, Kyo-chan?" He laughed, lightly tapping my nose.
Sasori was quick to join us, slipping off of Chiyo's lap and promptly moved over to where we were. He tugged on father's shirt, asking him to bring me closer to him. Laughing again, my father got down on one knee so Sasori was able to look at me perfectly. A small smile was on his face as he held his hand out, waiting for my stubby fingers to tightly take a hold of it. Which I did, obviously, because my baby mind was mesmerized by the appendage. "Good morning, Kyo-chan."
It was morning? I could have sworn it was night. Then again, being in this body has kind of messed with my sense of time, since I'm usually sleeping or staring at the ceiling. Sasori lightly squeezed my hand, returning me to attention. "Say...Saso-nii."
Every time we saw each other, this kid would try to coax that out of me, despite the fact that I could barely even laugh just yet. Sasori was smart for his age, but it was times like these when I was reminded just how young he really is.
"Not so fast, Sasori-kun." Chiyo spoke, her presence only now becoming obvious to me. The old woman was right beside my father, looking over his shoulder at me and Sasori. "Kyo-chan isn't capable of speech just yet; you're basically telling a rock to roll over at this point." Right after that, she let out a loud, wheezy laugh that only she could manage. If I could cringe right now, I would. Instead, the only thing a baby could do to show their distaste was cry so…guess what I did next.
Just like that, our happy family moment was put to an end all because of an old hag's cackle.
"Sarah. It's not safe, sweetie. Please don't go out there. Please." A middle-aged woman pleaded, her hands gripped tightly to a bible. Their home shook from the poundings of the creatures outside. An unholy illness had spread across the world, and the woman believed it was the sign of the end of days.
"I told you not to call me that." A young adult with brown hair and calloused hands said quietly. His anger was soft and silent, but if more fuel was added...surely he'd explode.
The woman cried harder, and the cries of the dead outside grew louder. If she looked out the window, she'd see a familiar face. "Oh honey, please don't be like that. What would your father think—"
"My father, would call me by my fucking name. Like a real parent." The brunette sneered, holding the cleaver in his hands more securely when he heard a window tremble beneath the dead's fists. "My name is Daniel."
"My baby girl—"
"Has never even existed! Just shut the hell up and go upstairs with Max. It's safer there." Daniel and his father had been the ones to take charge ever since the attacks began to happen. At the beginning of everything, Daniel and a bunch of his colleagues had been assigned to work on a cure, but after an outbreak in the lab...everyone returned home to be with their families.
Daniel's mother was ready to protest and scream some more; ready to look even more mad than she did already, with her blonde hair sticking to her face and her eyes wide with fear and sorrow. A voice from upstairs interrupted her, "Mama. Please come up here with me, I'm scared!" The young boy, no older than ten, was crying and nearly wheezing as he called down to his mother.
Daniel glanced at his little brother once and clenched his jaw. The fact that these undead creeps were scaring his brother only made him want to go out there and bash their heads in even more. His mother looked between him and Max before finally nodding her head, "Fine, but you better be careful, my dear. I don't want you to share the same fate as your father. He tried to get rid of them too and—"
"I know, but now it's different," Daniel interrupted with a hard glare. "Papa wasn't aiming for the head...and we know that that's what we have to do now." His mother whimpered, reaching out to place a hand on his shoulder, but Daniel stepped back without giving her a glance. Giving her child one more look, his mother stepped upstairs and ushered her youngest into a room they had used to stockpile all of their supplies.
Daniel rolled his shoulders, eyeing the front door in resolution. This would either save his family, or doom them all to the disease. Their lives were in his hands, and the brunette would rather die than fail them. His father had done that when he rushed outside ignorantly and tried to stab the intruders to death, but they were already dead and now so was he.
The front door opened, and Daniel stepped outside where the hands of the dead welcomed him.
I didn't know I was awake until my mother came rushing into the room, her brown hair tangled and disheveled from where she had been sleeping. Even though I was now in her protective hold, my loud wails wouldn't stop and I knew she couldn't figure out why.
I wasn't hungry and my diaper wasn't soiled, so what could it be? Maybe a bad dream that she could simply help ease my young mind out of, but no… there wasn't enough love in the world to ward off terrible memories.
This wasn't the first time I was burdened with terrible nightmares —memories— that involved my past, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. However, after waking up this time...something felt different. Or more like, I finally took notice of something that dwelled within me, and everybody in this world really.
Upon finally unlocking (or sensing) my chakra, I began to cautiously experiment with it whenever I was alone and had nothing better to do. Once my parents were deployed again, I was usually left with Chiyo, Sasori, or a genin team that had taken a mission to babysit me.
Since Sasori would be attending Sunagakure's ninja academy in only a matter of months, he had begun to train and study more than usual. Normally he'd do those things by himself, but occasionally Chiyo would assist him whenever she was free and when I had a babysitter.
When Chiyo wasn't watching me or training Sasori, she was off on a mission to make sure we'd have a steady income while our parents were away, fighting in the war. Months had passed since they were last here, and Sasori was now five years old while I was one. Since becoming one, I had learned how to walk and had slowly begun to start talking. I still had some trouble forming and pronouncing words, but that was beside the point (despite my troubles with it, Sasori was very happy that my first word happened to be Saso).
I had no problem with the lack of family time due to my fixation on my chakra system. At first, I was only feeling it and overall just trying to get used to it. Once I became comfortable with it, I tried to sense things with it and see how far I could stretch it out before I began to feel tired. Right now I could only sense chakra within the house, and possibly a foot outside it if I truly tried. Next step was to try and start molding it, or to possibly do something akin to the leaf exercise with one of my many toys.
I had quite the hoard of things piling up in my closet, as ever since I began to crawl (about a week ago) I developed a habit to...take things and keep them for myself. Maybe I was a kleptomaniac, or perhaps it was just something I picked up from my old life. Scavenging was a huge thing in my other world, mostly so after everything went to hell. So far I had quite the few trinkets in my collection: a couple pens and some notebooks from my father's study; various hair ties that were both my mother's and Chiyo's; and some ninja wire coils that Sasori had gotten at some point. I had multiple other items, but they weren't anywhere near as useful.
Just as I was about to begin my nightly practice, the door to my room was opened. A small, five-year-old Sasori peered in before entering fully. The door shut behind him, and the redhead was quick to move toward my crib. Using my chakra, I sensed that Chiyo was down the hall and in the living room...another chakra signature was with her, but it wasn't familiar to me so I paid it no mind.
"Kyo…" Sasori spoke quietly to me, wrapping his little hands around the bars of my crib. "Kyo." His voice sounded desperate this time, making me confused. Blinking, I tried to adjust to the room's darkness and when I finally did, it was to meet Sasori's teary brown eyes. I wanted to speak, but I was still having trouble forming words and pronouncing them. Instead, all I could do was offer my hands as I held them out towards my brother. Sasori took them both gently, yet as firmly as a five-year-old could manage, "I love you, Kyo-chan."
I didn't know what was wrong or what had happened, but the sincerity in Sasori's voice was enough to make me only focus on him. My older brother, someone who had become feared and infamous in another life, was crying and telling me that he loved me. Not once had I heard those three words come out of his mouth; not in front of me at least. It hurt to see him in such a state, and I wanted nothing then but to be my true age at this moment instead of some stupid infant that had only recently turned one. That way I could hold and comfort my supposedly older brother and help in whatever way I could.
"Sasori-kun, Kyo-chan…" Chiyo was in the doorway, and feeling around I could sense that the foreign chakra signature was nowhere to be found within our house. Our grandmother stepped further into the room and shut the door behind her. Her voice stayed calm and silent, acting as something foreboding that I did not enjoy at all. Slowly she stepped closer to us, and I could feel Sasori's hold tighten on my hands. "I have something I need to tell you two."
It seemed like my brother already knew what Chiyo had to say, because I could see his lips begin to tremble. "It's…" Chiyo paused for a moment to take a breath, and chose that time to place a hand on Sasori's shoulder and another on top of Sasori's hands, which were still holding tightly to mine. "It's about your parents."
She didn't have to finish that sentence for me to know that my new life was already beginning to crumble, leaving me to wonder when it would finally come crashing down.
Life after our parents' death seemed to be the same— for my part anyway. The two hadn't been around often, so it was as if they were still gone and fighting in the war. I remained slightly unaffected by my loss, and I believe that was because I probably didn't even believe that my father and mother were dead. I was in denial because I hadn't seen it happen; that I hadn't seen their corpses or anything. My attitude didn't raise any alarm bells, as to everyone else, I was just a baby.
On the night we received the news, I guess Sasori had overheard Chiyo being told, and had quickly run to my room right after. The news had hit him pretty hard and I knew this not just because of the way he cried and bawled that night, but because the next day he looked so empty. If he had cried more, then it was in private because there was no sign of such a thing on his face. His movements were almost robotic as he continued to do his daily routines without a care in the world.
Chiyo noticed the change in my brother. She saw that he was no longer radiating happiness, or giving away small smiles. His face was just blank, and when he met your eyes...it was like he was looking right through you. So due to him not taking things well, Chiyo began to teach him about puppetry in hopes that it would lift his spirits.
It seemed to work, because once Sasori got the hang of it he threw himself into the art. My brother was a real prodigy when it came to it, because soon he was able to make puppets himself. He started off with small ones, made more for amusement than actual battle. I wondered for awhile what their purpose was, but my confusion was quickly cleared when Sasori entered the living room one day with all of his small puppets.
"Want to see my puppets, Kyo?" Sasori asked me, a small smile on his face as he looked down at me. I was practicing my writing in one of the coloring books Chiyo had bought me, but since Sasori obviously had something more fun in mind, I was quick to drop everything and focus on him.
"Yes!" I exclaimed, clapping my ink-stained hands.
Sasori's smile grew at my excitement, and that's when he made the puppets dance. His fingers moved swiftly as he directed the chakra strings that were connected to the puppets, making them do as he willed. I laughed and watched the puppets closely, not wanting to miss a single thing.
/author's note/ and that's the first chapter! that last part originally wasn't going to be put in but i felt like i should go ahead and show how everyone was taking the change... you'll be seeing more flashbacks/dreams concerning kyojin's life before this one and how things from that life affect kyojin, despite being away from it all.
this chapter has been beta'd by fortheloveofb and i could not be more happy to call her my beta. please go check her and her stories out. she's not only an amazing editor, but also an amazing writer!
story rec: "for whom the bell tolls" written by cywscross