The Fine Print
- Part Two -
"That's a pretty annoying curse you've got there."
Sakura's head snapped up in surprise, quickly looking over her left shoulder to the figure standing behind her. He was tall, to say the least. Tanned skin, dark hair long and loose, most of his facial features obscured by clothing...
She eyed the black scarf covering the lower half of his face for a moment before glancing at the reflective aviators hiding his eyes, quickly realizing that she was staring at him in confusion. She brushed his attire – dark jacket over a smoky-green shirt and black pants – off without a second thought, deeming it fairly appropriate for the cold weather they were experiencing.
There was an odd fluttering glimmer that she noticed out of the corner of her eye, but that was something she'd come to grow used to when she was out with Hidan.
His words finally sunk in after a moment and Sakura turned in her seat, facing the stranger as she frowned up at him. She was outside, enjoying lunch on the patio seating of what had become Hidan's favorite Italian restaurant in town and sipping coffee while she waited. The demon had left only a minute ago for the restroom, leaving her alone with a few other patrons sitting outside and their basket of warm breadsticks. The umbrella canopy provided a nice shade and the white fence behind her that separated the restaurant seating from the street only reached about navel-high for the mystery man.
He rolled his shoulders, head inclining towards her slightly.
"Binding spell, but some pretty loose terms of service from what I can see. No thread for repercussions if the deal isn't fulfilled, but it has no expiry date."
Sakura was really staring now.
"I don't see a signature or a real contract, but it's got a pretty tight grip. Let me guess, you got tricked into touching the source or offering up a piece of you? Blood contracts are hard to break, but there's a pretty easy fix if it's bound through something like hair."
"I opened a book." Sakura found herself saying, eyebrows quickly furrowing as she caught herself. "How did you know all of that?"
He shifted, tilting his head down a little more as one hand raised to nudge down his sunglasses, peering down at her over the rim. Sakura was met with the oddest pair of eyes she'd ever seen and she stared all the harder, taking in the dark red sclera and glassy, pupil-less, green irises. He met her gaze for a moment longer before his eyes flickered down pointedly, leading her to follow his attention to her left hand.
She clenched it into a fist on reflex, imagining she could feel the burn of the rune marking her palm.
When she looked up again, he was pushing the sunglasses back up his nose, hand dropping into the pocket of his jacket. Sakura eyed him curiously, offering a slow, begrudging nod as she crossed her arms over her chest.
"Cool eyes. Do you make it a habit of going around and peaking at other people's curses?"
"If I spot a potential profit, yes." His deep voice was slightly muffled by the scarf, but Sakura couldn't say she didn't find it pleasant. She had a very distinct feeling that he was smirking at her, behind the cloth.
He shrugged nonchalantly, but Sakura could spot an incoming sales pitch when she saw one.
"I'm fairly adept at breaking curses. I can read the terms, pick apart contracts, find loopholes, shatter the restraints... Yours looks annoying, but it shouldn't be too difficult to unbind you from that book."
Sakura blinked – the thought of being done with repaying these dumb debts was pretty enticing.
"You sound pretty confident."
She could hear the smirk in his voice with his reply this time.
"I've never taken on a curse and failed to provide results that satisfied a customer."
Her skeptical expression morphed in a rather curious frown, watching him carefully before she finally replied, making sure her voice didn't sound too hopeful.
"You're serious? Can you really break this dumb curse?"
"For a price."
Sakura's eyes narrowed and the skeptical look was back.
"What kind of price?"
He gave another nonchalant shrug.
"One that would be determined at a later date."
Instantly, that bubble of hope popped and her expression fell into an unamused deadpan, regarding him for another moment before turning back to face her table.
"Not a chance. I'm not getting into anything unless I know all the details up front. Have a nice day, buddy."
She could hear shifting fabric and assumed he was shrugging again, resisting the urge to glance over her shoulder at his grumble of, "Suit yourself." before she heard retreating footsteps. She was left alone to her thoughts for a couple minutes, ignoring that lingering shimmer that she caught out of the corner of her eye with practiced ease, until Hidan finally returned.
He ran a hand through his silver hair as he approached, dropping down into his chair as he eyed her thoughtful expression with a raised eyebrow. Sakura cut off his inevitable comment with a shake of her head, picking up her mug for another sip of coffee before they simply chatted and waited for their food. A nice change from worrying and planning and trying to repay those dumb debts Uncle Maseo had saddled her with.
She was in too deep at this point – she'd put too much effort into this 'project' to just up and quit before she saw it through to the end. It had been over four months already and that's just too much dedicated time to simply walk away from.
Besides, she'd grown pretty used to her demonic houseguest.
About halfway through their meal, Sakura found herself watching him with a fond smile, her chin in her hand and pasta still twirled around her fork. A thought eventually occurred to her and Hidan glanced up just in time to catch her smile slip into a small frown, her eyebrows furrowed and a breadstick half shoved into his mouth.
"What's up, princess."
She shook her head, gaze dropping back down her to her pasta and missing the way he pursed his lips at her.
"I know that look. What's on your mind?"
Sakura sighed, leaning back in her seat as she regarded him thoughtfully.
"What's gonna happen when we finally get done with these IOUs?"
"I'll be free to leave and you get your couch back." Hidan shrugged, swiping the end of a breadstick through his pasta sauce and missing the look – disappointed, apprehensive, saddened - in her eye.
"And it's all over and done? Just like that?"
Silver eyebrow furrowed and he scrutinized her for a moment, taking in her pouting lips, pulled down in a frown, and her downcast gaze pinned to a fallen brown leaf to her right. Hidan stared long and hard for a bit before it seemed to click and he snickered, sending her a smug, teasing look.
"You're gonna fuckin' miss me, aren't you?"
Sakura's attention snapped back to him, her cheeks quickly flushing red as her eyes narrowed.
He simply laughed, grinning widely at her and waggling his eyebrows.
"Aaww, you actually fucking like me, don't you?"
"Love you too, princess!"
It was almost three weeks later and Sakura had gone through absolute hell gathering the next set of items for what was ranked in the Top Five Weirdest IOUs in the List.
· August 15, 1965 – Kakuzu Akumataki: Three incisor teeth (human or canine), any form of currency that's no longer in circulation, and an offering of Ankimo, homecooked. (Note: Don't go into his house this time. Tricksy bastard.)
She'd scoured seven different antique shops before finally finding an Italian Lira and the teeth (two canine, one human, and all entirely disgusting), picking up groceries for the 'offering' on the way home after she had all of the items.
The entire entry in the journal set off so many alarms and she couldn't wait to get this over and done with.
Fortunately, this 'Kakuzu' was one of the names she'd managed to find in one of Uncle Maseo's three address books. The phone number listed had been out of service but a quick GPS search proved that there was still a house standing at the address.
Another one of the few names that lived nearby, luckily.
With the Tupperware container in hand and the box containing the teeth and money under her arm, Sakura followed the path up to the unassuming-looking house, eyeing the well-maintained (if slightly brown) hedges as she heard the door to her car close behind her. She glanced over her shoulder to see Hidan pausing at the curb, frowning at the house before slowly following after her. She waited in the middle of the yard and waited for him to join her, eyebrow quirked at his unusually stiff posture and the furrow of his brows.
"Something's off about this place." He said before she could ask him what was wrong, narrowed, magenta eyes darting from side to side suspiciously. "Don't fuckin' like it."
She inwardly agreed, resisting the urge to pull her coat tighter around her. It felt like there was a deeper chill to the air here and she swore the sky hadn't looked that grey during the drive over. But, the sooner she got this over with, the sooner they could return home.
"We'll make it quick and I'll make hot chocolate when we get back to my apartment. Deal?"
Hidan's lips pursed and he gave a short nod, crossing his arms as he followed her up to the porch of the house. She caught him reaching over to snag a stray shirt thread out of her hair and she put on her friendliest smile before reaching to ring the doorbell. It was quiet for a few moments, the air still and those glimmers dancing on the edge of her awareness, until, finally, the door opened and she smiled up the man in front of her, her head bobbing in greeting.
"Hello, I'm Sakura Haruno. I'm looking f- Wait." She paused, not noticing how Hidan had stiffened next to her when the door had opened and, instead, squinting up at the dark-haired man standing in the doorway. "Don't I know you?"
"Surprised you recognized me." An surprisingly familiar voice answered from behind a surgical mask before the man lowered his sunglasses, peering at her with oddly colored eyes over the rim, just like before. "I doubt you've changed your mind about my offer, so, how can I help you?"
The same man from the restaurant, weeks ago.
"Don't fucking answer that." Came Hidan's voice, practically a growl, as he quickly stepped forward, moving in front of her and his posture practically screaming impending confrontation.
"We're here to make a delivery. That's fucking it."
Really damn confused, Sakura peered around Hidan and nudged him aside, sending him a questioning look before returning her attention to the dark-haired man.
"Are you Kakuzu Akumataki?"
He gave a curt nod, but, from the way his head was raised and with the sunglasses hiding his gaze, she had the distinct feeling that he was watching Hidan behind her. Crossing his arms, he replied.
"What do you want."
That odd camaraderie from weeks ago that had reminded Sakura of a well-seasoned salesman was gone now and she wanted nothing more than to get back into her car and drive off with Hidan. Nonetheless, she quickly held out the Tupperware holding the Ankimo and the box of teeth and money, her friendly smile gone as well.
"Courtesy of Maseo Haruno."
This man certainly didn't look over 50 years old, but she couldn't necessarily see his entire face, now could she? Still, his head dropped slightly and he looked down at the offered items, a hum of recognition sounding from the back of his throat.
"Homemade Ankimo, three incisors – one human and two canine, and an Italian Lira." She said, chewing on the inside of her cheek.
He fully removed the sunglasses now and slipped them into his pocket before taking the container and box, tucking the latter under his arm before popping the lid on the former. He reached up to pull down the surgical mask and Sakura nearly took a step backwards in surprise, eyes wide at the sight of years-old scaring that traveled from the corners of his mouth and across his cheeks, disappearing under the dark hair framing his face, and tattooed stitches following the path of the scars.
At least, she hoped they were tattoos.
(Still, despite the scars and stitches, he had a pretty nice face.
Too bad he was setting off a whole bunch of really unsettling vibes and made her want to run away and never look back.)
He sniffed the Ankimo and sent her a rather amused look at her reaction, making no move to pull the mask back up into place as he resealed the lid on the container.
"I was beginning to think I'd never get my payment from old Maseo." Kakuzu paused, his weight shifting from one foot to the other before he quirked an eyebrow at Sakura, ignoring Hidan entirely now. His smile was frightening and Sakura wasn't sure if it was an attempt at friendliness or to try and scare her.
"Would you like to come in?"
Sakura instantly thought back to that little note Uncle Maseo had left on Kakuzu's entry in the journal and a dry look instantly fell into place on her face, arms dropping to her side as she resisted the urge to peer past him and into the dark interior of his home.
"No thanks, have a nice day. Keep the container."
His frown was just as unnerving and Sakura quickly took Hidan's arm, turning away from Kakuzu and his creepy house and heading back towards her car. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see the silver-haired demon still sending glares back at the other man and he didn't tear his gaze away until they turned a corner down the block and headed home.
"That fucking guy wasn't human." He eventually muttered, his expression still sour and his shoulders stiff.
"Yeah," Sakura murmured in reply, lips pressed in a tight frown. "I gathered that."
Hidan gave a snort before sitting back in his seat and, sighing tiredly, Sakura rubbed her forehead and tried to keep her eyes on the road.
"Demon or something?"
Hidan's nod was curt and hard, his arms crossed over his chest as he stared out the windshield.
"Pretty damn sure. And what the fuck did he mean by "changed your mind about my offer," Sak?" His voice took on a mocking higher pitch when he quoted the other man, very much in contrast to Kakuzu's deeper voice and Sakura allowed herself a quick smile. "How did you know him?"
She glanced over to catch him peering at her with a frustrated squint and, chewing her lip for a moment, she replied.
"He popped up a few weeks ago, saying he could see my curse or something and offered to unbind me from the book." A pause. "For a price."
Hidan bristled, lip raised in a snarl, and, misinterpreting his response, Sakura quickly continued.
"I told him to fuck off. I never thought I'd run into him again."
"Fucking vague ass. I know that type, he would have tricked you into owing him a debt to claim at his fucking leisure. Indefinite indentured servitude or your soul in his gullet if you weren't careful."
She glanced over in shock, eyes wide and quickly remembering Hidan's reaction from earlier.
"- so, how may I help you?"
"Don't fucking answer that."
Sakura sent him a small smile and they eventually arrived back at her apartment, the air outside still cold and crisp. Hidan slung an arm over her shoulder as they made their way to the door and his glamour instantly dissipated once they were inside, his shoulders rolling as he gave a satisfied groan. She barely even batted an eye as his skin took on that familiar pitch-black hue and the skeletal marking appeared, the grey ram horns materializing from his head, starting at his skull and curling out with wisps of smoke. Peeling off her coat, she raised up on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss to his cheek, smiling at the surprised look he sent her.
"Thanks for looking out for me."
With a wicked grin, Hidan scooped her up into his arms and carried her towards the couch, snickering at her squeal and chorus of giggles.
Two months later found the pair curled up on Sakura's sofa, the journal in her hands, Hidan's arm casually wrapped around her, and some cooking show on the TV. She was browsing a fresh page of IOUs, trying to decide on which to tackle next while he simply relaxed.
Turning the page, Sakura paused, staring down in confusion at the next batch of debts. In succession were three entries that left her mind reeling, pulling away from her comfortable spot pressed against Hidan's side to sit up straight.
Eyebrow quirked, he sent her a look and lowered the volume on the TV.
"Problem? Another grave robbery? That was pretty fucking fun, all things considered."
Sakura was hunched over the journal, staring down at names she couldn't understand, much less pronounce, before finally replying.
"These can't be real. Where the hell am I supposed to get a manticore claw, a vial of gnome tears, and a scarf made from spider silk. Is this a joke?!"
Hidan leaned forward to peer over her shoulder before sending her a bemused look.
"You've had a demon fuckin' crashing on your couch for over half a year. And you're questioning the existence of damn gnomes?"
"I thought this was an isolated incident." She replied, frowning down at the accursed journal. "Where on Earth am I supposed to get this shit?"
He looked thoughtful for a moment before taking the book from her hands, reading over the otherworldly lettering of the names, complete with simple - laughable - human nicknames, as he trailed a clawed finger down the page. Reaching over, he gave her shoulder a pat and she groaned in frustration, her face buried in her hands.
"I think I know a place."
"Is this seriously happening?" Sakura mumbled, buttoning up her dark red coat and nudging her bag with a foot. "A goblin market?"
Hidan snorted, finishing up his indecipherable scribbles – she was sure they meant something, but she sure as hell couldn't understand them – on her bathroom door before tossing the piece of chalk over his shoulder, the white chunk disappearing in a puff of smoke.
"It's your best bet for getting that shit. Hand me your ribbon."
Sighing, Sakura passed the red strip of silk over, eyebrow quirked when he tied it around his wrist, before leaning against the hallway wall.
"Can't you just go yourself? I could give you some money – you know what you're doing and what to expect..."
Sending her a bemused chuckle, he pressed his palm against the center of the door, nodding in satisfaction as the chalk symbols glowed red for a moment. Hidan was only disguised with partial glamour at the moment, his skin the more human – if still a little grey – tone and the tattoos faint, but his horns very present and noticeable, dressed in a black shirt, dark grey trench coat, and jeans.
"I'm not allowed back on the premises unless I'm in the company of a master."
Eyebrows furrowed, Sakura sent him a questioning look and slowly picked up her messenger bag.
"What? A master? What do you mean?"
His lips pursed and he shrugged nonchalantly, running his hand through his hair.
"I'm a tasking demon. I get summoned when someone needs something done – usually offing some poor sap – and I hang around until the 'master' is satisfied." A thoughtful frown as he paused. "I usually get paid with the souls of my targets and, let me tell you, I was fucking pissed when I realized that old coot Maseo found a fucking loophole and left me with just room and board as compensation this time."
Sakura was staring at him. Staring hard.
"You... kill peo-?!" she cut herself off, furiously rubbing her temples. "Why am I only just hearing about this now?"
Another shrug and he very pointedly didn't look at her.
"Y'never fuckin' asked."
With a long-suffering sigh, Sakura ran her hand down her face before pulling her hair back into a ponytail, frowning at his following response.
"My last job was, like, a decade ago."
"Whatever. Whatever. I'm not going to think about this right now. Let's just get it over with." She caught how his shoulders relaxed and he sent her a vaguely relieved look, offering his arm when she moved to stand on one leg to adjust her boot.
"Is this- are you going to get in trouble since Uncle Maseo is dead and not actually around to chaperone?"
Hidan looked thoughtful before sending her a smug look.
"Technically, you're my master. Mistress?" At her confused look, he continued, grinning down at her. "You summoned me to 'motivate' you to repay those IOUs. I'm your demon, princess."
She blinked, watching him unsurely, and he sent her a suggestive look, gaze rather smoldering.
"Kinda kinky, huh?"
Cheeks turning red in a matter of seconds, Sakura shoved her bag into his face with an indignant sound, huffing at his amused laughs and glaring up at him. Giving a light kick to his shin, she quickly tried to change the subject and fight down her blush.
"What's the ribbon for? I thought you were going to stick it to the door or something."
Her blush was quick to return at his reply, his smug look never faltering.
"Master's mark. We can always use a dog collar or something if you'd pref-"
"Shut up! Nevermind!"
Still, she sent her flustered gaze at the hair ribbon wrapped around his wrist, ignoring the look he was sending her. Sighing, she prodded his chest with a finger, eyes narrowed as she faced the smirking demon.
"Is there anything else I should know about before we leave?"
His amused expression fell into a surprisingly serious look and Sakura's lips thinned, oddly concerned.
"Stay close and leave the bartering to me." At her hesitant nod, he continued, reaching down to adjust the collar of her coat. "If we do get separated and some asshole tries to start shit with you, show them my mark."
He took her left wrist in hand and held it up in example, magenta eyes meeting her green gaze.
"Shove your fucking palm in their face until they get the hint if you have to. And don't take any damn deals if they involve payment with anything other than cold hard cash. Someone asks for even just a single hair and you turn and walk away, got it?"
Another nod in reply and he turned her around, snapping his fingers to summon a black ribbon before styling her ponytail into a bun and, with a start, Sakura realized that he was fussing over her.
"And you sure as hell don't give anyone even a drop of blood. In fact, don't even tell anyone your name – especially not your full name."
"Just cash." She finally answered when she turned back to face him, earning a nod in approval before she paused unsurely. "Are human, American dollars really okay? Don't I need, like, gold and silver and gems and shit?"
"Nah, you'll be cool with the human cash. The market vendors accept pretty much any form of currency, but you gotta fuckin' specify how you want your change."
At Sakura's frown, Hidan simply grinned, looped his arm through hers, and turned her towards the bathroom door. "Like I said, just leave the bartering to me."
As he reached for the doorknob, the demon suddenly paused, his expression thoughtful when she glanced up at him.
"Shit, right. One last thing."
With a snap of his fingers and a large puff of smoke, Hidan summoned a vicious looking scythe, the trio of blades an unsettling crimson red with white accents, and he held the weapon with a practiced ease that Sakura found really unnerving. There was the briefest smell of sulfur in the air and her nose wrinkled at the scent before it thankfully disappeared. Catching her staring unsurely at the scythe, the demon offered her a lopsided grin and pulled her closer, giving it an easy spin in his other hand.
"Just so any potential shitheads know I'm not fuckin' around. You ready, princess?"
Sakura let out a sigh and gave him a reluctant nod, adjusting her grip on her messenger bag.
"As I'll ever be."
They, of course, did end up getting separated.
They'd only managed to find the manticore claw and were heading down the main street of the goblin market after the merchant suggested checking out a stall further down that sold a pretty wide assortment of clothing – their best bet for the spider silk scarf – when Sakura had been forced to let go of Hidan's arm. A large group had passed down the busy street, forging their own path, and ultimately made her slip her arm out of the demon's hold to keep out of their way.
And, just like that, Hidan disappeared.
It must have been some sort of weird magic or something, because, no matter where she looked, Sakura couldn't see that familiar silver hair or the awful red blades of his weapon. She considered calling for him but the fact that she didn't hear his voice amongst the crowd of creatures – she was doing a fairly good job of not staring at any of the more monstrous shoppers – implied that he wasn't nearby. Wringing her hands, fingers tracing the rune on her palm, she looked around as best as she could before continuing down the way she was originally headed, hoping that she'd find the shop they were making their way towards.
It was midday here, the sun high even though it had been early morning when they'd left and they couldn't have been browsing the market for more than forty-five minutes, and Sakura was thankful for her coat, eyeing the snow around her with pursed lips. The moment Hidan had opened the door to the bathroom, a cold wind had swept over them, blowing snowflakes into her apartment and showing her a view that was most definitely not her restroom. The market was bustling and lively, full of strange looking people and creatures and Sakura was a little overwhelmed by her senses. Scents she couldn't identify, inhuman sounds that she'd never heard before, beasts and monsters mingling with normal looking humans...
And now she was alone and lost.
Running her hands down her face, Sakura continued walking and, after a minute or so, her tight, worried frown turned into one of confusion. While she had been on a wide, long street that stretched on into the distance for nearly a mile, she was now faced with a dead-end, a few small stalls and a tall building in front of her.
Biting her lip, she turned around and froze in shock, finding a smaller alley behind her where there should have been the main street of the market.
'What the hell is going on?'
She turned again, reluctantly, and found the dead-end missing. Instead, she realized that she was now facing another street, standing in the entryway of a branching alley. Deciding that she preferred the busy street over the alley behind her – she was almost afraid to look back, sure that she'd find something else and the street in front of her would disappear – Sakura stepped onto the snow-covered road.
It was definitely not the main area of the market, this street lined with fewer shops and vendors and even less pedestrians. Letting out a shaky sigh, she gripped the strap of her bag and tried to search for Hidan – or at least something familiar.
"Out of the way!"
She'd only been walking for a few moments and she quickly glanced over her shoulder at the shout behind her, jumping to her right when she saw an oncoming cart rolling down the street. Sakura couldn't identify the... beast that was pulling the cart and she moved further out of it's way as it passed, ducking into a shop behind her.
Turning slightly, Sakura found herself facing a pretty, young woman, obviously the one that had greeted her. She managed a hesitant hello in reply and glanced around the shop, figuring that the brown-hair woman was the owner – or at least the shop keep – as she bustled around the small shop with a bundle of cloth in her arms.
"Anything I can help you with, miss? Looking for something in particular?"
Sakura eyed the piles and racks of fabric and clothing with growing excitement – finally, some luck! – before turning back to the brunette. Her green gaze brushed over the deer antlers sprouting from her head and she was now aware of the sound of hooves on wooden flooring, but she resisted the urge to glance down to confirm her suspicions.
"Yes, actually. You wouldn't happen to have any scarves made from spider silk, would you?"
The woman looked thoughtful for a moment, reaching up to tuck a stray hair back into one of her twin buns before turning away, mumbling under her breath before finally replying.
"I think I might have some left in the back, actually. Just a moment while I go check! Feel free to keep browsing, miss."
Smiling to herself, Sakura walked around the small shop, ducking under cloth that was hung from the ceiling and trailing her fingers over the fabrics. Some of the clothes and coils of cloth seemed fairly normal, but she remained wary, eyeing robes that changed colors every time she blinked, inspecting strips of fabric that smelled like fresh flowers, and hesitantly touching a jacket that was emblazoned with an image of a desert, the sun and sand and cacti meticulously embroidered onto the silk. The cloth was warm to the touch and she marveled silently to herself, warming her fingers for a few moments before pulling away.
"I found some!" Came a call from the back of the shop after a couple minutes and, inwardly cheering in victory, Sakura quickly made her way towards the back counter, attention quickly dropping to the small bundle of scarves in the proud brunette's hands.
"Genuine spider silk. Take your pick, miss!"
Sakura adjusted her messenger bag and looked over the three scarves, eyebrows furrowing after a moment before she looked up at the woman.
"How much are they apiece?"
The shop keep looked her over with calculating brown eyes, expression thoughtful before she smiled.
"Depends on what currency you're using."
"Human dollars? American."
The thoughtful look returned and she rubbed her chin as she looked up at the ceiling, humming under her breath. Sakura waited patiently, trying to figure out what would be a reasonable price in comparison, and now noticed that the woman's ears were long and pointed. After a few moments, she finally replied, reaching down to spread the scarves out a little more.
"I'll sell you one for $15." She shrugged, before eyeing her hair. "$5 if you trade me that ribbon as well."
Sakura resisted the urge to reach up and touch the black ribbon Hidan had tied her hair back with and, had he not given her that warning before they left, she might have considered the offer. With a friendly smile, she reached into her messenger bag and pulled out her wallet.
"$15 sounds good, thanks."
The woman didn't seem bothered and simply nodded, returning the smile before turning away for a moment as Sakura looked over the scarves again. She eventually settled on the one marbled with blue, black, and grey, stars dotting the fabric and a crescent moon embroidered onto one end. When she picked it up and moved the other two aside, her attention was caught by a shimmer below the glass top of the counter.
She blinked, eyebrow quirked as she peered down at the shelf of odd knickknacks and jewelry, and noticed what had caught her eye.
It was a lump of coral, she realized as she stared down at it, covered in iridescent barnacles and just small enough to fit in the palm of her hand. The rough exterior was aged and sun bleached to a light grey and she crouched in front of the counter to get a closer look, watching as the rainbow sheen of the barnacles glimmered under the light.
"Find something you like?"
Sakura quickly glanced up at the woman's question, cheeks flushing slightly in surprise at being caught, before she looked back at the coral. Biting her lip, she thought to herself – she could vaguely remember spotting coral on the list of IOUs but, even if she was just imagining that, there was no reason she couldn't buy something for herself. It was... oddly pretty. And it'd caught her eye, so, maybe, that meant something.
"How much for the coral?"
The brunette moved to open the back of the counter and took the lump in hand, turning it and looking it over as she straightened before glancing up at Sakura with a shrug.
"Ugly little thing – I think I found it when I went snorkeling a few years back. Do you have any new pennies? I'll give it to you for something shiny."
Blinking in surprise – that seemed like an odd trade – Sakura searched through her messenger bag for her coinpurse, setting the scarf back on the countertop. She managed to dig out about five brand new pennies and a quarter, all of the coins shiny and clean. Handing over the cash and loose change, Sakura waited for the brunette to pack up her purchases, humming under her breath.
Some pretty decent luck, despite losing Hidan.
"Thank you for your business and be sure to stop by again! The shop's a weaponry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays!"
Sakura offered a farewell in return as she headed towards the front of the shop, the lump of coral wrapped in tissue paper and resting on top of the scarf as both items sat in the plain brown gift bag in her hand. She was relieved to find that the street outside hadn't changed and, watching as snow began to fall, she continued down the road to search for either the remaining item or Hidan.
She'd only made it past about two more shops when she suddenly felt an arm wrap around her waist from behind and she was pulled into the air, her gasp of surprise quickly turning into an alarmed squeal as she was thrown over a broad shoulder.
"Finally fuckin' found you!"
Her shriek was cut off as she glanced over her shoulder, heart still racing, and found herself looking at the back of Hidan's familiar head, one of his horns pressed against the side of her hip and his arm holding down the back of her thighs.
"H-Hidan! Put me down!"
"Hell no." He turned his head slightly and shot her a frown, his lips pursed. "Do you have any idea how long I've been looking for you? Not taking any damn chances and risking losing you again, Sakura."
"This is ridiculous – I can walk, thank you – and it's only been-" Sakura cut herself off as she glanced up, alarmed to find that the sun was suspiciously low in the sky.
He noticed that her wide eyes had turned to the darkening sky and he gave a frustrated sigh, shifting her slightly when she suddenly shivered. It had grown much colder than when they had left that morning. Removing her from his shoulder and, instead, pressing her against his chest and carrying her in a bridal hold, Hidan traveled down the fairly empty street. Sakura shot a glance down at the white covered ground and her eyebrows furrowed as the snow deepened to shin height, deciding not to argue.
"...this place is weird." She hooked an arm around the back of his neck and huddled close, tugging up the collar of her coat to fight back the chill as she sighed.
Snorting, Hidan rolled his eyes and adjusted his grip on her before he replied, the annoyed tone slowly melting away.
"That's why I told you to stick close. Why'd you have to fuckin wander off like that?"
"I didn't wander off!" She shot him a frown, poking him in the chest as her eyes narrowed. "We got separated and you disappeared."
"You disappeared." Still, he let out a huff and glanced down at the bag in her lap, a silver eyebrow quirked and his gaze suspicious. "Find something?"
Nodding to herself, Sakura pulled the scarf partially out of the bag to show him before slipping it back in, relaxing in his arms.
"Got the scarf and a little something for myself – all of it paid for in cash, don't worry. Any luck with the gnome tears?"
Hidan grinned and shifted her body, holding her with one arm while he dropped his free hand to his coat pocket and pulled out a small, corked bottle, half-filled with clear liquid. Sakura smiled and let out a sigh of relief, resting her cheek on his shoulder and wrapping her other arm around his neck as well.
"Perfect. This went pretty well, all things considered."
With a hum and a satisfied smirk, the demon picked up his pace through the snow and glanced down at her.
"Looks like we're all set. Ready to get the fuck outta here?"
Sakura leaned up to press a quick, pleased kiss to his cheek, only fueling the smug look on his face, before replying.
It's two days later and Sakura is alone in her apartment, laying across the couch and waiting for Hidan to return with takeout. She held the coral from the goblin market carefully in her fingers, turning it this way and that and watching the light glint off the barnacles as she inspected the chunk. Absentmindedly prodding one of the lumps with a finger, she froze when she felt something shift under her hold, quickly sitting up and squinting down at the coral.
With a frown, Sakura nudged the barnacle again and let out a sigh when it popped free, shoulders slumping. It had looked like the barnacle had been fused to the coral, nearly petrified and all one solid piece, but she'd assumed wrong. Moving closer to the coffee table, she inspected the rest of the coral and began to meticulously test the grip of the other barnacles, eventually managing to pop them all off.
Her frown only deepened when she noticed the crack running down one side of the coral.
Overcome with curiosity now and urged into action, she picked at the crack for a few moments, digging her fingernails between it and her eyebrows raising when she managed to pry the coral apart. It was hollow inside, she realized, and most definitely not coral. Pealing the husk away, Sakura finally found herself holding a white needle, curiosity quickly melting into confusion as she stared down at the odd object resting on the crumbled casing.
It wasn't a particularly thin needle – about twice the width of a normal sewing needle - but still small enough to fit in her palm and wickedly sharp. It looked hand carved, sleek and shiny like polished ivory, with a small hole drilled into the thicker end and, with a start, Sakura realized it was a bone needle.
Plucking the larger chunks of the husk out of her palm, she cleared away the excess debris and finally brushed her fingers over the needle itself, just as the door to the apartment opened. Hidan entered, takeout in his grip, and eyed her hands with furrowed brows.
"What the hell is tha-?"
He didn't get to finish his question however, as the door slammed shut behind him and the temperature in the room dropped several degrees, their breaths visible with small clouds of frosted air, and Sakura jumped to her feet in surprise. Hidan dropped the food, his glamour instantly melting away, and hurried over to her side, quickly reaching for her as the lights began to flicker.
His hands were just a hairbreadth away from her own when she shrieked, the bone needle glowing as it burned white hot and suddenly lifted free from her fingers.
They both stared in shock at the floating needle before Sakura scrambled backwards as it turned to point at her, falling back onto the couch and shouting a curse when it dived at her. She felt something unseen grab her, holding her forearm in a tight grip, and found herself unable to move as her left hand was pulled out away from her, her wrist facing upwards.
A shimmering black thread suddenly materialized from the end of the needle, looping through the hole and trailing outwards, and Hidan realized what was happening moments before she did.
He let out a snarl, desperately trying to snatch the needle or the thread while Sakura let out a strained whimper, frozen to her spot on the couch by some force that she couldn't see. The bone needle easily dodged Hidan's hands and more black threads materialized in the air, shooting towards him and looping around his body. He quickly raised a hand to his face when a thread wrapped around his neck, his teeth bared as he was forced to stand still. Struggling only made the threads tighten, each slight movement followed by hiss as they bit deeper into his skin, but, with his arm caught between his throat and the threads, he wasn't in danger of being strangled.
Turning his gaze back to Sakura, his angry expression fell to one of horror as he watched the needle move closer to her exposed wrist, her terrified eyes wide and pinned to the sharp point of the bone. It happened quickly, but was far from painless, a scream caught in her throat as she managed to let out a high whimper.
Threads be damned, Hidan struggled violently and ignored the sharp bite of the unyielding black strings as they easily cut into his exposed skin, but he couldn't free himself fast enough.
It burned more than it stung, Sakura realized through her tears as the glowing needle pierced her skin in quick succession, threading a row of vertical, black stitches onto her wrist along some unseen horizontal line, inches down from Hidan's rune on her palm. There was only a small trickle of blood where the bone punctured her wrist, but Sakura's hand was shaking by the time it was finally finished, her breath escaping in short rasps. The ends of the black thread severed themselves and she had a moment to watch as the excess thread between the stitches disappeared and the black lines seem to absorb into her skin, melting down with a sharp burn before she realized that they looked more like tattoos now, etched onto her skin, rather than through it.
The needle dropped into her outstretched palm and she felt something close her hand around it.
With nothing holding her back anymore and finally able to move, Sakura practically threw the needle onto the coffee table, scrambling away from it and jumping to her feet as she reached for Hidan. She tore at the threads still wrapped around his limbs before they too began to melt away, his skin lined with thin cuts from where they had bit too deep. She clung to him, tears in her eyes despite there being no lingering pain in her wrist.
But it was far from over.
The pair didn't get a chance to speak, the lights suddenly cutting out completely, but he held her close, teeth bared and magenta eyes furious as he scanned the room. Something shifted near the floor and the room suddenly filled with shin-high black smoke, seeping up from between the floorboards. A red glow began to build mere feet away from them, spreading outwards into a large circle while the smoke swirled around the edges, clearing an open space.
They watched silently as the glowing red marks became clearer, forming a pair of perfect circles, one inside the other, and symbols sprung to life, one by one, around the inner ring. Sakura half expected a pentagram to appear but, instead, the glowing streaks drew an odd arrow-like rune onto her floorboards in the center of inner circle.
She could suddenly smell the tell-tale scent of scorched wood and she quickly realized that the strange markings were being burned into her floor.
The black smoke continued to roll around them and the living room was illuminated only by the red glow of the circle and its symbols. Sakura shot a quick glance up at Hidan, his expression enraged as his eyes jumped from marking to marking, and she quickly figured out that he could understand the runes. He wrapped an arm around her waist and moved her behind him as the red markings began to glow brighter and brighter, shimmering black threads rising and writhing from the circle, growing larger and thicker with every passing moment. The smoke around their legs converged inwards, collecting in the center of the circle and smothering the threads and Sakura swore she smelled blood.
There was a flash of blindingly bright white light and they turned away, letting out sounds of surprise as they shielded their eyes, before quickly looking back at the circle when the light faded away, staring at the plume of smoke that was quickly beginning to dissipate.
The lights of her apartment came back on and there was Kakuzu, standing in the center of the scorch marks.
Wearing nothing but a towel around his waist and his hair still dripping wet.
Sakura could very easily see the multitude of scars and stitch-marks littering his body now – she resisted the urge to glance down at the new, matching markings on her wrist - but she was surprised to note the large pair of twisting, ebony black horns jutting out from his forehead and the pair of thick black bands tattooed onto both of his forearms, those odd eyes of his confused as he looked around the room in shock. She moved out from behind Hidan slightly and his attention was instantly on the pair, staring hard at them for a moment before his gaze flickered to the coffee table.
Kakuzu's eyes landed on the bone needle laying innocently on the tabletop and his eyes widened, staring at it in disbelief. He suddenly looked back at Sakura and she nearly took a step back when she realized how unbelievably pissed he looked.
He raised a hand and pointed at the needle, glare vicious and fanged teeth bared.
"Where the hell did you find that?!"
notes: part two! now with 100% more kakuzu! probably the fasted update ill ever put out, purely because it was already written and waiting. i don't particularly plan on writing another part after this one, but if enough people really want one,,,,,,,,,,, we'll see
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