By Armina Skitty
A.N.: To alter a quote from AMV (dot) org, "Not another Naruto (fic)!" Yes, another Naruto fic, I can't help it, this idea has been around for a long time, and I don't write a fic unless the idea refuses to leave, hence this fic. I will note it here, that this fic came about after Grapic Novel book 30, chapter 269 of the scanalated manga. So, when, in six months from now, someone reads this and goes "that's not what happened/ that's not what their called/ that's not what they are!" I can say, "Well, duh, I created this before we knew any of that and I'm sticking with what I made!" And if you want to know what I'm talking about… Keep reading!
PS: Sasuke's going to sound a little over dramatic and broody here, but that's just how he is. Bear with it and keep reading, it gets better.
(One year after Uchiha Sasuke left Konoha for Orochimaru)
I've… really… fucked up… this time. Sasuke thought in pain. Naruto… Sakura… Kakashi… they were right. They were right. From nearly the first moment that Sasuke had entered Orochimaru's lair, everything that had been done to him had been designed to break him. Beaten, psychologically tortured and continuously run down; it was completely logical that Sasuke would become severely ill as well. After all, with all that had happened, he had become ill in mind from Orochimaru's betrayal of him, ill in heart from his own betrayal of his friends in Konoha, ill in soul from the knowledge of how all this could all have been prevented if he had just listened… how could he not be ill in body as well?
Sasuke let out a weak chuckle into the darkness of his small, solitary room where he'd been left. There was no one there to hear it after all; he was completely alone. Orochimaru was so pissed when I started to get sick all the time. Seems that the other person he wanted to use as a vessel got sick too. He seems to thinks that I got sick on purpose, just to inconvenience him. It was so hard to breathe… The bed he was laying on was thin and hard. His entire body throbbed in time with his pulse. I wonder if, when I sleep this time, will I wake up again? Or will I finally die? It hurts so bad…
It was easier to focus on his physical pain, the many injuries, the aching in his head, chest and bones from the illness that wouldn't leave. That way, he didn't have to think about all the wrongs he had done, and how he could never say 'I'm sorry' to the ones left back home. If I could have one last wish…it would be to let the others know… how very, very sorry I am. That they were completely right…, that I should have listened… Sakura… Kakashi… Naruto… I'm sorry…
"I'm sorry…" Consciousness drifted away into pain-filled darkness and Sasuke slept, finally.
An unknown amount of time later, Sasuke woke to the feel of a damp cloth cooling his fevered head. There was a quite sound of dripping water as the cloth was refreshed and then placed on his head again. Beyond it, there was a sound of trees, and birds singing. Sounds that don't belong at Orochimaru's lair. Where am I? Not dead… surely. If I was dead I wouldn't be hearing such kind sounds, and I'd probably be in worse pain, however hard that is to imagine.
Sasuke struggled to open his eyes and succeeded, only to close them again with a groan as the light lanced straight through them to the back of his skull. Ouch… stupid… ouch…
"Ah, you're awake. And you attempted to look at your surroundings, I take it?" a kind voice said near him. Sasuke hadn't seen much, but he had seen enough to know that he'd been in a room filled with light and open air, so different from his room at Orochimaru's…
"Yeah…" the young Nin was able to croak. He heard the sound of cloth moving against cloth, and the creak of wood, as if someone had just sat in a chair.
"Do you think you can sit up and drink a little?" The same kind, male voice said. Sasuke contemplated what the voice had requested with complete seriousness.
"Yeah" he answered, and then struggled to sit up. Strong hands stopped him, and then gently held him while the cushions he was laying on were rearranged. The hands then eased him back against the support of the cushions.
"Here," the voice said, "its broth." A bowl was held against Sasuke's lips and poured a little at a time, allowing him to drink easily. Sasuke couldn't help but contrast the kindness he was receiving from someone he didn't know at all to the coldness of the people who wanted to exploit him. Yes, he'd been tended to by Orochimaru's people, mostly Kabuto, when he was ill, but not like this. I wonder it that isn't the reason I never really got better?
The bowl was soon emptied, it hadn't held much to begin with, but Sasuke didn't think he could drink anymore, and said so when more was offered.
"Who… are you?"
"Ah, I probably should introduce myself to you, huh Sasuke? I'm called Nibiiro Mouko, and I have very little love for Orochimaru." The voice answered, growing far less kind and gentle when saying the Snake's name.
"Why am I helping you? Because I have no love for Orochimaru. I try and piss him off whenever I can, and taking what he values is a very good way to piss him off." Nibiiro answered. "And… because you deserve help, especially since part of you illness is my fault."
"The reason I hate Orochimaru is because I once worked with him. I am very skilled in creating new jutsus you see, especially curse-seal jutsus." he explained, "Orochimaru wanted a seal that released all of a persons potential power without that person having to struggle for it. So I created a seal that did that, but it was severely flawed." He paused a moment, then continued, "In spite of the flaws, Orochimaru decided to use it. He liked some of the flaws; that's where and why we parted company. I couldn't condone the use of something so dangerous and imperfect. The curse-seal eats away at the body as it releases power, and it warps the mind terribly."
"Warps- what do you mean?"
"The curse-seal causes the cursed to only be able to think negatively and makes him seek power obsessively." Nibiiro said. "It twists everything that is seen and experienced into something dark. If someone helps you, they're babying you and holding you back. Praise is turned into mockery, friendly competitiveness is a bitter fight for dominance. That sort of thing." Sasuke groaned in mental agony. That explained it! Not only had he turned against his friends, he'd been manipulated and tricked into doing it! That made it worse!
"Please understand," Nibiiro started again, "it is virtually impossible to fight this warping even if you know it's there, and completely impossible for anyone to detect unless they know what they're looking for. Believe me, I know, I tested it myself many times to try and isolate the flaws to remove them." The stranger sighed, "The reason you became so ill is that, even though your conscious mind was unaware of the negative influence, a part of you was aware and fought against it. Your body was rejecting the curse-seal's influence, something no one else has ever been able to do."
"And that… makes it better? That makes... the fact that I… nearly killed… my best friend… for no reason… okay!" Sasuke asked bitterly. There was a pause.
"'Nearly' you said. That means you didn't kill him, did you?"
"No… I could have… he was unconscious… at the end… but I walked away… and betrayed him."
"So he lives, and you can apologize and explain your reasons and maybe make amends and save your friendship." There was definite satisfaction in Nibiiro's voice as he said that.
"But! I can't-! I hurt him so much…"
"Because Orochimaru placed a curse on you that changed the chemical makeup in your mind so that all you could think about was the accumulation of power and how your friends were holding you back." Nibiiro stated firmly. "It wasn't your fault. If Orochimaru had left you alone, you'd still be in your village and we wouldn't be having this conversation. The fact that your soul fought against the curse strongly enough that you decided to spare your friend's life is a strong mark in your favor. If you were any less pure-hearted, you would have killed him."
"But I still may! The curse is-"
"That part of the curse is gone," Nibiiro said smugly, "I removed it."
"NA-NI!" Sasuke cried out loudly, then doubled over in an agonizing coughing spasm. Nibiiro grabbed him swiftly and held him until the spasm ceased, murmuring concern and encouragement the entire time. After the spasm eased he gave Sasuke some water, gently rubbed his chest to ease the pain, and placed the cloth back over his eyes.
"Are you okay?"
"…. My head hurts…"
"Let me make some willow tea, that should help."
"… You really… removed the curse?" Sasuke couldn't believe it. The curse that even Kakashi had been unable to even neutralize was removed? Gone? Because of this stranger who had no real reason to help him?
"The part of the curse that affects your mind, at least. I told you didn't I? That I made the curse?" Nibiiro said with a little conceit, "Orochimaru made weaker variations, but the two strongest, the Heaven seal and the Earth seal, were the two original variations that I made and tested. Because I made them, and understand them completely, I can remove them. If the curse had been more recently placed, or if it hadn't been in Second Stage, I would have been able to remove it completely. But, even though it's entrenched, I will be able to completely remove after a time." Sasuke's head was spinning, and not only from the illness.
"You…" he said in a dazed tone, "you're unbelievable."
"Yes, well, your tea's almost done"
"I still… I still don't… understand." Sasuke mumbled.
"Why you're… helping me… What's in it… for you?"
"Annoying Orochimaru, in part correcting a grave past mistake, the self-gratification that comes from helping someone in need without the expectation of being rewarded in return." Nibiiro explained, "That's basically it. I'm not going to pump you for return favors, or hold your debt to me over your head, it that's what you're wondering."
"A little… yes. Mostly… confused. Don't understand… why…"
"Because I want to. I owe allegiance to no individual or organization, save for one person who leaves me mostly to my own devices. Thus, I am free to do as I please, and I get bored. Taking care of you is something beneficial that I can do to fill my time."
"Ah, I see…" I think. Tired, confused, this guy is so confusing… I still don't get why…
"Does there need to be a why?" Nibiiro said suddenly.
"Eh?" Sasuke sat up, startled. How had this man known his thoughts?
"I don't read minds, but I can read faces and yours said 'I still don't understand' and just now said 'can he read minds?' I don't, but for someone like me, someone as open as you is like an unsealed scroll. Very easy to read."
"Good for you." Sasuke growled as he pulled the cloth that had slipped back over his eyes. He jerked a little as he felt a cup rim get placed against his lips.
"Here, the tea." Nibiiro had to help Sasuke drink again; whatever strength he had regained from the broth was gone due to all that had happened since then. "I think it be best if you slept now." He said when Sasuke had finished.
"Like I… got a choice…" Sasuke murmured as he felt lethargy weigh down his body, "There was... more than willow… in that tea… wasn't there?"
"Mm-hmm, standard practice for reluctant patients." Nibiiro said, unabashed. He grinned when Sasuke muttered some vague insults before drifting off into much-needed sleep. I think I like this kid. He has spirit and is a good person at heart. I do believe I've accomplished much more than annoying Orochimaru in rescuing this boy.
He picked up the cup and bowl, placed them in the washbasin and looked back at the bed holding the boy, Sasuke. Already the youth had much more color than he had had when Nibiiro had snuck him out of the labyrinthine lair two nights ago. Because of his ability to make new jutsus and seals, creating a silent spy seal was very easy, and he had placed such seals in many places in Orochimaru's lair, allowing him to know when something of value was accessible.
So when that 'something' was a deathly ill, rebellious boy, the temptation to make off with this boy had been far too much to resist. Especially since the loneliness had been getting to be too much to bear. Again. Well, I won't be lonely for awhile, this youth isn't going anywhere for a long time yet. With that thought in mind, Nibiiro set about making dinner for himself and the invalid with a light heart.
A.S.: Here's chapter one, a set-up chapter. I know that's it's ambiguous and vague, it's meant to be. The next chapters go into a lot more detail, so if you're even a little curious, indulge yourself and keep going! It only gets better from here-
A.S.: Hush you! I swear it gets bett-
Sasuke: No it doesn't.
A.S.: Oi! Just because you get humiliated doesn't make it a bad fic!
Sasuke: Yes it does!
Nibiiro: Actually, she has a point!
Sasuke: Oi, oi! Who's side are you on anyway?
A.S.: (sweardrop) A-heh… Do you really wanna miss out on more of this?