Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or its characters.
Summary: Who is Sai? Artist, ANBU, brother, replacement, or traitor? Uchiha Sasuke is about to find out as they fight under Orochimaru's approving gaze. Coda for Chapter 300.
A/N: This fic contains spoilers up to and starts right after chapter 300 of the manga. Of course, by the time chapter 301 appears this story will be AU, but for now, sit back and enjoy!
"You're late," said a voice in the darkness of Orochimaru's hideout. Only candles that served as eyes for a gigantic statue of a snake, revealed the shadowy figure of the room's only occupant. "Orochimaru…didn't you say that this afternoon you'd teacher a new jutsu?"
"Quit talking like that," said Kabuto in an irritated tone.
"Take it easy," Orochimaru told the shadowy figure in an amusing tone while ignoring the figure's disrespect. "I happened to pick you up a little present today. He's originally from the Leaf Village, like you. I figured you two could reminisce about your old home."
The figure's eyes changed and suddenly even in the darkness, his eyes revealed their red color and three commas arranged around each pupil, the infamous and nearly extinct bloodline of the Hidden Village of the Leaf…the Sharingan.
Sai watched the figure stand up from under the statue and step out into the eerie candlelight. Sasuke's black clothes that covered him from head to toe only hid him further in the darkness that surrounded him, but his red eyes stared at Sai with intensity. Sai met his gaze, but with no fear, no awe, and no hate. He only analyzed Sasuke as Sasuke was without a doubt analyzing him back.
Kabuto's voice broke their silence as he adjusted his glasses. "Sai-kun, I hadn't realized it until now, but you resemble our Sasuke-kun a lot. Your face and your voice…you two look so much alike that you could be brothers."
"No," said Sasuke with a cold confidence. "The only brother I have is Itachi and that will be a blood relation that will won't exist for much longer."
Sai gave Sasuke best cheerful, yet fake smile, "And my brother certainly isn't a traitorous weakling who only thinks about power."
Sasuke frowned, but before anyone could see his displeasure at Sai's words, he moved in a blur until he was right next to Sai and swung his leg up into a kick.
His booted foot didn't strike soft flesh, but a baton that Sai suddenly had in his hand.
"Nice reflexes," he smirked. A small part of him was pleased that he had an opponent that wasn't rolling on the ground clutching his stomach in breathless pain. He was tired of weaklings who couldn't come close to his skill. How would he reach Itachi's level like this?
Sai's fake smile never left his face, "I wonder if you have a bigger penis than Naruto?"
Sasuke blinked in surprise over the odd comment, but he focused his attention on a name that he hadn't heard spoken in years. Naruto…
"What do you know of him?"
Orochimaru answered for Sai, "We met Naruto-kun on the bridge instead of Sasori. The Kyuubi kid amused me to no end. Sai-kun is…or rather was…Naruto's teammate."
Sasuke backed away from Sai for a moment with many unspoken questions on his mind, but he knew better to ask them. Not to Orochimaru at least.
Instead, he smirked as he looked Sai over again, seeing the resemblance that Kabuto saw. Sai's black eyes and black hair and there was some about the shape of his face. "No wonder…did Naruto give up so quickly to rescue me once had a look-alike to replace me?"
Sai's fake smile finally disappeared as he watched Sasuke with an emotionless gaze, but his eyes were searching for something. "No. I was assigned to Team Kakashi by Danzou-sama. Naruto and Sakura don't like me much. I don't understand it, but Naruto sees you as his brother and Sakura punched me for calling you a worthless fool."
Sasuke snarled at the insult, but barely hid the amusement of hearing about the actions of his former teammates. He turned to Orochimaru, "Why is this guy here?"
"Sai-kun is a subordinate of an old war hawk from Sarutobi-sensei's time. I'm surprised Danzou is still alive, but he could be a useful ally. Sai will remain with us as my link to Danzou. Therefore, he is now my subordinate. When he is not acting as a link, he will assist Kabuto in the experiments and act as your practice partner. Of course, it goes without saying, but…do not kill him!"
"This guy…is nothing more than a replacement, a look-alike. How is he supposed to be a challenge to me!" Sasuke charged forward in a blur again, but this time he knocked the baton out of the hand of a surprised Sai.
Yet, before the baton even had time to fall and clatter on the floor, Sai quickly jumped away backwards and pulled out his scroll and brush. The ink flowed across the paper with breathtaking speed and finally the ink leapt out into the shape of three tigers.
The three ink tigers burst to life as they went from mere two-dimensional drawings to real three-dimensional animals made of ink, but they were far from harmless.
Everyone else in the room acted in surprise over the unique jutsu, but Sasuke didn't hesitate as he formed the hand seals he knew by heart. He took a deep breath, and released it with his fingers directing the flow of huge flames that exited his mouth and enveloped the ink tigers in a fireball before they reached him. They shriveled and fell motionless on the ground until they were nothing but pealing dark flakes.
Once the flow of fire stopped, he took another deep breath, but instead of another fireball, several impossibly long green-scaled snakes burst from his mouth with their poisonous fangs open and ready as they slithered toward Sai with lightning speed.
However, Sai's brush was quicker as just as many snakes, made of ink, burst from his scroll and attacked the shadow snakes, intertwining in a writhing knot of snake versus snake.
Orochimaru laughed evilly, "How amusing…this kid is very interesting."
Sasuke bristled at the comment from his master, but kept his eyes on Sai.
"You have quite a mouth on you," said Sasuke. "You call me worthless and a fool, but what do you think you are doing here? Aren't you betraying the Leaf."
"I am not a traitor. I am following the orders of Danzou-sama, the custodian of our village's future. He has entrusted me with his goals in order to support the great tree of Konoha, unseen from the ground. You however, ran off and betrayed Konoha for power."
"No," said Sasuke with dead seriousness. "You don't understand at all."
"I understand that you blamed others for your own minimal amount of skill and injured the one who called you friend. What I don't understand is how that person cares for you so much to do anything to save you?"
Sasuke smiled. Despite where he was, it was something that he understood.
"Shut the hell up. What the hell do you know about bonds?" he asked as his Sharingan stared deeper at Sai. "Your face…not a single emotion. Not single muscle pull or twitch in your face or body language. No one can hide their emotion that good, no one with emotions that is. You don't know a single thing about our suffering because of our bonds or the lengths we go through for our first bonds!"
Sai backed away from Sasuke's intense gaze and drew a giant bird that flew out into the air and prepared its talons to strike at his opponent.
Sasuke barely paid the ink bird any attention as he formed a set of hand seals and released a powerful blast of wind all around him. It carried the ink bird away from him and into the hideout's ceiling, causing its ink to splatter down like rain.
"And you don't know a single thing about when they are broken!"
Sai reached up and felt droplets of ink that had hit his cheek. It was darker than blood, but not as mysterious as tears.
His eyes must have been broken. Surely they were broken to have leaked like this and while he still didn't feel a single thing. At least he shouldn't have…
He wiped the moisture from his eyes onto his hands and he dried his hands across his ANBU flak jacket. Yet, his eyes never moved off the body of the white-haired young man about the same age as him, but the young man wouldn't be growing older any longer with an ANBU sword sticking out from the his bare midriff.
"In Root, you have no name, you have no feelings," he told himself even if the words felt hollow. "You have no past, you have no future, what you have is your mission."
Mission complete, but there was one more thing left to do.
He bent down and picked up the other's backpack. He shifted through the objects, brushes, ink, and scrolls, but he searched for one object in particular, a book with a picture of a white haired boy on one side and a black haired boy on the other.
He found it and carefully held it so that he wouldn't smudge it with fingers still dirty from the life and death combat. His fingers gently flipped through the book until he found the middle and a picture of him, faceless, in an ANBU flak jacket, but the other page was blank and could never be finished. Not by him or the dead young man.
"In Root, you have no identity, but the one the mission gives you."
He placed the book aside and began to pull off the young man's gloves, then the pants, and finally the shirt. He gathered the brushes, ink, and scrolls, the only weapons the other had, and discarded his sword and his own cloths, keeping only his Root baton.
Where he had come didn't matter. Not even his childhood.
After pulling on the other's clothes and placing everything in his back, including the book, he stood up, looking like a copy of the young man that he once called brother.
All he heard were the chirping birds sitting high among the trees of the Leaf.
All he heard was the chirping like birds from chakra visibly gathered in Sasuke's hand.
"Sasuke-kun," warned Orochimaru. "Don't kill him."
"I won't hit a vital spot and Kabuto can heal him before he dies."
Sai checked the ink container and found it was empty. He had already used too much of it during the day, most of it sitting in dark puddles around the room.
Sasuke stared him down; "I'm not a traitor. I am an avenger! Once I was able to look into eyes like mine, the eyes of my mother, father, and brother, and I knew the security of family, but the next time I look into my brother's eyes, it will be to kill him!"
Is this the expression that I should have used when I killed my brother?
Sasuke charged with the light of the Chidori becoming blinding as it filled the dark room, with his Sharingan eyes locked on everything that Sai did, copying and predicting every movement. With chakra sent to his feet to move even faster, to fast to be dodge even if his Sai was free to move, as if the Chidori had become a white-hot dagger locked on its target.
All Sai could do was watch him with black eyes that looked defiantly at Sasuke.
Sasuke cancelled the Chidori before it hit and let his hand harmlessly jab Sai in the shoulder with his open palm. Sai blinked in surprise as Sasuke stood next to him.
"You were scared," smiled Sasuke as he watched Sai.
"I-I wasn't," he denied, surprised by Sasuke's change of attitude. "I don't have feelings. I don't have emotions. I wasn't scared."
"Liar," said Sasuke, as he looked one more time at Sai before deactivating his Sharingan, letting his eyes return to their normal black color, the same color as Sai's. "I could see the tension in your face. You were scared."
Orochimaru walked toward them both with an amused smile on his lips, "If you two are through, practice is over for today. Kabuto's trick should have gotten rid of any annoying mice, but we should be prudent and prepare to leave. Sai, you can help me and Kabuto disassemble the equipment."
Sai silently followed Orochimaru and Kabuto out of the room, leaving Sasuke alone in the darkness with the memory of Sai's dark eyes. For a moment while racing toward Sai he looked into that stranger's eyes, but felt as if he were looking into familiar eyes like his own...and like a brother's.Fin
Author's Note: I am a big supporter that Sai is either a lost Uchiha or the result of genetic experimentation like Yamato. However, for this story I felt Sai using Sharingan was too Mary Sue. Kishimoto might be able to get away with it, but I'm not going to try…yet. So I stuck with the "like a brother" connection that Sai and Sasuke might have and let the conversation devolve into a little brother/big brother fight.
1.1: Fixed some wording due to my mind going faster than my fingers.