Chapter 8: Why They Call Me Maiden

Otome (Akara's clay bird) had reverted to a smaller form and jumped onto Deidara's shoulder, lying down and nuzzling in between his neck and shoulder. Being a creature of clay, she couldn't feel warmth or pain or cold, but could 'feel' his Chakra. It was explosive, like her Souzousha's, but something about his was more...comfortable.

Although she was not technically a live being, Otome was able to think and act for herself. Her Souzousha had told her she'd been created by accident - her Souzousha had breathed life into her when experimenting with a body-switching jutsu. er Souzousha didn't know exactly what happened, but Otome had been 'born' that day. Souzousha returned her to a scroll when the job was done, keeping her out of the way. This preserved her until Souzousha decided it was her time to explode - her time to die. Otome knew how life and death worked, but she often found herself questioning what would happen after she exploded. How did Souzousha's art work? She wasn't sure, and Souzousha would never give her much explination. One thing was a certainty, though: Souzousha was hesitant about forcing her to explode. But, just like Souzousha's other works, she aspired - no, longed - to explode. She didn't know why, but ever since she opened her eyes, her soul was begging to explode. That was her greatest dream - to explode like Souzousha 's other arts. But she had to wait, and so she eagerly did, faithfully helping her Souzousha until the time came.

Currently, in Deidara and Sasori's room, Otome sat in the middle of a round table they were sitting around. Deidara looked like he was about to collapse, and Sasori...Well, Sasori fascinated her. He was just like she was, only made of metal and wood. But he was still a fascinating creature.

There was petty conversation passing between the two Akatsuki. "Why hasn't it exploded yet?" Sasori asked Deidara. She had learned their names after listening to their conversation all night.

"I don't know, un." Deidara admitted, poking Otome in the ribs. She chirped objectively and batted his finger away with one of her wings. "I guess that Hikari fellow wasn't bragging about Akara."

"She'll be quite the match for Ita," Sasori observed. Who's Ita? Otome asked herself. She made a mental note to ask Souzousha later. "They're almost perfect opposites."

Deidara nodded and poked Otome's ribs again, only harder. Although she didn't feel pain, she reacted like she had by biting him. He pulled his finger back quickly and popped it into his mouth, sucking the blood away. "A very odd bird indeed, un." He concluded.

Dawn had risen by now. It was almost nine, but Souzousha and Hikari had yet to wake. Deidara had slept for a while last night, rising with the sun. Sasori, being a creation like she, had stayed yo with her, prodding her and pulling at her limbs, determined to find something. Several times, Otome wanted to take her human form and tell him off, but she knew she couldn't. Doing so could break the vow she had made with her Souzousha: "I'll never tell anyone of my human form unless you give the okay." That was exactly what she had told her Souzousha when they had first conversed. Through it, the bond between them grew stronger. Her Souzousha had nodded fondly and began her learning process. SHe had much to learn if she was to exist in the world.

Finally, though, she was saved from the two Akatsuki. There was a knock at their door, and Souzousha and Hikari entered, closing the door behind them. Otome jumped up and flew over to Souzousha, nuzzling in the area between her shoulder and neck. It felt so good to be with her again...

"Ohiyo Otome, Danna, Chichi!" Souzousha began cheerfully. She had always been a morning person. Otome quickly chirped into Souzousha's ear the events of last night and this morning. "Really? Why not just show them?" Otome chirped her loyal answer, and Souzousha smiled. "Go ahead and show them." Sasori and Deidara eagerly crowded around her again.

Otome jumped off Souzousha and onto the floor, assuming her bigger shape as she did so. Then, covering her face in her wings, she slowly assumed her human form. The changes were never quick, and if she was caught between stages, she'd look like some sort of half-bird half-girl creation. Eventually the change was complete and she stood, pulling at her limbs and sighing in content. "Okay, first of all," she spat at the Akatsuki, "my limbs don't come off, and, although I don't feel it, I don't like being poked!" She pointed to first Sasori, then Deidara accusingly. They looked like a pair of fish; wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

"It...morphed, un?" Deidara asked in disbelief.

"That's why Souzousha named me Otome! 'Maiden'!" She answered proudly.

"Weren't you looking into doing something like this, Deidara?" Sasori asked him. "Creating an independant art? Like this?"

"Un," Deidara answered, closely staring at Otome. She held his gaze. "How'd you accomplish this, Akara?" He asked, looking up to her.

"It was an accident, actually." Souzousha admitted. "Back in Iwa, while come 'friends' were supervising my training, I stumbled upon a few scrolls. They had nothing to do with creating live things - actually, they suggested making a second body and using it to move your soul, as a protection thing - so I decided to try it. I made the body and completed the jutsu. I did something wrong, though, and instead of trading bodies, my soul was split in half. She was animated, and it took me a month to regain my full strength."

While the three humans conversed, Otome found herself studying both Deidara and Sasori. Deidara was Souzousha's father - there was no doubt about thar. They were twins. Sasori was a work of art; his body was perfectly smooth, the joints perfectly rounded out. His eyes were a beautiful slate color, and - although his face never showed any emotion - the eyes did. After a minute, she took a step away from the group and looked down to the mouths on her hands and wondered why she was sculpted so perfeclty to her Souzousha. There had been adjustments made after her 'birth,' but other then that, she was a perfect copy of her Souzousha at the time - eleven. Her chest was flat, hair down (as she requested) and covering her left eye. Souzousha had etched a simple mesh-based outift onto her frame. The mouths on her hands were useless, but still moved of their own accord. She was very much like her Souzousha , visually. Her personality, however, was completely opposite. Otome was loud and boisterous, always speaking her mind. Souzousha, however, was bubbly and cheery. Their personalities never clashed, though, because neither cared for fights.

Souzousha called her. "Otome? Ready?"

"Hai!" She said excitedly, curious as to where they were going, why, and what the place would look like.

The five of them left, then, walking along the streets of Ame. She had collected this information whilst listening to Sasori and Deidara talk. There was no conversation going on, and Otome found herself bored and irritated with the silence. "Why's is so quiet?" She asked loudly, looking to Souzousha on her left and Deidara on her right. "You four were all chitter-chatter two minutes ago!" She added irritably, realizing there was still a heavy silence over them.

"What's there to talk about?" Hikari asked her, looking over to her a little.

Otome felt herself shrink at his voice - she always had. "Well, anything, I guess...Why not fill me in? What've I missed?"

"That," Hikari replied, his voice thick with irritation, "is none of your concern."

Otome was just about to snap a reply when Souzousha turned to her and said, "Otome, I need you to go find the rest of the Iwate and bring them back to the Akatsuki base."

"How will I find it?" She asked, gruffily accepting the mission, realizing she was being left out.

Souzousha nodded, and Otome turned to face Deidara and Sasori. Deidara pointed slightly to the left, and Otome followed his arm. "We'll be right there, un."

Otome's jaw dropped at the sight of the grand temple standing in the side of a very tall mountain. There was a waterfall gently cascading down its side and seemingly into the temple. It was built for a Kage; one that stood three stories high, with the pointed roof for each landing. It's colors, of course, were red and black. "Oh, well, I suppose it won't be too hard to find you again." Otome managed, amazed. "I'll be going, then." She broke into a run, jumped, and her form broke into four small birds that flew in a seperate direction.


(Akara)

She waited for Otome to be out of earshot, then turned to Hikari and hissed, "Don't you ever abhor my art like that again. Wakaru?"

Hikari looked down on her for a minute, a crease of dissaproval over his eyebrows. It was only there for a second, however, before he looked away. "Raja," he answered. "Gomenasai."

Akara caught up to him, and they continued on to the Akatsuki's temple, again without words. Hikari broke the silence with a question. "Why aren't you bothered? The Akatsuki, I mean." He looked over to the two Akatsuki expectantly.

"A long time ago, before either of you were born, our leader killed Amegakure's Kage and saved the people." Sasori explianed, "They've thought he was a god ever since." He said that last bit with a little sarcasm.

Akara's mind was a little more then blank. She didn't know what to think, didn't know what to say. What was there to say? If anything, it was about Ita and the battle to come. That was what was blocking her thoughts! Predicted scenes of the battle with her danna continued to rush over her, forcing a quiet hush throughout her mind. She couldn't think of anything else - it was as if Ita had already trapped her in a genjutsu.

Like blind people can cast genjutsu, Akara scolded her empty mind.

Hikari's voice ripped her out of her trance. "Why'd you send for the Iwate?"

He was looking at her, but she ignored him and continued to look straight ahead. "We have to represent ourselves, don't we? You and I can't be the only represenatives of a ten-man group. Besides, I might not ever seen them again. The Akatsuki need to if they want to connect with them without me." Even to herself, her voice was perfectly hollow; she was ready to die, right there.

"Why are you so ready to die during the battle? Who knows, maybe this Ita person will be an easy opponent."

Akara shook her head. "You don't know her. If I have no other choice, I will not hesitate." Firmness set her jaw in a hard line.

Hikari and her Father completely stopped for a moment whilst she and Sasori continued on. "But why?" Hikari pressed. "Why give up your life so readily?"

"You're so young, un." Her Father added as they both picked up their pace to return to Akara and Sasori.

Akara didn't answer as her legs brought her to where she wanted to go. Her eyes locked on the temple, and her mind blocked out all opression. Nothing could stop her now; not now, that she was so determined to go out with a bang. That's right, she thought, almost proudly, I've already decided how I'm going to die. Sorry Hikari, Chichi, but these may be the last few moments you'll ever remember of me. Her heart felt heavy with the thought of leaving this life, but she ignored it. She'd lived enough. She'd felt enough pain, enough joy, enough love. She didn't have a reason to exist anymore.

"Otome was acting the same way," Hikari pressed, keeping up with her. "Although she was better at hiding it." She ignored him.

"The clay in her, perhaps, un?" Her Father replied, on her left. "Our style of clay can't stay in existence for too long - kinda like getting stale, un."

"That explains why Otome was acting gloomy, too." Hikari observed. "She's two years old, and Akara clay-based her blood two years ago."

Exhasperated, Akara looked over to first Hikari, then her Father, and replied, "Actually, she's picking up on my emotion. Her soul is my soul. I'm so nervous for this battle I can't think of anything else - just blank. She's thinking the same way, but doesn't know why, which was why she was so eager to learn what we were up to. That's also why I sent her off - I don't want her knowing until we're fighting. When I get nervous to a certain extent, I shut down. Otherwise I could explode."

"Definitely a daughter of Deidara," Sasori added.

Hikari looked around as though disgusted, then, before Akara was aware of what was happening, his arms scooped her up and slung her over his shoulder so that her head, arms, and breasts were dragging behind him, and everything below at his front. "You're slowing us down," Hikari told her as he picked up his pace, followed by Sasori and her Father, who were happy to be able to walk faster.

Her senses flung back then, and anger welled within her. The need to retaliate was almost overwhelming. "Hikari, what are you doing? Let me go!" She pounded her fists onto his back, willing her eyes away from Sasori and her Father, who were directly behind Hikari.

When she realized Hikari wasn't going to respond to her demands whatsoever, new rage planted itself within her. "Hikari, I demand you to let me go, damnit!" She pounded his back again, flailing her legs a bit as well.

"It's not going to help," he disuadded her, "I've learned to ignore emotion and pain alike. I'm not letting you down, and that's final."

The anger welled in her throat, causing an angry shreik. "Damnit, Hikari, lemme go! I can walk just fine!" She continued to pound at his back. "As leader of the Iwate, I demand you to - "

"I wouldn't go parading around my identity so loud." Hikari advised, and she responded with a growl, deep within her throat. "Just give it up. I'm not letting you down until we reach the place."

"If I wanted to be bitchy, I could use a jutsu. I've got tons of 'em."

"And I've seen all of them in action."

"Not all." She disagreed with a shake of her head, but refused to elaborate. "How long?" She asked warily, looking up and over to Sasori.

"It's on the other side of the village, and we're in no hurry, so I'd say by dusk." Sasori answered, knowing she had asked him.

Akara dropped her head warily. It was only noon, no later, she guesed. Using his shoulder blade to hold her left hand up, she cradled her face in that hand and studied the ground they had covered. At least she got a free ride. Hikair would tire soon enough, she knew, and he would let her down eventually, unable to support the extra weight. All she had to do was wait.

The hours continued to pass, and the sun continued to move across the sky. By now, Akara had lost all hope and want to be free, and had let her head and arms dangle freely. She had slept for maybe an hour, and after that found that she couldn't fely on the warm, inviting arms of sleep to pass the time. Utterly bored, she collected some clay from her Father and rolled it in her hands, mind perfectly blank. She had given up on even that, returning the clay, and let her arms and head dangle again.

"Are we there yet?" She asked warily, suddenly animated again. She used Hikari's should to support herself as she looked forward.

"Almost," Sasori answered. He wasn't lying; she could hear the thunderous waterfall as though she stood before it. Satisfyed, Akara allowed herself to look away from the temple and fall limp again.

"Hikari?" Akara called softly.

"Hn?"

"Can you tell me a story?" Something was begging for a work of fiction - for an escape from this world.

"I don't know any stories."

"Not even one?" Her heart sank.

Hikari was silent for a long while. "I do know one, actually. Would you like to hear it?"

"Onegai."

"It was predicted that two enemies would meet one another on the terms of fate. Male and female. The boy grew up wealthy and spoiled, and with an unmatched artistic skill. Said skill would lead to the death - or inmprisonment - of his mother. Impoverished, the boy would run from a vengeful father, meeting hardships and dangers he could never have imagined in his perfect, wealthy life.

"The boy would be condemned to the streets for two years, before he met his savior. She was predicted to be from another lanf, with slightly wavy, blonde hair and pastel-green eyes. Her hair was to be tied back, part covering her left eye. She was to be two years his inferior, but would offer a home after a strenuous battle for both sides. The boy would refuse the first offer, but the girl would come back and offer again. Something about his hazel hair and ocean eyes would fascinate her, and she would not be able to forget about him. He wouldn't forget, either, but kept her locked away.

"When she returned, the boy would warily agree to travel with her. She would take him away from his homeland and introduce him to hers, along with eight followers. He would join her and, accepted, travel and blossom in her example.

"Two messengers would come to bring the girl to her past, and of course, they boy will follow. He would follow her anywhere.

"In a horrible show of strength between the girl and an old friend, the girl, a sculpter, would kill herself in final attempts to prove her art worthy of attention. She would leave happily, though, because she would die with a bang, just like her art. Soon after, the boy would follow, desperate to see his savior again. He had to find his light, for without it, he'd be just another rock in the mountain. And her, without him, was just another leaf in the wind."

The story had chilled Akara, but she knew it was just a bad one Hikari had created to scare her. "Hmph. You're not a very good storyteller, Hikari." She chided, folding her arms.

"Actually, that was a prophecy predicted by my grandfather on his deathbed. He told my father, who told me."

"That's just rubbish," Akara stobbornly tired to convince herself. "Besides, I can't suicide-bomb." She bit her lower lip and looked her Father dead in the eyes.

"It's been a hundred percent correct up 'tll now." Hikari observed, "Even about Sasori and Deidara and which Villages we'd originate from. Even the number of members of the Iwate."

"Yeah, well...," she began, but lost her voice.

A heavy silence fell on the four of them, completely smothering Akara. The 'prophecy' had actually chilled her to the bone, but she couldn't let Hikari know that. Also, the prophecy was correct. She was able to suicide-bomb; it was her trump card, her last resort. Of course it's a last resort, she thought, it kills me in the process.

FInally, as the sun was setting, they made it to the temple. Sasori and her Father stepped forward, and Sasori did the honor. He knocked out a rythem on the door; knock, two pauses, five knocks, one pause, three. Hikari finally let Akara down. She quickly fixed her slothes, just in time to see the door open.

Behind the door stood an exhausted-looking Ita, holding a baby that couldn't be older then sixteen months in one arm, and gripping another child's hand in the other, whom was standing independently, sucking her thumb. Ita herself had blossomed into a beautiful flower indded; she had let her pink hair grow to shoulder length, was at least five foot four, and had to have filled d-cups. Her hips were perfectly proportioned to her breasts - her measurements had to have been somewhere around perfect. Her face was cherubis in itself - she had porcelain skin, which was clear as day, a small nose, and delicate eyebrows that seemed to have been painted on. Her mouth was bordered by medium-sized, pink lips and her chin was perfectly proportioned to the rest of her face. The wind blew, and with a simple toss of her head, Ita was able to move the hair to a more preferable position. Her nose still harbored the stud that had been with her ever since Akara had known her - it seemed to gleam in the sunlight and only added to her beauty.

"Deidara!" Her voice was a stab through Akara's heart - it was innocent in all aspects, but seemed to be hiding something. Although it was full of joy, and sounded something like music, there was a little bit of...nervousness about it. Akara couldn't exactly place it. "Sasori's with you, I assume?" Her voice sounded much like her mother's, but had a more determined twinge to it. Pearly white teeth hid behind those luscious lips of hers.

Sasori nodded. "I'm here."

Ita nodded. "And...Akara." Akara's heart stopped. Danna remembers my Chakra! She thought happily. "It's good to 'see' you again." She smiled at the irony of her own sentence. Her smile was perfect - as though a god had created her for his leisurely uses - and only softened the intensity of her beauty. Although she kept her eyes closed, Akara knew she was really happy, and not pretending.

Say something! Her conscious shouted at her. Let her know how happy you are! "It's good to see you again, too, danna." She managed. Her voice faltered with anxiety, and a little bit of jealousy; it cracked at the 'danna.' Heart racing, Akara cleared her throat.

"Nervous," Ita noted. It wasn't a question. A child's voice, no older than eight, called from inside. Ita looked over her shoulder briefly, listening. With a heavy sigh, she turned back to them and ushered them inside. "Who're you?" Ita asked bluntly, letting go of the walking toddler and pointing at Hikari.

"Name's Light," he told her, as he told everyone.

"Hn. And why are you here?"

"What is this, twenty questions?"

"Precisely."

Yup, Akara thought, these two will absolutely love one another. Something told her they wouldn't exactly be the best of friends. "He's with me," Akara nervously interjected, lying a hand on their shoulders. She forced a chuckle at the look of dissaproval on Ita's face. "Don't worry, it's cool."

"That's what worries me." Ita's face darkened, and she speed up and turned the corner, leaving them. "I'll be right back," her voice echoed down the corridor.

Now that Ita was gone, Akara was able to breathe and look around at her surroundings. This base was very well-furnished; the room they were in contained an over-sized table - big enough to fit the members of the Akatsuki comfortably. The walls, ceiling, and floor were decorated the same, with teal blue panels connected by mahogany planks. The room they inhabited gave way to seven corridors, which lead further into the mountain on which the temple stood. Akara vaguely wondered why she couldn't hear the waterfall, but found she wasn't really interested in that.

Sasori and her Father sat at the table, which was rectangular like the old one, on the left side. Akara Hikari followed, sitting across from them on the right. Hikari flipped open his sketchbook and began a new drawing. "That was Ita, wasn't it?" He seemed irritated - even his sketching technique was blistered over with frustration.

"Hai." Akara held her head in her right hand, not wanting to ignite an inevitable flame.

"What's her problem?"

"She's just shy - she's never been one for new people. She'll warm up to you eventually, though."

"She sounded jealous."

"Of what? She's got no reason to be."

"Remember? You told her me and you were cool, and she said that's what worried her. I don't get it."

"Hmm, me neither. She probably expected me to come alone - I guess she wanted more of an oppertunity to speak to me." Even to herself, none of the reasoning she had come up with were very solid.

Ita returned then, followed by a boy Akara had recognized to be Mishu, the toddler whose hand she was holding when she answered the door, and twins. The baby she had been holding was gone - Akara guessed Ita had settled it down for a nap. Upon taking a closer look, Akara realized how doll-like all the Uchihas looked - Mishu, now somewhere around eight, had the same porcelain skin and doleful onyx eyes as his father. The twins had Sakura's evergreen color, only, they were much wider and full of curiosity. Both were male. One had Sasuke's rough hair, and the other Itachi's smooth raven style. Both shades and variations of black only made their emerald eyes seem darker and more captivating. The last, the first Akara saw with Ita at the door, had long pink hair - that was almost a straight as Deidara's - and large onyx eyes that grasped everything in their depth. She continued to suck her thumb, although Ita had commented about it. Her skin was just as clear as her siblings'

Akara looked back to Ita, studying her outfit. She wore nothing that gave away her identity; neither the Uchiha or Akatsuki embelm was anywhere. Instead, she wore a simple, black kimino that fit her form tightly. The bands of the kimino were red, giving the slightest mention of the Akatsuki. The was a visible fishnet covering her chest where the kimino opened in a v-shape. Other then that, her outfit was blank. But of course, Akara told herself, Why would she wear anything better when she can't see it?

"Akara," Ita began, "The twins are Neko and Hikomaru. The baby's a girl and she's Sasaki, the toddler's Chiyuki, and the boy's Mishu. Remember him?"

"Of course I do. He's so much like your father..." Akara studied Mishu in interest. "Do you remember me, Mishu?"

He was shy. He held his hands behind his back, feet apart a little. "No." Such a cute little voice! It was a little crackly, but in a good way. Maybe a little nazely, too, but still adorable.

"That's okay - last time I saw you, you were two."

Hikari mumbled something like, "Porcelain skin..." and Akara had to resist an intense urge to elbow him in the ribs. He was still sketching...

The five Uchihas took a seat, beside Sasori and her Father. They stared at Hikari and Akara as though they were from another world. Neko's eyes were wide with curiosity, along with Mishu's and Chiyuki's. But Hikomaru, the twin with the long hair and lines from the tear ducts to the cheeks, like the eldest Uchiha, was quiet and impassive. His emerald eyes scruitinized the both of them with a cold intensity, making Akara feel she was being washed over with ice water. What intense eyes, Akara thought, not shying from his gaze.

"What's that you're drawing, mister?" Neko asked, looking over at Hikari. Raw curiosity sparkled through his emerald eyes.

Hikari looked over his sketchbook and to the curious Uchiha. His ocean eyes were sharp with intent to capture whatever image he had conjured up. "A picture of Akara and Ita, when they were little." He looked back to his sketchbook, not expecting further questioning.

"You know nee-chan?"

"No. I'm guessing what they looked like based on what they look like now."

"Why?" Ita asked, her tone skeptical. "Eventually, the drawings will fade or be destroyed. Why cherish them? Your Chakra says you do."

The air around Hikari tightened with anger, and Akara stood, beginning, "Okay! Danna, wanna show me around? What happened to the waterfall? C'mon, let's go this way!" She pulled Ita to her feet and through the closest doorway.

"Please, Danna, don't criticize Hikari's art. He hates that, and I don't know how I'd be able to deal with you two - the most important people of my life - hating each other, especially if it's over me."

Ita opened her eyes and gruffed, "I don't like the feel of his Chakra." She folded her arms and leaned against the nearest wall.

"Why?"

"It's different; I've never felt anything like it before - it's so irregular...He's obviously not what he looks like."

"Danna, Hikari's a good man. I've known him for two years - I know he wouldn't be that way."

"I still don't trust him." Ita said defiantly. "I'm sorry, but something's not right. Maybe it's just because he's the first person I've ever met in a long time - I don't know. I'm sorry, but I can't trust him. I can't trust new people."

"What happened to you?" Akara whispered, trying and failing to resist the urge to move closer. Her arm twitched upwards towards Ita. "You used to hate being alone - to need the company of others. Why are you so nervous about him?" Ita didn't answer, so she continued, "You used to need the Chakra of others to see, but now, you're a lonester. What happened?"

Ita's face slowly turning red. She looked away from Akara's gaze and whispered, "After you left, I shut myself from the world. I convinced myself that I didn't need anyone, that I could live for myself. I only made friends with Deidara - I don't know why. As my training continued on and I grew older, I grew colder. I love my parents and siblings, but even they are painfully distant. I keep them away so that there's no pain. I was completely alone in this world, and perfectly fine with it. But now that you've shown up, I don't know what to think...You're making me see myself, and it's painful."

"Gomenasai, Danna." Akara said as she wrapped her arms around Ita. "Would you still like to be my shinyuu?" She whispered.

"I've never stopped thinking of myself as that." Ita whispered back. "Arigato."


Note:

Nee-chan: Older sister

Gomenasai: I'm very sorry

Onegai: Please

Otome: Maiden

Souzousha: Creator

Raja: Rodger (As in, yes)

Wakaru: Understand