Aaaaaaaargh… I hate my Internet connection… If I post this, you'll know that somehow I managed to get my dad to fix it, but until then, I've gotta type. The Internet comes and goes, so I can't use or deviantART. Bleh… I'm sorry that I took so long to update… I got a beta!!! Thanks to BlueLily27 (who, by the way, is Bulgarian…)!!!!!
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. But Gandalf totally owns Dumbledore. With a "p". After all, he came back from the dead.
- - -
Sai did not normally listen to stories; words were too troublesome and too easily misunderstood, and besides, he was more of a picture person.
But today was a festival day, with pinks and purples swirling around on the wind – even the oldest, sternest men were laughing like schoolchildren – and when an aging storyteller offered a tale, it took only one quick look at her lined face to convince him to slip into her tent, which smelled faintly of lavender and looked almost as old as the woman herself.
She showed him to a thick cushion on the ground and perched herself on a purple chair above him, but before she could do more than open her mouth to show four missing teeth, the door flap was pushed aside and two black-haired young women dressed entirely in black and red stepped inside.
One of them, slightly taller than her companion, tilted her head and fixed the old storyteller with a level stare. If the older woman was unnerved by the other's cold red eyes, she didn't show it. Sai reached for his sketchbook and pencil, entranced by the woman's frosty beauty.
"We have heard that you are telling vampire stories?" the young woman asked in a smooth, unusually deep voice.
"Only one," the storyteller corrected her slowly. "You would be most welcome to stay and listen."
The black-haired woman nodded, dropped two coins in the storyteller's palm, and gracefully sat, cross-legged, on the cushion next to Sai. The other young woman inclined her head politely at him before sitting on his other side.
The old woman accepted the coins with a silent nod, leaned forward in her chair, arranging her silk shawl around her body carefully, and began her tale.
- - -
She had been born from an unknown womb and cast out onto the streets before she could fully walk. She had no home, no mother, and no name.
It all changed when she was found. She was given a home when an older woman and her apprentice took her in; she was given a mother when the woman held her for the first time; and she was given a name when the apprentice noticed that she had none.
Tsunade was the name of the woman, and Sakura was the name she gave to the girl, because the petals of a cherry blossom were the first things she thought of when she looked at the girl's bright pink hair.
She and her apprentice, Shizune, raised Sakura s the daughter neither of them had ever had, and quickly she became a third member of their small family.
Tsunade was a healer, selling medicine made from the herbs that she grew in the sunniest part of the small flat above the store. Sakura grew up surrounded by the smells of the herbs, and when she was about eight years old, Tsunade set her to work learning the names and locations of specific herbs in the store.
A year later, Sakura was taught the properties of each herb, which she learned more quickly than Tsunade had expected. By the time she was twelve, she had memorized the name, locations, and properties of every single plant in the store. It took her only a year to learn most of the combinations that could be made using those herbs – healing and deadly alike.
When she was almost fourteen, she remembered the stories that Tsunade had told her as a child about vampires, and though she felt a bit foolish, created a powder that, according to what Tsunade had told her about them (and that was quite a lot), should be able to irritate a vampire's skin for long enough to let her escape.
Upon showing it to Shizune, who had watched her curiously as she made it, she was told to keep it with her at all times.
"Keep it by your side always," Shizune instructed, carefully pouring the powder into a small pouch. Sakura recognized the scent of the cloth from which it was made; she had helped prepare the herbs in which the beige cotton had been soaked and so knew that it was costly material. Shizune showed her how to attach it to her waist and repeated her instructions.
Sakura nodded and bowed, only to jerk upward again when Tsunade called from downstairs. As she did, the pouch fell open and a tiny amount of powder fell onto Shizune's hand. Snatching her hand back, the dark-haired woman rubbed it furiously on her clothes, breathing through clenched teeth.
When Sakura hurried forward to apologize, Shizune only gave her a strained smile and waved her away, saying, "The catch must not work. Give it to me and I'll fix it."
"No, thank you," Sakura declined politely. "I can do it myself." She noted Shizune's barely audible breath of relief and the way her shoulders relaxed, but said nothing. She clipped the pouch onto her waist and skipped away to aid Tsunade.
"You called?" she asked as she made her way down the stairs to where her foster mother seemed to be battling with… a door?
"Stupid door!" Tsunade shouted, dealing it an enraged blow. With the abnormal strength that Sakura had come to associate with her foster mother, she left a fist-shaped dent in the door – and a fold in the metal that ran vertically all the way from the top to the bottom.
"Shishou…?" Sakura asked weakly, staring at the battered door. Tsunade jumped at the sound of her voice, whirling around guiltily.
"Shizune, I swear it attacked me – oh, Sakura. It's you." She smiled sheepishly, relieved that she had not been caught. "I was going to ask you to help me open the door, but that's not necessary any more…" She gestured to the swinging door. "I just hope it will close…"
"Where are you going?" Sakura asked, raising an eyebrow at the excuse Tsunade had begun to give her. "The door attacked you?"
"Yes, well…" Tsunade coughed into her fist discreetly and changed the subject. "I'm going out for a bit – full moon and all – " She muttered something that Sakura couldn't catch before straightening up. "Tell Shizune I'll be back, and make sure you keep the door closed."
"Hai! I'm sure you want to be gone before Shizune-neechan comes down, ne?" Sakura nodded as Tsunade winced and shut the (thankfully still working) door after she had left. Feeling a bit lethargic, as it was getting dark outside, she decided to do something domestic. Dragging herself to the small cabinet that held the fabric supplies, she selected a needle and thread before forcing herself over near the door to sit on the floor.
Shizune came down, looking entirely too energetic for Sakura's taste; she was fairly bouncing. "Where did Tsunade-sama go?" she inquired, looking around quizzically. Catching sight of the door, her brow furrowed.
"She went out," Sakura explained quietly as she sewed the first stitch. "Something about the full moon – she'll be back soon." Shizune nodded in some secret understanding and threw one last, exasperated glance at the door before whisking away up the stairs.
From her spot on the ground, Sakura could see the shining full moon, clearly outshining the sprinkle of stars joining it in the inky black sky. Tsunade and Shizune had always had a certain infatuation with the moon – especially the full moon. And the only times she'd ever seen them exhausted were on the nights when there was little or no moon.
Her thread snapped. As she swore under her breath and reached for the clasp, which had fallen off, a shadow caused her to look up. By the time her gaze had returned, searching, to the ground, the small metal object had disappeared under the door through the crack Tsunade had made.
Without needing to rifle through the things in the cabinet, Sakura knew that there were no more clasps left. There was only one solution: she would have to retrieve the clasp herself.
She took a deep breath, steeled herself, and slipped outside. Shadows loomed ominously above her, dark and foreboding, taunting her with the unknown which resided in them. Sakura shivered as the darkness pressed in around her.
Spotting the tiny clasp, she quickly snatched it up and turned to go back when a smooth, pale hand clamped itself over her mouth and an arm pressed her backwards into a hard chest, pinning her own arms at her sides.
"You're out quite late for a young lady, love," a deep, silky voice whispered slowly, warm breath fanning her ear. "It would be a pity for a pretty thing like you to be attacked…"
Lips colder than ice descended upon her neck, raising goose bumps on her flesh as they traveled down to where her neck met her shoulder. They hovered above her jugular vein; her hand stole down to the pouch at her side.
Then something prompted her to move; she jerked away, spun, and threw a fistful of powder into the vampire's face. There was no mistaking what he was as he clawed at his face, hissing in pain.
She stumble toward the store, screaming, "SHIZUNE!!" Then the vampire had a shaking hand clapped over her mouth again, and this time he wasted no time in piercing through the skin of her neck with his incisors, draining her before tossing her limp body to the ground.
Sakura watched through darkening eyes as he spread black, blood-scented wings and disappeared into the night. The last thing she remembered was Shizune, frantically tearing at her own wrist and forcing it to Sakura's mouth before the world turned to black.
- - -
Sakura awoke at the pungent scent of burnt herbs to see Shizune's worried face above her own, holding the bag of smoking herbs.
"Do you feel all right?" Shizune asked anxiously, peering into her eyes.
Sakura sat up with a jolt and fell back almost immediately, groaning, "My head hurts…"
"Of course it does, dear," Tsunade said gently, coming over with a cup of fragrant tea, which she placed to Sakura's lips as she helped her sit up. "Drink this; it'll help with the headache."
As her head cleared, Sakura looked around her. They were inside the store and the sun was coming up. "How long was I unconscious?" she asked, successfully standing. "And why do I feel so hyper?"
Tsunade and Shizune exchanged looks. "Sakura-chan," Shizune began hesitantly, "do you remember what happened last night?"
Sakura furrowed her brow, thinking. "I was sewing… then the clasp fell off… I went outside to get it… and – "
"You were attacked," Shizune finished, her voice trembling slightly. "I wish I hadn't, Sakura-chan, but it was the only way to save you! I – I gave you some of my blood. That's why the full moon is affecting you."
Sakura stared. "But – that means you – "
Tsunade nodded sadly. "I am of one of the Royal vampire families. I was the one who Turned Shizune into what she is today."
"I say you were out for the whole night, but you were only unconscious for an hour or so…" Shizune said in a faltering voice, "…because for the three hours before that… you were dead."
"What you're telling me is that I've become a vampire?" Sakura demanded weakly.
Tsunade sighed. "If only I had not gone out," she muttered regretfully. "I might have been able to do a blood transfusion and saved you another way… Because Shizune is not a vampire by birth, anybody she Turns will not become a full vampire. Therefore, you will be affected by the moon, but you will not be able to feed like us."
"Is it such a bad thing, to not have to feed?" Sakura asked with a shudder.
"Perhaps not," Tsunade replied softly. "The problem is that you will feel the hunger, the urge to feed. But without fangs – " she bared her own set of unnaturally sharp incisors " – you will be unable to."
There was a long silence as her words sank in. Then Sakura spoke, with her eyes on the ground.
"Is there a way to turn me back?"
Tsunade shook her head. "No. Once you are Turned – even only partway – there is no turning back."
"Ah." Sakura nodded. "Then is there a way for me to become a full vampire?"
"Yes, there is…" Tsunade hesitated before continuing. "We could find one of my friends, and they would drain you and give you some of their blood."
"Is there a problem, shishou?" Sakura looked quizzically at her foster mother.
"Yes. There is," Tsunade said firmly. "When one of us Turns a human, that human belongs to us, whether we like it or not. You would belong, body, heart, and soul, to that immortal for the rest of your life. Which, as an immortal, would be forever."
"So, then… Shizune-neechan…" Sakura looked back and forth between them with a cocked eyebrow.
"Shizune is my niece," Tsunade said quietly. "When her uncle died and she begged me to take her with me, there was no way I could refuse."
"And you can't be the one to Turn me," Sakura said, not asking a question but making a statement. She ignored the tiny rebuke that had been in Tsunade's voice.
"Yes," Tsunade said wearily. "In order to keep vampires from building legions of slaves and using their undead armies to gain power, a spell was invoked. If I were to Turn you, Shizune would die. If I were to then Turn someone else, you would die. And the higher-ups do keep track of how many times a vampire Turns people. They would require you to visit the Castle for a minimum of a year.
"Also, being this newly Turned, you wouldn't survive away from me for a year. And I'm not going back to that place."
"They killed my uncle," Shizune whispered, looking at the ground.
"I see," Sakura murmured, studying her hands diligently. "…Do these higher-ups know the name of the human you Turned?"
Tsunade thought for a moment before shaking her head to indicate the negative. "No; they wouldn't need to be that specific, although there are certain immortals who do like to keep track for themselves. Anybody I Turn will be close to me. And we're all supposed to go, seeing as it's the full moon."
"I see," Sakura said again. She looked Tsunade in the eye, and Tsunade shivered involuntarily at the cold resolve that shone in those emerald orbs. "Shishou, please send me in Shizune-neechan's place."
"No!" Shizune rose with a cry. "You can't!"
Sakura stood as well, turning to fully face Shizune. "Why not?" she asked softly. "It will clear shishou's name, and since all of the immortals are supposed to be in one place, there is a chance that I can find the one who attacked me."
"Find him?" she demanded. "Why?"
Sakura smiled ferally, curling back her lips in a way that would have revealed her fangs, had she been a true immortal. "I've got a bone to pick with him…" Her hand touched her waist, still holding the metal clasp. "The bastard took my pouch."
- - -
Whoo hoo! Got that done! Now I have to send it off to my BETA (who is Bulgarian, by the way), and then go eat dinner. See ya!