Chapter 12: sunlight, sunlight
"The next generation will always surpass the previous one. It's one of the never-ending cycles in life."
"Welcome back, Sakura."
The room was empty but Karin could feel it filling up inch by inch with Sasuke's toxic rage. It was clawing at her ankles and she fought to keep her breathing as quiet as possible, as though she were in the presence of a predator. And he was completely still, just staring at the torn white blanket on the ground.
(and is this what Naruto felt like, when he found the scrap of red cloth trapped to a rock and was told they had taken her -?)
He continued staring at the floor. "You could tell whose chakra signature it was just now. It was Zetsu's, wasn't it?"
Karin began, "Sasuke-"
She could feel his rage flooding up to her stomach, pulling her down with it. "Yes."
Then his energy left him and he folded over like a paper tower.
"Sasuke," she called his name, running towards him instinctively. She reached out to help him stand and his hands grabbed at her arms.
There were stars in his eyes and she stared in horror as his final Mangekyou Sharingan was activated. But there was something wrong, he was hurting and she could tell from the erratic throb of his chakra and the way his nails dug into her palms. Twin trickles of crimson sludge trickled from his eyes, his eyes were all bloody iris. His knees were weakening and she fought to keep him upright. He clung to her, like it was taking all of his energy to remain standing.
"What's wrong with your eyes?" she whispered, her voice robbed from her. "They haven't bled like this before."
He let go of her and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, struggling towards the bed. He didn't see the corner and his knee knocked against it clumsily- Karin tried to help him towards it. He angrily slapped her hands away but she refused to let him beat her off, she sat him down and knelt down beside him on the floor.
"We'll find Sakura, Sasuke," she told him as calmly as she could, scared he could hear her heart pounding in her throat. "We'll force her to fix your eyes. She hasn't been gone long and it's unlikely they'll kill Sakura while she's still useful to the organization-"
"Madara said he would kill her," he forced out, trying to keep his breathing under control. But God it hurt, it hurt it hurt it hurt.
His hands were still pressed against his eyes. She could see the blood seeping through the spaces between his fingers.
"I- I can't sense Zetsu's chakra right now, they must have gone into a place that conceals chakra. I can still find them. If they're in a protected area, that means that they're in a dead space where there's no chakra at all, not even minor chakra in rocks and grass. I can find all the dead spaces near here and we can break into them to find her," Karin explained.
"There could be hundreds of dead spaces in Ame. She'll be dead by the time we find her."
"It may ironically be a good thing that Zetsu has her. He likes to draw out his deaths, so we still have time to save her if we work together. I can point out all the dead spaces and we can find her," she reassured him. "But you do realize we can't find her just between the two of us? We're going to need help."
"Not Suigetsu," he snarled.
"Juugo can't help us. Suigetsu is our only option and I know he'd be willing to help. He's coming back in two days but if I send him a message now, he could be here in less than one. Team Hawk probably means more to him than an Akatsuki mission," she argued.
His lips parted and his jaw tightened as he crushed his teeth together, grinding them into enamel dust. He pressed his hands further into his eyes as though that could help stop the new onslaught of pain lancing through his brain and was absolutely silent, holding his breath. Karin watched him, wanting so very much to help him.
Then he bit out, "Map out the dead spaces and give a list to Suigetsu when he arrives. We'll cover as much ground as we can now without him."
Less than an hour later, Karin's heels splattered puddles in the rain as it flooded down on both her and Sasuke, causing her to consciously pull her cloak tighter around her body. Sasuke trudged on silently behind her and she could tell it was taking all of his energy not to race ahead of her to tear down every building in Amegakure. He was only allowing her to lead him because he couldn't possibly find Sakura on his own and without her tracking abilities. She understood that even if it did hurt her a little bit.
Sasuke's voice carried across the sky towards her, "How did you contact Suigetsu?"
"I can send out my chakra over long distances to find people. I found him and started flaring out my chakra over and over again to get his attention. He knows I don't waste my time and chakra sending him stupid messages or playing tricks, so he'll get the hint. Last I checked, he was heading towards Ame," she explained.
He asked, "How long before he gets here?"
"I'm not sure. He keeps speeding up and slowing down again; I think he's been injured or something. He could be here from any time between eight hours and another two days," Karin replied apologetically.
The blood continued to trick out of his eyes, down his cheeks, down his neck and branch across his chest in cherry blossom branches. Karin's mouth set into a firm line- the sooner they found Sakura, the sooner she could fix the mess Sasuke was in. She didn't want to say it out loud, but she was terrified he'd be blind by the time they found her.
"We can't rely on Suigetsu's help. We need to cover more ground," he ground out decisively. "Where's the next dead space?"
"It should be around the corner."
His pace increased dramatically and his cloak cracked behind him like a flag in a typhoon as he turned sharply into the bend of the road. He went on ahead of Karin, his three point Sharingan whirling as he took in his surroundings, and she stopped as she joined him. Tucked in between shoddy residences was a dilapidated temple, once that had long fallen into disuse. Patterns made of peppery mould trailed across the rice paper screens and the constant rain had led the wooden steps to rot.
"Is this a dead space?" Sasuke questioned.
"I can't sense any chakra coming from inside the building. This has to be it."
He darted ahead and the stairs he had ascended only creaked when he had reached the temple door. Karin followed him, but her eyes flickered to a barely legible wooden sign that had been clumsily tacked above the entrance. The water had eaten away at the words, but she could just make out 'sage' as well as a crude cartoon drawing of a frog in the bottom right corner. Something about the abandoned temple stretched her heart strings to their breaking points, she felt like anything that had once been innocent about the place had long since been corrupted and forgotten.
Sasuke reached out to place his hand on the screen door. He began to slide it open and then-
Konan appeared out of thin air and had slammed the door shut. Sasuke was well and truly disoriented by her appearance, his eyes straining to focus and refocus upon her solitary figure at the bottom of the stairs they had just ascended. Once he processed who she was and what was happening, he rounded on her.
He began heatedly, "What are you-"
"Sakura isn't in there," Konan replied, her low calm voice filling the empty spaces between them.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "If she isn't in here, then where is she?"
Konan remained completely silent, her unsettling arctic eyes solely fixed on Sasuke. Now they were inside the dead space, Karin could sense all the chakra around her and Konan's was insidious, creeping along her skin and ready to destroy at a moment's notice. She was unbelievably powerful and Karin knew Sasuke could sense her strength too, if a fight ensued Karin wasn't sure if Sasuke would be the victor in his current state.
Karin ventured, "Do you know where Zetsu has taken Sakura?"
Silence followed. Then both Sasuke and Karin were buffeted out of the dead space and down the stairs by invisible hands, unable to fight against them, and Konan moved past them to take their place in front of the screen door. She was still watching them from the top of the stairs with her navy hair plastered to her face with rainwater. She looked so small and lonely, standing in front of the ruined rice paper door with the childish sign towering over her like a skyscraper's shadow.
"I don't know where Sakura is, but I'd advise you to look in the northern part of town. You still have time," Konan supplied vaguely.
"Why are you helping us? Aren't you just going to run off and tell Madara what we're doing the moment we leave?" Sasuke asked suspiciously.
If she hadn't been breathing, she would have been a statue. "My loyalty has and always will be to Pain. Madara is the one who chose to involve Sakura; Pain and I don't always agree with his methods."
There was a shift in Sasuke, as though Konan had slipped a knife under his ribs while he wasn't looking. He stared at her, his hands fisting at his sides.
Konan's arctic eyes were stormy grey in the clouded over sunlight. "Have faith, Uchiha. You can still save her."
(and if Sasuke had looked just a little harder, he would have been able to see the suicidal spray of blood from a boy's chest in her eyes and the tiniest of scars on her neck from an oh so familiar love tragedy-)
"Let's go, Karin," Sasuke ordered her in an undertone, turning away to leave.
"Uchiha," Konan called out.
Sasuke stopped, glancing over his shoulder. She pulled the paper rose from her hair with slender fingers that looked as fragile as her paper masterpieces and exhaled onto it. It floated into the air, spinning around and around until it landed in Sasuke's outstretched hand.
He began, "I don't understand-"
"Give it to Sakura. She will."
Konan hesitated for a moment, and then descended the stairs towards him. She reached out a hand and Sasuke jerked back defensively as she touched the area under his eyes. Her fingertips came away crimson and she watched him with an unspeakable sadness.
"It's always the eyes," she said quietly.
And for some strange reason, Sasuke understood.
Kakashi slipped quietly onto a seat beside Shikamaru in Ichiraku, ordering a bowl of ramen in a low voice. Shikamaru's bowl of ramen was all but untouched and seemed to have been cold for a very long time, the oil in the soup had began to coagulate and form a misty layer on top. There were circles under the usually well rested jounin's eyes and he looked like all the life had been vacuumed out of him, or like someone or something had been haunting him for days on end.
"You look tired," Kakashi commented, breaking his chopsticks in half.
Shikamaru sighed. "I'm not in the mood, Kakashi-san. If you want to know anything about Naruto, just ask me straight out."
Kakashi dipped his chopsticks into the clear broth, swirling his noodles around the sticks of bamboo quietly. Then he asked, "How is he?"
Shikamaru answered, "He was so troublesome and angry for such a long time. Now he just lies on his bed facing the wall and he doesn't move, he doesn't say anything. If I didn't see him breathing, I would have thought he was a corpse. I don't know what's worse, the screaming or his dead silence."
I DON'T CARE WHO I HAVE TO FIGHT eyes blue eyes
(he sucked the chakra from her and bound her to the table)
IF HE RIPS MY ARMS OUT, I'LL KICK HIM TO DEATH blue skies and sunlight
(he sliced her forearms to the bone, deep enough so flesh couldn't close)
IF HE RIPS MY LEGS OFF, I'LL BITE HIM TO DEATH sunlight, sunlight
(he broke her legs with callous grace, her ankles crushed and her toes unsaved)
IF HE RIPS MY HEAD OFF, I'LL STARE HIM TO DEATH don't block out my sunlight
(he pulled the hair from her head in clumps, she couldn't see till they landed on her chest in lumps)
AND IF HE GOUGES OUT MY EYES, I'LL CURSE HIM FROM THE GRAVE sunlight, sunlight, where is my sunlight
(he forced her to look at him, to meet his eyes, but every time he did she never cried out for release)
EVEN IF I'M TORN TO SHREDS, I'M TAKING SASUKE BACK FROM OROCHIMARU sunlight, sunlight, I love you my sunlight
(he said his name and tore her clothes to shreds, she thought of Sasuke's spine and his navy blue bed)
IF YOU'RE GONE I'm scared
TO ME I'm scared of hoping
IT WILL BE THE SAME I'm scared of hoping Sasuke
AS BEING Sasuke will
Sasuke will save me-
(sunlight, sunlight, through cracks in the wall, sunlight, sunlight,
who's breaking down the wall?)
Next chapter preview :
"Help him. Please."
"There is only one Uchiha left to supply."
"There's something you need to know about Itachi."
...so that's easily the most twisted thing I've ever written.
Okay, so what the hell was that whole ending sequence?
Hopefully you guys got it, but it was basically Sakura's torture by Zetsu from her perspective. She gone cray cray.
Where are the quotes from the ending from?
The original quotes are:
"I don't care who I have to fight, if he rips my arms out, I'll kick him to death. If he rips my legs off, I'll bite him to death. If he rips my head off, I'll stare him to death. And if he gouges out my eyes, I'll curse him from the grave. Even if I'm torn to shreds, I'm taking Sasuke back from Orochimaru!" – Naruto says this to Sai when Sai questions why he's bothering to bring back Sasuke
"On that day, you taught me that solitude is painful! I understand that so well now. I have family and I have friends…but if you're gone, to me, it will be the same as being alone." – Sakura says this to Sasuke as he's leaving Konoha behind.
So why those quotes?
Sakura thinks initially of Naruto during the torture and I felt that quote from Naruto sums him up so well. It also made for awesome juxtaposition with what was actually going on so whoopdeedoop for twisted minds.
The second quote is what Sakura says to Sasuke. I actually hate this quote because it sums up everything that I hate about canon!Sakura. It made sense to use it here, when she's all on her own- in this fic I believe Sakura hates Sasuke and will only accept help from him unless he owes her a debt, not merely for the sake of helping her. She's too proud for that. Here Sakura needs his help but she's all alone without him to help her, so the quote fit.
I say all this, but maybe it sounds like absolute bullshit to you guys.
HOOOOLD UP. WHO BROKE DOWN THE WALL.
Nobody you were expecting.
So that was a short chapter.
BUT IT WAS SO MENTALLY DRAINING. PLEASE TELL ME YOU ARE AS EMOTIONALLY DRAINED AS I AM.
WHOA. Sasuke's vulnerable as hell! What happened!
…this bitch's characterisation just keeps running away from me. Even months after not touching this fic HE'S STILL SO DIFFICULT TO WRITE.
I've always believed Sasuke possesses great power and great vulnerability. I've accelerated the Mangekyou life-ruining process here, but it's basically the same concept. He's been using the Mangekyou a lot by having to rein in Juugo's rages- the stupid boy also strains himself by leaving them on all the time. I dropped tiny, tiny, tiny hints (so tiny that I only just remembered what I was trying to do after reading the whole fic over for the first time in months) that his eyes are getting weaker and weakening him. Imma go back and try to find the instances.
As she watched him, she noticed how the grey fabric clung to his body like that of a skeleton's, how defined his cheekbones were. It had been so easy for him to hide his weight from her before because he had always worn billowing clothing, but when the wet fabric clung to him like a second skin…he looked so sick.
The hospital was an eerie sterile white that hurt Sasuke's failing eyes.
The village had always looked wrong and grotesque to him- the harsh buildings were too tall and the dark streets too narrow and forever empty. But the rain muted all of the colours, like a dimmer on a television screen, to the point that they no longer pained his failing eyes.
He moulded chakra to his eyes and hissed in agony as his vision cleared and the pounding in his head worsened
He flinched as blinding white light attacked his tortured corneas, ripping his nerves to shreds, and then suddenly he could sense nobody inside the room.
Sasuke's eyes are really fucked bbz. And they hurt him a lot. I thought it would make sense for his vulnerability and pain to come to a head here, after he's emotionally and physically tired from saving Juugo, dealing with his feelings with Sakura and having to cope with Madara/Zetsu one-upping him again. I understand if ya'll hate me, but it made sense here.
And before anyone rages about why Karin was the one to help him with his vulnerability and naht Sakura- Team Hawk is a team, and Sasuke has friends other than Sakura and Naruto.
What the? What was Konan's purpose? Why did she give Sasuke a flower? HUH?
Kishimoto has the subtlety of the Loch Ness monster in a swimming pool, so you always see parallels between every (important) generation of thee-man teams. Sasuke is reminiscent of Orochimaru, Kakashi and Nagato. Naruto is reminiscent of Jiraiya, Obito and Yahiko. Sakura is reminiscent of Tsunade, Rin and Konan- I wanted Konan to be here as a kind of warning as to what could become of Team 7. She has omega introspective on the situation so she was cool to throw in here. THE EYES. IT'S ALL IN THE EYES. The flower is also super important. Don't forget the flower.
That temple sounds so familiar.
The temple in this chapter is the same one Jiraiya took Konan, Yahiko and Nagato to train as children. Again, warning of what mistakes not to make and a horrible reminder of the past- ANGST ANGST ANGST.
When does Naruto come in again? FOR REALZ.
He won't come back until the Konoha arc. (OH WHAT THE DID I JUST SPOIL EVERYTHING FOR YOU)
Minor edits? What did you do?
I made minor edits to all the previous chapters, none big enough to really affect the entire story but enough to stop me from cringing when I read this fic. Don't worry, you probably won't even notice them. The biggest change was changing the kid Mitose's name to Koharu. I have no idea what I was smoking when I picked Mitose as a viable name. WHAT WAS I THINKING. (...went and googled the name. Sorry to anyone who is called Mitose.)
Sorry for my long absence bbz, but I LOVE ALL OF YOU SO MUCH. Thank you to everyone who continued to review and message despite an absence as awkward as the dark ages.
I am so lucky to have readers and reviewers like you. Thank you so much for everything.