Your Guardian Angel
Chapter 1: Abandon
"When it's dark enough, you can see the stars." – Charles Austin Beard
She ran away.
The plan was already in motion. All she could do now was pray that it would work the way she planned. There was nothing stopping her from rushing into the bitter night air. Nothing but fear, that is. Fear alone was enough to hold her back just as it had for so long… No, for too long. She wouldn't be hindered anymore. So, with a face turned to stone, she held her tears and ran without a second glance behind her.
This moment had been a long time coming. For as far back as she could remember, her skill level never quite matched that of the other ninja in the village. Not until recently, that is. However, despite her recent training and advancement of skill, it still wasn't good enough for her father. Nothing ever was. His persistent condescension towards her only piled more destruction on top of their already damaged relationship. Then, to finish it off, there was the boy. He was gone and she was tired of waiting. He would never come for her anyway. There was nothing left grounding her to the village.
All of this realization, pain, and rejection weighed heavily on her shoulders. In time, her emotions crushed and molded her into someone unrecognizable. She was no longer the shy girl everyone grew up with.
No one but me. Nothing but this. This is who I am now. No one will stop me. This is what I'm doing and I will follow through. No tears, no fear, no pain. Nothing. Don't look back. The things I'm leaving behind are part of who I was. I'm not her anymore. I will leave this all behind. I will be someone new.
Two years. That's how much time had passed. The battles seemed like ages ago, but the stories of her comrades lived on. She heard tales of mass destruction ever since their return, but now the grounds were almost completely restored, leaving her little to follow as she ran on and on. Thankfully the stories of her comrades were so vivid in her memory, it was as if they had lives of their own. They told her where to go, so she carried on, following two things; pictures from second hand memories and instincts.
When she reached the waterfall she could almost picture the scene; two great, young ninja with hidden power battling against each other, both unleashed, both ready to fight to the death. Despite the strong image in her head, a battle of light versus darkness, she let no emotion pass through her as she ran past the falls, making a brief stop in order to fill her canteen. The statues on either side of the falls remained broken, the only sure sign that she was heading in the right direction. This, however, was where the stories ended. She now followed nothing but impulses.
Her disposition never changed, her speed never slowed, and her feet never faltered. But inside her chakra reserves dwindled, draining slowly at first then slipping faster and faster as more time passed. She ignored the signs, the light-headedness, the aching limbs. Her only goal was to get as far away as possible, even at the cost of damaging herself in the process.
She never stopped, never turned back. She didn't sleep or eat, only pausing occasionally for water. All she did was run. She didn't stop to think about how the Hyuuga clan would deal with her absence, or what her friends would do, or who would come after her (if anyone did at all). All she did was move forward.
One foot in front of the other. Breathe. Move. This is my chance. This is what I want. I will not turn around. I'm out there somewhere, I just have to find me.
The exact amount of time that passed was unknown to her. Not even days or nights mattered in her adrenaline-induced state. Eventually, she came to the side of a mountain. It was here she truly stopped for the first time since setting foot outside the village. She felt, almost with relief, that there was nowhere else to go. Her water reserve ran out long before and as she stood observing the rock face, everything else she'd been holding on to seemed to drain with it. Exhaustion and hunger overtook her body. Her eyes rolled back in her head, her body shook uncontrollably for a few immeasurable seconds, and the girl collapsed into an unconscious heap on the ground.
He leaped from atop the mountain, his face like unbreakable stone. His daily escape was over and it was time to return to the darkness. Landing soundlessly on the ground, the boy spotted something in his peripheral vision. He pulled a katana from his back, hoping, almost praying for an actual fight. Upon identifying the mass as a motionless body, however, he returned his weapon to its sheath.
"Hn," the boy hummed as a smirk flashed across his lips. He flipped his fingers without a second thought, laying his hand on the stone before him. It opened obligingly at his touch and he plunged into darkness. The rock fell back into place, dividing the inner lair from the outside world. Torches lining the cold, stone walls came to life, their flames casting a haunting glow. Though every corridor looked the same as the last, the boy navigated the labyrinth with ease.
After rounding several corners he found himself far underground and a long way from the exit. His echoing footsteps were the only sound in the deserted passageways. When he came to the door he wanted, the boy flung it open without hesitating or even pausing to knock. The two men already occupying the room stopped talking immediately, their conversation rudely interrupted by the boy's entrance.
"As disrespectful as ever," the silver-haired man criticized, his glasses glinting in the torchlight.
The younger boy aimed an intense glare in the direction of the voice. "There's a body outside at the entrance," his deep voice informed the other two men coolly.
"And you left it? That's not like you," the third man observed, his voice the soft hiss of a snake.
Kabuto sniffed. "I see you're not going to be cooperative. I'll go take care of-"
"No," Orochimaru interrupted. "I want the boy to take care of it. Bring it in," he ordered, directing his attention from the bespectacled man to the teen. "I will be needing a new container sooner than expected, and Sasuke-kun isn't nearly prepared enough." The Snake Sannin flexed his fingers the smallest bit, the skin darkening and his mobility worsening with every day. "We'll see if this body is fit."
Though flustered, Orochimaru's subordinate agreed with a silent nod, directing a smirk at Sasuke, now perched on a small step surrounding the base of the room. Kabuto pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, the lenses flashing again. The teenager's eyes sparked, the fire light from the torches dancing threateningly within them. For a split second they seemed to shine red, but the color vanished in a blink, so quick it could've been a trick of the light.
The other man could be taken down in two seconds if circumstances allowed, but as it was activating the Kekkei Genkai was too risky. Sasuke refused to let his emotions take control. This was part of his training. Without a word he rose from the ground and left the room as two pairs of eyes watched his retreat.
Once back in the abandoned halls, he decided that carrying out his order couldn't wait. Orochimaru's student made the familiar trek that would lead to the sun. When the rock spread before him, he stepped into the light and stood hovering above the body. It hadn't moved a single inch and the boy began to wonder just how long it had been there.
Sasuke examined the body carefully, circling it like a vulture might circle its prey. It was a girl. Her hair was the color of midnight set against pale ivory skin that was slowly turning red in the high afternoon sun. Her choppy bangs just brushed the top of her thick, black eyelashes that seemed to suggest wide eyes, like those of a child. He noticed her chest didn't move and wondered if she was already dead. He grimly thought that perhaps the sun had baked her dehydrated body. Kneeling beside her, his ear next to her mouth, Sasuke heard the slight whistle of breath that hinted otherwise.
Standing straight up he drew his weapon again, ready to draw blood if she proved difficult. The fact that there would be no fight involved did dull his anticipation. It was just too easy with him having the advantage before she even surfaced to consciousness. Ready to strike if need be, he placed the katana against her neck but hesitated when he heard the clank of metal against metal. Shifting aside a strand of hair with the tip of his blade Sasuke paused. There, on her neck…
In that split second of hesitation the girl's eyes shot open. White-purple like marble and glazed from sleep and hunger, her eyes bore into him. Her body motionless, her expression unreadable. Not quite blank, but impassive, as if the blade at her neck had no affect on her at all. The boy's katana never wavered from its position as he stared back, black meeting white.
Slowly he slipped his sword onto her skin. "Resist, and I will end you now." Sasuke dragged the metal across her neck, the cold blade so surprisingly intense in the desert heat it sent a ripple through the girl's body. He made sure not to puncture her skin, but drew out the process, his eyes never leaving hers. The girl's eyes, however, moved down to look at the blade. She followed it up to the handle, over his arm, then back to his eyes. By the time they returned, the blade no longer threatened her life. Yet she still didn't move. He couldn't decide if it was out of fear that she did so, or if her body was holding her back, pain standing in her way.
Looking closer, the boy realized he didn't recognize her; she didn't look like anyone he had gone to the academy with, though she did look to be about his age. Sasuke couldn't be sure, though, for he had paid attention to very few of his classmates and had spent the better part of the last two years trying to forget everything in his past life. Anyone he saw now would be aged two years. The aging, coupled with his inattentiveness, would make anyone but a select few nearly unrecognizable. Despite the fact that the Konoha traitor couldn't identify her, the forehead protector around her neck gave her away. She couldn't deny it if he asked.
"Hn… Konoha, huh?" At the sound of his voice she winced involuntarily. Was it the hardness of his speech or the name of the place from which she came? The latter option he especially could sympathize with. A shadow of recognition passed over her face, but it was quickly masked. Had she already identified the boy who now held her life in his hands? She closed her eyes for a long moment in response to his question. They stared at each other for a length of time before, looking him in the eyes, her cracked lips moved wordlessly. Sasuke was getting irritable; she didn't move, she didn't speak, and she didn't seem to show emotion except that one little flicker when he spoke. There was just… Nothing.
"Stand up," he ordered in the same cold tone. She did as she was told without objection. He thought she would shake as she did so, or even remain on the ground, unable to stand at all. However, she stood fluidly, like she was dancing or moving through water. Once up Sasuke could see her hair fall lightly around her face and reaching midway down her back. The sun behind her seemed to create a halo of light around her silhouette.
"What's your name?" he asked, looking directly into her marble eyes. She remained silent, still a blank canvas. "I said, what's your name? Tell me." He didn't raise his voice but the tone changed. It now held a threat, a sound of authority. Her eyes flashed quickly to his hand where the boy's grip tightened on the handle of his blade. When she still didn't respond he raised it, the tip touching under her chin. She lifted her head, as any one would, and closed her eyes.
The boy closed his eyes, too, and lowered the metal, taking a deep breath and letting it out with a sigh of frustration. When his eyelids peeled back to once again reveal his onyx orbs, there she was, looking right at him. But this time there was something in her eyes… It was almost… apologetic. Sasuke wasn't sure why she was looking at him like that, or what she was apologizing for. What a strange girl this one was.
"Hn." He was tired of this. As his hands brought his sword into the air, her eyes never wavered from his. Even though it shouldn't have, it made him uneasy to think that she would lock eyes with her murderer as he brought death down upon her. The girl braced, expecting the katana to swing around, cutting into her flesh, over in a flash. Surprisingly enough for her, Sasuke placed the blade back into its holster.
The boy turned his back on her and repeated the familiar movements of his fingers, placing his hand on the rock. It spread open before him. "There's someone who wants to meet you." Sasuke stepped into the blackness of the tunnels and the girl followed without being asked. Through never-ending corridors and around countless corners he led her by torchlight until they reached a door. Like the last time, he opened it without knocking and she followed in behind him.