Broken Doll, Strange World
Tayuya stared at the shaft of metal in her hand, a clean diagonal segment showing where it had been split by the Suna (Sand) kunoichi's Kamaitachi (Cutting Whirlwind).
Uncaring of her surroundings, she rested her back against the solid tree trunk behind her and slumped, her horned head bowing. For once the mutated instincts of the Cursed Seal agreed with her conscious mind, and she slid further down the trunk, seating herself on the branch.
There was nothing left for her anymore. Orochimaru was going to kill her if she returned, and her flute, her only personal possession, was destroyed.
It was always cold in Kumogakure (Hidden in the Clouds), with the high elevation chilling the air, and the frequent banks of fog soaking the homeless to the bone.
She distantly heard a female voice call out a technique, as well as a sharp burst of chakra signaling the strength of the technique being quite high.
"Kuchiyose: Kirikiri Mai! (Summoning: Quick Beheading Dance)"
Rather distantly, she felt and heard trees toppling over, as well as a powerful gust of wind only being enhanced by the displacement of air as the trees fell. Her sharp hearing caught the telltale whistling sound of a sharp object slicing through the air at high speeds, but she couldn't bring herself to care.
A small redheaded child, shivering underneath thin clothing as the fog cleared. Hypothermia was setting in, and the child clutched at a metal object like a lifeline. Their mind was unattached to the present, remembering the lullabies the mother used to sing before they had come. Clouded headbands dominated the child's nightmares.
The tree she was resting in was blown over, sliced clean through by the sharpest blade of all; a blade made of wind. She made no move to escape the toppling foliage. Instead, she channeled chakra to her eyes, morbidly curious as to what had been the instrument of her demise. She was able to make out the shape of a weasel holding a kama in all four of its paws, an eye patch over one eye. She would have laughed, if there wasn't a tree crushing her lower body and driving all the air out of her lungs.
Colors swam before her eyes, prompting her to close them. She regulated her breathing, just as she was taught to do, and fell into a coma to preserve her life. The Cursed Seal receded, leaving the fourteen year old Tayuya broken, internally bleeding, but with a peaceful expression on her face.
A black head of hair, shining in the midday sun. Golden, slit eyes peering at her with sickening interest. "Come with me" he had said. "Come with me, and show me your potential."
A head of grey hair appeared over one of the thick tree trunks holding her captive, mocking amusement written in his expression. With strength only medic-nins were capable of possessing, toppled trees, only some of several hundred, were moved. Her body was picked up with care born of professional interest in her health rather than personal interest. The two disappeared in a blur of movement.
The child looked up at the man and saw only salvation, unable to comprehend the complexities of human expression. Warily, the child extended their hand, keeping the metal object close out of habit. Pale spidery fingers grasped her hand, and both beings disappeared.
When Tayuya returned to consciousness, the first sensations that struck her were nauseating. The smell of old blood, fear, and an almost mocking scent of fresh lemon cleaning fluid assailed her nose. Instead of the conventional white walls and ceiling of a hospital, she saw metal devices, a darkened room, and thin paper separating her bed from the others. Apathy soon returned to her, her right hand clenched around her broken flute, and she fell back into her catatonia.
The training was rigorous, failure was not an option. The child was placed with several other children and ordered to work as a team. Distrust born of living on the streets was mirrored in each of their expressions, and only the fear of death forced them to extend their jealously guarded trust to one another.
Awake but unresponsive, Tayuya was audience to Kabuto's voice. He seemed to be filled with a fake sort of glee, eagerly chatting away to her glassy-eyed body.
"Tayuya-chan, you'll be glad to know that Sasuke-kun made it to Otogakure (Hidden in the Sound) safely by himself. Orochimaru-sama is quite taken with him for the moment, and will be for quite some time, but he is very interested in your wellbeing. He gave me a wonderful job! I am to use whatever means necessary to return you to fighting form!"
The body didn't respond, but within its mind, it was aware, if uncaring. She knew Kabuto wasn't the sort to take advantage of her state; he had a twisted form of gallantry that he followed. That is not to say the rest of Otogakure wouldn't try, however.
Thin hands held tightly to the metal object, holding it as one would a security blanket. The child was unwilling to ever part with it, using all of their physical strength, even in sleep, to keep hold of it. The rest of the children respected her claim on the object, through fear of how she would react if it were taken from her.
Unhealthily pale hands glowing with the medical chakra of a Shosen no Jutsu (Mystical Palm Technique) brushed along her legs and hips. Had she been more connected to her body, Tayuya would have felt searing pain of scalpels biting into her muscular structure and nervous system, even as the surface flesh was undisturbed. Kabuto had earned his authority in Otogakure, as nobody wanted to be on the receiving end of his surgery-turned-offensive-technique Chakra no Mesu (Chakra Scalpels) in a fight.
Sedation was a waste of money, money that could be spent to further Orochimaru-sama's aims. Medical jutsu replicating anesthesia was a waste of chakra, chakra that could be spent to further Orochimaru-sama's experiments. Knocking out a patient was avoided, as an unconscious patient could turn comatose very quickly.
Each of the children was specialized into a specific area. The redhead, as the only girl, was given the domain of illusions due to her superior chakra control. Each of the children guarded their studies with jealousy born from living on the streets, fighting for every scrap of food or shelter.
"Just think, Tayuya-chan. If I can undo your paralysis, I could be noted as one of the greatest medic-nin in the history of the Elemental Countries! Not even Tsunade-sama can undo nerve damage, you know. Don't worry; this'll just sting a bit."
Even catatonic, the kunoichi was struck with the urge to scream as the probing scalpels dug into her spinal cord.
The redheaded child quickly settled into her own defensive mechanism, just as the other children did. Vile curses flung from her lips at the slightest hint of being vulnerable, repelling any who tried to get close to her. Pent up aggression and pain was channeled through her genjutsu and fuelled her anger.
"Orochimaru-sama has given me a deadline, Tayuya-chan. I have a month to get you back to fighting shape. I've been able to restore your nervous system, but it looks like you'll need to relearn walking! Oh, this will be fun!"
Kabuto's pale face drew into a smirk as his patient moved on automatic, still not wholly responsive.
"Try moving your toes, Tayuya-chan."
The movement wasn't much, only a slight twitching. The lack of progress prompted a frown on the pale man's face as his hands moved into the seals once again.
Out of twenty children, only four remained. A dark skinned child with six arms, a pudgy child with orange hair, the redheaded child, and a child with an extra head attached to their neck. They were moved from the special training camp, now strewn with the bodies of the failed children, to the barracks with the rest of Otogakure's forces. The successful children left behind their bloody weapons, though the redhead kept the deathgrip on her metal object.
Three weeks left to the deadline, and Kabuto was getting annoyed. Tayuya hadn't shown more than being able to move her toes. Consulting Orochimaru on it, he tried a new tactic.
"Tayuya-chan, if you can't get back into the shape you were in before the mission, Orochimaru-sama sees fit to use you as a test subject for his latest seal array."
This provoked a response he was hoping for; the toes curled and the foot pointed.
Trust in her comrades only extended as far as trust. Trust that they would survive, regardless of the circumstances. They were all they had, except for Orochimaru-sama. None would dare disobey the snake-eyed leader, he need only whisper the command and it would be done. Orochimaru-sama had saved them from the streets; it was the least they could do to repay him.
Progress was painfully slow, and Kabuto began baiting the nearly-catatonic kunoichi. He refrained from referring to her as 'Tayuya-chan', and merely as 'Specimen 3870'. His procedures lost what little bedside manner they had before, using the most brutal and invasive paths possible. His thoughtless muttering became openly mocking.
"What wonderful news we had today! Your comrades were all killed by Genin, and Kimimaro-kun died to his disease. That means you're the last of your squad! Without them, you are nothing. Poor, poor Specimen 3870, nobody is going to mourn you when you are used to test the seal array. I heard Orochimaru-sama actually created the seal array when trying to replicate the Yondaime's Hiraishin (Flying Thunder God). You know what this means, right? It means you could get split into hundreds of tiny pieces by the speed, even if it is successful!"
The taunting dialogue caused her to retreat further, halting her progress as she became comatose.
The barracks was a horrible place, especially for a female. The grunts were generally gathered from the streets and prisons, used only for manual labor. The redhead has lost count of how many times wandering hands had found their way to her body, only to be repulsed by generous use of choice swear words and painfully explicit descriptions of how she would dismember them. The other children in her squad found it morbidly amusing, and goaded her with stolen words and phrases they had heard the older men using when referring to her.
In response, she began preemptively abusive, using her words as men use their fists, hiding her physical frailty by a strong appearance.
The training became more sadistic, teaching each of the children to hold onto secrets with their lives. Their pain tolerance was brutally elevated through scheduled torture sessions, using poison, electricity, and sharp implements. They further learned to trust their comrades when it was them who became the torturers, 'helping' their comrades by torturing them. Each would take turns attempting to gather the secrets out of the others, only to be victimized soon after. Orochimaru-sama had no use for fragile subordinates, unable to resist torture. Likewise, he had no use for subordinates who would shy away from brutality.
There was no friendship, no 'sordid love affairs' between comrades. They were simply soldiers in a squad; friendship and love were weaknesses. "If you worry about your squad-mates, you decrease your capabilities. You need only to trust them to survive." It was a mantra drilled into their heads. Soon, they began parroting the words, and later they would live them.
Tayuya's skin paled from lack of sunlight, and her body became gaunt. Her eyes sunken into their sockets, tendons and muscles standing out starkly against bones. With her glassy brown eyes and greasy, unkempt red hair, she looked like a broken doll, all porcelain skin and sharp angles. It was a far cry from the fiery kunoichi she had been, but still her bony hand was wrapped painfully about the broken flute.
Her first solo mission had been given to her by Orochimaru-sama himself. She was to infiltrate Kumogakure and slay the Raikage's concubine, who was with child. She was ten years old, her growth already stunted by malnourishment from living on the streets.
Orochimaru-sama had taught her to use her flute, her only memento given to her by her mother, as a weapon in battle. It was the greatest gift the man had ever given her; a chance to use her mother's gift in combat, allowing her mother to protect her and fight with her.
It was laughably easy to infiltrate the village; a small child holding a flute raised no eyebrows, simply one of many street children returning from outside the village where they had foraged for food. The mountains where Kumogakure was hidden were rife with shrubs that produced berries, some for poison, and others for food. One only had to brave the gaping chasms and breathtaking falls to get to them.
A small child playing a flute gathered no attention, something reinforced by the genjutsu woven around the child. She was easily able to make her way to the inner sections of the village, playing the appearance of a wandering street urchin.
She hid inside the concubine's home, as the Raikage was far too important to provide lodging, especially for his whore. The political backlash from someone discovering her existence would be debilitating, after all, and the Raikage was already treading on egg shells after the Hyuuga Kidnapping debacle.
The woman returned at nightfall, smelling of sweat, sex, and alcohol. Her stomach was only slightly swollen, appearing to be bloated rather than with child. As soon as the woman stepped in the door, the child's breath caught and the illusion broke.
Dark red hair spilled over the woman's thin shoulders, having been pulled from the bun used to hold it up. A pretty face set in peach skin looked out over a straight nose, and pale blue eyes settled on the form of the child. The pretty face twisted into an expression of shock and fear, riddled with regret as her eyes began tearing up. Babbled apologies spilled from the woman's full lips, even as the child raised the flute to her own, thinner, set.
With a broken expression on her face, the child spoke but one sentence.
"Orochimaru-sama wishes to have you killed."
The woman, now crying in anguish, rushed forward to pull the child into an embrace, wanting to do something, anything, to reassure the child that they were still loved. Halfway to the child, she was halted, kneeling on the ground with both arms held perpendicular to her body.
Musical notes from the flute perpetuated the illusion, halting and stuttering though they were. The woman was but a civilian, however, and was unable to resist the call of the flute. The woman's pretty face warped into an expression of pain and horror, mouth open in a soundless scream. The child slowly stood, halting her music as she pulled a small knife out of a holster high on her thigh underneath her shorts.
Blood spilled onto the floor of the house, punctuated by the angry cries of the child as she carved into the body, ruining her pretty face and ripping out her lovely red hair. Pent up anger was released in a method that defied all training, wanting nothing more than to utterly destroy all that the woman had been. A tantrum augmented by the knife in her hand left the woman dead, her body and face mutilated beyond recognition.
Orochimaru-sama was most pleased with her, and offered an amused smile and a pat on her head for her performance.
Tayuya had never been so sickened by her master.
Tayuya's body was slung over Kabuto's shoulder, the deadline having come up. Deep within the body, her consciousness was stirring. The gray haired man continued his ranting; expressing his deep regrets at having not had more time with her, as he was sure he had made a breakthrough in medicine by repairing the nerves.
He expressed his anger, as well, that she had to be catatonic. He was so sure that he could have gotten her back into fighting capability if she had just been awake and actually trying to succeed!
"Oi! Bitch!" Sakon's voice snapped Tayuya out of her reverie, washing the blood off of her body in the communal showers shared by the Sound Four.
"The fuck do you want, faggot? I don't have any makeup to spare; I need that shit for infiltration, and it's being wasted by making you look pretty!"
The gray haired fourteen year old looked almost offended, though his expression turned serious, halting the banter.
"I want you to promise me something, Tayuya."
Winding through the underground compound formerly used as Orochimaru's base, Kabuto came to the room devoted to the seal that Orochimaru had been creating. Shifting Tayuya on his shoulder, he opened the door.
Knowing that her comrade had never called her by name unless it was something they couldn't afford to argue about, Tayuya's expression shifted into guarded distrust.
"What is it?"
The gray haired man dropped the kunoichi onto the center of the seal. The seal itself was five feet in diameter, and if she were laid out straight, she would almost reach the edges with her head and feet. The five foot in diameter circle was inlaid with hundreds of thousands of meaningless arcane scribbles, all working together to form the seal itself. By themselves, they were nothing, but together they were a working unit devoted to one task.
The irony was not lost on Kabuto. Tayuya, one of the Sound Four, was worthless without her comrades who had worked together as a unit to be Orochimaru's vanguard, his elite.
He began channeling chakra into the array, lighting up the symbols one by one.
"If you ever get the chance, kill that Kabuto prick for us would you?"
Ukon had spoken, cementing the belief that it was a serious matter; the elder brother slept the majority of the time, only awakening if his brother needed him.
The body stirred, instinctively recognizing a large amount of chakra being used nearby, rolling over to face Kabuto, who was at the edge of the array. Her arms lifted slowly, unseen by the medic-nin as he was concentrated fully on the seal array.
Bony hands grasped Kabuto's shirt as the last inscription was lit up with chakra. With a tug, she pulled the man into the array with her; brown eyes awake, conscious, and vindictive. The broken flute clattered to the floor outside of the array as she spoke, her voice a hoarse rasp.
The seal initiated its function, pulling Tayuya in. She disappeared in a puff of smoke, while Kabuto, half inside and half outside the array, was torn apart. The top half of his body disappeared with the kunoichi.
Blood sprayed from the torn bottom half, erasing the seal array with a deluge of red liquid.
Being transported by seal was probably the strangest sensation Tayuya had ever felt. It wasn't a true feeling, more of an absolute lack of sensation. Nothing to see, smell, hear, feel, taste. Her body was paralyzed, eyes unseeing, until she gasped for air, inhaling smoke as she reappeared in a puff of smoke.
She coughed several times, looking down at the fabric still clutched in her hands, and coming face to face with the lifeless gaze of Yakushi Kabuto. A stilted smile pulled at the edges of her lips, breaking open the chapped lips and causing a small amount of blood to well up. With practiced movements, she made sure of his lifelessness by twisting his neck, listening for the loud crack. She was satisfied only when she had turned his head a full one hundred and eighty degrees.
She would have stabbed him for good measure, but she had no weapon on her body.
Taking note of her surroundings, she realized she was within a dense forest, and things were skittering and moving just beyond her sensory range. Taking one last contemptuous look at the deceased medic-nin, she began to pull herself on her stomach towards the nearest tree.
She had very little chakra, but she persevered, hauling her paraplegic body to the trunk of the tree through sheer determination and augmenting her upper body strength with chakra.
Exhausted, both mentally and physically, she rested her back against the tree trunk and fell into a dreamless healing coma.
She was awakened by the intrusion of a living being upon her personal space, a roughly fifteen foot radius around her. It had served her well in the barracks, forcing her awake when someone came too close for comfort, and allowing her to enact retribution on whoever had been stupid enough to try something. It would have been larger, but fifteen feet was as far as she could get from her teammates in their shared lodging, and it was frowned upon to harm her squad-mates. That didn't stop her from doing it if they tried something, however.
She looked up, her eyebrows pulling together in a confused scowl at what had pulled her from her sleep.
It looked like a wolf. A rather large wolf. And it was accompanied by the biggest bee she had ever seen. The wolf's eyes were a sickly shade of yellow, reminding her of her Cursed Seal form, and it was frothing at the mouth. Similarly, the bee's stinger was at least three inches long, and it was focused completely on her.
She could sense the hostility they had for her, but it wasn't a focused hostility found in ninja summons (which were the only things she could imagine such oversized animals could be). Instead, it was hostility against all life besides them, driving them to attack anything and everything besides each other. They advanced slowly, watching her every move with bestial intelligence.
She glanced down at herself, shifting minutely to check for any hidden weapons Kabuto might have left on her. There was nothing, and she was clothed only in a hospital gown, which would explain why the bark of the tree behind her was digging into the flesh of her back without cloth to protect it.
'Unarmed, emaciated, and without proper clothing. Hmph. I blame the rat for this. Him and his wind-bitch.'
Her mouth curled into a humorless smile, causing her lip to bleed again. She dabbed the bleeding lip with her thumb, moving her bony hands into a series of familiar seals.
"Kuchiyose: Doki. (Summoning: Angry Demons)"
She only had enough chakra for one of the Doki, so she chose to summon the one most capable of helping her. A large puff of smoke hid the appearance of the ogre, which dispersed momentarily. The appearance of the twenty foot tall monstrosity caused the overgrown bee and wolf to pause, but only for a moment. Taking it for a hostile action, they attacked.
Tayuya hummed an odd melody under her breath, controlling the movements of her summon through the musical notes coupled with chakra.
The ogre had a head of long, dark grey hair that obscured its features, its hunched appearance causing the hair to fall over its face and down its chest to its stomach. A set of loose black clothing obscured most of its skin, though its hands and feet were bare, showing grey, mottled skin. It held a heavy iron warclub dotted with blunted spikes, a single rung of a chain attached to the hilt, which had been wrapped in white cloth. Around its waist was a section of purple rope, tied into a knot in the back; a symbol to show that it served Tayuya, who, in turn, served Orochimaru.
The summoned ogre heaved the club into its arms, smashing the wolf with a downward strike. The wolf died with a pathetic whimper that was all but drowned out by the crunch of bones being smashed into pulp. The bee flung its stinger, stabbing the ogre in the chest, something that caused no reaction. The bee was quickly disposed of by a backhanded slap, the warclub being too heavy to move quickly enough.
The notes of music coaxed the ogre to pick up the kunoichi, settling her on its shoulder with her useless legs resting on its chest. Obeying her whims expressed through her humming, it plucked the stinger from its chest and handed it to her; a makeshift knife for the time being. With a note, the summon leapt to the tree tops to allow Tayuya to view the surrounding area for civilization.
Picking out a house nearby, she continued humming her song.
The ogre quickly dropped to the ground, using inhuman speed to navigate the forests according to its summoner's directions. It only paused for a moment to obliterate the corpse of Kabuto with a swing of its warclub, fulfilling its mistress' paranoia. They weren't unfounded fears, given that the medic-nin was well known for surviving mortal injuries through his regeneration ability, but there was no way for him to regenerate now that his skull had been caved in.
Tayuya's chakra was steadily running out, her withered body unable to contain as much of the energy as it used to. Her atrophied muscles lowered the speed of her chakra regeneration, and she hadn't started with full reserves when she had woken up. The Doki was able to get her to the walkway of the house before she ran dangerously low on chakra. The door of the house was opening just as she dismissed the summon with a murmured command.
"Tai. (Ill will or malice)"
Dirk the Dwarf was not an unkind being by any means. In fact, just three years prior he had taken in a three year old human child at the behest of his dying mother after the two of them had fallen off a cliff! However, Dirk was very protective of things he considered to be his own, including the adopted child as well as his home.
He had looked out the window, as the forest was silent, which denoted an intruder that scared off the birds and other animals. He was shocked to see a twenty foot tall humanoid monstrosity with a small, emaciated girl on its shoulder. Swiftly grabbing his warhammer, he exited the house just in time to see the girl mumble something, causing the monster to disperse in a plume of smoke, dropping her to the ground. He was able to hear a grunt of pain as she landed on her back, legs flopping uselessly to the ground soon after. Her brown eyes clouded over with impending unconsciousness, and he hurried to her side.
He was noticeably disturbed by her glassy-eyed stare when her arm moved in an instinctive maneuver to bare a short needle in a defensive gesture. If memory served him correctly, it was actually the stinger of one of the bee monsters nearby, and she was threatening him with it, even on the cusp of unconsciousness!
He waited for a few moments, and was not surprised when she slumped into oblivion, the needle still held in her grip. With as much care as a blacksmith could, he picked her up and slung her over his shoulder, praising Martel that the girl was short enough that her feet or head didn't drag on the ground due to his own short stature.
He placed her in a hastily made makeshift bed near the forge in the living room and went upstairs to warn Lloyd about the potentially dangerous houseguest.
Author's Note: The inspiration struck me, especially with the dialogue of Tales of Symphonia. At one point, Kratos and Raine are discussing their group, saying that nobody was really prepared for the Journey of Regeneration. After all, Raine was just a schoolteacher, Kratos just a mercenary, Lloyd and Colette were just students, and Genis was just a kid. And I wondered...what would it be like if there WAS someone prepared for the Journey? An assassin...a trained killer. Which brought me back to Naruto. But instead of Naruto himself (he's just too softhearted to kill people in cold blood), I decided to use one of the other characters. I toyed with the idea of Kurenai, but figured people would investigate her disappearance. Then, running on a tangent of I-Want-Genjutsu, I went to Tayuya.
I will be actively trying to make this fic rather morbid, as opposed to the lighthearted dialogue of the game. To punctuate this, I fabricated Tayuya's background. Since there wasn't much of her in the manga or anime to create a full personality profile, I will be running off an amalgam of Asuka Langley Sorhyu's anger, unwillingness to accept help, and broken background mixed with Tayuya's shown habits, and what I'd imagine a specially trained kunoichi would do. There will be a ten year timeskip in the next chapter.