"In this place, I am your God."
The words rang out crisp and clear, sapping the already-thin warmth from the air. A dozen heads turned and stared into the dark abyss-like depths of the crack in the underground cave. The abyss where the voice had come from.
It was not a loud voice. Not even a particularly unkind voice. It held no emotion, and was not a demand or question or order. It was simply a stated fact. A truth to hold above others. It was... Chilling.
"When I tell you something, you shall thank me for imparting knowledge. When I question you, you shall answer. When you learn, you shall be enlightened. In this place, I am your God."
The owner of the voice stepped from the shadows in a carefully crafted and well-thought-out piece of theatrics. He, for the bulk of the figure and the voice belonging to it, walked five equidistant paces before he left the shadow of the crack. The soft footfalls whispered through the air around the twelve aspirants, and you just knew that the only reason you heard them was because the Voice wanted you to.
The Voice was, after all, a shadow. A shadow with sharp edges. A Shinobi.
"You twelve," the Voice continued, once it's be-robed, hooded and masked figure could be discerned in the amber half-light coming from numerous flaming sconces set about the cavern. "Are here because you are strong enough to be ANBU. Supposedly. I am your God, and I shall show you your strengths, weaknesses, and I shall reforge you as the soot-dulled kunai your Hokage demands you to be. You will feel pain. You will feel sullied. You will die. Then, and only then, once you have been broken, will you be anything more than you are. Only then will you be ANBU. Now, sleep."
At the last word, the dozen simply dropped to the floor. Some landed atop others, others simply hit the straw-covered floor. Their own sack-cloth robes spilled about them and their plan muslin veils fell upon their features.
If you were to be ANBU, you gave up yourself. You became... Other.
The flickering light from the flames around the room caught the tip of the Voice's ANBU mask, the delicate white porcelain being graced by four blood-red grass-like markings. Surrounded by fallen aspirants, the Voice chuckled to himself. Only after that did his accomplices move from their hiding places, silent as death itself, and pick up an aspirant each.
The trials had begun.
The young woman woke with a start as icy water splashed her face. Her wrists burned as she attempted to pull her hands against her body, the rough texture of the un-oiled hemp rope scratching uncomfortably. The move was purely defensive, to ward off the cold water and any unwanted attentions or attacks that might follow, but the woman almost shrieked when she realised she was quite naked too. Apart from the ropes. And the single chakra-draining seal carved into a small crystal amulet hanging by leather cord about her neck.
The young woman raised her gaze and glared hard at the speaker. The command came after the water, not before. Being naked and vulnerable... that was unforgivable. Being vulnerable she had gotten used to a long time ago, but she had surpassed that! She was stronger now! She was-
She was an ANBU Aspirant. She was supposed to die and be reborn. Status in the outside world had no meaning here...
"What is your name?"
She greeted the answer with silence. She would brook no conversing with this... this violator. She was naked, cold, and bound.
It was a stupid thing to care about. From the minute she had been enrolled within the Ninja Academy of Konoha, she had known that there was always a possibility of being captured. Since Kunoichi-specific training at the age of ten, she had known she might have to give herself to a man in order to get close enough to perform her duty. She had been prepared.
But the oldest and most unshaken beliefs of her clan stated that to be bound with knots was something reserved for the worst criminals, those convicted with no hope of release. Wrappings were allowed, merely the stress of the position you were bound in being the indicator of your crime. But never, ever knots.
She supposed it was her mind's way of holding onto something normal in a hostile situation. But honestly, what a thing to hold on to and to feel disgraced by. She was naked.
The slap was expected, the sucker-punch to the gut that followed with it wasn't. The young woman gagged and choked as she fought to resupply her lungs with oxygen, her diaphragm spasming after being forced out of it's natural rhythm. She gulped at the air and, with tears streaming from her eyes, glared once more at her aggressor.
He stared into her eyes with those bottomless pools of inky blackness that represented his eyes upon the porcelain mask which bore the kanji for 'five', and then simply slapped her again.
"What is your name?"
That same question... She wasn't entirely sure what the answer was. She'd been denying them the answer for so long that she was fairly sure she'd forgotten. All she knew is they came to her out of sequence.
Six should follow Five, but Three came instead.
Four should follow Three, but Nine came.
Their faces made no sense.
Sometimes another would come, one who bore no number. She called this woman, for her figure was female, "Shibari-chan".
Shibari-chan was ANBU, like the Numbers and the Voice, but her talents laid not in information extraction. Not in the setting of a torture chamber... Or was this a bed-chamber?
No, Shibari-chan would come and, without saying a word, slash the rough hemp from about the young woman's wrists, ankles and body and leave her moaning on the floor in relief for just a moment. Then, she would pin her down and tie her again.
The so-called reverse prayer wasn't so bad. A very high-stress position, the hands were tied behind the prisoner's back so the palms touched... much like a western nun praying to her God. But reversed. The young woman was flexible, her arms doubly so. She had, after all, been stressing the joints and tendons for so much of her life that such odd positions and even double-jointed motions were simply... natural. Almost.
The Ebi. That was the worst. The Prawn. The young woman couldn't stand that, her flexible body put under such strain that took its toll even after only five minutes. Even with what little chakra she could muster directed to alleviate the pain and stress, she could last only so long...
Ah. Today was Nine's day. Nine only asked the question once at the beginning of her visit, for Nine was a woman also, and then proceeded to make the young woman wish for death.
The pain wasn't so bad. It was the humiliation.
Nine would often come just after Shibari-chan's visits, or even make sure she brought the rope-bitch with her, just to tie her into another fucking position.
The young woman ignored Nine for the moment. The woman was performing one of her favourite acts, insulting the naked woman's supposed 'high status' in the outside world, cooing over her lithe body and fondling her breasts. The first time Nine had done this, the young woman had been outraged and embarrassed all at once, even going so far as to blush.
Nine had taken out a Kunai and drawn it across the young woman's left thigh to 'drain the excess blood', as 'blushing is a sign of emotion, and emotions are a luxury no ANBU may have'.
Shibari-chan was nice; she didn't molest or abuse the young woman. She didn't cut her, torture her, inflict pain or...
Well, she did inflict pain. Ebi. The ropes had also been known to chafe so much they made the skin break, but only when the young woman really struggled. And technically, forcing someone to submit to unwanted bondage was abuse... it wasn't consensual, after all.
Swearing was as foreign to the young woman as thinking of others in such derogatory terms. Surely, with her upbringing, she was above such common and uncouth displays of displeasure?
But fuck me does it relieve the stress...
That was when Nine decided the young woman tied to the wall wasn't paying enough attention, and kicked her shin so hard that the knee dislocated and the Fibula snapped.
The young woman yelped like a wounded dog, and passed quickly into unconsciousness.
"What is your name?"
I muttered something. Three syllables. I think my name had three syllables. My first name, anyway...
Six looked at me, cocking his head slightly as if me making a noise confused him.
"What is your name?"
He repeated the question, and this time I replied in a louder voice. Well, louder for me, anyway.
"I said; Fuck you, Six."
Six punched me in the face so hard I felt my teeth loosen a little, and he busted my bottom lip. Just as I hoped.
Six took a sick pleasure in breaking personal space after hitting someone, so he dominated their vision and, by extension, their world. I spat my bloody sputum into his right eye-hole the moment he was close enough for me to make out the detail on his porcelain mask past the stars I was seeing after his strike.
I had been moulding chakra in my hands and fingertips since I was old enough to understand what the instructors wanted me to do. I had received some basic medical training, enough to deal with the theory of using chakra as a scalpel.
Shibari-chan was going to get a good kick right in the face if I found her in the hallway. Stupid Rope-Bitch.
Six had flinched backwards with a curse, and I had used my excessive manual dexterity as best I could. Namely, bending my fingers back on themselves and firing up a chakra scalpel on the tip of each finger to slice through the hemp binding my wrists to the wall.
I was still bound to the wall by my feet, and couldn't move my arms anywhere behind me because of the wall when Six recovered and lunged at me with his fists at the ready.
I think I actually started giggling when his left hook smashed into my cheek, because my hands shot out almost of their own accord and my lithe little fingers gripped his short brown hair. Not short enough. I pulled him close, like a lover to a kiss, but a lot faster and off-centre so his damned masked face smacked into the wall beside me. I was close enough for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long to see inside the black eye-holes.
Six's eyes were green. They also looked pretty when he looked scared.
I know he looked scared. I remember that one half-moment before his nose broke and his mask shattered into pieces. Because that's the first time in all the time of my trials that I activated my family Doujutsu and saw... everything.
With Six lying at my feet, out cold, I bent at the waist and severed the ropes binding my feet before relieving Six of his pants. What? I'd been naked for Kami-knows how long.
I sneaked out of the cell as best I could, noting the number on the outside. Eleven. I can't help but think that, somehow, the numbers are given in order of chance of escaping successfully.
I notice that the other eleven doors are locked still, and that from number Four come yelps of pain and the sound I have come to associate with a leather flogger striking flesh.
Of all the humiliations I've endured, that was possibly the only one to register in my mind as something to think about trying in the bedroom. If I got out.
Maybe He would be willing to..?
Now wasn't the time for that. Fantasies to keep you warm at night in a stone cell later, escape now.
I'm not ashamed to admit I ran like a girl at first. A Shinobi's, or Kunoichi's, greatest ally is the shadows and the darkness. Screw all of these Jutsu and flashy abilities, when all else fails you hide and be patient.
Speaking of Jutsu, I'd felt the need to give Six something. Equivalent exchange, a Trade. I wasn't some common thief (although I have to admit I've been trained as one, and I had 'borrowed' a few things of His once... just a shirt, nothing more!) so I left Six my cute little amulet. Let the fucker feel that chakra-draining necklace for a while.
My family Doujutsu is especially suited to hiding. Three-hundred and fifty-nine degree vision within a radius of roughly ten paces, 'zoom' of up to a mile in any one degree if you focused correctly, the ability to see chakra and sum up how skilled an enemy was with their flashier techniques...
It made following Him so easy...
I watched as the few sackcloth-robed ANBU walked the halls. I waited and waited until one came along on her own. She was a woman because she was short and slight, much like myself, but also because only women have that particular quirk of a chakra network; a trio of threads linked to the area the womb inhabits.
The female ANBU didn't know what hit her as I stepped out of the shadows clad only in black pants a size too large, veins around my eyes distended and throbbing, and jabbed a Jyuuken strike into the base of her skull. She started convulsing silently, her legs and arms paralysed, and I swiftly dragged her into the shadows like some macabre Hyuuga jack-in-the-box.
I stole the mask from her face, grudgingly admitted she was pretty, probably prettier than me after however long of this... treatment, and then stole the sackcloth robe too. I'd have taken the armour, but in all honesty it would just weigh me down and if I was to get out of here speed was my best asset. Plus, her breasts were larger.
I came from the shadows dressed as a shadow, walking with purpose towards what instinct told me was the way to go.
I'd been walking for ten minutes and had managed to gain access to a weapons' cache when the Voice found me.
"In this place, you dare defy me?" he asked, standing in the doorway of the cache. I smirked to myself, removing the robe and mask before swiping three Kunai from a nearby box and clasping them between the knuckles of my right hand. I heard him step across the threshold and move towards me two paces before he spoke again.
"You escaped. I congratulate you. But you forget that I am God here, and those who trespass against God must be punished."
I performed my little Jill-in-the-box trick again, going from crouched to standing straight in a half-instant. I could almost feel the surprise as the Voice took in the image of a Hyuuga standing before him topless with her hands clasped behind her back demurely and an expression of pure innocence on her face.
"Pardon my tits." I requested, then launched the Kunai at his head while forming a half-seal with my left hand and spinning an about-face on my heel. My right hand whipped around and I didn't even watch where my pilfered Kunai went as I brought my hands together and crouched, the single seal I had seen performed countless times by Him the focus of my existence.
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" I yelled, unfortunately-topless clones of myself "bamff"ing into existence and charging for the two cases I had noticed earlier. I launched myself into a backflip, chakra-enhanced muscles in my legs providing the extra spring I needed to clear the boxes I had piled high as a barricade, twisting myself around in mid-air before crossing my left ankle underneath my right knee and axe-kicking the Voice in the face. Apparently he thought it would be far more impressive and 'cool' to simply sway to the side to dodge the Kunai I had thrown.
More fool him, especially when I tucked my legs and rolled after him, coming to a stop with both my legs on either side of his chest and my hands around his throat after he had landed on his back, mask cracked. My clones had reached their objectives successfully and armed themselves, slapping five or six explosive tags upon their bodies and forming the half-Ram seal.
Instead of death, or the sounds of an impending attack, I heard a single person clapping their approval. Then the Voice burst into water, a Mizu Bunshin, leaving only the cracked, grass-marked porcelain mask at my knees.
"You have passed the test, aspirant. You shall be ANBU. Now your training shall begin." The Voice stepped around the corner, his plain white mask adorned only with the kanji for the number Two, his hands resting together after his clapping had ended.
I picked up the porcelain mask from the floor and set it over my face, rearranging my long dark hair so it at least partially covered my chest, then repositioned myself so I was knelt on one knee only. I looked straight at the Voice's black eye-holes, knowing to him my own eyes were just as dark, and simply asked one question.
"What is my name?"
The Voice considered for a moment, then answered. "Akemi."
AN: I am extremely, extremely sorry for not updating Next in such a long time. I know that there are probably over 100 people who will get the notification that I have written again that have favourite'd Next, and you've all been waiting a long, long time.
The truth is, I've been so busy I really didn't realise it had been so long. I can't believe it at all. I've missed dozens of episodes of Shippuuden, I've been away from Fanfiction so long that Firefox didn't remember my password for me, and I've barely read any stories on the internet at all.
I am dreadfully, dreadfully sorry.
I had intended Akemi as a sort-of light-hearted oneshot but I figured after Hinata-chan's recent (at least in the manga, not the anime) attack of 'Being Awesome' and standing up to Pein in Naruto's stead, she deserved some Amael-sama love. And nothing says "I love you" more than turning the shy girl some people hate for being weak into a hardcore ANBU chick.
So, once more... I apologise for the stupendously long break. I hope you've enjoyed the first and quite possibly ONLY chapter of 'The Training of Akemi'. I hope I will be back soon, and I hope you can forgive me my tardiness.
Y'see, there was this black cat that crossed my path, so I had to-
Nah, just kidding!