He'd been watching her for a while now.

He wasn't quite sure how long it had been since he had first seen her. Two months... three, maybe. Or had it been longer? Time was somewhat relative to him, now that he had all the time in the world. An impatient person, time passed quickly for him. He was always telling his partner, "Where have you been? It's already been an hour!" So maybe it only felt like a short time when really it had been longer that he had been watching her.

Leader-sama had tricked him into accepting this mission. He had waited until they were actually stationed in Sunagakure to call and inform them that this would be an intelligence gathering mission. They were not to come back for six months. But how much of that time had passed since they'd arrived? If it had been longer than four months, that meant their time here would soon be up and they'd have to return to base. He'd have to leave this oh-so interesting young woman behind.

From what he learned, her name was Ayatsuri. He didn't know her last name, but he was sure it was as artistically beautiful as her first. She didn't look a day over eighteen, but he had his doubts. After all, a well-respected woman in this village, barely a legal adult? Please. She had to be older than that. How much older, he didn't know. She had to be younger than twenty-five. She definitely didn't look older than that.

She was a puppeteer, but not for combat purposes. She was employed at the theater on the west side of town, where she performed with her own puppets.

Sasor had seen her puppets, when she was all alone packing them up and getting ready to leave the theater. They were beautiful... some of them achingly so, and at times he got jealous of them. Most of them were female, but there were a few male. But they were all beautiful, regardless of gender; she undoubtedly put such work into making them, completely by hand. This was a girl who had nothing better to do with her time than make dolls... which, admittedly, was a little unsettling for someone her age. It worried him a little, but when she showed up with a new puppet that worry dissipated and he was just excited to see it.

An odd thing about her was that she named her puppets. Most people who worked in puppet theaters like the one she worked in, they just had one set of puppets - a man, a woman, a child, a baby, and possibly some animals - and assigned them names based on the script they were performing. But Ayatsuri... she was different. She had at least 25 puppets, and all of them were distinct, even if it was just one or two traits that differed. He knew exactly which one each was. The one with the blonde hair and red eyes was Hinode; the one who had black hair and silver eyes was Tsukiko. The male one whose face usually wore a beast's head but could be transformed back into a man was Kobake. Each one of them was unique, with traits that made it difficult to just assign roles.

And when Ayatsuri performed with her puppets, they weren't legends; he didn't recognize any of the stories she told. He assumed that, because her dolls were all different and he had no idea about any of the tales, that she made up her own, centered around her puppets.

He watched her every move sometimes. There were instances where he would leave Deidara at the theater to terrorize some poor amateur puppeteer, and he would follow Ayatsuri home. And of course he'd never meant to see her topless, but she still had her bra on so it wasn't really that bad or wrong. He was just observing her, and she'd happened to take her shirt and pants off to reveal her underclothes. And besides, what was beneath her clothes was desperately intriguing to a master puppeteer like him.

In between where her bra ended and her panties began, her body bore the appearance of wood. Pale, milky, sanded-down-to-smooth wood. To anyone who was uneducated in the art of puppetry, it would look simply like the girl's own creamy-complexioned midriff. But something was off about this portion of her skin, compared to her face, neck, and arms. Trained with an eye that picked out details like a fine-toothed comb over a six-month-old's downy-covered head, Sasori noticed things about this area of her flesh. He saw little marks and swirls across it, like the grain of wood. Virtually imperceptible, but he saw it. And the fact that certain parts of it seemed to stick out, like splinters. If Ayatsuri noticed this, she would rush into the bathroom; he didn't follow her, out of decency and respect for privacy. When she returned to her main bedroom, the offending "splinter" was gone, leaving him to wonder if perhaps it had just been his imagination after all.

Something was odd about the puppet master Ayatsuri, that much was for sure. But what it was, Sasori honestly admitted that for once, he didn't know.

But he fully intended to find out.

OK... yeah. Can't really explain this one, I have NO idea where it came from. But I already like Ayatsuri... so don't take her away, please? And review! You will make Sasori-chan VERY VERY SAD if you don't review. :D It's a little shorter than most of my chapters but not by much and hey, it's a prologue anyway so it has the RIGHT to be shorter. XD

Thanks for reading and hope you liked! ^^