Kurenai stood, silent, in the middle of the clearing. Her genin team had finished their D-ranks for the day, and had now gone off to train, either by themselves or with other teachers. She'd feel jealous, if she wasn't acting as such a teacher for another genin. A genin who was making surprising progress in genjutsu. She had a good mind for details when she managed to avoid being distracted, and her control was very impressive for her age. Honestly, were there about three or four years less age difference between them, she'd probably have ended up as a younger rival rather than a student.
Ah, and speaking of progress, Kurenai thought as a kunai poked into her back.
"You're dead, Kurenai-sensei," Sakura whispered from behind and all around her at once. Kurenai noted the attempt at aural displacement with approval. They hadn't even gone over that yet. Sakura must have worked out how to do so by going over the principles of image displacement and attempting to apply them to sound. She really was a very talented illusionist. Alas, like any young genius, there was still one crucial element she lacked.
The scene dissolved, Sakura finding herself threatening a tree trunk, with Kurenai's blade held to her throat from behind. A few tense seconds passed, Kurenai waiting to see how the girl would react to this new development. If she'd planned far enough ahead, then she might have layered another level of illusion as a contingency, but...
"Damn it," Sakura growled, "you win, Kurenai-sensei. Again."
She lacked experience.
"You know it's not about that, Sakura," the jounin chided as she removed her blade.
"Right," she nodded, already evaluating her own performance. "I didn't spot your illusion layering over mine."
"I should hope not. If a fresh genin could see through my illusions, I'd be out of a job," Kurenai joked. "Though I must admit, you've made considerable progress with sound-based genjutsu in a very short time."
"Not fast enough," was the sullen reply.
Kurenai sighed. Sakura had initially been pleased with her progress, only to apparently decide over the course of her last mission that it was not enough. Now, no amount of progress seemed to be enough. It was a good attitude in some ways, but potentially crippling in others. She could end up burning herself out if she tried holding herself to a relentless pace.
"Sakura, what exactly happened on that mission?"
"I know your mission was mis-ranked, but what all happened to make you unhappy with your progress so far?"
"...I wasn't unhappy," she started, "I was actually really proud of myself. Thanks to what I learned from you, Kurenai-sensei, I was able to help. I- I knew I was new at this, that I hadn't faced combat yet, and I was worried what I'd do when it happened. But," a small smile crept up, "I was able to help. I kept the client safe, and I was even able to help a little later on. I realised, 'I can do this.' I can be a ninja. I really can!" The smile disappeared. "Then, later, and like just now, I realised: It's not enough. Haku, and that Zabuza,"
Kurenai blinked at the mention of Zabuza's name. Kakashi's team had gone up against that kind of monster? On their first mission? It was almost a miracle none of them were dead.
"They weren't something I could stop. Zabuza, you know, I only managed to tag him once, but he saw right through it. Just like that," she snapped her fingers. "Sensei. That kind of ninja, that power. Zabuza's not the only one like that out there, was he." Sakura looked up at her tutor. "He's not the only jounin in the world." It wasn't a question.
"No," Kurenai confirmed. "In fact, he was probably mid-tier, compared to the likes of the Sannin. I'm a new jounin myself, and I don't think I really compare to either." She didn't miss the shiver Sakura gave at that.
"It's not enough." Sakura repeated. "Those people, they're not going to just wait for me to get stronger. So I have to, now. As fast as possible. I don't-" she swallowed, "I almost lost Sasuke. Even if he didn't die, I couldn't do anything to help him after he was hurt. I don't want to feel that helpless again. If I can't help them after they're hurt, I just won't let it happen. I need to be better at this."
Kurenai digested that for a moment.
"Sasuke, Naruto and Kakashi-sensei, too. They're all so reckless." She scoffed, for a moment seeming the 12-year-old she was supposed to be. "Is it just a guy thing, to charge ahead regardless of the danger or how hurt you are?" she asked sardonically.
Her teacher just grinned in response.
She sighed, "Yeah, that's what I thought."
"To be fair, I know one or two kunoichi who do the same." Kurenai rested a hand on Sakura's shoulder. "One more go before we call it a day?"
While he probably should have, he couldn't go to Kakashi for this. Wouldn't go to him for this. Pride was a ninja's enemy, as Naruto had helped him understand, but he couldn't help it in this case. This wasn't something anyone else could help him with, nor would he let them. Itachi might have received help or training in this regard, but since everyone who could tell him so was now either dead or untrustworthy, it didn't really matter.
Learning to activate the Sharingan at will... this was something he could only do himself. Kakashi was not an Uchiha, and from what he could tell, had next to no control in terms of switching his implanted eye on and off. Perhaps later, when he needed the benefit of advice from experience in using these eyes in battle, he would approach Kakashi, but first he needed to figure this out for himself.
So it was that he had secluded himself in a small area of the Uchiha compound.
It had seemed fitting when he started. That it was considered out-of-bounds to the rest of the village also meant there was less chance he'd be interrupted. This was too important for that. Besides, there was also that stone Itachi had told him about. Sasuke had every intention of reading whatever secret it held the moment he had his Sharingan under control.
If he ever did, anyway. He grit his teeth in frustration. He'd been at it for most of the day already, trying to brute force chakra to his eyes in an attempt to activate them. All he'd accomplished was making them ache from overpressure, so he stopped that before something unfortunate happened. Then he'd tried modulating the flow, or using his fire element, or reversing the flow, or...
He sighed, slumping back against the wall of the room he was using.
Still, if it was as easy as just forcing the chakra, every Uchiha would have been able to use them. True, everyone in military service could, but there were also those who lived as civilians and had only ever touched a kunai to sell it. He thought of the old couple he called Uncle and Auntie lying dead on the street in each other's arms, their blood pooling-
Sasuke shook his head. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to come back here. But it needed to be here, he felt. Unlocking the Uchiha legacy in the Uchiha district... That was right, right? He rubbed his eyes with one hand. He was more tired than he thought, if he was dwelling on such things instead of training. Maybe he should head back. Sleep sounded like an awesome idea right now, especially with his efforts causing a burning ache behind his-
That time. His eyes. They burned.
Fire is an Uchiha's blood.
But he'd already tried-
He hadn't tried that.
Well. No. He didn't particularly want his eyes to combust.
Fire is an Uchiha's blood.
Could it really be that simple? Just... send fire-element chakra to his eyes?
So he tried it. Sasuke closed his eyes, concentrating. He'd never tried using katon internally before, focusing his efforts on developing his clan's extensive library of katon ninjutsu. He'd not considered ever trying to convert his internal chakra to fire-element. After a few minutes, he felt confident he had it ready, and opened his eyes.
It was immediately noticeable.
The room was still the room, but it was also more, suddenly. Now that he had the time to really examine how his new eyes worked, instead of that desperate battle before, he could notice the change right away, and it... There was no other word for it.
It was intoxicating. Everywhere his gaze fell, he was aware in a way he'd never been before. Everything he could see, he could truly see, as though...
No. It was incomparable. If he had to say anything, then it was like seeing color for the first time when you'd been born colorblind, or that he'd been walking around with his eyes closed, and only now were they truly open, truly seeing the world.
Yet even those analogies didn't come close. Every grain in the wood, every mote of dust in the air, even those ants in the far corner that he hadn't noticed earlier. He was not focusing on them overmuch. He could make out each leg of each ant at the same time he could see even the most minute imperfections in the wood grain, and the path each mote traced through the air. It was not a constant shift of focus. It was everything, simultaneous, in each instant. Every detail, every movement in his line of sight, he was aware of.
Then a fly came in through an open window, and he found he had focused on it without no longer focusing on the rest of the room.
It was surreal. It wasn't like the world had slowed down in that space that he was now impossibly aware of. It wasn't that he suddenly had a superhuman disregard for time, processing everything so much faster. He was just... aware. Yet, that made all the difference. The fly's beating wings were not moving more slowly, from his perspective, but he could still track their movement, not as an indistinct blur, but as individual movement, up and down. And yet at the same time he was still focused on the dust that was dancing in the air. The ants still crawling around the wooden floor. The world had not slowed down, nor was he processing it more quickly, but he could still see everything. It was not something that could be related or described to anyone that had not experienced it themselves. A level of visual awareness that no one else could even imagine.
With this kind of ability, was it really any wonder his clan had believed themselves above everyone else?
Sasuke grinned. His eyes burned.
Fire is an Uchiha's blood.
ARGHLEBLARGHLE SO LATE
I could use my desktop OS borking itself as an excuse. Or I could use my USB getting corrupted for some reason, with the only copy of this chapter on it and a couple other bits(like ALL MY OMAKES THUS FAR SAGE DAMN IT)
But I won't. Because neither of those things had any bearing on this chapter being late.
They're just really really annoying.
Yes, the Sharingan is trippy. You thought it wouldn't be?