As White as Blood

Chapter Seventy One

As White as Blood Reprise

Shin looked to the people, and the stranger who had fallen from the sky earlier stared at him in shock, "…Sai…Little brother, run! You see what they have done to our bodies? You can't possibly win! You stand no chance – run!"

"B-Brother?" Sai stared at Shin in absolute shock, and the red head realised Kabuto's motives for summoning some of the individuals that he did. Of course the bastard was sick and twisted enough to want to psychologically mess with his prey; he was just like his teacher.

"We don't have the time to be hesitant…" The enemy who had tried to slice up Sasori's puppets before was the one who spoke, "I will not let you force friends and family to harm one another! I will show you no mercy!" He put his blade forward dramatically, and Sasori frowned in light irritation.

Even now, the red head was the antagonist.

If he had had his freedom, Sasori would not be doing this…Or would he?

This was not the time to think. Sasori had fought in war times before - for both himself and for the village which he had grown to hate - but right now he was fighting for no one.

"SPARE US YOUR PRETTY LITTLE PUSSY SPEECHES!" Both the clay owl and Shin leapt forwards, "THIS IS WAR, UN! SCREW THE NICETIES!" Sasori lost interest in conversation at that point and waited for a time to strike. The male who had spoken before tried to get close to Deidara, and the red head immediately began to try and attack with his two living-puppets in an effort to protect the blonde – it was the instinctive thing to do. "NICE MOVES! BUT YOU CAN CUT ME ALL DAY LONG AND I WILL STILL COME OUT STANDING!"

The enemy leapt up, about to attack Deidara, but the red head moved his puppets to follow him into the air. He was surprised when the enemy revealed his true intent. Instead of hitting the blonde, his blade slashed behind himself, slicing right through Sasori's chakra strings.

The two Shinobi fell out of his control and were rescued by others, leaving the red head puppet-less…Still, the fact that the man had managed to cut his chakra threads was impressive, and Sasori found himself praising the sword work of his enemy. He was about to rid himself of the chakra threads, but before the red head had the chance, Kankuro had attached his own strings to the ends of Sasori's.

The red head's eyes widened in shock and he was suddenly pulled off of the cliff, beginning to free fall. Sasori noticed that as he dropped, one of the enemies also used an Earth technique to bring the ground back up to where it had been before. Deidara fell off of his owl as the clay creation was suddenly struck by the floor, and Sasori continued to fall way too fast.

Deidara gave a loud cry as the red head landed right on top of him, successfully winding the younger male, though the blonde still gave a groan, "Get off me, un!"

Sasori rolled his eyes as he did so, "Don't act like you're not used to it." He moved off of Deidara, giving a slight groan himself, but mostly due to embarrassment.

"Fucking bastard…" The blonde glared slightly at him before turning his attention back to the enemy.

"You connected your own threads to my own and then you dragged me down…" Sasori frowned slightly, though he was quite impressed, "Well…At least you have improved your thread skills…A bit…Kankuro."

The puppeteer gave Sasori a smirk and drew a scroll, "I'm honoured to be receiving such praise from the master of the Secret Red Technique…But I've surpassed you with my own Secret Black Technique."

Sasori gave the male a bored look, doubting what he said; if the red head had wanted him dead, he would have easily killed him back in the desert.

Kankuro unrolled the scroll and the red head was surprised to see that it read the kanji for both Sasori's name and for 'Scorpion'. There was a puff of smoke and the red head's old puppet body appeared – albeit lacking his heart container.

Sasori almost face palmed, and the first thought that came to mind was concern over the fact that all of Kankuro's puppets were the red head's old toys.

Couldn't the kid make his own weapons and stop stealing Sasori's rejects?

The older male decided not to bring the issue to light, continuing with his aloof appearance, "Oh, my old puppet body…It all suddenly seems so pointless. No longer do I care for that thing. I now possess the body that I have always desired, one that will never rot or decay. I have finally become a puppet in ever sense of the word! It's what I have always wanted…"

That was a lie – he knew that there had been something that he had wanted before his desire to become Eternal. Sasori just couldn't remember it…

Kankuro looked at him silently and the red head attached chakra strings to Shin while Deidara leapt back up onto his bird. "Sai…Run…Away…" The Shinobi began to bark orders at one another, and Sasori wasn't surprised by the fact that they knew Shin was filled with explosive clay.

A few moments passed before Kankuro's toy and the red head's living-puppet both clashed, beginning a fast series of attacks. Sasori quickly pulled Shin away as another Shinobi made a move to stab him, and Deidara seemed to read Sasori's mind. The red head leapt onto the back of the bird for safety, "Katsu!"

Just before Shin could explode, the red head's old puppet Salamander burst out of the ground and captured the Root member inside of its body. It destroyed the puppet but successfully protected everyone from the explosion.

"Well shit…He hid a puppet underground and used the thing to smother the Bomb….Damn, he really dampened the blast, un…" Deidara sighed in disappointment and the red head rolled his eyes.

"That was Salamander; a defence puppet I made long ago." Sasori shrugged slightly and the blonde gave a non-caring exclamation in response.

"…'The Bomb'?" Shin's brother spoke with a dark tone, and he caught the attention of both Akatsuki members.

"What's that un? You gotta problem you wanna whine about? You wanna step up and face us? Don't make me laugh; you're just a weakling…YOU AREN'T EVEN GOOD ENOUGH TO REPLACE SASUKE UCHIHA! QUIT MOANING, BITCH!" Shin's body slowly reformed and Deidara snickered, "AS LONG AS OUR SOULS ARE BOUND TO THIS FUCKING WORLD, WE WILL JUST REGENERATE OVER AND OVER! I CAN TURN HIM INTO A BOMB AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN!" The blonde gave a loud, maniacal laugh, and Sasori almost hit him over the head just to make him shut up.

"I don't want to hurt you, brother…" Shin spoke with regret thick in his voice, "I was dead…I had already been liberated from Root forever."

"I heard a rumour about the Leaf's Root Division…" Sasori finally recalled the distant memory of Kisame talking to him about it, and he quoted the shark word for word. "I've heard that they live together from a young age - brought up like a family - and then when they are older Danzo pits them against one another in a fight to the death. A perfect Shinobi is one who does not hesitate, and if they are forced to kill those who have meaning to them…" He gave a rueful sigh, "Get rid of the heart – turn them into an empty husk – and all that remains is the Ultimate Shinobi. A nice loyal dog…You members of Root…You're just like me…"

Yes, Sunagakure had done all that they could to mould Sasori into the monster that he was to that day.

But they had failed to turn him into a loyal dog, and even Sasori had no idea as to where they had screwed up in that step.

The red head watched as the raven haired male picked up a scroll - while pulling out a brush - and opened a small ink pot stashed in the roll of paper. "What's that, un? You're drawing? So you think of yourself as an artist, do you? ART IS SOMETHING THAT EXPLODES! HERE! I'LL GIVE YOU ANOTHER EXAMPLE!"

Once Sasori saw the dark expression on the male's face, he instantly knew that Deidara had taken things way too far. "JUST TRY IT!"

The red watched as the male drew quickly on the scroll, and suddenly his drawings came to life. Two giant ink outlined warriors emerged from the paper, and even the two Akatsuki members were completely stunned by it.

The black outlined creations lurched forward, punching both Sasori and Deidara, destroying the clay owl as well with the single blow. The two ex-lovers went shooting through the air, and Sasori gave a terrified sneer as he went crashing into the barrel body of a puppet that looked exactly like the Black Ant. For the first time in far too long, he was instinctively terrified by being inside the cramped space, knowing full well that once someone was inside, it would only ever lead to death.

"SHIT!" Deidara's voice was muffled, and Sasori knew that the blonde was also inside of a Black Ant look alike…Well, at least Kankuro could make puppets…Even if they were still cheap knock offs of Sasori's own creations…That kid needed an imagination! "THAT'S IT, UN! I'M SUICIDE BOMBING THESE ASSHOLES! I SHOULD HAVE DETONATED MYSELF AGAIN LONG AGO! IT'S SO TASTELESS TO REVEAL ONE'S ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE SEVERAL TIMES, BUT I HAVE NO FUCKING CHOICE BUT TO USE IT AGAIN, UN!"

Sasori felt the awaited blades pierce the holes in the sides of the barrel, digging into his body, though he felt no pain or death…Oh yeah, he had forgotten about the numbness. Blood ran from his lips though he would not die; he was immortal.

He waited for the blonde's expected C0 attack, but it never came.

The red head heard Deidara curse loudly over something, and Sasori guessed that the younger male's technique had somehow been stopped, "Deidara?" He kept his voice quite hushed so that the enemy could not hear, but loud enough so that the blonde could; Sasori knew for a fact that the puppets they were currently inside were practically next to one another.

"They've fucking stabbed me with swords that have lightening charging through them…It's impossible to use my C0, un…" He heard the blonde give a growl, "These fucking puppets seem to have your macabre touch added to them…I take it that they're your design…Fucking bastard, un."

"Aren't all of the puppets that this kid owns of my design? Besides, it isn't my fault that we are in this situation, Brat," Sasori gave a weak sneer, "you just love to push people too far, don't you?" The red head heard the blonde scoff and he was about to continue, but was surprised to find his chakra strings on Shin go limp, "…What's happening…Out there…?" He tried to move the strings but the threads gave no response.

"Sasori!" The voice clearly belonged to Kankuro, and the red head decided to listen in to what he said, "You once had great strength! But this strength came from your soul, not in spite of it! I know you; you tried to erase it by becoming a puppet, but you could never fully succeed! I know this because you put your heart and soul into every single puppet that you have created! That is the part of them that never rots or decays; that is the part that makes them eternal! In this puppet body that I now control, I can feel it! And now, even though you have your human flesh back…You have fallen…You are just a doll…YOU HAVE SUNK TO THE LEVEL OF THE PUPPETS THAT YOU USED TO CONTROL!" Sasori closed his eyes while giving a silent frown, knowing that the words which his ex-best friend's son spoke were sadly true. "You're supposed to be an S-Class Puppet Master…Not a worthless nobody who allows someone else to pull his strings! You might be a monster, but you're better than that!"

The red head opened his eyes, still giving the regretful expression, "…" It was true; Sasori had finally reached the top and just as some wise naïve child had prophesied, he had fallen…He had fallen hard…

"When the puppeteer is the one who is being controlled, that's it for him, Sasori! My own spirit as a puppeteer is stronger than yours; I can beat whatever attack you throw at me! BY CONTROLLING YOUR PUPPET BODY, I AM CONTROLLING THE REAL YOU! I AM CONTROLLING THE INFAMOUS SASORI OF THE RED SAND! A monster, an Akatsuki member, a mere puppet!"

The red head frowned in sadness as he realised that he had actually been wrong the entire time…

Sasori had never once been at the top.

The puppet master had always been controlled by someone else. Sunagakure, Chiyo, Karura, Orochimaru, Akatsuki…Deidara…And now Kabuto…He had always thought that he had been the one controlling others, but Sasori had been wrong. Like a puppet, he had been used every single day of his life.

He had gone through his life with his hands bound by unbreakable strings.

Sasori wasn't a Puppet Master; he was simply a puppet.

"It is your techniques and your creations that will remain eternal…Through every performance by their inheritors and through the soul that you put into them! As long as there are younger generations to inherit them, you will never die!"

Sasori was silent for a few moments, before he gave a smirking smile and an ever so slight chuckle. His actions may have been those of a puppet, but he was still Sasori Yoshiko. The world knew of him as Sasori of the Red Sand, but that wasn't the entire truth. It didn't matter anymore. "Maybe…Maybe that is how I've always wanted my art to be…Perhaps that was what I have been seeking…"

He just wanted to be remembered…

"OH YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!" Sasori's smirk fell as he abruptly remembered that Deidara was still there, "COME ON, DANNA; DON'T BELIEVE ANY OF THEIR SILVER-TONGUE BULLSHIT, UN! TRUE ART IS AN EXPLOSION! TRUE ART IS TRANSIENT BEAUTY! TRUE ART IS FLEETING!"

The red head knew the words which Deidara wanted to say but refused to utter; 'Don't leave me again'.

Sasori would not be controlled any longer. He would not be tempted and he would not be persuaded. He would do what he wanted…

…And he wanted to go…

The red head's body began to crumble as his soul began to shed itself of the bindings which it bore.

Ones soul really did live forever in their creations…Deidara would always hold a bit of Sasori's soul inside of him. "…Kankuro…I want you to have my Mother and Father puppets too…And then when you die, pass them both on to the next generation…Please…Let them live forever, as I could not…"

Kankuro chuckled lightly and Sasori's body continued to crumble into simple ash, "It's a deal."

-o-

And that, dear readers, is my third and final death…

It's like what Deidara had once told me about himself.

Dying is an Art, and like all things, I did is exceptionally well.

-o-

"NO!" Deidara's words were the last that Sasori ever heard, "SASORI~! MASTER~! DANNA~!"

It didn't matter what name the blonde promised to call him, he would not remain; in order to live forever, one had to die first…

-x-

The voice disappeared and was replaced instead by crying; Sasori's crying. He was curled up in a ball and he was currently weeping against his knees. His outlines were no longer as red as blood, but were now as white as snow.

The ex-Akatsuki member finally knew the truth as to why the boy cried; he cried alone and he cried for his loneliness.

Sasori slowly quietened his wails and shakily drew his face from his knees, looking up at the darkness which surrounded him. The shadows watched the young boy, but he was not frightened by them.

The white outlined boy slowly moved his limbs until he was no longer clutched in an insecure ball, sitting in the darkness, no longer crying. Sasori Yoshiko's gaze turned to his outlined hands which were currently cupped tightly together, and he slowly unclenched them to reveal what was hidden inside.

A firefly.

The white light emerged from his open hands, taking flight after all these gruesome years.

Sasori watched as the firefly began to light the darkness which surrounded him, the dank disappearing within an instant…

There was grass, there were forests, there were deserts, there were beaches and there were oceans. It was just like the Illusion World that he had often visited, except with one crucial difference…

This time it was real.

Sasori no longer sat in the darkness, but a field of blooming red and white flowers; they smelt so beautiful. And that was when he saw them; the shadows that were no longer shadows.

They were people, they were enemies, and they were friends.

All of them were there; Karura, Daichi, Chiyo, Misaki Sensei, Asuko, Hiruko, Sky, Yashamaru, Pakura, Jishaku, Takeo, Orochimaru, Kurow, Kabuto, Nagato, Konan, Kisame, Itachi, Zetsu, Hidan, Kakuzu, his Mummy, his Daddy, and so many more.

Everyone whom Sasori had befriended and everyone he had betrayed.

The red head had wronged so many people in his life, and in that moment, he knew that he had been forgiven.

He knew that his burden was gone.

The white outlined figure of young Sasori slowly stood up, and as he did so he changed. The boy grew as he stood, and as he aged his outlines gradually altered from being snow white to being blood red once more.

It didn't bother Sasori at all; his soul was as white as blood anyway. The thought was both humorous and sarcastic. Sasori was a monster and a murderer, but that was who he was.

The outlines disappeared completely as his colour and flesh also returned to him until he looked just like his thirty five year old self with a warm smile curving his lips. They called to him, the people, and he was about to go to them, but he was suddenly stopped.

He heard unknown crying coming from behind him and Sasori turned to look, his smile falling.

Just behind him was the last bit of darkness – the last imperfection - in the red head's perfect world. A small boy was curled up on the ground in a kneeling position, face pressed against the ground. He wore light blue outlines, and he was the one blemish within the world.

Sasori knew exactly who it was instantly…

Deidara.

The boy continued to cry and the red head frowned ever so slightly, looking back and forth between the Brat and the rest of the people who awaited his presence. His warm smile returned as he finally realised that he didn't have to choose just one.

Sasori offered his hand to the boy, and ever so slowly his crying grew quiet, the azure outlined figure gradually looking up at him.

Deidara blinked at the tall red head for a few moments before he slowly brought his hand up to meet Sasori's. Blue outlines met with warm skin, and Sasori pulled the child to stand up as well. The splodge of darkness vanished to reveal a small ring of pink flowers at the boy's feet, and as he stood he grew just as Sasori had, though his outlines remained the same. Soon a nineteen year old outlined Deidara stood before the red head, and a few moments later his colour and flesh also returned until he looked exactly the same as on the day the blonde had died as a result of his own explosion.

The older male pulled his love against him, feeling the warm skin pressing against his own body, and Sasori gave him a chaste kiss on his delicate lips. They pulled away, and the red head ran a hand tenderly through the blonde's silken hair, his soft smile returning as he mouthed out three words that now seemed so simple…

Deidara stared at him in shock, before giving a slow joyful smile and a nod, tightening his grip of Sasori's hand concurrently. The red head turned and began to lead the blonde forward to the mass of people who eagerly stood waiting for their old friend to finally join them in death.

Fresh wet tears were currently gracing Sasori's cheeks, and his smile grew ever wider.

For once they were tears born from the emotion of utter bliss.

'Yet all is well; he has but passed
To Life's appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.

For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and gray,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
His
soul of his soul's strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
Became Christ's snow-white seal.

In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In a burning winding-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.'

Sasori had at last found the thing that he had been searching for.

It had been the one thing that he had always wanted, and it had been the one thing that he had always had.

It was not freedom, and it was not love.

Only in death had he realised what it was; but by then it was gone…

He had been searching for his story.

He had been searching for his life.

The End