When the Song Dies

Through the trees, a pair of robed figures walked on, so aware of their surroundings and yet not paying them much attention all at the same time. As one foot stepped in front of the other, making no sound at all it seemed, their cloaks of black swirled around their calves, red clouds billowing in the slight breeze. There was a sigh from one, boredom apparent, and as he looked around, he found himself to be the only one.

"Princess, when are we going to get there? It's so boring walking this much." Tobi's generally annoying voice asked. He let his shoulders slump, dragging his feet along with darkly painted nails.

The other beside him, with no painted nails, did not slow, nor even look over at him when she replied in a dull tone, "I would prefer if you would stop calling me Princess. That is not my name, nor will it ever be." She spoke as if all the emotions had been sucked from her body, and sometimes, she liked to pretend it was true.

"Well, how much longer are we going to walk, Himeko? We've been walking for hours. Can't we take a break?"

"Tobi, we have a mission and the longer we take to accomplish it, the more difficult the task shall become." Even if Tobi was technically the superior of their two-person group, he had a high tendency to treat her like she made their decisions. She had only been in the Akatsuki for a small portion of time, stripping Tobi of his title of newest member. Still, she was chosen to be Tobi's partner for a reason, as all Akatsuki partners were chosen.

"Oh, fine then," Tobi groaned, "But can't we stop to get some lunch real quick?"

Himeko stopped. "We cannot afford to waste time. You of all people should understand why."

Tobi straightened, standing to his full height. "Of course, I understand," he said in a now much deeper voice.

"Then there is no time to waste."

They continued to walk in silence for a few minutes, only the breeze and the grass underneath their feet making sound.

Tobi settled back into his former personality. "It's too quiet. It's making me feel like I shouldn't be talking."

"Then simply stop talking."

"Oh but Princess, that's no fun. Talking helps me to not be bored. I'd much rather keep talking."

Any other member of the Akatsuki would be so infuriated with Tobi by now, threatening all sorts of things to get him to be silent, but Himeko was picked mostly for her patience. "If you insist. Why do you call me Princess?"

"I don't know. You just have that sort of aura about you, like a fairytale princess!" Tobi was silent a moment. "You know, you are so completely different from all the other Akatsuki. Do you remember the day when we found you? Oh, it seems like it was so long ago, but I remember it well." Tobi hugged himself. "It was really such a fun day! Even if you didn't talk much."

Himeko continued on, not saying a word, but thinking back to the earliest point of her life that she dared remember all those months ago.

The day had been dark with clouds covering the sun, and the trees surrounding her village begged for water that would soon arrive. Himeko had been alone, as she had always been in her mind, sitting and watching the clouds above her move. She had heard them arriving, but she didn't make any move to get away. Why would she? With such a curse as hers, she could handle anything in an instant, and everything would be over before they even knew what had happened.

Three figures had approached her, all wearing the same cloak with the red clouds that reminded her of days she refused to think about. They stood around her lying on the floor, looking down at her, knowing they had found the right person, but revealing how unconvinced they were considering her appearance. She was used to that misconception. She agreed; she seemed so good and sweet, her very aura felt pure. She had laid in silence, simply waiting for them to state their business.

"Are you sure this is the one, Itachi? She doesn't seem like she is." Deidara had narrowed his eyes, speaking as if she wasn't listening at all.

"I am sure. She is the one we are looking for."

Tobi had been the first to actually speak to her. "Wow! How exciting. We finally found her. Do you want to join the Akatsuki? It'll be fun."

Deidara, the most short tempered of the group, spoke up. "Tobi, we're not here to have fun. The whole purpose of this mission is gaining another member." His facial expression showed his irritation.

Itachi stared directly into her eyes with his Sharingan. Himeko could remember looking right through him, as if she could still see the sky. If she didn't look directly at the eyes, they could do nothing, right?

"We would be pleased," Itachi had said, "if you would willingly join the Akatsuki."

"It would save a lot of our time," Deidara had added. "Otherwise we would have to convince you. I can't say I'm particularly masterful with words, but I'd love to show you my art."

Himeko looked over to Deidara. "Art?" she asked, completely monotone.

"Oh yes! Deidara has the most wonderful art! It's just so explosive!" Tobi moved his arms to signify an explosion, complete with sound effects, and then chuckled. It was difficult for Himeko to not get the hint that she may not actually want to see his art after all. Deidara looked less than pleased.

"Tobi, my talent is much more than just explosions. It is beauty!"

"If you want talent, you mustn't be looking for me. My older sister looks almost exactly like me, but she has much more talent." Himeko was, of course, speaking of training, as her sister was always better and more experienced than her in everything except the one thing Himeko kept hidden. If these guys were really here for her, then they would have gone through much trouble to discover what they wanted her for. She would have to figure out how they had come to the conclusion.

"We are not here for your skills. You possess a certain art form yourself, correct?"

Himeko looked blankly around, not necessarily meeting any of their eyes (especially the Sharingan). She felt nothing, as she had always wished. "Yes, I have my own art, but I'm sure it's not nearly as refined as yours may be," she looked to Deidara. "I have not used it so much. My control is much too undefined for its use."

Tobi tilted his head. "Why do you sound so boring? You should be happy that we're here. We're going to let you join our group! It will be great!"

Deidara half grinned, ignoring Tobi, for once. "You are an artist, too? Well, we will have to share our skills with each other. I'm sure I can help you with any control you may need."

Itachi had just continued to stare at her.

"Well, I'm not exactly the sort of artist you are. My art is much more…" she thought of a word, "serene. I live for the gentle flow of one note to another, the feeling of a song completely taking over the emotions, the final note that holds one's very heart with it until the song finally dies."

"The song dies," Itachi had said, "or the listener?"

Himeko knew she was supposed to feel threatened that he knew of her power, but she still felt nothing. For a long while now, she had trained her mind, not her body as her sister had. All feelings were gone, for now.

"I'm sure you know the answer is both."

"So a musician." Deidara had looked a bit disappointed. "No matter. I'm sure you still understand how much art should be beautiful and then gone, for that is true beauty."

"Art, maybe," she had said, sounding completely uninterested. "But music cannot be an explosion. Music must build up and unleash itself to the world."

Itachi finally looked from her eyes. "Would you care to give a small demonstration?"

"Oh yes! I'd love to hear a song! Can you?" Tobi had clapped his hands together and intertwined his fingers, looking as if he was a pleading child.

Himeko shook her head, expression blank. "I'm afraid not. Once the song starts, it goes to the end. There is not a song that will be incomplete, for then it is not a true song."

"Very well." Itachi turned. "Are you willing to join us, or do you refuse?"

Himeko looked back out to the sky and found the clouds above actually turning red. She had been caught in the eyes she had tried not to look at after all. "If I went with you, I will not demonstrate my powers. How would your group ever know I really keep the powers I am rumored to?"

The sky disappeared, and there was Itachi's face. "You will demonstrate your powers. A performance has been requested of you. If you never practice with your power," his eyes grew more and more alluring, "you will never be able to control yourself."

And suddenly it was all gone. She was back on the ground, looking up at the sky, blank expression on her face. "I will go." She stood.

"Oh goody! We have completed our mission!" Tobi did a little dance.

"But I warn," Himeko had said, "once the song begins, it does not stop until the end."

Together, they left the outskirts of her village. She did not bother to tell anyone or take anything. As many others in the Akatsuki, she had nothing and cared for no one. She was more than sure she would get to see her sister again, after joining the Akatsuki, on the opposite side of the battlefield.

They all walked back to the hideout, Himeko by their side, watching the ground below her, not particularly caring for anything at all. Tobi, however, seemed excited.

"Oh boy! He's going to be so pleased that we completed our mission. Isn't this so much fun, Deidara-sempai?"

"Shut up, Tobi!"

"But Sempai, I-"

Tobi was cut off by the sudden stop of Itachi, who was looking out into what seemed like a large boulder. Himeko had never really got a good look at what he did, but whatever it was, the boulder seemed to vanish and a tunnel appeared where it had been. They walked through what seemed like a maze, turning here and there, almost randomly it seemed, until they had reached a door.

"We must wait here for the door to open itself."

In the midst of their waiting, Tobi had grown very bored.

"When is he going to open the door? I want to see her special jutsu." When no one replied, Tobi took to humming.

Himeko could not help herself. Her ears tuned in, hearing the sweet notes of another song, and everything she had worked so hard to contain was being let loose. Memories she had tried to cut out flooded back, drowning her in sorrow she did not want.

"Stop it!" she screamed with all her might, frustrated tears in her eyes and emotion so clearly present in her voice suddenly. "I can't stand it! Stop, stop, stop!" She fell to the floor and covered her ears.

Tobi stopped humming and stared at her. All three had stared at her as she sat and tried to hold herself together.

"Just stop it," she murmured. "No more. Enough."

The door opened and there was nothing but darkness inside. Himeko looked into it and just stared, letting everything drain out of her before she stood once more and walked into the room, her emotion gone once more. The others followed her, still very confused as to what had just happened.

A trembling man was in the corner, eyes closed and fearful looking. From the darkness, a figure had appeared, looking like a man who was stuck in a fly trap with one half of his body painted black and one side white.

"Zetsu," Deidara had said questionably, "But where is-"

"We are here to observe for him," the white half had said. "He trusts that we will provide him with a trustworthy account without any possible threat to his health."

"Apparently this girl is very much all our sources tell us she is," the black half had said. "He does not want to take any risks."

The man cowering in the corner had spoken up. "Who's there? What do you want with me?"

"Attack this man using your unique powers," the white side had said.

"Itachi, Deidara, Tobi. You may stay if you please, but we cannot guarantee she has complete control over her power."

The other three had moved over to the side of the room beside Zetsu and waited for Himeko to begin her demonstration.

She had sung.

"Deep at night where the wolves keep, the world may ever be a strange place, but where there is forever a place in your heart, there will always be blood in your soul."

The man seemed to calm, relaxing his shaking and turning his blind eyes toward her music.

"Forever the field goes on, through the trees and through the air, as if the world knew of its many secrets, and the sun could never catch it, the field goes on."

Itachi, Tobi, Deidara, and Zetsu all watched in fascination as the man stood from the corner. If their source was correct, she was in the mind of the man. Her very notes reverberated against his eardrums and all his will was gone, replaced only with her own. Even if the words made no sense, or were too deep for them to actually understand, they themselves seemed entranced in her song, though not as the man was.

"On and on the river flows, its water streaming tears of their own. As the rocks below wither away, the sun begins to eat its life, until no piece is left, of the river flow."

Himeko felt better that her own troubles could be sang away, put into another's body, slowly strangling them with her old pain. The man dropped back down to his knees, blood dripping from his happy face. Though he was unaware, his brain was bleeding. He only felt the song penetrating into his very soul, sending a false comfort in its somber melody and heavenly notes sung with Himeko's own voice.

"I hope you feel the story, with wonderful colors and shine. It shall always haunt you now, with a dark shadow. You will sleep a forever rest, with no dreams or life to live."

With a big smile on his face, the man fell to the ground, blood leaking from every part of his face. Himeko felt the huge burden that had been taken off her shoulders be placed back upon it. She resolved to one day rid of it completely, though she did not know how she would accomplish such a thing.

"Lovely display," the white side of Zetsu had had said. "We have also been asked to perform some…tests."

"Everyone else must leave," the black half had said.

Three black cloaks had left the dark room, leaving only Zetsu, Himeko, and the dead man.

"Our leader has asked that I find more than one use for your power, as well as any weaknesses you may possess," the white side had said.

"We will start," the black side had said, "with your reaction to other music, as I take that is the reason you were screaming before."

Himeko's composed nature had slipped a bit as she felt nervous. She hated other music.

"Now, let's begin."

Tobi and Himeko finally stopped for a quick break, as Himeko herself was becoming weary of walking. For the past few days, it was all they had done.

"When Zetsu did all those tests," Tobi's voice was so much deeper now, and serious, "what did he find out about the extent of your powers, exactly?"

"So much that I did not want to share." Himeko sat on a large rock and looked to the ground with her uninterested face. "But nothing I did not know I could do. There has never been anything new with my powers. All the same, I do not perform if I do not have to."

"You're reaction to other music," Tobi said, "is it true that it may be your one weakness?"

Himeko did not answer. She was lost in thoughts, of how she was to accomplish this mission she was on, and how useless she had planned Tobi to be. Without her notice, Tobi began to hum, and she was sent plunging into her old self.

"Himeko stop! That is enough music. We do not need that filthy sound in our house!" Her mother looked with scorned eyes at me. I felt ashamed, but I could not bear to contain my music.

"Mother, I can't help it. I have to."

"No! That's quite enough! Just stop, Himeko! Enough!"

Tears flooded my eyes as she packed her things. "Mother! Stay here and listen to my song. You can't just leave. Please!"

"I've had a life's worth of your childish manner, Himeko. I'm done."

Rika entered through the door. "Just leave then, mother! We don't need you here! You've brought us nothing but trouble!"

"How dare you speak to me that way!"

"How dare you speak to your children like you do. You constantly treat us like servants that you wished you had fired long ago. You sicken me!"

I hummed to myself, trying to block out the world with a lovely score or two, the words completely in my head.

"Stop it! I can't stand it! That's enough, Himeko!" Mother screamed at me. More tears poured from my eyes. I could stop her, if I wanted. I could do it. I knew I could. I just had to stop in the right place. That was it. Simple.

"Deep at night where the wolves keep, the world may ever be a strange place, but where there is forever a place in your heart, there will always be blood in your soul. Forever the field goes on, through the trees and through the air, as if the world knew of its many secrets, and the sun could never catch it, the field goes on."

There had been silence. I had thought I was doing a great job, I just needed to stop singing, now. I needed to stop the music, and tell my mother to stay with me forever, and not to listen to Rika. Rika didn't know what she was talking about. Mother loved me, and she would have stayed with me, and loved me. But the song can't be stopped.

"On and on the river flows, its water streaming tears of their own. As the rocks below wither away, the sun begins to eat its life, until no piece is left, of the river flow. I hope you feel the story, with wonderful colors and shine. It shall always haunt you now, with a dark shadow. You will sleep a forever rest, with no dreams or life to live."

My mother looked happy. For the first time in my life, she wore a smile on her face. As I finished the song, trying so hard to stop, I felt the coming dread. And at last, the song died in the air, and my mother fell to the floor, her blood leaking all over the floor. I cried, not knowing how to stop myself.

"Himeko, what did you do?" Rika stared at mother, covered in a pool of blood now.

"I didn't mean to, Rika," I said through sobs. "I tried to make her stay, but I just couldn't stop. The song can't be stopped."

"You're a monster, Himeko! You've murdered her! How could you do such a thing! Just stop it! No more! Enough!"

Himeko found herself on the grass, tears in her eyes like the blood from her mother's face. She tried so hard to forget the past, but it was there in every song. Every memory, there was music. And with other music, she would listen, and be thrown into her past. Tobi continued to hum, watching her closely.

"Stop!" she screamed helplessly. "Just stop it! I can't stand it! That's enough! Just stop! No more! Enough!" She covered herself in her own arms as she saw Tobi was gone, but the humming was not.

"Over here!" Someone in the distance called. "I got her scent!"

Himeko felt like a dagger had punctured her heart, as she watched herself kill her mother over and over again with the melody of the humming coming from the trees.

The she was surrounded by shinobi. She could tell by their headbands they were of the Leaf. So Tobi decided to start the mission sooner than later, then? He must have known they were here.

Naruto stepped closer to her, but Kakashi held him back. "She's of the Akatsuki. This could be a trap."

The humming stopped coming from the trees, now playing in her own head. "No! I was ambushed." She had so much emotion in her voice now; she hated it. "Two of them surrounded me and they were about to attack. They must have heard you coming." Tears still fell from her eyes. "I'm not in the Akatsuki! I hate them! They killed my mother!" She dropped her head to her arms and buried her face.

"Kakashi," said Yamato, "I think she may be telling the truth. She's wearing regular clothes underneath. They must have just put the cloak on her when they knew we were coming."

And indeed, with Himeko's arms around her face, the cloak came up high enough for them to see that she was wearing her old clothes.

"I'm not part of the Akatsuki. I'm not." Himeko sobbed, slowly feeling her sadness draining. Soon, she would be her normal, unemotional self, and if she was to do her mission correctly, she couldn't let that happen just yet. She sat up and pulled the cloak off herself, wincing as if she had been injured.

"I think we should get her back to the village." Kakashi stated.

"But we can't abandon the mission! We have to find Sasuke! I won't let him get away this time!" Naruto looked fierce, as always.

"Summoning jutsu!" Kakashi hit the ground and the symbol appeared, and before long a ninja hound popped up. "Take this girl to the village. She seems to have been attacked by the Akatsuki just before we arrived."

Himeko ignored the conversation taking place, instead staring at Naruto. Naruto could feel it, and looked right back into her own eyes. They stared.

"Uh, what are you looking at? Do I have something on my face?" Naruto wiped his face, though nothing had been on it.

"I know you," Himeko said. "You're Naruto Usamake."

Naruto seemed embarrassed a bit. "You know me? I don't think I've ever seen you before."

"I haven't met you. I've only heard things. Incredible things." They all were listening now. "You're the jinchuriki for the nine tails. No wonder the Akatsuki left so quickly."

"I don't think the Akatsuki left just because Naruto is here." Yamato looked over to Kakashi as they shared the same question to one another without words.

"Yeah, they're actually trying to catch me. Why would they run just because we showed up?"

"They must have figured we greatly outnumbered them."

"Or maybe they had somewhere else to be."

"Whatever the reason, we need to get her back to the village. She can talk to Tsunade about the Akatsuki attack." Kakashi nodded to Biscuit, the ninja hound he had summoned, and Biscuit went over to Himeko.

"What's your name?"

"My name is Himeko."

"Well, Himeko," Biscuit said, "Let's go."

She stood and followed the dog from the clearing where they stood. And Tobi appeared to block their way to getting to Sasuke and Itachi's fight.

Himeko had made it to the Leaf Village with Biscuit, and had been shown all the way up to Lady Tsunade's office.

"Lady Tsunade, this girl was found by Kakashi and Yamato's group in the forest. Apparently she was attacked by some Akatsuki members."

Tsunade looked her over. "She doesn't look hurt to me."

Himeko had no emotion left to act her way out of this. At this point, she had as many feelings as a rock had during winter. She fumbled in her mind for those memories that would make her cry, but for once could not find them. With nothing to say, she opened her mouth and pretended to collapse on the floor.

Tsunade rushed to her, as did Shizune and Biscuit. They all began talking at once, asking if she was alright. Himeko only did her job, murmuring sweet words into the air.

"Deep at night where the wolves keep,"

Himeko could feel her mother around her, as if she was in her arms. She felt the warmth, but didn't dare open her eyes and break her dream.

"The world may ever be a strange place, but where there is forever a place in your heart,"

In her ear, her mother whispered words to her. "You'll be alright, Himeko. Just wake up for me. Come back to us, Himeko."

"There will always be blood in your soul."

"Himeko, wake up!" Many other voices were around her now.

"Oh, she must be exhausted," said a person with Rika's voice.

"Here, put this rag on her head," said her mother.

"I'll get her some water," said Deidara.

"Will she be alright?" asked Tobi.

"She should be fine now," said her mother.

"Forever the field goes on, through the trees and through the air,"

"She just keeps singing something. Do you hear it?" Rika's voice fell silent, as did the other voices.

Himeko knew that the dream couldn't be real. Her mother was dead. Rika was far away back at their village. Deidara was also dead, and Tobi was busy distracting the Leaf shinobi.

"It's a wonderful melody," her mother's voice said. All her life, she had wanted her mother to say that. It was everything she dreamed of.

"As if the world knew of its many secrets, and the sun could never catch it, the field goes on."

Everyone was silent now, entranced as they all had been her targets. The silence killed her. She wanted to hear her mother's voice. If that voice really was her mother's, she didn't want to kill her again. How would she live with herself? She couldn't do it. She couldn't bear to do it. She changed her target.

"On and on the river flows, its water streaming tears of their own. As the rocks below wither away, the sun begins to eat its life, until no piece is left, of the river flow. I hope you feel the story, with wonderful colors and shine. It shall always haunt you now, with a dark shadow. You will sleep a forever rest, with no dreams or life to live."

The room was silent. No one spoke a word, until the silence was broken with the sound of a wet rag and a glass of water hitting the floor. Eyes watched as blood dripped onto the floor.

"Lady Tsunade, what happened?"

"I don't know, Shizune." She looked to the medical ninjas all standing around Himeko as she bled onto the floor. "Well, find out!"

Hours later, a medical ninja found Tsunade in her office looking out the window.

"Lady Tsunade, her own chakra attacked her mind. It seems to have drilled holes into it."

"Must have been the work of the Akatsuki. She was attacked, after all. We didn't believe anything to be wrong with her, but it seems we were mistaken. But what sort of jutsu could do something like that?"

The medical ninja shrugged. "Well do some more investigations, M'lady."

"Thank you."

Lady Tsunade looked back out her window and didn't doubt for a second that something was out there that did this to that poor girl, and that all shinobi would have to be extra cautious with such a lethal form of jutsu. While she didn't know the girl well at all, Tsunade felt sad that her life had gone out so quickly. And she was such a wonderful singer. What a shame.

The world through Tsunade's window was vast; the jutsu holder could be anywhere. But what Tsunade didn't know was that Himeko had been her trouble, and Himeko had changed her target in an effort to save her mother, whom was not actually there. It didn't matter, though. As said before, once a song begins, it continues on until the song dies.