Title: Fire Rebirth

Summary: Obligations, expectations, all made heavier by a young village standing on shaky legs. The gigantic construct that is the Clan is greater than I, and failure is not an option. I am headed for greatness - provided the world doesn't come crashing down on me before I get there. /OC Self-Insert, slightly AU

Author's Notes: I HAVE NO EXCUSE, I'M SORRY.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Obviously. I do, however, own the mess that is Kasai. And Tora.

chapter eleven – reasons

With a deafening slam the door fell shut.

"This… is your fault."

Dropping my head against the wall I sighed, letting my gaze drift up towards the ceiling.

"To be honest… it kind of is, yeah."

We both remained silent, inspecting what would be our home for the next few hours with a scrutinizing gaze. The walls were grey, the ground was cold and moist, the lighting but a dim, dying stream of light bursting through the tiny hole in the wall. A musty smell hung in the air like a heavy blanket, making it almost impossible to breathe, much less feel comfortable.

After a while Tora slid along the wall and onto the floor, curling into the fetal position with his back to me. "I hope we feed our prisoners," he muttered, trying to discreetly rub his arms, keeping them from the cold creeping into our clothes.

"Every third day," I mumbled, mimicking his position on the other side of the small cell. Even though we were both still so small and were occupying little space our backs almost touched, limited as this room was. I felt closed in, driven into a corner – and it was so cold in here that my teeth soon started chattering as I was shaking all over.

"My father will gut me as soon as I'm out of here."

"He won't, "I replied sullenly, curling up a little tighter. "My fault, remember?"

The boy scoffed, chuckling mirthlessly. "I want to hear you say this when the Peace Guard is here."

"Hikaku-san knows the truth anyway. There's no point in lying."

"Word has it he's one of your father's best. I'm sure he can skew the truth a little."

"I don't want him to," I mumbled quietly. Going by his lack of response he probably hadn't even heard it.

I'm sure some of you are wondering how the hell I had managed to end up in a dungeon with Tora of all people. Well, it's a mystery!

… No, actually, it isn't. I got here through my own stupidity, Tora just tagged along. Yes, for once my predicament wasn't his fault in the least. Maybe by being henchman to a five year old on a quest, but let's be honest – it was still my brain that had fabricated this.

It all started when I woke up after my uncle had put me to sleep through most unsavory means – who drugs his niece, I mean, really?

For once I hadn't dreamed of them. Of course, what I had gotten instead wasn't much better. Watching myself get hit by a train was very far down on the pleasure scale.

I awoke to the scent of… food? For a while I stayed still, listening to the silence. Could one actually do that, listen to silence?

It wasn't really silent, I heard noises from somewhere, cluttering, steps… someone was making sure the other people of the house knew he was there.
Curiosity stirring I moved out of the bed – my uncle's bed, strangely – snuck through the house which, as I quickly realized, wasn't ours but my uncle's as well. And he was, also strangely, in the kitchen and quite busy cooking food. Or doing something else.

"Uncle?" I muttered, staring at him with wide eyes and a gaping mouth, not because I couldn't imagine him cooking but because the scene looked... bizarre.

"Are you…" I didn't get to complete the sentence because he turned around in this very moment, not preparing food but cleaning a knife. A very bloody knife. And lots of red stains covering his clothes. And… everything else on him. I felt my blood freeze in my veins. Was this his blood on his clothes? Please don't let it b-

"Blood stains are a nightmare to get rid off," he muttered, wiping the blood off the blade with sharp, jerking movements, a dark towel in his hand, though how much the blood contributed to that I couldn't tell. No, it probably wasn't his from the looks of it but I was still shivering from the air that suddenly seemed frigid. What a wonderful thing to wake up to.

"What… who…"

I tried to throw a look into the hallway because I could have sworn there was smeared blood on the floor, though hard to see. Tried because my uncle grabbed my collar and shoved me into the other direction before I could get any farther.

"Food's on the table, Kasai."

"I… Who died?" I muttered, morbidly fascinated by the stains covering the fabric he held in his hands.

"If you must know, we found a spy."

Oh, this wasn't good. Or maybe it was. It's nice that they caught him?

"You killed him?" There was a surprising lack of horror or disgust in my voice. Maybe exasperation. Annoyance.

"No," he breathed, an almost sadistic smile curving his lips, "he's in Madara's company."

I shuddered at the mere thought. Dad didn't take kindly to traitors or foreign spies. Or even worse, traitors spying on us.

"Where did you find him?" I whispered, not sure if I actually wanted to know.

"Best if I don't tell you," he replied, softly shaking his head and I didn't protest. I probably really didn't want to know. The thought of the blood on the floor and-… ah…



I stared at the food but hunger didn't quite want to come. Instead I felt my stomach lurch at the mere thought, as I suddenly saw images of blood in a drinking cup flash in front of my eyes.

"Do I… do I really have to eat? I'm kind of not hungry right now…"

"Yes, Kasai," he spoke, a strange tone creeping into his voice that reminded me a bit too much of my aunt to be comfortable, "you will eat. And if you don't want to I'll find a creative way to make you."

Okay, that was scary. I decided to obey despite the sickening feeling in my stomach and crept closer to the table, silently coming to the conclusion that he'd make for a really scary father.

I sat down, hands gingerly folded in my lap, and stared at the food in front of me. It did smell kind of good I guess, and it looked delicious, but-…

"I'd recommend that you eat, Kasai, or you will regret it later."


"We're going out training today. You seriously need it after two months of doing nothing."

I halted at that, thought really hard for a few seconds.

"But Hashirama said I'm only allowed to after-…Wait, what day is it?" I inquired suspiciously, staring at the food still waiting for me. The thought of eating it was getting a little easier to bear, though I still wanted to vomit onto the table. Or the floor.

A soft chuckle led me to turn my head and gaze at my uncle's back.

"Didn't expect you to notice this early. It's Friday."

No, wait, I… I had fallen asleep on Thursday.

"I slept through an entire day?"

Had I really been that exhausted?

"Just eat, Kasai. I already fed your little friend so that's no excuse."

"That's my job," I grumbled before finally deciding to just dig in, because I would regret it later if I didn't. My uncle was that merciless.

Moving felt good. I could stretch my limbs a little, push all the bad thoughts away.

Despite his… painful methods my uncle was a good teacher, I could tell as much. If he could motivate someone like me to walk on my hands he had to be. Stretching wasn't necessarily pleasant, but it was a kind of routine that made it easy to sink into one's mind and find peace there.

After that I got to beat up a training log - it felt pretty damn good. I felt some very brief pity for the sturdy piece of wood before I slammed my entire foot into its base, causing a considerable dent.

Still, it obviously wasn't enough for my uncle. He shook his head as if annoyed, massaging the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger.

"We've lost a lot of progress," he sighed. "Kasai, you're entirely out of balance. Your speed and coordination have suffered, your strength has gone back. I should let your father handle this," he grumbled, shaking his head. "He's better at catching up on lost training."

Oh, yeah… I knew that from, ah… let's call it first-hand experience. My famous months of tantrum came to mind.
He was also really merciless. While I loved spending time with him the last two months of training under him had been really exhausting.

My attention changed focus when I felt chakra flare not far from us.

"Uhm," I suddenly mumbled, tentatively raising my hand, "I think someone's approaching."

Actually, that someone was Dad. I could feel the jagged leaps of his chakra from a mile away. Okay, maybe not quite that far but still – it was really easy to tell it was his.

Not a second later his heavy figure crashed into the ground right next to me, very nearly giving me a heart attack because damn why would anyone crash into the ground next to you no more than three steps away?

And he was clad in armor, too. Not cool. That stuff wasn't sneaky in the least.

"Izuna," he barked, an authoritarian tone in his voice that dared you to disobey, "Village gate, now."

He was alert in an instant. "What happened?"

"There were more where our little friend came from."

"They got away?"

"Not yet."

And with that Dad was gone and Izuna about to leave. He merely turned around to give me one last order. "How about you take care of what I asked of you yesterday, hm?"

It sounded like a suggestion but I knew it was an order. He disappeared and I was left behind with yet another day without proper training.


Seeing Tora? Hell no. I'd much rather go see Kagami. Unfortunately my uncle would find out pretty fast whether I had obeyed his 'request' or not and at the moment his wrath was the last thing I wanted.

Problem was… I had no idea where that idiot actually lived. Our compound wasn't exactly small.

I had to ask around to find my way, preferably the more friendly looking people. And no, those were generally not the old ones, because those were often… ah, let's say not so friendly. On my way there I came across a very familiar chakra that sent shivers down my spine, though I could not tell who it was or where it came from. Or why I recognized it. All I knew was that I just wanted to get away from it really fast.

I found Tora's home eventually, and then spent a good hour hiding around the entrance, not quite sure if I should really knock or not.

I didn't want to meet Tora, I didn't want to talk to that slimy bastard, I didn't want to see his violent father.

In short, I didn't want to be here. On the other hand, facing my uncle was… uh, no. I'd rather not.

It took me another few minutes until I finally mustered the strength to step in front of the door. I raised my fist, took a deep breath and-

"Took you long enough."

Oh, come on.

I turned my head, gaze drifting towards the-


… towards the open window to the left of me, where a very smug face greeted me in the most humiliating manner possible. Propping his head up on his elbow sat none other than Tora, grinning from ear to ear – and not in a friendly 'no hard feelings, right?' kind of way.

"You really make it hard to not think of you as pathetic, Hime," he sneered, yawning of all things. Aha, this was boring to him, huh?

Oh, that little-

I felt like strangling him.

I hadn't noticed that he'd watched me because he was inside the damn house and I had assumed that he'd been in a room somewhere. Not watching me from the goddamn window.

"I'm not here to fight with you," I growled, a tremor in my voice that for once wasn't fear – it was anger. I just wanted to wipe that smug grin off his face.

"Doesn't surprise me, you're too weak to fight anyone."

Why, you little-

Calm, Kasai.

I took a deep breath, crossing my arms – wait, no. Defensive position. Bad.

I uncrossed my arms and rested my hands on my hips instead. Yes, better. Defensive didn't work with this little slime frog.

"I really, really hate you, you know that?" I hissed, glaring at him as best as I could. I know I wasn't intimidating but I swear one day I'd be able to glare like my father. And then they'd all cower. One day.

"Cute. Would be pathetic if you didn't, Hime."

Oh-hoh. Bad idea, Tora.

I curved my lips into a gentle smile, lowering my eyelids. "Cute, eh? Didn't know you think that way!"

He paled immediately, and oh that was such a satisfying sight. I'm sure he didn't like the implications of that. Except he promptly turned beet red afterwards and now I was the one not liking the implications. The boy averted his eyes, scowling at the ground beneath the window instead. "You aren't cute. You are annoying, you are weak and you didn't deserve the respect you got. Worse, you're a girl."

"And what's so bad about girls?"

With a fluid motion he skipped through the window, landing right in front of me with the grace of a tiger on the hunt.

"You're weaker than men. You can't run as fast, you can't throw as far, you aren't as tall or strong as us. No one needs you."

"Oh, really? Who gave birth to you, you little shit?"

"Someone who's really terrible," he muttered under his breath, then turned around to shove the door open. "What do you want from us?" he demanded while strutting through the door as if he owned the place. Well, technically he did, it was kind of his home. But still. The guy had so much confidence, I didn't know where he took it from.

I stayed behind for a few seconds but then just decided to follow him. "I'm here because of you, not your family."

"Oh? If you came here to murder me you did a really bad job of that."

"I already told you I don't want to fight you!"

"Good shinobi avoid a battle if possible."

This was facepalm-worthy.

"I don't want to kill you either!"

I followed him through the house even though I felt that I had no reason to expose myself to him any longer. If anything I only stuck around because I still felt the urge to punch his face and hoped to get the opportunity at some point. And, well… my uncle's looming shadow behind me.

He suddenly stopped so abruptly I crashed into his back and fell onto my butt with a small squeak. The boy turned around, eyes narrowed – but he wasn't staring at me, gaze drifting along the way we had just come instead.


And then he flinched.

A very feminize voice, laced with a steel beneath that scared even me - and I was used to my father. Not a second later a middle-aged lady sauntered through the door, dressed in a very simple but pretty kimono. Black hair tied into a knot, bangs barely long enough to reach her chin framing her narrow face. She had a few wrinkles but they didn't hurt her beauty in the least.

"You should have told me that we have a guest, son," the woman spoke, an edge to her voice that gave it a scolding tone, sharp enough to send a shiver done my spine.

"I'm sorry, Mother."

I couldn't help but blink as Tora spoke. He sounded so… docile all of a sudden, not like himself in the least. For a few seconds I just sat indignantly on the floor, then I suddenly jumped to my feet and performed a quick and probably quite clumsy bow. Hey, at least I tried.

"I apologize for bothering you, Miss," I said.

"Oh no, it's fine, young lady. He didn't push you, did he?"

She folded her hands with an elegance I found difficult to match. At this point I was sure that I'd never possess as much grace as those people did.

"No, he didn't," I replied. I would have loved to say yes but it wasn't really fair to blame him for something he hadn't done. He'd never show me the same in return, but still…

The woman allowed a soft smile to brighten her features a little, removing some of that feeling of steel surrounding her like an armor. "We haven 't had any girls visiting us in a while. I'm afraid my son drives them all away."

Why was I not surprised? Oh, yeah, right. Tora. He hated girls. A lot.

"Why don't you enjoy yourselves in the garden while I prepare a little treat for you, hm?"

I could see that Tora was struggling with himself. He wanted to protest so badly but something kept him from doing it and I had a feeling that this something was his mother being here.

He was afraid of his mother. He was afraid of his mother.

By all the gods, this was so ridiculous.

The boy sighed in defeat and nodded, turning his back towards us. "This way, Hime."

The woman was gone so quickly I barely noticed her departure. For a few seconds I stood around, feeling just a little bit lost, ere I burst into a bellowing bout of laughter. Tora turned around, face drawn into an angry scowl.

"You treat girls like dirt… because you're afraid of your mother," I scoffed, having a hard time to suppress the laughter bubbling in my throat.

"Shut up, Hime."

"You're so pathetic, you know that? I can't believe I was afraid of you!"

He snorted, back towards me as he strolled towards the garden. "Yeah, I can't believe it either," he muttered bitterly.

"I don't get you. What's your problem with me?"

"My problem?"

A shrill squeak echoed through the house when he grabbed me by the collar and roughly yanked me into the garden, pushing the air out of my lungs, squeezing my throat in the process. He ended up slamming me into the ground so hard it hurt, I couldn't breathe, for a second I couldn't even see-

I coughed, trying to catch my breath, but he wouldn't let me. Instead he slammed his fist into my stomach and I regretted having eaten anything this morning.

A hand slid around my throat and I-

Oh no no no no not there don't-

"Let go," I growled. I wouldn't let him-

I dug my fingernails into his skin until it bled, watched as he clenched his jaw from the pain. In an inattentive moment I managed to kick my foot into his groin, at which point he immediately let go and coiled himself around the injured area.

Wheezing, trying to get air back into my lungs, fingers brushing along my throat I-…

It hurt. That little-

I had no words to describe what I felt for him right now, no expression in any language I knew. And I knew three goddamn languages, that should be enough, no?

"What is wrong with you?" I screamed, not far from slamming my fist into his face with as much strength as I could muster. "Why do you keep attacking those who are weaker than you?"

"Weaker?" Although groaning he somehow got to his feet despite the pain, supporting his upper body with his hands on his thighs. "Are you joking? Really? Really?"

And then he crept closer, face to face, so close I could feel his breath on my skin. I wanted to get away, wanted to-

"I keep attacking you," he growled, voice so dangerously low I actually felt scared for once – he wasn't being smug or arrogant, he was really damn angry. He'd been a bastard ever since I'd first met him, but he'd never been angry.

"I keep attacking you over and over again," he repeated furiously, pushing me backwards with his dirt-smeared hands – I couldn't react, felt paralyzed, "because you pathetic little shit never fight back!"

Pressure began to build up around my throat, robbing me of my air once again. I saw it barely - fists curled into my collar and for a split-second I thought he'd strangle me again, but he merely yanked me upwards so roughly I nearly gagged, bile already in my throat.

"Don't even dare to claim you're weaker than me, we both know you aren't," he growled, pure fury seeping into his voice, "we both know you can defeat me in a one-on-one, we both know you're one of the most talented people this clan has ever seen!"

His hands disappeared instantly, dropping me to the ground and leaving me struggling for air. Maybe I could have caught myself if my legs hadn't been shaking.

"No, you keep hiding behind others! Look at you, I shoved you into the goddamn dirt and you didn't do a thing! Do you even posses an iota of dignity?"

I flinched when he slammed his foot into a nearby tree out of sheer frustration, the wood splintering from the raw amounts of chakra he was pushing into it.

"How can you be his daughter?" he shouted. I crept backwards until my head bumped against the fence. I was trembling, had never seen him like this.

This was so confusing.

"How can Madara-sama's child be such a coward?"

Madara… sama?

Did he respect my father that much or was it just because he was the clan head?

He dropped himself into the dirt, folding his legs. "Why should I respect you, why should I even be nice o you? You've never done anything to deserve it!"

"All this time," I mumbled, voice trembling, "all this time…"

I had his attention now. He narrowed his eyes, glaring at me.

"All this time you were being such a nasty little-… what have I ever done to you?" I spoke, though it was more of a shout by the end.

"What you've done? Maybe you should think about what you haven't done!"

"How about you explain," I hissed, dragging myself to my feet. My stomach hurt and my throat felt tight, red markings probably already forming. "Because I don't know what your problem is!"

His eyes narrowed as he took a deep breath, exhaling through his nose. The tiger stripes on his cheeks painted a ferocious look on his face, but I was done with being scared. So done. "Come over here, and we'll talk like mature people," I offered – trying to be peaceful, really. Even though I kind of wanted to repeatedly smash his face into a tree.

"You're one to talk, you brat. Is there anything that doesn't make you cry?"

"Your face."

"That doesn't even make sense."

"Ever heard of 'No use crying over spilt milk'?"

He sauntered over and leaned in until I could feel his breath on my cheeks and his words sent small gusts of wind brushing along my skin. "When did the princess grow a backbone?"

"When she woke up."

Silence reigned. I felt tension in the air, like an electric charge rushing through my mind and body alike. This was… oddly exciting.

After a minute or two he suddenly plopped down, folding his legs. "Fine," he said, " if you wish to talk, we'll talk."

Head tilted and eyes narrowed I stared at him, lips pressed together tightly. Slowly I sat down as well, resting my hands on my thighs.


"You wanted to talk, not me."

I forcefully exhaled through my nose, trying to push the anger away – out of my mind, my body, my soul. Control of all three of them led to inner peace, my uncle had once said.

With my small hand I made a waving gesture in his direction, trying to appear relaxed though being anything but. "Explain… this."

"I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific."

"Don't play dumb with me! You treat me like dirt for no apparent reason!"

"That's how life works, Hime. But you're just a kid, so of course you don't know."

The urge to crush his windpipe was only held in check by the thought of the chaos it would cause, while a single sentence kept flowing through my mind like a mantra: I'm actually older than you, you brat.

"I'm sure teaching me valuable life lessons wasn't your intention."

"No, you just piss me off."

"Go ahead and explain why, then."

"You sure you want to know? You might break down crying again."

"Since when does that matter to you?"

"It doesn't."

Haaaargh. Surpressing. Urge. To. Throttle.

"Then tell me."

He narrowed his almond-shaped eyes until they were nothing more but slits. "What if I tell you that my brother died because of you?"

Taken aback for a second, I opened and closed my mouth like a fish, unable to form a single word. I'd start, but then get lost in the middle of the word and forget the rest of the sentence. Over and over again.

"Now you're speechless, huh? Look at you sitting there li-"

"Will you shut up?" I growled, voice trembling not from fear but anger. My body shook, thoughts racing through my mind like the wind.

When he opened his mouth to speak again I jumped to my feet, tackled him with all the strength I had and slammed him into the ground with my entire weight resting on his torso, knees digging into his stomach – fists curled into his shirt though so very close to redecorating his face-

"I said shut up," I barked, right into his ear this time and he flinched, perhaps surprised by my sudden aggression, had I been nothing but passive before.

"You blame me for your brother's death? Seriously?"

Pressing my fingers into his windpipe until he began to wheeze, "seriously?"

Seems like he got out of his shock, because he grabbed my palm, nearly crushed it in his own fingers – the pain so bad I bit my cheek until I tasted copper in my mouth – pushed me off his torso and tried to reverse the position.

Problem was, I refused to be this vulnerable again. No.

"I didn't even know him!" I screamed, slamming into him with all my weight. I managed to throw him off balance, even if only for a few seconds, and used the time to get back to my feet. Panting, but far from exhausted.

My heart was beating so fast I thought it would leap out of my chest and be on its merry way, but this was somehow exciting, exhilarating – it shouldn't be, but in the last days I had felt so… so terrible I needed something, anything I could drain my anger on. And I had plenty of that. Fed by my fears, nightmares, doubts, all the bad thoughts and memories – they were a river, coursing quickly and deadly until they crashed into a dam that was about to break from the pressure.

I didn't want to break. Not again. Never again. This wasn't my old life. This wasn't even my old me. This was the new me and the new me wouldn't let others push her around.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

He snorted – the little bastard dared to sneer – and charged, tackled us both into the ground again. I was going to be really dirty by the time I got home.

"He gave his life to save your sorry ass and look how you-"

I stopped his fist with my flat palm an inch away from my face-

"Repaid his sacrifice!"

Somehow managed to slam my foot into his knee. He hissed in pain and rolled off my body, allowing me to breathe.

"How did I repay it, huh? Tell me!"

"By being a coward! A spineless, shameless coward with no dignity," he spat, wiping dirt from his face, "A spoiled, self-centered princess, a shame on the Uchiha name, a taint on our clan head's lineage!"

He literally spat this time, probably to get some dirt out of his mouth, "and they tell me I'm supposed to respect you. My brother once said there used to be a time when respect was earned, not given by birth!"

He actually seemed to be quite passionate about this, but I felt rather unmoved by it for some strange reason. On other days I might have felt for him, today I didn't.

"I won't respect you until you earned it, and I won't stop calling you Hime until you," he swiftly formed a few hand signs and took a deep breath – uh –oh not good," stop deserving the title!"

I narrowly managed to dodge the stupid fireball he threw in my direction. It scorched parts of my hair though and the scent of burnt… well, hair, followed me everywhere.

"Are you insane? Do you want to hurt someone?"

He scoffed, smirking ever so slightly. "True Uchiha aren't hurt by fire."

"Everyone is hurt by fire," I replied, shaking my head. "And if we don't know how to handle it we burn ourselves."

"What are you, a fortune cookie?"

"Your worst nightmare."

"You don't say."

At this we began a staring match, glaring at each other for what seemed like half an eternity. I was kind of thankful that he didn't activate his Sharingan because we were taught to lower our eyes the instant someone brought it to battle. Never mind the fact that it was shameful to open one's Sharingan towards brother or sister in such a situation – that much honor was still required in an Uchiha's life.

No one was willing to relent, willing to submit to the other; it was in part pride and in part anger that drove at least me, maybe him as well.

We both startled at once when Tora's mother stepped through the door, a tray with fresh water and onigiri in hand. In some ways I was happy about her interception, for this meant that I hadn't lost the match – on the other hand it meant that our struggle remained unresolved.

"Were you having a spar?" she asked skeptically, cocking one fine eyebrow. A question that could have been genuine if not for that twinkle of mischief in her eyes. She knew exactly what had happened here.

"Yes," Tora quickly responded, hiding his face by pretending to wipe more dirt with his sleeves. Really, this was such a bad attempt at lying even I could see through it.

I stood there, flabbergasted at the scene. Tora's mother just accepted the fact that her son and this random girl that had just shown up had tried (and in some cases nearly succeeded) to kill each other. We both were dirty, had red marks everywhere that would probably turn into bruises at some point and were glaring daggers at each other. And she was just kind of okay with that.

Did this count as shinobi parenting or was that a parenting fail?

"I see," she responded, a knowing glint in her eyes, and placed the tray on a little rock not far from us before turning around. "Well, I want you to eat before you continue, and if you don't I'll make you."

Wait… that sounded familiar. Was my uncle taking lessons from this woman? Scary.

She turned to saunter back through the door, leaving us here in the garden to stare at the refreshments in wonder. I think neither of us knew what to do now.

"If we don't eat she'll kill me," Tora said, "or worse…" he then added, muttering under his breath.

"That would be fine by me, you know?" I replied, observing my nails. They weren't interesting in the least but I wouldn't give him the pleasure of showing interest in his well-being.

"My mom is also going to kill you if you don't eat, daughter of the clan head or not."

Now, that was a little more convincing. Didn't feel like drawing the ire of that woman on me.

So we sat down and ate. Awkwardly. Staring at each other, occasionally glaring, never taking the eyes off the other. I grabbed a rice ball and led it to my mouth without even looking at it.

"I hope your mother didn't poison those because if she did my dad-"

"Pulling that card now? Really? I'll tell you something, Hime," he barked with his mouth full, chewing the rice ball. Really, I had no dignity but he had no manners.

"I don't call you weak because you can't fight," he growled, swallowing the bit in his mouth, "I call you weak because you never do. You don't fight back, you let others push you around, you hide behind your stupid friend-"

"Don't insult Kagami!" I shouted furiously, chucking a stone at him I had gathered from the ground – it was a hard stone, sure would have hurt if I had actually hit anything. But alas, he evaded the projectile and tossed a fistful of dirt at me in return.

Which landed right on my food. Thanks, man.

"Oh, so you can fight for him but not for yourself? Pathetic," he sneered, a mocking tone lacing his voice that seriously pissed me off.

"Maybe I am," I growled, "but unlike you I've tried to change. And why do you waste your time on me anyway, you've got better things to do!"

"I don't," he muttered, a sullen veil masking his features, "nothing other than chasing after expectations."


"Bah. It doesn't matter. You spit on my brother's sacrifice. His death was in vain," the boy spat furiously, a gleam in his eyes that made him that much more terrifying all of a sudden -not in the childhood bully way, but worse. This was his personal mission. "Even though he promised it wouldn't be," Tora muttered under his breath, scowling fiercely at the rice ball in his hand. "And now I have no brothers left…"

"You had more?"

"Two, if you care. One died for you. The other…"

He shook his head, got to his feet and turned around. "You should leave. I have no desire to fight you any longer."


"Just get out of my sight."

"I can't just-"

"I said leave! Are you deaf and dumb? Quite a feat."

And I tackled him again. Can you blame me? I mean, come on. This was so… so… argh, annoying isn't even a word for it. His sob story wouldn't make me feel sorry. I had enough of submitting to other people's needs and worries. It was enough that my family could play with my feelings like that, I wouldn't allow any outsiders to take advantage of them as well.

He was obviously surprised when I tackled him into the ground since he yelped helplessly, crashing headfirst into the dirt with me on his back.

"Get off!" he screamed, muffled by the dirt in his face. A fitting composition, if you asked me.

"No. You listen now, buddy. I came here because my uncle ordered me to make amends with you. I have no idea how he imagined that to work out, but it doesn't matter."

I pressed my knee into his back, holding his arms in place. My only advantage was my position here, because he was actually still stronger than me and I wasn't really in shape at the moment.

"I won't leave until I accomplished my goal, because when my uncle is angry he is worse than my dad. I made a promise to someone who is very important to me, and I will not see it fail on you of all people."

"So you really can't stand up for yourself, eh? You need to have other people to serve to actually be strong."

"Maybe. So what? Is a clan head's duty not to serve and protect the clan?"

He remained silent at this, maybe pondering, maybe silently seething. I didn't know, I didn't care. With a last huff I slid off his back and allowed him to get up. After standing on his two feet again he merely grumbled mildly, brushing dirt from his clothes. "Well, that was humiliating," he muttered under his breath and I couldn't help but snort at the hilarity of the situation. I had managed to turn it all around for once.

"You have changed since the attempt on your life, " he muttered. "First you're all depressed and gloomy and suddenly you turn into a demonic spawn. Maybe it doesn't matter," he continued, shaking his head. "Whatever. 'make amends' if you must. I still can't stand you."

Yes, quite. What an enli-

A sudden chill ran down my spine, a sense of dread as an eerily familiar feeling suddenly crept into my chakra range, moving at a steady pace. That-… that chakra signature. I flinched, felt a familiar cold creep up my neck once again, a gloved hand slowly sliding around my neck, squeezing until no air could pass and-

The chakra signature. That chakra signature. I knew it, I knew it far too well. The genjutsu, the crows, the chakra flooding my mind – it was all so clear now.

This had to be the person who had cast the genjutsu on me, who had subjected me to endless nightmares of crows and red-eyed demons and-

No. the feeling closed my throat until it became impossible to breathe, my heart pounding in my chest as if it wanted to burst through my ribs, thoughts and pictures flashing through my mind and my-

No no no no no no no.

I'd recognize that chakra everywhere.

"You okay, Hime?"


He didn't seem worried, maybe a little confused, casually folding his arms across his chest with a raised eyebrow.

"It's him," I croaked, voice hoarse and throat tight. Putting into words who I meant seemed impossible, it was just him. That thing. The being that hurt me.

"Who? What are you talking about?" Tora asked, cocking an eyebrow, watching me with hawk eyes. Caught between amusement and confusion probably, going by his expression.


I shook my head, searching fervently for the origin of this feeling. I had to get away-


Was he one of them? One of the spies? Would he try to get away from us, too? Or was he waiting for his friends to get him out? He was so close, I felt his presence like a tingle on my skin, in every fiber of my body.

The next words nearly spew out of my mouth on their own with no thoughts behind it, just pure reaction – never mind the boy I was talking to wasn't a good person to ask this.

"I need your help."


Emotionally taxing? I don't know where you got that idea. This clan brought forth at least three psychos and one who came close (yes, Itachi was an emotional car wreck no matter what you say), how could it be emotionally taxing?

Of course it is. I chose it because especially that clan has the potential to make your life really, really painful. To be honest I might actually be too nice with them as it is.

Oh look, a wild Tora appeared. Based on what happened this chapter you probably either like him more or less now. Yes, Kasai didn't stutter this chapter and no, I didn't forget about that.

Kasai's mother is called Umiko. I didn't even realize I hadn't used her name in a while! It briefly appeared in the first chapter.

Well, I was gone for a while but at least I spent the time brainstorming with someone, so that's a good thing I guess?

As always, thanks to everyone who left a review. I'm sorry for being absent for so long and for this chapter being so short in comparison, I just really struggled with liking it a lot. Still am, actually.

I had to split the chapter up, kinda. It might have been a little much to take in at once. The next part will arrive whenever I feel like finishing and rewriting it.

Yes, Kasai went adventuring. No, it didn't really end well.

Izuna as a manipulative weasel is my favorite portrayal of him by far. I don't know why, it just is~

Till next!