Their friendship takes another hit on the day she catches him dumping a mangled body in the forest behind his house.
It's bitterly cold, the middle of winter, and Naomi runs out the house when she realizes it starts to snow for the first time this season. She grins hugely behind her big scarf and spreads her arms, watching as thick snowflakes cling to her coat as she spins around in circles. She catches movement at the corners of her eye and stops. Naomi squints through the heavy snow. Her arms drop to her sides and her body goes cold. There's a trail of blood in the thin layer of snow on the grass, going straight from his backdoor across the lawn. Her eyes follow the trail to the trees, where she sees movement from a figure. When the figure turns around her suspicions become terrible truth. It's Orochimaru. He's got something in his hands. A cat or a small dog, she can't tell. It's legs are oddly twisted. Pale pink guts are hanging out of it. Naomi's stomach lurches at the sight and she feels sick.
Her hopes of reconciliation were dashed when Orochimaru and she had another fight about something stupid she can't even remember anymore. They haven't spoken in two months now. Dead animals have been appearing occasionally around the street, but not only there. To see the rumors confirmed, that it was him, fills her with cold dread and burning disappointment. She knows she's been seen when he stops moving abruptly. Gold eyes stare at her through the gloom beneath the trees. It sends a shiver down her spine and makes her heart start pounding. Her head goes strangely blank. Naomi spins around on her heel and runs back inside the house. She slams the door shut and locks it for good measure. For some reason she can't stop shivering, not even when she's curled up beneath the covers on her bed. Naomi's eyes start to burn. How could he?!
Tsunade and her swap seats at school. Nothing else changes. She doesn't tell her friend about her discovery out of a deep seated sense of loyalty to Orochimaru that she can't seem to shake. If their friendship has cooled down before, it's now officially put on ice. Seeing carcasses isn't what makes her gut lurch, it's knowing that Orochimaru killed them. Some of them were mutilated pretty badly, beyond what one might do out of scientific curiosity. If it was just that she'd understand, probably. Not like this. This is pure sadism.
"Ne, Naomi. I've talked to my mom and dad. They'll let me apply for medical training soon," Tsunade tells her with a huge smile.
"Really? Already?" Naomi's nose scrunches up.
"Yup. I convinced them and they agreed that I have the talent."
"What about you?"
She thinks about all her recent lessons and rubs her nose thoughtfully. "Maybe papa will let me apply, too."
"You should talk to him," Tsunade says with a nod. "We'll train together!"
"Yeah, that would be nice."
The blonde's eyebrows furrow and she points at her. "What's with you today? Where's your spirit?!"
Naomi groans and buries her face in her crossed arms. She feels hot and her bones ache. A cool hand touches her forehead and she hears Tsunade tutter.
"Nana, you've got a fever! You should go home."
"N-no way. I'm fine," she protests feebly.
Thankfully Imura-sensei choses that moment to arrive. Calculus is a little difficult to follow as she feels progressively sicker. It's as if somebody is siphoning all her strenght and concentration. She's never missed a day at school and she doesn't plan to. This year she's going to turn ten and her dad promised he'd start training her in medical jutsu then since she already has really good chakra control. He took her to the med center once and it was one of the best days of her life. She's deeply afraid of disappointing him so she doesn't even consider going home now. Naomi grits her teeth and focuses. She won't let some stupid sickness get the best of her!
At leats until lunch break. They go outside to eat and Naomi can't stop shivering, even though it's not that cold today. Her face is burning up and her head feels like it's packed in cotton. She's not hungry, but forces herself to eat an onigiri anyway. Tsunade is carrying on a conversation she's not listening to. She just nods and hums from time to time. When the bell rings and the blond girl gets up she follows slowly and feels a little sick. Halfway across the schoolyard she suddenly feels the blood rush from her face. Everything goes kind of hazy and starts to spin.
"Nana!" She hears Tsunade yell and feels her grab onto her coat. "Dammit!"
The world fades away for a moment, or so it feels, until everything goes into focus again. She's staring at the ground. Gravel is digging into her knees and her leggings are getting moist from kneeling on the ground.
"Nana!" Tsunade snaps suddenly.
She looks up and sees her friend crouched in front of her with a worried frown. "Tsuna?"
"You blacked out for a second! Go home already, damn you! You're sick and should be resting!" The blonde half-shouts.
"N-no, I'll be okay," Naomi objects weakly.
Her stomach is roiling and her throat is clogged. She can't let her flawless record get tainted! Tsunade's frown turns into a scowl as she stands up suddenly.
"You're being an idiot!" She hears her yell. "Dammit! I'm telling Inoue-sensei!"
"Tsuna, no!" She croaks desperately. "I can't misss school!"
They're attracting a crowd, but Naomi doesn't care. She tries to stand up, but her limbs feel like jelly and she ends up sort of wobbling in place.
"Help me up!" She hisses furiously and blushes with embarrassment.
Tsunade crosses her arms with a deep frown. "Naomi you can't even stand up! You need to go home!"
This is the worst. This is the worst. Being surrounded by a ring of curious onlookers while she can't even get up-! They don't understand. Tsunade is being mean. Frustrated tears well up in her eyes.
"I can't-" she grits out and cuts herself off before she does something embarrassing like cry.
People protest and suddenly there's movement behind the ring of people. Some of the kids look back and hastily step aside to let through the last person she expected to come to her aid. Orochimaru doesn't even look at the people who quickly step away from him. His golden eyes are fixed on her. Tsunade's arms and frown drop in surprise.
He simply crouches down besides her and puts her arm over his shoulders. Naomi's mouth drops open in shock.
"Come on," he says calmly.
With his help she manages to stand up. Naomi swallows hard and stares at the ground when he helps her walk through the crowd. Suddenly running footsteps catch up to them and Tsunade appears at her other side. She wordlessly slings an arm around her middle.
"You idiot," she scolds her. "Why are you so stubborn?!"
"I can't miss school," Naomi insists weakly. "Dad will get mad at me. He's really.. strict."
"It's not your fault if you get sick," she objects and turns to her with a frown.
"You don't get it! The only thing that matters to him is if I have a flawless record!" Naomi grits out.
She hates having to explain herself, even if it's to her friend. Tsunade doesn't know her dad. The way he demands perfection from all his children. How the only one who seems to be excempt from this is her younger sister, who can seemingly do as she pleases. How bitter it is that he spoils the little princess rotten, but admonishes her if she spells a single medical term wrong. Orochimaru is a silent support on her left side. She swallows and glances at him from the corner of her eyes. He keeps looking at the way ahead with an impassive expression. The way back to the classroom, she notices with delight.
"Thank you, Oro-kun," she says quietly and gives him a small, uncertain smile.
He only stares down at her blankly after dumping her on her chair and walks away. Tsunade sits down besides her, obscuring her view on him, and tsk's loudly.
"What's with him?" She comments lightly before giving her a slightly downtrodden look. "Sorry for earlier, Nana. I didn't mean to.. I guess I was just worried. And a little annoyed at your stubbonness. I still don't think it's a good idea for you to stick around, but if you insist."
"I have to," Naomi rasps and sniffles once.
"Fine, then I'll keep watch over you," Tsunade says decisively. "Drink something!"
"Okay...," Naomi sighs and tries to glance past her.
Orochimaru is back to ignoring her apparently. Tsunade rolls her eyes and pushes a water bottle at her.