The sun was just barely peeking over the horizon, throwing long golden rays into the indigo sky when there was a knock on Azumi’s door.
"Lord Sasori has summoned you," a man's voice called through the door. He knocked once more just to make sure he was heard. Naga lifted his head from his coil at the sound of the first knock. His attention shifted to Azumi when she moved in her bed. "I suggest you not make him wait. The young master is very impatient."
Azumi opened her eyes and sighed. "Of course," she mumbled to herself. "I would never assume such a man to be patient." She sat up and stretched then shared a look with Naga. "As much as I know you want to," she started, keeping her voice low, "you cannot bite him if he does anything to me." She stood up from the bed and got ready quickly, picking up the snake and heading out back to Sasori's room.
Sasori poked his head out of the back workshop attached to his room when he heard her come in. "You're here, finally," he huffed. "We have a large order for a batch of tonics that just came in and a special order for another client," he sighed, irritated. "I hate when Chiyo does favors," he growled, walking back into the workshop. "Aprons are on the wall," he said, sitting at the distillery workbench. The whole room had a thick aroma wafting through the air.
She nodded and stepped into the workshop, grabbing an apron and looking around. She noticed the batch of tonics and then focused on what he was doing. "What would you like me to do?" she asked him. She hoped that he had forgotten his threat of testing scorpion venom on her skin and if she did not challenge him, she would not have to hear another threat.
"Right now, I want you to make sure that doesn't boil over," he said, pointing to a beaker over a flame. "After we are done with this batch, I have something special for you." He looked over his shoulder, giving her a wicked smirk.
She tried not to look too concerned about whatever it was but she had to admit, she was scared about it. She stepped over to the beaker, watching it carefully to make sure it did not boil over, as he instructed. They spent the rest of the morning and the better part of the afternoon working on the batch and the client's special order.
Sasori sighed leaning back and running a hand through his hair. "Alright, we can let this sit for now before we bottle it later," he smirked at her. "You kept up well." He stood up and walked up to her. "I've never had another slave keep up so well on their first day. You really do know your stuff."
"Thank you," she said with a bow. "I have worked with compositions similar to this before. What I have done was not exactly the same as this but once you have mixed three or four compositions, you have mixed them all."
Sasori's eyes narrowed but his smirk remained. "Mmm, yes, you're right.” He reached around her, pulling the strings of her apron. He pulled the apron over her head and tossed it onto a nearby chair. "Are you ready for your surprise?" he asked, gripping her hip harshly. He had not taken his eyes off of her the entire time. "It will be my gift to you."
Her breath hitched when he grabbed her and she figured this was hardly much of a real gift. She hesitated for a moment before nodding slightly.
He smirked, leading her over to a new table and picked her up to put her down on the edge of it. "If you have tattoos you must be good with pain," he smirked, tracing a finger up the snake on her thigh. "Am I right?"
She looked down at his finger as it traced her thigh then back up at him. "Yes," she said quietly, trying to hide her fear.
The grin on Sasori's face widened. "I want to test that." He looked her in the eyes. "Lay down." He pushed her down before she could do it herself. He waited until she was all the way down before turning and picking up ropes. He bound her hands first, then her feet.
"What?" she gasped as soon as she felt the rope. "What are you doing?" she asked. She felt him tie the rope tighter than necessary and let out a quiet whimper.
"It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you," he smirked, pressing his hand harshly into her chest to hold her down. "You'll love it." He walked over to one of the shelves and pulled down two jars. "We are going to make sure you and everyone around us know who you belong to now." He spooned some powder out of one jar into a dish and then poured a liquid over from the other. It let off a low hissing sound and a heavy scent curled up with a cloud of grey smoke. He picked up a paintbrush and sat back down next to her.
She smelled the mixture he made as soon as he brought it close and her eyes widened. She recognized it immediately as acid. "No," she whispered. She turned to look at him and her breath hitched when she made eye contact. The smirk on his face told her everything. She looked at the small dish he brought over and bit her lip, holding back the scream that wanted to escape.
Sasori pushed the fabric of her dress out of the way gently, exposing her thigh and hip on the opposite side of her snake tattoo. He smirked as he pressed a kiss to the spot. "Oh, yes, this is going to be great," he grinned, swirling the brush in the mixture. "This will look amazing." He pressed his brush to her skin and started to paint.
She felt the first long stroke and flinched immediately. It took a couple of seconds for her to feel the burning sensation the mixture he painted with caused. "Ah-ha," she squeaked, trying not to scream. Her breath quickened when she felt the second long stroke.
"What a sweet sound," he smirked, continuing to paint. He blew on it softly, making the burning sensation stronger. He was slow with each stroke, drawing out how long the brush made contact with her skin. The mixture caused a little bit of smoke to rise off of her skin, filling Sasori's nose with the smell of her burning flesh.
She shut her eyes tight and bit her lip. The scream came out as more small squeaks. "Please," she gasped. She turned her face away from him, feeling tears well up in her eyes.
“Heh, oh no, my dear,” he let a low laugh out, “we talked about this. You must look at me when you speak.” He curved his brush up over her hip, following the bone. Again, he blew on it, watching her struggle to keep her body from buckling. “How does it feel?” he asked with an excited light in his eyes.
She exhaled heavily before turning back to face him. "Horrible," she groaned, biting her lip again. She looked down at the brush and where it was going. He made another long stroke, dragging over a line he already did and causing her to let out a small yelp.
“I could only imagine,” he smirked. “But you are faring better than any of my other slaves have in the past. They’ve all passed out by this point.” He leaned in as he started to go into more detail. He made sure to add every little speck and line he knew would make this visually ornate and beautiful. Not to mention drag out more of her screams.
She let out another, slightly louder cry and curled her fists tight enough that her nails drew blood from her palms. She tried to look at what he was painting on her to see how much longer she would have to endure it but the tears that welled up in her eyes clouded her vision. She closed her eyes, letting them come out as she tilted her head back and exhaled heavily again.
Sasori’s lips parted slightly, letting out a pleased almost moan while watching her writhe in agony. When he finally put his brush and bowl down after a couple of hours, he sat back, marveling at his work. He looked her over as she still tensed up in pain. “You look amazing,” he said softly, predatorily. He turned away to grab a rag, another bowl, and two bottles. He sat back down and opened one bottle, pouring it out onto the rag. With zero warning, he pressed the rag onto the fresh burn and wiped.
The direct contact with the burn and dragging motion is what pushed her past her limit. She let out an actual scream in pain, letting more tears fall from her eyes.
Sasori grinned, feeling zero remorse for the pain he had put her in. “Relax,” he told her, “we’re almost done.” He chuckled, pouring the other liquid onto a new rag. He pressed the rag over the whole burn. It had an instant effect. First, it cooled the burn with an icy feeling then slowly a numbness crept in. “This is your reward for staying awake,” he said softly into her ear.
She inhaled sharply at the cooling sensation and then let it out in a slow exhale when she felt the numbness. She closed her eyes again, trying to relax. She did not even want to see what it was that he burned into her skin. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked up at him, trying to quiet her breathing. She would have rather dealt with the scorpion venom than go through that.
"I'd say that wasn't so bad," he smirked, reaching down and bending her knee so her leg was up at a ninety-degree angle. "But as I said before, you're the only one who hasn't passed out from this." He wrapped a silk cloth around the newly numbed area. "Don't take that wrapping off until tomorrow. I don't feel like dealing with you if you get an infection."
“I will not,” she said quietly. She did not want to take it off ever. She never wanted to see what he did to her, but she knew that he did it so it could be seen by everyone. She waited until he put her leg down before sitting up. Still tied up, she looked down at the silk and frowned. She closed her eyes again and took a deep breath. She would give herself time to cry about it later.
"I'll be kind and let you rest a bit," he smirked, smacking the silk wrapped hip. "My client that's coming is a regular," he explained. "So, I want you to pay attention to him," he told her just as another slave knocked on his bedroom door.
"Si-sir," they squeaked from the door.
They both looked in the direction of the door and Sasori sighed. “He must be here already,” he said. He looked at her and smirked before leaving the workshop to answer the bedroom door.
Azumi sat on the table, struggling to loosen the rope around her wrists and ankles because he tied them too tight. She wiped her face and listened to the conversation between Sasori and the client as they walked back to the workshop.
“It was a big order this time,” the client said.
“Nothing I could not handle,” Sasori told him.
The two men entered the room and Azumi swallowed a gasp.
"You got another one?" the man asked nonchalantly as he laid eyes on the tied up Azumi.
"Yes, and she's proving to be so much better than any of the other toys I've broken in the past," Sasori grinned, running his hand up her leg to her thigh. "Mhm," he smirked, before turning away. "Your order is over here," he said. "It's your usual: odorless and quick."
"Perfect," the client said. "Have you made anything new for me to try?"
“I can give you this,” Sasori said, picking up a bottle. “I only have two test versions of it.” He handed the bottle to the client. “It’s odorless, but has a very faint taste and it is meant for slow and agonizing deaths.”
Azumi furrowed her brow. It did not come at all as a surprise to her that he sold poisons to people. But the actual confirmation was very disheartening.
“Interesting...” the client hummed, looking the bottle over as he took it. “I shall give it a try,” he smirked.
"I expect a detailed report of how it goes," Sasori smiled.
"As I always do," the man said to Sasori. "Hidan!" he called.
Another man with silver hair came running into the room. "Yes, Lord Kakuzu," the silver-haired man said as he knelt down quickly.
"Carry these," he said, pointing to the boxes.
"There's...more than usual," Hidan said, glancing over to Azumi. "Whoooa, you branded her already, Lord Sasori!" he smirked. "Can I see it?" He walked over then gasped. "You're awake!"
Azumi gasped quietly, moving back slightly when Hidan got closer to her. “Yes, I am,” she said to him. “And I have already been made aware of how unusual that is.”
“You speak like a noble,” Hidan said.
“Not all of us are born into slavery,” she said, looking at his own branding on his chest, no doubt given by the man behind him.
Hidan huffed, backing away. "Yeah, whatever," he grumbled, picking up the boxes. "She's rude," he said to Sasori as he turned to leave.
Sasori smirked, looking at Azumi. "She's still adjusting," he almost cooed. He walked over and ran his fingers through her hair.
"Your payment," Kakuzu said, clearing his throat and holding up a plain wooden box. Sasori pointed to workbench behind Kakuzu, indicating for him to put it down there. "Will I see you tomorrow night at Oonoki's banquet?"
"Unfortunately," Sasori growled. The soothing strokes in Azumi’s hair suddenly turned into a nasty grip, scraping her scalp.
“Nng,” she grunted in pain.
Kakuzu nodded and then bowed. “Until tomorrow then,” he said. Sasori nodded back at him.
“Goodbye, Lord Sasori,” Hidan said as he bowed his head slightly and followed Kakuzu out of the room, leaving Azumi alone with Sasori again.
Sasori released her hair, slowly returning to stroking it. "I'm going to release you soon,” he told her. “And I'll show you how I want my bath run so you can do it for me in the future."
She did not want to like the feeling of her hair being stroked but she did. She almost leaned into his touch before she caught herself. “At what times do you like your bath to be run?” she asked.
"Typically, around seven thirty, but if I'm in the middle of a project, whenever I've finished." He sat back down, smirking as he noticed her almost lean into his hand. "I take it with oils that I make and the perfect temperature between lukewarm and scalding." He dragged his nails gently along her scalp. "After, I expect my towel to be warmed and ready for me. I will tell you which creams and oils I want you to set aside for the night before and after my bath at first," he explained. "Once you get the hang of it you can choose for me. I don't doubt you will pick it up easily."
She tried not to hum at how good his nails against her scalp felt. “That sounds easy enough,” she said. “I hope I can serve you well and better than...the previous slaves.”
Sasori smirked, lifting his other hand to trace up her leg again to her thigh. His fingertips ghosted over the silk bandages up to her stomach. "You know your way around a lab and so far can keep up with what I need from you," he smirked. "You are already so much better than anyone else I've ever had serve me." His hand in her hair traced down her jaw and turned her head to him.
Her breath hitched slightly as she made eye contact with him. “It is because a lab is a familiar environment for me,” she said. “To be honest, it is where I feel most comfortable. But I know how to adapt in other places.” She tried to keep her eye contact with him as best as she could.
"I couldn't have made a more perfect purchase," Sasori grinned. He pulled his hands away and moved them up to undo the ropes around her feet. He turned back to work on the knotting at her hands, tracing the rope indentations for a moment. "Let's go," he said, stepping away from the table.
She rubbed the spot of her ankles that the rope hurt before getting off of the table. She took a couple of seconds to adjust to the numbness in her leg as she stood. Once she figured out how to walk with the uncomfortableness of it, she followed him, rubbing her wrists where the rope hurt her.
He led her back through his room to another doorway. "I have a private bath here, but there are two bathhouses on the property itself," he told her. The room they walked into was large, circular and very open air. The river that ran near the house could easily be seen and heard from where they stood. A large, pool-like bath was sunk into the ground along with another, smaller inground tub.
She looked around the bathroom in awe. "Wow," she whispered. She caught herself staring at the view. The sound of the river made the bathroom feel a little more like an oasis. "This is beautiful," she told him.
He smirked at her reaction. "My mother put a lot of effort designing our homes." He walked over to a built-in set of shelves that contained various types of jars and bottles. "Come," he waved her over. "This is where I keep most of the scents and oils that I am favoring currently," he told her. He squatted to open a cabinet. "Towels are down here, always rolled and this should always be kept well stocked." He stood back up. "You won't be stocking it but if you notice it is running low, be sure to tell the maids of the house."
She nodded and took a moment to look at how many towels were in the cabinet. She looked at the scents and oils on the shelves, reading the labels. She had to admit she admired his taste. They all seemed to be ones she would use herself. She looked at him and nodded again. "This seems easy enough," she said.
"You would think that but for some reason, so many of your predecessors messed it up," he said with mild irritation. "Anyway, over here is the valve that fills the smaller tub." He tapped a brass faucet. "You need to turn it to these two points." He turned on the water with both sides of hot and cold. "No higher or lower. If you do, I will notice."
Again, she nodded. "Understood," she said. That was a small detail that she could understand the previous slaves messing up on. She had no doubt that at least one of them was killed over something like that. If he ended up killing her, she was not going to let it be over something as stupid as water temperature. She resisted the urge to scoff and roll her eyes at the mere thought of it.
"Good." He looked around the room. "I'll give you time to acquaint yourself with all of this later," he sighed with a stretch and started to remove his clothes. "For now, take these back to my room and find my robe." He gestured to his clothes as he threw them to the floor, circling back to the shelves. "When you do, hang it up over there then come back to the shelves and I will show you what order to put things in."
She tried her best not to look at his body. She did not want to be attracted to such a monster, finding it completely disheartening that he was the way he was while he looked the way he did. She picked up his clothes and took them back to his room, folding them neatly and then grabbing his robe. She went back into the bathroom and hung it up where he told her to. As she approached the shelves, she looked over the labels of the oils and scents he had.
Once she was back Sasori picked out four jars. "Two of these are oils," he held up the jars. "You only need four drops of each," he said, pulling out a dropper from a small vase on the shelf. "And these two are salts." He held up the other jars. "One scoop of each of these will do." He showed her what to do. "Simple," he said, turning to shut the water off. "Now go eat dinner and come back before I'm done."
She nodded and bowed to him before leaving the bathroom. Naga slithered up to her, having been coiled by the door the entire time. He hissed softly to her as they left Sasori's bedroom. She picked him up and wrapped him around her waist, resting his head on her shoulder. She had no idea where to go, once again and decided to just walk in any direction.
Similar to the day before Chiyo rounded a corner and sighed. "He still hasn't given you a tour?"
"Ah, no, Lady Chiyo," Azumi said as she bowed. "He has not. He kept me with him in his workshop all day. I was just dismissed to go eat."
"Alright, I'll give you the tour since he is neglecting to," she told her. First, she brought her to the servant's kitchens. All of the servants and slaves who were sitting down to eat stood up and bowed low. "You can cook down here. And unless Sasori orders otherwise this is where you will take all of your meals." She waved the servants off. "Go back to your meal," she told them, and they relaxed. She ordered one of the women to prepare a bowl of food for Azumi. "You can eat while we walk." The servant quickly served the bowl and handed it to Azumi. She took the bowl and thanked them quietly. "This won't take too long," Chiyo said.
Azumi nodded as she followed Chiyo out of the kitchens and into the hallway. "Thank you for this," she said.
"It's part of our job to make sure you have everything you need to do your job correctly," Chiyo waved her thanks off. "My grandson gets very wrapped up in his own little world and forgets that constantly."
“He seems to take great pride in his work,” Azumi said as she ate her food quietly while walking down the hall. “It looks to have brought on a great amount of success. You must be very proud of him.”
“Proud but always worried he is overdoing it,” she frowned. “I often find clients for him when he isn’t in the shop. The Hyuugas have been coming to us personally for their medications for decades and they haven’t praised me once the way they do Sasori. It does make a grandmother’s heart swell.” She stopped outside of a room. “Down here is the laundry room. All you have to do is ask a house servant for help should you need anything from in there. Down the rest of the way is close to the servants’ quarters where you slept last night and the kitchens.”
Azumi looked into the room and nodded. “He has mentioned quite a few times how his previous slaves...” She tried to find the words to use.
“Died?” Chiyo finished.
“Yes...because of him?”
“Yes, well,” Chiyo sighed heavily. “He can have a bad temper and sets a very high bar for anyone who works with him,” she frowned. “He also forgets basic human needs when he’s working so please do remind him to eat and bathe.”
Azumi frowned a little and then nodded. “I will,” she said. She looked down the hall, recognizing the servants’ quarters. She finished her food and bowed. “I must get back to him. He may be done with his bath soon.”
"Alright then," Chiyo nodded. "If you get lost again don't hesitate to ask for help," she said before turning down a different hall.
Azumi moved through the halls back to Sasori’s room, trying to remember the path she had taken on the tour. Her leg still felt weird which slowed her down just a little bit. She put Naga down on the floor when she entered the room and went back into the bathroom where Sasori was still in the tub.
"You're late," Sasori said, leveling her with a glare. "But I figured Granny was talking your ear off so I'll forgive you," he said, stepping out of the tub.
She bowed and moved to grab a towel from the cabinet and gave it to him. “She was giving me a tour,” she said, “so I know where the kitchens are.” She grabbed his robe to bring it over to him as he wrapped the towel around himself.
"Mm, oh, yes, I haven't done that yet, have I?" he hummed as he dried off and took the robe. "Well, all the better you know and I did not have to," he said, walking back into his room. He lounged on his bed. "Sit," he commanded, casually pointing to the daybed. "Take that bottle before you leave and put it on you when you return to your room tonight," he said, pointing to a small bottle on the desk.
Azumi sat on the daybed and looked at the bottle on the desk. “Is it for the burn?” she asked. The numbness was slowly going away as it had been a couple of hours since.
“It is,” Sasori said, bending one of his legs up. “As I said, I don’t want to deal with an infection and so far I actually like you.”
She looked at him, risking the smallest smile. “Thank you,” she said, bowing slightly. She ran her hand along the silk wrapping around her thigh. The pain was there but it was very minuscule. She knew by the time she went to bed she would feel it a lot more.
“Mhm,” he said airily, pulling out a log and marking down something. “You have nothing to wear for tomorrow.” He put the book down and looked her over. “I will have one of Chiyo’s girls provide you a dress. Can you do your hair and makeup?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I can.” She paused for a moment before looking up at him again. “If I may ask, what exactly is this event?”
“Nothing of particular significance, just an irritating banquet.” He rolled his eyes. “A waste of my time honestly.” He stood up and with a swish to his robe, disappeared into the workshop. He returned moments later with a wooden box. “I made this for some client but she wound up not using it.” He pressed the box into her lap. “It’s yours now.”
She opened up the box and looked through the makeup that was inside. She whispered to herself in awe, picking up some of the items and closely inspecting them. “Thank you, again,” she told him.
Sasori glanced at her through his lashes as he picked up his log again and settled back into bed. “You can keep that. If you continue to prove useful, I’ll give you more for whenever we are forced out.” He grumbled about not wanting to deal with social graces. “Dismissed.” He waved his hand.
She stood up from the daybed and bowed. "Goodnight," she said. She picked up the bottle he mentioned from the desk and placed it on top of the box as she carried it back to her room. Naga slithered behind her, hissing quietly about how he did not trust the makeup in the box. "He made it for a client," she said to the snake. "So, it should not be too bad." Once she was finally in her room, she set the box down on the dresser and sat down on the bed. She lightly unwrapped her leg to put a little bit of the liquid from the bottle onto the burn. It cooled it instantly and she sighed. "I still do not know what it is," she mumbled to herself, refusing to look at whatever he painted on her. She placed the bottle on the dresser and laid in bed, taking a while to fall asleep.