The walk back home was thankfully not as tense as the night before but it was just as silent. They walked through the halls of the house quietly, heading straight for Sasori's room. Without a word, Azumi went into the bathroom and started his bath, going about the same salt and oil routine.
Sasori followed her into the bathroom and noticed her newly made oils and salts were on one of his shelves. Without a word, he cleared the contents of another shelf away and moved hers down to the new space. "That shelf is yours now," he said flatly. He started to shed his clothes in his usual fashion but took the time to neatly fold up his garments. He walked back out to his room and took his time taking off his jewelry. "Do you remember the performance at all?" he asked her when he walked back in.
She stood quiet for a moment, remembering her time on the stage with him. "I remember...the beginning," she said. "Everything up until you turned me around...and told me to show what the snakes have taught me. After that is it all...grey and obscure."
"Interesting," he drawled. He slipped into the tub. "You moved beautifully," he told her. "It was fascinating to see how the music moved through you. You were so malleable," he grinned.
Azumi frowned slightly, not liking the idea of being controlled so easily. Especially by someone who would clearly abuse it. However, it was something she could not help. "I cannot say whether or not I moved much differently than normal because I do not remember it," she hummed. "But thank you," she said toward the compliment.
Sasori grew silent. He leaned back in the water and moving his fingers over the surface of the water before speaking again. "I want you to remember," he said. "This trance you go into is very interesting but I think I prefer knowing you are completely conscious of what your body is doing when we move together. In dance or otherwise." He leveled her with a stare. "I need to know it's you making the choices, not the trance," he smirked devilishly. "That being said, I think I can put it to good use."
She stared at him for a moment before nodding. She was a bit scared to find out exactly what he would use it for and she did not want to risk asking him. "Do you...like dancing as well?" she asked him. "I know you are good at it, but do you enjoy it."
He thought for a moment before answering her. "Yes," he finally said. "We talked about how it's like a release the other night." He rested his chin on his thumb and forefinger, gently rubbing his lower lip as he thought about his next words. "I love my work but even I need time to disconnect and just feel my body be alive."
She hummed as she considered his answer. "That is good to hear," she said with a small smile. She backed out of the room for a brief moment to grab his robe and place it on the hook in the bathroom for when he was ready to get out.
Sasori watched her hang it up and sighed heavily. "How much longer are you going to stand around?" he asked. "You're just as sweaty as I am, so hurry up and take your bath. I want to know how those salts and oils we made turned out in practice," he said with a wave of his hand. "You'll return to your room afterward," he said.
She sighed quietly, realizing that despite the nice moments they had, he was still himself and she would have to get used to that. She did not say anything as she set up her own bath, using the macadamia and rice milk scent that he made. Once it was ready, she carefully took off her outfit and folded it up before stepping into the bath, hiding the relaxed groan that wanted to escape when she felt the water.
He leaned over the edge of his tub, resting his chin on the backs of his hands. He took a deep breath and sighed. "That turned out even better than I originally thought," he said, smirking as he watched her try to hide her groan. He reached down and dipped his fingers into the water. "This will make your skin very soft," he said rubbing his fingers together as the liquid ran down his hand. "I might stock some of this at the shop."
She hummed and nodded as she inhaled silently. "It is nicely concentrated. It might be better than what I remember. Selling it in the shop would be a great idea."
"I'm glad you think so," he smirked. He rolled back into his tub and sighed. "We can make some tomorrow and bring it with us to the shop to give it a test run."
"Sounds good," she said softly, leaning against the wall of her tub and relaxing further into the water. She looked around the bathroom for a moment, letting her thoughts run rapidly through her mind. She did not realize how much time had passed until the actual fatigue of their night out started to hit her, bringing her back from her thoughts. She started to wash herself up, remembering he told her she would be sleeping in her own room.
He was getting out of the tub when she finally returned to herself. He dried himself off and made sure to leave a towel for her. The sun was starting to turn the horizon shades of pink and blue. "Mmm, it's been a while since I've seen the sunrise," he murmured.
She looked up at him and then out at the sunrise. She could not say the same. She spent a couple of months watching the sun rise and set when being transported from her village and sold into slavery. It lost its wonder after a week for her. She rubbed her face and finished washing up. Stepping out of the tub, she grabbed the towel he left out for her and dried off. "Will you still be going to sleep?" she asked him softly.
"Maybe," he said softly. "Seems a little pointless now." He pulled on his robe and breezed into his room. "But you should sleep regardless of me. I don't need you too drowsy when I need you most," he said flatly.
She nodded as she followed him into his room and picked up the clothes that he told her she would be sleeping in. She was not sure if she would want to actually sleep for fear that she would not wake up when he did need her, but she also was not going to pass up a chance to take a nap. "When would you like me to come back?" she asked as she got dressed.
He walked over to his desk and picked up a stack of papers. "I will either retrieve you or send someone for you," he said without looking at her. "Now go before I change my mind and make you start a new project with me," he said, walking into his workshop.
She rolled her eyes and huffed quietly as she turned to leave, heading back to her room. She passed a couple of servants on the way and gave them nods, ignoring the same looks they had been giving her since she arrived. In her room, Naga was coiled on her bed. He lifted his head when she entered the room and hissed softly at her. "Hello," she smiled at him, crossing the room to lay on the bed next to his coil. "It has been a while." He hissed quietly, leaning in to tap her nose with his. "I am still alive, yes," she chuckled. "I am sorry I left you in here." She got up and opened the window. "If you need to go eat, you can." He hissed at her to let her know he would be back soon and slithered out of the window. Azumi laid back on her bed and sighed, letting the fatigue take over and drifted off to sleep.
"She and the young lord just got in not too long ago," a servant's voice spoke outside her door.
Sandaime paused outside the red door. "Do you know how long she's been asleep?" he asked softly.
"She only went in there a couple of minutes ago," the servant answered. "She may still be awake."
Azumi groaned, hearing the sound of voices speaking. She could not hear what they were saying but she knew they were there. She lifted her head and looked at the window, wondering how much time had passed. Naga was not back yet, so it could not have been that long. She sat up and sighed.
Sandaime hummed, hesitating to knock now. He sighed and knocked anyway. "Miss Azumi," he said through the door. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but may I—"
"What are you doing disturbing my property?" Sasori growled from up the hall.
Sandaime turned to look at his nephew in the eye. "I need to discuss something with her that is none of your concern."
Azumi looked at the door and furrowed her brow, still unable to make out what was being said. However, she got up when she heard the knock and crossed the room to open the door. "Oh," she said, "Lord Sandaime," she bowed. "Hello." She looked at where he was facing and saw Sasori up the hall.
Rage blazed in Sasori's eyes. He ground his teeth, closing the distance between them. "I don't understand why you think you can just do whatever you want, Uncle," he glared up at the taller man. "She needs sleep and you need to leave."
"Good morning," Sandaime said to Azumi, ignoring his yammering nephew. He ushered Azumi back into her room and pulled her door shut. Sasori's jaw dropped.
Azumi looked at the door and then at Sandaime. "Um, may I ask what is going on?" she asked.
Sandaime leaned against the door with his full body weight as Sasori kicked it hard. He smiled serenely at her. "I simply wanted to check in on you and discuss some things."
She tilted her head a little, unable to not smile back when she saw his smile. "What things?" she asked. She found it very easy to ignore Sasori on the other side of the door with his uncle in between them.
"Well for one, how are you?" he chuckled. "If you are getting in this late I'm going to hazard a guess that you were at the night market?" he asked her with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "I liked going when I was a younger man."
"I am doing well, thank you," she smiled. "And yes, we did go to the night market. It was my first time. A great experience. I even performed last night."
"Performed?" Sandaime repeated the word with a raised eyebrow. There was a question of the implication behind his tone. "How so?" he asked ready to beat the civility back into his nephew.
"Lord Sasori gave me an opportunity to dance," she said. "Of course, it was a little unexpected but I have learned to just go with what he says and does."
"You danced," he nodded. "With clothes on, I hope?" He gave her a worried look.
Her eyes widened a little and she gasped quietly. "Absolutely," she said. "Lord Sasori actually had an outfit made for me to perform in."
Sandaime finally relaxed upon hearing the information. "Then I am glad you got to enjoy your first experience at the night market," he smiled at her. "He's never done that before. That's almost kind of him," he chuckled. "I'm sure you look beautiful in it. My nephew may be morally unsound but he has very good taste in appearances."
She smiled and nodded. "He has been much kinder than I would have expected from someone like him," she said. "Even Lord Gaara has noticed and thinks it is odd." There was one more kick to the door from Sasori, which they promptly ignored. "Though, that can easily end once you leave," she chuckled.
Sandaime sighed and shook his head. "An unfortunate truth." He looked her over with kind eyes. "He is showing you kindness? I'm glad to hear that after what he did to your body." He frowned again. "I just wanted to tell you first that I will be working hard on behalf of you and all the others enslaved in this city to free you," he said softly.
She gasped loudly this time, her jaw dropping. "Free...us?" she whispered. "Really?" The thought of being to return home made her grin. "Wow..." Her eyes settled on his face and then she bowed. "Thank you so much, Lord Sandaime," she said softly.
He smiled kindly at her and returned her bow. "When you are free, I hope to meet you again as Lady Azumi," he smiled. "Until then, I will work hard on your behalf. And know that hope isn't lost." His smile widened. "I hope to see you dance one of these days, too," he chuckled.
She could not help the giggle that came out of her. "I hope so, too," she grinned. There was another kick at the door. "Oh," she hummed, reminded about Sasori's existence. She had a feeling he would do something to her once his uncle left. Naga came slithering back through the window, hissing softly and coiling up on the bed.
"Hello there," he smiled at Naga. Naga lifted his head to hiss softly. Sandaime chuckled then looked back at Azumi "You wait here," he smiled at her. "I'll deal with him," he stepped away from the door and opened it to quickly catch Sasori's foot in his hands. "Nearly thirty years old and you still act like a petulant child." Sasori's eyes were a brighter rage than before. His cheeks were flushed as he thrashed to no avail in Sandaime's grip. He was beyond words at this point. "I guess that means the only way to deal with you, is like a petulant child." His eyes sharpened and Sasori's widened in fear. Without another word, Sandaime pushed back on Sasori's leg, forcing him to hop backward and let the door gently close behind him.
Azumi's jaw dropped slightly as she stared at the door for a long moment. "Naga!" she whispered excitedly, looking at the snake. "He is going to try and free us!" She looked back at the door and pressed her ear to it to listen to what Sandaime was telling Sasori. She could only make out the deep hum of his voice and not his words.
"What were you discussing with her?" Sasori practically spat.
"As I said before, it doesn't concern you," Sandaime said easily.
Sasori growled. "She is mine," he snapped. "She has no business! All she needs to worry about is serving me and my needs!" Sandaime shook his head and sighed heavily. Sasori jerked his body to try and free his leg once more. His uncle stared at him and let his leg go, causing him to stumble back into the wall then hit the ground hard. "Aargh! Old man, you're really pushing it!"
"And what exactly are you going to do to me?" the older man chuckled. "Poison me?" he said the words lowly. "That knowledge runs in this family. Know your place, Nephew." He leveled Sasori with an unwavering glare. Sasori was not given a chance to respond before Sandaime turned and left. "I will be back in a couple of days," he said as he made his way up the hall. "She better be alive."
Behind the door, Azumi backed away. She heard Sandaime walk off and she sat down on the bed, petting Naga's head.
Sasori tore into her room and pinned her up against the wall. He ground his teeth, gripping her jaw tight enough to leave bruises. "What did he say!" His voice was raspier than usual with how hard he was growling. He slammed her head back hard into the wall. "Tell me!"
Her gasp got caught in her throat and she choked on the air, letting out a grunt as he gripped her jaw and already feeling a headache forming from her head being slammed against the wall. Naga got into a defensive posture and hissed angrily at him. "He was only," she strained, "checking to see if I was still alive." She grunted again. "He said he was worried that you would have killed me by now...just as everyone else thought."
"You're lying." He glared at Naga. "Tell him to stand down or I will make him into a new belt," Sasori snarled.
Azumi's eyes widened and she gently put her hand on Naga's head, gliding her finger down to his snout to relax him. "I am not lying," she told him softly. "Lord Sandaime may care about my well-being, but I am currently loyal to you."
Sasori stared at her for a few more moments before releasing her roughly and turning away. "Fine," he hissed. "Get dressed," he snapped. "Fetch breakfast and meet me in the workshop."
She rubbed her jaw and nodded then stood up. She pet Naga one last time before heading straight to the kitchen. There was no way she was going to let him know of his uncle's plans. She went into the kitchen and thankfully, no one was there. She took a moment to inhale deeply, trying to calm herself down. Once she fought off the tears, she grabbed two bowls and served them, grabbing the spoons and heading back to Sasori's room. She saw her daily clothes on the daybed and set the bowls on the desk. Quickly, she changed into the new clothes and picked up the bowls, stepping into the workshop and placing his bowl in front of him without a word.
He picked up the bowl without saying anything to her. He was, once again, bent over a specimen. "You were paying attention when we made those oils and salts, yes?" He started to eat his breakfast.
She set her bowl down on a different counter. She did not even want it. He ruined her appetite. "Yes," she said without looking at him.
"Then get to it," he bit out. He glanced at the food she put down. "And make sure you finish that. If you pass out, waking up will be a lot more painful for you."
She rolled her eyes as she started grabbing the bowls and ingredients that he used for the first scent they made. She spent the next hour making the salt and oil in the macadamia nut and rice milk scent. They did not say a word to each other. Not that she wanted to talk to him anyway. Once the batch was done, she bottled it up. She was able to make ten bottles for its trial period in the shop.
When Sasori noticed she was done, he looked up from his work and picked up a bottle. He smelled it and then rubbed some of it between his fingers. Satisfied with the quality, he nodded to the wooden boxes they used to transport things. "Put them in there and then come here," he said. His voice was softer now but still strained.
Still saying nothing to him, she moved to grab the box and started placing the bottles neatly inside. She set the box down once she was done and then joined him on his side of the workshop.
"Come," he instructed over his shoulder. He was grinding a fine powder with his mortar and pestle. She moved closer to see what he was doing but kept her distance so he would have room to move around. He poured a little oil into the mixture then set the bowl down. He pulled a brush from a cup in front of him then snatched her hand. Dipping the brush into the mixture, he dragged it across the back of her hand. "Mmm," he frowned. He looked up at her face and gripped her jaw just as he had earlier but much softer now. Her breath hitched as she felt his fingers on her jaw again. He gently stroked the bluish bruising that had already started to form with his thumb, pressing just hard enough into it for it to hurt as he looked into her eyes.
She furrowed her brows and winced a little as he touched the bruising. "What is that?" she asked softly, flexing her hand very slightly.
He looked at her a moment longer in silence. "You bruised easier than I expected," he whispered. He tilted her jaw up and started to paint the mixture on her face lightly with the brush. "It's unfortunate." He was almost pouting as he grabbed a soft cloth and dabbed the mixture until it settled into her skin and covered the bruising.
She frowned, feeling the mixture settle. "I do not usually bruise easily," she said. "However, your grip is very strong."
"So it would seem," he said, repeating his actions on the other side of her jaw until all the bruising was covered. She let him work on her face, looking away from him the whole time. She knew he was aware of his grip. Once he let her go, she took a step back, feeling the residue of the mixture on her face set in. "Go look at yourself," he ordered. "There's a mirror in the bathroom."
She did not spare him a nod before she turned and went to the bathroom. She found the mirror he mentioned and walked up to it. It was a full body mirror facing one of the corners designated for changing, which Sasori never used. She gasped softly, looking at herself. It was the first time in a long time that she saw herself. She frowned, immediately focusing on the burn on her chest. Her eyes moved down to her thigh where he burned a scorpion onto her. She stood there for a moment before her gaze moved to her face. She did not see any bruises. "Well it works," she mumbled to herself. She scoffed and then went back into the workshop.
"Does it feel heavy on your face?" he asked her. "I know Mei doesn't like her make up to feel heavy but I had to mix in some extra colors for you to counter the discoloration." He was scraping the rest of what was in the bowl into a small container.
"No, it is very light," she answered, making her way to the opposite side of the workshop where she made the salt and oil earlier. "I do not feel it at all." She started to clean up everything she used.
"Good," he said. He stood up and walked over to her. He backed her up against the table and leaned in close to her. His hands pressed into the table, caging her in. "And if I find out you're lying to me about my uncle," his voice was a low whisper, "I'll do so much worse to you than this." He ran his finger down the burn on her chest. "Understood?" he asked her with a slight smirk. He held her gaze, using his nail to drag over the scar tissue.
She breathed heavily through her nose and then nodded. "Yes," she said quietly, wincing a little as he touched the burn.
"Yes who?" he smirked, digging into the burn a little.
She frowned, looking down and then looking back up at him. "Yes, Lord Sasori," she said, resisting the urge to roll her eyes so hard.
"Good girl," he said, finally pulling away from her. He walked out to his room to get dressed.
It was not until he was gone that she started to let her heavy breathing out. She stood there for a moment, pressing her hand to her chest and controlling her breaths. 'It looks like he is back to being himself,' she thought. Once she calmed herself down, she picked up the box with the trial salt and oils and went out to his bedroom. As soon as she joined him in the bedroom, he started for the door. They left together for the shop as it had become routine.