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Pink Carnations and Zinnia

Chapter Text

It's time to reclaim your life…
One breath at a time.

~Malebo Sephodi


Revelation

The first time you remember being another person—the greatest healer in the world—you are four years old, and your father’s blood is splattered across your face.

(but dad died by drowning)

As father and the enemy fight, you feel the warm droplets on your face begin to drip, slowly sliding down the childish curves of your face. You can ‘see’ the blood cells, and they are dying, drying due to exposure to the air, but your brain has stalled in the revelation that you are not in the body you knew for—for how long?

(you told them to stop putting numbers on the cake)

Father kills the enemy and disappears from sight. Someone picks you up and plops you back on the hard dirt-packed ‘floor’ so that you are no longer in full view of the tent entrance. Distantly, you register the sounds of battle coming from outside out of view, and it sounds like a war is going on.

(fools had come knocking)

A woman kneels in front of you and reaches out with a wet cloth. You barely flinch at her presence and do not move away as she wiped off father’s blood. Father brought you here because mother is dead and there was no one to keep you at home in the village—you understand that now. Father is father because he and mother were all that you knew with certainty while others were just passing faces.

(you had had a mom and dad, and currently had a dau—)

You gasp suddenly, and your heart thunders in your chest as you realize that you were nearly killed. If not for father intervening when he did—oh. He had been cut somewhere. He was hurt, bleeding. Dying?

(mom, an alleyway)

Something skitters in your chest, something as familiar as your own heartbeat—and yet at the same time as alien as the concept of this new body you are currently inhabiting.

(you can’t remember dying)

The queen kikaichu nestled inside you was a treasured part of you. Your colony was growing from her, numbering few due to your young age, and small and still-growing body. You could ‘see’ her, and the twenty-one other kikaichu currently harbored inside your body. Your Quirk, inactive until just moments ago, could absorb them if you so desired, but—

You remember your new mother and father talking to you, explaining the nature of the relationship between the clan and their insects. You remember being held and educated and told to nurture the colony inside you. She was, and he is, and you are—

Aburame.

(you died)


Afraid

Father could be dying, but you don’t know where he has gone (he is not Dad but he is still Father). You don’t think it’s wise to go and look for him, not when the terrible cacophony of raging battles has yet to stop. Your view of everything is tinted by the sunglasses on your face, the last gift from your Mother before she didn’t come home. Everything around you seems disproportionally large because of your small stature, and it still hasn’t really sunk in that you are four years old again (and yet not, because when you were truly four, you lived in modern Japan in the age of Quirks).

Flinching when something tears through the material of the tent’s top to strike the ground, you hug your knees as you stare at the sharp knife-like object now sticking out of the ground. You barely have time to note the smoking paper sticking to it when the woman is back, completely taking up your field of vision as her arms wrap tightly around you.

(someone’s back, arms outstretched, a woman, you know her but you can’t recall her name)

Then there is a terrible explosion full of light and deafening noise, and the woman holding you is thrown by force, taking you with her through the wall of the tent. Coughing as your ears ring, you wheeze as the full weight of the woman settles over your body. Pushing is futile as she’s too heavy for you to move. She is mostly covered from head to toe in clothes, but the blast has burned away quite a bit. Struggling to reach your small arms around her, the tips of your fingers brush burnt flesh.

You ‘see’ that she is dead, but it has been a long time (hasn’t it?) since you have meekly accepted that death has taken someone from your grasp. Pressing the tips of your fingers against her, you force the body to restart—

But something is still missing. You make her heart beat, her lungs breathe, and her brain active, but there is a missing piece, something new that wasn’t needed last time (in an age of Quirks, in a world without shinobi). The memories of your new lifetime flash by and suddenly you know the answer: chakra. This woman died and her chakra pathways emptied upon her death. Your brow furrows because you don’t know how to manipulate chakra, or know if or how you can transfer chakra to her.

Stymied by your lack of knowledge—it’s strange, because you’ve never had to truly know before in order to pull someone out of death’s grip—you let your fingers slip away from her flesh. The air you forced into her body leaves with in a stale sigh. Frustrated, you struggle to escape her weight, wriggling fiercely until at last you are free.

(you think she tried to protect you but you can’t remember if she succeeded)

You don’t relax as the sounds of battle have yet to stop. Danger isn’t far away from this place. At least the camp seems to be free of conflict for the moment, though you don’t know if it will stay that way. You doubt it will, considering that the tent just blew up and just moment before that, Father was fighting off an enemy right there.

What kind of place is this? Why is a child so close to this kind of danger? Father, bringing your only child here just because you couldn’t find a babysitter seems a little extreme. Even you tried to keep ____—

Your thoughts freeze as you deliberately turn away from the thought of her. Even now, you don’t want to think of her.

(the poor replacement, the mistake, the unfortunate, the imprisoned bird—)

Not knowing where to go, you dither in place, wanting to find somewhere to hide, but not knowing where the nearest safest place is. If only ____ was here, then at least you wouldn’t be afraid of projectiles coming out of nowhere and snuffing your life.

(who is ____ ?)

The kikaichu skittered in response to your distress, reminding you that you are now an Aburame, part of a clan of insect users. Clutching a hand over your chest, you frown behind the high collar your father dressed you in. You are too young to really use your kikaichu partners in any meaningful way, mostly because you don’t have much in the way of chakra yet.

But you were the leader of the ____ __ ____ and the ____ who held the world hostage whether the world knew it or not, and your original parents taught you to be vicious about your self-preservation long before the thought even crossed ____’s mind.

(a different person, a woman, the same one with arms outstretched, but what is her name?)

You look back at the dead woman and see material for harvesting.


Dependency

You call out two kikaichu, and you stifle a surprised sob as they break through your skin to crawl down your arm and onto your palm. Your jacket is loose-fitting and dangles down to your knees, while beneath it you are wearing loose t-shirt. There is more than enough room for your kikaichu to break out of any spot if you needed them to. Holding back tears, you suddenly don’t want them anymore, but neither can you bring yourself to absorb them as that seems much too final. Deciding to take advantage of the broken skin, you call out a third, and soon the pain is already a fading memory.

(you weren’t accustomed to pain back then)

The three kikaichu crawl over to the back of your hand as you place it against the woman’s exposed back. Her neurons were dead, as expected due to the lack of oxygen since her death just minutes prior. Her organs were in the beginning stage of decomposition. Without blood flow and nothing to slow or prevent cell death, her organs would be lost within the hour. But you don’t need her organs, as to have them go missing would be suspicious if someone did an autopsy on her. No, you just needed some of her blood to reshape the three kikaichu and give them a means of delivering the venom you’ve just made.

(anything alive, anything that could be made within a living body)

In less than two minutes, the three transformed kikaichu scuttle back up your sleeve to hide near your wrist. They are fatter with stronger wings, new stingers, and increased flexibility. They all carry the same venom, appropriated from the blue-ringed octopus in your previous life.

(a favorite for when you wanted to be lethal, first appropriated when ____ brought you one and pinned it so that you could touch it without being stung)

Armed now, you ran away from the dead woman to hide in the brush at the base of a tree. It wasn’t a particularly clever hiding spot, but surely better than just staying out in the open. Curling into yourself, you breathed shallowly in an attempt to further hide yourself.

There, you waited for the battle to end and for Father to come back.

(you remember Mom and Dad but not their names or even their faces, just the nebulous fact that you did have them, the faint memory that you did love them)


Name

Amazingly, somehow you actually manage to fall asleep. Considering that you were both nearly slain and caught in an explosion, you blame exhaustion, both mental and physical, for you falling asleep so close to a battlefield.

(you died but you didn’t stay dead and you can’t remember the faces or names of the people you loved)

The sounds of battle are fainter, so you take that to mean that fighting is either more distant or petering out. Peering through the shrubbery, you can see activity in the camp, but you are unsure as to whether they are friendlies so you stay where you are. You don’t see Father, so you aren’t going to risk exposing yourself to people who may not be allies.

(you died and you forgot and you don’t want that again)

Straightening your skewered sunglasses, you take stock of your kikaichu and are relieved to find them all accounted for, including the three you mutated. There was a birth while you slept, and now you have twenty-three kikaichu total, though that included the queen.

…There is a tick in your hair, swollen with your blood. Annoyed, you melt it away, and the blood it drank leaves a small damp spot in your hair. You hate ticks, mosquitoes, and any other blood-suckers out there.

Resisting the urge to stretch your cramped limbs, you wonder where Father is and when he will be back. Mother is already dead, so Father is all you have left. You need him. He has to come back. You don’t know what you’ll do otherwise.

(you remember Mother and Father, Kazue and Teijo, but not what Mom and Dad were called)

Holding back the urge to cry, you scowled as you reminded yourself that you were a full-grown adult in mind if not body, and you were damn well going to act like it.

Although, come to think of it, didn’t ____ and ____ shield you from the business of living? They handled the nitty gritty stuff and you tended to live according to your whims, free of the responsibilities of most people. Didn’t you overhear ____ calling you a woman-child at least once? You’ve never actually been on your own for longer than a couple days, ever.

(why can’t you remember, you have to, you need to, you want to)

So really, even if you are mentally an adult, you still need Father to come back. You need him to teach you more about this place and about being an Aburame. You don’t know that you can actually manage your colony without someone to guide you through it. Living with your colony seems instinctual for the most part, but you have questions. You don’t want to have to ask the others at the compound. Everyone hides behind high collars, sunglasses, and solemn faces, including Father, but at least Father is your father.

Speaking of Father, you twitched as a bug landed on your hand. Glancing down, you saw that it was a kikaichu, but not one of your own. It scuttled around your hand before flying off, unaware that you very nearly absorbed it.

Less than three minutes later, you flinch as Father suddenly appears near the shrubs in a swirl of leaves. Crouching down and peering through the leaves, he called your name.

“Kaiya.”

(“(____).”)

You crawled out to meet him.

(you don’t remember your own name)


Difference

Father looked you over before taking you back to camp. He did not pick you up, but then again, he might need his hands in case of attack. You did not allow yourself the childishness of clinging to his jacket.

(you were an adult, you remember that much)

The camp itself was in tatters. Only the one tent seemed to have been blown up, so that’s probably why you didn’t wake up after falling asleep. According to what the adults are talking about, the attack on the camp had been driven off for now. Camp would be relocated, with the medical tent being a priority.

Father came to a stop near the woman who shielded you and died for it. His face had no expression.

“I do not know her name.”

Come to think of it, you didn’t either. She died to protect you, but you don’t know her name.

(their names, a disservice, horrifying, weren’t they as your limbs, integral to your life)

“I will ask later. We will pay our respects.”

You nodded solemnly. You owed her at least that much.

(your friends, you remember that, there were five, six, more, less?)

The rest of the day was a blur of activity as camp was deconstructed and moved quite a distance away. You’ve never been able to accurately judge distance, so you trust Father’s words when he tells you camp was moved six kilometers to the southeast. Once you arrive, you are left in the medical tent while the rest of camp is being set up.

Sitting alone on the ground, you listened to the pained sounds coming from the few patients in the tent. There were a couple of nurses—no, medical-nin in the tent, but they were preoccupied with someone in the corner who appeared to have some kind of gut wound. Wiggling your toes in your sandals, you fiddled with one of your morphed kikaichu. Instead of lethal venom, change its properties so that it’s the painkiller you made based on the venom of the Chinese red-headed centipede…

(someone helped you)

You directed your kikaichu to fly over to the loudest patient that wasn’t the one being treated. You had it inject a payload into the patient’s neck, causing them to let out a small yelp and smack your kikaichu. You scowled as you lost the connection to your kikaichu. Lesson learned, you supposed. Still, at least it delivered the venom. Mister Groan Pitifully should be feeling the effects relatively soon.

Strangely, you do wish he wasn’t wiping your kikaichu’s corpse across his filthy vest as he’s currently doing. It’s strange because why do you feel so strongly about an insect? It was useful, yes, but still just a bug.

…Is it an Aburame thing? It feels like an Aburame thing since you didn’t care about insects so much back when you were (____).

Yeah, let’s write these feelings off as ‘an Aburame thing’.


Aberration

An annoyingly strong Aburame thing, you amended to yourself as you stood on a box next to the patient’s bed so that you could be seen staring at him in disapproval. At least, you tried to convey disapproval, but given your sunglasses and high collar, you don’t think you were getting your message across.

(you remember skin exposure, a faint memory of a wardrobe change)

“What do you want, kid?”

Clearly Mister Groan Pitifully isn’t getting the message you are trying to convey. You will have to resort to words.

“You killed my kikaichu. That was most ungrateful. I sent him to help you.”

He glared. “You sent that bug to bite me?!”

You continued your look of disapproval. “He did not bite you. He stung you.”

“Same difference!”

“Are you still in pain?”

(you were the best, the greatest, but you were a ____)

“Of course I’m still in pain!”

“Is it as bad as before my kikaichu stung you?”

He opened his mouth to retort before stopping as he seemed to realize something. He stared down at where his leg was wrapped in bloodied bandages.

“Erm… no. As a matter of fact, the pain is getting fainter by the moment.”

You nodded. “My kikaichu produced a venom to numb your pain.”

His head swung back to you. “Venom?!”

You scowled in scorn, though only your brows visibly furrowed to his sight. “It is primarily a painkiller. Notice that you still have ease of movement. Be advised, though, that it is only a painkiller. You are still injured, so don’t do anything foolish.”

(you would do it all at once to be done with it but here you are not what you were)

The man settled back down. “Alright.” He stared up at the tent’s ceiling. “So… you’re an Aburame then?”

You gave him a look of disdain that he completely missed. “What was your first clue?”

“Feisty little thing, aren’t you?” He glanced you up and down and apparently decided that you really were an Aburame. “Sorry about your bug.”

“He didn’t deserve to die after helping your ungrateful self.”

He winced. “Um, yeah, sorry again.”

You shook your head. “Next time, I will send them to bite where the patient cannot reach.”

“Ugh. Maybe you shouldn’t?”

You directed your sunglasses at him so that he was aware that you were staring.

“Then how else will I silence the whiners?”

He glared. “You try getting your leg mangled. See how you handle it.”

(there was a man with a Quirk that made a shield and he had blue hair)

You thought about it before sighing. “…Fine. I concede the point. I shall keep it in mind next time I see your injured self that you do not want the painkiller.”

He raised his hands. “Hey now, I didn’t say that. Come on kid, I’m grateful. Really.” He stared at you in curiosity. “Strange, though. I’ve never heard of an Aburame with kikaichu that could numb pain.”

You shrugged. “Mutations happen.”

(like Quirks, which didn’t always exist in your world)


Resolve

Jumping down from the box and leaving the man to his thoughts, you shuffled back to your spot on the floor near the tent wall to think about what you just did. Clearly you are still reeling from the revelation of this new life because why else would you blatantly show off like that? Claiming responsibility for kikaichu that could produce venom that acts as a painkiller was an act of standing out. Standing out when you knew so little about this new place seemed like bad idea.

(you were raised to be afraid of cages and the greed of others)

Sitting down, you pondered how you were going to answer any questions directed your way about your ‘new’ kikaichu. Mutation seemed like a reasonable explanation, but what did you know about the Aburame’s insects? Perhaps that was too far from the norm to stick as an explanation. Also, how would you explain the lethal venom? Or anything else that you would probably do in the future?

(vaguely, you remember all that you could do but not those who helped you learn)

Slowly drumming your fingers against your knees, you asked yourself if you wanted to live. After Mom and Dad died, the only reason you didn’t commit suicide was because your friends were there to hold your hand (five or six, you can’t say with certainty). Here, in this new life, all you had was Father, and you had no idea how you got here or if your friends also died and came here as well. What if they did die and were reborn like you were? In order to find out, you would have to live.

(even if you don’t remember how old you were you know that you were all together for more than half your life)

Besides, lying down and dying doesn’t have any appeal. Even if this place is strangely violent, you can’t fathom not trying to survive if someone came at you with the intent to kill. It was one thing to not be strong enough or fast enough, but to not do anything? No, you don’t want to die again so soon if you can help it. At least, not until the mystery of this new body is solved.

Your memories of your last life are muddled, and you can’t even recall your final moments. Perhaps this was planned. Maybe your friends are somewhere here too. Until you know more, you will live.

You will continue to be Aburame Kaiya.

(the memories are out of reach, but if you keep trying you might succeed in reaching them, in remembering, and you want that so very, very much)


If you didn't remember something happening, was it because it never had happened? Or because you wished it hadn't?

~Jodi Picoult, Plain Truth

Chapter Text

Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

~André Malraux


Busted

Of course, as soon as the medical-nin move on to heal Mister Groan Pitifully, he rats you out when they ask how his pain levels are. You get scolded for using an untested venom on one of their patients, making you glad that you didn’t do the same for the rest. Pouting quietly, you obey after being ordered to provide a sample of the venom your kikaichu administered. It takes you a few seconds to change the payload of one of the lethal venom carriers, and then you have to order it to discharge into a test tube. The amount of venom from is pitifully small, and when asked for more you say that’s all you have at the moment. A lie, but one you say without remorse as you are unwilling to completely divest a means to defend yourself.

(you could touch her and produce as much as you took from her, but no, you mustn’t, remember Mom and Dad’s warnings that you had to hide what you could really do)

You are asked to provide more when you can, to which you nod silently. The medical-nin proceed to treat Mister Groan Pitifully, and you breathe a quiet sigh of relief when there is no negative reaction between their chakra and the venom in his veins. That would have been bad and might have required you to step in, so you are glad that nothing happened.

You sit quietly as the medical-nin continue treating their patients. There is no clock and you don’t have a watch, so you aren’t sure how much time passes before Father comes back for you, but there is a noticeable decrease in sunlight. He finally arrives at dusk without a sound and you realize that the medical-nin have also been walking around without making noise. That seems like a useful skill to have, and you wonder if you will learn it too.

(they taught you, Mom and Dad, and she taught you, that girl turned woman who moved with grace, and he tried to teach you, that boy with green hair, you are sure of that, but you would trade it all to remember their names)

“Come, Kaiya.”

“A moment, Aburame-san.”

Your mouth twisted as one of the medical-nin called out to your father. As she told him about your actions regarding your kikaichu and Mister Groan Pitifully, you struggled not to fidget in place. Displays of emotion were frowned upon among the Aburame, and Mother and Father both had been trying to instill stoicism in you even at your young age. In the end, she showed him the tiny amount of venom she collected from your kikaichu, saying that she would need more from you as soon as possible. In the end, Father didn’t answer her questions about why your kikaichu deviate from the common kikaichu most Aburame use, but he did say that he would permit the collection of the venom at a later date.

(your parents were paranoid, they moved for your sake, to ____ where you met ____, the boy with green hair)

Father left the tent and you walked beside him as best as your short legs would allow. He led you to a tent where you both received a meal of rations. You remembered that said rations tasted disgusting and you weren’t looking forward to eating. Still, it was what everyone else was getting, so you would eat them without much complaint. Father stopped between two tents and knelt before he started eating.

Following his example, you sedately consumed the rations, not quite managing to keep your sounds of disgust to yourself. ‘Choking down’ seemed like a more apt description than ‘eating’ when it came to meals during wartime. Shifting through your memories—trying to separate them from the deluge of decades you got from your previous life—you recalled that you and Father have been out of your village for almost three weeks now. Three weeks of these awful rations with no idea when your next decent meal will be… you silently hoped that next time Father would be able to find a babysitter for you.

(you were never really alone for long, not after finding them)

Father finished first and he waited until you took a couple gulps of water from the canteen you hadn’t really noticed on your person, being more preoccupied with your current development than with whatever was on your person. As you screwed the lid back on, he said your name and you looked up over at him. You silently begged him not to ask, but—

“Show me your kikaichu.”


Learning

You winced behind your collar, knowing that meant having to bring out at least one of the normal ones nesting inside your body. Biting your lip, you called out two kikaichu, flinching as the first broke through your skin. It was strange, because the wound itself barely bled before it closed up on its own, skin growing quickly over the exit point. Father didn’t need to point out that you had to hide your pain better, not after both he and Mother had already pointed out that point to you once each before. Neither repeated themselves very often, trusting that you were smart enough to remember their words and take them to heart. Didn’t stop it from hurting, though.

The drained kikaichu, the lethal kikaichu, and the two normal kikaichu skittered out from your sleeve and you directed them form a box formation on the back of your hand. Father leaned in closer to observe them and even though you couldn’t see his eyes due to his dark sunglasses, you knew his eyes were focused on the two that you had altered.

(anything alive you could take and reshape, remake, control entirely)

He leaned back. “When did you notice that your kikaichu had changed?”

“Recently.”

True enough. Today was ‘recently’.

“How did you become aware that your kikaichu’s venom was primarily a painkiller and not of the lethal variety?”

You frowned. “Um… I just know.” You pointed at the drained kikaichu and then at the lethal kikaichu. “The one with the shrunken abdomen had the painkilling venom. The one next to it has a lethal poison.”

Your father’s eyebrows rose.

(if they asked, you told Mom and Dad just about anything, and Father deserves the same because he is your father and even if he isn’t Dad, you already love him from the four years you didn’t remember there was anyone else that already had your love)

“Do you have an estimate of the lethality of its venom?”

You resisted the urge to shrug. “I think it would kill a normal person within approximately… a half hour, maybe less. Why? Because the venom will cause numbness, difficulty in breathing, and increasing muscular weakness.”

“Progressive,” he corrected. “’Progressive muscular weakness’.”

You nodded. “Progressive muscular weakness.” You pushed up your sunglasses. “The more venom that is injected, the stronger the symptoms will be.”

“The more severe symptoms will be.”

“Yes, Father. The more severe the symptoms will be, although the rate of death will vary depending on a victim’s size, in addition as to whether or not they have sufficient poison resistance methods, and there is also the factor of medical-nin to consider. Therefore, I cannot give you a more accurate estimation of the lethality of the venom. Also, I may be wrong. Why? Because I have never used the lethal venom before.”

(a half-truth, since you have never used it in this life)

Father nodded at your words. “I see.” He stared at the larger kikaichu now scuttling around the back of your hand. “Am I correct in assuming that the growth of these particular kikaichu and production of their venom is currently slow?”

You nodded. “Yes. My hive numbers only twenty-three, of which there are only one each of the venomous varieties. I had two which could inject the painkilling venom, but unfortunately one was slain by a patient in the medical tent after receiving an injection via my kikaichu’s stinger.”

Father’s glasses somehow managed to glint. “Did you ask permission prior to the injection?”

You hesitated. “…No.”

“I trust you have learned a lesson.”

It wasn’t a question, but yeah, you’ve already made note about how to potentially avoid further deaths of your kikaichu.

“Yes, Father.”


Dissimilarity

The questions went on, eventually leading to the lie that you currently had only two mature venomous varieties but had others which were still growing. Truthfully, since mutating them didn’t depend on chakra, you could remake them quickly, but since kikaichu have a maturation period (though it is a relatively quick one once a person has a more developed chakra system), coupled with the fact that you are a young child with an underdeveloped chakra system, it would be a couple days or so until you had more venomous kikaichu available to harvest from. Father didn’t really seem to question that fact that you had unique kikaichu, and you wondered why, though mostly you were grateful you didn’t have to come up with more lies on the spot.

(you lied and lead a double-life because it was easier to follow ____ and ____, but—)

Later, after taking care of nature’s call, Father led you to a tent where a few uncomfortable looking mats were laid out. There were already a couple bodies lying down, and it became clear to you that this was where you were going to sleep. Thinking about it, yes, this was how you had been sleeping since leaving the village on Father’s back. It wasn’t comfortable, and Father had to leave you alone every other night or so in order to take a night watch shift, but you didn’t complain because most everyone had similar sleeping conditions. At least Father was dangling you both from a tree using the Human Cocoon Technique.

Settling down on the same mat as Father, you felt somewhat awkward cuddling up to his side, but that was how Kaiya—that is, the you before your memories came back—slept whenever she could since they left the safety of home. Moreover, you did this sometimes even at home, especially after Mother died. And also…

Maybe it really was slightly comforting to be close to father, the only person you knew in this whole camp with any certainty.

(a spoiled child, a beloved child, an only child—only the latter two remain constant here)

You knew that if it got cold enough, Father’s kikaichu would come out and spread across you, a creepy-crawly blanket that was somehow more comforting than it was disgusting. A swarm of anything crawling all over you would have made the old you screech in disgust, but here as an Aburame, you are only grateful for them.

As an Aburame…

(you will try to not be what you were before)


Reality

You wake at dawn when Father’s kikaichu are slithering off of you and the rest of the tent’s occupants are getting up as well. This is normal, as is the routine Father escorts you through—nature’s call, breakfast rations, checking that you have two days’ worth rations on you in case of emergency, filling up your canteen, and dropping you off at the medical tent.

As Father disappears in a swirl of leaves, you can’t help but think to yourself that the medical tent would be a priority target in case the camp was attacked. Father no doubt knows that, yet he chooses to leave you there anyway. It might be attacked, yes, but there is no room for a child in the other tents. You are tolerated most easily in the medical tent and the supply tents, but he hates the idea of leaving you in the supply tents even more. At least in the medical tent there is a measure of supervision.

Yesterday’s tent had been one of the makeshift barracks, and you had ended up there after wandering away from the medical tent. It had seemed quiet enough, but then the forest had exploded in noise, and soon after an enemy had dropped into camp. His metal forehead protector had had lines that could generously be described as boulders. Father’s metal forehead protector has a leaf with a swirl in it. Father told you about those symbols, how you had to be extremely wary of anyone who lacked the symbol of the village.

“Konohagakure,” you murmured quietly, as though you’ve never said it before, though you know that you have. Remembering the name of the other village, you murmured its name next, “Iwagakure.”

You looked out the tent entrance and remembered more of Father’s words. There was a name for what was going on right now, for the bloody battles that have been happening for years, for the conflict that took your mother away.

“The Third Shinobi War.”

You huffed and headed further into the tent.

You have never lived through open conflict like this. Vaguely, you recall some of history, how there was upset in the advent of Quirks, but that had been before your time. Even after you were leader of the ____ __ ____, you were rarely involved in confli—

(fibres trapping your limbs against your body, glass and rubble on the floor, ____ tied to a chair, invaders lined up at the entrance, blurred faces)

You stumbled slightly, and mask it by abruptly sitting down and scuttling closer to the tent wall. Your left eyelid twitches at the sudden and incompletely memory. This… would be annoying, if it went on for much longer. What if Father asked you about your strange reactions to seemingly nothing? You certainly won’t tell him the truth. Stifling disgruntled grumbling, you hugged your knees and glowered at nothing.

You didn’t like being out here, or the fact that you now have all these half-forgotten memories, but there isn’t anything you can do about either of those things. The memories are here to stay, and war doesn’t end just because someone wishes it.

You’re stuck, and you know it.

(you hate it)


Arachnid

There are no further battles close to camp in the next couple of days.

(the memories do not become any clearer)

While Father is gone, you spend your time trying to rifle through your old memories, but the names remained blurred and no names came to you. Only the title ‘the greatest healer in the world’ was clear, and it made you feel uncomfortable because even at four, you knew of Tsunade-sama. She was hailed as the greatest medical-nin in the world, ergo, she was the greatest healer, not you. Plus, she was acknowledged as the strongest kunoichi too, and from what you can recall of your old memories, you were never physically strong. The doubts you have make you wonder if you ever really were acknowledged as ‘the greatest healer in the world’ in your previous life.

Sitting alone near the base of a tree, you idly pulled at some grass and melted it into your body, using it to reform two more kikaichu in addition to the six you already had. When the time came, you could only bring out four, two of each variety, but the other two would remain with you, and these new two would be something slightly different. Instead of a painkiller venom or a lethal venom, the venom in these two would attack the lungs, bursting millions of air sacs, eventually leading the victim to drown on land. It was from… erg, a spider.

(shrieking before you even touch it because it’s huge and ugly and you have to touch it with your bare hands)

A shiver ran down your back as the memory of a funnel-web spider from... from somewhere. Apparently even the names of places escape you, but that’s not news to you at this point.


Fear

Rubbing your arms to chase off the chills from thinking about huge spiders, you stood up and decided to report back to the medical tent with the four kikaichu you planned on showing. Currently they were handing around in your wide collar and had been since you called them out a day and a half ago. As much as you didn’t like spiders, you didn’t like the whole bursting from your skin thing your kikaichu did every time you summoned them out. Mother had reassured you that it wouldn’t hurt as much after you acclimated to it, but that still entailed having it happen repeatedly, which you weren’t looking forward to.

“Medical-nin-san,” you soon greeted, stopping a couple feet away from the first available medical-nin in the medical tent. Your kikaichu had migrated down to your forearm by then and you called them out onto the back of your hand. “I have more kikaichu ready.”

“’Medic-nin’ is the more common term,” she informed you. She nodded at the kikaichu crawling on your upheld palm. “Ah, good. Hold on a moment.”

As the medic-nin went to fetch a vial, you realized that they hadn’t asked for a sample of the lethal venom. You said as much to the medic-nin when they waved you over to a table, but she perked up and said she would like to collect a sample of that as well. Mentally shrugging, you decided to let her.

Watching your kikaichu deposit their venom into the two separate vials gave you a niggling feeling. You supposed it was the waste of it that was bothering you, so you told yourself that you literally could just make more right away. Something else you noted was that the lethal venom was just slightly darker than the painkiller venom. Not of much interest to you, but the medic-nin took special note.

Once the venom was depleted, she told you to come back when there was more. She returned to her work, leaving you standing there, so you turned and went back outside where there was grass you could fiddle with. Returning to the tree, you sat back down and idly ripped up grass and melted it into you. It was strange, because even though it went ‘into’ you, you couldn’t use it on yourself. Also, while you could save it in some parts of your body for future use, that part confused you because why could you keep it inside if it wasn’t part of you? Why didn’t it hurt traveling through you?

You never got answers, not really, because you refused the more invasive tests the _ _ _ group wanted to do on you. You only let them scratch the surface of your Quirk and that has finally come back to haunt you. Perhaps you would have understood this power more if you had let them… oh. Oh no.

You paled as sweat formed on your brow.

(your freedom)

In your previous life, your word was law. But here? Here, there was no guarantee of your rights, no guarantee that you wouldn’t be strapped down to a table and cut open to examine. Would the village breed you if they found out your Quirk was passable to your children?

(a warmth in your arms that you resented)

Wait, was it passable in this life? There was a chance it was, and if that was discovered…

No. You won’t go quietly. You won’t go meekly.

You refuse.

(some things are too ingrained)


Renamed

You clenched your small hands as your stomach churned. No. No, you won’t let them get away with that. You know that you’re weak, that you’re small, that you’re young and under your father’s care, so it’s entirely possible that you could be forced to do something against your will. You don’t want that. You hate the thought of it.

But you don’t have any friends or subordinates. There were… two of the blurred faces in charge of that, weren’t there? And one of them had more responsibilities when it came to the… the ____, the diseases you made to keep yourself and the rest of them out of captivity.

Your fingers twitch against the grass as you remember the ____ and what they did, but not what they were called.

One made the infected euphorically happy until they dropped dead.

Another attacked the body’s organs for each Quirk use, which may be useless in this life as you can’t recall enough of a diversity in powers to be certain that Quirks existed here as well.

The third marred the victim’s skin and made the body reject oxygen, drowning them on land.

Another deformed its victims, resizing random body parts until the heart gave out, but you remember seeing at least one shinobi who could do something similar, so maybe that disease was also useless.

One hardened the victim’s body from the outside in, turning them into statues not unlike that mythical monster with snakes for hair.

Yet another liquefied the body’s organs until the victim spewed or leaked blood from all body orifices.

The last deteriorated the brain starting with memories before moving on to motor function, eroding a victim’s dignity as it inexorably ruined the brain beyond repair or saving.

Slow in comparison to how quickly these shinobi killed, but all were contagious. Mentally, you struck the Quirk inhibitor and the limb resizer from the list of possible use. That left you with five, two of which could theoretically be overlooked until it was too late, those being the ones that made the victims happy or attacked the brain. Of the five, the one that hardened people was slowest as it takes the body up to four to five weeks to kill the infected. The one that drowned victims on land was fastest, and the one that liquefied organs was the messiest.

The one that made victims nearly delirious with joy was directly injected into a body and transferred via saliva. You modified a single kikaichu to have a stinger that would deliver the bacteria to multiple people. Since you couldn’t remember its original designation, you renamed it ‘Joy’.

The disease that attacked the brain was airborne, so you made a kikaichu that held a minute amount of what you knew was a smoke-like substance that was yellow in color. This one you would call ‘Decline’.

The one that turned people to stone… ah. It starts as a liquid, harmless, thus it requires fire to become active and is then airborne. A kikaichu is made, one you know that, if you need it, will die as it finds the nearest fire source with people nearby. This one you will name ‘Harden’. ‘Stone’, your first preference, would just make people think of Iwagakure.

(moving images of faraway places, a match, someone trying to apologize—)

As for the disease that suffocated people, it was meant for delivery via water, and you remade three kikaichu to carry it. They would separate and expel their payloads in the nearest water sources and die. This one you would call ‘Drown’. No, wait, the one that fills the body with blood could also be called that, so instead… ‘Block’.

The last, the one that would liquefy organs and fill the body with excess blood, this too was one that needed fire as a catalyst. Two kikaichu would be assigned this task. You would call it ‘Blood’.

Okay, so you weren’t imaginative when it came to naming things, but the names aren’t that important.

Closing your eyes, you sensed the newly remade kikaichu scuttling beneath your skin in different parts of your body. Seven different kikaichu, plus the four venomous ones… almost half of your living kikaichu were now mutated.

You really hoped Father wouldn’t ask you how many kikaichu you had.

Oh, wait, speaking of him, what will you do to make him immune to the Sev—Five, the Five. More importantly, since kikaichu help remove poison from an Aburame’s body, will you even be able to make Father immune without his hive and thus himself noticing? You have to, somehow.

Because you don’t want Father to die.

(not like them, like Mom and Dad, like Mother who isn’t here anymore)

You don’t want him to die.

(it’s too late and you already love him)


I know a secret, and secrets breed paranoia.

~Simon Holt, The Devouring

Chapter Text

You’ll never be able to find yourself if you’re lost in someone else.

~Colleen Hoover, November 9


Landscape

People talk in the camp, sometimes quietly, but not quietly enough. You don’t intentionally set out to overhear people’s conversations, it simply happens when the shinobi are too tired to fully check their surroundings, and they don’t notice your small presence sitting near their tent or somewhere close by. You overhear graphic descriptions of the deaths of people considered friends or allies, and even of how some took revenge. This war you’ve found yourself in is waged by people with the ability to use ‘jutsu’, something you only have a bare understanding of due to your young age.

Iwa shinobi often use Earth-based jutsu, and you hear of Konoha shinobi being pulled underground or crushed by slabs of earth. Those particular stories make you afraid of the ground and make you wish that you could jump and walk on trees like the rest of the people in camp seemingly can.

Still, that line of thought makes you realize something that’s been sitting at the edge of your thoughts ever since you first ripped up grass in your small hands: your surroundings are alive. No longer do towers of glass and steel rise high, nor is the ground beneath your feet a lifeless grey. You have a connection to the world that you didn’t have in the life before.

Crouched in the shadow of a tent, you splay one hand against the grass and ‘look’. In your immediate view are the stalks of grass pressing against your skin, but reaching out, you begin to see the grass overlaying or touching the immediate ones, and below are the tiny roots stretching out in every direction. Closing your eyes, the world shrinks down to what you can ‘see’, and carefully you expand that small area.

(bodies alive beneath your hand, thrumming with life, every inch visible and known, yet out of reach of your ability to describe)

In your previous life, an adult human’s arteries, capillaries and veins could, when laid end-to-end, stretch about 60,000 miles. Of course, Arteries, capillaries and veins are relatively thin and tiny, so translating that over to the area you could see was much, much less. However, by keeping focus on your ‘sight’, you could sense surrounding flora from grass and bushes to the towering trees. Not that you could sense high into the trees, though, nor can you ‘see’ the whole camp area.

Cutting off your vision and lifting your hand from the grass to wipe your hands together, you quietly mused on what you just experienced. Nature was made up of living things, but previously, your surroundings were made up of nonliving material. Comparing the two places, it was as though you had spent your previous life in a wasteland, only you hadn’t noticed because it was ‘normal’. Now, surrounded by grass and trees, you could hardly imagine how you had been able to tolerate it before.

Standing up, you shoved your hands into your pockets and stood there.

(figures in your memories, flitting through your mind, blurred, voiceless, nameless)

…You could tolerate living in a wasteland, though, if it meant remembering the faces and names you’ve forgotten. Yes, a barren landscape would be a fair price to pay for your memories.

Besides, if you somehow went back there, you could always just move out to the countryside.


Emotion

Father is apparently typical of an Aburame. He shows no expression on his face while you two are in the camp, but you can remember that there are times when he would smile, if only slightly. From what you can remember, Mother was the same. In fact, all Aburame that you’ve seen in these four short years have all been the same. You are expected to be the same. Your parents have already taught you how to shunt your emotions into your kikaichu. It is expected that you will continue to do that until it is automatic and constant, that no emotion will show on your face, especially to outsiders.

You can’t imagine it.

(you can’t hear them, but you know they were lively, nearly every single one of them)

There are vague feelings of great unhappiness in the memories of your previous life, but you get the impression that you had not been one to keep a calm face. You must have laughed and cried and shouted. You were not a kunoichi nor an Aburame back then. Emotion was something you had been allowed to express.

Four years isn’t enough to undo a lifetime of expressing yourself.

(facing you, they react, though you don’t remember why or even what you probably said)

It rankles, the thought of being expected to be emotionless. Even now, your small hands curl up as your teeth clench. Why can’t you be allowed to smile when you are happy, or cry when you are sad? Is it because you are expected to be a kunoichi, or because you are an Aburame? Is it a mix of both? Either way, you don’t like it.

…And yet, the thought of Mother and Father smiling and laughing is… unnerving. And thinking that Father might shed tears that you could see is terrifying to contemplate.

Aburame are stoic. Aburame are calm and reliable.

(the sensation of discomfort that comes from crying, from screaming, vague remembrance of regrets, shame and guilt)

You don’t like the thought of being expected to be unemotional, but being in control of yourself does sound at least somewhat attractive.


Beloved

A few more days pass before the memories of your previous life stop popping into your head with distracting frequency. It was easier to control them if you thought of them as being locked inside a box in your mind. You couldn’t leave them in there forever, but for now you don’t want to think about it more than you already have.

(you lived another life, and somehow your Quirk from then has followed you here)

More importantly, Father is due to return to camp today. He’d left on patrol two days ago, leaving you in the general care of the camp. The medic-nin were the ones who most often to check on you, though you highly suspect that it’s due to the venom they want to keep collecting from you. They haven’t tested the painkiller yet as the environment is not controlled enough for their tastes, so they were collecting it in the meantime to stock up for tests. The medic-nin made sure you haven’t starved or gotten dehydrated, which is apparently good enough for a child in a wartime camp. Regardless, the four year-old you were was looking forward to his return.

The adult’s memories you had made you wonder why you were looking forward to his return, but you shoved that thought away. Four years was more than enough time for you to have grown attached to your father, even if your previous life’s memories tried to disagree with that notion.

It was strange and frustrating, having two conflicting opinions that were both yours and yet not completely. After all, you were four right now, not whatever age you had been when you died. You were an Aburame and your father was an Aburame, and you remember being affectionate in a subdued yet no less precious sort of way. The adult you had been insisted that Father wasn’t Dad, that it was wrong to love him too, but you have come to the decision that no matter what happened in your previous life, you love Father now too.

You don’t remember Mom and Dad’s faces or what they sound like, and even though you still love them, you have already made room in your heart for Mother and Father. Mother is dead, but she still occupies a space in your heart, and Father is still alive so you love him in that desperate way children love a parent they know they might lose.

After all, this war has already taken Mother, and it’s not too far-fetched that it might take him too.

You don’t want to have to live with the guilt that will come from trying to distance yourself from him only to have him taken from you too. Why would you do that to yourself? You don’t want to do that to yourself.

So when Father returns, you hold his hand and welcome him back.


Carried

In the dead of night, the ground rumbles.

Before you are even awake, you feel your body leave the ground. Breathless for a moment, you suddenly find yourself on Father’s back and he is telling you to hold on. You try, and as the camp bursts into a flurry of movement, sound and explosions, his arms leave you to hang on by your own strength.

Clenching your eyes shut as your stomach drops more than once, you hear the sounds of battle. The clanging of kunai and swords, the roar of fire, shouts of hatred, cries of pain, the skittering of Father’s kikaichu—it is a living nightmare, and those are only the sounds. If you opened your eyes, what would you see?

Father’s body is moving swiftly, and sometimes his upper body jerks hard. You know that if you fall, you may very well die, so your small hands clench his trench coat with what little strength you possess.

The disorientating cacophony seems to stretch on for hours, yet in reality only minutes have passed. Father’s battle has moved into the trees, and you can hear the rush of leaves passing by.

“Aburame-san!”

“Kaiya.”

At the sound of Father’s voice and his arm reaching behind his back for you, your grip loosens, and suddenly you find yourself under someone’s arm. Struggling, you look up in time to see Father spare you a glance before he turned and leapt back in the direction you had just come from.

“Father!”

Your pleading cry is ignored by both him and the person he handed you off to, and all too quickly he is gone from sight. Your new carrier is on the move as well, so the distance between you two only grows wider. You want to struggle but that would be unwise.

All you can do is try not to choke on your own helplessness.


Underestimated

It isn’t very long before your new carrier suddenly drops to the ground and sets you down. He thrusts a palm at you to remain silent as he tensely gazed at the surroundings, two more Konoha shinobi dropping down near him. They are all looking around warily, perhaps sensing something you don’t.

It’s a shock when one of them abruptly dies, blood spraying from a decapitated neck.

You are shoved back into a tree by the medic-nin as the area explodes in motion. The violence that follows is too fast for you to track with your eyes, at least until it’s just one Konoha shinobi against two unknown assailants while four others drop down from the trees to watch. You don’t know the Konoha shinobi, but you can tell that he is losing the fight one way or another. He will die, just like the medic-nin who had been holding you only moments prior.

Desperately, you shove your hands into the grass and reshape eighteen of your kikaichu, but instead of venom from the blue-ringed octopus, a small box-shaped jellyfish sprung to mind.

In a flash of movement, the Konoha-nin launches a kunai at your head. The only reason you don’t die is because one of the enemy deflects it. Most of the enemy laugh and then he is hitting the ground, dead from a kunai from behind.

(he tried to spare you what he feared would come)

From one moment to the next, you are suddenly alone as the shinobi you had been entrusted to lay dead on the forest floor. Frozen in place, you can only stare when the attackers all face your direction. Four leave immediately, stating that they don’t have time to play around. That still left you with two as half of the eighteen scuttled from your sleeves and into the grass.

Moonlight breaks through the clouds, and you can see the Iwagakure headbands across their foreheads.

One says they can’t take too much time with you, but the other is already angry for some reason. The angry one tells you that Konoha killed his little brother, so it’s only fair that he kills Konoha’s children in return. It might not be your fault, but you will still bear the burden of the sins of your village.

He intends to make you suffer.

Luckily for you, even though they’re small, kikaichu can quickly cover a lot of ground.

The Iwa-nin scream when your kikaichu first sting with box jellyfish venom.

They scream louder when your kikaichu keep stinging.


Escape

The venom will kill them within the hour, and with all the noise they’re making, you don’t want to stick around in case their friends come back.

With their payloads only half-delivered, your kikaichu fly back to you as you scramble to your feet and away from the scene. From behind, you hear the Iwa-nin cursing you in cracked voices.

As you run, you slide your hands against the trees and flora you pass, morphing anything you touch from its form into small puffs of yellow or red smoke—Harden and Blood, bypassing the normal catalyst of fire.

You don’t know how long you run or how far you get, but eventually you trip not long after clouds cover the moon, and you fall hard, nearly knocking the breath from your lungs. Panting and sweating, you scramble backwards until your back hits a tree.

You can’t hear anything over the frantic beating of your heart.


Hide

The camp was attacked.

The shinobi you had been with are dead.

You are alone, and you don’t know where Father is.

Hell, you don’t even know where you are right now. Where is the village from here?

Wandering around without a clue as where to go is just a death sentence.

Shivering, you huddle against the tree, shifting so that your right side was pressing against it. The night is colder without the tent and Father’s kikaichu around you. It’s not that cold, so is this summer? The nights are short, so they support that hypothesis. Night won’t cover you for long, then.

But you still don’t know where to go.

You have to hide, but where?

You try to think of where to go, of where to hide, but slowly, your attention turns to the tree right next to you. Placing a hand against its bark, you can ‘see’ it.

You can shape it.

Before moonlight can break through the clouds again, you disappear into the trunk of a tree that now has more leaves at its top and deeper roots below. A thin shaft stretching upwards and opening like a squirrel’s den in the branches above provides air to the small round room you’ve created. Closing the tree trunk behind you and curling up in the limited space, you hope that this hideout will not be discovered.

Two female kikaichu slip out from the shaft and go in opposite directions, nearly to the edge of your limited reach. The scent they give will lead Father to you, or at least another Aburame if they pass close by. The females hide beneath leaves and wait.

Thinking of them and yourself, you can almost laugh.

Instead, you shunt your feelings into your hive and wearily close your eyes.

If a whimper crosses your lips, no one is around to hear it.


Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies.

~Yoko Ono, Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings

Chapter Text

Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever.

~Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


Skittish

You aren’t sure how much times passes, but by the time your bodily urges can no longer be ignored, Father’s kikaichu have yet to find the females you’ve sent out. Remembering the scary Iwa-nin who killed the Konoha shinobi you had been with, before exiting the tree, you open a small crack and let the eighteen modified kikaichu head out to scout the immediate area.

Fidgeting slightly, you wait as patiently as you can while waiting for them to report back. It feels like forever before one returns and lands on the finger you hold out for it. Before Mother left and never came home again, she had told you that someday you would be able to understand ‘words’ from both your kikaichu and any insects with vision. For now, though, all you got from your kikaichu was that there were no humans in the vicinity.

You were somewhat dubious of the reliability of insects to scout an area, but unless you wanted to urinate in your hiding place, then you had to step out. The reporting kikaichu buzzed over to your high collar as you placed a hand against the tree trunk and manipulated it into opening. Fresh air washed over you as you froze, waiting to see if there would be a reaction to the tree soundlessly splitting open.

When no one dropped into sight, you let out a shaky breath. Cautiously, you slid forward and peered around and the up towards the tree branches above. There… didn’t seem to be anyone, as reported. Still, that didn’t make your fear go away completely.

Doing your business about four trees away, you were quick to finish up and head back towards your sanctuary. Climbing back into the tree, the seventeen other kikaichu returned to you as you sat down and closed the trunk behind yourself.

You stared at the dappled sunlight shining from above before you were once more encased in darkness.


Dread

When Teijo arrived at the fallback point, the first thing he did after reporting his presence was to ask about his daughter and the shinobi he’d sent her off with. His expression remained blank as he was informed that that team hadn’t arrived. Teijo and the two other shinobi he’d been with were the latest arrivals, and considering that they had hung back as a delay tactic, the others should have arrived before them. Either they retreated to another Konoha camp or something happened.

Kaiya.

Teijo nodded and walked off, finding a spot to eat and drink water, resting from his tiring retreat. As he did so, he thought back to the moment he’d handed off his only child to one of his allies. The medic-nin would surely have tried their best to get Kaiya to safety, if only because the venom his daughter’s kikaichu produced was almost startlingly effective. Teijo had been approached regarding the painkilling venom, how it really did work with minimal to no side-effects. Kaiya would have been valuable for that alone.

Of course, Teijo wouldn’t have cared if she’d been in possession of only common kikaichu—she mattered to him simply for being his daughter.

‘Forgiveness’. Kazue forgave him.

Were she and the others dead? If possible, he would like to go back and check. Unfortunately, if they were dead, they wouldn’t be the first Konoha shinobi to be left to rot where they fell. True, Konoha did try to make sure bloodline holders were found and cremated, but Aburame corpses could be left as they were since those hives would die out rather than burrow into a new non-Aburame host.

Teijo clenched a fist at the thought of his daughter lying dead somewhere.

Like her mother had been.

Closing his eyes in grief, Teijo hoped that if she really was dead then that her death had been swift.

He knows that not even children are spared some horrors of war. He just hopes his Kaiya didn’t suffer too much.


Discomfort

Your water canteen is half-full, and for food you’ve been making baby carrots from the tree around you. In regards to the water situation, you know you’ll have to go out in search of a water source eventually. You’ll probably move to a new tree when you do, to be closer to it and to cut back on time you’d have to spend out in the open.

…Filling this area with a fog of paralytic smoke would probably be all but broadcasting someone is here, huh? Same with pods that burst, or any other flora that isn’t naturally present. Plus, someone might just burn down this whole area if you do make dangerous traps everywhere. You doubt you’d be able to outrun a forest fire, and you burn just as easily as any other normal person.

Your kikaichu eat at your chakra even as you sit in the dark, the most prevalent sound being their skittering and occasional rustling of wings. Another kikaichu was born, and you leave it in its base form since those are currently in the minority.

There are no words for how strange it is to be reminded that your body is a hive. Something terrible in you wants to claw at your skin and dig them out, and the only thing stopping you is the knowledge that you could get rid of them at literally any time without having to claw yourself up. How does being a living hive even work? Where does your missing flesh go?

Shuddering, you shove away that line of thought and shift so that you can hug your knees.

You hope someone friendly finds you soon.


Optimistic

Two days later, a Nara and his team arrive at camp. He brings a body scroll, saying his team found three dead Konoha shinobi on their way here. Someone calls Teijo to have a look at them, and something in him curls up in fresh grief at the sight of the familiar medic-nin. He asks if they found the body of his daughter as she had been with this group the night the camp was attacked.

Nara Reo tries to hide a grimace, but he’s not entirely successful. Regretfully, he and his team did not see a young body. However, they did find two deceased Iwa-nin who seem to have died from either a strange jutsu or poison, given that there were no visible injuries on them.

Teijo perks up, though gives no visual clue about how he feels. That sounds like the work of Kaiya’s new kikaichu. Perhaps she got away and is still alive somewhere in the forest.

Maybe there is still hope after all.


Resource

Whenever you get the urge to try finding your own way back to village, you remind yourself of three things: one, there is a war going on, two, you don’t have the foggiest idea of which direction to even go on, and three, you are unlikely to survive contact with an enemy who strikes first instead of ‘playing’ around. Leaving your new hideout for a long period of time was most likely to just get you killed.

You don’t want to die again so soon, not if it can be helped.

So to distract yourself you focus on ‘seeing’ the whole tree from the leaves on top to where the roots end down beneath the ground. There is a squirrel nest in this tree, much higher up than where you are, tucked inside the trunk. The squirrel in question is on one of the upper branches doing something with its tail. It is a female, young, and hasn’t had a litter yet. As you watch, she stops stroking her tail and dashes off, leaping off a branch and out of your ‘sight’.

There are bugs in the tree, normal ones. There are caterpillars eating leaves, beetles crawling around, and leaf miners eating away at, of course, leaves. The leaf miners are the most interesting thing since they leave behind blank spots that form dead patterns in your ‘sight’.

Ah, you should probably do something constructive rather than trying to find ways to make time pass quickly. Your kikaichu, while versatile, are limited in material they could provide you in an emergency. Plus, it’s a pain to have to wait for them to replenish their numbers since the queen has to do it at a slow pace or risk killing you by chakra exhaustion.

…Hey, didn’t Father mention that someday you would be able to do that to your opponents? After all, kikaichu weren’t limited to just eating their hosts chakra. Oh, that sounds really useful. Could you make your kikaichu to be able to store up that stolen chakra for you to use? That’s something to think about. For later, though, since your immediate goal is to return to the village alive. Hopefully Father is okay and will be able to return as well.

Anyway, back to the biological material limit your kikaichu represent. If they’re too limited, why not just do something with all the biological material around you? Mold a paste or something next to your skin. That way you can keep it fresh and have a supply on hand. Plus, with your baggy clothing, you can hide it easily, right?

Yeah, that’s what you’re going to do.


Temptation

Left alone for who knows how long, boredom battles with fear, but even you can’t be afraid all the time, especially since you haven’t seen anyone since that night. You think someone passed by one of your female kikaichu hiding beneath a leaf, but it could have easily been a squirrel or a bird or whatever. Heck, if it weren’t for your kikaichu in here with you, you’d probably be hallucinating or something. As it is, while your kikaichu can’t talk, they keep you from feeling lonely and from losing your mind.

You still want human company, though. Not close to you, but in the vicinity would be nice. It’s one thing to be alone with people around, but something else entirely to be alone in the middle of nowhere. You don’t think that’s healthy.

More importantly, though, with the lack of people and nothing else to do, you are becoming dangerously interested in opening that box of memories again. A part of you is trying to convince you that trying to make sense of those memories would be something to do to help pass the time, but most of you doesn’t want to go through having faded memories running through your head again.

Curling against the tree trunk, you huddle alone and wonder if anyone will ever find you.

If this keeps up, you really won’t have any other choice but to leave and try to find your own way.


Arrivals

There is a small river close to your new hiding spot. You left a new organic there that would collect water it purified from its surrounding, sort of like a semi-transparent, whitish balloon attached to a thin vine. It had ‘legs’ that you could move when you clutched the vine part of it. Using that, you could make it crawl into the water out of sight and cling to a rock to stay there until you made it let go so you could pull it in. With it, you felt better about drinking water from there.

Due to the close water source, you kept out other kikaichu to keep an eye on things. You had hoped no one besides an Aburame would come because you didn’t exactly have a way to identify people from your hiding spot. But, when one of your kikaichu returned to report the arrival of several people on the riverbank, you nibbled on your lip before deciding on a course of action.

You sent out sixteen of the eighteen box jellyfish venom kikaichu to put the new arrivals out of commission and find out which headbands they wore, if they had them. If they were civilians, well, that was their bad luck. Right now, you were only interested in sparing Konoha shinobi since you weren’t entirely sure who were the allies of the village. Iwa was solidly on your enemy list, though.

Waiting for your kikaichu to report back, you breathed in and out as evenly as you could manage. If they were anything other than Konoha-nin, you were going to make them into biological paste (mainly for getting rid of the bodies than anything else), but if they were Konoha-nin…

Well, you’d apologize and have your ‘kikaichu’ heal them up from the jellyfish venom stings. You’d have to move fast, though, so moved to crouch on your feet, ready to reach out to open the trunk and get out. As you waited, you remembered that in a fit of boredom you had changed the appearance of the deadly kikaichu.

You wondered if any of the strangers on the riverbank were wondering if they were going to die because of a bunch of ladybugs.


Being lost isn't the same as being nowhere. Being lost is worse because there's the false hope that you might be found.

~Paul Tremblay, The Little Sleep

Chapter Text

We have to distrust each other. It's our only defense against betrayal.

~Tennessee Williams


Instantly

Nara Reo and his teammates did not let their guard down as they stopped to refill their canteens. There was a chance that something had been dumped into the small river, but a quick diagnostic by his Yamanaka teammate revealed that the water was safe to drink. They did not dawdle by the water, but somehow it was still long enough that something or someone attacked them.

It happened to all three near simultaneously. One moment they were getting ready to jump back into the canopy to keep moving, and the next both he and Kouki were brought to their knees in sudden blistering pain originating from their feet. Their Akimichi companion, Youta, also displayed expressions of great pain before he too was brought to his knees.

“My heels,” he rasped.

Reo understood as his own feet were also the origin points of this unexpected pain. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before. Not even poisons had affected him this much, and he knows that his friends have also gone through poison training. He’s never come across a poison like this before, not in nature or by the hands of man.

He can’t breathe.

When Reo falls to the ground completely, his friends aren’t far behind him. Youta groans in agony, but Reo can only see Kouki in his immediate view. His muscles scream in agony as his jaw snaps itself shut.

This is it. This is where they’re going to die.

But even in the throes of what feels like death’s grip, Reo notices a spot of color on Kouki’s forehead band. A red insect is crawling inside the spiral of the leaf symbol, and when it reaches the center, the insect flies off. Even with his lungs seizing, Reo tracks the insect until it disappears into the foliage.

Coincidence, or is there an enemy nearby waiting for them to breathe their last?


Confirmed

The pain keeps going, but they are shinobi, and this is war. Even though it feels like the poison is killing them (they have no wounds, so what else can it be but that?) they have trained enough of a resistance that Reo suspects they will survive this. However, when he hears Youta try to get back on his feet, his friend soon crashes back into the ground with a strained wheeze. Was he injected again?

Remembering the red insect that flew off, and seeing a new one skittering into view on his own hand clenching grass in his fist, Reo amends his though from ‘injected’ to ‘stung’.

Suddenly, he can hear someone rushing towards them. Youta hears it too, and his back is facing the direction the sound is coming from. He too tries to struggle up, but his mouth snaps shut and he falls onto his side, curling and reaching for his feet.

Suddenly Reo can see multiple flying insects flying off of them and towards the approaching person. Remembering the last camp they’d delivered an intelligence scroll to, Reo finds himself expecting a missing Aburame child.

He’s not surprised when the sound rushing tapers off, followed by a small head tentatively poking out from behind a tree.

He is angry, though, because now he can put a face on the person who attacked himself and his team.


Counter-attacked

Yes, those are definitely Konoha-nin. Or maybe imposters who stole Leaf forehead protectors?

Still, whether or not they actually are Konoha-nin, you’ll never know if they die because of the box jellyfish venom. You never did give your kikaichu orders on how much venom to inject, and each one of these three had been stung at least twice. From the amount of venom missing from one of your kikaichu, one of these poor bastards was no doubt stung more than three times. Probably the big guy, since bigger bodies can mean more venom is needed.

Ah, that one with dark hair has a mean look in his eyes. You are tempted to shrink back behind the tree you’re hiding behind, but it would reflect terribly on both yourself and Father if you left them to die and any of them survived.

Thus, steeling yourself, you stepped out from behind the tree and quickly went over to the closest one. Crouching down, you reached out to touch his face—and flinched backwards as he suddenly turned, a kunai clutched in his shaking hand. He falls, though, and you find yourself frowning at the glare he’s giving you.

Then again, your kikaichu did do this to them, so it’s not exactly unreasonable that they’re angry. Still, no need to give them complete mobility at first, right?

Moving from your undignified positon on your butt, you move to sit in formal seiza and push up your sunglasses.

“I am trying to help you. My kikaichu did this. My kikaichu can help undo this.”

Both keep glaring at you while the bigger one behind them is visibly quaking. You should probably help him first, so you get up to go over to him—

You can’t move.

Panic hits you when you suddenly freeze in place for no apparent reason, one step taken to move around the nearly white-haired blond man.

Eighteen kikaichu lift off from your body while four more break through your skin to join them. They buzz in the air, agitated by your sudden terror. Fourteen of them immediately fly towards the only other people in the vicinity, landing on their faces and digging their legs into soft flesh, not piercing or stinging, but presenting themselves as a viable threat to the suspected culprits.

Sweat trickles down your face as something continues holding you in place. Your heart jackhammers in your chest because you have been robbed of your mobility. Something is holding you in place against your will. Trapped, you are trapped

You stumble as you are just as suddenly released.

Gasping, you swivel your head around, looking for the reason.

You see a shadow on the ground moving independently of anything. You follow it past the blond and to the dark haired man whose hand is in a sign. You meet his eyes and wonder if you hate him as much as you are suddenly afraid of him.

At the end of a long stare off, you summon your kikaichu back.

You might not like or trust these men, but they are currently your best bet for getting back to Father. You can put up with a little more unpleasantness for the sake of that.


Identified

Reo is angry, yes, but there is no denying that little girl is an Aburame, most likely the missing child of Aburame Teijo from the last camp. Reo hadn’t quite believed until he saw four regular kikaichu mixed in with the red ones. He doesn’t like it, but none of them are in any condition to help themselves at the moment. Maybe with enough time they could, but waiting while paralyzed by pain just made them sitting ducks, and in a war that’s the last thing you want to be.

The little girl (she’s what, three, four?) steps out of view to attend to Youta, and while Reo doesn’t like it, his large friend probably needs the relief sooner than either he or Kouki do. It isn’t long before he hears Youta sigh in relief, and it’s not much longer before he can hear his friend moving.

Reo flinches, though, when the girl steps into view, much too close for comfort. She doesn’t touch his face and instead places one of her hands on top of his own. Her hand is almost laughingly small against his, soft and smooth where his are calloused and rough. Looking down, he doesn’t see her doing anything, but then he notices that the pain that was nearly all-encompassing was beginning to peter out.

She moved, leaving him to tend to Kouki, but she still didn’t seem to be doing anything special other than laying her hand against him. Was that how she treated Youta as well? How did that work?

Slowly inhaling a much needed breath, Reo noticed the red kikaichu crawling on top of the hair the girl had in a messy ponytail. From there, Reo couldn’t help noticing her rumpled clothing and the fact that she smelled as though she hadn’t had a bath recently. Not that any of them smelled any better, but it was still a sign that she had been on her own for a while.

As Kouki sat up, Reo thought this was as good a time as any to start talking.

“So, kid.”

She shuffled around on her feet to look at him.

“What’s your name?”

He already knew what it should be, but it would be good to get confirmation. Plus, if this was an enemy taking her face as a disguise, this might trick them into revealing themselves as an imposter.

“My name is Aburame Kaiya.”

Well, if that really was the case, there was one lucky father who was going to get his kid back.

Many others sadly couldn’t say the same.


Vengeful

Naturally, one of them eventually asked what you did to counter the poison that your kikaichu had stung them with. You replied that you had countered it with much smaller bugs to fix them up. They seemed somewhat alarmed which was fair since insects that burrowed into your body were automatically unnerving. You reassured them that the tiny insects in question would die and disintegrate on their own, which wasn’t a lie since you could make just about anything. You did lie about the fact that the insects were the ones that would counter the poison since you made it so their own human bodies would break down the box jellyfish venom within a couple hours, though.

You’d probably be caught in your lie sooner or later, but depending on how and when that happened, you would either try to go along with what the higher ups would suggest be done with you, or you might kamikaze them all and take them down with you.

For some reason, the latter really appealed to you. Not that you wanted to die, but that you could drags others down so you didn’t die alone.

Based on how much that appeals to you, you have to wonder if past-you was a vengeful person. That didn’t really seem like a healthy way to cope with being drafted.

Not that you didn’t agree, it just seemed somewhat extreme.

…You could probably make the flesh covering clinging to your skin explode into the highly contagious Blood and Decline. People need to breathe, and they might get caught by surprise, or be unable to contain it. Or both. Both would be optimal, to get those in the immediate vicinity and those beyond.

Okay, so now you know that you’re probably vengeful and petty as well, but getting revenge, even posthumously, feels not quite good or soothing, but definitely appealing.


Detoured

The trio are on a schedule, of which over two hours was blown by both the attack from your kikaichu and their recovery period. From Akimichi Youta’s back, you can tell that these three aren’t back to their previous state of health. Then again, considering the potency of the box jellyfish venom, you’d be surprised if they were.

You want to return to Father, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen since these three already know where they’re needed which is currently where they are headed. There is a promise that your location will be passed on to your father at the earliest opportunity, and you get the feeling that that’s the best they can do. Again, there is a war going on, so you understand even if you don’t like it.

Those instant transmission devices from the memories of past-you would be really useful right now, but they simply don’t exist here. Ah, wait, that just reaffirms that this is likely a different world altogether. Now you’ve made yourself sad again. Damn it.

From within your chest, you feel the queen buzz inquiringly, but you soothe her and soon she is back to tending to the latest egg. Your hive currently numbers thirty-one, with one queen and thirty kikaichu. Of those thirty, only four, soon to be five, are still in their base form. Your kikaichu don’t understand why you change them, but they accept it as long as they still have access to your chakra, which they do.

As the forest flies by, you cling to Akimichi Youta’s back and wonder if your kikaichu would be able to make honey and maintain a hive if you changed them into bees.


History

When the group finally arrives at the border outpost they’d originally been sent to, Akimichi Youta carefully lets you down from his back. While the leader, the Nara, is talking to someone from the outpost, the Akimichi asks about who used to look after you when your Father left you in the camp while he was gone. You told him that you were usually left under the watch of either the medic-nin or whoever was on food duty, but the Akimichi frowns at the first and suggests the second for where you should go.

You want to ask why, but you refrain, mostly because you don’t want to bring any more attention to yourself. Besides, you can always sneak a peak on your own later.

The trio ends up handing you off to the camp leader, a man by the name of Inuzuka Toshiro and nin-dog partner Jin. The man is loud and wild-looking, but his grin, though toothy, is friendly enough. The dog, Jin, gives you a cursory sniff from beside him but neither growls nor wags his tail in greeting.

“So you’re Teijo’s kid, huh?”

Some of your surprise must show on your face, because he barks a laugh.

“He used to be on a genin team with my big brother. Him, your dad and a civilian kunoichi named Keiko. She died about a year before Teijo got married to your mother, and my brother about two months after that. Haven’t seen your dad much since.” He waved his hand. “Anyway, stick near the outpost, and if an attack or battle comes our way, make yourself scarce. I’ll try to look out for ya since you’re Teijo’s kid, but there’s only so much I do, yeah?”

Fair enough. He was the leader of this place and what was one child compared to the lives of al those under his command? But, then again, those under his command might die if you really did go kamikaze explosion and release the contagious duo into the air.

…Wait, are you using the phrase ‘kamikaze’ right? You’re not entirely sure… whatever. Not important.

What was important was trying to find out if there was somewhere you could bathe and maybe get a change of clothes. Ah, but what are you going to do about the flesh covering under your clothes?

‘Oh, this? Don’t worry, it’s just a supply of biological material I reshaped out of a tree trunk and some flora for the purpose of either a pre-emptive biological warfare attack or posthumous revenge.’

Yeah, that’d go over well.

Um, maybe just make it slither down your legs and reshape it into grass. Yeah, you’ll do that, bathe, maybe change clothes, and then you’ll reapply the flesh covering. Yes, plan tentatively in place.

You can do this.


No matter where you are, you're always a bit on your own, always an outsider.

~Banana Yoshimoto, Goodbye Tsugumi

Chapter Text

What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.

~Jason Fried, Rework


Inaction

The outpost is both bigger and busier than the original camp you had regained your previous life’s memories. After scrubbing yourself down with water and a cloth—the luxury of baths isn’t available here—and donning borrowed, oversized clothes, the first thing you do is wash your clothes and hang them to dry. This runs of the risk of losing your clothing if the outpost is attacked, but you just can’t bring yourself to keep wearing them while passing up a chance to clean them.

With that done and your belt with the pouches still attached, you head off to find food that isn’t something you shaped from something else. Even the terrible rations aren’t as terrible, though no doubt you’ll be mentally complaining about them again soon enough. After eating and refilling your water canteen, you mentally list your task list and count the completed items off on one hand—that’s everything except investigating the medical tent that is completely out-of-bounds to you.

Well, it’s out-of-bounds for most everyone as the only people you see going in or out are medic-nin, and they look harried and deeply worried. Even from your spying spot four tents down, you can tell that there is either a nascent or already growing emergency going on, perhaps of either grievous wounds or of the pandemic kind. Terrible diseases can spring up from battlefields, and infected wounds can be horrific.

But, when a sudden splotch of red splatters and against the side of the medical tent and starts bleeding through, you realize, oh, that’s Blood.

Frozen in place, you slowly pull your head back so that you’re no longer spying on the medical tent. Panic is starting to slowly set in, so you offload that feeling into your small hive, most of which is hiding under your borrowed clothes.

When you were running away from the Iwa-nin, you hadn’t even thought that of any Konoha-nin who might inhale and thus contract Decline or Blood from the small puffs you had hastily released into the air. How many days had you spend hiding in tree trunks? What was the exact incubation rate for those two diseases from your past life? You can’t remember!

Your allies are dying because of your haste.

How many have already died? How many will die before you fess up and present the cures?

Sweating, you realize that you don’t want to do that, not if it means revealing yourself.

You can’t remember much about the village, but you do have enough context to realize that it is a military dictatorship. Neither of those words instil any confidence in you that you would be treated well.

So you can’t.

You just can’t.


Unaccompanied

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t try being sneaky. You won’t fess up to the fact that you made these diseases, but you can fake someone having an immunity, right? Yeah, you can send in your kikaichu with the cures and people can be like, wow, you lucky bastards. And then they can take blood from the ‘immune’ they can try to synthesize a cure and—that would likely take ages in which more Konoha-nin and civilians would die.

And you would probably end up outed anyway, only with a larger death count on your hands because you refused to come forward earlier.

Bleh. There’s no way for you to really win at this, is there? After all, ninja. Ninja are sneaky and nosey, and they’ll find you out eventually because they are spies. At least, that’s what your gut is telling you.

Your gut, which is beginning to twist itself out of stress from all the scenarios running through your head.

Sweating, you lowered yourself until you were hugging your knees. What to do, what to do…

(you’re alone, you have to decide on your own, it feels wrong)


Disclosure

When you finally decide what to do, you are shaking when you hesitantly go up to Toshiro. He’s just come from the medical tent, glaring as he stalked to wherever he was headed. Seeing you, he let out an aggravated sigh and held up a hand.

“I don’t have time, kid.”

You want to leave him be and run away, but you have decided on a course of action and you need to follow through before you chicken out and result in an even bigger pile of dead.

So you thrust out your hand and let two kikaichu crawl out from under the huge sleeve of your borrowed shirt. They are close to one-and-a-half inch long, but they look even bigger on your toddler hand. One is bright blue with silver-like legs, and the other is an alarming orange with black stripes. Both have wicked-looking stingers.

Toshiro sighs, unimpressed.

“Yeah, yeah, kid. You have bright bugs. I see them. Nice.”

He’s being dismissive, but point in his favor, he’s trying to be patient.

You hold back a huff and lift your hand higher.

“Cures.”

He pauses, one foot raised to keep moving. Lowering his leg, he asked, “What?”

You pushed your sunglasses up with your free hand.

“The people in the medical tent. Are they swelling with blood and exploding? Slowly forgetting stuff and getting clumsy?”

Toshiro leaned down, almost invading your personal space, speaking urgently. “What do you mean forgetting stuff and getting clumsy?”

A ladybug kikaichu scuttled into view from the wide collar of the ill-fitting shirt, making him recoil.

“Hey, hey, is that one of the bugs that brought down Reo and his team?” He raised his hands. “Calm down, kid. I just need to know. What do you mean cure?”

Letting the ladybug kikaichu keep crawling on your face, you explained.

“I can make more than one kind of kikaichu. When my ladybug imposters brought down the Iwa-nin who killed the Konoha-nin I was with, I had by that time already created two kikaichu which could spew sickness into the air. One made the sickness that makes the infected swell with blood until they burst open, and the other carried a sickness that would rot the brain.”

You lowered your gaze to his feet.

“I didn’t think. I just wanted to make any pursuers who went after me sick so that even if they killed me, I would have my revenge from beyond the grave.”

Toshiro leaned in again, slower this time so that you had time to look up. His gaze was sharp and focused.

“Where are the kikaichu that made these diseases?”

Your brow twitched as they broke through skin near your elbow, the flesh covering already pulled back before you approached the Inuzuka. Jin’s hackles raise as he emits a growl before trying to step between you and his partner. Toshiro is having none of it and shoves him aside.

“Stop your worrying, Jin. I’m not a damned Iwa-nin.”

He still narrows his eyes as the other two kikaichu scuttled out onto your other hand. The Blood ‘carrier’ is bright red with a yellow outline around its abdomen. The Decline ‘carrier’ is shiny turquoise, coral and yellow colored. both have swollen abdomens, and the kikaichu themselves are nearly as large as their counterparts. The disease carriers are rounder and lack the stingers the cure holders have.

Toshiro snorted. “Alright, put ‘em back and don’t pull ‘em out again. They’ve caused enough trouble as it is.”

You lower your hand as the disease kikaichu crawl back under the sleeve and re-enter from the same spot they exited. You can’t stop yourself from visibly wincing, but Toshiro doesn’t comment on it. Instead he points at the other two kikaichu still in view.

“So those two carry the cures, right?”

You nod once.

“Which one is for the blood swelling?”

The orange and black kikaichu flares its wings. Jin growls warningly.

Toshiro doesn’t reprimand his partner this time and instead straightens, jerking his head in the direction of the medical tent.

“Well let’s go see if you’re telling tall tales or what.”


Source

Entering the medical tent, your nose wrinkles at the stench of blood hanging in the air. There are also other smells, but for your peace of mind, you don’t try to identify them. There aren’t many patients, but you don’t breathe a sigh of relief because this is only one place and who knows how far Blood and Decline have spread.

“Inuzuka-san,” a medic-nin called from near the back. “Back so soon?”

Toshiro walked over to her, waving you to keep up. “Yeah. Listen, this is Aburame Kaiya. She says this is the work of her kikaichu.”

The medic-nin’s gaze snapped to your face. “Really? I thought the Aburame kikaichu were just chakra-eaters.”

“You occasionally get offshoots,” Toshiro shrugged. Then, to your displeasure, he put a hand on your head. “Kaiya-chan here, though, she’s got a whole lot more than one kind.”

As if to prove his point, you directed a ladybug imposter to crawl on his hand. The shinobi yanked his hand back and swiped it off. It flew through the air before flaring its wings into motion so that it could return to your head.

The medic-nin kept staring at you.

“So, this is all your doing, is it?”

“The shinobi she’d been with had just been killed. She only meant to harm Iwa-nin.”

The medic-nin sighed harshly. “This is why training is so important. If her kikaichu are deviants capable of producing diseases, then nothing is more important to teach her than control.” She glared at you. “Are any of your kikaichu currently out there still producing this disease?”

You shook your head. “No.”

She seemed to be waiting for more but you weren’t going to volunteer anything.

Toshiro scratched his face. “Anyway… Amano-san, she says she has the cure.” He snapped his finger. “Oh! And she says there’s another one that makes the infected forgetful and clumsy. So I guess Hirai and Domen weren’t just ‘exhausted’ like we thought, huh?”

Miraculously, you did not visibly quail under Amano’s renewed glare.


Injection

Amano asked you multiple questions about your kikaichu and demanded that you show them to her. You were offended by her tone, but cut her some slack since she was clearly stressed over Blood and had suddenly discovered that she now had a second disease right under her nose. You were deliberately vague, saying you didn’t fully understand what your kikaichu did since they were new, which was a half-truth since kikaichu weren’t something you had in your previous life.

It was Toshiro who cut short her questioning, saying that since the shinobi died anyway, what was the harm in a live test of your so-called cure? Amano relented after a minute of silence, though likely only because despite her silence the tent was still filled with the groans of her patients. She finally sighed and nodded.

Amano led the way and Toshiro gestured with a hand to the patient with the most advanced stage of all the patients. His body has already begun to swell, and his eyes are bloodshot as he turns them in your direction. You frown because unless you do more, he’s already a dead man. For now, though, you direct the orange and black kikaichu to fly over to him. The shinobi startles, moving his arm to swat at it, but stops as Toshiro raises a placating hand.

The orange and black kikaichu lands on his shirt. She crawls up the man’s body until she reaches this swollen neck. Adjusting herself, she then proceeds to sting the man.

He flinches and moves to grab her, but Toshiro and Amano are suddenly there to hold his arms back. Your kikaichu finishes her delivery and flies over to a patient with a lesser advanced stage. He looks like he wants to smack the kikaichu too, but your head is pointed in his direction. Looking as though he was now sweating from more than just Blood, he winced as your kikaichu crawled up his torso towards his neck.

Toshiro and Amano were too busy watching the first guy to notice that you were going after a second.


Rebuilders

Needless to say, Amano was angry when she finally noticed that you had gone after not just one but two other patients, bringing the number of patients injected with an untested cure up to three. Since there was no immediate visible improvement on any of them, she was looming over you and sternly lecturing you on what was permissible on her patients. Toshiro, the coward, was standing behind not doing anything aside from glancing between her and the first patient.

Letting her words drift in one ear and out the other, you spoke up when she stopped to take a breath.

“That first guy will likely still die unless you can do something to repair his organs and stressed blood vessels.”

Amano’s glare intensified. “Then what was the point of your cure?”

Wishing you had pockets to shove your hands in, you answered. “The point was to cure Blood.”

She frowned. “Blood?”

“It is what I call the disease.” You stared at nothing. “…I am not very good at giving names.”

Lifting your gaze, you raised a hand, palm upward. A lilac colored splotch appeared and slowly built into a small mound. Unseen to the naked eye, they were nano-sized kikaichu you created to serve the function of rebuilding cells. Basically, they did what you did, only slower and they needed to ‘fetch’ biological material. To prevent a gruesome situation, they were imparted with the order to not collect from humans or animals unless otherwise directed. Since they were still kikaichu, they ate at your chakra, but their tiny size made that almost negligible.

“The fixers can help in reshaping the organs. They’ll need chakra from me to start, chakra from the patient to continue, and access to something that is alive, though right now they will only take from plants.”

Toshiro asked, “Why plants?”

You slowly turned your head to him.

“Imagine they collected biological material from either you or Jin. The fixers could potentially kill a person while trying to save another person. I would like to avoid that.”

Toshiro gave a strained grin. “Uh, yeah, I can see how that would be… bad.”

Amano snapped her fingers to get your attention.

“Your ‘fixers’—they could help Suda-san?”

You glanced at Toshiro, and even though he couldn’t see your eyes, he seemed to sense your gaze because he nodded his chin towards the first patient.

“Yes. They could help Suda-san.”

Amano kept staring at you through narrowed eyes, but after what seemed like forever, she sighed. Opening her eyes again, she gazed down at you as though she couldn’t believe that you were the last hope for her patients.

“Well then, Aburame-chan. It’s time to get to work.”


Convenient

Toshiro was tasked with getting freshly picked plants while you started on Suda who had more than enough to work with since he was swollen with blood. Placing a hand on him and directing the fixer kikaichu to start repairing him, you almost winced at the state of his organs when you ‘looked’. They were half mulched and well on their way to failing. A few hours more and Suda would be another bloody exploding flesh balloon.

Ignoring Amano, you focused on the nano-sized kikaichu whom you now knew would be your fallback explanation for anything you did from the point on. In truth, you had created them in a desperate attempt for a half-believable excuse, but you had since realized they were a great excuse for the things you did.

Where did your other kikaichu come from? The fixers made them!

Amano couldn’t see anything at the level the fixers were working, so you could alter them as you needed. They moved from your skin to Suda and into his bloodstream. From there, the fixers multiplied, eating his chakra to do so. They moved through his body, grabbing onto the blood cells until they arrived near his organs. The heart was fixed first since that was the most important organ (after the brain, but Blood didn’t liquidize that one), and from there they moved on.

You didn’t register the passage of time, though part of you did note when Toshiro’s voice returned. Fixers flowed out from your other hand and formed a thin line from you to the bundle of harvested plants and grass in Toshiro’s arms. There was as brief disconnection as he suddenly dropped it all, but the fixers coming from your body reached out to reconnect with the stranded ones on the bundle. You didn’t use the plants to fix Suda as your main concern was keeping the plants from dying and becoming useless. Instead, the fixers proceeded to break down the plants into a greenish blob of mush.

All this while Amano, Toshiro and a few of the other patients watched.

Oblivious as Amano’s gaze sharpened, and unaware as Toshiro frowned.

Time had no meaning, nothing else was important, and you didn’t stop until Suda was back to normal proportions for a male his size. The fixers retreated to you, spreading out and making your whole arm, part of your torso and part of your face turn lilac.

When you looked back at Amano, you did not smile or smirk. Your voice was flat as you announced the obvious.

“It is done.”

You blinked behind your sunglasses and Amano leaned forward until her face was in front of yours.

Whatever she was going to say, though, was both interrupted and completely ruined as Toshiro cut in, reaching out and turning her face aside.

“Hey, hey. No kissing Teijo’s kid.”

You mentally thanked Amano as she slapped him upside the head and called him an idiot.


Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

~Noel Langley, The Wizard of Oz

Chapter Text

Begin somewhere. You cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.

~Liz Smith


Choice

Amano huffed as Toshiro rubbed the back of his head with a petulant frown. She folded her arms and cast a glare at him that turned his frown into a sheepish grin.

“As I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted: Aburame-chan, I lay claim on you. You’re going to be the best damn medic-nin of your generation.”

Toshiro butted in and started talking about Tsunade-sama being the best. Amano growled that she clearly said for you to be the best of your generation, not Tsunade-sama’s. Ignoring them as they bickered, you pondered Amano’s statement.

Amano stating that she was laying claim to you was somewhat offensive in that it bothered you that she thought she could do that. Could she do that? After all, you are a member of one of the four noble clans, so probably not. On the other hand, if she could present her proposal well-enough to Father, he might consider it. He might even agree to it. Ah, so maybe Amano could lay claim to you, though likely not in a permanent sense, because of course there was no way she was taking you away from the Aburame clan.

Surely no one could take away a member from any of the four noble clans.

Anyway, putting aside your offended ego, Amano clearly intended for you to learn how to be a medic-nin, likely under her tutelage if she could manage it, or direct you to someone who could teach you. On one hand, you would probably learn about chakra and the way it interacted with the body, so once you had that down, you theoretically should be able to resurrect newly dead like that woman from the first camp who died protecting you. On the other hands…

Not much to say on the other hand, aside from protests you are mostly certain stem from your previous life. Something about not liking authority? Whatever, being able to bring back the newly dead is of far more importance than your ego. For Sage’s sake, you are four. This overinflated sense of self-importance is definitely a product of regaining those old memories.

You don’t remember who you used to be, but so far you aren’t impressed.

(you don’t think you’ll like what you find when you remember, but part of you can’t stop from wanting, if only for those you can’t remember)

Frowning, you waited for Amano and Toshiro to stop arguing.

You’ve decided.


Age

There is a pause between Amano and Toshiro in their argument and you take advantage of it by clearing your throat. The two adults look down at you, but your gaze is directed at Amano.

“Very well. If I prove to have the aptitude for it, I will be a medic-nin.” You raise a hand at her triumphant look. “However, I may not, so prepare yourself in case of disappointment.”

Toshiro snorted and jabbed a finger in Suda’s direction. “Kid, you just did something I’ve never seen any other medic-nin do. I’m not sure if even Tsunade-sama could have done that, or in the same timeframe. Even if you suck at chakra control, I bet there’s very little that will stop you from becoming a medic-nin.”

Amano’s lips dipped slightly at the corners. “Unless her clan objects, of course.”

Toshiro winced. “Ah. Right. I can never tell what an Aburame is thinking, and I can’t recall if there’s ever been an Aburame medic-nin before.”

“There are none that I can recall in recent memory,” Amano offered before redirecting the conversation back to the main point. She gave you a slight smile. “Still, I’m glad to hear that you are considering the path of a medic-nin. We could definitely use someone with skills like yours.”

…They do know that you are four, right?


Foretold

Toshiro soon leaves the tent to return to his main duties, leaving you with Amano to work on the other patients. It goes like this: Amano performs a diagnostic jutsu on each patient before you get your hands on them, and the she does it again when you are done. She doesn’t stop being amazed at what your fixer kikaichu can achieve. Even with Amano frequently checking your chakra levels to avoid chakra exhaustion, you manage to heal up all the patients afflicted by Blood.

“How is that possible?”

The question is only half-directed at you between patients, but you answer her anyway.

“I don’t use only my chakra.” The lilac color of the fixer kikaichu had spread to nearly the whole of your body by that point. Calmly, you explained, “I only start them with orders. When they transfer over to the patient, its their chakra that they consume and use to multiply, spread, and do what needs to be done. If anything, you should be worried about the chakra levels of your patients. Although, since they’re grown and should know their limits, surely they should be able to tell when chakra exhaustion is setting in.”

Amano’s face turned dark as she glared at something you couldn’t see.

“Yes, you’d think so. Unfortunately, many of them…”

She shook her head, sighing quietly in aggravation. “Never mind. You’ll find out about those types on your own soon enough.”

You can’t say you’re looking forward to it.


Horrifying

The Decline patients are left overnight because Amano insists that you refrain from pushing yourself too hard. When she says that, you have an unwanted flash of memory of a distorted voice saying something similar. Your footing falters, but because you are trailing behind Amano on the way to the another tent, she doesn’t notice. Your lips twitch in displeasure, and you find yourself wishing that you could just lock away the memories of your previous life.

If reincarnation is actually a thing, you can see why it would be better if said reincarnation didn’t remember their previous life. It was frustrating for you, and more than that, deep down where you’re desperately trying not to look, it’s horrifying.

Your old world was glass, metal and some kind of stone or rock, and people had Quirks, and information was available at the tips of one’s fingers. Here, you are surrounded by nature, and from what you can remember of the village, this place isn’t very technologically advanced, not to mention the chakra and jutsus and the war.

But, even more than that, there are people you are missing, people you left behind. How far away are they? In time? In space? Dimensions?

You’d have been better off not remembering at all.

Even if it meant not having your Quirk anymore.


Treasured

When news comes from one of the border outposts that Kaiya is alive and there, what Teijo wants most in the world is to go get her, to see her for himself. She looks like her mother, like his Kazue, and she is all he has left of her. Kaiya is the living proof that Kazue loved him. Kaiya is their child.

His only child.

He regrets that he had to bring her with him to his assigned station where he was slotted to stay for four months, but there had been no one he trusted to look after her for that length of time. Ever since she disappeared, he’s been wracked with guilt, hoping that somehow she managed to get away from the enemy who would surely kill her.

(and possibly worse before they did)

Of course, nothing of his anxiety or sleepless nights showed on his face. No, he was too old and disciplined to let his emotions show.

Unfortunately, his commander could not spare Teijo long enough to fetch his daughter, and no one coming from that outpost wanted the extra burden of bringing her. He would have to wait until he was rotated back to the village, but at this point Teijo would settle for being reassigned in her general direction.

Still, he was down to less than two weeks left on his assigned posting. Soon he and at least half the camp would be replaced with fresh shinobi from the village. In less than two weeks he could fetch Kaiya himself and take her home.

This time, he’d leave her there, where she would be safer than if he brought her back out here.


Tasked

Decline was an insidious disease that slowly destroyed the brain neurons which in turn would lead to damage to the brain tissue. Most neurons, once destroyed, were lost forever. In the afflicted Konoha-nin, you rectified this issue by having the fixers copy existing neurons and fitting them in the vacated space.

Luckily for all involved, Decline is much slower than Blood or any of the other Five. The infected had yet to start losing long-term memories, and so far they had yet to get themselves in danger due to a loss in motor function.

Honestly speaking, you didn’t like the almost manic gleam in Amano’s eyes by the time you were done with the Decline patients. She clearly had plans and you were reluctant to find out what those were. No doubt she intended to work you to the bone in order to get as much use from you as possible, and if it weren’t for the fact that chakra was a big blind spot for you, you wouldn’t have spoken up in the first place.

You had hoped that would be the end of patients for now, but Amano stabbed that hope to death by saying that you had to check the rest of everyone in camp for both Blood and Decline. At least that didn’t take long, but it was still a lot of people to go through, of which, four had Decline and a four-man cell had the beginning of Blood. You told Amano who then told you to have your fixers clear it out, and after that, then you were done with healing everyone at camp.

So naturally that was when Toshiro informed both you and Amano that you were going to be escorted to other camps and outposts which were currently dealing with small numbers of Blood, and probably had those inflicted with Decline though those were currently unidentified. It would be your job to clear out each location of your diseases.

The look in Toshiro’s eyes when he said that made you swallow down any protests you might have made.

Not even Amano tried to interfere, but she did noisily insist that all precautions be taken to ensure your survival. Toshiro said that was a given since you were the only provider of the cure, but as Amano helped prepare you to leave camp, you couldn’t help but wonder if the village would dispose of you because of what you had created.

…Past-you had the right idea about the Five, right?

(posthumous revenge, to take down others who would kill or enslave you)

You start making the necessary kikaichu before you even meet your escorts to the first camp.

Reo glares suspiciously, rightfully so, even if he doesn’t know it yet.


Suspicious

Reo wants to know which god he pissed off to be handed the Aburame girl again. Granted, he’s not the one carrying her, but as team leader he bears the bulk of responsibility for her survival. Since he read both Inuzuka and Amano’s reports, he can see why the Aburame girl is needed alive, but on the other hand, she’s clearly a dangerous element.

He can understand the panic that led to her unknowingly unleashing the two diseases upon her own allies, but he cannot reconcile himself with the fact that she made them on purpose. She deliberately created two contagious diseases with lethal consequences, and from all accounts, she could make more. Her ‘fixer’ kikaichu were more like shapers. They took biological material and reshaped it to whatever purpose was needed.

Could this child take samples from bloodline holders and create clones? She could already reshape a bloated body, so was it really too much of a stretch to believe that she could create infant clones from stolen DNA? Bloodline theft was punishable by death. She would have to be informed of that as soon as possible.

And while bloodline theft was indeed a serious issue, Reo found himself more concerned about the illnesses she could seemingly create at will. Aburame Kaiya had brought down dozens of shinobi on both sides, with no regard to anything besides her own survival. She was young, yes, but if she grew up maintaining that same mindset? That it could be disastrous to Konoha went without saying. Moreover, diseases didn’t necessarily stop at one perceived border or another. Depending on the disease in question, it could travel by air, water, blood, or any number of vectors. Lifespan was also something to take into consideration, as Reo has heard of abandoned places being disturbed only to unleash plagues or sicknesses. So far, signs pointed to Aburame Kaiya being in possession of the ability to do that and more.

Glowering darkly as the forest sped past beneath his feet, Reo swore that he would keep an eye on Aburame Kaiya. If ever she proved to be a threat to the village, he would inform the Hokage at once.

A close watch would be placed on the girl, even if he had to nag Shikaku-sama into it.


Seeing the mud around a lotus is pessimism, seeing a lotus in the mud is optimism.

~Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words

Chapter Text

Sometimes it's easy to forget how much you miss people until you see them again.

~Colleen Hoover, Ugly Love


Time

You had mixed feelings about the Nara and his team. On one hand, they were familiar faces, and you even remembered their names. But, on the other, these were men you’d stung with box jellyfish venom, basically allies that you’d unknowingly attacked. It was awkward being around them, especially with the vibes you were picking up from the Nara and sometime from the Yamanaka.

Come to think of it, your knowledge about the other clans in the village was lacking, so you made a mental note to rectify that when you had a chance. Probably only your father would be willing to answer multitude of questions you suddenly had—oh, but maybe Amano will if you ever get back to the outpost? Now that you think of it, where are you going to be taken once you are done? You’d prefer to be dropped off with Father, really, but you might get defaulted back to Amano for the whole medic-nin thing.

Well, you don’t know and you can’t really guess, so you will just have to let things happen as they will.

Unless they try to kill you. Then all gloves are off.

Mumbling incoherently, you rested your head against the Akimichi’s back and hoped that it wouldn’t be too much longer before you got to the first camp. The sooner you got there, the sooner you could heal up people, and the sooner you could leave for the next place. Repeat until finished, and basically you want this excursion to be over already so that you can either be put back with Father or in the place he probably expects you to be when he finally comes looking for you.

You remember Father informing you of why you were leaving the village and for how long you two would be away from home. Four months was nearly up and surely Father would come to fetch you then. In less than two weeks, you and Father would be going home.

(you deliberately did not think about the war and how swift death could take a life)


Reunion

You didn’t know the names or the exact location of… anything, really. You’d be lost on your own, and you hadn’t gotten the name of the first camp you’d been in, if it had even had one. The outpost was just the ‘outpost’, and no doubt there were others. If you got lost and asked someone for directions, you wouldn’t be able to give them the exact outpost you were familiar with and would probably just get pointed in the direction of the nearest one, if its location was even known to the person you asked. Since you didn’t know the names or locations of anything, you are unsurprised to not recognize the camp you arrived at.

However, while you are waiting next to Akimichi Yuta while Nara Reo is presenting a scroll to the man in charge, a jolt of excitement hits you when your kikaichu let you know that an unknown kikaichu has landed on you. Instead of reaching towards your shoulder where the intruder has landed, you turn your head from side to side, searching for the Aburame who sent it.

The sight of Father less than three tents away nearly knocks you to your knees. He looks the same as ever, messy dark brown hair hanging over his leaf headband, face hidden behind rectangular sunglasses and a high collar, hands tucked into the pockets of his dark grey trench coat. There is no expression to see on his face, no body language to give away how he feels.

You are not so nearly self-controlled, and you start to slip away from your escort team, a smile fighting to make an appearance on your face even as you shove your joy into your hive, making them buzz beneath your skin and clothes. Distantly, you sense Akimichi reaching for you and vaguely register the Yamanaka saying your name, but then your feet are moving and your lips part.

“Father!”

You are a child (an adult) and Father is right there (Dad is dead). Your heart leaps as you rush the distance between you and him, arms outstretching in the last few feet. Father drops to one knee and lets you throw your arms around his neck. This close to him, you can hear the buzz of his beneath his skin, a sound you hadn’t realized that you’d missed. A hand settles on your head and you hear Father breathe a single word.

“Kaiya.”

Tears well up behind your sunglasses as you remember the night you two had been separated, the sounds of battle in the night, the feeling of hanging on to his back and then being put under someone else’s arm as he turned and headed back while you were carried away. The silence and darkness of the tree trunk you hid in comes back to you, how you were left alone with your thoughts and the memories you had tried to not let overwhelm you. The fear, the uncertainty, the loneliness…

You quietly sobbed.

“Father.”

His voice was low and warm.

“Kaiya.”


Advice

Tears, like any emotion, are not easily shown in a grown Aburame, nor even a teenage one. As an Aburame grows from childhood into adulthood, the ability to offload one’s emotions into their hive comes more easily. Emotions can be a hindrance, a fatal distraction at the worst moment, and thus the clan as a whole places importance on the ability to remain calm. Teijo is no different, but Kaiya is still young, and her emotions still break through her training. She will get better at keeping a straight face as she gets older, but right now he can see that her brow is furrowed and he can feel that she is shaking.

He would not be surprised if tears leaked from her eyes or if they slid into view beneath her sunglasses. She is young, and only just now reunited with him after being separated in battle, so he does not reprimand her for losing control. Instead he merely waits for her to pull herself together.

Looking over her head, he eyes the team that brought her. It is an Ino-Shika-Cho trio, but not the one formed by Inoichi, Shikaku, and Choza. The clans are close allies, though, so it makes sense that they would team up wherever they could manage it and it was viable. Still, as much as Teijo would like to think they brought Kaiya here to him, a hunch tells him that that’s not the case. Otherwise, Kaiya would not have looked so surprised to see him.

Thus, Teijo has to wonder, why is Kaiya here?

“Aburame-san,” greeted Nara Reo, walking over with his teammates.

The leader of the camp, Kurama Daido, had finished his conversation with Reo and walked off in the direction of the medical tent.

“Nara-san,” he returned. “Yamanaka-san. Akimichi-san. You don’t seem to have brought my daughter to me for our sakes. Why, then, is she with you?”

Reo rubbed the back of his neck, mouth downturned in displeasure. “Ahh, this is going to be an annoying explanation. Come on, I’d rather not have to do it twice.”

He turned and headed in the same direction Kurama did, heading for the quarantined medical tent. Teijo didn’t want to take Kaiya there, but since Nara and Kurama seemed to be in agreement that Kaiya should approach, he reluctantly leaned away from his daughter and stood up.

Kaiya sniffled and wiped beneath her sunglasses.

“You can send your kikaichu to drink that. No one need ever see you weep.”

She startles slightly, but nods after a moment.

He knows that she’ll remember his words.


Show

You try to remain attentive as Reo explains the situation regarding Blood and Decline, but it’s hard to concentrate when you have Father’s hand grasped in your own. You can ‘see’ him, and by extension, you can ‘see’ the hive inhabiting his body. Ugh, truly Aburame members are infested. It makes your stomach churn to think that one day you will be just as infested one day, but you shove that unpleasant thought away to bask in Father’s presence.

Father is alive.

Father is right here.

Eyes closed, the only thing you want to focus on is the vision that is father’s mostly healthy body (there was lingering fatigue, and you could tell he wasn’t getting enough sleep to be fully rested). The sight you ‘see’ is proof that Father is still living, that he isn’t dead. You never got to appreciate Mother like this, and after being separated from him unexpectedly like that, you now find yourself with a new appreciation for him.

“Kaiya.”

Hearing him speak (seeing his muscles move and contract, his voice box flex, his lungs expand and shrink), you open your eyes and tilt your head to indicate that you are looking up at him.

His voice was grave.

“Show me the ‘fixers’ that Nara-san speaks of.”

Feeling tendrils of trepidation beginning to slither into previously content mood, you nonetheless obey and bring up your other hand. However, instead of having to create the fixers, they rise to the surface of your skin and turn your hand completely lilac-colored. They don’t hurt when they swell out of your body, forming a lump that jiggles visibly.

“How long have you had them?”

Oh, a day or so.

You shrug. “I’m not sure. Long enough that I am familiar with them.”

The head medic-nin for the camp comes over to peer closely at the lilac lump on your palm. He asked questions, but seemed to be asking Nara more than he was asking you. It grated at you somewhat, but most of your attention was on your father.

You couldn’t tell what he was thinking, not even from the ‘sight’ you currently had.


Anxiety

Father stayed and watched as you allowed yourself to be directed by the medic-nin, a man called Nishimura. He followed the same steps Amano did, and he too seemed to grow excited about the scope of healing you could perform. One by one, you attended to the patients in the medical tent, and the patients, either seeing or hearing salvation slowly approaching, fell quieter as they waited, finally hopeful that not all was lost, that they would not die in an explosion of blood.

At one point he spoke up between patients, citing worry about your chakra levels. You personally reassured him with the same information you told Amano recently, how you only started the fixers with your chakra and how the patients supplied the rest. When you were done, it was a long moment before he nodded, and even you could see that he was reluctant to let you continue. It made you happy that he was concerned for you, but you pushed on because you wanted him to see just what you could do.

You wanted him to be proud of you.

Oblivious, as he continued to grow increasingly afraid for you.


Special

Kaiya was precious to him simply for being the child of Kazue and himself. In truth, he had expected her to become a kunoichi some day, though he’d hoped that day would come in the time between wars (because there is always war and only fleeting periods of peace in which villages prepared for the next large-scale conflict). However, if she had decided on a civilian path, he would not have placed pressure on her to do differently. Not all members of the clan were shinobi, though it was true that nearly all Aburame possessed some level of mastery over chakra, a necessity for maintaining their hives. In the whole time she’d been alive, Teijo had never suspected his daughter of being anything but a normal Aburame child.

Granted, there had been a slight shift in her personality after the first attack on the camp, but Teijo had written that off as shock and growth after a near death experience. After all, if it hadn’t been for his own efforts and the sacrifice of that woman—he has since learned that her name was Yano Satomi—then Kaiya would have been dead. Child of shinobi or not, that was the first time Kaiya had been in true mortal danger. Teijo thought the shift in her personality was not unreasonable.

But this, her ‘fixers’, a breed of kikaichu he had never even suspected she might have? Teijo has been watching since she started, and so far he has seen his child reshape bodies, reconstruct organs, and seemingly cure the disease that caused the changes in the first place. If what he heard is true, then she will go on to heal a disease that made the victim forget and clumsy by creating copies of neurons in the brain and fixing the broken connections.

And don’t forget that she created those diseases in the first place.

(if he hadn’t brought her, if the others could have defeated the Iwa-nin, then she would never have had to make them in the first place)

In the ability to reconstruct organs, his little Kaiya has already surpassed Senju Tsunade. As she masters her new kikaichu, what will she be in four years, eight years, ten years?

(by tomorrow? In a week? in a year?)

Never has there been an Aburame like her. Kaiya will be considered special. Teijo doubts the clan will permit her to become a full-fledged kunoichi of the Leaf, not when that would mean risking her on missions outside of the village. More likely she will be stationed at the hospital, or kept within the compound.

She has unintentionally killed a few of her allies, yes, that will be noted. However, in the face of the sheer potential of her new kikaichu (Shapers, his mind whispers), she is unlikely to suffer great repercussion. Unless… unless it is used as an excuse to put her under someone’s watch. A clan that had Kaiya need not fear losing their shinobi to retirement due to lost limbs. No matter how great their injury, Kaiya could heal them and the Konoha shinobi force need not be weakened.

With difficulty, Teijo resisted the urge to clench his fists. He had to get word to the clan as soon as possible. Shibi-sama needed to be aware of Kaiya.

The Aburame had to hold on to her, or else they would lose her to the village.

(not his child, please not Kaiya)


Reminder

When you finished the Blood patients and are briefly dismissed before moving on to the Decline patients, you hold back the urge to skip back to Father. Still, you can’t help but look up at him expectantly, wanting his praise. Did he not see what you did? Was he not proud of you, his daughter?

Therefore, you are disappointed that his face is as stoic as ever.

(her face and hands and what he can see of her calves and toes are all lilac—her Shapers cover her from head to toe and he wonders if they can reshape her as easily as they do others)

“Are you tired, Kaiya?”

“Somewhat,” you reply truthfully. You had had to stand this whole time, and there was mental fatigue to consider. “However, I feel that my chakra levels are sufficient for most of what remains.”

“What of the consumption rate of your current kikaichu?”

“…Minimal?” You are not certain. “My hive numbers thirty-two at the moment, at least those which can be seen with one’s eyes. They consume my chakra at the same rate as before, that is, safely for my age and current chakra pool. The fixers, despite their uncountable numbers, consume less of my chakra than the regular hive.”

You remember that the fixers are crawling on your skin and blush slightly as you recall them back into beneath the layers of your flesh. The lilac color fades away, leaving you as before. You avoid Father’s eyes and he seems to sense this.

A hand comes up to your head and you realize that you’ve stopped wearing a ponytail.

Father speaks quietly, below his breath and only for you to hear.

“You are my daughter, Kaiya. An Aburame. Remember that.”

You don’t know why he’s saying that, or why it seems important to him that you be reminded of those facts, but you hum gently in acknowledgement.

“Yes, Father.”


Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.

~Jim Butcher, Storm Front

Chapter Text

Duty is what one expects from others.

~Oscar Wilde


Godsend

Sarutobi Hiruzen wearily but dutifully continued to battle his greatest and most tenacious foe, that enemy which refused to die and vanish, resurging in great numbers despite all the effort he put forth: the dreaded paperwork. Wartime made paperwork even worse since many matters were urgent, therefore he had even less time to take a break or spend at home. Biwako understood, but Asuma resented the sheer amount of time he dedicated to being Hokage. Sighing, Hiruzen took a moment to sit back in his chair, but even then he was thinking of a problem which had the potential to become a tipping point against the Land of Fire.

Just days ago, word came from near the front lines of a new and deadly disease. The infected would swell over a period of hours, and from what the medic-nin could discover, the organs of the infected were breaking down as the body produced excessive amounts of blood. The diagnosis was grim: his shinobi would die, eventually bursting in showers of blood as the internal pressure became too much and the blood had to go somewhere. Already he’d received news of the first fatalities from two separate camps. The origin of this disease was unknown, and the only comfort he’d been given was the news that Iwa-shinobi had been seen displaying the same symptoms as his own forces.

The last thing either side of this war needed was a plague or epidemic to strike. Given the unknown nature of this disease, Hiruzen had elected to keep Tsunade in the dark. In fact, he hadn’t informed any of his precious students, and had indeed directed them in a direction away from the stricken areas. He doubted he’d be able to keep them in the dark forever, or even for very long, but the last thing he wanted was for any of them to contract this disease when they had no counter-measures.

His students are strong, but their bodies are not invincible against disease.

An urgent knock resounded from the door, and he called for them to enter.

A shinobi entered and hurriedly informed him of a new development: someone had been found who could cure the infected! The individual in question was an Aburame child and by now would be being escorted to the afflicted locations. This was a relief to Hiruzen, and he found himself intrigued by the ‘new strain of kikaichu’ which allowed for this last minute miracle.

The child’s father had taken her out on his assigned duty, and no doubt he would bring her home when he was rotated back to the village, but on the chance that she finished treating his shinobi before then (or if it took too long and her father’s rotation came first), Hiruzen sent orders that both she and her father were to return to the village after she was done curing the infected.

If she survived to return, perhaps she could become an asset to the hospital and his shinobi forces. Lighting his pipe and taking a puff, Hiruzen decided that he would even direct Tsunade to the girl to see what his student could learn about the Aburame’s new kikaichu and get her opinion on the matter.

Ideally, perhaps Tsunade would even take the girl on as a student, if not an apprentice. What a boon it would be to have two great healers.


Duty

His daughter finished vetting the camp before noon the next day. Nara Reo declared that they would be moving on soon, an announcement which had Kaiya clinging to his trench coat. He could empathize as he wasn’t looking forward to parting with her either. Last night she had slept with him as usual since they left the village, and it had been so comforting to have her within reach again. They had followed their morning routine until she deviated, parting from him at Nara Reo’s call to return to the medical tent. Teijo had lingered close to the area, thankful that today’s assignment let him remain within the camp. If he had been assigned a patrol, Kaiya would have been gone before he’d had a chance to return.

Putting a hand on Kaiya’s head, he noted that she had once again forgone the ponytail she had favored until just recently. Perhaps that was just as well since her kikaichu would be able to move about in her hair more easily. Reluctantly, she looked up at him, likely suspecting what he was going to say.

Quietly, he told her that there were Konoha shinobi who needed the help that only she could give. She was not a kunoichi of the Leaf, not yet, but she was still an Aburame, a member of the Leaf, and she had her orders.

“You must, Kaiya.”

He did not want her to be branded as a traitor, or to have to watch her be carried away against her will. Better that she went willingly.

(better that she not feel that infecting her escorts with Blood or Decline is her only recourse to staying with him)

Nara and his team are waiting a less than twenty feet away from them, no doubt wondering how they will handle Kaiya if she refuses to go.

Teijo remembers her Shapers and wonders if there is anyone who could force her to do what she did not want to do. Yes, they could knock her out, but she would wake eventually. They could seal her chakra away and kill her kikaichu, but then what use would she be to the village? He cannot imagine that the village would easily toss her aside, not when persuasion might still work. Would someone take him hostage in order to coerce her into obedience?

His daughter hesitates a moment longer, but she releases her grip on him. Her voice is small when she speaks, quietly acquiescing.

“Yes, Father.”

Watching his daughter being hoisted onto Akimichi Youta’s back and then the four of them disappearing into the foliage of the forest, Teijo hoped that it would never come to trying to force Kaiya into doing anything. He’s note sure how well that would work, nor how Kaiya would handle him being held hostage.

He can’t imagine that it would end very well, if only due to Kaiya’s immaturity.

He has to teach her more, teach her better. Konoha is their home, where their clan lives, and after her display, even if it is against the wishes of the clan, Kaiya will no doubt be expected to become a kunoichi. As such, she will have a duty to perform. He has to educate her on what will be expected of her, what is expected of all shinobi and kunoichi.

Turning around, Teijo wondered just when Shibi-sama would receive the coded missive he’d sent with his insects regarding Kaiya. Not knowing where the young clan head was, Teijo had sent the message to the Aburame compound back in the village. Whenever Shibi-sama returned to the compound, the message would be delivered to him. Teijo only hoped that the clan head would be able to do something to keep Kaiya safe.


Apathy

It was a long journey between camps and outposts. From the last one to the next would be over seven hours, perhaps closer to eight depending on how their endurance lasted, and also on how many breaks the Aburame menace would need. Frowning slightly, Reo wondered if perhaps he was being to hard on the girl. Yeah, she took down his team, but she didn’t do it knowing who they were, that they were from the same village. If he treated her like an enemy, wouldn’t he only be being making her into one? He wouldn’t change his mind about trying to get surveillance put on her, but maybe he could ease up on the negativity towards her.

Mostly because he was finding it bothersome to maintain his anger towards her.

Sighing, he briefly eyed the girl on Youta’s back. She was so damn small. Children weren’t rare on the battlefield, unfortunately such was the reality of war, but kids her age were. According to Teijo, she’s only four, not even close to being five.

Thinking about it, with her new kikaichu, those things Teijo renamed as ‘Shapers’—an improvement over ‘fixers’ since shaping seems to be a more accurate description of what they can do—Kaiya would probably become lauded as a genius. She’s already demonstrated an impressive ability to direct them into doing exactly what she wants, and from what he’s seen so far, she’s definitely on par with a medic-nin that knows how to wield chakra, though that is the one area she’s lacking in. Yeah, once she gets a hold of how to wield chakra, Reo can see her becoming the next child-genius of Konoha.

…Great, now he pities her. That is not what he intended when he’d decided to let go of his anger.

He let out a small, tired sigh.

Whatever. Outside of this escort mission and getting surveillance on her, she’s not his concern.


Note

Kouki stood near Reo as they observed Aburame Kaiya as she drank from a canteen. The girl hadn’t moved far from Youta, and Kouki took that to mean the girl felt either safest or more comfortable near the Akimichi, perhaps even a mix of both. No doubt she had picked up on Reo’s earlier hostility, not to mention that he’d held her in his Shadow Paralysis Jutsu. Her kikaichu had been stirred up by that, so it was likely that the girl didn’t like being trapped or feeling trapped. If it weren’t for her clear attachment to her father, Kouki would be tempted to label her as a flight risk, not to mention a potential danger to Konoha. It was almost strange to think of this little girl as being dangerous, but this was the shinobi world, so it didn’t surprise him too much.

“There are Hyuuga stationed at the next camp,” Reo murmured.

“You think they might have an issue with the Aburame girl?”

Reo huffed. “Issue or not, if they’re infected, I doubt they’ll want to die in an explosion of blood.”

Kouki conceded the point with a short hum.

He made a mental note to ask a Hyuuga to observe Kaiya and her kikaichu as they worked on the upcoming set of patients.


Necessity

The patients at the next camp were worse off than the one you’d left behind, and you had a sinking feeling that this would be a pattern. After all, the longer the infected went without treatment, the more they bloated with blood and the closer they were to death. The Nara seemed to realize this as well as he was grim as you followed him towards this camp’s quarantined tent.

“Can you work faster, Aburame-chan?”

You were puffing slightly, trying your best to keep up with his long strides.

“I-I will do my best, Nara-san.”

The two of you entered the quarantined tent and paused at the sight of the swollen shinobi laid out within.

“Do that,” he said gravely, breaking your shocked stupor.

You frowned slightly behind your high collar, your hands already turning lilac as you prepared yourself for the immediate task before you.

“Right.”


Unobservable

There were infected Hyuuga, a pair from the Branch family, and a third who didn’t seem to be showing signs of having contracted either Blood or Decline, but Kouki would refrain from mentally marking the shinobi in question as ‘uninfected’ until after the little Aburame cleared him. The man in question was staring in the direction of the quarantined tent as Kouki approached him with his request. The Hyuuga was skeptical about the Aburame girl’s skill, but he did as requested and activated his Byakugan in order to see within the tent in the distance.

There were several long moments of silence before the Hyuuga shook his head.

“I can see that there are several kikaichu of varying sizes within and upon her, but these Shapers you’ve asked me to look at are too small to observe individually. Instead, I see them move as one shape, sliding down from her arms into the patient, but again, they move as one shape, albeit blurred at the edges.”

He stared at the tent for a while longer before deactivating his Byakugan to glance at him.

“Who is this girl?”

“Aburame Kaiya, daughter of Aburame Teijo,” Kouki replied.

And, as was decided back at the outpost, he refrained from informing the Hyuuga that she had been the one to create the very diseases that were afflicting their forces in the area. That information was being held close to their chests until they could safely inform the Hokage. Personally, Kouki was almost completely certain that that information would be an S-class secret and a technique the Hokage would be forbidding Kaiya to use.

After all, there are some things that men—and especially children—should not be allowed to know or do.


Exhaustion

Due to when you’d left the last camp, the team escorting you had arrived at the next camp in the evening. From there, you’d started working on the patients in the quarantined tent, keeping at it as your head slowly drooped until the world suddenly turned black.

It was only for a moment, as though you missed a step and fell, and then you jerked awake to find that an arm had caught you. Looking up, you saw that it was the Nara, and he was frowning.

“Alright, kid, that’s enough for now. Call back your kikaichu. It’s time to rest.”

Sleep was heavy on your eyelids, so you didn’t protest. With a mental command, your fixers started retreating from your most recent patient, a kunoichi who was in one of the middle stages of Blood. She tried to protest, but Nara kept hold on you, so you continued pulling your kikaichu back. Soon they were all back and you let them sink down into you so that your skin was no longer lilac-colored.

Nara picked you up, and you were asleep before he even left the tent.


Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers.

~Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Chapter Text

The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.

~Henry Green


Soldiers

When you wake up, it’s daylight, but you’re still tired. Your chakra levels are normal, but your head and limbs are heavier than usual this morning. How late were you up last night? Is this tiredness because of the traveling you did? But you didn’t really do anything strenuous on the way here, so is that really a contributing factor to how you feel right now? You don’t know for sure, but as long as you have chakra you are probably considered fit for duty.

Your partially open eyes close as you try to digest that last thought.

The person you can’t remember being is railing against the very idea of what has been imposed upon you. Apparently the fact that a child, especially one as small as yourself, is expected to adhere to ‘duty’ in a warzone is ‘wrong’. You have a vague recollection of passing one of your Aburame cousins with a pack on their back, a kid who didn’t even look twelve with a Leaf headband on their forehead, and this image evokes a phrase from your unwanted past memories: ‘child soldier’.

Wincing, you curl up slightly as your old memories strike you with a quick deluge of images. You see instances of children, so many you couldn’t count them all, playing in parks, walking in grey streets with smiles on their faces, colorful packs on their backs, cheering for strange people in brightly colored clothing, sitting in a room with desks, eating from bento boxes, laughing and carefree.

(a small boy with green hair and a blurred face, crying, laughing, mouth moving excitedly about something, always looking at you)

Tears drip down the side of your face and over the bridge of your nose as a realization sinks into you, crashing into the ‘normal’ you learned in four years from Mother, Father and the clan.

Children are not supposed to go war.

But that’s not true here, is it?


Withheld

You let yourself cry quietly for a few minutes before wiping your tears away. Peering through squinted eyes, you spot your sunglasses nearby and pick them up, sitting up before you don them. The tent is nearly empty, though a couple of the farthest sleeping mats are occupied. Getting up off the sleeping mat, you proceed to do your morning routine and after a meager breakfast you take the initiative to head to the medical tent.

Nara comes out of nowhere as you enter the tent, coming in just a couple feet behind you. His unexpected greeting nearly startles you into stumbling but aside from a small jolt and a half-hearted glare at him, you manage to stay on your feet.

You finish the Blood patients before noon and after a quick, unpleasant meal of a ration bar, you once again find yourself vetting a line of shinobi and kunoichi. They are a mix of personalities, and you’re not sure if you prefer the quiet ones or the livelier ones. This camp is heavily infected, and you even find two poor saps who have both Blood and Decline. Whether wrong or right, you decide not to mention it and only inform them that they had the beginning of Blood, which they no longer did after your treatment.

Nara and his team are the last in line, which surprises you. Nara explains that if someone isn’t immune, then it was possible that a contagious disease could take root in them a second time.

Numbly, you nod and look them over, internally frantic as you decide to keep to yourself the fact that you’d made everyone you ever treated immune.


Scrutinize

Night had fully fallen as Reo lead his team to the next camp. The Aburame girl had already fallen asleep and lost her grip on Youta, prompting Reo to catch her before she could fall completely off his friend’s back. Now she was cradled in one of Youta’s arms as they continued making their way through the forest.

Reo is trying not to resent the kid or treat her with suspicion, but he read the report from Amano.

Where was the orange and black kikaichu that reportedly had the cure to Blood? Why hadn’t she brought it out since her time with Amano?

If her Shapers can bypass the kikaichu that specifically holds a cure, then wasn’t it possible that those same Shapers could bypass the kikaichu that ‘held’ the disease?

Reo suspected that her Shapers created the disease and that she later created both the disease-carriers and the cure-carriers after the fact. It seems like the most likely scenario given that she hasn’t pulled them out again. Kaiya herself did not seem to remember that she had the orange and black kikaichu. Thus far she had stuck to the Shapers, her ‘fixer’s, so she’s not as clever as she tried to make herself out to be. But why? Why would so do that in the first place if she was only going to forget to maintain the façade?

Is she hiding her abilities on purpose? If so, for what reason?

Reo scowled as he saw the top of her head from over Youta’s shoulder.

The scowl lessened as he realized just how young she was. Back at the clan compound, Reo had several younger cousins, a few of them Kaiya’s age. When a child does something bad, it is not unusual that they would want to cover up their mistake. Perhaps that is all Kaiya was trying to do.

But he can’t be soft on her. Everything she does, he’s going to report.

That’s his duty as a shinobi of the Leaf, and his responsibility to the clan members who would be vulnerable to the terrible things Kaiya could create or do.


Wish

This time, it takes longer to get to the next camp. The men had traveled through the night while you’d slept, and during the stop for you to eat and do your business, Nara said that you wouldn’t reach the next place until almost noon. It’s almost surprising just how far Blood and Decline have spread, but your past memories toss the word ‘intercontinental’ at you which takes some time to parse.

Apparently past-you is telling you that this is a slow-spread of the two diseases, that in your life before you could have inflicted Blood and Decline on separate landmasses even with oceans between them. Trying to imagine that makes your head hurt so you stuff that thought in the back of your mind as you climb onto Youta’s back.

Your past world was a strange and confusing place, but you also know that it wasn’t all bad. There were good things about it too.

(smiling faces with blurred features, food available for sale everywhere, communication across great distances, peace)

It’s just… you get the feeling that you weren’t happy there.

Not truly, not after Mom and Dad died.

Even with the unpleasant truth of child soldiers here, was it possible that you could be happier in this life as Aburame Kaiya?

You want to think that it’s possible.

Yes.

You’d like it if you could at least be happy here.


Ambushed

The kunai that stabs into Reo’s arm comes out from nowhere and the next thing he knows he and his team are surrounded by Iwa-nin. When they demand the girl, a ball of ice forms in the pit of his stomach.

How do they already know about Kaiya?

They are outnumbered, not counting Kaiya, eight against three.

The situation is dire, and Reo suspects that not all of them will get out of this alive. They can’t lose Kaiya. Her kikaichu are the only treatment for the diseases she made. Without her, shinobi will die and the Land of Fire might be in danger, because who knows if any infected shinobi passed through a populated area.

So they fight.


Death

You see Nara and his teammates die.

They fought together at first, but then Nara was ganged up on four to one and stabbed to death. Yamanaka was distraught and beheaded mid-scream. Akimichi had tried to run away with you, but something cut his ankles out from under him. You were ripped from his back before he hit the ground, and someone stabbed him through the back of his neck before he could even turn to look.

If it wasn’t for you, they needn’t have died here.


Monster

During the short and intense battle between Nara’s team and the Iwa-nin, you manage to scatter your imposter-ladybugs, directing them to latch onto each of the surviving Iwa-nin. Caught under the arm of a large man with your own arms pinned, you are squeezed painfully in response to your wriggles. You whine and stop struggling, only for an Iwa kunoichi to grab your chin and lift your face to hers.

“I always wanted to see what the Aburame fuckers were hiding behind their damn sunglasses.”

Saying this, she roughly plucked them from your face but your eyes had already closed before she’d finished speaking. As she harshly slaps your face, you sense from the male ladybug-kikaichu beneath your pants leg confirmation that eight females have landed on the five surviving Iwa-nin.

Nara and his teammates have been dead for almost two minutes, so you waste no time sending the order to sting and sting repeatedly.

The arm holding you tightens its grip painfully, jolting you against a firm body as the Iwa-nin drop to their knees. Two scream and the rest make choking noises, but even those fade away as your imposter-ladybugs keep stinging them. More imposter-ladybugs fly out from under your clothing and swarm the Iwa-nin, stinging wherever they find flesh.

A vicious thought from you sends your kikaichu for their faces.

Your face smashes against the ground as your captor fully collapses, sending a burst of pain through your head. Pain has locked the man’s muscles, so you are trapped as you frantically send out your regular kikaichu to form a chain between your hand and his exposed arm. Once the link is formed, you ‘see’ his body and you take vicious glee in the pain he’s suffering. Then, quickly, you loosen his grip and wriggle free, shedding tears as your broken nose throbbed painfully.

Warm blood dripped down your face and over your bruised mouth as you picked up your fallen sunglasses and put them back on. Tears leaked down your face as your mental count reached four minutes. Parting your lips slightly so as not to attempt breathing through your broken nose, you knelt down and pressed your hands against the grass, calling up your Quirk.

Ignoring the kunoichi who had fallen just so that she had a view of you, you melted the grass and reformed it into four writhing, fleshy whips. Standing up and walking a few feet in one direction, the vines whipped out, latching onto Nara, Yamanaka’s body and head, and Akimichi. With Nara and Akimichi, you forced their bodies to breathe, and their hearts started pumping blood and oxygen. Hauling Yamanaka’s head over to his body, you reattached it to his neck before giving him the same treatment. ‘Looking’ at them, they weren’t ‘alive’, but with this their brains wouldn’t suffocate and die.

(the Aburame monster turned its head and she saw those damned sunglasses reflecting the glare of sunlight, two glowing circles set in a bloodied face

it didn’t speak as it knelt, and as yet more fleshy vines formed from the grass to writhe towards them, she wished this pain would kill them before they could touch them )

Hm. The kunoichi’s brain is screaming ‘scared’. You might even go as far as to classify it as ‘terrified’.

Whatever. She hit you, so you’re just going to let her slowly die like most of her companions. One lucky of these five will be relieved of their pain, though not so lucky in that past-you has been let out of her box so that you can figure out how to make them talk.

It’s almost scary how easy it’s going to be.

(she pulls over Katashi with a fleshy vine and to her horror he truthfully answers the monster’s slurred and nasal questions, questions on chakra control and if it was possible to transfer chakra to someone else

her heart wanted to give out as Katashi replied and then pointed at her)

Damn. Alright, so the bitch who hit you had the skill you needed. Fine.

The imposter ladybugs had returned to you and you had replenished them. Making the male Iwa-nin walk a few feet away, you sent them to sting him again, face, hands and feet. Letting him fall, you tugged over the kunoichi, ordering her feet to move against her will. Bringing her to stop a couple feet away, you saw that she was sweaty and wide-eyed, slumped because she did not have control of her own body.

If you thought it wouldn’t hurt, you’d have tried smiling. As it was, with your nose hurting badly, you simply adjusted her through the whip connected to her. You ‘watched’ as her brain and body chemistry changed until she was happy and completely besotted meat puppet. You asked her to transfer chakra into Nara, Yamanaka and Akimichi.

Her responding smile was blindingly radiant.

Stomach churning as you shoved your past memories back into a box, you called up your fixers—Shapers—to cover you from head to toe and formed yet more along the whole of the vines so that everything except the people were lilac colored. You winced as you felt the uncountable numbers of microscopic kikaichu eat from your chakra, so you forced them to eat from your captives instead.

Finally, you moved her over to Nara and watched with interested eyes as her hands glowed green. Relinquishing enough control so that she had limited arm movement, the Iwa kunoichi placed her hands upon Nara’s chest and you ‘saw’ the chakra carefully maneuvered into him.

Then, like a candle flame being lit, the chakra glowed in Nara’s heart, and in that instant, something changed within his brain. Keeping him unconscious, you felt something tight in your chest loosen just a bit.

Nara Reo was alive again.


Beware the dark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb.

~Sue Grafton, I is for Innocent

Chapter Text

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...when first we practice to deceive.

~Walter Scott, Marmion


Plan

Standing god knows where in the middle of a forest, you found yourself with three unconscious Konoha shinobi, your escorts, and five Iwa-nin—oops, make that four Iwa-nin. Keeping the flesh whip on the now dead Iwa-nin for now, you pondered your situation with perhaps more than a little panic.

All three of your escorts had died, but now they were alive again, and how in the world were you supposed to explain that?

Crouching down with your head in your hands, you held back a cry of despair at your own thoughtlessness. Stuff like this is exactly the opposite of what you wanted! You didn’t want to stick out more than you already had, but this was a whole new level. What were you thinking?

You weren’t! You saw your escorts die, felt guilty, then did everything in your power to make sure they didn’t go full brain-dead, and with the reintroduction of chakra into their so-called chakra network, they’d been resurrected.

Vague memories tell you that this isn’t unusual, not when they haven’t been dead for five minutes. It’d been probably too close for comfort before you got their blood pumping again with all its life-necessary oxygen, but you weren’t close enough to any of the three to care if they were brain damaged. All you wanted was for them to not be dead and they weren’t and you have no idea how you’re supposed to let them wake up again and not get hauled straight back to the village for interrogation or chained to the hospital or thrown into a prison so you can be available for the village’s use.

Okay, maybe none of that stuff will happen, but your memories from your past life aren’t helping. They’re rattling in their box, thundering that you’re in danger, and you can’t help but believe that.

You shake the four Iwa-nin and wetly yell at them.

“How do I fix this? How do I make them think they didn’t die?”

Of course, given your broken nose, it doesn’t come out as cleanly as that, but they grasp your meaning. None of them have the ability to turn and look at you, but the kunoichi is still altered, so she’s the one who figuratively jumps to answer your question. She tells you about genjutsu, how its effects weren’t real, and how they were sensory illusions experienced by those who fell victim to it. Conceivably, it was possible that the three shinobi could have fallen under one and only thought they died.

It’s all you have to go on, so you move Nara, Yamanaka and Akimichi to roughly where they’d started the battle. Then, with the help of your past life’s memories, you altered their brain chemistry just enough that they would experience a bout of short-term memory loss. Setting them down so that they were slightly sprawled out, you knew that all that was left was to send them the message to wake up, but you held off because you still had the Iwa-nin to deal with.

Nara and his team had managed to kill three of the original eight-member party, and one had finally died from the box jellyfish venom, but that still left you with four live ones. How do you make their deaths seem natural for what your perceived current abilities are?

You blink as one of the imposter ladybugs crawls across your forehead.

Ah, of course. A little induced pain that matches a blow to the head, recall your Shapers, adjust their bodies, and a couple more things…


Uncaring

Even though you are a child of shinobi, you are only four years old. Currently, you are not even half way to five. It should bother you that you killed five people today, four of which were with your own hands.

That kunoichi smiled at you as she waited on her knees. That same smile barely faltered when you stabbed the kunai into the side of her neck and pulled, cutting a large gash that gushed blood. While her body was still warm, you’d had to reach down and manipulate that smile off her face.

The others you killed in a similar manner, though you had stopped their hearts and let them fall randomly, sprawling on the ground. Intellectually, you know that the human body holds a lot of blood, but it’s another to see it waste for nothing with your own eyes.

As for the one who died before the rest, you left him as he was. Box jellyfish venom can be lethal, so it wasn’t strange to you that he’d died of it.

Those five were dead because of you. You killed them willfully, using them to achieve your own agenda.

And yet none of that crossed your mind in the slightest.

An incident happened, you resolved it, end of story.

There is nothing to agonize about in killing someone who made themselves your enemy.

(you’d done worse in a life before, desensitized and apathetic if it wasn’t someone you cared about or sympathized with

current you tries to keep the memories locked away, but one thing is true for everyone:

you can’t run away from yourself)


Discovery

Nara Reo clawed his way back to consciousness, groggy and unsure of what happened. The side of his head throbbed and he wondered why. Why was he regaining consciousness when the last thing he can clearly remember is running through the trees with his teammates and the Aburame girl?

“Nara-san? Nara-san!”

Speak of the devil. The Aburame girl is calling him, and now he can feel her shaking him.

Groaning in protest, he cracked open his eyelids to see a close up of the ground. He’s on his front, and Kaiya is shaking his back.

“Nara-san!”

He jerks onto his side, half-pushing himself up as a surge of terror flashed through him. Where was he, where were Kouki and Youta, and what happened?!

He can see Kaiya and Youta in his current field of vision, as well as several fallen bodies that definitely aren’t Kouki or anyone else he knows. He gives the girl a second look because her nose is clearly broken, but when did that happen? Glaring warily, Reo sat up fully and glanced around for Kouki. His other friend was less than five feet behind him. He was breathing, as was Youta, so that was one weight off his chest. Their mission objective, the Aburame girl, was alive as well, so that was one more weight off his chest too.

Noticing something, Reo paused and stared at the bloodied kunai lying in the grass next to Kaiya. Looking at the girl again, he noted her fake ladybugs were crawling over the outside of her coat.

Extrapolating from the scene around him, Reo sighed and put a hand on her head.

“You managed to stay alive and saved us, didn’t you?”

She clenched her red hands into her pants. “You and Yamanaka-san and Akimichi-san killed three of them. If it wasn’t for the fight, I think they would have noticed my imposter ladybugs before I could use them.”

Yeah, well, maybe. After all, when an Aburame is around, one should be wary of nearby insects, even if they aren’t kikaichu. But, on the other hand, even though the Aburame are known, it can be surprising how little even people from Konoha pay attention to insects. That can be a downfall, and it might have worked out even without his team to distract the enemy while Kaiya spread out her potent kikaichu.

Her voice faltered. “I… it was scary, and I closed my eyes. Then you all stopped moving and I was even more scared. I heard thumps, and Akimichi-san fell. Someone grabbed me, pulled me away.”

She paled and continued her tale.

“They said they were going to kill you all. I told my kikaichu to sting everyone who wasn’t us. I told them to keep stinging. They made noise, and soon I heard them falling down. He fell down too, the one who had me.” She reached up towards her face but didn’t touch. “I got hurt.”

She lowered her hand and shifted to look over at the dead Iwa-nin. She was quiet as Kouki shifted, waking from unconsciousness, and Youta was just seconds behind him.

Reo can guess what happened from there. She got free and then as far as she knew, she was alone. He and his teammates were down and out, but the Iwa-nin would have still been alive. The venom of her fake ladybugs is something he knows well. It might have killed them, but only after some time, and during that time they might move and hurt her.

So she took a kunai from somewhere and bloodied her hands. Using her Shapers to stop their hearts probably didn’t even occur to her if that’s the route she took.

Kouki asked, “What the hell happened?”

Reo watched as Kaiya’s hands turned lilac and the blood either disappeared or flaked off, leaving her hands clean. Giving his friends a quick run down of what happened (what he thought happened), Reo finished by telling them they should go.

“But first, Aburame-chan, you should fix your nose.”

She stared at him as though he’d spoken another language.

Grumbling, he waved at her. “You know, your Shapers and your broken nose. Fix it.”

Her head slowly cocked to the side as though he was still speaking in a foreign language.

“Fix… myself?”

She sounded honestly mystified, as though such a thing had never occurred to her before.

His frown deepened. “You should be able to, shouldn’t you? They’re shapers, you know? Come on, kid. If you can reshape someone’s organs so they’re not half-melted goo, then surely you can fix an itty-bitty broken nose.”

She lifted her hands and stared down at them, bafflement all but radiating from her. As they watched, she shuddered. Her fingers shivered and changed color as she slowly reached up towards her face. She was pale and sweating, breathing hard before her hands even touched her face.

Why was she so terrified of her own kikaichu? This is her ability. There’s no reason she should be afraid and yet she is.

Her hands dropped down and he opened his mouth to speak but paused as he saw lilac blooming through the blood on her face. She clenched her hands into her pants and continued sweating as the spread of lilac stopped around the damaged area.

At first, nothing seemed to be happening, but just as Kouki started something, Kaiya slowly leaned forward as her body grew tense. A high-pitched sound wheezed from her mouth and her hands went from her pants to the ground. Grass tore as her hands clenched and twisted slightly. Her hair fell over her face, hiding it partially from view, but even with the cover of her hair, sunglasses and high collar, not one of them could deny what they were seeing.

Aburame Kaiya was in agony.


Immune

You more than anyone know that you’ve been cheating from the start. Ever since your Quirk came back (dragging unwanted memories with it), you’ve been able to do things no one else could easily replicate. When it comes to your so-named ‘Shapers’, you’ve been using your Quirk to help them along.

Rearranging cells is not a painless process. Reshaping blood, bone and flesh is supposed to be painful.

All along you’ve been numbing your patients, automatically inhibiting their pain receptors so that your kikaichu could work without causing them to spasm or attack you in pain. The box with your past life’s memories is quiet as your mind fills with a tormented scream that is locked in your throat. The Shapers falter for a second but keep going. The rest of your kikaichu buzz in agitation as pain pulsates in the middle of your face. Tears squeeze out from your eyes as you stop breathing.

You can use your kikaichu on yourself, but the biggest weakness of your Quirk is still in play.

(you have never been able to use it on yourself)


Alleviated

None of them make a move to touch her, not with the way the deadly ladybugs are scuttling all over her. As the minute stretches out, though, and Kaiya keeps doing that soundless screaming, Youta can admit that he’s tempted. The girl is in pain, so much that it’s taken her breath away, and not in a good sense at all. As the one-minute mark passes, Kaiya suddenly pulls back up with a deep and shuddering gasp. Before she rocks back forward, Youta clearly sees the line of drool that hangs from her mouth, but he also sees an improvement in the condition of her nose.

“Enough! Aburame-chan, enough!” Reo shouts, glaring worriedly at her. “Knock it off! Kouki can finish it off.”

Kaiya is hunched forward, clutching the grass once again as her chest heaves with deep breaths. It takes a moment before she pushes herself up to face Kouki who has moved to knee in front of her. She sniffles and winces from the motion, but doesn’t look away as his friend’s hands glow and reach out to her.

Her small arms shake for a few seconds before relief crosses her face. Or at least, she stops shaking and her furrowed brow smooths out. When Kouki pulls away, she definitely lets out a sigh of relief.

No one says anything before she’s put on his back and they set out again, but Youta knows he isn’t the only one to note that her kikaichu caused her pain when they did in no one else.

Why was that?


Impatient

After the events earlier, you feel exhausted. Your mind has gone from whirling to sluggish, and you can’t even bring yourself to be paranoid. All you want is to close your eyes and rest, but Akimichi needs his hands free in case another attack comes. Traveling while on his back used to be nothing, but right now the leaping is making your nauseous.

It seems like forever before they land at the edge of a clearing, but you don’t wait to see why they stopped. Urgently, you wriggled and slid off Akimichi’s back, turned and only made it a couple steps before you bent over and puked a mix of bile and partially digested ration bars.

You are in no shape to use the Shapers, but you are carried off to the quarantined medical tent anyway. It reeks and you hate it, but even through blurry vision you can see that these patients are in critical conditions. The head medic-nin of this camp is frustrated and irate, loudly complaining about the mess and how he’s got more shinobi with a serious bout of forgetfulness and clumsiness who are increasingly becoming a danger to themselves.

You groan, slouching where you stand, but you call forth the cure carriers. You haven’t pulled them out in ages and you’re stupid for forgetting why you made them in the first place, but they will serve adequately right now. When you ask for sterile glass tubes, the medic-nin delays obeying in order to ask questions, snapping the last bit of patience you had.

“Just do it!”

You regret the snarl as the jolt of action you made in directing a glare at the man made your stomach revolt. Are you dying from stress or something? No, you’re probably just done with everyone’s shit.

…where in the world did you get an expression like that?

Growling, you realize that your past memories can never be completely locked away.

Sighing, you find yourself slightly grateful for Nara as he gets the medic-nin off your back. The man fetches the items as you have your carriers deposit what ‘venom’ they have stored up. You point out which is which before sullenly trudging over to the Blood victims, skin changing color as you summoned the Shapers.

You did the bare minimum to keep the patients from dying from failed organs and pushed the blood explosions back by an undetermined time. The disease Blood was inert in them now, so all they were in danger from now was multiple organ failure. Completely curing them and fixing their organs would have to wait for now.

Finish the last patch job, you called back your Shapers and dispassionately spoke up.

“I’m going to sleep now.” You turned and glared at Nara and the medic-nin. “God will not help you if you get in my way.”

Reo snorted. “No need for that, Aburame-chan.” He smirked without humor. “Can you make it, or do you need someone to carry you?”

You don’t have the energy to be insulted or aggravated. Instead, you merely lift your arms up towards him, an action he doesn’t seem to have expected as it takes him a while to react. Rubbing the back of his neck and muttering under his breath, he then stepped forward to pick you up.

This time, you remain awake for the whole journey from the quarantined tent to where you’ll be sleeping.

You’re grateful that Nara ignores the medic-nin’s protests about both of you leaving the tent, because you think you’d sic your imposter ladybugs on him and anyone who got between you and bed.

Or at least, that’s what you think, but you refrain when Akimichi insists you eat something. Yamanaka also gets a pass because he brought you the water to wash your face, something he insisted would help you feel better. You keep your eyes closed through the whole process and keep them closed after drying your face. You stumble over to the sleeping mat, directed by Nara’s voice until you nearly trip over it.

All but collapsing down on it, you wonder why you’re so tried. Exhaustion from a harrowing event is one thing, but this feeling right now? Why?

(children are young when Quirks manifest

even if you know how to use it, you are still only a child and there are drawbacks to every Quirk)


Suspicious

Reo watched Kaiya until he was certain she was sleeping and not just faking it. Holding her sunglasses in his hand, he stared down at them.

“Something isn’t right about today.”

Kouki agreed. “You too, huh?”

Youta’s voice was solemn. “I don’t think any of those Iwa-nin were particularly known at all, much less as someone proficient with genjutsu.”

“Agreed,” Reo said, turning his gaze on the sleeping girl. “But what is it that is wrong about what happened? I don’t remember the enemy arriving, or the fight she claims we fought.”

Kouki grumbled slightly. “I felt pain consistent to a blow on the head which fits with the story she gave us, but… something just doesn’t seem true about the things she claimed happened.”

Youta spoke in a quiet tone. “I thought we died.”

Kouki waved his hand. “A genjutsu.”

Reo disagreed. “A genjutsu we aren’t sure those Iwa-nin were capable of performing. We aren’t Uchiha, but we’re not slouches at noticing when one’s been put on us.”

They continued discussing the issue before coming to an agreement: they were all missing part of the day’s events. Memories were missing.

Staring hard at Kaiya, Reo wondered if that too was something within the abilities of her Shapers.

If she could fix the ones afflicted with Decline, then who is to say that she couldn’t do the reverse, harming the brain instead of helping it?

Grimly, he decided that he was very interested in how she’d deal with the shinobi who were highly affected by Decline. If she could reverse that much damage, then that would put her right back under his suspicion.


Humans are suspicious and jealous creatures. When they see something perfect, they want to find a flaw.

~Gosho Aoyama, Meitantei Konan

Chapter Text

We are free to choose our paths, but we can't choose the consequences that come with them.

~Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens


Unconscious

When morning comes and the sun starts rising higher into the sky, Reo expects Kaiya to wake and go through her little morning routine before heading over to the medical tent. The three of them have always risen before her, and today is the same. Youta watches over her but when both he and Kaiya fail to emerge in a timely manner, Reo and Kouki head back.

They find Youta staring at a sleeping Kaiya, concern written on his face. He glances over at them as they arrive and gestures to the girl.

“She won’t wake up.”

Reo is instantly more alert. “What do you mean?”

Youta gestured at her again. “When it started getting late, I tried to rouse her by speaking up. When that failed, I gently shook her shoulder, then more insistently when she wouldn’t wake. I even sprinkled some water on her face. Nothing worked.”

Kouki glanced at him and went over to her when he nodded. Kneeling, Kouki’s hands glowed green as he checked on her health. He soon pulled his hands back and shook his head.

“I can’t see anything wrong with her.”

Reo went over and tapped the side of her face, telling her to get up. She didn’t so much as sigh or flutter her eyelids.

He ends up taking her to the quarantined medical tent because that’s where the head medic-nin has been confined. He doesn’t waste time telling Reo that he told them so, but he takes a look at the girl anyway. It’s a few tense moments as Reo waits for the diagnosis, but when the medic-nin looks back at him, he’s not prepared. The man is grim.

“As far as I can tell, she’s in a coma.”

He doesn’t know why, and even after Reo fills him in on what happened to them en route to here, there doesn’t seem to be a cause for Kaiya’s current state. The medic-nin doesn’t know when or if Kaiya will wake up at all. Even her insects are less active, barely buzzing when Kaiya was shaken and then carried.

Leaving Kaiya in the medic-nin’s hands, Reo leaves the tent to deliver the bad news to his teammates. They brainstorm but can’t figure out what might have sent Kaiya into a coma. They suspect the time period that they are all missing, but since they have no memory of it, they can’t pinpoint any cause. All they can do is send out a message to the Hokage, Amano, and Youta reminds him that Kaiya has a father.

After that, all they can do is wait and hope.

(using another squad, Shin sends the kikaichu venom to the next camp with instructions on which is which, and he can only hope that it will help prolong the lives of the infected, perhaps even cure them as the Aburame girl said they would, but there’s no guarantee)


News

The message reaches Teijo before either Amano or the Hokage. He burns the message after reading it and secludes himself away more than usual, or at least as much as he can, being confined to camp as per protocol.

Standing in the forest just a couple dozen feet away from the edge of camp, Teijo stares at the forest with his hands in his large pockets. His kikaichu scuttle over his hands, a comforting sensation he barely registers.

His only daughter is in a coma for reasons unknown, and neither is it known when she will wake up.

He wants to leave, to go to her side, but he can’t. Or rather, he could, but duty demands that he remains at his post.

Again, he wishes that he’d just left Kaiya back in the village. Even if she hadn’t been particularly well looked after, at least neglect and possibly going hungry at times would have been better than all she had endured since the first night raid in the last camp.

Holding back a heavy sigh, Teijo pulled his kikaichu back and pulled out a tiny scroll on which he wrote an update to Shibi-sama. It wasn’t long before a small swarm of his kikaichu took it and disappeared in the direction of Konoha.

He remained standing there for quite a long while, thinking of his only child.


Awake

When you wake up, it feels stuffy, and there’s a heavy tang of iron in the air. Groaning from how stiff you feel, you blindly reach out in search of your sunglasses. When you can’t find them, you squint your eyes open to look around, and you’re unpleasantly surprised to find yourself in the quarantined medical tent. Giving up, you flop back down and grunt from how firm the matt is.

The noise attracts someone’s attention, and soon you find yourself groggily answering questions from the head medic-nin, whose name you finally learn is Shin. It feels a little silly not to have learned that earlier, especially since it was so easy to remember. The slight humor you find in the situation quickly dissipates though, when he asks you to open your eyes.

You scowl and only do so reluctantly since you don’t like strangers being able to stare into your eyes. Thankfully his examination of them doesn’t take long and you gratefully shut them again. As far as Shin can tell, you seem perfectly fine. You ask him what happened.

(your old memories don’t contradict him)

Satisfied that you’re fine, he leaves to have Reo informed of your awakening. You sit there mystified by why you’d gone into a coma. Also, why was it called a coma if you were asleep for just two days?

It isn’t long before Reo arrives, and he hands over your sunglasses. Donning them, you open your eyes to look at him. He looks the same as usual, but maybe his posture seems relieved that you’re awake? You’re not sure, but you assume he is, if only because you can get back to healing people.

You ask if anyone died while you were out, and he shakes his head. You’re pleased that your stopgap treatment has worked.

(and so, so relieved that you woke up before the other Three carriers crawled out of your skin to inflict their payloads on the camp)


Distraction

It takes a few hours before Reo and Shin will let you get back to the original mission. They don’t want you to knock yourself back into a coma while you just want to get this mission over with so you can get back to Father. They only relent after you do your business, give yourself a full body wash and eat a full meal. You feel much better and more human after that, so you suppose their reluctance did have some use. Still, you’re glad to be back on task.

(glad to not have to think about how you lost two days, almost two and a half, glad to not have to think about how scared you are of your own weakness because anything could have happened while you slept and you would have been completely helpless)


Lasting

You don’t get to work yourself too hard, much to your annoyance. You have to take breaks and while normally you’d be glad to have them, they just irritate you right now because every break is more time before you can see Father again. You are anxious about it because the war didn’t end while you were in a coma. It’s still raging, and you want to be close to him. He isn’t a legend, but there’s just something about being closer to Father that makes you feel better, safer almost.

Sulking in the shade of a tent with the Yamanaka sitting nearby (you’re rarely alone anymore, just another reason why you don’t like these breaks), you stare at the imposter ladybugs scuttling over your hands and fingers. Maybe you’re being a little petty, but it amuses you that both Nara and Yamanaka look as if they’d like to be further away from them.

You like Akimichi a little more because he doesn’t twitch when they come into view.

According to Nara, he’d sent messages to the Hokage, Amano and your father about your coma state, so naturally he’d had to send out updates that you’d woken up. You hope that Father wouldn’t be too alarmed about the news since you don’t want him to worry about you, and you hope he gets the update on your condition soon.

After all, if you were a mother—

(R E S E N T M E N T)

You freeze, air sucked from your lungs by a heavy wave of emotion at the thought of motherhood.

Of course, Yamanaka notices instantly and is front of you within a second.

“Aburame-chan, what’s wrong?”

You twitch and inhale a deep breath. Trembling slightly, you lifted your gaze to his face. Quietly, you spoke of a sudden realization.

“I don’t think I’m going to be a mother when I grow up.”

(he wonders if she’d even be given the option)


Annoyed

Even with the breaks imposed upon her, Kaiya has made great progress in handling the camp. She grumbles when Shin makes her stop for the night not long after the sun goes down. Leaving the tent, Reo can hear her muttering about efficiency and generally complaining about how they’re treating her. Truthfully, he thinks she ought to be grateful, but then she says ‘Father’ and he realizes that she just wants to go back to him. Well, even though he can sympathize a little, Reo still thinks she ought to suck it up and not complain. They could be treating her a lot worse—

He scowled as he thought about how she might react to being treated ‘worse’. Yeah, that’s not a scenario he wants to be part of, thanks. The fake ladybugs, Blood and Decline were bad enough, but if she threw a temper tantrum before she could be knocked out? Shinobi aren’t slow, but they still don’t know her full capabilities. Who knows what this little monster could do with her Shapers.

…Ah, there he goes again, thinking of her like that. He doesn’t think it’s untrue, but yeah, maybe he’s being a little unfair. She’s just a kid with separation issues.

…Yeah, no, that just won’t stick in his mind, especially not after seeing those five Iwa-nin dead on the ground. Those five were clearly older, not to mention stronger, and yet they’d been brought down by a girl who’d have a hard time coming up to the waist of even the kunoichi who’d been among the dead.

Kaiya needs watching, and Konoha needs more anti-bug measures.

Reo slouched further and knitted his eyebrows in annoyance as he realized that implementing more anti-bug measures probably wouldn’t sit well with the Aburame clan and they were one of the four noble clans.

Sighing, Reo pinched the bridge of his nose and wished it’d been someone else who had to escort her around.


Unpleasantness

Later, with Kaiya asleep, they went over the day. One of the more interesting points came from Kouki when he informed them that Kaiya had said there was a possibility she wouldn’t reproduce when she was older. Reo frowned and saw Youta do the same. The village wasn’t in the habit of forcing people to reproduce, but they suspected that new Bloodline holders would be expected to. Then again, Kaiya was from an established clan that dealt with insects, so she might not be expected to have kids if she didn’t want them, or at least Reo didn’t think so, but if her Shapers were genetic…

He scratched the back of his head and decided that he was glad that this wasn’t something any of them would have to deal with. It wasn’t their business, so they’d just keep out of it.

And besides, Kaiya was just a kid. If she survived the war, she’d have time enough to change her mind.

Reo firmly didn’t think about how there wasn’t peace, just periods between wars, and he also didn’t think of how much Konoha would probably want more Aburame like her to spread around. He didn’t think about how her Shapers could change the tide of war, and he didn’t think about a small crowd of half-sibling Aburame with Shapers who were conditioned to be loyal to the village.

Nope, he didn’t think about it at all.

(the girl would probably kill them all, and even if she didn’t, he wouldn’t wish the fate of being a breeding stock on anyone)


Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.

~J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret

Chapter Text

For a moment I felt joyful, and then I felt completely exhausted.

~Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation


Fleeting

(you dream)

You walk upon a flat road in an area devoid of other humans. As you pass buildings made of smooth stone and glass, there is a sense of familiarity to it all. You’re been here many times, haven’t you? Yes, that’s what it feels like, but you can’t remember what this place is called. You stop at a crossroad and look down every turn, including the one you’ve just come from.

Your heartbeat quickens as you look back in a specific direction, and your legs start moving as you respond to a call that feels like ‘home’. There is no sound as you walk, no wind, no heat from the daylight. You know where you’re going now, and soon enough you come to a stop before an opening in a smooth stone wall. Beyond it are several identical buildings, and there are numbers on each.

You live here. You live here with-

You run, finding the stairwell and rushing up them. Coming to the floor that feels right, you stop climbing the stairs and instead rush down to the door that is calling to you. Reaching for the doorknob, you realize that you are still the size of Kaiya, yet you’ve never been here as Kaiya. Your heart freezes for a second before you grasp the doorknob anyway and turn it, opening the door so that you can enter.

An almost-smell washes over you and this place feels warm. You call out but there is no answer. Walking further inside, you see doors and then a kitchen area with an eating area and not far from that is an area you instinctively know is for relaxing. Couches face a strangely thin television, but you’re not sure how you know that it’s a ‘television’. Dismissing it, you walk yet further inside and find a room for washing and a bedroom.

The ones you were expecting aren’t here.

Crushed, you wander back to the front of the apartment and try the doors you passed. You find a closet and another bedroom you instantly know is yours. You can’t make out any distinct details, but you know that is a bed, a rug, and a desk where you know you’ve spent time studying. There are decorations you can’t see properly, but everything here is yours.

There is a large mirror hanging on the wall, one you know you’ve looked in every day before you left, but as Kaiya you shouldn’t be able to see your reflection when you turn to look. Despite this, you do see a reflection, and it’s not you as Kaiya. Somehow you know it’s not even the you before you died. No, this girl is older than Kaiya, yet much younger than the you that died.

Your reflection is that of a ‘middle school girl’.

A strange phrase, and you touch your face, wondering if there was a ‘first school girl’ and a ‘last school girl’. You stare and stare, but somehow you can’t quite capture your own reflection. It’s as though your eyes won’t focus, and you only get a vague impression of how you look. Using your reflection to guide your hands, you pull at the scarf tied around your neck, and you think ‘school uniform’.

Tearing your gaze away, you move over to the bed and sit down to stare at the desk across from you. A chair sits before it, looking plump while having only one leg that ended in wheels. On the desk sits a closed device that you know you’d have to lift open and it would show you a screen. With that device you could search for information and videos and music, but deep down you know it won’t work.

Sighing, you fall onto your side and close your eyes.

“I’m home!”
“I’m home!”

You jolt awake and realize that you forgot to close your bedroom door. There is noise from the entranceway, the sound of two people moving.

They call a name, half-said—

(you wake and in seconds the dream slips away, forgotten except for the impression it leaves behind)


Definition

You feel moisture in your eyes and a hollow sensation in your chest. You had a dream and you were somewhere you’d never been before. You’d been walking and then…? You think it had something to do with going home. Father was probably in it. Okay, you dreamed about home and woke up sad. Probably because you know it wasn’t real and that Father is still far away.

Reaching up, you wipe away the single tears welled up in each eyelid. Squinting and seeing through droplets still in one eye, you find your sunglasses and put them on before sitting up and reaching under them to wipe your eyes again. Nara or one of his teammates are probably nearby, but thankfully none of them rush over to ask what’s wrong. A hollow feeling lingered in your chest as you got up and proceeded to do your routine, but you forced yourself to focus on other things, and soon you were preoccupied with the rest of the Decline patients.

The next time Shin made you take a break, you sulked outside next to the tent and decided that the next time you unleashed a dead disease, plague, epidemic or whatever, if you were called to help out again then you’d just make the ‘cure’ in mass quantities to be administered by other people. It wouldn’t be the immunity you’ve been granting so far, and there could be allergic reactions you might not be able to account for, but at least then you wouldn’t have to do everything yourself.

Resting an elbow on your knee and your chin on your palm, you ask Yamanaka, “What’s a word for when you make other people do your work?”

He huffs, amused. “Delegation, the act or process of delegating or being delegated. Delegate, entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself. Those words would fit your criteria, Aburame-chan.”

You ruminated on the words and nodded. “Yes, they’ll do.”

Next time, you’ll delegate.


Slothful

Shin requests more of the cures, and you don’t really have a reason to deny him. While finishing with the Decline patients, you don’t notice that Nara has been staring at you while you work. For the most part, he’s been present while you work, and you’ve come to simply ignore his presence unless he speaks to you or it’s time to leave for the day. In fact, no one really notices the Nara staring intently.

Under your care, the shinobi and a few kunoichi regain control of their limbs and holes in their memories start patching up. Given their advanced state, you say that it will be a while before they are back to normal, or at least close to it.

You frown, wondering how to explain any Decline patients who receive the cure but haven’t been treated by you. Those poor saps wouldn’t be able to regain their dead brain cells, not without you there to treat them. That’s something you clearly can’t hand off to anyone, so you pout and argue with yourself as to whether or not you should destroy Decline.

It’s useful, but in your current situation, it’s only making a hell of a lot more work for you.

You don’t like Decline, you decide.

Although, if the whole world ever becomes your enemy, yeah, you could definitely see yourself unleashing it again.


Dawdle

Reo suspects that Kaiya is responsible for more than just using her kikaichu on the Iwa-nin from before. Having watched her work on the Decline patients, he’s now more certain that she’s hiding something. After all, he and his friends have all proven that they can be brought low by her bugs. Who is to say that it hadn’t happened a second time, only she added the horror of her Shapers to their minds, messing with their memories.

He doesn’t say anything of his suspicions though, not while she is awake. Instead he waits until he is sure that she is sleeping before he brings it up with Kouki and Youta. His big friend is skeptical, but Kouki is willing to entertain the idea. But, the crux of things is that even if they have suspicions, they don’t have any proof.

Not unless they check Kaiya’s memories and find out exactly what happened in the time they are missing.

However, Kouki isn’t the best at his clan’s ninjutsu, and besides which, the Aburame would likely take offense if they ever learned that one of their own was investigated outside of the village and without any standing charges. Not to mention that Kaiya’s kikaichu are special and that she is the only one who has them.

Kouki asks if he’s going to bring a request to the Hokage about it, and Reo admits that he’s still thinking about it. He says he’ll decide later, but since they’re alive, he might not bother.

(if he’s going to risk making Kaiya an enemy, he’d prefer to be certain of his accusations)


Duty-bound

The next day after clearing the camp, Nara and his team leave with you on Youta’s back. They move fast, racing because that stop was much longer than usual. Even the breaks along the way are short, and you find yourself hoping that the journey will not be long. Hours pass, and when you arrive at the camp, Nara and his team don’t land on the ground.

They stop in the tree branches and stare down at the camp that is burning bodies and clearly in a state of emergency. There are dead bodies on the ground in the midst of red splashes of color, and you can see other splotches where blood had dried. Some of the people stumble around, tripping and falling, and you recognize them as those who have one of the more advanced stages of Decline. A day or two more and they would forget how to breathe.

(you know because your past memories show you a fast montage of watching a person through a screen go from a functioning adult to clumsy pile of flesh that forgot how to live)

You should have been here at least two days ago.

Nara scowled and asked if there was anything you could do.

You nodded.

“Yes. We’ll start with the surviving Blood victims while any other able-bodied person should gather up the Decline patients so they don’t accidentally kill themselves.” You let out a soft gasp as someone tripped and fell onto one of the two funeral pyres. “Like that…”

The men were grim, but they leapt down from the trees anyway.


Stopgap

Reo knows that he shouldn’t be letting Kaiya strain herself as she struggles to save what remains of this camp. He should be insisting that she rest, that she doesn’t need to continue working like a person possessed in trying to save these people. After all, literally none of them can compare to her worth to Konoha. What are a few genin, chunin, and even jonin in comparison to what she can do?

He doesn’t, though, instinctively knowing that it would be futile to try. He doubts she’d kill him, but he doesn’t fancy being stung and put in a corner out of her way, or finding out if she can easily put down him and his team again.

Instead he helps with triage and finding out what remains of the organizational structure of the camp. Someone tells him that all the medic-nin are dead, that the so-called ‘cures’ that came in did nothing. He sees Kaiya frown and instantly knows that the cures Shin collected were not an instant cure. They did do something, he’s sure of it from the way the girl’s pride seems wounded. He swallows hard.

If it hadn’t been for the ‘cures’, how much worse off would this camp be? Would there have been any survivors left at all?

(perhaps, but only in the single digits if at all)

Reo has seen much in this war, and he has studied history. Never has there been an event such as this in which one person could cause so much loss of life with barely lifting a finger after the initial move was made. Attacking the health of both sides of a war… who would have dared dream of such a thing? Something twisted in his gut as a phrase came to mind, a horror that had never crossed his mind before, something he hoped would never come from another point beyond Kaiya: biological warfare.

The use of biological material with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans as an act of war, that is the heart of Kaiya’s Blood and Decline. That is the war she would rage, the reason why Blood and Decline have reached so far from where she first started. She would strike at the health of her enemy and then either wait for them to die on their own, or kill them when they were weak. He has seen examples of both instances with his own eyes.

Kouki’s words come back to him, about how Kaiya seems reactive rather than proactive. After all, was she not in a warzone far from the safety of the village? Had she not been left to defend herself?

Youta’s words come back as well, about how Kaiya is a child and how she seems only aggressive to her enemy, and how, as far as they can tell, her enemy is Iwa. After all, it was Iwa who attacked her, and likely Iwa-nin who took the life of her mother.

Reo gritted his teeth.

Kaiya must not be allowed to become a mad child. She has power that no one has seen before, at least not at this magnitude. Konoha must be her home and she must count the shinobi and people within as her allies.

Gods help them if they ever get put in Iwa’s sandals.

(the Nara asks if you can make more Blood and Decline cure carriers, and when you confirm that you can, he orders you to start making more

you want to ask, but the look in his eyes tells you not to push your luck, so you nod and comply

you remember the first time you met him, how his shadow grabbed you, and you decide that once you’re done making the carriers, you’re going to make kikaichu like your Shapers, only these ones will be black and flesh eaters

like piranhas in the air)


Ended
While still in the care of Nara and his team, Father comes to fetch you, and a man introduced to you as Aburame Shibi-sama is with him. They take you home to Konoha while Nara and his team head in another direction with more of the cures from the carriers, hoping to find shinobi forces who can use it in order to survive a trip home where you could personally see to their well-being.

You are introduced to the Hokage whom you decide you are neutral towards. In your head, he becomes a man in the clouds, in charge of the village, sure, but not someone you will interact with much (or rather, you hope so). At Father’s subtle prodding, you answer the Hokage’s questions about your Shapers and how you made Blood and Decline. As a result, the Hokage becomes very serious and asks you to never make anything like that again. Remembering how much work you’d been put through, you agree. He declared the creation of such things as a forbidden art.

With your promise, you and Father are dismissed. Shibi-sama remained with the Hokage and at long last you and Father were able to return to your house in the Aburame compound. You knew Father would probably have to leave again and that this time you would be left behind, so you resolved to enjoy your time with him while you had it.

(when Reo returns, he informs the Hokage of his suspicions, but Hiruzen remains confident in the Will of Fire, that Kaiya has bonds she would protect

as long as it is not Konoha who is her enemy then she is their powerful ally)

Days passed, and then weeks. During this time Father was not sent out and you were stationed at the hospital to treat people who had contracted Blood or Decline while at the same time you produced more carriers and allowed the cures to be harvested by the staff. You met with Senju Tsunade herself and privately thought that despite her pretty face, you didn’t like her. She was much too bossy for your tastes, and she worked you hard. You can’t say you really cared for either of her teammates either.

In the end, the war was forced to a stop by a double epidemic that makes countries close their borders. Shinobi retreat to their lands and contact is lost with spies in other countries. Iwa blames Konoha for both of the epidemics but Konoha claims innocence. However, they are renown for their medical jutsu and for how advanced their medicine is, so Konoha says that it is not strange that they were quick to find a cure for both, not when it was their shinobi and people on the line. Others may believe Iwa or doubt Konoha, but the fact that the threat of both epidemics is real and that only Konoha can provide the cure keeps the other nations from siding against Konoha.

A treaty is signed, peace for sharing the cures, and the Tsuchikage signs angrily at the meeting, nearly tearing the treaty itself. Cases are provided to Iwa on site at the signing, and both Kage go their separate ways.

(he first person the Tsuchikage has the Blood cure administered to is his granddaughter, Kurotsuchi)

The war ended, but borders remained closed. You remained in the village and despite Father being sent out more often, at least now you didn’t have to worry about him dying at the hands of an Iwa or other foreign nin.

You never gave a thought that he might fall to rouge-nin instead.

He doesn’t, though, and that was the main thing.


An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Chapter Text

Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.

~Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


Training

Ever since you returned to Konoha, quite a lot of your time has been spent at the hospital where the cures are collected from the numerous carriers you’ve created, and also where your Shapers are being put through the wringer, first by the medic-nin and then by Senju Tsunade herself. While she was here, she didn’t teach you much of anything, saying that’s a burden for someone else (gee, thanks). In fact, she says the only reason she’s there at all is because the Hokage forced her to be, and that was to oversee the testing of your kikaichu.

During the testing, though, you notice that none of the tests include exposed blood. When you ask why, Tsunade snarls that it’s none of your business to know and storms off, leaving you annoyed and confused. One of the medic-nin takes pity and quietly explains that Tsunade lost her brother and her lover in the Second War and apparently couldn’t stand the sight of blood anymore. You ask how she contributed to the Third War and get admonished before being told that Tsunade helped counter poisons and managed the hospital whenever she was back in the village.

She wasn’t around for very long, and the last thing you personally heard from her is that your Shapers are a shortcut compared to the hard work she put in to become the medic-nin she was, which, okay, was a fair description, but it still stung. You were glad when you were informed that she wouldn’t be back, though you were confused as to how a shinobi could just leave, but you supposed it must be fine since the war was over. You didn’t know, and you didn’t bother to ask because you’re not really interested in the answer.

With Tsunade gone, the testing fell to the new head medic-nin who handed you off to a different medic-nin. This game of passing you around irked you, but you settled down as the testing of your Shapers’ abilities went on. When you started learning chakra control, sticking a leaf to your forehead was easy with your Quirk but that wasn’t the point of the exercise, so you made an honest effort to call forth your chakra. You end up practicing it at home too because you want to get a handle on your chakra as chakra is essential to the human bodies of this world.

If one doesn’t have chakra, one cannot live.

You will not be denied your patients because a lack of a puzzle piece.


Walk

Father is in the village, so he is the one who comes to walk you home from the hospital today. You brighten at the sight of him waiting in the lobby and a little bit of energy is injected in your walk over to him. The medic-nin you are working with, a woman named Nishida Hanako, says goodbye and you wave back at her before putting your hand in Father’s.

The walk home is mostly quiet, which you don’t mind. With the war over and the knowledge that the epidemics are curable and under control, the villagers are becoming less drawn and weary which in turn is leading to a livelier village. This place has no tall buildings like your previous life, but you like it anyway. The wooden buildings feel more welcoming than the ‘concrete’ cities you only vaguely remember.

Coming to a quieter street, Father finally spoke.

“Tell me of your day.”

You started with when he’d dropped you off that morning, how Nishida-san was there as usual and how she let you treat patients with broken bones while other medic-nin harvested the replenished cure carriers. After that she had you studying the bones in the human body and for lunch you ate the bento that Father had prepared for you. You ate on the roof and enjoyed watching the sky.

After lunch was more studying and you learned that the spine was a vital part of the human structure, prompting you to ask about what would happen if it was damaged. Nishida-san told you that a person could become paralyzed, either from the waist down or from the neck down. Since ninja rely on hand signs, you thought it would be more efficient to paralyze them from the neck down, to which Father nodded in agreement. Nishida-san was going to bring in a crippled patient tomorrow to see if your Shapers could do anything, so you’re looking forward to that.

After studying period was over, Nishida-san brought you to work on patients infected with Blood and Decline who had come in and been administered the cures but had damage they couldn’t fix and needed to be handled by your Shapers. Still, even though these kind of patients keep coming in, at least they’re alive and not, you know, people you accidentally killed.

Yeah, Hokage-sama was probably right to classify the creation of diseases as a forbidden art. But then, how would they know if you made more? Technically, you still have three of the Five ready to use at any moment. Not that that’s anything you want to hint at.

You don’t want a trip to the T&I place you’ve heard mentioned.

You’re almost back to the compound when the time you finish talking about your day. The rest of the walk is silent, but you like it.

It’s nice, walking like this with Father while holding his hand.


Trepidation

He hasn’t told her yet, but Teijo has heard from the clan elders, a meeting he attended with Shibi-sama.

Kaiya is to become, at minimum, a chunin of Konoha. They expect him to make her comply, and it rankles him that he couldn’t say anything against it. Kaiya wants access to chakra and becoming a shinobi (in her case, a kunoichi) means just that, at least if one’s chakra coils are not malformed. Still, even if she had made the choice, he would have preferred that the elders not try to impose their will upon his child. He hopes that she does not take the news too poorly when he tells her.

He should do it soon, before she hears it from someone else. Such a scenario may result in her being angry with him for withholding information. Her mother was quick to hold grudges, and he does not want to find out if she has inherited that trait by being on the receiving end of a cold distance.

As they enter the compound gates and head for their house, he decides that he will do it this evening at dinner.


Expectation

When Father tells you that the clan elders expect you to become a kunoichi of at least chunin level, for some reason, you instantly get the image of a yellow bird inside a birdcage. Right after that you get a wave of rage from the box of your past life’s memories just before the lid slams open and you get a montage of memories.

(a girl being attacked and falling down, being locked in a room, a boy opening the door and bleeding, coming up to a door and opening it only to be grabbed by threads, strangers, screens and cities you’ve never been to, being grabbed by a monster of a man—)

Your chopsticks falter in your hand and you drop the rice you’d paused in bringing up to your mouth. Father waits patiently on the opposite side of the small table and his lack of expression, while typical, makes you nervous this time. Lowering your chopsticks, you looked down at the food and pondered the impressions you just received from your past self.

It’s strange. You are Aburame Kaiya, but at the same time, you used to be another person, a lifetime you could remember in bits and pieces, and yet not anything truly important to who you’d been. Are you that person, or Kaiya, or a mix of the two?

…Probably a mix of the two since the first is dead and the second now remembers having another life.

You blink as you realize something, slowly lifting your head.

“How… how old do they expect me to be to even be a genin?”

Even before Father opens his mouth, you already know the answer, have known it since the phrase ‘child solider’ blazed to the forefront of your mind that one time: too young.

Father gives you a single digit number.


Diverted

Teijo can only watch warily as his daughter’s brow furrowed and her entire posture became tense, ready with potential hostility. He hopes she doesn’t go as far as physical violence as that would prove nothing and necessitate discipline. A deep frown makes an appearance, but because she is just a young child, there is only so fierce she can look, which is not very. She shakes, small fingers straining against the chopsticks in her grasp. Her breath comes hard through her nose and Teijo has all the signs that she is angry by this announcement.

At last, she lifts her head, and though he cannot see her eyes, he imagines they are burning.

“I’d like to see them try.”

There is violence promised in her words, that she would kick and scream, and Teijo is reminded of another meeting with Shibi-sama and the Hokage.

Kaiya must be taught self-control and duty to the village. Without those, she is a danger to Konoha.

One that cannot be allowed to her own devices.

(to life)

“Calm yourself, Kaiya. You will make yourself ill and agitate your hive besides.”

She attempts to calm herself, breathing deeply and slowly letting out each breath. The furrowed brow and frown ease, and he imagined that her hive was settling down. The food grew cold as he waited, but that was his fault for not waiting until after they finished eating.

Eventually, his daughter straightens, hands down on her lap. She isn’t happy, but at least she isn’t close to boiling over in rage. Her skin isn’t lilac-colored, and none of her kikaichu are skittering around her. The fact that she isn’t trying to threaten him heartens him, because clearly he is important to her. He hasn’t been confident in handling her since Kazue passed, but his daughter definitely cares for him. Still, now is the time to discuss her objection to the elder’s orders.

“Why do you object to becoming a kunoichi of the village?”

Her frown deepened. “Father, I feel that sending children to war is wrong. Teaching them how to kill is wrong. I don’t agree with that mentality.”

Teijo wishes Kazue were here. This is an important conversation, and he fears his own failure. He must try, though.


Obedience

Father speaks, but you don’t agree, not with the Will of Fire, or how the village is a good place. How could a village be good when you’ve seen it send children to war and their deaths?

(the village, a big family? no, he is your only family now, and only mother could have been another)

He must sense your skepticism because then he tells you about the Clan Wars, of how blood feuds frequently cut short many lives and how war could be brought into even a clan compound. Not even the Aburame had been immune, and in that time a girl like you would have been, if not a kunoichi, then expected to provide children for the clan. He speaks of how the First Hokage formed the village and how the Aburame were one of the first four to answer his call. The Aburame, indeed all clans, are expected to fight for Konoha, to protect it.

You don’t agree with the Will of Fire because it sounds like propaganda aimed to brainwash people into becoming good little soldiers who will lay down their lives for the sake of something ‘bigger’ than them. Yeah, no, you can’t picture yourself dying for the sake of the village. To spite it, totally, but for it?

Bleh.

Still, you can appreciate the sentiment of protecting the place where you live, and you do have to agree that the village sounds better than this Clan War era. Also, you want to be able to access chakra, to walk on trees and jump through them on high branches, not to mention be able to use your kikaichu to greater effect. Fine. You will become a kunoichi of Konoha and of the Aburame clan. You tell Father that you will attend the academy, but that you have no intention of becoming a genin before you are at least ten years old.

“Besides,” you add, “There is no guarantee that I will be able to graduate based on my skills and knowledge before then. My Shapers do not equate genius.”

Father says he will pass your message to the elders and that you will have his support in whatever you do, though there is only one line you must never cross.

“Never betray the village, Kaiya. Never attempt to become a missing-nin.”

His sunglasses glinted and his normally balanced voice hardened with ice.

“For in that scenario, I will end you myself.”

(he could try, and you wouldn’t kill him if you could help it)

You nod.

“Yes, Father.”


Crossroad

The dishes are washed and put away, a task you do together with you in charge of wiping the dishes dry. It’s nice to be like this, be, what is the term, domestic? Or is that too couple-y sounding? Regardless, you enjoy daily living with Father. He gets up earlier than you do in the mornings and makes the bento you take to the hospital each day you have to go there, but in the evenings he teaches you how to cook. You are only four, but he considers you mature enough to watch and learn, and sometimes even assist, though you are not allowed to use knives or the stove yet. It’s weird how he can be all, ‘go learn how to kill people for the sake of the village’ one moment and then insist that you’re too small to handle knives or fire. With dinner over and done with and laundry done the day before, the two of you are free for the evening to pursue your personal interests.

As Father reads in his study, you lay on the floor in your bedroom to stare up at the ceiling, for once not distracting yourself from the box in the back of your mind. You’ve been trying very hard not to think about it, of all the things you’ve lost yet still miss, but you don’t think you can afford to keep zoning out because of it. Not everyone is Father, someone who doesn’t consider your silences and pauses strange and worth commenting, or worse, inquiring. You need to have a better handle on yourself and that includes the memories of your former life.

Closing your eyes, you slowly brought the box forward and prepared yourself to open it, to accept everything that laid within. Despite your attempts to remain calm, your skipped in your chest as you summoned the courage to follow through. Quickly, before you could talk yourself out of it, you threw the box open wide—

(—and nearly drowned)


There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.

~Shannon L. Alder

Chapter Text

Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it.

~Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping


Remembrance

memories come in a rush, missing clear faces, voices and proper noise

you had parents, mom and dad

you were small and mom was attacked in an alleyway—no one came to help and you stopped believing in a lot of people that night

dad moved the family

you went to school with other children and lived without war over your head

you grew up and had to wear a uniform

a small boy with bloody knees caught your attention

he kept coming back, that small boy with green hair

he asked you a question—you can’t hear it—but you said yes and he lit up and cried

there is a dog and he saved you, bleeding blood from his small body

you changed the dog and suddenly fear the power of your Quirk

you distance yourself from mom and dad and the guilt hurts

a boy with unkempt black hair tries to take something from you and you hurt him

you expect revenge but he bends his knee instead, bringing his friends with him, those boys with blue and dark brown hair

the girls abandon you except two, one with long, straight black hair and another with short curled light brown hair

the boys will not leave and the girls will not help you chase them away so it’s easier to just accept them

the first boy puts you on a pedestal and gathers others under the banner he makes for you

a gang

the fact that you do not want it does not matter but you stay

the small boy remains a part of your life

with the boys and the girls your age, you stop fearing your Quirk

you make the small boy a promise

you regain your relationship with mom and dad

you start changing the small boy, afraid, but you promised

you tell the boys and girls something—the secret of your Quirk—and dedicate yourself to the gang

falling and bloodying a knee, you teach the small boy to smile and reassure—he smiles and says something, an echo of someone else’s words

you use your Quirk on more people while the boys and girls—your friends—watch

helping the plain boy, one of your other friends, by healing his sister

taking the small boy on a trip by train, saying something in response to him, ruffling his hair

a massive park with ‘rides’ and ‘attractions’, an attack in the distance, the panic of the crowd, losing him and swearing to kill yourself if he dies

finding him, telling him of your mom and the alleyway, why you stopped believing, telling him something—you are not a good person—and his response, the impression of being told you were

you do not believe him, but you do not tell him

a trip to a beach with your friends, being taken and locked in a room, you begin the creation of what will be seven

more usage of your Quirk, singing with your friends, going to school, coming home to mom and dad

talking with the plain boy with dark brown hair, being emotionally touched because he offers something—an escape, but you stay

reassuring that small and growing boy that you have not forgotten him, will never

(liar—you can’t even remember his face, much less his name)


a new base of operations, a place to dance at night, headquarters hidden on floors below

one of the girls leading you down the path of altering brains, changing the very nature of who people were

you learn because you have important people you want to protect

changes to your friend, lesser than those made to the boy with green hair

helping that same girl’s mother because you have to at least try

her eyes open but nothing else is different—you cannot hear her, but your friend cries and it breaks your heart

the same girl is not seen for days but returns at a new school where you have all left your uniforms behind and not all of you keep going to school

that girl—your best friend—starts a new project

(genetics)

helping the boy prepare for his own next level of education, helping him reach for his dream

a muscular blond man on the beach, noting that he is sick, giving him a shell you found

(you can’t see his face but deep down you know he has blue eyes)


pretending to be kidnapped, being rescued by the boy with green hair, a repeated occurrence

the boy failing, losing, knocked unconscious—being angry at your friend but relenting, not seeing the boy until next time

realizing that sometimes even your best friend can be foolish

the other girl saying something, making you and your best friend stand to go test her words

discovering that you can remove Quirks, your best friend laughing and making you glad she did not get your Quirk

being told something—the gang is being searched for—and having to put off the green haired boy’s rematch

with your girl friends, discussing something—dating—and the impression that you are not interested

your best friend rushing up to you to thank you—her mother is getting better

being grabbed from the street, hauled into the air, fearing death

being rescued by a large muscular man with blond hair

(and blue eyes)

asking something and getting angry at the answer, being carried through the air once more and landing in front of a hospital

getting a wardrobe change for more skin exposure and not liking it

the search growing smaller, the gang resuming activities

being rescued by the boy with green hair and being carried for the first time by him

watching the boy testing his new leg strength, remembering your time with him, equating him with hope and everything good, your ____

a birthday party, turning twenty, being an adult as defined by society

(not when you get a metal headband with a leaf engraved on it)

suddenly realizing that you will have to give natural birth if ever you have a child

your best friend revealing that all along she has had help and is not the genius you thought she was

being introduced to five new people, their faces more blurred than usual save for the last, a man with shaggy beige hair

using your Quirk, getting upset over the fact you have not sung with your friends in quite a while

leaving and not being followed, having threatened even them

hearing something from an alleyway, being afraid but going anyway and finding a man in bright clothing in a puddle of blood and healing him but leaving him there alone

feeling like scum after remembering a different alleyway, your own long ago nightmare

spending time alone and realizing that you have a home to go back to, people you want to see and have in your life

crossing paths with a skinny blond man in clothing much too big for him and realizing you have met before on a beach

crying because he did not have to have become like that, that you could have done something on that beach weeks, if not months ago

offering help, being turned down, talking

giving a promise and intending to keep it, even if you waited on that beach in vain for the rest of your life

your friends laughing

the completion of a drug, something that enhances Quirks, seeing it administered to your friends and some of the other five

time passing, going to that beach as promised, the seasons changing, winter arriving

your waiting is not in vain, he comes back when the ocean is grey and snow is falling

‘seeing’ him and being horrified

healing him, restoring missing organs, half finished, being stared at in wonder

hearing his stomach growl, taking him out for a meal and feeling satisfaction at seeing him eating heartily, smiling in the knowledge that he will be well

being told his name—(you cannot hear it)—and him bowing low in thanks

finishing his healing, trying to part ways, going in the same direction, waiting for a train

knowing that the boy with blue hair is following for your safety

the blond man leaves and returns and nearly misses the train

getting off the train with him, watching a movie on a big screen, cautiously taking his arm on the street, going out to eat again

nearly kissing him but parting on a sour note as he runs off in the direction of a commotion

going home with the blue-haired boy and having your girl friends stop by to cheer you up

sleeping for a long time and having the boy who tried to steal from you be there to help you get ready to face the day

displeasure at seeing the muscular man who rescued you all around in pictures and on screens

solidifying your resolve to live free even at the cost of the lives of others, even if it makes you a monster

having names for the seven and their keepers (but you can’t remember)

acknowledging to yourself that you are a criminal and a murderer

going back to that beach for some reason and having him show up one more time

asking and being granted an encounter

sneaking off and realizing that the blue haired boy was close enough to have overheard, being embarrassed

being told that your parents are dead

being injected with the very drug you helped create, your Quirk slipping away

falling apart, wanting to die

only staying because they will not let you go or leave you alone

identifying the bodies and being carried because you cannot walk

the wake and the funeral

seeing the green haired boy there but only acknowledging him after the funeral

blaming yourself because you know you should have been there with them

knowing that no one will ever love you like they did

(Father does)

grabbing the wrist of your best friend and staring up at her, wanting to remake her so that she will not die and mom and dad have

being talked into waiting, letting go of her

refusing the injections to hold back your Quirk, the first boy nodding and bending to your will

sitting with your friends and planning their changes

waking up to find the man with shaggy hair at your door and being annoyed

directed up several floors to the club and being caught in fibers

annoyance and fear

that muscular man who rescued you, other men in costumes, the first boy tied to a chair, screens showing some of the seven

outnumbered, held captive, but holding the world in your hands

three minutes

being manhandled by your once-rescuer, choking out a curse

released but one of the seven unleashed

emerging victorious but abandoning the club and the base below

suspecting that you are pregnant

deciding to keep it despite that it might be unwise after so much has happened

killing off your civilian identity, clean cutting ties with the green haired boy who just wanted to be a ____

crossing paths with the green haired boy one last time, being comforted while crying and saying goodbye at the door

feeling guilty because you are still going to follow through

giving someone your face and sending them to die

trying not to think of the boy with green hair and crying when you fail

picking a baby name with your friends

meeting the mother of your best friend, seeing how far she has recovered

seeing your stomach grow and feeling none of the glow a mother should feel

being helped by all of your friends

giving birth

a daughter with blonde hair

you do not love her

she is a reminder that mom and dad are dead, that you were selfish, that you were not with them when you should have been

a picture of the green haired boy in the paper brought a smile to your face where your own child could not—and you know it

creating a deadlier version of one of the seven

having to separate from your child and most of your friends as a plan and a warning comes

knowing that a threat to you and your group is being eliminated

sending away a cure and traveling more with the boy, no, the young man with blue hair

discovering that you were manipulated by the man with shaggy hair, feeling a burning rage only to have it doused because you had wanted to meet the blond haired man again so he made it happen

A combination of fault on both ends

you let him live

‘looking’ at your child and feeling panic that she has lost some weight

but she is half of you and you do not have the complete control you had over others

holding her, that small, warm baby, and not being able to love her like you know you were loved once

feeling exhausted, missing your parents, and wondering when everything would end

getting the news that the green haired boy got into his dream school and celebrating for him even though he cannot be there because ‘you’ are dead

feeding your baby in your arms and contemplating giving her to her father

but keeping her anyway in case she gets a variant of your Quirk, a challenger you do not want

being tired and your friends taking you on a vacation

deciding to reach for the stars

watching a competition on a screen, cheering for the boy with green hair

(so much more, seeing your daughter grow, meeting the green haired boy again, but all fleeting and blurred and you still can’t remember your own name or how you died)


Lost

A lifetime’s worth of memories ends abruptly and you wake up in the dead of night in your futon. Father must have thought you merely asleep and put you to bed. Fair enough, since there’s no way he could have known about the journey you were taking in your head.

Oh.

There are tears sliding down the sides of your face. Sniffing, you turn onto your side and wipe away your tears. You knew you had loved mom and dad, but you hadn’t truly figured out that you had loved others. Those five, no, those six—for surely you had loved the boy with green hair too—had been so important to you. Your friends, and you can’t remember anything about them except that they had existed once. What happened to them?

How did it come to be that you were reborn alone and so far away?

It was a mercy that you remembered nothing until you were four. If you had been just a baby, you might have gone insane.


Comfort

He wakes to the sound of Kaiya crying.

At first, Teijo doesn’t know what woke him, and he laid in bed, eyes closed but wary as he tried to sense what was amiss. He feared an assassin, or perhaps it was someone at the front door, but then the sound came again and he knew what it was. His daughter was weeping and trying to stifle her misery.

Rising, he quietly leaves his bedroom and crosses the short distance down the hall to hers. Kaiya is curled up and so engrossed in trying to keep quiet that she hasn’t noticed his arrival. She startles when he sits down near her and puts an arm on her small shoulder.

“Why do you weep, Kaiya?”

His daughter shakes her head and won’t answer. His heart aches as she remains curled up in some unknown grief. Truthfully, Teijo doesn’t really know what to do. His parents did not encourage him to cry, nor had Kazue ever wept like this. When Kazue died, Teijo had grieved long and deeply, but tears had rarely fallen from his eyes and only in small quantities. He wants to fall back on his parents’ teachings and tell Kaiya not to weep, but that has always seemed like such a heartless response. Self-control is one thing, but the war is over and Kaiya is only four years old.

Gathering his courage, Teijo picked his daughter up and brought her to his lap to cradle her against him.

Kaiya was no longer an infant, and he shouldn’t spoil her, and he still isn’t sure if this is a good idea, but he knows he would hate himself if he simply told her not to cry and left her here alone. He does not hum, but he pats her hair and hopes the hum of his hive can offer her some comfort.

Tears continue to fall from Kaiya’s eyes in distressing quantity, but she does not squirm to get away. She hiccups and whimpers, but slowly and surely her crying is beginning to taper off. When she is down to sighs, he wipes away her tears first before cleaning her nose and wiping the mess on his own shirt. His shirt is soaked in one spot, and clammy too, but he does not comment. He waits, whether for her to speak or fall asleep. Neither of them are wearing their sunglasses, for what do they have to hide from each other in their own home?

Kaiya’s eyes are beginning to drift closed, blinking slower and slower. Soon she will be asleep and he hopes that this is the last time she ever cries like this. Not because he finds this situation a bother, but because he does not wish such sorrow upon his child.

He hopes, if not for her happiness, then for her contentment.


Mistrustful

You do not expect Father to come into your room, but he does. Your stomach sinks because you know that you have woken him up. What if he has a mission tomorrow? But mostly, you are grieving for what you no longer have, the people you can’t remember, the guilt you feel, and you don’t want anyone there.

(a lie)

Because Father is stoic, you do not expect what happens. You do not expect him to pick you up and cradle you on his lap. Mother used to do this to you, but this is a first for Father. It feels like it too, the way he starts off tense and slowly relaxes as you continue to cry. You can hear the hive beneath his skin, and mixed below that is the sound of his heartbeat.

Suddenly, in the warm embrace of a parent who loves you, it hits you that you didn’t count your own daughter among the number of those you loved—six people, your five friends and that boy with green hair—and the guilt from a lifetime ago finds new life in a different world. You don’t start sobbing anew, but your tears keeping going where otherwise they would have trickled to a stop sooner.

You can’t talk to him about this. He is your Father but a stranger too, to the you who lived perhaps as long as he has, and his world is different from the one you came from. Yours had Quirks and his has chakra. But mostly, who could believe in reincarnation that comes with memories? You can hardly believe it and you are living it. You care about him, this man you know as Father, but this is not something you can share with even him.

You think it will be a secret—a burden—that you will have to carry alone for your whole life.

You are simply not brave enough to trust anyone here.

(you are alone)


Fondness

You wince when Father wipes your nose with his bare hand, but you are moved when he does not comment on it. If you think about it, Father has been great for your whole, short life. He isn’t very emotive, but he has treasured you. A memory comes to you, one of Mother and sitting like this with her before she left and never came back. She told you a story, of how when you were born, you were red and wrinkly, and not cute at all, and he was still wearing his sunglasses and high collar—

 

“But he kept staring at you and never looked away, even after he handed you to me and asked me to give you a name.”

Mother’s own face is hidden behind a high collar of her own, but you can hear her voice soften into tenderness and a small smile.

“When I named you Kaiya, he trembled. How could I not, with the way he couldn’t take his eyes off you, the child we made together?”

 

In truth, you don’t know why your name means ‘forgive’, only that it means something between them. What did Father do that needed forgiving? You don’t know, not yet, maybe not ever, but you are important to them simply for having been born.

Did Mom and Dad love you like that too? Did your forgotten name mean something special to them?

But no, this is not about them. This is about you here and now with your father, the man who did not tell you to stop crying and who thinks nothing of wiping your messy nose with his bare hand. This man is trying his best, and you know it.

Your heart aches because Kaiya is loved, and the woman you were knew love like that once and lost it and blamed herself for it.

Grab it and hold it tight. Cherish it while you have it.

You can hear yourself and your chest squeezes because you agree deep down to your bones.

Shifting your head, fatigued from crying and slipping away, you use the last of your strength to tell him one very important thing.


Moved

“Father… I love you, lots… and lots…”

Kaiya’s red eyes slip shut and soon her breathing is even again with sleep. Teijo will put her down and pull her cover over her soon, but right now, for just a little while, he continues to cradle his daughter.

He thinks of his wife, of his beloved Kazue, and he thanks her.

He thanks her for Kaiya and everything she is, his heart kindled with warmth at her soft, heartfelt declaration.

(he nearly misses the shadow that almost ends his life)


Assailed

He doesn’t know what makes him move, only that grabs Kaiya tightly and leaps to one side of the room, a blade slicing through the air where his neck was just a mere second ago. Kaiya startles awake with a gasp and a jerk of her body, but he merely tells her to remain quiet. His assailant is in shadow and suddenly he can sense that they are not the only ones present.

Kaiya stifles a scream as two more appear in the doorway, cornering them in her room. They are all covered from head to toe and wearing goggles. Teijo feels her trembling and his anger and concern agitates his hive. He readies himself, his hive rising forth from his skin as the assassins and or kidnappers step further into the room. He cares not for their reasons, only that he finds some way for Kaiya to live and to remain in Konoha.

There is no noise except from Kaiya as she chokes on words, one small hand grasping at his fingers on her arm. He can sense some of his kikaichu disappearing where they touch her small hand, but remembering that she can use plants, Teijo does not comment and instead directs more towards her without making it obvious.

This standoff has been going on long by shinobi standards and it makes him fear that these intruders are here for Kaiya and want her alive.

(a tool and breeding stock, his precious child, no)

A kunai flies from the hand of one intruder and the fight is on. Teijo sends his kikaichu forward in swarm, but he is shocked to the core when kikaichu pour from one of the intruders to meet his own. His shock costs him and a second kunai finds its mark in his chest. Kaiya stifles a shriek but he can’t afford look at her. A part of him does note that the pain and bleeding stops quickly, even with the weapon still stuck in his flesh.

The other Aburame is matching his swarm despite his efforts to overwhelm it. If he could just get some of his swarm out, they could go to alert the nearest clan member and raise the alarm. As it is, he and Kaiya are alone out here and all the clan housing is spread apart. Damn it. They’re deliberately keeping him trapped in an enclosed area to limit the movement of both himself and his hive.

He catches a glimpse of red vanishing into the black mass of kikaichu and knows that even Kaiya’s special kikaichu are being kept in this room. Her grunt of frustration confirms his guess and suddenly he is beset by the other two assassins.

He calculates the trajectory of one weapon and turns his body so that he is stuck instead of Kaiya. It doesn’t hurt and only bleeds briefly, a combination of his kikaichu and what he now knows is his daughter’s assistance. No part of her is lilac-colored, but Teijo knows.

Twisting and leaping, Teijo wished that he had a weapon of some kind. Even his daughter’s things are put away in the closet and in drawers. There is no time to grab anything, not to mention that he is still holding onto his daughter.

Passing close to one of the assassins, Teijo catches glimpse of the Iwa symbol, but that does not explain the presence of the Aburame. Were they lured away with promises?

Two more kunai finds marks in his body before Kaiya speaks, her voice nearly drowned out by the buzzing of the warring kikaichu.

“Father, feed me your swarm on my skin.”

He debates for several precious seconds before diverting some of his swarm to her. Fleshy tendrils start emerging from her skin in proportion to what he feeds her, and that is all he needs before he is giving her more, and more and more

The assassins try to dodge, but one fleshy tentacle thrusts into the warring kikaichu and suddenly the room is filled with more, ensnaring the three for a brief moment before two vanish with the substitution jutsu, leaving only logs. The third is convulsing and Teijo doesn’t know why until Kaiya murmurs that the ‘barbs’ got him.

Unfortunately, the traitor Aburame got away.

“Keep him alive, Kaiya. T&I may be able to pry information from him.”

“I’ll ‘pry’ it myself,” she hiccups, rubbing one eye. “Take me closer. It’s harder when it’s farther.”

Dubious, Teijo went to the window first and opened it slightly to let out a small swarm to go alert someone. Closing the window again, he took her closer, keeping a wary sense out for the assassins.

“Where… where can I remove his mask or clothes? I need his skin.”

Slightly perturbed, Teijo switched her to his hip so he could reach out and yank off the other man’s goggles. Bulging eyes greeted them, but Kaiya simply reached out and touched her fingers to the bridge of his nose. Within seconds, the man stopped convulsing and became calm.

Nothing more seemed to happen but he waited until Kaiya moved again, pulling back her hand.

“Tell me: who sent you?”

The man replied, “I cannot say.”

Kaiya scowled. “Why not?”

The man opened his mouth wide but his mask was in the way. When Teijo pulled it down, they could not see what he was trying to show them. Then, inexplicably, a firefly emerged from his daughter’s sleeve and flew into his mouth, hovering there. With its light, they saw a black mass on the back of the man’s tongue. The firefly flew out and his daughter huffed.

“You need a new tongue, then.”

She reached out and touched the man again. He made a choking sound and leaned his head forward, spitting out his own severed tongue. In the brief glimpse of the firefly’s light before it fell to the floor, Teijo saw that it was the whole of the tongue and even part of the back of the man’s mouth. Blood dribbled from his lips but his daughter’s fingers were still in contact with him.

“Father, more of your kikaichu, please.”

Not understanding her ultimate goal, Teijo complied regardless. Then, feeling his kikaichu coming back at a quick speed, he spoke and noted this.

“Ah.”

Kaiya looked down at the hand still touching the assassin and this time they both noted it was flesh-colored. Slowly, guiltily almost, she lifted her gaze back to him. Her skin changed tone in the darkened room, and from the slow blink from the firefly, Teijo realized she was lilac-colored now. She asked in a timid voice as the front door opened.

“Don’t tell anyone?”

They had company before he could decide on an answer to give her.


A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.

~Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Chapter Text

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.

~Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World


Peculiar

Their closest neighbor, Naoki, arrives just behind the small swarm that returns to Teijo. The room is still dark, but from the way Naoki stops in the doorway, Teijo suspects he can see enough. The fleshy tentacles are still spread across the room, though they have slackened slightly. Kunai puncture several places on the walls and floor, plus the presence of third person who is neither Teijo or Kaiya, the only two whom should be in this house at this hour. All that, coupled with the fact that Teijo sent his hive to summon help prompts his fellow clan member to ask if assistance was still required.

Teijo clutched Kaiya tighter and confirmed the request. He asked Naoki-san to keep watch over the prisoner while he got his daughter and himself dressed. There had been an attempting kidnapping tonight and intruders in the clan compound, not to mention a traitor Aburame. Naoki nodded and gestured to the ‘vines’ still hanging in the room.

Kaiya sighed and most of the fleshy whips fell to the floor. One still held their prisoner who was calmly waiting in place. Naoki came forward with his hive and sent a swarm to crawl on the man in a thick band, ready to sap his chakra at the slightest hostile movement. Seeing this, Kaiya released the final flesh whip and they all disconnected from her skin, falling with slight thuds onto the floor.

Glancing around, Teijo could not make out if Kaiya’s sunglasses from Kazue survived the battle, which was unfortunate. She would have to settle for the spare pair he had for her in his bedroom. Telling Naoki that they would be quick, he tried to leave Kaiya’s room when the prisoner moved, prompting Naoki to knock the man down. The man cried out from the floor, sounding deeply concerned and angry, almost panicked.

“Where are you taking her?”

Teijo’s brow furrowed as it sounded as though the man thought that Teijo had no right to take his own daughter anywhere, but it was Kaiya who answered.

“I’ll be back. Be good and stay there on the floor, okay?”

The man stopped struggling and sighed in… adoration?

“Yes. Of course. As you wish.”

When he didn’t move again, Teijo left the room, troubled. What manner of technique was that? What had Kaiya done? Still, regardless of how much he wanted answers, they would have to wait. There was no guarantee that the enemy had been driven off for good. They had to make haste and join up with more allies, inform Shibi-sama of the intruders, and have the compound swept.

Entering his room and setting Kaiya down on her feet, she waited quietly as he quickly put on a kunai holster, his sunglasses and his trench coat. For Kaiya he gave her the spare sunglasses and returned to her room where he grabbed her jacket and helped her into it. With that done, he nodded at Naoki and the other man got the compliant prisoner up and moving towards the front door.

“Don’t forget the tongue.”

They both pause at Kaiya’s words, but with a look from Teijo, Naoki directs his swarm to pick up the bloody body part from the floor.

Stepping outside, the dim moonlit revealed that Kaiya’s skin was still lilac-colored. He did not tell her to pull back her kikaichu and instead kept pace next to Naoki as the prisoner walked in front of them. There was activity heading their way, from others alerted by Teijo’s swarm which had been instructed to split up and alert as many as possible. Two more clan members ran up to their small procession and Teijo gave a short summary of what happened and orders to inform Shibi-sama. They nodded and began running towards the clan head’s house, not weighed down by either Kaiya or the prisoner.

Before long, the whole compound was awake and an alarm was ringing over Konoha.


Interrogation

You end up kneeling by Father’s side in a room full of Aburame, most of whom you do not know. Father and Shibi-sama are the most familiar to you, though Shibi-sama is a distant second. You barely know Naoki-san, much less anyone else in the room. Hokage-sama is here, having arrived with Shibi-sama when the latter returned from wherever it was he had gone off to shortly after you and Father arrived at his house. There is another man who came with them, someone you don’t think you’ve met, and an outsider too from the lack of sunglasses and heavy clothing.

You aren’t entirely sure what is going on anymore, except that the alarm that was ringing earlier has stopped but no one seemed to relax. You, Father, Naoki-san and the prisoner had been met by more Aburame, including Shibi-sama himself, and Father had told him what happened—and it sounded worse every time it was repeated, that he suspected the intruders had been there for you—and then Shibi-sama had nodded and disappeared after telling the gathered Aburame to gather in the main room of his house. Shortly after that, an alarm rang out throughout the village (for what else could those loud gongs have been?) and then you had waited until Shibi-sama returned with the Hokage and another man, and here you were.

Damn it, you’re really tired and you really don’t want to be dealing with all of this right now.

Your skin isn’t lilac-colored anymore, after all, why bother when you are surrounded by so many shinobi? Surely you were safe here, or at least safer when it was just your father against three while unarmed. You’re been fighting off the urge to sleep for a while now, and you’re so worn out that you almost don’t care about your slipup with Father and using your Quirk without the camouflage of the Shapers.

However, “almost” isn’t the same as “don’t”.

Thus, even while trying to fend off a determined sandman, you can’t escape the hard pit in your stomach at the thought of your mistake. Oh god, Father was one thing, but what of the other two who got away? Did they see? If they did, there went an advantage of yours. But, as distressing as that is, Father is the more pressing issue. Would he tell the others? Were you now exposed?

You and Father were sitting off to one side of the room with Hokage-sama, the stranger, and Shibi-sama standing as the prisoner was brought forward. Several Aburame lined both sides of the room, and you were sitting between Father and a stranger, one of your clan members. Goosebumps crawled up your arms as your mind suddenly wondered if this stranger next to you was the masked Aburame, but you managed to not lean away from him. At first, the prisoner was going to be directly handed over to the T&I department, but Father had requested the interrogation take place within the Aburame compound and Shibi-sama had passed this along to the Hokage, and that’s why you were all gathered. The Hokage no longer looked like the old man you had met weeks prior, though Shibi-sama looked the same as ever.

It comes as a surprise to you when the Hokage nods at the stranger and the man takes the lead of this interrogation.

“Why did Iwa send you? What was the purpose of attempting to kidnap an Aburame child?”

The prisoner did not sneer or otherwise react to the stranger’s questions. You didn’t want to bring more attention to yourself, but you wanted answers too, so you spoke up.

“Answer the questions with truthful answers.”

The stranger gives you a stern glance, but the prisoner turns his head in your direction and smiles. It was a stilted, dreadful thing, a mockery of what a smile should look like.

“For you, anything.”

The smile dropped as he looked back at the stranger.

“Iwa did not send me. The purpose of kidnapping Aburame Kaiya was to break and recondition her to become part of Root. When she became old enough, she was to be bred.”

There is outrage from the gathered Aburame, muted and not shown much further beyond furrowed brows and, in the case of your father, clenched fists, but the buzz of angry hives can now be heard. Your clansmen are angry, but as for you?

You cannot help but shudder in revulsion and hunch your shoulders as you hear the fate you barely avoided. Was that not the very same fate you feared in your past life? That it had followed you to another world and that you were so young… You realize now, that you were foolish almost from the very start since regaining your Quirk. You had made yourself stand out too much and this was a consequence. Only four years old and already someone sought to imprison and use you, from your own village too!

You don’t feel safe here anymore.


Condemning

Uchiha Fugaku scowled, displeased by the would-be kidnapper’s words. However, he could not blindly believe anything that was said, especially with the queer instance of the young Aburame’s order and the intruder’s strange smile and response. He wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he has heard of Aburame Kaiya and how she could repair damaged brain functions. Perhaps there was an application of that here? But how?

“Aburame Kaiya.”

The girl twitched at his call.

“You told this man to answer with truthful questions. What makes you think he would do so?”

She fidgeted slightly, fingers curled into her thighs and crumpling the fabric of her jacket.

“Father loves me and cares for me, so if he did too then maybe we could find out why we were attacked, so I… I made him love me. I made him love me lots. Don’t you?”

The kidnapper’s eyes were still covered by goggles, but that unsettling smile was back on his face as he answered.

“More than anything.”

That had unsettling implications. If it was true, then what was to stop her from making others love her to the point where none would keep secrets from her?

The Third Hokage spoke, his attention on the young Aburame girl.

“Did you break the promise you made, young Aburame?”

She shook her head. “No. I did use my Shapers, but it is not a contagious sickness.”

Fugaku stored that bit of information away to review later. Right now, they had more pressing matters. There was no guarantee that the man’s accomplices would not come back for him, whether to rescue or kill him, so they needed to get answers while they had him.

She turned her head and looked at an Aburame across from her.

“Where is the man’s tongue?”

He watched warily as a small swam of kikaichu brought forth a severed human tongue, though this was the entire muscular organ and not just part of it. He immediately noticed that it had a tattoo on it, a black rectangular mass that was in fact made up of smaller blocks. Frowning, he asked.

“If this is the man’s tongue, then how is he speaking?”

“I made him a new one.” She said it easily, and hastened to add more as he glared at her. “When he was captured, he could not answer my questions. I asked why and he showed us his tongue, more specifically that black tattoo in the back. I thought that if it was keeping him from speaking then it should be removed and replaced with a new one.”

A seal, then, and one made to prevent secrets from being spilled. Worse, it came from someone within the village who meant to set up Iwa to take the fall and perhaps reignite the war.

And of course, here was definitive proof that Aburame Kaiya really could reconstruct the flesh of men. The girl could either be a great asset to the village or its worst enemy. But, that is neither here or now for the moment, though Fugaku will not forget it.

He turned his attention back to the man. There was no way to confirm the Aburame girl’s words, but for now, he will act as though she is telling the truth and the man really will give truthful answers. He asked a question to get to the heart of the situation.

“Who is your master?”

The man did not hesitate and the answer was damning.

“Shimura Danzo.”


Careless

You don’t understand what happened next, only that the stranger and Shibi-sama had both turned their heads to face the Third Hokage who seemed startled by the man’s answer. You think he tried to defend this ‘Shimura Danzo’, but you were too busy burning that name into your mind for he was your enemy, the man who would kill your father, kidnap you, and lock you into chains. You had no context to understand why that name inflamed both the Hokage and the stranger, maybe even Shibi-sama (it was hard to tell), but the men were arguing now, and you think Shibi-sama threatened to take the clan and leave the village?

That last part thunderstruck you, stalling your brain as you felt a mix of emotions you couldn’t identify. It didn’t help when the stranger threw in his own threat to take his own clan and do the same if nothing was done about ‘Shimura Danzo’.

The Third Hokage had no choice, not unless he wanted to lose two clans to protect one person.

With what looked like a heavy heart, he conceded to the two men. After that, you were pretty much ejected from the room and shuffled off to the other side of the house. It wasn’t too bad since Father went with you and stayed too. Shibi-sama’s wife (at least, you think she was) came by and showed Father the spare futons and bedding, and then she was gone. Father set up one of the futons and set you down, though this time neither of you bothered to remove your jacket and sunglasses.

Staring up at the ceiling while Father sat next to the futon, you blamed yourself for how things had come to this. You were exposed, threatened, and you no longer felt safe, all of which could have been avoided if you had just acted with more caution and kept your secrets close to your chest. If only you hadn’t been so impulsive and egotistical…

Sighing, you brought a hand out and reached towards Father. His hand engulfed yours without hesitation and tears welled up in your eyes as you felt the warmth of him. You spoke, voice watery and small.

“You’re not scared of me?”

Father gazed down at you and when he spoke his voice was soft with tenderness.

Never.


Faith

Kaiya sniffled for a while, but it wasn’t long before she was fast asleep. His poor daughter—she honestly seemed to think that he would be afraid of her now. Given that he knows now that she doesn’t need to turn lilac-colored to do the things she does, he’s not entirely surprised. After all, she just confessed to making a man love her (and wasn’t that upsetting and disturbing), and he had seen her transform his kikaichu into fleshy whips that she could manipulate, all with just her skin. He should be wary, but Teijo chooses to believe in the little girl who lights up at the sight of him.

No matter how terrifying her abilities seem to be, he chooses to have faith in his daughter.

Teijo doesn’t know what will happen from tonight on. Not only did a council man try to kidnap his daughter for an organization he had never heard of, she appears to have manifested some kind of new Bloodline Limit, a powerful one related to living things. Were the Shapers a new strain of the Aburame kikaichu, or did she make them? Perhaps she made them and then lied to hide the fact that she discovered that she had a new Bloodline Limit.

Teijo almost doesn’t need to ask himself why. War had come to her, given her a glimpse of her own death, so why wouldn’t she be frightened enough to hide her new Bloodline Limit behind a ‘new mutation’ of the Aburame kikaichu?

It hurt, though, that she hadn’t trusted him enough to tell him. Perhaps she believed he wasn’t strong enough, not when his own blood had splattered against her face.

Perhaps she was right.

But, even if he wasn’t strong enough to protect her from all dangers that would come, he still wanted her to be able to confide in him, to trust him enough to share her secrets. She loves him, but love does not necessarily equate to trust. He will have to earn that.

He vows to start by giving her an answer to the question she had asked earlier: he won’t tell anyone about her new Bloodline Limit, not even Shibi-sama.


Onus

Shimura Danzo is his dear friend, but Hiruzen cannot lose half of the four noble clans over one person’s crime. The Uchiha are proud, and allowing Bloodline theft would be reason enough for them to turn their backs on the village. Shibi is not prone to making rash decisions, but he no doubt felt that if his clan members were not safe within the village then they would take their chances outside of its walls, perhaps even align with another village. Of course, the Uchiha could also do the same, and to lose two prominent clans to other villages would be a devastating blow for Konoha. It could even start an emigration of clans leaving, and Hiruzen could not allow that to happen. If he pardoned Danzo and tried to stop either clan from leaving, it could very lead to a civil war, during which their enemies could sense weakness and swoop in, destroying the village and scattering the clans to the winds.

Being the Hokage who let the village unravel must not be his legacy. He must preserve the dreams of the previous Kage and keep the village together.

So he cannot spare his old friend or turn a blind eye.

With a heavy heart, Hiruzen waited for Fugaku to return with his shinobi. With the information given by the informant—and wasn’t that terrifying, that a little wisp of a child could bend a full grown man to her will using only tiny kikaichu—the Uchiha would lead the assault into the identified Root underground facilities. The Aburame would be there too, along with trusted jonin and Anbu members vetted by Hiruzen himself. However, in going after Danzo, Hiruzen would be leading that assault himself, with Fugaku, Shibi and whoever they deemed trustworthy.

What could have possessed his old friend to attempt to kidnap Aburame Kaiya? Was his greed for her new kikaichu that great? He should never have turned eyes on her in the first place, but perhaps Hiruzen himself should have put an end to Root sooner.

Holding back a heavy sigh as Fugaku returned, Hiruzen allowed none of his inner turmoil to show on his face. Standing ready in his battle armor, he gave his orders, oversaw the divisions of teams, and then they were moving.

It was time to pull out the rotten roots.


Successor

Events moved quickly.

The same night someone attempts to kidnap you, there is a battle within the village itself. You sleep through the whole thing, a combination of fatigue and distance from the battle itself, but you hear that a large section of the village suffered damage. There were casualties, though you are not told who died, although if they weren’t Aburame you don’t think you would care much.

It is Shibi-sama himself to comes to tell you and Father that Shimura Danzo has been captured. He will stand trial, but between Shibi and Fugaku, Danzo’s sentence will certainly be death. The threat to you will soon be eliminated, or so they believe. It’s sort of true, but there’s always the danger of someone else deciding that you would be of use to them. Still, for now, you nod and agree that you are safe.

The Uchiha stranger comes back with another, and you sit in a room with them and Father as you are both asked to recount the details of last night. Father goes first and you are tense beside him, wondering if he will betray you and reveal the fact that you don’t need to be lilac-colored to ‘use’ the Shapers. He doesn’t, though, and you have to hold back a sigh of relief as the Uchiha turn to you next.

You give them a recollection of the events, matching Father’s as close as you can. The Uchiha seem particularly interested—wary—of your Shapers and the fact that you can make someone love you enough to betray their comrades. Father has to interrupt their line of questioning, saying they are treading too close to clan secrets, and they back off. Eventually they finish and leave, and you finally ask Father who they were. He tells you that they are Uchiha clan members and officers of the Konoha Military Police Force. Uchiha Fugaku was summoned last night because of the severity of the situation, which is why a non-clan member was there during the interrogation.

For the time being, you are confined to the compound regardless of any waiting patients at the hospital. You are not even permitted visitors, so Nishida-san can’t stop by to see you. Father arranges to trade homes with another Aburame and the two of you spend your time packing and moving out of the house near the edge of the compound. When you settle into the new house, you spend most of your time studying and in Father’s general vicinity.

Then, after what seems like forever, Father finally says that you are allowed to leave the compound again, provided that you are with someone at all times. He chooses that moment to drop a bombshell: the Third Hokage was stepping down, and a new one was to take his place. Your first outing would be to this ceremony, and of course he was the one who would be with you. Sitting on Father’s shoulders and staring over the crowd, you stared at the man who became the Fourth Hokage.

He has blond hair, this Namikaze Minato.

Given your memories, you aren’t sure how you feel about that.


What you stay focused on will grow.

~Roy T. Bennett

Chapter Text

I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.

~Carl Sandburg


Extraordinary

You go back to the hospital to find not only Nishida-san, but also Amano-san and Shin-san waiting for you. They all have ideas on how to utilize your Shapers, but you wonder just how successful any of their ideas would actually be without your Quirk helping things. Rearranging cells should hurt, like when you try to use your Shapers on yourself, but you have been weak, unable to make someone feel that pain, so now pretty much everyone except maybe your once escort team is under the impression that your Shapers don’t hurt.

You really hope the day doesn’t come when they find out the truth, mostly because you don’t want the questions that will not doubt come with that discovery.

The secret of your Quirk aside, an Aburame has been assigned to follow your progress in the hospital under the excuse of observing the Shapers in action. Well, maybe it’s not an excuse but an actual fact since the Aburame are interested in insects. At least they’re unobtrusive while you’re at the hospital. If Father isn’t there to pick you up at the end of the day, then you go home with them.

Yeah, you’re not sure if the Aburame with you is male or female since ‘Tsubasa’ isn’t much of a clue, and of course they’re wearing sunglasses and heavy clothing. You just call them ‘Aburame-san’ and try to avoid gender-specific pronouns when referring to them in speech or directly, though you do use gender-neutral most times in your head.

Regardless of your Aburame shadow, under the combined efforts of Nishida, Amano and Shin, you dutifully learn everything they put in front of you. Thankfully, they started you out on simple things while helping Father’s lessons on the kanji system. Elemental is a lot like Japanese in both speech and written form, so it comes easier than learning an entirely new language, which you thank your lucky stars for.

Still, practical lessons have long since gone past healing shallow wounds with your Shapers. Your dealings with advanced stages of Blood have firmly cemented the idea that your Shapers are capable of great things, and the three of them are eager to test out what the limits are. You, on the other hand, use their practical lessons to refine the abilities of the Shapers. After all, just because they’re smoke screen is no reason not to improve their capabilities.

If course, the more you do, the more you stand out. You know this, but you can’t just stop and be expected to be left alone. Moreover, you can’t shame your clan like that. Well, you could, but you’d feel bad about it in regards to Father since you are his child, and also somewhat towards Shibi-sama since he really went to bat during the whole attempted kidnap thing. Although, there is a selfish reason too.

It's nice, having people think you’re special.


Student

The Aburame are being quiet as to why Kaiya had been kept from leaving their compound for almost three weeks. Not even Kaiya herself would say when asked, only replying that she’d been told not to tell. However, Hanako has her suspicions, as do her colleagues Amano and Shin. They theorize that the alarm the night before she’d been kept within the Aburame compound was related to her. The battle in the village might have something to do with her too, but they’re not sure what. The bottom line is that they think that someone either attacked or tried to kidnap her. As the only provider of the cures for Blood and Decline, it made sense. It made more sense when you added in the damage she could heal with her unique kikaichu.

They were lucky that the Aburame let her come back. After all, they would be well within their rights to keep her safe within their compound walls. Well, safer, since no place is really safe, no matter how strong you are. They had argued among themselves at first after realizing that they were all after the same student, but rather than lose out on Aburame Kaiya by forcing her to choose one of them, they decided to work together to train her. If they did it well, then Kaiya would be the greatest asset to the hospital since Senju Tsunade.

Thus far, they have all agreed that her greatest weakness—aside from her age and size—is the fact that she doesn’t have a grasp on her chakra. She is young, though, and they would like to avoid being responsible for damaging her developing chakra system, so the most they have done is start her on chakra control exercises with dire warnings on not to overextend herself. Chakra exhaustion is no joke, much less in someone who is both so young and also a hive for chakra-consuming insects. Her Father and clan will have to be in charge of her chakra lessons, at least until she reaches a level where she can use it with controlled regularity. That could be anywhere from at least the age of six and onwards. Though, even if she lacks the fine control necessary for medical jutsu, her Shapers would still qualify her for a position at the hospital.

People may have problems with insects and the Aburame in general, but patients will just have to get used to the Aburame girl.


Wronged

Even with all the work you were doing with your three teachers at the hospital and at home with Father, you still found time to work on your ‘piranhas in the air’ project. These kikaichu were as small as your Shapers, but their function was not to rearrange cells but to consume them. Specifically, these kikaichu were flesh-eaters, and your goal was to make them efficient enough that they could strip all flesh from bone in an instant. Thus far, you only had a small number of them, or rather, you had tens of thousands, but even altogether they could barely cover three fourths of your small palm.

They didn’t eat you, naturally, and could survive on just your chakra, but they were created to eat flesh. None of them had by this point, but they were young, less than eight days old. You had started with reshaping a small chunk of the Shapers with your Quirk, and they had multiplied solely on your chakra, so they didn’t need flesh to live and reproduce. They were as obedient as any of your other kikaichu, but now that they existed, part of you was afraid that they would be able to learn how to live on just meat instead of chakra.

You had nightmare visions of them abandoning you and disappearing into the village and forest, multiplying and consuming all living creatures including the country’s population. Kikaichu are bonded to their hive person in symbiosis, but if they don’t need chakra to live? Fidgeting, you know that your kikaichu need chakra to live, even these new flesh eaters, but you can’t seem to stop imagining a worst case scenario.

Sighing and commanding the flesh eaters to slither under your skin out of sight, you decided that it was time to stop worrying and time to test out their actual flesh eating capability. That meant finding them flesh that no one would miss, so that left out you, Father, and pretty much all humans who don’t come at you with intent to harm. You’re not fast enough to catch a bird or any other animal, so that left either fish or meat from a food seller. Father bought chicken breasts on the way home today, so maybe he’ll be willing to part with a small cut.

Nodding, you got up from your bedroom floor and went into the kitchen to find Father just turning on the rice cooker. Good, that meant the chicken breasts would be next, so they hadn’t been cooked yet. Wait, would the flesh eaters be able to eat cooked meat? It’s still meat, just cooked, and they’d be tearing it apart at a cellular level, so maybe? Shaking your head, you decided that you would test that out later.

“Father?”

He paused in reaching for the fridge. “Yes, Kaiya?”

“May I have a small cut of the chicken?”

He stared. “…Uncooked? Kaiya, that would not be healthy.”

Well, technically speaking, even if the flesh is dead, you can eat it uncooked. It can’t make you sick since you never get sick, but on the other hand, uncooked meat that isn’t sushi or sashimi is… gross.

You reassured him. “I would not be eating it. I wish to feed it to a new breed of kikaichu.”

He kept staring, his sunglasses pointed directly at you. “Another new breed? Kaiya, I realize that your… Shapers…”

Oh yeah, he suspected something. Those pauses are invitations for you to speak up, but you can’t, not yet.

He continued. “…Allow you more freedom in creating new breeds, but I fear you may be creating too many in too short a period. Have you mastered the others?”

…Mastered? You direct them, they go, they get your chakra. It doesn’t matter what form they take, they’re kikaichu. They help you, you feed them, what is there to master?

Your confusion must show on your face despite your sunglasses (miraculously, the pair from Mother survived that night and now they once again adorned your face), because Father fully turns to you and crouches down so that you are closer to each other’s faces.

“Perhaps ‘mastered’ is incorrect.” He paused, reflecting on his words, and nodded. “Yes, it is incorrect to say one has mastered their hive. Rather, it is a partnership which matures with time. One’s kikaichu become better turned to their human partner. Kaiya, have your new breeds become acclimated to you? Do they live easily beneath your skin?”

Ahh. You hate having your hive beneath your skin. Or rather, you hate calling them out, so you’ve been cheating, having them live outside of you, and Father has probably noticed. You frown.

“I hate it when they break through my skin.”

Teijo seemed to freeze. Slowly, he reached out and put his hands on your shoulders.

“Kaiya. Forgive me.”

You blink, not expecting that.

“For what?”

His brow twitched, but not in anger. Regret crept into his tone.

“For not teaching you better. Kaiya, your kikaichu are not supposed to break through your skin. They are supposed to emerge from your pores.”

You… can’t picture it. Like, would your pores stretch open wide and then close behind the kikaichu? That sounds better than breaking through your skin, but also kind of impossible. Honestly speaking, you’ve been considering trying to alter your skin so that ‘doors’ are constantly left open for your kikaichu to freely exit, but while you would be able to keep from getting sick or infected via those ‘doors’, you don’t fancy the body horror of having them scattered around your body. Like, what if water got inside? How far would it go? No, you can’t picture pores opening and closing.

Father pulls you into a hug, startling you out of your thoughts. He squeezed your shoulders and murmured next to your head.

“I am sorry, my daughter. I neglected you, and you will have to unlearn something you have accepted as a truth in your world. You may struggle with it, but I promise you: your kikaichu won’t always hurt you when you summon them.”

But Mother was the one who taught you how to summon your kikaichu. Does that mean that she did it wrong her whole life too?

Frowning, you realize that you probably won’t get around to feeding meat to the flesh eaters today.


Lesson

Father keeps you home from the hospital, sending a message that you have lessons at home, and he tries to teach you how to summon your kikaichu from beneath your skin without hurting yourself. Residual memories of pain are hard to get past, and you have a hard time picturing the pore image. Father is patient, though, and he shows you multiple times how he summons his kikaichu. His demonstration method is to not wear his trench coat and to roll up the sleeve of one of his arms so that you have a clear look. You even get your face close and watch as his kikaichu seem to suddenly appear on his skin.

“They start small,” he explained. “My chakra coats my skin and they emerge from various pores. They themselves are small and grow once they emerge. In battle when wounded, we bleed a little before our kikaichu appear and stem the flow.”

You frown. “If they start small enough to emerge from pores, then why do mine feel like normal-sized kikaichu inside of me?”

“Infants and children lack the chakra control of adolescents and adults. At birth, Aburame are given a queen. She digs into her potential host, and if they are compatible as Aburame often are, she nests within the chest. Her offspring emerge from small eggs, but they grow quickly into full size and begin excavating tunnels in the host which will remain for their entire life.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Only the queen’s digging does. After that, her offspring use the hosts chakra to nullify the pain they would otherwise feel.” He adjusted his sunglasses. “As the host grows, the original tunnels narrow, and the kikaichu begin using more chakra to shrink themselves. This way more of them can live within the host, though sometimes even then a hive may grow so large that an Aburame will carry around a receptacle for the extras. Shibi-sama is one such person.”

You hum, remembering how Father and other Aburame have utilized huge clouds of kikaichu.

“Then how do Aburame have enough kikaichu to make up the clan jutsu?”

“They use chakra to multiply, usually after the first have emerged from the skin. You noticed how they started to appear and then multiply in number?”

You nodded as you continued watching the small swarm crawling all over his arm.

“Kikaichu can keep themselves small for a time, even for their whole lifetime if an Aburame never summons them, but they are not like your Shapers. They are not that tiny, nor can they be utilized as you utilize the Shapers. We Aburame still have packed tunnels beneath our skin. It is one reason why we do not like being touched and why taijutsu is often our weak point. Hard blows can devastate a section, killing unseen kikaichu, often without the other party being aware.”

You pale, thinking of all the times you have hugged him.

“It is a harder thing to bear when you are young and your hive is small, but easier to endure when you are older and more capable of replacing the lost. You need not fear having irreparably harmed my hive.”

That’s nice of him, but you don’t think you’ll ever forget that tidbit of information.


Stay

Lessons with Father continue and alternate days at the hospital, and it takes the better part of five months before you master summoning your kikaichu through your pores. You have turned five in that time, and the Blood and Decline patients are scarce now. Collection of the cures is an ongoing process thanks to the peace treaty, and it’s still hard to wrap your head around the fact that technically you are responsible for ending the Third Shinobi War.

Shimura Danzo’s trial and execution was long ago, but you didn’t witness it, so it remains difficult to convince yourself that you are no longer in danger from him. Hell, you don’t even have a face to put on the guy, which probably just adds to your unease. After all, any face could be him. Sometimes you have nightmares where the kidnapping succeeds and you get taken before some shadow-faced man.

Most of the time you don’t see the face at all, but sometimes it clears, switching between being the Third or Fourth Hokage. You can understand it being the Third Hokage, because he was the leader of the village during the time of your attempted kidnap, but you’re not sure why sometimes it’s the Fourth Hokage. Perhaps you still don’t feel safe in the village? At least, your trust in the village was severely damaged. It’s probably your lingering doubts that are giving you these nightmares.

There are several reasons you don’t leave the village, but the second most important one is that there really isn’t anywhere else to go. It’s all… what’s the word? Primitive? Brutal? Either way, it’s worse out there than in the village. At least here the place is surrounded by giant sturdy walls and you don’t have to worry about trying to make a living. Point being, Konoha is probably as good as it’s gonna get for you. There might be other cities, but the very idea somehow seems alien. Uncomfortable or not, Konoha seems lodged in your brain as your home village.

The most important reason for not leaving is, of course, Father. He loves Konoha for some reason. Or maybe he just loves the clan who has sworn themselves to the village? He won’t leave easily, anyway, and even if he did, he’d be a missing-nin, the very thing he warned you against becoming. You like to imagine that he’d become a missing-nin for you if the situation warranted it, but you don’t actually want to find out.

(it would break your heart if you were second-place)


Carnivorous

Having put the flesh eaters on the back burned while learning how to properly summon your kikaichu, you finally return your attention to it. The number of flesh eaters you currently have number hundreds of thousands, though they consume about as much chakra as the Shapers, which, as long as you remember maintain a certain level of chakra, is negligible even with the other kikaichu variations eating from your small chakra pool. As a kunoichi, you have less chakra than a boy or man does, but in return, chakra control is supposedly easier. You aren’t sure how much of that is truth, but you are willing to trust Father and your three medical teachers on the subject since they are both older and more versed in this world.

Getting back to your flesh eaters, though, Father conceded to giving you a chicken wing since it had both meat and bone while not being particularly expensive or burdensome of the household budget. However, he did stipulate that he be present when you first tested out your new breed of kikaichu, which has led to the two of you being seated at the table with the raw chicken wing on a small dish before you.

At Father’s nod, you brought your hand forth and held it palm downward over the table. Nothing seemed to be happening, at least you knew that’s how it would look on Father’s end. However, you felt the flesh eaters emerging on your wrist and letting go of your skin to become one with the shadow between your arm and sleeve. Once they were gathered, you sent the order for them to move forward.

(he saw her shadow begin to extend and he nearly stopped her there, suddenly worried she had stolen the Nara jutsu, but he remembers vowing to trust her and decides to wait and see)

The flesh eaters look like your shadow is extending, and you remember the first time you met Nara Reo. You remember the terror of being held against your will, of being unable to move. Your brow furrows in memory and the flesh eaters leap forward in response.

A tight triangle shape cuts across the chicken wing, and you frown in disappointment as you see that they have not stripped it down to the bone. It happens as you watch, but frankly, that’s still too slow. Regardless, you let the flesh eaters finish their first meat and only call them back once only bone is left no the dish.

Their retreat is like watching your shadow return to its original form. Once they return beneath your skin, you flex your hand while staring down at your arm. Good, it seems as though you were worried over nothing as they can eat meat, but definitely prefer chakra.

When you look up at Father, as per usual, you can’t tell what he’s thinking. He spends nearly a minute staring at the chicken bones before lifting his gaze at you.

“Kaiya, your new variants of kikaichu are amazing. Any one of them could have made you a deadly opponent even if that one variation was all you had been born with. Thus far, these flesh eaters are the only variant not known to others, correct?”

You nod because Father is the only one you’ve shown them to.

Father’s gaze seemed to become intense. “Kaiya, I wish for you to keep these as your trump card. Combining them with our clan jutsu will make you a horrendous opponent to fight. If you can even go as far as using your other kikaichu, whether our clan kikaichu or the new variants you have, then they can serve as a distraction while the Carnivores sneak up on your enemy.”

Your eyes widen behind your sunglasses. If you could do that, then what would the power of your enemies matter when your ‘shadows’ could strip the flesh from their bones? Of course, few battles will probably be easily settled by them, but they would definitely be a nasty surprise when you unveiled them. And if you could actually get them up to the level where they could strip flesh from bone instantly?

It’s almost enough to make you glad that you have a hive beneath your skin.

Almost.


Emergent

Time continues to pass by as your training continues. Nishida, Amano and Shin want you to understand the intricacies of the human body while Father continues your chakra and Aburame training. At five and approaching six, he’s putting more effort into helping you gain self-control. Aburame are calm and stoic, often having conversations with their hives and therefore withdrawn, and Father would like you to have those traits as well. Being calm can help you make it through a tough situation, and being in connection with your hive promotes greater unity and therefore a more profitable relationship between host and hive. It’s… ‘squicky’, remembering the hive beneath your skin, but Father has shown you some of the Aburame clan jutsu. If you want to get near the same level then you must accept your hive as it is, and you have made great strides towards that goal.

The country borders are beginning to open again, and more missions are taking place beyond them. Kumo is still closed, but that’s not your problem. You get concerned every time Father says he has a mission outside of the country, but he has returned every time so far. You know all it takes is just a second, and it’s hard not to change Father so that he’s harder to kill. His hive would snitch any change you made on the sly, not to mention that it just feels wrong to even contemplate changing someone you love against their will and without their knowledge.

You have memories of changing people in your past life, so you know you could do it, but you haven’t managed to discuss your Quirk with Father.

Sometimes it hits you that you died once. You lived in a different world and had parents and friends and even a child. You died and lost them all. You didn’t even get to see your parents again, you were just reborn and then had to remember that they had gone before you. Was this the world they had been reborn into, but without their memories? Were they living somewhere here now, oblivious to each other and your presence? And your friends, your daughter—did they have to live on without you, or did they die too? You died and you were reborn and you have no answers to any of your questions.

During these times, if you aren’t knocked off that line of thought, you become morose and lethargic. You neglect your work or training until someone speaks to you, and then you brush off their concern. You have done so to even Father, and you suspect it hurts his feelings. You don’t want to hurt to Father, but part of you remains closed off.

Sometimes you think that part of you will always be closed off.

You try, though, to remember that even if you died, you are alive now as Aburame Kaiya. You have a Father and a clan, maybe even a village if you can just get over yourself. There is food to eat, a futon to sleep in, a world to learn about. There might even be friends you can make. You want to live as Aburame Kaiya.

When Father brings up joining the Academy next year, instead of throwing a fit, you remember your resolutions and nod, missing the slight tension that slips from Father’s frame as you do so.

“The academy sounds… educational. I do not mind having to attend.”

“Since the end of the war and his appointment in the office, Hokage-sama has suspended early graduation by a minimum of five years and raised the entry age level to five years old. As long as there is no war, the earliest students can graduate is at the age of ten.”

You can imagine that might not have been a popular move, but you find your opinion of the blond Hokage goes up a tick upon hearing that. Even if the thought of going to school again chafes, at least you won’t be shoved onto a battlefield again before you are even a decade old. You will be six soon, so that means you’ll be attending the academy for at least four years.

You aren’t exactly looking forward to it, but it sure as hell beats going to war.

…Although being surrounded by actual, noisy kids for four years probably counts as a type of hell…


Small shifts in your thinking, and small changes in your energy, can lead to massive alterations of your end result.

~Kevin Michel, Moving Through Parallel Worlds To Achieve Your Dreams

Chapter Text

When life gives you lemons, squirt someone in the eye.

~Cathy Guiswite


Eyes

Eyesight seems to be the main focus of your three teachers today. You started the day being quizzed on the eye structure of a human—doing poorly since you don’t know the technical terms—and were then moved on to civilians who had to wear eyeglasses or needed eyeglasses but couldn’t afford them. Shinobi test subjects were hard to come across, apparently. The civilians didn’t seem too pleased to see a child, much less a child wearing sunglasses and practically hidden beneath clothing, and if possible, they were less enthused after being informed that you were an Aburame and that your insects would be involved in whatever process they had signed up for. You couldn’t care less about their discomfort or unease, because after all, they were the ones who signed up for this. If they hadn’t wanted to be involved in anything strange, then they should have kept their distance from the hospital’s medic-nin.

‘Seeing’ them and their nervousness made you feel a mix of slight amusement and annoyance, but for the most part you ignored the fact that these were people. To you, they were faceless meat sacks and practice dummies. ‘People’ were ones like Father, Shibi-sama, Nara Reo, Amano, and other similar figures with whom you have interacted more than once and have bothered to learn the names of. If anything, the vast majority of the populace of the village, country and even the world meant little to you as long as they weren’t in your way or trying to hurt you.

…Thinking about it, that’s probably not healthy, but as long as you don’t say anything about it then no one can call you out on it.

Regardless, you did as you were instructed. Amano and Shin were your instructors today, and they always double-checked the work of your Shapers with medical jutsu immediately afterwards. It was the work of most of the day, but eventually they got you to the point where they wanted you to regrow an eye ‘if your Shapers could’.

‘If’.

You didn’t scoff or laugh, but merely reached out towards the chunin who had volunteered himself for this particular test. He seemed leery, especially with your lilac-colored hand reaching for his face, but he did not pull away. He was a shinobi, but he had stores of fat you could utilize and did. Holding your small palm over his missing eye, the Shapers obligingly followed your instructions, gathering up the necessary amount of fat and bringing it to his eye socket. You continued holding your hand there as your Shapers worked.

In the time since their creation, the Shapers have come far. Now they actually can do most of what you say they can do, but they still fall short to your Quirk. When they finish, the eye they have created is imperfect and has terrible vision, so you cheat and finish it up with your Quirk as the Shapers return to you. When you finally pull your hand away, the eyelid blinks open and you can see the surprise on the man’s face when he realizes that he can see through two eyes again.

As with anyone put under your hands for regeneration, he is sworn to secrecy. You asked Amano about it once, and apparently it was an order from the Fourth Hokage who built on the original order from the Third. If it wasn’t already widely known, your patients are not supposed to talk about it. Remembering your old world, you wondered how effective that order really was, but then again, this was a military dictatorship, so maybe they actually did have more success with gag orders.

It wasn’t long before time to leave, so instead of another test subject, you were made to revise the eye structure. Father wasn’t home, being out on a mission for several days, resulting in Tsubasa being your escort today. At the compound, your babysitter was another clan member, though in Father’s absence you were staying at their place. Kaede was single and didn’t have children, but she was going to be married to another Aburame at the end of the month.

‘To another Aburame’. Is… is that what’s expected of you if you choose to reproduce? Ugh. You hope not. That’s… weird, to put it mildly. Then again, from what you remember of both Mother and Father, despite being of the same clan, at least they weren’t first, second, or even third cousins.

You might wrong about that, but you aren’t going to ask for clarification. Honestly speaking, you don’t want to know how closely related they are. You’re just not going to think about it if you can help it. And besides, you haven’t met or seen all the Aburame, so there’s hope that not everyone is super closely related.

Aahh, stop thinking about it. Stop thinking about it!

(you think about marrying an Aburame and force the image from your head by almost religiously reviewing the eye structure of a human being)


Copied

It hits Shin suddenly while he’s staring at the report in front of him. He’s on the second draft, the one that will go into Aburame Kaiya’s file, and he’s just finished copying the success regarding the eye regeneration the girl performed earlier that day. The second draft of their findings on the capabilities of Kaiya’s Shapers are usually done hours after the girl has gone home for the day, usually because that’s when they finally finish up their other duties at the hospital. When they finish up whatever duties they had, they would retire to their desks to rewrite the day’s findings in neater writing, perhaps adding whatever additional thoughts or insights they might have had in the meantime. This is one such time, but the thought that hits Shin strikes like a lightning bolt.

Aburame Kaiya can regenerate eyes.

Aburame Kaiya has had access to Hyuuga.

He has read the reports on her visits to the camps before his. He knows that of the clans with Bloodline Limits, she has had access to Nara, Yamanaka, Akimichi, Inuzuka, and even a Kurama, but none of those have Eye Techniques. The Hyuuga do, though.

Sweat formed on his brow as he stared down at the report.

Could Kaiya replicate a Hyuuga’s eyes?

His chair clattered and nearly fell over as Shin stood up. He grabbed the reports, both the half-finished copy and the original, and he strode out to find Amano and Nishida. He was directed to the linen supply room and found them putting away the day’s laundry and taking inventory. He glanced around as he stalked up to them.

“Amano-san, Nishida-san.”

The women, their attention already on him from his approach, tense slightly at the stress in his voice. He doesn’t really clarify anything when he hisses their student’s name while thrusting out the reports to them. Amano’s report is with his as she had assigned him to make a clean copy of her notes to go into the girl’s file, and her eyebrow raises in response to his non-answer. He flailed his arms, unwilling to voice his suspicions but knowing he has to because neither Amano or Nishida are mind readers.

Amano and Nishida trade dubious glances as he waves them closer, but they comply. With their heads close, he whispers even quieter.

“Aburame-chan can regenerate eyes. Can Aburame-chan copy eyes?”

They look at him, not quite following, so he reminds them.

“Aburame-chan healed three Hyuuga. What if with just those three—“

Amano’s eyes widened. “—she could copy their eyes?”

Nishida, while surprised, remained skeptical. “We haven’t tested if she could create eyes outside of an eye socket.”

Amano glared down at the reports in Shin’s hands. He knew that technically, no one is supposed to access certain information, but not all information is guarded twenty-four-seven. If they recorded this and a spy were to discover it… even an untested theory might prove too tempting.

She lifted her gaze to meet his eyes, looking grim.

“We need to confirm this right away. If it’s even remotely possible—“

He nodded and they left Nishida to finish up despite her protests. Together, they decided to head to the Aburame compound first.

If they were going to bring this before the Hokage, they would prefer to have proof of their troubling theory.

(she can already regenerate limbs, but if she could copy the eyes of the Hyuuga too? the village needed to know)


Questioned

Your bedtime has been maintained, but you are woken from sleep by Kaede. She tells you to wake at once, that you have important visitors, and she waits by the side of your futon to make sure that you are going to get up. Lying there and squinting at the ceiling, you briefly fantasize about murder but shove that thought away. Managing to refrain from grumbling, you reach out and grab your sunglasses and sullenly put them on before sitting up. You want to get whatever this is over with, but you are stalled by Kaede lecturing you about proper Aburame behavior.

The murder fantasy makes another appearance, but you bear with her short lecture and respond appropriately before she lets you get up and leave the room. She doesn’t go with you, but you don’t notice until after you arrive in the living room to see Amano, Shin and Shibi-sama waiting.

Feeling both wary and weary, you still try to follow Kaede’s instructions by trying to keep a straight face. However, your own body sabotages you and you yawn, belatedly raising a hand to the front of your mouth. Shibi-sama apologizes for disturbing your rest, but Amano and Shin have come with a grave concern. Confused, you look to your two teachers and idly wonder to yourself where Nishida is.

You are no less confused when Shin brings up the Hyuuga and you dimly remember the pale-eyed shinobi you treated a few months ago. You confirm that you remember them, and you cock your head to the side at Amano’s strange request.

Could you recreate a Hyuuga eye?

You frowned.

“I do not know for certain, but I doubt it. My Shapers need biological material as I cannot shape something from nothing. Also, it has been a long while since I have seen a Hyuuga, and none since those three ages ago. I could probably create a look-a-like, though.” You straightened your neck. “With more familiarity with the Hyuuga, copying their eyes should not be an impossible task.”

Shibi sent Amano and Shin outside to get a branch so you could try to create a fake Hyuuga eye. It seemed to you as thought he was getting rid of them so he could speak to you alone and you were proven right as he spoke a couple moments after you two were alone.

“Kaiya-san.”

Peculiar. He never calls you by ‘-chan’, and you don’t know if he doesn’t call anyone by that because you rarely see him. Oh well, it’s not important. You nod to show that you are awake and listening.

“You are forbidden from recreating the eyes of the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. Such an act would qualify as Bloodline theft and the punishment can be as severe as death.”

He sounds very serious, so you keep your mouth firmly shut about your posthumous revenge plans.

“I understand, Shibi-sama.”

(that you can make an eye look like a Hyuuga’s is disturbing enough that three adults take it and leave, telling you to stay inside

you wonder exactly where they think you’d go after they woke you up after dark and if they forgot that you’re only five, but whatever, they’re gone and you can finally go back to sleep)


Paranoia

You don’t know what came of that night visit, only that the next day Amano, Shin and Nishida all sat down to reiterate Shibi-sama’s orders: you are not to recreate the eyes of the Hyuuga or the Uchiha. Part of you wants you, purely out of spite against being told what not to do, but you refrain in case someone is watching you. Thinking about it, being in a ninja village and being able to do what you can, it’s entirely probable that you are being watched.

That realization makes you stop and shiver.

Okay, new rule: behave with your Shapers and Quirk as though you are always being watched, even within the compound.

Sighing heavily, you flop onto the desk you’re studying at. The white curtains of the office are moving with a breeze and you can see part of the sky from the window. Amano, Shin and Nishida’s office is cramped, but they share because they all teach you. There’s not really room for a desk of your own, so currently you are sitting at Nishida’s desk while she and Shin are out doing medic-nin things. Something to do with checking on patients and other stuff. You aren’t exactly clear because usually they’re more interested in seeing what your Shapers can do rather than showing you the ropes of how things are done here.

Tsubasa is likely nearby, though isn’t in the room with you. Probably.

Sighing again, you lift yourself up and look back down at the human body diagram that your teachers expect you to memorize. It’s a skinless skeleton as the focus of today’s lesson are human muscles.

You wrinkle your nose and wish that today would just end.


Informed

Shibi requests the presence of both Uchiha Fugaku and Hyuuga Hiashi. Usually calling those two men at the same time is a less than optimal idea, but he would prefer to get his admission over with rather than go through it twice with two equally prideful men separately.

True to form, neither man is happy to see the other when they arrive at his house. Even with the extra work as the head of the Konoha Military Police Force, Fugaku is as punctual as Hiashi in response to Shibi’s summons. They are displeased but offer him the etiquette expected from one clan head to another.

Greeting them, Shibi guides them to his office and once inside he activates the privacy seals. The two men sit opposite him and their hard gazes demand he get to the point of why he called them and under such firm insistence. It is nearly unheard of for the Aburame clan head to call a meeting with another clan head, and today Shibi has called both which are renowned for their Eye Techniques.

They listen with growing agitation as Shibi explains the newest ability discovered by Aburame Kaiya and her Shapers. Eyes narrow and when Shibi finishes, Hiashi speaks first, cold and hard. He requests to see Kaiya, but Shibi declines, saying that she has already been informed against endeavoring to recreate the eyes of the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. The point of calling both Hiashi and Fugaku was to forewarn them that familiarity with their clan members could possibly result in Kaiya successfully recreating their eyes. He wanted them to be aware of this in order for them to decide beforehand whether or not their clan members could receive treatment from Kaiya.

The answer is firm, resounding, and exactly what Shibi expected: No. Aburame Kaiya is explicitly forbidden from touching the Hyuuga and the Uchiha both from this moment forth.

(he insists that she be left alone and they both grudgingly agree

but he worries because of how hard their gazes were)


Hobby

Amano, Shin and Nishida all seem to suddenly realize that you are a child. One day when you arrive at the hospital, they kick you out to ‘relax and go be a kid’. You are left standing in front of the hospital with Tsubasa, feeling awkward and misplaced. Father is still out of the village and the words of your teachers makes you realize that you don’t have friends.

(you had friends, five, and a sixth, all gone now)

Lost, you pull out your plain wallet and look inside. Once a week you get a small amount of spending money from Father, or from your babysitter with whom he left a certain amount for that purpose. You rarely spend any of it so you’ve collected a lot since coming back to the village. Putting it away, you looked up at Tsubasa.

“Where is the shopping district?”

“There are several.”

You hummed, thinking. “The closest, then.”

Tsubasa leads and you follow. You stick close to them as you venture in a direction you haven’t gone before. If you can’t make friends your age, perhaps exploring the village can be your backup plan. Hm. The thought of not being able to make friends and having to resort to wandering around on your own sounds… depressing. On the other hand, you don’t want to go out of your way to make friends.

You get the impression from your past memories that your friends came to you, not the other way around. Perhaps it’s more important that way, that they reached out first.

(you reached out to the sixth and you get the feeling that it didn’t stay right)

Tsubasa passes a park full of children and you wonder if it’s on purpose. You stare for a short while, and you acknowledge that you want to try the swings and the merry-go-round, but you don’t say so.

In the end, you go window shopping with Tsubasa and you wish that Father were there instead. There are plenty of pretty and interesting things to see as you walk, but nothing really grabs you. Thinking about it, you don’t really do anything outside of the hospital and the compound, or rather, anything beyond healing and your kikaichu.

“A hobby?”

Tsubasa doesn’t answer your mumble.

You keep walking until you finally come to a stop before a store selling instruments. There’s music coming from inside and it sounds like a string instrument.

The Aburame value silence and being all stern faced and mysterious. Okay, not really the second two, but close enough. Shibi-sama is solemn, Father is stoic, even freaking Tsubasa right now is all quiet with no expression on their face. Music probably isn’t something heard on the Aburame compound too much, if at all. You are an Aburame and Father is teaching you how to be one, how to not give away everything on your face, but part of you wants to be as open and noisy as your past self was. That’s not going to happen here, but surely you can express that desire positively.

Tsubasa seems reluctant to allow this to happen and they try to talk you down from a side bamboo flute (although ‘try’ is a strong word since they just pointed out a string instrument, something called a guqin, but learning strings seems harder than learning how to make music with air). In the end, you leave the shop with a plain bamboo flute and a book.

Tsubasa’s shoulders seem to be sagging a little, but you could be wrong.


Beginner

Kaede is grateful when Teijo finally returns. For the most part, Kaiya is an admirable Aburame child, quiet and diligent, but she recently picked up an instrument to learn and… well, as a beginner, she isn’t very good at it. At all.

Of course, she says nothing about the noise Kaiya makes in the backyard, applying herself to the instrument as she does to the hospital, but that just means listening to a lot of wheezy and screeching sounds. No doubt she’ll get better with practice, but Kaede would prefer if she didn’t have to listen to every step of her journey.

Closing the door after her departing guest, Kaede mentally wished Teijo patience.

Later, in his office and listening to the screeching noise coming from the backyard, Teijo removed his sunglasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He made the mental note to buy some ear plugs tomorrow.

And another to buy her a better made flute, something aesthetically pleasing for when she faltered in learning as a boost to keep her motivated. After all, a hobby can be good for a shinobi or kunoichi, and this certainly isn’t a self-destructive one.

Sighing in response to a particularly high-pitched screech, Teijo put his sunglasses back on and reminded himself: a good hobby can be a good outlet.

A good hobby can be a good outlet.


Masters today were starters yesterday, so begin now.

~Bernard Kelvin Clive

Chapter Text

I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.

~Jana Stanfield


Promise

One evening, Shibi-sama stops by the house with a boy you don’t think you’ve met before. As you are in the backyard practicing the bamboo flute you spent good money on, Father steps outside to call you in. Obeying (and, as always, feeling slightly guilty for putting him through your awful practicing), you stop practicing and following him inside.

“This is Yoji,” Shibi-sama says, quickly getting to the point after you and Father have sat down. “He too is an Aburame. Shimura Danzo operated a secret organization known as Root. He filled the ranks with shinobi he conditioned to be loyal to him, sometimes taking his recruits from clans.”

You try not to frown behind your now zipped up high collar. Shimura taking recruits from even one of the four noble clans? Either the Hokage didn’t know or Shimura had too much power. This is seemingly just another reason to be glad that he’s dead.

“Yoji was one such recruit. He was orphaned at the age of five and recruited soon after. He is six now, and has spent over a year in Root. I will be raising him from now on. The reason I have come is that before he was orphaned, Yoji’s father slit his throat.”

You can’t stop your hands from clenching over your thighs, visceral horror shooting through your veins. Such a betrayal is… you have no words! You can’t imagine what that must have felt like, to be attacked by the man who should be your protector. Glancing over at Father, you know that you wouldn’t react well in such a scenario and that if you survived, well, you would probably be broken and left with severe trust issues.

Of course, your reaction doesn’t go unnoticed by anyone in the room. Shibi-sama seems more solemn than usual while his new ward… doesn’t seem to react, but he’s an Aburame so you know better. Father lowers his chin ever so slightly, possibly realizing how badly you would take such an action from him.

However, no one comments and the clan head continues.

“I would ask that you heal his vocal cords, if it is within the capability of your Shapers.”

Even if it isn’t (which it probably is), then you have no qualms about using your Quirk. This poor kid! It’s a small thing, but maybe giving back his voice can help undo whatever it is they did to him in Root.

You don’t know what Root is, exactly, but it sounds shady and shady things aren’t good.

Nodding firmly, you promise.

“I will do everything I can to help him.”


Patience

Something is burning in his veins. He doubts it is the new kikaichu variant currently moving around in his throat, no, this feeling has been simmering ever since Root was invaded by Konoha shinobi. Yoji didn’t witness it himself, but he and all the others were informed of Shimura-sama’s arrest and later, of his trial and sentence. Root, the only thing that made sense to Yoji since he murdered his father, was lost.

The recruits had been separated and ‘returned’ to the families or clans who either hadn’t noticed them missing or had willingly given them up. His own clan was guilty of the former, though he wasn’t sure if they were also guilty of the latter. The only positive thing his clan had ever given him were the kochu that made up his hive. Shimura-sama had seen worth in him for that, and Yoji had made great progress in rising in the ranks.

It frustrated him to no end that he was right back where he’d started, the very place he’d never wanted to return to again.

Still, he maintained a blank expression through everything. Emotion was weakness. Emotion must be purged. The only thing that mattered was being useful to Shimura-sama. Even if he was dead, it was all Yoji had.

Some day, some how, he would take revenge for Shimura-sama.

He just had to bide his time.


Troubled

Wow, this boy’s brain was firing off all kinds of warning signs. Well, mostly it was the fact that none of it was showing up on his face that worried you. His brain was firing off signs of anger and frustration, and yet this kid was as blank faced as a wall. Even most of his physiology wasn’t matching up with what his brain was showing you. His heart wasn’t pumping above or below the average, nor were his stress levels as high as they should be with what his brain was exhibiting. Maybe you were reading him wrong?

Hmm. Well, it’s not as though he would recover instantly from what he’s gone through. You could reprogram him (and wasn’t that a nauseating montage of memories), but you won’t. While there are situations in which you will do exactly that—your memories show you that it was usually in response to money paid or the sharpening of your skills—you will respect your clan members’ rights to their emotions, however repressed they might be. Wasn’t that how you did it in your past life? People important to you weren’t influenced.

If someone loved you, you didn’t want it to be because you made them.

Finishing up with Yoji, you recalled your Shapers and slowly pulled your hand back.

The scar on his neck was gone, and maybe you should have asked if he wanted it gone or not, but it’s too late now. His vocal cords have been restored, but they’re new and he hasn’t spoken in what, over a year?

Shibi-sama spoke. “Yoji?”

The boy’s hand reached up to touch the spot where his scar once was.

“Shi… bi… sam… a?”

It looks like a difficult task for him, and his voice is wispy. Well, he can talk at least, so now it’s up to him to practice until it’s second nature again.

They leave soon after, Shibi-sama offering his thanks and Yoji bowing as well. You watch them leave before Father closes the door. Quietly, you return to your room while Father sets to cooking dinner. He must know you want to be alone with your thoughts because he doesn’t call you to help him, even though you normally do.

Sitting in your room, you stared at a wall and speculated.

How badly would your heart break if Father betrayed you? Would Yoji be okay?

(how much of a monster were you in your past life?)


Cherished

Kaiya is subdued.

She tried to hide her reaction to Shibi-sama’s revelation about how Yoji-kun lost his voice, but Teijo saw her reaction. He’s been teaching her how to keep her expressions from showing up on her face or in her actions, and she’s been doing well in that regards. Then, how badly did Shibi-sama’s words startle her? Did it horrify her, the thought that a father could raise a hand against his child?

Teijo vaguely remembers Yoji and his parents, but only as peripheral clan members, none whom he or Kazue interacted with much. He can’t recall much about the boy’s mother, but he remembers a little more about the boy’s father. He hadn’t been a particularly skilled Aburame, an average chunin if he recalled correctly. Not that Teijo isn’t a career chunin too, but he’d still estimated his own skill above that man’s. They’d never sparred or fought, though, so he can’t say for certain.

Regardless, Teijo is ashamed that he hadn’t noticed Yoji disappear. He hadn’t even connected the murdered Aburame with the fact that his son should have been in the picture, only that he’d vaguely registered the news of another dead clan member. Would his own Kaiya have suffered the same fate if he had died?

Gripping the knife in his hand, Teijo paused as he realized that that fate had nearly come to pass. Shimura had sent his shinobi to killed him, kidnap Kaiya and blame Iwa all at once. He would have gotten a new kikaichu variant, a brood mare, and would have reignited the war in one fell swoop. His poor daughter, orphaned and used when she was old enough. Closing his eyes, Teijo breathed out and reminded himself that it had been averted, that Kaiya was safe from Shimura’s machinations.

Continuing the meal preparation, his thoughts turned back to Kaiya’s reaction. She must have imagined herself and him in Yoji’s situation. The thought made him ill.

He would never raise a hand against Kaiya like that.

(not against the only treasure Kazue left behind)


Introduction

Early in the year you will be joining the academy, Shibi-sama’s heir is born. You hear the news that it is a boy and that a hive queen successfully settled within him. Once in a while, incompatibility kills infants and queens, and the Aburame will lose what should have been a new clan member. The child survived, which is good news.

Huh. Time sure flew by since the last time you saw Shibi-sama’s wife. You don’t know if she was pregnant at the time or what. To be fair, you’d almost been kidnapped and nearly had to watch Father die, so you probably missed a lot of things that night.

You don’t get to see the new heir until he’s almost a month old. Father takes you to Shibi-sama’s house. If it wasn’t for the gift Father had prepared and the fact that he told you that today’s visit was specifically for seeing the new clan heir, then you wouldn’t have given the visit much weight. As it was, you’d been bathed yesterday and told that you would be formally introduced to Shibi-sama’s wife and son. You can understand being formally introduced to the wife because you didn’t exactly meet in great circumstances last time, but the son? He’s a baby for crying out loud. He won’t care about meeting you, except for maybe being bothered by your face which will be a stranger’s to him.

Still, it seems like a clan thing? A politeness thing? Ugh, if having a baby means having a bunch of people stopping by then that’s just another reason not to have one. Then again, maybe this is just because Shibi-sama is the clan head and his son is the heir.

Either way, after greeting Shibi-sama and his wife, you are permitted to step forward to greet the baby in her arms. It’s awkward and your words are stilted, and the baby, Shino, doesn’t seem particularly interested in the goings on, preferring instead to try and grab his mother’s hair.

When you finally leave, you breathe a quiet sigh of relief.

Father pats your shoulder.


Thief

You see Shino twice more before you enter the academy that spring.

The first time you see him (or rather, the second time), Shibi-sama and Father are both out on missions, though not together. Winter is ending and the snows are melting away. The Aburame don’t like winter, and you are no exception. You are looking forward to spring, though not so much to going back to school, even if it is for the first time in this life.

Coming home from the hospital with Tsubasa at your side, the two of you cross paths with Shibi-sama’s wife. Um, what was her name… Shit. You fervently hope that either no one asks you for her name or that someone else says it so you can pretend you didn’t forget. Tsubasa is no help to you, though he does help her by taking her groceries so that her hands are free to keep hold of Shino’s sling.

Ha. He looks like a larva all wrapped up like that. If cameras weren’t so expensive you’d wonder why no one seemed to be taking pictures of him. If it were up to you, you’d totally take one of him while he’s all bundled up so you could tease him with it later. ‘Look, this was you in your larval phase’.

The last time you see him before entering the academy, Tsubasa is taking you home when Aburame-sama summons him with a kikaichu which he follows, which in turn means you follow him. You end up at Shibi-sama’s house and it turns out that his wife needs an errand done quickly. Tsubasa volunteers and even though it isn’t that far to Kaede’s, he requests that you stay there until he gets back. He leaves and you are welcomed further into the house.

She goes back to cooking, and you find yourself sitting on the floor and vaguely interested in the baby not too far away. Shino isn’t very vocal for an infant, though you aren’t sure what’s normal for a baby at all, really. Still, you don’t have a book to read and his mother is busy in the kitchen, so basically he’s the most interesting thing at the moment, mostly by default.

Cautiously, not sure if you’re allowed to or not, you move closer to Shino. Before long, you find yourself staring down at the baby who in turn is staring back at you, likely because you entered his field of vision. Can babies see? Well, his eyes don’t look like they’re blind.

Oh. Wait. Aburame conceal their eyes, but Shino is a baby and you’ve seen his eyes without him giving his permission and he’s not even your brother or a close cousin. Is this some kind of breech in Aburame protocol? It feels like it is, but maybe that’s just you.

Shino shifts slightly, catching your attention and pulling you from your suddenly spiraling thoughts. His eyes are brown, a plain color, but they shine in his round, gentle, baby face. His skin is so pale, but there is a soft rosiness to his appearance too.

He looks nothing like the daughter whose name you can’t remember, and he makes you feel differently because of it. You couldn’t love your own daughter, your own flesh and blood, so you hadn’t appreciated her as a baby. Shino isn’t her, though, and you find yourself almost hypnotized by how delicate he seems. He isn’t wailing either, not like you can somewhat remember your daughter doing, and he’s all the more enchanting for it.

Almost without conscious thought, you reach out a finger to his hand. Maybe it’s just a baby’s instinct, but he grabs you. It’s nothing you can’t get out of, not really, and it’s nothing abnormal compared to what most babies would do, but you still freeze at his puny grip, Shapers and Quirk completely forgotten as everything else ceases to exist.

He can’t see your eyes because of your sunglasses, but that’s not true on your side. You have a shaded view of his face, of his clear brown eyes, and his gaze suddenly has power it didn’t before he grasped your finger. You become keenly aware that Shino—small, soft, defenseless, quiet, cute—is a new life that has his whole future before him.

In that moment, Aburame Shino is the whole world.


Shaken

When she turns, she sees that her son has a grip on the girl. Amusement threatens to tug at her lips, but she manages to keep a straight face. It’s hard, though, especially with the look she can see on the girl’s face from here. Her sunglasses prevent a clear side view of her eyes, but even she can see that the girl’s eyes are wide.

Kaiya has no siblings and possibly hasn’t interacted with an infant prior to Shino. Her son is a quiet thing, most Aburame children are, and his solemn face seems to have charmed Kaiya, because the girl keeps looking down at him even after he lets go of her finger. Her son currently fascinates the girl, and as a proud mother, she doesn’t mind letting the girl admire him.

Even if the girl holds the Shapers and can do the things Shibi has told her of, she doubts that she would harm or otherwise influence Shibi’s son, not after what her husband has done for the girl.

Besides, even with her back turned, she can still spot them in the reflective surface of a tin on the counter. Any hint of lilac and that girl is dead.

(your escort returns and hands you over to your babysitter, but your head is in the clouds while something twists in your gut

you decide: you don’t want to love that baby, that child you could see grow, someone you could see as a little brother, not when you have Father to fear losing, to adding to the faces you still can’t see

so you will stay away until the feeling dies and he is just another face or even someone like Nara or Amano or your former neighbor Naoki—an acquaintance you would help or interact without much emotion

and not someone you feel like you would destroy nations for)


You only need to steal a woman's heart if she won't give it to you willingly.

~Matshona Dhliwayo

Chapter Text

Memories shrink. Like a soap bar used over and over, they become deformed, weaker scented, too slight and slippery to hold.

~Amanda Hodgkinson, 22 Britannia Road


Fatalistic

Amano, Shin and Nishida all know that you’ll be entering the academy soon and they rearrange your schedule to shorter hours after the academy lets out each day, though this is flexible because Father is still training you. For a child, you don’t have a lot of free time. Then again, if you were a normal child, no doubt this would have been considered boring. On the other hand, maybe an Aburame child would bear such a heavy schedule with more patience than a non-clan child. Regardless, you don’t actually have a lot of time for doing nothing.

As for your Avoid Shino plan, that’s going fairly well in that you hardly ever seen him or his mother. Now, if you can just keep that up for a few years…

Pursing your lips, you stared out at the backyard, bamboo flute silent on your lap. Inside the house, Father is cooking, and you’re glad to have him home. Sometimes he leaves without advance notice, but that’s just the shinobi life, apparently. It’s always disappointing to hear it from Tsubasa or Kaede, though. On the flip side, it’s always nice to be informed that he’s back, and sometimes he surprises you by picking you up himself after he returns from a mission.

Pausing, you frown as you realize that practicing your bamboo flute has been cutting into your cooking lessons with Father. You make a mental note to remedy that and follow through by getting up and going back inside, sliding the door shut behind you as you enter the house.

There isn’t much left to do, but you do manage to set the table for him. Dinner is quiet as it often is, but tonight your past memories give you an overlaying image of a brighter, shinier place and Mom and Dad eating at a table with you. Closing your eyes briefly, you remind yourself that you are here with Father in the village of Konohagakure. You are Aburame Kaiya, and you are six years old.

When you open your eyes again, slowly chewing your food, the overlaying image is gone. Swallowing and taking another bite of rice, you find yourself resigned.

You’re never going to completely stop having flashbacks, are you?


Unaware

You see Yoji again the morning of your first day at the academy. He is with Shibi-sama at the edge of the crowd of new students and parents, and apparently they left earlier than you and Father. You surmise that the little ball of mixed messages might be your classmate depending on how the students are split. You aren’t quite sure what to make of Yoji, but part of you is sympathetic enough to make you decide that if he makes overtures of friendship or clan solidarity then you won’t turn him away.

Turning your attention to the other children gathered here today, you can’t help but shuffle a little closer to Father, displeased by the thought of having to mingle with so many. Father doesn’t comment, but you suspect that he hopes you will make friends. It sounds unappealing, trying to connect with these noisy and potentially aggressive creatures. After all, you can’t exactly kill them if they displease you. Hell, you probably can’t even make them sick too many times, if at all, because of course it’s known that such a thing is within your capabilities.

Brow furrowing slightly, you try to pay attention to the Fourth Hokage welcoming the new students. He mentions hard work, learning, and the Will of Fire. Basic stuff, nothing that catches your interest. After that, it isn’t long before the students are being called towards their teachers. You hear your name but don’t move your feet, sulking within the bulk of your coat. The teacher calls Yoji’s name, but unlike you he responds right away, heading over like this whole experience is nothing.

You only move when Father’s hand gently nudges your shoulder. Casting a last glance up at him, you finally move your feet, reluctantly heading towards your group just as the last couple of students are called.

You don’t notice that there are no Uchiha or Hyuuga in your class, but both Shibi-sama and Father do. Neither are pleased but make no comment until a few moments after they pass through the clan compound gate. There is no inflection in either of their voices, and in the agree they agree that the Aburame have largely stayed out of politics and will continue on that path regardless.

(besides, it is inevitable that the classes will shrink and rearrange until the most promising are in the same class—the two other noble clans cannot snub the Aburame forever)


Introductions

Part of the first day of class includes self-introduction. Students stand up, say their names, something they like, and declare what they would like to be when they grow up. So far ‘a cool shinobi’ and ‘a beautiful kunoichi’ are the most common answers. Yoji doesn’t deviate far either and wants to be ‘a capable shinobi’. As it gets closer and closer to your turn, your stomach grows more upset. You keep practicing in your head what you want to say and when it’s finally your turn, you stand.

“My name is Aburame Kaiya. I like flowers. I want to work at the hospital when I grow up.”

There, a safe and boring introduction.

Sitting down, you let out a quiet sigh of relief as the introductions keep going. Soon they are over with and class begins with a history of the village. Listening, you note that no one has out paper or pencils, and you blink slowly behind your sunglasses. You’re going to have to sharpen your listening and retention skills, aren’t you?

(by lunchtime, the only introduction you remember is Yoji’s—he likes his kochu, which is probably true enough)


Composure

Father made your lunch, of course. It’s brighter than usual, probably meant to convey good feelings or luck to you on your first day. Giving thanks, you start eating while keeping an eye on the children scattered around the place. Most are eating, and some are running about, and none of them are too close, which is your preference at the moment. You don’t see Yoji, though, and wonder where he is. You spare a thought for who made his lunch and wonder if it was Shibi, his wife, or Yoji himself since he seems like he’d have an independent streak.

When you finish eating, there’s still time left, and since you don’t have any particular urge to join the other kids, you wander off into some trees for solitude. Maybe you can find a spider to copy. You’ve been playing around with the idea of silk-making kikaichu, but with your other variants plus the fact that it sounds chakra-consuming, you aren’t really serious about it yet.

You can vaguely sense the insects in this copse of trees, but you don’t actively call any of them to you. Making friends with bugs isn’t your idea of a good time, though you will admit that it’s self-satisfying to be able to summon butterflies to you. Like, you could stand in a clearing and have them come and flutter around you.

Which you plan to do at least once in your life after you’ve managed to make progress on your bamboo flute, not that you’ll tell anyone that. Mind, an Aburame would probably figure it out in an instant, but fireflies are totally fair game.

Stifling a giggle, you waited a moment, keeping your composure until the impulse passed. Remember, you are an Aburame, and Aburame don’t stand around giggling to themselves.

You pause, picturing Shibi-sama, Father and Tsubasa each in turn standing alone and giggling to themselves. Yeah… let’s not picture that again.


Appreciation

Itachi stared at Aburame Kaiya as she disappeared into the trees. His father was unhappy with the girl for a number of reasons, including the new age restrictions on graduation, but most recently for her ability to regenerate eyes. It is not a widely known fact at the moment, and Itachi only knows because his father told not to touch or allow Aburame Kaiya to touch him as there was a possibility that she could reconstruct Uchiha eyes after enough familiarity with them. Having noticed that no Hyuuga were placed in the same class as the Aburame, Itachi assumed that the Hyuuga had also been informed. He guessed that the other Hyuuga had been told to stay away from her, if not why they should.

Honestly speaking, though, Itachi felt a measure of gratitude towards the Aburame girl. His father considers him responsible enough to divulge information to him that he otherwise would not hear, so Itachi knows that Aburame Kaiya is at least somewhat responsible for ending the Third Shinobi War. Because of this, the Hokage has seen fit to change the age limit for entering the academy, as well as the age for graduation. If this was still wartime, then Itachi knows he would be graduating within a year. Thanks to Aburame Kaiya, he might actually get to enjoy his childhood.

Itachi knows he is a smart child. His parents consider him a genius, and his father thinks spending five years at the academy is a waste. Fugaku is currently petitioning to allow for early graduation, and Itachi suspects that he will have some measure of success. Still, for now, the threat of war isn’t hanging over him. He is glad, because at least for now, he doesn’t have to see what war is truly like.

Lifting his gaze to the sky above, Itachi slowly breathed deeply.

Peace was good.


Wooden

Father and Shibi-sama were outside at the end of the day, standing amongst other parents who had come to pick up their children from their first day at the academy. You were getting better at hiding what you were feeling, and the only indication of brightening at the sight of Father you gave was a slight quickening of your steps.

“Father,” you greeted almost levelly.

“Kaiya,” he returned in his steady voice. He tilted his chin at the clan head. “Shibi-sama.”

“Teijo-san,” the clan head responded. He greeted his adopted son. “Yoji.”

“Shibi-sama,” Yoji greeted tonelessly.

You valiantly held back an awkward laugh at this stilted Aburame series of greetings. Oh my god, you were all socially inept, weren’t you? Being emotionally repressed even amongst each other can’t be good for fostering good relations. You are told that the Aburame produce a steady stream of calm and capable shinobi, but clearly social graces were the first to be sacrificed on the altar of improvement.

Thankfully, you and Father separate from Shibi-sama and Yoji without you bursting out laughing, shaking your head, or any other manner of expression. Bottom line: you didn’t make a fool of yourself or Father by giving in to your emotions. Hey, maybe there is something to this repression thing.

Putting it out of your mind, when Father asks what you would like him to cook for supper, you ask him to make something with what has become your favorite vegetable: daikon. As Father leads the way to the market, you hold his hand and reflect that as Kaiya, your taste in food has changed. You prefer mild flavors and dislike quite a few spices. Then again, you are still young, so it is possible that your taste in food will change again.

Resisting the urge to swing Father’s hand, you settle for telling him about your first day at the academy. If you didn’t know that it was a school for would-be shinobi and kunoichi then you would have thought that it was just regular grade school.

(middle school uniform)

You miss a step but Father’s grip keeps you from falling. He asks if something is wrong but you just say you were lost in your thoughts for a moment. He advises you to be more vigilant and you agree in a quiet tone.

When you get home, you try to draw the image you saw, a top with short sleeves, a v-shaped neck and scarf, and a skirt with pleats. The majority of it had been black, and there were white lines along the… the thing around the neck, like a tiny cape but not. There had been a white cloth in the v-shaped part too, probably to hide cleavage. The scarf was red, and there had been white stripes along the short sleeves. So, a ‘uniform of’ white and black, worn by girls.

By you, in that long gone life?

You frown at the drawing. Not enough covering by Aburame standards, really.


Attachment

Father and Shibi-sama only walk you and Yoji to the academy on the first day. After that, they expect you to go together, and even though Yoji walks next to you, you can’t help but suspect that he resents it, at least a little. Plus, even though you can’t see anyone, you bet that you’re being followed, possibly by Tsubasa though that might be a stretch.

Hm. Thinking about it, you’re not really allowed to go anywhere by yourself, are you? Considering what you can do, the reason is likely two-hold: one, to keep you from being kidnapped, and two, to keep you from harming others. Strangely, even though it should chafe past-you since she was a grown up, she strangely seems accustomed to being followed.

…Ah. Past-you had your Quirk first, so naturally she’d have at least one guard, right? And if she protested them being visible while following her, they’d blend in, right? So going through this right now as Kaiya isn’t exactly new. Got it.

Arriving at school, Yoji clearly parts ways with a word or two and sets himself up near the back and close to the window. Truthfully, that’s where you’d like to sit, but he was faster in claiming a spot, so you glance around the room before deciding on the middle row opposite of Yoji.

Days pass in monotony with lessons at the academy, practical application of your Shapers at the hospital, and training and flute practice at the compound. None of the kids will have anything to do with you, not after they find out there are insects beneath your skin. It’s not as though either you or Yoji were trying hard to make friends, but the teacher revealing that bit of information about your clan pretty much shoots any chance of friendship straight to hell. You don’t particularly care, and you don’t think Yoji cares much either, but it is annoying when the girls shriek and run away from you with unnecessary dramatics.

Sometimes Father will ask if you have made any friends but your answer is always no. He doesn’t ask why, and you’re grateful. You’re not sure you could articulate your reasons clearly, but you just don’t feel any connection with the kids in your classroom. Not even Yoji seems like a potential friend.

Oh well. You have plenty of time to make friends, if that’s still possible despite you being… what, reluctant? Apprehensive? Most of you doesn’t want to make friends because you are afraid of losing them like you have with the friends from your past life. The rest is a mix of shyness and awkwardness because very few of your classmates have any mental maturity at all.

If it’s this hard to make friends with what little you remember, then you’re glad that you aren’t clearly aware of whatever age gap there is between your past-self and the kids in your class. Being certain of how old you were when you died would just make things more awkward for you. If you do remember, you hope it’s after you’ve made friends and you’ve all grown up somewhat.

For now, you are content in going without. Your days are busy and maintaining friendships would likely be difficult. There isn’t anyone who catches your interest, so you have no reason to reach out.

(to a child with skinned knees, to a boy with green hair, to a costume-wearing ____—)

The evolution of the green-haired boy makes you furrow your brow. There are words that don’t come to you, and one of them applies to that boy with a frequency that seems to be part of his identity.

Remembering more about him, at least what you can recall, you get the impression that you two lived close to each other and saw each other grow up. This boy, the sixth, he had green hair and a litany of smiles that you seemed to have been fond of. He cried a lot too, and your memories show his mouth moving frequently so he must have been a talker.

Who is he, that boy you promised you wouldn’t forget?

Shutting your eyes, you pushed away his memory. Thinking about him is a waste of time since you have no answers. Moreover, you died and left him behind. There’s no going back, no way of finding out his fate. Either the memories will clear or they won’t. Like with everything (everyone) else, the most you can do is remember.

After all, it’s not like you can go back home to them.

(you miss them, those half-forgotten faces, but it’s starting to get easier

to let go

and move on)


It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.

~Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Chapter Text

One day can change your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is three or four big days that change everything.

~Beverly Donofrio


Ripples

(you exist as Aburame Kaiya and unintentionally put an end to the war and your attempting kidnapping reveals a traitor in power)

The Third Hokage steps down quietly and the Fourth Hokage is appointed sooner than anyone expected.

Uchiha Itachi is not taken to the battlefield by his father to witness war.

Orochimaru hears of Aburame Kaiya’s Shapers.

The boy who would be Yakushi Kabuto does not lose his memory and is not picked up by Yakushi Nono.

Kannabi Bridge does not need to be destroyed.

Chigiri no Sato—later known as Kirigakure—holds off on sealing the Three-Tailed beast in a Konoha shinobi in an attempt to destroy Konohagakure.

A Konoha border squad is lost, consisting of an Uchiha, an Inuzuka and two civilian born shinobi.

(it is in a passing comment from Father that you learn that Inuzuka Toshiro is dead)

Chigiri no Sato carries out their plan but fail when the unwilling host takes their own life.

Chigiri no Sato denies any sanction of a mission within the Land of Fire, claiming missing-nin.

The Fourth Hokage does not press in hopes of keeping peace.

Uchiha Obito and Nohara Rin are promoted to chunin.

The Uchiha and the Hyuuga silently unite against the Aburame in a cold war that the Aburame ignore.

(life falls into routine but then comes the nightmare of October 10th)


Evacuation

Sitting in the guest room at Kaede’s house, you can’t bring yourself to get ready for bed. You can’t even bring yourself to do something as simple as read. There’s just something in the air that feels wrong. Your instincts are buzzing in your head, telling you to duck and take cover. And yet, as far as you can tell, there aren’t any signs that anything is wrong.

Today was the same as yesterday and the only thing of note was that Father had left on a mission this morning after making sure you were with Yoji on the way to the academy. Classes were the same, and your fellow classmates were as loud as usual. Tsubasa picked you up after classes and took you to the hospital. Shin-san had you working on regenerating limbs on piglets in preparation of moving on to humans. Afterwards, Tsubasa took you back to the compound and handed you off to Kaede and her new husband. You had practiced your bamboo flute, but after dinner you started feeling uneasy.

Kaede seemed to sense it as well as she said you weren’t to step outside again tonight. Her husband wasn’t home, was off on border patrol and wouldn’t be back for at least two weeks, so it was just the two of you. The unease prickling at your skin meant that you hadn’t protested, so here you were sitting alone—

D R E A D

You gasped as a thick and oppressive aura suddenly fell upon you, choking the air from your lungs. From outside and in the distance came a roar that rattled your bones and told you that death was on its way. Your limbs shook in terror as you folded forward, catching yourself with your arms. Breathing was unexpectedly difficult and this did nothing to help calm you down.

Kaede burst into the room, calling your name. You had barely turned your head to look when she scooped you up. Clinging on to her came automatically, and soon she was running out of the house, stopping only to yank on her shinobi sandals.

Going outside was like seeing a kicked anthill from the perspective of ants. Aburame were everywhere, and wow, you had no idea there were so many. There was no time to marvel though, and your thoughts were numb with terror as the aura continued to hang heavily in the air. The clan was evacuating, directed by the older civilians and only a scant few shinobi as the rest of the clan’s able forces ran in the opposite direction of safety.

Another roar split the air and you clenched your eyes shut.

Kaede was a chunin, she was needed elsewhere, so when Yoji showed up with Shino strapped to him, she put you down and ordered the boy to get both you and Shino to safety. She was gone then, faster than you could open your eyes. Startled by her absence you glanced around, and that’s when you saw it.

A massive beast was in the distance, a giant embodiment of hate and fear in the shape of an enraged fox. Nine tales swayed against the sky as it swiped downwards and you knew that it was tearing apart the village.

What could anyone do against such a creature?

The kikaichu of the Aburame consume chakra, but even your whole clan united couldn’t subdue a beast of that size and power. You were all going to die. That thing was going to kill every single—

“Kaiya!”

A hand yanked your wrist and you were forced to face Yoji. The normally blank-faced boy was glaring, his brows furrowing deeply. His grip felt bruising and Shino was wailing.

“We have to move!”

He yanked your arm and you stumbled forward until you were running beside him. You both followed the stream of fleeing Aburame as your heart pounded almost painfully in your chest. There was absolutely nothing you could do in this situation. Your Quirk and all your kikaichu variants were useless against the monster behind you.

Gasping as you ran, tears welled up and slid from your eyes.

You were powerless.


Comprehension

If only he could get them alone, tonight would be a perfect night to get his revenge on Shibi and Kaiya for their part in Shimura-sama’s downfall. In all this chaos, who could say that he didn’t give his best in trying to get these two to safety? If Kaiya was lost in the commotion—shoved into the path of flying or falling rubble—and the Aburame heir succumbed to the monster’s aura—smothered by cloth and his hand—then that was a terrible tragedy. Yoji did his best, he swears!

Unfortunately, there are plenty of clan members around them as they run through the streets of Konoha, ready to flee (abandon) the village should it fall to that monstrous beast. They are not left alone and his attempts to fall behind are thwarted by adults or the few genin present. It seems that they know Kaiya on sight, if not himself and the baby cradled against him. They are a group of three that must not be lost and so there are eyes on them from all around.

They gather in the forest and wait. Even after the terrible aura of the nine-tailed fox disappears, none of them leave. Soon, though, there is a distressed call for assistance as someone’s infant is having increasing trouble breathing. Kaiya, a useless weight since the compound, shifts as a call for help comes again. Others are already moving to assist, but she still moves, gripping his hand this time as she leads them over.

The Aburame infant is a boy and his chest is hardly moving. Aburame are typically not inclined towards medical jutsu, so the ones attempting to help do not have glowing green hands. Kaiya silently interjects herself and reaches out with a lilac colored hand. No one stops her, and the moment her hand touches the baby, its chest starts expanding and contracting, but the baby itself doesn’t wail or even whimper.

“There’s something wrong with his chakra.” Kaiya frowns, her face not hidden as she isn’t wearing the coat she usually does. “It’s like… it’s like his chakra has been poisoned. It’s killing him and it hurts him.”

She shakes her head when asked if there’s anything she can do.

“Chakra control is not my forte. His best bet is to have someone with training and great chakra control to filter out the poison. I cannot state certainties as this is all new to me. There are likely points I do not know about.”

The infant’s mother, a civilian Aburame by the looks of her, pleads for Kaiya to do anything she can to help her son. Kaiya was quiet for a moment before she slowly said that the most she could do was assist in the infant’s breathing. The mother was quick to agree, saying that the medic-nin at the hospital could likely help, if only her son could survive that long.

At that point, another clan member spoke up, a prepubescent girl who had an infant sister who was also having trouble breathing. Kaiya turned her head and stared at Shino who had fallen quiet. She glanced at him and Yoji shook his head slightly once. Shino’s breathing was slightly below normal.

He watched as Kaiya’s skin turned lilac. She crouched down and touched a hand to the grass which began shortening as part of it melted away to slide against her skin. It wasn’t long before multiple lilac-colored tendrils were extending from her hands and connecting to multiple young Aburame children.

None died before an Anbu came requesting that Kaiya assist at the hospital.

Following her to the hospital still carrying Shino who was now connected to Kaiya from the back of her neck, Yoji watched her work, silently awed as an epiphany occurred to him.

So this is why Shimura-sama wanted her and why Shibi had moved against the leader of Root.

(he understands now, the desire to posses her)


Tool

The Aburame who had relatives or wards attached to you followed you to the hospital. An older Aburame carried you on his back to spare you the exertion of walking to the hospital from the forest. In truth, that Anbu had come with the intention of carrying you and using the body flicker technique, but that was impossible with eight Aburame infants and babies you refused to disconnect from. In the end, it was agreed that you would walk with your group, but you were to go at once, and now you were nearly there.

It was stomach-churning to see the devastation wrought on the village. Entire sections were demolished, and the dead were littered around.

(you’ve known of worse but this is the first time you see it firsthand)

The hospital is a mess. One section of the building is destroyed and the lawn is filled with overflowing patients. Almost by magic but probably summoned by someone telling her of your arrival, Amano is quick to appear in front of you, demanding that you get your ass inside and help out. You refuse on the grounds of the Aburame children and Amano tells you that they’re not the only babies affected by the Kyuubi.

(you have a name now for that thing)

She scowls when you refuse to leave your young clan members to their luck and angrily tells you to set yourself up near the hospital entrance if that’s how you want to be. She disappears in a swirl of leaves as your lips twitch, but you do as she says. The Aburame babies stay connected to you as a pair of medic-nin come outside to help you triage the many people outside.

Shin appears, looking harried and frustrated. He tells you to do the bare minimum to keep people from dying, but above all to watch your chakra levels. You are ordered to stop before it gets too dangerous and you nod, well aware that your hive could accidentally kill you if you fall into chakra exhaustion.

But then, your Quirk doesn’t need chakra.


Aid

Crushed limbs—amputation, closed blood vessels, boosted infection resistance. Limb replacement to be considered at a later date depending on commission and or orders from above.

Broken rib cages and pierced lungs—bones melted away to prevent further perforation, lungs healed. Need to replace missing bone at a later date.

Crushed skulls, still alive—melt bone shards, relieve pressure on brain, stop bleeding, make sure brain will neither drown nor suffocate. Survival ensured, patients set aside.

Broken spines—pain nullified, make sure death won’t occur because of complications. Patients set aside for a later date.

Broken bones—melt bone splinters, heal if breaks are clean, nullify pain for bad breaks. Revisit later if needed.

Infants with chakra poisoning—you connect to several more.

Internal bleeding—stop it, return blood to blood vessels.

Bruised organs—nullify pain, advise against exertion.

Oh god, a premature birth—the baby has been dead for too long, it is still born. The young woman’s cries hurt.

More babies are added to the Aburame already connected to you. You connect to their holders to maintain the façade of using chakra, in this case borrowing theirs.

How much time has passed? Where is the dawn?

(your teacher is pissed when he comes out and tells you to stop

you try, but people keep coming up to you

eventually your fellow Aburame form a wall

it’s disturbing, seeing so many tendrils that you know are connected to you)


Foolish

Shin is pissed when he carries Kaiya into a hospital room. The stupid brat passed out and the last thing she did was disconnect from all those babies who were hooked up to her. When did she even learn to do that? Point is, she’s unconscious and the last time she wore herself out like this she was out for a day. Teijo-san was not happy with them for that and they had learned their lesson, but apparently Kaiya hasn’t.

Idiot.

With her out of the picture, the caretakers of the babies have little choice but to surrender the infants to the hospital. The maternity ward is a madhouse, but then again so is the rest of the hospital. Still, if only for her sake, Shin hopes that at least half of the babies survive the chakra poisoning from the Kyuubi. It’s still the first hours after, so their chances are small, but the more time that goes by the better their chances will be.

Grumbling as he set her up with an IV, Shin did his task with smooth, careful motions. No need to rush and mess something up, he’s not a genin or a rookie medic-nin. Once done, he took one more look at her. She was small and dusty, and there were droplets of blood splattered on her shirt, no doubt from the crowd outside. He doesn’t have a count on how many people she’s treated, but he will eventually, and he’s willing to bet that it’s in the double digits, maybe even halfway to a hundred.

Shaking his head, Shin leaves.

(moments later, someone slips into the room while all patients are unconscious

a scroll is unrolled and in a puff of smoke a small body appears, identical in every way to the girl

a switch takes place and later it will be said

that Aburame Kaiya died of chakra exhaustion)


Bereavement

All Konoha shinobi outside the village are called back as fast as they can be summoned without failing their missions. When each arrives, they find the carnage left by the attack by the Kyuubi. Buildings are leveled, scores of people are deceased or missing, and Sarutobi Hiruzen is leading because the Fourth Hokage is dead.

Teijo returns on October 13th.

Already disquieted by the state of the village, he returns to the clan compound in search of his daughter, desperately hoping that she made it through the tragedy alive if not okay in mind and body. When he arrives though, their house is empty and neither is Kaede at home. He nearly heads for the hospital before the idea of going to Shibi occurs to him. Before he can reach the clan head’s house, Tsubasa drops into sight before him.

“Where is Kaiya?”

His first question isn’t about the clan, the village, or the Fourth Hokage—no, Teijo wants to know about his daughter first.

Tsubasa’s silence is not unusual for them, but somehow it’s heavier in this moment, leaden with something unsaid. Teijo doesn’t ask again, half-habit but half-dread. Why isn’t Tsubasa speaking?

But then they do, and Teijo wishes they hadn’t.

“On the night of October 10th, Aburame Kaiya rendered assistance at the hospital after the Kyuubi was sealed. It was an order from Lord Third following the death of Lord Fourth and the excess of wounded and dying and limited medical personnel. Kaiya-san reported to the hospital and used her Shapers to aide sixty-seven people before Shin Isamu ordered her to stop. Afterwards, she remained connected to thirteen infants who had chakra poisoning in order to keep them alive until the medic-nin could see to them. She passed out, disconnecting from the infants in question, of which one was the Aburame heir.

“Kaiya-san was taken inside the hospital and given an IV. When Shin returned to check on her an hour later he discovered that she had passed. The autopsy confirms chakra exhaustion as the cause of death.”

Tsubasa’s words slip right out of Teijo’s ears as their last two sentences rip the ground out from under him. Tsubasa would not lie, not about something like that. Kaiya was meant to strengthen the clan, the village, so she was supposed to be watched, protected.

But in the wake of a bijuu attack, what was one girl? Who could spare the time to make sure she didn’t overexert herself?

Kaiya was left to herself and now she was dead.

His daughter, his only child, his last gift from Kazue—gone.

(he does not fall or weep, but he breaks inside and hopes that death will take him soon

to where his wife has welcomed their daughter home)


Deep in earth my love is lying
And I must weep alone.

~Edgar Allan Poe

Chapter Text

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

~W.S. Merwin, "Separation"


Mantra

You know something is wrong before you are even fully awake.

The surface you are on is too hard for either a hospital bed or your futon at either home or Kaede’s. The air is cooler than it should be for a hospital room. There is a painful throbbing in your thigh that you can’t identify. Trying to move your hands reveals that they’ve been tied together.

(trapped)

“You are awake.”

The voice startles you but when you turn to look, you find that you can’t. Something is covering your eyes and your sunglasses are missing.

“It has been over three days since you were taken from Konoha Hospital. You did not wake at any point of the journey, not even when struck, stabbed, or even when your head was shoved under water. We deduced you had fallen into a coma, though it seems short-lived. Fortuitous, as your value would otherwise drop sharply.”

(trapped)

Cold sweat formed above the blindfold over your eyes as your stomach sank. You could not keep yourself from trembling at the man’s words. You’d been tortured while unconscious? Where were you? Surely you weren’t at the hospital anymore, because why would any of your teachers allow this to happen.

(memories from your past life surge to the forefront, a flash of memories and you grab one, your Quirk flaring into life, rushing to copy that feat in this life)

Your throat feels dry and suddenly you are keenly aware of how much you want water. But first, you have to ask.

“W-why—“

“For Danzo-sama.”

What. The fuck.

“There was another plan to take you, after the first failed. Iwa was supposed to take the blame, leaving Root free to try again. Why did operative zero-two-zero-eight speak of Danzo-sama and Root? We believe you are to blame, somehow. Yes, if your Shapers can manipulate organs, why not the tongue?”

(trapped)

This asshole is chatty, isn’t he? That could work to your favor, as long as he doesn’t attack you while he’s giving his monologue. You can’t feel your chakra and your hive is unusually subdued, but your Quirk remains free. The microorganisms on your skin don’t count as part of you and while he’s been speaking, you’ve repurposed them into a disease that will cramp and harden muscle fibers, but it is inert for the moment, waiting for the catalyst that you have yet to make.

This guy said ‘we’, and you don’t know how many that means or if they’re all here (wherever ‘here’ is). You are likely outnumbered, so you need to get them all at once, especially if you’re not sure how long or how far away any missing partners are as such a variant could spell the end of any escape attempt.

(trapped)

You don’t even try to make any of the kikaichu because they are unlikely to respond properly due to this chakra mystery. Plus, with you being an Aburame, no doubt they’d be wary of any insects that suddenly appear, especially ladybugs since they’ve become known as something you wield.

“The world will be set right. We just need to find the snake.”

Snake? Why would a snake set the world right?

He stops speaking and you don’t feel brave enough to ask.

You twitch as the sound of movement, and you gasp when someone suddenly grasps your chin (no good, they’re wearing gloves). Water unexpectedly pours into your mouth, prompting you to cough and choke on it, and after a couple seconds it stops. You continue coughing as the person moves away, and you want to cry because you realize that one, your kidnappers are definitely not kind, two, you’ve been kidnapped, and three, you are unlikely to get more water for who knows how long.

(trappedtrappedtrappedtrappedtrappedtrapped)

You try to hold back your tears because you don’t want to waste your body fluids.

Internally, you pray for someone to come and rescue you.

(Father)


Ashes

The Aburame attend the funeral ceremony of the Fourth Hokage and those who were lost in the Kyuubi attack. There are pictures of Aburame lined up with the rest, and Aburame Kaiya’s picture is among them. Later, the Aburame who lost family will release the ashes of the dead in whichever place they choose.

Kazue hadn’t been brought back after falling in the war, and Teijo did not know where his wife lay rotting. She has her name etched in stone in the Aburame section of the Konoha graveyard, and soon Kaiya’s name will be etched next to hers. As her Kaiya’s ashes, he holds them in a small urn between his hands.

Teijo has decided to release Kaiya’s ashes in the forest, and thus is currently walking through the trees still wearing his black mourning uniform that all shinobi of the village are assigned. It’s October, so the leaves are no longer a uniform green but a mishmash of autumnal colors.

Kaiya never liked winter, nor was she fond of autumn. She always preferred the greens of spring and summer. It probably had something to do with her Shapers…

With the power she never spoke to him about.

Stopping, Teijo’s fingers pressed harder against the urn holding his daughter’s remains. Right up to the end, Kaiya never trusted him with her secrets. She was gone to her death, never to tell him. He has been denied the chance to ever earn his daughter’s deepest trust.

Was it chakra exhaustion that really killed her, or the backlash from her secret power?

He doesn’t know and will likely never know.

(it is twilight before he finds a spot that he thinks she would have liked, with boulders, a small clearing, and the branches of the surrounding trees hanging thickly overhead

he could picture her here, practicing her bamboo flute or perched on one of the rocks while lost in thought

as he tosses her ashes into an arc, he hopes that she is at peace with her mother

and he hopes he doesn’t keep them waiting much longer)


Peril

Since the time you reawakened, you have realized two things: one, there are at least two kidnappers, both formerly of Root, and two, at one point you urinated in your sleep and were washed by either one or both of your kidnappers who are both men. Of course, upon realizing the latter, with your heart in your throat, you had used your Quirk to check yourself and everything was fine. There was no… ‘stuff’ that shouldn’t be there. Apparently the worst they had done to you was the stabbing you in the thigh thing, followed by the attempted water torture, and hitting you coming in at third. Or fourth since there is the whole kidnapping you thing going on.

Hm. Come to think of it, you can’t see, but you can feel that you are still wearing all your clothes, so ‘washing’ probably meant shoving you into a river or other water source, at least from the waist down. Your kidnappers don’t seem too concerned with how they’re treating you, only that they pay you over to the ‘snake’ alive.

The only reason you’re not already in the clutches of the ‘snake’ is because they can’t find him. You don’t know where you are and you can’t even begin to guess since they rarely use words. You suspect they are using hand signals to deny you information, which is unexpectedly smart considering that the first guy was practically spilling his guts.

As for food, you’ve only had an unpleasant chunk of a ration bar shoved into your mouth once so far. Like water, your food is limited, so you try to ignore the hunger gnawing at your stomach. Speaking of water, though, you have had it given to you just once after the first time. Your head hurts and you suspect that it’s the first symptom of dehydration.

You hate these men, not only for kidnapping you but also because they’re the reason you feel like shit right now. From what the first guy said, you’ve been out for over three days, so that makes this either the fourth of fifth. Meaning, you’re still wearing the same clothes from that awful night, you’ve peed these pants and panties, been dipped into water to clean it off, left to air dry, you’re hungry, thirsty and scared, and let’s not forget completely lost!

Patience, you repeat to yourself, trying not to make your headache worse.

Just a little longer and you’ll take a risk at incapacitating these bastards.

Just a little longer, and maybe you’ll be free.

(he wasn’t there that night, so is he looking for you now?)


Frail

October 15th arrives and Teijo is denied any mission that takes place outside of the village. Apparently it was a request from Shibi-sama to the mission desk, one they were following because it came from a clan head, but Teijo doesn’t bother to go and ask why. He suspects that he already knows the answer, and to some extent his clan head is right: he’s looking for an excuse to put himself at risk, to tempt death, and thus Shibi-sama has cut off that avenue for now.

Withdrawn more so than usual, Teijo concedes to assist in the continuing efforts to rebuild. He goes through the motions of living because he could never face Kazue and Kaiya again if he took his own life. Kazue would be so disappointed in him, angry even, and Kaiya?

How could he look at his daughter again if her own death was the reason he took his life?

He would be too ashamed.

(the house is lonely and empty without Kaiya to fill it with her noise

the sight of her bamboo flute lying in wait on her bedroom floor makes his breath catch

he would give anything to hear her play those screeching whistles again)


Temper

At some point you fall asleep and you aren’t sure how much time passes before you are jolted awake by someone picking you up and slinging you over their shoulder. It’s so uncomfortable, nothing like hanging on to backs of Father or Akimichi Youta. Probably because you’re not on a back, but whatever. Your hands and feet are bound together, so that’s likely why you’re being slung over a shoulder like a sack of rice.

There is no skin contact in all this movement either, and you mentally tsk, vowing to make a wardrobe change if you survive this unwanted experience. The Aburame style is too bulky and covered, and even with your jacket missing most of your skin is hidden from sight.

A jolt makes the shoulder dig into your stomach and you mentally curse out the person carrying you.

This sense of helplessness and fear is starting to give way to anger and hate. You’ve been a mix of emotions since waking up and things are beginning to boil over.

You want these men to die and you want them to die painfully.

You want them dead.

(you remember a stream of people beneath your hands, of giving pain in varying degrees

you remember that you were never alone, that there was always at least one person by your side

your five, they helped you

shaped you)

Gritting your teeth, you made the decision to strike the next time they drop to the ground.

Everything on one roll of the dice.

(you think of Father and pray that you will see him again, one way or another)


Mistake

They travel for several hours, leaving the Land of Fire and entering the Land of Grass. Orochimaru is an elusive shinobi, but they finally have a lead. Orochimaru is rumored to be wearing a black cloak with red clouds, and Danzo-sama mentioned an organization called the Akatsuki which wore such cloaks. He spoke of Hanzo and the Land of Rain, and that memory made that their next destination.

Danzo-sama had worked with Orochimaru, and one thing that was mentioned was that the snake sannin was working on a jutsu to resurrect the dead. Danzo-sama thought highly of Orochimaru’s genius, so if it was possible then Orochimaru might be able to resurrect Danzo-sama. For trade they would offer the Aburame girl, and if that was not enough then they would do whatever was necessary to bring Danzo-sama back to the world of the living.

Operative Eda, born Aburame Michi, was determined to rectify his failure. His team failed to obtain Aburame Kaiya and murder Aburame Teijo, ultimately resulting in the discovery of Root and the fall and demise of Danzo-sama. If the deal succeeded, hopefully Danzo-sama would not regret the loss of Aburame Kaiya if it meant he got to live again.

(he refused to think that Orochimaru would not have completed the jutsu—it had to exist, or what meaning was there to life?)

“I will not be able to hold my pee for much longer.”

Children are irritatingly unable to master their bodily functions. Still, it is unlikely that operative Juhi would want to experience being urinated on a second time. They communicate with hand signals and soon pick a spot to land. With a warning to keep the blindfold on, Juhi unbinds the girl’s hands and feet. She can’t run far from them, and with her chakra sealed her kikaichu cannot be called upon to help her.

So it is a completely shock when between one breath and the both he and Juhi feel their muscles revolt, contacting suddenly and not relaxing. The girl moves, running away, but neither of them can move enough to properly throw a kunai at her legs to stop her.

Gritting his teeth, Eda called upon his hive, summoning forth his kikaichu and sending them in a wave after the girl.

(forgetting that, once, she reshaped his swarm in a near instant)

The wave of insects hits her and knocks her off her feet. He knows that his hive will attempt to drain her to the point where she cannot move, but his eyes widen as the swarm stops responding and a change comes over them starting from where the girl has fallen.

Right before their eyes, the wave of kikaichu becomes a bunch of thin tendrils that lies motionless for a moment. Stray kikaichu keep buzzing towards her but they all disappear as they touch her skin or die as the tendrils whip at them.

Aburame Kaiya slowly rises to her feet. With her back to them, she reaches up and pulls off her blindfold. She turns, and her gaze… is completely human. Her eyes are not extraordinary, and they are a plain color commonly found in the Land of Fire. There is a coldness within them, and a promise of pain and death, but again, nothing inhuman.

As the tendrils move, Eda sends more of his swarm, but where the tendrils plunge into the cloud and touch them, his kikaichu vanish. A mist starts coming off the tendrils, wafting into the air, and his kikaichu drop from the air. None of them can reach her now.

The girl cocks her head and contemplates them. She frowns.

“Damn. I need you to get home, and two is better than one.”

They try to run from the tendrils, but they only fall. As one slides up his sleeve, Eda can only apologize to Danzo-sama.

They have utterly failed him.


Slavery

It takes several long moments as you fiddle with their brain chemistry, slowly stepping closer to them all the while, but at last you finish. Their muscles are still painfully tight, but you remain a small distance away as you pull the mask off the first one, the Aburame whose name you do not know. He looks… average, you suppose. No scars or other identifying marks or tattoos, and his hair and eye color aren’t different from the traits common to the Aburame. You stare at him and you wonder how your clan lost him to Shimura and Root.

(you pity him, just a little)

He loves you now, more than anything else in the world. However, that does not mean you should let him have free movement. After all, for some people love isn’t the most important thing in life.

“Can you tell me where we are?”

“The Land of Grass,” he manages to grunt in reply, face muscles twitching frequently.

“Who is the snake you were searching for, and why?”

(she is everything)

“The snake is a reference to Orochimaru… a former shinobi of Konoha who left the village after being discovered… conducting experiments on fellow shinobi which… were considered unethical... We wanted to trade you… in hope that Orochimaru had finished his jutsu… to resurrect the dead. I… I am sorry for that… my lady.”

His answer takes a while to leave his lips due to the whole being paralyzed part of your plan. You were lucky that there were only two and that they were in close quarters when you risked sending your plan into action.

Also, ‘my lady’? You’re really glad that you murder the libido part of these men when making them love you. Goddamn it, you’re six. It’s entirely creepy to be making people love you at this age, but even with the potential risk of love not being everything to them, this is the safest way to make people obey you.

Shuddering, you turned to the other man and had a tendril remove his mask. This one had narrow eyes and a comely face. He wasn’t pretty or handsome, but his features were nice enough. He had the same soft look in his eyes despite the pain crippling his movement, though.

(she is the whole world)

Groaning softly, you put a hand over your face.

(they worry, but even like this, she is so cute)

Alright, Kaiya, don’t think about it. Just ascertain whether or not they can be trusted with movement and then get them to start taking you home.

One step at a time, Kaiya.

You catch a glimpse of the Aburame gazing tenderly at you and grimace, squinting your eyes and reminding yourself.

One step at a time.


I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.

~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapter Text

Travel far enough, you meet yourself.

~David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas


Lost

Perhaps it is petty, but learning that Aburame Kaiya was among the aftermath of the Kyuubi attack brings Hiruzen a slight sense of satisfaction. It is barely a blip, but it is there, and he finds himself pausing after realizing this. He looks back at her name on the list of the civilian dead—for all the wonders of her Shapers, she was not yet a kunoichi of the village—and he remembers having to sentence his old friend to death. It was not Aburame Kaiya’s fault that Danzo’s actions caught up with him, but she was the reason that his old friend’s actions were discovered.

His lips twitch downwards in displeasure at his line of thought. His sentimentality for his old friend was clouding his judgement. Aburame Kaiya would have been a great asset to the village, and it is a pity they lost her too that night.

Holding back a sigh, Hiruzen continued reading, looking for other notable names, but hers was the one that stood out the most.

It truly was a shame.


Scenario

Sitting at the base of a tree with Michi overhead and Juhi off procuring food that aren’t Konoha ration bars, you sulk because today is the third day since you’ve made your two kidnappers fall in love with you and yet you haven’t even left the Land of Grass yet.

Passing the border from the Land of Fire into the Land of Grass had gone off without a hitch. The reverse, however… well, you’re starting to suspect that either Grass and Fire have upped their border patrols, or Michi and ‘Juhi’ are yanking your chain when they say that ‘now is not an opportune time’ for whatever reason they add. (What kind of messed up place was Root that its shinobi can’t remember their own names? The only reason Michi retains his is because he’s distinctly of the Aburame clan.) In other words, you’re starting to get suspicious that despite your express desire to return to the Land of Fire and Konoha, these two aren’t exactly trying their best to achieve that.

Why, though? If they love you—and you know they do because you’ve literally made them—then shouldn’t they be doing their best to make you happy? Taking you home would make you happy, so why does it feel like they’re not doing their best to make that happen?

If it were you and you loved someone… and their wish was for you to take them home… but taking them home meant separating from them… would you do it? Maybe, maybe not depending on selfish you are, and if there’s one thing you’re certain of it’s that you are selfish. Or rather, the selfishness of your past life has intertwined with who you are as Kaiya, so you feel as though you are very selfish. Regardless, if you fell in love with someone after kidnapping them and all that person wanted was to go home, would you actually take them home if it meant possibly never seeing them again?

…Urg. Never mind, substitute yourself for Michi and Juhi, try to see things from their perspective. Root is gone and so is the master they had been brainwashed into being loyal to.

(how cute)

A feeling of derision not entirely your own makes you pause and slowly blink. Why would… oh, okay. Your Quirk makes brainwashing people easy, so the fact that someone would go through all the trouble of old-fashioned conditioning is practically laughable to past-you. Alright, so apparently past-you had a huge ego, too. Add that to spoiled and selfish, and wow, you were a brat. Worse, a brat with power and a team of enablers.

Closing your eyes, you took a couple minutes to meditate before returning your attention back to the ‘not getting home fast enough’ situation.

Michi and Juhi might not being doing their best to fulfil your wishes for some reason. Okay, then you have to make yourself clearer: they needed to get you home ASAP. You can’t be dawdling in the Land of Grass or wherever. People have to be looking for you—

Your eyes widen at a sudden thought: you haven’t asked for details on how Michi and Juhi got their hands on you. Yes, obviously sometime while you were unconscious, but what did they do?

Jumping to your feet and snapping your head up, you yelled upwards. “Michi! Get down here!”

He had some questions to answer!


Substitute

The older Aburame appeared in front of you on his knee. He and Juhi would often do that and you guessed that’s something left over from their time in Root. Both he and Juhi have been ordered to leave their masks off, and Michi has gone back to wearing a pair of plain sunglasses.

“How may I serve, my lady?”

You wanted to fold your arms but needed to hold his hand so you settled for putting one fist on a (nonexistent) hip while holding out your other hand.

“Give me your hand.”

He complied and you ‘saw’ him. Shoving your agitation into your bugs, you managed to ask him without growling, “Explain the details of my kidnapping. What did you do when you retrieved me from the hospital?”

His heart rate drops and his hive slows while his brain fired signals in quick succession.

You clench his hand but it’s not intimidating at all since you can barely manage to grasp it. Fighting an embarrassed blush at just how small and weak you are in comparison to him, you use your Quirk to lance pain down the length of his arm. Impressively, his face doesn’t even twitch despite your ‘vision’ telling you that he definitely felt that.

“Do not lie to me, Aburame-san.”

You ‘see’ his lips twitch, though your eyes don’t catch the motion. He’s noticed that you’ve gone from his first name without honorifics to his family name with an honorific. It’s a sign of your displeasure and you can ‘see’ that it upsets him by the way his brain chemicals react.

He maintains his silence for nearly another minute before his shoulders slump in defeat.

“I was the one to fetch you. I was the one who found a substitute and made the switch. If all went well, Konoha now believes that you died of chakra exhaustion.”

His words form a pit of ice in your stomach as white noise briefly overtakes your hearing.

(again again you’re dead again)

Your legs shake and you demand to know why, nearly too distraught to hate the waver in your voice but not quite enough. Loathing that your conditioning hasn’t sunk in deep enough to keep you calm in a highly emotional moment, you listen with horror as Michi explains how your kidnapping was executed.

He and Juhi had managed to avoid the raids on the Root bases. Without Shimura, they had been directionless, so they appropriated the second plan for your kidnapping as part of their master plan to resurrect him. As an Aburame, Michi was capable of blending in with the other clan members, and in this way he managed to locate an Aburame girl that closely matched your height and weight. Despite being a civilian, she’d been born an Aburame and therefore had had a hive of her own. Michi kept tabs on her location as they waited for an opportunity, and it had arrived in the form of the Kyuubi.

They had kidnapped the girl early on in the panic and evacuation and Michi… he killed her, draining her chakra with his kikaichu, fighting off hers with ease, until she died. Juhi changed her appearance and then they followed after the evacuating Aburame and kept an eye on you. They took the first chance to grab you, stealing you within moments of being left unwatched. She’d already been dressed in your stolen clothes, made to look disheveled, and the final touches had been to remove your IV, put it in her, and take your sunglasses and put them on her face.

A child of only seven, and they killed her to make a dummy corpse of you.

(the poor thing)

Digging your nails into Michi’s hand, you couldn’t look at him.


Decree

When Juhi returns, you make them both kneel. Despite being Root bastards, they wear the Konoha metal protectors on their foreheads, so you touch their cheeks instead. Your limbs are shaky from a heady combination of simmering rage and anxiety (how dare they orchestrate your apparent death by using an innocent victim?).

Slowly, with tears welling up in your eyes at the thought of Father thinking that you’re dead, you carefully manipulate the bodies of Michi and Juhi. You plant a sickness in them, a wasting disease that will start rotting them from the inside out if you don’t keep it in check every twelve hours. It doesn’t feel like enough, but there’s nothing you can do to right the wrong they’ve committed in the name of resurrecting Shimura.

You gaze hard at their upturned faces, hating them with the sensation of burning blood in your veins. Unbidden, you remember changing the structure of humans, both willing and not. You were no better than these two, so you have no moral high ground. However, that doesn’t lessen the guilt and anger in your chest at the thought of a little girl lying dead in your place.

Initially, you had thought that forcing these two to love you was punishment enough for taking you from the village. Michi was an Aburame, a stolen clan member, and you had planned to be lenient with him, otherwise leaving him as he currently was. But, with the revelation of what he’d done, you found that you no longer cared to hold back.

A grim and forced smile appeared on your face.

“You two… are now my toys.”

(it repulses you, the smiles they give in reply)

You move your hands and grip their chins, openly frowning.

“But first, you two are going to get me over the border into the Land of Fire, got it?

Their expressions fall, but they nod reluctantly.


Anchor

Two days later, well within the Land of Fire, you wonder if Michi and Juhi are really that good or if border patrols on both sides are just that ineffective at stopping people from crossing. What’s the point of border patrol if it can’t stop unauthorized crossings? Not that you should be complaining since it means you’ve returned to the Land of Fire.

Actually, why are you avoiding the Konoha patrol squads? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get in contact with one so they can send word to Konoha about your survival? You can’t bring yourself to do that, though. It reminds you too much of the war, of being lost and unsure if the next people you meet will be allies or enemies out to kill you for being unfortunate enough to be separated from your side. Intellectually, you know that Konoha shinobi are your allies, but with Michi and Juhi as your escorts instead of Father or Nara and his team, you don’t feel confident enough to approach any other Konoha shinobi.

Sighing, you sunk further into the jacket Michi procured for you. He was out buying food as you knew that he and Juhi would need it when you finished with them. You’d put off altering them in Grass because you hadn’t wanted to potentially risking leaving yourself defenseless in enemy lands, so you had waited until today. Your… thralls… would serve as human experiments for—

Wait. Didn’t Michi say that the snake-Orochimaru person left the village because he’d been caught doing unethical experiments on humans? It wasn’t as though it would really hurt Michi and Juhi, but it was still human experimentation. Would you be banished or given to T&I if you did alter them? And Michi was still an Aburame, so would Shibi-sama look poorly upon you should it be discovered?

Groaning softly, you curled up and rested your head on your arms while hugging your knees. Think Kaiya, think. Can you experiment on these two and somehow get away with it?

…Maybe if you returned to the village ‘on your own’. It’s possible that you could escape from two shinobi using your kikaichu variants, but could you present it in a believable manner enough to avoid interrogation?

ARGH. Going back wouldn’t be worth the trouble if Father didn’t live there.

Konoha is so damn lucky that he’s a loyal shinobi and a good father, otherwise you probably wouldn’t bother going back under its military dictatorship.


Delaying

The mental debate gives you a headache, but you finally decide on just getting back as soon as possible, even if it means that you lose Michi and Juhi. Hypothetically speaking, you could probably get away with going back with only one and keeping the other hidden in reserve, but for some reason they’ve become a pair in your head and you are loath to separate them. They don’t deserve to stick together, but separating them isn’t a line you want to cross.

(you know the pain of separation like an ache that never completely leaves)

Michi and Juhi obey your wishes to avoid any other Konoha shinobi, but you wonder if there really are any Konoha shinobi with the way this duo of yours keeps taking detours and hiding until it is ‘all clear’. Are they dragging this out? Bastards.

(they stall as long as possible because they both know that reaching Konoha means losing Kaiya, losing all purpose for a second, and perhaps final, time

so they conspire to keep her

even if it breaks their heart to do it against her will)


Realize

You don’t realize you’re in danger until you wake up in an unfamiliar room and can’t feel your chakra and can barely sense your hive with what little you have. Your ankle is chained to a metal bar embedded in the wall and your arms are pinned to your stomach by strong leather straps. Scrambling off the bed you woke up on, you dash a short distance before the chain is yanked taut, stopping you near the other side of the small room. You struggle, but there is no give in either leather or metal.

(trapped)

A desperate sob escapes your throat as tears burn in your eyes.

As if in reply, a hatch opens in the ceiling and you look up. The room is dim, and it’s no brighter in the room above, so you can only vaguely make out a person’s torso.

“There is so much I want to say, yet words seem inadequate in this moment.”

You scream up at him, incoherent in your terror and rage. Your Quirk has flared, transforming the microorganisms on your skin into the catalyst that will paralyze him, and you can only hope that he falls down here where you can reach. He talks, saying something about adoration, but you aren’t listening as you cry and try to yank your leg free.

You can see the moment that the paralysis hits him, but he doesn’t fall completely into the hole that looks like the only way in or out of here. A swarm of insects grabs him, dragging him out of sight, and yet more close the hatch, locking you down here.

Outmaneuvered, you slide down onto your knees, not bothering to try stemming the tears rolling down your face. You were so close! You were almost there! But because you chose not to be as hard as your past-self, now you are stuck god knows where and only two people in the whole world know where you are. Father and Shibi-sama and everyone else probably think that you’re dead, so no one is going to be looking for you. Unless you can trick Michi and Juhi and get a hold of them, it’s unlikely that you will leave this place. Despair chokes you as the severity of your situation sinks in.

You are trapped, and you don’t know if you will survive this.

The sound of your sobs echoes off the walls as all the worry, fear and uncertainty since laying eyes on the nine-tailed monster bursts out, incapable of being contained any longer. In your head, a face flashes to the front as you inhale, and you wail long and loud with a wretched expression.

Faaaaaatheeeeer!

You gasp at the end and curl up a little more, hurting inside, knowing that he wasn’t coming to save you and that he himself would continue to hurt from the lie Michi and Juhi conceived.

Tears slide continue sliding freely down your face and your chest heaves with the force of your despair. All your training to supress your emotions and remain calm is nothing before the realized fears from an old life.

You… have been caged.

(and you understand your past self a whole lot more, the double-life, the ruthlessness, the selfishness

you understand )


I have seen myself backward.

~Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly

Chapter Text

You don’t stare the devil in the eyes and come out without some of his sin. You can’t beat the devil without becoming like him.

~Nina G Jones


Hindsight

While staring at a wall, the word ‘yandere’ drifts to the forefront of your mind, and it is unfamiliar as you have never heard anyone use it. Sniffling, it takes a few seconds before you realize that oh, that’s a word from your past life. It means… someone who is literally crazy in love? Loving someone so much that you turn crazy? An unhinged person with affections towards another who takes extreme and sometimes murderous actions, basically. And you accidentally made two of them.

Great.

Not.

You’re so stupid that you can practically hear your past-self lecturing you on how stupid you’ve been since getting your Quirk. You can’t really argue against it either, not when you look back on your actions and see that you’ve been hasty. While you may have the excuse of being disoriented by being four and suddenly having another lifetime’s worth of memories, that still doesn’t completely negate your own foolishness since then. After all, in those lifetime’s worth of memories, you can recall being paranoid about being discovered for your Quirk, and yet here you had disregarded that paranoia.

Basically, your current situation is your own fault, and now you might die down here in this hole because of it. After all, you can’t do the walking on walls thing yet. With your leg chained to this bed which in turn is firmly latched onto the floor, you can’t even practice in preparation for escape. Your arms are pinned to your body, too.

Well, what’s coming is probably inhumane and you don’t really want to be present for it, so you’re going to retreat into the embrace of your past memories.

Kaiya, out.


Crumble

…Alright, so it turns out that you can’t really retreat into your mind. At least, not well enough to stay there when the trapdoor in the ceiling opens again. The slight creek of the hinges pulls you out of memories of a room with couches, a screen, and people holding a ‘microphone’ in their hands (‘karaoke’, you hear). Suddenly apprehensive, you wriggle on the bed until your back is against the wall.

You’re surprised to see Juhi drop down into the room. After last time you would have thought that he’d be warier about even getting close to you. Then you notice that he’s wearing some sort of contraption, a harness of some kind, and there’s a rope dangling from the trapdoor. Ah, so if you do anything to Juhi, Michi is prepared to pull him out.

It grates, but as long as your leg is chained, you aren’t going to risk killing the only two people who know where you are. That first attempt on Juhi was an impulsive reaction, and if it had actually succeeded then in all likelihood you would have died of dehydration long before starvation. You aren’t glad to be stuck in this room, but you would like to avoid that scenario, thanks.

Glaring at Juhi from behind your sunglasses, you watch as he stares at you from his half-crouched position. When he doesn’t start couching or keel over, he slowly moves towards you. The frown on your face deepens, and you wish you could scoot further away, but there’s nowhere to go as he comes to the side of the bed and reaches out towards you.

He’s wearing gloves now, you note, bristling as he brushes hair away from your face. You want to hurt him, but you are at a disadvantage and outnumbered. All you can do is wait for the right moment.

(it takes one-hundred-and-ninety-eight days before that moment comes

but by then, you have what the memories of past-you identifies as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’)


Irrational

The trouble with pretending to like and bond with your captors over time is that sometimes it morphs into not pretending and becomes genuine. Your time with Michi and Juhi as their captive necessitated waiting for a moment when you would be poised to escape from The Room, and this in turn meant attempting to deceive the duo in believing that you were becoming compliant. Pretending to slowly become bonded with them… backfired.

At some point, pretending to care about Michi and Juhi became actual concern for their welfare. If they came back from their excursions injured, you wanted to help them. They wouldn’t let you, of course, and in the beginning you could only curse them for being smart, but later it was actually distressing that they wouldn’t accept your help.

And yet, you didn’t notice that your fake-attachment had become actual attachment, as in Michi and Juhi were expected parts of your days. It wasn’t until it was too late that you realized you weren’t playing pretend anymore.

When the moment for escape finally came and Michi and Juhi were lying unconscious at your feet just outside a concealed cave, you found that you couldn’t bring yourself to kill them.

How could you kill Michi, the fellow Aburame who had warmed you with his hive when you were cold? Who bought you the new jacket you are now wearing? Who gave you the new sunglasses on your face with the green tips hidden in your hair?

How could you kill Juhi, the man who fed you meals he’d cooked himself? Who brought you water to wash yourself and did your laundry? Who taught you calligraphy and the Academy katas?

How could you kill Michi and Juhi when they are all you’ve known for months? When they are the ones who taught you about the clans of Konoha and used their Bingo books to teach you about the other nations? When they are the ones who, despite kidnapping you and keeping you captive, have cared for you as best as they can in their awkwardly stunted ways?

(your past memories give you a phrase and the knowledge of why you can’t bring yourself to hurt them)

Sinking to your knees in the dappled sunlight, you tremble from a heady combination of anger, disbelief and relief. At long last, you’ve left that wretched Room, but Michi and Juhi have done their damage, and you can’t believe that you’re actually fond of them.

You know that they’ve kidnapped you, held you against your will, convinced the village that you’re dead, and it’s still beyond creepy that they’re in love with you, but.

You don’t want them dead.


Torn

You cry into your knees for a while, lost and confused. You don’t know where you are, but that’s not the immediate ‘lost’ that has you distressed, not entirely, at least. Confusion plays a part in your being lost, mainly in that you don’t know what to think or feel. You know the two bastards near you aren’t good men, that they don’t even love you of their own free will, but the memories of them being kind and considerate hurt in a way you didn’t anticipate.

(this is why they were important, isn’t it?

because they had stayed with you of their own free will, that you had no hand back then in manipulating their chemical makeup)

For close to two-hundred days, Michi and Juhi are all you’ve had. If it weren’t for them, you’d be dead or mad back in the damn Room. Yes, yes you know that they’re the ones who put you in there in the first place, but even that knowledge isn’t enough to make you reach out and kill them.

You know now that being loved most of all isn’t enough to stop someone from kidnapping you (it might not even be enough to stop them from killing you if you altered the wrong sort of person), but that lesson is too late to stop you from being attached to Michi and Juhi.

You don’t want them dead, and you can’t bear the thought of kill them.

But, you also know that you can’t leave them as they are. They’ve already proven themselves capable of going against your wishes and of being selfish enough to keep you to themselves.

You can’t let them live, not after your imprisonment.

And yet, when you lift yourself up on your arms to look at them, fresh tears well up in your eyes.

You can’t kill them.

Their absence would ache, and you don’t want to add them to the faces you can’t fully see.

Stymied by your own feelings, you hiccupped and wiped your wet face.

What were you going to do now?


Resolve

After pulling yourself together, you decided that the first thing to do would be to get one of them to remove the chakra seals from your body. You select Juhi to wake, keeping a firm grip on one of his hands and making him blissfully compliant, he uses his other hand to remove the wretched seals that have kept your hive on the edge of starvation since the beginning. Once the seal is off, you knock him out again and annoy yourself when you make sure to lower him as gently as you can.

Huffing, you sit back from Juhi and focus on your hive. The queen is already in motion, birthing more kikaichu, and it won’t be long before you will reshape a number of them into the imposter ladybugs that you realize are your favorites. To start with, though, you take four new kikaichu and reshape two each into new swarms of Shapers and Carnivores. You’ll need the Shapers ready in case of attack in order to keep up the façade that they are the reason why you can do the things your Quirk lets you do. The Carnivores aren’t ready for mass deployment, not when you don’t know most of the Aburame jutsu, but even a small swarm can come in handy. You leave the disease carriers and cure-holders for last since they’re not vital (more of an annoyingly complicated lie, really). As your kikaichu become more active throughout your body, you find yourself acutely missing your Father all over again.

A part of you still finds the fact that you are a living hive is abhorrent, but most of you is focused on the fact that you are your father’s daughter. He was an Aburame, and Mother was an Aburame, and you are an Aburame.

You have a home, and regardless of your feelings about Michi and Juhi, you remember that you have a place to go back to.

A person to go home to.

(Father)


Echoed

After a time, you open your eyes again to look at your kidnappers. Whatever you feel for them, it is by far dwarfed by your renewed desire to return to your father. You know that he probably thinks that you’re dead, but that just makes you more determined to go back. He, not Michi and Juhi, is all you have in this life. Father is your only family, and you know that he loves you. You’re only six—seven, you’re only seven, but that’s more than enough to be certain that he cares about you. Michi and Juhi, being brainwashed, cannot compare to Father.

Therefore, even if you can’t bring yourself to kill them, you can contemplate your situation with more clarity. The goal is to return home to Father, so these two are just stepping stones. Get home, separate from them while they’re still alive, and you think you can manage to get over them. Yes, okay... but that still leaves the question of how.

How are you going to deal with these two while keeping them alive and useful? Make them smaller? Hm, no, that might work, but one, they would eventual adjust to their new size, two, reducing their size might not affect their skills long-term, and three, you don’t want to do anything too strenuous that would knock you out and thereby leave you once again at their mercy.

If they get you trapped again, you don’t think you’ll be able to get free again.

Alright, so you need them alive to lead you home, plus they need some level of physical threat in order to protect you, but on the other hand you don’t want them to have posable thumbs, or fingers at all. Frowning and looking through the memories of your past life, you discard many animals which you haven’t seen in this life, though mostly because they are too small or too large.

(Dog)

You flinch and recoil from the image of a dog on a street. It is not aggressive and is happily wagging its tail. It’s a handsome dog, but something about it repulses you.

However, as you continue focusing on the image rather than shoving it away, you slowly realize that it’s not you as Kaiya that is a mix of afraid and disgusted by it, but rather that those feelings are an echo from your past life. Trying to remember more of the dog, you can see a hand, your old hand, touching it and its changing, like an image rewinding.

Ooh.

That dog was one of the first manipulations and morphing you ever did, at least, one that was a full-body change. The fact that you had done it so easily had frightened you, hadn’t it?

(a small boy with a bloodied limb in your arms)

You pause, seeing more of the memory connected to the dog. You still can’t see that boy’s face, but as the memory plays in rewind, you see yourself grabbing the dog’s ear as its jaws are latched onto the boy’s arm. You see his arm being bitten, the dog moving backwards, but the most prominent thing you focus on is the fact that the little boy is standing in front of you with his arms outstretched. As you continue watching the memory backwards, you see that he leapt in front of you, that the dog was once rabid and charged at you.

From the size of the hand you saw earlier, you hadn’t been a child like him. You had been bigger, but that little boy had protected you with his own body.

Was that why the green-haired boy featured in so many memories despite being younger than the other five?

You smacked your hands against your face.

Focus, Kaiya.

Regardless of the mixed bag of emotions from that memory, you now have an animal in mind for Michi and Juhi. For the crimes of kidnapping you, faking your death, and keeping you as a prisoner, you were going to take away their human forms.

They were going to be dogs.


Canines

It takes over two weeks before you are happy with the work you’ve done on the duo. They are large dogs, mostly since that’s easier than making them smaller. Michi is dark brown and has curly fur. His was the most difficult transformation since you had to keep his hive in mind as you changed his body shape. It’s probably not wise to leave him with his hive (whoever heard of an Aburame or insect-using dog?), but removing his hive felt wrong. And damn it, that’s probably Stockholm Syndrome talking, but depriving him of his symbiotic partners that he’s had since birth just seems too cruel. As an Aburame, you would be devastated to lose your hive.

Also dead, though Michi wouldn’t have to worry about that with you since you could fill in the empty spaces his hive would leave.

You didn’t need to, but you also made him custom sunglasses by reshaping wood around the lenses of his original pair. Basically, you now had a curly-haired dog wearing sunglasses and which could also summon kikaichu.

…You’re gonna have a hard time explaining that when you get back, but that’s a worry for later.

As for Juhi, he was tan and black, with a thick undercoat and a dense, straight outer coat. He sort of resembled a wolf, but you knew that his appearance was that of a dog’s. His ears were pointed up, rather that the floppy that Michi had. Of the two, he was plain in comparison to his partner who had personality in his hive and sunglasses.

Now, you are aware of the Inuzuka clan. They have nin-dogs as partners and use jutsu that utilize that partnership. Toshiro-san, rest his soul, and Jin were the only pair you met, though you have seen a couple others. Given the fact that you made Michi and Juhi combat capable, or rather, as much as you could with them being dog-shaped, you just hoped that the Inuzuka wouldn’t automatically assume you stole a pair of dogs, and you also hoped they wouldn’t assume that you were trying to steal their clan jutsu.

The Carnivores move like shadows, so the Nara are another clan you have to worry about, but! Regardless of how much it looks like you’re stealing clan jutsu, you are not. You’re just very good at copying ideas and appropriating them for your own use. Totally not stealing clan jutsu. Really.

You sigh as you remember the talk you got about eyes and the Uchiha and Hyuuga clans.

Maybe you should stop taking inspiration from the clans in the village, huh? Not that you know much about other clans in other villages. Michi and Juhi had been educating you, but… hm. If you get to keep them, you might give them back their voices.

…But what if you wait too long and then you can’t remember what they sound like?

Well, considering that their voices are flat, it’s not much of a loss. And besides, you only deactivated their ability to speak, rather than taking away their ability to produce noise. A lot of their insides are the same, just shoved into dog form. After all, as long as they’re nearby, you can fix any problems that arise, so yeah, they’ll be fine.

“Alright,” you said, hands clutching the straps of the large backpack on your back.

You were standing at the cave entrance again, having opted to stay here since working out in the open left you all too vulnerable. The hidden base was Spartan, but it had served its purpose, and there had been plenty of plants and trees to work with the few times you needed extra while working on Michi and Juhi. After over two-hundred days here, it was finally time to leave.

Time to go home.

You waved at Juhi and he lowered himself so that you could clamber onto his back. At seven, normally you’d be too big to ride a dog, but Juhi was not only large, he was personally modified by you for strength, not to mention that both he and Michi could still utilize chakra. Carrying you would not slow or wear him down too much.

You grabbed on to his fur as he stood up. Your stomach fluttered from your new riding place, but mostly in anticipation of what was ahead.

Behind your collar, a small but bright smile spread across your face.

“Let’s go.”

They leapt into the trees and you left your heart on the ground.


There is no mile as long the final one that leads back home.

~Katherine Marsh, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

Chapter Text

No matter who you are or where you are, instinct tells you to go home.

~Laura Marney, No Wonder I Take A Drink


Return

Since you still don’t know south from north, or even where Konohagakure is, you are once again at the mercy of Michi and Juhi. For all it seems like they’re heading somewhere with purpose, there’s the possibility that they’re heading in another direction completely. Still, you’ve tried to hammer home that since they’re dogs now, their ability to protect you has sharply dropped since most if not all of their jutsu has been removed due to a lack of fingers for hand signs. If you die, then they won’t get to see you anymore. And if you do die, you’re never going to forgive them, not even in the afterlife or the next life or any life.

(you really hope that it’s just an afterlife though, or at the very least that you aren’t reborn with your memories again)

As you travel, you can’t help but hope that this time you really are going the right way, that soon the village walls will come into view. Your stomach flutters at the thought of returning to the Aburame compound and going back to the house you once lived in with Father. Would he be happy to see you again?

You’re afraid, because what if he isn’t? What if he had moved on and gotten another wife or something? What if he didn’t want you anymore?

The three days and two nights you spend traveling with Michi and Juhi and alternating riding on them is filled with anxiety, but at last they drop from the trees on a road and there! There in the distance is the village!

Your hands dig into Juhi’s fur as tears well up in your eyes.

Finally, after more than two-hundred days away, you are almost home!

(so why is this last bit of distance so terrifying to cross?)


Request

There are people on the road, merchants, farmers and civilians. You wonder if any of them are shinobi, but you don’t see any metal headbands. Walking with two large dogs gets you some stares, but no one stares for too long. Perhaps they dismiss you as a shinobi, but you’re only a lone child, so maybe they just don’t want to get your dogs set on them. Not that you would, unless they tried to hurt you.

You have chosen to walk, not wanting to get caught riding a dog like an Inuzuka when you lack the facial markings that Toshiro had. Michi is on your left and Juhi is on your right. You clutch Michi’s curly brown fur as you walk, legs trembling as the gates loom ever closer. Every step brings you closer to home, but every step takes courage for you to not dive into the woods either side of the road.

Desperately, you shunt as much emotion into your hive as you can, trying to remember Father and Mother’s lessons on self-control. You pause a couple dozen feet away from the gate in order to collect yourself, breathing deeply to settle your nerves. Once you’re sure that you’ll be able to talk without a wavering voice, you approach the two shinobi on duty. They look bored, even as you get nearer, and you wonder why they’re not stopping or inspecting anyone else that’s passing through the gate. Perhaps they recognize the civilians as regulars or something? Regardless, they do give you their attention when you stop in front of their post.

“What is your business in the village today?”

He sounds as bored as he looks, and you suddenly find yourself grateful that no Aburame you’ve ever met sounds like that. Flat and expressionless is one thing, but outright bored?

You clench your hands at your sides and speak.

“My name is Aburame Kaiya, and I would like to go home.”


Gate

“What were you doing outside the village, kid?”

You blink behind your sunglasses. Uh… okay, both of these men don’t seem to know who you are, but apparently they accept that you are an Aburame? Briefly, you consider lying, but you figure you’re going to be in trouble enough for Michi and Juhi’s current forms, so you tell the truth.

“I was kidnapped over two-hundred days ago and have only just made it back to the village. Please, can I go home?”

They look more alert at that and exchange glances. The second shinobi nods and stands, disappearing in a blur and leaving a few leafs scattered in his wake.

“Wait here with me,” the first shinobi said. “My partner has gone to check your story. If you are who you say you are, there is a process to follow.”

Reasonable, you guess. After all, there’s a chance you could be a spy under a transformation technique or something.

“What’s with the dogs?”

You startle slightly, looking back at him. He gestured to Michi and looked solemn.

“Were you with an Inuzuka?”

What, did he think that an Inuzuka was with you but died and now their nin-dogs were bringing you home as one last order from their fallen master?

…That sounds like a plotline for a book, maybe one for a potential tearjerker if written the right way. Maybe you should start reading novels. Why didn’t Michi and Juhi ever give you novels to read?

You shook your head. “No. There was no Inuzuka.”

Reaching out, you put a hand on Juhi’s head but didn’t say ‘these are my kidnappers’.

“I can’t help but notice that you look well for someone who was supposedly kidnapped.”

You gave Juhi’s head a pat and ran your hand down his fur to his back.

“I was well-cared for.”

He seemed as though he wanted to keep asking questions or making ‘observations’, but he backtracked and talked about the weather. You didn’t move and instead put your hands into your pockets, hiding in your jacket.

It feels like forever before two shinobi drop down nearby and you can’t help but brighten slightly at the sight of one of them.

“Shibi-sama.”


Hush-hush

The clan head doesn’t greet you by your name. Instead he calmly asks you to prove that you are who you say you are. His order perplexes you, because how do you prove what you know about yourself?

Then you remember your Shapers, and you call them up, bringing your hand out of your pocket to show that it is turning lilac-colored. At the same time, your normal kikaichu and the imposter ladybugs crawl out from your sleeve into view and scuttle around your palm.

You lift your head, raising your gaze to meet his sunglasses, and after what feels like an eternity, Shibi-sama nodded.

“Kaiya-kun, I am relieved to see that you are alive.” He turned slightly. “Come, we will report to the Hokage together.”

You nod and nudge Juhi who starts moving. Michi immediately comes over to sandwich you between him and his partner, thereby putting himself between you and Shibi. As you walked, your clan head asked about the dogs.

You stuck your hands into your pockets again. “I shouldn’t answer that in the open.”

Surprisingly, he accepts this, but then again, he is a shinobi. Secrets are something all shinobi understand, and even covet.


Exposé

The walk to the Hokage’s tower is slightly disconcerting. After over half a year with only Michi and Juhi for company, the teeming streets make you nervous and tense, causing you to twitch and flinch despite your best efforts to hide your reactions. There’s so much noise, sounds you had forgotten in the relative quite of The Room. And yet, you drink in the sight of the village and its people as though you’ve never seen them before. Was it not that street there you once walked down when going to or from the hospital? Didn’t Father once buy you a treat from that stand there? It feels like a different world, but this place is technically part of ‘home’.

Arriving at the tower, you breathe a sigh of relief as you leave the bustle of the village outside. You follow your clan leader upstairs, and you wonder if it is luck that the Hokage’s secretary waves you in or if perhaps words was sent ahead so that the Hokage would be ready to receive Shibi-sama and yourself. Probably the latter, as that seems more likely in a shinobi village.

You pause when you see Sarutobi Hiruzen wearing the Hokage’s hat. What?

Michi and, more importantly, Shibi-sama are right behind you though, so you shake off your surprise and fully enter the room behind Juhi. The man closes the door behind him and you stand in front of the Hokage with Michi and Juhi on either side of you.

“Well now. This is a surprise. It’s not often that someone returns from the dead. Can you tell us what happened to you the night that the Nine Tails attacked, Aburame-chan?”

You collected your thoughts and tried to present them in a clear manner. You briefly went over your experience that night, how you woke up to realize that you had been kidnapped, and an overview on how you tried to escape and ended up getting yourself trapped with your two kidnappers instead of sold off in an attempt to resurrect Shimura. The Hokage was intensely interested in that part and had you explain what you meant, but you didn’t have much more information. In hindsight, you had completely forgotten about it and therefore hadn’t asked Michi and Juhi more about it during your time in The Room.

Disappointed, the Hokage had you continue your story. You explained how Michi and Juhi had swapped you for a real Aburame child and that you had been informed that she had been killed. Mortified in hindsight, you told of how you were overconfident in your subversion of the duo and how they recaptured you, though this time for the sake of keeping you to themselves. You tried to explain your time in The Room without stuttering, but ended up speaking in a halting manner instead. You told them how Michi and Juhi had kept you in a room with an entrance in the ceiling where you couldn’t reach, how they took turns coming down to spend time with you. The Hokage was grave and carefully asked if they did anything… ‘untoward’ you.

It takes a second before you realize what he was saying, but Michi and Juhi growling hit it home for you. Flinching backwards, you raised your voice.

No!

You clamped a hand over your mouth and shuddered. Quietly gagging at the thought, you shook your head and lowered your hand, modulating your voice.

“Forgive me for raising my voice, Hokage-sama, but no, neither of them did… anything like that. At most, they played with my hair. They didn’t even hug me. I washed myself, I slept by myself. When I… when I made them fall in love me, I made them… incapable of ‘that’ action.”

You couldn’t look at either him or Shibi-sama and instead stared at the hand clutching Michi’s fur.

After a moment, the Hokage spoke again. “I see. However, that does raise an important question: what happened to your kidnappers? How did you escape and make your way home?”

You realized you forgot to say Michi’s full name. Letting go of his fur, you nervously interlocked your fingers together in front of you.

“About that… Michi is an Aburame. I think he was one of the team that attempted to kidnap me that first time.” You can’t bring yourself to look in Shibi-sama’s direction. “As for what happened to them… well, as I’ve said, I managed to convince them that I was…” You cocked your head slightly, trying to find the words. “Complacent? Content with them? Either way, they finally agreed to take me outside. I incapacitated them with what few Shapers I had available to me, and then… well, I had Juhi remove the chakra seals on me. After that…”

You raised your hands to either side.

“I did some ‘work’ on them. They’re good boys now, aren’t you, Michi, Juhi?”

Sadly, they didn’t bark or wag their tails, as expressionless as dogs as they were as humans.


Inspection

Hiruzen watched as Kaiya gestured the dog with brown curly fur and identified it—him—as Aburame Michi. The other dog (man?) was only known as Juhi. She did this without seemingly bothered by what she had done to them, almost as though she wasn’t aware of the sheer depth of what she’d done if her words were true. When he asked her to hand them over to the T&I department, she hesitated.

“W… would I get them back?”

Ah, so she hadn’t walked away from her experience unscathed then.

If they had still been human, the answer would have been a hard refusal. However, this situation is unique in that the men in question no longer have human form. Since the dissolution of Root, other agents have come forth. There might not be anything new that either… agent… can provide. Still, if their threat level can be proven relatively low, they might be released, though whether that was into young Kaiya’s care…

Exchanging a glance with Shibi, the two men tabled that discussion for now.

“Perhaps,” he finally replied. He saw the girl’s brow furrow slightly, but her minute facial movements identified it as disappointment rather than anger. “Now, Aburame-chan. You must realize that this connection to your kidnappers isn’t healthy.”

Reluctantly, she nodded her head.

“Besides which, you live in the Aburame compound. At the very least you would need to obtain permission from Shibi-kun, not to mention that your father—“

Her head snapped up.

“Father! Is my-is he, where—?”

She finally looks like the child she should be. Or rather, she is out of character for a typical Aburame child, but considering that she was kidnapped and held prisoner for over half a year perhaps that is to be expected. Seeing the clearly anxious look on her face despite the sunglasses and high collar, Hiruzen can’t help but soften slightly. He glances over at Shibi.

“Teijo-san is currently a mission. Kaiya-kun, you have proven your identity to me, but for the sake of security, you must first meet with a Yamanaka in order to ascertain whether or not you are under the impulse of outside sources.”

The news appears to be disagreeable to her, as Kaiya hunched back into her jacket, but she did not refute the necessity. If there were no outside influences affecting her, then it would not take long for a Yamanaka to clear her. After that, no doubt either Shibi or Teijo would take her to the hospital for a checkup, as was mandatory.

Still, it was outside of the norm for a kidnap victim to return so seemingly unscathed, at least physically. She clearly had formed an unhealthy attachment towards her kidnappers, keeping them alive even as they currently were and expressing a desire to have them back, but she would likely recover from that given enough time for separation. On the other hand, the ‘dogs’ might need her particular means of care, but that was a bridge to cross at a later time.

He watched as she bid the dogs goodbye and how they tried to stop her from leaving without growling or biting. It took a while, but she managed to leave the room with Shibi. The former men didn’t bark, just stared at the door. Repressing a sigh, Hiruzen snapped his fingers and Anbu agents appeared.

The men-dogs didn’t resist, which was a point in their favor.


Welcome

Shibi-sama leads you through the streets once more, but this time without Michi and Juhi as buffers, the stimulus of the village is almost overwhelming. You are walking perhaps a little too close to Shibi-sama, but at least you aren’t holding on to him yet.

He takes you to the hospital and you feel a rush of nostalgia as you remember Amano, Shin and Nishida. Were they here somewhere? Shin was the one to see you, right?

Shibi-sama does the talking and it isn’t too long before you are waiting in a hospital room. A few minutes more and the door opens to admit a shinobi with light blond hair. Shibi-sama calls him ‘Yamanaka-san’ instead of ‘Yamanaka-sama’, so this isn’t the clan head. Trying not to fidget, you cautiously nod as he explains what he’s going to do.

It takes everything you have to not slump in relief when he says that what he needs to do doesn’t require a mindwalk at this stage. If you were hostile or exhibit strange behavior in the future that might change, but for now he’s basically just going to do a scan to check if you are under any impulses or genjutsu. Now, you are ninety-seven percent certain that you aren’t, but it’s still a weight off your shoulders once the Yamanaka gives you an all-clear a few minutes later.

He barely gets to leave the room, though, before he’s almost bowled over by Shin and Amano who burst into the room the second he slides the door open even slightly. They’re both so angrily relieved to see you again that it takes them both a few moments to realize that Shibi-sama is in the same room. They bow and apologize but he isn’t bothered by it.

Amano declares that she is going to give you your checkup and immediately boots Shin from the room while Shibi-sama leaves of his own will. Amano checks you over from head to toe, but the only damage you’ve sustained is a scar from the time either Michi or Juhi stabbed you in the first days of your ordeal. She scowls on hearing the story behind it, having only suspected just how deeply you can ‘sleep’ after pushing yourself too far. Perhaps you have exceeded her expectations in that regard? Hell, you were surprised to find out that you could remain unconscious through what Michi and Juhi said they did to you. She looks you over three times before she somewhat disbelievingly declares that you are in perfect health.

Shin gets let back into the room and you get lectured for something you did months ago. Nishida shows up mid-lecture and tells him to shut up as she shoves past him to have a look at you. The three of them bicker over you for a while before Shibi-sama says that it is time to go. Getting down from the bed, you walk over to him as Amano asks when you can return to the hospital. Shibi-sama says that it will be a few days, and at least until after you have had a chance to see your father again. They are understanding and say or wave goodbye.

Leaving the hospital with Shibi-sama, you don’t feel much better than the last walk not too long ago. Seeing the compound gates loosens the tight feeling in your chest because you know that there is quiet beyond that gate, and a smaller population too. You barely pause when crossing through, but for a split second you stand just beyond the gate to revel that you are back.

Once more, you tread the Aburame compound grounds, and just down this path—

“You will be staying with me until your father returns.”

Shibi-sama’s voice shatters your delusion of going home to wait for Father there. You wince, but once again, you can see that as reasonable since one, you are a child, and two, you were kidnapped before so he likely wants to avoid that happening again so soon. Although without Shimura and his Root around, who was there to take an interest in you? Sighing quietly, you nod at his words and follow him home.

He tells you of a boy that he has adopted, a kid named Torune. Yoji is at the academy and there is a babysitter here for Shino, named Mao. You ask where his wife is and he tells you that she died last winter from health complications.

You try not to wince. If you had been here, then she might not have died.

Shibi-sama informs you that when he is not around that you are under Mao’s care. You translate that as that you have to listen to her if he’s not around, so you nod in reply. He leaves you with Mao and Shino, saying that he will be looking for Torune and will later pick up Yoji, mainly to inform them of your presence, or in Yoji’s case, of your unexpected return.

Left with a stranger and the toddler who once shook your worldview, you knelt awkwardly on the floor in silence. Mao was occupied with a book, but tiny Shino… well, he was staring at the hall his father went down, and then suddenly his attention was on you, the new person his father brought home. You tried not to cringe away from him as he carefully walked over, but no matter how desperately you chanted in your head for him to go away he just kept plodding towards you.

The moment he was close enough, he stared hard at you. At over one years old, he was now wearing his own pair of sunglasses, but you knew he was looking right at you. Standing next to you with his front pointed at you was a pretty clear indication of at least that much. He wasn’t grabbing at you though, which was a remarkable show of understanding of personal space for someone who wasn’t even two yet.

Growing increasingly uncomfortable with his staring, you case about in your mind for something to either distract him with or on how to escape. You couldn’t bring out any insects, in case Mao-san interpreted that as a hostile action, and you weren’t clear on how far you were allowed to wander from her. So wh—

“’Elcome home.”

Your thoughts freeze. Slowly, you turn your head to look at him. This little boy, in his childish voice with his head barely reaching yours even while you are kneeling, has just said two words that no one else said in that exact order. Or sure, they were glad you were back, but none of them…

You swallowed around a suddenly tight throat.

“Thank you, Shino-kun.”

He nodded solemnly and left your side, heading back to the toys on the floor a few feet away.

Your hands dug into your coat over your knees.

Then, as the danger became real, you sent your kikaichu to drink the tears threatening to overflow from your eyelashes.


Home is where you go to find solace from the ever changing chaos, to find love within the confines of a heartless world, and to be reminded that no matter how far you wander, there will always be something waiting when you return.

~Kendal Rob

Chapter Text

Trees quiet without the birds,
My heart quiet without you.

~Terri Guillemets


Distraction

At first, all you can do is watch and listen out for Father, eyes frequently glancing in the direction of the front door or in the general direction of the compound gate entrance, ears straining to catch even the slightest sound of Father’s voice. It wears on you, the constant vigilance, and Shibi-sama suggests that you focus on something else in order to make time pass by. The phrase ‘a watched kettle never boils’ crosses your mind when he says this, and, reluctantly, you nod. Perhaps focusing on something else would make time stop dragging its feet.

It’s not that you haven’t been doing anything else since arriving at Shibi-sama’s house. You’ve spent time with Shino when he deigns to come over to you, and you’ve been growing the Carnivore hive’s population. Also, in case any of your three teachers or the hospital itself asks for it, you’ve regrown the cure holders for Blood and Decline, though only two each since it’s not a priority for you. Really, since there apparently hasn’t been another outbreak in the village or the nation in the two-hundred-plus days you’ve been gone then there probably isn’t much a demand for it.

Mao has been helping you practice your academy katas, and you have been trying very hard not to think of Juhi and how he was the one to lead you through them in the past few months. Yoji, while having instruction on the academy katas, isn’t allowed to teach you as he is just a student himself.

Speaking of Yoji, he doesn’t seem very changed. He is just as distant as ever, and is rarely around so you have limited interaction with him. You wonder if the two of you will be made to walk to the academy together again, though that thought makes you wonder if you will be allowed to return. You probably will, but on the other hand there’s still the possibility that you might not. On one hand, not having to become a kunoichi would be great in that you don’t want to have to leave the village and travel, sleep out in the wilderness and risk life and limb, but on the other hand, you want to walk on walls and water, jump through trees and use the Aburame jutsu.

(the fact that murder would be part of your duties doesn’t faze you)

Whether or not you will be returning to the academy is a question for later, more specifically for after Father’s return.

Aaaand there you go again, thinking of Father and going back to looking around for him. Great.


Isolated

It strikes you suddenly that while Shibi-sama has spoken of another adopted child, you have yet to see this ‘Torune’. It is then that you realize that there are times when Mao will leave your sight, telling you to watch Shino. She does this at meal times and again throughout the day. When you ask her about it, she confirms that she is checking in on Torune. When you ask why he isn’t kept with Shino, she informs you that he has special poisonous insects which he cannot control. They are reminiscent of your Shapers, only his turn his skin a dark shade of purple. Until he learns to control his insects better, he must be kept separately from people.

That sounds completely terrible and unpleasantly reminds you of the times when you were alone in The Room. That isolation was likely the reason your pretending to bond with Michi and Juhi became genuine. There was only so much isolation you could bear, but you were seven and you had a previous lifetime’s worth of memories. Torune is three.

Upset by the thought of a child kept in isolation, part of you wants to see if you would be able to safely interact with him, but on the other hand, past-you forcefully interjects memories of not liking your own daughter and you find yourself thinking that you don’t want to risk being the sole person who can safely interact with Torune. Then again, Shibi-sama might ask you to try at some point and you’d probably be obligated to see if you could, if only for the sake of appearance (and also the fact that he really had your back the night that Shimura’s Root tried to kidnap you).

Thinking that, you decide to leave it to Shibi-sama to ask you if he ever decides to.

(but it’s still hard when you remember that there is a small child growing up in isolation)


Lifeless

The world has been grey and lonely since Kaiya died.

His daughter was the life that made their house a home. She filled it with her presence and her noise. She was the reason he put effort into their meals. Without her, he barely fed himself adequate nutrition, and the house was cold and empty.

The loss of Kaiya didn’t mean the same thing to the clan that it did to him. The elders had suggested that he find another wife and have another child, subtly implying that they had hopes for another Kaiya, but he had refused because Kazue was the only woman for him, and Kaiya would always be his only child. No one could replace either of them, and he wouldn’t insult them by trying.

Ever since Shibi-sama lifted the order to keep him from missions outside the village, Teijo has been taking them one after another, nearly back to back. He only takes breaks between when Shibi-sama either insists or interferes. This is his third mission in a row, and he will either get a fourth in or be forced to take a break, especially since this last one was long at nearly a month.

If he dies on one of these missions—and he’s honest enough with himself to hope that will be the case—then Kazue will probably be mad at him when they meet again in the Pure World, but that’s okay. He’d be able to see her again, and Kaiya, and that’s the important thing. He’ll do his duty to his clan and the village, and he’ll die that way, and then he’ll get to be with them again.

Weary from his journey back, Teijo entered his empty house and decided that he would do his report in the morning to hand in and maybe get another mission. Lost in thought, he missed the kikaichu over his door as it flew away into the night.

(someone knocks at his front door, requiring that he gets up from bed to check, only to find his clan head there and, instead of an explanation of any length, asks him to come to his house, that there is something he needs to see

he doesn’t refuse because this is a request from the clan head, but he does wonder why it couldn’t wait until morning)


Miracle

They walk silently through the clan head’s house, and Shibi-sama quietly slides open a door. The first thing Teijo notices is that there are fireflies inside, a few points of light scattered on the walls, floor and air. The second thing he notices is that there is a single futon in the room and a small shape beneath the bed cover. Teijo doesn’t understand why he is being shown this.

“They are not true fireflies,” Shibi-sama said quietly. He paused before carefully adding, “She made them.”

The words don’t register, but then they do. He remembers his daughter’s Shapers, how they made new variants of the kikaichu and how she had made fleshy whips and manipulated the flesh of people. His breath freezes in his lungs as a frail and desperate hope suddenly clawed at his insides. Unable to speak and momentarily unable to breathe, he could only listen to Shibi-sama as he continued staring at the futon, unable to see the face from this angle.

His clan head spoke of what Kaiya had reported from her kidnapping to her return, and a small part of him made a mental note to teach her not to underestimate any opponent, how the Aburame did well to never underestimate their opponents. But, that was a small voice, nearly lost among the rest of him that was crying out to see her face, to be given proof that it was her.

As if sensing his inner thoughts, Shibi-sama spoke again.

“It is her, Teijo-san. She has her kikaichu, the Shapers, and the venomous ladybugs. The reports from T&I confirm that her kidnappers took Aburame Kaiya and held her prisoner for months.

“Teijo-san. Your daughter is alive, and there, sleeping.”

It seems like forever before he can breathe again, his foot stepping forward. However, caution makes him stop, makes him consider all that he knows of his daughter. He remembers the ‘shadow’ that ate meat, and ladybugs which weren’t ladybugs.

Is the darkness between the fireflies safe, and are those just fireflies?

He pulls his foot back and, no matter how much he wants to go and pick her up this instant, he errs on the side of caution. Lifting an arm, he sends a small swarm of his kikaichu forth to find her face and scuttle around to wake her up.

There is a sound from the sleeping figure—it sounds like her—and shifting, but his kikaichu are not deterred. When they disappear from his senses, he softly calls to her.

“Kaiya.”

She doesn’t get up, but she must be partially awake to have consumed his kikaichu, so he calls again, saying just her name. She shifts again, and his heart stutters at the sight of the bed cover rising. She is sitting up, softly illuminated by blinking lights and squinting in the direction of the door where he is standing.

He sees the moment she realizes that it might be him in the way she stiffens and in how her fingers on her visible hand dig into the bed cover. She lurches forward, half reaching towards him as her voice breaks.

“F-F-Father?

When Teijo steps forward, the darkness between them visibly lessens, though not from the light of the fireflies. He’d been right to be cautious, but that isn’t his foremost thought at the moment.

Taking another step forward, crouching slightly and still hoping, Teijo asked her a vital question.

“The night you were almost kidnapped, what was the one thing you asked of me?”

The child in front of him cocked her head, looking bewildered and hurt, but she answered anyway after a glance over his shoulder.

“I asked you not to tell anyone.”

‘Don’t tell anyone?’

Feeling something loosen slightly in his chest, Teijo stepped forward and knelt before her, breathing her name as he finally believed that she really was his beloved daughter. She threw herself into his arms with a muted sob, small arms wrapping tightly around his neck. Clutching her to him, a memory flashed through his mind of a reunion in a camp after he had thought her gone then too.

Teijo didn’t believe in gods, but he prayed then that Kaiya would always, always come back whenever she was ‘lost’ to him.


Irreparable

Holding Father, out of nowhere you remember falling apart after being told that Mom and Dad were dead. You get the impression that you thought it was a sick joke, and as you are now, as Kaiya, you experience the emotions from that moment. You feel the earth dropping away from beneath your feet and static filling your ears. You get flashes of Mom and Dad, their faces still blurred, but the you of then kept thinking of them as it slowly sank in that you would never see them again or talk to them or touch them. All future important future events—your wedding, your children, your triumphs and failures—would be less for their absence. Wasn’t Dad supposed to either hate or get along with your future boyfriend and husband? Wasn’t Mom supposed to help you when you had a kid? Weren’t they supposed to be grandparents?

You of then knew deep down that you were supposed to outlive them, but never did you of then ever imagine that that time would come so soon.

Slowly, inexorably, something inside had been twisted and painfully pulled out as your friends could only watch. Death wasn’t something they could fix and you of then had known it. You had known it, and grief and despair had brought you to your knees as you had cried and screamed.

That was a lifetime ago, worlds away, but you think it would have hurt just as much now if Father hadn’t come home to you after you had tried so hard to come back just for him.

(his death would have left you broken in this life as much as the loss of Mom and Dad had left you broken in that past life)

Shaking, you tightened your grip as you tried not to break out into full out sobbing. None of the boys would appreciate being woken to your crying.


Reborn

He spends an eternity just holding her and marveling at her warmth and the contraction and expansion of her chest as she breathed. She was alive and here.

His living nightmare is over.

Picking her up, Teijo turned to the doorway. Shibi-sama was still there, and Teijo nodded at him. The clan head nodded back and led the way to the front door. Not letting go of Kaiya who was hiding her face in his neck and trembling, Teijo managed to put on his sandals and stepped out, the fireflies following him. The door slid shut behind them and Teijo called his swarm to warm Kaiya as he headed home.

She was hiccupping and stammering words, and they hurt his heart as he realized that she was repeating that she had missed him.

The nightmare hadn’t been his alone.

It was a partially cloudy night, and the moon was nearly full and bright enough that they cast shadows on the ground. Pausing and looking up, Teijo finally noticed that the night sky was beautiful. Stars shone and glinted between clouds that were glowing on their tops, almost silver, and the moon was more white than gray. Kaiya, perhaps wondering why they had stopped, shifted her head to see ahead of them.

“Look up, Kaiya.”

She did, and she sniffled. He laughed quietly, tears of his own hidden behind his sunglasses as it sunk in that he held his daughter in his arms and that she was home.

“It’s beautiful because you are alive.”

(it’s the first thing that isn’t lifeless in his eyes since her reported death

and with her here once more, it’s like the world is full of color all over again)


Finally

Hearing him say it like that, you realize that you haven’t really seen the sky before, not in this life. You don’t remember looking up and being amazed in the four years before you past life’s memories returned, nor do you recall appreciating the night sky since then, especially in the past few months. Father’s words puts things into perspective, and suddenly you know what he means.

The image is blurry due to your watery eyes, but blinking hard and opening them again, you more clearly see the moon, the clouds and the stars. You are in Father’s arms, sharing this same view, and after a long absence, at last, you are home.

Leaning your head back against him, you closed your eyes and hugged him as best you could.

“I’m back home.”

(“Tadaima.”)

Father held you closer as his voice whispered back, thick with gratitude and relief.

“Welcome home.”

(“Okaeri.”)

Nothing more was said because words could wait. For now, it’s enough just to be together again.


What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.

~Helen Keller

Chapter Text

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.

~Robert Frost


Practice

You spend three days with Father, just the two of you except for when there are visitors spread out over that time. Your academy teacher drops by to discuss your enrollment and you want to go back, and in the end it’s decided that you will return to the academy but be in the same year, though with a chance to move up early to catch up to Yoji and the rest of your former classmates. Amano drops by to discuss your potential return to the hospital, but Father puts it off as a discussion to have with Shibi-sama before any decisions were made. Kaede stopped by as well to see for herself if the rumors were true and said she was glad to see that you were alive. Even Tsubasa stops by, though ‘stopping by’ meant they allowed you to see them in one of the trees outside for a moment before they nodded at you and left in a blur of leaves. Aside from those few visitors, you and Father were left to your own devices. The two of you went shopping together twice, once for food and hygiene items, and again for new sunglasses because he wasn’t going to let you keep the pair that Michi had gotten for you.

You had wanted to argue, to protest, but looking up at Father made that impulse slowly fade away. He was trying to cut away your bonds with Michi and Juhi, and after what those two had done, how could you try to hold on to them? You yourself had decided that Father’s importance to you had outweighed them both together, so you finally agreed to get rid of the sunglasses from Michi.

The pair Mother had given to you had been left in the forest area where Father had spread ‘your’ ashes.

There was a specialty store that the Aburame frequented, one that sold only eyewear from glasses to goggles. It sort of flummoxed you that someone could make a living from such a specialized store, but you didn’t have to understand (though the high cost of some items helped clear that up for you).

You spend the better part of an hour trying to find a pair you like that doesn’t remind you of your captors, yet is different enough from the pair Mother had given you, and in a color you didn’t hate. The glasses Michi gave you were rectangular and had green tips that were hidden in your hair when you wore them, so you opted not to have color there, and the sunglasses from mom had oval shaped lenses and a thick frame for sturdiness. The sunglasses father helped you pick out were a circular and a solid black with triangle-shaped sides so that there was less of a chance of someone seeing your eyes from the side.

During your time at home, before you get back into the rhythm of living in the village, you pick up your bamboo flute again. If it is possible, you sound even worse than the last time you played. You spend less than half an hour practicing before giving up in frustration and turning around to go back inside the house. Father’s unexpected presence on the back porch startles you. He apologizes if he’s startled or disturbed you.

“I have missed the sound of your flute.”

You frown. “You must be joking, Father. I’m awful at this.”

He didn’t deny that, but he calmly insisted that he had missed it.

“The house was silent when you had gone. The silence… was oppressive.”

He paused for a moment, possibly remembering the time he had lived alone when he had thought you were dead, but then he gestured to the bamboo flute in your hands.

“If you keep practicing, you will improve. Such is the nature of training.”

The thought of Father alone in this house tugs at your heart, so even if you don’t completely believe him about your horrible whistles and screeches, you decide to continue applying yourself to the instrument you had picked out.

(he watches her practice and quietly rejoices at the sight and sound of his child)


Lonesome

When the time comes to return to the academy, you fully expect Yoji and perhaps Tsubasa to walk you to and from school, and while that is eventually true, the first few days it is Father who takes you instead and he is the one who is waiting for you after the academy lets out. It’s slightly embarrassing since very few other parents show up to drop off or pick up their kids, even in your ‘first’ year classroom, but on the other hand, it’s nice to walk with Father and to see him when you leave the building.

Going back to the academy feels strange. Being surrounded by children close to your own age is… disconcerting, especially since your only company for months before coming back were two grown men with stunted personalities (and not thinking of Michi and Juhi doesn’t work because your mind keeps going back to them). That first recess, many of your old classmates had stared and whispered from a distance, and you remembered that you hadn’t made any friends from a combination of not wanting to, being bad at trying, and because most of your classmates had been juvenilely disgusted by the kikaichu beneath your skin. Being on display irritates you, but not even retreating into the thicket of the academy grounds lets you fully escape them. You remain an object of interest for almost three weeks.

Classroom wise, the work isn’t that difficult, not when you remember being a grown up in another life. Within two months you advance into Yoji’s class and thus catch up with your old classmates, at least those who hadn’t washed out while you were gone. Idly, you note that there is a Hyuuga in the same class, and you also note that they are always, at minimum, two desks and four students away from you, which you don’t really care about and only noticed because of the slightly unsettling white eyes.

You feel out of place in your classroom, but it does get easier to bear it over time.

(there is no one who feels like the five from your last life and you don’t realize that you are looking for them with new faces like you have yours as an Aburame child)


Watching

Itachi knew that he was slated for early graduation, though not as early as it would have been if not for the end of the Third Shinobi War and the Fourth’s new (though recently revised) policy on the subject. The Third Hokage had reinstated early graduation, though in acknowledging the spirit of the Fourth, the earliest a student could graduate outside of war was at eight. He was six now, but he knew that if not for that policy then he would have graduated by now.

However, because he hasn’t been allowed to graduate, he was still in the academy when Aburame Kaiya came back from the dead. He knew before the majority of his classmates as his father had informed him and mother at the same time. Before her faked death, Itachi had been ordered to stay away from her, or, failing that, to never let her touch him for any length of time. Itachi had been considering approaching her, to find out what kind of person she was, but with the birth of Sasuke and then later the Nine-Tails attack, he hadn’t had a chance. He had regretted that, but now he had a second chance.

Still, it was… difficult to approach her. There were many eyes on her, the most obvious of which were their fellow students. More importantly though, he suspected that she was being watched by another member of her clan. It was only a suspicion, but given what she could do and how she had been kidnapped, he would be surprised if the Aburame clan neglected to put a watcher on her.

If he was seen talking to her, it might get back to his father, which in turn might earn him a lecture. He had no designs on hurting her, and he doubted that she would touch him casually, and when he thought about it like that he decided that it was worth it to talk to her at least once.

What was she like, this girl who had a hand in ending the Third Shinobi War?


Influence

When you hear someone approaching your spot in one of the thickets on the academy grounds during recess, you feel a flash of annoyance. Why couldn’t they just leave you alone? You were not an exhibit!

Holding back an annoyed expression, you continued staring at the real ladybug on the leaf in front of you. It was a male, and you could sense him, though not in the same way you could sense your kikaichu. Father had started you on how to communicate with other insects, though this did not work on all insects. For instance, there had been a second ladybug in the same bush, but he had flown off not long after you arrived. Sending out one of your fake ladybugs, you had it skitter close to the real ladybug so that you could compare them. Just by looking at them, you saw that your imposter was larger than the real one.

…Was the intruder still here?

Glancing over your shoulder… you couldn’t see anything because the triangle side of your sunglasses was in the way. Turning a little more, you saw that it was a boy who had come this time, one who didn’t seem like the energetic ones who had bothered you before for whatever dumb dare they had with their friends. This one had black hair and black eyes. The only thing notable about him was that he was pretty. What did he want, though? To mock you for the kikaichu beneath your skin, or to shriek that you were a ghost or a living dead?

He took a step closer, meeting your gaze as you slowly stood up.

“My name is Uchiha Itachi.”

Hoh. Uchiha had special eyes, didn’t they? That was one of the clans whom you were forbidden from copying their eyes.

Oh, wait, he introduced himself (unlike the rest of the others). You suppose that merits the same from yourself, even though you suspect he already knows.

“Aburame Kaiya.”

You both continued staring at each other. You don’t know what he was thinking, but right now you just wanted him to go away and leave you in peace. Part of you thinks that returning to the academy was a mistake, but deep down you know that it’s just a matter of enduring it. This time won’t last forever, and you might as well appreciate the relative safety of not having your life in danger because of a mission.

When he continues not speaking, you begin to turn away. Of course, that’s when he chooses to speak again.

“Are you aware of your own impact?”

Perplexed, you turned your head slightly but didn’t bother turning your eyes since he was blocked from your vision. He asks that, and you have had time to consider a similar question. While in The Room, you had often had only your thoughts for company (the memories were persistent, and in desperation you had turned to Michi and Juhi to pretend but instead had that backfire on you). You had reflected somewhat on your life since regaining those memories, the knowledge that once you had lived in an entirely different world, and you had come to the conclusion that you truly had been reckless. The short of it was that you had dug your grave and now you were stuck in it since there was no way at this point to lie your way out of the things you’ve done and no where to go since you would either die while trying to leave or just get dragged back anyway. Although, you don’t think that’s what he means.

“Not from your own point of view,” you finally replied. That was true since you weren’t him, and you weren’t going to try to figure out what he meant nor try to put words in his mouth in an attempt to guess his meaning.

He considered this. “True. How could you know?”

He was still staring at you and you had to admit that it was making you uncomfortable. He didn’t notice, seemingly too busy considering his own words before speaking them. Since you suspect that you are being watched, he might suspect the same thing and is being careful, which is surprising forethought for a kid. Do shinobi children really mature so much faster than children from your old life?

“I… am considered a genius. I do not say that to appease my own ego. I am skilled, for more than most children my age. Early graduation was expected of me.”

Ah. Yoji had mentioned early graduation in passing, saying the age had been changed from ten to eight for the earliest a student could graduate from the academy.

“If the war had still been going on, I don’t believe that policy would have been implemented in the first place. The war… the war ended, in part, due to a combination of two epidemics which had begun to spread through the Land of Fire and the Land of Stone. Other nations feared that they would cross the borders, and that was one of the deciding factors in ending the Third Shinobi War.”

Hm. Hearing that from a kid helps put things into perspective. No one, not even Father, ever came outright and said as much as this Uchiha kid just did. Were your panicked actions from that night so far reaching?

“I wanted to meet you.”

And there it is. You’ve firmly crossed over from on the fence about being uncomfortable to being sure that you are uncomfortable. Why did he have to say it like that?

“And now we have met. Good day.”

You brushed past him and (fled) headed back to the academy. Recess was almost over anyway.


Obligation

Uchiha Itachi does not approach you again after that day, but now that you know who he is, sometimes you will find him staring in your direction. You never look at him for long, so you don’t know if he keeps staring. What’s worse is that now you notice when the Hyuuga stare. It’s not only the one in your class, but the others from other classes as well. On the bright side, you get more practice on maintaining your poker face.

At home, Father has started telling you about the Aburame techniques which will be available to you once you have an adequate level of chakra control. He won’t start you on them before you are at least nine, though, so that leaves two more years before you can start using the Aburame jutsu with the Carnivores.

Unfortunately, in the time since you came back to the village, you forgot one important detail: Father was a shinobi. That meant that he was in service to the village, and that in turn meant that he would have to leave home in order to fulfill missions.

You valiantly did not cry when he reminded you of this fact, but it was close. In a display of affection which you suspected as being uncommon in your clan, you had leaned against him for a while. He allowed it (he had allowed a lot of things since you came back, now that you thought of it), but eventually he had had to leave, letting Tsubasa into the house as he left.

His departure had left you feeling slightly hollow inside as you worried about whether or not he would come back. The life of a shinobi was dangerous, and you were somewhat aware of the fact that shinobi rarely lived to be old. Still, you tried to cheer yourself up by reminding yourself that Father was a capable shinobi and that no mission lasted forever.

Father would come back.

(he had to)


Delayed

You had since resumed your presence at the hospital. Amano and Shin were as strict and demanding as ever while Nishida was your favorite because she had the brightest personality of all three. You were never alone while outside of the compound, and you would even go as far as saying that you were never alone outside of your bedroom and the toilet. The constant surveillance was beginning to irritate you, but you knew that there wasn’t anything you could do about it. You could only hope that it would ease off as you got older.

In the end, Father did come back, without injury even. This helped make it easier for you to accept that he would be leaving again and again. You never asked him to come home safely, but you did cling for a little while before he left if you were given advance notice.

Time passed and life became predicable. You lived with Father or were babysat by Kaede and her new husband, escorted by Tsubasa, went to the academy with Yoji, and spent time at the hospital learning from your trio of teachers while they found new applications for your Shapers. The Uchiha and the Hyuuga maintained their distance, and you came to notice that they were also avoiding other members of your clan where they could. You didn’t make anything new and tried not to display your ability again.

Then, in the early summer after Shino had turned three years old…

“May I see your Shapers?”

You blinked at the request from the clan heir. Father and Kaede were away on missions and, since this was the arrangement when both were unavailable, you were staying at Shibi-sama’s house. The clan head himself was away as well, leaving Mao in charge of the household. Yoji had walked you back from the academy before leaving, so you had been left to your own devices. Sitting on the back porch and turning your bamboo flute in your hands, wondering if you should practice here, Shino’s question had cut into your thoughts. You turned your head to look at him. He had grown, but he was still small.

He continued. “I have heard of your Shapers but have not seen them. Why? Because you never summon them in the few times we see each other.”

He had developed that weird habit of speaking like that. It was annoying when you forgot that he would answer his own question, because at those times it was as though he cut you off from speaking and you would have to remind yourself that it was just his verbal tick.

You considered his request. It seemed harmless enough, so why not? Plus, it was unlikely that after all this time that anyone’s first instinct would be that you were going to attack or harm the clan heir.

Instead of verbally answering him, you set down your bamboo flute and raised your right hand palm up. Shino stared as a lilac blotch appeared at the center and spread outwards until it covered your whole hand.

Shino was silent for a moment before he commented, “You are like Torune, then. Why? Because his insects turn his skin dark purple.”

Yes, and to touch Torune was to be poisoned and to have your flesh break down at the cellular level. You had learned a bit more about the boy you had only met once, though at that time Shibi-sama hadn’t asked you to test if you could touch him without harm. You think you might be able to, but on the other hand you don’t want to risk it in case you are wrong.

Shino turned his gaze from your palm to your face.

“I have heard that you created new kikaichu. Can you create new species of insects at will?”

“It takes time, but yes.”

Shino fidgeted and you knew at that instant that he wanted something, though whether that was knowledge or something physical was up in the air. You waited and as he stared at your palm, you formed an imposter ladybug before his eyes. That seemed to decide him as he turned his face back to yours. When he spoke, his voice was faint but eager.

“Kaiya-san, could you make an insect large enough for me to fly on?”

You have to look away and can’t fully stop yourself from trembling. You had tried and tried not to let him in, but he had already gotten there long ago when he was just a baby, and you hadn’t been able to remove him since. You rarely see him, but despite that he still has power over you. It’s bewildering because you don’t understand. Why does an action he did as an infant echo to present day?

Pulling yourself together, you look back at him. You can’t see much of his face but not even his sunglasses and high collar can hide his soft round face. The firm refusal dies before it even leaves your lips.

“I could try, Shino-kun, but I don’t think either of our fathers would approve of such an endeavour.”

He maintained his gaze.

“And if we could get their permission?”

“Then you would have to ask yourself: are you prepared to make sacrifices of your hive? An insect you could ride on would have to at least be partially formed from numbers of your hive.”

This gets the biggest reaction from him in the shape of his shoulders slowly slumping as your words sank in. His brow furrowed slightly for almost a whole minute before it smoothed and he shook his head regretfully.

“I cannot do that at this time. My hive is young and father says I must keep as many as I can alive.”

He says that, but you have to wonder if he’s just putting this idea on the backburner. After all, he said ‘at this time’, and he won’t be this small forever. His hive will grow along with him, so perhaps someday he will revisit this conversation.

You wonder if you’ll be able to say ‘no’ instead of trying to find excuses.


Dreams

That same summer, Shibi-sama finally comes with the request you have been half-expecting for ages, though you’re not entirely correct. Instead of you touching Torune directly, Shibi-sama offers himself as a test subject. He will be the one to touch Torune, and that is how you will be able to test if you have power over Torune’s insects: Shibi-sama will take the risk upon himself in case your Shapers lose.

(you have Father, but you can’t help but think to yourself that if you could have had any other man for a father, you would have wanted it to be Shibi-sama)

With Father’s permission, you agree to the clan head’s request. He takes you to his house, to the room where Torune lives almost alone, and you find out that this is the first he is hearing of Shibi-sama’s test. He is fearful of hurting the man who took him in after his own father died, but even you can see the hope in his body language.

When Shibi-sama touches Torune’s bare arm, the tips of his fingers turn purple and begin bubbling. A grimace passes over his face as you touch the back of the afflicted hand and you ‘see’ Torune’s insects and marvel at them. Shino was right, your Shapers were like Torune’s insects, though in shape not just the color they change your skin into. You use your Shapers to grab the poisonous insects and begin reshaping them to heal the damaged flesh. The poison is unusable, though, so you have it pulled into sacs made up of your Shapers which then close and fall away from Shibi-sama’s skin.

In conclusion, yes, your Shapers beat Torune’s insects.

The child’s mouth drops open as you slowly trail your fingers from the inside of his elbow down to his wrist. He can probably sense his insects disappearing, but the main point of his focus is that you aren’t getting hurt. It takes him a long moment, but he finally lifts his gaze from where your fingers are touching his skin to your face.

Then, with all the seriousness the four year-old could muster, he opened his mouth.

“I’m going to marry you.”

You want to smack your palm against your face but you don’t. It’s hard, though, when the two Aburame men in the room are clearly amused by Torune’s declaration.

Holding back a sigh, you patted his small hand.

“I don’t think so. Let’s be friends, though, Torune-kun.”

Just friends, you added to yourself.

“Forever,” he promised, still in full serious mode. “But I mean it, Kaiya-san.

“When I grow up, I’m going to marry you.”

Later, walking home with Father, you nudged him.

Stop laughing, Father.”

He just chuckled lightly, not stopping and not saying that Torune’s declaration wouldn’t come true.

Grumbling under your breath, you accepted the consoling pat he gave you.

It didn’t matter what Torune said. You were not going to marry someone three years younger than you, thank you very much.

(you don’t say you won’t ever, or that you won’t have kids because you are not the you of then, the you who was broken and did not know how to love your own child

you are Kaiya now, and Kaiya wanted a family of her own, to give her father a grandchild or two

someday, with the knowledge that ‘someday’ would eventually come)


Hope in a child who has never known anything but despair is a sweet and touching thing.

~Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Chapter Text

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

~Marcel Proust


Precaution

When Shibi-sama requests that you spend time with Torune, you can’t find it in yourself to refuse. Torune, as a poisonous person due to his inability to control his insects, is an isolated child. Even though he has Shino and Yoji as adopted brothers, the latter two can’t play with him due to the risk of his poisonous insects coming into contact with them. Even his clothes and bedding are carefully washed separately in case any linger in the cloth. Basically, Torune is very much alone and lonely. He does well to bear it, or so Shibi-sama says, but it could only do him good to have someone around that he can’t hurt.

Honestly, you wouldn’t mind so much if Torune hadn’t declared that he would marry you someday. As it was, visiting him twice a week was always slightly tiring. He seemed so certain that the two of you would get married. You hated that he operated under that delusion, but your protests fell on deaf ears. If anything, your denials just seemed to make him more determined. Resigning yourself to having to repeat yourself whenever he brought up the subject, you moved on to trying to distract him with other activities.

On the subject of Torune and the necessity of keeping him away from populated areas, you asked Father to begin teaching you how to utilize chakra in order to expand your hive similar to a jutsu. The reason was that you wanted to be able to deploy your Shapers anywhere Torune has been in order to make sure none of his insects were left behind to make problems for anyone who touched the same surfaces he did. You wanted him to be able to go to a park to play on the swings and such, but he couldn’t if there was a risk of the next child or children contracting his poisonous insects and possibly dying.

At nine and with basic chakra control, Father felt you were ready.

(you both knew that after the Shapers, next would be the Carnivores, that flesh-eating darkness that looked so much like a Nara’s moving shadow)


Teammates

Itachi had graduated from the academy. At eight years old, he was now a shinobi of Konohagakure.

His father and the clan elders were upset at his ‘late’ graduation. They felt that he should have graduated earlier, but while he would never say it aloud, Itachi was grateful that he had had time with his peers. He was glad that there were at least two extra years in his life so far that he had been allowed to be a child. With the engraved leaf upon his forehead, he was now considered an adult and would be expected to carry out his missions no matter what.

The thought of having to kill a living person is… perturbing. In truth, Itachi didn’t want to have to take lives, but he was the clan heir. He can be no less than the best shinobi his skills allowed him to be. As a genius, he was expected to be one of, if not the best. He is not looking forward to his career, but he knows there is no other path open to him.

His genin team consists of an Inuzuka girl named Hana and a civilian-born boy named Kurita Daisuke. The Inuzuka girl is the clan’s heir, but there doesn’t seem to be anything notable about Kurita. Their sensei is a jonin named Minazuki Yūki.

His father has made it clear that he expects Itachi to ascend to the rank of chunin as soon as possible, and there is no policy set that Itachi could take advantage of in order to stay a genin. He obeys and goes on missions with his team, displaying that his skill level is far above that of an average genin. When the chunin exams come (having finally been reinstated less than two years ago), his sensei gives them the application forms. He and Hana have no doubts about taking the exam, but it takes Hana talking to Kurita before the other boy decides to go for it as well.

The exams are taking place in the Land of Wind.

(he tries to keep them alive but in the end he can’t save his teammate from poison

his father gets a son with the rank of chunin and his female teammate would live to see another exam

but it is little consolation for the fact that Kurita’s dying face is now permanently etched into his memory)


Learning

Father instructs Tsubasa to teach you how to tree walk, and your three teachers at the hospital have been given permission to teach you medical jutsu. Of the two, you get tree walking a lot faster than you get the basic medical jutsu Amano is trying to teach you. In fact, Tsubasa moves you on to water walking long before you get the Mystical Palm Technique even partially up to Amano’s standards. You won’t be too broken up about it if it turns out that you’re just not capable of learning medical jutsu, but you will admit that it will be a disappointment. Past you couldn’t use your Quirk to heal herself, so you had been looking forward to having that ability even if it was from outside of your Quirk’s capabilities.

You aren’t a genius and you are only nine, so they decide that they will keep honing your chakra control for now. Since chakra control is a vital skill for those with small chakra reserves, you can only agree with their assessment. Besides, chakra control can only help you, especially with your various kikaichu.

You are so focused on developing your skills that time seems to fly by. Almost before you know it, autumn is ending and the first snow of the year is drifting down from the sky as you exit the hospital one day. Your first instinct is to grimace at the sight of the frozen rain, but you manage to keep your face straight. Tsubasa, who knows you hate winter, probably suspects your displeasure anyway.

Father isn’t home, so you know that you will be dropped off at Kaede’s if she’s still home, but you don’t feel like practicing your flute today. You’ve made progress with the instrument and are actually making simple tunes now, but you feel the time is ripe for a new hobby. After all, a person can have more than one, right?

Taking a detour to go window shopping, you spy a display that makes you pause to stare. It’s a simple thing, sharing the small store front window with other items, but you only have eyes for it. ‘It’ being a knitting display with knitting needles, a partially finished scarf, and a book of instructions on how to knit. Deciding that that is what you want as your new hobby, you enter the store with purpose.

(your escort breathes a quiet sigh of relief that it isn’t another noisy hobby)

Heading back to the compound with your new purchases clutched to your chest, you decided that the first thing you were going to make was a scarf for Father. It would be your first effort, but you would give it your best!

(it is forest green and takes several hours each day for almost a week before you are satisfied with the end result and stop unravelling the parts you don’t like)


Scarves

Father calmly accepts your gift with a quiet word of appreciation which would have hurt your feelings after all the time and effort you put into it if not for the fact that he wore it every day and even when he left on missions. It always makes you happy to see it around his neck, though to be honest, it’s more wrapped around the high collar of his jacket, but he’s wearing it which is all you really wanted in the end.

You decide to make scarves for the boys, those being Shino, Torune and Yoji. Shino’s is light grey, Torune’s is dark grey, and Yoji’s is black. You give them their scarves all at the same time near the end of the year, though you do end up giving them separately to each individual boy.

You give Yoji’s to him on the walk to the academy. He is suspicious of the package you hold out to him, and when he grudgingly opens it, he seems speechless after pulling it out to see.

When his silence continues drawing out, you had to refrain from fidgeting. “It is a scarf.”

This snapped him out of his silence, prompting him to scoff. “I know that. What I want to know is why would you buy such a thing for me? I do not need it.”

“I didn’t buy it,” you replied. “I made it for you.”

His sunglasses were directed in your direction so you assumed he was staring at you.

“…Why?”

“Because I know you, and I wanted to. I couldn’t make one for Shino without neglecting his brothers.”

(she made it by hand, and she said he had brothers)

You frowned slightly behind your high collar as he shoved it back into its small bag and started walking to the academy. Well, that was time wasted.

…No, you shouldn’t think like that. Just because you give something doesn’t mean the receiver is obligated to say thanks or be nice about it. You would at least say thanks for gift even if it was something you didn’t like, but that was you. Yoji has always been slightly prickly beneath his usually stern demeanor, so this reaction really shouldn’t be a surprise to you. Besides, now you could give presents to Shino and Torune without feeling guilty about leaving Yoji out of it.

After the academy and after you leave the hospital, you head back home. Father is in the village today but he isn’t at home when you get there. Security around you has become a little lighter while you are in the clan compound, so Tsubasa leaves you alone (though you suspect that either they or someone else is still watching the house).

Fetching the two bags containing the scarves, you soon leave the house and head for Shibi-sama’s. Snow has started to fall in lazy drifting flakes, and you decide that the next time you get a new jacket that you want one with a hood. Also, it’s cold out, so maybe you should make a scarf for yourself, though at the moment you are kind of sick of knitting.

Arriving at the clan head’s house, you knock, hoping that it won’t be Shibi-sama who opens the door. Not because you don’t like him, you admire and respect your clan head a lot, but past-you found such stoic people to be intimidating which in turn slightly colors your perception of the man. To your relief, it is Shino who opens the door, looking almost comically tiny in the doorframe. He says his father is in his study, but you say that you are there to see him and Torune.

“Why?”

You open your mouth, but, as usual, Shino answers his own question.

“Because you are not expected until the day after tomorrow or unless Kaede-san is also out on a mission.”

You briefly close your eyes behind your sunglasses and remind yourself that it is just a verbal tick and you don’t need to get snippy with him.

Opening your eyes, you picked out the package for him and held it out. “I came to give this to you, and I have one for Torune as well.”

He silently took the package from you and opened it up. He stared at the scarf he pulled out and then looked back up at you.

“…Thank you.”

It almost sounds like a question, but you just nod. You asked, “May I come in to see Torune for a moment?”

He cocked his head, considering your request, straightened his neck and nodded, but said, “You should ask father first, though, to be sure your gift is appropriate for Torune.”

That’s a… “Good point.”

Shino leads you to his father’s study and after getting a reply to his knock, opened the door and announced your presence and intention. You couldn’t stop yourself from staring at the back of his head, but you managed to stop quickly. Stepping forward at Shibi-sama’s behest, you offered the package to him and tried not to sweat as he pulled out the scarf.

“I have one as well, father,” Shino said, still in the room as he pulled out his own scarf from where he had put it back in the bag.

“I made one for Yoji and have already given it to him,” you added, then mentally cursed yourself for blurting it out.

Shibi-sama stared down at the scarf in his hands and rubbed the yarn with one thumb. It seemed like an eternity before he folded it back up and put it back into the bag.

He nodded. “You may give this to Torune.”

(he was easily the most expressive of the bunch, and you think that after Father, he was the one who wore your gift the most)


Invited

On Shino’s fourth birthday, you and Father get invited to dinner. It is a formal affair, and you wear a kimono that Kaede has to help you put on. Thankfully, literally no one in the whole clan cares about hair whether an event is formal or informal, so you can settle for just pulling it back into a loose ponytail, though you do wear a hanging bead hairpin. Father wears an almost black men’s kimono, and in your opinion he is very handsome in it.

Arriving at Shibi-sama’s house, it takes all of your training not to smile at the sight of all three boys wearing formal kimonos. They are positively adorable. Shibi-sama himself looks good too.

Torune is allowed to be present, though slightly removed from everyone at the table, but also closest to you. The whole affair isn’t as stressful as you thought it might be, possibly because that despite how past-you colors your perception of Shibi-sama, you still spend enough time around his family to be relatively comfortable with them.

Although ‘relatively’ is, well, relative, considering they all affect you in some way. Shibi-sama is slightly intimidating, Shino is adorable, Yoji is a potential field of traps, and Torune is, well, Torune.

Still, you make it through without incident and present Shino with his gift from you, a bug collection of the disease and cure carriers for Blood and Decline, completely empty of said diseases and cures. The fact that he seems honestly happy to receive it soothes the fears you had had about it being an inadequate gift. You were glad that you had gotten Shibi-sama’s permission to give them to him.

Returning home, Father holds a parasol over your head to protect your kimono from the falling snow.

(the contentment you feel is at odds with what you vaguely remember from the latter part of your past life, and you promise yourself that this time, this time you will be happy)


Foreboding

Shino is four years old, and this year you will be ten. You don’t remember what you did the last time you were ten years old, but you imagine that you had been attending school. Your past life’s memories show children and teenagers attending school long after most should have been genin or higher, and part of you wishes that were true in this life as well. You could probably pass the graduation exam if you tried, but you don’t.

You know you won’t be able to put it off forever, but you want just a little more time to be a child. You tell Father that you will take the graduation exam next year and he accepts your decision.

Yoji graduates that spring and wears the metal headband over his forehead. By law, he is now considered an adult. In truth, you are surprised that he doesn’t move out of Shibi-sama’s house even as he earns pay while on his genin team. Perhaps his time with the clan head and the boys has undone the damage from the year he spent in Root.

However, later that same spring, new hostilities break out on the border between the Land of Fire and the Land of Lightning. You don’t know all the details, but another war seems to be on the horizon. No one wants that, apparently not even the Kumogakure does as they were sending a dignitary to sign a peace treaty.

You tried not to complain when this news resulted in a sharp uptick in your security and a sharp downturn in your time alone.


Contrary

The Kumo delegation had the clans on alert. No one wanted another war so soon on the heels of the last, and thus the peace treaty had been signed. Tomorrow, the Kumo delegation would be on their way, but for now Hiashi and various members of the Hyuuga clan were on patrol around the village. After the successful kidnapping of Aburame Kaiya, the Hokage had decreed that all clans were to take special security over their younger clan members. He had also tasked the Hyuuga clan with watching over the village.

A precaution which was now seeming necessary as Hiashi and his brother watched with their Byakugan as the Head Shinobi of Kumogakure silently crept towards the Hyuuga clan compound. He declared that they would wait to confirm his intentions before swooping down on him. Keeping sight on him, he direction his younger twin to look for the rest of the Kumo delegation.

He frowned when told that two members were stalking through the Aburame compound, but relaxed minutely when Hizashi added that the Aburame were already aware and watching.

Within the hour the three shinobi from Kumo were assembled before the Hokage in the depths of the T&I department. The Head Shinobi was weakened by Hiashi’s Gentle Fist, and the two caught in the Aburame compound had been drained by the clan’s signature kikaichu. The intel eventually gathered from the Head Shinobi confirmed one thing and corrected the assumption of another: Kumo wanted Hyuuga Hinata alive for her Byakugan, but on the other hand, Kumo wanted Aburame Kaiya dead, not alive as Shibi had thought.

This left Konohagakure with three shinobi from a nation that had just signed a new peace treaty. They had been caught red-handed within the compounds of two noble clans, and now Konoha knew that the real reasons they had come to sign the so-called peace treaty was for the purpose of kidnapping the heiress of one clan and assassinating the girl from another for her part in the epidemics which had ended the war.

Yes, somehow Kumo had found out that an Aburame child was responsible for not only the cures to the epidemics, but was also responsible for them. They did not have hard evidence on how it was accomplished, but they knew enough to paint a target on her back.

Hiashi wanted them dead, and the stern coldness all but radiating from Shibi seemed to agree, however, the Aburame clan head pointed out that killing them would go against the new peace treaty. Plus, predicting Kumo’s reaction to the murder of its delegation party would be difficult at best, but there was no doubt they would make harsh demands of Konoha.

Suddenly, in the middle of their discussion, the door burst open and a shinobi of the T&I department yelled that all three Kumo-nin had taken suicide pills hidden in their mouths. Neglecting to check for that was an oversight on the department’s part, but for now they were preoccupied with keeping the Kumo-nin alive.

Upon hearing that combating the poison was a losing battle, Shibi spoke up.

“I will fetch Kaiya-kun.”

As he disappeared out the door, Hiashi couldn’t find it in himself to disagree with the other man’s decision.

(he brings her back in her night yukata with her father on their heels and she proves her worth by saving the Kumo-nin against their will with what seems like almost contemptible ease

she visibly startles though, when basically told she just saved her would-be assassins)


If you're going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet.

~Keith Richards, Keith Richards: In His Own Words

Chapter Text

Acts of Kindness:

A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else's life.

~Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


Preparation

You are incensed that you unknowingly saved a pair of assassins who had been sent to take your life, but at ten years old, you are much better at hiding your emotions than when you were four or seven. After that startling revelation, though, you stick close to Father until the two of you are allowed to go home, which isn’t long after the medic-nin confirm that the Kumo-nin are no longer in danger of dying.

Father carries you home in his jacket. Time had been of the essence when Shibi-sama had come to fetch you, and you had barely had time to grab your sunglasses, never mind your jacket or even your sandals. At least Father has his sandals on, so you don’t have to worry about his feet. It may be spring, but the nights aren’t exactly warm.

You aren’t told much about what happened to the Kumo-nin after that, but you did hear that they were allowed to leave. According to Father, violating the new peace treaty would likely have lead to war, so even if it rankles that your attempted assassins got to live, at least you didn’t have to go to war just yet.

Your Carnivores aren’t ready for battle, or at least you aren’t proficient in the Aburame jutsu, having recently begun learning them. This incident seems to have an affect on Father as your training increases.

By late summer, you can use the Insect Sphere technique.

(you test it on a wild boar with Father as your escort and you both witness the flesh eaters strip it down the bone within three minutes

and he says that that time will only get shorter as you get better and you hope to get to the point where death is almost instantaneous)


Expanded

It turns out that Torune alters between being three to four years younger than you depending on the time of year. At the moment, he is four years younger than you are, and is for the majority of any given year. That just makes his determination to marry you worse because he’s even younger than you originally thought. Maybe it won’t matter so much when you are both older, but right now it just makes you feel uncomfortable.

Going back to your idea about getting Torune out of the Aburame compound (you found out that he’s allowed to wander the compound grounds as long as he avoids touching anyone or anything), your progress under Father’s training was encouraging. Soon you would feel confident enough in your abilities to present the idea to Shibi-sama in hopes of testing it out with Torune. If your Shapers could neutralize any left behind poisonous insects from Torune over a wide surface, then taking him to one of the parks in the village wasn’t just a pipe dream.

Why there isn’t a park in the compound grounds you’ll never know. Seriously, with how bad children can be about insects, especially those beneath the skin of other children, you’d think that the clan would have its own playground so the Aburame kids would play without being harassed, but nooooo. Father had made you a swing upon your request earlier that summer, and having played on it frequently you were sure of its, what’s the word, durability? It wouldn’t break under Torune, anyway.

Father, knowing of your plans and having decided that your skills were up to par, had to nudge you into presenting your idea to Shibi-sama. The clan head listened to your idea and silently considered your words for so long that you were certain he was going to say no. Instead, he had concerns about giving Torune false hope, which you could understand, but given that he knew that your Shapers could trump the boy’s poisonous insects, he gave the green light for you to present your idea to Torune.

The six-year-old boy had a confidence in you that you didn’t possess in yourself.

“Okay,” was his quick answer to your question of if he wanted to try.

“I knew it would work, because it’s you,” was his comment as a clearly not poisoned Shibi-sama sat on the swing and gripped the areas Torune had been touching when he had sat there just prior.

“It will work,” was his prediction as he stood with you, Father and Shibi-sama in front of a park near the river in the late evening after the rest of the children had left.

“Thank you,” was his parting sentence before your two groups split up within the compound, said with gratitude heavily laced into his words.

(with your Shapers scouring in his wake, Torune could go places and not just to parks

thanks to you, his world got bigger)


Experience

The first time Shibi-sama asks you to accompany him and his sons to a place that most definitely is not a children’s park, you nearly say no out of shock. He wants to take his sons to Yakiniku Q and to take Torune he needs to have you there too. The only good thing about his asking is that he didn’t ask in front of any of the boys, so there was no pressure on you from them.

In then end, you say yes, because how could you be so cruel as to refuse? Besides, even if Shibi-sama said that there would be no reprisals if you declined, it’s not exactly comforting even if it coming from the clan head himself.

Father was invited as well, but he had gotten a mission before the invitation was given, but he did give you his permission to go. Upon the agreed day, you didn’t go to the hospital after the academy and Tsubasa dropped you off directly at Shibi-sama’s even though Kaede was still in the village.

It was nerve wracking being inside an establishment and knowing that you were responsible for making sure no one would be poisoned in Torune’s wake. You could barely taste the meat you were eating, courtesy of Shibi-sama. Of course, being a table occupied by those of the Aburame clan, aside from the sounds of meat and vegetables grilling and the occasional sound of cups being put down, the table was nearly unbearably silent. You nearly jumped out of your skin by the time Torune broke the silence to thank both Shibi-sama and yourself for bringing him here.

It's only then that you realize you may have dug another grave for yourself. Until Torune can control his insects, wouldn’t they be calling upon you any time he wanted to go out, or when Shibi-sama wanted to take him somewhere?

You tell yourself that it’s for a good cause, but you still lament for not thinking about the bigger picture yet again.

(his boys are quiet, from Yoji down to Shino, but it warms his heart to see the minute clues in their body language to see them feeling content, such as in Yoji and Shino’s case, or outright happy in Torune’s case

he just hopes that Kaiya-kun isn’t always this tense when they go out, otherwise he might feel too guilty to ask this of her too frequently)


Earning

Outside of Shibi-sama’s sons, his daughter doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t speak of the children in her class, and most of the people she does speak of are adults. Shino, Torune and Yoji are the closest things she has to friends, and even those three are held slightly at bay.

Teijo knows that she is keeping something secret from him, from the whole clan and even the Hokage. More than anyone, he remembers the night Root first came for his daughter. He remembers seeing her skin in the glow of her first firefly, how it hadn’t changed tone despite having absorbed and reconstructed countless kikaichu from both himself and the then-human Aburame Michi. Her question from then is still etched into his memory, the one he never gave a verbal answer to but still keeps to this day.

She asked him not to tell, and his lips thus far have been sealed.

Maybe it’s wrong to conceal whatever it is she keeps secret, a new blood limit, perhaps, but Teijo didn’t want to force her to reveal it.

He nearly lost Kazue in a similar manner, forcing himself where he wasn’t wanted, coercing words out of someone important to him instead of waiting for her to reveal it on her own. Kazue forgave him with Kaiya’s birth, but now he lived with the fear that if he alienated her then there would be nothing he could do to earn his daughter’s forgiveness.

Thus, he waits.

He waits for her to speak, to confide in him the burden she bears by holding her secret alone. The longer she lives, the surer he becomes that someday, someday she will tell him. One would think that he would only grow more anxious as time continued stretching longer without her speaking, but he thinks waiting is the right thing to do. He believes this because there are times when Kaiya will do nothing but stare at him. If he doesn’t acknowledge her staring, then she will keep staring without a word until finally she looks away.

He thinks she is considering him, weighing her secret and her trust in him.

Whether the moment is this year, or next year, or ten years or more away, Teijo believes she will tell him the reason behind her question from that night.

He almost doesn’t even mind if he’s not the first she tells.


Child

Time continues to fly by, and next year looms ever closer. Next year means graduation, which in turn means the beginning of your career as a kunoichi. The threat from Kumo lingers over your head, but you try not to think about it too much because you can’t change it. Instead you focus on your Aburame jutsu and how to utilize your various kikaichu. Medical jutsu comes after that, and in last place is the Academy Three, not that you consider them useless. Switching places with an object is a useful jutsu, and it’s that one of the three which you are most proficient in. You are confident that you will be able to pass the graduation exam, so for now you are savoring what time you have left as a civilian.

Walking home in late October, alone (or at least Tsubasa isn’t within a few steps), you quietly reveled in the fact that you were no longer openly escorted from place to place. This was possibly in preparation of you becoming a genin (an “adult”) where you would likely be responsible for yourself. Such a thought would probably be unsettling if it weren’t the fact that you knew very well that Father didn’t expect you to move out for years yet.

You have the memories of a past life, but that in no way prepared you for living on your own in this less technologically advanced world, thank you very much.

Although speaking of living alone, the life skills you learned from Father would no doubt be useful for when you finally did move out, whether that was to live alone or to get married. Thinking about it, you aren’t sure if you want to try living on your own before getting married, or if you should stay in your father’s household until you jump straight into your husband’s. Although that’s years away, so never mind.

Stopping at the hobby shop where you bought your first knitting project, you purchased more yarn in anticipation of making more scarves. The boys wouldn’t be small forever, and Father had gotten blood on his scarf near the end of last winter, plus you wanted to make better scarves, so yeah, you needed more yarn. Thinking of starting with Father’s new scarf, you almost miss the sight of a yellow-haired child standing close to the side of road.

(your daughter)

You do a small but visible double-take and feel your heart jump into your throat as recognition nearly hits home.

(a word, a name on the verge of your tongue but still out of reach)

The moment passes though, and you realize that this couldn’t possibly be the daughter you left behind in another world (right?). Both she and this child are small, but ten years have passed since you were born, ten years which would have made your daughter older and bigger. This is not her.

This child is not your problem.

You keep walking, but your footsteps falter as you realize that the kid is crying and no one seems to care. Where are their parents? Do they have a sibling who should be looking after them? You don’t know who this child is, and normally you can ignore crying children, but this one has yellow hair.

She had had yellow hair.

(you had resented her existence, but she had still been yours, their first grandchild)

You turn around and—reluctantly, all the while hoping that someone else will step up—walk back to the crying child. Taking a moment to stare at the top of their head, you wait a few seconds more, but no one else comes up.

(memories flash through your mind in quick succession of a baby, a toddler, a child, all the same girl growing up before your eyes, and yet clearly having the impression that not once did you stop blaming yourself for why she was there instead of them)

Hugging your purchase to your chest, you made sure your voice was level.

“Hey, what’s wrong? Are you lost?”


Assistance

The voice startles him into looking up and that’s when he realizes he isn’t being ignored anymore. No one had stopped to listen to him and everyone had walked by even as he called out that he was lost. Naruto probably shouldn’t have run away, but the bigger kids had been really mean today. The grown ups wouldn’t help him, and finally he had squeezed out of a gap in the fence to get away. Once he had left the yard, suddenly there were new places to explore!

But… it hadn’t been great. The people didn’t help him, and even yelled at him to go away. He couldn’t find his way back, and he was hungry now. After breakfast comes lunch, but he thinks he missed it. The grown ups are always saying that they can only eat at mealtimes, so now he’ll have to wait until dinner, but if he doesn’t get back then he’ll starve!

No one would stop to help him, but now there was someone. He was wearing a jacket and dark glasses and was a just a big kid and not a grown up, but Naruto hoped he could help anyway. He sniffled out his story of being lost, and he felt worse when the big kid asked where he lived and realized that he didn’t know where the building was. He knew what it was called, though, and tried to pronounce it.

“The orphanage?”

Yeah, that was the word! He nodded rapidly, rubbing one eye.

This big kid was kind of scary. Naruto couldn’t really see their whole face. He also had long hair like a girl—wait.

“Are y-you a girl?

The big kid sniffed. “What did you think I was?”

“A boy,” he said honestly.

The big kid stared down at him before sighing. “Considering how I dress I suppose that’s fair enough. Yes, I am a girl.” She waved her hand but he didn’t understand. “Come on, I know the general direction of the orphanage.”

She was a few steps away before Naruto snapped out of his surprise and ran after her. He trailed a couple steps behind her, worried that this was some kind of trick to get him alone so she could hurt him. Sometimes the other kids did that, and sometimes the grown ups didn’t find out even later. He doesn’t want to get hurt after being lost for so long, but there’s no one else helping him so he doesn’t have a choice.

It seems like they walk forever before he finally notices the familiar building of where he lives. He brightens and even the growling of his stomach can’t dampen his relief, or rather, it doesn’t dampen it too much. Maybe he missed lunch, but now that he’s back, he won’t miss dinner or have to sleep outside like he’d been scared of.

“Here we are,” the big girl says, which is kind of stupid since he can see that with his own eyes.

Grinning now, he ran ahead before remembering to stop to thank her. He spun on his heel and bowed like he had seen some people do.

“Thank you for helping me, sister!”

Giving her one last grin, he turned and ran through the open gate, hoping that the grown ups hadn’t noticed he was missing because he didn’t want to get punished with chores or an early bedtime.

(he doesn’t realize the horror that last words impart on his benefactor)


Almost

Heading home again, this time without any unexpected detours, you frown behind your high collar as you reflect on your interaction with that boy just a while ago. Not asking him for his name had been a conscious decision. You didn’t want to know any more about him than the barest minimum, not when he had blue eyes to go with his blond hair.

(the father of your daughter had had blue eyes, you remember that much even though the rest of his face continues to elude you)

Hopefully now that he knew that getting lost was a real thing, maybe you wouldn’t have to see him again. At least, it would be easier to ignore him if he wasn’t crying.

(you had made her cry, through cold indifference and deliberate, prolonged absence)

Resisting the urge to sigh or run a hand through your now lengthy hair, you decided to put the incident out of your mind. It was a one-time thing and not something you should waste your time worrying about, not when there were scarves to knit, exercises to do to keep honing your chakra control, and a mess of others things you did with your second life.

Head held high, you walked through the compound gates and headed for home.

(trying to shake the memory of once handing your daughter to her father to hold, on a bench in park somewhere that you never went to again

and you wonder why, when you have such complicated feelings about both, how you could have let that happen in the first place

and ask yourself why, if you couldn’t love her, why you didn’t give her to the person who looked at her as though she was a—)

Your brow furrows as a word (a name) you nearly grasped escaped from you.

Pursing your lips, you raised your head and resumed your stride. If flashbacks are what you get for helping blond kids, then maybe you shouldn’t help them anymore. You’re trying to move on, and you like to think that you’ve been making progress. Here you are, ten years old, and you have people who are important to you from Father and Shino down to Amano, Shino and Nishida at the hospital, and even people like Tsubasa and Kaede whom you have grown attached to over time (and Michi and Juhi, wherever they are). When you grow up, maybe Torune will actually be your husband, or maybe it will be someone else, and you will have their child, a grandchild for your Father, and maybe someday you will even be a grandmother yourself.

You have a new life to live, so it was long past time to let go of that life you can’t get back.

Entering the house, you hear movement and call out that you are home. You get a mild call back and enter further into the house to see Father preparing tea. Taking the seat and cup he offers, you can’t help but steal glances at him from behind your shades even as you enjoy this moment of cozy peace.

(you can’t help but wonder how much it would have hurt to live if he didn’t so clearly love you as much as you loved him)


I know my heart will never be the same
But I'm telling myself I'll be okay

~Sara Evans

Chapter Text

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

~Anais Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin


Introductions

It is winter before you see the blond boy again. That is a considerable amount of time, and yet it also feels like just yesterday when helping him brought up unwanted memories for you. Dealing with him again is an unpleasant prospect, but the way he brightens at the sight of you but then dims at your silence is too much to bear.

“Hello,” you finally greet, managing to not grit or spit it out.

It is just a coincidence that has made your paths cross again, but you do wish it was one that hadn’t happened. Taking a break from the hospital was supposed to be relaxing, not stress-inducing, but you still find yourself wondering if you should bother with vacations anyway if this is what you were risking in taking them.

The boy’s smile picked back up and he waved a hand up at you. “Hey, hey! We forgot to give our names last time!”

No, that was deliberate on your part.

He grinned widely and jabbed a thumb at himself. “I’m Uzumaki Naruto!”

He looked up at you expectantly, leaving you with little choice. It was either answer him, or snub him and risk making him cry. You would rather avoid the waterworks if possible.

“Aburame Kaiya.”

“So, Aburame-sister, then!”

The informal way of calling you ‘sister’ irks you since you don’t even know this kid. You correct him and tell him to call you aneue.

“Aburame-big sister!”

Urgh. You don’t want to be his big sister. The blond hair and blue eyes are too much.

And yet, those same features that make you want to run away are the ones that make you stay to finish the conversation he initiated. Apparently he’d been looking for you ever since he realized he forgot to introduce himself, and you hope that means that he won’t be looking for you anymore. You should probably count yourself lucky enough that it took this long for him to find you again, but since that meant your luck had run out, you didn’t feel lucky at all.

Being winter, it was cold, and Naruto had on a jacket, but a gust of wind had him shivering. You told him that he should get back home, but he sulked and said he didn’t have a home, just the orphanage. He shivered rubbed his hands together, prompting you to want to make a long suffering sigh, but instead you reluctantly pulled off the scarf you were wearing and wrapped it around his neck, trying for maximum coverage.

This scarf was one you had made for yourself after finishing the new one for Father. It was an experiment in making a chunky scarf, and while not quite what you had imagined, it was still a good enough effort that you wore it outside of the house. But, you reminded yourself, you could always make another one, so what was the harm in giving away this one? None that you could see, since he didn’t have parents who could protest that they didn’t want ‘charity’, and your conscience would bother you if you let him go knowing he was cold and didn’t have either mittens, scarf or toque.

He gives you what looks like the same wide-eyed wonder that Torune did and you hope you haven’t made some kind of mistake.


Given

Naruto finally leaves when Aburame-big sister finally nudges him to get out of the cold. He only leaves because he notices that her nose and cheeks are red from cold, and his heart hammers in his chest as he waits for her to take her scarf back.

She doesn’t, and just waves him on his way. She doesn’t even get to take five steps before he yells that she forgot her scarf, running up to give it back. She reaches down and grabs his hands, making him freeze. Was she going to hurt him now? Would she rip it away from him and storm off?

But no, she doesn’t hurt him or take it from him. Instead she just winds it back around his neck and pats it down.

“It’s yours now.”

He glared because people don’t just give him things. “Why?”

She shrugged. “You’re cold, and I can always make myself another one.”

His eyes widened as he clutched the scarf. “Y-you made this? Really?”

She nodded. “Yes, I did.” She shooed him away. “Get inside now. Go on.”

He’s definitely used to being told to go away, but not so quietly. She doesn’t even look mean about it. He remembers that she said it was cold, and then she gave him this scarf, so maybe she’s just worried about him?

Deciding to believe that instead of thinking that he might be annoying her and she just wants him gone, Naruto finally waved goodbye. He turned and ran off before stopping and looking back. His heart lightened to see her still staring after him and lifted his hands to help him yell louder.

“I’ll take good care of this scarf! See you later, Aburame-big sister!”

(running off with a wide smile on his face, he doesn’t see her pinch the bridge of her nose before turning and leaving)


Ponder

Hanging out on the floor of Torune’s room with a book, you half-listened as the younger boy talked about his training with Shibi-sama. From what you did register, your admiration of the man only grew. Surely with his tutelage, someday Torune would have enough control not to need you and your Shapers follow him around in public.

Eventually he wound down from talking and joined you on the floor with a book of his own.

You were grateful that he understood that you didn’t want noise or activity every time you came to visit him. If that had been required, you would have started looking for excuses not to come. As it was, your visits to Torune were usually low-maintenance and therefore not too burdensome.

Before long, with your Shapers active in the room, even Shino could join you two and touch things without the danger of coming into contact with Torune’s poisonous insects. When all three of you were in a room together, you could sometimes expect Yoji to join in, even if all you lot were doing was reading. Despite being a genin now and former Root member, he disliked being left out.

Sometimes, in the quiet of the room when all of you were together, you wondered if you really would end up marrying one of Shibi-sama’s sons.


Nerves

Time slides by like water slips through fingers, and it isn’t long before you find yourself with a metal headband of your own. You had taken the graduation exam as you had told Father you would, and now you were a genin. Wearing it over your forehead, you don’t share the same excitement that the rest of the successful graduates do, not when you’re already concerned about future missions that might require you to be in danger. Your only consolation is that Yoji has more than once complained about D-ranks, so you know that the village isn’t going to just throw you and your team into the deep end of things.

Stepping out of the academy doors, you spot Father in the crowd of proud parents. Making your way over to him, you stand in front of him as he gazed upon you, a new graduate and newbie genin.

“Congratulations, Kaiya,” he said. He put a hand on your shoulder. “Your mother would be proud.”

You don’t remember her enough to love her, but you nod at his words anyway.

He takes you out to dinner to celebrate and presents you with a weapons pouch filled with new throwing stars and shinobi-grade wire, as well as a kunai pouch for your thigh filled with new kunai. You aren’t proficient with throwing stars or wire for fear of cutting or losing your fingers, but you are adequate with kunai. They are common tools for all shinobi, and you accept them gratefully.

That night, despite having graduated, you have trouble sleeping. The thought of tomorrow is bothering you, because that’s when you get team assignments. Who would your teammates be, and would you get along with them?

Sleep eventually comes, but it is fitful and not exactly restful.


Slipping

Aburame Kaiya has finally graduated.

Itachi hears this news from his father, as well as the fact that she and her team passed the final hidden exam to become Team 4. Her teammates aren’t notable aside from being her teammates, and they are an eleven year-old named Ogura Jirou, and a twelve year-old named Kitagawa Arata. Their team leader is a kunoichi named Hamada Azumi, a former Anbu who specialized in seduction missions.

Speaking of Anbu, Itachi was reminded that that was his father’s goal, to have his first-born son enter Anbu at a young age. Itachi knew he could achieve that, and had told his father thus (his bland tone being completely ignored), but as with most things in his career, Itachi was only doing it out of a sense of obligation and duty.

His younger brother Sasuke was the best thing in his life, and he took every opportunity he could to spend time with the younger boy. Unfortunately, the time he could spend with his younger brother was becoming less over time as he needed to focus on his training in order to meet his father’s expectations. He was a chunin now, but the next step was jonin, and then Anbu after that.

Sometimes it troubles him that this is the only path in life that is open to him, but he continues on as best he can. There are rumbles in the clan, people unhappy with how the clan has been treated since the night of the attack from the Nine-Tails, and Itachi suspects that he will need every skill he has in order to face whatever comes. He hopes it’s nothing too terrible, but considering his clan members, he suspects that is a dwindling hope.

For Sasuke, if nothing else, Itachi needs to be ready to face the future.

So sometimes he finds himself forgetting that Aburame Kaiya exists.


Attentive

D-rank missions are every bit as boring as Yoji complained about, but you remind yourself that painting fences and weeding gardens is preferable to C-rank missions, so you might as well enjoy them while you can. You don’t, but you continue to try to convince yourself that you should.

Team 4, of which you are a member of, doesn’t seem to have been made with any particular purpose in mind aside from being a team of genin that need training. Ogura and Kitagawa are bearable as far as teammates go, although you still need time to get used to Hamada-sensei.

The older woman is occasionally suggestive, and you think she’s trying to lead you towards the idea of seduction missions, but you would rather not step that far outside of your comfort zone if possible. Sure, if you had to go that far, sex wouldn’t get you pregnant unless you wanted to (and you hope to every deity there may be that no one in the village realizes you have the ability to harvest semen if you apply yourself), but that doesn’t mean you want to get close to targets like that. And yes, you could make targets fall hopelessly in love with you, but again, you don’t want to have to get that close to do it. Bottom line, you don’t want to do honeypot missions and you think that trying to push you that way will be enough to make you lash out, so you really hope no one is that stupid.

For now, you listen as Ogura and Kitagawa bitch about the team’s current mission which is to haul lumber around. The boys are moving planks, and right now you’re moving a bucket of nails, which is surprisingly heavy. Delivering the planks and nails to the designated spot, the three of you turn around and head back for another load, though this time you carry a toolbox while the boys carry more planks.

“Are you alright, Aburame-chan?”

You blink at the sound of Ogura’s voice and look up at him to see that both boys have paused to look back at you. His concern shouldn’t surprise you because by now you’ve realized that Ogura is a considerate person. Kitagawa labours under the impression that girls are weak (grown up kunoichi like sensei don’t count, apparently), so even he checks on you from time to time. For boys, they’re surprisingly mindful of you, if only because they think being a girl means you need to be looked after, even if you are a kunoichi.

You nodded. “I’m fine, Ogura-kun.”

“Let us know if you need us to carry that,” Kitagawa called from the front as they started walking again.

“Okay,” you said, knowing you wouldn’t.

Well, maybe if you got blisters, but not before then.


Plot

Hiruzen watched Team 4 through his crystal ball with a sense of satisfaction.

Ogura and Kitagawa weren’t from prominent clans, but that was the point. The Uchiha and the Hyuuga still didn’t want to have to do anything with the Aburame if they didn’t have to, so none of their children from Kaiya’s graduating class could be placed with her. Many of the other clans had expressed an interest in having their children on the girl’s team, but since only two could be chosen that meant leaving out the rest. In the interest of fairness, she had been assigned civilian-born teammates and a civilian-born sensei.

Moreover, the boys had been chosen based on their personalities. Ogura had younger sisters he was fond of and a gentle mother he tried to help in any way he could. Kitagawa had been raised by his grandmother and the old woman had imparted to him the importance of taking care of girls even if they seemed strong. It was Hiruzen’s hope that Kaiya would become fond of her teammates and in that way become closer to the Will of Fire.

As for their sensei, Azumi had the skills to protect Kaiya. The suggestive comments were outside of his expectation, and he saw that Kaiya was having a hard time connecting to her sensei because of it, but he had faith that things would turn out fine. Azumi knew when the draw the line and not step over it, and while she hadn’t had a genin team before, her skills made her a good candidate for a jonin sensei.

Hiruzen knew that Kaiya’s abilities had the potential to be dangerous, and because of this, he wanted to take steps to ensure that those abilities were never pointed at Konohagakure. If all went well, her team would become important to her, and Kaiya would see that the village was important and needed to be protected. The sins of the village against her needed to be outweighed by the good.

Seeing the way that she began lingering after each daily dismissal, Hiruzen felt that his plot was already beginning to bear fruit.


It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or There and Back Again

Chapter Text

Commitment is Circumstances.

~Leju Thomas


Diversion

Your team’s first C-rank mission is to escort a merchant from Konohagakure to some village four days away. Father isn’t at home, but he taught you how to pack for missions that required camping over multiple days. His main advice had been to pack for longer than you think you’d need because it wasn’t unusual for the unexpected to happen. In order to be ready for tomorrow’s meet up time in the morning, you finish packing the evening before. Since becoming a genin, you haven’t needed to stay at Kaede’s or Shibi-sama’s since as an ‘adult’ you were expected to be mature enough to take care of yourself.

You can, but you weren’t prepared for how lonely it could be. After such a long time of being escorted everywhere and babysat almost constantly, the easing of the continuous presences around you had been refreshing at first, but this whole being alone thing wasn’t entirely what it was cracked up to be. In truth, you missed having another person in the house, whether you were at home with Father, or at Kaede’s with her and her husband, or at Shibi-sama’s with the boys. Still, as time went on, you found yourself getting used to it, and you had to admit that the perceived privacy was liberating.

But, with a mission outside the village walls hanging over your head, you wished that Father was home with you. Talking with him would probably have helped settle your nerves. Cooking a simple meal for yourself distracted you for a bit, as did washing yourself, but then you were alone with your thoughts.

Gazing at your knitted basket, you shook your head and dismissed it. Instead, you picked up your bamboo flute as that was more engaging. Long gone were the days when all the noise you could make were terrible screechy or high-pitched whistles, but that didn’t mean you were a master yet. Father had been right, and you were glad that you had stuck with the instrument.

Music filled your room and, for a time, chased away the gloom hanging over you.


Significance

The mission is uneventful, and the novelty of being outside the village for the first time has waned for all three of you on Team 4. The men who hired your team are middle-aged merchants, and their two wagons of merchandise are what you’ve been hired to protect from bandits and thieves. Having to walk the whole way gives you flashbacks of horseless carriages and metal tubes that move on metal tracks.

This world doesn’t have fast or public transportation, and given that shinobi and jutsu exist, you can see why they don’t exist. This world’s technological advances are stunted by the dangers that shinobi and jutsu present, and you can’t help but think that that is such a shame. How much more advanced could this world be if only there was lasting peace?

Eventually, your team and the wagons arrive safely and that signals the successful completion of the mission. Under the pleas of your two teammates and your silence which supports them (you don’t actually ask, but neither do you speak up to say that there is no point in it), Hamada-sensei permits you three to peruse the village’s market street. You stick together, and while you don’t see anything you particularly want, you enjoy looking.

Something catches Ogura’s eye and he stops at an accessory stand. Across from it is a tea merchant which draws Kitagawa over, saying something about his grandmother. Staying with Ogura, your eyes drift over the available items and come to a stop on a jar of small wooden chips, mostly circular but not perfectly. There are kanji painted on them, words and numbers, and you nearly look away when you spot the kanji for ‘four’ on one. Intrigued, you reached down and picked it up for a closer look. There is a hole through its side, and you realize that it’s a bead.

You hesitate because the number four is considered unlucky (even Father and the boys paused when you first told them which team you were on), but you don’t want to pass up the opportunity in front of you. Digging through the wooden container, you manage to find four ‘four’s and buy them, adding ‘insect’, ‘family’, ‘smile’ and ‘peace’, not bothering to haggle the price like Ogura was still doing. Even Kitagawa finished his souvenir shopping before the accessory stall owner finally agreed on a price for the hairpin in Ogura’s hands.

Then he picked up two hair ribbons, but everyone was spared as Hamada-sensei appeared at Ogura’s back and cheerfully asked him if he was done.

He was.


Concealed

The journey home was much shorter since you didn’t have to travel at a civilian’s pace. Hamada-sensei used the opportunity to teach you all how to jump through trees. Later, as you all got the hang of it, you grinned slightly behind your high collar. Finally, after all these years, you could jump through trees too!

Your team had to spend another night outside, but the weather held. There was no need to deal with rain on this mission, which was good because you only just realized that Father hadn’t covered what to do in rain or in a storm. Making a mental note to ask him about that, you settled down to sleep as you would be taking the last watch before breaking camp the next day.

It was unnerving have to watch over everyone (though you wonder if Hamada-sensei is actually asleep or not), but your insects help you out a lot. In the time you’ve been on this mission, you usually get either the first watch or the last watch, and you make a mental note to push to have the middle watch. After all, it’s not as though Ogura and Kitagawa will always be your teammates, so it’s better to have practice now rather than later with someone else who might not be as forgiving as your current teammates.

Nothing happens, and you return back to Konohagakure the next day without incident. Hamada-sensei takes you all to a restaurant to kill two birds with one stone, that being you all get to eat and she gives you all the run down on how to do mission reports, which she expects to be handed in after you all leave the restaurant and report back to the mission desk before you get to go home.

The Hokage is at the mission desk for some inexplicable reason you don’t understand, but you answer his questions in a neutral voice whenever he directs them at you. No, there was nothing strange about the mission. Yes, it was a learning experience. Yes, you think your team can handle more work of this kind. You don’t think anything of it because truthfully you’re mostly wondering when he will get replaced with a new Hokage.

Perhaps it was still too soon after the death of the Fourth? But really, it’s been over four years now. Get on with it.

(it’s lucky that you can hide your thoughts behind shades, a high collar and Aburame conditioning)


Career

Father is home when you get back, and you get a head pat as a welcoming. After putting away your backpack to unpack later, you tell him of your mission and ask him about rain and thunderstorms. He advises finding cover during thunderstorms, but for rain you could either use a waterproof cloak or the Human Cocoon technique, which he demonstrates outside. You have to try hard not to laugh at the image of Father hanging from a tree branch by his kikaichu like a giant cocoon, but you manage it. Trying it yourself, you don’t get it right until hours later, and Father says that as with most jutsu, it will become faster the more you practice it.

That night, you start on your new project of making friendship bracelets. Your plan is to make a set for your team, though you know that it’s going to take a lot of courage to actually give them once they’re done. Part of that is nerves, and the other part is superstition since ‘four’ sounds similar to ‘death’, but you can’t help your team number, right? Anyway, you’ll cross that bridge when you get to it.

With a mission just completed, and your first C-rank at that, your sensei had given the team two days off. You use that time to return to the hospital where Amano, Shin and Nishida are trying to get your chakra control up to par. There has been an improvement over time, so they continue holding out hope that you will be able to manage the fine control needed for medical jutsu. In the meantime, they occasionally have you use your Shapers on willing test subjects, mostly genin with a few chunin but only the exceedingly rare jonin. In fact, you can count on one hand how many jonin have willingly accepted treatment from your Shapers. Bedside manner for a medic-nin is different from your hazy memories of nurses and doctors, but you suppose that’s just something that stems from being a shinobi doctor to often times stubborn shinobi who keep trying to escape the hospital despite the fact that they shouldn’t.

Being a genin, no longer do you go from the academy to the hospital most days. If Hamada-sensei doesn’t run you ragged, then you come to the hospital after team practice when you can. Basically you go whenever you can find the time, which is much less since becoming a genin. Since you don’t have the immediate talent for it, Amano hadn’t been able to snatch you for the medical corps, leaving her to accept what time you could spare to still come in. She said it would be easier once you were a chunin, but until then it was ‘whenever you can’-time for your place at the hospital.

With no other plans or preferences, you find yourself looking forward to becoming a chunin and working at the hospital fulltime. It’s a goal, something to aim for, and it gives you purpose.

Yes, you will be a medic-nin, even if you have to be an unconventional one.


Friendship

By the end of the month, you’ve not only finished the friendship bracelets for your team, but also the ones for Father, Shino, Torune and Yoji. Not only that, you’ve already given ones to Father and the boys, but not to your team. Father’s is light grey and dark blue with the bead for ‘family’. Shino’s is light green and dark green with the bead for ‘insect’. Torune’s is light blue and dark blue with the bead for ‘smile’. Yoji’s is dark grey and black with the bead for ‘peace’. The friendship bracelets for your team are two-colored as well, but they only share the same color of brown while Ogura has red, Kitagawa with orange, and Hamada-sensei with purple. None of the friendship bracelets have complicated patterns, they just look like zippers in two colors with the beads in the center and with knots to prevent the bead from moving.

The friendship bracelets sit in your pocket for almost two weeks before you finally gather the nerve to give them out. Without giving a reason, you ask each boy for his non-dominant hand and quietly tie the friendship bracelet around their wrists. Hamada-sensei heads you off on tying one around her wrist and accepts the bracelet with thanks (later, you see that she stitched it into her weapons pouch). Your ears burn as the boys get over their surprise and awkwardly thank you.

It’s fine if they take them off, you think to yourself as you quickly leave after that. After all, what you wanted most was just to give it to them. It was the thought that counted, that’s all.

(the next day the boys present you with a clumsy friendship bracelet with a plain white bead and say the bead is from sensei but they made it themselves

as one of them ties it to your wrist, you think that there’s only two of them, but do you really need five?)


Reminder

Uzumaki Naruto was never a pleasant surprise. You never knew when the boy would unexpectedly call out to you and run over to you, but you dreaded each instance. So far, the memories his face drags up are fleeting, but they still never fail to come. The flashbacks happen with every meeting, and you don’t like the way they make you feel, the aftertaste they leave behind. You don’t want to interact with Uzumaki Naruto, but…

Well, you’d have to be blind and deaf not to see or hear how people generally treat him. You don’t know why, but the adults seem to hate Naruto. What could a child of less than five possibly have done to earn such anger from strangers?

(a disgruntled student’s revenge)

You don’t want to be cruel to him too, not when you know the rest of the world isn’t kind to him.

(a green-haired boy with skinned knees)

Pausing at the mental image, you slowly let out a breath to steady yourself and move on without dwelling on it.

Going back to your train of thought, while you didn’t like the memories and attached emotions that each encounter with Uzumaki-kun brought up, you weren’t heartless enough to tell him to get lost. Even imagining doing that makes your conscience prickle, and you don’t want that on your shoulders. You’d be left to wonder about him and that’s a regret you don’t want.

Thus, you quietly endure each instance the boy comes up to you. He’s Shino’s age, but he couldn’t be more different from your second-favorite person (despite your efforts to dislodge him, and after Father, of course). The two of them are like night and day. Shino is quiet and reasonable, but Naruto is loud and stubborn. Shino can take a hint, but you have to practically drop a wall on Naruto to get him to let you leave. Naruto is an extrovert far beyond even Torune, and he drains you, although partially through no fault of his own.

After all, it’s not like he knows that he’s dragging up memories you would rather let go of.

Sighing tiredly after one such encounter, you headed home to the sanctuary of your bedroom where you laid down with your head on a cushion.

(you remember the green-haired boy this time instead of your once-daughter)


Upcoming

Days continue passing, and your team gets three more C-ranks between other D-rank missions. You deal with bandits, and even a chunin-rank missing-nin, and you can’t help but grow fond of Jirou, Arata and Hamada-sensei. Sharing space and facing dangers together, it is impossible for you to remain aloof, especially when you add in the consideration the boys show for your welfare. Your insects creep them out, but they accept your strange brand of healing anyway, and you use your Quirk to stealthily cure Arata of a disease lurking in his blood which had been undetected until you first ‘saw’ him. Hamada-sensei retains her occasionally off-putting remarks, but you trust her enough to know that you would miss her if she died.

The bad luck you had feared being on a team numbered ‘four’ doesn’t materialize despite some close calls in combat, nor is there ever an occasion for you to call the Carnivores when your regular kikaichu and the imposter ladybugs can finish your fights. The boys’ skills improve as well, and you know that they will do their best in any given situation. With Hamada-sensei to watch over you all, you find that you care about your team, from her to both boys.

(and you don’t hate yourself for it, for letting them get closer than Amano, Shin and Nishida, to get closer to you than Yoji and Torune, and while not as close as Shino or Father to your heart

you consider Ogura Jirou and Kitagawa Arata as your friends)

Living each day, you almost don’t notice the time flying by.

It’s been a year now since your team was officially formed. Your team celebrates the anniversary by visiting Yakiniku Q, and that’s when Arata brings up the subject of promotions. Hamada-sensei says that the team isn’t ready, and while you can accept this, the boys protest, trying to line out exactly why they’re ready to try. Hamada-sensei isn’t moved, but she makes a compromise.

“If I think you’re ready by the time the exams return to the village, I will recommend you.”

Tuning out the boys’ cheering, you think about her statement and figure out that that means your team has an additional five to seven months before it is Konoha’s turn to host again. That should be ample enough time for the three of you to bring your skills and teamwork up to snuff, and you join in the conversation, making plans on how to work better as a team.

(none of her students realize that the delay is because the village wants to keep Kaiya as safe as possible)


The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn't one.

~Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

Chapter Text

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

~Helen Keller


Yours

When the chunin exams finally return to Konoha, as promised, Hamada-sensei presents you three with application forms. She smiles and says that she is proud of how much work you three have done in order to be ready for it. The boys laugh and clap each other on the back while you nod in satisfaction. The past few months have been good for your team as with a goal you all have been working hard. These forms are the payoff and you all submit them that same day.

Father, having already been told of your goal, congratulates you for achieving what you set out to do. He says that he is glad that you get along well with your teammates. You merely nod while with him, but later you reflect on his words and how you feel about Jirou and Arata.

It was hard, at first, to adjust to being on a team with two boys. If your sensei had been a man, you think it would have taken you even longer to get used to the arrangement. They were older, too, but that might have been a contributing factor in how they have been treating you, in addition to your gender. You should probably be upset about being stereotyped by your teammates, but you weren’t. So what if you liked being in the back?

(it was what you were used to, an echo from a lifetime ago that doesn’t completely fade)

In the time since becoming a team, you have all come to call each other by your given names. You have trained together, traveled together, eaten at the same table and campfire. You have shed blood together, yes, even you (not much since your kikaichu plug any scrape or injury, but still). You know Jirou and Arata better than you know Yoji, Torune, or Shino. You have healed your teammates with both your Shapers and your Quirk.

And they give everything to protect you.

Granted, you help them out with your ladybugs, but the sentiment is there. The point is, after all this time, you can’t help that Jirou and Arata and even Hamada-sensei have become important to you.

They’re your boys.

(____, ____, and ____)

No matter what the exam entails, you’re going to do your best to keep them alive, because you want to see them five years from now, ten years from now.

You want them to outlive you.


Plan

The first portion of the exam is about information gathering. There are designated targets scattered across the village, and you have just eighteen hours to find the correct information in order to proceed to the next phase.

You refuse to agree to the kidnapping plan the boys come up with, not because of the kidnapping part, but rather you draw the line at your “usual” method of making someone fall in love with you in order to get them to spill. After all, you point out, they’re still Konoha shinobi and the last thing you all need is to get racked over the coals for harming a fellow shinobi from the village. Abashed, they relent, and you all know that your team is in a pickle since torture is likely too much as well.

Then Arata, hesitating for a second, speaks up.

“What about the other teams from outside the village? What if we nab them after they talk to the targets?”

Your shades do not glint, but if they did, this would have been the perfect moment for it.


Performance

Several teams from other villages get nabbed as part of your team’s plan. Your insects are an important part as the imposter ladybugs inject the venom that makes the other genin vulnerable enough to grab and squirrel away. You make one from each team fall in love with you and get them to give you the information they had gathered. However, you also reverse the process and induce partial memory loss before your team leaves them in random places.

Team 4 advances to the next round.

To your mild surprise, so do three of the teams you had ambushed.


Anxiety

The second phase of the exam involves the Forest of Death and scrolls. In order to proceed to the next phase, a team must hunt a designated target, in this case another team taking the exam, and steal their scroll in order to get the information of which gate they need to exit in order not to fail. The time limit is seven days.

Your team’s target is Team Endo from Kusagakure no Sato, the Village Hidden in the Grass.

Jirou says the plan is to nab anyone with a Grass headband or sigil on their person, to which you and Arata agree. Heading off into the forest, you redirect some giant leeches from launching themselves at your team as you pass below them. Surviving in the Forest of Death is basically the worst camping trip ever, and you hate having to answer the call of nature since it takes you longer than the boys who have it easy since they can just pull out their… things. Anyway, your team has to fend off not only the wildlife and occasional murderous plant, you also have to defend yourselves against other teams.

Konoha teams that won’t leave you alone get a hard lesson on why listening to you when you tell them to leave is a good idea. Apparently they thought that taking scrolls from other teams was a good idea, one that Jirou proceeded to steal, though at Arata’s insistence, you two left alone the scrolls of other Konoha teams. By the end of day five, your team had five scrolls and thus five other teams trying to find you three in addition to whichever team had been assigned to hunt Team 4 from Konohagakure.

And yet there had been nary a sight of the team you were supposed to be hunting.

It was understandable that the boys were getting antsy the closer the deadline got, and you had to admit that you were feeling the pressure as well.

What if Team Endo had found their target and had already left the Forest of Death? Failing the exam after coming so far would be a bitter thing.


Pitiless

Three of the five teams you stole scrolls from team up to assault yours just as you finally locate a team from Grass. The Grass genin make themselves scarce as chaos breaks out, kunai and senbon flying through the air while clones pounce and a few jutsu are thrown, all aimed at you, Jirou and Arata.

In the chaos, you know you can’t risk the Carnivores, not with your teammates in close quarters with your targets, but the kikaichu you’ve placed on them will ward off the imposter ladybugs you let loose into the area. There are screams, but before long nine genin are strewn across the area. Jirou and Arata breathe in gasps as they keep a wary watch out for any more threats.

You had been going easy on the other teams by limiting the venom you had used originally to get their scrolls, but after this incident you leave them where they lie. They could have seriously hurt Jirou or Arata, or worse, killed them, so your former mercy evaporates.

None of you say anything as you leave in search of the team from Grass.

(later you hear that four were eaten by wildlife before the venom wore off)


Annoyance

Tracking down the Team Endo and getting to your gate before the deadline leaves all three of you exhausted. The good news is that few enough people passed that there is no need for a preliminary fight in order to further whittle the number of participants down, so none of you are expected to fight immediately. Instead, the boys weakly cheer from the ground where you are all sprawled out, news delivered by an exam proctor. You join them in spirit, but none of you get up as he proceeded to explain that the final part of the exam was a tournament, but that matches would be blind until then. Jirou accepted this information with a thumbs up from the team as a whole, all of you too tired to answer verbally by this point.

Possibly disgusted, the proctor left you three lying on the ground. None of you moved until Hamada-sensei appeared to prod you each in turn with her foot.

“Get up, lazybones. What you are, Nara?”

“We’re not smart enough,” Arata groaned into the grass. An incoherent moan of agreement came from Jirou as you curled up on your side.

She pulled you all up to your feet and walked you back to the village to make sure you’d actually make it. Your sensei saw you home while the boys leave in another direction, but she doesn’t go past the compound gate. Thanking her, you wave goodbye before heading home where you reluctantly muster the will the wash up. You opt out of a bath since you don’t have the energy to stay awake for much longer, and before you know it, you’re on your futon and it’s already morning.

Groaning, you pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep.

It works well until that afternoon when Father tells you to get up because your teammates are there. Naturally they’re not allowed into your bedroom, so you get up, get dressed, and miraculously don’t grumble as you meet them in the living room. They say that sensei sent them to get you, but all three of you are annoyed when Hamada-sensei cheerfully informs you that you all have a month until the final portion of the exams.

“You couldn’t have waited another day, sensei?”

You share Arata’s resentment, and you doubt you’re the only one annoyed by the smirk on her face when she answers.

“I could have, but then it wouldn’t be funny anymore.”

Apparently dragging her exhausted students out of bed to tell them non-critical information is amusing.

You aren’t surprised, but you’re still irritated.


Emotion

Since a large part of Jirou’s skills relies on his taijutsu, Hamada arranges training with a young taijutsu expert, a shinobi called Maito Gai. You frowned when she paused at revealing his name, but since she was handing over Jirou instead of you, you held your silence.

(later, when asked what sort of person Maito Gai was, Jirou’s eye would twitch before answering that he was a great taijutsu expert)

She’d be taking on Arata herself to train him up, and she advised you to find an Aburame to help you polish your jutsu since only an Aburame could help you in that area. Nodding your understanding, you and your teammates said goodbye as you would all be busy preparing yourselves for the tournament.

Going home, you spoke to your father about Hamada’s advice and he nodded, saying he would train you. He would put off taking longer missions unless otherwise ordered, and for most of the month he was your trainer. Your usage of the Aburame jutsu with your kikaichu was adequate, but the main focus was on your Carnivores followed by the imposter ladybugs. But, during this time, Father asked you something.

“Can your Shapers give your kikaichu the same venom as your ladybugs?”

You wanted to smack yourself on the head for overlooking such a simple thing. Why had you overlooked that for so long? It was one thing to use the appearance of a harmless ladybug in order to let it get close to a target or enemy, but why had you bothered with a huge swarm when you could mix in venomous kikaichu with regular kikaichu? After all, which ones would the enemy know to avoid in a swarm if there was no visual point of reference?

Basically, you stopped mass-producing the ladybugs and instead converted them over to the appearance of regular kikaichu. Now, at any given moment, instead of being merely drained of chakra, your enemies could suddenly find themselves being envenomed from any number of similar looking kikaichu.

With that change, plus the training Father put you through, you felt confident by the time you met up with your teammates again a month later.

(confidence which was replaced by mute rage and icy vengeance as you brought Arata back from the dead before the sun was even noon high)


We are made of flesh that bruises and bleeds, bones that break, and a mind that is susceptible to wild mood swings.

~Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

Chapter Text

Anger is useful only to a certain point. After that, it becomes rage, and rage will make you careless.

~Lauren Oliver, Pandemonium


Tournament

Three teams made it out of the Forest of Death, one from Konoha, one from Kumo, and one from Iwa. You had grudges against Kumo and Iwa, for your attempted assassination and for the death of your mother. Lining up between the boys with Iwa and Kumo on either side, you all stared up at the crowd assembled to watch the tournament. A proctor introduced you all and then, in front of the crowd, you all drew numbers on a piece of paper from a box.

A kunoichi from Iwa got a bye, advancing to the second round of the tournament and leaving the remaining eight to duke it out. Jirou was matched up against kunoichi from Kumo, and Arata’s opponent was from Iwa. Two genin from Kumo were matched together, leaving you with the remaining genin from Iwa. That meant that you’d have to fight the Iwa kunoichi right after, which was your bad luck to have two fights back to back. Leaving Jirou and the Kumo kunoichi in the arena, the rest of you left to watch from a balcony separate from the spectators.

Jirou put up a fight with a combination of taijutsu, earth jutsu, ninja wire and kunai, but the kunoichi from Kumo evaded most of his attacks, tricked him with genjutsu and defeated him with a lightning jutsu and a hard kick to the back of his head while he was stunned. You didn’t wince, but you wanted to. Making a mental note to check on him later, you wished Arata good luck as it was his turn now.

He grinned back at you before leaping down into the arena.

The Iwa genin, Inaba Susumu, leapt down after him.


Unexpectedly

At first, the match seemed fairly standard, two genin trying to get the upper hand in order to defeat their opponent in order to advance. However, as the minutes ticked by, the fight grew increasingly vicious. Inaba had the upper hand and was gloating, asking Arata if that was all Konoha had to offer. For some reason, you (and you bet everyone in the audience could too) could hear the two boys speaking. Chalking it up to some kind of jutsu, you listened to them speaking.

“It seems Konoha’s standards have fallen since the war if you and that Ogura boy were the best your village has to offer.”

He threw a paper bomb attached to a kunai, forcing Arata to leap back. Your teammate glared warily across the arena at his opponent.

“You’re dead wrong. Konoha’s standards haven’t fallen. Besides, we aren’t what you have to worry about.”

They charged each other and exchanged a quick flurry of blows, ending when each punched the other in the face and sent the other staggering back. Inaba spat on the ground.

“You talking about the kunoichi on your team? Don’t make me laugh.”

He didn’t give Arata a chance to reply as he suddenly slammed his hands on the ground. You saw Arata stumble and then the danger in the form on rock shards poking out in the ground. Arata saw this and tried to make it out of the affected zone, an area of five yards by five yards, but before he could, Inaba clapped his hands together.

Static filled your ears as the rock shards flew towards the center of the affected area, knocking Arata off his feet and into the midst of the flying rocks. You saw more rocks collide with him, and you saw the vivid red of his blood splattering into the air to color yet more flying rocks. In seconds, your teammate had disappeared from sight as only a roughly spherical mound of rocks was left.

The proctor’s voice broke through the static and you heard him declare Inaba as the winner.

With eyes only for the rock mound as you prayed for Arata’s safety, you watched as it slowly crumbled apart. Hands clenched inside your pockets, you felt your heart stutter at your first glimpse of Arata.

Was that mangled heap of flesh really your teammate?


Spectacle

Teijo frowned behind his high collar. Kitagawa-kun was clearly dead. That was unfortunate, as he knew that his daughter considered the boy a friend. After all, he had seen her progress from shrugging about her teammates to talking about them repeatedly with inflections in her voice, whether it was annoyance, irritation or fondness. He understood, even though his teammates were no longer alive, that one’s genin team was almost always important to a person.

Kaiya suddenly leapt down into the arena and crossed the distance to her fallen teammate. She shouldn’t be down there, but no one was going to deny her at least a few seconds with his body.

Kneeling next to the boy’s mangled form, she lifted her hands and suddenly lilac waterfalls were pouring from her sleeves. Correcting himself, Teijo amended his thoughts to ‘lilac waves of Shapers’, because his daughter didn’t know any water jutsu.

“Her teammate is deceased,” Shibi commented from the seat next to him. “Her attempt to use her Shapers will prove futile.”

True, but, “Kaiya has not lost anyone since her mother, and her mother died far away from her. Despite her training, I doubt she is prepared to accept the death of someone important to her.”

They watched as the lilac cover formed over the boy shifted color. Despite knowing what Kaiya was capable of, even they shifted slightly as a fully healed Kitagawa came into view. Teijo felt his heart squeeze in sympathy for his child because even though she had restored his form, there was nothing she could do to—

His thoughts froze as her hands glowed green and she held them over the boy’s heart. One of the medic-nin arriving reached out towards her but recoiled as a lilac whip lashed out, forcing him back. Not once did Kaiya look away from her teammate, causing restlessness in the crowd. Teijo heard unkind comments about sentimental weakness, but the mood shifted as the boy beneath her hands suddenly jerked.

Shouts and confused yelling broke out as the boy half-lifted himself from the ground only to be hugged by Kaiya.

He exchanged an urgent glance with Shibi, but his clan head briefly shook his head. So not even the clan head had suspected Kaiya of having a resurrection ability. But, was that really what happened down there? Had Kitagawa actually been dead? The Hell Zone Rock Shard jutsu was often fatal. And speaking of it, that was normally a chunin-rank jutsu. Frowning deeply, Teijo looked back down at where his daughter was finally letting the medic-nin get close. They carried her teammate away upon a stretcher, and when Kaiya broke her gaze away from that sight, it was to direct her attention on the Iwa genin who had supposedly killed her teammate.

Inaba was belligerent. “What? You wanna make something of it?”

The proctor stepped in and said there would be no fighting outside of the designated matches. He then told them both to get out of the arena and return to the balcony.

Kaiya obeyed, but Teijo suspected she was boiling with rage.


Clue

The Kumo genin fought next, but Kaiya had stolen the crowd’s interest. Now they were eagerly anticipating her match against the other Iwa genin and the Iwa kunoichi who had gotten a bye. If she won both of those matches and then won against whoever won the Kumo fight, and if Inaba could defeat the kunoichi from Kumo, then she would get her grudge match against him in the final round, but right now, Reo’s thoughts were in whirl and not entirely focused on the tournament.

That day so long ago, when they were escorting the Aburame girl, the day with the missing time, the missing memories, the mystery of it was once again burning at the forefront of his thoughts. Youta had said something about dying, hadn’t he? None of them could figure out what was wrong, only that they suspected Kaiya of something they had been unable to prove and therefore unable to pursue.

Reo remembered the bodies, had counted them. They had been outnumbered. Their mission had been to protect Kaiya. Was Youta right? Had they… had they died trying to protect her?

Thanks to authorization from the Third, Reo has been keeping abreast of Kaiya’s abilities. He knows that she’s been forbidden from regenerating or copying eyes from both the Uchiha and Hyuuga clans. Thinking back, she’d had access to three Hyuuga, hadn’t she? He remembers asking one of them to observe her with the Byakugan, but nothing strange had turned up. He doesn’t know if the Hyuuga have figured out anything new since then. Getting back to Kaiya, from what he read of Amano, Shin, and Nishida’s reports, repairing Kitagawa’s body was fully within her capabilities.

But if the boy had actually been as dead as he looked?

Resurrection of any sort was an earth-shattering ability. Once again Kaiya’s importance has risen, if not shooting through the roof. Suppression of that information would be paramount. Konoha would likely release that Kitagawa had not actually been dead.

Was he suffering short-term memory loss as he and his teammates once did? Was that a side-effect of coming back from the dead?

Did Kaiya once resurrect himself, Kouki and Youta?

Standing, Reo left his seat and went in search of Kitagawa Arata. Perhaps Reo would finally get an answer for the day that has lingered in his mind all the way to the present.


Retribution

The match between the two Kumo genin ends and Kondo Akio advances to the next round. You don’t care, though. No, all you care about is absolutely wrecking Iwa.

Mother was one thing, taken in war and before you regained your memories and Quirk, but Arata had been killed before your eyes. Arata, the boy who asked you if you were okay, whom you have shared blood, sweat and even tears since being put together in the same team. Arata, who is like a limb to you, someone you want to see alive five years from now, ten years from now.

Arata, your friend.

(____, your friend)

Standing across from Uyeda Takeshi of Iwa, your displeasure is visible in how far your brows are already furrowed, which have been furrowed since tearing your eyes away from the medic-nin carrying away Arata to look at Inaba.

The proctor throws his hand down, calling out the start of the match, and you leap back to avoid a short barrage of kunai. Raising your hands and pulling them out from your pockets, you unleash a wave of kikaichu mixed with imposter kikaichu. You send two to circle around, one from the left and one from the right in hopes of circling around to take your opponent by surprise from the back.

Paper bombs tied to kunai are thrown into the thick of your swarm and explode, filling the air with smoke and chitin. Your chakra reserves aren’t large, so you don’t send out another wave. Instead you pull out your own kunai and throw them in the direction you last saw the Iwa genin. The smoke clears enough for you to see that he isn’t there, and you immediately launch yourself towards the nearest tree, just barely escaping the hands that thrust out for your ankles.

Uyeda warily climbs out of the hole, glancing around for your kikaichu even as he tries to keep you in sight. Peering down at him from your perch, you sense the two imposter kikaichu you had sent out were nearly within position. They had had to change their course, but with Uyeda’s attention on you, soon they would be able to inject their venom into him.

Keeping Uyeda’s attention on you was easy, mostly because he was busy uprooting the tree you were in. The imposter kikaichu, one imposter ladybugs, flew directly for his exposed arm. Uyeda felt them land and instantly slapped one dead, but he was too slow to kill the second one just behind his elbow.

Box jellyfish venom is painful and debilitating. You know, from your past life’s memories, and more recently from when you employed it both during your genin career and prior to that during the war while you were outside of the village. The twelve-year-old is no match for it, body jerking violently as his mouth opens in a wordless scream.

Landing on the ground, your hands fly through a series of hand signs.

“Insect Sphere.”

With the Carnivores along for the ride.

(he intervenes on his student’s behalf, moved into action by the sight of blood pooling at the boy’s feet as kikaichu swirled around him, and leaping down into the arena he bellows at the proctor to call the match, which he does in Konoha’s favor

the Aburame girl drops her jutsu, leaving him with a skinless student whose intestines and internal organs spill onto the dirt in a steaming heap, dead before he hits the ground himself

and she is already looking at Chiasa above who is pale with fear but knows she cannot forfeit, not when the Tsuchikage’s orders to excel are hanging over her head)


Malice

Kaiya unleashes her Shapers against the Iwa kunoichi, which briefly engulf the girl before seemingly vanishing into nothingness. However, anyone who has seen her Shapers in action knows better. They haven’t vanished.

They’ve simply disappeared beneath the skin.

The audience watches as the Iwa kunoichi seemingly dances of her own free will, but those with better vision can clearly see the terror in her eyes. The tears streaming down her face are another clue, but every time the proctor asks if she wants to forfeit the match, she shakes her head and raises her arms in an x-shape. Her eyes bulge every time, and Teijo sees it as a desperate plea, that she means just the opposite, but technically the proctor can’t force it if both contenders are still standing and conscious.

Kaiya watches with a bored posture, apparently dispassionate as her opponent makes a fool of herself, but she doesn’t force the match to end in her favor.

Teijo could almost marvel at the sheer mercilessness in Kaiya’s actions, if not for the fact that he was worried for her because never before has he seen this level of cruelty from her. She murdered that boy from Iwa simply for being Inaba’s teammate, and now she has apparently hijacked the Iwa kunoichi’s body, for the same ‘crime’ as being Inaba’s teammate.

Inaba was the one who hurt Kitagawa, but Kaiya isn’t making that distinction. She wants to hurt Inaba, and this is the quickest and surest way available to her in case he loses against Domen from Kumo or she against Kondo, also from Kumo.

Glancing at the participants’ balcony, just visible from his seat, Teijo can see Inaba glaring down into the arena as his hands clench the guardrail. He screams down at Kaiya, but she doesn’t spare him a single look.

It’s only when Watanabe, the Iwa kunoichi, soils herself that Kaiya calls back her Shapers, leaving the other girl to collapse heavily. The Iwa kunoichi gasped painfully on the ground before letting out a shriek that surely tore her vocal cords. She attempted to launch herself at Kaiya and moved a few feet before a thin lilac wall from Kaiya’s raised arm stopped her in her tracks. Watanabe fell back and desperately tried to crawl backwards as the lilac swarm advanced. She finally cried out that she gave up, and the proctor called the match in Kaiya’s favor.

Calling back her swarm and turning away from the girl she all but destroyed, his daughter headed for the stairs.

Seeing two other shinobi stand in the crowd, Teijo decided it was prudent that he go check on her, if not to keep her safe, then to keep her from killing any other foreign shinobi.


Disquiet

Father’s unexpected presence discourages the Waterfall shinobi who came to ‘tell’ you to throw your next match, but you in turn disregard his advice about dialing back. He seems to sense this, and changes the subject.

“What did you do to Kitagawa?”

Was he dead? Did you bring him back?

You feel something rise above the rage at his question. Panic claws at your stomach as you finally realize that you were beyond stupid to have saved Arata’s life in front of a whole stadium of witnesses. However, what’s done is done, and you have apparently come to end of your luck. There will be no escaping explaining what you did to Arata, not with the Hyuuga and the Hokage having witnessed your actions, and probably the Uchiha too.

Still, you should say something to Father.

“I saved him. If I can, I will always save him, and Jirou, and you, and Shino, and anyone important to me.”

“Aburame.”

You flinch at the voice from behind you, spinning to see the proctor standing there.

“You’re up, Aburame.”

You blink behind your shades, confused. “No—“

“Both Domen and Kondo from Kumo forfeited their matches without fighting. It’s the final round, and you’re up against Inaba, now.”

Your mouth gapes for a moment before you pull yourself together and nod.

“Very well.”

When you move to follow him back outside, Father says your name. You half-turn and look back at him.

“…You’ve come this far. Win.”

Remembering Arata, ‘seeing’ him dead through your Shapers…

(come back, come back, don’t go, don’t leave, come back)

Grimly, you nod.


Learn this from me. Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

~Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Chapter Text

We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.

~Heinrich Heine


Unforgiving

Inaba is agitated as you take your place across from him. You don’t have to wonder why, not after you killed one of his teammates and basically hijacked the body of the other, even if it wasn’t permanent. Actions you might not have taken if Inaba hadn’t killed Arata, though, so really, the Iwa boy had brought the death and traumatization of his teammates upon himself. No one hurts yours in front of your eyes and gets away with it.

You could almost commend him for going through with this match after seeing what you did to the other two, but not really. After all, if he backed out, Iwa would look cowardly. Although, having that thought cross your mind, would Kumo bowing out in two matches in a row also make them look cowardly? But then, if Kondo from Kumo had stood between you and Inaba, what would you have done to Kondo? The raw way you feel, you suspect that you would have ended the match as soon as possible, and that meant throwing everything at him.

So perhaps it was self-preservation that made the Kumo genin bow out? After all, if the other Kumo kunoichi had defeated Inaba, there was a chance she would have earned part of your ire as well. Knocking Inaba out of the tournament before you had your chance at revenge… yeah, you would have gotten mad at her.

The proctor says something about avoiding useless killing, but the look in Inaba’s eyes tells you that he’s giving those words the same amount of consideration you are, that is to say, none.

The hand is thrown down to the start the match and suddenly the air is filled with kikaichu.


Unearthed

Explosions fill the arena as Inaba immediately uses paper bombs to thin the swarm, but more kikaichu simply fill in the gaps. There are noticeable tints of lilac spattered throughout the swarm, and those are the areas where Inaba directs most of his paper bombs. However, those with sharp observation skills also notice how parts of the swarm are darker than other parts. This ‘darkness’ was noticed by a few in the fight against Uyeda when Kaiya used the Insect Sphere jutsu.

Being Aburame, both Shibi-sama and himself had noticed the difference. Insect Sphere can be shadowy, with the closely swarming kikaichu swirling around and engulfing a target, of course the technique looks dark. However, Kaiya’s Insect Sphere was dark before the kikaichu fully closed around Uyeda. Any Aburame would have noticed that, and anyone familiar with the technique had the possibility of noticing as well. However, prior to today, neither Teijo nor Kaiya had shared the existence of the Carnivores with anyone else, not even their clan head.

That was unlikely to remain a secret after today, though. Anyone familiar with the Aburame would know that Kaiya didn’t have normal kikaichu. Or rather, they already knew that due to her Shapers, but her ‘normal’ kikaichu should not have been able to strip Uyeda of his skin, otherwise this would not be the first instance of an Aburame doing that to an opponent.

Adding that to the other things Kaiya has showcased in the tournament today, Teijo knows that his daughter won’t be allowed to hold back any more secrets. Or rather, she will have to divulge about everything her insects did today, but Teijo suspected that she would hold tight to as much as she could.

As a dome formed around Inaba, Teijo brushed aside other thoughts for the moment. He had to focus, had to see.

What form would Kaiya’s revenge take this time?


Target

Paper bombs, explosive seals, whatever you call them, they’re an annoying tool when turned against you. Explosions, fire and water are all annoying and deterrents against your insects, if of varying effectiveness. Really, you’re just glad that he’s not throwing around fire jutsu. The first time someone threw a fire jutsu against you… well, Hamada-sensei was just glad that it wasn’t a Konoha shinobi.

The ground trembled beneath your feet, so you guessed that was Inaba trying to do something. The Iwa genin was blocked from view, so you weren’t sure what he was doing. Your Shapers were hard at work though, and soon enough the tremors stopped.

Cocking your head to the side as the Insect Dome kept swirling, you waited for the Shapers to finish their job. Perhaps the audience expected you to kill Inaba as you had Uyeda, but venting your rage on the other two Iwa genin had helped clear your head. You wanted to punish Inaba, yes, but death was too swift. Killing Uyeda had helped you realize that. After all, if Inaba was dead, didn’t that mean you had sent him on to the Pure World, that he hadn’t suffered for nearly long enough?

You want him to pay for what he’d done to Arata, and you want him to pay for more than just the few seconds it would take to kill him. Hurting his teammates had just been the start, but you have to be a little creative. Making him sick with diseases wouldn’t be smart, not after Decline and Blood in the last war and the Hokage’s direct orders.

A small swarm of Shapers land on your cheek and disappear beneath your skin. Their mission is complete, and Inaba is down, unable to move. He can’t hurt you when you get close, so you begin walking into the swirling mass that is blocking any view of the Iwa genin. Technically speaking, if the proctor sees Inaba down and helpless, he will have to call the match in your favor, and for that reason you keep the swarm thick and dark.

Disappearing from sight yourself, your kikaichu and Carnivores part around you or otherwise crawl harmlessly upon your person. You can’t see through them, but you know where to go because they tell you where Inaba is and that there isn’t anything on the ground between him and you to trip you up.

Coming next to Inaba and crouching down, you reach out and touch his face, calling your Shapers in case any Hyuuga are watching, but you use your Quirk to achieve your goal.

The Hokage ordered creation of disease as a forbidden art, and Father later said to assume that Blood and Decline were no longer permitted use. You have mostly obeyed this order, sticking to the common cold and flus, with the occasional case of pneumonia, and you won’t be doing any of that to Inaba. To do so would justify Kumo’s attempted assassination and make not only them but also Iwa more likely to target you.

But no one ever said that you couldn’t make the enemy fall desperately and hopelessly in love with you, did they?

(his terror abates, and it isn’t long before the fingers touching his face are desired and he wonders how he could have ever been scared of or even possibly scorned her touch

this girl is not a horrible monster, and how could he have been so blind

she was the love of his life)


Half-hearted

You know the potential pitfalls of this particular action. You haven’t forgotten Michi and Juhi and the two-hundred-plus days you lost to underestimating what they would do for their brand of love. Who knows what Inaba was capable of in the name of love, but you weren’t going to leave him mobile. No, your plan was two-fold: make Inaba love you the most out of anyone, and rob him of his ability to walk.

Alright, not particularly clever or imaginative, you know, but the point of this plan is to make him miserable for the rest of his life. Imagine being denied both the ability to walk, and also having to live with the fact that the one you love will never return that affection!

…Okay, lame, so let’s add some facial disfigurement, have your insects eat an eye out of his head, wreck one of his arms so he can never use it properly again, and for the finishing touch, make him impotent and sterile to boot.

There, vengeance carried out.

(you clear the insects away to reveal a down, bloodied and unconscious Inaba, and you win the chunin exams, but not only is the audience dissatisfied, so are you

maybe you should have gone for messily killing Inaba, but it’s too late to change your mind now)


Meet

There is a closing ceremony and shortly after that you get escorted to the Hokage tower by Uchiha Itachi, who is apparently qualified for that task. He’s small, so you automatically assume ‘genin’, but on the way to the tower, he informs you that he is a chunin on the verge of taking the jonin exams. That is surprising, considering that he’s younger than you are, but you supposed that he is what the elders call ‘genius’ and basically the measuring stick you didn’t know existed. Well, it’s not as though you had had delusions of being a genius—you are, after all, just a kid with memories of a past life and that does not necessarily equate to talent or skill—but you suddenly suspect that people have been comparing you to the boy just a step ahead of you.

It’s strange to think that the boy who once intruded on your solitude back in the academy was now ahead of you in both rank and skill. Then again, he is the Uchiha heir, so it’s probably expected of him. You’d wonder if that was the case for all noble clan heirs, but you’ve seen Shibi-sama interact with Shino, and Shino isn’t being pressured into being more than what he is. So perhaps it is a matter of skill and parenting techniques?

Whatever. Itachi is ahead of you, and you aren’t particular interested in straining yourself to catch up, so you’ll just leave that particular can of worms alone. No sense risking burning yourself up trying to match up with an exceedingly talented boy, right? There’s always something better, or so you’ve heard.

…Not in this life, or at least not in those specific words, but the general idea has been presented to you via your lessons with Father. Damn it, you’d have to be careful about speaking of sayings or when using quotes, otherwise you might get called out on where you actually heard those things.

“Aburame-san.”

Itachi spoke up you both ascended the stairs in the Hokage tower. He paused and turned to look back down at you. His voice was quiet as he asked you a question.

“Was your teammate truly deceased?”

Your shades hide your eyes, but your head turns slightly as you look away from him. He might be chunin, but you aren’t going to reveal yourself to him.

“…Apologies,” he finally offered, perhaps believing he has offended you.

Still, you’re glad he doesn’t insist because even if you don’t want to explain yourself, how could you explain holding back information from a superior when directly asked a question?

You followed him all the way to the Hokage’s office.


Unlucky

It takes what seems like forever, but the door finally opens to admit the Hokage. Entering the room after him are Shibi-sama, Father, and what looks like two Nara. Hey, isn’t that, what’s his name… Reo?

You pale as you remember three dead escorts and the first time you brought someone back to life in this world. Oh shit. The jig is up, isn’t it? Wait, no, you’d given them short-term memory loss, hadn’t you?

You’re gonna need every bit of conditioning to get through this, you just know it. Alright, don’t lie if you can manage it, just answer questions and try to get out of this office alive.

Otherwise Konoha would only have a few days before all hell broke loose.

(because the boys, all of them from Shino to Arata, and Father, Tsubasa, Amano, Shin, Nishida and anyone else you were even remotely fond of, no matter how many there were, no matter how important they were to you, they were not enough to make you abort your plan to take down as many with you as you could

love isn’t enough to override the desire for revenge, regardless of posthumous it may be)


Unforeseen

After doing something to the room, supposedly to make it more secure, the Hokage leads the ‘meeting’.

The first thing he asks about is Arata, or rather, ‘Kitagawa-kun’. He says that a Hyuuga confirmed Kitagawa’s death with the Byakugan, meaning that you can’t lie about it. He asks you to explain your actions, and you do in a monotone voice. You explain how you had your Shapers repair the extensive damage done to his body, and how you transferred chakra into his empty system since without it, Kitagawa wouldn’t be alive. You could make his body continue to exist, but without chakra it would have been merely an empty shell that would expire the instant you stopped touching it.

“Have you done this before today?”

The question makes you close your eyes because yep, it was the end of the road for that particular secret of yours. Knowing that Nara Reo is in the room makes it hard to speak, but you do.

“Yes. I did this before with Nara Reo and his teammates Akimichi Youta and the Yamanaka.”

“Kouki,” someone says, but it isn’t Reo. It’s not the Hokage’s voice, or Father’s or Shibi-sama’s, so that leaves the other Nara by process of elimination. “Yamanaka Kouki.”

“And the memory loss they experienced, yet which seems to have not affected Kitagawa?”

Damn it. You shouldn’t have struck Arata with short-term memory loss too, but you’d been too distraught to think of it at the time.

“…Intended.”

“You mean, intentional? As in, you intentionally altered the memories of your allies?”

It sounds terrible coming from his mouth like that, but yeah, it was a terrible thing wasn’t it? At least, for anyone not on your side of things.

“…Yes, Hokage-sama.”

Is it just you, or did the temperature of the room just drop?

Why?

“I was four years old and scared.”

True enough.

“You could not have had the chakra control necessary to perform a chakra transfer.”

“I made an Iwa kunoichi do it. She was happy to, after I made her love me.”

“And how did you overwhelm a fully grown kunoichi? In fact, how did you overwhelm a group of Iwa-nin?”

Did he read a report from Reo or something? Whatever, it was an easy question.

“My imposter ladybugs and their venom. I had them back then. With the distraction provided by the fight as well as the deaths of Nara-san and his team, my modified kikaichu were able to get close and incapacitate the enemy.”

You brought a hand out of your pocket to push your shades up.

“That leads into my realizing that without Nara-san and his team, I was alone. I was a child, and I did not know where the village was, or even the way back to the camp where Father was. I had to help them, and for that reason, I called forth my Shapers. I could force their bodies to live, but the instant I broke connection to them, their bodies died.

“I had run into this problem before. A woman named Yano Satomi died to protect me from a blast. I didn’t want her to die, but I could not figure out a way to make her live. I later deduced that the vital missing piece was chakra as a person cannot live without it. However, as you mentioned, I did not possess chakra control. Therefore, I looked to the enemy lying on the ground.

“Using my Shapers, I remembered how Father’s brain would change when his attention was focused solely upon me. I forced the same… activity upon the brains of the Iwa-nin until I got it right in the kunoichi. She was the one who transferred the chakra into Nara-san and the others, allowing them to live again. With her purpose fulfilled and Nara-san and his team seemingly recovered, I slit the throats of the Iwa-nin. After that, I called for Nara-san to wake, and he did.”

Again, mostly true. You’re just omitting the lifetime’s worth of memories that helped propel your actions since just prior to the blast that ended the life of Yano-san.

The silence seemed to stretch for ages before the Hokage finally spoke again. He accepted your explanation and moved on to your motivation for killing Uyeda in the fashion you did. You answered flatly.

“I was livid. Uyeda was a convenient target.”

“And Watanabe?”

“I thought death was too quick. This thought is what made me leave Inaba alive. I wanted him to live and to suffer for each day. Of course, I cannot stay his hands if he takes his own life, but in either case, my Ar—my teammate is avenged.”

The conditioning helps keep your face from blushing brightly at your slipup, but your face still warms slightly. Thankfully, no one lingered over it.

“Going back to Uyeda, how did your kikaichu achieve that? I was unware the Aburame kikaichu had become carnivorous.”

“They have not,” Shibi-sama finally said. “Kaiya-kun?”

Geh. No choice.

“As I create modified versions of my kikaichu, so too are the Carnivores, the insects in question. As small as the Shapers, the Carnivores devour flesh. May I?”

At the Hokage’s nod, you brought up a hand palm facing upwards. From your sleeve, a ‘shadow’ stretched forth to form a pool of darkness like water collecting on your palm.

“These are the Carnivores. They resemble a Nara’s shadow, do they not? I got the inspiration for them from Nara-san after the first and only time I have been subjected to what I now know is the Shadow Paralysis jutsu.”

“So they are in fact, kikaichu and not a manipulation of your shadow. Good. If it had been the latter, it would be another strike on your record, Aburame-chan.”

And now you’re Aburame-chan again?

The meeting drags on for a while longer with more questions from the Hokage and who you learn is in fact Nara Shikaku-sama, clan head of the Nara. They dissect the damage you inflicted on Inaba, but apparently you clear that as well since you didn’t inflict a disease upon him, not even a contagious flu (which sounds like a good idea now, but wow, are you glad it didn’t occur to you at the time, otherwise you might have gotten raked over the coals for longer). Relations with Iwa were likely damaged, but as a powerful Aburame and kunoichi, your actions have, for the most part, bolstered Konoha’s image.

They do take note of your statement about making Inaba fall in love with you, though. Perhaps they will attempt to get information about Iwa from him, using you as bait or some kind of reward, but you have your doubts since Inaba is paralyzed from the waist down. You do hope that your superiors don’t try to make you get high-profile targets to fall in love with you, though, since that sounds like a lot of work.

You are eventually released from the meeting and permitted to go home with Father, and you feel mentally tired after the day you’ve had. Walking home with Father, you let yourself show weakness in sighing in relief once you are alone in a deserted street on the way home. Father says nothing for most of the way home, but as you enter the compound and near the house, he speaks in a calm and somewhat intrigued tone.

“So. Your Arata, Kaiya?”

The fact that Father is teasing you makes it more effective than if it had come from someone else, and as a result, your face colors darker than it otherwise would have.

Father.

You stomp ahead, ignoring the amusement you suspect is radiating off him, and yank the door open.

(the world explodes in light and pain)


It happened so fast. No one had time to do anything, but watch.

~Jason Medina, The Manhattanville Incident: An Undead Novel

Chapter Text

Your attitude will either make or break you, we cannot change fate and the tragedies that enter our lives but we can choose how we want them to change us.

~Nikki Rowe


Sympathy

Teijo leapt backwards to escape the explosion that rocked the house and engulfed his daughter. The outer edge of the blast caught him and sent him rolling for a short distance. Rolling himself onto his knees, he bit down on the impulse to shout his daughter’s name even as his heart threatened to choke him. With the explosion over, his eyes immediately scanned the area and froze on the body of his child.

He couldn’t see her face from this angle, but her clothing was burnt and smoking. At least, where it wasn’t blown off and tattered. Blood seeped into and stained her clothing even as Teijo raced across the distance to her. Reaching her, Teijo felt his heart stutter at the damage done to her.

She had lost the arm she used to open the door, leaving her with only a shredded stump. Her shades had shattered and the shards had flown into her eyes, causing them to bleed and likely blind her. Her front had been devastated, clothes torn to shreds and leaving her burnt, an acrid stench he remembered from the battlefield in the war. Only her swarming kikaichu were keeping her from bleeding out, but even they had their work cut out for them.

He could only say her name in despair.

“Oh, Kaiya…”

The noise of the explosion would no doubt bring anyone within hearing range, but he couldn’t wait for them to arrive. She needed medical attention immediately if she was to have a hope to survive.

As carefully as he could, Teijo picked up his slowly dying daughter and carried her away in a blur of leaves.

(he firmly doesn’t think of anything except getting her to the hospital, ignoring the part of him that simply keeps repeating her name in anguish)


Gap

When Hiruzen is informed of the assassination attempt on Aburame Kaiya, he immediately directs his shinobi to investigate the foreign shinobi within the village and discern which village was responsible with priority on investigating Kumo. However, everything was to be done discretely, and any rumors of an attack on the Aburame were to be kept quiet, especially any to do with Aburame Kaiya. The Anbu disperse to carry out his orders, and Hiruzen sighs heavily at his desk.

How could this have happened? Where was the lapse that lead to this disaster? While true that he had reservations about the girl, he hadn’t wanted any such thing to happen to her. She was a kunoichi of the Leaf, and her Shapers would have kept his shinobi forces in working condition. No more would the village have had to lose talented shinobi and kunoichi to debilitating injuries or missing limbs. But, with this, if she died, that vision would die with her.

Feeling grim, he hoped that the medic-nin would be able to save her.

(within the hour, he learns that Kumo has already left the village, and with that Kumo becomes to top suspect in the assassination attempt)


Withheld

Later that night, Shibi sat alone in his study and contemplated his decision to withhold the news about Kaiya from his sons. They knew something had happened on the compound today. They had been at home (Yoji’s sensei had not nominated his team this time and the boy had elected to stay home with his brothers), and Shibi had rushed back to find them there, Shino and Yoji standing in front of Torune’s door. They had questions, but Shibi had only stayed long enough to tell them to remain where they were, and then he had gone to check the situation.

He had found several clan members staring at the damaged house belonging to Teijo and Kaiya. There was blood mixing with dirt in one area, but none of them knew if it was Teijo or Kaiya’s. Deducing the Kaiya did not posses the strength to carry her father, Shibi suspected that the blood in question belonged to the girl.

Hoping he was wrong, he headed to the hospital after leaving orders to secure the compound. Once there, he found Teijo, alive and stoic-faced but nearly distracted by the emergency operating room doors. Understandable, given that his child was behind them. Getting a review of events, Shibi was grim.

Permitting the placement of explosives on an Aburame home was a failure on the clan’s part to keep vigilance while foreign shinobi were in the village. Worse, they had allowed harm to come to their brightest clan member. Kaiya was a hive to a new and special breed of kikaichu.

They should have protected her better.

After meeting with the Hokage, Shibi had returned home to find his sons waiting. He did not lie to them, but he did deflect their questions, citing a chunin-level security clearance on information, which was true. However, as both Aburame and people close to Kaiya, the Hokage had permitted him to speak of it to his sons if he wished. Shibi had elected to hold off for now, at least until it was clear whether or not Kaiya would survive her ordeal.

Yes, once it was known one way or another, he would tell them.

(he hoped she lived, because he did not want to see his sons’ hearts break)


Survival

The operation seemed to last forever. Certainly the sun had already long since set and the evening had passed into night. Teijo remained where he was, stubbornly refusing to leave for treatment of his own wounds, finally forcing the medic-nin to heal him there in the hallway. Time stretched on as Teijo had to hold hard onto his calm, to keep himself from senseless pacing. Something in him burned to find out who did this to his daughter, to find them and end them in the most painful way possible, but he had to stay here. Not because he was ordered, but because he needed to be here to hear the prognosis himself, to learn whether or not his daughter would live.

Finally, after an eternity of painful waiting, the light over the door went out and the doors opened. Teijo stood and faced Shin, one of Kaiya’s teachers here at the hospital. He had been the lead medic-nin for the operation, and behind him was Amano. Nishida was not at the hospital, having been off-shift when Kaiya was brought in. The man wasn’t smiling.

“She will live, Aburame-san.”

(but she wouldn’t be a kunoichi anymore)


Failure

As he saw for himself, his daughter had lost most of her right arm. His fears were realized too, in that she had lost her eyes. She was disfigured, in both face and body.

She would live, but, would she want to?

Her Shapers can do the impossible, Teijo knows this, but he is also aware that they cannot do the impossible for Kaiya. She told him herself that for some reason, her Shapers hurt her when they try to shape her. She claims not to know why, but Teijo suspects it ties into the reason she asked for his silence. Regardless, he is not the only one who knows the unfortunate truth.

What Kaiya can do for others, she cannot do for herself.

Without someone like her to help her, Kaiya would remain an amputee, as well as disfigured and blind.

Teijo asked Shin to give Kaiya his eyes, as her father it was the only thing he could do for her. Shin refused, but he insisted. Relenting, Shin agreed on taking one eye, but it would have to wait until Kaiya had recovered more. She would need to agree before Shin would do the procedure, as would every other medic-nin in the hospital.

His daughter was moved to a private hospital room, and a masked Anbu appeared to inform both himself and Shin that there would be a guard placed for her. Shin left him alone with his daughter and Teijo found that he could only stare at the mummified body of his only child.

Why? Why had it failed to occur to him that an attempt on her life could be made during the exams. Yes, the exam itself was one thing, but when she was outside of it? When she was walking around while foreign shinobi were within the village walls as well?

He had sworn to himself to be more vigilant since her return, and yet he had allowed this to happen to her. Bowing his head, he could only plead with his beloved.

Kazue, Kaiya, please forgive me.


Plot

Kumo denied any culpability in any attack that may have occurred during the exams. It was infuriating, but without substantial evidence, there was nothing Konoha could do. And, as Kumo rightly pointed out, it could have been any of the other villages who were responsible.

The Aburame wanted an answer, one which Hiruzen was unable to provide at the moment. Regretfully, he informed Shibi as much, and the clan head accepted that after a prolonged silence. However, he requested that should the identity of the culprit be confirmed that he be informed immediately. Hiruzen agreed to that, and the clan head left his office.

Alone, Hiruzen lit his pipe and puffed it in silence.

It was strange to have Shibi being so confrontational, at least in the man’s own way. It wasn’t long ago when the Aburame never raised a fuss. However, with the advent of Kaiya amongst their number, Shibi had become more… proactive. Hiruzen had never expected the steady man to threaten to take his clan and leave the village, but he had, all for the sake of the girl who had nearly been kidnapped by Root. Now he was insistent that he be informed of which shinobi village attempted to assassinate the same girl. Granted, if she had been born in his own clan, Hiruzen would be proactive in raising and protecting the girl as much if not more than Shibi was proving to be.

Still, regardless of the girl’s Shapers, it was terrible that another village had come so close to assassinating a kunoichi of the Leaf, and within her own clan compound at that.

Whether it truly was Kumo or another village, such an insult could not be allowed to go without a response.

Not that anything would be left to tie it back to Konoha, of course.


Panic

Waking up is a struggle, and not one that you are certain you want to overcome. Everything hurts and you can’t see. Trying to fully wake up is like trying to swim upwards through heavy sludge. It is an arduous task, and the only reason you keep on it is the thought of Father.

What happened? You remember light and pain, but you remember that Father had been close behind as well. Was he hurt?

If something had happened to him, you needed to be awake to help him.

And yet, even when you feel as though you are mostly awake, you cannot see anything. A kikaichu emerges from your wrist (why can’t you feel the other one?) and flies over to your head. It lands and crawls over your face, particularly where your eyes should be, and it relays that there is a cover over it. Investigating some more, you soon realize that your head is bandaged up, and you feel a bit of relief.

For a while there, you thought you had gone blind.

The gratitude is washed away by a throb of pain from… several places, actually. Damn it all, what the hell happened to you? Are you in the hospital? You’re probably in the hospital. But what about your kikaichu? If you were unconscious then—oh, wait, your hive is familiar with at least three people in the hospital (Amano, Shin and Nishida), so it was probably one of them who treated you since your hive wouldn’t register them as threats.

Trying to speak, you find that you can’t. Not only does your face hurt, your throat is dry. The attempt, though, finally gets attention where the lone kikaichu hadn’t. Your hearing is somewhat muffled due to the wrappings on your head, but you guess that someone is calling for a medic-nin to report your return to consciousness.

You are proven right by the loud voice of Shin. He asks a question before realizing that you probably need water, which he provides. This leads to the discovery that even swallowing hurts, which is just unfair. You ask what happened, and really, you should know better than to ask Shin for information. Why?

Because he lays out the cold truth without sugar coating it.

You’ve lost your right arm, suffered burns of varying degrees along most of your front, had to have your hair shaved off, and yes, you’ve been blinded.

You’d think that was the worst thing, and it nearly is. However, you barely start your pity party when Shin drops the most important piece of information.

“—and you’ve been out for just over four days now.”

Fuck.

Sending out your kikaichu to spell the words for ‘father’ and ‘now’, you can only hope that it won’t be too late.


I'd love to tell you I had some deep revelation on my way down, that I came to terms with my own mortality, laughed in the face of death, et cetera.

The truth? My only thought was: Aaaaggghhhhh!

~Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

Chapter Text

Slow down and think. Panic doesn’t solve problems; it just creates new ones.

~Jason Fry, The Last Jedi


Relief

As you wait, hoping that someone is actually fetching Father, you take stock of yourself. Shin said that you’ve lost your eyes, and that sucks balls, but eye donors are a thing (you think; it was possible in your previous world, and it should be here too). Your biggest concern is your missing arm which is… a total loss, and pretty much the end of knitting, jutsu, and flute playing.

Damn. You made yourself want to cry.

Okay, keep it together.

Pushing aside the fact of lost hobbies and anything requiring two hands, you focused on the rest of your body. Your face hurt, and Shin said you’d been disfigured, which was a shame since you’d had such pretty pale skin, something Father once said you’d gotten from Mother. As for your body, your shoulders and thighs were hurting in the same way your face was. Your torso, however…

Ah. Your longstanding habit from childhood has come to save you, at least in part—paste stuck against your skin, disguised as akin, seems to have taken the worst of the injuries to the torso from the explosion. It’s missing now, and your torso is past ‘tender feeling’, so you were probably still burned. The wounds would probably be worse if not for that habit, though.

You don’t want to move. You’d like to stay right where you are and recover, if such was possible.

However, you don’t have that luxury. It would be one thing if you’d straight up died, since you wouldn’t be alive to care, but you weren’t dead. You had survived, and you had regained consciousness before the deadline for the dead man switches was up, so now you had a choice. You could either let the ‘switches’ activate and have Konoha fall apart around you (and probably get tortured, mind-walked and branded as a traitor), or you could try to prevent the switches from… from…

Your rapidly beating heart slows slightly as your mind regains more coherency and you remember more things that you had briefly forgotten since waking up.

Thinking hard, you remember that you usually set things up so that if five days go by and you don’t show up to check on the hives then they go in search of water to drown in, fire to fly into, or humans to sting. However, you never leave them in the same place, and you always collect them before leaving on missions to store them either beneath your floor boards in winter, or hide them in the backyard during the other seasons. You hadn’t known what the expect during the chunin exams, so you had collected the Five hives which should still be in your backyard (and you really hope that none of them were caught up in the blast because you aren’t sure if explosions count as a catalyst, but knowing your luck it probably does). With all the foreign shinobi in the village, you hadn’t planted the Five hives anywhere in the village, so…

So there are no dead man switches to deactivate as all Five hives were in hibernation.

(he hears his student wheeze, prompting him to look over at her, but she seems to be relieved instead of agitated, and that’s better since agitated patients can be so damn stubborn)


Trepidation

You want to laugh in relief, but you don’t. Instead you just thank your lucky stars that this stupid exam kept you from planting the Five hives anywhere. If you had and actually needed Father to take some of your kikaichu to go let them know you were still alive, then you would have pretty much dug your own grave. After all, surely Father would have had questions, and the Hokage too, and there’s no good answer you could have given for having ticking time bombs like that in the village, especially under the Hokage’s orders not to create new contagious diseases.

The fact that they weren’t new probably wouldn’t have meant anything to him except a one-way ticket to T&I for you.

Shivering slightly, you gave another wheezy sigh of relief. You weren’t up shit creek without a paddle (where did you get these phrases from?).

Caught up in your thoughts, you startle when Father’s voice makes its way to your ears through the bandages. Regardless, you reach out for him and feel his hands cradle yours. ‘Seeing’ him, you confirm that it really is Father.

It’s so dark. You can’t imagine not seeing anything ever again, so you ask of him, “Father, please, may I have your eyes? I-I can make you new ones. I can’t for myself, but—“

Father’s hands tighten slightly around your one remaining. “Of course, Kaiya. You may have them.”

(overhearing them, he resists the urge to roll his eyes and starts planning for that particular procedure as he quietly slips out of the room to leave the parent and child alone)

You think you hear a door slid open and shut, but since no one speaks up, you brush it aside. For now, you concentrate on ‘seeing’ Father and telling yourself that you won’t be blind forever. If an eye transplant was impossible, he would have told you.

Honestly, you just hope your body doesn’t reject them.


Houses

Eventually leaving the room and hospital (after an informational visit from Shin and Amano regarding Kaiya’s healing progress and the planned eye transplant), Teijo headed home. Their house had since been repaired, but Teijo was considering moving them again. Having one’s front door explode tended to put a damper on the idea of staying there. Having one’s front door explode in the face of one’s daughter simply added to the desire to move. If Kaiya did not want to remain in the house, then Teijo would move them. In fact, he should bring that up next time he went to visit her, in case she wanted to move straight into a new place whenever she was discharged from the hospital.

Paranoid, he sent his kikaichu in to check the front door and only entered the house once they confirmed that it was safe. In the short time she’d been gone, the house had grown empty and quiet again. However, this time, Teijo doubted she would fill it with all her once-familiar noise. After all, with just one hand, how could she play her flute or knit again?

Fixing himself a simple and nutritious meal, Teijo ate silently, sitting alone. He wondered, how would have his wife reacted to Kaiya’s current situation? She’d want revenge, he knows that much. He wants revenge for what was done to Kaiya, but there is no positive confirmation on who is responsible. Most of the clan suspects Kumo, but a few primarily blame Iwa.

Personally, Teijo suspects Kumo. It was the Kumo genin who withdrew from the tournament, and Kumo who was absent from the village, first among all the visiting nations to leave. Thus, Teijo bears a grudge against Iwa for Kazue, and now a grudge against Kumo for Kaiya.

Setting the chopsticks against the top of the empty bowl, Teijo reached up and pulled off his shades to pinch the bridge of his nose.

At least now, since she could no longer be a kunoichi, Kaiya could stay home where it was… hm. Thinking back on it, she was in just as much, if not more, danger at home than she had been outside of the village during the war.

Painful irony.


Copies

It is three weeks before the eye transplant surgery. In that time, you are put under the Mystical Healing Palm more times than you can count, and you get skin grafts that come from not only yourself but other clan members as well. Father had wanted to give his skin to you as well, but his skin was a different shade than yours and you hadn’t protested when Amano had pointed this out. You felt bad about it, but not enough to change your mind. Besides, he was giving you his eyes.

Or at least, that’s what you thought, right up until you made copies in advance for the surgery. Assuming you were alone with Father, you had asked him for one of the flowers you had been given from Torune on his most recent visit (all three of Shibi’s sons had dropped by at least once, and Torune and Yoji more than once). Directing Father to hold up your remaining hand, you had your ‘Shapers’ reform the flower into a copy of Father’s left eye. Another flower had been required to finish it, but when you were done, a copy of Father’s left eye sat on your palm and you were telling Father that he could see for himself that you definitely could give him back his eye sight after he had given you his eyes.

“But why would he need to give them to you if you can just make copies we can transplant instead?”

You nearly dropped the eye at Amano’s voice suddenly cutting into your bubble, and you protested when someone lifted the eye from your palm.

“Amazing. You definitely haven’t lost your touch, Kaiya-chan. From what I can tell, this is a fully functioning eye. I’m going to go store it. Make the other one, would you?”

She left, and you grumbled a bit before complying with her request.

Come to think of it, why hadn’t you ever thought of that? Why couldn’t you make copies of organs or such and then just have them transplanted to you? Naturally they couldn’t be exact replicas of yours, you can’t do that, but same-blood types should theoretically work, right?

Oh, wait, the reason you never thought of it was because you had never needed to. Right now, though, you were blind and needed eyes, so all you could do was hope that Amano’s idea would work.

Better than having Father’s eyes plucked from his skull and given to you only to have them rejected, right?


Possibility

Shin listened as Amano addressed the change in plans for the eye transplant. He hoped the copied eyes would work and save them the trouble of removing the eyes from the head of a shinobi from one of the four noble clans. Since they were exact copies, it should work. If it failed, though, they wouldn’t just move on to taking Teijo-san’s eyes, since that would indicate that Kaiya’s body wouldn’t accept the originals either. They would have to look into eyes from other people, though in that case they would likely press Kaiya into making copies in order to avoid removing the originals from the (probably still living) donors.

Speaking of copies, he thought back to when she was first rolled into the surgery room following her admittance into the hospital after her father brought her in. Amano had been too emotional to take the lead, and Shin had stepped up to take her place. Kaiya was his student too, but he could cut into her if needed (and he had, for the skin grafts and to carve out charred cloth). He’d been surprised to discover her false skin, so to speak. Her entire torso from front to back had been covered by a layer of fake flesh. He’d known it was fake due to the lack of nerves, but if not for that layer then the girl’s injuries would have been worse.

Thinking about it, he wondered if it was possible for her to fake a copy of her own face over the disfigurement that had been a result of the explosion. He’d have to bring it up, if the girl didn’t think of it herself. Unfortunately, he doubted the same trick would work for her missing limb. After all, a limb was comprised of more than just a layer of flesh, so that was probably beyond Kaiya’s abilities. Transplants of whole limbs were not an easy thing, even with the Mystical Healing Palm technique.

Although, maybe in small segments…?


Vision

Shin was being cautious and made you wait three days for your body to acclimate to your new eyes (the copies of Father’s) before he would remove the bandages to check if they had been accepted. You had to admit, if only to yourself, that you were nervous. What if your body had rejected the eyes? You hadn’t ‘looked’ at the eyes with your Quirk, and had avoided using your Quirk altogether, really, so you didn’t know.

Heart pounding in your chest as the last of the bandages unravelled and were pulled away, you kept your eyelids closed (and it was amazing to think that they had been saved despite the glass and the heat from the explosion). Your one hand clenched the cloth of your hospital bed as you tried to summon the courage to open your eyes. Even after Shin said you could, it was still nearly a minute before you dared to try.

Blinking your eyes open, your heart stutters as you see light. Your vision is blurry, but the more you blink, the more clearly you can see!

“Kaiya?”

Turning your head to look at Father—to look at him, to see him—you can’t stop a trembling smile from appearing on your face.

“Father… I can see you. I can see you…!”

You let out a laugh and lean towards him, prompting him to catch you in an embrace. Nuzzling your head against his chest, you stare at his jacket and let out a shaky breath.

You can see.

You can see!


Face

Despite being offered a mirror, you decline. You’re not quite ready to see the damage to your face, and Amano obliges your request to have your face wrapped up again. You know that you can’t avoid looking in a mirror forever, but you’re going to put it off for now.

Sitting and talking quietly with Father, you want to agree to moving out of the house, but your Five hives are still hibernating beneath your floorboards. You can’t explain them, so you argue against changing houses. In the end, Father agrees to stay in the house, but if you change your mind, you can let him know.

Father can’t stay, and he’s leaving the village on a mission tomorrow, so it feels like it is too soon when he finally says that he has to go. You say goodbye and tell him to be safe. He just gently pats your shoulder before leaving, not saying that he will be.

The next day, Shin talks to you about the fake layer of flesh you’d had before, and together you hatch a plot to reconstruct your face. However, that means looking into a mirror to see the damage done in order to know just how much of your face you’ll have to remake.

It’s very hard not to burst into tears, and you don’t quite manage it.


Pain in this life is not avoidable, but the pain we create avoiding pain is avoidable.

~R.D. Laing

Chapter Text

Sorrow spares no one, and scars respect no person.

~Sherrilyn Kenyon, Infamous


Unattractive

The sheer emotional reaction you get after seeing your face for the first time results in putting the plan off for now.

Shin doesn’t protest your decision and sets the mirror away for when you’re ready.

(your face is hideous)


Face

You have been requesting that Jirou and Arata be turned away from your hospital room, and so far they’ve been kept away. Father was present the one time they tried to get to your window, but he stuck his head out the window and stared down at them until they ran away. Hamada said they thought you were mad at them, particularly Arata, but you told her that you aren’t ready to face them as you are.

You had reached up towards your wrapped face, not exactly touching, and your sensei had relented. She’d spoken to you a firm, disappointed voice, but switched to a softer tone. She said she’d tell them, but the sooner you let them see you, the better.

You have your eyesight back, so you decide that it is time. You let Amano, Shin, Nishida and Father know that your teammates can see you, if they come to visit. It takes four days, but they do. Jirou brings you a book, and Arata brings you a large bouquet of flowers. The three of you talk, and you ask them what they’ve been doing since the exams, but you can tell that they feel uncomfortable with how you look, all wrapped up like a mummy.

Arata says his grandmother came to thank you, but she hadn’t been allowed to see you either. You apologize, and he apologizes, and in the end he says that his grandmother might come see you now that you’re allowing visitors. He fidgets in place, prompting Jirou to jab him with an elbow. This is the push he needs, because he blurts out the thing on his mind.

Thank you, Kaiya.”

You’ve all grown past using honorifics between the three of you, but you have to blink. Why—

“You saved my life, didn’t you?”

Oh. Right. Actually…

“Sensei says that if it wasn’t for you, I’d be dead. I was hurt pretty badly and wouldn’t have made it even with the medic-nin at the stadium if you hadn’t stepped in.”

Hm? Ooh. Is this what he’s been told? That he didn’t die, that he was only close to dying?

Jirou sniffed and clapped Arata on the back. “Yeah, you even looked pretty dead for a minute there. Fooled everyone, that’s how bad you looked.”

Arata thanks you again and you tell him honestly that you’d do it anytime, for him and Jirou. This prompts Jirou to say thanks but also to run away, and Arata goes with him. The boys are caring, but talking about feelings is still beyond their comfort zones.

Left alone, you gently pat the flowers on your lap. If anyone else was here with you, they’d put the flowers in a vase, or at least off to the side, but you were alone when your teammates dropped by. The flowers are fresh, and you can ‘see’ the life left in them. Remembering the uneasy glances you had gotten from your teammates, who were so uncomfortable that they didn’t even comment that you weren’t wearing sunglasses, you call upon your Shapers and your Quirk.

By the time Amano returns to check on you, there is a lump of flesh on your lap the same color as your skin. You ask her to help you, to hold up a mirror and add her comments.

“I don’t remember what my face looked like. Tell me if I get it wrong.”


Guise

Before her eyes, Amano watched as Kaiya molded the biological material over her face. It was true that the girl seemed to have forgotten what her face looked like, and she kept glancing at Amano’s own face as a reference, but together they were able to reconstruct a good likeness. The lilac color spread throughout the replacement flesh faded and left a familiar skin-tone in its place. Kaiya had even gone as far to cover the lesser scarred areas to smooth out her appearance, almost as though she had never been hurt at all. But, having known her prior to the explosion, something felt off about it.

Her ‘new face’ was a marvel. She opened her mouth wide and shut, and moved her lower jaw side to side, and her face moved with it. She had reconstructed her lips, even formed a thin cover for her eyelids and had regrown eyelashes, but there was something… oh. It was her eyes. Or rather, the fact that she wasn’t wearing her usual sunglasses.

Kaiya commented on that herself and asked for the pair her father had brought and which were sitting nearby. Setting the mirror down briefly, Amano slid them onto her face, supported by ears she had also covered in a thin layer of skin to hide the burn scars. Sitting back, Amano felt something lighten in her chest.

Her student looks like herself again.

(it’s a mask and you hate that you need it, but at the same time you’re so pathetically grateful that Shin’s idea seems like it will work, that you won’t have to let others see your scars if you don’t want them to)


Mask

More than anyone, you know that your face isn’t healed.

You can’t do that for yourself, not even after having copied Father’s eyes to put in your own head. Father’s eyes were a perfect copy of his real ones, hence were not part of ‘you’. If you ‘look’ with your Quirk, you can ‘see’ the eyes in your head, but that sight tapers off where they connect at the back of your eye sockets, and with every day that passes, you ‘see’ less and less. Slowly but surely, your body is accepting the pair of eyes as your own, as part of ‘you’, and there will probably come a day when you can’t use your Quirk to ‘look’ at them anymore.

You can’t reconstruct your face, not truly. What you currently have on is a flesh mask, stuck to your face by a combination of your Shapers and your Quirk. It’s a low-key energy drain, much like the fake layer you wore over your torso (and need to replace, come to think of it). Depending on your level of activity, you could probably keep it up all day without trouble. It’s more intensive than what you wore over your torso since that didn’t need fine details, but it’s still manageable.

At least you don’t have to worry about leaving the hospital to show the world that you’re permanently disfigured. You can hide behind this mask, and that’s preferable to the looks you think you’d get from the civilians since at least most shinobi wouldn’t point it out.

You doubt the arm issue will be so easily solved, though.


House

The healing abilities of medic-nin, while nowhere near the level of miracles your Quirk could perform, are formidable. The magnitude of your burns that would have taken months and a great many skin graft surgeries are completed within two months. Without your flesh mask, you are misshapen, but you are still healed and capable of leaving the hospital.

Infection probably would have killed you, though, if not for your Quirk.

Still, you’re glad to finally be leaving the hospital. Shin has been plying the idea of an arm transplant, of copying someone’s arm and giving you surgery to attach it, but you don’t want the disappointment of trying and failing. Maybe in a year or two you will feel brave enough to try, but for now you’re not. Even with your flesh mask, you hide behind sunglasses and more layers of clothing, going as far as having a high collar and a hood over your head.

It is official though: you are no longer part of Team 4.

Oh, Jirou, Arata and even Hamada-sensei all say that you’ll always be part of the team, but you can’t go on missions with them anymore. They’re going to be getting a new member to replace you and there’s nothing you can do about it. A one-armed genin is simply unthinkable. You’re still in the registry as a genin, but that’s as far as you’ll ever get. You will no longer be taking on missions or performing other genin-level duties, though, since you are now technically retired. You might be drafted in emergencies, but that’s about it.

Walking home with Father, you still keenly feel the absence of your right arm. Currently you have your right side next to Father, but part of you wants to hold on to him. You squish that part, though, and continue on, eyes darting around warily. Father likely notices your unease, but he doesn’t say anything, for which you are grateful.

Arriving home and facing the now-repaired front door, you find your feet rooted to the ground. This… this is where it happened. This is where your life as a kunoichi came to an abrupt end. Would things have turned out the same way if you hadn’t rushed ahead in embarrassment? You want to slap yourself, to tell yourself that Father’s teasing hadn’t meant anything. So what if you’d had a slip of the tongue and nearly said ‘my Arata’? If you hadn’t gotten embarrassed…

Maybe Father would have gotten caught up in the blast too. You would have been right behind him, ready to enter the house, and you both would have gotten caught in the explosion. Would Father have survived? Would you have still been knocked unconscious and therefore unable to help him?

Perhaps it’s best that things happened as they did. You don’t like how things are, but if the alternative is risking Father’s life…

You startle as Father puts a hand on your back. A steam of kikaichu is returning to him from the house, so it’s likely safe to open the door.

It’s still one of the hardest things you’ve ever done, though, to open the front door on your own.


Ideas

Doing things one-handed is difficult, and your teachers at the hospital all tell you that using one hand will become easier with practice, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are some things you can’t do with just one hand.

Your bamboo flute is covered in a thin layer of dust, so it’s best to clean it before it is used, but…

With careful, deliberate motions, you open a drawer and put the flute inside before sliding it shut. In a similar manner, you take your knitted basket and hide it away in the closet in the furthest corner.

(you’d been getting better at both hobbies, had enjoyed them, but they’d been taken from you with the loss of your right hand)

Taking a deep breath, you opened the window shutters to let in fresh air. From there you proceeded to dust your room and clean. Father wasn’t there, observing your verbal request to be left alone until mealtime, so you did everything yourself. Luckily, Father had been airing out your futon whenever he did his, and the latest was recent enough that you didn’t feel the need to do it again, so you left your bed things alone.

As an Aburame, you were more minimalist than what you recalled from your past life’s memories, so you didn’t have as much too clean. It was a pain doing it one-handed, but even with that handicap, you put your room in order relatively quickly. Even checking on the Five hives didn’t take long.

Sitting alone in your room, you were now left alone with your thoughts, something you’ve come to hate since sometime during your hospital stay. With nothing to distract you, it was far too easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. That wasn’t productive, so you tried to catch yourself whenever you did that. Now that you were home again, perhaps you could pick up a new hobby. You had started reading more often while in the hospital, but you don’t always feel like reading.

Maybe you could pick up gardening? Hm, but parts of working in a garden probably require two hands.

Well, working in the hospital is a given, especially since you don’t need two hands to either use your Quirk or direct your Shapers in non-combative situations, but that’s work. You want other things to do for relaxation and stuff.

Singing? Eh, no, your throat was healed, but your voice doesn’t sound the same as it used to. There’s a rasp that you suspect might be permanent, so any singing would probably sound bad. Not that you probably would have been much better prior to the explosion, but whatever, the point is moot. No singing.

Walking is probably a hobby, but it’s probably going to be a while before anyone allows you to take walks on your own. Still, you put that down as a tentative hobby.

Go? Shogi? Ah, but you suck at those games. Or rather, you haven’t tried them in this lifetime, but you’d been fairly poor at them, right? Or rather, not interested, so you don’t really know either way. Alright, add learn go and shogi to the list of potential hobbies.

Paint? You have no patience and no sense of color. For goodness sake, you made an orange and brown scarf. Plus, painting supplies would be a cost that just keeps piling up, so no.

Becoming a writer and plagiarizing stories from your last life is another option. Although with this, you doubt your ability to recall anything in great detail. You’d probably get stories mixed up, too. And how would you change them to fit into this world? Eh, you’ll put this at the bottom of the list.

Of course, you could always mess around with your Shapers and your kikaichu. You do vaguely recall being interested in honey and silk. Cross honey off the list, though, due to harvesting needing two hands. Silk might be manageable, but what would you even do with it? Plus, creating new kikaichu on whim might just make people nervous and more likely to spy on you.

Speaking of spies, you should probably get rid of the Five hives for now. It’ll be a loss, but better than a trip to the T&I department. Besides, did you really want to kill Father, Jirou, Arata, Shino and the rest after you were dead? Just because you might die, do you really want to cut short the lives of people who are important to you?

…Kind of, especially since you wouldn’t be alive to care, but perhaps this urge is more from your past life than this life. After all, Konoha was home. You shouldn’t want to destroy your home.

Well, not now that Shimura was dead, anyway.

In the end, you repurpose the Five hives and make more Carnivores instead, filling out the shadows beneath your clothing. It’s a shame that you can’t use the Aburame jutsu anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get assistance from your hives. As long as you have chakra for them, they’ll help you out and do what you say, they just can’t multiply in large numbers for jutsu anymore.

Sighing, you laid on the floor and stared up at the ceiling.

…Could you learn to knit one-handed, maybe?


Future

It takes all of two days before you banish your knitting basket back into the closet. Maybe it is possible to knit one-handed, but you’re not in the right mindset to keep at it until you get it. Reading and walking are easiest at this point, and you might as well commit yourself to learning how to playing at least one of either go or shogi. Even with the expenses from kunai and other ninja tools, you have a bit saved up from your time as a genin. You can use that in search of new hobbies, but eventually that money will run out.

Now that you’re not a genin, how will you earn money? You’ll have to figure something out at the hospital most likely. After all, you don’t want to be a burden on Father. Plus, you’ll have to manage your own household someday, right? No man in his right mind would want you now, but you’ll still have to live for a few decades yet, and that means earning money for living expenses. Even if you can’t be a kunoichi anymore, your Shapers (and Quirk) are still useful, right? Yeah, you just have to figure out how to make a living off of it.

Putting a pin on that thought for the next time you go to the hospital, you stand up. Father is off doing who-knows-what, and he asked you to stay home, but he didn’t say you couldn’t go out into the backyard.

Sitting on the porch, you looked over the backyard and realized it was rather plain. There was some space for training, targets for kunai throwing, and a straw mat wrapped around a tree for hitting, but it was all so utilitarian. Not very aesthetic, but not enough to make you reconsider becoming a gardener. Well, at least the air was nice.

Closing your eyes, you quietly enjoyed a breeze.

There are times when you’ve considered the future, but ever since you landed in the hospital, it all seems so uncertain. The plans you had, they’ve been changed by your circumstance. You don’t know how things will turn out, but you hope that it isn’t too bad.

The main thing, you think, is not trapping yourself in a room or in a house with only yourself for company. You need Father and others in your life, so you have to make sure that you don’t keep them out. Already you can feel yourself wanting to build walls around you, to hide your disfigured self from everyone, but that wouldn’t be healthy. You would destroy yourself that way, and probably drag down the village with you.

It’s strange, how you suddenly seem reluctant to bring others down with you, but doesn’t that mean you’re more Kaiya than the person you were in the life before?

Well, never mind all that. You just have to take things one day at a time, and surely everything will be, if not okay, then tolerable.

Yeah. You can work towards that.


When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?

~Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Chapter Text

Life is an awful, ugly place to not have a best friend.

~Sarah Dessen, Someone Like You


Failed

Aburame Kaiya’s miracle cannot be reproduced, not even by the Hyuuga with their Byakugan. Kitagawa, confirmed dead by their eyes, was resurrected, also confirmed by their eyes. Attempts to copy her technique have all met with failure, not that there is an abundance of fresh corpses to practice on. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, not when the Byakugan saw the Aburame girl force a body to live before the chakra would take.

Chakra shouldn’t work that way, and for everyone besides Kaiya, that holds true. A person once dead cannot be brought back—unless it is by her hands. Her Shapers play a vital role, and the medic-nin consulted on the issue theorize that only a freshly dead corpse can be revived, otherwise the rot will be too much even for Aburame Kaiya to restore.

The girl in question has finally left the hospital, though has yet to leave her clan compound. Hyuuga Hiashi has not changed his stance—the Hyuuga are not to let her touch them.

(but perhaps if he hadn’t held on to that, if he had only just asked, then perhaps his daughters would still have a mother)

Hiashi doubts that the girl will continue on the path of a becoming a kunoichi, but from what he understands of her Shapers, the path of an unconventional medic-nin is still open to her. Speaking of, he’ll need to make sure that the hospital doesn’t allow her to see Hyuuga patients.


Hair

The face issue was solved, but your hair is still distressingly short. It’s growing out, but it isn’t the same as it used to be. At least this is a slightly easier issue to deal with since your hair will grow back, unlike your flesh which will remain misshapen. For now, it’s easy to create a wig of human hair. Technically speaking, human hair isn’t alive, but you can manipulate its growth from the follicle. Making a skull covering is easy, as is creating hair roots and follicles, so it isn’t long after you’ve been home that you start wearing a wig of short hair.

Father does a slight double-take the first time he sees it, but he doesn’t tell you to stop. It’s a little weird to have him refrain from commenting on things you’d thought he’d comment on at least once, but perhaps he simply doesn’t want to risk being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Normally you’d expect him to say something about not hiding or facing your fears, but he’d nearly lost you, so perhaps he is holding back out of apprehension? Well, either way, you’re glad he doesn’t point it out.

Besides, you’re only going to wear this until your actual hair grows out a bit more. A few inches are fine, as long as it’s not the unsightly scraggly mess it currently was.

Although now you wonder if there are people out there who would buy a wig like this. It was ‘real’ enough, after all. Ooh, maybe you could make ones with long, black hair and have them made into geisha wigs? But then again, in this day and age, those kinds of girls probably used their actual hair. You don’t know, you’re not a maiko or geisha.

…Part of you wants to have fun with wigs now. Red hair, blonde hair, brown hair, black hair, all lengths and thicknesses—how different could each one make you look?

(he almost chokes on his tea the first time he sees his daughter with rainbow-colored curls)


Birthday

Your twelfth birthday comes as a surprise. Ever since the chunin exams, you’ve been preoccupied with keeping yourself busy while living with the flesh mask on your face. You completely forgot that it was coming up, so Father’s announcement that you will be going out to eat with Shibi-sama’s sons is a genuine surprise.

That’s for the evening, though, leaving the rest of the day for you to muse on the fact that hey, you are twelve years old now. It doesn’t make you happy, and indeed you feel dour remembering that puberty is just around the corner, but some time during the day, a memory comes back to you.

Twelve is the age when girls in your old world would start wearing uniforms, right? There’s no way you’d want to wear them now, even with the way you can disguise your scars, but you dig up the old drawing you did one time. It hasn’t changed, and it still depicts a top with short sleeves with a v-shaped neck and cloth in the v-shaped part to conceal potential cleavage. There is also a scarf, which is supposed to be red according to your notes. The last part was a skirt with pleats. The majority of it was black, and there were white lines along the cape-thing around the neck. A school uniform, if your thinking was right.

You can hardly imagine going to school wearing something like this with a bunch of other girls wearing the same thing. There hadn’t been any war, had there? You don’t think so, not with how relaxed a lot of your memories seem to be. Although, if this was what the girls wore, what did the boys wear?

Shaking your head, you put away the drawing again and heard Father calling you. Right, he said he’d take you shopping for a gift, anything you’d like, within reason.

Dubious, but willing to try for his sake, you made up your mind to choose something that you would either actually use or keep for a long time.

(you choose a wooden folding fan and he buys you four, each with a different painting on their silk)


Celebration

Dinner with Shibi-sama’s sons means all three of them including Shibi-sama himself. The seating arrangement is Torune at the end across from Yoji, yourself next to him and across from Shino, while the fathers are across each other on one end of the table. No one is dressed up, thankfully, and it remains an informal meal aside from the gifts you get from the boys at the end of the meal. After clearing the area of any potential venomous escapees from Torune, you all leave the restaurant and walk home together.

Torune insists on walking next to you, and on keeping up a mostly one-sided conversation. It’s a relief to finally part from Shibi-sama’s group and head on your separate ways inside the compound grounds, though you don’t let that show on your face.

Actually, with the flesh mask, it’s exceedingly easy to keep your ‘face’ straight. There is no more blushing or other facial cues for people to take note of, not when you can manipulate the flesh mask into remaining blank. It’s a cheat skill, but at least it’s one you can make use of.

Sitting in your room, you finally have time to unwrap the gifts from the boys. Shino’s gift is a book on entomology, while Yoji gave you a pair of hairpins topped with wooden painted ladybugs. Torune’s present to you was a stand-up mirror with a metal frame and flowers along the top.

You hate the mirror, but not because Torune gave it to you. No, you simply hate all mirrors because they don’t lie to you when you look into them. They show you as you are, scarred and ugly until you hide behind a mask. Part of you wants to destroy the mirror, to throw it away, but you refrain. Mirrors serve their purpose, and you shouldn’t throw away a gift.

Still, of all the three of them, you like the gift from Yoji the most, although even that isn’t too much since your actual hair is still too short.


Glimpse

Autumn has its grasp on the land the next time you see Naruto. Unfortunately, you see him just as an adult threw something at him to make him step away from his shopping stand, striking the boy on the shoulder. No one else seems to be showing any pity. In fact, most people are staring at him with malice or disgust, as though he was some kind of leper or something.

Naruto runs in the opposite direction and the stall owner is soon conducting business as normal. No one seems disturbed by how he treated a child, and in fact most of the people are acting as though it didn’t happen while a few are whispering to each other. Did you miss something? Was Naruto rude, or a thief?

Concerned, you head in the direction Naruto left in, but you don’t find him. Not trying very hard, you mentally shrug and continue on your original task of picking up vegetables for the house. You left the compound ‘alone’, but you doubt that you are actually unobserved. Then again, if you are, yay. If not, there’s no reason to possibly raise suspicion by seeking out a child you aren’t related to.

You feel a bit of guilt at not actually finding Naruto to find out if he’s okay, but it’s not as though you’re really invested in him. He brings up too many bad feelings and memories for you to feel any enjoyment at the sight of him. Still, in case you see him again, maybe you should carry around some kind of little treat or gift.

You know, just in case.


Bracelets

Jirou and Arata show up at your house, which is a surprise since that means they either made it past the front gate or somehow made it over the walls without getting caught between there and here. Still, they’re genin and your former teammates, so it’s more likely that they came in through the front gate. This isn’t the first time they’ve been to your house, but it has been rather a long while since their last visit.

You’re wearing a red wig today, prompting questions and teasing, but they quickly stop after you tell them about your insecurities about your still growing hair. The awkwardness doesn’t linger too long, and they’ve stopped by because Jirou’s friendship bracelet broke. It’s not the first time the thing has broken, but instead of a new one for his wrist, he says he wants to have his stitched onto his weapons pouch like Hamada sensei has hers. He’ll do it himself, but first he actually needs you to make him a new bracelet, which you agree to. Arata says he’ll stop by the next time his breaks too, so you make a mental note to finish the first half of his bracelet since you could just add his bead on and then finish off the last half and be done with it sooner.

They stick around to help you do it since you only have one hand, but with Jirou helping out, you manage it. You lost yours in the explosion, yarn and bead both, and you haven’t brought it up with any of them. Neither they nor sensei seem to have noticed, or perhaps they don’t want to bring it up since it would mean bringing up that incident again.

You miss your friendship bracelet.


Remembrance

(you dream)

Sitting on a couch in a room with five others, you immediately get the sense that there is noise, but you cannot hear it. The room is dim, and you turn your attention to a corner where a girl is holding a metal stick and… singing. Yes, you can’t hear, but ‘singing’ feels right for what she’s doing. There is a metal box behind her and you can’t focus on it, but inside the frame of it, there’s a moving picture. It’s bright and colorful, at odds with the dimly lit room.

The girl finishes and seems to laugh as she hands the metal stick off to a boy.

(blue hair)

The moving picture changes and this time it is the boy who sings. He isn’t ashamed, and the smile on his face says he’s having fun. The metal stick changes hands with everyone in the room until it’s your turn. Bemused, you move when the girl next to you gently pushes your shoulder. Standing up, you take the metal stick from the boy who just finished his song.

(the biggest of the three boys)

You get the sense that you had already picked your song, or that someone had picked it for you. It should feel nerve-wracking to stand in front of people to sing, but for some reason, this feels natural, as though you’ve done it many times before. Yes, the feeling you get from being here, you’re all comfortable with each other.

You’re all friends.

(your five)

The scenery shifts suddenly, and you are no longer in the cheerful room.

There is sand, a beach, and a grey ocean on side with houses on the other. Snow is falling and… you waited here for something, didn’t you? Had it already come, or not yet?

Looking around, you don’t see anyone, not even a version of yourself. You know that you’re still Kaiya in this dream, a stranger in a strange world, but you should have been a grown up in this moment.

A young and foolish adult.

Who made a mistake.

You should be somewhere else, with Mom and Dad. You need to be with them!

But even though you want to move to go looking for them, you are rooted to the spot, and it feels like cold is setting into your bones.

A noise, and you startle, managing to turn your head to look.

Blond hair.

Your wait is over.

But there’s somewhere else you should be!

(you jerk awake, trembling and unable to hold on to what had upset you so)


A dream has power to poison sleep.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Mutability"

Chapter Text

You can't reason with your heart; it has its own laws, and thumps about things which the intellect scorns.

~Mark Twain


Acclimation

You have worked things out with the hospital and Father. Since you are still on the genin registry, you are still an adult under the law. This means that you can be employed, and the hospital has offered you a part-time job which should eventually transition into a full-time position. Your official sensei is Amano (much to the aggravation of Shin and disappointment of Nishida) and she will be the one who will direct you. Your studies increase, so you spend at least one hour a day in the office just reading medical texts. The rest of the time is spent shadowing Amano or helping out Shin or Nishida, all of which goes towards helping you understand more about how the hospital operates. You know a lot from your previous times here, but you can’t escape the mandatory required hours before you can move on to working on your own.

Your Shapers (and Quirk) are utilized most days for small things, though Amano informed you that the difficulty and magnitude of what you treat will slowly but surely increase over time. Most patients are leery of your lilac hands and the knowledge that insects will be crawling around inside them, but Amano doesn’t let anyone get away with trying to either be rude or escape your treatment. In your experience, medic-nin come in two types: they’re either easy to walk all over, or they’re scary as hell. Amano and Shin are the latter, while Nishida is the former.

You’re not sure what type you are, being only a part-timer, but you think you’re going to be some type of unholy version of the latter. After all, you have the ability to paralyze any unruly patients. It won’t be long before people are afraid of you, and that probably won’t turn out well if your patients are shinobi. If they’d rather die in the streets than come to the hospital and be put under your ‘tender care’, then yeah, things could get bad for you.

…Hm. Well, you’ll just have to figure things out on a case-by-case basis. Besides, if you heal them up quickly and they realize that they just have to sit under your power for that amount of time before they can escape, then maybe you won’t have to deal with shinobi escaping from their beds.

“Damn, stupid idiot. Can’t strap them down to make them stay in bed, no, they’ll react badly. Let them risk bleeding out at home or knocking their heads after they pass out, yes, that’s preferable!”

Slowly sliding away from your angrily muttering sensei, you hoped that your career wouldn’t be nearly as stressful.


Ignored

You don’t wear your mental headband anymore and have replaced it with a plain cloth band. Hidden away in your layers of clothing, you aren’t too surprised when Naruto runs right by you. He’d turned the corner about a dozen feet ahead, and you’d thought for sure he’d stop when he noticed you, but he had barely glanced at you before running right by.

You continue on your way home, but the brief encounter leaves you with a mix of feelings. On one hand, you’re glad you didn’t have to deal with his exuberance or the feelings his appearance drags up, but on the other hand, it kind of hurts your feelings that he didn’t recognize you. At this point, you think you will have to call out to him to point out who you are, but do you really want to?

Thinking about it, no, you don’t really want to. After all, crossing paths with the boy was never an enjoyable encounter for you. He reminds you of too many people; your daughter, her father, and the green-haired boy. Perhaps it’s better if Naruto just fades out of your life.

Unfortunately, this resolve fades away the next time you see him.


Empathy

It is the orange of twilight as you walk home. Ahead of you are parents who are picking up their children from the park. The sight makes you think of Father who is gone out of the village, and you wish to see him again soon. Passing the park, you glance up the stairs and pause when you see Naruto standing alone with his head bowed.

He is alone, and you remember that he lives in the orphanage and therefore doesn’t have parents. How would you have felt, if Father had died too and you had had to grow up alone? If not for your Shapers, would anyone have spared you a glance? What would you have felt if you had had to watch your peers leave with people who loved them and you had no one?

(you were an orphan once, grown, but orphaned all the same)

Your breath catches in your throat as you realize that you did understand some of his pain. Your parents in your previous life had died and their deaths had left you damaged. You had wanted to see them again, but you had understood that you never would.

Remembering that pain makes you walk towards him, though you stop only a couple steps up.

“Uzumaki-kun?”

His head jerks up, no doubt surprised. “Wha—who are you?!”

He sounds confused and slightly hostile, but then again, you probably would be too if you were suddenly faced with a shady looking person dressed as you currently were.

“It is I, Aburame Kaiya.”

He squints his eyes, suspicious. “Kaiya-sister?”

You frown slightly behind your high collar. “It is ‘Aburame-big sister’ to you, Uzumaki-kun.”

Despite your slightly scolding tone, he brightens. “That way of talking… it is you Aburame-big sister! Where have you been?!”

He shouts the last thing as he runs up to you, coming down a couple stairs before stopping, grinning brightly up at you.

“I couldn’t find you anywhere. Where did you go?”

It’s not like you can hide it, so you gesture to your flat sleeve.

“I lost an arm and was in the hospital.”

His eyes widen as he shouts and points. “How do you lose an arm?!”

“There are many ways,” you reply, deadpan, “But I lost mine in an explosion.”

His shoulder slump. “Ah, sorry, Aburame-big sister. I was being rude, right?” He glanced up at you from under his eyelashes. “Are you… mad at me?”

“No,” you said truthfully. Kids are often tactless and don’t know any better. As long as he doesn’t make fun of you, the chances you’ll get angry are small.

He lifted his head, grinning slightly. “Oh, okay.” He fidgeted and clutched the hem of his shirt. “Um, Aburame-big sister…”

You waited as he tried to summon the courage to finish speaking.

Looking hopefully up at you, he blurted out, “Will you walk me home?” He shut his eyes and hunched his shoulders. “I’m not scared, and I know the way, but… but other kids have someone to take them home, and I don’t, and I was hoping maybeyouwould?”

The last part of his question is almost incoherent with how quickly he spits it out, but you already have the gist of his request. He wants you to walk him home, huh? Well, it’s a bit of an inconvenience, but he just hammered home again that he doesn’t have anyone, so you will, but first you need to settle a curiosity you have.

“Uzumaki-kun, I saw a stall owner throw something at you once. Why did he do that?”

“Huh?” Naruto frowned but it quickly turned into a scowl as he folded his arms and looked away. “I don’t know which stall owner you’re talking about, more than one has thrown something at me. I don’t why they hate me! They just do, and won’t let me buy from them, and they throw things when they get mad at me!”

“You’re not rude or mean to them first?”

His head jerked in your direction as he yelled. “No! They start it! I don’t know why!”

Maybe people are just jerks, then. You would suspect it might be his blond hair, but the Yamanaka are generally blond and they don’t have nearly as hard a time as shopping as Naruto does.

“Very well. I shall believe you for now. Do you still want me to walk you home?”

The anger is slow to slide off him and he sounds suspicious of you again, but he doesn’t run off. “You… you really will walk me home?”

“Of course.”

He stared for a moment before he grinned. “Great! Come on!”

He passed you on the stairs and turned at the bottom to wave at you. “Let’s go! I live in an apartment now!”

As you stepped down and took a place next to him, you felt some confusion.

Did someone adopt him? If so, why didn’t they come pick him up?


Denied

As it turns out, no, the boy wasn’t adopted. For some inexplicable reason, he was given an apartment and currently lived alone. You learn this in his chattering as you walk through the village, and he proudly announces your arrival when you come before what is indeed an apartment complex.

You insist on walking him all the way to his door and he doesn’t protest even when you basically invite yourself inside, but he is sheepish about how messy it is. There are empty ramen cups everywhere, and part of you is horrified because is that all he eats? There are some dishes in the sink, but no mess of dirty pots, just one pot which sits on the stove waiting for use. He doesn’t wash it much since he just uses it to boil water and that apparently counts as enough ‘washing’ for him. His refrigerator is nearly empty, and his cupboards are full of cup ramen, at least when they’re not empty.

Sitting at his table and watching him wash his one pot to prepare it for boiling water for the cup ramen dinner you distractedly agreed to stay for, you try to pull yourself together. Okay, clearly the boy knows how to boil water to make cup ramen, and that means he isn’t completely starving, but who in the hell allows a kid to live like this?! He’s, what, seven?

“I’m six,” he tells you cheerfully when you ask. He tapped his hands on the table as he sat across from you, waiting for the water to boil. “Hey, Aburame-big sister, are you a shinobi?”

“Kunoichi,” you corrected before pausing. “…At least, I was before I lost my arm. It is unlikely that I will rise above the rank of genin.”

His brow wrinkled as he tried to make sense of that. “So… you are are genin?”

“…Kind of, but not really.”

He frowned. “How is that real? You are or you aren’t!”

You huffed quietly. “Uzumaki-kun, it may be difficult to understand. Listen to me.” You waited until he nodded. “I graduated from the academy and became a genin. I entered the chunin exams with my team. Immediately after the final phase, when I went home, I opened the door to my house. Unfortunately, a trap had been set, and I was caught in an explosion. I lost my arm, but I have otherwise recovered. I am still ranked as a genin, but because of my injury, it would be too difficult for me to continue my duties as an active genin. Therefore, I retain the rank of genin, but I no longer take missions.”

He was frowning. “But then, what do you do?”

“I work at the hospital. I cannot perform jutsu any longer, but I can be useful there.”

“Hmm… I don’t get it, but you’re still a genin, right? You’re still a kunoichi of the village, right?”

You nodded.

He clapped his hands together. “Aburame-big sister, please teach me!”

Aaand that just sounds like a new kind of headache.

You refuse.


Conscience

Naruto continues to plead and bargain until the water starts boiling, and he asks you what kind of cup ramen you would like. You have no preference and ask him to pick one for you. He says you’re getting beef-flavor then, and opens two cup ramen. You watch nervously as he pours in the hot water, but he manages it just fine on his own. Given the amount of trash cup ramen littered around, he certainly has enough practice.

“Now you gotta wait three minutes,” he says, carefully putting yours in front of you before going back to the counter for his own.

Once he was seating again, he started back on why you wouldn’t train him.

“Why won’t you train me? I’ll work hard! Is it because you don’t have two arms?”

“Mostly,” you say, taking the out he unwittingly presents to you.

He opened his mouth but his eyes darted to your unmoving sleeve and he shut his mouth. He sighed in defeat and put his head on the table.

Relieved that that seemed to be that, you returned to surreptitiously glancing around his apartment from behind your sunglasses. Yeah, this place was definitely lacking in a caretaker’s touch. Not that it was any of your business, but it still unsettled you that he was living alone at his age.

You want to say it’s not your problem and not involve yourself, but you keep thinking of your previous self. Your friends had stepped in when your parents died, hadn’t they? If not for them, you wouldn’t have gone on. Honestly, you don’t know how Naruto manages it when he’s just a kid, but perhaps he was orphaned as a baby and simply doesn’t know what he’s missing?

Regardless, you can’t bring yourself to simply not care. You won’t be cleaning his apartment for him, but maybe you can teach him how to cook rice and make rice balls? How to boil eggs, too, since you’re not going to teach him how to fry them. A child and hot oil? No. What else? Maybe you could buy him some fruit for a little more variety to his diet. You aren’t his mom or relative or responsible for him, but you can’t do nothing, not anymore.

Your conscience wouldn’t allow you to rest if you simply ignored him.


Want

Naruto chattered about everything he could think of as Aburame-big sister sat across from him. She had unzipped and lowered her high collar, so now he could see more of her face. She was eating the ramen quietly and he anxiously hoped that she liked it. She didn’t pick, and beef was a safe pick, right? But maybe she would have liked chicken or miso better.

Glancing at her, Naruto felt a big grin cross his face. Someone was here with him! It was just a big kid, but someone was eating dinner with him and didn’t hate him or call him names! She was the one who gave him that red scarf he still had and kept safe, and he couldn’t wait until the snow came and he could wear it again.

His apartment seemed so much less lonely with her here. She didn’t talk much and she was boring, but she talked to him and walked him home and even stayed to eat with him. He had missed her when she disappeared on him, and he thought she had left him because everyone else was mean to him for some reason, but she was just in the hospital. He wished he had known because he would have gone to see her.

He wants to call her ‘Kaiya-sister’ but he doesn’t want to chase her away. Maybe some day she will call him ‘Naruto-kun’ instead of ‘Uzumaki-kun’. He should give her permission! Ah, but when? He can’t just say he can, can he?

“I should go.”

Naruto jumped. What? “Already?”

“Thank you for the cup noodles.”

“Oh, um, no problem!”

He felt his stomach sink as she stood up. Jumping to his feet, he led her to the door, trying to think of something to say.

“Ah, Aburame-big sister, when… when will I see you again?”

She finished putting on her sandals. “I do not know, Uzumaki-kun. Our paths rarely cross.”

Her sunglasses were angled towards him, so he thought she was looking at him.

“I know where you live now. Do you mind if I come again Saturday afternoon? I want to teach you how to cook rice.”

His heart leapt. “Yeah! You can come visit again!” He blinked. “But why do you want to teach me how to cook rice? Ramen is fine.”

She made a humming sound. “You need more than just cup ramen to live a healthy life. Learning how to cook rice will be a good starting point. My father taught me, and I will teach you.”

Oh. She had a father. And he taught her how to cook rice? Was that a thing families did? Teach the kids how to cook rice?

Did that mean she thought of him as family?

Naruto held back his question and smiled as left. Only once the door was closed and he was alone again did he let his smile slip away.

He might be wrong, so he won’t ask.

But… it was nice to imagine that someone, anyone, would want to teach him something because he was family.


Ties

Hiruzen was unhappy with the latest reports from both Naruto and Kaiya’s watchers. He hadn’t intervened before because Kaiya, despite her civility towards the demon container, hadn’t seemed interested in the boy. That seems to have changed, but because Naruto is expecting the girl on Saturday, he cannot simply tell her to stay away. Naruto already has so few joys in his life, so how could he take away a potential friend, even one as potentially volatile as the Aburame girl.

Still, he could lay down the law with her. While her generation would not be told about the sealing of the Nine-Tailed Fox, she would be strictly informed against altering the minds of children and civilians.

It doesn’t sit well with him to continue to allow Naruto and Kaiya to closely interact, but the boy means no harm to her and as long as he continues to mean no harm to her, there is no reason for Kaiya to use her Shapers against him. Inoichi has analyzed Kaiya’s psyche, and from observation, she respects an individual’s right to their emotions as long as they mean no harm to her. Her Father, teammates, fellow clan members, and her teachers at the hospital are all proof of this, even the frequently angry Amano and Shin whose loud shouting does not invoke any alteration by Kaiya. Therefore, if nothing changes, Kaiya will not alter Naruto’s mind.

Sitting back in his chair, Hiruzen knows that he would like nothing more than to keep them separate, for both his own sanity and the surety of Naruto’s safety, but he can’t act on that whim. No doubt Minato would be disappointed in how he has failed to make Naruto seen as a hero. Hiruzen doesn’t want to add to that by actively denying Naruto a potential friend.

And besides, Naruto could just as easily be another tie to the village to Kaiya, just as her former teammates are.


I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.

~Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Chapter Text

When we're constantly thinking about ourselves, our world shrinks.

~Seth Adam Smith


Ignorant

The days pass in a flash, and before you know it, you are at Naruto’s apartment with a new pot, an hourglass and a small bag of rice. You hadn’t specified an exact time, but you show up not long after noon. When you knock, Naruto’s response is to come thundering up to the door and throw the door open to shout your name at the top of his voice. Behind your flesh mask, you wince. Well, anyone with ears now knows that an Aburame visits him.

“Gramps is here too,” Naruto said cheerfully, simultaneously confusing you and making you anxious. He eagerly walked ahead of you and waved at someone. “Hey, Gramps! It’s the Aburame-big sister I was just telling you about!”

Walking forward, you feel your heart freeze at the sight of the Hokage sitting at Naruto’s table. Um, one, why does Naruto know the Hokage, and two, how is he getting away with calling him ‘Gramps’? Is Naruto related to the Hokage? No, that wouldn’t explain his current living condition since adoption would be easier for family members. But then why is he here?

The Hokage greets you amicably enough, but you don’t relax. He just sits there as you go through the motions of teaching Naruto how to cook rice, holding and directing his hands at one point, but it feels like his eyes are boring into your back. By the time the plain rice is done (Naruto seemingly likes his new hourglass and wants a three-minute one), you still don’t have many clues to work with.

Naruto and the Hokage know each other. They seem fond of each other. However, you don’t know why. Their connection isn’t obvious. It simply exists beyond your sight. Going from Naruto’s behavior, this isn’t the first or even second time that he’s interacted with the Hokage. But, if they know each other this well, why does Naruto live alone?

…Wait, is the Hokage the one permitting Naruto to live alone? That’s just a new level of irresponsibility, and you thought you couldn’t think lower of the old man than you already do. Not only is he a military dictator and former friend of a child-kidnapping creep, he uses his authority to put an orphan in a rundown apartment to live by himself. Just… why is he still Hokage?

Hiding behind your chopsticks instead of your high collar, you try not to look mulish as the Hokage praises Naruto’s first attempt at cooking rice. The kid laughs and says it was nothing. True enough, it’s simply a matter of washing rice and making sure it doesn’t run out of water and burn. As Naruto gets older, you’ll teach him how to fry things and make different kinds of rice bowls.

Hrm. You’ve met the Hokage several times outside of Naruto’s apartment, but he’s never mentioned the boy. Then again, he never had reason to. You don’t like meeting the old man, truthfully. If you’d known that Naruto already had an adult figure in his life, you probably would have been more successful in fading out of his life. Ah, but the Hokage is a busy man, right? He probably doesn’t have much time for Naruto.

Alright, you’ll stick around for a while, teach him a little more about cooking and hopefully make sure he doesn’t die of loneliness or something. He’s still just a little kid, and if most people are cruel to him, you can at least manage civility.

(you completely miss the point the Hokage is trying to make by being there)


Marriage

Shino sat a few feet away from Torune as his elder brother tried to play a guqin. It was an on-going project, one his elder brother seemed determined to stick to, and thus Shino inevitably spent time listening to amateur music. If asked, Shino would truthfully say that Torune has improved, but the noise he makes is still a way from being continuously pleasant. He says it is a hobby, but Shino remains suspicious of his brother’s motives.

He hadn’t missed the fact that Torune started learning an instrument not long after he learned that Kaiya-kun played the flute. She didn’t now, since the instrument required two hands and she only had one, but still Torune continued learning how to play. His self-taught lessons took time that could be used for training or studying insects out in the compound, and Shino couldn’t understand why he would persist in learning an instrument he didn’t have a passion for.

Passion. A strange word, and one that definitely did not apply to Torune’s ‘hobby’.

“Why?”

Torune settled his fingers on the strings to quiet them. He glanced over. “Why what, Shino?”

“Why do you insist on learning the guqin? Because I do not understand why you would put forth the effort for something that does not strictly apply to being a shinobi.”

Going undercover and pretending to be a musician is one thing, but Torune has no such mission, and indeed isn’t even a genin.

Torune hummed quietly, looking down at the instrument before him.

“I do it because I want to share something with her.”

The only ‘her’ who comes to mind is Kaiya-kun.

“She cannot play her bamboo flute anymore.”

“True, but I can play music for her, if only I learn. I think she would enjoy it.”

Shino has his doubts. Ever since the assassination attempt that nearly took her life and took her arm, their mutual friend has been… distant, even cold. Father advised patience and understanding, but Shino didn’t understand why she would act that way towards them. He has heard the story from father who heard from mother about how she seemed enthralled by his infant form, but even though he is her alleged favorite, she continues being hesitant with him. Unless asked, she doesn’t come over or spend time with them. Reflecting on it, she rarely volunteered to come to their house unless invited, but there is still a noticeable difference in how she interacts with all of them.

“I still do not understand.”

Torune glanced over at him. “Shino. I want to marry Kaiya when we are both old enough. I want her to like me.” He looked back down at his instrument and gently slid his fingers along the strings. “I think that it is possible to charm her with music. I believe that is my way to her heart. That is why I persist with this guqin.”

Marriage. Most marriages within the clan are arranged, so why does he not request that father ask Kaiya’s father for a marriage contract?

Torune responds to his question. “Because, Shino, father hopes that we will not need them. He hopes we find our marriage partners on our own, that we will marry for love. Besides, I do not want Kaiya to feel as though she were forced to marry me. The choice is hers. If I cannot win her heart on my own…

“Then I must live with that.”


Prevention

You get a lecture from Amano about the biological functions of the human female. She tells you to tell her when you get your first period so you can get the pregnancy-prevention jutsu performed on you. That requires another lecture because what? There’s some history on the wars and blood scents, and Senju Tsunade is credited with its creation which mostly negated the need for monthly teas and various scent-covering techniques. You agree to let her know when it happens, but you don’t share the fact that you get the impression that past-you would have been majorly jealous of this development.

Not bleeding once a month for the rest of your life sounds great. Hooray for jutsu!

Technically speaking, since you were neither an active genin nor a young woman wanting to conceive a baby, you didn’t ‘need’ the jutsu but she was going to perform it on you anyway.

Oh yeah, she’s definitely your favorite of the three.


Rushed

Shin won’t leave the arm thing alone, so much that he actually finds a girl close to your age and size who has the same blood-type. You hold your hand threateningly towards him, fantasizing about murdering him, but on the other hand (which you don’t have), he found this girl because he cared, right? You do mope about your missing arm from time to time, true, but an arm transplant just sounds so impossible that you don’t want to get your hopes up.

After Amano finds the three of you, she sends the girl out into the hall before laying in on Shin for going ahead with something they had all agreed could wait another year or so before bringing it up. You frown at the revelation that it would still have been brought up, and that prompts you to cut into their conversation and say you might as well start now.

It takes a while longer, but eventually you copy the girl’s right arm right down the last nerve.

Unfortunately, this translates into immediate surgery, otherwise what’s the point in having the arm? Father isn’t home, and since you are technically an adult, all they need is your permission, which you give. You are prepped for surgery and wheeled into the surgical room while still maintaining a lilac-colored string connection to the arm.

As you go under the anesthetic, your last thought goes to your hives, an order to stay inside no matter what. After all, it would be terrible if the Carnivores or any other kikaichu variant decided to take the initiative to protect you.


Hopeful

Limb reattachment is difficult, but not impossible. However, a limb transplant from a ‘donor’ to another person is different beast altogether. Shin has never heard of any such successful operation, but Kaiya has already saved herself from blindness by copying her father’s eyes. Surely the same principle can apply to her missing limb. Even if it fails and it must come off, at least they can all rest easy knowing they had tried every method available to them to help their student.

Kaiya has grown increasingly closed off, better at hiding her emotions than back when she was a small child. With her flesh mask, it is now impossible to tell what she’s feeling from facial clues because they are no longer there. However, she cannot completely hide her body language. More than she would like to admit and perhaps even more than she is aware, they have each come across her looking depressed. Oh, her face was hidden well, but the slump of her shoulders and the way she didn’t always notice them within seconds spoke volumes.

They can’t do anything about her face and scars, but they might be able to do something about her arm. If her body doesn’t reject the donated limb, then, with a lot of work on both their part and her part, it might just be possible for her to have an arm again.

(whether she could return to being an active kunoichi or not is so far ahead that Shin doesn’t even spare it a thought)

No doubt that it will require a lot of physical therapy and monitoring of the arm, but a slim chance is better than no chance!


Aggravated

Teijo is consternated to return home and (eventually) discover that his daughter underwent surgery without any prior discussion. It doesn’t make him any happier to learn that it was basically a spur-of-the-moment decision, and he lectures Shin on responsibility and proper consultation. Still, what’s done is done, and he can only sit by his daughter’s bedside to wait for her to wake up.

The arm in question is wrapped close to her body, and he can plainly see that it is indeed a limb where one should be. He wonders to himself how Kaiya can continue to be so reckless with herself after everything he’s taught her and everything she’s been through. On the other side of things, he can understand her teachers’ urgency to latch on her to willingness to proceed, because Kaiya can be one to put things off for as long as possible, even if she knows it is to her detriment.

It seems like an impossible thing to reattach a donated limb. Or rather, in Kaiya’s case, a copied limb. Eyes are one thing, being small with less connections to attach, but a whole new limb? He wants this to succeed, for his daughter to have an arm back, but he maintains his feet on the ground.

It’s entirely possible that Kaiya has just set herself up for a massive disappointment. He just hopes that it doesn’t break her like her face nearly did.

(because he’s heard her cry in the night, knows that she hates mirrors and her reflection, has seen her stare at nothing for what might have been hours on end had he not managed to get her attention

and he worries about her when he’s gone, has asked Tsubasa and Kaede and Shibi to keep an eye on her

fearing that one day he will come back and find that she has—)


Lacking

When you wake, Father is nearby. That is when you realize, oh, you did something stupid.

The stump hurts all over again, and you can’t feel the arm aside from its weight. Shin comes by to check on the limb, and you can practically see displeasure radiating off Father towards Shin, but your second teacher manages to keep a remarkable poker face. He tells you that the arm is still healthy, but that you shouldn’t attempt moving any of your hive into it for the time being.

You nod, knowing that you’re too scared of the limb to even ‘look’ at it with your Quirk. What would happen if you did? Your eyes are one thing, small and easily replaceable, but a limb? You don’t want to risk increasing the chance of rejection by using your Quirk on it any more at this point. Even if it dies and starts rotting, you’re going to wait for Shin and the others to deal with it.

After Shin leaves, you get a quiet lecture from Father, and you listen meekly, silently agreeing with many of his points. Yes, you had been reckless agree to this so quickly. What hurts the most, though, is Father reminding you that he is there for you to talk to, if ever you need it.

You know that you need someone to talk to, someone to listen to your fears, someone to ask advice of, but whenever you try, you immediately think of slipping up and revealing your past life. With Father, how could you do that? How could you tell him that his daughter might not be his daughter anymore, that she’d been half-eaten by someone from another world? You don’t want to risk that.

You don’t think you could bear it if Father turned his back on you.

Ahh, but what if you were still risking that by not confiding in him? What if he believed that you didn’t need him and thus made himself distant and scarce?

You don’t want that to happen. Father is your family, and you hold him dearest in this life.

Maybe… yes. You will try to be a better daughter, and you will try to rely on him more.

“I am sorry, Father. I do not want to make you sad.”

He puts a hand on your head and gently rubs his thumb against your forehead.

“I just want to be someone you can rely on.”

You closed your eyes and wished you could feel the motion, but your flesh coverings are in the way.

(you don’t tell him that he is, because that would be a lie you could both see a mile away, but…)

“It’s not your fault, Father. I simply find it difficult to fully trust anyone, even you. I’m sorry.”

“That you feel that way is indeed a failing of mine, Kaiya. I will try to be better, to be someone you feel as though you can come to with anything.”

You don’t reply, but you don’t reject his words either.

Not the whole truth, you don’t think you can ever manage to tell him that. But perhaps you can spin certain things, and talk to him more about what troubles you.

Small steps, until he no longer sounds so forlorn that his words squeeze your chest.


Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.

~Maya Angelou

Chapter Text

Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.

~Fyodor Dostoevsky


Messenger

You stay in the hospital for a week with constant monitoring on your arm. A Saturday afternoon falls in that timeframe, and you send Father to tell Naruto that you won’t be coming to see him. This somehow results in Father bringing Naruto to see you, much to your confusion.

The blond clears it up though, when he shouts that your father wasn’t lying. He stands next to your bed and doesn’t seem to know what to do, and that’s when you spot the dried tear tracks on his face. Your mind recalls how Naruto is normally treated and you think you understand why Father brought him. Naruto probably thought the worst and that your father had basically come to say that you wouldn’t be visiting the boy anymore, because reasons (which are never stated by anyone but somehow exists from one end of the village to another). He probably started crying then, maybe asking why you wouldn’t come to see him anymore, and then Father’s only way of reassuring him was to bring him to see for himself that you really were in the hospital.

You want to apologize to Father for troubling him, but that can wait until Naruto leaves. He chatters about how he can totally make rice on his own now, and you should come back to teach him how to cook something else. You get the impression that he won’t leave until he pries a promise from you. Father saves you by saying that you probably won’t be able to visit him for a long while due to your need to recover, but this just traps you with visits from the kid instead. That you won’t always be in the hospital just means he tries to invite himself over, and that’s when you both firmly and gently tell him that he can’t.

At the sight of his watering eyes, you fold as quickly as a collapsing house of cards and say that you can meet him on Tuesday afternoons in the park if you can’t make it to his house on Saturdays. He brightens at this and finally leaves, still reluctant and reminding you of your ‘promise’.

When the door closes behind him, you slowly look away as Father’s head turns in your direction.

You really hope he doesn’t think you have a soft spot for the kid, because you don’t. Guilt and fondness are two separate things, thank you very much.


Perspective

It doesn’t surprise him that Shibi-sama stops him for a ‘talk’. The jinchuuriki is a touchy subject, and none of the clans were permitted to adopt the boy. With Kaiya getting close to him, reluctantly as it may be (he saw how much she hadn’t wanted to bring him up, and how she tensed at the mention of him visiting), has upset the balance that had previously held concerning Uzumaki Naruto. The topic of their conversation is, of course, his daughter’s connection to the boy.

Having gotten the story of their acquaintanceship thus far from his daughter, Teijo relayed the story to the clan head. The combination of the boy being both an orphan and poorly treated by many of the villagers was enough for Kaiya to extend patience and politeness where she would not have bothered. Being moved by pity, or most emotions, is rare for an Aburame, but then, Kaiya has always been more emotional than nearly all of their fellow clan members.

If asked, Kaiya would likely comply with the order to not see Uzumaki Naruto anymore, but she may resent both the order and the one it comes from, especially if Naruto were to track her down and cry in front of her. For now, she only interacts with him because he is insistent, and she does not appear to be overly fond of the boy. If anything, she dislikes him.

It is a quandary. If they maintain their budding bond, the jinchuuriki may react poorly if it is revealed the Kaiya only ever interacted with him because of pity. On the other hand, they risked alienating Kaiya if she was told to stay away from the boy, whom she dislikes but deems worthy of her pity. Then again, Shibi does not share nor encourage the attitude of many who hate the boy for what he is, or even mistakenly believe he is the fox itself.

In the end, it is decided that Teijo will speak to Kaiya about interpersonal relationships and the sincerity required for meaningful ones.

(honestly speaking, he can practically see two sides warring in his daughter when he speaks to her about the boy, but apparently pity is stronger than the desire for sincerity

the goal both he and their clan head had hoped to impart—that continuing half-hearted interactions with the boy could be detrimental to the clan—goes right over her head, and he is reminded that Kaiya often cannot see the forest for the trees)


Overture

You already report to the hospital almost daily, but with the new arm attached to your body, you have to go in for checkups twice a day. At least with the help of medical jutsu there is no open wound since the skin from both yourself and the arm were basically melded together in the healing process. Shin has handed you back to Amano for those visits, but he is usually in the room to get the real-time update on how things are progressing.

From your perspective, it’s almost as though you are just carrying dead weight around. The sling helps, but your poor stump aches constantly. The new limb throws off your balance for a while, just as its absence had in the beginning, but you don’t fall despite tripping a few times. Washing it is mainly left to Amano, despite your insistence that you could do it yourself. All in all, you can’t feel the arm as though it is a part of you.

Shin says that patience is required, but you remain dubious and anxious. Part of you is certain that they’re going to have to amputate it in the near future. Your mind plays tricks on you, too, making you think you smell something, making you afraid that you are carrying around dead flesh.

You are exempt from your duties at the hospital during this time. No one wants you to overextend yourself, least of all you. However, this also means that you don’t get paid, so you’re back to completely relying on Father for your daily living expenses.

This worry gnaws at you until you remember Father’s words and your own resolve. Isn’t this a good starting point for talking to him?

(his daughter comes to him hesitantly, and it takes a while before she can get the words out, but finally she tells him her worries, has begun to confide in him

and he tells her, truthfully, that it is not a burden to provide for her, that she is not one herself

as long as he lives, she will always have a place under his roof if ever she needs it)


Movement

Physical therapy is hard and demanding. You break out into a sweat just trying to make the elbow bend, and it seems fruitless as your first couple of weeks pass without so much as a twitch. Amano and Nishida trade massaging and exercising your fingers since you requested that your physical therapy be left to them. You’re not comfortable with a man touching you, even flesh you can’t feel, and they respect your wishes.

Your daily checkups confirm that the arm itself is still alive, that it is definitely connected to you and that your blood is moving through it. Your hives have obeyed your command, and none of them, not even the Shapers, enter it. Thinking about it, you aren’t sure if your hives will be able to, how shall you put it… move in the arm? After all, there are tunnels beneath your skin which have been cultivated since your youth, and the new arm is basically untouched ‘land’. Will it hurt if they move into it? Will you be able to summon your kikaichu through the skin of this untried arm? You are almost afraid to find out, because even after everything you’ve gone through, you are no fan of pain.

Still, even though you didn’t truly expect it to happen, a day comes when your new elbow bends.

Having a right arm again isn’t just a hopeless dream.


Ramen

You meet Naruto in the park on a Tuesday afternoon. Your sling is hidden beneath your coat, although in fact, most of you is hidden beneath your coat. The only skin showing is on your left hand, though on your face too if you count the flesh mask. Part of you hopes that Naruto isn’t there, so that later you can say that you tried and he was the one who didn’t meet you there, but he is.

“Aburame-big sister!”

His shouts a happy call from the top of the small climbing structure and scrambles down to run over to you. Thankfully, he doesn’t recklessly throw himself into an unwanted hug.

“You came!”

“I said I would meet you here,” you replied in a mild tone.

He grinned up at you and hopped in place, ignoring the whispers and stares from some of the other children. You, however, kept a wary eye on them since kids could be trouble. It wouldn’t look good if they were hurt because you ‘defended’ yourself (because what kind of kunoichi, retired or not, would you be if you had to ‘defend’ yourself from civilian kids?).

“Let’s play ninja!”

“I don’t play.”

Which was mostly true. Sometimes you’ll play by yourself on a swing or with a ball, but rare is the day when someone else can make you join them. Not even Shibi-sama’s sons make you play with them, although Torune sometimes tries.

He pouted. “Well, why did you say to meet you in the park then?”

You pushed up your sunglasses. “Because this is the only other place we both know that is not an open street or the hospital.”

He groaned and slumped. “But then what are we going to do?”

“Uzumaki-kun, time spent together does not always have to be filled with things to do.”

“But that’s boring!”

“Then go play. I will stay and watch you for awhile.”

He hesitated, looking back at the kids who had returned to playing. He seemed torn between wanting to go back and wanting to stay with you.

In the end, the need to move won out.

“Watch me, then!”

He waved and ran back to the other kids. They scattered and shouted at him, but it wasn’t long before they were playing again.

Settling down beneath a tree, you watched him as promised. You noticed that a few of the kids were firm in staying away from him, and Naruto seemed to have already deduced this in the way he mostly succeeded in ignoring them. The remaining kids were flexible enough to let him play with them, which was good, otherwise this park visit would be hopelessly depressing.

You stayed for just over an hour before calling out to Naruto, prompting him to run over to you, still laughing from his game.

“I’m leaving now.”

His expression fell. “Aw, already?” He tapped his fingers together. “I wish you would stay longer…”

“I am hungry.”

His head snapped up. “Oh! Then we can go to Ichiraku’s! They have the best ramen!”

You can’t say you’ve ever eaten ramen before, at least not ramen that didn’t come from a cup. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but once again, you can’t say no to the kid.

The ramen is certainly… flavorful, but you wouldn’t heap the same praises on it as Naruto did between slurping up his own bowl of noodles. Somehow, you end up paying for six bowls, only one of which was yours, and you find yourself mildly horrified because where did he put it all?

Concerned, you brush a knuckle against his face, quickly checking on his stomach and digestive system, but he’s completely fine. Bemused, you bring your hand up to his head and ruffle his hair.

“Don’t make yourself sick, Uzumaki-kun.”

He seemed stunned by your actions, but lit up when you finished speaking.

“Don’t worry! I never get sick!”

He’s six years old, so you take his words with a grain of salt.


Willpower

When you finally gather the courage to ‘look’ at your arm, your heart misses a beat with how much of it you can’t see. It’s like looking an incomplete puzzle, with scattered blank spaces despite a complete frame. You quickly stop looking and try to breath evenly. Your body is slowly but surely accepting this attached lump of flesh as part of you. In seven years or so, will it be a complete part of you after all the cells are replaced?

“Come on, Kaiya-chan, stop spacing out.”

Nishida gets your attention and gestures down at your laid out arm.

“We’re not done yet for today.”

Nodding your head, you concentrate on the immediate task of trying to get your fingers to respond. You have made progress in the past month, being able to bend your new elbow at will. The motion was still stiff, but you could do it. With that achievement, the physical therapy for your wrist and fingers was important to maintain.

You aren’t sure if you will be able to return to active duty, but just having two arms again would be a blessing. Even if you can’t summon your kikaichu through it, even if it can’t use your Quirk, just having a right arm again would make you feel closer to being human again.

Determinedly, you focused on moving ‘your’ fingers.


Direction

Hamada decides that things have gone on long enough. The boys are every bit as blind as their civilian counterparts, so she is going to lead them to water and make them drink.

“Here.”

Their third teammate is gone when she tosses Jirou a shiny blue bead. He catches it in one hand and lifts his fingers to look. Confusion crosses his face as Arata peers over at it from next to him.

“What’s this for?”

She can’t help sighing. Really, why does she need to point it out for them? Subtlety would be lost on them, though, so she has no choice unless she wants them to muddle around for longer.

“Idiots. Who doesn’t have a friendship bracelet anymore?”

They both blink.

“But we all have one? Stitched to our weapons pouch?” His eyes light up. “Oh! Reiko-chan doesn’t have one!”

Hamada wants to yell at them, but on the other hand, they’re right. Their new teammate doesn’t have a ‘Four’ friendship bracelet, but then again, Reiko isn’t someone Kaiya knows.

Reaching up to rub a temple, she concedes the point. “Well, yes, but that’s not who I mean.”

Arata gets it first as horror flashes over his face.

“Kaiya lost hers!” He paled. “Ages ago?”

She nodded. “The explosion.”

Now Jirou is pale as well. Granted, the life of their teammate was certainly more important, but her survival has long since be reassured. They really should have noticed and made a replacement for her lost friendship bracelet sooner. Hamada had just been waiting for them to realize that so she could fork over that bead she’d been carrying for weeks.

Still, now that they know, they’re eager to be off to find some yarn. She waves goodbye as they run on their way, and sighs quietly in the silence they leave behind.

These kids were her first team. It feels… off, to have someone else in Kaiya’s place, but that feeling has begun to fade away. Reiko is a capable genin, and she thinks that they’re ready for the chunin exams.

…She’ll wait until Suna’s turn to host, though. Taking Aburame Kaiya’s teammates anywhere near Iwa is simply a terrible idea. Kumo is off the list too, since she suspects them of the explosion that removed Kaiya from her team. Yeah, better to take the boys to an ally’s nation than to an actively hostile one.

It’s damn shame, though. After seeing what Kaiya did to that Iwa team, Hamada had been looking forward to seeing just how terrifying that girl could have become.


Picking up the pieces of a shattered dream is better than having no pieces to pick up at all.

~Matshona Dhliwayo

Chapter Text

How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

~Dr. Seuss


Distorted

Whole.

That is what your reflection shows you when you stand in front of one and see that your right coat sleeve is no longer empty and flappy. You are still hidden behind layers of clothing and hiding behind a flesh mask, but you look normal, as though you were never in an explosion at all. The sight is deceiving, you know, as your scars haven’t faded and you still can’t move your new arm with anywhere near the same level of dexterity that you used to have.

But you can’t deny the relief you feel when you go out and know that you won’t get stares for your scars and missing arm. At least you can pretend to be a normal person. Perhaps it says something about you that you can’t courageously bear your… disability and disfigured appearance, but damn it, you don’t care. As long as you can exist without constant stares of pity or disgust, you’ll be okay.

You’ll be okay.

(maybe if you say it enough it’ll be true)


Cling

Aburame-big sister isn’t exactly fun to hang out with, and she’s more like a boring grown up than a kid, but Naruto didn’t care about that. He just cared that someone was looking at him, seeing him and not being mean to him or ignoring him. Aburame-big sister will come and watch him play or cook food at his house and even show him how to do it (but she made him promise not to use knives or oil while alone). He still has the scarf she gave him! She… she doesn’t seem like she really cares, but the old man says that the Aburame are usually like that.

So Naruto knows that just because she doesn’t ever look like she cares doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. She’s just really bad at showing how she feels.

She’s teaching him how to read and write, and even though it’s super boring, he keeps trying to learn. Otherwise she tries to leave, and he can’t let her leave early. He already hardly ever sees her, and he doesn’t want her to go away and not come back.

She’s the only person who cares about him; about whether he’s cold, or if he’s eating healthy, or if he’s okay by himself most of the time. She even buys him ramen and eats with him at Ichiraku!

Aburame-big sister is too small to be like a mom to him, but she’s definitely like a real big sister.

On his last birthday, when he turned seven, she treated him to ramen again (as much as he could eat!) and walked him home where she ruffled his hair. The best part, though, was that she let him hug her after he asked if he could!

She wears so many clothes that it almost felt like hugging a pillow, and it took forever before she would even put her hand on his back, but it’s the first hug that anyone ever let him give or have and, and…

And he cares about Aburame-big sister, so, so much.

He doesn’t know what he’d do if she ever kicked him out of her life, and every day he hopes that it never happens.

…But… he’s seen at least one store owner say that she couldn’t shop there if she continued to hang out with him (“—that brat!”). She hadn’t seen him, but he had seen her. He had seen the store owner being mean to her, and he… he wanted to charge in and protect her, but he was the reason she was in trouble in the first place, and he…

He had run away.

The shame burned in his gut, and he’d been so afraid that she wouldn’t come to see him on Saturday, but she had. She didn’t say anything about the mean store owner, or say she blamed him, or was any different than usual, but… He kept expecting her to get angry at him, to tell him that she was never going to talk to him again. She didn’t get mad, and he pretended he hadn’t see anything, that everything was normal, and then she left and he was alone again until next time.

He doesn’t want her to leave his life, not when she’s all he has. The old man is busy being Hokage and can hardly ever see him, and no one else pays attention to him unless it’s to be mean to him. It’s getting harder and harder to get the other kids to play with him. He gets glares almost everywhere he goes, and no one besides her and the old man have anything good to say to or about him.

He doesn’t want to lose Aburame-big sister, so he’s going to smile and pretend that nothing is wrong.

Maybe if he says it often enough then it will be true.


Time

Age thirteen isn’t much different from being twelve, except that you finally return to part-time work at the hospital. You won’t risk your new arm by trying to push your kikaichu into it, nor test to see if you can use your Quirk through it, so you are technically still one-handed about your hospital work. However, since your Shapers and Quirk work fine through your left arm, you can still heal patients as well as ever, though now you use a ‘flesh whip’ to connect to a tub of pre-prepared biological paste which you collect every other day or so as needed. Your patients are initially sceptical about being treated by an Aburame and are usually apprehensive about the insects they are told about which will enter their bodies, but the results speak for themselves.

You have a near perfect record of patients, losing none and healing nearly all of anything they bring to you. It’s the patients who have brain issues who keep your record from being perfect. Although, even this may simply be a work-in-progress as such patients are those who have to keep coming back as the brain is far more delicate and complicated than the flesh machine it operates. You refuse to rush any brain treatment, and it doesn’t help that the Yamanaka are usually assigned to keep track of each patient’s progress.

Of all the clans in the village, you are wariest of the Yamanaka for their mind techniques. It probably shows in how you leave any room they’re in as soon as you possibly can, but since no one’s called you out on it yet, you’re going to keep doing it.

On the subject of collecting the biological paste, this only occurs while plants are alive to be taken, usually grass since there is an abundance and its quick to grow back. Nishida is your usual escort, along with a pair of junior medic-nin who have to carry the tub around. The undefined blob is ‘alive’, but not sentient.

Your ‘face’ is becoming known to the village, in that you are being acknowledged as a miracle healer who might even surpass Senju Tsunade. There can be quite the furious divide between your camp and Senju Tsunade’s camp, but if asked, you will defer to the woman as the greater healer, which in turn doesn’t help the so-called rivalry since your supports think you’re just being humble. You usually ignore this divide of opinion, particularly any loud supporters of either side. You don’t care, and somehow you think that Tsunade wouldn’t care either, at least that’s the impression you get from the short time you interacted with her.

There is some whispering starting though, about your ‘healing powers’ and the fact that you interact with Naruto. His name isn’t what they say, but you get the impression that he’s the one they’re talking about when they say unkind things like ‘monster’, or ‘demon’, or ‘brat’. There seems to be a growing urban legend that being kind to Naruto leads to being given healing powers, but that is obviously a lie (at least from your point of view), and it only leads to disappointment on Naruto’s end. People are ‘kind’ to him for a short while, but when no miraculous healing power materializes, they push him away and go right back to being mean to him.

You keep telling him not to get his hopes up, but hopes springs eternal in him, which only leads to disappointment. He keeps believing and you end up witnessing more crashes than you care to see.

(it reminds you of the green-haired boy for some reason)

You and the Hokage are the only constants in Naruto’s life, and, inevitably, he meets more people in your life. He met Father back when you first sent Father with a message, and then he met Amano and Shin on separate visits to you in the hospital. He even met Arata as your old teammate ran into you two at Ichiraku’s.

Shino and Torune happened because Torune wanted to go to the park and Shino came along because Torune was his brother and closest friend. It was a Friday and twilight, so that the park would hopefully be empty of other kids, but Naruto had been there. He had been looking forlorn again, but perked up when he saw you. He was quick to invite Torune and Shino to play, and this in turn meant you stuck close to them in case Torune’s control slipped.

Shino seemed to enjoy the outing the least while Torune and Naruto got along fairly okay. For an Aburame, Torune was rather expressive, and Naruto seemed to prefer his liveliness to Shino’s quiet demeanor.

Playtime came to an end when Yoji came to tell his brothers that their father wanted them back home now. You said that you would walk Naruto home, but Yoji pointed out that Torune wasn’t allowed to be outside the compound without you. Stumped for a moment, you then volunteered Yoji to walk Naruto home, which he almost seemed to want to argue against but nodded in acquiescence.

A couple days later, Naruto would tell you that Yoji was scary because he was even quieter than you were. Privately, you thought that was because Yoji didn’t care about Naruto in any capacity while your relationship with him was founded mostly on pity. Of course, you didn’t say any of your thoughts aloud and settled for patting Naruto on the head.

Suddenly, you were fourteen and Naruto and Shino would soon be starting at the academy.


Fraught

Itachi hadn’t been in Anbu long before he realized he was sick. A stubborn cough was one thing, but chest pains that constantly came and went were another. Knowing his father’s stance on Aburame Kaiya, but also aware of his position as a high-achieving Uchiha shinobi and therefore a potential future candidate for the Hokage position (a chance to elevate the clan and soothe their rumblings while reconnecting with the village their ancestor helped found), Itachi made the decision to go behind his father’s back.

He did not go straight to Aburame Kaiya, though, instead opting to go to her teacher at the hospital under secrecy. Amano carefully checked his health twice before grimly telling him that she suspected that he was indeed sick with something serious, but she would need to check his blood to be certain. He allowed her to take a sample of his blood, and he left for the day, saying he would be back soon. When he returned to Amano, he was informed that he had a type of wasting sickness, a genetic disease that was beyond his power to prevent, and almost certainly beyond the ability of any medic-nin to heal. They could treat and slow his symptoms, but there was no cure.

And of course, there were standing orders that Aburame Kaiya was not to put her hands on either the Hyuuga or the Uchiha.

Again, knowing his father’s stance on the girl and the subject of Uchiha eyes, Itachi went over his head. He spoke with the Third Hokage about his encroaching sickness and requested that Aburame Kaiya be permitted to have a look at him and to treat him if possible. There was a long silence as the Hokage contemplated his request, but in the end, permission was given.

Aburame Kaiya would be granted access to him, the Uchiha heir.

(save him, save his clan, prevent a civil war)


Unanticipated

You get woken up in the middle of a winter night by Father knocking at your door and calling your name. You ask him for the password and he gives you the correct one. This exchange lets you know that you can pull back the Carnivores from the dark of your room and that it is safe for you to open the door. Father calls out for you to dress and come into the living room. Your experience tells you that you have important guests, and when you walk into the living room you see that you are correct.

The Hokage sits in your living room, along with a boy you think you’ve met before. You’re not certain though, since he has deep lines on his face and you don’t recall meeting anyone like that recently.

To your surprise, the boy is Uchiha Itachi, and wow, he certainly looks like he’s aged since the last time you saw him.

You listen quietly as you are told about Itachi’s sickness and the brief history of how the Uchiha were forbidden from letting you heal them. Vaguely, you remember the eye issue from long ago and merely nod where it seems appropriate.

The bottom line is that Uchiha Itachi has come to you for treatment behind his father and clan head’s back. That seems like a potential conflict between your clan and his if this meeting was discovered, but you don’t like the Uchiha much. The officers were distant and while their presence kept civilians from getting too rough with Naruto, you can’t say you appreciate the way they look at you. Granted, you ignore them most of the time, but sometimes you catch them glaring at you. Still, you don’t like waking up in the middle of the night without a reason, and since you’re up, you might as well check on him.

(she offers her left hand which is turning lilac-colored, but he doesn’t hesitate to take it)


Reliance

Aburame Kaiya finally let go of his hand and sat back.

“I don’t have the proper words, but it is definitely genetic and most certainly fatal in the long run. I can’t change your genetics, and therefore I cannot permanently heal you. However, as long as I’m alive, I can repair the damage and keep it from killing you.”

The hope for a permanent cure is dashed, but she isn’t saying that nothing can be done.

He cannot allow himself to be stopped here. He must keep advancing. At this point, becoming the first Uchiha Hokage is probably the only thing that can keep his clan from doing anything foolish. As long as that hope isn’t out of reach, his father can keep things from escalating.

Sasuke can have a future in which their clan is still part of a peaceful village.

Sharing a glance with the Third Hokage, Itachi nodded.

He would entrust his health (the future of his clan) to Aburame Kaiya.


Sacrifice

It’s been days since the late nigh visit from the Hokage and Uchiha Itachi, and aside from being put under top secrecy, things are back to normal. You go to the hospital for your checkups and work, Father comes and goes as missions demand, Torune pushes his presence on you, sometimes Shino comes along with Torune, and you indulge in your hobbies.

It's a good thing that you’ve gotten back into knitting again, even if it’s still somewhat difficult to use your right hand, because one day Naruto comes to you in tears with a torn and familiar scarf.

The red scarf you once knitted and gave to him is a complete loss. He held it between his hands as he cried through the whole story.

There was girl, and some boys were picking on her. She was outnumbered, and they made her cry! They were bullies, and he jumped in to protect her. They beat him up and wrecked his scarf. He doesn’t regret saving her, but he’s really, really sorry about the scarf.

“Do… do you hate me now?”

It’s just yarn.

“No, Uzumaki-kun. I do not hate you over this scarf. It was yours to do with as you pleased.”

He gazed down at it.

“But it was from you. I don’t… I don’t have another.”

“When you step in to protect someone, you always risk something. Sometimes it is your life, or the lives of others, and this time it was your own well-being and all the things you had on you. The scarf was the casualty of your battle. Do you regret saving the girl?”

His lifted his head and you saw that his eyes blazed.

No. She didn’t deserve to get picked on, and I’m glad I helped her.”

You nodded.

“Then the scarf is an acceptable loss, is it not? After all, would you rather have it broken like this, or have it whole and live with the fact you turned your back on the girl?”

He gazed down at the scarf again for a moment before looking back up at you. He didn’t look sad any more as he answered your question.

“Like this, because I know that I helped her when no one else did.”

You put a hand on his head.

“You were brave to fight for the sake of someone else, Uzumaki-kun, even when you knew you were outnumbered. You are a good boy.”

He grinned and tossed the wrecked scarf over his shoulder. “Thank, Aburame-big sister! Just you wait. One day, I’m gonna be the greatest shinobi and I’ll protect everyone!”

(he was going to protect her so that she never got hurt and had to lose an arm again)

Thaaat… is not the function of shinobi. Still, with his bullheadedness, trying to tell him that would be a futile effort. So, ignore that, and instead ask about the thing on his head that is new from the last time you saw him.

“One question.”

“Huh?”

“Why do you have goggles?”

He laughed. “To protect my eyes from some kinds of pranks I pull!”

Sensible, you suppose.


Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.

~Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Chapter Text

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

~Eleanor Roosevelt


Dream

The start of the academy was a highly anticipated event for Naruto. At last, he could finally start on his way to becoming a shinobi. Having to listen to him chatter on and on about how he was going to be a great shinobi, you finally cut in and asked him why he wanted to be a strong shinobi. You didn’t understand since for Father, being a chunin was enough. Hell, the same rank would have been enough for you had you still been an active kunoichi, so why was this boy so obsessed with being the strongest ever?

Naruto stared at you blankly for a moment before he stepped back with a jolt.

“I never told you?!”

“Apparently not,” you replied, failing to recall if he had already given you his reason.

He leaned forward as he excitedly clenched his fists. “Aburame-big sister! I’m going to be the strongest shinobi ever! I’m going to protect everyone, and most of all, I’m going to protect you.

He jumped back and put a hand on his hip before jabbing at his chest with his thumb.

“Aburame-big sister, I’m going to be Hokage!”

(you’ve heard something like that before)

Naruto spun on his heels to point at the Hokage monument and kept speaking, and because he did this, he missed the fact that you weren’t listening. A weakness spread throughout your limbs as your mind became fuzzy.

What was this? Why were you suddenly feeling woozy?

(a faded echo, a memory more than a voice crying out, “I’m going to be—“)

You pull yourself together before Naruto turns back. To cover up the fact you hadn’t heard anything he’d just said, you pat his hair and distract him with an offer for ramen.

He pouts. “I really will be Hokage someday. You’ll see.”


Loss

The day Naruto and Shino start at the academy, you attend for Naruto’s sake since no one else would be there for him. The Hokage doesn’t count since he’s the one giving a speech, not to mention that he probably can’t openly show blatant favoritism by seeking Naruto out in the crowd. Plus, Naruto asked you to take him to his first day at the academy, and you had said you would. Picking him up at his apartment and walking him to the academy seemed out of place since he wasn’t a relative or even a small friend you were particularly fond of, but he had looked so hopeful when he asked if you would.

The speech ends and the students head inside. Naruto seeks you through the crowd with his eyes and lights up when he spots you before waving energetically and disappearing into the building.

There are stares and whispers, some of them hostile, but you have practice ignoring such things.

Hands in your pockets, you head for the hospital for another checkup and partial day of being put to work. Amano says that if you are nearly ready to stop following her around. Due to your unconventional means of healing, a specialized exam is being prepared for you, and if you pass then you will be an official medic-nin in the medical corps.

Amano is pushing you hard in order to make sure that you are prepared. She gives you questions out of nowhere and expects quick answers. Unfortunately, quickly is not how you typically speak, and you often find it difficult to get words from your brain and to your mouth. She recommends speaking more, but you are at a loss since most of your ‘conversations’ are usually one-sided where you mostly nod. The only exceptions to that are conversations with Father or Tsubasa in which you held up a one-sided ‘conversation’ and they reacted (or not). Reluctantly, you practice with Torune who seems happy to have an increase in talking whenever you visit each other.

Although, speaking of Tsubasa, you haven’t seen them in quite a while.

It hurts when you ask Father and he informs you that they are considered killed-in-action without even a body to bury.


Child

Naruto tried hard not to get his hopes up as the day ended at the academy and he and the others headed for the front entrance. Aburame-big sister was here this morning, but there’s no reason she would come back, right? Maybe if he had asked, but he hadn’t wanted to push his luck. It seemed like a miracle that she showed up at his door this morning to walk him to school. She even made him a bento lunch! Well, she said this would be the only time, but he could keep the box, the chopsticks and the cloth. He could totally make his own rice and boiled eggs to bring for lunch, and that’s what the gift was for. The lunch had been good, and she said she made it herself. But, she wasn’t going to be outside, so he shouldn’t get his hopes up.

But she is! She’s there and she’s waving at him!

“Aburame-big sister!”

She made a humming sound as he ran up to her. Gesturing to her side, she started walking and he happily kept pace.

“What was your first day like?”

(he lights up and starts chattering—and you briefly see an overlay of the green-haired boy)


Test

The first time you are requested to do some work for the T&I department, your horror must show in your body language if not on your flesh mask because Yamanaka Inoichi reassures you that you are not in trouble. He says that you really are being requested for the ability of your Shapers to change a target’s emotional state. More cannot be said while in the hospital office where you work with Amano, Shin and Nishida, but he really does think that the T&I department could benefit from your skills.

“I will think about it.”

He smiles. “Then I will be back in three days to hear your answer.”

Father is home, so you discuss it with him. He tells you that the T&I department does not typically engage in elaborate ruses against genin, thus it is more likely that Yamanaka-sama is telling the truth. After all, if you were in need of a visit to T&I, you could easily be grabbed off the street or from the hospital.

However, Father seems to have forgotten that you are known for your Shapers, plus the Hokage was informed of the existence of the Carnivores and he could have passed that information along. Therefore, ‘grabbing you’ is not exactly smart. Better to lure you in of your own free will before they strike and lock you up with seals or something.

What if this is a test? If you go in there with your usual backup plans in place, then wouldn’t that warrant you an actual visit to a T&I cell, only with you on the other side? If this is a test, it’s one of the most frightening ones you’ve ever been subjected to.

In the end, after agonizing for those three days, you decide to accept and to forgo your usual backup plans. If the village imprisons you, life will go on without you. This is a test, not just for you, but for whether or not you can actually trust your village again.

You accept Yamanaka-sama’s offer and you report to the Torture and Interrogation department while keeping all of your insects within your body.

(you pass)


Experimental

No one shoves you into a room or slaps you with seals. Instead, Yamanaka-sama reveals the reason you are there in that the T&I department wants to know if it’s possible for you to alter someone’s loyalty from their village to a designated Konoha shinobi. A shinobi from Kiri is your test subject, and the designated Konoha shinobi is an intimidating guy named Ibiki.

It takes three days of trial and error, but you succeed. The Kiri shinobi now values Ibiki, though whether or not it is enough to betray their village is up in the air. After all, even having them love you, your kidnappers didn’t take you home until after you had deprived them of their human bodies. You impart on Yamanaka-sama that success if not guaranteed, but he says that this is just a trial run. With enough practice, surely you will get it to the level where Konoha will always benefit.

You doubt it and you say as much, but even though you leave for the day, you know that this is not the last time you will be visiting the T&I department. However, as long as it’s not you in a cell, you can manage having to juggle this side-job with your work at the hospital.

Thankfully, there are four months before you are called to try again with a new subject, and even though the fear hasn’t gone away, you do feel slightly better about going back.


Appointment

Uchiha Itachi stops by your house in the dead of night once at the three-month mark since his last visit, and has every three months since his first. His illness has once again advanced as expected, but it takes less than an hour for you to repair the damage to his body. In truth, with your Quirk, it would take less time, but you have to maintain the illusion that your Shapers are doing the work for you.

Still, you were put on this long-term “mission” to maintain his body, not his eyes. In fact, you had been explicitly told not to copy his eyes, and you have obeyed that order, but you can’t help pointing out that there is strain on them. Itachi’s gaze is sharp, like a blade, but you calmly point out that getting defensive doesn’t alter facts. He keeps his glare on you for a moment before looking away, saying that the Sharingan is demanding.

Belatedly remembering the thing called clan secrets—you mentally blame the late hour for your lack of tact—you drop the subject.

Still working on Itachi, in the silence of the night with him not talking, you only have your thoughts for company. You reflect on his method of getting your attention and how you hate it when he knocks at your window since you keep forgetting to expect it. It’s like a nightmare scenario to get woken up by unexpected knocking at your window in the dead of night. That’s followed up by you asking a question and him giving the answer before you’ll go and let him in through the back. After that, you both sit in silence and usually in the dark as you check him over and heal the damage done by his illness. Thank goodness it’s only once every three months, though if his sickness gets stronger and more aggressive as he ages then these night visits might become more frequent.

…Oh. As you get older, if these visits are discovered, couldn’t someone misinterpret them? You don’t want rumors about the Uchiha heir visiting your room in the middle of the night, thanks. You’re not interested that sort of thing—you can’t imagine it since you’re covered in burn scars—and he doesn’t seem interested in it either, but better to avoid the whole thing if you can.

Although now that you think of it, you don’t want to put the idea into his head, mostly because you don’t want to make this any more awkward than it might already be. After all, what if a similar thought already crossed his mind and he was feeling awkward about it? Or what if it hadn’t crossed his mind and bringing it up would only make it look as though you were interested and therefore someone he had to let down?

Stupid brain. Why does it imagine up scenarios like this when you least expect or want them?

Firmly keeping your mouth shut until his treatment was complete, the only thing you said to him was one word.

“Done.”

(did he make her mad?)


Name

Summer isn’t the best time for your layers of clothing, but you won’t go without any layer missing. As a result, if you can’t stay indoors then you can be found near a water source under some shade. Going to Naruto’s is changed to outings with Naruto who takes the opportunity to show you his favorite forest paths and areas. He already knows how to swim and will do so while you sit on the shore.

Torune learns of your walks and invites you to walk with him as well. While his control has much improved, it isn’t perfect, and while he’s trapped essentially by himself, you can’t refuse him too often. Sometimes Shino will join you two, and you either end up watching the two brothers quietly watching insects, or Shino will be trailing behind listening to Torune talking to you.

Once in a rare while, Yoji will join in as well, though he’s the quietest of you all, even more so than Shino.

Walking is definitely a hobby of yours by this point, but you’d trade it for the ease in knitting that you had once had. You can knit again, but it’s harder since your right hand isn’t as nimble as your original one. Sometimes you feel as though it will take years before you can finish the scarf you’re working on for Naruto. Gone are plans to learn how to knit socks and toques with bobbles on the top, but you’ll settle for finishing one last scarf before putting your needles down for good.

The less said about attempts to play your bamboo flute again, the better.

It is during one of your walks with Naruto that you hear another tirade about his teacher, Iruka. Technically, the young man’s name is Umino Iruka, so while you mentally refer to him as Umino-san, Naruto calls him Iruka-sensei. From what you’ve heard since the start of the academy, Umino has been trying to do his job. You note the lack of the man calling Naruto names, so it seems as though he isn’t being biased against Naruto.

However, you are aware of Naruto’s difficulty in learning while sitting still. The boy is a kinetic learner, so sitting in one place for hours isn’t easy for him. Hell, it isn’t easy for you whenever you try to teach him his kanji. Your best weapon in getting him to put in any effort is to point out how it’s relevant to his dream, because who wants a Hokage who can’t read? The answer is no one, not even if he is the strongest shinobi.

You pause and bring a hand up to your face. Why do you always feel dizzy whenever you think of Naruto’s dream? It’s never too bad, but it never fails. Every time you think of Naruto’s loud declaration about becoming Hokage—

“Aburame-big sister?”

You peered out from beneath your eyelashes to see that Naruto had doubled back after realizing you weren’t with him. You took a breath to steady yourself before lowering your hand.

“I’m fine, Uzumaki-kun.”

He frowned, clearly dubious. “Maybe you should sit down for a while.” He brightened a little. “Come on, there’s that neat place up ahead, remember? The clearing with the flowers?”

You nod slightly and let him lead you, ignoring the way he stands close by, almost as though he’s ready to catch you if you fall. You’re fine as long as you don’t think too hard about it. You blame your past life’s memories for your reactions, and you take that as another sign that the past is best left in the past.

You are Aburame Kaiya, and you are fourteen years old. You have a clan and a village, and this is your life. Whoever you were back then, that time has passed and it can’t come back. You are Aburame Kaiya.

You are Aburame Kaiya.

(she keeps saying who she is like she’s trying not to forget, and he doesn’t know why, but for once he doesn’t interrupt and instead waits until she looks up and talks to him again)


“What's your name,” Coraline asked the cat. “Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?”

“Cats don't have names,” it said.

“No?” said Coraline.

“No,” said the cat. “Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.”

~Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Chapter Text

“You're... very unexpected.”

~Zøe Haslie, Just For A While


Work

Weeks pass, and you get comments from both Naruto and Shino about how the other is annoying. Naruto thinks Shino is annoying because he is quiet and focused on his insects. Shino thinks Naruto is annoying because the other boy is loud and disruptive. Personally, you side with Shino, but that’s not something you tell anyone or say aloud. The boys share a class and know each other, if only a little, from outside of class, so it’s not as though they are both completely alone while in the academy.

Torune is envious of them because he can’t attend the academy. His control over his poisonous insects is good, but it isn’t perfect, and without you there to counter him, he can’t leave the compound. You aren’t sure what he does when he’s alone, but you assume that he has his own hobbies, and besides, Shibi-sama trains him whenever the man has time.

You have passed your exam and are now a medic-nin at the hospital with full-pay. Father was proud when he returned to the village and you told him of your accomplishment.

Your uniform was a modified version that included a higher collar and a dark visor. You hated the hat, though. The function of the hat you could understand, but the floppiness of it was irritating. No medic-nin in uniform would ever win a fashion award, but that’s not why any of you wore it.

Being a full-time medic-nin was different from being a part-timer. The hours were longer, obviously, but you were called in on more serious cases, if only as a backup plan in case treatment failed. The hospital didn’t want to become highly or solely reliant upon your Shapers (and Quirk, though you agree the decision was a good call since you won’t live forever), so the medic-nin relied first upon their skills before having you step in if necessary.

You saw this most clearly whenever the Healing Resuscitation Regeneration Technique was used on more serious injuries. It was ridiculously time-consuming, but given that they used medical jutsu and lacked your Quirk or variants of it, you still considered it impressive that they even had this kind of technique. Sadly, even with multiple medic-nin helping out, there was a low chance of success, which is where you came in. Whenever the technique began to fail, you would step in with your Shapers to save the patient in question.

It made you somewhat self-conscious to heal the patient in such cases, because you overheard at least one of your co-workers complain about how you did things so easily while they had to work hard and couldn’t accomplish the same things you did. Of course, you tried not to dwell on such talk and kept up your healing whenever you were called upon.

You had your Father, your job, your hobbies and your friends. Aside from your persistent bouts of self-loathing brought on by your scarred reflection, life was fulfilling.

But then came Madam Shijimi.


Example

You were in the middle of treating an old woman for her porous bones when Amano strode into the room to hiss into your ear.

“Finish up and come with me.”

Perplexed, you did as she said and cheated with your Quirk as you called back your Shapers. Handing the old woman over to another medic-nin, you followed Amano out of the room.

“Madam Shijimi wants to see you.”

“…Should I know who that is.”

You flinched as Amano spun and put her hands on her hips, hissing. “She’s the daimyo's wife.

“An important person, then,” you said mildly.

Amano sighed and turned, waving you onwards.

“Be polite and be accommodating. This is not someone you can insult and get off lightly.”

Well, this is the daimyo’s wife, and the daimyo is higher on the hierarchy than the Hokage, so yes, you will be polite.

Amano led you to the hospital entrance where she handed you off to a man wearing expensive-looking clothes. He bowed and introduced himself as Ito-san and he was there on behalf of Madam Shijimi.

“If you would please follow me.”

As though you had a choice.

You follow him into one of the richer districts and to a fancy estate where he leads you inside. Going through the house, he leads you back outside and to a gazebo where there are a lot of women gravitating around one in particular. The woman at the center of attention was fat with dark brown hair worn in three separate poofs. She makeup stood out, as did her painted fingernails. Her clothing was high-quality, and she wore many colorful rings. In her grasp was what looked like a highly stressed out cat wearing a red bow on its ear.

Oh man. This was the daimyo’s wife? There go your visions of a cold beauty.

Ito announced your presence and excused himself. Bowing to the noblewoman, you repeated your name. She greeted you excitedly and waved you a little closer.

“So you are the great healer I’ve been hearing about!”

How? Okay, you might underestimate your own fame or renown, but why would the daimyo’s wife know about you? Shouldn’t she be in the capital with her husband? How could she have possibly heard about you when you’re a healer in a shinobi village?

“My husband—“

Oh, right.

“—has been hearing all sorts of things about you. I heard you were instrumental in putting an end to those nasty epidemics which were threatening trade.”

Yes, because trade is more important than, say, the lives of your subjects.

“Of course, that’s not all he has heard about you. They say that you are a great healer, perhaps even greater than the Senju girl.”

‘The Senju girl’. Gods, the great Tsunade-sama, reduced to ‘the Senju girl’ by the daimyo’s wife.

“They say that your healing is miraculous. Of course, the particular reason I’ve called you is that I heard something interesting.”

Well, you got blown up. That’s interesting, though probably not what she means.

She leaned forward slightly. “I heard that you could remove things from a person’s body.”

Cautiously, you nodded. “Yes, my Lady. My Shapers—microscopic insects which live in my body—can remove poisons and the like from a body.”

She had leaned back at ‘live in my body’, and now she pouted.

“Then you cannot remove, erm, excess weight?”

Ooh, so that’s what she’s after. Okay, that’s doable.

“I can.”

She brightened. “Oh, I simply must see this.” She glanced off to the side. “Yukio! Let Aburame-chan here remove weight from you.”

A plump woman handed off a ceramic cup to another servant and stepped forward. She bowed deeply.

“I am in your care, Aburame-san.”

“Yes.” You addressed the noblewoman again. “Would you prefer I do it here so that you may see, or elsewhere?”

She hummed. “I suppose I would be reluctant to have it done to me if I do not see how it is done first, but on the other hand, I have no desire to see Yukio in a state of undress.” She deliberated for a moment before waving her hand. “Do your work elsewhere and return at once.”

You and Yukio both bowed, though you let Yukio lead the way back into the building. She led you to a room and reached for her clothing, but you told her that wasn’t necessary.

“Just lie down and hold still…”


Coveted

“Oooh, my! Yukio, you look so slim!

The woman in question smiled demurely and bowed her head. “You honor me, Madam Shijimi.”

You and the servant had returned to the daimyo’s wife after Yukio had readjusted her clothing. She had transformed from a plump woman into a slim beauty, and this transformation was clearly everything the daimyo’s wife had been hoping for.

“You simply must do the same to me, Aburame-chan. Losing weight is so difficult. I want to return to the slim beauty I once was, and with your help, that wish can finally come to fruition!”

Wait, wait, wait.

“…I worry about whether I have permission. Surely Hokage-sama should be informed, as well as your lord husband?”

“Oh pooh. Don’t you worry about them, dearie. I know how to requisition missions from your village. In fact…” She snapped a finger and an Anbu dropped into view. “Inform the Hokage that I am hiring Aburame-chan to transform me. We are not to be interrupted for anything.” She hummed happily as she glanced at Yukio. “Considering the excellent results, I will consider this an A-rank mission and will pay accordingly. Now, go.”

The Anbu disappeared in a swirl of leaves.

She stood up and handed over an unconscious cat to one of her servants. Clapping her hands together, the noblewoman beamed in anticipation.

“Well, let’s get started, shall we?”


Shapely

Extending the time for how long this procedure would take, you slowly put Madam Shijimi to sleep to make her stop talking. In case of spies (freaking Hyuuga, making your pretending harder than it otherwise would be), your Shapers were everywhere in the woman’s body and were moving fat from her to the slowly growing flesh cover which was growing past your torso in an effort to keep it unnoticeable. You carefully counted the time and when it more or less matched the first time you healed a patient with an advanced state of Blood, you let Shijimi wake up again.

Your hand was still on her now flat stomach, but she only cared about how she felt and looked. She was ecstatic and grabbed her breasts.

“Aburame-chan, can you increase my size?”

You did as directed and only stopped when she said to. Her natural breasts had been large, but now they were almost twice that. Not a match for what you remembered of Tsunade-sama, but still. Why women wanted such heavy, attention-grabbing things was beyond you.

After confirming that she was happy with her current shape, you called back your Shapers and turned your back as she called for her servants to dress her. With your back turned, you listened as she celebrated her new form and praised your skills as genius. She could still make the mission desk and that would be her first stop before she went shopping and headed home tomorrow.

Finally, she gave you permission to leave, and you left as quick as you could without looking as though you were rushing. That woman was too chatty for your tastes, and you worried that she had somehow gotten a lecture lined up for you from the Hokage. She looked very little like she had just hours ago when she was fat, plus what if they tried to say that you altered her mind? Altering her mind didn’t even occur to you until just now, though. Probably for the best since the temptation is no longer within reach.

Feeling somewhat mentally drained, you decided to head back to the hospital to request the rest of the day off from healing. Amano, hearing your report, pinched the bridge of her nose and banished you to the morgue. Rude.


Rendezvous

Knocks wake you in the middle of the night and you let out a half-sigh, half-groan before getting up and asking for the password, something that you and Itachi agree on each time before he leaves (you’d been embarrassed last time because he had to remind you). Confirming that it was him, you reached for your flesh mask. After that was your sunglasses, and then your coat thrown over your sleeping yukata. Leaving your room, you remember that Father isn’t home, but this isn’t the first time that’s happened.

Letting Itachi into the house—and really, he’s polite to wait instead of just letting himself in, but that’s probably self-preservation too—you both sit quietly in the dark as he offers you his hand. This time, though, he pauses.

“Aburame-san, I have wondered. Your Shapers enter through my hand, but would it be more efficient if you had access to my chest?”

Your Quirk doesn’t care, but in the interest of maintaining the image that your Shapers do the work, you answer, “Yes, that would increase efficiency.”

Without another word, Itachi started pulling off his upper clothing. He had come without his Anbu armor tonight, otherwise he might have just offered his shoulder. He was thirteen, right? Or maybe fourteen by now. Speaking of birthdays, your fifteenth was coming up rather quickly. Oh, he’s settled down.

“Pardon me,” you murmured, reaching out with your left hand to place it upon his chest. You frowned. “Uchiha-san, have you used more chakra than usual these past three months? There is more advancement than usual.”

He gave a minute nod, a small motion as his slow answer left his lips. “Yes… my missions of late have been… more demanding.”

“Hm. You have to do what you have to do, I suppose. Well, don’t worry. I’ll be here to fix you right up.”

“…Thank you.”

As you pulled your hand away, he took a moment to dress himself. Looking past you into the dark hallway, he asked, “Is your Father not here?”

“We are alone.”

“Ah.” He bowed his head slightly. “I apologize if my presence makes you uncomfortable.”

You shook your head once. “It is nothing. My only concern is if you are discovered entering or leaving. Such a rumor would not be well-received by your father, would it?”

You couldn’t see his face much, but his voice tone changed.

“No, it would not. Although, I think the main issue would be being seen entering the Aburame clan compound. While there would be some speculation on who I would sneak in to see, I believe many would correctly guess that I had come to see you. I will continue to be discreet.”

You gave him the next password and he left, disappearing quietly into the night.

(his cousin caught him on a rooftop heading back and demanded answers, half-laughing, half-serious)


Avoided

Amano nagged you into writing mission report for the service Madam Shijimi got from you, which Shin then grabbed from you just as you finish writing it and made you rewrite it after making you realize that there several points you should include from your experience. When you met Nishida on the way out, you asked if she had something to say about your report. She didn’t, but she did remind you that Amano called you an idiot.

Leaving the hospital, you dawdled on your way to the mission desk by taking an unnecessarily longer route there. Once there, you waited until there was a chance for you to get in. The Hokage was there, and you had to wonder why when you suspected that he had a lot of paperwork to do, but that might just be a misconception on your part.

“Aburame-san, I have been expecting you.”

What, fourteen was too old to be called ‘-chan’, or did you upset him over the Madam Shijimi thing? Also, it’s the afternoon, so has he been here all day waiting for you to show up?

“I have the mission report.”

You handed it over and waited as he read it. There were four other shinobi in the room, but you don’t know if they were regulars since it’s been quite a while between this visit and your previous one. He set down your report.

“It was quite a surprise to see Madam Shijimi yesterday.”

Ha. You bet. But did that mean he was here yesterday too? Or was he just informed of her change in appearance and then he tracked her down? Hopefully he spoke face-to-face and didn’t just stare at her from a distance like a creeper. Great. Now you’ve got the image of him being a creeper while wearing the Hokage hat.

“I complied with her request.”

“You did. You did…”

After all, what else were you supposed to do when the wife of the daimyo personally asks you to do something for her? At least, something that wasn’t the assassination of her husband.

“Very well. You may collect your pay voucher. I trust you remember how they work.”

“I do. Thank you, Hokage-sama.”

You walked off to a side table and collected the voucher in question before leaving.

The whole way, you felt eyes on your back.


Ambitions

That Saturday you waited for Naruto at the usual place, which happened to be a bridge. Hearing him call your name, you turned to see him running towards you. Picturing Shino running towards you like that, you turned your head and banished the slightly disturbing image. Naruto, ignorant of your thoughts, arrived with a happy smile.

The walk started off normally, but soon Naruto was asking you if you knew how any ‘cool shinobi tricks’ that you could teach him. In response, you asked him if his class had learned how to do the leaf exercise yet.

“The what?”

Pulling a leaf from a nearby branch, you reached up and stuck it to your forehead and explained what it was. He sulked and said they hadn’t. Remembering your school experience, you reassured him that it would probably be soon since they would need the basics before moving on to the academy three. You would demonstrate, but your right arm didn’t have the dexterity required to form the hand signs.

Instead, you walked up a tree and left Naruto gaping on the ground up at you.

He pointed and finally screeched, “Wh-h-how?! How are you doing that?!”

“This is called tree walking,” you explained from where you stood upside down on a branch. The blood wasn’t flowing correctly in your right arm, so you went back down. “When you learn the academy three, I will teach you.”

He lit up and pumped a fist into the air. “Yes! Wait and see, Aburame-big sister, I’m gonna learn those academy three super fast and then you’re gonna teach me how to tree walk and it won’t be long until I’m Hokage!”

Children. You don’t know what Shino’s dream is, but he’s probably a lot more sensible than Naruto about achieving it. At least, you hope he is, but then again, he is the same age as Naruto.

“It’s going to take more than that, Uzumaki-kun.”

He clenched a fist in determination. “I know. There’s a lot of people I have to beat first, like that bastard in my class. Not Shino, I mean that Sasuke guy. He thinks he’s sooo cool, but I’m gonna beat him!”

Uchiha Sasuke? Itachi’s younger brother? Hmf. Then Naruto better be prepared to kick Itachi’s butt too, and you can’t see that happening. In fact, Itachi will probably beat Naruto to the Hokage’s hat, and with you keeping the Uchiha heir healthy, Naruto might not actually get a chance to be Hokage.

It’s probably a good thing you don’t have a strong affection for the boy, otherwise you fear you’d begin plotting the death of the Uchiha heir after realizing that little tidbit.

Brushing the thought of attempting assassination of another noble clan member, and an heir at that, you focused on the present. You had cashed in your voucher and you were feeling a little generous today.

“I’ll treat you today, Uzumaki-kun. What do you want?”

“Ramen! Ichiraku ramen! Aburame-big sister, you’re the best!”

“Yes, yes, thank you…”


If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.

~Albert Einstein

Chapter Text

I meet people and they become chapters in my stories.

~Avijeet Das


Startling

Autumn is in full swing and you resent every leaf on the ground. Not a lot, but enough that you know that you dislike autumn, but that’s old news to you. Good news is that you’re more than two-thirds done with the task that is Naruto’s last scarf. It’s in two shades of green and you plan on putting tassels on the end. The stitches aren’t as even as you would like, but at least you know by now that you can finish it. Hopefully you’ll be done by the time winter arrives, and you’ll be sure to tell Naruto that he won’t be getting another one from you.

In the meantime, you’ve been getting more customers from the capital who come to you for cosmetic treatments. Overweight men and women come to you with fat on their bodies and leave slim, though often with an increase in size on their chests or in their pants. Even the daimyo has come for your services, though that’s hush-hush (apparently he doesn’t want it known that he came for an enlargement in his pants).

These types of missions are still ranked from D to A, though there is a hyphen and an ‘M’ added to differentiate them from the usual mission ranks. For instance, Madam Shijimi requested that her treatment be A-ranked, and with more rich noble civilians requesting the same thing, it became an A-M-ranked ‘mission’ since it was an obvious physical alteration. Something like removing facial scars is D-M-ranked and a moderate slimming can be either C-M or B-M-ranked. You’re pretty much the only one who needs to use that ranking system, though.

Nobles from the capital were an annoyance as you almost never know when they were coming, and having to interact with them meant you had to take etiquette lessons on how to treat nobles. Thankfully, with your impaired arm, no one expected you to do tea ceremonies, and that’s how you escaped those particular lessons. The main thing was that you were often expected to drop anything you were doing or cancel any appointments you may have had.

Such cancelled meetings are usually with Naruto or Shibi-sama’s sons, but just because most of them are younger than you, it doesn’t mean that you like cancelling on them. Besides, you would rather hang out with Naruto, Shino, Torune and Yoji than deal with stuffy nobles.

On the up side, with the nobles spending money on their appearance, you found yourself with a surplus of funds. You could now afford to move out of the house if you wanted, but that seemed… somewhat heartless since Father would be left alone. And besides, you’d be alone and come home to an empty house everyday, and… no. You don’t think you’ll move out just yet. Besides, building a new house probably costs more than you currently have, so you shelve that idea.

You’re fifteen now, and with your career and money, you feel like the adult the law says you’ve been since you got your headband. For the most part, you feel mature, as though you could handle anything that came up by yourself.

And yet, the moment a clan member you’ve never spoken to before introduces himself, you feel like running to hide behind your father.

“Good evening, Kaiya-san. I am Muta. May I walk you home?”


Frank

The man in front of you looks and behaves like an Aburame, and he called you by your given name instead of your family name, not to mention that he introduced himself with just his given name, so chances were high that he was an Aburame too. The way he dressed added to that assumption, all heavy layers, and he had a round gourd on his back not unlike Shibi-sama, so the more you looked the more you were certain that he was a fellow clan member.

But walk you home? No one’s walked you home from the hospital since Tsubasa, at least not anyone who wasn’t Father or Yoji. You used to think that Tsubasa watched you from out of sight, but that delusion died when Father told you that Tsubasa was KIA, and since then you haven’t assumed that anyone is guarding you. Then again, you can’t be sure of that and stop avoiding the present.

Your hands twitch at your side as you turn your thoughts back to Muta who is still waiting for an answer despite the fact that you’ve frozen up long enough for it to be obvious.

Why did Father have to be absent today? Why couldn’t today be one of the rare days when Yoji showed up to walk you home?

“W-why?”

You want to wince at the stammer, though at least your voice doesn’t crack. An Aburame should have more control over their reactions, but clearly deviations from what you expect as daily routine can throw you for a loop. One shouldn’t get so flustered by a simple request like this, but here you are.

There was a moment of silence and in that time you remembered where you were. The two of you had been standing in the same place long enough that other people were watching, either discretely or openly. When he suggested that you find a quieter place to speak, you agreed and ended up walking home with him anyway.

It was only when you two were back on the compound grounds that you stopped to face each other. You hadn’t had any world-shaking revelations during the walk, nor had you started looking at him in a new light. To you, this… teenager? Young man? Well, however old he was, Muta was still just a stranger who had thrown a curveball at you that you didn’t appreciate. He’d better have a good answer for disrupting your day and upsetting your mood.

“I have heard it said that you can miss the obvious, so I shall be clear: I wish to present myself to you for consideration as a potential husband.”

His words register and you want to get angry, but he does have a point on which Father agrees (you can overlook things even when something is staring you straight in the face). Plus, he was frank in his answer, saving you both time by not beating around the bush. Well, since he was straightforward with you, you can return the favor. It would be a lie to say you had no interest in marriage or children, even now, but those are currently things you do not want to think about, not when you haven’t made peace with your appearance.

Perhaps the clan does expect you to have children in hopes of creating more Shaper hives, and maybe someone put Muta up to this, but at least he wasn’t saying that you were going to get married, and to him specifically like a certain someone did. Whether or not there was someone influencing Muta’s actions today, he at least wasn’t trying to take away your options and was just making sure you knew that you could add him to your list of potential husbands.

You closed your eyes and asked for strength. You thought of telling him that you were disfigured, that you couldn’t imagine anyone taking you for their wife, but you stopped yourself from doing so. You only just met this boy, so why should you pour your heart out to him? No, you will just give him the answer you would give any man at this point.

“I am not currently looking for a marriage partner.” Opening your eyes, you looked at him. “However, I shall keep you in mind.”

“Thank you,” Muta replied.

He didn’t leave, and this time you waited for him to speak.

“Kaiya-san, I wish to improve my chances on being the one you decide to marry. May we meet and talk from time to time?”

Well… you know that you are a mess of complicated feelings about your appearance and the thought of marriage and ‘marital relations’, but should you really keep your options limited to just Shibi-sama’s sons? True, Muta might change his mind if he learns just how ugly your scars are, but on the other hand, he might not. Most of the Aburame you’ve met or know about are dependable people (Yoji’s father can rot in hell, though), and isn’t dependable a good trait in a husband?

But your scars.

You don’t want to stand there anymore, but you lack the will to tell him to get lost when technically he hasn’t been rude or mean. Instead, similar to a manner in being faced with Naruto or Torune, you buckle.

“My schedule is often busy and prone to change. I believe I can meet you on either Monday evenings or Thursday mornings. My Tuesday and Saturday afternoons are usually spoken for. I might not show up at a designated time due to work.”

He nodded. “The life of a shinobi is unpredictable. I too may not show up due to a mission assignment or summons. However, as long as we are both aware of this, I believe we will not hold ill feelings towards the other for being stood up from time to time.”

“Then, Muta-san, where shall we meet this upcoming Monday evening?”

He considered your question. “To begin with, I believe we should avoid eateries and public places. Shall we meet on the path that runs parallel to the river within the compound at six?”

“Acceptable.”

“Then we are agreed.”

His body moved slightly before he suddenly stopped. With what seemed like a conscious effort, he bid you goodbye. Startled, you echoed the sentiment. He actually left then, and you did as well. Heading home, you held back a sigh as you reviewed that parting.

He probably had to remind himself to say goodbye instead of leaving without a word, and his action had made you echo him automatically. With your fellow clan members, the social niceties tend to fall by the wayside, though you do try to remember them when interacting with Naruto and other people. Muta likely wasn’t in the habit of announcing his departure, but you don’t blame him for that.

Mentally muttering in your head, you wondered if you would have started dating Muta if not for your scars. After all, he seemed decent enough. You had no problems with his looks, and your only complaint was that he was an Aburame and therefore ran the risk of being too closely related to you.

…Thinking about it, yeah, if not for your scars, you would have agreed to date him at least once to see if you liked it (him). Damn scars, stealing opportunities away from you. If you ever found out who was responsible…


Interference

The Aburame are typically not ones to gossip, but Torune somehow learns of your ‘date’ with Muta anyway, though only after the fact. You know because only Shino is at the spot where you usually meet Torune for a walk, and the younger boy feels no need to dance around the subject.

“Torune will not be meeting you today. Why? Because he is upset that you met up with Muta-san on what could be considered a date.”

“Did he say he was upset?”

“No. After learning of your meeting with Muta, he sulked in his room. I believe he will deny being either upset or having sulked if asked.” Shino tilted his head slightly, not facing you. “I, however, will not deny that I am displeased. Torune looks forward to marrying you, Kaiya-kun. He… likely cannot marry any other, at least not one who is as immune as you are. Why would you destroy his hope?”

It’s hard to not feel angry at him for speaking of that, and while you show nothing on your fake face, your voice reveals your ire.

“No one will deprive me of my choices on marriage, children, and who my husband will be. Those are my decisions to make, if the other party agrees to consent, of course. I will not marry Torune out of pity, Shino-kun.”

He shifted, turning towards you by a slight margin. “I do not understand. You are the only Aburame who possesses as Shaper hive. You must reproduce in order to perpetuate the existence of the Shapers within the clan. Why not with Torune?”

Do not get angry at the kid. He literally doesn’t comprehend why and is only asking for clarification.

Inhaling deeply and slowly letting it out, you managed to keep your voice level.

“Shino-kun. Never presume that either you or the clan itself can tell me that I have to reproduce. Neither you nor anyone else gets to tell me what to do with my womb. Furthermore, I will choose who my partner is, though he too will also have the option to refuse me. If that happens—“

“Then you must live with that.”

Surprised, you nod. Although, it sounds like he’s repeating something he heard.

“Hm. I believe I have a clearer understanding of both yourself and the situation.”

He turned to leave and you called out.

“One more thing, Shino-kun.”

He paused and waited.

“It’s best not to stick your nose into the love lives of others. It’s considered intrusive.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

You watched him leave before heading home yourself.


Age

Torune slapped a hand over his face and slowly dragged it down as his younger brother’s “report” sank in. He held back a groan, but only just.

Shino.

“If you are about to lecture me on staying out of people’s love lives, rest assured that I am not interested in people’s love lives. Why? Because you are not ‘people’—you are my brother. Therefore, your unhappiness is my concern.”

Torune reminded himself that Shino was only nine. For all the kid was intelligent behind his silence, in some areas he was clearly lacking. Besides, Shino only meant well, right?

“Okay.” Torune sighed and hung his head. “So now she knows that I like her. That—“

Shino cut in. “Correction: she knows you want to marry her. The subject of your feelings did not arise. It is possible that she has no clue and sees you only as a child who thinks she should marry him.”

Torune narrowed his eyes but most of his face was hidden by his mask. Still, Shino had a point.

“I hate that you’re probably right.”

He folded his arms. “How old is Muta?”

Shino didn’t know. “Perhaps father knows.”

“I’m not going to ask him how old Muta is.”

Shino stood and left the doorway. “Then I will.”

“Shino!”

(father says that Muta is seventeen, and Torune nearly despairs because he is only eleven

his guqin is probably his only advantage, and that’s only if she likes his music)


Update

“Sensei, are you married?”

Hamada pauses in raising a piece of grilled meat to her mouth. The question diverts the boys’ attention from the food to her face as you waited for an answer. Lowering her food, she answered.

“Yes, I’m married.”

Arata’s jaw dropped. “Since when?”

Hamada huffed and chomped her food. “Since before I was put in charge of this team.”

“How old are you?”

Jirou yelped and jolted, probably kicked under the table.

Ignoring his rude question and justly deserved punishment, you asked, “How did you know that your husband was the person you wanted to marry?”

Her eyebrow rose. “You’re kind of young to be thinking about marriage, aren’t you?”

Arata looked over at you keenly. “Are you dating someone, Kaiya? Do we get to meet them or do we have to stalk you?”

“Hmph. I am not dating…” You trailed off as you thought about it. “Am I dating someone?”

Hamada laughed. “You’d think it’d be obvious, but I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t notice. Some couples don’t, at least not until someone or something beats it into them.”

“Well, we just met, so I doubt it. Although, he did say that he wants me to consider him as a potential husband.”

“That’s a strong come on,” Jirou commented, sounding amused. “Did you run for the hills? Most men do when women say things like that.”

“No, I did not run for the hills. I tried to point out the hills, but he was… frank in his answer. I appreciate the honesty, at least in how it saves time and guesswork.”

“The legal marrying age is sixteen, right?” At Hamada’s nod, Arata continued. “So, are you gonna marry this guy after your next birthday? And what’s his name, anyway?”

“I have no intention of marrying before at least the age of eighteen. His name is Muta. He is of my clan.”

“So, a stoic dude,” Jirou mused. “Is he a shinobi?”

“He is,” you answered.

“Does he know about…” Arata weakly gestured to his face and body.

“Uncertain,” you replied slowly. “It was not exactly a secret where I was after the explosion, but few have seen me without my coverings. I admit, my appearance is my main reason for any hesitation I have in regards to romantic pursuits.”

Arata winced as you heard dull thuds, and you think he was kicked by both Jirou and Hamada.

Reiko chimed in from Hamada’s other side. “I’m sure you’ll find someone who can see past your, uh, your scars. The right man will love you no matter what.”

“Huh. I forgot you were here.”

Hamada jabbed you with her elbow.

“Why do I bother…” Reiko grumbled as the boys awkwardly avoided eye contact.

Yes, you may resent the existence of one Sato Reiko, just a little. Sharing your boys with another girl is unavoidable, but the fact that she’s your replacement is something you haven’t managed to get over. It doesn’t help that Team Four of past and present rarely gets together and you don’t have much time to get to know her. Jirou has asked that you try to get along with her, but the fact that she has her own ‘Team Four’ bracelet that you had no help in making is a grudge you hold against them all.

Not that you’ve said as much to their faces, which probably contributes to this lasting awkwardness.

“Reiko has a point,” Hamada said. “The right sort of man won’t care about your scars.”

You think that’s foolishly optimistic of them, not to mention somewhat callous to try to get you to see your situation through rose-colored glasses. You feel, at best, that the man who deigns to marry you will do it for your Shapers and healing ability. There’s no way anyone can simply disregard the level of damage permanently put on your body, but it’s something they can learn to live with and even ignore as long as you wear a flesh covering. Still, you don’t want to harp on the subject so you let it drop.

Besides, this gathering was to celebrate Jirou’s promotion to chunin. You don’t want to drag the party down.


Less

“Aburame-big sister!”

It’s not Tuesday or Saturday, but it’s also not unusual for Naruto to run up to you if he sees you at other times. Today is Thursday, and you were just with Muta this morning, although you two haven’t moved to spending time together outside of the compound yet. You were on your way to get something to eat before reporting in to the hospital and—

“Uzumaki-kun, you should be in class.”

His happy grin slipped into sheepishness. “Well, it’s so boring, you know?”

That’s probably not the only reason he snuck out. While you’ve never been a target yourself, you are aware that Naruto has a reputation as a prankster. You could add ‘occasional truant’ to that list, but you aren’t his mother and therefore his attendance isn’t really your problem.

“If I buy you something to eat, will you go back?”

He cocked his head to the side. “Weeelll…” He grinned. “If it’s Ichiraku, then yeah!”

It’s a mystery how he never seems to get sick of the stuff. If you ate the same thing with even half the regularity he did with ramen, your fondness for that food would drop. You aren’t that fond of ramen yourself, but at least there are other things on the menu, and you order dumplings while Naruto enthusiastically slurped up his ramen.

By the time your dumplings arrive and you’ve have finished them, Naruto is on his fourth bowl. This is when someone else arrives with anger and annoyance in his voice.

“Na-ru-tooo!”

Naruto choked. “Irtha-thenthei?!”

Idly, you watched as Naruto got lectured by some shinobi wearing the standard uniform without any sort of customization. His brown hair was pulled back into a pointed ponytail and his face was plain. If not for the scar across his face, he would be completely forgettable.

So why does he remind you of someone?

“Aburame-san.”

Coming out of your thoughts, you saw the shinobi staring at you while he kept a hand on Naruto’s shoulder. The boy was taking the opportunity to finish off his ramen, an act that probably annoyed the young man because you saw his grip tighten.

“Yes?”

“Forgive me if I seem out of line, but you shouldn’t encourage his truancy. Naruto is a poor student and needs to stay in the classroom if he is to improve.”

You were not moved.

“I have no control over his actions. If there are consequences, he must live with them.”

Naruto’s face fell.

“You don’t care?”

“Uzumaki-kun, you are your own person. I do not own you. We are not family, nor am I your teacher. I have no right to tell you what to do.”

“Then why did you give me that scarf? Why did you teach me how to cook rice and boil eggs?” He wrenched his shoulder free from his teacher’s hand. “Why do you meet me on Saturdays if you don’t care?!”

“Uzumaki-kun, at what point did I say that I do not care?”

He froze, surprised. “But you said I have to live with the conse-conqu—those things!”

“You do. Everyone has to live with the consequences of their actions. And to answer your questions, I gave you that scarf because you did not have one and I was concerned you were cold. I taught you how to cook rice and boil eggs because cup ramen is not all a child should eat, and those did not require hot oil or sharp knives. I meet you on Saturdays because we agreed.”

He looked terribly hopeful. “Then… then you do care?”

“Yes.”

Just not as much as he probably hopes.

He blinked rapidly, trying to hold back his tears. “O-oh. Okay!” He grinned to hide his feelings. “Sorry I yelled at you, Aburame-big sister.”

“I accept your apology. Now, I believe your teacher was here to take you back to the academy?”

He gulped and laughed nervously as he and his teacher met eyes. “Oh, y-yeah.”

His teacher glared for a moment before sighing. “Come on, you.”

They left and you ate the last dumpling before paying and leaving.


Misinterpretation

Waiting between patients—because the hospital doesn’t want you putting them out of work—you frowned as Umino’s face drifted through your mind again. What was it about him that made you keep thinking of him? He wasn’t handsome or particularly memorable, so you had no idea why he was sticking in your mind. Well, actually, you knew he was sticking in your mind because he reminded you of someone, but you just couldn’t remember who.

It was annoying, like a word that was on the tip on your tongue but just wouldn’t come to you.

Owing to the futility of it, you wanted to put it out of your mind but it just wouldn’t leave you alone. You kept thinking about Umino and trying to remember who it was he reminded you of. It was wasted time, and by the end of your shift, you were wholly annoyed and frustrated.

Still, having spent a few hours on the subject, you don’t think it’s that Umino actually looks like someone you know, but rather it’s the impression that if not for his scar he’d be forgettable that makes you think of someone you can’t remember. If that makes sense, which it does to you. In a way.

“Feh.”

“Something on your mind?”

“Father.”

His unexpected presence is startling, but you cheer up. He’s been gone for almost three weeks and you’re glad to see him home again. Falling in step with him, he asked again if something was on your mind.

“I met someone today, he works as a teacher at the academy. Our meeting was short, but I can’t stop thinking about him. It’s annoying me.”

“Did you get his name?”

Caught up in your thoughts, you don’t pay attention to the tone of his voice and completely miss the cautious interest just beneath his words.

“Umino Iruka. I believe he is the teacher for Shino-kun’s class.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you two meet?”

“He came looking for Uzumaki-kun and found us at Ichiraku’s. He was truant and I attempted to bribe him with ramen if he would return. His teacher located him before he could return, hence our meeting.”

“And this Umino-san, he struck an impression on you?”

“Yes, almost immediately. I have tried not to think of him, but I have proven unsuccessful.”

The conversation seemed to die out and didn’t resume until you were both at home with tea.

“We were of the same clan, but I never noticed your mother until we were fourteen. Unexpectedly, it was as though she shone more than anyone else, even though she was the same as always. From that moment, I knew she was the only one for me. I married her for love.”

That’s something you haven’t heard before, and sweet in its own way, but why bring it up now?

“Kaiya, whatever you choose, you will have my support.”

“…Thank you, Father.”

The words are almost a question, but not quite. If you had let your confusion leak into your voice, perhaps he might have explained things a little more, but you didn’t want to spoil the moment by revealing that you had lost the thread of conversation. You think you get the gist, in that when you decide to marry, Father will support you in whatever you choose, whether it is for love or an arrangement.

You still don’t get why he brought it up in the first place, though.


The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

~George Bernard Shaw

Chapter Text

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

~Confucius


Triangle

Teijo wasn’t sure if he was happy about his daughter’s apparent love interest, period, never mind that said person was from outside the clan. It didn’t help matters when he found out about his daughter seeing Muta, since that meant she was in love with someone else while dating a clan member. It wasn’t an official thing, his daughter and Muta, but it was seen as a positive potential matchup because he was part of the clan. Of course, he remembered young Torune’s declaration, but Teijo understood that his daughter saw him only as a child, which was fair since the boy was only eleven. Age would probably matter to his daughter until they were in their twenties, but it might be that she would settle on someone else before then. So, if she had potential matchups in the clan, what was it about Umino Iruka that had caught her attention?

Although, thinking back on his own love, he didn’t have a wealth of experience to draw on to understand Kaiya since Kazue had been the only one for him. He hadn’t been interested in anyone else, nor had anyone else caught his eye, not even after all this time since Kazue’s passing. From her words, Kaiya seemed to be infatuated with Umino despite already seeing Muta. Teijo didn’t have any advice for her and all he could really do at this point was give her his support, which he already told her she has.

He doesn’t know if anyone else in the clan knows about Umino yet. The focus seems to be on the potential matchup with Muta. He isn’t sure how Kaiya’s infatuation with an outsider will be received, but it would probably be best if she got him to marry into the clan rather than her marrying out. Honestly, he doesn’t think she’d be permitted to marry out of the clan. That’s probably where the line in drawn in letting her have her way.

Then again, perhaps her infatuation is a merely passing fancy. She certainly isn’t mooning about the place over him. Although, he suspects that her complex about her scars will actually keep her from actively pursuing anyone. She might even push her potential partners away.

Whatever happens, Teijo just wants her to be happy. Surely it isn’t a bad thing that he hopes she marries for love.


Rebuff

“Aburame-san.”

You stop counting bedsheets to turn your head to face your senior. Nohara Rin gestured you forward.

“I have a patient that requires your help. Cancer in the bones.”

Handing your clipboard over to the other medic-nin you’d been working with, you follow after the young woman. She was a respected medic-nin and a member of the famous Team Seven, though you only know of their fame because you’ve overheard people talking about the Fourth Hokage’s students. They don’t have a famous title like the Sannin, but at least they stuck around in the village and haven’t turned traitor. Sometimes you catch glimpses of her teammates as she’s the only one they’ll let heal them, but you don’t think you’ve ever really seen Hatake Kakashi and Uchiha Obito before. You neither like nor dislike her, a result of her politeness but your limited interactions.

It isn’t long before she’s introducing you and the patient to each other, and she stays at the request of the woman. When you finish, you leave Nohara to deal with the patient and the paperwork.

Later, Nohara invites you to eat lunch with her as she has multiple times before, but you decline in favor of eating either alone or with Amano or Nishida. While you realize that she is trying to forge a bond of some kind, you don’t see the need, nor do you possess the desire to connect with her as she does not interest you in any capacity. Your relationship with her is purely professional and you intend to keep it that way.

You do wish she would stop making you refuse her so frequently. It’s starting to get awkward.


Obstructed

Rin sighed in quiet frustration as she watched the clock, knowing that Aburame Kaiya was leaving the building. Kakashi and Obito keep trying to get close to her to at least introduce themselves, but it’s been fruitless on their parts. Kakashi has to juggle Anbu and his ‘cute juniors’, and Obito is explicitly forbidden from getting near the girl in the first place. Kakashi says that there’s always one of her fellow clan members watching over her, so it isn’t as though either of them can get close since Hatake Kakashi has no reason to introduce himself, and Obito is an Uchiha and forbidden to be alone with her. Rin is the only one can get close to her with ease, but she’s not having much luck getting close to the girl.

They’re all worried about Naruto, but the most any of them can do are small things. Stall owners throwing stuff at him? Obito puts fear in them as part of the police force. His fridge is empty? Kakashi fills it with vegetables (not that he’s been able to do even that since Kaiya started visiting Naruto regularly since there isn’t an easy explanation). He likes to eat at Ichiraku’s? They all pitch in to keep his meals free, under secrecy of course, so Kaiya is unnecessarily paying for meals Naruto could get for free. They also keep him clothed since Naruto doesn’t question where said clothes come from, and they’ve all tried to curb the negative attitude many have towards him, but it never feels like enough.

Rin wants nothing more than to take Naruto under her roof, and she knows Obito does too. Kakashi… doesn’t like kids, but he has mentioned that it isn’t fair that she can’t take him in since she’d be better at keeping a kid than either him or Obito (a statement which had prompted another argument between them). However, Lord Third insists that for the boy’s own safety the greatest protection from his father’s enemies is for no one to know whose son he is, and that means not having the Fourth’s students interacting with a child that resembles him.

It’s preposterous! Not including the three of them (because she wants to believe that Kakashi would step up and take Naruto in too), there is a fourth person who would have liked to take Naruto in: Uchiha Mikoto. The Uchiha woman had been Kushina’s best friend, but because of suspicion on the night of the attack from Nine-Tails, the Uchiha were still persona non grata, even if no one would say it aloud. Obito was trying to improve the Uchiha relation to the village, but Rin thought that an Uchiha becoming Hokage would be the best bet the clan had of shaking the stigma attached to them.

Personally, she was hoping Obito got the hat, but his cousin Itachi was rising fast and considered a genius.

But getting back to Naruto, while they’ve manage to keep him relatively safe and well-cared for even from their forced distance, they all saw that he was lonely. He didn’t even know who his parents were! That was the true crime as far as Rin was concerned.

However, with their busy lives, none of them could keep an eye on Naruto at all times. By the time they realized that Aburame Kaiya had placed herself in the boy’s life, it was too late to nip that in the bud. Of all people, why did it have to be Aburame Kaiya that Naruto got attached to?

The girl was young, just six years older than Naruto and graduated at the age of ten to become a genin. Kakashi had tried to get the Hokage to tell her about the S-class secrecy around Naruto, but he had refused on the grounds that Naruto would be crushed if Kaiya chose to turn her back on him. Besides which, no one who wasn’t an adult at the time was to be told about the Nine-Tailed fox sealed away within Naruto.

More than that, though, was the fact that they had all heard of her in one capacity or another. Rin thinks she heard of her first, or least second after Kakashi, because of the girl’s cures for the uncreatively named Blood and Decline. They’d heard rumors about her after that, and then Obito told them that his whole clan had been forbidden to interact with her outside of the police force, and absolutely none of them were allowed to let her touch them. They didn’t think much of her after that, thought hey did hear of her kidnapping and eventual return.

It was only after Naruto attached himself to her that they got concerned enough to find out more about her. Kakashi learned about her ability to force targets to love her, and he pointed it out to Sarutobi-sama, but the Hokage, while admitting that he did not care for her attachment to Naruto anymore than they did, said that Naruto was no threat to her and therefore had nothing to fear from her. He was the jinchuuriki, yes, but he didn’t have access to that power, nor was he interested in alienating one of the few people who wasn’t openly cruel or dismissive of him. She was seemingly indifferent, certainly, but she was patient with him, which Naruto interpreted as kindness.

It just didn’t make sense to Rin, not one thing. With sensei dead, why shouldn’t his students assume the responsibility of his child? Why should they be forced to stay away from the boy? How could the Hokage permit such a potentially dangerous individual to remain so close to Naruto? He wouldn’t feel the need to cling to her if they could just be allowed to be part of his life! Even Mikoto would surely be better than the Dread Hive.

“Oh.”

Rin sighed and rubbed a hand over her face. Even if that is the girl’s nickname in the Bingo Book, she shouldn’t refer to someone from the village as ‘dread’ anything. After all, despite the potential dangers that Kaiya represents, she is still part of the Leaf. Treating someone with suspicion just results in someone like Orochimaru or the current climate regarding the Uchiha. Plus, it’s uncharitable to call someone names just because she’s frustrated with bureaucracy.

The point that started her down this familiar train of thought, neither Kakashi nor Obito could get close to learn more about Kaiya and find out she harbored any ill intention towards Naruto. Her task to get close to the girl hadn’t met with much success either. She just doesn’t know what to do as every interaction with the younger girl doesn’t seem to register at all beyond ‘work’ to her. Kaiya simply isn’t interested in getting to know her.

At this point, they won’t be able to reveal themselves as persons interested in Naruto’s well-being until he graduates from the academy. Well, even without getting close to her, Rin has observed that Kaiya generally doesn’t mean harm to anyone as long as they’re not threatening or rude to her. Naruto is probably rude to her at times, kids usually are, but Rin can’t see Kaiya hurting him.

“This is giving me a headache…”

No doubt Kakashi and Obito would be disappointed to be told she hadn’t made any headway, but there wasn’t anything she could do about that as long as Kaiya continued to stonewall her. Perhaps she should try being more aggressive and not take ‘no’ for an answer.

But, the girl herself is someone the Hokage has forbidden people from antagonizing. Her Shapers are incredible, but they can turn deadly at a moment’s notice. There’s also the fact that she has a hive of ‘carnivores’, and Rin shuddered as she remembered the girl’s match against that boy from Iwa.

Kaiya’s chunin exam was the real reason none of them wanted her near sensei’s son. None of them had any idea of what happened during the second portion of the exam, but the tournament alone was more than enough to set them on edge about her being near Naruto. She’d been ruthless in destroying her opponents, though Rin could sympathize with the trigger that set her off. If she had that kind of power and someone hurt Kakashi or Obito… Well, regardless, none of them were happy that she had such frequent contact with Naruto.

And yet, frustratingly, there was nothing they could do.


Impatient

Fourteen is young, but Itachi knows he won’t be fourteen forever. He’s going to keep getting older and that’s a good thing. While his skill is undeniable, his age is a factor against him. He wants an Uchiha Hokage, and while his cousin Obito might actually manage it, he wants to increase the odds of an Uchiha Hokage, and that means aiming for the position himself. Shisui, now in the know about why he sneaks into the Aburame compound, supports his decision.

Although speaking of the ‘in the know’ part, Itachi now had to deal with the fact that his cousin wanted to see Kaiya for treatment. This alone would normally be enough for Itachi to have brought up the subject with her earlier, but that’s not all there is to the request. No, Shisui wants Kaiya to treat his eyes.

Not even Itachi lets her do that, but Shisui keeps insisting. He says that he’s losing his eyesight and while Itachi believes him, he can’t quite bring himself to discuss it with Kaiya. On one hand, the order from his father still stands, but on the other, is there really any need for Shisui to go blind when help was nearby? There are other blind or partially blind Uchiha, but none have tried to lobby for treatment at Kaiya’s hands. No one wants to give her access to their eyes, not when there’s a risk that she could copy them.

Shisui won’t let go, though. Itachi knows him well enough to understand just how stubborn his cousin can be. He should probably do something before the other boy did something reckless like—

“Yo.”

Like this.

(both Itachi and the unexpected stranger leap off the back porch as the darkness from your living room surges out of the house around you

your patient isn’t attacking the stranger so they aren’t a threat, but that doesn’t make you happy in the slightest)


Value

Why does Father have to be absent tonight? He left just yesterday and if it hadn’t been for that mission then he would be here to help you deal with this idiot Uchiha who thought it would be a good idea to follow Itachi here. You dearly want to rub your temple, if only to showcase how aggravated you are, but the desire to hold yourself to Aburame standards wins out. Keeping a blank face, you stated your displeasure.

“I was not expecting a second person, Uchiha-san.”

“Nor I,” Itachi replied flatly.

The second Uchiha grinned, throwing out your preconception of what all Uchiha acted like. “You see, I have a bit of a problem, and Itachi was being mean, refusing to introduce me to you. I finally decided to take the plunge and invite myself along to finally meet you. I’m Uchiha Shisui.”

You said nothing.

He cleared his throat. “Erm, well, I might as well get right to the point: I’m going blind.”

“I am forbidden from healing, copying, or otherwise touching the eyes of the Uchiha. I refuse to consider going against that order.”

His shoulders slumped. “I kinda figured.” He looked back up from his lap. “And if that order was rescinded?”

“Then you could make an appointment at the hospital to see me.”

“There is not much of a chance for that.”

Since Itachi was Fugaku’s son and therefore knew the man better than you did, you expected that he knew what he was talking about.

Shisui leaned back on his hands. “Yeah, but Fugaku-sama won’t be head of the clan forever. When it’s your turn, you could just lift that ban, right?”

“I could, yes.”

Shisui must have heard something you missed, because he turned a suspicious gaze on his cousin.
Would you?”

“… Shisui, forgive me, but I don’t believe I would. Hear me out.” When his cousin didn’t leave, Itachi nodded in your direction. “Aburame-san has been kidnapped before. She is wanted for her own merits. Imagine how much more her value would increase if it was discovered that she knew how to make copies of Uchiha eyes? And she would become familiar with them, if she healed your eyes and the eyes of our other clan members.”

“I have a copy of someone else’s arm for my right because of an assassination attempt. I rather imagine that instead of trying to kill me, other nations would be trying to capture me. I do not want that to happen.”

Shisui sighed and folded his arms. “Yeah, I get it. Darkness, here I come.”

He didn’t leave, and his presence seemed to make Itachi nervous because it was a long minute before he removed his upper clothing. When you finished, he was kicked out of the house so that you and Itachi could agree on a password.

Before he could leave, you whispered to him.

“Don’t let yourself be followed again.”

He nodded once and was gone.

Soon, sighing as you settled back down to bed, you glumly realized that your male friends and acquaintances far outweighed the females. Sato Reiko was probably the closest you had to a friend your age, and that was just depressing.

Not depressing enough to accept Nohara’s lunch invite, though, as you turned her down again later that day.


Delusion

Now that you’ve met him, you acknowledge Umino whenever you cross paths. It isn’t often, but each time you do the fact that he reminds you of someone returns to the forefront of your mind, leaving you distracted for some time afterwards. It wouldn’t be so bad if that’s the only time it happened, but you don’t even need to see him in order to get lost in thought and annoyed as who he reminded you of continued to elude you.

“Are you listening?!”

Blinking, you turned your gaze slightly downwards to where Naruto was standing in front of you, arms folded as he glared.

“…No. I haven’t heard a thing you said for some time now.”

He huffed. “Since when? I told you a whole lot and now I have to retell it again!”

“You mentioned your teacher, Umino-san.”

He waited. “…And?!”

“And that’s where I got distracted.”

“Why?”

“I can’t help it. Whenever I think of your teacher, I get distracted.”

He squinted and repeated, “Why?”

“He’s been on my mind since we first met.”

Naruto opened his mouth to say something else before you saw a flash of realization hit him. His jaw closed and a sly grin crossed his face.

“So you think about Iruka-sensei a lot?”

“…Where are you going with this?”

You don’t like the look on his face. It gives you the impression that you’re missing something, probably something obvious.

Naruto sighed dramatically. “I don’t know why you’re thinking of Iruka-sensei. He’s kind of boring, you know? And plain! The only cool thing about him is the scar on his face.” He shrugged, holding his hands at an angle. “I mean, yeah, he’ll come save you if you’re in trouble, and I guess that’s kind of cool too, but that’s about it, you know?”

Confused about why he was trying to make his teacher look bad (was that what he was doing?), you latched on to something.

“He’ll come save you? Uzumaki-kun, did Umino-san save you from something?”

He flinched and quickly averted his eyes. “What? No!” He fidgeted. “Okay, maybe. There were these kids, and they said they’d play with me if I stole some stuff off some dead ninja. Turns out that there were still some lives one and I got into a little trouble, but then Iruka-sensei came and saved me. But I wasn’t hurt!”

There was a chance he might have been hurt, but you never noticed. This is the first you’ve heard of this as well, and you wondered if Shino knew about it. No one told you about it, but as you’ve pointed out yourself, you’re not his family and therefore no one had any reason to tell you anything. Well, he was still alive, and that’s the main thing.

“I see.”

Naruto rocked on his feet. “Sooo…” The grin came back. “You like Iruka-sensei, huh?”

You were thrown.

“What? No.”

He laughed and pointed. “You totally do! You said yourself that you keep thinking about him! You like Iruka-sensei!”

“I do not,” you said firmly.

You were ignored as Naruto hopped away while cackling.

“I’m going to tell him!”

Uzumaki-kun.

You reached out for him to hold him there but he danced out of reach before running off, chanting that he was going to tell.

What a brat. Now you’ll have to explain to Umino that Naruto completely misunderstood your words. Okay, yes, you think about him, but not for romantic reasons.

Sighing, you put your hands into your pockets and headed back to the village. You were not looking forward to the next time you saw Umino.


Unrequited

The door to the staffroom slammed open in a manner uncharacteristic of any of his fellow teachers. Before he could even look up from the papers he was grading, Naruto’s voice cut into the previous blissful silence.

“Iruka-sensei!”

Iruka was surprised to see Naruto there. Classes were out until Monday, so why would the boy be here when he took every opportunity to abscond from lessons?

Naruto marched over to him with purpose. Coming to a stop near him, the boy opened his mouth but paused as he realized they weren’t alone in the room. A couple other teachers were there as well and were opening staring, faces expressing annoyance. He leaned in and whispered a little too loudly.

“I need to tell you something, but not here.”

Repressing the urge to sigh, Iruka put down his grading brush and stood up. “Alright, Naruto. Let’s talk outside.”

But the boy wasn’t satisfied with the hall and dragged him all the way to an empty classroom. Iruka dared to hope that it was something related to his academics, but Naruto dashed that hope immediately.

“You remember Aburame-big sister, right?”

It’s difficult to forget the person he’s seen with Naruto more than once even before their official first meeting at Ichiraku’s.

“Yes, I remember.”

Naruto grinned brightly. “Guess what?”

He sighed. “Naruto, I have no time for guessing ga—“

“She likes you!”

His mind stalled.

“She says she thinks about you a lot. I just found out today, you know? It was a surprise since I never thought that Aburame-big sister would ever like anyone like that.”

Iruka heard what Naruto was saying, but his mind was locked on the image on the Aburame girl sitting on a stool at the ramen stand. She was younger than him, clearly, and an Aburame besides, so why him? He was at least four years older than her, if not more, and not from a clan like hers. They’d barely met, so why—

“Iruka-sensei.”

The uncharacteristic seriousness in Naruto’s voice broke through his thoughts and made him look at the boy. He wasn’t smiling anymore.

“Aburame-big sister was the first person to be nice to me. I care about her a lot. If you hurt her or make her sad, I won’t forgive you.”

Iruka hid a wince.

“Naruto, that may be beyond my control. Sometimes a person’s feelings are unrequited.”

“Unrequited?”

“One-sided. Sometimes a person can like another person a whole lot, but that person won’t always return those feelings. You know how you like Sakura-chan but she doesn’t seem to like you back?”

Naruto blushed and pouted. “She might like me back someday! That means you might like Aburame-big sister back someday too!”

“I suppose that isn’t impossible, but Naruto, you must understand that we barely know each other. Besides which, does she know you’re telling me this? People don’t appreciate it when others reveal their feelings or secrets without their permission.”

He frowned. “I told her I was going to tell you, but she didn’t stop me. She must want you to know!”

This is a can of worms that Iruka really wished hadn’t been opened on him. He isn’t interested in a romantic relationship with someone more than two years younger than him, at least not when they’re both under twenty. There is also the issue of her being from one of four noble clans as he doubts she’d be allowed to marry out of it and he has no interest in abandoning his family name. Plus, there’s Naruto who wants to protect her feelings, but he can’t protect her from every heartbreak.

“Naruto, you said you won’t forgive me if I hurt her or make her sad, but that may be unavoidable. Understand that I won’t do it on purpose to be cruel, but I might be unable to avoid making her sad when I speak to her about this.”

Naruto’s eyes went wide. “You’re going to tell her that I told you?!”

“You already said that she knows you were coming to tell me.”

“Oh. Oh yeah, I did. Is this one of those conse-things?’

“Consequences, and yes, in a way, it is. After all, if you had kept her feelings a secret, then I wouldn’t know about them until such a time she told me herself. I wouldn’t have to go and speak to her to let her down gently. You can take this as a lesson and learn the value of keeping someone’s counsel.”

“Keeping someone’s counsel?”

“Keeping someone’s plans or secrets as secret, meaning you don’t go telling them to other people.”

Naruto’s face scrunched up. “I’m the reason that you’re going to go make her sad?”

He hesitated, but that was the gist of the situation. “In a manner of speaking.”

“Sakura-chan is right. I’m the worst.”

Iruka knelt. “Naruto, no. Look at me. You’re not ‘the worst’. You’re just a kid, and kids make mistakes. That’s part of growing up. After this, you’ll know better, right?”

The boy nodded.

“Learn from this, and you’ll do better in the future.”

“…I didn’t want to make her sad, though. I just… I guess I just hoped you’d like her too, and that she’d be happy, even if you took her away from me. I just… I want her to be happy. I’ve never seen her smile or heard her laugh, you know?”

“Well, she’s an Aburame. They’re often like that. Don’t let it worry you too much, okay?”

Naruto sniffed.

“I’m… I’m gonna go, sensei.”

“Alright. But Naruto, you should apologize to her when you get the chance, okay?”

He froze for a moment before nodding reluctantly.

The boy soon left, leaving Iruka alone. Sighing, he stood up and looked out the window.

It wasn’t unflattering to know that a girl had feelings for him, but he simply couldn’t imagine having romantic feelings for a teenager. Perhaps things would be different if they were both older, but since things had come out like this he was going to have to gently reject her feelings.

He wasn’t looking forward to the next time he saw her.


When merely meeting someone is ridden with angst and open to misinterpretation, is it any wonder she is so hopeless at relationships.

~Sarah Rayner, One Moment, One Morning