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Sacred Rituals

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Fifty Years Before

Azumi stared down at the fang in the palm of her hand that—up until just moments ago—was in her mouth. She picked it up with the thumb and index finger of her other hand and inspected it against the moonlight. "My father is going to kill me," she groaned with a slight laugh toward her own misfortune. She put her hand to her jaw as a slight pain shot through her gums.

"There you are," Sasuke said as he walked up behind her. "Are you okay?" He looked up at the cliff that towered over them—at the spot that he watched her fall from. He could not stop her in time. "That was a bad fall," he said quietly.

She stood up and turned toward him to hold up her fang in front of him. "I lost my fang," she said casually. She could feel a little bit of blood coming from the socket it once occupied. She sighed at the thought of having to live the rest of her eternal life with a single fang. She was not even a full century old yet.

Sasuke's eyes widened a little as he leaned in closer to get a better look at it. "That's not good," he said. "Did it hurt?"

"The impact with the ground did a little and my gums hurt." Her tongue slipped through the awkward gap she now had in her mouth.

"Orochimaru isn't going to like this."

"I'm afraid to tell him."

"Well, you can't exactly hide a gap in your mouth for eternity," he chuckled. "Would you like me to be with you when you tell him?"

Azumi hummed and closed her hand around her fang to hold it closer to her. "I don't think that's a good idea," she smirked. "I don't think he would take too kindly to the fact that you were with me when it happened. Even though you tried to stop me." She breathed in deep through her nose and let it out slowly. "I can tell him alone."

"If your brother was here, he would probably soften the blow for you."

"I can't hide behind Yashamaru forever," she sighed. "I should be able to confront my own father."

Sasuke nodded. "Well, if you need someone there, I'll do it."

She smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you. But I'll handle it."

"The sun will be rising soon," he said as he offered her his arm. "I'll walk you home."

Later on, in her bathroom, Azumi stared at herself in the mirror and held her fang close to her in her fist. She opened her mouth slightly to see how obvious the gap in her mouth was. "I can't hide that," she frowned. Sasuke was right. She let out a sigh as she mentally prepared herself for the talk she was about to receive from her father once she mentioned her fang. She stood up straight and made her way through her bedroom and down the stairs all the way to the lowest level of the castle where the labs were. As she walked down the hall to determine which of the labs Orochimaru was in, she heard him in the farthest one. She took a deep breath and walked in.

"I see you are awake," he said. He did not look at her when she entered. His back was turned as he worked intently on something. "Is the sun up?" he asked.

"Yes," she nodded. She knew he was not going to see the nod. "I can't sleep."

"Are your curtains at least closed?"

"Yes," she sighed. "The whole castle is dark, Father, I know how to be a vampire." She immediately started to doubt her own words. Did she really know how to be one? She had just lost her fang and she was awake during the day. Granted, her father was also awake during the day but the labs were way below ground level and he almost never left them. It was the most vampiric thing about him. Like Orochimaru, Azumi was a natural-born vampire, so it was the only thing she knew how to be. Yet, when things like this happened, she started to question herself. "I came down here to talk to you," she said.

"What is it you wanted to talk about?" he asked.

She took a couple of seconds to answer. "I...lost my fang," she said.

Orochimaru stopped what he was doing and turned to her. He took off his gloves and tossed them onto the worktable. "Let me see it," he said sternly. She opened her mouth a little bit to show him the gap where the fang was and held out her hand to show him the fang itself. "Azumi," he said with a heavy sigh, "I am not going to even ask how it happened, because something tells me that the Uchiha boy was involved somehow and I just do not want to hear about it." She did not want to explain to him that she jumped off a cliff anyway. "I will see what I can do about a prosthetic."

"A prosthetic?" she repeated. "You're going to make a fake fang?" She was not entirely sure she wanted to deal with the process of this. She did not want hours upon hours of measuring tools in her mouth. "I think I'll be fine with just one fang."

"Actually, I have been working on vampire prosthetics," he said. "Your little mishap just gives me a good excuse to start testing them. Granted, I did not think my daughter would be one of my test subjects." He sighed again. "I will commission an artist for prototypes." He held his hand out and she gave him her fang. "It will have to be hollow," he said, inspecting it. "And it may not be as long as this." He looked at her hard. "You likely also tore the tube that connects it to your venom sac." Azumi gasped quietly as she realized what the pain in her gums was. "Yes, that is what hurts probably. I might as well upgrade your venom potency while I am at it."

"You're taking this much better than I expected," she said. She lost a fang and her father decided to give her a new one and give her stronger venom. 'I should lose more things,' she thought.

"Make no mistake, I am furious with you," he told her, "but it gives me a chance to continue working on prosthetics. In the meantime," he turned away from her and placed her fang into a small dish on his table then picked up a basket of scrolls from the floor, "to keep you from losing other parts of your body, you will be decoding and translating these scrolls." He handed her the basket and she looked down at the three thick scrolls in it. "These scrolls pertain to my research and experiments, but I have no time to decode them and work on the experiments. And now that I have to work on your fang, I have even less time. So, it is now your responsibility. It will keep you busy."

She looked up at him and blew some of her hair from her face. "I don't know how to decode," she said.

He smirked at her and tucked her hair behind her ear. "I think you will find it easier than you think," he said. "I am doing this for your own good, Azumi." He nudged her to get going and start on her new line of work.

"When should I have them back to you?" she asked as she turned and walked to the door.

"Whenever you finish them," he answered.

"I'll have them back in fifty years," she smirked as she left.

Almost the whole day had passed and Azumi hated how right Orochimaru was about how easy she would find the decoding process. She had never done this before but something about figuring out syntactic patterns in a different language was a little enjoyable. Before she knew it, she was almost done with the first scroll. Her eyes began to feel a little tired from looking at it for so long. She sat back from the scroll and stretched.

Her stretch ended prematurely when she heard a quiet tapping on her window. She got up and peeked through the curtain. Once she realized the sun had gone down, she opened it wide and opened the window. A little black cat jumped through and meowed loudly at her as it pounced onto her bed. "You're cute, but I don't know what you're saying," she smiled.

She watched as the little black cat turned into Sasuke. "I asked you how you were still alive after confronting your father," he smirked.

She leaned against her desk and folded her arms across her chest. "Miraculously," she smirked back. "He took it better than I anticipated."

"So now you have one fang," he chuckled.

"He is actually working on prosthetic ones and said I am now a tester for them."

"Typical," he scoffed. "He will always find a way to experiment on someone. Even his own child."

Azumi shrugged. "It's just a fang, it's not like he's dissecting me." She looked at Sasuke and frowned a little. "When are you leaving?" she asked.

Sasuke laid on his back and looked up at her ceiling. "Tomorrow," he said. They had never really discussed the fact that he was going away for a little while. Mostly because neither of them wanted to admit that it was about to happen. Azumi joined him on the bed and rested her head on his chest. "I'm not exactly looking forward to it," he said as he wrapped his arm around her.

"I'm not exactly looking forward to being left alone," she chuckled. Her relationship with Sasuke was pretty well-known among the vampire community up in the hills. Or at least everyone thought they knew about their relationship. Azumi and Sasuke were close, very close. Among the young vampires in their generation, they were the only two who tolerated each other. While they cared deeply for each other and were intimate with each other, they were never officially 'together' as some would say. They knew they were not the Ones for each other but they also never really expected to meet their Ones. Neither of them was a full century old yet so their relationship was equivalent to twenty-something-year-old humans being friends with benefits.

"You'll have Shikamaru," he laughed.

"He's never awake." She sighed. "It's okay, though. I've just been given a new responsibility." She looked over at the scroll on her desk. "My father is making me interpret his research scrolls."

"Is that his way of keeping you inside?"

She nodded. "He says it'll keep me busy. And I only sneak out with you. So, with you gone, maybe it will keep me busy. And it turns out I actually enjoy doing it."

He wrapped his other arm around her and groaned. "I'm going to miss you," he frowned.

She smiled sadly at him. "I'm going to miss you, too," she said softly. She rested her head in the crook of his neck and ran her hand through his hair. "But you'll be back. We're going to live forever, and you won't be gone that long. And who knows, maybe you'll find the One while you're gone."

A smile crept across his face as he ran his hand up her back. "Maybe you will, too," he said.

They laid there for a while until it was eventually time for Sasuke to leave. They said their sad goodbyes and gave each other their obligatory kisses. Azumi watched as he turned back into a cat and jumped out her window. She made sure he landed safely and watched his path until he was out of sight. It would be another about a year before she saw him again.

Azumi sighed as she closed her window and shut the curtains. She made her way back to her desk to finish working on the first of the three scrolls from the basket her father gave her. It was going to be a long year.