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Sacred Rituals

Chapter Text

Five Months Before

Sasuke stared down at the growing town below his family's castle. He was bored. He was always bored. His 121st birthday was coming up and he was not in the mood for the new responsibilities his uncle was going to push on to him. It was almost comical that vampires even had ages that they celebrated as if it actually meant something the way it did to humans. He didn't understand why they bothered imitating them. He took a swig from the glass bottle that he smuggled out of the castle.

"Are you going to share or am I going to have to find my own bottle?" Azumi asked, walking up behind him.

"What's the point of it all?" Sasuke asked, noticing she brought her own bottle with her anyway.

"Oh, I see we're starting the existential questions early tonight." She sat next to him and put her arm around him. They had grown up together, being part of the same generation. A generation for vampires included all those born or turned within the same half of a century. In their generation of vampires, she was the only one he could tolerate being around. And she thought the same of him. "Are you upset because you're technically really old but still super hot?"

A smirk ghosted the boy's lips. He passed her his bottle. She took it, taking a long drink from it herself. "Super hot, you say?" He gave her a sly look. "Too bad this hotness hasn't done much for me in a good twenty years."

"Didn't you just take your third bride?" She had voiced to him before that she thought it was odd that Madara kept picking out brides for him. They understood it was purely political but all of the wives were the same age and still alive.

Sasuke rolled his eyes, grunting softly. "Did she remotely look like my type?" He took the bottle back from Azumi and finished it off. "They have nothing but stars in their eyes for me and it's sickening. They don't even care that they're nothing but a blip in this lifetime, because all he wants is to see me 'happy,'" he grimaced.

"Well, look at it this way," she laid back in the grass, "they're all mortal. They'll be dead soon and you'll be alone just like you want."

"Sixty years is soon to you?"

"Sixty years is a mere minute to an immortal, my love."

Sasuke hummed in agreement. "I suppose you're right." He laid back, too.

"Enjoy the title of a husband while you have it for now."

"Maybe we should just get married." He stretched. Strangely, he liked the sound of the title but he would never own up to it. "Ah, but maybe not with how your father is."

"I doubt I'll be getting married any time soon."

Sasuke hummed, closing his eyes for a moment. "My brother seems to be settling in for a life of celibacy which is killing Madara," he chuckled. "I can't believe you're even able to slip away from your father."

"He's gotten really...strict lately. I haven't been allowed to leave but luckily Kimimaro is nice enough to cover for me should my father notice my absence. He might think that I will only marry a man of his choosing."

"He'd never choose me."

Azumi laughed. "I wouldn't choose you. I see how you treat your current wives. I may be a vampire, but I need actual love."

Sasuke laughed. It was a nearly hollow sound but it was what he could manage. "I'm capable of love. Just not for them." He turned his head so they brushed noses. "I'd never treat you the way I do them. Madara just has shitty taste."

"That's sort of refreshing to hear. Maybe you should kill them," she smirked. "Make it look like a natural cause."

"Now that would make for a fun afternoon."

"Do it," Azumi smirked.

"Ah, but my disdain for them is so known. And then it'd be over." He sighed and it was like his soul hovered above them for a moment.

"Madara would just pick you another."

Sasuke looked at her, a half-smirk pulling at his lips. "And the cycle would simply repeat. I think we'll just leave them alive for now and let them waste their time in the castle." He tilted his head to take a sip from the bottle. "Don't worry, no one could replace you."

"Aw, but then we can't make a date of it."

"Ah, but now we have a new plaything for sixty years," he chuckled, pressing a kiss to her forehead. There was no one else in his endless lifetime that he could be more himself with than Azumi. There were times he almost thought he could say he loved her but what did that word even mean to him. She was the perfect person to waste their endless nights away with. He slid his arm under her neck, giving her head a little cushion. The horizon started to turn pink in the distance. The first rays of sunlight would be upon them sooner than they cared for. "Fuck. The nights only seem to get shorter and shorter, I swear." He hissed, closing his eyes. "I don't want to go home yet. Itachi is still moping about the house and I'm really not in the mood to deal with that. Let me come over."

"That is such a horrible idea," she chuckled. "Sure." They both sat up. "We can finish this in my room." She held up the bottle of wine she had with her.

"Oh, thank god!" He jumped up, pulling her up with him. "It's been so long since I've been to the Snake House." He led the way, moving quickly as the sun rose.

"Someone's excited to visit the snakes," Azumi smirked. She had told him a couple of new ones hatched and he had not met them yet. "I think you'd like the newest one. We named him Aoda. When he reaches a foot long, you can have him." Quickly, they approached the tunnel entrance to Azumi's home.

"You'd really give me one of your snakes?" Sasuke asked as they entered the tunnel and quickly moved through it to the castle.

"This one...this one belongs to you. I hatched him for you."

There it was. The momentary spark of life flashed in Sasuke's eyes. "I think I might cry." He sneezed instead. "Wait." He chuckled, but the excitement was genuine and could not be kept out of his voice. "I don't know why I don't visit more often. Orochimaru banned you from going out, not from having visitors."

"Remember that one time, about fifty years ago when he caught us in bed? Yeah, he hasn't really let that go. But you're right, he never said I couldn't have visitors and he technically never mentioned you not being able to come over anymore." They reached the castle and entered through the kitchen trap door.

"Oh, yeah," Sasuke smirked, laughing much softer now that they were inside. He followed after his friend as she led him deeper into the castle. "Fuck it, I'll visit you then. It's much quieter here." Azumi pushed another door to a hidden staircase that led them to a steaming hot room. "It's been so long since I visited the nursery."

Sasuke could see she was just as excited to show him the baby as he was to meet it when she moved to the newborn tank. "Look at them," she smiled. The neonates squirmed quickly around the tank. She picked one up and held it out to Sasuke. "This is him. I think he's perfect for you."

Sasuke took the pencil-sized baby in his hands and let him move around his fingertips. He loved him already. His heart felt something more than contempt for the world, looking at the wiggly little one. Sasuke raised his hand to his face and the snake squirmed out to tap his snout to Sasuke's nose. "Oh," he smiled.

"I think he likes you."

Sasuke laughed, not looking away from the young Aoda. He already knew this little guy was never going to leave his side once he took him home. He was the most adorable thing he's seen in years. "Azumi, you spoil me."

"Well, I don't have a man, so I need to spoil someone." She opened a small container of dead mice and dumped them into the tank for the other snakes to feed. "Let's go finish that wine."

He smiled and booped Aoda once more on the nose before placing him gently back in the tank to let him eat. He followed after Azumi quickly. "Maybe I should kiss you more often." He teased but there was an undertone of seriousness.

"You don't need to kiss me for me to spoil you," she laughed, opening the door to her room. "But it wouldn't hurt." She led him in and opened the bottle of wine they had left.

"Good to know," he smirked, smoothly moving through the door bee-lining for her bed. He stretched out like a cat.

She closed the door and joined him on the bed, handing him the bottle. "When was the last time you went to the town?" she asked as he drank from it.

"It's been a while," he answered. He passed it back to her, closing his eyes in comfort. Absentmindedly, he began to play with a piece of her hair. "How about you?"

She set the bottle down and laid down next to him. "It's been a couple of years for me."

Sasuke raised his eyebrow. He pushed himself up onto his elbow to look at her better. "The people are never very thrilling but some of the shops are nice to wander into. The bars are much better." Sasuke took the bottle and sipped from it again. "Want to go next week?"

"I'd love to," she smiled. "How is that invention your cousin was working on going? The little pouches of blood?"

"He's actually doing pretty well with it. I saw a prototype on his workbench the other day." Sasuke was mildly impressed with his cousin's invention. "I'm not sure how he's getting the blood but when it's done, I can tell it's going to be perfect for our weekly meetings."

"I'm excited and tell him I'm willing to work as a tester for it." She stretched her stiff limbs and turned to her side. "If he's willing to have testers, of course."

"He has to have testers. He can't rely just on himself," Sasuke said. He also wanted to be a tester. "I'll see if he'll tear himself away from Itachi or Mei long enough to be asked when I get home," he chuckled. Sasuke's eyes landed on Azumi's desk. The basket of scrolls beside it and the small pile of documents on top of it reminded him of what Orochimaru had been keeping her busy with to prevent her from leaving. "Has your work been going well?"

Azumi groaned. "It's been going fine and that's what I hate. There's no challenge in deciphering and decoding anymore. I've been alive so long that I just translate at this point."

"I'd say teach me something but I'm not sure I care," he laughed. "Madara has some ancient texts that Orochimaru's been dying to get his hands on. Maybe I can smuggle them out for you."

"Ooh, you'd do that for me?" she smirked. She laughed quietly. "While you're at it, you should attempt to smuggle a prototype or two from Shisui. But that's if you even go home, considering you never want to be there."

"Being home only sucks because no one's ever around for very long." He took a deep breath. The death of his parents was still felt in the castle. And it had affected everyone in different ways, but mainly everyone receded into their own holes. It made eternity even lonelier. "And like you said numerous times in our lifetime, you're my only friend." He flashed her a smile but it was much sadder than all the others.

"If I can't find a husband before your wives die, then marry me," she said. "That means the potential one too. They all have to be dead. But given you don't find the One before that."

Sasuke looked at her hard for a moment and nodded. "I'll hold you to that." He was serious this time. He knew he would not mind spending the rest of eternity with the only person who seemed to fill even the tiniest bit of the void. She was his best friend.

She closed her eyes for a moment, relaxing everything. "Hm, also, if at any point you want them dead, you know where to find me."

"I'll save that for a rainy night." He watched her face for a moment before leaning down to kiss her softly. "For Aoda." he chuckled, stretching to lay with her. "We could just go to sleep. Not like anyone will notice I'm gone."

"Mhm, way ahead of you," she smiled. She had felt herself drifting off to sleep only a couple minutes after laying down. "It also isn't like you need to explain to them where you are."

"You're absolutely right." He snuggled in next to her, pulling one of her blankets up so it cocooned them perfectly. He fell asleep easily next to her.

The next week, the night was early, giving Azumi and Sasuke plenty of time to get to the town, explore, and get back before the sun rose. "Ready?" she asked as she approached him at their usual weekly meeting spot on the cliff.

"I almost want to say I'm excited," he smirked. They traveled quickly to the town below, making their way through the forest and down the hills. The nightlife was blooming, the lights were flickering on, and the music was on the air.

"Humans are very festive," she said. "So, this is the noise I hear so faintly up there..." She listened to the music. "It's kind of nice." She grabbed his hand, looking around at the scenery of the town.

Sasuke smiled, taking the lead into town. He gave her hand a small squeeze. "There is a festival coming up actually," he chuckled. "At the end of this week, they are going to set off fireworks." He smiled at her, pulling her towards his preferred bar. "We should watch it together if you don't find someone first."

"I'd love to." They sat down at the bar.

"What do you want?"

"Mm, surprise me. I doubt they serve AB here," she laughed. The bartender placed two napkins in front of them. Upon sight, they knew he was one of them. Although, his super pale skin was something he had before he was a vampire, and they could tell. "Or maybe they do?"

"What can I get you?" the bartender asked.

"Two spiked rosés please," Sasuke said.

"Preferred blood type?"

Sasuke pointed to Azumi. "AB. And then B for myself." The bartender nodded and disappeared below the counter. "He's new," Sasuke spoke lowly to Azumi. He turned slightly in his seat to scan the room.

"He's cute," she said.

"Maybe he's The One?"

"Just because I said he's cute doesn't mean he's The One," she laughed.

"Are you two talking about me?" the bartender said, setting their glasses down on their napkins.

Azumi smiled at him. "Quite possibly."

The bartender flashed a huge smile. "Thank you." He tipped his head to the side. "You are Orochimaru's daughter and you are the youngest Uchiha, correct? Lady Azumi and Lord Sasuke? My name is Sai." He grabbed Azumi's hand to place a gentle kiss to the back of it. The two of them looked at him hard. Azumi looked at his eyes. They were similar to hers, with a slit pupil. But they were a duller gold than hers. She did not recognize him as someone Orochimaru would have turned. Maybe there were other snake-like vampires around?

Sasuke picked up his glass. "What's your parentage?" he asked over the rim of his glass.

"I actually don't know." The smile never left the bartender's face. "It was an attack and they left me immediately after."

"Aw," Azumi frowned.

"Tragic," Sasuke said. It did not sound sincere, but Azumi knew that he genuinely thought it was tragic.

"Hey there, cutie," a woman swayed herself over towards them through the crowd. She had a full glass of something in her hand and the intoxicated gall to place a hand directly on Sasuke's knee. She smiled, giggled, and leaned towards him.

Sasuke glared at her, his eyes flickering down to the woman's hand. "What do you think you're doing?" he asked dryly, pushing the woman gently away from him.

Azumi moved to get in between them, ready to make up some story about her being his girlfriend or wife. But just as her hand moved, someone else's appeared, wrapping around Sasuke's shoulders.

"I see you're coming onto my boyfriend," a raspy voice said. Everyone looked to see a very handsome blond man standing before them with his arm around Sasuke. The glass in his hand smelled of stronger alcohol than what Azumi and Sasuke had. The girl immediately backed off, giving the new man a dirty look before receding into the crowd. The blond smirked, letting out a raspy laugh. "Sorry, man, I couldn't watch her do that to you." He backed off from Sasuke and took a seat next to him. He took a sip of his drink and winked at Azumi.

Azumi could not protest this one. He was too charming. Plus, she felt something when he approached that she could not get in the way of.

"Wow," Sai said. "I've never seen two vampires fall into such a trance so quickly."

"It's in my nature," Azumi said. "But for him," she looked at Sasuke, "this means something." She could see that Sasuke was at a loss for words. The man in front of him smelled amazing. And his smile was cuter than the bartender's.

"What's your name?" the cute blond asked him.

"I...Uchiha," Sasuke stammered, looking into the boy's blue eyes. He shook his head and the boy smirked, taking another sip of his drink.

"Uchiha, eh? You live in one of the castles up there, right?"

"He is the youngest Uchiha," Sai smiled. "His name is—"

"Sasuke. I'm Sasuke Uchiha." Sasuke shot Sai a glare.

Sai shrugged. "It did not look like you were able to do it so I thought to help." He smiled again as he began to clean a glass.

"Right," Azumi said, clearing her throat. "I'll let you two get to know each other." She looked at Sai. "You. Let's get to know each other over there."

Sai flashed his smile again. "Okay." He followed after his new-found evening partner. They moved to a table on the other side of the bar.

"How long has it been since you've been turned?" she asked him.

"About a year. I got through the newborn stage on my own."

Azumi frowned again. She felt bad that there was no one to help this guy through the first stages of becoming a vampire. It was not an easy process to go through even with the help her family usually provided and she had to commend those who could do it on their own.

Sasuke tapped on Azumi's shoulder. She saw the grin that split his face as soon as she turned to him. "I'm stepping out, but you know how to find me," he said. He nodded to Sai. "Treat her well." There was an undercurrent of a threat to his words.

Sai nodded and Sasuke left with the cute blond. "I'm having a hard time reading your relationship with him," Sai said as Sasuke walked away.

"Yeah, try not to think too hard about it," Azumi said. "How old are you?"

"I am twenty-one years old," Sai responded with a smile. "I was told to never ask a lady her age so I will refrain. But I will say I have never seen you here before. I've been working here for about six months."

"Let's just say I'm of a similar age," she said. "And I do not frequent this bar." She looked him in the eyes. "You seem to be doing okay...for someone who is basically self-taught."

"I will take that as a compliment," Sai bowed his head slightly. "It is good to know I am assimilating decently."

"It must have been hard to do all of that on your own. I'm sorry that happened to you. And that you don't even know who it was. Honestly, what a shitty vampire."

"Yes, it was hard, but I can mostly control myself." The smile was there again. "And I've managed to keep away from humans when it gets too hard, but I still struggle. I've been reading a lot of books."

"Resourceful. Well, if you ever need any help, you know where I live." That was her formal invitation for him to seek asylum should he ever feel the urge to go on a rampage. "You seem to have been sired by a serpent vampire, like myself. You would find great refuge in my home should you need it."

Sai bowed again. "Thank you, Lady Azumi." They continued their conversation for a while. Sai asked questions on how he should go about certain things that came about when he was turned and she answered them easily. After a while, he looked around to see if Sasuke had returned with his new friend. "Should you not go looking for your friend?" he asked with slight concern.

"Oh, yeah, he just found The One. I'm going to give him a little more time," Azumi smirked. "I'm so happy for him."

"The One?"

Azumi nodded. "For every person, there is The One for them. It's not rare to find them at all. But vampires hold the concept very dear and we take it very seriously. It is also much more common that The One for a vampire is a human. We can also feel when someone else has found The One."

Sai gasped slightly. "Is that what that was?" he asked. "I felt it when they looked at each other."

"Yes, that's it. That feeling is called a Verification and vampires can verify if two people are the Ones for each other. We were there to verify for Sasuke."

"Fascinating. Thank you for this information, my Lady."

"You may have learned how to control your urges and how to adapt to being a vampire, but when it comes to customs, you may need to be taught. Should you need some lessons, you can come and find me. My brother and I teach new vampires and help them assimilate."

"I appreciate that."

"I should probably go find Sasuke now," she laughed. She stood up to leave.

"Until next time, then, Lady Azumi," Sai said, taking her hand to kiss the back of it again. With that said, she left, off to find her best friend and the new love of his life.

Azumi found Sasuke relatively easily. He and the blond had moved just outside of the town. She stopped just beneath the hill they were on top. "Wow...it's like he came down here to find a husband," she mumbled. She watched as they pulled apart and went their separate ways.

Sasuke noticed her and made his way down the hill, immediately pushing his body weight on her with a longing sigh. "I invited Naruto to the fireworks." His voice was light and airy and nothing she had ever heard in him but she was happy for him. He looked over his shoulder to Naruto and felt that giddy feeling again as he watched the other man leave.

"The fireworks we were supposed to see together?" Azumi smirked. "Nice. I've always wanted to be a third wheel to you." She could see he was literally floating about a foot off the ground. She laughed at how in love he was. "Come on," she said, grabbing his hand to prevent him from floating any higher. "Let's go home."

He chuckled, but it was a far-off dreamy sound. "It'll be great." They reached the Uchihas' front door and she floated him inside. "Goodnight, Azumi." He cast her a smile.

"Goodnight, Sasuke," she smiled. "Make sure you get to your room okay." She watched as he floated further into the house before she closed the door behind her and went home. The sky was beginning to turn pink and she needed to get back into her house before her father noticed she was gone.

Chapter Text

Five Months Before

He was out for his favorite pastime—an evening hunt. Something to get his blood going. A little taste. It had been a slow couple of months. Tobirama had not come across as many vampires as he would have liked. He was nowhere near his personal quota. It was a good thing for the town he was protecting, but for him, it was nowhere near satisfactory. However, tonight, things started to look up. He spotted her mint green hair when he stepped out of the tavern, almost instantly recognizing her situation when he took a good look at the rest of her. Tobirama watched the girl duck in and out alleyways. He followed her for at least four streets. If he had not known better, he would have thought the young woman was on some sort of drug. But he knew her symptoms all too well.

"I have not seen a newborn in so long." Tobirama breathed deeply, a grin ripping his face in half. He kept a decent pace behind her, following her down the road. "She is leaving," he mumbled, noticing her path was leading out of the town and towards the hills. He knew just by looking at her that she did not belong to any of the noble families living in the hills. She was just a normal peasant. She would not be missed. He watched her stumble into the brush, swaying from hunger and cravings. He stopped walking when she slowed down and fell into a bush. There was his chance. He knew she was too weak to get away. He made his way over to her. She was laying in the bush, panting hard from what looked to be a drug tweak, but he knew what it really was. A new vampire, just freshly turned, not used to the new powers and strengths of such a creature. Scared, alone. An easy target. "You poor child," he said, unable to sound sympathetic in any way. The last thing he could have was any sort of sympathy for these creatures, new and scared or not.

She panted and he noted her pupils were blown, there was nothing but black and a thin ring of glittering orange around it. He assumed the orange to be her natural eye color. "Get...get away from me!" She scrambled away from him, covering her mouth. "GET AWAY! I'll hurt you!" He could hear her sobbing. She stumbled further into the hills.

"I do not think you will," he said easily, following after her. "I can help you, child." He heard the rustling stop. Now he had her attention. He only needed it for a couple of moments. He was going to make this quick and easy. At least to start off the night.

"He-help me? No, you smell human! There is no way you...I'll hurt you," she whimpered. She was starting to sob softly again. "I didn't want this." She fell to her knees.

"I'm sure you didn't." His boots fell heavily on the ground as he made his way to her. "I can end your suffering."

Her already dilated pupils widened a bit more. "You can change me back?" she asked, her voice bearing the smallest hint of hope of being saved from this nightmare.

"Oh, no, my child, I can do something better." He could not hide the grin on his face. "Come with me." He stretched his arm out for her to grab his hand.

She hesitated for a moment, looking between him and his hand. She was lost and someone was willing to help her. Though cautious, she was desperate. Slowly, she took his hand and he helped her to her feet. "Th-thank you…" she said quietly.

"Do not thank me yet," he grinned, leading her deeper into the forest. The trees around them thickened and the stars above them were swallowed by the dark canopy, leaving them in total darkness. It was easier on the girl's eyes but Tobirama was not struggling as a normal human should have. He pulled her until the trees opened. The ground beneath their feet was gnarled with roots. "Lay here, child," he whispered. There was no kindness in his voice but she could not tell. No, all she felt was a rough hand cradling her face, softly stroking her cheek. She closed her eyes, feeling a calm wash over her. It was the calmest she felt in almost ten long days. And before she could even process it, that comforting hand was on her neck. It propelled her forward, hard onto her knees, her head slammed hard on some of the roots. As her head bounced up, it hit hard into something metal and very solid. Her breathing hitched hard in her throat. She was a fool who trusted too soon. "Now you can thank me."

He did not give her a chance to say anything, hearing only the very beginning of a scream before he pulled the trigger, putting a hole through her head. A little smoke rose from the wound where the skin around it burned due to the bullet being blessed. His head tilted back in ecstasy. He took a few moments to revel in the feeling of release before stepping over the girl's body and heading back the way he came. He walked back into town and made his way to the tavern he and his brother were staying in. He was riding high off the night's events as he walked into the room that he was sharing with Hashirama.

"You're in high spirits, Brother," Hashirama noticed immediately.

"I met a girl," Tobirama smirked.

"Oh? Did she bring any satisfaction?"

"Yes," he chuckled darkly. Hashirama knew that laugh. "The bullet going through her head brought much satisfaction." He wanted more. This small kill was not enough to make up for the two-month lull he had in his hunts. If there was one new one out there, that meant there had to be a couple more out there, or better yet, their sire. Just the thought of it excited him.

Hashirama took a deep, long breath and gave a tight smile. He had to figure out the right words to say. "Well, Brother, I am...glad for your good fortune and think I will go out for a bit of fresh air myself." He nodded, getting up and hurrying out of the room.

With his brother gone, there would be no one to hold Tobirama back from going on another hunt. He headed back out, weaving through crowds of the streets to leave the town. The hills were where he wanted to go this time. He ventured through the forest, making his way up to the cliffs towards the large castles that rested above the town.

Tobirama scanned his surroundings. He figured he would try for a noble rather than someone in town again. He was certain one of the creatures would wander out. He could sense one not too far from him. Then he spotted it. He made his way towards it, walking parallel to its path. The last one was a newborn—freshly turned probably mere days ago, but this one seemed to be just what he was looking for. A natural-born. He had spotted it coming down from another section of the cliffs. Quickly noting this one was also a woman, he smirked, stalking quietly behind her. He weighed out how he wanted to attack. She was small, which meant she was very agile and quick. His hand lowered to a sliver gun strapped to his right leg. He could already feel the adrenaline bubbling in his chest. He pulled the gun quickly and shot two quick shots at her calves. She stumbled to the ground in seconds, a muffled scream coming from her when she hit the ground. He grinned, closing the gap between them.

'God, this is going to be fun!' He thought about how killing her could lure others out. The thought of baiting them so easily excited him. He heard her feet digging into the ground as she tried to crawl away. Tobirama chuckled lowly, catching up to her easily. She had covered her mouth to muffle her pained screams. He kicked her onto her back and got a good look at her fear-filled golden eyes. The vertical slits for pupils and the long fangs protruding out of her gums told him enough. He had struck the perfect target. "My, my, aren't you young." He leaned down, pressing the gun under her chin to tilt her head. He looked for some sort of marks on her neck. Seeing none, he realized she was a natural-born vampire. He could not hide the smile on his face. She looked to be about in her twenties, but knowing vampires, Tobirama reckoned she was well over a century old. He had never seen any with eyes like hers before.

She hissed, spitting venom into his face. "Fuck off," she growled, pushing the gun away from her face and scrambled backward to stand up, only to fall back down because she had been shot in the legs. "Dammit," she hissed. She pushed herself backward, trying to get away.

Tobirama grunted, wiping away the venom. It burned but it was weak. This one was much feistier than the last. It only interested him more. If he had not shot her where he did, he could see how much of a fight she was willing to put up. He pushed her down with his boot across her chest. "How curious," he mused. "Never met one who can spit venom." He pushed his boot hard into her, taking in the sound of her struggling to breathe. "Adorable." He cocked his gun again, aiming it at her head. "I'll put your body to good use."

"You...sick bastard," she barely let out. She started to struggle beneath him.

"You will not be the last to call me that." His finger pulled back on the trigger and where there should have been a beautiful blooming hole in the creature's head, there was instead a massive white snake. Tobirama found himself slammed into the side of the cliff. He laughed, pushing out of the rock and grinning at the hissing snake. It looked to have coiled around the girl. "Called on your familiar, I see! Impressive for one so young," Tobirama smirked, approaching them again. He pulled a long, serrated blade and the smirk pulled into a grin as he aimed it at the side of the snake. This was going to feel amazing.

He landed one hit on the snake but was almost instantaneously sent backward by the tail. He charged again, his blade ready and for how massive the snake was, it moved it quickly. In mere seconds, the large snake had dug its way into the ground and covered the hole with its tail before he could even realize what was happening. Both the snake and the girl were gone. Tobirama's eyes widened, skidding through where the giant snake and the creature had been. He pushed out of the bushes, looking around for any sign of them but there was none.

"Clever, clever." He grinned darkly, sheathing his blade and gun. He had a new target to play with. A powerful one at that. "This will be fun." He had never come across a snake-like vampire before. This was a new variant he was eager to learn about, eager to dissect. He made a mental note to be prepared next time to take a venom sample.

Orochimaru knew his daughter had left the castle grounds when the servants could not recall the last time they saw her. He had a bad feeling that something bad was going to happen and it prompted him to leave and go look for her. He was not all too surprised when he found her underneath the boot of a hunter with a gun to her head. At the right moment, he took on his snake form and took the bullet for her, slamming his body against the hunter and sending him into the rocky cliffs. He quickly wrapped his tail around his daughter, moving her away from the hunter and forming a coil around her with his body.

"Are you okay, Azumi?" Orochimaru asked quietly inside the coil.

"He shot me," she answered. "It burns." Her voice broke but he knew she was not going to let herself cry there. She was stronger than that.

"I know, I know. We will get out of here." He turned his attention back to the hunter, hissing.

"How are we—" She was cut off by a pained grunt from Orochimaru as the hunter stabbed him with a serrated blade. "Father?"

"Underground," he said. The tail of the snake pierced the ground inside the coil, giving Azumi a route down into the tunnel below. She jumped down, landing on her feet and holding in an agonizing scream as a pain shot through her legs and she fell back down. As soon as he heard his daughter hit the ground of the tunnel below, he dove in after her. The end of his tail shifted dirt back into place. Orochimaru turned back into his natural form.

Azumi gasped, noticing the bullet hole in his stomach from when he took the bullet for her. "He shot you, too," she said quietly.

"I will be fine," he assured her as he picked her up and cradled her in his arms. "It will take a lot more than that to kill me." He did not need her to worry about him. He could easily get it out of himself. He had been hit with a blessed bullet before, so this was nothing too new to him. It burned, yes, but it was nothing he could not handle. He was more worried about her as she had never gone through something like this before. He began to move back to their castle, navigating his way through the tunnels that would lead directly underneath the kitchen of the castle where they could enter through a trapdoor.

"Those weren't normal bullets," she groaned. He could feel the heat from the wounds in her legs.

"They were sacred bullets." They approached the entrance and he walked up the small set of steps, lifting her a little so she could push the door open and entered the castle. "Why were you alone?" He kept his voice low but there was an angry undertone. "Where was Sasuke?" he hissed, the anger becoming more apparent in his voice. "I specifically told you not to ever be alone and you could not follow that one rule! Did the Uchiha run away?"

"I...He...Sasuke, I took him home...I was just..." Her voice broke. "I was just coming home..." She started to cry, unable to hold it in anymore. Orochimaru sighed, curling his daughter close to his chest. He kissed the top of her head, holding her tightly. "I—I'm so sorry..." She clutched his clothes as she buried her face in his chest. "I'm sorry..." She could not stop crying at this point. They entered the infirmary and he sat her down on an examining table. She kept her eyes down, not wanting to look him in the eye.

He grabbed what he needed for the extraction of the bullets and a cool rag. He tipped his daughter's face up towards him and gently wiped her face down. "He is gone now, Azumi." His voice was soft, none of the earlier anger in it. "He cannot hurt you now, I will not let him."

"Who was he?" she forced out through hitched breaths. "I can still feel his boot on my chest," she mumbled.

"Tobirama Senju."

"Senju..." She gasped and he could see that she recognized the surname as the clan that hunts vampires. All vampires were taught the names of the hunter clans and the individuals in them. "Oh, my god," she mumbled, letting more tears escape.

Orochimaru looked at her hard. He could tell she was grasping the full gravity of her situation. Tobirama could have killed her immediately if he wanted to. "You are lucky he was just playing."

She wiped the last of the tears from her face. "I'm sorry," she said again. "Because of me, you got hurt." He knew she hated being the cause of someone else being in danger or getting injured just as much as he hated her worrying about him.

"Do not worry about me." He wiped her face again gently and leaned her back onto the table. "I want to get these bullets out of you before they cause more damage. We will talk more about him after this." He pressed a needle into her arm and pressed the plunger. He watched her eyes flutter until she was asleep then set to work on her legs. Tobirama Senju was going to get what he deserved.

Two nights later, Orochimaru left his home. It had been a long time since Orochimaru left his home—or even his lab—but given the occasion, it seemed like it was time to get out for a night, even if it was for only a couple of hours. He knew Tobirama was in the area, and for once, it was convenient. He headed into the woods, catching onto a faint scent. It was a scent that Orochimaru found particularly disgusting, one that filled him with a bubbling rage. He recalled his daughter describing the hunter's scent as nauseating. He was quite sure that it was him.

He followed the scent, only growing more disgusted with it as it grew stronger. Then he saw him. Heading back towards the town was Tobirama Senju, the monster that almost took his daughter from him. He had to be smart about this. Tobirama was the kind to play around with his prey. Orochimaru needed to make the hunter think it was his game when really it was in Orochimaru's hands.

Orochimaru waited in plain sight, letting Tobirama come to him. He watched the man stop when he noticed a vampire in his presence. A dark chuckle filled the air. "Is there a den nearby that I just keep missing?" he asked. "First the girl, now you. I just seem to be getting lucky." He began to circle Orochimaru, no doubt comparing him to the younger serpent-like vampire he encountered. "You are much bigger...older..." Orochimaru lifted his arm and a snake flew out of his sleeve, straight for the hunter's face. Tobirama just barely dodged it, and the snake's tail grazed his cheek. He could see the hunter was caught off guard by it. "And faster," Tobirama said as he unsheathed a blade, ready to charge and attack.

The snake that flew past Tobirama slithered up his leg. It did not take too long for the hunter to notice this, however. He looked down, noticing the snake above his knee. He tried to shake it off, then looked up at the vampire. Orochimaru had moved quickly towards Tobirama while he was distracted and Tobirama was greeted with a hard kick to the face. The kick was hard enough to send Tobirama stumbling backward. "You are holding back," Tobirama noted. He knew that kick could have been much harder and done much more damage.

"I can give it my all if that is what you wish," Orochimaru said.

Tobirama grinned as he bore witness to the sight of the man before him transform into a large white snake. The same large white snake that came between him and the younger one. "Ah," he smirked, "you are the one who saved her." The snake lunged at him, baring its fangs. Tobirama moved to get out of its path but was still pushed by the body. He was thrown into a tree, almost uprooting it from the ground with the heavy impact. He stood up slowly, brushing himself off. "This is the aggression of a parent," he smirked as he watched the snake turn back into the vampire. "Was that young serpentess your daughter?"

"It matters not if she is my daughter or simply part of my clan."

"Oh, but it does," Tobirama practically purred, gripping his whip. Orochimaru and the hunter circled each other, not taking their eyes off each other. "I bet she's your heiress." He cracked the leather against the ground, grabbing the handle of his gun, no doubt figuring out which one would be more effective against a variant like Orochimaru.

Orochimaru narrowed his eyes, glancing at both of the weapons. He had to weigh his options. He was more concerned about the gun than the whip. He had an edge, though. He knew the terrain. However, he could not rule out that this hunter scouted the area often. He watched as Tobirama's hold on the whip tightened. He was going to use it first. Anticipating the move, Orochimaru was ready for the whip when it snapped towards him. He quickly moved toward Tobirama, shooting more snakes out of his sleeves to wrap around him.

Tobirama had his hand ready on the trigger of his gun, but he could not foresee a group of snakes restraining his arms. "I see this may actually be a challenge," he laughed. "Just what I wanted." He flexed a little bit to make the snakes let him go. They fell to the ground and slithered away. "You must have some other abilities. I was going to dissect her to find out."

Orochimaru said nothing. He was not going to give anything away. He knew what this man was and what he did. He glanced at the gun, noticing Tobirama's hand already on the trigger. He had no doubt this man's aim was flawless. Just as Tobirama aimed to shoot, Orochimaru took on his snake form and spiraled towards him, knocking him further back and into the rocky bottom of the higher cliffs.

Tobirama grunted as pointed rocks jabbed into his kidney area. He pushed himself up. Orochimaru had to commend the strength of this human. Tobirama was skilled in the art of not showing how much pain he was in. "You're much stronger," he chuckled. "I had plans for your little princess on the occasion that I saw her again. So if I can get rid of Daddy, then maybe she'll show herself. That'll open up the opportunity to dissect her, learn about your kind. I'll keep her eyes and fangs as a souvenir of my discoveries."

Orochimaru swallowed the growl that dared to escape his throat. He himself lacked a moral compass but when it came to his children—biological or not—the lack of morality in others pissed him off. He knew what this man was trying to do to him. He was slightly impressed with how quickly he could figure out weaknesses.

"I see your instant reactions to hearing that harm will come to her," Tobirama chuckled. "I cannot wait to hold her down by her neck and watch the life drain from her eyes."

"I am here. Why not me?"

"You're much too old," he smirked. "I prefer the younger ones. She'll serve as a valuable specimen."

Orochimaru's anger got the better of him and he lunged at Tobirama again, coiling around the hunter with the intent of constricting him. He squeezed tight, making sure Tobirama could not move. He felt Tobirama pull the trigger of his gun, shooting through the tough skin of his snake form. Although it did burn, Orochimaru did not falter. He hissed loudly, squeezing a little harder. He could hear the man grunt as he fought to move inside the coil. The hunter was struggling to breathe now. Orochimaru could hear him choking out his breaths, he was going to pass out soon. He squeezed harder. Tobirama stopped struggling. For a second, Orochimaru believed he may have finally killed him.

Then six bullets were shot into the snake's skin. The burning was unbearable and caused Orochimaru to uncoil from the hunter. He hissed in pain as Tobirama's body rolled away. He could do nothing at this point as the hunter gasped for air and coughed. His injuries were turning severe quickly. He needed to get away. Tobirama lifted his gun again, intending to shoot the last bullet but Orochimaru quickly formed an escape plan and dug his way into the ground, just as he had done with Azumi. The vampires all had a tunnel system that led through the hills from their homes to the town. He let his body hit the bottom of the tunnel as he used his tail to cover up the hole.

Quickly, he moved back towards his castle. He needed to be home fast before the wounds did more damage. He approached the trap door and took his natural form as he entered the kitchen. The bullet wounds hurt more in this form than they did in his snake form. They were concentrated in his belly area. He grunted as he sat down by the trap door.

"Lord Orochimaru," Kabuto gasped. He had been ordered to wait by the door for Orochimaru's return in case something like this happened. He had been prepared with the necessary tools to extract sacred bullets since Orochimaru wanted them removed as soon as possible, not wanting to waste time stumbling to one of the laboratories.

"Just hurry," Orochimaru grunted as he laid back. "There's seven of them."

"Right." With haste, Kabuto moved to start extracting the sacred bullets from Orochimaru's body. He did not need to be knocked out as his daughter did, but by the time Kabuto started taking the third bullet out, he began to wish he was knocked out. "Did you at least get rid of him?" Kabuto asked.

"I almost had him," Orochimaru said, wincing at the pain. "He was almost dead." He stood quiet for a moment. He hated himself for not being able to kill the hunter. He hated that there was still a threat to his children out there. "Do not tell Azumi."

Kabuto looked hard at Orochimaru. "I don't think you should hide this from her, my Lord."

"She is still recovering from her wounds. She should be able to walk again in a couple of days. Until then, she does not need this added stress." He grunted again as the last of the bullets were pulled out of him. "I should be recovered around the same time." He winced in pain as he sat up. Kabuto helped him to stand up and walked him to his bedroom. "The other families already know about Tobirama attacking her. Let no one find out about this."

"Yes, my Lord." Kabuto helped Orochimaru into his bed. "Do you need anything else?"

Orochimaru shook his head. "Just to sleep it off."

"Very well, then." With that said, Kabuto left.

Orochimaru sighed, trying to take his mind off of the pain in his body. Tobirama was posing to be more of a threat than he had hoped for and he needed to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Five Months Before

Azumi slowly woke up, groaning softly at a weird pain in her legs. She heard a book being put down beside her. She vaguely remembered what happened before she went unconscious and recapped the night, gasping as she sat up when she remembered what happened. She almost died. "Fuck," she mumbled, running a hand down her face.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, sister," Yashamaru said as he watched his sister, letting her wake up.

"Thanks," she groaned. She gasped, realizing whose voice it was. "I can say the same to you," she smirked. "For a good while, I thought you had died."

"Who's to say I didn't," he smirked, crawling on to the bed and wrapping an arm around her giving her a squeeze. "Father sent this up." Staying in the bed, he reached over to grab a tray with a glass on it.

She took a sip from the glass. "Mhm," she hummed with a slight laugh. "It's cold."

Yashamaru chuckled. ''Should I ring for Kabuto so he can warm it up?" He watched her drink, picking up the cloth napkin to wipe away the little mustache she had made for herself.

"No, it's fine." She set the glass down. "I missed you," she said, hugging him. "You left me alone with our father which is unforgivable."

He chuckled again, resisting the urge to squeeze her for fear of hurting her further. "You're right. I'm sorry." He pulled back, looking at her. "But I'm here now."

"But you're probably going to leave soon," she mumbled.

"Not just yet," he assured her. "My little sister was hunted and I have some business to attend to here."

"Oh?" she smirked. "Business? Is it a murder you have to commit or someone owes you money?"

Yashamaru held a hand out, looking over his nails. "Oh, it might be both if I have my way." He smirked playfully at his sister.

"Save some of their blood for me," she said. She decided to see if she could move out of the bed. She sat at the edge for a moment, looking at the bullet wounds in her legs that she knew would scar for a while before she completely healed. "How long have I been unconscious?" she asked, fixing her hair and dress.

"Father said about a week. I arrived two nights ago."

"I should probably go to see our father. To show him I'm alive." She started to stand up.

"Of course," Yashamaru smirked, moving to the other side of the bed before her feet touched the ground to offer his hand. "Yes, that would probably be the right thing to do but have you heard from your future husband?"

"Sasuke?" she laughed. "No. I haven't. He's probably with his boyfriend right now."

"Boyfriend?" Yashamaru questioned, making sure she got out of bed carefully and helped her to the door.

"He met the One last week. No doubt they're doing it under the stars right now as we speak."

"Ah, sounds like a case of the One, dare I say," he laughed, opening the door for her. "Congrats to him. Have you seen our other brother?"

"Not since before I was almost killed," she laughed. "But he might be in the lab."

"Excellent." Yashamaru's smirk darkened a bit. They went down to the library which was the main way to get into the lab that Orochimaru was always holed up in. They descended down the stairs quietly, listening to where their father was located in the lab. They found him at a desk, over a bunch of documents.

"Hello, prodigal children," Orochimaru said without looking up. "It's nice to know you still exist."

"I think he's talking to us," Azumi whispered.

"Can't be," Yashamaru whispered back. "He might be talking to a hatchling."

"Wow. He considers his baby snakes his prodigal children."

Orochimaru spun around on his stool, leveling his children with a glare. He opened his mouth to make a witty reply but was hit with the image of his only daughter being propped up by his eldest son. "Well, come and say hello to your new siblings since you two seem so eager to give them a complex," he smirked, gesturing down the hall.

They followed him towards a tank of recently hatched snakes. "Oh," Azumi smiled.

"They're already smarter than us," Yashamaru joked.

"Smarter than me, too?" Mitsuki asked, approaching the group.

"Unfortunately, Mitsuki...they are."

The boy cracked a small smile, putting a hand to the glass. "Can I have one then?" he asked, looking up at their father, "so I may learn."

"Yes, you can have one," Orochimaru nodded. "Just take care of it."

Mitsuki nodded and then turned to his sister. "Are you doing better, Azumi?" he asked.

"I'm doing great," she said.

Yashamaru picked up one of the baby snakes and handed it to Mitsuki. "He's the smartest. I can tell."

"I'm glad. Kimimaro told me the hunter who attacked you could have killed you," Mitsuki said as he took the snake, letting its little pencil-sized body twist around his fingers. "I prefer you not dead."

"Are you going to name him?" Yashamaru asked.

They all watched as the baby snake stretched out on the back of Mitsuki's hand and let out the small infant equivalent of a hiss. "He's a leader," Azumi said.

"I think I'll name him Tatsuo."

"A good choice," Yashamaru ruffled the boy's hair. "Say, Mitsuki, do you want to help me beat up Log?"

Mitsuki's eyes widened at the thought of spending time with the brother he never sees and helping him beat up the brother he sees all the time. "I would be honored!"

"Wow," Azumi and Orochimaru whispered.

"And this is why you are my favorite little brother." He smirked, turning to Azumi and their father. "I told you I had business to attend to."

Orochimaru shook his head, turning to Azumi. "How are you feeling?"

"Good enough to move on my own," she answered. "But, uh, the trauma is still there. Is he still out there?"

Orochimaru looked her over. "Yes, he is. Still prowling around the hills and town which means I do not want you going out there," he said firmly.

"Of course," she said with a nod. It was understandable to her but she knew it would not be long before she did venture back out there. One traumatic event was not going to stop her. Plus she was not going to make the mistake of going through the forest again. From then on, she was only going to use the tunnels that went through the hills.

"Follow me, Azumi," Orochimaru said, turning away from the little group.

Yashamaru took this opportunity to kiss his sister's head then wrap and arm around Mitsuki's shoulders. "Let's go find Log," he said with a grin.

Azumi watched her younger brother excitedly follow her older brother before she followed her father. He led her up to the library right outside the lab and they sat down in the small sitting area in the corner.

"I've been thinking, Azumi," he started, taking an offered glass from Kabuto who seemed to have appeared from thin air, "that we start considering who you will marry."

An immediate glare was shot at Orochimaru. "Marry?" she scoffed. "Why?"

"Because you're of age," Orochimaru said simply. "And it would probably be good for you to have a companion other than the Uchiha boy."

"What I have with Sasuke is perfectly fine," she said, crossing her arms. She then realized that Sasuke just found the one on top of already having a couple of wives. The wives did not matter to her though. He did not love them. Yet, she could not come between him and the person he was meant to be with. Orochimaru folded his arms, raising an eyebrow knowingly. "Shit," she whispered. She lowered her head and sighed deeply as she closed her eyes, preparing herself for this conversation. "Who do you have in mind?"

"I have a few in mind," Orochimaru said with a smirk. "A few choices that will keep you out of trouble."

"I don't need a babysitter, Father," she said.

"I told you she'd take it that way," Kimimaro said as he stepped up behind Azumi.

"You discussed this with him?" Azumi looked at her father, almost offended.

"He is one of the choices," Orochimaru nodded.

"No," she said simply. She was not going to deny that he was attractive, but she did not need someone to babysit her.

"You haven't even given him some thought," Orochimaru sighed.

"I don't need to give him thought, Father, I already know him. And I know I don't want to marry him." She looked behind her at Kimimaro who was standing there and despite the sense of his feelings being hurt, he kept a professional look. "I mean you no offense."

"It is fine, Lady Azumi." He walked over to one of the counters to grab a vile. "I tried to tell you, sir." He gave a smaller bow to Orochimaru. "I told him you wouldn't like the idea." He shrugged, not particularly upset. Sure, he was a little insulted but he knew his ladyship enough to know it was coming.

"I'm so disappointed," Orochimaru shook his head.

"You should have seen it coming," Azumi told Orochimaru. "Try again. And expect the same results."

"Fine, fine." Orochimaru huffed. "I will give you some more time to find your own husband, however, you are still not allowed to leave the castle until this hunter is dealt with." He looked at Kimimaro. "See to it she obeys orders."

"I don't need a babysitter," she repeated.

"That's debatable," Orochimaru said flatly. "But as I said, you may find yourself a husband with my approval."

"You disapprove of Sasuke being around, finding another man that you could approve of is almost impossible."

"I do not disapprove of Sasuke but as we've established he is taken." Orochimaru turned back to his work. "I'm sure you'll find someone. But your safety and happiness is my priority."

She sighed and turned to Kimimaro. "You want to help me find a husband?" she asked.

He laughed softly. "I don't think I'd be much help, Milady, but I will offer my assistance."

"Perfect," she smirked, grabbing his hand. "Then let's go."

He allowed himself to get pulled along. "Where are we going, Milady?"

"We're going to go out and 'find me a husband.' I'll buy you a drink. Maybe we can find you someone while we're out. Just don't tell my father."

"I'll take you up on that drink." he laughed softly. He figured she would leave the castle as soon as she could. As much as he knew she did not want a babysitter, he knew he could protect her if needed, even if it was disguised as merely hanging out.

She led him out of the castle, the normal way she would sneak out. She took him through the tunnels, leading him out to the town. "We just need to be careful," she said simply. They went to the bar that she and Sasuke went to when they went to the town the week before. Kimimaro had known her long enough to know what her preferred drink was. He went up to the counter and ordered them both drinks. "I said I was going to buy you the drink," she pouted when he came back with the drinks.

"It's okay," he chuckled as he sat down, sliding her the beverage. "We haven't been out like this in a while."

"I know," she smiled. "I remember you surprising me by not being able to hold your liquor, so I'm cutting you off at three drinks, okay, mister?"

"I should be some level of offended," he chuckled, sipping his drink afterward, "but three sounds reasonable." He looked out over the crowded, bustling bar. "Outside of Sasuke, have you given anyone any thought? The Nara boy isn't so bad."

"Shikamaru?" she laughed. "He wouldn't stay awake long enough to make it to the ceremony."

Kimimaro laughed harder. "You're probably right. I'm surprised the Nara clan's even lasted this long in all honesty."

"I'm surprised they're up long enough to reproduce every three hundred years," she mumbled.

"One of the many mysteries of the world," he smirked.

"What about your love life?"

"My what?" The man choked, quickly wiping his mouth. He coughed a few times.

She laughed. "You heard me. Who are you interested in?"

"What makes you think I like anyone?"

Azumi smirked. "I just know things." She pushed another drink towards him. "Who is he?" She had seen the way he looked at a certain someone.

He felt his cheeks burn. "Juugo," he said with a soft smile.

"I knew it!" she exclaimed. She jumped over the table to hug him tight. "I knew it! That's so great! I'm so happy for you."

His face burned hotter but he smiled shyly nonetheless. "I...haven't told him I like him just yet though, Milady."

She gasped. "Why not? You have to." She backed away from him slightly. "You need to tell him now."

Kimimaro laughed a little nervously, shaking his head slightly. "No, no, I think we can save that for another day."

"Hm. Fine. Suit yourself." She sat back down in her seat. "But promise me you'll tell him soon. Things like this shouldn't go on for too long."

"I'll try to tell him soon." He smiled softly, finishing off his second drink. "You know...animals follow him?"

"They do? That's adorable." She took a sip of her own drink.

"But maybe I should tell him. You think he likes me?"

Azumi smiled. "I'm pretty positive he does."

He looked at his cup, smiling fondly. "I hope your One comes along soon, Milady. You deserve someone."

Azumi shook her head. "I had my chance and I messed it up. I don't need to find my One." She smiled at him again. "I just like to be there for other people when they find theirs. It's a very special thing to witness."

"Please," Kimimaro leaned against Azumi, "that jerk was not the One."

"I know. I know he wasn't." She had come to terms with the fact that she was going to be alone for a while. "But it's fine. I've moved past it. But now Sasuke has his One so now I have to tell my father I'm looking for a husband to get him off of my back."

"Well...we could try looking at some human boys. People watch."

"If there's one thing I like doing, it's looking at human boys," Azumi smirked. She sat back and scanned the room with him. She saw Sai, the bartender she met when she came with Sasuke. He looked like he was training a new bartender. "That bartender is new. Very cute."

Kimimaro chuckled, following her line of sight. "Oh?" he hummed, his eyes widening a little in surprise. "Neither of them is human," he commented softly.

"Huh?" Azumi looked closely at the other man and realized he was a new vampire. "Oh." She scanned the room again, seeing a young, dark blonde boy sitting alone at the bar. "Oh, he's human. And he's very cute."

"Yes, but his fashion sense is lacking." Kimimaro stifled a laugh, pointing out the boy from the waist down.

"Ugh, you're right." She slumped over and rested her head on her arms on the table. "It's like my taste in men was destroyed."

He clapped a hand gently on her shoulder. "Or maybe this town has a bad selection," he said reassuringly. Kimimaro turned his eyes on a sad-looking redhead in the corner of the bar. "He's not bad-looking. He looks sad. Maybe a drink from a beautiful noblewoman would cheer him up." He nudged Azumi up from her seat and towards the corner.

Gaara stared intensely at his glass of wine. He was wondering why he even used a glass when he knew damn well that he would finish the bottle sitting on the table. His day—much like all of his days—had been shit. However, for it to drive him to drink meant it was a particularly shitty day. He finished the wine in the glass and then pushed it aside, pulling the bottle closer to him. He took a long swig from it and sighed. His father had given him another lengthy 'talk' about why he was a shit son and he ought to sell him off. He considered it a couple of times, figuring that living literally anywhere but with his father would lead to a better existence. Before he knew it, the bottle in his hands was almost empty.

"You know," a woman's voice said. Suddenly, there was someone sitting across from him. He heard the sound of a new bottle of wine being placed down on the table. He looked away from the old bottle to the new bottle. He was prepared to tell this newcomer to kindly fuck off and let him wallow in his own self-pity until he looked at her. "Emotions can be felt by other people if they're powerful enough...and your sadness could be felt from the other side of the room." She nodded to the bottle between them. "Have at it." What Gaara was not ready for, was her. He looked at the bottle between them. She was beautiful and something about her made his heart jump suddenly.

"I do apologize," he chuckled, patting the space next to him. "Care to join me? Wine tastes better with company and so does misery." He laughed softly. He wanted to kick himself because he was not sure if he was okay that this stunning woman had crossed the room to tell him he looked as depressed as he felt. But she was there now and maybe the company would not be so bad.

"I'd love to," she smiled. She opened the bottle and poured herself a glass then gave him the bottle. "But you can drink out of this. You seem like you need it."

His fingers curled around the neck of the bottle and he thanked her with a smile, feeling a pang of embarrassment. He really was at the point where beautiful strangers could tell he was sad enough to just drink from the bottle. He wanted to care more but he could not. He looked at her with searching eyes for a moment. She felt so familiar but they had just met. He felt like they should have known each other—like she was a missing piece or just the person to fill in the void his father had created.

"The most beautiful girl in the whole town chose to share her bottle of wine with me," Gaara said, almost like he was in a dream-like state. Though only for a moment because what he said seemed to strike him quickly and he blushed as red as his hair, hiding his face slightly. "S-sorry." He could not believe he just said that. The wine must have really gone to his head at this point. His eyes lingered on hers. They almost looked golden in the low light of the bar.

"No need to apologize," she smirked. She moved to the seat next to him. "What's hurting you?"

He chuckled softly, sadly. "Ah, it's actually someone." He smirked darkly at the wine bottle. "I don't expect you to know what it's like to be a politician's kid, but it's rough," he said softly. He was not sure how much he wanted to pour out to this beautiful stranger. He trusted her for some reason. 'It's probably the wine, but you know, I'll also probably never meet her again.' He reasoned with himself. He decided to let himself live a little.

"Oh, you're a politician's son," she smirked. "Living under the pressures of your parent? That's something I can understand." She took another sip of her wine. Gaara nodded. He was sure that if he was just a tad soberer, he would have tried to redirect the conversation and find out more about her.

"It's not right," he sighed. "I'm drunk, so...I'm going to spill too much." He smiled, looking at her. "My father hates me and is trying to either kill me or sell me off. Isn't that fucked? And all I did was...be born." He laughed, taking another sip of his drink. He kept laughing and it started to sound a little manic.

"Aww, you poor thing," she frowned. She put her arm around him and pulled his head onto her shoulder. "Sometimes you just need to let things out. And sometimes it feels better to do it to a total stranger."

Gaara laughed again but it trailed off. He sniffled, trying not to cry. It was not like him at all to be like this. None of this was like him. "Thank you," he smiled. "Kind and beautiful."

"I just don't like to see handsome men like you this sad," she smiled. "I hope you find a way out. I hope you find someone that can care for you the way you need."

Gaara felt his face burn. Maybe he would regret this tomorrow, but right now he did not care. "Maybe. I'm not liked by many."

"I'm sure you're wonderful." She noted the bottle that she brought was practically empty. "Want another one?"

Gaara looked at the bottle then chuckled. He was well and thoroughly drunk. There was no way he should have any more. Especially if he wanted to continue talking to this mysterious woman next to him. "I shouldn't," he slurred, still leaning into her. She smelled nice. Like a pure smell that was interrupted by a hint of almond. He smiled against her, burying his face a little into her chest when she lifted her arm to cradle him slightly.

"Suit yourself," she smirked. "Let me know if you want me to leave. In case you need some space."

He felt her run her fingers through his hair. His heart ached at the thought of her leaving him already. "No...I... don't know why, but I'm content here." No one had ever run their fingers through his hair like this before. It felt nice.

"Not a problem with me. I have an eternity." He felt her shift to look at something. He glanced up to see a man with white hair raise a glass to her. He watched her lips curve into a smirk again, never faltering as she stroked his hair. He wanted to know her. He wished he had not drunk so much now so he would remember more.

"I probably won't remember, but," Gaara shifted to look at her, "may I know your name?"

"Azumi..." she said. "And it's okay if you don't remember. We may never meet again."

"Safe residence." He said the meaning of her name with a reverence not usually held by strangers. "You're right, we might not, but a man can dream, can't he?"

"You deserve to dream."

"Maybe." He laughed softly, closing his eyes. "Or maybe I'm dying and this moment is the end. Maybe not, though," he said softly. "This feels so good, too happy for someone like me." He said it more to himself than her. He loved the way her fingers felt in his hair and just this strange woman being there...felt like something that was missing in his life was suddenly there in this dingy bar, holding him while he tried to poison himself to death. Maybe she was an angel sent to take him away. Dying alone in a dismal bar from alcohol sounded like the sad death he would wind up having.

"I know you're belligerent right now...and you may not be able to remember much after tonight, but there is a fireworks show going on soon...would you like to go with me?" Gaara's eyes fluttered open. He thought for a moment. When was the last time he had gone to see those fireworks with someone? Or at all?

"The fireworks..." he said, his voice still soft. "I haven't been to them in years. I'd be honored to watch them with you." He felt his cheeks heat up once more. She smiled at him and grabbed his hand.

"Let's go." She pulled him up and led him out, stopping by the man who raised a glass to her earlier. He saw her give him money to cover what he supposed was her drinks and the bottle of wine they had just 'shared.' "I'll see you at home, Kimimaro," she told him. Who was he to her? She did not look like any noble he had met in town. He could not find it in himself to think too hard. If she wanted to leave the person that she had come with to leave with him, he would take it. Gaara grinned, waving to the white-haired boy as he followed Azumi out. She led him to the edge of the town to a nice spot on top of a hill with a great vantage point. "We can watch from here," she said as she helped him sit down.

"This is perfect, Azumi." He said her name softly, looking up at the open sky. He did not get to leave his house often at night. And when he did, he rarely thought to venture outside of the town itself.

"I was supposed to see them last week, but I got into...an incident that got in the way of that."

Gaara looked at her, debating if he should push to ask about said incident. He decided not to. It was not his place right now and just because his tongue was slippery with wine, it did not mean hers was. "Well, let's hope nothing of the sort happens now. This is my dream so nothing bad will happen to you," he said with all the confidence of a man two bottles deep in wine.

"Good to know I'm protected by your dream," she laughed. She sighed and laid back to stare up at the sky. "You deserve to be happy. You seem really sweet. And it seems like your father deserves to be taken out by a hitman."

Gaara laughed a real, genuine laugh. "I don't know if I'm any of those things but I know you're very kind and I'm glad I met you." His voice ended softly. He looked into her eyes as the first of the fireworks went off. They reflected off of the gold in her eyes and he could not help but marvel. They were nothing like he had ever seen before. Or maybe that was just how they looked because he was drunk.

She sat up straight and smiled sweetly at him. "I'm glad I met you, too. Even if you won't remember me."

"I hope I do." He reached out, tucking a piece of her hair behind her ear. He was not one who believed in love at first sight but at the moment he felt like that phrase was the only thing that fit how he felt. He felt at peace with her. He felt—for the first time in a long, long time—that he was not all alone. The fireworks made a halo around her and he leaned in close, pressing his lips so softly against hers that they felt like they were barely touching. She placed her finger under his chin and pressed their lips together gently to kiss him back. It only lasted a couple of seconds before he pulled away from her. Gaara's face was even brighter. "I-I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have," he stammered, his face going a few shades darker.

Azumi laughed. "It's okay. You don't have to apologize."

Still blushing, he rubbed the back of his head. "I'm so rude," he said softly. "I haven't even told you my name." They were still close to each other. The fireworks cast colorful shadows over them. "My name is Gaara."

"I enjoyed my night with you, Gaara." Her eyes flickered to the sky above them. It was then that he noticed the sky turning pink, meaning the sun was going to rise soon. "But I must go. I can't stay out for too much longer." Gaara watched her pull away and as she stood. He got up with her, catching her hand.

"Thank you, my dream, for making tonight the best I've had in a long time." He placed a soft but passionate kiss to the back of her hand.

"Hopefully, I can make more best nights in the future," she smirked. She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Until next time." She backed away from him and turned to leave. Gaara watched her go and with every step that she took away from him, the loneliness crept back in. The only thing that kept his grin in place was the memory of their kiss and how lovely she looked under the fireworks. He laid down once she was out of sight, the wine finally settling in enough for sleep to whisk him away. He fell asleep repeating her name, desperately hoping he would meet her once more.

Azumi waited for Kimimaro by the edge of the town. "You followed me," she said casually. She knew he had been watching her since she left the bar with the sad redhead.

"I did promise to keep an eye on you and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if that monster got to you again so soon," he shrugged.

"I appreciate the concern," she said. "But I was fine." She grabbed his hand and led him back home, knowing that he was probably too drunk to get back on his own.

"Oh, I could tell you were just fine." Kimimaro's smile was a little more sly than it ever would be sober.

Azumi gasped and hit him in the shoulder. "Shut up!"

He laughed. "Kissing under the fireworks." Kimimaro sighed, batting his lashes.

Her fangs came out as she pounced on him. "Shut up!" she repeated.

He laughed letting her take him down. "I can't, I'm drunk." He laughed. "Did you find out his name at least? Oh, god, what will Sasuke say!"

"I did find out his name. And Sasuke already found the One, so me kissing another man shouldn't bother him in the least."

"Oh, please, you know he's just going to be upset that he didn't get to witness it."

"Stop!" She threatened it but she could not help the smile on her face. "We have to get home before the sun comes up." He laughed, linking his arm with hers and hurrying to the castle. They made it home just in time for sunrise.

Chapter Text

Fifty Years Before

Azumi had finished decoding all three of the scrolls Orochimaru had given her. She sat back in her seat, stretching hard and rubbing her face. She had barely slept. "How does he live like this?" she mumbled, wondering how her father could effortlessly go days upon days of working in his labs and not sleeping. She stood up and did a couple of stretches before heading into her bathroom and taking a quick bath.

Once she was bathed and dressed, she gathered the scrolls, placed them in the basket, organized and filed the pages with her translations, then headed down to the labs to give it all to Orochimaru.

"You finished them already?" he asked when she walked in. In his normal fashion, he had not turned around when she entered. He was not surprised that it took her less than a week to decode three texts in a language she had not seen before. There was a reason he had told her to do it. It was a gift he knew she had. One he needed to start cultivating.

"I did," she answered, setting the basket down on a worktable. "Now I know what you're working on." She saw another basket with another three scrolls waiting for her. "How do you just stay awake working all the time?" she asked. "Just these last few days were brutal on me."

"Discipline and determination, my dear," he answered. "Something you will hopefully be learning very quickly." Azumi rolled her eyes and picked up the new basket of scrolls. "Before you get started on that, I need to ask you a favor."

'Another favor?' she thought. "What is it?"

"Two nights ago, Kabuto brought in two humans on the verge of death. They had been attacked out in the forest. Both of them are male. They are brothers, ages twenty-nine and twelve." Azumi frowned, wondering where he was going with this. "I turned them. To save their lives." Azumi gasped softly and her jaw dropped. Her father had vowed that he was never going to turn anyone after the hunters wiped most of their kind out. "Now we have two newborns who need to be taken care of and helped through the baby stage."

"I see," she hummed. She had been taught how to deal with newborns but she never actually dealt with any newborns before. "Where are they?"

"One is in the lab across the hall and the other is in the lab two doors down."

"You separated them?"

"I had to. The younger one attacked the older one."

"Right," she hummed, setting the basket down. "Then I will go check on them. I will be right back." She turned around to leave.

"Ah, Azumi," he said, stopping her in the doorway, "these two are your brothers now. Treat them as such."

"Of course," she nodded. She headed out across the hall to meet the first of her two new brothers. Very cautiously, she entered the lab, looking around until she spotted a very tired-looking, light blue-haired man sitting on one of the worktables. "Hello," she said softly. It startled him and his head shot up to look at her. "My father told me that he turned you to save your life." He looked down and nodded slightly. She approached him slowly, not wanting to scare him. A sudden heightened emotion like that could easily send him into a frenzy. "How are you feeling?" she asked.

It took him a few moments to answer and she waited patiently while she gathered a couple of things on a small table beside her. "Hungry," he said after a while, "and...tired."

She nodded, figuring that would be how he felt. Being turned would take a lot out of someone. They were drained until an inch of their life and then underwent the painful process of having cold vampire blood injected into them. The recovery process was just as long as the newborn stage. He was going to feel like this for a while.

"Are you craving blood?" she asked.

Another moment of silence went by before he answered. "Yes," he said with a nod.

"I am only allowed to give you a little bit," she told him, turning to reach into a heated cabinet underneath another table. She pulled out a small glass jar with a dark liquid inside. Her other hand reached for a pint glass and she transferred the warm contents of the jar to the glass. "Hopefully this will satiate you for the next few days," she said as she turned back to him to hand him the glass.

He stared at it for a few seconds before hesitantly reaching out to grab it. She took a step back and watched him as he drank the blood quickly. She handed him a handkerchief to wipe his mouth and then took the glass from him. "Thank you," he said softly.

"There is no need to thank me," she said. She noticed a long gash on his forearm and frowned. Gently taking his hand in hers, she pulled his arm closer to inspect the wound. "How did this happen?"

"My brother...attacked me after your father turned us," he said. He watched as she grabbed a few things to cover the wound up.

"The blood you just drank will help speed up the healing process," she explained. "But for right now, I am going to put something on it and cover it up for you." He nodded and she did exactly what she said she would, applying a cool gel to the wound and then wrapping silk around it. "What is your name?"

"Log," he said.

"Log," she repeated softly with a nod. "My name is Azumi. What is your brother's name?"

"Mitsuki." He frowned a little. "Have you seen him yet?"

Azumi could see that he was worried about his little brother and shook her head. "Not yet. I can go check on him now for you." She paused for a second. "He is probably coming down from the frenzy he was in when he attacked you. If he is stable, I can take you to him when I'm done checking on him."

The smallest glint of hope shined in his eyes. "Please," he said.

She nodded and backed out of the lab. "I will be right back," she said before disappearing. She made her way to the lab Orochimaru told her the other brother was in and just as cautiously as she entered the lab with Log, she entered the lab with Mitsuki. The boy looked exactly like his brother but the tired look was replaced with something more feral. This one was going to be a bit difficult. He was sitting on a stool, chained to the workbench in front of him. As soon as he saw Azumi, he started to thrash. He thrashed hard enough to knock the stool from under him and fell to the floor.

Azumi walked up to the boy that was hissing and growling as she approached. He was terrified and he had every right to be. He was almost killed and then turned into a vampire. She reached into a heated cabinet for the jar of blood. Forgoing the pint glass, she opened the jar and set it on the table then kneeled down behind him. Through his thrashing, she grabbed onto him and pressed his back against her chest, hooking her arms under his and holding him in place as still as she could get him. While holding him, she stood up with him and tightened her hold as she maneuvered them closer to the table so she could grab the jar. He started to calm down the closer the blood got to his face and then reached for it with his own hands. She let him take it and held him while he drank the blood, not breathing at all between his hard gulps.

"Feel better?" she asked softly when she heard his gasp for air when he was done. She took the jar from him and set it on the table. He nodded. "I'm not going to hurt you." He tilted his head back to rest against her. "Are you going to hiss at me if I let you go?" He shook his head and she slowly released her hold on him. As soon as he was free, he turned around and wrapped his arms around her waist, hugging her tightly. She ran her fingers through his hair and reached for a handkerchief with her other hand to wipe the blood from around his mouth. As soon as she tossed the handkerchief back onto the table, she felt him begin to sob. She wrapped her arms around him to hug him back.

"Where's...my brother?" he asked through his quiet sobs.

"He's nearby," she assured him. "Do you want to see him?" She felt him nod against her. "Are you going to attack him?" The fact that he was able to start crying and speak meant he was no longer in his frenzy but she just wanted to make sure. He shook his head. "Then I will bring him in here for you." She gently pried his arms off of her then wiped away some of his tears before she left to see Log in the other lab.

He looked up at her, immediately getting off of the table he had been sitting on. "Is he okay?" he asked.

"He's fine now," she told him. "Come with me."

She led Log to the lab Mitsuki was in. Mitsuki gasped when he saw his brother, trying to move closer to him but being held back by the chain attached to the table. Log compensated by heading all the way into the lab to hug his brother. While they hugged, Azumi undid the chain that bound Mitsuki to the table, deeming that he was now stable enough.

"Thank you," Mitsuki said softly, looking at her when Log let him go. "Who are you?"

"I am the daughter of the vampire that helped you," she answered. "Which makes me your sister. My name is Azumi."

"Our sister?"

"Are you the only child?" Log asked.

"No," she smiled. "I also have an older brother. His name is Yashamaru but he is not here. He lives in a smaller apartment just on the coast."

"So you're a vampire, too," Mitsuki hummed.

"I am. I was born one. So I have no idea what it's like to be human. Just like you have no idea what it's like to be vampires. So I am here to help you through it all until you think you got the hang of it."

"You're much nicer than the other guy."

"My father?" she chuckled. "He can be a bit...brutal at times. But he means well and he only wants the best for everyone." She ran her fingers through his hair and smiled. "But don't worry. You won't be seeing much of him anyway. He never leaves his labs."

Log tilted his head a little, squinting slightly. "How old are you?" he asked.

"Are you asking because you don't know whether to consider me your older or younger sister?" she smirked. He nodded, a sheepish smile forming on his lips. "I am seventy-seven. I am still a very young vampire which is why I still appear to be in my early twenties. Our aging process slows down significantly when we hit adulthood so I will look like this for a little while. But…" she chuckled softly, "if it makes you feel better, I'll settle for being a younger sister to you."

"Maybe once I get used to all of this," Log chuckled.

"I'm still the youngest," Mitsuki grumbled.

"There is nothing wrong with that," Azumi smiled at him. "Now since you are both stable, I can show you to your rooms." She held her hand out for Mitsuki to take and then nodded for Log to follow.

She led them out of the lab and upstairs to the main level of the castle. They went up the left side of an imperial staircase and walked to another staircase that led up to the level with the family's bedrooms. "I will take you on a tour of the place tomorrow, she told them." She gestured down the hall, opposite the direction they started to walk in. "My room is all the way at the end of the hall. You two will be getting your own separate bedrooms with your own bathrooms. Just about every room in this place is private. The only thing that's shared is the kitchen. We have a few humans living here." They approached another door. "This is the first room. I will let you two decide who gets it." She opened the door for them and let them step in to look around.

The first thing Mitsuki did was go to the window to look at the view. He nodded and looked at his brother who chuckled. "Alright, you can have it," Log said.

"Then your room will be the next one over," Azumi smiled at him, nodding for him to follow her. She led him to the next bedroom and opened the door to let him step inside. "The door all the way at the end of this side of the hall is my father's—well, our father's room. He rarely ever occupies it so if you ever need him for something, just go straight to the labs. He is almost always in them."

"Thank you, Azumi," Log said.

"You're welcome," she smiled. "And don't hesitate to ask me for help if you need it. We want this to be a safe place for you two to call home." She backed out of the room. "Get some rest for now. I'll be by tomorrow to help you two with the rest of what is about to change in your body composition."

Log yawned. "I want to ask what that means but I suppose I'll find out tomorrow. Goodnight," he chuckled.

"Goodnight," she smiled, closing the door as she left.

Mitsuki was standing in his doorway as she passed by. He ran up to her to wrap his arms around her in another hug. "Thank you," he said softly.

"There's no need to thank me," she smiled, running her fingers through his hair. "Go get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow." Mitsuki nodded and headed back into his room. Once his door was closed, Azumi headed back down to the lab Orochimaru was occupying.

"How are they?" he asked.

"They're doing fine," she answered. "Mitsuki is no longer unstable and I showed them both to their rooms."

"Glad to hear that." Orochimaru turned around to look at her. "Normally, I wouldn't leave the responsibility of caring for newborns you didn't create to you, but I am much too busy," he said apologetically.

"I understand," she nodded. "I don't mind it. It's not like I'm doing anything else," she grumbled.

"Well, I suppose with the Uchiha boy gone, you wouldn't leave as much. I understand you hate to stay inside but it lets me rest easy knowing you're not going to possibly cross paths with a hunter."

"You don't rest," Azumi smirked.

"You know what I meant." He sighed and pulled a stool up close to him. "Come sit," he said. "I need to take measurements of your gap so I can send them to the artist who's going to make the prototype." She did as he said and sat in the stool. He grabbed a couple of tools and she held her mouth open while he took the measurements.

After a couple of minutes, he pulled his hands away and she closed her mouth.

"You already found someone?" she asked.

"I did. And because this is going to take a few months, he will be staying with us while we work on this. So on your way up, ask Kabuto to set up one of the empty rooms as a guest room. He will be here next week."

"Sure thing," she hummed as she got off of the stool. She picked up the basket with the new set of scrolls. "I'll have these to you by next week," she said as she left.

Chapter Text

Fifty Years Before

The next night, there was a knock on Azumi's door while she was working on the first of the three scrolls from the new set. She stood up and stretched as she walked over to answer it.

"Ah, you're awake, my Lady," Kabuto said. "Your father sent up some warmed blood for you. He knows how hard you've been working on those translations." He handed her a glass with a dark warm liquid in it.

"That's unusual of him," she chuckled, accepting it anyway. "Wonder what he's sorry about."

"I'm sure it's because you have to take care of the newborns that he made," he smirked.

"Ah, I suppose so," she said. "Thank you, Kabuto. I'll be sure to thank him when I visit him later for his daily taunting." Kabuto chuckled and bowed before backing away and turning to leave. Azumi sipped her glass as she walked back to her desk. Looking over her progress with the scroll, she figured she had done enough to take a quick break. She finished her glass and went down to bother her father. She did not give him a second to say anything before she ran up to him and hugged him from behind. "Thanks for the blood," she said.

"You deserved it," he smiled. "Those translations you did for the first three scrolls were perfect." He turned around in her arms to return her hug. "I knew you would be able to do this."

"I am not even going to ask how you knew," she hummed as she let him go. "I'll just trust your judgment on everything."

"You should always do that without question. Have you checked on your new brothers yet?"

"Not yet. But their fangs are going to start growing in soon so I'm going to teach them how to care for their fangs and venom."

"Good. I don't need their fangs getting stuck from a buildup of venom," he muttered, trying not to roll his eyes.

Azumi smirked. "I don't think we need to worry about that again," she said. "Yashamaru takes good care of his fangs now."

"Now," he repeated.

She hugged him again. "I'll go check on them," she said, grabbing two jars of blood from a heated cabinet and setting them onto a tray with two glasses. "The younger one…" she started, "Mitsuki…" she hummed, "he came down from his frenzy. He shows all signs of stability. Would it be too much to take him around the castle to show him where he lives?" She was sure he was fine but her father was much more experienced with newborns than she was. If it was a risk, she would not do it.

"He should be fine," Orochimaru answered. "But if you see him start to act differently around the humans, take him back to his room immediately."

Azumi smiled and nodded as she picked up the tray and headed all the way back upstairs to Mitsuki's bedroom. She stopped in front of the door and looked between the tray occupying both of her hands and the door. She chuckled softly at her dilemma just as the door opened. "Hello," she smiled at Mitsuki.

"I heard you coming," Mitsuki smiled back, stepping to the side to allow her to enter.

"Your hearing is already strong," she said as she stepped in and set the tray down on his desk. "That's good. This is good progress already. You'll be fully adapted in no time." She opened up one of the jars and poured half of it into one of the glasses, sealing the jar back up before turning toward Mitsuki. "This is for you," she said, holding the glass out to him.

Mitsuki's smile widened as he stepped closer and took the glass from her. He tried his best to drink it slowly and carefully, not wanting to spill any of it. Once he was finished, he handed the glass back to her and found a small towel to wipe his mouth with. "Thank you," he said.

"You're welcome." She motioned for him to come closer. "I just want to check to see if your fangs have started to grow yet."

He stepped closer and opened his mouth, letting her look at his teeth and not protesting when she gently pried his jaw open a little more to check on the growth of his venom sac. A small surprised sound from her caught his attention. "What is it?" he asked.

"It could be because you are still so young and you weren't done growing as a human but you're developing a venom sac already," she chuckled. "It's not a bad thing, don't worry. You might finish adapting before your brother does."

"I can't wait to rub that into his face," Mitsuki said.

"Let's go see him," she said, pouring half of the second jar into the second glass. The two of them made their way to Log's room and Mitsuki knocked on the door.

A few seconds later, Log opened it. "Hello, Azumi," he smiled.

"Hello," she smiled back. He stepped aside to let them into the room and she handed the glass to him. "This is for you," she said. "I am going to take you two on a tour of the castle so you know where everything is and how to navigate your new home. "Then I'm going to go over some basic things you should know about being a vampire. Things that I'm sure you might have heard of before, like not going out in the sunlight, don't eat too much human food, and more things like that."

"We can still eat human food?" Mitsuki asked.

"Yes, but it provides very little nutrients for you and too much of it will make you sick. But I'll get to all of that later." She looked at Log and saw he finished his glass and was already wiping his mouth. "Let's show you your new home," she smiled, holding her hand out for Mitsuki to take. Once he took her hand, she led both of them out into the hall and down the stairs to the main level of the house. The stairs ended in the foyer. "We'll start here," she said, pointing to two very large, dark double doors. "This is the main entrance. We hardly use it. The humans mostly do. You obviously get a good view when you step through it." She turned them around so they could see the full view of the imperial staircase that led to the next level. "Up there is the hall that has all of the humans' bedrooms and any extra rooms we use for people who end up staying with us temporarily," she explained.

"How often do you have guests?" Log asked.

"Not very," she hummed. "Generally we only hold large parties for special occasions."

"What's a special occasion for vampires?"

"Our centennial birthdays and each century after that, engagement parties, wedding parties, baby showers, new vampires being born because believe it or not, that is very rare."

"Why is that rare?" Mitsuki asked.

"Because there are not that many natural-born vampires, which are the only ones that can have children." She looked at them and frowned. "I'm sorry, but this also means you two will not be able to have children."

Mitsuki shrugged. "I'm okay with that," he said.

"I suppose if I ever wanted a child, I could adopt," Log hummed.

Azumi smiled at him. "That is a very positive outlook." She pointed to the staircase that sat in the center of where the imperial staircase met and led up to the next level. "Up there is where we came from, obviously. That's where your rooms, my room, our father's room, and Yashamaru's room are. There are two more empty rooms on that level so should we ever get new members of our family, that's where they'll stay." Her point lowered to the hall that sat underneath the imperial staircase. "That hall is where the ballroom, the sitting room, the library, and my father's office where he has meetings. Again, another rare occurrence."

"A library?" Log hummed as they started heading into the hall. There were a lot of snake decorations lining the hall that he noticed. Azumi stopped them in front of the double doors that led into the library and opened it to let them in. "Wow," he whispered, stepping in and looking around. The library had a second level and all of the walls were only bookshelves, save for a fireplace to the far right which was surrounded by a couple of comfortable seats.

"Everything in here, my father collected over his lifetime," Azumi explained. "Not everything could fit in here so he keeps some of it in his study and even I have a few in my room. Feel free to read anything you want."

"I'll take you up on that," Log chuckled. He made a note to revisit the library on his own time. He followed Azumi and Mitsuki back into the hall and across to another set of double doors. When they walked in, it was a large empty room. Their footsteps echoed as they made their way to the middle.

"This is the ballroom," Azumi said. She spoke softly so the echo was not too loud.

"When was the last time this was used?"

"For a vampire occasion, about fifty-three years ago when my brother turned two hundred."

"Then what else?"

"The humans we have here like to celebrate their birthdays, too," she chuckled. "They use this space to throw their own parties. For you two, we would really only celebrate the anniversary of your turning because to us, that is your birthday. But if you would like to celebrate your human birthday, then, by all means, you are very welcome to."

"You're much more kind than vampires are perceived to be."

"We have no reason to not be kind," Azumi shrugged. "Any unkind vampires you've met were just shitty people. It had nothing to do with their vampirism. People tend to generalize a whole population based on their experiences with only a few." She took Mitsuki's hand again and headed back out into the hall and further down. "This door is my father's study. Both the bookshelf behind his desk and the one behind the sitting area in the library have hidden staircases behind them that lead down to the one lab you will most likely always find him in."

"Hidden staircases?" Mitsuki gasped softly. "That's so cool."

"With a lot of exploring, you'll actually find a few of them in this castle," she smirked. "But for the fun and thrill of discovery, I won't tell you where they are," she chuckled. She walked to the door across the hall from Orochimaru's study. "This is the sitting room. Generally, when we have unexpected guests, we take them there first."

"Unexpected?" Log questioned.

"Nobles from the town that came up here to harass us for things. It's the furthest room from everyone else to ensure the safety of everyone who lives here." Both boys hummed in understanding. "Further down this hall all the way at the end, however, you'll eventually get to a painting of my father, my brother, and me." She led them down the hall to said painting. It was much bigger than the boys had imagined, taking up a large portion of the entire wall. "Behind this, is a stairwell that leads down to my father's labs. It's not exactly a secret because everyone who lives here uses it," she smirked at Mitsuki, "but it's hidden because my father's research is very precious and anyone who doesn't live here doesn't need to know about it." She gripped the frame of the painting and opened it to reveal the staircase.

"That makes sense," Log hummed as they descended the steps. It led them to a hallway that was a little familiar to the new vampires.

"There are four labs, a nursery, and a feeding room," Azumi said.

"Nursery?" Log asked.

"Feeding room?" Mitsuki asked at the same time.

"The snake nursery," Azumi chuckled. "We breed and raise snakes. We are snake vampires so it should not be very surprising. And we have to feed them in a separate room." She looked at them and smirked. "I know you two are very new to this life, but we all do get a snake companion. Would you like to get yours today?"

Mitsuki gasped and nodded rapidly, grinning wide. "Yes!" he said, trying not to jump around.

"How do we choose?" Log asked.

"Actually, the snake chooses you." She led them into the nursery where there were a bunch of baby snakes slithering around the room. "Watch your step. They're learning how to adjust just like you are. Our snakes are very different from the type of snakes you are used to. The way it works is you are matched with a snake that was born or hatched at the same time you were born—or in your case, turned." She pulled them to the middle of the room so they were surrounded by all of the baby snakes.

Mitsuki watched with excitement as all of the snakes moved around him and his brother. "They're all so cute," he smiled. He suddenly heard someone call him cute back. He looked at Azumi who was chuckling softly as she watched the snakes. "Did...you say that?" he asked her.

She smirked and shook her head, gesturing back to the snakes. "One of them did."

"Say what?" Log asked.

"One of the snakes called him cute."

"We can communicate with them?" he asked, shocked. She nodded and he ran his hand through his hair. "It makes sense but it's still...odd."

"I can see how you would think it's odd," she said.

Mitsuki held in another gasp when a small white snake slithered up to him. "It was this one," he said softly, leaning down to pick the snake up. "This one called me cute."

"Tell him your name," Azumi said to the snake.

"Tatsuo," Mitsuki repeated when the snake told him.

"Tatsuo just chose you," Azumi smiled. "Take good care of him."

"I will," Mitsuki grinned, carefully stepping around the rest of the snakes toward the door. He watched as his brother was approached by another white snake. "Looks like you've been chosen, too," he smirked.

Log picked up the snake that approached him and held it close to him, afraid he would drop it from how much it was moving. He listened closely to hear its name, taking a few seconds to finally understand it. "Tatsuya," he smiled.

"These two are brothers," Azumi said, "just like you two. They are going to grow quite big and live for a long time."

"Where's your companion?" Mitsuki asked as the three of them stepped back out into the hall.

"He's somewhere around the castle," she hummed. "Probably in my room. Would you like to see him? I have one more place to show you. We can see him on the way."

Mitsuki nodded rapidly. "How big is he?" he asked.

"He's about eight feet long. And still growing. He'll probably stop at twelve feet. Like me, he's still young for how long he's going to live." She took them up the stairs that led them to the painting at the end of the main hall and then all the way back up to the level where their bedrooms were. "During the day, he likes to bask in the sun but at night, he sits by my fireplace. I only light it for him." She brought them to her room and opened the door for them to step inside.

"Wow!" Mitsuki gasped, immediately focusing on the large snake coiled up in front of the fire.

The snake's head lifted to look at them. He bowed his head before quickly making his way over to Azumi and coiling up her body. "I know, I've been gone a whole hour," she smirked, letting the snake flick his tongue on her face. "He can be a little clingy sometimes," she said to Log and Mitsuki.

"What's his name?" Log asked.

"Naga," she smiled. "Want to pet him?" She moved closer to them, gently holding Naga's head up so they could pet him. Without hesitation, they both reached out to pet the snake's head.

"And he's going to get bigger?" Log chuckled, looking at how much the snake wrapped around her and practically covered her whole body.

"Yeah, and he won't be able to do this anymore," she chuckled. "He's going to get heavier." Naga got off of her and moved back to the fireplace, coiling up. "But his size is nothing compared to our father's snake," she smiled. "Come see him." She led them to the other end of the hall toward Orochimaru's room. Knowing her father was not in there, she opened the door and went in without knocking. On the bed, an enormous snake was coiled up. When she walked in, it lifted its head and bowed to her. "This is Manda," she said softly. "He's about twenty-five feet long." She climbed onto the bed and immediately Manda started nudging her with his head, wanting to be pet.

Log and Mitsuki stared in awe at the serpent, watching as it formed a coil around Azumi, large enough for her to lay in. "Will ours get that big?"

"When they get very old," she said. "When I was a child, Manda used to keep me in his coil so I wouldn't go anywhere. My father used to just find me sleeping in it."

"That's cute," Log chuckled.

She kissed Manda's head and climbed out of his coil and off of the bed. "I'll see you later," she said softly to him. He bowed his head to her and coiled back up around himself as they left. "I saved the best thing for last," she grinned. She brought them to the middle of the hallway to another staircase that seemed to continue from the one that brought them to their current floor. "This is one of my favorite places to be," she told them as they reached the top of the staircase to a glass dome room. It had a three-sixty view of the surrounding area. On one side, the coast and ocean could be seen and on the other side, the forest between the castle and the town seemed like dark nothingness before the lit up, festive town. There were sofas all around the room, mostly facing outward for view-watching purposes in all directions.

"Wow," Log whispered, looking around.

"A few of the humans that live here like to hang out in this room during the day. We can only be in here at night, of course, but it's still a nice view."

"You can see everything," Mitsuki smiled. "This is so cool."

"So, now you know you can only be up here at night. When you see the sky start to turn pink, then it is time to head back downstairs," Azumi started. "The amount of sunlight that can kill you is different for everyone but generally the first rays burn a lot. Try not to get caught in them. I didn't show you where the kitchen and pantry are because they are really for the humans but feel free to explore and go to them if you wish. They're through the hallway to the right when you head down into the foyer."

"Where do we go if we need...blood?" Log asked.

"We have a storage place for it but we like to drink it warm and there are heated cabinets in the labs so we just take it from there. But Kabuto, the man who brought you two here, knows when we should have it so chances are he's already going to be bringing it to you before you even get hungry. He's very on top of that," she chuckled. "Now, as I said earlier, you can have human food but not too much. It'll do nothing for you besides make you sick. Per my father's rules, we shouldn't leave this castle too often."

"Which someone here has a hard time getting through her head," a voice said from the doorway at the stairs. Azumi rolled her eyes, still smiling as a white-haired boy with purple eyes walked up behind her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

"This is Suigetsu," Azumi said. "These are my two new brothers. Log and Mitsuki."

"Is this a tour?"

"We just got to the end of it," Azumi nodded. She looked at Log and Mitsuki. "Suigetsu is one of the humans who lives here."

"I hope Miss Bad Influence isn't scaring you too much," he smirked.

"Don't listen to him. He has no idea what he's talking about."

Log chuckled. "You've made nothing but a good impression on us so far," he told her.

"Wait until you really get to know her," Suigetsu teased.

"Time for you to go," Azumi said, pushing him away from her. He chuckled and moved further into the room, laying down on one of the sofas that faced the ocean. "Sorry about him," she said softly to Log and Mitsuki. I'll leave you two to explore the rest of the castle on your own. I was going to show you how to properly care for your fangs but I'll wait until they've grown in for both of you."

"Ha!" Suigetsu laughed from the couch. "Learning fang care from a vampire with one fang!"

"Shut up," Azumi growled.

"Why do you have one fang?" Mitsuki asked.

Azumi looked at him and sighed. "I fell off of a cliff—"

"Jumped," Suigetsu corrected her.

"And lost my fang on the impact," she rolled her eyes.

"For experimentation," Suigetsu chuckled.

"So are you stuck with just one fang forever?" Mitsuki hummed, leaning in closely to look at her gap.

"No," Azumi shook her head, smiling at him, "I'm not stuck with one. My father does modifications and prosthetics for vampires. He is having a new fang made for me."

"Oh, wow, that is lucky," Log chuckled.

"I am very fortunate to be the daughter of a scientist," she said. "I left the rest of the blood in Mitsuki's room for you two to finish before you go to bed. When you're done, you can just leave the tray outside of your door and Kabuto will pick it up."

Mitsuki grinned and hugged her. "Thank you," he said softly.

Azumi smiled and hugged him back. "There's no need to thank me," she said, running her hand through his hair. "I'm excited to have more brothers." She kissed the top of his head and then let him go. "I'll see you two later," she said. "Have fun exploring if you choose to do so." They waved at her and she went back down to her room. Naga moved quickly to follow her to her desk and coil around her. She chuckled softly, letting him do it but making sure she could still reach everything on the desk as she worked on the scrolls.

Chapter Text

Four Months Before

The town was bustling with the crowds gathering in the main square. An auction of slaves was taking place. The thought of people being sold to other people disgusted Gaara. Yet, there it was, taking place right in front of him—all around him. He sat next to his father—or rather the man that everyone knew as his father. Gaara knew him as merely half the reason he was born. Rasa was nothing to him. Just like he was nothing to Rasa.

They watched the people being sold for slavery, all on a stage, in the middle of the crowd. One by one, being sold off to noble and rich families. Gaara sighed, hating that he was forced to attend this due to being 'the governor's son.' The auction was happening due to a tax needing to be paid. He thought it was horrible that this was the solution to such an issue. One by one, people were auctioned off and sold. When it was down to the last person, Rasa decided to acknowledge Gaara's existence for a moment. "You should consider yourself lucky," he started. "I opted not to make you part of the auction."

"Why would I be part of the auction?" Gaara asked. "You wish to sell me as a slave?"

"I already have." Rasa's demeanor did not change.

Gaara's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"

"I sold you as a slave." It took Gaara a moment to comprehend this. It honestly did not surprise him, because he knew Rasa was shitty. However, as much as he had heard his father suggesting such bullshit, he never thought he would actually go through with it.

"To who?"

Rasa gave him a menacing smirk. "You'll find out later tonight when you arrive at their home." A rage built up inside Gaara. There had been no mention of this to him, not even from his siblings. Though, he was sure Rasa would not tell them something like that. "You leave immediately after this auction is over." Gaara looked up to see that the last person had just been sold. "You leave now." Had Gaara actually enjoyed his home life and considered Rasa a father, he would have protested against this immediately. However, he thought about how living away from Rasa would be good for him. All of the sold slaves were being escorted to the carts that would take them to their new masters' homes. There was one more cart than there were slaves, which only meant that one was meant for Gaara. "Your chariot awaits," Rasa smirked.

A pair of guards approached Gaara, ready to escort him to his cart—with force, if necessary. Gaara stood up, calmly walking to the cart with the guards. He promised himself to exact his revenge on Rasa. And it will be glorious.

Gaara entered the cart, sitting down quietly and taking a look around the square. All of the other slaves were shackled. He was at least grateful that he did not have to endure that. All of the carts began to move, heading in the directions of the respectful homes of the slave owners. Gaara's was the only one that left the town, heading straight for the hills. This meant that he was being sent to one of the families that no one knew anything about. There were several noble families in the hills, and virtually nothing was known about any of them. This made him nervous. Being sent to a family of such nobility usually meant being treated like less than dirt by said family. He endured enough of that in his life, he knew he did not want to endure it anymore.

The ride took a couple of hours. By the time he arrived at his new home, the sun had set and the pitch darkness of night was upon him. He was escorted out of the cart, noticing he was brought to a castle. He knew the families that lived up in the hills resided in castles and the ones that lived in the town just had large estates. It was too dark to take in his surroundings, so he could not tell exactly where he was. He was escorted through the front door, being left alone in the foyer of the castle. Upon entering the castle, he took in the interior of it. The foyer was dimly lit, but seeing was relatively easy. Straight ahead was a dark hallway, surrounded on either side by curving staircases. He was greeted by a man with grey hair who appeared from the almost pitch-black hallway straight ahead. It was obvious this man's hair was not grey from old age considering the man was fairly young.

"Ah, you must be Rasa's boy," the man said. "Gaara, right?" Gaara seethed and it took all of his willpower not to speak out of turn. He would not even consider Rasa a real man, let alone his father. "We heard you were arriving today." He motioned for Gaara to follow him further into the castle. Slowly, Gaara followed. He took a look at his surroundings, trying to get a feel for what this family he knows nothing about might be like. He noticed the candle sconces on the walls down the long corridor were all shaped like snakes. That did not give him much of a hint if he was honest with himself. He followed the man to a library deep in the castle. He watched as the man opened the door and immediately noticed the large handles were also snakes. "Lord Orochimaru," the man said.

"What is it, Kabuto?" a voice somewhere in the library replied. There was a hiss to it that Gaara could only associate with a snake, and suddenly a lot of the décor started to make sense. The library looked like any other library, the walls were bookshelves, a staircase led to a second level where the walls were also bookshelves. There was a sitting area in one corner, a desk in another.

"The boy is here."

"What boy?" A part of the bookshelf by the staircase opened up and another man walked out. Almost a stark contrast to the first man he saw, this one had long black hair. And his eyes were gold with a slit pupil—much like a snake's. Gaara nodded to himself in realization. It all made sense now. But the man's eyes seemed familiar...like he had seen them somewhere before. Orochimaru stepped closer, taking a long look at Gaara. "The governor's son?" There was that feeling Gaara felt again at the thought of being considered Rasa's son. Orochimaru smirked at the look on Gaara's face. "Not too fond of him, I see. Well, that is understandable, considering he just gave you away."

"Gave me away?" Gaara asked. "Was I not sold?"

"I have no use for you," Orochimaru said. "I did not buy you." All Gaara could process from this information was that Rasa was desperate to get rid of him. "I do not like the idea of having a slave, to be quite honest." Orochimaru sighed. "But I cannot just let you go. Even though there was no money involved, there was a contract."

"What kind of contract?" Gaara's feelings about the situation began to shift. He was not sold, he was just given away. Like some sort of animal.

Orochimaru looked around before moving to the desk in the corner to search for a document. After a couple of seconds, he found what he was looking for. "Ah," he said as he scanned it. "It was a contract created by Rasa—or rather his lawyers, giving you to me to do as I please. The word 'slave' is somewhere here but we do not need to head in that direction. Yet, I have enough servants in this place. And you come from a known family, so I cannot make you a lab rat. It will seem too suspicious. I do not know what to do with you."

"If I may make a suggestion, my Lord," Kabuto interjected, "he can be a personal servant to your daughter."

"Kabuto, you and I both know she does not want a personal servant."

"Yes, I know, but I'm sure you would appreciate someone to keep an eye on her. To make sure she stays out of trouble."

"Kabuto, I—" He stopped himself. As if he remembered something, he mulled the idea over a bit. "After what happened with the Senju, it would not be such a bad idea. She does need to be looked after. But is someone so young a good idea?"

"He is still out there looking for her, my Lord. Is there really room for such consideration?"

"I suppose you are right. I doubt she would agree to such a thing, but it is worth a try. Tell her she has no choice in the matter. Whether she wants a personal servant or not, she has one." He looked to Gaara. "What I need you to do is make sure she never leaves the property, at least never alone. She has a bad habit of sneaking out, thinking I am unaware of it. It has gotten her into more trouble than a father wants to deal with." He looked back to Kabuto. "Take him to her."

"Yes, my Lord." Kabuto looked to Gaara. "Follow me."

They both exited the library and walked back up the long hallway. "How different from a slave is a personal servant?" Gaara asked.

"As a personal servant, you are still seen as human and maintain human rights. Which I'm sure is more than what you're used to, given what kind of person Rasa is." Gaara had to agree silently. They emerged from the dark hallway back into the foyer and took the curving staircase to their left up to another large hall with more snake sconces. Down the hall, they approached yet another door. This one did not have snake handles. They were just normal gold handles. Something about that gave Gaara a sense of relief. "Just a couple of things to know before you meet her," Kabuto said quietly. "You must address her by 'Lady' and try not to make direct eye contact with her for too long. She has a bad habit of coercing people into doing what she wants by looking them in the eye." Kabuto knocked on the door. "My Lady, do you have a minute?" he asked, cracking the door open a little.

"What is it, Kabuto?" the girl in the room asked. Without even seeing her, Gaara could recognize the resemblance between her and her father from just her question.

"She's busy," Kabuto said quietly to Gaara. "We'll make this quick." He pushed the door open wider and entered the room. Gaara followed slowly, stopping closer to the door than Kabuto, ready to leave if necessary. Growing up with an older sister gave him the knowledge that women do not like men in their rooms. In the farthest corner of the room, behind a desk and two small piles of documents was the daughter. She seemed immersed in her work. Like her father, she had long black hair, but she had the front part pulled back out of her face. The second she looked up, Gaara noticed her eyes, also gold with the pupils of a snake, but hidden behind glasses. "Lady Azumi," Kabuto started, "your father has signed a contract with the governor."

'Azumi?' Gaara thought. 'That name sounds so familiar...'

Azumi looked at Gaara and his heart jumped at the immediate eye contact. He looked away, remembering what Kabuto said about eye contact with her. But he did not catch himself in time when he looked back. He barely even knew her yet and he was already captivated. She smirked at him and in that moment, he swore he met her before. "He looks too young to be a governor," she said.

"This is his son, Gaara. He is going to live here now."

She put her papers down on her desk and sat back in her chair, crossing her arms. "Oh?"

"The contract included him being brought here as a slave."

"We do not do slaves in this castle."

"So, I made the suggestion that he could be...your personal servant?"

"Personal servant?" She scoffed and removed her glasses, tossing them onto the desk. "Kabuto—"

"Your father is giving you no choice, my Lady."

She groaned, rubbing her hands down her face. "Fine," she sighed.

Kabuto nodded, backing out of the room. "I will leave you two to get acquainted."

Gaara turned to the door as Kabuto backed out and watched the door close, leaving him in the room with the daughter of a man he was given to. He sighed. He did not ask for any of this. Turning back around, he was startled by her standing directly in front of him. He had not expected her to be there, and he was confused about how fast she had moved. He still could not shake the feeling of knowing her.

"Don't be scared," she smirked, "it'll interfere with the scented candles." He caught himself staring at her eyes, despite what Kabuto had said. He had seen them in a dream. He remembered again what Kabuto said, but he just could not look away this time. "So, Gaara, seeing as I really do not want a personal servant, yet my father is giving me no choice in having you around," she took a step back from him, "would you like to be friends?"

"Friends?"

"I don't really have many of those."

He was not sure how to answer. After a moment, he finally did. "I suppose being friends would be fine."

"Great! Since we're now friends, I can bring you with me and trust you not to tell my father." Her eyes lit up and she grabbed his hands and he could immediately feel how cold hers were. "Let's go."

"Go? Where?" They did not even know each other, this seemed so abrupt. He was taken aback by how comfortable she seemed to instantly be with him.

"We need to be fast and quiet. Just stay close and I must emphasize again, be quiet." She led him down the hall and down the stairs. In the foyer, she stopped for a moment, looking around to make sure the coast was clear. Once she confirmed it was, she headed down another hall towards the kitchen. In the kitchen, she made her way to a rug on the floor, kicking it to the side to reveal a trap door. Pulling it open, she urged him to hurry. When he hesitated, she scoffed. "I don't have all night, Gaara, I need to be back before the sun rises." Gaara finally went through the trap door and Azumi followed immediately after.

They ended up in a tunnel, lit by torches on the walls. He realized she was sneaking out which was exactly what Orochimaru was trying to prevent. "Uh...Lady Azumi, I'm not sure this is such a great idea."

Azumi laughed and caressed his face. "Call me Azumi." She grabbed his hand again and led him through the tunnel. It was a couple of minutes of silence and moving quickly before they finally reached the exit. Upon entering the night, Gaara looked to see where they were in relevance to the castle. They had traveled down the hill—through the hill—and ended up right outside of the forest.

"You're late," a voice said. They turned around to see a dark-haired young man step out of the darkness and into the moonlight. "I was beginning to think you weren't coming."

"The one time you get here before me and you think I'm standing you up." Azumi hugged the man and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "It's been a while, Sasuke. You're looking...awake."

"It's a full moon." He looked at Gaara. "You brought a friend. I wish I knew. I would have brought one, too. I would have brought Naruto."

"It was sort of a last-minute thing. This is Gaara. He lives with us now."

"Well, any friend of Azumi's is a friend of mine." He put his hand out for a handshake. "I'm Sasuke, Azumi's partner in existential dread." Gaara shook his hand and was immediately met with a grin from Sasuke. "Oh...he's a mortal."

'Mortal?' Gaara thought. His heart began to race at that moment. What were they?

"Easy," Azumi smirked. "We like Gaara. He's a friend. We're not going to kill him." She leaned closer to Gaara. "You can relax," she said softly to him, gently rubbing his back.

"I know, I know." The three of them walked a while through the trees towards a cliff that overlooked the town below, as well as the ocean beyond it. The full moon gave the scene a nice glow. They sat down in the grass. There was very minimal noise coming from the town and given the time of night it was, there was not much movement going on nor were there many lights. Gaara took in the sight. It was almost serene. This was the most peaceful moment he had experienced in a while. "I brought the pouches. Which type do you like?"

"AB," Azumi answered.

"I only have two of those. They're so rare. You would like the rare ones." He pulled two small silver pouches out of his bag and tossed them to her. "And you?" he asked Gaara.

"Give him the wine ones."

"Luckily for you, I just came from Naruto's, so I have a couple of those with me." He took another silver pouch out of the bag and handed it to Gaara. "I hope you like Cabernet Sauvignon." He pulled one more pouch out for himself. Azumi and Sasuke laid down, in the grass, staring up at the sky and Gaara sat down next to Azumi, staring ahead at the scene. The three of them sat in silence for a few moments and drank out of their pouches. Considering Azumi's answer to the question of what type she likes, Gaara was almost certain they were drinking blood. But he most definitely had wine. "So..." Sasuke said, "are you two...dating?"

"Sasuke." Even in the darkness, Gaara could see how strong her glare was. He was sort of glad it was not directed at him. He was pretty sure his soul would leave his body.

"I'm just making conversation," Sasuke laughed.

"Talk about your family."

"Nothing too interesting to report. Itachi finally got a bride."

"About time."

"Yeah, that's what everyone is saying. She hasn't exactly taken to him just yet but the announcement and celebration of their engagement is in two months. Are you coming?"

"Was my father invited?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Then I'm coming. Everywhere he goes, I must go," she sighed.

"I cared for a few moments about the engagement, then I realized it doesn't matter to me. I already have wives."

"And Naruto."

"Yeah. I don't really care much for the wives." A small moment of silence went by. "Hey, you two should get married." Gaara choked on his wine pouch and Sasuke laughed a little.

"We just met tonight," Gaara said. He realized he had just finished the wine and he needed more.

Azumi put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry. He's joking. I wouldn't subject you to a lifetime of being married to me."

"You'd need a lifetime supply of these in that case," Sasuke said, giving Gaara another wine pouch. "But in all seriousness, when are you going to get married? Your father is going to start matching you up again really soon."

She let out a sad sigh. "I don't know," she pouted.

Gaara zoned out of their conversation as he began to piece everything together and he tried not to get himself worked up. He realized that the wine was a good way to help him cope. He quietly came to the conclusion that they were vampires. It did not seem like they were trying to hide that fact from him anyway. This was something he did not think he would have to deal with in his life, yet there he was, next to two young vampires who casually sat under the stars and drank blood out of small pouches. They were not attacking him so he was able to relax a little.

He knew vampires lived among the people in the town and he was pretty sure he had not come across them. He figured Sasuke was from one of the other families that lived in the hills and that brought him to the conclusion that the other families were vampires, which would be why no one knew much about them. Halfway through the second pouch, he realized he was getting a little dizzy. Somewhere in the midst of conversation, Sasuke handed Gaara a couple more pouches. He drank them quietly, mulling over his new situation.

What he could not piece together, however, was why this girl seemed so familiar. He felt like he met her before but he could not remember where or when. It had to be in a dream.

By the end of what Gaara figured to be his fourth or fifth pouch of wine, he knew he was drunk. He sat there, looking ahead at the moonlit horizon. He was sitting there with vampires. This was his life now. He was going to be living with a vampire and her vampire father. He was pretty sure he would be seeing a lot of her vampire friend, too. He was not sure he could cope with all of this. It was a lot to take in at once. He had zoned out of their conversation and lost himself in his own thoughts. Eventually, he felt really tired. He closed his eyes and…

* * * * * * * *

Azumi and Sasuke heard the soft thud of Gaara passing out in the grass. "Is your human okay?" Sasuke smirked.

"He's probably just drunk," Azumi sighed, running her hand through Gaara's hair. "Poor thing. He's had a rough life. Maybe we should go. The sun is going to be up soon."

"I'll help you take him home." Sasuke moved over to Gaara, sitting him upright and maneuvering him onto his back. He swiftly stood up, picking up the other man. "Ready?" Azumi nodded and they started heading back. "So, who is he?"

"The governor's son. Kabuto mentioned that my father signed a contract. I don't know what kind of contract it was, but he was made my personal servant by my father." She thought for a moment. "I want to say the word 'slave' was somewhere in the contract. And I'm pretty sure there was no money involved. This poor boy was just given away." She knew her father would not spend money on a human. All of the humans in her home either sought Orochimaru out or he found them at a young age and provided them with a home until they felt they wanted to leave. None of them left, though, and decided to remain servants in the castle.

"Personal servant? For you?" Sasuke tried his hardest not to laugh too hard.

"I know, right? It's insane." They walked in silence for a moment until they approached the tunnels that led back to Azumi's home. "We actually met before...a while ago, but I don't think he remembers me. He was drunk then, too."

"He seems nervous," Sasuke hummed. "Maybe when he gets over that, he'll remember you. And it would be in his best interest to get over it soon."

"He just has to get used to his new life."

"Maybe he can come with us to the festival next week. Then you won't feel like a third wheel."

Azumi feigned a laugh. "Very funny. I was going to bring him anyway."

They approached the trap door in the kitchen. Azumi opened it, making sure the coast was clear. Once she verified it was, she helped Sasuke through. They made their way up to her room, avoiding the couple of servants that had woken up early to start the day. "Where do you want to take him?"

"I don't know if he has his own room yet. Just put him in my bed. I'll just work until he wakes up." Sasuke nodded and set Gaara down on Azumi's bed. "Thank you, Sasuke. Same time next week?"

"I'm looking forward to it."

"Get home before the sun rises." They gave each other a kiss goodbye and Sasuke left, quickly heading home. Azumi looked Gaara over, running her hand through his hair. "You poor thing," she said quietly. He groaned and moved a little in his sleep. 'He's pretty cute,' she thought with a smile. She got up and closed all of the curtains in the windows of her room before she went to her desk to finish the work she had been doing before she met Gaara.

As she tried to do her work, she caught herself staring at him every now and then. She was sure he did not remember her. It did not bother her. He was drunk that night and going through a rough time. She sighed heavily and decided maybe a bath would take her mind off of it. She stood up and made her way into her bathroom, turning the faucet on and letting the water warm up. She heard a knock on her door and went to answer it. Slowly, she opened the door.

"Good morning, my Lady," Kimimaro said.

"Good morning, Kimimaro," she smiled.

"I brought you some new towels." He handed her a couple of towels.

"Thank you. Your timing is perfect, I was just about to take a bath."

Unable to help himself, he glanced at her bed and noticed there was someone in it. Someone who looked a little familiar. "Did you...enjoy your night?" he smirked.

Azumi knew what he was looking at. "I worked on the research documents all night. I just finished. Now I'm going to relax and take a bath." She knew she did nothing with the man in her bed, but whether or not Kimimaro would believe her was another thing. He was with her the night she met Gaara in the bar and he watched her leave with him so he could easily get other ideas.

"Right. Well, enjoy it. I'll see you downstairs."

Azumi nodded politely as Kimimaro backed away and closed the door. She went back to her bathroom to undress and take her bath. She knew the next person to bother her was going to be her father. She just hoped that in the time between her closing the door and her father coming up to check on her, she could actually enjoy her bath.

Much to her expectation, she only got to relax for about twenty minutes. She was nodding off in the water when she heard Orochimaru at the door. "Azumi," he said.

Azumi rolled her eyes. The last thing she wanted to see this early was her prison warden of a father. Wrapping a towel around herself, she left her bathroom. Before she could even approach the door to answer it, her father walked in. "You know, most of the other men in this castle knock before entering," she said.

"Well, the other men are not your father who worries about you." He looked around her room, stopping his gaze on her bed, immediately noticing someone was in it. "What is going on?"

"What do you mean?" Orochimaru pointed to Gaara, still asleep. "He's sleeping."

"In your bed." His point shifted to her, standing there in her towel.

"What do you take me for?"

"I take you for a reckless young woman who has gotten into too much trouble to be trusted alone. I have caught you enough times with that Sasuke boy in your bed to worry this much."

"Wow, tell me how you really feel."

"I just did. Wake him up."

Azumi sighed deeply, stepping towards her bed to wake Gaara up. Gently, she nudged him. "Hey," she said quietly.

Slowly, Gaara opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was the woman he just met in nothing but a towel right next to him. He gasped, sitting up and backing away. He blinked a couple of times and saw Orochimaru behind her, causing him to gasp louder. "Ow," he groaned, putting his hand to his head. She figured he was hungover.

Azumi turned to Orochimaru. "See? Does that look like the reaction of a man who slept with me?"

"I what?"

"Relax. Remember? The scented candles? The interference?"

Orochimaru cleared his throat to remind his daughter of his presence for a moment. "If you do not mind," he said to Gaara, "I would like to speak with you downstairs." Gaara nodded and got off of the bed, following Orochimaru out the door. Orochimaru turned to Azumi, giving her a glare that she was all too familiar with. "I will deal with you later," he told her. Azumi scoffed, rolling her eyes again and getting back into her bath.

Chapter Text

Four Months Before

Tobirama walked around the table, staring down at the body on it. "Don't look at me like that," he smirked. The room was quiet except for the small whimpers coming from the vampire strapped to the table. "You are an interesting type." He had come across a couple like this one. The whole clan seemed to like to remain in hiding like cowards. But he would recognize the pale skin and white hair anywhere. This was the youngest of the Otsutsuki clan. He got lucky finding a young one from an old clan. He did not think there were any Ootsutsukis under the age of three hundred. He pulled out a scalpel and looked the vampire up and down a couple of times, trying to find the spot he wanted to dig into first.

The poor soul strapped down struggled, tugging at his restraints. "You're a monster! A fucking CREATURE!" Tears threatened to pour from his eyes.

Tobirama chuckled darkly. "Thank you," he said. He ran a gloved finger down the man's ribs, finding the spot he was going to stab. His eyes nearly rolled back when the vampire screamed as the blade cut smoothly into him. "Ah, it never gets old doing that."

"Fu-fuck you, you bastard."

"Oh, my, I thought you celestial types were supposed to be above all that common cursing," Tobirama grinned as he pressed the blade deeper, working on revealing the area where a human would have been his appendix. "Interesting..." he mumbled.

"You're sick!"

"That's what the serpent one said to me...and everyone before her."

The boy snarled, revealing four sets of fangs. Tobirama backed up, preparing himself in case it tried to spit at him as that last one did. But this vampire's eyes only flashed a vibrant white light. They were completely different from the snake-like ones'.

"You must be a weaker type." He noted this in his journal.

After seeing that the vampire could not do much, Tobirama pried his mouth open, taking a good look at the fangs. "These are always in this position," he noted. The vampire hissed, snapping his jaw shut. Tobirama chuckled, pulling his hand away just in time. "Powerful jaw. Noted. I'm sure this will have the same effect on you," he said, grabbing a sacred bullet. He dragged it along the vampire's inner arm. He got to the inner elbow and pressed really hard, shoving the bullet into the skin. The vampire screeched, straining once more against his restraints. The white skin started to spider with blackened veins. Tobirama grinned and noticed the vampire's eyes glowed a faint blue light. "Fascinating!" he breathed.

The vampire thrashed, his eyes still glowing. The veins in his arm were spreading outward. Suddenly, something slammed into the back of Tobirama's head. He whipped around to see what had happened. He expected one of the other test subjects to be standing behind him, and he was ready to fight them. Yet, there was nothing but floating objects around the room.

"Amazing," he smirked. "You have telekinesis." He quickly wrote that down before pulling the bullet out of the vampire's arm. The vampire panted and everything that had been in the air suddenly clattered to the ground as he bucked from the pain. "You are very young." He tilted the boy's head to check for bite marks on the neck, then lifted the wrists. He hummed, noting the young boy's skin was free of such things. 'Natural-born?' he thought.

The vampire winced at the feeling of the hunter touching him. "My family will come for you," he said.

"And I will be waiting," Tobirama smirked. The vampire panted, watching Tobirama circle back around to a tray of tools. "You creatures like to think I cannot take you in numbers, but," Tobirama's smirk curled slowly across his face, "I always welcome a challenge." He grabbed a pair of small pliers. He was going to enjoy this part a lot. "I'm going to take a little souvenir from you," he said as he approached the vampire again. "This is going to hurt a lot." He pried the vampire's mouth open, clamping the pliers around a fang and pulling harshly.

"No! NO, NO, DON'T TOUCH ME!" The scream that ripped from the vampire's throat echoed down the hall and nearly shook the room. Blood sprayed and filled the creature's mouth.

"Beautiful," Tobirama breathed, holding the tooth up to the light. He was sprayed with blood and the vampire knew if this monster of a man could, he would eat him alive. Tobirama dropped the fang onto a small dish for cleaning. "And a little something to remember you by," he said as he grabbed a small vile and placed it where there was once a fang in the vampire's mouth. He let a couple of drops of blood fill the vessel. The vampire snarled, hacking a bit and spitting hard so more blood sprayed Tobirama's face. "At least this time I know it's not venomous," he smirked. He didn't bother to wipe it away right away. Instead, the blood clung to his face and hair, making him look all the more terrifying in the dim light.

"You...bastard..." the vampire strained.

Tobirama pulled the vile away, closing it and setting it next to the extracted fang. "I am almost done with you," he said. He was pretty sure the creature knew what that meant. It was not going to live for much longer. But he wanted it to suffer. Tobirama picked up a long, beautifully carved wooden stake. It would not kill the boy. No, it would put him in a state of conscious paralysis, making him even more powerless against Tobirama.

"I don't want to die," the vampire squeaked softly.

"You're going to wish you did die," Tobirama smirked, shoving the wooden stake into the vampire's skin. Tobirama's lips part in a relished groan when he saw the fear and despair in the now motionless vampire. He took a moment to look him over. "You're going to suffer slowly and painfully. And I'm going to live in every long, agonizing second of it." The vampire just looked up at him, unable to do anything. "I will return for you later," Tobirama said, grabbing the dish with the single fang and the small vile of blood. He had another date with another one of these creatures. He walked out of the room feeling positively giddy.

"Another dissection today, Brother?" Itama asked, bowing as his brother walked up to him. Tobirama handed Itama the small dish for him to clean the fang.

"One of a few," Tobirama sighed. "This one is going to be occupied for a little while."

"Who knew there were so many types? You're really making advancements for the hunters," Itama praised his brother.

"I am just doing the work I was put on his earth to do," Tobirama smirked, making his way to another room where he had another vampire strapped to a table. This room was silent. He walked up to the table and for a moment he thought the creature had died. He stared at the vampire for a minute, wondering what to do about him before he twitched awake. 'It was just sleeping?!' he thought. It was sleeping when he found it, too. He had found this one nuzzled up to a couple of deer. This one was not an animal type, but it did seem to use the deer as familiars. He never came across one from this family before but they did not seem to be more than ordinary vampires.

The vampire's face scrunched up when the light hit it. "Whoa, I'm trying to sleep here," he grumbled, undisturbed by Tobirama's bloodied appearance or him even being there.

Tobirama's eye twitched. "How can you sleep when you're in this situation?"

"It's a talent that you are interrupting. You're being such a drag."

"A talent, huh?" Tobirama smirked. "I like to learn what talents you creatures have."

"Oooh, I've got bad news for you." His eyes started to flutter again and he yawned widely. "That's it, that's all I've got."

Tobirama blinked. "Excuse me?"

The vampire was knocked out once more. Long, deep breaths slowed and the vampire was back to his almost death-like state.

"Wake up," Tobirama growled, pushing the vampire violently on the table. "I don't have time for your games."

"Tch, you're very rude," the vampire said as he woke back up. This time, something felt like it knocked Tobirama's hand off the table as if his fingers slipped off the metal edge. "Do you like it when people ruin your sleep?"

Tobirama quickly grabbed a sacred bullet and shoved it into the vampire's side. "I will not be spoken like that by your kind."

The creature's body jumped, flinching hard away from the pain as it spread over his body much the same way it did in the previous vampire. "ARGH!" he wailed.

Tobirama grinned. "Finally," he said smoothly, a sensation of release washing over him until he felt something wrap around his waist and jerk him back hard.

"You're sick," the vampire panted.

"What did you just do to me?" Tobirama growled. "What was that?"

"Like I'd fucking tell you that!" The vampire's face still twisted in pain.

Tobirama smirked. He could see that the vampire wanted to take the bullet out. That he had a way to take it out somehow. He stood there, staring at the wound, waiting for the vampire to either cave and show him what he's been doing or succumb to the pain. "It seems you have a choice to make," he said. The vampire struggled a little while longer, resisting the urge to ease the pain. "That won't do." Tobirama got up and jammed his thumb into the bullet so it pushed in further. The sleepy vampire wailed and suddenly dark tendrils slithered up and ripped Tobirama's arm away from the vampire.

"FUCK!" the vampire screamed as Tobirama's laugh echoed off the walls.

"So, what was it that you just did?" Tobirama asked menacingly.

"I'm starting to understand why you have spit on your face," the vampire snapped, turning away from Tobirama. The bullet was laying on the floor next to Tobirama's foot.

"Oh?" Tobirama smirked. "Care to explain to me why?" He grabbed a small blessed blade.

"Care to get fucked?" He stared at the blade. "I think I'll die and let you suffer wondering," he sneered, bracing himself for the pain.

"The way it works in this world is that I do not suffer," Tobirama growled, shoving the knife directly into the wound of the sacred bullet. "If you won't tell me, someone else of your kind will."

"AAAAAAAARGH!" The scream that ripped from him was far higher and much rawer and made Tobirama's head spin a little with euphoria. Blood spilled from the wound and once again he felt the tendrils wrapped tighter than ever around his arm but he fought against them, pushing the blade deeper.

"Ah, yes," he sighed, "that's it."

"You sick bastard!" the vampire grunted.

Tobirama rolled his eyes. "Haven't heard that one before."

"Should say someth—" the vampire started, but Tobirama pushed the blade farther and felt the tendrils around his arm tighten once more. The blade pulled out slightly. Next, he felt them slipping up his legs, trying to drag him away. This vampire might have been able to take him had he not been starved for a while and it fascinated Tobirama.

Tobirama looked down to see what looked like a shadow grasping his legs. "So that's it," he smirked, pushing the knife in again, a little more excited than he was a couple of seconds ago.

"Shit," the vampire hissed, the shadows straining to pull Tobirama away.

"The shadows," he grinned. "Excellent to know. Your kind may pose an interesting challenge! More of a threat than the deer led me to believe."

"We want nothing to do with you," the vampire sneered.

"Oh, but I want everything to do with you," Tobirama smirked. He grabbed a pair of pliers. "Time for my souvenir." The vampire's eyes widened and he thrashed his head away, mouth clamped shut. But with all the shadow use and starvation, the vampire was weak and easily overpowered by Tobirama. Tobirama pried the vampire's mouth open, carefully looking at all the teeth and the set of fangs. "Perfect," he said as he gripped one of the fangs with the pliers and pulled roughly. Instead of more wails or even spitting, Tobirama was greeted with silence and the limp form of the vampire. A dark chuckle filled the room as Tobirama placed the fang into a small dish. "You did great," he told the unconscious vampire.

Tobirama practically skipped to the next vampire. This one was blindfolded and strapped down. This was another lucky find. A young Uchiha. He learned quickly from what happened to one of his students that this particular variant was especially good at mind games. "Knock, knock," Tobirama smirked as he entered the room.

"Fuck off, Senju!" the blindfolded vampire sneered, baring his teeth. "You think the clans won't notice any of us gone?"

"Noticing you gone is exactly what I want," Tobirama laughed.

"Do your worst. I'm not giving anything away!" the vampire growled.

"The very fact that you're wearing a blindfold should already tell you I know a lot about your type." The vampire said nothing. "That's what I thought." He pulled out a sacred bullet, wasting no time in shoving it into the vampire's neck. "That's just to satisfy me." Blood gurgled up in the vampire's throat almost instantly. Tobirama sighed, watching the horrifying display as if it was the most beautiful sight. "The young ones lure out the older, more powerful ones," he sighed, watching the vampire choke on his own blood. "You young ones are all so easy to capture."

He got a giddy wave just thinking back to his fight with the young serpentess vampire. She and her presumable sire were powerful and he was just itching to fight them again. He felt his eyes roll at the very thought of how good it would feel to crush the young serpentine vampiress. In his sick euphoric state, he had not realized he shoved the bullet further into the vampire's neck. It was not until the vampire gagged that he was brought back. "Oh, right," he said, grabbing the pliers he had beside them. The vampire only gurgled as the fang was pulled out with ease. The tooth plucked into its new temporary home on the small dish. "Boring." He turned to leave. He had one last specimen, the one he wanted to spend the most time with.

He stepped into the next room. This one was a girl. And he was extremely lucky to have come across her. She thrashed around a bit, struggling against her restraints. He could tell she was a newborn. He wanted to take his time with her because he needed to be ready for his next encounter with the snake girl from before. He walked up to her, feeding off of her frantic fear. He watched her rapid breathing, being as silent as he possibly could as he approached the table.

"I saved you for last because I have some special plans for you," he said. If he was not who he was, it may have sounded sweet. The girl was not sure if she wanted to swoon or whimper. He ran his fingers through her long red hair gently before fisting the strands hard, making the girl yelp. In her yelp, her fangs came out, going from what originally looked like unusually sharp canine teeth to longer vampire fangs. "Ah," Tobirama smirked. "I see they're retractable. Extracting those will be very interesting." The girl whimpered, her slit pupils blowing wide when they felt the press of the blade on her stomach. "You're going to spill all of your secrets so I can fight your kind better than ever."

"I...don't know anything," she whimpered.

"You have to know something."

"I don't! I've only been like this for a couple of months!" Tears started to well up in her eyes. "Please just let me go!"

"Who turned you?"

"I don't know! I was attacked! I didn't see who it was."

"Typical vampire scum," he scoffed, not surprised at all that this young woman was attacked and left for dead. Yet he felt no sympathy towards her.

"All I can tell you is my name, but I don't know what good that would do you." She sounded like she was forming a proposition, which she was in absolutely no position for. "My name is Tayuya."

Tobirama hummed. He did not care for her name if she had no more information. He pried her mouth open, taking a good look at the inside. He noticed a small sac, the size of a regular tooth in the back of her mouth. "That must be where the venom comes from." He grabbed a pair of snips and prodded at the sac. He could snip it and see what happens. Or he could see if he could milk her like a real snake. Both would be horribly uncomfortable but one might be more effective than the other if he wanted to learn the most about this species' venom.

He decided to do both. He grabbed a small vile, placing it around the fang. With a long cotton swab, he pushed the sac, provoking it to release venom through the fang into the vile. The girl gagged, having her mouth open so wide for so long with so many things in it. Once the vile was filled with venom, he closed it and set it aside. He then reached in with the snips, carefully cutting the sac off and prompting a pained scream from the girl.

"Oh, did that hurt?" he cooed, placing the sac in a small jar. "That's too bad. I've never been good at being gentle." He grinned and had the girl not been gagging on her own blood she would have thought it was charming. "There are so many gifts I want from you," he said. "I don't know where to start." He looked her over, deciding where he wanted his next 'souvenir' to come from. He lifted her hand, checking to see if there was anything particularly special about this breed there. Dropping her hand, he took a good look at her eyes. The slit pupil intrigued him. "I could take those," he mused.

The girl's eyes widened in fear. Tobirama pushed her head back, catching one of her eyes in the widened state.

"Oh, thank you." He smiled, grabbing a clamp and pressing it underneath her eyelids so he could pull the slippery orb out easily. Her scream almost shattered the glass in the room. Tobirama exhaled in ecstasy as he placed the eye in another small jar. While she had her mouth open, he grabbed a clean pair of pliers and gripped one of her fangs. He yanked it harshly, pulling the whole fang out. "This is much longer than I thought it to be," he noted, taking in the size of the retractable fang. "So far you haven't done anything in defense." He drummed his fingers on the edge of the table. He thought about his fight with the older serpent vampire. "I wonder if you can produce snakes, too."

"I told you, I don't know!" she yelled, panting hard. "I know nothing!"

"You may not, but your body does."

"I don't know what you're talking about." She was terrified of what else he would do to her and it showed in her eye.

"I just need to provoke it somehow," he wondered out loud. Tobirama looked over his weapons. The stake would be no good but the blade and the bullet would be interesting. He picked up the blade and stabbed it hard into her arm. Nothing happened but he could have sworn that through the screams of the vampire, he heard a soft hiss. He hummed curiously. He began to stab her in various parts of her body. After a couple of spots, he stabbed her ribs. A couple of snakes shot out of her sleeves. His head whipped in their direction and he watched them hit the farthest wall and fall to the floor. "Ah, hahaha!" He twisted the blade, hearing it scrape against the bone of the ribs and pressed deeper. "Do it again. Let me see it again. Where do they come from?" The girl screamed. He could tell her throat was sore by how hoarse the scream was. More snakes shot out of her sleeves. "Fascinating," he breathed. "You might survive the night." He grinned, wanting to know more about her species.

He pushed the blade again, twisting it once more and posing his hand to catch one of the snakes that shot out over her hand. He gripped tightly when the snakes shot out of her sleeve and held one of the snakes down. He looked at the snake in his hand. It was a real snake. He might not have been trying to kill her but she was fatigued and ready to pass out. In her weakened and starved state, she would die. He poked his head out the door to call for his brother. "Itama! Bring me a sack!" he snapped, smirking as he heard the younger man's footsteps running.

Moments later, Itama entered the room with a sack. "Here, brother," he said hurriedly.

Tobirama took the bag and dropped the snake in before tying it shut. "Perfect, I wonder what other secrets your body holds," he said sinisterly. The girl was on the very brink of death, her body practically minced and picked apart. Tobirama rolled his eyes. "You're going to die soon." He said this more like it was an inconvenience. "Your kind is too hard to find so I need as much from you as possible. What else can you do?" He could see her slipping away. He pushed her violently. "Not yet," he growled. A soft whine escaped the girl's ruined mouth. Tobirama debated quickly if she was worth the resources to keep alive or if she would serve him better dead and thoroughly dissected. He tilted her head a little bit, noticing bite marks on her neck. "Maybe I can find your sire," he said quietly. "They might be more useful than you." He decided at that moment that he was going to let her die.

Itama stood in the doorway, watching his brother get lost in thought. "Is everything alright, Brother?" he asked.

"Yes..." Tobirama hummed, bringing himself back. A smirk settled on his face. "Everything is perfectly fine." He stabbed the girl one last time as a finishing blow, killing her off before she could let herself slip away completely.

Chapter Text

Fifty Years Before

A couple of weeks passed as Azumi remained in her home after losing her fang. Her daily routines consisted of moving between her bedroom and the lab to exchange scrolls with Orochimaru and to measure her gap while being updated on the news of hunters roaming the area, and being told not to go outside over and over again, then helping Log and Mitsuki adjust to their new life. It was a routine she had started to grow bored of but without Sasuke around there was nothing else to do. She told herself over and over that once he returned, they would have to go out more and have more fun to make up for how boring it was without him.

After nearly a month, she heard that her prototype fang was ready and she would be able to see it soon as well as have to make sure it fit in her mouth. She had just gotten used to her gap and soon it was to be filled again. She looked over the scroll she had worked on the whole night and decided she was finished with it. There were a few things she skipped over and one or two things she could have gone into more detail about but she figured Orochimaru was an intelligent man and he could figure out the small things from her work. She stood up, rolled it up, and began to walk down to the labs to exchange it for a new one. She also wanted to sneak a look at her fang.

Upon entering the lab, she noticed Orochimaru was not there. She stepped in and looked around the worktables at whatever he had been working on last. She understood most of what was laid out on the tables since she decoded all the scrolls that pertained to them. “I guess he’s not home?” she mumbled to herself. She figured he had gone to a meeting or that he finally decided to leave his lab and sleep for once in his eternal life. She left the scroll she brought down on an empty desk and turned to leave. She was immediately startled by a redheaded man who stood behind her in the doorway. 

“Is there something I can help you with?” he asked.  

She let out a heavy breath and looked up at him. A small gasp escaped her at how cute he was and how nice his voice sounded. He was almost too attractive to be human. But he most certainly was human. “I was just looking for my father...” she said. 

He smiled at her and she felt her heart skip a beat. “He had to step out momentarily,” he said smoothly. “I take it you’re the daughter who lost her fang?” 

“Yes, that’s me,” she said with a sigh and a slight nod. She had not been self-conscious about her gap until that moment. It was suddenly quite embarrassing to have such a noticeable hole in her mouth.

“I’m making you a new one. Would you like to see it?” He took her immediate smile as a yes and nodded for her to follow him to a worktable. On the table, held in front of a magnifying glass was a natural-looking hollow fang. Azumi gasped softly at it. “Do you like it?” he asked. 

“It looks so real.” 

He moved the magnifying glass to another small stand like the one the false fang was being held up in. “This is your real one,” he smiled as he let her look at how almost identical they were. 

“Wow,” she whispered, looking between the two fangs. The only difference between them was that the false one was hollow. 

“It might feel a little different when it’s implanted,” he said. “Your father is going to have to do the process because he needs to attach it to your venom sac. But you may feel like this fang pushes out more venom. Since it is hollow, it holds a little more than your natural fang. But if it suits you, I can always make the tip smaller. That’s if you don’t mind undergoing the procedure more than once.” 

“We’ll see out the first one goes,” she chuckled. “This is amazing,” she said as she compared the real one with the fake one. “It’s beautiful. You’re very talented.” 

He smiled at her again. “I’m Sasori,” he said. “I’ve been working with your father for a couple of weeks on different prosthetics.”

‘He has been here this whole time?’ she thought, wondering why she never met him sooner or why her father never introduced them when he first arrived. It would be a conversation she needed to have with Orochimaru. One where she could already predict what he would say.

“I will say, my Lady, that you are a very interesting breed of vampire. I’ve never had to account for something such as a venom sac.” 

“Serpentine vampires are very few and far between,” she said. “It’s probably why he worries so much about me keeping all of my body parts.” The pain in her mouth from the torn tube subsided but she could definitely feel the remnants of it. The last couple of weeks consisted of her catching drops of venom from her mouth and having to do damage control after nearly ingesting her own venom. She was sure they were immune to their own venoms but it was still something she never wanted to have constantly gone down her throat.

“He might have mentioned that you were...a little reckless.” 

“So that’s the word he uses when he tells other people about me,” she hummed. “I’m not reckless, I just lost a fang.” 

“Fangs don’t naturally come loose like human teeth, my Lady,” he smirked. “You have to have done something he would consider reckless for that to have happened.”

She took a moment to respond, not wanting to admit that she jumped off of a cliff to conduct a stupid experiment. “Okay, maybe I was a little bit reckless one time and it resulted in me losing my fang.” 

“I recall him mentioning a couple of other incidents.” 

“I like to test the limits of my immortality.” Like her father, she was keen on experimentation. Unlike her father, she usually used herself as a test subject rather than other people. She jumped off of the cliff to test the height at which a vampire could fall and live. She came to the conclusion that the height at which she fell from was equivalent to a human child jumping off of a bed. All she lost was a tooth. “He doesn’t enjoy the idea of messing around with that kind of stuff.” She would not let that stop her. 

“Well, you are his only daughter,” he chuckled. “You are a natural-born and you even said yourself that your kind is rare. You cannot blame him for not wanting to lose you. Especially when you’re as young as you are and you have a very, very long life ahead of you.” He grabbed her hand and gently kissed the back of it. “Try not to lose all of that at once.” 

She stared at him for a moment as she considered his words and realized he was right. Orochimaru had once talked about how he lost his parents to a vampire hunter. She knew how hard it was to talk about it for him. She supposed the loss of one of his children would bring back that same pain. She did not want to do that to him. “How...do you do that?” she asked. 

“I’ve been told I can be pretty persuasive,” he smirked. He let her hand go and sat down on the workbench. “I have to finish a couple of more things with this prototype fang before it can be finalized for the finished product to be made. That will take a few months. Then your father can implant it and we will have to make sure it retracts like the natural one.” He looked at her and smiled and she felt her heart do that thing again. “The prototype should be done by the end of the week.” 

“I appreciate all the work you’re putting into this,” she said. “It was very nice to meet you, Sasori.” 

“The pleasure is all mine, my Lady.” 

“You can call me Azumi,” she smiled. “I like to leave formalities behind when not in the presence of my father. Plus, it looks like you will be here for a while,” she chuckled, “so you do not need to worry about titles.” 

He chuckled softly and she knew that if she could blush, she would have. “Alright then...Azumi. I’ll see you when this is finished.” He winked at her as she backed out of the lab.

She pressed her back to the wall beside the door to the lab and let out a heavy breath, running her hand through her hair. “Wow,” she whispered.

“Wow what?” Mitsuki asked, approaching her from down the hall.

She flinched hard, not knowing he was there and too lost in the thought of the man she just met. “Nothing,” she breathed through a slightly nervous chuckle. “Do you need anything? Father isn’t down here. I just came down here to give him the scrolls and he wasn’t in there. Have you seen him? I have no idea where he could be.” She could feel herself rambling and even Mitsuki knew that was what it was.

“I...haven’t,” he chuckled. “Kabuto told me to grab some blood for myself and Log.”

“Oh…” she hummed, hardly paying attention to him as she risked a peek into the lab and caught Sasori resuming his work on her fang.

“Are you okay, Azumi?”

The question brought her back and her gaze fell on him. “I’m fine,” she smiled. “Great, actually. You can find blood in any of these labs.” She ran her hand through his hair as she started to walk past him. “I’ll see you later.”

“Right…” Mitsuki said softly, watching her leave.

* * * * * * * *

Once she was gone, Mitsuki looked into the lab and saw the redheaded human sitting at a worktable. “Oh,” he smirked, deciding to go into a different lab for the blood. He looked around the lab for a moment before finding the warming cabinet that contained the blood pints. Debating for a moment whether or not he wanted to share a pint with his brother, he grabbed two jars. It was not a hard decision and Mitsuki was not one to dwell on making a choice.

He made his way back up to the main floor of the castle and through the hallway toward the library. He wanted to get the pint to Log before it cooled too much. They both learned quickly that blood was best when it was warm and it was only warm for so long after being removed from the cabinet. He pushed the door to the library open and went up to the second level quickly, finding Log sitting in a big armchair with a few stacks of books surrounding him. His nose was buried in one about the history of vampires in politics.

“I think Azumi has a boyfriend,” Mitsuki laughed softly as he set his brother’s pint on a small table next to the chair.

“Does she?” Log hummed, setting his book down and picking up the jar. “Why do you think that?”

“She was acting that way people get when they’re around someone they like,” Mitsuki shrugged, taking a sip from his jar. It was the second time he could drink freely without having to be watched closely by someone. He was sure he was not going to go into a frenzy but Orochimaru and Azumi knew better than he did. If they said he was finally now stable enough, he was going to trust that.

“Maybe she doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Log chuckled, taking a sip from his jar, “but she could really like him.”

“He’s the guy helping Father with her fang.”

Log’s head tilted a little. “Oh…” He nodded slightly. “Interesting.”

Mitsuki watched his brother for a few moments and then smirked when he recognized the look on his face. “You’re getting protective,” he teased. He knew that Log had started to see Azumi and Yashamaru as siblings, especially since they have had the most interaction with them since arriving at the castle. Mitsuki also started to see them as an older brother and sister. And seeing Azumi as an older sister meant he could tease her about the man downstairs.

“So what if I am?” Log hummed. “I just want her to be careful, just as I would want you to be careful if you ever met someone.”

“I know, I know,” Mitsuki chuckled. “I’m just teasing you.”

“Don’t bother her about it though,” Log warned. “You may be getting comfortable around them but it’s none of your business who she gets involved with.” He paused for a second. “Unless they do something bad to her. Then you can get involved,” he smirked.

“And she has three brothers to do that for her now,” Mitsuki laughed. “I’ll leave her alone,” he said, turning to leave his brother with his books. “For now.”

Chapter Text

One Year Before

The night was still very young and Sai finished an early shift at the bar, ready to get home and finish his painting before he could start a new one. There was a festival continuing that night in the town and he challenged himself to speed paint the crowd beneath his balcony. He loved festival weeks. They were the best time to be creative. He was glad that he lived in a town that had festivals very often. He was also glad that the town had such an active nightlife. Most events in the town were held at night. He never questioned why but he just loved that it was like that.

The crowd had not yet come out as everyone was probably just getting ready for the night. That gave Sai enough time. He made his way through the streets, taking back alleys the closer he got to his apartment on the other side of the town. Just a few more minutes and he would be home.

As he turned into one of the last few alleyways, he felt something shift in the air. The nice feeling of a festival turned dark quickly. His steps halted for a moment before he shook his head and continued on, thinking it was just his imagination. He did just work a whole shift after barely sleeping the night before. After a few steps, he felt something move behind him that quickly disappeared. The sudden movement caught his attention and he looked back, seeing no one. He was almost home, though, so he thought nothing of it.

Sai continued walking, only to be startled by a shadowy figure standing at the end of the alleyway, right where he needed to go. He could feel a dark aura coming from the figure. “Who are you?” he asked, taking a step back. The shadow did not answer. “What do you want?” Again, no answer. Sai took a deep breath and turned to run.

He only made it a few steps before he was tackled to the ground, his jaw hitting the ground hard. He could taste a little blood in his mouth. His attacker growled, pressing their hand hard against the back of his head and shoving his face into the ground. Sai struggled against them, trying to break free but they were oddly strong. As soon as he was about to reach back at his attacker, he felt a stabbing sensation in the bend of his neck.

He struggled some more, letting out a pained grunt that turned into a weak yell for help and no matter how much he moved, they did not release him. He could feel himself getting tired and weaker. He dropped his hands, unable to move them much from how weak he was becoming. After what felt like forever, once he could not move, he was sure he was going to die. He hoped he was going to die. It would be a release from what was happening to him.

However, just as he started to hope, he began to feel the worst pain he had ever felt in his life. It was as if he was being stabbed internally by icy shards. He tried to scream but he was too weak to actually let anything out. It became unbearable and not too long later, everything went black.

* * * * * * * *

Sai woke up with a gasp. His head hurt and for some reason, so did the rest of him. As his vision cleared, he realized he was still in the alleyway and then all the memories of what happened just before he passed out started flooding back. He quickly sat up, holding his head as his headache pounded hard. After a few seconds, he honed in on a small hissing that was dangerously close to his ear. Once the pain registered, he realized it was his skin burning. The sun had risen. Sai had always been abnormally pale but the sun had never burned his skin off when he was in it before. He quickly moved to the shadows in the back of the alley. That did not help at all. He needed to get home quickly.

He bore the pain of the sun rays for a few more minutes as he ran through the morning street crowds on his last few turns home. He could not get inside fast enough but once he did, he slammed the door shut, pressing his back against it. He had not realized he was breathing heavily. Everything hurt, his throat was dry, and he had a very intense craving for something he never had a craving for before. Blood. “What is wrong with me?” he muttered softly to himself. He looked ahead at the staircase that led up to his apartment. There was no way he could go up there. His apartment let in a lot of sunlight. He was not sure how much of it he could handle before the rest of his skin burned off. He let out a heavy sigh, tilting his head back and resting it against the door.

He took a few minutes to calm himself down. Though he had hoped for death when it was happening, he thanked whatever gods existed that he was still alive after being attacked like that. The crime in the town was never much of an issue as long as he had been living there so he never thought he had to worry about anything like that. He wondered, for a moment, if what he had just experienced was a vampire attack. He knew vampires lived among the humans in the town but they hardly ever attacked and they were very discreet about their existence for fear of being hunted. Maybe this one was a rogue? Or maybe it was not from the area and came from somewhere where vampires and humans cannot coexist as well as they did in the town.

He looked around the small area between his front door and staircase, looking for something he could cover himself with while he closed all of the curtains in his apartment. He opted for a coat that hung on a hook on the wall beside him. He put it over his head and slowly started to make his way up the stairs to his apartment.

The coat only worked but so much and he realized it quickly when he could feel his skin still burning a little bit. He made quick work of closing the curtains as best as he could. Once his apartment was dark enough, he let the coat fall to the floor. The first thing he needed to do was inspect his body and injuries so he went into his bathroom.

The pain from the sun almost made him afraid to use his bathroom light so he hesitated hard for a few moments, debating on whether or not he should risk it. He took a deep breath and knew he would not be able to figure out if the light would hurt him if he did not try. So he turned it on, flinching hard and bracing himself for the pain.

But there was none.

He sighed deeply in relief and continued on into the bathroom toward the mirror. His face was dirty and had a few nasty scrapes from being shoved into the ground. He could see the parts of his skin that were burnt severely from being in the sun. He tilted his head slightly and saw the spot where he thought he was stabbed and was coming to the conclusion that he was bitten.

The next thing that Sai noticed was his eyes. They were very different. They had gone from their usual black to...gold? His pupils were also constricting into a vertical shape. “What the hell?” he mumbled. “What was that?” He was not very experienced with vampires but he never knew of any type of vampire with golden eyes and slit pupils. He started to think that it was not a vampire that got him but maybe some other creature that lives discreetly among the people of the town. Then he got another craving for blood. The puncture holes in his neck and the heavy craving made him lean heavily toward a vampire attack. But he needed to figure some more things out before he could decide on that.

Sai had one single book on vampires. He went out to his bedroom and straight to his bookshelf, scanning the spines until he found it. He let out a disappointed sigh when he realized it was not an informational book about the creatures and just a reference book on how to draw them. He needed to find a library or a bookstore in the town that would give him the information he needed. However, that was going to have to wait until the sun went down. With another deep breath, Sai sat down on his bed and ran his fingers very gently over the new burns on his skin. The fatigue started to hit him hard and he wondered if he would heal quickly or if the burns were going to leave nasty scars.

There was no one to go to for his dilemma but he was not going to feel discouraged by that. He was going to figure out how to get through it. He knew there was no possible way to be turned back into a human. He was now a vampire. He was on his way to accepting that fact and it was all a matter of assimilating to his new life and working around the obstacles that came with being a vampire—whatever those may be.

He laid back on his bed as his thoughts drifted to what kind of obstacles vampires even had to go through. Then it dawned on him—hunters. He knew they were around and now it was going to be a part of his life to have to avoid them. Which would be hard to do since he worked in a public bar which happened to be pretty popular.

Sai yawned, letting his thoughts carry him to sleep. “I will figure out how to deal with all of those problems tonight,” he mumbled to himself as he drifted off to sleep.

* * * * * * * * *

When the sun finally went down and the noise of the crowds below started to become the white noise in the background of Sai’s life, he finally opened his curtains and windows, greeted by the fresh air he needed so much. He had off from the bar and he was going to spend the whole night figuring out what happened to him. The craving for blood had grown more intense throughout the day and he tried to suppress it. He pulled a chair up to the window and sat back, trying to get through the feral feeling of wanting to feed that washed over him. As he sat there, he noticed he could smell the different blood types of the people that walked by and it only made it worse for him. He quickly closed the windows and sat back down.

Sai felt like he was trying to get over a case of the flu with how much pain his body was in. However, instead of vomiting, he just wanted to feed. He had no idea how to even do that but he was sure if it happened, the vampiric instincts would kick in and he would know how to.

He sat still for a long time, trying to feel every new thing about his body. From the new blood to the puncture wound in his neck to the weird thing he could feel growing in the back of his mouth. He pushed up against it with his tongue. It was a bit squishy. He was sure he was going to grow a set of fangs as well. “This is not what I expected my life to be like,” he muttered to himself. He stood up and moved to a mirror, looking at his eyes again. They were quite interesting.

Sai knew he needed to get to a bookstore or library and read up on what he was turning into. But he knew he could not go outside so soon. He could not trust himself to not attack a human. He did not want to repeat what just happened to him on someone else. He had no idea how long it was going to take him to get over the assimilation process but he knew it was going to be hard and it was going to feel like forever.

Chapter Text

Fifty Years Before

The next couple of days went by as Azumi attempted to get through the next few scrolls. However, every couple of seconds, she was distracted by the thought of the man helping her father with her fang. She could not keep her mind off of him. She wanted to know more about him. She had heard he was given a guest bedroom in the castle to stay in for the duration of the project but she had no idea which one. She tapped her pen on her desk a couple of times, sighing heavily. She wanted to see him again. The fastest way to do that would be to finish the scrolls and take them down to the lab to retrieve the next batch but she could not focus on getting through the scrolls to even do that. She could not even guarantee that he would be in there when she went down.

“Ugh,” she groaned, tilting her head back and running her hand through her hair. “What’s wrong with me?” she mumbled. No person has ever distracted her or made her lose focus as much as this man had. She closed her eyes and thought about it for a few moments. “Maybe he’s the One?” she whispered. She played with the idea for a little while until she heard a faint hiss from the floor by the fireplace. Naga moved toward her, slithering up and into her lap. “You’re hungry?” she smiled. “Let’s go feed you then.” She kissed the snake’s head and stood up, leading him to the door and out of the room.

Azumi and Naga made their way down the stairs to the next level. The snake hissed softly at her, telling her that he was beginning to get bored being stuck inside all of the time and wanted to go out once in a while to get fresh air.

“Yeah, you and me both,” Azumi sighed. “Maybe we’ll do that after you eat.” She smiled down at him. “We’ll go to the cliffside behind the castle. Father shouldn’t bother us about going there. No one goes there. We’ll be unbothered by hunters.”

“Are you plotting to escape, my Lady?” a voice asked just as they entered the hall where the guest rooms were located. Azumi looked over and saw Sasori walking toward them. Her heart jumped, from both being startled and actually seeing him again. He smiled and she swore she felt herself blush.

“It isn’t an escape if I plan to return,” she smirked.

“I suppose that’s true,” he chuckled. “But I believe it is still the opposite of what your father wants.”

“I have a hard time doing everything my father wishes,” she said. “Are you heading back down to the lab?”

“Ah, no, actually, your father sent me to go rest for the night. But that was a little while ago and I find myself a bit restless. Just thought I’d go for a walk myself.”

“Oh,” she perked up a bit at the idea that had just popped into her head then looked down at Naga who looked back up at her. He knew what she was thinking. He always did. “I was just going to feed Naga and we were going to go for a short walk to the cliffs right behind us. You’re free to join us if you’d like.”

Sasori looked down at Naga and smiled then looked at Azumi. “If it isn’t too much of an imposition, I’d love to.”

Part of Azumi did not expect him to say yes, but all of her was excited that he did. She smiled and nodded. “Follow us, then,” she said. “We’re just going down to the feeding room.” She started to descend the imperial staircase with Naga following at her side. “Naga doesn’t take too long to eat so we should be really quick.”

“That’s all fine by me,” Sasori said as he followed them. “So,” he started, they went through the main hall that led to the usual passage down to the labs, “you are snake vampires and you all have a snake familiar?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered. “Usually, the familiar is born or hatched at the same time we are born or turned. And it is a mutual bond. Naga was born when I was born and we chose each other.”

“Do other variants do the same thing for their animal?”

Azumi smiled a little, finding the questions kind of cute. She liked explaining vampiric customs to humans. They always sounded so innocent with their questions. “If they are an animal variant, yes.” They entered the feeding room and she opened a large container for Naga to slither into so he could ‘hunt’ for his food. “The Nara family are deer variants and they do have their own familiars but deer are a much more free-roaming creature so they let their familiars live in the thick forest that surrounds their castle. We like to keep our snakes in a more...safe environment because the stigma around them is...a bit more hostile than what people think of deer.”

“That is understandable,” he nodded. “I did notice that Naga is a black mamba,” he chuckled, “and he seems to be the most docile snake I’ve ever seen.”

“Not many people want to give the deadliest snake in the world a chance,” she smirked. “But if they just stood around him for a few minutes, they’d realize he’s actually a big sweetheart and all he wants to do is bask in the sun and by the fire.”

“Your family is quite interesting. I’m a little surprised there aren’t more of you.”

“There used to be. But as the number of hunters grew, ours began to shrink severely. Hence why my father wants me inside at all times.” She could not help but roll her eyes as she mentioned her father.

“He’s your father. It’s his job to worry. I’m sure the last thing he wants is to lose his daughter to a hunter.”

Azumi thought about his words for a moment. “I forgot about that thing you can do where you say something rational and I can’t help but agree,” she chuckled.

“It’s called persuasion and I like to think I’m a master at it,” he smirked.

“Maybe you can persuade my father to let me go outside once in a while.”

“I’m not sure about that,” he said with a soft laugh. “I might be good at persuading people but your father is a pretty strong-willed man. It wouldn’t be easy.”

“That’s Orochimaru for you,” she sighed. “He knows how to make the things people are best at hard for them. That’s what he does best.” Naga hissed and slithered out of the large container. “Done?” Azumi smiled at the snake. Once he was fully out, she closed it up and put it away. “Let’s try to leave without being seen,” she said to both Naga and Sasori before heading out of the room and back up the hall.

“You seem to be a master at sneaking out,” Sasori teased.

“I like to think so,” she smiled. She led him back to the main level of the castle and through the kitchen to the back entrance. “Have you been adjusting well to staying here?” she asked. “I know sometimes it can be hard for a human to have to adjust their schedule to fit around a nocturnal life.”

“I’ve adjusted easily,” he assured her. “I have always been more of a night person so this was not a difficult thing to adapt to.”

“That’s good to hear,” she smiled.

They stepped outside into the cool, fresh air. “Finally,” she sighed, enjoying the immediate breeze. “I forget what wind feels like sometimes.”

“So where exactly are we going?” Sasori asked, looking ahead of them. He saw a path, lit only by the moon, that led toward the horizon.

“Just over there,” she pointed in the direction of the path, “it goes down a little and there’s a sitting area.”

“It’s still on the castle grounds?”

Naga slithered up her body, coiling around her hips and resting his head on her shoulder. “Just outside of it, technically,” she said as she started walking. “But not far enough for my father to worry. It’s not like I’m heading down into the town or anything.” The path was a decently short walk that declined a little lower, just out of view from the castle’s back entrance. At the end of the path was the edge of the cliff where the waves below could be heard crashing against the rocks. “I don’t really come out here very often,” she hummed. There were a few benches and a swinging bench in the small area. “But maybe I will now.”

“Maybe I’ll join you,” Sasori said, sitting down on the swinging bench. “If you don’t mind, that is.”

“Of course, I don’t,” she smiled, joining him on the bench. “If anyone understands the need to get out, it would be me. Especially because you have to spend hours upon hours working with my father. You deserve it.”

Sasori chuckled softly and she could not keep the smile off of her face. “Thank you for being so understanding,” he said. She tried so hard not to stare at him but she could not help but constantly look at him as he looked out at the horizon and at their surroundings. She always found humans’ curiosity to be cute but his curiosity was especially cute.

Naga slithered up onto the bench and coiled between them. Azumi’s hand moved to pet the snake as they all sat in silence with only the sound of the waves for a few minutes. “I suppose I should thank you as well,” she said softly, “for helping my father out with this project.”

“Oh, there’s no need to thank me,” he waved it off.

“It’s only right. I am getting a brand new fang out of it.”

“You’re welcome then,” he smiled.

“So how did you end up working with my father?” she asked.

“I was referred to him by someone else I worked for a couple of years ago,” he answered. “I received a letter from him explaining the project he was working on. Before I even got to the part about payment, I knew I wanted to do it.”

“I guess that says a lot about how much you enjoy your line of work,” she said. She stood quiet for a short moment, thinking about how she could word her next question. “Do you travel?” she asked.

He looked at her and smirked. “Eager to get out, are we?” he teased. “I haven’t traveled in a while. But before settling in the town below, I did quite a bit of traveling.”

Azumi let out a soft squeal. “I have always wanted to travel but it is a bit difficult since half of the time I would be out would be lethal to me.” She scoffed a little. “And my father, I suppose, is also a factor. He’d never let me leave.”

“Maybe when hunters are no longer a threat, he’ll lighten up a little.”

“I can see hunters no longer being a threat but I cannot see him ever lightening up.”

“I don’t know him as well as you do,” he chuckled, “but I can see what you mean.”

“Where exactly have you been?” she asked. She could only assume he was quite a cultured man if he traveled. From all of the books she read, she liked to think of herself as cultured despite not having traveled but reading books and actually going to places were two different things. She figured she could actually learn a lot from him.

“A lot of places,” he smiled. “A few of the surrounding countries, the other parts of this country, a few overseas excursions to different continents.”

“Wow,” she whispered, turning her body a little to face him. She rested her arm on the back of the bench and rested her head against her hand. “That sounds amazing.”

“I could tell you about them, which I’m sure you’d enjoy very much.”

“Of course,” she grinned.

“If you’re willing to be a little patient, I can tell you more than just the small bits and pieces I can recall right now and let you read the journals I’ve done from my travels.”

She could not contain her excitement. “I would love that,” she gasped.

“I’ll look for them when we get back.”

They sat there for a little while longer, enjoying the cool breeze and the ocean sounds below. Every now and then, Sasori would ask a question about vampires and she would answer it the best she could. Then the sky started to turn a little pink. “Uh-oh,” Azumi hummed, noticing the color change. “Nights seem to be getting shorter and shorter,” she mumbled.

Sasori looked up at the sky. “I suppose we should go back,” he said softly.

Azumi sighed heavily. She did not want to go back inside. She wanted to stay there with him. She tapped Naga gently on the head and he moved to coil around her body as she stood up. “I have to get this one to bed,” she said, petting the snake’s head. Sasori stood up with her and they headed back to the castle, entering through the kitchen. There were only a few people up and moving around but they seemed to not acknowledge the fact that Azumi had been out. “We should do this again soon,” she said as they made their way up the imperial staircase. They stopped at the top, on the level where the guest rooms were. “It’s a nice escape from the confines of this place.”

“I would love to, my Lady,” he said.

Azumi chuckled softly. “You can call me Azumi. I do think I mentioned that to you.”

“Ah, yes, you did. My apologies,” Sasori smiled, taking her hand to press and kiss to the back of it. “Goodnight, Azumi.”

Her breath hitched and took all of her might to not let out the soft squeal that dared to escape her. “Goodnight, Sasori,” she said. She watched as he made his way down the hall to his room. Just before he disappeared, she continued up the next set of stairs and to her bedroom, practically running into her door before entering her room quickly. Pressing her back to the door, she could not keep the grin off of her face as she ran her hand through her hair. “Wow,” she breathed. Naga hissed teasingly at her. “Shut up,” she smiled. “Go to bed.”

Naga moved down to the floor and made his way up onto her bed. Azumi looked at her desk, at the scrolls that had been waiting for her while she was out with Sasori. There was no way she was going to be able to get through them. She was even more distracted by him than she was before. She shook her head, deciding it was a better idea to just go to bed and work on them later. She changed her clothes and crawled into the bed after Naga and went to sleep. Or at least she tried to.