She was planning something. Itachi knew it when he appeared after Pein’s calling as a hologram on one of the massive fingers of the sealing statue. He looked over at Kazumi who stood at the spot that had belonged to Orochimaru. Her expression had changed since he last had seen her; it was now determined and confident.
Throughout the last three years Kazumi always had continued to search for a medic that could heal his eyes, and although she never had given up, she had become more and more desperate. Itachi hadn’t done anything against her attempts except for trying at the beginning to convince her to give up. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be healed… After the time he had spent with her he started to believe that maybe it really would be better if he would live. But it was too late for that anyway. He knew that there was no cure against his illness and he just wanted her to give up on him, to stop worrying about him so that she wouldn’t feel the pain of loss when the inevitable would finally happen.
After some time he had hoped that she would give up herself, but she didn’t… She just got more and more frustrated though she didn’t let anyone see it.
But today Itachi couldn’t see anything from her usual expression. No frustration, no desperation, no anger. She had a blank mask that was even for him unreadable… and that was what worried him the most. He was sure that she was planning something and most likely it had to do something with him and her try to heal him that desperately.
“We are now going to seal the One-tails” Pain said. Itachi glanced at the body of the Jinchuriki which was lying motionless on the ground. “Gather your chakra, the sealing will last three days and nights.”
The Uchiha glanced back at Kazumi who put her fingers together to summon her chakra. Her expression was completely calm. She was definitely planning something. And Itachi had the feeling that he wouldn’t like it...
I knew what was behind that rock before Sakura broke it. We rushed in, and I felt Deidara, Woody Doll, Kazumi… and an unmoving body that lay on the ground.
“Gaara…” Naruto said next to me and I felt him freeze on the spot. “You bastards, give him back!”
I concentrated myself completely on Kazumi and even though this was a serious situation, even though the Kazekage was dead, even though Naruto was shortly before exploding in rage, even though a fight was about to happen, I was sort of happy and had to suppress a small smile.
This was the first time after more than three years that I saw my old friend again and I was just glad that she seemed to be alright. Of course I knew that both of our presences meant that we had to fight against each other, but I knew that she wouldn’t let the Akatsuki kidnap Naruto. She would help us secretly and maybe there would be a chance to speak with her briefly.
The clay bird Deidara had summoned swallowed Gaara’s body and flew out of the cave with the bomber on its back. Naruto of course followed him on the spot and Kakashi had to join the knucklehead to prevent him from doing something reckless.
Sakura, old Chiyo and I would fight against Woody Doll and Kazumi.
From my Akatsuki time I knew Sasori’s as well as Kazumi’s techniques, old Chiyo was also a puppet master, Sakura had a strength now that was even frightening me and Kazumi was actually working for our side. There was no doubt that we would win.
We didn’t waste any time and started with the battle quickly. We dodged Sasori’s attacks long enough that Sakura was able to break his puppet in one blow, so that he was forced to show us – or better my companions – his real form and face.
Kazumi stayed in the background while Chiyo and her grandson were involved in a heavy puppet fight, but I and Sakura went to attack her and trapped her in the opposite corner of the cave. That’s when she activated Masayoshi’s power. I let the ceiling crumble onto Woody Doll and Kazumi but of course they dodged the stones. Sakura helped Chiyo in fighting against the puppet of the former Kazekage and I fought against Kazumi’s roaring wind and earth dragons.
I hoped that while everyone else was busy and distracted we could exchange some words as old friends, but Kazumi never let me come near her and to tell the truth I got more and more into defensive and had to back up. I almost was crushed from one of the iron whirls Sasori was creating but luckily Sakura kicked it into the puppet’s direction instead before she was almost hit by the wind dragon.
I didn’t understand it… I had thought that Kazumi would help us, but maybe she had to fight seriously so that no one would get suspicious. But still… there was a coldness coming from her which sent shivers up and down my spine. I never had experienced her like this. I never had felt such an intense emotionless killing intent in her aura that it actually started to worry and frighten me.
I tried to convince myself that it was all just an act, like she had acted the weak small child when we were deceiving the whole Akatsuki. I just hoped to feel only once her real self to come through.
“Granny Chiyo!” I suddenly heard Sakura yelling as Sasori managed it to slide the old woman’s skin with one of his poisoned weapons. I knew that Sakura had some antidotes with her, even though she already had used one to destroy the Kazekage puppet.
I felt Sakura run toward Chiyo in order to heal and give her the antidote, but in the same time I felt a puppet part move that lay broken on the ground.
“Sakura, watch out!” I yelled and wanted to push her out of the way with a rock but Kazumi utilized my distraction and the tail of the stone dragon hit me hard in the side so that I flew against the wall behind me. The impact pressed the air out of my lunges and for a short second I couldn’t breathe anymore because of the pain. Some of my ribs were cracked, or even broken. Coughing up some blood I fought myself back on my feet.
Sakura lay on the ground, only a few meters away from old Chiyo who also struggled to try to get back on her feet but the poison already had weakened her too much.
“Sakura” I heard Chiyo say quietly. My teammate didn’t move, but I knew that she wasn’t dead. I could feel her breathing.
Sasori was already moving toward her, probably to finish her off. Kazumi stood between me and the others. I expected her to stop the Akatsuki from killing my teammate, I expected her to convince Sasori to retreat before anybody got killed, I expected her from doing just something… but she only said: “It was foolish from you to think that you could win against us, Tora. I thought you would be smarter seeing that you know what I’m capable of. You should have stayed outside instead of participating in this useless fight. Now you have to bear the consequences.”
I stared in her direction, unsure whether I heard right. That coldness in her voice… this wasn’t her who was speaking, this wasn’t the Kazumi I knew!
“Sasori, pick up the girl, we’re leaving. We’ve got what we want.”
“Be careful what you say to me, brat” the puppet master growled and placed Sakura on his shoulder.
“Sa…ku…ra” I heard Chiyo say with weak voice.
“Since when do you care for a simple weak child so much, granny Chiyo? You became pitiful and old; see it as grace that I will help you to finally die. The poison will kill you soon any way.”
“You bastard” I growled out and moved my hand to pierce him with a spear but before I could do it something came out of the stone wall behind me and hit the back of my head.
Kazumi watched as Tora fell to the ground unconscious after the earth dragon had hit her from behind. She sealed the rest of the spiritual power she had left back into her and went to pick up Tora. It was time to get Deidara and then to disappear regardless of whether he had the Jinchuriki or not.
Sasori already had turned toward the exit but Kazumi first went to where the old lady was lying on the floor with the deadly poison running through her veins and killing her second for second. She was still conscious but too weak to move a single muscle.
Kazumi knew about Chiyo’s healing and mixing poisons abilities, she had seen it in her memories. “The Kazekage Gaara is dead, but Suna needs him for a strong future. You know that you can save him with your abilities. This is the chance for you to do something good before you die” she whispered into her ear and pushed one of Sakura’s antidotes that she had stolen during the fight, into the ladies veins.
“Come on brat, don’t let me wait!” Sasori growled from the entrance. Quickly Kazumi followed him out of the destroyed cave, with several puppet parts all scattered over the ground.
“Let’s search this idiotic brat in the case he didn’t blow himself off already” Sasori said and headed for the forest.
Although she didn’t show it Kazumi was weakened and had problems keeping up with his speed. The fight had used up most of the power she had been capable of summon from Masayoshi. Ever since she decided to take another way, the dragon spirit did everything she could to prevent Kazumi from using her power. The dragon’s duty in this world was to protect and to help the innocent and to destroy the rotten ones. In the beginning in her time with the organization Kazumi had tried it. She had only killed those who were rotten and evil, but the problem was that Akatsuki was of course also hunting down the good ones too. Firstly she had tried to protect them from her new teammates. She had let them live. But it wasn’t always possible. Sometimes she had to accept it that she couldn’t save everyone. Especially since Pain and Obito were still having an eye on her. She was forced to kill people she didn’t want to kill. Masayoshi had wanted to rip every single Akatsuki apart for abusing her power. Maybe she could have done it, maybe not… But Kazumi didn’t want to take the risk. And so she became more and more an Akatsuki, a murderer, a killer, a missing ninja.
Slowly she started to realize under what pressure Itachi constantly was since he had joined the organization. The difficulties that came with working as a spy were often harder than she had thought they were when she had joined the Akatsuki a long time ago: To cover up her façade, to make everyone believe that she was working for their side, the moral decisions she had to do every day, being pulled into the bottomless pitch-black hole of darkness.
She stumbled under Tora’s weight, her legs were burning and her tired body was getting heavier with every second. Only her pure will power kept her pushing forward. She just hoped that Deidara was still alive and that they could fly back instead of walking.
Kazumi knew that she was changing. She knew that only a few years before she would never have done those things, especially not what she was about to do. But nothing of it counted anymore.
You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Kazumi didn’t know where this sentence was coming from, but it described her situation pretty much, just that she didn’t want to die yet.
She had accepted the fact that she was pulled into the darkness long ago. She wasn’t struggling anymore against it. This was her new life.