As I Wake

Pleasure in the Tears

Time seemed to slow down, but speed up at the same time. The quickness and agility from Naruto was mind-boggling as he went from an unconscious state to full fledge ninja in 0.2 seconds. Before I could blink, Naruto was already by his teammate’s side; protecting the fossilized Sasuke and steering off an impossibly massive reptile. A snake that was taller than the trees it slithered on.

Sasuke was right, his death was inevitable… if it wasn’t for Naruto.

“Naruto!” Sakura yelled with freight.

Jumping onto layers of limbs, I rushed to the scene, scared Sasuke or Naruto was eaten. What I saw brought much relief but, terrified me at the same time. Naruto managed to step in front of the beast and held it back using brute strength alone. The snake snorted heatedly, smoke puffed around the untamed boy.

Naruto’s mouth twisted with anger at the sight of Sasuke. “Look at you. Standing there frozen like a frighten rabbit. You’re not the Sasuke I know.”

Sasuke didn’t say anything. He couldn’t reply, not after the bravery Naruto displayed. Not after Sasuke saw the look in Naruto’s eyes.

A long rope of a tongue wrapped around Naruto’s waist. The snake ninja lifted him, plucking him away from Sasuke.

Naruto struggled to break free from his slimy imprisonment, hovering in front of his enemy. “Hey, Disgusting. Put me down before I yank this tongue out of your head!”

“That fire in his eyes. There’s no mistaking it,” the grass ninja said, amazed by Naruto’s fighting. “Extraordinary. So the Nine-tails brat lives.”

Nine-tails? What does she mean? I thought, feeling more fear for Naruto.

She performed a hand sign. “I see. When your anger is roused, some of the Nine-tails fox’s chakra is released,” she calculated as purple fire glowed from her fingertips. “What an interesting childhood you must had.”

The Snakestress lifted Naruto’s shirt up with her tongue and I wasn’t prepared for what came next. A heavy black swirl-like sun was imprinted on Naruto’s abdomen. I couldn’t help but question if Naruto always had that. And if he did, how long did he keep it from us?

Naruto snarled with defiance. His eyes still red; his pupils still feline.

She pulled her cold flamed hand back. “Five prong seal,” and thrust it into his abdomen. Naruto cried out in pain as smoke rose, searing his skin like a branding.

“Sasuke, hurry. Do something!” Sakura panicked.

Naruto’s burning red eyes returned to their glassy blue and his painful cries sizzled as he passed out. The grass ninja, content now, disregarded the boy, throwing him into the deep caverns below. Naruto would have never survived the fall. Sakura came to the same conclusion and threw a kunai knife which caught his orange jacket and pierced the trunk of the tree. He hung there unconscious.

“Now then,” the snake ninja hissed. “Where were we?”

Sasuke stood still in thought that if he was motionless, he would blend in with his environment and his predator would give up on the hunt. Beads of sweat built up on his brow. He was losing it— he was utterly losing it. With Naruto out for commission and Sasuke on the verge of hysteria, I didn’t know what to do.

“Sasuke, what’s wrong with you,” Sakura yelled. Fury overtook her. “Okay, say what you like about Naruto. That he gets in the way, that he’s a pest. But at least he’s… he’s doing something! At least he’s no coward!”

“I can’t,” Sasuke stuttered. “I just can’t. There’s no way. Her aura, that darkness. I can’t win against her.”

“Sakura is right, Sasuke,” I tried to coax the Uchiha. “Naruto did something, now it’s our turn.”

“Are you out of your mind, Quorra?” Sasuke barked. “Look at her, she will kill us with a blink from her snake eyes.”

I didn’t blame him of being frightened. The grass ninja was a creature with a serpentine heart. But, I was growing frustrated that he was giving up so easily. “Yes, she’s strong… I’ll give you that. But, are you going to have her step in the way of your dreams? What happened to your desire for revenge, huh? You back off now and you’re that much farther away from accomplishing your goal.”

Sasuke didn’t reply has his mouth straight-lined. He knew I had a point. “Ye… but—”

“But, what?” I cut him off. “You are going to go home with a tail between your legs? I thought you said you wanted to be stronger. How are you supposed to do that if you run away?”

Sakura was right about Sasuke being a coward and that he can’t run away, but she also left out something important.

“We are a team, Sasuke. Team Asanoha. That means your battles are our battles.” I stepped my foot down. As worried as I was about Leda and my need to find her, this can’t be avoided. I stared at the enemy. Her long straight black hair and long rubbery tongue was the least of the woman’s problems. She looked like she had a vendetta. She wanted a fight with someone specific— with an Uchiha and she wasn’t going to back down. No— this battle needed to happen or else we would all be in trouble.

“Our paths interlock. Your goals are our goals as much as our goals are yours. We help each other grow stronger … we fight together.”

Sasuke’s demeanor changed. My words were starting to clear his fogged brain. The desire to get stronger and for revenge caused the Uchiha’s blood to come to a boil. “You’re right.”

“Sasuke…” Sakura said, concerned.

“I can’t let her get to me. I’m an avenger.” Sasuke activated his Sharingan. Two tomoe twirled in his red irises. “I’m ready.”

I nodded, pulling out a weapon. Sakura did the same, more hastily. I used one of Leda’s favorite lines. “Let’s fuck shit up.”

Without hesitation, we took off. Instinctually, Sasuke took the left while I took the right. We fought the grass ninja simultaneously. I preformed moves that complimented Sasuke’s. If I hit high, he would hit low.

The grass ninja maneuvered her way around our attacks. She really was a snake. I dashed to her and slid. Bark chipped away at my feet as I tried to knock her off her feet. The snake queen jumped into the air, avoiding my attack with ease.

In mid-air, Sasuke attacked from behind. His foot rose high to bring it down with a mighty kick, but the snake’s long tongue wrapped around Sasuke’s ankle and flung him aside. He recovered quickly and landed on his feet.

I quickly regrouped with my partner, kunai tight in hand. The enemy slithered and dashed around us, circling her prey. But, I couldn’t pinpoint her, she was too fast. Glimpse of her long neck caught my eye as quickly as it came. The wind of her whizzing by ruffled my curled hair – she was a mad tornado.

“I can’t spot her.” I stood back-to-back with Sasuke, in fighting stance. “Sasuke, where is she?”

He was silent as he used his Sharingan to track her. His red eyes dashed from one side to the other, teeth clenched. He wasn’t able to track Lee’s taijutsu as Lee laid a punch to his face, sending him flying across the room. Will the inevitable happen again?

Sasuke jumped with adrenaline. “Behind you!” he warned and tackled me to the ground. The spot where we stood was no more as the grass ninja’s tongue shot out like a whip. Thick splinters exploded like sebon needles. We tumbled down the levels of the canopy. Weak and thinner branches snapped, unable to break our fall. My back slammed on a larger, more solid branch, meters below. The wind was knocked out of me.

Sasuke hovered on top of me, trying to find her. “Shit, where did she go now?”

He looked around frantically, but I couldn’t concentrate. A haze rolled over as it was there again, that same feeling. The pain from the time I fought James in my last major mission. It was bubbling, swirling angrily at my inner core. The bubbles were ripping open cracks that were meant to remain closed.

My hand went to my temples, squeezing them. I refused to believe that this was happening all over again. It couldn’t be; that wasn’t possible. It must be the traces of my subconscious thoughts from the fear of my last life-threatening battle. It had to be, there was no other explanation.

Through my dizzy vision, I spotted her. The snake ninja was dropping down from above. Her long jump roped tongue was lashing through the air. Her neck elongated even further. It was like the Loch Ness Monster on cocaine, and even uglier. Her excitement was well noted. Sasuke hadn’t noticed her yet.

Gotta move. Struggling, I placed my feet on Sasuke’s chest and pushed off, sending him falling without warning. I groaned with agony as I followed suit and rolled off, letting gravity do its work. In mid-air, I threw a kunai in the direction of the grass nin. She avoided it with ease as the knife hit a rotten tree branch. She was too busy plotting her desire to kill to notice the knife had a paper bomb attached to it. A loud, fiery explosion snapped the branch clean off and dropped, hitting its target perfectly.

The grass ninja and the branch fell to the ground with a heavy thud. Sasuke and I followed soon after, with somewhat more grace. The impact caused dust to fill the air, obscuring our vision.

It was too thick to see through the dust cloud. Without Sasuke’s Sharingan, I was practically a sitting duck. The pain intensified to the point where it almost crimpled me. It was at that gruesome moment, I knew that this wasn’t my mind playing games. This was the real deal, the same thing. My blood was pumping fast. My veins felt like they a hose that sprang a leak. It was mind-fucking.

My guard was dropped as a python tongue sliced through the dust cover. I was prepared to take the hit when the tongue didn’t hit its intended mark. Before me was Sasuke, who jumped in front to get the blow, protecting me. The tongue sounded like high-pitched whip. He cried out in pain and dropped to the ground.

“Sasuke!” I quickly crouched over him, seeing the angry slash across his back. Blood seeped out, staining his navy shirt, black. His Uchiha insignia was drenched in blood.

The dust lifted as the grass ninja approached us. “Look what you made me do,” she said, mockingly disappointed. “You made me taint my dinner. Scrawny little girl isn’t on the menu tonight. Why don’t you run off so I can properly play with my food?” Her eyes were lifeless but her hunger was alive.

I never wanted to destroy a person, destroy her as much as I did now. To go this far to someone I care about, was unacceptable. Sasuke was crouched over, trying to pace himself to move. The movement of muscles in his back caused him more pain. It was pain I didn’t want him, or any of my comrades to endure. To joke about Sasuke being her food made me sick. But more importantly, it made me pissed.

Swallowing down my raging war inside, I let my anger take over. I concentrated on that rather than the screaming of every cell in my body. Hopping over Sasuke, I dashed to the snake ninja, kunai in hand.

Her lip twisted up into a smirk and happily charged. We broke into a one-on-one hand combat. Between her tongue and neck, it was like fighting six limbs. I dodged every which way I could, performing aerial flips and movements to avoid that flickering tongue. But, the unfair advance was too much for me. Her tongue caught wisps of my wavy hair and wrapped tightly around it, causing me to stop abruptly.

The ninja whipped her tongue and pulled me to the ground. It was the most pitiful, girly move to make, but the unnatural circumstances made it a power move.

“Don’t try to outmaneuver me,” the grass ninja hissed. Her tongue didn’t stutter her speech as she wrapped more coils around my chestnut hair. “There’s no way someone as puny and insignificant as yourself can outdo me.”

The enemy tugged on my hair, feeling like my scalp was slowly being teared away from my skull. My teeth grinded, triggering my eyes to water.

Mae’s words resurfaced in my mind, mixing with the Snake’s. They said that I’m not good enough, that I was weak and people just felt bad for me. That I didn’t know what hard work was and couldn’t save myself. The words bore a deeper hole than I wished to admit.

Sasuke tried to recover from the last attack and stood up. He shook has he held his shoulder, blood seeping from his fingers. There wasn’t much fight left in him.

One look at Sasuke, my teammate, and I knew I couldn’t give up. Like I told Mae, my goal was to save the people I cared about from suffering. My future depended on it. I haven’t given up so far and I wasn’t going to start now.

I made a breathy chuckle. “Fuck off and crawl back into your hole, you Slithery Motherfucker.”

“What?” She asked, creating a funnel over her ear.

“I said,” louder now. “Fuck off, you Slithery Motherfucker!”

I quickly performed hand signs to a jutsu I promised myself I wouldn’t use until in a dire situation. After the final pose was set in place, I felt it. A deep turmoil was triggered in the core of my abdomen. With a deep breath, I let out a blazing fire to the Snake’s tongue. Instinctively, her scorched tongue let go, freeing my hair.

I broke into my escape and ran to Sasuke. “Sorry about that,” I joked to the woman. “Some say I’m a little spice-aye.” She wasn’t very appreciative as she held her tongue in pain. Quickly, I assisted Sasuke and we hopped out of the inferno.

Now that Sasuke and I escaped to a safe distance away, I could see him stare at me with bewilderment.

“Since when could you do that?” Sasuke asked in shock.

I shrugged my shoulders. “For a while now. Don’t ask me how though.”

His questioning brow rose, just as confused as I was in how I inherited this ability. Something else flashed in front of his eyes. I knew that look. When I used to train with him daily, we developed this ability to read each other. It became useful back in our last mission where we got ambushed. This time seemed to be the same way, it would seem.

“You have a plan,” I commented, not questioned.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Where are you, my Sweet,” the Snaketress called, eager to get her grasp on the Uchiha boy. “Come out and play with me.”

Sasuke jumped into view, not using any attempts to hide. “You want me. Come get me,” he antagonized.

“With pleasure,” she smiled and with a thrust of her hands, she sent a pulse wave of wind flying Sasuke’s way.

The Uchiha hopped out of the way as the hurricane winds knocked down thick branches with its powerful force. Sasuke escaped and was now directly above the Snaketress. With a kick of his legs, he launched himself to the enemy. Grabbing her on the way, they spiral threw the air. Her head was faced down as Sasuke drove her into a limb stories down. A large crack sounded the air.

Sasuke skipped out of the way as the Snaketress’ body goes limp. Her legs slump forward, her jaw wide open. But, her skin started to turn brown as did the rest of her body. Before I knew it, her fleshy body turned into mud as it droop out of shape. It was an Earth-style substitution.

“Nice try, but you will need to do better than that,” she scolded Sasuke and went for a counterattack.

A barrage of kunai rained down onto Sasuke as he dodged, but it was too late. The Snaketress preformed various hand combats moves and knocked Sasuke off his feet. He scurried back, trying to keep his distance.

“What a disappointment you turned out to be. Your ancestors weep. The Uchiha clan should thank me for killing you, silly little worm.”

Sasuke’s red eyes twinkled. The Snaketress didn’t understand why he looked so smudge until the sound of sizzling and an explosion answered her question. While Sasuke was performing his aerial move before, he stuck multiple cherry bombs to the back of her uniform; too light to notice.

The fire arm set her off balanced. “Now, Quorra!” Sasuke shouted as he leapt out of the way.

On cue, I dived out of my hiding spot. With my trusty nylon string in hand, I attached multiple shuriken to its ends. When I threw them, a web of string wrapped around the Snake, pinning her to the tree. She tried to wiggle free, but it was no use. The durable string was too strong. The ends were spread out across neighboring tree, like a spider’s web and she was the meal in the center. The beginning piece started with me, in between my teeth.

“Fire!” I hollered through clenched teeth and together we inhaled a deep breath and blew. The fire traveled from two different directions, but the paths had their common goal as they collided with the Snake.

“You did it guys!” Sakura yelled, running over to us. “You actually did it!”

Painful screams filled the air. The flames devoured its dinner; licking its lips with satisfaction. Burning flesh filled my nostrils. It was a scent all too familiar, a scent I rather forget.

The Snaketress fell on her knees, just like James did, as the flames grew taller with hunger. But unlike James, the high pitch screams transformed to something even scarier, laughter. Her womanly laughter deepened, becoming more masculine.

The flames backed off and slowly dwindled away, accepting defeat. The fire demon was unable to engulf this woman, or man. Staring at her face, I noticed something I wouldn’t have believed if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. The skin on her face looked like melted wax. Drips of flesh oozed down her eye and dribbled off her chin.

That wasn’t even the worse part. What was worse was that what was underneath the candlewax skin. Fresh, untouched, baby skin, like a snake molting. The eyelids and lashes of the old face slid off the cheek, the old lips sagged as the new ones took their place. But, this new skin was different from the old. The eyes were golden with slit pupils, like a serpent’s. Purple cat-eyed makeup lined the eye dramatically. The skin was paler, white like chalk. This on top of the voice suddenly becoming masculine was when I realized what this was. This creature was wearing the skin of someone else. He was a face stealer.

A new symbol on his headband emerge. Instead of three strokes representing the Grass nation, it became a music note. A symbol I would assume represented the Sound nation. The creature pulled and broke free from its string imprisonment and threw his hands into a sign.

“Such mastery of the Sharingan at such young of an age. You are a true Uchiha after all. Yes, you will do finely,” she - now he - said with a deep voice and activated his jutsu.

The same paralysis jutsu from before frozen us in place. The jutsu mixed with my own internal pain from threw me to the ground. Sakura followed soon after as Sasuke continued to struggle to stand.

I understood why the others were so distraught before. All I saw before my eyes were visions of my untimely death. Over and over again, repeated different scenarios of how I would die. As soon as I died, another scenario would pop in its place, an unending cycle.

Sasuke let out a battle cry as he continued to stand, shakily. Sakura was a sobbing mess on the floor besides me. I couldn’t decide what was worse— the pain from the jutsu or the pain from my body trying to devour itself.

“You are definitely his brother. If anything, your eyes are even keener than Itachi’s,” he said with fascination.

Itachi? Sasuke never told me his brother’s name, let alone tell it to anyone else. How could this guy know it? If he knew this much, what else did he know?

Sasuke must have been thinking the same thing as he growled angrily. “Who are you? What do you want?!”

The Sound ninja sighed. “Don’t you see? I’m not here to fight naïve brats and get some dumb scroll. My name is Orochimaru and I’m here for a higher purpose.”

“If you’re done here, why don’t you get lost? If I ever have to see you again, it would be too soon,” Sakura barked through heavy tears.

“Oh, we will meet again. That’s when you will find my purpose of being here, Sasuke. But, until next time.” Orochimaru extended him long neck and bites Sasuke vampire style on the neck. Two puncture wounds remained, streaming with blood. Sasuke remained still under the paralysis jutsu, screaming with pain as he fell to the ground.

“Sasuke, no!” Sakura yelled.

I tried to do something, anything to stop this snake monster from hurting Sasuke, but the more I tried to move, the greater the pain. My screams synchronized with Sasuke’s as the pain was on the verge of bubbling over.

“Sasuke! Quorra! What’s going on? What’s happening to you both?” Sakura screamed, sickened.

I didn’t understand what was happening and why now. The thought of getting Sasuke to safety brought a massive sting to my eyes, something different than last time. My eyes felt like they were swelling and going to pop out of its socket. My body curled into a ball, trying to seal in the pain. My palms dung into my eyes, trying to stop the pain, anything to stop the pain.

Sasuke wasn’t doing much better. He continued to scream, grabbing his neck where he was bitten. His body convulsed uncontrollably, emotional hurting Sakura further.

“What did you do to them?!” She demanded.

Orochimaru smiled, satisfied. Not at all phased by the sudden destruction he caused. “I gave Sasuke a gift. Something that he will thank me for one day, if he survives.” He stared at me oddly. At this point, everything was muffled. Becoming a swirl of multicolor, a smear in my vision.

“Can’t say I know what’s wrong with her.” I barely hear Orochimaru say. It felt like I was underwater, drowning. He muffled one last thing before he disappeared, leaving us finally alone. We might have been better off dead.

Sakura hugged Sasuke as he the pain was too great and he fell into a deep comatose state, thank the heavens. She rocked the Uchiha, more to try to comfort her tears than Sasuke.

My vision was tunneling. I didn’t have much time left. “Sakura,” I struggled just to call her name. “Take Sasuke and Naruto somewhere safe.”

“How?” Sakura sobbed. She was frightened.

“You… you can do it,” I reassured. “You’re a kunoichi. You are capable of protecting your comrades. Their life is in your hands.” My eyes roll back.

Sakura sniffled, nodding agreeably. “Quorra… Quorra!” But by then, I had succumbed to the pain and landed on a cloud of unconsciousness.

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