As I Wake

Heroine

“You’re barbaric,” I spat.

Dosu chuckled. “Maybe so. But I am alive and they are not.” He lifted his metal arm, ready for his turn to fight. “And soon… neither will you.”

Leda and I anticipated the enemy’s sound wave blasts and quickly escaped from his line of fire. We knew all too well what he was capable of. Dosu wasn’t like Zaku and Kin – who were now both dead – he was methodical, vindictive.

Leda and I huddled together a safe distance away, but Mae remained still. She didn’t move from her initial jutsu activating spot—where her creation of a water wall to trap Dosu was—which was in the blast range.

“Mae, get out of there,” I warned. Leda eyed at me with concern. What was Mae thinking?

Instead of backing away, Mae walked even closer. She appreciated the bloodstained water wall, the blood of Dosu’s formal partners; mere inches away from its circulation. With a flick of her hand, she manipulated the water to ensure that all above Dosu was covered as well. It was a water confinement.

“What the fuck is she doing,” Leda said in a breathy tone. We stared at Mae, mesmerized.

Dosu lifted his metal instrument to view. The metal still shined through the curtain of blood. “It’s my turn,” he glared at Mae and set off a series of sound waves.

Leda and I, even a good distance away, covered our ears instinctively. However, we learned, to our surprise, that there was no need.

Mae stood stoic and unharmed as the water surrounding Dosu warped. Thick, zig-zagging streams formed erratic patterns. It was as if you took a picture of pouring water and pulled sections in different directions. With the change of Dosu’s pitch, the streams changed like a contortionist bending at strange angles. It looked unnatural. It defied the laws of gravity.

But it was protecting Mae. She stood inches away from the blast, unharmed.

Dosu gave Mae the evil eye. “So you knew.”

“Of course I knew,” Mae barked.

Leda and I cautiously approached Mae and the wall. Close up, the phenomenon was even freakier. The beads of blood swirled with the water. A kaleidoscope of color and death. It was poetic almost. The blood circulated like a creature—pumping as if alive. My hands extended, but did not touch in fear it might lash out which made the creation marveling all the more. I couldn’t help but think of Unknown. Something indescribable but completely real.

“How is this possible?” I asked, awestruck.

“Who did you have to sacrifice to summon this kind of witchcraft?” Leda’s question was more a suggestion, like someone really did have to be sacrificed.

“This isn’t some magic trick and I didn’t sacrifice anyone,” Mae scolded Leda. “It’s just the law of physics.”

She stared at the natural beauty of the phenomena. How the streams change patterns based on the pitch of the sound. It was bizarre, but it existed in the realms of the real world. It somehow belonged here, like myself.

Mae pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “Sound is a mechanical wave that vibrates back and forth through the particles of a medium. This medium is often air which has molecules furthest apart from each other. This means sound waves will take longer passing from one molecule to another.”

“So sound travels faster through liquids than gas,” I clarified, still not knowing where she was going with this.

Mae nodded agreeably. “The tighter the bonds, the less time it takes to pass through.”

“But the sound isn’t hitting us so what gives?” Leda crossed her arms, hand still on the open wound Dosu inflicted on her.

“What gives is that not only is water denser, but it’s also more compressible, meaning that it distorts sound, too.”

I look at the waterfall, trying to grasp this “simple” physics knowledge. “So the water speeds up the velocity of sound, but distorts it.”

“Yes, it shatters the sound waves into all directions. We can still hear and feel it, but it’s barely a nuisance.”

She was right. The destructive sounds that crimpled us to our knees now felt like a nagging fly, buzzing in our ears. It was more like an irritation than anything else. I knew Mae was smart, crazy smart… but this was genius.

“It’s really quite simple,” Mae concluded.

So that’s what Dosu meant when he accused Mae of knowing. Dosu was gunning for Mae to run away like Leda and I did so he could bluff the attack and escape. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.

“Now I definitely know you sacrificed your stuffed animals as a kid,” Leda huffed.

“Shut up, all of you,” Dosu grumbled. He was the annoyed grandfather who didn’t want to hear his grandchildren chat his ear off about their school crushes or who their favorite My Little Pony characters were— if grandfathers wanted their grandchildren dead.

“You think you outsmarted me, but I will get out of here and end you.” His presence and desire shifted the air. Buzzing rang in my ear and it wasn’t from his attacks.

Mae smiled, amused by the threat. “I not only know about kinetic energy and vibration patterns—I also know about temperature.” Mae continued, aware no one was catching on. “You see, like before, the less dense a medium is, the faster the sound will travel through it. This also goes for temperature. The hotter something is, the faster sound will travel.”

She stared at me as if she was trying to cue something. It took me several moments, but I finally understood what she was hinting. She wanted heat, and even if I couldn’t fathom why, I could give her heat.

A hand sign and a deep breath later, the fire from my lungs set the blood water mixture aflame. Soon the substance turned to a hot red boil. Dosu was a lobster in a cooking pot.

Dosu’s annoyance turned to anger. “You can heat water, so what?”

Mae laughed. It was eerie, distorted like she was a villain. Like she knew she won before this battle even began. “Come on, haven’t you noticed? Steam is produced.”

“Sound still moves through steam. What are you getting at?” As he said it, his visible eye widen. Realization hit him hard.

“Steam is a type of gas. And unlike you, we have someone who can manipulate multiple stages gas, steam included.” Mae gestured her head to Leda, our fireball who was showing more red than I would like.

“Me?” Leda questioned, pointing to herself. Mae gave her a look, raising her eyebrow. “Oh- right. Right! Use your adolescence garage band noise and I’ll redirect it right at ya. So suck on that, you Mummy!”

“Between the water particles in the steam and Leda’s ability to control it, you have no chance. Attack us and Leda will direct the steam mixed with sound to you. A fatal blow by your own weapon since your sound would just speed up Leda’s manipulation process. Don’t attack, and we’ll simply ambush you. How well can you fight three-against-one?” Mae asked.

I could scream, jump with joy, and kiss Mae all at once. It was a win/win situation. I sighed with relief. We were going to get out of this.

“Just give up, Dosu,” Mae finalized.

Dosu’s stared at the three of us with vengeance. The cocky, jovial looks of three girls deepened his furrow. He wasn’t going to let us get away that easily. From his back pocket he pulled something out. A red cylindrical object was in his grasps.

Was that dynamite? I stared in horror. Was he going kamikaze on us?

He rubbed two pieces of metal attached somewhere on his body to create a spark and lit the mystery object. It didn’t explode but rather kept a steady intense lit shade of red. It wasn’t dynamite. He wasn’t trying to blow everyone up, including himself.

It was a flare.

“Should we attack his punk ass?” Leda asked Mae, finding Dosu’s stunt a complete waste of everyone’s time.

Mae didn’t reply. She stared intently at Dosu, trying to read him. She and I both knew he wouldn’t be doing something unless he had something up his long, bell-shaped, sleeve.

Her questioning eyes transitioned into a look of horror. It brought horror to my own and a stone plunked into the deep ocean of my stomach.

“Oh no,” she said but it was too late to react. Before I could open my mouth, Dosu threw the flare at the water wall and caused an explosion of boiling water. It was violent like a balloon popping in someone’s face—times a thousand fold.

The physical reaction threw me to the ground. The heat licked at my shins, tempting to scorch them. Mae and Leda threw their hand up instinctually, still holding their ground.

The extreme heat from the flare was too much for the water wall as it evaporated to a percentage of its size. A secondary explosion shattered its remainders and the impenetrable force field was now gone. Steam, blood, and tears—came tumbling down— pouring onto us.

Before I could recover, shooting from Hades’ lair came Dosu. His long sleeves were singed, his bandages burned with the skin underneath erupting in blisters. But, he was freed and he knew who his first victim will be as he rocketed towards me, kunai in his scalded hand.

This was all happening so fast, even with the Sharingan, I couldn’t make it out. How Dosu managed to outsmart a genius. How the tables turned within milliseconds. How in the world we got into this whole predicament and sting of events to begin with.

I laid frozen on the tainted ground—scraped, bruised, beaten. Just like Methuselah in my dream. The grandfather tree had fallen. I saw death approaching, rapidly. The Reaper being Dosu.

Nonetheless, just like the plants and animals in my dream, the others will rise to take my place. Leda, Mae, Team Seven, everyone I care about will live on. They will grow besides me even when I am no longer there.

But instead of dying in the hands of Dosu and gobbled into the mouth of the Unknown…

It became dark.


All my senses were replaced with red. I felt the burning of my red skin. I tasted it; the red hot blood seeping from my mouth. I heard it; the roaring of the red fire. The fiery explosion that engulfed chunks of the forest, leaving the canopy patchy and the ground below even patchier. The ringing in my ears was endless. I feared I would never hear the same again. I smelled it, too, tainted in red. The smell of the red fumes as dust and ash filled my nostrils.

And I saw it. Blood, gusts, blisters and destruction filled my vision and more. Everything that could be destroyed, was. It was the aftermath of a war between two opposing sides that finally met a brutal end. Neither could go on. An apocalypse was among us. I should have been dead. I shouldn’t be witnessing any of this.

And lastly, I saw the fiery red hair of a girl I knew all too well, cascading over me. Laying in our mixture of her and mine’s blood.

Leda’s limb body collapsed onto my own. She remained motionless her blood dripped onto my vulnerable skin in dark Technicolor swirls.

Frantic, I lifted her off me and laid her gently on the ground. She was so pale, the veins were prominent under her rice paper skin. Webs of blue and green vines—the inner workings of an organic machine. Blood poured onto the ground, staining the earth.

“Leda-” I could barely choke out the word. Dosu’s kunai pierced her back, wedged so deep that it poked through the front. Blisters played in patches on her body. The explosion left her with severe burns—from protecting me.

My hand hovered over her, afraid to touch her as if she might disintegrate beneath my burnt fingertips.

She groaned, regaining consciousness. “Fuck.”

“Shh, don’t say anything. Everything will be okay,” I eased, trying to sound calm—like a doctor is with their patients.

Mae came stumbling over to us. “Oh my god, Leda!” Blood dripped heavily from a head wound.

“What happened?” I demanded. My head felt light, but heavy at the same time.

Mae looked frantically at me. “If anything is superheated past its boiling point too quickly in a confided space, it explodes. Fire can’t do it, but he knew a flare burns hotter than a flame.” Her glasses shattered from the blast making her eyes appear crazy, wild. “How did I not think of that?” She clawed at her tattered skirt in disappointment and defeat.

I knew how she felt awful about this. Her anxiousness and defeat radiated off her like the tides from a storm. Thinking it was her fault her genius mind thought of an infinity of possible tactics and outcomes except for the one Dosu pursued. The cost was heavy on her shoulders. The burden of her teammates and herself hurting from this—for Leda. I wanted to tell her that none of this was her fault, but as I looked at our spunky teammate laying helpless on the forest ground, I couldn’t bring myself to say the words.

Sakura, along with Sasuke, were far enough away from the blast. They scurried over to us, unharmed.

“Oh, Leda,” Sakura spoke, hurt. It killed her, like it did for the rest of us, to see Leda like this.

“Guys…I’m not going to make it,” Leda mumbled. Her head lolled trying to fight consciousness.

“Don’t be stupid!” I snapped. “Oh course you’ll make it. We all will.”

I spotted a carton of cigarettes a few yards away and didn’t need to see the skulls smoking a joint on the packaging to know it was Leda’s. They must have flew from the blast.

I ran over and snagged them. “Here, have one.” As if this death joint was a cure, I fumbled to wedge my fingers into the carton and pull out a single toke as the box was full. The lack of space for my blood-ridden fingers crumbled and misshapen the cigarettes.

Why was it still this full?

Leda shook her head, rejecting my offer. This was worse than I thought, she never passed up a chance to set fire alarms off.

“It’s too late for me,” she smiled, weakly.

“Stop talking like that! We’re going to get you help!” I yelled. How dare she speak like that? But her wounds were extensive. Old blood dried on her hands while the new seeped over. She barely complained as Mae elevated her head so it laid in Mae’s lap. Her bright red hair was dark, caked with blood.

Leda ignored my scolding. “Do you remember when I asked if you were to die tomorrow, would you be satisfied with your last conservation?” she asked, looking at me.

I shook my head angrily, but I remembered. Before we started the Chunin exam, she was freaking out thinking that we weren’t strong enough to fight against these more experienced shinobi. I was the one who told her we were going to be fine—that as long as we stuck together, we were unstoppable. Leda had a look of fire after that. She became the fierce bitch that everyone had a vendetta against. The girl I admired and loved for. Peering at those eyes now—those beautiful brown eyes, despite everything, they still could conquer the world.

As much as I wanted to fight it, I had to accept it. Leda was dying. I nodded my head, tears threating to obstruct my vision.

“I had a family, friends, and a life I was proud of. I was happy. Until my mother left and it all went to shit. I lost everything, my family, my friends, my life. I became addicted to smoking and prayed that it killed me, slowly. Because I thought that’s what I deserved. Because I thought I was the reason things happened the way they did.” Leda coughed. Speaking zapped her energy. I wanted her to relax but she wouldn’t listen.

“And then you come along. The girl who I wanted to pummel at first glance. I thought you were just like everyone else; happy girl with a happy family. But, the more I got to know you, the more I saw your fierceness and determination even when you had no one. Things that I didn’t realize I lost until now.”

“You’re a badass bitch,” she laughed, but abruptly stopped as it hurt too much. She ripped her necklace off and placed it securely in my hand. “I want you to have this. This is all I have left of her.”

“Leda…” I looked at the small crystal in my palm. The royal blue shined. Leda didn’t say it, but I knew. This necklace is from her mother.

I grabbed her hand and squeezed tight. At that moment, nothing else mattered to me. Not the dumb exams, not how vulnerable we all were all right now, not the rustling of a horde of animals I heard in the distance.

“We fly together through thick and thin.” I couldn’t stop them as heavy streams of tears poured down my filthy face. So much has changed since then. We became friends, we became teammates. I smiled thinking back to when we ditched our last day of detention and escaped to her favorite hide out. The beauty of that night and the awe of seeing those group of birds in a new light. Leda as become my flock—my family.

She smiled blissfully like she was thinking the same thing. It was the most genuine smile I have ever seen from her. “Quorra…” she struggled. My heart skipped a beat. I never heard her say my name. She always gave me some corny nickname. I never realized how much I appreciated them until now.

“It’s going to be okay,” I said in one last ditch effort, but I knew better. I cried harder into Leda’s hand and brushed her blood-caked hair with my other.

“Quorra, thank you… You’re my…”

Nothing.

“Leda…” but it was too late. Before she could finish her last sentence, life left her eyes.

I took her from Mae and scooped her into my arms. Leda’s thin body folded neatly there and I held her tightly like a mother holds a child. My tears fell heavily onto her face— her battered, beautiful face.

Mae, Sakura, and Sasuke stood over me. All of us mourning for our comrade. Mae hid her face in Sakura’s shoulder as Sakura comforted her. Sakura’s face was fresh with tears as well. Sasuke’s stare was blank, but I wasn’t fooled. He was crushed, too.

I rocked Leda in my arms. Every feeling was eating away at me from the inside, out. Hurt, anger, sadness—all of these were minute. But this other feeling, this feeling of being saved by the cost of another. I never want to feel this way ever again as the sobbing realization that Leda was truly gone rung in the evening air.

“How disappointing,” called a voice. Four heads whipped to see who it was. He looked tattered with his sleeves mainly burned off and bandages barely covering his face, but he was still alive. Dosu.

“Only one of you died from that. Oh well, at least it was the Loudmouth.”

“You…” I growled. The things I wanted to do to him, the ways I wanted him to suffer. But, I didn’t want to leave Leda as I held her closer, defensively.

“Get lost!” Sakura threatened. “You’re done here. It’s over.”

“On the contrary, I’m not done until each and every one of you is dead.” Dosu rose his metal instrument up. Scorch marks and warped metal trekked the damaged weapon, but Dosu played his bets that it still worked. I had no doubts.

Dosu fell into fighting stance and Sasuke, Sakura, and Mae followed suit. Tension rung high in the air. No one was prepared for another round, including myself. It was going to be the next Great War—well it was, until a loud holler froze everyone in their tracks.

It was the same animal noises I heard before. And there they were, filling the trees and the ground below, were the monkeys. The same three-eyed, winged creatures that ran me off the cliff side into icy, raging river below. They hollered and pounded their chest, ready to fight.

Dosu, who stood closest to them, waved them off. “Get lost, you filthy animals.”

The primates were angered by Dosu’s belittlement and with a high-pitch holler, charged by the hundreds.

Dosu fought them off as they climbed upon him. He used his metal arm to smash each one who tried to sink their white, sharp teeth into him, but it was futile. There were too many and soon they over ran him. A mountain of animals climbed on Dosu and his shocked face was swallowed by black fur. All that was left visible was his metal arm that reached for safety but that too vanished into the sea of creatures.

Killing their first victim didn’t slow them down. They were still out for blood as they charged for us. We held out our weapons, but we knew better.

“We got to get out of here!” Mae yelled.

We were about to fall to the bottom of the food chain when we heard the monkeys scream, but this time in pain. Towards the back of the group, monkeys were being thrown into the air by a powerful force. The cause of the ruckus made its way to the front of the line. Monkeys chewed on his arm and he knocked them off. It was Naruto.

“Naruto!” Sakura called with worry, but there it was again. Naruto wasn’t himself as a red aura engulfed him. His nails were replaced with claws and his blue eyes were replaced with red cat eyes. His incisors were sharpen, canine.

“Go, I’ll hold them off,” Naruto called. His voice sounded rough, demonic.

“But…” Sakura began.

“Go! I got it!” Naruto intercepted. He punched the monkey that gnawed his arm and sent it flying. “Is that all you got, you three-eyed freaks!? Come at me!” He let out a battle cry and charged into the mosh pit.

Sakura and Sasuke wasted no time and ran to grab Kabuto, who was still unconscious, and ran for cover.

I quickly had the same idea and grabbed Leda. With my lack of strength, I couldn’t carry her and her body already was starting to stiffen, making it hard to drag. After a few feet, the blood on her body and on my hands made it impossible to get a proper grip as she slipped out of my grasps. But I wasn’t going to leave her.

“We got to go!” Mae yelled over the screams and mayhem.

“No!” I yelled with hysteria. “I’m not leaving her!” I continued to pull her from under her arms, inching ever so slowly.

Mae grabbed my shoulder and ripped me from Leda. “If you stay here, you’re going to get killed. Then she gave up her life for nothing.”

It was a slap in the face and I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew Mae was right. I let out a gasping sob, but nodded and bent down to say my quick, final goodbyes.

With my last look at Leda, she laid there peacefully, immune to the chaotic world around her. I laid a gentle, farewell kiss upon her forehead, wishing true love’s kiss would break the spell and placed her small gemstone necklace in her fragile hand. This was all she had left of her mother and even though she left Leda and her father, I knew Leda still cared for her. A piece of her mother should always be part of her, even in the afterlife. I couldn’t take it.

As I whispered my short, sweet goodbye into her deaf ear, I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings.

“Watch out!” Mae called.

I jolted up to be greeted by one of those three-eyed freaks charging after me. Foam poured from its mouth. The rabid creature was begging for a bite. I cried out in anger and frustration and put all that energy and pain into a kick that hit the rabid beast square in the jaw. It hollered in pain, holding his fresh wound.

I scurried to my feet before it could try anything else, nodded to Mae, and together we ran. Tears flew as I ran and left her still body to get killed once again.


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