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The Linnet's Song

By Ephemeral Winter

Drama / Horror

Alive

A wilted lotus dreams of spring,

and on her petals, a cruel sparrow

wipes his filthy feet

Chapter One: Alive

The battles of old cast shadows in Sunagakure. Cities crumbled under his discriminating eye, trembled at his arrival, and fell at his superiority. For him, this was the cycle of life. He considered another time in his life when he might have felt compassion for those he conquered, and found nothing in his heart but disappointment. His feet sunk into the sand as he marched onward, disgusted by the lack of material. The wind picked up, carrying the sand and air heavy with heat, and he smiled to himself. His country had done him well.

Akasuna no Sasori was internationally feared for his poisons and puppets. With thousands of fallen shinobi in his wake, it was natural that his strength would become more fearsome than his hobby. He was a monster, a god among men, and the incarnation of immortality. Life beheld no sanctity and he derived delight from irony. His favorite battles were those in which his opponents were forced to fight their loved ones. He was truly a product of the times, the definition of a true shinobi, and donned the honor like a crown.

The years passed in such rushed succession and his mind became set. He had outgrown Sunagakure and the conservative honor of its deceased. They preferred their bodies to rot sooner than preserving their jutsu. It was a waste. Blood spotted the floor, which he wore proudly on his arms like armor. Soon his latest prize would be added to his arsenal of hitokugutsu, human puppets. He was a benefactor, harnessing their power and using it to the beat of his superior intellect and stratagem.

He longed for the days of shinobi gods and was increasingly dissatisfied by the dregs that dared pollute the land. Sasori remembered the legends of conquering clans and their leaders, of mystical and awe-inspiring kekkei genkai, of otherworldly beauties… The world would sooner disappoint him. With Akatsuki, he could travel the world and find those worthy of his worktable. Unfortunately, it came at the price of returning to his place of birth. That point in his life was almost a haze, but being home conjured thoughts and emotions he could not recognize.

He was confronted by his past in an unprecedented battle. There was a lot of movement and noise. Sasori's opponents panicked as he outsmarted them, and he prepared to kill his kin. Though his poisoned blade missed his intended target, Sasori was able to outmaneuver them yet again. He scorned her stupidity and revealed a second blade. His movements were slow; why was he not at his full strength? Suddenly, he found himself embraced in his parent's arms.

No. That was not right…

He lost.

Chiyo looked at him with such misery. He stifled himself, finding the hollow anger engulf him. He was not a proud man; he knew when the battle was forfeit. After his defeat, he granted the stupid one information about Orochimaru. All of his puppets had been destroyed. His life's work was in ruins, fallen at his feet like ashes. He did not know whether to remain calm and rebuild his army, or to lash out and destroy everything in sight. The latter was tempting, but he had become much more docile in his old age. He was not certain why.

That battle forced humility down his throat. It exposed his weaknesses. Sasori never expected to see his grandmother again, let alone fight her. Seeing her again threw him off balance; he could not concentrate on winning, could not overcome the ghosts. And he lost everything…

…Everything except his real body.

The jutsu released itself in a flash of light and relief consumed him as he opened his eyes to his dusty, old workshop. Memories of his macabre hobby filled his mind like a surge of water. Soon he would be taking the elite and making better use of their bodies. Unfortunately, the lack of muscle use had taken its toll, the redhead discovered as he toppled forward. He fell face-first into the floor with a lack of grace so beneath him. To his dismay, his muscles were no longer strong enough to sustain his weight. It took most of his strength to avoid the ground. He laid there with a smoldering scowl on his face, his arms aching.

Dozens of problems settled into his awareness as he glared into the wooden ceiling: He was dehydrated, starving, and lethargic. The puppeteer struggled to keep himself awake, cursing himself for not thinking ahead of ahead. He never expected to have been defeated enough to have to return to his real body, much less have anyone there to care for him when or if he returned. To his disgust, his vocal chords were too weak to muster anything more than a whisper.

He had become what he resented most; a useless vessel. His hair was long, to boot. The situation could not have been worse. Then he realized how far he would have to travel to tend to his needs. His isolated nature inspired him to choose areas of considerable distance from any village. Only the occasional traveler would venture in the area. He cursed his naivety and vowed to return to a marionette body as soon as possible.

His anger fueled him to mustering the strength to stand. Sasori's unused muscles burned with the sudden exertion and he tumbled hard against the walls and tables. Was a living body this disagreeable? He could no longer remember, but panted before exerting himself again. His grip was so weak that he could barely open the door. He fell through the barrier of genjutsu surrounding his workshop and onto the dirt. The effort had tired him beyond his strength and he lost consciousness.

He stirred to the afternoon sun beaming against his pale skin. His dull nerves tingled with what would be ache, but his mind was too dazed to register the influx of sensory information. He thought he heard footsteps on the nearby grass and a female call for help. Sasori was too tired to look and passed out again.

The puppeteer moved and regained consciousness to a much sounder state of mind. His thoughts collected more clearly and he noticed tubes coiling atop his body like springs. The ghastly white of the room, scent of disinfectants, and paper-thin sheets indicated to him that he was in a hospital. A quick scan of the area revealed that there were no chakra-users in the building. A male doctor informed him that he had been comatose for over a half a month. Sasori groaned mentally at that, cursing his body again.

He was most annoyed with his shaggy tresses and demanded to cut it. Sasori motioned the length he wanted and let the uncertain woman work. He looked in a mirror for the first time and let out an audible groan, discouraging his hairdresser. Though his cryogenic-freezing jutsu had worked, it had not worked as well as he hoped it would. He looked somewhere between his early to mid-twenties, and he had grown several inches as well. A quick measurement back at the hospital put him at 177 cm (5'10"). He had wondered why his appearance caught more positive attention than it should.

His cheekbones had become more prominent and his jaw grew more angled. Age did not suit his aesthetic, though he maintained some of his more youthful features. Sasori huffed, infuriated at the lack of finesse. To his advantage, he was a detail-oriented genius. He would need to redesign himself and rebuild what once was his. In the meantime, he would have a constant reminder of failure to motivate his recovery.

He built his strength at the hospital for the following months, working with various nurses and therapists he did not bother remembering. Sasori's body was gawky; it felt like he was learning to walk again. He scorned his body after reliving the various necessities he never missed, such as hunger, pain, and sitting on the "throne." Humans had such weak humor. After a few additional months, he looked almost normal, albeit scrawny and pale. It would be too long before he would regain his normal build, but he would rather die than remain in the shell for any longer.

He hoped to build his chakra capacity again to transfer to another body. He loathed his older appearance, being someone who treasured the stillness of time. He was 15 years old when he developed that jutsu and thought to have mastered it 21 years ago. He never imagined looking any older. He wanted solidity, stability, and the knowledge that he would live forever in the same image, unlike his parents…

Life was meaningless if there was no permanency. He never wanted to change; he desired preservation and the pleasure of being the paragon of what a shinobi should become. The failure on his part made him resent himself. He made so many errors, all because he wanted to do the impossible. Shaking his head, he left that train of thought, focusing on his therapy. They had the nerve to patronize him. He longed for the day he could dismember these people under his might.

His doctor called him over and Sasori walked toward him with ease. The doctor was pleased by it, nodding his head. "You have made a lot of progress, but I've heard from the nurses that you have been attempting to practice ninjutsu?" Sasori's eyes snapped to him murderously, but the doctor was looking at his clipboard and did not notice. He exhaled through his nose, tempering his rage. "Unfortunately, this country has very few shinobi and our practices are not centered on therapy for chakra. However we do have someone in the mountains who may be able to help you."

According to the doctor, the woman was called Tsukiko and she had agreed to help him if he wanted. Sasori was not eager to spend time with anyone, especially an annoying, moody, self-centered female. Initially, his impulse was to decline, but he reconsidered. If the female could help with his chakra capacity and fine motor control, then it might be worth it. He had nothing to lose but time (which Sasori loathed). His impatient nature made its reappearance. He would have to learn to stifle his violent tendencies.

Sasori decided to go right away and managed to inform the staff that he would be visiting the female. The travel to her abode was hardly a challenge, having to merely follow the mountain trail…

When he arrived, the estate, a small shrine, was comfortable and quaint, but somehow unfortunate. The issue was not with the abode, no... But that it was located not twenty feet from his workshop. He felt his blood boil with hatred, feeling violated by that pretentious woman. How dare she build her home near his refuge? This damnable broad would be the first to taste his poison. Violent urges ensconced him, though mysteriously vanished upon knocking on the door.

Before seeing the resident, he saw the grey interior of the home. It was a hollow place, which not even the contemporary furniture could fix. The white walls were unadorned, looming in their place like faceless monks. The whole ambiance of the home echoed of something akin to a cemetery. Quite unfortunate. Suddenly the offending woman did not seem so threatening to his privacy. Indeed, her life was probably as vast as her home.

The resident, however, was a bit of a surprise. At first glance, she was a quiet little bird amid the dormancy. She had gleaming, dark brown eyes similar to freshly overturned earth, and smooth, long black hair like ink. Her skin was a warm light shade, lips like cherry blossoms, and she had a presence as gentle as an autumn breeze. She smiled to him, glowing with acceptance and loyalty. She had an unusual and beautiful countenance that conjured other, darker emotions.

"You must be the nameless patient," she breathed. Her voice was particularly appetizing, too. It was smooth and soothing, and made him especially intrigued. Though his murderous mind welcomed her, she remained sunny, even spreading her arms as though inviting him into her life. "Welcome to my home."

Very unfortunate, indeed.

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