Chapter 09:



there is no freedom
escaping from my cocoon
I must seek you once again
I am drawn to you
like a moth to a candle
circling nearer and nearer
the deadly flame calls
now my wings are scorched
why must my nature be so?

 - Teagan




The rest of the evening went in a poisoned blur. I remained, stubbornly, on the balcony though Orochimaru insisted I re-join the festivities inside. I knew my insubordination only made him furious, but in my current state of mind, I simply did not give a shit about his feelings. Had he spared a second considering mine when he agreed to Danzo’s ludicrous ideas? Had he considered what the consequences could be if things didn’t turn out as they assumed it would? The last thing we needed was for the spiritual rite of Gudan to be sullied by something as menial as the sinners having to ‘fight to survive’. What was the whole point then? We were simply letting them resort back to the crimes they were incarcerated with in the first place. It just made no sense to me that Orochimaru would agree to something like this.


“And just how long do you plan on remaining mute, Sasuke?” he asked impatiently as we sped down the highway and back to our rented home.


The farce of a dinner party was finally over, and I wanted nothing more than to find solace within my room and contemplate what steps I had to take next. I now had two targets to work with, and seeing to their deaths would involve some careful planning. Despite his conniving mannerisms, there were some things Danzo had revealed tonight; things that let me know that Orochimaru had deliberately kept me in the dark all this time. Why? Did he feel that I was not worthy of being kept abreast of the most recent happenings? Or least things that related to the running of Byaku-Shinkyou? Did he really assume that I was that unreliable or could not be trusted?


“…so rude of you to deny the Chairman’s daughter a dance when she requested it,” the bastard was saying. Though my gaze was trained out the window, I could still see his reflection on the glass as he shook his head and tsked in disapproval. “In fact, your decision to sit outside like an obstinate little brat made us look incredibly bad tonight, Sasuke.”


I caught his glare and curled my lip in a responding sneer of disdain. Like I give a fuck about your tarnished reputation.


“Are you honestly that concerned about the new rules?” he asked with a brow raised in what seemed like genuine confusion. “You make it seem as if you have no confidence in your abilities.”


I felt the blood draining from my face at the insinuation. If he, for one minute, thought that I was afraid of pitting my skills against any of those sinners…!


“There’s a reason I agreed to Danzo’s idiotic plan, Sasuke,” Orochimaru continued with a low sigh as if trying to explain something so obvious to me. “He has got this notion in his head that you are not fit to run an organization as large and involved as Byaku-Shinkyou…”


/Orochimaru is full of greed and will stop at nothing until he is in total and complete control of everything. He will not hesitate to remove you from the picture…/


Danzo’s words echoed hollowly in my mind, leaving me more confused as to what each man was trying to imply. Who was lying? Who was telling the truth? Who could I believe? Both men were obviously trying to mislead me, but…who? Who was the lesser of two evils?


“…and assumes that you are too weak…spineless…a coward,” Orochimaru continued with a purse of his lips.


Why did I get the feeling he was insulting me as well?


“I agreed because I wanted it to be an opportunity for you to shine, Sasuke. Think about it, my stubborn little ward.” He glanced at me; a small smile on his visage. “When you have destroyed the last sinner standing, your reputation in the eyes of Danzo and those greedy, blood-thirsty politicians, will be restored. You can then prove to them that you are worthy of carrying your family’s long dynasty of protecting Japan as we know it.”


He rubbed his chin in thought, his black polished fingernails gleaming in the muted darkness. “I might have to tweak things a bit, but I do insist that you battle whoever the last prisoner is. Even I must admit I’m curious to see how far you’ve come over the years. It’s been a while since you’ve been in an actual fight, yes?”


The last ‘actual fight’ was with Kimimaro about two years ago at the dojo. Though Orochimaru had declared it was just to entertain some guests from Hong Kong , Kimimaro must have forgotten the memo because he just about nearly killed me during that ‘spar’ by going all out. My luck was that it hadn’t been with real swords, but with wooden bokken, and still he managed to have me bleeding and limping around by the time the match was over. It was an embarrassing loss, and his attempt to ‘cheer me up’ by saying I had done well and was getting stronger (I had only managed to graze his temple), did not make me feel any better. As long as he was around, I’d always be considered second best.


As long as he’s around, any chance of eliminating Orochimaru is next to impossible.


“So consider it a personal challenge, eh?” Orochimaru quipped as if hoping to get me excited at the notion of me putting my life on the line to prove a point to him and his cohorts. “I am putting all my faith and trust in you, Sasuke. Make it a good show, eh?”


He dared to reach out to pat my shoulder indulgently, and on complete reflex, I slapped it and all but shoved him away with more force than necessary. Though he has touched me in the past (a pat on the head or an arm around my shoulder), I had never retaliated or acted in such a violent way before. It was obvious this did not sit too well with him; for his pale green eyes immediately became hard flints of fury and some other emotion I could define. Before I knew it, I felt my head whipping back and hitting the window with a low thud, before the pain eventually registered in my stunned mind.


He had slapped my left cheek; so hard that the sensation of blood filling my mouth had me tasting it in disbelief. I couldn’t remember the last time he had struck me, but it was enough to have my eyes stinging (not with tears of pain per se), but at how humiliating the admonishment felt. I could deal with being made to kneel before him for minutes on end, or have him insult me in a roundabout way, but there was something decidedly degrading in the way he had struck me. Something that made me feel even lower than the unpurified sinners bound for Gudan. In fact, now that I thought about it, it was the same kind of slap he usually gave to sinners when they appeared before him. Feeling my entire being burn at the knowledge, I could make out Kimimaro’s gaze in the rear-view window (he was sitting in the front seat), and I wasn’t sure if it was filled with pity or blasé. This did not make the situation any better.


“You really are an ungrateful child,” Orochimaru rasped coldly beneath his breath. “After all I do and have done for you over the years, you keep treating me like I am nothing more than a hindrance. Gratitude and servitude should be a virtue, Uchiha Sasuke. I thought your precious Great Priests would have taught you that.”


I grunted in surprise as he suddenly cupped my chin hard enough for me to feel his fingers digging into my jaw, forcing me to look at him. The pressure made my eyes water still, and I was aghast to find the tears rolling down my cheeks as he squeezed my chin a little harder.


“You break my heart so much, my dear boy,” he drawled lazily; those hard flints of green changing hues to reflect his current state. He was getting aroused; a sick realization, but true all the same. It was obvious in his breathing, the way his pink tongue darted out to lick his thin lips, and the way his fingernail dipped into and caressed the blood that was dribbling down my chin. I tightened my hands into fists and tried to move away, but my body was in an awkward position anyway; half turned toward the window, and the other half turned toward him. I wanted to look away, but his eyes were hypnotic and –


Resist. Resist. Resist!


“Open them,” he hissed when I had dared to squeeze my eyes shut. “Open them and see with those cursed eyes of yours.”


I groaned at the added pressure to my jaw, my lashes fluttering weakly as I lifted them reluctantly. I was barely given a moment to understand just what was going on before I felt his tongue; that long appendage creating a wet, abrasive sensation against the corner of my mouth.


Oh God! Oh God! Stop! Stop! Stop!


He was licking away my blood as if literally feasting and deriving nourishment from the dark liquid. I squeezed my eyes shut again and tried to control the uncontrollable wave of repulsion that hit me. I wanted to vomit all over him, but I was frozen…immobile…unable to breathe as he continued to assault me. In a desperate attempt to protect my sanity, I tried to ‘get away’ from the moment; to seek refuge in a place where I could pretend as if this wasn’t happening to me. It was something I had adopted on the day my parents were killed; the way my mind had ‘shut down’ in an effort to pretend as if the sounds of gunshots and the hollow drips of my mother’s blood was nothing more than a leaking pipe somewhere and firecrackers going off in celebration.


Praying Orochimaru wouldn’t decide to go all the way, or that he would tire of trying to suck me dry, my short cry of helpless fury was masked below the low laughter that erupted from him. I couldn’t believe it! Gasping in growing panic, he continued to squeeze that sensitive region between my legs; as if trying to shape my penis and balls to fit the curve of his large hand. It was shameful. It was terrible. I didn’t want to believe this was happening, but…but…I was…


(turned on)


“Shit!” I breathed and finally forced my hands to wrap around his wrist in an effort to push his away from me. I was disgusted and yet my body seemed to have other plans of its own. It just wouldn’t cooperate with me. He squeezed and rubbed…harder and faster, and the more I tried to stop myself from giving in, the worse it became. It was literally impossible to control myself. My penis was a hard rock within the restricting cloth of my underwear, and I wanted to die of mortification


(and reluctant pleasure)


“Sto…stop…” I begged feverishly as I lowered my head with a defeat that made my heart heavy with shame. “Please…I can’t…”


“You can’t what, Sasuke?” came the husky drawl against my ear. I shuddered at the feel of his tongue tracing it. “Can’t believe you are actually this…sensitive? That your beautiful body was made for this, Sasuke? It’s okay to give in, my dear. It’s okay to reveal this side of you every once in a while…”


No…no…nononononononononononononon…NO! I cannot give in like this! I just cannot..!


“Come for me, Sasuke…”




“Come for me…show me what lies beneath the icy layer…”


I moaned in desperation. “No…please…no…”


We both knew this was going to be a losing battle.




My (intense) orgasm had me giving a choked sob before I forced myself to bite my lower lip to control my cry of completion. I could feel my sticky seed coating my underwear before seeping through my trousers to wet his sinful hand. My grip – still around his wrist – slackened as I fell back to the seat in miserable dismay. I was breathing heavily; trying to reorient myself back to the present, and how to eventually kill myself as he finally pulled away with a chuckle of victory.


“Now that was worth the wait,” came the satisfied drawl. I could hear him licking his fingers, and I closed my eyes and turned away; as if hoping to crawl into the door (or open it and roll out to the road where I could be mercifully crushed by a passing car). It was one thing for Haku to elicit such a reaction from me during his massage, but a whole other experience to have this sick bastard finally violate me after all the years of meaningful looks, teasing, flirtatious comments and touches that repulsed me.


Now, abhorrent feelings had hit an all time low.


I needed to be clean…and fast. I needed something to cleanse me from his touches; something to give this whole unfortunate incident meaning. I loathed my own skin and wanted to literally rip it shreds.


“Your eyes are bloodshot,” Orochimaru was saying as the car began to slow down. It was clear we were approaching the house, and I longed to make my escape. “Kimimaro be sure to administer the eye drops to Sasuke. The poor thing has had a very long night.”


“Fuck you,” I whispered angrily, but my words only did more to amuse him.


“Considering how breathtaking you looked when you came, my dear one, your righteous anger makes you even more delectable.” He licked his lips again suggestively, and I turned away with a clenched fist. That vow I had once made to cut off his tongue? I’d shove the cut piece down his throat so he could have a taste of his own disgusting -


“Come on, Sasuke,” Kimimaro’s voice jarred me from my thoughts. The car had come to a stop and I hadn’t even noticed. I stared – in embarrassment – at the wet dark patch between my legs. How the hell was I going to step out without the servants noticing or assuming I had soiled myself? However, Kimimaro – ever resourceful – gave a small smirk and wrapped his large coat around me.


“There you go. You should be fine now.”


I ignored his patronizing tone and followed him to his private quarters – I had assumed he’d be in the same room with Orochimaru, but apparently not. I hovered at his doorway, wary of stepping all the way in for fear he’d do the same thing to me.


“Just give it to me and I’ll go,” I stated quietly. I couldn’t look him in the eye. I wanted to get away from anything connected to Orochimaru at this time. I needed to soak for the rest of the night in my bathtub and scrub away -  


“Patience, patience,” Kimimaro mumbled as he dug through his carryall. “I’m coming…”


A quick glance into the black bag showed it was filled with many other vials and bottles that were not all too surprising. It was another of Orochimaru’s side hobbies; trying to find the cure to everything. He considered himself a man of science; one who explored the use of Nature’s flora and the human body to find cures for anything and everything under the sun. Although I was yet to see his laboratory (he claimed he had one, so I just believed him), he had perfected these ‘special’ eye drops to be given to me whenever my eyes became too inflamed and painful.


The first time I complained about the pains was several weeks after the death of my family. I remembered telling Orochimaru about the sensation of tiny needles pricking the sensitive corneas, and he had only looked at me with a thoughtful expression on his visage.


“When does the pain happen, my dear one?”


Whenever I look at you, I had begun to say, but I must have been smart enough at the time to realize it wasn’t something he’d want to hear. So I settled for a “whenever I see bad people.”


“Bad people, eh?” he had replied with a rub of his chin. “Does it hurt when you look at me then?”


I shook my head vehemently, but he had a brow raised in amusement. “Only a little,” I finally admitted. Thinking he’d be upset with me, he had only laughed and rubbed my head gently.


“Not to worry, my little darling. I will prepare some medicine that will help to make your eyes feel so much better, okay?”


I was so relieved to hear about that, it did not occur to me to ask any questions about where this miracle drug had come from or what it entailed. Besides, I was only six-years-old at the time, what did I know? Orochimaru had become my new father, brother, and mother all in one. Whatever the hell he said, I lapped it up like the desperate kid I was.


True to his word, the medication was a godsend. His instructions had been to apply them three times a day for the first few weeks, which he assisted me with. The effect was immediate. Cool and soothing, the pain just about vanished within the hour. It was a damn miracle! However, years of diligent application seemed to ‘numb’ my eyes to certain situations. I could no longer sense any evil around Orochimaru, and within the walls of Byaku-Shinkyou, they appeared to adjust to the point where even staring at evil in the face wouldn’t bother me so much.


However, tonight – being in a new environment – in such a concentrated cesspool of darkness…it had eventually taken its toll. My eyes were still stinging and Orochimaru’s assault hadn’t helped matters. I was this close to gorging my eyes out.


“You sure you don’t want me to help you with it?” Kimimaro was saying as he held out the small brown vial to me. “I could -”


I snatched it away from him before he could finish and all but ran to my side of the house. As I slid the door to my room shut, my trembling hands almost found it difficult to open the top. If anyone had seen me in this state, they would have assumed I was a junkie desperate for his fix, but I couldn’t help it. I was desperate, and as I finally managed to get the required drops within my eyes…words could not express how much of a relief it was.


He controls me…


I gripped the small vial tightly in my fist; wanting to crush it to pieces, yet knowing I couldn’t do without it.


He controls me…


In every little thing; from something as simple as eye drops to that humiliating experience in the car. With a small cry, I all but began to rip out of my tuxedo; flinging the cloth that now had the combined stench of his unique scent and the evidence of my weakness. Though my hands were still shaking, I somehow managed to get down to my underwear – and was about to take it off – when the sudden knock on my door had me freezing with hands on the hem of the cloth.


Who the hell…?! Oh God…no! Please no! Panic like wild fire had my brain burning at the notion that it could be Orochimaru returning to finish off what he started.


“Sasuke-sama?” came the timid call, I could barely hear, and even before I could tell whomever it was to wait, the shoji screen slid open quietly to reveal Enoh. “Sasuke-sama, I wanted to find out if…oh!”


Oh? Oh?! Was she really that incompetent that she couldn’t understand when a man needed his privacy?! Her expression of shocked surprise, the sight of a trembling hand moving to her mouth, and those blue eyes…


(damn it!)


…seemed to trigger off all the frustration and anger that had built up steadily all evening. With a growl that seemed to come from nowhere…


(who are you becoming, Sasuke?)


…I grabbed her wrist, all but dragged her further into the room and slid the door shut behind her with vehemence.


“Oh?” I grated coldly. “Did you come to laugh at me? Huh?”


She shook her head desperately. “I don’t…I don’t understand what you’re talking about, Sasuke…argh!”


I flung her onto the futon which in turn made the cheap wig fly off her head to reveal the blond hair beneath. She tried to scramble off, but I was too fast for her. I straddled her body and gripped both wrists to pin her to the mattress so she couldn’t move. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and the aura of fear that oozed off her made me feel…powerful…in control.




I wanted to be in control again. Orochimaru had stripped that away from me in the car, and now, with this timid woman at my mercy, I could do whatever the hell I wanted. I could perhaps take her and prove that I was not like Orochimaru; that I could enjoy the female flesh and be as ‘normal’ as the others.


“Please…” she was begging. “Don’t do this, Sasuke-sam -”


“Shut up, you cheap whore.” I ignored her gasp of pain at the insult. “Isn’t that what you are?” I continued with a sneer as I released a wrist to cup her left breast. I squeezed and found myself enjoying her wince, though her hips did buck a little in response.


Hm. Interesting.


“You really do want this, don’t you?” I growled and dug a knee between her thighs. Her low groan was enough to increase my disgust yet fascination with her reaction. It was clear she was afraid and yet her body seemed to want it. Was that really it then? Hadn’t the great priests said it all with the body’s ability to drift into temptation though the mind tried to resist?


The sin of the flesh…


I released her other wrist and slowly began to trace the outline of her shoulders…up to her slender, pale neck…


…to eradicate the sins of the flesh; where inhibitions are stripped away…


I wrapped my hands around the smooth skin.


…I will free you from the sins that tie you to this world, my dear…


I began to squeeze gently…almost lovingly.


Do you understand? I am doing you a big favor. I am helping you…


Those blue eyes – which had seemed to darken with her arousal – began to widen as I applied a little more pressure. As I stared into them, I gradually began to realize I was almost comparing them to…well…that other blue-eyed sinner I didn’t want to know. However, unlike Uzumaki Naruto’s – whose eyes seemed a little brighter and more…intense, her eyes were (disappointedly) different. Enoh’s seemed murky and pale; incapable of producing the same fiery light like Uzumaki Naruto’s.


And why the fuck am I even thinking about that stupid, clumsy fool?!


“Sa…su…ke…sa…ma…” came the breathless gasps of desperation beneath me. I could feel her hands reaching up in an attempt to stop me; the frantic jerks of her legs as she struggled to escape. Her features were turning a little pale, and I squeezed harder still.


Why can’t you understand that I am trying to help you?! My mind screamed in confusion. You are not of this world. You do not belong here where you will be tarnished by the sins of man. I will send you away…back to a place where your soul can finally find its peace. I will…


/You spineless coward/


Like suddenly being slapped or doused with a bucket of ice, that firm, hard voice within my mind had me releasing Enoh quickly. I stared in horror at the bruise I had left behind; harsh, ugly red marks against her smooth skin while she coughed violently and tried to suck in much needed air.


What was I doing? What the hell had I planned to do?!


I stared at my trembling hands; unable to believe I had been this close to taking a life for no damn good reason. Enoh’s harsh sobs had me scrambling off her body; and the sudden overwhelming wave of shame and sorrow to hit me caused a low moan of disbelief to escape my lips. Feeling my legs and knees give way, I sunk onto the mattress and buried my feverish head and face within my hands. I was doomed.  There was no longer any hope for me. What penance could I possibly carry out to atone for my actions tonight?


“Leave,” I finally croaked when it seemed like Enoh had no plans to excuse herself long after her coughing fit had subsided. “Go now,” I ordered a little louder. “Please…just…get away from me…”


I suddenly felt like crying.


When there was still no effort, on her part, to do as I had commanded, I looked up with impatience and frustration. “Didn’t I say you could leave?! Or do you want me to really kill you?!”


I fully expected her to flee, but was surprised when she simply rose to her feet to stand before me. In this way, she towered over me, and perhaps it was the silent tears running down her cheeks, or the way the blond hair was finally released from its knot to cascade in waves around her shoulders and back, or the way she held herself with such dignity. Whatever it was, Enoh – at this very moment – looked like something out of the pages of the Great Book. A goddess, not of this world. She seemed powerful yet ethereal, and as if my night of surprises couldn’t get any worse (or shocking), I watched as she began to untie the sash holding her kimono together.


“Wha…what are you doing?” I whispered. “What do you think you’re doing? Are you not afraid of me? Did you not hear me? I will kill -”


“It is not in your heart, my Lord,” came her cryptic yet soft reply that brought a hard lump to my throat. “I have seen the pain and anguish in your eyes, Sasuke-sama. Your suffering…I felt it deep within me, and I want to help you.”


“Help me?” I would have laughed out loud, if I wasn’t too busy being shocked at the sight of her kimono falling off her body with a gossamer whisper to the floor. Aside from a pair of white cotton panties on her curvy hips, I was officially looking at my first naked female body…that was not within the pages of history or anatomy books. I could feel my entire body burn with a rush of heat that made me want to look away, and yet I couldn’t.




My fingers itched to touch…to explore…to see if it was as soft and wondrous as it appeared to me. The breast I had squeezed earlier, still had my mark on it, but beneath the glow of the lanterns, her skin had taken on a golden hue to mask the bruises. Her dusky nipples were erect and begging to be kissed and sucked on, and though she seemed to be covering that V between her legs with her hand, I could still make out the damp patch forming on the light cotton cloth. It gave off a musky scent that pleased my senses greatly. My tongue suddenly felt heavy and dry; as if knowing that only one thing would appease its thirst.


“Please…” she was whispering as she reached out to cradle my cheeks tenderly. Almost immediately, I shuddered; the recollection of Orochimaru’s caresses interfering with this moment. Still, there was something decidedly different about Enoh’s touch. I had no idea if she was hypnotizing me, but as my lashes grew heavier, I could feel loving warmth flowing through me; a sensation that almost made me want to burst into tears.


“Let me cleanse you, my Lord,” she begged as she slowly knelt before me. “Use me as you wish. Let me make it all go away…”


I couldn’t tell her that I hadn’t been with a woman before. I couldn’t get my lips to form the words that I had vowed to stay away from the temptations and wiles of sinners like her, and that I had chosen to follow the path where my only satisfaction came in eradicating evil. I wanted to recite all this to her, and yet as I found myself being pushed back to the mattress and that flowing blond hair enveloping me in a shroud, I knew it was going to be pointless fighting against this overwhelming power she had over me.


The devil’s mistress. She had won this time.


“Enoh…” I groaned and closed my eyes as my hips bucked with the feel of her gentle fingers on my nipples and torso.


“Yes, my Lord…” she breathed.


Do what you will, I thought with a soft sigh of resignation. Wash away his repulsive violation and make me feel whole again. Come morning, I vowed to find the nearest temple to perform several rites of ablutions. Until then, I welcomed my first initiation into manhood with no more questions asked.


It would only occur to me - much, much later – that the hard voice I had heard in my mind; the voice that had stopped me from doing the unthinkable - had come from none other than the blue-eyed sinner who haunted my dreams.


It was a clear sign that Uzumaki Naruto was slowly beginning to seep into my very consciousness; a troublesome prospect I could no longer control.





“Atchoo!” Sniffle. “Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn. Brrrrrr!”


I shook myself like a dog would when doused with water. It was just too damn cold in the fucking morning to be doing this, but I gotta admit…Byaku-Shinkyou looked breathtaking with all the snow around.


About three inches fell last night (there were still flurries at the moment), hence coating everything with a blanket of white. If I had a camera, I could take a couple of pictures, but I settled for imprinting them within the memory banks; at least grateful that I was still alive to see something like this. It hardly snowed down South, and even if it did snow, they never made the scenery as beautiful as this. Maybe it’s because we were in the relative countrysi-


“Stop moping and start shoveling, Uzumaki!” came the barked ordered from the officer on duty that rudely jerked me back to reality.


“Yes, sir,” I yelled back; contemplated giving a mock salute, but figured I was going to push my luck if I pissed him off this early in the day.


I eyed the snow-covered path leading to the dining halls with an inner sigh. So yes, it was beautiful, but the work was going to be tedious as hell. There were about ten of us assigned to shoveling aside the snow so the officers could walk safely to their destinations. Such jobs were going on all over the grounds actually, so it wasn’t as if we were the only ones having to deal with it. Besides, you’d think they’d invest in those large trucks that shoveled snow and would have made the work a little faster. Guess budget cuts didn’t plan for that one.


“I hate snow. I hate snow. I hate snow. I hate snow,” came the grumbled chant beside me. It was my good buddy, Chouji, who – with every shovel of snow tossed aside – would go into his chant.


“Saying it won’t make it disappear any quicker,” I replied with a low chuckle as I began to work as well.


“Whatever,” Chouji muttered, while sparing a quick glare to his left. “Look at them…all nice and cozy in their heavy jackets and hot cocoa, while we’re freezing our asses off here.”


I glanced at the three guards leaning against the building while laughing about something amongst themselves. They did look nice and warm in their black wool coats, and as I watched the steam rise from the big mugs they were holding, it was clear whatever they were drinking smelled and probably tasted delicious. My stomach growled with the lick of my lips. We were yet to have breakfast, and last night’s meal of tepid miso soup and rice was hardly enough to satisfy the long hours put in the kitchens. Since Lord Orochimaru wasn’t around, some of the officers had decided to throw an impromptu Christmas party, so the kitchen had worked overtime trying to get all their celebratory dishes finished on time. You’d think they’d be a couple of leftovers, but according to the hierarchy of sinners, I was on the lowest rung; hence all the purified sinners got the good bits, and I had nothing left but empty pans to lick off (which I didn’t do of course).


Anyway, for protection against the cold, we were only allowed to wear light gray jackets that were hardly thick enough to keep your teeth from chattering or the winter chill nipping at your flesh. At least we had been issued thick socks, so it was enough protection for the feet. All the same, the cold did not really help my healing joints and limbs. The colder it got, the stiffer they became, and going to bed at night was becoming something I dreaded. Having to get up in the morning would be a lesson in tolerance, because it became so bad, I sometimes felt I couldn’t get up at all. I was like an old man in a nineteen-year-old’s body!


Fucking depressing if you ask me.


“I remember when I used to build snowmen with my children,” one of the sinners was saying. His name was Soujiro; a lanky guy who looked like just touching him would make him break in two. He said he had been brought in for embezzlement, but he explained he had been so desperate to feed his family of five children, that he had no other choice. Poor guy. Being stuck here while his wife and family suffered on the outside. At least the little money he made here, he did send to them, and he had said he was only going to be here for two more years.


“My littlest one, Minami, she was always into making snow houses,” he reminisced with a sniffle and low chuckle. I felt my heart stir at the expression on his face. He really did miss his family. You had to be blind not to see the pure love and adoration within those gray eyes. “She would make the biggest one like this high…” He motioned to somewhere around his thighs.


“Really?” I asked; since no one else seemed to want to engage in conversation with him. Everyone else had the same glum expression as they shoveled. I at least figured I could talk to the guy since he seemed eager to share his story. “How old is she?”


Soujiro’s face lit up with genuine pleasure. It was apparent my interest made him happy, and I felt my lips twitch in a reluctant smile. Something as simple as sharing a story about family, eh? Wish I had happy ones to tell…


“She’s going to be six in a few days,” he remarked with a chuckle. “She likes to sing karaoke just like her father.”


“I bet she sings better than you,” I teased, which made Soujiro burst into laughter. It made the weary lines of age disappear from his face.


“Well…I guess you could say tha…URK!”


The sudden and unexpected heavy blow had come from nowhere, but it was still enough to have my jaw dropping in disbelief as I watched Soujiro slowly crumble to the ground in a boneless heap. The wound inflicted on his head, from the bokken, was slowly beginning to stain the once pristine white snow with its dark red hue. By this time, the other sinners had stopped shoveling to gawk at the scene in curious silence.


The guard spat at the foot of the motionless figure before kicking it lightly. “Get up, you lousy asshole. Keep chattering when you should be working, eh?”


“…he was working,” someone muttered coldly. It would take me another second to realize I was the one who had spoken. My gaze was still trained on the spreading blossom of red, and I wondered if he was dead. If his family would never see him again. If little Minami, whose birthday was in a few days, would never get to build snow houses with her father because of some stupid asshole who considered himself holier than thou and felt that he could –


“Did you say something, Uzumaki?” the asshole sneered. I could hear his footsteps approaching, but I didn’t look up.


“Hey!” He prodded my shoulder with the handle of his bokken. “Hey! Didn’t you hear me you scarred freak show? What did you say?!” He prodded me again; a little harder, and I did nothing but grind my teeth and form a clenched fist. If I started any trouble, I knew they wouldn’t hesitate to chuck me back into the dungeon. Shikamaru had worked hard to get me out of there, and I wasn’t going to let that be for naught.


Bear with it. Bear with it. Bear with it.


“Chickenshit,” the guard whispered as he stepped up to my face. His breath smelled like hot tea and onions; his features taut and pale beneath the turban. He barely looked older than me. “What? What!” He taunted. “Why are you looking at me like that? Wanna fight, eh? I can see it in your eyes, you spawn of the Devil.”


“Let it go, Aoi,” one of the other guards called out. “You just better pray the other guy ain’t dead or youse gonna get it from Officer Ootori.”


With a final painful jab at my shoulder, Aoi the asshole stomped away, but not before glaring at all the other sinners. “What are y’all looking at? Get back to work!”


The shoveling continued in earnest; though some of the sinners now had expressions of quiet derision at the obnoxious guard. I turned back to my section of land to be shoveled, my anger pouring into each plunge of my shovel into the thick snow. I could have killed that son of a bitch…


“You should have taken him,” Chouji muttered beneath his breath. From the corner of our eyes, we watched the guards hover over Soujiro’s immobile form. I was now hoping he really wasn’t dead. The guy looked weak enough already. That blow would have been enough to take him down…permanently.


I grunted and said nothing to Chouji’s remark, though a part of me sneered at the idea that they were waiting for me to make the move. Why couldn’t he do it? He had hands and legs, didn’t he? I could have taken the annoying SOB, but I knew the situation was bigger than myself. Giving in to the taunt would make me fall right into their trap. I knew most of the guards didn’t think much of me, and felt I shouldn’t be mingling around the other sinners in the first place. I was still filth and unclean or whatever, so to them, I was really worth less than a cockroach. I just wondered why no one had gone as far out with me as they could have. I mean I had been talking too, but Aoi hadn’t even hit me. Just his stupid taunting. In fact, now that I thought about it, besides the glares and cold treatment from the guards and officers, none of them had gone out of their way to really inflict any kind of harsh beating or punishment. Sure, I hadn’t gone out of my way to cause any trouble, but it was still…strange…


“Oooh…look who’s out and about,” came the whisper from another sinner to our right. We turned to see what had gotten his attention, and sure enough, it was someone new…and definitely not ‘one of us.’


I don’t know what it was; couldn’t even explain it if I could, but it was almost the way I had felt when I saw that ‘girl’ in the bus. It was the way my heart suddenly seemed to skip a little faster at the sight of something really beautiful, and how I wanted to stand a little taller and to show that beneath this dirty yukata and injured bones was a man who could treat her right…


Wait a minute…her? Didn’t Shikamaru say there were no women allowed on the grounds? Which could only mean that…


Damn. Not again.


…the slender figure with the long black hair, dressed in a pastel kimono and protected by a black top coat, was just another pretty boy from the ‘exclusive’ section of the grounds.


Son of a bitch. I really have been kept too long in this place. It’s becoming harder to differentiate between the sexes!


“Haku-chan,” the man who had whispered sighed in a lovesick manner that made my stomach churn. “Isn’t he beautiful?”


“She’s a fucking guy,” I gritted as I shoveled a little faster. Just thinking about it made my embarrassment, at the mistake with that Sasuke bastard, come to the forefront again. If anyone else knew I had even considered banging that ‘chick’, I would never live it down. At least Shikamaru had stopped teasing me about my mistake. Thank God for small mercies.


“So what?” the sinner argued beneath his breath. The guards were now ordering two other sinners to lead the unconscious Soujiro to the sick bay. “Haku-chan is like a flower. So delicate and pretty. He always manages to give us a smile and make us feel better.”




“And he’s Sasuke-sama’s personal manservant,” Chouji added just as Haku-chan began to climb the small flight of steps leading to the dining halls. Almost immediately, a few sinners dashed to clear away more snow to make a path for her…him (damnit!), all of them smiling and blushing as Haku covered his mouth with a shy giggle and thanked them for their kindness.


“You look lovely today, Haku-chan,” the lovesick fool stuttered with a light bow.


“Stop saying that, Sanzo-san,” Haku tittered like a girl; though his pale cheeks were rosy at the compliment. “You work hard now, okay?”


“I will!” he vowed with a salute. “Will Haku-chan pray for me today?”


“Of course I will.”


“And me too! And me too!” the other sinners began to chime, even Chouji got into the act; though he seemed more amused at the events taking place than actually being enamored by the effeminate manservant. I watched him approach our direction, and by this time, the smart guards had managed to cover up the scene of Soujiro’s fall, so no questions could be asked. I guess being the manservant to their first captain sort of made him one to be feared too, because they stood at attention and tried to look their best.


He walked past me…or would have, but seemed to falter in his step before turning back to look at me with an expression of innocent bemusement in his eyes. What now? What did I do? I tried to smile and gave an indulgent bow, but knowing he was that bastard’s servant…I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I guess things were beginning to fall into place now. With such a girly servant, who needed a real woman to keep his bed warm at night? No wonder he was such a stuck up asshole. There was no doubt that our dear captain was a flaming –


“…lue eyes…” Haku-chan was muttering, and I blinked in confusion. What was he talking about?


“Haku-san,” one of the guards interrupted us. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”


“Oh…” He seemed to shake himself; as if coming out of a daze, before smiling lightly at the guard. “I just thought I’d have breakfast in the dining hall today. If that’s okay…”


“Of course!” the man said with a laugh that was just too loud. “We’d be honored to have you join us today. This way, Haku-san. Watch your step.”


I rolled my eyes and turned back to shoveling the snow; but I could still feel those large brown eyes trained on me. Why was I of interest to him? Had Sasuke warned him about me? And besides, this was the first time the guy was eating in the dining hall, so why did he decide to do that today? Did he get in a lover’s tiff with his dear Sasuke?


Any other rhetorical questions I could have for myself, was erased as more officers began to stream towards the dining halls. We did our best to shovel away as much snow as possible, and by breakfast time, I was hungry and hurting enough to eat the entire pot of miso soup.


Since I was unpurified, I was not allowed to eat with the other sinners; hence it was either eating in the kitchen or climbing up to the alcove in the storage shed to eat there. It was a neat place I had found when the weather wasn’t as cold, and it gave me a good view of the grounds between the kitchens and laundry area. I tried to settle in between the wooden slats (I’ve bumped my head against them one too many times) to get comfortable. It was cold in here, but much better than not being able to eat without people shoving and pushing you around in the kitchen. I unwrapped my package, a hard lump coming to my throat as I noticed Old Man Chef had wrapped an extra rice ball for me. I chewed on it slowly; savoring the sweet taste until I realized I was crying silently.


I sniffled and scrubbed my eyes; hating myself for being this weak, but I couldn’t help it. There were times when my emotions would get the best of me; when the weariness and realization that I wasn’t really free, would have me crying either in my sleep or when I was alone like this. I missed so many things in the ‘outside’ world, things like hearing the sound of cars and buses honking loudly outside my apartment window, the smells of civilization – of women and children - of eating really good food and being able to walk down the street (even if in disguise) so I could feel normal again. The loneliness in this place was killing me. If I couldn’t carry out my plan to destroy this place…


(and how? Really, Naruto? How do you plan to do it?)


…I would almost wish for Gudan to be here already so I could just die and end it all.


“So this is where you are,” came the familiar voice that had me looking down and into Shikamaru’s familiar visage. “Can I come up?”


“Got your entrance fee?” I asked, glad for the cold so he would assume that my sniffling and reddened eyes were from the weather and not from me being a cry baby.


He reached into his yukata to pull out a wrapped piece of his grilled fish, and nodding in acceptance, I motioned for him to climb the ladder that would lead him to my hiding place.


It was a tight fit, but he managed to squeeze himself in beside me and after our exchange of goods, we were content to eat in companionable silence. We watched some of the sinners on laundry duty stomp through the snow carrying large containers or baskets full of uniforms to be washed. And though it was almost nine in the morning, the skies were still dull, gray and promised more snow for the evening. I guess we’d have to shovel much more tomorrow morning.




“You don’t mind me smoking, do you?” Shikamaru asked. He was already putting the damn thing in his mouth, and without waiting for me to say ‘no’, he lit up and promptly sent me coughing as he blew the smoke in my face.


“Amateur,” he teased.


“Fuck you too,” I coughed and waved the smoke aside. “One day, when you’re in hospital dying of lung cancer, don’t expect me to donate mine to you.”


He laughed and nudged me gently. “Fool. They don’t donate lungs.”


“Yeah, they do.”


“Tell me one person who has donated a lung to another. Go on, tell me.”


I pressed a finger to my forehead and tried to think, but as I drew a blank, his chuckle made me blush. “Yeah, well, I’m sure there’s got to be a lung transplant patient out there,” I grumbled.


“I don’t want your stinking lung anyway.” He poked at my chest. “It will probably kill me.”


I puffed out my chest. “I have the best lung in the world, douche bag. You wish you could have it.”


For the next five minutes, we argued over whose lung was best, until I was done eating. I finished my bottle of water with a loud belch.


“God…I need a good fuck,” I groaned abruptly.


It was a weird thing about my body. After eating, I sometimes got the urge to either jerk off or find a woman to satisfy me. Sure it was weird to do so in the kitchens or even up here in the storage shed, so I’ve been unable to satisfy the masturbation side of things. After Sakura’s death, the urge had faded as well, but in the latter years (before my arrest); I was able to find a willing body in a local brothel for a cheap price. One hour of bliss with no strings attached. Two hours if I was particularly horny.


“Don’t look at me,” Shikamaru replied dryly. “Though I’m sure there are some guys here that will be glad to keep you company.”


“Urgh.” I shuddered at the idea of a man touching me, and my repulsion was heightened at the memory of my experience down below. Shikamaru must have realized it because he threw me an understanding glance.


“Sorry,” he muttered.


“Whatever.” I shrugged and tried to brush it off. “Say…how do you manage? You know…”


He motioned with his hand (obviously). “And whenever I get a pass to go to town.”


“You get a pass?!” I asked incredulously. “When??”


“Once in a blue moon. They pick a few of us to go into town, mostly to help pick up supplies – and if we have a particularly nice officer on duty, he lets us have a little fun for a couple of hours.”


I glared at him in envy. “Lucky bastard.”


“Yeah…but I already have a girlfriend, remember?” He flicked some ash aside. “I don’t go about fucking every girl I see.”


“I thought you said she was in hospital?”


“She is.”


“How is she anyway?”


“Still alive.” His features took on a pensive look, and I wondered how much he missed his woman. “She’s going to be released in a week or so. She might come to visit me when the temple is open for the public.”


“Oh…that’s nice,” I said quietly; my heart breaking as I thought of Sakura never getting an opportunity to visit me…not unless she keeps showing up in my dreams.


“I heard you got to see the famous Haku-chan today,” Shikamaru stated with a light snort; perhaps realizing that talking about girlfriends was beginning to depress the shit out of me. However, bringing up the effeminate boy was no better either.


“Yeah…all the guys on my team just about drooled all over themselves when he showed up.”


Shikamaru chuckled. “Yep. He’s got that effect on people.”


“Man, I don’t understand how anyone can be attracted to someone like that…”


“The same way you were attracted to Sasuke…”


“I told you…!”


“Yeah, yeah, it was a mistake.” Shikamaru grinned, and I growled in response. “Hey, what’s the difference? Well, there is a big difference, but attraction is attraction. You can’t help it if it happens.”




“Don’t be fooled by the way he looks though,” Shikamaru continued. “The guy is pretty strong. I’ve seen him training in the dojo and man…” He whistled softly. “He could take down guys ten times his size with his kenjutsu and taijutsu skills. No wonder Sasuke chose him as his bodyguard.”


I said nothing; though a part of me was curious as to how a guy, who looked that weak, could be a deadly killer. Guess you really couldn’t judge a book by its cover. I wondered if he would kill me if I tried to attack his master? Maybe if I took him out first…


“Speaking of which…he’s not around, did you know that?”


I yawned and dug a finger into my ear to scratch it in disinterest. “What? Who’s not around?”


“Sasuke,” Shikamaru replied with a small smile. “He left town with Lord Orochimaru.”


“…so?” What the hell did he expect me to say? To jump for joy? Do back flips and cartwheels around the place in jubilation?


“That the way you treat the person who rescued your ass from more sodomizing?”


I stiffened and eyed him warily. “What are you saying?”


“I’m saying that it was Sasuke who signed the papers saying you were released, and by order no one is to touch you until the rites of Gudan begin.” Shikamaru crushed out the cigarette on a wooden slat and tried to stretch out his legs, which was next to impossible. “Didn’t you wonder why the guards and officers weren’t after your ass all this time?”


Yes, I did wonder about that, but still…


“So…I guess I’m supposed to start licking his boots now?” I sneered and rolled my eyes. “He sent me down there in the first place, so big fucking deal. He suddenly got a conscience and figured I didn’t belong down there. Whoopity freakin’ do.”


Not sure of why this news should upset me even more, I uncoiled myself from my position and all but slid down the ladder. I ignored Shikamaru calling me as I stomped out – in no particular direction (though I really should have been going back to the kitchen to begin dishwashing) – hoping to get as far away from Shikamaru’s revelation as possible.


I knew what this was all about. He had released me so I’d feel ‘indebted’ to him. It was the oldest trick in the book, and it made me sick that he’d go that low to make himself seem benevolent and kind-hearted. He might as well just chuck me back down there and be done with it. Just how long did he plan on humiliating me?


I kicked at a tree and sucked in a harsh breath as the pain shot up to my head. Sinking to my haunches (damn it was getting colder); I hugged the light jacket around me and tried to think. If we met again, he’d want me to thank him…no, he must have been expecting it that other time we collided into each other, but I hadn’t said anything because I didn’t know. All the same, there was no way in hell that I was going to –





I looked up quickly; bracing myself for some guard or officer about to give me more grief. However, I found myself looking into that pretty face with those large brown eyes that were now obvious with their curiosity. He was squatting just like me, which made the situation pretty funny (to anyone looking at us), but I was more confused than anything. What the hell did he want with me? And how the hell did he find me? I hadn’t even heard his footsteps or was I too lost in my thoughts to have noticed?


He gave a small smile. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around here,” he continued in that same friendly tone and an expression that made him look like he was a kid. His fresh-faced innocence was unnerving. How was he strong and dangerous? He looked like he couldn’t hurt a damn fly.


“I don’t get around much,” I finally replied with a light shrug. “Sorry for not being one of your many… fans.”


His smile widened and he cupped his chin as if staring at an interesting specimen; his gaze was intense and kinda…bothersome. It made me feel uncomfortable, and I looked away…and began to make snowballs (of all things); more to keep my hands busy. He watched me roll at least three before copying me. Can you believe this guy?! Still it was interesting to see him forming the perfect balls between his hands, and before long, we had made about a pile of twenty or more of the tennis-ball sized things.


Fort Haku ,” he declared, drawing a circle around them with a dead branch. “You need to build a bigger fort foooor …?”


“…Naruto,” I finally replied. Nice way of getting my name. I smiled at the tactic, which he reciprocated. He really did have a cute smile. “Uzumaki Naruto.”


“I knew it.”


Eh? I raised a brow at his chuckle.


“No…” He began to explain. “It’s just that my master kept muttering your name one night while he was struggling to stay awake, and I noticed he kept doodling your name over and over on his paper. U-zu-ma-ki Na-ru-to.” He wrote out my name in Kanji within the snow. “You are the blue-eyed sinner.”


I rose to my feet abruptly, and he made no attempt to copy me this time; though he did look up with bemusement. “Did I say something wrong?”


I didn’t like it. I did not like this at all. The notion that the captain had it out for me from the get-go was enough to let me know that I had to set my plan in motion quickly. I had to do something to begin to change my fate. I couldn’t let this guy have this much control over me. He was like the freakin’ puppet master and everything seemed to be connected directly to him. It was aggravating.


“Are you not Naruto?” Haku asked again.


“Yes…yes, I am,” I replied tightly; as my hands formed tight fists. “And you can give your master this message for me.”


“What’s that?”


“Tell him that I have no intention of kissing his ass; not now, not ever. I will fight him tooth and nail if I have to, but he will not dictate how I live the rest of my life in this dump! Got it?!”


I guess Haku had never heard anyone talk about his master that way (or have to deliver such a message for that matter), because his eyes and mouth became wide as saucers. I would have stayed longer to savor my minor victory, but I could hear my name being hollered from the kitchen area, and I knew I had to hightail it before I got in trouble.


Yeah, like that little ‘message’ isn’t going to get your ass in even more hot water if he decides to deliver it to dear Sasuke.


I sighed and rubbed my forehead. I swear sometimes my mouth does tend to run off before I can stop it. Well…whatever happens would happen. I’d just have to brace myself for the punishment that was bound to come my way.


Guess I should have known better, for little would I know… that the problems were only just beginning.



Chapter 10

Naruto Home


































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