[r]ating: M < violence >
[d]ay: August 12: Listen to the shiver of wings at your side--it is my desire, and / still, still, I am shaking with it.
[s]ummary: She cannot remember who she is, or where she is, or what she's doing. But something inside her compels her to fight, and the very core of her being tells her to find him.
[n]otes: I call almost everything I write weird. Well, this is fragmented and bizarre, and it's like that for a reason. Fun fact: Koshinawa Yuri's surnname means "leash (rope used on a prisoner").
[x]-posted: nejiten, ten_squared, _terzarima, and 31_days.
still, still, I am shaking with it."
Pain. Burning, branding, screaming agony in her chest.
Tenten whips her head backward, slinging a kodachi from its sheath strapped to her back, and tries to slice the bitch's arm off.
Koshinawa Yuri, said bitch, dodges and smirks. "Don't bother. I'm going to die soon anyway."
"Good," she mumbles, chest heaving. "Let's make sure it happens sooner."
But that agony rises again. It forces her to the floor, muscles quivering as she strains to disobey it. The pain sends tingles running up and down her spine, shifting her legs and ankles until she sits seiza before an enemy.
Does Koshinawa think they're about to have a tea party or something? She bites back horror when she realizes that if Yuri can make her sit seiza, then she can probably make her do tea ceremony.
"Drop the sword." Koshinawa's tone is smug, and Tenten snarls.
She hates smug people. There's only ever been one smug person she's ever liked, and this bitch has the misfortune of not being that person.
Even while she tries to stand up, the short-sword drops from her grasp. Her fingers twitch and tremble.
She groans, halfway to gagging, when her knees spread, shifting her position on the floor. No longer in seiza position, she is now completely on her knees. She bends forward, planting her palms on the floor.
"Good girl," Yuri coos.
She bends a little more, placing her forehead against the cool stone floor.
"Yes, a very good girl indeed." Koshinawa smirks more. She makes a few seals with her hands. "I want you to forget my name."
Tenten blinks, memories of her enemy's name burrowing away. Her chest feels heavy.
"Hm, how best to send my message?"
Her enemy falls silent.
After a few moments, the woman bends down, stroking the back of her head. The sound of cloth rustling lets Tenten know that the woman is making more seals with her hands, and then her eyelids feel heavy.
That thing the woman burned onto her chest pulsates, shifting on her skin in time with her heartbeat.
"In fact, I want you to forget about being a ninja. Forget that village of yours, too, and everything about yourself. I want complete amnesia, do you understand?"
The woman's voice is petulant and she wants to say "no," but for some reason, she closes her eyes.
Everything falls away, digging somewhere deep inside her. It burrows into the pulsating thing on her skin. Memories, warm and wet and slippery, tie themselves into a knot. It hurts, oh it hurts, and there is nothing she can apparently do about it.
Exhausted, she falls asleep.
Everything goes still and quiet.
(oh point five)
There was silence here, once. There was stillness. But then everything starts up again.
She becomes self-aware again.
Her heartbeat flutters in her chest. A bird, trying to escape the implacable cage that her ribs create.
Somewhere (and this is what truly scares her: she doesn't remember where or how or when) she has forgotten something. She doesn't know what. She doesn't know anything.
Or does she? She knows— she knows!— that she has forgotten something. But as she tries to remember what she has forgotten, she realises that knowledge is a slippery thing. It can't seem to decide if it wants to swim toward her or swim away from her.
She hears a blur of syllables. They make no sense. The only thing she can pick out is "Konoha," and though the word strikes a chord within her, she has no idea what it means. Something inside her, something she doesn't like because it smells of blood and throbs and pulsates inside her chest cavity, pushes up images of leaves and towers and tall, tall trees.
Remember, says the thing in her chest. Remember!
But she doesn't.
The whatever-it-is lodged between her teeth is a welcome stranger. She tastes leather and grease. Familiar taste, almost comforting. Not only has she held something like this in her mouth before, but she has held one wrapped exactly like this, using this leather and this oil.
Her fingers tremble. Spasms wrack her body. She would panic, but the part of her that cannot forget (the dark heart beating somewhere inside her chest cavity) stays calm. Implacable. It knows.
Here, in panic and trauma and battle, is where she finds her normality. The thing in her chest knows this very well.
Warmth moves from her hips to her thighs to her knees, dribbling into her feet. Warmth or power (it's called chakra, says the part of her that remembers this) or something else pools in the bones of her feet, rippling in the muscles of her legs. She bends her knees and springs up, up, up.
The air hisses around her. She doesn't remember what to do anymore. Blind panic. How does she-- where does she-- what should she--
The voice that thrums through her torso is calm, rational. There.
And it is there. A foot collides with a tree, warmth shifts, and the foot stays.
One foot in front of the other. Don't use too much or the wood will splinter.
Her body spasms again and she wants to scream. She doesn't remember panicking like this before. She doesn't remember any of this. She doesn't have any idea what to do. Knowledge is a slippery thing, and it is swimming away from her.
You can do this. One foot in front of the other. GO.
She moves her feet. One foot in front of the other. She stays. Against all odds, she stays. Faster, now. Pushing herself. Walking quickly. Now running.
Up, up, up.
Things come back as she goes. Even with the shivering, her fingers remember how to flex. Her wrist remembers how to flick.
The shuriken streak past, whistling in the air.
She doesn't look back to make sure they landed. The part of her controlling this remembers. She is one hundred percent accurate.
A swift, mindblowing leap. Everything blurs around her, but her arms move of their own accord. Arms criss-cross along her lower torso; right hand to left side, left hand to right side. Her fists draw leather-wrapped kunai from god-knows-where.
This is a cross-body draw.
Her fingers shift; her thumbs move. Knuckles and joints flexing. The crease between each digit sort of rolls until she flicks her hands.
Kunai whirl in the air.
She remembers this. She remembers how to do this. Knowledge, that slippery fish, swims toward her.
She gathers more kunai, threading strings made out of warmth (chakra, it's chakra) into the rings in their grips. She flings them away, each one hitting its mark, and then changes their paths.
That's right. You can do this. You can do this. No more kunai hidden; time to go to shuriken and other weapons. You can do this.
Her right hand reaches behind her. Strapped to the very centre of her waist, she finds a metal grip. Her fingers clench around it, the leather gloves creaking.
The grip comes free. Something behind her clinks; a heartbeat passes before she realises that the grip of the weapon has a chain attached. Her left hand grabs the chain. Automatically, she whips it all around in front of her.
Her stance changes. The sickle flies from her right hand, arcing downward. She heaves the weighted chain in the opposite direction. Pulling on both ends of the chain, she manages to entangle an enemy with the weighted half.
The sickle cleaves through somebody. She hears the wet, crunchy, tearing sound and shudders.
Pull. Feed the chain through. Throw. Again.
Somebody lands directly behind her. She ducks, barely dodging his sword.
Right BEHIND you! Forget the kusari-gama, you've got sai strapped at your hips, go for THEM!
She gets them. Two-pronged sai, shiny in the moonlight. She feels their shape and heft through the tight leather gloves, but they block the heat or lack of it.
She arcs her right arm up. Metal strikes metal. The sound rings in her ears. Almost grating.
He manages to break the locked stance, comes at her again.
The sai blur. She strikes out with them, going after him again and again.
No, no, NO! Don't use the SHAFTS! They have prongs for a REASON! Catch his sword in them!
A few more steps and blows, blocking and parrying and slashing. Entirely too many seconds pass before she can use the sai the way she knows she should use them.
At last, though, she catches the sword between the two prongs of a sai. Scraping noises accompany her struggle to make him drop them. More vicious, nasty fighting between the two of them. But she succeeds; the sword falls from his grasp.
Immediately, she drives one of the sai up. Forcing past anything in her way. The two prongs squelch right into his throat.
She heaves the sai forward, deeper into his windpipe and oesophagus. Anchoring the sai. Now, she grips it firmly and jerks left.
Flesh tears. Blood spurts. He crumples, pitching forward and sideways and in the general direction of down.
More chakra flows into her legs and she springs up once more. She pumps her legs, practically ricocheting off the trees. Over the hill and through the woods, she mumbles or thinks or sings or whatever.
She needs to find someone. She remembers that. She needs to find someone. But who? And how?
The darker heart pushes her onward, each false heartbeat sending her farther and farther away from the carnage. This remembering part of her seems almost desperate to find whoever it is she needs. Memories slide past (knowledge is a slippery, slippery thing, and it can't seem to make up its mind about whether it wants to swim for her or swim away).
Everything she remembers is white. Fitting? Ironic? Real? She doesn't know.
Beautiful, the voice in her chest whispers.
She comes to a stop, looks around. Her thoughts come in an almost panting rhythm: must find him. Find him. Nothing else left. Find him.
Panicking and shivering again, she closes her eyes and flings her head back. Her mouth opens; air forces its way deep into her, down into the depths of her belly, then leaves through her nose. She takes another breath, trying to relax.
Her eyes open fast enough that they'd have made a snapping sound, were it physically possible. She has something on her face. Startling discovery; why didn't she realise this before?
She gropes the thing on her face. A frustrated hybrid between a grunt and a scream escapes her throat. She rips a glove off and tries to feel the thing on her face again.
Her fingers brush along cool, smooth porcelain. A mask.
It's okay. Just your ANBU mask. It's okay. Everything's okay. Now, find your partner.
A twig snaps behind her. She turns even before she knows she's turning, perfectly balanced throwing daggers somehow already in her hands.
The source of the noise drifts into view. A male, judging by shape. The male wears a porcelain mask. White. A hunting bird of some sort.
"These were a part of the playing I heard— once, ere my love and my heart were at strife," he murmurs.
She swallows. The noise rings loud in the silence that seems to rule the clearing.
The part of her that knows her name and how to do things remembers a campfire, a scroll. Oil and a rag and a man with pale, pale eyes.
Quick-response. Halved verse, says the man by the campfire. I'll take first half.
A couplet, sort of, she remembers. And the words that spring from her mouth seem to fit with what he said.
"Love that sings and hath wings as a bird, balm of the wound and heft of the knife."
Her voice sounds wrong. Or does it? She doesn't recognize it, but almost everything seems unfamiliar. All the movements before came from nowhere; the knowledge of what to do and how and when to do it¬— knowledge is a slippery thing.
Knowledge is a slippery thing. Now, it swims away.
He reaches out for her. She moves forward, puts her hand in his.
Something sparks in their fingers. Jolting, electric; small and sudden and travelling.
The shudders resume.
The remains of a campfire. Disjointed memories try to figure out which campfire he has led her to. Knowledge swims here and there, darting to and fro in the currents of her mind.
He kneels and lights a fire. Easily, he slings his pack off his shoulders and sets it down. The bird mask he wears comes off and he lays it carefully on the ground.
In the jumble of her thoughts, an undercurrent thrums. The sun peaks over the horizon. Horror breaks like dawn in the space inside her head.
Her voice comes out wrong again (has it ever been right? She doesn't know.) "I know you."
She has to look closely at him to find his response. The way his back went rigid was almost imperceptible, but now that she looks, she sees it.
Her tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth. Nothing more to say.
The voice in her chest falls silent. Knowledge swims away, slipping like water through fingers that won't stop shaking.
He turns toward her. His hands reach out, collide with her shoulders.
She sobs. Her body spasms, spine tingling, fingers trembling. Every single part of her shakes and shudders. Muscles seize and then relax.
He swears and pushes her down.
She falls, lands safely only by her other self's instinct. Sprawling before him on the forest floor, she peers up at him.
He kneels, rips the mask from her face. His arm jerks and the mask lands on the other side of their campsite.
His white, white eyes bore into hers. He searches her face for something, she doesn't know what. That somehow familiar face twists, brows furrowing: evidently, he didn't find it.
What is he looking for?
He makes eye-contact again. "Tenten. Do you my name?"
She shakes her head.
A finger lands on her nose, then touches her lips. It traces from her lips to her chin, trailing along her throat. After a moment, he rips her collar open, forcing the loop-buttons to pop undone, and pushes the shirt off her shoulders.
The shirt was skin-tight, she realises. It doesn't go easily. As he pushes it, it makes sticky sounds, as though something glued it to her.
Dark liquid dribbles along her skin. It beads and drips, leaving barely-visible dark trails. Not blood, she knows. It doesn't smell like blood. Ink, then, probably.
Eight things sit on her left breast, just above her heart. She doesn't remember painting anything on herself, or getting a tattoo, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. After all, knowledge is a slippery, slippery thing.
He swears. The word comes out through gritted teeth, a hissing rush of air.
And then he says something else. On his temples, just near those pale, pale eyes, veins bulge.
She giggles. The sound is high and wrong, a thing she is fairly sure this body is unused to. But she can't help her amusement. She looks at those veins near his eyes and wants, for no real reason, to lick them. To touch them.
She reaches up, still giggling, and he crawls backward a little. With odd precision, he reaches behind his body and grabs a scroll.
It unfurls. He holds it near the fire so he can read it.
The back of her neck tingles. That thing in her chest cavity (just under that thing inked on her breast, she realises with some new horror) recognises this feeling. It no longer feels pressed to explain, however. It remains silent on the subject of this feeling.
The man moves back toward her. He kneels in front of her, places two fingers on the marking.
His other hand becomes a blur. Fingers jab into her flesh in several places, hurting and burning like hell.
The mark on her skin burns, searing her to the core, and she heaves a ragged gasp. The trembling and shaking intensifies until she shudders and spasms and twitches.
"Stay calm, Tenten. Stay with me."
His voice is something she cannot disobey. He commands her attention. She has no choice but to give it.
Never COULD tell that ice block no, says the thing in her chest cavity.
Her head lolls back.
Tenten wakes shirtless, unmasked, and covered in ink. Somehow, she has entangled herself with Neji, legs and arms twined together. Like vines that have grown together, or the knots that faeries supposedly tie in girls' hair.
They are a sprawling mess of limbs.
Neji wakes as soon as she moves. A stripe of pink appears across his nose and cheeks when he realises that he has somehow managed to entangle himself with his partner. And she's topless.
And he's on top.
"Neji. You have five seconds to stop squishing me."
He moves so fast it's a blur. Within moments, he has moved to the opposite side of the campsite, as well as tossed a shirt at her.
The shirt is his; she doesn't care. She puts it on anyway. It isn't soft, but it doesn't scratch her skin, and it covers everything she wanted covered.
When she sits up, she feels as if she is floating slightly out of her body. Situated slightly above her head, actually. It is an odd and somewhat unsettling feeling.
"How did the target get you with a curse seal?"
And so she tells him the long and stupid story. An assassination gone horribly awry. This is one cult, she thinks, that nobody is going to be infiltrating anytime soon.
"Mission failed." He doesn't quite sigh— it's a bare puff of a breath— but it passes for a sigh, with him.
"I'm sorry," she says, then.
She can take the unsettling sensations and the brush with amnesia and the failed mission. But she can't take Neji being disappointed in her.
"You did well."
She smiles at him, ignoring the shudder that passes through her at the echoes of Koshinawa Yuri's voice murmuring, Good girl.
I wanted to find you, she wants to say. I didn't know who you were, or why I cared, but I wanted to find you.
Neji touches her lightly on the shoulder, and her smile widens.
He understands her. He hears the things she doesn't say, she knows it. And for now, that's enough.