It's time to reclaim your life…
One breath at a time.
The first time you remember being another person—the greatest healer in the world—you are four years old, and your father’s blood is splattered across your face.
(but dad died by drowning)
As father and the enemy fight, you feel the warm droplets on your face begin to drip, slowly sliding down the childish curves of your face. You can ‘see’ the blood cells, and they are dying, drying due to exposure to the air, but your brain has stalled in the revelation that you are not in the body you knew for—for how long?
(you told them to stop putting numbers on the cake)
Father kills the enemy and disappears from sight. Someone picks you up and plops you back on the hard dirt-packed ‘floor’ so that you are no longer in full view of the tent entrance. Distantly, you register the sounds of battle coming from outside out of view, and it sounds like a war is going on.
(fools had come knocking)
A woman kneels in front of you and reaches out with a wet cloth. You barely flinch at her presence and do not move away as she wiped off father’s blood. Father brought you here because mother is dead and there was no one to keep you at home in the village—you understand that now. Father is father because he and mother were all that you knew with certainty while others were just passing faces.
(you had had a mom and dad, and currently had a dau—)
You gasp suddenly, and your heart thunders in your chest as you realize that you were nearly killed. If not for father intervening when he did—oh. He had been cut somewhere. He was hurt, bleeding. Dying?
(mom, an alleyway)
Something skitters in your chest, something as familiar as your own heartbeat—and yet at the same time as alien as the concept of this new body you are currently inhabiting.
(you can’t remember dying)
The queen kikaichu nestled inside you was a treasured part of you. Your colony was growing from her, numbering few due to your young age, and small and still-growing body. You could ‘see’ her, and the twenty-one other kikaichu currently harbored inside your body. Your Quirk, inactive until just moments ago, could absorb them if you so desired, but—
You remember your new mother and father talking to you, explaining the nature of the relationship between the clan and their insects. You remember being held and educated and told to nurture the colony inside you. She was, and he is, and you are—
Father could be dying, but you don’t know where he has gone (he is not Dad but he is still Father). You don’t think it’s wise to go and look for him, not when the terrible cacophony of raging battles has yet to stop. Your view of everything is tinted by the sunglasses on your face, the last gift from your Mother before she didn’t come home. Everything around you seems disproportionally large because of your small stature, and it still hasn’t really sunk in that you are four years old again (and yet not, because when you were truly four, you lived in modern Japan in the age of Quirks).
Flinching when something tears through the material of the tent’s top to strike the ground, you hug your knees as you stare at the sharp knife-like object now sticking out of the ground. You barely have time to note the smoking paper sticking to it when the woman is back, completely taking up your field of vision as her arms wrap tightly around you.
(someone’s back, arms outstretched, a woman, you know her but you can’t recall her name)
Then there is a terrible explosion full of light and deafening noise, and the woman holding you is thrown by force, taking you with her through the wall of the tent. Coughing as your ears ring, you wheeze as the full weight of the woman settles over your body. Pushing is futile as she’s too heavy for you to move. She is mostly covered from head to toe in clothes, but the blast has burned away quite a bit. Struggling to reach your small arms around her, the tips of your fingers brush burnt flesh.
You ‘see’ that she is dead, but it has been a long time (hasn’t it?) since you have meekly accepted that death has taken someone from your grasp. Pressing the tips of your fingers against her, you force the body to restart—
But something is still missing. You make her heart beat, her lungs breathe, and her brain active, but there is a missing piece, something new that wasn’t needed last time (in an age of Quirks, in a world without shinobi). The memories of your new lifetime flash by and suddenly you know the answer: chakra. This woman died and her chakra pathways emptied upon her death. Your brow furrows because you don’t know how to manipulate chakra, or know if or how you can transfer chakra to her.
Stymied by your lack of knowledge—it’s strange, because you’ve never had to truly know before in order to pull someone out of death’s grip—you let your fingers slip away from her flesh. The air you forced into her body leaves with in a stale sigh. Frustrated, you struggle to escape her weight, wriggling fiercely until at last you are free.
(you think she tried to protect you but you can’t remember if she succeeded)
You don’t relax as the sounds of battle have yet to stop. Danger isn’t far away from this place. At least the camp seems to be free of conflict for the moment, though you don’t know if it will stay that way. You doubt it will, considering that the tent just blew up and just moment before that, Father was fighting off an enemy right there.
What kind of place is this? Why is a child so close to this kind of danger? Father, bringing your only child here just because you couldn’t find a babysitter seems a little extreme. Even you tried to keep ____—
Your thoughts freeze as you deliberately turn away from the thought of her. Even now, you don’t want to think of her.
(the poor replacement, the mistake, the unfortunate, the imprisoned bird—)
Not knowing where to go, you dither in place, wanting to find somewhere to hide, but not knowing where the nearest safest place is. If only ____ was here, then at least you wouldn’t be afraid of projectiles coming out of nowhere and snuffing your life.
(who is ____ ?)
The kikaichu skittered in response to your distress, reminding you that you are now an Aburame, part of a clan of insect users. Clutching a hand over your chest, you frown behind the high collar your father dressed you in. You are too young to really use your kikaichu partners in any meaningful way, mostly because you don’t have much in the way of chakra yet.
But you were the leader of the ____ __ ____ and the ____ who held the world hostage whether the world knew it or not, and your original parents taught you to be vicious about your self-preservation long before the thought even crossed ____’s mind.
(a different person, a woman, the same one with arms outstretched, but what is her name?)
You look back at the dead woman and see material for harvesting.
You call out two kikaichu, and you stifle a surprised sob as they break through your skin to crawl down your arm and onto your palm. Your jacket is loose-fitting and dangles down to your knees, while beneath it you are wearing loose t-shirt. There is more than enough room for your kikaichu to break out of any spot if you needed them to. Holding back tears, you suddenly don’t want them anymore, but neither can you bring yourself to absorb them as that seems much too final. Deciding to take advantage of the broken skin, you call out a third, and soon the pain is already a fading memory.
(you weren’t accustomed to pain back then)
The three kikaichu crawl over to the back of your hand as you place it against the woman’s exposed back. Her neurons were dead, as expected due to the lack of oxygen since her death just minutes prior. Her organs were in the beginning stage of decomposition. Without blood flow and nothing to slow or prevent cell death, her organs would be lost within the hour. But you don’t need her organs, as to have them go missing would be suspicious if someone did an autopsy on her. No, you just needed some of her blood to reshape the three kikaichu and give them a means of delivering the venom you’ve just made.
(anything alive, anything that could be made within a living body)
In less than two minutes, the three transformed kikaichu scuttle back up your sleeve to hide near your wrist. They are fatter with stronger wings, new stingers, and increased flexibility. They all carry the same venom, appropriated from the blue-ringed octopus in your previous life.
(a favorite for when you wanted to be lethal, first appropriated when ____ brought you one and pinned it so that you could touch it without being stung)
Armed now, you ran away from the dead woman to hide in the brush at the base of a tree. It wasn’t a particularly clever hiding spot, but surely better than just staying out in the open. Curling into yourself, you breathed shallowly in an attempt to further hide yourself.
There, you waited for the battle to end and for Father to come back.
(you remember Mom and Dad but not their names or even their faces, just the nebulous fact that you did have them, the faint memory that you did love them)
Amazingly, somehow you actually manage to fall asleep. Considering that you were both nearly slain and caught in an explosion, you blame exhaustion, both mental and physical, for you falling asleep so close to a battlefield.
(you died but you didn’t stay dead and you can’t remember the faces or names of the people you loved)
The sounds of battle are fainter, so you take that to mean that fighting is either more distant or petering out. Peering through the shrubbery, you can see activity in the camp, but you are unsure as to whether they are friendlies so you stay where you are. You don’t see Father, so you aren’t going to risk exposing yourself to people who may not be allies.
(you died and you forgot and you don’t want that again)
Straightening your skewered sunglasses, you take stock of your kikaichu and are relieved to find them all accounted for, including the three you mutated. There was a birth while you slept, and now you have twenty-three kikaichu total, though that included the queen.
…There is a tick in your hair, swollen with your blood. Annoyed, you melt it away, and the blood it drank leaves a small damp spot in your hair. You hate ticks, mosquitoes, and any other blood-suckers out there.
Resisting the urge to stretch your cramped limbs, you wonder where Father is and when he will be back. Mother is already dead, so Father is all you have left. You need him. He has to come back. You don’t know what you’ll do otherwise.
(you remember Mother and Father, Kazue and Teijo, but not what Mom and Dad were called)
Holding back the urge to cry, you scowled as you reminded yourself that you were a full-grown adult in mind if not body, and you were damn well going to act like it.
Although, come to think of it, didn’t ____ and ____ shield you from the business of living? They handled the nitty gritty stuff and you tended to live according to your whims, free of the responsibilities of most people. Didn’t you overhear ____ calling you a woman-child at least once? You’ve never actually been on your own for longer than a couple days, ever.
(why can’t you remember, you have to, you need to, you want to)
So really, even if you are mentally an adult, you still need Father to come back. You need him to teach you more about this place and about being an Aburame. You don’t know that you can actually manage your colony without someone to guide you through it. Living with your colony seems instinctual for the most part, but you have questions. You don’t want to have to ask the others at the compound. Everyone hides behind high collars, sunglasses, and solemn faces, including Father, but at least Father is your father.
Speaking of Father, you twitched as a bug landed on your hand. Glancing down, you saw that it was a kikaichu, but not one of your own. It scuttled around your hand before flying off, unaware that you very nearly absorbed it.
Less than three minutes later, you flinch as Father suddenly appears near the shrubs in a swirl of leaves. Crouching down and peering through the leaves, he called your name.
You crawled out to meet him.
(you don’t remember your own name)
Father looked you over before taking you back to camp. He did not pick you up, but then again, he might need his hands in case of attack. You did not allow yourself the childishness of clinging to his jacket.
(you were an adult, you remember that much)
The camp itself was in tatters. Only the one tent seemed to have been blown up, so that’s probably why you didn’t wake up after falling asleep. According to what the adults are talking about, the attack on the camp had been driven off for now. Camp would be relocated, with the medical tent being a priority.
Father came to a stop near the woman who shielded you and died for it. His face had no expression.
“I do not know her name.”
Come to think of it, you didn’t either. She died to protect you, but you don’t know her name.
(their names, a disservice, horrifying, weren’t they as your limbs, integral to your life)
“I will ask later. We will pay our respects.”
You nodded solemnly. You owed her at least that much.
(your friends, you remember that, there were five, six, more, less?)
The rest of the day was a blur of activity as camp was deconstructed and moved quite a distance away. You’ve never been able to accurately judge distance, so you trust Father’s words when he tells you camp was moved six kilometers to the southeast. Once you arrive, you are left in the medical tent while the rest of camp is being set up.
Sitting alone on the ground, you listened to the pained sounds coming from the few patients in the tent. There were a couple of nurses—no, medical-nin in the tent, but they were preoccupied with someone in the corner who appeared to have some kind of gut wound. Wiggling your toes in your sandals, you fiddled with one of your morphed kikaichu. Instead of lethal venom, change its properties so that it’s the painkiller you made based on the venom of the Chinese red-headed centipede…
(someone helped you)
You directed your kikaichu to fly over to the loudest patient that wasn’t the one being treated. You had it inject a payload into the patient’s neck, causing them to let out a small yelp and smack your kikaichu. You scowled as you lost the connection to your kikaichu. Lesson learned, you supposed. Still, at least it delivered the venom. Mister Groan Pitifully should be feeling the effects relatively soon.
Strangely, you do wish he wasn’t wiping your kikaichu’s corpse across his filthy vest as he’s currently doing. It’s strange because why do you feel so strongly about an insect? It was useful, yes, but still just a bug.
…Is it an Aburame thing? It feels like an Aburame thing since you didn’t care about insects so much back when you were (____).
Yeah, let’s write these feelings off as ‘an Aburame thing’.
An annoyingly strong Aburame thing, you amended to yourself as you stood on a box next to the patient’s bed so that you could be seen staring at him in disapproval. At least, you tried to convey disapproval, but given your sunglasses and high collar, you don’t think you were getting your message across.
(you remember skin exposure, a faint memory of a wardrobe change)
“What do you want, kid?”
Clearly Mister Groan Pitifully isn’t getting the message you are trying to convey. You will have to resort to words.
“You killed my kikaichu. That was most ungrateful. I sent him to help you.”
He glared. “You sent that bug to bite me?!”
You continued your look of disapproval. “He did not bite you. He stung you.”
“Are you still in pain?”
(you were the best, the greatest, but you were a ____)
“Of course I’m still in pain!”
“Is it as bad as before my kikaichu stung you?”
He opened his mouth to retort before stopping as he seemed to realize something. He stared down at where his leg was wrapped in bloodied bandages.
“Erm… no. As a matter of fact, the pain is getting fainter by the moment.”
You nodded. “My kikaichu produced a venom to numb your pain.”
His head swung back to you. “Venom?!”
You scowled in scorn, though only your brows visibly furrowed to his sight. “It is primarily a painkiller. Notice that you still have ease of movement. Be advised, though, that it is only a painkiller. You are still injured, so don’t do anything foolish.”
(you would do it all at once to be done with it but here you are not what you were)
The man settled back down. “Alright.” He stared up at the tent’s ceiling. “So… you’re an Aburame then?”
You gave him a look of disdain that he completely missed. “What was your first clue?”
“Feisty little thing, aren’t you?” He glanced you up and down and apparently decided that you really were an Aburame. “Sorry about your bug.”
“He didn’t deserve to die after helping your ungrateful self.”
He winced. “Um, yeah, sorry again.”
You shook your head. “Next time, I will send them to bite where the patient cannot reach.”
“Ugh. Maybe you shouldn’t?”
You directed your sunglasses at him so that he was aware that you were staring.
“Then how else will I silence the whiners?”
He glared. “You try getting your leg mangled. See how you handle it.”
(there was a man with a Quirk that made a shield and he had blue hair)
You thought about it before sighing. “…Fine. I concede the point. I shall keep it in mind next time I see your injured self that you do not want the painkiller.”
He raised his hands. “Hey now, I didn’t say that. Come on kid, I’m grateful. Really.” He stared at you in curiosity. “Strange, though. I’ve never heard of an Aburame with kikaichu that could numb pain.”
You shrugged. “Mutations happen.”
(like Quirks, which didn’t always exist in your world)
Jumping down from the box and leaving the man to his thoughts, you shuffled back to your spot on the floor near the tent wall to think about what you just did. Clearly you are still reeling from the revelation of this new life because why else would you blatantly show off like that? Claiming responsibility for kikaichu that could produce venom that acts as a painkiller was an act of standing out. Standing out when you knew so little about this new place seemed like bad idea.
(you were raised to be afraid of cages and the greed of others)
Sitting down, you pondered how you were going to answer any questions directed your way about your ‘new’ kikaichu. Mutation seemed like a reasonable explanation, but what did you know about the Aburame’s insects? Perhaps that was too far from the norm to stick as an explanation. Also, how would you explain the lethal venom? Or anything else that you would probably do in the future?
(vaguely, you remember all that you could do but not those who helped you learn)
Slowly drumming your fingers against your knees, you asked yourself if you wanted to live. After Mom and Dad died, the only reason you didn’t commit suicide was because your friends were there to hold your hand (five or six, you can’t say with certainty). Here, in this new life, all you had was Father, and you had no idea how you got here or if your friends also died and came here as well. What if they did die and were reborn like you were? In order to find out, you would have to live.
(even if you don’t remember how old you were you know that you were all together for more than half your life)
Besides, lying down and dying doesn’t have any appeal. Even if this place is strangely violent, you can’t fathom not trying to survive if someone came at you with the intent to kill. It was one thing to not be strong enough or fast enough, but to not do anything? No, you don’t want to die again so soon if you can help it. At least, not until the mystery of this new body is solved.
Your memories of your last life are muddled, and you can’t even recall your final moments. Perhaps this was planned. Maybe your friends are somewhere here too. Until you know more, you will live.
You will continue to be Aburame Kaiya.
(the memories are out of reach, but if you keep trying you might succeed in reaching them, in remembering, and you want that so very, very much)
If you didn't remember something happening, was it because it never had happened? Or because you wished it hadn't?
~Jodi Picoult, Plain Truth