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Pink Carnations and Zinnia

Chapter Text

It's time to reclaim your life…
One breath at a time.

~Malebo Sephodi


Revelation

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—

Aburame.

(you died)


Afraid

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.


Dependency

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)


Name

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.

“Kaiya.”

(“(____).”)

You crawled out to meet him.

(you don’t remember your own name)


Difference

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’.


Aberration

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.”

“Same difference!”

“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)


Resolve

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

Chapter Text

Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

~André Malraux


Busted

Of course, as soon as the medical-nin move on to heal Mister Groan Pitifully, he rats you out when they ask how his pain levels are. You get scolded for using an untested venom on one of their patients, making you glad that you didn’t do the same for the rest. Pouting quietly, you obey after being ordered to provide a sample of the venom your kikaichu administered. It takes you a few seconds to change the payload of one of the lethal venom carriers, and then you have to order it to discharge into a test tube. The amount of venom from is pitifully small, and when asked for more you say that’s all you have at the moment. A lie, but one you say without remorse as you are unwilling to completely divest a means to defend yourself.

(you could touch her and produce as much as you took from her, but no, you mustn’t, remember Mom and Dad’s warnings that you had to hide what you could really do)

You are asked to provide more when you can, to which you nod silently. The medical-nin proceed to treat Mister Groan Pitifully, and you breathe a quiet sigh of relief when there is no negative reaction between their chakra and the venom in his veins. That would have been bad and might have required you to step in, so you are glad that nothing happened.

You sit quietly as the medical-nin continue treating their patients. There is no clock and you don’t have a watch, so you aren’t sure how much time passes before Father comes back for you, but there is a noticeable decrease in sunlight. He finally arrives at dusk without a sound and you realize that the medical-nin have also been walking around without making noise. That seems like a useful skill to have, and you wonder if you will learn it too.

(they taught you, Mom and Dad, and she taught you, that girl turned woman who moved with grace, and he tried to teach you, that boy with green hair, you are sure of that, but you would trade it all to remember their names)

“Come, Kaiya.”

“A moment, Aburame-san.”

Your mouth twisted as one of the medical-nin called out to your father. As she told him about your actions regarding your kikaichu and Mister Groan Pitifully, you struggled not to fidget in place. Displays of emotion were frowned upon among the Aburame, and Mother and Father both had been trying to instill stoicism in you even at your young age. In the end, she showed him the tiny amount of venom she collected from your kikaichu, saying that she would need more from you as soon as possible. In the end, Father didn’t answer her questions about why your kikaichu deviate from the common kikaichu most Aburame use, but he did say that he would permit the collection of the venom at a later date.

(your parents were paranoid, they moved for your sake, to ____ where you met ____, the boy with green hair)

Father left the tent and you walked beside him as best as your short legs would allow. He led you to a tent where you both received a meal of rations. You remembered that said rations tasted disgusting and you weren’t looking forward to eating. Still, it was what everyone else was getting, so you would eat them without much complaint. Father stopped between two tents and knelt before he started eating.

Following his example, you sedately consumed the rations, not quite managing to keep your sounds of disgust to yourself. ‘Choking down’ seemed like a more apt description than ‘eating’ when it came to meals during wartime. Shifting through your memories—trying to separate them from the deluge of decades you got from your previous life—you recalled that you and Father have been out of your village for almost three weeks now. Three weeks of these awful rations with no idea when your next decent meal will be… you silently hoped that next time Father would be able to find a babysitter for you.

(you were never really alone for long, not after finding them)

Father finished first and he waited until you took a couple gulps of water from the canteen you hadn’t really noticed on your person, being more preoccupied with your current development than with whatever was on your person. As you screwed the lid back on, he said your name and you looked up over at him. You silently begged him not to ask, but—

“Show me your kikaichu.”


Learning

You winced behind your collar, knowing that meant having to bring out at least one of the normal ones nesting inside your body. Biting your lip, you called out two kikaichu, flinching as the first broke through your skin. It was strange, because the wound itself barely bled before it closed up on its own, skin growing quickly over the exit point. Father didn’t need to point out that you had to hide your pain better, not after both he and Mother had already pointed out that point to you once each before. Neither repeated themselves very often, trusting that you were smart enough to remember their words and take them to heart. Didn’t stop it from hurting, though.

The drained kikaichu, the lethal kikaichu, and the two normal kikaichu skittered out from your sleeve and you directed them form a box formation on the back of your hand. Father leaned in closer to observe them and even though you couldn’t see his eyes due to his dark sunglasses, you knew his eyes were focused on the two that you had altered.

(anything alive you could take and reshape, remake, control entirely)

He leaned back. “When did you notice that your kikaichu had changed?”

“Recently.”

True enough. Today was ‘recently’.

“How did you become aware that your kikaichu’s venom was primarily a painkiller and not of the lethal variety?”

You frowned. “Um… I just know.” You pointed at the drained kikaichu and then at the lethal kikaichu. “The one with the shrunken abdomen had the painkilling venom. The one next to it has a lethal poison.”

Your father’s eyebrows rose.

(if they asked, you told Mom and Dad just about anything, and Father deserves the same because he is your father and even if he isn’t Dad, you already love him from the four years you didn’t remember there was anyone else that already had your love)

“Do you have an estimate of the lethality of its venom?”

You resisted the urge to shrug. “I think it would kill a normal person within approximately… a half hour, maybe less. Why? Because the venom will cause numbness, difficulty in breathing, and increasing muscular weakness.”

“Progressive,” he corrected. “’Progressive muscular weakness’.”

You nodded. “Progressive muscular weakness.” You pushed up your sunglasses. “The more venom that is injected, the stronger the symptoms will be.”

“The more severe symptoms will be.”

“Yes, Father. The more severe the symptoms will be, although the rate of death will vary depending on a victim’s size, in addition as to whether or not they have sufficient poison resistance methods, and there is also the factor of medical-nin to consider. Therefore, I cannot give you a more accurate estimation of the lethality of the venom. Also, I may be wrong. Why? Because I have never used the lethal venom before.”

(a half-truth, since you have never used it in this life)

Father nodded at your words. “I see.” He stared at the larger kikaichu now scuttling around the back of your hand. “Am I correct in assuming that the growth of these particular kikaichu and production of their venom is currently slow?”

You nodded. “Yes. My hive numbers only twenty-three, of which there are only one each of the venomous varieties. I had two which could inject the painkilling venom, but unfortunately one was slain by a patient in the medical tent after receiving an injection via my kikaichu’s stinger.”

Father’s glasses somehow managed to glint. “Did you ask permission prior to the injection?”

You hesitated. “…No.”

“I trust you have learned a lesson.”

It wasn’t a question, but yeah, you’ve already made note about how to potentially avoid further deaths of your kikaichu.

“Yes, Father.”


Dissimilarity

The questions went on, eventually leading to the lie that you currently had only two mature venomous varieties but had others which were still growing. Truthfully, since mutating them didn’t depend on chakra, you could remake them quickly, but since kikaichu have a maturation period (though it is a relatively quick one once a person has a more developed chakra system), coupled with the fact that you are a young child with an underdeveloped chakra system, it would be a couple days or so until you had more venomous kikaichu available to harvest from. Father didn’t really seem to question that fact that you had unique kikaichu, and you wondered why, though mostly you were grateful you didn’t have to come up with more lies on the spot.

(you lied and lead a double-life because it was easier to follow ____ and ____, but—)

Later, after taking care of nature’s call, Father led you to a tent where a few uncomfortable looking mats were laid out. There were already a couple bodies lying down, and it became clear to you that this was where you were going to sleep. Thinking about it, yes, this was how you had been sleeping since leaving the village on Father’s back. It wasn’t comfortable, and Father had to leave you alone every other night or so in order to take a night watch shift, but you didn’t complain because most everyone had similar sleeping conditions. At least Father was dangling you both from a tree using the Human Cocoon Technique.

Settling down on the same mat as Father, you felt somewhat awkward cuddling up to his side, but that was how Kaiya—that is, the you before your memories came back—slept whenever she could since they left the safety of home. Moreover, you did this sometimes even at home, especially after Mother died. And also…

Maybe it really was slightly comforting to be close to father, the only person you knew in this whole camp with any certainty.

(a spoiled child, a beloved child, an only child—only the latter two remain constant here)

You knew that if it got cold enough, Father’s kikaichu would come out and spread across you, a creepy-crawly blanket that was somehow more comforting than it was disgusting. A swarm of anything crawling all over you would have made the old you screech in disgust, but here as an Aburame, you are only grateful for them.

As an Aburame…

(you will try to not be what you were before)


Reality

You wake at dawn when Father’s kikaichu are slithering off of you and the rest of the tent’s occupants are getting up as well. This is normal, as is the routine Father escorts you through—nature’s call, breakfast rations, checking that you have two days’ worth rations on you in case of emergency, filling up your canteen, and dropping you off at the medical tent.

As Father disappears in a swirl of leaves, you can’t help but think to yourself that the medical tent would be a priority target in case the camp was attacked. Father no doubt knows that, yet he chooses to leave you there anyway. It might be attacked, yes, but there is no room for a child in the other tents. You are tolerated most easily in the medical tent and the supply tents, but he hates the idea of leaving you in the supply tents even more. At least in the medical tent there is a measure of supervision.

Yesterday’s tent had been one of the makeshift barracks, and you had ended up there after wandering away from the medical tent. It had seemed quiet enough, but then the forest had exploded in noise, and soon after an enemy had dropped into camp. His metal forehead protector had had lines that could generously be described as boulders. Father’s metal forehead protector has a leaf with a swirl in it. Father told you about those symbols, how you had to be extremely wary of anyone who lacked the symbol of the village.

“Konohagakure,” you murmured quietly, as though you’ve never said it before, though you know that you have. Remembering the name of the other village, you murmured its name next, “Iwagakure.”

You looked out the tent entrance and remembered more of Father’s words. There was a name for what was going on right now, for the bloody battles that have been happening for years, for the conflict that took your mother away.

“The Third Shinobi War.”

You huffed and headed further into the tent.

You have never lived through open conflict like this. Vaguely, you recall some of history, how there was upset in the advent of Quirks, but that had been before your time. Even after you were leader of the ____ __ ____, you were rarely involved in confli—

(fibres trapping your limbs against your body, glass and rubble on the floor, ____ tied to a chair, invaders lined up at the entrance, blurred faces)

You stumbled slightly, and mask it by abruptly sitting down and scuttling closer to the tent wall. Your left eyelid twitches at the sudden and incompletely memory. This… would be annoying, if it went on for much longer. What if Father asked you about your strange reactions to seemingly nothing? You certainly won’t tell him the truth. Stifling disgruntled grumbling, you hugged your knees and glowered at nothing.

You didn’t like being out here, or the fact that you now have all these half-forgotten memories, but there isn’t anything you can do about either of those things. The memories are here to stay, and war doesn’t end just because someone wishes it.

You’re stuck, and you know it.

(you hate it)


Arachnid

There are no further battles close to camp in the next couple of days.

(the memories do not become any clearer)

While Father is gone, you spend your time trying to rifle through your old memories, but the names remained blurred and no names came to you. Only the title ‘the greatest healer in the world’ was clear, and it made you feel uncomfortable because even at four, you knew of Tsunade-sama. She was hailed as the greatest medical-nin in the world, ergo, she was the greatest healer, not you. Plus, she was acknowledged as the strongest kunoichi too, and from what you can recall of your old memories, you were never physically strong. The doubts you have make you wonder if you ever really were acknowledged as ‘the greatest healer in the world’ in your previous life.

Sitting alone near the base of a tree, you idly pulled at some grass and melted it into your body, using it to reform two more kikaichu in addition to the six you already had. When the time came, you could only bring out four, two of each variety, but the other two would remain with you, and these new two would be something slightly different. Instead of a painkiller venom or a lethal venom, the venom in these two would attack the lungs, bursting millions of air sacs, eventually leading the victim to drown on land. It was from… erg, a spider.

(shrieking before you even touch it because it’s huge and ugly and you have to touch it with your bare hands)

A shiver ran down your back as the memory of a funnel-web spider from... from somewhere. Apparently even the names of places escape you, but that’s not news to you at this point.


Fear

Rubbing your arms to chase off the chills from thinking about huge spiders, you stood up and decided to report back to the medical tent with the four kikaichu you planned on showing. Currently they were handing around in your wide collar and had been since you called them out a day and a half ago. As much as you didn’t like spiders, you didn’t like the whole bursting from your skin thing your kikaichu did every time you summoned them out. Mother had reassured you that it wouldn’t hurt as much after you acclimated to it, but that still entailed having it happen repeatedly, which you weren’t looking forward to.

“Medical-nin-san,” you soon greeted, stopping a couple feet away from the first available medical-nin in the medical tent. Your kikaichu had migrated down to your forearm by then and you called them out onto the back of your hand. “I have more kikaichu ready.”

“’Medic-nin’ is the more common term,” she informed you. She nodded at the kikaichu crawling on your upheld palm. “Ah, good. Hold on a moment.”

As the medic-nin went to fetch a vial, you realized that they hadn’t asked for a sample of the lethal venom. You said as much to the medic-nin when they waved you over to a table, but she perked up and said she would like to collect a sample of that as well. Mentally shrugging, you decided to let her.

Watching your kikaichu deposit their venom into the two separate vials gave you a niggling feeling. You supposed it was the waste of it that was bothering you, so you told yourself that you literally could just make more right away. Something else you noted was that the lethal venom was just slightly darker than the painkiller venom. Not of much interest to you, but the medic-nin took special note.

Once the venom was depleted, she told you to come back when there was more. She returned to her work, leaving you standing there, so you turned and went back outside where there was grass you could fiddle with. Returning to the tree, you sat back down and idly ripped up grass and melted it into you. It was strange, because even though it went ‘into’ you, you couldn’t use it on yourself. Also, while you could save it in some parts of your body for future use, that part confused you because why could you keep it inside if it wasn’t part of you? Why didn’t it hurt traveling through you?

You never got answers, not really, because you refused the more invasive tests the _ _ _ group wanted to do on you. You only let them scratch the surface of your Quirk and that has finally come back to haunt you. Perhaps you would have understood this power more if you had let them… oh. Oh no.

You paled as sweat formed on your brow.

(your freedom)

In your previous life, your word was law. But here? Here, there was no guarantee of your rights, no guarantee that you wouldn’t be strapped down to a table and cut open to examine. Would the village breed you if they found out your Quirk was passable to your children?

(a warmth in your arms that you resented)

Wait, was it passable in this life? There was a chance it was, and if that was discovered…

No. You won’t go quietly. You won’t go meekly.

You refuse.

(some things are too ingrained)


Renamed

You clenched your small hands as your stomach churned. No. No, you won’t let them get away with that. You know that you’re weak, that you’re small, that you’re young and under your father’s care, so it’s entirely possible that you could be forced to do something against your will. You don’t want that. You hate the thought of it.

But you don’t have any friends or subordinates. There were… two of the blurred faces in charge of that, weren’t there? And one of them had more responsibilities when it came to the… the ____, the diseases you made to keep yourself and the rest of them out of captivity.

Your fingers twitch against the grass as you remember the ____ and what they did, but not what they were called.

One made the infected euphorically happy until they dropped dead.

Another attacked the body’s organs for each Quirk use, which may be useless in this life as you can’t recall enough of a diversity in powers to be certain that Quirks existed here as well.

The third marred the victim’s skin and made the body reject oxygen, drowning them on land.

Another deformed its victims, resizing random body parts until the heart gave out, but you remember seeing at least one shinobi who could do something similar, so maybe that disease was also useless.

One hardened the victim’s body from the outside in, turning them into statues not unlike that mythical monster with snakes for hair.

Yet another liquefied the body’s organs until the victim spewed or leaked blood from all body orifices.

The last deteriorated the brain starting with memories before moving on to motor function, eroding a victim’s dignity as it inexorably ruined the brain beyond repair or saving.

Slow in comparison to how quickly these shinobi killed, but all were contagious. Mentally, you struck the Quirk inhibitor and the limb resizer from the list of possible use. That left you with five, two of which could theoretically be overlooked until it was too late, those being the ones that made the victims happy or attacked the brain. Of the five, the one that hardened people was slowest as it takes the body up to four to five weeks to kill the infected. The one that drowned victims on land was fastest, and the one that liquefied organs was the messiest.

The one that made victims nearly delirious with joy was directly injected into a body and transferred via saliva. You modified a single kikaichu to have a stinger that would deliver the bacteria to multiple people. Since you couldn’t remember its original designation, you renamed it ‘Joy’.

The disease that attacked the brain was airborne, so you made a kikaichu that held a minute amount of what you knew was a smoke-like substance that was yellow in color. This one you would call ‘Decline’.

The one that turned people to stone… ah. It starts as a liquid, harmless, thus it requires fire to become active and is then airborne. A kikaichu is made, one you know that, if you need it, will die as it finds the nearest fire source with people nearby. This one you will name ‘Harden’. ‘Stone’, your first preference, would just make people think of Iwagakure.

(moving images of faraway places, a match, someone trying to apologize—)

As for the disease that suffocated people, it was meant for delivery via water, and you remade three kikaichu to carry it. They would separate and expel their payloads in the nearest water sources and die. This one you would call ‘Drown’. No, wait, the one that fills the body with blood could also be called that, so instead… ‘Block’.

The last, the one that would liquefy organs and fill the body with excess blood, this too was one that needed fire as a catalyst. Two kikaichu would be assigned this task. You would call it ‘Blood’.

Okay, so you weren’t imaginative when it came to naming things, but the names aren’t that important.

Closing your eyes, you sensed the newly remade kikaichu scuttling beneath your skin in different parts of your body. Seven different kikaichu, plus the four venomous ones… almost half of your living kikaichu were now mutated.

You really hoped Father wouldn’t ask you how many kikaichu you had.

Oh, wait, speaking of him, what will you do to make him immune to the Sev—Five, the Five. More importantly, since kikaichu help remove poison from an Aburame’s body, will you even be able to make Father immune without his hive and thus himself noticing? You have to, somehow.

Because you don’t want Father to die.

(not like them, like Mom and Dad, like Mother who isn’t here anymore)

You don’t want him to die.

(it’s too late and you already love him)


I know a secret, and secrets breed paranoia.

~Simon Holt, The Devouring

Chapter Text

You’ll never be able to find yourself if you’re lost in someone else.

~Colleen Hoover, November 9


Landscape

People talk in the camp, sometimes quietly, but not quietly enough. You don’t intentionally set out to overhear people’s conversations, it simply happens when the shinobi are too tired to fully check their surroundings, and they don’t notice your small presence sitting near their tent or somewhere close by. You overhear graphic descriptions of the deaths of people considered friends or allies, and even of how some took revenge. This war you’ve found yourself in is waged by people with the ability to use ‘jutsu’, something you only have a bare understanding of due to your young age.

Iwa shinobi often use Earth-based jutsu, and you hear of Konoha shinobi being pulled underground or crushed by slabs of earth. Those particular stories make you afraid of the ground and make you wish that you could jump and walk on trees like the rest of the people in camp seemingly can.

Still, that line of thought makes you realize something that’s been sitting at the edge of your thoughts ever since you first ripped up grass in your small hands: your surroundings are alive. No longer do towers of glass and steel rise high, nor is the ground beneath your feet a lifeless grey. You have a connection to the world that you didn’t have in the life before.

Crouched in the shadow of a tent, you splay one hand against the grass and ‘look’. In your immediate view are the stalks of grass pressing against your skin, but reaching out, you begin to see the grass overlaying or touching the immediate ones, and below are the tiny roots stretching out in every direction. Closing your eyes, the world shrinks down to what you can ‘see’, and carefully you expand that small area.

(bodies alive beneath your hand, thrumming with life, every inch visible and known, yet out of reach of your ability to describe)

In your previous life, an adult human’s arteries, capillaries and veins could, when laid end-to-end, stretch about 60,000 miles. Of course, Arteries, capillaries and veins are relatively thin and tiny, so translating that over to the area you could see was much, much less. However, by keeping focus on your ‘sight’, you could sense surrounding flora from grass and bushes to the towering trees. Not that you could sense high into the trees, though, nor can you ‘see’ the whole camp area.

Cutting off your vision and lifting your hand from the grass to wipe your hands together, you quietly mused on what you just experienced. Nature was made up of living things, but previously, your surroundings were made up of nonliving material. Comparing the two places, it was as though you had spent your previous life in a wasteland, only you hadn’t noticed because it was ‘normal’. Now, surrounded by grass and trees, you could hardly imagine how you had been able to tolerate it before.

Standing up, you shoved your hands into your pockets and stood there.

(figures in your memories, flitting through your mind, blurred, voiceless, nameless)

…You could tolerate living in a wasteland, though, if it meant remembering the faces and names you’ve forgotten. Yes, a barren landscape would be a fair price to pay for your memories.

Besides, if you somehow went back there, you could always just move out to the countryside.


Emotion

Father is apparently typical of an Aburame. He shows no expression on his face while you two are in the camp, but you can remember that there are times when he would smile, if only slightly. From what you can remember, Mother was the same. In fact, all Aburame that you’ve seen in these four short years have all been the same. You are expected to be the same. Your parents have already taught you how to shunt your emotions into your kikaichu. It is expected that you will continue to do that until it is automatic and constant, that no emotion will show on your face, especially to outsiders.

You can’t imagine it.

(you can’t hear them, but you know they were lively, nearly every single one of them)

There are vague feelings of great unhappiness in the memories of your previous life, but you get the impression that you had not been one to keep a calm face. You must have laughed and cried and shouted. You were not a kunoichi nor an Aburame back then. Emotion was something you had been allowed to express.

Four years isn’t enough to undo a lifetime of expressing yourself.

(facing you, they react, though you don’t remember why or even what you probably said)

It rankles, the thought of being expected to be emotionless. Even now, your small hands curl up as your teeth clench. Why can’t you be allowed to smile when you are happy, or cry when you are sad? Is it because you are expected to be a kunoichi, or because you are an Aburame? Is it a mix of both? Either way, you don’t like it.

…And yet, the thought of Mother and Father smiling and laughing is… unnerving. And thinking that Father might shed tears that you could see is terrifying to contemplate.

Aburame are stoic. Aburame are calm and reliable.

(the sensation of discomfort that comes from crying, from screaming, vague remembrance of regrets, shame and guilt)

You don’t like the thought of being expected to be unemotional, but being in control of yourself does sound at least somewhat attractive.


Beloved

A few more days pass before the memories of your previous life stop popping into your head with distracting frequency. It was easier to control them if you thought of them as being locked inside a box in your mind. You couldn’t leave them in there forever, but for now you don’t want to think about it more than you already have.

(you lived another life, and somehow your Quirk from then has followed you here)

More importantly, Father is due to return to camp today. He’d left on patrol two days ago, leaving you in the general care of the camp. The medic-nin were the ones who most often to check on you, though you highly suspect that it’s due to the venom they want to keep collecting from you. They haven’t tested the painkiller yet as the environment is not controlled enough for their tastes, so they were collecting it in the meantime to stock up for tests. The medic-nin made sure you haven’t starved or gotten dehydrated, which is apparently good enough for a child in a wartime camp. Regardless, the four year-old you were was looking forward to his return.

The adult’s memories you had made you wonder why you were looking forward to his return, but you shoved that thought away. Four years was more than enough time for you to have grown attached to your father, even if your previous life’s memories tried to disagree with that notion.

It was strange and frustrating, having two conflicting opinions that were both yours and yet not completely. After all, you were four right now, not whatever age you had been when you died. You were an Aburame and your father was an Aburame, and you remember being affectionate in a subdued yet no less precious sort of way. The adult you had been insisted that Father wasn’t Dad, that it was wrong to love him too, but you have come to the decision that no matter what happened in your previous life, you love Father now too.

You don’t remember Mom and Dad’s faces or what they sound like, and even though you still love them, you have already made room in your heart for Mother and Father. Mother is dead, but she still occupies a space in your heart, and Father is still alive so you love him in that desperate way children love a parent they know they might lose.

After all, this war has already taken Mother, and it’s not too far-fetched that it might take him too.

You don’t want to have to live with the guilt that will come from trying to distance yourself from him only to have him taken from you too. Why would you do that to yourself? You don’t want to do that to yourself.

So when Father returns, you hold his hand and welcome him back.


Carried

In the dead of night, the ground rumbles.

Before you are even awake, you feel your body leave the ground. Breathless for a moment, you suddenly find yourself on Father’s back and he is telling you to hold on. You try, and as the camp bursts into a flurry of movement, sound and explosions, his arms leave you to hang on by your own strength.

Clenching your eyes shut as your stomach drops more than once, you hear the sounds of battle. The clanging of kunai and swords, the roar of fire, shouts of hatred, cries of pain, the skittering of Father’s kikaichu—it is a living nightmare, and those are only the sounds. If you opened your eyes, what would you see?

Father’s body is moving swiftly, and sometimes his upper body jerks hard. You know that if you fall, you may very well die, so your small hands clench his trench coat with what little strength you possess.

The disorientating cacophony seems to stretch on for hours, yet in reality only minutes have passed. Father’s battle has moved into the trees, and you can hear the rush of leaves passing by.

“Aburame-san!”

“Kaiya.”

At the sound of Father’s voice and his arm reaching behind his back for you, your grip loosens, and suddenly you find yourself under someone’s arm. Struggling, you look up in time to see Father spare you a glance before he turned and leapt back in the direction you had just come from.

“Father!”

Your pleading cry is ignored by both him and the person he handed you off to, and all too quickly he is gone from sight. Your new carrier is on the move as well, so the distance between you two only grows wider. You want to struggle but that would be unwise.

All you can do is try not to choke on your own helplessness.


Underestimated

It isn’t very long before your new carrier suddenly drops to the ground and sets you down. He thrusts a palm at you to remain silent as he tensely gazed at the surroundings, two more Konoha shinobi dropping down near him. They are all looking around warily, perhaps sensing something you don’t.

It’s a shock when one of them abruptly dies, blood spraying from a decapitated neck.

You are shoved back into a tree by the medic-nin as the area explodes in motion. The violence that follows is too fast for you to track with your eyes, at least until it’s just one Konoha shinobi against two unknown assailants while four others drop down from the trees to watch. You don’t know the Konoha shinobi, but you can tell that he is losing the fight one way or another. He will die, just like the medic-nin who had been holding you only moments prior.

Desperately, you shove your hands into the grass and reshape eighteen of your kikaichu, but instead of venom from the blue-ringed octopus, a small box-shaped jellyfish sprung to mind.

In a flash of movement, the Konoha-nin launches a kunai at your head. The only reason you don’t die is because one of the enemy deflects it. Most of the enemy laugh and then he is hitting the ground, dead from a kunai from behind.

(he tried to spare you what he feared would come)

From one moment to the next, you are suddenly alone as the shinobi you had been entrusted to lay dead on the forest floor. Frozen in place, you can only stare when the attackers all face your direction. Four leave immediately, stating that they don’t have time to play around. That still left you with two as half of the eighteen scuttled from your sleeves and into the grass.

Moonlight breaks through the clouds, and you can see the Iwagakure headbands across their foreheads.

One says they can’t take too much time with you, but the other is already angry for some reason. The angry one tells you that Konoha killed his little brother, so it’s only fair that he kills Konoha’s children in return. It might not be your fault, but you will still bear the burden of the sins of your village.

He intends to make you suffer.

Luckily for you, even though they’re small, kikaichu can quickly cover a lot of ground.

The Iwa-nin scream when your kikaichu first sting with box jellyfish venom.

They scream louder when your kikaichu keep stinging.


Escape

The venom will kill them within the hour, and with all the noise they’re making, you don’t want to stick around in case their friends come back.

With their payloads only half-delivered, your kikaichu fly back to you as you scramble to your feet and away from the scene. From behind, you hear the Iwa-nin cursing you in cracked voices.

As you run, you slide your hands against the trees and flora you pass, morphing anything you touch from its form into small puffs of yellow or red smoke—Harden and Blood, bypassing the normal catalyst of fire.

You don’t know how long you run or how far you get, but eventually you trip not long after clouds cover the moon, and you fall hard, nearly knocking the breath from your lungs. Panting and sweating, you scramble backwards until your back hits a tree.

You can’t hear anything over the frantic beating of your heart.


Hide

The camp was attacked.

The shinobi you had been with are dead.

You are alone, and you don’t know where Father is.

Hell, you don’t even know where you are right now. Where is the village from here?

Wandering around without a clue as where to go is just a death sentence.

Shivering, you huddle against the tree, shifting so that your right side was pressing against it. The night is colder without the tent and Father’s kikaichu around you. It’s not that cold, so is this summer? The nights are short, so they support that hypothesis. Night won’t cover you for long, then.

But you still don’t know where to go.

You have to hide, but where?

You try to think of where to go, of where to hide, but slowly, your attention turns to the tree right next to you. Placing a hand against its bark, you can ‘see’ it.

You can shape it.

Before moonlight can break through the clouds again, you disappear into the trunk of a tree that now has more leaves at its top and deeper roots below. A thin shaft stretching upwards and opening like a squirrel’s den in the branches above provides air to the small round room you’ve created. Closing the tree trunk behind you and curling up in the limited space, you hope that this hideout will not be discovered.

Two female kikaichu slip out from the shaft and go in opposite directions, nearly to the edge of your limited reach. The scent they give will lead Father to you, or at least another Aburame if they pass close by. The females hide beneath leaves and wait.

Thinking of them and yourself, you can almost laugh.

Instead, you shunt your feelings into your hive and wearily close your eyes.

If a whimper crosses your lips, no one is around to hear it.


Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies.

~Yoko Ono, Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings

Chapter Text

Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever.

~Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


Skittish

You aren’t sure how much times passes, but by the time your bodily urges can no longer be ignored, Father’s kikaichu have yet to find the females you’ve sent out. Remembering the scary Iwa-nin who killed the Konoha shinobi you had been with, before exiting the tree, you open a small crack and let the eighteen modified kikaichu head out to scout the immediate area.

Fidgeting slightly, you wait as patiently as you can while waiting for them to report back. It feels like forever before one returns and lands on the finger you hold out for it. Before Mother left and never came home again, she had told you that someday you would be able to understand ‘words’ from both your kikaichu and any insects with vision. For now, though, all you got from your kikaichu was that there were no humans in the vicinity.

You were somewhat dubious of the reliability of insects to scout an area, but unless you wanted to urinate in your hiding place, then you had to step out. The reporting kikaichu buzzed over to your high collar as you placed a hand against the tree trunk and manipulated it into opening. Fresh air washed over you as you froze, waiting to see if there would be a reaction to the tree soundlessly splitting open.

When no one dropped into sight, you let out a shaky breath. Cautiously, you slid forward and peered around and the up towards the tree branches above. There… didn’t seem to be anyone, as reported. Still, that didn’t make your fear go away completely.

Doing your business about four trees away, you were quick to finish up and head back towards your sanctuary. Climbing back into the tree, the seventeen other kikaichu returned to you as you sat down and closed the trunk behind yourself.

You stared at the dappled sunlight shining from above before you were once more encased in darkness.


Dread

When Teijo arrived at the fallback point, the first thing he did after reporting his presence was to ask about his daughter and the shinobi he’d sent her off with. His expression remained blank as he was informed that that team hadn’t arrived. Teijo and the two other shinobi he’d been with were the latest arrivals, and considering that they had hung back as a delay tactic, the others should have arrived before them. Either they retreated to another Konoha camp or something happened.

Kaiya.

Teijo nodded and walked off, finding a spot to eat and drink water, resting from his tiring retreat. As he did so, he thought back to the moment he’d handed off his only child to one of his allies. The medic-nin would surely have tried their best to get Kaiya to safety, if only because the venom his daughter’s kikaichu produced was almost startlingly effective. Teijo had been approached regarding the painkilling venom, how it really did work with minimal to no side-effects. Kaiya would have been valuable for that alone.

Of course, Teijo wouldn’t have cared if she’d been in possession of only common kikaichu—she mattered to him simply for being his daughter.

‘Forgiveness’. Kazue forgave him.

Were she and the others dead? If possible, he would like to go back and check. Unfortunately, if they were dead, they wouldn’t be the first Konoha shinobi to be left to rot where they fell. True, Konoha did try to make sure bloodline holders were found and cremated, but Aburame corpses could be left as they were since those hives would die out rather than burrow into a new non-Aburame host.

Teijo clenched a fist at the thought of his daughter lying dead somewhere.

Like her mother had been.

Closing his eyes in grief, Teijo hoped that if she really was dead then that her death had been swift.

He knows that not even children are spared some horrors of war. He just hopes his Kaiya didn’t suffer too much.


Discomfort

Your water canteen is half-full, and for food you’ve been making baby carrots from the tree around you. In regards to the water situation, you know you’ll have to go out in search of a water source eventually. You’ll probably move to a new tree when you do, to be closer to it and to cut back on time you’d have to spend out in the open.

…Filling this area with a fog of paralytic smoke would probably be all but broadcasting someone is here, huh? Same with pods that burst, or any other flora that isn’t naturally present. Plus, someone might just burn down this whole area if you do make dangerous traps everywhere. You doubt you’d be able to outrun a forest fire, and you burn just as easily as any other normal person.

Your kikaichu eat at your chakra even as you sit in the dark, the most prevalent sound being their skittering and occasional rustling of wings. Another kikaichu was born, and you leave it in its base form since those are currently in the minority.

There are no words for how strange it is to be reminded that your body is a hive. Something terrible in you wants to claw at your skin and dig them out, and the only thing stopping you is the knowledge that you could get rid of them at literally any time without having to claw yourself up. How does being a living hive even work? Where does your missing flesh go?

Shuddering, you shove away that line of thought and shift so that you can hug your knees.

You hope someone friendly finds you soon.


Optimistic

Two days later, a Nara and his team arrive at camp. He brings a body scroll, saying his team found three dead Konoha shinobi on their way here. Someone calls Teijo to have a look at them, and something in him curls up in fresh grief at the sight of the familiar medic-nin. He asks if they found the body of his daughter as she had been with this group the night the camp was attacked.

Nara Reo tries to hide a grimace, but he’s not entirely successful. Regretfully, he and his team did not see a young body. However, they did find two deceased Iwa-nin who seem to have died from either a strange jutsu or poison, given that there were no visible injuries on them.

Teijo perks up, though gives no visual clue about how he feels. That sounds like the work of Kaiya’s new kikaichu. Perhaps she got away and is still alive somewhere in the forest.

Maybe there is still hope after all.


Resource

Whenever you get the urge to try finding your own way back to village, you remind yourself of three things: one, there is a war going on, two, you don’t have the foggiest idea of which direction to even go on, and three, you are unlikely to survive contact with an enemy who strikes first instead of ‘playing’ around. Leaving your new hideout for a long period of time was most likely to just get you killed.

You don’t want to die again so soon, not if it can be helped.

So to distract yourself you focus on ‘seeing’ the whole tree from the leaves on top to where the roots end down beneath the ground. There is a squirrel nest in this tree, much higher up than where you are, tucked inside the trunk. The squirrel in question is on one of the upper branches doing something with its tail. It is a female, young, and hasn’t had a litter yet. As you watch, she stops stroking her tail and dashes off, leaping off a branch and out of your ‘sight’.

There are bugs in the tree, normal ones. There are caterpillars eating leaves, beetles crawling around, and leaf miners eating away at, of course, leaves. The leaf miners are the most interesting thing since they leave behind blank spots that form dead patterns in your ‘sight’.

Ah, you should probably do something constructive rather than trying to find ways to make time pass quickly. Your kikaichu, while versatile, are limited in material they could provide you in an emergency. Plus, it’s a pain to have to wait for them to replenish their numbers since the queen has to do it at a slow pace or risk killing you by chakra exhaustion.

…Hey, didn’t Father mention that someday you would be able to do that to your opponents? After all, kikaichu weren’t limited to just eating their hosts chakra. Oh, that sounds really useful. Could you make your kikaichu to be able to store up that stolen chakra for you to use? That’s something to think about. For later, though, since your immediate goal is to return to the village alive. Hopefully Father is okay and will be able to return as well.

Anyway, back to the biological material limit your kikaichu represent. If they’re too limited, why not just do something with all the biological material around you? Mold a paste or something next to your skin. That way you can keep it fresh and have a supply on hand. Plus, with your baggy clothing, you can hide it easily, right?

Yeah, that’s what you’re going to do.


Temptation

Left alone for who knows how long, boredom battles with fear, but even you can’t be afraid all the time, especially since you haven’t seen anyone since that night. You think someone passed by one of your female kikaichu hiding beneath a leaf, but it could have easily been a squirrel or a bird or whatever. Heck, if it weren’t for your kikaichu in here with you, you’d probably be hallucinating or something. As it is, while your kikaichu can’t talk, they keep you from feeling lonely and from losing your mind.

You still want human company, though. Not close to you, but in the vicinity would be nice. It’s one thing to be alone with people around, but something else entirely to be alone in the middle of nowhere. You don’t think that’s healthy.

More importantly, though, with the lack of people and nothing else to do, you are becoming dangerously interested in opening that box of memories again. A part of you is trying to convince you that trying to make sense of those memories would be something to do to help pass the time, but most of you doesn’t want to go through having faded memories running through your head again.

Curling against the tree trunk, you huddle alone and wonder if anyone will ever find you.

If this keeps up, you really won’t have any other choice but to leave and try to find your own way.


Arrivals

There is a small river close to your new hiding spot. You left a new organic there that would collect water it purified from its surrounding, sort of like a semi-transparent, whitish balloon attached to a thin vine. It had ‘legs’ that you could move when you clutched the vine part of it. Using that, you could make it crawl into the water out of sight and cling to a rock to stay there until you made it let go so you could pull it in. With it, you felt better about drinking water from there.

Due to the close water source, you kept out other kikaichu to keep an eye on things. You had hoped no one besides an Aburame would come because you didn’t exactly have a way to identify people from your hiding spot. But, when one of your kikaichu returned to report the arrival of several people on the riverbank, you nibbled on your lip before deciding on a course of action.

You sent out sixteen of the eighteen box jellyfish venom kikaichu to put the new arrivals out of commission and find out which headbands they wore, if they had them. If they were civilians, well, that was their bad luck. Right now, you were only interested in sparing Konoha shinobi since you weren’t entirely sure who were the allies of the village. Iwa was solidly on your enemy list, though.

Waiting for your kikaichu to report back, you breathed in and out as evenly as you could manage. If they were anything other than Konoha-nin, you were going to make them into biological paste (mainly for getting rid of the bodies than anything else), but if they were Konoha-nin…

Well, you’d apologize and have your ‘kikaichu’ heal them up from the jellyfish venom stings. You’d have to move fast, though, so moved to crouch on your feet, ready to reach out to open the trunk and get out. As you waited, you remembered that in a fit of boredom you had changed the appearance of the deadly kikaichu.

You wondered if any of the strangers on the riverbank were wondering if they were going to die because of a bunch of ladybugs.


Being lost isn't the same as being nowhere. Being lost is worse because there's the false hope that you might be found.

~Paul Tremblay, The Little Sleep

Chapter Text

We have to distrust each other. It's our only defense against betrayal.

~Tennessee Williams


Instantly

Nara Reo and his teammates did not let their guard down as they stopped to refill their canteens. There was a chance that something had been dumped into the small river, but a quick diagnostic by his Yamanaka teammate revealed that the water was safe to drink. They did not dawdle by the water, but somehow it was still long enough that something or someone attacked them.

It happened to all three near simultaneously. One moment they were getting ready to jump back into the canopy to keep moving, and the next both he and Kouki were brought to their knees in sudden blistering pain originating from their feet. Their Akimichi companion, Youta, also displayed expressions of great pain before he too was brought to his knees.

“My heels,” he rasped.

Reo understood as his own feet were also the origin points of this unexpected pain. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before. Not even poisons had affected him this much, and he knows that his friends have also gone through poison training. He’s never come across a poison like this before, not in nature or by the hands of man.

He can’t breathe.

When Reo falls to the ground completely, his friends aren’t far behind him. Youta groans in agony, but Reo can only see Kouki in his immediate view. His muscles scream in agony as his jaw snaps itself shut.

This is it. This is where they’re going to die.

But even in the throes of what feels like death’s grip, Reo notices a spot of color on Kouki’s forehead band. A red insect is crawling inside the spiral of the leaf symbol, and when it reaches the center, the insect flies off. Even with his lungs seizing, Reo tracks the insect until it disappears into the foliage.

Coincidence, or is there an enemy nearby waiting for them to breathe their last?


Confirmed

The pain keeps going, but they are shinobi, and this is war. Even though it feels like the poison is killing them (they have no wounds, so what else can it be but that?) they have trained enough of a resistance that Reo suspects they will survive this. However, when he hears Youta try to get back on his feet, his friend soon crashes back into the ground with a strained wheeze. Was he injected again?

Remembering the red insect that flew off, and seeing a new one skittering into view on his own hand clenching grass in his fist, Reo amends his though from ‘injected’ to ‘stung’.

Suddenly, he can hear someone rushing towards them. Youta hears it too, and his back is facing the direction the sound is coming from. He too tries to struggle up, but his mouth snaps shut and he falls onto his side, curling and reaching for his feet.

Suddenly Reo can see multiple flying insects flying off of them and towards the approaching person. Remembering the last camp they’d delivered an intelligence scroll to, Reo finds himself expecting a missing Aburame child.

He’s not surprised when the sound rushing tapers off, followed by a small head tentatively poking out from behind a tree.

He is angry, though, because now he can put a face on the person who attacked himself and his team.


Counter-attacked

Yes, those are definitely Konoha-nin. Or maybe imposters who stole Leaf forehead protectors?

Still, whether or not they actually are Konoha-nin, you’ll never know if they die because of the box jellyfish venom. You never did give your kikaichu orders on how much venom to inject, and each one of these three had been stung at least twice. From the amount of venom missing from one of your kikaichu, one of these poor bastards was no doubt stung more than three times. Probably the big guy, since bigger bodies can mean more venom is needed.

Ah, that one with dark hair has a mean look in his eyes. You are tempted to shrink back behind the tree you’re hiding behind, but it would reflect terribly on both yourself and Father if you left them to die and any of them survived.

Thus, steeling yourself, you stepped out from behind the tree and quickly went over to the closest one. Crouching down, you reached out to touch his face—and flinched backwards as he suddenly turned, a kunai clutched in his shaking hand. He falls, though, and you find yourself frowning at the glare he’s giving you.

Then again, your kikaichu did do this to them, so it’s not exactly unreasonable that they’re angry. Still, no need to give them complete mobility at first, right?

Moving from your undignified positon on your butt, you move to sit in formal seiza and push up your sunglasses.

“I am trying to help you. My kikaichu did this. My kikaichu can help undo this.”

Both keep glaring at you while the bigger one behind them is visibly quaking. You should probably help him first, so you get up to go over to him—

You can’t move.

Panic hits you when you suddenly freeze in place for no apparent reason, one step taken to move around the nearly white-haired blond man.

Eighteen kikaichu lift off from your body while four more break through your skin to join them. They buzz in the air, agitated by your sudden terror. Fourteen of them immediately fly towards the only other people in the vicinity, landing on their faces and digging their legs into soft flesh, not piercing or stinging, but presenting themselves as a viable threat to the suspected culprits.

Sweat trickles down your face as something continues holding you in place. Your heart jackhammers in your chest because you have been robbed of your mobility. Something is holding you in place against your will. Trapped, you are trapped

You stumble as you are just as suddenly released.

Gasping, you swivel your head around, looking for the reason.

You see a shadow on the ground moving independently of anything. You follow it past the blond and to the dark haired man whose hand is in a sign. You meet his eyes and wonder if you hate him as much as you are suddenly afraid of him.

At the end of a long stare off, you summon your kikaichu back.

You might not like or trust these men, but they are currently your best bet for getting back to Father. You can put up with a little more unpleasantness for the sake of that.


Identified

Reo is angry, yes, but there is no denying that little girl is an Aburame, most likely the missing child of Aburame Teijo from the last camp. Reo hadn’t quite believed until he saw four regular kikaichu mixed in with the red ones. He doesn’t like it, but none of them are in any condition to help themselves at the moment. Maybe with enough time they could, but waiting while paralyzed by pain just made them sitting ducks, and in a war that’s the last thing you want to be.

The little girl (she’s what, three, four?) steps out of view to attend to Youta, and while Reo doesn’t like it, his large friend probably needs the relief sooner than either he or Kouki do. It isn’t long before he hears Youta sigh in relief, and it’s not much longer before he can hear his friend moving.

Reo flinches, though, when the girl steps into view, much too close for comfort. She doesn’t touch his face and instead places one of her hands on top of his own. Her hand is almost laughingly small against his, soft and smooth where his are calloused and rough. Looking down, he doesn’t see her doing anything, but then he notices that the pain that was nearly all-encompassing was beginning to peter out.

She moved, leaving him to tend to Kouki, but she still didn’t seem to be doing anything special other than laying her hand against him. Was that how she treated Youta as well? How did that work?

Slowly inhaling a much needed breath, Reo noticed the red kikaichu crawling on top of the hair the girl had in a messy ponytail. From there, Reo couldn’t help noticing her rumpled clothing and the fact that she smelled as though she hadn’t had a bath recently. Not that any of them smelled any better, but it was still a sign that she had been on her own for a while.

As Kouki sat up, Reo thought this was as good a time as any to start talking.

“So, kid.”

She shuffled around on her feet to look at him.

“What’s your name?”

He already knew what it should be, but it would be good to get confirmation. Plus, if this was an enemy taking her face as a disguise, this might trick them into revealing themselves as an imposter.

“My name is Aburame Kaiya.”

Well, if that really was the case, there was one lucky father who was going to get his kid back.

Many others sadly couldn’t say the same.


Vengeful

Naturally, one of them eventually asked what you did to counter the poison that your kikaichu had stung them with. You replied that you had countered it with much smaller bugs to fix them up. They seemed somewhat alarmed which was fair since insects that burrowed into your body were automatically unnerving. You reassured them that the tiny insects in question would die and disintegrate on their own, which wasn’t a lie since you could make just about anything. You did lie about the fact that the insects were the ones that would counter the poison since you made it so their own human bodies would break down the box jellyfish venom within a couple hours, though.

You’d probably be caught in your lie sooner or later, but depending on how and when that happened, you would either try to go along with what the higher ups would suggest be done with you, or you might kamikaze them all and take them down with you.

For some reason, the latter really appealed to you. Not that you wanted to die, but that you could drags others down so you didn’t die alone.

Based on how much that appeals to you, you have to wonder if past-you was a vengeful person. That didn’t really seem like a healthy way to cope with being drafted.

Not that you didn’t agree, it just seemed somewhat extreme.

…You could probably make the flesh covering clinging to your skin explode into the highly contagious Blood and Decline. People need to breathe, and they might get caught by surprise, or be unable to contain it. Or both. Both would be optimal, to get those in the immediate vicinity and those beyond.

Okay, so now you know that you’re probably vengeful and petty as well, but getting revenge, even posthumously, feels not quite good or soothing, but definitely appealing.


Detoured

The trio are on a schedule, of which over two hours was blown by both the attack from your kikaichu and their recovery period. From Akimichi Youta’s back, you can tell that these three aren’t back to their previous state of health. Then again, considering the potency of the box jellyfish venom, you’d be surprised if they were.

You want to return to Father, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen since these three already know where they’re needed which is currently where they are headed. There is a promise that your location will be passed on to your father at the earliest opportunity, and you get the feeling that that’s the best they can do. Again, there is a war going on, so you understand even if you don’t like it.

Those instant transmission devices from the memories of past-you would be really useful right now, but they simply don’t exist here. Ah, wait, that just reaffirms that this is likely a different world altogether. Now you’ve made yourself sad again. Damn it.

From within your chest, you feel the queen buzz inquiringly, but you soothe her and soon she is back to tending to the latest egg. Your hive currently numbers thirty-one, with one queen and thirty kikaichu. Of those thirty, only four, soon to be five, are still in their base form. Your kikaichu don’t understand why you change them, but they accept it as long as they still have access to your chakra, which they do.

As the forest flies by, you cling to Akimichi Youta’s back and wonder if your kikaichu would be able to make honey and maintain a hive if you changed them into bees.


History

When the group finally arrives at the border outpost they’d originally been sent to, Akimichi Youta carefully lets you down from his back. While the leader, the Nara, is talking to someone from the outpost, the Akimichi asks about who used to look after you when your Father left you in the camp while he was gone. You told him that you were usually left under the watch of either the medic-nin or whoever was on food duty, but the Akimichi frowns at the first and suggests the second for where you should go.

You want to ask why, but you refrain, mostly because you don’t want to bring any more attention to yourself. Besides, you can always sneak a peak on your own later.

The trio ends up handing you off to the camp leader, a man by the name of Inuzuka Toshiro and nin-dog partner Jin. The man is loud and wild-looking, but his grin, though toothy, is friendly enough. The dog, Jin, gives you a cursory sniff from beside him but neither growls nor wags his tail in greeting.

“So you’re Teijo’s kid, huh?”

Some of your surprise must show on your face, because he barks a laugh.

“He used to be on a genin team with my big brother. Him, your dad and a civilian kunoichi named Keiko. She died about a year before Teijo got married to your mother, and my brother about two months after that. Haven’t seen your dad much since.” He waved his hand. “Anyway, stick near the outpost, and if an attack or battle comes our way, make yourself scarce. I’ll try to look out for ya since you’re Teijo’s kid, but there’s only so much I do, yeah?”

Fair enough. He was the leader of this place and what was one child compared to the lives of al those under his command? But, then again, those under his command might die if you really did go kamikaze explosion and release the contagious duo into the air.

…Wait, are you using the phrase ‘kamikaze’ right? You’re not entirely sure… whatever. Not important.

What was important was trying to find out if there was somewhere you could bathe and maybe get a change of clothes. Ah, but what are you going to do about the flesh covering under your clothes?

‘Oh, this? Don’t worry, it’s just a supply of biological material I reshaped out of a tree trunk and some flora for the purpose of either a pre-emptive biological warfare attack or posthumous revenge.’

Yeah, that’d go over well.

Um, maybe just make it slither down your legs and reshape it into grass. Yeah, you’ll do that, bathe, maybe change clothes, and then you’ll reapply the flesh covering. Yes, plan tentatively in place.

You can do this.


No matter where you are, you're always a bit on your own, always an outsider.

~Banana Yoshimoto, Goodbye Tsugumi

Chapter Text

What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.

~Jason Fried, Rework


Inaction

The outpost is both bigger and busier than the original camp you had regained your previous life’s memories. After scrubbing yourself down with water and a cloth—the luxury of baths isn’t available here—and donning borrowed, oversized clothes, the first thing you do is wash your clothes and hang them to dry. This runs of the risk of losing your clothing if the outpost is attacked, but you just can’t bring yourself to keep wearing them while passing up a chance to clean them.

With that done and your belt with the pouches still attached, you head off to find food that isn’t something you shaped from something else. Even the terrible rations aren’t as terrible, though no doubt you’ll be mentally complaining about them again soon enough. After eating and refilling your water canteen, you mentally list your task list and count the completed items off on one hand—that’s everything except investigating the medical tent that is completely out-of-bounds to you.

Well, it’s out-of-bounds for most everyone as the only people you see going in or out are medic-nin, and they look harried and deeply worried. Even from your spying spot four tents down, you can tell that there is either a nascent or already growing emergency going on, perhaps of either grievous wounds or of the pandemic kind. Terrible diseases can spring up from battlefields, and infected wounds can be horrific.

But, when a sudden splotch of red splatters and against the side of the medical tent and starts bleeding through, you realize, oh, that’s Blood.

Frozen in place, you slowly pull your head back so that you’re no longer spying on the medical tent. Panic is starting to slowly set in, so you offload that feeling into your small hive, most of which is hiding under your borrowed clothes.

When you were running away from the Iwa-nin, you hadn’t even thought that of any Konoha-nin who might inhale and thus contract Decline or Blood from the small puffs you had hastily released into the air. How many days had you spend hiding in tree trunks? What was the exact incubation rate for those two diseases from your past life? You can’t remember!

Your allies are dying because of your haste.

How many have already died? How many will die before you fess up and present the cures?

Sweating, you realize that you don’t want to do that, not if it means revealing yourself.

You can’t remember much about the village, but you do have enough context to realize that it is a military dictatorship. Neither of those words instil any confidence in you that you would be treated well.

So you can’t.

You just can’t.


Unaccompanied

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t try being sneaky. You won’t fess up to the fact that you made these diseases, but you can fake someone having an immunity, right? Yeah, you can send in your kikaichu with the cures and people can be like, wow, you lucky bastards. And then they can take blood from the ‘immune’ they can try to synthesize a cure and—that would likely take ages in which more Konoha-nin and civilians would die.

And you would probably end up outed anyway, only with a larger death count on your hands because you refused to come forward earlier.

Bleh. There’s no way for you to really win at this, is there? After all, ninja. Ninja are sneaky and nosey, and they’ll find you out eventually because they are spies. At least, that’s what your gut is telling you.

Your gut, which is beginning to twist itself out of stress from all the scenarios running through your head.

Sweating, you lowered yourself until you were hugging your knees. What to do, what to do…

(you’re alone, you have to decide on your own, it feels wrong)


Disclosure

When you finally decide what to do, you are shaking when you hesitantly go up to Toshiro. He’s just come from the medical tent, glaring as he stalked to wherever he was headed. Seeing you, he let out an aggravated sigh and held up a hand.

“I don’t have time, kid.”

You want to leave him be and run away, but you have decided on a course of action and you need to follow through before you chicken out and result in an even bigger pile of dead.

So you thrust out your hand and let two kikaichu crawl out from under the huge sleeve of your borrowed shirt. They are close to one-and-a-half inch long, but they look even bigger on your toddler hand. One is bright blue with silver-like legs, and the other is an alarming orange with black stripes. Both have wicked-looking stingers.

Toshiro sighs, unimpressed.

“Yeah, yeah, kid. You have bright bugs. I see them. Nice.”

He’s being dismissive, but point in his favor, he’s trying to be patient.

You hold back a huff and lift your hand higher.

“Cures.”

He pauses, one foot raised to keep moving. Lowering his leg, he asked, “What?”

You pushed your sunglasses up with your free hand.

“The people in the medical tent. Are they swelling with blood and exploding? Slowly forgetting stuff and getting clumsy?”

Toshiro leaned down, almost invading your personal space, speaking urgently. “What do you mean forgetting stuff and getting clumsy?”

A ladybug kikaichu scuttled into view from the wide collar of the ill-fitting shirt, making him recoil.

“Hey, hey, is that one of the bugs that brought down Reo and his team?” He raised his hands. “Calm down, kid. I just need to know. What do you mean cure?”

Letting the ladybug kikaichu keep crawling on your face, you explained.

“I can make more than one kind of kikaichu. When my ladybug imposters brought down the Iwa-nin who killed the Konoha-nin I was with, I had by that time already created two kikaichu which could spew sickness into the air. One made the sickness that makes the infected swell with blood until they burst open, and the other carried a sickness that would rot the brain.”

You lowered your gaze to his feet.

“I didn’t think. I just wanted to make any pursuers who went after me sick so that even if they killed me, I would have my revenge from beyond the grave.”

Toshiro leaned in again, slower this time so that you had time to look up. His gaze was sharp and focused.

“Where are the kikaichu that made these diseases?”

Your brow twitched as they broke through skin near your elbow, the flesh covering already pulled back before you approached the Inuzuka. Jin’s hackles raise as he emits a growl before trying to step between you and his partner. Toshiro is having none of it and shoves him aside.

“Stop your worrying, Jin. I’m not a damned Iwa-nin.”

He still narrows his eyes as the other two kikaichu scuttled out onto your other hand. The Blood ‘carrier’ is bright red with a yellow outline around its abdomen. The Decline ‘carrier’ is shiny turquoise, coral and yellow colored. both have swollen abdomens, and the kikaichu themselves are nearly as large as their counterparts. The disease carriers are rounder and lack the stingers the cure holders have.

Toshiro snorted. “Alright, put ‘em back and don’t pull ‘em out again. They’ve caused enough trouble as it is.”

You lower your hand as the disease kikaichu crawl back under the sleeve and re-enter from the same spot they exited. You can’t stop yourself from visibly wincing, but Toshiro doesn’t comment on it. Instead he points at the other two kikaichu still in view.

“So those two carry the cures, right?”

You nod once.

“Which one is for the blood swelling?”

The orange and black kikaichu flares its wings. Jin growls warningly.

Toshiro doesn’t reprimand his partner this time and instead straightens, jerking his head in the direction of the medical tent.

“Well let’s go see if you’re telling tall tales or what.”


Source

Entering the medical tent, your nose wrinkles at the stench of blood hanging in the air. There are also other smells, but for your peace of mind, you don’t try to identify them. There aren’t many patients, but you don’t breathe a sigh of relief because this is only one place and who knows how far Blood and Decline have spread.

“Inuzuka-san,” a medic-nin called from near the back. “Back so soon?”

Toshiro walked over to her, waving you to keep up. “Yeah. Listen, this is Aburame Kaiya. She says this is the work of her kikaichu.”

The medic-nin’s gaze snapped to your face. “Really? I thought the Aburame kikaichu were just chakra-eaters.”

“You occasionally get offshoots,” Toshiro shrugged. Then, to your displeasure, he put a hand on your head. “Kaiya-chan here, though, she’s got a whole lot more than one kind.”

As if to prove his point, you directed a ladybug imposter to crawl on his hand. The shinobi yanked his hand back and swiped it off. It flew through the air before flaring its wings into motion so that it could return to your head.

The medic-nin kept staring at you.

“So, this is all your doing, is it?”

“The shinobi she’d been with had just been killed. She only meant to harm Iwa-nin.”

The medic-nin sighed harshly. “This is why training is so important. If her kikaichu are deviants capable of producing diseases, then nothing is more important to teach her than control.” She glared at you. “Are any of your kikaichu currently out there still producing this disease?”

You shook your head. “No.”

She seemed to be waiting for more but you weren’t going to volunteer anything.

Toshiro scratched his face. “Anyway… Amano-san, she says she has the cure.” He snapped his finger. “Oh! And she says there’s another one that makes the infected forgetful and clumsy. So I guess Hirai and Domen weren’t just ‘exhausted’ like we thought, huh?”

Miraculously, you did not visibly quail under Amano’s renewed glare.


Injection

Amano asked you multiple questions about your kikaichu and demanded that you show them to her. You were offended by her tone, but cut her some slack since she was clearly stressed over Blood and had suddenly discovered that she now had a second disease right under her nose. You were deliberately vague, saying you didn’t fully understand what your kikaichu did since they were new, which was a half-truth since kikaichu weren’t something you had in your previous life.

It was Toshiro who cut short her questioning, saying that since the shinobi died anyway, what was the harm in a live test of your so-called cure? Amano relented after a minute of silence, though likely only because despite her silence the tent was still filled with the groans of her patients. She finally sighed and nodded.

Amano led the way and Toshiro gestured with a hand to the patient with the most advanced stage of all the patients. His body has already begun to swell, and his eyes are bloodshot as he turns them in your direction. You frown because unless you do more, he’s already a dead man. For now, though, you direct the orange and black kikaichu to fly over to him. The shinobi startles, moving his arm to swat at it, but stops as Toshiro raises a placating hand.

The orange and black kikaichu lands on his shirt. She crawls up the man’s body until she reaches this swollen neck. Adjusting herself, she then proceeds to sting the man.

He flinches and moves to grab her, but Toshiro and Amano are suddenly there to hold his arms back. Your kikaichu finishes her delivery and flies over to a patient with a lesser advanced stage. He looks like he wants to smack the kikaichu too, but your head is pointed in his direction. Looking as though he was now sweating from more than just Blood, he winced as your kikaichu crawled up his torso towards his neck.

Toshiro and Amano were too busy watching the first guy to notice that you were going after a second.


Rebuilders

Needless to say, Amano was angry when she finally noticed that you had gone after not just one but two other patients, bringing the number of patients injected with an untested cure up to three. Since there was no immediate visible improvement on any of them, she was looming over you and sternly lecturing you on what was permissible on her patients. Toshiro, the coward, was standing behind not doing anything aside from glancing between her and the first patient.

Letting her words drift in one ear and out the other, you spoke up when she stopped to take a breath.

“That first guy will likely still die unless you can do something to repair his organs and stressed blood vessels.”

Amano’s glare intensified. “Then what was the point of your cure?”

Wishing you had pockets to shove your hands in, you answered. “The point was to cure Blood.”

She frowned. “Blood?”

“It is what I call the disease.” You stared at nothing. “…I am not very good at giving names.”

Lifting your gaze, you raised a hand, palm upward. A lilac colored splotch appeared and slowly built into a small mound. Unseen to the naked eye, they were nano-sized kikaichu you created to serve the function of rebuilding cells. Basically, they did what you did, only slower and they needed to ‘fetch’ biological material. To prevent a gruesome situation, they were imparted with the order to not collect from humans or animals unless otherwise directed. Since they were still kikaichu, they ate at your chakra, but their tiny size made that almost negligible.

“The fixers can help in reshaping the organs. They’ll need chakra from me to start, chakra from the patient to continue, and access to something that is alive, though right now they will only take from plants.”

Toshiro asked, “Why plants?”

You slowly turned your head to him.

“Imagine they collected biological material from either you or Jin. The fixers could potentially kill a person while trying to save another person. I would like to avoid that.”

Toshiro gave a strained grin. “Uh, yeah, I can see how that would be… bad.”

Amano snapped her fingers to get your attention.

“Your ‘fixers’—they could help Suda-san?”

You glanced at Toshiro, and even though he couldn’t see your eyes, he seemed to sense your gaze because he nodded his chin towards the first patient.

“Yes. They could help Suda-san.”

Amano kept staring at you through narrowed eyes, but after what seemed like forever, she sighed. Opening her eyes again, she gazed down at you as though she couldn’t believe that you were the last hope for her patients.

“Well then, Aburame-chan. It’s time to get to work.”


Convenient

Toshiro was tasked with getting freshly picked plants while you started on Suda who had more than enough to work with since he was swollen with blood. Placing a hand on him and directing the fixer kikaichu to start repairing him, you almost winced at the state of his organs when you ‘looked’. They were half mulched and well on their way to failing. A few hours more and Suda would be another bloody exploding flesh balloon.

Ignoring Amano, you focused on the nano-sized kikaichu whom you now knew would be your fallback explanation for anything you did from the point on. In truth, you had created them in a desperate attempt for a half-believable excuse, but you had since realized they were a great excuse for the things you did.

Where did your other kikaichu come from? The fixers made them!

Amano couldn’t see anything at the level the fixers were working, so you could alter them as you needed. They moved from your skin to Suda and into his bloodstream. From there, the fixers multiplied, eating his chakra to do so. They moved through his body, grabbing onto the blood cells until they arrived near his organs. The heart was fixed first since that was the most important organ (after the brain, but Blood didn’t liquidize that one), and from there they moved on.

You didn’t register the passage of time, though part of you did note when Toshiro’s voice returned. Fixers flowed out from your other hand and formed a thin line from you to the bundle of harvested plants and grass in Toshiro’s arms. There was as brief disconnection as he suddenly dropped it all, but the fixers coming from your body reached out to reconnect with the stranded ones on the bundle. You didn’t use the plants to fix Suda as your main concern was keeping the plants from dying and becoming useless. Instead, the fixers proceeded to break down the plants into a greenish blob of mush.

All this while Amano, Toshiro and a few of the other patients watched.

Oblivious as Amano’s gaze sharpened, and unaware as Toshiro frowned.

Time had no meaning, nothing else was important, and you didn’t stop until Suda was back to normal proportions for a male his size. The fixers retreated to you, spreading out and making your whole arm, part of your torso and part of your face turn lilac.

When you looked back at Amano, you did not smile or smirk. Your voice was flat as you announced the obvious.

“It is done.”

You blinked behind your sunglasses and Amano leaned forward until her face was in front of yours.

Whatever she was going to say, though, was both interrupted and completely ruined as Toshiro cut in, reaching out and turning her face aside.

“Hey, hey. No kissing Teijo’s kid.”

You mentally thanked Amano as she slapped him upside the head and called him an idiot.


Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

~Noel Langley, The Wizard of Oz

Chapter Text

Begin somewhere. You cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.

~Liz Smith


Choice

Amano huffed as Toshiro rubbed the back of his head with a petulant frown. She folded her arms and cast a glare at him that turned his frown into a sheepish grin.

“As I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted: Aburame-chan, I lay claim on you. You’re going to be the best damn medic-nin of your generation.”

Toshiro butted in and started talking about Tsunade-sama being the best. Amano growled that she clearly said for you to be the best of your generation, not Tsunade-sama’s. Ignoring them as they bickered, you pondered Amano’s statement.

Amano stating that she was laying claim to you was somewhat offensive in that it bothered you that she thought she could do that. Could she do that? After all, you are a member of one of the four noble clans, so probably not. On the other hand, if she could present her proposal well-enough to Father, he might consider it. He might even agree to it. Ah, so maybe Amano could lay claim to you, though likely not in a permanent sense, because of course there was no way she was taking you away from the Aburame clan.

Surely no one could take away a member from any of the four noble clans.

Anyway, putting aside your offended ego, Amano clearly intended for you to learn how to be a medic-nin, likely under her tutelage if she could manage it, or direct you to someone who could teach you. On one hand, you would probably learn about chakra and the way it interacted with the body, so once you had that down, you theoretically should be able to resurrect newly dead like that woman from the first camp who died protecting you. On the other hands…

Not much to say on the other hand, aside from protests you are mostly certain stem from your previous life. Something about not liking authority? Whatever, being able to bring back the newly dead is of far more importance than your ego. For Sage’s sake, you are four. This overinflated sense of self-importance is definitely a product of regaining those old memories.

You don’t remember who you used to be, but so far you aren’t impressed.

(you don’t think you’ll like what you find when you remember, but part of you can’t stop from wanting, if only for those you can’t remember)

Frowning, you waited for Amano and Toshiro to stop arguing.

You’ve decided.


Age

There is a pause between Amano and Toshiro in their argument and you take advantage of it by clearing your throat. The two adults look down at you, but your gaze is directed at Amano.

“Very well. If I prove to have the aptitude for it, I will be a medic-nin.” You raise a hand at her triumphant look. “However, I may not, so prepare yourself in case of disappointment.”

Toshiro snorted and jabbed a finger in Suda’s direction. “Kid, you just did something I’ve never seen any other medic-nin do. I’m not sure if even Tsunade-sama could have done that, or in the same timeframe. Even if you suck at chakra control, I bet there’s very little that will stop you from becoming a medic-nin.”

Amano’s lips dipped slightly at the corners. “Unless her clan objects, of course.”

Toshiro winced. “Ah. Right. I can never tell what an Aburame is thinking, and I can’t recall if there’s ever been an Aburame medic-nin before.”

“There are none that I can recall in recent memory,” Amano offered before redirecting the conversation back to the main point. She gave you a slight smile. “Still, I’m glad to hear that you are considering the path of a medic-nin. We could definitely use someone with skills like yours.”

…They do know that you are four, right?


Foretold

Toshiro soon leaves the tent to return to his main duties, leaving you with Amano to work on the other patients. It goes like this: Amano performs a diagnostic jutsu on each patient before you get your hands on them, and the she does it again when you are done. She doesn’t stop being amazed at what your fixer kikaichu can achieve. Even with Amano frequently checking your chakra levels to avoid chakra exhaustion, you manage to heal up all the patients afflicted by Blood.

“How is that possible?”

The question is only half-directed at you between patients, but you answer her anyway.

“I don’t use only my chakra.” The lilac color of the fixer kikaichu had spread to nearly the whole of your body by that point. Calmly, you explained, “I only start them with orders. When they transfer over to the patient, its their chakra that they consume and use to multiply, spread, and do what needs to be done. If anything, you should be worried about the chakra levels of your patients. Although, since they’re grown and should know their limits, surely they should be able to tell when chakra exhaustion is setting in.”

Amano’s face turned dark as she glared at something you couldn’t see.

“Yes, you’d think so. Unfortunately, many of them…”

She shook her head, sighing quietly in aggravation. “Never mind. You’ll find out about those types on your own soon enough.”

You can’t say you’re looking forward to it.


Horrifying

The Decline patients are left overnight because Amano insists that you refrain from pushing yourself too hard. When she says that, you have an unwanted flash of memory of a distorted voice saying something similar. Your footing falters, but because you are trailing behind Amano on the way to the another tent, she doesn’t notice. Your lips twitch in displeasure, and you find yourself wishing that you could just lock away the memories of your previous life.

If reincarnation is actually a thing, you can see why it would be better if said reincarnation didn’t remember their previous life. It was frustrating for you, and more than that, deep down where you’re desperately trying not to look, it’s horrifying.

Your old world was glass, metal and some kind of stone or rock, and people had Quirks, and information was available at the tips of one’s fingers. Here, you are surrounded by nature, and from what you can remember of the village, this place isn’t very technologically advanced, not to mention the chakra and jutsus and the war.

But, even more than that, there are people you are missing, people you left behind. How far away are they? In time? In space? Dimensions?

You’d have been better off not remembering at all.

Even if it meant not having your Quirk anymore.


Treasured

When news comes from one of the border outposts that Kaiya is alive and there, what Teijo wants most in the world is to go get her, to see her for himself. She looks like her mother, like his Kazue, and she is all he has left of her. Kaiya is the living proof that Kazue loved him. Kaiya is their child.

His only child.

He regrets that he had to bring her with him to his assigned station where he was slotted to stay for four months, but there had been no one he trusted to look after her for that length of time. Ever since she disappeared, he’s been wracked with guilt, hoping that somehow she managed to get away from the enemy who would surely kill her.

(and possibly worse before they did)

Of course, nothing of his anxiety or sleepless nights showed on his face. No, he was too old and disciplined to let his emotions show.

Unfortunately, his commander could not spare Teijo long enough to fetch his daughter, and no one coming from that outpost wanted the extra burden of bringing her. He would have to wait until he was rotated back to the village, but at this point Teijo would settle for being reassigned in her general direction.

Still, he was down to less than two weeks left on his assigned posting. Soon he and at least half the camp would be replaced with fresh shinobi from the village. In less than two weeks he could fetch Kaiya himself and take her home.

This time, he’d leave her there, where she would be safer than if he brought her back out here.


Tasked

Decline was an insidious disease that slowly destroyed the brain neurons which in turn would lead to damage to the brain tissue. Most neurons, once destroyed, were lost forever. In the afflicted Konoha-nin, you rectified this issue by having the fixers copy existing neurons and fitting them in the vacated space.

Luckily for all involved, Decline is much slower than Blood or any of the other Five. The infected had yet to start losing long-term memories, and so far they had yet to get themselves in danger due to a loss in motor function.

Honestly speaking, you didn’t like the almost manic gleam in Amano’s eyes by the time you were done with the Decline patients. She clearly had plans and you were reluctant to find out what those were. No doubt she intended to work you to the bone in order to get as much use from you as possible, and if it weren’t for the fact that chakra was a big blind spot for you, you wouldn’t have spoken up in the first place.

You had hoped that would be the end of patients for now, but Amano stabbed that hope to death by saying that you had to check the rest of everyone in camp for both Blood and Decline. At least that didn’t take long, but it was still a lot of people to go through, of which, four had Decline and a four-man cell had the beginning of Blood. You told Amano who then told you to have your fixers clear it out, and after that, then you were done with healing everyone at camp.

So naturally that was when Toshiro informed both you and Amano that you were going to be escorted to other camps and outposts which were currently dealing with small numbers of Blood, and probably had those inflicted with Decline though those were currently unidentified. It would be your job to clear out each location of your diseases.

The look in Toshiro’s eyes when he said that made you swallow down any protests you might have made.

Not even Amano tried to interfere, but she did noisily insist that all precautions be taken to ensure your survival. Toshiro said that was a given since you were the only provider of the cure, but as Amano helped prepare you to leave camp, you couldn’t help but wonder if the village would dispose of you because of what you had created.

…Past-you had the right idea about the Five, right?

(posthumous revenge, to take down others who would kill or enslave you)

You start making the necessary kikaichu before you even meet your escorts to the first camp.

Reo glares suspiciously, rightfully so, even if he doesn’t know it yet.


Suspicious

Reo wants to know which god he pissed off to be handed the Aburame girl again. Granted, he’s not the one carrying her, but as team leader he bears the bulk of responsibility for her survival. Since he read both Inuzuka and Amano’s reports, he can see why the Aburame girl is needed alive, but on the other hand, she’s clearly a dangerous element.

He can understand the panic that led to her unknowingly unleashing the two diseases upon her own allies, but he cannot reconcile himself with the fact that she made them on purpose. She deliberately created two contagious diseases with lethal consequences, and from all accounts, she could make more. Her ‘fixer’ kikaichu were more like shapers. They took biological material and reshaped it to whatever purpose was needed.

Could this child take samples from bloodline holders and create clones? She could already reshape a bloated body, so was it really too much of a stretch to believe that she could create infant clones from stolen DNA? Bloodline theft was punishable by death. She would have to be informed of that as soon as possible.

And while bloodline theft was indeed a serious issue, Reo found himself more concerned about the illnesses she could seemingly create at will. Aburame Kaiya had brought down dozens of shinobi on both sides, with no regard to anything besides her own survival. She was young, yes, but if she grew up maintaining that same mindset? That it could be disastrous to Konoha went without saying. Moreover, diseases didn’t necessarily stop at one perceived border or another. Depending on the disease in question, it could travel by air, water, blood, or any number of vectors. Lifespan was also something to take into consideration, as Reo has heard of abandoned places being disturbed only to unleash plagues or sicknesses. So far, signs pointed to Aburame Kaiya being in possession of the ability to do that and more.

Glowering darkly as the forest sped past beneath his feet, Reo swore that he would keep an eye on Aburame Kaiya. If ever she proved to be a threat to the village, he would inform the Hokage at once.

A close watch would be placed on the girl, even if he had to nag Shikaku-sama into it.


Seeing the mud around a lotus is pessimism, seeing a lotus in the mud is optimism.

~Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words

Chapter Text

Sometimes it's easy to forget how much you miss people until you see them again.

~Colleen Hoover, Ugly Love


Time

You had mixed feelings about the Nara and his team. On one hand, they were familiar faces, and you even remembered their names. But, on the other, these were men you’d stung with box jellyfish venom, basically allies that you’d unknowingly attacked. It was awkward being around them, especially with the vibes you were picking up from the Nara and sometime from the Yamanaka.

Come to think of it, your knowledge about the other clans in the village was lacking, so you made a mental note to rectify that when you had a chance. Probably only your father would be willing to answer multitude of questions you suddenly had—oh, but maybe Amano will if you ever get back to the outpost? Now that you think of it, where are you going to be taken once you are done? You’d prefer to be dropped off with Father, really, but you might get defaulted back to Amano for the whole medic-nin thing.

Well, you don’t know and you can’t really guess, so you will just have to let things happen as they will.

Unless they try to kill you. Then all gloves are off.

Mumbling incoherently, you rested your head against the Akimichi’s back and hoped that it wouldn’t be too much longer before you got to the first camp. The sooner you got there, the sooner you could heal up people, and the sooner you could leave for the next place. Repeat until finished, and basically you want this excursion to be over already so that you can either be put back with Father or in the place he probably expects you to be when he finally comes looking for you.

You remember Father informing you of why you were leaving the village and for how long you two would be away from home. Four months was nearly up and surely Father would come to fetch you then. In less than two weeks, you and Father would be going home.

(you deliberately did not think about the war and how swift death could take a life)


Reunion

You didn’t know the names or the exact location of… anything, really. You’d be lost on your own, and you hadn’t gotten the name of the first camp you’d been in, if it had even had one. The outpost was just the ‘outpost’, and no doubt there were others. If you got lost and asked someone for directions, you wouldn’t be able to give them the exact outpost you were familiar with and would probably just get pointed in the direction of the nearest one, if its location was even known to the person you asked. Since you didn’t know the names or locations of anything, you are unsurprised to not recognize the camp you arrived at.

However, while you are waiting next to Akimichi Yuta while Nara Reo is presenting a scroll to the man in charge, a jolt of excitement hits you when your kikaichu let you know that an unknown kikaichu has landed on you. Instead of reaching towards your shoulder where the intruder has landed, you turn your head from side to side, searching for the Aburame who sent it.

The sight of Father less than three tents away nearly knocks you to your knees. He looks the same as ever, messy dark brown hair hanging over his leaf headband, face hidden behind rectangular sunglasses and a high collar, hands tucked into the pockets of his dark grey trench coat. There is no expression to see on his face, no body language to give away how he feels.

You are not so nearly self-controlled, and you start to slip away from your escort team, a smile fighting to make an appearance on your face even as you shove your joy into your hive, making them buzz beneath your skin and clothes. Distantly, you sense Akimichi reaching for you and vaguely register the Yamanaka saying your name, but then your feet are moving and your lips part.

“Father!”

You are a child (an adult) and Father is right there (Dad is dead). Your heart leaps as you rush the distance between you and him, arms outstretching in the last few feet. Father drops to one knee and lets you throw your arms around his neck. This close to him, you can hear the buzz of his beneath his skin, a sound you hadn’t realized that you’d missed. A hand settles on your head and you hear Father breathe a single word.

“Kaiya.”

Tears well up behind your sunglasses as you remember the night you two had been separated, the sounds of battle in the night, the feeling of hanging on to his back and then being put under someone else’s arm as he turned and headed back while you were carried away. The silence and darkness of the tree trunk you hid in comes back to you, how you were left alone with your thoughts and the memories you had tried to not let overwhelm you. The fear, the uncertainty, the loneliness…

You quietly sobbed.

“Father.”

His voice was low and warm.

“Kaiya.”


Advice

Tears, like any emotion, are not easily shown in a grown Aburame, nor even a teenage one. As an Aburame grows from childhood into adulthood, the ability to offload one’s emotions into their hive comes more easily. Emotions can be a hindrance, a fatal distraction at the worst moment, and thus the clan as a whole places importance on the ability to remain calm. Teijo is no different, but Kaiya is still young, and her emotions still break through her training. She will get better at keeping a straight face as she gets older, but right now he can see that her brow is furrowed and he can feel that she is shaking.

He would not be surprised if tears leaked from her eyes or if they slid into view beneath her sunglasses. She is young, and only just now reunited with him after being separated in battle, so he does not reprimand her for losing control. Instead he merely waits for her to pull herself together.

Looking over her head, he eyes the team that brought her. It is an Ino-Shika-Cho trio, but not the one formed by Inoichi, Shikaku, and Choza. The clans are close allies, though, so it makes sense that they would team up wherever they could manage it and it was viable. Still, as much as Teijo would like to think they brought Kaiya here to him, a hunch tells him that that’s not the case. Otherwise, Kaiya would not have looked so surprised to see him.

Thus, Teijo has to wonder, why is Kaiya here?

“Aburame-san,” greeted Nara Reo, walking over with his teammates.

The leader of the camp, Kurama Daido, had finished his conversation with Reo and walked off in the direction of the medical tent.

“Nara-san,” he returned. “Yamanaka-san. Akimichi-san. You don’t seem to have brought my daughter to me for our sakes. Why, then, is she with you?”

Reo rubbed the back of his neck, mouth downturned in displeasure. “Ahh, this is going to be an annoying explanation. Come on, I’d rather not have to do it twice.”

He turned and headed in the same direction Kurama did, heading for the quarantined medical tent. Teijo didn’t want to take Kaiya there, but since Nara and Kurama seemed to be in agreement that Kaiya should approach, he reluctantly leaned away from his daughter and stood up.

Kaiya sniffled and wiped beneath her sunglasses.

“You can send your kikaichu to drink that. No one need ever see you weep.”

She startles slightly, but nods after a moment.

He knows that she’ll remember his words.


Show

You try to remain attentive as Reo explains the situation regarding Blood and Decline, but it’s hard to concentrate when you have Father’s hand grasped in your own. You can ‘see’ him, and by extension, you can ‘see’ the hive inhabiting his body. Ugh, truly Aburame members are infested. It makes your stomach churn to think that one day you will be just as infested one day, but you shove that unpleasant thought away to bask in Father’s presence.

Father is alive.

Father is right here.

Eyes closed, the only thing you want to focus on is the vision that is father’s mostly healthy body (there was lingering fatigue, and you could tell he wasn’t getting enough sleep to be fully rested). The sight you ‘see’ is proof that Father is still living, that he isn’t dead. You never got to appreciate Mother like this, and after being separated from him unexpectedly like that, you now find yourself with a new appreciation for him.

“Kaiya.”

Hearing him speak (seeing his muscles move and contract, his voice box flex, his lungs expand and shrink), you open your eyes and tilt your head to indicate that you are looking up at him.

His voice was grave.

“Show me the ‘fixers’ that Nara-san speaks of.”

Feeling tendrils of trepidation beginning to slither into previously content mood, you nonetheless obey and bring up your other hand. However, instead of having to create the fixers, they rise to the surface of your skin and turn your hand completely lilac-colored. They don’t hurt when they swell out of your body, forming a lump that jiggles visibly.

“How long have you had them?”

Oh, a day or so.

You shrug. “I’m not sure. Long enough that I am familiar with them.”

The head medic-nin for the camp comes over to peer closely at the lilac lump on your palm. He asked questions, but seemed to be asking Nara more than he was asking you. It grated at you somewhat, but most of your attention was on your father.

You couldn’t tell what he was thinking, not even from the ‘sight’ you currently had.


Anxiety

Father stayed and watched as you allowed yourself to be directed by the medic-nin, a man called Nishimura. He followed the same steps Amano did, and he too seemed to grow excited about the scope of healing you could perform. One by one, you attended to the patients in the medical tent, and the patients, either seeing or hearing salvation slowly approaching, fell quieter as they waited, finally hopeful that not all was lost, that they would not die in an explosion of blood.

At one point he spoke up between patients, citing worry about your chakra levels. You personally reassured him with the same information you told Amano recently, how you only started the fixers with your chakra and how the patients supplied the rest. When you were done, it was a long moment before he nodded, and even you could see that he was reluctant to let you continue. It made you happy that he was concerned for you, but you pushed on because you wanted him to see just what you could do.

You wanted him to be proud of you.

Oblivious, as he continued to grow increasingly afraid for you.


Special

Kaiya was precious to him simply for being the child of Kazue and himself. In truth, he had expected her to become a kunoichi some day, though he’d hoped that day would come in the time between wars (because there is always war and only fleeting periods of peace in which villages prepared for the next large-scale conflict). However, if she had decided on a civilian path, he would not have placed pressure on her to do differently. Not all members of the clan were shinobi, though it was true that nearly all Aburame possessed some level of mastery over chakra, a necessity for maintaining their hives. In the whole time she’d been alive, Teijo had never suspected his daughter of being anything but a normal Aburame child.

Granted, there had been a slight shift in her personality after the first attack on the camp, but Teijo had written that off as shock and growth after a near death experience. After all, if it hadn’t been for his own efforts and the sacrifice of that woman—he has since learned that her name was Yano Satomi—then Kaiya would have been dead. Child of shinobi or not, that was the first time Kaiya had been in true mortal danger. Teijo thought the shift in her personality was not unreasonable.

But this, her ‘fixers’, a breed of kikaichu he had never even suspected she might have? Teijo has been watching since she started, and so far he has seen his child reshape bodies, reconstruct organs, and seemingly cure the disease that caused the changes in the first place. If what he heard is true, then she will go on to heal a disease that made the victim forget and clumsy by creating copies of neurons in the brain and fixing the broken connections.

And don’t forget that she created those diseases in the first place.

(if he hadn’t brought her, if the others could have defeated the Iwa-nin, then she would never have had to make them in the first place)

In the ability to reconstruct organs, his little Kaiya has already surpassed Senju Tsunade. As she masters her new kikaichu, what will she be in four years, eight years, ten years?

(by tomorrow? In a week? in a year?)

Never has there been an Aburame like her. Kaiya will be considered special. Teijo doubts the clan will permit her to become a full-fledged kunoichi of the Leaf, not when that would mean risking her on missions outside of the village. More likely she will be stationed at the hospital, or kept within the compound.

She has unintentionally killed a few of her allies, yes, that will be noted. However, in the face of the sheer potential of her new kikaichu (Shapers, his mind whispers), she is unlikely to suffer great repercussion. Unless… unless it is used as an excuse to put her under someone’s watch. A clan that had Kaiya need not fear losing their shinobi to retirement due to lost limbs. No matter how great their injury, Kaiya could heal them and the Konoha shinobi force need not be weakened.

With difficulty, Teijo resisted the urge to clench his fists. He had to get word to the clan as soon as possible. Shibi-sama needed to be aware of Kaiya.

The Aburame had to hold on to her, or else they would lose her to the village.

(not his child, please not Kaiya)


Reminder

When you finished the Blood patients and are briefly dismissed before moving on to the Decline patients, you hold back the urge to skip back to Father. Still, you can’t help but look up at him expectantly, wanting his praise. Did he not see what you did? Was he not proud of you, his daughter?

Therefore, you are disappointed that his face is as stoic as ever.

(her face and hands and what he can see of her calves and toes are all lilac—her Shapers cover her from head to toe and he wonders if they can reshape her as easily as they do others)

“Are you tired, Kaiya?”

“Somewhat,” you reply truthfully. You had had to stand this whole time, and there was mental fatigue to consider. “However, I feel that my chakra levels are sufficient for most of what remains.”

“What of the consumption rate of your current kikaichu?”

“…Minimal?” You are not certain. “My hive numbers thirty-two at the moment, at least those which can be seen with one’s eyes. They consume my chakra at the same rate as before, that is, safely for my age and current chakra pool. The fixers, despite their uncountable numbers, consume less of my chakra than the regular hive.”

You remember that the fixers are crawling on your skin and blush slightly as you recall them back into beneath the layers of your flesh. The lilac color fades away, leaving you as before. You avoid Father’s eyes and he seems to sense this.

A hand comes up to your head and you realize that you’ve stopped wearing a ponytail.

Father speaks quietly, below his breath and only for you to hear.

“You are my daughter, Kaiya. An Aburame. Remember that.”

You don’t know why he’s saying that, or why it seems important to him that you be reminded of those facts, but you hum gently in acknowledgement.

“Yes, Father.”


Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.

~Jim Butcher, Storm Front

Chapter Text

Duty is what one expects from others.

~Oscar Wilde


Godsend

Sarutobi Hiruzen wearily but dutifully continued to battle his greatest and most tenacious foe, that enemy which refused to die and vanish, resurging in great numbers despite all the effort he put forth: the dreaded paperwork. Wartime made paperwork even worse since many matters were urgent, therefore he had even less time to take a break or spend at home. Biwako understood, but Asuma resented the sheer amount of time he dedicated to being Hokage. Sighing, Hiruzen took a moment to sit back in his chair, but even then he was thinking of a problem which had the potential to become a tipping point against the Land of Fire.

Just days ago, word came from near the front lines of a new and deadly disease. The infected would swell over a period of hours, and from what the medic-nin could discover, the organs of the infected were breaking down as the body produced excessive amounts of blood. The diagnosis was grim: his shinobi would die, eventually bursting in showers of blood as the internal pressure became too much and the blood had to go somewhere. Already he’d received news of the first fatalities from two separate camps. The origin of this disease was unknown, and the only comfort he’d been given was the news that Iwa-shinobi had been seen displaying the same symptoms as his own forces.

The last thing either side of this war needed was a plague or epidemic to strike. Given the unknown nature of this disease, Hiruzen had elected to keep Tsunade in the dark. In fact, he hadn’t informed any of his precious students, and had indeed directed them in a direction away from the stricken areas. He doubted he’d be able to keep them in the dark forever, or even for very long, but the last thing he wanted was for any of them to contract this disease when they had no counter-measures.

His students are strong, but their bodies are not invincible against disease.

An urgent knock resounded from the door, and he called for them to enter.

A shinobi entered and hurriedly informed him of a new development: someone had been found who could cure the infected! The individual in question was an Aburame child and by now would be being escorted to the afflicted locations. This was a relief to Hiruzen, and he found himself intrigued by the ‘new strain of kikaichu’ which allowed for this last minute miracle.

The child’s father had taken her out on his assigned duty, and no doubt he would bring her home when he was rotated back to the village, but on the chance that she finished treating his shinobi before then (or if it took too long and her father’s rotation came first), Hiruzen sent orders that both she and her father were to return to the village after she was done curing the infected.

If she survived to return, perhaps she could become an asset to the hospital and his shinobi forces. Lighting his pipe and taking a puff, Hiruzen decided that he would even direct Tsunade to the girl to see what his student could learn about the Aburame’s new kikaichu and get her opinion on the matter.

Ideally, perhaps Tsunade would even take the girl on as a student, if not an apprentice. What a boon it would be to have two great healers.


Duty

His daughter finished vetting the camp before noon the next day. Nara Reo declared that they would be moving on soon, an announcement which had Kaiya clinging to his trench coat. He could empathize as he wasn’t looking forward to parting with her either. Last night she had slept with him as usual since they left the village, and it had been so comforting to have her within reach again. They had followed their morning routine until she deviated, parting from him at Nara Reo’s call to return to the medical tent. Teijo had lingered close to the area, thankful that today’s assignment let him remain within the camp. If he had been assigned a patrol, Kaiya would have been gone before he’d had a chance to return.

Putting a hand on Kaiya’s head, he noted that she had once again forgone the ponytail she had favored until just recently. Perhaps that was just as well since her kikaichu would be able to move about in her hair more easily. Reluctantly, she looked up at him, likely suspecting what he was going to say.

Quietly, he told her that there were Konoha shinobi who needed the help that only she could give. She was not a kunoichi of the Leaf, not yet, but she was still an Aburame, a member of the Leaf, and she had her orders.

“You must, Kaiya.”

He did not want her to be branded as a traitor, or to have to watch her be carried away against her will. Better that she went willingly.

(better that she not feel that infecting her escorts with Blood or Decline is her only recourse to staying with him)

Nara and his team are waiting a less than twenty feet away from them, no doubt wondering how they will handle Kaiya if she refuses to go.

Teijo remembers her Shapers and wonders if there is anyone who could force her to do what she did not want to do. Yes, they could knock her out, but she would wake eventually. They could seal her chakra away and kill her kikaichu, but then what use would she be to the village? He cannot imagine that the village would easily toss her aside, not when persuasion might still work. Would someone take him hostage in order to coerce her into obedience?

His daughter hesitates a moment longer, but she releases her grip on him. Her voice is small when she speaks, quietly acquiescing.

“Yes, Father.”

Watching his daughter being hoisted onto Akimichi Youta’s back and then the four of them disappearing into the foliage of the forest, Teijo hoped that it would never come to trying to force Kaiya into doing anything. He’s note sure how well that would work, nor how Kaiya would handle him being held hostage.

He can’t imagine that it would end very well, if only due to Kaiya’s immaturity.

He has to teach her more, teach her better. Konoha is their home, where their clan lives, and after her display, even if it is against the wishes of the clan, Kaiya will no doubt be expected to become a kunoichi. As such, she will have a duty to perform. He has to educate her on what will be expected of her, what is expected of all shinobi and kunoichi.

Turning around, Teijo wondered just when Shibi-sama would receive the coded missive he’d sent with his insects regarding Kaiya. Not knowing where the young clan head was, Teijo had sent the message to the Aburame compound back in the village. Whenever Shibi-sama returned to the compound, the message would be delivered to him. Teijo only hoped that the clan head would be able to do something to keep Kaiya safe.


Apathy

It was a long journey between camps and outposts. From the last one to the next would be over seven hours, perhaps closer to eight depending on how their endurance lasted, and also on how many breaks the Aburame menace would need. Frowning slightly, Reo wondered if perhaps he was being to hard on the girl. Yeah, she took down his team, but she didn’t do it knowing who they were, that they were from the same village. If he treated her like an enemy, wouldn’t he only be being making her into one? He wouldn’t change his mind about trying to get surveillance put on her, but maybe he could ease up on the negativity towards her.

Mostly because he was finding it bothersome to maintain his anger towards her.

Sighing, he briefly eyed the girl on Youta’s back. She was so damn small. Children weren’t rare on the battlefield, unfortunately such was the reality of war, but kids her age were. According to Teijo, she’s only four, not even close to being five.

Thinking about it, with her new kikaichu, those things Teijo renamed as ‘Shapers’—an improvement over ‘fixers’ since shaping seems to be a more accurate description of what they can do—Kaiya would probably become lauded as a genius. She’s already demonstrated an impressive ability to direct them into doing exactly what she wants, and from what he’s seen so far, she’s definitely on par with a medic-nin that knows how to wield chakra, though that is the one area she’s lacking in. Yeah, once she gets a hold of how to wield chakra, Reo can see her becoming the next child-genius of Konoha.

…Great, now he pities her. That is not what he intended when he’d decided to let go of his anger.

He let out a small, tired sigh.

Whatever. Outside of this escort mission and getting surveillance on her, she’s not his concern.


Note

Kouki stood near Reo as they observed Aburame Kaiya as she drank from a canteen. The girl hadn’t moved far from Youta, and Kouki took that to mean the girl felt either safest or more comfortable near the Akimichi, perhaps even a mix of both. No doubt she had picked up on Reo’s earlier hostility, not to mention that he’d held her in his Shadow Paralysis Jutsu. Her kikaichu had been stirred up by that, so it was likely that the girl didn’t like being trapped or feeling trapped. If it weren’t for her clear attachment to her father, Kouki would be tempted to label her as a flight risk, not to mention a potential danger to Konoha. It was almost strange to think of this little girl as being dangerous, but this was the shinobi world, so it didn’t surprise him too much.

“There are Hyuuga stationed at the next camp,” Reo murmured.

“You think they might have an issue with the Aburame girl?”

Reo huffed. “Issue or not, if they’re infected, I doubt they’ll want to die in an explosion of blood.”

Kouki conceded the point with a short hum.

He made a mental note to ask a Hyuuga to observe Kaiya and her kikaichu as they worked on the upcoming set of patients.


Necessity

The patients at the next camp were worse off than the one you’d left behind, and you had a sinking feeling that this would be a pattern. After all, the longer the infected went without treatment, the more they bloated with blood and the closer they were to death. The Nara seemed to realize this as well as he was grim as you followed him towards this camp’s quarantined tent.

“Can you work faster, Aburame-chan?”

You were puffing slightly, trying your best to keep up with his long strides.

“I-I will do my best, Nara-san.”

The two of you entered the quarantined tent and paused at the sight of the swollen shinobi laid out within.

“Do that,” he said gravely, breaking your shocked stupor.

You frowned slightly behind your high collar, your hands already turning lilac as you prepared yourself for the immediate task before you.

“Right.”


Unobservable

There were infected Hyuuga, a pair from the Branch family, and a third who didn’t seem to be showing signs of having contracted either Blood or Decline, but Kouki would refrain from mentally marking the shinobi in question as ‘uninfected’ until after the little Aburame cleared him. The man in question was staring in the direction of the quarantined tent as Kouki approached him with his request. The Hyuuga was skeptical about the Aburame girl’s skill, but he did as requested and activated his Byakugan in order to see within the tent in the distance.

There were several long moments of silence before the Hyuuga shook his head.

“I can see that there are several kikaichu of varying sizes within and upon her, but these Shapers you’ve asked me to look at are too small to observe individually. Instead, I see them move as one shape, sliding down from her arms into the patient, but again, they move as one shape, albeit blurred at the edges.”

He stared at the tent for a while longer before deactivating his Byakugan to glance at him.

“Who is this girl?”

“Aburame Kaiya, daughter of Aburame Teijo,” Kouki replied.

And, as was decided back at the outpost, he refrained from informing the Hyuuga that she had been the one to create the very diseases that were afflicting their forces in the area. That information was being held close to their chests until they could safely inform the Hokage. Personally, Kouki was almost completely certain that that information would be an S-class secret and a technique the Hokage would be forbidding Kaiya to use.

After all, there are some things that men—and especially children—should not be allowed to know or do.


Exhaustion

Due to when you’d left the last camp, the team escorting you had arrived at the next camp in the evening. From there, you’d started working on the patients in the quarantined tent, keeping at it as your head slowly drooped until the world suddenly turned black.

It was only for a moment, as though you missed a step and fell, and then you jerked awake to find that an arm had caught you. Looking up, you saw that it was the Nara, and he was frowning.

“Alright, kid, that’s enough for now. Call back your kikaichu. It’s time to rest.”

Sleep was heavy on your eyelids, so you didn’t protest. With a mental command, your fixers started retreating from your most recent patient, a kunoichi who was in one of the middle stages of Blood. She tried to protest, but Nara kept hold on you, so you continued pulling your kikaichu back. Soon they were all back and you let them sink down into you so that your skin was no longer lilac-colored.

Nara picked you up, and you were asleep before he even left the tent.


Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers.

~Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Chapter Text

The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.

~Henry Green


Soldiers

When you wake up, it’s daylight, but you’re still tired. Your chakra levels are normal, but your head and limbs are heavier than usual this morning. How late were you up last night? Is this tiredness because of the traveling you did? But you didn’t really do anything strenuous on the way here, so is that really a contributing factor to how you feel right now? You don’t know for sure, but as long as you have chakra you are probably considered fit for duty.

Your partially open eyes close as you try to digest that last thought.

The person you can’t remember being is railing against the very idea of what has been imposed upon you. Apparently the fact that a child, especially one as small as yourself, is expected to adhere to ‘duty’ in a warzone is ‘wrong’. You have a vague recollection of passing one of your Aburame cousins with a pack on their back, a kid who didn’t even look twelve with a Leaf headband on their forehead, and this image evokes a phrase from your unwanted past memories: ‘child soldier’.

Wincing, you curl up slightly as your old memories strike you with a quick deluge of images. You see instances of children, so many you couldn’t count them all, playing in parks, walking in grey streets with smiles on their faces, colorful packs on their backs, cheering for strange people in brightly colored clothing, sitting in a room with desks, eating from bento boxes, laughing and carefree.

(a small boy with green hair and a blurred face, crying, laughing, mouth moving excitedly about something, always looking at you)

Tears drip down the side of your face and over the bridge of your nose as a realization sinks into you, crashing into the ‘normal’ you learned in four years from Mother, Father and the clan.

Children are not supposed to go war.

But that’s not true here, is it?


Withheld

You let yourself cry quietly for a few minutes before wiping your tears away. Peering through squinted eyes, you spot your sunglasses nearby and pick them up, sitting up before you don them. The tent is nearly empty, though a couple of the farthest sleeping mats are occupied. Getting up off the sleeping mat, you proceed to do your morning routine and after a meager breakfast you take the initiative to head to the medical tent.

Nara comes out of nowhere as you enter the tent, coming in just a couple feet behind you. His unexpected greeting nearly startles you into stumbling but aside from a small jolt and a half-hearted glare at him, you manage to stay on your feet.

You finish the Blood patients before noon and after a quick, unpleasant meal of a ration bar, you once again find yourself vetting a line of shinobi and kunoichi. They are a mix of personalities, and you’re not sure if you prefer the quiet ones or the livelier ones. This camp is heavily infected, and you even find two poor saps who have both Blood and Decline. Whether wrong or right, you decide not to mention it and only inform them that they had the beginning of Blood, which they no longer did after your treatment.

Nara and his team are the last in line, which surprises you. Nara explains that if someone isn’t immune, then it was possible that a contagious disease could take root in them a second time.

Numbly, you nod and look them over, internally frantic as you decide to keep to yourself the fact that you’d made everyone you ever treated immune.


Scrutinize

Night had fully fallen as Reo lead his team to the next camp. The Aburame girl had already fallen asleep and lost her grip on Youta, prompting Reo to catch her before she could fall completely off his friend’s back. Now she was cradled in one of Youta’s arms as they continued making their way through the forest.

Reo is trying not to resent the kid or treat her with suspicion, but he read the report from Amano.

Where was the orange and black kikaichu that reportedly had the cure to Blood? Why hadn’t she brought it out since her time with Amano?

If her Shapers can bypass the kikaichu that specifically holds a cure, then wasn’t it possible that those same Shapers could bypass the kikaichu that ‘held’ the disease?

Reo suspected that her Shapers created the disease and that she later created both the disease-carriers and the cure-carriers after the fact. It seems like the most likely scenario given that she hasn’t pulled them out again. Kaiya herself did not seem to remember that she had the orange and black kikaichu. Thus far she had stuck to the Shapers, her ‘fixer’s, so she’s not as clever as she tried to make herself out to be. But why? Why would so do that in the first place if she was only going to forget to maintain the façade?

Is she hiding her abilities on purpose? If so, for what reason?

Reo scowled as he saw the top of her head from over Youta’s shoulder.

The scowl lessened as he realized just how young she was. Back at the clan compound, Reo had several younger cousins, a few of them Kaiya’s age. When a child does something bad, it is not unusual that they would want to cover up their mistake. Perhaps that is all Kaiya was trying to do.

But he can’t be soft on her. Everything she does, he’s going to report.

That’s his duty as a shinobi of the Leaf, and his responsibility to the clan members who would be vulnerable to the terrible things Kaiya could create or do.


Wish

This time, it takes longer to get to the next camp. The men had traveled through the night while you’d slept, and during the stop for you to eat and do your business, Nara said that you wouldn’t reach the next place until almost noon. It’s almost surprising just how far Blood and Decline have spread, but your past memories toss the word ‘intercontinental’ at you which takes some time to parse.

Apparently past-you is telling you that this is a slow-spread of the two diseases, that in your life before you could have inflicted Blood and Decline on separate landmasses even with oceans between them. Trying to imagine that makes your head hurt so you stuff that thought in the back of your mind as you climb onto Youta’s back.

Your past world was a strange and confusing place, but you also know that it wasn’t all bad. There were good things about it too.

(smiling faces with blurred features, food available for sale everywhere, communication across great distances, peace)

It’s just… you get the feeling that you weren’t happy there.

Not truly, not after Mom and Dad died.

Even with the unpleasant truth of child soldiers here, was it possible that you could be happier in this life as Aburame Kaiya?

You want to think that it’s possible.

Yes.

You’d like it if you could at least be happy here.


Ambushed

The kunai that stabs into Reo’s arm comes out from nowhere and the next thing he knows he and his team are surrounded by Iwa-nin. When they demand the girl, a ball of ice forms in the pit of his stomach.

How do they already know about Kaiya?

They are outnumbered, not counting Kaiya, eight against three.

The situation is dire, and Reo suspects that not all of them will get out of this alive. They can’t lose Kaiya. Her kikaichu are the only treatment for the diseases she made. Without her, shinobi will die and the Land of Fire might be in danger, because who knows if any infected shinobi passed through a populated area.

So they fight.


Death

You see Nara and his teammates die.

They fought together at first, but then Nara was ganged up on four to one and stabbed to death. Yamanaka was distraught and beheaded mid-scream. Akimichi had tried to run away with you, but something cut his ankles out from under him. You were ripped from his back before he hit the ground, and someone stabbed him through the back of his neck before he could even turn to look.

If it wasn’t for you, they needn’t have died here.


Monster

During the short and intense battle between Nara’s team and the Iwa-nin, you manage to scatter your imposter-ladybugs, directing them to latch onto each of the surviving Iwa-nin. Caught under the arm of a large man with your own arms pinned, you are squeezed painfully in response to your wriggles. You whine and stop struggling, only for an Iwa kunoichi to grab your chin and lift your face to hers.

“I always wanted to see what the Aburame fuckers were hiding behind their damn sunglasses.”

Saying this, she roughly plucked them from your face but your eyes had already closed before she’d finished speaking. As she harshly slaps your face, you sense from the male ladybug-kikaichu beneath your pants leg confirmation that eight females have landed on the five surviving Iwa-nin.

Nara and his teammates have been dead for almost two minutes, so you waste no time sending the order to sting and sting repeatedly.

The arm holding you tightens its grip painfully, jolting you against a firm body as the Iwa-nin drop to their knees. Two scream and the rest make choking noises, but even those fade away as your imposter-ladybugs keep stinging them. More imposter-ladybugs fly out from under your clothing and swarm the Iwa-nin, stinging wherever they find flesh.

A vicious thought from you sends your kikaichu for their faces.

Your face smashes against the ground as your captor fully collapses, sending a burst of pain through your head. Pain has locked the man’s muscles, so you are trapped as you frantically send out your regular kikaichu to form a chain between your hand and his exposed arm. Once the link is formed, you ‘see’ his body and you take vicious glee in the pain he’s suffering. Then, quickly, you loosen his grip and wriggle free, shedding tears as your broken nose throbbed painfully.

Warm blood dripped down your face and over your bruised mouth as you picked up your fallen sunglasses and put them back on. Tears leaked down your face as your mental count reached four minutes. Parting your lips slightly so as not to attempt breathing through your broken nose, you knelt down and pressed your hands against the grass, calling up your Quirk.

Ignoring the kunoichi who had fallen just so that she had a view of you, you melted the grass and reformed it into four writhing, fleshy whips. Standing up and walking a few feet in one direction, the vines whipped out, latching onto Nara, Yamanaka’s body and head, and Akimichi. With Nara and Akimichi, you forced their bodies to breathe, and their hearts started pumping blood and oxygen. Hauling Yamanaka’s head over to his body, you reattached it to his neck before giving him the same treatment. ‘Looking’ at them, they weren’t ‘alive’, but with this their brains wouldn’t suffocate and die.

(the Aburame monster turned its head and she saw those damned sunglasses reflecting the glare of sunlight, two glowing circles set in a bloodied face

it didn’t speak as it knelt, and as yet more fleshy vines formed from the grass to writhe towards them, she wished this pain would kill them before they could touch them )

Hm. The kunoichi’s brain is screaming ‘scared’. You might even go as far as to classify it as ‘terrified’.

Whatever. She hit you, so you’re just going to let her slowly die like most of her companions. One lucky of these five will be relieved of their pain, though not so lucky in that past-you has been let out of her box so that you can figure out how to make them talk.

It’s almost scary how easy it’s going to be.

(she pulls over Katashi with a fleshy vine and to her horror he truthfully answers the monster’s slurred and nasal questions, questions on chakra control and if it was possible to transfer chakra to someone else

her heart wanted to give out as Katashi replied and then pointed at her)

Damn. Alright, so the bitch who hit you had the skill you needed. Fine.

The imposter ladybugs had returned to you and you had replenished them. Making the male Iwa-nin walk a few feet away, you sent them to sting him again, face, hands and feet. Letting him fall, you tugged over the kunoichi, ordering her feet to move against her will. Bringing her to stop a couple feet away, you saw that she was sweaty and wide-eyed, slumped because she did not have control of her own body.

If you thought it wouldn’t hurt, you’d have tried smiling. As it was, with your nose hurting badly, you simply adjusted her through the whip connected to her. You ‘watched’ as her brain and body chemistry changed until she was happy and completely besotted meat puppet. You asked her to transfer chakra into Nara, Yamanaka and Akimichi.

Her responding smile was blindingly radiant.

Stomach churning as you shoved your past memories back into a box, you called up your fixers—Shapers—to cover you from head to toe and formed yet more along the whole of the vines so that everything except the people were lilac colored. You winced as you felt the uncountable numbers of microscopic kikaichu eat from your chakra, so you forced them to eat from your captives instead.

Finally, you moved her over to Nara and watched with interested eyes as her hands glowed green. Relinquishing enough control so that she had limited arm movement, the Iwa kunoichi placed her hands upon Nara’s chest and you ‘saw’ the chakra carefully maneuvered into him.

Then, like a candle flame being lit, the chakra glowed in Nara’s heart, and in that instant, something changed within his brain. Keeping him unconscious, you felt something tight in your chest loosen just a bit.

Nara Reo was alive again.


Beware the dark pool at the bottom of our hearts. In its icy, black depths dwell strange and twisted creatures it is best not to disturb.

~Sue Grafton, I is for Innocent

Chapter Text

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...when first we practice to deceive.

~Walter Scott, Marmion


Plan

Standing god knows where in the middle of a forest, you found yourself with three unconscious Konoha shinobi, your escorts, and five Iwa-nin—oops, make that four Iwa-nin. Keeping the flesh whip on the now dead Iwa-nin for now, you pondered your situation with perhaps more than a little panic.

All three of your escorts had died, but now they were alive again, and how in the world were you supposed to explain that?

Crouching down with your head in your hands, you held back a cry of despair at your own thoughtlessness. Stuff like this is exactly the opposite of what you wanted! You didn’t want to stick out more than you already had, but this was a whole new level. What were you thinking?

You weren’t! You saw your escorts die, felt guilty, then did everything in your power to make sure they didn’t go full brain-dead, and with the reintroduction of chakra into their so-called chakra network, they’d been resurrected.

Vague memories tell you that this isn’t unusual, not when they haven’t been dead for five minutes. It’d been probably too close for comfort before you got their blood pumping again with all its life-necessary oxygen, but you weren’t close enough to any of the three to care if they were brain damaged. All you wanted was for them to not be dead and they weren’t and you have no idea how you’re supposed to let them wake up again and not get hauled straight back to the village for interrogation or chained to the hospital or thrown into a prison so you can be available for the village’s use.

Okay, maybe none of that stuff will happen, but your memories from your past life aren’t helping. They’re rattling in their box, thundering that you’re in danger, and you can’t help but believe that.

You shake the four Iwa-nin and wetly yell at them.

“How do I fix this? How do I make them think they didn’t die?”

Of course, given your broken nose, it doesn’t come out as cleanly as that, but they grasp your meaning. None of them have the ability to turn and look at you, but the kunoichi is still altered, so she’s the one who figuratively jumps to answer your question. She tells you about genjutsu, how its effects weren’t real, and how they were sensory illusions experienced by those who fell victim to it. Conceivably, it was possible that the three shinobi could have fallen under one and only thought they died.

It’s all you have to go on, so you move Nara, Yamanaka and Akimichi to roughly where they’d started the battle. Then, with the help of your past life’s memories, you altered their brain chemistry just enough that they would experience a bout of short-term memory loss. Setting them down so that they were slightly sprawled out, you knew that all that was left was to send them the message to wake up, but you held off because you still had the Iwa-nin to deal with.

Nara and his team had managed to kill three of the original eight-member party, and one had finally died from the box jellyfish venom, but that still left you with four live ones. How do you make their deaths seem natural for what your perceived current abilities are?

You blink as one of the imposter ladybugs crawls across your forehead.

Ah, of course. A little induced pain that matches a blow to the head, recall your Shapers, adjust their bodies, and a couple more things…


Uncaring

Even though you are a child of shinobi, you are only four years old. Currently, you are not even half way to five. It should bother you that you killed five people today, four of which were with your own hands.

That kunoichi smiled at you as she waited on her knees. That same smile barely faltered when you stabbed the kunai into the side of her neck and pulled, cutting a large gash that gushed blood. While her body was still warm, you’d had to reach down and manipulate that smile off her face.

The others you killed in a similar manner, though you had stopped their hearts and let them fall randomly, sprawling on the ground. Intellectually, you know that the human body holds a lot of blood, but it’s another to see it waste for nothing with your own eyes.

As for the one who died before the rest, you left him as he was. Box jellyfish venom can be lethal, so it wasn’t strange to you that he’d died of it.

Those five were dead because of you. You killed them willfully, using them to achieve your own agenda.

And yet none of that crossed your mind in the slightest.

An incident happened, you resolved it, end of story.

There is nothing to agonize about in killing someone who made themselves your enemy.

(you’d done worse in a life before, desensitized and apathetic if it wasn’t someone you cared about or sympathized with

current you tries to keep the memories locked away, but one thing is true for everyone:

you can’t run away from yourself)


Discovery

Nara Reo clawed his way back to consciousness, groggy and unsure of what happened. The side of his head throbbed and he wondered why. Why was he regaining consciousness when the last thing he can clearly remember is running through the trees with his teammates and the Aburame girl?

“Nara-san? Nara-san!”

Speak of the devil. The Aburame girl is calling him, and now he can feel her shaking him.

Groaning in protest, he cracked open his eyelids to see a close up of the ground. He’s on his front, and Kaiya is shaking his back.

“Nara-san!”

He jerks onto his side, half-pushing himself up as a surge of terror flashed through him. Where was he, where were Kouki and Youta, and what happened?!

He can see Kaiya and Youta in his current field of vision, as well as several fallen bodies that definitely aren’t Kouki or anyone else he knows. He gives the girl a second look because her nose is clearly broken, but when did that happen? Glaring warily, Reo sat up fully and glanced around for Kouki. His other friend was less than five feet behind him. He was breathing, as was Youta, so that was one weight off his chest. Their mission objective, the Aburame girl, was alive as well, so that was one more weight off his chest too.

Noticing something, Reo paused and stared at the bloodied kunai lying in the grass next to Kaiya. Looking at the girl again, he noted her fake ladybugs were crawling over the outside of her coat.

Extrapolating from the scene around him, Reo sighed and put a hand on her head.

“You managed to stay alive and saved us, didn’t you?”

She clenched her red hands into her pants. “You and Yamanaka-san and Akimichi-san killed three of them. If it wasn’t for the fight, I think they would have noticed my imposter ladybugs before I could use them.”

Yeah, well, maybe. After all, when an Aburame is around, one should be wary of nearby insects, even if they aren’t kikaichu. But, on the other hand, even though the Aburame are known, it can be surprising how little even people from Konoha pay attention to insects. That can be a downfall, and it might have worked out even without his team to distract the enemy while Kaiya spread out her potent kikaichu.

Her voice faltered. “I… it was scary, and I closed my eyes. Then you all stopped moving and I was even more scared. I heard thumps, and Akimichi-san fell. Someone grabbed me, pulled me away.”

She paled and continued her tale.

“They said they were going to kill you all. I told my kikaichu to sting everyone who wasn’t us. I told them to keep stinging. They made noise, and soon I heard them falling down. He fell down too, the one who had me.” She reached up towards her face but didn’t touch. “I got hurt.”

She lowered her hand and shifted to look over at the dead Iwa-nin. She was quiet as Kouki shifted, waking from unconsciousness, and Youta was just seconds behind him.

Reo can guess what happened from there. She got free and then as far as she knew, she was alone. He and his teammates were down and out, but the Iwa-nin would have still been alive. The venom of her fake ladybugs is something he knows well. It might have killed them, but only after some time, and during that time they might move and hurt her.

So she took a kunai from somewhere and bloodied her hands. Using her Shapers to stop their hearts probably didn’t even occur to her if that’s the route she took.

Kouki asked, “What the hell happened?”

Reo watched as Kaiya’s hands turned lilac and the blood either disappeared or flaked off, leaving her hands clean. Giving his friends a quick run down of what happened (what he thought happened), Reo finished by telling them they should go.

“But first, Aburame-chan, you should fix your nose.”

She stared at him as though he’d spoken another language.

Grumbling, he waved at her. “You know, your Shapers and your broken nose. Fix it.”

Her head slowly cocked to the side as though he was still speaking in a foreign language.

“Fix… myself?”

She sounded honestly mystified, as though such a thing had never occurred to her before.

His frown deepened. “You should be able to, shouldn’t you? They’re shapers, you know? Come on, kid. If you can reshape someone’s organs so they’re not half-melted goo, then surely you can fix an itty-bitty broken nose.”

She lifted her hands and stared down at them, bafflement all but radiating from her. As they watched, she shuddered. Her fingers shivered and changed color as she slowly reached up towards her face. She was pale and sweating, breathing hard before her hands even touched her face.

Why was she so terrified of her own kikaichu? This is her ability. There’s no reason she should be afraid and yet she is.

Her hands dropped down and he opened his mouth to speak but paused as he saw lilac blooming through the blood on her face. She clenched her hands into her pants and continued sweating as the spread of lilac stopped around the damaged area.

At first, nothing seemed to be happening, but just as Kouki started something, Kaiya slowly leaned forward as her body grew tense. A high-pitched sound wheezed from her mouth and her hands went from her pants to the ground. Grass tore as her hands clenched and twisted slightly. Her hair fell over her face, hiding it partially from view, but even with the cover of her hair, sunglasses and high collar, not one of them could deny what they were seeing.

Aburame Kaiya was in agony.


Immune

You more than anyone know that you’ve been cheating from the start. Ever since your Quirk came back (dragging unwanted memories with it), you’ve been able to do things no one else could easily replicate. When it comes to your so-named ‘Shapers’, you’ve been using your Quirk to help them along.

Rearranging cells is not a painless process. Reshaping blood, bone and flesh is supposed to be painful.

All along you’ve been numbing your patients, automatically inhibiting their pain receptors so that your kikaichu could work without causing them to spasm or attack you in pain. The box with your past life’s memories is quiet as your mind fills with a tormented scream that is locked in your throat. The Shapers falter for a second but keep going. The rest of your kikaichu buzz in agitation as pain pulsates in the middle of your face. Tears squeeze out from your eyes as you stop breathing.

You can use your kikaichu on yourself, but the biggest weakness of your Quirk is still in play.

(you have never been able to use it on yourself)


Alleviated

None of them make a move to touch her, not with the way the deadly ladybugs are scuttling all over her. As the minute stretches out, though, and Kaiya keeps doing that soundless screaming, Youta can admit that he’s tempted. The girl is in pain, so much that it’s taken her breath away, and not in a good sense at all. As the one-minute mark passes, Kaiya suddenly pulls back up with a deep and shuddering gasp. Before she rocks back forward, Youta clearly sees the line of drool that hangs from her mouth, but he also sees an improvement in the condition of her nose.

“Enough! Aburame-chan, enough!” Reo shouts, glaring worriedly at her. “Knock it off! Kouki can finish it off.”

Kaiya is hunched forward, clutching the grass once again as her chest heaves with deep breaths. It takes a moment before she pushes herself up to face Kouki who has moved to knee in front of her. She sniffles and winces from the motion, but doesn’t look away as his friend’s hands glow and reach out to her.

Her small arms shake for a few seconds before relief crosses her face. Or at least, she stops shaking and her furrowed brow smooths out. When Kouki pulls away, she definitely lets out a sigh of relief.

No one says anything before she’s put on his back and they set out again, but Youta knows he isn’t the only one to note that her kikaichu caused her pain when they did in no one else.

Why was that?


Impatient

After the events earlier, you feel exhausted. Your mind has gone from whirling to sluggish, and you can’t even bring yourself to be paranoid. All you want is to close your eyes and rest, but Akimichi needs his hands free in case another attack comes. Traveling while on his back used to be nothing, but right now the leaping is making your nauseous.

It seems like forever before they land at the edge of a clearing, but you don’t wait to see why they stopped. Urgently, you wriggled and slid off Akimichi’s back, turned and only made it a couple steps before you bent over and puked a mix of bile and partially digested ration bars.

You are in no shape to use the Shapers, but you are carried off to the quarantined medical tent anyway. It reeks and you hate it, but even through blurry vision you can see that these patients are in critical conditions. The head medic-nin of this camp is frustrated and irate, loudly complaining about the mess and how he’s got more shinobi with a serious bout of forgetfulness and clumsiness who are increasingly becoming a danger to themselves.

You groan, slouching where you stand, but you call forth the cure carriers. You haven’t pulled them out in ages and you’re stupid for forgetting why you made them in the first place, but they will serve adequately right now. When you ask for sterile glass tubes, the medic-nin delays obeying in order to ask questions, snapping the last bit of patience you had.

“Just do it!”

You regret the snarl as the jolt of action you made in directing a glare at the man made your stomach revolt. Are you dying from stress or something? No, you’re probably just done with everyone’s shit.

…where in the world did you get an expression like that?

Growling, you realize that your past memories can never be completely locked away.

Sighing, you find yourself slightly grateful for Nara as he gets the medic-nin off your back. The man fetches the items as you have your carriers deposit what ‘venom’ they have stored up. You point out which is which before sullenly trudging over to the Blood victims, skin changing color as you summoned the Shapers.

You did the bare minimum to keep the patients from dying from failed organs and pushed the blood explosions back by an undetermined time. The disease Blood was inert in them now, so all they were in danger from now was multiple organ failure. Completely curing them and fixing their organs would have to wait for now.

Finish the last patch job, you called back your Shapers and dispassionately spoke up.

“I’m going to sleep now.” You turned and glared at Nara and the medic-nin. “God will not help you if you get in my way.”

Reo snorted. “No need for that, Aburame-chan.” He smirked without humor. “Can you make it, or do you need someone to carry you?”

You don’t have the energy to be insulted or aggravated. Instead, you merely lift your arms up towards him, an action he doesn’t seem to have expected as it takes him a while to react. Rubbing the back of his neck and muttering under his breath, he then stepped forward to pick you up.

This time, you remain awake for the whole journey from the quarantined tent to where you’ll be sleeping.

You’re grateful that Nara ignores the medic-nin’s protests about both of you leaving the tent, because you think you’d sic your imposter ladybugs on him and anyone who got between you and bed.

Or at least, that’s what you think, but you refrain when Akimichi insists you eat something. Yamanaka also gets a pass because he brought you the water to wash your face, something he insisted would help you feel better. You keep your eyes closed through the whole process and keep them closed after drying your face. You stumble over to the sleeping mat, directed by Nara’s voice until you nearly trip over it.

All but collapsing down on it, you wonder why you’re so tried. Exhaustion from a harrowing event is one thing, but this feeling right now? Why?

(children are young when Quirks manifest

even if you know how to use it, you are still only a child and there are drawbacks to every Quirk)


Suspicious

Reo watched Kaiya until he was certain she was sleeping and not just faking it. Holding her sunglasses in his hand, he stared down at them.

“Something isn’t right about today.”

Kouki agreed. “You too, huh?”

Youta’s voice was solemn. “I don’t think any of those Iwa-nin were particularly known at all, much less as someone proficient with genjutsu.”

“Agreed,” Reo said, turning his gaze on the sleeping girl. “But what is it that is wrong about what happened? I don’t remember the enemy arriving, or the fight she claims we fought.”

Kouki grumbled slightly. “I felt pain consistent to a blow on the head which fits with the story she gave us, but… something just doesn’t seem true about the things she claimed happened.”

Youta spoke in a quiet tone. “I thought we died.”

Kouki waved his hand. “A genjutsu.”

Reo disagreed. “A genjutsu we aren’t sure those Iwa-nin were capable of performing. We aren’t Uchiha, but we’re not slouches at noticing when one’s been put on us.”

They continued discussing the issue before coming to an agreement: they were all missing part of the day’s events. Memories were missing.

Staring hard at Kaiya, Reo wondered if that too was something within the abilities of her Shapers.

If she could fix the ones afflicted with Decline, then who is to say that she couldn’t do the reverse, harming the brain instead of helping it?

Grimly, he decided that he was very interested in how she’d deal with the shinobi who were highly affected by Decline. If she could reverse that much damage, then that would put her right back under his suspicion.


Humans are suspicious and jealous creatures. When they see something perfect, they want to find a flaw.

~Gosho Aoyama, Meitantei Konan

Chapter Text

We are free to choose our paths, but we can't choose the consequences that come with them.

~Sean Covey, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens


Unconscious

When morning comes and the sun starts rising higher into the sky, Reo expects Kaiya to wake and go through her little morning routine before heading over to the medical tent. The three of them have always risen before her, and today is the same. Youta watches over her but when both he and Kaiya fail to emerge in a timely manner, Reo and Kouki head back.

They find Youta staring at a sleeping Kaiya, concern written on his face. He glances over at them as they arrive and gestures to the girl.

“She won’t wake up.”

Reo is instantly more alert. “What do you mean?”

Youta gestured at her again. “When it started getting late, I tried to rouse her by speaking up. When that failed, I gently shook her shoulder, then more insistently when she wouldn’t wake. I even sprinkled some water on her face. Nothing worked.”

Kouki glanced at him and went over to her when he nodded. Kneeling, Kouki’s hands glowed green as he checked on her health. He soon pulled his hands back and shook his head.

“I can’t see anything wrong with her.”

Reo went over and tapped the side of her face, telling her to get up. She didn’t so much as sigh or flutter her eyelids.

He ends up taking her to the quarantined medical tent because that’s where the head medic-nin has been confined. He doesn’t waste time telling Reo that he told them so, but he takes a look at the girl anyway. It’s a few tense moments as Reo waits for the diagnosis, but when the medic-nin looks back at him, he’s not prepared. The man is grim.

“As far as I can tell, she’s in a coma.”

He doesn’t know why, and even after Reo fills him in on what happened to them en route to here, there doesn’t seem to be a cause for Kaiya’s current state. The medic-nin doesn’t know when or if Kaiya will wake up at all. Even her insects are less active, barely buzzing when Kaiya was shaken and then carried.

Leaving Kaiya in the medic-nin’s hands, Reo leaves the tent to deliver the bad news to his teammates. They brainstorm but can’t figure out what might have sent Kaiya into a coma. They suspect the time period that they are all missing, but since they have no memory of it, they can’t pinpoint any cause. All they can do is send out a message to the Hokage, Amano, and Youta reminds him that Kaiya has a father.

After that, all they can do is wait and hope.

(using another squad, Shin sends the kikaichu venom to the next camp with instructions on which is which, and he can only hope that it will help prolong the lives of the infected, perhaps even cure them as the Aburame girl said they would, but there’s no guarantee)


News

The message reaches Teijo before either Amano or the Hokage. He burns the message after reading it and secludes himself away more than usual, or at least as much as he can, being confined to camp as per protocol.

Standing in the forest just a couple dozen feet away from the edge of camp, Teijo stares at the forest with his hands in his large pockets. His kikaichu scuttle over his hands, a comforting sensation he barely registers.

His only daughter is in a coma for reasons unknown, and neither is it known when she will wake up.

He wants to leave, to go to her side, but he can’t. Or rather, he could, but duty demands that he remains at his post.

Again, he wishes that he’d just left Kaiya back in the village. Even if she hadn’t been particularly well looked after, at least neglect and possibly going hungry at times would have been better than all she had endured since the first night raid in the last camp.

Holding back a heavy sigh, Teijo pulled his kikaichu back and pulled out a tiny scroll on which he wrote an update to Shibi-sama. It wasn’t long before a small swarm of his kikaichu took it and disappeared in the direction of Konoha.

He remained standing there for quite a long while, thinking of his only child.


Awake

When you wake up, it feels stuffy, and there’s a heavy tang of iron in the air. Groaning from how stiff you feel, you blindly reach out in search of your sunglasses. When you can’t find them, you squint your eyes open to look around, and you’re unpleasantly surprised to find yourself in the quarantined medical tent. Giving up, you flop back down and grunt from how firm the matt is.

The noise attracts someone’s attention, and soon you find yourself groggily answering questions from the head medic-nin, whose name you finally learn is Shin. It feels a little silly not to have learned that earlier, especially since it was so easy to remember. The slight humor you find in the situation quickly dissipates though, when he asks you to open your eyes.

You scowl and only do so reluctantly since you don’t like strangers being able to stare into your eyes. Thankfully his examination of them doesn’t take long and you gratefully shut them again. As far as Shin can tell, you seem perfectly fine. You ask him what happened.

(your old memories don’t contradict him)

Satisfied that you’re fine, he leaves to have Reo informed of your awakening. You sit there mystified by why you’d gone into a coma. Also, why was it called a coma if you were asleep for just two days?

It isn’t long before Reo arrives, and he hands over your sunglasses. Donning them, you open your eyes to look at him. He looks the same as usual, but maybe his posture seems relieved that you’re awake? You’re not sure, but you assume he is, if only because you can get back to healing people.

You ask if anyone died while you were out, and he shakes his head. You’re pleased that your stopgap treatment has worked.

(and so, so relieved that you woke up before the other Three carriers crawled out of your skin to inflict their payloads on the camp)


Distraction

It takes a few hours before Reo and Shin will let you get back to the original mission. They don’t want you to knock yourself back into a coma while you just want to get this mission over with so you can get back to Father. They only relent after you do your business, give yourself a full body wash and eat a full meal. You feel much better and more human after that, so you suppose their reluctance did have some use. Still, you’re glad to be back on task.

(glad to not have to think about how you lost two days, almost two and a half, glad to not have to think about how scared you are of your own weakness because anything could have happened while you slept and you would have been completely helpless)


Lasting

You don’t get to work yourself too hard, much to your annoyance. You have to take breaks and while normally you’d be glad to have them, they just irritate you right now because every break is more time before you can see Father again. You are anxious about it because the war didn’t end while you were in a coma. It’s still raging, and you want to be close to him. He isn’t a legend, but there’s just something about being closer to Father that makes you feel better, safer almost.

Sulking in the shade of a tent with the Yamanaka sitting nearby (you’re rarely alone anymore, just another reason why you don’t like these breaks), you stare at the imposter ladybugs scuttling over your hands and fingers. Maybe you’re being a little petty, but it amuses you that both Nara and Yamanaka look as if they’d like to be further away from them.

You like Akimichi a little more because he doesn’t twitch when they come into view.

According to Nara, he’d sent messages to the Hokage, Amano and your father about your coma state, so naturally he’d had to send out updates that you’d woken up. You hope that Father wouldn’t be too alarmed about the news since you don’t want him to worry about you, and you hope he gets the update on your condition soon.

After all, if you were a mother—

(R E S E N T M E N T)

You freeze, air sucked from your lungs by a heavy wave of emotion at the thought of motherhood.

Of course, Yamanaka notices instantly and is front of you within a second.

“Aburame-chan, what’s wrong?”

You twitch and inhale a deep breath. Trembling slightly, you lifted your gaze to his face. Quietly, you spoke of a sudden realization.

“I don’t think I’m going to be a mother when I grow up.”

(he wonders if she’d even be given the option)


Annoyed

Even with the breaks imposed upon her, Kaiya has made great progress in handling the camp. She grumbles when Shin makes her stop for the night not long after the sun goes down. Leaving the tent, Reo can hear her muttering about efficiency and generally complaining about how they’re treating her. Truthfully, he thinks she ought to be grateful, but then she says ‘Father’ and he realizes that she just wants to go back to him. Well, even though he can sympathize a little, Reo still thinks she ought to suck it up and not complain. They could be treating her a lot worse—

He scowled as he thought about how she might react to being treated ‘worse’. Yeah, that’s not a scenario he wants to be part of, thanks. The fake ladybugs, Blood and Decline were bad enough, but if she threw a temper tantrum before she could be knocked out? Shinobi aren’t slow, but they still don’t know her full capabilities. Who knows what this little monster could do with her Shapers.

…Ah, there he goes again, thinking of her like that. He doesn’t think it’s untrue, but yeah, maybe he’s being a little unfair. She’s just a kid with separation issues.

…Yeah, no, that just won’t stick in his mind, especially not after seeing those five Iwa-nin dead on the ground. Those five were clearly older, not to mention stronger, and yet they’d been brought down by a girl who’d have a hard time coming up to the waist of even the kunoichi who’d been among the dead.

Kaiya needs watching, and Konoha needs more anti-bug measures.

Reo slouched further and knitted his eyebrows in annoyance as he realized that implementing more anti-bug measures probably wouldn’t sit well with the Aburame clan and they were one of the four noble clans.

Sighing, Reo pinched the bridge of his nose and wished it’d been someone else who had to escort her around.


Unpleasantness

Later, with Kaiya asleep, they went over the day. One of the more interesting points came from Kouki when he informed them that Kaiya had said there was a possibility she wouldn’t reproduce when she was older. Reo frowned and saw Youta do the same. The village wasn’t in the habit of forcing people to reproduce, but they suspected that new Bloodline holders would be expected to. Then again, Kaiya was from an established clan that dealt with insects, so she might not be expected to have kids if she didn’t want them, or at least Reo didn’t think so, but if her Shapers were genetic…

He scratched the back of his head and decided that he was glad that this wasn’t something any of them would have to deal with. It wasn’t their business, so they’d just keep out of it.

And besides, Kaiya was just a kid. If she survived the war, she’d have time enough to change her mind.

Reo firmly didn’t think about how there wasn’t peace, just periods between wars, and he also didn’t think of how much Konoha would probably want more Aburame like her to spread around. He didn’t think about how her Shapers could change the tide of war, and he didn’t think about a small crowd of half-sibling Aburame with Shapers who were conditioned to be loyal to the village.

Nope, he didn’t think about it at all.

(the girl would probably kill them all, and even if she didn’t, he wouldn’t wish the fate of being a breeding stock on anyone)


Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.

~J.E.B. Spredemann, An Unforgivable Secret

Chapter Text

For a moment I felt joyful, and then I felt completely exhausted.

~Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation


Fleeting

(you dream)

You walk upon a flat road in an area devoid of other humans. As you pass buildings made of smooth stone and glass, there is a sense of familiarity to it all. You’re been here many times, haven’t you? Yes, that’s what it feels like, but you can’t remember what this place is called. You stop at a crossroad and look down every turn, including the one you’ve just come from.

Your heartbeat quickens as you look back in a specific direction, and your legs start moving as you respond to a call that feels like ‘home’. There is no sound as you walk, no wind, no heat from the daylight. You know where you’re going now, and soon enough you come to a stop before an opening in a smooth stone wall. Beyond it are several identical buildings, and there are numbers on each.

You live here. You live here with-

You run, finding the stairwell and rushing up them. Coming to the floor that feels right, you stop climbing the stairs and instead rush down to the door that is calling to you. Reaching for the doorknob, you realize that you are still the size of Kaiya, yet you’ve never been here as Kaiya. Your heart freezes for a second before you grasp the doorknob anyway and turn it, opening the door so that you can enter.

An almost-smell washes over you and this place feels warm. You call out but there is no answer. Walking further inside, you see doors and then a kitchen area with an eating area and not far from that is an area you instinctively know is for relaxing. Couches face a strangely thin television, but you’re not sure how you know that it’s a ‘television’. Dismissing it, you walk yet further inside and find a room for washing and a bedroom.

The ones you were expecting aren’t here.

Crushed, you wander back to the front of the apartment and try the doors you passed. You find a closet and another bedroom you instantly know is yours. You can’t make out any distinct details, but you know that is a bed, a rug, and a desk where you know you’ve spent time studying. There are decorations you can’t see properly, but everything here is yours.

There is a large mirror hanging on the wall, one you know you’ve looked in every day before you left, but as Kaiya you shouldn’t be able to see your reflection when you turn to look. Despite this, you do see a reflection, and it’s not you as Kaiya. Somehow you know it’s not even the you before you died. No, this girl is older than Kaiya, yet much younger than the you that died.

Your reflection is that of a ‘middle school girl’.

A strange phrase, and you touch your face, wondering if there was a ‘first school girl’ and a ‘last school girl’. You stare and stare, but somehow you can’t quite capture your own reflection. It’s as though your eyes won’t focus, and you only get a vague impression of how you look. Using your reflection to guide your hands, you pull at the scarf tied around your neck, and you think ‘school uniform’.

Tearing your gaze away, you move over to the bed and sit down to stare at the desk across from you. A chair sits before it, looking plump while having only one leg that ended in wheels. On the desk sits a closed device that you know you’d have to lift open and it would show you a screen. With that device you could search for information and videos and music, but deep down you know it won’t work.

Sighing, you fall onto your side and close your eyes.

“I’m home!”
“I’m home!”

You jolt awake and realize that you forgot to close your bedroom door. There is noise from the entranceway, the sound of two people moving.

They call a name, half-said—

(you wake and in seconds the dream slips away, forgotten except for the impression it leaves behind)


Definition

You feel moisture in your eyes and a hollow sensation in your chest. You had a dream and you were somewhere you’d never been before. You’d been walking and then…? You think it had something to do with going home. Father was probably in it. Okay, you dreamed about home and woke up sad. Probably because you know it wasn’t real and that Father is still far away.

Reaching up, you wipe away the single tears welled up in each eyelid. Squinting and seeing through droplets still in one eye, you find your sunglasses and put them on before sitting up and reaching under them to wipe your eyes again. Nara or one of his teammates are probably nearby, but thankfully none of them rush over to ask what’s wrong. A hollow feeling lingered in your chest as you got up and proceeded to do your routine, but you forced yourself to focus on other things, and soon you were preoccupied with the rest of the Decline patients.

The next time Shin made you take a break, you sulked outside next to the tent and decided that the next time you unleashed a dead disease, plague, epidemic or whatever, if you were called to help out again then you’d just make the ‘cure’ in mass quantities to be administered by other people. It wouldn’t be the immunity you’ve been granting so far, and there could be allergic reactions you might not be able to account for, but at least then you wouldn’t have to do everything yourself.

Resting an elbow on your knee and your chin on your palm, you ask Yamanaka, “What’s a word for when you make other people do your work?”

He huffs, amused. “Delegation, the act or process of delegating or being delegated. Delegate, entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself. Those words would fit your criteria, Aburame-chan.”

You ruminated on the words and nodded. “Yes, they’ll do.”

Next time, you’ll delegate.


Slothful

Shin requests more of the cures, and you don’t really have a reason to deny him. While finishing with the Decline patients, you don’t notice that Nara has been staring at you while you work. For the most part, he’s been present while you work, and you’ve come to simply ignore his presence unless he speaks to you or it’s time to leave for the day. In fact, no one really notices the Nara staring intently.

Under your care, the shinobi and a few kunoichi regain control of their limbs and holes in their memories start patching up. Given their advanced state, you say that it will be a while before they are back to normal, or at least close to it.

You frown, wondering how to explain any Decline patients who receive the cure but haven’t been treated by you. Those poor saps wouldn’t be able to regain their dead brain cells, not without you there to treat them. That’s something you clearly can’t hand off to anyone, so you pout and argue with yourself as to whether or not you should destroy Decline.

It’s useful, but in your current situation, it’s only making a hell of a lot more work for you.

You don’t like Decline, you decide.

Although, if the whole world ever becomes your enemy, yeah, you could definitely see yourself unleashing it again.


Dawdle

Reo suspects that Kaiya is responsible for more than just using her kikaichu on the Iwa-nin from before. Having watched her work on the Decline patients, he’s now more certain that she’s hiding something. After all, he and his friends have all proven that they can be brought low by her bugs. Who is to say that it hadn’t happened a second time, only she added the horror of her Shapers to their minds, messing with their memories.

He doesn’t say anything of his suspicions though, not while she is awake. Instead he waits until he is sure that she is sleeping before he brings it up with Kouki and Youta. His big friend is skeptical, but Kouki is willing to entertain the idea. But, the crux of things is that even if they have suspicions, they don’t have any proof.

Not unless they check Kaiya’s memories and find out exactly what happened in the time they are missing.

However, Kouki isn’t the best at his clan’s ninjutsu, and besides which, the Aburame would likely take offense if they ever learned that one of their own was investigated outside of the village and without any standing charges. Not to mention that Kaiya’s kikaichu are special and that she is the only one who has them.

Kouki asks if he’s going to bring a request to the Hokage about it, and Reo admits that he’s still thinking about it. He says he’ll decide later, but since they’re alive, he might not bother.

(if he’s going to risk making Kaiya an enemy, he’d prefer to be certain of his accusations)


Duty-bound

The next day after clearing the camp, Nara and his team leave with you on Youta’s back. They move fast, racing because that stop was much longer than usual. Even the breaks along the way are short, and you find yourself hoping that the journey will not be long. Hours pass, and when you arrive at the camp, Nara and his team don’t land on the ground.

They stop in the tree branches and stare down at the camp that is burning bodies and clearly in a state of emergency. There are dead bodies on the ground in the midst of red splashes of color, and you can see other splotches where blood had dried. Some of the people stumble around, tripping and falling, and you recognize them as those who have one of the more advanced stages of Decline. A day or two more and they would forget how to breathe.

(you know because your past memories show you a fast montage of watching a person through a screen go from a functioning adult to clumsy pile of flesh that forgot how to live)

You should have been here at least two days ago.

Nara scowled and asked if there was anything you could do.

You nodded.

“Yes. We’ll start with the surviving Blood victims while any other able-bodied person should gather up the Decline patients so they don’t accidentally kill themselves.” You let out a soft gasp as someone tripped and fell onto one of the two funeral pyres. “Like that…”

The men were grim, but they leapt down from the trees anyway.


Stopgap

Reo knows that he shouldn’t be letting Kaiya strain herself as she struggles to save what remains of this camp. He should be insisting that she rest, that she doesn’t need to continue working like a person possessed in trying to save these people. After all, literally none of them can compare to her worth to Konoha. What are a few genin, chunin, and even jonin in comparison to what she can do?

He doesn’t, though, instinctively knowing that it would be futile to try. He doubts she’d kill him, but he doesn’t fancy being stung and put in a corner out of her way, or finding out if she can easily put down him and his team again.

Instead he helps with triage and finding out what remains of the organizational structure of the camp. Someone tells him that all the medic-nin are dead, that the so-called ‘cures’ that came in did nothing. He sees Kaiya frown and instantly knows that the cures Shin collected were not an instant cure. They did do something, he’s sure of it from the way the girl’s pride seems wounded. He swallows hard.

If it hadn’t been for the ‘cures’, how much worse off would this camp be? Would there have been any survivors left at all?

(perhaps, but only in the single digits if at all)

Reo has seen much in this war, and he has studied history. Never has there been an event such as this in which one person could cause so much loss of life with barely lifting a finger after the initial move was made. Attacking the health of both sides of a war… who would have dared dream of such a thing? Something twisted in his gut as a phrase came to mind, a horror that had never crossed his mind before, something he hoped would never come from another point beyond Kaiya: biological warfare.

The use of biological material with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans as an act of war, that is the heart of Kaiya’s Blood and Decline. That is the war she would rage, the reason why Blood and Decline have reached so far from where she first started. She would strike at the health of her enemy and then either wait for them to die on their own, or kill them when they were weak. He has seen examples of both instances with his own eyes.

Kouki’s words come back to him, about how Kaiya seems reactive rather than proactive. After all, was she not in a warzone far from the safety of the village? Had she not been left to defend herself?

Youta’s words come back as well, about how Kaiya is a child and how she seems only aggressive to her enemy, and how, as far as they can tell, her enemy is Iwa. After all, it was Iwa who attacked her, and likely Iwa-nin who took the life of her mother.

Reo gritted his teeth.

Kaiya must not be allowed to become a mad child. She has power that no one has seen before, at least not at this magnitude. Konoha must be her home and she must count the shinobi and people within as her allies.

Gods help them if they ever get put in Iwa’s sandals.

(the Nara asks if you can make more Blood and Decline cure carriers, and when you confirm that you can, he orders you to start making more

you want to ask, but the look in his eyes tells you not to push your luck, so you nod and comply

you remember the first time you met him, how his shadow grabbed you, and you decide that once you’re done making the carriers, you’re going to make kikaichu like your Shapers, only these ones will be black and flesh eaters

like piranhas in the air)


Ended
While still in the care of Nara and his team, Father comes to fetch you, and a man introduced to you as Aburame Shibi-sama is with him. They take you home to Konoha while Nara and his team head in another direction with more of the cures from the carriers, hoping to find shinobi forces who can use it in order to survive a trip home where you could personally see to their well-being.

You are introduced to the Hokage whom you decide you are neutral towards. In your head, he becomes a man in the clouds, in charge of the village, sure, but not someone you will interact with much (or rather, you hope so). At Father’s subtle prodding, you answer the Hokage’s questions about your Shapers and how you made Blood and Decline. As a result, the Hokage becomes very serious and asks you to never make anything like that again. Remembering how much work you’d been put through, you agree. He declared the creation of such things as a forbidden art.

With your promise, you and Father are dismissed. Shibi-sama remained with the Hokage and at long last you and Father were able to return to your house in the Aburame compound. You knew Father would probably have to leave again and that this time you would be left behind, so you resolved to enjoy your time with him while you had it.

(when Reo returns, he informs the Hokage of his suspicions, but Hiruzen remains confident in the Will of Fire, that Kaiya has bonds she would protect

as long as it is not Konoha who is her enemy then she is their powerful ally)

Days passed, and then weeks. During this time Father was not sent out and you were stationed at the hospital to treat people who had contracted Blood or Decline while at the same time you produced more carriers and allowed the cures to be harvested by the staff. You met with Senju Tsunade herself and privately thought that despite her pretty face, you didn’t like her. She was much too bossy for your tastes, and she worked you hard. You can’t say you really cared for either of her teammates either.

In the end, the war was forced to a stop by a double epidemic that makes countries close their borders. Shinobi retreat to their lands and contact is lost with spies in other countries. Iwa blames Konoha for both of the epidemics but Konoha claims innocence. However, they are renown for their medical jutsu and for how advanced their medicine is, so Konoha says that it is not strange that they were quick to find a cure for both, not when it was their shinobi and people on the line. Others may believe Iwa or doubt Konoha, but the fact that the threat of both epidemics is real and that only Konoha can provide the cure keeps the other nations from siding against Konoha.

A treaty is signed, peace for sharing the cures, and the Tsuchikage signs angrily at the meeting, nearly tearing the treaty itself. Cases are provided to Iwa on site at the signing, and both Kage go their separate ways.

(he first person the Tsuchikage has the Blood cure administered to is his granddaughter, Kurotsuchi)

The war ended, but borders remained closed. You remained in the village and despite Father being sent out more often, at least now you didn’t have to worry about him dying at the hands of an Iwa or other foreign nin.

You never gave a thought that he might fall to rouge-nin instead.

He doesn’t, though, and that was the main thing.


An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.

~Mahatma Gandhi

Chapter Text

Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.

~Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


Training

Ever since you returned to Konoha, quite a lot of your time has been spent at the hospital where the cures are collected from the numerous carriers you’ve created, and also where your Shapers are being put through the wringer, first by the medic-nin and then by Senju Tsunade herself. While she was here, she didn’t teach you much of anything, saying that’s a burden for someone else (gee, thanks). In fact, she says the only reason she’s there at all is because the Hokage forced her to be, and that was to oversee the testing of your kikaichu.

During the testing, though, you notice that none of the tests include exposed blood. When you ask why, Tsunade snarls that it’s none of your business to know and storms off, leaving you annoyed and confused. One of the medic-nin takes pity and quietly explains that Tsunade lost her brother and her lover in the Second War and apparently couldn’t stand the sight of blood anymore. You ask how she contributed to the Third War and get admonished before being told that Tsunade helped counter poisons and managed the hospital whenever she was back in the village.

She wasn’t around for very long, and the last thing you personally heard from her is that your Shapers are a shortcut compared to the hard work she put in to become the medic-nin she was, which, okay, was a fair description, but it still stung. You were glad when you were informed that she wouldn’t be back, though you were confused as to how a shinobi could just leave, but you supposed it must be fine since the war was over. You didn’t know, and you didn’t bother to ask because you’re not really interested in the answer.

With Tsunade gone, the testing fell to the new head medic-nin who handed you off to a different medic-nin. This game of passing you around irked you, but you settled down as the testing of your Shapers’ abilities went on. When you started learning chakra control, sticking a leaf to your forehead was easy with your Quirk but that wasn’t the point of the exercise, so you made an honest effort to call forth your chakra. You end up practicing it at home too because you want to get a handle on your chakra as chakra is essential to the human bodies of this world.

If one doesn’t have chakra, one cannot live.

You will not be denied your patients because a lack of a puzzle piece.


Walk

Father is in the village, so he is the one who comes to walk you home from the hospital today. You brighten at the sight of him waiting in the lobby and a little bit of energy is injected in your walk over to him. The medic-nin you are working with, a woman named Nishida Hanako, says goodbye and you wave back at her before putting your hand in Father’s.

The walk home is mostly quiet, which you don’t mind. With the war over and the knowledge that the epidemics are curable and under control, the villagers are becoming less drawn and weary which in turn is leading to a livelier village. This place has no tall buildings like your previous life, but you like it anyway. The wooden buildings feel more welcoming than the ‘concrete’ cities you only vaguely remember.

Coming to a quieter street, Father finally spoke.

“Tell me of your day.”

You started with when he’d dropped you off that morning, how Nishida-san was there as usual and how she let you treat patients with broken bones while other medic-nin harvested the replenished cure carriers. After that she had you studying the bones in the human body and for lunch you ate the bento that Father had prepared for you. You ate on the roof and enjoyed watching the sky.

After lunch was more studying and you learned that the spine was a vital part of the human structure, prompting you to ask about what would happen if it was damaged. Nishida-san told you that a person could become paralyzed, either from the waist down or from the neck down. Since ninja rely on hand signs, you thought it would be more efficient to paralyze them from the neck down, to which Father nodded in agreement. Nishida-san was going to bring in a crippled patient tomorrow to see if your Shapers could do anything, so you’re looking forward to that.

After studying period was over, Nishida-san brought you to work on patients infected with Blood and Decline who had come in and been administered the cures but had damage they couldn’t fix and needed to be handled by your Shapers. Still, even though these kind of patients keep coming in, at least they’re alive and not, you know, people you accidentally killed.

Yeah, Hokage-sama was probably right to classify the creation of diseases as a forbidden art. But then, how would they know if you made more? Technically, you still have three of the Five ready to use at any moment. Not that that’s anything you want to hint at.

You don’t want a trip to the T&I place you’ve heard mentioned.

You’re almost back to the compound when the time you finish talking about your day. The rest of the walk is silent, but you like it.

It’s nice, walking like this with Father while holding his hand.


Trepidation

He hasn’t told her yet, but Teijo has heard from the clan elders, a meeting he attended with Shibi-sama.

Kaiya is to become, at minimum, a chunin of Konoha. They expect him to make her comply, and it rankles him that he couldn’t say anything against it. Kaiya wants access to chakra and becoming a shinobi (in her case, a kunoichi) means just that, at least if one’s chakra coils are not malformed. Still, even if she had made the choice, he would have preferred that the elders not try to impose their will upon his child. He hopes that she does not take the news too poorly when he tells her.

He should do it soon, before she hears it from someone else. Such a scenario may result in her being angry with him for withholding information. Her mother was quick to hold grudges, and he does not want to find out if she has inherited that trait by being on the receiving end of a cold distance.

As they enter the compound gates and head for their house, he decides that he will do it this evening at dinner.


Expectation

When Father tells you that the clan elders expect you to become a kunoichi of at least chunin level, for some reason, you instantly get the image of a yellow bird inside a birdcage. Right after that you get a wave of rage from the box of your past life’s memories just before the lid slams open and you get a montage of memories.

(a girl being attacked and falling down, being locked in a room, a boy opening the door and bleeding, coming up to a door and opening it only to be grabbed by threads, strangers, screens and cities you’ve never been to, being grabbed by a monster of a man—)

Your chopsticks falter in your hand and you drop the rice you’d paused in bringing up to your mouth. Father waits patiently on the opposite side of the small table and his lack of expression, while typical, makes you nervous this time. Lowering your chopsticks, you looked down at the food and pondered the impressions you just received from your past self.

It’s strange. You are Aburame Kaiya, but at the same time, you used to be another person, a lifetime you could remember in bits and pieces, and yet not anything truly important to who you’d been. Are you that person, or Kaiya, or a mix of the two?

…Probably a mix of the two since the first is dead and the second now remembers having another life.

You blink as you realize something, slowly lifting your head.

“How… how old do they expect me to be to even be a genin?”

Even before Father opens his mouth, you already know the answer, have known it since the phrase ‘child solider’ blazed to the forefront of your mind that one time: too young.

Father gives you a single digit number.


Diverted

Teijo can only watch warily as his daughter’s brow furrowed and her entire posture became tense, ready with potential hostility. He hopes she doesn’t go as far as physical violence as that would prove nothing and necessitate discipline. A deep frown makes an appearance, but because she is just a young child, there is only so fierce she can look, which is not very. She shakes, small fingers straining against the chopsticks in her grasp. Her breath comes hard through her nose and Teijo has all the signs that she is angry by this announcement.

At last, she lifts her head, and though he cannot see her eyes, he imagines they are burning.

“I’d like to see them try.”

There is violence promised in her words, that she would kick and scream, and Teijo is reminded of another meeting with Shibi-sama and the Hokage.

Kaiya must be taught self-control and duty to the village. Without those, she is a danger to Konoha.

One that cannot be allowed to her own devices.

(to life)

“Calm yourself, Kaiya. You will make yourself ill and agitate your hive besides.”

She attempts to calm herself, breathing deeply and slowly letting out each breath. The furrowed brow and frown ease, and he imagined that her hive was settling down. The food grew cold as he waited, but that was his fault for not waiting until after they finished eating.

Eventually, his daughter straightens, hands down on her lap. She isn’t happy, but at least she isn’t close to boiling over in rage. Her skin isn’t lilac-colored, and none of her kikaichu are skittering around her. The fact that she isn’t trying to threaten him heartens him, because clearly he is important to her. He hasn’t been confident in handling her since Kazue passed, but his daughter definitely cares for him. Still, now is the time to discuss her objection to the elder’s orders.

“Why do you object to becoming a kunoichi of the village?”

Her frown deepened. “Father, I feel that sending children to war is wrong. Teaching them how to kill is wrong. I don’t agree with that mentality.”

Teijo wishes Kazue were here. This is an important conversation, and he fears his own failure. He must try, though.


Obedience

Father speaks, but you don’t agree, not with the Will of Fire, or how the village is a good place. How could a village be good when you’ve seen it send children to war and their deaths?

(the village, a big family? no, he is your only family now, and only mother could have been another)

He must sense your skepticism because then he tells you about the Clan Wars, of how blood feuds frequently cut short many lives and how war could be brought into even a clan compound. Not even the Aburame had been immune, and in that time a girl like you would have been, if not a kunoichi, then expected to provide children for the clan. He speaks of how the First Hokage formed the village and how the Aburame were one of the first four to answer his call. The Aburame, indeed all clans, are expected to fight for Konoha, to protect it.

You don’t agree with the Will of Fire because it sounds like propaganda aimed to brainwash people into becoming good little soldiers who will lay down their lives for the sake of something ‘bigger’ than them. Yeah, no, you can’t picture yourself dying for the sake of the village. To spite it, totally, but for it?

Bleh.

Still, you can appreciate the sentiment of protecting the place where you live, and you do have to agree that the village sounds better than this Clan War era. Also, you want to be able to access chakra, to walk on trees and jump through them on high branches, not to mention be able to use your kikaichu to greater effect. Fine. You will become a kunoichi of Konoha and of the Aburame clan. You tell Father that you will attend the academy, but that you have no intention of becoming a genin before you are at least ten years old.

“Besides,” you add, “There is no guarantee that I will be able to graduate based on my skills and knowledge before then. My Shapers do not equate genius.”

Father says he will pass your message to the elders and that you will have his support in whatever you do, though there is only one line you must never cross.

“Never betray the village, Kaiya. Never attempt to become a missing-nin.”

His sunglasses glinted and his normally balanced voice hardened with ice.

“For in that scenario, I will end you myself.”

(he could try, and you wouldn’t kill him if you could help it)

You nod.

“Yes, Father.”


Crossroad

The dishes are washed and put away, a task you do together with you in charge of wiping the dishes dry. It’s nice to be like this, be, what is the term, domestic? Or is that too couple-y sounding? Regardless, you enjoy daily living with Father. He gets up earlier than you do in the mornings and makes the bento you take to the hospital each day you have to go there, but in the evenings he teaches you how to cook. You are only four, but he considers you mature enough to watch and learn, and sometimes even assist, though you are not allowed to use knives or the stove yet. It’s weird how he can be all, ‘go learn how to kill people for the sake of the village’ one moment and then insist that you’re too small to handle knives or fire. With dinner over and done with and laundry done the day before, the two of you are free for the evening to pursue your personal interests.

As Father reads in his study, you lay on the floor in your bedroom to stare up at the ceiling, for once not distracting yourself from the box in the back of your mind. You’ve been trying very hard not to think about it, of all the things you’ve lost yet still miss, but you don’t think you can afford to keep zoning out because of it. Not everyone is Father, someone who doesn’t consider your silences and pauses strange and worth commenting, or worse, inquiring. You need to have a better handle on yourself and that includes the memories of your former life.

Closing your eyes, you slowly brought the box forward and prepared yourself to open it, to accept everything that laid within. Despite your attempts to remain calm, your skipped in your chest as you summoned the courage to follow through. Quickly, before you could talk yourself out of it, you threw the box open wide—

(—and nearly drowned)


There comes a time in your life when you have to choose to turn the page, write another book or simply close it.

~Shannon L. Alder

Chapter Text

Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it.

~Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping


Remembrance

memories come in a rush, missing clear faces, voices and proper noise

you had parents, mom and dad

you were small and mom was attacked in an alleyway—no one came to help and you stopped believing in a lot of people that night

dad moved the family

you went to school with other children and lived without war over your head

you grew up and had to wear a uniform

a small boy with bloody knees caught your attention

he kept coming back, that small boy with green hair

he asked you a question—you can’t hear it—but you said yes and he lit up and cried

there is a dog and he saved you, bleeding blood from his small body

you changed the dog and suddenly fear the power of your Quirk

you distance yourself from mom and dad and the guilt hurts

a boy with unkempt black hair tries to take something from you and you hurt him

you expect revenge but he bends his knee instead, bringing his friends with him, those boys with blue and dark brown hair

the girls abandon you except two, one with long, straight black hair and another with short curled light brown hair

the boys will not leave and the girls will not help you chase them away so it’s easier to just accept them

the first boy puts you on a pedestal and gathers others under the banner he makes for you

a gang

the fact that you do not want it does not matter but you stay

the small boy remains a part of your life

with the boys and the girls your age, you stop fearing your Quirk

you make the small boy a promise

you regain your relationship with mom and dad

you start changing the small boy, afraid, but you promised

you tell the boys and girls something—the secret of your Quirk—and dedicate yourself to the gang

falling and bloodying a knee, you teach the small boy to smile and reassure—he smiles and says something, an echo of someone else’s words

you use your Quirk on more people while the boys and girls—your friends—watch

helping the plain boy, one of your other friends, by healing his sister

taking the small boy on a trip by train, saying something in response to him, ruffling his hair

a massive park with ‘rides’ and ‘attractions’, an attack in the distance, the panic of the crowd, losing him and swearing to kill yourself if he dies

finding him, telling him of your mom and the alleyway, why you stopped believing, telling him something—you are not a good person—and his response, the impression of being told you were

you do not believe him, but you do not tell him

a trip to a beach with your friends, being taken and locked in a room, you begin the creation of what will be seven

more usage of your Quirk, singing with your friends, going to school, coming home to mom and dad

talking with the plain boy with dark brown hair, being emotionally touched because he offers something—an escape, but you stay

reassuring that small and growing boy that you have not forgotten him, will never

(liar—you can’t even remember his face, much less his name)


a new base of operations, a place to dance at night, headquarters hidden on floors below

one of the girls leading you down the path of altering brains, changing the very nature of who people were

you learn because you have important people you want to protect

changes to your friend, lesser than those made to the boy with green hair

helping that same girl’s mother because you have to at least try

her eyes open but nothing else is different—you cannot hear her, but your friend cries and it breaks your heart

the same girl is not seen for days but returns at a new school where you have all left your uniforms behind and not all of you keep going to school

that girl—your best friend—starts a new project

(genetics)

helping the boy prepare for his own next level of education, helping him reach for his dream

a muscular blond man on the beach, noting that he is sick, giving him a shell you found

(you can’t see his face but deep down you know he has blue eyes)


pretending to be kidnapped, being rescued by the boy with green hair, a repeated occurrence

the boy failing, losing, knocked unconscious—being angry at your friend but relenting, not seeing the boy until next time

realizing that sometimes even your best friend can be foolish

the other girl saying something, making you and your best friend stand to go test her words

discovering that you can remove Quirks, your best friend laughing and making you glad she did not get your Quirk

being told something—the gang is being searched for—and having to put off the green haired boy’s rematch

with your girl friends, discussing something—dating—and the impression that you are not interested

your best friend rushing up to you to thank you—her mother is getting better

being grabbed from the street, hauled into the air, fearing death

being rescued by a large muscular man with blond hair

(and blue eyes)

asking something and getting angry at the answer, being carried through the air once more and landing in front of a hospital

getting a wardrobe change for more skin exposure and not liking it

the search growing smaller, the gang resuming activities

being rescued by the boy with green hair and being carried for the first time by him

watching the boy testing his new leg strength, remembering your time with him, equating him with hope and everything good, your ____

a birthday party, turning twenty, being an adult as defined by society

(not when you get a metal headband with a leaf engraved on it)

suddenly realizing that you will have to give natural birth if ever you have a child

your best friend revealing that all along she has had help and is not the genius you thought she was

being introduced to five new people, their faces more blurred than usual save for the last, a man with shaggy beige hair

using your Quirk, getting upset over the fact you have not sung with your friends in quite a while

leaving and not being followed, having threatened even them

hearing something from an alleyway, being afraid but going anyway and finding a man in bright clothing in a puddle of blood and healing him but leaving him there alone

feeling like scum after remembering a different alleyway, your own long ago nightmare

spending time alone and realizing that you have a home to go back to, people you want to see and have in your life

crossing paths with a skinny blond man in clothing much too big for him and realizing you have met before on a beach

crying because he did not have to have become like that, that you could have done something on that beach weeks, if not months ago

offering help, being turned down, talking

giving a promise and intending to keep it, even if you waited on that beach in vain for the rest of your life

your friends laughing

the completion of a drug, something that enhances Quirks, seeing it administered to your friends and some of the other five

time passing, going to that beach as promised, the seasons changing, winter arriving

your waiting is not in vain, he comes back when the ocean is grey and snow is falling

‘seeing’ him and being horrified

healing him, restoring missing organs, half finished, being stared at in wonder

hearing his stomach growl, taking him out for a meal and feeling satisfaction at seeing him eating heartily, smiling in the knowledge that he will be well

being told his name—(you cannot hear it)—and him bowing low in thanks

finishing his healing, trying to part ways, going in the same direction, waiting for a train

knowing that the boy with blue hair is following for your safety

the blond man leaves and returns and nearly misses the train

getting off the train with him, watching a movie on a big screen, cautiously taking his arm on the street, going out to eat again

nearly kissing him but parting on a sour note as he runs off in the direction of a commotion

going home with the blue-haired boy and having your girl friends stop by to cheer you up

sleeping for a long time and having the boy who tried to steal from you be there to help you get ready to face the day

displeasure at seeing the muscular man who rescued you all around in pictures and on screens

solidifying your resolve to live free even at the cost of the lives of others, even if it makes you a monster

having names for the seven and their keepers (but you can’t remember)

acknowledging to yourself that you are a criminal and a murderer

going back to that beach for some reason and having him show up one more time

asking and being granted an encounter

sneaking off and realizing that the blue haired boy was close enough to have overheard, being embarrassed

being told that your parents are dead

being injected with the very drug you helped create, your Quirk slipping away

falling apart, wanting to die

only staying because they will not let you go or leave you alone

identifying the bodies and being carried because you cannot walk

the wake and the funeral

seeing the green haired boy there but only acknowledging him after the funeral

blaming yourself because you know you should have been there with them

knowing that no one will ever love you like they did

(Father does)

grabbing the wrist of your best friend and staring up at her, wanting to remake her so that she will not die and mom and dad have

being talked into waiting, letting go of her

refusing the injections to hold back your Quirk, the first boy nodding and bending to your will

sitting with your friends and planning their changes

waking up to find the man with shaggy hair at your door and being annoyed

directed up several floors to the club and being caught in fibers

annoyance and fear

that muscular man who rescued you, other men in costumes, the first boy tied to a chair, screens showing some of the seven

outnumbered, held captive, but holding the world in your hands

three minutes

being manhandled by your once-rescuer, choking out a curse

released but one of the seven unleashed

emerging victorious but abandoning the club and the base below

suspecting that you are pregnant

deciding to keep it despite that it might be unwise after so much has happened

killing off your civilian identity, clean cutting ties with the green haired boy who just wanted to be a ____

crossing paths with the green haired boy one last time, being comforted while crying and saying goodbye at the door

feeling guilty because you are still going to follow through

giving someone your face and sending them to die

trying not to think of the boy with green hair and crying when you fail

picking a baby name with your friends

meeting the mother of your best friend, seeing how far she has recovered

seeing your stomach grow and feeling none of the glow a mother should feel

being helped by all of your friends

giving birth

a daughter with blonde hair

you do not love her

she is a reminder that mom and dad are dead, that you were selfish, that you were not with them when you should have been

a picture of the green haired boy in the paper brought a smile to your face where your own child could not—and you know it

creating a deadlier version of one of the seven

having to separate from your child and most of your friends as a plan and a warning comes

knowing that a threat to you and your group is being eliminated

sending away a cure and traveling more with the boy, no, the young man with blue hair

discovering that you were manipulated by the man with shaggy hair, feeling a burning rage only to have it doused because you had wanted to meet the blond haired man again so he made it happen

A combination of fault on both ends

you let him live

‘looking’ at your child and feeling panic that she has lost some weight

but she is half of you and you do not have the complete control you had over others

holding her, that small, warm baby, and not being able to love her like you know you were loved once

feeling exhausted, missing your parents, and wondering when everything would end

getting the news that the green haired boy got into his dream school and celebrating for him even though he cannot be there because ‘you’ are dead

feeding your baby in your arms and contemplating giving her to her father

but keeping her anyway in case she gets a variant of your Quirk, a challenger you do not want

being tired and your friends taking you on a vacation

deciding to reach for the stars

watching a competition on a screen, cheering for the boy with green hair

(so much more, seeing your daughter grow, meeting the green haired boy again, but all fleeting and blurred and you still can’t remember your own name or how you died)


Lost

A lifetime’s worth of memories ends abruptly and you wake up in the dead of night in your futon. Father must have thought you merely asleep and put you to bed. Fair enough, since there’s no way he could have known about the journey you were taking in your head.

Oh.

There are tears sliding down the sides of your face. Sniffing, you turn onto your side and wipe away your tears. You knew you had loved mom and dad, but you hadn’t truly figured out that you had loved others. Those five, no, those six—for surely you had loved the boy with green hair too—had been so important to you. Your friends, and you can’t remember anything about them except that they had existed once. What happened to them?

How did it come to be that you were reborn alone and so far away?

It was a mercy that you remembered nothing until you were four. If you had been just a baby, you might have gone insane.


Comfort

He wakes to the sound of Kaiya crying.

At first, Teijo doesn’t know what woke him, and he laid in bed, eyes closed but wary as he tried to sense what was amiss. He feared an assassin, or perhaps it was someone at the front door, but then the sound came again and he knew what it was. His daughter was weeping and trying to stifle her misery.

Rising, he quietly leaves his bedroom and crosses the short distance down the hall to hers. Kaiya is curled up and so engrossed in trying to keep quiet that she hasn’t noticed his arrival. She startles when he sits down near her and puts an arm on her small shoulder.

“Why do you weep, Kaiya?”

His daughter shakes her head and won’t answer. His heart aches as she remains curled up in some unknown grief. Truthfully, Teijo doesn’t really know what to do. His parents did not encourage him to cry, nor had Kazue ever wept like this. When Kazue died, Teijo had grieved long and deeply, but tears had rarely fallen from his eyes and only in small quantities. He wants to fall back on his parents’ teachings and tell Kaiya not to weep, but that has always seemed like such a heartless response. Self-control is one thing, but the war is over and Kaiya is only four years old.

Gathering his courage, Teijo picked his daughter up and brought her to his lap to cradle her against him.

Kaiya was no longer an infant, and he shouldn’t spoil her, and he still isn’t sure if this is a good idea, but he knows he would hate himself if he simply told her not to cry and left her here alone. He does not hum, but he pats her hair and hopes the hum of his hive can offer her some comfort.

Tears continue to fall from Kaiya’s eyes in distressing quantity, but she does not squirm to get away. She hiccups and whimpers, but slowly and surely her crying is beginning to taper off. When she is down to sighs, he wipes away her tears first before cleaning her nose and wiping the mess on his own shirt. His shirt is soaked in one spot, and clammy too, but he does not comment. He waits, whether for her to speak or fall asleep. Neither of them are wearing their sunglasses, for what do they have to hide from each other in their own home?

Kaiya’s eyes are beginning to drift closed, blinking slower and slower. Soon she will be asleep and he hopes that this is the last time she ever cries like this. Not because he finds this situation a bother, but because he does not wish such sorrow upon his child.

He hopes, if not for her happiness, then for her contentment.


Mistrustful

You do not expect Father to come into your room, but he does. Your stomach sinks because you know that you have woken him up. What if he has a mission tomorrow? But mostly, you are grieving for what you no longer have, the people you can’t remember, the guilt you feel, and you don’t want anyone there.

(a lie)

Because Father is stoic, you do not expect what happens. You do not expect him to pick you up and cradle you on his lap. Mother used to do this to you, but this is a first for Father. It feels like it too, the way he starts off tense and slowly relaxes as you continue to cry. You can hear the hive beneath his skin, and mixed below that is the sound of his heartbeat.

Suddenly, in the warm embrace of a parent who loves you, it hits you that you didn’t count your own daughter among the number of those you loved—six people, your five friends and that boy with green hair—and the guilt from a lifetime ago finds new life in a different world. You don’t start sobbing anew, but your tears keeping going where otherwise they would have trickled to a stop sooner.

You can’t talk to him about this. He is your Father but a stranger too, to the you who lived perhaps as long as he has, and his world is different from the one you came from. Yours had Quirks and his has chakra. But mostly, who could believe in reincarnation that comes with memories? You can hardly believe it and you are living it. You care about him, this man you know as Father, but this is not something you can share with even him.

You think it will be a secret—a burden—that you will have to carry alone for your whole life.

You are simply not brave enough to trust anyone here.

(you are alone)


Fondness

You wince when Father wipes your nose with his bare hand, but you are moved when he does not comment on it. If you think about it, Father has been great for your whole, short life. He isn’t very emotive, but he has treasured you. A memory comes to you, one of Mother and sitting like this with her before she left and never came back. She told you a story, of how when you were born, you were red and wrinkly, and not cute at all, and he was still wearing his sunglasses and high collar—

 

“But he kept staring at you and never looked away, even after he handed you to me and asked me to give you a name.”

Mother’s own face is hidden behind a high collar of her own, but you can hear her voice soften into tenderness and a small smile.

“When I named you Kaiya, he trembled. How could I not, with the way he couldn’t take his eyes off you, the child we made together?”

 

In truth, you don’t know why your name means ‘forgive’, only that it means something between them. What did Father do that needed forgiving? You don’t know, not yet, maybe not ever, but you are important to them simply for having been born.

Did Mom and Dad love you like that too? Did your forgotten name mean something special to them?

But no, this is not about them. This is about you here and now with your father, the man who did not tell you to stop crying and who thinks nothing of wiping your messy nose with his bare hand. This man is trying his best, and you know it.

Your heart aches because Kaiya is loved, and the woman you were knew love like that once and lost it and blamed herself for it.

Grab it and hold it tight. Cherish it while you have it.

You can hear yourself and your chest squeezes because you agree deep down to your bones.

Shifting your head, fatigued from crying and slipping away, you use the last of your strength to tell him one very important thing.


Moved

“Father… I love you, lots… and lots…”

Kaiya’s red eyes slip shut and soon her breathing is even again with sleep. Teijo will put her down and pull her cover over her soon, but right now, for just a little while, he continues to cradle his daughter.

He thinks of his wife, of his beloved Kazue, and he thanks her.

He thanks her for Kaiya and everything she is, his heart kindled with warmth at her soft, heartfelt declaration.

(he nearly misses the shadow that almost ends his life)


Assailed

He doesn’t know what makes him move, only that grabs Kaiya tightly and leaps to one side of the room, a blade slicing through the air where his neck was just a mere second ago. Kaiya startles awake with a gasp and a jerk of her body, but he merely tells her to remain quiet. His assailant is in shadow and suddenly he can sense that they are not the only ones present.

Kaiya stifles a scream as two more appear in the doorway, cornering them in her room. They are all covered from head to toe and wearing goggles. Teijo feels her trembling and his anger and concern agitates his hive. He readies himself, his hive rising forth from his skin as the assassins and or kidnappers step further into the room. He cares not for their reasons, only that he finds some way for Kaiya to live and to remain in Konoha.

There is no noise except from Kaiya as she chokes on words, one small hand grasping at his fingers on her arm. He can sense some of his kikaichu disappearing where they touch her small hand, but remembering that she can use plants, Teijo does not comment and instead directs more towards her without making it obvious.

This standoff has been going on long by shinobi standards and it makes him fear that these intruders are here for Kaiya and want her alive.

(a tool and breeding stock, his precious child, no)

A kunai flies from the hand of one intruder and the fight is on. Teijo sends his kikaichu forward in swarm, but he is shocked to the core when kikaichu pour from one of the intruders to meet his own. His shock costs him and a second kunai finds its mark in his chest. Kaiya stifles a shriek but he can’t afford look at her. A part of him does note that the pain and bleeding stops quickly, even with the weapon still stuck in his flesh.

The other Aburame is matching his swarm despite his efforts to overwhelm it. If he could just get some of his swarm out, they could go to alert the nearest clan member and raise the alarm. As it is, he and Kaiya are alone out here and all the clan housing is spread apart. Damn it. They’re deliberately keeping him trapped in an enclosed area to limit the movement of both himself and his hive.

He catches a glimpse of red vanishing into the black mass of kikaichu and knows that even Kaiya’s special kikaichu are being kept in this room. Her grunt of frustration confirms his guess and suddenly he is beset by the other two assassins.

He calculates the trajectory of one weapon and turns his body so that he is stuck instead of Kaiya. It doesn’t hurt and only bleeds briefly, a combination of his kikaichu and what he now knows is his daughter’s assistance. No part of her is lilac-colored, but Teijo knows.

Twisting and leaping, Teijo wished that he had a weapon of some kind. Even his daughter’s things are put away in the closet and in drawers. There is no time to grab anything, not to mention that he is still holding onto his daughter.

Passing close to one of the assassins, Teijo catches glimpse of the Iwa symbol, but that does not explain the presence of the Aburame. Were they lured away with promises?

Two more kunai finds marks in his body before Kaiya speaks, her voice nearly drowned out by the buzzing of the warring kikaichu.

“Father, feed me your swarm on my skin.”

He debates for several precious seconds before diverting some of his swarm to her. Fleshy tendrils start emerging from her skin in proportion to what he feeds her, and that is all he needs before he is giving her more, and more and more

The assassins try to dodge, but one fleshy tentacle thrusts into the warring kikaichu and suddenly the room is filled with more, ensnaring the three for a brief moment before two vanish with the substitution jutsu, leaving only logs. The third is convulsing and Teijo doesn’t know why until Kaiya murmurs that the ‘barbs’ got him.

Unfortunately, the traitor Aburame got away.

“Keep him alive, Kaiya. T&I may be able to pry information from him.”

“I’ll ‘pry’ it myself,” she hiccups, rubbing one eye. “Take me closer. It’s harder when it’s farther.”

Dubious, Teijo went to the window first and opened it slightly to let out a small swarm to go alert someone. Closing the window again, he took her closer, keeping a wary sense out for the assassins.

“Where… where can I remove his mask or clothes? I need his skin.”

Slightly perturbed, Teijo switched her to his hip so he could reach out and yank off the other man’s goggles. Bulging eyes greeted them, but Kaiya simply reached out and touched her fingers to the bridge of his nose. Within seconds, the man stopped convulsing and became calm.

Nothing more seemed to happen but he waited until Kaiya moved again, pulling back her hand.

“Tell me: who sent you?”

The man replied, “I cannot say.”

Kaiya scowled. “Why not?”

The man opened his mouth wide but his mask was in the way. When Teijo pulled it down, they could not see what he was trying to show them. Then, inexplicably, a firefly emerged from his daughter’s sleeve and flew into his mouth, hovering there. With its light, they saw a black mass on the back of the man’s tongue. The firefly flew out and his daughter huffed.

“You need a new tongue, then.”

She reached out and touched the man again. He made a choking sound and leaned his head forward, spitting out his own severed tongue. In the brief glimpse of the firefly’s light before it fell to the floor, Teijo saw that it was the whole of the tongue and even part of the back of the man’s mouth. Blood dribbled from his lips but his daughter’s fingers were still in contact with him.

“Father, more of your kikaichu, please.”

Not understanding her ultimate goal, Teijo complied regardless. Then, feeling his kikaichu coming back at a quick speed, he spoke and noted this.

“Ah.”

Kaiya looked down at the hand still touching the assassin and this time they both noted it was flesh-colored. Slowly, guiltily almost, she lifted her gaze back to him. Her skin changed tone in the darkened room, and from the slow blink from the firefly, Teijo realized she was lilac-colored now. She asked in a timid voice as the front door opened.

“Don’t tell anyone?”

They had company before he could decide on an answer to give her.


A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.

~Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

Chapter Text

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.

~Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World


Peculiar

Their closest neighbor, Naoki, arrives just behind the small swarm that returns to Teijo. The room is still dark, but from the way Naoki stops in the doorway, Teijo suspects he can see enough. The fleshy tentacles are still spread across the room, though they have slackened slightly. Kunai puncture several places on the walls and floor, plus the presence of third person who is neither Teijo or Kaiya, the only two whom should be in this house at this hour. All that, coupled with the fact that Teijo sent his hive to summon help prompts his fellow clan member to ask if assistance was still required.

Teijo clutched Kaiya tighter and confirmed the request. He asked Naoki-san to keep watch over the prisoner while he got his daughter and himself dressed. There had been an attempting kidnapping tonight and intruders in the clan compound, not to mention a traitor Aburame. Naoki nodded and gestured to the ‘vines’ still hanging in the room.

Kaiya sighed and most of the fleshy whips fell to the floor. One still held their prisoner who was calmly waiting in place. Naoki came forward with his hive and sent a swarm to crawl on the man in a thick band, ready to sap his chakra at the slightest hostile movement. Seeing this, Kaiya released the final flesh whip and they all disconnected from her skin, falling with slight thuds onto the floor.

Glancing around, Teijo could not make out if Kaiya’s sunglasses from Kazue survived the battle, which was unfortunate. She would have to settle for the spare pair he had for her in his bedroom. Telling Naoki that they would be quick, he tried to leave Kaiya’s room when the prisoner moved, prompting Naoki to knock the man down. The man cried out from the floor, sounding deeply concerned and angry, almost panicked.

“Where are you taking her?”

Teijo’s brow furrowed as it sounded as though the man thought that Teijo had no right to take his own daughter anywhere, but it was Kaiya who answered.

“I’ll be back. Be good and stay there on the floor, okay?”

The man stopped struggling and sighed in… adoration?

“Yes. Of course. As you wish.”

When he didn’t move again, Teijo left the room, troubled. What manner of technique was that? What had Kaiya done? Still, regardless of how much he wanted answers, they would have to wait. There was no guarantee that the enemy had been driven off for good. They had to make haste and join up with more allies, inform Shibi-sama of the intruders, and have the compound swept.

Entering his room and setting Kaiya down on her feet, she waited quietly as he quickly put on a kunai holster, his sunglasses and his trench coat. For Kaiya he gave her the spare sunglasses and returned to her room where he grabbed her jacket and helped her into it. With that done, he nodded at Naoki and the other man got the compliant prisoner up and moving towards the front door.

“Don’t forget the tongue.”

They both pause at Kaiya’s words, but with a look from Teijo, Naoki directs his swarm to pick up the bloody body part from the floor.

Stepping outside, the dim moonlit revealed that Kaiya’s skin was still lilac-colored. He did not tell her to pull back her kikaichu and instead kept pace next to Naoki as the prisoner walked in front of them. There was activity heading their way, from others alerted by Teijo’s swarm which had been instructed to split up and alert as many as possible. Two more clan members ran up to their small procession and Teijo gave a short summary of what happened and orders to inform Shibi-sama. They nodded and began running towards the clan head’s house, not weighed down by either Kaiya or the prisoner.

Before long, the whole compound was awake and an alarm was ringing over Konoha.


Interrogation

You end up kneeling by Father’s side in a room full of Aburame, most of whom you do not know. Father and Shibi-sama are the most familiar to you, though Shibi-sama is a distant second. You barely know Naoki-san, much less anyone else in the room. Hokage-sama is here, having arrived with Shibi-sama when the latter returned from wherever it was he had gone off to shortly after you and Father arrived at his house. There is another man who came with them, someone you don’t think you’ve met, and an outsider too from the lack of sunglasses and heavy clothing.

You aren’t entirely sure what is going on anymore, except that the alarm that was ringing earlier has stopped but no one seemed to relax. You, Father, Naoki-san and the prisoner had been met by more Aburame, including Shibi-sama himself, and Father had told him what happened—and it sounded worse every time it was repeated, that he suspected the intruders had been there for you—and then Shibi-sama had nodded and disappeared after telling the gathered Aburame to gather in the main room of his house. Shortly after that, an alarm rang out throughout the village (for what else could those loud gongs have been?) and then you had waited until Shibi-sama returned with the Hokage and another man, and here you were.

Damn it, you’re really tired and you really don’t want to be dealing with all of this right now.

Your skin isn’t lilac-colored anymore, after all, why bother when you are surrounded by so many shinobi? Surely you were safe here, or at least safer when it was just your father against three while unarmed. You’re been fighting off the urge to sleep for a while now, and you’re so worn out that you almost don’t care about your slipup with Father and using your Quirk without the camouflage of the Shapers.

However, “almost” isn’t the same as “don’t”.

Thus, even while trying to fend off a determined sandman, you can’t escape the hard pit in your stomach at the thought of your mistake. Oh god, Father was one thing, but what of the other two who got away? Did they see? If they did, there went an advantage of yours. But, as distressing as that is, Father is the more pressing issue. Would he tell the others? Were you now exposed?

You and Father were sitting off to one side of the room with Hokage-sama, the stranger, and Shibi-sama standing as the prisoner was brought forward. Several Aburame lined both sides of the room, and you were sitting between Father and a stranger, one of your clan members. Goosebumps crawled up your arms as your mind suddenly wondered if this stranger next to you was the masked Aburame, but you managed to not lean away from him. At first, the prisoner was going to be directly handed over to the T&I department, but Father had requested the interrogation take place within the Aburame compound and Shibi-sama had passed this along to the Hokage, and that’s why you were all gathered. The Hokage no longer looked like the old man you had met weeks prior, though Shibi-sama looked the same as ever.

It comes as a surprise to you when the Hokage nods at the stranger and the man takes the lead of this interrogation.

“Why did Iwa send you? What was the purpose of attempting to kidnap an Aburame child?”

The prisoner did not sneer or otherwise react to the stranger’s questions. You didn’t want to bring more attention to yourself, but you wanted answers too, so you spoke up.

“Answer the questions with truthful answers.”

The stranger gives you a stern glance, but the prisoner turns his head in your direction and smiles. It was a stilted, dreadful thing, a mockery of what a smile should look like.

“For you, anything.”

The smile dropped as he looked back at the stranger.

“Iwa did not send me. The purpose of kidnapping Aburame Kaiya was to break and recondition her to become part of Root. When she became old enough, she was to be bred.”

There is outrage from the gathered Aburame, muted and not shown much further beyond furrowed brows and, in the case of your father, clenched fists, but the buzz of angry hives can now be heard. Your clansmen are angry, but as for you?

You cannot help but shudder in revulsion and hunch your shoulders as you hear the fate you barely avoided. Was that not the very same fate you feared in your past life? That it had followed you to another world and that you were so young… You realize now, that you were foolish almost from the very start since regaining your Quirk. You had made yourself stand out too much and this was a consequence. Only four years old and already someone sought to imprison and use you, from your own village too!

You don’t feel safe here anymore.


Condemning

Uchiha Fugaku scowled, displeased by the would-be kidnapper’s words. However, he could not blindly believe anything that was said, especially with the queer instance of the young Aburame’s order and the intruder’s strange smile and response. He wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he has heard of Aburame Kaiya and how she could repair damaged brain functions. Perhaps there was an application of that here? But how?

“Aburame Kaiya.”

The girl twitched at his call.

“You told this man to answer with truthful questions. What makes you think he would do so?”

She fidgeted slightly, fingers curled into her thighs and crumpling the fabric of her jacket.

“Father loves me and cares for me, so if he did too then maybe we could find out why we were attacked, so I… I made him love me. I made him love me lots. Don’t you?”

The kidnapper’s eyes were still covered by goggles, but that unsettling smile was back on his face as he answered.

“More than anything.”

That had unsettling implications. If it was true, then what was to stop her from making others love her to the point where none would keep secrets from her?

The Third Hokage spoke, his attention on the young Aburame girl.

“Did you break the promise you made, young Aburame?”

She shook her head. “No. I did use my Shapers, but it is not a contagious sickness.”

Fugaku stored that bit of information away to review later. Right now, they had more pressing matters. There was no guarantee that the man’s accomplices would not come back for him, whether to rescue or kill him, so they needed to get answers while they had him.

She turned her head and looked at an Aburame across from her.

“Where is the man’s tongue?”

He watched warily as a small swam of kikaichu brought forth a severed human tongue, though this was the entire muscular organ and not just part of it. He immediately noticed that it had a tattoo on it, a black rectangular mass that was in fact made up of smaller blocks. Frowning, he asked.

“If this is the man’s tongue, then how is he speaking?”

“I made him a new one.” She said it easily, and hastened to add more as he glared at her. “When he was captured, he could not answer my questions. I asked why and he showed us his tongue, more specifically that black tattoo in the back. I thought that if it was keeping him from speaking then it should be removed and replaced with a new one.”

A seal, then, and one made to prevent secrets from being spilled. Worse, it came from someone within the village who meant to set up Iwa to take the fall and perhaps reignite the war.

And of course, here was definitive proof that Aburame Kaiya really could reconstruct the flesh of men. The girl could either be a great asset to the village or its worst enemy. But, that is neither here or now for the moment, though Fugaku will not forget it.

He turned his attention back to the man. There was no way to confirm the Aburame girl’s words, but for now, he will act as though she is telling the truth and the man really will give truthful answers. He asked a question to get to the heart of the situation.

“Who is your master?”

The man did not hesitate and the answer was damning.

“Shimura Danzo.”


Careless

You don’t understand what happened next, only that the stranger and Shibi-sama had both turned their heads to face the Third Hokage who seemed startled by the man’s answer. You think he tried to defend this ‘Shimura Danzo’, but you were too busy burning that name into your mind for he was your enemy, the man who would kill your father, kidnap you, and lock you into chains. You had no context to understand why that name inflamed both the Hokage and the stranger, maybe even Shibi-sama (it was hard to tell), but the men were arguing now, and you think Shibi-sama threatened to take the clan and leave the village?

That last part thunderstruck you, stalling your brain as you felt a mix of emotions you couldn’t identify. It didn’t help when the stranger threw in his own threat to take his own clan and do the same if nothing was done about ‘Shimura Danzo’.

The Third Hokage had no choice, not unless he wanted to lose two clans to protect one person.

With what looked like a heavy heart, he conceded to the two men. After that, you were pretty much ejected from the room and shuffled off to the other side of the house. It wasn’t too bad since Father went with you and stayed too. Shibi-sama’s wife (at least, you think she was) came by and showed Father the spare futons and bedding, and then she was gone. Father set up one of the futons and set you down, though this time neither of you bothered to remove your jacket and sunglasses.

Staring up at the ceiling while Father sat next to the futon, you blamed yourself for how things had come to this. You were exposed, threatened, and you no longer felt safe, all of which could have been avoided if you had just acted with more caution and kept your secrets close to your chest. If only you hadn’t been so impulsive and egotistical…

Sighing, you brought a hand out and reached towards Father. His hand engulfed yours without hesitation and tears welled up in your eyes as you felt the warmth of him. You spoke, voice watery and small.

“You’re not scared of me?”

Father gazed down at you and when he spoke his voice was soft with tenderness.

Never.


Faith

Kaiya sniffled for a while, but it wasn’t long before she was fast asleep. His poor daughter—she honestly seemed to think that he would be afraid of her now. Given that he knows now that she doesn’t need to turn lilac-colored to do the things she does, he’s not entirely surprised. After all, she just confessed to making a man love her (and wasn’t that upsetting and disturbing), and he had seen her transform his kikaichu into fleshy whips that she could manipulate, all with just her skin. He should be wary, but Teijo chooses to believe in the little girl who lights up at the sight of him.

No matter how terrifying her abilities seem to be, he chooses to have faith in his daughter.

Teijo doesn’t know what will happen from tonight on. Not only did a council man try to kidnap his daughter for an organization he had never heard of, she appears to have manifested some kind of new Bloodline Limit, a powerful one related to living things. Were the Shapers a new strain of the Aburame kikaichu, or did she make them? Perhaps she made them and then lied to hide the fact that she discovered that she had a new Bloodline Limit.

Teijo almost doesn’t need to ask himself why. War had come to her, given her a glimpse of her own death, so why wouldn’t she be frightened enough to hide her new Bloodline Limit behind a ‘new mutation’ of the Aburame kikaichu?

It hurt, though, that she hadn’t trusted him enough to tell him. Perhaps she believed he wasn’t strong enough, not when his own blood had splattered against her face.

Perhaps she was right.

But, even if he wasn’t strong enough to protect her from all dangers that would come, he still wanted her to be able to confide in him, to trust him enough to share her secrets. She loves him, but love does not necessarily equate to trust. He will have to earn that.

He vows to start by giving her an answer to the question she had asked earlier: he won’t tell anyone about her new Bloodline Limit, not even Shibi-sama.


Onus

Shimura Danzo is his dear friend, but Hiruzen cannot lose half of the four noble clans over one person’s crime. The Uchiha are proud, and allowing Bloodline theft would be reason enough for them to turn their backs on the village. Shibi is not prone to making rash decisions, but he no doubt felt that if his clan members were not safe within the village then they would take their chances outside of its walls, perhaps even align with another village. Of course, the Uchiha could also do the same, and to lose two prominent clans to other villages would be a devastating blow for Konoha. It could even start an emigration of clans leaving, and Hiruzen could not allow that to happen. If he pardoned Danzo and tried to stop either clan from leaving, it could very lead to a civil war, during which their enemies could sense weakness and swoop in, destroying the village and scattering the clans to the winds.

Being the Hokage who let the village unravel must not be his legacy. He must preserve the dreams of the previous Kage and keep the village together.

So he cannot spare his old friend or turn a blind eye.

With a heavy heart, Hiruzen waited for Fugaku to return with his shinobi. With the information given by the informant—and wasn’t that terrifying, that a little wisp of a child could bend a full grown man to her will using only tiny kikaichu—the Uchiha would lead the assault into the identified Root underground facilities. The Aburame would be there too, along with trusted jonin and Anbu members vetted by Hiruzen himself. However, in going after Danzo, Hiruzen would be leading that assault himself, with Fugaku, Shibi and whoever they deemed trustworthy.

What could have possessed his old friend to attempt to kidnap Aburame Kaiya? Was his greed for her new kikaichu that great? He should never have turned eyes on her in the first place, but perhaps Hiruzen himself should have put an end to Root sooner.

Holding back a heavy sigh as Fugaku returned, Hiruzen allowed none of his inner turmoil to show on his face. Standing ready in his battle armor, he gave his orders, oversaw the divisions of teams, and then they were moving.

It was time to pull out the rotten roots.


Successor

Events moved quickly.

The same night someone attempts to kidnap you, there is a battle within the village itself. You sleep through the whole thing, a combination of fatigue and distance from the battle itself, but you hear that a large section of the village suffered damage. There were casualties, though you are not told who died, although if they weren’t Aburame you don’t think you would care much.

It is Shibi-sama himself to comes to tell you and Father that Shimura Danzo has been captured. He will stand trial, but between Shibi and Fugaku, Danzo’s sentence will certainly be death. The threat to you will soon be eliminated, or so they believe. It’s sort of true, but there’s always the danger of someone else deciding that you would be of use to them. Still, for now, you nod and agree that you are safe.

The Uchiha stranger comes back with another, and you sit in a room with them and Father as you are both asked to recount the details of last night. Father goes first and you are tense beside him, wondering if he will betray you and reveal the fact that you don’t need to be lilac-colored to ‘use’ the Shapers. He doesn’t, though, and you have to hold back a sigh of relief as the Uchiha turn to you next.

You give them a recollection of the events, matching Father’s as close as you can. The Uchiha seem particularly interested—wary—of your Shapers and the fact that you can make someone love you enough to betray their comrades. Father has to interrupt their line of questioning, saying they are treading too close to clan secrets, and they back off. Eventually they finish and leave, and you finally ask Father who they were. He tells you that they are Uchiha clan members and officers of the Konoha Military Police Force. Uchiha Fugaku was summoned last night because of the severity of the situation, which is why a non-clan member was there during the interrogation.

For the time being, you are confined to the compound regardless of any waiting patients at the hospital. You are not even permitted visitors, so Nishida-san can’t stop by to see you. Father arranges to trade homes with another Aburame and the two of you spend your time packing and moving out of the house near the edge of the compound. When you settle into the new house, you spend most of your time studying and in Father’s general vicinity.

Then, after what seems like forever, Father finally says that you are allowed to leave the compound again, provided that you are with someone at all times. He chooses that moment to drop a bombshell: the Third Hokage was stepping down, and a new one was to take his place. Your first outing would be to this ceremony, and of course he was the one who would be with you. Sitting on Father’s shoulders and staring over the crowd, you stared at the man who became the Fourth Hokage.

He has blond hair, this Namikaze Minato.

Given your memories, you aren’t sure how you feel about that.


What you stay focused on will grow.

~Roy T. Bennett

Chapter Text

I don't know where I'm going, but I'm on my way.

~Carl Sandburg


Extraordinary

You go back to the hospital to find not only Nishida-san, but also Amano-san and Shin-san waiting for you. They all have ideas on how to utilize your Shapers, but you wonder just how successful any of their ideas would actually be without your Quirk helping things. Rearranging cells should hurt, like when you try to use your Shapers on yourself, but you have been weak, unable to make someone feel that pain, so now pretty much everyone except maybe your once escort team is under the impression that your Shapers don’t hurt.

You really hope the day doesn’t come when they find out the truth, mostly because you don’t want the questions that will not doubt come with that discovery.

The secret of your Quirk aside, an Aburame has been assigned to follow your progress in the hospital under the excuse of observing the Shapers in action. Well, maybe it’s not an excuse but an actual fact since the Aburame are interested in insects. At least they’re unobtrusive while you’re at the hospital. If Father isn’t there to pick you up at the end of the day, then you go home with them.

Yeah, you’re not sure if the Aburame with you is male or female since ‘Tsubasa’ isn’t much of a clue, and of course they’re wearing sunglasses and heavy clothing. You just call them ‘Aburame-san’ and try to avoid gender-specific pronouns when referring to them in speech or directly, though you do use gender-neutral most times in your head.

Regardless of your Aburame shadow, under the combined efforts of Nishida, Amano and Shin, you dutifully learn everything they put in front of you. Thankfully, they started you out on simple things while helping Father’s lessons on the kanji system. Elemental is a lot like Japanese in both speech and written form, so it comes easier than learning an entirely new language, which you thank your lucky stars for.

Still, practical lessons have long since gone past healing shallow wounds with your Shapers. Your dealings with advanced stages of Blood have firmly cemented the idea that your Shapers are capable of great things, and the three of them are eager to test out what the limits are. You, on the other hand, use their practical lessons to refine the abilities of the Shapers. After all, just because they’re smoke screen is no reason not to improve their capabilities.

If course, the more you do, the more you stand out. You know this, but you can’t just stop and be expected to be left alone. Moreover, you can’t shame your clan like that. Well, you could, but you’d feel bad about it in regards to Father since you are his child, and also somewhat towards Shibi-sama since he really went to bat during the whole attempted kidnap thing. Although, there is a selfish reason too.

It's nice, having people think you’re special.


Student

The Aburame are being quiet as to why Kaiya had been kept from leaving their compound for almost three weeks. Not even Kaiya herself would say when asked, only replying that she’d been told not to tell. However, Hanako has her suspicions, as do her colleagues Amano and Shin. They theorize that the alarm the night before she’d been kept within the Aburame compound was related to her. The battle in the village might have something to do with her too, but they’re not sure what. The bottom line is that they think that someone either attacked or tried to kidnap her. As the only provider of the cures for Blood and Decline, it made sense. It made more sense when you added in the damage she could heal with her unique kikaichu.

They were lucky that the Aburame let her come back. After all, they would be well within their rights to keep her safe within their compound walls. Well, safer, since no place is really safe, no matter how strong you are. They had argued among themselves at first after realizing that they were all after the same student, but rather than lose out on Aburame Kaiya by forcing her to choose one of them, they decided to work together to train her. If they did it well, then Kaiya would be the greatest asset to the hospital since Senju Tsunade.

Thus far, they have all agreed that her greatest weakness—aside from her age and size—is the fact that she doesn’t have a grasp on her chakra. She is young, though, and they would like to avoid being responsible for damaging her developing chakra system, so the most they have done is start her on chakra control exercises with dire warnings on not to overextend herself. Chakra exhaustion is no joke, much less in someone who is both so young and also a hive for chakra-consuming insects. Her Father and clan will have to be in charge of her chakra lessons, at least until she reaches a level where she can use it with controlled regularity. That could be anywhere from at least the age of six and onwards. Though, even if she lacks the fine control necessary for medical jutsu, her Shapers would still qualify her for a position at the hospital.

People may have problems with insects and the Aburame in general, but patients will just have to get used to the Aburame girl.


Wronged

Even with all the work you were doing with your three teachers at the hospital and at home with Father, you still found time to work on your ‘piranhas in the air’ project. These kikaichu were as small as your Shapers, but their function was not to rearrange cells but to consume them. Specifically, these kikaichu were flesh-eaters, and your goal was to make them efficient enough that they could strip all flesh from bone in an instant. Thus far, you only had a small number of them, or rather, you had tens of thousands, but even altogether they could barely cover three fourths of your small palm.

They didn’t eat you, naturally, and could survive on just your chakra, but they were created to eat flesh. None of them had by this point, but they were young, less than eight days old. You had started with reshaping a small chunk of the Shapers with your Quirk, and they had multiplied solely on your chakra, so they didn’t need flesh to live and reproduce. They were as obedient as any of your other kikaichu, but now that they existed, part of you was afraid that they would be able to learn how to live on just meat instead of chakra.

You had nightmare visions of them abandoning you and disappearing into the village and forest, multiplying and consuming all living creatures including the country’s population. Kikaichu are bonded to their hive person in symbiosis, but if they don’t need chakra to live? Fidgeting, you know that your kikaichu need chakra to live, even these new flesh eaters, but you can’t seem to stop imagining a worst case scenario.

Sighing and commanding the flesh eaters to slither under your skin out of sight, you decided that it was time to stop worrying and time to test out their actual flesh eating capability. That meant finding them flesh that no one would miss, so that left out you, Father, and pretty much all humans who don’t come at you with intent to harm. You’re not fast enough to catch a bird or any other animal, so that left either fish or meat from a food seller. Father bought chicken breasts on the way home today, so maybe he’ll be willing to part with a small cut.

Nodding, you got up from your bedroom floor and went into the kitchen to find Father just turning on the rice cooker. Good, that meant the chicken breasts would be next, so they hadn’t been cooked yet. Wait, would the flesh eaters be able to eat cooked meat? It’s still meat, just cooked, and they’d be tearing it apart at a cellular level, so maybe? Shaking your head, you decided that you would test that out later.

“Father?”

He paused in reaching for the fridge. “Yes, Kaiya?”

“May I have a small cut of the chicken?”

He stared. “…Uncooked? Kaiya, that would not be healthy.”

Well, technically speaking, even if the flesh is dead, you can eat it uncooked. It can’t make you sick since you never get sick, but on the other hand, uncooked meat that isn’t sushi or sashimi is… gross.

You reassured him. “I would not be eating it. I wish to feed it to a new breed of kikaichu.”

He kept staring, his sunglasses pointed directly at you. “Another new breed? Kaiya, I realize that your… Shapers…”

Oh yeah, he suspected something. Those pauses are invitations for you to speak up, but you can’t, not yet.

He continued. “…Allow you more freedom in creating new breeds, but I fear you may be creating too many in too short a period. Have you mastered the others?”

…Mastered? You direct them, they go, they get your chakra. It doesn’t matter what form they take, they’re kikaichu. They help you, you feed them, what is there to master?

Your confusion must show on your face despite your sunglasses (miraculously, the pair from Mother survived that night and now they once again adorned your face), because Father fully turns to you and crouches down so that you are closer to each other’s faces.

“Perhaps ‘mastered’ is incorrect.” He paused, reflecting on his words, and nodded. “Yes, it is incorrect to say one has mastered their hive. Rather, it is a partnership which matures with time. One’s kikaichu become better turned to their human partner. Kaiya, have your new breeds become acclimated to you? Do they live easily beneath your skin?”

Ahh. You hate having your hive beneath your skin. Or rather, you hate calling them out, so you’ve been cheating, having them live outside of you, and Father has probably noticed. You frown.

“I hate it when they break through my skin.”

Teijo seemed to freeze. Slowly, he reached out and put his hands on your shoulders.

“Kaiya. Forgive me.”

You blink, not expecting that.

“For what?”

His brow twitched, but not in anger. Regret crept into his tone.

“For not teaching you better. Kaiya, your kikaichu are not supposed to break through your skin. They are supposed to emerge from your pores.”

You… can’t picture it. Like, would your pores stretch open wide and then close behind the kikaichu? That sounds better than breaking through your skin, but also kind of impossible. Honestly speaking, you’ve been considering trying to alter your skin so that ‘doors’ are constantly left open for your kikaichu to freely exit, but while you would be able to keep from getting sick or infected via those ‘doors’, you don’t fancy the body horror of having them scattered around your body. Like, what if water got inside? How far would it go? No, you can’t picture pores opening and closing.

Father pulls you into a hug, startling you out of your thoughts. He squeezed your shoulders and murmured next to your head.

“I am sorry, my daughter. I neglected you, and you will have to unlearn something you have accepted as a truth in your world. You may struggle with it, but I promise you: your kikaichu won’t always hurt you when you summon them.”

But Mother was the one who taught you how to summon your kikaichu. Does that mean that she did it wrong her whole life too?

Frowning, you realize that you probably won’t get around to feeding meat to the flesh eaters today.


Lesson

Father keeps you home from the hospital, sending a message that you have lessons at home, and he tries to teach you how to summon your kikaichu from beneath your skin without hurting yourself. Residual memories of pain are hard to get past, and you have a hard time picturing the pore image. Father is patient, though, and he shows you multiple times how he summons his kikaichu. His demonstration method is to not wear his trench coat and to roll up the sleeve of one of his arms so that you have a clear look. You even get your face close and watch as his kikaichu seem to suddenly appear on his skin.

“They start small,” he explained. “My chakra coats my skin and they emerge from various pores. They themselves are small and grow once they emerge. In battle when wounded, we bleed a little before our kikaichu appear and stem the flow.”

You frown. “If they start small enough to emerge from pores, then why do mine feel like normal-sized kikaichu inside of me?”

“Infants and children lack the chakra control of adolescents and adults. At birth, Aburame are given a queen. She digs into her potential host, and if they are compatible as Aburame often are, she nests within the chest. Her offspring emerge from small eggs, but they grow quickly into full size and begin excavating tunnels in the host which will remain for their entire life.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Only the queen’s digging does. After that, her offspring use the hosts chakra to nullify the pain they would otherwise feel.” He adjusted his sunglasses. “As the host grows, the original tunnels narrow, and the kikaichu begin using more chakra to shrink themselves. This way more of them can live within the host, though sometimes even then a hive may grow so large that an Aburame will carry around a receptacle for the extras. Shibi-sama is one such person.”

You hum, remembering how Father and other Aburame have utilized huge clouds of kikaichu.

“Then how do Aburame have enough kikaichu to make up the clan jutsu?”

“They use chakra to multiply, usually after the first have emerged from the skin. You noticed how they started to appear and then multiply in number?”

You nodded as you continued watching the small swarm crawling all over his arm.

“Kikaichu can keep themselves small for a time, even for their whole lifetime if an Aburame never summons them, but they are not like your Shapers. They are not that tiny, nor can they be utilized as you utilize the Shapers. We Aburame still have packed tunnels beneath our skin. It is one reason why we do not like being touched and why taijutsu is often our weak point. Hard blows can devastate a section, killing unseen kikaichu, often without the other party being aware.”

You pale, thinking of all the times you have hugged him.

“It is a harder thing to bear when you are young and your hive is small, but easier to endure when you are older and more capable of replacing the lost. You need not fear having irreparably harmed my hive.”

That’s nice of him, but you don’t think you’ll ever forget that tidbit of information.


Stay

Lessons with Father continue and alternate days at the hospital, and it takes the better part of five months before you master summoning your kikaichu through your pores. You have turned five in that time, and the Blood and Decline patients are scarce now. Collection of the cures is an ongoing process thanks to the peace treaty, and it’s still hard to wrap your head around the fact that technically you are responsible for ending the Third Shinobi War.

Shimura Danzo’s trial and execution was long ago, but you didn’t witness it, so it remains difficult to convince yourself that you are no longer in danger from him. Hell, you don’t even have a face to put on the guy, which probably just adds to your unease. After all, any face could be him. Sometimes you have nightmares where the kidnapping succeeds and you get taken before some shadow-faced man.

Most of the time you don’t see the face at all, but sometimes it clears, switching between being the Third or Fourth Hokage. You can understand it being the Third Hokage, because he was the leader of the village during the time of your attempted kidnap, but you’re not sure why sometimes it’s the Fourth Hokage. Perhaps you still don’t feel safe in the village? At least, your trust in the village was severely damaged. It’s probably your lingering doubts that are giving you these nightmares.

There are several reasons you don’t leave the village, but the second most important one is that there really isn’t anywhere else to go. It’s all… what’s the word? Primitive? Brutal? Either way, it’s worse out there than in the village. At least here the place is surrounded by giant sturdy walls and you don’t have to worry about trying to make a living. Point being, Konoha is probably as good as it’s gonna get for you. There might be other cities, but the very idea somehow seems alien. Uncomfortable or not, Konoha seems lodged in your brain as your home village.

The most important reason for not leaving is, of course, Father. He loves Konoha for some reason. Or maybe he just loves the clan who has sworn themselves to the village? He won’t leave easily, anyway, and even if he did, he’d be a missing-nin, the very thing he warned you against becoming. You like to imagine that he’d become a missing-nin for you if the situation warranted it, but you don’t actually want to find out.

(it would break your heart if you were second-place)


Carnivorous

Having put the flesh eaters on the back burned while learning how to properly summon your kikaichu, you finally return your attention to it. The number of flesh eaters you currently have number hundreds of thousands, though they consume about as much chakra as the Shapers, which, as long as you remember maintain a certain level of chakra, is negligible even with the other kikaichu variations eating from your small chakra pool. As a kunoichi, you have less chakra than a boy or man does, but in return, chakra control is supposedly easier. You aren’t sure how much of that is truth, but you are willing to trust Father and your three medical teachers on the subject since they are both older and more versed in this world.

Getting back to your flesh eaters, though, Father conceded to giving you a chicken wing since it had both meat and bone while not being particularly expensive or burdensome of the household budget. However, he did stipulate that he be present when you first tested out your new breed of kikaichu, which has led to the two of you being seated at the table with the raw chicken wing on a small dish before you.

At Father’s nod, you brought your hand forth and held it palm downward over the table. Nothing seemed to be happening, at least you knew that’s how it would look on Father’s end. However, you felt the flesh eaters emerging on your wrist and letting go of your skin to become one with the shadow between your arm and sleeve. Once they were gathered, you sent the order for them to move forward.

(he saw her shadow begin to extend and he nearly stopped her there, suddenly worried she had stolen the Nara jutsu, but he remembers vowing to trust her and decides to wait and see)

The flesh eaters look like your shadow is extending, and you remember the first time you met Nara Reo. You remember the terror of being held against your will, of being unable to move. Your brow furrows in memory and the flesh eaters leap forward in response.

A tight triangle shape cuts across the chicken wing, and you frown in disappointment as you see that they have not stripped it down to the bone. It happens as you watch, but frankly, that’s still too slow. Regardless, you let the flesh eaters finish their first meat and only call them back once only bone is left no the dish.

Their retreat is like watching your shadow return to its original form. Once they return beneath your skin, you flex your hand while staring down at your arm. Good, it seems as though you were worried over nothing as they can eat meat, but definitely prefer chakra.

When you look up at Father, as per usual, you can’t tell what he’s thinking. He spends nearly a minute staring at the chicken bones before lifting his gaze at you.

“Kaiya, your new variants of kikaichu are amazing. Any one of them could have made you a deadly opponent even if that one variation was all you had been born with. Thus far, these flesh eaters are the only variant not known to others, correct?”

You nod because Father is the only one you’ve shown them to.

Father’s gaze seemed to become intense. “Kaiya, I wish for you to keep these as your trump card. Combining them with our clan jutsu will make you a horrendous opponent to fight. If you can even go as far as using your other kikaichu, whether our clan kikaichu or the new variants you have, then they can serve as a distraction while the Carnivores sneak up on your enemy.”

Your eyes widen behind your sunglasses. If you could do that, then what would the power of your enemies matter when your ‘shadows’ could strip the flesh from their bones? Of course, few battles will probably be easily settled by them, but they would definitely be a nasty surprise when you unveiled them. And if you could actually get them up to the level where they could strip flesh from bone instantly?

It’s almost enough to make you glad that you have a hive beneath your skin.

Almost.


Emergent

Time continues to pass by as your training continues. Nishida, Amano and Shin want you to understand the intricacies of the human body while Father continues your chakra and Aburame training. At five and approaching six, he’s putting more effort into helping you gain self-control. Aburame are calm and stoic, often having conversations with their hives and therefore withdrawn, and Father would like you to have those traits as well. Being calm can help you make it through a tough situation, and being in connection with your hive promotes greater unity and therefore a more profitable relationship between host and hive. It’s… ‘squicky’, remembering the hive beneath your skin, but Father has shown you some of the Aburame clan jutsu. If you want to get near the same level then you must accept your hive as it is, and you have made great strides towards that goal.

The country borders are beginning to open again, and more missions are taking place beyond them. Kumo is still closed, but that’s not your problem. You get concerned every time Father says he has a mission outside of the country, but he has returned every time so far. You know all it takes is just a second, and it’s hard not to change Father so that he’s harder to kill. His hive would snitch any change you made on the sly, not to mention that it just feels wrong to even contemplate changing someone you love against their will and without their knowledge.

You have memories of changing people in your past life, so you know you could do it, but you haven’t managed to discuss your Quirk with Father.

Sometimes it hits you that you died once. You lived in a different world and had parents and friends and even a child. You died and lost them all. You didn’t even get to see your parents again, you were just reborn and then had to remember that they had gone before you. Was this the world they had been reborn into, but without their memories? Were they living somewhere here now, oblivious to each other and your presence? And your friends, your daughter—did they have to live on without you, or did they die too? You died and you were reborn and you have no answers to any of your questions.

During these times, if you aren’t knocked off that line of thought, you become morose and lethargic. You neglect your work or training until someone speaks to you, and then you brush off their concern. You have done so to even Father, and you suspect it hurts his feelings. You don’t want to hurt to Father, but part of you remains closed off.

Sometimes you think that part of you will always be closed off.

You try, though, to remember that even if you died, you are alive now as Aburame Kaiya. You have a Father and a clan, maybe even a village if you can just get over yourself. There is food to eat, a futon to sleep in, a world to learn about. There might even be friends you can make. You want to live as Aburame Kaiya.

When Father brings up joining the Academy next year, instead of throwing a fit, you remember your resolutions and nod, missing the slight tension that slips from Father’s frame as you do so.

“The academy sounds… educational. I do not mind having to attend.”

“Since the end of the war and his appointment in the office, Hokage-sama has suspended early graduation by a minimum of five years and raised the entry age level to five years old. As long as there is no war, the earliest students can graduate is at the age of ten.”

You can imagine that might not have been a popular move, but you find your opinion of the blond Hokage goes up a tick upon hearing that. Even if the thought of going to school again chafes, at least you won’t be shoved onto a battlefield again before you are even a decade old. You will be six soon, so that means you’ll be attending the academy for at least four years.

You aren’t exactly looking forward to it, but it sure as hell beats going to war.

…Although being surrounded by actual, noisy kids for four years probably counts as a type of hell…


Small shifts in your thinking, and small changes in your energy, can lead to massive alterations of your end result.

~Kevin Michel, Moving Through Parallel Worlds To Achieve Your Dreams

Chapter Text

When life gives you lemons, squirt someone in the eye.

~Cathy Guiswite


Eyes

Eyesight seems to be the main focus of your three teachers today. You started the day being quizzed on the eye structure of a human—doing poorly since you don’t know the technical terms—and were then moved on to civilians who had to wear eyeglasses or needed eyeglasses but couldn’t afford them. Shinobi test subjects were hard to come across, apparently. The civilians didn’t seem too pleased to see a child, much less a child wearing sunglasses and practically hidden beneath clothing, and if possible, they were less enthused after being informed that you were an Aburame and that your insects would be involved in whatever process they had signed up for. You couldn’t care less about their discomfort or unease, because after all, they were the ones who signed up for this. If they hadn’t wanted to be involved in anything strange, then they should have kept their distance from the hospital’s medic-nin.

‘Seeing’ them and their nervousness made you feel a mix of slight amusement and annoyance, but for the most part you ignored the fact that these were people. To you, they were faceless meat sacks and practice dummies. ‘People’ were ones like Father, Shibi-sama, Nara Reo, Amano, and other similar figures with whom you have interacted more than once and have bothered to learn the names of. If anything, the vast majority of the populace of the village, country and even the world meant little to you as long as they weren’t in your way or trying to hurt you.

…Thinking about it, that’s probably not healthy, but as long as you don’t say anything about it then no one can call you out on it.

Regardless, you did as you were instructed. Amano and Shin were your instructors today, and they always double-checked the work of your Shapers with medical jutsu immediately afterwards. It was the work of most of the day, but eventually they got you to the point where they wanted you to regrow an eye ‘if your Shapers could’.

‘If’.

You didn’t scoff or laugh, but merely reached out towards the chunin who had volunteered himself for this particular test. He seemed leery, especially with your lilac-colored hand reaching for his face, but he did not pull away. He was a shinobi, but he had stores of fat you could utilize and did. Holding your small palm over his missing eye, the Shapers obligingly followed your instructions, gathering up the necessary amount of fat and bringing it to his eye socket. You continued holding your hand there as your Shapers worked.

In the time since their creation, the Shapers have come far. Now they actually can do most of what you say they can do, but they still fall short to your Quirk. When they finish, the eye they have created is imperfect and has terrible vision, so you cheat and finish it up with your Quirk as the Shapers return to you. When you finally pull your hand away, the eyelid blinks open and you can see the surprise on the man’s face when he realizes that he can see through two eyes again.

As with anyone put under your hands for regeneration, he is sworn to secrecy. You asked Amano about it once, and apparently it was an order from the Fourth Hokage who built on the original order from the Third. If it wasn’t already widely known, your patients are not supposed to talk about it. Remembering your old world, you wondered how effective that order really was, but then again, this was a military dictatorship, so maybe they actually did have more success with gag orders.

It wasn’t long before time to leave, so instead of another test subject, you were made to revise the eye structure. Father wasn’t home, being out on a mission for several days, resulting in Tsubasa being your escort today. At the compound, your babysitter was another clan member, though in Father’s absence you were staying at their place. Kaede was single and didn’t have children, but she was going to be married to another Aburame at the end of the month.

‘To another Aburame’. Is… is that what’s expected of you if you choose to reproduce? Ugh. You hope not. That’s… weird, to put it mildly. Then again, from what you remember of both Mother and Father, despite being of the same clan, at least they weren’t first, second, or even third cousins.

You might wrong about that, but you aren’t going to ask for clarification. Honestly speaking, you don’t want to know how closely related they are. You’re just not going to think about it if you can help it. And besides, you haven’t met or seen all the Aburame, so there’s hope that not everyone is super closely related.

Aahh, stop thinking about it. Stop thinking about it!

(you think about marrying an Aburame and force the image from your head by almost religiously reviewing the eye structure of a human being)


Copied

It hits Shin suddenly while he’s staring at the report in front of him. He’s on the second draft, the one that will go into Aburame Kaiya’s file, and he’s just finished copying the success regarding the eye regeneration the girl performed earlier that day. The second draft of their findings on the capabilities of Kaiya’s Shapers are usually done hours after the girl has gone home for the day, usually because that’s when they finally finish up their other duties at the hospital. When they finish up whatever duties they had, they would retire to their desks to rewrite the day’s findings in neater writing, perhaps adding whatever additional thoughts or insights they might have had in the meantime. This is one such time, but the thought that hits Shin strikes like a lightning bolt.

Aburame Kaiya can regenerate eyes.

Aburame Kaiya has had access to Hyuuga.

He has read the reports on her visits to the camps before his. He knows that of the clans with Bloodline Limits, she has had access to Nara, Yamanaka, Akimichi, Inuzuka, and even a Kurama, but none of those have Eye Techniques. The Hyuuga do, though.

Sweat formed on his brow as he stared down at the report.

Could Kaiya replicate a Hyuuga’s eyes?

His chair clattered and nearly fell over as Shin stood up. He grabbed the reports, both the half-finished copy and the original, and he strode out to find Amano and Nishida. He was directed to the linen supply room and found them putting away the day’s laundry and taking inventory. He glanced around as he stalked up to them.

“Amano-san, Nishida-san.”

The women, their attention already on him from his approach, tense slightly at the stress in his voice. He doesn’t really clarify anything when he hisses their student’s name while thrusting out the reports to them. Amano’s report is with his as she had assigned him to make a clean copy of her notes to go into the girl’s file, and her eyebrow raises in response to his non-answer. He flailed his arms, unwilling to voice his suspicions but knowing he has to because neither Amano or Nishida are mind readers.

Amano and Nishida trade dubious glances as he waves them closer, but they comply. With their heads close, he whispers even quieter.

“Aburame-chan can regenerate eyes. Can Aburame-chan copy eyes?”

They look at him, not quite following, so he reminds them.

“Aburame-chan healed three Hyuuga. What if with just those three—“

Amano’s eyes widened. “—she could copy their eyes?”

Nishida, while surprised, remained skeptical. “We haven’t tested if she could create eyes outside of an eye socket.”

Amano glared down at the reports in Shin’s hands. He knew that technically, no one is supposed to access certain information, but not all information is guarded twenty-four-seven. If they recorded this and a spy were to discover it… even an untested theory might prove too tempting.

She lifted her gaze to meet his eyes, looking grim.

“We need to confirm this right away. If it’s even remotely possible—“

He nodded and they left Nishida to finish up despite her protests. Together, they decided to head to the Aburame compound first.

If they were going to bring this before the Hokage, they would prefer to have proof of their troubling theory.

(she can already regenerate limbs, but if she could copy the eyes of the Hyuuga too? the village needed to know)


Questioned

Your bedtime has been maintained, but you are woken from sleep by Kaede. She tells you to wake at once, that you have important visitors, and she waits by the side of your futon to make sure that you are going to get up. Lying there and squinting at the ceiling, you briefly fantasize about murder but shove that thought away. Managing to refrain from grumbling, you reach out and grab your sunglasses and sullenly put them on before sitting up. You want to get whatever this is over with, but you are stalled by Kaede lecturing you about proper Aburame behavior.

The murder fantasy makes another appearance, but you bear with her short lecture and respond appropriately before she lets you get up and leave the room. She doesn’t go with you, but you don’t notice until after you arrive in the living room to see Amano, Shin and Shibi-sama waiting.

Feeling both wary and weary, you still try to follow Kaede’s instructions by trying to keep a straight face. However, your own body sabotages you and you yawn, belatedly raising a hand to the front of your mouth. Shibi-sama apologizes for disturbing your rest, but Amano and Shin have come with a grave concern. Confused, you look to your two teachers and idly wonder to yourself where Nishida is.

You are no less confused when Shin brings up the Hyuuga and you dimly remember the pale-eyed shinobi you treated a few months ago. You confirm that you remember them, and you cock your head to the side at Amano’s strange request.

Could you recreate a Hyuuga eye?

You frowned.

“I do not know for certain, but I doubt it. My Shapers need biological material as I cannot shape something from nothing. Also, it has been a long while since I have seen a Hyuuga, and none since those three ages ago. I could probably create a look-a-like, though.” You straightened your neck. “With more familiarity with the Hyuuga, copying their eyes should not be an impossible task.”

Shibi sent Amano and Shin outside to get a branch so you could try to create a fake Hyuuga eye. It seemed to you as thought he was getting rid of them so he could speak to you alone and you were proven right as he spoke a couple moments after you two were alone.

“Kaiya-san.”

Peculiar. He never calls you by ‘-chan’, and you don’t know if he doesn’t call anyone by that because you rarely see him. Oh well, it’s not important. You nod to show that you are awake and listening.

“You are forbidden from recreating the eyes of the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. Such an act would qualify as Bloodline theft and the punishment can be as severe as death.”

He sounds very serious, so you keep your mouth firmly shut about your posthumous revenge plans.

“I understand, Shibi-sama.”

(that you can make an eye look like a Hyuuga’s is disturbing enough that three adults take it and leave, telling you to stay inside

you wonder exactly where they think you’d go after they woke you up after dark and if they forgot that you’re only five, but whatever, they’re gone and you can finally go back to sleep)


Paranoia

You don’t know what came of that night visit, only that the next day Amano, Shin and Nishida all sat down to reiterate Shibi-sama’s orders: you are not to recreate the eyes of the Hyuuga or the Uchiha. Part of you wants you, purely out of spite against being told what not to do, but you refrain in case someone is watching you. Thinking about it, being in a ninja village and being able to do what you can, it’s entirely probable that you are being watched.

That realization makes you stop and shiver.

Okay, new rule: behave with your Shapers and Quirk as though you are always being watched, even within the compound.

Sighing heavily, you flop onto the desk you’re studying at. The white curtains of the office are moving with a breeze and you can see part of the sky from the window. Amano, Shin and Nishida’s office is cramped, but they share because they all teach you. There’s not really room for a desk of your own, so currently you are sitting at Nishida’s desk while she and Shin are out doing medic-nin things. Something to do with checking on patients and other stuff. You aren’t exactly clear because usually they’re more interested in seeing what your Shapers can do rather than showing you the ropes of how things are done here.

Tsubasa is likely nearby, though isn’t in the room with you. Probably.

Sighing again, you lift yourself up and look back down at the human body diagram that your teachers expect you to memorize. It’s a skinless skeleton as the focus of today’s lesson are human muscles.

You wrinkle your nose and wish that today would just end.


Informed

Shibi requests the presence of both Uchiha Fugaku and Hyuuga Hiashi. Usually calling those two men at the same time is a less than optimal idea, but he would prefer to get his admission over with rather than go through it twice with two equally prideful men separately.

True to form, neither man is happy to see the other when they arrive at his house. Even with the extra work as the head of the Konoha Military Police Force, Fugaku is as punctual as Hiashi in response to Shibi’s summons. They are displeased but offer him the etiquette expected from one clan head to another.

Greeting them, Shibi guides them to his office and once inside he activates the privacy seals. The two men sit opposite him and their hard gazes demand he get to the point of why he called them and under such firm insistence. It is nearly unheard of for the Aburame clan head to call a meeting with another clan head, and today Shibi has called both which are renowned for their Eye Techniques.

They listen with growing agitation as Shibi explains the newest ability discovered by Aburame Kaiya and her Shapers. Eyes narrow and when Shibi finishes, Hiashi speaks first, cold and hard. He requests to see Kaiya, but Shibi declines, saying that she has already been informed against endeavoring to recreate the eyes of the Hyuuga and the Uchiha. The point of calling both Hiashi and Fugaku was to forewarn them that familiarity with their clan members could possibly result in Kaiya successfully recreating their eyes. He wanted them to be aware of this in order for them to decide beforehand whether or not their clan members could receive treatment from Kaiya.

The answer is firm, resounding, and exactly what Shibi expected: No. Aburame Kaiya is explicitly forbidden from touching the Hyuuga and the Uchiha both from this moment forth.

(he insists that she be left alone and they both grudgingly agree

but he worries because of how hard their gazes were)


Hobby

Amano, Shin and Nishida all seem to suddenly realize that you are a child. One day when you arrive at the hospital, they kick you out to ‘relax and go be a kid’. You are left standing in front of the hospital with Tsubasa, feeling awkward and misplaced. Father is still out of the village and the words of your teachers makes you realize that you don’t have friends.

(you had friends, five, and a sixth, all gone now)

Lost, you pull out your plain wallet and look inside. Once a week you get a small amount of spending money from Father, or from your babysitter with whom he left a certain amount for that purpose. You rarely spend any of it so you’ve collected a lot since coming back to the village. Putting it away, you looked up at Tsubasa.

“Where is the shopping district?”

“There are several.”

You hummed, thinking. “The closest, then.”

Tsubasa leads and you follow. You stick close to them as you venture in a direction you haven’t gone before. If you can’t make friends your age, perhaps exploring the village can be your backup plan. Hm. The thought of not being able to make friends and having to resort to wandering around on your own sounds… depressing. On the other hand, you don’t want to go out of your way to make friends.

You get the impression from your past memories that your friends came to you, not the other way around. Perhaps it’s more important that way, that they reached out first.

(you reached out to the sixth and you get the feeling that it didn’t stay right)

Tsubasa passes a park full of children and you wonder if it’s on purpose. You stare for a short while, and you acknowledge that you want to try the swings and the merry-go-round, but you don’t say so.

In the end, you go window shopping with Tsubasa and you wish that Father were there instead. There are plenty of pretty and interesting things to see as you walk, but nothing really grabs you. Thinking about it, you don’t really do anything outside of the hospital and the compound, or rather, anything beyond healing and your kikaichu.

“A hobby?”

Tsubasa doesn’t answer your mumble.

You keep walking until you finally come to a stop before a store selling instruments. There’s music coming from inside and it sounds like a string instrument.

The Aburame value silence and being all stern faced and mysterious. Okay, not really the second two, but close enough. Shibi-sama is solemn, Father is stoic, even freaking Tsubasa right now is all quiet with no expression on their face. Music probably isn’t something heard on the Aburame compound too much, if at all. You are an Aburame and Father is teaching you how to be one, how to not give away everything on your face, but part of you wants to be as open and noisy as your past self was. That’s not going to happen here, but surely you can express that desire positively.

Tsubasa seems reluctant to allow this to happen and they try to talk you down from a side bamboo flute (although ‘try’ is a strong word since they just pointed out a string instrument, something called a guqin, but learning strings seems harder than learning how to make music with air). In the end, you leave the shop with a plain bamboo flute and a book.

Tsubasa’s shoulders seem to be sagging a little, but you could be wrong.


Beginner

Kaede is grateful when Teijo finally returns. For the most part, Kaiya is an admirable Aburame child, quiet and diligent, but she recently picked up an instrument to learn and… well, as a beginner, she isn’t very good at it. At all.

Of course, she says nothing about the noise Kaiya makes in the backyard, applying herself to the instrument as she does to the hospital, but that just means listening to a lot of wheezy and screeching sounds. No doubt she’ll get better with practice, but Kaede would prefer if she didn’t have to listen to every step of her journey.

Closing the door after her departing guest, Kaede mentally wished Teijo patience.

Later, in his office and listening to the screeching noise coming from the backyard, Teijo removed his sunglasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He made the mental note to buy some ear plugs tomorrow.

And another to buy her a better made flute, something aesthetically pleasing for when she faltered in learning as a boost to keep her motivated. After all, a hobby can be good for a shinobi or kunoichi, and this certainly isn’t a self-destructive one.

Sighing in response to a particularly high-pitched screech, Teijo put his sunglasses back on and reminded himself: a good hobby can be a good outlet.

A good hobby can be a good outlet.


Masters today were starters yesterday, so begin now.

~Bernard Kelvin Clive

Chapter Text

I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.

~Jana Stanfield


Promise

One evening, Shibi-sama stops by the house with a boy you don’t think you’ve met before. As you are in the backyard practicing the bamboo flute you spent good money on, Father steps outside to call you in. Obeying (and, as always, feeling slightly guilty for putting him through your awful practicing), you stop practicing and following him inside.

“This is Yoji,” Shibi-sama says, quickly getting to the point after you and Father have sat down. “He too is an Aburame. Shimura Danzo operated a secret organization known as Root. He filled the ranks with shinobi he conditioned to be loyal to him, sometimes taking his recruits from clans.”

You try not to frown behind your now zipped up high collar. Shimura taking recruits from even one of the four noble clans? Either the Hokage didn’t know or Shimura had too much power. This is seemingly just another reason to be glad that he’s dead.

“Yoji was one such recruit. He was orphaned at the age of five and recruited soon after. He is six now, and has spent over a year in Root. I will be raising him from now on. The reason I have come is that before he was orphaned, Yoji’s father slit his throat.”

You can’t stop your hands from clenching over your thighs, visceral horror shooting through your veins. Such a betrayal is… you have no words! You can’t imagine what that must have felt like, to be attacked by the man who should be your protector. Glancing over at Father, you know that you wouldn’t react well in such a scenario and that if you survived, well, you would probably be broken and left with severe trust issues.

Of course, your reaction doesn’t go unnoticed by anyone in the room. Shibi-sama seems more solemn than usual while his new ward… doesn’t seem to react, but he’s an Aburame so you know better. Father lowers his chin ever so slightly, possibly realizing how badly you would take such an action from him.

However, no one comments and the clan head continues.

“I would ask that you heal his vocal cords, if it is within the capability of your Shapers.”

Even if it isn’t (which it probably is), then you have no qualms about using your Quirk. This poor kid! It’s a small thing, but maybe giving back his voice can help undo whatever it is they did to him in Root.

You don’t know what Root is, exactly, but it sounds shady and shady things aren’t good.

Nodding firmly, you promise.

“I will do everything I can to help him.”


Patience

Something is burning in his veins. He doubts it is the new kikaichu variant currently moving around in his throat, no, this feeling has been simmering ever since Root was invaded by Konoha shinobi. Yoji didn’t witness it himself, but he and all the others were informed of Shimura-sama’s arrest and later, of his trial and sentence. Root, the only thing that made sense to Yoji since he murdered his father, was lost.

The recruits had been separated and ‘returned’ to the families or clans who either hadn’t noticed them missing or had willingly given them up. His own clan was guilty of the former, though he wasn’t sure if they were also guilty of the latter. The only positive thing his clan had ever given him were the kochu that made up his hive. Shimura-sama had seen worth in him for that, and Yoji had made great progress in rising in the ranks.

It frustrated him to no end that he was right back where he’d started, the very place he’d never wanted to return to again.

Still, he maintained a blank expression through everything. Emotion was weakness. Emotion must be purged. The only thing that mattered was being useful to Shimura-sama. Even if he was dead, it was all Yoji had.

Some day, some how, he would take revenge for Shimura-sama.

He just had to bide his time.


Troubled

Wow, this boy’s brain was firing off all kinds of warning signs. Well, mostly it was the fact that none of it was showing up on his face that worried you. His brain was firing off signs of anger and frustration, and yet this kid was as blank faced as a wall. Even most of his physiology wasn’t matching up with what his brain was showing you. His heart wasn’t pumping above or below the average, nor were his stress levels as high as they should be with what his brain was exhibiting. Maybe you were reading him wrong?

Hmm. Well, it’s not as though he would recover instantly from what he’s gone through. You could reprogram him (and wasn’t that a nauseating montage of memories), but you won’t. While there are situations in which you will do exactly that—your memories show you that it was usually in response to money paid or the sharpening of your skills—you will respect your clan members’ rights to their emotions, however repressed they might be. Wasn’t that how you did it in your past life? People important to you weren’t influenced.

If someone loved you, you didn’t want it to be because you made them.

Finishing up with Yoji, you recalled your Shapers and slowly pulled your hand back.

The scar on his neck was gone, and maybe you should have asked if he wanted it gone or not, but it’s too late now. His vocal cords have been restored, but they’re new and he hasn’t spoken in what, over a year?

Shibi-sama spoke. “Yoji?”

The boy’s hand reached up to touch the spot where his scar once was.

“Shi… bi… sam… a?”

It looks like a difficult task for him, and his voice is wispy. Well, he can talk at least, so now it’s up to him to practice until it’s second nature again.

They leave soon after, Shibi-sama offering his thanks and Yoji bowing as well. You watch them leave before Father closes the door. Quietly, you return to your room while Father sets to cooking dinner. He must know you want to be alone with your thoughts because he doesn’t call you to help him, even though you normally do.

Sitting in your room, you stared at a wall and speculated.

How badly would your heart break if Father betrayed you? Would Yoji be okay?

(how much of a monster were you in your past life?)


Cherished

Kaiya is subdued.

She tried to hide her reaction to Shibi-sama’s revelation about how Yoji-kun lost his voice, but Teijo saw her reaction. He’s been teaching her how to keep her expressions from showing up on her face or in her actions, and she’s been doing well in that regards. Then, how badly did Shibi-sama’s words startle her? Did it horrify her, the thought that a father could raise a hand against his child?

Teijo vaguely remembers Yoji and his parents, but only as peripheral clan members, none whom he or Kazue interacted with much. He can’t recall much about the boy’s mother, but he remembers a little more about the boy’s father. He hadn’t been a particularly skilled Aburame, an average chunin if he recalled correctly. Not that Teijo isn’t a career chunin too, but he’d still estimated his own skill above that man’s. They’d never sparred or fought, though, so he can’t say for certain.

Regardless, Teijo is ashamed that he hadn’t noticed Yoji disappear. He hadn’t even connected the murdered Aburame with the fact that his son should have been in the picture, only that he’d vaguely registered the news of another dead clan member. Would his own Kaiya have suffered the same fate if he had died?

Gripping the knife in his hand, Teijo paused as he realized that that fate had nearly come to pass. Shimura had sent his shinobi to killed him, kidnap Kaiya and blame Iwa all at once. He would have gotten a new kikaichu variant, a brood mare, and would have reignited the war in one fell swoop. His poor daughter, orphaned and used when she was old enough. Closing his eyes, Teijo breathed out and reminded himself that it had been averted, that Kaiya was safe from Shimura’s machinations.

Continuing the meal preparation, his thoughts turned back to Kaiya’s reaction. She must have imagined herself and him in Yoji’s situation. The thought made him ill.

He would never raise a hand against Kaiya like that.

(not against the only treasure Kazue left behind)


Introduction

Early in the year you will be joining the academy, Shibi-sama’s heir is born. You hear the news that it is a boy and that a hive queen successfully settled within him. Once in a while, incompatibility kills infants and queens, and the Aburame will lose what should have been a new clan member. The child survived, which is good news.

Huh. Time sure flew by since the last time you saw Shibi-sama’s wife. You don’t know if she was pregnant at the time or what. To be fair, you’d almost been kidnapped and nearly had to watch Father die, so you probably missed a lot of things that night.

You don’t get to see the new heir until he’s almost a month old. Father takes you to Shibi-sama’s house. If it wasn’t for the gift Father had prepared and the fact that he told you that today’s visit was specifically for seeing the new clan heir, then you wouldn’t have given the visit much weight. As it was, you’d been bathed yesterday and told that you would be formally introduced to Shibi-sama’s wife and son. You can understand being formally introduced to the wife because you didn’t exactly meet in great circumstances last time, but the son? He’s a baby for crying out loud. He won’t care about meeting you, except for maybe being bothered by your face which will be a stranger’s to him.

Still, it seems like a clan thing? A politeness thing? Ugh, if having a baby means having a bunch of people stopping by then that’s just another reason not to have one. Then again, maybe this is just because Shibi-sama is the clan head and his son is the heir.

Either way, after greeting Shibi-sama and his wife, you are permitted to step forward to greet the baby in her arms. It’s awkward and your words are stilted, and the baby, Shino, doesn’t seem particularly interested in the goings on, preferring instead to try and grab his mother’s hair.

When you finally leave, you breathe a quiet sigh of relief.

Father pats your shoulder.


Thief

You see Shino twice more before you enter the academy that spring.

The first time you see him (or rather, the second time), Shibi-sama and Father are both out on missions, though not together. Winter is ending and the snows are melting away. The Aburame don’t like winter, and you are no exception. You are looking forward to spring, though not so much to going back to school, even if it is for the first time in this life.

Coming home from the hospital with Tsubasa at your side, the two of you cross paths with Shibi-sama’s wife. Um, what was her name… Shit. You fervently hope that either no one asks you for her name or that someone else says it so you can pretend you didn’t forget. Tsubasa is no help to you, though he does help her by taking her groceries so that her hands are free to keep hold of Shino’s sling.

Ha. He looks like a larva all wrapped up like that. If cameras weren’t so expensive you’d wonder why no one seemed to be taking pictures of him. If it were up to you, you’d totally take one of him while he’s all bundled up so you could tease him with it later. ‘Look, this was you in your larval phase’.

The last time you see him before entering the academy, Tsubasa is taking you home when Aburame-sama summons him with a kikaichu which he follows, which in turn means you follow him. You end up at Shibi-sama’s house and it turns out that his wife needs an errand done quickly. Tsubasa volunteers and even though it isn’t that far to Kaede’s, he requests that you stay there until he gets back. He leaves and you are welcomed further into the house.

She goes back to cooking, and you find yourself sitting on the floor and vaguely interested in the baby not too far away. Shino isn’t very vocal for an infant, though you aren’t sure what’s normal for a baby at all, really. Still, you don’t have a book to read and his mother is busy in the kitchen, so basically he’s the most interesting thing at the moment, mostly by default.

Cautiously, not sure if you’re allowed to or not, you move closer to Shino. Before long, you find yourself staring down at the baby who in turn is staring back at you, likely because you entered his field of vision. Can babies see? Well, his eyes don’t look like they’re blind.

Oh. Wait. Aburame conceal their eyes, but Shino is a baby and you’ve seen his eyes without him giving his permission and he’s not even your brother or a close cousin. Is this some kind of breech in Aburame protocol? It feels like it is, but maybe that’s just you.

Shino shifts slightly, catching your attention and pulling you from your suddenly spiraling thoughts. His eyes are brown, a plain color, but they shine in his round, gentle, baby face. His skin is so pale, but there is a soft rosiness to his appearance too.

He looks nothing like the daughter whose name you can’t remember, and he makes you feel differently because of it. You couldn’t love your own daughter, your own flesh and blood, so you hadn’t appreciated her as a baby. Shino isn’t her, though, and you find yourself almost hypnotized by how delicate he seems. He isn’t wailing either, not like you can somewhat remember your daughter doing, and he’s all the more enchanting for it.

Almost without conscious thought, you reach out a finger to his hand. Maybe it’s just a baby’s instinct, but he grabs you. It’s nothing you can’t get out of, not really, and it’s nothing abnormal compared to what most babies would do, but you still freeze at his puny grip, Shapers and Quirk completely forgotten as everything else ceases to exist.

He can’t see your eyes because of your sunglasses, but that’s not true on your side. You have a shaded view of his face, of his clear brown eyes, and his gaze suddenly has power it didn’t before he grasped your finger. You become keenly aware that Shino—small, soft, defenseless, quiet, cute—is a new life that has his whole future before him.

In that moment, Aburame Shino is the whole world.


Shaken

When she turns, she sees that her son has a grip on the girl. Amusement threatens to tug at her lips, but she manages to keep a straight face. It’s hard, though, especially with the look she can see on the girl’s face from here. Her sunglasses prevent a clear side view of her eyes, but even she can see that the girl’s eyes are wide.

Kaiya has no siblings and possibly hasn’t interacted with an infant prior to Shino. Her son is a quiet thing, most Aburame children are, and his solemn face seems to have charmed Kaiya, because the girl keeps looking down at him even after he lets go of her finger. Her son currently fascinates the girl, and as a proud mother, she doesn’t mind letting the girl admire him.

Even if the girl holds the Shapers and can do the things Shibi has told her of, she doubts that she would harm or otherwise influence Shibi’s son, not after what her husband has done for the girl.

Besides, even with her back turned, she can still spot them in the reflective surface of a tin on the counter. Any hint of lilac and that girl is dead.

(your escort returns and hands you over to your babysitter, but your head is in the clouds while something twists in your gut

you decide: you don’t want to love that baby, that child you could see grow, someone you could see as a little brother, not when you have Father to fear losing, to adding to the faces you still can’t see

so you will stay away until the feeling dies and he is just another face or even someone like Nara or Amano or your former neighbor Naoki—an acquaintance you would help or interact without much emotion

and not someone you feel like you would destroy nations for)


You only need to steal a woman's heart if she won't give it to you willingly.

~Matshona Dhliwayo

Chapter Text

Memories shrink. Like a soap bar used over and over, they become deformed, weaker scented, too slight and slippery to hold.

~Amanda Hodgkinson, 22 Britannia Road


Fatalistic

Amano, Shin and Nishida all know that you’ll be entering the academy soon and they rearrange your schedule to shorter hours after the academy lets out each day, though this is flexible because Father is still training you. For a child, you don’t have a lot of free time. Then again, if you were a normal child, no doubt this would have been considered boring. On the other hand, maybe an Aburame child would bear such a heavy schedule with more patience than a non-clan child. Regardless, you don’t actually have a lot of time for doing nothing.

As for your Avoid Shino plan, that’s going fairly well in that you hardly ever seen him or his mother. Now, if you can just keep that up for a few years…

Pursing your lips, you stared out at the backyard, bamboo flute silent on your lap. Inside the house, Father is cooking, and you’re glad to have him home. Sometimes he leaves without advance notice, but that’s just the shinobi life, apparently. It’s always disappointing to hear it from Tsubasa or Kaede, though. On the flip side, it’s always nice to be informed that he’s back, and sometimes he surprises you by picking you up himself after he returns from a mission.

Pausing, you frown as you realize that practicing your bamboo flute has been cutting into your cooking lessons with Father. You make a mental note to remedy that and follow through by getting up and going back inside, sliding the door shut behind you as you enter the house.

There isn’t much left to do, but you do manage to set the table for him. Dinner is quiet as it often is, but tonight your past memories give you an overlaying image of a brighter, shinier place and Mom and Dad eating at a table with you. Closing your eyes briefly, you remind yourself that you are here with Father in the village of Konohagakure. You are Aburame Kaiya, and you are six years old.

When you open your eyes again, slowly chewing your food, the overlaying image is gone. Swallowing and taking another bite of rice, you find yourself resigned.

You’re never going to completely stop having flashbacks, are you?


Unaware

You see Yoji again the morning of your first day at the academy. He is with Shibi-sama at the edge of the crowd of new students and parents, and apparently they left earlier than you and Father. You surmise that the little ball of mixed messages might be your classmate depending on how the students are split. You aren’t quite sure what to make of Yoji, but part of you is sympathetic enough to make you decide that if he makes overtures of friendship or clan solidarity then you won’t turn him away.

Turning your attention to the other children gathered here today, you can’t help but shuffle a little closer to Father, displeased by the thought of having to mingle with so many. Father doesn’t comment, but you suspect that he hopes you will make friends. It sounds unappealing, trying to connect with these noisy and potentially aggressive creatures. After all, you can’t exactly kill them if they displease you. Hell, you probably can’t even make them sick too many times, if at all, because of course it’s known that such a thing is within your capabilities.

Brow furrowing slightly, you try to pay attention to the Fourth Hokage welcoming the new students. He mentions hard work, learning, and the Will of Fire. Basic stuff, nothing that catches your interest. After that, it isn’t long before the students are being called towards their teachers. You hear your name but don’t move your feet, sulking within the bulk of your coat. The teacher calls Yoji’s name, but unlike you he responds right away, heading over like this whole experience is nothing.

You only move when Father’s hand gently nudges your shoulder. Casting a last glance up at him, you finally move your feet, reluctantly heading towards your group just as the last couple of students are called.

You don’t notice that there are no Uchiha or Hyuuga in your class, but both Shibi-sama and Father do. Neither are pleased but make no comment until a few moments after they pass through the clan compound gate. There is no inflection in either of their voices, and in the agree they agree that the Aburame have largely stayed out of politics and will continue on that path regardless.

(besides, it is inevitable that the classes will shrink and rearrange until the most promising are in the same class—the two other noble clans cannot snub the Aburame forever)


Introductions

Part of the first day of class includes self-introduction. Students stand up, say their names, something they like, and declare what they would like to be when they grow up. So far ‘a cool shinobi’ and ‘a beautiful kunoichi’ are the most common answers. Yoji doesn’t deviate far either and wants to be ‘a capable shinobi’. As it gets closer and closer to your turn, your stomach grows more upset. You keep practicing in your head what you want to say and when it’s finally your turn, you stand.

“My name is Aburame Kaiya. I like flowers. I want to work at the hospital when I grow up.”

There, a safe and boring introduction.

Sitting down, you let out a quiet sigh of relief as the introductions keep going. Soon they are over with and class begins with a history of the village. Listening, you note that no one has out paper or pencils, and you blink slowly behind your sunglasses. You’re going to have to sharpen your listening and retention skills, aren’t you?

(by lunchtime, the only introduction you remember is Yoji’s—he likes his kochu, which is probably true enough)


Composure

Father made your lunch, of course. It’s brighter than usual, probably meant to convey good feelings or luck to you on your first day. Giving thanks, you start eating while keeping an eye on the children scattered around the place. Most are eating, and some are running about, and none of them are too close, which is your preference at the moment. You don’t see Yoji, though, and wonder where he is. You spare a thought for who made his lunch and wonder if it was Shibi, his wife, or Yoji himself since he seems like he’d have an independent streak.

When you finish eating, there’s still time left, and since you don’t have any particular urge to join the other kids, you wander off into some trees for solitude. Maybe you can find a spider to copy. You’ve been playing around with the idea of silk-making kikaichu, but with your other variants plus the fact that it sounds chakra-consuming, you aren’t really serious about it yet.

You can vaguely sense the insects in this copse of trees, but you don’t actively call any of them to you. Making friends with bugs isn’t your idea of a good time, though you will admit that it’s self-satisfying to be able to summon butterflies to you. Like, you could stand in a clearing and have them come and flutter around you.

Which you plan to do at least once in your life after you’ve managed to make progress on your bamboo flute, not that you’ll tell anyone that. Mind, an Aburame would probably figure it out in an instant, but fireflies are totally fair game.

Stifling a giggle, you waited a moment, keeping your composure until the impulse passed. Remember, you are an Aburame, and Aburame don’t stand around giggling to themselves.

You pause, picturing Shibi-sama, Father and Tsubasa each in turn standing alone and giggling to themselves. Yeah… let’s not picture that again.


Appreciation

Itachi stared at Aburame Kaiya as she disappeared into the trees. His father was unhappy with the girl for a number of reasons, including the new age restrictions on graduation, but most recently for her ability to regenerate eyes. It is not a widely known fact at the moment, and Itachi only knows because his father told not to touch or allow Aburame Kaiya to touch him as there was a possibility that she could reconstruct Uchiha eyes after enough familiarity with them. Having noticed that no Hyuuga were placed in the same class as the Aburame, Itachi assumed that the Hyuuga had also been informed. He guessed that the other Hyuuga had been told to stay away from her, if not why they should.

Honestly speaking, though, Itachi felt a measure of gratitude towards the Aburame girl. His father considers him responsible enough to divulge information to him that he otherwise would not hear, so Itachi knows that Aburame Kaiya is at least somewhat responsible for ending the Third Shinobi War. Because of this, the Hokage has seen fit to change the age limit for entering the academy, as well as the age for graduation. If this was still wartime, then Itachi knows he would be graduating within a year. Thanks to Aburame Kaiya, he might actually get to enjoy his childhood.

Itachi knows he is a smart child. His parents consider him a genius, and his father thinks spending five years at the academy is a waste. Fugaku is currently petitioning to allow for early graduation, and Itachi suspects that he will have some measure of success. Still, for now, the threat of war isn’t hanging over him. He is glad, because at least for now, he doesn’t have to see what war is truly like.

Lifting his gaze to the sky above, Itachi slowly breathed deeply.

Peace was good.


Wooden

Father and Shibi-sama were outside at the end of the day, standing amongst other parents who had come to pick up their children from their first day at the academy. You were getting better at hiding what you were feeling, and the only indication of brightening at the sight of Father you gave was a slight quickening of your steps.

“Father,” you greeted almost levelly.

“Kaiya,” he returned in his steady voice. He tilted his chin at the clan head. “Shibi-sama.”

“Teijo-san,” the clan head responded. He greeted his adopted son. “Yoji.”

“Shibi-sama,” Yoji greeted tonelessly.

You valiantly held back an awkward laugh at this stilted Aburame series of greetings. Oh my god, you were all socially inept, weren’t you? Being emotionally repressed even amongst each other can’t be good for fostering good relations. You are told that the Aburame produce a steady stream of calm and capable shinobi, but clearly social graces were the first to be sacrificed on the altar of improvement.

Thankfully, you and Father separate from Shibi-sama and Yoji without you bursting out laughing, shaking your head, or any other manner of expression. Bottom line: you didn’t make a fool of yourself or Father by giving in to your emotions. Hey, maybe there is something to this repression thing.

Putting it out of your mind, when Father asks what you would like him to cook for supper, you ask him to make something with what has become your favorite vegetable: daikon. As Father leads the way to the market, you hold his hand and reflect that as Kaiya, your taste in food has changed. You prefer mild flavors and dislike quite a few spices. Then again, you are still young, so it is possible that your taste in food will change again.

Resisting the urge to swing Father’s hand, you settle for telling him about your first day at the academy. If you didn’t know that it was a school for would-be shinobi and kunoichi then you would have thought that it was just regular grade school.

(middle school uniform)

You miss a step but Father’s grip keeps you from falling. He asks if something is wrong but you just say you were lost in your thoughts for a moment. He advises you to be more vigilant and you agree in a quiet tone.

When you get home, you try to draw the image you saw, a top with short sleeves, a v-shaped neck and scarf, and a skirt with pleats. The majority of it had been black, and there were white lines along the… the thing around the neck, like a tiny cape but not. There had been a white cloth in the v-shaped part too, probably to hide cleavage. The scarf was red, and there had been white stripes along the short sleeves. So, a ‘uniform of’ white and black, worn by girls.

By you, in that long gone life?

You frown at the drawing. Not enough covering by Aburame standards, really.


Attachment

Father and Shibi-sama only walk you and Yoji to the academy on the first day. After that, they expect you to go together, and even though Yoji walks next to you, you can’t help but suspect that he resents it, at least a little. Plus, even though you can’t see anyone, you bet that you’re being followed, possibly by Tsubasa though that might be a stretch.

Hm. Thinking about it, you’re not really allowed to go anywhere by yourself, are you? Considering what you can do, the reason is likely two-hold: one, to keep you from being kidnapped, and two, to keep you from harming others. Strangely, even though it should chafe past-you since she was a grown up, she strangely seems accustomed to being followed.

…Ah. Past-you had your Quirk first, so naturally she’d have at least one guard, right? And if she protested them being visible while following her, they’d blend in, right? So going through this right now as Kaiya isn’t exactly new. Got it.

Arriving at school, Yoji clearly parts ways with a word or two and sets himself up near the back and close to the window. Truthfully, that’s where you’d like to sit, but he was faster in claiming a spot, so you glance around the room before deciding on the middle row opposite of Yoji.

Days pass in monotony with lessons at the academy, practical application of your Shapers at the hospital, and training and flute practice at the compound. None of the kids will have anything to do with you, not after they find out there are insects beneath your skin. It’s not as though either you or Yoji were trying hard to make friends, but the teacher revealing that bit of information about your clan pretty much shoots any chance of friendship straight to hell. You don’t particularly care, and you don’t think Yoji cares much either, but it is annoying when the girls shriek and run away from you with unnecessary dramatics.

Sometimes Father will ask if you have made any friends but your answer is always no. He doesn’t ask why, and you’re grateful. You’re not sure you could articulate your reasons clearly, but you just don’t feel any connection with the kids in your classroom. Not even Yoji seems like a potential friend.

Oh well. You have plenty of time to make friends, if that’s still possible despite you being… what, reluctant? Apprehensive? Most of you doesn’t want to make friends because you are afraid of losing them like you have with the friends from your past life. The rest is a mix of shyness and awkwardness because very few of your classmates have any mental maturity at all.

If it’s this hard to make friends with what little you remember, then you’re glad that you aren’t clearly aware of whatever age gap there is between your past-self and the kids in your class. Being certain of how old you were when you died would just make things more awkward for you. If you do remember, you hope it’s after you’ve made friends and you’ve all grown up somewhat.

For now, you are content in going without. Your days are busy and maintaining friendships would likely be difficult. There isn’t anyone who catches your interest, so you have no reason to reach out.

(to a child with skinned knees, to a boy with green hair, to a costume-wearing ____—)

The evolution of the green-haired boy makes you furrow your brow. There are words that don’t come to you, and one of them applies to that boy with a frequency that seems to be part of his identity.

Remembering more about him, at least what you can recall, you get the impression that you two lived close to each other and saw each other grow up. This boy, the sixth, he had green hair and a litany of smiles that you seemed to have been fond of. He cried a lot too, and your memories show his mouth moving frequently so he must have been a talker.

Who is he, that boy you promised you wouldn’t forget?

Shutting your eyes, you pushed away his memory. Thinking about him is a waste of time since you have no answers. Moreover, you died and left him behind. There’s no going back, no way of finding out his fate. Either the memories will clear or they won’t. Like with everything (everyone) else, the most you can do is remember.

After all, it’s not like you can go back home to them.

(you miss them, those half-forgotten faces, but it’s starting to get easier

to let go

and move on)


It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.

~Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy

Chapter Text

One day can change your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is three or four big days that change everything.

~Beverly Donofrio


Ripples

(you exist as Aburame Kaiya and unintentionally put an end to the war and your attempting kidnapping reveals a traitor in power)

The Third Hokage steps down quietly and the Fourth Hokage is appointed sooner than anyone expected.

Uchiha Itachi is not taken to the battlefield by his father to witness war.

Orochimaru hears of Aburame Kaiya’s Shapers.

The boy who would be Yakushi Kabuto does not lose his memory and is not picked up by Yakushi Nono.

Kannabi Bridge does not need to be destroyed.

Chigiri no Sato—later known as Kirigakure—holds off on sealing the Three-Tailed beast in a Konoha shinobi in an attempt to destroy Konohagakure.

A Konoha border squad is lost, consisting of an Uchiha, an Inuzuka and two civilian born shinobi.

(it is in a passing comment from Father that you learn that Inuzuka Toshiro is dead)

Chigiri no Sato carries out their plan but fail when the unwilling host takes their own life.

Chigiri no Sato denies any sanction of a mission within the Land of Fire, claiming missing-nin.

The Fourth Hokage does not press in hopes of keeping peace.

Uchiha Obito and Nohara Rin are promoted to chunin.

The Uchiha and the Hyuuga silently unite against the Aburame in a cold war that the Aburame ignore.

(life falls into routine but then comes the nightmare of October 10th)


Evacuation

Sitting in the guest room at Kaede’s house, you can’t bring yourself to get ready for bed. You can’t even bring yourself to do something as simple as read. There’s just something in the air that feels wrong. Your instincts are buzzing in your head, telling you to duck and take cover. And yet, as far as you can tell, there aren’t any signs that anything is wrong.

Today was the same as yesterday and the only thing of note was that Father had left on a mission this morning after making sure you were with Yoji on the way to the academy. Classes were the same, and your fellow classmates were as loud as usual. Tsubasa picked you up after classes and took you to the hospital. Shin-san had you working on regenerating limbs on piglets in preparation of moving on to humans. Afterwards, Tsubasa took you back to the compound and handed you off to Kaede and her new husband. You had practiced your bamboo flute, but after dinner you started feeling uneasy.

Kaede seemed to sense it as well as she said you weren’t to step outside again tonight. Her husband wasn’t home, was off on border patrol and wouldn’t be back for at least two weeks, so it was just the two of you. The unease prickling at your skin meant that you hadn’t protested, so here you were sitting alone—

D R E A D

You gasped as a thick and oppressive aura suddenly fell upon you, choking the air from your lungs. From outside and in the distance came a roar that rattled your bones and told you that death was on its way. Your limbs shook in terror as you folded forward, catching yourself with your arms. Breathing was unexpectedly difficult and this did nothing to help calm you down.

Kaede burst into the room, calling your name. You had barely turned your head to look when she scooped you up. Clinging on to her came automatically, and soon she was running out of the house, stopping only to yank on her shinobi sandals.

Going outside was like seeing a kicked anthill from the perspective of ants. Aburame were everywhere, and wow, you had no idea there were so many. There was no time to marvel though, and your thoughts were numb with terror as the aura continued to hang heavily in the air. The clan was evacuating, directed by the older civilians and only a scant few shinobi as the rest of the clan’s able forces ran in the opposite direction of safety.

Another roar split the air and you clenched your eyes shut.

Kaede was a chunin, she was needed elsewhere, so when Yoji showed up with Shino strapped to him, she put you down and ordered the boy to get both you and Shino to safety. She was gone then, faster than you could open your eyes. Startled by her absence you glanced around, and that’s when you saw it.

A massive beast was in the distance, a giant embodiment of hate and fear in the shape of an enraged fox. Nine tales swayed against the sky as it swiped downwards and you knew that it was tearing apart the village.

What could anyone do against such a creature?

The kikaichu of the Aburame consume chakra, but even your whole clan united couldn’t subdue a beast of that size and power. You were all going to die. That thing was going to kill every single—

“Kaiya!”

A hand yanked your wrist and you were forced to face Yoji. The normally blank-faced boy was glaring, his brows furrowing deeply. His grip felt bruising and Shino was wailing.

“We have to move!”

He yanked your arm and you stumbled forward until you were running beside him. You both followed the stream of fleeing Aburame as your heart pounded almost painfully in your chest. There was absolutely nothing you could do in this situation. Your Quirk and all your kikaichu variants were useless against the monster behind you.

Gasping as you ran, tears welled up and slid from your eyes.

You were powerless.


Comprehension

If only he could get them alone, tonight would be a perfect night to get his revenge on Shibi and Kaiya for their part in Shimura-sama’s downfall. In all this chaos, who could say that he didn’t give his best in trying to get these two to safety? If Kaiya was lost in the commotion—shoved into the path of flying or falling rubble—and the Aburame heir succumbed to the monster’s aura—smothered by cloth and his hand—then that was a terrible tragedy. Yoji did his best, he swears!

Unfortunately, there are plenty of clan members around them as they run through the streets of Konoha, ready to flee (abandon) the village should it fall to that monstrous beast. They are not left alone and his attempts to fall behind are thwarted by adults or the few genin present. It seems that they know Kaiya on sight, if not himself and the baby cradled against him. They are a group of three that must not be lost and so there are eyes on them from all around.

They gather in the forest and wait. Even after the terrible aura of the nine-tailed fox disappears, none of them leave. Soon, though, there is a distressed call for assistance as someone’s infant is having increasing trouble breathing. Kaiya, a useless weight since the compound, shifts as a call for help comes again. Others are already moving to assist, but she still moves, gripping his hand this time as she leads them over.

The Aburame infant is a boy and his chest is hardly moving. Aburame are typically not inclined towards medical jutsu, so the ones attempting to help do not have glowing green hands. Kaiya silently interjects herself and reaches out with a lilac colored hand. No one stops her, and the moment her hand touches the baby, its chest starts expanding and contracting, but the baby itself doesn’t wail or even whimper.

“There’s something wrong with his chakra.” Kaiya frowns, her face not hidden as she isn’t wearing the coat she usually does. “It’s like… it’s like his chakra has been poisoned. It’s killing him and it hurts him.”

She shakes her head when asked if there’s anything she can do.

“Chakra control is not my forte. His best bet is to have someone with training and great chakra control to filter out the poison. I cannot state certainties as this is all new to me. There are likely points I do not know about.”

The infant’s mother, a civilian Aburame by the looks of her, pleads for Kaiya to do anything she can to help her son. Kaiya was quiet for a moment before she slowly said that the most she could do was assist in the infant’s breathing. The mother was quick to agree, saying that the medic-nin at the hospital could likely help, if only her son could survive that long.

At that point, another clan member spoke up, a prepubescent girl who had an infant sister who was also having trouble breathing. Kaiya turned her head and stared at Shino who had fallen quiet. She glanced at him and Yoji shook his head slightly once. Shino’s breathing was slightly below normal.

He watched as Kaiya’s skin turned lilac. She crouched down and touched a hand to the grass which began shortening as part of it melted away to slide against her skin. It wasn’t long before multiple lilac-colored tendrils were extending from her hands and connecting to multiple young Aburame children.

None died before an Anbu came requesting that Kaiya assist at the hospital.

Following her to the hospital still carrying Shino who was now connected to Kaiya from the back of her neck, Yoji watched her work, silently awed as an epiphany occurred to him.

So this is why Shimura-sama wanted her and why Shibi had moved against the leader of Root.

(he understands now, the desire to posses her)


Tool

The Aburame who had relatives or wards attached to you followed you to the hospital. An older Aburame carried you on his back to spare you the exertion of walking to the hospital from the forest. In truth, that Anbu had come with the intention of carrying you and using the body flicker technique, but that was impossible with eight Aburame infants and babies you refused to disconnect from. In the end, it was agreed that you would walk with your group, but you were to go at once, and now you were nearly there.

It was stomach-churning to see the devastation wrought on the village. Entire sections were demolished, and the dead were littered around.

(you’ve known of worse but this is the first time you see it firsthand)

The hospital is a mess. One section of the building is destroyed and the lawn is filled with overflowing patients. Almost by magic but probably summoned by someone telling her of your arrival, Amano is quick to appear in front of you, demanding that you get your ass inside and help out. You refuse on the grounds of the Aburame children and Amano tells you that they’re not the only babies affected by the Kyuubi.

(you have a name now for that thing)

She scowls when you refuse to leave your young clan members to their luck and angrily tells you to set yourself up near the hospital entrance if that’s how you want to be. She disappears in a swirl of leaves as your lips twitch, but you do as she says. The Aburame babies stay connected to you as a pair of medic-nin come outside to help you triage the many people outside.

Shin appears, looking harried and frustrated. He tells you to do the bare minimum to keep people from dying, but above all to watch your chakra levels. You are ordered to stop before it gets too dangerous and you nod, well aware that your hive could accidentally kill you if you fall into chakra exhaustion.

But then, your Quirk doesn’t need chakra.


Aid

Crushed limbs—amputation, closed blood vessels, boosted infection resistance. Limb replacement to be considered at a later date depending on commission and or orders from above.

Broken rib cages and pierced lungs—bones melted away to prevent further perforation, lungs healed. Need to replace missing bone at a later date.

Crushed skulls, still alive—melt bone shards, relieve pressure on brain, stop bleeding, make sure brain will neither drown nor suffocate. Survival ensured, patients set aside.

Broken spines—pain nullified, make sure death won’t occur because of complications. Patients set aside for a later date.

Broken bones—melt bone splinters, heal if breaks are clean, nullify pain for bad breaks. Revisit later if needed.

Infants with chakra poisoning—you connect to several more.

Internal bleeding—stop it, return blood to blood vessels.

Bruised organs—nullify pain, advise against exertion.

Oh god, a premature birth—the baby has been dead for too long, it is still born. The young woman’s cries hurt.

More babies are added to the Aburame already connected to you. You connect to their holders to maintain the façade of using chakra, in this case borrowing theirs.

How much time has passed? Where is the dawn?

(your teacher is pissed when he comes out and tells you to stop

you try, but people keep coming up to you

eventually your fellow Aburame form a wall

it’s disturbing, seeing so many tendrils that you know are connected to you)


Foolish

Shin is pissed when he carries Kaiya into a hospital room. The stupid brat passed out and the last thing she did was disconnect from all those babies who were hooked up to her. When did she even learn to do that? Point is, she’s unconscious and the last time she wore herself out like this she was out for a day. Teijo-san was not happy with them for that and they had learned their lesson, but apparently Kaiya hasn’t.

Idiot.

With her out of the picture, the caretakers of the babies have little choice but to surrender the infants to the hospital. The maternity ward is a madhouse, but then again so is the rest of the hospital. Still, if only for her sake, Shin hopes that at least half of the babies survive the chakra poisoning from the Kyuubi. It’s still the first hours after, so their chances are small, but the more time that goes by the better their chances will be.

Grumbling as he set her up with an IV, Shin did his task with smooth, careful motions. No need to rush and mess something up, he’s not a genin or a rookie medic-nin. Once done, he took one more look at her. She was small and dusty, and there were droplets of blood splattered on her shirt, no doubt from the crowd outside. He doesn’t have a count on how many people she’s treated, but he will eventually, and he’s willing to bet that it’s in the double digits, maybe even halfway to a hundred.

Shaking his head, Shin leaves.

(moments later, someone slips into the room while all patients are unconscious

a scroll is unrolled and in a puff of smoke a small body appears, identical in every way to the girl

a switch takes place and later it will be said

that Aburame Kaiya died of chakra exhaustion)


Bereavement

All Konoha shinobi outside the village are called back as fast as they can be summoned without failing their missions. When each arrives, they find the carnage left by the attack by the Kyuubi. Buildings are leveled, scores of people are deceased or missing, and Sarutobi Hiruzen is leading because the Fourth Hokage is dead.

Teijo returns on October 13th.

Already disquieted by the state of the village, he returns to the clan compound in search of his daughter, desperately hoping that she made it through the tragedy alive if not okay in mind and body. When he arrives though, their house is empty and neither is Kaede at home. He nearly heads for the hospital before the idea of going to Shibi occurs to him. Before he can reach the clan head’s house, Tsubasa drops into sight before him.

“Where is Kaiya?”

His first question isn’t about the clan, the village, or the Fourth Hokage—no, Teijo wants to know about his daughter first.

Tsubasa’s silence is not unusual for them, but somehow it’s heavier in this moment, leaden with something unsaid. Teijo doesn’t ask again, half-habit but half-dread. Why isn’t Tsubasa speaking?

But then they do, and Teijo wishes they hadn’t.

“On the night of October 10th, Aburame Kaiya rendered assistance at the hospital after the Kyuubi was sealed. It was an order from Lord Third following the death of Lord Fourth and the excess of wounded and dying and limited medical personnel. Kaiya-san reported to the hospital and used her Shapers to aide sixty-seven people before Shin Isamu ordered her to stop. Afterwards, she remained connected to thirteen infants who had chakra poisoning in order to keep them alive until the medic-nin could see to them. She passed out, disconnecting from the infants in question, of which one was the Aburame heir.

“Kaiya-san was taken inside the hospital and given an IV. When Shin returned to check on her an hour later he discovered that she had passed. The autopsy confirms chakra exhaustion as the cause of death.”

Tsubasa’s words slip right out of Teijo’s ears as their last two sentences rip the ground out from under him. Tsubasa would not lie, not about something like that. Kaiya was meant to strengthen the clan, the village, so she was supposed to be watched, protected.

But in the wake of a bijuu attack, what was one girl? Who could spare the time to make sure she didn’t overexert herself?

Kaiya was left to herself and now she was dead.

His daughter, his only child, his last gift from Kazue—gone.

(he does not fall or weep, but he breaks inside and hopes that death will take him soon

to where his wife has welcomed their daughter home)


Deep in earth my love is lying
And I must weep alone.

~Edgar Allan Poe

Chapter Text

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

~W.S. Merwin, "Separation"


Mantra

You know something is wrong before you are even fully awake.

The surface you are on is too hard for either a hospital bed or your futon at either home or Kaede’s. The air is cooler than it should be for a hospital room. There is a painful throbbing in your thigh that you can’t identify. Trying to move your hands reveals that they’ve been tied together.

(trapped)

“You are awake.”

The voice startles you but when you turn to look, you find that you can’t. Something is covering your eyes and your sunglasses are missing.

“It has been over three days since you were taken from Konoha Hospital. You did not wake at any point of the journey, not even when struck, stabbed, or even when your head was shoved under water. We deduced you had fallen into a coma, though it seems short-lived. Fortuitous, as your value would otherwise drop sharply.”

(trapped)

Cold sweat formed above the blindfold over your eyes as your stomach sank. You could not keep yourself from trembling at the man’s words. You’d been tortured while unconscious? Where were you? Surely you weren’t at the hospital anymore, because why would any of your teachers allow this to happen.

(memories from your past life surge to the forefront, a flash of memories and you grab one, your Quirk flaring into life, rushing to copy that feat in this life)

Your throat feels dry and suddenly you are keenly aware of how much you want water. But first, you have to ask.

“W-why—“

“For Danzo-sama.”

What. The fuck.

“There was another plan to take you, after the first failed. Iwa was supposed to take the blame, leaving Root free to try again. Why did operative zero-two-zero-eight speak of Danzo-sama and Root? We believe you are to blame, somehow. Yes, if your Shapers can manipulate organs, why not the tongue?”

(trapped)

This asshole is chatty, isn’t he? That could work to your favor, as long as he doesn’t attack you while he’s giving his monologue. You can’t feel your chakra and your hive is unusually subdued, but your Quirk remains free. The microorganisms on your skin don’t count as part of you and while he’s been speaking, you’ve repurposed them into a disease that will cramp and harden muscle fibers, but it is inert for the moment, waiting for the catalyst that you have yet to make.

This guy said ‘we’, and you don’t know how many that means or if they’re all here (wherever ‘here’ is). You are likely outnumbered, so you need to get them all at once, especially if you’re not sure how long or how far away any missing partners are as such a variant could spell the end of any escape attempt.

(trapped)

You don’t even try to make any of the kikaichu because they are unlikely to respond properly due to this chakra mystery. Plus, with you being an Aburame, no doubt they’d be wary of any insects that suddenly appear, especially ladybugs since they’ve become known as something you wield.

“The world will be set right. We just need to find the snake.”

Snake? Why would a snake set the world right?

He stops speaking and you don’t feel brave enough to ask.

You twitch as the sound of movement, and you gasp when someone suddenly grasps your chin (no good, they’re wearing gloves). Water unexpectedly pours into your mouth, prompting you to cough and choke on it, and after a couple seconds it stops. You continue coughing as the person moves away, and you want to cry because you realize that one, your kidnappers are definitely not kind, two, you’ve been kidnapped, and three, you are unlikely to get more water for who knows how long.

(trappedtrappedtrappedtrappedtrappedtrapped)

You try to hold back your tears because you don’t want to waste your body fluids.

Internally, you pray for someone to come and rescue you.

(Father)


Ashes

The Aburame attend the funeral ceremony of the Fourth Hokage and those who were lost in the Kyuubi attack. There are pictures of Aburame lined up with the rest, and Aburame Kaiya’s picture is among them. Later, the Aburame who lost family will release the ashes of the dead in whichever place they choose.

Kazue hadn’t been brought back after falling in the war, and Teijo did not know where his wife lay rotting. She has her name etched in stone in the Aburame section of the Konoha graveyard, and soon Kaiya’s name will be etched next to hers. As her Kaiya’s ashes, he holds them in a small urn between his hands.

Teijo has decided to release Kaiya’s ashes in the forest, and thus is currently walking through the trees still wearing his black mourning uniform that all shinobi of the village are assigned. It’s October, so the leaves are no longer a uniform green but a mishmash of autumnal colors.

Kaiya never liked winter, nor was she fond of autumn. She always preferred the greens of spring and summer. It probably had something to do with her Shapers…

With the power she never spoke to him about.

Stopping, Teijo’s fingers pressed harder against the urn holding his daughter’s remains. Right up to the end, Kaiya never trusted him with her secrets. She was gone to her death, never to tell him. He has been denied the chance to ever earn his daughter’s deepest trust.

Was it chakra exhaustion that really killed her, or the backlash from her secret power?

He doesn’t know and will likely never know.

(it is twilight before he finds a spot that he thinks she would have liked, with boulders, a small clearing, and the branches of the surrounding trees hanging thickly overhead

he could picture her here, practicing her bamboo flute or perched on one of the rocks while lost in thought

as he tosses her ashes into an arc, he hopes that she is at peace with her mother

and he hopes he doesn’t keep them waiting much longer)


Peril

Since the time you reawakened, you have realized two things: one, there are at least two kidnappers, both formerly of Root, and two, at one point you urinated in your sleep and were washed by either one or both of your kidnappers who are both men. Of course, upon realizing the latter, with your heart in your throat, you had used your Quirk to check yourself and everything was fine. There was no… ‘stuff’ that shouldn’t be there. Apparently the worst they had done to you was the stabbing you in the thigh thing, followed by the attempted water torture, and hitting you coming in at third. Or fourth since there is the whole kidnapping you thing going on.

Hm. Come to think of it, you can’t see, but you can feel that you are still wearing all your clothes, so ‘washing’ probably meant shoving you into a river or other water source, at least from the waist down. Your kidnappers don’t seem too concerned with how they’re treating you, only that they pay you over to the ‘snake’ alive.

The only reason you’re not already in the clutches of the ‘snake’ is because they can’t find him. You don’t know where you are and you can’t even begin to guess since they rarely use words. You suspect they are using hand signals to deny you information, which is unexpectedly smart considering that the first guy was practically spilling his guts.

As for food, you’ve only had an unpleasant chunk of a ration bar shoved into your mouth once so far. Like water, your food is limited, so you try to ignore the hunger gnawing at your stomach. Speaking of water, though, you have had it given to you just once after the first time. Your head hurts and you suspect that it’s the first symptom of dehydration.

You hate these men, not only for kidnapping you but also because they’re the reason you feel like shit right now. From what the first guy said, you’ve been out for over three days, so that makes this either the fourth of fifth. Meaning, you’re still wearing the same clothes from that awful night, you’ve peed these pants and panties, been dipped into water to clean it off, left to air dry, you’re hungry, thirsty and scared, and let’s not forget completely lost!

Patience, you repeat to yourself, trying not to make your headache worse.

Just a little longer and you’ll take a risk at incapacitating these bastards.

Just a little longer, and maybe you’ll be free.

(he wasn’t there that night, so is he looking for you now?)


Frail

October 15th arrives and Teijo is denied any mission that takes place outside of the village. Apparently it was a request from Shibi-sama to the mission desk, one they were following because it came from a clan head, but Teijo doesn’t bother to go and ask why. He suspects that he already knows the answer, and to some extent his clan head is right: he’s looking for an excuse to put himself at risk, to tempt death, and thus Shibi-sama has cut off that avenue for now.

Withdrawn more so than usual, Teijo concedes to assist in the continuing efforts to rebuild. He goes through the motions of living because he could never face Kazue and Kaiya again if he took his own life. Kazue would be so disappointed in him, angry even, and Kaiya?

How could he look at his daughter again if her own death was the reason he took his life?

He would be too ashamed.

(the house is lonely and empty without Kaiya to fill it with her noise

the sight of her bamboo flute lying in wait on her bedroom floor makes his breath catch

he would give anything to hear her play those screeching whistles again)


Temper

At some point you fall asleep and you aren’t sure how much time passes before you are jolted awake by someone picking you up and slinging you over their shoulder. It’s so uncomfortable, nothing like hanging on to backs of Father or Akimichi Youta. Probably because you’re not on a back, but whatever. Your hands and feet are bound together, so that’s likely why you’re being slung over a shoulder like a sack of rice.

There is no skin contact in all this movement either, and you mentally tsk, vowing to make a wardrobe change if you survive this unwanted experience. The Aburame style is too bulky and covered, and even with your jacket missing most of your skin is hidden from sight.

A jolt makes the shoulder dig into your stomach and you mentally curse out the person carrying you.

This sense of helplessness and fear is starting to give way to anger and hate. You’ve been a mix of emotions since waking up and things are beginning to boil over.

You want these men to die and you want them to die painfully.

You want them dead.

(you remember a stream of people beneath your hands, of giving pain in varying degrees

you remember that you were never alone, that there was always at least one person by your side

your five, they helped you

shaped you)

Gritting your teeth, you made the decision to strike the next time they drop to the ground.

Everything on one roll of the dice.

(you think of Father and pray that you will see him again, one way or another)


Mistake

They travel for several hours, leaving the Land of Fire and entering the Land of Grass. Orochimaru is an elusive shinobi, but they finally have a lead. Orochimaru is rumored to be wearing a black cloak with red clouds, and Danzo-sama mentioned an organization called the Akatsuki which wore such cloaks. He spoke of Hanzo and the Land of Rain, and that memory made that their next destination.

Danzo-sama had worked with Orochimaru, and one thing that was mentioned was that the snake sannin was working on a jutsu to resurrect the dead. Danzo-sama thought highly of Orochimaru’s genius, so if it was possible then Orochimaru might be able to resurrect Danzo-sama. For trade they would offer the Aburame girl, and if that was not enough then they would do whatever was necessary to bring Danzo-sama back to the world of the living.

Operative Eda, born Aburame Michi, was determined to rectify his failure. His team failed to obtain Aburame Kaiya and murder Aburame Teijo, ultimately resulting in the discovery of Root and the fall and demise of Danzo-sama. If the deal succeeded, hopefully Danzo-sama would not regret the loss of Aburame Kaiya if it meant he got to live again.

(he refused to think that Orochimaru would not have completed the jutsu—it had to exist, or what meaning was there to life?)

“I will not be able to hold my pee for much longer.”

Children are irritatingly unable to master their bodily functions. Still, it is unlikely that operative Juhi would want to experience being urinated on a second time. They communicate with hand signals and soon pick a spot to land. With a warning to keep the blindfold on, Juhi unbinds the girl’s hands and feet. She can’t run far from them, and with her chakra sealed her kikaichu cannot be called upon to help her.

So it is a completely shock when between one breath and the both he and Juhi feel their muscles revolt, contacting suddenly and not relaxing. The girl moves, running away, but neither of them can move enough to properly throw a kunai at her legs to stop her.

Gritting his teeth, Eda called upon his hive, summoning forth his kikaichu and sending them in a wave after the girl.

(forgetting that, once, she reshaped his swarm in a near instant)

The wave of insects hits her and knocks her off her feet. He knows that his hive will attempt to drain her to the point where she cannot move, but his eyes widen as the swarm stops responding and a change comes over them starting from where the girl has fallen.

Right before their eyes, the wave of kikaichu becomes a bunch of thin tendrils that lies motionless for a moment. Stray kikaichu keep buzzing towards her but they all disappear as they touch her skin or die as the tendrils whip at them.

Aburame Kaiya slowly rises to her feet. With her back to them, she reaches up and pulls off her blindfold. She turns, and her gaze… is completely human. Her eyes are not extraordinary, and they are a plain color commonly found in the Land of Fire. There is a coldness within them, and a promise of pain and death, but again, nothing inhuman.

As the tendrils move, Eda sends more of his swarm, but where the tendrils plunge into the cloud and touch them, his kikaichu vanish. A mist starts coming off the tendrils, wafting into the air, and his kikaichu drop from the air. None of them can reach her now.

The girl cocks her head and contemplates them. She frowns.

“Damn. I need you to get home, and one is better than two.”

They try to run from the tendrils, but they only fall. As one slides up his sleeve, Eda can only apologize to Danzo-sama.

They have utterly failed him.


Slavery

It takes several long moments as you fiddle with their brain chemistry, slowly stepping closer to them all the while, but at last you finish. Their muscles are still painfully tight, but you remain a small distance away as you pull the mask off the first one, the Aburame whose name you do not know. He looks… average, you suppose. No scars or other identifying marks or tattoos, and his hair and eye color aren’t different from the traits common to the Aburame. You stare at him and you wonder how your clan lost him to Shimura and Root.

(you pity him, just a little)

He loves you now, more than anything else in the world. However, that does not mean you should let him have free movement. After all, for some people love isn’t the most important thing in life.

“Can you tell me where we are?”

“The Land of Grass,” he manages to grunt in reply, face muscles twitching frequently.

“Who is the snake you were searching for, and why?”

(she is everything)

“The snake is a reference to Orochimaru… a former shinobi of Konoha who left the village after being discovered… conducting experiments on fellow shinobi which… were considered unethical... We wanted to trade you… in hope that Orochimaru had finished his jutsu… to resurrect the dead. I… I am sorry for that… my lady.”

His answer takes a while to leave his lips due to the whole being paralyzed part of your plan. You were lucky that there were only two and that they were in close quarters when you risked sending your plan into action.

Also, ‘my lady’? You’re really glad that you murder the libido part of these men when making them love you. Goddamn it, you’re six. It’s entirely creepy to be making people love you at this age, but even with the potential risk of love not being everything to them, this is the safest way to make people obey you.

Shuddering, you turned to the other man and had a tendril remove his mask. This one had narrow eyes and a comely face. He wasn’t pretty or handsome, but his features were nice enough. He had the same soft look in his eyes despite the pain crippling his movement, though.

(she is the whole world)

Groaning softly, you put a hand over your face.

(they worry, but even like this, she is so cute)

Alright, Kaiya, don’t think about it. Just ascertain whether or not they can be trusted with movement and then get them to start taking you home.

One step at a time, Kaiya.

You catch a glimpse of the Aburame gazing tenderly at you and grimace, squinting your eyes and reminding yourself.

One step at a time.


I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.

~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Chapter Text

Travel far enough, you meet yourself.

~David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas


Lost

Perhaps it is petty, but learning that Aburame Kaiya was among the aftermath of the Kyuubi attack brings Hiruzen a slight sense of satisfaction. It is barely a blip, but it is there, and he finds himself pausing after realizing this. He looks back at her name on the list of the civilian dead—for all the wonders of her Shapers, she was not yet a kunoichi of the village—and he remembers having to sentence his old friend to death. It was not Aburame Kaiya’s fault that Danzo’s actions caught up with him, but she was the reason that his old friend’s actions were discovered.

His lips twitch downwards in displeasure at his line of thought. His sentimentality for his old friend was clouding his judgement. Aburame Kaiya would have been a great asset to the village, and it is a pity they lost her too that night.

Holding back a sigh, Hiruzen continued reading, looking for other notable names, but hers was the one that stood out the most.

It truly was a shame.


Scenario

Sitting at the base of a tree with Michi overhead and Juhi off procuring food that aren’t Konoha ration bars, you sulk because today is the third day since you’ve made your two kidnappers fall in love with you and yet you haven’t even left the Land of Grass yet.

Passing the border from the Land of Fire into the Land of Grass had gone off without a hitch. The reverse, however… well, you’re starting to suspect that either Grass and Fire have upped their border patrols, or Michi and ‘Juhi’ are yanking your chain when they say that ‘now is not an opportune time’ for whatever reason they add. (What kind of messed up place was Root that its shinobi can’t remember their own names? The only reason Michi retains his is because he’s distinctly of the Aburame clan.) In other words, you’re starting to get suspicious that despite your express desire to return to the Land of Fire and Konoha, these two aren’t exactly trying their best to achieve that.

Why, though? If they love you—and you know they do because you’ve literally made them—then shouldn’t they be doing their best to make you happy? Taking you home would make you happy, so why does it feel like they’re not doing their best to make that happen?

If it were you and you loved someone… and their wish was for you to take them home… but taking them home meant separating from them… would you do it? Maybe, maybe not depending on selfish you are, and if there’s one thing you’re certain of it’s that you are selfish. Or rather, the selfishness of your past life has intertwined with who you are as Kaiya, so you feel as though you are very selfish. Regardless, if you fell in love with someone after kidnapping them and all that person wanted was to go home, would you actually take them home if it meant possibly never seeing them again?

…Urg. Never mind, substitute yourself for Michi and Juhi, try to see things from their perspective. Root is gone and so is the master they had been brainwashed into being loyal to.

(how cute)

A feeling of derision not entirely your own makes you pause and slowly blink. Why would… oh, okay. Your Quirk makes brainwashing people easy, so the fact that someone would go through all the trouble of old-fashioned conditioning is practically laughable to past-you. Alright, so apparently past-you had a huge ego, too. Add that to spoiled and selfish, and wow, you were a brat. Worse, a brat with power and a team of enablers.

Closing your eyes, you took a couple minutes to meditate before returning your attention back to the ‘not getting home fast enough’ situation.

Michi and Juhi might not being doing their best to fulfil your wishes for some reason. Okay, then you have to make yourself clearer: they needed to get you home ASAP. You can’t be dawdling in the Land of Grass or wherever. People have to be looking for you—

Your eyes widen at a sudden thought: you haven’t asked for details on how Michi and Juhi got their hands on you. Yes, obviously sometime while you were unconscious, but what did they do?

Jumping to your feet and snapping your head up, you yelled upwards. “Michi! Get down here!”

He had some questions to answer!


Substitute

The older Aburame appeared in front of you on his knee. He and Juhi would often do that and you guessed that’s something left over from their time in Root. Both he and Juhi have been ordered to leave their masks off, and Michi has gone back to wearing a pair of plain sunglasses.

“How may I serve, my lady?”

You wanted to fold your arms but needed to hold his hand so you settled for putting one fist on a (nonexistent) hip while holding out your other hand.

“Give me your hand.”

He complied and you ‘saw’ him. Shoving your agitation into your bugs, you managed to ask him without growling, “Explain the details of my kidnapping. What did you do when you retrieved me from the hospital?”

His heart rate drops and his hive slows while his brain fired signals in quick succession.

You clench his hand but it’s not intimidating at all since you can barely manage to grasp it. Fighting an embarrassed blush at just how small and weak you are in comparison to him, you use your Quirk to lance pain down the length of his arm. Impressively, his face doesn’t even twitch despite your ‘vision’ telling you that he definitely felt that.

“Do not lie to me, Aburame-san.”

You ‘see’ his lips twitch, though your eyes don’t catch the motion. He’s noticed that you’ve gone from his first name without honorifics to his family name with an honorific. It’s a sign of your displeasure and you can ‘see’ that it upsets him by the way his brain chemicals react.

He maintains his silence for nearly another minute before his shoulders slump in defeat.

“I was the one to fetch you. I was the one who found a substitute and made the switch. If all went well, Konoha now believes that you died of chakra exhaustion.”

His words form a pit of ice in your stomach as white noise briefly overtakes your hearing.

(again again you’re dead again)

Your legs shake and you demand to know why, nearly too distraught to hate the waver in your voice but not quite enough. Loathing that your conditioning hasn’t sunk in deep enough to keep you calm in a highly emotional moment, you listen with horror as Michi explains how your kidnapping was executed.

He and Juhi had managed to avoid the raids on the Root bases. Without Shimura, they had been directionless, so they appropriated the second plan for your kidnapping as part of their master plan to resurrect him. As an Aburame, Michi was capable of blending in with the other clan members, and in this way he managed to locate an Aburame girl that closely matched your height and weight. Despite being a civilian, she’d been born an Aburame and therefore had had a hive of her own. Michi kept tabs on her location as they waited for an opportunity, and it had arrived in the form of the Kyuubi.

They had kidnapped the girl early on in the panic and evacuation and Michi… he killed her, draining her chakra with his kikaichu, fighting off hers with ease, until she died. Juhi changed her appearance and then they followed after the evacuating Aburame and kept an eye on you. They took the first chance to grab you, stealing you within moments of being left unwatched. She’d already been dressed in your stolen clothes, made to look disheveled, and the final touches had been to remove your IV, put it in her, and take your sunglasses and put them on her face.

A child of only seven, and they killed her to make a dummy corpse of you.

(the poor thing)

Digging your nails into Michi’s hand, you couldn’t look at him.


Decree

When Juhi returns, you make them both kneel. Despite being Root bastards, they wear the Konoha metal protectors on their foreheads, so you touch their cheeks instead. Your limbs are shaky from a heady combination of simmering rage and anxiety (how dare they orchestrate your apparent death by using an innocent victim?).

Slowly, with tears welling up in your eyes at the thought of Father thinking that you’re dead, you carefully manipulate the bodies of Michi and Juhi. You plant a sickness in them, a wasting disease that will start rotting them from the inside out if you don’t keep it in check every twelve hours. It doesn’t feel like enough, but there’s nothing you can do to right the wrong they’ve committed in the name of resurrecting Shimura.

You gaze hard at their upturned faces, hating them with the sensation of burning blood in your veins. Unbidden, you remember changing the structure of humans, both willing and not. You were no better than these two, so you have no moral high ground. However, that doesn’t lessen the guilt and anger in your chest at the thought of a little girl lying dead in your place.

Initially, you had thought that forcing these two to love you was punishment enough for taking you from the village. Michi was an Aburame, a stolen clan member, and you had planned to be lenient with him, otherwise leaving him as he currently was. But, with the revelation of what he’d done, you found that you no longer cared to hold back.

A grim and forced smile appeared on your face.

“You two… are now my toys.”

(it repulses you, the smiles they give in reply)

You move your hands and grip their chins, openly frowning.

“But first, you two are going to get me over the border into the Land of Fire, got it?

Their expressions fall, but they nod reluctantly.


Anchor

Two days later, well within the Land of Fire, you wonder if Michi and Juhi are really that good or if border patrols on both sides are just that ineffective at stopping people from crossing. What’s the point of border patrol if it can’t stop unauthorized crossings? Not that you should be complaining since it means you’ve returned to the Land of Fire.

Actually, why are you avoiding the Konoha patrol squads? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get in contact with one so they can send word to Konoha about your survival? You can’t bring yourself to do that, though. It reminds you too much of the war, of being lost and unsure if the next people you meet will be allies or enemies out to kill you for being unfortunate enough to be separated from your side. Intellectually, you know that Konoha shinobi are your allies, but with Michi and Juhi as your escorts instead of Father or Nara and his team, you don’t feel confident enough to approach any other Konoha shinobi.

Sighing, you sunk further into the jacket Michi procured for you. He was out buying food as you knew that he and Juhi would need it when you finished with them. You’d put off altering them in Grass because you hadn’t wanted to potentially risking leaving yourself defenseless in enemy lands, so you had waited until today. Your… thralls… would serve as human experiments for—

Wait. Didn’t Michi say that the snake-Orochimaru person left the village because he’d been caught doing unethical experiments on humans? It wasn’t as though it would really hurt Michi and Juhi, but it was still human experimentation. Would you be banished or given to T&I if you did alter them? And Michi was still an Aburame, so would Shibi-sama look poorly upon you should it be discovered?

Groaning softly, you curled up and rested your head on your arms while hugging your knees. Think Kaiya, think. Can you experiment on these two and somehow get away with it?

…Maybe if you returned to the village ‘on your own’. It’s possible that you could escape from two shinobi using your kikaichu variants, but could you present it in a believable manner enough to avoid interrogation?

ARGH. Going back wouldn’t be worth the trouble if Father didn’t live there.

Konoha is so damn lucky that he’s a loyal shinobi and a good father, otherwise you probably wouldn’t bother going back under its military dictatorship.


Delaying

The mental debate gives you a headache, but you finally decide on just getting back as soon as possible, even if it means that you lose Michi and Juhi. Hypothetically speaking, you could probably get away with going back with only one and keeping the other hidden in reserve, but for some reason they’ve become a pair in your head and you are loath to separate them. They don’t deserve to stick together, but separating them isn’t a line you want to cross.

(you know the pain of separation like an ache that never completely leaves)

Michi and Juhi obey your wishes to avoid any other Konoha shinobi, but you wonder if there really are any Konoha shinobi with the way this duo of yours keeps taking detours and hiding until it is ‘all clear’. Are they dragging this out? Bastards.

(they stall as long as possible because they both know that reaching Konoha means losing Kaiya, losing all purpose for a second, and perhaps final, time

so they conspire to keep her

even if it breaks their heart to do it against her will)


Realize

You don’t realize you’re in danger until you wake up in an unfamiliar room and can’t feel your chakra and can barely sense your hive with what little you have. Your ankle is chained to a metal bar embedded in the wall and your arms are pinned to your stomach by strong leather straps. Scrambling off the bed you woke up on, you dash a short distance before the chain is yanked taut, stopping you near the other side of the small room. You struggle, but there is no give in either leather or metal.

(trapped)

A desperate sob escapes your throat as tears burn in your eyes.

As if in reply, a hatch opens in the ceiling and you look up. The room is dim, and it’s no brighter in the room above, so you can only vaguely make out a person’s torso.

“There is so much I want to say, yet words seem inadequate in this moment.”

You scream up at him, incoherent in your terror and rage. Your Quirk has flared, transforming the microorganisms on your skin into the catalyst that will paralyze him, and you can only hope that he falls down here where you can reach. He talks, saying something about adoration, but you aren’t listening as you cry and try to yank your leg free.

You can see the moment that the paralysis hits him, but he doesn’t fall completely into the hole that looks like the only way in or out of here. A swarm of insects grabs him, dragging him out of sight, and yet more close the hatch, locking you down here.

Outmaneuvered, you slide down onto your knees, not bothering to try stemming the tears rolling down your face. You were so close! You were almost there! But because you chose not to be as hard as your past-self, now you are stuck god knows where and only two people in the whole world know where you are. Father and Shibi-sama and everyone else probably think that you’re dead, so no one is going to be looking for you. Unless you can trick Michi and Juhi and get a hold of them, it’s unlikely that you will leave this place. Despair chokes you as the severity of your situation sinks in.

You are trapped, and you don’t know if you will survive this.

The sound of your sobs echoes off the walls as all the worry, fear and uncertainty since laying eyes on the nine-tailed monster bursts out, incapable of being contained any longer. In your head, a face flashes to the front as you inhale, and you wail long and loud with a wretched expression.

Faaaaaatheeeeer!

You gasp at the end and curl up a little more, hurting inside, knowing that he wasn’t coming to save you and that he himself would continue to hurt from the lie Michi and Juhi conceived.

Tears slide continue sliding freely down your face and your chest heaves with the force of your despair. All your training to supress your emotions and remain calm is nothing before the realized fears from an old life.

You… have been caged.

(and you understand your past self a whole lot more, the double-life, the ruthlessness, the selfishness

you understand )


I have seen myself backward.

~Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly