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Sanguine: of gods and children

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The room of apothecary.

Naruto stood alone in the room of apothecary. His expression reflected in the glass jars displayed in front of him. It morphed his features. Straight nose bloating. Lips twisting and thinning. Eyes widening and bulging. His hand began trembling as he reached for the jar that read ancient bloodroot. He picked up the jar by the top but it was loosely twisted on. The jar slipped from his hand and shattered against the stone floor. The sound of broken glass struck a raw nerve.

A shadow appeared to his side. It grabbed his wrist and jerked him.

Emperor Itachi had appeared. His onyx black eyes set ablaze. The vein in his forehead pulsating. His grip tightened and threatened to shatter his wrist bone.

“Are you going to poison me, again?” Emperor Itachi asked. “If you had the courage to poison me in the first place you should have had the courage to ensure I was good and dead before running away from me!”

Emperor Itachi pushed Naruto into the display of glass jars. His back struck the cabinet and the shelves holding the jars collapsed sending jars clattering and shattering across the stone floor. Shards of glass reflected the lantern light on its sharpened edges. His strength gave way, and he collapsed to the stone floor.

The emperor jumped on top of him, grabbing him by the clothes and forcing him down on his back, straddling him, as Naruto tried to orient himself. He could feel his lips pressing against his mouth as he tried to gasp for breath. The emperor’s hands went to his clothes already pulling them off. When he opened his mouth to scream for help he felt something hard being forced into his mouth. He remembered this taste. His tongue pressed against the greyish-brown skin. The taste of wild yam root.

He saw a flash of auburn red like an out-of-control forest fire. The lantern’s glow illuminated her hair that floated destructively around her slender frame. Her eyes were blue and he remembered wishing he shared the same blue as her. He heard the harsh whispers in the congregation that he had his father’s eyes.

“I told you, Naruto. If I see you stumbling again about your feelings for the cursed parasite I’ll kill you myself! I’d rather burn you on the pyre myself than watch you continue to be under the cursed parasite’s control!”

His mother’s voice shrieked as he felt the root puncture deep in the back of his throat.

“NO!” Naruto screamed into the night as his body pulled him out of the nightmare. He inhaled deeply through his mouth. He was choking, coughing, and fighting for breath. His airway was clear.

“Naruto...what’s wrong?” Sasuke asked as he was awoken from Naruto’s shouts.

Naruto looked anxiously around to see he was still handcuffed to the crown prince inside the jasmine pavilion. It was nighttime. His body was trembling. His breathing raspy. His chest tightened and he struggled to breathe. He started gasping for breath. His hand bunched the fabric across his chest. He was thinking if he could rip the fabric off he could breathe easier.

“Want to get some fresh air?” Sasuke asked. “Let’s go.” He coaxed in a gentle voice. He led Naruto through the sliding doors to the wooden veranda. They walked to the side of the pavilion facing the rock garden and sat down at the edge their feet dangled over.

They remained sitting on the edge looking at the rock garden bathed in the moon's glow. The low shadows of the rocks stretched out. Neither said anything for a while. Naruto waited until he had calmed down and was able to breathe without difficulty.

“Are you really going to meet him?” Naruto asked after a long period of silence. He recalled the meeting they had in the barracks.

Sasuke had agreed to align himself with Shisui. It was agreed upon that there would be a coup, a mutiny, and an overthrow of the government. Before a civil war started Sasuke was going to send a certified letter directly to his brother, the emperor, requesting a meeting. He was going to ask his brother to step down as emperor and with his surrender, he would spare him his life.

“If he agrees to meet with me. I will go and meet him.” Sasuke affirmed with a nod of his head. Nighttime still remained hot and arid. The dry heat grounded even the mosquitos.

“Then...if he agrees to meet you...and you go. What will happen to me?” Naruto asked anxiously. He pulled the chain that connected them. “You’ll leave me behind!” He turned to stare at Sasuke, catching his illuminated eyes staring back at him. He thought he had calmed down but his mind was still a jumbled mess.

“You’ll stay here, where you will be protected. Lay down and rest.” Sasuke reassured. He wrapped his arm around Naruto’s shoulder and pulled him down so that Naruto’s head was laying in his lap. Naruto didn’t protest and rested his head in the firm lap of the crown prince. He could feel Sasuke’s fingers combing through his hair. It sent shivers down his spine.

“He’ll...plan something dirty if he does agree to meet you. It’ll be a trap!” Naruto prophesied.

“What can he do? It isn’t like he can kill me.” Sasuke murmured softly. His eyes raked over Naruto’s body. He was thinking the only person who was able to kill him was currently handcuffed to him. He couldn’t help but smirk.

Feeling his touch was calming and Naruto found the tightness in his chest breaking up, and his breathing slowed down. He didn’t resist this position the two were in. He was feeling sleepy again and completely forgot about his nightmare. He inhaled the scent of jasmine and sage.

“I hope he ignores you.” Naruto spoke bitterly.

“Shh. It’s okay. I’ll protect you. He’ll never hurt you again.” Sasuke’s soothing voice spoke.

Naruto went silent as he felt Sasuke stroking his cheek. His violet eyelids felt heavy, and he told himself he would close his eyes just for a moment. But he ended up fast asleep.

*****

Naruto was hammering up a wall in town. He still had a thin layer of sweat on his skin and sweat formed on his forehead and rolled down gathering salt into small beads. It stung his eye and he closed it, miscalculated the aim of the hammerhead, and accidentally hit his thumb. He swore as his thumb began to pulsate in pain. The crown prince turned over and was just about to ask if he was okay.

“CROWN PRINCE! WE RECEIVED A REPLY FROM THE EMPEROR!”

Naruto dropped the hammer he was holding. It hit the ground with a thunk. His eyes moved to the letter in royal stationery with the royal insignia wax seal. The pain in his thumb vanished as his eyes remained locked on the letter.

Sasuke took the letter and nodded his head to the guard. He looked over his shoulder to see Naruto had grown pale. He had an unreadable expression as if trying to gauge what the letter said before it was revealed. Sasuke pulled his arm that was still connected to Naruto. The chain clinked and pulled on Naruto’s wrist. His arm moved with the gentle tug.

It caused Naruto to finally look up at him. No. He was looking through him. He knew that Naruto wasn’t looking at him...he was looking at Itachi. For a moment there was a crazed expression in Naruto’s blue eyes. One of pure lunacy. One of desperation. It frightened him. It was the look of someone who was about to do something dangerous and drastic with no regard for his own safety. He wondered if this was the same expression Naruto had when he jumped off the cliff.

“Naruto!” Sasuke shouted his name and yanked on the chain forcefully.

Naruto blinked. His eyes looked anxiously back to the letter in his hand and then back up at him. “Mhm?” That desperate expression vanished.

“Let’s go. You worked enough today.”

“Have I?” Naruto challenged. His mood soured.

“Yes. Let’s go back.” Sasuke answered firmly.

“No. I’m not finished.” Naruto didn’t want the contents of the letter revealed. He bent low to the ground to grab the hammer. Blonde hair falling across his face. His eyes saw the stationary in the crown prince’s hand. His heart beating erratically in his chest.

“Naruto~” Sasuke was cut off. He hadn’t expected what happened next to happen. Naruto had thrown the hammer directly at his face. Sasuke acted out of impulse. His hand went to the sword that was at his hip. He pulled the blade up to block the hammer from hitting him. The hammer clanked against the blade before falling back to the ground.

It happened within a blink of an eye. His heart was racing.

He looked to see Naruto had grabbed the letter and was ripping the letter up into pieces.

“CROWN PRINCE!” The guard who had delivered the letter had finally registered what had happened and shouted his name.

“STOP!” Sasuke yelled as he saw Naruto ripping up the letter. He outstretched his hand with the sword, stopping the guard that went to grab Naruto. The guard stopped moving not knowing what to do. His hand remained at the hilt of his sword.

Panicked, Naruto began stuffing the pieces of ripped stationery into his mouth. He resembled a feral child. Crouching on the ground stuffing pieces of paper into his mouth for the sole purpose of swallowing the contents. Swallowing the evidence.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Sasuke yelled louder. He sheathed the sword and grabbed both of Naruto’s wrists and shoved him back to the ground, pinning his wrists to the ground with one hand. “ARE YOU INSANE? OPEN YOUR MOUTH!” His other hand went to Naruto’s jaw. Naruto squirmed as he tried to pull his hands free. His fingers tried to pry themselves into Naruto’s mouth.

“You’re going to get ink poisoning! Spit it out!” Sasuke yelled as his strength overtook Naruto and he forced two fingers into his mouth.

His fingers moved past the soft wetness of his tongue, over the soggy pieces of parchment and ink, into the back of his throat, triggering the gag reflex. With his other hand as if Naruto weighed no more than a loaf of bread he spun him over so that he was on his knees his head pointed to the ground. A mixture of saliva, bile, ink, and sopping wet pieces of stationary came out of Naruto’s mouth and over the ground.

Sasuke’s mistake was ignoring that expression he saw on Naruto’s face.

Naruto continued coughing and gagging. He shoved Sasuke’s hand away from him, his hands wiping his mouth.

“Are you satisfied now?” Sasuke asked Naruto. It was now impossible to read the letter. He wanted to shake Naruto but seeing the crazed look back in his eyes he hesitated. He stood up ready to drag Naruto back to the manor.

“Crown prince.” The guard who delivered the letter stepped up to the crown prince who stood up. Naruto continued catching his breath kneeling on the ground. His back arched like a cat. His hands pressed to the floor, coughing.

The guard leaned over and whispered into Sasuke’s ear. “The emperor sent two letters. He said if Naruto interfered with the first letter…” Sasuke’s eyes widened and he stopped listening to the guards' whispered explanation.

A surge of jealousy ignited him. Not only did his brother predict how Naruto would react he had compensated and sent another letter. To be hidden and only disclosed if something happened to the first letter. He wanted to know everything. No. He needed to know everything that happened to Naruto inside the palace. His hands tightened into fists. He needed to speak to Shisui alone.

*****

“I’m sorry about the letter.” Naruto spoke quietly. His eyes were focused on the curry placed in front of him. It was dinner time and Naruto had calmed down significantly and he was back to being his regular self. He felt calmer since the letter was destroyed. He turned the spoon over in his hand.

“Mhm.” Sasuke nodded his head. His jaw was clenched. He wanted to tell Naruto that there was another letter but the words couldn’t be formed. He’d rather keep Naruto isolated and oblivious to everything. “Are you going to eat?”

He watched as Naruto brought a spoonful of curry to his mouth and began eating.

“Nothing good will come of you meeting him.” Naruto continued as he swallowed.

“Let’s stop talking about this.”

“Are you still planning on meeting him?” Naruto inquired.

Sasuke looked to see that Naruto was giving him a penetrating gaze as if he could see right through him. He felt momentarily exposed. He couldn’t lie to Naruto and he was on the tip of confessing. Before he could the sliding doors opened and Sakura appeared in the jasmin pavilion. Sasuke only had to share one glance at her to understand she had read the emperor’s letter.

“I just came back from the sickbay.” Sakura spoke informatively. She walked barefoot across the room and sat down in front of her plate of curry. Naruto was used to sharing dinner with her and had grown accustomed to her presence. “Konohamaru has recovered significantly. He is cleared to have visitors and leave the sickbay after a few more days. It’ll be good for him to move to the mandarin pavilion to further his recovery.”

“Really?” Naruto’s face lit up. His mood improved. His eyes gleamed with relief.

“We can visit after dinner...make sure you eat everything.” Sasuke lectured as he gestured toward Naruto’s plate.

Sakura had spoken to Suigetsu. The second letter was delivered to Shisui in the barracks. Suigetsu had relayed Sasuke’s instructions on not telling Naruto about the letter. She had read it and the emperor set up a date, time, and place to meet up with Sasuke. She said nothing, picked up her spoon, and began eating.

*****

“Why...why are you handcuffed to him?” Konohamaru yelled upon seeing Naruto and Sasuke. There was a heavy smell of eucalyptus in the air.

Konohamaru had grown thin. His skin was sickly and pallid. There were dark circles under his eyes. He looked frail as if he couldn’t hold himself up for long periods of time. The clothes hung baggy on his frame. Before Konohamaru became sick Naruto knew he could have easily overpowered him staring down at him now it would be easy to overpower Konohamaru.

“It’s my…” Naruto lost his voice. He saw the abhorrence and hatred swirling in Konohamaru’s eyes and it shocked him.

“Naruto started a fire in town. As punishment, he is to rebuild everything he destroyed.” Sasuke answered when Naruto remained quiet.

“Why does he have to be handcuffed to you?” Konohamaru snarled. Although he looked weak and his skin grey and stretched thin over his bones his tongue was sharp and strong. “You’re doing this on purpose to seduce him!” He accused the crown prince.

“Konohamaru!” Naruto tried to interrupt.

“And you...YOU!” Konohamaru took his wrath towards Naruto. His features were twisted into disgust. “Are you falling victim to his spell? Again! Do you remember what happened last time-”

Sasuke’s eyebrows raised. He wanted to hear what happened last time.

“Shut up!” Naruto shouted. “You don’t know everything that has happened since you went into a coma!”

“NO! YOU DON’T DESERVE TO BE HIGH PRIEST!” Konohamaru shouted. He stumbled into a standing position. He was still taller than Naruto. He looked down at Naruto. In every sense of the word.

“Konohamaru!” Naruto said. His voice was weaker, smaller, barely above a whisper. His heart was racing and it was difficult to breathe. He wanted to shout at Konohamaru. He wanted to tell him if it wasn’t for the crown prince and the physicians at the manor then Konohamaru would have died. His voice became trapped. He knew if he said that it would only make Konohamaru angrier.

“Get out.” Konohamaru pointed towards the door. “Get out. I don’t want to see you if you’re going to be handcuffed to this parasite! You’re a disgrace Naruto Uzumaki! A disgrace to the sun temple!”

Naruto had two names. The one from birth. Naruto Namikaze, after his father. He carried this name until his father’s treachery and betrayal to the sun temple. His father committed such a sin his mother was excommunicated, and only recently allowed to return to the temple. His name was changed to Naruto Uzumaki after his mother.

Being reminded of his mother and the burning sensation of wild yam he retreated and left the sickbay.

*****

“If you remain bitter. It’ll slow your healing progress and you’ll continue to be sick.” Sakura commented as she leaned in the doorway of Konohamaru’s room in the sickbay. Her arms crossed across her chest.

Konohamaru had returned to sitting. He was panting, catching his breath. He had overexerted himself and felt weak. Sweat dripped from his forehead. He was penning a letter. The ink blotched as he hastily wrote on the parchment. The tip glided angrily in loops and swirls that were almost illegible. He had always had ugly penmanship. No matter how many times he was flogged during calligraphy class his handwriting remained the same.

“What are you writing?” Sakura asked with mock interest as she stepped closer. “Or...who are you writing to?” She peered over Konohamaru’s frail shoulders at the letter.

“Home?” Sakura answered as she read the letter. Konohamaru was writing back to the high priest. Pleading with him to rescue him and bring him back to the sun temple.

“If you leave...will Naruto go with you?” Sakura asked as soon as Konohamaru finished the letter. He handed the letter up to Sakura. She hesitated on taking it.

“Naruto said he won’t return until he finds Jiraiya and gets the textbook translated.” Sakura continued as she took her hand back. “The crown prince has already sent a team of people to hunt down the whereabouts of Jiraiya. If Naruto tries to leave I know he will tell Naruto his intentions and persuade him to stay.”

Konohamaru lowered the letter. He knew the only way he could get a letter out of the manor was through Sakura. The crown prince instructed any letter or message that Konohamaru tried to send be intercepted. His eyes narrowed at Sakura’s words.

“I will protect the crown prince.” Sakura reiterated. “Naruto needs to be separated from the crown prince. Don’t you agree?”

“Then...what do you want me to add?” Konohamaru hissed as he slammed the letter back down to the table and picked up the quill. He dipped the tip into the ink.

“Who from the temple can come and convince Naruto to return? I know he ran away without telling anyone...except you. There must be someone who could persuade him to return.”

Konohamaru’s breathing stopped. Hinata flashed across his mind. She had remained a neutral party. She had been the closest to Naruto and often defended his actions. He had always seen the two together, nearly inseparable.

“See?” Sakura spoke happily. Her face lit up as she easily read Konohamaru. “I knew there was somebody. Request that they come here to the manor to persuade Naruto to return...maybe have them tell him that Jiraiya is at the temple.”

Konohamaru’s eyes narrowed. “I won’t lie.” The circles under his eyes darkened.

Sakura’s face hardened and turned cold. “Then I won’t deliver any letter. You can remain trapped here.”

Konohamaru viewed the manor as a prison. He was a prisoner of war behind enemy lines. He needed to leave or he was going to be tainted. He had believed Naruto’s words about the quest from the sun god. To find the man Jiraiya. Had he lied? He lied and was now handcuffed to the cursed child. Naruto’s mind had become poisoned and polluted and Konohamaru couldn’t follow him anymore. It was better to confess everything to the high priest and repent.

He would tell the high priest everything and hope that the high priest will help. He reached for another piece of parchment and this time his writing was slower, deliberate, careful. He penned the rest of the letter under the watchful eye of Sakura’s glowering emerald eyes. Her head bobbing up and down in encouragement.

*****

It was just a sleeping potion. An elixir to knock Naruto out. Just long enough for Sasuke to uncuff himself and take a visit to Shisui. He watched as Naruto drank the sleeping potion mixed into the nighttime tea. The nighttime tea was something that had become part of their routine. It wasn’t out of the ordinary. The sleeping potion was out of the ordinary and not part of their routine.

They were alone inside the jasmine pavilion. The futons were set up. It was late, nearing the witching hour and Naruto had shown no signs of tiredness. There was an air of gloominess around him. Sasuke remained on edge watching his every move.

“Sasuke.” Naruto finally spoke, breaking the silence. Sasuke was so focused on his own guilt that he purposefully wanted to knock him out so he didn’t spill the truth, he barely heard him call out his name.

“Sakura said that Konohamaru will be better in the next couple of days.” Naruto continued speaking. His eyes focused on the tea in the beautifully hand-painted teacup. “That means we’ll be leaving.”

Sasuke caught the tail end of his words. His eyes moved to his lips. They were parted and a lovely pink peony color. There was a gloss of tea still on his lips. That’s right. Naruto had planned on staying until Konohamaru got better. No. He said he was going to stay until he helped finish rebuilding the town. Right? He started to panic more. He was just on the cusp of telling him he had sent a team out to investigate the whereabouts of Jiraiya.

“Sasuke...what if...what if I don’t want to leave? What if I want to stay here with you?” Naruto’s words were slurred. He sounded drunk. His hand no longer had the strength to hold the teacup and it fell from his hand.

“Huh?” Sasuke blurted out. “What did you say?” He needed Naruto to repeat himself, cursing at himself for wanting to knock him out in the first place.

Naruto felt strange. He felt a fogginess clouding his mind. He felt groggy. His vision blurred. It hit him all at once. It was a sense of familiarity. He was just about to make the connection on why this was such a familiar feeling when he fell into a deep, dreamless, slumber where he felt absolutely nothing at all as if he had slipped into death.

“Naruto?” Sasuke caught Naruto before he fell over. “Naruto...what did you say?” He shook him a little to try to rouse him but he was already sleeping. His head pressed against his chest and he suddenly didn’t want to leave. He held him until the sliding doors opened. Standing in the doorway was Suigetsu.

“If you hold him any longer he’ll wake up.” Suigetsu commented.

“I thought we gave him too little.” Sasuke spoke as he put Naruto into his futon. He took the key out and uncuffed both of them temporarily. “Just when he was telling me he didn’t want to leave the manor...he passed out.” He had grown accustomed to the weight of the handcuffs and looked at his wrist that moved freely around.

Suigetsu remained silent.

“Watch him and make sure nothing happens to him.” Sasuke commanded. “I’ll be back before he wakes up.”

“Mhm.” Suigetsu nodded his head as he watched Sasuke leave. His eyes trailed back to see Naruto sleeping he sighed and collapsed into one of the decorative chairs and drummed his fingers impatiently against the arm of the chair.

*****

“You plan on meeting the emperor in the fortnight?” Shisui asked as Sasuke sat in his private quarters.

The room was modest, small, but extremely neat and clean. Everything was folded, scrubbed, straightened, and in its rightful place. Nothing was out of place. Shisui had kept his living quarters in meticulous conditions in comparison to the sloppy, chaotic nature of his office inside the palace.

“I agree with Naruto. It is too risky.” Shisui said.

“Mhm. As I said before. I cannot be killed.” Sasuke nodded his head.

“There’s a rumor going around.” Shisui spoke carefully. “After you had sex with Naruto. The cursed seals vanished and you became human again. Is that true?”

It was hard to read Shisui. The only thing he was certain of was in the forest of death when Naruto kissed him he had pushed him into the pond. He had wanted to know more about his relationship with Naruto. More about Naruto’s life inside the palace and the temple. He wasn’t in any position to tell anyone his weaknesses. He wasn’t in any capacity to divulge any information. He only wanted to receive information.

“Are you believing gossip, Shisui?” Sasuke mocked. “I told you I will support you becoming emperor. I will lend you my men and my strength. I will fight side by side with you. In exchange I want you to answer my questions. Got it?”

“Alright.” Shisui nodded his head. His curly hair bounced. “What’s your first question?”

“Naruto’s relationship with Itachi.”

“Itachi and I grew up with each other. Ever since my parents, and grandparents died, Uncle Fugaku raised me alongside Itachi. He was particular in who he played with and spent his time with. At first, he hated the sun temple children. He said they were spooky and because they dressed in all white he used to think they were ghosts. It didn’t help that they rarely left the temple and so they were all pale.”

“So whenever Uncle Fugaku invited the sun temple children to the palace Itachi would pitch a fit and throw a tantrum saying he didn’t want ghost children filling the palace.”

Sasuke furrowed his eyebrows. It was a longer explanation than he intended. It was hard picturing his brother as anything but an adult as the first time he met him he was eighteen years old. He tried to envision the temple children. Eerie, dressed in all white, completely spotless, solemn faces, and so pale they looked bloodless.

“You see. There were several reasons why Uncle Fugaku continuously invited the temple children. They were mostly expressionless. They weren’t able to play inside the sun temple. You should have seen their mortified faces when Uncle Fugaku filled the ballroom with hundreds of toys and told them to play. They remained standing and refused to budge.”

“Uncle Fugaku wanted more children...but after...you were born. He was too ashamed. So he tried to fill the void in his heart by inviting the temple children over to play. Anyway-”

“And the other reasons?” Sasuke interrupted. Shisui paused and stared at Sasuke.

“The other reason was that he owed a debt to Naruto Uzumaki.”

“WHY?” Sasuke lost control and shouted. Shisui remained calm. He remained silent for a few minutes.

“Well which is it, dear cousin. Do you want me to tell you Itachi’s and Naruto’s relationship or why Uncle Fugaku was indebted to Naruto?”

Sasuke swallowed. “Continue.” He needed to let Shisui finish explaining one thing at a time.

“Maybe you should bring some late-night snacks and tea.” Shisui commented before continuing. Sasuke’s fists tightened. A look of annoyance on his face as he sent his guards to the kitchens to fetch a late-night snack. After a tray of light snacks and tea were delivered Shisui settled down. He poured himself a cup of white tea and continued.

“Whenever there was an event where the temple children were present. Itachi would stay for a little while, complain of some ailment, and retire to his room. We knew when he left all of us, one by one, made up some excuse to leave and joined him. Well. One time. Itachi wasn’t in his room when I entered. It was odd and so one by one the other children of the palace appeared and Itachi still wasn’t there.”

“Itachi came into the room completely frazzled. He told us he met one of the temple ghosts crying in the hallway. He told us the temple child had an ugly, snooty, crying face and we were shocked that they displayed any sign of emotion...let alone crying. This temple ghost was looking for the bathroom and asked Itachi to bring him. We all erupted into laughter. This dumb temple ghost was so clueless to who Itachi was...we found it hysterical that he asked the crown prince, next in line to the throne, to take them to the bathroom.”

“Naruto.” Sasuke murmured. Already making the connection. He remembered how easily Naruto cried. Shisui nodded his head and smiled.

“Itachi was so shocked he complied and took Naruto to the bathroom. He said he was debating on if he should leave him in the bathroom or not and before he made a decision Naruto came out and accused Itachi of listening to them pee.” Shisui erupted into genuine laughter as if reliving the memory. “Itachi red in the face escorted Naruto back to the festival. Naruto was all Itachi talked about that night...although he didn’t find out his name until the second time they met.”

“The temple children were getting used to the palace and were getting used to the games and the toys and playing. They started acting less like ghosts and more like...children. During a game of hide and seek Naruto walked into the painting room that Itachi was in. Itachi was curious. He had witnessed Naruto crying and wondered if he would make a different expression. He pretended to help Naruto hide, and when they came looking for Naruto Itachi sold him out. Itachi went on and on for days about the angry, upset, and disgusted expression Naruto made.”

“That was the first time Itachi started calling...well...at that point we thought Naruto was a girl. He started using “Naruto’s” name whenever speaking about him. Itachi found himself seeking Naruto out, but the funny thing was, Naruto didn’t like Itachi. I mean looking back it was no wonder given their first two interactions. Well. This made Itachi upset. He wasn’t used to anyone ignoring him. He swallowed his pride and asked Uncle Fugaku where Naruto was during one of the times they were at the palace, and Uncle Fugaku told him Naruto was in the library reading.”

“Itachi always had difficulty expressing his emotions. The reality was he wanted to play with Naruto. No.” Shisui paused and thought about things deeper. Itachi had always been this way. “He didn’t just want to play with Naruto. He wanted Naruto to willingly seek him out and ask him to play. I’m sure if Naruto had done that...just once...Itachi probably would have fallen over in happiness.”

Shisui’s expression darkened for a moment. “They got into an argument because Naruto had never once sought Itachi out. Itachi felt it was a slight against him and couldn’t bring himself to apologize to Naruto for all the mean things he did. The argument was something that made Naruto not like Itachi even more. Itachi was so angry that Naruto continued to ignore him and treat him coldly. He had purposely destroyed one of the books that Naruto was reading.”

“Itachi wanted Naruto to hurt the same way he was hurting when Naruto ignored him. But...he still hadn’t learned his lesson. He revealed to Naruto the book he destroyed and it caused Naruto to cry. Of course, Itachi immediately regretted it. He was just so prideful. Instead of apologizing, he tried using his position of crown prince to make Naruto listen to him. Do you know what Naruto did?”

“He didn’t comply.” Sasuke answered. He knew Naruto’s personality. He reacted to honeyed words and behaviors.

“He pushed Itachi into a bookshelf in the library. The shelf wobbled and dumped books on top of Itachi. If it were any other temple child they would have been whipped mercilessly by the high priest. Except. Itachi had already started to like Naruto. It was the first time I saw Itachi so distraught. He only told me what happened and refused to tell anyone else. He sent an order to replace the book he destroyed and he kept it waiting for a time to personally deliver it to Naruto. He told me he was going to give the book to Naruto and apologize...really apologize and hopefully start over.”

“And?” Sasuke asked after Shisui paused to take a cherry blossom flavored cookie.

“Naruto was sent to the manor.”

“Then what happened.” Sasuke asked.

“Uncle Fugaku became sicker and sicker and was on his deathbed when he summoned me into the room. He revealed to me something I haven’t told anyone before...not even Naruto.”

Sasuke furrowed his eyebrows. The tone Shisui had was dark, his voice lowered, and his body tensed up. The pause grew and Sasuke was afraid Shisui wasn’t going to tell him after all. He found himself holding his breath.

“He told me about Naruto’s parents, specifically, his father Minato Namikaze. They were childhood friends. Minato was part of the sun temple, and Uncle Fugaku was the sole heir to the throne. They were so close that Minato had even saved Uncle Fugaku during a hunting trip when they were teenagers. So close that Minato was beside Uncle Fugaku during his wedding ceremony. He told me the story of when Naruto’s mother, Kushina, was pregnant with Naruto, and Aunt Mikoto was pregnant with you. Uncle Fugaku had wanted to become even closer and suggested a betrothal.”

“Minato asked if there was a betrothal between his child and Itachi. Uncle Fugaku laughed and said no. He never wished Minato’s child the stress of becoming empress. No. It was a betrothal between Minatato’s child and...you.” Shisui pointed at Sasuke.

“Me?” Sasuke repeated, stunned. In the same manner as when he heard Naruto telling him he didn’t want to leave the manor and wanted to stay.

“Mhm. Imagine how life would have turned out if you weren’t born with the cursed seals. If you weren’t born with the cursed seals then Minato wouldn’t have been executed. You would have been betrothed to Naruto.”

Sasuke’s face paled. The dark expression on Shisui’s face was highlighted by the lantern’s glow. The shadows appeared blacker. His eyes were the color onyx.

“Alas. You were born with the cursed seals and the high priest condemned you to death as the sun temple condemned every cursed child born within the Uchiha family. It had been many decades since a cursed child was born and it was almost forgotten. The high priest commanded Minato to carry out the execution of you. Uncle Fugaku always wondered how devoted Minato was to the church. If their friendship was stronger.”

“Minato...tried to kill me?” Sasuke asked. He felt his blood shrink deep inside him.

“No. He saved you. He took you from Uncle Fugaku and left for the manor. He stayed with you for ninety days. Missing the birth of his own child and being labeled a traitor of the temple.”

“Why for ninety days?”

“Apparently that was how long it took for you to become invincible.”

Sasuke’s blood ran cold. A chillness filled him as if frostbitten from head to toe. Minato went against the sun temple and saved him. He already knew how everything ended. He didn’t need Shisui to finish.

“As you can see. Uncle Fugaku was indebted to Naruto and on his deathbed called Itachi and announced his dying wish of him marrying Naruto. Uncle Fugaku knew how wicked, manipulative, conniving, and evil the sun temple had become so he wanted to rescue Naruto and keep him safe even after his death.”

“Itachi happily agreed. His obsession with Naruto was growing. At first, I thought it was the thrill of the hunt. The prey that was the fastest, fiercest, most challenging was always the most thrilling to go after and everything else appeared so unappealing. Imagine my surprise when even after Naruto turned eighteen and they consummated the marriage, Itachi continued to love Naruto.”

Sasuke’s spine straightened as if a steel bar was welded to his back. Shisui seeing and sensing the immense aura that was exuding out of Sasuke he paused and looked at him.

“Are you ready to listen to what happened next?”

Sasuke braced himself. He wanted to know. He nodded his head.

“Itachi completely changed. He was overly affectionate to Naruto. He wanted to be near him, hold his hand, eat every meal together and lay in the same bed every night. At that time I, as well as everyone else, was under the impression Naruto was a girl...so we all had a pool on when Naruto was going to become pregnant. Naruto may have acted like he didn’t like Itachi but sometimes...fleshy desire takes over and his yelps of pleasure as they fucked in every room of the palace was hard to ignore.”

“Enough.” Sasuke spoke between clenched teeth. His face hardened and turned into something ugly as if debating whether to cut Shisui’s head off or not.

“Look at you being jealous. I haven’t finished yet. The truth was...Naruto had no feelings for Itachi. He had this...desperation about him I didn’t understand until later. He was consistently on edge. He barely slept. He constantly needed sleeping potion after sleeping potion. The palace physician told me he needed to stop giving it to Naruto because he was becoming addicted.”

“Why was he so desperate and anxious?” Sasuke demanded. The guilt of having slipped Naruto a sleeping potion burned the back of his throat and churned his stomach. His heart raced and he felt hot and itchy. He hadn’t realized Naruto was addicted to the sleeping potion when he was inside the palace.

“I’ll admit. Itachi had an unquenchable sexual appetite. There’s a reason why emperors had concubines. It was to give the empress a break. Itachi only wanted Naruto and didn’t see a reason for a concubine. Naruto, as you know, was in line to ascend as high priest...but as it turned out. Similar to the high priest hating Minato...he hated Naruto. He had offered Konohamaru, his bastard son, up to ascend as high priest in lieu of Naruto, owning the Senju bloodline inside Konohamaru.”

“Naruto was forcing himself to spend as much time in the sun temple as emperor Itachi allowed, the palace physician had cut Naruto off from the sleeping potion and so he simply...stopped sleeping. If I hadn’t seen his erratic behavior myself I would have assumed the maidservants and workers inside the palace were exaggerating. Naruto had caused a scene during dinner by throwing plates and demanding that emperor Itachi give him a break. I could almost taste the repulsion Naruto had towards Itachi that I knew to save their relationship. Naruto needed a two-week break so I convinced Itachi to allow Naruto to spend two weeks at the sun temple.”

Shisui poured himself another cup of tea. He was slow and methodical and every exaggerated movement he did made Sasuke more and more tense that he erupted.

“AND?! THEN WHAT!”

“You two really are brothers with that temper. Just like that...Itachi had become sleepless, and anxious every single day he was separated from Naruto that he couldn’t handle it anymore and so I fetched Naruto during the winter solstice. Ah. There is one caveat I should add. It was true that when Itachi consummated the marriage with Itachi he no longer had a concubine. The truth was...before Naruto came of age Itachi promoted Kara and Izumi into the concubine and spent his time between the two. That stopped and Itachi had completely ignored Kara and Izumi.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Sasuke asked impatiently. He was trying to be mindful of his temper. Being compared to his brother left a bad taste in his mouth.

“Izumi and Kara were afforded luxuries and had the attention of the emperor. Being in this world for five years they grew accustomed to this life and when it ended...things ended. Emperor Itachi ignored both Izumi and Kara. It was rather cruel. It wasn’t until later did I realize it was my mistake to not keep a more watchful eye on the two. They had conspired on the night of the winter solstice to poison Naruto.”

“...” Sasuke was speechless. He remembered when he visited the palace. He overheard the rumors of Naruto being poisoned and on the mend. How sickly he looked when he saw him standing on the ladder in the library.

“It was rather a harmless poison. They hadn’t met to kill him. It was just a poison that would erupt his skin into an itchy rash in the hopes that the emperor would be repulsed and leave Naruto alone until he healed. So, Izumi had coaxed one of the maidservants into her room. This maidservant was given an aphrodisiac by the emperor to deliver to Naruto.”

“I originally thought about intervening. This particular aphrodisiac was highly addictive and I didn’t need Naruto bouncing from sleeping potion to an aphrodisiac. I decided against it as it had been two weeks and it could...help Naruto along.”

“You purposefully manipulated him.” Sasuke growled.

“They’re married.” Shisui reminded. “I was doing him a service. Izumi slipped the poison into the aphrodisiac that the maidservant delivered to Naruto and he consumed it. As it turns out earlier that day Naruto was slipped a deadly poison. Wild yam. Do you know who was responsible for the wild yam?”

Sasuke thought about it. Naruto had spent two weeks at the sun temple and it was only during the winter solstice that he was brought back to the palace.

“The sun temple.” Sasuke answered.

“Correct. The high priest wanted Naruto murdered. He is putting everything into Konohamaru ascending and the easiest way is for Naruto to simply...die. I was attending to the manners of the winter solstice celebration at the palace. I had sent several guards to stay posted outside Itachi’s bed chambers. Then. One of the guards came running to me. There was an incident inside Itachi’s bed chambers. The incident was a dead twelve year old maidservant and Naruto, naked, covered in his own blood and vomit, not breathing on the floor.”

“I used a resuscitation technique I witnessed a foreigner do during a performance. One of the dancers had stopped breathing and he laid her on her back. Pressed his mouth to hers and breathed into her mouth filling her lungs up like balloons. He pressed on her chest a few times and repeated. Honestly, I was so consumed with saving Naruto’s life it didn’t register right away that...Naruto wasn’t a girl at all...but a boy and Itachi knew all along.”

“What happened in that room?” Sasuke demanded seeing how easily Shisui glossed over the middle and went right to the ending.

“Naruto was poisoned twice. The wild yam is a slower-acting poison. It takes many hours before it’s in the system, dissolving your insides, that some don’t even know they’re poisoned until it’s too late. He begged Itachi to get the palace physician but...Itachi thought he was lying and making excuses not to be with him.”

“Itachi was growing increasingly upset with Naruto continuingly pushing him away. He snapped. He blamed the maidservant for not giving Naruto the powerful aphrodisiac. Not knowing that the wild yam completely obliterated the aphrodisiac effect and...ironically one of the ingredients was part of the antidote. It was partly what saved Naruto’s life.”

“Still. Itachi wanted to punish Naruto again. He couldn’t bring himself to hit Naruto, or beat him, or whip him. This sort of treatment every sun temple child was already used to. And. He wouldn’t have gotten a reaction out of him if he did that...so he left the room. During the brief time, Itachi was gone. Naruto had called out to the guards outside the door. Apparently, the guards were debating if they should enter the room, but Itachi had given them clear instructions to not enter and to remain posted outside.”

Shisui sighed and his nonchalance about explaining this terrifying ordeal was unnerving.

“Itachi dragged the maidservant into his room, accused her of not bringing Naruto the aphrodisiac, for defying the direct order of the emperor, and killed her in front of Naruto. The effects of the wild yam overpowered him. He began vomiting blood because his insides were dissolving, he had a seizure, and was already not breathing by the time I arrived.”

“And yet you continued to support him?” Sasuke hissed.

“It’s like...the head physician’s loyalty to you.” Shisui explained.

“No.” Sasuke corrected. “Because I never recklessly killed anyone!”

“Is that so?” Shisui challenged. “Because we received reports that during the time Naruto was staying with you. You murdered two people.”

“That…” Sasuke trailed off.

He remembered that time. He remembered Tenten forcing Naruto to trade places with her for the day. He remembered believing Tenten’s lies that Naruto needed a break from him because he was growing tired of him. He remembered feeling hurt and upset that Naruto would tell Tenten that he needed a break and not him. He remembered when night time came he still hadn’t seen Naruto. He heard that Naruto had gone into town with the chef and when they returned he vanished. He used Apophis to track Naruto down. He had smelled the blood. The semen. He knew what had happened to Naruto without Naruto having to say anything.

He had recklessly killed. He beheaded Tenten and then questioned the chef on who the person was that hurt Naruto before killing him.

“Ah....you also killed the archbishop too, right?” Shisui continued.

“It was the cardinal.” Sasuke corrected with a smug expression. Looking back. The only death he regretted was Tenten. She was still a child herself. Manipulated by the adults around her. He did not regret killing the chef, and he did not regret killing that monster that hid behind a human face and posited himself as a clergy member of the sun temple. He was doing the world, and the sun temple children, a favor.

“If you remembered correctly. The cardinal was doing something punishable by death with a temple child inside the shrine.”

“I remember.” Shisui answered coolly. He maintained his composure as he stared back at his cousin. “That naked child, covered in the cardinal’s blood, who ran throughout the sun temple screaming bloody murder. That was Konohamaru.”

“...” Sasuke was speechless. All he remembered was the blurry face of a child around the age of Naruto pinned to the altar. He neither cared nor did anything more to help. He finished his mission and returned to his room with Apophis.

“I wonder how Konohamaru would react if you told him it was you that beheaded the cardinal.”

The conversation had derailed. He didn’t care about Konohamaru. He cared about Naruto.

“So you helped revive Naruto, and the physicians were able to save him.” Sasuke took hold of the conversation and steered it in the right direction. “Then what?”

“I couldn’t have emperor Itachi going berserk again, and although you might not believe it. Itachi was very remorseful with how he treated Naruto. He decided to utilize the concubines again. He went back to Izumi and Kara.”

“Then what happened?” Sasuke pressed.

“It was all nonlinear with some things even I am not aware of. Things that happened at the sun temple. During a long period of time, Itachi was separated from Naruto and he was growing uneasy again and wanted to be with him again and so I went to fetch Naruto. I told you this before when I entered the shrine I saw the high priest straddling Naruto and choking him. Naruto didn’t fight back. When I looked closer. Naruto looked quite pleased with himself as if he was getting exactly what he wanted. I interrupted and brought Naruto back to the palace.”

“Whatever was happening at the sun temple was making Naruto even more neurotic. I saw he had lost weight, had dark circles under his eyes, and was frantic in his speech and movements. He spoke wildly and erratically and if you haven’t witnessed someone in this state before...it’s hard to describe. Naruto started making comments about death and dying. He asked me if he jumped out the window and broke an arm, or a leg if Itachi would leave him alone.”

“And you served him back up on a platter to that monster?” Sasuke raged and slammed his fist on the table, rattling the porcelain.

“No.” Shisui answered firmly. Pleased that Sasuke wasn’t keeping up. “Naruto hadn’t slept...he wasn’t sleeping and he was going insane. He kept threatening me. If I didn’t give him a sleeping potion he was going to hurt himself. So. I did. I grabbed the palace physician and Naruto was given the thing that he wanted most. A death-like sleep.”

The horrific life Naruto was living at the palace and the unknown horrors he was experiencing at the sun temple...no wonder Naruto was flirting and courting death.

“To answer your next question. No. Itachi did not sleep with him that day, or the next, something strange happened to him. Itachi became impotent.”

Sasuke snorted with delight. “Good!”

“Then...Izumi became pregnant. Naruto saw this as his opportunity to divorce Itachi.”

“How...why?”

“It is imperative that the empress give birth to an heir. If the empress does not give birth and a concubine delivers a son then that concubine will be elected Queen Consort. The empress will have the option of divorcing the emperor or ruling without power. This only happened a handful of times and when it did...the empress always divorced the emperor. I really hadn’t expected Itachi to react the way he did.”

Shisui went rigid. He paused. He remembered Naruto’s erratic behaviors. The way he moved around the palace while Itachi remained in seclusion. The way he entered his office. It was the first time Naruto ever sought him out and he was both surprised and yet there was something exhilarating about it. He had never viewed Naruto in any lustful or romantic ways. He was like some mythical being that the emperor remained obsessed with and who the emperor could never fully catch in his hands no matter how fast and how long he chased after. As soon as the emperor touched Naruto he burst into smoke and vanished. There Naruto was in his office and Shisui knew that Naruto wanted something from him.

“What is it? What are you thinking about?”

“It was Naruto who told me about Izumi’s pregnancy. He told me he was going to use this as an excuse to divorce the emperor...and...I told him there was no escape. I told him if anyone got in the way of him and Itachi...Itachi will kill them.” Shisui smirked, forgetting that Sasuke was in front of him. “He became erratic again. It was rather beautiful really...the complete unraveling of Naruto. Yes. In that moment his madness was truly...breathtaking.”

He didn’t find him sexually appealing or anything of that sort. It was just the first time he finally understood Itachi’s obsession. How fascinating Naruto was...the different expressions he made. He truly was beautiful. The madness that swirled violently in his eyes, the sunflower yellow hair that whipped around, as he pushed everything off his desk. His screams of protest. It was breathtaking and Shisui momentarily lost himself only to come to the conclusion that Naruto was dangerous in every way imaginable. Someone he needed to keep at arm's length.

Sasuke had picked up Shisui’s forgotten teacup and splashed him in the face with the room temperature tea. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“You’re...misinterpreting everything.” Shisui had snapped out of it. He pulled from his pocket a handkerchief and began drying his face off. “I realize now. Naruto had come to me that day because he wanted to know when the next shipment was coming when the traveling marketplace was arriving. He kept going on and on about a confectionery merchant. Of course, I was suspicious and I had told my men to research this merchant. I realize now...that was the day he had run away.”

“It was also the day that emperor Itachi found out that Izumi was pregnant. He found out that Naruto was planning on using this as an excuse to divorce him. He brought Naruto into the throne room where Izumi and Kara were. He told Naruto that nothing was going to get in the middle of them...and he had Izumi slaughtered. He instructed the guards to cut open Izumi’s stomach and he delivered Izumi’s womb to Naruto’s feet. He then had Kara killed.”

“I’ll admit. I was fascinated to see how Naruto would react. You see. Naruto was the only one who was ever vocal against Itachi. The only one who pushed him back. Who screamed at him. He had even demanded that Itachi continue to use his concubine and even expand it. Seeing such mindless slaughter. The womb at his feet. I never expected Naruto...to...”

“To what?” Sasuke smacked his hand on the table and the banging noise startled Shisui out of his thoughts.

“He told Itachi everything he had wanted to hear him say. I think Naruto knew exactly what he was doing. It was why I struggled to figure out his intentions and why I don’t trust anything that he does. He purposefully withheld these words and weaponized them later.”

“Naruto did nothing of the sort!” Sasuke defended. “Whatever he did...he deserved it!”

“Naruto told Itachi the words he wanted to hear most. That he missed him, that Naruto belonged only to Itachi, and that Itachi belonged only to him. He then invited Itachi to his bedchambers for tea. Naruto poisoned the emperor with an ancient bloodroot. I suspect Naruto was going to use these words regardless because hearing these words...finally caused the emperor to become stupid. So stupid he didn’t even notice the poison he was drinking. So stupid he never noticed that Naruto wasn’t drinking anything.”

“How else was he supposed to escape?” Sasuke vigorously defended.

“When I was chasing after Naruto to bring him back. Somehow during the chase...it was just us on top of that cliff. There was a moment when I thought things would be better if Naruto leapt off the cliff and died. If he died...sure...the emperor would go into a period of mourning, but I would have brought his body back and the emperor could start to heal. If Naruto was dead it would be a relief he wouldn’t have to juggle palace life with his duties of the sun temple. I almost wanted him to jump.”

“Why didn’t you?” Sasuke asked coldly. He truly wanted to know. He needed to know some of his motives.

“When Uncle Fugaku was on his deathbed...he told me of his desire to protect Naruto. He owed Naruto a debt and he wanted to make sure it was repaid even after he died. He wanted me to help protect him, and I agreed. How could I face Uncle Fugaku in the afterlife if I allowed Naruto to leap to his death?”

“I tried everything to coax Naruto away from the ledge. I tried threatening him. I tried pleading with him. I even told him I would let him go. None of it had any reaction on him...until I brought you up.”

“...” Sasuke remained silent. His eyes dilated. He swallowed back bile. His face flushed. He felt a mixture of happiness and dread. They chased after each other like rabbits in mating season in the pit of his stomach.

“I told him you were coming back to the palace. Originally I was going to hide it. I was going to tell the emperor to let Naruto remain in the sun temple until you left. I knew Naruto seeing you again would only worsen things. I asked him...I asked him what he wanted you to hear. That he was alive and missing, or that he was dead.”

Sasuke was elated. The smile that grew on Shisui’s lips was cold as if he had purposefully set a trap for Sasuke to stumble into.

“It makes you happy hearing this...that Naruto only reacted when your name was brought up. I had believed that the reason Itachi couldn’t be in Naruto’s heart was that you were already there and I told Naruto this. I told Naruto that he loved you. He loved you so much that there wasn’t any room for anyone else. Naruto looked like he was about to laugh. As if what I had said was the funniest thing in the world and I thought he was going to collapse over in a fit of laughter. He told me I was wrong. I got it wrong. I couldn’t figure him out. I lost. He fell backwards and I...I jumped after him. I couldn’t face Uncle Fugaku otherwise and at least with both of us dead….my debt would have been fulfilled.”

It felt as if he was punched in the gut. Hearing Shisui explain the last few minutes before Naruto finally made the decision to leap off that cliff was because...was because Shisui said his heart was filled with him, and it wasn’t...it was completely wrong that he found it hysterical and jumped?

“You know the rest. We met up with Haku and Zabuza, of course, Konohamaru was with us. The entire time Naruto and Konohamaru were saying how their only goal in this life is to kill you and ascend as high priest. The day you ran into Naruto when he was being whipped. Naruto and Haku ran back saying we all needed to leave because Naruto wanted to get as far away as he could from you.”

There was a part of Sasuke that didn’t believe this part. It was the part that contained Naruto’s words of not wanting to leave. The sun temple was poisonous. They were a menace to society and to their own people. He wanted to find out more...more information. To find out what it was like inside the sun temple. Sasuke needed to ask Konohamaru.

*****

Emperor Itachi sat on the elephant tusk throne. He held a jewel-encrusted, gold, letter opener and cut through the crown prince’s insignia of a snake. He wondered if his brother had this insignia recently made to mock him. His slender fingers opened up the parchment. He knew his brother was just learning to read and write, having been blind his entire life. His vision was only restored because of Sakura Haruno.

Once they had Sakura within their grasp. The first thing they would wish for was for Sasuke to become blind again. What a fitting punishment. To be given the gift of sight...only to have that gift snatched back up and blinded once more. Leaving the bitter memory of sight in his memory. As time went on and on the memory of the things he saw would slowly vanish until all he had was a memory that he was once able to see but he couldn’t remember anything he saw. Just pitch black nothingness.

He skimmed the letter. It was dictated by someone with perfectly legible letters. Someone who excelled in calligraphy and probably copied textbooks over for a living. Maybe a scholar at the university.

“Has he agreed?” Orochimaru asked, appearing in the throne room.

Itachi glanced up at him. He noted Orochimaru’s disheveled appearance. The flecks of blood on his face and the bloodstains on his clothes.

“Ah.” Itachi affirmed. “You seem overly confident your plan will work. What makes you think my brother won’t figure out what you did?”

“Sasuke has only known Suigetsu for a few years. I’ve known Suigetsu his entire life. I view him, much like I view Sakura, like my children that were stolen from me.” Orochimaru placed his hands over his heart. “I know Suigetsu’s mannerisms, the inflection in his voice, the way he carries his body. Who else knows their son best like their father.”

“So...father.” Itachi mocked. “Is your son locked up in the prison?”

“Mhm. We are in the re-conditioning phase. It’s giving me good data on how to proceed with Sakura’s re-conditioning when she returns to us.”

Suigetsu was in the basement of the palace. In the dirty, murky, prison that was filled with hungry rats. The sound of starving rats screeching and their paws scurrying and scratching against the stone floor echoed in the chambers. Suigetsu was blindfolded and gagged. There was a chain around his neck. Chains on his wrists and ankles and he was suspended a few feet in the air. Blood dripped down his body and collected into puddles on the ground. His head flopped over, unconscious.

The hungry rats that entered his cell looked anxiously up at him as if finally seeing a morsel of cheese strung up. They went about figuring out how to climb the walls, to scale the chains, with the goal of biting and eating his flesh.

*****

By the time Sasuke returned to the jasmine pavilion the sun was just beginning to rise in the sky. There was still enough night and the sky was still filled with the stars and the moon. Sasuke paused when he saw Suigetsu had fallen asleep. His eyes scanned quickly over Naruto’s body and he saw that he was perfectly fine. He remained in a deep slumber.

Sasuke kicked Suigetsu roughly in the foot. It jolted him awake and he gasped.

“Crown prince!” Suigetsu’s hoarse voice came to life. “I...I didn’t mean to fall asleep!” He leapt to his feet and looked down at Naruto. Sighing in instant relief to see he was in the same exact position as he last saw him completely unharmed.

“Leave.” Sasuke hissed impatiently. The sliding doors closed behind Suigetsu and Sasuke turned to Naruto. He quickly fastened the handcuffs back around Naruto’s wrist and his own. His head hit the pillow but he was filled with the debilitating thoughts of everything that Shisui revealed and he was unable to sleep.

*****

Suigetsu closed the sliding doors of jasmine pavilion. An ominous aura filled the air as he turned around. There was a disgusting smile on his lips and his eyes seemed to glow golden before turning back into his violet hues. He disappeared into the shadows of the path.