The stars slowly disappeared as the sky lightened, though the sun was not visible to me from my window. I turned my head towards the door, knowing that someone would be coming for me soon. Hokage-san had said that someone would come to bring me to his office, so I’ll wait for whoever they are.
Not long after the sun was fully in the sky, someone knocked on the door. I didn’t get the chance to answer because before I could, they were opening the door. “I could have been naked you know. What would you have done then?”
The person paused, and although I couldn’t see their face due to their Anbu mask, I could tell they were looking at me with a look that said, ‘Are you crazy?’
I closed my eyes and smiled, tilting my head to the side slightly. “Hello, my name’s Shizumi. I presume you are here to take me to see the Hokage?”
They nodded. “If you are well enough.”
I look down at myself, surveying if I could make it. I shook my head. “Normally I could work around the pain, but a broken leg is just impossible to walk on. Sorry. Are there some crutches or something I could use? Then I could make it.”
The Anbu just turned around, closing the door as he did. I sweat-dropped at how silent he was, sighing out a mushroom cloud when I realized he wasn’t coming back for a bit. ‘I hope he’s at least getting me crutches.’
A few minutes later the same Anbu came back, a pair of crutches in his hands. I could feel a smile break out on my face, glad that he had listened. “You know, I like you. You don’t talk all the time, but you still listen.”
The Anbu simply nodded, walking over to my bed. He propped the crutches against the wall and held his hand out to me. If took me a few moments to realized that he wanted me to take his hand so he could help me up. Taking his hand in my left, I use my right hand to lift my broken leg out of the bed and swing my other leg out. Now with both legs positioned to stand, I use his hand as leverage to swing into a standing position, all my weight on my right leg. I wince as the movement hurts not only my leg, but my ribs as well.
Breathing shallowly, I turn to the Anbu. “Um, do you think you could hand me the crutches?” They were only a few feet away, but I wasn’t up for testing my balance in an attempt to reach them.
He nodded again, turning around to get the crutches. His long, black ponytail swung around behind him, settling between his shoulder blades when he stopped moving. I couldn’t help but stare at it, it was really shiny and long, the tie holding it low on his head.
He handed me each crutch one at a time, waiting until the first was settled under my left arm to hand me the other one. When he was sure I was ok to move, he turned and opened the door for me, waiting to the side.
I smile softly, surprisingly touched by his actions. Making it through the doorway was a bigger challenge than I expected, but we made it though, already out of the hospital in moments. Walking outside, I looked out into the streets, really looking at them for the first time. People were out walking around as children played here and there. There were a few shops nearby, and all of them looked small and clean. All in all, the whole place looked peaceful and idyllic. A smile made its way onto my face as I took in the scene. ‘So different than my home.’ After I watched it for a moment, I turn and walk in the direction of our destination.
The walk to the Hokage’s office was uneventful, if painful. I could tell that we were going at a much slower pace than the Anbu was used to, but he didn’t say anything, so neither did I. I did sneak glances at him, studying what type of people become the elite of Konoha. He was definitely tall, I only reached his elbow, and he was slim in a deadly looking way. His face was covered by an Anbu mask; I couldn’t tell what animal it was. An otter? Rat? Weasel? I’ll go with weasel. Anyway, I caught a quick glimpse of his eyes behind his mask and they were black, coal in color and cold in appearance. His whole aura screamed, “DANGER,” but strangely, he didn’t seem scary.
I was so focused on my analysis that I didn’t realize we were in front of the Hokage’s office. It was tall, three or four stories, but not extremely wide. Its red color reminded me of fire, which was ironic because there was the kanji for “fire” on top of the building. I pause when I stood in front of the door, nervous about going in.
The Anbu seemed to sense my unease because he said, “Hokage-sama’s nicer than he seems.”
I turn and look at him, but he’s not looking at me. ‘I think that’s his way of reassuring me?’
He walks to the door and holds it open, waiting for me to walk in. I nod my head in thanks, walking passed the door and into the lobby. The Anbu walked up behind me almost immediately, putting a hand on my upper back and gently leading me towards a staircase. I stare at it suspiciously for a moment, contemplating my ability to use the crutches.
I felt another nudge behind me, so I turned my head to look. The Anbu was standing there, again, and he nodded his head in the direction of the stairs. “You won’t fall. I’ll be behind you.”
I feel my cheeks heat up a bit, so I turn my head and face the stairs again. “O-of course! I’m not so pathetic that I can’t make it up the stairs.” I start to make my way up slowly up the stairs, hobbling while desperately trying to hide the trouble I was having and the pain it was bringing me. Though, he was Anbu. He should be to see at least that much. At least I hope he does, or else the standards to be an Anbu were pathetic.
What happened next made me swear off of thinking for the rest of my life. I tripped.
I was so busy thinking and trying to hide my clumsiness, I didn’t see properly and I tripped on a stair, starting to fall. That was also when I started to curse Ibiki. ‘Curse that Bagtard! If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t even be in this situation! And even if I was, I could have gotten out of it easily!’
I only fell for a few seconds before I hit something, which was surprising. We were already almost all the way up, so I should have fallen for much longer to get to the bottom. I looked up and saw the Anbu’s mask/head. I then realized I had fallen into his arms. “I told you, you wouldn’t fall.”
I scurry painfully, scrambling back into a standing position. “T-thanks.” I say, nodding my head a bit, and then turn around and continue my way up the stairs. This time, I paid better attention and made sure not to trip.
At the top of the stairs I paused to catch my breath, wincing as each breath tugged at my injured ribs.
The Anbu just stood there, patiently waiting for me to get ready. When I felt I could breathe normally again, I nodded to him. He started walking again and I followed along, also at that same easy pace. ‘Ok, I like this guy. He’s probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.’
After about halfway down the hallway, he stops in front of a door. “This is Hokage-sama’s office.” I nod, opting for staying silent so I don’t accidently show how nervous I am in my voice.
He knocks softly on the door, pausing for a response.
I take a deep steadying breath as I wait, trying to calm my pounding heart.
The Anbu opens the door, nodding for me to go first as he does. I nod back, hobbling my way into the room.
It was a simple room, nothing fancy, with a large desk at the back and a chair behind it. I couldn’t see the chair, as someone was sitting in it. There were also two seats a bit away from the desk, but right in front of it for meetings. The Hokage looked up from the papers he held in his hands and smiled warmly as we walked in.
“Ah, there you are Shizumi. I was beginning to worry.”
The Anbu kneeled down in front of the desk, his head bowed in respect. “I wouldn’t have let anything happen to her in my care, Hokage-sama.”
I just rolled my eyes and hobbled over to one of the chairs. Sitting down gently, I force a scowl off my face. “Ok, Hokage-san, what do you need me to do today?”
He pauses and stares for a moment, clasping his hands loosely in front of his face. “First, we need to find you some place to stay.”
Shrugging, I leave my face uninterested. “I could always find my own place. I’m not a child, I can take care of myself.”
The Hokage shakes his head. “No, you can’t. I am allowing you to stay, but that doesn’t give you a free pass to do whatever you want. You will be under surveillance until we deem you safe and loyal to Konoha.”
I sighed, scratching the back of my head with one arm. “I’m fine with that. I don’t care what you need me to do, I’ll do it if it helps me find him.”
He nodded. “I was hoping you’d say that.” He turned his head away from me, breaking eye contact. “Weasel-san, do you remember what I told you to do before you were to fetch Shizumi?”
The Anbu, Weasel, nodded his head. “Yes, Hokage-sama. He should be here any minute.”
As if on cue, someone barged into the room without knocking. “You called for me, dad?”
I turn around slowly in my chair to see who the newcomer was. His black hair was spiked back, his forehead protector seemingly holding it there. His sideburns blended into his beard, a cigarette smoking from where it rested in his mouth. His jonin outfit seemed pretty standard, except for a white sash around his waist, sporting a fire kanji on it.
“Yes, I did. Take a seat Asuma, I need to ask a favor.” The Hokage waved to the seat next to mine as he spoke, pointing out where he was supposed to sit.
The man, Asuma, strolled over to the seat at a leisurely pace, sitting down with a grunt. “What do you need?”
Instead of answering his question, The Hokage turned towards me. “Asuma, this is Shizumi. Shizumi, this is Asuma.”
I continue to observe this, “Asuma” character, judging his threat level in case of emergency. He was obviously a ninja, chunin or higher as shown by the vest, but I couldn’t see anything especially strange or dangerous about him. I relaxed a bit before nodding my head slightly in a small greeting.
I catch him sizing me up too, a curious look in his eyes. He seemed ok with what he saw, because he returned the nod and spoke. “Nice to meet you.”
The Hokage watched our exchange with a strange gleam in his eyes. “Well, now that you know each other, lets get to the reason I brought you here.” He moved around some items on his desk, seemingly looking for something. “Shizumi here is new to Konoha, and we need to keep an eye on her. Since she’s still just a child, I decided it would be best if she stayed in an actual house with a ninja, instead of giving her an apartment that would have to be under constant Anbu surveillance. I wasn’t sure at first who should watch her, it wouldn’t be fair for me to put this on a random ninja, but you’re my son. I can put this on you easily.”
Asuma sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “So...you’re putting me on babysitting duty?”
I growled under my breath at both of them. “Hello, person in question still here! What am I, a ghost? And for the love of all things pocky, quit calling me a child!”
Asuma and the Hokage turn to look at me, a slightly shocked look on their faces. Weasel's face couldn’t be seen but he didn’t seem too surprised at all.
Asuma let out a loud laugh, coughing to try and hide it. “Heh, maybe babysitting this kid won’t be so bad. She’s got spunk.”
“Not a kid!”
He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, ignoring my outburst. The Hokage just laughed lightly, shaking his head. “Anyway, you will house Shizumi until we determine if she is a threat. After that it is your, and her, choice as to where she stays.”
I turn my head away from the father and son, thinking about it. It would be better than constantly being followed by Anbu. But then again, what am I gonna do at night. Hmm…
I’m interrupted from my thoughts when I hear my name said. “Now Shizumi, we need to plan your test, and what you will need to get. I presume all you have is already on you?”
I shake my head. “Yes, just lemme know when the test is and I’ll take it, no matter what it is. As for the stuff, I had a bag when I first arrived, I just don’t know where it is now. The last time I saw it I was in a forest.”
He nods his head slightly, looking off to the side in thought. “Before you were brought to us, someone found you in the forest. Maybe they know where it would be.” He motion for all of us to stand up. Asuma, Weasel, and I did stand, me with a little more difficulty than I would have liked. “It was the Nara’s that found you in their forest, so they might have your bag. Asuma knows where they are, so he will be your escort.”
Both Asuma and I nod, him turning and walking to the door without hesitation. I hobble over to him, walking through the doorway as he held it open. Before I could fully leave, I faintly heard the Hokage say, “Ok Weasel-san, for your next mission…” But then I was too far away to hear.
Asuma didn’t pause in his walking, not even turning around to see if I was following. But I noticed he wasn’t using his full leg length in his stride, so he was obviously walking slower to accommodate my slow limp.
I watched him out of the corner of my eye, trying to assess what kind of guy, and partial guardian, he was. It wasn’t easy to do, mind you, as he wasn’t really doing much but walking with a blank face. He had lit a cigarette after we left the Hokage building, but I’m not going to fault him for that. We all have our vices. I smirk for a second, thinking about my particular vice, before losing it as we walk.
Asuma was the one who broke our fragile silence. “So, Shizumi, I got the run down on your situation from Weasel. But all I really heard was you could be an enemy, and you’re looking for someone.”
I nod absentmindedly, looking around as the surroundings change. “That about sums me up. Good listening skills.” The shops were slowly disappearing, houses taking their place. The more we walked, the grander the houses became.
He sighs, probably hoping that I would have given more info. Ha, like that’s gonna happen.
We eventually stop in front of a large gate, holding multiple houses, some bigger than others, and a beautiful garden surrounded it all. Asuma didn’t even pause when he got to the gate, opening it with purpose. He didn’t stop once he was inside, walking straight to the biggest house. Either he’s been here before, many times if he’s that assured, or he’s just bullshiting his way through this.
Luckily, he did stop to knock on the front door of the house. I would have punched him if he had just walked into someone’s home without warning, that’s just too rude.
Nothing happened for a bit, and I started to worry that no one was home.
After a moment though, the door clicked and opened. Behind the door was a young looking woman with long, black hair pulled back into a low ponytail and brown eyes. Her simple pink shirt and brown skirt with a white apron screamed, “Housewife,” but she pulled the look off. Her shinobi sandals made me wonder about her ninja skills, but I didn’t have any more time to observe her.
“Oh my kami, you’re alive. And you’re here. Why are you here?!” The woman pulled her hands away from the door, bringing them up to her face to cover her mouth. Her eyes were wide with shock, her body unconsciously backing away from me.
I stared at her shocked, wondering why she was looking at me with such horror in her eyes. Not knowing what else to do, this woman obviously knew me but I have no idea who she is, I took a small step forward and said, “Um, yeah, hi.”
I turn my head to Asuma, silently asking for help with this. He sighs and steps in front of me, addressing the distressed woman. “Yoshino-san, can we come in please?”
Asuma’s voice seems to snap her out of her panic, her head nodding in response. “Asuma-san, y-yes, of course, come in.” She then opens the door wider for us, ushering us inside. “Well, you know where the dining room is, could you go wait there while I get snacks?” She doesn’t wait for an answer, running off to what I assume is the kitchen.
I followed Asuma a short way through the house, taking in it’s appearance. It looked like a traditional (Japanese, but this is not Japan, so...yeah.) house, with wood floor and paper neutral walls. Nothing really jumped out at me that seemed abnormal, so I calmly walked behind Asuma. We quickly came to what looked like the dining room, a long table with many chairs greeting us. Like before, he didn’t break stride as he moved to sit down at one of the closest chairs. I followed his example, hobbling across the floor to sit near him, but not right next to him.
We didn’t have to wait long till the woman, I believe her name was Yoshino, came in with a tray full of food. It wasn’t until I saw the food, that looked absolutely delicious by the way, that I realized I was super hungry. I hadn’t eaten in forever! The hospital had given me some IV fluid, to make sure I didn’t die of malnutrition or dehydration, but actual food hadn’t entered my mouth since before I had entered Konoha.
The moment Yoshino set the snacks down, I reached out and grabbed a few before they even saw me move. By the time they realized I had grabbed some, they were already in my mouth. “Fank yew for da food,” I said around the food, hiding my mouth with my hand. (Thank you for the food.)
Yoshino nodded, but kept her eyes on Asuma, obviously waiting for an explanation. I decided to let him deal with the talking, reaching over to grab more food.
“Well, looks like you still recognize her, which means you were the one who found her. So-”
“I don’t find her, Shikamaru did.” Yoshino said, interrupting Asuma.
“Whatever. You saw her. Anyway, she’s going to be staying for awhile, and she needs her stuff. She said she had it in the forest where she was found, and we were wondering if you still have it or know where it would be.”
Yoshino opened her mouth to respond, but before she could say anything another voice spoke.
“I know where it is.”
We all looked up to stare at the doorway, different expressions on all our faces. Yoshino looked surprised, I probably looked like a pig with my mouth full of food, and Asuma just looked bored. But, he was the first one to reply.
“Well, good to see you too, Shikamaru. Nice to know that our trip wasn’t in vain. Where’s the bag?” Asuma stood up as he talked, his eyes wandering around the room.
Shikamaru leaned away, turning around to walk down the hall. “What a drag, wait here, I’ll go grab it.”
He turned around and walked away, his slouched posture and slow walk gave me the impression of extreme laziness, but at least his slowness would give me more time to eat.
I snagged more food as I waited, avoiding eye contact with the others. Was I being rude? Probably. Did I care? Nope.
Surprisingly, the boy called Shikamaru didn’t take as long as I thought. Either my bag was closer than I thought, or he hurried when he was out of sight. He held it out to me, which surprised me, instead of Asuma, so I nodded my head in thanks. My mouth was still full from the food, so I couldn’t verbally thank him, but he seemed to get what I was going for.
“There. That’s all you had with you when I found you. If anything’s missing, that’s your problem.”
I finished chewing my food and accepted my bag, immediately opening it up to make sure everything was still there. I sighed in relief. It was here. I looked back up at Shikamaru and smiled a small smile, “Thank you. Truly, thank you.”
He nodded his head lazily, wandering over to sit next to his mother who had sat across from Asuma and I. Everyone sat in silence for a moment, staring at one another and sizing them up. I quickly remembered the other reason I was here, so I broke the silence.
I faced the Naras, bowing down as well as the table and my injuries would let me, “I’m sorry for trespassing on your property Nara-san. I was not aware that it was owned, and I will do my best to make sure it won’t happen again.”
Yoshino waved her hands back and forth looking very flustered, “No, no, well, yes, but,” she sighed and tried again. “Thank you for apologizing, but as you said, I’m sure it was just an accident. Please do try to never do it again, but don’t worry too much about what’s in the past.” She smiled a smile that could only be described as motherly and continued. “How about you? Are you ok now? You had some pretty serious injuries the last time I saw you.” She didn’t mention the new ones she could clearly see on her, but she felt it was unnecessary to add.
Shizumi smirked at the topic changed, leaning on her crutches that were next to her. “Eh, I’ve felt worse. Seriously though, your interrogators here are such pansies. I was expecting more, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I’ll admit though, it did hurt.”
Everyone sweat dropped at her nonchalance, choosing not to talk about her time at the T&I Center.
After some strained small talk between Asuma, Yoshino, and Shikamaru, while I continued to stuff my face, Asuma and I left. We continued to walk/hobble along at a moderately slow place, returning back the way we came. After a bit we turned into an area that was clearly for small homes and apartments, pausing about halfway into the small neighborhood. Asuma led me to a small house, pausing only to unlock the front door.
The house itself was similar to all the other houses on the street, but the front yard looked well cared for, which surprised me because he didn’t seem like the type to like gardening. He held the door open for me, giving me space to hobble through the small opening.
“Alright, this is it. Nothing special, but it’s home. You’ll get the guest room, use it for whatever, ‘cause it’s yours till you finally leave. Follow me and I’ll show you.” He walked down the hallway and around a corner, going up a small flight of stairs. I followed after him as fast as I could, easily keeping up with his lazy pace. Up the stairs were a few doors, one at the end of the hall, one on the right side and two on the left. He led me to the one on the right and opened it without hesitation. “Ok, this one’s yours. The one across from it is another bedroom, and the one beside that is a closet. You’ll have your own bathroom in your room, so no need to worry ‘bout that.”
“Thank you Asuma-san. I’ll try not to be too big of a bother.” I limped past him, sitting on the medium sized bed and placing my bag down next to me. The room itself was quite nice. It had light grey walls and dark blue carpet, giving it a cold yet warm and cozy feeling. The bed was about a queen size, deep blue and silverish grey bedding lying on it. There were two other doors besides the one to the hallway; one was obviously a bathroom, it’s door ajar and showing a toilet, and the other was probably a closet. I turned to Asuma to thank him for the room but saw he was already gone. A small probe for his chakra signature showed that he had just gone downstairs, so I stood up to get myself unpacked and settled.
I opened my bag and once again checked to make sure everything was in it. I specifically looked for a small, black, choker necklace. There was nothing specifically special about it, it was simple yet delicate looking, it was made of black leather, and in the center of it was a small black lock in the shape of a heart. It was my most prized possession, and I couldn't wait to finally be able to wear it. Back home, I was forbidden to wear it, but now there was nothing stopping me. I picked it up and placed it on the nightstand next to the bed, just looking at it for a moment. I was so happy that I could finally keep in in the open instead of hiding it like it was illegal. When I finally pulled myself together, I returned to the task at hand.
Finally, after everything was unpacked and settled, not like there was a whole lot to begin with, I changed out of my dirty and ripped clothes into a white nightgown. It only went up to right above my knee, it’s spaghetti straps giving me mobility. I was tempted to take a shower, but I didn’t feel like dealing with all the bandages on me, so I decided to put that off till later.
I pulled the covers back and relaxed, once again not falling asleep. I glanced around the room, admiring it once more before turning my attention to the window. It was dark out, and the stars were shining once again. I let my eyes drift down, allowing myself to dose in and out of a light sleep. I wouldn’t let myself actually sleep, but I needed to get energy somehow.
Soon, I’ll find a way to sleep. Soon, I’ll be free.