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Tightrope 3

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Chapter 3 – Breaking Down the Lines

Kimimaro sat in his little man-made burrow and looked up at the world through the bone white bars he constructed. His entire clan was dead and he did not know what to do. When his clan was alive, he was always kept inside a cage – much like this one – until they had need of his powers in battle. Only then would he be let out of the cage. Kimimaro hated fighting, but he hated the cage even more. So he would fight. He would fight and kill and bleed for his clan if it meant proving his worth and leaving that cage.
Story by Vanilla Muse
But now his entire clan was dead, and he didn’t know what to do.

He had made this cage and holed himself up in it because it was familiar. If he wasn’t fighting then he belonged in a cage. That was what his clan had always said. But now they were dead and there was no one to tell him such things, or give him orders.

He didn’t know what to do.

He knew he would have to leave eventually. If he stayed in the cage without food he would die, but for now he tried to find comfort in the familiar. Sometimes he wondered if he waited long enough, thought hard enough, or searched far enough, maybe he would find out what his new purpose should be.

Light footsteps approached. By the time he registered the sound a shadow had fallen over his form. He looked up, and passed the bone bars there knelt a boy all dressed in white. He looked ragged and worn and his clothes were stained with blood and dirt, but he was smiling gently down at Kimimaro and the sunlight outlined him from behind like an ethereal glow.

“I found you,” the boy said, his voice gentle and lilting.

Kimimaro’s breath caught.

The boy was beautiful.

“Why are you in this… place?” the boy asked.

“My clan is dead. I have nowhere to go,” Kimimaro found himself admitting.

The boy frowned. Kimimaro hated to see the smile go. No one had ever smiled so benignly at him before. All the smiles he saw before were full of teeth and bloodlust.

“I see…” the boy murmured to himself. “I think I understand now.” Then to Kimimaro he said, “If you have no clan and nowhere to go then join me. Become my brother and I will bestow my clan’s name unto you.” He held out a hand to Kimimaro, extending it through the bars. “Are you willing to be my brethren?”

Kimimaro’s eyes widened in disbelief. The sunlight seemed to shine even brighter around the boy with those words. Could this be god’s answer to his prayer? Was this his new purpose now?

He reached out to take the outstretched hand, and as he did so the bone bars became brittle and he easily broke free of the cage. The hand in his was warm and calloused, and so small but firm.

“My name is Uchiha Sasuke. What is your name?”

“…Kimimaro. U- Uchiha Kimimaro.”

Sasuke looked surprised at first and Kimimaro wondered if he was too audacious in assuming the boy’s name, but before Kimimaro could apologize for his transgression Sasuke smiled at him, gentle and warm, and Kimimaro wished he would just keep on smiling at him like that all the time.

“Welcome to the family, Kimimaro.”

Kimimaro’s face felt warm and strange. Later he would learn that he was blushing and that his lips were smiling without his knowledge.

Kimimaro followed Sasuke into a thicket of trees. Nestled in the hollow of an old tree was a little boy, no more than four years of age. The boy had purple hair cut into a blunt bob and rust colored eyes.

“Ranmaru, I found him,” Sasuke announced. Ranmaru, the purple-haired boy smiled. He looked frail and weak. Sasuke then introduced the two of them.

“Is he part of… o- our clan, too?” Kimimaro wondered.

“Ah… it’s not quite like that,” Sasuke replied. “I found Ranmaru when his village was in the midst of kicking him out and decided to bring him back to Konoha with me. As we were traveling Ranmaru suddenly… well, he sensed something and he told me-”

“You will find what you need in a burrow one click east of here,” Ranmaru recited.

“Ranmaru has a unique ability,” Sasuke explained.

“Find what you need…” Kimimaro repeated. He turned to Sasuke with hopeful eyes, “You need me?”

“Well, ah, yes. It would be helpful to have another fighter in the group. I’m being chased by missing-nin and Ranmaru can’t defend himself.”

“I understand, Sasuke-sama. I, Uchiha Kimimaro, will be your sword and your shield, from henceforth until the day I die.”

Sasuke looked truly flustered. “That’s not what I meant.” At Kimimaro’s straightforward stare, Sasuke blinked and then adopted a somber expression. “As clansmen we guard each other’s back. I will protect you, as you will protect me.”

Kimimaro bowed. “I am honored, Sasuke-sama.”

The flustered tone was back. “Ah, please, just Sasuke is fine.”

“As you wish, Sasuke-sama.”

Sasuke blinked at Kimimaro, at a lost for words.

“I didn’t know Kimimaro was your clansmen,” Ranmaru spoke up. “What a co-in-ci-dence.” He pronounced the word carefully as children were wont to do when they learned new words.

Sasuke smiled. “Actually, we became family just now.”

Family.

Kimimaro marveled at the word.

“Huh? I don’t understand. How did you become family if you weren’t born in the same family?” Ranmaru asked.

Sasuke knelt down and petted Ranmaru’s hair. “Family comes in many forms, Ranmaru. You have your biological family, um, that’s your blood related family, and then you have the family that you make as you create ties with people.”

“Oh. I see.” Ranmaru got silent as he went deep in thought.

“Anyways,” Sasuke addressed both of them, “we shouldn’t stay in one place for too long. I… I killed one of the missing-nin, but there’s still one more after me and she might recruit more people to hunt me down.”

“You killed one of them,” Kimimaro looked Sasuke up and down, he did not seem to be carrying any weapon, “with what may I ask?”

Sasuke pulled out a spool of ninja wire from his pocket. “I strangled him.” He smiled sardonically.

Kimimaro didn’t much like the smile on Sasuke’s face at the moment. It looked like he was hurting somehow. “Were you injured?”

Sasuke looked shocked and vaguely sick by the question but before he could answer Ranmaru tugged on his hand.

“Hey, hey. Can I join your family, too?”

“Huh?”

“Well, Kimimaro-san did it, and you’ve known him for a shorter time than me right? So shouldn’t I be able to join your family, too? I’ve known you for longer,” Ranmaru reasoned. Such was the logic of a child. Sasuke wanted to say that quality time was more important than quantity time when it came to establishing bonds, but at the stubborn set of Ranmaru’s mouth Sasuke gave up that battle for a lost cause before even beginning it.

He ruffled Ranmaru’s hair. “Sure, Ranmaru. You can join the family, too.”

The purple-haired child grinned. “So now I’m Uchiha Ranmaru, right? Right?”

Sasuke chuckled, “If you insist. Welcome to the family, Ranmaru.”

Ranmaru beamed at him.

Sasuke stood up. “Let’s be on our way. We have a long way to go and frankly I have no idea how to get back to Konoha. We will need to procure a map first.”

“That means we need to find a town or a village,” Kimimaro inputted.

“Yes.”

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