Author’s Note: I followed the Naruto anime, not the manga. That’s why you have an anime only character like Ranmaru pop up. (Please note that I did not find the explanation of Ranmaru’s powers very clear, and it’s been a very long while since I last saw that episode, so if anything seems weird, let’s just say canon was vague and roll with it please.)
Chapter 4 – Lines of Red
Karin was trudging away from her little village. Early that morning she had woke with a start when she felt huge groups of people amassing on the village. She tried to warn the family that took her in, but they told her to “stop lying,” “stop trying to seek attention,” and to “get back to work.”
So with the excuse of going to fetch water from the river, Karin had packed what little she had, took the money from under the floorboards – hey, dead people don’t need money – and left. She felt no remorse for leaving the villagers to their doom. Sure, they took pity on the little orphan girl and took her into the village, but no one really cared about her.
Her adopted family only took her in to show the villagers how nice they were, but the couple had three children of their own and absolutely no time for her. The children in the village were terrible too. They picked on her, the outsider, and laughed at her bright hair color, calling it an eyesore. Red hair was common where she came from, but none of these stupid outsiders knew how to appreciate the beauty of her people.
Karin felt three people coming her way. They probably wouldn’t bother her if she kept her head down but just to be on the safe side, Karin made her way to the wooden bridge standing over a brook and hid under it. She’ll just wait for them to pass and then continue on her way.
As they drew near she heard one of them said, “The village should be close. He said it wouldn’t be too far once we reach the brook.”
They lapsed into silence and Karin held her breath as they crossed the bridge. Suddenly she felt something sharp pressing against her neck.
“Don’t make any sudden movements,” a low voice intoned into her ear. The voice was pitched low, but she could tell it belonged to a child. That was hardly any comfort though, considering many children became ninjas when they were young. “Put your hands above your head and come out of hiding.”
Karin wondered if she was going to be robbed. She followed the instructions and soon found herself standing on one end of the bridge instead of under it. She studied the three people before her. The one threatening her with a sharp white stick of some sort had white hair, green eyes, and red markings on his face. He had a rather severe look on his face for a child. She was surprised to see a young child with purple hair and rust colored eyes present. He looked thin and frail, hardly intimidating at all.
The final person in the group was a boy with a face thinned from hunger and travel, but still looked pleasing to the eye. She would’ve called him cute, but the mark of hunger and travel left him with a hauntingly beautiful look instead. There was a cut on the right side of his face that looked to be in the process of healing. He was dressed in once white clothes. And his chakra. Oh god, his chakra! It was dazzling and beautiful, just like the boy himself. There was an undercurrent of something sad and lonely in his chakra, and Karin found herself wanting to remove that burden from him, to witness the full brunt of his dazzling chakra.
“Now what is a pretty young lady like you doing, spying on our group?” Dazzling Chakra asked her.
“You think I’m pretty?”
“Answer the question,” Somber Face said.
“I wasn’t! I wasn’t spying on you. I was just hiding until you guys passed by.”
“She’s telling the truth,” Frail Boy said.
Dazzling Chakra nodded to Somber Face and Somber Face removed his weapon slowly from her neck.
“I heard you were heading to the village near here,” Karin said.
“Don’t go. It’s already been burned down by now.” Dazzling Chakra gave her a look that said, “go on,” and so she explained, “I came from that village. I fled because I felt a bunch of people coming. It’s the war. My village will just become another casualty of war.”
“Yes. There’s something big going on in Kirigakure, a revolt I think, and it’s affecting the small villages in the area.”
“Kirigakure,” Dazzling Chakra murmured. “I see. Thank you for telling us.” Then he smiled. Karin blushed as red as her hair.
“Um,” she fidgeted with her shirt, “What’s your name?”
“Sasuke…” she repeated. Her heart thumped.
“These are my companions, Ranmaru and Kimimaro.”
Karin barely noticed Kimimaro giving her a dead fish stare and Ranmaru bowing politely.
“My name’s Karin.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Karin-san.” Another smile. Oh, she could die happy right now. “We must be on our way now. We still have need of a map, and it looks like this village is a miss.”
“Oh, I have a map,” Karin offered. She quickly pulled it out from her pack. “We’re right here,” she pointed.
Sasuke seemed shocked by her forthrightness, but nonetheless leaned forward to study the map. She took a long deep whiff of his smell. Ahh, he smelled so nice. Kimimaro noticed and glared at her. She turned her nose up at him.
“Would it be all right if I buy this map from you?” Sasuke asked. “I don’t have much money but-”
“Oh, just take it.”
“Ahh… Thank you.” A hesitant smile. Karin sighed blissfully.
“Can I come with you? I wandered around Kiri a bit before settling down at my old village, so I know some parts of the land. And now that my village is burned down I have nowhere else to go,” Karin said in earnest.
“Back off,” Kimimaro stuck an arm between Karin and Sasuke. She had not noticed that she was leaning forward so much. Sasuke was starting to look uncomfortable. She pouted but backed off. Sasuke breathed a sigh of relief.
He studied her and seemed to be thinking about her request. She clasped her hands together and tried to look as earnest and helpful as she could. Finally he settled on a decision. “All right,” he said haltingly. “I’m not sure where you want to go from here, but we’re heading to Konoha. We can travel together if it’s along the way for you.”
“Oh, it’s totally along the way,” Karin assured him.
“Well then… it seems we have a new companion,” he said to his friends. “Welcome to the group,” he told her.
She sighed again, an amorous smile on her face.
They were taking a lunch break by a river when Sasuke commented, “Were you originally from Uzushiogakure?”
“How did you guess? I am part of the Uzumaki clan,” Karin said.
“Ah, I thought so. Your red hair, it’s a common trait of the Uzumaki, or so I’ve heard.”
Karin grew self-conscious as she fiddled with the ends of her hair. “Is it weird?”
“My red hair. I mean, it’s so bright and red and stuff. It’s an eyesore, don’t you think so?”
Sasuke tilted his head in confusion, “I think it’s a lovely color. It’s uncommon in Konoha.”
Karin flushed to the tips of her ears. “Y- You really think so?”
“There is someone with the name of Uzumaki in Konoha.” Sasuke said, completely bulldozing over her question, but she didn’t care. He called her lovely. Well, her hair, but… same difference. “It would be nice if the two of you could meet and become friends.”
“There is an Uzumaki in Konoha? I always knew we couldn’t all be dead, I mean, I’m still here. But when Uzushiogakure was attacked only a few of us survived and we all scattered. I didn’t think I would ever find another one of my clan.”
The smile on Sasuke’s face was wistful and faraway. “I think he would be happy to meet you, too.”
“Hey, Sasuke-kun. How did you get this wound?” Karin reached out a hand to brush against the thin vertical cut that ran from mid-cheek to jaw line on the right side of Sasuke’s face.
Sasuke caught her hand gently before she could touch his scar, and she blushed at their joined hands.
“It’s my fault,” both Kimimaro and Ranmaru said at once.
“Onii-sama was trying to protect me from that missing-nin and got hurt,” Ranmaru sniffed.
“It was my fault. I couldn’t protect Sasuke-sama in time,” Kimimaro said, contrite.
“If anything, it was my fault for not training hard enough. Don’t blame yourselves. And Kimimaro you took care of the missing-nin, so now we don’t have to worry about her following our trail.”
Sasuke sweatdropped. “And I told you two to drop the honorifics. Just Sasuke is fine.”
Karin swooned. Sasuke was so noble and magnanimous. Not to mention he was still holding her hand. Oh, never mind, he just dropped it. “Can I drop the honorifics, too?” Karin ventured. Kimimaro glared at her. Sasuke opened his mouth, but Karin held up a hand to stop him from answering. “Kyaa! What am I saying? I was being too forward.” Karin buried her face in her hands. Even her neck was blushing this time.
Personally, Sasuke didn’t care if everyone forgo honorifics, it would make everything so much easier, but he had a feeling dropping the honorifics this early in the stage with Karin would be a Bad Idea. He took the out that Karin gave him and shut his mouth.
Karin rolled up her sleeve and offered Sasuke her arm. “I can heal the cut for you. It looks like a relatively new wound so this should work. If you bite down on me I can transfer my chakra to you and heal all your injuries.”
Sasuke’s brow rose, “That sounds like an advanced technique. What are the drawbacks?”
“Drawbacks?” Ranmaru piped up.
Sasuke nodded, “A technique that can heal all wounds at once must have some side effect for the user.”
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Karin said.
Sasuke shook his head. “Thank you for offering, but I’m afraid I will have to decline. I am not grievously injured. As a ninja a little scarring is nothing. I won’t have you suffer for a vanity project.”
Karin couldn’t hold it back anymore. She launched herself at Sasuke and glomped him to her chest. “Oh, how can you be so wonderful?” She squealed.
“Karin-san, unhand Sasuke-sama this moment!” Kimimaro prided her off.
Sasuke was beet red. He looked so cute that Karin just wanted to grab him again.
The scar wasn’t that bad. In fact, it made Sasuke look a little dangerous, which in turn translated to cool. Yeah, Karin could learn to like that scar. Not to mention every time she sees it now she will remember this moment.
Author’s Note: Since I stopped watching Naruto after the part where Chiyo revives Gaara, the characterization of characters that shows up after that point (i.e. Karin) is from reading Naruto Wiki, so excuse the inconsistencies if the character seems out of character, because I wrote them based on my impression from reading a text description of their personality. You could also say that the difference between the character’s canon age and their age in this fan fiction contributes to differences in their personality.