The Return Of The Shannara Chronicles: Here’s What’s Going To Happen In Season 2
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water to The Four Lands…
MTV has started production on the long-awaited second season of The Shannara Chronicles, the network announced today, even revealing some majestic plotlines in the process. So what’s going on now that the dreaded Dagda Mor was defeated and the Ellcrys saved in the Season 1 finale? A whole lotta havoc.
A prompt? Shy Trini having feelings for Kim and Zack being the wingman
Thanks for the prompt!
Zack says he’s crazy - and he is - but Trini also says she’s crazy, but he can see that she isn’t. Trini is serious, more guarded than most of them, so he sees the way she tends to hide behind the mask of taking risks - of living on the edge - because if he’s being serious, he’s been there too. He likes Trini, likes how kind and strong she is at the same time, but he sees the shyness that lies underneath, and he guesses that’s why he’s seen her look at Kimberly with wounded puppy eyes. He may be crazy, but he wasn’t blind.
It’s why he takes it upon himself to help her. He thinks it’s a bad idea, something would surely come bite him in the ass later, but Trini was his friend, and he was determined to help her. He squares his shoulders as he makes his way over to where the yellow ranger sat on the steps.
“I think you need my help.” Zack says, his face catching his usual cockiness as he watches her open her eyes to look at him. He’s met with confusion and something a kin to indifference. It makes him clear his throats and stand just a little taller.
“With what?” Trini asks, her brows furrowing further.
Sakura might have quelled at least some of Sasuke’s fears, but she isn’t as confident as she pretends. The idea that the fetus inside her is connected to as dark and tragic a past as Indra Ōtsutsuki is worrisome, but at the same time…
She has to admit she’s curious.
That doesn’t stop her being relieved when the dreams inexplicably stop bringing her to the strange beach. Her nightly visions become vague again, bursts of colour and emotion, occasionally faces that are familiar to her but inconsequential. She still experiences the frustrating moments of abuse, attacks from a faceless father and sister; these encounters paralyse her as she sleeps, and leave her irritated upon waking. But overall, there is such a vague and hurried quality to these that she suspects she is experiencing time passing.
This pattern continues long enough that it’s almost a shock when she falls asleep one night and finds herself once more in a completely lucid, detailed dream.
She is sitting uncomfortably at a table in a richly decorated room, and the dim memories Sakura can access suggest that her attendance here is rare, perhaps even only occasionally required. Sitting across from her are two people whose presence not only disheartens her – the small, curious part of her had been hoping to meet Indra again – but also fills her with overwhelming wariness.
“There’s talk among the court of a newcomer,” Father says as the servants place their meals before them. “A man of great talent, said to be the son of a wise sage from the East. They say he can call lightning from the sky and breathe fire like the dragons of old.”
“It would be useful to have such a man beholden to you,” Older Sister remarks, sounding bored as she picks at her food.
“Yes, it is better to be on the side of a demon than in his path. Should the stories of this man be true, I intend to offer him alliance. I am told he is young and ambitious. Command of my armies should sway his loyalty. Or, perhaps, marriage.”
Older Sister scowls. “Marriage to a foreigner won’t grow the coffers of this land.”
“Maybe not, but talents he is said to be able to teach could,” Father says. “I am confident you’ll do your duty, daughter.” He then suddenly turns and barks, “What’s that look for, Shachi? Have you something to say?”
They are both looking at her now and she realises that she is Shachi.
Her lips part. “If…if…”
“If…if…if…” Older Sister mocks. Sakura inwardly snarls, knowing if she had control of her body right now, she would wipe the floor with the painted doll before her.
“I-If Older Sister doesn’t wish to marry h-him, I w-would take on th-that duty, F-Father. If it would p-please you.”
He snorts. “Dishonour an important man with a concubine’s spawn instead of the heiress to the land? I intend to court an ally, not lend insult. Keep your ridiculous opinions to yourself. Don’t make me regret my generosity in allowing you to sit at my table.”
“As you wish, Father.” She bows.
“May the gods soon find me a man who can look past your whore of a mother’s legacy and take you off my hands,” he grumbles to himself.
Sakura – Shachi – looks down at her knees, shoulders sinking.
Older Sister sniggers. “Oh, don’t look so downcast. Besides, if the stories of this stranger are true, he attracts many followers. Maybe someone among the riffraff will take an interest in you.”
The two of them laugh, leaving Sakura – Shachi – clenching her fists.
They are at the back of an izakaya, scouring dishes from a busy dinner rush; they don’t have any money tonight, and in exchange for a room they’re helping with hostess out. Sasuke washes, Sakura dries. There has been nothing but companionable silence until she breaks it.
“Can I…can I ask you something?”
“It’s about your brother,” she goes on, hesitant, because the topic is a difficult one, and usually provides some cue for him to make an escape. She’s hoping soapy hands make that a little harder this time.
From the tense set of his shoulders, she knows he’s already planning bolt, and she hurriedly continues.
“It’s about your relationship before – before all of it. You never talk about it, and you don’t have to now, I just…I never had an older brother or sister, so I don’t know myself. I was wondering…is it normal for an older sibling to hate the younger one?”
She winces, because it still came out awkwardly, and she bets he’s going to ignore it, because it’s not exactly what she was asking but –
“For a long time, I thought so,” Sasuke answers in a low voice. “But over time, I learned it’s the exception, not the rule.”
She exhales at this. “Oh.”
“Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Just thinking.”
She scowls, because he’s getting a lot better at reading her voice. Or maybe he always could, now he just chooses to react to it.
“It’s something I noticed in my dream –”
“You had another one?” he interrupts sharply, nearly dropping one of the bowls in his hand.
“Yes – and no, I haven’t seen him again, if that’s what you want to know. Don’t you think I’d tell you right away?”
“Well, I would. I just…haven’t had to say anything lately because nothing happened. I don’t think he’s in the picture right now. But this – the person I am in my dreams – her name is Shachi, I think.” She peeks at him. “Does that sound familiar to you?”
Since their conversation about a possible past life or odd Uchiha-specific pregnancy quirk, she has found it easier to ask him these questions. After all, between the two of them, he’s the only one who has a definite link to whatever it is she’s dreaming.
He closes his eyes, frowning in concentration, then shakes his head. “I feel as if I’ve heard the name before, but it could be from anywhere.”
He’s right, they meet enough new people every day, perhaps it’s a name they’ve encountered in their travels.
“It’s just, her family – or, I guess the people who raised her – they treat her so badly. It’s as if she’s beneath them, and I don’t…I don’t understand how family can do that,” she exclaims, frustrated. “How can someone not protect their younger sibling? How can a parent not love their child? I can’t imagine a world where you look at our baby like he – or she – means nothing.”
“It would never happen.”
He says it so instantly and certainly that she feels a wave of pure joy wash over her, and she offers him a loving smile. “I know that. But in my dream –”
“You said yourself your mind might just be processing things,” Sasuke continues. “You’ve mentioned feeling weak, held back. It’s possible that you’re drawing on experiences you’ve actually lived and your brain is interpreting them in the simplest way.”
Sakura shoots him a suspicious look. “You’ve been reading my medical scrolls, haven’t you? The psychology ones?”
“They offer the most logical explanation to all this.”
She sighs. “Darling, you can’t search for clues based on the answer you want.”
“It’s not what I want. It’s what it could be. And all of this could simply be a quirk of your dreams.”
They work in silence for a spell.
“You don’t really think it is, do you?” she asks eventually.
“So, if it is something that happened, why do you think she’s treated so badly?”
“Back then, people saw children differently. A means to an end, a legacy.”
“And what’s our child?”
Sasuke holds her gaze, no trace of doubt there, and simply says, “Hope.”
For some reason, after this conversation, the tone of her dreams changes. Her awareness of being in a dream fades faster. Memories of an entire life crowd out her identity during waking hours, and so when the stranger arrives in their land, her first reaction – Shachi’s first reaction – is of surprise.
Even though she shouldn’t be. Because there aren’t many men who can control lightning, after all, and there is such a commanding air about him that the idea of him as the leader her father spoke of is not impossible.
The day he steps foot in her father’s court is grey and overcast, inauspicious in it’s normalcy, and yet her body – both in her dream and her present self – feels taut with awareness. He arrives quietly, with little pomp, into Father’s audience chamber. If he notices her sitting on the dais by her sister’s feet, he gives no indication, his every attention focussed on the lord of the land.
He says very little, and yet before the audience is over, everyone knows who he is: Lord Indra of the Eastern Lands, a master in the secret arts. He is well-spoken and a warrior by bearing and – based on Older Sister’s expression upon seeing him for the first time – an desirable possible match.
He seeks followers, those he will impart with teachings, and who he intends to make stronger, asks only for the freedom to recruit whoever he wants.
“My methods are difficult,” he warns quietly, “and only those willing to lay down their lives in dedication will succeed. In exchange, I will instruct the soldiers in your armies as well.”
Father is beside himself – this is exactly what he wanted, after all – and the accord is soon settled. He celebrates by throwing a lavish banquet in Lord Indra’s honour, despite the obvious fact that the young man has no use for the gesture. He appears restless and impatient, as if he wishes to get started on his mission as soon as possible.
Sakura – Shachi? – watches him with wide eyes, thinking on the helpless man she nursed back to health, the one who could have killed her but didn’t. As frightened as she is by him, she can’t fight down her interest.
He notices her watching him and looks up, holding her gaze. Her entire body tenses, and she feels as if she’s looking into the eyes of a snake moments before it strikes. She can’t look away until he does, and once free, her entire body shivers. Her breath comes in sharp bursts and she wonders if, perhaps, he hasn’t used some of his strange power on her.
“It sounds like genjutsu,” Sasuke as he sets up a wire-trap.
“I don’t think so,” Sakura muses, leaning against a nearby tree. “He wouldn’t need to use that on her. She’s too afraid. Too docile. You only use genjutsu on someone if you expect resistance.”
She and Sasuke exchange a tense look, both of them acknowledging a bitter shared memory.
He grunts and hops down from the tree. “When we’re done here, we’re heading to that temple we passed. Maybe there will be someone there who can explain why you’re seeing this.”
“We might as well stop at a hospital too and have me speak to a bunch of therapists,” she deadpans. “I don’t think anyone is going to have answers on this one.”
Sasuke scowls. “So, your strategy is to wait and see?”
“I don’t accept that.”
“Well, tough. While I’m incubating the tiny human, I make the rules. And as of right now, I’m not in any actual medical danger, and other than being annoying and sometimes confusing, what I see when I’m asleep isn’t affecting my health in any way.”
This time it’s Sakura who scowls. “Need I remind you of your history of overreacting?”
Which Sasuke can’t exactly argue with, and so he settles on beleaguered silence while they set up the remainder of the traps.
She sighs to herself and wonders if there’s a point to keeping him updating about her dreams if he’s just going to get so upset about them. And she definitely doesn’t want to admit to him that the longer these dreams continue, and the more often she has them, the more she feels as if she’s living a completely different life.
“Sasuke…I know there’s no way to be one-hundred percent sure about all of this, but…would it be so bad?” He stares at her, askance. “If this actually was my past life. It would just mean that I’ve care for you longer than be both thought.”
“You know it would mean more than that. You know that it’s a story that doesn’t end happily.”
“We don’t know if that’s completely true.”
“He broke everything he touched,” her husband says darkly. “He had everything, and just…” He cuts off, making a disgusted sound. “Because of him, my family… because of him I did the same. Might still do the same. What if this is a reminder, a warning, that I’m going to break this too?”
The question is so soft, so distressingly uncertain that for a moment Sakura doesn’t have an answer.
Sasuke very rarely shows any type of vulnerability, and to this day she is certain she is the only one alive who has ever seen that part of him. What makes this particular display so heartbreaking is that she knows he isn’t even asking it for his own sake, but for their child’s.
Tears fill her eyes, but she holds them back. Crying right now will do nothing to help him; she swore long ago that when he was struggling, she would support him. And if that means shrugging off her puzzling dreams, so be it.
“I never thought you were the superstitious type,” she says, trying to break the tensions with levity.
Sasuke scowls. “It’s hard not to be when your past life decides to haunt your wife’s dreams.”
She smiles. The fact that he sounds so waspish is a good sign.
“Come here,” she says, and without giving him opportunity to resist, she presses his hand above her womb. “Listen to me: you are not going to break this.” He opens his mouth, and she drowns him out. “No – listen. You are not going to break this. I don’t break easy, and you can summon a giant chakra monster to protect yourself. This child? Half you, half me. Definitely not breakable.”
He still doesn’t look entirely reassured, but the tense set to his shoulders fades somewhat.
Lord Indra becomes a guest in their kingdom, permitted to walk among the people and seek students. He accepts any who come to him, man or woman, and weeds out the weak. Many of them die – strangely enough, it’s usually the soldiers that Father sends who are unable to succeed – and yet still more continue to seek him out.
He is the only one who knows this strange, magical teaching. He calls it ninjutsu, and when he says it, there’s an almost fanatic gleam in his eyes.
She finds this odd, but Father doesn’t care. As he sees it, his kingdom will soon grow to rule over all the rest, if only he can convince Lord Indra to remain here instead of moving on. Older Sister preens and poses, trying to entice a smile from the sullen faced stranger, and taking it out on Shachi when he doesn’t.
That name seems so distant to her when she is here, when she is the other woman. Though she knows this is but a dream, she feels tethered to it as much as if it were real.
She watches Lord Indra from the sidelines. Although drawn to him, longing for him to acknowledge her again, or at least thank her for saving his life, she feels safer in the shadows. Sometimes, he is apparently alone, training or meditating by himself, and yet when she makes a move to approach him, she imagines she hears someone speaking to him. Whenever this happens, she hurries away. After all, their last encounter up-close is fresh in her mind, and as compelled as she is to seek him out, she is also afraid of him.
And so she keeps away, watching his training sessions from the protection of the forest.
Sometimes she is caught, receiving a reprimand or a beating from her father, but these days both are more an afterthought; Father only cares about her whereabouts when someone reminds him, and Older Sister, only if she notices her lurking. For the most part, she is free to watch the stranger as she wishes.
Lord Indra teaches with brutal efficiency. He never raises his voice above a murmur, yet retains perfect control over his students. He can make a simple nod feel as if he has fallen to his knees in praise, and a derisive glare make a man want to fall on his sword to avoid dishonour.
Only once he is satisfied with their ability to maintain discipline and control does he teach them the new abilities. Shachi watches as men learn to bend water in their hands, or call up mounds of earth like fangs from the ground. Some command the wind and others turn blades of grass into needles. With a flash of his red eyes he instructs them all, precise instructions, having them repeat them over and over, making motions with his hands as he does.
She mouths along his words, trying to capture the sound of his voice in her mind. When he speaks normally – not threatening her life as he did that day on the beach – his voice is pleasant, inviting. Despite the danger he represents, he makes her feel safe, and that is something she isn’t used to.
From her place in the shadows, she makes the hand gestures as well, arranging her fingers until she can do it perfectly. Soon she does it without noticing, can allow herself to just listen to the sound of his voice as he instructs. One day, his words seem closer to her than usual, even though he is so far away, and she closes her eyes, imagines that he is watching her, not his students, is telling her –
You build up chakra, stop it once it collects between the mouth and the chest area. Once you have enough, you release it all at once.
She inhales deeply, focussing on the warmth in her chest, and then breathes out.
To her absolute shock and horror, flames spew from between her lips and incinerate the tree in front of her.
She stumbles backward in shock and fear, unable to believe what just happened. She takes a split second to look around, to see if anyone saw her, and then takes off at a run, pulling her cumbersome skirts to her knees and stumbling back through the forest.
In the distance, she hears people calling out, confused shouting, demands for water. Commotion as students try to put out the flames with buckets, or with their new chakra wielding talents, she isn’t sure, because she keeps on running –
Only to find her way blocked by Lord Indra.
His eyes blaze at her and she recoils, dropping to her knees and bowing her forehead to the ground.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to – I didn’t even realise I was – please don’t tell my father, I – I’ll never do it again –”
“How long did it take you?” he interrupts.
She blinks at that, chancing a glance up at him. “M-my lord?”
“You have been watching for weeks but you have never attempted anything before,” he informs her, earnings a small squeak of surprise. “Today you tried. How long did it take you?”
“I-I… not long. I just… I listened to what you said, and I tried it.”
He gives her an inscrutable look, like he’s considering something he hadn’t before, and she bows her head again. “I didn’t meant to hurt anyone or cause trouble.”
She is aware of the sound of feet near her ear, and when she looks up he has begun to walk away, back to the training grounds. She isn’t sure if she imagines it or not when he mutter, “Next time don’t stand next to a tree.”
“You forgot again, didn’t you?”
Sakura scowls at the gash in Sasuke’s leg, the product of a stray flail and misguided intentions. The villagers in this part of the country are so wary of strangers, they attacked before letting Sakura explain herself. Sasuke, of course, instinctively pushed her out of the way, but ended up with another limb nearly being severed.
“Forgot what?” he grumbles, observing as her fingers glow green over the skin there.
“That you don’t have to protect me,” she chides him. “Even if I didn’t have a basic capacity to dodge, a flail isn’t going to hurt me.”
“Maybe not, but as far as I know, your regenerative abilities don’t apply to the baby,” he reminds her. “You’re not as invincible as you’re used to being.”
Sakura blinks at this, surprise waylaying the retort on her lips.
For a minute, she did forget.
It’s all so new – the changes in her body, the adjustments she’s had to make. No more chakra suppressors, she can’t drink coffee anymore, she’s tired more often – it sometimes feels so disconnected to her. Some days she is completely aware of the new life within her, unable to stop thinking about it, and other days, when everything gets so busy and confusing – like today – she forgets. Even looking in the mirror is deceptive – she doesn’t look pregnant at all, even with her clothes off.
There is movement to the left, and she glances up as two young girls carry in buckets of water; she smiles at them gratefully, earning half-awed, half-shy expressions in return, and then they hurry off.
The villagers backed off when she sent a crushing blow to the ground, forcing them to retreat if they didn’t want to fall into the broken earth. Upon watching her lean down to heal him before he bled out, they finally realised that she was a healer and spent the rest of the evening apologising profusely. They even insisted on putting her and Sasuke up for as long as they wanted to stay, hence the small hut which they are currently occupying.
They even carried Sasuke back here on a litter so she could preserve her healing abilities. He nearly threw a fit at that (he still hates appearing weak in any way) but the people felt so terribly about it, Sakura insisted they go along with it.
Somewhat out of deference to this, she decides to relent a bit.
“I’m sorry,” she tells him, checking the progression of closing skin. “I’ll try to be more careful in the future.”
“I’m just not used to hanging back. It’s been a while since I had to stay out of the direct line of danger.”
He finally relaxes, however, allowing his eyes to close and breath to even out. As if he didn’t expect her to take it easy until she said the words.
She shakes her head, considering the calm picture he provides. It reminds her of those first few dreams she had, of healing Indra on that beach.
Sasuke’s former incarnation is starkly different than he is, she realises that now. He watched her – watched Shachi – with the distrustful gaze of someone who expected her to be incompetent or treacherous. Sasuke’s attention is intent, but in a different sense – watchful and wary for the sake of her health, not his.
As if being pregnant made her breakable.
She’s forgotten what it’s like to need to be protected. It makes her nightly sojourns in the life and mind of Shachi all the more confusing.
The other woman is such a stark contrast from her. Docile, obedient, hesitant – all of these are qualities she either never possessed or grew out of in her early childhood. Their very nature is utterly opposite.
In fact, even their ability to use chakra is completely different, judging from the way they learned to use it. Shachi’s first act was so powerful, charged enough to destroy an entire tree. Sakura remembers the first time she used ninjutsu, she had to try her hardest just to manage a passable substitution.
And that’s another thing. It’s not just their different temperaments. Why does Sakura have an affinity for water, when Shachi is clearly more suited to fire? Isn’t that the type of thing that should carry over?
Sakura jumps, realising suddenly that she has been musing out loud the hold time. Sasuke is frowning at her thoughtfully.
“The goal of reincarnation is to be reborn as a better self. Perhaps it means stronger, as well. Water is superior to fire.”
“I take it you’re dreaming of him again then?” he asks, voice entirely too casual.
Sakura looks away, caught out. She’s been trying to avoid bringing it up because she knows it upsets him. “Only recently. Only last night, really. It’s a little confusing, so I didn’t say anything until I could get my thoughts in order.”
“I’m not going anywhere for the next little while,” he reminds her, nodding to his leg. It’s completely healed by now, and she shoots him an amused look. He raises an eyebrow, as if challenging her to call him on it. “Tell me what you dreamed.”
“As long as you don’t get upset every time I talk about Indra.”
His jaw clenches but he nods. “Fine.”
Eventually Father grows tired of Lord Indra skirting the issue. He wants to ensure everlasting loyalty, wants someone who will train and preside over his army in perpetuity.
In front of the whole court, he offers a permanent, eternal bond between them.
“My daughter, Shibasuri,” he declares proudly, gesturing to Older Sister. “She will make a fine wife, and through her, your children will be the heirs of my land.”
Every other man in the court seethes at this, because Lord Indra may be strong, but he is a foreigner. And more than a few covet Older Sister for themselves.
But the solemn stranger shows no interest in either offering.
“I have no interest in possessing this land,” he says quietly, his words easily audible in the stunned silence. “And I have no need of a woman who revels in her looks and is ignorant to the world. A creature whose body is starved to uselessness in pursuit of fashion, who will never be fatted with child.”
Older Sister makes a noise born of incandescent fury, and Father turns scarlet in anger.
“You dare – !”
But Lord Indra has turned away from both, and instead his gaze falls upon the crowd. Upon her as she stands with her guardians.
“I will take this one instead,” he declares imperiously. “On that condition I will remain here.”
She gasps, because this makes no sense. He has never, ever given any indication of seeing her, let alone –
“Shachi?” Father inquires, confusion dampening his anger. “Why would you…? She is of lower status, not of any importance – ”
“I will hear her answer,” Indra interrupts. “And if she has no wish for wedlock, I will take my leave with any disciple that will follow.”
There’s a stunned silence then, a dangerous note of expectation in this, and then the whispering begins. Already the members of the court are wagging their tongues, expressing surprise and glee at this turn of events. They imagine blackmail, a play for power from a younger daughter, a secret love –
It is none of these things. From her weeks observing him, she knows that Lord Indra has his own mind, his own plans that he follows. If he prefers her over her beautiful older sister, there is a reason, and not one as basic and superfluous as caring for her.
Older Sister glowers at her, as if Shachi has indeed done something to organise all of this, and Father frowns at her with a look in his eye that promises a lifetime of broken bones if she doesn’t acquiesce.
He needn’t bother, because she knew the instant that Lord Indra spoke, what her answer was going to be.
Even so, it feels as if she is signing the death warrant of her fate when she whispers, “I accept.”
Sakura stretches a hand over her head, making a high-pitched, purring noise at the back of her throat, and then relaxes once more, head pillowed on Sasuke’s blanket-clad inner thigh. They lie head-to-foot, naked and sated, the smell of sex still lingering in the air.
Sasuke is on his side, his face pressed against one side of her abdomen, his hand curved around the other. His eyes are closed, and his mouth is pulled into a not-quite-smile of tranquility. It’s far too early for any kind of kicking to be felt – for anything to be heard – but it doesn’t seem to matter to Sasuke. Sakura’s own smile is gentle as she reaches forward, brushing his hair back from his face. He cracks his right eye open and there’s that brief look – soft, content and happy – and then he closes it again.
It’s a look that’s reserved only for her and, she knows, their future child, and which encompasses everything. Even though he rarely says it – only when she has him reduced to panting, overwhelmed gasps as she did minutes earlier – she feels the unquestionable love he has for her. It’s an experience that fills her with warmth from the inside, because it’s something she never truly believed she would experience.
It makes her feel guilty for asking him, once, if the only reason he wanted to be with her was to repopulate his clan. Sasuke was, by then, a changed man.
Such a difference from the man in her dreams.
She wonders about him. His temperament, his motives, his relationship with Shachi…
“Why do you think he chose her?”
“Hm?” Sasuke’s voice is low and rough from sleep.
“Indra,” Sakura clarifies dimly, gazing up at the wooden ceiling. “He washes up in this strange land, tries to kill her, disappears, then comes back. And her father offers him practically the world, anything a guy back then would want, and he throws it back in his face over Shachi. A girl he barely even spoke a hundred words to.” She shakes her head in confusion. “That’s something a person does for the one they love, but I don’t…do you think he was even capable of it at that point?”
Sasuke is silent for a long moment, leaving her wondering if he intends to answer the question. Then he says, “I don’t think it was possible in the way you understand it.”
“After being betrayed – or rather, after deciding he had been betrayed – by Hagoromo and Asura, he would have been more guarded than ever. He wouldn’t have been capable of feeling for her what…” He trails off here, his voice becoming more quiet, more furtive, “For what I feel for you.”
She doesn’t acknowledge the admission beyond a soft smile – he gets defensive and grumpy if she makes a big deal out of moments like this.
Instead, she returns to the topic. “So why choose her?”
“She did help him. He may have seen it as repaying a debt.”
“But he also said she reminded him of being weak. And she was weak. Wouldn’t the likelier choice have been the older sister? The one with status?”
“A man like him would choose a bride more suited to his purposes. You told me she had the ability to use chakra – which she learned just by observing his teachings,” Sasuke points out. “To members of my clan, Shachi would be the more sought-after candidate.”
Sakura considers this, and then nods. “That make sense.”
“I don’t believe it was the whole reason though.”
She shoots him a confused look.
“He might have seen her as a parallel of himself,” Sasuke continues, thoughtful. “A child mistreated by family. In his view, he was betrayed by his; this girl, she’s the scapegoat of her own kin – and for an utterly underserved reason, based on what you’ve told me.”
“But in that case, wouldn’t it make more sense to kill her family? Why agree to a marriage with her? An actual link to these people?”
“I have no doubt he had some kind of long-term motive. However…I suspect it may have been different than anything he actively planned.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s entirely possible, she provided him with something he didn’t even realise he was missing,” Sasuke tells her, staring off into the distance. “As far gone as he was, he needed something to ground him. When Indra first awakened his abilities, he was strong because he was protecting someone precious. His brother. And he remained strong, even as he became more drawn to the darkness, because he always thought he had the support of his father and brother. When that was gone – when Hagoromo named Ashura as his successor – for the first time in his life, he was truly alone. When you have as much power as he did, and as much hatred, you need something to justify your actions – some goal that makes everything else you do worthwhile.”
She knows now that he is speaking of himself, and not Indra. Of how his love for his brother drove him to commit horrible acts.
“Then he meets this girl, and she’s obviously drawn to him, and she helps him,” Sakura suggests. “And he keeps seeing her, and he knows she’s in a bad situation, so he starts to feel what it’s like to have someone trust in him again.”
It sounds far too plausible, and Sakura shivers. She doesn’t like the idea of Indra using Shachi’s misfortune for himself, but at the same time, she knows that the other woman – this shrinking violet – would see it as an opportunity to escape. In a way, the two are saving each other, even if they don’t know it.
“Hm.” Sasuke nods here. “She is someone who will be utterly loyal to him – both because of who she is as a person, and because as a wife, it is her duty to be subservient to his will.”
Sakura lifts her head and shoots him a sardonic smirk. “Oh, so I have to be subservient to you now?”
“…I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.”
“Damn right,” she nods, falling back, and then squeaks indignantly when he tweaks her left nipple in retribution. She slaps his hand away and then jabs a finger in his general direction. “Don’t start something if you don’t intend to follow through.”
Sasuke snorts. “Who said I didn’t intend to follow through?”
The wedding approaches, and for the first time in her entire life, Shachi finds herself treated according to her station.
She is bathed in scented waters and anointed with rich oils, adorned in silks and jewels, and fed the finest foods that her servants tease will ensure she bears healthy children.
Older Sister lingers resentfully in the background, while father busies himself with the preparations. Whatever he felt for her in the past, whatever he feels for her now, his greed for the power Lord Indra can provide has increased tenfold since seeing what the young man can do. He pretends like he has never resented her, calls her his “beloved child” and introduces her to visiting dignitaries.
The wedding is meant to be lavish, a way of showcasing Father’s current wealth, and offer hint of what it might become. In this, he is able to stand up to Lord Indra’s more frugal nature. For his part, the prospective bridegroom is nowhere to be found and makes no effort to involve himself in the affair; he continues to train in the courtyards up until the day of the ceremony.
That morning, she is woken at dawn and bathed. Her handmaidens draw long black ribbons of henna across her forehead and face, crisscrossing around her neck and again above her breasts, winding down her arms and legs as if she has been encircled by a snake. Her hair is braided with freshly picked cherry blossoms, and golden rings are fitted around her wrists, neck, fingers and even one through her nose. It all feels heavy and cumbersome but she knows better than to complain. The bridal gown is of red silk, the only garment she has ever worn that was not one of her sister’s castoffs, and the final touch is a purple, rhombus-shaped jewel set in the centre of her forehead.
Father walks her down the aisle at a quick pace, as if worried that the longer he takes, the sooner his future son-in-law may change his mind. Older Sister holds her veil for her, and as she goes to sit at her place, sneers quietly, “Do not think your life will be without hardship.”
Lord Indra stands at the front of the assembled guests, bored and irritated, and he doesn’t even acknowledge her when she is beside him. The high priest begins the ceremony, raising the sacred marriage cup before them, his words washing over her.
Shachi’s mind is strangely blank at this, either from disbelief or fear for the future, and Sakura feels more present in the moment than she has in months. The marriage ritual is very different from any she has ever seen, from her own wedding to Sasuke, and while she is uneasy about the circumstances, she can’t help being fascinated.
The priest places a smooth, obsidian rock – taken from the sacred river of their land – and wishes them an enduring and lasting union. He pours wine and honey as well, wishing fertility and health, and then takes their hands, lightly pricking their palms over the rim of the cup, to signify the mingling of their blood now and in the future. Then, he passes it first to Lord Indra, who will be master of the union.
Her bridegroom takes a tip – barely wets his lips – and passes it back. His expression never changes, and he still doesn’t look at her.
Then the cup is in front of her face, the priest reminds her of her duties as wife now. She begins to lift the cup to her lips as well –
Lord Indra chokes suddenly, and doubles over.
There is stunned silence all around, the high priest stares in wide-eyed horror, and there are gasps from the other guest.
“My lord?” she whispers, reaching for him. “Are you…?”
His eyes snap toward her, flickering red and black and she gasps. But it isn’t the Sharingan that have her shocked. Instead, she rapidly takes in the sight of his features – pupils dilated, mouth slackening, a bluish tint around his lips.
“Poison!” she cries, because she can’t do anything else here. “He’s been poisoned!” Her head whips around, looking for someone who might help. “Fetch a healer!”
Father appears shell-shocked, slow to realise what is happening, and Older Sister –
She stands to one side, smirking and with a look in her eyes that is all-too-knowing.
“You…” Sakura – Shachi? – realises. “Why would you – ?”
Indra begins to convulse, and the answer never comes. Instead, she falls to her knees, trying to hold his flailing arms as he convulses. Shachi is terrified, that fear returning her to full control, pushing Sakura’s awareness down again, but she refuses to allow this.
You can stay out of this right now, or he’s going to die!
She focusses her attention – sees the cup dropped by the priest, liquid spilling out. The sacred rock has rolled a few inches away as well, leaving a clumpy, chalky residue.
So that’s what it was. Poison in the marriage cup. Indra wasn’t the only intended victim.
Her mind flips through a mental catalogue of poisons, all while calculating the amount of time it will take before he dies. Given how fast he reacted, the chalky nature, the blue veins on the mouth
“Ainu,” she determines. It’s a relative of aconite, albeit much more potent. There isn’t much out there that can save him, and in the limited time she has, she doubt’s she’ll be able to find –
Then she freezes, remembering herself.
No way. No way could it be that much of a coincidence.
Her hands fly to her hair, tugging out the delicate flowers there. Cherry blossoms have some healing properties, but aren’t used very often in antidotes –
Except in cases of ainu poisoning.
She doesn’t pause to dwell on the improbability of it all. Instead, she begins to crush up the petals – in her fingers at first, then an idea occurs to her and she puts them in her mouth, chewing them into a pulp and leaning forward to press her lips against his. As she pushes the petal paste into his mouth, she wills her chakra into him as well, calling up every bit of her concentration to do so. She visualises her energy moving into him, chasing the poison through his veins and overtaking it.
She doesn’t find out if she succeeds or not, because that’s when she suddenly loses her control. All of her concentration, all of her focus in helping him, recoils like an elastic band. She is once more, no more than a passenger, and Indra gives one last violent tremor, and then goes still.
Someone emits of a moan of grief.
It takes a stunned second for Sakura to realise the sound came from her. To understand that her dream self is weeping, throwing herself over Indra’s chest. This man, who she saved, who in demanding her hand offered her a future away from the abuses of her blood kin, and now he has left her before there was even a chance.
Tears streaming from her eyes, she looks up as Father demands of Older Sister, “What were you thinking? You’ve ruined it all!”
“I have done nothing but save you from a charlatan,” she replies airily. “He had no interest in becoming your right hand, Father, he would have taken his students and left you with ease. And if he truly intended to honour your wishes, he would have accepted the bride you offered, not that.” She tosses her hair. “Now, we have men who have sworn oaths of loyalty to you, who know of his teachings, and they won’t tempted to disappear with their wandering master.”
Father’s expression becomes thoughtful at this, and he nods slowly.
“Besides,” Older Sister goes on, a cruel set to her mouth. “He gave me insult, in public, and that is something that cannot be abided. How dare –”
But her words are quickly and brutally cut short.
A bolt of lightning rips through the ceremonial hall, through her shoulder and out her heart, leaving a bloodied and black hole in its place. Shachi screams in horror, staring at the shocked expression on Older Sisters face as her body crumples to the ground. Father’s bellow of surprise turns to terror, and she understands why, because Indra is alive.
He shrugs her off and stands, moving like the lightening that just passed through her sister’s body, and grabs Father by the throat.
“Those who break oaths are scum. Those who betray their own blood are worse than scum,” he growls. “And that cup was meant for her as much as it was for me.” It’s the only warning he gives before twisting his fingers, snapping the man’s neck. “A man who makes a move against me makes a proclamation that he is my enemy. And I will not allow my enemies to live and take a second opportunity to weaken me.”
Eyes still blazing red fire, he turns to the stunned guests.
“Your lord is dead. Either rise up and avenge him, or flee. One of those choices will lead to a swift death, so choice wisely.”
As he takes a few steps down the procession toward the door, there is a flurry of movement. Guests and members of the court scatter, tripping over each other in their finery. She is left on her knees, gaping at his back, unsure what just happened.
Then, as he did before, he turns to face her once more.
“You have saved my life twice,” he tells her coolly. “And so, I will offer you a choice. An opportunity. Save yourself. Forget this farce of a ceremony and ties you agreed to for their sake. Leave this place and seek a happier future, with a man who will offer you the respect and fondness you desire. Or –” his eyes darken back to black here, “come with.”
Her mouth parts in surprise at this.
“If you do, know that from this moment, you will be completely mine. And I am not a patient man. I am neither gentle nor kind, and your life will be one of duty. You will bring forth children to whom I can pass on my legacy. So long as you are loyal and obedient, I can make you a goddess by my side, but if you falter I will make their deaths look enviable.”
Terror and confusion make it hard to understand what he is saying to her. For several seconds, she can only stare from his intent face down to the corpses of her father and sister, turning over his words in her head.
And then it makes sense.
He is giving her a choice.
She has never, in her entire life, known what it is to make a decision that is not based on the will or needs of another. For the first time, she is free. She gets to decide what her destiny will be.
The gesture brings tears to her eyes, because she knows he is not a man who operates in choice. There is his will and death, but here he is, offering her the chance to leave that behind. And with the same certainty that he could stand against any of her father’s vassals who would challenge him, she knows he would let her walk away to a better life if she chose.
She wonders, as she takes his hand, if he realises how terrifyingly easy it is to make her decision.
Reviews and constructive criticism are appreciated!
Peasant, Don’t Forget your Brothers, the Prisoners of Capital, 1920′s-1930′s ☭
(left text, red)
For us the days of slavery have passed. We overcame. We came to light.
In our Republic of Soviets land doesn’t belong to the masters.
Now, we are forging the happiness of our new life as we wish, We are
giving our persistent labor to our working fatherland. We initiated the
battle with illiteracy. In our country the old song fell silent– we have
no land for masters in the Republic of Soviets.
(right text, black)
But you, peasant, don’t forget that in faraway foreign countries
The way of our brothers is hard: they are still in the claws of tyrants.
In those countries the land belongs to the masters. The peasants
provide for the lives of others. In these places, their lives and their
houses belong to landlords and to the bourgeoisie. They are fighting in
their villages for Soviet power. With the help of MOPR (International Red Aid), we shall send
them our aid and our regards.
The sky was ripped open in a multitude of colors and a giant serpentine-shaped mech fell out of the colorful vortex and towards the ground below.
The Time Twins had Wu cornered, but the sudden free fall caused them to loose their balance and they slid to the far wall. With a hope for escape, Master Wu hopped over broken consoles and shredded metal loose in the bridge of the Iron Doom and catapulted himself out of the opening.
Using Airjitzu, the Master soared above the landscape for a few seconds before landing painfully on the ground, his staff rolling a few feet away from him. Dirt rose into a cloud from where he collided with the ground. He turned around and watched as the Iron Doom slammed into a hill and shattered into pieces. With a sigh of relief, he looked around.
He had landed on a dirt road in a hilly part of Ninjago, next to a glistening lake. There were no signs of anyone around, or what year he could be in. He reached for his staff, but flinched when suddenly a person robed in a dull red ninja master gi landed in front of him and snatched up the staff. With an expert trick of his hands, the ninja twirled the stick around and pointed it at the Master. Wu raised his hand to protect himself, but looked up to see none other than-
The red ninja dropped the staff and stuttered backwards a few steps. “But…that’s…it’s been…”
“It is good to see you made it back to the proper time, Kai.” Master Wu said as he slowly stood and took is staff. “But how long has it been since the incident with the Time Twins?”
Kai was about to answer, but then more ninjas seemed to drop from the sky, wearing similar dull ninja master robes. There was a collective gasp as the team recognized Wu and Wu recognized the team.
“I can’t believe it! It’s Master Wu! After all these years!” Jay spoke up, his voice deeper than Wu remembered it to be.
The green ninja master, wearing full master robes, stepped forward.
“Uncle Wu…I can’t believe…it’s been so long-”
Wu looked around at the Ninja, but couldn’t tell their age because their hoods were all still up. “Please, tell me how long it has been.”
The ninja pauses and exchanged glances with each other before slowly removing their hoods.
Light wrinkles decorated their faces. Cole still had his green scar, but it was barely visible under his cropped beard. Kai’s hair was graying on the sides, and Nya’s hair was grown to her shoulders. Zane looked the same, he might had updated some of his facial features, and Jay sported his mustache. Lloyd removed his hood, revealing his white hair and sunken cheeks.
“Master Wu,” older Lloyd said quietly, “We waited so long for you to show up. After many years, we finally declared that you had died in the temporal zone.”
“How long have I been gone?” Master Wu asked.
Kai glanced at his sister. “Master, we have been waiting for your return for 40 years.”
“Could [Sauron’s] power be defied by Bombadil alone? I think not. I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come.” - The Fellowship of the Ring
Exaggerated a little in context, think about what a magnificent image this would be!
Imagine the Last Battle, the Dagor Dagorath; armies lie strewn across the plains of Valinor, smoking and blackened and ruined. Melkor hurls the Sun and Moon from the sky, and into cataclysm they fall, and all that is good in Arda withers, and falls into ruin with them. And before all the ravening hordes of Mordor and Angband and Utumno combined stands only Tom Bombadil, Iarwain Ben-Adar, oldest and fatherless, with his yellow boots and blue coat and a twinkle in his eye. And with a “Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!”, watch him slay, until surely too his end must come, and Night devours the world.
Sign me up for the apocalypse movie of the century!
ever notice how keith is always ready to cradle? he walks up to lance to expertly cradle him in his willing arms and provide comfort, he readily caught that arusian cuddler with the deep voice, and then he gave in and cradled him too even though he said he himself is not a cuddler, and then allura, providing a safe place to fall into, arms strong and steady, she had a good landing! keith has mastered this art, he is able to cradle anyone and anything perfectly, amazing, just wanted to share
its perfectly amazing, thank u for the sharing. keith is the best affection giver, he hates to admit that he loves touch but he loves touch. need a hug? keiths ur guy.
Upon seeing the Oscar nominations this morning, I’m incredibly excited to watch the ceremony! I saw La La Land this weekend and that was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life!! (haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet. going to fix that this weekend. I mean, Octavia Spencer? ‘nuff said)
Damien Chazelle’s movie musical is up for best picture, director, actor, actress, original screenplay, cinematography, costume design, film editing, original score, original song (twice, for both City of Stars and Audition), production design, sound editing and sound mixing. (x)
We cannot ultimately understand what the Buddha is. The scriptures are a pointing finger – not the moon – and all the myriad teachings are skillful means to induce us to utter Namu-Amida-Butsu. That is all. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, or whether you’re a Buddhist or not. Amida Buddha is one with his Name, and his Name is simply the truth. Just speak the truth, which lies totally beyond the realms of belief and disbelief, and you will be reborn in the Pure Land.