Hey, kiddos! You ready for more mangled Japanese? (I am...so sorry. Just a monolinguistic American, here, using Google translator.)
The heavy, metallic sound reverberated throughout the cell. I flinched, my knees banging the underside of the armrest. Adrenaline electrified my body. As I whipped my tear-streaked face to the entrance, the smooth sheet of a door rattled up into the ceiling.
A nazi wearing a forehead protector stood at the threshold. Grey, high-collared uniform jacket belted at the waist. Four breast pockets. Matching slacks perfectly creased down the front. Boots vanished beneath the pant-legs. Only thing missing was a swastika armband.
"Hajimemashite," the man rumbled, much friendlier than I would have expected. He entered sedately, a four-legged stool under his arm. "Kanden Tadāki desu. Dōzo yoroshiku."
I shrank from his approach. (Answer. That was a greeting. You need to answer him.)
Two smaller nazi-ninjas followed, carrying a folded table between them. They all rather blended into the cinderblock walls. Behind them, the door cranked shut with a heavy thump muffled by its rubber liner.
Clunk. An unseen lock engaged.
Kidnapped. Trapped with three captors. The cell had never felt smaller. My face down-turned, I blinked away tears, trying to see through my veil of hair at the first cosplayer. He seemed the one in charge. You need him to like you. Answer him!
I parted my lips, but couldn't speak. Panic scrambled my thoughts. My throat felt thick from crying; talking seemed impossible. I cuffed my face dry, trying not to draw attention, but fresh drops fell immediately. I'm not even facing him. Sitting sideways like a moron who doesn't know how chairs work. Keenly aware of the literal spotlight overhead, I placed a hand on each armrest and attempted to subtly extricate my legs. Once I'm straightened around. Then I'll talk.
You look like a gangly fool.
The two underlings manipulated the table onto its side. Metal joints slammed into place, cracking like thunder within the concrete cell. My body recoiled despite myself. Only my grip prevented me from falling, one leg under the armrest, one leg out. Stress crouched in my muscles, quivering. I'm usually more coordinated than this. I stared at my lap as I slowly freed myself. My limbs felt wooden. Liquid blurred my vision. I'm going to die.
Stop it. Focus.
"Wakai josei ni mizu o jisan shite kudasai." The cosplayer-in-command wasn't looking at me; his hand hovered above the shoulder of one of the shorter nazi-ninjas.
"Hai, Kanden-sensei," she replied subordinately, and her voice—
I blinked my eyes clear, sending fresh rivulets down my face.
Light brown skin, black hair in a low bun, and round, squishable cheeks. Large feet in ninja sandals. On the chubby side. An early bloomer, I suspected with horror, who would grow into her weight once the growth spurts hit. Just a little girl. Right in that awkward junior high stage. How did she get here, aiding kidnappers? Do they even know this is real? What about that boy—?
But I only saw him wave at the camera before, with a clunk and a rattle, the door opened and both children departed.
I'm so out of it I didn't even look at them. That's no way to survive. I think of myself as being observant, too, but I only saw the boss. The most threatening one. How could I claim to know that, when I completely ignored the others?
The door closed and locked.
Alone with the nazi-ninja. 'Kanden-sensei,' she'd called him. Teacher. That raises all kinds of flags. I wanted to curl into a ball and weep into my knees. Instead, I folded my hands and straightened my posture, gazing at his elbow. No helping or hiding the tears. Best I could manage was avoid sniffling.
"Anata wa watashi no manā o yurusu hitsuyō ga arimasu." Incomprehensible words went in one ear and out the other, Kanden's deep tone lilting and amiable. "Anata no tōchaku wa yosōgaideshita—shikashi, wareware wa sore ni tsuite isshun de giron suru koto ga dekimasu," he concluded whatever with a touch of humor, and walked around the table toward me.
I stiffened. Fear widened my eyes. Kanden adjusted his grip on the stool as he opened one of his breast pockets. My soles planted on the cold floor, ready to propel me from the chair. Where to? Nowhere to run. He could pummel me with that stool until one of us caved. Hell, he could strangle me with his bare hands. God, please keep me safe, please...
"Koko ni." Kanden proffered an honest-to-goodness handkerchief. Like my grandpa used to meet girls. "Nakanaide," he said gently. "Watashi wa anata o tasukeru tame ni koko ni iru."
Surprise stalled me for a second. Then:
What does he want? Niceness is a social tool. Ingratiation. Getting his foot in the door—agreeing to something trivial leads to agreeing to something larger. Compliance technique.
I reached for the handkerchief tentatively, observing his expression from under my eyelashes. A pursed smile, but one which crinkled his eyes, hooded with a heavy epicanthic fold. Sympathetically tilted head. Shoulders curled in, as though trying to be non-threatening. Something about this man seemed fatherly.
I didn't trust him a bit.
Clunk. I flinched, looking toward the rising door. My hand jerked away from his 'gift.' Purely by accident, of course.
The girl from earlier reentered with a cup. I tried to meet her eye, but her gaze was distant; professional. An unlikely ally, regardless. This is a classic Stanford prison experiment scenario. Plus, her boss is right here in the cell—
—touching my hand!
I gasped and quailed at the unexpected hand-holding. Unbothered, Kanden pressed the handkerchief into my palm and closed my fingers over it. Still holding my hand, he gave my knuckles a couple of pats—reminding me again of my grandfather. "Soko ni iku."
Clunk. The door closed behind the girl.
Kanden released me—thank the Lord—and scooped up the stool he'd set down for the purpose of violating my personal space. Placing the stool behind the table, he grasped the cup the girl had left. He looked at me, then raised his sparse eyebrows a fraction. "Tsudzukeru." He gestured to the handkerchief. "Watashi wa wakai josei ga naku no o mitakunai."
No reason to upset him. Shaking from the adrenaline rush, and without taking my eyes off him, I patted my face dry. Something of a relief, really; clinging wetness became irritating before long.
"Ī musume," he almost cooed, obviously pleased.
Did he just...praise me? My proverbial hackles raised. I blinked at him over the cloth. It needed fairly constant application. Maybe I misunderstood his tone—no, no, he totally praised me like a dog.
With a deep breath, I blew my nose like a trumpet, loud and rude. The crying and carrying on had created an excess of mucus. I finished with a few short, obnoxious toots.
"Thank you," I whispered, folding the handkerchief into a snot-laden envelope. Embroidered kanji decorated the edges. Pettiness aside, my sinuses felt much clearer.
One long stride brought him close, too close. The spotlight cast his face into shadow and glinted off of the Konoha forehead protector.
I cringed into the chair. I was bratty about it, but I did what he wanted! I thought—
"Anata wa nodo ga kawaite inakereba narimasen." He took the handkerchief, his dry fingers caressing mine, and pushed the cup into my hands. "Ippai yarimasu."
His hand came at my face. I jerked away, terrified. He dabbed beneath my eyes and nose with the handkerchief, smiled paternally, then retreated to his stool.
I gawked at him, still leaning back. The fuck? What was that? Establishing dominance? I peeled my fingers from the armrest and sat up. Repeatedly making physical contact, a personal connection, then stepping behind the table—or desk. A symbol of authority.
Relieved at the distance but mostly freaked out, I looked at my drink. A paper cup taller than my fist, full of clear water. A tear ran down my nose and dripped in, creating ripples. Immediately, all of the moisture in my throat seemed to evaporate. I swallowed. It hurt. Probably drugged. I don't wanna get raped. But, heck, he could do that without roofying me. I have no power, no agency.
An hours-long hike in humid, peak-of-summer temperatures; a kidnapping coupled with a mental break; continuous bawling. They can drug me whenever they want, and I can do sweet nothing about it. I'm thirsty.
Cold, filtered water unstuck my throat, soothing irritation. I closed my eyes. It tasted sweet. Not artificially, as if something had been added, but in the way a tall drink gave new life after grueling exercise. I hadn't realized the aftertaste of acidic bile lingered until I washed it away. My headache waned. Congestion thinned. Wow, I needed that. Dehydration. Who'da thought.
"Ī musume," the nazi-ninja murmured again. "Anata wa ima kibun ga yoku naru hazudesu."
The sheer condescension—!
My nails dented the cup. I wanted to throw it at him. Irrational fury ignited like flames in my lungs. I hated him, I hated being there, I wanted to hurt him, to leap the damn table and gouge his eyes out—
He'd swat you aside like a fly. Calm yourself. Utterly expressionless, I stared at the brown-crusted drain. My anger leeched away, leaving me cold and miserable.
Kanden folded his hands on the table. "Ima anata wa rifuresshu sa rete irunode, watashitachi wa ōku giron suru hitsuyō ga arimasu." His tone suggested the beginning of a lecture. "Watashi wa anata ga nani o shitte iru ka kakushin shite imasu." Tilting his head forward, he granted me a knowing expression.
"You know I can't understand you...right?" My voice broke and warbled embarrassingly from crying.
Evidently, he did not. Kanden's soothing cadence flew over my head, his words incomprehensible staccato. I studied his features. Bronze complexion, slightly pocked. Short, black hair above the hitai-ate. Soft cheeks. I honestly couldn't guess his age. Maybe thirties to fifties. He gestured serenely but with purpose, his hands never straying far from his torso. Judging from his tone and gentle chopping motions, Kanden outlined several different points. My speech class instructor would have been impressed. Actually, he reminded me a bit of the therapist I saw during high school, although she wasn't a terrifying fascist cosplayer—
He stopped talking, watching me expectantly.
What? What does he want me to say?
"I'm sorry." I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, just let me go home. "I still don't understand."
Kanden chuckled his next sentence. He wagged his finger mock-threateningly, but his grin was wrong, his jaw tight, and his crinkled eyes dark like a glare. Terror flashed ice in my blood; I must have blanched. Otherwise, I smothered my reaction: controlled breathing pattern, bland expression, and loosely clasped hands. Frozen. That alone was a tell.
That expression...not just dangerous. Contemptuous. If my captor doesn't see me as a person... Lord, help me.
The nazi-ninja resumed the one-sided conversation. Anger defined the set of his shoulders, the sharpness of his smile. I paid rapt, wide-eyed attention. Tears rolled hot down my bloodless face. Strange; I had never cried for so long without actually sobbing.
Kanden repeated similar phrases every so often. I recognized many of the 'question' words from anime. Nani, naze, dare, douyatte. Periods of seemingly unrelated dialogue interspersed the quiries. Leading statements, I guessed from his tone, though perhaps I projected my expectations of how interrogations worked.
No other explanation made sense. An interrogation. Or Kanden just loved the sound of his own voice.
His pitch changed, indicating a new topic. "Anata wa watashitachi no kōkishin o rikai shinakereba narimasen. Tsūjō, sekyuriti shingai wa teki no shinobu ni yotte kyōi ni narudeshou." That inflection—did he insinuate something? Maybe he just said something mean. "Shikashi, anata wa akiraka ni minkan hitodesu." Condescension edged his tone. "Mottomo kihon-tekina chakura sōsa wa fukanōdesuga, watashitachi no shinrin ni wa bān'auto wa arimasen... Anata no kangae wa dōdesu ka?" Kanden ended curtly, his countenance perfectly civil.
Shit. My turn.
Anxiety quickened my breath, as if my body knew I needed a head-start. My captor's tight patience left me unsure of how he would react, like handling an over-inflated balloon. Any moment, it seemed, could be the one he burst.
I swallowed. "I don't understand your question. I'm sorry."
His gaze weighed on me. Not like a creep about to follow me out to my car, but...something else entirely. "Watashi wa anata no kenshin ni odoroite imasu," he said softly, and I recognized his expression immediately: false respect. Spreading his palms flat on the table, he spoke to me, I imagined, as a seedy businessman to a client. Oily, professional, and out for his own interests. "Zan'nen'nagara, sono kenshin wa machigatte imasu..."
This can't go on forever. Sooner or later, I'm going to get a different reaction. I bit the tip of my tongue, stamping down my roiling emotions. Over a decade of schooling had perfected my attentive face while my thoughts wandered. He must genuinely believe I speak Japanese. Perhaps he thinks 'I don't understand' is some rote phrase. Name, rank, serial number. Maybe if I delivered a monologue of my own, the larger sample of English would convince him? At the very least he might feel that I'm trying to cooperate.
Okay. Next time he asks me something, I'll try.
Perhaps I should have used the intervening time to plan, but I found my mind fuzzy and difficult to focus. I watched and listened, squeezing my knees apprehensively. Occasionally I blotted my cheeks with my sleeve.
Kanden's tone became fervent, though his volume didn't raise. Teeth clenched on hard consonances. Those question-words returned. Standing, he leaned over the table and gripped its sides. His copper-brown knuckles blanched.
Terror halted my breath. Shit. Am I too late? His posture—is he threatening me? I imagined him hauling the table up and bludgeoning me with it.
"Anata jishin o setsumei shite," he whispered, then paused.
He's letting me talk! God, give me the right words or tone...
"Kanden...san," I began haltingly. Anime osmosis had taught me that not using a suffix would be dreadfully offensive. "I, uh, think I need to clarify somehow—"
"Ā, ā." The nazi-ninja raised his hand to interrupt.
My jaw snapped shut.
A wide, toothy smile split his face and scrunched his eyes. Folding his hands behind his back, he staightened, as crisp as his uniform. "Anata wa watashi o 'Kanden-sensei,'" he enunciated clearly, "to yobu kamo shiremasen."
Alarmed and confused due to his abrupt mood-swing (Was the anger fake? Was this fake?), it took me a moment to register his meaning.
He wants me to call him...sensei? The fine hairs on my neck stood on end. Oh, no. Oh, fuck. He's upping the power differential!
"I'm so sorry, I still don't understand," I lied, my face a study of anxious concern. My heart raced. Everything has been about establishing himself as an authority. The kids from earlier: showing me his underlings. The unecessary touches: not flirtatious, but forming a connection and showing who's in charge. Praising me when I complied. Even his stool is taller than this freaky manacle-chair! The hankerchief and water were just... Vocabulary from Psychology returned to me. Ingratiation. Norm of Reciprocity. 'He's nice, isn't he? Don't I like him? Hasn't he done me favors? Don't I owe him?' Foot in the door. Dammit!
Kanden shook his head slowly, as though regarding a recalcitrant child. "Wareware wa issho ni ikitai. Migi?"
I gave a rueful, sideways frown. He ought to know by now. No comprende.
"Watashi wa anata o tasukeru koto ga dekimasuga, anata wa watashi ni tekisetsuna keii o shimesu hitsuyō ga arimasu." As he spoke, Kanden stalked around the table, stopping in front of me. "Sarani, watashi no jōshi wa anata ga tadashī keii o shimeshite iru koto o shiru hitsuyō ga arimasu." Resting his weight against the tabletop, he regarded me with his brand of patience. The balloon swelled.
As if of their own accord, my hands found my elbows. I hugged myself. He's waiting. Maybe I can try the monologue again?
"Sir." I tried to control my voice. Fear tightened my throat. "I still don't understand a thing you're saying. I don't know how to answer your questions. I'm frankly at a loss of how to communicate that we can't communicate—"
My voice died as Kanden shook his head and pushed off of the table. Bending over me, he planted a hand on either armrest.
Shit, shit, red alert, shit! I made myself as small as possible, chin tucked and forearms protecting my stomach, and calculated how I might attack the soft flesh.
"Īe, sore wa arimasen." Moist breath warmed my forehead. "'Sensei' ni denwa shite."
Ya know what, it's just a word. I took a breath to obey, but...
What will he want next?
There was a Bible story—someone was imprisoned—maybe Paul, he was imprisoned a lot—whatever. They taught prisoners new beliefs. Very behavioral psychology. They conform, get better accommodations; soon, they're good little citizens. Except the guy in the story recognized the foot in the door, and didn't let it in. He refused to eat the better food. He, alone, remained faithful.
My heart plunged at my stupid, stupid decision, already made.
"I don't know what you want," I whispered, gazing without seeing at one of his breast pockets, but my tone—oh, my tone gave my lie away.
"Wakarimasu," said Kanden evenly, not sounding angry at all.
A large hand grabbed my forearm and planted it on the armrest. Metal enclosed my wrist as he clapped the manacle shut.
"Hey!" I screamed, shrill and echoing off of the cell walls. He locked the manacle with a key I hadn't even seen.
"Please don't do this, please, please don't—" I shoved my free arm behind my back, my other one writhing within the restraint. It held firm. I pushed my feet against his legs. Not kicking, just trying to buy time, my wrist was already trapped, I couldn't escape anyway or win a fight without my stun gun—
Kanden's disappointed smile remained as fixed as a mask. Grabbing my shoulder, he dragged my arm out from behind me, then lined it up with the open shackle.
When he reached to clamp it shut, I lunged, shoving myself in the way. "—please, you don't have to—"
His arm swung a backhand—
Pain flashed white. My head snapped to the side. Fire engulfed the side of my face, burning deep into my cheekbone. Gaping and incapable of thought, I hung my head, my hair draping forward to hide me. My brain felt rattled. Saliva dripped from my lip before I could gulp it back. I tasted iron.
Hitching his pant-legs up a little, Kanden crouched to fetter my legs. I didn't fight as metal confined my ankles.
A heaving sob tore up from my stomach. Just one. My nails bit my palms. I clenched my jaw, flaring pain where I'd been struck, and concentrated on not bawling, not making any noise at all. Rage rolled slow and powerful through my veins. I wanted to thrash and roar and foam at the mouth. Hidden by my hair, my expression twisted. Breaths became long and deliberate. Pull it back. Pull it back. No more weakness. Not in front of him.
The hinge crowning the chair-back unlocked.
Ignoring the pain it caused, I tossed my head, flipping my hair away from my face and down my back. Out of the way for the last restraint. Fury seeped molten into my bones, a source of strength—and distance. My face hardened to stone, unemotional (except for my rebellious eyes, which continued to leak). Chin raised, I sat with utmost poise. I wished I could cross my legs.
An overlarge helmet lowered onto my head. Thin squeaks of something small and metallic turning coincided with the sides compressing my temples and ears. I imagined being squished as if by a garbage compacter, but they stopped before the pressure became uncomfortable. Petals tightened against my forehead and the base of my skull, next. Claustrophobia lingered in the back of my throat.
Kanden entered my line of sight, wearing the look of a sad but stern parent. This hurts me more than it hurts you, said his mouth and eyebrows. I'm enjoying myself, said his eyes. Leaning in close, he reached for something on the side of the helmet.
I considered very seriously whether to spit a gob of bloody saliva in his face.
"Sore wa kanashīdesuga, fu jūjun'na shōjo-tachi wa kunren o ukenakereba narimasen." Pulling a belt beneath my jaw like the strap of a bicycle helmet, Kanden aligned an attached leather cup beneath my chin, then secured the belt to the other side of the helmet with a metallic clap. "Watashi wa kono-jikan o anata no fusei o han'ei suru tame ni toru koto o negatte imasu."
My gaze drilled into him. I tried to open my jaw experimentally, only managing about a centimeter. Missed my chance to spit.
Bracing his hands on his knees, Kanden searched my expression. He must have seen me willing his spontaneous combustion, but he merely sighed and stroked the sensitive skin beneath my eyes, wiping away tears.
Blood thundered in my ears. I refused to flinch, or even blink at his mitts fondling my face. You do not have permission to touch me! My jaw clenching, I microadjusted my features for a truly impressive glare, hoping my hatred shone through my eyes. Die. Just fucking drop dead.
"Mata ashita ne." His lips twitched, as if at a joke. "Yoku nemuru."
Levering upright, Kanden graced me with a curteous nod, then strode around the table to retrieve his stool. A brisk wave to the camera signaled the door to rise into the ceiling. The madman exited without looking back, his head held high.
Quick breaths resounded in my skull. A result of the helmet covering my ears. I scraped my fingernails on the metal armrests. A scream climbed my throat, trapped behind my forcibly closed teeth. Keep it in. No more weakness.
The door fell shut with a soft boom.
End chapter five.
Ah, unrelenting weeping. Everything we love in our Strong Female Protagonists.
I did a lot of interesting research for this, including interrogative processes and "soft" torture techniques. (I must be on at least a couple watchlists now.) Remember, ninjas prize mind games. They're how they stay alive. Heck, when they introduced Ibiki, they emphasized his mastery of psychological torture. Obviously the ninja world relies on physical torture as well, but it is widely accepted that a subject will say anything, regardless of truth, just to make the pain stop.
Anyway, T&I would definitely do much more (and worse) than pry off fingernails. They would also gauge a subject's mental state first. There is a balance between encouraging/brainwashing one into talking, and causing psychological deterioration. Besides the risk of becoming incomprehensible, false memories are prone to crop up under stress, especially when one is expected to know something.
When observing Amy, they found an utterly terrified, mentally fragile young lady, and crafted a regimen suited just for her. :)
Of course, she would have told them everything she knew if she spoke their language. But they're working under the assumption that new, whole languages don't spring out of thin air, especially from powerful chakra burnouts so near the village, and that she's faking.
"Kanden Tekuno" is a nifty side-character jounin whose family name I'm borrowing for "Kanden Tadāki," Amy's interrogator. According to Narutopedia, "Kanden" means "receiving an electric shock," which they used for Tekuno's traps-and-bombs theme, but for my purposes, it's perfectly ominous for someone in T&I.
On that note, "Itsuki" from chapter three means "trees for timber," which just seemed very Konoha to me. It's probably a popular name.
...I put too much effort into little things.
Lastly: thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who reviewed! I know, everyone does this in their authors notes (with a side of holding their updates hostage if they don't recieve the appropriate amount), but every time I clicked to see my twenty-some reviews I was just filled with joy. I didn't reply to any this last chapter, 'cause...I was feeling anti-social, which I realize isn't much of an excuse...but! I am telling you now, I appreciate the time you took to give me your feedback, and each of you made me very happy. ^.^