Karin supposed she should give herself a little credit for surviving until now. It was not an easy feat to live in the wilderness where there was no home she could go when the sun set with dangers loomed over her, keeping her restless all the time. She had long gone from being disgusted at the thought of killing animals for food to eating them raw. She couldn't risk lighting up a fire because it was like announcing her location to people she didn't want to meet which was pretty much everyone.
Her appearance had seen better days. The red mop of hair that she very much loved was dirty and rivaling the complicated knot of a bird nest. She stunk. If she weren't going to die of hunger, she actually would from the lack of hygiene. Still, Karin didn't think much of her physical state, her mind was too immersed in focusing on something.
It had gone very quiet in all of sudden.
When you were alone in the forest, it was easy to pick up sounds whether it was your own breath, the steady steps of your feet, or animals moving about. In Karin's case, she could sense her energy as well as other living beings' from far away (she didn't know how far, but the range was good enough for her to avoid encounters with people and dangerous animal). She closed her eyes and found the problem in a heartbeat. Her energy flow was disrupted.
Her hands formed a seal and smoothed the flow quickly.
Everything came to life; numbers of ants crawling everywhere, two rabbits hiding behind a bush five metres behind, a cat standing on a large tree branch above her, other animals she would take all day to list one by one, and three humans' signatures that came within her sensing distance.
Karin took a double take on the cat which somehow morphed into a teenage boy. He was around 170cm, donning a metal headband on his forehead which had a different symbol from a village she came from, wearing a green flack jacket with black shirt and pants underneath it. His black hair was unruly and his eyelashes won at life. He had a very striking red eyes (who would've thought it was a common colour?) with weird three black commas on them and a well-defined nose.
His energy remained the same, he was a cat, a quite powerful one with more defining energy current than any other cat she had met, but a cat nonetheless. Huh.
"How could you change your shape into a human?" somehow didn't come out well from a three week unused throat. It came out very scratchy. Karin grimaced, trying to clear her throat with little success.
Something flashed in his eyes that went unnoticed by Karin as she was caught up by the displeasure of losing her voice. She did sense that one of the three people was moving towards her direction though and it got her attention faster than anyone could form the word 'danger'.
"As much as I'd like to know the answer, I really have to go. Bye!" Turning to run, her sense got muted again, trees sprang at life around her at such a speed, effectively blocking her path.
She had a nagging feeling if it were not a fact she was a sensor, she wouldn't be able to know something was wrong. She cleared her energy, only to find something sharp pressed against her neck, her hands restrained by a hand behind her. She looked up to the offender, lo and behold, it was the cat.
She tried not move out of fear the dagger would pierce her neck.
"How did you break the genjutsu?"
Karin literally jerked in surprise, causing a trail of blood coming down her neck. The cat could speak! What kind of world is she in really? She didn't voice them out loud. In her short lived, Karin had rarely tried to question the bizzareness she found every day and took new information, however absurd it was, in stride. Today was no different.
"Genjutsu, was it?" Karin mused. She thought the name of the technique was self-explanatory. It had something to do with messing the victim's energy, creating an illusion so real, they wouldn't be able to tell it wasn't real. She thought over his question, noting that he wasn't doing anything but preventing her to go until someone, whom she assumed was his friends, came. "Ah well, what're you going to do once you have my answer?"
"That depends on your answer," he replied, "are you really by yourself?" There was a questionable concern in his voice, something she couldn't fathom why it was there. She zoned in his energy; still quite a powerful cat with no hint of malice.
"Yeah, my parents are dead."
"And you've been in wilderness ever since?" He sniffed her scent and made a disgusted sound. "How are you even alive?"
"I'm good at avoiding people. Well, uh, most of the times." Today was the final moment, she decided. She must have used all the luck she had in this life.
"My summoner wanted to know if you were an enemy or not."
"I believe the village I came from is the neutral zone in this continent." Karin held back a snort, feeling ironic for her own answer. "Other villages seem to take it as an invitation to attack and take over them."
The cat released his grip and made her face him. "Is your village under attack?"
"Not yet. The civilians are still living peacefully. The number of injured shinobis continue to rise though." She mumbled the last words, remembering the last time she saw her mother. Her energy hadn't recovered from the alarming level of low, but—
"So you ran away." His tone wasn't judging, but he was implying something, or maybe he wasn't and she was the one who was quick to judge.
"Yes," she affirmed. "The security of the village has been compromised by numbers of injured manpower." and my mother was dead because of them and i'm going to be the next—
"That's smart of you, kid."
She blinked and looked away. She had a nagging feeling if they continued talking, she would spill all of her secrets. The cat had exuded nothing but warm energy, making her at ease. It made her want to dump all of her fears and frustration on a stranger, a cat even. She mentally shook that urge away. Trust no one, Karin. Trust no one.
"Your friends are coming." Karin said, feeling how their energy roared louder now they were getting closer. Karin felt her heart step up its speed as her brain went into a flight or fight mode. She couldn't run and she couldn't fight either, so the only thing she could do was to bargain for her life if it was needed. But at what cost? They were curious about how she got out of genjutsu as it seemed she shouldn't be able to do that. She had given away one secret, would it be enough?
She dearly hoped so.
The three of them stopped at a distance that was near, but not visible in the eyes. One of them, the strongest one, approached her alone.
"He's not going to hurt you." The cat said before he turned to his original form which was appreciated by her poor heart who wouldn't be able to see two people with different kinds of energy, albeit the same face at the same time.
The teen who bore the cat's previous appearance looked relaxed, a smile was playing on his face. He would look harmless if it were not the fact he wasn't. Karin took an unnecessary gulp.
She watched as the cat and the teen exchanged gestures she couldn't understand.
"Thank you, Fuyu." The teen nodded his goodbye as the cat disappeared into a thin air. He then looked at her, his eyes were black like the night sky. "Hello there. My name's Shisui. What's yours?"
"Karin." She replied, keeping it short.
"I heard you've been travelling alone. It's not safe to travel even you are protected by the hired shinobis in this area." He paused, letting the words sink. "You've worked hard."
She just stared at him, not quite expecting the sincere words. "Um..thank you."
"Do you have a destination to go?"
The city. Train Station. Airport. Away from this world. Karin shook her head.
"You've passed the border that leads to Fire Country." Shisui informed her. "I'd like to assist you until you arrive at least in the nearest village."
"I don't have money to pay for your service." She frowned.
Shisui grinned. "I'm a member of a police force in my village. Helping a lost kid is one of my duties." There was humor in his voice, something like irony and joke blurring into indistinguishable line.
She didn't trust him, but she agreed to his offer anyway because what else could she do?
Karin was not questioned further, nor was she introduced to the other two people in the group who looked to be older than Shisui, but curiously referred him as the leader. It was apparent by how Shisui briefed them about the next plan which was as simple as guarding her to the next village and he didn't meet any objections. Both of the young men had the headband covering their hair and stood around the same height. She would call them 'Glasses' and 'Big Eyes' in her head until further notice.
The silence stretched as they walked on her pace which was slow considering her small feet and she wondered if it was a test of patience or something. Their face did not give away any discomfort or annoyance, their energy remained stable. The perfect charade.
Karin tried to focus to the terrains change, the forest getting thicker and richer in terms of ecosystem. She felt more types of energy she was not able to put a name to each yet. It was interesting.
"There's a stream on the southeast ahead." She announced, holding back a happy yell as she identified fish and frogs among other beings. "I'm in desperate need of wash. There are edible animals that I can catch too. Can we go there?"
"How did you know that?" Shisui seemed to ask for confirmation.
"I can sense them," she admitted.
"So it's not limited to humans?" He inquired further.
"Yes. I can differentiate human, animals, and plants."
She heard an impressed whistle coming from Glasses. "Rather than stopping in the nearest village, wouldn't it be better to go all the way to our village instead? You would make a good tracker."
Karin stiffened. "There's a reason why I left Kusagakure." Karin confessed the half truth. "Everyone seems to go to the field too early in my opinion. Shisui-san must be younger than 20 right? But you're already this strong and a leader too. Spending my teen on dancing with death looks like a depressing future to me."
They looked taken aback by her words. No doubts anyone wouldn't expect a six year old girl to say that. There were certain developments in human cells, tissues, and organs as they aged and she seemed to skip several steps and go straight to the part where she understood things she should not be able to comprehend yet. Karin could not exactly tell them that there was a reason why she had this awareness either. After all, there was no scientific explanation that could back up her assumption about the cause of her awareness.
"Don't get me wrong though. I know that having shinobi skills could also prolong our lifespan since we live alongside dangers." Karin released a suffering sigh. "I'm just...I'm not ready to accept that fact."
"I see." Shisui said, ruffling her dirty hair.
Karin managed to catch fishes using the trick that was meant for hiding herself from a tracker, but turned out to be useful to hunt animals. She had to thank her mother for teaching that trick a day before she left to the hospital for the last time. It was as if she knew that Karin would be leaving the village had something happened to her.
"You could suppress your chakra." Shisui commented as she reemerged from the water with two fishes in her hands.
"Isn't it useful?" Karin grinned, her mood going up in linear with the rise of her hygiene level.
"For something else." Shisui chuckled. "You're making it harder for me to keep my words."
Karin tilted her head, assessing his words and expressions.
Maybe it was the tiredness, or the fresh water that affected her resolution, or the thought of starting a new life where no one knew much about her that made her say, "I don't really expect you to, Shisui-san."
A/N: September 1: Revised. Thank you so much for reading, reviewing, keeping this in your alert and favourites.