The snow covered ground crunched under the footsteps of a solitary figure. Wrapped up in a thick coat and scarf, she ran through the snowy field until her legs couldn't carry on. But still she persevered, struggling to continue through the ever growing drifts of snow. She was on her own now, banished from her village.

There was a sparse group of trees off in the distance, a decent shelter for the time being. Lifting her soggy boots, she tromped over to the shelter. No soon had she stopped when she heard the unmistakable sound of crunching footfalls in snow. She started running again, fearful of what might be pursuing her.

As she strained her body to the limits, she thought of her village. How they had turned on her! After her brother's body had turned up bloody and mangled, they were the first ones to start pointing fingers. Her brother had been slated for next Tsukikage, but everyone knew she had wanted it for herself. That was only partially true; her brother was six years her younger and hardly fit at the age of ten to rule the village. But when he disappeared the night before his ceremony, she was the first and only one to be blamed.

Her foot caught a rock hidden by the snow and she fell face first into a drift. It was coming down harder now and a fierce wind whipped overhead. She lay there shivering, skin screaming at the cold. Her eyes began to droop, the cold at last taking effect. She was tired, scared and had no place to turn to. As her eyelids closed, she vaguely felt the presence of someone, but now she no longer cared. Death was waiting for her on the other side.

When she came to, she found herself in a warm place. Her coat and boots had been removed and bandages smelling of herb paste were wrapped around her bitten fingers. She was lying in a bed shaped much like a coffin, with a heavy blanket placed over her frame. The room was illuminated only by the screens of several computers. Each screen was flashing various information. She tired to get up, but a strong hand held her down.

"I wouldn't try to move right now. You're still weak from hypothermia."

The speaker was a young man, though his eyes said he felt older than he looked. He wore round glasses and his white hair in a ponytail. He was standing at one of the computers, typing commands. Several scrolls were stacked up on the floor near him.

"I repaired as much as I could, but you still have a little frostbite. Most likely you'll never regain feeling in your fingertips or toes again. That was a fool thing, going out in a blizzard like that!"

She made an indignant noise. "It's not like I wanted to be out there. Where am I?"

"In a base on the border of the Land of Fire and the Land of Sound. You're lucky my master found you before you froze to death."

"You didn't find me?"

"Nope. I'll be right back. Try not to move too much."

The man left, taking with him the stack of scrolls and leaving her to ponder his words. What kind of man was his master, to take in strays and bring then back from the brink of death? She closed her eyes and tried to remember the presence she had felt before. It was almost a kind aura, but hard as she tried to form a clear image, it kept slipping through her grasp.

The door opened and the white haired man from before stepped back inside. He was carrying a bowl of hot broth.

"I take it you're hungry?"

She nodded vigorously and took the bowl from him. It was just plain chicken stock, but as long as it was edible, she didn't care what it was. She gulped it down, hot liquid warming her whole body. She handed the bowl back and yawned widely.

"You should get some more rest. Good night."

The man left the room, leaving her to sleep in peace. He closed the door behind him and turned to another man standing in the hallway.

"So, is she of any use to us?"

The man pushed his glasses back up on his nose. "From what I can tell from her clothes, she's from Tsukigakure, in the Land of the Moon. There doesn't seem to be anything special about her, but you did say she had quite a number of shinobi hunters on her tail. It's amazing she got this far on her own."

"She must possess some secret they didn't want getting out, like a kekkai genkai. Perhaps it would be wise to keep her around for a while. Put her in a solitary cell. You'll be in charge of her, Kabuto."

The man bowed. "Of course, Lord Orochimaru."

She had been asleep for quite some time now. When she awoke, she was still lying in the coffin-like bed in the computer room. She flexed her bandaged fingers, already sure of their recovery. He probably wasn't even aware he had been copied. Sighing, she tossed off the quilt and stretched her stiff legs. It felt good to be moving again.

She heard the door click open. Her caretaker was carrying another bowl of broth and was smiling at her. Behind him was another man, much taller, with long black hair and a pale face. He was smiling kindly at her as well.

She felt heat rising in her cheeks and quickly bowed her head to hide her face. Who was this other man? No one had ever made her blush before.

The white haired man pressed the bowl into her hands. "Don't be shy. My master just wanted to meet you properly. My name is Kabuto, by the way. Yakushi Kabuto. I'm a medical ninja. This is my master, Lord Orochimaru. He's the one who found you."

The pale man now walked over to her. Despite herself, she looked up into his snake-like eyes. She was certain now her face was beet red. He was still giving her the kind smile.

"Come now, is that anyway to greet your rescuer? What's your name child?"

Her eyes darted back to the ground and she fumbled with the bowl. "I'm Kosoro," she said, eyes going back to his. "Tezawari Kosoro."

Kabuto put his hand on her shoulder. "Lord Orochimaru has decided to keep you on as one of his subordinates. Aren't you lucky?"

Kosoro mumbled her thanks and sat back down on the bed. She was silent, just staring at the broth. By now it was stone cold. Her appetite had been killed by the pale man. He was long gone; he had left after she had told him her name. Only Kabuto remained. He watched her with a physician's concerned eye.

"Kosoro? May I ask you something?"

"Go ahead."

Kabuto pulled up a chair that was sitting next to the bed. "You're from Tsukigakure, right? What are you doing so far from you village? Did you defect?"

Kosoro was silent. She continued to stare at the bowl of broth. Finally she said, "No, I didn't defect. I was banished, on accusations of being my brother's murderer."

"Why didn't they just kill you then and there?"

"Because if they even touched me, they would have lost everything. No one would even come near me, so they just banished me."

"Lose everything? What do you mean by that?"

Kosoro was silent again and this time it was for a while. "I'm not feeling so good..." she said.

Kabuto stood up. "It's okay. Here, I'll show you where you'll be living."

Kosoro's 'room' was nothing more than a cell set into the base's stone foundations. There were other people in the cells next to hers, but when she tried to talk to them, all she got was moans and curses. Unlike them, Kosoro had free range of the base, but with restrictions. She wasn't allowed in the scroll library, nor the private quarters of Lord Orochimaru. She had been hearing him scream in pain for the past several weeks.

One day (was it day? It had been so long since she'd seen the sun) she was walking down to Kabuto's workroom, where she had been assigned as his assistant. She was just about to enter the workroom when the door to the examination room opened. A man with short white hair and green eyes like a cat stepped out. He noticed Kosoro standing frozen at the door, staring at him.

"You're a new face. When did you get here?"

"Ah, just last month! Yeah, ehehe..."

"Is that so? May I talk with you?"

"Huh? Uh, sure, but I have to help Kabuto-sensei..."

"Don't worry, I'm sure he'll understand. He's not the type to bully people around."

The man turned and walked towards the stairs that led up to the above ground portion of the base. Kosoro followed him, unsure of what to expect. He was the first actual person she had met after arriving here. The pair exited the base and stepped out into brilliant warm sun. The snow was gone; winters didn't last too long in the Land of Fire.

Kosoro stretched her arms and reached for the sky. Back in her home country, one hardly ever saw a sky so blue and clear of clouds. She giggled and twirled about in place, hands trying to grab the sun. She flopped down on the grass, laughing like an idiot.

"Sorry, but I haven't been outside in so long, I'd almost forgotten what it felt to have the sun on your face. Ah...so what did you want to talk about? My name is Kosoro."

The man sat down on the grass next to her. He gazed up into the sky, eyes far off and thoughtful.

Kosoro put her face in a palm. "First your name. It's rude not to introduce yourself. No questions answered until I get a name."

The man gave a slight sigh. "I am Kimimaro. I was to be the next vessel for Lord Orochimaru, but now..." His voice trailed off. "I'll start with myself. I am the only surviving member of the Kaguya clan. Lord Orochimaru took me in after my family was slaughtered. Before I never had a reason to live, but Lord Orochimaru gave me that reason. I live only for him. But now my body is dying and I am no longer fit to be his vessel."

"Don't say that!" Kosoro was on her feet now. "It doesn't matter if you can't be his vessel or whatever anymore! You can still do something for him right?"

Kimimaro chuckled. "I suppose you are right. A new vessel is supposed to arrive tomorrow, but they are taking too long. My master won't last much longer in his current body."

"Well, then why don't you go see what's taking them? You care about Lord Orochimaru, don't you?"

Kimimaro got to his own feet. He gave Kosoro a rare smile. "Thank you Kosoro. You've given me back my confidence. I'll go, but I know that if I do, I may never return."

He turned to leave, but Kosoro grabbed his sleeve. "Wait a minute. There's something I'd like to ask of you. Can...can I hold your hand? Just for a second?"

Kimimaro blinked at the question, but held out his hand anyway. Kosoro rolled back his sleeve and took hold of his hand. Her head rolled forward, as if she were falling asleep. Kimimaro's arm gave a slight jerk. He suddenly felt very drained and tired to pull his hand away, but Kosoro had a firm grip on it. Kosoro's whole body gave a shudder and she released Kimimaro. He pulled his hand back in, rubbing it like he had been burned.

Kosoro still stood there like she was asleep standing up. Then her head popped back up and she looked around in a daze. She shook it off and looked back at Kimimaro. He was walking away now, but stopped as he felt her eyes upon him.

"I do not know what you did to me, nor do I care. But if you ever put my master in danger, you will regret it."

Kosoro watched him walk off into the forest. She held up her hand to look into the palm. A lone spear like bone was protruding from its center.

"A reason to live huh? Hmm..."

The bone retracted back into her hand. Kosoro gave the forest one last look and returned to the base.

Kosoro did not return to the workroom. As she was walking down the hall back to her quarters, she heard footsteps behind her. Before she could even turn around, something smacked her cheek hard. She slid across the floor, blood gushing out of her nose. A pair of hands grabbed her robe's front.

"You little retch! What have you been doing? Didn't I tell you never to leave the base?"

Kosoro had never seen such fury in Orochimaru's eyes. She didn't know if his anger was from his strange illness or if he was actually mad at her. She struggled to get free.

"Please Lord Orochimaru, I'd never disobey your orders!"

"Liar!" He let go of her. "Kabuto says you never showed up for your duties and one of my Sound Nin says he saw you above ground. Who do you think you are? Is this the thanks I get? I should have left you to die out in the cold."

"Please! I didn't mean it, Lord Orochimaru! I was only seeing Kimimaro-san off!"

"Kimimaro? He's gone after them? I didn't think he was so brash. But that doesn't clear you. You're still useless to me, just like Kimimaro."

"If I was no use to you, then why did you save me?" Kosoro sobbed, tears streaming from her eyes. "Why? Why?!"

Orochimaru shrugged. "Call it a whim. Besides, why should I keep you on? What have you to give me? Nothing!"

"But I am useful! I have the Seigen, the kekkai genkai of my clan! Please, don't dispose of me, Lord Orochimaru!" Kosoro bowed over in utmost groveling.

"Seigen? Never heard of it. You're just as useless as my prisoners. Keep this up and I really will kill you." He gave a grunt of pain. "Damn you old man. I didn't think it would hurt this much..."

With his rage expended, Orochimaru turned to leave, but Kosoro dived for him. She just barely brushed his bandaged hands, but it was enough contact. It stopped Orochimaru dead. A cold draining feeling had just washed over him and he turned back to Kosoro. She was holding her head like she was in pain.

"You...what was that?"

"I have the Seigen," she rasped. "I can copy other kekkai genkai and block them from being used by their owners. My Seigen also lets me copy and block jutsus. All just by touching someone." She lifted her head. More tears were raining down her cheeks.

A sort of sly smile crossed Orochimaru's face. "Perhaps I was wrong about you then. You might even make a better vessel than Sasuke..." He stood over her crouched form and whispered into her ear. "I'll teach you then. But only if you can survive my curse." He moved his head slightly and sank his teeth into her neck.

A white hot pain suddenly surged throughout all of Kosoro's body. She doubled over and fell across the floor, clutching at the wound on her neck. Her body began to shake violently and her breathing became strained. It was all she could do not to scream, but the pain was intense. Her vision became blurred, but she distinctly heard Orochimaru's voice.

"You have a 1 in 10 chance of survival. If you're not dead when I come back in the morning, I'll teach you everything I know."

Kosoro's consciousness was awake, but her body lay still as death in her lone solitary cell. The smell of carnage wafted through the bars, the coppery tint of blood and salty twinge of sweat. Her ears picked up someone's shouting voice, but she could not understand the words. Her world had become muffled sounds and blurred sights.

The large lock of her cell was clicked open, sending its falling echoes throughout the base. In the darkness she could make out a figure with spiky blonde hair leaning over her.

"I guess you really weren't worth my trouble after all."

Kosoro's hand shot up and grabbed Orochimaru by the throat. She stood up, lifting him into the air. Her red violet eyes blazed and seemed to glow in the darkness. Tendrils of her curse mark snaked over her face, in a pattern similar to computer circuitry.

An almost happy expression lit behind Orochimaru's eyes. He wrenched himself out of Kosoro's grasp and rubbed his throat where she had held him.

"Now that's no way to treat my new body. You certainly are determined to prove your worth. Alright, I'll teach you. But not today. The transference has tired me. I'll see to you tomorrow. Until then, sleep well, my dear."

He turned to leave, but then stopped. He looked back at Kosoro and spoke, "I have only given that seal to one other person. It is the curse seal of earth and the only one to bear it before you was Kimimaro. That should tell you your value to me."

Kosoro waited until he was gone and stepped out of her cell. The large space was littered with countless bodies of dead prisoners and the smell of death lingered heavily on the place. She covered her nose with her sleeve and cracked her neck, curse mark receding to its dormant state.

She turned down a hallway, heading for Kabuto's workroom. He could give her something for the pain, but when she opened the door, she found it empty. The slapping footfalls of someone running made her quickly close the door, leaving it open just a crack. From the slot she saw Kabuto pass by, headed for Orochimaru's quarters.

She knew it was forbidden, but followed him anyway further down the hall. Kabuto seemed rather flustered and didn't notice he was being followed. He went into a room, leaving the door slightly open. Kosoro crept closer.

"Lord Orochimaru, someone's here to see you. He's finally arrived."

There was a rustling of clothes as Orochimaru stood up. Through the crack, Kosoro could see his face brighten.

"What? He's here? Where?"

"Upstairs, my lord. I think he's alone."

"Alone? What happened to my Gates?"

"I don't know. Perhaps he can tell you himself, sir, but he's pretty beaten up."

Kosoro had barely enough time to move out of the way as the door was flung open. Orochimaru dashed out of the room, followed by Kabuto. He pushed his glasses back up and sighed.

"He really shouldn't be straining himself this much. Kosoro, please come out of hiding. I'm sure you want to meet him too."

Kosoro stepped out from the shadows. "You knew I was there all along, didn't you?" She shrugged. "Who is this guy anyway?"

Kabuto began walking towards the only exit of the base. Kosoro followed him. "He was going to be Lord Orochimaru's next vessel, but he didn't arrive in time. My lord had to use another body instead."

"Kimimaro said something about being a vessel too. What is that all about?"

"Nothing that concerns you." Orochimaru had returned and behind him trailed a boy no older than Kosoro. Kabuto wasn't kidding. He looked like he had just had the snot beaten out of him and moved as if he would fall over at any moment. Kosoro's face fell when she saw the glee in Orochimaru's eyes.

"Have Kabuto look after your injuries. When you've rested a bit, I want you to tell me what happened."

The boy obeyed and followed Kabuto down the hall. Orochimaru cast his eye on Kosoro. "You just couldn't stay away, huh? No matter. I'm in a good mood right now. All the pieces are falling together."

He gave a small chuckle, walked further down the hall and back into his private rooms. Kosoro stood there for a minute, then went off in the direction of the medical ward. She entered the examination room where Kabuto was dressing the boy's wounds. She sat on a stool at his work table and watched the boy. His eyes were lifeless, just as his body was limp and he sat there staring at the ground. The entire room was eerily silent.

Kabuto, now finished, gathered up his supplies and left the room. Kosoro continued to stare at the boy. She wanted to know what was so special about him, so special that it made her master so happy. His eyes shifted suddenly and he looked into Kosoro's.

"Who are you?" he asked in a sullen voice.

"I guess you're not a complete zombie. I'm Kosoro. Who are you?"

His eyes went back to the floor and spoke not a word in response. Kosoro hopped off the stool and pushed his head up. "Hey, I asked you a question. Who are you?"

His eyes moved to her neck. "You have a curse mark," he said matter of factly. "Do all of Orochimaru's minions have them?"

"Minion!" Kosoro spat indignantly. "I'm no minion! I'm a student!"

"Uchiha."

Kosoro stopped raving and looked at him. "What?"

"My name. I am Sasuke Uchiha."

That seemed to be all he was going to say. He fell back onto the bed and closed his eyes. He was asleep the moment his head hit the pillow. Kosoro was still miffed at his 'minion' comment, but pulled a blanket over him anyway. She left him to rest and returned to her own cell.

The Uchiha kid slept for three days straight. When he finally woke up, his eyes were still as dead as before, but his injuries had more or less healed. Kosoro was going to see Orochimaru about her training when she saw him enter his private room dressed in fresh clothes. They were similar to the ones Kosoro wore, but he hadn't tied the rope right. The bow loops hung limp at his side. Kabuto was with him as well. Kosoro quickly moved to the now closed door, pressing her ear against the wood.

"You certainly have taken your time getting to me." That voice belonged to Orochimaru.

"It was difficult to get away. Konohagakure seemed quite determined not to let me go."

"But didn't I send someone to pick you up? What happened to my Gates?"

There was a pause. Kosoro pressed her ear harder on the door. She didn't know there were others besides Kimimaro.

"They're all dead."

Another pause. "I see. Well, it's a small loss compared to my gain. That outfit becomes you, Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke ignored the compliment. "Who's the girl? I thought you only used boys for vessels."

Orochimaru snorted. "Hardly. She was just the side show until the main event arrived. She's nothing to me."

Kosoro bit her tongue to keep herself from crying out loud. Surely he couldn't mean it? Hadn't he said she would be useful to him? No, said a part of her. Not you, only your Seigen. Kosoro stood up, fighting back tears. If she was right, Orochimaru would focus all his time on Sasuke and forget she was even here. But she had a plan.

Back in Tsukigakure, her family used to keep her locked up, so she made a game out of picking the locks. It didn't matter what kind of lock, or how complicated it was, she could pick it. The lock on the library's door would be a cakewalk.

"I'll show you," she spat furiously as she stalked down the hallway. "I can show that pretty boy up any day."

Kosoro made sure Kabuto had finished his late work before sneaking into the library. The library had shelves upon shelves of scrolls and stacks of papers. She placed her candle on one of the low tables and grabbed a few scrolls. She carefully unrolled each one and read its contents. Many of the ones she read contained complex jutsus, several of which she was sure were forbidden techniques. After reading them, she would gather up a couple, go back to her cell and wait for dawn to break.

Once Orochimaru and his new pupil were off training, Kosoro took the scrolls above ground and into a clearing in the forest. There she practiced from dawn till dusk, often not stopping for a break. Every night, she returned the ones she had borrowed and grabbed fresh ones. She memorized the contents of each one, furiously practicing each technique until she perfected it.

When she did return to the base, she went straight back to her cell and slept. Finally one day, Kabuto called her into his workroom.

"I know you want to prove yourself to Lord Orochimaru, but you should really take better care of yourself. Look at you! You're half starved and barely able to stand up!"

"But I have to train. It's the only way...ngh..." She grabbed her neck. Her curse mark was throbbing painfully.

Kabuto sighed. "See? You're expending all your chakra and delving into the curse mark's power. That's dangerous you know. Keeping using that power like that, it'll only consume you body and soul."

"But Kabuto-sensei! I have to train! It's all I can do...it...gives me a reason to get up everyday..."

"I understand, but don't strain yourself so much. Go on, you can leave. Get some food and sleep. I won't bother you anymore. Oh, here, take these. If you begin to feel woozy, eat one. They'll make you feel better."

Kosoro took the small pouch from Kabuto, left the room and returned to the surface. The moon had waxed to its fullest, the pale disk illuminating the greenery with soft light. It was a cool summer night, wind blowing gently through the rustling leaves. Kosoro sighed, breathing in the fragrant air. In the moonlight, she noticed a figure sitting up in a tree.

"What are you doing out here Sasuke? Don't you a have a training session with Lord Orochimaru tonight?"

Sasuke looked down from the tree. "No. I have the night off. I just thought I'd get a better view of the moon." He jumped down from the limb and landed lightly in front of Kosoro. "What're you doing out here?"

Kosoro stretched her arms. "Nothing much, just a little late night training. Hey, here's something I wanna know. Why are you even here?"

Sasuke sat down in the grass and leaned against a tree trunk. "I came for power. If I had stayed in my village, puttering around, I'd have never attained this level of power. It won't be long now. Soon, I'll be able to destroy him."

Kosoro crouched down beside him. "Him who?" she asked.

"My older brother, Itachi. He killed everyone in my clan, but left me to live and carry the guilt of his deed. What about you? How did you end up here?"

"That's an easy one. Lord Orochimaru was the one who saved me." She stood upright and gazed up at the moon. "Back in my home country, the moon looked so much bigger..."

"Saved you?" Sasuke asked.

Kosoro nodded. "I nearly froze to death, but Lord Orochimaru happened to find me and took me in. He was going to teach me, but then you came along. Let me make this clear; I don't like you and I probably never will. Could even say I hate you."

Sasuke didn't respond. His face contracted to a thoughtful expression. "There's a lot of people who hate me. I left a lot of people behind when I left Konohagakure. One person in particular I think I hurt the most. I hope one day she'll forgive me..."

"A sweetheart, huh? Well, I don't need anyone else. Lord Orochimaru is the only one for me."

Before Sasuke could respond, Kosoro turned and ran back into the base. She ran all the way back to her cell and locked the door. She slid down onto the floor, clutching her knees together. Why did she have to say that? But it was true, she knew now. He really was the only one.

Two years came and went. Kosoro continued to train on her own. During the past two years, she had mastered the summoning jutsu for snakes, at least thirty different element style jutsus and countless other regular jutsus. She had only learned one forbidden technique and that had come from her hand brushing Orochimaru's.

Her master had fallen ill again during the past year and now he was bedridden. She had been helping Kabuto with his treatments, but they didn't seem to be doing much good. On top of that, his behavior had become more erratic. Last time, he had nearly killed Kabuto.

Kosoro came into his room one evening with a round of medicine. She placed it on his table.

"It's time for you medication, Lord Orochimaru."

"Bah, I don't want it."

"You have to take it. Kabuto's orders."

She poured a red liquid into a cup and turned to give it to him. Orochimaru batted it out of her hand, the medicine spilling all over the floor.

"Now that wasn't nice. Now I have to clean it all up and pour some more."

"Heh, you're beginning to sound more like Kabuto every day. You've even picked up his snide remarks."

"My lord," Kosoro said from the floor. "If I may say, I don't think you should trust Sasuke too much anymore. I fear his ambitions will spell the end of you."

The tray as well as the table flew across the room, barely missing Kosoro's head. Orochimaru's face was livid.

"What did you say? He bound to me, just as you are by my curse mark. I can kill him or you any time I want. He is mine, my perfect vessel! He wouldn't dare betray me!"

He settled back into his pillow. "Leave me alone, before I decide to kill you here and now. Send Kabuto with the medicine. I'll drink the blasted junk, even though it tastes disgusting."

Kosoro left the room and her master to himself. She sighed. He would have to transfer soon. His current body was already giving out, and it had only been a couple years. But despite his irrational behavior, Kosoro was still devoted to him. Nothing could ever change that.

A thunderous crash shook the ceiling of the base. Kosoro whipped around in the hallway and ran back to her master's quarters. The ceiling had been smashed though and clouds of heavy dust thickened the air. Kosoro coughed, looking for the source of the racket.

Through the cloud of dust, Kosoro could see two indistinct shapes battling. She didn't need to see who they were; she already knew that answer. She ducked behind a piece of rubble and watched the fierce battle. In his weakened condition, her master wouldn't last very long. Several times she had to turn away. As Kosoro turned to look once more, she saw with her own eyes Sasuke's lightning soaked sword penetrate Orochimaru's body. Sasuke threw him off the sword and bent over his body.

He stood like that for a minute or two, then straightened and made a few hand seals. Fireballs erupted from his lip, catching the rubble on fire. He walked away from the flames towards where the prisoners were kept. Kosoro dodged between the flames and crouched beside her master's body. It had returned to its human form. She stroked his head.

"Lord Orochimaru?" she whispered.

His eyes flickered open at the sound of her voice. They shifted and looked upon Kosoro. "Kosoro? What- I thought you had left..." His voice was weak and fading fast.

Kosoro shushed him. "No, my lord. Nothing could make me leave your side. Lord Orochimaru, what about the transference jutsu? Take my body! Please!"

Orochimaru's eyes closed and he laughed weakly. "It's too late for that now. My soul's been ripped in two. I can't complete the jutsu anymore. I'm done for."

Kosoro shook her head vigorously. "No! Don't say that! You can still live! You have to..."

Orochimaru lifted a hand and placed it on Kosoro's cheek. "Such dedication... you remind me so much of myself when I was young. I should have listened to you, you were right about Sasuke. I underestimated him and now my plan has backfired on me. Ungh..."

The fire roared about the pair, bits of ceiling collapsing and falling into the growing piles of rubble. Kosoro was crying again; seemed she'd been doing a lot of that this past year. She cradled her master's head, tears dripping onto his face. She touched his cheek, but he didn't respond.

"Lord Orochimaru, there is one last thing I can do for you before you die. Allow me to do you this last service."

Kosoro leaned into Orochimaru's lifeless face and lightly pressed her lips to his. She grasped onto the remnants and took what remained into herself. All his knowledge and all his skills she took, but she had also taken something more.

Her body began to shudder as the new information was absorbed. Kosoro stroked her master's hair until the shaking stopped. The flames were dying down now. Kosoro continued to pet her master, her only love. Finally, she stood up, lifting Orochimaru's body with her. She looked through the dying flames to see Kabuto walking towards her. He was panting.

"So it's true then," he huffed. "Lord Orochimaru's dead." He gave an exhausted sigh. "Now I can use his bod-"

Kosoro whipped out her arm and latched her hand to Kabuto's face. Her face was calm, but her eyes were furious. Her hair had fallen into her face and covered one of her eyes. Kabuto tried to pry Kosoro's fingers from his face.

"What are you doing?!" he said through muffles. His body was beginning to go slack. Kosoro's hair fell back from her eyes and Kabuto gasped in shock. She released him and he crumpled on the ground.

"Impossible...how did you...?" Kabuto's eyes closed to unconsciousness.

Kosoro carried Orochimaru's body out of the ruins and buried it a short distance away. She prayed over his grave, vowing revenge. Though sadness gripped at her heart, she didn't shed a single tear. She was done with crying. The air was heavy with smoke as Kosoro walked away from her past and into her future.

"You never died that day," she said in two voices.