((I'm sorry, everyone. I put a lot of work into my outline for this fic, but with the end of the Naruto series and all that, I just got completely fed up with Sasuke. He's not good enough. No amount of Fix Fic is going to fix that mess. I'm discontinuing this fic, but here's what I had of Chapter 8.))

During the final stretch across the water to the Southern Hideout, Kurapika looked up from the scroll he'd begun to actually read again. "Is there usually someone waiting for you to arrive?"

"No, but that's probably Karin," Sasuke replied. Since he didn't seem worried at all, Kurapika relaxed slightly. Indeed, when the kago came to a stop and they stepped out, they were greeted by a scowling young woman with glasses and unevenly-styled red hair.

"Who the hell is that?" she demanded, jabbing a finger at Kurapika, but glaring at Sasuke. "Not just anyone gets to sit in a kago with you."

Sasuke met her glare with a stony expression of his own. "He's a guest. Why are you waiting out here?"

"I came to see if you needed any help with that chakra farm you brought here, but apparently you don't."

Kurapika tentatively joined the conversation. "When you say that I'm a 'chakra farm', what do you mean?"

"Well, there's no way you could use all that superdense chakra yourself with your body like that." Karin adjusted her glasses. "It's all just one big chakra-producing organ, with no room to shape it effectively, so someone else would have to harvest it to make it useful. That's how they made those chains, right?"

Sasuke looked back at Kurapika for a cue to what he should say; he didn't want to reveal anything particular about Kurapika's abilities, but lying to Karin was harder than lying to Kurapika.

Kurapika met and held Sasuke's gaze for a few seconds, before looking away and covering the chains with his left hand. "I'd rather not talk about it."

"Hmph. Fine, weirdo."

"You're the weird one," Kurapika said, ridicule edging into his tone, "getting jealous of my getting to ride in a kago. Does Orochimaru normally make you walk?"

If there was a worse possible thing to say, Sasuke could not think of it off the top of his head.

"I am not jealous! And call him Lord Orochimaru, you disrespectful little shit!" Karin took a swing at him, but recoiled when he reflexively activated his ren. She addressed Sasuke more quietly: "I-is that safe to touch?"

". . . I wouldn't advise punching him." That was a nice, diplomatic and technically-true statement.

"I wouldn't advise touching me without my permission," Kurapika huffed.

"As if I'd want to!" Karin shot back.

"You just asked Sasuke about it!"

"I was talking about your creepy chakra, dumbass!"

As the argument continued with no sign of stopping, Sasuke turned his gaze skyward and tried to will away the headache that was creeping up on him. He'd had a feeling Karin wouldn't like Kurapika, but he hadn't expected Kurapika to rile so easily.

"My aura's just fine!"

"It stinks like cold ash!"

"What are you, a chakra-sniffing dog?"

"Why you -"

For the purely selfish reason of warding away exasperation, Sasuke stepped between them. "Both of you, shut up. We are going to be here for the next week. I think you can both at least pretend to tolerate each other that long."

"As if he's worth that much of my time!" Karin huffed, then turned on her heel and stalked over to the other kago to help Kabuto help Orochimaru into a sedan chair.

Kurapika silently watched her go until she was out of earshot, then turned to Sasuke. "Is she a 'sensor-nin'?"

"One of the best."

"Is being able to detect lies common for them?"

Sasuke shook his head. "She's the only one I know of who can do that."

"Her misconceptions about nen are interesting. . ." Kurapika said, a pensive look crossing his face. "And they seem to corroborate our hypothesis about nen not being able to effectively emulate chakra. Can she be trusted?"

"She's loyal to Orochimaru."

"Then I'd rather not give her any demonstrations, if I can help it," Kurapika replied. "Can we adjust our training this week around that?"

"We'll work on aura-unassisted taijutsu. It'll still help us get a feel for one another's baselines."

Kurapika nodded. "That's a good plan."

Neither of them were much for small talk, so a comfortable silence descended between them. As soon as Orochimaru began to head inside, Sasuke motioned ever so slightly with his chin before following, and Kurapika quietly fell in line next to him behind Orochimaru. Behind them, Orochimaru's servants exchanged surprised - and, perhaps, scandalised - whispers. Kurapika began to wonder just how big of a deal Sasuke's status in this organisation was.