26 Sep 2011 1 Comment
Finally, right? I very nearly broke this chapter into three, just to be able to post something. But I really wanted to keep it together as I think it just works better that way, so sorry about the delay. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this super-long chapter! Next ones won’t be as long, but that means they’ll get posted a lot sooner.
I was so happy about the positive response to the sneak preview chapter (ch. 26). Plucking a scenario out of the future storyline and presenting it with no explanation as to how everyone got there could have really bombed! But I’m so glad everyone enjoyed it and that it didn’t wreck the story for anyone.
Thanks so so so so much for the positive reviews and feedback. They mean the world to me. On a personal note, in the middle of a very busy summer, I went to a international dance festival hosted here in the mountains of North Carolina every year. (I live in Asheville, NC.) This year, I got to see performers from Burundi, Finland, Trinidad, Sardinia, Croatia and Guadalupe, among others. Each year, it’s whole different amazing set of performers who work, raise money and journey here to perform, and they come from all over the world. Literally. (Pick a country, I’ve probably seen a dance troupe from there!) So as I watched this summer, I thought about how many different countries show up on ff.net as having read this story, and how much I appreciate being part of something larger than my little corner of the world. Thanks so much. Now back to the story!
So this chapter begins to bring full circle the theme that nothing is as it appears. Next chapter is all about Katsuro, and how is he the way he is.
• He should have known things would go wrong when he took on a mission dealing with brothers. — yeah, little joke about Kasturo/Naruto’s dealings with the Uchiha brothers.
• One was the contact, one was the target. But Itachi’s instructions were specific: the target, the fatter, older brother and clan head, was to receive the money. The thinner, younger one was only to provide access to the elder. — So, I’ve tried to create a believable structure as to how Itachi’s group functions, as part of the backstory. Based on mob and yakuza hierarchies. Fuller explanation in the next chapter, as it deals with Katsuro specifically.
• The younger brother and the charming politician are similar, and Sakura and Katsuro’s situations are similar. Both men are manipulative and sexually suggestive. Both Sakura and Katsuro are youths/teens in an adult world. Nothing bad happens, but I want to convey the dangers that exist outside the shinobi world. These men are very much like the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing type. They are opportunists, which can be every bit as dangerous as assassins.
• His eyes shined blue with reflected light. — yeah, Naruto’s blue eyes. Love to slip those in.
• Skidding back down the path, he turned and leapt to the tiled roof, then followed the spine of the building as it zigzagged around the complex. One foot in front of the other, head low, he watched the inside of the compound for the family suites….— So, instead of going straight for jutsus, I’m having Katsuro rely on traditional shinobi espionage skills as well. This way, when he does use the powers he has naturally, it really seems powerful. Plus, there are tons of stories with power-packed jutsus, and not so many with traditional skills. So I’m trying to write about Naruto’s skills from a different angle.
• Moving swiftly to the long covered porch, he padded down the boards towards the family rooms. His footfalls on the glossed wood were completely soundless. — So hopefully you realized that this was the counterpart to Sakura’s nightingale floor scene from the chapter before. Katsuro is the reason people put in these kinds of floors!
• Katsuro shifted his feet apart just slightly, digging in his stance. He felt more in control than he had in days. — parallel themes to when Sakura confronts the kids in the alley. (She left off that giving a good beating to a bunch of punks who clearly deserved it was the perfect remedy to the shattering self doubt she’d been thrown into after the trade meeting. This was her element.)They both have been out of their element, and relish the chance to get back to the physical stuff they are so very good at.
• “Oh yes,” he laughed. “Just as you said, it is easy enough to see when you know what to look for.” His gaze sharpened, slipping over her face, her hair. — This is an oblique reference to some of Itachi’s manipulations. In Chapter 24, Itachi says to Katsuro: “It’s so easy, isn’t it. Just find what someone wants most, and there you have them.” So the politician is not a villain, but he is definitely an opportunist, looking for people’s weak spots just as Itachi does. Small but intentional shade on the politician’s character.
• This new trail looped around behind the centerpiece of the garden, an artificial hillock with a decorative shrine at the top, and wound up where her diplomat was in discussion. — Loosely patterned the garden from a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. Sadly had to leave out the moon bridge, though. I couldn’t do it justice.
• “I wouldn’t take his flattery too seriously if I were you,” the diplomat said cooly as they began to walk again. “Whatever he offers will come at a price.” He cut his eyes to her, looking her over once. “But perhaps, even with all your weapons, you are still too young to understand the ways of the world.” — It’s never delved into in the manga, but these Naruto, Sakura, etc., are kids. There are plenty of adult situations where physical prowess won’t make a difference. So even though they are prodigies in their field, they would still be at a disadvantage in other arenas. Here, her diplomat is cruel in a very real-world way, basically saying she doesn’t realize she’s being toyed with. Which unfortunately was true.
• “Why don’t I get us something to eat,” she said, grinning. “I saw a ramen stand a few blocks back. Do you like ramen?” He shrugged. Sakura filled in the blanks: He’d never had it. “Well, you’ll love it.” — this was the bit that was foreshadowed in reverse from the preview. In this story, Sakura introduces him to ramen.
• She knew he didn’t want to, she knew he was a better person than that. But he was shackled to this life with Itachi. Well, she could break him free. She could give him a new life, protect him. He’d never have to go back to the hell of being with Itachi again. — Mirrors the justifications Katsuro gave when he was going to ask Itachi if she could stay with them in camp. First sign that their roles are reversing. Sakura wants him to come home with her, and sees him as the person that he is not. She doesn’t see the negative. Just like Katsuro thought she could just give up Konoha and join their group, he discounts how tenaciously loyal she is. Sakura is discounting how tenaciously loyal he is to Itachi.
• Katsuro cracked his eyes open, desperate to get away. But the woods wavered in front of him, red seeping into the black spaces between the trees, delineating them. He blinked, and the whole hillside appeared before him, in perfect definition as if lit by a blood-red sun. Shit. He rubbed his eyes, ignoring the burn. He blinked again, and the forest returned to inky black. But the red tinge was slowly creeping back in. — I’m writing the kyuubi’s chakra as being much more animalistic. In the alley, it was “ready to pounce” and gave Katsuro an eyeshine like a predator. Here, he sees things the way a fox might see them. Well, a demon fox anyway. I’m going for the more horrifying aspect of having a demon trapped inside, not just the super power it gives him. That it’s frightening, even to Katsuro sometimes.
• He moved away from her at the sound. The orange glow from the village lights clung to his outline, but in two steps, even that had faded. — yep, there’s another one. The orange glow referencing Naruto’s favorite color. Reading it again, it could also be taken that the part of him she sees and believe in is moving away from her. Didn’t write it intentionally like that, but it works!
• The wind picked up again. “You’re not like them,” she called after him, hand on a tree for support. His faint outline dissolved into the black. “You don’t belong with them” she yelled, willing her voice to carry into the silent treetops. “Katsuro,” she called into the darkness, emptying her lungs. — So this moment is where the “Voice in the Wind” title comes from.
So there are some things go on behind the scenes that will play out in the coming chapters. And some tidbits are setting that up:
• Finding a stack of last season’s hay bales piled against the far side, Katsuro tucked in to wait out the night. …
“Shit,” Katsuro muttered, blinking into the morning light. He scrambled up, brown leaves flying. In a frenzy, he grabbed the money, whipped on his cloak and took to the branches. …
This time he looked for an encampment. If someone from his group was here, then there would be a trace. …
Katsuro sat on the bale of hay where he’d spent his only night in this forgettable place. …
So the situation is set up…if Katsuro’s looking for an encampment, a trace of where someone has been sleeping, then he’s leaving a pretty big trail himself.
• Whoever was hoping to catch him was coming at night. But Katsuro had inadvertently thwarted them in this ridiculous mission. By being forced to travel to the festival each night, he had missed them. — foreshadowing that Katsuro has been lucky so far. But with the clues above, you can guess his time is about to run out.
• The clan head glanced at Katsuro, then frowned again, remembering something. “Ah, dear brother, another favor: From the lacquered chest, please bring me the scroll with the red tassel. It’s in the top drawer. Thank you.” — a red-tasseled scroll has been mentioned before, when Sakura gets her assignment from Tsunade. So it seems likely that Sakura and Katsuro’s paths are going to criss-cross, just like the tangled red laces of the festival masks. This is their red thread of fate.
• This chapter brings full circle the theme that nothing is as it appears. Sakura believes that the mine owner is the group operating behind the scenes; they think it’s Sakura. Sakura believe she is using her skills for information like the courtesan; the politician really is like the courtesan. From here out, it will be a wake-up call for Sakura, that things have not at all been what they seemed. Told you, it’s going to get bumpy.
• “My investor didn’t come through,” Sakura’s diplomat said, frowning. “I had hoped to receive a scroll, but none arrived. And he requires proof before he will commit.” — And someone else this chapter has just intercepted a scroll…. Hmmm.
• “Well, this has been an interesting summit. I, for one, have learned a lot,” the politician said cheerfully. Apparently he decided that despite her clan head’s manipulation, he was still a good connection to have. Perhaps an even better one now, knowing how crafty he was. “Let’s keep in touch. If your investor ever comes through, I have a lot of connections beyond this meeting that might be of interest. Particularly to someone like yourself who is unafraid to take risks.” — pretty obvious foreshadowing. The politician’s goal is to make contacts, deals. So he’s hoping to align himself with the diplomat in the future.
• Sakura’s response to the meeting — I’ve intentionally chosen to make her strong, to give her some good balance. She’s bummed, but she has enough strength in her to right herself. Just because she stumbles doesn’t mean she looses all the ground she’s covered. I don’t want her to wallow in self doubt, but rather to pick up the pieces and move on.
• His desperate need to keep her from harm kindled the kyuubi’s hellish chakra in a way it never had before. Something had changed within him: His self-protective circle had expanded by one, and the demon was reacting to it. From his gut, the malevolent chakra pushed forward, surging within him for the sole purpose of finding her. But Katsuro barely registered it. … And the kyuubi’s power sharpened with its host’s focused desire to protect. Instead of clawing at his insides looking for any crack, the demon chakra stirred and swirled, moving in harmony with its host. Ready to pounce. — foreshadowing for way down the road. Basically, Katsuro will learn that even though he has massive resources of untapped power within, it only works best when he’s driven to protect an outside source. When he uses it for his own power or gain, it becomes increasingly hard to control.
• Only the big one hung back, shooting a long, hard look at Katsuro as he came into the light. Though he couldn’t see all of the man’s face, the big thug could see enough to tell he wasn’t going to mind his business and keep on going. And the pink-haired girl wasn’t worth a brawl. They’d only wanted to scare her anyway. — The street punks the Katsuro encounters will come up again. They didn’t get a good look at Katsuro, but the certainly know what Sakura looks like.
• “All Akatsuki are monsters,” Katsuro said quietly, cutting his eyes away. But his voice was chilling. As if he knew this for fact. — foreshadowing both his intended destiny with Akatsuki, and his abhorrence of it.
• But there was no escaping this memory. It was his own, and it was opening before him like an unhealed wound. He was powerless to stop it. — small thing, but speaks to the fact that even though Katsuro has a demon inside, it is the memories of his own pain which hurt him on a deeper level. He has some power of the kyuubi, but he has no power over his memories.