author: Cella [shortitude — ]
fandom: Sengoku Basara
characters: Kasuga; and others
ships: this chapter, Sasuke/Kasuga
summary: Because the good, loyal shinobi are not meant to be seen. And yet their story can be told. KASUGA. This is not a love story. This is a love story.
spoilers: hell yeah, whole season one of the anime kaythanks
other notes: Watch me try to shove some cleverly disguised history knowledge and background into a series that spends most of its free time ignoring the fact that historical accuracy exists. Here, let me sprinkle some metaphors on that for you. If you are here to read about Kasuga’s boobs, you’re in the right place. Sex, too, probably.
one: Sasuke; spring
In the Japanese culture, spring is associated with rebirth, youth, growth and sometimes, blossoming love.
When Kasuga is five years old, her parents sell her for the price of five sacks of rice. The crop in their area is poor that year, the gods not favoring the small village where they live, and although her family tries hard, they barely survive the winter. Small, young Kasuga learns the value of hard work the hard way, up to her knees in dirt and helping out in the fields. And even though she struggles hard, her mother still cries at night, and her father still tries to commit seppuku when he thinks no-one is around.
Finding one’s father with the sword to the belly, ready to aim, is not the best thing to come back to after a day of hard work, but Kasuga still has the energy to launch herself at him and grab the sword to toss it away. Foolish, reckless, and completely desperate in her love towards her father, she doesn’t realize that she’s grabbed the sword by the blade. Luckily, her moves surprise her father enough for his hold on the blade to slacked, so the cut is not deep because she didn’t have to tug it out of his hands. But for a while, she can’t work in the fields.
So she steals. Her parents don’t know this, no-one knows this because she makes sure to do it when they’re both gone, and after she’s done with the chores of the house. She runs to the market of the neighboring village, a slightly bigger and more productive one than her own, and snatches three apples each day. She eats them by the river, lying down in the tall grass, and looking at the blue skies, and amidst the hunger and the poverty, realizes that she is better with her hands than she thought.
In the winter, she can’t steal, and she can’t work; half the crops die, and she learns to subsist on very little. She’s not smart or aware enough yet to observe the way her parents talk to each other when they think she’s fallen asleep, but she does get the feeling that something is going to happen.
Spring comes, and with it, so do the recruiters. Kasuga doesn’t know who they are, and doesn’t care much either, until one of them spots her stealing a big fat apple from a stand in the market. A day later, they are at her house. She hides in the tall grass near the river, and waits for her mother to call her back inside. She never does.
The man who spotted her is the one who comes to sit down beside her in the grass. He smells of blood and the soil she’s used to working in. It’s not a comforting scent, but his smile seems almost painfully sad. The man tells her that it’s better than jail, and better than a marriage to a stranger. Kasuga just asks him if her parents will have enough to eat the whole year, and when he says yes, she takes his hand and lets him take her away.
She meets him when she’s almost ten years old, and smart enough to know that there are differences between boys and girls, even in a shinobi village. The girls in her group giggle whenever he throws them an easy-going grin, and she always makes sure to not be around when he does that. Because she knows, of course she knows, that nothing good will come out of it if she falls victim to that smile.
They’re paired against each other by the chief of the village, for the passing ceremony. She fights him viciously, and he fights with a calculated aggressiveness that she knows will make him famous one day. It ends in a draw when the elders realize that if they let them go all out, they might lose two of the best soldiers they could offer the world.
He finds her later, when she’s bandaging up a cut on her arm, and throws an apple at her head. She doesn’t manage to deflect it. “You don’t fight bad, for a girly looking guy,” he tells her.
“I’m a girl,” she hisses, and throws the apple back at his face.
He catches it easily, and stares at her for the longest while, before lowering his gaze to look pointedly at her flat chest. “Huh,” he says, then looks back up and grins at her. “Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll grow out eventually.”
She wants to kill him.
Life in the village is almost easy, sometimes. When they’re not training, fighting each other, or being taught how to resist poisons and camouflage themselves, it’s almost like they’re children. Not trained killers; no blood stains on their hands. Those moments of freedom is when they play.
Kasuga’s favorite game is tag, and her favorite playmate is Sasuke, because he makes the game challenging. No-one else wants to play and fight at the same time, but him. They always finish in the race deep into the heart of the forest, up on a branch in whichever tree is convenient.
On one of those occasions—it’s spring, Kasuga always remembers that it’s spring—they actually talk, instead of simply catching their breaths and flaunting their victory in the loser’s face.
Kasuga is the one who starts, with an almost sentencing: “Tomorrow is my first mission.”
“What’s it going to be?” he asks her, letting his feet dangle in the air.
“Assassination.” Her very first. She knows the details: an old daimiyo, too greedy for his own good, and far too attracted by young, pretty girls. “What else would it be?” she asks, plucking a leaf out of the branch under her. One tiny green leaf.
“Could’ve always been theft,” he says, shrugging. “You’re good at that.”
She makes a non-committal noise. There are a lot of things she’s good at now, a lot of things she has been instructed to be good at. In the world she is in now, it’s either be good, or die. Her target hasn’t been good, so she’ll help him die. “Do you think I’ll do okay?” she asks him, because she trusts him to be honest with her. After all, he’s the one the elders always make her fight against every month to almost the brink of death, just to keep her in shape.
“Course, Kasuga-chan,” he answers, nudging her with a grin. “And when you’re back, we can try to steal some of the old man’s fundoshi and hang them up from the tallest post.”
“Why would anyone want to do that?” she whines, and with a roll of her eyes, hops down from the tree and heads back to the village.
Her first mission is a complete catastrophe.
She does manage to slip into the daimiyo’s ranks, but her plans go to hell when instead of remaining just his servant, and slipping a drop of poison into his evening tea take a twist for the worst. It turns out that the old man doesn’t only like his servants to be beautiful, but also likes to corner the younger ones in empty rooms, where either no-one can hear them crying, or no-one would care to save them.
It’s between struggling to make the pain stop, between begging him to let her go, that she manages to reach for the teapot. She smashes it against the ground, and quickly slits the man’s throat. It takes longer to get out from under him, and it takes too much effort not to break down and cry, or throw up.
She runs back to her village, her mission accomplished, in whatever way it happened. She runs and runs, and doesn’t stop even though her feet hurt, and her palm is bleeding from gripping the shard too tightly, and her inner thighs are covered in caked blood.
Ironically, he’s the one on guard that night, and spots her coming a mile away. The one thing she’s grateful for is that he doesn’t ask a thing. He doesn’t ask why she’s limping once she stops running, or why she’s bleeding from two different places, or why she’s been crying. He doesn’t ask a thing, because he knows that missions can go bad, too, but the look on his face tells her he’s both relieved she’s back, and angry that she’s back in her state. She hates him a bit, for that look he gives her.
She hears the elders say that it’s their own fault, for sending out a child to do a woman’s job, and then they put her to do chores for a while.
It’s after the third day of scrubbing clean the floors of the meeting room that she realizes that they’re expecting something of her, and so does she. She did not make herself that promise to use her hands as best as she could with the thought of scrubbing floors in mind. No, years of practice, nine whole years of arduous training and practice, to get up to this point; perfecting her stamina, her accuracy with kunai, her spying skills, her fighting ones. She is one of the best—and her own body isn’t going to be the one to rob her of the sense of freedom that comes from that.
In a stroke of luck, he finds her behind the main house, throwing out the dirty water. She tells him she needs his help, and he asks her if she’s going to cry about it. “Am I crying now?” she retorts, and they agree to meet at midnight.
For a couple of very skilled shinobi, they are incredibly clumsy at it. Kasuga has the consideration to take a blanket with her to their usual spot, deep into the heart of the forest and away from the village that is currently shunning her. Sasuke only brings himself and his eagerness. He asks her what she wants of him, and she tells him to help her stop flinching at every touch.
So he kisses her cheek. Then he kisses her mouth. She is a statue, unmoving, but still satisfied to see that not all men taste of old age and too much wine. He kisses her again, and again, until she relaxes into the kisses, and they lay down on the blanket. She doesn’t speak, and neither does he, but they don’t look away from each other. Not even when he squeezes her breasts--and they definitely grew out--and gives her center an experimental lick does he remove his eyes from her. But it’s not the best experience, except for the fact that she doesn’t flinch, not once. Not when he slides inside, nor when he starts to move. Instead, she arches, and clings to him, and calls his name in silent whispers.
When it’s over, she rests her head on his chest for but a moment, and hears how laughter makes his chest vibrate when he tells her, “See, you’re a woman now.”
And she will never question the bitterness of his tone, but she will think about why he seemed so skilled at it, and why he agreed to help her out in the first place, for a long time after.
Kasuga learns that there is no freedom in what she does, when the missions start coming again. She learns that she is a weapon, for anyone who can pay for her, and she learns that in many ways, and many times, she is like a whore.
Because there are too many missions, one after the other, that involve infiltrating the target’s bed in order to kill them; and she learns all the tricks that make the strongest men quiver like puppies in her hands, just enough to wring their necks or stab their backs. And what’s worse, is that she learns and practices all those tricks on Sasuke.
Sasuke, who never once protests, and never once fails to not kiss her, and never once forgets to promise that it won’t always be like this.
But she forgets how to smile, and she forgets how to laugh, and she even forgets how to feel flustered naturally, when it isn’t for the sake of a mission. And she sheds the child’s clothing away, and puts on the woman’s suit, and charms her way into every heart that’s weak enough to leave an opening, before making it stop beating.
When she’s seventeen, Sasuke is promised into the service of a young and eager Sanada Yukimura. He tells her first.
“I’ll come back for you, and we can both serve him,” he says.
“I wasn’t requested.” There is a part of her that wants to believe him.
“Maybe if I tell him we’re engaged,” he hints, leering at her before pressing his mouth to her breast.
And finally, finally, Kasuga remembers she’s a woman, and flusters while shoving him away, her voice rising as she says: “Don’t be ridiculous! As if I would marry a leech like you!”
He grins again, and kisses her hard. It feels like a goodbye, like she’s the dutiful wife left behind while her husband goes to war. And yet she is as much of a warrior as he is, and she knows that anything will happen. She kisses him back, and hopes they never meet as enemies on the battlefield.
“I’ll make you smile one day again, you’ll see,” he tells her, later, and she still wants to believe him.
She doesn’t see him again for years, but she keeps track of his moves as Sanada’s retainer, or whatever he is.
Sometimes, but only in spring, she goes to their spot in the forest, and misses his weight next to her on the branch.
And then, at the beginning of the summer, she gets a new target, by the name of Uesugi Kenshin.