Chapter Three: Dinner Should Be Charming
Mornings were always loud. And early.
Grumbling, Sasuke pulled his duvet over his head and turned so that he was curled inward and facing the wall. He was never a fan of mornings but the Haruno household was always lively before the sun rose into the sky.
He had barely settled again when he heard his door creak open. A few seconds later there was a pressure on his mattress near his back.
“Sasuke?” Sakura whispered. She shook his shoulder gently. “Sasuke?”
“Can I just stay here today?” He groaned. Sakura giggled and shook his arm again. Sighing, he sat up and stretched, rolling his shoulders. “No one makes Kakashi wake up this early.”
“He’s a cat, Sasuke,” Sakura deadpanned. “We’re lucky he shows up at all.”
Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her and yanked on his duvet. The force flipped her off of the bed but before he could lie back down and pull the blanket over his head it vanished into thin air. A moment later the bed was gone and he dropped on the floor, his backside slamming on the hardwood floor.
“You can have your bed back later. Lady Tsunade is arriving today so we have to make sure everything is prepared at the manor.”
“She’s finally coming back?” Sasuke scratched his head, ruffling his hair.
Sasuke had not seen the High Priestess of their coven since the day he was summoned. Sakura had told them there was an emergency and he had accepted that but after weeks had gone by and she had not returned he asked for the details of the emergency. At the time he was desperate to get back home and it was getting delayed due to the fact the most powerful witch couldn’t help him because she was absent.
Lady Tsunade had been summoned by her husband, the High Priest of the Elder Coven, to take part of a council. The newly named Akatsuki coven was under investigation due to the death of their High Priest, Jiraiya.
“What was the verdict?” Sasuke had been curious about witch laws and attempted to read up on it but grew bored going through the thick, dusty tomes.
“They still have their mana sealed at the moment, but the council was forced to find them not guilty of murder. They were punished for the execution because they didn’t call for the Elder Coven which they needed to do due to Jiraiya’s status. It’s within a coven’s right to hold a trial within their own house without interference, but usually it’s not a High Priest or Priestess that’s on trial. Akatsuki had run their own investigation and trial and found Jiraiya guilty of crimes against his own coven so they burned him at the stake.”
“What did he do?”
“He was molesting underage witches in the coven.”
Preparations for Tsunade’s arrival mostly involved cleaning the manor and preparing her favorite dishes. Shizune went into a frenzy making sure every nook and cranny was free of dust. Kakashi had gone into hiding and had only been lured out by threat of castration which had Sasuke scurrying off to polish the floors before Shizune decided to carry out the threat to the others.
“The house is already clean, why are we doing all of this?” He was keeping an eye on Sakura as she levitated above him and dusted the chandelier in the foyer. If there was a chance of her falling Sasuke wanted to be ready to catch her.
“The Hebi Coven is coming for a visit.” Sakura cut off her concentration and plummeted into Sasuke’s waiting arms. She giggled as he scowled at her. “And High Priest Dan as well. It’s been a while since he’s been home.”
“I’ll let you fall next time,” he warned, setting her down. Sakura rolled her eyes and collected the cleaning supplies from the floor. He said that every time she decided to free fall and yet he always kept an eye on her whenever she began floating.
“There’s going to be members that are our age so that should be cool, right?”
“I don’t like strangers,” he grumbled, packing up his own cleaning supplies as well.
“They won’t be strangers after you meet them,” Sakura replied in a singsong, swinging her bucket around as she walked away.
“Don’t be a smartass.”
They were just finishing storing away all of the cleaning supplies and ready to call it a day when Kakashi rubbed his feline body against Sakura’s ankles for attention. Sasuke snatched him by the scruff of his neck and threatened to toss him out one of the windows for the second time that week for being inappropriate.
“I was sent by Shizune!”
“What does Shizune-san want?” Sasuke held onto him but didn’t pull him back inside. If Kakashi was lying he was ready to drop him.
“She needs you two to drop by the store and the bakery.” Kakashi remained calm, knowing one wrong move and Sasuke would let go. He would survive the fall but it took more energy out of him than he liked.
“But that’s so far away!” Sakura whined. “And then we would have to bring it all back?”
“She’ll compensate you for the metro fare.”
Sakura groaned but shuffled down the stairs. They could hear her grumbling all the way down.
“Are you going to let me back in?”
Sasuke looked back at him and cocked his head to the side. Sakura was really upset and she was right, it was a lot of traveling going back and forth.
Kakashi yowled as he dropped to the ground and Sasuke locked up the window.
“We should just, teleport all of this junk to the manor.”
Sakura pulled the foldable shopping trolley behind her. Sasuke held the door open for her and followed her into the bakery.
“Papa!” Sakura called out to her father as she passed by the rows of shelves loaded with different types of breads. “I need to place an order for a cake. And dango.”
“Mundane or magical?” Kizashi asked from behind the counter.
“Mundane, please. I would rather not have to deal with a bunch of drunk witches and warlocks again.”
As Sakura gave her father Shizune’s order, Sasuke wandered around the shop. He knew the Haruno family owned a bakery, but with all of the time he spent at Senju Manor, he had never actually stepped foot inside.
Put a pep in your step! Try a ginger cookie today, Sasuke read one of the free sample cards in front of brown smiley face cookies. He walked slowly reading all of the descriptions. There was a cookie shaped like an o-mikuji with shō-kichi written on them. Need a little luck? Try one of our tasty small blessing cookies!
“I’m guessing something actually happens if these are eaten?” Sasuke asked Mebuki who was taking inventory.
“Yep! They’re quite popular among both mundane and otherworldly customers.” Mebuki grabbed the tray of smiley face cookie samples and urged him to try one.
“I don’t like sweets,” Sasuke reminded her. It was the downside of living with a family of bakers. There was always breads and sweets available to snack on but it wasn’t something he enjoyed and he felt ungrateful whenever he declined their offers.
“Oh, good.” Sakura appeared by his elbow and grabbed a sample. “I need one of these.”
She popped it in her mouth and chewed, humming delightfully after she swallowed it. She rolled her shoulders and popped her joints.
“Oh, that feels a lot better.” Sakura grabbed another cookie and handed it to him. “Trust me, you should have one.”
What was the influence that she had over him that her mother didn’t have only seconds before her? It was the same green eyes looking up at him, but Mebuki didn’t have the cheeky grin or the giggle that punctuated her words.
Maybe it was the fact he was her familiar, but as soon as she was offering him the cookie he took it and gingerly took a bite from it.
“Too sweet.” Sasuke wanted to gag but it would have been rude. It wasn’t a bad tasting cookie, it was just too much sugar in his opinion. As soon as he swallowed, all of his previous fatigue vanished. It was as if he hadn’t spent the entire day scrubbing floors and rearranging furniture.
“But it’s working, huh?” Sakura had her hands clasped behind her back and she looked up at him expectantly.
“Yeah, yeah.” Sasuke avoided answering and grabbed a basket. He filled it with treats that Shizune had requested and read all of the descriptions along the way. “Do humans really eat these? And they don’t question the effects?”
“A lot of them think it’s only because they believe in it enough,” Sakura explained, dumping more lavender “calming” cookies into the basket than had been requested. “Trust me, we’re going to need a lot of these this week.”
“I’m going to have to develop a sweet tooth in order to deal with all of you witches. aren’t I?” Sasuke looked down at the list Kakashi had handed them from Shizune and his brows furrowed in confusion. “What do maca cookies do and why is Kakashi asking us to get two dozen of them for Kato-san?”
Sakura snatched the list from his hand and crumpled it up, face flushing a vivid crimson. She grabbed the basket of cookies and had her mother ring her up.
“What do they━?”
“You don’t need to know!”
Sasuke pulled his arm through his haori and smoothed the front, his fingers lingering over the uchiwa kamon that decorated the black fabric and then settled on the round himo knot. It felt ridiculous packing his kimono when he had no reason to wear them but just as always, his mother had proven that she knew best.
There was a soft knock on his door that could have only belonged to one member of the Haruno family.
Sakura opened the door a crack and slid in, exposing a pale leg with her movements. She was dressed in a black qipao dress with red and white feathers. Her hair was pulled into a low bun with a feather and rhinestone hairpin. The pattern paying homage to his winged form had him humming in appreciation.
“You look nice.” Sakura beamed up at him, patting down the front of his haori. “Very formal.”
“Do most events require formal attire?”
“No, we have meetings that require ceremonial robes but this is just a dinner party.”
Sakura used her cell phone to call for a lift━”We should get you a phone and put you on our plan, Sasuke.”━and they made their way to the manor. Kizashi gave them a package to deliver to High Priest Dan as an offering. Sasuke was going to have to learn about the politics of word weavers so he could properly understand the importance of Dan Kato.
“Strongest? No, it was kind of an elected position,” Sakura had explained before when she told him about the trial. “The strongest would be the Lady Tsunade, Lord Orochimaru, and the late Lord Jiraiya. Because they are all equal in strength neither one of them could lead the Elder Coven, so the position was appointed to a warlock they believed would be best for the job.”
“So how are they getting here? A portal?” Sasuke asked Kakashi as they waited in the foyer for their guests.
“No. Uber.” Kakashi yawned and yanked at his collar. Shizune had him dressed in regular fit navy blue suit with a silver tie. It matched her high collar evening tea dress in the same shade of blue with silver buttons down the bust.
The two made a nice pair but Sasuke preferred the attention to detail that Sakura had in her attire. Even if it was only symbolic to those that knew his true nature, it pleased him a bit that she had represented him and an important trait of his instead of simply stuffing him in something similar to what she owned.
The doorbell rang at seven on the dot and Shizune welcomed their coven leader who entered on the arm of a man with long silver hair.
“Welcome home, Uncle Dan.” Shizune embraced the man and stepped aside that the people following them could enter as well.
The Hebi Coven was greater in numbers than their own little coven, Sasuke noticed immediately. A person with snake like features entered the foyer with an entourage of twelve. It was no wonder Shizune had been stressed the past few days.
“Karin!” Sakura squealed when a petite girl with vivid red hair in a lavender short sleeved chiffon dress walked through the doorway.
“Please remember that my upper body strength is non existent!” The red haired girl shrieked as Sakura practically pounced on her, wrapping her arms around her neck.
“She’s going to end up breaking you, Karin.” A white haired boy in a matching button down shirt snickered, brushing past the two girls. Sasuke caught his eye and the boy’s lips stretched out into a wide toothy smile. “Thank fuck, another guy.”
“You’re wearing my present.” Karin daintily sniffed the air around Sakura, ignoring the adults that were heading to the dining room. “I wish I was here on your birthday but Kabuto dragged me out for a job.”
Before Sasuke could ask, Karin whipped out a business card from thin air and handed it to him. In a curly font her name, Karin Uzumaki, was listed and underneath it read “Founder Of All Things Lost” along with an email address and alternate instructions to drop lavender essential oil on the card for emergencies.
“Karin is an extremely gifted scryer,” Sakura explained. Karin tossed her hair over her shoulder and beamed at the praise. “Most witches need a medium like crystals or a mirror, but Karin can use the back of her eyelids. And she doesn’t just get flashes but detailed images.”
“I’m better than most oracles,” Karin bragged, adjusting her glasses on the bridge of her nose. The white haired boy stood at her elbow and coughed into his fist. “Oh, and this is Suigetsu. He’s talented at leaving puddles everywhere he sits.”
“We just met the guy and you’re already insulting me in front of him?”
“He’s my familiar.” Karin sighed and rolled her eyes. “We’ve been together almost a year now.”
“But not actually together, Sakura.” Suigetsu flashed her a flirty grin and waggled his eyebrows. The sight of his pointed teeth had Sasuke pulling Sakura back in case the teen decided he wanted to take a bite of her.
At least that’s what he told himself was the reason.
“And ‘cause he’s a male selkie he’s an incorrigible flirt.”
“Children,” a silky voice called out to them. “The adults are waiting.”
The owner of the voice was none other than the person with the slits for pupils and long black hair that matched the silkiness of their voice. The smile they gave Sasuke made the hairs on the back of his neck stand.
“Ah, a tengu. You don’t really see them in this realm anymore.” They looked Sasuke up and down before turning their attention to Sakura, their smile even more alarming than a second ago. “Very impressive, Miss Haruno. Who knew you had it in you to summon such a creature into your possession.”
“He’s not a thing, Lord Orochimaru,” Sakura muttered, averting her gaze. She tugged on Sasuke’s hand and lead him to a pair of seats as far away as possible from where Orochimaru’s place card sat.
It wasn’t until Karin gave him a strange probing look from his face to their joined hands that he reminded Sakura that he needed both hands for dinner.
“Sorry,” Sakura whispered as he gave thanks for the meal. He peered at her from the corner of his eye and noticed her gaze was directed at the head of the table where the elders sat.
The apology had nothing to do with the hand holding. There was no doubt that she was thinking about the weeks after she had summoned him and his feelings about the whole event.
“Don’t worry about it,” he muttered back, leaning over to whisper it in her ear so none of the guests could hear him.
Dinner was an odd affair. Sasuke was used to large gatherings—even larger ones with his clan—but these were strangers. There was no one he could talk with and he already made an enemy out of one of the Hebi witches by securing a stick of dango for Sakura before the witch absconded with the whole tray.
If it weren’t a formal dinner setting he was sure she would have hexed him. Unsettling smiles seemed to be a trademark of the Hebi coven.
“I’m glad we’re going back home and don’t have to deal with all of these people,” Sakura grumbled as she helped clear the dining room. She moved slowly without magic to stall having to meet everyone in the den for a nightcap. “I definitely don’t wanna be around when Anko gets a few drinks in her. Last time she holed up in Shizune‘s room the whole week and she and Kakashi butted heads for her attention.”
“I wouldn’t mind joining them. I’m eighteen now.” Suigetsu chuckled before Karin hit him with a closed fist to the back of his head. His head burst into a splash of water upon contact.
“No, orgies aren’t a witch thing,” Sakura answered Sasuke’s unasked question. She rolled her eyes at the look of disgust he had. “Anko and Kakashi are just like that.”
“How did you know what I was thinking?”
“Hm?” Sakura lifted her arms and waved her hands through some motions and the dishes started cleaning themselves. “Oh. I don’t know. I just thought that might be what you would ask.”
Sasuke crossed his arms and watched as she pointed at the dishes and they loaded themselves into the dishwasher and she grabbed glass containers to store what remained of dinner.
“I’m not reading your mind, Sasuke.” Sakura glared at him and placed the containers in the refrigerator. She flinched when she shut the door a little harder than she should have.
“Well that doesn’t help your case.”
“No, you’re just predictable.”
With a final wave of her hand the tea cups arranged themselves on two trays and she grabbed the teapot. Placing her hand on the pot, the spot she touched glowed red and the pot whistled.
“Help me with this, please? After we give them their tea we can go home. I don’t like how Lord Orochimaru was looking at you. They’re usually creepy but tonight’s definitely been the creepiest they’ve been.”
Sasuke was glad he wasn’t the only one that thought the High Priest had behaved strangely. It was already strange that they knew immediately what Sasuke was, even in his wingless form.
“You’re probably too young to know, but has Orochimaru ever had a tengu familiar?”
“Hmm? Oh, no. Their familiar has always been a basilisk named Manda. It’s why they call the coven he leads Hebi.” Sakura shivered and hugged herself. “I’ve only seen him once and just, never again.”
If what Sasuke had heard about basilisks was true, Sakura was very lucky she was still alive after an encounter with one. He could only assume that Orochimaru was a very powerful warlock to be able to contain a great snake and keep it from eating every human it came across.
That is if Orochimaru even bothered to keep his familiar from eating.
There was a chance the tengu Orochimaru had mentioned seeing in the mundane realm was Itachi. And if that was whom Orochimaru was referring to, it meant they knew who Itachi’s former warlock was.
And Sasuke was going to find out exactly who that warlock was.