Our One Chance
One Hour Earlier
‘Mina! This is a Fukashi pill! Where in the world did you get this?!’My eyes widened as I snapped my eyes from the tiny silvery sphere in my open palm to Mina’s oblivious expression.
‘It’s erm, a form of disguise I suppose. It sort of hides your chakra from the world, as though you don’t exist anymore…’
‘So people can’t see you? Like you’re invisible?’ She blinked up at me curiously.
‘No they can still see you, just not sense you. But they’re extremely rare! Where did you get it?’
She shifted uncomfortably under my stare, noticeably avoiding my eye contact until I pressed her again. ‘Mina…’
‘It was that half naked guy… I don’t remember his name. He was angry at their leader so he said something about giving them out to prisoners…’ She trailed off, seemingly putting two and two together. ‘You don’t suppose…’
‘No! Mina, this is insane! The enemy handing out free passes to a chance at freedom? No way, it has to be some sort of trick… Or maybe…’
‘Maybe they don’t think we’ll actually be able to do it?’ Mina finished for me.
I lifted the pill to eye level and squinted at the small object.
The silvery tint was a big giveaway, instantly recognisable as a Fukashi pill. I had only ever see them once in my life, during one of my shifts at the hospital back home where a patient had been dealing them like a drug and accidentally overdosed…
Maybe I was wrong, maybe it was something different? It made no sense for the enemy to waste such a rarity on the off chance of prisoners giving them some ‘game’ to hunt. Then again, the member Mina said had given it to her was Hidan, right? He didn’t exactly seem to be one who would think things through.
‘So he just handed it to you and left?’ I frowned, still finding the situation almost unbelievable.
‘Well no. Deidara was there too, he was the one who gave it to me and then he left without another word. They didn’t even tell me what it was!’
Now that was a surprise.
I had to admit, the idea of trying it was incredibly tempting. But I couldn’t be 100% that I was right in its identification. ‘If it is what I think it is, there should be a small black lining just below the surface of the pill…’
‘How can we tell if there is?’
In response, I moved away from the bed and into the other room, beckoning for her to follow me. I stood over Sasori’s desk and positioned the little pill on the edge of the surface between my thumb and forefinger.
‘…We break it.’
It broke with one sharp hit on the wood, snapping clean in half. I turned the pieces over slowly, my mouth falling open as I did so. There it was, a perfect circle lining of black just beneath the silver surface.
‘Koko?’ Mina asked after a moment. ‘What do we do now?’
I was just as suspicious as she was, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was real. A real opportunity, which we’d be stupid to pass up on. Emiko seemed to be lost in thought or having a heavy internal debate with herself, so I touched my hand to her face gently to bring her back to reality. That notion alone was enough to make her jump, though I couldn’t blame her for being on edge.
‘Koko, I think we should try it.’
Her eyes finally met mine, waiting anxiously for my reasoning.
‘It’s just, even if it is fake, and it’s all a trap, we’re no further to escaping from this place without it! And what if it is real, and we don’t try?’ She still seemed unconvinced, so as a last resort, I added in a small voice. ‘We could die here if we don’t at least try…’
‘Actually… I wonder…’ I watched her expression suddenly change to thoughtful, as though just remembering something important. She began to fumble through the desk drawer, pulling out a small waxy box after a moment’s search. A matchbox?
‘What’s that for?’
Her purple irises flickered to mine nervously. ‘If these things are burned, sometimes their effects can be changed…’
‘If I remember right, it could alter our physical visibility too.’ She stated slowly, clearly not wanting to get my hopes up. ‘I don’t mean so we are actually invisible. It shifts people’s perception just enough to allow whoever has taken the pill to go undetected. But I could be completely wrong!’
‘Then let’s try it!’ I replied eagerly. I trusted her judgement entirely, her instincts were almost always right, and I was passing up no opportunity whatsoever. My heart jittered nervously as Emiko struck a match carefully, holding it up to the broken pill. I watched in amazement as the silvery surface melted and twisted with the black inner rim, becoming dull and grey.
‘Did it work?’ I pressed when she pulled away.
‘Only one way to find out… But be careful, the dose is halved so if it’s worked, we’ll only have about twenty minutes until its effects fade and we’ll be detected, so we’ll have to move quickly.’
I nodded firmly in response. We were really doing this… We could escape…
‘Don’t get your hopes up. If we run out of time or this is a fake, we’ll be in serious trouble.’
‘I know.’ I watched as she pressed the tablet to her lips and mirrored her action. ‘On three?’
‘One, two… three.’
I swallowed the pill in one swift gulp, and we waited in tense silence as nothing happened. ‘When should it work?’
Emiko looked down at me, her eyebrows pulled together slightly. She opened her mouth to respond but suddenly her head twitched violently upwards and she let out a sharp gasp. I moved to grab her arm and question her, when something inside me began to spiral in the pit of my stomach, making me wince.
It was incredible and horrific all at the same time, like my insides were somehow rearranging themselves and merging together into one firm knot of chakra right in my centre until I could barely even feel it myself. One glance at Emiko’s tiny hopeful expression sent shivers down my spine. It was real!
‘It’s working, Mimi! It’s really–’ her mouth suddenly snapped shut and she slapped a hand over my mouth a little too strongly. Then I heard it too. Someone else was here. We turned around in synchronisation to face the door, now wide open with an almost disappointed looking redhead standing in its place.
Neither of us dared to breathe, staring straight into his honey colour eyes. But after a moment, his gaze dropped and he let out a short soft breath. We inched backward from him as he headed straight for us, but our eyes locked in confusion as he passed right by us towards his desk, pausing momentarily to shudder strangely before slumping into his desk chair and appearing to begin to work. Couldn’t he see us? Had burning the pill worked?
Not taking any other chances, Emiko made a grab for my hand and before I knew it, we were racing through pitch black corridors, searching desperately for an exit.
‘Emiko…’ I panted as I hurried after her. ‘How do we know where to go?’
‘We don’t!’ She called back over her shoulder, darting past a guard who didn’t even flinch in our direction.
‘Why can’t they see us?’ I glanced back over my shoulder to the oblivious enemy male who was now spinning a kunai around between his fingers, looking bored.
‘I’m not sure, this must be what it meant when I read ‘we don’t exist’!’ I didn’t know how much experience my sister had with this sort of pill, but I assumed from that, that she’d at least read about it in one of her medical books.
We rounded a 90 degree corner and I heard her let out a breathy laugh. ‘Look Mimi! There’s an exit!’
We ran for the light at the end of the corridor, practically diving out into the evening air and almost cowering under the harshly lit training field we had just entered.
‘Damn it, there’s no gate…’ She cursed under her breath as she made to re-enter the base, but I pulled on her wrist before she could.
‘Wait! There’s a gap, over there!’ I pointed to the wire mesh fence around the training ground. In one corner there was a jagged piece of wire where it looked to have been cut with something sharp. ‘Maybe one of the other prisoners had the same idea as us and used that as an escape?’
Emiko, figuring it was worth a try, nodded and began to move towards the corner, when a deafening siren sounded from the overhead speakers, followed by a mechanic voice.
‘Warning: Prisoner escape. Code 388914 is active. Repeat, prisoner escape. All guards to their stations.’
My sister’s eyes flashed in panic, grabbing my hand once again and tearing across the field to the gap. She shoved me through first with ease, before ducking to squeeze through after me, hissing when she snagged her shoulder on a loose strand of wire mesh.
A tiny piece of material tore off from her loose black T-shirt, but we had more pressing matters to deal with, like running for our lives. If Emiko’s guess was right about our time scale, we only had about two minutes left before we could be fully detected again, and neither of us wanted to risk that.
And so we ran. We ran like hell.
‘Sasori. Status report.’ Pein barked infuriatingly at me. He, Hidan and Kisame had returned immediately upon hearing the emergency sirens in the distance, and was now channelling his anger toward the only sane member he could find, since Itachi was gathering a retrieval team and Deidara had taken off after a small group of prisoners he’d spotted running for the hills. Literally.
‘Sixteen prisoners missing so far, but there could be more we haven’t checked on yet. Nine of them are from the medical team we brought in from the enemy camps. In total, four have been retrieved.’
‘Nine of the medics, you say? Anyone I’d know?’ He threw me a sideways warning glance, though how I was supposed to interpret that I wasn’t sure.
I countered his question. ‘Is Zetsu with you? He’d come in very useful for this.’
‘He’s underground searching the surrounding area, listening for vibrations in the earth that may give away any locations.’
From beside me, Hidan suddenly let out a rather loud, obnoxious laugh, apparently unable to hold it in any longer.
‘Care to let us in on the joke, Hidan?’ Pein’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
The Jashinist smirked. ‘No joke at all, Leader-sama. Although you might wanna do a headcount on the medication cupboard at some point…’
Before he could even finish his sentence, Hidan was rammed forcefully backwards and pinned to the wall by his throat. I had to roll my eyes at the smirk he still forced onto his stupid face, despite struggling to breath.
‘You imbecile!’ Pein hissed. ‘What did you do?’
Trying to shrug, Hidan managed to spit out an amused reply. ‘Fucking relax, it’s just a bit of fun. Besides, they won’t get far. It’s just their chakra that’s hidden – Oof!’
He fell to the floor as Pein released him, moving his fingers in soothing circles at his temples, fighting a growing migraine. He obviously didn’t find this ‘fun’.
‘You should go and join the guards at the back exit, they’re all useless without instruction…’ He growled to me, clearly not impressed with the situation.
‘Yes sir.’ I didn’t hang around a second longer than necessary. I’d seen Pein’s temper flare much worse than this, and I was not an idiot like that reckless zealot.
I found the guards in a disarray in the rear training ground, completely useless just as Pein had said. I marched into the centre of the squad and snapped at them all to shut up.
‘Orders, sir!’ One of the men had the decency to salute, but I had no time for manners right now.
‘Why is nobody in their designated posts? Line the hallways immediately. You three check the basement cells, do a prisoner head check and file your report to the announcement room ASAP. Move!’
The men scattered, leaving me alone in the field. I was about to go and find Deidara to join in his hunt for the escapees when something flickered in the corner of my eye. I glanced around, my gaze landing on a small piece of black torn fabric in the corner of the grounds, caught on loose piece of the wire mesh fence.
So, some got out this way too? I frowned as I tugged the fabric free from its captor to examine it further. Is this…? No. It could belong to any of the medics, they all dressed in black.
The speaker above me spluttered to life. ‘Status Report. Seven medics have been caught and returned. Three enemy prisoners have been killed on sight. Repeat. Seven medics have been returned and three enemy prisoners have been killed on sight. Six prisoners remain unfound.’
Seven medics caught and three dead? That leaves four prisoners and two medics. And I’d be willing to bet I know which direction they left in…