Warnings: Violence. Blood. Gory scenes. Murder scenes. Lemon scenes.
Disclaimer: Part of this story will have settings and events taken out from various anime like Get Backers and Jigoku Shoujo, but I do not own any of them, nor do I own Naruto or any characters in this story save for OC characters
Chapter Sixteen: Companions
The Leaf Isle of the country of Japan is a small remote island located out in the middle of the sea with absolutely no way to get to it unless you're on boat. That was the ANBU's primary execution grounds for high profile criminals which also served as the prison grounds for high profile criminals, and naturally, that prison was also guarded by the best guards belonging to the Chief of all ANBU, alongside the best security measures that money can buy.
Only a crazy person or someone totally out of their mind would try to break into that place, as all those that have tried have never made it out alive. And it is also common knowledge among all ANBU agents that all the guards stationed at that prison have a 'shoot to kill' policy. They would not hesitate to shoot first and to ask questions later.
After the end of the war, the ANBUs have made Leaf Isle the main execution grounds, alongside the prison for high profile criminals. And every ANBU agent had to at least make a visit there once in their lifetime, though not one of them liked to stay long, as the place is just too damn depressing.
But as it is, Uchiha Itachi, Hoshigaki Kisame, Akasuna no Sasori and Nagato still found themselves there on an early Saturday morning one week after Amachi's trial in which he was found guilty by the judge less than twenty minutes after the trial had began.
The four ANBU agents watched through the one-way looking glass in the room where two of the ANBU guards dressed in black bullet proof vests, along with the standard black guard uniform, alongside black combat boots and a cap, were both in the room with Amachi, the latter who was strapped to a metal chair with metal chains and shackles, along being blindfolded and gagged to prevent any chances of escape.
It might be a little cruel, but this is standard protocol for high profile criminals set to be executed in Leaf Isle. They could not allow any of the criminals here to escape, and so far, none have eluded them…yet. After that entire fiasco with Orochimaru when the ANBU have busted more than half of his smuggling and drug rings, more than half of the prison cells in Leaf Isle were full of his allies and supporters, and the ANBU were also running ragged, trying to determine just who is guilty, and who is innocent, and they were also trying to round up his remaining supporters.
But even then, they couldn't manage to get every single one of them, and Amachi is just one of Orochimaru's supporters whom the Ragnarok had delivered to the ANBU in a nice package, alongside the number of evidences left behind at the organ factory where the ANBU had arrested the man in question.
Sasori flinched slightly as all four ANBUs watched as hundreds upon thousands of electrical volts ran through Amachi's body with the electrical conductor chair, and he soon went limp in the chair. The prison's medic then approached Amachi, and began to examine him slowly before nodding to the ANBU guard, certifying Amachi's death.
Itachi and the other three then sighed and turned away from the one-way looking glass, heading towards the medic's office so that they can get the coroner's report to certify Amachi's death. Tsunade had sent the four of them to Leaf Isle in order to confirm Amachi's death. ANBU had already failed once too many, and the public are already saying things like Ragnarok seemed to be more competent than the ANBU in locating a man who had been on the run from the ANBU for the past four years.
"Thank kami that it's over." Sasori sighed, ironing his forehead with his hand. "I never want to view another execution taking place again."
"Yeah, me too." Kisame admitted. "It's unnerving."
Nagato said nothing, but Itachi sighed just then, bringing everyone's attention to him. "I'm not really satisfied with how things had turned out with this case," he said bluntly. "It seems that Ragnarok has been a lot more active than usual of late, compared to the past four years when we've been after them."
Kisame sighed. "Yeah. But we can do nothing about them when we don't even know the slightest thing about them," he said. "Shikamaru and Sasori have been sifting through every single one of the ANBU records on nin-users, but we can find no record on them whatsoever. We need a name at least!"
"They're not stupid as well," said Nagato grimly. "That's why they took great care not to leave behind any trace of them, and neither are they stupid enough to use names in our presences. They are not your typical group."
Itachi sighed. "Anyway, we've all had a long week," he said. "We're not due back at headquarters for about another five hours for another meeting, so go and do some shopping or something. Take it as a kind of stress reliever."
"Yeah, I think I need that." Nagato sighed. "And Konan had been badgering me to go shopping with her for awhile now. Might help us take our minds off things as well."
The roar of a sleek silver and dark blue motorcycle came to a stop by the side of the road outside a cake shop, inviting several 'oohs' and 'aahs' from a group of high school students from the town's local high school as the rider removed his helmet, inviting several squeals from all teenage girls present, causing Uchiha Itachi to wince as his fan club steadily grew larger.
He had taken the chance to go for a spin to take his mind off things.
It did work for a while, but not for long, as his mind kept returning to Ragnarok, recurring around that mysterious group, their members, the fact that at least four of them are nin-users, to their mysterious leader otherwise known as 'Twila', and then to Shiki.
Itachi had always trusted his instincts and his gut feeling as it had saved him on more than one occasion, and he had a gut feeling that Shiki had something to do with Ragnarok. And if it is one thing that Itachi knew, it is to trust his instincts.
Itachi then sighed as he got off his bike, and turned the key in the ignition engine, turning off the engine of his bike before dropping the key into his pocket, and looked up at the signboard of the cake shop that he is currently standing outside of.
He then sighed to himself.
It had been a long week for him and his team members, and he might as well buy something to cheer them all up. All that he had been seeing all week are dull and gloomy faces as if the world is coming to an end.
A bell tinkled somewhere in the shop as Itachi pushed opened one of the glass doors of the shop, and headed towards the display sets of the cake shop where several appetizing and delicious looking cakes sat prettily in display cases.
"What would you like, sir?" One of the girls working at the shop asked politely.
Itachi frowned for a moment as he considered what his teammates liked for cake, but all of that flew out of the window when he heard a familiar voice next to him spoke. "I would like a double layered chocolate cake with vanilla icing by the sides."
Itachi whipped his head around only to meet equally surprised blue eyes belonging to a certain redhead that he knew.
"Hey," said Shiki with a small tentative smile. "Fancy meeting you here."
"Yeah. What a coincidence." Itachi muttered before he turned back to the shop assistant and ordered two double layered cheesecakes, as nearly half of his teammates have pretty humongous appetites.
The two then headed over to the cashier for the girl manning the cash register to rig up their orders, and both waited in silence as she did so. An awkward silence fell between both Itachi and Shiki, before the raven haired Uchiha spoke.
"What?" asked Shiki, not looking at Itachi, but was fixing her gaze on the cake display sets that she could see, pretending to be interested in them, but Itachi was not fooled.
"I…" Itachi bit on his lower lip. "I want you to come with me."
That had the instant effect to cause Shiki to turn to look at him, a bewildered look on her face. "Excuse me?"
"I want you to come with me, Shiki." Itachi repeated his words from before, only more confidently this time.
"I…can't do that."
"I have things that I have to do here," said Shiki patiently. "Besides…" She turned her head away from Itachi. "…I don't want to leave."
Itachi was about to say something, but his cellphone rang just then with the ringtone of Web of Night blaring through, and he immediately fished his cellphone out of his pocket and snapped into the receiver. "What?!"
Itachi could almost see whoever is on the other end of the line winced at the Uchiha's foul mood that day.
"Whoa. Bad day?"
Itachi relaxed as he recognised the voice. It was from Zetsu – an informant of sorts that don't work for any organisation, but merely make a living selling information to people from both the underworld and the ANBU.
"What is it?" asked Itachi, balancing his phone between his cheek and his shoulder as the cashier asked him to sign a receipt of acknowledgement for his order which he did so.
"Just something that you've asked me to do a few weeks ago," said Zetsu, and there was the sound of papers shuffling on the other end of the line. "I've found one of Ragnarok's clients."
Itachi paused in his tracks. "It took you four whole freaking MONTHS to find one client?"
Zetsu grumbled. "Hey, it's Ragnarok that we're talking about here!"
"Fair enough," said Itachi. "Who is it?"
"It's a girl named Isaribi," answered Zetsu. "She lives in a small apartment in Narika. I'm sending the address over to your phone."
Itachi frowned and nodded. "Thanks, Zetsu."
Zetsu sighed. "Don't count on that girl telling you anything even if she is a former client of Ragnarok," he said. "From my experience, those that hired Ragnarok never spoke about them much. I think that it has something to do with the conditions that tied with hiring their services."
"Roger that." Click.
Itachi then shut his phone and slipped it back into his pocket before turning towards Shiki. "Shiki—" His voice was then caught in his throat as he saw that Shiki had long disappeared. Apparently, she had collected her cake and paid for it in a jiffy before leaving the shop. All in a span of five seconds without Itachi even noticing her. "Okay, scratch the whole 'who are you' business. Just WHERE are you?"
Ragnarok Headquarters (Boathouse)Hiraiko
"I'm back." Shiki called out as she entered the boathouse, closing the door behind her. "And I've brought some cake."
"Shiki, we've got a message from Jiraiya," said Haku, tilting a thumb over her shoulder, pointing towards Shino, and her eyes then brightened up to see the cake box in Shiki's hands as it had been quite some time since any of them had some cake.
"What is the message?" asked Shiki with a frown.
"Something about ANBU. Or to be more specific, Akatsuki and Rendoku." Shino answered, turning to face Shiki. "Apparently, they've increased their efforts in pursuing us. Jiraiya wants us to be careful, especially since we have been a lot more active of late."
Shiki sighed. "I was wondering when it will come to this," she muttered.
Hinata who is on the couch with Neji frowned. "Shiki?"
"We're going to have to move to our old hideout temporarily until the fuss with the ANBU had died down," said Shiki, glancing at her friends. "And it also helps that it might help to cover up our tracks, as we had also been on the search for the Bijuu Shrines of late."
Yugito frowned. "Our old hideout?" she said slowly. "You don't mean…"
Shiki nodded. "Yeah. In the Dark Forest." She sighed, running a hand through her hair. "I really don't want to have to do this, but do it we must. As that is the only place where I know we can be truly safe, and where the ANBU wouldn't even dream of looking." She fixed every face with a steely look. "In the Forbidden Village."
The ancient village, the sanctuary of the very first nin-users of the world – hidden deep within the Dark Forest which no sane human being would go into, located in the southern region of the country of Japan. Shiki had taken all of Ragnarok there only once after Tenten had joined them, and she had told them everything about the Bijuu Nine and the Shrines.
The forest and trees of the ancient Dark Forest protected that village, and in turn, protected the sanctuary of the nin-users – the only place where they could be truly safe. But for millennia ever since the time of the first nin-users, the Forbidden Village had already fallen into ruin, looking almost like the ancient ruins that archaeologists are so fond of exploring these days.
It is an extremely small village, probably only large enough to contain about thirty people at one time, but it is extremely peaceful, with nature surrounding them, with plenty of food and water from the lake that surrounds the eastern part of the small village which is how Ragnarok had travelled there.
A tall tower almost as tall as the trees of the Dark Forest that protected the Forbidden Village stood in the middle of the village, with a flat platform right at the top of the tower which Shiki liked to sit at. And it also helps that from there, one would be able to see anyone coming for hours in advance, not that they needed it, as barriers and special seals were placed in a twenty mile radius of the village.
And it also helps that the main Bijuu Shrine – the one where all nine of the Bijuu Nine were enshrined was located in this very village, not that they should be surprised, as the Forbidden Village is supposed to be the sanctuary for the nin-users.
"I didn't think that we would have to come back here," sighed Haku. "We swore once that we would only come here if we are in trouble."
"How long must we stay here, Shiki?" asked Temari, turning towards the redhead.
"As long as it takes," said Shiki with a sigh. "You guys know your rooms, so I'll leave you to it."
She then turned away, heading towards the direction of the main Bijuu Shrine where she always went to whenever they have came here, completely missing Neji's look of concern and longing.
ANBU HeadquartersLeaf City
'Name: Endo KitakiBirth Date: July 16, XXXXHometown: UnknownStatus: Deceased
A suspected member of the motorcycle gang Midnight Butterfly, she is suspected to be a B-class nin-user with powers over fire. Suspected to be killed in a nin-user fight with an opposing gang on the night of 28 August XXXX—'
Itachi threw another file over his shoulder on the couch that he was sitting without even looking away, adding it to the already growing pile of files and folders behind him which is already starting to resemble a 'mountain' of some sort.
And this is the sight that Nagato, Konan and Kisame have walked in on when they walked into the meeting room of the Akatsuki only to see that the only person in the room is their captain which is a surprise in itself. Especially since if the Akatsuki aren't on missions, there are usually always two members present in the room.
But that wasn't what had surprised them.
The fact that their captain is currently reading through a small mountain of files and folders in front of him with another growing pile of files and folders behind him which is growing steadily by the minute is.
"Do I even want to know what is going on here?" asked Konan with a raised brow.
"Hey," said Itachi, waving his right hand lazily about without even looking up from the file that he is reading. "Take a file and help me out here, will you? These are files on all the nin-users ever known to us that the ANBU had kept track of."
Kisame then frowned as he peered over Itachi's shoulder only to see that he was reading one of the latest records of some nin-user whilst Nagato and Konan have both picked up one file each, and was currently reading it through.
"Hagako?" Kisame muttered. "Isn't that the town that was attacked more than eight years ago?"
"Yeah," said Itachi with a nod, still without looking up. "There were unconfirmed rumours going around that there was a nin-user there at that time. Those rumours still weren't confirmed, as Hagako don't really take kindly to the ANBU. But if those rumours are to be believed, the nin-user there is supposed to be among the most powerful ever known. The name of the nin-user is unknown, but if she is still alive now, she should be about sixteen."
"Sixteen?" Konan echoed. "That's around the age of Sasuke and the others."
Itachi nodded solemnly, looking up. "The powers of that particular nin-user were unusually strong, even for a nin-user. But whatever that her powers are, it is relatively left unknown, though the stats stated here are relatively high." Itachi frowned at that. Under the stats' column of this mystery nin-user are a bunch of questions marks, along with nearly every single thing about her profile, including her name, age and nin-user rank.
"All ANBU agents sent after her to recruit her then were sent back injured, which means that it is mission failed. And from what is stated here, she is the leader of Hagako's most feared gang – Blade. But when the town was attacked roughly eight years ago, nearly the entire gang perished, save for a few. It is relatively left unknown whether that girl survived or not, but she had never reappeared again after that. And when ANBU agents were sent there, this time, they came back in body bags. Though whether it is the work of that girl, or of that of some street gang, it is still relatively left unknown to this day."
"Hagako had a reputation for the danger." Konan muttered, looking thoughtful. "Even ANBU agents perished there occasionally. It isn't that farfetched if that girl did perished back then."
"But still, if we're looking for a nin-user in our records who is among the top tier, then this mystery person is our only lead," said Itachi, glancing at his teammates. "I've been going back and forth through all our records for months now! The mystery profile of this unknown person is the best lead that we had so far if we're talking about the power tier of nin-users."
"Yes, and about that, it is a little strange. To me, at least," said Nagato with a frown just then. The orange-haired telekinetic glanced at the pile of files and folders on the coffee table that they were all gathered around before looking at his friends. "I've been thinking about this for some time now. And even Nara Shikamaru of Rendoku had agreed with me. I've been matching every single one of our encounters with Ragnarok out in the field, and this is what I've came up with. It is like Ragnarok somehow knew what we are about to do whenever we were sent on a mission after them, or something regarding them. That time with that 'Dracula' case, then the data disk mission, and then when we've raided the organ factory… And not to mention the fact that they left behind quite a nice pile of evidences for us to ensure that Amachi actually got the death sentence this time."
Konan frowned at her boyfriend. "Nagato, what are you implying?"
"I think that there is a traitor amongst us," said Nagato solemnly, and that proclamation simply sent chills up the spines of everyone present.
Two Days LaterHiraiko, Japan
Snip. Snip. Snip.
With every delft snip of the scissors, a lock of hair fell to the ground. And right on cue, the ringtone of Uchiha Itachi's cellphone blared out, and as he reached out to grab his cellphone, Shiki slapped his shoulder lightly.
"Don't move," she said warningly. "Or you'll come complaining that I made a mistake cutting your hair."
Itachi smiled at Shiki, half turning his head towards her. "Sorry," he said, before he fished his cellphone out and answered the call. "Moshi moshi?"
His brother's irritated voice blared through. "Aniki? Where are you?"
"Sasuke?" Itachi blinked owlishly. "Well, I'm—"
"Keep still." Shiki muttered threateningly.
Meanwhile on the other end of the line, all the way back at the ANBU headquarters of Leaf City, Uchiha Sasuke almost dropped his phone as he distinctly heard a female voice on the other end of the line. And as far as Uchiha Sasuke knew, his brother never had any contact with any females, or even had any female friends apart from Konan.
Who did that voice belonged to? Was that his brother's girlfriend or something? If so, then why did Itachi never said anything about that? On the other hand, Sasuke thinks that he does know the reason why Itachi had kept quiet about his girlfriend, if it even is his girlfriend in the first place.
ANBU holds a relatively dangerous job, and ANBU agents are advised against having relationships with civilians because of the relatively short lifespan that they each hold in this line, along with the secrets that every ANBU agent held during their reign in the ANBU.
"Aniki, who is that—"
"Goodbye Sasuke," said Itachi firmly, and pressed the 'end call' button on his cellphone.
The motorcycle came to a stop outside Cat's Eye, and Shiki got off, slipping the helmet off her head, and handing it to Itachi.
"Thanks," she said quietly, but she refused to meet Itachi's eyes.
For lack of a better word, things between her and Itachi have been a little…tense as of late.
Itachi wanted to know just why Shiki couldn't come with him, and she had no way of telling Itachi about her double identity as the captain of Ragnarok. Shiki knew that she should break things off with him, but she simply can't bring herself to do it.
Maybe she really is in too deep in order to get out now.
Itachi suddenly spun Shiki around, and planted a small chaste kiss on her lips before pulling away, combing a lock of her hair behind her ear. "I promise to love you forever," he said softly, resting his forehead against Shiki's.
"What is that all about?" asked Shiki, startled, as Itachi drew back from her.
Itachi said nothing at all.
How could he bring himself to ask Shiki if she is the leader of that little assassin organisation that had the ANBU all hot and bothered for the past four years? How could he even bring himself to ask Shiki if she had been the one killing criminals and those who deserves to be punished all around Japan? How could he even bring himself to ask Shiki if she had been the one playing all of ANBU like a violin? How could he even bring himself to ask her any of that?
"It's nothing," muttered Itachi, shaking his head.
Raising an eyebrow, Shiki shrugged it off as none of her business before turning around and heading into Cat's Eye. But before she could do so, a call from Itachi caused her to turn around. The raven haired teen was bending down to pick up a sleek dark blue wallet which had fallen from her pocket, with the fall knocking the wallet opened at the same time, showing a recent photo taken of Shiki and the rest of Ragnarok nearly a year ago.
"You've dropped this," said Itachi. An eyebrow then rose as he saw the photo in the wallet. Are these people Shiki's friends or something? She had never mentioned them before. The Uchiha then frowned as he focused on four of the people in the photo. 'Huh? Those four… They looked familiar… Like I'd seen them somewhere before…'
"Thank you," said Shiki hastily, taking her wallet from Itachi, and praying to kami that Itachi didn't recognise any of her friends in the photo as Ragnarok members. "I should be going as well. Goodbye."
She then took down the street.
"Shiki!" Itachi called after her, but she either ignored him, or didn't hear him. "Didn't you just say that you are meeting your friends at Cat's Eye?" He muttered. Itachi then frowned as he suddenly put a memory to those four faces that he'd seen in the photo.
We're members of Ragnarok. Nice to meet you.
People from the ANBU, I hope that you are prepared.
Itachi gulped, feeling a sudden cold feeling sink into his tummy. 'It can't be…'
Forbidden VillageDark Forest
It was raining.
It was just like that dreadful night all those years ago when Shiki had lost her first friends to Oto in the city of Hagako – the first time when she had truly realised that the nin-users of the world are truly alone, and that there is no one in this world who would lift a single finger to help them, apart from other nin-users.
It was raining just like that night, and yet, it did not bother Namikaze Shiki in the least as she sat at the edge of the platform of the tower, her legs dangling below her as she let the rain pelt down on her.
The sound of light footsteps on the wet platform caused Shiki to turn around only to see Gaara standing behind her in a dark coat, his red hair plastered to his head by the rain.
ANBU HeadquartersLeaf City
The light click clacking of the keys on the keyboard of the computer were the only sounds that could be heard in the meeting room-cum-office of the Akatsuki as Uchiha Itachi tapped away at his computer, with the raven haired teen being the only one in the office.
Itachi bit down on his lower lip as he tried to recall bits and pieces of information that Shiki had let slip or had told him throughout the time that he had known her. 'If I recall correctly, Iruka-san at Cat's Eye had mentioned once to me in passing that Shiki is originally from Hagako.'
"Hagako…" Itachi then muttered, recalling the conversation that he had with Kisame, Konan and Nagato earlier that day.
Isn't that the town that was attacked more than eight years ago?
There were unconfirmed rumours going around that there was a nin-user there at that time. Those rumours still weren't confirmed, as Hagako don't really take kindly to the ANBU. But if those rumours are to be believed, the nin-user there is supposed to be among the most powerful ever known.
The powers of that particular nin-user were unusually strong, even for a nin-user. But whatever that her powers are, it is relatively left unknown, though the stats stated here are relatively high.
She is the leader of Hagako's most feared gang – Blade.
Itachi rubbed his temples together with both frustration and terror.
Terror that Shiki is truly whom he had suspected. And frustration that all the small clues that he had seemed to be pointing more towards the direction that Shiki is the leader of the group that they have been after for the past four years.
'Shiki…please. Please don't let it be you!'
Itachi then closed the window on his computer before switching to the nin-user database system that the ANBU had on their system. He quickly made a quick search under the keyword 'Hagako', and a much detailed report soon showed up on his screen.
"It's finally time, isn't it?" Gaara muttered, standing behind Shiki with his hands stuffed into his pockets as he looked up at the sky.
"Yeah," said Shiki with a nod. Neither one of them said anything for several moments before Shiki tilted her head back to look at the skies, before looking below her at the village once more. "The skies are crying again. Crying for the injustices that the dead have suffered. No matter how much we have done, it can't bring the dead back."
Light footsteps sounded just then, and both Shiki and Gaara turned only to see Haku approaching them, with a dark blue coat on. "But still, our deeds can at least allow them to rest in peace," said the ice maiden softly. Haku then paused in her tracks about five steps away from both Shiki and Gaara, her right hand resting on her hip, before she tilted her left thumb over her shoulder. "Yugito is in the graveyard. She's calming the spirits down. So she can't move for awhile…for about three days."
Yugito has the power over the dead to the extent that not only could she animate the dead to make them fight for her, she could also communicate with the spirits of the dead. It is a pretty nifty ability to have, especially at times when Ragnarok wishes to know just how a certain individual had died and who had killed them so that they do not go after the wrong person.
The graveyard of the Forbidden Village at the back of the village surrounded by trees that seemed to be dead seemed to surround the graveyard in a circle. Those graves were the graves of the very first nin-users who were buried here, along with some of the other nin-users that Ragnarok couldn't save during their travels. And because their deaths were so horrific and so sudden, their spirits had died cursing the world and the ANBU. And in order to soothe and calm down the spirits, there are times when Yugito had to calm the spirits down by using her nin-ability.
"Have you two regained enough of your strength to make a little trip with me?" Shiki asked, turning back to look down at the village below her.
Haku and Gaara knew what that had meant instantly.
After Sumaru's letter to Shiki in which he had stated all the locations of the Bijuu Shrines apart from the main shrine which Shiki had asked her old friend to locate for her a few years back, Ragnarok had been setting out to seal every single one of them. But after every sealing, it causes a great strain on their bodies and their strength, and they have to wait for at least four months before they have gained back enough of their strength to seal another shrine away.
Shiki gave a small smile, unseen by both Haku and Gaara both, before she stood up, and turned to face her friends.
Itachi scrolled down the screen slowly, reading the report that some ANBU agent had submitted a while back.
The town of Hagako, also known as one of the more dangerous towns to venture into because of its gang infestation, and walking in there is rather like walking in a forest full of tigers—
Bijuu ShrineUnknown Location
"This is it," said Haku solemnly as the three stepped out onto the small unknown island in this unknown location.
A small temple-like building, and yet majestic-looking shrine stood in front of them, with ruby red steps leading to the entrance with shoji doors blocking the entrance. Silver statues of what seemed to be a three-tailed turtle lined each side of the entrance, and all three present could tell that there is a remarkably powerful barrier surrounding this shrine – protecting it from all intruders.
Shiki sighed. "Alright. Let's start work," she said.
—only one known nin-user there at that time, though those rumours couldn't be confirmed because of the mere fact alone that not one ANBU managed to attain enough information on this mystery nin-user as she eludes us each and every time—
A bright flash of light surrounded the temple-like building that now stood before Shiki, Haku and Gaara on this small unknown island in some unknown location, before the light dispersed, and the shrine slowly vanished from sight – telling the three nin-users present that the shrine had been successfully sealed away.
Shiki breathed heavily, beads of sweat visible on her forehead, as beside her, Gaara was in the same position. Haku who had been helping the two of them to maintain the stability barrier breathed a sigh of relief. Always, there must always be at least three of them present to seal away one shrine, as it would not succeed with two or less people.
"It is over," said Haku, exhausted.
Shiki nodded tiredly. "With that, this is three down," she said, glancing at the shrine as it slowly disappeared before vanishing from sight completely. "…with six more to go."
"It's really too bad that we can't seal all nine at one go, especially since it causes a severe strain on our bodies every single time that we've sealed one away," said Gaara with a sigh. "Kankuro and Neji are both still recovering from the last sealing."
"But it's a start, right?" asked Haku.
Shiki nodded. "Yeah."
—all rumours of this mystery nin-user stopped completely after the attack on the street gang Blade eight years ago, and not a single inhabitant in Hagako knew where she had gone to. Months after that, ANBU then started getting reports that relatively well-known nin-users from different towns and cities in Japan which are also in the 'danger' zone have vanished mysteriously all of a sudden, and all those nin-users are ones that ANBU had set their sights on. This mystery is never solved.
Itachi sighed, leaning back into his chair, rubbing his eyes.
'Shiki…it can't be you, right?' he thought desperately. 'Please don't let it be you. Please.'
The Next DayNarika, Japan
Itachi brought his motorcycle to a stop outside a small house in the seaport town of Narika, and looked at the apartment that he had stopped outside of only to see that it was nearly falling to pieces. He then looked at the slip of paper in his hand on which was written the address of that nin-user that Zetsu had found after MONTHS of searching, and which the information broker had given him, and Itachi saw that it is indeed the correct address.
The Uchiha then sighed and walked up to the door and knocked on it. There was a slight pause before the door opened slowly, and a teenage girl in her late teens with dark hair and sapphire eyes with bandages around her head and part of her face was standing there in a blue dress.
"What is it?" she asked suspiciously.
Itachi sighed. "I'm Uchiha Itachi from the ANBU," he said, showing his identification pass, missing the brief dislike that flashed momentarily in the eyes of the girl. "I've heard that you're a former client of Ragnarok. Can you tell me more about them?"
"No," said the girl curtly before trying to shut the door. "Leave—"
"Please!" Itachi stopped the girl from trying to shut the door by wedging his foot in between the wedge of the door and the doorframe. "Just a little is fine! Just tell me about them, and what they are like! You don't have to tell me who they are! I just want to know more about them and why they are doing this!"
There was a long pause before the girl finally opened the door fully. "Come in."
Itachi nodded gratefully before closing the door shut behind him as he entered the apartment.
The apartment itself was extremely bare, and all that the one room apartment had is a bed, a table, a chair, a refrigerator, as well as a bookshelf and some painting supplies. Pretty blue curtains were also fluttering in the wind at the windows, and the apartment was relatively clean.
"I don't often get visitors, so I won't be able to offer you any tea," said the girl, sitting down in front of the canvas of the painting that was halfway done, and picking up a paintbrush.
"It's okay," said Itachi, sitting down on the worn-out couch. "What is your name?"
There was a slight pause before the girl continued painting. "Isaribi," she said. "I'm Isaribi."
"You live by yourself?"
"Yeah," said Isaribi, closing her eyes for a brief moment before opening them again, soaking her brush into the glass bottle sitting on the small table by her side. "My family threw me out after what that bastard did to my body!"
"Did to you?"
Isaribi turned around in her chair so that the right side of her face was facing Itachi, and she then started to undo the bandages around her head and face before it fell off, revealing some scales on her face. Itachi's eyes widened in shock at that before Isaribi reapplied the bandages back onto her face.
"That's why I had moved here myself," said Isaribi curtly, turning back to her painting. "And that's why I had hired Ragnarok. Have you heard of the human experimenting case from four years back?"
"The one involving the experimenting on nin-abilities performed by Nakashita Toriya?" asked Itachi, and Isaribi nodded. "Yeah. I've heard of it. Apparently, he was killed by Ragnarok some months back as well."
Isaribi nodded. "I know the sister of the girl who had hired Ragnarok to take out Nakashita Toriya," she said. "Tokisha Miya. We were neighbours and childhood friends. But about four years ago, Miya and I were kidnapped. The one who had kidnapped us was Nakashita Toriya. He performed experiments on us…trying to give us nin-abilities. One by one, those that were kidnapped by him died. But that bastard didn't care in the least! And when the ANBU had finally arrived, it was three whole months after we were kidnapped! It was already too late…for most of us." A tear dropped from Isaribi's eye. "Out of the eighteen of us who were kidnapped, only eight survived. Miya and I were one of those. But…"
Isaribi tightened her grip on her brush, and it broke beneath the added pressure, causing quite a mark against the painting canvas.
"But?" Itachi dared to ask.
"When my family found out what had happened to me, and that the side-effects of those blasted experiments allowed me to breathe underwater easily, they threw me out, saying that I'm a freak. It's the same for my friends as well. Most of those that miraculously managed to survive that experiment suffered the same fate. Even though nin-users were slowly being accepted by some members of society, there is still a large number who hated and detested them. The murder of a nin-user wouldn't bother anyone in the least. In fact, those that did the killing would be considered heroes. That is what it is like here, and in most of the villages and towns in Japan."
Itachi kept quiet.
He knew what it is like for nin-users, seeing as how he had faced the same thing before he had been recruited by the ANBU. That was only part of the reason why he had mostly kept his powers a secret, even forbidding his own younger brother to use his powers when his powers have been awakened.
Isaribi continued her story, painting over the paint smudge that had been left behind when she had broke her painting brush against the canvas a moment ago. "Miya was lucky. Her family stood by her, braving all social ridicule and the snide remarks from the townspeople when they'd heard what had happened. But it is all for naught, as she killed herself when she found out what she'd become as a result of Nakashita's experiments. Maya, her older sister disappeared not long after that, and I left my hometown as well. From what I'd heard, their family moved away after Miya's death, and settled down somewhere in Nariya, one of the more neutral towns."
"I investigated for two full years about that experiment, and I finally found out the name of the person who had ordered it on us. Nakashita might be the one who had done the actual experimenting on us, but Orochimaru is the one who had ordered it in the first place. I then started tracking him down, trying to get my revenge, but I knew… I knew that I'm in no power to kill him. That's why…when I found out that Orochimaru had finally returned to Japan all those months back, I knew that my chance at revenge had finally arrived at last! I contacted Ragnarok and hired them to carry out my revenge."
Itachi couldn't find it in himself to interrupt the girl as a tirade of words came out like a torrent, both angry sounding, and also filled with so much sadness and pain that a girl her age should never have gone through.
Isaribi turned around in her chair and faced Itachi. "To me, Maya, and the many people who'd hired Ragnarok, they are the 'escape door' for us when there is no other option for us to turn to," she said. "I'm thankful to them. If I had gone after Orochimaru myself, I would have probably gone the same way that my friends had. The one who had ruined my life isn't Ragnarok like what you ANBU guys are so fond of thinking. It is Orochimaru." She said the name like a curse.
Itachi frowned. "Who are they?" he asked carefully. "Ragnarok."
"Each one of them had suffered grave injustice when they're young," said Isaribi solemnly. "They're merely making sure that others would not suffer the same fate that they did. Criminal or not, most of those criminals out there have never stopped their crime days. We all knew that. Any person with even half a brain knew that."
Itachi was surprised. "But a few of Ragnarok's victims who have come out of jail swore that they've stopped their crime days—"
Isaribi snorted. "If their words can be trusted, pigs can fly," she retorted. "You're an ANBU agent yourself. You should know this better than anyone else. Not all criminals are punished by the law. Some got off. As even the law is not omnipotent." Itachi couldn't find a word to say to that remark. "And take this as a friendly word of advice: stay out of Ragnarok's way if you wish to retain your head." Her eyes hardened. "Because trust me, they won't hesitate to kill if they're ever backed into a corner."
"Ragnarok…" Itachi muttered. "What are they?"
"Who knows?" Isaribi shrugged.
Silence fell for several moments before Isaribi started to hum a tune below her breath, and singing softly to herself. Itachi's ears pricked up, and he froze as he vaguely remembered this song.
Hoshi ni yuki ni kiwokuniKimi no ashi a to sabashituDoka towa no yasurakiKoko wa yume no tochiuere
Asanai tsubasa deSakami chi kakedekuMichikara haku redeKono me wo tochi deku
"That song…!" Itachi gasped, and Isaribi turned towards him with a curious expression on her face, a paintbrush in one hand. "H-How do you know this song?"
Isaribi stared at Itachi like he'd suddenly grown two new heads. "Huh? What's it to you?" she asked with a raised brow. "One of those who had saved me back then from Amachi sang this song to me when she was nursing me back to health after my own family had thrown me out. She told me once that it's a very special song which had originated from her mother's homeland."
That remark brought forth a long almost forgotten memory to the surface of Itachi's mind just then. A memory from all those months ago when he'd first heard this song at the beach of the town of Hiraiko.
That song…is one that my mother had left behind when she had died. She told me in the letter that she had left behind that the song is a special one. Long ago, people from her country sang that song as a prayer of sorts.
Itachi pressed the heel of the palm of his hand against the side of his head, feeling shock, horror, terror and dismay all rolled up in one at once.
A/N: A pretty long chapter this time around. So Itachi is finally catching on, it seems. I had been listening to the Naruto Shippuden soundtrack, with the song Samidare playing when Shiki, Gaara and Haku were sealing the shrine, and Itachi was sifting through the database, and then with the song Girei playing not long after that. Those two songs seem fitting for the mood and atmosphere for this chapter, it seems like.
Anyway, seems like the video that I had been planning to create for this story might be a little delayed as I simply sucked in trying to draw Itachi. If there is anyone who is willing to make a little fanart for me, please let me know, thank you.
Anyway, I'll appreciate it if you can review for this chapter, and thanks for reading, I hope that you've enjoyed this chapter!
Preview of next chapter: The Burdened
"You're the leader of Ragnarok, aren't you?"
"If I can't break out of this Hell that is this world, then I shall drag everyone down to Hell with me!"
"In this world, you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
"ANBU and Ragnarok are enemies, you know that."
"Those who had sinned…do not deserve to live."