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 Seventeen: The Burdened
ANBU HeadquartersLeaf City
Uchiha Itachi stared blankly at his computer screen on which several windows were opened – one was the nin-user database that the ANBU uses, and the remaining windows were reports of that on the city of Hagako.
His fingers drummed lightly on his desk as he stared at the screen of his computer without really seeing anything at all, and he sighed again, confusing the hell out of the rest of his teammates who were all currently gathered in Akatsuki's meeting room-cum-lounge-cum-office.
Itachi had been sighing on and off for at least four hours, staring at his computer screen.
The Uchiha then frowned, trying to recall as much as he could about…Shiki, and his past encounters with the members of Ragnarok, including the first time that he had met the redhead.
You refused to tell me your name, so I shall give you one. I can't keep calling you 'you' all the time, can I? Besides, I think Twila meant 'justice' in Latin, and it meant 'freedom' in another language as well, I think. It kind of suits you anyway.
Then his very first encounter when he had came face-to-face against the members from Ragnarok. Though come to think of it, those people easily outmatched them, and could have killed them easily, yet they did not.
Do you think that we will betray the one person who had given us hope when our lives were shrouded in darkness, and who had given us a new purpose in life?
We have nothing against the ANBU. But if attacked, we'll fight back, and we'll fight with all our might.
Then his meeting with Shiki at the party during the ANBU's mission to capture Orochimaru, and they have only found Ragnarok's handiwork when they have single-handedly killed Orochimaru and five of his subordinates even before the ANBU had arrived.
Shiki! Let's go. It's time.
Like all good things, this has to end.
Itachi sighed inwardly, pinching the bridge of his nose as he leaned back into his chair, not taking his eyes off of the screen of his computer. 'I really don't want to have to believe this, but all the clues are pointing towards Shiki being the leader of Ragnarok. And that Isaribi girl…I do not believe that she meant to let slip of that little bit of information, but Shiki is the only one who would know that song.'
Itachi then turned off his computer and got up from his seat, pulling on his coat that hung over the back of his chair, inviting several curious looks from his teammates who were all currently crowded around Nagato's desk for some peculiar reason.
"Itachi?" Konan called out. "Where are you going?"
"Out," came the reply as Itachi strode towards the door. "I won't be back that soon."
And the door shut.
'Geez. This place hasn't changed a bit.' Shiki thought to herself as she walked through the streets of Hagako, watching the teenagers lolling about in this place chatting with each other. The redhead also noted that the slums of Hagako was still that…just slums with graffiti scribbled all over the walls, and paint was also peeling from the walls with litter all over the place.
Finally, Shiki stopped outside a broken down building in District 30 of Hagako – the single most dangerous place in all of Hagako. The building seemed to be some type of pub in the past, with wooden boards being nailed across the windows, and graffiti was scribbled all over the walls where paint was peeling from. Wooden boards were also nailed across the entrance of this building.
Shiki eyed the building expressionlessly, her hands stuffed into her pockets. The building looked abandoned, almost like it hadn't been touched for years. She then sighed inwardly. Who is she kidding? Of course it hadn't been touched for years. The people of Hagako probably still feared their name despite the fact that more than eight years have passed since that night.
That's right. This building was once the hideout of Blade, her old street gang before she had founded Ragnarok.
"Come on, don't be silly! Even with all your powers, you can't save everyone! You're not a god. And even a god can't save everyone. You've already done what you could, and that is enough for us! I'm sure that everyone thinks the same as well."
Shiki then let her gaze sweep around the area, surveying the place.
She could really imagine that she had gone back in time – gone back to eight years in the past. This place hadn't changed a bit. The only signs that time had passed ever since that day is the evidence left in place of that fateful night – the night when the ANBU had left them to die.
There were several scorch marks on the ground as well as on the roads, and also several burn marks as well as gunshot marks, and sword or knife slashes on the walls of the surrounding buildings. Shiki's eyes darkened, as she clenched her hands into fists by her sides.
A flash of blade.
"You're not getting away with this!"
"Suigetsu! Stop! You can't—"
"Shut up, Sumaru!"
"Sumaru, take Hotaru and Mizura and get out of here!"
"Don't worry about me. I won't die that easily. Go!"
A body suddenly tackled her to the ground.
"Shiki…! Get out of here!"
A gunshot sounded.
Shiki closed her eyes, clenching her hands into fists by her sides. 'I swore that I will protect them. But I failed them…'
A hand dropped down onto Shiki's shoulder just then, giving her a slight start, and the redhead turned only to find herself come face-to-face with one Uchiha Itachi who was wearing quite a serious expression on his face.
Itachi sighed. "Can we have a word?" he asked seriously. "In private." He added, glancing at the curious looks from the few bystanders around in this part of Hagako.
Shiki raised an eyebrow, but she had a gut feeling that she knew what this is all about. She then inclined her head. "Follow me," she said before the Uchiha followed her, and she then led him into a side alleyway, leaning against the wall whilst Itachi leaned against the opposite wall. "What is it?"
Itachi stared at Shiki for a long time without speaking.
He had rehearsed countless times over and over again what he is going to say, but now that he is facing Shiki herself, he suddenly found himself tongue-tied. He could only stare dumbly at Shiki who had a slightly impatient look on her face.
"Well?" The redhead asked impatiently. "You said that you had something to talk to me about. Start talking."
Itachi sighed inwardly before deciding to go straight to the point. It is always best to be direct and straightforward with Shiki. She had never liked beating around the bush with him, and she would always tell him what she thinks and feels, even if it is something that he wouldn't like to hear. That is what Itachi had liked about her, and what had attracted him to her.
"I shall go straight to the point," said Itachi, his hands clenching into fists in the pockets of his coat. "You're…the leader of Ragnarok, aren't you?"
Shiki closed her eyes briefly before opening them again.
She really shouldn't be surprised, but still, she is. Right from the start, she knew that Itachi will figure it out by himself sooner or later if she continued seeing him. This was only part of the reason why Gaara, Neji and Shino have objected to her seeing him. No matter how careful she is, she knew that only someone who knew one of Ragnarok personally will start to pick up on the little and subtle clues over the years. That is the reason why apart from Iruka and the others who knew about their double lives as Ragnarok members, they do not have any other friends at all. In fact, they didn't need it. After all, they had each other.
"…so you knew?" Shiki muttered, looking at Itachi straight in the eye. "Took you long enough. I was wondering when you would figure it out by yourself."
"Why?" asked Itachi.
"Why what?" asked Shiki. "Why I killed all those people? Why did I found Ragnarok? Why did I do what I did? Why did I go up against the ANBU? One word only. For Justice."
"My own brand of justice. You didn't grow up like how I did. You don't understand why I did this, and why the other members of Ragnarok did what they did as well," said Shiki darkly. "Our lives could only be described as Hell. Furthermore, if revenge is called Justice, then that Justice breeds yet more revenge, and becomes a chain of hatred."
Itachi was taken aback by the angry torrent of words that spilled from Shiki's lips. And yet, he thinks that he could understand why Shiki had done what she did.
"I've found something in the old records of ANBU about an attack on a street gang in the city of Hagako eight years ago," said Itachi seriously. And if the narrowing of Shiki's eyes is of any indication, then she's far from pleased. "There was a nin-user involved that the ANBU had their eye on, but every recruitment try that they did failed. And after that attack, ANBU agents sent after that nin-user were sent back in body bags when they were just sent back unconscious before. And it wasn't that long after that when the nin-user vanished, and notable nin-users that the ANBU had their eye on in various towns and cities vanished not long after that." Itachi paused and looked at Shiki. "Iruka-san had mentioned once that you had originally come from Hagako. That nin-user from Hagako back then…that was you, wasn't it?"
Shiki nodded silently. "I won't tell you what had happened on that night," she said darkly. "But on that night, nearly ¾ of my old street gang were wiped out. Only five of us survived that night. We all went our separate ways after that. The ANBU abandoned us. If only you ANBU fucktards had turned up earlier, Riku and the others wouldn't have died! If only you had done something earlier so that this country accepted nin-users as one of them, and not as abominations of nature, they wouldn't have died! It is all your fault!"
"I've made a decision that night when Riku and the others have died," said Shiki darkly, cutting Itachi off. The Uchiha couldn't find it in himself to look away from Shiki's eyes. Her eyes were burning like two cold pieces of ice. "I swore to them. If I can't break out of this Hell that is this world, then I shall drag everyone down to Hell with me!"
"But there must be some other alternative than killing someone—"
"How naive can you be, Itachi?" Shiki snorted. "Do you seriously think that those…people will change their ways? If the ANBU refuses to do their job, then we shall do it for you. You've never changed at all. You were this way four years ago when I've first met you in Cat's Eye, and you still are."
"My guardian told me something once, and this is something that I've learned during my travels throughout the past years," said Shiki. "In this world, you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." She turned towards Itachi. "Which do you think is the one which I had chosen?"
"Face the truth, Itachi. This is our world. Where those who are different are outcasts and treated as abominations of nature, and where those who held power are the dictators."
Itachi was silent. He remembered what he had overheard Shiki saying on the first night which they have spent together as lovers.
If you knew the truth about me, then your views of everything – the world, me, even the nin-users…will be shattered.
"But why?" Itachi asked, slight desperation in his voice. "Why did you do this?"
A grim smile tilted at the sides of Shiki's lips before fading away again. She turned and took one step out of the alleyway that they are both in before stopping in her tracks and turning her head to look over her shoulder. The afternoon sun illuminated Shiki's figure, and Itachi can't help but think that she painted a very ominous figure right now – almost like the Goddess of the Dead.
"Those who had sinned…do not deserve to live."
Forbidden VillageDark Forest
Gaara approached Shiki who is sitting at the ledge of the topmost tower in the Forbidden Village…like always. The redhead had her back to him, but Gaara knew that Shiki probably knew that he is already here even before he had set foot in this part of the tower that she is in.
She is their leader for a reason after all.
"Is there anything that you need, Gaara?" asked Shiki without even turning around.
"Yeah," said Gaara, standing right behind Shiki with his hands stuffed in his pockets. "The others and I have been talking. We think…that it is best if we give the ANBU…some warning. A little warning for them to keep off our backs. We've faced them a few times now, and it is only thanks to extreme restraint on our parts that none of the ANBU had died. Maybe if we scare them a little…"
"It won't keep them away, you know?"
"I know. But even if it is just for a little while, it is enough for us."
Shiki sighed before getting to her feet. "Let's go and get Shino," she said. "We have some brainstorming to do."
ANBU HeadquartersLeaf City
"Itachi, we're leaving."
Nagato and Konan exchanged curious looks before the blue haired female took one step towards Itachi, but was held back by her boyfriend who shook his head. Both then glanced towards the vice-captain of the Akatsuki who gave a brief nod, and the two then left, ready to retire to the dormitories for the night.
Kisame sighed as the door closed behind Nagato and Konan, leaving only him and Itachi in the Akatsuki's office. The shark-like man then walked towards Itachi and rapped lightly on the desk, causing his best friend to look up at him.
"You'd best be careful with that girl of yours."
"Yes sir. Thank you, sir. You've paid me a personal visit just to tell me that?" asked Itachi irritably, his temper stretching to the limits ever since his last meeting with Shiki two days ago, and then, it is like she had just dropped off the surface of the earth. Itachi knew that Shiki probably didn't want to meet him, not that he can blame her, but still…
Kisame sighed. "Itachi, please do not insult my intelligence," said Kisame, annoyed. "I'm not stupid. You've been disappearing frequently during the past few months to who-knows-where. And Sasuke had told me that day that when he'd phoned you about a week back, he heard the voice of some girl on your side. And along with that girl that you spoke of so often in the past, yet now you hardly mention her. There can only be one reason for that. You don't want attention on her, something which will definitely happen if the others know that she is your girlfriend. The only explanation for your sudden silence is that she is a member of the group that we're after, isn't it?"
Itachi sighed. "Their captain actually," he admitted. "And Kisame, I'll appreciate it if you can keep it quiet."
Kisame sighed. "I for one, more than anything, I really hope that Ragnarok will not get themselves caught," he said. He sighed. "Because of my kid sister. I've already found her. I know where she is."
Itachi can only stare. He knew that the only reason why Kisame had joined the ANBU in the first place is because he had been searching for his missing younger half-sister. In fact, the condition that he had set with the ANBU is that his sister is his number one priority, and if he had to choose between the ANBU and his sister, he'll choose his sister.
"Where is she?"
Kisame sighed. "With Ragnarok."
Itachi almost blanched. "What?"
"That girl that uses ice…she's my little sister."
Itachi remember that ice maiden, the ice nin-user. She seemed to be highly skilled with her nin-abilities, and now that he thinks of it, he had never seen Kisame actually raise his hand against her or vice-versa. So that's why…
"If we have to face Ragnarok one day, what will you do?" asked Itachi seriously. "Can you raise your hand against your own sister? And if you can't, then what if she has no hesitation in killing you? You know how Ragnarok works. They have no hesitation in them, and they are ruthless to the point of being merciless. You've seen their work countless times in the past. You know what they can do. ANBU and Ragnarok are enemies. You know that."
The ringtone of Itachi's cellphone blared out just then, and the Uchiha immediately reached for his phone that is currently on his table, with the phone moving slightly on the desk because of the vibration as it rang. Itachi raised an eyebrow as the words 'Unknown Caller' appeared on the LCD screen of his cellphone.
He then answered the call. "Moshi moshi?"
There was silence for several moments on the other end of the line before an unfamiliar male voice spoke, and judging from the background sounds on the other end of the line, the caller seemed to be calling from someplace near the beach.
"Are you Uchiha Itachi?"
Itachi raised an eyebrow. "That I am," he answered, inviting a curious look from Kisame. "Who is this speaking?"
"My name is of no importance," said the voice. "I'm a member of Ragnarok. I want to meet you."
Itachi's heart skipped a beat when he had heard that word.
"Did…she send you?" asked Itachi carefully.
"No," said the voice curtly. "She has no idea that I'm calling you right now. I think that we need to talk. Man-to-man. I want to see you. In two hours, meet me at the sea docks in the town of Hiraiko. See you." Click.
"Wait—" Itachi started, but the line was cut off before he could even put in a word. He then placed the phone on his table, frowning deeply.
"Who is it?" asked Kisame with concern.
"No one of importance," said Itachi. He then stood up from his seat. "Kisame, I'm heading out for awhile. You should turn in for the night as well. It's been a long day."
Kisame nodded dumbly as he watched Itachi pulled on his coat and left the office.
Meanwhile in the office of the ANBU commander, Senju Tsunade was about to turn in for the night when a dagger from out of nowhere flew in through the opened window and landed onto her desk, with a slip of paper tied around the handle.
Tsunade stared at the dagger for several moments before untying the paper around the dagger and read it to herself.
'If you want to know more about Ragnarok, send your best teams to the mentioned place two days from now at 08:00pm.
An address was also scribbled on the piece of paper.
Two Hours LaterHiraiko
Itachi stepped onto the sea docks of Hiraiko before he frowned, as no one was around.
"I'm glad to see that you've came alone," said a voice, and Itachi spun around immediately only to see a raven-haired teen wearing a white long sleeved shirt with black jeans approaching him. And this stranger also had the strangest eyes.
"You…" Itachi frowned. He knew that he had seen this guy before. "Didn't we meet before during the data disk mission?"
"You've got a good memory," said the teen. "I'm Hyuuga Neji. I know who you are, Uchiha Itachi." He then narrowed his eyes. "And I hope that Shiki is right about you, and that we can trust you to know the identities of certain members of our group, or I swear that I'll kill you right now. The only reason why you are safe and not lying in a pine box is because of Shiki's insistence, and that only three of us knew about your relationship with Shiki. If we let some of the others know about you, you won't last the week. As unlike us, they detested the ANBU to the point of killing one on sight."
"What is it that you want with me?"
"I want to talk about Shiki," said Neji, and his eyes narrowed. "I doubt that she knew this, as it took her some time to admit her feelings for you, though it isn't surprising, considering the fact that you are the captain of the group that are our enemies." Itachi winced. "I'll go straight to the point. I like Shiki. And I'm going to fight you for her."
Itachi glared at Neji, a flare of jealously rising up in him.
He should have known that Shiki will have admirers, but with everything that had happened lately, that little fact had slipped his mind. And to make things worse, this guy is in Shiki's inner circle, and could be with her nearly twenty-four hours per day, whilst he could only see her maybe once or twice a week…if he's lucky. But after his revelation to Shiki, he hadn't seen her for nearly a week, and he had a feeling that the redhead is trying to avoid him.
"I won't let you." Itachi hissed.
"And what can you do?" asked Neji with a smirk. He knew that he is riling Itachi up, judging by that smirk on his face, and he didn't even seem to care that this guy is the captain of the ANBU's strongest team. "You and Shiki have to keep your relationship under wraps, and I don't think that I have to tell you that even among those in Ragnarok who knew about you, we disapprove of you. We only held our tongues as we knew that Shiki will be hurt if anything happens to you. Besides, you have to consider the idea that I might be better for her than you are. You are ANBU. We are Ragnarok. We are enemies."
Two Days LaterUnknown Location
Temari sighed as she turned her head to look at Neji who was squatting down beside her, a pair of binoculars trained to his eyes. Both of them were perched atop one of the rafters in wherever that they are. This place actually used to be a very old history museum before the war, and was closed down after that. This was also actually Ragnarok's first hideout during a time when they were staying low after Tenten had just joined them.
Temari then sighed. "Neji, are you sure that this is a good idea?" she asked hesitantly. "I see the logic in Shino and Gaara's words, but still, it is best not to rile the ANBU up any more than we already had. Those guys are not to be trifled with…even for us."
"Well, if it's Shiki, it'll be alright," said Neji, not removing his binoculars from his eyes. "Furthermore, I agree with her. Let the ANBU learn the hard way of what it means to piss off the infamous Namikaze Shiki, the former leader of Hagako's most feared gang, and the current leader of Ragnarok."
Temari sighed. "I just have one last question then," she said.
"And that is?"
"Why the hell are we on a rafter of all places?"
A butterfly fluttered down and landed on Shino's finger before the insect user twitched and turned towards Shiki and Yugito who were both beside him. All three were on the rooftop of their old hideout, a place that was originally an old history museum.
"They're here," he said simply.
Shiki nodded. "Let the game begin."
Shino nodded before leaping down from the rooftop, and Shiki glanced at Yugito. "Yugito, do your stuff."
"I know," said Yugito before she placed one hand onto the rooftop and concentrated. Like Tenten, she has power over illusions, but whilst Tenten's illusions only fooled the eyes, Yugito can make her illusions seem real.
The members of Akatsuki and Rendoku blinked as they entered the building, wondering if they have came to the wrong place.
"A…museum?" Deidara muttered, looking left and right.
"Wait, something's not quite right," said Konan with a frown.
The next moment, every single ANBU present felt as if the ground beneath them was swaying, and the entire museum soon took on the look of what seemed to be a fairly elaborate maze. What seemed to be a small museum earlier had now taken on the look of what seemed to be a labyrinth, with identical doors everywhere, with the walls being built in a haphazard manner.
"Let's play a game, people from the ANBU," said a voice that seemed to echo everywhere.
"Who's there? Show yourself!"
"Now where's the fun in that?" said the voice with amusement. "You want to know about us so bad, then work for it. This used to be our old hideout. We hid here once. Back when it is pure agony just for us to live. You wanted to know why we are doing this, then let's play a game. If you can reach the 'main room' of this place, then you'll soon know the reason why we are doing this. You guys have chased after us for four years. You wanted us so bad. Then let's see you try to face the power of one of us…the power which we used to deal with our victims."
"It's Ragnarok." Sasuke hissed. "Not that I should really be surprised."
"What should we do, Itachi?" asked Kisame, turning towards his best friend.
Itachi frowned. "Let's split up into pairs, apart from me and Sasuke," he said. "Do all of you have your communicators on?" Everyone nodded. "Alright. Let's keep in contact via our communicators. Let's go."
Itachi was heading through an extremely dark hallway which reminds Itachi of some ghost movie, with his gun in one hand, with a flashlight in the other, when there was a cackling through his communicator, and he placed two fingers against it. "What is it?"
"It's Nagato and Konan," said Nagato's voice. "We found some papers and data disks in a room. Those were backup reports of Ragnarok's targets – those that we already knew of."
Itachi frowned. "Backup reports?"
"Yeah," said Nagato grimly. "And make no mistake, this is indeed Ragnarok's hideout, or maybe a fairly old one, not that I think they are lying anyway. They must have lured us here for a reason. This is Ragnarok that we're talking about after all."
Itachi frowned as Nagato cut off his connection with Itachi. 'What are you planning, Shiki?'
Sasuke's eyes were darting here and there cautiously as he held his gun with one hand, the other holding a flashlight, lighting the way up properly as he walked through the dark hallway. This is getting ridiculous. This was starting to remind him of a horror movie that he had watched once when he was little with his brother before they have both entered the ANBU.
What was that movie's name again? Friday the Thirteenth or something like that…
"What is that?" muttered Sasuke, looking left and right immediately, shining his flashlight around the dark hallway, causing the light to bounce from one end to the other.
"Sasuke? Are you alright?" asked Shikamaru with concern, his voice blaring through the communicator in Sasuke's ear.
"I'm fine," answered Sasuke, still looking around the hallway. "I thought that I heard something—Yaah!"
Sasuke blinked twice before realising that he had been frightened by his own reflection in the body-length mirror before him. Oh kami. He would never live it down if his comrades ever found out about it.
"Oi, Sasuke! Are you okay?" Kiba's voice sounded this time, sounding worried.
"Then why are you screaming?"
Sasuke blushed lightly. He would never live it down if Kiba knew that he had been frightened by his own reflection in a mirror. "I…er…thought that I saw someone."
"'Thought'?" Shikamaru sounded incredulous.
"Gah! Fine! I got frightened by my own reflection in a mirror, alright?" snapped Sasuke.
Almost immediately, guffaws could be heard through his communicator, and Sasuke scowled. "Oi! Stop laughing!"
"You got frightened by your own reflection?" His brother's voice came through, sounding a tad bit amused. "You've been watching too many horror movies, little brother."
Sasuke's foot slipped on something just then, and he nearly fell before he managed to steady himself and shone the flashlight downwards to see what he's just slipped on. "Erm…aniki?"
"It's summer now, right?" said Sasuke, still staring at whatever had quirked his interest.
"Then why do I see a trail of snow and ice in the hallway that I'm in right now?"
"I'm serious," said Sasuke, still staring at the ice and snow in the hallway that he's in. "Ice and snow…quite a trail of it, in fact. It leads somewhere."
"Sasuke. Stay where you are," ordered his brother. "Everyone. Locate Sasuke on your transceivers and head to where he is now."
Ten minutes later, all members of team Akatsuki and team Rendoku were gathered in the narrow hallway where Sasuke was. Itachi was kneeling down by the trail of ice and snow that Sasuke saw, examining it carefully.
"Very odd," he muttered. "It is ice and snow indeed. Yet it doesn't seem to melt at all."
"Where does it lead to?" voiced out Konan.
"To our target, I presume," said Sasuke. "But why do I smell a trap here?"
"Maybe because it is one?" muttered Ino.
Itachi then sighed before getting up from the ground. "Alright, change of plans," he said, turning towards his comrades. "We're splitting into groups of three. Sasuke and Kisame, you're both with me. You guys can decide among yourself whom you want to be paired with. Then we're going to have to explore each room in this labyrinth."
After about half-an-hour of exploring, Itachi, Kisame and Sasuke soon found themselves back at where they have started where stood a giant bone sculpture in the skeletal form of a dinosaur which must have lived several thousands of years ago.
"Was this place this big when we've seen it from the outside?" Sasuke asked with a frown. He definitely didn't remember it being this big.
"Okay, calm down. This must be part of Ragnarok's plot," said Itachi. He sighed. "This is Shikamaru's forte. If it is that guy, he is bound to have a plan." He then fumbled about in his pack before bringing out a ball of red thread. "But first, let's keep track of where we've first started." He said, tying the end of the thread onto a pole. He then handed the ball of thread to Kisame. "Kisame, you hold it."
"Why do I have to hold it?" asked Kisame irritably, but Itachi and Sasuke both ignored him.
"Well, let's just keep going straight." Sasuke suggested, and Itachi and Kisame both nodded before following him out of the room that they were in.
They were walking for what seemed to be that for hours, with Itachi leading the way, when he suddenly stopped in his tracks and backtracked.
"What, Itachi?" asked Kisame, about to rush ahead when Itachi grabbed his arm.
"Don't go any further! Look at your feet!"
"Feet?" Sasuke blinked, and he nearly paled when he saw that the entire pathway in front of them have disappeared, forming what seemed to be a bottomless abyss.
There was a cackle in the communicator of everyone present just then, and Itachi tapped his communicator. "What is it?"
"This is Nagato," said Nagato. "I'm afraid to say that we probably won't be able to continue any further. There seems to be some sort of hallucination gas in the room that we were in earlier, and Lee inhaled some of it. I had to knock him out to prevent him from attacking Konan. She's now trying to treat him."
"I understand," said Itachi. "Once he wakes up, just stay where you are. We're having some trouble on our side as well."
"This is getting ridiculous," said Sasuke with a sigh. "Considering the size of the building when we've seen it from the outside earlier, it definitely couldn't make an infinite loop like this. This is probably one of their powers."
Kisame narrowed his eyes when he laid his eyes on something just then. He looked at the ball of thread in his hands to whatever that had caught his eye, and then to the ball of thread in his hands once more. "Guys, take a look at that."
Itachi and Sasuke both turned only to have their eyes widening when they saw the red thread tied to the end of the pole not too far away from where they were standing. All three of them instantly ran to the pole as Itachi untied the string, furrowing his brow as he tried to make sense of things.
There must be some kind of logical explanation for this. Nin-user or not, even nin-users are human.
There must be some kind of explanation.
"Kisame, can you tie one of your shoes to the end of the ball of the string that you're holding?" asked Itachi.
Kisame blinked in confusion, but did as he was told.
"What are you up to, aniki?" asked Sasuke with curiosity, but Itachi ignored him.
The elder Uchiha then pulled on the string, and the shoe practically flew out of Kisame's hands and off towards the right as Itachi pulled harder on the string, only to gasp and ducked as the shoe came flying back to them. Sasuke was much more alert and ducked beneath the flying shoe, but Kisame was not so, and ended up having his shoe smacking him in the face, leaving a shoe print on his face.
"What the—?" Itachi muttered, looking from left to right, his brow furrowing together.
Sasuke gasped, having put together the pieces of what his brother was thinking. "It's a Moebius Ring, isn't it, aniki?" he stated more than asked. "The space in this labyrinth is deformed and connected. That's why it seemed like it was never ending. And why we have never met any of the others yet, apart from the communication that we've received from them occasionally via our communicators."
Kisame frowned, rubbing his nose. "And this means that we've practically been going around in circles in the same place all the time," he concluded, and Sasuke nodded.
Itachi frowned to himself as he turned his head to stare at the room to their left, his brows furrowed together, a frown on his face. 'What the hell? They can do something like that? Illusions are one thing, but they are actually good enough to put together such a realistic illusion like this? No, there must be something further than that.'
Kisame tapped on Itachi's shoulder. "Itachi? What is it?"
Itachi didn't answer, but merely reached into his pocket and drew out a notepad and a pen from his coat pocket. He then squatted down onto the ground silently, with both Kisame and Sasuke mimicking his actions, utter confusion visible on both their faces.
'Let's see here… There seems to be some looping space here. Along with this weird sensation that I've been getting ever since we've first stepped foot in this place. And not to mention that we hadn't seen any of the others so far despite being in the same place. And there are also some rooms that are set with traps. What could this all mean?' Itachi pondered. A sudden realisation struck him just then, and his eyes widened.
"It's that simple?" Itachi spluttered, and Sasuke and Kisame both looked at him.
Itachi placed the notepad down on the ground. "I've figured out the answer to this riddle," he said. "Just don't read it out loud." He warned, and the other two looked down at the notepad to read what Itachi had written only to have both their eyes widening.
"It's that simple?" Kisame spluttered. "That's just it?"
Sasuke looked worried though. "What if it is just another trap?" he asked with concern.
"I think I'll be fine," said Itachi confidently. "Have some faith in your big brother, Sasuke." He poked Sasuke in the forehead, much to his disgruntlement. He then glanced at the room in front of them before looking at the two with him. "Come on."
Itachi suddenly took off sprinting across the room with the other two following him behind. The moment that he entered the room, Itachi closed his eyes and continued running. He could only hear Sasuke suddenly screaming for his brother.
"Aniki! The path—"
Itachi simply ignored them and continued running with his eyes shut. And behind him, Kisame and Sasuke's eyes became goldfish eyes as they saw Itachi running on midair. The elder Uchiha opened his eyes as he continued running, glancing down at his feet occasionally only to see that he was seemingly running on midair above an endless abyss.
'I was right!' He thought, still running with the other two behind him, only stopping when he came to the end of the path, with Kisame and Sasuke stopping by his sides.
Itachi felt that same weird sensation from earlier just then, and the entire room warped before returning to that of the old history museum, only covered with layers of dust, with the remaining ANBU members present, all with looks of astonishment visible on their faces. There was also a lone coffee table in front of them, with a lime-green book sitting on it.
"Congratulations," said the voice from earlier just then. "You've figured it out."
Itachi smirked. "It wasn't that difficult to figure it out really," he said. "This is like a child's game. The moment that I tried writing it down, I understood immediately. There were three by three for a total of nine rooms. They were just infinitely looped – like a Moebius Ring. And coupled in with whatever illusion that you've casted on here is the reason why we've never seen any of the others. They are still there, it's just that we can't see them." Kisame and Sasuke nodded. "The traps are also all hallucinations – like the one that Nagato's team had gone through, and the one that we've gone through."
"Well done. You sure live up to your name, Uchiha Itachi."
"Now tell us!" Deidara shouted. "Who are you?"
"Touch the book in front of you, and you'll soon understand. Why did we do what we did? And from there, try to figure it out for yourself. It'll be a game between us both. Who will win? The ANBU or Ragnarok? We'll soon know."
"Book?" Itachi uttered before his gaze fell on the green book in front of him. "Is this it?" He took one step forwards before Sasuke held him back, worry on his face. "We won't know what is going on as well if we don't touch it." Itachi explained to his younger brother. "Don't worry, I'll be alright."
Sasuke bit on his lip before nodding, and Itachi took one step forwards and touched the book. The next moment, there was a bright flash of light, and the minds of every single Akatsuki and Rendoku member present in the old museum were immediately flooded with memories that isn't theirs.
"…those bastards didn't come."
"The day that I call the ANBU for help is the day that the sun rises from the west."
"I need a favour, -----."
"You killed my people, so I think that it's wise if both my people and your own comrades killed you with their own hands! I'm not known as the 'Death Animator' among my own gang for nothing!"
"All of us are wanted by the ANBU just because we're nin-users. Granted, they've assumed that most, if not all of us are dead, but still… If we stay too long at any place…the ANBU will be after us again."
"…that guy…why did he act that way?"
"…you've got the eyes of someone drenched in cold rain."
"I hate them. The ANBU."
"We're going to save that girl."
"…would you like to come along?"
Itachi stumbled backwards, his eyes wide at that sudden onslaught of memories. "W-What is that?" he gasped. "M-Memories?"
"They are all nin-users…" Sasuke muttered, his eyes wide with horror at what they've just seen. "I know that we've suspected that, but… What they've seen and gone through…it is something that no one should ever go through! Not even we have seen something like that!"
"If all nin-users in the world have seen or undergo something like that, then I'm starting to think that Ragnarok has the right idea after all…" Ino muttered, feeling rather sick all of a sudden.
"Now you understand," said the same voice from earlier. But this time, it came from right behind them.
As one, all ANBU agents present turned only to see the Ragnarok member that uses ice leaning against the doorframe of the entrance behind them, her arms crossed over her chest. Kisame's expression changed completely, and he bit on his bottom lip.
Itachi glanced at his best friend worriedly before turning towards Haku. "Can't we come to a compromise or something?" he asked. "We don't have to fight."
"Sure. We can do that if the ANBU agrees to make sure that the injustice that every single person in this world had suffered from, nin-user or not, had been answered for."
"T-That is impossible! Even if we can manage to arrest every criminal in the world, without evidence, there is nothing that we can do!" Konan protested.
"Then you have our answer," said Haku sharply. "We will never stop our work. Not when there is still one person out there who needs our help." She then gave a wave. "Till we meet again."
The doors then slammed shut behind her.
"Wait! Haku!" Kisame shouted before he took off after his younger sister, almost tearing the doors off its hinges with desperation.
Ragnarok Headquarters (Boathouse)Sea
Shiki laid on her back on the rooftop of the boathouse with her arms behind her head as Tenten steered the boathouse to return to the Forbidden Village. It had been decided that this will be the last night that they will spend in the village of the nin-users before they'll return to their travelling days on the sea.
There is a mini party between all of Ragnarok earlier, and Shiki is pretty sure that they are still at it, especially since sake and beer was involved.
The night skies are clear tonight without any sign of rain, and the night skies are dotted with millions of glittery silver stars. Shiki recognised several of the star constellations in the sky, as it is kind of a hobby of hers to look at the skies at night.
"That's the Sirius star." Shiki muttered to herself. She then sighed. "What are you going to do next, Itachi?"
ANBU HeadquartersLeaf City
Itachi was staring at his computer screen without taking his eyes off of it, with the internet browser opened to that of the internet chat forum – Midnight Sun, which he always goes to chat with Shiki, not that the girl had realised it.
He was the only one present in the office as the rest of his teammates have all decided to retire for the night. It was decided between Akatsuki and Rendoku that they would keep what they've seen of Ragnarok's memories to themselves. Itachi had merely reported to Tsunade that there is nothing of significance to report which is true in a way.
Kisame had been extremely tight lipped on the topic of Haku when his teammates have asked him about that ice maiden when Kisame had actually chased after her, and had been gone for nearly five hours before returning to ANBU headquarters. His teammates didn't ask any further when it is obvious that Kisame didn't want to talk about it.
The shark-like man walked into the office just then, seeming to have forgotten something, and he raised a brow when he saw Itachi staring at the computer screen before he sighed. "I don't get it," he said, moving over to his desk. "If you really love her, why don't you just tell her that the one who had been encouraging her all this time is you?"
Itachi closed his eyes briefly before opening them again as Kisame finally found his cellphone on his desk, being buried beneath a mountain of folders and papers before slipping it into his pocket. "It's complicated." Itachi admitted.
"That doesn't answer anything, Itachi," said Kisame before he left the office, knowing that Itachi wanted to be left alone.
Itachi sighed, rubbing his temples together.
You refused to tell me your name, so I shall give you one. I can't keep calling you 'you' all the time, can I? Besides, I think Twila meant 'justice' in Latin, and it meant 'freedom' in another language as well, I think. It kind of suits you anyway.
Would you like to hear me play?
Can you even play the guitar?
Itachi sighed. 'Shiki…' he thought to himself. 'I want to see you. Where are you?'
He glanced hopefully at his computer screen once more, and just like the past several times when he had looked at his screen, he was sorely disappointed. The icon that showed if the person is online or not is currently greyed-out, indicating that Aurora, the handle name that Shiki is using, is currently offline.
But still, Itachi didn't give up.
He's good for waiting, after all.
A/N: One of my longest chapters this time around, I do believe. A little angtsy, so my apologies for that.
Also, on a side note, I need some help. There is a story that I had been searching for quite some time now. It is a story where instead of Naruto being placed on Team 7, he is taken on by the Third Hokage as an apprentice during the naming of the genin teams, and a few chapters down the road, he then found out that Tsunade is his mother. It is a Naruto/Tenten pairing, I do believe. If you know the link of this story, can you please let me know? I've been searching for this story for months!
Anyway, I hope that you like this chapter, and please read and review!
Preview of next chapter: Tragedy
"ANBU is going to take a more active stand against us from now on."
"You can't beat them on the sea."
"If I can die to ensure Ragnarok's safety and survival, so be it."
"I promise you that we'll someday have our revenge."
"I swear to the heavens that had given me only Hell, that someday, I shall have my revenge!"
AU FemNaru. What if the original Team 7 are the Sannins, and the original Sannins are Team 7? In an alternate universe where the Fourth is alive, and Sasuke is the one who had betrayed Konoha, Sakura being the one to leave the village and Hikari being the last Sannin to serve Konoha faithfully, what would life be like for them?
Keyblade of Darkness (Naruto)
AU FemNaru. When the ninja world had fallen, Namikaze Shiki soon found herself in Traverse Town where she ended up assisting Leon and his friends with the Heartless, and later on, joining the Keyblade Master, Sora, on his journey to close the Keyholes, in search for the very person who is responsible for destroying her world – Uchiha Madara.
Of Magic and Spirits (Harry Potter)
AU FemHarry. Remus defied against Dumbledore's wishes by calling his old friend, Ryuuken Ishida, and asking him to take care of his best friend's daughter by raising one Hilda Potter as Uryuu Ishida's younger twin sister. Bleach/HP crossover
Darkest Before the Dawn (Harry Potter)
FemHarry. After the war, Hilda Potter was betrayed by the very side that she was fighting for and was nearly killed by the people who was her once comrades. With help from Hermione and Ron, she fled to America along with Draco and Luna where they resided in the rainy town of Forks. Twilight/HP crossover
Silent Symphony (Harry Potter)
FemHarry. When Rowena Ravenclaw witnessed for herself just how the wizarding world was led to doom because of the actions of one Albus Dumbledore which lead to the birth of Lord Voldemort, she forced herself through a cycle of reincarnation and became Hilda Potter. Watch out, world. Rowena Ravenclaw is back. And she isn't happy. Cedric/FemHarry
Blue Moon (Prince of Tennis)
FemRyo. Echizen Rika and Yukimura Seiichi are the former leaders of squad Zero – the highest ranks that a shinigami could reach – who had deserted their home and had discarded their lives as shinigamis when everything that Soul Society and the King had done goes against what they had stood for. Now, nearly five hundred years later, the two were the leaders of the Vizards, and when Soul Society got wind of their existences, the two of them, along with the Vizards, have to take up arms once more to defend their homes as well as the friends that they've made in Phoenix Star Academy. Prince of Tennis/Bleach crossover
Silence, the Loudest Sound
All of Rikkaidai Fuzoku, the boys' tennis team especially were excited when they heard that the famous Princess of Tennis would be coming to their school and joining the boys' tennis team after having disappeared from the professional tennis scene for six months. But what Rikkaidai and everyone didn't know is that the Princess of Tennis can't speak. FemRyo