Duty and Honour
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 Twenty Two: Duty and Honour
ANBU HeadquartersLeaf City
"You let them get away?"
The thunderous-like yell of the ANBU commander, Senju Tsunade, echoed throughout all of ANBU headquarters, and the family of birds roosting happily in the tree growing just outside the window of the ANBU commander immediately took flight from the tree in fright.
It was approximately a day after Akatsuki's encounter with Ragnarok in the western part of Japan, and all of Akatsuki have miraculously gotten away with minor injuries. The worst injury that the lot of them have suffered is a sprained arm which Deidara have suffered from when he had suffered from the backlash from his own technique after trying but failing to blow that redhead sand user up.
The Akatsuki didn't really understand what had happened from their encounter with those two either. It is almost like those two didn't really take them seriously at all, and now that Itachi think of it, those two have never really taken them seriously in an all-out battle even once, and he has no way of knowing just how powerful those two are.
Though he knew that those two are probably among the most powerful in Ragnarok, probably only second in power to their leader.
All that Itachi knew is that when the barrier surrounding that small town had gone down, that redhead sand user had taken one look at the town before muttering something that sounds like, "It's over," and he had then literally disappeared in a whirl of sand and wind.
As for Kisame, it had taken all of Akatsuki nearly four hours just to find him, and he was just standing knee-high in the middle of the river, looking at the full moon in the night sky without saying anything apart from, "She's gone."
Thus, one can just imagine the report that Itachi had sent in, and the roasting that both he and his vice-captain were suffering from right now, courtesy of their beloved commander's sharp tongue.
Itachi nearly winced at that loud abuse to his eardrums. "Hey, it's not like I can do anything." The Uchiha grumbled. "It doesn't matter how many of them there are, it's like they are just playing with us! That one Ragnarok guy whom we've somehow managed to miraculously take out several months ago… And until today, I still have completely no idea whatsoever just how that had happened. But anyway, my point here is that despite us having been after Ragnarok for nearly four years? Five years? Bah. Who cares? Anyway, my point is that every single one of them is damn powerful. And we still have no idea to the extent of their power, and just how powerful they are. We'll be rushing to our deaths if we just go after them blindly without knowing just how powerful they are, and what they could even do!" Itachi glared at this point in time, cutting Tsunade off. "And I don't care even if you are the ANBU commander, Tsunade-sama! I know what my duties are to the ANBU, thank you very much! I am the captain of the Akatsuki, and I am responsible for the lives of my comrades, as well as those under me! I will not allow them to go rushing off to their deaths unnecessarily when I could prevent them!"
Tsunade glared at Itachi for several moments before settling back into her chair. Kisame hasn't said a single word so far, but merely looked out of the window where the afternoon sun is vaguely visible in the blue skies.
"Very well," said Tsunade. "I shall let this slip just this once. But for now, I want you to focus all your efforts on finding Ragnarok or Ne. Dismissed."
Akatsuki's OfficeANBU Headquarters
"Don't talk like it is so easy!" Deidara nearly yowled like a cat an hour later in the Akatsuki's office-cum-meeting room, with his right arm currently in a sling around his neck. The blonde bomber was on his feet, his bright blue eyes flashing angrily. "If catching them is so simple, we would have already done so a long time ago, instead of failing to capture them after nearly five fucking years! If it is so easy, then I'll like to see her do it!"
"Deidara, do us all a favour and shut up." Sasori told his partner sternly, already having a killer of a headache from his place on the couch next to Deidara. His partner's yowling isn't helping any matters either, along with his head injury caused when Gaara had captured him in his sand and had literally thrown him against a tree during their brief encounter with that Ragnarok sand user a day ago. "You're giving me a killer migraine here."
"But seriously, you can't blame Deidara here," said Konan wearily, bandaging Nagato's left wrist carefully with some bandages, a first aid kit opened on the table beside her. "Even I'm getting pissed off with Tsunade-sama and her insane orders. If capturing Ragnarok or Ne is as easy as saying one-two-three, then I'll like to see her do it. There is a reason, a number of reasons why we've been after those two organisations for over five years now at this point in time, and is still no closer to capturing them than when we've first started out. Especially Ragnarok. It is only this year that we've managed to know more about them, including the identities of some of them. And that is only because they allow themselves to be seen."
Itachi sighed and got up from behind his desk, causing all his teammates to look at their captain. "Alright, we've all got a long and tiring night," he said wearily. "Take the rest of the day off and rest up. I'm going out to catch a breather or two. See you guys later."
He then picked up his motorcycle keys as well as his jacket before leaving the room.
Cat's Eye CafeHiraiko
"Are you guys going to tell me what is going on now?" A very irritated Namikaze Shiki growled out as she was all but pushed down the streets of Hiraiko by a grinning Tenten, with Haku and Gaara on either side of her.
It was near nightfall, and even the stars could be seen in the skies. Ragnarok had docked their boathouse at the docks of Hiraiko like what they'd done every few months just to visit Iruka, and not to mention that Hiraiko is one of the very few towns where they could truly feel safe. And during their short stays at Hiraiko, they always used it as 'relaxation time'.
And Shiki can't help but feel like her friends are hiding some big secret from her as the lot of them have been so secretive for the entire day. And out of the blue, she suddenly found herself being dragged along by Tenten, Haku and Gaara down the streets of Hiraiko.
"You'll know soon," said Haku with a smile as Gaara pushed opened the door of the Cat's Eye cafe, with the bell tinkling somewhere in the shop as he did so.
"Now can someone please tell me what is going on now?" Shiki asked, irritated, shaking Tenten's hold off of her.
The rest of her friends were all in the cafe, much to her surprise, though she didn't show it. Apart from the three who have all but dragged her here by force, the others have been missing all day. Even the part-time waiter and waitress that Iruka had hired – Udon and Moegi – were in the cafe, beaming with secret smiles on their faces.
Shiki raised an eyebrow. Something is definitely up…
Iruka chuckled before Hinata and Yugito who have been blocking the view of one of the tables moved away simultaneously, similar looking grins on their faces, only to reveal a table groaning under the weight of several delicious looking food, along with an equally delicious looking chocolate cake with seventeen small lit candles on it, the flames flickering every now and then.
Shiki's eyes widened slightly in surprise at this.
"I can't believe that you'd actually forget about your own birthday, Shiki," said Iruka, shaking his head in dismay, a smile on his face. "The others came to me about a week ago and told me that it is your birthday today. They knew that you'll probably forget about it…again, and took it upon themselves to hold a small celebration between ourselves."
Shiki looked at her friends who smiled at her, and a small smile tugged at the ends of her lips. "Thanks, you guys."
"Alright! Let's party!" crowed Tenten, pumping one fist into the air. "Anything we can help with?"
The others soon dissipated into different areas of the cafe, leaving only Iruka and Shiki behind. The redhead then turned towards Iruka with a smile. "Thanks for this," she said. Her face then fell slightly. "Kankuro should be here as well…"
Iruka managed a small smile before he dug into his pocket and pulled out a small black box with a black satin ribbon tied around it, along with a white envelope, handing the two items over to Shiki who took it with a raised brow. "Itachi came by yesterday evening to give me this." Iruka explained, and Shiki's face fell slightly. "He told me to give this to you if you ever came by. And he also said, 'Happy Seventeenth Birthday'."
"I…see…" Shiki managed a weak smile. "Thank you."
"What makes you think that you can cook, Neji?" Haku's horrified voice echoed from the kitchen just then, along with the strong smell of something burning.
Yugito's voice came next, sounding equally horrified, yet also extremely amused. "Oh god! Someone get a fire extinguisher!"
Gaara spoke next, sounding rather sarcastic as he did so. "What fire extinguisher? Are you guys nin-users or not?"
Haku sounded rather sheepish next. "Oh."
Iruka chuckled, turning towards the direction of the kitchen when the temperature suddenly fell several degrees. "I'd better go and check in on them before they burn my kitchen down," he said, turning and leaving towards the direction of his kitchen, with his hands stuffed in his pockets. "Oi! What do you kids think that you are doing in my kitchen? I do still need to run a business here, you know?"
His voice then faded away.
Shiki smiled to herself before she turned and left the cafe, with the bell tinkling somewhere in the shop as she did so. She then leaned against the lamppost just outside the cafe, tilting her head backwards to look at the night starry sky. Night has already fallen, with the stars shining and twinkling like diamonds in the black velvety sky, without a single sign of rain.
The redhead then turned her attention back towards the black box that she held in her hand before she untied the black satin ribbon around the box, lifting the lid only to reveal a magatama made out of red jasper being strung on a black cord resting within the box. Shiki picked the magatama out of the box by holding the black cord by holding it with the index finger and thumb of her right hand, with the light of the lamppost bouncing off of it.
Her lips twitched slightly before she pulled the cord over her head, the magatama falling lightly just below her collarbone, the light of the lamppost bouncing slightly off of the magatama. The redhead then opened the envelope before slipping out the letter within it, unfolding it carefully.
Happy Seventeenth Birthday, Shiki.
If there is one thing that I regret at having done this year, among many other things, it is that I'm not able to spend it together with you this year, like what I should have been able to do with you, like how I've spent it with you every year ever since our first meeting.
Shiki's lips twitched, remembering the previous year when Itachi had actually taken her on a night spin on his bike last year around some seaport town, and had stopped at the beach. He had then disappeared for some time, and had later reappeared again with a small cake in hand.
I understand the circumstances, and I know that you do not want to see me again, especially with all the pain that I've unknowingly caused you, with the death of your friend. I'm sorry. I know that no matter how many 'I'm sorry's that I said to you, you will probably never be able to forgive me, and I can understand that.
I've never regretted knowing you, despite how painful it is for me after I've found out about you and Ragnarok. If anything, I should be the one causing you more pain than you did for me. But at least, I hope that you will accept my gift. I've picked it up on my last excursion to a trading town in eastern Japan two months ago, and the shopkeeper told me that magatamas are protective charms of some sort, and the red jasper used to make it is a type of blessed material used in that town.
My first thought upon seeing that magatama for sale in that shop is you. At least, please accept my gift, and I also hope that my gift will serve as a symbol to protect you. Remember what I've told you when you had wanted to leave me?
I said that you don't have to let me see you. As long as I know that you're fine, and that I can do little things like this for you, it is enough for me. How long has it been since then? I really have no idea. But I know that as much as it is agony and torture for me, it must be ten times worst for you.
And now, after thinking about it for such a long time, I've finally decided.
And Kisame's own situation too…it got me thinking.
His younger sister is that ice user girl in Ragnarok, which I am pretty sure that you knew as well. He had searched for his sister ever since his entry into the ANBU, and now, after nearly five long years of searching, he actually found out that he is going to have to face his sister as an enemy as long as he is in the ANBU.
When I've asked him what he is going to do, he told me that he doesn't care even if his sister hates him, despise him, or even kill him as long as he knew that she is alright and that she is getting on well, with her own life.
It was then that I've realised that as long as I love you, it doesn't matter even if you can't be by my side, and if I can't see you. As long as I know that you're safe and alright, it doesn't matter to me. Someone once told me that loving someone don't mean that you have to be together with them. Loving someone meant that as long as that person lives on in your heart and memories, and that you know that they are happy and well, it is enough for you.
That's why I've decided.
I'm tired too.
I don't want to cause you anymore suffering as well if just the mere sight of me causes you so much pain. I know that probably…just probably…even the mere sight of me reminds you of your friend's death.
If that is the case, then I don't wish to cause you more pain.
I won't see you ever again. I'll leave you alone from now on. Our time together is the happiest times of my life. It is my treasure, and something which I will never forget, for as long as I live. It is the end of everything, and it is also the beginning of everything.
But you should remember one thing as well. I don't know the reason why you've created Ragnarok, and I agree that there are times when Ragnarok is needed. But you should know this as well as I does: darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. (1)
I don't wish to see you lose yourself to hatred and darkness as well.
Thank you, Shiki, for everything, and be happy.
Tears dropped onto Shiki's hand, and onto the letter, blotching some of the words of the letter, blurring her vision. So even he had given up as well. It is for the best this way. For everyone. It is for the best if Itachi just forget about her and move on with his own life.
But then, what is that pain that she feels?
The door to the cafe swung opened just then, and Haku poked her head out. Shiki hurriedly wiped her tears away with the back of her hand before turning to look at Haku, stuffing the letter into her coat pocket hurriedly.
"Shiki, what are you doing?" asked Haku, and a mere moment later, Yugito's head appeared above Haku's, with the blonde pressing one hand down onto the head of the ice maiden, much to her displeasure. "Hey Yugito! What are you doing?"
"Come on, Shiki! We're about to cut the cake soon!" Yugito called out, a smile on her beautiful face. "Iruka-san, Moegi and Udon will be joining us too! It's a time for celebration, so come on! Join us. And you're the star for today after all."
Shiki smiled at her friends. "Can't stand you guys, really." She muttered before she walked towards the cafe and entering it, with the bell tinkling somewhere in the shop as she did so.
It is the end of everything, and it is also the beginning of everything.
Everything will begin from here on out.
There is no turning back any longer.
For any of them.
The Next DayUnknown Location
Gaara and Haku watched on silently as a bright blue glow surrounded the small shrine-like building before the light faded away, and Shiki got to her feet albeit shakily, breathing heavily, and there were even beads of sweat on her forehead despite the fact that it is bitterly cold right now, with winter just around the corner.
"That makes another shrine down," said Haku solemnly, and Gaara and Shiki both nodded. The ice maiden then sighed and turned towards Shiki. "Will the seal hold?"
"Who knows?" said Shiki with a shrug. "At best, it will only hold temporarily until I can find another way."
The ringing tone of Gaara's cellphone blared through the air just then, and the two girls turned towards the after-mentioned male who fished out his phone and answered it with an annoyed expression on his face. "What?"
The sand user then narrowed his eyes as he listened to whatever whoever on the other end of the line had to say, and he frowned before glancing at Shiki. "Yeah, she's with me," he said. He then narrowed his eyes. "Alright. We'll be right back."
"Gaara, what is it?" asked Haku with curiosity as Gaara hung up the call.
The redhead then sighed and turned towards the two girls. "That's Shino earlier," he said. "We have word from Sasame. Apparently, Ne had made an appearance in Lakeside – a town near the southern borders of Japan. If we want to deal a dent in Danzo's plans, we have to move now. We can worry about getting him later on. Also, according to Arashi-san, Akatsuki and Rendoku are on the move as well."
The small town of Lakeside which is about the only thing separating Japan's borders from any of the neighbouring countries is built in a way unlike all the other towns of Japan. It still took on a look similar to the towns and villages from the feudal era of Japan – with the town being like a kind of 'castle town'.
On the side of the road near the heart of the town, two motorcycles could be seen, yet the passersby ignored the motorcycles as visitors always came through Lakeside, especially since the town of Lakeside is a trading town as well.
Tenten who is riding pillion behind Neji on the motorbike frowned as she looked around, and on the other bike, Haku who is riding pillion behind Gaara frowned as well, looking around the town. "Seems like Ne is indeed in this town," said Haku, leaning slightly forwards and speaking in a low tone so that only her friends could hear her. "I recognise a few of the undercover Ne members in this town. We've seen them before five years ago during our first encounter with them before they've fled like the dogs that they are when Shiki had scared them out of their wits."
All four Ragnarok members turned around just then only to see Uchiha Itachi and Hoshigaki Kisame standing behind them, with the two ANBU agents staring at them with a look like they almost couldn't believe their eyes. The Ragnarok members cursed to themselves inwardly. So much for not attracting attention to themselves…
Neji sighed before removing his shades from his eyes, and glaring at the two ANBU agents who almost cringed at the death glare that the Hyuuga shot them. "We really couldn't go anywhere without having contact with you ANBU bastards, can we?" he muttered sarcastically. "And while I would love nothing more than to rip you bastards limb from limb especially for what you've done to Kankuro, we have our orders."
"Orders?" Kisame dared to ask.
"Seriously, we have a bone to pick with you bastards, but at the moment, we have no reason to fight you," said Gaara coldly, and Itachi and Kisame both nearly flinched at the cold look in those jade green eyes. "Besides, we have our orders. Our objective here is Ne."
"So it's true then," said Kisame quietly. "They're really here. The ANBU are only here to check out some rumours regarding Ne, but it seems like those rumours have some truth in them."
"Is Shiki here?" Itachi asked quietly, directing this question to Haku who seemed to be the only one among the four Ragnarok members who don't seem like she would love nothing more than to kill him where he stand.
"No," said Haku curtly. "Do you really think that she would appear in a place where the ANBU are rumoured to be?" She tapped on Gaara's shoulder. "Let's go."
"Yeah," said Tenten with a nod. She then turned towards the two ANBUs. "You can't afford to play with fire. Don't mess with us if you know what's good for you."
Neji then smirked before hitting on the gas, and with a loud roar, the engines of the two motorbikes veered into existence before speeding away, leaving the two ANBU agents to cough and choke on the thick smoke that was kicked up, not that any of the Ragnarok members cared.
"What should we do now?" asked Haku over the roaring wind.
"Well, Shiki did say that she had gotten Sasame to infiltrate Ne sometime back," said Gaara in a loud enough voice for him to be heard over the wind. "First, we have to find her. And if Sasame's information is to be believed, then Ne has a major dealing here in this town. It's our chance."
"Really, Shiki sure doesn't do things halfway." Neji muttered, and the other three shot him looks. He then sighed. "I mean, not that I'm trying to blow my own horn, but we four are easily some of the more powerful ones in Ragnarok. In the past, Shiki never did send all four of us at once to anyplace. At best, she'll only send two of us. By the fact that she is sending all four of us at once this time around, that just means that she is pissed off enough with Ne and Danzo to send all four of us at once."
Haku almost snorted. "Well, none of us had any love lost for Danzo or Ne," she stated, and Tenten laughed. "If given the chance, I doubt that any of us would say no to the chance to eliminate them. They've sure been giving us some problems ever since Orochimaru's and Oto's demise."
"You've got that right."
Ragnarok's Headquarters (Boathouse)Aikawa, Japan
At the docks of the small river town of Aikawa, a small town located two towns away from Lakeside, Shiki stood at the doorway of the boathouse, staring towards the direction of the town of Lakeside, her fingers tapping against her arm in a steady rhythm.
"Shiki?" Hinata approached her. "What's wrong?"
Shiki sighed before turning towards Hinata. "I hope that it is nothing much but just my imagination working up, but I'm worried about those four," she admitted. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
Hinata said nothing, as even she could feel an ominous feeling in the wind – almost like something is currently afoot. The blue haired Hyuuga then turned and looked towards the direction of Lakeside – the same direction where Shiki had been looking into for the past hour, and she clenched her hands into fists by her sides.
'Neji-nii-san…please come back alive.'
The loud sound of a gunshot echoed through the air, and before the horrified eyes of all four Ragnarok members, the bullet struck Fuuma Sasame in the chest, and almost like in slow motion, the dark haired informant then fell backwards before turning motionless.
The loud horrified scream from Haku pierced through the air, startling the birds from flight in the nearby trees.
Tenten was by Sasame's side even before you can say one-two-three, both hands pressing down onto the gunshot wound in her chest, and with the blood spurting out like a fountain from her chest, staining Sasame's already red shirt more crimson than it already is, even Tenten knew that the bullet must have struck her near the heart artery.
Tenten had always had a love for weapons, for some reason that escapes the rest in Ragnarok, and she also has a love for using sharp pointy objects aside from her abilities over fire – a fact that always causes the boys in Ragnarok to be a tad bit wary of her, as none of them wished to be turned into swish kebab by Tenten and her 'sharp and pointy friends'.
Haku, Neji and Gaara immediately formed a protective circle around Tenten and Sasame, as the fire user tried her hardest to staunch the bleeding around Sasame's wound. Usually, Haku is the one who heals the injured, but there is a side effect when a nin-user tries to heal a non nin-user by using their powers.
When a nin-user heals someone, they use the energy that all nin-users used when using their powers. And if they tried healing a non nin-user using that energy, none of them will know what will actually happen. Thus, all of them knew the dangers of using their powers to heal a non nin-user like Sasame.
If it is Shiki, she can probably do something, as she is a master at sorcery after all – probably due to her one-quarter German blood from her mother's side of the family, but as it is, she isn't here right now. And of right now, Tenten is the only one among the four who had extensive knowledge on emergency first aid treatment, probably due to her constant meddling with weapons, and she must also know the standard procedure for treating wounds and injuries caused by weapons.
Neji growled low in his throat as he glared at the two teams of Akatsuki and Rendoku with a look that is enough to melt glacial ice, glancing over his shoulder occasionally at Tenten and Sasame.
Everything had gone so well earlier.
Before the four of them have set off for Lakeside, Shiki had told them that Sasame will meet them behind the Lacoste Mansion where there is a wide open space where the children of the past will often play at. After the war, the Lacoste Mansion which is owned by one of the town's richest families had fallen to ruin, and there were even rumours around town that the mansion is haunted. Thus, no one in Lakeside will ever venture near the mansion, which makes it an ideal place for them to meet Sasame.
But naturally, Ragnarok has no way of knowing that the ANBU have been tailing Sasame, as the dark haired informant had been at the mansion before them, and not to mention that all four Ragnarok members have on dark coats in order to blend in together with their surroundings.
Rock Lee of Rendoku, being the one to fire that shot earlier, and who also happens to be the one standing closest to four currently pissed off Ragnarok members suddenly found himself flying backwards after being struck by a powerful punch from the raven haired Ragnarok member, causing the combat specialist to feel like he had just broken his jaw.
"Sasame!" Tenten called out, slapping Sasame's face lightly with one hand, the other hand trying to stop the bleeding by pressing a cloth over the wounded area, but the white cloth was quickly turning red with blood. "Sasame! If you can hear me, wake up! Sasame!"
"Sasame!" Gaara called out, glancing over his shoulder whilst having a cautious eye on the ANBU agents in front of them as well. "Sasame! Oi! Wake up!"
"Haku, Gaara, help Sasame!" Neji ordered, taking two steps backwards, and two hand daggers appeared like magic in his hands, an angry look in the normally composed Hyuuga's eyes as he glared at the ANBU agents who cringed when they saw that murderous look. If Neji wasn't angry before, he definitely is now. And something tells all ANBU agents present that they've just did a very stupid thing. "I'll do the defending!"
Gaara and Haku immediately turned and dropped down by Tenten and Sasame's sides. Both of Tenten's hands were already stained red with Sasame's blood, with the blood not showing any signs of stopping anytime soon.
"Damn! The blood isn't stopping!" Tenten cried out in frustration. "Haku, do something! I know that as a rule, we shouldn't heal a non nin-user, but this is no time to be picky right now!"
"I can't! My power hasn't come back!" Haku cried out. "I just did the sealing with Shiki and Gaara yesterday! My power over healing hasn't come back yet!"
"You've got to be kidding!" Tenten muttered in horror.
A wet and sticky hand grasped Tenten's right wrist weakly just then, and all three nin-users looked down at Sasame only to see the girl being severely weakened by both her injuries and blood loss, looking up at them with half glazed over eyes, trails of blood flowing from the edges of her lips.
"Tell…Shiki…" Sasame coughed out mouthfuls of blood just then, and Tenten shook her head, tears falling from her eyes as she tried hard to stop the bleeding, even though she knew, in her heart of hearts, that it is futile.
"Sasame, don't speak." Tenten ordered. "We'll get you to a doctor soon enough. Save your strength."
Sasame shook her head slightly weakly, causing her to cough up more blood, and her grasp on Tenten's wrist tightened slightly, though not that anyone can tell the difference as she is just so weak right now. "It…is too late…for me…" she coughed. "I…have some news…for Shiki… Tell her… Tell Shiki…that Danzo…" She coughed out more blood. "Tell her…that Danzo…isn't here…"
Gaara's eyes widened. Danzo isn't here? What is going on? Then who had been ordering the Ne members to mobilise in Japan? Where is Danzo then, if he isn't in Lakeside?
"He…is certainly in Japan… A-Arashi-nii-san…probably…knew…his whereabouts… We…have been…helping Shiki…with Ne and Danzo…for the past year… It has…been so long… I can't…just see my…work…go to waste…just like this… Tell Shiki…that Danzo…isn't here…!"
"Sasame, what is his objective?" Haku asked urgently. "Tell me!"
"The shrine?" Tenten almost whispered, her eyes wide. "It can't mean…!"
The unspoken word rang in the heads of the three Ragnarok members as they looked at each other with horror. It seems like Shiki's guess is spot on as always.
The Bijuu Shrine.
"Tell Shiki…to find the…one person…that knew more about…Danzo and Ne…than anyone else…even me…and Arashi-nii-san…!" Sasame struggled to form her words, despite the pain that she is obviously feeling, and the fact that her strength is quickly declining, judging by the fact that the colour in her face is fading fast. "The…one person…who had betrayed…Ne and Danzo…and is in hiding ever since…his betrayal…five years ago…"
"Five years ago?" Gaara muttered. "Sasame, is he the one who had given you and Arashi-san the information about Danzo and Ne, and had caused Shiki to move against Danzo, forcing that cripple to flee the country and the underworld?"
"That's…right…" Sasame struggled to speak. "Tell Shiki…to find him… He is…the only one…who knew more about Danzo…and Ne…than anyone else right now… Sai… A…member…of Shiki's old gang… A…former…member of…the street gang…Blade… Find Sai…" Her eyes then slid shut.
"She's still alive!" Tenten called out. "But her pulse is extremely weak! We have to get her to a doctor quickly!"
Haku got to her feet, shaking slightly just then with her bangs covering her eyes as she walked forwards until she was standing in between the Ragnarok members and the ANBU agents. From this distance, everyone could feel that anger and killer intent emanating from Haku.
"Haku…?" Neji voiced out, eyeing her warily.
The temperature of the surroundings was dropping drastically, and he knew that as a sign that Haku is close to losing her temper. The powers of a nin-user were kept under control as long as the nin-user had control over their own emotions. Their powers were amplified or weakened by their emotions, and that is what made a nin-user so powerful in the first place, and why people have always feared nin-users and their powers.
"You bastards…" Haku hissed slowly, raising her head slowly only to show angered eyes, and a thin sheet of ice was even covering the ground. "…are going to pay for this!"
"Haku, stop!" Tenten shouted to Haku. "Our first priority is Sasame!"
"Shut up, Tenten!" Haku shouted back in fury, and Tenten was taken aback by that anger in Haku's voice. Never before had the ice maiden lost her temper. She is one of the few in Ragnarok who is always good natured and even tempered, and had even acted as mediator whenever arguments had broken out among the members of Ragnarok. "They're going to pay for this!" She clenched her right hand into a fist so tightly that she almost drew blood from it. "I would never forgive you for this… I'm going to kill you right here!"
"Haku, stop! If you do that here—"
"I don't care!" Haku shouted, cutting Gaara off. She glared at the ANBU agents who have all started to feel like they should have written out their wills early. Shikamaru even made a mental note to increase his visits to the Shinto shrine if he should have the good fortune to survive this, and to offer more incense to his deceased parents. "You guys…" She glanced over her shoulder at her comrades. "…hold your breath."
Gaara's eyes widened at that; he knew what Haku is going to do now, and he had only seen it once. In fact, as far as he knew, only he and Shiki have ever seen Haku use this technique before, as very few people could actually force the ice maiden to go all out.
The red-haired sand user then turned towards his comrades, a slightly panicked look on his face that caused Tenten and Neji to look at him with surprise as Gaara almost never loses his cool or even his composure. His control over his own emotions is second only to Shino who no one had ever seen getting mad before, and no one sure as hell wanted to see how with how the insect user usually behaved and acts.
"Hold your breath!" Gaara shouted, leaping backwards and covering his nose and mouth with his hand, with his free hand stretching out, and commanding a wall of sand to immediately envelop his comrades and Sasame, sans for Haku, within a ball of sand. That was his ultimate sand barrier in which even air could not get in, sans for the already little oxygen that he had enveloped within that barrier.
Neji and Tenten immediately did so, despite already being within Gaara's sand barrier, and just in time as well.
The moment that Gaara had enveloped Neji, Tenten and Sasame within his sand barrier, Haku made her move.
The dark haired girl took one step backwards, both her hands in a cupped like position together, her fingertips just a few inches short of touching each other, her face in a cold porcelain-like mask. She then spoke her next words which might very well result in the deaths of all the ANBU agents present.
Blood erupted from the lips of all those from Rendoku sans for Sasuke, Shikamaru and Kiba just then – the only three in Rendoku smart enough apart from the Akatsuki to not breathe in the air after hearing what the ice user and then the sand user have shouted to their comrades.
The sand barrier surrounding Neji, Tenten, Sasame and Gaara came down almost immediately at that, as even Gaara had a time limit as to how long he can keep his own comrades and himself barricaded within a barrier that blocks out all air and oxygen. The maximum amount of time he can keep them within his sand barrier is three minutes, as that is the maximum amount of time that a normal human being can go without air. Even nin-users are human too, and they need to be able to breathe like everyone else.
And thankfully for them, the Ragnarok members have more than enough sense to still cover their mouths and noses with their hands, with Tenten covering Sasame's mouth and nose with her own bloodied hand, all Ragnarok members present staring at Haku with something akin to fascination.
No one in Ragnarok sans for Gaara and Shiki have seen Haku use this ability of hers before, with her favourite being a move that formed sharp icicle spears as sharp as diamonds that can easily tear through a human's body, resulting in death almost immediately.
Haku is one of the more powerful members of Ragnarok because of the mere fact alone that her techniques allow her to both defend and attack – unlike most of Ragnarok whose techniques only allow them to do one or the other. Only a few like Haku, among which included Shiki, Shino, Gaara, Tenten and Yugito have techniques that allow them to both defend and attack at the same time.
Diamond Dust is one of Haku's more lethal attacks, which can result in death easily if her opponent isn't careful. The only reason why Haku had never used this technique before during their past stand-offs against ANBU is because Shiki didn't want any unnecessary deaths at that time.
But because of Kankuro's death months ago, Shiki had then lost it and had saw red, especially with ANBU's behaviour after that. She had then lifted her ban on Ragnarok and told them that the unofficial truce between Ragnarok and ANBU is over. They now have all rights and permission to attack ANBU in whichever way possible, and she'll even turn a blind eye if they even maim or kill any ANBU.
Diamond Dust is a technique that even someone like Shiki, Gaara and Neji would have problems against, and the three have techniques that could work well against Haku's. That is only part of the reason why Shiki usually paired Gaara or Neji with Haku whenever they have requests or missions.
Diamond Dust is a technique in which gleaming diamond particles would actually make its way into the opponent's airways, into their bloodstream before being followed by their internal organs, creating a bloody mess once the opponent actually breathed out, and when it breaks out into the outside air.
That is why Diamond Dust is such a lethal attack, and there are also a number of reasons why Haku had never used it. One of them, and also the main one, being the mere fact alone that there is always a Ragnarok member partnered with Haku, as Shiki would never let one of those under her command work solo, no matter how much they have argued with the redhead.
That is the one thing that Shiki would not give way in.
There is an occasion once roughly five years back when Ragnarok have first started going after Ne when Yugito had caught wind that one of the sub-division leaders of Ne that had been the one to give the order to attack her gang back then had been sighted, and the blonde had snapped. Against all orders, she had actually gone after that man herself, and when Shiki had caught wind of it, she had assigned Neji to follow Yugito secretly, and luckily that she did too, as it actually turned out to be a trap. It wasn't that long after that when Danzo and Ne, fearing Ragnarok and Shiki, have disappeared completely.
"Oi, Ino, Chouji, Lee!" Sasuke shouted to his teammates whilst still keeping a wary eye on the ice user in front of him. "Are you alright?"
Their answers to that question are to cough out blood simultaneously, with the crimson liquid spurting out in between the gaps of their fingers. Lee actually nearly doubled over, as coupled with his broken jaw, he was in a worst shape than any of them at present.
"What did you do?" Kiba shouted, still covering his nose and mouth. Because of his sharper than usual senses, he is Rendoku's tracker, but there are also times when his enhanced senses are actually more of a hindrance to him, like now.
"My Diamond Dust will shred the insides of all those who have breathed it in." Haku said calmly, and the eyes of all ANBU agents widened in horror. So that's why Gaara had told his comrades not to breathe! Haku then narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Usually, I would never do something like this, but you bastards have just crossed the line. First Kankuro, now Sasame? You bastards…you really do not have a single bone of honour in your body, do you?" Haku flexed her fingers before she spoke those dreaded words once more. "Diamond Du—"
But she never finished that dreaded command, as a fist came out of nowhere just then, putting itself into Haku's gut, and the ice maiden coughed harshly before passing out over an arm. Namikaze Shiki then immediately threw the unconscious Haku to a bewildered Neji who barely managed to catch Haku in time.
"Get out of here." Shiki spoke, moving so that she is standing in between the ANBU agents and Ragnarok. A kodachi actually appeared like magic in her right hand, and she then held it out before her, a dangerous look in her eyes which made the less experienced Rendoku members froze where they are.
That was the look of a true killer.
"I'll deal with them," said Shiki, still not taking her eyes off of the ANBU agents. "Tenten." Tenten gave a start when Shiki spoke her name. "Take Sasame and get some help for her. Hurry."
"Okay," said Tenten with a nod before picking up Sasame carefully in a fireman's carry. "Gaara."
Gaara nodded before he put both hands together, and there was a sudden whirl of wind and sand before all four Ragnarok members along with one informant were gone, leaving Shiki behind who is currently facing down two of ANBU's best combat teams.
"You're a fool if you think that you can face twelve of us at once, even if you're a nin-user." Kiba hissed, clenching his hands into fists. "You can't beat us."
"Oi, Kiba. Stand down." Sasuke hissed at his teammate, casting a wary eye on Shiki. He had never seen this Ragnarok member before, but even he isn't stupid enough to think of her as your ordinary Ragnarok member. He can tell with one glance that she is damn strong, stronger than any nin-user that he had ever seen before. And coupled with the fact that the Ragnarok members from earlier had treated her with respect… She might just be… "Who are you?"
"Ragnarok's captain, or the one that you know as Twila," said Shiki calmly, and the faces of all ANBU agents sans for Kisame and Itachi paled considerably. "I believe that this is the first time that we have actually met. And since we know who each and every one of you are, I do believe that it is only common courtesy for me to give my name, since even if you knew my name, it isn't like you can do anything." Shiki smirked a small smirk. "I'm Namikaze Shiki."
"N-Namikaze Shiki…" Shikamaru almost whispered, staring at Shiki with something akin to fascination in his eyes.
So this is the person whom they have been after for nearly five years now. The leader of the Ragnarok organisation that have escaped ANBU's clutches each and every time, and is also the one to come up with all the plans and tactics that have resulted in ANBU looking like a fool each and every time.
"Everything begins from here on out," said Shiki calmly. "It doesn't change anything even if you know who I am now. You won't be able to do anything. You've sure taken care of my people. I am merely here to return your greetings."
A cold look then entered Shiki's eyes, and acting on sheer instinct alone, all ANBU agents leapt backwards. But even as they did so, a bright beam of light then shot out, barely missing Ino by mere inches, striking the wall behind her. Even as that light did so, it then bounced off before reflecting off the nearby wall, and then again and again before it formed a web of light around the ANBU agents.
"W-What are you—?"
The web of light glowed just then before exploding. If it wasn't because of Itachi and Sasuke who both have the sense to throw up a barrier of fire around themselves and their comrades, they would have suffered worse injuries than what they're currently suffering. But even so, all of them still suffered some serious injuries on their person.
Shiki almost snorted. "If this is all what our self-proclaimed arch nemeses could do, then you all must seriously be high on something if you think that you can do anything against us," she sneered. "Just a small piece of information to you: the technique that I've used earlier isn't all that I'm capable of. If you seriously want to bring us down, and by default, me, you're going have to become stronger than this. I can easily wipe all of you out by myself right now, but I don't want the entire country on the hunt for us either just because I've wiped you pathetic dogs out."
"Don't…look down on me…!" Ino growled, attempting to stand up despite the serious burns on her person. "This is for Sakura—"
"Stop, Ino!" Sasuke stopped Ino by placing his sheathed kodachi in front of Ino, stopping her in her tracks. "You can't beat her! You'll just be going to your death if you attack her! The differences in power between both of you are too much of a difference!"
Shiki smirked a small smirk. "Seems like someone isn't completely blind to the differences of power between two nin-users," she stated. She studied Sasuke for several moments. "So you're Rendoku's captain?" Sasuke nodded slowly. "We'll meet again someday. And when we meet again, I hope that you'll be stronger than you are now. At your current level, even someone like Hinata and Temari could beat you easily. And mind you, those two specialise more in defending techniques in my group."
Sasuke can only stare, perplexed. Did he just hear right? Did his enemy just told him to get stronger when it should be the other way around? Unseen by everyone else, Itachi glared at his younger brother, much to Kisame's amusement.
"And regarding Haruno Sakura, if you ask me, she deserves what she got." Shiki stated, and Ino's eyes flashed with fury at that. "She doesn't deserve the title of an ANBU agent. Not when she pushed someone to suicide, and had the guts to actually tell that guy's younger sister after that that he is nothing but a good-for-nothing and is better off dead. She is the one ANBU that I actually take pleasure in killing, as she doesn't deserve the title of an ANBU agent." She smirked at Ino and Kiba's enraged expressions. "The only thing that I regret is that I can't give her more pain before her final moments."
"We'll meet again someday." Shiki cut Ino off, flinging the kodachi that she is holding against the wall not too far away from her, rendering the blade stuck in the wall which actually produced some cracks in it. "I don't have the time to play with you right now. All that I can tell you is this: our purpose here is Ne as well. But since their boss isn't here, I see no sense in playing around with you in this town." Shiki closed her eyes briefly. "We Ragnarok lived on as if every day is our last, since that is our life before Ragnarok. Live as if you were to die tomorrow. And learn as if you were to live forever. (2)"
Shiki then smirked as she placed one hand one the hilt of the kodachi before using it as a springboard of some sort, tossing herself over the wall upside down, with the black cord from which her magatama hung from, the black cord flying out from under her jacket slightly, and Itachi's eyes widened slightly when he caught sight of it, as Shiki had all but ignored him ever since her first appearance in Lakeside.
"We'll meet again, Akatsuki, Rendoku. And you can forget about trying to find us, as you can save your efforts. There is a reason, a number of reasons why we can stay hidden from the ANBU and the underworld for more than five years, you know? You won't find us unless we want to be found. See you!"
And Shiki then disappeared from sight, leaving behind a long and reigned silence. Chouji was the first one to break that shocked silence.
"What is going on?" The chubby boy asked in confusion. "Ragnarok wasn't involved with Ne at all? They're after them as well?"
Itachi was silent, thinking back to Tsunade's orders to them prior before the start of the mission.
"There have been some rumours going around that whenever Ne appears, Ragnarok wouldn't be far behind as well." Tsunade stated, curling her fingers before her mouth.
Konan frowned slightly. "You think that they're helping those guys?" she asked. "But that can't be. There are rumours beforehand that Ragnarok is after Ne as well. But no one knows why, and it is still a mystery to this day. In fact, there are actually rumours that Ne had gone underground for the past four to five years because of Ragnarok."
Tsunade sighed. "We never know for sure," she stated. "That's why I want both Akatsuki and Rendoku to go and investigate Lakeside. If necessary…" Her honey-brown eyes hardened with resolve. "I give you permission to kill."
'Those four Ragnarok members from earlier…' Itachi mused to himself, frowning slightly as he did so. 'I recognise two of them – that ice user and the sand user. As well as that Tenten girl. And I've also heard rumours about that raven haired guy. Those four are some of Ragnarok's top cards. Their presences here…and then coupled with Shiki's presence here… Could it be that they are after Ne as well like how we are, and that they aren't even working together with them? If that is the case…did we just make the greatest mistake of our life by attacking that informant girl?'
Itachi then frowned, recalling Shiki's words from earlier.
Everything begins from here on out. It doesn't change anything even if you know who I am now.
Itachi frowned, ironing his forehead slightly with his fingers as Konan tried hard to help Lee as well as the other injured whilst Nagato was telephoning for an ambulance. 'What is going on here?'
Everything begins from here, Itachi. And watch me. Because the game starts now.
A/N: Phew! Finally done! One of my longer chapters, I do believe. This chapter is more like the 'filler chapter' for things to come. Anyway, I hope that you like this chapter, and please read and review!
Preview of next chapter:
"I don't have the tools and the required surgery skills for an operation of this scale. You have to take her to a hospital if you want to save her life."
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
"This is for the best. For everyone. I don't want you guys…you and Shiki especially to see me go."
"I wanted to protect you. This is the only way that I know how."
"You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough."
"I'm a spy and informant after all. I know that I will die in the line of duty someday."
"You hadn't killed someone before, have you, little girl? You call yourself an ANBU, but you truly have no idea what the real world is like."
"I don't want to be an informant any longer if I have to see people dear to me die around me all the time."
(1) A quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
(2) A quote from Mahatma Gandhi