The Other Promise
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 Five: The Other Promise
Akatsuki's OfficeANBU Headquarters, Leaf City
"Itachi, we're leaving."
Deidara and Sasori both exchanged looks between themselves as they stood at Sasori's desk, with the blonde waiting for his partner, and with the redhead currently pulling on his coat as they both got ready to leave.
Itachi hadn't said more than a complete sentence for the past week ever since the TV station bombing incident, and only Kisame could get more than a 'Hnn' and 'Un' out of Itachi, and even then, it wasn't a lot. Itachi hadn't exactly been in the correct mood as well lately, and all of team Akatsuki have been treading on eggshells around their captain, lest they want to be burned to a crisp by the Ice King.
Sasori exchanged looks with Deidara before they both shrugged and left the office, glancing behind them at Kisame who was seated at his desk, staring off into space as a pen was tucked behind his ear. Itachi was sitting in front of his desk as well, with his fingers curled together before his mouth, with the guy staring at the computer screen in front of him, yet not seemingly seeing anything at all.
It had only been a little over a week ever since the TV station explosion, and things really couldn't have gotten worse for the ANBU. Riots had actually nearly broken out within the streets, and even Itachi wasn't happy with Tsunade's decision back then. He wished for the hundredth time that he hadn't been so stupid as to obey his orders, but what's done is done.
Itachi turned silently towards his computer screen which had several photos of the bodies of the unfortunate caught up in that explosion meant for Ragnarok. Several of those bodies were practically beyond recognition as they were burned so badly that it actually requires a DNA test in order to identify them.
It makes Itachi sick to the stomach to even look at those photos, and to listen to the wails and cries of the loved ones of those unfortunate as they were asked to identify the bodies.
It reminds him of the chaotic era back during the war, and when people were dying left, right and center before the war had ended.
And make no mistake, Shiki is indeed pissed off now.
Itachi had never seen her so angry back then, and if truth be told, even he is a tad bit afraid of the redhead for a moment. Furthermore, she is actually pissed off enough to end up using her powers, something which Itachi had never seen her do before. This meant that Shiki is entirely serious from now on when she had practically declared war against the ANBU, not that Itachi can blame her. In his opinion, Shiki and Ragnarok had every right to do that.
Itachi sighed, inviting attention from Kisame who is the only one apart from him in the office. The water nin-user said nothing for several moments as he looked at Itachi. "Kisame, can you tell me?" Itachi asked, looking towards Kisame's direction. "Can you tell me if we are really doing the right thing? Is what we're doing now…truly justice? And if it is justice, then what is justice? Does it even exist? What we've done…it can't be forgiven."
Itachi bit on his bottom lip. "Hell, even I can't forgive myself. I don't blame Shiki for being so angry. It's already a mercy in itself that she didn't kill me. I…don't deserve forgiveness. My sins…are too great. Shiki is right. Ragnarok is right. By doing what we had done these past few years just in order to get to them by the means of sacrificing so many innocent lives…" Itachi paused and took a deep breath. "We're no better than Ne and Oto, or Orochimaru even. Hell, we're probably worse off. Tell me, Kisame." Itachi looked at the solemn looking man sitting across him. "Are…we really doing the right thing here?"
There was silence for several moments before Kisame answered, and the shark-like man sighed deeply. "I don't know either," he admitted. "I've been asking myself this question ever since Haku…" He sighed and shook his head. "She isn't that happy with me either back at the TV station. She asked me some things, though 'confronted' is more like it. I told her before that I've entered the ANBU to find her. But now that I've found her, what is still keeping me in the ANBU? The brother that she knew is a kind hearted person and someone full of justice. Someone who wouldn't resort to underhanded methods, and someone who wouldn't do something wrong just to achieve his goals. She asked me where her brother of that time went to. And I…" Kisame clenched his hands into fists on his desk. "I…can't answer her. Because I don't even know the answer to that any longer."
"I guess it's true then, what they've said," said Itachi. "Joining the ANBU is equivalent to eating the devil's fruit. Iruka-san told me that when I've first told him all those years back that I'm joining the ANBU, and I didn't listen to him."
"Come on, it wasn't your fault," said Kisame comfortingly. "You did it to save your brother. If you didn't do that, both you and your brother would probably have died on the streets. There's only so much that you can do alone."
"I knew what is going to happen back then if I should join the ANBU," said Itachi, gritting his teeth together. "I was thirteen then, and I was old enough to know the consequences. I thought that I could take it. I thought that as long as I stuck to my principles and morals, I will do no wrong. But…" Itachi looked away. "…it's easier said than done."
Kisame sighed. "When did things became so complicated?" he muttered.
"Please come again."
That night, one can find one Uchiha Itachi walking out of The Locket slightly drunk, an elite bar in Leaf City which the ANBU agents of Akatsuki often frequented on weekends.
Itachi himself had also been dragged there by force by his teammates once when he'd first turned eighteen, all of them determined to celebrate Itachi's coming-of-age in a bar. Itachi had actually heard from Kisame that he had thrown up on Sasori's shoes that night, though he can't remember it. It made the Uchiha wished that he had remembered the events of that night, as the redhead's face must be priceless then.
Itachi barely made it more than ten paces away from the bar before he stopped by the wall, with said wall giving him some support by holding him up before the teen threw up all the contents of his stomach, expelling everything that he had supposedly eaten in his entire life.
He finally stopped throwing up after a few moments, silently cursing himself for drinking nearly six bottles of hard vodka on an empty stomach. Of course he would throw up, with that much abuse to his stomach!
Light footsteps reach his ears just then, with those footsteps barely making any sound on the ground at all, and Itachi looked up at that.
The streets of Leaf City were always deserted at this time of the night, especially with all the recent mess happening with the ANBU and Ragnarok, and thus, no one was around in the streets. The lights from the street lamps were the only sources of lights that could still be seen in the streets, with the streets still wet from the recent light drizzle of rain.
But still, even in Itachi's slightly drunken state after the teen had tried getting himself hammered with six bottles of hard vodka, but to no avail, he could still recognise the person standing in front of him.
"…Shiki," he muttered.
Namikaze Shiki sighed before she studied Itachi back in turn, stuffing her hands into her pockets. "We need to talk," she stated.
TV StationAaokori, Japan
Shiki ended up leading Itachi to the TV station at Aaokori for some reason.
The TV station was currently in shambles thanks to the bomb explosion that Tsunade had ordered nearly a week ago. As it is, they were lucky that half of the building of the TV station was still standing. Broken planks were laid everywhere, and dust and debris covered the entire place, along with the surroundings of the TV station.
"W-Why have you brought me here?" asked Itachi uneasily.
Shiki took a few steps forward without saying anything before kneeling down by several broken wooden planks, moving it away only to pick up a silver engagement ring, holding it in between her forefinger and thumb as she stood up, showing it to Itachi as she turned around without saying anything for several moments.
"Do you even know what you are doing, Itachi?" Shiki questioned, without any form of anger in her voice at all.
Itachi would have preferred it if Shiki had yelled at him. Her getting angry at him is just a small glimmer of hope that he still had that Shiki still carried feelings for him, and still loved him. But now, with that bland expression in both her voice and face…
It kind of creeps Itachi out slightly.
"I've gone to every single place that you've ever taken me to in the past," said Shiki, almost like Itachi hadn't said anything at all. "I've also been looking through all our old photos. Looking and looking. And I want to know." She looked straight into Itachi's guilt-stricken eyes. "Where is that person that I've once known? Where is that boy whom I've first met in Cat's Eye all those years ago with the look of a person drenched in cold pouring rain? Where is that boy that kept on stalking me all over the place, refusing to leave me alone back then? Where is that boy that would even help an injured cat or a stray dog left out in the rain, making sure that they have food and shelter for the night? Where is the Uchiha Itachi that I'd once known who would never hurt or kill an innocent person?" Shiki's voice had started out from soft to until she is almost shouting at Itachi, her hands clenched into fists by her sides. "Tell me, Itachi. Where is that person from back then?"
"Back then, when you told me that you've joined the ANBU in order to protect your younger brother, I didn't like it, but I understand your reasoning. And I even thought that that is noble of you to do everything that you have to do in order to protect your last living kin," said Shiki, turning her head away slightly before turning to look back into Itachi's eyes. "Many people during that chaotic period just gave up on protecting their loved ones because it's just so damn hard to do so when they could barely even fend for themselves. But you didn't give up. You just gave in to the harsh reality of the world by taking the easy way out."
Itachi flinched back like he had just been struck.
"I didn't blame you for that, as I knew that you didn't have many options opened to you then. But then, the TV station incident… How could you do such a thing? How could you murder nearly hundreds of innocent people in a single night just to get to us?" Shiki was nearly shouting as she gripped hold of Itachi's shirt, an enraged look in her eyes. "Are you ANBU bastards trying to play at God or something by deciding on who lives and who dies? And if that is so, then how much different are you from Orochimaru and Danzo? Those people have nothing to do with us! If you ANBU have any complaints, then address this directly to us! Not to the innocents! Leave them out of it! Your fight is with us, not them!"
"I…didn't want to do this in the first place at all, Shiki." Itachi said weakly, having endured blow after blow from Shiki, but he also knew that he deserved it.
"Moegi asked me to find this for her," said Shiki, opening the fingers of her right hand only to reveal the silver engagement ring that she had shown Itachi earlier lying in the palm of her hand. "It was her father's when he had first proposed to her mother who was killed during the aftermath of the war when riots were at an all-time high when Moegi was barely a year old. Her father was all that she has left." Shiki closed her fingers around the ring before slipping it into her pocket. "Do you know that her father was one of the victims at the explosion at ground zero?"
Itachi almost flinched. Ground zero. Shiki's code for 'the murders that the ANBU were responsible for at the TV station'. The Uchiha closed his eyes briefly, remembering how agitated Moegi had been when she had identified her father's body during that night when he was at the TV station, and how Udon had to restrain Moegi from attacking the ANBU novices on duty that night.
"Yeah, I know," said Itachi at last, opening his eyes. "I…saw her that night when she was here to identify her father's body."
"So that's why you hadn't been by at Cat's Eye for some time now." Shiki stated blandly. "Moegi's father brought her up single-handedly. Both of them only have each other, as her father had never remarried. Usegi-san, Moegi's father, used to take care of Iruka after his parents have died during the war when he was barely out of middle school. That's the reason why Iruka had offered Moegi a part-time job at Cat's Eye along with Udon when they have both first entered middle school, and was old enough to work at part-time jobs. Usegi-san had to take on several jobs just to put Moegi through school, and to ensure that they both have enough money just to survive. He would rather starve and go hungry for days on end than see Moegi starve. That's just how kind he is. He is one of the few that had always been kind to us, and always had a kind word to say to us as well. And you killed him."
Shiki clenched her hands into fists by her sides. "Moegi has never been a great fan of the ANBU. And neither are Udon and Iruka. Alongside some of Iruka's friends. And with what you've done… How do you expect them to forgive the ANBU and you? How do you expect the people to accept the ANBU after what has happened? Do you want to help the people of this country or to destroy them? You call us Ragnarok cold blooded murderers just because of what we do. But then, it's okay if you bombed the TV station just to get to us?" Shiki narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Just how much of a hypocrite can you be?"
"But then, why did you kill Ino?" Itachi asked. "It has nothing to do with her! It was me who had acted on that order! Me and the Akatsuki! It has nothing to do with Rendoku! Then why—"
"She's as guilty as the lot of you when you people chose to put on rose covered glasses and look at the world through them." Shiki retorted. "We're just returning the fight that you people started! So don't blame me for this. And you should understand this by now. Hatred only gives birth to more hatred. That is a fact. It's rather unfortunate, but even you can't deny the fact that hatred rules our world. That's just the way that this world works. Fear breeds hatred, hatred breeds spite, and spite breeds wrath." Shiki studied Itachi intently. "It is a never ending cycle."
Itachi closed his eyes in dismay, recalling something that Kisame had told him once.
But seeing her alive and well…is good enough for me. She doesn't have to acknowledge me as her brother. As long as she's alive and in good health, I am satisfied. I don't care even if she hates me. As long as she's alive…
"Why are you both…?" Itachi muttered, his eyes closed to prevent Shiki from seeing his agony and internal turmoil. He then opened his eyes again, and Shiki narrowed her eyes instantly. The temperature of the surroundings seemed to go up several degrees as well. "Why are Kisame and you both always like this?"
Itachi raised his voice for the first time in his life, almost losing control of his fire ability, nearly forgetting the fact that a nin-user can lose control of their powers if their emotions go spinning out of control, or their power can be amplified ten times if they have some intensive emotions within them.
"I've told you back then, Itachi," said Shiki calmly. "If I can't break out of this Hell that is this world, then I shall drag everyone down to Hell with me!"
Itachi said nothing for several moments. "Do we really have to end up turning against each other in the end?" he asked at last. "Do we really have to fight each other to the death in order to end this? Just like that tragic play… Just like Loveless… Your favourite book." He closed his eyes briefly before opening them again. "Why are you even doing this, Shiki?"
"Because I have to," said Shiki. "The more that I see, the more tired that I got." She looked away briefly from Itachi before turning back towards him again. "So much so that I can no longer believe in the future, and in the goodness of people's hearts. Because all I see are negativity, and that people always hurt others. I've seen too much of the darkness in people's hearts that I can no longer believe nor see the little light that is still left. It came to such a point that I started to believe that…erasing those who had that 'darkness', that 'evil' in them…is the only way to stop that 'darkness'. It is true that what we're doing now probably isn't true justice itself, but what do you want us to do? We might be doing evil now, but we tried to take more evil with us than what we've left behind. That…is how we in Ragnarok do things."
"Even so, why?" Itachi asked. "Why…? Why is it always you?" His voice echoed around the surroundings. "Why…? Why must you be the one to carry all of this?"
"Because Fate decides so."
"And how the fuck do you even know that?" Itachi demanded, coming close to losing his temper. "You know what? I'm tired of it all. I'm sick and tired of it all! Everyone always thinks that no one else should pick on them just because they're miserable enough as it is—"
When my family found out what had happened to me, and that the side-effects of those blasted experiments allowed me to breathe underwater easily, they threw me out, saying that I'm a freak.
If their words can be trusted, pigs can fly. You're an ANBU agent yourself. You should know this better than anyone else. Not all criminals are punished by the law. Some got off. As even the law is not omnipotent.
"-Everyone always thinks that the other side who is the enemy must be the bad guy—"
But this mysterious group…Ragnarok is what they called themselves. They've been around for about two years now, at this point in time. Ragnarok is a mercenary group for hire…assassinsfor hire.
"—and everyone always thinks that they're right." Itachi curled his right hand into a fist slowly, his knuckles slowly turning white as he did so. "Everyone always thinks that the decision that they've made is the right one, no matter the cost. And then again, this is human nature, so who am I to judge that? Well, I'm sick and tired of it all!" Itachi's voice almost came out as a snarl towards the end.
"I know that I'm doing the right thing here." Shiki stated.
"Even if the price that you have to pay is your life?" Itachi almost shouted. He was taken aback the next moment when three golden rings appear in midair around Shiki, with one of the combat knives that she was using against him that night appearing in her right hand like magic, with tears nearly falling from her eyes. "Shiki… Why are you torturing yourself like this? Why are you making me do this?" Itachi wanted to know. He then closed his eyes before opening them again. "You're really serious about this, aren't you?"
"I know what I'm getting myself into the day when I've made the decision to set up Ragnarok." Shiki answered. "It is true that initially, I've done it for the sake of the others. All just to protect them. But pretty soon, it soon became something that we're doing to protect the nin-users and all those people who can't see justice done. And we both knew that we might have to end up fighting against each other one day. We knew that this day will come sooner or later. I just…didn't expect it this soon. No." Shiki shook her head. "I knew that this day is long coming." She met Itachi's eyes. "Please don't hold back, Itachi. Don't insult me by doing so. And if I should fall here, promise me that you will not let Gaara and the others know what had transpired between us!"
Itachi clenched his teeth together in fury, and a crimson glow could actually be seen emanating from both his hands as well. "What the hell is your problem?" He nearly screamed at Shiki. "Why are you making me do this? You and Kisame both… You are both exactly the same! He refused to listen to me as well when he had gone after his sister repeatedly. And you…you refused to listen to me after I've learned about your involvement in Ragnarok, and what you represent to them." He closed his eyes briefly before opening them again. "You both…you think that you can do whatever you want. Well, I'm sick and tired of it all." He pointed one finger at Shiki. "Go on then. Both of you. Just keep on running. The both of you can just keep on running. But I'll always be there." He spread both his hands out from him before a crimson glow glowed around his hands, and wheels of fire then surrounded both his hands. "I'll always be there to bring the both of you back!"
Ragnarok's Headquarters (Boathouse)Hiraiko, Japan
"Welcome back, Shiki," said Gaara the moment that Shiki had stepped in through the door, bringing with her a vague smell of something burnt. "What happened to your coat? Did you get caught in a fire or something?" He asked, pointing out the slightly singed ends of Shiki's coat which was still smoking slightly, despite the rain outside.
"S-Something like that." Shiki managed a weak smile.
TV StationAaokori, Japan
The raindrops pelted down repeatedly on Uchiha Itachi, but he ignored the rain as it dripped off the ends of his coat and his hair. The captain of the ANBU's best combat team stared at the ground almost like it held something fascinating to him, with that black and charred grounds, when just a few hours ago, it was filled with lush and healthy green grass.
Itachi gritted his teeth together in fury, clenching his hands into fists by his sides, ignoring the numerous tears and cuts in his coat. "Damn it…"
I've had enough, Itachi. I've had just about enough. I can't just sit back and do nothing when I keep seeing people get hurt around me. And now, even with Ragnarok, I can't even protect my friends, the very people dearest to me. I've had no intention right from the start to mess with whatever that the ANBU are doing, but I can't stay silent when the ANBU kept targeting us. It is for your own good that I'm saying this now. Leave the ANBU before it's too late. Or you'll probably end up like Hidan.
"What do you mean by that, Shiki?" Itachi asked no one in particular. "Too late? It's already too late for me. Tell me, Shiki. I… What should I do now?" He shouted out that last part to the skies. He then chuckled darkly to himself, covering his eyes with his hand as he sank against a nearby tree, with his back hitting the trunk of the tree and sliding partially down it. "I'm really a sinful person, aren't I? I do nothing but deceive and deceive. I'm tired of it all. I'm sick and tired of it all. This play that is my life."
Ragnarok's Headquarters (Boathouse)Hiraiko, Japan
"I see," said Gaara with a raised brow, studying Shiki from head to toe. "Well, I guess that it's really none of my business. The others are all asleep, but Shino has something to tell you. It seems important."
"Okay," said Shiki with a nod as Gaara trudged up the winding stairs, the sound of his footsteps fading into nothingness as he headed towards the bedroom that all the boys shared in the boathouse. Shiki then sighed before closing the door of the boathouse behind her before moving towards where Shino was sitting at his usual place, sitting in front of his ever trusty laptop as usual, a pair of headphones over his ears. "Shino, what is it?"
Shino removed the headphones from his ears before turning around in his swivel chair to face Shiki, a serious look on his face. "We've located him, Shiki," he said matter-of-factly, tilting one thumb over his shoulder.
Shiki raised a brow. "'Him'?" she echoed in confusion, before light dawned on her, and her eyes widened slightly in realisation. "You mean…?"
"Yes," said Shino with a nod, a slight smirk spreading over his facial features. "We've found the one who had been hiding from Ne ever since he had dared to betray them and Danzo, and had also been the one to give us information on them five years ago. The only one who knows more about them than anyone else in the world."
A slow smirk spread over Shiki's face as Shino said that.
Starlight's HallWind City, Japan
The Starlight's Hall bar in Wind City, one of the major cities in the country of Japan similar in power and standing to that of the capital city, Leaf City, is a bar which had basically seen all walks of life, and which people from all over frequent – including those of the underworld.
Most of the underworld gangs often frequent that bar, and it also happens to be the one place where one can easily get damage drugs or get 'deals' seen through easily…as long as you know the proper procedure.
And it is also somewhere outside that bar where one could find Sabaku no Gaara and Namikaze Shiki, with the two waiting for word from some of the others as they searched for the ever evasive Sai.
All of Ragnarok had first-hand experience just how slippery that teen could be, as they've been searching for the guy for nearly five years ever since he had given them the information about Ne and Danzo five years ago, resulting in Ne's temporary disappearance from the underworld until Orochimaru had kicked the bucket nearly a year ago. And if the pale faced teen doesn't want to be found, he won't be.
"It's really been a long time since we've last seen Sai," said Gaara with a sigh, breaking the silence as the two waited atop some tree branches within some random tree in Wind City. The redhead was standing on the tree branch with his arms crossed over his chest, with Shiki sitting on the same branch that he was on, with both her legs dangling down below her. "Five years to be exact. He turned up out of the blue one day at our doorstep, gave us sensitive information on Ne and Danzo, then vanished again for five years without a trace. None of us have seen him since."
Shiki sighed. "He never changes, that guy," she muttered, and Gaara raised a brow. "He's like that even back then, and he still is even now. And he probably will still stay the same even in the future. He never changes. And like always, he always had a tendency to appear here and there without warning before vanishing the next minute the moment that you take your eyes off of him. He's always like this."
"You know him?" asked Gaara, though he already had an initial suspicion five years ago when Sai had first appeared on their doorstep that Shiki and Sai were already acquainted beforehand, and were probably even friends in a way.
"Kind of," said Shiki, glancing at Gaara out of the corner of her eye. "He's a member of my old gang – one of the few survivors of the street gang Blade, Hagako's most dangerous gang."
Right on cue, a low rumble of thunder rumbled in the distance, and Gaara fell silent.
He, along with his siblings, as well as the Hyuuga cousins, were among the first ones to meet Shiki, and to join up with her, even though Ragnarok wasn't even formed back then. And naturally, he knew about Shiki's affiliation with the street gang Blade, as they have actually met some of the few survivors of her old gang at Nagako once a few years ago – Sumaru, Hotaru and Mizura, even before Haku had joined them.
"After Blade…had sort of 'disbanded', Sai became a freelance agent for hire," said Shiki, twiddling her thumbs together. "He did all kinds of jobs – recovery, assassination, snatching, cracking, hacking, you name it. With the right price, he did it."
"Kind of like Arashi and Sasame?" asked Gaara with a frown, and Shiki nodded.
"Sai is one of the best out there, alongside those two. And it is also because he is so good at what he does that he caught the eye of Danzo," said Shiki with a sigh, and Gaara flinched. "Back then, back during my days with Blade, he had a foster brother. An older brother. That older brother was one of the people under me back in Blade, and it is because of Yamato that led to Sai joining Blade in the first place."
"Did…this Yamato die?" asked Gaara slowly. "Back during the attack on your old gang?"
Shiki shrugged. "I have no idea," she said. "Yamato's body was never found during the aftermath of the attack, unlike Riku, Sara and the others, so there is still a chance that Yamato is still alive. Sai believes that too. That's why he had been searching for Yamato these past five years." She glanced at Gaara out of the corner of her eye. "Because for Sai, Yamato is the first one who had extended his hand to him, and had tried to help him, and had also accepted him."
Her words struck a chord in Gaara's heart. As to Sai, this Yamato person is to him what Shiki is to all of them in Ragnarok.
"But why did he join Ne?" asked Gaara with a frown on his face. "He should know what kind of reputation that Ne and Danzo have in the underworld, if he is as good as a freelance agent as you've said he is."
There was silence for awhile before Shiki spoke again. "I don't really know about all the details," she stated, curling her fingers together on her knees as she looked down at the ground below her. "But from what I've heard from Arashi back then, Danzo offered to help Sai find Yamato. Sai accepted, and he ended up joining Ne in exchange for Danzo's help."
She looked towards Gaara. "If truth be told, I don't think that Danzo really had any intention to help Sai find Yamato. And as the years goes by, I think that Sai realises that too. That was probably why he had betrayed them five years ago. He knew that I've been targeting Danzo and Orochimaru back then, and by default, Ne and Oto. That's probably why he had came looking for me, and had actually turned up on our doorstep on that stormy night five years ago just to hand over the information about Danzo and Ne. We owed him lots when we were able to drive Danzo and Ne into hiding for five years until Orochimaru had kicked the bucket a year ago."
Shiki sighed, running the fingers of her right hand through her hair. "He's always like this. He's a free spirit, never really staying in one place for long. He's like that even back then. He's a wanderer. Never really belonging anywhere but the road that he is travelling on. But when it comes to his friends, he'll fight tooth and nail to protect them. I've been worried about him ever since I've heard from Arashi that he is on the run from Ne after Danzo had placed all efforts to search for him. But Sai will be alright. He can take care of himself."
Gaara snorted. "He's a strange person as well," he commented.
A half-drunken Sai was hoisted to his feet by a rather furious looking Tenten when the bun-haired girl grabbed him by the collar of his coat, almost lifting him off his feet a few inches, which is quite a feat in itself, as the guy was at least one and a half heads taller than Tenten.
The group that Shiki had sent to locate Sai that consisted of Tenten, Neji and Temari have managed to locate the guy with little to no difficulty, acting on the coordinates that Shiki had given them when Shino had managed to track him down with much difficulty.
As usual, the guy is good at hiding.
The three have then waited until Sai had walked out of Starlight's Hall half-drunk before 'kidnapping' him and dragging him to an alleyway two streets away before Sai had recognised Tenten even in his half drunk state, and had said something about someone ordering the death of Tenten's father which of course, had the immediate effect to set off the usually fiery brunette immediately.
"Oi Tenten!" Temari protested. "Stop that—"
"Be quiet, Temari!" Tenten snapped. She then turned to glare at Sai. "What did you just say about my father? Why did anyone even want my father dead in the first place?"
"Shiki didn't tell you?" Sai almost slurred.
A hand latched out from nowhere, grabbing hold of Tenten's arm before she could deck Sai one. Startled, the bun haired girl turned towards the owner of that arm only to see that it's Shiki herself, with Gaara standing behind her with his arms crossed over his chest.
The redhead in question sighed. "Tenten, I've asked the three of you to locate Sai for me. I most definitely didn't ask you three to come here and start beating him up," she said with exasperation. "I'll handle this from here. Stand down."
Tenten nodded sullenly before releasing her hold on Sai, allowing him to crumple to the ground in a heap. She then turned and walked out of the alleyway, before being followed by Temari. Neji half turned in his step towards Gaara and Shiki.
"Will you both be alright on your own?" he asked worriedly.
Shiki waved his concerns off. "I'll be just fine," she said. "Go and see to Tenten."
Neji nodded before turning and leaving the alleyway. There were a few moments before the sounds of his footsteps faded away, and both Shiki and Gaara then turned towards Sai who was currently coughing and puking his guts out over the dumpster, almost sticking his face into the trashcan.
Shiki sighed, taking two steps forwards before standing by his side, her hands stuffed into her pockets. "I hadn't seen you for a long time, five years to be exact, and this is the sight that I see the moment that I see you?" she deadpanned. "What an unsightly sight."
Sai coughed harshly before wiping at his lips with the back of his left hand, and turning half-glazed eyes up to look at Shiki, with Gaara leaning against the wall near the entrance of the alleyway, standing guard in a way whilst also keeping an eye on him.
Sai chuckled darkly before using the trashcan as support before hoisting himself to his feet on shaky legs. "I never thought that I'll see you again, Shiki," he said. "It just has to be you of all people that found me like this." He coughed again. "I was in Hiraiko awhile back. I saw Anko-san's boyfriend – that Ibiki guy, along with a guy who looks like a corpse who looked as if he would kneel over in the wind, Gekkou Hayate, I think. Genma-san has woken up as well. Your doing, I suppose?"
"More or less," said Shiki with a shrug. She then eyed Sai from top to bottom, taking in his rather dishevelled appearance. "Are you running away again? Just like always?" Sai said nothing to that, and Shiki sighed. "Have you found your brother yet?"
Sai shook his head. "Not yet," he admitted. "I hadn't found any word or even evidence that proves that he's still alive, but I hadn't found any evidence that proved he's dead as well, so there is still a chance."
Shiki sighed. "Well, I had never really believed that he's dead as well," she stated. "Besides, for those in the underworld, there are hundreds of ways for us to fake our deaths." She closed her eyes briefly before opening them again. "'With a strong will, one can even overcome death'." Shiki muttered. "It's easier said than done, seriously." She sighed. "To us who were in Blade back then who have lived during the chaotic era of Hagako, life is like a game. You either win or you lose. If you win, you will be able to live again to see another day. But if you lose, in the chaotic era of Hagako back then and even now…you die. It's that simple." Shiki sighed. "It is the same everywhere even now."
"What did you come here for?" Sai questioned, and Shiki raised a brow. The pale faced teen snorted. "Oh, come on. I know you better than this, Shiki. You came here for a reason; otherwise, you wouldn't have sent those friends of yours to boycott me. What is it?"
Shiki sighed. "Information," she stated. "I've heard that you have something that we want."
Sai snorted before pulling at the collar of his coat and the shirt that he was wearing underneath before drawing out a long fine silver chain from around his neck. A small rectangular semi-transparent container hung from the end of it. Shiki narrowed her eyes slightly as she saw a black memory card within that container.
Sai pulled the chain over his head before pressing it into Shiki's hand. "Here you go," he said with a slight slur to his words. "That's what you wanted. I took that before I had left Ne as a form of vengeance towards Danzo. At least I do not have to commit murder and other atrocious deeds for them any longer when I've left them. It's code protected with the highest level of encrypting that not even I could crack it. But that hacker in your little group might just be able to do something about it. Perhaps…you could just end this. For all of us. Finish what I couldn't end."
Shiki nodded. "Thanks."
Sai waved his hand dismissively. "Don't bother," he said. "At least Danzo might stop hunting me down for that memory card now that I've given it to you. I just wanted to be left in peace."
He then stumbled past Shiki on his way out of the alleyway. Gaara made a move to stop him, but a shake of the head from Shiki stopped him, and both watched as the pale skinned teen stumbled down the streets of Wind City.
"Shiki, are you really just going to let him go just like this?" asked Gaara with a frown as the two stepped out of the alleyway.
"Yeah," said Shiki with a nod, clutching the chain in her right hand. "I don't have the right to stop him. Like us, Sai is merely trying to live his own life as well. I won't deny him that. Besides, we've gotten what we've came for." She then held up the chain that she was grasping in her right hand. "It's time for us to get to work."
Gaara nodded before the two turned to leave towards the direction of the harbours of Wind City, but a notice on the wall just past Shiki's shoulder stopped them both in their tracks. Gaara narrowed his eyes dangerously, and Shiki said nothing for several moments before she sighed.
"Dear me… The ANBU sure move fast," she commented.
Gaara said nothing but stared at the wanted posters that the ANBU have placed on the walls of that of the Ragnarok members, with a one billion reward for anyone who managed to capture them or kill them, and there is even a one million reward for any information on them.
"It starts from here…" Gaara muttered.
Cat's Eye CaféHiraiko, Japan
"Her past?" Umino Iruka asked with a frown as he cleaned a drinking glass with a damp cloth that he had in his hand, staring at Uchiha Itachi with an incredulous expression. "What brings that all of a sudden?"
"I want to know," said Itachi, focusing his gaze at the tabletop almost like it held something fascinating for him. "I want to know about Shiki's past, and why she is doing what she is doing now. Iruka-san, you know, right? Tell me."
Iruka sighed. "You wouldn't understand even if you knew—"
"Then make me understand!" Itachi cut Iruka off. "Why is Shiki doing what she is doing now? Iruka-san, tell me! Tell me about Shiki's past! You've known her ever since she was a child, didn't you? Then you must know something!"
Iruka stared at Itachi for a long time before sighing. "I don't really know all the details," he stated. "I only know a little of what Shiki had told me. And her godfather told me a little about her past as well."
"Her godfather?" Itachi echoed. This is the first that he had heard of Shiki having a godfather. He felt slightly hurt inside. Just what else did Shiki kept from him? Didn't she trust him?
"Yeah," said Iruka with a nod. "I'm an informant of sorts as well, and I am one of her godfather's informants. He dropped by from time to time, just wanting to know just how Shiki is doing. Don't get him wrong. Jiraiya-sama loves Shiki very much like a daughter, but he understood that Shiki likes her freedom as well, and she is more than capable of taking care of herself. He trusted that. That is why he is usually never around. But still, he still worries about her. That is why Jiraiya-sama dropped by from time to time just to check up on how she is. During one of those occasions, he told me a little about Shiki's past." Iruka sighed, glancing at Itachi. "I really shouldn't tell you this, but you have to understand why she did what she did. The life of a nin-user is never easy. Especially in this country. But unlike you and the rest of the ANBU, Shiki didn't take the easy way out." Itachi flinched. "I shall tell you…the past of the one that you now know as Twila."
The graveyard was always especially silent in the small town of Natsuki. As such, no one was around when a lone figure clad in a dark cloak and hood entered the graveyard of Natsuki, walking through the pathway through the graveyard, finally stopping before two gravestones standing side-by-side.
The hooded figure then removed the hood only to reveal the solemn visage of one Namikaze Shiki. The redhead read and reread the words inscribed on the stone of the two gravestones in front of her before she sighed. "…hey. Kaa-san. Tou-san. I'm here."
Shiki turned around only to see Gaara and Haku coming towards her, and she sighed. "I won't get into any trouble if I'm just away for a few hours, you know?" she said, annoyed.
"With the ANBU putting up wanted posters of us everywhere, we can't be too careful," said Haku, and Shiki sighed. "Shino told us that you'll be here. Paying your respects to your parents?"
"Yeah," said Shiki with a nod. "Today marks the fourteenth year of their death anniversary. I thought that I should pay my respects. This town is my original hometown – my childhood home, but it has practically been ravaged by the war, and whatever few survivors there are could barely make ends meet to survive. It's almost like a ghost town."
Haku and Gaara said nothing to that.
A single flower from the tree overhead floated down just then onto Haku's shoulder, and the ice maiden blinked before picking the flower off of her shoulder. "Red sakura flowers…" She muttered in surprise, looking at the flower in the palm of her hand. "It's rare to see them. The pink ones are more common."
Shiki sighed. "There is a proper name for them," she said, and Gaara and Haku turned towards her with curiosity. Shiki smiled. "Hanashin. Death Flower. Or the Crimson Sakura. That's what we call them. It was raining crimson sakuras too on that day." Her face darkened. "On that day when Blade had perished. In the land of the Whirlpool, a small country to the western continent where my mother had came from; the crimson sakura is an omen of disaster. I have never really believed it, you know? But it looks like it had some truth in it after all."
Gaara and Haku stayed silent.
Among all of them, Shiki's past is the only one which is shrouded completely in mystery, as she had been alone all her life before she had met them. Even Neji and Hinata didn't know about her past prior to them meeting her, as even they have only met Shiki after Blade's unfortunate demise.
"You weren't this superstitious before," said Haku at last. "It isn't like you, Shiki."
Shiki sighed. "This day always manages to put me in a bad mood," she muttered, and Gaara and Haku exchanged glances.
It is true that it is always on this particular day and two days before this day that Shiki is always in a bad mood, and would basically kick just about anyone who manages to get on her bad side. Thus, everyone in Ragnarok would always tread on eggshells around her during these three days before she would be back to her usual self the next day. And it is also always on this day that Shiki would always disappear for an entire day, with no one knowing where she had gone, sans for perhaps Shino. Now Gaara and Haku understood why.
"Well, I guess talking about the past every once in awhile isn't so bad," said Shiki, glancing at Gaara and Haku. "Haku, you've once asked me about my past. I had never liked talking about it, as it is a part of my life that I never want to remember again. But…you have a right to know about my past."
Cat's Eye CaféHiraiko, Japan
"Shiki's parents passed away when she wasn't that much older than four or so," said Iruka solemnly, and Itachi's eyes widened. "I don't know how they have died, but Jiraiya-sama told me that they were murdered, which isn't something that surprising during that chaotic time of war. After that, Shiki was bounced around from foster home to foster home; never really staying long in one home because of the mere fact alone that she's a nin-user. Jiraiya-sama didn't really tell me much about her life before Hagako, but I do know that for some time, he couldn't locate Shiki when he could usually trace which home that she was sent to before."
"Why didn't her godfather just take her with him?" asked Itachi with a frown. "Then Shiki wouldn't have to suffer so much as a child!"
"It wasn't his fault," said Iruka patiently. "Jiraiya-sama is a renowned spymaster and one of the best informants out there. Back then, he was busy tracking down all those who have instigated the start of the civil war, and he was slowly destroying their organisations from the inside in an attempt to end the war, with the most prominent one being the Rebellion Group that is still around even today. He wouldn't have been able to take care of a child and do all that at once. His job is a dangerous one, and he knew it. But after the last foster home sent Shiki back to the Child Welfare Services, some man took her in, and it was after that that even Jiraiya-sama couldn't find her, and he is the best at finding someone. She disappeared off his radar for nearly a year, and when she appeared again, she is a totally changed person."
"I don't know what had happened to her during that period of time. Only Jiraiya-sama does when he had managed to get out from Shiki everything that has happened, and he isn't telling. But it is after that that Jiraiya-sama decided that he would rather Shiki live by her own, as it will be probably be much safer for her, and he then took her to Hagako and purchased an apartment for her to live in, only dropping by from time to time to stock up on food, and to make sure that she is alright. He had also been teaching her to control her powers at that time, as Shiki's powers for a nin-user are especially strong, something that I'm sure that you knew as well."
Itachi nodded. "Where did she go during that one year of absence?" he asked, intrigued.
Iruka shrugged. "I've already told you: I don't know," he said patiently. "But Jiraiya-sama said that something about Orochimaru was involved. And if that damnable snake is involved, then it is probably something horrible."
Itachi narrowed his eyes.
"So he was the one who had taken you in?" Gaara asked with a frown. "Orochimaru?"
Shiki sighed and nodded. "At that time, I didn't know who he was, as I was still pretty small then," she said. "He took me to this underground place which seems to be some lab, and ran all kinds of 'doctor examinations' on me, claiming that it is 'all for my health'. And like the fool I was back then, I believed him. It was about two months after that when he injected me with all kinds of tranquilisers and anaesthetic, putting me in a half-awake half-asleep state most of the time before sticking me in a test-tube-like glass prison, running…tests and experiments on me."
Haku and Gaara's blood grew cold, and they stared at Shiki in horror. They have seen the results of Orochimaru's experiments in the past, and they knew what that sick freak had done to his victims, if Gaara and his siblings back then were of any exception.
"I was only half-conscious at that time, but I knew what is going on," said Shiki, gritting her teeth together. "I was young then, and I didn't fully understand what he is trying to do. But Jiraiya explained to me when I grew older. He told me that it's because my powers as a nin-user are special and unique, even for a nin-user, and my powers are extraordinarily powerful. That's why Orochimaru went after me…just like the rest of you."
Haku and Gaara exchanged looks.
Shiki sighed. "My memory is still in bits and pieces about the experimenting stage, as I was only semi-conscious at that time. But I remember enough… Enough to know just what he had tried doing to me, and had failed, thankfully."
"Increase the dosage by seventy-five percent."
Lights flashing. Alarms were going off.
"Experiment number eighty-six had broken out!"
"…we've dreamt of creating the world's most powerful nin-user…and we've succeeded."
There was a loud explosion.
Cat's Eye CaféHiraiko, Japan
"And from what I've heard from Jiraiya-sama, Shiki managed to make her way to Hagako and stumbled upon him," said Iruka solemnly. "She was alone in Hagako most of the time after that as Jiraiya-sama had work. But she found friends. Friends of hers that would later prove to be loyal to her, and would even protect her till their dying breath. Friends that would later form the legendary street gang Blade."
"So…you kind of 'recruited' them like you did to us?" asked Haku with a frown.
Shiki sighed. "No, I didn't," she said. "Those guys chose to follow me like a duckling after its mother. No matter what I did, I can't seem to shake them off. And after awhile, I just gave up. And even without realising it. Blade was formed even before I realised what is going on."
"So…was it because of you that Blade had that fearsome reputation?" asked Gaara carefully.
Shiki sighed. "Well, technically yes," she said. "You see, at that time, Hagako was split into different factions because of the aftermath of the war. The leader of one of those factions whose main territories are the western sides of Hagako is a man by the name of Hanzo."
"Hanzo?" Haku muttered. "I seem to have heard of that name somewhere…"
"You would have if you had travelled with Zabuza for a time," said Shiki. "That man gave the Mist some problems in the past, and they chased him all the way to Hagako. Blade, along with some of the other street gangs, teamed up with the Mist to fight Hanzo. But at that time, none of those street gangs were influential enough to go up against Hanzo and his Ame sans for Blade and the Mist. Hanzo was also the reason why Hagako is in the state that it was in back then. We got tired of all those fights. Back then, people died every day, and the graveyard of Hagako was nearly full as a result. Not one day went by without someone dying. Yes, I know that it was the aftermath of the war – the civil war back then, but still… I got tired of that violence. All of Blade were. We wanted to do something about it. It wasn't that long after that when Blade started to make a name for ourselves, and it was also then that we've caught Hanzo's attention. At that time, we didn't realise that Hanzo was sort of a double-faced agent. He worked for both Orochimaru and Danzo, running both sides. It was a dangerous game that he was playing, but one that could benefit him. Both Orochimaru and Danzo were enemies in a way, and even though I didn't realise it at that time, they were after me. You can just imagine what had happened next."
Gaara and Haku were both silent for a long time after that. "Your parents…" said Haku at last. "You said that they were murdered as well. By whom?"
Shiki tensed up slightly. "You don't have to know," she said at last. "It's my burden. Not yours."
She closed her eyes briefly.
I curse you. Even if I'm dead, I'll still curse you!
Shiki opened her eyes again, taking one step closer to her parents' graves before kneeling down before the gravestones, sweeping some stray leaves off of the two headstones. 'I will avenge you soon enough, Kaa-san, Tou-san.' Shiki thought. 'I've waited for fourteen years. It is about time. I'll collect the blood debt that those two cursed fools owe me in full. And it isn't just me. The others too. Their parents…' Shiki sighed. 'And those two cursed fools will soon be dead fools.'
"Shiki, are you alright?" asked Gaara with concern.
"Yeah," said Shiki, closing her eyes briefly before opening them again. "Jiraiya told me something once a long time ago after Blade was formed. He is a pervert, but a wise one."
Haku snorted. "Yeah. The 'Super Pervert'," she deadpanned, and Gaara snickered.
Shiki smiled. "He said something to me once. 'We don't know what kind of people we truly are until the moment before our deaths. As death comes to embrace you, you will then realise what you are'." Shiki sighed. "That's what death is, don't you think? I've seen so many deaths for the past several years, and I kind of understand this logic now. And it is just as Ero-kyoufu had said. War brings nothing but loss and pain and death to both sides, sometimes more than necessary. And once the time comes, then will we know what death truly is all about."
Shiki then stood up and turned around to meet Gaara and Haku's concerned looks. "Let's go," she said before turning and leaving the graveyard.
I'll collect that blood debt that you owed me in full soon. Blood can only be washed away by blood! I'll make you scream as I make your last moments as painful as possible. The same way that you make me feel back then! Senju Tsunade. Sarutobi Hizuren.
Preview of next chapter:
"The graveyards that I usually see are usually full of the graves of children. Children that I couldn't save. That I was unable to save."
"You left them there to die."