Price of Freedom
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 Thirty Two: Price of Freedom
As an ANBU, Uchiha Itachi had seen many things.
And with the recent move of the Black Ops division of the ANBU, he had seen more than he had even wanted to. With his 'desertion' of the ANBU, he had then saw even more. Things that that Sai guy had later explained were the sights of war.
The sight of…this…is something that Itachi wished that he never had to see.
But still, Uchiha Itachi wasn't able to tear his eyes away from the mangled corpses all hung on pikes, with the bodies of women and children among them, the faces nearly unrecognisable. It reminds Itachi of some of Ragnarok's victims in the past, only that this one was much more brutal.
A hand clamped down on his shoulder just then, and Itachi turned only to see a serious-looking Sai. "Come," said Sai in a low voice, tightening his grip on Itachi's shoulder. "This isn't something that you should see. Come on."
Almost like a zombie, Itachi followed Sai until they reached a particularly deserted street. Ever since Ragnarok had stormed ANBU headquarters with Baled, nearly every town had their occupants keeping in their houses unless otherwise.
"What…is that?" Itachi managed to gasp out the moment that he had regained his composure. "Shiki always said that Hagako is one of the cities in Japan that had honourable gangs – street gangs that kept their code. What is that back then? Is that something that a human will do?"
"No." Sai stated curtly, turning cold eyes on Itachi himself. Apparently, Sai hadn't forgiven Itachi completely for the raid that the Black Ops had done on their base back in Lake Ogura. But surprisingly enough, Itachi didn't seem to care right now.
"What do you mean, 'no'?" Itachi demanded. "Is this what Hagako—"
"That's not what I meant!" Sai cut Itachi off angrily, balling his hands into fists. "Something like this would never have happened when Shiki was here! She would never have allowed it!"
Itachi thought hard for several moments. He remembered what Shiki had mentioned once about her time in Hagako, and about a rival gang whose power is enough to rival that of Blade's. And even Blade never went up against that gang if they could help it. They're not suicidal enough to do that.
"Is it Hanzo?" Itachi questioned, and Sai glanced at him, a look of brief surprise on his face at the fact that Itachi had actually known about Hanzo. "Shiki told me about him." He answered the unasked question.
"I see." Sai muttered before looking over his shoulder and back at Itachi. "Probably." He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "This is just like the way that he and his Ame works. Back then, it is true that Blade didn't have enough power to wipe them out, but we do have the support of nearly every single gang in Hagako, and there are quite a number of powerful gangs that are allied with us. And they still are even now. That's the only reason why Hanzo didn't rile us up more. He knew that he wouldn't stand a chance against nearly every single gang in Hagako. But he's been silent for years, ever since Blade had disbanded itself. So just why…?" Sai bit on his bottom lip.
Itachi stayed silent. He had never been involved in the underworld, unlike Shiki and her friends, so he couldn't say that he understood just how the minds of those involved in the underworld works.
Sai's eyes widened just then, having come to a realisation. "Unless…Hanzo and Ame are involved with Ne," he said slowly. The younger teen turned towards Itachi. "For awhile now, ever since I'd…deserted Ne, so as to speak, we have been receiving intelligence and hearing rumours of how a particularly powerful street gang had been assisting Ne and Danzo." He explained. "It has never been confirmed. But if Hanzo and his Ame have indeed been assisting them, then it explains a lot of things. But if that's true…" Sai narrowed his eyes. "Then we are in trouble."
Ragnarok's Headquarters (Exilia)Twenty Miles Deep in the Sea
"I see. Thank you," said Shiki, speaking in her cellphone whilst being present in the control room alongside nearly every single member of Ragnarok, with the usual two – Haku and Hinata, piloting the submarine-cum-plane. Nearly every single member, because Temari is currently in the medical bay, unconscious. The Mutation process that she had forced herself through had nearly killed her. That if it hadn't been for Shiki's timely arrival, she would have died.
"One of the leaders of the street gangs in Hagako told us that some ANBU members have been investigating you," said Sumaru on the other end of the line. "Seems like they intend to take this challenge to them seriously as well."
Shiki smirked. "Well, it wouldn't be fun if they didn't," she said. She then turned serious. "But seriously… We don't have much time on our side as well."
"The Bijuu Shrines?" Sumaru questioned, and Shiki sighed.
"Yeah," she said. "We've managed to seal them away. But it wouldn't last for long. The time for his awakening is at hand. If we don't hurry and find a way to seal him away for good…" She trailed off.
"Well, these things take time." Sumaru stated. "Anyway, Iruka and the others are fine. I think that they've gone to Mist for help. But that Itachi guy…" He trailed off. "I understand the circumstances, and I also agree that he is partly to blame for the blast at our base at Lake Ogura. But Shiki, I think that you should tell him everything about the ANBU and their misdeeds. The ones that are kept hidden, from even their own people. He especially has to understand just what the ANBU had done to your parents, and why you are doing what you are doing now. The war is at hand, and we need every single bit of help that we can get."
Shiki was silent. "…I understand."
Baled Resistance MovementShinjuku, Japan
"What is this?" Itachi asked, an eyebrow twitching as he stared at the screwdriver in his hand.
Takigawa Utakata stared at Itachi like he had suddenly grown two new heads from his position by one of the motorbikes. "It's a screwdriver," he stated matter-of-factly.
"I know that!" Itachi snapped. "What am I supposed to do with it?"
"Help me out here." Utakata stated. "Freeloaders don't get food here."
"Unfortunately, you're going to have to work on that bike of yours on your own for today, Utakata," said a familiar voice, and the two boys turned only to see a fairly familiar redhead standing behind them. Namikaze Shiki sighed. "I'm going to borrow Itachi for a bit."
"This should be a good enough spot." Shiki muttered to herself as she sat down on the grass by the lake. The fireflies were out in full, and seeing this many of them meant that summer is nearly over.
Silence reigned for several moments before Itachi sighed inwardly, rubbing his temples. This silence is nearly stifling. 'This is getting ridiculous,' he thought. He was about to open his mouth to say something when Shiki cut him off.
"Having any regrets?" The redhead asked out of the sudden, not looking at him, but at the lake, her arms wrapped around her legs.
"N-Not really." Itachi muttered, and Shiki turned to look at him.
"Liar," she stated bluntly. "You are regretting it. Not that I blame you." She said, turning her eyes back to the fireflies once more, and Itachi blinked owlishly. "You had served in the ANBU for several years. If you did not regret your action, you wouldn't be the person whom I know, and I wouldn't have asked Sai and Sumaru to hide you as well."
Shiki leaned backwards slightly and looked at Itachi. "Your ANBU leaders, Senju Tsunade and Sarutobi Hizuren…" She trailed off. "A long time ago, during the war, they were the ones who managed to end the war with that country what's-their-name. But during the war, and even after that, they have done many horrible deeds in the name of the country and the High Council, and even the ANBU. Deeds that were even kept hidden from their fellow ANBUs." Shiki turned towards Itachi. "The Black Ops were one of those. On the surface, they were a division that existed purely for the sake of war, but beneath that, they were a division that specialised in assassination. A division that does all the dirty work just so that the ANBU can continue existing. Dirty work that can never be revealed, not even to their fellow ANBUs. I understand the reasoning behind a division like that, but I still can't forgive them." She grinded one fist into the ground beside her.
"The underground mercenary group, Mist. The one that Mei Terumi is in charge of now. They were founded during the war." Shiki turned towards Itachi. "My parents were the original founders." Itachi's eyes widened. "And the other members of Mist were their friends. The parents of all those in Ragnarok. My parents founded Mist right out of high school when the war was taking a turn for the worse. In the end, the war ended with Japan the victor. Mist had a large part to play in that victory. But at the same time, they knew many secrets and a great deal of information that might prove disastrous if it ever got out. That's why after the war, the new ANBU leaders, Senju Tsunade and Sarutobi Hizuren, ordered them killed." Itachi's eyes widened in shock. So that explains it… "After that, during the civil war, they made the lives of their children – us, hell on purpose. That is so that when the time comes, the ANBU will 'save' us, and we will feel grateful to them. That is a common tactic often used." Shiki turned towards Itachi. "You've asked me once why I created Ragnarok. This has in part to do with it. I just want to know the truth behind my parents' deaths. I was too young to remember them, as I was a mere baby when they died. But I still want to know the truth."
Itachi was silent for a long time. He didn't want to believe that the ANBU that he believed is full of justice and righteousness will do such a thing like that. But he had been an ANBU as well, and he knew their secrets, and the things that they will do in order to keep certain secrets hidden. They are the order of this country, and it is their duty to keep that order, no matter what they have to do. Even if it is the killing of certain people.
"Sai told me that some of the ANBUs were poking around Hagako when they tried tracking your past." Itachi said at last. "Only thing new that the ANBU had managed to find out in five years – that you're originally from Hagako."
Shiki raised an eyebrow. "They do indeed have a death wish," she muttered, shaking her head. "It isn't wise for the ANBU to head into Hagako now at a time like this." She explained, reading Itachi's confused look. "All the street gangs of Hagako are now very high strung, with the ANBU and the things happening of late, and with Hanzo. Hagako is at the fore of the underworld after all. We keep our secrets well there. The people there are loyal to our own first and foremost. And there are people there that are still loyal to me."
"War…" Itachi muttered. "I had hoped that Sasuke would never have to see a war, but…"
Shiki shook her head. "You can't keep coddling him forever," she pointed out. "And I'm sorry to say this, but I think that your kid brother had seen some sights of war by now. Some of the criminals that the ANBU go after have committed acts that are only ever seen during war." She sighed. "I've been a long time in this business, Itachi. And the one thing that I've learnt is that there are no coincidences in this world. Once Death touches you, there is no escape." Her eyes are like cold hard pieces of steel at this point. "And you'll be a fool to tempt Fate. If you try, you'll probably piss off the Grim Reaper. And trust me, there is no person scarier than him when he is angry. Just trust me on this: don't even try to defy or tempt Fate. You won't like the consequences. As a nin-user, our sixth sense is stronger than most humans. But unlike most nin-users, my sixth sense had always been stronger than most. I can feel that something is going to happen even before it could happen."
Itachi's eyes widened in shock. So that's how… "So that's how you knew where to find your friends and what is going to—"
"Yeah." Shiki cut him off before he could complete his sentence. "The night that Blade was wiped out was the first time that I got something like that. I…ignored it, and you know what happened that night. Trust me on this: don't even try to defy or tempt Fate. If it's your time, it's time. No one can cheat Death. And if you try, you won't like the consequences. I've seen it happen too many times."
"But why did you target the ANBU?" Itachi wanted to know. "I understand that you're angry because of your parents, but—"
"Because they took everything from me." Shiki interrupted. "They did other things to me, not just killing my parents, but I won't elaborate more on that topic. This is just for revenge. Plain and simple. I wasn't planning on falling for you. But then, it did happen, and things then grew complicated from there."
"Revenge, huh?" Itachi mused. "It can consume you, Shiki."
"That may be true." Shiki agreed to Itachi's surprise. "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." She chewed on her bottom lip. "It is a cycle that never ends." She turned towards Itachi. "Even in the underworld, we have our own set of rules. We will follow them. Those that break them…" Her eyes turned cold and unforgiving. "They will be hunted down by the rest of us. That is the law of survival in the underworld."
"Why are you telling me this?" Itachi felt uncomfortable. It is almost like Shiki is trying to tell him something. He understood the redhead. She had always been direct and blunt, not caring in the least if her words would hurt someone. She is never one to dress her words up in pretty sounding words.
Shiki was silent for a long time before she turned towards Itachi. "Because I'm getting you away from here," she answered, and Itachi's eyes went wide in shock. "The war that we're in right now with the ANBU is going to get fiercer. And I know you. I know you would never be able to fight seriously against your once comrades. But if you don't take it seriously, you'll die. That's why I'm getting you away from here. Forget everything, Itachi. Forget about this place. Forget that you had been an ANBU. Forget about me. If you continue to remain here, you'll die. Either by your once comrades' hand, or by yourself."
"That's not true!" Itachi blurted out. "I…I made my decision when I decided to retaliate against Tsunade—"
"Then let me ask you one question," said Shiki sharply. "If your brother was sent to kill you, would you be able to kill him?" Itachi felt his breath get caught in his throat. "You can't answer me, can you?" Shiki smiled a grim smile. "You have to understand that this isn't a game. You'll get killed if you don't take this seriously. Our enemy isn't just the ANBU. And it'll only be just a matter of time before they appear. And once that time arrives, the fighting will be worse and fiercer. Some of us will die. Some of us will not. But make no mistake, this country will lose an entire generation of young men and women by the time that that time comes. If you think that you can't deal with it, I'll advise you to leave now. And I know you. It's time for you to leave."
A very long silence reigned.
"You're going to leave me again, aren't you?" Itachi asked at last. "Why must you always do this to me?"
"You know that this day will come sooner or later." Shiki stated. "We stand on different sides after all. We look at the world through different eyes. You look at the world in pure black and white. I see the gray. We look at it differently, and thus, think differently. It will never work out." She stood up, her back facing Itachi. "I'll talk to Iruka about this. He has ways to get you out of the country without anyone realising it until you're long gone. I have a few friends in other places. They'll take care of you."
Itachi grabbed Shiki's wrist before she can leave, his bangs overshadowing his eyes, not saying anything for several moments. "Don't make decisions like this for me," he muttered. "I never said that I would go."
"Stop that," said Shiki curtly, turning around to face Itachi. "You know that it is for the best."
"For the best?" Itachi echoed. "You don't seriously believe that, do you?"
A rumble of thunder echoed in the distance, before the light drops of rain began falling onto their heads. Shiki said nothing for several moments before Itachi decided to take the initiative. "All right." He said before grabbing Shiki by the shoulder and turning her around, grabbing her lips in a chaste kiss.
Later on, in Itachi's room in Baled's headquarters of the Shinjuku branch, if anyone cared to strain their ears, they would have overheard the light rustling of fabric.
"You're cold." Itachi muttered, brushing a few rain-soaked bangs off of Shiki's forehead, leaning above her.
"I can't help it. The rain came down all of a sudden." Shiki muttered, before she took in a sharp intake of breath as Itachi pushed up the fabric of her shirt, allowing cool air to hit her skin. "Itachi…"
Itachi reached down to capture her lips in a kiss once more, before drawing back. "I love you," he muttered. "I'll say it as many times as I need to, as long as you could remember it. It doesn't matter what would happen. I just do not want to be separated from you ever again." He then bent down before kissing her once more.
Ragnarok's Headquarters (Exilia)Twenty Miles Deep in the Sea
"Seems like there have been no movements from the ANBU of late." Gaara stated, glancing over at Shiki who is sitting on the chair opposite him in the control room. The both of them were the only ones in there, as the others were getting a quick bite to eat.
"I see." Shiki muttered, not looking at Gaara, as she is reading a leather-bound journal of some sort whilst making some notes on another notebook. "Well, I'm not surprised. They did lose their leader recently after all. Their first priority would be to arrange the chain of command before deciding on any next move regarding us."
Gaara frowned. "And the next highest chain of command would be the ANBU commander, huh?" he mused. "That makes it easy for us then. That woman is quick tempered and arrogant to boot. It will be easy to predict her manner of thinking. That is why we have been able to predict their movements these past few years."
"I guess." Shiki mused absent-mindedly.
There was silence for several moments before Gaara spoke again. "I've been meaning to ask you for some time now. Why did you create Ragnarok?"
Shiki looked up at this question. She sighed inwardly. Seems like a great number of people have been asking her this question of late. "A great number of reasons," she said at last. "But the main one being that I wanted to atone for my sins."
Shiki nodded. "Yeah. A long time ago, I made a very stupid mistake. Many people paid for it with their lives just because of my ego." Her eyes turned distant, as if recalling a far off memory. "'Born for Him. Die for Him. If that is Fate, one cannot disobey. Travel the unseen road. For what lies there is the end of life. This is God's guidance'." Shiki recited, before glancing at Gaara. "He said that to me once. A prayer of sorts." She closed her eyes briefly. "I…was kidnapped a long time ago, along with several others. Only those who were held captive back then knew this prayer. I miscalculated the escape route when we were making our escape. And the end result is that over half of us died. Later, I swore that I would never let something like this happen again. Not long after that, I created Blade. And then, the same thing happened again. I really wanted to give up then and there. But then, Neji and Hinata appeared. They gave me hope. Things just happened from there, and I started to help you guys. And before I knew it, Ragnarok was formed."
"Sins huh?" Gaara mused.
"I think that everyone has something like that." Shiki stated. "Something that we wished to forget. You. Me. Everyone. Everyone has something like that. But sometimes, I wonder to myself, if sins are truly forgiven. If there is a real Hell in this world, sometimes, I think it best describes the world that we are now in. Hell." She chuckled bitterly. "It is Hell here too."
Gaara sighed. "Isn't that the truth?" he muttered sarcastically.
Somewhere ElseUnknown Location
"Sai told me to hand this to the leader of Mist." Itachi stated, holding out a stack of papers all bound in a brown manila envelope.
Umino Iruka nodded and took it from Itachi. "Sorry, to make you come all the way here," he stated. He then noted the raising of Itachi's brows and smiled lightly. "I am here as a temporary secretary for Mei-san. I swear, they need someone permanent to handle all the paperwork, with this amount of backlogged work." He muttered beneath his breath. He then turned towards Itachi. "Do you have some time now? I want to talk with you."
Itachi nodded dumbly before following Iruka to what must be his makeshift office. In fact, the stacks of paper that could be seen all over the office nearly made Itachi sweat drop. Okay, so Iruka wasn't exaggerating about the paperwork earlier.
"What about your café?" Itachi asked Iruka as he dropped down onto the couch, as Iruka busied himself with brewing some coffee.
"Shiki and Mei-san advised me to not return there for the time being. At least until the war is over." Iruka answered, bringing two cups of coffee over to the table. "The ANBU is closing in on all those who have connections with the underworld – the informants, street gangs and even the runners. They only knew that Ragnarok's information network has to do with the underworld. That is why they have been closing in on us. They intend to cut Ragnarok's connections off."
"That won't work." Itachi pointed out. "Shiki's connections don't just stop there."
"Well, we all knew that, but no one ever said that the ANBU has any brains to begin with." Iruka stated bluntly. "If truth be told, Shiki knew that this would happen one day. That is why she had already made preparations for all of us. Also, Hagako hasn't been budging in the least, not that I'm surprised. But I heard that the ANBU is closing in on them as well."
Itachi sighed. This doesn't bode well. "If they continue targeting Hagako, they'll only succeed in pissing off the entire underworld. And that is not a wise thing to do. The underworld has never been fond of the ANBU in the first place. And with this war, the ANBU closing in on them will only piss them off more."
"I guess so." Iruka smiled, scratching at the scar on his nose. He was silent for a long time before he spoke again. "A long time ago, during the war, I was involved in one of the fiercest battles ever known. I left my family when I was young during the war, all because I wanted to stop the fighting. My parents tried to stop me, saying that it is nothing but a fool's errand. And they are right. But at that time, I ignored them. I was stupid then. And arrogant. As well as foolish. I thought that nothing could kill me. But I was wrong. One battle nearly did. I would have died then if Shizune and Genma hadn't been there." He glanced at Itachi. "I saw the war first hand for myself. That's why, more than anyone else, I understood why Shiki did what she did. The world is changing, Itachi. Whether for the better or for the worse, I don't know. But I believe that what Shiki is doing is the right thing. And make no mistake, this war will change the world."
"The ANBU has been in control ever since the founding of Japan." Itachi pointed out. "It won't be an easy battle."
"No one ever said that it would be easy." Iruka sighed. "And now, Tsunade is the only one making all the major decisions for ANBU, though I think that it is in Shiki's calculations as well. She would never have ordered Sarutobi killed otherwise. With that woman as the leader, the ANBU may be able to break through our defenses. Perhaps, with luck and cunning on their side, the ANBU may even make it to our gates. But then…" Iruka's eyes hardened. "Over there, they will then meet Ragnarok itself. And you should know by now what they are capable of. They are some of the most powerful nin-users that I've ever met, and they don't even need to use their powers in the battles that they are involved in so far. They can make the impossible possible. If the ANBU are willing to face the one that can control death, then they can push on. If they don't mind being turned into vegetables by one who can scramble their minds and break them, then they can feel free to continue." Iruka's eyes then turned cold. "And we will grind the ANBU into the dust."
Ragnarok's Headquarters (Exilia)Twenty Miles Deep in the Sea
The medical bay was silent as Shiki sat by the only occupied bed, where a certain blonde haired girl laid in, slumbering peacefully.
Shiki stared at Temari, wishing that the girl would wake up soon, but she knew that Temari's body needs time to heal after using that accursed power that had nearly killed her. A nin-user's resistance is stronger than most, and so were their healing ability. It is only a matter of time before Temari wakes. She just has to be patient.
Shiki stared at Temari, recalling what the blonde girl had asked of her before that mission to the ANBU headquarters, and she had knocked herself into a coma.
If anything ever happens to me, please erase everyone's memories of me. With your skills and abilities in rune spells, you can do something like this easily. Furthermore, this is something that I have to do. You can call it revenge. Or you can even call it foolishness. But this is something that I have to do. Please Shiki. Please try to understand.
Shiki sighed, rubbing her forehead. 'Sorry, Temari,' she thought. 'I can't do this to you.' She then leaned back against the chair that she is sitting in. '"If I have to bring unhappiness to everyone by doing this, then I'll rather that they do not remember me at all. I'll rather that even Gaara do not remember that he has a sister. This is my decision, and I do not want anyone sad by the decisions that I'd made". This is what you'd said back then. It is true that the others can't take another comrade's death any longer, but I still can't do this to you…to everyone. I'm sorry, but please try to understand.'
Shiki sighed and looked out of the small window in the medical bay, where she saw nothing but dark waters, seeing as how night is already falling. She then tightened her arms around herself. 'I wonder… If you three have never met me in Hiraiko all those years ago, would things have come to this? If you had a choice again, would you still choose to follow me? After all, I did nothing but bring death and unhappiness to everyone who had ever followed me. Blade…and now Ragnarok. Is everything that I've done…' Shiki closed her eyes briefly. '…all just a big mistake?'
A/N: Sorry for the wait! Some of my readers have been badgering me to write this chapter, so here it is. But I've written it at a bad time apparently, as I'm down with a really bad flu and cough. If any of you have tried working or writing when you're sick, you'll know what I mean. And you'll also know how difficult it is to churn out a decent chapter when you can't even think straight. I hope that this chapter is up to your standard.
So a friend of mine had recommended a new anime to me. Usually, I would never watch BL (boy love) anime, as in yaoi. But she did mention that the storyline is really good, so I decided to just take a risk. And the storyline is pretty good. Not too many disturbing scenes as well, unless you count the other spin off anime by the same artist. Oh, and the anime that I've mentioned? Seikai-ichi Hatsukoi. Also translated as The Best First Love in the World. At least, that's how it went, I think. And the other spin off anime is known as Junjou Romantica.
But while Seikai had more kissing scenes, though not that many, Junjou had more bed scenes that sometimes cause me to even stop watching it. But if any of you are a fan of romance or even yaoi, just check it out. You might like it.
Anyway, I hope that you like this chapter, and please read and review!
Preview of next chapter:
"You had something important to do, don't you? Leave it to me. At least let an old man like me do what he has to."
"Enough! We will shed no more blood tonight! There has already been too much blood spilt. Leave this place at once. This place is not yours to tread. Leave this place or die. The choice is yours."
"We told you to leave this place or die. You refused. Now you may have killed us all, for you have just unleashed a creature that we have feared for over ten thousand years."