The Path That You Walk
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 Four: The Path That You Walk
Things seriously couldn't get any worse.
Less than a month after the Demon God's awakening had the entire country, along with the ANBU, all up in arms, especially since a strange illness had been spreading around the country. The symptoms are strange – almost like smallpox, yet it isn't, as the cause is really that of a strange parasite that nested into people's bodies, speeding up the deterioration of a human body, resulting in death.
The public are panicking because of this, and because many people had actually seen the Demon God fly past their towns and villages on that fateful day. The Demon God is famous enough, being mentioned in several legends and archives that many people have recognised his form immediately.
Thus, the ANBU are all up to their necks in work, trying to calm down the frightened public, and to do some damage control.
And while they are doing that, the underworld, especially Ragnarok and Baled, are all strangely silent.
Mist's HeadquartersUnknown Location
"—and now, we bring to you the latest news report today. Another person suffering from the 'Death Syndrome' that is what experts have been calling the new disease going around, had just been confirmed. As of now, it has been confirmed that there have been twenty seven such cases and—"
Mei Terumi picked up the remote control sitting on her desk and turned the television off. Sighing, the head of the underground mercenary group then turned around to face the people currently sitting on chairs or couches in her office – Uchiha Itachi, Sai, Umino Iruka and Namikaze Shiki herself.
Iruka sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, with the lot of them having their eyes glued to the television screen earlier. Mei had called them for a meeting that very morning to talk about the recent 'disease' going around. The ANBU may not be aware of what is exactly going on, but the underworld sure does, since they have always been well versed in mythology and legends regarding the Bijuu Nine and the Demon God.
"All right. This is getting way out of hand." Mei stated, looking from face to face. "We have to do something."
"Besides, if we don't do something soon, the Bijuu Nine will." Shiki stated, a dark look in her eyes. "And we won't like it. They have been noted in history records for taking…drastic action." She coughed.
Mei frowned. "Shiki, do you know something? We've never heard of something like this happening before."
Shiki sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose to ease her headache as everyone looked on with interest. "I've only heard of it. Well, read it actually," she stated. "In the old archives. I didn't think that it would happen so soon though." She frowned. "The Demon God is fast regaining his power and strength quickly."
"I've heard from Kisame that there has been a series of strange disappearances all over the country – mostly young people." Itachi added.
Shiki and Sai exchanged looks. "It's beginning then." Sai sighed. "The only way for the Demon God to regain his former strength and power is to absorb the life force of humans, normally young ones."
"But what is going on in this country now?" Itachi frowned. "And this infection thing?"
There was silence before Shiki grumbled something beneath her breath. "All right, I'm going to make this as simple for you as possible," she snapped. "The people getting infected by this 'Death Syndrome' or whatever that the ANBU is naming it, isn't unrelated to the Demon God. So far, all those infected, they have some sort of background with nin-users. Somewhere in their family tree, there is always a nin-user somewhere."
Mei nodded slowly.
"The ANBU aren't aware of it yet," said Shiki, emphasizing on the 'yet'. "Especially since we don't want to worsen things by having Tsunade make some stupid decision to arrest all nin-users or something. This country can't afford to have another civil war break out right now, atop of the internal war between the ANBU and the underground. It'll probably be the end of Japan, and it'll only make things worse than it is. But yes, Ragnarok and Baled have been investigating whilst they are too busy freaking their heads off." Shiki shook her head. "How that blonde bimbo ever managed to achieve her current position is beyond me. She'll sooner ruin this country than help it."
Itachi opened his mouth to protest before closing it again.
The past months when he is 'on the run' so to speak had opened his eyes a lot. He can understand why Ragnarok, Mist and Baled have been so jaded with the ANBU and the country. He can understand why Shiki had made all the decisions that she did, and just why Mist and the underworld have turned against ANBU and the High Council the way that they did.
"In history records, it is stated that the Demon God has a grudge against the Bijuu Nine, especially the leader, the Lord of Creation, the Kyuubi." Shiki explained. "And the nin-users of the land, at some point, we were all descended from them. Their blood runs in our veins. That is where the abilities of nin-users come from. My powers are stronger than my comrades, than most nin-users, because I am a direct descendant from the God of Creation. The Kyuubi, the Lord of the Bijuu Nine." Ignoring the shocked expressions, Shiki frowned. "I don't know what exactly happened between the gods over ten thousand years ago, but as the legend goes, there was a conflict between them that started the war that ended the era of the gods. At that time, when the Demon God…walked out on them, there was…an infection of sorts going around." Shiki glanced from face to face. "The same as what is happening now. That infection brought forth what was known as the Ten Plagues. The Demon God's fury over the 'betrayal' of his own creations. The ones infected with the Death Syndrome now are all those with the Potential, or those carrying the N-Gene."
Somewhere ElseUnknown Location
"The Ten Plagues?" Hoshigaki Kisame frowned, after having met up at some unknown location secretly with his younger sister. He could finally manage to get some time away, and had rung up his sister, wanting to get to the bottom of everything.
Hundreds of questions have been running through his head ever since he had seen the Demon God's revival with his own eyes less than a month ago.
Tsunade hadn't wanted to believe their 'ridiculous' story, but she has to, as both teams of Akatsuki and Rendoku, and not to mention several witness reports have claimed the same thing. They couldn't all be lying, right? But the reports of the Death Syndrome had then come in, and this matter was then tossed to one side.
Haku sighed. "It's an ancient legend, only mentioned once in very old historical archives with mentions of the Bijuu Nine and the Demon God during a time period known as the era of the gods," she explained. "Until now, no one really understood just why the Demon God had turned on the world, when he is the one who had liked humans the best among all the gods back then. But he did. And when he turned against the world, he brought forth the Ten Plagues. He is the god of disaster and destruction after all. The Ten Plagues were calamities that is said to symbolize the end of the world and the rise of the of darkness."
Haku cleared her throat. "'For this is what I've said. I created you; I am your father, your master, and you dared turned against me. Thus, I declare thee; no longer will the animals of the wild be your friend. The light will turn to eternal darkness, and the figures of worship will cry tears of blood. No longer will anything grow in your lands, the water of the rivers will turn to blood. Nature will be your worst enemy, and fire will no longer be your friend. You can no longer trust your eyes and Fear will be a commoncy. Death will reign upon the world, and there will be loud wailing upon the world – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again'."
Haku glanced at her brother. "It is a prophecy – a statement that the Demon God is said to have left behind when he snapped just before the war of the gods. The Ten Plagues were stated in that statement. The animals of the land will treat all humans as their foes. The sun will die, plunging this world into eternal darkness. The figurines of worship of every house, building and place will cry tears of blood. Nothing will grow in the land, no matter how fertile, and the water of the rivers everywhere will turn to blood. Mother Nature that had always protected and guided us will become our worst enemy – with famines, storms, hailstorms and even thunderstorms raining down on our heads. The fire that is the greatest gift that the gods have given us will no longer protect us. We will never be able to trust what our eyes could see, and fear will be stricken in the hearts of Man. The last plague is Death. The deaths of all humans, with maybe only a handful of survivors."
Haku glanced at her shocked brother, a grim look in her eyes. "It will be the end of the world."
Mist's HeadquartersUnknown Location
"N-Gene?" Itachi echoed in confusion. "What is that?"
"For goodness sake, what are they teaching you in the ANBU Academy these days?" Mei sighed in dismay.
"N-Gene. Also otherwise translated as Nin-user Gene." Sai explained. "It is a term used to describe the people with the DNA pattern who had the potential to be nin-users. That's the N-Gene. And the Death Syndrome is connected with the Demon God. If this is happening now, it only proves that Madara is getting his power back faster than we thought possible." He frowned. "This isn't going to be good."
Like always, the graveyard of Hagako is silent.
But this time, the silence…is kind of unsettling to Shiki.
In fact, it is the same everywhere now. Ever since the rumours of the Demon God have been spreading, everyone is afraid, especially with the recent Death Syndrome going around. There have even been several cults going around increasing the fear by proclaiming that the end of the world is near.
Namikaze Shiki sighed as she stood in front of Satochi Riku's gravestone, hands shoved into the pockets of her coat. "Hey Riku. If it's you, what would you do?" Shiki asked. "What will you do in this situation?" She nearly whispered. "I know that I said that I won't run anymore, but it's easier said than done."
She closed her eyes.
"I wonder how much longer we can live like this." Satochi Riku murmured, placing a bouquet of white lilies before a gravestone. "Living on like this isn't a solution either. We have to do something about the chaotic era in Hagako now."
Namikaze Shiki laughed half-heartedly. "Saying something like that is easy. But doing it is another matter entirely."
Riku said nothing but looked back at the unmarked gravestone that the two are in front of. "Come to think of it, I remember something that one of my old gang members had said once," he said. "'When you lose someone, you realise just how much that person means to you. So maybe it's a good thing that they're gone. So you can see just how much that person means to you'."
Shiki said nothing for several moments, her eyes darkening considerably. "Yeah, I've heard the same thing somewhere before," she said at last. "Not in so many words, but still with the same meaning. He also said something else. 'The ones we love are never really gone, as long as you keep them close, in your heart'."
Riku was silent. "Maybe it's because we've already been involved with the underworld for a set number of years, and maybe because Hagako had always been at the heart of it all, but we tend to see a lot more of the darker side of the underworld," he said. "I've already long lost count just how many dead bodies that I've seen." His hands trembled. "And just many of those are attributed to me. I've walked the path of death, and I know what it cost me."
Shiki sighed. "Don't we all?" she said bitterly. "But we didn't have a choice. We didn't choose this path. Fate chose it for us…along with every other." She was silent for a long time. "Hey Riku. If there ever comes a day when we ever comes across an enemy…an undefeatable enemy. Someone that we knew, that you knew, that we could never hope to beat, but you knewthat you have to, no matter the cost, what will you do?"
Riku was silent for a long time. "I will fight," he said at last. "I will choose to fight, no matter how desperate and helpless that it seems. I will continue fighting, no matter what. And even if nothing changes, I know that I won't regret it."
Shiki opened her eyes, looking at Riku's name inscribed on the gravestone. "So that's how it is," she whispered. "That is your answer from back then, huh?" She mused. "This battle will be the last one. I said that I'd make a better world for you, for me, for all of us. This battle will determine it. I'm not going to give up when I've came this far." She smiled. "Thank you, Riku." She whispered. "This war… I'll end it. For you, for all of us."
She then turned to walk away.
I don't intend to live through this either. The future… I will entrust it to them.
"That woman, Senju Tsunade or whatever her name is, I'm starting to think that she ought to get her head checked out!" Sai was screaming as he dodged another swipe at his head, narrowly missing getting his head lobbed off his shoulders. "Who on earth in their right mind would order their subordinates to stop an immortal army of the Demon God?"
"Shut up and keep moving!" Itachi shouted back.
It was nearly two or so months ever since the meeting in Mei Terumi's office. Three months ever since the revival of the Demon God, and rumours of an 'immortal army' were spreading fast and wild. As such, when the latest rumour of the immortal army appearing near Labenden – a place that neither the ANBU nor Ragnarok had the greatest memory of, it doesn't thrill Akatsuki and Rendoku much when they were ordered there to 'stop' the immortal army and to 'take them into custody'.
Kisame is starting to believe his sister when she said that that woman is only leading the ANBU and Japan to ruin. Ragnarok, Baled and their individual leaders have said as much throughout the years, but he hadn't wanted to believe it. Then his belief was shaken even further when Itachi had 'left' the ANBU, and had also said the same thing.
Back to the original topic…
When the two ANBU teams have arrived at their destination, they immediately knew that it is a very bad and stupid idea to go there. Both their teams were designed for combat battles, not siege attacks! In a matter of moments, nearly half of their teams were immediately out of commission. Thankfully, they were only knocked out, not dead.
Itachi and Sai have then turned up from out of nowhere just as the remaining members were wondering what to do. And not for nothing either is Itachi known as the best nin-user that the ANBU has. He had called upon as much of his power as he could, forming one of the most powerful blasts that Kisame had ever seen him call upon before, practically roasting the 'immortal army'. And then who should turn up but the boss himself?
The Demon God.
And thus, this explains just why all those who are currently conscious are currently running for their lives.
"Oh my god!"
Itachi whipped his head around at the mere mention of his brother's name only to see the Demon God bearing down on his kid brother. Without even thinking, the older Uchiha immediately found himself in front of his brother just as a blast of dark miasma blasted him in the chest. Shocked looks appeared on the faces of everyone present as Itachi was sent reeling across the ground, crimson blood pooling around his body.
"Nii-san!" Sasuke screamed, running to his brother, with Kisame and Shikamaru close behind him.
"We have to get out of here." Shikamaru breathed heavily. "I have no idea what Tsunade-sama is thinking as well, but we will only be seeking our deaths if we remain here. And then again…" He glanced at his unconscious comrades and a near death's door Uchiha Itachi. "I have no idea how we're going to get them all out of here alive as well. It's going to take a miracle in order to do that."
Shikamaru's miracle dropped out of the sky on him. Literally.
Kisame's eyes threatened to bulge out as Shiki, Haku, Neji and Yugito fell out of some void in the sky. Little did he know that Yugito's ability don't only allow her to create pocket dimensions of her own. She can also create rips in space to transport herself to one place to another. That ability of hers had came in useful for Ragnarok at times when they need to make a quick escape.
Sasuke's eyes widened. "N-Namikaze!"
Shiki glanced over her shoulder only to have her eyes darken when she saw Itachi's state. Having been involved in the underworld for as long as she does, she knew the seriousness of Itachi's condition. "Haku. Yugito."
"On it." Both girls nodded before scurrying to Itachi's side.
"This is going to be troublesome." Neji stated as he stepped by Shiki's side, flexing his fingers, ready to cast a powerful barrier at any moment. "We're dead if he so much as touches us with that miasma."
"Yeah, I know." Shiki nodded, her eyes darkening. "Are the others in position?"
"Yeah, seems to be." Neji nodded, glancing over the unconscious bodies of the ANBUs only to see flickering shadows by them. "We're ready to move them at a moment's notice."
"Ho?" The Demon God hissed, having regained more of a humanoid appearance. Neji is sure that once upon a time, the Demon God must be majestic and handsome looking as well. But right now, he seems more like something out of a horror movie. "You have his scent on you. I will never forget that scent. Not even for a second, in ten thousand years. So you're his descendant. A direct descendant." He hissed. "I thought that there wouldn't be any left now."
"The Demon God, Madara." Shiki stated, narrowing her eyes. "I see that you've regained much of your power back quicker than anticipated. I take it that the disappearances of the people two months ago is your work?" She stated more than questioned. Shiki was nervous. 'This isn't good. I didn't think that he would actually appear. More importantly, we have to get them out of here. We can't face the Demon God right now and hope to win. He is a god!'
"Neji, on my command." Shiki spoke in a low tone to Neji who nodded and flexed his fingers. Behind them, Haku was getting ready to move as well, remembering Shiki's words to them on board Exilia when they were making their way here.
"I won't lie to you guys." Shiki said as she detailed her plan. "It is going to be very risky, as there is always the chance, no matter how small, that the boss himself might turn up. Thus, we have to travel in small numbers. Sumaru told me that he'd sent some of his people there as well to collect the ANBU guys." She looked at the unhappy looks of her comrades and sighed. "Look, I know that you guys are not that overly fond of them, and neither am I. But we can't just leave them to die like this. Against an enemy like the Demon God, we have to join forces."
There were muttering, and Gaara scowled, looking away. "I'm no murderer, Shiki," he stated. "I kill people, yes, but I don't kill people who don't deserve it. If you say that you want to save them, I'll help you."
He got various nods from the others for that.
"What the hell is that stupid woman thinking anyway, sending two teams out there to their deaths without any backup whatsoever?" Neji grunted. "She thinks that they're immortal or something? Unlike popular belief, we do get hurt and die."
"Yeah well. Our best chance to get away at present is a distraction," said Shiki with a cough to interrupt Neji's tirade, knowing from personal experience that if she don't interrupt him, he'll carry on until the next day. "Thus, this is where Neji and Haku comes in."
"Me?" Haku blinked.
Shiki nodded. "We have to time this right in order to make our getaway," she explained. "Haku and Neji, I need you both to create a misty fog and the strongest physical barrier that you can make respectively. This will distract Madara enough for us to be able to get away."
"Block. Guard. And parry. All things physical, shut them out." Neji stated as a pale green barrier formed around the Demon God.
At the same time, Haku was focusing on creating a cloud of mist and fog around them. "Fog of confusion, shroud and cover all!" In a matter of moments, a large mist covered everything and everyone, and Ragnarok immediately took that as their cue to carry the unconscious ANBUs out of the danger zone.
"I cannot beat you." Shiki stated, glancing up at the form of the Demon God. "At least, for now. I'll just withdraw here for now."
"We're running away?" Sasuke questioned even as Shiki grabbed him by the shoulder.
Shiki shot him a look. "You think you could beat that?" She gestured towards the Demon God. "If you can't even judge the differences in power between the both of you, you should get your eyes checked." Sasuke was stumped. "We're leaving."
"This doesn't look good." Haku stated an hour later, when most of the ANBUs have already long regained consciousness, and are currently watching the medics in their midst – Haku, Yugito and Konan pouring as much healing power as they possibly could into Itachi. "His wounds aren't closing up at all. It's probably due to the Demon God's miasma. It is all that I could do to stop his organs from deteriorating. The miasma is too deep into his system. If this keeps up, he will die."
Sasuke felt his heart dropping straight into his boots as he eyed the three medics working on his brother in the middle of nowhere anxiously. Right now, he doesn't care that he's with the group that the entire country had been after for the past nine or so years. He cares about his brother's life more right now than some order that he doesn't even like in the first place anyway.
"Can't you do anything for him?" he asked desperately. "Can't you help him?"
Yugito bit on her bottom lip, glancing from Haku to Neji then to Shiki and back to Sasuke. "I don't see how we can save him," she said hesitantly. "Not even Shiki can do anything at this point with her power."
"No, there is something that we can try," said Shiki, narrowing her eyes. Anyone who doesn't know her will find it shocking that she doesn't seem affected by her boyfriend's state. But to the members of Ragnarok and Sai, they can see that she is a walking bundle of nerves at present, and is close to breaking point. The redhead glanced at Yugito. "We have to call upon 'their' aid."
Yugito's eyes widened, before narrowing. "Shiki, are you sure? Calling upon 'their' aid means taking them to…" She trailed off uneasily, glancing at the ANBUs. "I don't know if it's a good idea."
"What are you talking about?" Kiba questioned, but everyone ignored him.
Shiki sighed. "It's the only way. Can you call upon 'their' power?"
Yugito frowned. "Well, I hadn't used their power for some time, so I guess that I could," she mused.
"What are you talking about? Is there a way to help my brother?" Sasuke asked hopefully.
Shiki sighed, studying Sasuke for several moments. "Can we trust you?" she questioned bluntly. "All of you." She glanced at the other ANBUs. "There is something that we can try to save Itachi's life, but we have to bring you there, and even so, there is no guarantee that he will survive. If so, you have to choose one side, as there is no way that we will allow an ANBU dog to come with us into the holy land. If you can't do it, then leave now and we will pretend that we never saw you." Her eyes turned hard and cold. "Now choose."
Sasuke answered almost immediately, almost desperate even. Well, that is his brother lying over there. "My place is with my brother," he stated. "The only reason why I'm in the ANBU is because of him anyway."
"Okay. You can come with us," said Shiki. "The rest of you?"
"We've wanted to leave ever since Itachi left anyway," said Deidara with a shrug. "You Ragnarok and Baled might call us cowards for our commander's actions, and you might be right, but you people are free. You aren't caged in like us. We didn't have a choice in what we have to do. It's either obey or die for us. We never did like what our commander had ordered us to do. When Itachi left, we wanted to follow as well. He's our only captain, the only one we will accept. We will accept no other. We will follow no other."
"I guess that applies for Akatsuki." Neji stated. He glances at Rendoku. "You people?"
Chouji bit on his lower lip. Like his comrades, he likes Sasuke a lot and respects him, knowing that Sasuke is the only captain whom he will accept. But the guys that they're going to be following after they've 'deserted' are the same ones who have killed all those people. Who have killed Sakura and Ino. But…
The plump boy glances over at Shikamaru only to see that he is sitting next to Sasuke, looking bored. So he's made his decision, not that Chouji is surprised. Shikamaru had never liked how the ANBU had worked anyway, and he only stayed on in the ANBU because he knew that Sasuke needs the support, especially after his brother had deserted.
Chouji sighed. "I'm in."
The two boys exchanged worried looks.
This is a major decision.
If they follow, they will be branded traitors, and will be hunted down for the rest of their days. If they return to the ANBU, life wouldn't be any better off for them there. At the very least, with Ragnarok, they knew them to be blunt and wouldn't bother to sugarcoat their words. In the ANBU, life with them is rather akin to walking in a forest full of tigers. You have to be careful with your words or it's off to the gallows for you.
"Be honest with yourself." Shikamaru spoke up, looking towards their direction. "You know that you wanted to leave the ANBU a long time ago. Like you, I was naïve once upon a time. I believed in the talk of justice and goodness that the ANBU talked about, only to learn that this is all a scam when I became one myself. But by then, it was already too late."
"Kiba, Lee, please!" Sasuke pleaded. "My brother's life is at stake here! He's the only family I have left! I can't lose him too! I've never begged you for anything before, but I'm begging you now! I don't want to fight you guys as well. And neither do I want to see you continue making the mistakes that we've been doing so far! Where is the justice in a massacre? Is that the justice that they've spoken of? Please! Open your eyes!"
Lee and Kiba exchanged looks before nodding as one.
"All right." Shiki spoke up. She then straightened herself up. "We're taking Exilia there. It's the fastest mode of transport. If we rush it…" She glanced at Itachi and back to Yugito. "We might still make it in time."
Forbidden VillageUnknown Location
Neji and Gaara steered Exilia the most recklessly than they've ever steered in their entire lives. Even when they were using a boathouse as their headquarters, they've never driven this recklessly before. But both boys knew that they couldn't let Uchiha Itachi die as well. They don't like the guy, and they might be killers, but both boys aren't murderers.
Furthermore, this is for Shiki's sake as well.
"We're here." Gaara announced from the front, propelling Exilia to the surface waters, and pressing several buttons to open the bridge.
"All right, hurry!" Yugito stated, leading the way out of Exilia, as Nagato and Sasori carried Itachi by his shoulders and feet, following Yugito out as fast as they could, with the rest of the ANBU, along with Ragnarok, close behind them.
The ANBUs were almost mesmerized by the sight of the forest of silver trees. So mesmerized that they almost didn't notice the silvery-white palace-like building in the middle of a circle of silver trees that emanated some strange power, or that Yugito was leading them straight further deeper into the forest where there is a 'ring' of silvery-white trees around the ground where there is no grass growing. And even the grass in this place is silver-white in colour. Yet for some reason, it doesn't seem ominous.
"What is this place?" Konan wondered, looking around her. "It feels…comforting." She tried to find the correct term to describe it. "Warm even. Like this is a…safe haven."
"This is the Forbidden Forest." Hinata answered, not looking at any of them. "A safe haven for nin-users." She looked at Konan. "The birthplace of the Bijuu Nine. The birthplace of the first nin-users. The place where it all begun. And where it all would end."
"I'm going to have to come back later." Konan muttered, nearly missing the fact that Yugito had just directed Nagato and Sasori to lay Itachi down in the middle of the 'ring'.
Hinata and Haku have both walked forwards wordlessly, with some silver-white tree vines in their arms, even as they wrapped Itachi's limbs gently with it. The vines pulsed with a soft green light as they did so.
"Yugito, are you ready?" Tenten called out.
"Yeah." Yugito nodded before removing her shoes and coat, walking into the middle of the ring, just by Itachi, closing her eyes.
"Back away." Shiki instructed the ANBUs, having seen Yugito do this only once when they've taken Temari here in order for Yugito to heal her. "Do not stand anywhere near the ring once it starts. Yugito might take your life force by mistake."
"Huh?" Deidara nearly had question marks over his head.
"Yugito's power is power over the dead." Neji answered. "She can control and manipulate the dead. And she also has some form of control over time manipulation. She can even treat the most serious of injuries with power from this place. When she 'heals' using power from the Forbidden Forest, she is taking the life force and power from the trees here to do that."
"The trees here have some mythical power." Temari who had been rather silent all along spoke up, not looking at anyone. "They never die. Not in this place they won't. This is the birthplace of the Bijuu Nine after all. Where the sacred Bijuu Shrine stands. Nothing will die in this place."
"Yugito's starting." Shiki shushed them.
Yugito stretched her arms out towards the heavens, with the moonlight shining down on her, still with her eyes closed. "I see nothing. I hear nothing. The first bell calls upon the Birth. The start of all." The ANBUs weren't sure if they were hearing things or not, as they distinctly hear the light tinkle of a bell. "The second bell calls upon the Death. The end of everything." Tinkle. "The third bell calls upon the Rebirth. The start of a new beginning."
Yugito opened her eyes to reveal light glowing cat-like eyes as she then lowered her arms. "I am the key that binds all. I am the Eye that sees all. I call upon the aid of those that resides in this sacred land. I ask for your help to restore his life. His time is not near. It is not his end. I hereby call upon the aid of the Bijuu Nine that grants this world their existence, all things living their life, the fire their light, the night their darkness. Grant him his Rebirth. Let him walk among us once more!"
Shiki bit on her lower lip. 'Please. I've never asked you for anything before. But if You truly do exist, just grant me this one wish. Just this one simple wish. Don't let him die. I'll take on his sins. You can punish me any way that You deem fit. Just…don't take Itachi away!'
A tear fell unnoticed from Shiki's eye.
A pale thin hand reached out and touched the pool of water that formed a ripple, with several more ripples forming from that one ripple alone. A handsome rare smile lit up his face, that though handsome, showed great wisdom and the weariness of having the world's burdens upon his shoulders.
He gazed at the pool of water that showed his most faithful follower. His most faithful one. The only one who has never lost faith in him and his comrades. The only one who still believed in him, no matter what she has to endure.
He moved his right arm over the water, with the sleeve of his white robe moving with the motion of his arm, with the image on the water turning into the face of his most faithful follower. A smile adorned his lips, and his crimson-red eyes softened.
"My child," he murmured, almost as if speaking to the air, his gaze never once moving away from the girl in the water. His majestic-looking white robes flowed around him almost like water. "You have never lost faith in me, no matter what you have to endure, living in an era where the tales of the Gods of Creation have long been forgotten. Likewise, I will never abandon you." He smiled, his eyes softening. "You have been my most faithful and devoted, and I shall reward your faith. Like you, that child is destined for something great. It is not his time yet."
His other hand moved around in a slow arc, the several rings on his fingers glowing slightly. "I will unlock his true powers, as I will yours," he whispered. "It is time. This war might just be the last. The one that will truly end the era of the gods. I am sorry, my child, but you might just have to suffer a bit longer. I promise. I swear to you. Once this is all over, I shall make it all up to you. Until then, please stay strong. But if it's you, I believe that you can do it."
Night had long fallen, and Neji, Gaara and Haku were currently roasting whatever food that they could find over a fire in the middle of the forest, with some of the Akatsuki guys helping them out. Shiki hadn't released the seal on the Bijuu Shrine, and thus, none of them could get in. No one had the guts to ask her to either.
Hinata had also set up a tent where Itachi is currently resting in, with Sasuke sitting by his bedside.
Nagato gazed at the two pale gravestones in the part of the Forbidden Forest that is used as a cemetery. The two gravestones that he is looking at are considerably larger than the other unmarked gravestones, with the names engraved on the two gravestones having faded with time.
Hearing footsteps behind him, Nagato turned only to see Haku approaching him.
"What are you doing here?" Haku asked, but not in a rude or demanding way.
"Paying my respects." Nagato answered honestly, turning his attention back to the gravestones. "I never like seeing graves." He admitted. "It reminds me of too many deaths. Deaths that I could have prevented, but failed to do so." He sighed. He glanced at Hinata. "Who does these graves belongs to?" He asked, gesturing towards the two graves that he is standing in front of. "It seems better maintained and well taken of, compared to the others."
Haku said nothing for several moments, squatting down to the ground, clasping both hands together and muttering a small prayer beneath her breath. She squatted there for several moments before getting to her feet again. "Shiki's parents." She answered at last, getting a shocked look from Nagato. She sighed. "Though it is more like memorials, since she's never been able to find their bodies. There are two more in Natsuki." She glanced at Nagato. "I've asked Shiki about her past once – the past that all of us were curious about, but never dared to ask. She has never really been all that forthcoming about her past. I've asked her about it once several years ago during a time when she is more willing to talk about it. She said…" Haku struggled with her words. "She said that she doesn't even remember her parents' faces anymore."
Nagato had a shocked look on his face. "Doesn't remem—" He started.
"Yeah. Doesn't remember." Haku nodded grimly. "Her godfather came by a few times, and I've asked him about it. He said that despite him having found Shiki when she was pretty young, he didn't really raise her. Shiki raised herself. He only checked in every now and then to make sure that she's doing fine. He has an important job after all. Despite how young she is at that time, Shiki understood. I asked Jiraiya-sama about it. He said that Shiki's parents passed on when she was about a year old or two. Later on, she was passed around from orphanage to orphanage. Foster home to foster home like she's an unwanted child. Such is the fate of a nin-user." Haku bit on her lower lip. "Jiraiya-sama doesn't know anymore than that. He only found Shiki when she ran away from the last foster home that she's placed with, and ended up in Hagako." Haku turned towards Nagato. "We might look like this, but we know what we're doing. We went through what nin-users went through in Japan. The nin-users that you lot prosecuted way too often. Like what you've done to Tenten before we've saved her."
Nagato flinched. "We never wanted to—"
"I know that." Haku sighed. "It's been a long time coming, this war. And now, who even knows what is going to happen?"
"What is this place?" Nagato asked.
"The Forbidden Forest." Haku answered. "The place where it had all begun. And where it all would end." She sighed. "There are many reasons behind Ragnarok's founding in the first place. But one of the main ones is the Demon God. We've been trying to find a way to stop him for years, and now, because of you people, we have failed."
Nagato flinched. "And you honestly think that this justifies the killing of innocent people?" he retorted.
"To stop that monster? Let me think." Haku took on a mock thinking pose. "Yes!" Nagato was speechless at that. "You don't know what is at stake here. If Madara ever returns to full power, it'll be the end of the world. Before that can happen, we have to stop him, no matter the cost. But whatever that Shiki has planned, I will follow her." Haku declared. "No matter what she has decided. Even if she ever decides to run away, even if it is a battle to the death, even if it is to take over the world, I will follow her. Everyone in Ragnarok and Baled feels the same." Haku smiled a small smile.
"We've made our decision, Shiki."
Gaara took in a deep breath before speaking once more, looking at Shiki in the eye. "We've decided, Shiki. We will follow you. Right to the end."
"That's why…" Haku trailed off, looking at Nagato straight in the eye. "This is what I've decided. What everyone has decided. I'm in this with her. Until the end."
Sasuke gave a start as the flap of the tent was pushed apart, and he turned around only to see Namikaze Shiki walking into the tent. The redhead said nothing as she stood by Sasuke's side, staring down at his sleeping brother with an odd look in her eyes.
"Yugito-san said that he'd be fine." Sasuke broke the silence. "She said that his body accepted the power of the Forbidden Forest, of the Bijuu Nine." Sasuke sighed in relief, clasping one of his brother's heavily bandaged hands into his own. "It was such a close one." He whispered. "I was just this close to losing him."
"You should have more faith in your brother." Shiki stated. "He won't die that easily. And he won't give up that easily either."
Sasuke smiled bitterly. "I wish that I could have more faith in him like you do," he said. "That's why, this is what I think: that you are truly the one meant for him." He smiled up at Shiki. "You understand him in ways that even I don't understand. I am his brother, but I believe that you will be the one to be his side through thick and thin, until his death. He truly loves you. That's why, please don't be so reckless. You can't die."
"I'll be fine." Shiki stated. "I can't afford to fall right now. Too much is at stake." Sasuke turned surprised eyes up at her. "What? Feel surprised that we seem human?" Shiki said sarcastically. "You might not want to believe it, but in the end, we are as human as you. The ANBU and the world just never want to see it."
Sasuke turned his eyes back down onto his sleeping brother. "Why… Why did you create Ragnarok? Why did you do what you did?" he asked.
Shiki was silent for several moments. "Your brother asked me the same question once," she said at last. "I was angry. Angry at the world. At the stupid ANBU who does nothing about the pain and suffering. At the High Council who gains more power at the expense of people's lives and suffering. And gradually, I became sick and tired of it all. I have no idea when that anger actually became hatred for the world. Blade's demise only added fuel to it. And then… I met my current friends." Shiki formed fists in her pockets. "And then I decided that I want to change it. Change the world. Everything. I want to change it. Make a world where Riku…everyone can live without fear. Never having to wonder again if we can even live to see tomorrow's sunrise."
Shiki's eyes darkened over.
"It's beautiful…" Shiki muttered, leaning against the orange haired boy in the lifeboat as the waves lapped against the sides gently. She reached one hand out towards the slowly rising sun, as if trying to catch it, even as the skies turned a beautiful red-orange slowly. "I didn't think that I would get to see it again…"
"I kept my promise to you." The boy murmured in her ear, holding her close to him, not wanting to let go of the only person whom he is familiar with at this point, and who made him feel safe. He doesn't trust the ANBUs present. Not in the least. "I promised you that I would show you the sunrise. That we would get to see the next one. That we would escape alive. I promised you that."
"You did." Shiki agreed, feeling extremely weak from having gone without any food for nearly a week. "You also promised that we would get to see each other again. You will tell me your real name, right?"
The boy smiled. "Yeah. Once we see each other again in the outside world."
"But in the end, he couldn't keep that promise, as I received word that he died a few years later." Shiki mused, turning her suspiciously moist eyes away from Sasuke who looked away uncomfortably. Knowing Shiki like how he does now, he knew that the leader of Ragnarok is stubborn to the point of obstinate, and that she wouldn't want anyone to see her crying. "Probably, it's because of him that I created Ragnarok for. He wanted to change the world. Abolish the world of any wars, pain and suffering. Abolish the injustice of the system. He can't do it. Then I shall do it for him."
Sasuke stood up awkwardly. "I'll go and get some dinner," he said, and Shiki nodded, saying nothing even as he exited the tent, and his footsteps faded away.
Shiki sighed softly as she occupied the chair that Sasuke had been occupying moments prior, eyeing Itachi's unconscious form. He pretty much had bandages around his chest, his shirt unbuttoned, along with bandages around his forehead and a gauze on his left cheek. Both his arms were bandaged heavily as well.
I always want to see youAnd touch you moreYour faceAnd your beautiful fingertipsWhy are you going far away from me?
"Why did you kill Kankuro?"
"You've never thought about it, have you?" Shiki questioned. "How selfish can you be?" She wiped away the tears slowly pooling around her eyes. "I know it. I always knew all along that our relationship can never amount to anything much. Not as long as you are ANBU and I am Ragnarok. Let's…not see each other anymore."
Even though I close my eyesAnd cover my earsThat shy smileAnd that warm memoryI cannot forget it even now
"Please Shiki. Don't run from me."
Gently teach me about loveWhy did you say goodbye?Without any wordsTime passing byMy heart is breaking
'Our time together…has come to an end.'
Gently give me loveWhy are you disappearing?Still unable to throw those memoriesEven without any answersThis endless love overflows without any sound
I yearn only for youI continue to wait only for youIf I look above the distant skyI'll feel like crying
"Raise your head and look at me, Uchiha Itachi." Shiki commanded harshly, and Itachi looked at her with surprised eyes. "You don't get to die." She stated. "You can be cruel as an ANBU, but I can be even more so. I'll make you withstand the punishment. You are now a traitor to the ANBU. I want you to be the one to fight against your once comrades, protecting the comrades and friends of the very people whom you have caused the deaths of. I want you to realise that you will be the reason why ANBU will be swooping down on Baled like bees to honey. I want you to accept your punishment like the man that you are." Shiki took one step forward and grabbed him by his collar, yanking him forward. "Furthermore, I was the one to save your life! You don't get to die unless I say so!"
Without any warnings or signsEven we face the time of our partingWithout any wordsI wish to hold youTo my most precious oneI will send you my love
"Because I'm getting you away from here. 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."
Even though I close my eyesAnd cover my earsThat shy smileAnd that warm memoryI would certainly not forget it
"Having any regrets?"
Shiki sighed. "No matter how much I run, it seems like I will never be able to run away from you, huh?" she murmured. "How pathetic can I be? Why must I fall in love with you? Why someone like you? If Fate hadn't deemed it so, if only you hadn't appeared in my life, things wouldn't have been so complicated. You would have been able to continue living as an ANBU, oblivious to everything. I would have been able to continue on as always, without any hesitation whatsoever." She sighed. "But it's all too late now, huh?"
Juugo! Have you gone mad?
To the end…am I…of some use to you?
I've never regretted it, Shiki, no matter what you think. I've never regretted knowing you, joining Blade. My time with Blade…is the happiest in my life. It…is my treasure.
In the end, I've…been a terrible friend, huh? Sorry Shiki. For everything… Be stronger than anyone else. Do not bow to anyone. You are better than that. Be that…who I couldn't be. That is you! Namikaze Shiki!
"The road to peace is always paved with the blood of war." Shiki murmured, clutching at the silver cross pendant that she had started wearing around her neck not long after Madara had been awakened. "Riku, you just might be right about that."
"Beautiful…" Hotaru whispered, staring up at the flowering sakura tree in awe. "It's finally spring."
"Let's make a promise." Riku grinned at Shiki as they stood at the foot of the flowering sakura tree.
"What kind of promise?" Shiki asked, raising one eyebrow.
"No matter what happens, and what decisions we will make in the future, we'll always be friends, right?" Riku smiled.
Sumaru stared at Riku as if he was crazy. "What brings that on all of a sudden?" He wanted to know.
"Nothing will change." Shiki stated, taking one step closer to the tree, pressing one hand against the bark of the tree. The rest of Blade watched on, silent. "Nothing will." She repeated her words as if trying to reassure herself. "I swear it."
"But it did." Shiki muttered. "I was too naïve to think otherwise. That is the harsh reality of the world." She closed her eyes momentarily. "Sara. Jun. Suigetsu. Riku." She whispered. "I said that I'd stop running. I'll live on. I'll live on for you. But it's easier said than done."
This war will end. I'll end it— I'll end it for you.
A/N: I've been listening to the OSTs of You're Beautiful and Ikemen Desu Ne on repeat recently after having gotten into the Korean and Japanese drama series. To those who haven't watched it, go and watch it. It is extremely addicting, and a great show!
So, the story is fast entering the climax. I won't spoil you the ending I have in mind for this, but do keep in mind that this is Tragedy.
Anyway, I hope that you like this chapter, and please read and review!
You're Still Beautiful (You're Beautiful)
A twist on the main story. What if it's Go Mi-nyeo that AJ Entertainment wanted right from the beginning? Only one problem: the rest of the AN-JELL boys weren't aware of her true gender. JxT
Preview of Next Chapter:
"They have to know. They have to know what they're getting into."
"Show me your resolve!"
"Are you trying to kill us?"
"The Nonary Game. It is a game where we put our lives on the line."
"I'm sorry, Shiki. The rest is up to you."
"It's been a long time, Danzo."