The Beginning of the End
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 Eight: The Beginning of the End
Wrecked cars and destroyed streets were all that was left of the once proud and bustling town. Riots among the people were also currently going on in the streets, and corpses were littered just about everywhere.
Up on a nearby hill, Shiki lowered the binoculars from her eyes and frowned in disdain. "I don't believe this," she muttered, and muttered several curse words beneath her breath.
Fuuma Arashi who was standing next to her, armed with his own pair of binoculars sighed. "They're afraid," he said grimly. "The people suffering from the Death Syndrome is increasing in number, and not to mention that the Demon God's army have been sighted in several places. The ANBU is practically useless, and not to mention that we've basically cut them off at the knees. If we don't do something soon about the current situation, we're going to have more dead than alive in this country."
Shiki was silent for several moments before she glanced at Arashi. "Any news?"
Arashi nodded. "Not good ones though," he said grimly. "You know of the recent evacuations carried out by the ANBU?" Shiki nodded. Because of the spread of the Death Syndrome recently, Tsunade is evacuating the people from the areas hit hardest by the 'infection. "It isn't exactly going too well. The ANBU is losing patience. And not to mention the loss of two of their best teams a few months back. If this situation keeps up, we're going to have a worse situation than a civil war on our hands."
Shiki sighed. "So it begins," she stated. "The beginning of the end."
Forbidden ForestUnknown Location
"Well?" Temari demanded the instant that Sai and Sumaru both returned. The two boys shook their heads, and Temari sighed. "It's been over two weeks. Where the hell is that girl?"
"And the current situation with the country had me worried." Haku stated. "Shiki can take care of herself; I'm not worried about her. But if the situation escalates any further, we're going to have something worse than a civil war on our hands."
"What about the rest of the ANBU?" Deidara asked with concern, and every single Ragnarok member turned sharply into his direction. "Are they fine?"
Sai looked oddly at Deidara and the rest of the former ANBUs who have slightly concerned looks on their faces, but he shrugged. "As far as I know, they're fine. They're still alive, if that's what you want to know, and trying to get the current situation under control." He spoke with the slight disdain and disgust that nearly every single member of Ragnarok and the underworld had for the law enforcer agency in Japan. Only Itachi, Kisame, Sasuke and Shikamaru, along with a few of the more observant ones managed to catch the disdain in Sai's voice.
Yugito whose temper had been bubbling real close to the surface ever since Shiki's disappearance twitched dangerously and turned and glared at the former ANBUs. "So it's fine if the rest of the ANBU are all right, but not fine at all if they are injured?" she said, her voice dangerously low and calm.
Ragnarok all took a step back from Yugito, recognising the danger signs immediately. They recognised those signs as Yugito being pissed. And when Yugito is pissed, you'd best start praying. For a nin-user who had powers to animate the dead as well as to torture you psychologically, you'd best fear that girl.
"Huh?" Deidara stared on blankly, not knowing just what is up with Yugito.
"I've been wanting to say this to you lot for some time now." Yugito gritted her teeth together tightly, her eyes flashing daggers. "Just how many people do you think have died when you bombed the TV station back then?" Her voice raised in volume.
The former ANBUs all flinched and winced as if they have just been slapped, particularly Akatsuki. None of them have forgotten that disastrous event, and just how angry that Ragnarok had been at that time, especially Shiki. The underworld had been furious with them as well, and the ANBU's informants have then disappeared from their radar after that.
Fortunately for the ANBUs, before Yugito could tear into them, the blaring ringtone of a cellphone blared loud and clear, startling everyone in the vicinity. The uneasy and cold atmosphere disappeared just as soon as it had begun as Sumaru calmly fished out his cellphone and answered the call.
"Hello?" he spoke into the receiver. The eyes of one of the two leaders of Baled then shot opened in shock as he listened to what the caller on the other end of the line has to say. "Hang on; I'll put you on speaker phone." Sumaru then pulled the phone away from his ear.
"Sumaru? Who is it?" Hinata asked curiously.
Sumaru didn't answer. Instead, he pressed some buttons on his phone and laid it in the palm of his hand. "Okay, everyone can hear you now."
"Hey guys. Sorry to make you worry like that."
The voice that came from Sumaru's phone caused everyone to blanch.
"Shiki?" Gaara demanded, making a move as if he is about to snatch Sumaru's phone from his hand. "Where have you been the past two weeks?"
"Sorry. I was busy."
"Too busy to even give a call to tell us that you're fine?" Haku said sarcastically. "The assassinations of the members of the High Council save for Senju Tsunade and Mei-san is you, right?"
There was a sigh. "Yeah."
"And? What are you up to the past week after that then?" Neji demanded.
There was another sigh. "I was investigating."
"Investigating what?" Temari had all but demanded. The blonde girl didn't look it, but she is kind of like the 'big sister' of their little group, worrying about their health and all that. Shiki just so happens to be her favourite person to worry over, with the redhead being as reckless as she is.
There was silence before Shiki spoke again. "Do you guys remember Hidan, and how he had died nearly a year ago?"
"Yeah, we do." Hinata answered, glancing at the slightly guilty-looking faces of the ANBUs. "We were just talking about it last week."
"I had been investigating that. I have two reasons for the assassinations of the members of the High Council. The first is to remove the bad eggs from the ruling seats of the country. The second is to create a big enough distraction so that the ANBU won't even have the resources and the time to go after us. My plan worked, and I managed to get most of the information that I need. I'll sum it up for you. It is as we've feared, Sumaru, Sai. The ANBU have been conducting experiments on their own people – mainly those from the Covert Ops that Hidan had been a part of. Mainly because they aren't on record anywhere, and they wouldn't be missed. Hidan was part of those experiments. And of course, none of them were volunteers in those experiments."
There was deadly silence, and Sai nearly groaned. "I was afraid of that," he muttered.
"Sai, you knew?" Haku asked him, shocked.
"I have a suspicion, but I don't know for sure." Sai admitted. "That's what I was investigating for the past month or so ever since they came to you." He glanced at the ANBUs. "I told Shiki about it, and she said that she'll look into it."
"It's an experiment to increase the powers and abilities of a nin-user artificially. Or even to give a normal human nin-user abilities. A by-product of Orochimaru's experiments."
There was deadly silence.
"So…it's true then?" Sumaru asked, sounding oddly spooked.
"Yeah. I've confirmed it. And Arashi has found evidence supporting it."
"Where were those experiments being held?" Sasuke asked, his voice shaky. "Experiments like this… It has to be wide scale. And it has to be near ANBU Headquarters if it is indeed the ANBU that is behind this."
"Oh, it's nearer than we thought," said Shiki, sarcasm entering her voice. "It's at Leaf Hospital."
Konan almost collapsed to the ground had Nagato not supported her, her legs seemingly unable to support her anymore. The former ANBUs erupted with protests, shock and disbelief written all over their faces and their voices. These shocking revelations one after the other ever since their mass desertion from the ANBU had been turning their world upside down.
"No way! There's just no way!" Kiba shouted, shaking his head repeatedly. "We went to Leaf Hospital often for our monthly evaluation and check up that is mandatory for all ANBU agents! We would have seen it if—"
"It isn't on the surface." Shiki interrupted Kiba's tirade. "The real lab is underground – below the morgue. From what Arashi and I could find out, this isn't happening just recently. They've been at it for years – mostly probably ever since the end of the last war."
"That had to be at least ten or so years." Shikamaru whispered, sounding and looking very sick. "The hospital was destroyed during the war, and it was only rebuilt after the war ended, and when the civil war begun. You're telling us that these…experiments had been performed on our own people for that period of time?"
"Yeah. Leaf Hospital is just a cover – a front for the experiments." Shiki sounded very tired. "Some of the patients who didn't have anyone to vouch for them – orphans, were transferred to the 'Special Unit'. That 'unit' is the experimental lab underground."
"But…Hidan escaped, didn't he?" Neji asked shakily, remembering just how the man had looked like when they have found him.
"Those 'failed experiments' were kept in underground prisons in Leaf Hospital – just hastily made tunnels really. Hidan and a couple of his ANBU comrades in the Covert Ops were delirious from the experiments, but coherent enough to think of an escape plan. They started digging their way out. And they would have succeeded in their escape as well. Too bad that they ran smack into a wall."
"A…wall…?" Konan asked.
"Leaf Hospital has been abandoned ever since you lot have deserted a couple of months back." Shiki informed them. "Thus, we don't have much problems getting into the hospital for investigations. A wall was erected in the underground tunnel where the failed experiments were kept. They won't be getting out alive, if at all. From what Arashi could summarise, particularly from the reports found in the lab, they took Hidan for further experiments because of his unique ability over blood. But Hidan managed to escape."
"No way…" Chouji looked as if he is about to be sick.
"I have further information about the ANBU's plans when I broke into ANBU Headquarters three days ago." Shiki told them, and everyone hung onto her every word. "And I've also contacted one of my contacts who confirmed the info that I've gotten. The ANBU has given the order to evacuate the villages and towns that has a case of the Death Syndrome. But the infection is spreading, even to normal humans that didn't have the N-Gene in their veins. They can no longer contain the infection. Tsunade is losing patience. Thus, she's set a time limit: three months. In three months, if something isn't done soon, this entire country will be sanitized."
Deadly silence fell among them, and no one spoke for several moments, feeling oddly spooked.
Itachi was the first to break the silence, sounding oddly spooked. "When you say 'sanitized', do you mean…?" he trailed off uneasily.
"They're going to use a nuke? A nuke bomb?" Deidara questioned, his voice dangerously low. He used to be part of the firearms department in the ANBU before transferring to the Akatsuki after all. He knows the codes that they use in there.
"Yeah." Shiki sounded very tired as she said so, and no one can blame her.
"No way. There is just no way." Konan shook her head repeatedly, refusing to believe what she's hearing. "There's no way that the ANBU or Tsunade-sama even would go to that extent! There's just no way that they will get away with this! This isn't something that the ANBU is capable of!"
"Not capable?" Sasori who had been extremely silent spoke up just then, looking directly at Konan's pale face. "Konan, you were there that night – the night at the TV station. And then when we were given the order to stop an immortal army of the fucking Demon God himself. We're mere pawns to them. Dispensable pawns. And you of all people should know just how far that the ANBU would go to."
"And a nuke would solve all their problems quickly. All witnesses would be wiped out. Including the infection." Kisame realised. "And probably, the very existence of the Demon God as well. That includes the country itself."
Lee looked very pale. "Cover up?" he squeaked.
"The cover-up had already been prepared. A civil war. A greater one this time. The combination of the powers of every single nin-user in the country." Shiki sounded tired. "After the sanitization, Senju Tsunade plans on heading to a country where she had some assets and power, and even influence, and continuing her reign of power from there. A country that is hers to rule."
"She's going to pin this on the nin-users?" Kiba erupted, enraged. "I can't believe this!"
"There is a reason why I've left the ANBU alone so far. If I take them out, along with the High Council, there will be panic in the city. This country will be destroyed by their own people even before the Demon God has a chance to do so.
"So what?" Gaara asked. "What should we do now?"
"We hunt the Demon God down," said Shiki firmly. "It's either that, or we get the hell out of Japan within three months. And let me tell you this now: it's not going to be easy. Checkpoints have been set up, and the seas and skies monitored closely by patrols. Anyone even remotely suspicious was shot, no questions asked. The ANBU are all extremely high strung. Black Ops were stationed at every checkpoint. There is no escape."
"There's no way…" Sasuke whispered.
"I'll call you guys back later. I have to check something out. Just sit tight at the Forbidden Forest, and don't go anywhere." Click.
Silence fell after Shiki ended the call, and looks were exchanged.
"There must be something we can do!" Lee blurted out. "It's just…not right! Eliminating an entire country is just…"
"Well, how smart of you! What do you think that we have been trying to do for the past six months? And so, what do you suggest we do then?" Temari asked, her voice dangerously polite and calm.
Gaara sighed, interrupting an argument before it could escalate. "Let's just wait here until Shiki gets back," he said solemnly. "I'm sure that she has a plan. She always does. Haste only makes waste. Let's wait."
Mist's HeadquartersUnknown Location
A mountain of books is starting to build up on the table as the minutes ticked by, with Shiki remaining in the archives section of Mist headquarters, searching for any information that she could find on the Demon God and just how to kill him for good.
Finally, Shiki closed the book that she had been reading with a light clap, a thoughtful look on her face. The information that she had came across is one of the oldest myths in Japan regarding the Bijuu Nine, but then again, there is always a grain of truth in myths.
"Three blades for the Universe in the kingdoms of the sky. Seven shields for the Nomads that travels the world, forever alone. Nine keys for the immortal Gods on their ivory thrones. One book to rule the world, the one that can kill an immortal, the Book of Dead." Shiki muttered. "Nine… Nine keys. The Book of Dead. The Catalyst. What does it mean?" She wondered. "How do I stop him?"
Her cellphone blared with the ringtone just then, and Shiki answered the call. "What?"
It was Sai on the other line. "I think you'd best get back. As quick as you can." He sounded worried. "Sumaru caught an ANBU spy trying to sneak into our base at Shinjuku, apparently trying to assassinate Utakata. Sumaru wasn't pleased with him, and it is all that I could do to stop him from killing the poor bastard. Gaara suggested keeping the spy alive, as we might get more information out of him, seeing as how we no longer have any inside contacts in the ANBU."
Shiki sighed. "Okay. I'll be right over."
The ANBU spy was bound to a chair inside one of the tents that Tenten and Temari have both hastily put up, whilst Gaara and Neji have both tried their hands at making the guy crack. Thus far, it hasn't been going so well.
"Nothing yet?" Hinata asked as Haku stepped out from the interrogation tent, with the former ANBUs staring at her curiously. Not a single person in Ragnarok is willing to let the former ANBUs try their hand at interrogation, for various reasons.
Haku shook her head. "It's been nearly eight hours. I must admit, I kind of admire his perseverance. Gaara had already been forced to crush an arm and a foot, and still, he refuses to speak."
The ANBUs winced at this statement. They have seen first hand the state of the victims that have suffered at Gaara's hand, and knew just how painful it could be to suffer at Gaara's hands.
A slight movement in a corner caused everyone present to look up only to see Shino getting up from his place in front of the fire. Haku raised an eyebrow. "Shino?"
"It's been long enough." Shino said in his usual monotone voice. "I'll do it." He then turned and looked into the direction of the Bijuu Shrine before turning back to Haku. "Besides, it won't be a good idea if Shiki do it. She'll likely kill the guy, given her mood these days."
Haku nodded silently before Shino entered the interrogation tent. Three minutes later, a shadow moved about in the tent and Neji exited. Without saying a single word, Neji took down the flap to cover the entrance of the tent and stood guard outside.
"What was that all about?" Kisame asked, turning towards his sister.
Haku sighed. "Trust me, you don't want to see it first hand if Shino extracts information from a prisoner. His 'method' is usually what we used to get out information from some of the harder to crack prisoners that we ran into over the years. Shino can extract information from someone just by touching them. But the side effects…" She trailed off, exchanging looks with her comrades, and Hinata coughed. "It won't be pleasant."
"Won't be pleasant?" Sasuke asked.
A bloodcurdling scream echoed just then, and all Ragnarok members winced visibly.
"That was fast." Gaara muttered. "Let's see if Shino will break his last record. It will only be a matter of time. He will break soon enough."
Bijuu ShrineForbidden Forest
"So that's what it means…" Shiki muttered, glancing at the murals on the walls of the shrine, as she stood before the crystals in the room. "So that's what it is." She closed her eyes briefly. "This world is now rotten. Is that what you meant? Answer me. How do I stop him? Answer me!"
A flurry of images rushed past her eyes, almost like a movie on fast forward. Wars. Battles. Suffering. Death. Rebirth. Restart. Cosmic. And at the end of it, nine glowing keys, on nine glowing columns. One book in the middle of the circle created, with an unknown person, back facing her, reading from it, a plant in the left hand, the book in the right hand.
Shiki opened her eyes slowly. "The Nine Keys…" she muttered. "So we must really find those keys then…" She clenched her hand into a fist slowly. "How much longer do we have? How much longer until this world ends? It's so typical of you gods. You like to play with us humans way too much."
But there was no answer.
There was a loud creak just then, and Shiki glanced over her shoulder only to see Haku entering cautiously. For the past month or so, Shiki had been pretty irritable and had a tendency to kick just about anyone who had stepped on her toes.
"Shiki?" Haku called out cautiously. "Am I disturbing anything?" Shiki shook her head silently, and Haku breathed a sigh of relief. "Shino managed to break the prisoner. We got new information, and it isn't good." A dark look passed over Haku's face momentarily before she breathed in once more. "Gaara is gathering everyone. All of us need to hear this. And from the looks of things, it isn't pretty."
Shino winced visibly from his place in between Hinata and Neji. He knew that his comrades, and not to mention the ANBU won't be happy to hear about this piece of news. He had to admit; the prisoner sure has some guts. It took him over an hour just to make the guy crack, and he had killed him quickly afterwards, his head still reeling over the revelations.
"The ANBU is panicking. Or at least, Tsunade is." Shino repeated his words. "The infection is spreading faster than thought possible, and Tsunade is panicking. They can't contain it any longer. In one final attempt to stop the spread, they…" He trailed off, unsure if he should continue.
"What?" Konan asked, panicked, not liking the look on Shino's face.
Neji took pity on Shino and decided to answer for him. He had overheard the entire interrogation from start to end, considering the fact that he had been standing guard outside the tent the entire time when Shino was performing the interrogation.
"Execution." Neji said heavily, and everyone turned towards the Hyuuga sharply. The little colour that is still left in their faces drained away rapidly. Neji looked from face to face seriously. "They can no longer contain the infection. Thus, the ANBU are taking drastic measures. They've been executing all those who show signs of the infection instead of quarantining them like they have been for the past four months. Now, as long as a single person shows signs of the infection, the town or the village that they live in will be…wiped out." He looked from face to face wearily; each face wearing similar looks of horror on it. "Sanitized."
The silence was so deafening that one could even hear a pin drop in the room.
"No…way…" Kiba choked, his face pale and one of horror. "No way… There's just no way that the ANBU would go this far!"
Hinata chuckled darkly. "They wouldn't go this far?" she echoed Kiba's words, and the brunette turned towards Hinata. "You know the truth in your heart. You know it. If they can bring themselves to use genocide to wipe out Baled's base, they will do it again if they think that they can contain the infection."
"We haven't heard anything about this." Nagato muttered. "And if this is true, the people will be rioting."
Shiki shook her head. "No. I know how the minds of people work," she said gravely. "They're scared right now. Positively terrified. The Demon God is a force of nature. He cannot be stopped by human means. And coupled with this infection, and with the ANBU's drastic methods to stop it…" She trailed off. "They probably think that they're doing the right thing. Besides, all of them are too scared to even worry about others. They will want to get out of Japan first thing." She sighed. "Riots will soon begin, trust me on this. Chaos will soon reign on this country."
"Genocide… You've got to be kidding me!" Sasuke exploded. "There must be a better way than this!"
"They believed that what they're doing is the right thing. They don't need any other reason." Tenten stated. "That's why the underworld despises the ANBU. But if it's one thing that we've learned, it is that sometimes, the decisions that you make, if it turns out to be the wrong ones, it might and can cause consequences."
"Consequences?" Deidara asked.
Temari sighed. "In the worse case scenario, like what is happening now, the world might burn," she stated. "And with the way that the ANBU is going now, it won't be long."
Shiki stood up silently, a dark look on her face, and everyone turned towards her. "All right. I've heard enough. We're going on a little job," she said grimly. "Haku. Neji. Gaara. Yugito. Four of you, with me. The rest of you, stay here." She made an emphasis on the last two words before turning and walking away, followed by the four whom she'd singled out.
Temari sighed. "Oh boy. Looks like someone is going to die tonight," she stated, and the ANBU went pale. "Shiki's pissed. Real pissed. I hadn't seen her this angry ever since Kankuro had died. Someone is definitely going to die tonight."
"Yeah." Tenten agreed with Temari. "A lot of someones."
Lee frowned. "So what? We fight genocide with genocide? How does that makes her any better than the ANBU or even Orochimaru? People deserve a second chance, no matter what. That makes her nothing but a murder—"
Before Lee could finish his sentence, he suddenly found himself being lifted nearly five inches off the ground, grabbed by the throat. Tenten's eyes were flashing dangerously as she closed her fingers around his throat, whilst Temari had a dagger against his neck, her own eyes flashing murder.
Sasuke groaned and palmed his face whilst the remaining ANBUs watched on. "One of these days, that mouth of yours is going to write a cheque that you can't afford to cash in, Lee," he muttered. "And insulting the leader of Ragnarok in front of her people is a very bad and stupid thing to do. Even Kiba knew that, and he isn't the smartest person around."
"Hey!" An affronted Kiba shouted. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Ten, let him go." Hinata said calmly. "Shiki won't be happy if you killed him, even if you are defending her honour."
Tenten grumbled something beneath her breath before releasing Lee, causing him to drop down on his behind, gasping for air, and cradling his throat. "Now you listen to me! You insult Shiki one more time, and you won't need that mouth of yours anymore!" Tenten snarled. "Just one more word against Shiki or Ragnarok, and I will finish what Temari had started in ANBU HQ months ago!"
"Tenten, calm down!" Sai tried to calm the infuriated girl before she burns the entire forest down in a fit of anger.
"Besides, I think you people have the wrong idea about Shiki," said Sumaru calmly. "She isn't a bad person. The underworld can only survive until today because of Shiki. Granted, her methods might be a little…unorthodox at times—"
"You can say that again." Deidara muttered, only to receive a glare from Itachi.
"—but it is needed, because it is a cruel world that we live in." Sumaru continued, pretending that he hadn't heard Deidara. "All of us…" He gestured towards himself, Sai and the remaining members of Ragnarok. "We were all forced to grow up extremely quickly. Forced to fight and to kill just to survive. This is the way that this world works. Many people gave into the harsh reality of the world, and they died."
"Shiki said something about this once." Itachi muttered. "She says that life is just like a game. If you win, you can live to see another day. But if you lose, you die."
"Yeah, she's mentioned something along those lines once during our days with Blade." Sai admitted, exchanging looks with Sumaru. "That was a little after Riku joined us, I believe." He looked at Sumaru questioningly who nodded in response.
"I think it has something to do with her childhood." Sumaru piped in, and Ragnarok and the ANBU blinked.
"You knew?" Shino asked, very surprised.
Not even Ragnarok knew about Shiki's past, unless you count the Nonary Game that she was forced to partake in as a child. But before that, nothing. They only knew that she is an orphan, and was bounced around foster homes as a child. And then again, she is a nin-user, and quite a powerful one at that. So again, that is no surprise.
Sai and Sumaru exchanged looks between themselves before turning back to the other. "Yeah, we knew. From what we heard, not even Ragnarok knew what had happened," said Sai seriously. "And we only knew because Riku managed to convince Shiki to tell him back during our Blade days. It took him over two weeks to convince her to tell him. And I still have no idea how he managed to do that. Shiki really isn't the type to part with information that she knew willingly, especially after having already declined to part with said information." He added.
Sumaru grinned. "Well, she's still like this now. She never changes."
Ragnarok exchanged grins.
Sai sighed. "Yeah. That's why she took it so hard when Riku…" he trailed off. He then cleared his throat. "Well, from what we knew from Riku, Shiki was abused as a child. She's a nin-user after all. One of the more powerful ones, in fact. Back then, she can't control her powers. Thus, every foster home that she went to, she faced the same thing. Abused. Starved. And sometimes, even torture." The ANBU flinched. "The worse case was experimentation." He looked from face to face. "Keep in mind that this is the time of the civil war. A murder or abuse of a nin-user isn't too important in the eyes of the High Council or the ANBU at that time. That's why Shiki ran away repeatedly until she had the misfortune to run into Orochimaru."
Shikamaru started choking on air. "O-O-Orochimaru?" he nearly screeched.
Sumaru nodded solemnly. "Apparently, she had very strong survival skills even as a kid. She disappeared off the radar for nearly a year until she somehow managed to escape and came to Hagako. And from what we heard, that is where she ran into her godfather."
"The last war and the aftermath, and even the civil war that had lasted for over a decade was very bad." Sai added. "People went missing or even turned up dead all the time. Thus the state of the underworld back then that lasted until today. The underworld was on the verge of destruction back then. It was all a matter of survival for us, and the other underworld gangs. That's why Shiki stepped in back then when another civil war was close to breaking out when the underworld decided that they had enough. She knew that if another civil war was to break out, it would be the end of Japan."
There was silence.
Chouji spoke up just then, his voice very small. "Then… Why did you kill all those innocent people throughout the years?" he asked, looking as if he wished he could just disappear, judging by the disgusted looks on the faces of the Ragnarok members that were all glaring at him.
"Innocent? You can sit there and tell me that with a straight face?" Tenten said sarcastically, playing with one of her knives. "How innocent is a man who performed inhumane experiments on people, particularly on children, and don't feel the least bit remorseful for what he did? How innocent is a fucking whore who uses our name to torment an innocent woman who merely found out something that she shouldn't have? How innocent is a pair of parents who actually tried killing their own children?" The ANBUs flinched back at Tenten's angry tirade. The years of frustration and anger at the ANBU all rushing out like a torrent. "You tell me then." Tenten breathed heavily. "How innocent is that?"
"People deserve a second chance, no matter what." Lee muttered, though not really believing in those words any longer.
"I used to think that too." Tenten smiled a bittersweet smile. "At least until someone took my father away." Itachi's eyes narrowed slightly. "At that time, it was Shiki who had saved me. And like all of us here…" She gestured towards the rest of Ragnarok, and even Sai and Sumaru. "We owe our lives to her."
"Besides, if you people have seen what we've seen, you wouldn't be saying what you're saying," said Hinata, adding in her own input. "We know how cruel people can be. We knew exactly just how far people could go to." The dark looks that appeared on their faces told the ANBUs that what they've seen is probably beyond anything that they could comprehend. "And trust me, what you've seen and done is nothing compared to what we've seen and done. Unlike you people, we didn't run from reality. We are not cowards. We do not fear Death." Hinata's eyes seemed to pierce right into their souls, and the ANBUs could not bring themselves to look away. "Just look around at the streets, and you'll see one of the seven deadly sins at every corner that you look. This is the kind of world that we now live in. Furthermore, I agree with Shiki: this world isn't worth saving. Not any longer."
"We follow Shiki because we owe her our lives." Shino added, making everyone jump at hearing the normally silent boy speak up. "We follow her because we know we can trust her with our lives. We'll gladly die for her if the need arises. And unlike most leaders, Shiki would rather sacrifice her own life than let any of us die." He looked from face to face. "We like her ideals. And we each swore that we would help her achieve it."
"Shiki might want you here, but make no mistake; she doesn't trust you. None of us do." Temari added, narrowing her eyes at the ANBU. "And from what you've done to us over the years, I don't blame her in the least. On the day that my brother…died, she got pissed. Angriest that I've ever seen her before." She added, recalling how…silently angry that Shiki had been. "Before that, Shiki didn't want any of us to harm the ANBU. But after Kankuro, and then Sasame died, she snapped. She saw red, and told us that the gloves are off. Thus the underground war between the ANBU and the underworld."
Shikamaru nodded slowly, slowly understanding several of Ragnarok's reasoning and motives throughout the years. "I get the 'don't trust us' part, but I would have thought that she would have gotten a few of us to head with her to do whatever she is going to do to the ANBU." He said absently. "We know ANBU headquarters inside out after all." He added. The tactical genius knew exactly what is going on in the head of the leader of Ragnarok, and he had a hunch what she is going to do.
"Of course Shiki wouldn't get any of you to go with her." Sumaru snorted in disbelief. "The 'not trusting you' part set aside, that girl isn't heartless, you know? The ANBU used to be your home after all. It's the only one that you knew and got. Shiki wouldn't force you to fight your once comrades. She knows that you wouldn't be able to go through with it. And the fact that she doesn't trust you fully yet set aside, if the news leak out that former ANBUs are killing ANBUs, it would create an even worse panic."
Shikamaru blinked. He hadn't thought of that. "Oh right."
Temari snorted. "You don't think that Ragnarok can survive until today by being careless, do you?" she questioned. "You ANBU might be able to think two steps or even three steps ahead, but Shiki thinks about five steps ahead of everyone else. The world's best spymaster trained her after all."
"I never thought that I'll ever say this, but I kind of feel sorry for the ANBU right now." Sasori muttered.
Senju Tsunade stared on in fear as she stared at the barrel of a revolver held in the hand of none other than the leader of Ragnarok herself. And Namikaze Shiki looked pissed.
ANBU headquarters is currently trembling, with explosions going on in some corner, rubble and debris raining down around their heads, but the redhead doesn't seem to care. "You know, I have no intention of killing you, despite what I've done to the shithead that you call the ANBU Chief, and those politicians that you call the High Council." Shiki hissed. "I bore the things that you blonde bimbo had done for the past several years, and I still took it when you ordered the death of my friend. But what you've done to your own people and to the citizens of the nation now… I can take it no longer!"
Another part of ANBU headquarters was blown up, and Tsunade winced. "You'll die too if you don't get out of ANBU headquarters now," she said.
"Does it look like I care?" Shiki hissed, and Tsunade's eyes widened. This girl… She really isn't afraid of Death, is she? "I'll take you down with me if it's the last thing I do! This is for Kankuro, Sasame, Miyuki, Suzuki, Ein, and all the others!"
The door to the office of the ANBU commander flew opened with a crash just then, and Haku and Gaara both stood at the doorway, panting heavily, minor injuries on their person, with each wielding a gun each, daggers visible in the holsters by their sides. Flames were just visible just behind them, not exactly flanking them into the office yet.
"Shiki, come on! The building is about to go down!" Haku urged. "Yugito has set the bomb. It's set to go off in thirty seconds!"
Shiki glanced at them over her shoulder and turned her attention back to Tsunade. She narrowed her eyes. This woman hasn't suffered enough… Not yet…
Twenty five seconds.
"Go," said Shiki coolly, not taking her eyes off of Tsunade. The blonde woman tried to inch her hand towards her right thigh, and Shiki fired a shot next to her head. Tsunade froze in her tracks, and Shiki narrowed her eyes dangerously. "The next shot won't miss." She warned.
"What?" Gaara's eyes widened. "What are you talking about? Come on, let's go!"
"Didn't you both hear me? I said, go!" Shiki snapped. "I'll join you in a moment. Just go!"
"But—" Haku started, but Gaara held her back, glancing at Shiki with a knowing look.
"You'll come back alive, right?" Gaara asked, and Shiki gave a miniscule nod, not turning around to look at them. "Good. Because we still need you. Our work isn't done yet. We swore to stop the Demon God together. We'll build a better world for the nin-users. We'll stop the war. You promised us that."
"Yeah. I intend to keep it," said Shiki, still not turning around. "Go."
Haku looked as if she wanted to say something, but Gaara grabbed her by the shoulder. "Haku, let's go," he said firmly before he practically dragged Haku out of the office despite her protests.
Tsunade stared at Shiki in fear. "Just…what are you?" she choked out. "You… You don't fear Death at all. You're not afraid to die."
A very thin smile spread over Shiki's face as she shifted her gun so that she is pointing it straight at the forehead of the ANBU commander. "Dying is what every human, every being does after all. It is all part of the natural cycle," she stated. "I do not fear Death. After all, Death is just the beginning of another greater adventure."
Shiki closed her eyes briefly. 'This is it,' she thought.
A huge explosion rocked the entire ANBU headquarters, engulfing it entirely in flames.