Author's Note: A Halloween request for Lapsed judgement, who wanted Team 7 pre-Shippuden and a D-Rank mission that turned creepy. I wanted to post this on Halloween but couldn't finish it in time, so here, have it as a Christmas present, everyone!

Disclaimer: I make no profit from posting this work of fanfiction, hence the fan part. I also don't own Naruto unless you count some manga volumes.

Warnings: General creepiness and my terrible horror-writing skills. Rated for a reason.

"Okay, so what are we supposed to be doing again?"

Staring up at the old, dilapidated mansion in front of them, Uchiha Sasuke couldn't help but agree with his teammate, because for once Uzumaki Naruto's question made sense: what were they supposed to be doing?

The Mitsuhara estate was falling apart at the seams, appearing more like a derelict shack than the former home of rich merchants and politicians that it was. The previously elegant manor was barely even a shadow of its former self, having fallen into ruin nearly two decades back and remaining standing by the grace of the gods and an absurd amount of luck. There were holes in the walls where the wood had rotted away, the breeze creating a faint whistling noise as it passed through them. The railing of the front porch was splintered and cracked, some of the posts missing entirely, and several of the steps leading up to the porch were broken. The timbers that held it up were sagging, probably about to collapse at the first heavy foot fall that landed on them or from a hard wind blowing against them.

Over a dozen of the windows were broken, the remaining glass clinging to the wooden frames appearing like jagged fangs, and that was just on the front of the house. The roof looked like it could cave in at any moment, the tiles that were supposed to cover it either loose, cracked, or missing altogether. There were even places where he could see it visibly buckling, the beams holding up those portions of the roof fighting to hold up the weight pressing down on them and slowly losing the battle. He didn't even want to imagine the condition of the inside of the house, if the outside looked that bad - when it rained the roof probably acted more like a sieve than any kind of protection. The water damage would have hastened the advance of wood-rot, so the floors inside the house were likely in even worse condition than the roof if that were possible.

Yes, it was truly miraculous how the house had remained standing as long as it had, though it wouldn't be much longer.

"The mission scroll said to search the estate and surrounding property to see if any parts of the original structure can be repaired, and that we can keep anything of value that might have been left behind." Sakura recited, answering Naruto's question.

Naruto scratched the back of his head dubiously, "What if the place is as rundown on the inside that it is on the outside? It looks like a stiff breeze can bring it down on us!" He asked, and Sasuke privately agreed. The place was one thrown rock away from collapsing.

Sakura shrugged, telling her teammates, "The client is a textile merchant who bought the property about a month ago and decided to build a summer home where this building is, and they wanted to evaluate whether some pieces of the construction can be saved or if it would be cheaper to tear it down and build from scratch. Unfortunately the place is so rotted that regular surveyors won't go in there because of the danger of getting caught in a collapse, so the client decided to send ninja to poke around. If there's no parts that can be renovated, the scroll said there's a bonus if we demolish the place. My guess is that instead of paying someone to demolish it and clear away the debris, they want to save money by getting us to blow the place up for a small bonus and then just paying the clean-up crew full price."

Sasuke hadn't known about the bonus, so he supposed that even if she wasn't good for much he should be thankful Sakura had read the scroll so thoroughly and actually remembered what she read. Either way her talent for retaining information was handy, so he merely grunted in acknowledgement as he turned to survey the overgrown estate grounds.

"That doesn't explain why genin like us got stuck with the job, if looking around the house is so dangerous..." Naruto grumbled, and both he and Sakura sighed in unison, since the comment didn't need a response.

Technically the job was for a genin team and their jounin instructor, but unfortunately their teacher, Hatake Kakashi, had taken off as soon as they had arrived at the mansion ten minutes ago, waving at them from a tree branch and telling them to watch their step. Sasuke's eye twitched at the memory, and from the way Sakura's smile had grown stiff and her hands twitched she was also remembering their teacher's speedy retreat. Naruto was frowning, which spoke volumes of the blond's own displeasure at the jounin leaving them in the lurch, because the other genin was nothing if not easy-going.

"Oh well, it's not so bad, we might even find a secret room or hidden treasure while we're looking around!" Sakura said, her voice a little too optimistic in the Uchiha's opinion, but at least it broke the dour mood as Naruto also brightened.

Sasuke hid a sigh at his teammates' misplaced excitement, restraining the urge to groan at their cheerfulness as both ran off to explore the grounds and the various outbuildings. Getting the easy stuff done first, he noted, and really did sigh as he turned and headed towards the mansion proper. If you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself.

The inside of the mansion looked worse than the outside, if that was even possible.

It had been a test of speed and chakra control just getting to the door, as he'd had to quickly make his way up the steps while keeping up a constant flow of chakra to his feet in order to prevent his weight from falling on the rotten wood. His initial step with a fraction of his weight had caused the board to shatter and would have resulted in a nasty gash on one leg if he hadn't moved back just in time. Lesson learned. Upon opening the door, he was greeted by the thick smell of rotted wood and moldy fabric, the result of the interior being left at the mercy of the elements by the holes in the walls and roof, he was guessing.

Door creaking as it swung open further, Sasuke took a cautious step inside as his eyes began to adjust to the dimness of the inside of the house. The wood beneath his feet creaked alarmingly, but thankfully held.

He was standing in a large front hall that looked as though it had doubled as a ballroom at some point; there were cracked tiles covering the floor of the room, the formerly polished wood of the walls were dark with rot, and the candleholders placed at intervals along the walls were rusted through. Cobwebs hung from the rusted holders and the ceiling like thin veils, their former inhabitants long gone, and the dank smell of old fabric was almost thick enough to choke on, clinging to the back of his throat with each breath. There were several doorways on each side of the hall, the doors so warped and rotted that it took him a minute to realize that they were doors.

The source of the smell in the room was the carpet leading up the stairs at the end of the room, the color faded and indistinguishable, but he suspected it to have been some shade of red back when it was new. The stairs looked even worse; they were as rotted as the doors and walls, if not more so going by what he could see through the carpet. The banisters that had lined them were practically gone, only a few splintered posts clinging stubbornly to their places and jutting up like the teeth of a spike-trap.

Deciding to leave the multiple doors alone for the time being, he channeled a careful amount of chakra to his feet and made his way up the stairs. They groaned alarmingly with the press of each step but held, and he made it to the top of the staircase without incident. Standing in front of double doors that had certainly seen better days and eyeing hinges so thoroughly rusted that they looked like bricks, rather than wrestling with it he instead turned his attention to the hallway at the top of the steps. Tiled instead of carpeted, thus sparing his nose from an increase in moldy carpet smell, the hall extended to both sides of him. The left-hand corridor was almost overwhelmed by spider and cob-webs, more like a solid wall of ghostly gray threads than anything. The right-hand hallway was marginally clearer in that he could at least see that it was a hallway.

Going with the path of least resistance, Sasuke pulled out a kunai and began cutting a path, since using a fire jutsu to clear the webs would be a bad idea.

It was slow going, as the webs clung stubbornly to his kunai and he had to stop every four steps to brush them off lest he get tangled in the trailing strands. He also had to stop and examine any rooms that he found, though he had an unexpected stroke of luck in that all of the doors in that hallway had rotted enough to crumble apart at the slightest touch. The room examination went faster than his web-cutting, as most of them were empty of everything except dust and it didn't take his Sharingan to see that there were no false-panels or hidden alcoves in them.

Shivering slightly as a chilled breeze hit on the back of his neck, he moved away from inspecting the latest room halfway down the hall that he didn't bother entering and continued cutting a path through the webs. There was nothing interesting so far, and the only reason it was taking him so long to get through with that hallway was the damned webs that now seemed bound and determined to cling to his back and shoulders. No matter how many times he brushed them off, there were always several threads stubbornly attached to his shirt and arms, and the only thing he could do was sneer and try to speed up his search.

Careful of the amount of chakra he channeled to his feet so he didn't go falling through the floor, almost ten minutes later he finally reached the last room down that particular hallway. He was not looking forward to slicing his way through the solid thread-wall that was the left passage, but he had chosen to explore the house so he was damned well going to do it.

Finished with that hallway, he turns on his heel and walks back to stand in front of the stairs, shivering again when another draft caressed his arms and the back of his neck. Grimacing at the wall of cobwebs barring his way to the other passage, he lifts the kunai still in his hand and sets to work cutting a way through. This one would likely take longer, and he was beginning to suspect that by the time the mission was over he would have a deep and abiding hatred of old spider webs.

Stopping every three or so steps to brush lingering webbing off the kunai and his clothes, the next twenty minutes spent examining the rooms in the left hallway were basically a repeat of the search of the right-hand hall. Except there was more dust, because the dark gray strands spanning the passage formed a barrier that kept the wind from blowing it away like it had in the opposite hall. The dust rose in thick clouds with each step he took, more than once forcing him to pause and sneeze as some got into his nose and dyeing the white bandages around his legs a filthy gray, and he was relieved when he reached the end and found nothing worth entering the empty rooms for.

Going back to the fused double-doors, Sasuke put away his kunai, channeled a small amount of chakra to his hand, wrapped it around the remaining door handle, and yanked.

The door came off with a small shriek of rusted hinges and the sound of splintering wood, wood chips and dust falling to the floor as he dropped the section of door he'd pulled off. He kicked in the remaining portion blocking his way easily enough, not even needing to use chakra. Considering how big the manor was, he reluctantly stopped sending chakra to his feet, stepping carefully as he walked through the newly-open doorway. The new rush of the rot-and-mold scent smacked him square in the face, and he grimaced and shuddered as he attempted to ignore, glancing around the larger than normal hallway that he found himself in. He didn't know why the ones who had built the mansion felt the need to put double-doors between this corridor and the stairs, but he assumed it had something to do with atmosphere or dramatic timing.

He was a Uchiha. He certainly understood the importance of making an entrance.

From what he could see, there were fourteen doors in the corridor, seven on each side, and an additional one at the very end. In between the doors were stone pedestals, some cracked and broken, others reduced to a pile of rubble. He imagined they once supported either statues or vases of flowers, which weren't something he really cared about. It was enough that he didn't have anything extra to search, and so with a deep sigh he made his careful way over to the first door. He had to breathe shallowly to avoid choking on the dust and ancient carpet fibers, this hall having sported a long rug sometime in the past, which he could still see traces of between the cracked tiles and beneath some of the loose stones from the pedestals.

There were several picture frames still hanging in the first room, for a loose definition of hanging, but other than that it was basically a repeat of his initial search until he reached the fifth room on the right. There was another door in that room, which looked like it was supposed to be library except for the large hole in floor in the right corner and pieces of wood that looked like broken chair legs scattered around. The remains of the shelves were collapsing and as Sasuke cautiously entered, sending chakra to his feet again just in case, one of them groaned alarmingly and collapsed, sending a shower of dust and mold into the air.

Not sticking around to breathe any of the resulting cloud in, he risked a quick shunshin over to the door and pulled it open, ripping it off the hinges in the process. Dropping it to the side, he hurried through and had to take a moment to blink because why was the library connected to a bedroom? Having those two rooms connected didn't make any sense, but he had to search the place anyway. Scowling, he swiftly scanned the room, taking in the curtains that were more hole than fabric drifting in the breeze coming from the shattered window and the rusted metal bed-frame that stood solemnly in the middle of the room.

He skirted around the unsettling centerpiece, because he highly suspected that if he even brushed against it he would catch some kind of disease, and went to the wardrobe which was actually somewhat intact. Opening it revealed it was empty, so he shrugged and did a basic sweep of the room before backtracking. Aside from some questionable architecture choices, his search of the second floor wasn't very interesting, all of the rooms looking more or less the same. He didn't even need his Sharingan to look through the rooms - the holes in the walls and ceiling let in more than enough light, even in the rooms without windows, the scattered beams highlighting the swirling dust particles.

Occasionally when he peered outside he would catch a glimpse of orange and pink running through the grounds, Naruto apparently having elected not to use his shadow clones for some reason.

When he reached the far back side of the mansion he found some servants' stairs leading up to the attic, and though he cringed at the thought of all the grime he grit his teeth and went up the stairs. He felt another cold breeze touch the back of his neck, which he ignored, then he froze halfway up the staircase when he suddenly, abruptly, felt the glare of someone's gaze burning into his back. Whirling around, his Sharingan active and spinning between one blink and the next, he registered the far greater detail of the stairs below him and the myriad of fine, almost invisible cracks in the walls.

There was no one behind him.

He remains tense and ready for several minutes, eyes darting around and trying to pick up a hint of movement that might indicate a mouse or other small creature, or perhaps a flicker of chakra that would indicate someone concealing themselves with a genjutsu.

Nothing, not even the chakra of a bug.

Slowly releasing his grip on the kunai he'd instinctively grabbed for, he took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as he tried to relax his tensed muscles. He didn't feel anyone's eyes on him now, and after a moment he reluctantly deactivated his Sharingan. It must have been his imagination, he told himself, and pretended not to notice the cold shiver down his spine.

There weren't any holes in the stairwell to let a breeze in.

Upon reaching the attic, the first thing Sasuke does is sneeze. The second thing is leap away from the door when the floor he was standing on decides it can't take the weight and gives way beneath his feet.

Luckily landing on the one remaining patch of solid floor, he sees as he carefully straightens up, he takes a moment to look around before risking anymore moves. Lit by the weak beam of light from a surprisingly intact window, the attic is almost as bad as the Cobweb Hallway, covered in almost half a foot of dust and draped with old spider-webs that look more like gauzy curtains than anything. Most of the large space was empty, but - yes, in the shadows in the far corner, he just made out the shape of several boxes. He winds up taking a circular path towards them, as the floor resembled a childhood game of ladders more than a floor.

Crouching down in front of the boxes, which he sees were actually trunks, and sturdy ones to have survived time and the elements so long, he begins checking for traps out of habit. There are none, and the trunk isn't even locked, so after using a forearm to brush the bulk of the dust away it only takes one firm tug to open it.

The contents had definitely seen better days, he thought, snorting in amusement as he saw the musty garments that reminded him a lot of what his great-great-grandparents used to wear in the old portraits. He dutifully pawed through the clothes, which weren't reacting well to the introduction of air, he noted idly. When he reached the bottom of the trunk, he paused when his hand encountered something besides fabric, and after a second's thought he pulled out the object.

It was a book, a plain-covered book. It wasn't especially big, so not a novel, but a decent enough size for a journal, and a quick look revealed that the pages had held up to the test of time and remained mostly intact, except for the very last page, which looked to have been torn out. Flipping it open to a random page near the middle, he checked the date at the top curiously, doing some quick math before reaching the conclusion that the entry was from over thirty years ago.

...Today Hikaru-Sama called for a meeting of all ladies of the house, as the annual festivities draw ever nearer and she wishes to impress the visiting dignitaries so that Nikamaru-Sama will gain favor with the cloth merchants of Kumo. Business has stagnated, with no new clients and only faithful older customers keeping the household afloat. Hikaru-Sama plans to display new patterns after the party, claiming that the good food and alcohol would make the merchants more agreeable. As the merchants she seeks to impress are from Kumo, I have many doubts as to the possibility of success...

Hn, just the typical prattling of a maidservant in a rich household, Sasuke decided, closing the book. It probably had some historical value, so he might as well take it on the off-chance it was worth a few yen. Closing the trunk and setting the book down on the lid, he moved on to searching the other three.

Though he didn't know it, if he had only flipped to the last page of the diary, he would have seen written in shaking handwriting:

Something is wrong.

The air is chilled, whispers echo through the hallways though there are few servants and the masters of the house grow evermore silent. The few of us who had the courage to stay feel the gaze of invisible eyes on us, unceasingly glaring. Nikamaru-Sama and his brother Masamaru-Sama do not speak to one another, an aura of anger surrounds them ever since Hanaki-Chan was betrothed. There was another argument between Nikamaru-Sama and Hikaru-Sama last night; he accuses her of wanting his brother. She did not deny it.

Something is wrong. The household is being torn apart by secrets and betrayal.

The feeling of being watched grows ever stronger.

I fear it is not just the living who dwell in this house-

The entry ended with a long, trailing mark, and a few flecks of dark brown on the page that might have been bloodstains.

He should have read the last page.

Second floor and attic searched, the journal tucked away in a pouch, Sasuke made his way back down to the first floor to finish up his sweep so he could head back outside and work on clearing some of the dust from his lungs. He would likely be cleaning his own house from top to bottom after this mission, he noted sourly, because he was so sick of dirt it wasn't even funny. He could happily going without seeing another cloud of dust as thick as a patch of fog off the sea for at least a year after this, and he actually thought that if Kakashi-Sensei tried to leave them with another mission like this he would do his best to punch that bastard in his masked face.

He was pretty sure that Naruto would help, even if the hyperactive blond hadn't come inside the main house, because it was hard to imagine that the servants' quarters, guest houses, and store buildings were any better cleanliness wise. They were probably worse, he told himself, since the store buildings would be more solidly built, likely with a combination of stone and wood, and with fewer ways for wind to get in and blow the dust out.

Yes, it could be worse. At least in the mansion he only had to deal with rotten floors, possible breathing problems, and the knowledge that the ceiling might collapse on his head at any moment. The first floor was probably the most dangerous, since in the attic he had to worry about falling through the floor, but in the lower floors he had to be concerned about falling through the floor and the ceiling collapsing on him.

Almost on cue, the ceiling above him groaned piteously and with a sharp snap, he sidestepped to avoid the chunk of wood falling towards his head. He avoided it cleanly, but he still made a face and casually brushed the splinters off his arm-coverings. A glance revealed a mess of metal in the middle of the rubble, and he concluded that it was the remains of a bed-frame. A good thing he'd gotten out of the way, or else that would have been nasty.

The search of the first floor bore fruit, unlike the second floor, when he stumbled across several hiding spots beneath rotted floorboards. Most of them were empty, but he found four boxes that weren't and which yielded a plain gold bracelet, a silver ring, a small piece of quartz, and several small opal stones respectively. Those went into the same pouch as the journal, and he caustically thought that at least the mission hadn't been a total waste.

Sasuke was growing used to the sudden chills that happened in the manor, so he didn't even blink when he felt another one touch his back, but what caused him to tense up was the sudden realization that he wasn't alone. There was a presence right behind him, and he immediately spun towards it, Sharingan active and spinning, flinging the kunai he'd grasped before he even finished turning.

Once again, there was no one there.

Kunai thudding into the old wood of the door, the space around him was completely empty of any kind of life. He stood in the middle of the last room he had to search, he had thought it some type of study, tense and wary, red eyes darting to and fro in an attempt to find the presence he had sensed. The black commas of the Sharingan still spun dizzyingly, prepared to ensnare someone in a genjutsu at a moment's notice, but there was no one there. His kunai had met no resistance in its flight, and there was no one in the room hiding beneath a genjutsu, henge, or any other disguise. Turning around revealed that no one had managed to duck around him as he'd turned, but he scanned the entire room, including the ceiling, just to be certain.

Nothing, not even an insect, yet he still stiffened when a cold breeze dragged its fingers down his spine.

His first thought was that it was one of Naruto's pranks, except he wasn't picking up any chakra inside the house, and he doubted the dobe would have the patience to follow him all through the house without giving himself away. His blond teammate was also nowhere near fast enough to evade the Sharingan, he knew, even if he had somehow been hiding the skill needed to pull off the vanishing act. "Naruto, you idiot, what are you playing at?" He hissed, because if it was Naruto, that would get him to reveal himself, if only to insist that an idiot wouldn't have been able to pull such an 'awesome prank' and gloat about getting one over on Sasuke.

Several minutes passed with no sign of the orange-wearing ninja, and he was forced to accept that his teammate wasn't playing a prank on him. That didn't explain why he had the feeling of being watched, or why it suddenly felt like the room got several degrees colder...


The floorboards snapping beneath his feet jolted him out of his thoughts, and before he could even register what was happening, he was falling into darkness.

It was dark, Sasuke thought as black eyes slowly blinked open, quickly shifting to red upon seeing nothing but blackness around him.

He was laying on something hard, but not smooth. A twitch of his fingers made him conclude that he was laying on a stone floor, but one that was cracked and pitted from time and wear, thus making it uneven and perilous to those without sight.

Unfortunately, activating the Sharingan didn't do anything to help him see through the shadows, so with a grimace he reluctantly deactivated the doujutsu in order to conserve chakra. It wasn't like it was helping him see any better, he consoled himself, so keeping it active wouldn't do anything besides weaken him, and if he needed to it would barely take a second to switch it on again. Pushing himself slowly to his feet, he cautiously tested his footing, straightening fully when he was sure he wouldn't end up falling flat on his face. His change in position didn't help his vision problem, and when he stretched out his senses to try and detect any chakra, there was nothing. He was completely alone in wherever he was.

A look upwards revealed a lighter patch of darkness that he judged to be the hole he fell through, so at least he had a way to get out. Looking back towards the deeper blackness, he ran through the several handsigns necessary for a certain jutsu, and a snap of his fingers produced a spark that swiftly became a small fireball that hovered over his palm. It was a beginner's jutsu taught to the children of the Uchiha clan to get them used to handsigns, but it was also useful as a way to start campfires, heat up water, and in this case act as a candle.

The small amount of light manages to illuminate a three foot circle around him, not that that tells him anything other than that he was right about the floor. Wherever he had fallen down to, it was larger than three feet across, and the air was old and musty as hell, he thought. There was surprisingly little dust on the floor, but that might have been because the room or cavern or whatever had been sealed off.

Sasuke's first instinct was to explore this new space - perhaps it was some kind of basement or older structure that the mansion had been built on? - because if it had been sealed, there was a chance that any valuables there were intact, but he hesitated before taking a step. Kakashi always emphasized teamwork, even if he almost never helped on missions beyond making sure they didn't get themselves killed, so he should probably jump back through the hole in the floor to let Naruto and Sakura know what he found. Teams had to stick together and share information, although tracking them down might take some time, since it was a surprisingly big estate. He could probably just search around by himself and no one would know, he figured, frowning in thought.

Really, he just wanted to get this whole search over and done with so they could head back to the village, and looking around by himself would be quicker, but he kept having a nagging feeling that he should go find his teammates first. They were busy searching the rest of the grounds though, he told himself, and really, what were the odds that the place he'd fallen into was more than just some old basement? And honestly, he thought sharply, if there were any valuables down there, he certainly wouldn't trust Naruto with them. The idiot would manage to break them somehow, he just knew it, and the entire experience of falling through a floor would have been meaningless!

He also didn't want to have to deal with Sakura, because although she'd toned things down a little, she was still annoying as hell, he thought with a grimace. It was always 'Sasuke-kun' this and 'Sasuke-kun' that with her, and it was exhausting, even if she wasn't as bad as Ino anymore. The Yamanaka heiress was in a league all her own when it came to shrillness, so that was definitely something to be thankful for, he reflected. Still, he didn't want to have to suffer through her company more than he absolutely had to. He shuddered in disgust, because fangirls.

Not to mention he really didn't trust her not to break something, whether an object or one of them, in the course of the search.

Still, there was the whole teamwork thing. Kakashi-Sensei had lectured about it from day one, and all the 'training' he came up with seemed geared towards pounding that lesson into their heads. You didn't leave teammates behind. Teammates were vital to the success of missions, Kakashi-Sensei had preached, and you don't exclude them for any reason. Sasuke might not have wanted to spend more time than he needed to with his team, but that was one lesson Kakashi-Sensei had been partially successful in getting through his skull.

Torn, he looked ahead into the darkness beyond his circle of light, and then back up at where he knew the hole he'd fallen through was. Shaking his head, he decided to hell with it, he would just take a quick look around to see how big the place was and then if it was larger than he expected, he would go get his team. Yeah, that would probably work, he nodded firmly, channeling a bit more chakra into the fireball over his hand to increase the amount of light until he could see four foot around him. Nothing in the space around him, so he wasn't standing in a normal sized hallway or very small room.

Taking a few tentative steps forward, he almost absently adjusted for the unstable footing as he slowly began moving further, he hoped, into the darkened room. Almost a dozen steps in, he paused, frowned, and then turned and moved to the right to search for the wall. It had just occurred to him that if this was some kind of basement or storage cellar, then there had to be torches or some other form of lighting in there so the past residents could see, as according to the brief history mentioned in the mission scroll none of the former occupants had been ninja. There was little to no chance that the space hadn't been used at some point, so there had to be something there.

Carefully counting his steps, it took him ten steps before he found the wall and another three to reach it, the flame in his hand casting menacing, twisting shadows across the stone surface. It was surprisingly pristine considering the condition of the floor, and four steps to his left yielded the object of his search: an old, withered torch still set into the rusted holder affixed to the wall. It looked like it would crumble to dust the moment he touched it, but it still caught fire easily enough when he transferred the fireball from his hand to the torch.

Sasuke didn't think that torch would last long, so he quickly performed the jutsu again, creating another fireball as he walked beside the wall, again counting the steps until he found another of the old torches. Five steps exactly, a reasonable distance. This torch was lit with the same ease as the first one, and he heaved an imperceptible sigh of relief as the torchlight grew brighter and his eyes began to adjust to the new source of illumination. While the semi-circle he was standing in was lit, the shadows beyond them seemed even darker somehow. It was rather creepy, and Sasuke supposed he should be glad that he hadn't gone and got Naruto, considering the blond's fear of ghost stories. This place would have had Naruto a nervous wreck in under five minutes.

A smirk crossing his face at the thought, the expression was gone as quickly as it had appeared, and after performing the jutsu a third time, he started making his way to the opposite wall. He kept track of his steps, passing the ten he had originally needed to find the wall in the first place and counting his steps in the back of his mind as he walked. A small frown had the corners of his lips turning downwards as his count passed twenty-eight and he still hadn't found the other wall. He was sure he was going in a straight line, and the room couldn't possibly be that big, could it?

It actually might have been, he was forced to admit, when another seventeen steps brought him no closer to another wall that he could see. He was confused and wondering if he had somehow walked down a hallway without realizing it when he felt the chilling, familiar feeling of eyes boring into his back. He would have simply ignored the feeling, but this time there was something different about the sensation; if he had to describe it, he would say that the glare burned with hatred.

Killing intent greater than Momochi Zabuza, the Demon of the Bloody Mist, slammed into him and sent him reeling, the fireball in his hand flickering as his concentration wavered. Staggering and nearly falling to his knees, Sasuke gasped for breath as he sent more chakra to his only source of light, causing it to grow in size until the flame was as large as an inflated balloon. Activating his Sharingan, he formed the release seal with his free hand and shouted, "Kai!", looking around wildly for the source of the malicious gaze drilling into him.

There was nothing he could see within his circle of illumination, but the moment he flared his chakra to dispel possible genjutsu, the world shattered around him.

Shards of darkness scattered like the pieces of a broken mirror, clattering to the ground with a sound like wind chimes and a funeral gong.

Instinctively throwing up his arms to protect his face, Sasuke hunched slightly to make a smaller target as the noise reverberated through him, filling his ears and drowning out even the sound of his own heartbeat. It seemed to go on and on, not ebbing in the slightest even when he desperately flared his chakra again, shouting "Kai!" as loud as he could. Abruptly, the sound stopped, the sudden absence of it sending him falling to his knees with a harsh crack of stone-on-flesh. For several minutes all he could do was pant, taking in heaving gulps of air as his ears rang and spots swam across the back of his eyelids (when had he closed his eyes?).

He felt nauseous, swallowing back bile as his stomach turned, and there was a tinge of hysteria in his thoughts as he wondered in disbelief how someone could have possibly caught him in an illusion. And there had been not one, but two genjutsu, he thought wildly, the first being the unnatural darkness, and the second the all-encompassing noise that had brought him to his knees. He himself didn't use genjutsu beyond his Sharingan, but he knew that layering illusions like that took skill, real skill, especially to ensnare a Uchiha with their innate resistance to such tricks.

It was impossible, just - impossible for anyone less than a genjutsu master to do that!

How could it fool his Sharingan though? His bloodline limit could see through any illusions, and he had definitely used it in the stairwell and before he'd fallen through the floor! There was no way he had been trapped in an illusion those times, so it had to have happened right after he'd regained consciousness and deactivated his Sharingan. But how had he not noticed? He couldn't figure it out, and a sharp stab of pain went through his head as he staggered back to his feet and blearily looked around.

The first thing he noticed was that he could see. There was no longer pure darkness surrounding him, the scenery completely different, and what was around him made him think that he should have called his teammates after all.

Sasuke was standing in the middle of a wide chamber, the floor around him suspiciously smooth and free of cracks. The lit torches placed at regular intervals along the walls caused the shadows to writhe and twist into horrifying shapes at the same time they provided just enough light to see by. He almost wished they didn't, because the room was illuminated enough that he had an unobstructed view of the shrine altar placed against the far wall of the room. The altar itself was simple, just a table made of stone with small braziers set on both ends, the fire in each burning and crackling cheerfully as it cast light on the piece of paper placed in the center of the altar. It was otherwise empty, but for some reason the sight of that piece of paper filled him with dread.

Slowly, reluctantly, he took one step forward, then another, and another, until he was standing in front of the altar. Still feeling the heavy sensation of approaching doom in his stomach, he swallowed to wet his suddenly dry throat as he looked hesitantly down at the paper. At first glance it seemed normal, at least until he noticed that one side of it seemed jagged, as though it had been torn from something like a - a...diary.

The second this thought was completed, the fear that he had been resolutely ignoring suddenly surged up, and sweat began forming on the sides of his face as the hair on the back of his neck stood up. The paper seemed very, very similar to the pages of the diary he had flipped through in the attic, and since he hadn't read to the end, there was the distinct possibility that a page had been missing from the back. It might have been a genjutsu, but a quick tap with a fingertip and a murmured 'kai' proved that assumption wrong.

But how had it gotten there?

He hadn't found any secret passages during his search, and since he'd fallen through the floor he had to conclude that the basement had been sealed. The page on the altar was in good condition, by the looks of it about as old as the diary though the lone piece of paper was slightly less yellow than the pages in the book, most likely because the cellar had been more-or-less airtight before he'd fallen through the floor.

It was a mystery that had shivers of trepidation dancing along his shoulders, and the feeling of apprehension growing in his gut as he finally bit the kunai and dared to actually read what was written on the page.

What he read made his blood run cold.

To whomever finds this message: The legend was true, all of it. The shadow that haunted the mansion was not the creation of superstitious servants. The darkness that began rising when Masamaru-Sama turned on Nikamaru-Sama has completely engulfed the household and their hearts are stained with hatred as the floors are dyed red with blood spilt by betrayal. Hikaru-Sama and I are the last ones left, and I feel the shadows stirring around me. Please, whoever comes across this journal, leave immediately! Run and save yourselves! I beg of you, run far away from this cursed place!

The Akugyaku-Iki has awoken!

It felt like his blood had turned to ice, his heart skipping a beat before thundering louder than ever, blood pounding in his ears as he stared at the page. What he suspected to be dried spots of blood were smeared across the bottom of the paper, doing nothing to obscure the message, and his hands trembled before he clenched his fists to still the motion.

An Akugyaku-Iki. A treason spirit.

His mother had told him stories about them a year before she died when he kept insisting that he was old enough for grown-up stories in order to scare him. And it had worked; he hadn't been able to sleep for three days after the first one. There were many legends about how they behaved, where they appeared, what drew their attention, and whether they were spirits of vengeance or justice, but the thing that remained constant was their origin. The story went that they were the soul of someone who had suffered a betrayal so heinous in life that after death they continued to seek vengeance on those who would forsake their friends, loved ones, or ideals.

A ninja's worst nightmare, Sasuke thought as he broke into a cold sweat, as shinobi were betrayers by necessity; infiltration and sabotage missions especially called for lies and deceit, and so they were prime targets for any Akugyaku-Iki who happened upon one. Truly, they were spirits who abhorred treason above all else...

Just as the thought finished, the genin suddenly sensed that he was being watched...and there was no one else around him. No sounds of hushed breathing, no displacement of air as a body shifted in the darkness or the rustle of cloth...nothing save the sensation of a venomous glare burning holes in his back and an aura of hatred and fury surrounding him.

The shadows around him suddenly seemed darker and more sinister, twisting into unnatural shapes as the flames in the braziers flared once, twice, and then abruptly went out. Activating his Sharingan in instinctive fear did nothing to allow him to see, only telling him that he wasn't caught in a genjutsu again, and his heart simultaneously froze and raced. His pulse thundering in his ears, his shirt was soaked with sweat as he flexed his fingers, itching to reach for a kunai, form handseals, anything that would stop him from feeling as terrified as he was. Settling on handseals, he flicked through the ones for his earlier fireball jutsu...but nothing happened. His chakra flickered, moving as it was supposed to, and then nothing. It sputtered out for no apparent reason, exactly like the braziers had.

Most people would have frozen in fear or broken down completely, but Sasuke was a ninja, one born from a Clan, the best in his class and raised from birth to be a shinobi. Before the afterimages of the flames had faded, he had already spun on his heel and began to run, bloodline limit active and spinning as he rushed headlong into the darkness. It felt like he was running through quicksand, like a thick sludge was surrounding and weighing him down, his mind perceiving his movements as slow and clumsy. He told himself that he was moving normally, that it was just an illusion altering his perception of how fast he was moving, and he flared his chakra in an attempt to shrug off any genjutsu.

Nothing happened, the blackness around him still as menacing as it was to begin with, and none of the jutsu he tried as he ran worked. The chakra popped like a soap bubble before it fully formed whenever he tried, so all he could do was run even though it felt like all he was doing was running in place. How far had he run? How big was this place? Why hadn't he run into any walls yet? He didn't have the answers to any of those questions, and he wouldn't, no, couldn't stop running to try and figure them out.

It was only his training that kept his breathing even instead of ragged, the steady rhythm of inhale and exhale providing an odd sort of background calm to his panicked flight. In sharp contrast to his calm breathing, his mind was spinning and turning rapidly, and his thoughts were a cacophony of disordered chaos. Foremost was the thought that no matter what, he had to get out of there, he couldn't afford to stay in the cellar a moment longer than it took him to find the hole in the ceiling he'd fallen through.

Had he the time to be waxing poetic, he would have compared his headlong flight to swimming through a sea of darkness.

As it was, all his attention was devoted to finding the way out, a task that seemed more fruitless by the minute. It felt like he was moving; he felt the vibrations of his feet hitting the ground, the hard surface of the stone beneath his sandals with each step, the air brushing against his face as he moved. His Sharingan was active and spinning, his chakra surging at irregular intervals to disrupt any genjutsu, and yet he didn't seem to be making any progress no matter how quickly he moved, even channeling chakra to his legs to increase his speed.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he saw two small spots of light - the torches he'd lit after he'd woken up in the cellar!

Relief swelled inside him, momentarily stilling the panic as he looked up, seeing the lighter shade of blackness that had to be the exit. Panting softly, he heaved a sigh, the tension in his body draining away and leaving his limbs trembling now that escape was within his grasp. As he was about to crouch down and gather his chakra for the needed leap, his shifted his feet and heard the faint splash of water as moisture lapped at his sandals, the levels seemingly rising by the minute.

He froze, slowly straightening, because he was very sure that there hadn't been any liquid, water or otherwise, when he had first woken up down there. Now that he was standing in one place, his pulse not thundering through his ears, he was able to hear the steady trickling sound of water hitting the floor. The noise was more akin to the sound of a small stream than the dripping of a faucet like he'd first thought, and that scared him more than he wanted to admit. He hadn't triggered any traps, there wasn't a genjutsu, and he hadn't felt any shaking that might have signaled an earthquake or Doton jutsu breaking into an underground spring, so where was the water coming from? It couldn't have just appeared from nowhere!...Could it?

No one really knew what kinds of powers Akugyaku-Iki had, so it was possible that the one haunting the mansion could have the ability to create water out of thin air. Likely even, considering his current situation, and fuck it, he could ponder the logistics of what was happening later, right now he was getting the hell out of that basement!

Crouching back down, he sent the needed chakra to his legs to be sure that he made the jump, mentally counted to three, and jumped...or at least he tried to. His legs wouldn't move, no matter how many times he tried to jump, the limbs frozen and unmoving in the kneeling position. It was like something was stopping his mind's commands from reaching his legs, because he could still feel his legs and feet just fine. It was like he was caught in a Nara's shadow-bind technique; that was all he could compare the sensation to and have it come close to what he was feeling. His heart stopped in his chest as dread formed a heavy stone in his stomach. There was only one reason why he wasn't able to move, and he was certain that there wasn't a Nara for miles around.

The mystery water covered his feet now, almost touching his crouching knees, and it was cold, colder than a lake in Frost Country - a pervading chill like the icy touch of the grave.

Suddenly there was light all around him, as though someone had sent a flash bomb right above his head, sending him reeling as he squeezed his eyes shut against the abrupt illumination. Since his bloodline limit was activated, the pain from eyes used to darkness being exposed to a large amount of light with no warning was magnified. A short scream escaped his throat before he could bite it back, tears seeping from the corners of his eyes as an array of colors burst behind his eyelids against a searing white background. It would have been beautiful, if it wasn't so painful.

Even with having closed his eyes at the first glint of light, that didn't change the fact that the flash had hurt. Once during training Naruto had thrown a home-made flash bomb to distract him during a spar and he hadn't covered his face quickly enough. He'd been rendered effectively blind for the rest of the day and the entire night, and his hard-won skill and natural-born talent had deserted him, leaving him as clumsy as a civilian toddler. The flash bomb incident was just be a pale shadow of his current situation in scenario and sensation, but the experiences were similar in result.

Instinctively raising his hands to cover his eyes, he breathed rapidly, the concealed orbs burning painfully. Pained hisses slipped from between his clenched teeth as the heels of his hands pressed against his eyelids in a futile attempt to lessen the agony. The Sharingan was an incredibly powerful bloodline limit, that was an unquestionable fact, but the acute vision it granted when activated also had drawbacks, and he was feeling one of those drawbacks quite keenly at the moment.

And thanks to the perfect recall the Sharingan had for anything recorded with it, he now had a second's memory of blinding, burning light engraved into his mind.

Slowly counting backwards from sixty - twice - he waited until the spots dancing on the back of his eyelids had lessened in number before his gently rubbed at the tears flowing down his face with one of his arm-warmers. Dabbing softly at the salty liquid, he took one, two, three deep breaths, gathering his courage before he cracked open the reddened orbs cautiously.

His vision was cloudy, and ideally he would have waited for a few more counts of sixty, but the feeling of the water he was crouching in lapping at the tops of his knees told him that he didn't have the luxury of more time. Half of what he could see were white spots and he had no peripheral vision to speak of, but what he could see made the stone of dread in his stomach grow into a boulder. Swallowing in a vain attempt to clear the lump of fear from his throat, Sasuke looked down at the dark, nearly opaque, water rising around him.

He shivered at the cold of the water covering his legs, small swirls sending tiny waves rippling over his knees and causing his shorts to stick to his skin. But...was it really water? It felt cold, colder than water should be able to feel without freezing unless conjured by a jutsu. It felt thicker than real water, dripping down his body more slowly, yet flowing around and over his body exactly like the clear liquid would. His body-heat was also draining away more quickly than it should, even with him kneeling in freezing water, causing his teeth to chatter before he tightened his jaw to quiet them. For some reason he could still move his arms, he discovered as shivers wracked his body and he unconsciously raised his arms to hug himself and try to conserve heat.

Twisting his upper body, he attempted to figure out how the Akugyaku-Iki or whatever was holding him. His chakra was running normally, he discovered as he circulated it through his body to warm himself up, he just couldn't release it in the form of jutsu. It was like there was a barrier around his body, keeping his chakra beneath his skin. He couldn't feel anything physical, but that didn't mean that there wasn't something there containing his chakra. Mostly like a spiritual obstacle instead of physical, as his chakra fizzled and fell apart the moment he tried to weave it into a jutsu.

(He ruled out mental interference on the grounds that that was the same as genjutsu, and he'd thoroughly tested for that, and was still randomly disturbing his chakra just on the off-chance he'd missed something.)

While very fascinating, he reminded himself somewhat hysterically, that theory really didn't help him get loose from what was keeping him from jumping out of the cellar.

Channeling chakra to his legs like during the tree exercise to try and blow himself loose did nothing, it didn't even make a dent in the floor. The water was almost to his hips, and Sasuke wasn't ashamed to admit that his heart was speeding up as he began to panic. Drowning or whatever the spirit haunting the mansion had in mind wasn't a way that he would have preferred to die, and he was determined to try and find a way to escape. He might not succeed, but by the gods he was going to try!

His next six attempts ended in crushing failure, and the dark water was up to his waist by the time he let out an incoherent yell, wondering how long he'd been down there and why hadn't his teammates come looking for him? It wasn't like the hole in the floor was small or hard to notice by any means, and Sakura was good at noticing genjutsu, so even if the Akugyaku-Iki had hidden it she would at least notice that something was 'off'. He had spotted one of the spirit's illusions - ignoring how long it had taken him - and while she wasn't as skilled as him, it was one of the few things she was good at, so she should turn that talent to saving him from a malevolent spirit!

For that matter, why was the ghost going after him? He might be a shinobi, but he'd never gone on any espionage missions, sabotage, infiltration or otherwise! He had used henges to pass unnoticed during missions of course, they were one of the most basic techniques a ninja had, but it wasn't like anyone ever paid attention to those! Even Naruto used henges! He hadn't done anything that would draw the ire of an Akugyaku-Iki according to the stories, he hadn't betrayed anyone, mission or not!...Had he?

Kakashi hadn't taken them on many out-village missions, and most of those had been escort missions, making sure someone got from point A to point B. The others had been wild animal control and recovering lost items, none of which had required lying to anyone or anything. He had never infiltrated a household or enemy camp or a business of any sort! He had never lied to any of his fellow Leaf ninja if he had to talk to any of them besides the Hokage, his jounin sensei, and his teammates. He had never betrayed his teammates; he might have continued on to complete a mission when Naruto and Sakura were slowing him down, but that didn't qualify as betrayal! It was their own fault that they couldn't deal with their own opponents - the bandits he'd fought on the escort and retrieval missions were easy to take down, and so what if they ganged up on Naruto or Sakura? They were full-fledged genin, they should be able to handle themselves without him having to step in! And then they had the nerve to whine that he should have stayed to help, just because Sakura got a cut on her side when she had been too slow to dodge.

As for betrayal to ideals, what did that even mean? He believed in his village, he had to as a ninja of Konoha, and he certainly wasn't a traitor to his village! He ran missions with his team, helping to bring in income and following orders, turned in all the paperwork he had to legibly and on time, which was more than could be said for Naruto and Kakashi, respectively. Nothing about that could be considered treason, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Betrayal to family...if anything, he was the one who had been betrayed! His bro - that man had killed his entire clan! Their parents, their cousins, distant relations, everyone in their family! For no reason, that man had snapped and slaughtered the Uchiha Clan, and that was a betrayal of the highest order. That man was a traitor to his blood! To both their blood! Hatred pulsed in his chest for that man, the one he had sworn to kill in order to avenge the massacre of his family. He sought power for one reason and one reason only, and that was to take vengeance on the one who took his family from him.

He had to get more power, much more, no matter the cost he need to get stronger! He couldn't let anything stop him from avenging his mother and father and the others. He also had to survive to get more power, and to do that he had to find some way to escape the treason spirit that had for some reason turned its anger on him.

Reciting all the prayers he could remember did nothing, nor did twisting and contorting his body, and trying to manually straighten his legs was also fruitless. The water was almost to his chest and now seemed to have the consistency of oil, the liquid clinging to his arms like tar when he raised the limbs above his head. Sasuke kept his breathing calm and steady, even as he panicked, the pain in his eyes all but forgotten as he struggled. Not only did the substance cling like tar, it acted like it as well, seemingly rising quicker the more he fought to be free from it. If he had been standing he would have had more time to try and think of a way out, but as it was he was trapped in a kneeling position, and that meant that he was in serious trouble if he didn't come up with something soon.

Where the hell were Naruto and Sakura?!

Hissing between his teeth, he gave another futile jerk before he abruptly froze, holding his breath as he listened carefully. What was that sound? He was sure he had heard something, something that had his hackles up like the time Inuzuka Kiba had raked his claws down the chalkboard in class. It had been almost imperceptible, like the buzz of a fly you think you heard but aren't sure is really there, but he was sure he had heard something. It still sent terror shooting through his heart as he strained to hear the sound again, his breath whooshing out as he began to breathe again, still struggling to pinpoint the noise.

It wasn't Naruto, because that loser could never be so quiet, and Sakura would have already been screeching his name. What was the source of the sound? It was distracting and driving him mad! He couldn't even describe the sound itself, let alone figure out where it was coming from!

The noise grew louder as the water suddenly began to surge, swirling around him like a whirlpool, generating a dull roar that combined with the now-audible scream that echoed all around him. It was a deluge of noise crashing down on him, causing him to let out to his own yell to add to the cacophony as he subconsciously raised his hands to cover his ears to try to muffle the noise. Some of the watery substance splashed into his mouth, open in mid-yell, leaving him choking and sputtering as the taste of ash and rust and smoke filled his mouth.

Hacking and coughing, he welcomed the burn of acid in his throat as he spit up bile, trying to rid himself of the horrid taste as his hands left his ears despite the growing storm of sounds. His arms thrashed, fighting vainly against the waves of thickening liquid that was now more like sludge sucking him down, and his eyes widened in horror as, beneath the dark foam stirred up around him, his legs finally moved. Moving in a way he definitely didn't want by buckling, sending him fully to his knees as though he were praying...or begging for mercy.

Mercy that the spirit shrieking in his ears didn't have, as the 'water' reached his chin.

Tilting his head back to try and keep his face above the tar-like liquid for even a few seconds more, he cursed and screamed, pride be damned as he yelled for his teammates. The sludge reached his ears, covering them quickly and blocking out the noise of his shouting and the whirling water. Ironically, now that his ears were covered, the liquid filling them and leaving him feeling as though it was trying to burrow through his ear canals, he could actually make out words in the Akugyaku-Iki's screaming.


Shouting in denial, Sasuke choked as the shadowy water covered his face, rushing into his mouth and nose. The last thing he saw was a tiny spark of light above the hole in the ceiling, flickering and then vanishing, taking his final bit of hope with it as the darkness swamped him, drowning his next and last scream as everything went black...

"Oi, Sasuke!"

The black-haired boy turned towards the shout as he landed on the ground in front of the porch, grunting noncommittally as he raised an eyebrow as his team members ran up to him. The blond-haired boy grinning, whisker-marks scrunching up as the pink-haired girl joined him and the blond continued, "Hey Sasuke! We found this really cool storage shed waaaaaay towards to the back of the property!" The orange-clad genin was bouncing on the balls of his feet, covered in dust and cobwebs, and with several tears in his jacket.

Nodding and smiling, apparently just as pleased with their find as the blond, the pink-headed girl added, "There were some pieces of armor that might be worth something and some weapons that were in pretty good shape! There was this naginata that looked really interesting, and we found this sword that you might like! There was also this book of stories that actually mentioned this house, can you believe it?"

Orange-clad shoulders shuddered as the blond drew back, "There were ghost stories! It was really creepy, even when we stepped outside to read it in the sun! The one about this place was even creepier, 'cause apparently there was this ghost haunting the place and it got really, really strong and turned into an Akugyaku-Iki! Those really scary ghosts who hate ninja 'cause of our jobs!"

"It was really fascinating," the girl added when her teammate stopped talking in order to shiver in fear, "Under the mystical stuff, there was some really interesting history about how pretty much everyone who lived in the house betrayed someone else and everyone wound up dying. Of course the ghost got blamed, even though there is no ghost, Naruto." She directed the last bit towards the cowering blond, sounding exasperated.

"There is too, Sakura!" Naruto argued.

Sakura snorted, crossing her arms and launching into a lecture about why, exactly, there were no such things as spirits and why it was stupid to blame misfortune on a nonexistent ghost.

"Hey, what do you think, Sasuke?" Naruto interrupted Sakura's rant, turning to the so-far silent boy expectantly.

A pause, and then 'Sasuke' smirked as he said, "Idiot. Ghosts don't exist."

That set Naruto off, the blond genin shouting about not being an idiot, and Sakura cutting in about how only idiots would have forgotten the exploding tags they needed to destroy the place for the bonus as all three began walking back to where they had to meet their client.

Behind the arguing pre-teens, 'Sasuke's' eyes turned completely black for a split second before returning to normal, the smirk on his face widening as he followed his teammates.

Inside his mind, Sasuke screamed.

Author's Note: Not sure if this qualifies as the bad end you wanted, Lapsed, but I hope you liked the result! Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, everyone!