I was off at a con, but I don't think this was a huuuge delay.. so no real excuses from me.
I'm crazy and I believe I have every right to these characters, sue me all you want but I'm not getting any money for this anyway, and I'll get off on the 'damn Itachi is hot' defense.
Fight! Not too violent... just yet..... but don't despair, this is just the beginning! -
Will ripples of the past continue to reach the present?
Sakura apparently had talked to someone who had known him, but they were old and slightly senile. Was it another monstrosity like Orochimaru? Someone who defied the precepts of age and mortality? How could he be such a threat when it had been over forty years since he'd gone missing. Even Tsunade had only been a child when he was a threat.
More than actually hunting him down, Sasuke suspected that the had been sent to discover the truth. He had been reflecting on this mission the entire quiet way here. He'd felt a little disturbed since the first night they sent in snow country and he just couldn't shake the thought that some obvious fact was staring strait at him. He just couldn't figure out what.
Teinen Kagami. A recessive gene born of a bloodline that had been thought to be entirely wiped out. How many times had Sasuke heard of it happening now, advanced bloodlines being wiped out overnight. It was impossible, he thought, for a child to be born of an advanced bloodline from someone who hadn't inherited. Kagami had been only a distant cousin, yet he had been born of abilities only he ever grew to understand. No one even knew o fear it until it was too late.
Some people had speculated that he had been a reincarnation of the last killed member of the Teinen clan. His appearance was said to look exactly as his ancestors had. It didn't help their mission much to have that information though. There were no pictures.
But this family had been strange. It had been so long ago they had died, even before the first Hokage. Teinen hadn't actually been an advanced ninja bloodline, so maybe that was why the normal rules didn't apply. They had been born of a family of seers. Something that had been hunted down far before Advanced Bloodlines had even ben a thought whispered by fate.
Sasuke himself held back an involuntary shudder at the thought. Someone who could see into the depths of your soul, who could predict the future. Not that any real facts were left on the nature of seers, nothing more than heresy.
They hadn't been warriors though, or ninjas. Sasuke wasn't sure what had driven them to become such, and nothing had been told to him of the cause.
Kagami, was there something in the meaning of that name that gave away any clue as to what they were up against? No that would be too simple. And not even Kagami's parents had likely known what he would become.
Sasuke closed his eyes as he thought of his own true motivation to be on this mission. Itachi. His eyes still burned every-time he thought of his older sibling. He let them burn behind his closed eyelids. It had become his only defense on this mission.
Why were they even there, Sasuke couldn't help but think to himself for, who knows how many times it had been now. Everything just felt wrong, and nothing had even happened yet.
He could only pretend to imagine how wrong things would feel when everything finally fell out from beneath them.
Ulterior motives were what Kakashi was worried about back in Konoha. Because he knew the true secret beneath the mission he'd sent his former students off to. There was no way they'd be able to track down the ninja with such little information. And it really wasn't why they were even there.
Bait, a decoy. Tsunade, although she hadn't told the two, had known Kagami personally when she was a child, and he'd had a pretty strait- forward reason for the things he did.
Half insanity, Tsunade had told him, but the rest a whole lot of cunning set on the precipice of perpetual boredom. He was always looking for a challenge. It had been a dirty thing she had done to Sasuke and Sakura.
They were strong enough, and smart enough to attract his attention, but blind enough of the trap they were walking into to scare him off.
They'd been tracing any accounts since his reappearance two years ago, and he seemed, as Tsunade had put it, uncharacteristically skittish. They'd sent people after him but he proved inordinately elusive.
Which is why they'd finally decided to follow the course of action they had. And the fact that Sakura had been free of her mission. She was even more important a pawn than Sasuke, though it bothered Kakashi terribly to think of either of them as pawns in any sense of the word.
But they were Shinobi. And Shinobi expected to be not much more than tools. Both of his students should have learned this fact by now.
Yet Kakashi himself still hadn't quite come to terms with just how much this was true. How could he expect that anyone else would understand.
He just hoped when the time came, they'd be resourceful enough to stay alive while the Hokage slowly closed the trap around all of them. The fact that her favorite aspiring Hokage's companion's would be suck in the trap with the most dangerous wild card missing nin didn't seem to be an issue in the planning at all.
Kakashi sighed heavily. No, he wouldn't watch his comrades die. But what could he do about it, he wouldn't even be there to watch them at all. He put his hand to the cold metal of the forehead protector that covered the scar and his cursed right eye.
"Well Fuck" he said simply to the empty night, adjusting the cover more securely over his eye.
Sakura knew full well what was going on. She had done some research herself on the situation surrounding the mission when she had realized that there were some missing spots in the information they'd been given.
It was too suspicious that so little was known. Kagami had been from Konoha, and there should have been trails and loose ends everywhere, no matter how much time had passed. They had gotten enough information to satisfy Sasuke, but he had been tricked into this with promises that his brother might be involved.
Well that much was true at least. She'd confirmed it with her own eyes and ears. But whether they'd run into him, she wasn't at all sure.
She'd gone seeking in places where it wouldn't be likely to find anything. Yet it had turned out that they were the easiest places to find anything, people that had been shut up by different means, and others that had been paid to mislead.
She wasn't sure whether she was supposed to have tracked down any of this information, but Kakashi had given them leave to do as they saw fit, and she had taken that at face value.
It turned out that Tsunade herself had known the fugitive as a child. Even better than a mere acquaintance or anything else. He had been like an uncle to her. Why was it important that they not know that?
Sakura wasn't too happy with this mission, but she was determined to protect Sasuke. He had no clue what he was walking into. Well, she wouldn't exactly say that he wasn't perceptive enough to know there was more to it, but he didn't seem to care, and that was just as, if not more, dangerous.
"Sakura" Sasuke said quietly, for her ears only. "did you feel that?" He asked suddenly. Sakura paused. She had felt it too, what was it?
They were surrounded by people in the streets yet she heard the echo of footsteps, more distant, yet unnaturally loud. Was somebody playing with them? Something splashed into the snow in front of them.
Splashed? The snow was frozen, just newly fallen. Sakura looked down. she froze as she saw the mask. No wait, it must be a coincidence. They were in the water country after all, there was nothing strange about seeing an anbu mask with the water symbol marked on it... falling in the middle of a busy civilian street, right in front of the only two undercover ninja's in the entire vicinity... Shit.
Saske bent down and picked up the mask as Sakura froze. He seemed oddly silent. He traced the split in the half of the mask. It looked the same as it had after he had awoken to find the fight over. But where was the other half?
"He was born in a snowy village" Sasuke said quietly, repeating to himself unconsciously what Naruto had told him of Haku's past. That had been only the first of many times the blonde boy had beaten an enemy he couldn't even touch. His grip tightened on the mask, turning his hand white where it touched the edges.
"Sasuke?" Sakura asked hesitantly. He nodded to her, dropping the hand holding the mask, but still keeping a firm grip on it.
"Yeah." He said in agreement, continuing to walk forward. They could consider this more later, for now it wasn't worth it to jeopardize their fragile position.
From the shadows he watched them, or rather from the light of broad day. They didn't see him, nor sense him. How pitiful. He looked over at the man standing next to him who had an indistinguishable expression on his face.
Itachi Uchiha. One of the singularly most interesting comrades he'd ever considered an enemy. He was dangerous, and although if he ever fought Itachi, the Uchiha would be at a disadvantage, it might not make a difference in the overall outcome.
Not wanting to put much thought into that, he turned his thoughts back towards the targets. They really had no clue. He would test their resolve soon, and see if they were as much trouble as the Uchiha had alluded to.
They would have no clue to his real secret, nor to the way he really worked. He was looking forward to seeing how they'd deal with the next enemy he 'pitted' against them. They would have no idea what was coming, no more idea than he wanted them to have.
Itachi moved suddenly, and the younger man had to resist the urge to flinch. He didn't like this fear. It was the first time he'd been afraid of anyone since his father. Keep your enemies close, he'd always said.
"Done looking?" He spoke smoothly to the scarlet eyed ninja. Itachi looked at him without turning his head or moving his body, just shifting those cold eyes towards him.
"Ah.." Was the only reply he got as he gritted his teeth, holding his ground. He'd killed people thought to be more dangerous than Itachi, he'd be damned if this got to him.
Sakura saw it coming, but she made no move to stop it, nor warn Sasuke. Years ago it would have been different. She would have gone out of her way to jump in front, deflect it, warn him somehow.
But as she estimated there was no need. Blood spurted from the needles penetrating Sasuke's flesh. Sakura made no move to him. It was a little much. Needles wouldn't spray that much blood.
Kakashi had overdone it that one time too. A log thudded softly in the snow. Sasuke stood behind the culprit with the three needles pointing at his neck.
"I see you're aiming for vitals this time" He spoke in a fierce whisper to the familiar form in front of him. It wasn't possible. No one could survive a direct hit from the Chidori. It was hard enough on the one performing the jutsu.
But now was no time to debate how possible it was. The fact was that there was someone who appeared to be Haku in front of him, and until he figured out who they were, and why they wanted him to believe that it was Haku standing before him. But they did have skill. And it was important to act accordingly.
Not helping the charade of being Haku, was the fact that the one standing before him looked exactly as Haku had the day he'd died.
"Sasuke, you realize that you're compromising out mission." Sakura said quietly. Sasuke looked at her slightly annoyed but with wide eyes that spoke of his momentary ignorance of the mistake. Sakura sighed.
"Just finish it in seven minutes, that's all we have before something like this is noticed." she said with a wave of her hand. Sasuke narrowed his gaze on the impostor with a grin.
"That should be plenty enough." He threw the needles in his hand above him to the left just as the Haku before him disappeared. There was a slight sound, signifying that he'd hit his target.
"Don't think you'll outdo me in speed a second time." he said simply. The battle erupted there, as the two moved to attack each other continuously with a flurry of motion. Sakura stood in the midst of it, keeping an eye out, and a count on what time was left.
Sasuke was outmatching Haku easily, his speed and sharingan eyes alone enough to match the prodigy. Sakura also, was pretty sure that this one was not as skilled as Haku truly would have been had he reached this age. It hadn't been fair when the young ninja had to die.
Haku broke away, performing seals one handed furiously as he did it. Sasuke came to a complete stop in surprise as he undoubtedly realized what the ninja was doing.
"You can't..." Sasuke stuttered momentarily.
"What." Haku said as the ice mirrors formed around Sasuke "You didn't think it was really me? Thought that it was impossible to come back from the dead?"
"You don't even act the same." Sasuke said in defense "How could I?" as his mind was racing. He'd heard it, from the Anbu that had watched the fight between Orochimaru and Sandaime. The forbidden technique that could bring people back from the dead. Desecrating bodies, and the requirement of a human sacrifice.
"You don't think people change after so long?" Haku said putting a mask much like the one he'd owned, very likely the same one he'd owned as it was stained with blood. They'd buried it with him. It was only the larger half of the mask, it covered only one eye and some of his lower face.
His calm and pleasant expression didn't look quite so pleasant anymore. "You don't think that death, perhaps changes someone?" he said as he sunk into a mirror, the images of him multiplying across them.
Sasuke swore. He'd have to get serious, no matter what the truth was. And if it was truly a forbidden technique, trying to break the body might well be futile. And how much was left of the mind of someone who had died?
Sakura watched on in a bit of apprehension. For once she really wished Naruto was there, he had known Haku a lot better than any of them and would likely be able to pinpoint the source of this feeling that something was really off.
She looked around, not able to shake off the feeling that someone else was there, but even with her constant awareness of their surroundings, she couldn't see anything out of place, or sense anyone. It wasn't likely any of the ones that had been tracking them.
Which in a way was a relief, but that meant their target likely knew where they were, and probably, from who they were fighting this moment, who they were.
And they knew nothing about their target. This would be bad. She felt a sinking sensation in her stomach that she'd only experienced one other time. She fought back a wave of dizziness and the flashbacks that usually accompanied it. Now was not the time.
She discreetly pulled out a kunai and let it stab into the fleshy part of her hand, she dug her nails into the wound to keep the pain from ebbing. It had become the only way she could fight these attacks.
Sasuke glanced at Sakura for a moment, and noticed she was looking a little pale. Was the time almost up? Crap, he'd have to resort to something risky. He didn't know how it might backfire using it against someone who was already dead. Now he just had to make eye contact.
He focused on Haku again, the ninja was holding up needles in every reflection, but Sasuke knew from experience that there was only one of him. He'd have to catch him outside of the mirrors though. He had no way of telling which one was real.
Sharingan couldn't see through advanced bloodline techniques after all. Haku moved, and Sasuke dodged with ease, able to see all the needles that flew his way, and no longer hampered by having to watch over a teammate. Haku had gotten faster.
In fact, as Sasuke waited for an opportunity, one continued to fail to reveal itself. Haku's speed was increasing with each and every pass. This called for innovative thinking. It wasn't like he wasn't forced into acting on the spur of the moment in any fight. But he had nothing to hold back here, not if he wanted to finish this in as little time possible.
Haku wasn't an opponent to be taken lightly.
Sasuke pulled off a jutsu in a flurry of motion. A fireball hurtled into the space Haku was about to occupy, much reminiscent of their first battle. As Sasuke predicted, he pulled back in the same manner he had this time, but this time something cut off his retreat. Thin wires sliced into the still young ninja, but just as blood coated the wires, betraying their presence, Haku melted in a splash.
'Shit, a water clone,' Sasuke thought as he searched for Haku, he should have seen that. Such a simple technique was usually easy to see through with his sharingan. 'Somethings not quite right' he thought setting up his next attempt easily.
Such setbacks were not enough to distract his concentration. He'd have to try a new ploy, his previous one being so easily deflected. Well he had the advantage of sight even if this guy owned speed in this ice prison.
He motioned another jutsu faster than the normal human eye could see, and the next set of passes Haku made through was hampered by a pillar of fire that stretched from the ground, just shy of the top mirror. Haku was forced to veer a course around it, this time Sasuke was making sure to watch more closely, not sure how Haku had pulled it off.
Then he caught it, just as Haku split into two, ever so imperceptibly. One slipped into a mirror hidden in the snow beneath them, while the other continued as the first had been going. Sasuke attacked the clone for the sake of appearances.
Water splashed onto the wet ground, hissing as it came in contact with the pillar which had already burned a puddle in the snow. Sasuke dropped the pillar, and waited, looking around everywhere but down, the direction he knew the possibly dead ninja would come from.
At the next movement, Sasuke reached out an arm with lightning speed and grabbed Haku, halting the momentum of the other so quickly that he whipped back for a moment while dangling from Sasuke's arm.
"Did you think you could escape my Sharingan so easily" Sasuke said smoothly, catching Haku's gaze with his, not allowing him to look away. His hand was clenched around Haku's jaw, the Shinobi that had once been close to the same size had not grown and sasuke could easily hold him at head level and leave him dangling feet above the ground.
"I give you sixty hours of pain, relive your failures one hundred times over." His looked away a moment later as Haku's body fell lim in his grip. He crushed his fingers into the ninja's throat before dropping him in the melted snow, hot blood dripping down his arm. The mirrors likewise melted around him, drawing a circle in the snow that was still frozen.
Sasuke waked away before the mirrors had completely dispersed, flicking Haku's blood of his arm as he walked to Sakura. He didn't notice how pale she seemed, nor the slight traces of blood on her hand, but Sakura noticed the paleness that had overtaken Sasuke.
"That technique, it's dangerous for both parties isn't it" Sasuke looked at her for a moment, and then looked away before nodding in affirmation.
"I finished it in time, didn't I?" Sasuke asked quietly. Sakura sighed.
"Yes, you did." She didn't mention the disturbing feeling that she'd been feeling, nor the bile that had settled on the lining of her stomach. Nor the fact that she felt like passing out, as they continued onwards.