09 – Sin in the Forest of Death

"Welcome to Training Area Forty-Four… also known to those who have visited here as the Forest of Death," Anko cackled somewhat madly, mentally gleaming with giddiness as she noticed most of the genins seemed to have looked at her and the wooded area behind her with apprehension. "This forest has taken two thousand lives in its history."

"Must be a young forest then," someone suddenly muttered.

"Sin!" another voice, female this time, declared.

"Who said that!?" Anko demanded, and immediately, the crowd around Team Seven departed.

Sakura blushed suddenly when she realized that she, Sin and Sasuke were now exposed. She then suddenly pointed towards the blonde boy. Surprisingly, the Uchiha too pointed his finger at the Sin, who looked at both of them, and rolled his eyes mockingly.

"Traitors," he declared, though he was smiling.

Anko approached the boy. Ooh, he's making this a bit too easy on her, she thought as she made a show of sashaying dangerously and seductively near him, and bent over, aware that her assets were jiggling at the boy's (and his teammate's, much to the chagrin of Sakura) face. She cupped a hand over her ear, and stated, mockingly, "Excuse me? Care to repeat what you said?"

"Wow… I thought you were young…" Sin suddenly declared cheekily, and his smile widened. "Must be like your sannin, Tsunade. Are you hiding your real looks behind some glamour, Anko-san? Or are you just really deaf?"

Sakura and Sasuke both did what was right. They just hightailed it out of there when Anko's killing intent suddenly spiked. Her face turned murderous, and quite ugly that even the Chuunin escorts began to back away.

"Humor me," was all what Anko just said.

"Alright… I said this forest must have been terribly young," Sin repeated. "I killed more men than that, and I am not even past drinking age."

"Hah!" Anko began to walk away from him. The others began to breathe a sigh of relief. "You're nothing more than a loud-mouthed kid…"

Then, she suddenly threw a kunai towards Sin's direction, cutting his cheek. Sin's smile never left his face as Anko suddenly re-appeared behind him, her arms around him, groping him in places where boys at his age shouldn't be groped in, as she licked his nicked cheek.

"Ah… young blood," Anko declared, smirking as she licked his blood, her hand on his crotch. "You don't know how much the site of blood turns me on!"

Sin turned his head slightly, one of his eyes looking at her with a raised eyebrow. "You know what, Anko-san?" he asked.


"I think I like you," Sin smiled. "Hey, after this, maybe we ought to go out sometime…"

Sakura groaned, while the Chuunins seemed to chuckle at the cheek of the boy. Anko's face turned from angry to amusement, one of her hands ruffling his blonde hair, while the other just squeezed his crotch even tighter.

"Maybe when you're older kid," she declared airily.

It was sarcastic, obviously. Even so, Sin just smiled as he replied to her: "I'll hold on to you on that."

Anko smirked cheerily, which by other standards, was also pretty scary. Not any of the Chuunins or Genins taking the exam wanted to approach her, so it was surprising when Anko felt a present behind her. Whipping another kunai, and letting go of Sin, she was about to stab the un-welcomed presence behind her when she realized it was just the Grass-nin, his long tongue holding out the kunai she had thrown.

"Sorry… but your kunai cut a bit of my beautiful hair…" the Grass-nin stated evenly.

"Don't sneak behind me next time…" Anko stated with a thinly-veiled threat. "Next time… it won't be your hair I'll be cutting." She then moved out, towards the forest, shouting, "Alright you little brats! Get in line here, and we'll be handing you these nifty little papers, which legally absolve Konoha of any responsibility if you ever will die in here. You can only compete in the Second task if all of you sign it."

As the Chuunins began to pass the paper, Sin looked at the Grass-nin with a raised eyebrow. "She's awesome… don't you think? She has the same feel as you. Lovely snake-like smell. Blood. Danger. She's probably awesome in bed."

The Grass-nin just looked at him, and walked away, his face expressionless.

"Sheesh… don't hold much of a conversation," Sin declared. Immediately, when Sakura and Sasuke approached him, he had a rather loud and one-sided conversation with the pink-haired kunoichi about the importance of not pissing off the examiners. Sin instantaneously concluded that maybe conversations were a bit too overrated.

"Hmm… so, we're stuck in this forest for a few days, we have half a scroll, and we're supposed to find its counter-part, go to the center as a complete team, and we're done?" Sin asked, just making sure what the test parameters were.

"Yeah," Sakura nodded, a bit glad Sin was now serious. She didn't know what she would want him to be: an über-serious Sin was someone who pulled people's faces off without even batting an eye or the playful Sin flirted around like a damned pervert, and loved to piss people off.

Good thing he was not trying those charms on her. Pulling people's faces off or not, she would kill him.

"Well, Sin?" Sasuke suddenly asked, looking towards the blonde boy, who looked confused.

"Well what, Sasuke-san?"

The boy sighed, annoyed. "A plan? Anything that will help us in the test?"

Sin smiled nervously. "I'm not exactly sure I'm the one you want in making plans…"

"Why the hell not?" the Uchiha boy asked.

"Well… if it was up to me, I'd just kill anyone we meet, and see which one has our scroll," Sin shrugged. "Logically, the less competition we have, the higher our chances of passing through this test and the next."

"That's horrible!" Sakura said. "We don't have to kill them!"

"True enough, but I doubt most of the foreign-nin here will actually feel the same way," Sin stated. "Did you know the most popular method of assassinating Genin is through the Chuunin Exams?"

Sakura could not get any paler. Sasuke looked more controlled, but he looked somewhat perturbed by Sin's little tidbit, but his mind went to work immediately. While Sin's methods were… over the top, he knew he would rather do this one silently. Having a few bodies, dead or alive, more likely alive though, on the forest floor was less complicated than a massacre that would make that psycho Examiner of theirs laugh in glee.

Yes, she made an impression on the young Uchiha.

"How about we set up a home base? Place a few traps?"

"A bit too defensive… and very static," Sin noted.

"At least it was an idea," Sasuke declared defensively, a bit angry too.

Sin just smiled.

"Don't take offense, Sasuke-san," he replied. "I'm just making sure we pass this. Not all ideas are good, and to be in a good team, it is to recognize flaws in the plans. Another way good teams work is to pass off plans from one person to the next… unless one of your teammates is a complete moron, and I doubt we have any idiots in this team. Right, Sakura-san?"

The girl blushed. Sasuke looked a bit conflicted, but then nodded with agreement. He then looked at the girl for a moment, before asking, "How about you, Sakura? Have any ideas?"

Again, she blushed. Heavily this time. For a moment, she began to act like that peculiar Hyuuga girl, but to her credit, she switched her, what Sin would call, 'crush mode' off and began to ponder on a plan on how to get the proper scroll.

"I do… it's quick but risky," Sakura declared.

"How risky?" Sasuke asked.

"If something goes wrong," she swallowed, "we'd die."

"Then it's a simple matter, is it not?" Sin replied. "We just won't die."

"Easy for you to say," Sasuke scoffed. "I still remember Wave Country, Sin."

"Yeah… me too," Sakura shivered. "You scared the hell out of me."

Sin blinked, raising an eyebrow. "Oh, so you won't be having anymore dreams of going to hell because you have annoyed Sas…"


The plan was simple: a systematic hunting of other teams. Sticking together as a group, Team Seven then began to explore the forest in a triangular formation, which would easily defend them from all sides, and ambush the teams closest to them as they moved towards the center.

Then Sasuke added another plan. If they haven't succeeded in getting the scroll they needed when they got to the center, they would lay down traps for the incoming team. It was a two-part plan from both Sakura and Sasuke, both improved enough to work well for their task. Sin himself had heartily agreed with them.

During the excursion, Team Seven encountered one team… the battle was swift as it was underwhelming… at least in Sasuke's opinion. A team of Rain-nin was trying to move into a pincer attack against them, surrounding them, and when the time was right, attack. Sasuke easily spotted them, and signaled Sakura who got a nifty attack planned out. Minutes later, an unconscious Rain-nin team was tied to one of the enormous trees of the woodland area, and for their trouble, Team Seven received a scroll similar to theirs.

"Damn it…" Sasuke cursed as he studied the scroll they have taken.

"There are others," Sakura pointed out, trying to placate her crush. Sin just nodded with her sentiments.

"We cannot all succeed in one try, Sasuke-san. If that were true, I'd be the king of this world, and all lovely women would be my slaves."


"Willing slaves," the blonde corrected. "Can't have slaves that won't be willing now… where's the fun in that?"

"I bet the unwilling slaves are a bit more fun," Sasuke muttered.


Sin just smirked. "Now you're getting it, Sasuke-san."

"It was a joke," the raven-haired boy replied evenly.

"Really? I would have thought it was serious…"

Sin never got to finish his sentence. A strong draft of wind, unnaturally strong, suddenly enveloped around Team 7 and blew past them. Covering themselves, Sakura and Sasuke knew it was an unnatural wind. It was a ninjutsu, and a very powerful one to boot. As the wind died down, the raven-haired boy called to Sakura and Sin to regroup. An attack was coming, and the wind was nothing more than a warning. Sakura responded immediately. Sin did not. Sasuke growled, and looked where the blonde was, only to find an empty space.

The wind had blown their third teammate away.

Somewhere, a bit far from the location of Sasuke and Sakura was Sin, who sat up from his prone position. First thing he did when he stood up was to wipe the dirt off his jacket, scowling as he did.

"Wind Jutsu... talk about lack of finesse," he muttered to himself, and adjusted his shades. He then began to wipe the dirt off his pants as well, not noticing a shadow creep behind him, towering over him.

There was a slight hissing sound, and Sin stopped what he was doing, stood up straight. He had an inquiring eyebrow raised, and turned around. Behind him was a giant snake, looking at him hungrily and menacingly.

"Really... snake summons?" the blonde asked with slight distaste. "I'm insulted."

And the snake suddenly charged at him, its mouth open and swallowed him in one gulp. The snake looked satisfied, its tongue flickering out for a moment, before its eyes suddenly widened, and a hand suddenly poked out of its body. The snake hissed in pain as the hand retreated, and eight fingers came out, gripping the sides of the man-made whole, and slowly, it began to tear it wider and wider.

The next scene played out like a horror-slash film. Blood, gore and guts flew as the snake split apart with such a force that it didn't disappear in a smoke, indicating that the summoned snake had completely died, a very rare occasion if one would ask any competent ninja. From the corpse of the now dead summoned animal, Sin came out, looking somewhat angry as he saw the state of his clothes.

"Disgusting," he muttered.

Someone was going to pay.

Sasuke wondered what he did in his past life that put him in such a situation. Just a few moments trying to look for Sin, a Grass-nin, the one that Sin had been flirting with during the Second Test (until he was found out to be a guy, of course) was looking at them, grinning such a malicious grin. Asking (more like demanding) the nin what he wanted, the youngest Uchiha and Sakura were rewarded by the most overwhelming killing intent they had ever received. It was even worse than the ones they have received from Zabuza on Wave Country.

Crippled almost instantly by fear, his whole body shook. Behind him, Sakura was beginning to look sick. The very oppressive feeling of dread, the sick smell of the air… the whole experience was something Sakura would not want to feel again, ever.

"Who are you!?" Sasuke demanded, trying to cope with the fear. Nothing. He was still shaking. "What do you want?"

"Who I am isn't important, yet," the genin smirked. "What I want though, Sasuke-kun… well, you'll find out."

Familiarity was not comforting. In the shinobi business, having some fame is normal, but when someone addresses one with such familiarity, he or she would have to either be in caution towards the person they were confronting, or quit the business altogether. Sasuke would not quit anytime soon, which left him in a bit of an alert towards the stranger.

"Don't play with me," Sasuke tried to growl. It did not come out right. "You're after the scroll."

An emotion played across the stranger's face. It vanished quickly as it came. "Of course, the scroll. What else would I be after?"

Sasuke immediately took it out of his pocket, and showed it to the man. "I have it."

"I can see that," the man replied.

"If I give you this, will you leave us?"

The statement caused a flurry of shock went through Sakura's system. Before she could even stop herself, she shouted, "What…!? Sasuke-kun…!"

"Shut it!" Sasuke growled at her. He did not see her flinch at his tone, nor did he care. For the first time since his brother killed his family, he felt pure unadulterated fear once more, and it was not because of a killing intent. This was something raw and primal. Whoever the man was, he was no genin. He radiated with power.

The grass-nin looked somewhat disappointed, but smiled, nevertheless, as if he had been expecting that reaction. "Cutting a deal to spare yourself and your friend? A very smart move."

"I disagree."

Heads whipped towards the source of the voice. On a tall tree branch was Sin, carrying something rather large on his back. He was staring at them, his expression mostly hidden behind his sunglasses. His lips were in a thin line, and his clothes… well, Sasuke thought his clothes looked terrible; all wet and soggy with some slime.

"You… survived," the grass-nin stated, disappointed apparent in his voice.

"Well, considering how little effort you have put to try and take my life, I would have thought that was obvious," and saying that, he threw what he was carrying towards the group. A huge head of a dead snake landed between Sasuke and the grass-nin.

Sasuke's eyes widened and Sakura jumped back, yelping. The head had serrated ridges, as if it was hacked with a rusted axe rather than cut with a sharp cleaver. The grass-nin seemed to take in those details as well, his disappointment now replaced with something else. A healthy dose of disbelief and a little begrudging respect.

"Impressive jutsu to kill a summon creature," the grass-nin muttered, his eyes still on his dead summoned snake. "Though your cutting techniques need work."

"I'm not a big fan of ninjutsu, I'm afraid," Sin replied, appearing right behind the grass-nin, who stood still, very much surprised. "It hurts my fingers, you see."

Quickly moving out of the way the grass-nin slithered like a snake, half of him wondering how in the world this boy sneaked behind him. When he was clear, he just waited for the boy to react, and was only given the sight of the blonde standing where he had left him. For a moment, the grass-nin just stood there, waiting for an attack he thought might be coming, but nothing happened. He just stood there, unmoved.

Why would he just stand there? the grass-nin thought, slowly circling the boy. A thought hit him.

Looking around, he knew he was right. The Uchiha and the pink-haired kunoichi were gone, disappeared while he had been distracted. More emotions filled in his chest. Caution was gone… all that was left was anger.

"Sasuke-kun, wait!" Sakura panted slightly as she jumped from an enormous branch, chasing after her crush. "We left Sin alone!"

Sasuke wanted to laugh. They left him alone? The reason why they were able to escape the grass-nin's attention was because Sin threw a head of a giant snake between them, and distracted the fake-genin.

"Sin chose to be left behind, Sakura," Sasuke muttered. "I'd think he would want us away."

Sakura pondered on those words for a few moments, before she nodded. "Well, I guess that's fine. I mean, the grass-nin felt powerful, but he's still a genin."

The raven-haired boy almost snorted. Was the girl dense?

"Sakura… that person wasn't a genin," Sasuke muttered.


"Whoever that grass-nin was… he wasn't a genin. He's much more than that… more powerful than anyone I have ever encountered," the raven-haired boy declared.

Sakura paused once more, this time, fear passing through her eyes. "Sin will be fine… right?"

Sasuke didn't answer. He didn't know what to answer. Part of him believed that this person was even more powerful than the strange blonde.

If that was true then I am doing nothing but running away, a part of him commented. He had condemned Sin to die. However, even so, the words of his brother came back to haunt him.

"Foolish little brother, if you wish to kill me, hate me, detest me, and survive in an unsightly way. Run, run and cling to life. And one day, when you have the same eyes as I do, come before me."

Sasuke did not stop running.

"Ingenious," Orochimaru commented as he stared at the blonde boy. "Very well executed distraction. I commend you for that, but my dear little boy, you may have bitten more than you can chew."

"Oh?" Sin smiled slightly, looking amused. "I'm not the one lacking in information, Orochimaru-san."

The disguised Sannin blinked, and his eyes narrowed. Once more, he began to circle around Sin, and tried to put on a confident face. "If you know my name, then you must know you are in a heap of trouble."

"Hardly," Sin declared with confidence. "My dear Orochimaru-san… if you're trying to scare me, you're a bit off. One, you don't even know who I am. Two, I know who you are. And three…"

Sin never got to finish the sentence as a blade suddenly protruded out of his chest. Behind him was Orochimaru, who was grinning widely, his tongue elongated, holding the sword that he was using to stab the blonde's back.

"Three, you don't turn your back to a shinobi," Orochimaru declared, and took the blade out with a rather sickening sound. Satisfied that he had eliminated an annoyance, he turned away, his tongue moving back to his mouth, swallowing the sword he used, and looked towards the forest grounds, hoping to see where his prey had gone.

Run wherever you want, Sasuke-kun, Orochimaru grinned. I will find you.

"You know, that was really rude."

Taken aback, the Snake Sannin turned around; the blonde he had supposedly killed just a few seconds ago had stood up, wiping the dirt from his clothes, only for the boy groan as he touched a slimy patch.

"Impossible!" Orochimaru declared as he opened his mouth again, his long tongue extracting the blade he had used earlier.

"Ah, the Kusanagi," Sin stated, looking intently at the sword that had protruded him earlier. "No wonder the wound feels a bit tingly. Very potent chakra poison secreted when the wielder wants it to. Extendable as well, with high cutting power. A very respectable weapon."

Orochimaru was not amused. "Who are you?"

"Ah, now you're interested," Sin said with mirth. "Typical egomaniacs. Unless you pull a back-from-the-dead trick, they'll think you're beneath them."

He then turned serious.

"You, my slithery friend, have some really bad habits. Ordering a snake summon to eat me? That's just disgusting. And how about liberally stabbing someone in the middle of a speech? Good thing the Order has some good tailors and effective detergents. My clothes wouldn't have lasted this long if it were not the case."

Amazingly, the only thing Orochimaru heard from that mouthful were two words. The Order. He suddenly felt his insides freeze, the Kusanagi almost falling off the slackened grip of his tongue. He immediately backed a step.

"Oh, did I say Order?" Sin suddenly declared, mocking a 'caught myself there' expression. "I meant the fondue from that restaurant is quite terrific. In all seriousness, though, Orochimaru-san, I think you know what you are up against now. I have come to take back what is the Order's. You really shouldn't have tried to steal from us."

"I have killed one of you, and I will do so again!" Orochimaru declared as he shifted the blade to his hand, gripping it into a position, ready for an attack.

"Correction, you have killed a trainee," Sin stated calmly. "A rather promising one, and took that sword from his possession. I would love to make this personal, and say that trainee you killed had been my friend, but I think it'd be a something of a cliché."

The two antagonists began to circle around each other. Sin's smile never left its place, while Orochimaru's grip on his sword relaxed, trying to read the other boy. They only had a moment, before both moved against each other at the same time. The Kusanagi blade sliced through the air, trying to stab Sin's shoulder, which moved immediately out of the way, and he countered with a spinning kick, riding along the momentum of his dodge. Orochimaru, luckily, did not overextend, and easily went away from kick, moved slightly towards the left, spun, and tried to take a stab on the side. Sin deflected the blade with a simple flick of his arm, moved into the older man's defenses, and hit him with a solid punch in the gut.

Orochimaru's face registered pain, only to harden, and solidify into a brown façade. Sin raised an eyebrow, and felt the whole body suddenly seemed to soften on impact of his fist, and harden at the same time, trapping his fist. Easily extracting that, he jumped high and managed to dodge a group of snakes suddenly appearing beneath him, trying to trap him. Landing on one of the enormous trees of the forest, Sin began to run along side its bark as if he was running normally, his blue eyes beneath his shades roaming around, searching, and looking for anything that would give the older man's position away. Spotting a flash of light in one of the trees, which Sin guessed was a reflection of the sun from the Kusanagi, and jumped from the trunk he had been running on, and like a missile, launched himself towards the glint.

The leaves began to fall. Anyone watching closely would spot two shadows inside the top of the trees, covered mostly by leaves, ramming against each other, sparks of metal and the grunts of the two forces fighting against each other echoed slightly over the rather empty spot of the forest.

Orochimaru was quick and agile, and had inhuman flexibility that not even Sin could match. It was bad enough to dodge sword strikes, but now, Orochimaru was going all out, using his legs and other hand and even tongue to fight back. Sin just continued to smile, taking those hits to stride, and hitting back towards Orochimaru, hard. After a few moments, the conflict ended with Sin's boot suddenly hitting Orochimaru in the face, when the man had strayed too close in trying to get a stab at the boy.

Flying away, the Snake Sannin impacted one of the many trees rather painfully, creating a rather deep dent in the enormous tree trunk, and fell to the Earth. Shaking his head to clear the cobwebs on his head, he realized he was no match for this one. The trainee himself had been easy to dispose, but the Snake Sannin there had the advantage, the surprise, and a plan. Right now, he was playing to the hands of this one… a full member of the Order.

Orochimaru bit his thumb on his right hand, his sharp canines puncturing his skin easily. However, before he could swipe it with the tattoo on his other hand, a hand stopped the action, and the Snake Sannin looked up and saw blue piercing eyes staring back at him.

"Ah-ah," Sin admonished. "No summoning your big snake friends. Its time to rip your head off."

It was a desperate move. Orochimaru flicked his left wrist, his fingers suddenly hitting Sin on the gut, quickly moving on a pattern. Symbols glowed where his fingers had touched, and Sin raised an eyebrow as he felt his whole body was locking up, and with a deft twist, Orochimaru forced Sin to let go of his right. Now with his two hands free, turning around and quickly did more movements, this time with both hands, towards the ground. More symbols appeared, and Sin quickly recognized them. Finally putting the finishing touches, Orochimaru took out one explosive tag, and placed it in the center of the symbol. He forced Sin near the tag, and moved away.

Sin closed his eyes as he saw the tag suddenly brighten, and the whole forest shook as an explosion rocked the air. Almost all genins had stopped, frozen at how powerful the explosion felt, reaching towards the ends of the forest, and even towards the village.

Only one figure did not look back. He smiled somewhat, hoping he had gotten the better of another member of the Order, but knew it was best not to assume. His plan had failed because of the meddling blonde… and he was injured and too drained to continue the hunt. Besides, with an explosion that big, even the Hokage and his damn ANBU will now be involved.

He lost this round, but it was not over yet.

Anko arrived at the scene first. The devastation was enormous. The explosion had burned down a large portion of the forest, most of its trees cut down, and the natural landscape turning into one huge depression. At the center of the depression was mostly black ash, though she quickly spotted one pale body in there. Jumping down from the branch she had been standing in, she walked slowly towards the body, careful to expand her senses so no one could get the drop on her. When she had reached the edge of the depression, she looked down, and saw the almost naked body of Sin, who was laying there, unconscious.

She jumped down, sliding down the cone that had formed, kneeled beside the boy, her fingers going towards the neck, and felt a strong pulse. Suddenly, the boy's hand reached out and grabbed hers, his eyes opening.

For a moment, he looked slightly confused as he looked at her. Recognition was then apparent in his expression, and slowly, he let her hand go.

"Oh, it's you," he said. "If you are going to molest me, please, feel free."

Anko bit back a scathing reply. "What happened here kid?"

"An Fūinjutsu boosted explosive tag," Sin replied easily.

"You're lucky to be alive," Anko replied, her eyes narrowing. "You were in the center of the whole thing. You shouldn't be alive."

"Yes, I do get that lot," Sin smiled. "I will expect I will surprise Orochimaru-san when I see him again."

"Orochimaru?" Anko hissed. "You saw him? Where is he!?"

"He's gone," Sin replied easily. "Somewhere."

Anko hissed as she suddenly straddled the boy, her forearm going towards the blonde's neck, pushing slightly. "Gone where?" she asked, this time with more force.

"Now we're talking," Sin smiled slightly.

"Where!?" the woman shouted.

"Anko!" a voice from above called her.

The woman stiffened, recognizing the voice. She straightened up, and looked behind her, to see they were surrounded by ANBU, Hokage, and a man she did not recognize dressed in black. She immediately stood up.


"Stand down," the old man stated.

"But sir… he knows where Orochimaru is!" Anko said.

"I gathered that," the Hokage replied. "Even so, strangling him won't be helpful at all, now would it?"

Anko frowned, breathed softly, and replied softly, "Yes, sir."

Sin stood up, looking at himself. The explosion took out his coat and undershirt, and left his pants in tatters. He only said, "Why that snake-y bastard… he done in and destroyed my clothes."

"I'll get you your extra clothes," the Undertaker, the man dressed in black, said. He then walked away from Sin's point of view.

The Hokage watched as the Undertaker disappear in the shadows of the forest, and noticed a few surprised reactions from his ANBU. He shook his head, and looked towards the young blonde with a small smile.

"You worried us for a moment there, Sin," the Hokage said. "Are you… okay?"

"Nothing permanent. I'm a bit more concerned at my state of dress," Sin shrugged.

The Third Hokage noticed most of the ANBU giving each other silent signals. He understood the subject discussed silently among them. It started with the Undertaker being so close to the Hokage that made them rightfully nervous, and then when he suddenly disappeared without a trace, just a few meters away spooked them. Then here comes Sin, who was in the center of a massive explosion, and from the sound of it, had fought Orochimaru, and lived without as much as a scratch. He was more worried about the destruction of his clothes.

"So, what happened?" the Hokage asked.

"Orochimaru had called in a strong Wind Jutsu to knock me away from Team Seven. He tried to feed me to an enormous snake. Killed it, ripped its head off, and searched for Team Seven," Sin said neutrally, as if he was giving a report on the weather. "Found them with a Grass-nin who smelled strongly of snakes. I knew then who he was. He seemed specifically targeting Sasuke-san. I interfered, we battled, and hit me with a very nice Fūinjutsu that froze me, taking me by surprise, and used a boosting Fūin under an exploding tag. Big boom."

Everyone, except Anko, the Hokage, and Sin seemed to wince. They all had the same thoughts in their heads: He survived that!?

"Did you see where he had gone?" the Hokage asked.

"No. Sorry," Sin replied. "I closed my eyes before the whole thing exploded. But at least you know who he is after, right?"

"True," the Hokage said, and turned to look at the ANBU around him. "Form teams of threes. Scout the area. Spread out and find any traces of Orochimaru. If you find him, get someone to contact Anko." He then looked at the woman. "Anko, go back to the central base. Continue your responsibilities as the proctor, and at the same time, use the communication system to coordinate the search."

"Hokage-sama, with respect, I want to join the search," Anko declared. "Alone," she added.

The Hokage looked at her impassively. "You have your orders. Get to it."

Anko sighed, and with reluctance, nodded. "Yes sir." And she disappeared.

The Hokage sighed as he watched as the woman disappeared, and slowly, the ANBU circling Sin had vanished as well, leaving two guards in the shadows, well hidden, above them. For a moment, the Hokage thought he saw the boy's blue eyes immediately look where his two guards were. Part of him wanted to believe he imagined it… but he was no fool.

People as powerful as the Order are not to be fully trusted. He knew that much. He had no idea why either Sin or the Undertaker were here, nor would he expect a clear answer from them. A small part of his mind had been suspecting something of a plot, whether it would benefit the village or not he did not know.

Still, part of him trusted that Sin and the Undertaker were not here to harm the village… at least, not intentionally. They had another reason. He guessed it had to do something with Orochimaru. May the gods have mercy on his former student if that was true, though, for the Hokage doubted the Order will.

To Be Continued…

Author's Notes:

Sorry if took a while. I have been trying to read up on creative writing to help me improve on some story elements, and have partaken in reading many books lately. Most obvious is Artemis Fowl series, the Septimus Heap series, and finally, the Dresden Files. I'd readily recommend Butcher's novels to you guys. The books are a great read.

Next will be the next Atelier Uzumaki chapter. I also got Mana Khemia 2, though I don't know if I'll put the story elements of that one in here. Anyways, later!